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Normal: Chapter 5

“In fact, I don’t remember Mimi saying a single word to me in school”


Mimi stretches her arms above her head, holds her body very straight, and then stretches a little further. Her muscles first throb, then feel released.


It’s the end of gymnastics class, and her body is alive, dancing, pulsing with an energy she hasn’t felt all week. It’s good to be somewhere different for a change. Somewhere totally and utterly Kayla-free.

“And another deep breath, and relax,” calls Tova. She does the cooldown along with them, stretch, breathe, release. “Great going, girls.”

Mimi holds the pose a moment longer, and then slowly, reluctantly, drops it. It feels like she’s letting herself back down, back to the real world.

Her body suddenly aches.

“Nice work today, Mimi,” Tova says, glancing up as she passes. Mimi gives her a thin smile. She doesn’t know Tova too well, although she’s been attending gymnastics for years; it’s only a few months since she moved to the top track. Tova’s a fantastic coach; she’s also unrelenting. Perfect moves, perfect coordination, perfect timing, and if it isn’t perfect, then it will be, after repeating the move another 15 times.

“She’s a drill sergeant, isn’t she?” Lea Weitz says, shaking her head.

Mimi uncaps her water bottle and takes a huge gulp. “Yeah, but she’s good. She’s the top coach for a reason.”

Lea sniffs. “I preferred Talia.”

“Talia’s fun, Tova’s legit. She’s the one who creates the real gymnasts, everyone says so.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Lea tosses her hair back and zippers her gym bag. “Anyone need a ride? My mom should be here any minute.”

Usually, Mimi would take up the offer. Today, though, she feels like walking. The evening air is soft, hopeful. Maybe things will blow over with Kayla. Maybe she’ll settle down, stop making such a spectacle of herself in class. Maybe everyone will forget they’re sisters. You never know, right?

Somehow, although she walks very slowly, she finds herself back home too soon, gym bag heavy as rocks on her shoulder. She turns the key, wondering idly what Ma’s made for supper. She’s ravenous; the exercise always does that. It smells of… meatballs, maybe?

Voices waft from the kitchen along with the smell of good food.

“…adjustments are often difficult,” Ta says, his deep voice reassuring. “Don’t worry, Kayla. We’ll do what we can for you, and remember, it’s still early on.”

“I believe that it’s been sufficient time for me to assess the academic standards of the school, and the 11th grade in particular,” Kayla argues.

“You’d like to try 12th grade?” Ma asks, sounding dumbstruck.

“I highly doubt it, actually,” Kayla says. “I have examined the 12th grade schedule and it’s clear that the same teachers are employed for both grade levels. In that case, their insufficient knowledge of subject matter and lack of depth in the material will not be any better, even in 12th grade.”

“Let’s leave 12th grade out of it for the time being,” Ta interjects. “I’d like to think about what we can do to help make 11th grade work for you. Would it help if I ask your teachers to give you some extra challenge work when you’ve finished what the class is doing? A research project, maybe?”

“I doubt that they would be accommodating. They don’t seem to understand the necessity of differentiated work.”

“I think we should give it a chance before dismissing the possibility,” Ta says. He’s trying to talk Kayla’s language. Mimi nearly smiles, but then she remembers what they’re talking about.

Oh, just say she can move back to Shemesh!

“Other than the lessons, how is everything else going? Your classmates? Are you getting to know them all?” Ma asks.

Mimi freezes, inching backward to make sure she’s out of sight.

“I know their names, but I can’t say we have developed close relationships yet,” Kayla says. “I believe it’s too early to tell with these things, am I right?”

When it comes to social stuff, Kayla’s always looking for confirmation. It’s strange, that tone of uncertainty from someone who’s such a genius everywhere else.

“Of course it takes time, but are the girls friendly, are they helping you get to know the school?” Ma asks.

“They answer my questions,” Kayla says. Mimi can almost picture her brow creasing. “I wouldn’t call them friendly, necessarily, but it depends how you define friendly. They are very homogenous on the whole, rather than diverse and broad-minded. I did find the social environment at my previous educational institution a lot more suitable, however, that might just be the familiarity of knowing my classmates there for so many years prior.”

“Ah,” says Ma, a little blankly. “But you have Mimi, right? So that’s one person you can rely on.”

“Mimi? I don’t see her very much, actually,” Kayla responds.

“You don’t?” Ta’s voice takes on a dangerous edge. “What do you mean? Isn’t she in class with you?”

“She is. However, her seat is at the back of the room and several rows behind mine, and I do not like to turn around in class, so I don’t see her. And between classes, she is with her friends. Shoshana, Tziporah, and Ella. Sometimes others, as well,” Kayla says, as if she’s reciting facts from one of her endless textbooks. “In fact, I don’t remember Mimi saying a single word to me in school.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 894)

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