May. 24th, 2014

 

A/N The usual disclaimers apply regarding me not owning anything or making any money from anything and so on.

 

I'm not Jewish, so if I've got anything wrong, I apologise.  Just chalk it up to artistic licence.

 

 

'cause there's really nothing left here to stop me


 

"What do you mean it's not working?" Saul's strident tone made Naomi's headache step up a notch.

 

"I'm dying here. Can't you see that?" She pulled out of his arms and went to stand by the kitchen window. She looked out, but didn't see the unkempt garden or the pretty houses with their lace curtains and carefully tended lawns across the street.

 

"We've only been married three months. How can you tell it's not working?" Saul took a step towards her, but she moved away.

 

"I… I feel stifled. I simply can't be a housewife. There's so much world to see, so many things to do."

 

"Then why did you agree to marry me? No one forced you to. When the shadchan* introduced us you could have said no."

 

Naomi's reply was silence.

 

"Naomi, why did you marry me?" Saul's voice was gentle and full of pain. "I know we don't love each other, yet. But, I was hoping that with time…"

 

Naomi's parents had despaired of their headstrong daughter. Intelligent, but stubborn, she'd not worked in school and had spent most of her time going out with friends. They turned to their Rabbi for help and he'd thought that maybe she needed a change of life and marriage might be a solution. Even though she'd only been sixteen, to their surprise she'd agreed to meet the shadchan the Rabbi recommended. They were completely amazed when she said that she'd marry Saul Cohen a slightly older, devote Jew. Little did they know that the reason she chose him was because his job as a building inspector meant he often had to travel away from home. She thought she'd finally be away from her parents and, for a lot of the time, on her own without supervision.

 

However, she hadn't counted on her even more devote in-laws. Every other day someone from Saul's family would just 'pop round' with cakes, books on childcare, advice on housekeeping or a recipe. It was driving Naomi mad. The little criticisms, the snide remarks voiced in sugary tones, the friendly 'advice'. Then the talk turned to the fact that she wasn't pregnant. She wasn't even seventeen she insisted and had only been married three months. She had time. She needed time to live first.

 

"I'm sorry," her voice broke on a sob. "I just can't." The sound of the front door slamming behind her echoed down the street.

 

I've always thought that I would love to live by the sea

 

"What's your name, pretty one?"

 

Naomi shielded her eyes from the bright sun as she looked up. All she could see was a dark outline against the brightness.

 

"Oh, sorry." The shadow moved and sat down beside her on the sand. It turned out to be a youngish man with the wildest clothes the woman had ever seen: bright colours, clashing patterns, bead necklaces… And his hair was long and held back with a leather thong that crossed his forehead. "My name's Astral Consciousness."

 

"What?" She knew she sounded rude, but what sort of name was that?

 

"Astral Consciousness, but most people call me Az."

 

"Oh." She didn't quite know how to deal with this exotic creature.

 

"And what's your name? Goddess of the Sea? Phoenix, because of your red hair? Bright Sun, because you're like so like the sun's rays? No, no, I know. Blue Sky because of your eyes."

 

Naomi giggled. "It's Naomi."

 

"But that name does nothing to describe your inner or outer beauty. I shall call you Butterfly. No, Pretty Butterfly." He lay back and lit a strange looking cigarette. The pungent smoke tickled Naomi's nose. "Did the balmy winds of the Pacific bring you here to California or were you born in this peaceful paradise?"

 

"Um, no. I'm from Jetmore, Kansas State." She didn't explain that rather than arriving on the winds she'd run away from her new husband and family leaving a short note saying that she wouldn't be back and asking them not to look for her.

 

"You here to join up with your liberated sisters and brothers to fight against oppression and stop the war?"

 

"Um, no. I work in a book shop downtown."

 

Astral, or whatever his name was sat up abruptly. "Don't you care about what our government's doing to our cousins across the water in our name? Laos, Korea, Vietnam…"

 

"I just wanted to live by the sea. I'd never seen the sea before." Naomi felt small and stupid in the face of this man's passion. She didn't take much notice of current affairs.

 

"Listen, sister, you can't live your life in ignorance. We ARE the people of the planet and we owe it to humanity to free ourselves and others from the shackles of organised tyranny!"

 

"Oh," was all that Naomi could say in the face of this declaration.

 

He took one of her small hands in his and stared into her blue eyes. "Do you want to learn? Do you think that the planet should be saved? Are you a part of humanity?"

 

She nodded, mesmerised.

 

"Well, come and meet my brothers and sisters. We're out at Johnson's farm. D'you know it?"

 

She nodded again.

 

"Will you come?" He could read the hesitation in her eyes and bent to kiss her on the lips. Eventually, drawing back he cupped her face with both his hands making the smoke from his strange cigarette drift past her nose. He stared into her eyes. "Well, my Pretty Butterfly, see you there?"

