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Normal: Chapter 16

Mimi wonders if Shoshana will offer to help, but her friend, it seems, is too wrapped up in her own problems to think of that


Mimi presses her fingers against her throbbing temples. One perek down, three to go. She needs to study, she needs to. She can’t fail again. What will Mrs. Stern say? And her parents?

Mimi’s stomach turns. Focus, pasuk, Rashi. She reads the words once, twice. Nothing seems to make sense.

Frustrated, Mimi tosses her notes aside. She’s never studied alone. Somehow, her friends made it easier, with Tzippy’s clear notes and Shoshana’s ready answers to all Mimi’s questions. And Ella, of course, Ella with her apple chips and wry remarks.

She’s never had to battle through it alone, with nothing but her own messy, incomplete notes to guide her.

When the phone rings, Mimi is impossibly grateful.

“Hey, Shoshana.”

Shoshana’s voice is low, defeated. “Mimi.”

“What’s going on?” Mimi stalls for time. She knows all too well what’s going on.

“Nothing new.” Shoshana waits a beat. “Listen, Mim, I need to get outta here, can I come over? Dina won’t speak to me and my mother’s stressed out….”

Mimi looks at her notes, wonders how she’ll decipher the illegible sentences at the end of the page. “I need to study. I have that makeup test tomorrow.”

“Oh. I forgot.”

For a moment, Mimi wonders if Shoshana will offer to help, but her friend, it seems, is too wrapped up in her own problems to think of that.

“Talk later?” Mimi offers. Hopefully. When I’m done. If I’m done.

“Yeah, I guess so.” Shoshana is reluctant to go. The phone beeps in Mimi’s ear, caller waiting. She peeks at the screen: Tzippy.

Mimi sucks in a breath.

“Okay, feel good, alright? We’ll talk, Shosh. Hugs!”

She hangs up and simultaneously accepts Tzippy’s call.

“What’s doing?”

“Hi, Mimi.” Tzippy sounds like her normal self again, phew. “Listen, we need to talk. I don’t know what happened, why Shoshana told you about her sister and not us, but Ella’s really upset. And to be honest, so am I.”

Mimi’s chest feels like there’s something heavy pressing against it. I can’t handle this, can’t be the go-between and the peacemaker and spend my life defending my friends to each other.

“Tzippy,” she interrupts. “You have your Chumash notes at home?”

There’s a split second of silence. “My Chumash notes?” Tzippy asks, finally. “What does that have to do with anything?”

Mimi sighs. “I have a makeup test tomorrow, and my notes are a mess.”

“Oy,” Tzippy says, distracted for a moment from the topic of Shoshana’s betrayal. “I don’t have them at home. You should’ve asked me in school.”

“Yeah, I know.” Should’ve. In between Shoshana’s tears and Ella’s fury and feeling torn into pieces between all of you.

“Let’s… talk another time, I guess,” Tzippy says. “Good luck studying.”

Well. Back to staring at the pages again.

Mimi turns back to the beginning. May as well check if she’s even retaining what she’s already studied. Pasuk. Rashi. Question.

Mimi covers the answer with one hand, strains her memory. What is it, anyway, something about a—

Oh, forget it. She’s just going to have to read it over again. And again. And again and again and hope that by the 17th time, something sticks.


She’s trying. She’s really trying, for goodness’ sake, but one milkshake, two candy bars, three hours later she’s still plugging through the second perek, bleakly wondering if she’ll even remember it tomorrow.

“Mimi? Can you come help out downstairs?” Ma sticks her head in. She sees Mimi hunched over a pile of notes, chocolate wrappers floating to the floor, and blinks. “You’re studying? Still?”

Mimi rubs her eyes. “I have a crazy test tomorrow, Ma, and I’m not even halfway through. Can Kayla help out instead?”

Ma’s lips turn up at the corners. “I’m guessing Kayla’s studying, too.”

Mimi feels a wave of sudden, intense anger. Kayla doesn’t need to study. Besides, she probably got 100%+ on the original test.

“She’s not. It’s a makeup test,” she mumbles, unwillingly.

For a brief moment, Ma’s face tightens. Then she offers Mimi a smile again. “I see. Well, it looks like you’re working hard here, so I won’t disturb you. Good luck!”

A minute later, Mimi hears her knocking on Kayla’s door. Good. Let Kayla do something for a change. Just because she’s — different — doesn’t mean she shouldn’t help around the house. What’s she busy with, anyway, reading the next volume of the encyclopedia or the latest academic science journal?

Mimi stares at the papers before her, balefully. And here she is, struggling through her Chumash notes. How was this fair?

One more page. Just do one more page.

Then another.

Mimi heaves a huge, deep sigh. She stands up and stretches, realizes the air in her room has become depressingly stale. She throws open a window and gulps huge breaths of fresh, cold air.

That’s better.

When she turns back to her desk, her bedroom door is open, and Kayla is framed in the doorway.

“What?” Mimi snaps.

Kayla blinks down at her. She may be 11 months younger, but she’s tall. “I thought you were studying.”

“I was. I am,” Mimi says roughly. “I don’t have time, okay?”

“That sentence is out of context. I didn’t ask you to do anything,” Kayla remarks. “But in any case, I came about the test. I can help you study, if you’d like. I have my Chumash notes.”

No, Mimi thinks. No, no, no, no.

But then she thinks of the hopeless jumble of words she’s been struggling to commit to memory. The sheer impossibility of the task before her. The groups of girls traipsing through the house every evening for study sessions with Kayla — study sessions that seem to work.

She forces her mouth open.

“Okay,” she says.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 905)

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