"A n art competition!” Malki shouted as she pushed past Shoshani and stormed into the seventh-grade classroom. “Fruities Yogurt is holding an art competition and they want kids to submit their ideas for a mascot.” Malki kicked her backpack under her desk. She leaned against her desk and crossed her arms across her chest. “And guess who’s gonna win?”

Every single girl in the class held their breath. Gila stopped sharpening her pencil. Ruthie stopped nibbling her cookie. Peri stopped playing Chinese jump rope with Riva. Only Shoshani carried on doodling in the back of her math notebook. And that was because she knew what was coming. And she didn’t want to hear it.

“I am!” Malki said.

No one said a word. But Tirtza laughed so hard that her red curls bounced against her shoulders.

Tirtza wasn’t afraid of Malki, Shoshani thought, slipping into her seat beside her friend. Then again, Tirtza wasn’t afraid of anyone. Not even the principal. Which was probably one of the reasons she got sent home at least once a week.

“What makes you so sure you’ll win?” Tirtza asked. “Anyone who can hold a marker will enter the competition. How do you know your mascot will be the best?”

Malki straightened up from her desk. Her black eyes flashed. “I know how to draw, okay?” she snapped. “Don’t forget… I’m probably the top student in Madame Moreau’s art club!”

“Yeah…” Tirtza began munching on a bag of chips, dropping every second piece. “Well, Shoshani…” She waved at Shoshani, who had already taken out her math book and was doodling in the margins. “Shoshani knows how to draw too, and she isn’t in any Madame whoever’s club.”

Malki took a step toward Tirtza just as Mrs. Ross walked into the classroom.

“You’re too dumb to know anything,” Malki whispered loudly enough for the girls around her to hear and softly enough for Mrs. Ross not to hear.

Shoshani reached for Tirtza’s hand, under the desk where Malki wouldn’t see, and gave it a squeeze.

Late that afternoon, Shoshani was drawing mascots in the sketch book that Dina, her older sister, had given her for her birthday. A cherry with a bib. A bubble with legs. Two sparrows holding wings. A strawberry with a pacifier. A bunch of dancing bananas. Shoshani chewed the tip of her pencil. They were all good. How was she going to choose which one to enter in the competition?

“Shoshani?”

Mommy was calling her. Maybe she could ask her for advice.

“I need you to walk over to Bubby’s house with her supper,” Mommy said.

Shoshani snapped shut her sketching pad. No, Mommy was too busy for things like art competitions. If she wasn’t looking after the two-year-old twins, she was at Bubby’s house. Bubby’s rheumatism had flared up and she could hardly move her fingers. Her aide, Annabelle, wasn’t coping with the workload.

“I’m coming, Mommy,” Shoshani said, slipping the sketching pad into a tote bag. Maybe she would ask Bubby to choose. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 660)