“You can have my part. Take it along with everything else in my life. See if that makes you happy”
It’s three days until production and the school is buzzing. Costumes, props, and girls fly through the hallways, music blares from practice rooms, and class is practically nonexistent.
We have a full morning off for practice, and I should be at the play run-through, but I need a break.
I wander around, noise and fun and laughter bouncing over and around me. I feel detached, like I’m not part of all this. Why not? I’m in play, I’m in choir, I’m in 12th grade and should be on top of the world. Like Baylee, who’s sitting in the auditorium, watching every scene and reveling in the privilege of being in play, finally.
I turn the corner and suddenly realize I’m not alone: Chani Schwartz is sitting on a windowsill, hunched over her knees, looking morose.
“What are you doing up here?” I ask. “I mean, don’t they need you at the run-through?”
“Nah, there are a few scenes till I come on,” she says. Her voice is flat. “Anyway, it gets intense, you know what I mean? I needed a break.”
No, I don’t know what she means. “Intense?” I try, unsuccessfully, to keep the bitterness from my voice. “Some people would give anything to have your part.”
Something about my words is so familiar… it sounds like someone, something I’ve heard recently. What?
Chani snorts. “You can have my part. Take it along with everything else in my life. See if that makes you happy.”
Everything else in her life… I suddenly remember the rumors earlier this year, something about Chani’s parents, a sibling off the derech, other stuff going on at home.
“They gave me the part to keep me busy, even I know that,” Chani says, her tone acid. “You think it’s fun seeing everyone’s reactions, knowing that they think I shouldn’t have the part? Having to review it over and over because acting is so not my thing? Having private practice with Miss Weller all the time? Yeah, everyone thinks that it’s such a party, but they should try it themselves, see how they like it.”
I don’t know what to say.
“You-you’re doing a great job,” I tell her, finally.
“Yeah, yeah. Nice of you to say so.” She makes a face. “You should’ve had the part, Rena, you know that? You can really act. But you can do lots of stuff, you’re in choir also… I guess they figured I ‘need’ it more than you.”
My mouth is very dry. “Maybe,” I croak. My voice hurts.
Footsteps sound behind us, sharp and insistent. “Chani! I was looking everywhere for you.” It’s Miss Weller; we’re in trouble now. “We need you for the next scene.” She looks closer and her tone changes to concern. “Is everything okay? Do you want a few minutes…?”
Chani gives me a quick glance, and Miss Weller seems to wake up to my presence for the first time.
“Rena? Shouldn’t you be in the auditorium?”
“Yeah, just like Chani,” I mumble. Not nice, I know, but honestly, how double standard can you get?
Miss Weller’s eyes narrow. “I’m sorry?”
“Okay. Please go to the auditorium now, we don’t have time to waste. Chani, you too, I want to see you there in five minutes, okay?”
Part of me is furious, but as I make my way back to the seat beside Baylee, I start to wonder.
What could be going on in Chani’s home that she’s being treated like this? It must be really bad if Miss Weller is acting like that… letting her break rules and everything.
Chani’s words echo in my ears: “You can have my part… with everything else in my life.” And suddenly it hits me who I’d sounded like when I told her she should be grateful: Shira Jacoby, who was constantly harping on about how lucky I was.
Maybe we weren’t so different after all, me and Shira.
Because if you look for it, there’ll always be someone who has it better. And there’s always someone who has it worse, too. But if you’re focusing on feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll always be miserable.
I think about Shira, Baylee, Chani, me.
Chani, and her grand part, and her difficult home life.
Maybe there are worse problems in life than not getting a great part in the school production.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 896)
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