Life without God’s love is like a donut, ’cause there’s a hole in the middle of your heart!

Maximilian and Emily insisted on listening to the Donut Man’s album Donut Hole 1on repeat. Their parents didn’t object: ­accustomed to submission, ­Natalia suspected. Because right now she was just the babysitter, she focused on receding into the SUV’s ­capacious leather seat as the CD looped, looped, looped for the first four hours of the drive. If she angled her head to the right, she could watch the two hands—a right hand with knuckles that would not have been noticeably hairy had the skin not been so pale and the hair so dark; a left hand manicured so that little lines of white capped each nail—that adjusted the dials controlling air currents and windshield wipers. Time, though registered on the dashboard clock, seemed not to pass. When she turned, as quietly as possible, to look back at the children, red digits lingered like fresh burns on their faces. She blinked, then thanked God it was only an illusion. Her charges for the next ten days were still young enough—­Maximilian, two, and Emily, five—to drown in two inches of water or chew poisonous berries simply because they were red. Nick and ­Sylvia liked to hire a babysitter for vacations. They could go out to dinner, just the two of them. Maybe see some music, a comedy show. And it was useful to have an extra pair of eyes at the beach. ­Sylvia had said all this to ­Natalia’s mother in the conspiratorial tone some women adopted. You know how it is.