I

blink in surprise as the blond girl walks toward me. I am completely flabbergasted that the girl from the ice cream store is my age. I would have guessed she was 18 or 19, at least. She looks just as glamorous up close, but the absence of her designer dress tones down her air of elegance just a smidgen. Otherwise, she is the most flawless-looking individual I’ve ever encountered. She ignores my open mouth and sticks out a confident hand. I stare down at it. Am I supposed to shake it? High five? Kiss it? Out of those three options, I go for the shake. Her hand feels small and cool; I’m sure mine is clammy and hot.

“Tamara Fine. Welcome to Bais Yaakov.”

“Rachel Ahuva Brick. We actually met. At the ice cream store.”

She raises a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “We did? So sorry, I don’t remember.”

Ratzy gives a little cough. Tamara looks over at her.

“I’ll take it from here,” she says, turning her back on the office staff and motioning for me to follow. I grab my forms hastily and bid the office staff a “have a great day and thank you.”

Tamara laughs as I fall into step next to her. “Oh, you’re adorable, Rivka…?”

“Rachel Ahuva. Brick.”

“Right, right. Gosh, that’s a long name.”

“My friends call me RaRa,” I offer.

She stops and tilts her head to the side; I find myself mimicking the gesture.

“RaRa. I love it.”

I feel inexplicably happy. I shake my head and continue to follow Tamara down the hallway. Her hair really does look like it’s been waxed.

“So where are you from?”

“Brownsfeld.”

She stops so suddenly I almost slam into her.

Where?”

“Uh, Brownsfeld?” I hate that my voice sounds unsure. I’m actually extremely sure that I grew up in Brownsfeld. What was wrong with this girl?

She turns to face me, nose wrinkled. “Are there even Jews there?”

I match her tone. “Three hundred families.”

She throws her head back and laughs, a clear tinkling sound. “Love it!”

I blink. She does? And suddenly, it’s very important to me that Tamara Fine loves it.

I shift my backpack to the other shoulder and offer a hesitant grin.

Her eyes open wide. “Your dimples! They’re—”

She stops and looks me up and down, several times.

I raise an eyebrow, supremely annoyed. Who does she think she is? Who on earth does she think she—

“Love it,” she says quietly at last.

And I’m annoyed no longer.

 

We start our ascent up a wide, curved staircase and Tamara starts talking, really fast and in a clear, crisp tone.

“Ninth and twelfth first floor, tenth and eleventh upper. That’s okay, we have a better lounge. Well, we do now, my mother requested a switch.” She throws her head back again, and my neck twitches, as if itching to copy the movement.

“Over there is Pearlie Berlin, 12th grade G.O. head, so yes, basically, she runs the school. And yes, we’re good friends.”

She blows a kiss to Pearlie, a willowy brunette with wide-set green eyes. Pearlie blows one back and gives me a little wave.

I wave back, my mouth gaping only a little. Are these girls real? Is there something in the water here?

We continue with our tour. Tamara slows as we approach a hallway draped in a large banner that says, “Welcome, Class of 2020.”

I blink. “Well, that’s futuristic.”

A tinkle of bells, Tamara’s laughing again.

“RaRa, you’re too much. Yes, it’s all about ‘eye on the prize’ and ‘commitment to the future,’ here. Don’t worry, you’ll do great.”

I’m touched by her belief in me; I look around. The hallway is quiet, the marble tiles seem cold and unwelcoming.

“We’re super late, but it’s fine. Come.” She gestures grandly toward a wooden door with the words 10-B modestly scrawled across in fine gold letters.

And as I step over the threshold into my new classroom, I’m certain I’ve just altered my life forever. I just don’t know if it’s for better or worse.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 722)