Recap: Shoshana dreads going to a computer coding class, which will be filled with super-smart girls. However, she has to go to please her mother. She isn’t good at technology or math. She meets a friend, Penina, who is also there for her own reasons and also isn’t good at those subjects.

As we pulled up to our brownstone, two Asian men left our apartment and headed into a car with tinted windows.

“Who are they?” I asked.

“Business for Aba.”

“He does business with them?” I asked.

Mom didn’t answer, as she bustled into the house carrying some groceries.

“I’ll take some in,” I offered.

Mom handed me a bag.

Those men did not look like people Aba would do business with. Thinking of them, I felt my neck muscles tighten. Why the tinted windows? Who were they?

“Please go do your homework. Lena will have dinner ready soon,” Mom said.

I popped into the kitchen. Lena was busy mixing batter in a bowl.

“What’re you making?”

“Hello to you,” Lena smiled at me. She wore a crisp white apron that stretched across her ample waist. She’d been our housekeeper since I was a baby. “How was that computer class?”

I rolled my eyes. To Lena I could tell the truth. “I didn’t understand any of it, but the good thing is I met a friend named Penina.”

“See, good always comes. Hashem has a plan.”

I stuck my finger in the bowl to lick the chocolate batter.

She pushed it away. “No, no. You wait for dinner. It will spoil your appetite.”

I sighed and took an apple from the fridge. Then I headed upstairs to do my homework.

Just as I was pulling out my notebook, my phone rang.

“Hi, Shoshana. This is Penina. I was wondering if I could come over this Shabbos.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you called. I’ll ask my mother.”

I rushed downstairs, but Mom wasn’t in the living room anymore.

I heard her in her office. I started to knock and froze when I heard her whispering.

“Yaakov, I don’t think this is safe. You don’t know anything about China and the way things work there. Please don’t do this. Just drop it.”

“I can’t drop it. It’s my life’s work.”

“But going to China––”

Aba was going to China? China was not a safe place. I didn’t want him to go there!

I couldn’t hear anymore. I knocked.

Mom opened her office door.

I was so shocked by what I heard I almost forgot why I’d come downstairs. Then I remembered Penina. “Excuse me, my new friend, whom I met at the coding class, Penina Katz, wants to come over this Shabbos. Is that okay?”

Mom looked distracted. “Okay,” she mumbled.

I wasn’t sure if she even heard me.

I rushed upstairs. I’d left my phone on my desk.

What were they talking about China? I mused. Aba rarely went on business trips. What was this all about? Why was Aba planning a trip there?

“Hi, Penina. My mother said it’s fine.” I gave her my address.

I hung up and went back to my homework, except it was hard to concentrate, because I kept wondering what was going on. Aba was planning a trip to China and those Asian men with the tinted car windows had come here.

At dinner, after Lena served the mushroom barley soup, I casually turned to Aba. “Are you going to China?”

Aba’s hand froze, holding his soupspoon. “Where did you hear that?”

“I overheard Mommy say something about it and those men that came here.”

Aba and Mommy exchanged glances.

“You shouldn’t be listening in on conversations,” Mom said.

Aba nodded. “I don’t know if I’m going, and you must not tell anyone about this. It’s top secret.” Aba rarely raised his voice, but the serious expression and the strong tone in his voice stopped me short.

I nodded. “I won’t.”

Lena came back in with a platter of chicken.

Mom took the platter. I noticed her hand was shaking.

“So, how was the coding class?” Aba asked.

“Okay,” I mumbled.

“That’s a very important skill. Once you have that, you’ll be able to do so many things.”

I nodded, sipping my soup, while hoping that Aba would change his mind and not go to China.

To be continued…