“Oh, goodness, I’m so happy. It’s amazing what a good fit does to a gown. Beautiful, beautiful”
rs. Davidowitz waited.
I turned to check if Yocheved was watching us, but my sister wasn’t in the showroom anymore.
Why was this woman putting me on the spot like this? It wasn’t fair. I was finally on good terms with Yocheved, and I was determined to keep it that way.
I was tempted to tell Mrs. Davidowitz, No, I don’t want to talk to you. Whatever it was she wanted to discuss, I didn’t like the fact that she was pulling me aside like this, covertly, obviously shutting Yocheved out. Forcing me to choose again, between my principles and my loyalties, and I didn’t want this.
Mrs. Davidowitz sent her daughter to wait for her in the car. Then she turned to me again. “Hmm?”
I inhaled slowly, grasping the doorknob. “What is it?”
“My Dassi’s gown,” she started.
My stomach contracted. Her daughter’s gown. The crazy price, could I do something about it? Convince Yocheved to give her a discount?
Mrs. Davidowitz coughed. “I heard you do gown consignments?”
I froze. “You — y-yes, I do.”
She rubbed her eye. “How does it, uh… can you tell me how it works?”
I released my breath. So she wanted to consign her daughter’s gown after the wedding. Great. Yes! This wasn’t about Yocheved. I could help this woman without hurting my sister, without things getting sticky.
“Of course,” I replied, smiling. “It’s pretty simple. You drop the gown off at my house after the wedding. I show it to kallahs, and we’ll either sell it or rent it to them. I can explain the pricing structure if you want, depending on whether the gown gets rented several times or bought right away, but you’ll be recouping a big chunk of your expense either way.”
Mrs. Davidowitz nodded earnestly. She had a few more questions, and I explained everything she wanted to know.
“So I guess I’ll be in touch with you again about this after the wedding,” she concluded.
“Yes,” I agreed. Then I cleared my throat. “I’m just curious,” I said as I watched her zip her faux fur jacket closed. “You know, I’m always trying to spread the word about these consignments, but I never formally advertised or anything. Where did you hear about this?”
Mrs. Davidowitz stuck her phone into her pocket and reached for the door. “Yocheved,” she answered. “Your sister told me to talk to you.”
“You’re sure you understand how to do this armhole?”
Anzel squinted as he thinned thread and pierced it through the sewing machine’s needle. “Pretty sure. And if it’s not good, you’ll fix it, okay?”
Ach, I shouldn’t have asked. If I didn’t show trust, he wouldn’t feel confident in his work, and that wouldn’t help anybody. “Great, then,” I said. “I’m sure this gown will come out good.”
I left the room and went to the kitchen to prepare lunch.
Standing in front of the pantry, I tensed for a moment, throwing a contemptuous glare at the fridge a foot away. Still warm. I couldn’t just grab a yogurt or some cheese and vegetables. Lunch would have to be boring crackers and peanut butter again.
But I wasn’t going to be upset now. At this point, we could’ve gotten a new fridge. Anzel insisted we spend the earnings of our first alterations jobs on a new fridge. But I didn’t want to. The fridge would wait just another bit.
Because there was a more important expense that came first.
I glanced at my watch. I’d been pushing off this phone call, but now, with this gown Anzel was working on, and with a few more from Mina pending, it was time.
The phone call took five minutes. When I hung up, I returned to Anzel in the sewing room.
“You didn’t leave yet?” he asked.
“I’m going,” I said. “I just wanted to tell you, you have a dentist appointment next week on Wednesday, at ten in the morning. You’ll want to take a painkiller before you go, keep that in mind.”
Anzel sputtered. “B-but…”
“No buts,” I said briskly. “Make sure to be on time, you’ll need to fill out some forms.”
When I left the house, the sound of the sewing machine echoed pleasantly in my ears.
Much as I enjoyed my little consignment project, it was still a job. After a full day in the boutique, I needed a major energy recharge in order to focus on my own customers.
Although it was definitely easier now, with the wedding frenzy behind us. Tuesday night, I had Rikki and Dina sleeping and Tzvi in bed with a book a good fifteen minutes before the Hornstein kallah’s appointment. I picked up a magazine and collapsed onto the couch for a little downtime.
With half-closed eyes, I flipped through the pages, skimming titles. I was about to doze off when a title caught my eye. The Lewin Experience: A Bride’s Story.
I sat up, suddenly alert, and quickly read.
My entire life, I dreamed of petticoats. White and fluffy, swishing on polished floors. It was always a dream, something I knew was out of my reach.
I read on; a story about an overweight girl who struggled through years of dieting, and finally, she made it.
When I walked into the Lewin bridal boutique, my eyes filled. Gowns. Flowing, sparkling, fairy-like gowns. My greatest dream, spread before my eyes.
Yocheved Lewin started the consult, but I barely heard a word she said. My gaze floated around the showroom, at the splendid gowns on the mannequins, and my mind whirled: Can this really be happening?
Then I heard Yocheved tell my mother, “A kallah has to look good.”
Yes, it was happening. I was the kallah. And after all these years, I was going to be beautiful.
I threw the magazine down on the couch. Ugh. Ugh. That sentence made me vomit. A kallah has to look good. I could just hear it, in Yocheved’s sweetest client voice. This line was people’s ticket to spend boundlessly. It happened in the boutique, it happened in any store a kallah shops.
The mother hesitates, debates the nicer versus the cheaper option of whatever the kallah’s trying on, and in steps the saleslady, all charms, rubs her palms together, coughs, and gives a slow, knowing nod. “A kallah has to look good,” she declares. And that clinches it. The mother’s got her defense, there’s no doubt left. She’s doing the right thing, even if it’s costing her three times the amount she anticipated, because a kallah has to look good.
To think that Yocheved had wanted Shevy to narrate this story. Ugh.
The bell rang. I stood up and went to the door. It was Yelena and the Hornsteins, they’d arrived together.
“Perfect,” I said. “We can get started right away.”
I helped Yelena carry the garment bag down the stairs.
When the kallah walked out of the guestroom, we all whistled.
“Stunning,” I stated.
“Wow…” Mrs. Hornstein murmured. She walked over to her daughter and held up her arms. “Oh, goodness, I’m so happy. It’s amazing what a good fit does to a gown. Beautiful, beautiful.”
I glanced at Yelena. She was brimming with pride.
The kallah turned to the mirror. I watched her face light up.
“Thank you so much,” Mrs. Hornstein said. “I feel like, how should I say this? If there’s one important thing on a wedding day, it’s the kallah, she has to, you know…”
Did I know? I knew it too well. I heard it every day, that holy line. A kallah has to look good.
I hated the philosophy, hated the skewed justification.
But looking at this young bride, happiness radiating from her face, I had to be honest with myself; there was validity to the claim. Yes, people took the excuse too far, but at the same time, it was also true that every kallah deserves to feel special. Special and beautiful.
And I was helping kallahs reach this moment. I was making magnificent gowns available at affordable prices. Maybe I couldn’t change the world, but in my own small way, I could make a difference.
I approached the young girl and gently patted her back. “Yes, I know,” I told Mrs. Hornstein. “I know exactly what you mean.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 687)
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