By Esther Rapaport
The curtain was pulled aside again. Gently, this time.
“Excuse me.” Rachel’s smiling face peeked through the slit. “I just wanted to ask: Did you eat already?”
“Yes, dear. They gave us cake in the emergency room,” Chaiky whispered.
“Oh, the volunteers from Refuah Sheleimah? But they usually give out all the food for the seudah; they didn’t give you that?”
“They did.” Chaiky glanced over at Dovi. “I just didn’t want to eat.”
“And you’re full?”
“But how, if you hardly ate anything?”
“Because I had time to eat before he fell.” Chaiky suppressed a sigh.
“Oh, at home?”
“No,” she heard Dovi’s clear voice. “In my grandparents’ house. That’s where I fell.”
“Hey, you’re not sleeping yet?” Rachel asked in surprise. “It’s very late for a boy your age!”
“Right!” Chaiky said with commendable patience. “He really does need to be sleeping already. Good night, Rachel..,”
“Good night.” And the curtain closed once more.
A minute later it moved again. The nurse had come to take Dovi’s pulse and blood pressure.
This time, it took ten whole minutes for Dovi to fall back asleep. Chaiky sat and hummed until she felt her voice losing steam, like a tape recorder whose batteries were beginning to die. “Good night, Dovi,” she whispered to him and to herself.
When would the hospital release them? She hoped the staff would take their observance into consideration and wouldn’t do it on Shabbos. Did they understand here that she didn’t want them to desecrate Shabbos because of them, and fill out and sign needless forms? She wouldn’t be going home until Motza’ei Shabbos anyway.
Chaiky’s thoughts became fuzzy, and she felt like she was observing them from the side, through the webs of sleep that were slowly enveloping her. What was with Naomi? She didn’t have a nightgown at her grandparents’ house, because the plan had been to go home to sleep. But Chaiky’s mother-in-law had closets full of things, and whatever was needed was usually found easily in those closets — from newborn-sized stretchies that had belonged to Shlomo, to women’s robes of all kinds. It was all very organized and clearly marked, just like Shlomo’s trip had been so carefully planned and organized, so why was she worrying? They would find pajamas for Naomi. And if —
The curtain moved yet again.
And it was Rachel.
“Can I come in?” she asked as she slipped inside.
Chaiky made a supreme effort to smile, and pointed to Dovi, who was sleeping. For now.
“I brought you some water and cups,” Rachel whispered. “Anyone who isn’t familiar with this ward might get lost looking for the water machine. And if you’ll get thirsty in the middle of the night …”
“Thank you very much, really,” Chaiky murmured. Who was this girl? What was she doing here in the middle of the night? And where had she gotten such a huge dose of peskiness? “Aren’t you tired, Rachel?”
“I’m tired, but I never sleep when I’m here. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Good night.”
Rachel placed the bottle of water and the cups on the night table and disappeared once again.
Now the webs of sleepiness were much further away, and Chaiky had trouble achieving that state of relaxation again. She changed positions three times, but couldn’t get comfortable. In the end she decided that she must be thirsty. With a sigh, she opened the bottle of water and filled up a cup. If she was only up now because of this water, she should at least drink some of it.
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.