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BETTER LATE -2

Even if Itzhak had not been so terribly ugly and repulsive, Shaynah resented being a fringe benefit to facilitate the family’s corporate merger plans. She wept piteously the night before her wedding when her mother performed the ritual of shaving her head before marriage. Shaynah mustered her strong spirit and submitted to the barbaric ritual. Her aunts and married female cousins looked on and fussed and commented and sipped tea. Ironically, as Shaynah sat silently and closed her large blue eyes, her thoughts were far from the coming marriage ceremony. Her thoughts instead were on a secular life. A life of challenge and adventure… and freedom to do and to be anything she wished.

Shaynah Gnavisch lived a different life within her mind, even when she was a pre-teen. No matter how strict the rules were in her parents home, no matter how intensely instructed she was in the demure ways in which she was to behave, her mind still wandered. It wandered sometimes when she travelled the busy streets with her mother, helping with the shopping for kosher groceries. Shaynah would wait until her mother was busy squeezing tomatoes or bickering over the price of a cheese wheel to seize an opportunity to look about at the secular girls and boys of her own age. She found that she had to almost constantly stifle her curiosity and envy of their apparent individual freedom.

***

In the synagogue chapel Shaynah sat silent and motionless before the plain casket, her lovely face hidden by a thick, black veil. She had to pretend to weep while in reality she struggled to push from her mind the thoughts of the freedom that could be hers now that Itzhak Gnavisch is to be forever buried. Surrounded by her family, with her face hidden by the veil, Shaynah’s thoughts travelled back through her life. She revisited hundreds of scenes and people she’d observed over her life, but always from the cold distance of her religious limitations. She hated the idea that so many millions of people around her knew things she’d never know, read things she’d never read, felt things she’d never feel and tasted things she’d never taste. She resented the limitations that had been placed upon her by her devout parents.

Her life, she began to believe, had been wasted with the possible exception of her fine, young family. Four sons, two daughters, two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren might be a great legacy, but only if their lives were full, rich, and with a good measure of happiness. Her own life had been distinctly unhappy. The religious conformity that she was forced into allowed no tenderness, no sensuality, no caresses nor words of love and caring. Sex was only to procreate, and was done through a hole in a textile to minimise physical contact.

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