Benny and Tzipi found it hard to get used to the quiet. They kept finding excuses to go back down to Cousin Mendel’s house for one reason or another. 

“I wonder why we feel more comfortable downstairs,” Tzipi mused as they made their way together back up the steps to their own apartment. 

“We’ve gotten used to it,” Benny suggested. 

“No, it’s something else.” 

“Like what?” 

Tzipi looked thoughtful. “I think it’s Mendel’s wife.” 

“Rivka?” Benny echoed with surprise. “If you said you like to be with Shoshy, I would understand. I know you like to do homework together. I could even relate if you said you miss the noise and mess of the little kids, because they’re so cute. But Rivka? She’s very nice, of course, but she’s almost always in the background. I don’t remember you being especially close with her.” 

“When Mommy’s not home, even if everyone else is there, the house feels empty,” Tzipi commented. “I think we like it there downstairs because there’s a mother in the house.” 

Benny opened the door to their spacious, lavishly furnished living room. Tatty looked up from the easy chair by the window where he was learning. “Where have you two been?” he welcomed them with a smile. 

“Downstairs at the Neimans,” Benny replied. 

“We left a note on the fridge,” Tzipi told him. “Didn’t you see it?” 

“We didn’t think you’d mind,” Benny added. 

“I was a little worried because it’s getting late already. You must be starving! What shall I fix for supper?” Gedalya got up and strode toward the kitchen. 

“Thanks, Tatty, but we already ate supper with the Neimans.” Benny moved to the bookcase, looking for a Gemara, and he missed the momentary disappointment that crossed his father’s face, but Tzipi saw it. She turned away, feeling guilty. With Mommy gone, maybe they shouldn’t have left Tatty alone for so long. 

A loud buzz came from the intercom. 

“Are you expecting someone?” Tzipi asked her father. 

He shook his head, glancing up at the small overhead screen to see who it was. Itzik Weiner stared back at the camera lens, his usually friendly expression blank. Gedalya quickly pushed the button to allow the unexpected visitor to enter the elevator. 

“Who is it, Ta?” Benny asked. 

“A friend.” 

Gedalya’s apprehension grew as he waited for Itzik. Was the man bringing good news or bad?