Forever and a Day
by Libby Lazewnik
"We love Daddy and Daddy loves us.
So what if a few thousand miles separate us?"
Deep beneath the placid California earth,
were at work. Along a fault line, stresses were building
could take no more. The planet shrugged and twitched. The
result is a devastating earthquake that takes with it homes, hopes
In the Bamberger family, too, the stresses
are building. Mr.
Bamberger's business isn't doing well. The only choice, it
is for him to leave his beloved wife and children and travel to
faraway South Africa for many long months in order to start
The Bamberger family, and particularly
Lana, their sensitive
and caring twelve-year-old daughter, try their hardest
to go on
with normal lives.
And then the ground beneath them begins to
Forever and a Day, Libby Lazewnik's
long-awaited new novel,
introduces us to a lovely family facing the gravest
test of all. It is
the stirring tale of difficult challenges overcome by a
combination of determination, faith, and love. Most of all, it is
the story of Lana, her courage, her fears, and her triumph.
Like Libby Lazewnik's many other books,
Forever and a Day is
destined to become a book beloved by readers of all
FOREVER AND A DAY
Copyright © 2002 by Libby Lazewnik
All rights reserved
Targum Press, Inc.
22700 W. Eleven Mile Rd.
E-mail: [email protected]
Printed in Israel
For Adina Rachel,
You've added a whole new
With love from all of us, always.
The whole family was acting weird. There
was no other word
Lana gazed intently at her parents,
brothers, and sisters, try-
ing to put her finger on what, exactly, was
different about them
today. One by one, she found it.
Take Toby. Normally, her five-year-old
sister had to practically
be put on a leash in busy places like airports. She
was forever wan-
dering off and following her curious little nose. Now, she
Daddy's hand as if she were attached to it with Crazy Glue.
Goldie was acting different, too. Lana's
older sister was a
chatterer. She generally started talking early in the day
stop until her head dropped onto her pillow at night. Now, she
stood with arms crossed, silent as a tomb.
Nachum, Lana's big brother and normally
the most easy go-
ing person in the world, had snapped at three different
of the family since they'd entered the airport terminal. At the mo-
ment, he was half-turned away from the rest of them, pretending
to watch the
travelers hurrying past. Lana knew he was pretend-
ing because, most of the
time, his head was down and he was
staring at his shoes.
Only Yitzi was acting more or less his
usual self. He kept up a
steady stream of questions about the plane Daddy
to fly on, about the people who were going to work the controls
in the cockpit, about South Africa, Daddy tried to answer him,
and so did Ma,
but his eight-year-old energy was hard to keep up
with. Especially at a time
"How long is the flight, Daddy? Will it be
night when you get
there, or day? And what time will it be here in
Mr. Bamberger patiently explained that
South Africa was ten
hours ahead of them, and he waited while Yitzi tried to
what time it would be for him when his father reached Cape
Town. The rest of the family said nothing at all.
That, thought Lana, was the biggest
difference. The still-
ness. Her family was like a bubble of quiet in the
All around them, figures bustled through
the terminal. The
people looked hurried and a little smug, as though they
portant people, going important places. Only the Bambergers
not moving. They stood huddled together in a tight knot, as
though they had
forgotten that there was a world outside.
And there was one more thing. A very odd
ing the circumstances. Every one of them, from Daddy and Ma
down to little Toby, wore a fixed smile. An awful lot of smiles,
sadly, for such an unhappy occasion. The smiles
were like bricks in a dam,
holding back a torrent that threatened
to rip loose at any moment....
Lana imagined what would happen if the
wall finally cracked,
to let out the river of tears that lay behind. That did
not seem at
all impossible. Some of the smiles, she noticed, were looking
strained. Ma's, especially, was a little shaky. Lana moved closer to
mother and touched her sleeve.
Ma glanced down at her, crinkling up her
warm blue eyes in
what was meant to be a reassuring grin. Then she turned
"We're going to be fine, Shmuel," Ma said
for the hundredth
the thousandth? time. "The months will go by before we
know it. And then you'll be home again."
At the word "months," fifteen-year-old
Goldie winced. It was
such a definite word, carrying with it such a definite
pain. Goldie preferred something a little more vague. "For a
while" was easier to bear. "Daddy's going to Cape Town for a
while," Ma had
told them, at that momentous family meeting the
week before. And Goldie had
seized on the words as if they were
a lifeline. "Months and months" without
Daddy would be awful.
