I thought it was just an expression, but I could actually feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up and prickling.

I know that voice. I’d heard it just this morning, at davening. The rows of lockers stare, blank and unsmiling for all their glossy yellowness. Nah, I’m too big for a locker. No choice. I stop, swipe at my tingling nape, and turn around.

“What are you doing out here in the middle of practice?” the principal demands.

I can’t remember the last time I got into trouble. Like I said, I don’t make scenes. I want to tell Rebbetzin Reiman that I’m not a troublemaker. At PTA they tell my mother I’m a model student. The thought of anyone being modeled on my example makes me snort, and I half smile.

“Do you find it funny?” Her voice is quieter now, dangerous sounding.


I shake my head.

She folds her arms. One second. Ten. Thirty.

She’s waiting for me to say something. An excuse for being out in the hallway.

“I, uh, don’t feel so good,” I mumble finally.

“I see.” She unfolds her arms and they hang at her side, like they’re out of their default mode. She closes her eyes for a moment, and purses her lips so deeply they’re almost lost in her face. She seems to be thinking fiercely. Considering a punishment? Somehow I don’t think so.

She gives her head a delicate little smack, and as nonchalantly as she can, says, “And you are?”

I know there are over 500 girls in this school. All of them coming from more than ten elementary feeder schools in the area. On the first day of high school, I imagine that all those schools were like small, almost insignificant paths all converging on the great road that is the Solomon Schonfeld Academy.

I know all that, but it still rankles that she doesn’t know my name.

“Naomi,” I say. “Naomi Heller.”

She smacks her head again, as if to say “almost had it” and I am fairly mollified.

“9b, right?”

I nod.

She smiles, then looks at me sharply. “So, Naomi, do you feel well enough to step into my office to hear what I have to say?”

A rhetorical question I suppose, for she doesn’t turn back to see my response. She steps briskly into her office, and I follow like a slinking cat.

There is a desk with a computer, a round table, and two armchairs tilted toward the bay window. I wonder where we will sit. Dr. Carmel, my old therapist, had four seating options in her session room, and I got to choose where we’d sit based on my mood. She was cool like that.

But Rebbetzin Reiman is happy to stand it seems. She stops short, just when I thought she was heading to her desk, and I am left in the awkward spot opposite the mirror so I get a real-time view of this inner sanctum experience.

My hair is bad.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 665)