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Vacancies: Chapter 11

I should get this place in shape if I want to attract a tenant, Talia thought grimly

Mordechai Shapiro’s voice blasted from the speaker. “Hachalom!”

“Come on, girls, let’s see some energy! Like this,” Talia yelled over the music, flinging an arm out and ramming it directly into Shiffy’s mouth.

“Uh, not like this. I’m so sorry, are you all right?”

Shiffy waved her off. “S’fine.”

“OMG!” a girl in a blonde bun cried, waving a camera. “Hello, c’you do that again? I totally missed it.”

Talia grimaced. Remind me again why 15 teens are twirling in my living room and thrusting limbs into each other?

She’d been so excited about the turnout —15 yakking girls, with cameras and water bottles — but it wasn’t turning out too much fun. Her living room was tiny. We’re only two people, what do we need a big living room for? she’d reasoned when she signed on the rental. The other house she’d looked at, with the large living room and a door off the kitchen leading to a deck, was $200 more a month.

And the other house, back in New York, had an enormous basement with a central sound system. Talk about a dance floor.

Talia swallowed. That was then, this was now. If she started to wallow now, she’d lose the girls completely.

She gave a quick glance at Esti, nestled on the couch the previous tenant had left behind. Then she stretched her lips into a grin and addressed the group. “Should we give it another go?”

The girls shuffled into place. Shapiro started the chorus again, and they kicked off once more.

A few minutes later, Talia stopped dancing and shook her head. She couldn’t do this. How could they dance when there was barely room to stand?

“Should I ask my mother if we could use our basement?” Blonde Bun volunteered.

“Maybe the school’s lunchroom, if there’s no simchah there tonight?” someone suggested.

Esti threaded her way over to Talia. “Ma?”

Talia patted her shoulder. “Not now, sweetheart.”

“But Ma, maybe you can go to that empty store in the mall. It’s much bigger than our living room.”

Talia arced her brows. “You know something, Esti,” she said thoughtfully, “that’s a good idea.”

The store on Legacy Hill. Perfect. It was large enough, it had running electricity, and most important of all, it was — unfortunately — empty.

It took three shifts in her car to get everyone over. The girls crowded around Laya’s display window, admiring the latest shoe selection — her Prada espadrilles? — while Talia fumbled with the key to Sakiya’s abandoned salon. “Over here,” she called.

They filed in, observing their surroundings. It was a shabby place. One wall was streaked with dark lines — there must have been a shelving unit there once, and the paint hadn’t faded — and the linoleum was curling up at the corners. The woodwork was dressed in dust, and the fluorescent fixture overhead was blinking. I should get this place in shape if I want to attract a tenant, Talia thought grimly.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 663)

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