"S o Daddy just showed up, drove you to see the magical shul of his childhood, and then left?” Sarah asked.

Laylee peeked out the window again. Gavi was sitting in the car in the dark driveway, headlights off. He’s not on the phone, he’s not reading anything, he’s just—

“Earth to Laylee…” Sarah sang gently.

“Hmm? Yeah, sorry. He took me to the shul. I wish you could have seen it… it was so… “

“Old?”

“Authentic.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows. “I can’t believe he bought it and hasn’t sold it. Never pinned him as the nostalgic type.

Laylee checked on Gavi again. It’s been ten full minutes.…

“He could have stayed to say hi,” Sarah said quietly.

Laylee turned to face her sister and noticed a flash of pain cross her face. “I’m sure he had to get back to the city.”

Sarah rolled her eyes and began walking away. “Whatever.”

“Sarah... I’m sure he’s proud of you,” Laylee said, hoping she sounded somewhat genuine.

“Oh, please. I dropped out of high school, I’m in community college in the middle of nowhere, I have no social life, no future…”

“But you chose this,” Laylee cut her off. “They would have let you stay in school to finish up the year and graduate. You could have slid right into perfect Bais Yaakov girl 2.0 and you chose not to because of your convictions. I, on the other hand…” Laylee glanced out the window again. “I didn’t choose to be singled out by some anguished blogger.

“And the humiliation doesn’t just affect me — it affects my husband, my kids. Do you know the yeshivah decided not to honor us in the end? Not that anyone knew it was supposed to be us, they hadn’t announced anything… but still. Gavi is going to be devastated, it meant so much to him. And I went and ruined everything…”

“It wasn’t you, Laylee. It was Becca Burgenfein’s decision to let her traumatic past overflow while you were standing at the base of the volcano.”

Laylee turned to meet Sarah’s eyes. “That’s what everyone keeps saying. Oh, what a hapless bystander I was. But honestly, Sarah, if there was no truth to it, no one would be talking. It wouldn’t be news. It wouldn’t hurt.”

Sarah opened her mouth to say something, then closed it.

Laylee walked toward the front door. “I’ll be right back.” She stood on the front step for a moment, crossed her arms against the evening chill. The air smelled of fresh grass, the moon was full and heavy. Laylee took a deep breath and walked toward the car, opened the door, and sat down in the passenger seat.

Gavi didn’t even look her way.

“Gavi…”

“The shalach manos. From last year. I’d forgotten all about it.” His voice was stiff. “We gave Neil an elaborate shalach manos. Western-themed, expensive Scotch, chocolate you had flown in from the end of the earth.”

Laylee covered her mouth with her hand, her heart racing.

“Neil had been involved in Mayor Albert’s campaign, we had a professional relationship,” Gavi continued. “I knew he was Jewish, and a prominent community person, and I thought hey, why not bring him a shalach manos? Do some outreach…”