| Follow Me |

Follow Me: Chapter 52

Deena felt blood rushing to her face. No, Miri. No! You didn’t just imply to the audience that I copy recipes. How could you?


The tour people really did think of everything.

“This is the cutest and smartest thing ever,” Deena told Pessie as they led their kids into the shul conference room.

The tour had brought down a local kids’ entertainer to do face painting with the kids so the adults could enjoy their evening program undisturbed. The Lizman and Hersko girls ran over to join their tour friends clustered in line.

When they walked out, leaving the kids behind, the knot in Deena’s stomach tightened. This was it, showtime.

They were heading down the hallway in silence when Pessie gave a resolute cough. “How could you not like a person before you said hello to him?”

Deena turned her head abruptly. “What are you talking about?”

“You know good and well what I’m talking about.”

Deena sniffed. “Sweetie, I have a show to run in less than 20 minutes. I’m nervous. Can you leave me alone?”

“It’s not good to be alone. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”

Deena continued walking.

“He’s a great father,” Pessie added.

Deena rolled her eyes in exasperation. Pessie was still talking, but Deena tuned her out. She was not in a conversational mood.

“You should probably eat something,” Pessie suggested when they passed the tea room. “You didn’t have a thing at dinner.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You don’t feel hungry, because you’re nervous, but you need the energy.”

“What do you want?” Deena snapped.

“Honestly? I want to distract you from yourself.”

Two of the Sampson children walked past them, sipping from soda cans. Deena looked Pessie straight in the eyes.

“What if I don’t want to be distracted?”

“So you want to feel nervous?”

“What. Do. You. Want?”

“Just take a walk with him,” Pessie said softly. “Nothing official. See how it goes. What’s so bad about that? We’re only here for a few more days.”

Deena groaned. “Pessie.”

“I mean it.”

Deena flicked her sheitel over her shoulder. “And I really mean it, too. Please drop this joke already. It’s gone too far.”

They reached the lobby. Pessie sat down on a sofa’s armrest.

“Why?” she asked.

“Please, Pessie! I need to go get ready.”

“You’re readier than ready,” Pessie retorted. “Everything’s set up, you look amazing.

Sit down.”

Yocheved Englard, that hilarious woman from Chicago, walked past and gave a finger-flutter wave. Chaya Binick passed next, engrossed in conversation with another woman, someone from New York. Flatbush? Monsey?

Deena folded her arms and shivered. “I can’t sit. This is being livestreamed. And no, it doesn’t help that I’m used to lives, I get this way every time. Everyone will be watching. I’m nervous.”

Pessie’s eyes were gentle. “What do you have against him?”

Deena stood still for a moment, arms folded over her chest, then shifted her gaze to the floor. “I have nothing against him,” she admitted. “I mean, I don’t even know him, what would I have against him?”

“Right. So what is it?”

What is it? It’s… me. And Zev. And… everything.

Involuntarily, her eyes traveled to the ring on her finger. Pessie was waiting for an answer, but she didn’t utter a sound.

“You’re pushing him away almost… furiously,” Pessie said. “You seem to be hurt by the suggestion, like I’m trying to punish you or something.”

The ring caught a glimmer from the chandelier in the lobby. Deena tucked her fingers under her arm and slowly raised her eyes.

“I can’t get married,” she whispered.


Nervous? Pessie thought with sheer bemusement.

Deena Lizman looked anything but nervous up there onstage.

In fact, Pessie was the one to suddenly be overtaken by a bout of shivers. She was nervous for Deena.

But after the first few minutes, she completely relaxed. Deena’s performance on stage was confident and professional. She had it all — the presence, the wit, the friendliness. As Pessie had tried reassuring Deena all along — she knew how to capture her audience’s interest. The show was off to a great start.

Deena was adding water to a dough in the base of a stand mixer when Yochi texted her. How’s it going there?

Great! Running well, everyone’s loving it. How’s the kumzitz?

She hit send.

But a moment later, she questioned her words.

Out of nowhere, Deena’s daughter Miri had stormed onto stage. There was a swan painted on her face, and Deena paused the show to comment and laugh. Then she continued with her dough, as though nothing had happened.

But something had changed in her, you couldn’t miss it. Her shoulders had stiffened and her eyes… Deena was nervous, after all. And that made Pessie nervous.


