Rena and Yedidye meet once, but decide not to meet again. Mattel prepares to return to America. Mrs. Barkoff tells Rena that she is going to make plans to live in the house in Jerusalem. Mrs. Asoulin asks Mrs. Barkoff to help her arrange a meeting between Yedidye and Suri.
* * *
A thousand thoughts tumbled through Mrs. Barkoff’s mind. How dare this fellow play one sister against the other! I won’t allow it. But how can I deprive Suri of this opportunity? But she could never relocate here … Still, why not? Her sons are still young.
But the thorn niggling inside her that trumped all the others was her feeling that Suri should not remarry while Rena had not even married once. It seemed terribly unfair.
Mrs. Asoulin was looking at her calmly, waiting for a reply, seeming to understand her need to process the strange request.
“Can I think about it and let you know?” said Mrs. Barkoff.
“You can, but aren’t you all leaving very soon? Today?” asked Mrs. Asoulin.
“That’s just it. I will have to speak with Suri and find out what her plans are. I can phone you in a little while. If it works out, they can meet today, I suppose. But I think it will hurt Rena’s feelings terribly.”
Mrs. Asoulin nodded. “Maybe, but I don’t think so. She really did not like him, to my great regret. I had high hopes, but it is not I who is m’zaveg zivugim. We must rely on the One Above for that.”
“It will require the wisdom of Shlomo to work this out so nobody is hurt,” said Mrs. Barkoff. “And I don’t know if I have the strength for this right now.”
“I understand,” said Mrs. Asoulin. “Still, it is just as good for Suri to be married as it is for Rena.”
“She has two children,” said Mrs. Barkoff. “Boys.”
“All the more so,” said Mrs. Asoulin. “Boys need a father.”
“They have a father,” said Mrs. Barkoff.
Mrs. Asoulin stood up. “Mrs. Barkoff, I understand that you are weary and sad from the loss of your husband. I am only trying to be a good messenger. If you can’t deal with this, I understand. But if you can find the strength for it, then please try to help me. That is all I can ask of you. I will look forward to hearing from you.” Before Mrs. Barkoff could say another word, Mrs. Asoulin bent over and kissed her on both cheeks. And then she was gone.
Mrs. Barkoff held her face in both her hands, as though by doing so she would keep her thoughts from escaping. She begged Hashem to guide her and after a while, a slim tendril of resolve enveloped her.
She waited until Suri was finished davening, and called her into one of the back rooms. She gently explained the situation and asked Suri what she thought of it. She was surprised at the flush of pleasure that suffused Suri’s features, and realized suddenly how oblivious she had been to Suri’s loneliness.
“I would love to meet with him,” said Suri. “From what I heard, he sounds like exactly what I am looking for in a husband and a father for the boys.”
“But what about Rena?” asked Mrs. Barkoff.
“I agree that it’s awkward,” said Suri. “But I can’t deny myself this opportunity simply because Rena turned him down. That was her choice.”
“Are you serious?” asked Mrs. Barkoff. “Since when did you become so … so … so unsympathetic?”
“Mommy, with all due respect, I am entitled to be happy.” Mrs. Barkoff felt like she was looking at a person whom she did not recognize. “I have struggled terribly these past few years. I would like to have a family again,” Suri said defensively.
“You have a family,” her mother said sharply. “You have the boys.”
Suri didn’t reply, but her face spoke volumes. “If you want me to, I will speak to Mrs. Asoulin directly. I will speak with Rena also.”
“No! I’ll speak to Rena.”
They sat mutely, staring at each other, both of them surprised and wounded by the disturbing encounter.
“I’m sorry Mommy, but I’m going to do this.”
“I said it was fine,” Mrs. Barkoff repeated. “I just have to tell Rena.”
“No, you don’t.” The voice was coming from the doorway. “I’ve heard everything I need to know.”
“Rena!” Mrs. Barkoff was mortified at being overheard. “Rena, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine, Ma. I’m a big girl. Suri is right. It was my choice. I said I didn’t want to continue seeing him. I can’t expect someone else not to meet him.”
“Rena …” Suri was on her feet, moving towards her sister.
“I’m not quite ready to talk about this, if you don’t mind,” said Rena, calm and stony. “Let’s talk later.”
“Please, Rena. Don’t do this.” But she was speaking to her sister’s back, and then she was speaking to the door being quietly closed behind it.
“I don’t know what to do for her,” said Mrs. Barkoff as the door closed.
“You could have prevented this.”
“It’s not a matter of preventing something. It’s a matter of being able to serve Hashem in the best way. I think that Rena will get over this.”
“Maybe,” her mother replied. “And maybe not.”
“We don’t know, Ma. But what I do know is that I have to build a life for myself and the boys.”
Suri opened the door to leave the room, only to walk into Mattel. “What’s going on?” she asked. “Why is everyone so upset?”
“Don’t ask,” said Suri. “Just be grateful.”
“I am. But for what?”
She looked at her younger sister and for the first time felt envious. “For everything, Mattel. For every single thing.”
To be continued …