By Esther Rapaport

Chapter 3

Part III

There was no more privacy or tranquility between its walls. What had Elka done there? Shown Dovi and Naomi’s notes to Noa? Had they rummaged around in her drawers? At least there, everything looked shipshape, perhaps because she had been in the room so infrequently lately…

In a flash, Chaiky turned toward the library at the far end of the floor. A couple of women who stood between the shelves raised their eyes when she entered and nodded in greeting. But aside from them, the room was empty. Most of the center’s activity took place in the afternoon, not now. During the afternoon, Miri moved from her desk in the front lobby to the library counter, and served as the librarian. Now Noa would take over that job, and Miri could dedicate all her time to the office work. It wasn’t a bad setup, in theory.

There was Noa–sitting at the desk and perusing a thick volume; from afar, it looked like Sefer HaToda’ah. Chaiky approached her. “Good morning, Noa,” she said, glancing at the darkened computer screen on the desk.

“Oh, good morning. How are you?”

“Baruch Hashem, great. What’s doing here? Is everything going well?”

“Yes, things are quiet now. But I understand that in the afternoon, it gets quite busy…”

“Yes. Has Miri already told you your work hours?”

“Uh-huh.” Noa closed the book but left her finger stuck between the pages, as though waiting for this conversation to end so she could go back to her reading.

Chaiky ignored the hint. “And how is the computer program?” she asked.

“I sent a few questions to the manufacturer. Let’s see when they reply. There is more than one strange thing that doesn’t quite make sense.”

“Yes, Miri and I were also having trouble with it.”

Noa smiled in reply, but something about her smile was not clear. As a computer expert, did she view the comparison between herself and the more simpleminded Chaiky and Miri as a putdown?

One of the women came over with two books. Noa wrote down what she was taking on a memo note and affixed it to the bulletin board in front of her.

“This is why we have a card catalog now,” Chaiky said with a pleasant smile when the woman left. “One woman taking out two books is still OK, but when there will be dozens of children here this afternoon, those notes will hardly be able to keep up.”

“I think I will manage,” Noa said with a smile that was no less sweet. She rubbed the spine of the book she was holding. Yes, it was Sefer HaToda’ah.

Chaiky glanced at her for one second longer than necessary and then said, “Well, then, have a good day.”

“You, too,” Noa said.

The minute Chaiky turned her back, she heard the rustle of pages as Noa was finally able to get back to her book again.

“Chaiky, how are you?”

“Yael!” Chaiky was very happy. She didn’t have the head or time right now to call friends, but if her good friend from high school was calling her, that was great. The house was sparkling after Sebelia had done her magic, and the children were sleeping peacefully. Things were calm, and she could almost imagine that Shlomo was at night seder and would be back in an hour.

“Yes, it’s me. Chaiky, tell me, how are you?”

“I’m…” Chaiky sighed. There weren’t too many people with whom she could speak openly like she could with Yael. “Baruch Hashem. Trying to survive.”

“Is there any news?”

“No. Right now he has two lawyers, and each one is suggesting a different line of defense. We don’t know which is better. Believe me, I don’t understand anything about these things.”

“I believe you. You’re such a straight, uncomplicated person, so not…” Yael groped for the right word. “So not someone who I could imagine getting tangled in such a thing… But it will work out, b’ezras Hashem. Maybe you’d like to come to us for Shabbos?”

“You’re sweet, Yael, thanks.” Chaiky sighed again. “But if I already have to travel out of Yokne’am, I would go to my parents. Maybe they’ll come to me this Shabbos; we’ll see.”

They chatted for a few more minutes, and Yael, in her trademark way, began reminiscing about high school.

“I can’t believe it wasn’t a thousand years ago…” Chaiky closed her eyes tiredly. “Sometimes I look in the mirror and I can’t believe I’m the same person that I was back then, and that this is my house. In the last two months, I’ve aged I-don’t-know-how-many years. I’m not even who I was half a year ago.”

“But you did very well for yourself in Yokne’am, didn’t you?”

“Yes, baruch Hashem…” Chaiky stood up. Something about this conversation was beginning to feel heavy, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. “Until recently.”

“I’m sure, b’ezras Hashem, that you’ll go back to being the same strong, successful person you were,” Yael said, almost forcefully. “I actually wanted to suggest something to you now. The question is if you have the head for it. Remember you told me that you sometimes speak for community center and library directors?”

“I used to,” Chaiky corrected her. Yes, she had spoken to other community center directors in the past, providing them with suggestions and advice for how to build up their programs. It was to her credit that their own community center had received the municipal award for its well-stocked library, its smooth functioning, and its flawless management. There was nothing wrong with remembering that, especially if it made her feel good now.

“Would you want to come speak for us in Petach Tikvah?”

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.

 

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