Bamboozled Excerpt

Prologue
Thursday, October 3

They are real!
Rachel stared at the stones sitting in her lap––eight dullish rocks, about the size of walnuts, with just a hint of sparkle. She knew what they were––diamonds––uncut diamonds. Memories of afternoons spent listening to Aunt Lil’s stories about a young girl and her two brothers’ journey to America so many years ago flooded into her mind. Her pulse quickened. She knew her life was about to change forever. These were diamonds and their value . . . priceless!
Tears slipped down her cheeks and crossed her lips. Their salty taste captured the sadness deep in her heart at the passing of her favorite aunt. Two years ago another death had rocked her world––her husband David. One moment he was alive––the next––he was gone. She had turned to Aunt Lil for comfort. The memory of Aunt Lil holding her, stroking her hair, and telling her that she was not to worry remained vivid. She closed her eyes. Aunt Lil’s voice filled her mind.
“Everything will work out fine. You’ll see, my little Rachel. Things will be different for you now that David has gone to live with God. You’ll be okay. And when I’m gone, all that I have will be yours. You’ll be fine. I lost my beloved Abraham long ago, and I’m still here. You are strong, just like me. You will survive. More than that, Rachel, you will thrive. Trust me. Sweet times will come again.”
That was Aunt Lil. All strength and courage, packed in a five foot two body, calmly facing the crap that life threw at her. Aunt Lil embraced the very essence of life, the sweet moments as well as those times and events that challenged you to your very core. She was the glue that held everything and everyone in this family together. Who would assume that role now that she was gone?
Rachel reached into the old suitcase and picked up the pile of letters wrapped in a frayed blue ribbon. In faded black ink her aunt’s maiden name, Lillian Hershenburg, was still legible. The aged green postage stamp featured Lady Liberty. She smiled at the three cent marking on the stamp.
There must be fifty letters here. These must be from Uncle Abe. How like Aunt Lil to save them. She slid the top letter from under the ribbon and opened it. The date was June, 1940.

My dearest Lily,
It has been so difficult being away from you for even a day. And now, a week has passed without me seeing your smiling face, talking to you, holding your hand. I do not know if I can endure our separation much longer. You are my first love and when you told me that I was yours, my heart soared. You asked about my apprenticeship. It is very interesting and demands great concentration. Mr. Golden is an incredible craftsman, the likes of which I have never seen before. I am learning more and more each day. Some day I will be just like him, a diamond cutter without equal. And for you, I will cut and polish the most spectacular diamond, though no stone could ever shine as brightly as the precious love you are to me. Let’s plan to meet at our special place in the park on Sunday afternoon. I will be there at one and wait for you. Come if you can get away.
Always yours,
Leo

The shock at seeing a name other than Abraham hit Rachel hard. Who was Leo? Rachel pulled the bottom letter from the pile and opened it. It was dated June, 1941. The ink had smeared in several places leaving blotches on the paper. Had Aunt Lil been crying when she read this?

My dearest Lily,
My heart is broken as I know yours is too. Our parting last night was so painful. I know I hurt you deeply and I am so very, very sorry. Mr. Golden has been so good to me during this first year of my apprenticeship. There is no way I can refuse his request to marry his oldest daughter. It is the only favor he has ever asked of me. We knew our being together was a dream. In time you will forget me. You will find someone to love you. Together you will build a wonderful life filled with the laughter of children. I will never forget you. You will be in my dreams every night and in my heart forever.
I will always love only you,
Leo

A gasp left Rachel’s lips. Sitting on the edge of the old rocking chair, staring down at the untold riches in her lap, holding letters from her aunt’s first love in her hand was almost more than she could bare.
Rachel remembered the stories. Aunt Lil and her two brothers had left Germany just in the nick of time. The Nazis were beginning what they called the final solution, the extermination of the Jews of Europe. Their father had been prescient, seeing the full scope of Hitler’s plan. He sent his children away to save their lives. He could not save his own or that of his beloved wife, Rachel’s namesake.
