"Y

ou have your passport?”

Gabriella glanced toward Shmuel. “Do you want me to check again, or is it enough that I checked the last two times you asked?”

Next to her in the driver’s seat, Shmuel’s face relaxed into a momentary smile, but then it tensed up again. “Maybe I keep hoping that this time you’ll say no, and then we’ll have to go back home and you’ll miss your flight.”

“Gee, thanks. There’s Bulgaria Air,” she added, as they drove slowly through the airport. “Follow the signs for Terminal B.”

Her husband sighed. “Joking. Of course I want you to make your flight and have a good trip. But am I allowed to also admit that—”

Gabriella quickly interrupted, aware that her sick-to-the-stomach feeling right now wasn’t just nerves, almost relishing the release of the guilt she’d been carrying around ever since she announced to her disbelieving family that she would be leaving once again.

“That you’re resenting the fact that I’m going away again, less than two weeks after coming back from camp? That you’re not exactly thrilled to be stuck with the kids again, especially during this really fun between-camp-and-school time? That it was bad enough having your mother live with you for three whole weeks, and now — whoop-de-doo! —  your in-laws are moving in to help?”

Shmuel pulled up to the curb next to the terminal and brought the car to a stop. “If you really want to know, yes, yes, and yes.” He turned off the ignition and popped the trunk open. Then he turned to her. “But what I wanted to say is that I’m going to miss you.”

Gabriella blinked. The weight in her stomach suddenly softened. “Me, too.” She suddenly found herself wondering why she was flying off to some crazy Eastern European country, 5,000 miles away from her family. Or, better yet, wishing that Shmuel were flying with her, instead of her sister.

“Hey,” she said softly. “I think I left my passport at home.”

 

Bulgaria Air wasn’t exactly El Al. As Gabriella settled into her seat, it hit her that she and Melanie were the only two frum Jews on the plane. Of course, Melanie, with her slacks and uncovered hair, did not exactly scream “different” the way Gabriella did.

“I should’ve worn a sheitel,” she muttered to Melanie, after receiving yet another appraising stare, this time from the purple-haired young woman who’d just sat down across the aisle from her.

Melanie tilted her head and eyed Gabriella’s flowing headscarf. “Yeah, maybe you should have.” She leaned back and closed her eyes. “But really, you must be used to looking different by now, no?”

She didn’t seem to expect a reply, which was good.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 616)