| Teen Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 15

“Why is that a bad thing, Zeesy? I’m allowed to change. I’m a growing person. I’m a teenager. The whole point is changing, right? We can’t stay kids forever"


Ifling an arm around Debbi; she pulls me close and rests her head on my shoulder.

Next year,” I choke out, “I refuse to come to camp. Nothing is worth the trauma of having to say goodbye to everyone.”

Debbi answers something totally unintelligible, and we all just sob harder.

I’m not handling. Four weeks did not go by already. It just did not. I refuse.

Shan comes over to me and squeezes my hand. I disentangle myself from Debbi and fling myself at Shan. We laugh through our tears and then just cry.

“I’m really going to miss you,” I choke out.

Shan nods. “Me too,” she whispers hoarsely.

We stop our sob fest to actually pack. I’m folding T-shirts, sniffing quietly, when Zeesy appears at the foot of my bed.

“Naomi,” she says. “Can we talk?”

I look at her. I don’t feel close to her, not now. It was an interesting summer; I feel like she and Debbi clicked without me, and I clicked with Shan, and honestly, I’m okay with that.

“Sure,” I say, because I’m a nice person.

She raises an eyebrow. Which is super cool, I want to do that. I resolve to teach myself this year.

“Uh, can we go outside? Like, in private?”

Ooooh. “Sure,” I say again. I abandon my folding, and follow her out of the bunkhouse.

It had been raining for a change, and the grounds are soft and spongy, and the air smells of mud and woods and that incredible camp smell that means it’s summer.

We settle in a gazebo. I’m uncomfortable, to be honest.

I don’t want to DMC with Zeesy right now. I want to finish packing, say my goodbyes, and go attend the farewell banquet.

Zeesy wraps a lock of hair around her finger so tight that it turns purple, and then lets it go.

“Naomi… I feel like… I think… you’ve changed,” she blurts out.

I blink in shock. I was expecting accusations, anger, hurt. But not this.

“Excuse me?” I splutter. “I changed?”

Zeesy nods, her expression blank. “Yeah.”

I feel anger rising up; I do my best to quash it. “And so?”

Zeesy shrugs. “And so, you’re different.”

Oh, only Heaven can help me now. “And so?” I shout. “Why is that a bad thing, Zeesy? I’m allowed to change. I’m a growing person. I’m a teenager. The whole point is changing, right? We can’t stay kids forever. I’m sorry you don’t like it, but honestly, Zeesy, I don’t actually live my life hoping for approval.”

Okay, well we all know that’s just not true. But whatever.

She looks at me, and I can see she’s genuinely hurt. “Okay, Naomi. Whatever you say.”

And then, with a little wave, she walks out of the gazebo, leaving me totally and utterly alone.

Of course, that’s when the skies open.

I get drenched.


We all sleep most of the ride home. It’s always been this way, like four weeks of sleeplessness suddenly build up until we can’t possibly keep our eyes open one more minute. I watch the camp grounds disappearing behind me, the staff waving and waving, until I can’t see them anymore.

I sink into my seat, struggling to keep my eyes open. The last thing I hear before drifting off is a faraway voice saying, “You’ve changed! You’ve changed!” over and over again until the world goes black.

Only once we’ve reached Lakewood do I regain consciousness, like my psyche recognized the familiarity of my hometown.

Everything looks so commercial, all the stores and parks and parking lots. I comment out loud to Debbi, who has yet to open her eyes. I wordlessly hand her gum, she smiles weakly, pops a piece, and once her nausea subsides, whispers, “You sound like you just lived in the wilderness instead of a campsite with tennis courts and heated pools.”

I laugh, because she’s right.

We enter Toms River, and I feel my heart sink. Summer is almost over. A week and a half, and then it’s time for eleventh grade and everything I’ve been dreading since graduating elementary school.

Debbi elbows me. “Pool day tomorrow?”

I grin, suddenly feeling a lot better. “Only after Slurpees.”

We high-five and gather our bags.

I look around for Ma’s battered van, but it’s nowhere in sight.

“Typical,” I moan to Debbi. “My parents forgot all about me.”

Debbi clears her throat. “Maybe they did, but your sister didn’t.”

I turn around, and my stomach drops.

Standing there, one arm resting on the door of her silver Sienna, is Yocheved.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Teen, Issue 97)

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