Aunt Lil had arrived in America with nothing but the suitcase that now lay open at Rachel’s feet. She worked as a seamstress in the fledgling garment district until she met and married Uncle Abe. He had been a warm loving man and they always seemed happy together. These letters told of someone else––someone before Uncle Abe––who clearly loved her aunt very deeply. Had that love been allowed to grow Rachel wondered how her aunt’s life would have turned out. That they had not been able to marry hurt Rachel’s heart.
A squeak on the stairs pulled Rachel’s attention back. She dropped the letters back into the suitcase and quickly hid the stones, wrapping them in the tattered pink blouse that had hidden them for so long. Holding it tightly, lest any of the precious treasure be revealed, Rachel stood to find Jimmy Raconti, the next door neighbor’s son, at the top of the stairs.
“There you are, Rachel. Mom sent me to find you. That lawyer guy just got here. He said he’s ready whenever you are,” said Jimmy.
Her skin prickled. This guy really creeps me out. What the hell is a thirty-two year old man doing still living with his mother? She pushed the thought aside. Jimmy had been there Sunday morning when Aunt Lil died. He said he heard a crash and turned to see her hit the floor. He’d called nine-one-one. The paramedics arrived too late.
For the last few days, he seemed to pop up everywhere. Every time she turned around, there he was. Bringing food. Cleaning up. Getting more chairs. Handy man to a fault. An unsettling feeling gripped her as their eyes connected. There was something about Jimmy, the ever helpful neighbor, that did not ring true.
“Thanks. Let me just put all this stuff back. I’ll be right behind you.”
Jimmy turned and went back down the stairs. Clutching the diamonds tightly, she slid the stones back into the purple leather pouch that had hidden them for so long and stuffed the pouch safely into her pants pocket. Her loose-knit turtleneck sweater would hide any telltale bulge. Bending down, she shoved the pink blouse and letters back into the old suitcase. She closed the lid, latched it and pushed it back into the corner behind her old doll house.
There are so many details to death.

Chapter 1
Sunday, September 29
5 days earlier

Rachel stared into the bathroom mirror after she finished brushing her teeth. She planned to enjoy a quiet, fall Sunday, exploring her new hometown after her noon check-in call to Aunt Lil. Maybe a walk on Duke of Gloucester––DOG––Street, the main street in Colonial Williamsburg. Perhaps roaming through one or two of the many consignment shops. For a small town, the number of places you could buy used furniture and other people’s cast-offs fascinated her. A late afternoon pizza at Sal’s, then home to laundry, a good book, and a glass or two of Chardonnay.
Her morning routine had gotten easier these last few years. Without hormones, what was once coarse, frizzy hair fell stick straight, halfway down her back. Okay, perhaps there was a benefit or two that no remaining estrogen offered. Most women in their sixties simply did not wear their hair long. It made her feel young. It was fun.
Walking to her closet she surveyed its contents. It was still filled with stiff, formal clothes from her days working as a paralegal at a law firm.
“I’ve got to bring these to Goodwill,” Rachel said out loud to no one. She’d gotten used to talking out loud, to verbalizing what she used to only think.
Knowing her plans for the day, she pulled out slim leg jeans and a hot pink v-neck T-shirt. After pulling on Spanx, a godsend to every woman with a little extra flab, the jeans slid on easily. Giving herself the once over in the oak framed cheval mirror she found at one of the consignment shops, brought a smile to her face. She was pleased with her reflection.
“Damn good for sixty. Gravity, go screw yourself!”
Compared to many of the people she was meeting at Newcomers, the club that helped new residents fit in and make friends in her gated community, she did look damn good. Could easily pass for fifty. And during her walk in town yesterday, she managed to turn a few heads and garner a few second looks.
Okay, not hard to do with construction workers. Still, a definite ego boost.
