| Family First Serial |

Stand By: Chapter 6     

“You want it to be your responsibility that I don’t learn tonight?” Ari’s voice was harsh


“I need to change plans tonight,” said Ari, in place of hello.

Dovid’s forehead furrowed. Not that Ari could see. Dovid glanced apologetically at his parents, who were sitting across the round kitchen table from him. His mother, holding out the serving dish of rice expectantly, shared a knowing look with his father that Dovid didn’t miss.

He took the bowl from her and put it down, then pushed his chair out and stepped into the den.

“No prob. Date tonight? I told you I’m happy to learn tomorrow night instead.”

Ari’s voice sounded annoyed. “No, no. My date is at 8:30 tonight.”

“And we learn at nine,” Dovid said patiently.

Shkoyach.” Ari drew the word out sarcastically. “What I meant is that I want to finish the masechta tonight, and we can do it in like 45 minutes, so I want to reschedule to 7:15 instead.”

Dovid glanced at the Roman numerals on the oversized clock on his mother’s den wall. It was seven o’clock. “I just got home and I’m about to eat. It’s not going to work for me tonight. I’m fine to do another night, though,” he said, calmly and quietly. Years had taught Dovid that while it was great to have an easygoing nature, you couldn’t be anything but direct and clear with Ari. And even then, outcomes were iffy.

“You want it to be your responsibility that I don’t learn tonight?” Ari’s voice was harsh.

Dovid sighed. “Ari… come on, man. You can learn alone if you want to so badly.” He could picture Ari as clearly as if he were talking to him face-to-face instead of over the phone: eyes flashing, his face hard and angry. Dovid softened his tone. “Listen. We won’t get off track if we learn tomorrow night instead.”

Ari snorted derisively. “You’re on your own tomorrow night. The Rosh Yeshivah mentioned to me last week that he wants to learn with me. I bet he’s available at 7:15.”

Dovid suppressed a chuckle. Better yet, he made sure there was no smile in his voice at all. “That’s a great idea, Ari. The Rosh Yeshivah is definitely a better chavrusa than I am anyway,” he said evenly.

“Obviously,” said Ari, his mood brightening at the upgrade.

“Anyway, good luck on your date tonight,” Dovid offered. “Heading anywhere fun?”

“Not fun for you, but she likes dessert, so I had a rav supervise the Magnolia on the Upper West Side to make me a chalav Yisrael run.”

“Wow! Enjoy.”

“Well, I would have brought you back some brownies, but obviously now you don’t deserve anything.”

Dovid laughed, even though he knew Ari wasn’t kidding. “All right, I’ll live without it. Good luck, though.” He ended the call and his smile slipped.


Mrs. Gutmacher wandered in to give Dovid a hand with the dish drying and found a still-running tap and a son obviously not focused on the task at hand. He was usually pretty brisk with the after-dinner dishes.

“Anything on your mind, Dovid?”

He startled and gave her a small smile. “You caught me spacing out.” He sighed. “I mean, I guess I’m worried about what would happen if someone hides their true self while they’re dating, and their spouse doesn’t find out until it’s too late.”

Mrs. Gutmacher put down the red-checkered towel.

“Hmm,” she said. “I think everyone wonders that at some point or another, to be honest.” She gently closed the open cabinet doors and looked at him directly. “Of course, it’s important to have bitachon that Hashem is putting you in the exact situation you need to be in. And you can be careful — you can look for signs.” She turned back to the counter, picked up the wet glass she’d set down, and dried it. “But you’re not dating anyone now, so why are you asking?”

Dovid dried his hands and leaned against the fleishig counter. He picked up a pen from the jar near the phone and spun it around his thumb.  “No, I’m not asking for me. It’s just… You know Ari, right? I mean, I know you don’t know him well. But he usually dates here and there and says no right away. He’s looking for a unicorn, in my opinion, but no one asked my opinion….”

He trailed off. The pen spun.

“I know you find him to be a little difficult sometimes, but there are difficult people who get married every day,” his mother said, smiling wryly. “There are plenty of people who are happily married but it seems like in ‘real life’ they’re not such easygoing people. We never know what goes on behind closed doors.”

Dovid didn’t smile back. “I know that’s true, when I think about it logically,” he said. “But I just feel like something is a little… off.”

