"I… didn’t mean for this to happen. But… you didn’t need to react like that"
It’s ten minutes into practice and she’s late. Not only is she late, but she’s sneaking something in. It’s plastic and colorful, appearing suspiciously like a package of Jelly Bellies. And is that Schmerling’s chocolate I see? It’s my favorite flavor. But never mind. Who gave her permission?
Aviva smiles her sweet smile. “Sorry I’m late.” And she slides into her position as if…. I shoot her one of my looks but she’s twirling along with the beat. And I have no choice but to follow suit.
Suddenly, there are jelly beans all over, chocolate being passed around. And I’m helpless. I have no more strength to fight. I don’t care about this dance, anyway. Who’s going to be there to watch it? No one in the audience will even know me. Ima isn’t coming.
I cried last night. I hadn’t cried in a longtime. It’s so ridiculous for me to care. But I just do.
Ima had been so excited about the play. She’d purchased tickets as soon as they were available. She was coming to see my dance!
And I want her there. I want to know that there’s someone in the sea of faces who knows what I put into this. But she won’t be. She’s devastated about it. And so am I. Aviva shoves a chocolate bar into my hands.
“Take!” she urges.
I break off a square. A neat little box. Seeing the utter delight on her face, I just let it melt in my palm. Even though it’s my favorite flavor and I’ve never refused chocolate in my life. Her face falls.
“Who let you?” I hiss through clenched teeth.
The room is eerily silent. And Aviva… Aviva just looks at me like… that. I’m trying to identify what I see on her face. But before I know it, it’s gone, and she’s Aviva again.
“ ’Kay, guys, let’s give this party, say,” she steals a glance at her watch, “another five minutes. We do have to get to work, you know!”
Yet no one makes any move toward the half empty jelly bean bag or the chocolate’s foil wrappers. It’s like the life has gone out of the room.
I turn on the music again. “First position,” I say quietly. And for the first time, everyone actually hears me. I wonder why. They’re dancing, my girls. But they’re not letting their feet float. It’s choppy. It’s dull. It’s lifeless. I make a split-second decision. “Girls, you’re dismissed. We’ll resume in 15 minutes.”
They all shuffle out of the room. All of them — except for Aviva. She’s biting her lips. “Now are you satisfied?” I whisper.
“Satisfied about what?”
I stare at her coldly. “About what happened.”
She blinks a bit too hard. “Actually, I feel horrible. I… didn’t mean for this to happen. But… you didn’t need to react like that." Her voice falters. She’s blaming me. With good reason.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 795)
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