Heading back to the bathroom to complete her make-up she found herself staring at her reflection. Critical eyes stared back. A pang of uneasiness surged through her. For a moment, her courage for embracing her new life wavered. She was starting over. Well, not over really. “Anew” might be a better term. Her eyes locked to her reflection.
Who is this person?
The lines, the wrinkles, the dark spots, thinning hair, all badges of honor earned in the wars of raising a family. With a little eye make-up here, a dollop of magic cream there, all of it would momentarily vanish.
That’s all life really is, a connection of moments.
That was what she was really learning how to do, live fully in all of the remaining moments of her life, no regrets.
Regret, like guilt, is a wasted emotion. Can’t change the past. Just deal and move on.
Rachel had never really been alone. She had gone from her parents home to creating a home with David, the man Selma, the neighborhood matchmaker and busybody, brought around. She had hidden on the upstairs landing when Selma came that day. The words she overheard still stung. Selma had told her parents in a gravely, smoker’s voice that ‘it was a good match. David was a good man, would be a good husband. And besides what other prospects did Rachel have? She wasn’t pretty or smart––and she wasn’t getting any younger.’
After Selma left, her parents told her it was done. She would marry. It might have been the late 1960s, but burning bras and the women’s movement had yet to take hold in her little corner of the world. Her mother always reminded her that she didn’t have much to offer. She was shy, not very pretty, and not very smart. Missing any sense of her own self-worth, David was the best she could hope for. If not him, she was sure to wind up an old maid. Back then, Rachel believed the relentless messages she heard every day from the one person who was supposed to love her unconditionally. She was not strong enough to revolt. She meekly surrendered to her pre-ordained place in the world.
Am I strong enough now?
And what about David? When she listened to her friends bitch about their husbands and how they cheated and lied, buried their noses in sports on TV, never spent time with their kids, she had to appreciate what she had. He’d been a good husband. He worked hard, never missed a day. He was an accountant for a large CPA firm. Tax season, from January to April 15 was one endless work marathon. It didn’t really end that day. There were extensions, corporate taxes, IRS audits. But, he came home each night, never cheated to her knowledge, took care of the bills and made sure the kids had everything they needed. She hadn’t been ready for him to die two years ago. Is anyone ever ready?
What more did she want?
That was the question that haunted her. What more did she want?
Once upon a time she had different dreams. As a young girl, when anyone asked, she told them she wanted to be a lawyer like Perry Mason. She saw herself in politics. Maybe Congress. They laughed. Women didn’t do these things. They stayed home. Made babies.
June Cleaver and Leave it to Beaver were the role models. Graduate high school, become a teacher, nurse or secretary. Marry your “white” knight and live happily ever after––barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Her happily ever after ended the night David died. After forty years of marriage, their plans for retirement at The Villages in Florida shattered. And now, alone at sixty, she found herself resenting the traditional wife role she had so meekly accepted such a long, long time ago. New questions about her own life blasted forth.
Shaking her head to end the mental replay, she understood that she both relished and totally feared tomorrow. Crap! What do I want to do? Am I too late for me? Out loud she recited her new mantra for life.
“Put one foot in front of the other. Take one day at a time. Live it fully. And breathe, always remember to breathe.” That was the advice Aunt Lil gave her the night David died and her world went numb.
The ringing phone pulled Rachel back into the moment. She walked to the nightstand to grab it. For a split second, she hesitated. Her hand hung in the air.

“Hello”
“Mrs. Rachel Resnick?”
“Speaking.”
“This is Dr. Samuels from Brooklyn Medical Center. I am so sorry to have to tell you that your aunt, Mrs. Lillian Steinmetz, passed away this morning. ”
Rachel’s mouth went dry. Her heart started to beat so fast she thought it would burst from her chest. The room started to spin.
“Mrs. Resnick?”
“Yes. I’m here. I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“Your aunt, Mrs. Steinmetz, died this morning.”
