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Upper Class: Chapter 40

Shan turns her head so sharply I get whiplash. “You want me to leave? I knew it”


I want to be home.

I don’t even want to go home, I just want to be home already, back under my covers, fuzzy socks on, and also, be far, far away from here.

Not that it’s such a scene: A few teenagers are laughing rowdily over a pie of pizza, a young couple shares some fries, and then there’s me and Shan. I guess 4:45 is too early for a dinner rush of juvenile delinquents. At least, that’s who I assume the hanhalah doesn’t want us mingling with; I actually have no clue who frequents the store.

But I don’t like breaking rules. Bending them, sure. Hopping over them from time to time, watching them sway back and forth behind me, of course. But actually breaking them is not my thing. Nope, not at all.

I feel nauseous.

Shan is on line, buying us pizzas and sodas.

“Shan,” I croak out, but she can’t hear me.

I lay my head on the table. I look socially off but I don’t care. I want to leave.

There’s a thump; Shan sits down across from me.

“Naomi? Girl, you okay?”

I look up. “Not really. But what’s up with you?”

Shan looks down at her slice. “I don’t know. Naomi, I hate it here. I hate being away from my family, from my home. It’s too much for me.”

Whoa, I was not expecting that. “You… want to go home? Like back to your, uh, mother?”

She looks away. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to be here anymore.”

I try to be a good friend always, to give eitzah tovah, to put my friends’ needs ahead of mine, but right now, it would just solve everything if Shan would leave and go back home. My life would turn boring again: I’d have Debbie as a best friend, maybe even make up with Zeesy, and all I’d have to worry about is passing my driving test and bad hair days. Oh, and Ma, of course, causing damage to my social life, but still, I’ll take it.

“That’s so hard, Shan,” I say softly. “It must be so hard to be away from your fam all this time, living at a boarding family, going to a new school. Maybe your home is where you belong.”

Shan turns her head so sharply I get whiplash. “You want me to leave? I knew it.”

I blink. “Wait, what? No, I don’t. Excuse me, do not put words in my mouth.”

She shrugs. “Oh, c’mon, your life would be soooo much easier if I wasn’t in it.”

What is she, a mind reader?

“Nuh uh,” I protest weakly.

She gives me a look.

“Well, who says easier is better?” I throw back. I reach for a slice because anger makes me hungry.

Oh, it’s like really good pizza. The stuffed crust thing is kind of genius, not gonna lie.

She reaches for her own slice. “Oh, please, Naomi, what are you, a motivational speaker? Of course easier is better. That’s why we’re always looking for the easy way out of things.”

I sniff snootily. “Maybe you are, but I am not.” Gosh, I hate lying. But it’s for shalom.

I soften my tone. “You know what, forget all that. Shan… I want you to stay. I’ll be so sad if you leave, but at the same time, you seem kind of miserable. I want you to be happy, you know?”

Her face crumples. “I know. Sorry I’m picking fights.” She cries quietly into her napkin.

And then I start to cry, too, because honestly, I hate fights and I hate when people are sad and I hate that I’m here, in this pizza store, when the school doesn’t allow it.

I reach out to hug Shan and we cry on each other’s shoulders. I close my eyes tightly and tell her it’s going to be okay. And when I open them, there’s Ma, on the other side of the window, mouth open in shock, a bag from Thimbles and Threads hanging loosely from her hand. Oh, right, Ma’s favorite material store is in this strip.

Well, then, that’s just great.


So this is the end. This is where my life ends. Ma drives me home in silence, which is honestly much, much worse than if she had yelled and shouted. But Ma doesn’t yell.

Yocheved’s comment, about Ma being an amazing person, rings through my mind.

Ma parks in the driveway but doesn’t get out. I wait, not meeting her eyes.

I feel… yuck. Like, I feel untrustworthy, even though I know I’m totally not.

“Ma,” I say. “I didn’t mean to end up there.”

Ma coughs. “Naomi… let’s not talk now. Let’s talk tomorrow. In school.”

I look at her; she can’t be serious. But Ma is looking straight ahead.

Oh, come on.

I wait a minute, to see if she’ll say anything else, but she doesn’t turn back to me.

I throw open the car door, stamp my way out, and slam the door behind me.

Okay, that was wrong, but so is everything else in      my life.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 987)

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