T he Ungarischer sisters were having a hearty ruckus over their puddings, Mimi could tell as soon as she walked through the door.

Something sat heavy on her chest and she tried to breathe past it. Daddy. She’d have to talk to him. And it would have to be today, Kaylie would see to that. She slipped her coat to one of the waiters, and headed into the office.

“The worst part about working in a fleishig place is that there’s no coffee. No coffee, ever. Isn’t that perfectly crazy?” Kaylie said by way of greeting. She was rocking slightly in her swivel chair. Kaylie not doing anything was a bad, bad sign.

“Go get a glass of punch with lime slices,” said Mimi.

Kaylie made a noise, half-acquiescence, half-disgust. “You go get punch. I don’t want any.”

Mimi blinked, so Kaylie offered a bleary smile. “Sorry, I’m just tired. And nervous.”

Mimi dropped into her chair and clicked open the disposables order. Garbage bags, gloves, aprons. “Kaylie, what’s the matter?”

Kaylie just shrugged.

The printer clicked and hummed, Mimi got up to retrieve the printout. She needed Mommy to review the order before putting it through. “I’ll go get you something sweet.”

Kaylie showed her teeth. “I don’t eat between meals, but thanks.”

Mimi snorted and swung out toward the kitchen. Brenda n?e Ungarischer (“chocolate pudding times three!”), looking extravagant in gold hoops and studded Gucci glasses, was deep in conversation with Brochi Mandel, one of the young teachers at Bnos Rivka (salmon plate usually, unless it’s after school, in which case it’s potato kugel or deli sandwich). Apparently, they had met at the washing station.

Before Mimi could slip into the kitchen, Brenda noticed her and waved her over, bangles clinking. “Over here, Mimi lovely. I want to ask you something.”

She was just going to bring some sweet potato pie for Kaylie — sweet potato was a vegetable, so maybe Kaylie would take a bite — and get right back to work. But she put on a smile. “How can I help you, Brenda?”

“Oh, nothing much, really,” Brenda sighed, adjusting her furry sleeves. “Don’t you just love this sweater? Anyway, so as I was getting up to wash, I met this charming young lady.” She paused to eye Brochi with a grandmotherly smile. Mimi shifted to the other foot. “And we got to talking, you know. And I hear there’s a new restaurant opening? Is it true?”

Mimi felt like she’d been slapped. “Yes.”

“A shanda!” Brenda spat. Mimi could sense the other patrons craning their necks, staring. “The nerve!” She leaned in. “So tell me, Mimi, what are you planning to do?”

The nerve. Mimi forced a deep breath. “We’re dealing with it.”

She wanted to spin around, and stalk out, out and away from everybody. She swallowed instead, as Brenda sighed happily and reached out to finger the crinkly suede of Mimi’s dress. “Not a bad dress, my dear,” she declared. “Though you could use the next size.”

“Gotcha.” Mimi scurried back toward the kitchen. Kaylie stood in the doorway. Her bad mood monster was dancing now. Snap, hiss, crackle. Clearly, she’d heard Brenda’s theatrics. “So, Mimi,” she said darkly, “can we talk about this now?” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 579)