Recap: The flight school’s Mrs. Tilney calls. She’s upset that the rude men are still coming for flight lessons, and she calls Libby to ask if Mr. Boren got her message. Libby decides to bring Sabrina’s sister home, and she worries because she hasn’t told Avi about this major decision.
It was bath time and I offered to give Sabrina a bubble bath.
“I want Marnie to give me a bath,” Sabrina’s sweet voice interrupted my musings.
I handed Marnie the bubble bath bottle and a towel. I tried to hide my disappointment. I’d been looking forward to giving Sabrina a bath.
Just then the phone rang. “Mrs. Perlman, it’s Mr. Boren.”
Why was Mr. Boren calling me?
“I wanted to let you know that I received your written message on my desk as well as your phone message. Please disregard Mrs. Tilney’s messages. She is no longer employed by me.”
“Yes, sir.” I swallowed. Mrs. Tilney had told me that she worked for this school for over 30 years. Why would she suddenly not be working for him anymore?
At six on the dot, Avi strolled in. He greeted me with a huge smile and a bouquet of roses. “For my wonderful wife who is now a mom.”
“Avi, thank you.” The girls were still in the bathroom. I had to tell him quickly. I didn’t want Marnie to sense that he didn’t want her or anything like that.
“Avi, I, uh, I made a hasty decision. Please forgive me,” I whispered.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Avi, listen, I have to explain something.”
“She’s taking a bath.”
“Oh, you can’t leave her by herself.” He headed towards the bathroom.
“No, wait. She’s not by herself. Her sister Marnie is in there with her.”
Avi froze. “Marnie? Is that who she was crying for last night.”
I led him towards the couch. “Yes, Sabrina has an 11-year-old sister to whom she is very attached.”
“You brought her here?”
“Is it okay?”
“I think it’s amazing. You are amazing.”
I let out a breath.
“I felt bad about signing the papers without you.”
“Well, I would have liked to know, but it’s great. I’m happy you did it.”
Just then, Marnie appeared with Sabrina behind her, wrapped in a towel.
“I’ll tuck her in,” Marnie said.
“Thank you. Marnie, this is Avi, my husband, Uh, Mr. Perlman.”
“Nice to meet you,” she mumbled and headed with Sabrina to the little bedroom.
“We’ll have to fit another bed in there, but what will we do tonight?”
I had a blow-up mattress we used for guests, and I’d already set it up on the floor.
Marnie reappeared. “Sabrina wants you to come say goodnight with her. She said that you said Sh’ma with her last night.”
I smiled. She wanted me. Marnie listened as I recited the first paragraph of Sh’ma with Sabrina. “I’ll come in to sleep here soon,” Marnie reassured her sister.
We both tiptoed out.
“I’m sorry there’s not a second bed in there. We will get one soon.”
“It’s fine,” she said. “This is much better than the house I was in before. They made me sleep in a cold basement and I heard mice at night.”
Poor Marnie. I wondered what other difficulties this little girl had encountered. “If it’s okay, I’d like to read,” she said.
She had a book. I saw it was The Westing Game.
“Do you like it?” I asked.
“It’s my favorite. She sat down on the chair by the window and was soon engrossed in the book. How funny that that was the book I was going to suggest to the seventh-grade teacher tomorrow. I took my copy from my shelf and slid it into my knapsack. It was like Hashem was sending me my own personal reminder to take that book to school tomorrow.
Before Avi left, I asked him go into the little office so I could ask him something quietly. “What should the girls call us? It sounds too formal, “Mr. and Mrs. Perlman,” and of course our first names would be disrespectful.”
Avi thought a minute. “Well, what about Tante and Feter?”
I really wanted him to say Mommy and Tattie.
“Tante sounds so distant.”
“Libby, they’re going to go back to their parents eventually. This way, you can keep a kesher with them. Aunt and Uncle is respectful and close.”
I told him I would think about it and see if the girls were comfortable with it.
Avi went back to night seder. I finished the dishes and then sat down to do some preparing for my classes tomorrow.
At a certain point, Marnie said she was going to bed.
I didn’t offer to tuck her in as that would be too babyish. “Good night, Marnie. I hope you sleep well. Uh, Marnie, can I ask you something?”
She looked at me expectantly.
“I was just wondering if you and Sabrina would be okay with calling us Tante and Feter. I mean “Mr. and Mrs.” is too distant to me and well––”
“That would be fine. I’ll tell Sabrina,” she said.
“Good night,” I said.
She nodded and headed to the bedroom.
Later, when Avi came back, I told him Marnie was okay with Tante and Feter. “I don’t know how to win Marnie over. She just seems so distant.”
“You are. It’s just going to take time. Don’t worry. It will happen.”
I wished I felt as confident as him.
The phone rang. Daniella’s voice interrupted our conversation.
“Mom and Dad are fuming,” she said. “You better tell Avi to call them. I can’t calm them down.”
I handed the phone to Avi. When would his parents stop being angry? If only there was some way to convince them that Avi didn’t want to be a doctor and that what he was doing now was the right thing for him.
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).