Recap: Penina invited herself over to Shoshana Rosa for a Shabbos visit. She arrived wearing a wrinkled, old-looking outfit. Shoshana introduces Penina to her best friend Aviva, who is dressed in an expensive outfit. Aviva surprises Shoshana Rosa when she embarrasses Penina. Aviva somehow knew that Penina’s sister Ruty wasn’t frum, and she purposely asked if Ruty comes home for Shabbos. Penina became flustered and said she had to leave. She then rushed out the door. Shoshana Rosa was very upset at this turn of events, and she raced outside to try to apologize to Penina..
Penina answered. She stood in the doorway with the door slightly ajar. “I’m sorry I left so abruptly.”
“Can I come in? I wanted to explain. Aviva didn’t mean––”
Penina shuffled her feet. I noticed her patent leather shoes were scuffed.
I heard yelling coming from inside the house.
She abruptly closed the door behind her. “Let’s go for a walk and talk,” she said.
I was out of breath from running but I agreed. I wanted to fix things between her and Aviva.
“Aviva is a nice girl. She didn’t’ mean to hurt your––”
Penina strode ahead and I hurried to catch up.
“Let’s go to the park,” She said.
We headed towards Woodlands Park.
“It’s okay. I shouldn’t have rushed out like that.”
“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” she said.
We reached the park and Penina started running. “Come on. Let’s go to the duck pond.”
I followed her. I spotted a bench near the pond and bee-lined towards it.
“Let’s walk around the pond,” Penina said.
“I just want to rest a minute.” I plunked down on the bench.
“I love coming here,” Penina said. “I bring bread to feed the ducks during the week. It’s so peaceful. I love looking for turtles in the water. They pop their heads out every once in a while.”
I was still trying to catch my breath.
“Ready?” she asked.
I rose quickly and then plunked back down. Suddenly everything around me was turning black. I knew that feeling. I didn’t want to faint. Not here – not now. I put my head between my knees.
“What’s wrong?” Penina was by my side.
I breathed deeply and, baruch Hashem, the black went away. I lifted my head slowly. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just got up too quickly.”
“Do you need a drink? There’s a water fountain.”
“No, I wouldn’t drink from there. Too many germs.”
“Sure you’re okay?” she asked. She was sitting beside me. “You looked so pale for a minute.”
“I’m fine,” I said.
I gazed at the lake. Sunlight sparkled on the surface. A swan floated by.
“I’m reading a cool historical fiction book right now,” she said. “It’s called Secrets in Disguise. Did you read it?”
I shook my head.
“I’ll lend it to you when I’m done. You said you like to write. I think you’d like the writing.
“Thanks. Hey, I just thought of something. You like historical fiction. My cousin Ilana writes historical fiction. She has a serial in Balabusta Magazine and she just put out a book. Do you want to meet her?”
“A real writer! Yeah, that would be great. Where does she live?”
“A block from my house.”
Ilana lived upstairs in a two-family house. There were two pink rose bushes in front. I knocked and we waited.
We heard footsteps and Ilana appeared wearing a pretty pink headscarf. “Shani. What a nice surprise and you brought a friend! Great!”
She ushered us in. The room was neat but comfy with a beige L-couch and a glass coffee table with some s’farim and a few Jewish magazines on it.
“I’m so glad you came now. I was just thinking about something and I would love your opinion. What’s your name?” She turned back towards Penina.” Before Penina had a chance to answer she said, “I’m bringing you guys some watermelon and some pineapple ices. I made them for Shabbos and if I do say so myself, they came out amazing.”
“Uh, do they have sugar?” I asked.
“No, just fruit juice,” she called from the kitchen.
“That sounds great,” I said plopping onto the couch. Penina joined me. I pointed to a book on the shelf. “That’s Ilana’s novel. Isn’t it cool that she wrote it?”
Penina went over and pulled it off the shelf. “Whoa, that’s so cool. I want to read it.”
“I have a copy at home. I’ll lend it to you.”
Ilana returned with a tray with cups of ice water and two plates with watermelon. “I’ll get the ices in a minute. And your friend can borrow my book. I have six more copies in my bedroom.”
“Where’s Shlomo?” I asked.
“He’s taking a nap.”
“Oh, I hope we didn’t wake you.”
“I wasn’t taking a nap. I was dreaming about a story I plan to write and I’m so glad you both came to visit. What’s your name again?”
“Penina Katz,” Penina said.
Just then, Bessie, Ilana’s golden retriever, bounded into the room.
“Bessie, you scared our guest.” Ilana led the dog back to the kitchen.
“Sorry,” Penina whispered. “I shouldn’t have screamed. “I’m just petrified of dogs.”
“I’m sorry,” Ilana said. “Bessie will stay in the kitchen.
I’ve been reading this diary. It’s absolutely amazing. My mother brought it when she visited last week. She found it in her parents’ attic when she was cleaning up their house to sell it. Anyway, it’s the diary of her great-grandfather.” She turned to Penina. “Shani and I are first cousins, and we share the same great-grandfather.”
“Can we see it?”
“Yes, I want you to read it, because I need your opinion about which way my story should go.”
She left the room and returned with a heavy old-looking book. She handed it to me.
“You two can start reading it right now.”
I took a sip of ice water and opened the diary.
To be continued…