Suri and Yedidye meet. Suri is deeply impressed by his refined character, and Yedidye tells Suri to be in touch with the shadchanit.
* * *
In the end, Mrs. Asoulin walked home beside Suri, and Rabbi Asoulin walked a few feet ahead.
“And?” asked Mrs. Asoulin. “What did you think?”
Suri could barely keep the smile from taking over her entire face. “Let’s just say I’m interested.”
“Wonderful,” Mrs. Asoulin replied. “Very good.”
“Why hasn’t he married until now, though?” said Suri. “I didn’t want to ask him directly, but it is unusual, isn’t it?”
“Nobody knows,” said Mrs. Asoulin. “He will only meet with those he thinks are truly suitable, which have not been that many. And of those, there were always complications.
“I don’t know too much, only about those meetings I have been involved with myself. The three women besides yourself and Rena whom I have introduced him to all wanted to marry him. But he seems to be looking for some quality that he can’t articulate and hasn’t been able find.”
“Why me, then, I wonder?” said Suri. “I can’t imagine I have something that no one else has, especially my sister Rena.”
“I don’t know. I’m sure you are a lovely person, Suri, but the whole thing was strange. From what I understand from my husband, when Yedidye spoke to his Rav about your sister, the Rav asked him about her family. When he mentioned the divorced sister, the Rav asked for her name and some other details. He phoned me from the meeting, and I told him the little I knew.
“Then, when you were standing in the courtyard yesterday, he noticed another person and his eyes lit up when he heard who you were.”
“Look,” said Suri, “I’m a plain girl. I don’t know anything about all that mystical stuff.”
“He doesn’t need a chavrusa, Suri,” said Mrs. Asoulin, in her straightforward way. “He needs a wife.”
“Well, I do come with my own special set of complications,” Suri continued. “I do live in another country. I do have two children whom I would need to relocate if things worked out between us.”
“I would consider that a technical difficulty, as opposed to a ‘deal-breaker,’ as you Americans call it.” Pronouncing it in her French accent, Suri could hear the absurdity of the expression much more vividly.
“Perhaps,” she replied. “Perhaps not. I don’t know.”
She was struck by the irony of it all. All these years, Leib had stayed well out of sight of the boys and out of their lives. Had she met Yedidye at any other time, she could have whisked them away from Leib without a word of protest from anyone, except, perhaps, Bubby Weinbach.
Would it be fair, she wondered, to snatch them away from their newfound relationship with their father? Or was Leib merely enjoying them because they were right there, only to disappear on them again later, when it would hurt them so much more? The tender hearts of her precious sons were far more than a “technical difficulty.” But was their potential disappointment enough of a deterrent to prevent her from moving on with her life?
The two women stopped in front of Suri’s temporary dwelling, while Suri was still deep in thought. “So I should tell him your response is positive?” asked Mrs. Asoulin.
“Positive with some question marks,” Suri replied.
“And you’ll meet him again tomorrow?” Mrs. Asoulin persisted.
“I suppose. I don’t know how much longer I can remain here. My children are waiting for me back home.”
“I understand. It’s tricky, but as I said, such mountains can be climbed.”
“I hope so. Good night, Mrs. Asoulin, and thank you so much.”
* * *
“She liked him,” Mrs. Asoulin said to her husband, retracing her steps to where he was standing and waiting for her.
“Of course,” said Rabbi Asoulin. “The question is how he feels.”
“It’s just so strange. Why her, with all of her packages, over her sister Rena?”
“This is why the One Above is mezaveg zivugim, and not us,” Rabbi Asoulin replied. “It doesn’t work by logic or human understanding. It is something so much higher.”
“And that’s how you explain our marriage as well?” she asked.
“Oh, yes,” he replied, laughing. “Only Hakadosh Baruch Hu could have gotten us to agree to even meet, let alone marry.”
“We have been through a lot together,” Mrs. Asoulin mused.
“And yet there has also been joy,” he said.
“Yes,” she agreed. “So much joy.”
* * *
Suri didn’t know what to expect when she opened the door to the apartment — her mother sitting angrily waiting for her to return, a disapproving and resentful Rena sending daggers her way — but the last thing she expected was to enter a dark, empty room with no one waiting for her.
Mattel had departed earlier, with a tearful and prolonged goodbye, and her mother and Rena were not even home. They had probably stepped out to eat or take a walk. Suri felt a flurry of anger drift up into her throat, as well as a hard knot of resolve. If I have to do this by myself, then I will, she told herself firmly.
She fell asleep before Mrs. Barkoff and Rena returned home, but awoke some time in the middle of the night with a strange feeling tickling at her. She didn’t recognize it at first because it had been so long since she’d felt it, and it took a few moments for her to identify what it was. For the first time in so long, she felt content.
To be continued …