She could get lost in here. She could stay for hours, hide from the whole crazy world. From her parents and Tehillah and Shani and the dumb high school application
She couldn’t go back to school. How could she?
Mrs. Hertz would be standing in the front of the classroom, pacing the aisles, giving her that cold glare... Rachelli shuddered.
So that’s why her teacher hadn’t liked her. Maybe she’d thought Rachelli knew all along.
“Don’t talk about this, especially not in school,” Mommy had warned. “It’s not public knowledge yet, and it’s lashon hora besides. She’s your teacher, we have to be sensitive to her.”
And what about me? Rachelli thought. But she didn’t answer.
Later that evening, it was Etty who tried and tried to reach her. Rachelli saw her number on the phone, two missed calls, three. She couldn’t answer. What would she say? The awful secret would be lead on her tongue, thick and impenetrable between them.
The next morning, she slipped into the classroom just as the bell was ringing, and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Mrs. Steinfeld again. So Mrs. Hertz was taking another personal day — she certainly had reason to.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Etty trying to catch her attention. Rachelli kept her eyes on her desk. Her best friend was going to be insulted. But what could she do?
When recess came, she made a split-second decision to break the rules and leave school grounds. It was easier than she’d imagined. The gates of the parking lot were open — someone had just pulled out — and she slipped through unnoticed.
One block away from school, Rachelli stopped short. Where to go now? Home wasn’t an option; Ma would ask too many questions, and Bubby… no, it wasn’t worth it. The park wouldn’t work either, it was too cold and windy to enjoy a walk.
A store would be warm inside... she could wander around anonymously. The shopping strip with her favorite art store wasn’t too far. Rachelli’s steps quickened; sketchbooks and canvasses and thick, vivid oil paints beckoned.
Five minutes later, she stepped into another world. The store was quiet at this hour, an elderly couple browsing fabrics, a woman with a double stroller purchasing a giant box of crayons. The salespeople, distinct in neon-green shirts, were stacking shelves. Soft music and a million shades of color.
She could get lost in here. She could stay for hours, hide from the whole crazy world. From her parents and Tehillah and Shani and the dumb high school application, from school and Etty and Mrs. Hertz and the terrible truth that lodged like a painful thorn in her throat.
She passed the crafts section, its blur of melting color too bright for her mood. Rachelli’s cheek felt wet; she hadn’t realized her eyes were dripping tears. And she had no tissues, either, since she’d left her knapsack in school.
Rachelli pressed her hands to her eyes. Great. Now she looked terrible, too.
(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 771)
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