Remove This Cup: But Not My Will

By LesleyC All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Other

Blurb

Things get even more complicated for the Studebakers in this third installment of the Heavenly Father series. Wren begins experimenting with Judaism, though continues to feel isolated from her family. JV's love for Shay is strong, but his addiction is, too. A chance meeting with an old friend has Gloria reevaluating her marriage. Adam and Tim explore their feelings for one another, while Evelyn grows disillusioned with her friends. Through it all, Jonny still wonders if he should keep his secrets or let them go at long last.

Chapter One: The Congregation of Israel

It was a Friday afternoon a few weeks after that disastrous first day of school. Wren was waiting for Zoe and her mom to pick her up. She was going over to Zoe’s for Sabbath services.

“Technically speaking,” she’d said at lunch, “this isn’t conversion.”

“I know.” If Zoe hadn’t said it once, she’d said it a hundred million times. It was starting to get on Wren’s nerves.

“Mom and Dad weren’t happy about it,” she’d said after a pause. “Mom more than Dad.”

“Why?” The old uneasiness she’d gotten whenever she’d heard “damaged child” came back, but Wren tried to knock it down.

“Well, Jews don’t evangelize like Christians do. Mom and Dad were worried that I’m doing that. I argued that you have some interest. There’s no harm in showing you what Judaism is about. If you don’t think it’s for you, then we can just stop taking about it and go on with our lives.”

“Oh.” Wren thought for a minute. “Thanks.”

“Of course.”

Wren looked through her bag again. She’d done her homework. She had her clothes that Evelyn had helped her pick yesterday.

She’s packed her overnight bag with obvious things: pajamas, a toothbrush, some toothpaste, some soap (Zoe had talked her ear off about them for the last few weeks; to say nothing about asking her about everything from food allergies to when she took a shower every day), and her nice patent-leather shoes. But she still didn’t know what to wear for Sabbath dinner Friday night or the Sabbath services on Saturday morning.

“Hey, Evelyn?” she’d said, careful to make sure that Evelyn was on her study break.

“Yes?” she said, turning from the magazine she was reading.

“What blouse do you think looks best on me?”

She’d never really asked that question before. She’d never really had an occasion to do so. Nonetheless, the two blouses she’d narrowed it down to, a blue and a black, up for Evelyn’s inspection.

Evelyn frowned in confused surprise (or is “surprised confusion” a better description?) as she got off the bed and examined both blouses carefully.

“I’d say the blue one,” she said.

“Really? I thought black would look better. You know, with my hair and skin.” Strange. The memories of Mr. Walton were there. They were as terrible as ever. But they didn’t overwhelm her.

“The blue will bring out your eyes better.” She hesitated. “And you have nice eyes.”

“Thanks.”

“Of course.”

Evelyn bit her lip slightly. Wren smiled and carefully put her blouses back in the bag, next to the khakis she was planning to wear to the Fuchses’ house.

“That’s what I’m going to wear when I go to Zoe’s this weekend,” she said

“You’re dressing up for a sleepover?” She wasn’t “condescending” necessarily, but was definitely confused.

“I want to make a good impression on Zoe’s parents,” she explained. “Before we do all the … whatever they do at sleepovers.”

Evelyn nodded and flopped on her bed. She read her magazine for a bit and said, in a strange little voice, “Is this your first sleepover, Wren?”

“No. Well,” she said for reasons she’d never be able to explain, “being at the foster center was like a giant sleepover. We even talked about nails and hair and boys and school and stuff. You do that at sleepovers, right?”

“Yeah. And you play games sometimes—board games, cards, and things such as that. Some people have Wiis now, but they didn’t when I was younger.”

Wren nodded.

“Yeah, well, at the center, we always slept in the same room. And we had a bedtime. Things like that. So I guess it was a bit more like dorming in college or something.”

Evelyn looked as though she was trying not to laugh, but she still looked understanding.

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Wren said as she turned back to the closet.

