AdministratorJuly 2, 2020 at 8:31 pm
This is my submission IY”H.
BTW, can we submit more than one story?
Anyone have any suggestions for edits? I need to take off abt 60 words.
Can’t wait to see everyone elses’.
Riva, this is not for your eyes if you’re judging…
Me, Myself, Or I
Sunday, July 12
It was slightly cloudy with a breeze, perfect weather for our weekly family brunch. Today was my turn to host, and I was so nervous. Everyone, all the sibs from both sides, would be here soon with the kids, and I took advantage of those last few minutes to triple check everything. Were my maxi skirt and T shirt sitting exactly right, was my pony sheital just messy enough to be casual?
I’d wanted to put on a little jewelry, but in the end had gone with only my rings and a pair of longer earrings. I had also put on double my usual makeup. I felt a little fake. I did every time; I still hadn’t gotten used to it. But what could I do, I was Rocky for today, not Rochel, Ruchie, Rachel or anything else that I went by, and this is how Rocky was expected to dress.
At least I liked my canvas Coach shoes. And the kids looked adorable in denim, and different colored Ts and natives. Though they were running around barefoot now, the girls’ pigtails flying in the wind.
Had I gotten the food right? My siblings usually did trendy food, stuff straight from a magazine. My in-laws were similar, though they put more focus on the décor. Which meant that I had to do both. I’d contemplated hiring someone to plan it, but in the end had gone through countless websites until I found just the right look; whites and beiges in all different textures, with lots of bright, fresh produce to give a pop. It did look stunning, just the right easy chic.
I heard some noise out front and went to join. As usual when I needed to present, the flutters were there. As I directed everyone, and caught up on the latest, my brain was simultaneously checking that I had gotten everything right. So far so good. At least on my part.
But, wait, was that a pair of outdated Sperries I saw on my niece? And her sister sported – was I seeing right – Toms, from literally eons ago? My heart dropped for my sister-in-law Tamar and I hoped no one would notice her mistake. I felt terrible for her, that she hadn’t realized. And she was so nice. I was already aching for her loneliness.
I heard 9-year-old Adina’s voice, from all those years ago. Back in third grade.
“Whaaat?! Is she really still doing her hair like that? How does she expect to have friends?”
“So, I couldn’t come to the wedding because all my dresses were from last month, I could not be seen in them. I don’t get people that wear stuff that long.”
“That’s not a normal brand. You have to get from, like, The Gap, Place, y’know. Otherwise it’s just just not a cute top.”
I made sure to pay careful attention to Tamar throughout the afternoon. She seemed to be laughing, chatting, chilling and having a great time. I saw no sign of any distance toward her, from any of the others. Strange.
Tuesday, July 14
I adjusted the pins in my perfectly curled sheitel and straightened my tailored beige dress with the pockets. I carefully selected a pair of pearl drop earrings and peered at my reflection. Hm, was that too much makeup? I tried to remember the other teachers’ eyelashes, their cheekbones. It was so hard to get dressed for work, but I had to make sure I fit in perfectly with all of my Chassidish coworkers.
Satisfied with the mirror, I grabbed my kosher phone and slipped it into my oversized hobo, along with my wallet and a folder of tests. I stopped in the kitchen to retrieve the neatly wrapped sandwich and cut up fruit I’d prepared for lunch. I cringed, remembering the time I’d taken a salad. I’d been the only one. Better leave that for other settings.
It was a good thing I lived close to the school, so that I didn’t need to be seen with the car. Sometimes, if the weather was really bad, I’d take a taxi.
“Good afternoon”, I send a small smile to the secretary on my way to the teachers’ room. No matter how many times I’d walked in here, my stomach didn’t stop clenching anew. Most teachers got nervous before stepping into the classroom, I got nervous just from stepping into the staff room. Because what if I got something wrong, committed a faux pas? The memories twisted painfully inside and I slowed my steps, until the thick soles of my beige leather oxfords made barely a sound.
“Hi, Ruchie,” the biology teacher was making herself a coffee
I grabbed a coffee to too, and took a few sips as we caught up. I made sure to leave a bit of the drink to take with me. It looked good to walk down the hall with the cardboard cup in one hand, siddur balanced on top of the pile of papers in the other. From behind clear plastic glasses with a gold fleck, my eyes roamed the hall for stray students. I was serious, put together, on the ball.
