Authors: Yael Levy
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
This edition published by
an imprint of F+W Media, Inc.
10151 Carver Road, Suite 200
Blue Ash, Ohio 45242
Copyright © 2012 by Yael Levy
ISBN 10: 1-4405-5655-5
ISBN 13: 978-1-4405-5655-5
eISBN 10: 1-4405-5656-3
eISBN 13: 978-1-4405-5656-2
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in this novel are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
Cover art © 123rf.com, istockphoto.com
To Dad: Inspired by your creativity, wit and integrity — I learned how to tell stories from the best raconteur in Brooklyn. Thanks for all the entertaining Shabbat meals.
To Mom: Muse, inspiration, best friend. This book is due to your wisdom, guidance and tireless support. Woman of Valor — you put King Solomon’s Ode to shame.
This book was born through the efforts of many:
Anna Olswanger: agent, friend,
. I appreciate all that you do.
Sangeeta Mehta: your wisdom and insights continue to astound me.
Anna Levine: through revisions and your friendship, I have grown.
Rabbi Michael & Channah Broyde: thank you for your encouragement.
Jennifer Lawler and the staff at Crimson Romance: Thank you!
I greatly appreciate the advice and insights of so many generous people — each one in their own way helped bring this novel to fruition. Please forgive any omissions:
David Fulmer, Ruchama King, Carol Gaskin, Rabbi Moshe Sokol, Brenda Novak, Allison Brennan, Candice Hern, Jami Alden, Monica McCarty, Kate Moore, Karin Tabke, Carol Grace Culver, Barbara Freethy, Bella Andre, Dr. Sara Levy, Nechama Tovey, Karina Mikhli, Faygie Levy, Rina Leah Davidson, Tom Spaine, A. Sivorinov, Marcela Landres, Pearl Saban, Uwe Stender, Alex Steele, Pam Laskin, Gotham Writer’s Workshop, Jim Lally & Time Out NY, Dr. Michael Berger, Dr. Leah Scheier, Gilan Gertz, Michael Gelb, Dina Neirenberg, Jenny Weisberg, Yael Mermelstein, Marc & Carlyn Goldin, Harriet Levin, Talia Rosenblatt Cohen, Tova Mirvis, Joshua Halberstam, Naomi Ragen, Robert Avrech, Patricia Sprinkle, Beth Cohn, Sue Lederman LaNeve, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Dorothy, Bev, Naomi and Marilyn, RWA, SCBWI, SSCBWI.
“Man plans, and God laughs.”
— Yiddish proverb
“Rachel, you’re dawdling. Walk any slower and you’ll get to the wedding in time for the
of their first son, maybe.”
Rachel teetered after her parents in the very pointy, very high black Enzo heels Ma had bought her for the occasion. Her mother eyed the improvement in her progress, twisted back on her father’s arm, and then picked up their pace.
It had been a nice store, Rachel thought, full of shoes that cost a small fortune, the kind that on any other day would make her sigh for their sheer beauty. She’d preferred a Bohemian golden moccasin, but she knew better than to suggest that to her mother. She was going to a wedding, where she would be seen. A shoe purchase was not about personal taste; it was about marketing. Who knew which person at that wedding might have a friend or relative — any qualified male, really — who could be a potential suitor for Rachel Shine? At nineteen, Rachel knew her mission at the wedding was not to have a good time, nor even to wish the bride well. It was to show a ballroom full of guests her availability for marriage. This required perfect shoes.
The bride’s shrieking could be heard from a three-block radius around the wedding hall. Rachel walked slowly to the reception, lagging behind her parents and pretending to ignore the bride’s crescendo of wails, which nearly washed out the sounds of beeping traffic that looped around the hall at a snail’s pace.
During the ceremony, the bride would encircle her new husband seven times to build a protective fence around him … to keep him from sin … to enclose their new home in intimacy and holiness. This was the custom, handed down from the time of Moses. The cars seemed to circumnavigate the hall seven times as well, though this was not custom but merely the horrendous Brooklyn traffic. In the background, she heard someone blasting Adele’s “We Could Have Had It All” and couldn’t help but notice the irony.
If it weren’t so pathetic
, she thought,
it might be funny.
Ma held open the heavy wooden door to the wedding hall, and Rachel tripped on a spiky heel as she entered.
“Ow. Ma, my ankle kills,” she whispered, getting her bearings straight.
“Nu, so get up and be a man about it. I mean a woman. Nobody wants to see a girl limping around. They’ll think you’re a cripple, God forbid.”
Her father helped her up. “Relax, Debby, she’s fine.” He dusted off his black suit as they entered the marble-tiled foyer, the dim lights casting faint shadows of the guests on the pale walls. Rachel took off her deep red shearling coat and handed it to her father, who, taking her mother’s mink as well, dutifully stood on line at the coat check.
