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Bending Rules

Esty Heller

My mother smiled lightly. “How much is it?” The question sounded nonchalant, but only almost. I heard the catch in her throat, and my stomach sank

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

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I ’d been engaged for all of 43 hours when I learned the 11th Commandment: A kallah has to look good.

It was my mother’s idea to shop for a new dress for my vort. Frankly, I was shocked. I’d made peace with wearing my green chiffon dress from my cousin Blimi’s wedding, but hey, if my mother was offering, I definitely wouldn’t protest.

And if we were doing this, we weren’t going to Fashionista.

“They’re like five years behind the times,” I whined. They were also five times cheaper than Rachel Greene, but come on. Mimi Margolis would faint if I told her we were going to Fashionista. Besides, Naftali’s sisters were real Rachel Greene type of people. I knew my mother understood. But go convince my father. Men…

In the end we agreed to “just go look around.”

Rachel “got me” immediately, especially when my mother told her I was engaged to the Pfeiffer boy. I was astounded by the way she nixed one dress another, without me saying a word, asserting that they were “not my type.” Was she psychic or what? Finally, she whistled. “Waaaaait… I have something perfect for you.”

We waited in suspense, and what can I say? Rachel Greene was Rachel Greene. There was no question; this dress was it.

“A dress is like a shidduch,” Rachel said happily. “When you find the right one, you feel it in your blood.”

I thought about Naftali. He was “it,” and sure, I felt it in my blood, right? I stared at my reflection, at the brilliant medley of silvers and blues that was all elegance and sophistication. It was perfect. Everything was perfect.

The doorbell chimed and Rachel, beaming as though she’d just sealed a shidduch, fumbled with the buzzer hanging from her neck. A minute later a group of walking perfume advertisements — hoity-toity middle-aged mom and her two married daughters — appeared in the basement shop. Rachel smiled broadly. “Hey, Pessy! How are you? Shopping for Mendy’s bar mitzvah?”

Mimi had told me there were first-name-basis customers that got preferential treatment at Rachel Greene’s. I squirmed.


Pessy trained her eyes on me. “Gooorgeous,” she remarked, shaking her head like an authentic maven. That’s how boutiques worked.

Rachel plunked down a five-inch thick catalog. “Start looking. I’ll be with you as soon as we’re done with this lovely kallah.”

Rachel turned back to my gooorgeous reflection in the mirror.

“So?” Dazzling smile. “It’s a shidduch, isn’t it?”

I glowed.

“Do you like it, Faigy?” my mother asked.

“I love it.”

My mother smiled lightly, then turned to Rachel. “How much is it?” The question sounded nonchalant, but only almost. I heard the catch in her throat, and my stomach sank.

“Two,” Rachel said smoothly.


As though, perhaps, you meant two hundred? My stomach was a goner.

“Two thousand, but I offer a five percent discount for kallos. Just, you know, my soft spot.” Sugary smile, soft chuckle. “So it’ll be nineteen hundred for you.”

The dress hung loosely on my suddenly cold body.

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