His mother moved on to straightening the chairs around the table. “Hopefully, they’re both smart enough to look out for any red flags, and make their own decisions wisely,” she said, maybe a little pointedly.

Red flags, thought Dovid. “Ma,” he said out loud. “You’re so right.”


Ten days after The Move, and somehow, they were still in schlep mode. Chayala grabbed the bottom edges of a Glatt Emporium box marked BOOKS and tried to remember what her brother Moishe had told her about lifting with her knees. Wait, knees? Wouldn’t that hurt her knees? Was she supposed to lift with her back? Whatever, she was probably doing one of those two.

“Dass, I’m making our first house rule,” she gasped, as Dassi held the door open with her own box. “If it’s not going to fit in our apartment, there’s no reason to drag it up.”

Dassi laughed and tossed her long black ponytail. Leave it to her to look impeccable mid-move.

“Consider those my emotional support books. They go where I go.”

“I’ll allow it if they’re actually emotional support books,” joked Chayala. “Am I carrying the self-help section?”

Dassi chuckled. “Pretty much,” she said. “Fiction. And if you beg nicely, I’ll even share.”

They tipped the boxes onto the newly polished wood floor near the newly constructed built-in shelving in their new, new apartment.

Chayala surveyed the room. “Okay, you can color code your library, or whatever, but I’m making a list of things we still need to get.” She walked into the kitchen. “I think we used half a box of garbage bags already… Windex, dish soap, sponges. Do you care which brands?” she called to Dassi in the living room.

“My mom really wants to go on a Costco run to get us our first batch of stuff like that,” replied Dassi. “I told her we got it, but it’s cute that she wants a job.”

Chayala popped back into the living room. “Love that. And love your mother, she’s the best, as always,” she said. “Okay, so moving on to furniture?” She sat down on the floor and leaned against the wall, her loafered feet stretched out in front of her. Then she grabbed a pen and a receipt from the crossbody bag she hadn’t yet taken off. “Couch is coming tomorrow. The rug will be here on Sunday, and we can get end tables from Home Goods.”

“Coffee table?” asked Dassi. Then she said, “We should set a budget for all the big stuff we still need, no? Let me ask the parents if I can get early access to the Dassi Rubin Will Hopefully Get Married Soon and Need Furniture Fund. Think any stores around here will sell us a nice kallah package so we get a good deal?”

Chayala cackled. “If your parents have a fund, you’re ten steps ahead, hon,” she said. She got up off the floor and dusted herself off to peer into the nice-sized dining room, which they hadn’t used yet except to store the huge pile of boxes they’d already unpacked.

“Hey, actually, the lighting in this room is gorgeous. You think I could use it to shoot my new stuff? I was going to book a shoot for the end of the month.”

Dassi walked over to take a look. “Probably. We need a nice table and you’re basically good to go, no?”

“For sure. And if I shoot from here instead of my conference room, I could probably expense the furniture, which would be nice.” She thought for a moment about how casual “write-offs” might actually turn into trouble one day, but she kept her tone even. “I’ll call my accountant tomorrow and make sure that’s legit, though.”

“Wait,” said Dassi. “Where were you shooting until now?”

“Well, my original plan was to use the conference room at my office. When I did the whole build-out, I figured it would be a good space to shoot. But my parents helped me so much with my startup costs, and then my father ended up using my conference room a lot, so it wasn’t available.”

“Really? I thought he has an office in the city, no?”

“Yeah, but it was a huge schlep for him to go to the city if he had people locally to meet, and he helped me so much with getting Huis off the ground. Plus, he’s my father! I didn’t feel like it was right to say no. So I shot the last two seasons’ worth of products at a studio that I rented, and honestly, it looked way homier than my office would have, so it worked out.”

Dassi’s phone interrupted their back-and-forth. “Shadchan,” she said lightly, and Chayala watched as she padded into the slightly larger of the two rooms and closed the door to take the call.

Chayala looked around again at the freshly painted walls and the glinting white kitchen, all enveloped in a strong new-house smell, and took a breath, a strong wave of sadness cresting over her. Be happy, she told herself sternly. You decided to do this. You wanted this.

She took another breath, a shaky one. I wanted a place of my own, she amended. I just forgot that at the end of the day, I’m still on my own.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 828)

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