Minka Ungarischer was wearing a burgundy dress with a lavish fox-fur collar and gold buttons. A matching handbag dangled from her shoulder. Her two sisters were admiring her outfit and mmm-ing over their puddings.

Brenda looked up and noticed Mimi at the back door. “Gan Eden,” she said, beaming, “Tell Bea her puddings are Gan Eden.”

Mimi smiled. “I will.” Did they even realize how awesome they were? Mimi was surprised at the rush of feeling she felt inside. She was just so happy they were here, still coming in for puddings and pipiklech. She hadn’t realized it would hurt so badly to see customers go. Were they all swallowed up in The Hive or was she imagining things?

She waved and returned to her office.

“Not too full today, huh?” Kaylie asked, over the clack of her keyboard.

Mimi chewed the inside of her cheek. If it wasn’t too full today, it may well be thanks to Kaylie and her bad decorating sense.

And — the nerve — Kaylie had gone yesterday to meet with the miserables from The Hive. Behind Daddy’s back, of course.

But things were bad enough: tensions from the competition, missing customers, low sales. The last thing they needed now was strain from the inside, in their family.

She mustered a smile. “It’s not terrible, actually. I think we’ll be okay.”

Will we? She wondered if there was a way to make Zoberman’s spark up like before, only brighter. Kaylie’s lip twitched, as if she wanted to say something. She was silent, though, so Mimi returned to her e-mails.

The little office was stuffy, with silence and uneasiness and something almost like anxiety. Eventually, Mimi pushed back her chair.

“Time for punch,” she said. She couldn’t concentrate, in any case.

In the kitchen, Mimi felt her insides loosening. It smelled like always, frying potatoes and onions and fresh bread. Manuel grumbling, Bea telling stories, Javier and Tomo prattling. Mommy wasn’t in the kitchen, but Daddy was hovering, sniffing pots and annoying Bea. Maddie, taking a break, was perched on Bea’s large wooden stool and eating cold fries.

“Hello, princess,” Daddy sang, when he noticed her. “What did you eat today? An egg? Can I get you something more sensible?”

Mimi laughed. “Do you call french fries sensible?”

Daddy hmphed. “Narishkeit. You need something that can actually fill you up.” He heaped a plate high with potatoes and handed it to Mimi with a roll from Tomo’s stash. “For you.”

Mimi rolled her eyes, but laughed and accepted the plate.

“Eat up,” Daddy said and sauntered out of the kitchen.

Mimi put down the plate, untouched, and went to find the punch. Bea was grilling Manuel on the details of his son’s latest mishap in school. Maddie was staring at her, so she smiled.

Maddie just blinked her eyes, meaningfully.

“What?” Mimi asked.

 Maddie reached for another fry. “I know something you may want to hear about.”

Mimi poured herself a tall glass of punch. She eyed the citrus bits floating in the sparkling pink. “Okay,” she said carefully. “What is it?” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 592)