Daddy said nothing. He spun around and slipped back to his office.

Mimi heard Kaylie breathing somewhere behind her.

Hashem. Mimi thought. Hashem. Save me. Save this family.

Daddy will not want to speak to Kaylie again. Will Binyamin forgive Kaylie, when he hears? He’ll never forgive me, that’s certain.

She put her head in her hands.

How had it come to this? This was Zoberman’s, this was family. She was just trying to make things work for the restaurant, make things work for her. For Daddy to see that she wasn’t brainless and fluffy.

Mimi breath was ragged. I’m betraying myself, she thought, despondent. I’m betraying everything I care about. Trying to be, to perform, to prove. Working here is destroying my soul. I need to get out before it’s completely crushed.

She gripped the edge of her desk. This was all very dramatic, she had to concede, but drama worked fine for her. What would happen if she were to just up and go? Levi had a good job, they would survive. Kaylie knew enough, more than enough, to run this place. She needed to get out.

A week or two, teaching Kaylie the ropes. Then she’d be free.

She switched off her computer, grabbed her bag, marched to Daddy’s office. Quick, before she had time to think.

Daddy was staring at the wall.

“Daddy,” she began.

Daddy blinked, coming back from whatever dark place his mind had been roaming.

“I need to go. I love Zoberman’s, I love you all. But I can’t work here. This whole... situation, it’s not good for me. It’s not good for our family. Kaylie is great, she’ll be able to take over nicely.” Her voice cracked, tears bundled in her eyes and escaped. She swatted at her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Daddy, sorry for this mess. It’s... crazy. But I really can’t stay.”

The tears were coming fast and horrible. The look on Daddy’s face. She slipped away, stuffed her knuckles into her mouth to stifle a cry.

At home, she threw her coat and bag on the floor and sank into the couch.

Before she could look away, she saw it on the shelf. The small stone chest rimmed with straw and crusted with large white and peach seashells. She stood on tiptoes and pulled it down, hands shaking slightly.

The stone was cold in her palms. Daddy.

She’s been waiting for him the whole day. And when finally he comes in, and dumps his suitcase in the hallway, he opens his arms and she runs to him. Then he fishes into his suitcase and kneels down next to her, big hands warm and rough on her cheeks, stroking knotted hair off her forehead. “I missed you, here’s a present. For you.”

The pretty stone chest, opening its mouth to reveal a glimmering mound of seashells, pink and white and taupe, smelling faintly of the sea. She strokes the shells, cold and smooth, traces their rigged lines and curves. Daddy laughs. “This is a real Mimi-kind-of-gift, eh? Just for my Mimi girl.”

Mimi thrust open the lid. The seashells winked and sparkled in a bed of sand. Her fingers groped through the sand, gathered a fistful of shells. This is a real Mimi-kind-of-gift, eh? She thinks in Daddy’s voice. Pretty but useless.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 598)