| Teen Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 17

I’m lying here and not moving. Ever, maybe. Just let 11th grade begin without me. Who needs an education anyway, am I right?


I shriek as we go down the slide, Aliza’s hands tightening around my neck so that I can’t actually breathe. Great, I’m either going to pass out from lack of oxygen or crash-land at the bottom of a giant blow-up slide in a blaze of mortifying glory.

Thankfully, I land safely, and break free of Aliza’s grip. Naomi, one; embarrassing slide incidents, zero.

Of course, the second we land Aliza forgets that she was afraid for her life and yells, “Again, again!”

I groan and Miri comes over with water.

“Best tante of the year, that’s for sure,” she says cheerfully, which would be sweet except that my family’s on this super annoying, super perky campaign to distract me from my Yocheved woes.

I smile tightly. “Hmmmm. Aliza, I’ll do that again when Mashiach comes, ’kay?”

Aliza loves this. She claps her little hands and starts singing, “We want Mashiach now, we want Mashiach NOW!”

Shrugging, we all join in.

Hey, my family might be over the top, but they’ve got their priorities straight.


The mass of girls in blue swarming around the gym makes me feel like I’m back at camp, on a boat. My stomach rolls, my head spins, yet I somehow love it all. Debbi waves at people left and right, then tugs me over to the 11th-grade uniform pickup. “That’s us! Eleventh grade! Eeeeeek!”

“Eeeek,” I answer lamely.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m pssssssyyyycccched to be an 11th grader, obvi. Just… well, you know, the thing I’ve been dreading all summer is approaching at an alarming speed: sitting in my mom’s class.

I pick up my new uniform skirts, slip one on to ensure it’s the right size, admire the knife-sharp pleats, gather my textbooks, and bounce impatiently, waiting for Debbi to finish yapping to every single person she meets.

Things with Debbi have been okay. We kind of fell right back into BFF routine, but there is this strained tension between us, labeled “CAMP” in invisible Sharpie.

One day, we’ll get into it. Maybe when I don’t feel like my life is falling apart in every other area.

I gaze into one of the mirrors the school put up in the gym for uniform try-on. In other news, my hair looks great.


Chevi Adams invited a bunch of us over for a Last Days of Summer pool party.

I fall dramatically onto one of the chaises and lower my sunglasses from my head. This is it, this is the life. I’m lying here and not moving. Ever, maybe. Just let 11th grade begin without me. Who needs an education anyway, am I right?

“Are you wearing sunscreen?”

I smirk up at Debbi. “Yes, thank you, Ma.”

She swats my shoulder, but before she can reply someone else says, “Speaking of Ma, omigosh, Naomi, I’m pumped to have your mother. She’s like the best. And she’s running Expo this year! What topic do you think she’ll pick?”

I sit up, blink away the sun spots, and look around. Girls in various stages of tanning and splashing are all suddenly sitting up and staring at me eagerly.

What topic will she pick for Expo? I think of other years, how the family sat around and helped her brainstorm over supper, yelling and gesticulating and explaining why their idea should be chosen. This year, though, Ma hasn’t mentioned it even once.

At least, not in my presence.

“Hate to disappoint you girls,” I say, “but I have less than zero idea.”

They turn away, disappointed.

Better get used to it, ladies. I have a feeling it’s going to be a pretty disappointing year.

Debbi squirts mustard on me before we even start eating.

“Sorry,” she giggles, dabbing at my arm with a cute red-checkered napkin.

Chevy’s mom comes out with coleslaw and pickles and inexplicably I feel tears spring to my eyes.

Why can’t life always be like this? Easy and uncomplicated and the biggest issue being mustard on my arm?

Why is summer so bittersweet?

I look around at all the laughing, eating girls.

Is it just me?

Do I overthink things? Do I feel too much?

Probably. I’ve always been that way, though. I wonder if that’s the real explanation behind my rift with Debbi and Zeesy. Did I just want more depth, more empathy than what they were offering?

Was that why I was attracted to Shan’s friendship? And if so, am I going to spend the year alone and lonely?

Someone puts on music, and Debbi grabs my arm, laughing. “Let’s dance!”

And just like that, all deep thoughts about the future vanish as we dance the last bits of summer away in a haze of heat, chlorine, and barbecue fumes.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Junior, Issue 964)

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