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For Granted: Chapter 30  

Dini did not voice the words that were screaming inside. Why not me? Why wasn’t I good enough for this position?


Dini stood on the sidewalk outside Ayala’s building, her head swiveling back and forth between Ayala and Bracha as she tried to process what was going on.

The cheery expression on Bracha’s face as she’d declared her decision to join Chesed Tzirel had dissolved into extreme discomfort — as awkward as the silence building between the three women.

Dini cleared her throat. “Since it seems I’m the only one out of the loop here,” she said, “care to enlighten me?”

Bracha looked at Ayala. “Go ahead. Since I’ve clearly — uh — made a mess of things?” She raised an eyebrow at Ayala, whose cheeks were brick red.

“No, you haven’t,” Ayala coughed out. “I have.”

She turned to Dini. “I feel terrible. Especially after I was the one who made such a big fuss about us being open with each other from now on.”

Dini pursed her lips. Uh, yeah. But that wasn’t what bothered her as much as the feeling that the two of them were teaming up over something and deliberately leaving her out.

“Medical liaison work, huh?” she asked Ayala. “Isn’t that what you do?”

Ayala squirmed. “It’s becoming too much for me to handle alone. I realized it would be helpful to bring on someone else to do this as well.”

Dini did not voice the words that were screaming inside. Why not me? Why wasn’t I good enough for this position? But Ayala answered the question anyway.

“It couldn’t be you, Dini,” she said. “I need you to keep doing what you’ve been doing. You’re so amazing at it.”

“What, coordinating meals?” Dini muttered. Eliana’s barb from months ago — “Right, you arrange meals for people who had a baby? That’s so sweet.” — hit her once again in all its humiliating force. Was that all Ayala thought she was good for, too? After everything?

“No. Fundraiser and marketer and volunteer coordinator. Oh, and event planner,” Ayala added with a smile.

Dini tried to smile back. It did sound impressive, the way Ayala put it. But… if that were really the case, why did she go to all this trouble to bring on Bracha behind Dini’s back?

She didn’t know. Honestly, she didn’t want to know. All she wanted to do was end this conversation right now with her head held high.

“Got it,” she said briskly. “Makes sense. Well, glad to have you on board, Bracha. You’ll be a real asset to Chesed Tzirel.” She flung her sheitel over her shoulder. “I should really be heading back now. Talk to you later, Ayala.”

And she walked toward Ayala’s parking lot without a backward glance.


“So, am I allowed to ask?” Bracha leaned forward on Ayala’s couch. “Why did you keep this a secret from Dini? Did you think she wouldn’t find out?”

Ayala shrugged. It was a hard question to answer, even to herself. She attempted to punt it. “I figured there was no point in discussing something that was such a remote possibility. I mean, up until 20 minutes ago, you kept insisting no way, no how. I’d love to know what caused this miraculous transformation.”

Bracha made a face. “The old ‘give an evasive answer and quickly change the topic’ trick, huh? As if I’d fall for that. Remote possibility? Are you telling me that if I’d have said no, you would have given up completely on the idea? That out of millions of people in this country, I was the only one qualified to train to do what you do?”

Ayala gave a reluctant laugh, as Bracha peered closely at her.

“If you want me to come on board, you’re gonna have to explain the whole Dini dynamic here, because I’m frankly not getting it.”

Ayala’s shoulders tensed. “There’s nothing to get.”

Bracha snorted. “Uh-huh. You’re hiding things from her. She’s hiding things from you. Every other day one of you is fuming over what the other one did. You’re telling me this is normal?”

Ayala felt a pit in her stomach. She swallowed. “No…. No, it’s not.”

Bracha leaned her head back on the couch. “I mean, if you’re feeling that this partnership isn’t working for you, wouldn’t it be better for your friendship in the long run if you just tell her that?”

Ayala’s eyes widened. “Who said the partnership isn’t working? Dini’s done a ton for Chesed Tzirel. Especially recently… she’s really been amazing, the way she’s put her heart into growing the organization.”

Bracha raised an eyebrow. “That’s not the tune you’ve been singing, hon. All I’ve heard is you kvetching about her.”

Ayala stood up abruptly. Was that true? Yes, of course it was true. Agitated, she began to pace. What was wrong with her?

“Dini’s one of my closest friends in the world,” she said, speaking more to herself than to Bracha.

“Honestly, I’ve always found that interesting,” Bracha replied. “I can’t think of two people more different.”

Ayala smiled a little. Yes, they were different. The big joke at the beginning of seminary had been the fact that Dini Reiner and Ayala Bernstein were roommates. But the bigger joke was the fact that the two ended up inseparable. They’d even been the subject of a Purim spiel. She could still picture the girl who’d played Dini, wearing elaborate clothing and jewelry, twirling and skipping while the girl who played Ayala, her hair in a tight pony with a plain uniform skirt and sweater, walked primly beside her. The girls had encountered a “beggar.”

“Oh, look at the poor woman,” the pretend Dini had exclaimed, and had immediately pulled off one of her necklaces and handed it to the schnorrer.

“Dini,” the Ayala actress had told her firmly, “she’s hungry. She needs food. How will one necklace help her?”

