THE INNOCENT LOVE

2nd August 1947, Jerusalem

“Abel, open the door. Look, who’s finally come to meet us!” Abigail, the fraternal twin, shouted.

“Yeah. Wait a minute, let me dress.” Abel replied.

When he came out to their living room, the scene before his eyes was exactly how he had imagined multiple times in his dreams.

“Naziya,” he cried and proceeded to hug her. “I missed you, so much!” He hugged her till he could assimilate her fragrance to his heart’s content.

“Abel,” Naziya said while extracting herself from his hug, “I missed you too.”

“I’m so happy that you are back! I had dreamt about this day since the last 5 years.”

“Abel, Naziya.” Abigail said. “You both have exactly one hour to catch up before father and mother get back. So hurry, please.”

“So you leave, please.” Abel said mimicking his twin. Abigail muttered something sounding like ‘useless’ and left.

“You both never stop bickering even at 25 years of age.” Naziya laughed.

“Come let’s go to the backyard. I don’t want any eavesdropping on our conversation.” Abel said.

He held her hand and took her outside. The ornamental plants looked pretty in the fading sunlight.

“So how was France?” Abel asked while offering her a cane chair and plonking down on one himself.

“It was horrible, Abel. What do you expect? We were there during the Second World War. Father was always busy with his diplomatic work. I was practically on my own.”

“I know. I can understand. I wrote so many letters to you. You only replied once. If you had nothing else to do, why didn’t you write to me?”

“Did you think it was easy to send letters considering the circumstances? No, Abel. Besides, I only received a few of them. I still have them with me. It’s my treasure.”

“You have changed, Naziya. You are speaking with a French accent and you sound kind of distant to me.”

“Of course I have changed Abel. You don’t know how it was living there. I have seen the Nazis, I have seen what they did to the Jews out there. Those sights still haunt me.”

“You should have come back then.”

“Why are you being so selfish Abel? My father is my entire universe. I could not leave him and come back. You don’t even realize the gravity of the situation. You are just living in your own happy bubble.”

“I’m… I’m sorry Naziya. I did not mean it that way. Forget France, let’s talk about us. You remember those pranks that we would play on unsuspecting tourists at the Dead Sea?”

Naziya burst out laughing. Abel knew exactly how to cheer her up.

“Oh, how can I forget those? We would pretend to be drowning, the tourists would come for help and the acrid water would leave their eyes stinging for days. But you know what Abel? That was very mean of us.”

“Hmm… yeah… It was. But who cares, I got you out from your depressing thoughts and see now you look so good laughing.”

“And Abel, how can we forget those Passover meals? How I used to abhor the matzo and you would somehow convince me to eat it!”

“Yes, I really miss those happy and cheerful days.”

Both of them were lost in the memories of their past.

“Why Naziya? Why can’t we be just like before?”

“You know the answer to it Abel. This is exactly why I’m here to see you today. Father doesn’t know I’m here. He’s forbade me to meet you all. I don’t think we can meet again. This is a final goodbye.”

“What? Please don’t do this to us Naziya.”

“I’m not happy doing this, Abel. But we’ll be leaving from here once father is done with his work. You know how the Zionist movement has caught on. The Arab economy is collapsing and now with the United Nations in the picture, the division is going to happen sooner rather than later. Arabs will have a separate state and Jews, a separate one.”

“Screw the Zionist movement. You come with me. We’ll go away from here. Maybe Turkey or America. Please don’t just leave.”

“Stop, Abel. You are just thinking about yourself. What about our loved ones? I need to go now and one last piece of advice to you. Stay close to your loved ones in this difficult time and everything will be fine.” With that, Naziya left.

Abel ran behind her, but was stopped by Abigail. “Let her go. We are safer that way. Please.”

Back in his room, Abel couldn’t believe what Naziya had done. He began throwing things in his room and once again Abigail stopped him from the destruction that he was about to cause. “Calm down Abel. Control your anger.” She said.

“How can I calm down? She turned down my love. I have been longing for her since the last few years and this is what I get?”

“Sshhh… Abel. Father and mother are here and they cannot know anything. Alright? Come down for dinner, we’ll talk later.”

Post dinner, in the dark of the night, he ruminated over all that Naziya had said and a plan started forming in his head.

He resumed his routine on the next day, made some calls and after he was convinced, he put his plan into action.

He sneaked out in the curfew of the night with a small duffel bag and plucked a rose from the little garden. He made his way through the narrow streets dodging the guards and reached Naziya’s house. He knew her room. He thought about those days when he was welcome from the main door, but today he had to climb in through a window. Strange how family friends turn into enemies over religion and land, he thought.

He jumped into Naziya’s room and began to wake her up. “Naziya, get up. Get up…” he whispered.

Naziya got up with a start and as soon as she was about to yell, he placed a hand over her mouth, “Sshhh… it’s me, relax.”

“Abel,” Naziya looked around in a state of panic, “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came to wish you happy birthday, see, its 4th August now.” And he gave her the rose.

“This is not funny, Abel.” Naziya whisper-yelled.

“I know. I have a plan. Pack a few things and let’s run. I have a friend in Turkey who will accommodate us. We’ll stay there for a while, and then when the situation gets under control, we’ll move somewhere else.”

“Are you crazy? I cannot leave father alone. I told you, he’s everything to me.”

“And what about me? We love each other since we were little. Don’t waste time Naziya. Let’s go.”

Naziya looked torn. She covered her face with her hands and started sobbing. Yes, she loved him. But she also loved her father. How could she choose one over the other? But then, what other choice did she have? She knew that the hatred between the Arabs and the Jews was going to increase many folds in the coming months and she could never ever go out in the open with Abel. And why was Abel being so selfish? She doubted whether what he claimed as love was actually love or it was turning into an obsession.

She made her decision.

“Abel, I cannot come with you. Just leave.”

“Why? I promise I’ll keep you happy, really.” He was persistent.

“No, you are not the same Abel that I fell in love with. The one who was so full of positivity and innocence and was always ready to take challenges head on and not like a coward as you are.” She said pointing her finger to his chest.

“That Abel died when you left him. And now only this one remains.” He said, getting angry.

“So you have your answer. I’m not going anywhere with the coward Abel.”

He got very agitated with Naziya’s reply and in his fit of rage, he did not realize what he was doing, when he grabbed her by her hair and banged her head on the mirror.

Naziya screamed and fell down in a pool of blood.

“No… No… shit… Naziya! I’m sorry… I didn’t mean it… Naziya wake up!” He cried while cradling her head in his lap. He cried and cried. But Naziya was dead.

The sound of the footsteps outside made him alert and now with the love of his life dead, he could only think of one thing.

The door was burst open and Naziya’s father was horrified at the scene before him. His beloved daughter lay in a pool of blood and besides her lay the body of Abel; a piece of broken glass piercing through his belly.

The innocent love shared by childhood friends no longer remained innocent. It had turned into a blood bath.

GLOSSARY

  1. Passover: The major Jewish spring festival which commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, lasting for 7 days.
  2. Matzo: Unleavened bread eaten during Passover. The biblical narrative relates that the Israelites left Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise; the bread, when baked, was matzo.
  3. Zionist movement: A Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews.

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Written by Arva Bhavnagarwala

In between being patient with her two boys and seeing patients as a pediatrician, Arva manages to scribble a few words here and there. The words turn into stories and she gets an adrenaline rush when the stories strike a chord with the readers.