“I know that. I’m showing you sympathy.”

She nodded.

“We learned the difference between that and empathy in vocabulary a few weeks ago,” she said. “I still don’t get it.”

“I could help you with that, if you’d like.”

“Thanks, but you’ve got your own stuff to do.”

Now, Zoe and her mother showed up in a decent but hardly new Tahoe. Mrs. Fuchs, a tall and thin woman with Zoe’s hair and eyes, rang the doorbell. Gloria answered the door. They’d already called each other and talked a little before this, so it was just a handshake and a “Hi, how are you?” deal.

After Wren got into the car, Mrs. Fuchs got them on the way to Baytown, which was another suburb of Houston whose name she was learning.

“How are you, Wren?” Mrs. Fuchs asked. She was a sharp-faced woman, dressed in an ordinary white blouse and jeans with a silver necklace with a turquoise pendant and matching earrings. She had the lower-pitched, raspy voice of a chain smoker. Still, she seemed like a kind enough woman.

“I’m fine. You?”

“I’m doing alright, thanks. It’s a real pleasure to meet you. Now, you’re in … eighth grade?”

“Seventh.”

“Seventh …” She nodded. “I was a seventh-grade English teacher until Zoe was born.”

She smiled at her daughter in the rearview mirror.

“Nice.”

She nodded.

“It was.”

“Do you ever miss it?”

“Not really. I mean, sure, it’s nice to get out of the house and have adult conversation and all, but I don’t regret staying home and being there for Zoe.”

“Oh, stop it, Mom, you’re making me blush!” Zoe said with a laugh.

“So, Wren,” Mrs. Fuchs continued once she’d stopped laughing, “any idea what you want to be when you grow up?”

“Not really.”

“You can’t start thinking about that soon enough,” she said, nodding in both wisdom and warning. “Trust me. It’ll save you a fortune if you pick a major and stick to it when you get to college.”

“Really?” Wren didn’t think it’d be too polite to say, “You really think a kid in special-ed who’s not mainstreamed has a chance of going to college? Really? Even if I am white?”

“Yes, ma’am. Say you go in thinking you want to be a doctor. You’d start out with classes related to being a doctor, right?”

“I guess.”

“But let’s say you change your mind—‘Oh, I don’t wanna be a doctor anymore. I wanna be a teacher instead!’ Well, you’d have to take classes to be a teacher, right?”

“I guess.” Wren felt like she was listening to Gloria lecturing Evelyn and Adam.

“And let me tell you, there’s a lot of money involved taking in switching majors. You might have to take an extra semester at college, or even a whole new year. And that’s if you’re lucky. Some colleges charge fees for switching departments; reimbursements for all the money they’d spent on you: lab fees, say, or even to compensate the secretaries of the departments for all the paperwork you have to do—”

“Mom! Wren’s got five years to worry about that.”

“Five years that’ll go by just like that”—she snapped her fingers—“Zoe Marie.”

“True, but it’s not that big a deal just yet.”

“Oh yeah?” Mrs. Fuchs almost sounded like a small child arguing with a friend. “And why’s that?”

“Don’t we have enough to do, just being kids and all? Going to school and homework and sports and having a social life?”

“Well, that’s true, but college is more important than all of these.”

“How come? You can be a great mom without a college education, for instance … or with one.”

Mrs. Fuchs smiled, but said, “Yes, but trust me, Zo, having a college education will never hurt anyone. It’ll give you the ability to be independent one day—”

“—‘and then you don’t have to depend on anyone else for anything.’”

They both started laughing.

Wren had thought that people only talked to their parents like this on TV.

Mrs. Fuchs pulled up to a one-story house with a decent yard and a large, twisted dogwood tree just left of the middle. They got out and walked up the driveway to the porch and entered.

