Mrs. Barkoff and her daughters visit the property Rabbi Barkoff had purchased for his wife. Mrs. Barkoff and Suri both are enchanted; Rena and Mattel do not feel the same. Mrs. Asoulin points out Rena to her brother- in-law, but he has seen Suri and thinks she is his bashert.
* * *
Rena returned from her meeting with Yedidya Asoulin, only to find her mother waiting up for her.
“You didn’t have to wait for me to get home,” said Rena. “I’m not 19 anymore.”
“I know that,” said Mrs. Barkoff. “But I still care for you.”
“He’s not for me,” said Rena.
“Oh?” her mother replied, trying to keep the disappointment from her tone.
“I was never really interested in marrying an Israeli, even one who spoke perfect English. He is certainly a tzaddik and I believe he is a talmid chacham, but we are not on the same wavelength at all.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Barkoff.
“It’s just as well. I’m ready to go home.”
“Fine. We’ll make the arrangements tomorrow,” said Mrs. Barkoff. “There’s a lot to do once we get there.”
“Tell me the truth, Ma. What are you planning to do about the house?” said Rena.
“I’m going to live there.”
“What?” said Rena. “Are you serious?”
“Yes, I am. Not right away, but I’m going to make it my goal. I feel like I could just walk over there and settle in, but I know I can’t do that.”
Rena was quiet, but her heart was racing. But what about me? she wanted to cry out. For a frantic moment she considered giving Yedidya another chance, just on the possibility that her mother would really move here, but she let her decision stand.
“Well, I’m glad you’re going to give it some time. I know how much you like to plan,” said Rena carefully, unwilling to reveal her true feelings to her mother.
“Not this time!” her mother called after her, as she went to settle herself in for the evening. “This time it’s full speed ahead!”
By the time Mrs. Barkoff awoke the next morning, Mattel had already made her travel plans, and was finishing off the last of her packing. Her plane was scheduled to leave at four o’clock that afternoon, and while one part of her was ready to return home, another part of her didn’t want to leave her family. She wanted to sit and mourn her father until her heart did not feel so heavy inside of her, but she realized she did not have that luxury. She felt a certain emptiness, as though the process was unfinished, and she wondered if returning home to her family would make the loss of her father more real. Staying in Jerusalem for the entire shivah had added a surreal quality to the rituals of mourning, and she had no idea how she would feel in real life. Spending the time with her mother and sisters had been eye-opening. She hoped they would maintain the warmer relationship they had developed during their time together.
Mrs. Barkoff took her time getting ready to start her day. She too was reluctant to break up the safety net of family that had protected her until now from the worst of the shock. She was considering this when Rena leaned her head inside the room.
“I’m sorry to disturb you, Ma,” she said. “But my friend Mrs. Asoulin is here. She said she needs to talk to you about something.”
“Oh?” said Mrs. Barkoff, certain it had to do with Rena’s meeting last night with her brother-in-law. “Did you tell her…?”
“Yes, I told her I wasn’t interested in continuing. He wasn’t either…”
“Okay. Tell her I’ll be right there.”
A few minutes later, Mrs. Barkoff emerged to find Mrs. Asoulin waiting for her. Mattel and Suri were davening and Rena had gone out to pick up some needed items.
“Hello, good morning Mrs. Asoulin,” she said. “Can I offer you a drink?”
“No, thank you. Rena has served me,” she said, holding up a cup of coffee. “I have a big problem,” she continued. “And I need your help.”
“Mrs. Asoulin, if this is about the house, you have nothing to worry about. It will be quite a while before I make any firm plans, and I will keep you informed of everything.”
“No, no, it has nothing to do with the house.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “It has to do with my brother-in-law, Yedidya Asoulin.”
Mrs. Barkoff’s face reflected her confusion. “He really does want to meet Rena again?” she asked.
“No.” The pain on her face was obvious. “He wants to meet with your other daughter.”
“My other daughter? Which other daughter?” It was indeed an absurd response, and one that Mrs. Barkoff felt ashamed of later on, when she reflected back on it. She had been, for so many years, wrapped up in Rena’s search for a husband that she hadn’t considered the prospect of Suri remarrying.
“Suri, of course,” said Mrs. Asoulin patiently, understanding the older woman’s response.
“How does he know about her?” asked Mrs. Barkoff.
“We were expecting you yesterday afternoon, and Yedidya stopped by unexpectedly. When I pointed Rena out to him, Suri was there too, and he told me he believed Suri was his bashert.”
“That’s strange. How can he know such a thing?” asked Mrs. Barkoff, inexplicably annoyed.
“He feels comfortable because he knows all about the family. Intuition, chachmah, I don’t know. I am only here as his messenger. He would like to meet with Suri, if it is at all possible, and he asked me if I could arrange it. But I don’t even know her. Will you help?”
To be continued …