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  • Esther

    Member
    July 5, 2020 at 4:33 pm

    This is my second one.  Welcoming comments, I can add approx 200 words.

    The Invisibles

    As she came into the living room to retrieve the broom that had been left there, Sara Fried saw the moving van pull up.  She watched as the movers unloaded furniture, as well as boxes, boxes and more boxes.  She tried to guess what kind of family they were.  There were bikes – probably a bunch of boys.  A pink changing table – okay, a baby girl.  Maybe seven or eight beds, she lost count.  Sara waited a bit, hoping to see the family themselves.  But though she saw a car parked in the driveway, there was not a hint of a soul.  Maybe she’d missed them going inside?

    Anyway, she’d better get a start on dinner.  It was getting later.  The scoop would come from her family members, as they trickled in.  She could especially count on her boys for all the news, they never disappointed.

    *

    “How was everyone’s day?”  Moish announced cheerfully to the Fried clan, as he lifted a forkful of stir-fry.  “Mm, delicious.”

    “I had-ed a math test!  And I failed-ed!”  seven-year-old Chumi grinned, showing the gap where her two front teeth still hadn’t grown in.

    “You don’t have tests in Kindergarten!”  ten-year-old Shmuli countered.  “And anyway, do you even know what failed means?”

    Chumi pouted.  “Do too have tests!  Even Morah said we’re like the big kids!  And big kids fail!”

    Everyone cracked up and Chumi looked like she might burst into tears.  Wanting to avert a meltdown, Sara fished for a neutral topic.  Suddenly she remembered the movers.

    “Anyone know anything about our new neighbors?”

    Across the street?  I saw a van, but no family,” Kayla, eighteen, looked up long enough from her lap to say.

    “No phones at the table,” Moish mouthed automatically, though by now he had enough experience to know it wouldn’t help.

    Akiva, almost twelve, joined in the discussion.  “I also saw the van.  It looks like they’re a big family.”

    Everyone had seen the new neighbors’ possessions, apparently.  But no one had laid an eye on the people themselves.

    “What about you, did you see anyone?  In shul maybe?” Sara addressed her husband.

    “No, I didn’t see anyone!”  He put strange emphasis on the word see, while sending her signals with his eyes.  She opened her mouth, then closed it.  Later, he seemed to be trying to tell her.

    Then someone spilled their glass and she got busy cleaning up, and Sara forgot about the whole thing as she was pulled into the whirlwind that is bedtime.

    *

    Later came after all the older kids were asleep, with Chumi out at a friend, and her preteens, Miri and Racheli, giggling together under their covers, something she usually turned a blind eye to.

    Moish had his back to her as she came into the kitchen.  He turned around when he heard her footsteps, holding two cups of tea.  “Want some fruit to go with it?”  He offered.

    “No, that’s fine.”  Her curiosity had been aroused, and now she was anxious to satisfy it.

    “Speak.”  She said, when they were sitting.

    Moish lowered his voice.

    “The new neighbors?  I didn’t see them.  But I heard them.”

    Sara looked puzzled.

    “He came to shul.  His name is Dov, Dov Cooperwasser.  I know because the Rav announced his arrival.  He needed to announce it because – because no one can see him.  His family…” He took a sip of tea.

    “They’re – invisible.”

    *

    Only one of her kids had a Cooperwasser in her class.  An Invisible, as they were coming to be known.

    “Ma, it’s so weird!  It’s like Shani’s a ghost, like, her bags rustle, her pages turn, but no one is there.  All the kids keep asking where Shani is.  They’re scared of bumping into her.”  Miri had lots to say.

    “Is everyone being nice at least?”  Sara asked.

    “Not really,” her daughter admitted.  “Everyone thinks it’s weird.  And contagious.  No one wants to be her friend.”

    “Miri, sweetheart, listen.  Put yourself in Shani’s shoes for a moment.  She’s new, she wants to have friends and be part of things, she’s got feelings just like you.  Just because you can’t see her, doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.  Maybe try to include her a bit?”  As she spoke, her hear ached for all the rejected little girls out there.  She knew the pain.  Still, was she asking too much?  It was a very unusual situation.

    “But Ma, then I’ll be weird too!”  Miri looked skeptical.

    Truthfully, Sara did understand her daughter and her friends.  Invisible was not part of their normal, however you put it.  It was odd, and creepy, and unheard of.  And it wasn’t only the kids, no one knew what to make of it.

    At the Neshei brunch that morning, in fact, Kiki Cooperwasser had showed up.  Well, maybe showed was the wrong word.  She’d presented.  She’d introduced herself in a perfectly normal sounding voice, which was all the more eerie coming from an empty chair.  Apparently, all the women had been a little spooked, as no one had gone over to welcome her.  And everyone had been very careful to avoid any spot where they heard a noise come from.  Almost as if they were scared that coming in contact with an Invisible could make you invisible too.

