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A Zissen Pesach

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"I'm telling you, Miranda, he’s super weird. I mean, half the family’s convinced he’s immortal or something.”

Miranda glanced up in disbelief from where her fingers were tracing a pattern on the couch. “Immortal? Gimme a break.”

“No, I’m serious! I’ll show you—there’s a picture that Avuela has from, like, when her grandpa was alive, and there’s a guy in it who—swearonmylife—looks exactly like Uncle Crowley.”

“Deadass?”

“Dead. Ass.”

Miranda let out a low whistle. “Jeez, Shosh. You gotta show me.”

“Yeah, I will, it’s real good shit, I just—” Shoshanna froze mid sentence. A creak sounded from outside the sewing room, where the two girls were avoiding the Passover seder. They waited for a moment, until satisfied that no well-meaning but nosy adult was going to barge in on their not-so-Kosher conversation, whereupon they let out a collective sigh of relief.

“Yeah. The photo’s around the house here somewhere. I just gotta dig it out.”

“Huh. I wonder…” Miranda mused, but Shoshanna didn’t hear her.

“He only comes, like, to every other holiday, but it’s always wild when he does. Last year we were singing Chad Gadya and there was the part with the Angel of Death, you know, and he just leans back in his chair, and mumbles—” she sucked in her lip and shifted her voice a bit deeper— “‘Woo-ee, he’s a nasty bugger. Wouldn’t want to mess with him.’ And then just carries on singing.”

Miranda laughed, a bit disbelievingly. She started to respond, but footsteps bounded up the staircase outside the door, and Shosh rolled her eyes. “Here comes Aaron, again.”

The door burst open. The little boy shifted his kippah back to the top of his curly brown hair.

“Shosh, Miranda, c’mon downstairs, Uncle Crowley’s here!”

Miranda raised her eyebrows at her companion. Shoshanna smiled. “Awright, Aaron, we’re coming.”

She got up, brushed invisible dust off her skirt, and followed her brother down the stairs, Miranda on her heels.

In the foyer a man stood, dressed in a black suit and sunglasses (after sundown? asked a part of Miranda’s brain, but she shushed it), currently fending off a small swarm of children. He looked up at the girls’ approach.

“Oh hey, Shosh, how’re you doing?” He said, flashing her a smile before returning to pushing a drooling toddler off his expensive looking boots.

“I’m good, Uncle Crowley, how are you? Um, oh, almost forgot, this is Miranda.”

“Miranda, you say? Shakespeare had a character named Miranda, didn’t he, and he made up the name, too. Pretentious git. Well. Anyway. I’m Anthony, Anthony Crowley, and I’m someone’s uncle, I think. That’s why I’m here, innit, or so I’d think.”

Miranda shook off her mild bewilderment. “Yes, um, well. My mum married Shosh’s aunt Noemie. So I’m here now. Part of the family, I guess.”

“Noemie got married? Well. Who would’ve thought. Is she here? I’ll wish the happy couple mazal tov.”

Aaron tugged at the man’s sleeve. “Uncle Crowley? Do you have any of those sweets for us?”

“Sweets? What do you mean, sweets? Aren’t you too old for sweets now? What are you, a hundred?”

Aaron laughed. “No, I’m not! I’m seven!”

“Oh. Well, I guess when I was a hundred, I didn’t fancy myself too old for sweets, so alright.” He held out a hand, and all of a sudden a lemon drop was on his palm where there was no lemon drop a moment before. He dropped it into Aaron’s outstretched hands, and the rest of the children pounced on the boy immediately.

The man sighed. “Oh all right, settle down now.” And the floor was littered with lemon drops and cherry suckers, which the children scrambled for gleefully.

The man sauntered out of the foyer towards the delicious scents of the kitchen. “Nice meeting you, Miranda,” he drawled as he left.

Miranda turned, wide eyed, to Shoshanna.

Her new cousin smirked.

Chapter Text

According to Shosh’s reckoning, they had about half an hour before one of the adults would come up and drag them down to the seder, talking about how they sure were cutting it close, young ladies, the meal’s about to start , so they deemed it safe to retreat back into the sewing room upstairs for that time.

“So.” Miranda leaned forward on the couch. “Spill.”

“What’s there to say?” Shosh was enjoying this. “Sweets just...appearing? Him being all weird and cryptic? That’s just normal Uncle Crowley.”

“So your family...the family...thinks he’s immortal and just… goes with it?”

“Yeah, actually, the funny thing is that we have a bunch of different theories—we’ve been speculating since forever. I personally subscribe to the school of thought that reckons he’s a vampire.”

