And here I am again. It's being 13 years since the last time I was here. It's almost as I nothing changed. But this time, by my side was my husband, Dror.
13 years ago, we bought another house and rented this one. As I told my mother I am pregnant, she told I could go living there if I wish too, as the renting contract of the current residents is about to end in three months, and they have no interest staying there.
As I looked about the house of my childhood, I couldn't but wonder what made them leave it. Well, I knew why we did. But it's been so many years since then. And here I am, once again, this time with a new family.
The fence's gate is opened with a squeak. Well, I guess something did change. My first instinct was to look for the red swing I loved so much. I walk there with the same cheery feeling as always. I just sat there, as nothing changed. I folded my legs a bit. The swing moved back and forth a bit. And then, I felt it: the big warm hand pulling from behind. Nothing really changed, did it? I looked back with a big smile on my face, but when I looked back... my smile was gone. Of course it was Dror... after all, my father will never swing me ever again.
I stop the swing with my legs. My husband comes from behind, hugging me. I let myself sob.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart," Dror still held me his one hand and petted me with the other.
"You shouldn't..." I hug his arm. Then, I wipe my tears. "I should be."
He turns my head to him and kissed me on my forehead. Damn, why does he remind him so much? They even looked pretty alike. That's why I forced Dror to get rid of his eye contacts, as they make them look even more similar.
"Come, sweetie, we have so much things to do." I say, leaving him.
He didn't say another word and took the suitcase he held until not long ago. He comes from behind then hug my back.
Dror did ask me if I was sure about it. I also did ask myself if I want to get the house with the sweetest... and sourest memories of my life. The memories of my childhood, where my mother always came late and I spent the day with my father who worked from home. I never knew what he worked at and I never cared. It was enough that he was mine and mine alone, as I never had siblings. But it all changed a little more than 13 years ago. It was the summer vacation between 7th and 8th grade, the last year of my elementary school. The Lebanon war began and my father was sent to fight and the front... and never returned. I couldn't handle this. School was my last interest. I didn't eat, I didn't sleep. I wondered around the house, waiting for my father to appear. A psychologist came to my house one day, she said it was a depression and a new place may calm me.
My mother took her advice, found us a home in the city, unlike our home which was in a small town. And she was right. It did help. But I knew I wouldn't be the happy child I was once. But this all changed when I met Dror. I couldn't ignore the resemblance to my father. His huge smile, his little messy black hair. But unlike my father, I realized only a few months later, his eyes weren't completely brown, but a thin green ring of color surrounds his irises.
But as time passed by... I had a hard time distinguishing between the two. More than once I called him "father". At the beginning, he was confused and chuckled. He didn't know about my father at the time. But when he learned to the truth, I begged him to wear glasses, as the opposite of my dad, as I knew he didn't have the best eyesight. He wasn't too pleased with the idea but did it for me. He thought of dying his hair but I couldn't let him change more of himself for me.
It's been 4 years since. We married to years ago. For a moment I didn't think I'd be back here. But when my mother suggested it, I couldn't but consider. I felt I would be whole again if I could be happy there again.
But as I slowly follow his steps, I can't but wonder if I was wrong. I'll see Dror gets older, like my father should have. I'll look at him having fun with our child, like I did once. Will I be able to handle it?
He stops. He looks back at me. Once again, he left the suitcase and came to me, holding my arms.
"I can't replace him. I can't give you what he did. But I swear, as you were my father's most beloved, so you are mine. And you will forever be."
I felt the tears come out of my eyes.
"Silly," I sniffle "You have a child who's about to come."
"You are too jealous to share the first place?" he smiles and I chuckle.
He takes my hand in his and starts to walk. I touch his shoulder with my other hand and point the suitcase. We both laughed. He kisses me a quick kiss and stretched his leg, trying to get to the suitcase without letting my head go.
"Silly, just go and take it."
"But you know the song, do you? I WANNA KNOW YOU HAND..."
"Yes, I forgot you came straight from 60's."
