Maybe I am going nuts. But why did the principal’s kind offer leave me feeling so uncomfortable?
The door is closed. If only it would never open. The brass plaque on the door is all official: Giveret Davidowitz — Principal. I had never yet glimpsed the stark walls inside. The principal’s office was made for different kids. Kids who barely toed the line, kids who struggled. I definitely was not one of them. So why had I been summoned? I lean against the wall; I can barely stand straight. I wipe my sweaty palms on my skirt. And then the door creaks open.
“Dafna?” she calls authoritatively. Her words are brusque. My heart is somewhere between my knees and my toes. She smooths down her sheitel bangs as she sits in her stiff chair. The walls are not at all what I imagined. They’re blue. And covered with numerous portraits and framed compositions. My heartbeat slows down just a bit.
It is some moments before she begins to speak. “I know that you’re going through a rough time,” she begins cautiously. “And I’m here to make the situation easier.”
My eyes roam everywhere — from “Dedicated by Alumni of ’15” picture to the “#1 Principal” plaque.
Anywhere but her face.
I shift from foot to foot. My cheeks color slightly. Awkward. I don’t need Giveret Davidowitz mixed up in this, thank you very much. Now I was going to be the next up-and-coming nebach case. And how did she intend to help me? She wasn’t going to come scrub our floors or make us supper; that much I knew.
She clears her throat stiltedly. “Midterms are coming up and we want to make the burden lighter for you.”
She prattles on. But I’m still stuck on the we. Who’s we? I picture Giveret Davidowitz and Mrs. Ackerman conferring together on how to lighten my burden. I bite back a smirk. How cute.
“Are you in?” she asks finally.
Before I can formulate my jumbled thoughts, I blurt, “In… what?”
She gives me a hard glance. But she repeats herself anyway. “Mrs. Ackerman and I are giving you the liberty of choosing to forgo midterms this year — some of them anyway. Are you in?” She’s toying with this silver Cross pen on her desk. Her eyes — I finally allow myself to look up — are expectant.
I glance at the #1 Principal plaque once again. And I shake my head. My eyes are fixed on some spot straight ahead, flaming with vigor, as I say, “Just like every single girl in my class will manage, I will, too!”
Giveret Davidowitz regards me for a long moment before showing me out the door. I think I see a hint of amusement in her eyes. But I march out decisively.
The art closet is vacant.
It’s become my refuge lately. Even though the acrylics make me gag every time. Lunch is something I’ve been skipping too often. My head pounds.
I’ve just been given the opportunity to miss midterms. And I declined.
Ayelet would tell me I’m nuts.
Maybe I am. I was choosing to be like everybody else. I wasn’t going to surrender to this Cancer Monster. It wasn’t going to take over my life, in no uncertain terms. But I can’t figure myself out. Ima feels so validated when people express their concern.
So maybe I am going nuts. But why did the principal’s kind offer leave me feeling so uncomfortable?
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 788)
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