kay, ladies, break’s over! Let’s review the wedding scene again.”

Rina looked around her basement-cum-home studio in exasperation. Bayla, Leebie, and Sarah were involved in a heated discussion on her couch. Ruchie and Ariella were laughing over Tikvah’s gym-lady impersonation on Rina’s treadmill in the corner. Dassi, who’d just gotten off a phone call with her husband — a newlywed, she was by far the youngest in their group, but she made up for it with her wicked spoofs on millennials — threw Rina a look of commiseration.

“Not behaving today, are we?” she asked. “Yoo-hoo, girls!” She raised her voice. “Morah’s been trying to get your attention for 15 minutes already!”

It was a standing joke among her troupe, the “Morah” thing. The women all looked up to Rina as their fearless leader, universally admired for her talents, her vision, and for her way of galvanizing a crowd. They respected her, they accepted her leadership, they put her on a pedestal, even. What they did not do was treat her as one of the gang.

It was fine with Rina. She wasn’t the “one of the gang” type.

Now, with Dassi’s call to order, the chattering slowly died down, and the women moved back into position to practice the scene.

It was a good thing she had this upcoming performance in Peakeston to focus on. Bless the dear lady who’d called a few weeks ago on behalf of the Peakeston Ladies Auxiliary and booked them for a show that, the lady had assured her, would absolutely be a community-wide, packed-house event. Rina had never heard of Peakeston, but after getting down some demographics and general info about the audience, she’d started planning.

She’d had no way of knowing then what perfect timing it would be. Following on the heels of the PTA tea, throwing her all into a new performance was exactly what she needed. Why harp on the past when you could look forward to the future? It wasn’t in Rina’s nature to mope, and negativity in anyone, including herself, always dragged her down.

That had been Eliezer’s problem, she thought, frowning, as an image of her ex-husband suddenly arose. He’d just lie around all day, complain, complain, complain, instead of going out and doing. Complaining never helped anyone, that’s what she’d always tell him, as she’d try to push him to go, work, accomplish. But he was too passive, too meek, too content to stay at home and talk about everything he could and would be doing, if only... Unlike Heshy, who was very much a doer.

Heshy. No, don’t go there.

Rina clapped her hands, walked forward briskly, and announced, “Okay, we’re starting this scene from the top. It’s our show’s climax, and I want it to be perfect.”

Gabriella leaned back in the restaurant chair and briefly closed her eyes, feeling awash in the ambient sounds. Conversational hum, glass clink, chair scrape, all velvet shod. What a treat to be relaxed.

“Do you know what you want to order?” Shmuel asked.

Gabriella popped her eyes open. “Calm,” she said. “With a side of self-fulfillment. And maybe courage and confidence for appetizers.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 592)