It wasn’t anything like Wren had thought it would be. Zoe had mentioned, when they’d first met, that her family wasn’t wealthy. And it was true. The Fuchses’ house was about the size of the Nelsons’ double-wide, but firmly fixed to the ground (as far as Wren could tell). The carpet in the living room might’ve been about the same shade of white as the carpets in the Studebakers’ house at one point, but despite the fact it had obviously been vacuumed recently, it was grungy-looking and slightly thinning in places. The couches and recliner were dark green, while the chair was dark brown. The tables and TV stand were a bit scratched. But the walls were a pretty shade of light green, which gave the whole room the feeling of being in a forest or jungle; especially with the satiny dark-green curtains. But Wren doubted that forests or jungles usually smelled like roasted chicken. There were pictures displayed pretty much anywhere Mrs. Fuchs (or maybe Rabbi Fuchs? Or both of them?) could find room: the walls, the TV stand, the mantle over the fire place … Some were in “ornate” metal frames; Zoe said that those were some of her long-dead relatives. There were more modern photos, too, in plain black wooden frames: what looked like a picture of Zoe’s parents on their wedding day (well, a younger Mrs. Fuchs was wearing a white dress and veil, anyway, and standing under a canopy with a man who looked a lot like Zoe), and pictures of Zoe throughout the years doing everything from graduating from preschool to all sorts of religious ceremonies (her sleeping in her father’s arms while her mother lit candles and stickers across the bottom of the frame reading “Baby’s First Hanukkah,” for instance).

“Hi, there! Wren, right?”

Wren jumped. She hadn’t heard Rabbi Fuchs come in. He was small and a little on the chubby side, with Zoe’s smile. He wore glasses. His hair and eyes were darker than his wife and daughter’s, and his nose was longer and more curved, too. He wore a navy suit with a light-blue shirt and navy tie. She couldn’t tell if he was wearing a head covering or not.

“Shabbat Shalom,” she blurted.

Rabbi Fuchs smiled at her. It was a bit like JV’s smile the night they first met, but not quite as scary.

“And Shabbat Shalom to you, too, although it technically isn’t the Sabbath yet. We have to wait until sundown, you see, or just before.”

“Oh.”

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, Wren,” he said. “Even people who were born into Jewish families and had been raised Jewish all of their lives sometimes get it confused.”

She smiled a little bit.

“Thanks.”

He nodded.

“Do you like school so far?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Seventh grade, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you live with your aunt and uncle, yeah?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you like that so far?”

“I guess so,” she said, not entirely what to say without lying.

“Good. And do you have any cousins?”

“Three. JV’s seventeen, Evelyn’s fifteen, and Adam’s thirteen.”

“Good, good. Please,” he said, “sit down, please.”

She and the Fuchses all sat down. Apparently everyone had a spot: Rabbi Fuchs one chair, Mrs. Fuchs another, and Zoe a spot on the couch. Wren hesitated, but took the seat next to Zoe.

“Wren, honey, could I get you anything to drink?” Mrs. Fuchs asked.

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“All right.”

After a while, Mrs. Fuchs went to the kitchen to work on dinner. Zoe and Rabbi Fuchs went to work on a “table” of some sort.

Before that, she’d engaged in small talk. She’d even laughed at a few cheesy jokes.

But now, she really just wanted to call the Studebakers and have them pick her up. She wanted to go home. She didn’t know why, but she just wanted to go home. How long would it take for her to get back home if she just walked out the Fuchses’ front door and walked to the Studebakers’? Who cared? That’s all she wanted to do. To go back home.

Why? She’d never been afraid of trying new things before. Well, unless you counted going to new guardians. But trying new foods, games and sports and such, religion … they’d never frightened her before. And she wasn’t afraid, anyway. But why was she on-edge, like she was afraid? She was angry, she knew, and for some damnable reason ready to burst into tears. But why?

She tried to think about something else, anything else in the world, to keep the tears from spilling. She didn’t want to look at the pictures, even though she couldn’t stop herself from doing it. She didn’t know the Fuchses as well as she knew JV. And she didn’t want to know. Not everything, anyway.

