“B lue whales are the largest animals on earth. These magnificent marine mammals rule the oceans at up to 100 feet long and more than 200 tons. Their tongues alone can weigh as much as an elephant.”

I clear my throat and watch the girl in the mirror smile.

“But blue whales are not the only whales around.…”

A slight tap at the door. “They aren’t?”

I spin around.

“It’s past midnight. Why are you going on about whales now?” Rafi asks.

“My science report presentation is tomorrow. I’ve spent ages on it, I need to get it right.”

“Sounds like you have it down pat. Really, Naomi, how many times have you practiced?”

“Fifteen,” I say sheepishly, and then, “Why’d you come up here, didn’t someone say it was past midnight?”

“Oh, I was just going to put this back.” He holds out a page of tightly packed scrawl. The letter to Daddy from my journal, the last one I’d let him see.

I take it from him and find myself saying, “Do you know that when whales are lost they sing the song of their family, and they’ve been known to find each other through song?”

“Really?”

“Really. I wonder if…” I trail off uncomfortably, but it seems my brother has understood.

He starts to hum a song, one of the zemiros that is classic Daddy.

I hum along.

“Maybe he’s singing it too, alone, far away in Israel.…” Rafi ventures.

And maybe he’s singing a different song? I think. The one we worked on together, the one I won’t sing anymore, not after what he did. I am mad at him, still burning with the shame of it, but I long for him all the same.…

I don’t say any of this to Rafi, I can’t. He’ll read it himself in the letters anyhow.

Rafi notices my change of expression and stops humming.

“You okay, Sis?”

“I guess.”

“Don’t stress about the report, Naomi, get some sleep.”

“Okay, Mother,” I say.

He laughs.

How did an intense kid like me end up with a brother as placid and amiable as Rafi? He’s Mom’s son all the way.

And me?

Am I just like Daddy?

I fall onto my pillow and try to calm down. The words of my report dance in front of my eyes as soon as I close them; lines, whole paragraphs, the same sections over and over. Finally I sleep. I see myself coming up to the front of the class, standing awkwardly near the teacher’s desk trying to get the words out, never saying more than one word before I shudder to wakefulness — only for the dream to play out again.

Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, the dream changes. I see the whales in my sleep. I’m hanging on to one of them, to its dorsal fin, as we coast through the bluest of blue. In the distance, past coral reef and schools of fish, I see him. Daddy. 

Hanging on to another whale. I try to steer my whale toward him, but it swims its own course. Sing, sing, I think frantically, but I cannot open my mouth underwater. The whale swims deeper, the ocean darkens, we fall further and further away from Daddy and I am a powerless girl against the kings of the ocean. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 679)