Maybe that’s the thing with family, they’re so close that it’s hard to see things clearly
“You’re one to talk about family.” Tehillah flopped onto her bed and started untangling her earbuds.
Rachelli found her voice. “I’m not the one taking over someone else’s bedroom.”
Tehillah snorted. “You’re also not the one who gave up your room for your grandparents.” She rolled over and plugged into the music. After a minute, she popped out one earbud and said, “By the way, Bubby and Zeidy are leaving after Shabbos. So you won’t have to suffer having me around anymore.”
Rachelli stared. Was that sarcasm — or sadness? She took a step closer.
The music was loud; she could feel it vibrating even from where she stood. But Tehillah, still listening with only one ear, raised her eyebrows. It was now or never.
“I’m — sorry about that. It was really nice of you to give up your room for Bubby.”
She was talking to Tehillah. They were talking, really talking, about Bubby and bedrooms and Rachelli couldn’t really believe this was happening.
“Are you… happy to go back to your room?” As soon as she asked the question, Rachelli regretted it. Of course Tehillah was happy — why shouldn’t she be? Her own room, en-suite bathroom, her stuff and her privacy. And she, Rachelli, hadn’t been very welcoming — had she?
But Tehillah had paused the music and was looking over at her younger sister thoughtfully. “Of course I’m happy,” she said slowly. “But your room hasn’t been so bad. Your art’s amazing.”
Then, with a shrug and a toss of the hair that showed she was still Tehillah, not some lookalike imposter, she switched the music back on. The conversation, it seemed, was over.
Rachelli sat on the window ledge, hugging her knees to her chest. She looked from her sister out to the front garden. Bubby’s flowers were blooming; the whole garden looked different. Like a little gift she was leaving behind, despite the difficult visit.
Sometimes, it’s easier to see things when you have the whole picture. She’d never thought about Tehillah having it hard, what a sacrifice it was to give up her bedroom. To Bubby, no less. But with a bird’s-eye view, it was so obvious.
Maybe that’s the thing with family, they’re so close that it’s hard to see things clearly. It’s hard not to get caught up in the negativity and the petty annoyances. From a distance, it’s easier to have perspective.
Mommy wanted to fill out the high school application tonight. But Rachelli had something to discuss with her parents first.
The hard part, really, was breaking the news to Etty.
“But — why did you change your mind?” Etty kept asking, eyes wide. “I can’t believe you won’t be with me for high school…”
Rachelli bit her lip. “I know. I can’t really believe it either. But really… I just kept thinking about it, it’s going to be a tiny school, we’ll be the only class there. And really, if Shani wasn’t in the school my parents wanted me to go to originally, I’d have agreed to go there ages ago.”
Etty pouted. “Even without your BFF?”
Rachelli gave Etty a one-armed hug. “Etty, it has nothing to do with you. It’s me. I’m — I realized I need this change, I’m sort of excited to go to a large school. You’ll always be my best friend, though. We’ll talk every night. Really!”
“I guess it is more your type to be somewhere with a lot of action, older classes, stuff happening,” Etty said, considering. “But seriously, it’s not going to be the same without you here.”
“I’ll miss you, also.” Rachelli felt a prickle behind her eyelids. Was she crazy, leaving everything behind, her friends, her family? Well, besides Shani.
She had to smile at the thought. “Shani was so hyper when she heard that I’m coming.”
“What did your parents say?” Etty asked curiously.
“They were surprised… but we talked about it. They’re really happy for me to go. They always liked Bais Rivka Leah.”
“Wow.” Etty mulled this over. “Hey, I need to copy your notes, the bell’s going to ring soon. Coming back to class?”
Rachelli took a deep breath. She’d had so many intense conversations in the past 24 hours: Tehillah, Mommy, Etty. It was time for one more. She’d spent half the night working up the courage, and the other half trying to stop herself from chickening out, but it had to be done.
Perspective, she reminded herself. Look at the bigger picture.
Rachelli stood up, took a deep breath. “Go ahead without me,” she said. “I’m going to the staff room first. To ask Mrs. Hertz for my sketchbook back.”
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 775)