Chava jumped. Heart hammering, she swiveled around to see Devoiry standing there, wide-eyed. A large kitchen knife was trembling in her hand
Chava picked up her phone and dialed Devoiry’s number. Again, it went straight to voice mail.
She threw down the phone with a hiss. Where was she?
The microwave clock read 1:41 a.m. She’d been prowling the kitchen ever since Gitty Levy’s disturbing phone call. “When I heard how your daughter fell into such terrible debt… and how those disgusting loan sharks are threatening her… I just couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
Chava had cleaned her fridge and rearranged her spices. She yawned. She needed to go to bed, but there was no way she’d be able to fall asleep in this state.
Go to sleep. It’s probably just a rumor. But the more she tried to convince herself of that, the more she’d realized that the story actually fit. That it made sense in light of all of Devoiry’s inexplicable behaviors.
Chava slammed her hand on the table. Why didn’t she know? Why did Gitty Levy know more about what was happening in her daughter’s life than she did?
She clenched her fist in sudden resolution. Tomorrow, she would hunt Devoiry down. She’d go to her home; she’d go to her office; she’d search until she found her. And then she’d shake the truth out of her, no matter what it took.
Chava’s first stop was at Devoiry’s apartment. She had the key; maybe she’d discover some clue there?
She stepped cautiously inside. The room was dark, the blinds completely drawn, but otherwise nothing appeared out of the ordinary. Chava approached the table, where some papers were scattered, and lifted one.
Chava jumped. Heart hammering, she swiveled around to see Devoiry standing there, wide-eyed. A large kitchen knife was trembling in her hand.
“What are you doing here?”
Devoiry’s snood was hanging sideways, and her sweatshirt was stained. Chava had never seen her daughter look so disheveled. “Devoiry, what on earth is going on? And why are you holding that knife?”
Devoiry narrowed her eyes as she lowered her hand. “I thought you were an intruder. Why didn’t you knock first?”
“I thought you weren’t home,” Chava shot back. “Aren’t you supposed to be on a business trip?”
Devoiry shifted her gaze away from Chava’s. “I — um — got back early.”
Chava raised an eyebrow, and Devoiry’s face turned red.
“What, you don’t trust me? Is that why you’re sneaking into my house to check up on me?”
Chava felt all of the tension and distress of the past sleepless night flare up inside. “Devoiry, I’m worried about you! You drop off your kids at my house out of the blue, you don’t call, you don’t answer your phone at all — what am I supposed to think?”
Devoiry stared at her silently, as Chava continued. “And now I come to your house, and find you at home, looking like — this—” she waved at her attire — “and coming at me with a weapon!” She took a step toward her. “Will you please tell me what’s really going on?”
Devoiry stood rooted in her spot for several moments. Then she slumped down on a chair and dropped the knife on the table. “I have some money issues I’m trying to sort out.”
Money issues? Chava moved closer to Devoiry. “I think it’s more serious than that.” She put a hand on her shoulder and softened her voice. “Please tell me the truth.”
“It’s going to shock you. I messed up badly.”
Chava resisted the urge to caress her daughter’s cheek; she looked so like a penitent ten-year-old. “That’s called life.”
Devoiry took a breath. “Okay. Avi and I borrowed money from a loan shark. Now we owe him 500,000 shekels, and he’s been… threatening us.” She glanced toward Chava. “That’s why I asked you to take the kids. To get them out of his sights.”
Chava tried to keep her face neutral, though her stomach was churning. “And why you haven’t been checking in?”
“In case they’re tracking my calls.”
“I see.” Chava continued stroking Devoiry’s shoulder mechanically, but she was fuming. A loan shark! How could Devoiry have been so foolish? Chava knew they’d been taking things too fast! Hadn’t she and Shloimy gently questioned their haste, here at this very dining room table, back when they’d been asked to be guarantors on the loan? But Devoiry and Avi hadn’t wanted to hear it.
Chava closed her eyes. This was no time to gloat over being proven right. Five hundred thousand shekels! Even if the entire family chipped in — even if she and Shloimy emptied out whatever savings they had — that still wouldn’t come close.
She felt a twinge of resentment at the thought. Did she really need to sacrifice her retirement because of her daughter’s stupid mistake?
Devoiry was watching her reaction. Now she muttered, “I know what you’re thinking. You told me from the start not to do this.”
Chava looked at her in surprise. “I don’t remember telling you that.”
Devoiry waved her hand. “Maybe not outright. But it was clear you disapproved of my business. First, I was leaving chinuch — and we all know that you think chinuch is the highest calling in the world.”
Chava winced at the bitterness in her daughter’s voice.
“Then I was selling luxury accessories, of all things. Like, how anti-Edelman-values can I get?” Devoiry narrowed her eyes. “Don’t pretend you weren’t disappointed.”
Chava sat down next to Devoiry. “Fine, I’ll be honest. I was disappointed. But that doesn’t mean that once you made your decision, I wasn’t davening for your success.”
“Were you really?” Devoiry smiled momentarily. Then she gave a sardonic laugh. “Well, then, Hashem must’ve really had it in for me, if He did all this despite your tefillos.”
“Hashem doesn’t—” Chava bit her lip, but not in time.
“Doesn’t have it in for me? I knew you were going to say that.”
Chava smiled apologetically. “Am I that bad?”
“Bad? Of course not. You’re just, you know, such a seminary teacher.”
Devoiry gave a short laugh, but Chava blinked as if she’d been hit. Such a seminary teacher… that wasn’t an unfair description. Yet, why did Devoiry’s words sound like an accusation?
Had she been looking at Devoiry with a teacher’s eyes instead of a mother’s? “Well, I’m also a mother. Even if I haven’t been doing such a good job of it.”
Devoiry’s brow furrowed, as Chava took a breath. “I’m sorry that you haven’t felt comfortable enough to confide in me until now.”
“I was scared of disappointing you.”
Chava squeezed Devoiry’s arm. “I’d much rather you reach out to me when something goes wrong.” She paused. “Now how can I help you get out of your mess?”
Devoiry shrugged. “Tammy Hurwitz is trying to collect some money.”
This time Chava couldn’t help it; she gasped. “Tammy Hurwitz. Collecting money.” She didn’t know which part of the statement was worse.
Devoiry’s face had turned red. “I know. It’s humiliating. Your daughter’s become a tzedakah case.”
Chava tried to rally. “No — no — if that’s where Hashem put you right now…”
Her daughter narrowed her eyes. “Mommy, you don’t believe a word of that.”
“Of course, I believe it,” Chava started to protest. Then she stopped and smiled sheepishly. “But I’ll admit I’m not feeling it.”
“Hah! The great seminary teacher is human after all.”
Chava asked casually, “So how did Tammy come to get involved?”
“She barged into my house the other day and made me confess.” Devoiry’s mouth twisted. “And then she went and got your student ZeeZee on board to work on raising the funds.”
Chava paled. “My students are fundraising?” she said sharply.
“Only ZeeZee and maybe one or two more. Apparently ZeeZee’s parents are very wealthy, and I guess they have other wealthy friends she can turn to.”
ZeeZee — and one or two more. And ZeeZee’s family. And their friends. Chava put a hand on her forehead, trying to grasp the implications.
“I made Tammy promise it would stay very small. It’s just — I had no other options.” A note of pleading crept into her voice.
Chava’s head was whirling. Debt. A fundraiser. Tammy. Students. Every single part of her life seemed to be colliding, and the more she thought about this, the worse it became. But right now, she had to be a mother. She reached for Devoiry’s hand.
“If it can get you out of this mess, that’s what counts.”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 772)
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