By Esther Rapaport

“What? You want a strange girl to move in with her? Really, Yoel!”

“Why not, Ima?”

Mother and son happened to be attending the same wedding in Bnei Brak. The chasan was an old friend of Yoel’s, while the kallah was the daughter of Mira Brodsky’s good friend. Mira and Yoel were standing and talking on the sidewalk outside the hall.

“First of all, it really isn’t for our Chaiky. She needs her privacy and her peace and quiet at home. It’s hard enough for her now that she’s finally trying to get back to some type of routine with work and all that.”

“So?”

“So I don’t think that after a busy morning of dealing with everything she has to deal with at work, she has to come home and start talking to a stranger who is going to be on her head constantly, instead of unwinding and taking care of her children.”

“That’s what she told me, almost word for word.” Yoel leaned on the metal guardrail. The thundering drums could be heard all the way outside the hall.

“Nu, I told you, we think alike, the two of us.”

“And I still think that you two have to try and persuade her to do this.”

“Me — and who else?”

“You and Abba. You’re both worried about her being alone like this, aren’t you?”

“True,” Mira said thoughtfully.

Yoel did not mention the incident on the porch. He had no idea if their mother even knew what had happened, or if Chaiky had decided not to say anything to her about it.

“But why are you immediately going in that direction? There are other solutions to the problem of her being alone.”

“What were you thinking of?”

“We wanted her to move to Be’er Sheva, with us.”

“Chaiky? With the kids?”

“Yes.” She was serious. “You know very well, Yoel, that this can take years. Even if the Russian court agrees to let Shlomo serve his sentence here, and he is brought back to Israel, he still won’t live at home, and Chaiky will be alone.” She looked at her hands, which were toying with her glasses. “As soon as it all began, Abba suggested that she come back and live with us in the meantime, but she didn’t want to. Nu, and what has happened since then?”

He nodded. “She’s been in Yokne’am for three months already.”

“Alone.”

“So,” he said as he waved to a friend who passed them by on his way into the hall, “if my idea doesn’t sit well with you or Abba, then try to talk to her again about your idea. Maybe she’s changed her mind since then.”

They spoke for another few minutes and then parted. Mira went back into the ladies’ section and found that the first dance was already over. She wended her way back to the table where she had been sitting with friends, and found that Shoshi and Nechama, two other friends from their group, had arrived while she’d been outside.

“Where were you during the dancing, Mira?” one of the women asked. “We had such a nice circle of friends, and we missed you. We thought you’d run back to Be’er Sheva!”

“No, I have another hour until the next bus.” She sat down, moving the pitcher of water that the waitress had put right at her elbow. “I hope I’ll be able to dance for the second round. Excuse me, what did you say? Oh, schnitzel, thanks.” The waitress placed a portion of schnitzel on her plate and moved to the right, to Shoshi.

“I’ll take schnitzel, too,” Shoshi said and glanced at Mira. “So, are we still as alike as we used to be, or what?”

Mira laughed. “Do you still sleep without a pillow, even at our age?”

“Yes, and you?”

“Yep.”

“And we’re not so old, you know. I have two more years until I retire …”

They laughed. There had always been some very interesting similarities in their personalities, and it was nice to discover, each time they met again, that despite the passing years, little had changed.

“What’s with your daughter?” Shoshi asked. She pushed aside the raisins that garnished the mound of rice on her plate and took a bite of the rice.

“She’s doing okay, baruch Hashem.”

“Is there any news about your son-in-law in Russia?”

“He’s still there, waiting for his trial.” Mira had long stopped asking herself how people knew about all kinds of interesting stories that happened in their little country. Perhaps because she’d been living for so many years in the south, and had always been somewhat disconnected from the goings-on in other cities, she found it hard to absorb to what extent other people knew so much about what was happening around them — and not only around them. This was one area in which she’d never been the least bit like Shoshi.

“And what is your daughter doing in the meantime?” Shoshi was now working on her stir-fried vegetables.

“What is she doing? Davening and hoping for a yeshuah. What can I tell you?”

“In Yokne’am?”

“Uh-huh.”

Shoshi speared a potato that was colored a bright yellow by some spice or another. Mira still hadn’t touched any of the food on her plate. “I’m sure you offered her to come live with you.”

Mira stared at Shoshi. “Why are you so sure?”

“Because you’re a lot like me. And if your Chaiky nicely told you that it is not for her, I’m sure you came up with ways to persuade her to do it.”

Mira looked at Shoshi and didn’t answer.

“Because I know I would have done that, too.”

Was the whole table quiet, or was it just Mira’s imagination? Were all the other women listening to their conversation with their mouths agape in curiosity, or was the silence she was hearing just in her head?

“Shoshi, I’m just a bit taken aback by what you’re saying,” Mira said finally. “Because just a few minutes ago, I was talking to my son about this very idea. We really don’t want Chaiky to stay where she is by herself.”

Shoshi locked her gaze on Mira. “But if you are really like me, Mira, then listen to me and don’t bring Chaiky home to you.”

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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