| Family First Serial |

Stand By: Chapter 25

“It’s a huge relief that it’s over but there’s been a lot of stress, and hoping that I did the right thing”


Susie was parked, and Aly was taking care of the honors of handing out their orders. “One shawarma bowl, hold the onions,” she said, passing a brown paper bag to Chayala. “One spicy beef-topped potato knish,” she announced, nodding in Shira’s direction and making sure she added extra napkins to her bag. “One kishka situation roll.” She wrinkled her nose slightly as she handed it to Dassi. “And one toameha cholent plate,” she said with a happy sigh, opening her own fragrant container.

“I feel like the worst part about this whole thing has been that we haven’t had a cholent night in months,” said Dassi, separating her chopsticks with a snap. “Like things haven’t been traumatic enough, I also needed separation anxiety from Ess N Fress?” She savored her friends’ laughs, happy to finally get a semblance of her old self back. When had she joked around with her friends last? It felt like a hug.

“Have you had a chance to process everything? How are you?” Shira asked. Of course it was Shira, but Dassi wasn’t annoyed. “I’m good,” said Dassi firmly. “I mean, it’s a huge relief that it’s over but there’s been a lot of stress, and hoping that I did the right thing. So, yeah, processing this whole parshah has been a little insane. Ask me in six months,” she said with a laugh. She took a bite of her kishka roll.

“Ohmigosh, I forgot to tell you guys the craziest thing! Remember when I was dating Ari some super weird things kept happening? Like I thought they were Ari-ish red flags, so some of them didn’t even register. Like when Ari’s mother rescheduled our meeting so I was dressed for a hike, remember? Well, there were other things. A million years ago, when we had the concert, there were a bunch of people who were there who claimed they had gotten an invitation. We thought they made it up, but they even showed it to us. And toward the end of dating, the shadchan texted me that Ari wanted to slow things down, which sent me into a whole tailspin — we hadn’t been talking through the shadchan by then for ages, and it was so weird to hear that from her out of the blue. And Ari never mentioned it on the next date.”

“Well,” she said, pausing for dramatic effect. “As it turns out, someone realized he was bad news and orchestrated all that schtick in an attempt to trigger Ari into getting annoyed, hoping it would expose his true self, and that I would realize what I was dealing with. Crazy, right?” She pulled out her phone. “I got the following email this morning, and if I tell you I almost fell off my Peloton? Like, no joke.” She cleared her throat. “Hi, I hope this email finds you well,” she read, feeling three pairs of eyes riveted on her. “This is Dovid Gutmacher. I was Ari’s chavrusa. My sister Etty gave me your email address. I know this is a little out of the blue, but I need to ask your mechilah for attempting to sabotage your dates over the last few months.”

 “What!” shrieked Aly, almost flinging a bit of jachnun onto Dassi’s tan leather upholstery.

“That is BEYOND!” exclaimed Chayala.

“Yep,” said Dassi. “Can you even? Nice of him to ask mechilah, though.” She laughed. “Isn’t it funny how he thought he would be able to change what was bashert for me? Only Hashem could manage that, it turns out. I feel like I keep realizing that all the worrying is such a waste of time. It’s true when I was single and it’s true when I was engaged.”

Chayala cringed and covered her face. “Not to make this about me, but that last bit feels like it’s so about me,” she said.

Shira laughed. “I think it’s about all of us. Isn’t that the whole point?”


Chayala staggered into her parents’ apartment, barely able to see over the stack of wrapped presents she held in her arms. “I think this is the last of it!” she said with a grin and carefully placed the boxes on the dining room table with the rest of Malky’s vort gifts. Her mother was organizing the gift cards, but she looked up appreciatively.

“Thank you for helping me and Tatty with these,” she said. “I heard your friend’s mother give you that awkward brachah when she gave you mazel tov. I know your night wasn’t the easiest.”

Chayala shrugged. “People are people, nothing I’m not used to. Just not sure why it’s so unbelievable that I could be genuinely thrilled for Malky and nothing else, but you know how it is.”

Her mother came around the table and rubbed her arm. “I know, but I know you, and I know how you really felt.”

