W ithin seconds of entering the Frankel residence, Devorah Leah braced herself for action. “Hi! I’m here! Wow, what a pretty dress you’re wearing Rina! Hey, Yankidoodle!” she said, giving the four-year-old a high five. “Come here, I’ll wipe your nose.”

The smell of chicken soup simmering on the stove had become the symbol of Thursday afternoon for Devorah Leah since she’d begun chesed at the Frankel home two years ago. These visits gave Devorah Leah the same sense of satisfaction she’d had last Erev Pesach when vacuuming out her father’s car.

“Thanks, Devorah Leah,” Mrs. Frankel said, passing her the baby. “If you can just hold him for about five minutes while I finish making supper that would be the biggest help.”

Half an hour later, Devorah Leah sat with the baby on her lap, his thumb in mouth, blanket tucked under his arm, while three-year-old Rina tugged vigorously at her skirt, begging her to come play with her dollhouse. To her left, eight-year-old Rivka sat slouched over a pile of homework that had accumulated since the previous Thursday.

Yanki was hunched over, under the table, enjoying his job as a footrest. Once Devorah Leah had understood that being useful kept Yanki out of trouble, this led to creativity of all sorts.

“I have my midterms next week, so I’ll have to cancel next Thursday’s visit,” Devorah Leah apologized to Mrs. Frankel as she headed out the door. Her class had received permission to skip chesed, even though technically the last exam was on Thursday morning. She’d weighed her options, as she always did, finally deciding to let herself have the break she’d need after midterms. Mrs. Frankel wasn’t the only disappointed one.

“I’ll give you the rest of my soup if you come next week,” Yanki said, holding a spoonful of his pea soup in her direction.

“Thanks Yanki, it’s so kind of you to offer, but I’ll be back the week after next!” She reached out to wipe his face, splashed with globs of green mixture that hadn’t made it to his mouth. Then, before she noticed anything else that would keep her there longer, she made a quick exit through the front door.

Ugh, exams, Devorah Leah thought. She usually loved studying, but since they’d begun renovating the upstairs bathroom at home it was impossible to think straight with all that drilling. Not to mention the clouds of dust everywhere that made her eyes itchy and caused her to sneeze. She was upset her parents had decided to do the renovations now; why couldn’t it wait till next year when she was finished with high school?

But more than the dust and thoughts about her parents’ decision, other thoughts hammered away in her head. Meira. The two of them had once joked that they could write The Best Friends Manual. Meira with her wacky sense of humor brought shy Devorah Leah out of her shell, while Devorah Leah, the more responsible of the two, talked Meira out of her crazy ideas. When school projects were announced, the pair merely had to exchange glances, and it was a done deal. During test season, they planned study sessions which included pillow fights and power walk breaks. Meira, the cleverer of the two, had always been very focused on getting good grades, so they saved the schmoozing for late at night, when they’d giggle and whisper over the phone before bedtime.

But there was one detail of Meira’s life that she hadn’t shared with Devorah Leah. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 656)