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| In the Nick of Time: Jr. Pesach Supplement 5782 |

Midnight Party

Without my friends to distract me, I realized the pit in my stomach wasn’t only from overeating, it was also from unease

“Oh my goodness, my stomach kills,” I moaned to Ruchie and Laya as we walked home from the eighth grade Melaveh Malkah.

“No one asked you to eat so many muffins,” said Laya, not sounding particularly sympathetic.

“Or to dance like crazy right after eating so much,” chimed in Ruchie.

“Okay, okay, I got it… you guys are just jealous that I can get away with eating so many muffins. But I’ll have you know my stomach really, really hurts,” I said.

We all giggled.

We reached Laya’s house and said goodnight, and Ruchie and I walked another block quietly, till I said goodbye to her, and walked the last stretch myself. It had been a really fun event. There had been a hilarious comedy skit, and the school brought someone in to lead the dancing. Oh, and did I mention really good food? That brought my mind back to my stomachache, and I walked even slower.

Without my friends to distract me, I realized the pit in my stomach wasn’t only from overeating, it was also from unease. Melaveh Malkah had been epic, but something had been off.

It had been the incident with Shira and Faygie. It had bothered me then, but with the blaring music and the crowded party, I hadn’t had time to focus on it. We had been sitting down waiting for the comedy to start, Ruchie, Laya, Shira, me, and a few others, when Faygie came over, looking a bit lost.

Faygie was on the quiet side, never had many close friends, but she’d always found her place somewhere or other. But this was eighth grade, the Year of the Cliques (yeah, our class was a year behind), and she was having a hard time. She came over to us, her awkward pose screaming that she hoped one of us would move over. I looked past Shira… the chair next to her was empty. If she moved down one we could all follow, and there’d be plenty of room. But Shira didn’t seem to get the hint.

I tried to catch her attention and she looked right at me, a glint in her eye, and I knew suddenly that she totally realized that Faygie was waiting for her to move, and she had no plans of doing so.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I was sandwiched between Ruchie and Laya, and by the time I looked up, Faygie had moved on, though I’m not sure where she sat in the end.

Shira had always been a class leader. Okay, let’s call a spade a spade — Shira was the class queen. Some of us liked it, some of us didn’t, but those were the facts, and we’d pretty much all gotten used to it. She decided which knapsack was cool and the rest of the class followed, and if she turned up her nose at machanayim, no one played. But what had happened today was more than that, and I didn’t like it.

I got home, rubbed my aching stomach one more time (those cinnamon-lotus muffins had been too good to pass up!) and got ready for bed, putting Shira and Faygie out of my mind.

But I couldn’t forget for too long.

It soon became clear that Shira had a vendetta against Faygie. There were the little things, the snickers when she gave the wrong answer in class, the wrinkled nose when she passed around cookies, and the bigger things, like when the teacher appointed Faygie choir head for the Tu B’Shevat festival, and Shira, and by extension, most of the class, boycotted choir. Mrs. Gold got wind of that and put a stop to it pretty quickly, but Faygie was really hurt.

I always felt uncomfortable, but never really knew what I could do about it. I wasn’t a nerd or anything, but my position in the class wasn’t strong enough that I could risk an outright confrontation with Shira.

Before Purim, we had a mishloach manos exchange. We each drew another girl’s name by lottery and had to bring in something that had to do with her personality.

Don’t ask me how, but Shira got Faygie.

And she brought in raw eggs.

She gave a whole speech about potential, and how we can learn so much from Faygie about using our raw tools to become something, but no one was fooled, and later I heard Faygie sobbing in the bathroom.

After Pesach, Faygie didn’t come back. Mrs. Gutman, our homeroom teacher, told us she had switched schools to BBY. A few of us squirmed uncomfortably. BBY was… let’s just say it was way more modern than our school. I glanced at Shira, but if she felt guilty, she sure didn’t show it.

I felt bad for Faygie of course, but I also kind of felt relieved. Maybe this whole saga would be over, now that Shira had no victim.

And it did seem that way for a while. Until graduation trip.

Our school’s eighth-grade graduation trip is always to Washington, and it’s the highlight of the year. The actual trip is kind of boring, all those presidential memorials, and the main activity is lots of photo snapping, but everyone knows the trip really starts at night. That’s when the whole class (we’re a small class, there are only 20 of us) piles into one of the rooms and parties the night away. Our teachers know about it of course, but they pretend they don’t. (I think they secretly also agree that the trip would be a real bore otherwise.)

Room assignments are always a huge deal; we give in requests, but the teachers have the final say. I wasn’t too worried, I was sure Ruchie and Laya would ask for me, though I vaguely wondered who would be the fourth one in the room.

