“You find it easy to make friends?” Chana asked me sincerely. “I know how to be friendly, but a friend… I haven’t made one in a long time”
rolled over in bed and opened my eyes; it was still dark but my phone was ringing. I looked at the clock: 12:30. Who was calling me at 12:30? I should ignore them, it was probably a wrong number, I’m not the type of person you call at 12:30, even an emergency.
“You gonna get that?” Rafi mumbled.
I waited another few seconds. It still rang. I reached for the phone.
“Abby? You up? I guess you’re up, you answered your phone, it’s Chana.” She sounded disoriented, not very Chana-like.
I sat up. “Hi, what’s up?”
“Rivky’s wedding is tomorrow.”
I knew that, first wedding since Shifra’s. Wonder which version of me I’ll be.
“Right,” I said.
“Her ring was incinerated. Not literally incinerated, the stone is out, chips are missing, I have some, not all, it’s a mess. I told Rivky to calm down and go to sleep and I’ll take care of it tomorrow, but that may be too late, and I’m sitting here shvitzing over seating charts and so stressed about this ring, and thought of you. Can you help?” Chana sounded like a mad woman.
Could I help? Most probably.
“Sure, come over to my house, use the second entrance, that’s for my office.”
“See you in a few,” Chana said, and hung up quickly.
“Is someone coming over?” Rafi asked.
“Chana. Her daughter’s wedding’s tomorrow and I don’t know what happened, but basically her ring needs help.”
“And you’re going to save the day?” Rafi asked.
“Whodathunk someone would ever believe I could be their savior.”
We both laughed, then Rafi drifted back off to sleep in nanoseconds — his superpower. I eased myself out of bed.
Minutes later I heard a car rumbling. I ran to the entrance to open it before she could ring the bell. Don’t need Batsheva waking.
Chana had dark circles under her eyes. She shuffled in and took a seat.
“Coffee? Danishes?” I offered. I had a few left from a meeting that I’d forgotten to bring back to the house for Rafi to munch on. I was surprised but pleased when she said yes.
Chana laid a Ziploc bag on the table. “It’s worse than I described. It was crazy, we just left the ice cream store after a last-hurrah party, Rivky took it off to show me something on it, but my hands were slippery and I dropped it when she gave it to me, it bounced and then a garbage truck rode over it. Seriously, a garbage truck, one of those private company pick-up-at-night ones, Lamangino Brothers — totally the Mafia.”
I held the bag up to the light. There were still a fair amount of chips in there, not all. I took the band out the bag and examined it closely. It looked worse than it was — it was mostly missing stones and had bad scuffing. The band was misshapen too, nu nu. Just needed some stone setting and a good polish.
I quickly counted how many chips the ring needed and how many were in the bag. The bag was off by three. I looked in my safe and found chips the right size. Perfect.
“How much do I owe you? I remember you telling me I couldn’t afford you. I even thought of that when I called you, but I was so desperate I didn’t know what to do.” Chana was rambling again.
I waved her off. “It’s a wedding present.”
“A huge one.” Chana added.
I shrugged. “The best gifts are the ones you need, and there isn’t really anyone else who can do this for you on such short notice. My pleasure, really.”
I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth. Not that they weren’t true or that I didn’t believe them, but that I was saying it, and meaning it.
“You’re crazy amazing, Abby,” Chana complimented me again. “A true friend, that’s what you are.” She said it. I’m a friend. And I’m true. I’m not only nice to Shifra.
“Amazing, to think I can still make a friend at 36,” Chana commented.
“What?” I dropped the ring on the table. Chana looked thoughtful and far off.
“Y’know, once you’re out of high school or seminary, it’s so hard to make new friends. Like, you’ll make acquaintances and stuff, but not a real, real friend, you know what I mean?”
“What?” I repeated. Everything she was saying confounded me more.
“You find it easy to make friends?” Chana asked me sincerely, then continued thinking out loud. “I know how to be friendly, but a friend… I haven’t made one in a long time.”
I stopped her, putting my finger up, “Well, first, if you have a hard time making friends, then what about someone like me?” I said. Chana stifled a snort. “And second, did you say you’re 36?”
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
Was this happening? Was I dreaming? I know it’s late, but pinch me, pinch me.
“No that’s awesome. I just thought you were way older,” I said casually.
Her hands flew to her face. “Do I look that old?”
“No, not at all, just that you’re marrying off a daughter. You have to be, well, old to do that.”
Chana laughed, “Yeah, well, I was kind of a child bride, I skipped a grade, then I got engaged summer before seminary, got married, I was still 17, had Rivky at 18.”
My eyes went saucer wide. Seventeen? Who cared, the madness worked in my favor.
“And Rivky’s 18 now, so basic math says I’m 36.”
Wow. I let it process a moment: I won. Now can Chana leave so I can wake up Rafi.
Chana was back to pontificating,
“Relationships are funny thing, my daughter’s getting married and she likes him a lot, but when do they really bond? How long does it take? I don’t remember how it happened for me. Although it worked out — 18 years later we’re still laughing at the same corny jokes. But I guess I have the same question with friends. I like people I meet, but how does it turn into friendship?”
“I know!” I said. Liking people I meet was stretching it, but I agreed with the question. I paused, “How did we work out?” We both went quiet for a minute.
“I’m blaming Shifra,” Chana said.
“Shifra?” I questioned.
“Yeah, she got engaged when you were in the office, and you were a bit of a mess, and I was nice to you, and that kinda jumpstarted the whole thing.”
I was skeptical, “You think.”
“Other explanation is Mars was bright that night?”
“Don’t you know Harry Potter?”
“Not that well,” I admitted.
“Never mind. Who knows how we became friends, I’m not complaining.” We smiled at each other, then went quiet. After a moment, I got up.
“You have a wedding tomorrow, and I have my work cut out…. Go home, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Chana nodded, agreeing, then yawning.
I walked Chana out, watched while she drove off. And then, it was time to celebrate.
“RAFI! RAFI” I hissed loudly. I wanted him up, but not the kids. He groaned. “Rafi!” I allowed myself to use some voice. He bolted upright.
“What’s wrong? Who died?”
I laughed. “The competition.”
“Huh?” he looked thoroughly confused. That was too weak a connection to make at almost 1:30 in the morning.
“Chana came,” I tried again.
Rafi seemed to be a little less groggy. “Right, what happened?”
“She came to tell you she’s 36?”
“No!” Seriously, why are sleeping people so dense? “She came to fix that ring, but ended up telling me she’s 36.”
Rafi was quiet, I thought he fell back asleep, but his breath wasn’t sleep-heavy.
“Did you send your registration form in yet?” he said finally.
“Not yet, but you got it! I won, I won, I won!” I jumped around a bit, pumped my fists in the air and probably looked insane, but I was so excited.
“Diamonds and rubies and gold, oh my!” Rafi joined in my celebration.
“Can you believe I did it?! I won! I’m awesome, I can do anything!” I danced another jig.
“And best of all—” Rafi started.
“I finally get to go to the show!” I finished.
“No, Abby! Best of all, you made a friend, that you get to keep forever.”
I stopped. “Good point.”
“What’s your next big plan, Superwoman?” Rafi asked.
“I’m going to work on going to sleep earlier, so I’ll have longer stretches when I don’t have to talk to anyone.”
He laughed, and I went back to my workshop to wrestle with the kinks in a diamond ring. My new kabbalah would have to wait till tomorrow.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 578)