Things have shifted in this class. The hierarchy adapting ever so slightly. A crowd of girls sit on some desks, voices clamoring, Batsheva’s and Tzippy’s loudest of all.

Shiri, Shaina, Rikki, they aren’t there in the pack like they would be. They’ve gone quieter, subdued, more serious. Is it any wonder?

They were there, on a hill dusted in snow, tubing downward.

In my mind’s eye I see the three of them scrambling out of the way, and Leeba there, smack in the path of a skier.

I would have seen it too if I hadn’t bolted for my life.

But it’s most stark for them, because they were on the hill, and they’re probably haunted by “it could have been me.”

And maybe that’s why Shiri comes over to me, notices me, during lunch break.

I’m a bit wary of the queen though.

“We’ve finished with the sports shed, haven’t we?” I blurt out.

She gives me a strange look, “We can still talk, no?”

She sits down, opens a bag of toffees and offers me one. “How’s Ushi been? My mom thought it was cool that we could hear how he’s doing at the Early Years, not just from the heads, but you know, from a fellow classmate.”

Nonchalant as ever.

I fiddle with my toffee. “Your brother is the cutest,” I say. “We love him at the Early Years, for real.”

“We love him too,” she says, and exhales, a tiny sigh.

Phew, something.

“But he’s a tough one too, you need so much patience with him.” And then, “I’m glad you’re looking out for him. You have the focus, and the perseverance.”

She says this straight. Just like she told me I think I’m smarter than anyone else.

How did she put it once? I say it like it is.

“You might be onto something.” I smile, opening my toffee at last.

It’s cherry flavored, tangy and sweet at once. Like life.

Back home, Mom’s out working and Aunt Debbie’s out. Out?

She’s left a note on the kitchen table.

Naomi, urgent business matters, had to go back to the city, love, D

Go back? No way.

She has to stay, there are way more important matters to attend to right here.

I grip the note — What’s going to be? Where are things going? — and drop it in the bin.

Too much to think about.

I’ve got to clear my mind. Get out of the here and now. There’s only one place I know I can go. But do I want to?

It pulls me — like it or not — my therapy journal, the letters to Daddy.

I run upstairs and get the journal out. And I realize, that’s it. It’s the last letter.

For a moment I think, what next? But I am sucked in, half a year back, a lifetime ago. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)