Written by Noa. Noa is an experienced Jewrotica writer.
“[glossary]Shabbos[/glossary] Walk” is the fourth (and likely final!) chapter in Noa’s series. This piece is a prequel to “Countdown“, which is the prequel to “Shinui / Change“. “Shinui / Change” can be read as a prequel to “In Total Darkness“.
They happen upon each other as she approaches the walkway in front of his house. Well, more accurate to say that she happens upon him – he’s sitting out on the stoop, despite the cold, a thin pile of papers on his lap. He stands up as she arrives, as if he was waiting for her.
“Good [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary],” she greets him, surprised. A puff of visible air accompanies the greeting, then disintegrates.
“Good [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary], yourself,” he responds cheerfully. “Looking for Dassie?”
She chews her lip and nods, fiddling with the fuzzy blue scarf at her neck.
“She asked me to tell you to meet her at Ayelet’s house.”
“Oh. Thanks.” She turns away in the relevant direction, then looks back at his house. “Uh, should I say good [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary] to your parents?”
“No need, everyone’s out. My father’s in Montreal on a business trip and my mother took Noam out to the park.”
She nods. “Okay.”
“Actually, I’m going in the same direction as you – I have a [glossary]shiur[/glossary] in twenty minutes. We can walk together.”
She knows that the [glossary]shiur[/glossary] he’s talking about is actually a [glossary]parsha[/glossary] [glossary]shiur[/glossary] that he gives weekly. It’s a tradition in their community that the older kids give a weekly [glossary]shiur[/glossary] for the younger kids, eighth graders to first graders, ninth graders to second graders, and so on, leaving out only the sixth and seventh graders, which includes her. She likes how modestly he says it – not, “I’m giving a [glossary]shiur[/glossary],” but rather, “I have a [glossary]shiur[/glossary].”
“How do you like doing that?” she asks as they fall into step.
“It’s great,” he says. “The kids are so sweet. Not old and jaded like us.” He realizes immediately what he just said, as if they’re the same age, when he’s really two whole years older. Not “us.” But it’s too late to take it back now.
“And Dassie still made you wait for me? What if I’d made you late to your [glossary]shiur[/glossary]?”
He’d offered to wait, actually, but he doesn’t want to admit that. Instead, he meets her eye and says, “Well, Shev, thank you for not making me late.”
She smiles and feels herself floating – hearing him say her name like that gives her butterflies in her stomach, and it’s almost too intense. She has to look away.
Her arms are starting to feel strange as she walks. Are they too stiff? But if she relaxes them more, are they swinging too much?
And walking down the street with a boy. She’s never done that before. What if somebody sees them and thinks that – that there’s something going on between them?
He goes on talking, as if he didn’t just turn her world upside down just by saying her name. “She said she wanted to tell you in [glossary]shul[/glossary] today – to go to Ayelet – but she forgot you weren’t going to be there because you had a… something? A [glossary]kiddush[/glossary]? Some kind of [glossary]simcha[/glossary]?”
“Yeah, uh, my cousin’s [glossary]bar mitzvah[/glossary], they [glossary]daven[/glossary] at [glossary]Shomrei[/glossary].”
“[glossary]Mazel tov[/glossary]. Who’s your cousin, anyone I know?”
“Lev Jacobs? No? He goes to [glossary]YRP[/glossary].”
“Ahh.” That explains it, of course – he himself goes to [glossary]YCY[/glossary], and these are two completely different crowds.
There’s more silence, and she tries to think of something to say. She comes up with, “What’s your [glossary]shiur[/glossary] about?”
“Well, they’re little kids, so it’s hard to keep them focused for very long. It’s pretty much the basic story plus some [glossary]Rashi[/glossary] and a few other things here and there that catch my interest. It’ll be harder to keep them interested once we hit [glossary]Vayikra[/glossary].”
She laughs. “Do you get nervous? I don’t think I could give a [glossary]shiur[/glossary] to so many people, week after week.”
“It’s okay, they’re children, so they’re not… it’s not too much pressure. And I’m used to them. Anyway, it’s fun, I like kids.”
She sneaks a glance at him. It’s funny – all of the boys she knows wear black suits on [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary], with blue or red ties (Effi’s is blue – one shade lighter than her scarf and gloves), they all have similar black coats; their head coverings vary, but not by much: plain suede or knitted [glossary]kippot[/glossary] of various colors, and a few even wear a black hat. Really, the only thing wholly individual about any of the boys is their face. But she looks at him now and he doesn’t look like any other boy she knows.
Then he opens his mouth again and ruins it.
“And if you get nervous, you know,” he says, “you can just imagine everyone in their under – uh,” he turns red and cuts himself off. “Nothing, forget I said anything.”
Dassie’s cute older brother just almost said underwear to her.
She looks straight ahead determinedly, as if it didn’t happen. Or as if she didn’t hear it, at least. Or maybe as if she just didn’t know what the end of the word was.
No. What is she, a coward?
“That wouldn’t work, I would just feel bad for them all freezing to death,” she says, and she punctuates it with a shiver. “It’s getting cold so early this year.”
“I know. Did you hear it’s supposed to snow on Tuesday?”
“Enough to cancel school?”
“We can hope so.” He has to admit (silently, to himself) that he’s a little bit delighted at how she managed to save that conversation. He underestimated her, he decides; she’s mature for her age. More than his sister, anyway, who always follows him around and never stops talking.
“If school is canceled, Dassie will probably invite a bunch of us over for a snowball fight. Since you’re on a corner house and you have that lawn.”
Why is she telling him that? They both know he can’t join a snowball fight with girls. Even if they are his little sister’s friends.
He can shovel the walk while they’re out there, though. And the sidewalk. And the driveway. Because… shoveling is necessary.
“The corner house does have its advantages,” he says. “Unless you’re the one who needs to mow the lawn.”
“Speaking of corners,” she says, and she’s almost sad to say it, “this is my turn.” Ayelet lives a few houses in, but Effi needs to keep walking straight to get to [glossary]shul[/glossary].
He turns with her, surprising both of them, but he still has plenty of time before his [glossary]shiur[/glossary] – the [glossary]shiur[/glossary] that he “has” – starts. They walk silently for the last few houses, hands in their respective pockets.
He stops on the sidewalk in front of their destination. “So, uh, have fun. Good [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary].”
“Good [glossary]Shabbos[/glossary] yourself,” she responds, and they both smile, braces glinting in the sunlight. She starts onto the walk of Ayelet’s house.
He waits until she reaches the stoop, then turns to go.
She spares one final look backwards as she knocks. He’s started walking again, and he doesn’t see her. She watches for one moment and then the door swings open and her laughing friends pull her inside.
He doesn’t turn around, but his ears keenly register the sound of a door closing. He exhales a sigh, smiles to himself and continues to walk.