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Yardsticks: Chapter 11

Shevy twisted the bag around her finger and inhaled. “I’m not dumb. I know something’s wrong. You’re hiding something about the Engels. What is it? Tell me, I can handle it”

 

Mina

 

Chesky was calling for the 18th time, but I couldn’t answer before packing Rikki’s lunch, signing Chevy’s permission slip, and shipping Dina off to Morah with Hindy.

I nearly pushed the boys out the door so I could catch the 19th call. Abandoning the breakfast mess in the kitchen, I headed to my bedroom with the phone.

“Mina Genuth,” Chesky exclaimed, “what am I telling the Engels?”

I bit my thumb. “Tell them… I don’t know, say something vague. You’re the shadchan, this is your job.”

“I can’t, Mina,” Chesky protested. “They’re concerned. They know they’re putting you on the spot, they don’t want to come across as selfish.”

I toyed with the zipper of my cosmetic bag. “Really, Chesky, what difference does it make? We agreed to not do takanos. The date is on for tonight, they’re getting engaged. We’re preparing for a l’chayim.”

“I know. But they feel terrible and want to make things right for you somehow.”

“What should I do? It’s a weird situation.”

Chesky cleared his throat. “Mina… they made an offer. They’re willing to lend you the 40K you would’ve gotten from the—”

“Chesky,” I said sharply, “no!”

“But—”

“They missed the whole point, Chesky. This is humiliating. We don’t need their loan. Shevy’s our oldest, we can swing this wedding.” I rubbed moisturizer into my forehead. “Look, Chesky, tell them not to worry, everything’s okay.”

He sighed.

“I’m serious. Tell them we understand, they shouldn’t feel bad. It’s going to be a… beautiful wedding.”

When I returned to the kitchen, Shlomo was standing at the counter, preparing Israeli salad for lunch. I updated him about my conversation with Chesky.

“It’s not okay,” he groaned. “Help.”

“I know. We’re just going to have to—”

I stopped short as Shevy entered the kitchen. Shevy peered at us suspiciously, then quietly trudged to the fridge and took out a yogurt.

A stillness hovered in the kitchen. Come on, phone, bell, anybody — ring. The three of us shuffled around, remarkably absorbed in the monumental task of preparing lunch. I grabbed a notepad and started rambling, anything to fill the gaps.

“So I’ll leave work early, I’ll make a stop to get paper goods and drinks. And the cleaning lady is coming at twelve. We’ll need to order cake, and should I pick up fruit platters? Or just cut up fruit, it’s only—”

Shevy coughed. “Tatty… Ma.” She shook baby carrots into a Ziploc bag and snapped it shut. “What’s going on?”

My eyes flew to Shlomo. “What should be going on?”

“With the Engels. What’s wrong?”

“Is something wrong?” Shlomo asked.

Shevy twisted the bag around her finger and inhaled. “I’m not dumb. I know something’s wrong. You’re hiding something about the Engels. What is it? Tell me, I can handle it.”

“We’re not… nothing’s wrong, Shevy. The Engels are wonderful people.”

“Ma… what is it? Something I can do? Should I talk to Gavriel about it?”

Shlomo met my eyes, then quickly turned back to his scallions.

“I’m scared,” Shevy continued quietly. “If you can’t tell me what’s wrong, I… I can’t get engaged.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 655)

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