"For a while" was bearable.
For her part, Lana preferred exactness.
She'd already hung
an enormous calendar over her desk at home, to mark off
days. "How long will you be away, Daddy?" she'd asked her father
after the family meeting. "Two months? Three? Half a year?"
Her face had
grown a little pale at that.
"I'm not sure," Daddy had answered slowly.
"Two months at
least, I'd say. Six, tops. Enough time to help my cousin Eli
new branch of his business solidly on its feet." He didn't add the
words that Lana knew he was thinking: "And enough time to get
our own family
back on its feet, too..."
It was funny, Lana thought now, the way
could be happening all around you, only you didn't have a
The situation she was in that they were all in had been
up for some time, but Lana hadn't seen a thing.
It was just like the ocean, she mused
dreamily, as an imper-
sonal voice above her head announced the departure of
other flight. The surface of the sea
looked so placid, as if nothing
lay beneath but more and more layers of the
you saw at the top. Yet, underneath, high drama played itself
in a billion different ways each day.
High drama had been playing in the theater of her own
home, but Lana had been
too blind to see.
She thought about that now, as she rested her weight first on
one foot and
then on the other. She hadn't noticed a thing but,
then, Goldie and Nachum
had been just as oblivious, and they
were older than she was. Goldie was
going to begin the tenth
grade in a few days. Nachum, at thirteen, was about
to leave for
an out-of-town yeshivah. At almost twelve, liana Lana for
short could be forgiven for being stunned by their father's
In fact, it had come as a shock to all of them.
"I don't know whether or not you kids are aware of this,"
Daddy had told the
children as they sat around the butcher-block
kitchen table holding their
meeting, "but I've suffered some fi-
nancial reverses lately."
"Reverses?" Toby repeated. "What's that?"
"That means that Daddy's lost some money in business,"
Yitzi told his little
sister importantly. He turned expectantly back
to their father. "Right?"
Daddy nodded. "Right. Business hasn't gone as well as I
hoped this year. No,
not very well at all." He paused. Lana felt the
weight of that pause. It was
heavy, as though it carried a hint of
what was still to come. "We're going to
have to make some
"Changes?" Goldie asked in alarm. "What kind of changes?"
Ma had stepped in then. If her voice was cheerful, her eyes
told a different story. "Well, we have a few options. One would be
our belts and go on as we are. That would mean cer-
tain sacrifices. Less
new clothes, simpler meals, fewer vaca-
"What are the other choices?" Goldie asked quickly.
"We could move. L.A. is an expensive place to live. Daddy
could make a new
start somewhere else, either on his own or
working for someone else."
"But that would mean leaving our friends!" Goldie ex-
"And our schools/' Lana added.
Yitzi said, "Where would we move to?"
The meeting threatened to explode into a confused babble.
Mr. Bamberger held
up a hand. "There is a third option."
Every pair of eyes darted back to him. It was Lana who
asked, "What option,
"Who remembers Cousin Eli?"
There was a blank silence. Hesitantly, Goldie said, "The one
who lives in
"Yes! That's the one. The last time he came to visit, you were
Goldie. Nachum and Lana were even younger, and
the other two weren't even
born yet. Eli lives in Johannesburg,
South Africa. He's planning to open a
second branch of his dia-
mond business, down in Cape Town. And he wants me
and help him."
"South Africa?" Nachum stared at his father. "But that's on
the other side of
Soberly, Daddy nodded. "It is that. I would have to be away
for a while... a few months, probably. But
he's offering me a lot of
money a chunk of the business, in fact which
would help us
make a fresh start when I get back."
"A fresh start here in LA?" Goldie
"Right here in LA," Daddy grinned. "I don't want to move
than you do."
The discussion had gone on for a long
time. Ma and Daddy
would make the final decision, of course, but they wanted
what the children thought.
Goldie thought that anything was better
than moving. She'd
spent most of the fifteen years of her life making friends
comfortable life for herself. The last thing she felt like doing was
starting all over again.
Nachum didn't want to move, either. He was
the one who
would feel his father's departure the least. He was about to
for yeshivah and would only be coming home every couple of
so. But he wanted to know that the familiar house in
LA. would be waiting for
him when he did come.
Lana was torn. On the one hand, the
thought of losing
Daddy for months was agonizing. On the other, so was moving
away from Los Angeles. And moving was much more perma-
nent. Reluctantly she
had to agree that Cape Town made the
Yitzi was still young enough to think of
moving as an adven-
ture. With small-boy logic, he kept repeating to anyone
would listen, "A new house is fun. Daddy going away for ages is
fun. It doesn't take much brains to choose which is better!"
