Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 7 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
“What? You want a strange girl to move in with her? Really, Yoel!”
“Why not, Ima?”
Mother and son happened to be attending the same wedding in Bnei Brak. The chassan was an old friend of Yoel’s, while the kallah was the daughter of Mira Brodsky’s good friend. Mira and Yoel were standing and talking on the sidewalk outside the hall.
“First of all, it really isn’t for our Chaiky. She needs her privacy and her peace and quiet at home. It’s hard enough for her now that she’s finally trying to get back to some type of routine with work and all that.”
“So I don’t think that after a busy morning of dealing with everything she has to deal with at work, she has to come home and start talking to a stranger who is going to be on her head constantly, instead of unwinding and taking care of her children.”
“That’s what she told me, almost word for word.” Yoel leaned on the metal guardrail. The thundering of the drums could be heard all the way outside the hall.
“Nu, I told you, we think alike, the two of us.”
“And I still think that you two have to try and persuade her to do this.”
“Me—and who else?”
“You and Abba. You’re both worried about her being alone like this, aren’t you?”
“True,” Mira said thoughtfully.
Yoel did not mention the incident on the porch. He had no idea if their mother even knew what had happened, or if Chaiky had decided not to say anything to her about it.
“But why are you immediately going in that direction? There are other solutions to the problem of her being alone.”
“What were you thinking of?”
“We wanted her to move to Be’er Sheva, with us.”
“Chaiky? With the kids?”
“Yes.” She was serious. “You know very well, Yoel, that this story can take years. Even if the Russian court agrees to let Shlomo serve his sentence here, and he is brought back to Israel, he still won’t live at home, and Chaiky will be alone.” She looked at her hands, which were toying with her glasses. “As soon as it all began, Abba suggested that she come back and live with us in the meantime, but she didn’t want to. Nu, and what has happened since then?”
He nodded. “She’s been in Yokne’am for three months already.”
“So,” he said as he waved to a friend who passed them by on his way into the hall, “if my idea doesn’t sit well with you or Abba, then try to talk to her again about your idea. Maybe she’s changed her mind since then.”
They spoke for another few minutes and then parted. Mira went back into the ladies’ section and found that the first dance was already over. She wended her way back to the table where she had been sitting with friends, and found that Shoshi and Nechama, two other friends from their group, had arrived while she’d been outside.
“Where were you during the dancing, Mira?” one of the women asked. “We had such a nice circle of friends, and we missed you. We thought you’d run back off to Be’er Sheva!”
“No, I have another hour until the next bus.” She sat down, moving the pitcher of water that the waitress had decided to put right at her elbow. “I hope I’ll be able to dance for the second round. Excuse me, what did you say? Oh, schnitzel, thanks.” The waitress placed a portion of schnitzel on her plate and moved to the right, to Shoshi.
“I’ll take schnitzel, too,” Shoshi said and glanced at Mira. “So, are we still as alike as we used to be, or what?”
Mira laughed. “Do you still sleep without a pillow, even at our age?”
“Yes, and you?”
“And we’re not so old, you know. I have two more years until I retire…”
They laughed. There had always been some very interesting similarities in their personalities, and it was nice to discover, each time they met again, that despite the passing years, little had changed.
“What’s with your daughter?” Shoshi asked. She pushed aside the raisins that garnished the mound of rice on her plate and took a bite of the rice.
“She’s doing okay, baruch Hashem.”
“Is there any news about your son-in-law in Russia?”
“He’s still there, waiting for his trial.” Mira had long stopped asking herself how people knew about all kinds of interesting stories that happened in their little country. Perhaps because she’d been living for so many years in the south, and had always been somewhat disconnected from the goings-on in other cities, she found it hard to absorb to what extent other people knew so much about what was happening around them—and not only around them. This was one area in which she’d never been the least bit like Shoshi.
“And what is your daughter doing in the meantime?” Shoshi was now working on her stir-fried vegetables.
“What is she doing? Davening and hoping for a yeshuah. What can I tell you?”
Shoshi speared a potato that was colored a bright yellow by some spice or another. Mira still hadn’t touched any of the food on her plate. “I’m sure you offered her to come live with you.”
Mira stared at Shoshi. “Why are you so sure?”
“Because you’re a lot like me. And if your Chaiky nicely told you that it is not for her, I’m sure you came up with ways to persuade her to do it.”
Mira looked at Shoshi and didn’t answer.
“Because I know I would have done that, too.”
Was the whole table quiet, or was it just Mira’s imagination? Were all the other women listening to their conversation with their mouths agape in curiosity, or was the silence she was hearing just in her head?
