S

uri was leaving for work when she got the call from Aviva. “I won’t be able to make it today. Can you please call my clients to cancel?”

It was as if Aviva had just announced that a meteor struck her house. It took Suri a moment to respond. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine.” The answer was quick, emphatic, and clear as day: Everything is not fine, thank you very much, and no more questions.

“If there’s any way I can help…”

“Yes, by calling my clients as soon as possible. It’ll look really bad if they come all the way out to the clinic before they get the message.”

That day, the clinic felt different without Aviva’s presence, subdued somehow, as if, in the absence of Aviva’s dynamism, it had taken on Suri’s persona. She’d hoped things would liven up when Zevi arrived in the afternoon (according to their part-time arrangement, he worked for them during the busy after-school hours), but, to her consternation, Aviva’s husband, too, did not seem his usual self.

She was very tempted to ask Zevi if everything was well at home — something told her he’d be more forthcoming with information than Aviva — but she held herself back. From the moment they’d decided to hire Zevi Heyman, she had realized that the arrangement could only work if firm boundaries were drawn. Asking him to reveal personal information about his wife crossed those boundaries.

But the next day, when Aviva again called in sick, Suri started to get seriously alarmed, enough to question Zevi. “This is really not like her,” she explained.

Zevi’s quick smile calmed her down. “Baruch Hashem, Aviva’s well. There’s nothing wrong with her. It’s just a… personal issue.”

Suri knew she’d have to be satisfied with that, though she was burning to know what kind of personal issue could keep Aviva home from work for two whole days. Reassured at least that it wasn’t any of the worst-case scenarios she’d feared, she returned to her therapy room, mind still full of the mystery.

“Everything okay?” Gitty, her grad-student shadow, was sitting at the therapy table, writing up some notes.

She liked Gitty a lot — she was quiet, sensible, and responsible, and she reminded her of her own Miri.

“Yeah, fine. Just picking up the slack for one of my partners, who’s been out sick.” Or whatever.

Gitty nodded. “Oh, that’s why things are so much quieter around here. I was trying to put my finger on it. Usually when I walk in, I feel like I’ve come to such a fun, happening place, and today it was more like a doctor’s waiting room.”

Suri stared at her. Gitty had hit on the problem exactly. And if Aviva’s “personal issue,” whatever it was, were to drag on longer, she had a funny feeling that their Big Bounce therapy center would become more like a half-hearted amble.