She knew what was right. Steeling herself, she said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that”
Tammy sniffed the perfumed air appreciatively as she pushed Shimmy’s stroller into Devoiry’s store. It was these small, classy details that made her friend such a natural businesswoman.
There was a woman browsing the racks of tichels, but no saleswoman in sight.
“Devoiry?” Tammy called.
A moment later, Devoiry stepped out of the back room, sequined scarf flowing down her back, her face perfectly made up.
“You’re here!” Devoiry gave her a hug. “Thanks for coming by.”
“No problem.” Devoiry’s phone call last night asking her to stop by one of these days to discuss something had intrigued Tammy enough that she’d taken the bus to Shamgar the next morning.
“How’re things going?” Tammy asked.
“Baruch Hashem, amazing.” Devoiry flashed her a wide smile — though Tammy thought she detected strain behind it. She remembered what Devoiry had whispered the day of the grand opening: Between you and me, I need to start making a profit, and fast. Had things improved? She wanted to know, but didn’t feel comfortable asking.
“Glad to hear,” Tammy said. She was wondering when Devoiry would reveal the big topic, but Devoiry was distracted by her potential customer.
“Why don’t you try this lavender one?” she said, pulling a tichel off the shelf. “It’ll be gorgeous with your coloring.”
The woman slipped it on her head and smiled as she admired herself in the mirror.
“How much is it?” she asked.
“It usually sells for 250 shekels, but I have it on sale right now for only 200,” Devoiry said smoothly. “It’s hand-painted,” she added, as the woman’s smile faltered.
“Um, I have to think about it,” she stammered.
“Of course.” The woman was still looking in the mirror, and Devoiry turned to Tammy. “She looks stunning, doesn’t she?”
Tammy squirmed. She didn’t like playing this game to convince the woman to buy something she couldn’t afford. She pictured her coming home to her husband and guiltily revealing how much she’d spent on her purchase.
“Yeah, stunning,” she echoed uncomfortably. Changing the topic, she said, “Nu, Devoiry, I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so curious. What did you want to discuss with me?”
Devoiry’s expression changed. “Oh, that. Um, not for here.”
Tammy raised an eyebrow. Hadn’t Devoiry asked her to meet in the store?
Noticing this, Devoiry quickly added, “I mean, not for now. When we have a quiet moment.”
The opportunity came a few minutes later. Devoiry frowned after the lady left without purchasing the lavender scarf, murmuring something apologetic about needing to ask her husband and maybe she’d be back.
“Why did she come in to begin with if she ‘needed to ask her husband’?” Devoiry muttered as she put the discarded scarves back in their place.
“She must not have realized your price range,” Tammy said delicately.
Devoiry scowled. “Israelis don’t like to spend. I can’t tell you how many women have tried to bargain me down. I mean, come on. Would you bargain down the makolet guy? Why am I different?” Letting out an exasperated breath, she smoothed the wrinkles out of the lavender scarf and turned to Tammy.
“This is what I wanted to talk you about. I need more American customers. You know, those cute little newlyweds who are happy to pay for luxury and think shekels are all Monopoly money anyway.”
Tammy bristled at the description. “I don’t—” she began.
Devoiry quickly added, “I don’t mean Americans like you. Or like my mother.” She laughed. “You guys are here for real. I mean the ones who are only in Israel for a few years and Daddy’s footing the bill.”
“But don’t they shop around here, too?”
“They do. But I want to reach them more directly. Like when I did that sale at your house — that was amazingly successful.”
“I’m fine doing another one,” Tammy said.
Devoiry brightened. “You’re a doll. But what I really need is to reach a different public. You know, if I just offer tichels again to the same friends who came last time, I won’t sell very much. But if, say—” She paused for a moment, and Tammy could see she was hesitating over her next words. “If, for example, I ran a bag sale… and you invited your seminary students to come… that would have amazing potential.”
Tammy opened her mouth and then closed it. Invite the Shvilei girls to a sale in her home. She didn’t need to ask why Devoiry wasn’t asking her own mother to do this.
She took a breath. She wanted to help her friend; really, she did. Especially because Devoiry seemed so desperate. She wanted badly to say, “Sure, my pleasure, happy to help.”
Tammy had been weak with ZeeZee the other night, waffling because she herself was conflicted about the Yad b’Yad issue. But here, she knew what was right. Steeling herself, she said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that.”
Devoiry’s face fell. “Oh, if it’s inappropriate then of course you shouldn’t,” she said awkwardly. “I only thought, you know, these girls are going shopping anyway. And maybe they’d think it’s cute, the Mrs. Edelman connection. But, whatever, definitely don’t do it if you’re not comfortable.”
Feeling like a lousy friend, Tammy said, “Maybe there’s some other way I can help?”
Devoiry sank down on the stool behind the cashier desk, suddenly looking careworn. “Know anyone willing to work in my store for free?” She gave a short, sarcastic laugh. “I haven’t had a break in weeks — I’m here morning, afternoon, evening. But I can’t afford to hire anyone. Every last shekel I make is going toward paying my loans.”
Tammy’s heart went out to her. “What about a high school girl? I’m sure you wouldn’t have to pay them much.”
Devoiry shrugged. “High school girls are busy with schoolwork and stuff. She’ll come one day and then the next she’ll call to cancel because she has a test to study for. You can’t rely on them.”
Tammy thought about the girls in her seminary. That was probably true about them, too. ZeeZee, interestingly, had proven unexpectedly reliable in her babysitting job for Rikki — but then again, ZeeZee couldn’t care less about schoolwork. Anyway, a seminary girl wasn’t the answer; Devoiry needed someone who could speak Hebrew.
Suddenly, she had a crazy brainstorm. “What about a high school age girl who isn’t exactly in school?”
Devoiry gave her an odd look. “You mean a dropout?”
“I mean,” Tammy said slowly, thinking of her conversation with ZeeZee, and of the Yad b’Yad girls she’d met the other day, “a girl who’s bright and creative, but not fitting into the system — and who might really benefit from an internship with someone like you.”
Tammy hadn’t spoken to Rikki since that day they’d run into each other at the center. She tried to talk herself out of her nervousness as she dialed the phone. After all, Rikki had no right to be upset at Tammy; she’d done nothing wrong. If anything, it was Rikki who needed to explain her strangely aloof behavior.
“Hey, Tammy, how are you?” To Tammy’s relief, Rikki sounded friendly.
After some small talk, Tammy broached the subject. “I had an idea that I wanted to run by you. For your Yad b’Yad girls.”
“Oh?” Rikki’s voice suddenly cooled. “I never got to ask you what your impressions were.”
“I was really taken by them.” Tammy felt her own voice become warmer in response to Rikki’s coolness. “I can see why ZeeZee loves coming; the girls have such heart to them.”
“You certainly seemed to connect right away,” Rikki said carefully.
“You mean the crying?” Tammy laughed self-consciously. “Yeah, I didn’t mean to, we just got to speaking about Shani, and, you know how it is. My emotions just came out.”
Rikki was silent for a minute. “Do you think it was approp—” she stopped short. “Never mind. Uh, what was your idea?”
Tammy told her about having one or two girls intern with Devoiry, describing Devoiry as a solid but cool and creative businesswoman who could be a great mentor for some of these girls.
“Interesting,” Rikki said slowly. “Let me talk to the director about it.”
“Great! And—” Tammy stopped and cleared her throat. Until that moment, she hadn’t realized that she wanted to ask this, but suddenly she felt the question burning inside. “D’you think it would be okay if I come back to Yad b’Yad myself sometime? Maybe there’s something I can do to help these girls?”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 759)
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