Toby was quiet, listening to the others
with eyes that had
grown suddenly too large for her little face.
In the end, their parents had opted for
Ma said, "It won't be for very long, kids.
And, with Hashem's
help, the benefits will last us a long, long time." She
smiled just a
touch too brightly. "Remember, every cloud has its silver lin-
Lana could tell that her mother was trying
hard to focus on
the silver lining. Just now, all she herself could see were
of ugly gray clouds, stretching away as
far as the eye could see.
* * *
Once the decision was made, her parents
selves into the preparations for Daddy's trip. He would be
over the yamim noraim and Sukkos, but that couldn't be
Cousin Eli needed him right away. If he was going, the
time was right now.
Lana tried to hold onto the days they had
left, but they van-
ished one by one, like autumn leaves blown away by an
wind. In the blink of an eye, it seemed, Daddy's ticket was pur-
chased and his bags packed. And now, here they were, on the
brink of the
separation they all dreaded.
Lana studied her father. There were
shadows under his eyes
that she didn't remember seeing before. The eyes
looked worried, though he tried hard not to show it. It's worst
Daddy, she thought suddenly. She'd been so busy feeling sorry
herself that she hadn't spared a thought for her father. He was
leaving his family and going across the world to a strange
place. He would be
working hard all day and would not even have
the comfort of his loved ones to
come home to at the end of it.
Why, Daddy was the one who needed cheering up
And the best way to cheer him up, she
realized with a flash of
wisdom, was to take away some of his worry about
Standing in the busy airport terminal,
Lana mustered up all
her strength and gave her father a
brilliant smile. "With school
starting in a couple of days, we'll be so busy
we'll hardly even no-
tice you're gone!" she said, very cheerfully.
Daddy smiled back with a hopeful nod.
Ma smiled, too, and threw Lana a grateful
Yitzi drawled skeptically, "Yeah,
Above their heads, the impersonal voice
1034 for Cape Town, now boarding at Gate 32."
Daddy started as though stuck by a needle.
Then, slowly, he
straightened up and took firm hold of his briefcase. Ma
cally reached out her arms to gather in her brood. And Toby
chose that moment to do what they all wished they could do: She
burst into tears.
In a way, she did them all a favor.
Clustering around the sob-
bing five-year-old, and comforting her,
distracted them from
what was happening. When Toby had finally calmed to the
fling stage, Daddy handed his briefcase to Nachum and bent to
her up in his arms. There was a bright sheen of tears in his
"I love you, Toby-girl," he said, tickling
her under the chin.
Through her sniffles, Toby managed a wan
smile. "I love
"I love you three!"
Their old game made Toby brighten a
little. "I love you four!"
"I love you ten!"
"1 love you a hundred!"
"1 love you a thousand!"
"1 love you a million!"
"1 love you forever!"
Together, laughing now through the tears,
the last line in their game. "I love you
forever and a day!"
The chorus was a little louder than
expected. Lana, Goldie,
Nachum, and Yitzi yes, and Ma, too had joined in.
carrying a black travel bag gave them a curious look as he
Lana didn't care. The moment was too precious to let
anything or anyone
And then the moment was over. Daddy put
Holding her hand tight, he began to walk toward the gate. Ma
was just a half-step behind. Then came Goldie and Nachum,
with Lana and Yitzi
bringing up the rear.
For Lana, it was like walking through a
dream. She observed
her family as if she were seeing them on the other side
of a win-
dow. She and Goldie were fair-skinned, with dark-blond hair and
blue eyes, and skin that blistered too easily in the summer sun.
Toby were the dark ones, like their father, with
deep-set hazel eyes that
could be serious or fun-filled or shy, de-
pending on their mood. Yitzi,
with his head of flaming red hair
and liberally freckled face, was the odd
man out and couldn't
have cared less.
For one wild moment, Lana let herself
imagine that they
were all going along with Daddy to Cape Town. That instead
painful good-byes, they were set for adventure! It would be the
end of winter down there now, instead of the end of summer
as it was in the
United States. These next few months, as Ameri-
cans geared up for colder
weather, Daddy would be wearing the
lightweight summer suits that Ma had
packed for him. Lana pre-
tended that she, too, had spent the last week
packing her sum-
mer things. That in a few minutes, all together, the family
strap themselves into their seats for the long flight into the un-
But pretending is a costly business. The
cost comes in the
sharp ache when you have to abandon fantasy and face
once again. Lana felt the stab in her heart now, as she remem-
bered that it was only her father who'd be leaving. She closed her
waited for the ache to pass.