She didn’t know what to do other than sit there like an idiot. According to Gloria, there wasn’t much ruder than offering to help in the kitchen if you didn’t know the person really well. A family member or a friend who was practically family was one thing. Someone you’d just met was another. She didn’t know if offering to help Rabbi Fuchs with “the table” (whatever that was) probably was rude, too. Well, Zoe and Rabbi Fuchs were handling it; they didn’t need her, anyway.

So, she just sat there, pretending to take in the scenery—the view of the Fuchses’ neighbors using their pool; the empty green glass vase she wasn’t entirely sure was an antique or a really nice piece of crap from some thrift store or another; anything—so she looked like she was at least making herself comfortable.

But her eyes kept flickering back to the pictures.

“Wren?”

She turned and tried not to stiffen. Rabbi Fuchs walked in the room.

He frowned at her slightly and said, “You look frightened.”

“You’re like a lost bird in need of love.”

“I’m not,” she said. “Well … maybe a little. Zoe’s basically told me everything that’s going to happen. It’s just … well …” It was close enough to the truth. She was a little worried about the Sabbath, but she knew her unease had almost nothing to do with that. But why was she saying all of this?

He smiled. Not “condescendingly” or “patronizingly.” The same smile Mr. Young had given her when she’d asked about Sabbat celebrations.

“Like I said, Wren, even people who have been raised Jewish all their lives have trouble keeping everything straight sometimes. You should’ve seen Zo when she was little.” He chuckled. “She kept trying to have the blessing over the children first. ‘How much longer till the blessing, Daddy?’ she used to say.”

“The blessing to be like the Matriarchs, or the blessing for all the children?”

He thought for a second.

“I think both of them. To be honest, her Hebrew’s not all that good.”

“I heard that!” Zoe called in from the dining room/kitchen area.

Wren and Rabbi Fuchs both laughed at that. Zoe herself came in the room and said something that took the smile right off of Wren’s face.

“Hey, we have to change for dinner,” she said. “My room’s down the hall.”

Wren knew that this was part of the ceremony. “The Sabbath’s like a queen, you see, so we have to dress up for the occasion,” she’d said. “You wouldn’t greet a queen in your jeans and a T-shirt.” But, despite all of the progress she was allegedly making, even at home, she preferred to change in the bathroom rather than in her and Evelyn’s room. At school, she changed her clothes in one of the bathroom stalls after gym. They didn’t shower after class—Evelyn had once mentioned that it had been the policy, but a few years ago there’d been a nasty bout of ringworm and plantar warts and some parents had threatened to sue—but if they did, she’d fail gym rather than shower in front of the other girls. She didn’t really care what Jonny and Gloria would’ve said. She didn’t want to show off the scars on her torso.

She entered Zoe’s violently purple bedroom. Zoe started changing as soon as Wren had closed the door behind them. Wait, what? It wasn’t like this was anything new to her, but it still surprised her.

Now, where was there somewhere she could hide? Zoe was changing in front of the mirror on the dresser. She could see her reflection anywhere in the room. Great! No, wait … maybe if she moved three feet to the left … Perfect!

She changed into her khakis and blouse, and even put on her loafers. She ran her fingers through her hair as she waited for Zoe to finish putting on her skirt and sweater and then tying a cloth around her head. If forced to describe it, Wren would say it was like a really long pink do-rag. This was probably the head covering she’d mentioned wearing for Sabbath at home.

“Um, Zo? Do you have one for me?”

“Yep!” She “rifled” through a drawer and pulled out a light-blue cover.

“Um, it won’t match your blouse exactly,” she said, “but it’ll work. If you want another color …?”

“It’s fine.” Wren didn’t mean to be rude, but she’d noticed that the sun was setting quickly.

Either Zoe was ignoring her tone or she understood. She sat Wren down on the bed and began tying the covering around her hair.

“You have such pretty hair,” she said. “Have you ever considered growing it out?”

