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.”
“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.”
“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.