Never Laugh at a Funeral
The day is dim, with clouds hanging in front of the sun and diluting its shine. Although it is springtime- and it has been raining an awful lot- the only plants that have managed to fight their way through the soggy earth are yellow headed dandelions and white-fingered clovers.
In her dingy apartment, Liliana Courtney Green is curled up on an old vomit-colored sofa, hugging her knees to her chest and burying her face in her favorite pink pillow. The TV is playing in the background, some science show talking about cells recycling. Lily doesn't want to think that it interests her. She doesn't want to think anything. The TV is only on because Marta had been there earlier and Lily is too lazy to try and figure out which button turns the twelve year-old contraption off. It really is too loud, though, and without the usual pitter-patter of rain on the roof Lily can't help but pay attention to what the scientists are saying.
Autophagy, is what it's called. It's how the cells recycle old parts into new ones. Every three days or so, you have a new heart.
'Every three days...you have a new heart.' Lily mulls this over as Ruby comes bustling into the apartment. Her arms are laden with shopping bags and on her head is quite possibly the most ludicrous hat Lily has ever seen.
Lily doesn't move from her position on the couch as Ruby starts to unload her groceries and rambles on about the cute clerk she had seen at the department store (He was looking at me with the most gorgeous smoldering eyes...). She doesn't protest when Ruby shuts off the television. She doesn't protest when Ruby pulls the pillow from her arms. She doesn't protest when Ruby starts to talk... but she doesn't really listen either.
"Come on, honey," Ruby urges. "You have to get dressed, he wouldn't want you looking like this at his brother's funeral." She pulls Lily up from the sofa and gently pushes her towards the cramped little bedroom on the door of which hangs a depressing black dress.
Lily struggles to remind Ruby that Chanan's name is not taboo and she can handle it, even if whenever she thinks of him she's wondering what they are doing to him now. She is sure that because he is American he is treated better than the other prisoners of war, but she is also sure that he is still a prisoner and will most likely die out there or be killed trying to escape. The heathens won't care too much about one prisoner. They won't care that their American prisoner is the very reason that Lily knows what real love is.
'Every three days... you have a new heart.' Lily thinks that she has had many hearts, each one different than the last.
The funeral is sad, as funerals always are. The air is damp with tears, Lily can't tell who else is crying, the tears are so thick in her eyes. Chanan is being held prisoner, he probably doesn't even know that Ayal is dead.
Ayal looks so peaceful in his casket, his features smoothed out from the terror Lily knows he must have been feeling when he died. Lily smiles tentatively at Ayal's mother and turns her attention to the rabbi standing at the front of the room. The rabbi tries to begin, but he is interrupted by exuberant laughter in the back of the room. When the cackling dies the down, the rabbi clears his throat and attempts to begin again. He is again cut off by maniacal laughter. Lily is angry at this man, who is behaving so inappropriately at a funeral.
The lone figure rises in the back of the room, a wide smile on his face.
"You fools!" He spits at them. "You think you are safe from this -from war- here! I'll show you war!" He raises his arm and throws something into the middle of the room. Lily doesn't quite understand what she sees; wires, gray, clay-like squares, some other intricate looking contraption. But soon enough she understands what she sees. She understands that it is a bomb, because it blows up and her face is stinging and everywhere hurts. She can't feel her right arm, someone is screaming. All she can think about are the two brothers. Ayal, lying in his casket in the front of the room. Is he hurt? Will Chanan return from his imprisonment to find them all dead?
"Lily? Can you hear me? Lily, sweetie, please open your eyes if you can hear me." Lily's head hurts. Lily's arm hurts, everything hurts actually. When she opens her eyes the lights of a starch white room are quick to give her a ravaging headache. She is angry. 'Every three days you have a new heart.' She thinks her heart changed the moment that she saw Ayal's dead face.
The bomb blew up the entire building, she eventually finds out. There were only five survivors, even Ayal, in his casket, had been blown to smithereens. The entire right side of Lily's body is scarred and stiff, her face is so full of scar tissue that she isn't sure any of her old skin is there. Ayal's mother has survived, along with two of his close friends and his younger sister. Ruby was thrown across the room and slammed into the wall. She died on impact. The man who threw the bomb had been just another anti-American. He had figured it would help his anti-American honor if he blew up the funeral of a war hero.
Four years later Lily still cannot help but believe that the entire thing was her fault. When Chanan finally comes home she cries for days.
Lily is curled up on her old sofa again. She is watching a relatively entertaining sitcom and dining on garden salad and chicken noodle soup and she has just sat down with a glass of water when there comes a knock on her door.
"Liliana Green?" The man asks her when she opens the door. He flashes some sort of badge at her and doesn't introduce himself. When she nods he continues. "You have been identified as Chanan Gielman's fiancé. He will be returning to the States on Wednesday, the 23rd. You will be escorted to the return site on the morning of. Good day."
Lily is so overwhelmed that she can barely breathe. She has despaired of ever seeing Chanan again. Now he is so close. Lily takes his picture from her bedroom wall and stares at it. The rain is falling outside again but Lily doesn't mind.
On Wednesday the same man shows up at Lily's apartment, accompanied by two other young men. They drive about two hours and once they get to the airport they wait two hours more for the plane to fly in. They have allowed Lily to be outside near the plane but she must be far away from the landing strip at all times. When the plane finally comes into sight Lily tugs the scarf tighter around her neck and bounces her leg in anticipation. Four years, three months and 27 days she has waited for this. She must wait ten minutes more.
Lily's right leg is starting to ache again, like it does whenever she moves excessively for more than five minutes.
She should probably stop crying so that she can see him when he comes, but she doesn't think there is any other way to express how much he means to her.
The man is starting to get restless, but Lily has been waiting for years to see his face. She is patient.
A man steps out of the plane, down the stairs. He is limping slightly. He stops, he looks around. He spots her. She runs toward him, ignoring her sore leg and concentrating solely on the excitement on his face. He wraps his arms around her, engulfing her in his comforting warmth and the stubble on his cheek scratches her face. Chanan is back. Chanan is home.
"My dear Lily." He says over and over again. "My dear Lily." He caresses her mutilated face with his fingers and she drinks in his features with her eyes.
Chanan is back. Chanan is home. 'Every three days you have a new heart.' Lily thinks her heart is more full of joy than it ever has been.
"My dear Lily." He repeats. He smiles at her and she beams back at him.
"I've waited too long for you, don't waste this time on words." Lily tells him and he pulls her back into his embrace. She thinks she could stay here forever, her heart would change again and again and she would never want to leave his arms.