“That can’t be. She wasn’t sick. I was just about to call her. You must be mistaken.”
“I’m afraid not. I am so sorry for your loss. Your name and phone number is on her medical emergency form as the person to contact.”
“I . . . I . . . I’m not there. It will be hours before I can get there. I’ll have my daughter, Jenny Silver, contact you shortly, if that’s okay, and find out what we need to do.”
“That will be fine. And again, I am so sorry for you loss.”
“Thank you.”
Rachel stifled her scream. A fist clenched and squeezed her heart. Slumping onto the edge of the bed, she bit her lower lip trying to hold back her tears. This can’t be happening. Aunt Lil . . . gone . . . I just talked to her yesterday . . . she sounded fine . . . joked that her doctor said she’d live to one hundred. A beeping sound from the phone made her jump. She hadn’t hung up. She pressed Jenny’s speed dial number.
“Jenny, it’s mom. It’s Aunt Lil. She’s gone.”
“Oh, mom. I’m so sorry. I know how special she was to you.”
“I’m on my way. Can you call the hospital––Brooklyn Medical––and get the ball rolling?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of everything. You just drive carefully. See you tonight. Do you want to come here or meet at Aunt Lil’s house?”
“Let’s meet at Aunt Lil’s. I’ll stay there. We’ll do everything from there.”
The call to Jenny lasted only a few minutes. She would take charge and handle everything she could. Busy hands kept the sadness at bay, thought Rachel as she mindlessly filled her suitcase. Packing enough clothes for at least two weeks, Rachel grabbed jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, underwear, sneakers and good shoes. She packed black pants and several blouses to appear proper for the funeral and sitting Shiva, the traditional Jewish mourning time.
She was on the road heading north in under an hour. It would take eight to ten hours to reach Brooklyn. It was Sunday. She’d hit traffic later in the day. People returning from weekend get-aways. Right now, the sky was blue and the road clear. Humming along Interstate 95 heading north from Virginia, at a cruise controlled seventy-five mph, with Billy Joel playing in the background, Rachel let her mind drift.
How had she gotten here––alone on the road––driving home to Brooklyn––when everyone she loved was already there?
Thoughts of family flooded her senses. Although they talked every day, she hadn’t seen Aunt Lil since the day before she left for Williamsburg––five months ago. The guilt of time passed, time never to come again, washed over her. She could feel a lump tighten in her throat as she forced back her tears.
Both of her children, Scott and Jenny, had married well and were living their own lives, doing their own thing in New Jersey. Helping them through the daily dramas of their lives was still part of her mother job––and it was rewarding.
And the grandkids! Two already here with another on the way. What more could someone want than to be near these precious little ones. Rachel knew that was the party line, what she was suppose to think and believe. And she did love them all dearly, but––there just has to be more.
Rachel wanted more than grandma duties for her golden years. She wanted the travel, the excitement, the adventure her more career oriented friend, Sara, always talked about during their weekly mah jongg game. If truth be told, that was what she missed the most since her move–– Sara––girl time––and the game.
Five months ago she had taken the plunge. Against the loud cries of both Scott and Jenny, she had sold the family home, packed up and moved. Eight hundred miles seemed like a good distance. Not too far away and yet not too close to anyone and everyone she knew. A place where she could reinvent herself, become someone new.
“No, that’s not right.” Adamant words escaped her lips. “Not someone new. The person I really am. The person I locked away when I accepted someone else’s plan about how I was supposed to live my life.”
The house had to be sold. Memories of David were everywhere. His presence haunted the place. She could smell his Polo aftershave in the bathroom, feel him in the kitchen and almost see him sitting in his Lazy Boy. To create the new life she craved, she needed to distance herself from the comfort of the familiar, from memory.
