| Dream On |

Dream On: Chapter 33

“What’s wrong? Wait, did you already make plans with someone else?” She took a breath as unexpected hurt rose inside. “It’s okay, you can tell me”



ZeeZee stalked into her bedroom, glaring at the phone in her hand. She’d just finished speaking to Chana Malka, and her niece had smugly informed her about her Chanukah vacation plans. It was completely mortifying that Chana Malka, of all people, should be giving her advice about how to have fun.

“The Kinar is having a deal, if you want to do the Kinneret. Or if you prefer the Dead Sea, the mehadrin hotels are…”

“I can make my own plans, thanks,” ZeeZee had snapped.

Now she regretted it; Chana Malka would probably go report to her mother that something was going on with ZeeZee. Before she knew it, Gitty would be calling Mrs. Edelman and Rabbi Freund and who knew who else, and they’d stick her in therapy to deal with the trauma of having an anorexic roommate.

ZeeZee turned to Rusi, who was sitting as usual at her desk, studiously writing in her notebook.

“What in the world are you writing?” ZeeZee asked. “We don’t have homework. We’re on vacation!”

“I’m copying over my hashkafah notes. I was writing so fast in class, they came out messy, and since this is definitely something I’m going to want to review in the future, I decided to rewrite them.”

ZeeZee rolled her eyes. “Well, I’ll know who to turn to when I’m 40 and want to remind myself why I married a ben Torah who’s looking to grow.”

“Yes, you will, and boy, will you apologize for making fun of me now.” Rusi put down her pen. “What d’you want, ZeeZee?”

ZeeZee glanced at Shani’s empty bed, which had been standing in what felt like silent rebuke these past few days. Deliberately, she turned her head away.

“I hope this doesn’t sound insensitive,” she said uncomfortably, aware that sensitivity was not her strong point. “But, um, we really need to make our vacation plans. There are only six more days of Chanukah.”

Rusi was silent for a moment. Then, looking down at her notebook, she said slowly, “That’s nice of you to be sensitive. Lots of girls have been talking about making reservations at these fancy hotels. Don’t they realize how crazy expensive that is?”

ZeeZee’s brow furrowed; she was missing something here. Did Rusi mean that it was more insensitive to enjoy themselves at an expensive hotel when their roommate was in the hospital?

“Hey, no problem, if you’d rather rent a vacation home up north, I’m all for it. Anyway, hotels seem so cliché, don’t they? Like, everyone and their niece is going to one, y’know?”

Rusi was staring at her, and ZeeZee still had the impression that she was missing something. Still, she pressed on. “I’ll find us a good one, with a private pool, it’ll be awesome. Who else should we ask? Tehilla? Miriam?”

Rusi tugged at her ponytail. Her face was pink. “How much do you think it will cost?” she murmured.

“No clue,” ZeeZee said, her mind already racing with the activities they’d do. Kayaking, jeeping, horseback riding…

Rusi cleared her throat. “I’m not sure… I mean, um…”

ZeeZee’s eyes narrowed as she watched Rusi squirm. “What’s wrong? Wait, did you already make plans with someone else?” She took a breath as unexpected hurt rose inside. “It’s okay, you can tell me.”

“No! Of course not.” Rusi averted her gaze, and began running her finger over the purse sitting on her desk.

ZeeZee watched her. Rusi’s purse was a Kate Spade knockoff… well, of course, her father was in chinuch… Suddenly she got it. “Wait, are you worried about the money? Why didn’t you say so? I’ll pay your part of the rent, no big deal.” She chuckled in relief. Here she’d thought Rusi had a real reason she didn’t want to go.

But Rusi’s face got even redder. “No, it’s okay, I can pay… I mean, I’ll ask my mother. I just wanted to know how much.”


“Ooh! I love it! Thanks!”

Chava watched Elisheva carefully lift the sequined crossbody bag out of its box and flash Devoiry a grateful look. “This is the best Chanukah gift I’ve ever gotten!”

Well, yeah, because they never did Chanukah gifts in the Edelman home. They gave traditional gelt and had a family Chanukah party, and that had always been good enough for her kids growing up.

Thank you, Devoiry, for raising the bar once again.

Still, it was hard not to smile at the look of utter delight in Elisheva’s eyes when Devoiry had come by with her family after lighting the Chanukah candles and handed Elisheva a beautifully wrapped box. “For all the babysitting help you’ve given me these past few months.”

And she had to admit, the bag was stunning. “Wow, Devoiry, you’ve really outdone yourself,” she said. “Women are going to love this.”

Devoiry grinned. “Baruch Hashem. I really hope so. Now that our loan has come through”—she nodded gratefully at her parents—“we’ve already started production.”

Elisheva had slipped the bag over her shoulder and was admiring herself in the mirror. “Nu, Devoiry, how much would this cost in a store?”

Devoiry laughed. “A lot. It’s the most expensive bag you’ve ever owned.”

Chava didn’t like the way Elisheva smiled at that. And she liked even less what Devoiry said next.

“Just be sure and tell all your friends where you got it.”


Tammy knocked nervously on Rabbi Freund’s office door, feeling a distinct sense of déjà vu. Last time she’d been in here, it had been for a telling off about letting Shani stay by her overnight.

And now? She’d tried to convince herself that he just wanted to ask her advice about the best way to deal with Shani moving forward. But as she walked inside and saw her boss’s grave face, she knew she’d been fooling herself.

“Sit down, Mrs. Hurwitz.” He removed his glasses and tapped them on the desk for a good minute, as Tammy’s nervousness grew.

At last, Rabbi Freund cleared his throat. “Shani Mandel’s mother was in here the other day and accused us of being irresponsible. Of neglecting her daughter and ignoring the clear signs that she had a problem.”

Tammy opened her mouth in protest. “What chutzpah, when she’s the one who caused Shani’s problems to begin with! All year, I’ve been trying to help Shani sort out her messy relationship with her mother.”

Rabbi Freund nodded. “I agree she could have expressed herself in a more refined way. Unfortunately, dealing with angry parents is part of this business.” He sighed and shook his head. “But that doesn’t take away from our obligation to take stock of what happened and figure out where it went wrong, to make sure we do better next time.”

His voice was mild but Tammy felt her heart begin to pound. Still, she remained silent, as Rabbi Freund continued.

“I take responsibility for dropping the ball. We knew that Shani had some sort of issue, yet we believed that it wasn’t something that needed professional treatment. That was my mistake — perhaps I should’ve pushed to get this checked out professionally.”

He was being so nice, yet Tammy felt her cheeks grow redder. She needed to speak up. To be a big girl and admit that she’d made a mistake. Error of judgment. She could still hear those words echoing in her head from last time. If Rabbi Freund had accused her of being unprofessional then, what must he think of her now?

She swallowed, and tried to squeeze the words out of her constricted throat. “I… I’m sorry, it was my mistake. I thought…” What? That I was clever enough to treat this on my own? That I was enjoying playing superhero too much to give it up?

“It really seemed like Shani was doing better from our talks,” she finished lamely.

Rabbi Freund nodded. “I’m sure it did. But I shouldn’t have left it to a new and inexperienced staff member to make that call. Especially someone who…” He stopped, but Tammy finished his sentence in her head. Especially someone who’s already shown how irresponsible she is.

He was tapping his glasses on the desk again, as the silence hung between them. At last, he said, with an uncharacteristic edge in his voice, “I’m going to need to figure out what to do to make sure this never happens again.”

to be continued…

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 751)

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