It is so not my responsibility to make sure Yocheved gets to go out
Pllllllleeeeeeassssseeee. Pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top? And ten dollars an hour?”
I look at Yocheved sideways, the hood of my sweatshirt concealing my interest.
Hmmm, things just got fancy. Yocheved never offers to pay me for babysitting Levi. I look at my sister. There’s way too much hope in her eyes; it makes me feel funny. Like I want to make her happy and also, I want her to never look at me like that again.
“Naomi, puhleeze. It’s our anniversary and Zev finally can take off work a little early.”
I raise my eyebrows at her. “That’s amazing. So call a babysitter.”
Yocheved flushes a delicate pink. “I did. They were… unavailable.”
“All of them?”
She cleared her throat. “Ummm, ya. They’re not very reliable, you know? Always busy, one had a wedding.”
Uch. I feel bad for her, I really do, but when is she going to realize that the issue is not the school or the playgroup or the babysitters? It’s Levi.
“I have a huge Navi test, Chevs, I’m sorry.”
Her face falls. “Nooo, c’mon! Nomes, please!”
Uch, I hate this.
I’d do it for her a different day. But my grades come first. And if a voice inside is whispering, You’d do it for Miri even with a test, well, then, that’s why I don’t always listen to my inner voice.
She makes one last-ditch effort. “I’ll order you sushi?”
I waver, I really do. Sushi and money, plus helping my sister out. Mmmm, a nice, fresh California roll sounds perfect right now.
But then I imagine trying to study while Levi rips up my notes or paints my bedroom walls with peanut butter.
I shudder inwardly. “Yocheved, I’m so sorry. I really can’t.”
And I head upstairs to take a shower, pretending I didn’t see tears glistening in my big sister’s eyes.
One more hour and then I am done. DONE. Not another sensible word is going to enter my mind tonight. I am going to put down my notes, open up a good, non-sensible book, and then go to sleep.
Twenty minutes. Time seems to have stopped. Thirty minutes. Time has lost all meaning. Okay, I’m done. Not going to make it an hour, that’s for sure.
I flip over onto my back, slide my notebook to the side so I don’t accidentally rip out pages, and grab the family phone from my nightstand. Let’s find out what Yocheved ordered for her fancy dinner.
How’s the anniversary dinner? I tap out.
The reply is almost instantaneous. Didn’t go.
Oh, no. Oh no oh no. I feel awful. Oy, I’m sorry. Wish it had worked out.
Nothing, and then Me too.
Uch! I cover my face with my hands. I feel like the worst sister in the world.
But I needed to study! I need to do well; the seminaries totally look at 11th-grade marks.
I run my hands down my face and then let them fall limply by my side. I imagine Yocheved at home, doing something boring like dishes, wearing her seminary sweatshirt and a tichel instead of getting all dressed up for her anniversary.
And then I get mad.
It is so not my responsibility to make sure Yocheved gets to go out. I’m the little sister, and I don’t like this role reversal. It’s not even fair that I’m lying here in a pool of guilt.
But what I can do is put in a good word for her. I sit up, slip on my shoes, smooth my skirt down.
And then I say a perek of Tehillim that my sister’s life should get much easier, and she should be a lot happier than she seems now.
I’m downstairs, making myself a midnight grilled cheese sandwich — so random, I know — when the phone rings. Omigosh, it’s Debbi! Debbi, who has been avoiding me ever since she confessed it was her phone that rang during Ma’s class.
Honestly, the second she’d told me, I’d wiped it out of my brain.
Thank you and no. Nope. Didn’t want to know that. Need to be able to maintain my ignorance under torture and all that.
Not that Ma’s torturing us, per se, but she does give a short speech on accountability and emes before every class these days.
It’s been quite lovely, thank you for asking.
Out of parental loyalty, I pretend I don’t see the eye rolls and whispers in her direction, but I really wish Ma would stop. It’s mortifying and it’s too much.
“Debbi! Stranger danger, how are you, hun?”
I grip the phone, shake it a little bit back and forth.
And then I know what she’s going to say a minute before she actually says it.
“Naomi, I’m ready to tell your mother that it was me.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 976)
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