“So, sfogliatelle is a mouthful to pronounce, but it’s one of my favorite pastries, even if it’s not one you see on your typical bakery shelves.”

Deena ran the dough through the pasta sheeter and grinned at her audience. Seriously, all her anxiety had been for nothing. Why had she been so nervous? This was just like any other show, only more fun, maybe, because she’d gotten to know so many of the people in the audience over Yom Tov.

And the camera — if it made her uneasy, she just didn’t have to look.

“The best part about the finished pastry is that you get that amazing flaky quality that you have from laminated doughs, like croissants, but instead of waiting hours between folds, you just brush the sheets of dough with melted butter, and it separates into beautiful layers in the oven.”

She dipped her pastry brush into the bowl of warm butter and brushed it on the thin layer of dough in front of her. She was about to lay out another sheet when she sensed the audience shifting their gaze.

A moment later, a child bounded onto the stage, face transformed into the image of a swan.


A familiar dread coursed through Deena’s blood. She couldn’t — she didn’t — she…

It’s okay. So Miri’s onstage, big deal. Relax and play it cool.

She arranged her face in a mock-confused expression. “Hey, who is this gorgeous swan here?” she asked dramatically. “Is that you, Miri?”

She pinched Miri’s chin and blew her a kiss. “Absolutely beautiful,” she gushed. She patted Miri’s hair. “Do you want to say hi to everyone, Mir?”

Miri shook her head.

Deena swallowed, then quickly managed to spread her lips in a smile. She winked at the audience and cupped her hand over her mouth like she was telling them a secret. “Stage fright,” she stage-whispered.

Turning her attention back to the sheets of buttered dough, Deena switched her microphone off. “Really cute, Miri,” she muttered quickly. “Now I want you to please go back to all the kids.”





She clicked her mic back on. Smiled at the audience again. Started rolling up the dough, one piece at a time, to create a big cylinder.

She continued working, alternately ignoring Miri and trying to draw her in. “Here, Miri, do you want to help me roll the dough up into a big fat log?”

But Miri didn’t seem to realize or care that this was a show and displayed no interest in participating.

Deena had put the dough in the fridge and was finishing up the pastry cream when Miri suddenly sidled up to her, and called out, “Is this the recipe you got from Ciro’s mom?”

Deena felt blood rushing to her face. No, Miri. No! You didn’t just imply to the audience that I copy recipes. How could you?

She wanted to grab Miri by the arm and steer her off the stage. But there was a crowd of eyes trained on her, so instead, she produced a chuckle. “My little apprentice,” she joked. “Ciro’s mom was the head chef in a famous Italian restaurant for many years. She taught me so much about Italian cuisine. You know, when you want to get the authentic flavor, you gotta learn it from the source.”

I’m rambling. Did I make it better or worse?

Either way, she had to move this show forward. And she had to do it well.

“Okay!” she announced, rubbing her palms together. “We’ve got the pastry cream done, now we need to take the dough out of the fridge. I prepped this dough before we started since it really needs an hour or two to rest.

“And now we’re going to cut the dough into one-inch pieces, and then use well-buttered fingers to press down in the middle of the circle to make a cone shape, which we’ll fill with the pastry cream before we bake it.”

Deena slipped her rings off, placing them in the little prep bowl she’d remembered to leave on the table, then reached for the stick of butter on the table.

But as she was scooping up the softened butter with her fingers, Miri reached out and grabbed Deena’s rings.

“Let’s put those back down, sweetie,” Deena said, smoothly but firmly.

Miri ignored her.

Deena’s eyes flew uncertainly from the butter to Miri’s fingers. She saw Miri slip the rings onto her fingers, take them off, put them on her other hand, take them off again.

What was she doing? This was Zev’s ring.

Miri was going to lose it.

She was going to… Zev was going to…

“Give me my rings,” Deena hissed. “Now.”

Vaguely, she heard murmuring in the crowd.

Zev’s words floated before her eyes, in his staid handwriting. Thank you for being here for me throughout this difficult time.

Deena extended her hand and gripped Miri’s shoulder. Miri tried to shrug her off, but Deena yanked her hand, tugged her fingers.

But Miri was stronger. And faster. In a flash, she ripped the rings off her fingers and flung them at the audience.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 783)

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