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Freefall: Chapter 14

Miriam Zakon

Harry Cohn comes to Moe’s rescue when a drunken GI attacks him while they are on leave. Abe and Annie have their first date

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Abe and Annie arrived back at the Hotel just as Mrs. Horn had begun glancing at her watch. Rachel, who’d spent a happy afternoon coaxing recipes out of the reluctant cook, heard the door open and flew out to meet the couple. Mrs. Horn, completely forgetting Yeruchum’s strictures to give Chanaleh her privacy, followed close behind. 

“Thank you, Mr. Levine, it was a lovely walk,” Annie said quietly. She turned to the cook. “Give me two minutes, Mrs. Horn, to change, and I’ll join you in the kitchen.” 

“Goodbye, my dear,” Rachel said. Annie held out her hand, but Rachel ignored it and instead wrapped her in a close embrace. 

Annie returned the hug and then quickly turned away, leaving Abe and Rachel staring at each other — and Mrs. Horn, unnoticed, staring at the both of them. 

“She lights up this dim hallway,” Rachel murmured to her grandson, turning to look at the figure flying up the stairs. 

“She does, indeed,” he answered quietly. “Bubbe, if you don’t mind, I have to speak to Rabbi Freed.”

“I’ll sit in the parlor, darling. Don’t worry about me — I’ve got all the time in the world.” 

“It shouldn’t be long.” 

Abe proved to be correct. In the space of less than five minutes he’d asked Yeruchum for permission to see his daughter again, had been quietly granted that permission, and had bid the taciturn father farewell. He didn’t say much to his grandmother sitting next to him in the Pontiac. 

He didn’t have to — his face, his smile, and the cheerful melody he hummed under his breath said it all. 

It was 5:45 p.m. when they pulled into the Levine family driveway. At 5:46 Abe was at the family telephone, carefully dialing the Coney Island exchange number that would reach the public phone in the hallway of the Freed Hotel. “So, you’ll be meeting him again tomorrow?” Annie gave a happy nod at her Aunt Cele.

Annie had begun to think of these weekly mid-afternoon meetings with her aunt as the “elegant hour” — elegant tea, served in elegant teacups, with elegant conversation. Mostly, she sat in rapt silence as her Aunt Cele told her tales of her family: the difficult years when Annie’s grandparents had first come through Ellis Island, Cele’s propensity to get herself into trouble, and Tova’s loyal efforts to pull her out. Occasionally Hilda, Cele’s friend who always joined them, would interject a light remark or sharp joke, which would usually leave Annie both shocked and amused. 

Today, though, it was Annie who was the center of attention.

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