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I liked spinning with Lily. She was my twin, and aside for her ugly hair and white skin, we looked exactly alike

We were lucky to land a top-floor apartment in the large apartment complex on Keap Street. Top floor apartments came with a little pull-string on the ceiling next to the bedrooms that let down a folded ladder leading to the attic. But then again, maybe Papa and Mama had chosen that apartment for the attic. Although it was damp and dim, it had enough room for two beds. One for Berta and one for Lily.

I slept downstairs with the rest of the children, sharing a bedroom with Esther and Suzie, while the boys slept in the boys’ bedroom. Baby Diana’s little crib was in Mama and Papa’s room. We played in the lobby and on the dust-infested steps with all the other kids from the building. There was Becky from my class, Judy from Suzie’s class, and a handful of Italians we played hopscotch with when Papa wasn’t looking. No one ever played with Lily, and I wondered if they even knew she existed.

On some days, as I lay in bed, I’d wonder the same thing. Did she exist at all? Why was it so quiet upstairs?

On other nights, I’d hear the thump, thump, thump of her head banging against the floor or the wall, along with her roaring wails. She made noise like all the washing machines at Laura’s Laundromat running at once.

On those nights, I also heard Berta yelling and cursing. If I strained my ears enough, I’d hear the sound of a strap hitting Lily’s body until the thumping stopped. Then I knew that Lily was strapped tightly to her bed.

I’d seen her like that one night when I crept up quietly while Berta was sleeping.

Lily was sleeping, too. Her body spread out like an ironed dress. Her hands and feet far apart and attached to the bed with straps. Her hair was cut so short, she looked like an ugly boy, and the lamp cast a light on her raw and red hands.

I loved Lily even though she looked like a boy. On many days, when the lobby noise made me think of how quiet the attic was, I quietly crept over to the string and pulled hard. Mama sometimes heard me, but she looked away and kept quiet. I’d tiptoe up the steps and give a little knock on the low door.

Sometimes Berta would open right away and wag her fingers at me and say, “Look at that girl, Lil, she looks exactly like ya.” Lily’s nurse was friendly enough while I was there that I was almost able to convince myself that her angry shouts and Lily’s spanking marks were my imagination.

Besides, Berta wasn’t spared either. She had bite marks and scratch marks all over her hands and face. And I would also yell if I was trapped in a tiny attic all day with a crazed girl.

On the days I went upstairs, I would stay far from Lily, hardly making a noise. I’d sit on the smelly carpeted floor and slowly pull my weight toward her in a sitting crawl. The carpet dust tickled my nose and made me want to sneeze. But I couldn’t let that happen — one sneeze and Lily would start with her thumping.

For a few seconds, Lily would look up. She would stop twirling the old record Berta always gave her and look at me curiously. I was equipped with a record myself. I’d position it on my finger and start spinning, too, slowly moving toward Lily while trying not to sneeze. It was hard to do all those things at once, but it was worth it.

When I came close to Lily, her pug nose, with the sprinkle of freckles so like mine, would sniff my dress, and touch me, and then she’d resume spinning.

I liked spinning with Lily. She was my twin, and aside for her ugly hair and white skin, we looked exactly alike.

“You’re as crazy as your sister,” Berta would tell me often, but even Berta liked when I came. She would go off to the little bathroom and only come out when I was ready to leave.

When Lily and I would sit really close, I would speak to her. Quietly, in a whisper, and she really listened. I talked about Miss Harley and how hard her math tests were. I told her about Papa and Mama and how cute baby Diana was. I told her how much I loved being her twin. But she never answered.

I didn’t touch her because she was stronger than me. Her nails could dig into my skin until I bled. Mama asked me once what happened and I told her I had a fight with some girls. She muttered, “Millie, which mama doesn’t trim the nagel for Shabbos?”

I wanted to tell her that she was the mama, but I didn’t. I just took the clean handkerchief she gave me and wrapped it around the marks.

Suddenly, she stopped filling the delkelech she was making for Shabbos, but she didn’t say anything.

The next day, Lily’s nails were trimmed.

There was no way to trim her teeth, though, and her bites were stronger than her scratches. I only got it once when I sneezed hard enough to irritate her. I bit my lips to keep myself from shouting until Berta pulled Lily’s hair and she opened her mouth.

  

The winter of ’59 was cold. The radiators screeched nonstop and I heard Mama wake extra early to heat up some coffee for Papa before he went to the store after davening.