A rail-thin woman in a tight sequined gown strutted into the foyer from the main hall, tossing the long blond tendrils that cascaded down her back. Suri Kaufman blew Rachel a kiss and then sashayed toward the Shines.
“Darlings,” Suri said to Rachel and her mother, “You’ve got to see their smorgasbord. It’s fabulous!”
“Suri, you look stunning!” Rachel greeted her with a kiss. Suri Kauffman was like family in so many ways: She was her parents’ friend, her neighbor, and her best friend Leah’s aunt.
“That’s why I love you so much, Rachel; you always know what I want to hear!” Suri laughed, popping a weenie-in-a-blanket into Rachel’s mouth. Then she stood with her arms crossed, appraising Rachel from head to toe.
“You don’t look bad yourself, Rachel.” She turned to Debby. “This is the dress you just got her from Loehmann’s?”
Debby smiled. “Fifty percent off. A designer original.”
Suri nodded. “Nice. Every boy here from Kaplinsky’s yeshiva will give her one look and want to marry our little Rachel. Right, Debby?”
Debby giggled like a teenager. “For sure. Between your Leah and my Rachel, we’ll be busy with weddings this year.”
Suri huffed. “Who knows with Leah. She’s so picky … ”
Debby grabbed Suri’s hand. “Rachel, too.”
Rachel rolled her eyes. “Ma, Leah and I will get married when we meet the guys who are right for us,” she said, protecting herself and her best friend.
Debby shook her head. “Yeah, they’ll be right if they smile at you nice.”
Rachel sighed and scanned the room for Leah. “Might take a little more than a smile.”
“Leah just turned down an amazing boy,” Suri said as she stared at Rachel. “She said he wasn’t for her. No chemistry.”
Debby nodded. “Can’t make babies without chemistry.”
Suri shook her head. “She’s twenty years old and has barely dated. How does she know what chemistry is?”
Rachel shrugged. “Leah knows what she wants.”
Suri paused. “You’ll make sure Leah doesn’t get too picky, right sweetie?”
Rachel caught her mother’s eye. She wanted to ask:
What’s too picky? Should we marry guys that make us nauseous?
Instead, Rachel swallowed and faced Suri. “I always look out for Leah.”
Debby snorted. “After that stunt in high school, Leah doesn’t need
Rachel shook her head. “I didn’t tell her to date Wolfy, she — ”
Suri interrupted. “It’s still hard for me to get her dates because of that silliness, and my poor sister has all but given up. She couldn’t even show her face here. The first thing everyone asks is about those rumors — ”
The cheerful rhythms of klezmer music resounded throughout the hall as the band warmed up for the imminent nuptials. The only sound louder than the trumpets was the continuous wailing of the bride, whose name was Malky. Everybody pretended not to notice.
“Rachel!” Leah shouted as she danced toward her friend. She was a petite girl, with curly red hair. She was wearing her contact lenses today, so her green eyes looked brighter than usual. There was something intense about them —
, Rachel’s mother had once called them. To Rachel, Leah was a bundle of contradictions: She was determined yet fun-loving, practical yet prone to spontaneity, and often sarcastic — which belied the fact that Leah was the sweetest person she knew. Although she was usually graceful, sometimes her temper got the better of her. Leah’s parents were much harder on Leah than Rachel’s own, but Leah rarely talked about that. “You’re late. We need you,
Women dressed in luxurious evening gowns and men in black suits turned their heads to see what the commotion was about. Rachel blushed, gliding over to Leah.
“Do you have to make a scene out of everything?” Rachel whispered.
“I’ve been waiting for you an hour already. Figures — you live in your own time zone. Anyway, Malky asked me to give out her jewelry for us to wear during the service. She wants her luck to rub off on us so we can find guys to marry and get out of this misery. Here — Malky wants you to have her bracelet.”
Rachel held her hand out to Leah, who zestfully snapped the golden cuff on Rachel’s delicate wrist.
“There,” pronounced her friend. “It sets off the sheen in that copper satin dress. Perfect with your hair.”
“Beautiful design.” Rachel fingered the bride’s bracelet.
“Mucho money-o,” Leah replied. “How much you think he spent on this?”
“Who cares? It’s a nice piece.”
“She wanted me to wear her engagement ring during the
service. Did you ever see a diamond like this?” Leah thrust out her ring finger so Rachel could get a good look. Dressed in an emerald-colored Tahari gown that offset her complexion, Leah sparkled like the borrowed diamond. “Some rock, no?”
“I guess so. How’s the bride?”
“Crying like a baby. Her mother is practically pulling her hair out,” Leah said. “I hear she’s enlisted Hindy to help her out,” Leah added about their mutual friend. She then grabbed Rachel’s wrist and dragged her to the ballroom filled with guests sampling delicacies at the buffets.