"Can't help it. My father taught me songs while I didn't know one word in English. You can guess who it sounded like."
"I guess." I chuckle.
"And anyway... What a man... I am... if I can't... stretch my leg... a bit..." just as he finishes the sentence, his leg slipped so much he ended up sitting.
"Well done, contortionist."
"I haven't practiced for years," he says as he puts his right leg in the holder of the suitcase. "What score did I get?"
"If you pull it here, 10/10."
Shorty, the suitcase is in his hand. But this short time allows me to look around. This moment feeling as he was still on the ground was gone by the time as he stood again. I guess he notices my mood as he keeps going without saying another word. As we went in front of the door, I stopped.
"Welcome home, sweetie," he says with a smile.
I smile out of politeness and look for the key in my bag. Here it is. The pink keyholder is still attached to it as if nothing happens. Even the key looks the same. I take a deep breath. My hand stops at its way to the door. Dror holds my arm gently and points me to the keyhole. The key enters. My husband turns my palm, and the door is opened.
It was dark, nothing but some of the lights that slipped through the curtains. And still, nothing changed. The same furniture, the pictures, even the same TV. It is as if I went back in time.
Dror turned the light. Now it was even clearer, my mother returned the house to the way it was before we left. Who have thought she left almost everything behind.
I hear the suitcase hits the floor as well with Dror's sigh.
"This one was heavy. I'll bring the other one, okay?"
"Do you need help?"
"It's with wheels, I will survive."
"Okay, hon." I kiss his cheek, and then he walks out of the house.
The moment I can't hear his steps, all kinds of memories come to me. Dad's watching TV on the couch, in kitchen mother and father has a vivid conversation about politics, the smell of my father's cooking... wherever I look he's there. Alive, with a smile on his face or humming a happy tune.
When I hear the steps and wheels on the trail leading the house, I almost do the same mistake I did on the swing, and then... my father was gone all of a sudden.
"Are you entering?" Dror asks me.
"I think it was a mistake to come here." I look at him "I know, we talked about it. And you asked a million times... and we already found new people who will rent our house instead of us. But I... I don't think I can stay here."
I can see his disappointment, and it breaks my heart even more.
"I'm the worst wife ever, I'm sorry."
"No, I'm sorry. It was a stupid idea."
"I don't understand it was my..."
"No, I offered this. Not because of the rent. Because I thought you will be happy here. Your mother was so against it, but I insisted. I did everything to find the exact same things that were here before. It took a while... but the moment I was done, I told your mother to call you."
I feel the tears go down my cheeks. Are they tears of joy for his gesture or tears of self-disappointment?
"I thought that I would bring him to you and instead of feeling you have just one of us, you will have us both." Suddenly, he looks so tired "I thought it will let me be the man of your life."
"You are the man of my life." I smile as I touch his cheek.
"No, I can't beat him. I am nothing but a replacement. And even if not... I am always in second place."
I bite my lip. He leaned on the wall, he looks so frustrated. It's true, I started to talk to him as he looked so much like dad. I couldn't but love the side of him that was like him: happy, generous, always knows what to say. And sometimes... it was difficult to hard for me .distinguish between. But if I caused him to feel like this... Am I even worthy of his love?
"I guess we should break up." He looks at me, his eyes are red. "But I am the most selfish person in the world. You deserve someone better and I just don't want to let you go. Not because of my father... We have our special memories that no one can take from us. Even not dad. And it's the person from these great memories I want to spend my life with."
"I love you too. I don't want it to end."
I hugged him tightly. I hear him snuffle and hug him tighter.
"I am grateful you for this. For everything. And if you'd let me... I want to live here with you."
"But what about what you said?" he rubs his eyes.
"Sure, the memories will remain. But we'll create new ones. And this time... you will be in them. And they can be as happy as my old memories, if not better."
He hugs me so tightly I can hardly breathe. But I don't care. This is a memory to cherish in my old home. This time... without you, dad.