Amazingly, even in a crummy real estate market, the house had sold in ten days. And why not? It was a great house, big lawn, country porch all around, backyard swing. It had done its job for her family. Now, it could do it for another family.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, as the miles of asphalt and the colorful landscape slipped by, she was not so sure. The charm of Williamsburg had captivated her when Jenny was doing the college search thing. She hadn’t chosen William & Mary which had really disappointed Rachel. So Rachel chose Williamsburg for herself, for her new life as an independent woman. Now, she had the time, all the time in the world, more time than she really knew what to do with. She was free in more ways than she could count.
Williamsburg was where she would make her mark. And the desire? Well, it was there. All she needed were the guts to go for it. That was the unanswered question. Did she have the guts to live free?
Rachel changed the music. Enough Billy Joel. Something lighter. She hit Sirius/XM button for the Margaritaville station, and Jimmy Buffett came on singing about cheeseburgers. Sounds good, she thought. Her plan called for stopping at Exit 29, grabbing some McDonalds and peeing. She would be on the other side of D.C., closer to Baltimore. Then it would be mindless driving until she reached the craziness and traffic of the New York Metro area.
Her mind drifted back to Aunt Lil. Even in her early nineties, she remained strong––a vibrant woman who loved life. Aunt Lil had always been there for her. She was Rachel’s role model––her savior––her rock. As a young girl, Rachel had lived just down the block. She and Jake, her brother, had lived through their childhoods without the benefit of combat pay. Their mother was cold and distant, pitting them against one another at every turn. Their dad, who was one of Aunt Lil’s brothers, did what dads did back then––go to work, bring home a pay check, pay the bills, say good night. In his mind, the mother took care of the kids. What he did not know, or pretended not to know or see, relieved him from the responsibility to do anything. Jake always kidded her that, when it came to mothers, they had gotten the fuzzy end of the lollipop.
A sharp horn blast drew her attention to the red BMW swerving in and out in her rear view mirror. Where are the cops when you need them? This guy is going to get someone killed! Grabbing the wheel more tightly, Rachel held fast in the center lane. As the Beemer passed on her right, a glimpse of the driver captured her attention. Slightly gray, suntanned and smiling. Was that a wink?
Beemer guy moved into the center lane in front of her. A slow moving pick-up truck forced him to hit his brakes. Rachel moved into the left lane and hit the gas. She easily passed the Beemer. Putting on her blinker, she moved back into the middle lane in front of the pick-up truck. A few minutes later the Beemer sped by on her left. Out of the corner of her eye, Rachel caught his broad smile and the salute he gave her.
This is so wrong, she thought. Flirting with this guy on the way to my aunt’s funeral. Not how I should be grieving. So wrong. She let out a long sigh. What could it hurt––a bit of fantasy? Maybe he would follow her to McDonalds? Maybe they would meet there, share a bite, two strangers on a road trip. Hey, it could happen. Only in the movies.
Rachel looked ahead of her and then glanced in the rear view mirror, quickly realizing the red BMW was gone. Shit! Traffic was everywhere. It was going to take forever to get to Brooklyn. Where did all these people come from? Where are they going? I’ve got to pee.
Half an hour later Rachel pulled off at the Beltsville exit and made her way to McDonalds. She hit the bathroom first and then ordered a small crispy chicken wrap, fries and a Coke. As she put her tray down and slid into a booth by the window, her eyes were drawn to the red BMW parked next to her car.
Couldn’t be.
“May I join you?”
Rachel looked up, directly into the warm, golden brown eyes and radiant smile of Beemer guy. He was tall, handsome, kind of a cross between Clark Gable and Omar Sharif. That touch of gray she had seen as he sped by her framed his face perfectly. And there was that wink again. He was wearing black Dockers and a red golf shirt that emphasized his tanned skin, opened just enough to reveal an alluring tuft of salt and pepper chest hair. Rachel experienced what she had only dreamed of––a man who took her breath away.
“Um, sure. No need to eat by yourself. Is that your car?” Rachel asked.
“Yes, guilty. My mid-life indulgence. Like it?”
