N orman stopped walking as he neared Redlick, discreetly scrutinizing the man’s face.

Gavi and Laylee watched from the side, holding their breath. At last, Norman turned back toward them, his eyes stormy, his face drained of color.

“What on earth?” Laylee whispered to Gavi who looked as perplexed as she did.

“I do know him,” Norman said quietly as he approached them. “From… a long time ago. But I-I can’t help you. I’m sorry.” He quickly walked through the courtroom door, which had suddenly opened. Those mingling in the hallway began filing in.

They stared after him. “Well, that sure didn’t work,” Gavi mumbled.

Laylee suddenly noticed a reporter typing frantically on a tablet a few feet away from her. Her stomach twisted. Here we go again. The headlines: Jewish Community member Gavi Beloff accused of bribing city official in order to build synagogue where he wants. I can’t handle this… Laylee’s phone let out a series of loud beeps. She looked down, heart racing. It’s starting…

Malky: Thinking of you!

Baila: Saying Tehillim. Good luck today.

Sarah: Last chance, I have $15.69 saved up from babysitting. Want me to try to pay Redlick off to drop this thing? ;)

Laylee let out a little laugh.

“We should go in. You okay?”

She looked up at Gavi. “I’m really nervous.”

He nodded. “Me, too.”

“Well, that’s comforting somehow.” She gave him a shaky smile, which he returned. They began to walk into the courtroom when Gavi felt a hand on his back.

His father looked tired, his eyes full of concern… and something else. Regret. Laylee thought. He knows he hasn’t been there for Gavi. Too little, too late.

“Thanks for coming, Dad. Means a lot to me,” Gavi said, though Laylee knew he didn’t mean it.

That’s Gavi. Pure good. Laylee looked at her husband. He held his head high as he entered the courtroom. I hope he knows how much I respect him. The paneled walls made the space inside the room feel claustrophobic. Laylee closed her eyes for a moment. Anxiety, stress, despair reverberated off the ceiling, rose in tendrils from the floor, stretched in rippled waves across the walls. She felt herself sinking under the powerful feelings, trapped within the echo of a million beating hearts that had trembled in this spot before her.

“All rise.”

There is a G-d. There is a G-d…

The judge adjusted his glasses.

“The court convenes today for the purposes of hearing the motion for a temporary injunction that has been filed by the plaintiff. Would counsel please introduce yourselves?”

“Jay Luciano, Walkfield and Luciano.”

Laylee glanced at Redlick. His tie was too short and what was left of his hair was combed awkwardly to the side. What is it? Why is he doing this? And why can’t Daddy talk to him? (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 538)