“O h?” Leah asks. She still won’t fully meet Rivky’s eyes.
“I was thinking about writing a piece on teachers who shouldn’t be teaching, and how the school needs to listen to students when deciding which teachers to keep.”
Leah stops walking and looks over at Rivky, full in the face. “That’s a terrible idea,” she says.
Rivky rolls her eyes. “All this because I’m friends with Aliza? Get over it!”
“All this because our newspaper isn’t a gossip rag where we write about teachers, and it definitely isn’t meant to spread negativity.”
“So, what, bad teachers should just keep teaching?”
“Well, they shouldn’t be attacked in the paper. If you have a problem with a teacher, talk to her, or to the principal. But why spread it? Isn’t she still a person?”
Leah walks off, and Rivky slowly makes her way to the tenth-grade hallway. Ella joins her in the back row for math class.
“It’s pretty crazy what’s happening to Schwartz, isn’t it?” Ella says.
“I know,” Rivky says, and for a moment she hopes she can finally take off the mask, finally confess to someone how awful she’s been feeling. “I mean, how are we all doing this and not worrying about getting into trouble?”
It’s not the only thing she’s worried about, of course, but for now it’s all she feels she can say.
Ella looks at her strangely. “Get into trouble? Are you for real?”
“What do you mean?”
“Rivky, do you really think Aliza would be doing this if you weren’t doing it with her? You’re exactly why she won’t get into trouble.”
Mrs. Fein walked in, and Ella turned back to her notebook, gaze untroubled. Rivky sat and stared at her hands, unable to lift her pencil and write down the example from the board. Within minutes, as has been the case every day for the last week, a note lands on Rivky’s desk. “Tomorrow is going to be unreal,” it reads. “Absolute mayhem for S.”
Rivky looks at the space at the bottom of the note, blank and empty and waiting to be filled. There’s so much she wants to say, so much she cannot get herself to write. She will not look in Aliza’s direction, and instead leaves the note, unanswered, on her desk.
The next day Rivky manages to avoid Aliza, coming a few minutes late to davening (a glance from Mrs. Klein, a frown when she saw it was Mrs. Markowitz’s daughter), and keeping her head down in class. As the minutes tick closer to Parshah class, everyone looks toward Aliza to see what is planned for today.
“Today,” Aliza says, moments before Mrs. Schwartz (who has lately been late to class) is due to walk in, “today we make her cry.”
The girls gather around, eager for details. Rivky remains in her seat, her stomach tight and uncomfortable. Aliza begins to lay out the plan. Rivky listens in horror; without question, this will be what puts Mrs. Schwartz over the edge. She thinks about Leah’s comment, that Mrs. Schwartz is human, and she thinks about Aliza’s banking on Rivky’s last name to save her from any harm. The ball is in Rivky’s court.