"W hat? Weren’t you in the choir?” Mom’s eyes are dark, worried.

“I was, but I dropped out. It wasn’t for me.”

The words are thick on the table, hovering over the rolls and the salad, so nobody touches their food.

“I can’t believe this, Naomi. How come you didn’t tell me? We could have done something. I’m here for you, you know.”

Her questions weigh the table down further.

“There was so much going on… and it kind of just happened,” I say lamely, helplessly.

Why didn’t I say? How would it help, though, really?

Mom gets up and takes out her desk diary. She shows me the box with today’s date: December 7. Pencilled in, bordered by a squiggle, is this: Show Production Naomi, Matinee performance 2 p.m., Main performance 7 p.m.

Four pairs of eyes travel to the cuckoo clock. The gold cuckoo chooses the moment to emerge, four shrill times. Four o’clock. The matinee performance is likely drawing to a close.

“How could I have missed it? It’s here in my diary!” she cries.

“Mom, it’s okay, I chose this.”

“Sometimes it’s why a person makes a choice that’s the problem. Why they find themselves in a situation where this is even a choice…”

Aunt Debbie lightens the atmosphere, gathers some words off the table. “Right, Dr. Heller. Now let’s eat and figure this out in a bit.”

Mom throws her a smile despite herself.

I go in the end. Mom gives me a fair cajoling and Aunt Debbie offers to come along. That clinches the deal.

“It’ll just be a night out together,” she says.

As if.

We turn up late and slip into the shadows. We find a couple of seats at the back of the hall. It almost feels like we’re scheming; with Aunt Debbie it’s somehow fun.

The curtains open to unveil the choir. Seventy — no, 69 girls in costume, even that heavier girl, the one who held up the measurement session. Sarah in the front, and somewhere in the middle, a fiery glow of curls, Kayla. The stage lights flicker, the sequins, the faces, everything shimmers.

Something catches in my throat.

The choir heads stand off to the side. The music pounds to life, and Tehilla steps forward, turns around and begins to conduct.

“B’sheim Hashem,” they sing, voices amplified by the stage, by the vast room. And then the interlude. I am catapulted back into time: I see Daddy again in his car, innocent and happy as ever, as if nothing would happen, as if yesterday’s divorce pronouncement never was.

I see myself at that rehearsal, the one I left for sheer pain. The first time I left.

I seek out a phantom spot on the stage — fifth from the left, second row from the back — and I imagine myself there, pouring my heart into song, my voice rising with everyone else’s.

The cold plastic chair is hard against my back. I am very much a spectator, far away from the stage.

What did I do?

I find myself squeezing Aunt Debbie’s hand.

In the darkness she whispers, “Naomi, this is not your show. Don’t look at it as though it were. For some reason it wasn’t meant to be. We’re here just because.”

I want to hug her.

The choir ends on an abrupt, theatrical note, and we wind up having a good time, laughing at the funny lines, and getting a kick out of the overly dramatized emotion.

At some point Leeba appears in a soft tutu skirt, but she just drifts in and out of my consciousness. I am enjoying myself to much with my aunt to care.

When the curtain comes down, and the applause rocks the hall, we are cheering with the loudest of them. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 676)