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Learning Curve: Chapter 31

Gila Arnold

Yael can’t tell Ephraim about the surprise new OT hire. Aviva and Suri visit Yael at her home, to apologize — and Yael abruptly quits

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

S uri and Aviva spent most of the ride back to the clinic in silence. Suri kept glancing at Aviva, wishing she would start up the conversation, but her friend’s eyes were glued determinedly to the road, her lips pursed tightly.

Finally, as they pulled up to the clinic, Suri spoke up. “We need to talk about this.”

Aviva nodded. “I didn’t see it coming, Suri. I admit — I totally didn’t see it coming.” And, with a soft sigh, she added, “Poor Yael.”

Suri picked up her purse. “We both have clients now, but this needs to be discussed ASAP. Meet after work?”

Aviva quickly shook her head, cheeks reddening. “Uh, no, I can’t. Doctor appointment.”

“Oh,” Suri said awkwardly. “Um… Okay, tonight, then?”

Aviva hesitated. “Not sure. I might not be up to it, after the appointment,” she mumbled.

Suri raised her eyebrows at that. True, it had been many years, but from what she remembered, prenatal checkups were hardly exhausting. Sounded to her like Aviva was trying to avoid the discussion.

“Aviva, this is urgent. We’ve hurt Yael terribly, and we need to figure out what to do about it.”

Aviva twisted her ring around her finger. “I know, I know. How about tomorrow morning? We’ll come an hour early, the office should be quiet.”

Suri grudgingly nodded. She didn’t like pushing this off until tomorrow — her instinct was to turn right around this instant, burst into Yael’s house, and beg her to come back to work. But faced with no other choice, she opened the car door and switched her brain back to work mode.

Dini Goldfeder was her next client. The girl was still a mystery to her. The mother kept insisting she had social awareness problems, and had her stories to prove it: one week, Dini had been sent home from school for mouthing off to her teacher; another time, she’d instigated a fight over nothing with her long-time best friend, and actually laughed when she’d declared to her mother that the friendship was over.

But every time Suri spoke with Dini, she had the impression of a poised, articulate, reasonably mature teenager who did not exhibit any of the classic signs of difficulty with social pragmatics. It seemed clear, based on her mother’s anecdotes and also Dini’s ever-evolving appearance — one day she’d walk in looking like a typical Bais Yaakov girl, the next week, her nose ring was in and she’d spiked up her hair — that something was going on here. But that something, Suri was increasingly starting to feel, seemed out of her purview as a speech therapist.

She’d tried hinting as much to Nechi Goldfeder, but the woman didn’t want to hear it.

“A friend of mine, her daughter went through exactly the same thing. The school was on the verge of kicking her out, and then someone suggested that she just wasn’t picking up on — what do you call them? — social cues. After a few sessions, my friend says she was a different person!”

Nechi’s eyes were wide as she’d told her this, almost pleading, as if begging Suri to work the same magic with her own daughter.

Now, as Suri hunched over her therapy table, squinting at Dini’s file as if hoping it would reveal the key to unlocking this mystery, she wondered what more she could possibly try.

The minutes ticked by, and still, the Goldfeders didn’t appear. She glanced at her watch, wondering if everything was okay — they were usually punctual.

Just as she was about to call, the door opened, and mother and daughter trooped in. Nechi came first, dressed impeccably as usual, though her face looked wan. But Dini… Dini wore a ratty sweatshirt, her hair hung loosely around her face, and her eyes had deep, droopy bags under them.

“Have you been ill?” Suri blurted out.

Nechi glanced at her daughter, who stared at the floor, her face a mask. Nechi gave a slight shrug. “You could say that,” she said, her mouth twisted. “She’s been lying in bed for the past three days, refused to come out for anything. It was quite a fight to get her to come here today.”

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