"Mother's never going to let you," Esther tells him pointedly, one night when he has suddenly forsaken his senses and confided in her. And despite her previous assertion, she seems highly amused by the idea and arches an eyebrow, smiling. "What do you think your going to do, anyway? You're good with numbers... You wanna to be a miniature-sized bookie?"
Mordecai frowns at the term and doesn't answer.
After a few moments, Esther sighs and mimics the sour expression, crossing her arms and shifting at the foot of the worn-out mattress. There is a small kerosene lamp lit dimly in the floor beside them, and that is the only light on in the entire tenement. Rose coughs and mumbles in her sleep, and pulls at her ear, pressing herself more firmly against Mordecai's hip. He doesn't bother pushing her aside this time.
"Well," Esther continues, "Anyway, you can't quit school."
This is the most ridiculous thing she's said all night.
"I wasn't going to quit."
Now she really looks like she doesn't believe him. Esther rolls her eyes, raising her hands in a brief gesture, "Oy," then leans across the short bed and smacks him in the forehead.
"You can't do both!" she says, exasperated, as Mordecai recoils, more irritated by the glancing blow than he is hurt, "Not school and work. I know school's just six hours, but work shifts are long. Sometimes Mom works twelve hours, and she still -"
"I was going to get a night job," Mordecai clarifies, green eyes narrowed, "I'll have plenty of time to rest and study in the afternoons. We need the extra income, and I don't know why you're trying to dissuade me from it in the first place, I've already made my decision. I wasn't asking for your opinion on the matter, I was simply informing you of it."
"...Rose is never going to go to sleep with you not home," Esther protests childishly, unable to think of a proper argument in the face of his steadfast resolve and indicating their sister, who is still wedged firmly against Mordecai's side, as if that will persuade him to reconsider.
She doesn't seem to realize - not immediately, at least - that Rose is one of the very reasons that he begins looking for a job. Because they can't keep not affording a doctor, not with the cold returning once again and Rose already sniffling. And they have already learned the hard way that funerals are more expensive... Finding work is the only logical remedy, and Mordecai wonders why he hasn't thought of it before. Several other boys in his class have jobs; most of them have also dropped out in order to maintain them. A night job, then, is the only solution, and since he's sure Esther can be trusted to look after Rose at night when their mother is likewise working, this is what he decides to do.
When he mentions this to his mother - the next evening, in that brief hour between the time they get home from school and the time she goes back to the linen factory - she almost cries again.
She's been crying a lot lately, though Mordecai cannot fathom what good it does.
"Saykhel, Mordecai," she pushes a hand back over the top of his head as she says it, and smiles a little because saying this to him is like telling a fish that it needs water, "School is more important."
She strokes the top of his head again, preoccupied, and even though Mordecai thinks he's too old for this gesture, now, he doesn't stop her from doing it. After a few moments, Tzipporah drops her hand and pats his chest, and tells him to just look after his sisters.
That's his job, for now.
But helping to put food in their mouths and clothes on their backs seems a much more beneficial approach than simply sitting at home with them.
(A/n) lol A miniature-sized bookie. Also, thank you guys for the wonderful reviews! C: I'm glad someone is enjoying these~