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For Granted: Chapter 19    

Ayala stiffened. “No. I’m not scared. But I’m also not a fan of throwing money at something unnecessarily”

Dini felt like skipping as she walked out of the elevator in Temima’s posh office building. The release of built-up tension combined with the adrenaline of having real, exciting action-steps to take, made her feel giddy. Finally, after all these stressful weeks, she and Ayala had taken a giant step forward together!

Of course, the absolute highlight of the meeting had been when she’d put forward Shuki’s proposal of forming a Chesed Tzirel club among young American kollel wives. Temima had been so enthusiastic she’d literally jumped out of her seat.

“What a brilliant idea!” she’d said. “If you can pull it off. Do you think you can actually create a model of chic volunteerism?”

Chic volunteerism. It sounded so fresh and cutting edge. Dini had lifted her chin confidently. “Yup, I think I can.”

Now, as she stepped outside into the sunshine, she felt like calling Shuki to tell him about her — well, his — no, their  —smashing success. But she thought it might be rude, with Ayala walking next to her. Instead, she turned to her friend with a shining smile.

“Wow, that was amazing, wasn’t it? I’m starving. How about we get some lunch? There’s a café right across the street.”

Was Ayala’s return smile just a bit forced? “That’s okay, I brought along something to eat.” She patted her pocketbook which probably contained, like, a sliced apple.

Dini rolled her eyes. “It’s my treat,” she said, grabbing Ayala’s arm and steering her toward the crosswalk.

Ayala instantly reddened but Dini forestalled her protest. After all these years, did they really still need to play this game? “Yes, I know I don’t need to pay for your lunch. But, um, after 16 years of friendship, I think it’s time to let you in on a little secret.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “My dad’s loaded. Like, really.”

Ayala stared at Dini for a second and then she burst out laughing. “You’re nuts, you know that?” But she allowed Dini to lead her into the café and seat her at an empty table.

Dini waited until after they’d ordered to lean her elbows on the table and say, “Nu, what were your impressions? Temima’s fabulous, isn’t she?”

Ayala poured herself a cup of water from the little pitcher on the table. “She seems very professional,” she said calmly.

Dini’s eyes narrowed. What was eating her? “Professional? Shkoyach, you noticed the plaques on her wall. Of course, she’s professional! I meant, what’d you think of her ideas?”

Ayala stirred the ice water with her straw. “They were… what’s the word I’m looking for? Ambitious. I mean, the type of marketing she was suggesting will cost a ton of money. Ads in magazines, a website, social media. I don’t know, it seemed a bit extreme for where we’re holding right now.”

Pssst went all of Dini’s buoyancy from a moment ago. She felt like pounding the table in frustration. How come every time Dini tried to move them forward, Ayala had to grab onto her heel and drag them both back?

She pushed a sheitel strand out of her eyes. “I don’t get it. Are you, like, scared to grow?”

Ayala stiffened. “No. I’m not scared. But I’m also not a fan of throwing money at something unnecessarily.” She must have anticipated Dini’s reaction, because she added, with a small smile, “Even if your father’s loaded.”

Dini felt her stomach clench. Oh, so they were back to this? Ayala, the sensible adult in the room reining in the spending of the spoiled little rich girl? “Hah, hah. Well, I don’t think this is unnecessary, and Temima clearly doesn’t, either. It’s like she said, you need to invest in order to grow, you need to take risks. That’s part of the game.”

Ayala didn’t look convinced, and Dini let out her breath with a hiss. It was essential that Ayala be convinced; they were so close to making it big! Dini had set all the pieces in motion; all she needed was Ayala to come on board. How could her friend not see that?

The waiter arrived with their food, and as Ayala dug into her ravioli, Dini tried again in a softened voice. “Listen, I know the whole idea of publicity is not your cup of tea. But we have to keep our sights on what this is really about. What you’re giving people through Chesed Tzirel is vital help that they can’t get elsewhere. At the end of the day, the more we’re able to grow, the more people we’ll be able to help.”

Ayala looked at her, chewing, while Dini held her breath. Then, slowly, she nodded.

“You’re right,” she admitted. “That’s the point I keep going back to. But—”

She was interrupted by Dini’s phone. Looking down, Dini’s lips tightened. Ma. Probably calling to find out how the big meeting had gone. She supposed she couldn’t ignore her, considering Ma was the one paying for it.

With an apologetic grimace at Ayala, she picked up the phone.

“Hi, Ma. You’re up early, huh?… Yeah, the meeting was fabulous, the consultant was super-helpful. I’m just with Ayala right now, we’re having, you know, a strategy meeting.”

She winked at Ayala, who was looking wary.

“Perfect,” her mother said. “Because what I have to say is for both of you. Put me on speaker.”

Now it was Dini’s turn to feel wary. What could Ma possibly have to say to Ayala? She certainly hoped it wasn’t about the salary. “Um… you sure? Maybe it’s better for you to tell me first and I’ll relay the message?”

“Don’t be silly; what a waste of time.”

Blushing slightly, she mouthed to Ayala, “My mother wants to speak to you, too.”

Ayala’s eyes widened in alarm.

Even through the tinny speakerphone, her mother’s voice came out strong and confident. “Hello? Ayala, are you there?”

