R ina parked her car and quickly applied one more coat of lipstick before getting out. True, it was only a PTA committee get-together, but that didn’t excuse her from looking her best. Especially since she had an image to project.

Rina Levitan, star.

She smiled to herself as she walked up the steps of the home of Esti Stern, head of the Parents Association of Bais Yaakov Bnos Hinda. Esti had called her in a panic last night, begging her to come to their planning meeting for the annual pre-Shavuos fundraiser tea.

“I know you must be so busy,” Esti had said breathlessly. (Was she breathless at the thought of how busy Rina must be, or was that just her natural way of speaking?) “But we’re desperate, our committee’s falling apart, and we so badly need your creative touch.”

Of course, Rina had graciously agreed. Twelve years ago, when Rina had first joined the parent body of Bnos Hinda — after she’d moved to the neighborhood, newly remarried, with a four-year-old from her first marriage in need of a preschool and in desperate need of a fresh start — she’d reached out to the PTA and offered to get involved. But, she’d soon discovered, they were a cliquey little bunch, who liked to do things their own way.

What can you do? they’d asked her doubtfully, and to Rina’s modest assertion that she could sing, act, decorate, and plan events, they’d responded by giving her a two-page list of phone numbers she should call to sell tickets for their Chinese auction. Rina had made the calls, but had resolved in the future to only offer her talents where they were wanted.

That was all water under the bridge, she thought, as she raised a bejeweled hand to ring the bell.

“Rina! Thank you, thank you, it means the world to us that you came!” Esti was once again breathless. Her natural way of speaking, Rina decided. She was led inside to the living room, where five other women were busily talking. She could guess their topic by the gleam in their eyes, confirmed when one woman cried out, “But he only wants someone who’s under 30 and never been married, and she’s already 30 and has a broken engagement, does that count?”

The other four women suddenly noticed Rina. An awkward silence fell over the group. Rina swung her long sheitel over her shoulder and sat down, trying to look unconcerned. Did these women think they weren’t allowed to speak about older shidduchim in front of her? And for heaven’s sake, what did a girl with a broken engagement have to do with her, anyway?

She smiled at the blushing faces around her. “How are you, ladies?”

And immediately they began to babble. “You were fabulous at the show the other night!”

“We couldn’t stop talking about it!”

“Where do you get all that talent from?”

Rina furrowed her eyebrows. Not that she didn’t enjoy the compliments, but it was too obvious an effort to cover up for their discomfort. Brushing aside a twinge of annoyance — why, after 12 years, was she still carrying around the taint of divorce? — she said brightly, “So, tell me, what’s happening with the Shavuos tea?”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Esti said, as she hurried into the room with a platter of biscotti. “Malki had some little idea about flower arranging—”

“Not a little idea,” Malki grumbled.

“And Leah thought cheesecake tasting wouldn’t be that overdone, but Tova said—”

“Like three decades overdone,” Tova muttered. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 588)