“A Jewish vampire? Are those a thing?”

“Maybe… I don’t know. Point is, he wears all black, always, and so do vampires. Plus, we only see him after sundown.”

“Shosh, Jewish holidays start on sundown. Maybe the reason you only see him then is because he’s on time .”

“Huh. Maybe you’re right.”

“Or maybe he just works during the day. Like normal adults. Going off of that—do you know what he does? For a job?”

“I don’t know… he said once that he looks after some kid. An American one.”

“In England?”

“I guess. Maybe they moved here.” Shosh leaned back against the couch and tugged at her skirt.

“Wait, how long did you say he’s been around again?”

“Not sure. I told you, we have a picture somewhere. I saw it once when I was little. Alexandra showed me—this was before she moved to Portugal—and told me that I couldn’t tell anyone outside of the family that it was him. For one, they’d never believe it, plus the fact that maybe he doesn’t mention his immortality for a reason.” Shoshanna wiggled her fingers, going for spooky.

Miranda’s eyes widened, then she scoffed. “Uh huh. Until you show me this picture, I’m going with, ‘He’s a normal guy who’s pretty weird, but then, most adopted aunts and uncles are.’ I mean, take my mum,” she said, “she collects dead fish stuck in rocks for a living.”

“Ruth’s an archeologist, Miranda, and she married into the family. Uncle Crowley’s different. He’s just been showing up since as long as anyone can remember.”

“Still not buying it. Show me the picture, then. Prove he’s an immortal. ” She mocked the wiggly fingers back at Shoshanna, rolled her eyes and stood up. 

“Fine. C’mon.”

The sewing room door shut with a soft bang on their way out.

——

“Ooh, who’s this?”

Shosh glanced over her shoulder at the picture Miranda held up. A girl with a blonde perm grinned up at her.

“That’s Uncle Desmond. Before he transitioned. He’s the one who was droning on about the Exodus in the dining room.”

“Ah.”

Miranda sat back on her heels, watching Shoshanna rifle through stacks of papers and photos. 

“You’re sure this photo actually exists?”

A sigh. “Yes. Now, come help me look.”

“I don’t know what I’m looking for.”

“You’ll know when you see it.”

Miranda reached for a heavy photo album with a glossy maroon cover. “Nope,” she said as soon as she opened it, “these are too recent. This one’s dated 1969.”

“Heh heh. Sixty nine,” Shoshanna mumbled, up to her elbows in papers. She cleared her throat. “Look through it anyway. There’s no organization; my baby pictures are in the same album as Avuela and Zayde’s wedding photos.”

“All this trouble for one photo?” Miranda muttered, but Shoshanna heard her. 

“Yeah. It’ll be proof. Now keep looking, the parents are going to come get us soon.”

Miranda flipped past blurry photos of someone’s yard, pictures of kids at a party drinking what looked like beer, and a small wallet sized shot of a curly haired dog. Still no supposed proof of Uncle Crowley’s immortality.

Shosh let out a gleeful cry. “Aha! Found it!” 

She thrust a photo in Miranda’s face. Miranda took it and examined it. It was in a small wooden frame, and the image was old and faded, in token-olden-times black and white. It was a shot of a room of people, sitting at long tables, dressed in formal dresses, suits, and fancy hats. In the center front was a boy, probably about thirteen. He was grinning at the camera, wearing a white tallis around his shoulders. Neat Spencerian script at the bottom of the photo read, “Franz’s Bar Mitzvah, 1903.”

Miranda looked up, confused. “Okay, so? This is just your—what? Great great grandpa?” 

“Yeah, but look.” Miranda followed Shoshanna’s finger to the corner of the frame. A man leaned against the door frame, wearing a black suit and hat, smiling cockily at the camera. His face was a bit blurred, since he was in the back of the crowd and far from the camera, and Miranda squinted at him. She couldn’t tell if his hair was red or not, and he wasn’t wearing the sunglasses that the man downstairs had been. His eyes were funny—she brought the picture closer to her face. But the face was the same. It was him, all right. Shosh’s weird Uncle Crowley—though, she supposed, he was her uncle now too.

“Bloody hell,” she swore in awe. She hadn’t really believed it until now. “So he...he just…he’s always been here?”

“I guess so. We’ve never asked him. Seems a bit personal, you know?”

“Sheesh. Wow. That’s...that’s incredible.”

“Told you. Like I said, he’s just been coming for, like, forever. I don’t think he has a family, so we’ve kind of adopted him, I guess.”

“Where does he live?”

“London, I think? He mentioned he has a place there.”

