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Trust Fund: Chapter 28

She blinked in shock as she tried to remember the last time Akiva’s mother had visited them, and drew up blank


Akiva  hadn’t realized how much he missed luxury eating until he was inside Smoke & Embers and he found himself letting out a breath. Had he been holding that breath for six months?

He nodded at the host.

“Meeting Mr. Frankel?” The man gave a slight bow and motioned for Akiva to follow him.

Menashe was sitting in a private booth, nursing a very red cocktail.

“That is not neat scotch,” Akiva said by way of hello.

Menashe looked up, straw still in his hand, and Akiva saw his baby brother, drinking chocolate milk at the milchig island in the Frankel estate.

Twenty-six-year-old Menashe grinned. “Nope. It’s the fruitiest, bubbliest cocktail they had.”

Akiva nodded at the waiter who had appeared out of thin air. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

“Very good, sir.”

Menashe fist-bumped him, and they grinned like second-graders.

“So.” Akiva put his elbows on the table in a way that would have scandalized Bubby. “Veibish drinks aside, why on earth have you invited me here, aside from treating me to a night out?”

He waggled his eyebrows, trying to lighten the obvious message that there was no way he was paying for a meal at Smoke & Embers at this point in his life.

Menashe held out the menu magnanimously, Akiva smiled and cracked it open.

“Because,” his little brother said, “I just had to spend a weekend upstate, time I did not have, because people have been filling Ma’s head with ideas about me and my marriage. And”—here his voice became steel, but Akiva could hear the tremor inside—“it has to stop.”

Akiva nodded inwardly; his brother should definitely feel intimidated while trying to tell him off. Who did he think he was, complaining to Akiva about Libby after all they’d done for him? Didn’t he see that his marriage was in danger, and needed time and attention?

The magical waiter appeared again, they ordered, and then Akiva turned to Menashe.

“Let me say this just once, loud and clear, okay?”

He took a deep breath, calming himself.

“You called us during your time of need. And we came, running. And FYI, it wasn’t convenient. But we were more than ready to be there, at your side, because that’s what family does. But you now cannot dictate what we do or don’t say, all right? And you definitely cannot complain about my wife.

“Most important, Menashe — and we’re only getting involved because it’s important — we want you to realize that your wife is still in a fragile place, and she needs more from you.”

Menashe was pushing the salt and pepper shakers back and forth with his steak knife, seemingly bored by Akiva’s tirade, but Akiva could see he was shaken.

“I never said I didn’t appreciate it,” he muttered. “I did. I do. And the GoFundMe page… it was… really. Dad never found out… and I’m taking care of Dassy. She’s my wife.”

“She needs to know that she comes first,” Akiva said quietly.

Menashe sat up straighter. “It seems that Ma knows, though. Not that she’d ever say anything. But she hired a nanny and a night nurse and sent us on this weekend—”

“Doesn’t that bother you?” Akiva burst out.

Menashe blinked. “Does what bother me?”

That. The fact that Ma knows something huge is going on for you, but neither of you is ready to have an open conversation about what’s going on. Isn’t that”— he swallowed the word crazy—“strange?”

The food arrived, giant hanger steaks emitting curling tendrils of smoke, caramelized asparagus, and steak fries. Crispy beef dumplings and lamb riblets lined the table, and Menashe nodded for a bottle of the restaurant’s finest.

“I’m surprised they’re not carding you,” Akiva smirked.

Menashe smirked back. “Wish I could say the same. Is that some gray hair I see?”

Akiva dug into his food with gusto. “You can lay claim at least a few of those gray hairs, baby brother.”

They both laughed and clinked l’chayim.

Menashe took a big bite, chewed contentedly, swallowed, and then picked up the conversation.

“That’s just how Ma is, Keevs. It’s how we grew up. Don’t tell me that not only is Mom and Daddy’s money no longer good enough for you, neither is their chinuch.”

Akiva wisely didn’t comment on that. Instead, he looked across the table at the young father sitting across from him.

“And what about your chinuch for your own children, Menashe? Is that what you want to pass along to them? That everything must always, at all times, be perfect? Or do you want them to be able to express pain, disappointment, and yes, failure?”

Menashe didn’t answer.

Akiva lifted his fork again slowly only to realize that even gourmet cuisine couldn’t restore the appetite he’d just lost.

 She rubbed her eyes and squinted at the screen again. No, that can’t be right, Peshie Leitner did not purchase 500 herringbone hairbows. She deleted two zeros and squinted again. This tedious accounting might be a lot more doable if only Akiva and Deena would. Stop. Drumming.

“Our next GoFundMe,” she muttered to no one, “is to soundproof the basement.”

It would be a chesed for her sanity, that was for sure.

What they really needed to do was set up the drums in the second garage, but both the drummers claimed it was too cold.

She closed her eyes and gave the accounting up for the evening.

Bang bang, crash, babang babang, crash, crash….

Ever since Akiva had been invited to play for the Evening of Hope benefit concert, she’d barely seen him.

But she’d heard him.

Practicing at all hours, recording himself, replaying it, crying out with frustration when it didn’t meet his standards, playing again and again.

It’d be cute if it wasn’t so annoying.

Sighing, she shut her laptop and began unloading the dishwasher. It was endearing to watch him sweat over something so much. He’d always done everything with such ease, even house flipping — you’d have thought he’d been doing it all his life. She knew it had been a hard transition, but anyone else would think he’d been flipping for years. Even though the market was unusually slow right now.

She dried off her nesting Nambé mixing bowls, and placed them carefully in the cabinet, her mind pleasantly at peace. She may have put up a fuss at Akiva’s whole “Exit Stage Right” plan, but she’d be the first to admit that domesticity suited her.

Oh, it made her ridiculously exhausted, but there were plenty of enjoyable moments. The little kids were coloring and reading comics in the den, dinner was sizzling in the crockpot — #workingmomhacks — and her husband and Deena were happily banging away downstairs.

She took a deep breath, inhaling contentment.

She was mid-breath when the doorbell rang.

She flung the door open.


She blinked in shock as she tried to remember the last time Akiva’s mother had visited them, and drew up blank.

“Hello, Libby, how are you dear? I’ve come to see your little store. Oh, and I’d love to speak with Akiva.”

Bang bang, crash, babang babang, crash, crash….

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 996)

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