I was really bored after lunch. Ima took Yael out and my father stayed home with me so I wouldn’t be alone. We managed to learn about a hundred mishnayos. I read most of a biography of the Chazon Ish until I didn’t have patience to sit still any longer.

“Abba, I want to go out, please. Just for a few minutes, to walk a little.” The look on his face tells me that permission will not be forthcoming. I sigh.

“Maybe tomorrow,” he promises sympathetically.

“I feel like a prisoner,” I grumble.

“A person is only in prison in his mind,” Abba tells me. “Use your imagination to go wherever you want to be, and you won’t be imprisoned.”

I pull back the curtains to look outside. Instantly my father is at my side, pulling me back to the sofa. “Don’t take a chance,” he warns. “Be mature. Remind yourself that this is only temporary and soon it will no longer be necessary.”

I tap my shoe irritably. I’m disappointed with myself. What’s the big deal? I should be able to do this more graciously.

The doorbell rings. Abba and I exchange glances. “Go in the kitchen,” he says softly, “and I’ll get the door.”

A moment later I relax at the sound of familiar voices. My father shows Chaim and Shimmy into the kitchen.

“We came to do bikur cholim,” Chaim announces.

“You don’t look very sick,” Shimmy declares.

“I’m not sick. It’s a long story.”

Shimmy’s eyes are boring into mine. Why did both my friends have to come at the same time? I really want to tell Chaim what happened to me on the way home from school yesterday, and I also really want to get some explanations from Shimon Gutman — but I can’t say anything to either of them when they’re both present!

My father begins to pull out bags of potato chips, corn curls, and pretzels from the cupboard. “Meir,” he reminds me, “take out some cold drinks from the fridge. We have guests!”

Thankful for the excuse to avoid their eyes, I rummage through the refrigerator until I find a bottle of juice. Chaim has visited my house a thousand times since we were together in first grade, so he settles down at the table comfortably and spreads out his notebooks so I can copy the material I’ve missed by staying home today. Typically, Shimmy doesn’t exactly join us. He grabs a fistful of nosh and crunches away while pacing back and forth.

Abba thanks my friends for coming and moves to the living room to prepare his shiur for tonight. It doesn’t seem to bother Shimmy that Chaim and I have our heads together as he explains today’s lessons and I fill out the pages in my notebook. I glance at Gutman from time to time, but his face has no particular expression. Maybe he’s just pacified by the amount of food available.

I close the last notebook with satisfaction. It doesn’t look like I’ve missed anything critical. “Are you coming to cheder tomorrow?” Chaim asks.

I turn my palms up. “Don’t know,” I answer, momentarily forgetting that we’re not alone. “My father is waiting to hear from the police.” Shimmy turns around abruptly. “Police?” he growls, his eyes shooting fire. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 707)