“D on’t,” Rafi said as I started to get up.

“Fine.” I sat back down. Rafi was right. Daniel was working on his Choshen project and he hadn’t asked for my help. Even though I knew it could be so much better, I had to step back and let him do it himself.

I poked my broccoli.

“What’s with Adina Glenner?” Rafi asked.

I raised an eyebrow.

“I heard her message asking you about a prize for the Chinese auction. I was wondering what you did.”

I smiled sheepishly. “What do you think I did?”

“You ignored her call, right?”

I shrugged.

“You can’t do that, Abby.” Rafi’s tone changed, like a parent lecturing. I’d been pretending that our argument hadn’t happened, that Rafi and I were fine. He sounded fine when he came home, but when it came to me being me, he was shutting me down. Not okay.

“What am I supposed to do?” I asked. I jabbed at my broccoli so hard that it flew off the plate and into my cup of water.

Rafi spoke slowly, as if he were explaining the point of doors to the village idiot. “You call her back, and answer her question, either way.”

“But I don’t want to do it, and I don’t want to sound mean and snobby.”

Rafi’s eyes leveled with mine. “Abby, there are ways of saying no nicely. You come off as a bigger snob by not returning her call. Do you really not get that?”

“But I hate the phone,” I whined. I do, I really do.

Rafi shook his head. “Grow up.”

I sat quietly. He looked at his watch and pushed back his chair. “See, I’m meeting with Ari, your best friend’s chassan, whom I barely know, because he called me and said he wanted to talk. Do I have other things to do? Yes. But people come first. That’s why if I can’t help out, at least I let the people know, so they don’t feel like a piece of dirt.”

“Ari? You’re meeting Ari?!”

Why would Ari call Rafi? The doorbell rang, Rafi pointed to the ceiling, acknowledging the chime. “He’s here. We’ll be in my study. If you want to be nice, you can bring some cookies and soda or something.”

I glared, that much I always do. Rafi walked to the front of the house. I put together a small tray of marzipan rugelach and Zomick’s seven-layer cake and cans of soda. I looked around, took out the nicer Shabbos napkins, put it all on my Succos tray, and brought it to the study. As I walked in, Ari stopped talking midstream. Something was up.

I smiled as I laid it down on the desk. Rafi gave me a look, like he knew I was trying just to save face. Ari gave me a nod.

“Close the door behind you, please,” Rafi asked. I bowed out, closed the door, and then stood right by the door to eavesdrop. Why did we pay for more insulation? I could barely hear a thing. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 570)