| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 40 

I know that everything Hashem does is good, but sometimes, it’s literally impossible to see it

I dream of ballet. There’s a stage, a beautiful empty stage, wooden floors just waiting for the swish swish of satin ballet slippers. I wait in the wings, slippers tightly laced, hair wound in a high bun, heart fluttering, and then it’s my cue. Music, glorious music, swells up, it fills the hall, the stage, the room. And I soar on it, I ride its waves as I leap and bound, spin and turn. I see my family, Atara, Shayna, as I race by, but I don’t stop, I won’t stop. Because how can I give up, even for a moment, my chance to fly?

I wake up with a wet pillow and the taste of blood in my mouth. I’d bitten the inside of my cheek, probably while I was landing my leap. I laugh dryly, the sound echoes around my room.

It had been eerily real.

And so was my pain.

****

I knew we would win the dance-off. I high-five a beaming Atara, and dry my hand quickly on my skirt, because hers is really sweaty. But hey, that’s what you get when you dance your heart out.

“Chametz, chametz, cookies and cream! We’re gonna cheer for the other team!” the girls are chanting; I smile and accept compliments on the amazing costumes. The girls look amazing and I find it hard to believe that I’m the one who outfitted them. Kay, me and the other sewing girls, but you know, mostly me.

It was fun to choreograph the dance, but there’s no way I can do it again. It’s too painful to watch the other girls dance out my vision, to watch them pirouette and jig, and know I can do it better.

“Pesach, Pesach, once a year! Come on, team, let’s give a cheer!”

Atara is surrounded by her fellow dancers, the teachers are laughing and clapping, Pori, dance head for Pesach, is red in the face but wearing a brave smile, and nobody is watching me. So I duck out the back door and head to the furthest corner of the school grounds.

Pesach, Pesach, once a year… it really is almost Pesach. I’m excited for the seder, for Goldie and Effie, for all seven of my annoying brothers to be present, to listen to them while away the hours speaking divrei Torah with Daddy and Zeidy, to go to parks and eat matzah and cream cheese until our fingers are black. And then, after that, our Girls Trip!

I pluck a blade of grass and twirl it through my fingers. The sun is finally shining but I am more than ready for some real vacation.

I feel tired, and old. Much older than 15. So much has happened, so many things have gone wrong.

I close my eyes and feel the sun baking my pale skin. I’ll be covered in freckles by the end of the day.

And so many things have gone right.

I know that. I know that everything Hashem does is good, but sometimes, it’s literally impossible to see it.

 

 

I think of my dream, of the weightless feeling of flying, and a lone tear rolls down my cheek. But being sad is getting super boring, so I stand up, brush the grass off my uniform skirt, and head back into good ol’ Bais Yaakov. Maybe I’ll catch the tail end of the choirs. Hopefully not.

****

“Somebody is suspiciously happy,” I say. I narrow my eyes at Naftoli. “Why, brother dear, are you whistling when you have just been tasked with cleaning out the front closet?”

Naftoli pulls his head out of a pile of rainboots and winks at me. Like legit, one eye open, then closed, really quickly. A wink!

I stare at him.

“I am happy, Bellka. Very, very happy.” He stands up and begins searching through coat pockets. “Baruch Hashem!” he adds quickly.

I lean on the stairs bannister and cross my arms. “Do spill.”

Naftoli looks down at a five-dollar bill he’d just pulled out of my adorable Tahari trench coat.

“Cuz Ma said I can keep any loose change I find.”

I grab the five away from him. “Haha, very funny. Tell me!”

He shrugs. “Cuz Darchei Aharon has agreed to let me start Elul zeman. More than agreed. They said, and I quote, ‘they’d be honored.’”

He says this all in a slightly mocking tone, but I can see from the way his ears have turned bright red that he really is excited.

And I’m so happy for him. His old yeshivah couldn’t see what a prize he is, well, good riddance to them.

I decide to share my thoughts from earlier today.

“You know,” I say quietly, totally mortified at where I’m going with this, “Sometimes things happen to us… and it’s totally hard to see why it’s good. And it, uh, looks really bad. And pointless. But, uh, Hashem has a plan, you know?”

I sound like I’m short a few screws, but Naftoli gets it.

He nods and strokes an umbrella contemplatively. “I do know, Bell. Thanks.” He kindly says nothing about how uncharacteristic my hashkafah shmooze is.

And then he winks again. Weirdo.

 

 

(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 816)

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