The Gatekeeper’s Daughter: Chapter 31| March 20, 2019
itting in the attic, on her old tin chest, Daina draws a line down a scrap of paper. She writes two words at the top of the columns. Stay. Go.
The words jump out at her. There are plenty of reasons to stay. Motina has started to cook and clean again, and home is… home, though Daina still pinches herself when she enters the kitchen, wondering if Motina’s smile is just an act, if their home is a mere stage prop about to be wheeled away.
Daina chews on her pen. Motina will always be a question mark, like the shiny red ball hiding in that magic trick that Laima has perfected. Now you see it. Now you don’t. Not like Leah. Leah may not always understand where Daina’s coming from — she may frown and cluck and set down rules — but she’s as constant as the sun, and she is caring
Then, there’s the promise of music. Music. That’s a biggie. But is Motina’s promise of lessons even worth taking into consideration? Motina has never been strong on keeping her word. Daina holds her pencil to the paper and circles the small word: Go.
There is music in Jerusalem, too. A different kind of music. The music she plays there pulls on her heart, plays to that soft-winged butterfly beating in her chest. She has found true kindred spirits there. Sofija. Chagit. Even the Guttmans. They have touched her heart and cared for her in ways she would never have thought possible. Chagit can say whatever she wants about her always being one of them, but here in Teplidskai, Daina will never be a true Žydas.
Still, even if she goes back to the Guttmans, she will be flying on her own. Singing to herself. Living like a busker with no true home to call her own. She might always be that weird girl who has fallen from a distant star who doesn’t know half of the endless rules.
Voices from outside intrude on her thoughts, and she drops the list. Daina turns back to the wall and peers through the slats. Her jaw slackens. She presses her fingers against her temple in disbelief and looks again. It’s them. Leah and Leibel and Baila. The Tzaddik.
Daina flies down the stairs, meeting the visitors when they are just outside the gate. She pulls her shoulders back and grabs the metal bars, letting their familiar rattle fill the air. It feels odd greeting them here on her home turf.
Eying them warily, she considers the fact that the last time they turned up without warning, she’d been whisked away almost before she understood what was happening. But Leibel’s cheeks stretch beyond his moustache into a smile. He mutters something to Leah who breaks the silence first. “Shalom! It is good see you, Dina!”
Daina blinks. “What are all you doing here? We had no idea you were coming!”
Baila clears her throat. “The Tzaddik wanted to come, so Tatty said we could come daven for the chasineh. We called your mameh on the number you give us, but no answer."
Daina relaxes her hold on the gate. She’s being silly. It’s good to see them. Like old friends. Then she catches Baila’s stunned expression. Of course — Baila isn’t used to seeing her in anything but a skirt.
“Err… you want the key, right?”
“Yes!” Leah pats Daina’s shoulder. “And matches,” she adds, raising a bag full of tea lights. “I forgot to bring!”
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 635)
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