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Saturday, April 23, 2011
The Visit by Abigail Sharpe
“Lila, honey, put the Seder plate on the table and unlock the front door.”
“Sure, Mom.” Lila hefted the plate laden with traditional Passover offerings and left the hot kitchen. It felt as heavy as her heart. The hard-boiled egg threatened to roll to the floor as she wound through throngs of relatives, wondering which one would be playing the prophet Elijah tonight. Her uncles had done it for years, but now her cousins took turns drinking the wine and donning the Middle Eastern headdress her father had brought back from Jerusalem years ago.
Thinking about the Middle East turned her mind to Daniel as she carefully placed the plate on the blue tablecloth next to the stack of matzo. Really, though, her thoughts were rarely elsewhere. They’d known each other their whole lives but had only been dating for a year when he got news of his deployment. She bit back a sigh and imagined him next to her. His solid presence, his warm brown eyes, his love for her. They were always held tightly in a sacred corner of her heart. She wondered where he was, what he was doing. Sleeping in a tent, dealing with a sandstorm, patrolling the land around him. “Please, God, keep him safe,” she breathed, unlocking the front door. Anyone could enter their house and join them this evening, the first night of Passover.
“It’s open?” Aunt Rochelle asked. When Lila nodded, her aunt ushered her back to the dining room, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders. “Sit. The Seder is about to begin.”
Lila took a seat next to her younger sister and picked up the Haggadah to read along, absently twisting a lock of her brown hair around a finger. Her grandfather said the Kiddush and she sipped the first glass of dark red wine. Everyone laughed and drank, mingling family talk with the ancient stories. Her family threw her covert glances, and she tried to smile so she didn’t bring anyone else down during this joyous holiday. Daniel’s parents and siblings were there, too, attending the Seder like they had over so many years. She couldn’t pay attention to the familiar words; her mind was over six thousand miles away. He had been gone for seven months, and her heart broke with loneliness and wanting. She longed to have his arms around her, to make her feel cherished and loved.
Elijah’s cup glistened on the table in front of her, untouched, alone, a small splash of wine slipping down its silver side like a tear. She felt the answering moisture in her own eyes and blinked. She did not want to share the private thoughts of her love. She forced her lips up in some semblance of a smile, hoping no one noticed it wasn’t genuine.
Her sister passed her the parsley and the salt water. Lila dipped the green herb and stuck it in her mouth, chewing slowly but tasting nothing. It went like this for half an hour with more wine and charoset, breaking the middle matzo. Her sister left the table to hide the afikoman and Lila wished it was her, just so she could have one moment alone to gather herself. Finally the ceremony concluded and everyone started eating in earnest. The thick beefy aroma of the brisket and the tang of the onions had been evident in the house since that afternoon. Usually Lila loved when her mom cooked it, but tonight she could only pick at it. It wasn’t right. She was surrounded by family, by his family. He had his brothers in arms, but it wasn’t the same. Did he even know it was Passover, or were his days filled with too many other things for him to keep track?
The front door creaked. She glanced around to see which of her relatives had snuck away to play Elijah and frowned when she didn’t find an empty seat. Her nieces and nephew squealed as the figure approached the table and grasped the glass of wine. Elijah smelled familiar, fresh and clean like he had just showered. The silver cup disappeared from her view and reappeared a moment later. Elijah’s hand stopped next to her plate, palm up, its rough contours holding a small maroon velvet box.
That wasn’t part of the tradition. A box like that usually meant… Lila followed Elijah’s arm up to his face. Even under the headdress, she knew that jaw, that nose, those eyes that burned in her memory. Her heart burst with the intensity of her love while she cried out and stood so quickly her chair crashed to the floor. “Daniel,” she gasped.
This time she didn’t bother trying to hold back the tears. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck to assure herself this wasn’t her imagination. He circled her waist and held her just as close, his shoulders trembling under her touch. He buried his nose in her neck. “I’ve missed you so much,” she whispered.
“I love you, Lila,” Daniel answered, his breath warm on his ear. They stayed as one while their combined families shouted greetings. After a bit, he reached for the box. “I’m home only for a couple of days, and I want to know one thing.” He got down on one knee and grasped her hand. She squeezed his to stop shaking. “You’re the first thing I think about when I wake up. You fill my dreams every night, and I can’t imagine a day without you. I’ve loved you for so long and I want to know that I’ll always have you in my life. Will you marry me?”
Lila knelt on the floor next to him and nodded, her throat so constricted with emotion she couldn’t say the words. He tried to put the ring on her finger but she threw herself against him, nearly knocking him backward. She didn’t care about the jewelry. She only wanted to feel him beside her, to know that he was safe, and he was hers. Forever.
About the Author: About the Author: Abigail Sharpe is a displaced Yankee living in North Central Florida. Inspiration for her writing comes from the variety of occupations she’s had over the years, including selling lingerie, taking surveys in a mall, hosting birthday parties at an arcade, and working in a computer lab. She wants to send a big shout out to our men and women in uniform and dedicates this story to the memory of those who gave their life in service to their country.
Visit Abigail at www.chicksinthekitchen.wordpress.com and www.abigailsharpe.com.