By Esther Rapaport
They had given Dovi a painkiller, but the trauma, confusion, and fear, along with the strange place, didn’t let him fall asleep. Chaiky sat on the blue armchair near his bed, humming quietly, hoping that they wouldn’t be disturbed anymore.
But just a minute later, the yellow curtain was tugged aside once again and that girl from before burst inside. “I have a book for Dovi!” she said cheerfully. “It was mine when I was little. Do you want it, Dovi?”
“You were in an accident?” Dovi asked in response. “Is that why you walk that way?”
“Wow, you can talk!” the girl marveled. “How old are you?”
“Six and a half. Were you in an accident?”
Chaiky swallowed and tried to think if the jet plane painted on the curtain would interest Dovi now. But the wheels in her tired brain were moving very slowly, and by comparison the two children were talking at the speed of an express train.
“No. I was born like this.”
“What, you were born with a bent-over back and those eyes and a limp?” The boy had sharp eyes. “Poor you. So why don’t you daven that it should get better?”
“Who told you I don’t daven?” She drew closer with the book, and Chaiky quickly took it from her hands.
“Thanks, Rachel,” she said, and opened the drawer of the white night table. “Dovi needs to sleep now, but I appreciate you thinking of us.”
“You’re welcome. But don’t forget to give it back to me tomorrow, okay?”
“No problem.” We’ll do it as fast as we can.
Rachel looked at the blue chair. “Do you want to sleep?” she asked. “Because you can lean this armchair back. You’re allowed to do it on Shabbos. It’s not electric.”
“Yes, the nurse showed me how to do it.”
“Oh, but she’s an Arab; she didn’t know to tell you about Shabbos.”
“Thanks for telling me.” Chaiky smiled again, even though her facial muscles felt stiff from exhaustion. “After Dovi falls asleep, I’ll make it comfortable and try to get some sleep myself.” What time was it? Nine-ten. What would she be doing at home at this time? Once, the answer was simple: she rested on the couch with a book she’d taken from the library, until she fell asleep with it.
But she hadn’t been reading much lately. She had no patience to read, especially because in order to read, she needed a book. And for that she needed to go to the library. And in the library she’d need to tell Noa what she was taking and what she was returning. In short—no thanks. So Friday nights these days, she usually just wandered around the house, checking on a sleeping Naomi and Dovi again and again, reading the newspaper’s Shabbos supplement if she found something there that interested her, going to make sure that the door was locked, and eventually, falling asleep somehow.
“So if you need something, and you don’t want to ask the nurses, don’t be ashamed to wake me up. You make a right at the nurses’ station, and there’s a little hallway. At the end there’s a door that says ‘staff only’ on it, but you can come in. If it’s before a quarter to eleven, try to be very quiet so you don’t wake Elsie. After eleven, she’s already on shift.”
Chaiky closed the drawer of the little night table. “I don’t understand,” she said. “You sleep in the staff room? Why aren’t you in a regular room?”
“Because I’m not hospitalized.” Rachel smiled forgivingly. “I’m just a guest here.”
“Oh.” Chaiky wasn’t any smarter.
“So, good night. Feel good, Dovi, sweetie.”
The boy smiled, his eyelids heavy. He finally seemed on the verge of drifting off to sleep.
Four minutes later, during which Chaiky sat silently and rubbed the back of his hand, he was actually asleep. The bruise was bandaged, his tears a distant memory, but Chaiky discovered a drop of dried blood on his chin. She tried to wipe it gently, but when she saw him shift in his sleep, she abandoned the idea. It didn’t seem to be bothering him; his mother, who didn’t like the sight of blood, would simply have to overcome her aversion. She would close her eyes and try her best to relax. After all, it had been a very difficu—
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.