By Esther Rapaport
Chaiky tried to give the heavy door a gentle kick, but she knew there was no chance of it giving way. Of course, the door stayed tightly shut. Right after their wedding, Shlomo had replaced the wooden door that the contractor had installed with a heavy steel door. He had also raised the bars that surrounded the porch. There weren’t a lot of robberies in their neighborhood, but it still wasn’t pleasant to live on the ground floor with a quiet porch that faced the backyard and only a high railing and nice, little wooden door separating that yard from the house.
She had never understood how her parents hadn’t thought about this back when they purchased the apartment, but they had invested so much that she felt she really had no right to complain. Shlomo had agreed with her. “We’ll do the job ourselves,” he’d said. And they had. Now the porch was ringed with very high bars—which reached to just a few inches below the ceiling—and the door that separated the porch from the house was the same type as their heavy front door.
“You don’t need both the bars and a heavy door,” the aluminum man had laughed at them. “With such high bars, no thief will be able to get in anyway.” But Chaiky had insisted, and Shlomo had been good-naturedly compliant. And of course, the aluminum dealer hadn’t minded making the extra profit.
So now she had exactly what she’d asked for: a porch ringed by bars and a heavy steel door.
Chaiky sat back down on the chair, forcing herself not to panic, but rather to think rationally. After all, it wasn’t so frightening. She had a few options: She could scream until one of the neighbors would hear; she could call her sister-in-law Goldie to come to the house with the key that they had and open the porch door; or she could call the house, so either Dovi or Naomi, or both, would wake up and come rescue her.
The last option, the one involving waking up the children, made the most sense. If she did that, everything would end calmly and quietly, and no one outside their family would know anything. The neighbors here had enough to talk about her if they wanted. She didn’t want to be the subject of anyone’s tongue-wagging more than she had to.
And to call Goldie? She hadn’t spoken to Goldie in nearly two weeks, and even then, the conversation had been purely technical and not very friendly. Her mother-in-law? Her mother-in-law hadn’t called in two months, and she, Chaiky, hadn’t called her either, except for maybe once. It was nice that they sent her Sebelia and tried to be kind to Chaiky, but too many things were weighing down too many hearts, and it made them all minimize the conversations with each other to only that which were absolutely necessary.
Besides, that was all she needed, that Goldie or her mother-in-law should see her house in its present state! Her pedantic sister-in-law would surely faint if she’d see how things had deteriorated. Goldie, on her busiest and most stressful days, didn’t allow her house to become half as messy and dirty as Chaiky’s house was now, of that Chaiky was certain. Goldie would be sure that things had gotten so bad, she might even suggest that the children be taken out of the house!
Not that Chaiky was still contemplating her silly suspicions that Noa was really a social worker whom Goldie and Elka had sent over. Elka had clearly developed a personal friendship with Noa; it was foolish to think it was all being done out of sincere concern for Chaiky. But if Goldie would drop in here now, she would surely come up with a similar idea.
So the only option left was to wake up the children, with the hope that they wouldn’t become too alarmed by the idea that their mother was alone on the porch, and with the hope that the handle that fit on the inside of the door was in one piece, in its place.
She tried calling her home number. One ring. Then another, and another.
Chaiky bit her lip. Earlier, when the fax machine was squeaking away, she’d closed the door to the children’s room. Apparently they weren’t as light sleepers as she thought they were. Even with all of her ringing, they continued to sleep.
She tried calling again, and as she did, she stood up and walked to the door. She faintly heard the phone ringing through it, ringing and ringing, with no answer. Only if someone would get up to take a drink, and come out of the room, would there be a chance that he or she would discover her disappearance, and would then start searching for her. But until then?
Until then, she’d stay here.
Yes. What was wrong with that? Her lounge chair could be like a bed, and no one on the outside had a way of seeing what was happening on their porch unless they suddenly decided to take a nocturnal walk to the building’s dark backyard, climb the stone wall of the porch, and peer through the bars. Since there was no chance of anyone doing that, Chaiky was pretty much guaranteed absolute privacy.
Even if Dovi and Naomi would only wake up in the morning, she could last the night here. It really wasn’t a big deal.
It was better than asking people for favors.
“Yoel? Did you hear that ringing? Is it real?” Shifra Brodsky was alarmed. She was in the middle of a lovely dream about their most recent summer vacation to Turkey, and the phone’s annoying ring had awakened her. The time? Twelve-thirty at night.
Her husband sat up. “A telephone ringing?” he asked groggily. “It took me so long to fall asleep, I was sure it was a dream.”
“So did I,” Shifra said as the phone kept on ringing. “But now it sounds very real.”
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include Diamond in the Rough, Divided Attention, Behind the Scenes, Without a Trace, Dance of the Puppet, Blood Brothers, and The Kenya Conspiracy. She resides in Israel. Stay tuned for the next installment in next week’s Five Towns Jewish Times or visit 5tjt.com for more.