Papa thanked Mama with his same soft voice every morning as I snuggled under my blanket. I liked listening to Papa and Mama talk. They mixed languages as Papa stirred his mug with a spoon, creating an even beat, and Mama sometimes even laughed out loud.

“Malka is getting really big!” Papa said to Mama one morning. “She’ll be bas mitzvah soon.” Then he sighed one of his strange, long sighs. Although I was tired, I sat up in bed, curious. “I remember Malka’s bas mitzvah. Der Tatte bought her a Tzenne U’reneh.” Mama gave one of her own sighs, and then it was quiet in the kitchen.

But I wasn’t bas mitzvah yet. It was only a little after Chanukah and my birthday wasn’t until right after Pesach. Which Malka was he talking about? Was it me or someone from der heim? But when you have a papa with numbers on his arm, you don’t ask such questions. You almost don’t think them.

I hoped Papa wouldn’t buy me a Tzenne U’reneh for my bas mitzvah. I wanted a bracelet, and I had told Mama many times. Mama understood these things. She had come to America “before.”

Then I heard coughing coming from the ceiling in my room. Lily was coughing again. I held my breath until the attack stopped.

From that morning on, Mama kept on repeating, “Millie, you’re getting so big.” She was sewing me a special dress for Pesach that I would also wear to my bas mitzvah party. We went to Uncle Shimon’s fabric store and chose a gorgeous white eyelet fabric and pink embroidery thread.

But I wasn’t the only one turning twelve. Lily’s birthday was also coming up and no one cared. She’d wear her snap-down blue piquet model’s coat with the large pockets, same as Mama wore. Berta liked those. “Easy to get on and off,” she’d say every time I brought up a pretty dress for Lily.

One morning, while Papa was stirring his coffee, I couldn’t lift my head from the pillow. The room looked a little fuzzy, and I closed my eyes.

I woke up much later to see Mama sitting next to me holding a cup of tea and some cookies.

“Malka’la, sit up.” Mama hardly ever used my Hebrew name. I opened my eyes and looked at her.

“Oh!” she inhaled, kissing my forehead to check if I had fever. She looked into my eyes worriedly. “Your eyes are yellow.”

I knew what that meant. Last year, Brenda had been absent all winter with hepatitis, and she told everyone, “My eyes were yellow like bananas.”

I lay my head back on my pillow. I heard Mama call the doctor and the last sound I heard before I fell asleep was Berta’s heavy footsteps creaking on the ladder steps and her voice saying, “Missus, Lily doesn’t look good today. She’s running a fever and her eyes are yellow.”

Hepatitis takes a long time to heal, I learned. After Dr. Helnick left with strict instructions for me to rest for a few weeks, the house was quiet. Mama sat with me a long time. She held her Tehillim and cried and murmured, “Bashefer, we’ve lost so much already.”

Dr. Helnick came by the next day and the next one after that. He reassured Mama that I wasn’t going to die, “and neither will the other one, Mrs. Greinman. It’ll just take some time.”

“Mama, is Lily also sick?” Mama didn’t answer, and I was too tired to ask again. Suzie and Esther were sleeping in the boys’ room, leaving me alone in the big room with only the fluttering curtains and loud radiator for company.

Papa came to my room every evening. He told me some stories of der heim, and he sang a soft song about feigelech uhn katchkelech.

I slept and slept and between sleeps I wondered if there was such a thing as using up all the sleep in the world. Mama was always next to me when I woke up, and she tried feeding me baheima fleish she’d cooked especially for me. We hardly ever ate meat, only on Pesach and Succos.

I tried chewing the stringy meat as Mama spoke to me about the dress she was embroidering and how Suzie and Esther missed their older sister.

After many days of sleeping, I woke up one day with only one thought. I had to get out of this bed, and I had to visit Lily.

I got out of bed slowly and padded to the string in the hallway. I was dizzy and held on to the wall until I reached the string. I pulled, but I couldn’t pull hard enough, and I fell to the floor weakly.

Mama was there in an instant. “Millie, what are you doing here?” Then she looked at the string and sighed. She helped me up and took me to the kitchen. “That was a silly thing to do,” she said. There were fresh hamantaschen for mishloach manos on the counter, and she put one on a napkin and brought it to the table with a tea. I’d forgotten Purim was coming.