 

Naomi, still reeling from the first passionate kiss she'd ever experienced, smiled.

 

I apologise that once again I'm not in love


 

"You're just like all the others!" Astral's voice spat at her, but it didn't stop her cramming the last of her clothes into her canvas tope. "You said you loved me!"

 

Pretty Butterfly sighed, took another long puff of her spliff and felt the smoke calm her. She turned to look at the agitated man. "Listen, Az, I do love you, really. But I also love Moonjava, Marley and Patches. And Faith and Wildwind…"

 

"But I thought you…"

 

I'm very grateful to you," Naomi spoke over his protests. She laid a hand on his right cheek. "You showed me this life and how important it is to love everyone and what we can do to change the world. But now my purpose is to take the message to others." She sat back down on the mattress and closed her bag.

 

"You mean take New Sage's message," he spat.

 

"New Sage is showing me a new way to enlightenment." She ignored the man's snort. "I thought you'd be pleased for me."

 

"I just… just… I wanted…"

 

"Please, Az. You taught me that love is too beautiful not to share. Our destinies are taking different paths." She stood up and pulled the bag onto one slim shoulder. "We'll meet again. I'm sure."

 

She gently kissed his lips and then walked out of his life in a swirl of bright coloured fabrics until all that was left was the faint smell of patchouli.

 

While my heart is a shield and I won't let it down


 

"You… you're married?" Naomi winced at how childish her voice sounded.

 

"What difference does it make? You believe in free love, don't you?"

 

"With like-minded people."

 

"I'm like-minded. I played by the rules of this place; what few there are."

 

"But, but what about your wife?"

 

"She's off playing being corporate. Keeps me in the manner I've become accustomed to." He glanced over at the pretty young woman hovering in his door way. He'd been hanging out in Haight Ashbury with some friends when they'd spotted the group of hippies walking down the street in bare feet singing some protest song. His friends had laughed and threw out some disparaging remarks. Gary, however, had spotted the beautiful redhead with a painted butterfly on her right cheek.

 

Having become somewhat jaded with the playboy lifestyle that his wife's money provided him, he was looking for something different. When the butterfly turned and smiled at him he knew he'd found it. It didn't take him long to buy the clothes, grow his hair, call himself Black Bee and integrate himself into the 'Free Desire' commune just outside 'Frisco. He felt like a child let loose in a sweet shop with Pretty Butterfly being the box of expensive chocolates. The fact that he was more than twenty years her senior made the tasting all that much sweeter.

 

But all good things have to come to an end and his wife was making sounds that maybe she was fed up of paying for his profligate lifestyle. So, he'd shaved, washed and changed his clothes. Pretty Butterfly had entered his room as he was sliding his wedding ring back on his finger. To say that she was disappointed and upset was an understatement.

 

"But aren't you…? Don't you want to help the oppressed?"

 

"Oh, for Pete's sake." He picked up an expensive looking leather wallet from the orange crate he'd been using as a bedside table. "Without those 'oppressed'," he made quote marks with his fingers, "people, America wouldn't be as powerful as it is and we'd still be living in covered wagons."

 

"And Vietnam and…"

 

"Bomb the lot of them. They deserve it." He walked towards her and she pressed herself back against the wall. Leaning over he gently kissed her forehead ignoring her pained gasp. "But you were worth having to share the bathroom and live with so many unwashed, flaky people. Bye." And with that he strode out of the building.

 

Naomi couldn't hold back the tears and she sank down to the floor. Something broke inside her.

 

To travel the world alone and live more simply

 

Naomi left the commune and Pretty Butterfly behind as she went out into the real world searching for the thing that she thought she'd found with the free-loving peacemakers. Wanting to get away from the States she travelled to Europe fortunately finding enough work to pay her way. It was on a farm just outside Reading in the south of England that she realised that she'd missed an undetermined number of periods. Plumping down on a bale of hay she mentally counted back. Oh, God, she was pregnant! But what about morning sickness? Swollen breasts? She put her hand on her stomach. Was it a little rounder than usual?

 

"Naomi!"

 

Her head went up. Susan, the mother of the two boys she was looking after was calling her.

 

"Naomi, where are you?"

 

The voice came closer and the young American girl simply sat there strangely lethargic. She knew she should answer or walk out of the barn, but she couldn't move. A shadow filled the doorway.

 

"Oh, there you are. I… Are you all right? Naomi? You've been crying."

 

Naomi put her hand up in surprise and felt the tears on her face. "I… I just…"

 

The kind British woman walked over and put an arm round the shaking girl. "Sh, sh. It's all right. Whatever's the problem we'll sort it out, all right?"

 

But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy


 

Susan had been absolutely fantastic once she'd spilt the beans. Taking charge in her no-nonsense way, she'd arranged doctor's visits, midwife appointments and, Naomi had no idea how, somehow got her booked into this hospital under an assumed name. When the young American had questioned why this was necessary, Susan's explanation was frank.

