T he day that her world falls apart, Chani is out, shopping for shoes.

She has plenty of time. No clients today; she’s scheduled her week carefully. And already, she has rhinestone-studded flats tucked safely in a bag. One sheva brachos sorted.

She is debating over two pairs of heels — the patent gloss are elegant, but a bit high; black suede isn’t her style but they fit much more comfortably — and the saleslady is trying to convince her to take both, when her phone rings. Chani digs through her bag, and the edges of her diamond click against her keys, harmony that tickles her chest and tugs her lips upwards. The light catches and sparkles, the diamond is as big as hope, and she answers the phone, breathless, to her mother.

“I have the perfect flats for my silver dress,” she says, instead of a greeting.

Her mother’s voice is pitched low, discordant. “Chani? Where are you now?”

The saleslady plucks the left shoe of the suede pair from her hand, brushes it down in an elaborate motion, holds it up to the light.

“I’m still shopping, Ma, there’s a couple pairs of heels here I can’t decide between, I totally need new ones for Shabbos sheva brachos and —”


“Ma? What’s going on?”

Lights and noise and a dozen shoppers float past. The saleslady buffs the toes of the patent heels and lines them up, side by side. Ma takes a breath, pauses too long, and suddenly, there is a hairline crack running down the center of her world.

“Leave the shoes, okay? Just come home.” (Excerpted from Calligraphy, Issue 704)