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Normal: Chapter 4

Alarm bells. What is Kayla going to do now, while the whole class is watching?


Eleventh grade science class is no picnic.

Mimi makes a face at her illegible notes. They don’t seem to make the slightest bit of sense. Whatever.

Shoshana catches her eye and winks. She’s been busy scribbling the entire lesson. Mimi leans closer to take a peek; her friend’s notebook has endless, flowing doodles of wedding gowns. Shoshana’s sister is getting married soon; it’s her first sibling’s wedding, fun.

“So, to summarize… yes? Kayla?”

Mimi’s head shoots up and she flinches. Three rows forward and on the other side of the room, Kayla holds her arm up at full length, index finger pointing to the sky.

“The information you conveyed just now, regarding scientific principles of chemical reactivity,” Kayla says, “isn’t entirely accurate. The hypothesis with which you introduced the class, although popular, was rejected in 2019 following significant experimentation. I would suggest fact-checking in mainstream scientific journals for further clarity.”

A titter echoes around the room. Mimi’s face burns.

Miss Licht struggles for composure. “That may be, Kayla, but the general accepted theory— ”

“It is irrelevant if science has proven otherwise, as it has. I can explain further.”

Miss Licht’s cheeks go faintly pink. “Kayla, I’m sure you have a lot to say on the subject, and I would be happy to discuss this with you after class. Now, please turn to the next page…”

Sound fades out again. Mimi dares to glance around. Somehow, no one is looking at her. Her chest loosens.

Recess can’t come fast enough. Mimi shoves her books into her bag, never mind which, never mind what. Kayla makes a beeline for the teacher’s desk.

Alarm bells. What is Kayla going to do now, while the whole class is watching?

“About the rejected hypothesis, I would be pleased to share with you—“

Miss Licht looks nervous, eyes darting from side to side. “Right, yes, you mentioned that. I see you you really know this topic well. Good for you.”

Mimi sucks in her cheeks. Nooo… Miss Licht has no clue what Kayla’s all about. Compliments, flattery, whatever, won’t deter her from her agenda.

“Of course I know this topic, it’s really very basic,” Kayla says dismissively. “I imagine that as a teacher you would have acquired competence in the curriculum as well. I’m just surprised that you, as an educator, do not keep abreast of important developments in the world of scientific academia.”

A small crowd has gathered. Mimi feels a hand on her arm.

“C’mon, let’s go outside,” Ella mutters. Shoshana and Tzippy are right behind her.

She follows her friends, blindly. Miss Licht is apparently trying to reason with Kayla. That’ll go nowhere.

“It’s just so — so weird,” Mimi blurts. She buries her face in both palms. “Like, the way she talks… and the things she talks about!”

“It’s not you,” Shoshana says. “It really isn’t. We know you and love you, Mim. You can’t control what your sister does and we’re not going to judge you because of her.”

“You’re not, maybe. What about everyone else?”

But somehow, the cloud has lifted a little. Mimi straightens her back. “Okay, whatever, let’s talk about something else. How’s your gown?”

It’s a good move, one that neatly turns the spotlight on Shoshana, and then on Tzippy, who has lots of married siblings and lots of opinions on weddings and color schemes and gowns. By the time the bell summons them back to class, Mimi’s almost forgotten the scene she’d left behind.

Apparently, though, it’s not over. Miss Licht has progressed to the doorway, but Kayla is right behind her, standing an inch too close, continuing to argue her point. Some of the class has lost interest, but at least six girls are watching wide-eyed, and others are pretending not to notice while clearly straining not to miss a word.

“I hear you, Kayla. I think you have another class now?” says Miss Licht, not even attempting a smile this time.

“I wish to know whether you will be repeating this class to us next week, in light of the new material and conclusions,” Kayla says. “And also whether the notes on this class will be on our next quiz, despite the factual basis of the class being erroneous.”

Miss Licht sighs. “Yes. Anything I’ve taught you will be on the test. And I see your next teacher is coming, so we’ll have to continue the conversation another time.”

“When — lunch period?” Kayla asks. She casts an anxious look at the clock and the doorway. “Is our next teacher right outside? I don’t have my books out yet.”

Think of something else, Mimi commands herself. Think of… wait, it’s Wednesday!

Wednesday — gymnastics club meeting. Gymnastics club has been her haven since age seven. It’s a community class, lots of Shemesh Academy students there, but no Kayla, certainly not Kayla, with her awkward gait and general lack of coordination.

Gymnastics class — one blissful Kayla-free hour, one hour where no one will put the two of them together. One hour where she doesn’t have to be Kayla’s sister at all.

I don’t need to be her sister now, either.

The thought pops into her mind, shockingly liberating.

I’m not her. She isn’t me. What if she was just a random, strange new girl — no relation of mine? Then I could… just ignore her. Not react. Have nothing to do with her at all.

Mimi slides into her seat, feeling a mingling of relief and doubt.

Could the solution to it all really be so simple?

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 893)

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