Derby Line Marriage Ch. 15byjtuf©
Isabella reclined on a plush white couch donned in a leather vest and denim jeans. Hanna sat in a wooden chair across from the couch with a canvas and easel before her. Hebrew letters on canvas were arranged to suggest the outline of Isabella's face and the strands of her hair. Hanna pressed her quill near the center of the face to make the top of a bet. A curved stroke to the right made the side of that letter. A final horizon line finished the consonant. From a short distance, it resembled an eye. Hanna glanced out the window of her Lower East Side studio apartment. "I think that's all for this sitting. The sun is getting low in the sky."
"The artist requires natural light?" Isabella asked.
"The artist has to get to Maariv," Hanna replied.
Isabella got up to look at the calligraphy. "Why do you insist that I wear this costume when you're only drawing my face?"
Hanna explained, "Clothing makes you feel a certain way. When you feel a certain way, you express a certain emotion. Wearing those clothes puts a fierce expression on your face."
"I guess." The pair walked into the hallway together. Isabella turned to Hanna as they waited for the elevator. "So, what do those words on the canvas mean?"
"It's a passage from the Tanach. It's about Deborah criticizing the generals."
"Oh, was she a pacifist?"
"Not exactly," Hanna said as they entered elevator. It took a while for Hanna to gather the courage to ask her question. "Isabella, do you know a good Spanish bookstore in the area?"
Isabella was pleasantly surprised. "Ms. Turo, are you searching for your Sephardic roots?"
Hanna corrected her. "The book is for a friend."
Isabella sighed. "I suppose it was too much to hope for."
Hanna practically ran off after getting the address of the bookstore and saying goodbye to Isabella. She had a stop to make on the way to Maariv, and this was one night when she did not want to be late for services. Hanna waited impatiently as the store clerk found her a book of Spanish love poems. Then she took a cab across Manhattan to Beit Simchat Torah. Her companion was waiting for her on the steps to the synagogue. Hanna waved to her. "Holla, Jovita"
Jovita smiled at her date. "Holla, Hanna. You took a cab?"
"I was running late." Hanna kept her surprise in her purse. She gestured at the large shawl that Jovita had wrapped tightly around her shoulders and bosom. "It's August. Aren't you hot in that?"
"I wanted to dress ... appropriately."
Hanna gave Jovita a peck on the cheek. "You are the best." She led Jovita into the synagogue. The couple found seats just before the call to prayer began the evening services. Hanna handed Jovita a prayer book and guided her through the parts of the service.
Jovita tried to follow along, but it wasn't easy with the prayers all in Hebrew. Every so often she would silently glance over at Hanna's book to see what page she should be on. At one point, everyone sat. At another point, everyone stood. Jovita felt like the only one in the room who didn't know what to expect next. She was a bit relieved when the ordeal ended. Jovita turned to Hanna. "Thanks for inviting me. It was ... interesting."
Hanna returned their prayer books to the bookshelf. "I'm glad you could join me tonight." Hanna seemed anxious to leave. "Should we walk a bit outside?"
"Sure." Soon the two were walking down Broadway. Jovita placed her arm around Hanna's waist. Hanna returned the gesture. "I wonder what the Rosh Hashanna services will be like."
Hanna paused a bit. "Well, they're longer." She reached into her purse for the book of poems. She presented it to Jovita. "Para usted."
"Thanks," Jovita replied. She translated a few verses of a poem for Hanna. "The summer storm is sweet but short. The roaring waves will never stay. But you, my love, are the gentle stream. Quiet, but ever there."
"Me, quiet?" Hanna objected.
"Of course not. I think it suites me, though."
"You know, there's a subtle strength in your quietness. Drops of water can carve stone with enough time."
Jovita hugged Hanna tightly. "I hope so." She felt Hanna's fingers go through her hair. "Hanna, what are your plans for the High Holidays?"
"I'm going out to Teaneck to spend them with my parents."
Jovita chose her words carefully. "Do they have a big house."
Hanna shrugged. "It's average for that town."
Jovita released her hug and fingered Hanna's shoulder blade. "I bet they have a pullout couch."
"Yeah. It's a pullout." Hanna put Jovita's hands in hers. "Have you heard anything about the rally at the UN?"
Jovita crinkled her nose. "Not yet." Jovita and Hanna walked silently for a bit. "Hanna, I'm curious to know what your mom is like."
"There's not much to say."
"I mean, I want to meet her."
Hanna bit her lower lip. "It's a little early for that."
Jovita stepped back from her girlfriend. "We've been dating for 4 months."
"You said your family knows you're a lesbian." Jovita pulled her shawl open.
"So what is it? Am I not good enough to meet your family? Do I embarrass you?"
"No. You're an amazing woman."
Jovita threw her shawl onto the ground. "Then why do you hide me?"
The fighting girlfriends faced each other in anxious silence. Hanna tried not to stare at the crucifix on Jovita's now exposed bosom.
bet = ב