T he sun is sinking as I walk.

There are times when sunset seems to be the low point of the day; that singular moment when all the light evaporates. But not today. By the time I reach Main Street, a few tendrils of pink still streak the sky and Elmway looks postcard perfect.

I stop in front of Sterling Inc. and ring the buzzer. I rub my hands together for warmth and look around. People keep referring to Elmway as the new Lakewood, but I disagree. Despite its growth, this place has clearly retained its small-town charm.

I ring the buzzer again. There were a few short flurries on the way over. Warm puddles of light mark the ground, the glow from the shops spilling out onto the sidewalk. It’s all simply adorable, from the quaint little stores with their delightful awnings to the old-fashioned lampposts to the large oaks stretching their branches. I turn to see if I can catch a glimpse of Josh, and notice how the drops of moisture glitter on the bare branches. A lot of things look glittery these days.

“You seem weird,” my brother Ari had said flatly before my trip up here. He’s 16 and going through a blunt stage.

“It’s called Happy. Far more pleasant than Gloomy,” I’d retorted. “Try it sometime.”

I ring the buzzer a third time. Peering into the window front, I notice a girl behind the cash register. I glance up into the security camera, give a wave, then turn back to watch the girl’s reaction. She looks frazzled and reaches for her phone. I back away quickly.

Bitterness wells up, hot and metallic in my mouth. A big drop of water falls from the awning, wetting my cheek. I want to walk away, but Josh’s tall figure approaches, his stride telling the world he isn’t afraid. I put on a smile and cling to Happy.

“You didn’t have to wait outside, it’s freezing!” he says, slightly breathless from the cold. For a split second I wonder if I should tell him about the girl behind the glass who won’t buzz me in. I decide against it. Josh sees the world from inside an iridescent bubble — a bubble I don’t have the energy or desire to pop right now.

He tries the door handle.

I nod toward the white button. “You have to ring the bell.” Josh, in his hat and jacket, his blonde beard cut close to his face, blue eyes smiling, is buzzed in right away.

The chashier is clearly shocked when I, the black girl who had so terrified her only moments before, enter the store with Josh. I bite my lip and let Josh do the talking.

“We’re looking for candlesticks.”

It takes her a moment to respond. “Like, um, Shabbos-licht type?” she asks.

Josh nods. I want to leave. Leave the store and the girl and her round green eyes and the questions splayed across her forehead. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 586)