But it didn't pass. Daddy was leaving
and that meant the
pain had come to stay, like a lodger in her heart.
They had reached the gate. Mr. Bamberger
put Toby down.
He drew a deep breath and turned to face his family.
For the first time, Ma's smile
disappeared. She motioned for
Nachum to begin the good-byes. Nachum stepped
up to shake
his father's hand, then let himself be drawn into a strong hug.
Next in line was Lana. Forcing a smile to
her lips was the
most difficult thing she had ever done in her life. But she
and then lifted her face for her father's kiss.
"I'm going to miss you so much," she
"It won't be long," Daddy promised.
But inside her head, there came a wistful
"Forever and a day...."
Holding the Fort
Ma said, letting out her breath in a long sigh.
Nachum and Yitzi were still standing at
the observation win-
dow, scanning the sky for a last glimpse of the speck
their father's plane. But the speck was invisible, lost in the
and the distance. Daddy was gone. It was time to move on.
But they all felt strangely reluctant to
move. The family
stood frozen in place, as though by standing there they
hold onto Daddy just a little longer. Into the silence, Toby began
to cry again.
Quickly, Ma stooped to put her arms around
the little girl.
Toby buried her head in her mother's shoulder.
"I want Daddy," Toby hiccoughed. Her voice
came out muf-
"Don't we all," Goldie sighed.
"I miss him already," Yitzi said
Lana and Nachum said nothing. Lana's heart
was too full for
words, and Nachum knew that nothing he said could make it
Ma stood up, an arm still around Toby, and
faced the others.
She took a long, steadying breath. Then
she asked, "Have you
kids ever heard the term 'to hold the fort'?"
Before anyone could answer, she continued
briskly, "It dates
back to the American West, when a handful of soldiers had
hold a fort against packs of bloodthirsty Indians." Her eyes
children's faces, much the way long-ago buffalo
roamed the prairies around
those beleaguered soldiers. "Well,
we've got a different sort of fort to
hold, my dears. We have to
stay strong and cheerful for Daddy's sake. He's
going to want
to find us in great shape when he gets back. That will take
age. Not the kind of courage that those soldiers had when they
guarded the fort with their rifles. A different kind."
"I'll take the rifle any day," Nachum said
with a feeble grin.
"But we don't get to choose," Ma said
firmly. "This is our life,
and our challenge. If you stop and think about it,
it could be a lot
worse. We love Daddy and Daddy loves us. So what if a few
sand miles separate us at the moment? We won't let that ruin ev-
erything for us, will we?"
She stopped to let her words sink in.
Goldie stopped sighing
and Toby quit her whimpering. Even Lana felt a little
Ma drew a deep breath. "Let's go home,"
she said. "Let's go
home and...and have some hot chocolate, and put on our
ite tapes, and play a long game of Monopoly. How does that
It sure sounded better than standing in an
scanning the sky for a plane that was no longer there. One
one, the children nodded. First Lana, then Nachum, then Goldie
Yitzi, and finally, with a last forlorn sniffle, Toby.
Ma smiled. "Okay. We have to walk over to
the parking lot
now to get the car. You do that by putting
one foot in front of the
other, and not stopping...."
She turned. Together, they began the long
trek through the
* * *
The Monopoly board was spread out on the
kitchen table the very heart of the house. On the stove, hot
chocolate came to a fragrant simmer. A tape recorder on the
counter sent out
waves of good music.
"Come on," Yitzi urged. "Let's play." He
reached for the dice.
Lana glanced at the clock on the wall. A
whole hour had
passed since Daddy's plane had taken off. With a pang of sur-
prise, she realized that it hadn't been such a hard hour after all.
things would be easier than she thought.
But deep inside, a sage little voice
intoned, "Wait until morn-
As things turned out, she didn't even have
to wait that long.
Just a few hours after she'd gone to bed,
Lana woke up quite
suddenly, for no reason. She stared wildly into the
The moon was throwing spears of
silver-white light across
her blanket. The spears turned wobbly when she
moved her legs.
Lana studied the effect drowsily for a moment, then
her gaze to the window. A bit of palm tree was in view, standing
very still in the breathless air. Except for a fuzzy area around the
the sky was perfectly black.