“Love it! I lost sight of you on the road. Figured you were long gone. And yet, here you are.”
Coincidence? Chance encounter? Whatever. Keep it light––have some fun––were the mix of messages trampling Rachel’s usual, more conservative, street wise, instincts.
“Yep, here I am. The traffic’s terrible today. Then again, it’s always terrible on Sundays around Washington.” He sat down across from Rachel and unwrapped his Big Mac.
Easy, cool, she thought, like he sat down with strangers at McDonalds every day.
“Only today? Do you make this trip often?” asked Rachel.
What am I doing? This isn’t right. I’m in mourning. I shouldn’t be enjoying myself, having lunch with a stranger. It isn’t proper. What would people think? It’s okay. What harm can one meal do? It’s not like I’ll ever see him again.
“Too often.” he replied grinning and popping a french fry into his mouth. “I’m in software sales. I’ve got some really important clients in New York. Couldn’t live there. Born and raised in Virginia Beach. Most times I fly, but this week I’ve got business outside the city so driving made more sense.”
“Software sales. Sounds interesting,” said Rachel bemoaning the amount of food she had yet to swallow and remembering her mother chastising her for always putting too much in her mouth at one time. Swallowing so she could finally talk, she asked, “What type of software?”
“Security. You can’t be too careful, you know. Hackers everywhere. Sometimes it’s kids, doing it just to see if they can get through the latest firewalls,” answered Beemer guy, grabbing a napkin to wipe away the Big Mac special sauce oozing from his mouth. “And sometimes, it’s more dangerous. Identity theft is rampant. You’d be surprised at how many people put the most intimate details of their lives, bank account information, social security numbers and all, on their computers. Stealing secrets too.”
“Secrets? What kind of secrets?” Rachel found herself curious about the secrets. She knew people kept all sorts of secrets about themselves. “You mean what they post––like on Facebook?”
“Posts are one thing and Facebook’s one place. But with the cloud––”
“Cloud?”
“Yeah. It’s a newer way to store files on a shared server outside of your own system. You’d be amazed at what’s out there,” he said, swirling his finger as he pointed upward. “Formulas, design information, patents and new projects––just about everything and anything that we used to keep locked up in files and drawers is now out there in cyberspace. And my company keeps it safe––or at least that’s what we tell our clients,” he chuckled, his lips spreading into an inviting smile, revealing even white teeth.
Some dentist is smiling all the way to the bank, thought Rachel.
“Sounds interesting. I’m not too tech savvy anymore. Not that I ever really was. The gadgets change so fast, it’s hard to keep up. My ten year old grandson knows way more than I do.” Rachel started to cough, realizing that she had just divulged personal information.
He’s so easy to talk to. So he knows I have a grandson. What harm can it do?
The conversation went on and on, mostly about security and the dumb stuff people and companies did on the internet. Some of his stories were so funny, she could feel her cheeks burning from laughing so hard.
“Oh my God! I’ve got to go!” Rachel said as her eyes caught the time on her watch. “I don’t believe we’ve been talking for over an hour. I don’t want to hold you up anymore and I really have to get back on the road.”
“This trip is usually really boring. It’s been nice––really nice having someone to talk to, even if I was the one doing most of the talking.”
They stood together. He piled her empty food containers onto his tray, picked up both, and waved his hand as if parting the waters to escort her away from the booth towards the door.
“Your stories made me laugh and I really needed to laugh right now,” said Rachel, turning to face him as he pushed the door open for her.
He sure is easy on the eyes.
“I’m sorry. Everything okay? Anything I can do?”
“No, just family stuff. My aunt died. I’m on my way to Brooklyn for the funeral.”
“I am so sorry. The death of someone you love is never easy and when there is any distance to travel you are left with a lot of idle time to think.” Holding out his business card, he said, “If there is anything I can do, give me a call.”
Rachel took the card as her hand found its way into his. First touch. Warm, strong hands. Her heart jumped––a feeling she had not experienced for many, many years––a feeling so very wrong right now considering the circumstances behind their meeting.
