“Ma’s busy. She has work soon, she can’t come running just because you have a headache.
Take a Tylenol and deal with it. Grow up"
My little brother wanders past, pajamas trailing from his hands.
“Ari, tell Ma to come,” I croak.
My mouth is dry. My head is spinning. Am I going to faint? No, I got dizzy a few times recently, and nothing happened, except yesterday was worse than usual and today is even worse—
Henny barges into my room a minute later.
“What’s the big deal?” she demands. Hands on hips, dark hair tumbling over her shoulders. Big sisters, ugh.
“I’m— seriously, I need Ma.” I clutch my stomach — of course, it’s acting up as well — and roll over.
“Ma’s busy. She has work soon, she can’t come running just because you have a headache. Take a Tylenol and deal with it. Grow up. Go to school. You missed two days already.”
My head is throbbing, beating a painful rhythm in my skull. “For your information, I missed yesterday because I was sick, and I still am, and can you just call Ma? Aaahh!”
I groan out loud, as something inside my stomach twists painfully. That scares her. She flings her hair into a ponytail and tramps down the stairs.
“Ma, Libby wants you.”
Sure enough, Ma calls from another room, “Who needs what? I’m in the laundry room.”
I hear Henny slam the front door. I wonder what Shana will think when I don’t meet her at the corner, again. I drag myself out of bed and sit on the top step, looking down the staircase for Ma. I don’t have the energy to get all the way down.
Something is so wrong. Maybe I have mono again?
Ma seems to think so, when I finally make it downstairs.
“You look exhausted, Libby. Did you sleep last night?”
She’s sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of tea sending steamy spirals into the air. Ta’s home too. He pushes away his bowl of cereal and frowns.
“I slept all day, Ma. I don’t know why I’m so tired.”
“She’s tired because we’ve had a busy few days, Chaim’s vort and everything. Tuesday night was a late night for everyone,” Ta interjects firmly. “But we’re up to Thursday, Libby, it’s really time to get back into routine.”
“It’s not that!” I say, frustrated. “It’s nothing to do with Chaim’s engagement! I’m just not feeling well!”
Ma holds up a hand, looking worried. “What is it, Libby? Just tiredness?”
I am vaguely aware of cramping in my lower back, but that would sound weird. What does a backache have to do with anything? Maybe I’m imagining it.
“My stomach. I’m feeling sick. And things… hurt. My head. I’m just, yeah, tired, I guess.”
Ta looks over at Ma. “You ruled out mono last week, right?”
“We went to Dr. Stevens, mainly because Libby’s been feeling so tired. He did blood work, said it’s all fine.” She shoots me an apologetic glance before she continues. “It could just be that you haven’t gotten over the effects of having had it in the summer.”
I want to roll my eyes, but the thought makes me dizzy. “I was fine for ages after that.”
“But that’s what the doctor said.”
Now they’re both looking at me, two pairs of somewhat accusing eyes. Now is the moment to admit defeat, then retreat to my room and hope no one bothers me for the rest of the day.
“Maybe,” I mumble.
Ta leans forward. “Libby, try push yourself a little. You’ve missed three days of school. This can’t continue.” He pauses, then adds generously, “You know what? Stay home today. Rest up, eat properly, get an early night, and tomorrow you’ll make a new start.”
Tomorrow is a blur behind my eyelids. I’d promise to climb a ladder to the moon tomorrow if I could stay in bed today. I say something that passes for agreement, Ta gives a satisfied nod like he’s solved everything now, and I drag myself, step by weary step, up to my bed, and finally, oblivion.
*Names and details changed to protect privacy
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 800)
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