Sleepily, she closed her eyes again.
Tomorrow would be hot.
Maybe she'd call her friend Mindy and go swimming....
Then, all at once, she remembered. Daddy
had left. By now,
he should be halfway around the globe. Lana might have
asleep, but her heart had remembered.
Cautiously, she probed her heart, the way
you'd probe a
shaky tooth with your tongue. It hurt yes, definitely it hurt
but the pain was not like being stabbed with a sword. Rather, it
dull ache, like the kind you get when you've played too
hard. Charley horse,
that's the phrase she was looking for. A
deep-down, throbbing hurt that had
settled in for the long haul.
The kind of pain that you might forget for a
while, but that was al-
ways there when you looked again.,..
Suddenly, she couldn't lie still another
minute. She threw
back the covers and groped for her slippers. Lying in a
moonlight, they were not hard to find. With a robe thrown over
her nightgown, she quietly opened the door and left the room.
Toby, in the
other bed, never stirred.
Lana made her way down the stairs. Without
there, the house seemed about ten times larger than usual
ten times quieter. In the living room, the blinds had been left
and a ghostly silver light flooded the carpet and
couches and easy chairs.
In one of those chairs, curled up into an
ball, was a small figure.
"Yitzi!" she exclaimed softly. "What are
you doing up?"
Her brother lifted his head. His eyelids
looked heavy, though
whether that was from tiredness or from crying, Lana
tell. "I couldn't sleep."
"Neither can 1," said another voice at
Lana spun around. Goldie stood in the
doorway, clad like
Lana in pajamas and a robe. "1 heard you leave your room
now, Lana. Since I was up anyway, 1 figured 1 might as well join
you." She lifted a brow at Yitzi. "1 didn't expect that there'd be
"Make that four," said Nachum, stepping in
kitchen. He held a glass of juice in his hand.
"You, too?" Goldie exclaimed softly. "What
is this, an insom-
"What's insomniac?" Yitzi asked.
"You are. And me, and Lana, and Nachum,"
coming over to perch on the arm of the sofa. "And I can guess
why." She made a face.
"This is just the first night," Lana
moaned. "How are we go-
ing to survive?"
Goldie stood up and began to prowl the
living room. "I'll tell
you how I'm going to survive. I'm going to keep busy.
The way I
figure it, I wouldn't have seen Daddy during school hours any-
way, and if I keep super-busy after school I won't feel his being
much. It's the only plan that makes sense."
"What about Shabbos?" Yitzi asked.
Goldie set her lips in a stubborn line.
"I'll keep busy then,
too. That's what friends are for, right?"
"That wouldn't work for me," Lana sighed.
"You're good at
distracting yourself, Goldie. I'm not."
'And you brood too much," Goldie said.
"Try to lighten up a
little, Lana. Stop carrying the weight of the world on
ders. Like Ma said, there's no use ruining the next few months
our lives just because we can't have Daddy right here where we
Goldie finished her tour of the living
room. She thumped
down onto the couch, as though daring the
world to spoil her
"Nachum's the lucky one," Yitzi spoke up
his armchair. "He's not even going to be here."
The others looked at Nachum, who ducked
his head misera-
bly. "You don't understand. I need my father more than ever
"But you're going to be away at yeshivah!
You wouldn't even
have seen Daddy anyway not for weeks at a time," Yitzi
Nachum turned away, the hunch of his
volumes about the way he was feeling. But he didn't say
any of it.
Lana sympathized with her brother. If she were standing in
shoes, she'd be shaking with panic at the prospect of going
away from her
safe, familiar home to live in a yeshivah dormitory.
She wouldn't have
changed places with him for a million dollars.
At the same time, though, she
couldn't help privately agreeing
with Yitzi. Of them all, Nachum was the
luckiest. He would feel
Daddy's absence the least.
And Lana herself would feel it the most.
She was absolutely
certain of that. Nobody could miss him more than she
did and it was bound to get worse as time passed.
A great wave of self-pity engulfed her.
Moodily, she leaned
her chin on her fists and gazed out the window without
thing. The air-conditioning in the house kept them comfortable,
but outside the air was like a stifling blanket. How hot did it get
"Tomorrow," she said suddenly, sitting up.
can speak to Daddy and ask him what it's like down there. We
can tell him how much we miss him."
"Better not lay it on too thick," Goldie
warned. "He'll be
much happier if he thinks we're happy."
