Tzivi wasn’t the writer, I thought. I glanced around the classroom. That left twenty-two other girls. Well, twenty-one because it wasn’t Penina
The note was tiny, tucked between my loose-leaf and desk. If it hadn’t been pink, I probably would never have even noticed it.
I pulled the folded paper out and opened it.
Are you and Penina twins? You’d think you were based on how much time you spend together. Seriously, there are other girls in this class. Why don’t you try talking to one of them?
Someone who cares
Humph. Humph, humph. I pressed my fingers into the pink paper and squished it into a tiny ball. What? Who? Why? Was this note for real?
I opened it again.
The same words — black ink on pink paper stared up at me.
Someone who cares…
Sure didn’t sound like that.
“Hey!” a voice came from the front of the classroom.
I folded my fingers over the note and turned around. Tzivi Mandel stood at the front of the classroom, her knapsack slung over her back.
“What are you doing upstairs during lunch?” she asked.
“I… uh… I just came to get my water bottle,” I said.
She tossed her pony. “Oh, okay,” she said. “I just got to school.” I watched her walk to her desk and dump her knapsack on the floor. The pink note felt like fire in my hand. So at least I know Tzivi wasn’t the writer, I thought. I glanced around the classroom. That left twenty-two other girls. Well, twenty-one because it wasn’t Penina.
I pressed my lips together and headed out of the classroom.
I was going to the lunchroom and I was going to find out who wrote that note. If someone in my class was jealous of my friendship with Penina — because that’s what this note was all about, jealousy — then they should come straight out and tell me. Leaving notes is babyish and pathetic.
“Totally pathetic,” I said out loud when I sat down at the lunch table.
Penina turned to look at me.
“Whew, what happened to you up there?” she asked. “You look upset.”
I pressed the note onto the table.
“Look,” I said. “Just look at that.”
Penina reached for the note and she did look. The three girls sitting around her looked too.
“What? Who? Why?” they asked.
I shrugged. “Someone who’s jealous of us, obviously,” I said.
“Crazy jealous,” the girls said.
“Yeah, from ‘someone who cares,’” someone else said. “More like someone who needs major help.”
From across the table, Dina Brenner leaned in. “Come on,” she said. “Who wrote it?”
I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know,” I said. “But I’m gonna find out. ’Cuz leaving notes like that is pathetic and babyish.”
“Totally,” Dina said.
“Totally,” the girls sitting around her agreed.
Dina took a long drink from her soda can. “How you gonna find out?” she asked.
I thought for a second. “I’ll talk about it,” I said. “I’ll ask people. I’ll investigate.”
“Ooh,” Dina said. “Sounds cool. Can I help?”
I grinned. “As soon as I know for a fact that it wasn’t you,” I said.
Dina snorted. “Please,” she said. She pointed to the note. “I have awful handwriting, there’s no way I could have written something as neat as that.”
I looked at the note again. “Yeah, you’re right,” I said. “Okay, you’re in.”
Dina clapped. “Goodie,” she said. She poked Penina. “How about you? You joining our detective team?”
Penina looked down at the orange she was peeling. She slowly removed section by section. “I guess,” she finally said. Her voice sounded a bit funny, but I ignored it, because I had to find out who wrote that note. HAD TO.
“First things first,” I said. “Let’s make a list of potential suspects.”
Dina pulled a paper from her notebook. “Anyone have a pen?” she called down the table.
“I do,” someone said.
“Give me a sec,” Dina said. She stood up and walked across the lunchroom.
My mind whirred with names. There was Yehudis G., who I had been friends with years ago, And Simi who thought Penina should love her since their older sisters are BFFs. And, of course there was Tilly, the quietest girl in the class, who was probably wishing for a friend like Penina.
I looked down the table to where Tilly sat all alone.
For half a second she lifted her head from her sandwich and our eyes met before hers darted away like a frightened kitten.
“No way,” I said to Penina. “I think it’s Tilly.”
“Tilly?” Dina asked as she came back holding a purple pen. She wrote Tilly’s name on top of the paper.
“Totally,” I said. “Who’d have thought she’d have the guts to write a note like that?”
Dina’s eyes bulged. “You just never know,” she said.
She pressed the pen into the paper. “Okay,” she said. “Keep talking. Who else do you think is responsible for this?”
I looked across the table.
“I think we should keep talking about it,” I said. “Let’s see who looks guilty.”
Dina nodded. “Perfect,” she said.
I turned to Penina. “Here,” I said as I handed her the pink note. “Show this to some girls and see what they say.”
Penina rubbed her fingers together. “I have to wash my hands,” she said. Her strange voice was back. She stood up.
“Okay, whatever,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
I slid into her seat.
“Hey,” I said to Chani Brown. “Look what I found on my desk today.”
I opened the note. “Check this out,” I said, but as I passed the note, the bell rang.
“I gotta run,” Chani said. “I don’t want to be late. I’ll read it soon,” she called over her shoulder.
“It’s fine,” Dina said as we left the lunchroom. “We still have plenty of time to get to the bottom of this.”
I stuffed the note into my pocket and ran upstairs. The last thing I needed was to be late to math class.
I grabbed my math book and my notes from my locker and dashed into the classroom, hitting my seat three seconds before my teacher stepped into the door.
“I made it,” I whispered to Penina.
She kept her head straight ahead.
I plopped down and that’s when I saw it. Tucked between my tissue box and my desk. There was another note. A small green one this time.
“No way,” I whispered.
I pressed my hand forward and swept the note toward me.
“Penina,” I whispered again, but she stared at the blackboard like long division was the most interesting thing she ever saw.
I unfolded the paper.
Dear Adina, it read.
I sucked in my breath.
Look, who really cares about that note? Let’s not figure out who it was — she’s probably so embarrassed. I say we just enjoy being friends. And chocolate. My mother bought a huge bag and it’s waiting for you at my house.
I didn’t have to check who signed the note.
It was Penina, of course.
(Originally Featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 741)
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