“That's so weird. And cool. And… wow. I knew when mom married Noemie that I’d meet some weird new relatives, but I never expected someone who’s looked 30 since 1903.”

“Maybe earlier,” Shosh commented, enjoying the fact that she got to show off her family weirdness to a newcomer. “He said something odd about Shakespeare, didn’t he?”

“Oh yeah…”

“And I don’t think he looks 30,” she continued. “He’s gotta be 45, at least.”

“No way! I was gonna go with 25, but I thought that was a bit too young.”

“45. I’m calling it.”

“Well, he is immortal,” mused Miranda. “Who’s to say he’s been one age forever? Maybe he’s not frozen at one age, he just chooses to look that way.”

“That’s a good point, but wait: what if he—”

The door of Avuela’s bedroom closet flew open. Aunt Elisa stood there, looking down at the girls crouched within. 

“What on earth—oy, girls, it’s time to eat. I have no idea what you’re doing but, save me, I’m not going to ask. Now come.”

Aunt Elisa pushed her glasses up with one finger and beckoned the two to follow her. Shoshanna hurriedly tucked the photo frame back into one of the hatboxes full of pictures and papers, then jumped up, Miranda in tow. 

“Aunt Elisa,” Shoshanna said, as she followed her aunt down the stairs, “I think I’ve asked you this before, but how long have you known Uncle Crowley?”

Elisa chuckled. “Yes, Shoshanna, you’ve asked this before. And I told you: I don’t know, let’s just leave the poor man alone. He’s been a part of this family for many a Shabbat dinner, and we aren’t going to make him uncomfortable with questions or talk about him behind his back.”

Shosh grabbed Miranda’s arm and whispered in her ear. “She doesn’t like the table discussions of what exactly he is.”

“I could tell,” Miranda mouthed back.

They stepped into the dining room and inhaled deeply, the scents of the feast filling the air around them. Shoshanna’s mother shot her a pointed look.

“Oh, hello, Shoshanna. We were just about to start. Nice of you to join us, hmm?” She turned to Miranda. “Here, dear, I saved two seats over here.”

Shoshanna rolled her eyes good-naturedly and followed Miranda around the table. Miranda noticed with a jolt that she was directly opposite the man—her Uncle Crowley, she reminded herself. She gave him a small smile, but he didn’t notice; he was chatting with Uncle Desmond and Shosh’s brother. 

Miranda glanced down at the table in front of her, and was surprised to notice a sweet corn salad-like dish in front of her, among the appetizers. 

“Isn’t corn not kosher for passover?” She asked Shoshanna.

Shosh laughed. “Yeah, but Avuela and her mom’s side of the family is Sephardic, and Sephardi tradition says that kitniyot can be eaten. So, corn, rice, the like.”

Miranda picked up the haggadah that was resting on her plate, and flipped to the first page. Shoshanna nudged her, and she looked up. Avuela was clearing her throat. The children straightened in their seats, the adults stopped talking, and Uncle Crowley did both. 

Avuela’s voice rang out: “ Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam borei pri hagafen .”

Amen , the table chorused, and Miranda joined in.

Chapter Text

" Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh …um…” Emmie started to panic. At seven years old, she was the youngest child at the table, or at least the youngest child who could read a little Hebrew. According to tradition, it was her job to sing the four questions. She clutched a haggadah in her hands and fidgeted nervously. There was an awkward and pitying silence.

“You’re doing good, Em,” said Emmie’s mother softly, who Miranda thought might have been her new Aunt Tzipporah, but she couldn’t be sure. There were a lot of them, after all. “Just keep reading.”

The girl’s eyes were wide. Miranda averted her eyes to spare the child some dignity, and her gaze fell on Uncle Crowley’s hand. His fingers were posed in a snapping position. He was staring directly at Emmie.

A crack of thunder sounded outside (was it raining before? Miranda asked herself. Something in her head told her to let it go) and she watched Crowley’s fingers snap. And then: Emmie’s voice, clear and strong, reading the Hebrew smoothly when seconds ago she’d forgotten every letter.

Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot? Sheb’khol haleilot anu okhlin hametz umatzah; halailah hazeh, kuloh matzah.”

Miranda sank back in her chair, staring at the man who was now fiddling with his sunglasses without taking them off. She looked over at Shoshanna, as if to ask, Did you see that?

But Shoshanna was flipping ahead in the haggadah, humming along with Emmie’s high voice, and the more Miranda thought about it, the more she decided that it had been nothing. All he had done was...was...she couldn’t exactly focus on what it was that he’d done. It didn’t matter. Now all she had to do was wait for them to get to the intermission when they would get to eat, finally, the heavenly food that was mere inches away.

——

The dining room was positively packed with various sizes and shapes of antique chairs, all of which were occupied by people (also of various sizes and shapes), which made it very difficult for Miranda to squeeze her way out and into the hallway to use the bathroom. She’d never thought that there’d be so many people—Noemie had said that she had a big family, but she’d never mentioned the fact that the number of children under 10 was enough to start a football team.

She shut the bathroom door behind her on the way out, and lingered in the hall for a moment, listening to the chorus of Dayenu that she wasn’t in any hurry to join in on.  

It was nice, Miranda reflected, being here with her new family. Her mom had never had much in the way of relatives, her grandparents had both died when she was little, and Miranda never knew if her birth parents had family. And besides, wasn’t the point of being adopted that you created a new family?

Well, she had one now. A slightly-odd-around-the-edges one, for sure, but definitely a nice one. Lots of little cousins to babysit, and she had Shosh to talk with, and Michael and David were around her age too. Oh, and there was Alexandra, who seemed cool from what Shosh said, even if she was in Portugal now and probably didn’t know Miranda existed. And, of course, the mystery that was Uncle Crowley. Tall and suave, long auburn curls almost down to his shoulders, and a past that she’d be damned if she couldn’t uncover. Miranda deemed her new family a solid very cool.

Dayenu ended. That’s probably enough time to be loitering , Miranda thought, and she entered the dining room once more.

——

It was when Avuela instructed everyone to turn to page 58 that Miranda noticed. Shoshanna was oblivious, chatting quietly with her mother and David, but Miranda hadn’t talked much at all and instead was in observation mode.

The haggadah had, interspersed between the prayers and rituals, a few anecdotes, snippets and stories to supplement the Pesach experience. One of them was a poem by a Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. 

After making sure all had turned to the proper page, Zayde coughed, then began the poem. The room stilled, and Zayde’s voice rang low and solemn, sending shivers down every spine.

 

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long

night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw

transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the

desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and

turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live

as long as God Himself.

Never.”

 

The adults around the table were misty-eyed and contemplative, but it was the man’s—no, Uncle Crowley’s expression that stopped Miranda’s wandering gaze. He was stricken, his face frozen in the kind of pain that she had seen only once before, on the face of a Vietnam vet at a memorial service for his fallen comrades-in-arms. 

She stared at him, stared as he stared into the face of nowhere, and she couldn’t for the life of her think of anything she could have said or done in that moment to help. It didn’t matter, in that moment, whether he was 30 years old or 3000; his face was heartbroken, and there wasn’t anything she could do.

Zayde’s voice broke her from her thoughts. “As we remember the Exodus, so we remember the 6 million. As we were once slaves in Egypt, so tonight ALL of us are survivors of the Shoah. Ani ma’amin : It was the prayer of the camps. Ani ma’amin. Be’emuna shelem a: I believe with complete faith in the coming of justice to this world, though we face setbacks and the forces of good may tarry. I believe this too will pass. With the Torah and the prophets as my guide, I will not give up our quest. I will seek justice and righteousness. I will seek to make this world a better place, for all people, today and tomorrow. To this, in their memory, I pledge myself. Ani ma’amin. Am Yisrael chai.

She tore her eyes away from the face of a man who would never forget, condemned to live as long as God Themself. 

If he was truly immortal, if he truly had been around through those terrible times—and there was no doubt that he was and had, Miranda’s subconscious had decided—how much was he blaming himself for? A boom of thunder shook the walls of the house and Miranda suddenly felt her stomach lurch. She pressed her back hard into her chair. 

There are certain things humans aren’t meant to feel, certain burdens they aren’t meant to share, and she had come awfully close.

——

“Wow. This is—” (chew, swallow) “—delicious, Elisa.” 

“Oh my goodness, how did you make this pot roast, Jonah? You have to give me the recipe.”

“Oh yeah…” (munch, crunch) “...this is the stuff.”

“Hey. Miranda.” Shoshanna’s face was suddenly very close. “Snap out of it.”

Miranda shook her head vigorously. “Huh?”

“You okay there, bud?"

“Yeah. Uh huh. I’m fine. This food—very...very yum. I mean. Very good. Delicious.”

Shosh inspected her cousin closely. Then she shrugged. “Fine. Alright. Just tell me if you need to talk, okay?”

“Yeah. Sure thing.”

Miranda took a bite of the pot roast and broccoli, then felt a small hand tug on her sock. She bent her head under the table and saw a face beaming up at her. 