Mr. Fried came in the front door from the late Maariv he’d chapped after the vort had finished. “Ah, Chayala!” he said happily. “I’m glad it’s just the three of us. I told Mommy already, of course, but with the vort today I didn’t want to take the focus away from Malky’s day. We have a big update! I met with the judge today, and I got the official news that because of the video evidence you found, plus some other materials my lawyers finally dug up, they’re not going to be pursuing the charges. Everything was dropped! Can you believe it?”

Chayala’s mouth opened in shock. “What?! For real?”

Her father laughed, the sound carefree in a way Chayala hadn’t heard in months. “For real! Thank you, Chayala. You refused to give up, and you were so right. Mommy and I can’t thank you enough.” Chayala gave her father a hug, but then stepped back carefully. “I’m thrilled to hear this Ta, but… I’ve been thinking for a while now that I need to ask you for mechilah. The way I acted in this whole thing has been keeping me up at night. You asked me not to get involved, and I was so sure that what I was doing was the right thing that I totally disregarded your wishes. I just didn’t have the self-control to leave things as you wanted, to the point that I thought it was okay to listen to some of your conversations on the tapes. I’m so happy it turned out okay, but I’m sorry for how I went about it.”

Her father shook his head. “Of course I’m mochel, Chayala. You think your father doesn’t know you? Your best qualities have always been that you don’t let other people’s expectations get in the way of your goals. We love you for it! And especially in this case, I thank you for it.” His tone softened. “And besides, I consider it a special zechus that Hashem made you the shaliach for this yeshuah.”


Chayala pulled into her parking spot outside Huis, deliberately a few minutes early. She dialed Mrs. Gutmacher, eager to cross this item off her mental to-do list.

“Chayala! Ah, what are the chances? I was just going to call you! I owe you a mazel tov on your sister Malky. What a shidduch! I know the Kaufmans for years and years, they’re such a nice family. The perfect fit for your parents, they’re really special people. And no surprise there, your mother and father did such a good job with all of you, of course they’re going to make great shidduchim.”

Chayala smiled, loving how Mrs. G. always knew what to say. It was such a stark difference when compared to so many other mazel tovs she’d gotten when her sister got engaged; all peppered with an “Oy, this must be so hard for you,” or some other pitying exclamation.

“That is really so sweet, Mrs. Gutmacher, thank you. I’ll pass along the message to my parents, but baruch Hashem, they’re thrilled, too.”

She paused and fiddled with the rearview mirror for a second to collect her thoughts, then forged ahead with what she’d called to say. “So, I’m actually calling because I wanted to tell you that I think I’m ready to listen to shidduchim again,” she said, a little shyly. “Baruch Hashem, my father’s legal issues are resolved now. Honestly, I got involved in it on a level that I totally shouldn’t have, but the whole experience really taught me a lot about myself, and I feel like I have a better perspective on things than I did before,” she said.

Mrs. Gutmacher clucked delightedly. “That’s great news, Chayala! And I’ve been waiting for you to call me and tell me you’re ready for a while. I do have a shidduch for you, and this time I think I’m in the best position possible to tell you about the boy. I never suggested it before for a few reasons, but mostly because he’s still learning and you usually date working boys. But on the middos level, the personality level, he’s exactly what I think would be great for you. He also was recently involved in a situation where he got involved to help someone in a way that he shouldn’t have, and it’s making me think. You’re both so similar. You both have such good middos, you’re such good people, and you both feel so compelled to follow what you think will lead to emes. You’re truth seekers, in a way. And I think those are qualities that will take you both very far in life, especially when you’re working together.”

She paused for a moment, and Chayala was about to ask for more details, but Mrs. G. cut to the chase. “It’s my son, Dovid, and I would be so honored if you would consider it.”

Chayala rocked back, more than a little surprised. He was… two years younger than her and still learning. Not to mention he was Mrs. G.’s  son. Imagine how horrible it would be if we went out and it ended badly? And hello, he sabotaged Dassi’s dates!

But then, she thought for another moment, about herself. About what she really cared about, and what she really needed. “You know what, Mrs. G?” she said slowly. “Two months ago, I would have said awkwardly that I don’t think it’s for me, and hoped we could pretend this conversation never happened. But now… I think I’m realizing the details don’t matter as much as they used to. I’m looking for the perfect partner, not the perfect résumé.”




(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 847)

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