    And Sara didn’t blame them.  She didn’t know, just like them all, what could happen if she touched one of them, but she wasn’t taking the risk of finding out.  It was hard enough being near someone like that.  It made people feel threatened, and made them act in ways so out of character.  She could hardly help herself from shunning someone so strange, who might rub off on her.

    Shocked and disgusted with herself, she couldn’t help but think.  Is this how it happened?  Is this how a bully might think?  Her insides twisted.

    *

    Kiki sat down and reached for the serving dish.

    “Who wants lasagna?”

    The chorus of answering “me”s was not really to inform her who was hungry.  Everyone was always hungry for her food; she was a great cook.  It was to inform her who was at the table, and where they were sitting.  Ever since the accident, they’d had to get creative about daily activities that the Visibles, as they had dubbed the rest of the world, took for granted.  So, they used their voices a lot.

    Actually, communication in their house was excellent, Baruch Hashem.

    With practiced movements, she dished out supper, and everyone dug in, forks moving creepily through the air.  At first, it had weirded them out terribly, but mostly they were all fine with it now.  Just goes to show what the human mind can get used to.  But that couldn’t necessarily be said about other non-family members.  They would never get used to her family.

    It was only after a good ten minutes of silence, except for munching sounds in various pitches, that she dared to ask the question.

    “How was everyone’s first day?”  She announced, a drop too enthusiastically.  If it had been anything like her own, she didn’t know if she wanted to hear.  Sure enough, her words were met with quiet.  She thought she heard a sigh or two, coming from the end of the table.

    Just them she felt a presence next to her.  “Mommy,” she heard, then felt a hand.  The rule they’d made was to always alert before touching someone, so that no one got a fright.  Now she groped around for her six-year-old daughter and pulled her in for a hug.

    “Mommy, no one likes me.  Not even my Morah.  And when we did a project in pairs, no one wanted to be with me.  I had to do it alone.”

    “My class was even worse,” said her eighth grader.  I got called…whatever, doesn’t matter…” he said in a way that told her that it mattered very much.

    Suddenly everyone had what to say.  From her husband and the teens, right down to her preschoolers.  And it wasn’t pretty.

    “Oh, my poor kinderlach,” she whispered.

    “Why did that accident have to happen?!”  Yitz said suddenly, angrily.  If not for our microwave exploding, with all it’s stupid radiation, we’d be fine.  We’d be visible!  We’d have friends!”

    “Yeah, it’s all the fault of that electronic company who sold us a faulty appliance.  Sue them!”

    “But it still won’t fix anything.”

    How she wished she could fix everything.  But they’d tried, oh, how they’d tried.  They’d gone to the top scientists, doctors, chemists, been experimented on and documented.  And to no avail.  It had been so hard to stay in their old community, where everyone whom they had been so close to had suddenly started treating them like they were, well, invisible.  So, they had moved, hoping for the best.  But if today was any indication…

    So maybe this is kind of what it felt like to be bullied.  A knife twisted in her heart.

    As far as she could understand, everyone’s biggest fear was that if they were to touch an Invisible, they too would become invisible.  Even though nothing they touched actually did disappear except for things that were actually worn, like clothing, no one wanted to take the risk.  And they were right.  There was so much unknown here, nothing like this had ever happened before.

    “Listen everyone.  I don’t know why Hashem chose us for such a bizarre, impossible nisayon.  But He did – because He knows we are strong enough.  And He will only let it continue for as long as it’s supposed to, not a moment more.  Meanwhile, we have each other.  Right?”

    Sniffles were heard all around.

    “And meanwhile, think of all the benefits.  We can wear whatever we want because no one can see our clothes.  We can go wherever we want, because no one can see us.  What else can you think of?”

    She heard some sniffles turning into giggles.

    “I can skip class!”

    “I can wear pajamas to school”

    “I can rollerblade in the middle of the night!”

    She smiled; glad the atmosphere had cheered up for the moment.  But suddenly she remembered!  Mendy was becoming bar mitzvah in a few weeks, what would be?  Well, at least they had no need for a photographer…but she did want gowns.  Who knew, maybe a miracle would happen?

    *

    Sara sat in the café, laughing and talking with her friends.  She was having such a great time.  She’d never had friends growing up, a trauma that continued to haunt her up until this day.  But now, being part of this great group helped to sooth those wounds just a little.

    The conversation turned to the Invisible family.

    Her friend Simi was talking.

    “My husband knows the family vaguely.  They moved here from Toronto.  There was some freak accident that make them, y’know, and they couldn’t bear to stay there.  They chose Monsey for a fresh start.  They were hoping against hope to have more luck in a new place, far away.