“Hello girls, please hand in your assignments. As usual, I will be calling on one of you to read your work to the class. Gitty, please come up.”
Amid some groans, Gitty got herself to the front of the class, clutching a printed page. She swallowed, suddenly a little shy, and began.
“Belonging.” She glanced at me.
I nodded to her to continue.
“To belong is one of the basic human emotional needs, after the physical ones like food and shelter are taken care of. To be included and to be a part of something bigger than him is of such importance to man that he is willing to sacrifice many things to attain it. Among these, time, money, relationships, even values…”
My mind took me far away, to another time and place. A place of rejection, of pain. Of being the one left out, always.
I was sitting on the edge of the circle. The girls were talking about the latest music, and I’d mentioned a certain singer. Adina had turned her nose up a fraction of a millimeter. And said sweetly, as if I were slow, “Racheli, no one listens to him, for like, a month already. Where have you been?” And everyone had continued talking, completely ignoring me. As if I was last month as well.
No, I would never again be last month or last week or last anything.
Yes, I would sacrifice anything to leave all that behind.
Wednesday, July 15
“Hi Rachelle! What’s doing?” A friend, Sharrie, waved to me from across the parking lot. I waved back as I slung my gym bag over my shoulder and juggled a water bottle, smartphone and sunglasses, while fishing for my car keys. Don’t forget to be chilled, even for a moment, I reminded myself. You can’t mess up here.
And the gym group was especially complicated to walk the walk with, because sometimes they were sporty, sometimes fancy. Mostly it was clear which was when, but sometimes not and then I was left guessing. One thing was clear though. Always go with expensive.
After making a show of pulling out my air pods, I jogged over to Sharrie and we half-hugged. She pulled away.
“So good to see you!” She looked me up and down.
“Hey, are these new pieces? I totally love that jacket; the girls will go crazy over it.” I flushed with satisfaction; glad she’d noticed my stuff. I had taken a long time to pick it out, going from Nike to Adidas, Armour and Reebok. It was not easy, but I was willing to pay the price. Anything, to belong. I popped a stick of gum in my mouth. “Want some?” Sharrie took the pack. “What, you like peppermint? Spearmint tastes so much better.”
Oops. I etched that into my records. Only spearmint, from now on.
In the cool air-conditioned changing rooms of the spacious studio, the ladies were already deep into a spirited discussion on I didn’t know what. I felt my stomach cramp tightly. I was left out. Wait, it was probably something from the chat group. I read all the messages religiously, I’d be able to follow. I just needed to tune in.
“…was so upset. The tablecloths were supposed to be half in grey-white and half in grey-pink, and they came all in grey-white. It looked totally wrong when we put it out.”
Oh. Liz was retelling her daughter’s recent bas mitzvah bash. I was glad I was not up to that yet. What type would I make, which kind of crowd would I have? In fact, I was glad my kids were still little for many reasons. Like, what would be when they stopped letting me dress them? I wouldn’t be able to show my face if they didn’t fit in with my various regalia.
And gosh, how did they afford something like that over the top celebration? But I could never say something like that, I cringed just thinking about it. It was an unspoken rule that money was not mentioned, well, at least not if you were lacking it. Except in the teacher’s room, where everyone’s husband was in Kollel. Then you could highlight it. Except that my husband wasn’t learning full-time anymore, so I didn’t know where that left me.
Just then the instructor turned on the music and we all found a place in front of the mirror. As we pounded the floor, I stored all those thoughts away. For later. It was getting to be a little too much.
The sun shone deliciously on me, as I lazily watched the kids climb and clamber in our neighborhood playground. I hoped nothing would damage their coordinating outfits. Seeing them so picture perfect, the girls sporting puffy bows bigger than their heads, gave me a rush of pleasure, mixed with relief. I’d had such a hard time outfitting them this season. I’d ended up getting quite a few sets, so that I’d have the right thing for the right time and place.
I hoped that someone would join me here on the bench soon. Otherwise what would be the point of all that time and effort, not to mention money, spent on the kids’ wardrobe, if no one saw them?
Five minutes later, I almost sagged with relief as a woman approached, pushing a Baby Jogger with her own matching clan tagging behind. I didn’t recognize her but I could see by her lightly curled sheitel and rose gold and diamond set, that she would fit into the community just fine. Just like I hoped I did. Oh, how I hoped.
And wait, was that the Rebbetzin coming as well? I surreptitiously straightened my A-line black skirt and white top with the asymmetrical silver ruffle. The low silver heels complemented it perfectly, though they pinched my toes. I hope I measured up.
