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Normal: Chapter 17

“But you can’t do that. That’s against the school rules”


Mimi caps her pen, closes the booklet of questions, and gives a satisfying, luxurious stretch. Done, and she has a feeling she hasn’t done too badly this time, either.

If she can just be honest with herself, she knows that it’s thanks to Kayla.

Kayla’s notes. Kayla’s clarity, Kayla’s dogged persistence questioning her over and over until she remembered the right answers to each question.

She’s grateful, okay, but it hurts as well.

It hurts to be indebted to her sister — her younger sister — for this.

Whatever. Mimi hesitates a moment — is she supposed to wait for Mrs. Stern? — and then figures she can just leave it on the mechaneches’s desk and go take a break. She definitely deserves one.

The small corner near the vending machine boasts two battered couches — generally the domain of the 12th grade, but now everyone’s in class. Mimi sinks into the cushions and unwraps a Milk Munch.


She nearly jumps off the couch.

“Wha — Shoshana?”

Mimi’s friend slinks round the corner. “Yeah. I cut class, too much going on. Figured you’d show up around the vending machine when you were done.”

“Ha, ha.” Mimi breaks off a piece of chocolate and proffers it. “Want?”


They chew in silence.

“Let’s go for ice cream later,” Mimi says suddenly. She feels light, airy, she’s conquered the dreaded Chumash test, and anything’s possible. Maybe she could kill two birds with one stone: cheer Shoshana up and try to set the wheels in motion for the four of them to make up again. Well, three birds, really, because eating ice cream is totally worthwhile just in itself.

Shoshana’s face lights up, a real smile. “Oooh, that would be so fun.”

They head back to the classroom when the recess bell rings, Mimi feeling better than she’s felt in a while. The Chumash test worked out in the end, Shoshana is smiling again, and she can already taste the mocha chip ice cream. Life is looking up.

She pushes open the classroom door, and Kayla’s strident voice lobs her in the face.

“But you can’t do that. That’s against the school rules. It’s breaking several rules, in fact.” Kayla sticks out her fist, opening her fingers one by one to demonstrate. “One: cutting class. Two: leaving school premises without permission—”

“Three: crossing the road without my mommy?” a mocking voice breaks in. It’s Raizy Reich, with Mali Kraus standing beside her, arms crossed. The pair of them don’t look happy.

“I would assume that at this age, you have parental consent to cross streets on your own,” Kayla says. “But you certainly don’t have parental consent to break school rules. So that’s another problem with what you intend to do.”

Shoshana turns to Bina, who’s watching avidly, eyes flickering from one girl to another. “What’s going on?”

Bina shrugs, riveted to the drama. “Raizy and Mali said they were gonna cut class and go get sushi, and Kayla… well, you heard her.”

Mimi’s chest is tight. If 11th grade had a class queen, it would be Raizy Reich. Raizy, with her perfect hair and millionaire father and mocking tongue.

Kayla, what did you do?

Tzippy and Ella are squirming at the scene. “Say something, Mimi,” Tzippy says. “Kayla doesn’t get it, and Raizy… you know how she gets.”

Mimi’s tongue is stuck to the top of her mouth. She shakes her head, mutely. She’s not — she can’t — why should she get herself embroiled with Raizy and Mali over Kayla’s total ignorance of basic social skills?

“Oh my gosh. We totally weren’t serious about going,” Raizy says. She tosses her hair back and fixes Kayla with a glare. “And besides, it’s, like, nothing to do with you, okay?”

“It’s my responsibility to report breaking of rules, just like everyone else should,” Kayla says doggedly. “The school takes responsibility for our well-being, and that includes guaranteeing our safety within school hours. Leaving the premises is a risk to that well-being, and the school administration would want to know about it in order to take appropriate action.”

“Okay, either you’re joking, or you’re, like, totally off,” Raizy says. “I mean, you’d seriously go tattling to Mrs. Schwartz like that? Like a Pre-1A kid?”

“Morah, Chevy’s eating under the desk,” Mali says in a fake high-pitched voice, and she and Raizy burst out laughing.

“Leave her alone,” Hadassah says quietly. “She can’t help it…”

“Can’t help what? If she doesn’t know better, then shouldn’t we tell her what’s normal?” Raizy retorts, emphasizing the word normal. “Or you’d rather have her reporting everything we do that doesn’t meet Miss Goody-Goody’s standards?”

The class is silent. Mimi, frozen in her corner, knows that not everyone agrees with Raizy — surely not — but no one is going to step up and argue with her.

There’s a 12-second pause of awkward, agonizing silence. Kayla opens and closes her mouth, forehead creased like she’s trying to comprehend a foreign language. She raises a hand, holding it in a questioning pose, but doesn’t say a word.

“Anyone know if Miss Spiegel is in school today? I need to ask her something,” someone says, finally.

Three people rush to answer.

Raizy shrugs, tosses her hair again, and says something to Mali. The two of them snicker.

Kayla slowly lowers her hand, sits down.

Mimi looks away.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 906)

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