"You sound pretty happy right now," Lana
"And you're talking about something that's none of your
business! Do you think you're the only one
with any feelings
around here? Well, here's a piece of news: I have feelings,
And what they are is my own business, and no one else's!"
Lana and Goldie glared at each other
across the expanse of
moonlit carpet. Nachum said tiredly, "Come on, you
last thing we need right now is a fight."
The girls held each other's eyes for
another minute. Lana's
eyes dropped first.
"Sorry," she muttered.
Goldie shrugged and turned away.
"Whatever. I'm going
back to bed."
"1 guess I will, too," Nachum said. He
glanced at Lana and
"Soon," Lana said.
"Soon," Yitzi echoed.
They watched the older two start up the
steps to their
rooms. When two bedroom doors had clicked shut, Yitzi and
Lana transferred their gaze to the window. A car passed down the
headlights two yellow beams in the darkness. Far away,
a siren wailed.
Yitzi's voice sounded small and lost from
the depths of his
armchair. "You know something? I'm the one who's going to
miss Daddy the most."
Startled this was exactly what she had
just been thinking
about herself Lana asked, "Why?"
"This was the year when we were going to
start doing stuff
"What kind of stuff?"
"Oh, me 'n Daddy had all sorts of plans.
We were going to
learn mishnayos together, and he said he'd even start
some Gemara with me, if 1 was ready. With
there was never enough time. But Nachum's going to yeshivah."
Lana nodded sympathetically. Though Yitzi
Nachum a lot, she could see that he'd been looking forward to
being an 'only son' for a while. Now, with Daddy gone, all those
gone up in smoke.
"He was going to Finally teach me how to
ride my bike with-
out training wheels," Yitzi continued in a dismal
how to dive. And we were gonna make a model airplane together
on Sundays. And just spend some time talking about stuff.
Sometimes 1 have a
problem, and Daddy helps me figure out
what to do...."
"I'm sure Ma will give you lots of extra
Yitzi lifted his head. "Daddy and 1 had a talk before he left. He
told me to do whatever I can to make life easier for Ma while he's
said that I'm going to be the man of the house now. So
I won't be able to run
to Ma like I did when I was little."
Lana's heart was wrung with pity. He was
so young only
eight! and yet so ready to be strong when he was really
just the opposite. The pity turned to admiration. Quite a kid, that
Yitzi, she thought with pride. She came over to perch on the arm
of his chair.
"Yitzi, listen. If Daddy and Nachum aren't
around, and you
don't want to bother Ma then how about me?"
"Yes, me! I'll be your problem person. Any
trouble in your life
you come to me. Whether it's helping you with a
Chumash or your math homework, or anything else."
For the first time, Yitzi brightened. "You
mean it, Lana?"
She nodded. "Sure. You can count on me,
"Okay." He hopped off the armchair, his
misery abruptly for-
gotten for the moment, at least. Her promise,
done the trick. As Lana marveled at the swift mood shift,
yawned. "I think I'll go to sleep now. I'm kind of bushed. You
"In a minute."
Yitzi went upstairs. Lana was alone in a
sea of silver.
She curled up in the armchair Yitzi had
just abandoned. It
was nice to know that her little brother needed her. In a
be taking Daddy's place in Yitzi's life. That made her feel more
connected to her father, somehow. Briefly, she considered telling
her promise when they next spoke on the phone.
Then she decided against it. Nor would she
tell Ma. It would
be her secret hers and Yitzi's. She would help her
through the next months. She had a sneaking suspicion that do-
ing so would help her survive them, too.
With a huge yawn, Lana rose and trudged up
the stairs to
bed. Toby was still sound asleep. The spears of moonlight had
grown shorter and moved down to the foot of her bed. The last
thing Lana saw
before closing her eyes was the calendar on the
wall opposite. She had
already crossed off one day the day of
Daddy's departure even though he
hadn't left until late after-
noon. That way, she'd wake up seeing that at
least a tiny part of
the wait was already behind her....
When she next opened her eyes, brilliant
sun had replaced
the moonlight. The palm tree outside her window was resting
head on a pillow of bluest blue.
a weird feeling," Lana said, reaching for another hand
ful of popcorn from the lime-green bowl balanced on the
bed between herself
and her best friend,
"What is?" Mindy asked.
"Not having my father around. Yesterday,
when we said
good-bye at the airport, I thought my heart would break. Then,
this morning, I woke up and it was just morning. Same room,
same old Mindy to visit."
