Chapter 4 Summary: Gail Taubman lets slip that Larry had pains in his chest the previous night. Concerned, the three siblings discuss how to protect their father’s health and Yaffa agrees to cut back on the party menu.
Shani danced around the large living room as she shouted out decorating instructions.
“Here, Tamara, float these candles in the glass vases with water on the buffet table. No, Tzippy, the tablescape is off balance.” She grabbed a tree branch from her hand. “Look at how I did it—the roses in the glass cups go here, and the silver and black branches should hang over them. Moriah, how are the drapes going?”
Moriah’s long hair swung through the air as, from up on the step stool, she swiveled her head towards Shani. “They’re kind of heavy; I think we need something stronger to attach them to the walls.”
“Oh no, really?” Shani bit her lip. “OK, let’s think …What about nailing them in? They must have a hammer and nails somewhere in this place.”
Moriah raised an eyebrow. “You can’t stick a nail into someone else’s wall.” She let the rose-colored drape fall to the ground and hopped off the step stool. “And what happens if we don’t drape the walls?”
Shani’s eyes widened. “We need the drapes! They totally make the atmosphere!”
Moriah pursed her lips. “Um, reality check. D’you think Grandma and Grandpa really care about atmosphere?”
Shani lifted her chin. “Everyone cares about atmosphere. Some people just like to pretend they’re above those things. Don’t tell me you don’t feel the difference when you walk into a gorgeous, perfectly coordinated room.”
Moriah shook her head and muttered something under her breath in Hebrew.
“What’d you say?”
“I said I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere.”
Shani’s eyes narrowed for a moment, and then she began to laugh. Moriah did, too.
“What’s so funny, girls?” Yaffa asked distractedly, as she walked into the room, eyes on her phone. “Food’s arriving in 20 minutes. Simi the photographer just texted me; she’s stuck in traffic.” Her eyes strayed to the window. “I hope she makes it on time. I wanted her to catch Ma and Dad’s faces when they walked into the party.”
She ran a hand through her sheitel. There was still so much to do, maybe it was better the photographer was running late. They needed to arrange the outdoor patio, not to mention clean the pool area. Who knew where the photographer might decide to shoot? And someone needed to set up the projector for the video; maybe she could ask Ari’s boys to do that.
Yaffa frowned. Where was Ari’s family? Other than Tamara, who was helping the girls, the only glimpse she’d caught of her brother’s family this afternoon was when she’d gone downstairs to the basement to unload the dryer and found Jake and Eli playing ping pong. Ilana and Danny had volunteered to take Ma and Dad out for the day so that they could get set up over here. But why should everything else fall on her?
Pursing her lips, she gazed around the room. At least the party setup wasn’t her headache; she had to admit, Shani was doing a terrific job managing everything. For all her cringing over Shani’s obsession with appearances, a small bubble of pride rose inside as she saw what Shani had accomplished, virtually single-handedly.
“This is stunning! You’ve totally transformed this space.”
“You don’t think there’s anything missing in the atmosphere?” Moriah asked, eyes twinkling.
“No, nothing at all. This is absolutely perfect.”
With a grin at Shani, Moriah gathered all the drapery in her arms and threw it onto the couch. “I think I’m finished here.”
“Wait a sec!” Shani leaped over to the pile, picked up a black sheet and draped it over the back of the green couch. She arranged a rose-colored drape in a V-shape over the black, then stepped back, beaming. “Now that’s what I call a major improvement.”
“She did what?” Debbie hissed furiously to Ari, as they carried their plates of food back to the table.
“Do we have to discuss it now?” Ari muttered back. He smiled as he sat down next to his brother-in-law Shmuel. “Yaffa did quite a job here! The food, the decorations, those old pictures of Ma and Dad—I don’t know how she put this all together!”
Shmuel wiped his mouth with a napkin. “You know Yaffa, Ms. Perfectionist. Everything she does needs to be 150%. They seem really happy.” He nodded at Ari’s parents, who were sitting at the place of honor in the center of the table, glowing as they leafed through an album, surrounded by several grandchildren.
“OMG, Grandpa, what in the world are you wearing?” shrieked Tzippy.
Larry chuckled. “Believe it or not, that’s how we dressed in the 70s.”
Tzippy wrinkled her nose. “Well, I hope that style never comes back into fashion. I mean, those pants!”
“I dunno,” Eli said. “Looks kind of groovy to me.”
Tzippy pretended to hit him; next to Ari, Tzippy’s father gave a sharp intake of breath and rose slightly from his seat.
Ari leaned back in his chair. He had to hand it to Yaffa, she really had thought of everything. A small pang of guilt hit him as it occurred to him just how much work his sister had put into this event. How long had it taken her to dig up those old photos?
On his other side, Debbie whispered, “Tell me the truth, did Yaffa really ask you to pay the caterer?”
Ari sighed. He wished Yaffa had waited until he was alone to thank him.
“No,” he whispered back. “Yaffa asked me to meet the caterer when she came and take in the food. The caterer needed to be paid, so I wrote out a check. That’s it. The others will pay me back their share.”
“Let’s hope,” Debbie muttered darkly. “Why do you think she specifically asked you to meet the caterer?”
Ari looked down at his plate. Why did Debbie always think the worst about his sister? Pointedly, he said, “Because she was busy doing a million other things to get ready for the party.”
“She didn’t want my help—” Debbie began, but Ari stood up abruptly. This was his parents’ 50th anniversary party; he wanted to enjoy himself, not get involved in petty sister-in-law spats.
He made his way over to his parents, pausing to wave for the photographer’s camera. Ilana, who was standing on the edge of the group, looked up and beamed at him. “Isn’t this great?”
Yaffa came bustling up. “Guys, when do you think we should start the program?”
“Er, what’s on the program?” Ari asked, squirming inside as he realized again how little he’d been involved in the planning.
Yaffa ticked off on her fingers. “Your speech, Ilana’s trivia game, the kids’ song and the video. Oh, and Shmuel’s gonna start off with a short dvar Torah.”
“Sounds good. Your call, we can start whenever you—” he broke off as he saw Yaffa’s face suddenly whiten. Following her gaze, he saw she was staring at their father. “What is it?”
“Dad’s not feeling well. Look at him.”
Ilana turned as well. “How can you tell?”
“He’s breathing funny.” Yaffa started forward. “Dad, are you OK? Do you want to go lie down?”
He waved his hand. “I’m fine.” He wiped his forehead. “What were you saying, Tamara?”
Yaffa pursed her lips. “Ma,” she said. “Can you—”
But she was interrupted by a gasp. “Larry!” Gail shrieked.
The entire family watched, frozen, as their father and grandfather suddenly clutched his chest and collapsed against his chair.
By Ariella Aaron