| Vacancies |

Vacancies: Chapter 3

Naomi sighed. This was ridiculous. She’d been married for 16 years. Why was she still worrying about what her sisters-in-law thought about her?

“Would you like anything to go with that?” Naomi asked automatically, as she handed the customer her skinny latte. The woman glanced at the display of oversized muffins to her right, and shook her head slightly.

“No, nothing else,” she said sharply, sliding her credit card across the counter. Her eyes looked hungry.

Naomi rang up the coffee and gave her a warm smile. The woman didn’t smile back. She turned and joined her friends at the corner table where they were all nursing sugar-free, flavoring-free, skim-milk-only drinks.

Naomi studied the group surreptitiously as she wiped down the immaculate counter. They’d clearly come from Chaykie’s gym. Probably the 10:30 spin class, she decided — that one was always popular. Each woman was dressed in the effortlessly casual style she knew took incredible effort to pull off: sleek WunderWigs topped with cute baseball caps, tops in neons that would make her look ridiculous but seemed young and fun on them, flared skirts over black leggings, Nike sneakers.

“And would you believe the color she choose? Mint green!” one of the women was exclaiming. “I’m going to look like a surgeon in scrubs at my own brother’s wedding! That’s what you get when you marry an out-of-towner.” Sympathetic murmurs were followed by a deluge of advice on how to stun in mint green. Naomi scrubbed harder.

Was this the way her sisters-in-law had spoken about her when she’d chosen periwinkle blue for her own wedding? Had they rolled their eyes and said what could you expect from a girl from Memphis — at least she wasn’t getting married in a barn.

Naomi sighed. This was ridiculous. She’d been married for 16 years. Why was she still worrying about what her sisters-in-law thought about her? Because they still think it, a little voice in her head taunted her. Because you can never quite fit in.


“I’m hooooooome,” Naomi sang out as she opened the front door.

A chorus of “Hi, Ma” from the little ones. Devori glanced up from a book for a millisecond. Then she spotted the hot-pink bag in Naomi’s hand.

“Tziptoes? You got a pair of shoes there? Niiiice.”

Naomi felt a small flush of pleasure. Then hated herself for caring so much about her teen’s opinion.

“Let’s see.” Devori grabbed the bag from Naomi. “I hope these weren’t on sale, Ma. Tziptoes has the trendiest stuff — but it’s only good that season. Buy the old stuff, and you may as well go to DSW.”

Naomi tried not to groan, and hoped her fashionista wouldn’t realize the truth.

No such luck. As soon as Devori saw the navy flats she rolled her eyes. “Not navy D’Orsays,” she said. “They’re so last year! It was on sale, right?” Not waiting for a response, she thrust the box back at her mother and returned to her book.

Naomi dropped the bag and hurried to the kitchen to heat up the shepherd’s pie she’d made the night before and cut a fresh salad. As she chopped cucumbers, she reached for the phone and called her sister.

“Hey, there!” Even Chani’s greeting was relaxed. “Long time no speak. What’s up?”

The conversation meandered along its normal routes — the kids, their parents, new recipes they’d tried the past Shabbos. Then Naomi found herself sharing the shoe saga.

“I just did the dumbest thing. So dumb I’m embarrassed to even admit it.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)

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