 

"They'll take your baby away and put you in a home for wayward girls if they find out you're seventeen and unwed. Is that what you want?"

 

Naomi had numbly shaken her head and fallen in with Susan's plans. The only experience of childbirth she'd had, had been in books and helping out at a couple of births at the communes. The young women there had seemed to have little problem with pain, but now she suspected it was because they'd been mostly stoned. She jumped when a sharp voice intruded into her thoughts.

 

"For goodness sake! You need to take care of your son yourself." The nurse looked at the young woman who was curled up in bed staring at nothing. "Mrs Goldberg, I know the birth was difficult, but really you haven't even looked at the baby for two days!"

 

Naomi slowly turned and raised her eyes to the nurse in her bright white, stiff uniform as she pushed through the curtains surrounding her bed. She was exhausted and hurting in places she didn't want to think about. And the baby! She'd been too tired and weak to hold the red-faced, screaming bundle in her arms for long after the birth. Now, she was stuck in this ward with all these women cooing and gushing over their babies and it was driving her crazy. She needed to escape, to get away.

 

Something moved in the nurse's arms and she shuddered.

 

"Your son's hungry!" The thin woman thrust the bundle into Naomi's arms. "Why haven't you named him yet?" The nurse sighed in exasperation. She didn't have time to be mollycoddling this spoilt American whose husband was strangely absent. She suspected that there was no husband, but kept her thoughts to herself. She sighed again as the young mother held her baby as if it was a bomb set to go off. Bending down she adjusted the woman's arms and undid the front of her nightgown.

 

"Like this." She placed Naomi's hand on the back of the baby's head and pushed it towards an exposed breast.

 

Naomi flinched as the baby greedily latched on and started sucking.

 

"Okay, I'll leave you to it," said the nurse after a minute. "I'll be back in a few to see how you're getting on." With that, she swished through the curtains leaving her patient alone with her son.

 

Thoughts of giving him up for adoption swam through her head as she looked down at the squirming figure in distaste. A long breath escaped her lips and she searched for something to occupy her thoughts. She glanced down. She'd not really looked at her baby before and despite everything, curiosity stirred something in her. With one finger she pushed back the blanket that was covering the baby's head and breathed in sharply. Dark curls with a hint of red in them peaked out. As she pushed the blanket back further they sprang up and glistened in the light above the bed.

 

Hearing her gasp, the baby opened his lids and gazed unfocussed at the blur above him. Naomi was completely mesmerised. Her son's eyes were a deep, rich blue and appeared to be filled with all the wisdom of the ages.

 

"Hello, ktantan*," she murmured. A tiny hand with perfect tiny nails waved as if in greeting. Almost reverently, she held out a finger and then smiled when it was grasped strongly. "My, you are a strong one." The blue eyes seemed to twinkle up at her. Naomi took in a deep breath and felt something soothe her spirit.

 

'cause nothing I have is truly mine

 

"Thank you for everything." Naomi pulled Susan into a hug. "I promise to pay you back for…"

 

"Stop it," the older woman chastised gently. "Think of it as a gift for Blair."

 

"But at least the ticket," Naomi protested as she stood back.

 

"If you can later, when you're on your feet, all right. But don't put yourself out or deprive Blair of anything."

 

"Last call for British Airways flight BA342 to Dallas leaving from gate 16. Last call…"

 

"Go, or you'll miss the flight." Susan pulled her into a hug again and then bent to place a kiss on the bundle strapped to Naomi's front. "And take care of him." Her voice turned husky and she swallowed.

 

"I will." The young American woman felt her eyes starting to fill. "And again, thank…"

 

"Go."

 

With one backward glance Naomi picked up her bag and strode towards the gate. As she settled herself into her airplane seat she glanced down at her son.

 

"It's just us, now, Sweetie. Ready to see the world?"

 

Blue eyes gazed up at her and a smile graced the full lips.

 

 

* shadchan – matchmaker

* ktantan – little one

 

 

Life for Rent by Dido

 

I haven't ever really found a place that I call home


I never stick around quite long enough to make it


I apologise that once again I'm not in love


But it's not as if I mind that your heart ain't exactly breaking


 

It's just a thought, only a thought

But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy


Well I deserve nothing more than I get


'cause nothing I have is truly mine

 

I've always thought that I would love to live by the sea


To travel the world alone and live more simply

I have no idea what's happened to that dream


'cause there's really nothing left here to stop me


It's just a thought, only a thought

 

But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy


Well I deserve nothing more than I get


'cause nothing I have is truly mine

 

While my heart is a shield and I won't let it down


While I am so afraid to fail so I won't even try


Well how can I say I'm alive?

 

But if my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy


Well I deserve nothing more than I get


'cause nothing I have is truly mine

 

 

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