    Sara’s ears perked up.  She was also from Toronto, and she’d also moved far away to get a fresh start.  From her past, from Ki – wait!  Her blood ran cold.

    “What was her maiden name?” she asked in a voice she barely recognized.

    “I think Dinner, why?”

    “No reason, just curious,” she managed to squeak.

    Kiki Dinner.  So it was her.

    Sara sat still, trying to digest this information.  Remembering.

    All those years of bullying, taunting, being made into a pariah.  Contagious, just because one Kiki Dinner had decided so.  Being so lonely that she still ached so bad, even now.  She’d sworn countless times that she’d never, ever forgive her, wished upon her the worst things.  And now…

    Sara suddenly felt something burning in her.  Kiki was getting what she deserved!  Let her feel the pain of rejection, for once let her be on the outside, avoided like a leper, teased and separated.

    She tried to refocus on the table talk, but this new information gave her no peace.  Her thoughts kept going back to her bully.  Then, and now.  In the past, when she’d been powerless, crushed.  In the present, where she was the one capable of crushing someone already so powerless.

    Her friends were once again discussing the Invisibles, a word that had taken on an entirely new meaning for Sara.

    “Did you hear?  They’re making a bar mitzvah.  They just announced it in shul.”  Simi looked around meaningfully.

    “Oy, poor things.”  Miriam didn’t know what to say.  So many unspoken words.  Who would be at the bar mitzvah?  I mean, they were new.  And…

    “Yeah, should we go?  No one really knows what to make of this, y’know?  Like, we’re all waiting for someone to make a move, so that we can follow,” she shared candidly.  “Wonder who it will be?”

    They’re waiting, Sara told herself.  They want someone from among them, whom they can follow…

    She made a decision.  She was going to be the one to show people just how to behave to the new family.

    *

    The hall was beautifully set up, a mouthwatering array on both the sweet and savory tables.  Elaborate floral centerpieces stood in the middle of each table, monogrammed place cards at each seat.  Wow, these Cooperwassers sure did know how to make a simcha!

    Sara felt her palms sweating.  Her heart pounded and she almost turned around to leave, right then and there.  Instead she took a step in and searched for her.
    But the hall was empty.  Oh, right, of course.  Instead, she looked around for movement.  There, in the corner, a chair scratched the floor.  Muted conversation could be heard.  Sara knew she should go over.  Or, maybe she should wait outside for the other guests, and come in with someone.  Wait, they probably saw her already.  Okay, how did she do this?  She took a deep breath.  And walked over to the corner.

    “Kiki?”  It was the first time she’d attempted addressing an Invisible, and more, the one who had made her invisible for all those years, and her voice shook.

    As soon as Kiki had seen someone come in, she felt some tension leave her.  She literally hadn’t slept for weeks, playing out these moments in every possible scenario.  And this was probably one of the best.  Maybe her family would be alright here.  Now, as this woman, who was probably around her age, stood in front of her, looking straight through her, she felt something bubble up in her.  A human talking to her, outside of her family.  She could meet someone’s eyes!  And the woman stood there so awkwardly, it was almost funny.

    She smiled, though no one could see.

    “Thank you for coming!  I remember your face from the Neshei, but can I ask you to remind me your name?”

    “Sara Fried.  Nice to, um, meet you.”  There was a pause.  Did she recognize her?  No, didn’t seem like it.  Well, she wouldn’t say anything.

    “I want to welcome you to our community!  We’re so glad to have the honor of having your family join us.  I think my Miri is in your Shani’s class?  Maybe you could come over one day with her?”

    Kiki could hardly believe her ears.  This was better than she ever could have hoped.  She noticed some guests standing at the door, watching the exchange.

    Normally there would be a hug at this point, maybe a kiss.  But Sara was afraid.  What are you scared of?  A voice whispered.  Maybe she would also become…no, this was the right thing to do.

    “Kiki, can I…give you a hug?”  Sara swallowed, hoping the other woman wouldn’t see her nervousness.

    Kiki felt a thrill go through her.  No one, save for her family, had touched her for four months, ever since it had happened!

    “Of – of course.”

    Sara’s heart thudded.  She braced herself.  Suddenly she felt arms around her, hair brushing against her face.  She hugged back, feeling what she presumed was the lace of Kiki’s gown against her palms.

    After a few seconds, she pulled back.

    And was shocked to see a stunning navy gown, a perfectly set sheitel pulled back off a pretty face, one she remembered so well.

    “Y – your dress!”  She exclaimed.

    Kiki looked down in shock.  At her clearly visible form, at the sparkling fabric.  Wow, was she grateful now that they’d done gowns and sheitels and all!

    The two women stood still, trying to assimilate what had happened.

    “Sara, right?”  Kiki asked in a choked voice.  “Thank you.”

    Sara just smiled.  Only she knew what she had really done for the other woman.

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