“Okay, good.” Ruchie’s face was flushed. “So, let’s forget about what I said. It was totally lashon hara”
Ruchie was out of breath when she stepped back into line. “I couldn’t find them.”
“It’s okay,” Rikki said. “I guess we’ll meet up with them after we get snow cones.” She motioned toward Miri. “By the way, this is Miri.”
“Hi,” Miri said.
“Hi. I’m Ruchie.”
“And,” Rikki continued, “that’s Eli, her adorable brother.”
Ruchie bent down until she was eye level with the little boy. “Hi, Eli. Are you having fun?”
Eli nodded, then hid his head in Miri’s skirt.
Miri stroked the back of Eli’s soft hair. “He’s not usually so shy.”
“He’s too cute!”
“Come on, Rikki!” Ezra pulled his sister by the arm. “It’s our turn.”
Avi grabbed her other arm. “I want red and blue and orange mixed.”
“Me too!” Ezra said.
Eli’s head popped up. “Me too.”
“He’s precious!” Ruchie said.
“Look at this.” Ruchie flapped the paper in her hand. “I got this brochure. It’s a map of the carnival and stuff. There’s going to be puppet show in a half hour.”
“I bet Ezra and Avi and Eli will love that,” Rikki said.
The line moved forward, and soon everyone was licking snow cones.
Miri saw Malky and Benny standing in a line for popcorn. She hoped they wouldn’t see her. She wasn’t sure how to introduce them to her new friends. Stepbrother and stepsister? Or brother and sister?
“This carnival is really nice,” Rikki said. “There’s so much to do. They thought of everything. It’s amazing.”
They found an empty spot and sat down.
“Do you come every year?” Rikki asked Miri.
“No. This is my first time.” Miri wondered which of her little brothers was the reason Rikki’s family was invited to participate. “What about you?”
“It’s my first time, too,” Rikki said. “We’re here because of my sister.”
Miri’s gaze instantly flew to Ruchie.
Ruchie laughed. “Not me. I’m Ruchie Friedman. Rikki’s friend.”
Miri blushed. “I mean, I was wondering…”
Rikki covered a giggle. “Yeah, so… my sister Chaya is older than me. She’s somewhere here with her nurse.”
“Oh,” Miri connected the dots. “Is that who you were looking for before, Ruchie?”
“Yes, but this place is packed.”
“I didn’t know you could bring a friend,” Miri said. “I totally would have asked my friend Shoshi to come.”
“My mother asked if Ruchie could come instead of her because she had to stay at home with my father. He was in a car accident.”
“Oh, boy. That’s so scary.”
“It was, but baruch Hashem, he’s home and everything is fine.”
From the corner of her eye, Miri saw Malky and Benny munching on popcorn, their attention on a clown twisting balloons into different shapes. Thankful that the dynamics of her family would remain a secret, she let herself relish the excitement of making two new friends.
“It’s so good to just chill,” Rikki said. She opened the brochure and skimmed through it.
“Ruchie!” her back stiffened. “Hello! You are not going to believe who one of the sponsors for the carnival is.”
“How would I know one of the sponsors?” Ruchie’s eyes suddenly bulged. “No way!” She pulled the brochure from Rikki’s hand and took a look. “OMG! I don’t believe it.”
Miri wondered what the big deal was.
“Do you think he’s here?” Rikki said. “I mean, I thought he might come today.”
“Rikki Dee, why would such a rich—” she lowered her voice “and heartless man come to a kids’ carnival?”
Miri busied herself, helping Eli with the soggy cone-shaped cup.
“It’s so not your type to say that, Ruchie.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m just crazy upset that he’s suing my father.”
Miri’s ears perked up. She mixed the melting ice with the thin red straw, then took a long sip.
“I know you are,” Rikki said. “Just don’t let it ruin your day.”
“You really think he’s here?”
“He has a four-year-old son with special needs, so he might be.”
Miri choked on the cold syrupy liquid. How many sponsors had a four-year-old son with special needs and was suing someone?!
“Oh, my!” Ruchie said. “Are you okay, Miri?”
Miri coughed. “Just w-went down the wrong w-way.”
“Okay, good.” Ruchie’s face was flushed. “So, let’s forget about what I said. It was totally lashon hara.”
“Forgotten,” Rikki said.
Miri wanted to forget too, but it wasn’t that easy. To her utter chagrin, Malky and Benny were heading her way.
Devory stayed in bed, her emotions jumbled like a tangled ball of yarn. Last night in the kitchen, she had cried, and her stepmother had hugged her. Then after her sobs had subsided, she had pulled away and gone upstairs to bed without a word or even a smile. The scene flashed through her mind over and over at lightning speed. Devory grabbed the sides of her head to make it stop, but it didn’t help.
“Stop!” she shouted. “Leave me alone already!”
“I-I’m sorry, Devory. I should have knocked. I just thought you might be sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you.”
Devory jerked her head toward the door. Her stepmother stood there.
“I—” Devory stopped. How could she explain that she had been talking to herself? “I was trying to stop…”
“It’s fine. I just thought that maybe, after last night…”
Devory saw a slight tremble in her stepmother’s chin.
“Forget it, Devory.”
Devory didn’t say anything.
Her stepmother blew out a shaky breath, then gave a small smile and stepped out of the room, closing the door gently behind her.
An unfamiliar feeling settled in the pit of Devory’s stomach. It took a few moments for her to realize it was regret. Regret? What was happening to her?
She pulled her knees up to her chest and lowered her head onto them, facing the door to see if it would open. It didn’t. Devory’s heart filled with disappointment. She waited a few more minutes, but the door stood motionless, a wooden barrier. The feeling of regret increased.
“Ugh!” In one quick movement, she threw the blanket off and leaped out of bed. She fished for her slippers, nearly tripping in the process.
Her heart was beating fast and her breath was shallow. Devory yanked opened the door to her room and ran to the staircase. She stopped just for a second before racing down the steps.
Mrs. Weiss held her hands together, trying to stop them from shaking. She had tried everything to get through to Devory — ignoring the hurtful barbs, overlooking the outbursts. She had shown warmth and acceptance, giving Devory space and time but nothing had penetrated Devory’s hard shell. Last night’s incident had clearly not changed anything. Mrs. Weiss sighed. Maybe she should give up. Perhaps their relationship would always be this way. A jab in her heart told her she was wrong. She couldn’t accept the status quo. She closed her eyes and raised her face upward with a silent tefillah. Please, Hashem, help me.
The floor creaked, and Mrs. Weiss’s eyes opened. Her head turned toward the door. Devory stood there.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 822)
Oops! We could not locate your form.