Laylee watched the brown liquid drip into her mug. She knew that somewhere behind her life was spinning as usual but she was unable to wrest her eyes away from the coffee. Scraps of sound floated around her: spoons clanking against bowls Rikki whining about her cereal getting mushy.
“At least you get to eat regular cereal! I have to eat oatmeal!” Cookie yelled at her sister.
“Carpool coming girls. Eat. Eat eat!” Cassandra clapped her hands for emphasis.
Breathe. Swirl the coffee. In and out Laylee. Deep breaths.
“Hey you okay?” Sarah asked from the other side of the counter. She closed a cabinet and walked over to Laylee.
“Just asking because you’re leaning on the counter like you’re going to faint. But I’m relieved to hear all is well.”
“Gavi is going to be accused of bribing a city official today. In court Sarah. In front of a judge ” Laylee said her voice barely a whisper.
“I know.” Sarah looked down at her watch. “And he’s going to be home from Shacharis any minute now so finish your panic attack drink your coffee and smile. Pretend you’re going shopping.”
“Smile? I can barely breathe...”
“Laylee Beloff. If there is one person on earth who can pretend everything is fine when the world is falling down around her it’s you. No offense. You literally own the mask.”
Laylee looked at Sarah. “Not sure what’s happening here but your insults are helping.” She straightened up tugged lightly on her blazer. “I can pretend.”
Cookie suddenly climbed onto her chair and tapped her spoon against her hard plastic cup. “I’d like to tell everyone that I’m not going to school today.”
Laylee spun around adrenaline pumping through her veins ready to quash the rebellion. “First of all get down from there! The leather on that chair was imported…” She stopped short when she realized the indignant look she was expecting to see on Cookie’s face was absent. Instead her eyes were wide and full of pain. Laylee looked at Sarah who shrugged. Laylee walked over helped Cookie off the chair and led her outside to the back patio.
The last of the snow had finally melted and the breeze carried the scent of spring. Laylee sat Cookie down on a lawn chair.
“How come you don’t want to go to school?”
Cookie crossed her arms over her chest with a flourish.
“Can I tell you something private?” Laylee asked quietly bending down to face her daughter.
Cookie hesitated and then nodded.
“Sometimes I find it hard to talk about things that are bothering me and I pretend everything is okay when it isn’t… but I’ve realized that it helps to share things with the people who love you.”
Cookie stared at her blankly. Laylee let out a sigh.
“I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m proud of you for standing up and telling me that you don’t want to go to school because that means that something about school is making you sad. Do you want to tell me what’s making you sad? Because maybe I can help....” (Excerpted from Family First Issue 537)
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