“No, here’s the right way to do it!” spinning
“Cut the vegetables smaller!” spinning
“Straighten the sheet!” spinning
“I’ll teach you how!” spinning
“Stir it harder!” spinning
“Mix it faster!” spinning
“Here’s how!” spinning
“Do it!” spinning
Marsha’s visits to the Lipensky house always became a lesson, and as Myra pushed the girl harder, the visits became fewer…
Which only added fuel to Myra’s fire.
August 11, 1955
“You like that ring, don’t you?”
“Mother, who wouldn’t like a pear-shaped diamond?”
“How big’s the stone, Sid?”
“Two and a half carats, Rhea.”
“Take it out, will you.”
Sid, the “friendly” jeweler, took the ring from the showcase, shined it with a jeweler’s cloth, then slipped it onto Marsha’s finger.
“Oh, Mother!” Holding her hand forward, “It’s beautiful!”
“It’s a good stone, Sid?”
“Of course it’s a good stone! Would I ever show you anything else?”
“You want it, Marsha?”
“Do I want it?” Thinking she was joking, “Of course I want it!”
Standing in silence, “Rhea, Mitchell doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money!” Myra did not think she was joking.
Looking at Myra… Rhea stared at Myra for five long seconds, then, turning back to her daughter, “It’s yours!”
Gasping, as thought the breath was taken from her lungs, “Mother…”
“It’s yours!” Rhea said with finality.
“Sid, you and me,” their eyes locking, “we’ll discuss price later.”
“Mother…” Marsha could not believe it: a two and a half carat, pear-shaped diamond.
“Rhea, my son cannot affor…”
Cutting her off, “Forget it, Myra!” glaring at her, daring her to say more, “I’m paying the difference! And Marsha wants a ring for Mitchell.” The slits of her dark, stony eyes turning from Myra, “That one, Sid,” she said, pointing to a velvet-lined tray. “The one in the gypsy setting, How big’s the stone?”
“It’s a good stone, Sid?”
Shrugging his shoulders, “Rhea,” sounding hurt, looking at her over his glasses, “you trying to make me crazy?”
“Show me, please.”
Wiping the ring with his cloth, Sid handed it to Rhea.
Holding the ring to the artificial light, looking at it a moment, slipping it onto the corresponding finger of her daughter’s other hand, “Marsha, would you like to give this ring to Mitchell?”
Actually, Marsha had never considered giving Mitchell a ring—other than a wedding band—and dazed at what was either her mother’s utmost generosity, or, more the likely, the depth of her guilt, holding her hands to the fluorescent light, Marsha looked at the sparkling facets of the two diamond rings on her engagement and wedding fingers, “God, Mother,” barely able to stammer, “yes!”
“Okay, Sid,” Once again looking at Myra, once again daring her to speak, “we’ll take them both.”
She had the money for the wedding, and also for the down-payment on the building, but, I’ll be damned if I’ll let my daughter wear a six-hundred-dollar engagement ring to a seven-thousand-dollar wedding! she had thought. And on the trip from downtown Chicago to the north side, Rhea contemplated how she was going to come up with the rest of the money needed to close the deal on the slum apartment building… that just happened to be smack-dab in the way of the recently-begun Edens Expressway.
Morrie Jacobson, an old time “friend” in Mayor Daley’s office, had received the tip through a good friend in the city assessors office, and for her friendship, and continued friendship, Morrie had given Rhea the “sure thing, big money, hot tip.”
…A thought occurring to her, Well, I’m not going to be needing the money till the end of the year anyway, and by then I know who I can borrow it from. Or maybe, so long as I’ll be holding the money anyway, I’ll just invest it for them. Glancing at Marsha in the back seat, Maybe I’ll even make them partners. Having solved her problem, Rhea sat back, lit a cigarette, and enjoyed the ride home…
As Myra drove from the Wabash Avenue showroom to Pratt Boulevard in icy, angry silence.
August 14, 1955
Having lunch at Askanaz, “I saw a television show the other night.” Myra took a bite of her sandwich. “The man, a soldier in Korea, wanted to propose to his girlfriend,” and washed it down with ice tea, “so he proposed over the phone and his mother put the ring on the girl’s finger. It was so touching.”
Marsha and Rhea glanced at each other.
“I’ve been thinking: next Tuesday Mitchell is going to call at my house, and I thought it would be a nice idea if I had your family over for dinner that night—even Roger and Brenda—and when Mitchell calls I… we’ll… have him propose to you over the phone, and…”
“But,” Marsha cut in, “he’s already proposed.”
Ignoring her, “…and then I’ll put the ring…”
Marsha nudged Rhea with her knee under the table.
“…on your finger.” Looking expectantly from Marsha to Rhea, Myra awaited confirmation of her idea.
“Really, Myra, that doesn’t sound like such a good idea to me. If you ask me, I think the kids should be alone when Mitchell puts the ring on her finger.”
“Oh, really!” Myra said icily, shifting her gaze to Marsha. “And what do you think?”
As retribution for Marsha not addressing her as Mom, lately Myra had taken to not addressing Marsha by name either.
Swallowing, attempting to keep her anger down, but looking steadily at Myra, “If your son… If Mitchell agreed to do that,” Marsha said, “I’d call the whole thing off.”
A “Becoming” Excerpt.
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