Recap: Sabrina is crying for Marnie at night and Libby finds out that Marnie is Sabrina’s older sister. Libby agrees to meet Marnie.
The phone rang. I assumed it would be Mrs. Kahn with another question. It was Ruth Tilney from the Venice Flight School again.
“Hi, Mrs. Perlman. I apologize for calling you at home but it’s important. Did you give Mr. Boren the message I left last night?”
“Yes, I left it on his desk.”
“I don’t understand it. Those men showed up again for their lessons. Please call him to make sure he got my message.”
I was short on time now. Why couldn’t she call? Well, I said I would do it. I dialed the flight school number. Mr. Boren’s answering machine answered. I left a detailed message about Mrs. Tilney calling and that I had left him her message on his desk.”
Then I hurried into the car and headed for school.
I watched another dull lesson in the seventh-grade class. I really had to get a novel for them. After the lesson, Ms. Dellman met with me in the hallway. “Did you bring the novel?“
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I was supposed to bring it today. I forgot. I had some personal things going on.”
“No problem,” she said, but I could see the disappointment in her eyes.
“Please call me tonight to remind me. I have some really good books at home. I’ll bring some and you can help choose which will engage your students best.”
“Thank you. When will you start modeling the lessons?”
“Perhaps tomorrow or the latest Thursday.”
I entered the second-grade class, trying to be hopeful. “I have a really special book to read to you today.”
Michael was already up and running. Ralph raced after him. The girls watched me while I read. They seemed to like the story, at least the parts they could hear over the boys’ yelling and running and throwing down desks.
Finally, I found myself back in my car heading to the Ozer office. There was one split second when I wondered if Avi would want me to consult him about this, but then I recalled Sabrina sobbing at night calling for Marnie. She’d told me Marnie wasn’t her mother. Why hadn’t I believed her?
I only had an hour before I had to pick Sabrina up from her pre-school.
The office was the same. The gray walls, the fake flowers overflowing in a pot on a table with last years’ Mishpacha and Ami Magazines.
Mrs. Kahn ushered me into her office. A tall girl with sad eyes and dark silky hair stood next to Mrs. Kahn.
“This is Marnie,” Mrs. Kahn said, shooting me a smile.
“Nice to meet you, Marnie,” I said.
Marnie glanced towards me and quickly looked away. “Nice to meet you,” she whispered.
“You have a very sweet baby sister,” I said.
She glanced towards me again but again looked away.
“Where is Sabrina?” She was directing her question to Mrs. Kahn.
“As I told you, Marnie, the Perlmans graciously took her in and right now she is at her pre-school.”
“Would you like to come with me to pick her up?” I heard myself ask.
“Well, then, there are just some papers to sign and then Marnie can stay at your home with her sister. This is really an ideal situation.” Mrs. Kahn thrust the papers at me.
I swallowed. “Should I do this without asking Avi?” I was signing before I could change my mind.
Marnie had a knapsack on her back, and she pulled a small, worn-looking suitcase behind her.
“Good luck, blessings!” Mrs. Kahn called after us as we left.
In the car, Marnie sat stiffly in the back seat. I tried to think of something to say. “I hope you’ll like being with us,” I said.
She didn’t respond.
“Is there a food you and your sister really like? We can go shopping together after I pick her up.”
“Thank you. We like everything.”
She spoke softly, but I sensed that there was a lot of strength behind that soft voice.
She wasn’t going to let me know anything about her. Even her favorite food was a secret. Okay, take it slow, I told myself. There will be plenty of time.
As we pulled up to the pre-school, Marnie suddenly became more animated. “There, I see her playing with a bike. Over there.”
She was out of the car, and in no time she’d reached Sabrina. The two hugged and hugged. The teacher glanced towards me. I stood there waiting for Sabrina to notice me. “She had a wonderful day,” the teacher said to me. “Here is her project, and now what a wonderful surprise that you brought her sister. Is this a visit or will she be with you now?”
I didn’t like all the personal questions being thrown at me in public. A few other parents had gathered to pick up their children.
“Can we speak later?” I asked her.
The teacher shrugged and then helped Sabrina with her knapsack. Sabrina was holding onto Marnie’s hand and her eyes were sparkling.
“Hi, Sabrina, you got a good surprise today,” I said.
The sisters sat together in the back, holding hands, and Sabrina told Marnie all about school. I was half listening, but I felt my stomach clench as I thought about Avi coming home now and what he would think. Would he be angry? He didn’t like big decisions to be made without discussing them together. I knew that, but this was…this was something I had to do right away, I told myself. I had to and look how happy Sabrina was.
“So, Sabrina, what would you like for dinner?”
Sabrina laughed. “Marnie likes pizza.”
“Do you like pizza, Sabrina?”
That would be easy. We could stop by the pizza store on the way home. I’d make a big salad to go along with it.
We were all seated at the table – Marnie, Sabrina, and I. I gave the girls slices and cut-up cucumbers and tomatoes. I would wait until later to eat with Avi.
“Thank you so much,” Marnie said in her quiet way without looking at me.
“Yummy!” Sabrina had pulled some cheese off her slice and was sliding it in her mouth.
“That’s not polite,” Marnie said, and she moved her hand so the cheese went back onto the pizza. “You have to eat like a big girl.”
“It’s okay,” I said.
“No, it’s not. I don’t want her to get spoiled.”
How strange to be getting directions from an 11-year-old. For a second, I wondered if I’d made the wrong decision. Was Marnie going to tell me what to do?
I hadn’t bargained for that.
I glanced at the clock. It was almost six o’clock. Avi was due home in an hour. I tried not to let the nervous flutter in my stomach distract me. He wouldn’t get angry, I told myself.
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).