The sweet jelly burned my palate and filled me up. I drank the tea slowly. Then Mama took me back to the string and opened the ladder for me. I used all my energy to climb the stairs and weakly knocked on the low door.

“Lily is running a fever. Go away,” Berta called.

“Please?” I said, weak from the exertion.

“All right, for a minute.”

I entered the room and shivered from the cold coming in from the cracks. Lily’s face was as white as the delkeleh filling, but it was also so yellow. She wasn’t spinning. She lay on her bed and she let me touch her hands. They were cold and wet. I saw some hamantaschen on the chair next to her bed.

“Berta, what’s with Lily?” I was scared.

“Lily’s got hepatitis.”

I sat on the floor and stroked Lily’s hand and started crying.

“Berta, it’s cold in here,” I said.

“Be quiet, you smart aleck,” Berta growled. “You can leave if you want.” She was wrapped in layers and thick, wool socks, the radiator blowing directly on her toes, while Lily was in her model’s coat and barefoot.

I looked at Lily’s green eyes. They looked like green glass in yellow sand. “Lily, you caught my hepatitis,” I whispered. She looked scary, and I wondered if I looked the same.

Lily looked at me and jerked. She waved her hands. She was asking me for a record! I could feel it. I handed her one, but she was too weak to spin it. I held her hand and let the tears slide down my face. I loved Lily so much, it hurt. I had missed her so much.

It was too cold to stay for long, so I left the attic and went back to bed. When Mama came to check on me, she asked me why I was crying. “Lily’s cold,” I told her. She looked surprised. I never used Lily’s name when talking to her. She kissed me on my forehead. “Looks like your fever’s gone,” was all she said.

She left the room and I heard her climb the rickety steps.

  

The days became longer and longer. Mama didn’t let me leave my bed for too long, but her forehead became less lined as my strength returned. I tried reading, but my mind still became fuzzy and tired from the yellow pages and small words.

So I lay in bed all day listening to the sounds from upstairs as Mama went about cleaning the house for Pesach. She shook mattresses and wiped corners as I concentrated on the attic. I heard her go up a few times and I wondered what she did there. Did she ever kiss Lily?

One day, when the sun was shining, I watched from the small window next to my bed as Lily and Berta sat on the steps of the fire escape. Lily was wrapped in my coat and Mama’s shawl. Her roars caused all the people on the street to look up. I saw Berta pulling her hair from under the shawl until she became quiet.

I wondered if Mama could hear her shrieks, but Mama continued puttering and cleaning. It made me angry and sad. This was Mama’s child! I needed to get Mama and Papa and Berta to see that she wasn’t just a meshugene.

My hepatitis mind made me think weird thoughts, I realized. And now it helped me come up with a plan. I would get Lily to talk. And I would do it in time for our bas mitzvah. Who cared about nice dresses and ice cream if my twin was locked in an attic and she couldn’t even say my name?

My anger gave me strength. For the first time since my eyes had turned yellow, I pulled the string hard enough to open the attic myself. I clawed my way up the steps, fighting dizziness as the dust tickled my nose and churned my stomach. I didn’t even knock. I turned the knob and slammed the door. Berta and Lily started. I was lucky Lily was also weak from the hepatitis, and she couldn’t bite me.

Her yellow eyes followed me with a look of wild fear. I calmed down and started spinning the record I found on the floor of the room.

I moved closer to her.

“Lily. Say Millie.”

Lily scratched me, hard.

“Mmmmmm,” I repeated, “say Mmmmmm-i-l-l-i-e.” Lily spun the record quicker and quicker. She seemed agitated and she leaned against the wall. Thump, thump, THUMP. Her head banged faster and faster. Thump, thump.

“Millie,” I shouted. “Please, Lily, show me you can say my name.” Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I repeated, “Millie, say Millie. I promise I’ll get you a gift if you say my name.”

Thump. Thump. Thump.

“Get outta here!” Berta yelled. “Look what you did! GET OUTTA HERE.” I’d never seen a face look so red. She pulled me up and pushed me toward the door. I saw her getting the strap for a whipping. I stumbled down the rickety ladder and fell into bed.

But I didn’t give up. I went up every day after they came in from the fire escape. I was more careful, going back to sitting on the floor and inching my way slowly toward Lily.

Instead of talking about the baby, I said, “Millie. Say M-I-L-L-I-E.” I spoke quietly, pointing to my lips. I wanted Lily to press her lips together and get the sound out of her mouth.

But she wouldn’t.

