| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 53  

“Because, Bella, if I live life always playing it safe, then I won’t ever get very far. Literally or figuratively"

There’s an excited anticipation in the air when I wake up. I stretch lazily, dress, and head downstairs to see if Naftoli has left for the airport yet. He hasn’t, he’s slumped on the couch, his backpack between his legs, looking slightly green.

“Hey, Tuls, when you guys leaving?”

“Ten minutes.”

I peer at him. “You okay?”


I squint. He’s obviously nervous about something. “Uh, do you kind of wish you knew the other guys going?”

Naftoli closes his eyes. “Nah, s’fine.”

I sit across from him and study the pitiful specimen in front of me. And then I remember a fact about Naftoli that I’d long forgotten.

“Flying! You hate flying!”

His eyes spring open and his ears turn bright red. “Nuh-uh!”

“HA! Yuh-huh! I remember, we were at the Intrepid museum and the guide said something about flying and you said, ‘Better you than me.’ Naftoli! Why on earth are you going if you’re scared of planes?”

He looks at me and I have to look away because the blaze of determination on his face is so apparent that I feel like I’m trespassing.

“Because, Bella, if I live life always playing it safe, then I won’t ever get very far. Literally or figuratively.”


The house seems quieter with Naftoli gone. Of course, there are still brothers all over, but somehow, everything seems more muted.

He’ll be fine, he only threw up once before getting into the car.

I snort-laugh and then feel bad.

There’s a pitcher of iced coffee in the fridge. I pour myself a tall glass and then head upstairs for a little rest and relaxation. Sinking onto the bed, I reach for my book and then stop. I sit up straight. Hashem, I think. Please let Naftoli be okay. Please let him have the most amazing time and heal from his hard year.

Then, pleased with myself and my sisterly efforts, I crack open my book and lose myself in its pages.



I startle awake when the phone rings. Must’ve dozed off.

I gaze blearily at the screen. Shayna. Wow, the woman is persistent.

I think about not answering but that’s rude and disrespectful.


“How’s my favorite girl?”

I smile drowsily.

“Hi Shayna, what’s new since yesterday?”

She laughs, a sound as bright and tinkly as she is.

“Nothing much, just my favorite dance student turned down an opportunity to teach with me.”

I laugh too, but inside, suddenly, I’m torn. Maybe I should teach the Bunnies. I’d be in the ballet world again, back in leotards and ballet slippers and buns, and yes, my range of movement would not be much more advanced than the beginners, but at least I would own a piece of ballet, I could hold onto my identity, I wouldn’t have to let go so entirely.

“You see, the thing is—”

And then I stop, because I think of Naftoli, flying somewhere thousands of feet off the ground, on his way to Eretz Yisrael. I think how he always does the right thing, not the easy thing. Playing it safe won’t get you very far.

I clear my throat. “The thing is, that I love ballet, Shayna, you know that. But I can’t use teaching the Bunnies as my crutch, I can’t just… play it safe. I have to find something I love, something I can be truly good at again. Something besides ballet. And I think… I think I have an idea of what it is…. But thanks, Shayna, really. It means so much to me that you asked.”

There’s silence on the other end.

“Bella Rena,” she says finally, “you’ve really grown up.”

And coming from someone who’s known me since I was in the Bunnies myself, that’s quite the compliment.


Ma comes bustling in later, laden down with shopping bags, looking wiped.

I hurry to help her.

“How are Babby and Zeidy?” Ma and Daddy had gone to visit after leaving Naftoli at the airport.

Ma smiles at me through her exhaustion. “They’re doing great, you know how they love the summer. Babby actually sent something for you.”

I blink, surprised. “For me?”

“And what about for me?” Shimshon pipes up from behind me.

Ma scoops him up. “Yes! For you, Babby sent a lollipop!”

Shimshon wriggles free and then holds his hand out expectantly.

Uch, he’s actually cute.

Ma hands him his lolly and then reaches into her purse and pulls out a small square package wrapped in gorgeous floral paper, topped with a bow.


“Go open it,” Ma says understandingly. “I got these packages.”

I kiss her on the cheek and run upstairs, clutching my gift.

Tugging at the paper gently, I watch it fall away to reveal a beautiful, gold Tehillim.

There’s also a card.

Dear Bella Rena,

I had a lovely time with you in Florida.

You pointed out how we share similarities.

I thought, then, that maybe you could use a Tehillim. For me, it’s what’s helped me sail the waves of life with grace, and I hope, dignity.

Allow it to become your best friend, your closest confidante.

I am proud of you.

I love you,

Love, Babby



(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 829)

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