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Normal: Chapter 43  

Ella giggles, takes an apple, and then asks, too casually, “Anyone know if Tzippy’s coming?”



rev Pesach is not the greatest time for hosting.

Mimi sighs, closes the fridge, then opens it again and grabs a few apples. There’s a bag of potato chips somewhere as well, they’ll all be sick of those before the week is out, but it’s something.

It will have to do.

Mimi tries not to think about the last time she hosted her friends. Back then, she’d invited them hoping Shoshana would open up to the others, an attempt that failed spectacularly. This time…

On impulse, she grabs the phone and dials Tzippy. The number is busy. Figures.

“What are you doing?” Kayla asks, straddling the top of the stairs and eyeing the food in Mimi’s hands like it’s dangerous.

“It’s not chometz,” Mimi tells her.

“I didn’t say it was,” Kayla says, wrinkling her brow, but she moves out the way.

Ella and Shoshana arrive together. They settle on Mimi’s carpet, Shoshana flipping through the scrapbook Mimi’s started putting together.

“Hey, when is this picture from?” she asks, frowning at a selfie of the two of them. “I look horrible.”

Ella giggles, takes an apple, and then asks, too casually, “Anyone know if Tzippy’s coming?”

“I think so, she told me she’ll try,” Shoshana says.

“How did you get through?” Mimi and Ella ask, together.

Shoshana shrugged. “I got lucky?”

The doorbell rings. Mimi jumps up, peeks out the window just in time to see the top of Tzippy’s head disappear as someone lets her inside. Phew.

“Hi, guys. Sorry I’m late.” She’s out of breath, distracted. Un-Tzippy-like.

“Heyyy, we thought you’d fallen off the planet,” Ella teases.

“Nah, nothing like that.” Tzippy ignores the bait, pours herself a drink. “What are you looking at?” She points at the scrapbook in Shoshana’s hand. How subtle, Mimi thinks wryly.

Ella looks put out.

“So, who’s by you for Yom Tov in the end?” Mimi asks, quickly.

A knock on the door: stiff and sharp and staccato, like someone’s timing it according to the second hand on their watch. Mimi’s brow furrows. Only one person would knock like that.

“Hi, Kayla,” they chorus.

Kayla beams. “I saw you come. I was otherwise occupied at the time, but now I’m available to join.”

Mimi looks at her friends. Shoshana gives a tiny shrug. We can’t exactly say no.

Tzippy looks relieved; Kayla will keep her firmly out of the spotlight. Ella, on the other hand, looks even more unhappy.

What choice do we have, Mimi thinks, and waves Kayla to the desk chair.

She’s about to turn to Tzippy and resume the conversation, when she thinks: Kayla’s here anyway. Trying to pretend she isn’t, is just going to be hurtful — and frustrating. You may as well do it properly.

Mimi looks at her friends, then at Kayla. She smiles. “So, Kayla, tell us how your vacation is going?”


At 7:59 precisely, Kayla stands up. “It was nice to socialize with all of you, but I have a prior commitment now,” she says.

“We’ll miss you!” Tzippy sounds genuine.

“Yes. I would stay longer, but at 8:00 I write in my journal. It’s an important part of my day, and procrastinating is never good.”

“Of course,” Ella agrees. She seems to have cheered up a little, now that they’re going to have some time alone after all.

“See? We did chesed and we didn’t even lose out,” Shoshana says, when the door is closed.

Mimi feels warm. Yes, the four of them did it together, but she’s the one who changed, stepped out of her comfort zone to welcome her sister — actually welcome her! — into her social life. And she survived. More than that — it was… okay. Really okay.

“She’s got it right in some ways, you know,” Tzippy says suddenly. She’s lying on the floor, looking up at the ceiling. “Sometimes, Kayla’s really on the ball.”

“Sometimes? Look at her in class.”

“I meant socially.” Tzippy twists a curl around her finger.

Socially?” Ella says, her voice heavy with irony.

“I mean that she says it how it is. She’s straight, she says what she means. She wants to join us and make friends; she comes and says so. She needs to leave, she says that too. No beating around the bush or awkward hints or double meaning… Yeah, it’s not the type, it might even be socially off a lot of the time. And yes, she has Asperger’s or whatever, but sometimes I think she’s so much more normal that we are.” Tzippy says it in one rush, one breath.

“ASD,” Shoshana says.

Tzippy wrinkles her brow. “Huh?”

“ASD. Autism Spectrum Disorder. They don’t use the term Asperger’s anymore.” Shoshana gives a small shrug.

“Wow, how do you even know that?” Ella asks.

Shoshana shrugs. “It’s psychology. I like that stuff. But anyway, Tzippy, I know what you mean about Kayla. Like, she’s got her boundaries. We can probably all, y’know, learn something from that.”

“Right.” Tzippy sits up. Her words come thick and fast and furious. “Like she doesn’t feel the need to defend herself. She has a life, she has times when she is available, when she isn’t, and we can still be friends, even best friends, you know?”

She’s not talking about Kayla anymore.

Yes,” Shoshana says firmly. Neither of them looks at Ella.

Mimi nods, distracted; there’s something niggling at her. Something Tzippy said…

Ella takes her time answering. “I guess so,” she says, finally.

It feels like a victory.


When her friends are gone, when the house is quiet, that Mimi finally realizes what had been bothering her.

The words, that sentence, Tzippy’s voice, echoing in her brain.

Sometimes I think Kayla’s so much more normal than we are.


to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 932)

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