Recap: Sophie sees someone in shul and demands to be taken home.
The rest of the walk home, Sophie was quiet. I noticed she was brushing away tears. I felt so bad for her, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Seeing that girl in shul had upset her so much. Why?
Where do you want me to push you?” I asked.
“Let’s go to the garden. They won’t be home for a long time.”
“I’ll get my siddur,” I said and tell me where yours is.”
Sophie whispered, “Thank you. We can daven in the garden and then talk.”
After we davened, Sophie pointed to a little rabbit that was frozen a few feet away. She put her finger to her lips.
It was cute, but I didn’t want it to come any closer.
A noise from outside the gate startled it and it darted away. “What’s your favorite subject in school?” Sophie asked.
“I guess it’s when we read stories and discuss them. I love to read, and I also like to make up stories.”
“I love math,” she said. “The harder the problem, the better. My father was showing me how to do trigonometry. This year in school, we have the best math teacher.” She stopped and a sad look like a shadow passed over her face. “I don’t think I’ll be in school this year.”
“Math was never my thing.” I wanted to distract her.
“I guess we cousins are different,” she said. “How did you learn French?”
“My mother taught me since I was little, and we had classes in school, but my French isn’t so good.”
“C’est tres bien.” She laughed. “Do you want me to teach you more French?”
“That would be great.”
“So, let’s see. How about we do it with ballet steps.”
“I don’t know ballet.”
“I’ll explain.” Sophie’s smile returned.
“Je commence. I begin.” She said you have to put your feet together in a wide “V.”
I held my breath. Would she show me with her feet? Perched on the edge of her wheelchair, she moved her feet into first position. I wanted to cheer.
“Next is plie.” She said, “You bend your knees and raise your arm.”
Sophie demonstrated with her arm. She showed me second and third and fourth and fifth position and she moved her feet for all of them. If only Mademoiselle Marie were here.
“Why don’t you do it for your dance lessons?”
“Because right now this is hurting so much. I’m not so brave about pain.”
“But Sophie, if you work through the pain, you’ll ––”
She interrupted me. “Let’s get back to your lesson. Bon nuit is good night. Bon soir is good evening.”
Just then, Shimon Zev appeared. “Everyone is back. They’re waiting for you to come in for Kiddush.
After the meal, Sophie and I played some games. She said she was tired. So, we each headed to our rooms to rest. I wasn’t really tired.
I never napped on Shabbos. Usually Ella came over and we played and talked on Shabbos afternoon or took a stroll by the river. Sometimes we brought Fraidy and one of her little brothers with us, so our parents could rest. I thought of Ella. Where was she now? Had her family gone to America? Then I started thinking of Mama and Papa, and Mimi and Fraidy, and my heart was hurting me from missing them. It was like this empty space inside was growing wider.
At s’udah sh’lishis, as Nanette was serving smoked fish and salad, Sophie leaned towards me. “I love having you here. It makes me so happy. Please can you stay until the end of the summer? It’s just another week and a half.”
I’d just been thinking I only had four more days till I was on my way home.
“Thanks, Sophie. I’m so glad I came, but I don’t know…”
Tante Aimee interrupted. “We’ll speak about it later. Don’t pressure your cousin, Sophie.”
Sophie sighed. The sad look crossed her face again and I felt bad that I was the cause.
Havdalah was beautiful. Feter Dan recited it in the garden, and the whole garden glowed in the moonlight. I thought how amazing it is that wherever you go, Jewish people all say the same prayers and perform the same mitzvos.
“Would you like to call home tonight?” Tante Aimee asked.
“Yes, please. That would be wonderful.” I was so surprised at this special offer.
“Don’t talk too long,” Shimon Zev whispered to me. Long distance was probably a fortune.
When I heard Mama’s voice on the other end, I felt a tightness in my throat. “How are you, meidele?”
“Baruch Hashem, everything is good.”
“I am so glad you’re having a good time.”
“Ask about staying longer,” Sophie called from the couch.
Mimi got on for a minute and then Mama came back on.
“Sweetheart, I think you should stay a little longer.”
“Why?” I couldn’t say I wanted to come home. Sophie and Tante Aimee would hear me.
“Well, it looks like there may be some trouble here and I’d rather know you are safe there until the danger passes over.”
Mama was talking about Germany attacking. I could tell by the tone in her voice.
So, Sophie was going to get her wish. I had no idea, then, how long Sophie’s wish would expand into how many days and weeks and months.
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.