The Best Place on Earth

The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari Read Free Book Online

Book: The Best Place on Earth by Ayelet Tsabari Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ayelet Tsabari
pushes her hands into the pockets of her jeans and kicks the curb. “I saw you,” she says. “The other day. With Igor in the park.”
    “So?” Lana says.
    Lily looks down at her shoes. “So nothing.”
    “Oh my God,” Lana says slowly. “You’re jealous.” She starts laughing. “That’s so cute.”
    Lily doesn’t remember walking away. She has to move fast because her tears are coming. She bumps into Lana’s mom on the way, mumbles sorry in English, runs up the stairs but doesn’t enter the apartment. She sits on a cool tiled stair in the dim stairwell and cries. The door opens and the sensor light above her turns on. “Lily,” Ruthie says. “There you are. I was just going to get milk.”
    Lily nods at the floor, wiping her tears with her forearm.
    Ruthie sits down beside her and searches her face. “Are you okay?”
    Despite herself, Lily bursts into tears again.
    “Oh, sweetie.” Ruthie pulls Lily to her and pats her head, rocking her lightly. “She’s no good,” she says. “That girl.”
    Lily says nothing. She’s heard it all from Talia. She doesn’t need to hear it again.
    “You can do a lot better,” Ruthie says quietly, and this time Lily looks up. In her aunt’s eyes she sees warmth, recognition. Blood rushes to her cheeks. She buries her face in Ruthie’s shirt, breathing in the scent of coffee and spices.
    They sit on the step for a while without talking. Sometimes the light turns on and then clicks off, leaving them in darkness. Sometimes people squeeze past them, going up or down the stairs. They hear muffled laughter behind closed doors, a scooter speeding off down the street. Evening shadows sneak into the stairway, the smells of dinners and cigarette smoke. Lily doesn’t move.
    “It’s okay,” Ruthie says. “It’s okay.”

BRIT MILAH
    At the passport check, Reuma Hamami pulled out a folded piece of paper from her purse and handed it to the woman behind the counter. The woman was young, with narrow eyes, Chinese perhaps, and her black, shiny hair was rolled into a neat bun. Her face was caked with dusty powder and her eyebrows were pencilled on. She looked up and eyed Reuma. “English?”
    “Little,” Reuma said. She reached and pointed at the paper. “My daughter.”
    “Your daughter lives in Toronto?”
    “Yes.” Reuma nodded.
    The woman flipped through the pages in Reuma’s passport, filled with stamps from the organized trips Reuma had been taking over the past three years with a group of women from her neighbourhood of Sha’ariya, many of them widowed like her, all of them Yemeni.
    “First time in Canada?”
    Reuma nodded again. Ofra had been living here for seven years, but she had been visiting Israel regularly. There had never been a reason for Reuma to come before. In fact, Ofra had been home just a few months ago, in her second trimester, and Reuma proudly showed her off around the neighbourhood, walked with her down Petah Tikva’s main street. In the evenings they had sat in the yard and drunk tea, and Reuma finally got a chance to pass on some of her knowledge. She had raised four children after all. When her daughters-in-law had given birth, Reuma had learned to be quiet, keep her advice to herself, especially after Rami, her eldest, accused her of being overbearing. They had their own mothers to consult. But Ofra listened to her, didn’t dismiss her advice as she had in the past, seemed softened by the pregnancy, more forgiving toward her mother.
    “Born in Yemen?” The woman looked at Reuma. Reuma noticed a small golden cross dangling against her chest.
    “Yes.”
    The woman’s lips tightened, she tilted her head to read some of the stamps. She thinks I’m an Arab, Reuma thought and hurried to add, “Jewish.” She looked around for something that would help her explain. “Me … baby.” She lowered her hand to indicate her height. “Go to Israel with Mother and Father.”
    The woman flipped another page.
    Reuma wanted to make

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