Author's Note: For Trialia, who I promised to write Zabby for aaaaages ago... XD
Shopping at the mall: a quintessential American experience, according to Tony. I have not enjoyed shopping of any kind since Tali died in Tel Aviv, killed in a suicide bomb attack at the local market.
Shrugging off my unease, I glance over at Abby. She puts a hand on my shoulder with a small smile. "Don't worry. We'll make it quick."
To my relief, my US bank account remains open and untouched, so I have funds to spare. Even so, I only want to pick up a few basics today.
Abby's attention is quickly diverted from me to a display in predominantly black and red, and I wander alone through the store, dropping underwear and socks into the cloth basket I picked up as I walked in. It does not particularly matter what they look like, as long as they are practical.
Bras, pants and shirts, however, are another matter. I do not know exactly how much weight I have lost in captivity.
Abby appears beside me, an olive green shirt in her hands. "Like it?"
It is my usual style – or what my usual style used to be, before I was captured. "Yes, I do."
Abby's expression brightens, and she holds the shirt up toward my body, studying it, and then me. "It looks about your size. I dunno, though – you should probably try it on."
Within a few more minutes, we have picked out several outfits, from jeans to blouses to t-shirts, and even pyjamas. There is too much to take into the changing area with me, according to the attendant, and so Abby waits outside, handing me the next batch as I tell her what fits and what does not. Fortunately, she does not insist that I show her each outfit as I try it on.
Pulling the curtain closed behind me, I stare into the full-length mirror. There are scratches on my face. My split lip is still only partially healed. The store attendant probably thinks that I am the victim of domestic violence.
Enough. Turning my back on my reflection, I loosen the belt that keeps Abby's black pants tight around my waist, then shimmy out of them. All oo soon, I realise the flaw in my plan: trying on pants does not present a problem, but wriggling into and out of many shirts is too much for my wounded shoulder.
I make the best of the situation, estimating sizes by holding the shirts up against myself. Vanity is not an issue; after all I have been through, worrying about my appearance is not a priority.
"These are the last ones," Abby says, when I re-emerge for what seems like the hundredth time. "Do you mind if I just go around the corner for a second? I have a book I wanna pick up."
"Do not worry," I tell her. "I will survive for ten minutes… if I do not become buried under piles of clothing."
With a nod and a flick of her pigtails, Abby makes for the door, and I pull the curtain of the changing cubicle closed once more. I cannot say that I am thrilled about being in the enclosed space; claustrophobia seems to be one more symptom of my current malaise. But at least this ordeal will be mercifully short.
As the final pair of pants puddles at my feet, a size too large, I resolve to eat more, no matter how small my appetite. I have dropped a dress size, perhaps even two; I cannot say for sure, but one thing I will not dispute is that I need to put on at least some weight before I can resume my daily running routine. I feel fragile and brittle, and I do not appreciate the visual reminder when I look in the mirror.
Shaking my head, I get dressed and gather the clothing that fits in my arms, abandoning the rest into the care of the attendant. While I wait for Abby, I pay for my new wardrobe without batting an eyelid at the total cost.
Abby approaches a little breathlessly as I step away from the cashier, and I get the sense that she is concealing something from me. For now, though, I am content to let her keep her secret. I would very much like to leave the curious stares of other customers behind me.
When we get back to Abby's apartment, I breathe a sigh of relief. It was good to see the sunshine and the outside world, but I cannot say the shopping trip was relaxing.
While Abby makes coffee, I return to her bedroom to change into my own clothes. A button-down blouse proves easier to put on unassisted than a t-shirt or sweater, and I am able to dress without troubling my hostess.
My makeshift pallet-bed is still where I left it; when I woke earlier this afternoon, Abby was nowhere in sight, but she had left a glass of orange juice by my side. She did not comment on my strange sleeping arrangement when I emerged into the living room, and I did not try to explain myself.
In truth, I do not know what I would say.
When I walk into the kitchen, Abby spins to take in my appearance. "Yaaaaay! You look like Ziva again!"
Although I cannot help but laugh at her enthusiasm, a part of me flinches. I might look like Ziva David, Mossad Liaison Officer with NCIS… but I do not feel like her. Though I know Abby does not expect me to snap into that role, I feel as though I am no longer who I should be.
We sit on the living room couch with steaming cups of coffee, and Abby partially pulls something out from behind a cushion, her expression a little hesitant. "Okay, so I know things are really screwed up right now. But I hope this might help."
I watch, perplexed, as she draws out a jewellery box and hands it to me. When I open it, the words I was about to say die on my lips.
A Star of David pendant on a thin gold chain lies within. It is the last thing I am expecting to see, and for a moment I am frozen, remembering the moment Salim tugged mine from around my neck. He had examined the pendant – a gift from my mother – for a moment, and then tossed it aside, showing no reverence for the symbol or the faith it represents. Not that I had expected any.
"…don't know if you're as religious as you used to be, cause you've been through so much stuff, but…" I force myself back to the present, concentrating on Abby's words as I take the pendant from the box. My hands tremble a little, and I merely hold it in my palm for a moment.
"Argh! I'm sorry, Ziva… I shouldn't have overstepped. It's none of my business."
I look up, meeting her concerned gaze, and give her a smile that is only a little forced. "No, Abby. This is…" I do not know what to say. "Thank you."
She searches my expression for a moment, then nods, holding out her hand. "Wanna try it on?"
I gather my hair with my good hand, pulling it away from my neck. Abby fastens the pendant around my neck, and the metal symbol settles into place, cool against my skin.
It feels as though I have found something that I thought was lost to me; something I have missed desperately without knowing exactly what it is. My eyes fill with tears, and I bow my head, letting my hair fall around my face and praying Abby will not notice.
Of course, I cannot fool her.
"It's okay if you wanna cry." The words are quiet and undemanding, and I cannot help the sob that escapes. "Oh, Ziva."
Her arms are gentle around me, and I surrender. While she strokes my hair and murmurs words I do not hear, I let myself cry, my hand curled around the pendant at my throat.