  

When spring finally came, it brought new life to our top-floor apartment. The yellowness in my eyes faded, and the eyelet dress was finally ironed and crisp in the closet. “Who would’ve thought you’d be well enough to wear it on Pesach?” Mama asked herself as she stroked the dress. “You can go back to school right after Yom Tov and have your bas mitzvah party the Sunday after.”

I was almost back to myself, enough for Suzie and Esther to complain that I was making myself sick so I shouldn’t have to clean for Pesach. The lone cherry tree in the courtyard had magical little blossoms growing out of it, and when I spied on Lily and Berta, I’d also stare at the tree and remember how empty and silent it had looked all winter.

If a tree could grow, why couldn’t I get Lily to talk? As Mama made schmaltz and chremslach for Pesach, I sat with Lily and repeated, “Millie, say Millie.”

  

On Isru Chag, I waited for Esther and Suzie to go to the lobby. Mama was busy with piles of laundry and I climbed the rickety ladder once more. I had to tell Lily that I was going to school tomorrow.

I opened the door silently and got onto the floor. Lily looked better, too. Her eyes were almost white again, and her roars had more strength to them.

I started spinning the record.


It was a low, hoarse voice coming from somewhere deep.

I stopped spinning and looked up.

“Mmmmillie,” Lily said again.

Lily had said my name.

“Lily, you said Millie!” I got up and walked toward her in a daze. “Lily, you said Millie,” I repeated.

“Berta,” I cried. She emerged from the bathroom. “Berta! She said Millie.”


“She spoke! I promise. She said my name twice!” I felt like shouting and dancing.

“Ha! Ha! Lily spoke!” She guffawed. “You just as silly as she is!’”

“I promise,” I pleaded. “Right, Lily?” I said, turning to her. But Lily was already sitting in the corner of the room, spinning.

I ran downstairs. “Mama, Lily said my name!”

Mama looked up from the pile of laundry she was folding. I noticed her eyes were red. Mama was crying!

“Go play in the lobby,” she said gruffly. “Take Diana with you and play with regular girls already. It’s not such a good idea for you to play with Lily so much.” I went to the lobby and sat on the steps for a long, long time, stroking Diana’s straight hair.

I knew that if Berta and Mama didn’t believe me, no one would.

That left just me to celebrate. Later that day, I went up to the attic again.

“You here again?” Berta asked.

“Mmmillie.” Lily’s voice was raspy.

Berta gasped. I smiled smugly.

“Berta, what would Lily like as a gift?”

I’d promised Lily a gift if she said my name, and I had to buy it in time for our bas mitzvah. I’d make a party just for me and her.

“A slap on the wrist,” she answered.

“No, as a gift,” I repeated.

“Ha, ha,” she cackled. “Anything soft.”

Images of teddy bears and dolls and pillows flitted through my mind. I’d get her the nicest doll I could buy with the Chanukah money I had from Uncle Harry. Mechel’s on Roebling would have what I was looking for. When we’d gone for school supplies, I’d seen the shelves and shelves of shiny dolls with ruffled skirts.

  

The sun bathed my face as I stepped on the large, uneven slabs of concrete. My backpack felt heavy on my shoulders, and my mind was tired after my first long day back at school. Mama sent me off with an extra sandwich in case I needed more energy but I couldn’t eat on the street vee ah hint, as Papa would say.

The night before, I’d counted all the money. It was enough for a doll. The money burned in the little pocket of my jacket as I took one step after the next in the direction of Roebling.

The door chimed and Mr. Yankowitz looked up.

“Meidele,” he said, smiling at me, “what do you need?”

“A doll.” He looked me up and down, as if I was too old for dolls.

“I’ll show you.” He took me to the display of teddy bears, pillows, and so many dolls. I didn’t have too much time before Mama would realize I was late. My eyes roamed over the pretty Thumbelinas like Uncle Harry’s kids had, then the Tiny Tears, then I saw Raggedy Ann. The striped socks and soft body were exactly what I was looking for.

Mr. Yankowitz packed it up neatly in tissue paper, and I took the bag carefully. I had spent all my money for Lily, but I didn’t feel poor. It felt like I’d gotten myself a gift. Now I just had to hide the bag from Mama.

I stuffed the bag in my knapsack and trudged home. Keap Street felt far away. I climbed up through the fire escape, fighting fear every moment. I opened the back door quietly and tiptoed to my bedroom. I hid the bag under my pillow, and then I went back out, around the house and greeted Mama tiredly through the front door.

