Maybe she could let herself like Mr. Weiss. Maybe things would finally work out as her mother said they would
Miri opened her eyes and looked around her room. For a moment, she wasn’t sure what day it was. She lifted her hand to her aching head and saw the light blue uniform blouse. “Oh, yeah,” she moaned. Miri slipped on her hoodie before slowly heading to the kitchen.
“Miri, what are you doing out of bed?”
Miri touched her throat. “I need a drink.”
“Hot or cold?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you want to get back into bed? I’ll bring it upstairs.”
“I don’t know.”
Mrs. Weiss poured some juice into a cup and handed it to Miri. “If it doesn’t go down easy, I’ll make you a hot tea.”
Miri shivered. “Okay.”
“Don’t you want to change into pajamas and a robe? You’ll be more comfortable.”
“I don’t know, Ma.” She set her cup on the table then plopped down on a chair. “I don’t know anything.”
Her mother rubbed her back. “I know that feeling. You feel too miserable to know what to do.”
“I know.” Miri recognized the paradox, and she and her mother laughed.
“What’s the joke?” Mr. Weiss asked from the doorway.
“Hi, Moishe,” Mrs. Weiss said. “It’s an HTBT joke.”
“Forget it,” Mrs. Weiss said good-naturedly. “How are you feeling?”
Mr. Weiss rubbed his throat. “Not too good. I need something to drink.” He pulled out a chair and sat down heavily on it.
Mrs. Weiss gave him a compassionate look. “Would you like a hot or cold drink?”
“I don’t know.”
Miri and her mother burst out laughing.
Mrs. Weiss covered her smile. “I’ll get you some juice like Miri. Maybe the cold liquid will ease the pain.”
“How’s your head?” Mr. Weiss asked Miri.
“Kills…. How about yours?”
“Hurts pretty bad. We must have caught the same bug.”
“I guess so.”
“You started to feel sick in school?”
“Yes. It hit me out of nowhere right in the middle of class.”
“The same thing happened to me at the office.”
Mrs. Weiss placed a cup of juice in front of her husband, then casually left the kitchen. No one saw the hopeful glint in her eyes.
Miri watched her stepfather sip the juice and wince as it went down.
“It will feel better after a few more swallows,” she said. “The first few hurt me too.”
Mr. Weiss raised his cup to her. “Thanks for informing me.”
They sat quietly, sipping juice until Mr. Weiss set his empty cup on the table. “You’re right. It got easier.”
“Ma always says that she thinks cool drinks are better than hot ones for sore throats.”
“Ma’s pretty smart.”
“Yeah.” Miri took another sip.
“Can I ask you something, Miri?”
She swallowed the remaining juice in her mouth. “Yeah.”
“What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?”
“My… my favorite ice cream?”
“Yes. Unless you don’t have a favorite flavor?”
“I do. I guess I was just expecting a different kind of question.”
“What kind of question?”
“I-I… I don’t know. I thought…” Miri took a breath. “Strawberry.”
“What a coincidence. That’s mine too.”
“No way!” Miri sat up straighter. “Really?”
“Ever since I was a little boy.”
Miri tried to conjure up the image of her stepfather as a little boy, but couldn’t.
“It’s also Ma’s favorite,” she said.
“You do?” Miri wasn’t sure why it surprised her.
“Of course, I do,” he said. “And her favorite color is yellow, and she doesn’t like eggs. She’s scared of spiders and won’t touch raw sushi. She’s never been to Europe, and she likes her steak—”
“Medium,” Miri and her stepfather said simultaneously.
They both laughed.
“Wow,” Miri whispered.
There was silence while Mr. Weiss toyed with his empty cup. “So, Miri, how about we get some ice cream?”
“You mean, like now?”
“Why not? My head is suddenly feeling a little better. How about you?”
“Mine does too, but are you sure it’s okay to eat ice cream when we’re sick?”
“I don’t see why not. If cold juice soothed our throats, just think how good strawberry ice cream will feel going down.”
Miri licked her lips.
“So, what do you say? I’ll ask Ma to join us. She can drive, and we’ll wait in the car.”
Miri clasped her hands together under the table. “I guess so. I mean, it does sound good.” She hesitated. “Okay. Yeah. I’d like that.”
A sense of delight darted between the tight barriers shielding Miri’s heart. She felt like Miri again. She wondered how long it would last, and if she had any control over it.
Mr. Weiss stood. “I’ll go tell Ma.”
Miri watched him rush out of the kitchen, nearly tripping in his excitement. She giggled. He suddenly reminded her of the little boy who liked his ice cream pink.
Maybe she could let herself like Mr. Weiss. Maybe things would finally work out as her mother said they would. Maybe the good feeling was here to stay.
Shoshie saw the girls lingering outside the school building, but didn’t stick around to find out what was so interesting. She wanted to get home as quickly as possible and tell her mother about Mrs. Klein’s threat regarding the class trip. It was sure to make for a good conversation. She hummed and increased her pace, glad she had taken on Miri’s dare. Who knew where it might lead?
Shoshie debated stopping at the grocery for flour, margarine, and chocolate chips. Fresh, home-baked cookies would improve the warm atmosphere, but her feet led her toward home.
“Ma?” she called the moment she stepped into the house.
“Not home,” Yocheved shouted back.
Shoshie followed Yocheved’s voice to her bedroom. “Ugh! Where is she?”
Yocheved’s eyelids fluttered. “Why?”
“What do mean, ‘why’? I wanted to speak to her about something.”
Shoshie sighed. “Nothing. I’ll see you soon, Yochevs. I’m going to buy ingredients for chocolate chip cookies.”
“Oh, great! I love your cookies!”
“Do you have money?”
“In my desk.”
Shoshie searched through the drawers. “I don’t see any.”
“It’s in one of the drawers, somewhere. Or maybe it’s in my sweater on that chair over there. Or maybe under my bed.”
Shoshie bit her lip. Her older sister had inherited the laid-back gene in the family.
“Forget it. Tatty gave me money. I have it in my room. I’ll get it…. Do you need anything, by the way?”
“Nah, I’m going to a wedding tonight.”
Yocheved shrugged. “I don’t know them, but I’m going for the shmorg.”
Shoshie’s stomach churned. “W-what?”
“Don’t look so mortified, Shosh. I’m hungry, and there will be amazing food there. You should come too. I know how you love those little frank things.”
The room began to spin. “You… you can’t go. It’s not right. Tatty always gives us money. I’ll make you supper. Just tell me what you want.”
“I think you should come with me. It’ll be fun.”
“Schnorring is not fun.”
“Well, it’s better than cereal and milk. If there is any, I mean.”
The front door opened. “Hi, everyone,” her mother’s voice called out.
Shoshie didn’t answer. She went to her room, shut the door, and locked it.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 817)
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