“Yeah, but I’ve had short hair for a while. I’m used to how it looks.”

“I see. But a change is always good, you know?”

“Sometimes.”

“You’re nervous.”

“I don’t know why. I don’t think I’ll get struck by lightning or something if I do this, you know what I mean.”

“I do.” Wren knew Zoe was pursing her lips and moving them to the right side of her face.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard it.” She shrugged as they got off of the bed. “Probably won’t be the last.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, Zo.”

“I know you didn’t.” Zoe paused. “And you didn’t. Not really. But it’s funny. Christians and Jews believe in the exact same God.”

“I know. But the way you see Him, He’s a lot more violent.”

Zoe shook her head but smiled. She pressed her fingers to her lips as she led Wren into the dining room.

The table had a white tablecloth, folded green cloth napkins, two forks at every place as well as a spoon and a knife, and white china with gold around the edges. Real crystal glasses, or at least they looked like they were made of real crystal. Although the Studebakers did make an effort to set their table every day, they’d only set their table so nicely for Thanksgiving, and here the Fuchses were, setting their table like this every Friday night and High Holy Day! Both of Zoe’s parents were dressed up. Mrs. Fuchs’s hair was covered in a scarf like Zoe’s but white; Rabbi Fuchs wore a yarmulke in addition to his suit. There was a silver candlestick for two candles, and a white cloth napkin over what Wren guessed were the loaves of challah bread.

“Shabbat Shalom,” Rabbi Fuchs said.

“Shabbat Shalom,” the women said.

Wren honestly tried to keep up with the rituals, but she didn’t understand the Hebrew that the Fuchses half-sung and half-spoke.

At one point of the evening, Zoe stood up and lit the two candles. She covered her eyes.

“Baruch atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.”

And then Mrs. Fuchs stood up and poured a glass of red wine into a pretty silver cup. She, too, half-sang and half-prayed a blessing over the cup. She lifted up and said, “L’chayim,” before taking a sip of wine. She then handed it to Rabbi Fuchs, who took a sip and passed it to Zoe, who took a sip and passed it to Wren. It tasted disgusting, but she took a sip anyway. She figured it would be out of her system well before she got back to the Studebakers’ house.

And then Rabbi Fuchs took the cloth off the challah bread.

“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, hamotzi lechem min haaretz.” He then took a silver knife out from under another cloth and sliced the bread. For some reason, the Fuchses salted the bread before eating it. The closest Wren ever came to that was when she’d had a pretzel, but as the saying went, “When in Rome.” She took the salt shaker from Zoe as soon as she was done. The challah bread actually wasn’t bad. It was a little hard to swallow, but fairly soft and thick.

There was a moment of silence before Rabbi and Mrs. Fuchs called the girls up. Zoe had been smiling all through Shabbat, but her smile was even bigger.

Together, they almost completely sang, “Y’simeich Elohim k’Sarah, Rivkah, Racheil, v’Lei-ah.”

Another pause, and then they sang together, “Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha Ya-eir Adonai panav eilecha vichuneka. Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom.”

“And now we eat,” Rabbi Fuchs said.

They sat down to a meal of chicken, steamed green beans, and roasted red potatoes. Rabbi Fuchs said a quick blessing and they ate. It was simple food, but it still tasted so good.

“What’d you think, Wren?” Zoe asked later that night.

“It was … It was something.” She regretted not having a big enough vocabulary to explain everything she’d felt. She’d been a little nervous, sure, but at the same time, almost like she’d been hypnotized. Hebrew was such a pretty language. It wasn’t quite singing when the Fuchses used it during the rituals, but it also wasn’t speaking like she was used to it. She’d felt so confused at first, but the Hebrew language somehow felt so comforting. Was that because she’d accepted Judaism as her religion, or because she’d felt safer at the Fuchses table than she’d ever felt at Liberty Street Baptist Church, or … what?

“You didn’t like it, did you?”

“It’s not that. I liked it, but it’s still so strange.

