Y ael had the door open before her mother knocked. It wasn’t so often that her parents took time from their packed schedules to make the trip out to her house. But Simi’s second birthday party was a good enough excuse, and her whole family had come for the occasion.

“Yael! You look great! Is that a new sheitel?” Her mother gave her a hug, then walked inside.

One by one, each of her family members followed, and she couldn’t help but notice that they all made the same eye movement as they came in, a quick ocular dance that took in the elaborately decorated foyer and living room, and flashed the same wondering look: Does she really live here? It happened without fail, every time they came.

Yael patted her sheitel self-consciously. “Uh, yeah, it is. A Pesach gift from my mother-in-law.”

Her mother hadn’t bought herself a new sheitel since Yael’s wedding. Eyes swiveling to the Jerens, already ensconced in the living room, her mother turned back to Yael, lowered her voice confidentially. “So, how was the bris? Did you manage to speak to them?”

Her mother had suggested, during their long phone conversation a few days ago, that Aviva’s bris would be the perfect, nonprofessional setting to try to patch things up.

“You mean apologize?” she’d asked on the phone.

“To reveal that you spoke lashon hara? That’s a halachic sh’eilah. Better to discuss it with Tatty.” She’d paused, and then asked, with her unerring perception, “But that’s not your real question, is it?”

That’s when Yael had started sobbing like a little girl. It’s so completely not me, to spread such vicious rumors, to take revenge like that! I feel like I’ve become someone else, these past few months, and whoever she is, I really don’t like her…”

A long conversation had followed, and somewhere along the way they veered off into the territory of values and money, about her priorities as a wife, and the vast cultural divide between her and her in-laws.

At the end, Yael had said, sniffling, “You know what, Mommy? I feel like we should have had this conversation years ago, before I got married.”

Her mother had been silent for a moment, and then she’d said, “Yes, we should have. I don’t think I realized how much of an adjustment it would be for you. But that’s no excuse. I should have realized, and I should have guided you then, instead of leaving you to struggle on your own for so long.”

Now, in response to her mother’s question, she replied in a low voice, “I went to the bris, and I sat next to Suri. It was awkward, really awkward, but I forced myself and once we got past the weird beginning, we started chatting almost normally. Suri and I had always gotten along,” she added.

“And Aviva? I’m sure she was preoccupied, of course.”

Yael raked a hand through her new sheitel uncomfortably. “Aviva wasn’t there.”

“Wasn’t there?”

Yael shrugged. “She was there for the bris, and then, just as it was finishing, she, uh, scooted out really fast. No one saw her after that." (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 547)