“Thanks for the company,” Rachel said as nonchalantly as she could, stuffing his card into her pocket. “Safe driving. Maybe we’ll pass again on the road.” She watched him get into his car, back up and drive away. Pulling his card out of her pocket, she read his name.
“Mark Rogers. Nice name, Mark Rogers.”
Following his lead, she headed out behind the red Beemer. She watched him pull into the gas station just before the entrance ramp to Route 95, and waved in his direction.

Mark Rogers waved to Rachel as she went by. He watched her car turn left onto the on ramp and pick up speed. Pulling out his cell phone, he punched number one on speed dial. A female voice answered after two rings.
“Contact made. Caught up to her just before she hit Baltimore. We had lunch. Just left her. Everything’s good.”
“Great. I’m at the house now. Met her daughter, Jenny. Funeral is set for tomorrow. We’ll stay close. Make ourselves useful.”
“Sounds good. Don’t over play it. And keep Jimmy in line. He’s the loose cannon in the plan.”
“I know. Wouldn’t have been my first choice. He’s a hothead––got a short fuse. Time will tell if he can do this kind of work.”
“We’ve talked about this already.”
“I know.”
“Dom is staying close in case you need him.”
“Yes. I see his smiling face several times a day when he checks up on me. Where are you heading?”
“Back to Florida. I’ll monitor things from there. Keep in touch.”
“Will do.”
Ending the call, he finished filling the gas tank, got in and started the engine. He turned right and headed south, back to a private airstrip adjacent to Dulles airport.

* * *
A long, dusty six hours later Rachel opened the front door of Aunt Lil’s house and walked into memories––Aunt Lil’s living room. Time warp. Nothing had changed. At least ten pairs of eyes turned in her direction and all conversation stopped.
“Mima, Mima.” Little Abby, her granddaughter, raced into her arms.
“My how much you’ve grown. Look at you! Such a little princess,” said Rachel, scooping Abby up and holding her tightly.
“Hi, Mom. We were beginning to get worried. A lot of traffic?” asked Jenny as she planted a soft peck on Rachel’s cheek. “Everything is all arranged for tomorrow. Want something to eat? We’ve got deli. Scott’s gone already. You know your son, he couldn’t wait. He left about an hour ago. Said he’d be back in the morning. Uncle Jake called and said he’d be here tomorrow. I told him the time for services.”
Jenny was off to the kitchen before Rachel could get a word in. That was Jenny. All business, all details, little emotion. She didn’t inherit the warm fuzzy genes of either David or Rachel. And any she did have, she locked away and protected with a wall that seemed impenetrable. Rachel suspected that the pain of miscarrying twice had taken its toll on Jenny and Ted’s marriage. Though they now had an angel of a child in Abby, Ted and Jenny seemed more distant from one another than ever.
“Deli sounds good to me,” Rachel shouted after Jenny. “Williamsburg isn’t exactly the epicenter of Jewish cuisine. Any knish?” Rachel was hoping that Jenny had remembered to get knish, a heavenly mix of caramelized onions and mashed potatoes wrapped in a flakey pastry dough and baked to golden perfection. Her mouth watered at the thought.
Rachel looked around the room. There were two or three familiar faces, then strangers. Aunt Lil was one of the last surviving members of her era. Most of her friends had passed before her. Introductions were made.
Sara, her very best friend, came out of the kitchen arms outstretched. The hug was warm, and long, and being in Sara’s arms felt like home.
“My, God, I’ve missed you,” whispered Sara in Rachel’s ear. “I’m so sorry. I’m here for you for as long as you want.”
“Thanks. I’ve missed you too.” Rachel held Sara tightly, giving the tears welling up in her eyes time to pass. There would be time later for crying.
Eat first. Then shower. Then sleep.
Tomorrow was going to be a very long and very emotional day.

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