Recap: Chezky and Shmuel are missing in the midst of the blizzard. A group of neighbors are searching the snow drifts with pitchforks. Aharon spots a pair of mittens and a hat on the snow. He pokes there and hears an ouch screamed out. The men dig and find Chezky and Shmuel in a snow fort underground. The boys are fine.
“How are you doing?” Ima brought me a tray with oatmeal and hot cocoa.
“Penina came over. Are you up to having a guest?”
“Ima, I’m not sick. Yes, tell her to come in, please.”
Penina rushed into the room and came over and hugged me.
“Oh, Shani, this whole thing is so, so crazy. I can’t believe it, and Ruty––”
“How is she?”
“Baruch Hashem, she’s all better.”
Penina’s eyes filled with tears. “I can’t believe it!” she whispered. “We almost lost her. It was a delicate operation but, baruch Hashem, she’s totally fine.”
“Is she back at your house now?”
Penina shook her head slowly. My parents begged her to come home but she refused.”
“She can’t be with those Alligator people.”
“No, she’s not, but she didn’t want to come home. I was hoping but…”
I told Penina about what I’d read in the journal. She seemed to understand that I didn’t want to talk about Gator or any of that horror I’d just been through.
“I want to invite you this Friday night to come for Shabbos dinner.”
It was the first time Penina had invited me to her house.
“I’ll ask my parents. I’d like to come.”
After she left, Aba called me into his study.
“I don’t know how I can ever apologize. I had no idea I was drawing my precious daughter into such danger.”
“Aba, everything is from Hashem. You taught me that.”
“I still didn’t even find the plant. We scoured so many fields where it should have been.”
“What’s the name of the plant?” I asked.
My heart pounded. “Aba, stay there. I have something to show you.”
I rushed into my room and grabbed the journal.
I brought into the room. My hand trembled as I turned the pages until I reached the page with the map.
“Aba, that’s where the fijji plant is growing.”
Aba studied the map. I pointed to the last few chapters of the journal and he read them without looking up from the page.
“Shani, this is incredible!”
He hugged me. “I have to call Avraham. We’ll send someone to Vermont right away with this. I’ll scan it into my computer. You said Ilana is using this journal?”
Friday afternoon, I headed to Penina’s house. When I stepped inside, there was a difference. The rooms were tidied, and the dining room was set with China.
I could smell delicious Shabbos food smells emanating from the kitchen.
“We baked challah. We haven’t done that in a long time,” Penina said.
“My mother was really hoping Ruty would come for Shabbos. Ruty loved my mom’s challah.” Penina sighed. “I was hoping she would come, but after the hospital she didn’t want to come home.
Penina’s mother came into the room and greeted me. “We’re so happy you could join us,” she said.
I helped Penina finish setting the table and then we cut up vegetables for a salad.
The house was all set ten minutes before candle lighting. Penina confided that her parents took on a special chumra to take on Shabbos ten minutes early.
Penina’s mother stood in front of the candles and lit them. They shone in the silver candelabra.
Penina handed me a siddur and we headed to the back porch to daven.
Just as she opened the screen door to the porch, there was a knock at the door.
Penina’s mother was still davening by the candles, so Penina rushed to the door. When she opened the door, she stood frozen.
Ruty stood at the threshold. Her thick hair was pulled back in a ponytail and I noticed all the extra pierced jewelry was gone. In her ears sparkled two small silver heart earrings. She wore a pink button-down long-sleeved blouse and a black pleated skirt.
The sisters stood staring at each other, and then Ruty stepped forward and opened her arms. They hugged and cried.
I felt a catch in my throat, watching them. Thank you, Hashem, I thought.
Later, after dinner, Ruty sat with her parents, and Penina walked me part way home.
We made a plan to get together after Shabbos to read the end of the journal.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber