I t was a cruel evening, I know.” Levi sighed in the darkness of the car.

Mimi bit her lip. It wasn’t his fault. He didn’t have to suffer from Daddy’s miserable diplomacy, it was enough that she did.

“I’m okay,” she managed.

She felt Levi’s gaze on her, hopeful. She didn’t look back. Let him not see the havoc in her eyes.

They climbed the three flights to their apartment in silence, shoes clicking on the metal-tipped stairs. Levi let himself in first, while Mimi lingered at the door.

In a few hours, it would be morning. She could already feel the new day glaring white, the honking buses, her neighbors giggling and yammering on the concrete steps. The walls were so tight and small she could hardly breathe. In the living room, Mimi’s eyes fell on the little stone chest, encrusted with pearly seashells; a gift from Daddy when she was seven years old.

Cold clenched her lungs. She struggled to breathe past the sudden rush of fury.

“Levi, I’ll be back soon,” she said.

Levi looked up, startled. He was still in his coat. “What? Where are you going now?”

Mimi glanced at the clock — 12:54. She shrugged. “Just out.”

Levi frowned, but he nodded. Mimi slipped out.

The streets were deserted, and she liked them that way, even though her heart beat a mad pop in her ears. She walked, almost ran, her feet moving faster than her brain. Then she was standing in front of Zoberman’s. She stared. Shiny black double doors and the old musty green sign stared back, and memories, so many memories. The wind whined, a garbage can clattered to the ground. Her heart leapt to her throat. She fished for her key, turned it in the lock.

Moonlight pooled weakly through the curtained windows, puddling on the blue and mustard tiles. In the dark, the tables and chairs looked like they were engaged in some macabre dance.

She ground her chattering teeth and moved, moved back toward her office. She flicked on the light, turned on her computer. Why was she here?

She clicked into the photos folder saved on her desktop. There were pictures of her kids, of Levi and her, Levi and the kids. She scrolled quicker, urgent.

There. Her fingers froze on the mouse. Daddy beamed back at her. She was standing behind him, arms around his neck, laughing. His eyes were big, warm like a baby blanket, the mutual adoration leaping from the screen.

Tears clouded her eyes. Mimi groaned and put her head down. She didn’t want to cry, she hated to cry, she loved to cry. Oh, it wasn’t her fault she could cry better than a four-year-old.

Her phone buzzed. Levi.

“Mimi! Where are you? Do you know what time it is?”

Mimi couldn’t talk. “You… you don’t realize, how... how awful this whole renovation is,” she said finally. “Kaylie won’t get it. The subtlety of color, how it affects mood and energy. This is going to turn out wrong, all wrong.” I’m the manager. How could Daddy do this?

After a long time, Levi asks, “Is that all? The uh, imbalance of color and all that?”

Mimi shook her head, though she knew that Levi couldn’t see. He wouldn’t understand. He just wouldn’t. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 582)