"D r. Rothman’s office, how can I help you?” Gabriella heard the languidness in her voice, and was glad her sister was with a patient at that moment. Melanie had often told her she should make her voice perkier when answering the phone.

“At least sound like you’re happy they called,” she’d said once, in a rare stab at sarcasm.

Gabriella pressed her lips together as she typed in the patient’s information. Well, could she help it if she really wasn’t all that happy they called? But no, that wasn’t it, either. She was perfectly happy that her sister was getting business; she just wished it was someone else taking the calls.

“We have Thursday, June 14, at 3:30 available,” she intoned to the lady on the other end. “Does that work for you?”

It did indeed, and Gabriella added it to the scheduling calendar as she hung up.

The door behind her opened, and Melanie stepped out, followed by a young girl and an elderly woman.

“Gabi, Maria needs a follow-up appointment in three weeks. Oh, and please call a cab for her and her grandmother, will you?”

Gabriella nodded, flushing a little. She hated when Melanie called her Gabi — a throwback to her preschool days, for goodness’ sakes — and hated even more the feeling of being the underling.

Not that it was Melanie’s fault. She’d been so nice to offer Gabriella a job, back when she was a newlywed desperate for some money and not trained to do anything other than produce films. And that she had renounced, thrown in the garbage together with her jeans, red nail polish, and all other relics of her former life.

Her decision to go to seminary in Israel, right after graduating film school, had certainly thrown her family off guard, but they hadn’t been necessarily opposed to the idea — not, that is, until she came home in a long skirt and sleeves and announced her intention to marry someone learning in kollel. That’s when her parents made haste to Mrs. Weinglass, the young rebbetzin whose get-togethers for local singles had inspired the whole mess, and lodged vociferous complaints. But it didn’t matter how much they screamed and threatened the nefarious woman; the damage was already done.

And still, despite it all, despite Gabriella actually carrying through with her plan to marry a learning boy, and doing so at a wedding that had a mechitzah running clear across the reception hall, her sister had recognized her financial need and offered her this job — without breathing a whisper of an “I told you so,” or, “You have to face the consequences of…”

Gabriella tucked a stray hair into her scarf and flashed a smile at Maria and her grandmother, Mrs. Alvarez. “I’ll call you a cab right away. How’s your son doing? And Maria, you get taller each time I look!”

Both the old lady and the young girl brightened, as Gabriella dialed the cab company. She had to hand it to Melanie for knowing how to treat her patients. As well as her little sister. That was the problem, she was just so nice. Maybe that’s why Gabriella was still here, ten years later.

Don’t sound so noble, darling, she thought with a wry smile at herself. Reason you’re still here is because, even with Shmuel now working in computers, you discovered that you still need the money.

After helping Mrs. Alvarez out the door, there was a lull in the office, and Gabriella idly checked her e-mail. Her eyes widened when she saw her Inbox. “Chad Wallace,” she mouthed. Talk about a blast from the past. What in the world was he doing contacting her? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 589)