O kay, so I acknowledge that Vanessa is really talented, but could she let me leave already? I was going to be late to meet Shifra. She was holding her double helix ring in one hand and the bracelet in the other. I was blinded by the bling.

“So when the judges engage with my project I want them to be oriented to consider the larger perspective of the world, to consider what humanity is literally constructed upon as well as what humanity has constructed on its construct.”

I lost her on the last bit, so I just nodded. I had no idea what she said half the time. Talking to her was like having a conversation with an SAT packet.

“So should I buff the ring to a high polish or a creamy luster to highlight that?”

What is she saying? I pulled a serious attentive face. “That’s a personal preference; whatever you think will be most effective.”

Her doe eyes went even wider, but then she nodded quickly a few times. Phew.

“Okay, thank you profusely for your guidance.” She walked away, I grabbed my stuff and dashed out of the workshop before anyone else could catch me, pulling on my jacket as I walked through the hall.

“Abby—”

Oh, no — Mrs. Tisken.

I turned around only halfway, let her see my rush.

“I see you’re leaving. I just wanted to talk to you about the showcase and next semester, so when you have a few minutes, just pop by my office.”

The half-turn worked. I smiled and waved. “Sure thing,” I said, and continued walking. Next semester? Does she want me back? Do I want to go back?

I called Rafi when I got into the car. “Mrs. Tisken told me she wants to talk about next semester,” I said, pulling out from the spot. Someone was already waiting for it, even beeping me to get a move on it. I was tempted to stall.

“And what do you think about next semester?” Rafi volleyed back. Now I really did stall.

“I don’t know,” I half whined. “I’m doing it. Sometimes I really enjoy it, but I have no idea if I’m doing a good job or just making it up as I go along. And I’m still not used to having a schedule. I’ve been working my own hours for years. But the reason I took the job, well, it’s kinda still in place.”

“Actually, I was gonna talk to you tonight, but now that you mention it — we might have a buyer for the house. But it’s a huge might, so don’t get excited. Just keeping you updated.”

The guy waiting for the spot leaned on his horn — fine, I’m moving, I’m moving.

“What, really? Wow!”

“Yeah.” Rafi breathed and I could hear the relief in his voice. Felt a little guilty there, I may have been trying to contribute with this job and all, but he was the one working with the agent the whole time.

The light changed, the car ahead didn’t move. I didn’t hesitate, I beeped. The car jumped. Rafi seemed to have gone silent for a moment.

“Another thing,” Rafi finally said. “I’m joining this night-seder chaburah and they’re having a siyum soon. I thought you should come, meet the wives because your friend-finding is going slow and thought you needed a boost. Fresh meat and all that.”

“How kind of you to try and help me win,” I said, but I felt the horror freeze in my chest. More social stuff, with people I don’t know, with the intent to make friends. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 572)