sprawl across Mommy’s bed and wait for her to look up. We get our bookworm genes from her, and it’s a good five minutes before she notices me. She puts her magazine facedown on the bed and leans forward. “What’s doing, peanut?”

Her reading glasses slip down on her nose and I grin, because she looks just like Chunah when she wears them.

“Nothing much,” I say flipping onto my back and staring up at the ceiling dramatically.

She grins. “Oh, okay.” She reaches for her magazine once more. I jolt upright. “No! I need to schmooze!”

We laugh.

“Okay, spill,” Mommy says. I try to collect my thoughts, but my mind is so overheated, I nearly combust from the effort.

“Okay. Okay, the thing is… I was looking at Aunt Lani’s old albums. And yes, you were an adorable child.”

Mommy waves a hand in an, “oh, stop,” gesture.

“But I noticed… how Lani changed over the years. She was so serious when she was older, like… like she was taking herself too seriously…. And then you didn’t seem to be a part of her life anymore….”

I look at Mommy, her face is pale, her eyes huge behind her glasses. I fall silent, not sure I’ve articulated my feelings well and unsure if I need to.

Mommy fiddles with the lace trim on her comforter. “I hear you. Wow. Well, you’re very astute, Rachel Ahuva. I’m impressed. But that was a long time ago. I’d prefer not to dredge up old hurts.”

“But it’s not old, is it? Lani said your relationship was never the same….”

Mommy nods, biting her lip. “Yes. But I’ve forgiven her a long time ago. Not that there was what to forgive, per se. It was just…”

Mommy looks me in the eye. “She met these friends… and then it was like we never had our Lani back again. She just dived right into the group, with their hair and their purses and their milkshakes… and before I knew it, she was a pretty stranger living in a Stonesworth mansion while I settled in an old house in Brownsfeld.”

Mommy laughs, a brittle sound. “Hashem has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?”

I wasn’t sure if she was referencing her daughter taking after her sister or the fact that she herself has ended up in Stonesworth.

Either way, tears are pricking my eyes. I slide off the bed and give Mommy a kiss on her snood.

“Good night,” I say softly. “Thanks for sharing with me.”

“Rachel Ahuva?”

I turn around and look at Mommy questioningly.

“Lani is a wonderful person,” Mommy says. “We’ve just gone separate ways in life.”

And as I lie in bed that night, staring up at my mural, I think about the sad finality in Mommy’s voice.

(Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 757)