The thing about living the popular life in Stonesworth is that it’s expensive. Like, really expensive. I sigh and drop dramatically onto my bed. “My coffers,” I say to Sari, throwing a hand to my forehead, “have run dry.”

Sari doesn’t look up from her book. “You’re a weirdo.”

I throw a pillow at her and sit up. “Seriously, what should I do?”

Sari raises an eyebrow. “Um, babysit? Like every other teenager who needs pocket money?”

I stick my tongue out at her obnoxious tone, but she does have a point. “Okay, but who do we know that needs a babysitter?”

Sari doesn’t answer, her nose is back in her book. I sigh again. Time for some brain food. I wander into the kitchen and find a tray of banana muffins cooling on the stove. Just what the doctor ordered. After downing two, along with a glass of cold milk, I amble into the living room to find Simchi on the floor building an elaborate town out of Playmobil people and his train set. Remembering the guilt trip he sent me on the other day, I kneel down so he can see my hands.

Simchi! This is the coolest train city! Can I play?

His eyes travel from my hands to my face and then, very definitely, he turns away.

My jaw drops. I crawl around him so we’re face to face once more.


He raises his hand. No.

My mouth is open in shock. I close it. Why not?

He sighs wearily. Because we’re not friends anymore.

I know it’s silly to cry over the rejection of a six-year-old, but honestly, can’t anything go right anymore? I blink away the tears.

“Simchi,” I croak out, knowing he can’t hear me but hoping away. He doesn’t lift his head. I stumble out of the room and don’t even realize I’m walking until I’m upstairs grabbing my MP3 player off the dresser. Dimly, I hear Sari talking but I can’t process the words.

It’s cold outside, and it has just started to drizzle lightly, but that’s exactly what I need. Jamming the earbuds in, I walk. At first, I turn the volume way up and let the music guide my feet. But then, after about 20 minutes, I press pause. The sudden silence is as loud as the music was, and I’m all too aware that I don’t really know my way around Stonesworth yet. I squint at the street sign and then relax, relieved. I’m only a block away from Aunt Lani’s. I look ruefully down at my black slinky and gray hoodie. Not the way I would normally go visit my cousins, but desperate times call for terrible wardrobe choices.

If Uncle Ari is startled to see me standing at his doorstep with rain-frizzed hair and a damp sweatshirt, he doesn’t show it. “Rachel Ahuva! Lani and Batya will be so thrilled! Come on in!”

Several minutes later I’m wrapped in a large cashmere throw, hands defrosting on a large mug of cocoa as Lani and Batya sip iced waters with lemon and wait to hear what has brought me to their not-so-humble abode.

“I don’t really know what to say,” I mumble. Lani rests an arm on my shoulder. “Is everything alright, honey?”

“Yes,” I reassure her. “Everything is great.” And then I burst into tears.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 739)