© Yael Mermelstein 2018. Lovingly handcrafted by Amrita.

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Everyone needs second chances.

Ellie Ribetsky: At twenty-nine she is a mass of contradictions; a health-food caterer who loves brownies; an "older single" who longs to be married yet can hardly remember the name of her latest shidduch date. Will she get a second chance at building the life she longs for? Esther and Mordechai Ribetsky: Ellie's parents face an accusation that will change their lives forever. Will they ever be able to go back to their picture-perfect life?

Fayna Needleman: Ellie's beloved "Babi" must rebuild her own life while waiting for her granddaughter to begin building hers. Can an aging woman with a broken heart have a second chance at happiness?

Sarah Silver: Imprisoned for a heinous crime, it's hard to believe there can be a second chance for Sarah. Can faith and love break through a prison's walls?

Second Chances
 

Second Chances : An Excerpt

CHAPTER 1


   Ellie looked out the window at the rise and fall of the Manhattan skyline. It was infinitely more interesting than the boy who sat across from her in the hotel lobby.
   “So tell me a little bit more about your catering business,” the boy said. She suddenly couldn’t recall his name. It was Binyamin. No, maybe it was Benny. Or Berel. No, definitely not Berel. She focused on the top of his head, wisps of his hair pulled upwards towards the air conditioning vent. Maybe it was Berel.
“It’s called Savea Ellie said.”
“Like full?” Benny/Binyamin/Berel offered. He laughed though there was no
apparent joke. Ellie thought his laugh nice, soulful. He would be perfect for her little
sister’s friend Kayla.
“Right. Like full. I guess my line of business is all about filling up people’s
stomach’s.” Ironically, the more Ellie spoke about Savea the emptier she felt. “My
goal is to create a catering service with the flair and elegance of a top caterer but
using wholesome foods like whole grains and healthy oils. The two don’t have to be
contradictory you know.”
Ellie felt a slight rise in herself like she was a hot air balloon and she was
stoking her own flame a bit. It was the best she could do under the circumstances.
She could see that her date was fading, his head shrinking deeper and deeper into
his suit. She felt a wave of empathy, her first sense of connection to Mr. B. She had
felt that way so many times over the course of her nine years of dating. She often
felt like the glow in the dark stars that she had on her ceiling at home. When you
first turned out the lights they would shine like a sparkling spread on a black night
and then slowly they would lose their luster until they would all but disappear.
Ellie looked at her watch. They had only been together for forty-five minutes.
It would be most rude to end things now though they were clearly subjugating
themselves to a bout of mutual torture. At least that gave them something else in
common. Ellie thought of her mother and her grandmother, Babi, both waiting at
home, her mother mindlessly tending to a batch of brownies while Babi rewound a
shedding ball of yarn. She wished she didn’t have to disappoint three people every
time she came home. She knew that the happiness of these three generations of
women was inexorably intertwined. Sometimes that very thought cut her deep.
“So how many siblings do you have?” Beirish asked. She was glad he had
mentioned his name again in passing. Not that she would use it as it implied an
intimacy she did not want to convey, but it could protect her from an uncomfortable

