| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 8

I pull on my Champion sweatshirt and slip my tired feet into Adidas. Atara needs to go shopping for her brother’s bar mitzvah and we agreed to go straight from ballet, so I’m really rocking the “activewear ensemble” look.

Atara stands behind me; I smile at her reflection. We both pull our hair into scrunchies, she slips on a pair of Kenzos, and we’re ready to go.

I feel a little guilty. I should be home, baking for Shimshon’s upsheren, but honestly, home has begun to feel a bit depressing lately. Mommy is so worried about Babby, Daddy’s so stressed about Naftoli, and Naftoli has retreated into himself, barely even taking time to tease me, which is how I know something is really wrong.

Shopping with Atara is a blast, even though she insists on going to all these stores I can’t afford, and I end up sitting in the “mommy chair,” giving her my opinion on whatever she’s trying on.

We walk into Fashion Forward, right off the Avenue, and I settle resolutely into a maroon velvet chair. The saleslady gives me a tight smile and turns her attention to Atara, who is busy oohing and ahhing over a gray dress with black fur pockets. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I know it will look fabulous on Atara.

Atara grabs her size off the rack, flashes me a thumbs-up, and heads off to try it on. Inwardly I roll my eyes and settle deeper into the chair.

She gets the dress for Friday night, but she still needs something for Shabbos day, plus the bo bayom event. Sigh.

“Okay, but this next store better have a sale rack,” I grumble. Atara pats me on the shoulder and steers me into a café.

“You sound like you need a coffee,” she says soothingly, ordering us two cappuccinos and two muffins.

“No,” I snap, “I need a normal life. And a normal night’s sleep. And a normal family.”

Atara grins. “Oh, is that all? Will you be sitting or taking that to go?”

“Ha ha.” I make a face, but honestly, she’s pretty funny.

She leans forward. “Distraction time. Tell me why Shayna called you into her office today.”

I can’t help it, a smile sneaks across my face. But it feels weird, rusty almost. I’ve been so grumpy lately, it’s like I’ve forgotten how to not be grumpy. I file this thought away for later and blow on the foam collected on top of my drink. The barista had drawn a little leaf in it, and it was almost too pretty to drink. Almost.

I take a long sip and then lean in.

“We were going over recital themes. I’m pretty sure we’re going to do ‘We Can Overcome,’ so let me know if you have any good ideas for that.”

Atara nods.

“And guess what?”

She raises an eyebrow. “What?”

I flush excitedly. “Shayna said I get the solo.”

Every year, the most promising student receives a three-minute ballet solo that Shayna instructs them on. It’s not even the performance that’s the best part, it’s the private lessons with Shayna that really make the opportunity special.

I feel bad for blurting that out when I see the flash of jealousy skid across my best friend’s features, but a second later it’s gone.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 784)

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