"Rina! You’re here!” Esti ran clear across the school auditorium to greet Rina. She had a roll of masking tape hanging from her wrist and scissors sticking out of her skirt waistband.

Sweeping her arm around the room, she asked, “Well, what do you think?”

Something in Esti’s voice made Rina pause. Rina had already scoped out the room before making her presence known and had been prepared to put on her best stage smile and say, “Beautiful, Esti! Breathtaking! I don’t know how you do it!”

But the look on Esti’s face made her stop. Because, truthfully, the place looked awful. And what she’d really wanted to say, as soon as she’d walked in the door, was a sweetly pointed, “Such a smart move, going with the flowery, frilly, we’re-doing-a-tea-party look, instead of my classy retro-theater theme.”

But she didn’t say either. Instead, she went with the more honest, “Um, looks fine. It’s just what you wanted, right? And looks like you managed to stay within budget here, too.”

Okay, so she couldn’t resist that last line. Even as she lifted a silk flower centerpiece that screamed My Great-Aunt’s Gemach, she was mentally shaking a finger at herself for her nastiness. But come on, pink plates and tablecloths? Was there a sale going on at Party City for little girl’s birthday parties?

“Yeeaahh, we did stay within budget.…” Esti looked around the room doubtfully. “But really, I was picturing something else. A more sophisticated look. More, um…”

She stopped and flushed. Rina understood what she was too embarrassed to say.

“Yeah, well, we can’t have everything, right?” she trilled. “At least this way, there’s more money left over for the PTA. And that is the point of this fundraiser, no?”

Esti’s cheeks reddened even more. “Of course it is,” she said, frowning.

Rina patted her shoulder, taking pity. “Don’t worry, people aren’t coming for the decor. Everyone’s just looking forward to having a fabulous night out. And we’re going to give them that. Now, let me go set up the stage.”

She saw Esti’s eyebrows unfurrow a bit.

As she gazed around the room, she pictured what could have been, if she’d been given free rein. How she would have arranged the chairs, swathed the tables, strung the ceiling. And, as the image gained sharper focus, it suddenly hit her…. She still had everything at home.

The props, the curtains, the centerpieces. All of the items she’d carefully hunted and had not had the heart to return. They were all still sitting in cardboard boxes in her basement. All it would take was a quick trip to her house, and Esti would have the tea of her dreams.

She imagined modestly presenting it all — “No, no, don’t worry about the budget. It’s on me.” Setting it all up with lightning speed, while Esti and her PTA buddies whisper in awe about her utter genius, topped only by her nobleness of spirit.

Rina, in the middle of dragging furniture around on the stage, pivoted back and forth on her heels. She could do it.

Should she? After the way they’d treated her? After they’d spat in her face? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 591)