"I pushed off the appointment with Tile King.”

Kaylie stopped in the doorway. “What?”

Mimi swallowed. “I pushed it off, the appointment.”

“What?” Kaylie said again.

Mimi looked at her hands. “Kaylie, I want to try… something, I want to show Daddy… and you… some decorating ideas, before you finalize with the tile people.”

Kaylie narrowed her eyes. “I don’t get it. That’s why you canceled? I mean, why didn’t you ask me first? I booked this appointment, I set it up with Daddy. I…” She stopped abruptly, exhaled.

Mimi said nothing.

“Seriously? I don’t get you.”

The anger, she felt it in her chest again, splintering. It had been a stupid move, fine. But could Kaylie not step out of herself for a moment to sense what was going on? This was the place she was raised in, this was her and Daddy. Mimi knew she should apologize, but her lips were ice.

Kaylie shook her head and left.

Mimi grabbed her coat and hurried home. As soon as the kids were in bed, she got her craft supplies out.

Levi smiled when he saw them. “Feeling creative?”

Mimi shrugged. Not really, but she wasn’t about to tell him that. This was more a down-to-earth, solid-thinking, plan-of-action, kind of energy — which wasn’t good, come to think of it. She needed to loosen up, unlock the inspiration until it flowed in every last finger.

Her muscles felt brittle, as if she hadn’t slept in days. She imagined presenting her creation to Daddy tomorrow, Kaylie’s face falling over her screen. You can’t think about Kaylie all the time. Do what you have to.

Her eyes roamed over the supplies. First, the floor. She picked up a small piece of basswood, inhaled jasmine and lemon. Her carving knife. Wood glue.

She put up the walls, closed her eyes for a long time. Then she reached for paint: cardinal red, carnelian, chocolate, umber, chestnut. Warm and rich. When the shade was right, she returned to her structure. Sand and glue and rustic brown paint. By the time the walls were covered in country brick, the stillness of the night wrapped her like a pashmina.

Levi hobbled into the living room, rubbing his eyes. He looked at her raw structure. “You want coffee? This is gonna be a long night.”

Electricity sizzled in her fingertips. Who needed coffee? “Nah, I’m fleishig anyway, but thanks.”

Levi settled on the tip of the sofa’s armrest. “What are you making?”

“Zoberman’s.”

“Really.”

Mimi shrugged. “The way it’s meant to look. Not covered in gray. Give me a minute, I’ll show you more.”

She fished for her popsicles. More paint; marigold, ochre, more reds and browns. Levi watched as she broke the popsicles, painted chips in varying tones of deep brown, mellow brown, hints of gold. Glued them onto the basswood floor in a haphazard blend.

“Wow.”

Mimi smiled. “I like it too. Though I’m working too fast and it shows.”

“Why are you doing this? And at two in the morning?” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 586)