"A bby!” That voice haunts me in my sleep. I turned around to greet Susanna. She leaned in and kissed me on each cheek. Too much. She looked around; my eyes followed her gaze. The place looked beautiful. Shifra’s shower had taken more time and effort than I had estimated — much more — but it was worth it.

“Abby, it’s beautiful and chic. If you didn’t do jewelry you should go into party planning. Who would’ve thought!”

Another tap on my shoulder. Please make it stop. Hosting is not for me! Three more of them. Insane how many people I invited off Shifra’s invitation list. Let’s play pretend perky!

“Hi, I’m Shifra’s first cousin Esty,” the petite one said first. Right, I’ve heard of her. The other two women introduced themselves. I smiled, showed all my teeth. “So glad you could all make it.”

“Oh, yum, sushi,” one of the woman said, and led the three of them away. I smiled and bumped cheeks with too many more women, and tried not to say anything stupid.

We played a game, Sister-Sister, with me, Shifra’s two sisters, her mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law answering for her, and Shifra answering for all of us. I didn’t want to do it, too much of a show, but Shifra insisted, and everyone cheered as she dragged me to the center of the room.

After the game — in which I was duly mortified, but got every answer right for Shifra and she for me — I found my corner. And then someone sat down next to me. Please. Space.

“That was adorable,” the woman said, clapping me on the shoulder. “I don’t know how you guys are friends. You’re soooo different.”

I gave her a weak smile. Were Shifra and I really that different? Was it hard to believe that someone like her would be friends with someone like me? We’d been friends for so long, who knew how it happened. If we met today, would we be friends? I took a sidelong glance at the woman next to me. She was already on to the woman sitting next to her. Who was she to say something like that?

People ate. People talked. Shifra opened gifts. It was almost midnight, it was amazing, it needed to be over. Why was everyone still here? I wanted to take off my sheitel and heels. I wanted to stop smiling at people I barely knew. I wanted to go home.

Since I was the hostess, everyone came over to me — everyone. And nobody knows how to just say hi, exchange names, and move on. No, it was small talk, big talk, what’s your maiden name, where did you grow up, what camp did you go to, how long ago did you move here, where do your kids go to school. I think I was supposed to ask those questions in return — sometimes I did, but then the process took even longer.

But Shifra was so beautiful and so happy. She cooed over everyone and everything. It’s amazing to see her in action. I felt bad that she had to perform for her own shower, but she seemed okay with it — unlike me (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 567)