Chapter 33 – Veradim (וְרָדִים )(roses) – June 2023
"Rivka Abigail DiNozzo!" Ziva scolded her three-year-old for the umpteenth time. "How many times do I have to remind you not to climb on Aunt Dee's rose trellis?"
"But, Ima…" Riv stuck her lower lip out in a pout.
"Do not 'but Ima' me…" Ziva sighed as she led the ornery child to a chair on the deck. "Five minutes in time out for you for not listening." The girl started to open her mouth to say something but at the glare from her mother, decided to stay quiet. She sat in the chair with arms crossed and glared at the ground.
Ziva sat back in her chair near the other adults. Tim and Tony were tending the grill with the hamburgers and hot dogs. The other children played in the McGee backyard as the family waited for dinner.
"I swear both my mother and Ziva's mother are up there laughing," Tony quipped to his brother of the heart. "I think the best threat a parent can make to a child is 'I hope you get one just like you' and then watch it come true."
Tim nodded, "Oh, I'm sure my Dad is laughing as well." He flipped a few of the burgers as Tony rolled the hot dogs to brown them evenly. Tim turned to the women, "Meat should be done in five minutes or so."
Delilah and Ziva went inside to the kitchen to bring out the condiments, rolls, chips, and salads for the rest of the meal. Tali and Katie carried the paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils out to the large picnic table on the deck. Anthony and John toted the two litter bottles of soft drinks and lemonade out to the table.
Tony and Tim put the burgers and hot dogs on rolls and plated the meat to take to the table. The two families sat together and enjoyed the late afternoon meal. All of the kids, even twenty-month-old LJ were excited for the dessert later. Tony had promised to make root beer floats for everyone.
While the adults were cleaning up from the meal, the kids went into the yard to play. Tali decided they would play follow the leader and she would be the leader. The kids lined up behind her, with LJ immediately following his big sister. Tali led them around the yard, walking backwards, or navigating a path. Tony was cleaning the grates on the grill for Tim when a shriek from the side of the house stopped him cold.
"Ab-ba, I-ma," a child's voice screamed out in pain. Tony knew it was one of the twins and flew over the deck railing without touching the wood. Ziva was just coming out to check for any remaining food or trash to be cleaned up when the second cries came. She too cleared the deck railing in a flash as Tony rounded the corner of the house.
The other kids were standing in a huddle, Tali holding them back and also trying to help her younger sister. Rivka was face first in one of Delilah's rose bushes; angry red scratches and bloody marks on her arms, legs, and face.
"Riv, stop thrashing," Tali tried to get the girl to calm down and not make her injuries any worse. "Abba's here and Ima just came around the corner. You're going to be okay, Riv."
Tony moved closer to the little girl, "What happened, Tals?" He looked at her clothes snagged on thorns and the marks on her arms and legs. The thorn by her left eye worried him.
"We were walking on the bricks and she lost her balance; she was the last one in the line, so no one saw her falling," Tali explained.
"I tried to get her out, Uncle Tony," John was worried about his cousin and showed his aunt and uncle his scratched arms. "She got stuck on the thorns."
Ziva stepped up on the opposite side of her husband; both were looking for a way to get hold of their little girl and lift her from the rose bush. "I think if we each take an arm and a leg and lift her straight up, we can get her free," Ziva suggested.
'I'm worried about that large thorn by her left eye," Tony pointed to the concerning thorn.
"I want to go home," Rivka cried to her parents. "It hurts all over," she sobbed.
"How about I lift her shoulders and you lift her hips and legs?" Tony suggested to his wife. 'That way I can use my arms to shield her face." Ziva nodded and each parent took hold of the little girl. "Okay, on three we lift up… one, two, three…"
"OW!" the thorns still managed to scratch Riv's legs more and tear her shirt, but her parents were able to free her from the rose bush.
Tony cradled her in his arms and Ziva followed him back to the deck where Delilah was waiting with cool cloths, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, and Band-Aids. Tony held the little girl still while Ziva wiped and removed blood from the child's arms, legs, and face. Rivka tried to twist free from her father's grasp when the antiseptic stung.
"OW! Stop! It hurts," she cried and screamed. The other children watched from a distance, concerned, but trying not to get in the way.
"Baby, we have to clean out the scratches. I know it hurts. If I did not have to make sure the scratches do not get infected, I would not put you through this," Ziva tried to calm the child down by explaining to her what she was doing.
"It… it… hurts…" the little girl whimpered.
"Shh; Abba is holding you, yaldati. It's gonna be better soon, I promise," Tony held the child firmly so that Ziva could clean the wounds and pull the two embedded thorns from her. One thorn was in her arm and the other in her face. He stroked her back and hair and placed gentle kisses on her head.
"OW!" the little girl screamed as Ziva pulled the thorn from her face. "You hurted me, Ima!"
"This hurts me as much as it hurts you," Ziva muttered under her breath as she dabbed the wound on her daughter's face with the antiseptic wipe. She winced as the little one screamed again.
"Tali?" Beth yanked on her sister's hand. "Is Riv gonna be okay? Why is Ima making her hurt more?"
Tali pulled her little sister to her, "She'll be fine; Ima and Abba are trying to clean out the scratches so they don't get infected. The stuff to clean the wounds makes it sting."
LJ clung to Uncle Tim; he'd just about climbed into his uncle's arms when his sister started crying and screaming. The other three, Anthony, John, and Katie were standing in a group and watching everything.
"Wiv, boo-boo," LJ pointed to his sister.
"Yeah, bud; your sister has a bunch of owies. Your parents are getting her fixed up," Tim tried to calm the toddler. One panicky DiNozzo was one too many for him.
Thirty minutes later, the kids were all enjoying the root beer floats, even Rivka. She had multiple Band-Aids on her arms and legs, and one on her face over the scratch and puncture from the thorn. Other than the Band-Aids and the now scabbed scratches, she seemed okay after her ordeal.
Tony brought out the final two root beer floats for himself and his wife. He handed Ziva hers with a grin. "I think that whole clean-the-scratches was harder on us than it was on her," he nodded in the direction of his middle ninja. She was happily enjoying the treat with her siblings and cousins.
"I will bet that she does not climb on Dee's rose trellis again," Ziva commented.
"Probably not," her other half agreed.
A month later, the rose bush bloomed its first roses since Delilah planted it in her garden. The plant had been a clearance item at the garden center since tags were missing and the poor thing had been half dead. The flowers were a soft white with splashes of crimson on the petals. The kids dubbed the bush "Rivka's blood roses."