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Normal: Chapter 27

“How’s it going?” Ma comes out of the dining room, looking too casual. An ambush, yay



irls? I have something for you.” Ma pokes her head into Mimi’s room, holds out two large ice coffees with whipped cream. “How’s the studying going? You’ve been up here for a while, I figured you could do with an energy boost.”

Kayla puts her hand up like a stop sign. “Thank you for your efforts, Ma, but I won’t drink it. Caffeine in the evening can significantly disturb sleep.”

“I’ll have both,” Mimi says, giving a shadow of a smile. Ma’s too bright and cheery about this studying, even though they’ve been doing it for a while. It’s become a pattern now: Kayla makes the schedule, Mimi shows up. They cover homework first, then studying. They work together for two hours most evenings, more before a test, skip Wednesdays and Sundays. Tests are still a struggle, but at least homework is okay.

Still, she can’t bring herself to match Ma’s enthusiastic tone. This is not fun, not easy, not what she wants to be doing at all.

When their session is up, and Kayla departs for her room saying something about having scheduled time to review the new science journal that arrived in the mail, Mimi wanders downstairs. Maybe she’ll go over to Tzippy’s. She could do with some time to relax, clear her head.

“How’s it going?” Ma comes out of the dining room, looking too casual. An ambush, yay. “You looked like you were getting a lot done.”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine,” Mimi mumbles. This is not about studying, she knows with certainty. It’s about mid-winter vacation. Coming up in just two days’ time.

“You know, Mimi,” Ma says, putting a hand on her arm. “I think it’s amazing that you and Kayla get to work together on schoolwork. I’m really happy that you’re getting a chance to do something together. She’s so happy to have this chance to spend time with you, you know that?”

Kayla? Happy?

Ma catches her look and nods emphatically. “Kayla might express herself differently, but she has needs, like all of us. She wants friends, she wants to fit in, and she looks up to you.”

Mimi snorts. “Looks up to me? She’s the one with the top grades, the one who finds 11th grade math too easy. I’m the one failing school and I wouldn’t touch a science journal if you paid me.”

“That’s not what life is all about,” Ma says, taking a pan of raw chicken out of the fridge.

“For Kayla, it is.”

“I don’t think so.” Ma sprinkles salt, pepper, something green and herby. “Get to know her, Mimi. I think you’ll be surprised.”


No surprises await in the classroom, that’s for sure.

The day before mid-winter vacation begins, teachers pile on the homework while their students fidget restlessly. Mimi can’t focus, and she’s not the only one. Vacation, vacation, vacation!

Only Kayla seems undisturbed by the energy in the air. She takes notes, answers questions, and seems to genuinely not understand what happened to everyone else.

The highlight of the day is recess. Oh, and receiving a test back. 81! Okay, it’s a Nach quiz, not one of Mrs. Stern’s murderous tests, but she hasn’t received an 80 in a very long time, in any subject.

No wonder half the class vies for slots to study with Kayla these days.

The other half, Raizy and Mali among them, don’t even try to hide their disdain.

Breindy and Chedvi are waiting near Kayla’s desk, looking anxious, as she flips through her pocket calendar.

“The next quiz is next week Thursday…” Chedvi says helpfully.

Oh, they’re booking her for Mrs. Davidson’s quiz. Biur Tefillah. Mimi hasn’t even thought about it yet.

“Hey, Kayla, don’t tell me you’re doing study sessions through mid-winter vacation,” Mali drawls from across the room, casting a quick sideways glance at Raizy for her approval.

Kayla looks up. “Actually, I have more availability than usual during mid-winter vacation, since the time we regularly spend in school is freed up. Would you like a session to study?”

Mali wrinkles her nose as Raizy snickers. “Oh, no,” she assures Kayla. “Some of us have better things to do with our vacation than studying. I mean, what on earth do you think vacation is for, anyway?”

Kayla looks straight back at her. “Vacation is time that each person is entitled to use as he or she wishes. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to spend time studying.”

“Oh, come off it already,” Breindy says, impatient. “Kayla’s just figuring out a time to study with us for Tefillah, and I don’t want to do it during mid-winter break, so…”

“That’s the complicated part,” Kayla informs her. “My availability on school nights has become very limited. So really, the best time I can offer you is during vacation.”

“We’re busy. Sorry,” Breindy says. “We’re going to the water park and stuff… and besides, I totally don’t have the head to study on vacation.” She giggles.

“Okay, let’s see…” Kayla bends her head over her calendar again. Mimi lets out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding.

So, Kayla’s keeping her secret. She didn’t spill the beans as to why, exactly, she’s got so much less time than she used to. No one needs to know about their study sessions; it isn’t their business.

She almost sighs in relief, when a murmur just behind stops her short.

“Does she seriously study through the whole vacation?” It’s Raizy Reich, shaking her head in disbelief. “Like, how weird can you get?”


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 916)

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