“Shoshi, I’m just a bit taken aback by what you’re saying,” Mira said finally. “Because just a few minutes ago, I was talking to my son about this very idea. We really don’t want Chaiky to stay where she is by herself.”
Shoshi locked her gaze on Mira. “But if you are really like me, Mira, then listen to me and don’t bring Chaiky home to you.” Her fork and knife were now down. “For us, after two and a half weeks, it was enough, and then we rented an apartment right near us for our daughter.”
“Yes. Don’t you know that she got divorced?”
“No…I didn’t hear anything.”
“So now you know. Without going into the details, it happened five months ago. For a month, she insisted on staying alone. Then she moved in with us for two and a half weeks, and since then, like I said, she’s in a rented apartment down the block.”
Mira cut her schnitzel in half. “I’m really sorry to hear that, Shoshi. Is that your oldest?”
“No, she’s my second. A great girl.” Shoshi closed her eyes for a moment. “And she really is wonderful, but even so—it wasn’t good for either her or us to be living together.”
“Does she have any children?”
“Yes, three. They’re adorable.”
“My Chaiky has only two.”
“I remember,” Shoshi said, pouring a glass of water for herself. “But it doesn’t always have to do with the number of children, Mira. If you want the best for you, and for her—it’s good for her to live near you, but not with you. I’m not going into all kinds of stories that just drain the person of energy, because maybe it really doesn’t have anything to do with you and your daughter. I really hope this will end fast, and she will live many more happy years with her husband.”
She offered to pour a cup of water for her friend, too, but Mira didn’t want a drink, thank you. “But just think about the next point—you’re already over sixty, Mira. Have you thought about what it means to go back to raising two little kids? The noise, the mess, and the fact that your daughter will probably try to find a job, or just has to take care of errands relating to her complicated situation, and you become a full-time mother again for hours on end…”
Mira finally cut in weakly, “She was with us for a few days with the children when it all began, and it was actually fine.”
Shoshi took a sip. “That could be,” she noted. “I have heard of cases where a grown child and her family do live with the parents, and it can really vary from one family to another. You can invite her for a trial period, if she wants. But just think about it first, and the fact that we are pretty similar. You might come to realize that it was a good idea for me to tell you all this…”
“Yes, Chaiky, how are you?” On the bus going home, Mira regretted having eaten the schnitzel in the end. By the time she’d finished talking to Shoshi, it was cold and tasteless, and its rubbery texture, while not the fault of the conversation, was pretty unappetizing, too. Now it was sitting in her throat, and she was afraid that the heavy feeling would accompany her for more than an hour, until this bus ride would be over.
“Baruch Hashem. Yoel spoke to me before.”
“Really? When was that?” Before he had spoken to his mother or after? In other words, had he already said something to Chaiky about the idea of her moving to Be’er Sheva?
“Five minutes ago. We didn’t speak for long because he was driving, but I heard from him that the two of you spoke.”
“I’m also traveling now, Chaiky.”
“But I can talk to you while you travel home, right?” Chaiky chuckled.
“Right.” Sure. She wasn’t driving. “But…I don’t know if the bus is the right place for this conversation.” For sure not before she managed to speak to her husband about what Shoshi had said and to think how and what, and if, they should make their offer to Chaiky again. Why had Yoel run to discuss an idea that he’d just heard from his mother? What was his rush?
But Chaiky was already speaking. “…So I told Yoel that at first I was very against the idea, but now I think I’ve changed my mind.”
“Yes. After all, being here alone is really not the most pleasant thing in the world. Especially because, as you know, it’s a bit hard for me to ask for help from Shlomo’s family right now.”
“Too bad. They’re such nice people, and I think they are ready to do anything for you.”
“I don’t want to talk about them right now,” her daughter said quietly. “I’m treating this as an existing situation. Who is or is not to blame does not make a difference to me right now, but it’s a fact that I can’t simply turn to them and share with them what I am going through.”
“You can decide what to establish as fact and what not,” Mira said. She was surprised at herself. It was very uncharacteristic of her to give such a cold answer. But what could she do? There was no way she could discuss with Chaiky the subject of where she was going to live before she sat down with her husband—and herself—to rethink the matter. If she was going to offer again, she wanted to be sure that she wouldn’t regret it afterward.
Despite the very stark differences between Shoshi’s daughter’s story and Chaiky’s saga, Shoshi had succeeded in planting some seeds of doubt in Mira’s mind as to the wisdom of taking the step of inviting Chaiky to move in—or not.