Aviva ached to do something — run a marathon, cater a dinner for a thousand. Anything that involved getting off her stupid couch, out of the prison her home had become. She was texting Suri ten times an hour, but so far nothing more had come from Goldfeder’s visit. As one day passed, and then another, she slowly allowed herself to hope that maybe the man really had been bluffing.

Which was a relief, to be sure — but she was still stuck in her jail cell.

She couldn’t even continue her research project, not after that day her mother had discovered her reading up on Down syndrome. She’d gotten away with the excuse that it was for a client, but she couldn’t risk it again.

She was stuck with nothing at all to do. And facing endless weeks of more of the same.

“Aviva! Why in the world do you still have this clothing?” Her mother stalked into the room, several hangers’ worth of dresses draped over her arm.

“Mommy!” Aviva spluttered, “What were you doing in my closet?”

“Getting started on your Pesach cleaning,” she responded calmly. “From the looks of it, you haven’t done this closet in years. Really, do you ever expect to be a size six again?” With a stern look, she folded the clothes into a box labeled “Gemach.”

Before Aviva could respond, the doorbell rang. She gasped. Suri. She’d come to show her the court summons in person. Heart thudding, she waited for her mother to answer the door, straining to listen.

The next second, she frowned. The high-pitched giggle coming from her front hall was definitely not Suri’s. Yet it seemed familiar, and was stirring up a vague feeling of irritation. As the voice came closer, her eyes widened. No. It couldn’t be. Not in her very own house. But a moment later, her grad student Esti was bounding into the room, with a great big smile.

“Vivs! Surprise!”

She did not just call me “Vivs.” Aviva closed her eyes, willing this to be a dream. But when she opened them, Esti was still there, beaming way too close to her face.

“Soon as I heard you were on bed rest, I told myself I’d come over to help you out. Took me a little while — life is just crazy busy, you know. Well, I guess not for you, right now, but for the rest of us!” She winked and laughed. Aviva wanted to punch her.

Instead she said, with whatever graciousness she could muster, “How thoughtful.”

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Esti waved airily. “I love doing chesed. I was head of the chesed committee in 12th grade, you know.” She jumped up, looking around the room. “Hey, you, too!” she cried, pausing by her mother’s cardboard box. “What kind of gemach are you collecting for?”

“Clothing,” Aviva’s mother said smoothly. Aviva was momentarily speechless. “I’m getting started on the Pesach cleaning.”

“Really?” Esti’s eyes brightened. “I love Pesach cleaning! Can I help?”

Aviva’s mother smiled kindly at her. “If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate the assistance.”

This was just too bizarre. As the pair started walking off, Aviva quickly called out, “Not in my closet!” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 537)