When I found Mim on Black Tuesday, I did as she asked and helped her to bed. Then I gave Sidney cookies and milk and read to him from Winne the Pooh. Mim emerged from the bedroom about half an hour later, completely refreshed. She kissed Sidney on the top of his head and smiled at me.
“I’m fine, now. Florrie, it was wonderful. Terrifying but wonderful. It felt so good pursue justice again.”
I had no clear idea what Mim meant. She was always ready to help the needy, and you should have heard her arguing about civil rights. I was about to ask what happened when Rachel stormed into the kitchen.
“Paul is going sailing with his friends on Sunday and he won’t let me come, too! He’s so unfair!” She glared at Mim, snatched a cookie, and stomped off.
Mim rolled her eyes. “I’d better see what’s what,” she told me.
I minded Sidney until Paul got home and then I left as soon as I could. I don’t do well with family squabbles. Mim seemed perfectly fine, which is why I was surprised when Ephraim called the next morning and asked to see me.
We met in the café near my gallery. He stirred his coffee and added sugar, and stirred his coffee and added more sugar. And stirred. And reached for the sugar.
I put my hand on his. “It’s already sweetened. What’s wrong?”
Ephraim’s face was study in sadness and pain. “You were right back then. I should have let Miriam go to a sanitarium after the fires and her miscarriage. I thought she was getting better. And now Florrie, she suffers from delusions!”
Poor man. This must have been about Serakh, Mim’s phantom who was somehow very real. I stared at the table and collected my thoughts.
“Florrie, how can I put this? Miriam is too happy. Last night she told me the most extraordinary tale. She is not the woman I know and love.”
“What did she say?”
Ephraim sipped his coffee and pushed the cup away. “Miriam told me a fantastic tale about traveling back to Rhodes hundreds of years ago with a bronze-skinned woman. There was a battle between Christians and Muslims, with us Jews caught in the middle.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “What should I do? I have the children to consider. They need their mother.”
“Some things in life are mysterious,” I reminded him. “Miracles. God. You can see that Mim has been her old self for months.”
He shook his head. “Perhaps the strain of a third child, and then yesterday’s news about the stock market. Miriam is vulnerable.”
I took his hand again. “But she’s not insane.” I spat out the truth. “I’ve seen this woman, too.”
He tried to pull his hand away, but I held firm. I told him how Serakh and I had met by mistake shortly after Rachel was born. I told him that Mim made me promise to protect the prayer shawl and pass it on to him if anything should happen to her. I explained that she wanted the girl who would be named for her to have that shawl. “Let’s go back to your place and talk to Mim together,” I suggested. He didn’t say no.
We found Mim at the kitchen table, drinking Ovaltine and thumbing through her old typography book. She looked the picture of contentment.
“Sidney’s napping,” she said. “Isn’t it glorious today? We went for a long walk after Rachel and Paul left for school. Would you like some licorice? I bought it at Andronico’s.”
I waited for Ephraim to begin. A minute went by. Nothing.
Mim looked at me. “What?”
“He doesn’t believe,” I said, not that I had much confidence in what I’d seen nearly ten years earlier.
“I told you he wouldn’t.” She had that matter-of-fact tone. “Who would?”
She caressed Ephraim’s face. “My darling, please trust that I am well and that maybe from time to time something very extraordinary will happen to me. I will be safe and I will always come home to you.”
Still he said nothing. Mim tried to explain. “When I was 16, Serakh told me that I come from a line of Miriams who are who let’s say that we pursue justice. Remember that I showed you the phrase from the Torah that’s embroidered on my tallis? Justice, justice shall you pursue?”
Ephraim smoothed her hair.
“I know this is hard for you,” Mim said. “I didn’t believe it at first either. But my great-grandmother wore the prayer shawl, and she traveled. I am named for her. One day, I hope a girl will be named for me. Please, listen to me. One day we will give the tallis to one of our children, perhaps Rachel. To pass along when the time comes.”
Ephraim took her hands in his. “No, Miriam. How could we subject our children to this? Never.”