We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests.
"I'm doing it."
"You haven't yet and you won't, Toby."
Toby swallowed the compulsion to confess that he'd made the decision-the proposition-partially because he'd imagined the expression on Andy's face, the ash and fire in her voice, before he'd ever allowed one word to roll off his lips. That knowledge, the confirmation that he could still tread a step ahead of her every now and then, that he could reach into his store of memories and anticipate her, set a warm glow in his heart too comforting to tarnish with an I told you so.
He only allowed the corner of his mouth to twitch. Just barely. Hardly noticeable. Hardly noticeable to anyone but her.
Andy narrowed her eyes. "Don't."
"What?" Toby levered himself out of the arm chair, peering over his shoulder at Andy as he walked toward Molly, who was too devoted to her ABC block pyramid to take notice of the conversation.
"Hey, honey. Molly," Toby said, almost a whisper, and crouched, avoiding Molly's pyramid. He watched her shift a block into place, saw her eyes squinting with dissatisfaction until she aligned the new block edge-to-edge with the old. Toby waited until Molly dropped her hand away from the blocks and lifted her head, finding his eyes. "Do you want to take a break for a minute? Your mom and I"-Toby chanced a glance at Andy in time to see her cross her arms-"need your help with something."
Molly nodded, grinning, and pushed herself to her feet before Toby straightened his legs enough to stand straight. "How about you go and grab your brother for me?"
Another nod and a wider grin, and Molly turned for the hallway, heading towards the twins' shared bedroom; Huck had escaped there after dinner and, by now, had probably encircled himself with half of his baseball card collection (still meager, with too many Orioles, but Huck was young).
Toby watched Molly disappear out of sight, twisting to face forward again at the sound of Andy's voice.
"Is this some kind of lesson?"
Toby slid his hands into his pants pockets and tilted his head. "Do you mean for you or for them?"
Toby rubbed the ball of his foot across the carpet. "Yes."
Andy pressed her lips together, her expression falling as if she were disappointed, but Toby had a hunch that she was trying to cover a maternal concern. Irrational worry. "Don't do it this way. Not on purpose like this. Let them accidentally burn themselves on a boiling pot of water like every other parent. Let them-"
"It's how I learned it." Toby dropped his gaze to the floor and shuffled past Andy, towards the window. He refused to dole out hints. No hints. No give-aways. No vague indications. Andy continually sought convoluted explanations, twisted rationales and motivations for every action he committed, as if he was incapable of something simple, unadulterated.
Andy sighed. "I'm not-I can't be a part of this."
Toby could hear a door open, footsteps in the hall. "You should. You'll regret it."
He met Andy's gaze and held it for a moment, breaking the lock when Molly squeezed his hand with both of hers.
"We get to help this year?" Molly asked, looking to Huck, who had rounded the sofa and stopped beside the table near the window.
Toby squeezed Molly's fingers. "Yeah."
Molly and Huck bounced closer to the table, Molly dragging Toby along with her before she released his hand to boost herself onto the step-stool in front of the table. Huck squeezed himself onto the stool, gripping the edges of the table to steady himself. "Is Mom helping, too?"
Toby opened the drawer of the table, reaching inside. "Maybe if you ask politely."
He avoided Andy's gaze, gripping the matchbook and making final adjustments before he closed his eyes. His voice was low and quiet under the exuberance of his children's appeals to their mother. He bowed his head, his chin nearly touching his collarbone, as words flowed off his tongue, smooth and practiced (though not enough). When he opened his eyes, he found Andy standing on the opposite side of the table, hesitation drawing her eyebrows closer together.
"Now," he said, striking a match to light the Shamash. "One hand each, okay? There aren't enough candles for both of you, so it'll be a joint effort tonight."
"But we get our own tomorrow," Huck said.
"Because it's the second night," Molly added, leaning forward, elbows on the table.
"There are two candles, but whether or not either of you will light them remains to be seen," Toby said, extending the Shamash towards them. "Tonight's your test run. Make the most of it."
Toby caught Andy's quirked eyebrow and the grin teasing her mouth, undoubtedly against her will. He kept hold of the candle until the twins wrapped their hands around it, their fingers tight and secure. "Okay. Go ahead," he said, nodding toward the single candle at the end of the Menorah.
As the twins reached forward, ancient echoes floated in his head.
Al hanissim ve'al haniflaot
Al hatshu-ot ve'al hamilchamot...
Toby watched as the wick caught flame, letting Molly and Huck settle back on their heels before taking the Shamash, extinguishing it, and laying it on the table. The twins were silent, hands to themselves, their mouths open as they stared at the flame. Toby shifted his gaze, raising his eyes to Andy, searching her face. The light danced across her hair, kissed her cheekbones. Her eyes, warm with the firelight and an old love, flickered with belief. Belief in him.
Her mouth stretched into a smile. "There's a story that goes along with this, isn't there?"
Toby blinked and drew a long breath. He returned the matches to the drawer, closing it fully and carefully before raising his head. Toby pushed his lips together and offered a split-second sideways smile. His tongue clicked against the roof of his mouth before a word eased out of him with a whisper: "Yeah."