“She accused you? Just like that? With no proof?”
Shoshie reread the letter to her partner, then slipped it into an envelope and licked it. “Gross!”
She knew her words would give her pen pal food for thought, and she was looking forward to reading her response.
There was a knock on her door, but Shoshie didn’t move from the swinging chair she was perched on. “Come in.”
The door opened.
“Donny!” Shoshie jumped out of the chair. “I don’t believe it!”
“Hey, Shosh. What’s going on?”
“Hello! You tell me. Are you home for good, or just missing my cooking?”
Donny tilted his head. “Is that humor I hear?”
Shoshie laughed. “I guess so.”
Donny stepped inside and closed the door. “That’s good, Shosh. That means you’re okay.” He searched her face.
“Yeah. I’m good.”
Donny pulled on the chain supporting the chair. “Hasn’t fallen yet. I did a pretty good job.” He lowered himself onto it. “Aah, this is great.”
Shoshie plopped onto her bed and folded her legs. “So, are you back for good?”
“Let’s just say that I’m here for tonight, and I’ll play it by ear.”
“I’m so happy!”
“You know, the house feels different.” Donny touched the air. “The aura has changed.”
“I know. I’ve been working on it. It’s slow, but I’m not giving up.”
Her brother leaned forward and put his hands on his knees. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I have a new friend. Miri. I never had a friend like her before. Like, I can tell her anything, and she can tell me anything. You know? Anyway, she gave me this dare that had to do with Mommy, and ever since then, I’ve been making changes.”
“What kind of changes?”
“Like, I talk to Mommy about stuff, and she actually likes it. At first, she was a little freaked out about it, but now she’s regular, almost.”
“What does Tatty say about it?”
“He didn’t really say anything, but I can see he’s kind of surprised, in a happy way, when he comes home.”
“And Yocheved? What’s going on with her?”
Donny grimaced. “Poor kid. You know, I’m the one who sent her back home.”
“You? You mean she came to you? I wondered where she went that night.”
“Yeah, I told her if she goes home, I’d come too. I just had to figure out a few things first.”
“Donny,” Shoshie became pensive, “do you think Mommy had the same issues with her mother when she was growing up?”
“I never really thought about it. But it makes sense that her parents’ home was like ours. She’s not close to Bobby or Zaidy, and she never talks about her childhood. I guess it wasn’t such a happy one.”
“So then it’s really not her fault that she’s the way she is. How would she know how to be different? She didn’t have anyone to teach her.”
Donny chewed on his bottom lip. “You know, you’re a pretty smart kid.”
“Yocheved doesn’t think so. She says I’m wasting my time. It’s a lost cause. But I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately. Mommy’s really a good person. She just doesn’t know stuff. I’m not giving up.”
Donny stood up. “It’s a shame you’re the youngest, Shosh. If you weren’t, maybe this problem could have been solved a long time ago.”
Miri didn’t say a word about the accusation until after dinner when she and her mother were alone in the yard.
“Devory is acting better to you, isn’t she?”
“I thought she was.” Mrs. Weiss looked thoughtful. “But now I’m not so sure. She was upset tonight. Do you know why? Did you girls argue about something?”
“Did you say something to her?”
“Ma! I can’t believe you said that. I never said anything ever to upset her. I mean, not on purpose.”
“I’m sorry, Miri. It’s just that I felt like we were finally getting somewhere, and now Devory’s angry again. I honestly didn’t think you said anything, but I had to make sure. Now that I know it wasn’t you, I guess it was something I did.”
“You didn’t do anything,” Miri said.
“I don’t know. Devory is pretty sensitive. It may have been something I did unintentionally.”
Mrs. Weiss pushed some hair away from her face, and Miri saw her dampened eyes.
“I’m okay. I guess I’m just frustrated. I was hoping Devory was finally beginning to accept me. I guess I was wrong.”
Miri couldn’t let her mother think she was the reason that Devory was upset. “Ma, can I tell you something, but it has to be kept secret, even from Ta?”
Her mother looked doubtful. “I don’t really like to keep secrets from him, but if it’s something personal about you, then I won’t say a word.”
“It is about me, but it’s also about someone else in the family.”
“Does it have to do with a health issue? Because both parents should know about that.”
“No, it has nothing to do with health.”
“This is about Devory, isn’t it?”
“Did someone call you?”
“No. I’m just assuming. I guess I’m right.”
“Yeah.” Miri paused. “She did something pretty bad, but I asked the principal not to say anything to Ta because then she may get crazy angry at me… and you.”
Mrs. Weiss leaned closer.
“So, basically,” Miri tried to choose the right words, “money was stolen from one of the teachers.”
“Don’t tell me—”
“I don’t know who took it. But Devory started this rumor that I took it.”
“She told all the girls,” Miri said, “and today, Mrs. Klein accused me.”
“She accused you?! Just like that? With no proof?”
“She felt really bad after, and apologized and everything.”
“If Devory is the one who started the rumor, then why is she upset tonight?”
“I think it’s because I didn’t react the way she was hoping. And also, because Mrs. Klein didn’t call you to tell you. So you didn’t punish me.”
“Miri, start at the beginning. I want to hear the whole story.”
Miri took a deep breath and told her mother everything.
Devory heard it from six girls later that night. Miri had cried in Mrs. Klein’s office. No one knew what had happened after that, but the rumors were ugly. Then Yael called.
“I’m so sorry, Devory. I didn’t mean to say anything. Really, it just slipped out. I promise I didn’t want to use your name.”
“My name? Who did you tell?”
“Miri and Shoshie. She was crying in the bathroom and I really felt bad for her. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“Yael,” Devory sighed, “Miri didn’t take the money.”
“What? But you said—”
“I know what I said, but she’s innocent.”
“But you had proof. How do you know it wasn’t her?”
“I just do.”
“Because it was me. I took it.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 829)
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