Recap: Yishai returned home without convincing his brother Ezra not to get involved with Aaron Burr. Ezra, Miriam, and Dovid come for a visit and all goes well until the subject of Aaron Burr comes up. Ezra refuses to listen, even when his father reads him articles from the paper stating that Aaron Burr is involved in something treasonous.
My phone rang. It was Tema.
“How’s it going?”
“Baruch Hashem. Do you really want to know?”
“Well yeah. I asked.”
I said, “It’s horrible. I hate it here.”
“Whoa. What’s wrong? You were okay last time we spoke.”
“Well, I’m not now. I think I want to come and board by you. Is it possible?”
“Yes, of course. But tell me what’s going on.”
I told her about Chevi and being left out and how I shouldn’t have answered the math problem. “She hates me now. I don’t know what to do.”
“Hudi, we never know what’s going on with someone else. My mother always tells me that. She says if someone isn’t acting right, it could be there are issues going on in her family. We have to give the benefit of the doubt.”
I wasn’t sure I could do that. Then I told her about the baby story thing, and how there are no baby stories or photos and I need them for the yearbook here.
“We’ve talked about this, Hudi. You know what you have to do about it. Are you ready to ask your father?”
“I get ready and then I get scared. I’m scared of what he’s going to tell me.”
“Do you want to know?”
“Part of me does and part of me doesn’t. Do you know what I mean?”
“When I’m in a situation like that, I ask Hashem for help. I daven for Him to partner with me.”
“I will. It’s just…can you imagine if…well, if I’m not his daughter.” I said the words and my stomach started roiling. “I feel sick saying it.”
“Hudi, I will daven for you too. You have to ask him. It’s the only way you’ll gain peace of mind. Just remember, whatever his answer, Hashem is behind everything and its all for the best.”
“I want to remember that, but right now it doesn’t feel like anything is for the best.”
We hung up.
I knew I was going to face my secret fear now. I had to ask Father. It was long enough not knowing. Tonight would be a perfect opportunity. He was going to take me along to the college so he would finish up some work and then we’d go out for pizza in West Virginia.
It was in the car that I asked the first scary question.
“Aba, there’s something I need to ask you.”
He glanced at me and then back at the road. “Is everything okay? You look so serious.”
“Aba, there are no baby pictures of me and no baby stories. I don’t look at all like Ima or you.”
“Must be my beard,” he joked.
“Am I adopted?”
There was a beat and then Aba pulled the car over to the side of the road. He didn’t look at me. He was like frozen, facing the steering wheel.
“Did someone tell you that?”
“No, I just wondered…”
“I—I can’t tell you. I promised.”
“Aba, please. I need to know. Please tell me the truth. I want to know the truth.” Even as I said it, I felt my stomach churning and I wasn’t sure if I meant it.
He turned towards me. “You are my precious beautiful baby daughter. You will always be my daughter.”
I waited. My heart was pounding.
“I promised your mother on her deathbed. She didn’t want you to be distressed – to feel different.”
“So, don’t break the promise. I’ll just say it and then I’ll know. I’m adopted. I was adopted. Was I three? It must be because all the photos start at age three.”
Aba turned off the car. “Please, Hudi. We love you. Your mother and I. She wanted to be here in this world with you. She was so crazy over you when you came to us – and me, too. You were the answer to our prayers.”
Tears streamed down my cheeks and I didn’t do anything to stop them. “Why didn’t – why couldn’t you tell me?” I whispered.
“I wanted to tell you, but your mother was so ill and I tried to do what she wanted. I see it was wrong, but then it felt like the only thing I could do.”
Aba was crying. “Please forgive us, Hudi. Please.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), 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. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).