Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar

Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar

Author:Ruth Behar [Behar, Ruth]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780525516484
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Published: 2020-08-25T00:00:00+00:00



May 23, 1938

Dear Malka,

I felt a pang I’d never felt before when leaving Agramonte today. As the train full of strangers pulled out of the station, I missed Manuela and Francisco, I missed Señora Graciela and Doctor Pablo, I missed Juan Chang, I missed Ma Felipa and Mario José, and of course I always miss all of you. It seems like I spend a lot of time missing people!

But I was eager to arrive at Rifka Rubenstein’s store and deliver the next batch of dresses and get more orders and keep saving to be able to pay for your steamship tickets. We walked in and Rifka Rubenstein’s store was quiet. She sat behind the counter, leafing through the Yiddish newspaper.

She looked up and smiled. “Here you are, right on time. You are wonderful, Esther! Like a golden goose. The orders keep coming in.”

She marveled over the new dresses. Then she noticed the label I had discretely sewed onto the back of the neckline.

“What is this? ‘Designs by Esther’?” Rifka Rubenstein said. “Really, dear child, I think you have perhaps gone a little too far. You have an extraordinary talent, but putting a label on the dresses . . .”

I knew Papa wouldn’t like it if I made a fuss, but I had to interrupt her.

“I am the creator of the dresses and I believe they should carry my name. Nobody has to know that Esther is a young refugee girl from Poland.”

But Rifka Rubenstein wasn’t happy. “I cannot accept the dresses with these labels. You will have to cut them out if you want me to sell them.”

It was then that a sophisticated lady walked into the store. She wore a beige dress with a beige jacket and a belt cinched tightly at her waist. She carried a beige purse, no bigger than an envelope, in one hand and sunglasses in the other.

I knew Rifka Rubenstein would have liked for Papa and me to disappear, not to be standing at the counter with our sweaty faces and our dusty satchels. Papa bowed his head and stepped aside, trying his best to be invisible. But I stayed put. Rifka Rubenstein would have to pick me up and move me herself if she didn’t want me there. Sure enough, glancing at Papa and me from the corner of her eye, she said, in her best Yiddish-accented Spanish, “My friends, you have made such a long trip to come visit me, maybe you’d like to rest in the back room while I take care of the lady?”

Before Papa or I could reply, the lady spoke. “I’ve heard from friends that there are some very well-designed dresses being sold here. Who, may I ask, is the designer?”

Rifka Rubenstein replied, “The designer is from New York.”

“I know all the designers in New York. You see, I come from El Encanto. What is the designer’s name?”

Rifka Rubenstein raised both eyebrows. “El Encanto?”

The sophisticated lady nodded. “I am Isabel de la Fuente, and I work at the salon de señoritas of El Encanto.


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