Mama opened the door, her face drawn. “Malka’la, I was getting worried.” She prepared a cold glass of water and made sure I drank the entire thing. Then she took me to my bed. My heart hammered in my chest, worried she would find the bag. I said, “I’m fine. I’ll just rest a bit.” Mama left the room and I fell asleep with the bag hiding under my pillow.

By the time I woke from my nap, the ceiling in my room was very quiet. Lily was sleeping. I couldn’t wait to give her the doll — her first present in her entire life.

It was worth it to wait for tomorrow. Then she would say my name over and over again until they all believed me.

The next day, Friday, was so busy. Mama baked special shlissel challah and she showed me how to braid the loaves because, “Once you’re a bas mitzvah, you can take challah.” Only while Papa was napping for Shabbos did I dare take the bag and pull the string to climb the ladder.

There was a lot of noise coming from inside the room. It sounded like someone was dumping things into a box. I knocked.

“Lily is sleeping,” Berta called. She was making a racket. It sounded like she was moving beds. I desperately wanted to see if Lily would say my name again, but I couldn’t argue with her because Papa would wake up. So I walked back down and folded the ladder. I would wait for Sunday, after my party.

  

Sunday morning, our house looked like Yom Tov. We never celebrated birthdays. Papa always said that only Pharaoh celebrated birthdays. But a bas mitzvah was different. Our tiny kitchen was full of my friends who oohed and aahed over my new beautiful dress. Mama was preparing a challah dough while Esther and Suzie filled everyone’s plates with popcorn and Heinz potato chips.

As soon as the challah dough was ready, the kitchen became quiet. I stood up and shyly took challah. I was about to make the brachah when through the ceiling came the roar of a thousand washing machines. I froze, but Mama coaxed me through the brachah, and no one seemed to notice the strange sound.

All the girls baked little bilkelech to take home, then we enjoyed ice cream in cones. The sugary treats and the smell of fresh challah made my heart happy and light.

By the time we were done cleaning up, the ceiling was quiet already. Would Lily’s gift still count if it arrived after her birthday?

But I had to wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow right after school I would give Lily her gift.

Finally, Monday arrived. After school, I wolfed down some cake and grabbed the bag from under my pillow. My heart was fluttering with anticipation.

I hurried to the string. The attic was very quiet. Lily couldn’t be sleeping at this hour. I clutched the bag tightly, suddenly nervous. I hadn’t seen her since Wednesday. What if Lily was scared of the doll?

I climbed the ladder quickly and knocked. There was no answer.

I hurried to my bedroom to look out of the window at the fire escape. Maybe Berta had taken her out? But I couldn’t see them.

I ran back up the ladder, my heart hammering loudly. I thought I heard Mama come into the hallway as I climbed the stairs. I knocked again. There was no answer.

Slowly, carefully, I opened the door. The attic was quiet. There was no one there. I looked around. The beds were pushed to a corner and the bulb was off. In the dark, a lone record lay on the floor. I picked it up and put it into the bag.

My feet started shaking as I turned around and hurried down the steps.

“Mama!” I roared like a hundred washing machines. “Mama! Lily’s gone!”

Mama came into the hallway holding the baby. She put her down and took my hand. “Lily doesn’t live here anymore.”

I looked at Mama with wide eyes. “Lily… left,” Mama ended. She turned around and went back into the kitchen. She didn’t even notice the bag I was holding. I stood in the hallway, shocked with grief. My best friend was gone, and I hadn’t even said goodbye.

It couldn’t be. Berta and Lily had just packed up without telling me? Where had they gone?

The storm came quickly. My sobs were loud and jarring. “Mama! Mama! I want Lily!” I cried.

But Mama didn’t come out of the kitchen and I sat in the hallway for one minute, ten minutes, maybe even a thousand minutes, before I ran to my bedroom with a paper bag wet with tears holding a brand new doll and one forlorn spinning record.

When Papa came into my room later that night to talk to me, I turned to the wall. I’d never done that in my life. We never ignored Papa in my house. He had numbers on his arm. But my heart and mind were too sad to turn around.

“Malka,” Papa said. “Malka, look at me.” I turned to face him. His eyes were soft and sad. “Lily couldn’t live at home anymore. We sent her to live in a place for girls like her. It’ll be better for her.”

