T

zippy sits cross-legged on my bed and fingers the oblong pink throw pillow. Mommy and Abba presented me with brand new linen as a “good luck in Bais Yaakov of Stonesworth” gift earlier today, and I’d already put the set on my bed. The pink cord Anthropologie set was something I’d had my eye on for a while, but right now I would much rather be back in Brownsfeld getting ready to attend tenth grade in good ol’ Bais Yaakov of Brownsfeld with my old, stringy, yellow gingham linen. “Nervous?” Tzippy says sympathetically, bopping me on the nose. I jerk away. “Um, like entire colonies of butterflies are erupting in my stomach and doing the chicken dance.”

Tzippy cracks up. “That’s quite a visual.”

I groan and flop forward and get a mouthful of pink cord. “Argh,” I say.

The phone rings. Maybe it’s Rus and Shiri calling to moan with me. They did say they would call before the first day. I roll over and snatch it up.

“Hello?”

It’s Hadas.

“RaRa?”

I place my hand on my stomach. “The butterflies are break dancing,” I mouth at Tzippy.

She grins and blows me a kiss on her way out.

“Hey, Hadas,” I say. “Is it normal that I’m so nervous about tomorrow?”

There’s silence on the other end.

“Hadas?” I say uncertainly.

“Rachel Ahuva… can I come over?”

I glance at the time. It’s eight thirty. I’ll probably start getting ready for bed in around an hour and a half.

“Sure, for a little while,” I say, feeling slightly apprehensive. Hadas doesn’t sound like herself and it’s making me uneasy.

“See you.” The line goes dead.

She knocks on the bedroom door ten minutes later. I stare at Sari until she rolls her eyes and leaves the room, muttering about people and entitlement.

“So, what’s up?” I ask Hadas.

She looks tired, and when she meets my eyes, I feel an inexplicable sadness welling up inside of me.

“Is something wrong?”

She nods and then shakes her head.

“It’s just… I feel… you should know…”

I stare at her, oddly aware of the blood thumping in my ears.

“Hadas, if you don’t tell me right now, I’m going to explode.”

“Everybody hates me at school.”

I’m silent. If I had a million dollars, I would have confidently bet that Hadas was not going to say that.

“I’m sorry?” I must have misheard.

“At school, RaRa. You think I’m popular because I have my finger on the pulse of this town, but honestly… everyone in our grade hates me. Or at least they ignore me. And pretend I don’t exist. And speak through me, or around me.”

Tears are trailing down her face, and I’m surprised by the fierce feelings of protectiveness suddenly washing over me.

“But… how could anyone hate you?” I ask, genuinely shocked.

She laughs through her tears. “You’re nice. But I didn’t always look like this. In first grade I was just different, the girl with the weird name from the Outcrop, who didn’t have American Girl Dolls with my own matching outfits.” (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 702)