I press the phone into Mommy’s hand. “Just call. Please,” I say, trying not to sound too hysterical. Mommy raises her eyebrows. “Rachel Ahuva. I already told you, I’m not comfortable with this.”

I swallow. “Please, Mommy? Please?”

Abba comes into the room, singing to himself.

When he sees us, he stops and makes a microphone out of his fist. “Achas shaaalti… meeis Hashem…!”

When we don’t laugh, he drops his hand back down and widens his eyes. “Tough crowd. What’s going on in here?”

I seize the opportunity. “Abba, please, please, I really nee — I mean, I really want to go to this sleepover and Mommy says—”

“Rachel Ahuva!” Mommy’s voice is so sharp it sounds nothing like her. I take a step back, struck dumb. “Rachel Ahuva, I will explain the situation to Abba. Please leave the kitchen until we are done speaking.”

I jump out of there quickly, before I make her any more upset.

Gosh, what was the big deal? Everyone else was going. Bina’s father was a rav; he wouldn’t let her go if there were any bad influences. I step toward the kitchen, ready to offer up this helpful piece of information, but stop when I hear voices raised.

“.... brat!” Oh boy, is Mommy saying that I’m a brat or Tamara?

“.... chinuch?”

“.... learning experience… own choices… conclusions.”

Okay, I can’t make out any full sentences, but it seems as if Abba was telling Mommy to let me make my own mistakes.


I step back from the door before I’m caught eavesdropping and plop onto the couch in the living room.

Mommy and Abba appear a moment later, faces unreadable.

Abba perches next to me, still wary of the couch’s softness.

“RaRa,” he says, squeezing my hand. Oh good, at least he still likes me. “Mommy and I are a little worried by these new friends.”

I bite my lip. Friends? Are Tamara and Bina and the rest, my friends? Not really. Friends implies equality and I’m still “the new girl.” But honestly, I don’t care. I just really, really want to go to this party.

I open my mouth, but he holds up a hand. “RaRa. Just listen. We are worried, but we also believe you are old enough to make your own choices.”

Mommy makes a small noise in the back of her throat but doesn’t say anything.

“So, if you must go to this party, you can go late, after Simchi’s back-to-school night, because we know you keep your commitments, especially to your little brother who worships you.”

I close my mouth. He was right; I would hate to disappoint Simchi.

Mommy speaks for the first time. “Can you get us some numbers to call?”

I jump up and hug them both.

“Of course, of course. Thank you so, so much!”

“Don’t get too excited until we do some research,” Abba cautions, but I don’t care.

I know the research will yield no red flags. And if I think, deep down, that is due more to the Fines’ penchant for perfect appearances, rather than because there are no red flags to find, I choose not to share that with my parents.

Bina’s father, Rabbi Kleinberg, had nothing but nice things to say about Tamara’s family, and Mrs. Fine was as polite as can be. “I guess you can go,” Mommy says, trying not to look too disappointed. Swallowing a grin, I hug them both again and dance off to pack. I was going straight from attending back-to-school-night at SHIPS and Hadas had even lent me her Tory Burch overnight bag to bring along.

“They’ll know it’s not mine,” I’d said doubtfully, but she was adamant I take it. “It’s a respect thing. You can’t show up with your Old Navy tote bag. You just can’t,” she’d said.

I lay my plaid Ralph Lauren pajamas, a gift from Aunt Lani, into the bag; a black slinky; a T-shirt dress; a pair of slippers; and a pair of shoes neatly inside. My brush, my makeup bag, toiletries, and I’m all set. Well, almost. I reach into my closet and pull out the Nordstrom’s bag holding my most recent purchase.

I lovingly take out my brand-new Butter sweatshirt, and before I can regret the 75 dollars spent on a zip-up, I yank off the tags and place it on top of the rest of my belongings.

Now I’m really ready.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 729)