Mrs. White designs us a logo and Mr. White has it printed onto a Plexiglass plaque that we hang on the door: Bells and Pearls, Tailoring and Design
Iknock again on the red door, smiling ruefully. Our own door had been red for years before we realized that hey, there’s such a thing as paint, and it is now a sensible gray. But there’s something relentlessly cheerful about the red that makes me grin.
I’m no longer grinning when Pearlie opens the door and that’s mainly because my mouth has fallen open in shock. Pearlie looks… well, like a ballet girl. Her hair is down and lightly curled, her blue eyes are magnified with mascara, and her cheeks and lips are a delicate rose. She’s wearing a light blue cotton dress and soft pink ballet flats.
She looks really pretty and nothing like Pearlie.
“Help me,” she says, before I have a chance to say hi. “Please, Bella Rena, save me.”
But she’s grinning, a shy, bashful grin I’ve never seen before, and I know that she’ll deny it till she’s blue in the face, but Pearlie White of the Toms and slinky skirts does enjoy getting dressed up now and then. Phew.
“We had a bris,” she explains, as we sit on the swing on her tiny front porch.
“Well, you look great. Love your dress.”
Pearlie smiles even wider. “Well, thanks. I made it.”
My jaws drops again. “You did not.”
She cracks up. “Okay, you caught me. I did not. Except, uh, that I did.”
I’m stunned because I’m good at sewing, but she’s a whole ’nother level.
“Stand up,” I order.
She sighs and gets to her feet.
“Hmmm, okay, only thing is that I’d add shirring to the sleeves too, not just the waist.”
Pearlie looks down at herself and then up at me in wonder. “You know, with your eye, and my hand… we might really be onto something here, Ballerina.”
I grin as she settles herself back on the swing. I wait until she’s tilted her head back and closed her eyes before saying:
“Funny you should say that…”
After that, things move into high gear. Ma cleans out the Pesach pantry until it shines, Daddy sets up a small white table, two cushioned chairs, a small white bookcase, and a full-length mirror. Goldie finds an adorable, old-fashioned cloth mannequin at Goodwill and we set that up in the corner and name it Pinny, you know, for all the pins we’ll be sticking into it.
I bring my trusty sewing machine down from upstairs and Pearlie imports hers from across the street. Aharon and Yehuda donate a water cooler their yeshivah was giving away, and then help me set up a pretty cream lace curtain for a makeshift dressing room.
Mrs. White designs us a logo and Mr. White has it printed onto a Plexiglass plaque that we hang on the door: Bells and Pearls, Tailoring and Design.
And just like that, we’re in business.
If Tirtza knows she is our first-ever client, she politely says nothing of it, even as we talk over each other at least three times, quote her different prices, and forget where we keep the extra thread spools. Her kindness probably stems from the fact that when she leaves Bells and Pearls, Tailoring and Design, she is happy. So happy, in fact, that she promises to tell all of her myriad friends and her six future sisters-in-law all about us.
“And you guys are so young!” she keeps exclaiming on her way out. “So young!” And then finally, at long last, there is sweet, blissful silence.
I drop into my chair mainly because my feet no longer agree to hold me and turn to find Pearlie slumped over the small table, eyes shut tight, hands dangling limply at her sides.
“Sweet dreams, business partner,” I say.
“Too. Exhausted. For dreams,” she moans.
I laugh, but I know, inside, that dreams don’t need much to keep them going.
Just a basic desire to be happy.
The phone rings just as I’m getting settled on the couch with a plum and a glass of iced tea.
I wait a second to see if anyone else will get it, but of course, for the first time in Martin history, the house is quiet.
“Uch!” I stomp over to the still-ringing phone.
“Hey, Belka, how goes it in the good ol’ US of A?”
“Naftoli! How is camp? You Israeli yet?”
He laughs, and I settle myself back on the couch, silently blessing the inventor of cordless phones.
“Camp’s amazing, Bella Rena. The trips are sick, the food is b’seder, and the Kosel is so much bigger than I realized. Bells, you need to hear this, I got lost at Ein Gedi, right, they literally had police out searching for me, it was a thing.”
I bite into my plum and make all the right noises, laughing and exclaiming, and all the while, waiting to feel the expected pangs of jealousy. But they don’t come. All I feel is genuine happiness that my brother is having an amazing summer.
And for some reason, that makes me want to burst into tears.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 830)
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