Our mother had been gone now for eleven days. Her longest recess yet. Recess is what I’d nicknamed her time away. That’s what it felt like to me: She’d be in the middle of being a mother, caring for us, and she’d stop—take a break. Much of my time was spent trying not to trigger her leaving: keeping my younger sister, Renee, quiet, laying out her clothes for school, cleaning without being told. But it wasn’t enough.