The lists went up, and I saw that Ruchie, Laya, and I were in one room, with Yocheved. I breathed a sigh of relief. Yocheved wasn’t a close friend of ours, but she was well liked and fun, and I was sure things would work out.

On the bus, I was surprised when Shira plunked down next to me. We were friendly, but not that close. Still, I can’t deny I was kind of flattered, and we had a good time schmoozing. We were together most of the day, and I saw why people liked her; she had this charisma. We were walking from the Lincoln Memorial to the picnic tables where we were going to eat lunch, when Shira leaned over to me and said, “Miri, I have grand plans for tonight.”

I stopped and listened.

“I’m going to tell everyone we’re going to sleep tonight, that it’s not worth it to stay up, and when Yocheved goes to sleep, we’ll all start the party.”

I looked at her, kind of shocked. “Why?” I asked.

“Why?” she repeated mockingly back to me, making me feel dumb. Then a teacher called us to sit down, and the conversation was over.

By suppertime, it seemed the whole class had heard about Shira’s plans, and there was a buzz of electricity. “So we’re gonna just go to sleep early tonight,” Laya said to me with a grin, and I could see she knew the real plan.

We had the evening program, the grammen and the skit, and everyone seemed extra hyper, but I was distracted. Were we really going to do this to Yocheved? It looked like my classmates thought so.

The program finally ended, Mrs. Gold wished us goodnight, and reminded us that we needed to stay in our rooms.

“G’nite, everyone,” Shira announced loudly. “I’m heading off to shower and bed.”

“Yeah, me too,” chimed in Rivky, then Dini and Raizy after her.

“Sleep well,” said Mindy, in a saccharine-sounding voice. I cringed. Ugh, why couldn’t we have the normal class party all my sisters had on their graduation trips?

Shira caught up to me as I walked slowly back to our room. “So we’re all counting on you, Miri,” she whispered excitedly. “I told Laya and Ruchie to stay out of the room; four will make it a party. You go and get ready for bed and pretend you’re going to sleep. Then when Yocheved’s sleeping, join us in my room!”

I felt nauseous. My stomach hurt more that it had after the Melaveh Malkah.

What was Shira’s issue? A party was only fun if we tricked one of our friends into missing it? I opened my mouth to tell Shira what I thought, but then closed it. I couldn’t. I couldn’t stand up to her, couldn’t risk losing my social standing, couldn’t risk becoming the target of her next prank. So I mumbled something and headed to my room.

Yocheved was there already on the edge of her bed when I came. “What do you think of Shira stopping the party tradition?” she asked. “Weird, no?”

Worse than you think, I thought miserably.

“Well, I can’t say I’m glad we canceled the party, but truth is I’m zonked.” Yocheved yawned. “I’m gonna shower now.”

I looked at her gathering her stuff, and felt the words trying to escape my mouth. It’s a nasty trick, that’s all! Just come with me and the whole thing will fall apart!

Again, I felt that rising nausea. But I also knew I was too scared to stand up to Shira.

Yocheved came out of the shower, and I prepared to make a show of going in. I sloooowly took my terry robe out, and rummaged through my bag for my fuzzy socks.

The feeling of nausea grew stronger. It reminded me of the muffins at the Melaveh Malkah. It reminded me of the raw eggs Shira had brought in. It reminded me of what happened to Faygie.

I realized it was now or never.

“Yocheved.” I turned to her. “I’m sure someone will be up. Let’s go look around. We can’t sleep away the graduation trip.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” she answered. “Give me two minutes to get dressed.”

I felt dizzy. I had no idea what Shira would say. But I was relieved.

We headed out of our room, and I stopped, not sure where we should go. There was lots of giggling coming out of Shira’s room, but I couldn’t imagine going in with Yocheved. I steered her toward the lobby, and we sat down on two chairs. I felt awkward; this felt more like a business meeting than a party of hyper, overtired eighth graders.

Soon enough I saw Laya coming into the lobby. My stomach churned.

“Miri,” she said, “We’re all waiting for—” Then she stopped, gave me a weird look, and walked out. I hoped Yocheved didn’t notice how pale I was. We schmoozed a little longer before I gave up; I couldn’t keep a conversation going.

When we got back to our floor, I saw girls in the hallway, and heard muted conversations through different doors. Apparently Laya had told everyone that we were in the lobby, and the party in Shira’s room had disbanded. With a sigh of relief, I headed back to our room, where Ruchie and Laya were lounging on the beds.

I was too nervous to say anything, but Yocheved began to chatter, oblivious to the drama she’d played center stage in. Soon we all warmed up, and were cracking corny jokes and playing silly word games till 2 a.m., when I announced that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I went to sleep with mixed feelings. I was still nervous about seeing Shira the next morning. But I was also deeply satisfied.

I’d done the right thing. And the taste of success was sweeter than any cinnamon-lotus muffin.

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 907)

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