"Thanks a lot, Lana. 1 feel real
Lana's blue eyes opened wide. "But you are
You're one of the things that's helping me feel normal
"Thanks," Mindy said again, dryly. "1
think." But she was
Lana propped her chin on both her fists as
through her friend's bedroom window. It was framed by long rose
and white curtains. Tiny sprigs of green dotted the fabric here
Outside, the intensely blue California sky stared un-
blinkingly back at her.
She mused, "Today's Labor Day. Tomor-
row, school starts. That's also when
my brother Nachum leaves
for yeshivah in Denver. And Toby'll be starting
ear. All those plans were made before
Daddy decided to go to
South Africa. And they'll go on now, just as if he
away...." She twisted to face her friend, eyes screwed up in con-
centration. "Do you see what I'm getting at, Mindy?"
"Yeah," her friend said. "Life goes on."
Lana nodded vigorously. "Exactly. That's
what Ma keeps try-
ing to tell us. But I didn't believe her." She thought a
"I'm not sure I do, even now. But it sure seems that way. Daddy's
left L.A. but L.A., and all of us, are going our old merry ways."
She ran a
hand like a comb through her fine blond hair. "Weird!"
Mindy didn't know about that. How could
she, when her own
father was safe at his office and would be coming home for
per tonight at the usual time? Her heart went out to Lana. Brave
the speech was, she knew how much her friend was hurting.
In an attempt to cheer them both up, she
leaped off the bed.
"Milk shakes! We just got some new butter-pecan ice
How about it?"
Lana made a face. "Oh, Mindy. You're
always trying to com-
fort yourself and everyone else, too! with food."
didn't add what she didn't need to add was that this habit
had given Mindy a shape that was plumper than she liked. Lana's
seemed to spend half her time enjoying her favorite
snacks, and the other
half trying to diet them away.
Mindy faced Lana, hands on her hips.
"Well, milk shakes are
comforting. Deny that!"
Lana couldn't deny it. And this was one
time when she defi-
nitely needed some comfort. The thought of a rich,
ter-pecan milk shake was strangely appealing.
She scrambled to her feet and followed
Mindy out the door.
The Los Angeles neighborhood where the
was not the fanciest part of town but it was no slum,
The houses were large and lovely, and many had swimming
back. But Goldie liked her friend Riva Perl's house best
Not because it was the prettiest house in
It wasn't. It was a bit frayed at the edges and didn't even
pool. No, what Goldie liked was the way the Perl house always
seemed to be bubbling with some new excitement. Riva's family
were always up
to something and they were more than happy
to include Goldie, Riva's best
friend since way back in the first
Right now, the house was popping with
tions. As usual, Riva's mother had let the whole summer
without bothering about details like buying school supplies for
upcoming school year. The year was starting tomorrow, and
Mrs. Perl was
rushing around with long scribbled lists, to which
various of her children
added items as she passed.
"Highlighters," Riva's younger sister,
Miri, sang out. "I need
"What in the world does a second-grader
need with high-
lighters?" Riva asked from the depths of the sofa where she
"Never mind. I just need them."
"She'll probably just use them to color in
books," Tzvi announced. At ten, Tzvi thought he knew every-
"I will not!" Miri was indignant. "I need
them to underline
things myMorah says. So there!"
"You don't use highlighters to under "
"Leave her alone, Tzviki," their mother
broke in. "She wants
highlighters, she can have highlighters." Mrs. Perl
added the item
to her growing list. "Anything else before we go? 1 like to
list ready before we hit the stores. It's more organized that way."
The two fifteen-year-old girls on the sofa
amused look. "Organized" was the last word either of them
would have used to describe Riva's mother. But this was old news
to Riva, and
Goldie actually enjoyed it. It made the Perl house-
"Everybody ready?" Mrs. Perl asked. It
turned out, though, that
she herself was not. Her handbag was nowhere to be
sent the children to look for it, while she instituted a frantic
her own. She found the bag at last under a pile of books on an easy
chair. Grabbing it, she sang out, "Okay, gang. Let's go!"
Goldie, Riva, Tzvi, and Miri piled into
the minivan while Mrs.
Perl locked up the house. As they started down the
street toward the Beverly Center shopping mall, Goldie found
herself sighing with contentment. Guiltily, she remembered her
been gone less than twenty-four hours, and already
she'd let two whole hours
go by without thinking of him once.