“Shosh?” She said. “Which one’s this again?”

Shosh glanced at the toddler. “That’s Levi. Desmond and Anna’s kid.”

“Hey, Levi,” Miranda said, reaching out her arms while trying not to bump her head on the table. This position was very uncomfortable.

The boy crawled into her arms, grinning up at her with his baby-teeth smile. His mother, Anna, who was sitting next to Miranda, turned and laughed. 

“Oh, there you are, you little sneak! I think he’s getting antsy, Shosh. If you and Miranda are done eating, you two could take him to the living room and read him a story?” 

“Oh, yeah, that sounds good!” Shosh practically jumped out of her seat. Miranda stood up as well. Half a dozen pairs of eyes swung to face them. Then came the begging. That small aforementioned football team’s worth of children asked their parents if they could please leave the dinner table and go with Shosh and Miranda because the girls were older and responsible and they just wanted to play

“Fine,” proclaimed Avuela, commanding the room in her gentle but steady accent, “I will make this decision here. All the children, you may leave. Shoshanna and Miranda, you will watch over them and I will not have any yelling or breaking of furniture, you understand?” 

The girls nodded, and Miranda, Shosh, and their small army of followers happily left the dining room. Levi cried out for a story from his perch in Miranda’s arms, and the children began calling out suggestions, which Shoshanna echoed to Miranda as the party marched out.

The adults continued finishing the meal, laughing and talking.

After a moment, Uncle Crowley jumped up and went after storytime-bound party, mumbling some excuse that sounded a bit like “fellow kids”.

Chapter Text

“This one!”

Levi tugged a large picture book off the shelf, and toddled over to Shoshanna. She took it from him and flopped back onto the living room couch, crossing her legs neatly and settling in to read. Miranda sat next to her; on the other couch, the various armchairs, and the floor sprawled the rest of the cousins, eager to listen. In the rolling chair by the desk in the corner was Uncle Crowley. 

A soft sigh came from around Miranda’s left foot, and she looked down to see Emmie happily curled up on the carpet, sleeping peacefully.

Noah’s Ark . A PJ Library Retelling. You like this one, Lev?”

The boy grinned and climbed into Shosh’s lap. “Alright. Everybody listening?”

A chorus of yesses. Shosh coughed. “ A long, long, time ago, before anyone was born…”

“Before anyone ? What about, for example, Noah? And his family? Saying before anyone was born seems a bit exclusive. Obviously some people were born, else there wouldn’t be a story, now would there.”

“Uncle Crowley! Shh!” Shoshanna’s eyes lit with laughter. “The story needs to actually be read before the authors start taking constructive criticism.”

“Mmh,” he shrugged. The children giggled. Shoshanna continued.

A long, long, time ago, before anyone was born, there lived a man named Noah. Noah lived in a beautiful world. People lived long lifespans and the land was fertile. Everyone had everything they ever wanted.”

She turned the page. “However, some people took advantage of the gifts they were given. They were greedy and corrupt. They fell to evil ways.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Miranda saw Uncle Crowley shift in his chair. She could have sworn he whispered a quiet “wahoo”. She chose to ignore this.

Noah learned that a great flood was coming. The flood would create a fresh start in the world. Noah, who was a good and kind man, would help  repopulate the earth with his descendants. So, Noah and his family built a huge boat called an ark. They took two of every animal onto the ark. Two elephants, two giraffes, two doves, two peacocks...each pair of animals came onto the ark with Noah.”

“That wasn’t all,” Uncle Crowley spoke up. “Did you know there were unicorns, once? Two of ‘em were getting on the boat, and then, woop, one of ‘em ran away. I mean, everyone thought it’d be alright, because the remaining unicorn would live, wouldn’t it, but nope. Turns out you need two of ‘em to ‘repopulate the earth’ or that nonsense. Don’t see why the Almighty couldn’t’ve made another one, but no. She had to leave them just with the one.”

The children stared at him. They were transfixed. 

“Uncle. Crowley.” Shosh was glaring. “Haven’t we talked about this?”

He cowered under the girl’s stare. “Right, um, yes, just trying to...um...supplement the learning experience and all that.”

“No, let him carry on, Shosh,” Miranda grinned. “What was it you were saying about the unicorn, um, sir?”

“Right,” the man mumbled. “Unicorns. Well. It was a shame. No more of them. Nice creatures, unicorns. Sparkly. We’ve still got horses, though. I don’t like horses. Really don’t like horses, nasty bastards.”

“Uncle Crowley!”

“Sorry. Nasty...nasty things.”

