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A Couple in Love
by Debbi Antebi

Exactly three years after my mother’s funeral, my dad asked me if I’d be okay meeting with his girlfriend, Michelle. It was more a statement than a question, I was smart enough to figure that out. He said it exactly in the same tone he used when he asked me to take the garbage out. As he sat watching the TV, his feet on the coffee table, I went straight to my room, sat at my desk, and stared at my mother’s painting leaning against the wall, thinking of ways to get rid of the girlfriend.

The painting in my bedroom was only one of my mom’s great masterpieces— she was an amazing painter, and she’d been so prolific in such a short time. After she passed away, we kept her work locked in her studio next to our house; she never wanted to sell her favorite paintings, those that depicted happy couples and families. Many times after I got home from school, which was usually much earlier than my dad’s arrival, I went straight to her studio to stare at her work, especially at the unfinished ones. I imagined my mom’s elegant fingers working on them, finishing them to perfection.

The studio became my thinking space during the week leading up to Michelle’s visit— it’s where I finally came up with a plan. On the morning of the dreaded visit, before leaving for work, my dad made me promise to be warm and polite throughout the dinner, until the moment Michelle left our house. I’d keep my promise no matter what, I assured him. That afternoon, I arrived home early from school to do everything exactly as I’d planned. I carried every one of my mother’s paintings to the dining room, covering the walls with them. In my father’s bedroom, right on the wall facing his bed, I hung the largest painting of all— a couple in love, walking in an empty street hand-in-hand.

When Michelle arrived, holding hands with my dad, I put on my best manners just as I’d promised. Staring right into Michelle’s big compassionate eyes, I described her the story behind each of Mom’s paintings— what inspired it, and how each one was special and distinct despite their common theme. Dinner was solemn, and shortly after a tour of the house, Michelle left. I don’t think she called my dad after that night.

I waited for my dad to get furious at me, but he didn’t even show the slightest sign of anger. So I took all the paintings back to the studio, and we never said a word about it.

Debbi Antebi has work published or forthcoming in Six Sentences, Flashshot, Apollo’s Lyre, and several other publications. She lives in Istanbul, Turkey.  Contact Debbi.