Recap: Libby is offered a job at a small school and part of the job involves subbing for a second-grade class that has already gone through three teachers.
“Dad said they’ll meet us at the restaurant at 12:30. Let’s go now.”
I was just putting on some lavender eyeshadow. I considered putting on mascara, but I realized that if I was rushed, it would smudge, so it wasn’t worth the risk.
“Coming,” I called from the bedroom. I was wearing a pleated skirt and a pink blouse with a jacket. I wanted to look put-together and professional for this lunch. I prayed that Avi’s parents would be understanding and not get upset. They just didn’t know anything about learning full time. Actually, they didn’t know anything about learning Torah. How would Avi explain that he wanted to do this full time?
I wanted to ask Avi about my teaching job offer, but now wasn’t the time. I could tell he was nervous, because he kept tapping his thumbs against the wheel.
We pulled up to the pizza store and parked.
“I’ll do the talking,” he said. “I just need you to show them that you are behind me. Can you do that for me, Libby?”
They were seated in the back. Luckily, the store was pretty empty.
Dad rose and hugged Avi.
We sat down across from them. “I ordered a pie and Mom ordered a big salad for all of us to share,” Dad said.
“Thank you.” Avi started tapping his thumb against the table.
“So?” Dad said. “What’s going on with the medical school bill?”
Avi cleared his throat.
Just then, the pizza man brought a big steamy pie to the table with plates and a knife.
“I’m going to wash.” Avi rose. I stood also and we headed to the back of the restaurant.
Avi whispered to me. “I don’t know if I can do this.”
“You can,” I said, wishing we’d gotten this over with already.
Avi said the brachah and I answered Amen. It was hard to bite into a piece of pizza when my stomach was in like 30 knots.
The man brought the salad in a big bowl, and Mom began dishing out servings of salad on plates.
Avi finished chewing his first bite of pizza. “Dad, Mom, I made a decision. I hope you won’t be angry at me.”
Dad’s shoulders stiffened and he put down the pizza slice he was eating.
“What kind of decision?”
“I want to take some time off from medical school. I want to devote more time to my Torah learning.”
Dad stared at Avi. Mom’s mouth turned down in a disapproving frown.
“Avi, you have to make a living. You are a married man,” Mom said.
“I know,” Avi said.
“So?” Dad’s voice rose. “You got into a top medical school. You were earning top grades. You could go into any specialty. Why would you put this on hold now? Are you well?”
Avi glanced towards me. I saw panic in his eyes.
“I’m fine,” Avi said.
“How long will this break be?” Dad asked.
Avi drummed his thumbs against the table.
My heart was pounding.
“Actually, it’s indefinite.”
Both his parents stared at him. Their silence was so loud it made me want to scream.
Finally, his mother spoke. Her voice was soft but angry. “We paid all that money for your education.”
“You can’t just throw that away.” Dad pushed his plate away.
I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know what to say.
No one was eating.
“Libby, are you going along with this decision?” Mom asked.
“You’re both foolish. We’ve been paying for your education and helping you with rent. So, you have no idea what it means to support yourselves. I think that this support will have to end if you follow this foolish decision.” Mom wiped away a tear.
“I understand. I don’t want to let you down. You’ve been wonderful and helped us so much,” Avi whispered,
Dad shook his head and laid some bills on the table. “This is for the lunch. Mom and I are not hungry anymore. I’m afraid the support is going to end, son.” He shook his head again as he and Mom rose and walked away from us.
Avi sat there staring after his parents.
I pushed aside the uneaten pizza.
What could I say? Had we done the wrong thing?
Avi covered his face with his hands.
“Avi,” I whispered. “I’m sorry.”
Avi headed towards the door. “I’m going back to Yeshivah. I want to talk to the Rosh Yeshivah.”
I watched him leave, with his shoulders slumped. I’d never seen my husband this sad. I wished there was something I could do. Then I realized what I needed to do.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), 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 Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).