Better Late – 24

The fragrance of fresh-brewed coffee permeated the air. Shaynah suddenly realised she’d left her kosher meals in her car at the marina. She looked at the windows and saw that they were still streaked with harsh rain that was driven by the gusting wind off the water. It would be ridiculous to endure that tedious boat ride again. Besides, she was famished.

“Can I get you some coffee?” David said. He was suffering some inhibition with this attractive, older woman in his guesthouse kitchen. It ceased to matter that she was seven years older than he when he saw her in Janine’s satin pyjamas. It began to matter that she was a Hassidic woman, and he felt confused and unsure about how to behave toward her. It hadn’t mattered before, when she was a bedraggled mess in ugly clothing. But now she looked clean and pure and even innocent with her close-cropped black hair with tints of silver glinting in the kitchen light. The ivory coloured satin draped down her body and revealed that she was slim, with long legs that were a bit heavy in the thigh, an inviting mound to her stomach, and substantial if not youthful breasts.

“I guess I have to taste secular life sooner or later, so I might as well start now,” Shaynah said. She accepted the white mug from David.

“Sweetener or sugar and milk or cream?” he said.

“Thanks, no,” she said. “I’ll try it like this.” Shaynah tasted the coffee tentatively. “M-m-m, good,” she said.

“Thank you,” David said. “What would you like to have for breakfast?” Shaynah thought about it for a moment, her mind jumping around among all the secular foods she’d never tasted. She was filled with annoyance at her own hesitation and was moved to plunge headlong into new eating habits.

“Do you have ham?” she said.

“No, no ham. I have some bacon,” David said.

“I’d like some bacon and eggs, please,” she said. David stared at her. “It’s alright, Mr. Goodman. I’ve always wondered what it tasted like. I’ve smelled it cooking sometimes, and it’s a wonderful fragrance, isn’t it?”

“I love it, personally,” David said. “Have you ever eaten secular before? Especially pork?”

“No, never,” she said. “Don’t you think it’s time? I’m forty-four. How… uh… how old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I’ll turn thirty-seven next month,” he said. “So you’re determined to leave your religion, are you? Or are you just going to experience some of society’s secular behaviour before you settle down as a widow?”

“I hope to settle into a life as totally different from my Hassidic life as possible,” Shaynah said. “I feel I’ve served my family, my synagogue, and even my husband as well as any woman could. My children are able to live their lives as they wish, and I’m claiming my right as an adult to do the same. May I watch how you prepare the meal?” David didn’t answer, but simply pulled a tall stool from the counter to his side at the stove and gestured for Shaynah to sit there.

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