| Teen Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 39

Why couldn’t a different teacher have given over those announcements? Why, oh why, did it have to be my mother?

I wake up slowly, eyes creaking open one by one.

The view outside my window is a mass of gray roiling clouds. It’s freezing, and my Uggs are nowhere to be seen. Oh, I can already tell it’s going to be a fantabulous day.

I miss the bus and have to get a ride with Ma. Wonderful for my reputation.

And of course, Ma is running late. So not only do I get to ride in her 90’s Green Toyota minivan, I also get to be late for cheder tefillah.

I wait for her in the car, sipping my cold brew — never too cold outside for cold brew — and scowling out the window at absolutely nobody.

Ma settles into her seat with a flurry of notebooks and pens and roll call books; a thermos of coffee nearly spills all over my pleated skirt. I jerk away.

Ma looks at me. “You okay there?”

I look at her and then look away.

We drive in a silence that fills the entire car. Of course, I feel bad as soon as we pull into school.

“See you later, Ma,” I say sweetly, leaning over to peck her cheek.

I’m pretty sure Ma wants to disown me.

I tiptoe into the cheder tefillah, waving my late note, and plop into my seat. I’m tired already.

* * *

I take my regular seat at the back of Ma’s class. I curl my legs up, spread out my notebook, line up my new colored pencils, and turn to schmooze with Debbi until Ma comes in.

“I’m freezing,” she says, burying her chin in the sweatshirt she has draped around her shoulders.


“Hot cocoa after school?”

I roll my eyes. “If I make it until then. I’m ready to give up right now.”

Debbi yawns in solidarity. “I actually couldn’t fall sleep last night. Total insomnia.”

I smirk. “Next time, read the driver’s ed manual. That’ll put you right to sleep.”

We crack up. Ma walks in, we all rise respectfully, and everyone sits down, eager in their pursuit of knowledge. And I’m ready to doodle.

But Ma first has an announcement. “Boker tov, banos. Before we get back into our incredible perek, I just want to share some thoughts from the hanhalah.”

She looks around, makes sure she has everyone’s attention, and continues.

“The entire 11th-grade corridor is going to be waxed by a professional team after everyone leaves. So after class, please bring your chairs to the gym area. And gather up any belongings that you see on the floor, which, of course, never should be on the floor. Second of all, the hanhalah, as you know, always has your best interests at heart. We feel a responsibility toward our girls and we want what’s best for you. It has come to our attention that a new pizza store, Stuffed Crusts, has just opened, and while I’m sure they’re very nice people, and the hechsher is superb, the atmosphere in said restaurant is less than desirable.

“On a side note, have we really reached such luxury in our daily lives, that we are now stuffing crusts for lack of anything better to do?”

A few girls laugh. I do not.

“We are not here to dictate how to run your lives, where to eat, etcetera, but we do feel strongly that our girls avoid this establishment. Thank you, girls. Now please open your notes and seforim.”

Ohhh, it’s mortifying. Why couldn’t a different teacher have given over those announcements? Why, oh why, did it have to be my mother?

I drag my chair to the gym and then head home alone, hood pulled tight. Despite her promises of hot cocoa, Debbi has to stay for dance practice. A light rain starts to fall, matching my mood perfectly.

I have tons of homework, my hair is frizzing, and my mother is the teacher who makes class announcements.

Great, just great.

My fleece throw is just what I need. Plus, my fuzzy socks. Plus, I can make my own hot cocoa.

I’m sipping blissfully when my phone pings.

Oh, not Shan. Please, not Shan.

I’m too tired, and honestly, I’m too cold.


I need you.

Well then. I did tell her to be straightforward.

Whatsup hun?

Silence and then ping. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I hate it. I have no friends. I hate school. Everyone’s so judgmental.

Oy, poor girlie.

That’s really hard. I’m so sorry.

Don’t be sorry, just come rescue me.

I laugh and lean back comfortably. No way I’m venturing out into the rain.

Naomi… I need you.

Uch, stupid friendship rules.

I take a moment to mourn having to take off my fuzzy socks before slipping my rain boots back on.

We meet at the park, a normal one this time. Shan does not look good. Her hair is dull and lank, and her skin looks spotty. Which I totally don’t care about, I’m totes not shallow, but she just looks deeply unhappy.

We sit on the swings, not really talking, just being. And I have to say, there’s something deeply comforting in being with someone you don’t have to fill the silences with. I kind of feel like I’ve known her my whole life.

Thunder booms overhead.

“Should we go get food?” she asks. I nod, watching her.

She’s still Shan, still pretty and sharp and funny, but dulled, like someone put a screen over her.

It makes me sad. I shiver against the wind and feel my pockets to make sure I have my wallet. Phew, I do.

“Let’s grab a table, they fill up fast,” she says.

I nod agreeably and we head inside.

And then I freeze, because the mural on the wall says, in huge, curling letters, “Welcome to Stuffed Crusts.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 986)

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