“Oh, you’re so right!” the Dini actress had answered. “I should give her two!” And, one by one, she’d removed all her jewelry and dropped it in the beggar’s lap, while “Ayala,” shaking her head, handed the lady carrot sticks.

It had been exaggerated, of course. But the girls had nailed the friendship. Ayala’s levelheaded practicality tempered Dini’s well-meaning but out-of-touch generosity. Dini’s lively, upbeat personality counteracted Ayala’s tendency to be too serious.

She rubbed her temples now as she looked at Bracha. What had happened to them?

“We are different,” she acknowledged. “But in a good way. We complement each other, you know?”

Bracha shrugged. “If you say so.”

Ayala frowned; Bracha had never been a Dini fan.

“Well,” Bracha continued, “can I be an annoying advice-giver? I think Dini could use a few compliments at the moment.”

Dini sat in front of her laptop, staring into space. Her ego was demanding she do something grandly productive right now — plan another slam-dunk volunteer event? Raise a million dollars? Climb Mount Everest? But all she really felt like doing was climbing into bed and hiding under her pillow.

She sighed. She wasn’t used to feeling so depressed.

Really, Dini, she told herself briskly. What’s the big deal? So Ayala thought Bracha would do a better job liaising with patients in hospitals than she would. Hate to shock you, said a voice inside her head, which sounded very much like Shuki’s, but not everyone can be good at everything. Not even the nearly perfect Dini Blumenfeld.

She smiled to herself. Suddenly realizing that what she needed right now was to hear her husband actually say those words, she picked up the phone.

“Hi, Dini, everything okay?”

Dini was surprised; his normally relaxed voice sounded tight and harried.

“Uh, yeah,” she said hesitantly. “I just—”

Just what? Wanted his comfort? Wanted him to help her laugh off the entire incident with a well-aimed joke?

“Uh, wanted your help coming up with questions for our poll.” She winced. Ugh, how lame.

He didn’t even pause. “Sorry, but I can’t now. I’m busy.”

She really couldn’t blame him for refusing. Still—

“Busy? Is everything okay?”

“Yes. It’s called work.”

Her eyes widened at his uncharacteristic tone. Since when did he get uptight about his work? For that matter, since when did he get uptight about anything?

Her own worries brushed aside, she asked, “Anything I can help with?”

Shuki gave a short laugh. “You want to help me with accounts payable?”

Dini frowned. Something here wasn’t adding up. “You’re, uh, feeling stressed about billing?”

He let out a breath. Then, in a perceptibly lighter voice, he said, “No, I’m feeling stressed about my hook shot. I don’t even want to tell you how many times my Doritos bag bounced off the rim of the wastepaper basket.”

Dini was silent. Did Shuki still believe that’s what she thought he did all day? Was that why he didn’t want to confide in her about whatever was really going on at work?

Mimicking his light tone, she said, “Well, I shoot a mean wastepaper basket shot, if you want any pointers. And…” Her voice turned softer. “If you want, y’know, any other help, or just to vent… I’m here.”

There was a pause on the other end; Dini wished she could see the expression on his face.

“Got it,” he said. “I appreciate that.” He sounded like he was smiling.

After she hung up, Dini headed into the kitchen restlessly. Oddly enough, the conversation had lifted her mood a bit, maybe because it had helped her step out of herself. Feeling suddenly hungry, she spotted a box of chocolate pralines in the pantry, leftovers from last week’s Shabbos guest. Ah, a chocolate binge… maybe that would pick up her spirits.

Yeah, that and the ten Zumba classes she’d need to work it off.

Her lips twitched as a memory suddenly hit her. One night in seminary, they’d been studying late, and Ayala had offered to share her tub of caramel ice cream. Dini had, of course, refused; her mother’s dire warnings about weight gain had been ringing in her ears all year. But Ayala had pressed.

“C’mon, you know you want it,” she’d teased, waving a spoon in Dini’s face. And then, she’d done something un-Ayala-like. She’d jumped up, flicked on her CD player to blasting music, and pulled Dini up off her bed.

“There you go,” she’d grinned. “When you eat ice cream while exercising, the calories don’t count.”

And the two had spent the next hour dancing wildly, finishing the tub of ice cream and laughing hysterically.

Now, thinking about that, Dini grinned. On impulse, she opened the music folder on her laptop. As “Thank You, Hashem” blasted from the speakers, she began whirling around in her empty living room.

“Ma?” Chaviva and Tamar walked through the door; Chaviva was staring at her, horrified. Laughing, Dini grabbed their hands and began to twirl with them. Tamar giggled.

“Maaa!” Chaviva hissed, yanking her hands away. “Someone’s here!

It was then that Dini looked up and saw someone else standing in their doorway. She blinked.


Dini had no idea how or why Ayala had suddenly appeared in her house, when Dini had last left her in an emotional huff on a sidewalk in RBS… but she suddenly didn’t care. Without pausing to think, she walked over to Ayala, grabbed her hands, and began to dance. For a moment, Ayala’s eyes widened in shock. Then, dropping her pocketbook, she grinned as, together, they whirled around and around.


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 882)

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