My days fall into a weird routine. I go to school, try to answer everyone’s thousands of questions about Stonesworth, cry in the bathroom, come home, cry with Shiri and Rus, and then help Mommy pack boxes.

Packing our life up is strange. And unnatural. “Houses,” I kvetch to Mommy, “do not belong in cardboard boxes.”

“You’re telling me,” she sighs, rubbing her forehead and leaving a giant black streak on it from the marker she’s holding. I open my mouth to point this out but Tzippy shakes her head at me. I guess Mommy’s stressed out enough. Everyone’s stressed out these days, it seems. Abba barely speaks, Tzippy and Sari are never around, and Chunah has taken to heaving giant dramatic sighs every few minutes. It really gets on my nerves. The only one who seems okay is Simchi. Which makes sense, I suppose.

Mommy and Abba had gone with him to Stonesworth for the day to tour his new school and to check on the new house. Simchi had loved the Stonesworth Hearing Impaired Primary School, or SHIPS as they like to call it. He’d come home overflowing with SHIPS this and SHIPS that. Apparently, he was the cutest kid there and the teachers were crazy about him. Well, duh. I could’ve told you that.

“And the house is great,” Mommy had said, meeting Abba’s eyes. “Really, really great. Great.”

“That was one too many ‘greats,’” I’d whispered to Tzippy. “And a few too many ‘reallys,’” she’d whispered back.

Wonderful. There was something wrong with the new house. “Probably has mice,” Tzippy speculates now when Mommy leaves to make a coffee. I wave her off. “Nah. It probably has two bedrooms. One for Mommy and Abba and one… for all the rest of us.” Sari gags.

“No. It’s probably… just not as nice as this one.” That silences us fast. Our house is really nice. Abba had bought a small cottage back when he and Mommy were newlyweds and built on it with his own team until our beautiful, three-story home took shape, sunny kitchen, window seats, and all. Suddenly, I didn’t feel much like speculating. “Back to work,” I mutter, and leave the room to go pack up the hall closet. I try to blink back my tears — I am so sick of crying — but they come anyway. Abandoning my cardboard boxes and masking tape, I run to my phone and call Rus. “I’m falling apart,” I whisper. She doesn’t answer, she just hangs up and seven minutes later, she’s at my door. Shiri joins five minutes after that. We pop two pizzas into the oven, grab a bag of marshmallows, and head to my room. We change into pajamas and there we stay for the rest of the day, crying, laughing, eating, and remembering. It is close to two o’clock in the morning when our chatter finally slows. Rus lies on the carpet, running her fingers through the mauve strands like she’s trying to make permanent indentations. Shiri is curled up on the window seat, face pressed against the glass, eyes glazed over. And I sit on my bed, staring at the faces of my two favorite people, trying to comprehend how in three days, I will be living a four-hour drive away from them.

“My father is moving away, too.”

We turn and stare at Shiri; she doesn’t look at us. “You’re leaving me, RaRa, and my father’s leaving. You can’t really hold onto anything, can you?” And we fall silent. Because the terrible truth is that you can’t. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 713)