C old eggs and mashed potatoes, liberally slathered with baked beans. Wednesday’s school lunch.

I wait in line. The room is steamy and smells of overcooked eggs. I would hold my nose but I’m holding my plate.

A nudge on my arm. Leeba.

“Hi, Naomi, and how are you on this lovely afternoon?”

There’s something different about her. Something I can’t place.

“Oh just eggselent,” I say casually.

She smirks.

“I know your science report’s half written up by now,” she says.

“Well, that depends on what you call ‘half.’ ”

She snorts. “Hey, don’t rub it in, I know yours is way longer than mine.…”

I think of the pages of notepaper on my desk, spider diagrams, and ideas and blocks of text. The wonders of whale communication, the sounds of singing underwater. I’m on a roll with my report, but rolling too fast maybe. I’m finding it fascinating, all of it, but how much can I stuff into one report? How much would the girls want to hear? I wonder what the others are up to.

“Hey, Leeba,” I say, “I can’t believe I never asked, but what topic did you choose to focus your report on?”

“I’m doing the moon actually, waxing and waning and all that.”

“Gee, that’s nice.”

“Yeah, I suppose, and I’m starting with a video of Neil Armstrong on the moon, that part’s really cool.”

“Yeah!”

“It’s the only part I’m sure of.” She smiles, rueful.

We’re almost at the front of the line, the steam from the kitchen blowing out at us, nice and warm.

I say, “Leeba, you know—”

“Hey, Leeba, neat haircut.”

It’s Shaina, plate smothered in beans.

Leeba beams. “Yeah, you like?”

“Ooh, I love!” That’s Rikki, she’s shown up out of nowhere.

“The bangs are like, just so,” she gushes.

“You look great,” Shaina asserts.

I don’t know about looking great, I think she just looks like another clone of Shiri. But, oh, that’s what was different about her.

The two of them are fawning over Leeba’s brand-new bob and suddenly I have nothing to say. I stand beside them uncomfortably, my silence pressing in on me, as I feel my own hair frizzing in the steam.


“Countdown, two weeks to go, last chance to sort out costumes: toooooday!” a voice bellows from the speaker overhead.

“That’s Michal, head of show, right?” Kayla asks extraneously.

“Sure, and boy, is she excited,” Sarah, a kid in the class I vaguely know from the street over, says sweetly.

The classroom is buzzing with girls coming and going, trailing colorful fabrics behind them, flashes of tinsel and gaudy beading.

A few girls crow out the refrain of the musical. Loud, rambunctious notes gaining momentum as more girls join in. In the corner Shaina and Shiri pirouette in time to the singing. Leeba takes a twirl, too. The three of them are in the dance production, pretty. The girls in play are still going strong as they leave the room, their voices echoing in the hallway. Leeba and the others glide out.

That leaves me and Sarah. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 670)