The Way Back Up by Louis Rakovich
Quiet, like a knock on a distant door. Danny shifted in bed, turned to his side. Maybe someone finally came. He’d been anticipating them for the past three days—Tzachi’s parents in their somber dark frocks, perhaps Tzachi, too. He must have found his way back.
Danny thought of the way down. Oren and Mira first on the path but never forgetting him, heads turning back in reassuring nods. He was grateful. They didn’t nod at Tzachi, but Tzachi seemed grateful too, smiling his crooked-lips-and-teeth smile, red skin under glasses shining in the sun. They had never let him tag along before.
Danny sat up in the bed, listening. Quiet now.
On the way back up Mira told the same Tzachi-jokes everyone always told, how he looked like a rabbit and his parents were cousins, and other things Danny had always felt were only half true. He thought she joked because she must have started feeling guilty then.
His guilt came in waves, later. By next evening it didn’t matter that it was Mira’s idea—he had enough guilt for himself now, and he wished Tzachi’s parents would come already and tell his parents what he’d done. But their absence hung in the air, a heavy and suffocating thing.
They should have turned back before the path ended. Or Tzachi should have refused, but he seemed eager to impress the three of them, and as he smiled, his hands clasping the first rocks, he really did look like a rabbit. Danny didn’t know why, on the way back up, he felt the persistent urge to correct the imbalance of four-to-three by stepping in all of Tzachi’s footprints.
He got out of the bed and headed into the hallway. Down the stairs. Maybe it was them. He’d have to wake his parents if it was, but he was relieved, happy to get it over with.
Another knock. He opened the front door.
No one there.
Louis Rakovich is a writer of sometimes-fantastical literary fiction. His short stories have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, The Fiction Desk, Criminal Element and other publications. He grew up in Jerusalem, and now divides his time between NYC and Tel Aviv while working on multiple writing projects, including his first novel. You can find more fiction by him at www.louisrakovich.com, or follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @LouisRakovich.