"A nd you’d never believe what Mrs. Schwartz said!”

A squeal, three.

“I can just imagine.”

“What, what?”

Binyamin smirked, waiting behind the gaggle of girls snaking into Zoberman’s. Bnos Rivka High School around the corner made for good business, but also plenty of melodrama.

Once inside, he shook off his umbrella. Kaylie swung out from the kitchen. “Oh, Binyamin. Hi. It’s 2:30 already? Can’t believe it’s lunchtime.”

Binyamin patted his stomach. “Not hard to believe, actually.”

Kaylie smirked. “Okay, I’ll get us lunch.”

Binyamin hummed, making his way to the back office. Wistfully, he thought of a deli sandwich. Smoky corned beef with a peppery crust, or tongue, rich and flavorful, melting into the garlic mayo. Slivers of fresh tomato, the baguette, airy and crisp. The lunches Kaylie constructed weren’t of the oily-fatty-delicious variety.

He slipped into the back office. Mimi smiled to see him. “Lunchtime, at last,” she said, stretching. “What are you eating?”

“Whatever the good wife prepares,” he intoned.

“I could use a wife, too.” Mimi sliced open her egg.

“So what’s new?”

Mimi’s face darkened and Binyamin regretted the question. “We’ve been very busy here,” she said. “Renovations are exhausting. The planning, I mean.” She shrugged and turned back to her computer.

Binyamin’s lips moved without his consent. “So you and Kaylie are making all the plans, picking colors? Kaylie didn’t tell me anything.”

“You’ll hear soon enough,” Mimi said dryly.

Binyamin sighed. “It’s not so bad. So Zoberman’s will get a face-lift. It’s not the end of the world, Mims.”

“No, no, nothing is the end of the world, of course.” Mimi sighed. Her words sounded suspiciously Levi-like. “It’s just not fun. Me and Kaylie, we have very different… taste.”

The rock in his stomach hardened. “So you’re not going to try and come to an agreement? You’d rather just sit here and complain?”

“Of course.” Mimi stood up with her plateful of eggshells. “Complaining trumps everything.”

He watched as she sauntered down the hall. Kaylie came out of the kitchen balancing two trays and Mimi paused to inspect the food. “You know, I need a wife too,” she said to Kaylie, her voice light, sweet as every day. Kaylie laughed and called to Binyamin.

“I hope you’ll forgive me,” Kaylie slid her trays onto the corner window table. “I used grilled baby chicken for this salad.”

He took a forkful. Crisp lettuce, juicy chicken bits, light lemon dressing. “Delicious.”

“Thanks,” Kaylie said, happy, “I just snagged the lettuce and veggies from the sandwich station and quickly whipped up a dressing.” She shot up. “Gimme a sec.”

Binyamin chewed slowly, lulled by the clatter of the rain against the window, the tinkle of glasses and conversation. He thought of Chaskel Neyman. He almost got him, almost. But then a sugar-coated pest in scrubs had passed and kindly demanded he stop harassing the seniors. Binyamin shook his head, the unfairness still rattled.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 583)