Recap: Gloria Jacobson comes as a Shabbos guest. Dr. Laurent is also a Shabbos guest of the Cantors. A letter comes from Shimon Zev, asking Bayla and Mimi to try to use whatever influence they can to get help for the Jews in Europe.
The next day, the Cantors’ niece arrived at noon in a horse-drawn sleigh. She wore a floor-length, white mink coat. I was struck by her beauty. She had long, dark hair, and her emerald-color eyes were fringed with thick, dark lashes. The sleigh driver carried in a trunk. “Thank you, Mr. George,” she said. “I’ll see you next week.”
She looked about 18 or 19. Pondering her age made me realize with a start that I was turning 17 next October. How many birthdays had I missed now with my family?
When she was inside, she surveyed us. “Who are you?”
“I’m Bayla and this is my sister Mimi and our cousin Sophie.”
“You have accents. Where are you from?”
I felt like I was being grilled. “We were in Europe and needed to get away from the danger.”
“Yes, I hate this war.”
That I could agree with.
She glanced at our plain navy-blue skirts and white button-down blouses. She didn’t say anything, but her look seemed to say that those clothes are ugly and unfashionable. Well, they were, but there was nothing we could do about it. Our pretty clothes were back home in Europe.
She wore a fashionably blue silk dress with a peplum style bodice, and on her hands were long, white gloves. A blue matching ribbon was tied around her hair.
“Your dress is so pretty,” I said.
“Thank you.” She had a tired look in her eyes. “I don’t really know why I had to come here.”
Mrs. Cantor approached and kissed her forehead. “Eliana, we are so glad you are here. You met our boarders.”
I hated the way she referred to us as boarders. We were relatives, after all. I wanted to say that we’re second cousins first removed, but I didn’t dare disrespect her.
“Now come in the dining room. I want to discuss the shidduch with you.”
I stepped away to give them privacy. “I’m not going to go out with him unless you find out how old he is,” Eliana whined.
“He’s not any older than 24. I am sure of that.”
“I’m only 19.”
“Look, he’s a good shidduch. Your parents approved. You were sent here to meet him, and you have to make the best of it.”
I actually felt sorry for Eliana. It sounded like she was being forced to go out with someone she didn’t care to meet.
We were all three in the living room, darning socks and knitting scarves. Mrs. Cantor had told us the soldiers needed scarves for the war.
Eliana joined us. “It’s all so tiresome.”
“What?” Mimi asked.
“You’re too young to know about this,” she removed one dainty white patent shoe. ”Your parents pick someone for your shidduch, and without any say in the matter you have to ride for hours in a bumpy, smelly train and come to an out-of-the-way town to go out.”
“Where are you from?” I asked.
She removed her white lace gloves. “I’m from St. Louis. We live near the Mississippi River. It’s a beautiful town. There’s so much more there than in this little place.”
Her eyes shone when she spoke about her home.
“You must love living near the Mississippi.”
“I do. I love boats. I love everything about it. There’s always something to do there.”
“Cities do have a lot to offer,” Mimi said looking up from her darning.
“Do you have siblings?” I asked.
“I have a half-sister. She’s already married, and she lives in Chicago.”
Mrs. Cantor strode into the room. “He’ll be here at six. I’m told he’s prompt so you best go freshen up.”
Eliana groaned. “I’ll never be ready by then!” She hurried towards the guest room.
At six o’clock, just as the mantle clock gonged the hour, there was a knock on the front door. Mrs. Cantor told us to go to our room. We collected our sewing materials and scurried out of sight.
Sophie kept the door opened a crack.
We were all curious to see who Eliana was going out with.
“We’re acting like little sisters,” I said, as I craned my neck through the crack to see.
Mrs. Cantor opened the door, and in the doorway stood Dr. Laurent, looking flushed from the cold.
I pulled my head back in. Dr. Laurent! She was going out with Dr. Laurent. I felt my stomach clench, and I wished I didn’t feel the feeling I was feeling now. I kept telling myself everything is from Hashem. Everything is for the best. I was being so silly. I was almost 17 and he was 24. It was a huge age gap between us. Of course, he should marry Eliana. So, why, oh, why didn’t it feel like it was for the best?
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), 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). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.