“Happy birthday, dear Adinaaaa… Happy birthday to yoooou!”

A round cake frosted in yellow and decorated as a smiley face landed ceremoniously on Adina’s desk. The girls crowded around, making silly faces for the camera and getting icing everywhere — the standard 11th-grade birthday ritual. Sheva sorely regretted that she hadn’t escaped the classroom for lunch. She had taken to eating lunch at her desk while reading, but if she had remembered that Adina’s birthday was today, she might have found another place to hide. Not that anyone was looking at her, but still, there was only so much she should have to endure.

“Can I have a slice?” Gitty elbowed Raizy out of the way. “Not so big, I’m on a diet. Perfect, thanks.” She took a bite and closed her eyes with exaggerated pleasure. “Dee-lish!”

“Here’s my camera,” Fraida handed it to Mimi. “Can you take a picture?” The girls posed and flashes popped. Fraida took the camera back. “Ooh, gorgeous!”

There was a hot pink envelope on Adina’s chair, Sheva noticed. Happy Birthday! was scrawled across in blue ink. Sheva wondered who had put it there.

Was Adina having a happy birthday? It was hard to tell. Adina was always a little remote, and lately she had been more reserved than ever. Sheva bit her lip. In her previous life, she would have been the one to bring in the cake. She would probably have decorated it with silver and gold sprinkles. The yellow smiley cake seemed to smirk at her. Sometimes she couldn’t decide if it was more painful to live in the past or the present.

She was pensive all along the walk to the Winters later that day, and she was grateful to be distracted from her ruminations when she arrived. The therapist had instructed her to give Danny opportunities for “sensory input” and “deep pressure,” and then try to engage him with the new techniques she had taught Sheva. It wasn’t the kind of thing you could do with your mind on your social life.

They were in Danny’s playroom when Mrs. Winter walked in. She stood for a minute, watching Sheva and Danny. “Great work, Sheva,” she said. “I know it’s hard. Thank you.”

Sheva felt shy. “You do it all day,” she demurred.

Mrs. Winter inclined her head. “True,” she said. “But I have to. You could get away with the bare minimum” — Sheva flushed, remembering a time when she had done just that — “but you’re working really hard, and we appreciate it. When it gets overwhelming it really helps to know that we have people like you on our side.”

Sheva was surprised. “You never seem overwhelmed,” she said. “You’re always so, you know, calm and together.”

Mrs. Winter laughed. “Well, I’m certainly happy to hear it looks that way. I guess it’s gotten easier over time. I’ve reached a certain level of acceptance.”