Emmie opened her eyes and yawned. “Uncle Crowley said a bad word, didn’t he?”

“Yes, he did, but he’s sorry now,” said Crowley. “Anyway, go on, won’t you, Shoshanna?”

Shosh gave a long-suffering sigh. She picked up the book, and the children turned back to face her. Levi sniffled happily, still curled up on her skirt.

The floods came, and it rained for forty days and forty nights. The waters churned and the winds howled, but Noah and his family were safe and dry in the great ark.”

One of the children was getting restless. Little Danny scampered over to the rolling chair and tugged at Uncle Crowley’s pant leg. 

“Hey—c’mon, you. This was custom made in somewhere expensive. Italy. Maybe. Point is, no tugging.” He scooped the child up and deposited Danny back on the carpet. Danny whimpered pitifully, and Uncle Crowley sighed. 

“Fine.” 

He grabbed the child, strode over to the door at the side of the room, opened it, and walked out onto the balcony, where he set Danny down. 

“Uncle Crowley!” Aaron was shocked. So was Shosh, but her brother articulated it. “What’re you doing?”

“Putting the kid outside. That’s what he wanted, isnit? That’s what he was whimpering for?”

“I think,” said Miranda quietly, amused by the spectacle, “he wanted you to hold him.”

“Hold him? Hold the kid? Why didn’t he just—why didn’t he say so?” Crowley muttered to himself, a bit bewildered, and took Danny up in his arms and back inside.

The crowd in the living room giggled. 

“Humans. So odd sometimes. What’m I supposed to do, hmm? You’d wonder why the hell I became a nanny, then, if it meant dealing with human parents and a child human 24/7. Beats me.”

“You’re a nanny?” Miranda couldn’t help herself.

“Did I say that? Mm, yeah, I’m a nanny. I told you—or I told someone, at least—that I look after that American boy. A right fiend, that one is, sometimes. He’s a good boy though, Warlock.”

Shoshanna was incredulous. “Warlock? Is that his name?”

The rest of the children were hanging on to every word. Uncle Crowley must have had a few of the Four Cups* by now; he normally didn’t share so freely.

“Yup.” He popped the p sound of the word. “Warlock. Son of an American ambassador. He’s going to grow up to do...well, not great things, but things, that’s for certain.” 

He let out a breath of air between pursed lips. “Six more years.” 

No one asked what he meant.

Miranda’s gaze slowly lowered from his face to Danny, who was wriggling out of Uncle Crowley’s arms, squirming to get down to the floor and carpet where his cousins lounged. With a squeal, the boy tumbled out of Crowley’s hold. 

Miranda let out a yell of horror, but—Danny wasn’t there any more. She looked up. He was floating, honest to goodness floating , four feet in the air, right in front of Uncle Crowley. Or—was he? Because, no, that couldn’t have happened, he was in Crowley’s arms again now, and being set down on the floor, and no, of course he didn’t float, that would have been impossible.

By some miracle the other children hadn’t noticed. When Crowley had stopped his muttering, they had turned back to Shoshanna. Even Shosh hadn’t seen the definitely-not-floating; she was reading again now, slow and steady. 

Noah sent a bird out to look for dry land…”

Miranda laid her head on the back of the couch and massaged her temples. She had a massive headache all of the sudden, dang it. And why was her brain all fuzzy? She had a dim memory of it going fuzzy like that before...at the seder, maybe? But why? 

She closed her eyes. Maybe she was just tired. Cocooned in the soft warmth of the lamplight and Shoshanna’s voice, surrounded by her cousins who were as sleepy as she after a delicious meal, and knowing full well she had to get up soon for, as her mum called it, “The Seder! Part Two”, Miranda fell asleep.

 

Chapter Text

Avuela rose from her chair at one end of the table, smoothed out her white robes, and smiled down at the group. “Now that our meal has finished and our children have gotten most of their... wiggles out, it is time for the next step of our seder. The afikoman.”

The party cheered. Shosh leaned in to Miranda and whispered, “In all my thirteen years of existing, I’ve never seen them do it. One minute, the afikoman’s there, the next, it’s hidden somewhere in the house, and no one ever sees it go.”

“I think that’s universal,” Miranda whispered back. “I’ve never seen the moment it goes in my house either, and there were fewer people then, just me and mum and my bubbe Lior.”

“Remember,” Avuela was saying, “the first one to find the afikoman and return it to me will get first pick from the prize bin.” 

She held up a colorful braided basket and shook it. “If no one finds it...no prizes will be given.” Avuela grinned mischievously. “No prizes...at all.”

