(photo credit: )
Sweaty and sleepless, Daniella hoists herself slowly out of bed to shut the window and turn on the air conditioner. Her movements are even slower and more deliberate than the girth of her ninth-month pregnancy would warrant in any case. Particularly on a night like this one - when the inferno outside has finally surpassed the furnace within her by a good few degrees.
The last thing she wants right now is to wake Amir, who has been snoring peacefully under the duvet since his head hit the pillow.
Her consideration here is not to be mistaken for considerateness, however. It is, rather, a quietly defiant act of self-preservation spurred by heat prostration and insomnia - neither of which is conducive to tenderness. Certainly not toward the person she holds responsible for her current plight.
It is not that she doesn't feel compassion for Amir - this boy lying beside her, wrapped in a blanket and in his own little world. The boy she married last September, after the war ended and before the start of the fall semester.
It's not that she doesn't love him. Or used to, anyway.
Nor is it that she doesn't want the baby they planned during a euphoric weekend that marked Amir's safe return from Lebanon. The baby they vowed wouldn't disrupt their other plans. The ones they had made and laid fastidiously, as though preparing a rough draft for a stone carving.
No, it's not that she is a victim of coercion or anything. Which makes her resentment that much harder to swallow along with her iron pills and folic acid.
Still, she hadn't taken a few things into account while being swept up in the moment. The moment she and Amir hadn't banked on making official for a few years to come. At the very least until completing their BAs.
One of the factors in the equation she hadn't thought out as carefully as she might have - being a business major, that is - was money... more specifically, Amir's relation and attitude to it. This was only natural for a girl whose parents took supporting her through school for granted. And why Daniella never had to worry about amenities she considered basic.
It is also why Amir never made an issue about her spending habits, other than an occasional tease about the silver spoon stuck to her palate.
Little did she know of his intention to remove it - forcibly, if necessary - when the time came.
Little did she know that the time in question came the minute he proposed over a Domino's pizza they devoured while naked after sex and reeling from relief at their reunion.
Little did she know when she said yes that she was consenting to a contract whose terms would not be to her liking.
All she knew at that glorious juncture was that everything would be OK, now that Amir had not only lived to tell the tale of his terrifying reserve duty - fighting an enemy as ferocious and ruthless as Hizbullah, with insufficient supplies and unprepared fellow soldiers - but had escaped all injury.
How could she not agree with him that this was both a blessing and an opportunity? Was there any better way of asserting life in the face of death than this?
Furthermore, they knew they wanted to get married and have children eventually. So what in the world were they waiting for?
After all, hadn't their own parents married at their age? Didn't Daniella's mother make jokes about having gone into labor while taking an exam - but not leaving the auditorium for the hospital before finishing the final essay question?
Yes, they concluded, Amir's survival was a clear sign to be heeded. A sign from God that postponing the most important mission of one's being - raising a family - is missing the whole point.
However, in the flurry of finding a wedding hall and rabbi at the last minute, and in the throes of the minutiae of invitations and flower arrangements, Daniella was failing to read another clear sign, and missing a whole different point.
DANIELLA FLICKS the switch and stands in front of the vent to let the cold air blow on her forehead and cheeks. She glances worriedly over at Amir, who is shifting positions. As long as he remains covered, she hopes, he will not notice the drop in room temperature. But the noise of the ancient machine, installed 20 years ago by the owners of the cramped Tel Aviv apartment she and Amir have been renting, might still be a problem. For a split second, Daniella doesn't know which is worse: the unbearable heat, or Amir's reaction to catching her in the act of hiking up the electricity bill he is too proud to allow her parents to pay.
Deciding that it is the former, she remains in place. She also is hit by the sense that if she weren't about to give birth to their baby in a couple of weeks, she would be breaking up with this man, instead of committing to grow old with him.
Never having articulated her disillusionment, Daniella has been unable to provide her husband with a rational explanation for her not taking a stand in the student strike he has been so passionate about. In her heart, though, she views his "principled protest" against high tuition in a less-than-flattering light. She even sees his shifting the focus of the struggle to the failures of the government during the very war that led to their marriage to be disingenuous, at best.
"WHAT ARE you doing up at this hour?" Amir asks groggily. "Are you all right?"
Startled, Daniella hurriedly turns off the air conditioner.
"No," she answers curtly, sick of self-imposed squalor for which she has been blaming her spouse. "I'm boiling and I'm fuming."
"Then why did you turn the air conditioner off?" he asks, now wide awake and concerned as much by his wife's tone as her physical condition.
"Because we can't afford it," she says, sitting on the edge of the bed and bursting into tears.
Ashamed, Amir gets up and turns it back on.
"Don't be silly," he cajoles, desperate to get Daniella to smile - something she hasn't been doing a lot lately. "Everything's going to be manageable when our demands are met by the government."
"Good luck waiting for that," Daniella sniffles. "I'm calling my parents."