"I am not going back. I mean it. Not. Going. Back.”

Suri was holed up on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, as Shaul stood next to her, a helpless look on his face.

He had just come home from shul and broken the news that word was out. Men had come over to him, some he barely knew, and asked if it was true that the clinic was under threat of closing because of illegal activity.

“Illegal activity!” Suri had paled. “They make it sound like we’re trafficking drugs! This was a mistake, a simple mistake!”

“I told them not at all, and asked where they heard such a rumor. They just said it’s going around.”

She’d groaned, and sat shakily down on the couch. This was in line with those e-mails Shira had received today. Somehow, word had gotten out. Had Goldfeder, who up until now had chosen to remain silent, decided it was time to go public?

And then Miri had walked into the house. “Hey, Mommy, is everything okay?”

“I’m fine,” Suri had said. “Just feeling a bit tired.”

“No, I mean, well, I just heard some of our neighbors talking. Something about the clinic being in trouble.”

That’s when Suri had lost it. She’d cocooned herself on the couch, telling them all to leave her alone, and there she’d remained, all evening, until the kids were asleep and Shaul had finally, tentatively, confronted her.

He watched her silently for a moment, listening to her emphatic declarations, until at last he said, “Do what you want, but you know that hiding is not the answer.”

“Sure sounds like a good answer to me.” Her voice was muffled from inside her blanket.

He settled himself on the armchair opposite her. “Well, it isn’t. If you stay away, that will be feeding into all the rumors and then some. Everyone will assume they’re all true, that the clinic really has been engaged in something terribly illegal.”

“Isn’t that what they think already?”

“No, they have no idea. It’s simply more exciting to spread the most extreme scenarios. But your behavior over the next few days will prove or disprove whatever it is they’re saying.”

There were a few seconds of silence as she digested this. Slowly, she lifted her head out of the blanket. “And so I’m supposed to just walk into the clinic with my head high, pretend that everyone in the community doesn’t think I’m some lowlife criminal—”

The words were stuck in her throat, and suddenly, she was crying, tears dripping onto her blanket. How in the world had this happened? To her, of all people! Quiet, unassuming Suri Taub, whose entire goal in life had always been to lay low and keep everyone happy?

“I’m not cut out for this,” she mumbled, after her sobs had subsided. “Someone like Aviva, she could pull it off, I can just see her sweeping through the crowd with total poise, but me? I can’t, Shaul, I can’t!” Tears spilled out once more.

He looked her in the eye. “You’re a lot stronger than you think, Suri. I’ve been telling you that for years.”

Tears were still leaking out, but slowly now. Suri lay her head against the armrest for several moments. It was Shaul’s quiet confidence in her that ultimately won out.

“I’ll do it,” she said at last. “I’ll go back.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 539)