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Follow Me: Chapter 50  

The crowd quieted. Yochi reached for a bentsher. “I’m impressed with Berkowitz,” he told Pessie quietly. “He handled it so well”


The main course was finally served, and everything was perfectly hot. Three cheers, Mr. Berkowitz, Pessie thought with a touch of pride.

But the food wouldn’t stay hot for long. Where was Yochi?

She didn’t see him anywhere in the succah tent. He was probably still in the kitchen, or talking to Binick, or to Berkowitz, or to any one of the tour staff, who knew?

She picked up her fork and ate a few bites. Filet mignon, what could be bad? She tried some of the honey-roasted rainbow carrots, fed Motti a few spoons of mashed potatoes. Yochi still hadn’t returned.

Her girls appeared and she made sure everyone ate something before they disappeared again.

Yochi still wasn’t back when dessert rolled out — a surprisingly basic apple crisp and ice cream. Pessie dug her spoon in half-heartedly.

It was only after the waiter cleared her table — “Yes, I guess you can take that,” she said when they questioned her about Yochi’s untouched plate — that her husband came rushing over.

“Phew! Another meal, another miracle.” He was panting. “Was everything hot? Was the crowd impatient?”

“Everything was hot, the crowd was fine,” she answered coolly.

From the center of the succah, they heard someone banging on the table. “Rabbosai, mir vellen bentshen!” Mr. Lieberman’s voice boomed.

The crowd quieted. Yochi reached for a bentsher. “I’m impressed with Berkowitz,” he told Pessie quietly. “He handled it so well.”

Pessie didn’t say anything, just turned the page in her bentsher.

As soon as he finished bentshing, Yochi shot to his feet again. “Mind you, all I ate was a k’zayis of challah. But anyway, see you later, gut Yom Tov.”

He didn’t bother telling her where he was going. What exactly did he have to do now? The meal was over, the afternoon program was starting at four thirty. Did he have to stand over the cleaning crew as they wiped down the counters?

The crowd began to disperse, and Pessie made her way to the lobby. She sat in the corner of one of the sofas and watched as couples entered through the back doors, one after another. Most were headed off to their rooms for a Yom Tov nap, she guessed, but one couple paused to admire the waterfall, some strolled outside through the manual door to the great Corvara outdoors. Pessie pictured herself filling her lungs with the crystal-clear air, heels clicking over the paved paths, a breeze whipping through her sheitel as they chatted about nothing and everything.

…as they chatted…


She watched one of the Lieberman couples — probably the youngest, sheitel pulled back in a half-pony with a cute little printed scarf tied around it — head outside, exchange glances, then giggling.

When was the last time she’d taken a walk with Yochi, just the two of them? Right, here in Italy, before Yom Tov, after Malkie threw up — but could that be counted?

What had this tour job done to their marriage?

The memory of their safari anniversary celebration rose in her mind. It was just the two of them, then, and Yochi had even given her a gift. But they hadn’t been strolling between mountains, and definitely not exchanging glances and giggles.

Was it the tour job? Or was it… them?

Another couple passed by. Israelis, talking loudly in a gusty Hebrew. They had an obvious warmth and energy. Comfortable familiarity. Connection.

The crowd in the lobby was thinning. Some kids raced around the sofas, but most people had left. She spied Deena’s divorced friend, Ruthie Laufer, staring out the window on the other side of the lobby. A moment later, Deena entered the lobby, and Pessie observed as she hesitated, unsure where to go.

Pessie looked around.

She, Ruthie, Deena. They were the only adults left in the lobby. The realization jolted her.

Pain filled her throat. There were all those couples — the lovey-dovey types and the no-nonsense types, the loud ones and the quiet ones. There was even Binick’s wife and Berkowitz’s wife, but for some reason, they didn’t seem lost on this tour at all.

And here, in the beautiful and forlorn lobby, there was her, a divorcée, and a widow.

She saw Deena notice her, and a glimmer of relief spreading over her.

“Gut Yom Tov!” she called.

Ruthie heard her voice, turned around from the window and waved. Pessie waved back and motioned her over.

“The weather is unreal,” Ruthie said. “Should we take a walk outside?”

A widow, a divorcée, and… and her.

“Good idea,” Pessie said.

A strange look passed over Deena’s face, her gaze flitting from Pessie to Ruthie to the floor. Pessie wasn’t sure what to make of it.

As Ruthie led the way out the Shabbos door, Pessie murmured to Deena, “Sometimes I feel like a single mother.”



Yochi tore off a piece of electric tape and handed it to Mossberg. “Hi, Pessie, what’s up?”

“Can we talk for a minute?”

“Sure.” He gave Mossberg more tape and held down a wire as Mossberg fastened it to the ground. “I’m coming.”

