| Teen Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 33

I stand up, hyperaware that every eye in my class is upon me, and hobble toward Ma.


I brush my hair,  pull it into a fabulous velvet scrunchie, tug out some wisps, dab on some lip gloss and mascara, straighten my uniform, and decide resolutely that I’m not telling Debbi that Ma knows it was her phone.

Why stress the girl out?

School is dragging, as per usual. The biggest excitement is Faigy’s new haircut and Morah Weiner handing back the Chumash test.

Until Ma’s class. I’m hiding in the back, and have my notebook cracked open. I went to Target yesterday and invested in some high-quality colored pencils. I am now ready for some serious, hard-core doodling.

Ma comes in, the class gradually grows quiet, Ma takes attendance, and she begins to teach. I look around at my classmates. They’re really listening. It’s weird but also kind of cool. I cock my head to the side; should I start listening? What would that be like?

Ma bounces slightly on her sensible pumps, her arms gesticulating wildly. She’s so passionate, so invested. I almost listen then, but I spy Hindy Sandman looking at me, and I quickly burrow myself back into my doodles.

No need to get a reputation.

There’s a knock on the door, a quick sharp sound. Ma stops teaching, turns toward the door expectantly.

The secretary, Mrs. Rosenstein, is there. She comes toward Ma, whispering frantically.  And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that something terrible has happened to someone I love. My heart drops into my stomach, beating so loudly, I’m sure they can hear it downstairs in ninth grade.

Ma’s face turns white and I’m sure it’s Ta. He’s had a heart attack. Okay, he’s only 50, but still. Or Bubby.

Ma’s fingers are clenching the edge of her desk so hard the veins on her hands are bulging.  And then she looks around and gestures to me.

I stand up, hyperaware that every eye in my class is upon me, and hobble toward Ma.

“Go,” she says. “Yocheved needs you at home.”

And I run.

In contrast to the last time, the house is silent. No police cars, sirens, or megaphones. Just my house, looking peaceful and calm at eleven on a Wednesday morning.

Who knows what’s waiting for me inside?

I take a deep breath and charge into the house.

It’s empty.

“Hello?” I call out. “Anyone home?”

Silence. Then, “In here.”

I enter the living room. Yocheved is sitting bolt upright on the couch, staring straight ahead.

“Naomi,” she says,

I sit next to her.

“Naomi,” she says again.

I swallow. “Is it… Levi?”

She shakes her head.

Oh. No?

“It’s not Levi?”

She turns slowly, like an old woman. “It’s Zev. He was chasing Levi. He’d run into the street… and the car came from nowhere.”

I clutch her hands; they’re freezing, like ice pops in the winter.

“Is he —?”

She takes a deep shuddering breath. “He’ll be okay.  A few broken bones. Naomi?”

I look up. “Yeah?”

“You were right. Something is really wrong with Levi.” And that’s when the tears come.

Zev is going to be okay. Levi is fine.  Yocheved is completely traumatized; she saw the whole thing. But she’s sleeping over at Ma’s tonight, so she’s not alone at least.

Libby and I put on sweats and fluffy socks and go make sure Yocheved won’t have a second to think about how complicated her life has become.  We begin with waffles for dinner, move on to ice cream, and end with a Code Names marathon.

Ta is in the hospital with Zev, and Ma is on Levi duty, and we hear some shouting, but we don’t come out of the basement — under strict instructions from Ma.

It’s weird to be right in this case. I mean, I always want my family to take me seriously — to see I’m not a baby anymore, but this is a hard way for everyone to come to terms with that.

Randomly in the middle of Mordechai Shapiro karaoke, Yocheved starts crying.

Libby cranks the music louder and belts out schar mitzvah mitzvah into the microphone until Yocheved laughs through her tears.

I decide to pipe up. “Nu, Libby, talk to us about Mister Mysterious.  Are we picking out color schemes yet?”

Libby rolls her eyes. “Hunter green, obviously, and nah, totally not. It’s going somewhere, I’m just not sure where.”

I huff.  “Well, either it’s going toward yes or no. Which one?”

She tugs at my ponytail.  “If only it were that simple, hun.”

I’m pretty certain that the older you get, the more complicated you make things, but I keep that opinion to myself.

At around three in the morning, we collapse into sleeping bags.

“I’m too old for this,” Yocheved mutters.

“I’m too tall for this,” Libby says, kicking her sleeping bag.

“Shhh, bubbies, I’m trying to sleep,” I snap, and they crack up.

We’re just about sleeping when Yocheved leans over and kisses my forehead. “Love you, Nomes,” she says. “You’re a great sister.”

And now I’m the one blinking back tears.

To Be Continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 980)

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