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Vacancies: Chapter 4

She took a deep breath and gave herself a Kate talk: “You can do this, Talia. You’ve done it before, you’ll do it again. Go for it, girl. Chaykie’s gym”


Talia dropped Esti off at her new school and turned to go.

She’d written it all down last night in a burst of confidence: Go back to the Shoppes for some market research — check out the clientele they attracted, gauge what kind of business would do well there, then make some connections back at the realty office and go. Contract signed, money in pocket.

Today, it all felt too daunting. She couldn’t go back to Tziptoes after returning those espadrilles, and besides, she already knew about the tzedakah collectors that congregated in the parking lot in the early afternoon.

Talia pulled into the parking lot and smoothed her sheitel. She gathered her folders and notes and did a quick review: Laya Roth, Tziptoes. It was really too bad she had returned those shoes. They would have been perfect, but $350 on shoes? Not Talia, not anymore.

Naomi Langford of Sunflower Caf?. Right, the woman who did her office work outside. This was getting more and more ridiculous. Talia wanted this deal, needed it, but what kind of strip mall had three frum, woman-centric stores and a nail salon that goes out of business? Did that say something about the people in Bayton or the Shoppes? Or was it just the salon?

She took a deep breath and gave herself a Kate talk: “You can do this, Talia. You’ve done it before, you’ll do it again. Go for it, girl. Chaykie’s gym.”


“Hi, is Chaykie here?”

There was only one person in the gym. “Give me a second.” Chaykie pulled her left hand over to her right shoulder and inhaled. “Class starts in ten minutes, and I like to be all warmed up before the ladies get here.” She took a deep breath, and Talia counted to four before she saw Chaykie exhale.

She stared at Chaykie, bemused. Did she usually pay more attention to her left hamstring than someone waiting for her? But she knew she should give Chaykie a chance. Chaykie was the one with the successful business, after all, while Talia was just guessing at this game called Life.

Finally, Chaykie was done.

“I’m so sorry.” She took a gulp of her water bottle, then crossed the gym. “How can I help you?”

“I’m Talia Leitner. I’m new to town, and also to Regal Realty. I’m trying to get that vacancy in the Shoppes filled, and just wanted to talk to you about—”

“Oh, you’re new here! How nice! Where do you live? Is it close enough to have you over for a Shabbos meal?”

Talia blinked. Bayton was small and it was supposed to be a warm community, which was why she’d moved here, but did Chaykie invite everyone who walked into the gym to her Shabbos meal? Did she extol the virtues of spinning over cholent? Or — was “Single Mom” written in black marker on Talia’s forehead?

“I live on Oak Ridge,” she said.

“Well, then you must come for lunch.” Chaykie was suddenly all business. “I’m marking you down for this week. How many are you?”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 656)

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