By Esther Rapaport
“Miri, do you have paper clips?” Elka was in a big hurry. “No, not those small colorful ones—the big metal ones. Do you have any?”
Miri opened another drawer, her lips pursed. “No,” she said a moment later. “This is all I have.”
“Are you angry at me, Miri?”
Miri looked up in surprise. “I…” she stammered. “No. I mean… Maybe Chaiky has what to be angry about. I was always just a secretary.”
“You were never ‘just’ a secretary,” Elka vouched warmly. “You are a very special and dedicated worker, Miri, and I’ve told you that more than once. And Chaiky? Chaiky has no reason to be angry at me.”
“There’s no reason. I’m assuming this would be because of Noa coming to work here, right? Well, Noa is a very special girl, and I don’t know how much you appreciate her sacrifices and the steps she has taken, and that she is still taking…” She hesitated for a moment. “And without speaking lashon ha’ra, Chaiky is not functioning at her full capacity right now, so it’s very convenient for me that Noa is around.” She looked toward Chaiky’s small office. Today it was locked. Chaiky wasn’t in there and neither was Noa, whom Elka often asked to “take care of a few things in the system” and “to make a few phone calls that Miri doesn’t have time for.”
“And you should know that Noa is actually very considerate.” Elka didn’t look directly at Miri, but rather at a small flowering plant on her desk. “For example, I never thought that maybe it bothers Chaiky that when she’s not around people go into the room that ostensibly belongs to her. But this morning Noa told me that she prefers not to do it anymore, because it might cause tension between her and Chaiky. She has the new computer in the library now anyway, so she can work on that from now on.”
Miri nodded noncommittally. She didn’t know why, but Noa’s “kind consideration” didn’t quite impress her.
“In any case, Miri, once we’re on the topic of Chaiky, do you know of a woman who’s looking for a place to board? They’re trying to find someone to live with Chaiky. The situation there is pretty complicated. … One minute, that’s my phone. Hello, Noa’le?” she spoke into her cell phone. “Yes, I’ll be right back with you. No, she doesn’t have the paper clips you want. Should I go buy you some? No? You’ll manage? Fine. So do you hear, Miri? Someone who would be shayach to living with Chaiky. If you think of someone, tell me, alright? And ask your parents, too — maybe they know someone.”
She coughed suddenly and then fell silent. “What?!” she said into her phone and then listened for a long moment — too long.
“You?! You think that makes sense?” she asked, sounding totally confused. “Umm, we’ll speak in a few minutes. I’ll come to the library. So, Miri, you don’t have those simple big paper clips? Okay, no. I’m coming, Noa.” She finished the call and remained fixed in her place for a few seconds.
Miri continued to busy herself with her work, and only looked at Elka out of the corner of her eye. Elka was rubbing a hand on her forehead and muttering nervously something that sounded to Miri like, “Really, now!”
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.