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House of Mirrors: Chapter 12

Rachael Lavon

Sarah tells Laylee how her friends were expelled, but she was allowed to stay because of her parents’ money, yet she refused to go back

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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I can't believe I’m doing this.” Sarah grabbed her bag and got out of the car.

“It’s Shabbos Chanukah!” Laylee called over her shoulder, unbuckling Rikki from her booster seat. “Just smile and nod. Before you know it, you’ll be back in Elmway with your beloved sweatshirt and ripped skirt.”

“Actually, in an unfortunate turn of events I’m going to be catching a terribly contagious strain of cold that will leave me cloistered in my room for much of Shabbos,” Sarah said. “Also, I brought the sweatshirt — what do you think I stuffed in this bag?”

Gavi grabbed the suitcases from the trunk and walked around to the front of the car. He noticed his in-laws’ neighbor staring unabashedly at the group through her window.

“Smile for Mrs. Buchberg.”

Sarah groaned, but offered a little wave in her direction as they made their way to the door.

“Rumor has it a certain couple is being honored by the Elmway Yeshivah this year,” Norman said after welcoming them inside.

“Nothing’s official.” Gavi shook his hand warmly.

Norman cleared his throat. “I’m very proud of you two. Fine people… very fine people.”

Laylee wandered into the kitchen. “Smells amazing, Ma... where is everyone?”

“Oh, I expect them to scurry in minutes before Shabbos — that’s the way it goes. But actually…” She dried her hands on a towel. “I got you something.”

Laylee followed her mother down the hall, letting her fingers graze the textured wallpaper as she walked. Her parents had redecorated since she was a teenager, though a distinctive leaning toward the ornate had remained a theme throughout. She’d been careful to avoid her mother’s opulent taste when decorating her own home, instead focusing on open spaces, clean lines, neutral colors.

Proof. I’m nothing like her. We’re completely different.

A table set up in the middle of the family room overflowed with beautifully wrapped gifts. Her mother sat down hard on the couch and let out a tired little sigh. Laylee noticed the lines around her eyes, creases that had grown deeper since she’d seen her last.

“Guess.” Her mother nodded toward the table. Laylee scanned the gifts, smiling when she spotted a Chanel box.

“Ma... you just sent me that Moncler jacket! You didn’t have to...”

“She’s our youngest, Laylee.” Her mother’s face suddenly darkened, a flash of pain flitting across her eyes. “Maybe we’ve just lost touch. All of you just followed the path we set. But Sarah... When all of this happened, and we weren’t quite sure where to turn...” She stared straight ahead as if reviewing the incidents that had flipped her world upside down.

“I’m sorry we foisted her on you. We were at a loss,” she said, her voice growing strangely sturdy, as if she’d practiced the speech. She blinked, then put on a tight smile. “Open it.”

Laylee picked up the box and opened it. “Oh!” Laylee looked up, shocked. “A Le Boy…” Her heart raced as her fingers traced the classic bag’s elegant stitching. “I can’t… Do you know how expensive…” Laylee stumbled.

“I bought it, I know how much it cost. No one ever claimed you had cheap taste, Laylee.” Her mother stood up. “Enjoy it in the best of health. I have to take the roast out.” She left Laylee staring down at the bag — a $5,000 thank-you — devoid of any actual thank-you.

And my gift to you, Ma, is an easing of your guilty conscience.

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