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Normal: Chapter 55

This test… this is not what it’s really all about. This isn’t going to decide anything. It’s all been decided already



imi’s never seen the classroom so still. She can almost touch the tense silence as Mrs. Stern begins distributing the booklets.

The seminary test.

The sheaf of papers is huge, thick, heavy. Mimi turns hers over to write her name.

Hatzlachah, girls. You can begin.”

Instead of opening to the first page though, Mimi puts her pen down.

Focus — and calm down. You need to calm down.

She takes a breath, forces herself to ignore the frantic scribbling all around.

You’ve done your best, you know what you know… and remember, Kayla’s been quizzing you on all this, you do know a lot. You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.

Her breath is coming too fast. Her heart is racing, no matter how much she tries to calm down. Mimi puts her forehead in her hands. Her palms are wet.

This… is so big. Too big. My whole future depends on it. Seminary acceptances. Whether I’ll get to go to Israel after 12th grade. Shidduchim. Life.

Okay, this is going too far.

Mimi squeezes her eyes shut, focuses.

This test… this is not what it’s really all about. This isn’t going to decide anything. It’s all been decided already.

She needs to do her hishtadlus, sure. But that’s all it is. The test is unrelated to her acceptance, unrelated to anything.

Mimi thinks back to the math challenge, the calmness she’d felt knowing that the test wouldn’t be graded.

Let’s pretend that this isn’t going to go further, either. That it’s just a chance to see what I know, one of Kayla’s fake-tests to “assess my understanding of the material.”

Mimi’s breath slows and calms. Her heartbeat eases.

That’s better. Now, open the booklet, and let’s start.

She talks herself through page one, diving right in with Mrs. Stern’s Chumash questions. By the time she reaches page two, then page three, she’s forgotten about the fears and the calmness warring in her mind. She’s forgotten everything, in fact, besides the page before her.

One question at a time. One word at a time.

She knows some of the answers, guesses others. She stops counting how many of each; stops trying to tally her grade in her mind. Just one question, and another, and another, and somehow, she’s moved from Chumash to Navi, and she’s still going strong, she knows this. She can hear Kayla’s voice drilling the answers into her mind.

Navi is easier than Chumash. It goes more quickly, too, and before long Mimi has turned to the next section — Historiah. This one’s harder; she hates memorizing names and dates.

Okay, so this isn’t going to be perfect. It’s still going to be okay.

The self-talk is easier now that she’s completed so many pages.

The test is a long one. Mrs. Stern walks between the desks, eventually switches with Mrs. Schwartz to get a break. Mimi takes a moment to rest her hand, flexing her wrist as she looks around. Kayla seems to have finished already. Everyone else is still writing. She can’t tell where they’re up to — is she the furthest behind? Does it even matter?

Sun streams through the windows. It’s beautiful outside; summer’s calling. Just one more day — a few more hours — and eleventh grade will be over. And this test — this is the proof that she’s done her best. She’s doing her best. Even the stuff that’s been so hard for her.

She thinks of Kayla, how she spoke up for her when she’d won the math challenge. And of Lea, and their conversation yesterday. Some things aren’t tested or graded; they’re just for her to know, and to be proud of.

Yes, Mimi decides, she has what to be proud of already. No matter what results she receives in the test today.

She picks up her pen, energy filling her from her heart, flowing through to her fingers, and gets to work again.


“Done! We are done!” Tzippy picks up her bag and twirls around. Papers and other paraphernalia rain down around her. “Yikes! Wasn’t closed!”

Mimi bends to help her pick everything up. She can’t help an ear-to-ear smile splitting her face at the same time, though. They are really done — the seminary test was over, finals all complete, eleventh grade, pass. Okay, they haven’t gotten the test results yet, but she’s happy. She’s done well — better than she’d ever imagined, anyway.

“How was it?” Shoshana asks.

“Good. Good enough, I mean,” Mimi says, and she means it. It might not be enough for some seminary or another, it might not be a grade that Kayla would be proud of (okay, let’s be real, it definitely wouldn’t be Kayla-worthy) but it’s good enough for her, and that’s what counts.

“Sleepover tonight? My place.” Ella puts one arm around Tzippy, another on Shoshana’s shoulder, and winks at Mimi. “I think we have a loooooooooot to celebrate.”

“Totally. I mean, we survived eleventh grade. What’s not to celebrate?” Tzippy says, laughing.

Mimi gives a wide, happy smile. “I’m in.”

“Me too, as long as we can all bring food. I’m not celebrating with whole wheat sugar-free brownies, much as I love you, Ella,” Shoshana says.

“Don’t you dare bring that poison white sugar into Ella’s bedroom,” Tzippy cries, mock horror in her tone.

They laugh.

Mimi wants to freeze the moment. It feels so perfect, she and her friends and the laughter and how they just know each other so well.

But there’s one thing she can do to make the moment even better.

“Guys,” she says. They turn, questioningly, and she hovers on the precipice of something huge, something shimmering, like a mountain peak bursting into view with the rising sun. “Can we invite Kayla to join us?”

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 944)

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