| Teen Serial |

Upper Class: Chapter 43   

Hashem, I whisper, please help me. I have no idea what to do. I don’t want to hurt anybody. And I’m just really, really tired

Why am I nervous? I smooth my hair, apply mascara, and switch scrunchies before remembering that Levi is four, and his idea of looking good is a fireman hat and dinosaur rainboots.

Libby pokes her head into my room.

“Off to babysit Levi, I hear.”

I look at her reflection in my mirror. “Yeah, so?”

She sticks her nose in the air. “So, I enjoy saying ‘told you so.’ ”

I roll my eyes. “Charming. I said I’d never babysit Levi again, and you told me to never say never. Yay, Libby.”

She comes over and gives me a one-armed hug. “I’m proud of you, Nomes.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I shove her away, but I see the smile reflected on my face. Oh, well. Can’t always play it cool, I guess.


“Tanta Noooomi, look at this!”

I turn slowly, hands half raised in case a Magna-Tile goes flying past. Levi’s waving a picture excitedly, so I lower my hands and squint at it.

“Levs! That’s amazing! Did you draw that?”

He nods happily. I almost relax. “That’s amazing. I love hippos!”

Levi blinks. “It’s a menorah.”

Oh, my bad. “Right, that’s what I meant.” I smile weakly; he looks at me suspiciously and then runs back to the table to color another… something. Won’t make the mistake of trying to guess.

He’s like a different kid, Levi, and while it’s incredible to see, it also makes me kind of sad. He’s toned down, mellow, and nothing like the old Levi.

But at least no one is throwing Magna-Tiles at my head.

The evening passes without a hitch, we do bedtime, eat schnitzel nuggets, and read seven books. Eventually his eyes begin to close; those impossible eyelashes flutter shut. “I love you, Levi,” I murmur.

“Love you too,” he yawns. And that’s it. The perfect end to the perfect evening. So why do I feel like crying?

Yocheved and Zev tiptoe in later, laughing hysterically at something that happened on the turnpike, it’s kind of an HTBT situation, but I chuckle politely when they tell it to me amid bursts of laughter.

Yocheved drives me home. “So?”

I know exactly what she’s asking. “He was amazing.”

She smiles proudly. “He really is. He always was, you know?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

We park in the driveway, “Naomi… what’s all this about your friend Shan?”

I look at Yocheved. Yocheved whom I’ve never really shared anything with because she was always juggling her own problems, Yocheved whose husband is wearing a neck brace and whose son is on medication.

And I realize she’s the perfect address.

“Yocheved,” I say, “I feel like I’m in an impossible situation.”

Yocheved gives a grim smile and turns on the car’s heat. “Oh, my bread and butter. Tell Dr. Yocheved everything.”

So I do.


I lie in bed, eyes wide open. Every bone in my body hurts from giving Levi horsey rides and lifting him in and out of the bath and all the rest. I should really exercise more. But sleep won’t come.

Yocheved told me that I know what the right thing is, I’m just not ready to face it yet.

Wow, way to be cryptic, sister dear.

What if I really, really don’t know what’s the right thing? What then?

I close my eyes. Hashem, I whisper, please help me. I have no idea what to do. I don’t want to hurt anybody. And I’m just really, really tired.

And somehow, next thing I know, it’s morning.


Debbi ignores me in school, which is totally fine. I have absolutely zero patience for anyone or anything. I settle myself in the back of the classroom, kick off my shoes, crisscross applesauce my legs, and line up my colored pencils. Ma walks in, balancing her books, her bag, and a cup of coffee.

Roll call, I do my usual head duck and then I pause. What am I ashamed of? My incredible mother who is an awesome teacher and a great mother to boot?

Just because she’s not 35, like Debbi’s mother? Who cares about other mothers.

This one’s mine.

I slowly put my legs down, slip on my shoes, and roll my pencils back into my bag.

Then I sit up straight, shoulders back, notebook open to a clean page.

And for the first time all year, I actually listen in class.

And I was right. Ma’s an awesome teacher.

At one point, Ma notices me listening and she actually freezes, mouth open.

I smile at her.

She smiles back, then shakes her head a little and continues teaching.

Well, at least somebody likes me.

I look at Debbi’s frozen profile.

Because right now, I’m not even sure I like me.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 990)

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