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Picture This: Chapter 9

A voice that sounded suspiciously like her kallah teacher’s hissed in her ear, “Smile! That’s your new husband. Smile!”



stee had four things she needed to do when she got home and three people to call. It was incredible how busy she was, considering she had the same job she’d had for the past year. But ever since she stood under the chuppah with Yonah, the hours in the day seemed to disappear, while her to-do list grew and grew.

She wiped down her desk, straightened her calendar and pen cup, and waved goodbye to Tammy. She loved leaving the school at this hour, just a little after all the girls left, and her footsteps could ring hollow through the polished hallways.

She felt good. According to the tracking number, her much-debated camera would arrive tomorrow, and the first thing she wanted to do was go down to the boardwalk with Shani and snap some photos at sunset.

Exiting the building, she felt the sun’s warmth on her face. Summer was here. The air was sweet, her sheitel was light on her head, and her ring kept catching the sunrays and throwing prisms on the ground. She clicked for her car, and there was… Yonah?

He was leaning against the hood, looking like an advertisement for chassan watches or something. No jacket, no hat, sleeves rolled up, lounging against their tiny Subaru at four fifty-five in the afternoon.

She blinked, and then a voice that sounded suspiciously like her kallah teacher’s hissed in her ear, “Smile! That’s your new husband. Smile!”

She lifted her lips and did a quick mental check. Her sheitel looked great, her outfit was fine. She stood a bit straighter and tried to make her smile look less painful.

“Um, hi!” she said, trying to sound supremely pleased by this surprise visit when she genuinely hated surprises.

Yonah grinned back at her. “Hey! Happy two month and one week anniversary!”

Estee wrinkled her nose at him. “Is that a thing?”

He laughed. “It is now. And to celebrate, I thought we could go grab some sushi, mainly because I’m craving sushi, and I didn’t want to go alone.”

Estee forced a laugh. “I could eat.”

She clicked the car again and walked around to the other side. Yonah liked to drive when they were together and she didn’t mind being a passenger princess.

He cranked up TYH Nation’s “Mamish at the End,” blasted the AC, and they sped off. Estee kept the smile pasted on her face while her brain exploded with a single question: “WHY on earth are you not in second seder?!”

HEcould tell she was surprised. He was also kind of surprised. His feet, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Or not doing, for that matter.

At two thirty, he’d finished the baked ziti Estee had left him, had taken a little nap, and was thinking of heading to second seder early, when his eyes landed on the couch. And the book on the side table.

So he’d stretched out, tucked one of the seven throw pillows under his head, and lost himself in a world that expected nothing from him.

At four, when he was already late for second seder, he called Erlich to apologize, told him he wasn’t going to make it, then drank a coffee, had a small existential crisis about what on earth he was doing, and headed down the block to find Estee.

Was it so wrong? He was a newlywed, after all. He wanted to spend some time with his wife. Especially after their argument two days ago. He felt bad that he’d made her feel bad. He was also supremely angry that she’d told her mother everything, but that was a conversation for another day.

He pounded the steering wheel to the last, “Mamish at the very very end!” pumping lyric, then turned off the car.

“One sec,” he said. He ran out and opened Esti’s door for her. Chivalry would be dead when he was.

She grinned up at him. “Why, thank you, kind sir.” Then she hesitated.

“This is the part where you stand up,” he coached her helpfully. She nodded and stepped out of the car.

What was that?

He watched her gaze sweep the parking lot and the restaurant window. And then it dropped upon him, suddenly and instantaneously, like an Invisibility Cloak (maybe he really did need to stop with the Harry Potter): Estee was embarrassed. She was embarrassed to be seen with her husband in a sushi restaurant at 5:07 p.m.

What was that?

Estee rolled her eyes, safe in the knowledge that she was alone in her tiny kitchen.

She had a sudden memory of their fourth date. Yonah had taken her pottery painting, which, of course, was a boring and cliché date if you didn’t marry your first boy. But with Yonah, everything had been brand-new and exciting and Estee was positive none of the other dates at Paint Place had been having as much fun as she and Yonah. She’d been deliberating over shades of purple for her ceramic plate when Yonah had cleared his throat.

“I have a question.”

She’d looked up from the paint samples. He’d looked so earnest, she had an overwhelming desire to tell him whatever he wanted to hear. But this was dating, where honesty was key.

“Um, it’s just, your father is, uh, a balabos, right? Kovei’a itim, of course, very impressive, so special. But just… what is it exactly that makes you, uh, want, you know, a husband—” he’d blushed a shade of purple then that she wouldn’t have minded using, “who sits and learns?”

It had been a fair question, and, thankfully, one she could answer easily.

“I’ve always wanted it,” she said quietly. “I don’t know why, maybe because my grandfather is famous in our family for not knowing what an electric bill looks like or maybe from the stories of Rochel sending Rabi Akiva out to learn, or maybe, corny as it is, from a year of seminary classes. But I’ve never doubted that.

“Yes, I’ll admit that it won’t be easy for me not to just shop whenever I want or go out to eat whenever I don’t feel like cooking. I wouldn’t fool anyone and say that. But still… I want to do my best.”

And she knew, as she watched him glance down at his ceramic puppy and his ears turned bright red, that she had said exactly what he wanted to hear. And that was the best feeling in the world.

Now, she popped a plate of baked ziti into the microwave and slammed the door shut a little too hard. Where was that guy? The one who was doing background checks at Paint Place? And who was this guy, who waltzed around, eating chips, reading books, and taking her out in the middle of the day?

She sat down and looked at her lone plate of ziti. Yonah was at Maariv, and here she was, staring at a glob of congealed cheese. If only she could speak to Tehila or Shani. Or anyone for that matter.

But none of her friends were married, her mother wouldn’t understand, and she was starting to think that all the shanah rishonah bliss hype was just that: hype.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1016)

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