| Jr. Serial |

Home Ground: Chapter 36   

    Michal from the scenery group is dashing up the hallway. I blink. She’s… wait, she’s crying? 



don’t get to speak to Ima before production in the end.

The mornings are a rush, the days are full, and I get home late and exhausted.

After it’s over, I promise myself, I’ll finally get to call home.

The final dress rehearsal is on a Sunday; we’re performing to an audience of elementary and high school girls from other schools. We have our full costumes, but not hair or makeup; Faiga and I decide to do our hair in tight braids to try for a sisterly-ish look.

She braids my hair first, while I sit in front of a propped-up mirror in some corner backstage, and then we switch, and I try to cajole her wild red hair into neat braids.

“No fair, you had it much easier,” I grumble.

“I know.” She giggles. “That’s why I did you first. Now you’re stuck, you need to do mine, too, otherwise you’ll be the only one in kiddie braids.”

“Oh, how devious.” I scowl at the mirror. Faiga sticks out her tongue.

We get each other and it’s so much fun.

“You know, Ashira,” Faiga says, and her voice sounds pensive now. “I hope we can keep in touch after play. It’s been great hanging out with you.”

I love her, I love that she has the confidence and guts to say that, straight out.

“Of course we will!” I say. “I’ll give you my number, at my grandparents.”

“Yeah, I have it.” She gives me a strange look. “But you’re, like, super busy. I feel like you have a million things going on.”

“Me?” One million things, ha. More like one — writing in my diary. I have no friends out of play and scenery, nothing to do once play is over. “Really not. I mean, recently I’ve been doing scenery, like, every day, but after production is over I’d love to hang out. Maybe we can go power walking in the evenings.”

“Oooh, I need to exercise more.” Faiga holds up her hand, twisting it around for an awkward high-five as I twist a tiny elastic round her second braid. “I’ve been letting everything go recently. Like my sewing. I love sewing, have all these projects at home, but I haven’t touched the machine in weeks. Oh well. That’s what happens with play. It’s a blast, but it’s hectic. Back to normal life tomorrow, huh?”

“Yeah,” I say. Just then, Miss Muller appears, a frantic look in her eye.

“Girls! What on earth are you doing here? To the wings, right now! The dress rehearsal is star ting any second!”

I stare at her; what happened to the super-calm, efficient teacher in charge of the play?

“Oh, sorry, didn’t realize,” Faiga says, chilled as ever. I guess Miss Muller gets like this every year.

“Now, now, NOW!” She looks like she’s stopping just short of stamping a foot.

“We’re going, we’re going!” Faiga jumps up, and we race over to the wings.

I’m about to leave after the dress rehearsal when I hear my name being called.

“Ashira! Ashira Newman!”

I turn. Michal from the scenery group is dashing up the hallway. I blink. She’s… wait, she’s crying? Michal, polished, perfect Michal…?

“What-what happened?” I ask.

“The scenery.” She actually has tears running down her face. “The scenery — it ripped. Like a huge gash, with a hole in the middle! And the performance is tomorrow. What should we do?!”

My mouth drops open. The main scenery, ruined, after all that work? It’s the backdrop of most scenes, literally makes the whole play.

“We need to sew it up and paint over that part,” I say.

“I don’t sew,” Michal says. “Neither do the others. We’re all taking art, not sewing.”

“I don’t sew either,” I say, slowly. “But I know who does.”

I catch Faiga on her way out the door. She’s happy to help — of course she is — and Miss Muller, who looks almost as distressed as Michal, opens up the sewing room for us.

“Take your time, girls. Whatever it takes!” she keeps saying.

Faiga flits around the room, looking for a piece of canvas to use as a patch.

“Maybe this… wait, no, this one’s much better,” she says. The five of us just watch her, hardly daring to breathe, as she cuts the fabric, plugs in a sewing machine.

“Okay, I’m going to need help feeding this through….”

We move into position, holding the scenery by its ends and helping Faiga feed it into the machine and carefully, carefully, carefully sew a patch across where the gaping hole was.

Fifteen agonizingly long minutes later, she’s done.

We lay the scenery across the floor.

It’s no longer ripped or with a gaping hole in the middle, but now there’s a chunk of plain cream fabric right in the center of the scene.

“Well, I guess it’s painting time,” Sari says.

“For the very last time,” Devorah intones.

“Yeah, if any of you were worried you’d miss it too much.” Michal sounds marginally more like herself. Phew.

We sketch, mix, paint, almost by rote. We’ve done it so many times before. Faiga stays; she’s pretty good with a paintbrush, and she goes over all the places where she’s had to sew new, heavy seams.

We finish late and Miss Muller escorts us to the door, locking up and switching lights off as we go.

“Girls, this is amazing, you really saved the day,” she says, looking at Faiga and me. “Especially you, Libby, and you, Ashira.”


Faiga’s real name is… Libby?

And suddenly, a hundred pieces click together in my head. “You’re Libby? Libby Shine?” I blurt at Faiga.

The six of them — Miss Muller, scenery girls, and Faiga herself — are all staring at me like I’m crazy.

“Um, who else should I be?” Faiga-Libby asks.

“Faiga,” I say, and then I collapse into peals of laughter.

They look at me in total confusion. I have to explain.

“I didn’t… know your name,” I say, between breathless giggles. “I just called you Faiga. I think I forgot you have a real name, too. And all those messages you left me… I thought it was—” I shake my head.

Faiga’s — Libby’s — eyes widen. “Omigosh, so you never returned my calls… and you never said anything to me either. I thought it was the weirdest thing ever.”

“Well, I thought it was this random girl obsessively calling.” Laughter convulses me again. This time, the others join in.

“Shall we all introduce ourselves again, now?” Sari asks, impishly.

“Oh, I think we all know who you are,” I tell her.

At the end of the block, we split up, heading in different directions.

“See you, Faiga,” I say, winking.

“See you, Chava,” she says.

I’m still laughing quietly to myself when I get home.

We only have to come in at one on the day of the performance, but I come early to check on the scenery.

Michal and the others are there, too. So is Faiga.

“Hey, Flibby,” I say with a grin. She laughs.

I’m still amused at how bothered I was at the unknown Libby Shine, thinking she had all these dark motivations and whatever. Imagining her reading my diary and judging everything I’d written. And all along, it was just my friend Faiga, doing me a favor.

We’re there so early, we’re the first to get hair and makeup done. I’m ready in costume more than two hours before the curtains rise. The scenery is in place and looks great, I have nothing to do.

I notice Tammy. She’s ready, too.

Maybe I misjudged her, back then, too. Like I judged the anonymous Libby Shine….

I feel a pang. Tammy had been the first one to show interest in me, the only classmate who made repeated friendly overtures. She’d wanted to be my friend. I’d hurt her, and it’s never been the same, but maybe… maybe now is the time?

I walk over to her.

“Hey, Tammy,” I say. “Can we talk?”

I expect her eyes to light up, or at least that she’ll nod, but instead she narrows her eyes and mutters something about, “Oh, because the play is almost over, so you need a new project?”

I almost choke, I’m so startled. “I’m–not—”

“I’m not interested,” she says, and she wheels around and stalks away.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 979)

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