Excerpt from REBECCA
by Carol Matas
I didn’t understand. Why couldn’t I just continue as before? I’d happily sleep on the floor. I wouldn’t eat. Not anything. Well, hardly anything. I just didn’t want to be sent away!
Surely Mama and Papa won’t let this happen, I thought. They know how shy I am, how I hate new things and strangers. Why can’t Papa find work? Everyone else can. But the words that were racing through my head wouldn’t come out of my mouth. The sight of my mama’s tears and my papa’s humiliation left me unable to utter a word, as if a huge lump of coal had become stuck in my throat, trapping the words inside.
Finally Papa spoke. Very quietly he said, “I’ll get work, Rebecca, I will. And I’ll find a place for us. I promise. But there are five of us. It’s easier for Morris. They only need one small room for the three of them. We’ll need more.”
“Why?” I said, somehow finding my voice, although it came out sounding more like a croak than normal speech. “We could live in one room.”
“Your mama deserves better,” he said. “And anyway, I don’t have enough yet for even one room. Morris has training . . . I don’t.”
No one spoke. You could have heard a pin drop.
“No,” I pleaded. “No.”
“Be a big girl, Rebecca,” Baba said, her face stern. But I was sure I saw her eyes fill up with tears. “You must set an example for the little ones.” She nodded at Solomon and Leah.
I felt that everything had just turned upside-down. Were Baba and Zaida mean and cruel people after all? How could they turn their own grandchildren out? Why would they think it was better for us? For a bed? For food? I’d rather starve. I looked at Leah. I was sure Leah would rather starve too.
From Rebecca, copyright © 2000 by Carol Matas