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Upper Class: Chapter 16

“Nomes. Let it go. Yocheved will come around. It’s not your problem, okay? You did your best, you apologized, whether you needed to or not. She’s a big girl, she’ll come to her senses.”


Once, in third grade, our teacher, Mrs. Mandelbaum, told us to dress up like our book report characters for the next day. So I put my all into my Martha Washington costume. Makeup, dress, bonnet, clogs. I mean, I really sold it. If Martha Washington were four feet tall and lived in the 21st century, we would be doppelgangers. I arrived at school beaming, only to realize that Mrs. Mandelbaum had meant we should dress up as book report characters the following week, at the Mother and Daughter Evening.

That was awkward.

But sitting here silently with Yocheved makes that faux pas seem like a witty anecdote. The awkwardness in Yocheved’s Sienna is so thick you can cut it with a knife and serve slices to the entire Taub family.

When I got into the car, I looked in the back at the empty car seat, and back at Yocheved. The side of her mouth had curled up; I’d sunk back in my seat and have been hunched here ever since.

Honestly, I’m too tired for this. I just want a burning hot shower, then clean, crisp sheets that don’t smell like the forest and sunscreen, and to sleep for 27 hours straight.

Instead, I’m sitting here, sweating away and too intimidated to ask my older sister to turn on the A/C. I look at her sideways. She looks as pretty and fresh-faced as always, seemingly completely unbothered by the heat.

I shift. Time to break this silence.

“Thanks so much for picking me up,” I say, my words coming out rough and stilted.

She nods, eyes straight ahead. “My pleasure.”

“How was your summer?” I ask, inwardly rolling my eyes at the ridiculousness of the conversation.

She smirks at this. “It was fine, baruch Hashem.” More awkward silence. “How was yours?”

“Really great, baruch Hashem,” I say too enthusiastically.

She turns onto my block, and sniffs. “Okay, good. Glad to hear that.”

We pull up in front of the house. It’s comforting to see it; as much as I wasn’t homesick, I did miss my home.

I see a We Missed You, Naomi sign taped to the door, and balloons by the mailbox.

Ma is great like that, always remembering and celebrating the small things.

“Have a great day,” Yocheved says, like she’s my Uber driver instead of my older sister.

And so, I lose it. “Yocheved!” I blurt out. “You’re really being too dramatic. So I called Levi crazy. I’m sorry, okay? Really, I am. I love him, I’m obsessed with him, he’s heaven and gorgeous. It’s just that he can be a lot sometimes. And I was stressed and tired and nobody asked me if I was up to babysitting, everyone just assumed I would do it, which isn’t your fault, but it’s not mine either. And I feel like you’ve made me into this bad guy, but I don’t think you really even feel that way. I just think you need a bad guy so you don’t have to think about the fact that maybe Levi really is a lot. And honestly, Yocheved, I’m 16, you’re 23, but I feel like you’re the one being immature here.”

And then I get out of the car and slam the door before my big sister can respond.

And then I watch while she speeds away, my duffel and wheelie bag still in the trunk of her car.


I’m showered, well fed, and safely under the fresh set of linen Ma had ready on my bed before I allow the tears to come.

Ma thought I’d been mugged when I showed up white-faced without my luggage. It took a few minutes before I could explain to her what happened, and I do not think she was amused.

Now I hear yelling coming from her room; I think she’s on the phone with Yocheved.

I roll onto my back and stare up at the ceiling. Someone stuck Hello Kitty stickers up there ages ago, and I wonder, in a haze of exhaustion, how they got access to the ceiling and which sister it was… My bet is on Miri, as the oldest, but who knows….

I never really liked Hello Kitty. I was always more of a Strawberry Shortcake girl myself.

And my last coherent thought before drifting off into a deep dreamless sleep is that I could really use some cake.


Libby is excited I’m home, at least. She also apparently rescued my belongings from Yocheved’s trunk, and she plops onto my floor to help me unpack. She’s amazing like that, and she makes me feel like I was really missed. Which is always a good feeling. We work in silence, mainly making giant dirty laundry piles, until she taps my hooded head, exasperated.

“Nomes. Let it go. Yocheved will come around. It’s not your problem, okay? You did your best, you apologized, whether you needed to or not. She’s a big girl, she’ll come to her senses.”

“And Levi?” I ask, looking Libby in the eye.

She flushes. “And Levi what?”

I twist my mouth to the side. “You know what. Is she getting him help?”

She doesn’t answer but I can tell from the way she looks at the floor that the answer is a big bold NO.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Junior, Issue 963)

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