| Serial |

Trust Fund: Chapter 29

Her mother-in-law took off her glasses and looked at Libby. Libby smiled nervously under the scrutiny


Social poise had always come naturally to Libby, and life as a Frankel definitely strengthened that particular muscle. But still, Libby had to coach her jaw to stay closed as she watched her mother-in-law slide gracefully around The Find showroom.

“Lovely,” her mother-in-law said, straightening up from where she had been examining the tray of rattles and pacifier clips. “Absolutely lovely. And all from China, you said? Who would have thought?”

Libby tried to focus through the pounding in her head. She had texted Akiva hurriedly on her way downstairs to stop drumming, his mother was here, and he should sneak around the back and come in through the front door in 20 minutes.

“Yes,” she said belatedly. “All from China. How sweet are these bows?”

Her mother-in-law actually put her glasses on to examine the stitching. “Very nice,” she said, nodding approvingly. “And how has business been? Busy?”

Libby led her mother-in-law over to the cream leather settee. “It’s been steady, yes, and Akiva created an order form through WhatsApp and that’s really taken off, baruch Hashem.”

Her mother-in-law took off her glasses and looked at Libby. Libby smiled nervously under the scrutiny.

“You’re happy, Libby? You like this? Business and entrepreneurship?”

The well-bred, “It’s a challenge, but I’m really enjoying it,” was about to roll off her tongue, but she shoved the words back. Her mother-in-law had already surprised her by being supportive the other day and gathering all those items for the showroom; maybe she’d surprise her again. Either way, she’d never know how the truth landed unless she tried it out.

“I enjoy what I do,” she said, looking around at her little store. “This is something I’m good at and something I want to share with others. But would I have done this all willingly if we didn’t need the income? Probably not.”

She looked back at her mother-in-law; the perfectly lined mouth was open in a little “Oh” of surprise. Whether it was Libby’s candor or Libby’s words that shocked her, she didn’t say. Libby didn’t wait to find out.

“And as for am I happy? Yes, Mom. I’m happy. Very, very happy. You know…” Here she paused to choose her words carefully. “When Akiva was working for Frankel Construction, he was never around. And I’d never taken the time to think if that bothered me. It was just the way things were.

“But once he left and started to be home more, involved with the children, attentive to me, I realized that’s something I appreciate. Of course, he’s busy with his house flipping and on busy days, he’s not home. But on slow days…” She smiled. “He’s here. Pouring me a drink, asking about my day, picking up the kids…. It’s a life I never could have imagined.”

She stopped, scared she’d hurt her mother-in-law. After all, she was describing the life both of them had led. But her mother-in-law’s nose was wrinkled thoughtfully.

“I hear,” she said. She stood up, smoothed down her linen dress. “To each her own, correct? But I am glad you’re happy. Your happiness is important to us, Libby.”

Libby smiled now, wide, genuine. She leaned over and gave her mother-in-law a careful hug. “We love you, too, Mom.”

“Knock knock!”

“Akiva!” Mrs. Frankel said, breaking away from Libby. “My long-lost son, how are you, dear?”

Akiva grinned and gave a little bow. To his credit, he said nothing about being long and lost due to the fact that his parents had shadow-banned him due to his new hobby.

“Doing great, Mom, baruch Hashem. Shall we adjourn to the grand ballroom?”

Soon they were all seated in the living room and Libby brought out coffee and biscotti.

“Home baked!” Akiva said as proudly as if he was sharing that it had been Libby, in fact, who had painted the Mona Lisa.

“Very nice,” Mrs. Frankel said, taking one delicately and pretending to eat it.

Libby swallowed her smirk. She hadn’t yet witnessed her mother-in-law consume a carbohydrate in 15 years and counting.

“Akiva,” his mother said. “I trust Libby gave over my message?”

Akiva bit into a biscotti and raised his eyebrows.

“About drumming,” she clarified.

Libby closed her eyes. This was worse than rubbernecking a traffic accident. Where was a crying child when you needed an escape?

Akiva swallowed. “Mmm, that message. Yes, yes, I heard. And Mom, I’ve been meaning to speak to you about that. I never meant to embarrass you or Daddy at the Abrams bar mitzvah, you know that, right? It was more a spur of the moment thing.”

Mrs. Frankel nodded regally. “I understand. We were definitely embarrassed, Akiva, but that’s all right. We’ve moved on.”

Libby swallowed her cough. Moved on… as in uninviting-them-from-family-brunch moved on? Mm-hmmm.

“But, Akiva, dear, I heard something about a band?” The question hung in the air.

Akiva nodded, grinning just a tad too brightly. “Yup! It’s called Bass-less, clever, no? They’re a heimish band of very talented musicians. This Sunday we’ll be playing at the Evening of Hope fundraiser, b’ezras Hashem.”

Mrs. Frankel’s face turned very white and then a bright pink splotch appeared on each sculpted cheekbone.

“The fundraiser where Daddy is chairman? That Evening of Hope?”

And that’s when Akiva pulled the brochure out of his pocket. “Mm-hhhm, see the program? That’s us,” he said, pointing to the description.

A night of song featuring Bass-less Band with Moishy Pepper, Jack Schwartz, Binny Landau, and Akiva Frankel.

Akiva Frankel…. Mrs. Frankel mouthed the words to herself. Akiva Frankel. Akiva Frankel.

He took back the offending brochure and stuffed it in his pocket. “Ma. I love you. I respect you. I want to bring you and Daddy nachas, you know that. But this is something I really want to do, okay? It’s… it’s important to me. Please don’t force me to choose.”

And maybe it was the trend of truth-telling that had spilled through the Frankel family lately in place of glib, smooth comments, but both Akiva and Libby sat there, jaws dropped, as Mrs. Frankel gave first a little nod, then a stronger one, then said, “I’ll speak to your father, don’t worry about a thing,” in her regular voice.

HEwas reviewing the day’s events in his mind as he lingered at the supper table with another biscotti and a tea. Just when you thought you knew someone, they make an about-face and accept you.

He felt bad pushing his mother like that. It seemed petty, taking a stand over a hobby at his age. But honestly, it was his first hobby, ever.

A smile spread across his face. He stretched and then his phone pinged. He flipped it over lazily.


Akiva, I trust we will be seeing you, Libby, and the children in Madrid for Pesach?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 997)

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