She looked at her watch. “You have fifteen minutes. And... go.

Miranda and Shosh teamed up, going through each room one at a time and methodically searching. Some of the little kids tore frantically through the house, throwing pillows off of couches and grabbing books off the shelves. This lasted until they were chastised by a not-too-pleased Aunt Elisa.

In the study, Miranda dug her hand between the couch cushions and searched for the familiar feel of a silky cloth bag. At least, she assumed it would be a silky cloth bag.

“Shosh?” She asked. “What am I supposed to be looking for? Do you guys use a silk bag for the afikoman too?”

“Uh...yeah, yeah we do,” answered Shoshanna, who was standing on tiptoes in her stocking feet, peering up on one of the higher shelves of the bookcase. She mumbled something to herself that Miranda thought might have involved the tribulations of being five foot three.

Miranda turned back to the couch cushions, then jumped when the sound of books tumbling to the ground came from behind her. 

“Aw, shit,” came Shosh’s voice. “Oh, no, damn! My skirt—”

Miranda turned to face her. “What happened?”

Shoshanna gestured toward a three inch long rip in the black fabric. She looked miserable. “And it was new .”

“Aw,” Miranda sympathized. “You wanna go to the bathroom and wash it off? I think those books were pretty old—you’ve got dust and dirty little book clumps all over.”

Shosh looked like she wanted to swear again. She nodded. “Alright. I’ll go fast. Don’t find the afikoman without me.”

“No guarantees,” Miranda smiled, and moved on to the next item of furniture to search—the side table. 

“You know,” called a familiar voice, “your strategy is bloody awful. It would take a miracle for you to find the—the thing, at least before the timer’s up, that is.”

Crowley was leaning casually against the doorway. Bemused, Miranda gave up her search and flopped onto the couch. 

“Is that so?”

“Oh, yes, definitely. You know, I like you, Miranda woss-your-name.”

“Abrams,” she corrected. “Miranda Abrams.”

“Alright then, Miranda Abrams it is. The thing is, I like you, you’re observant, for one thing. You’ll go far in life, no matter how short it is.”

Her eyes widened. He backpedaled. “No, no, I didn’t mean it that way! Short—comparatively, you know? Short life as opposed to other...things, that have long lives.”

She grinned. “Short compared to what?”

“Um...well, turtles, for one. Turtles live a long time, don’t they?”

“I think you might be digging yourself into a hole here.”

He sighed. “I am, aren’t I?”

She looked at him expectantly. 

He stared back. She could literally see the moment where it clicked.

“Oh! Wait! I had a point! Yes! The point was: it would take some sort of a miracle for you to find the afikomen, especially since you aren’t looking in the most likely places, you’re just going room by room.” 

“...And?”

“Well, it sure would be surprising if you, say, were to find it in this room, the very room where Avuela has never hidden the afikoman in all her years of hosting the seder.”

“How was I supposed to know that? I’m new, for heaven’s sake!”

He frowned. “Doesn’t matter. It’s not here. Or, it most likely isn’t here. Do with that what you will.” 

She sighed, and when she looked back up at the doorframe, he was gone.

“Huh,” Miranda said to herself, and glanced over at the side table which she hadn’t yet gotten a chance to search.

She picked up the white silky bag lying there and smiled.

——

Miranda passed the pouch under the table to Shosh. Her cousin slipped a few of the candies into her lap, keeping a straight face all the while. 

It had been glorious times indeed when Miranda had turned in the afikoman and gotten to pick first from the prize basket. She’d gone for the obvious choice: a large pouch stuffed full of various types of chocolate. Miranda loved chocolate. 

No, seriously. It can’t be overstated. 

She loved chocolate.

And not dark chocolate, not white chocolate. Good old clean and pure milk chocolate. The kind you got in the best kind of expensive Hanukkah gelt.

The other kids at the table hadn’t gotten as delicious a prize as she had. The remaining items in the bin were a couple plastic eggs with fake-tasting (in Miranda’s opinion) fruity candy, as well as some slap bracelets and Star of David pins.

Miranda selected a sea salt caramel chocolate just as her mother, Ruth, shot her a Look. “I think you’ve had enough tonight, love,” she said, gently but meaningfully. 

Miranda groaned. “Mum. It’s Passover! And I’m hungry!”

That was her mistake. “If you’re hungry, you should have eaten the delicious meal that Avuela, Zayde, and your aunts and uncles made. No more chocolate.”

Ruth swiped the bag from her daughter and stuck it in her purse. She sighed and adjusted her tichel. “Now. Shh.”

