W hen Mrs. Schwartz comes in, the girls all look at Aliza. Rivky hasn’t been privy to the latest plan, but she assumes there will be a signal and then total chaos. She doesn’t know how much time she has to do something. She’s not even yet sure she wants to do something.

Rivky folds and unfolds the pleats of her navy skirt, her palms sweaty, her body tense. She thinks about sitting alone at lunch for the foreseeable future, about the girls possibly targeting her if Aliza instructs them to do so. They’re all scared of Aliza, she reminds herself. Isn’t that sad? But they’re scared of her for a reason, another voice whispers. And you should be, too.

Rivky looks around the room, and then at Penina, sitting stiffly next to her. Maybe I should just stay quiet, Rivky thinks, like all the other girls. She doesn’t need to be Aliza’s friend but she definitely doesn’t want to be her enemy.

She imagines life resuming a kind of normalcy, Aliza forgiving her, the other girls treating her well enough, so long as that’s what Aliza wants them to do. But then she thinks about her mother’s words the other night, the way Rivky hated to imagine her mother seeing the article she was writing. The way she’d hate to have her mother see her sitting in this room right now, knowing the right thing to do but too afraid to do it.

Maybe there are worse things than being lonely, Rivky thinks, as Aliza begins to rifle through her knapsack. Whatever it is that Aliza is planning, Rivky knows that she’s no better if she keeps silent. Rivky watches as Mrs. Schwartz continues teaching, unaware of the plotting, unaware of how things are about to change.

Rivky thinks to herself that it isn’t easy being the principal’s daughter, but there are things a lot more shameful than that.

I have nothing left to lose, Rivky thinks to herself, and she stands up.

“Mrs. Schwartz, we have been really horrible this last week, and I am ashamed.”

Mrs. Schwartz hesitates, and Rivky realizes her teacher is waiting for the punch line.

“Seriously,” she continues. “I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Schwartz nods briskly. Rivky looks around the room, waiting for a chorus of voices to join her, but all eyes are on Aliza. I’m in this alone, Rivky realizes, but at least Aliza has been scared into stopping whatever she had planned. That will have to be enough for now.

Rivky leaves class a few minutes later and walks to her mother’s office. Her mother looks disappointed to see her, eyeing the clock. “Why aren’t you in class?”

“I don’t feel well,” she says, and it is true. Her stomach has not stopped churning and her hands are trembling.

Her mother places her hand on Rivky’s forehead. “You feel very cold,” she murmurs. “Do you want me to drive you home?”

“I’ll stay,” Rivky says, “but can I hang out here?” (Excerpted from Mishpacha’s Teen Pages, Issue 37)