Normal: Chapter 2| December 21, 2021
“Wait — your bag, what about the bag I bought you?” she splutters, pointing
Mimi never understood the people who got first-day-of-school butterflies, until today.
Ma’s made waffles for breakfast. They smell heavenly, sweet and crisp, but Mimi’s stomach somersaults at the sight of them.
“Ugh, I can’t eat,” she mumbles.
“You sure, honey? They’re good.” Ma flashes her a wide smile. That’s Ma, always positive, always cheerful. Sometimes so cheerful that Mimi wants to scream.
Kayla clatters down the stairs. Mimi winces.
“Kayla! Special breakfast in honor of your first day!” Ma is persistently sweet. “C’mon, you girls need to help me out over here, otherwise I’ll have to eat them all myself…”
Kayla frowns. “If you do, you’ll get a stomachache,” she informs Ma. Mimi rolls her eyes.
Ma’s smile slides a little. “I was joking, Kay. I meant that it would be a shame for the waffles to go to waste.”
“Why?” Kayla wants to know. “If I eat it without wanting to, isn’t that just as much of a waste?” She opens the fridge. Mimi knows exactly what she’s looking for: one apple, one banana, one yogurt.
Ma sighs. “Never mind.”
Kayla stacks her tuna sandwiches in the garish orange lunchbox she’s used since first grade. Mimi lets out a faint moan. Ma throws her a questioning look.
“The lunch box,” Mimi says. “You’re in 11th grade, you can’t use that.”
Kayla slices grapes with irritating precision, inserts them into a small compartment. “Why not? It worked for first grade, second, third, right through tenth. What’s changed?”
Mimi is about to answer, but then she sees it: parked neatly beside the door, Kayla’s black attaché case, aka schoolbag.
“Wait — your bag, what about the bag I bought you?” she splutters, pointing.
“That bag was too small for the required items,” Kayla says calmly. “I couldn’t possibly fit my lunchbox plus textbooks plus loose-leaf or notebooks in there.” She glances at her watch. “We have to leave already. It’s only 27 minutes until school begins, and we have to factor in the 14.5- minute walk, finding the classroom, organizing our lockers, and orienting ourselves with the schedule. Come on, Mimi!”
“Are you kidding that you want to leave now?” Mimi groans. “We can leave in 10 minutes, even 15, no problem.”
Kayla’s back goes rigid. A bad sign. “But I can’t possibly wait,” she says, utterly alarmed. “I told you, we already have only 27 — now 26 — minutes until the first bell. And I’ll need several minutes to identify the correct classroom and locker, and so on. I’ve never been to your school before.”
“No need to remind me,” Mimi mutters into her cocoa.
Kayla hops from one foot to another in consternation. Finally, she says decisively, “I’ll go myself. I can request assistance from a staff member in finding the right classroom and locker.”
The black attaché case swings from Kayla’s hand. The door slams shut.
The 11th-grade classroom is on the second floor. Mimi stops by the staircase, lets her bag slip down, down, with her heart, to her shoes. Her legs are leaden.
Go. Just go, find your friends, and pretend it’s a regular day, a regular year.
Yeah, right. Like it’s regular to have your zero-social-skills sister suddenly join your class, halfway through high school.
Mimi heaves a deep sigh, hoists the coral bag up her arm again, and trudges upstairs. The classroom door is open and noise bubbles out, voices, chatter, a squeal of excitement.
Mimi releases a breath. Her friends have no idea what Kayla is like, they only know that she’s her sister and that she attends Shemesh Jewish Academy — the city’s huge and diverse main Jewish school, with its multiple tracks and customized differentiation for students with exceptional needs (Ma absolutely refused to use the term “special”).
But for some reason, Shemesh Academy is no longer an option — Mimi has no idea why. All she knows is that her sister, her completely clueless sister with the social grace of an elephant in a ballet class, is a brand new member of Bnos Torah High School’s 11th grade, and Mimi’s social status is headed for a deep dive the minute people start associating them with each other.
The bell peals insistently over the hubbub. Mimi’s jaw turns to steel. Breathe.
“Shouldn’t we be taking our places now, since the bell rang more than 30 seconds ago?” a familiar voice says, too loudly, just as Mimi steps into the room.
Horror. Really, Kayla? Can’t you keep quiet, at least on the first day? Why do you have to draw so much attention to yourself?
Several of their classmates turn in surprise.
“Hey! Where did you appear from?” Raizy Reich asks. She’s lounging on the windowsill with her best friend, Mali Kraus, a knot of fans vying for attention nearby.
“I haven’t appeared from anywhere. I’ve been in this room for more than nine minutes,” Kayla says.
“Oh-kaaay, ha ha, very funny.” Raizy’s lip curls a little. “But, like, hello, welcome to 11th grade. Where’ve you been until now?”
“Thank you.” Kayla’s talking too loud and too fast. “I was in another educational institution until now, but my parents felt I should switch.”
There’s a long, awkward silence.
“What’s your name?” Breindy Silber asks finally.
“Kayla. Kayla Weiss.” Kayla cranes her neck, casts around the room for a moment, and her eyes rest on Mimi, frozen in the doorway. “Mimi’s my sister.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 891)
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