| Follow Me |

Follow Me: Chapter 51 

Ugh. Why had he made that ridiculous promise to her? Did he really have to do this?


Yochi lifted the lid of the warmer and picked out two waffles. He reached for the bottle of syrup, then paused as Mr. Sampson, surrounded by kids, approached the breakfast buffet table.

Mr. Sampson’s face looked haggard, but otherwise didn’t relay anything. That probably meant there was no update. It was unnerving, this situation, knowing the news about his father-in-law may arrive any minute.

“Good morning,” Yochi greeted him cautiously. “How’s it going?”

Mr. Sampson gave a weary shrug. “Pretty much the same. Critical but stable.”

“Hashem should help…” Yochi said earnestly. He changed his mind about the syrup and picked up a napkin from the display. “Let me know if there’s any improvement.” He didn’t want to say news — news somehow sounded foreboding. “And if you need any help, with the kids or anything, please just tell me.”

“Yes, yes. Thanks, we’re good for now.”

Yochi took his plate over to the coffee machine on the other side of the succah tent and tapped on the screen to select his espresso. He stared absently at the video of a coffee bean harvest — the whole process the crop underwent until it landed in his cup — his mind on the day ahead.

It shouldn’t be too crazy a day. The guests would all be out sightseeing and following the guided hikes he’d scheduled, the kitchen was running smoothly — Berkowitz said he had a grip on dinner and Shabbos cooking. The evening entertainment didn’t need much prep, either. There was the cooking show for the women — Lizman said she was all set — and a kumzitz around a bonfire for the men, with Asher Elbaum getting up to share his astounding life story.

“Gee, thanks for that,” a voice murmured in Yochi’s ear.

He turned, just as Mossberg reached for the then-ready brew. Mossberg added milk, closed his eyes and took a sip. “Perfect. Gevaldig.”

“You—” Yochi grunted as he reset the machine for a new cup. “You should be drinking tea to preserve your voice for tonight.”

Mossberg grinned. “What’s up?”

“Not much. Maybe I’ll actually get to go out with my family today, can you imagine?”

“Nope. Coming up blank.”

Yochi snorted. “What are your plans for today?”

“I would try an ATV, but yeah, not with my kiddies. We’ll see. Think it’s worth the drive to South Tyrol for those alpine coasters?”

“Ooh, yesss,” Yochi said. “Klausberg-Flitzer? It’s morahdig.”

From the corner of his eye, he spotted Pessie entering the succah. The moment Pessie noticed Yochi — and who he was schmoozing with — her face lit up.

Ugh. Why had he made that ridiculous promise to her? Did he really have to do this?

From the look in Pessie’s eyes, the answer was an unequivocal yes.

The coffee started trickling into his cup. Yochi kept his eyes on the brew as he cleared his throat. “I wanted to ask you…” he started.


Yochi ground his teeth. “Uh, not me, really, just like… my wife?”

Mossberg stopped stirring his coffee. “Your wife? What did she want to ask me?”

“Not ask you. Just…”

“Well, what did you not want to ask me? She, that is.”

Okay, this was getting more awkward by the minute.

Yochi took his coffee and placed a lid over it. “Do you know Mrs. Lizman? She’s going to do the cooking show for the women tonight?”

“I’ve heard of her. A big name food person or something, right?”


“ ’Kay, so her.”

“What about her?”

From the far, Pessie’s eyes were fiercely trained on him.

“She’s… very sweet. Smart, talented, great personality.”

“I’m… happy to hear that?”

Gosh! Was he doing this on purpose?

“You know that she’s an almanah, right?”

This time Mossberg’s face turned a shade darker, but his voice was still smooth. “Could be I heard.”

“So, uh… what do you think? She has two sweet girls, a great business.”

Mossberg poured his coffee down the drain in the makeshift sink next to the coffee machine. “That’s nice.” He tossed his cup in the garbage can. “I’m going to grab a bite. Did your wife want to ask me something?”

“No. No, nothing. She didn’t want to ask anything.”


Staying in the hotel to practice for her show wouldn’t improve her performance. She would plotz from tension, and it would only make her show come off more, well, practiced.

“I’m driving over to Steinhaus today,” Ruthie told her when they met up at breakfast. “You know that place in South Tyrol? Do you want to join, so we can take turns watching kids?”

Deena agreed, if somewhat hesitantly. The trip would definitely distract her from the upcoming show, but maybe she did need the practice after all?

What she didn’t anticipate when she sank into the gondola lift with Miri and Nechama was a sudden unfamiliar fear of heights.

The ride operator brought the bar down over the three of them, and the gondola rose sharply. The murmuring motor roared in her ears. Her stomach lurched and the entire world spun around her as she gripped the bar for dear life. She shut her eyes tightly, bit back a gasp as her kids’ animated voices warbled on her two sides.

The car swayed, and Deena’s eyes flew open for a brief second. Mistake. Her fingers around the bar went white, the diamonds on her eternity band glinting bizarrely. Her pulse raced madly as she appraised the distance to the ground. Miri asked her something, but she didn’t hear a word. Her life swam before her eyes — Zev and her mother and his mother and Leah and everyone and everything and all her thousands and thousands of followers.

When the ride finally ended and they jumped down onto the platform, the ground shook beneath Deena’s feet. She held onto her girls’ hands, vaguely conscious of Ruthie waving them over as she forced one foot in front of the other.

“How was?” Ruthie asked.

Deena shook her head, unable to utter a sound.

Ruthie eyed her questioningly. “Are you okay?”

“I— I’m good,” Deena said tonelessly. “Should we… rest?”

They found a bench, sat down and plopped their backpacks down.

“Why are we klutzing?” Miri asked. “What are we supposed to do here?”

Deena’s breathing was slowly returning to normal. “Look around, Miri, this place is wonderland. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your life?”

Miri didn’t seem too enchanted by the sun-streaked stone paths or the panorama of mountain peaks and valleys.

“You said we’re going on alpine coasters,” she whined.

They were not — they were not — going on any alpine coasters.

How many hours would it take to hike down this mountain?

And if hiking wasn’t an option, she would rent that little shack next to the restrooms, import kosher food, do what she could to make the place feel like home. She was not going back down that mountain with a gondola, definitely not with an alpine coaster.

“R-right,” she mumbled. “Soon. Let’s… look around a bit first, yeah?”

“I’m bored,” Miri snapped.

Deena looked at her sharply.

But immediately, her eyes softened and something in her heart melted. This isn’t Miri. She was doing so much better, she just needs to regulate.

Deena stood up. Her knees felt steadier, and she lifted the camera case that hung from her neck. “Ruthie, do you know that Miri is our expert photographer? Miri, how about we take some really cool shots of this view?”

Miri looked hesitant.

“I’d love to make a scrapbook when we return home,” Deena continued, “and we need a bunch of good pictures.”

Miri gave a little shrug. “Uh, fine. Kay.”

A warmth spread through Deena’s limbs. For a moment, she forgot about the crazy ride up and the dreadful coaster ride ahead. She’d done it, she’d gotten through to her daughter. She wanted to sing and dance.

She unzipped the case of her DSLR and carefully removed it. She was handing the camera over to Miri, stroking her hair while she instructed her where to aim and how much to zoom, when she noticed someone watching.

It was Mr. Mossberg. The choir head.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 782)

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