“Gut Shabbos,” I rose slightly in greeting, then moved over to make room for the women.
“I’m Gitty”, the other woman introduced herself. And you are…?”
It took me a moment to sort through my various titles. “Rochel,” I smiled, hoping she wouldn’t notice my hesitation.
“Nice weather, no?”
“Yes, and I love these long Shabbos afternoons that come with summer, don’t you?”
We got into a discussion about the pros and cons of winter versus summer Shabbosos, and I could almost forget for a minute about my image and just enjoy the connection. Almost. Because forgetting completely was a luxury that I could not afford.
Thursday, July 23
Thursday morning had always been reserved for getting things done. Shopping, cooking, and other errands. I needed to quiet and the space to make sure Shabbos preparations were just so. No last minute for me.
So, there I was pushing my cart briskly through the wide aisles of the supermarket, in a classy but comfortable ribbed grey knit set and white sock shoes, an oversized pair of hoops in my lobes. Maybe, I thought, I actually liked this me. I breathed deeply, letting myself relax for just a moment. Could I just be? No, of course not. I had to “be” it right. But anyway, most people who shopped here would find no fault in my get-up. At least I hoped not.
“Hey, Rochel!” Next to the fridge section stood Shany. Jolted, I went on guard, chastising myself for slipping, even if only in my mind. “Good to see you. Any ideas for suppers? My kids are sick of my rotation. And I work full time now, I don’t have time for much in the kitchen. You know how it is, you also work.” I hoped for dear life that she wouldn’t find out that my job was only three days a week. What would she think?
I collected myself and thought fast. I scanned her cart for dinner ingredients. Potatoes, rice, pasta, chickens, I also spied some cheeses in between the yogurts. A bunch of vegetables, nothing to interesting. Okay, I told myself, so she’s that kind of classic cook. Nothing exotic. What can I share that is the type?
“I have these great one dish meals, a tuna casserole, a chicken stir-fry, stuff like that. Would your family go for it?”
“Wow, sounds great! I’ll text you later, K?”
“Sure, g’luck.” I winked and started towards the fruit. I’d wait ‘til she was out of sight before heading back here to retrieve the tofu that I wanted for tonight. Shany would probably never talk to me again if she knew I made a vegan dinner once a week.
And shucks, I’d have to remember to check my other phones later for her message. I didn’t remember what number I’d given her. My life was getting so complicated.
Thursday, July 23
I surveyed the house. The table was set, the floors were mopped, all the food was in neatly in the fridge. Even I wasn’t usually so ahead of the game, but today we’d planned an evening out, Dovid and I, in the new botanical gardens that I’d been hearing so much about. It was supposedly beautifully lit up at night, and was becoming the destination for couples of all ages. My sister was kindly coming over soon to watch the kids – I’d bribed her with some free tutoring.
The door opened.
“Hi, Cheli!” I heard my husband’s cheerful greeting. “Ready?”
“Basically. Just need to get dressed. And so do you…”
My husband didn’t roll his eyes, but he smiled knowingly. “You look dressed to me.”
I looked down at the grey rib I’d been in the whole day, thought of the grey patterned band atop my fall. It was nice, I definitely felt great in it. But.
“Duvi, everyone there is going to be wearing heals, tons of makeup, sparkles and shine, you know the type?”
Happens to be, my husband totally did get the types. He was very with it for a guy.
So I was surprised when he shook his head.
“Cheli, forget the type. What’s your type? Who are you?” He met my eyes, his gaze gentle.
I shuddered as I heard the voices echoing in my brain.
“How will she ever fit in?”
“Sooo not the type…”
I wasn’t that little misfit anymore. I was a part of things; you could even say I was cool. Logically I knew it. But could I let go of the fear? Was it protecting me or enslaving me?
I made a decision. Quickly, in case I had regrets, I lifted my chin.
“I’m ready. And so are you.”
My husband’s eyes grew wide, even as the corners of his mouth turned up.
“You sure? No hat, jacket, tie, cufflinks?”
I looked at his carefully starched shirt, his shined shoes and pressed pants. He looked fine. Great, even. I shook my head.
His face relaxed into a full grin.
“But wear the diamonds, K?” He winked.
I didn’t trust myself to speak. I just winked back before turning to my bedroom.
