The Scarf: An unexpected change in plans throws a woman for a curve 

By Ashira Becker

Moshe walks through the front door seven minutes early.
Rivka knows it is 10:08 without looking at the clock. She knows because she is just beginning to mop the floors, which happens at precisely 10:08 p.m. every night. She is dressed in no-nonsense tones appropriate for the homemaker she is. Black skirts fill her closet: no pleats, because they take too long to iron, washable because of the kids she is proudly raising, and comfortable in light of the many hours she spends in them.
The way she cleans is also no-nonsense, another feather in her cap of superiority: dishes first, counters next, floor last, chairs piled on the lacquered table to make mopping easier.
Her night routine is set in stone. She begins once the children are asleep. At exactly 9:45 she clears the table, then washes the dishes. She sweeps, then mops, then prepares the cake and tea for her and her husband’s evening snack, so treasured a time for them as a couple.
“You’re early,” Rivka says, quickly taking the chairs off the table. Mopping will have to wait tonight. She scurries over to the kettle to fill it.
“Hello to you, too!” Chaim says lightly, taking off his shoes that are wet from the evening’s downpour and placing them on the mat by the door.
She smiles. “Hello. I was just surprised, that’s all,” she says. She takes down a plate and arranges the cake, bringing it to the table for their nightly nosh. They’re predictable that way. A quarter past ten every night: the same mugs, a gleaming kitchen, the kids sleeping soundly, the noise and clutter of a busy household forgotten as they sit together for a few minutes of solitude.
She apologizes for her un-readiness. The water is not yet hot, the placemats not yet out.
He waves her away. “As organized as you are, you cannot possibly prepare for every eventuality.”
He sits, curling his fingers around the mug as Rivka pours the hot water. “Thanks,” he says. “It’s really cold outside.”
She sits down in her seat and they sip for a moment, content.
“You didn’t ask me yet,” he continues, putting down his cup.
“Ask what?”
“Why I’m early.”
She smiles. “Okay, why are you early?”
He rubs his hands together. He seems excited, almost boyishly so.
“I was speaking to my mother. About the vort.”
She nods. This is going to be the vort of the century, her in-laws finally beginning to lead their youngest child, her husband’s only sister, along the path of marriage, doubly exciting after years spent on the dating scene.
He rummages through his pockets and pulls out a creased piece of paper. She winces involuntarily at its asymmetrical, arbitrary folds, ruffling her need for exactness. He opens it and hands it to her with a flourish.
It’s a ticket. From TLV to JFK for the beginning of next week. And it’s in her name.

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