“Why am I insensitive? This kid has everything. Big deal if her housekeeper cooks instead of her mother"
Devory coughed into her elbow.
“Are you sure you’re feeling well enough to go to school?” Mrs. Weiss asked.
“Yes. I’m feeling much better.”
“I think you should give it one more day. You don’t want to relapse.”
“But,” Devory coughed again, “it’s going to be so hard to make up all the work.”
“It’s only one day, Devory. How much work can there be?”
“I’m really feeling okay.”
Mrs. Weiss touched her forehead. “You’re warm. It’s not really fair to go to school. You don’t want anyone to catch this from you.”
Devory panicked. If she didn’t go to school today to take back her accusation, Miri would be in for an awful surprise.
Her father entered the kitchen, holding his tefillin bag. “Good morning, Leah.”
“I met my lawyer in shul. He has an idea to reopen my children’s facility.”
“Yes, it is. I closed Happy Vistas due to the money I lost, but it seems I can get funding to reopen if it’s in a new, closer location.”
“I’m so happy for all the children who need it.”
“Me too.” Mr. Weiss noticed Devory. “Hi, kiddo. Uh-oh, you look feverish. Why are you in your uniform? I hope you don’t think you’re going to school today.”
“I guess I’m not.” Devory dragged herself up to her room and closed the door. The clock on the nightstand said 7:50. It was still early. Hopeful, she picked up the phone and dialed Yael’s house. She’d tell her that she had made a mistake, and Miri hadn’t taken anything. She’d ask Yael to make sure to spread the word.
The phone rang three times before someone picked up.
“Hi, can I speak to Yael?”
“Sorry, Yael left for school already. I can give her a message when she gets home.”
“N-no, thanks, that’s okay.” By then, it would be too late!
“Come over after school, Shoshie,” Miri said, “so I can give the balloon to you.”
“Thanks, Miri! I love presents.”
“You’re going to love it. It’s the cutest.”
“By the way, we got Share and Care letters on Friday, when you were absent.”
“Great. I’ll stop at the office for mine. How’s your partner doing?”
“So, like, she seems cute and everything, but I just don’t get her. I mean, I get that she doesn’t like that her parents are working all the time, but come on, who cares? She has everything she needs and wants.”
“Shoshie, I can’t believe it. You’re being so… so… I can’t think of the word.”
“No, not that. You know, like when someone is totally missing the deeper meaning.”
“Clueless? Out to lunch?”
“Insensitive! Yes! That’s the word.”
“Why am I insensitive? This kid has everything. Big deal if her housekeeper cooks instead of her mother. She even goes on amazing vacations. And on top of everything, she complains that she has to do everything. What does that even mean?”
“Okay, so I don’t know what that means. Why don’t you ask your partner what she means when she says she does everything? I mean, that totally doesn’t make sense.”
“I did. I’m going to drop my letter in the office now when we go.”
“But I totally get why she doesn’t like that her housekeeper does everything,” Miri said.
“Well, please explain it to me. Because basically, I’m jealous of her!”
Miri laughed. “You know how you like that there’s always cut-up fruit in my fridge? Well, if the housekeeper cut it up, it would still taste the same, but the whole feeling about it would be different.”
“Miri, that’s the weirdest thing I ever heard. Cut-up fruit is good no matter who cuts it up.”
“I know, but it’s not the same warm feeling. This kid wants her mother, not her housekeeper. I would feel the same way if my mother were too busy for me. You know, a mother is a mother.”
Shoshie didn’t know, not really. All she knew was what she dreamed and imagined and hoped. “I know what you mean about her wanting her mother, but I can’t believe she feels the same way I do, Miri. How is that even possible? She has everything she needs.”
“Except for her mother.”
Shoshie didn’t buy it. “Maybe.”
The girls walked up the steps to the school building.
“You know,” Shoshie said, reaching for the door handle. “Yesterday, I went for ice cream with Yocheved and my mother.”
“OMG! How was it? Great?”
“It was.” Shoshie opened the door. Although the hall was filled with girls, it was eerily quiet.
Shoshie lifted her face as if sniffing the air. “What’s with?”
Miri’s eyes narrowed. “Why is everyone staring at us?”
“I don’t know. It’s weird. Let’s go to the office.”
Shoshie dropped her letter in the Share and Care box.
“Good morning,” Miri said to the secretary. “I wasn’t here on Friday. Do you know if I got a letter?”
The secretary gave her an odd look, then reached into her drawer and sifted through some envelopes. She pulled one out and handed it to Miri without saying a word.
“What was that about?” Shoshie asked Miri when they left the office.
“I don’t know.”
The walk to their lockers was met with whispers and stares. “Okay,” Miri said. “Something is majorly going on.”
“Hello! What do you think it is?”
“I have no idea.”
“Miri.” Mrs. Klein materialized before her. “Can I have a word with you?”
Miri’s eyes caught Shoshie’s for a split second, then shifted back to Mrs. Klein. “O-okay.” She followed the principal down the hall, sat down, and heard the door click shut behind her.
Rikki walked side by side with Ruchie to school.
“Miri’s a cute kid.”
“Yeah. So is her little brother.”
“I wonder if she’ll say hi to Devory for me.”
“I’m sure she will.”
The girls walked up the steps.
“You know,” Rikki said, reaching for the door handle, “yesterday really opened my eyes. I realized so many things that I never realized before. It made me change my whole outlook about Chaya.”
“I knew it would.”
Rikki opened the door. “Like, Chaya had a blast. Especially when she went on the horse, she wasn’t scared or anything.”
“I know. She loved it. I would have totally freaked.”
“Me too.” Rikki laughed. “It’s funny — when my mother told me that Chaya has a great personality, I thought, like, yeah, right. But it’s true. She has a great sense of humor and loves to have fun.”
“I told you she was the cutest.” Ruchie stopped in front of the office. “Let’s give in our Share and Care letters.”
“You can give in yours, but I want to rewrite mine. After yesterday’s carnival, I think I know how I can help my partner.”
“That’s amazing. I can’t really help mine, but it’s fun just to write to each other. Ruchie dropped her letter into the slot at the top of the box.
“Good morning, girls,” the secretary said.
“Hi, Mrs. Pearl.”
“Rikki, I was just coming to look for you. Your mother called. She said to tell you that everything is okay, but she needs you to come home. I already okayed it with Mrs. Horowitz.”
Rikki’s eyes caught Ruchie’s for a split second, then shifted back to Mrs. Pearl. “O-okay.”
Rikki was down the hall and out the door in seconds.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 826)
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