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Yardsticks: Chapter 8

“Wow,” the mother whispered when I held up the dress. “It’s… wow”



Benish greeted me with a glass of tea and a generous slice of medovik. I took the plate with pursed lips, feeling guilty as I dug my fork through the layers of cake and cream.

“It’s… good,” I mumbled.

It was more than good. It was absolutely delicious, and beautiful besides. But I couldn’t bring myself to say so.

“Where’s Papa?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Driving?”

I took my plate to my sewing room. When had I eaten last? Twelve o’clock? The tea warmed my chest, soothed my muscles.

But I couldn’t take my time sipping. The Dratlers would be here in — I looked at my watch — ten minutes.

The Dratlers. T’fu. What was the story with this family? Three appointments and then cancel?

Would they cancel my job too? The tea churned in my stomach. I should’ve asked for a deposit, like Yocheved did. Ach.

I took the dress out of the bag, unrolled it and carefully shook it out. It was a beautiful gown. White taffeta with a scattering of gold leaves. She was a beautiful girl, the bride’s sister. Tall, slim, gorgeous black hair. She dare not cancel now, she couldn’t do that.

I released my breath when the bell rang ten minutes later.

“Wow,” the mother whispered when I held up the dress. “It’s… wow.”

The kallah, clutching her fancy leather bag, blinked. “It’s stunning, Lieba! Oh Em Gee!”

I smiled, the taste of Benish’s medovik thick on my tongue. “Here,” I said to Lieba, pointing to the bathroom. “Go try it on.”

When she walked out, smiling shyly, Mrs. Dratler’s and the kallah’s eyes widened.

“Gorgeous, eh?” I said. “How do you call it? A kallah meidel.”

They giggled. “Exactly,” said Mrs. Dratler. She was staring at her daughter in awe.

I reached for my pincushion and started pinning the shoulder seams. It was quiet in the room — why weren’t these Dratlers talking? Did they know that I knew? I was burning to ask them, What’s the story with the kallah’s gown?

My knees felt stiff as I squatted to pin Lieba’s hem. It was terribly quiet, the floor creaking as I inched my way around the hem, pinning.

I opened my mouth, closed it. I stuck a few pins through my shirt, told the girl to turn, pinned some more.

“A kallah meidel,” I repeated, getting to my feet. I swallowed, manufacturing a sunny smile, almost like Yocheved. “Everyone will look so beautiful at the wedding. Lieba…” I patted the girl’s shoulder. “And the kallah—” I gestured. “Such a beautiful gown you’re going to wear.”

Keeping my smile in place, I watched Mrs. Dratler and the kallah freeze. They glanced at each other anxiously. I continued pinning Lieba’s dress, all but oblivious.

It was only when the gown was on the hanger again and I was stuffing the sleeves with paper that Mrs. Dratler finally spoke. “Yelena, we’re not… doing Tzirel’s gown with Yocheved. Our plans… changed.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 652)

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