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Freefall: Chapter 24

Moe is told he’s being transferred to Officer Training School in New Jersey. Harry asks Moe if he can recuperate in the Freed Hotel

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Have I made a terrible mistake?

Rachel Levine was not one for second-guessing herself. She was determined, confident — and, as she never hesitated to point out — usually right.

From almost that first moment when Annie had come to her aid, lifting her up from the Boardwalk with arms both strong and gentle — comforting arms, Jewish arms — Rachel had marked her as the granddaughter she had always longed for, the perfect wife for her Abie. She’d done all she could to hurry the match through.

Now, as she carefully traced the arc of her lips with her fuchsia lip pomade and dabbed on the foundation and powder, she felt the tiniest prick of an emotion so rare she could hardly identify it: doubt.

Usually impervious to others’ opinions (particularly to that of her son and daughter-in-law) somehow, on this day of days, the constant, unrelenting opposition that Sammy and Dora had quietly shown to the match had sown something disquieting within her.

Not against Annie; the girl was a gem. Beautiful, inside and out. But oh, that Yeruchum Freed. Rachel had known him in good times and bad. As upright as they came, but so incredibly stubborn. Why did the man insist on denying the emotions that the good G-d had given him? It wasn’t that he had no emotions. Rachel knew him well, and she saw that beneath that frigid exterior was a mass of anger, resentment, love, compassion, frustration, sadness, and dedication — an entire smorgasbord of feeling, hidden behind a curtain of formality. Was this the father-in-law who would bring out the best in Abie? Who could even understand him?

But speaking of smorgasbord… look at the time! They would be leaving in half an hour and she still had her hair and hat to take care of.

Enough of this. Abie and Annie are getting married today. It is a time for mazel tovs, not silly thoughts.

“Do you think he’s making a terrible mistake?”

Sammy struggled with his bowtie, and thought about Dora’s plaintive question.

This wasn’t how Sammy had envisioned the wedding of his only son. A large affair in an exclusive hall, a girl with contacts who would help Abie move up swiftly in the business world, a party that would make a statement in the social world he inhabited. Not a ridiculously simple affair, with homemade Jewish food, in some nondescript Coney Island boarding house pretending to be a hotel. A shtetl wedding, of all things, with a simple chuppah (no flowers!) held up by four bearded men. And then, the cruelest blow, this idea that there would be no ballroom dancing, just circles, men and women separated by (he could hardly believe it) a curtain between them.

Yeruchum Freed, he got everything he wanted. Considering his past encounters with the Levine family, you would think he would be a little more accommodating, but no, that wasn’t the way Annie Freed’s father operated.

At the thought of Annie, Sammy softened. A sweet girl, who quietly made the room brighter with her presence. Very respectful, too, of him and Dora (more than Abie was, he had to admit). If only she wasn’t… Yeruchum Freed’s daughter.

Was their Abe making a terrible mistake?

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