“Then what did you think?”

“I liked it.”

Even in the dark, she could tell Zoe was smiling.

“I’m glad.”

Zoe went to sleep fairly quickly, but Wren couldn’t. Why? Was she “dreading” going to temple tomorrow, and what she’d see and experience? Was she afraid that Jonny and Gloria were right, and she’d burn in Hell for this?

But since when had the fear of Hellfire (or anything other than beatings or being molested again) hold her back? Never.

Was it too late to call the Studebakers and tell them everything? To beg them not to throw her out on the streets for what she did? To tell them she was sorry and that she’d worship whoever they wanted her to worship if they’d take her back? It’s what her mother should’ve done, after all.

But her mother was still a role model, right? Crazy. Insane. A bitch for writing off her family as much as anyone else did. But you had to admire her for wanting to live life on her terms.

The next morning the Fuchses and Wren got showered, dressed, and everything else. They had some leftover challah bread that Mrs. Fuchs had converted into the best French toast Wren had ever had in her life. (“Technically we’re not supposed to do any work,” Zoe said, “but Reformed rabbis have long-reasoned that you can work to do stuff for living. You know, cooking and such.”) They walked the short—well, sort of short. It was only about seven blocks, and Wren was in reasonably good shape, but it was still a long walk—to Temple Beth Am.

It was a fairly large red-brick one-story building in the middle of a nice-looking lawn. There were a few cars in the parking lot already, although Wren couldn’t really guess why. Maybe they were members of the choir, if there was such a thing? Surely they had to have someone clean the building and the yard and the little playground? The sexton was what they called such people in the Christian world, like old Mr. Robert Benson at Liberty Street Baptist. But then again, wouldn’t whoever cleaned the synagogue have done that yesterday or even in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t the sound of a vacuum have distracted the congregation as they worshipped?

Rabbi Fuchs unlocked the doors. A few people, families in their “Sunday” best, got out of the cars and followed them in.

“Zo,” Mrs. Fuchs said, “Dad and I are going to set up some stuff in the sanctuary. Why don’t you introduce Wren to the others?”

“Okay.”

Mrs. Fuchs gave Zoe a quick peck on the forehead and followed her husband into the sanctuary. Wren tried to crane her neck to see what it was like, and to compare it to the one at Liberty Street Baptist, but Zoe was leading her away.

“Hi, Mr. and Dr. Goldfarb,” she said to a couple with two boys no older than ten or eleven. “This is my friend Wren. Wren, this is Dr. and Mr. Goldfarb, and Sam and Jake.”

Wren somewhat awkwardly shook hands with them. She wasn’t really big on shaking hands with people. She was trying to get better at that; there were occasional classes in basic etiquette at assembly. The Goldfarbs looked at her strangely, but the parents quickly masked their confusion. Well, more quickly than the boys did, anyway.

Was it her scar, or the fact Judaism didn’t really convert people the way Christianity did, that had prompted that response? It was nothing for people to bring friends or family members to Liberty Street Baptist so that they could get a feel for what the Baptist Church was all about and, hopefully, convert them to Christianity. The good people of Temple Beth Am had no similar traditions. Was that it?

Still, she tried to be good about it. They did smile at her, didn’t they? Dr. Goldfarb gestured for her sons, with their father’s curly brown hair and their mother’s blue-green eyes, to come over and introduce themselves. They made small talk. Dr. Goldfarb did most of the talking. She was a dentist; he was a stay-at-home dad. Their sons were twins. Mr. Goldfarb’s sister taught photography at HCD.

“Why are you here so early?” Wren asked at one point.

“I’m the cantor,” Mr. Goldfarb explained. “I’m leading the songs and prayers today. I’m here to warm up.”

“Oh. Okay.” Wren’s head was swimming. She tried to remember if Zoe had said anything about cantors and why Mr. Goldfarb rather than Rabbi Fuchs was leading the prayers. Well, it didn’t sound too different from Christians having the choir lead them in singing rather than reciting the Lord’s Prayer, did it?