Ayala swallowed. “Hello, Mrs. Reiner. How are you?”

“Baruch Hashem, wonderful. I hope you and your family are doing well. I was so happy to hear that you’ll be devoting yourself full-time to your organization. It sounds like you and Dini are involved in such important work for the community.”

It suddenly hit Dini that her mother didn’t know what their organization did. She hastily took a bite of salad to stop herself from giggling.

“Thanks, Mrs. Reiner,” Ayala replied, raising an eyebrow at Dini. “Yes, I’m grateful to be able to help people through Chesed Tzirel.”

“Chesed Tzirel. Yes, that’s what I wanted to talk to you girls about.” Dini’s eyebrows creased. Girls? Did Ma think they were teenagers?

“You’ll be happy to know that I’ve been doing my own research on your behalf. I know you said this Israeli consultant lady is supposed to be good, but I thought it can’t hurt to meet with some of our own American talent as well,” she tittered, and Dini closed her eyes. She did not have a good feeling about this.

“Lana handles the marketing for some of the top NPOs in the country, and she’s also one of Tatty’s clients — you remember her, Dini, you met her at Eliezer’s bar mitzvah.”

Dini searched her memory, but all she could come up with was a vague image of sheitel, diamonds, and European designer dress that could have applied to any of the hundreds of women at the party. “Mmm,” she replied.

“Anyway, she’s very in demand, but she was sweet enough to make room in her schedule for us. I told her it needs to be an afternoon appointment, evening for you, after your kids are asleep, and she was nice enough to accommodate. Next Tuesday at two p.m. New York time. Does that work?”

Ayala’s mouth had dropped open. Clearing her throat, Dini said, “Uh, thanks Ma, but I don’t see why… I mean, we’ve just met with Temima and got lots of good ideas from her. I think it’ll just be confusing to meet with someone else so soon.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Dini. Lana is the best. You don’t give up an opportunity to consult with the best.”

Afraid to meet Ayala’s eye, Dini mumbled, “Right, thanks. Ayala and I will discuss, um, whether that timing works for us.”

“Well, let me know soon. Lana’s time slots are highly sought after. People generally don’t wait to discuss; they grab it.”

Okay, Dini was feeling every inch the idiot her mother clearly intended her to feel.

“Oh, and one more thing,” Ma added. “I thought it would be helpful to have Lana go into the meeting already prepared, so I told her a little about your organization and what areas need to be improved.”

Ayala turned sharply towards the phone.

“What d’you mean?” Dini asked, heart pounding. “You don’t even know—”

“Obviously, I’m talking about the name. Chesed Tzirel? Can you imagine running a campaign with that name? Lana agreed with me that this is not the kind of vibe that’ll speak to millennials. She said she’ll think of a few alternatives to present at next week’s meeting.”

A fork clattered to the table. Ayala pushed her chair back with a screech and stood up.

“I need to leave now,” she muttered. “Thanks for lunch.”


Dini let herself into her house, saw from the empty bookbag hooks that her girls still hadn’t arrived home from school, and gave vent to her feelings by kicking her heel clear across the living room. She winced as it hit a crystal vase, which teetered but, luckily, didn’t fall.

Then she threw herself onto the couch, as tears leaked from her eyes. How could her shining day have disintegrated so badly? It wasn’t fair! She’d worked so hard, she’d arranged the whole fabulous meeting with Temima, everything had been going so well! Temima had loved her ideas, things were progressing, she’d even been on the verge of convincing Ayala!

What had Ma been thinking?

No, that wasn’t really the question. Ma had been Ma, open-handed with her money, time and advice. She’d only been trying to help in the way that she knew best. And, honestly, Ma was right about the stupid name; the problem was that she hadn’t realized that Ayala and change didn’t go together.

The real question was, what had Dini been thinking, letting her mother speak to Ayala, when she knew it was a bad idea? Why had she been so hesitant to trust her own judgment?

Dini covered her head with the couch pillow, prepared to indulge in a good sulk — or at least a good nap — until the kids came home.

She didn’t know if she’d fallen asleep, but it seemed like only a few minutes later that someone was gently putting a blanket on top of her.

“Mmmm?” She opened one eye and saw Shuki’s face swimming over her.

She blinked. Shuki was home? Had she slept through the entire noisy afternoon?

“What time is it?” she mumbled.

“Two-thirty. I came home to take a nap on the couch, but I see you beat me to it.”

Dini gave a groggy smile.

“And also, to find out how the big meeting was. Nu? Did you knock her socks off with your brilliance? Are you on your way to becoming the next Oorah?”

Dini lifted herself on her elbows, feeling all the emotions of the day wash over her once more. She wanted to rage about Ayala’s ingratitude, about her mother’s lack of trust in Dini’s capabilities, about the disappointing end to what should have been a triumphant day.

But she looked at her husband’s eager face, and she realized: This was his success as much as hers. He’d come through for her time and again these past few weeks, giving her his spot-on advice. Shuki deserved to feel triumph just as much as Dini.

She could at least give him that.

“Yes, we are,” she said, flashing him her most brilliant smile. “The meeting was awesome. And it’s all thanks to you.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 871)

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