That's what Riva's house does to me,
In her secret heart, she had to admit that
that was what she
liked most about it. The Perl household made her feel
alive...happy. You couldn't be sad there. There was just too much
If you wanted distraction, this was the place to find it.
She had a feeling she was going to be
spending a lot of time
at Riva's place during the coming months.
* * *
Nachum was at a friend's, too, but he was
not feeling partic-
ularly happy there.
Like his sisters, he had woken up with a
strange, hollow feel-
ing that morning. With Daddy gone, the house just
But Nachum didn't spend much time brooding
about his fa-
ther. He missed him, sure but there were much more pressing
matters for him to worry about right then. Like the fact that he
was about to
board a plane of his own the next day, to fly off to
yeshivah for the first
time in his life.
Or, rather, the second time. The first was
when he'd had his
bechinah and guided tour of the place. He'd passed
the first with
flying colors and been impressed enough with the second to
his parents he wanted to attend the yeshivah for high school.
been pleased with his decision, and so was he though
tiny butterflies had
been doing a vague dance in the region of his
middle whenever he thought of
Now the butterflies were anything but
vague. They were exe-
cuting a slow, heavy march around his insides,
speeding up to a queasy hora. Ma, sewing a last few name tags
onto his clothes, took one look at the white-faced boy restlessly
house, and ordered him to visit a friend.
"But I wanted to spend my last day at
home," Nachum pro-
tested, not too strongly.
"1 know, dear. But you're driving yourself
crazy and me,
too! Want me to take you over to Avi's for a while? You can
hoops there or something. Calm your nerves."
Nachum had to agree that this was a sound
plan. Ten min-
utes later, they rolled up to his friend's door, and soon
he and Avi were very busy with a basketball. It was hot outside,
but bearable. The sun beating down on his back and head felt
would be a lot colder in Denver, he knew. Better make
the most of the California sun while he
still had it....
Daddy had been upset that the timing of
his own trip had
made it impossible for him to accompany his son to yeshivah,
they had planned. Nachum had been quick to assure him that it
matter. "I've already seen the place, Daddy. The yeshivah
will send someone
to meet me at the airport. And Leiby Finkel
will be on the same flight; we'll
fly together. He's going into the
eleventh grade, so he's got experience.
And," Nachum finished,
as the clincher, "don't forget that I'm no baby. I'm
"I haven't forgotten." His father had
and rumpled Nachum's hair. "You make sure and write me
you hear? All about the yeshivah, and what you're learning."
"I'll send you my chiddushim. as I
soon as I come up with
them," Nachum had promised with a grin.
"The chiddushim can come later,"
Daddy answered seri-
ously. "Now is the time to get some solid learning
belt. Don't aim for dazzle, Nachum. Aim for solid."
It was good advice. Thinking of it, and
thinking of his father,
made the butterflies in Nachum's stomach dance
felt like butterflies with size-twelve shoes. Size-twelve shoes
of cement. Gritting his teeth, he took aim at the hoop and hurled
ball with all his might, as though it carried all the feelings he
"Nice!" Avi called out, as the ball sailed
neatly into the wait-
ing metal circle.
Heartened, Nachum took aim again. If only
life could be as
simple as a game of basketball, he thought as he squinted up
the hoop, I'd have nothing to worry about!
* * *
And so, the first day wound to a close.
tucked a last few surprise treats into the
corners of Nachum's
suitcase and thought about her husband's phone call
the day. He had called to say that he'd arrived safely and had
been met at the airport by Cousin Eli. She put the call onto the
so that the whole family could hear him at the
"The sky's even bluer out here than it is
in California," Daddy
had said. When Yitzi declared that he didn't believe
promised to send a picture.
Ma zipped up the suitcase now and
straightened, a hand to
her stiff back. There Nachum was all packed.
refused to think about the morning, when she'd have to say
good-bye to yet another member of her beloved family. She
would not think
about anything now. It was time for bed.
The children even Goldie, the night owl
The house was quiet, a solid, reassuring presence around her.
seemed to be telling Ma that it would keep them safe and pro-
within its walls until the man of the house came flying
back to them.
"Go to sleep," the house seemed to murmur
the small whirrings and creakings that you can hear only in
still of the night. "Rest easy. All is well."
Ma believed it. She went to her room, said
from a small siddur she kept near her bed, and fell at once
But, in reality, all was far from well.
Far below, deep in the earth beneath the
things were moving.