Recap: Daniella discovers that Avi and Libby took in foster kids. Mrs. Kahn says the mother of Sabrina and Marnie is going to call them.
“What’s wrong?” Marnie asked.
“Nothing,” I lied. “Everything is fine.”
“Girls, time to settle down.” It was my third trip into the bedroom. Marnie was reading in the corner, but Lauren and Sabrina were giggling and tickling each other.
I closed the door and heard the giggles again.
“Avi, what should I do?”
“Maybe tell them a story and sit by the door to settle them?”
“How do you always know what to do?”
“That’s what my mother used to do when we had trouble settling down.”
Mentioning his mother reminded us both that we hadn’t heard from his parents since last week, when we told them about Avi’s decision.
As if reading my mind, Avi said, “Maybe we should try calling Mom and Dad tonight?”
“I’d like to, but your Rav said to wait another week.”
Avi nodded. “You’re right, Libby. It just feels so strange not speaking to them every day.”
It did feel strange, and now with our new additions, and they didn’t even know about them. It felt very strange and wrong. I’d loved the idea of a close-knit family with grandparents and lots of love. It was something I had only dreamed of as a child. Please, Hashem, please, don’t let it be that we can’t talk to them. Please bring us close together again in joy.
I headed back into the room to tell a story. Even Marnie put down her book to listen. I told a story I’d made up one time about an Indian princess and her dog.
By the time I finished the story, Sabrina was lying down with her eyes almost closed, and Lauren was snuggling under the covers with her teddy bear.
“Good night, Marnie,” I whispered.
“Good night,” she said.
The next day, after school, I pulled out all the ingredients for challah. Sabrina and Lauren stood on chairs ready to help. I had the girls take turns putting in the ingredients. Marnie came towards the end and helped knead the dough.
“What shape do you want to make?” I asked Sabrina.
I helped her form a heart and place it on the baking sheet.
Lauren made one, too. Marnie braided hers and placed it next to theirs.
Soon the apartment was filled with the scent of challah baking.
An hour before Shabbos, the phone rang. I answered. “Hello?”
“Who? Oh. Yes, I’ll get them.”
The woman’s voice on the other end was soft but insistent. She sounded very anxious to speak with her children.
“Marnie, Sabrina,” I called. “Your mother is on the phone.”
Sabrina galloped into the room. She took the phone from me. “Mommy! Oh, Mommy, I miss you. When are you coming home? When will you come get me?”
There was a pause as Sabrina listened to her mother’s response. My stomach twisted with dread. What if she was coming today or tomorrow?
Tears leaked from the corner of Sabrina’s eyes. “Please, Mommy. Yes, they are nice. Yes, I have a nice room here, but I miss you, Mommy. Okay, I’ll get Marnie.”
Sabrina wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and marched back towards the room to get her sister.
“Marnie, she’s waiting on the phone for you.”
“I’m not talking to her,” Marnie said.
Sabrina marched back into the living room. “She can’t come now, Mommy. Okay. Good Shabbos. I love you, too.”
Sabrina didn’t look at me as she headed back towards the bedroom.
“Sabrina, honey, are you okay?” I asked.
“Okay,” she said without looking at me, and ran back into the bedroom.
I felt bad that my relief brought pain to Sabrina. I didn’t want them to go, and I hadn’t realized how attached I was until just now. And Marnie? Why wouldn’t she speak to her mother? This was not good for Marnie to hold in all the anger she must be feeling.
The phone rang and I rushed to answer. “Hello?”
There was silence. I was about to hang up when I heard a man whisper.
“Don’t speak to anyone or you’ll regret it.”
“Who is this?”
My heart pounded.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).