Recap: Bayla is traveling with her brother on a train to Paris to visit her cousin Sophie who was in an accident and needs cheering up and encouragement
I watched the countryside flying by for a while, until the sun had set on another day of travel. “ I really don’t want to go,” I told my brother.
“I know, but it’s kibud av va’eim.”
It suddenly occurred to me that maybe he didn’t want to go either. “You had to leave yeshivah to take me.”
“I wanted to help Tante Aimee. Besides, my chavrusa is leaving for Palestine this week. I will just look for a good person to learn with in yeshivah in Paris.” He sighed. “I really want to go to the Chevron Yeshivah. It’s my dream.”
“I hope one day then that you will be able to go.”
He nodded. “Amein.”
“I haven’t seen Sophie in years. How will I influence her or make her happy?”
“You have to try to be her friend. She’s lonely and scared. She needs a friend.”
“I wish Mimi had gone. She’s good at understanding people much better than me.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. You have to ask Hashem for help and do your best. Hashem will help.”
“What do I say to her?”
“What do you say to your other friends? You’re always talking to Ella.”
“But I know her.”
“You’ll see. It will be fine.”
The train finally stopped in Paris with a loud screech, and then passengers began lining up to disembark. I let others go ahead. I was not in any rush.
We stepped onto the platform. Shimon Zev was carrying our luggage and the food cooler Mama had packed for our trip. I carried my new hat with the pale blue ribbon and a bag with my books and the pink notebook from Papa.
Shimon Zev spotted Feter Dan first. He was a tall man with dark hair and a dark beard. He had warm, brown eyes and wire-rimmed spectacles. He didn’t smile but he waved at us.
“Bienvenue!” he said. He shook Shimon Zev’s hand. “Merci d’être venu.”
I had been brushing up a bit on my French. Shimon Zev knew French from all his study of Rashi. A chauffeur pulled up. He got out of the large car and opened the door for us. I glanced at Shimon Zev. Whoa, a real chauffeur was driving us!
Feter Dan motioned us to enter the car. He stepped into the front.
“Alfred, these are our guests Mr. and Miss Karmel.”
Alfred nodded his head slightly. He wore a hat and a chauffeur’s uniform complete with brass buttons. There was a long silence and then Feter Dan attempted to draw us into conversation. Feter Dan lapsed into Yiddish on the car ride. “There’s Notre Dame, and soon you’ll see Le Tour Eiffel.”
The city was beautiful in the early morning light. He pointed out the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. He asked about our trip and our family. There was silence again. We both gazed out the window at Paris.
Soon we drove down a long private drive leading to a mansion. I gazed at the many windows and turrets and the immense size of the house. There was an immaculate garden with a profusion of colorful tulips in front. Alfred opened the doors for us again. He took our suitcases and we followed Feter Dan up to the imposing front door with its massive gold doorknob.
A man in a butler uniform answered. I felt like we were visiting dignitaries. I hadn’t realized how extremely wealthy Papa’s half-sister was. The butler ushered us in. He took Feter Dan’s hat. A maid with a pretty white bonnet and apron stepped towards us. Just then, Tante Aimee strolled into the room. “Bayla!” she gave me a huge hug. “Shimon Zev. Both of you. Thank you so much for coming.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I am so grateful that you came.”
“Thank you for having us,” I said.
“Nanette will show you to your rooms and you can freshen up before dinner. I’m sorry Sophia isn’t here to greet you. She’s resting now. She will be so happy you’ve come.”
“I’m going to be staying at the yeshivah, Tante Aimee,” Shimon Zev said.
“Yes, but while you’re here you should rest and freshen up. We are so happy you could come.”
Shimon Zev asked Feter Dan about Minchah and he told him when it was and that they would go together to the shul.
The guest room had a large canopy bed covered by a beautiful handmade quilt with a floral pastel print. There was a fireplace and a make-up table and a large picture window overlooking a beautiful garden. I felt like a princess in this room. There was even a huge walk-in closet. I unpacked my suitcase. The skirts and blouse and two dresses I brought took up very little space in the huge closet. There was a pretty lamp with a china shade. The designs on the shade were royal blue like a china tea set.
Nanette stood in the doorway. “Do you need help dressing for dinner?”
“No, thank you.” I couldn’t imagine having someone help me dress. This lifestyle here was so foreign.
I changed into a fresh navy pleated skirt and white button-down blouse. I brushed my hair till it shone golden and tied it back with a navy-blue ribbon.
When I entered the main living room, I discovered that Shimon Zev had left for Minchah. I sat on a fluffy beige couch. I gazed around the room. There was a high ceiling and a huge crystal chandelier. The book shelves were packed with s’farim. I noticed a tall book on the bottom shelf. It was some sort of atlas. I pulled it out and began studying all the maps and pictures of faraway places. I was so engrossed that I didn’t hear my aunt and cousin until they were right next to me.
“Sophia, here is your cousin. She came all the way from Warsaw to visit us.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.