After a while, Zoe led Wren into the sanctuary. It was more or less the same dimensions as the sanctuary at Liberty Street Baptist, but with brown carpet instead of blue. There were pews, made of a lighter wood than Liberty Street’s pews, curved rather than straight, and with golden-brown rather than blue cushions, but there was a basic sameness. The altar was a bit more “ornate” and “elaborate” than the one at Liberty Street, in that the sanctuary at Temple Beth Am had gold curtains behind and dark doors with carved menorahs and a table with a Torah and some candles and the golden pointer (Zoe had earlier explained that you didn’t touch a Torah with your bare hands, although she wasn’t entirely sure why), but again there was a basic sameness. Zoe led her to a place towards the front of the sanctuary, where Mrs. Fuchs was finishing straightening the cushions and so forth.

“Do you need any help, Mom?”

“No, thanks, girls,” she said with a slight smile. “You can take your seats.”

They did. Wren curiously examined the prayer booklet under her seat. There were … well, she wasn’t sure what was written; it was all in Hebrew. But then she noticed that there was English on the far right of the page. She skimmed over it and noticed that they were prayers, or maybe songs.

The congregation, dressed in what Gloria would have called “business casual” clothes, filed in. Some wore tallis, head coverings, yarmulkes, or some combination thereof. Others wore no “ritual garments.” Even a few women wore yarmulkes! They tended to be younger women, mind you, but they still wore them!

The service started at about ten o’clock. Everyone took their places. Mr. Goldfarb took his place at the front of the sanctuary, not too far from where Rabbi Fuchs stood in his suit and ritual garments.

“Shabbat shalom,” Rabbi Fuchs said.

“Shabbat shalom,” they echoed. Okay, that wasn’t so different from when Pastor Franklin and the congregation of Liberty Street told one another good morning each Sunday, and good evening on Sunday night and Wednesday night services.

The service itself was as magical as the Sabbath service held at the Fuchses’ house, only in a different way. Maybe it was because she was somewhat more used to Hebrew, and in any case did have something to help her understand what he was saying. (Zoe guided her to this song or that prayer as the occasion called for it.) But it was magical in its own way. Protestants were “adamant” about having services done and Bibles written “in the vernacular,” or the local language. She remembered some missionaries coming to a service and talking about their efforts to learn Tibetan. But to have everything sung or said in Hebrew like this …

Well, not everything was in Hebrew. Rabbi Fuchs gave the sermon in English. This week, it was on the importance of charity.

“The Israelites were alien residents in a foreign land,” he said. “Certainly, this does refer to helping foreigners in our midst. But also recall that the Israelites were slaves. They were destitute. They had nothing. How could we, of all people, not help the less fortunate?”

The sermon itself wasn’t all that different than the ones at Liberty Street. Pastor Franklin talked about charity now and then. The only difference was that Jesus didn’t get mentioned.

“Hey, Zo,” she said during a phone call a few days later.

“Hey, Wren, what’s up?”

“What do I have to do to convert to Judaism?”

“You have to go through all these rituals and everything, but—you’re serious?”

“Yeah.”

“What’ll your aunt and uncle think?”

“What do I care?”

“Wren, hon—”

“Nothing’ll change my mind, no matter what you say.”

“I’ll talk to Dad. You’re sure about this?”

She rubbed the spot on her chest where the rose on her necklace fell.

“Dead sure.”

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deadsoul: What’s your update schedule? And pleaseee update both this book and the Alpha breeders!

Siti Norshila: I always love them both

rellerton: Liked the story overall. Bit on the predictable side, that said I still enjoyed the book.

Eli Flashlights: Wow... I want to say I love but also hate this serie right now... (I hope you can understand my feelings). Wow, these books gives you so much emotions. There was so much hard plot twist in the beginning that I wanted to hate it, but actually loved it!! So for me the ending was a little too simple...

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