By Esther Rapaport
Both Chaiky and Miri had raised the assumption the day before that maybe Noa was simply Elka’s relative, and for whatever reason the two of them had decided to conceal that fact. Of course, it was possible that the new worker had simply charmed her employer to no end, but that still did not fully explain what was going on here.
“Alright, I’m going back to my office,” Chaiky said cheerfully. “Is everything okay in the library, Noa?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, and followed Chaiky. “The program manufacturers sent me a better version, they say, but something is still not right. I’m beginning to wonder if the computer in the library is the problem, because it doesn’t let me use all the functions that are supposed to be active there.” Chaiky opened the door to her room and entered, with Noa on her heels. “But meanwhile, I’ve learned to manage with the old card catalog.”
“The paper cards?”
“No, the computerized one. Until a few months ago, you had a different computer program that you used. Miri showed it to me. Besides for the new books that were bought, and a few new families that recently made subscriptions, all the information is in that program as well.” She glanced at the walls. “Well, it’s not as sophisticated as the new program, but it also makes much fewer problems … Are these your children?” She stood up and approached a photo taped to the side of the tall file cabinet.
“Very cute.” She gazed at the photo for a few long moments and then turned to Chaiky. “Your daughter looks like you,” she remarked.
“Yes, people tell me that.”
Noa continued to look at the picture, and Chaiky sat in her seat and looked at Noa.
The door opened. “Oh, Noa, you’re here?” Elka stuck her head in with a friendly wave. “Chatting in here, are we? Very nice. Chaiky, I see you finally understood me. Maybe you’ve also changed your mind regarding the outing tomorrow?”
“I have other plans tomorrow,” Chaiky said in a no-less-friendly tone. “Sorry, Elka, we discussed this already.”
“I see. In any case, since I have the two of you together, I wanted to tell you, Chaiky, to give Noa the schedule of courses for this year, okay? She’s going to design a nice brochure for us.”
“That’s usually Miri’s job, isn’t it?” Chaiky asked delicately.
“Everyone has enough work to keep them busy.” Elka, as usual, minced no words. “And you also have what to keep busy with here, Chaiky. You know that.”
Chaiky’s back was rigid. “Yes, I know that.”
Noa stared at the window, pretending not to have heard a word.
“So tomorrow, you’ll go to the Rosenblums at lunchtime,” Chaiky concluded. “And you can play with their parakeets until I get back.”
“And you let?” Dovi was overjoyed. “You let me touch them?”
“Yes. After we come home, you’ll remember to scrub your hands with soap. And behave nicely there, okay? Whatever their mother says, listen to right away.”
“Sure,” Naomi and Dovi chorused.
“Okay, goodnight, sweethearts.”
She’d already done Kriyas Shema, a story, and a song with them. The house was sparkling because Sebelia had left a mere half hour ago, but Chaiky knew that if there would be no significant change in the very near future, the clean state wouldn’t last longer than two days.
She needed a change.
Yoel had tried to talk to her yesterday, and although she had vigorously objected, she knew, somewhere in her mind, that the solution he had suggested might be an idea to consider. No, it would not resolve her loneliness; as far as she was concerned, that wasn’t even a problem.
True, her parents were also worried about her being alone here with the children, but there really was nothing to worry about. Even if there were some unpleasant things about this situation, such as coming home from work full of frustration and feeling that there was no one for her to talk to, or that minor incident with the porch yesterday, she definitely felt strong enough to deal with it.
But the house … the house…
If she took someone in to live with her, like Yoel had suggested, the house would be kept clean, and wouldn’t only look this way on Monday evenings, after Sebelia’s departure.
It was sad, perhaps, to think about how many things she did only because of the outside impression, to the extent that she would agree, seeing no other alternative, to bring a stranger to live in her home just so that it would galvanize her to keep the place in order. But who said that we always have to fight against our less positive traits? Sometimes, it can be better to utilize them for the good.
Like in this situation.
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.