June 14, 2024
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June 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 21 summary: Yaffa and Ilana both sort through their feelings of deep hurt and betrayal after learning about their parents’ will.


Ari saw his mother’s name appear on his phone and hesitated briefly before picking up.

“Hi, Ma,” he said guardedly.

“Ari! I’m so glad I reached you! I didn’t know what time you were picking me up today.”

Picking her up? Resentment bubbled inside. Now that Yaffa had gone home, did his mother just assume he’d be taking her every day to the rehab center? He glanced at the open file on his computer screen; he had several hours of work left before he could leave his office.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” he said evenly. “Had you asked me to take you someplace?”

His mother’s voice turned uncertain. “Oh! You aren’t planning to go visit Dad? I thought, since Yaffa took me last, and now she’s back in Lakewood, that you’d be the one to drive today.”

Ari sighed. “Ma, I can’t keep taking off of work.”

“Ah, of course.” She paused. “Should I ask Debbie, then?”

“No!” Ari said quickly. He didn’t even want to think about the disaster that conversation would be. “She — she’s not available today.” I’m through with doing your mother favors was actually how she’d put it.

His mother was silent for a moment. “Then…what should I do?”

Ari rubbed his eyes. “It’s okay to skip a day. Dad will be fine.”

He suddenly remembered Yaffa saying the same thing to him, and his insistence that they needed to make sure their mother had a ride every day,since it was so important to both their parents. His lips twisted wryly. And he’d always thought Yaffa was the annoyingly self-righteous one of the siblings …

“I really don’t like missing a day. But I guess, if there’s no choice …”

Ari tapped his finger on his mousepad. He supposed he could take her now and make up the work hours this evening. He’d have to come up with an excuse for Debbie; she’d be furious if she knew. Still, his instinct was to say yes, to make his mother happy, his father happy, keep everyone feeling good … After all, how else could his mother get there? She didn’t drive.

He stopped tapping. How else could she get there? How did anyone get places these days if they needed a lift? Let her call an Uber! It wasn’t as if she needed to pinch her pennies.

His lips pressed together at the thought. “Ma, why don’t you go by car service?”

“Go in a stranger’s car? No, I couldn’t. Forget it, I’ll just skip a day, like you said.”

Ari closed his eyes. Should he? Mom, Dad, Debbie, Yaffa; their images swirled in front of him like two litigants arguing a court case. Who should he listen to?

He clutched the phone in his hand. “If that’s what you’d prefer, then fine, stay home.”

“Okay. Tomorrow, you’ll take me?”

“I’ll see what’s going on at work.”

He didn’t blame his mother for sounding taken aback; the noncommittal response was certainly unlike him.

Yet it hadn’t been Debbie’s or Yaffa’s voice he’d listened to; it had been his own. His own gut instinct.

So why did he feel like such a cad?


Sitting across from Debbie at the bagel shop, Yaffa felt as awkward as if she were on a first date. It had been odd enough when Debbie had called Yaffa yesterday; she could count on one hand the number of times her sister-in-law had phoned in the past decade. But when Debbie had off-handedly mentioned that she was going to be in the Lakewood area today for a business meeting, and wouldn’t it be nice if they met for lunch, alarm bells had rung. There was something beyond suspicious going on; now, as she made forced small talk about the sourdough bagels on the menu and how she personally didn’t get the craze, she waited breathlessly for Debbie to reveal the reason for this cozy rendezvous.

Yaffa tucked her sheitel behind her ear and began to probe. “So what did Ari say when he heard about our lunch date?”

Debbie shifted in her seat. “Um, I haven’t told him about it.”

As Yaffa raised an eyebrow, Debbie continued, with a frown, “Ari’s going to be out the entire day and night anyway. He’s taking your mother to the rehab center,and then going back to work afterwards to make up the time.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Yaffa spluttered. “My mother needs to learn that missing a day of visiting won’t kill her or my father.”

“Yeah, well that already happened yesterday. Ari actually got up the guts to say no — but then he felt so guilty about it that he caved and took her today.” Debbie’s eyes narrowed. “I told him I think it’s a chutzpah for Mom to expect him to miss work on her behalf when she’s not planning on helping us financially at all.”

Yaffa nodded hesitantly. Chutzpah was a strong word, at least when coming from Debbie. After all, what right did she have to feel so angry? She wasn’t a daughter.

“Well, that’s Ari for you,” Yaffa said. “He’s always been the nice guy in our family.”

“The pushover, you mean. And I’m sick of it, even if he isn’t.”

Yaffa rotated her ring around her finger uncomfortably. She’d always suspected that Ari’s and Debbie’s marriage wasn’t perfect, but she really wasn’t interested in being Debbie’s sounding board to vent against her brother.

“I wish I had Ari’s middos,” she said lightly, and quickly changed the subject. “Do you often come to Lakewood for work meetings?”

“Huh?” she blinked. “Oh, um, no, not really.”

Debbie’s confused reaction confirmed Yaffa’s suspicion; there hadn’t been any work meeting. She leaned forward. “I’m dying of curiosity here. Please tell me what this is about.”

Debbie’s mouth tightened. “Isn’t it obvious? We have a family crisis going on. Ari’s worthless; even though it’s clear how hurt he is, all he does is go on about ‘it’s their money, they have a right to do what they want.’” She rolled her eyes and leaned forward. “You, on the other hand, are a woman of action. When there’s a problem, you’ll step forward and do what needs to be done to rectify it.”

Yaffa’s eyes twinkled. “I appreciate the compliment.”

“That’s why I thought we should put our heads together and come up with a plan.”

Yaffa cocked her head. “A plan? You mean to convince my parents to change their will?”

“Exactly.” Debbie folded her arms. “The way I see it, we lucked out by finding out about their will when we did. It’s as if — as if — God is giving us the chance to change our fate. And it’s up to us to grab it.”

Yaffa’s lips curled. “Sounds very frum.”

Still, much as she resented being preached bitachon and hishtadlus by a woman who couldn’t even bother to cover her hair and arms when coming to Lakewood of all places, she had to admit that there was something compelling in the argument.

She rested her elbows on the table, her mind racing. “I’d say a good start would be to research stories about how problematic wills broke up a family. There must be a ton out there. And then we can, you know, leave the articles lying around in my mother’s house.”

Debbie slowly smiled. “Perfect. And I suggest we also start being more upfront about our monetary needs. Everyone in your family likes to pretend to your parents that they’re all good, that you all have everything you could possibly need, but your parents need to know the truth.”

Yaffa raised an eyebrow. “Funny, I’d always gotten the impression from Ari that it was true in your case.”

She was startled by Debbie’s sudden scowl. “Yeah, well, impressions can be deceiving.”

Yaffa stared at her for a moment. There was clearly some strong motivation behind Debbie’s determination to change the will. She didn’t know what, exactly, was going on with her brother’s family, but if they were in financial trouble, then she would do whatever she could to help.

She held out her hand. “You got a deal, partner. We’ll work on this together.”

Debbie gave her a grateful smile, as she grasped Yaffa’s hand and shook.

Ariella Aaron is an internationally published writer with a unique talent for writing stories that are entertaining and thought-provoking, with characters who are eminently relatable. A former resident of Northern New Jersey, Ariella has now transplanted her family to Israel, where she is happily living the dream of raising her brood in our homeland. 

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