It wouldn't have been so bad if Lesley had had any warning. Or rather, if she'd heeded the warning signs.
She had to admit, long afterward, that there had been some. She'd just ignored them. Life was so exciting and full at the time that any shadow that fell on her, any suspicion of a shadow even, she simply darted out from under and danced blithely on her way as if it weren't there. She wasn't prepared to admit that anything could go wrong, that anything could ever change.
The shadow, such as it was, was in her parents' manner.Lesley loved both her parents, though some doubts occasionally crossed her mind about her father. He was always lovely to her, and to her mother; in addition, he was handsome, successful, and generous. But Lesley could never quite forget that awful business about her brother, Noah -- she'd never understood about that.
Noah was much older than she was-eight years-but a brother was a brother. To exile him from the family, to never speak about him, because of religion . . . Well, of course they were an Orthodox family, they kept kosher and went to synagogue and so on, and she knew her parents felt very strongly Jewish. Still, it didn't fully make sense to Lesley, and it couldn't help seeming to her sometimes as if her father had behaved-not very well about it.
But that was a long time ago. Three years now ... She'd been told to forget about it, and if she hadn't, quite, it was only because nobody had really explained it all to her, so it nagged at her mind like a locked door.
Aside from that, life was good, it was almost one hundred percent perfect as a matter of fact, what with having rich parents, being nice-looking (most people said), wellup on schoolwork, good at sports, and now having the most exciting boyfriend in the entire eighth grade. She was comfortably aware that she was envied, but that didn't really affect her popularity. What more could anyone want?
So the funny atmosphere at home-the little glances, the conversations that stopped as she came into a room, the talk she could just hear through her bedroom floor long after she'd gone to bed instead of the friendly sounds of television-none of these really impinged on her happiness and her confidence that life in general was great, and would go on being great forever.
One bright, crunchy September day, the sort of prairie fall day that always made her feel her very best, Lesley came home from school a little later than usual, having stopped off at her friend Sonia's for a bacon sandwich and a good old gossip.
All the talk was about the Junior Thanksgiving dance in early October. Happily, they'd both been invited in good time. Sonia's partner was in ninth grade, a grade ahead of the girls, and this made her, for once, more envied than Lesley, but Lesley liked her enough not to mind.
Anyway, she had Lee. He was just too wonderful. Tall, handsome, a basketball star, hot stuff in the drama clubeverything. He was also Jewish, which meant no objections from her parents. He and she had swapped class rings to show they were going steady. And now all she could think about-apart from who was going with whom to the dance-was her trip to the store on Saturday with her mother, to pick out a really gorgeous dress for the occasion.
"I wonder if they've got a strapless one in midnight blue satin?" she'd said dreamily. "Lee likes me in blue, he says I've got blue lightsin my hair."
"You're so lucky!" Sonia had said (she was always saying it). "Your dad owning Shelby's! I can't imagine just being able to- walk into the junior Miss department and pick out the shooshiest gown in the place and say, 'That one!' and not even have your mom look at the price tag."
"Yeah, it's nice," said Lesley. She didn't know she sounded smug. Her father owning the best store in town was part of what made life good, but she was also used to it. It had always been the same, from the time when it was the toy department she could pick things from.
Before she'd left Sonia's, she'd gone to the bathroom and gargled with some undiluted Listerine. Disgusting taste! -- but she couldn't risk either of her parents smelling the bacon on her breath. Bacon wasn't kosher, especially not with a glass of milk! She washed the slight guilt away with the grease, said so long and see you tomorrow to Sonia, and walked home through the familiar streets with her schoolbag over her shoulder, full of dreams of a long, low-cut blue satin dress that set off her hair and her newly developed figure.
Her father was home -- his car was in the drive. She peered in through the front window with the ruched curtains into the big, elegant living room. Yes, there he was, and there was her mother, too, talking as usual.... She tapped on the window.
They both jumped and their heads snapped around. It flashed through Lesley's mind that if they'd knocked on Sonia's window while Lesley had been eating the bacon sandwich, she'd have jumped Just like that. What were they up to?
The shadow came close suddenly. But she ducked out from under it and ran up the wide front steps. She didn't know the shadow wasfollowing her and that this time she couldn't escape it.
As she let herself in through the gleaming white front door, her father appeared in the double doors of the living room. He wasn't tall like Lee's father. He...
"Were going to emigrate", The words dropped into Lesley's mind innocently...and exploded like a bomb. Emigrating meant leaving home for-ever. She couldn't beleive it. But her father had made up his mind."We're going where we can live on an edge...without challenges, We rot, mind, soul and body."Life on border Kibbutz in Isreal turns out to be one challenge after another for Lesley, who has always taken "the good life" for granted. At home she was popular, successful at school, and trendily dressed. Now it's all gone. A stranger in a strange land , she has to start from scratch, and that includes learning a new language, doing manual work and sharing sleeping quarters with three others -- one of them a boy. And just across the river Jordan she can see the enemy. Lesley doesn't think she'll ever adjust, or that she even wants to. But that's before the ultimate challenge of a full-scale war brings her to a new undestanding of her family, her people, and herself.