It does seem that Libby, my older, wiser sister, is always right
han is texting me. I’ve taken to randomly clomping downstairs to check my phone on its perch on the kitchen counter. Not much action: A missed call from Debbi, one class chain call about ordering pizza for Rosh Chodesh, a text goodnight from Zeesy from last night, and now, a text from Shan…
Hey you too, I type back.
Which I immediately regret, because that’s super nerdy. Why do I do this?
Her LOL is instantaneous.
How’s it going down there?
I lean on the counter. Down there? Where is she living, the North Pole?
Greeeeeat. I hesitate only a moment before tapping out Baruch Hashem.
Why’d I hesitate? I hate that.
She sends back a blue heart. What does that even mean?
I tap out Yessir, Captain, Sir, and then call her.
I find myself pacing as I wait for her to answer. Fluffy purple socks stride back and forth, back and forth on the worn-out kitchen tiles.
Even her hello is different; it sounds lazy and bored, which is interesting considering she just asked me to call her.
“Hi,” I say, purposely keeping my answer short and pointed.
“How are you?” This time her drawl is less pronounced.
I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel like crying. “I’m okay,” I whisper. “Baruch Hashem.”
She sighs, a deep sound that fills the phone with static. “Tell me everything, Nomes.”
So I do. I tell her about Yocheved and how she’s so blind to Levi’s problems, even as they smack her in the face with whirring blue and red police sirens. I tell her about Debbi, how she was stupid enough to leave her phone on, and how I jumped in to take the blame before my social life was absolutely destroyed. I tell her how upset Ma is, how Libby’s going out with what’s-his-name for the third time, and how Zeesy has been texting me.
She whistles as I wind down.
“Naomiiiii, that’s a lot, girl. A lot. You poor thing.”
And a wave of validation washes over me. I’ve wandered into the living room at some point during our conversation, and I curl up on the couch, feeling depleted but also strangely satisfied.
“Thanks, Shan. And you? What’s going on by you?”
She laughs. “Oh, same old. Destroying my own life, kicked out of school, my own mother didn’t stand up for me. You know, regular stuff.”
I’m speechless. I’m also a thousand percent positive there’s nothing simple about the simple story she just told me.
“Oh, Shan. Hun, that’s so hard. What are you going to do?”
She laughs again. “How do you feel about a reunion in Toms River? They’re sending me to Beis Chedva. I’ll be boarding at my aunt and uncle.”
Around 2,000 emotions crash over me, but the overriding one is a sense of panic that settles like an incessant buzzing in my ear.
I have an English paper due, so of course it’s prime closet-organizing time. I blast music while I pull everything I own out of the closet and pile it around the room. Hmm, this might not have been the best method, but too late now.
Humming, I sort things into Ewww, never going to wear that again / Might come back into style one day / Omigosh yes.
The Omigosh yes pile is very, very small and the Ewww pile is teetering over. What does that say about me and my shopping skills?
I work and work and then grow insanely bored. Leaving the room looking like a hurricane was late for a party and couldn’t decide what to wear, I open my notebook from Ma.
What do I want to write? I flip through previous entries. Why has so little of the year passed already? I feel around a hundred years older than when I first wrote in here.
A knock on the door interrupts my dramatic musings.
“Nomes. You in there?”
Oh. Ma. I look around at the mess, shrug, and call out a resigned, “Come in.”
Ma comes in, looks around, shakes her head, and ignores it.
“Hey, sweetie, how are you?”
Hmmm, what is this interesting tactic? I decide to play along.
“I’m good, Ma, baruch Hashem. How are you?”
Ma moves aside three fanny packs, a bag of scrunchies, and a pair of sneakers. “Don’t put shoes on the bed, sweetie. I’m okay, baruch Hashem. A bit exhausted from all that Levi drama, I’ll admit.”
I nod, biting my tongue. Maybe now Ma will say that she sees he needs more than boundaries, that he needs real help. But all she says is, “Funny thing, though.”
“I’ve been going through the records of the family phone. And it seems that during the hour when your phone supposedly rang in my classroom, interrupting shiur, Ta was on the phone with a collector from the Hatzlachah-a-Thon.”
Check and mate.
“That is funny,” I say weakly.
Ma looks at me.
I look at Ma.
She reaches over and strokes my cheek. “You’re very special, Naomi, do you know that?”
I open my mouth and then close it, hard. No, I do not know that.
But it does seem that Libby, my older, wiser sister, is always right.
And that’s just annoying.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 979)
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