Recap: Hope takes Bonnie to the park, and she catches a glimpse of a white Cadillac. She realizes that it’s her parents’ car, which was stolen by the KKK. She tells Rivkah that they have to leave the park.

I jumped up. “Let’s go back now.”

“Why? They’re having such a––”

I looked wildly around for some place to hide. I spotted a playhouse at the corner of the play yard and I bee-lined it for the house. Rivkah followed me inside. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Bonnie and D’vori followed. Louis and Henry giggled and squeezed in, too. They thought it was a funny game.

“I…I…want to play a quiet contest,” I said.

“Let’s see if everyone can be super quiet. If you are, I’ll give you…” I tried to think of what I could give them. Then, I remembered that I had some lollipops in my pocket that Patricia had given me the last time I was at work. “Shh!”

Everyone was watching me. “Stay perfectly still, “ I whispered. “It’s part of the contest.” Rivkah was staring at me. She knew something was up. I handed each of the children a lollipop. Rivkah reminded D’vori to whisper a brachah. I heard the car door creak open, and men’s voices carried through the air.

They were swaggering toward the playground. One of them threw a beer can on the ground. I glimpsed the man with the scar on his cheek and beady, dark eyes. He was cursing and laughing as he took another swig from the other man’s beer. I could imagine his alcohol breath, though thankfully we weren’t close enough to smell it. His speech was slurred. “We can’t go back without her.”

“What do you want to do? Pick up some other girl. He’ll know it’s not her.”

My neck muscles tightened. They were the men who came into the five and dime. I had assumed they’d left Pennsylvania. If only they had…

The man with the scar kicked the ground, sending swirls of dust in the air. “I saw a girl with long, curly hair, but it wasn’t the girl.” He cursed.

Rivkah squeezed my arm.

“You heard the preacher. We can’t go back a failure.”

“She disappeared. We can’t make her reappear. Her parents took off. Maybe they took her with them.”

The first man stamped on a cigarette butt. “No, she’s here. They didn’t take her. I feel it in my bones.” He spat on the ground.

“I need more cigarettes,” the other man whined.

I held my breath. My heart was pounding against my chest. Don’t let them see me.

I squeezed my eyes shut. They were talking about me. They were looking for me!

The kids were amazingly quiet. I prayed. Please, Hashem, keep them quiet.

Bonnie tugged at my sleeve. I put my finger to my lips.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” she said.

“In a minute,” I whispered. “Please, just a minute.”

“Maybe she is here in this park,” the man with the mustache said.

“You have a good imagination.”

“I have a sense. A hunter’s sense.”

“Long, curly hair, she has.”

Rivkah’s eyes widened. She shot me a nervous glance.

“Come on. I need another beer.” The man with the scar was already stepping towards the car – our car.

“I have to go now,” Bonnie’s voice rose.

“I’ll take her,” Rivkah said.

Just as she took her hand and headed towards the little restroom in the back of the park, I heard the car door slam.

The car screeched as it sped away in a blur of white.

Rivkah came back with Bonnie.

I was shaking.

“You okay?” she asked.

I shook my head.

 “Let’s go back.” She told the kids we were leaving.

As we strolled towards her house, neither of us spoke.

I was drowning in terror, and I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking. Did she realize those men were talking about me? The curly hair and all – she must know it was about me. The way I hid and told everyone to be quiet. What must she be thinking? Maybe she would decide not to have anything to do with me anymore. I was a dangerous friend. D’vori and Bonnie kept up lively chatter.

As we drew close to her house she finally spoke. “Are you in some sort of trouble? Do you want to confide in my parents?”

“No, I can’t,” I said.

“If you change your mind, my father would help you. Those men… They looked dangerous.”

I shivered, though it was a hot day.

 To be continued…

Susie Garber is the author of the newly released historical fiction novel, Flight of the Doves (Menucha Publishers, 2023), Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers, 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishers, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).