I lay awake all night listening to the sounds from the attic. It was so quiet, even the cherry tree didn’t rustle in the wind.

I woke up the next morning with red eyes and a sad face. Mama’s eyes were also red the next morning, but we didn’t talk. I didn’t talk to any of my friends all day. Every night, I lay awake thinking about my sister spinning a record and being strapped to a bed and I couldn’t even visit.

I didn’t know how hard my heart could ache, but that entire spring and summer, I didn’t play with the neighbors. I listened to the quiet attic and watched the empty fire escape. I went up to the attic many times and smelled the mold and felt the summer heat. It burned my face and churned my stomach.

Lily’s doll remained in the paper bag under my bed.

  

“We’re moving,” Papa said one day in July, “to a new neighborhood called Flatbush.”

I knew already from all the early morning talks I listened in to. I was glad. This house and all its memories would finally be gone.

Later that week, we went to the new house. It was nicer and larger, and the floors had such pretty tiles, not speckled concrete. We had a little grass in the front and a backyard. But we didn’t have an attic. We didn’t need an attic with Lily and Berta gone.

The house had a cellar. I stashed the paper bag in a hidden corner and stomped up the steps.

As I got used to the sounds and the smells of the new house, I fantasized about hiding Lily in the cellar and imagined her roars coming up from the floor. But Flatbush was quiet, and the closest Laundromat was too far for me to hear.

On the long, lonely winter days, I’d talk to Lily. “Mmmm-i-l-l-i-e, say Millie.” But it was so quiet.

And when the Flatbush cherry trees blossomed, and my birthday approached, I cried some more remembering the birthday gift that never was.

I never wore the eyelet dress again. Mama never said a word. She fixed it up for Esther and sewed me a new one, pale blue, instead.

  

Lily was never mentioned in the new house. Aside for an envelope marked Money for Leah that I once found while cleaning for Pesach, I could delude myself in thinking she never existed. The doll remained in the cellar as birthday after birthday passed.

The kitchen was even closer to the bedrooms in the new house, and I waited every morning to hear if Papa and Mama would talk about Lily. They never did. Instead, the talks now revolved around the latest phone call from Mima Hendu — Feter Mendel’s wife — who played shadchan and made it her duty to call Mama every day.

But I wasn’t ready. There was no way I could get married and leave Lily’s doll in the cellar. But how would I tell Papa that?

  

One morning, as I was leaving the house, I heard the long-forgotten roar of a thousand washing machines. Lily! Lily was back! I turned, hoping to see her shorn hair and Berta’s hanging chin and angry hands pulling her hair. I hadn’t heard those wails since she left.

But Lily wasn’t there.

Right next to our house, a boy was walking with his little brother. The little boy’s roars were thundering and strong. Next to him, his brother stroked his yarmulke softly. I couldn’t help the tears leaking from my eyes as I watched his brother talk in a whisper.

“Josh, it’s okay.” He stroked the boy’s head. “It’s okay.” Although it wasn’t polite, I walked closer to the pair. I longed for Lily more than anything else in the world. I would’ve also walked with her in the street and calmed her down and spun records.

“Can I talk to him?” I asked.

The bochur startled. He hadn’t noticed me. “He doesn’t do well with strangers.”

Mmmillie, say Millie.

I said, “Can you wait a minute?”

He nodded. I ran up the steps, down the cellar, and grabbed a dusty paper bag from Mechel’s on Roebling. The bag was old and brittle, but Lily’s doll was still soft. I hurried outside and placed it next to Josh. “This is my sister’s doll. I’ve been waiting for a long time to give it to someone.” To move on. “I-I had a sister like that.” I wiped my eyes, embarrassed. Josh’s brother nodded as Josh melted to the floor.

“I bought this for her, and she disappeared before I gave it to her,” I explained. My tongue tripped over the words.

Josh’s brother took the bag I placed in front of him. He was tall and serious. Someone Papa would like.

“Thank you, it’ll mean a lot to Josh. Not many people understand him.”

Josh started roaring. How I missed those yearning wails. His brother took him by his hand and started walking away. “By the way, I’m Moshe Kurlitzer, and this is Josh, my brother.”

I nodded, and then I watched them continue on their way until I couldn’t hear Josh’s wails any longer. Something within me quieted, too.

I love you, Lily, I thought, as I turned to go inside. I wondered what Mama and Papa would think when I told them about the doll. And about Moshe Kurlitzer.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 878)

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