N o time for the mirror this morning. Half running toward school I run my hands through my unruly hair.
I’m still stewing about Leeba and the others yesterday about the stark divide on a snowy hill: Four carefree friends on one side a girl alone on the other.

What did I think? That they would call me too?

In my agitation my fingers deftly weave a mini braid into the side of my hair. I secure it with a pin and stop for a moment to check out my reflection in the window of a car. Nice!

Leeba’s the only one who would’ve… who might’ve… And even if she did what would Rikki say?

I form another little braid on the other side and tuck the ends into my bun.

I throw myself a grin in the bakery window. But when I turn away I slap my forehead. How could I have forgotten? Our last encounter the last time Leeba and I spoke on a frigid stairwell before the production…

I don’t feel I know you anymore she’d said.

I don’t know you either I’d spat in return.

And I hadn’t looked back just left our differences to fester so that we knew less and less of each other as the weeks went by. And why would I think she’d consider me now?

That’s it. I’ve got to talk to her today.

In a tired place inside me an old cynical voice says Just leave it why do you even care?

But I do. Maybe it’s Rafi and my rashly spoken promise to become one of the crowd again. Or maybe I’m finally taking a stand to put things right for myself. I sprint into the building as the bell rings and take my seat in the davening hall determined.

I must have missed a pre-davening announcement. Something that’s made a hall full of girls quieter subdued. I don’t know what it is but the mood is somber like Rebbetzin Reiman has just told them about a terror attack in Israel or something. Even Renee the 12th-grade chazzanis who has no compunctions about singing out hodu in front of the whole school is quiet save for the occasional murmur to tell us where she’s holding.

Rebetzin Reiman dismisses our class and I watch my classmates file out craning my neck for Leeba. She’s not here.

I follow the girls up to the classroom and the quiet hits me heavier than before. Honestly I must be dreaming. It’s like the slushy sludgy mass of the melting snow outside has come in weighing everyone down. Solemn faces everywhere. Please has someone died?

I take my seat and turn around; maybe Leeba’s turned up late? Her desk is empty but I’m stuck on her seatmate Rikki’s expression; her face is pinched and drawn and she’s blinking too fast.

Rikki oh-so-cool Rikki in tears?

What’s up with this class? (Excerpted from Teen Pages Issue 685)