"I thought Ta likes him to be homeschooled. What made him decide to send him?”
Miri placed the last dish on the table, then stepped back to see her handiwork. She hoped her stepfather would notice the napkins she had folded into silverware pouches. She adjusted a fork and a glass and smiled with satisfaction.
Eli ran into the dining room, waving a paper over his head. “Miwi, look!”
“Hey, what do you have?”
“That’s right,” Mrs. Weiss said from behind him. “I wanted to tell you earlier, but you were so upset about the paintings.”
“He’s going to school?”
“I enrolled him today.”
“Ma, that’s great! He’s going to love it!” She took the paper from Eli. “Wow! Look, your morah must really like you, Eli. She dotted the ‘i’ in your name with a heart.”
“And,” Mrs. Weiss said, “she can’t wait to see Eli tomorrow at nine o’clock together with all the other kinderlach. Right, Eli?”
Miri took both of Eli’s hands and danced around the table. “Eli’s going to school! Eli’s going to school!”
Eli threw his arms around Miri and hugged her.
Benny stuck his head in the dining room. “Ma! I’m starved and my throat is killing. How am I going to eat?”
“I made soup. That should go down easy.”
“Soup! I want real food.” Benny groaned and left the room.
“Benny!” Eli ran after him waving his paper in the air.
Miri and her mother laughed.
“He is so zees. Going to school is going to be so good for him.”
“I know, but I thought Ta likes him to be homeschooled. What made him decide to send him?”
“You know, when Ta’s first wife was sick, Eli was so little and not in school yet. Ta hired someone to take care of him. Because of all the facilities Ta owns, he has access to the best therapists. Ta never saw the need to send him to school.”
“That’s so sad.”
“I know. It breaks my heart when I think about it.”
“So how did I change his mind?”
“Remember you asked me why Eli wasn’t in school with other children, and I told you that Ta knew what was best for Eli?”
“Oh, right, I remember.”
“I told Ta what you said, but he thought Eli was perfectly happy at home. Then at the carnival, he saw that Eli made friends and knew their names.”
“He did. Avi and Ezra.”
“Yes! Avi and Ezra. Ta told me their names. Isn’t that cute? Anyway, Ta saw a whole new side to Eli. That made him change his mind.” Mrs. Weiss looked at her watch. “I’d better go finish up in the kitchen.”
Miri twirled around the dining room, dancing to the happy music in her head. She stopped when the front door opened.
“Hi,” her stepfather said. “Smells delicious.”
“Hi, Moshe,” Mrs. Weiss called back. “Dinner’s just about ready.”
“Great, I’m hungry as a bear.”
The exchange made Miri think of her father. He had also come home with a warm hello, and a nice comment about the aroma coming from the kitchen. She waited to feel a touch of sadness, but there wasn’t any.
“Miri!” her stepfather said when he saw her. “How do you like my surprise?”
“I was really shocked. I mean, you went through all that trouble and, I-I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You’re very talented, and your paintings look beautiful in the living room.”
“I think so too.”
“You don’t know how happy that makes me. So happy that I’d like to make you a studio. How would you like that?”
“Um, I don’t know. I’m not sure what a studio is.”
Mr. Weiss threw back his head and laughed. “A studio is just a fancy word for a workplace. A place where you can paint without being disturbed.”
“Dinner is ready!” Miri heard her mother call.
In seconds everyone was around the table. Miri wanted to hear more about the art studio, but her stepfather was already in his seat, loosening his tie.
“I have some excellent news, Leah,” he said.
Mrs. Weiss set a steaming platter on the table. “Sounds like you had a really good day.”
Miri had a sinking feeling she knew the reason for his happiness.
“Better than good. It was great! I made an awful lot of money today. And as in our family custom, when Hashem sends me such a gift, someone gets to decide which tzedakah to contribute to. I want to give Miri the honor.”
“Me?” She tried to sound upbeat. “Thanks.”
“How’d you make so much money, Ta?” Benny said.
“Today, baruch Hashem, I won the court case.”
“Oh, no!” Miri blurted out. “Poor Ruchie!”
“Maybe it would be a good idea for my parents to come when Chaya has surgery,” Mrs. Levy said.
Rikki swallowed a bite of sesame chicken. “Bobby and Zaidy? Yes!” She stuck her fork into another golden nugget.
“I think that’s a great idea, Rena. I’m sure you could use the company now, and they’ll get to know Chaya better too.”
Rikki’s sesame chicken was suddenly forgotten. “Ma, what do you mean they’ll get to know Chaya better?”
“They’ve visited her in the past, but couldn’t really get to know her.”
“And Bobby and Zaidy visited her too?”
Both sets of grandparents knew Chaya! Rikki had wondered why they hadn’t rushed here to meet Chaya when she moved home.
Her mother rubbed her temples.
“Ma, are you okay? You seem a little, I don’t know, down since yesterday. I’m worried it’s because of Chaya. Is everything okay with her?”
“Everything is fine, sweetie. Really.” She sat up straighter. “Tell me, why didn’t Ruchie stay for dinner? She loves sesame chicken, and you were both having so much fun earlier. I heard you laughing your heads off.”
“I know. We had a blast with Chaya.” Rikki slid the chicken on her fork over the stray sesame seeds on her plate. “I asked Ruchie to stay, but she wanted to get home. Her father had a court case today, and she wanted to be there when he gets home.”
“Oh, right,” Mrs. Levy said. “Her mother told me it was this week. I hope the outcome was good. They were so worried about it.”
“Yeah, me too,” Rikki said.
“Mrs. Rena,” Maddy said from the doorway. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but Chaya’s breathing funny.”
Mrs. Levy’s chair scraped back, nearly toppling it over. Rikki jumped up too. Mrs. Levy looked at her husband.
“Go, Rena, it’s going to take me a little bit of time for me to get up the steps.”
Rikki and her mother ran with Maddy upstairs.
Chaya’s eyes were red and puffy, and her breathing sounded whiny.
“I think it’s some sort of allergic reaction, Mrs. Rena.”
“To what? Chaya’s not allergic to anything that I know of.”
“I have an antihistamine in my bag. I’ll give her a dose.”
“I’m worried it may be something more serious.”
Maddy nodded as though she understood.
“Ma, what do you think is wrong with Chaya?”
Mrs. Levy pulled Rikki into her arms. “It will be okay, Rikki. We’re going to the ER.”
“ER! What’s that?”
Mr. Levy hobbled into the room. “How is she?”
Maddy was dialing 911.
“I want to take Chaya in to the hospital,” Mrs. Levy said. “Maddy’s calling the paramedics.”
Rikki felt the wind knocked out of her. If Maddy was calling the paramedics, she knew exactly what the ER was — the emergency room!
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 834)
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