Her mother brushed away a single tear. “I know, but it hurts me so much that Devory would do this to you”
Devory knew it was bound to happen, and truthfully, she was relieved.
“This is very serious, Devory. Not only did you take the money, but you did it with the intention to blame it on another girl. Your stepsister, no less.”
Devory didn’t look up from her tightly clasped fingers.
“There’s never a good reason to steal, but I’m sure you think you have one.”
Devory’s mouth was a straight line.
“Before we get to your reason, I want to tell you that I’m glad you came to me today on your own accord. I’m sure you feel better about it too. I could have spoken to you yesterday, but I was waiting for you to come to me. Now you have the difficult job of undoing what you did. And an apology to Miri and your teacher is in order.”
Devory still looked at the floor. “I— I will. I’m sorry.”
“I know you are.”
Devory lifted her head.
“Yes,” Mrs. Klein said, “I know what you did came from the pain you’re experiencing. It wasn’t the real you. I’ve known you since you were in preschool. I remember when your mother brought you here that very first day of school.”
Devory bit down on her trembling lip.
“You had no problem with your mother leaving. You went straight to the dolls. Your mother, on the other hand, was very emotional. She sat in this office, in the very chair you’re sitting on and cried. Your first day of school was not an easy one for her.”
Devory’s hands loosened. “R-really?”
“I brought her in here when I saw that she was having a harder time saying goodbye to you than you were to her.” Mrs. Klein smiled. “That’s when I got to know her. She was a special person.”
“She must not be too happy with the way things are at the moment.”
“Tell me, Devory,” Mrs. Klein’s voice was kind. “What was your reason?”
Devory lowered her head. “I was angry.”
“Mostly at… at Hashem.”
Mrs. Klein’s eyes pooled with sympathy. “Hashem is the One Who orchestrates everything in life, so I can understand why you singled Him out as the focus for your anger.”
“But Hashem’s ways are hidden, Devory. I know you hear it all the time, and don’t think, ‘Oh, it’s easy for her to say’ because it’s not easy for me to say. It’s not just lip service. I’ve had my share of heartache in life, but as maminim, we believe there is a purpose for everything Hashem does — even what we consider to be terribly painful.”
Devory sniffled, and Mrs. Klein slid the tissue box closer to her.
Devory took one and wiped her nose. “Why didn’t you tell my father?”
“Because Miri asked me not to.”
Devory moved the tissue away from her face. “What?”
“It’s true. I leave the decision whether or not to tell your father up to you. But for my part, I will respect Miri’s wishes.”
“I’d like to think that this is behind us. Do I make myself clear?”
“Good.” Mrs. Klein stood up. “There is one more thing. You will not join the girls on the eighth-grade trip this Wednesday. You’ll come to school at the regular time and stay until four. You’ll write a report on a subject I choose.”
Devory felt tears form but she knew she was getting off easy. “Okay.”
“Go wash your face, get a drink of water, and go back to class.”
Devory stood. “Th-thank you.”
“Ma?” Shoshie stuck her hand into the bag of shredded cheese. “How come we never invite Bobby and Zaidy to come?”
“Um, they live kind of far, and plane tickets are expensive.”
“Are they poor?”
Shoshie sprinkled cheese on top of the ketchup-covered bread. “Don’t they want to see us?”
Her mother placed slices of tomato on top of the cheese. “Shoshie, why all the questions all of a sudden?”
“I was thinking about them lately. I really want to get to know them. Family is important.”
“You’re right about that.”
Shoshie placed the plate into the microwave, then closed the door and turned to face her mother. “So can I invite them to come for a few weeks?”
“I don’t know. It’s been a lot of years since I saw them.”
“Right, so now is a perfect time.”
“It’s nice that you want them to come, but I think it’s better just to keep things the way they are.”
“But don’t you miss them?”
“I guess sometimes I do, but it’s complicated.”
Shoshie knew Donny’s theory about her mother’s childhood was correct.
The microwave beeped. “Supper’s ready!” she called.
Yocheved sniffed the air as she entered the kitchen. “Smells great.”
“Yum,” Donny said from behind her. “What’s on the menu?”
“Pizza bread, salad, and nachos.”
“Don’t get too excited,” Shoshie said. “All I did was open a bag of tortilla chips, throw on some cheese, and stick it in the microwave. Voila! Nachos.”
“Sounds good to me.” Donny pulled out a chair and sat down. “I came home on the right night. Didn’t I?”
Yocheved reached for the bowl of salad. “Too bad Ta’s missing this yummy supper.”
“Yocheved, wait!” her mother said. “Don’t eat the salad yet.”
Yocheved nearly dropped the bowl. “What!”
Her mother went to the refrigerator and took out a paper cup. “I made a salad dressing.”
“Y-you did? I mean… wow. That’s great. Thanks.”
Shoshie took the dressing and poured it over the salad slowly. “Thanks, Ma, this is such a nice surprise. It looks amazing.”
“Thanks, Shoshie. Don’t forget to put some away for Tatty. He’ll be hungry when he gets home.”
The cup in Shoshie’s hand wavered over the salad. “I— I will.”
Shoshie smiled as she tossed the salad. She may not have gotten her mother to invite her grandparents, but Donny was home, they were enjoying a family dinner, her mother had made salad dressing, and a plate of food reserved for her father at her mother’s request was in the refrigerator. Life was good.
“Miri,” Mrs. Weiss said, “can you come in here a minute?”
“Sure…” Miri poked her head through the doorway. “Hi, Ma.”
“I can’t stop thinking about what Devory did.” Her mother caught her bottom lip with her teeth.
Miri’s eyes filled. “Ma, it’s okay. Don’t cry.”
Her mother brushed away a single tear. “I know, but it hurts me so much that Devory would do this to you. I watched her at the supper table tonight. Does she seem the slightest bit remorseful to you?”
“Not really, but—”
“But nothing. I don’t think keeping this from Ta is a good idea.”
“No, you can’t tell him. Devory will just go back to hurting you again. Please, Ma.”
“You’ve got it wrong, sweetie. Who cares if she’s nice to me? If she hurts you, she’s hurting me.”
“But telling Ta won’t make her feel regret. It has to come from her.”
“When did you get to be so smart?” Mrs. Weiss pulled Miri into a hug. “You’re a good girl Miri, and I love you so much. That’s why I have to protect you.”
“Protect me? How?”
“I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’m going to send you to an out-of-town school.”
To be continued….
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 830)
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