I ’m sitting so close to the teacher I get to study her necklace. Today a silver tidal wave spangled with blue stones rests elegantly on Mrs. Teitel’s black blazer.

It’s arguably the worst seat in the classroom.

And it’s mine.

It was the only one empty when I slouched into class three minutes before the first bell of the first day of the year. Mom had driven me a half hour early, but I’d stayed in the car until a moment before zero hour. So many girls and hairdos and new shoes streaming through the huge double doors. More girls than I’d ever seen in one place. Everyone was with someone or several someones, but Leeba hadn’t answered the phone that morning.

And she hadn’t saved me a seat either.

Granted she’d plunked herself right at the back of the class, and she knows I don’t like sitting at the back. But still. She could have done something.

Leeba. The only friend from elementary who’s come to the Solomon Schofeld Academy. Oh, a couple of other kids from my class are here too. Rikki and Shaina and maybe some others. But they don’t run in my circles; more like, I don’t run in theirs. That leaves Leeba. And she’s become a bit distant since school started, or maybe I have? I haven’t spoken to her in a while, I realize. Is even Leeba out of my orbit?

Is she in school today at all? I can’t see her seat from where I am sitting. To do that I would have to swivel 180 degrees in my chair.

Mrs. Teitel clears her throat. “Girls, listen up. I want to show you something different,” she says, and she splays her hands in the air, shiny nails and all, creating a halo of enthusiasm. She takes the remote control and a picture appears in the front of the room. We see an old woman, badly hunched over a cane. Frumpy and fumbling; one weary leg in front of the other.

“You see this?” she says, “Now look at this.”

She clicks a button and the picture zooms out, the woman’s shadow slopes onto the floor and rests on the wall. Only it’s not her shadow, it’s a silhouette of a dancer, maybe a ballerina, arms outstretched like the world is at her fingertips, hair billowing in the breeze, and nose in the air pointing onward, upward, like she has years ahead of her.

Wow. I stare, the picture fills me, something big pushing against my rib cage. (Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 664)