| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 35

I have so many ideas percolating, so many pictures flitting around my brain. I would love to bring them to reality, to create something physical, tangible, from my scattered, selfish brain.

I open the car door hesitantly, but I don’t get out. 


I stare at my new Zara flats, a “happy boot-removal” gift from Ma, and pretend that I’m not on the verge of tears. Going to after-school lessons is second nature to me. Sling my dance bag over one shoulder, grab a water bottle from the pantry, and skip into the studio that feels like home. And now, once again, I’m heading off to after-school lessons, but the only thing I feel is terror. 

“Bella Rena. Hon. It’s going to be great. You’ll see.”

I look at her. “Okay.” I still don’t move.

“Mrs. Cooperfeld is waiting, sweetie.”

Oh. Mrs. Cooperfeld. Sounds like a doddery old grandmother. Beautiful, graceful Shayna jetés through my mind. 

“Bella. I love you, now get out of my car.”

I make a face but jump out of the van, jarring my tender foot. 

Oh, that really hurts.

I lug my sewing machine out of the middle seat.

“Bye!” Ma drives off before I have a chance to climb back into the car like a five-year-old, sobbing hysterically to take me home.

Now alone, I stand and stare at the brown brick house in front of me. I would’ve stayed there all day, but a woman in a bright red sheitel sticks her head out the front door, tells me to “hurry, hurry, hurry,” and then disappears.


Lugging my machine, I hurry hurry hurry my way up the path and am about to knock on the door when it swings open.

“Bella Rena? Judy Cooperfeld, so nice to meet you. Let’s get settled and then we’ll begin.”

I blink, because Judy Cooperfeld hasn’t taken a single breath in three sentences. I exhale loudly on her behalf.

“Are you okay?”

Am I okay? I’m not the one who doesn’t know how to breathe and talk at the same time.

“Fine,” I say.

I follow Judy Cooperfeld through a peacock-blue dining room and into a side room painted a really pretty shade of peach. 

“I love this color,” I surprise myself by saying. 

“Me too.” Mrs. Cooperfeld smiles at me and I smile happily back. Who am I? 

We settle at a white wooden table. I’m about to uncover my sewing machine when Mrs. Cooperfeld holds up a hand.

“We’ll get to that. First tell me, why do you want to learn how to sew?”

Is this a joke? I gaze into Judy Cooperfeld’s bright blue eyes; she seems dead serious.

Uh, okay then.

“Um, so I can sew?”

She raises an eyebrow. Okaaaay. “Um, and I like to design things. I think. And sewing, uh, can help me bring my designs to life?”

Huh. Only now that I’ve said it aloud do I realize how true it is. I do want to bring my designs to life.

I have so many ideas percolating, so many pictures flitting around my brain. I would love to bring them to reality, to create something physical, tangible, from my scattered, selfish brain.

Mrs. Cooperfeld is smiling. “I thought so. Moment I saw you, I knew you had an eye for design. There’s just something about you. I hear you used to dance?”

I wait for her to draw breath. When she doesn’t, I answer.

“Yes. Yes, I used to dance.” I look down at my burgundy two-piece, black tights, and black shoes. “But what do you mean, you saw I had an eye for design? I look so regular.”

Mrs. Cooperfeld smiles. “And if you could, what would you change about your outfit?”

I look down again. “A black ribbed sleeve by the wrists and collar,” I say automatically.

She winks. I wink back.

Who am I?


I wait out by the driveway for Ma to pick me up, shivering slightly in the approaching dusk.

Careful not to smile too much, I heave my machine onto the floor and settle into the front seat.

“So how was?” Ma asks the question in a super-casual voice, and I answer in the same tone.

“Nice. It was really nice.” And I can no longer hide the smile spreading across my face, like ice cream melting on a hot summer day.


It’s drizzling but I still head out for my walk. I miss moving, the sensation of flying, of weightlessness, that dancing used to bring. Now I feel weighed down, like I have irons clamped around my arms and legs. Walking helps alleviate the feeling of succumbing to gravity, and I’ve come to love my nightly jogs.

I shake back my hood upon entering the house and grab a tissue from the downstairs bathroom. I’m both sweating and freezing and it feels great.

“Bella Rena? Were you just out walking in this cold?”

I rub my hands together. “Yeah!”

Ma sits down at the kitchen table and motions for me to join her. “Bella, honey, I hope you are only walking to get exercise and not for any other reason?”


“What would this other reason be?” I ask, confused.

“This isn’t about weight? Or emotional co—”


Mommy sits back, looking worried. “Yes?”

“I have many issues, but that is not one of them. I am walking purely for the sake of moving my limbs.”

I stand up and kiss Mommy’s cheek. “Don’t worry about me, Ma. I feel… really good. Love you!”

And ignoring the look of utter shock on my mother’s face, I take the stairs up two at a time.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 811)

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