S

uri moved through her Shabbos preparations with her usual efficiency, but with an extra bounce. The glow from last night’s event was still with her. The women had been so appreciative, so welcoming, that she’d found, to her surprise, that running a social group was actually fun. At least, for women of this age group, who had no expectations of bells and whistles, and weren’t stingy with the compliments.

She was still repeating them in her mind as she mixed the potato kugel. “We had such an enjoyable time.” “You have a beautiful way of making everyone feel comfortable.” And, especially, “You should lead these groups each month!”

That one kept tickling her brain because, really, why shouldn’t she? If only to save the organization the money they paid Sylvia. But Sylvia’s a professional facilitator. She knows how to anticipate what each woman really needs, how to handle problems that may arise. And I’m just… playing at this. Pretending.

Enjoying the feeling of, once in her life, being the center of attention.

Her lips curled up as she shook her head at herself, but later that afternoon, when she repeated some of her thoughts to Shaul, he brushed her hesitations aside.

“You already know what I’m going to tell you.”

Suri shrugged, and didn’t reply. Yes, she knew — but sometimes, she needed to hear it anyway.

“You know where this is coming from, and it’s not about you not being qualified.”

Miri was in the next room, setting the dining room table, and Suri noticed her ears perk up. Uncomfortably, she said to Shaul, “Maybe we should discuss this another time?”

“What’s there to even discuss? This is a chesed you’re good at, you have the time for it, and it would be beneficial for both them and you. Just because of your lack of self-confidence—”

A clatter came from the dining room. Miri had dropped a spoon, which showed just how intently she’d been listening. Suri turned away.

“Later, please,” she hissed. The last thing she needed was for Miri to hear she lacked self-confidence, when she was forever giving her daughter pep talks about feeling good about yourself.

Shaul went back to brushing his Shabbos hat, but something else was niggling at Suri. What was it?

A few minutes later, her cookies were out of the oven. She’d made them for a neighbor’s shalom zachar. Just chocolate chip, she always felt the need to apologize, knowing that someone like Aviva would’ve brought over a tray of frosted baby bottles or something—

Aviva. That was it.

Chesed. Lack of self-confidence.

And one lousy friend.

She was on the phone with Yael a moment later.

“Hi, sorry to bother you, I’m sure it must be hectic.” She paused, hearing the crying going on in the background. She’d forgotten what Friday afternoon was like with babies. She shouldn’t have called, it wasn’t considerate.

“Hey, Suri! How are you?” Yael’s voice sounded cheery enough. “I don’t have much time — I’m in the middle of baths, and still need to mop the floors, but what’s up?”

“Mop the floors?” Suri blurted. “You don’t have—” She stopped herself, horrified. What business was it of hers whether Yael had a full-time housekeeper, like she’d always imagined?