Miranda rolled her eyes at Shoshanna, who shrugged. At the front of the table, Avuela held up the silver goblet of wine. “The third cup, my family. Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam borei pri hagafen.”

“Hey,” Miranda whispered, as the group sipped from their wine or grape juice cups, “Didn’t we skip the second cup?”

“Sephardic traditions, remember? Some rabbi said that the first blessing covers the second cup too, and the third covers the fourth.”

“But you still do the Elijah thing?”

“Uh huh. Aunt Noemie’s doing it now, I think.”

Sure enough, Miranda’s stepmother filled a slim silver cup (looks like a shot glass, Miranda’s mind told her) with wine and set it on the sideboard in the dining room. 

Shoshanna jumped up, tugging Miranda after her, and they dashed to the front door. Behind them followed Emmie, Aaron, David, and the other younger kids. 

“Miranda Eleanor Abrams, would you do the honors?” Shosh bowed dramatically and gestured at the door.

Miranda smiled and opened it, stepping aside to let the cool rush of nighttime air pass by.

“Elijah! My guy! How’re you doing? I can’t believe you’re actually here! It’s a Passover miracle, dude!”

Everyone spun around. Uncle Crowley was leaning in the doorframe into the kitchen, talking to seemingly nobody. 

They stared at him. 

“So how’s it going?...ach, really?...yeah, I know, I know, end times coming soon and all that….Yeah, we’re working on it….what do you mean, ‘not doing a good job’? I told you, we’re working on it!...yeah, that’s what the nanny thing is for….Gabriel said that? Are you serious?...That prick…”

Emmie giggled. Crowley looked up. “Oh, shoot, did not—definitely did not mean that, sorry.”

Shoshanna raised her eyebrows at him and clapped her hands over Emmie’s ears. “I’ll overlook it. Who, exactly, are you talking to?”

“Elijah. The prophet, you know? He stopped in tonight, I thought it’d never happen.”

Shosh played along warily. “Really. Elijah? And...how’s he doing?”

Crowley turned to the air beside him. “You heard the lady. What’s up?”

He waited, then: “He’s good. Busy. He’s gotta go, just wanted to pop in for a chat. Catch me up on the latest gossip, I guess.”

Shosh blinked. Miranda was frozen in a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

“Well,” Crowley said awkwardly, “nice talking to you, Elijah. Now I’ve got to go… not explain things. To the kids. See you.”

He was out of the hallway before they could blink. Another breeze came from outside, though it might have been going outside.

Miranda exhaled. “What. The everloving heck .”

“Was that real?” Aaron asked, gleefully.

“If it was… I think we’re in some deeper, um, mystery, than we thought,” Shoshanna fumbled, quite eloquently.

Miranda remembered that she was still holding the door open, and she let it slam shut. She pressed her back against the door and laughed. “I think it’s the end, and then: bam. He does something else completely weird. What is he?”

“I told you,” Shosh said, heading back to the dining room, “I still think he’s a vampire.”

“No way,” exclaimed Emmie. “He’s totally some sort of divine being. How else would he know Elijah? And Azrael? Like how he said he knew him, last year?”

“Yeah, yeah, I guess,” conceded Shosh. “Miranda and I were talking about this. I don’t remember—did we come to a conclusion?”

“I think we just settled on the fact that he’s immortal.” Miranda chewed her lip. “But I personally agree with Emmie. Maybe he’s an angel. Or a sheyd.”

“A sheyd?”

“Yeah, Noemie was telling me about ‘em. They’re demons in Jewish mythology, apparently? I’d never heard of them. But they’re supposed to be, like, kind of evil, and they’re a bit like humans and a bit like angels. And they’re descended from snakes.”

“But they aren’t...real?” This came from Emmie.

“I don’t know. I mean, religion and—whatever Uncle Crowley was, or did, magic or some sort—the lines are all fuzzy. It’s funny sometimes, trying to figure out what’s really real and what’s just, you know, kind of real.”

“Huh.” Shoshanna was lost in thought. She played with the rip in her skirt. “We better stop lingering in the hallway and sit down. I think Aunt Elisa wanted to finish with the seder so the younger kids can go to bed soon.”

“Speaking of...where’d the little ones go?” Miranda asked. 

“Back to the table, I suppose,” said Emmie, who was still around. She liked hanging out with the big girls, Miranda guessed. 

They sat back down at the table, letting the chatter wash over them. Miranda let her eyes drift a bit, glancing at the family at the table, her mum and stepmother holding hands and laughing, Uncle Crowley stealing a highly illegal sip of wine from his cup, and smiled.