Recap: Penina comes to sleep over, since Shoshana’s mother had to go away. Someone is knocking on the door. They don’t stop so Penina calls Ilana and her husband comes to get the girls. The man knocking sees his car and he runs away. They go to sleep over at Ilana’s house. Ilana gives them the journal to read to distract them from being scared.
The wind shrieked and howled, and then a huge wave of ice and snow avalanched towards us. We tried to go to the train station to find out if Chaya Faigy’s train was coming, but trudging through the deep, windblown snow in this storm was impossible.
Uncle Nathan grabbed my hand. “Run, Aharon!”
We raced against the wind. Ice needles pricked our faces. I had to hold my arm over my face and let Uncle Nathan lead me.
I could hear the avalanche following us like a great white monster. My whole body was trembling. “Keep going. Don’t stop.” Uncle Nathan was fighting the wind. We ducked against it, willing ourselves to keep moving. A three-minute walk felt like miles.
I thought of Chaya Faigy. No, she had to be stopped in a warm place, waiting this out. She had to be.
I kept moving. My feet were numb, and I couldn’t take a breath. The air was ice. Somehow, we reached the front door to the house, and we stumbled into the house. Aunt Mimi was there with hot water bottles, and she quickly slammed the door shut. When we looked out the window, all we saw was white. The whole world was covered by the white howling monster.
“Go sit by the fire.”
Uncle Nathan was breathing heavily. He sank onto the nearest wood chair. I trudged over to the fire to defrost. I rubbed my hands together to try to get the feeling back into them. My thick woolen gloves were no match for that storm.
“It’s a white hurricane,” Uncle Nathan gasped.
“I have tea brewing for you. You need to get those wet boots and socks off, both of you.”
I removed the boots. My socks were frozen to my feet.
Aunt Mimi brought molasses to help me remove them. It was while I was pouring the molasses on my frozen foot that Uncle Nathan suddenly groaned and clutched at his left side.
“What’s wrong?” Aunt Mimi rushed to his side.
“I can’t breathe. Mimi, I can’t breathe.”
My stomach clenched.
“I just need to rest.” Uncle Nathan gasped through gritted teeth.
Aunt Mimi was pale with worry. I began saying T’hilim by heart.
Aunt Mimi turned to me. “Aharon, do something please. Help him with the pain.
I had no idea what to do. Why was everyone turning to me? I felt so bad. Chezky and Shmuel were playing in the other room, oblivious to what was going on.
There was another doctor a mile away. “Should I go get Dr. Donaldson?”
“No, you should not go out in this,” Uncle Nathan’s voice was hoarse but authoritative.
Aunt Mimi was wringing her hands.
“What should we do?” I asked.
“Daven, wait. It will pass,” my uncle whispered.
The mantel clock over the fireplace ticked the minutes.
Aunt Mimi hovered over her husband. Ilan and I sat on the couch nearby. We both recited T’hilim silently.
“Please, Hashem,” I prayed. “Please heal my uncle. So many people depend on him. Please bring him a r’fuah sh’leimah.”
Slowly, slowly, the color returned to Uncle Nathan’s cheeks. He sat up. “I’m okay. It passed.”
“Nathan, what’s wrong?” Aunt Mimi’s eyes were wide. “You’re a doctor. You know what it is.”
“It’s a pain. I’ve had it before. I will be fine. I just need to rest.”
My uncle followed my aunt out of the room.
“That was scary,” Ilan said.
The wind was shrieking, and we heard trees crashing.
“I’m glad Nathan is okay,” Ilan said.
I wasn’t sure if my uncle really was okay. This was the third time I’d seen him doubled over in pain. Something was wrong. I knew enough from my training with my uncle that a pain in the chest on the left side could be your heart.
Ilan began pacing the floor. “I’m so worried about my kallah.”
“They wouldn’t run the trains in this weather. They can’t.” I tried to reassure him.
“I know, but what if the train left before. It wasn’t predicted, this storm.”
Ilan’s words made sense, but I tried to brush them away.
“No, no, they wouldn’t have left the station. I’m sure not.”
Just then, there was a loud knocking at the door.
Mr. McDonaldson, my grandmother’s neighbor, was standing in the doorway. He looked like a snowman. His whole body was covered in snow.
“Come in, sir,” I said.
“Please get your uncle. Train’s tipped. We need strong men to upright it.”
Aunt Mimi came out and closed the door behind her.
“We need Nat and maybe this young man here.” He pointed at Ilan.
He told her about the train.
“I’ll come, too,” I said.
“Yes, I hate to send you, Aharon, but Uncle Nathan has to rest. I’m sorry, sir, but my husband’s not well. Aharon and Ilan will go with you.”
Ilan was already pulling on his coat and boots.
His unspoken question was reflected in the worried look in his eyes. An overturned train. It could be the one Chaya Faigy was traveling on.
We hurried into the blustery storm. I closed my eyes against the icy pelting wind. It was hard to breathe. I tried to take quick breaths into my scarf.
We plodded through knee-deep drifts. I had to squint against the slashing snow, consciously lifting one foot and then the other. I prayed. “Hashem, please help us get there, and please let Chaya Faigy be safe and well…and all the people on the train.” It felt like hours until we reached the train tracks, where there was a train lying belly-up like a beached whale.
Mr. MacDonaldson motioned us to join the other men who were grunting and pushing to right the train.
“Where are the passengers?” Ilan tried asking one of the men.
“They left a while ago. I believe they went on foot towards cover. Let’s pray they made it.”
I felt a sinking feeling inside and asked Hashem to protect them – and Chaya Faigy, if she was on this train.
We finally righted the train, and then we started back towards home. Ilan froze a few feet from the train. He bent down and lifted a hat with a red feather.
He came over to me and whispered in my ear. “This is her hat. The one she told me about. I can’t leave. I have to find her.”
I whispered back into his ear. She’s not out here. No one could survive this. She’s left for shelter.”
“I’m going to look for her.”
I didn’t know what to do. I wished Uncle Nathan was here to talk sense into Ilan. He was determined, and I was so cold I couldn’t stand here arguing.
The train station was nearby. Ilan pointed to it. “When I need to, I’ll go in there to warm up. I have to look for her.”
I shrugged and trudged back towards home alone.
When I reached home, Uncle Nathan was seated at the table with Aunt Mimi. They were drinking hot cider and there was a happy expression on their faces. Chezky and Shmuel were sitting near the fire, playing with a card game.
“Where’s Ilan?” Aunt Mimi asked.
“He wouldn’t come back. He found a hat that he thinks belongs to Chaya Faigy and he stayed by the train station to search for her.”
Aunt Mimi’s hand flew to her mouth. “He’ll freeze. How could he find her in this?”
Uncle Nathan shook his head slowly. “Foolish. You couldn’t convince him to come back?”
A wave of guilt swept over me. “I tried, Uncle. He wouldn’t listen. He’s sure she was on that train.”
“I pray she wasn’t,” Aunt Mimi sighed.
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
It was a neighbor of Aunt Mimi’s parents.”
“Dr. Nathan, your father-in-law took ill. I think you best come.”
Aunt Mimi and Uncle Nathan had a whispered conversation.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber