Sometimes you’re not sure if you’re dreaming. And that’s when you supposedly pinch yourself. Or blink. I try the latter. 

When I open my eyes, the room and her face turn from indigo to tacky pink. It is surreal, but my logical mind knows there’s a perfectly good explanation for the color changes (a rotating film of colors over the room lights, I checked it out once, up close) — and the face is still very much that of Mrs. Marcus. 

She gives a little laugh. Not uncomfortable or anything, just natural, surprised, maybe happy to see me? 

I suppose I’m quite happy to see her, though the setting is somewhat discomfiting. What did I think, teachers lived at school? 

“Hi, Naomi, this is my second time at the Early Years,” she says. 

“Oh…” I say as a reflex, and then her comment registers, “that’s nice.” 

“I see you’re really part of things here,” she says sweetly, and I begin to relax. 

“Not as much as I’d like to be… gotta do other things, normal things, like production for example.” 

“Oh, that,” she says and we both laugh; it’s all anyone at school can talk about these days. 

Avi tugs my skirt. “More ball.” 

I consult my watch, “Oh, no, Avi boy, I’ve got to go, my mommy is waiting for me. Your mommy will be here soon.” 

I ruffle his hair, and head for the plain, fluorescent white hallway. I’m almost there when the room turns red, bold. Things are not quite real here, maybe here, maybe now, I can ask what I’ve wanted to ask since she mentioned the report? 

“Um, Mrs. Marcus,” I start. 

“Yes, Naomi?” 

“Can I, um, speak to you about the science report?” 

“Sure, do you need a topic?” 

I shake my head. I don’t have a topic yet, but I feel something brewing, half-formed ideas bubbling up in the cauldron that is my head. 

“Then what is it, Naomi?” 

“Is it definitely an oral report? I mean, can’t I just hand it in written up?” 

She looks at me, purple now, and apologetic. 

“You’ll do that too, but Naomi, you’ll have to present your report in front of the class. I’m afraid public speaking is part of the grade.” 

I gulp. I have my answer. 

If I want to pass ninth-grade science I have to talk out loud in front of the entire class. 

I turn to go. 

“I can help you practice if you want,” she offers. 

“Thanks,” I whisper, though I know I won’t take her up on it. 

And I head out into the stark light of the hallway. 

Later I try Leeba. I have to tell her about meeting Mrs. Marcus at the Center. I know she’d find that totally cool. 

Mom’s glad when I use the phone. 

“I’m waiting for her to hog the phone line,” I once heard her tell Aunt Zehava. “Isn’t that what teenagers do?” 

But I’m not much of a phone girl. 

As it so happens, Leeba’s not home. Her mother’s voice startles me. I hadn’t realized it’d been so long since I’d phoned her. 

“Leeba’s gone to dance rehearsal,” she says, “don’t all groups have practice tonight?” 

Practice, oh my! I mumble a response and hang up the phone. 

“You okay? Forgot something, Naomi?” my mother asks, springing around the door, a bag of potatoes in her hand. 

Should I still go? I don’t want to, I legitimately forgot until Leeba’s mom reminded me… 

“Have anything going on tonight?” 

And no one will care if I’m not there. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 668)