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Picture This: Chapter 11

They cracked up. This is how drives were supposed to be — hyper and laughing about everything and absolutely nothing


The wind rushed through the open car window, grabbing Estee’s sheitel and tangling it.

“Close it, close it,” she yelped.

Yonah grinned and shut the window; quiet filled the spaces where the wind had been, the scent of summer lingering in the air.

“Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

Estee wrinkled her nose. “Why are you reminding me of a puppy with his head out the window right now?”

“Woof, woof!”

They cracked up. This is how drives were supposed to be — hyper and laughing about everything and absolutely nothing.

Estee pulled down the mirror and finger combed her sheitel back into place. “Tell me if you want me to take over.”

Yonah smiled at her sideways. “Nah, I want you to rest. I got this.”

And, Estee thought, closing her eyes, he had a point. She’d had a long week of work, and he’d… taken it easy. Even this, driving up Thursday night instead of Friday — she’d never have imagined that Yonah would agree to such a thing when they first got married.

She thought wryly back to all their wedding planning, how they could only meet after second seder or during bein hasedorim, how they drove florists and musicians crazy because Yonah was never available during the day. And now here he was, driving up to Boston at 7 p.m., not a care in the world for the seder he’d be missing the next day.

She adjusted her neck pillow. Maybe it was her. Maybe he didn’t feel that she’d been machshiv his Torah enough. Maybe she’d doused his flame. She turned her head, trying to get comfortable, but there’s no escaping intrusive thoughts.

The phone rang; Shmuel Kunda’s “And How Are You, Yehuda” jingling through the Subaru.

He clicked on the Bluetooth. “Yaaallow, Gita.”

“Yons? Heeey, you on the road yet?”

“We sure are. Say hello to my wife.”

“Hello, wife,” his older sister drawled. “Can’t wait to see you guys! Estee, we are sooo excited about our photo shoot tomorrow! Listen, small matter we need to discuss — rooms.”

Yonah groaned. “Gita! We literally got married yesterday. We are taking the guest suite.”

His sister did not sound amused. “Yes, you guys are newlyweds and you’re adorable. I also happen to have a newborn baby who needs to be near my bed, and only the suite is big enough to set up the Pack ’n Play in the room. So.” She loudly spoke over his protests. “So you can call Ma and ask her if anyone is staying in the bikur cholim apartment, because if it’s empty, that would be the perfect solution.”

“Fine,” Yonah snapped.

“Good,” Gita snapped back. “Bye, Estee,” she trilled, and hung up.

Estee looked at Yonah. “Call your mother,” she said.

Golda Rosen sounded apologetic but tired. “Sorry, sweetie, the apartment is booked. A young couple, they’re going through a lot right now. You and Gita need to work it out, okay, I’m not getting involved.”

Yonah hung up and sighed. “Est, what should we do? Also, what snacks do we have?”

She opened a bag of chips and handed it to him. “I guess we can be mevater,” she said sullenly, and they both laughed at the paradox.

“We’re such mitzvah kids,” Yonah pouted.

“Selfless,” she said, wiping away an invisible tear. And then they cracked up again.

Estee jingled a rattle over her head. “Chanoch! Over here! Siiiimiiii, smile!”

She sat back on her heels, and wiped her forehead. They needed to wrap up this little shoot so she could go get ready for Shabbos at the in-laws. She scrolled through her photos, grinning.

“Gita! These are gorgeous, come look.”

Her sister-in-law leaned over her shoulder. “Omigosh, Estee! You’re insanely talented! I cannot believe these pictures!”

Estee glowed. “Well, it helps that your kids are insanely cute.”

Gita scooped up her baby from the blanket he was lying on. “Tell me about it.” she said, giving him a gentle kiss.

Estee smiled at this display of affection from her tough, nothing-fazes-me sister-in-law.

“Kay, I’m going to head back, you good here?”

Gita nodded. “Yeah, gonna let them run around a bit. They’re already bathed and dressed, and I only need 15 minutes.”

Estee’s jaw dropped. Just getting her sheitel on properly took 15 minutes.

Gita laughed knowingly. “You’ll see one day…. Anyway, I love the pics, can’t wait to develop them!”

Estee blushed and waved, then headed to her car. She stopped suddenly. Was that Rikki Parnes again? What on earth was she doing here? Her in-laws weren’t from Boston…. Estee took a step back, and watched Rikki make a toast with her husband using paper coffee cups, laughing over something they were looking at spread out on the picnic table in front of them. Her outfit was maternity chic, of course.


How was Rikki so perfect at everything, including marriage?

Estee was mature enough to know jealousy got you nowhere in life, but some people made it hard to remember that truth.

HE felt good. It was good to be home. Or was he not allowed to call it home anymore? Was that word reserved for the small apartment he now shared with the girl lighting Shabbos candles in the next room? Who knew? Either way, it was nice to be back in Boston, with the familiar sights and scents of his childhood.

He tilted his hat, straightened his tie in the mirror over the mantle, and smoothed his suit. Estee came up behind him, gently glowing.

He smiled back. “Good Shabbos!”

“Good Shabbos,” she said.

Gita poked her head in. “Anyone want to hold a cute-but-not-great-smelling baby so I can go make a brachah on my candles?”

Yonah held out his hands. “I’ll take one for the team.” He knew his holding a baby would make Estee smile. He peeked out from under his hat; he’d been right.

After a few minutes of singing softly to his nephew, Gita returned. “Good Shabbos, Rosens! And thanks, Yons, here, I’ll take him.” She gathered him up. “Gotta go change him. And thanks, guys, for the suite. We appreciate it.”

Estee smiled. “Our pleasure.”

“She’s being polite,” Yonah yelled after Gita. “It was definitely not our pleasure.”

Mommy bustled in, carrying magazines and some freshly laundered couch blankets. “Yonah, please!” she said sharply. “Enough about the sleeping space.”

He blinked.

Estee blinked.

Gita poked her head back in, blinked, shrugged, then disappeared again.

Mommy never snapped.

He waited to see what would happen next; Ma sat down and picked up a magazine. He raised his eyebrows at Estee. “Anyway!” he said aloud. “Heading to shul. See you later?”

Estee waved at her mother-in-law, and followed Yonah out of the den. “Yup. Gonna go daven in the room. Good Shabbos!”

She watched him from the bedroom window. He was such a great guy, and she really liked that suit on him. She was a lucky girl.

A flash of movement from the backyard caught her eye. The husband staying in the bikur cholim apartment was also heading to shul. Wait, wasn’t that…?

She took a step backward. It was Rikki’s husband.

Rikki Parnes. Rikki and her husband were staying in the bikur cholim apartment…. What did that even mean?

She should really be cleaning up, but she was tired, so tired. Shabbos had been beautiful. The kids had bickered too much, though. She felt bad she’d snapped at them, but it had been a lot. She was running on empty. She didn’t have the energy or patience that she used to.

They’d all piled out now, and it was quiet once again. She loved that. She loved the peace and quiet. She deserved it. She’d earned it.

But the mess was still here, on the counters and tables, dishes patiently waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher.

If ever there was a time for magic elves to appear, this was it.

She smiled, imagining a troop of tiny elves in the middle of her kitchen.

Dovid came into the kitchen after sweeping the dining room, humming Eliyahu Hanavi softly.

She saw him look around at the disarray, eyebrows disappearing beneath his yarmulke.

“Enjoyed?” he asked.

She nodded, blushing as her husband studied the mess.

He put the broom down suddenly. “Golda…we need to talk.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1018)

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