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Better Late – 7

“Come, Lina,” she said. “Come tell me what you think of this.” Lina crouched behind her mother and peered at the monitor.

“Mother, why are you looking at such things?” she said.

“Tell the truth, Lina. What do you think of this?”

Lina studied the ad. Shaynah vacated the seat so the girl could comfortably take time to peruse the ad and understand it.

“It’s beautiful, Mother, but it’s not a place for us,” she said and dismissed the ad with a wave and turned her back on the pictures that faded in and out on the monitor. “But why are you looking at things that are not for us?”

“Why should it not be a place for us?” Shaynah demanded, irritated more by her own fears and doubts than by her daughter’s negative attitude. “Would I be less of a Jew if I lived in that place, in that way.”

“How would you keep the prayers, the kosher?” Lina wailed.

“Tell me the truth, baby daughter,” Shaynah pleaded. She took Lina’s hands in hers. “Do you like the way we must dress? Do you never look at the girls your age on the streets and envy their freedom? Their boldness? Even their sexual understanding?”

Lina stared at her mother and staggered back. She raised a frail hand to her mouth.

“Mother! How can you speak so?”

“Answer your mother, beloved daughter. Speak the truth,” Shaynah demanded.

Lina walked slowly across the room and sat down in a plain wooden chair in a corner farthest from her mother. She looked down at her hands in her lap for a long moment before she looked up at her mother. She heaved a shaky sigh before she spoke.

“Yes, mother,” Lina said. “I hate these clothes, I envy the girls on the street, and I am disgusted by the thought that the Rebbe will appoint some idiot cousin to be my husband and father my children.” Lina looked down at her hands again.

“Let us change it,” Shaynah said.

“What?” Lina gasped. “How? How could we do that?”

“This is a free country,” Shaynah said. “It is only our fathers’ beliefs that keep us in this narrow life. But we can ignore those beliefs if we choose to, and live any way we wish, within the limits of civil laws.”

“I don’t know what to say. It’s such a bold idea. You would be forced to leave the community, and the synagogue,” Lina moaned.

“What has the community given me? A dirty job caring for a worthless man. The synagogue has given little, and taken much of our wealth,” Shaynah said.

“I beg you, mother, be prudent,” Lina said. “The family will be outraged.”

“And you, my darling? Will you hate your mother?” Shaynah said softly.

“I will always love you, mother. You know that.” Lina crossed to her mother and hugged her head to her breast. “I will support you in whatever you decide to do,” she said. “But please… think twice. Be careful.”

“What do you think your brothers and sister would do if I left the synagogue?” Shaynah said.

“Each child loves you mother, for all that you are,” Lina said. “No matter how you choose to live, you will always be all that you are.”

After Lina left, Shaynah returned to her computer. She clicked on the link that said contact vendor and began to type in the pop up e-mail form. Abruptly, she stopped and cancelled the form and began to peruse the ad more carefully. There was a link that offered more details that Shaynah clicked on. Within a few seconds a video player appeared on the monitor. Shaynah looked at the frame and controls for a few minutes to discern how to view the video before she clicked on an icon that made it play.

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