Pessie pushed Motti’s stroller to the far end of the ballroom, and Yochi followed.

“What’s up?” he asked again.

Pessie nodded in Mossberg’s direction. “You’re working with him now, talk to him about Lizman.”

“Lizman? What?”

“What what? The shidduch. I mentioned it to Deena, but she’s going to need a huge push. I think you should mention it to him, and once he’s interested, I’ll handle Deena.”

Yochi’s mouth hung open. “No way. You’re not serious, Pessie, right? I’m not a shadchan, and I don’t know anything about either of them. Are you nuts?”

“Please, Yochi! I got to know Deena pretty well, and I’m telling you this makes sense. I have a good feeling about it. What’s the big deal? You aren’t forcing anyone, you’re just sharing an idea.”

“I have to go back.” Yochi gestured at the stage. “The concert is starting in an hour, did you see what an orchestra we’re having?” He twirled his peyos nervously. “Do me a favor, Pessie. We’re on a tour now, I have a job to do. Can we please leave shidduchim alone?”

“And what if the only reason you landed this job was so that you can help make a shidduch happen?”

“Come on, Pessie. Drop it. It’s not the right time and place for this.” He lowered his voice as none other than Natfali Aaron, the highly publicized singer, passed and extended his hand out for a fist bump.

“Of course not,” Pessie muttered when Aaron was out of earshot. “It wouldn’t pas for a tour director to redt a shidduch. Well then, I guess I’ll have to handle this on my own.”

“No! Pessie, don’t. I’ll…”

“You’ll what? You’ll talk to him?”

Yochi thought frantically. This was crazy, he didn’t even know if Mossberg was interested in remarrying.

But he had to get Pessie off this case, and fast. “Yes,” he said, deciding it was okay to lie for the sake of… shalom bayis? “Not before the show,” he added quickly, “but I’ll talk to him.”


Deena sat between Pessie and Ruthie in the hotel’s ballroom. Their kids had chosen to watch the performance together in a different row of seats, going through bag after bag of chips. There was nothing to distract Deena from simply enjoying the show.

Nothing, except a nervousness bordering on dread.

The lights in the hall went out, and with stage lights beaming brightly, Naftali Aaron swept up on stage, grinning and waving to the roaring audience. “Che piacere vederti!” he shouted to the crowd. “A gutten moed, my friends! So nice to see you all here tonight!”

The audience cheered and clapped wildly. Aaron flashed a luminous smile, and with a crash of drumbeats, the show began.

In less than 24 hours, it would be her turn. She would stand up there on stage, in front of a sea of women waiting to be educated and entertained.

She’d done it many times in the past, there was no reason to be nervous. And yet, anxiety squeezed her chest.

This was bigger than any show she’d ever participated it in. This was huge. What had she gotten herself into?

At her right, Ruthie’s eyes were trained on the stage. Deena stole a glance at Pessie.

She had to resist a chuckle. Pessie wasn’t looking at the stage at all. Instead, she was biting her lip, her eyes glued to the row of children who were going through packs of sour sticks, as though she was watching them ingest poison.

“It won’t kill them,” Deena murmured.

Pessie turned. “You know what horrible things are in there? High fructose corn syrup, food coloring, preservatives. You know what these things can cause? Pinworms is the best of them.”

Deena gave a wan smile. Then she slumped in her seat. “I can’t do it,” she whispered. “What happens if I back out?”

“Huh? What got into you, Nuts & Basil?”

“Stage fright?”

Pessie snickered. “I’m so not worried for you, sweetie.”

“Easy for you to say! Let me see you get up there and run a show.”

Pessie laughed. “I’d have to be reborn.”

Deena humphed. This wasn’t funny. Her stomach was a mess.

When the show ended, the tour guests gravitated to the succah for the nightly dessert buffet. Deena and Pessie were about to follow when Deena noticed Miri still seated in the now empty row of chairs.

“Miri?” she asked cautiously.

Miri turned her head and Deena’s chest tightened as she noticed the glower on her daughter’s face.

Not again. Please, Miri, don’t do this to me now.

But before she could think of what to do, Mr. Hersko walked over and sank into a chair.

He spoke to Pessie for a minute, then turned to Deena.

“Mrs. Lizman, I was talking to Binick, we had this idea. How about we livestream your show tomorrow? I can get Zeitlin to send out a link to our email list, you can post it to your feed. It’ll be great marketing for both of us.”

“Uh…” Deena stammered. She threw another glance at Miri’s stiff back. It would probably be great marketing for her, but she couldn’t think straight, not with the thundercloud of tension sitting over her daughter. “I guess so,” she said, forcing her lips into a smile. “Why not, right?”

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 781)

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