The place was gorgeous, much nicer than the descriptions. Quite a few couples were strolling along the paths, all dressed up as I’d known they’d be. Suddenly, the familiar fear gripped me and I wanted to run and hide. What if someone saw us like this?
Dovid seemed to feel me tense up because he turned to smile reassuringly at me. My resolve returned. I could face this.
We bought cold drinks and found a place to sit. And then it happened.
“Rachelle?! Is that you? I almost didn’t recognize you.” Sharry stood over me, sure enough, in a navy sheath and silver shoes. Her long dark lashes blinked once, twice over baby blue eyes. Something about her looked different, but I couldn’t pinpoint what.
My heart started racing. It was coming, this was the end. She’d tell everyone in our group that I wasn’t their type. My other groups would find out, reject me too. Then I’d be alone. I shouldn’t have dared to be myself.
Sharry winked and half waved.
“Well, good seeing you. We were just snatching a few minutes alone, in this gorgeous place, but really, we’re headed to my in-laws’ sliver wedding anniversary. Catch you later!”
And she was gone. I sat still. Had she really meant that?
Dovid stood up. “Let’s go see the fountains now.”
And finally, just for that moment, I could push all the Sharries and Adinas and Shanys and Gittys and Tamars in my life away. I was me.
Sharrie slipped into the passenger seat of the car and pulled out a small mirror. Carefully, she pinched out the blue contact lenses covering her hazel eyes, that were starting to burn. She rubbed them gently, then popped them back in with a sigh.
She glanced at her blue-eyed husband and thought of his entire blue-eyed family. He’d told her told her a million times that they’d all accept her with brown eyes too, but she wasn’t sure. She needed to fit in at all costs. And if this was the price, she’d gladly pay it.
MemberJuly 3, 2020 at 5:53 pm
I don’t see why you can’t submit more than one.
So, I didn’t get a chance to read the whole thing, but so far, it looks really good. Well written…
You bring out the point very well, and I love the end!!
MemberJuly 3, 2020 at 6:16 pm
So painfully true. And the end…
AdministratorJuly 4, 2020 at 11:28 pm
Thanks goodness, I am not the judge! 🙂 Esther, this is AMAZING!!!! The vibe is so fresh, the theme so real. Wow! I really hope you win!
AdministratorJuly 5, 2020 at 3:25 pm
Thanks so much everyone! Feedback really pushes me to write more. Gotta remember to give it to all of you, too…
I made it a goal for myself to submit something to each contest, even if it’s not my best. BC then at least I have a chance…if I don’t submit, I definitely won’t get chosen.
AdministratorJuly 5, 2020 at 4:33 pm
This is my second one. Welcoming comments, I can add approx 200 words.
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.
MemberJuly 6, 2020 at 1:30 am
OMG! no words.
This is awesome!
Don’t submit both, cuz Ami won’t know which to choose… 😉
MemberJuly 5, 2020 at 4:46 pm
I love this story! The concept, the theme, and the surprising ending. It’s all so compelling.
I hope this wins, so that others can enjoy it too.
Now I just have to get cracking on mine… sigh…
AdministratorJuly 5, 2020 at 5:42 pm
MemberJuly 5, 2020 at 6:19 pm
Omigosh Esther!!! Your stories are insane!!
The first one is so real and such a powerful moral.
The second one is…just brilliant…I love the out-of-the-box idea and I love that your writing is so compelling!
Good job and good luck – May you win iy”H.
AdministratorJuly 5, 2020 at 6:24 pm
Thanks so much Sury. That means a lot.
I actually have another idea, maybe with all this encouragement I’ll go for it.
MemberJuly 5, 2020 at 6:47 pm
Wow Esther. I love the story. It is brilliant. The message is so powerful, and the impossibility of it all allows it to penetrate without any natural defences kicking in. You had me from the beginning, right to the end, and left me with a real ‘something to think about’. Thank you!
MemberJuly 5, 2020 at 11:47 pm
Wow, just read this. What a fun, refreshing and original read!
MemberJuly 6, 2020 at 4:13 pm
Oh, I’m laughing. Don’t worry, exactly the right way ;-D
MemberJuly 14, 2020 at 10:15 pm
The first one is just so real..
Precisely what we all feel,
Always ready to kneel,
others to appeal,
while living the unreal,
hoping to make the deal,
and get the others squeal….. etc… haha
But really, it’s exceptionally well brought out. Amazing talent and perception. Kiu