| Cozey Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 42

Between the texting and the DMCs and the nights, I don’t have that much space in my life for anything else


Nothing has changed but everything is different. It’s not easy, I have to remind myself. I think my instinctive response to anything that has to do with Ma is annoyance. And I feel really bad about it, because as cognizant as I am now, there were probably two million times I wasn’t, and it was probably pretty hurtful to be around me.

Shan hasn’t said anything about going back, and we’ve fallen into a comfortable pattern. I go to school, hang out with Debbi and the others, doodle through Ma’s class, wedding plan with Libby, and then spend most of my evening with Shan in her car or in my room. We schmooze and laugh so hard, we cry, and sometimes we just read next to each other in silence and play with makeup and hair.

I’ve never had a friend like Shan before. Everything we do is deep, connecting; she just needs me so much, and it feels… good. Of course there are aspects I don’t love, like all her other friends and her clothes and the fact that she can get pretty poisonous wh
n discussing her family and friends back home. But I ignore all of that.

The only thing is that being her friend is a full-time occupation. Between the texting and the DMCs and the nights, I don’t have that much space in my life for anything else.

I push my car seat back and gaze up at the ceiling. Shan’s stuck Hello Kitty stickers up there, and there’s a giant one of Kitty wearing glasses right over my head.

“What are you looking at?” I mutter.

She doesn’t reply, mainly because she’s a sticker.

Shan lowers the music. “What’s your problem?”

I shrug. “Tired.”

It’s the truth. I’m tired of everything right now.

She pokes me. “Yeah, yeah. What’s going on?”

I look at her, and I don’t know what makes me say it. “Shan, what happened with your mother? You never told me exactly.”

All I know is that Shan’s mother is the principal of the high school in Detroit and that Shan didn’t exactly get along with her and that, somehow, things came to a head this year and Shan moved out to Toms River.

Shan turns the music way up, like damage-your-hearing up.

“Shan!” I turn it down. “You could have just said you don’t want to talk.”

She grins. “Where’s the fun in that?”

I look at her. She sighs and turns the music off altogether.

“Fine, you want to know? Are you sure?”

I nod.

“Ma said I embarrass her. You happy? I shortened my uniform skirts and Ma looked at me and said it was embarrassing for her, as principal.”

Ouch. That couldn’t have been fun to hear. I think of Ma saying she could never be disappointed with me as a daughter.


“Is that it?” I ask slowly.

Shan sits up so quickly she bumps into the horn.

Yikes. It’s 11:30 at night. We hold our breath.

Okay, none of the neighbors call the police. Phew.

Shan looks furious. “What do you mean, ‘Is that it’? My mother told me I’m an embarrassment.”

I nod but then I twist my lips. “Hmm. Shan, she didn’t say that. She said something that you do is embarrassing, not you yourself.”

She blinks rapidly. “Tomatoes, tomahtoes.”

“Shan…” I’m treading dangerous waters here. “Shan, your mother probably really misses you.”

She looks at me, and the whole defiant teen thing suddenly turns paper thin. She looks like a little girl, eyes huge in the dark.

“Do you think so?” she whispers.

I nod and squeeze her hand. “I really do.”


Shabbos is really nice. We spend most of it making kallah jokes with Libby and nosh and rest.

“Ma,” I say to Libby, “is actually really funny.”

She gives me a look. “Where do you think we all get it from?”

Sheesh, enough with this whole “you’ve been oblivious your whole life” spiel. I mean, it’s true, but come on.

Sunday morning, I’m curled up in bed, half awake, when the door to my room opens and Debbi walks in.

“Debbi! What on earth?”

She looks at me and sits on the desk chair.

“We,” she says, “need to talk.”


An intervention. She’s the spokesperson for my friends and family. They don’t recognize me anymore, I’ve changed, they all hate Shan, yada yada yada. Well-bred that I am, I don’t physically shove Debbi out of my room, but it takes a lot of restraint.

“Debbi,” I say through gritted teeth. “Please tell whoever sent you that I am fine. Maybe you just never got to know the real me, did you ever think of that? Maybe instead of accusing me of changing, maybe accuse yourself of keeping our friendship surface level. And maybe that’s because you don’t know how to have deep relationships with anyone.”

Okay, it was a low blow. And only half true.

But hey, at least it got her out of my room.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 989)

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