situation should someone she knew pass by and expect introductions. His last name
though, wasn’t even a blip on the screen of her brain.
“We’re nine including me. I’m number seven.”
“I’m also one of nine,” Beirish said. Their list of commonalities was infinite.
“I’m the youngest.”
Ellie could see him being the youngest as it read in his baby face, in his fear of
rejection, in the way he shrank back from confrontation.
“How sweet,” she said.
“And your siblings are…”
“All married.” Ellie said, setting her glass of Sprite down on the marble table,
watching the bubbles rise to the surface and then pop into oblivion.
“For a long time already?” Beirish said it more like a statement of guilt than a
question.
“Long,” Ellie said. “Centuries. Light years even.” She tried to hide the trace
of frustration from her voice. She didn’t try too hard though.
Beirish lifted his glass, swishing it around like he was an expert wine taster
though the contents contained only Coca Cola. Ellie imagined him the type to choke
on a mouthful of wine as it would overpower his senses and perhaps even
overwhelm his personality.
Beep, beep, beep, beep. Ellie reached into her purse and took out her
beeper.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I meant to turn it off.” She flipped the lid open and
scrolled through the message. “I turned off my cell phone,” she offered as if it might
redeem her misdemeanor. She realized she was sliding her foot deeper into her
throat with each moment she continued scrolling through her message. She knew
she should put it down but it vibrated in her hands, demanding attention while her
companion sat in hushed silence-- as if the beeper had admonished him into
submission.
“Y-you carry a beeper?” he said. “I thought you were a caterer.”
Ellie read her message with an appropriate measure of consternation. Matti,
her worker and dear friend, had accidentally substituted hot peppers instead of
green peppers at the Feldman’s vort. She was now carting in gallons of punch to
soothe the patrons’ palates and to simultaneously attempt a bit of inebriation to

alleviate their nerves. She sighed and smiled at the same time. If she kept Matti on
one more day her business was doomed, but how could she not? She was the only
one of her married friend’s that didn’t treat her like she had three legs. She stuffed
the beeper back into her purse. Matti would handle it. She got herself out of pickles
almost as well as she squeezed herself into the jar in the first place.
Ellie looked back at Mr. B (She had forgotten his name again.) He looked at
her expectantly but she could only vaguely remember the question he had asked
her. Did it have something to do with wine? She had imagined him a poor wine
taster a few moments earlier-- that much she remembered. She hoped she hadn’t
shared the improprieties of her thoughts with him.
“Would you mind running that question by me again?” Ellie said. B man
sighed. His ears flushed. She knew she could never marry a man whose ears
flushed, but he really would be perfect for Kayla. Her ears didn’t flush but she
twitched her nose when she got nervous. B man would probably be so busy
worrying about his ears during an uncomfortable moment he wouldn’t even notice
her twitch. It was a matchless idea of a match in Ellie’s opinion.
“I just asked you if you always took your cell phone along on dates,” he said.
His question jarred her memory and Ellie remembered that his question had been
phrased slightly less aggressively beforehand. Good, her breach of dating etiquette
was giving Mr. B a foothold.
“Not usually,” she said. “My apologies.” She considered sharing her business
faux pas with him but decided against anything that might bridge the gap that was
growing into quite a chasm between them. What was the point? As her father had
taken to saying quite a bit lately, it was a doomed investment.
Beirish (his name had wormed its way back into her head though nowhere
near her heart) blinked fast a few times and then looked at his watch. “Well,” he
said. “It looks like it’s just about time to head on home, no?”
Ellie looked at her watch, surprised at his gumption. It had only been fifty-
five minutes. She nodded, speechless. They rode the elevator down, making chit-
chat about the benefits of glass elevators versus the regular ones and the probable
price of hiring a doorman. They traveled back home to Queens through the
midtown tunnel, discussing the relativity of claustrophobia in a tunnel to that in a
stuck elevator. Ellie wisely didn’t add in the claustrophobia of being stuck with a
date with whom you shared no common denominator or the claustrophobia of living
at home with your mother and your grandmother at age 28.
Finally, they pulled up to her house. Ellie stepped out of the car, loving the
feel of the sweet spring air on her face, loving the silver sheen of the moon.

“Thank you so much for a lovely evening,” she said to Beirish, proud that his
name still stuck in her mind.
“No problem,” he said. He came around to open the door for her. She
turned to walk up the cobblestone walkway to her house.
“By the way,” he said. “You know that people warned me about meeting
with you. They said you don’t even give people a chance and that you’re married to
your work.” Ellie could tell that he was holding back on some other things that they
had said.
She smiled at him hopefully. “Well?” she said.
He smiled back, then the smile faded. “Well,” he said. “They were one
hundred percent right.”

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