Recap: Yehudis discovers another unsettling fact. Her father is dating a librarian from the Marietta research library, and she is coming for dinner to their house. While she is at the library, a strange man comes demanding to borrow the journal that Yehudis is reading. He takes a threatening stance.
The next day, on my way to school, I tried to forget all the troubles from yesterday. I will not think about being adopted. I won’t think about Miss Gross or that she’s coming for dinner tonight.
The fresh crisp air and the autumn-colored leaves cheered me. A block from school, Sari called to me. “Hey, Yehudis. Wait up.”
We walked up the steps together.
“How’s it going?”
If it was Tema, I could tell her what was happening with me, but not with Sari. Our friendship was too new.
“Baruch Hashem, fine.”
“We have a new science teacher today. I heard she lets us do cool experiments.”
“Hey, Sari,” Ada approached us.
She nodded towards me.
Everything went fine in English class. We had a fun journal assignment and I got caught up in writing a story and that took my mind off everything. Then math class was okay. Mrs. Bergman gave a review sheet that I finished in five minutes. She also gave some challenge questions that we could work on and hand in privately. I was relieved it wouldn’t be a public thing and I started on them.
It was during science class with the new teacher that things started going badly.
“Good morning, girls. I’m Mrs. Touro and I’m excited to work with you this year. We will be doing a lot of lab work and I hope you will enjoy the class. Now, first thing, I want you to break into pairs and go sit near your partner.”
I glanced around the room. Chevi was seated near Sari, and she moved her chair there. Everyone else quickly paired up, and to my embarrassment I realized there was an odd number of girls and I was the leftover. Everyone else had a friend from before.
I was hoping Mrs. Touro wouldn’t notice my situation, but she honed in on it right away, which just made it more embarrassing.
“Yehudis, is it? I see you need a partner. Let’s see, why don’t you choose a group to work with?”
I started walking towards Sari and Chevi. As I approached, I heard Chevi whisper in Sari’s ear. “I want to work just you and me. It’s hard to do experiments with three.”
“We can do it,” Sari said.
I turned away. I didn’t want to go where I wasn’t wanted.
I stepped towards two girls I didn’t know at all, Esty Weiner and Chayala Rabinowitz. I pulled an extra chair over to them. Neither of them said anything, which made me think they also didn’t want me.
After the teacher explained the experiment, I raised my hand to be excused. I trudged down the hallway and towards the front door. No one was near the door. I stepped outside and headed back towards the house. I didn’t want to stay in this school another minute.
I let myself in at home. Grandma Henny was still away, and Aba was in Marietta. I headed to my room and plopped onto my bed. I called Tema even though I knew she would be in school now. I left her an urgent message. “Call me. I want to come live in your house. I can’t stay here any longer.”
I pulled out my diary and poured out my angry, upset feelings. My window was open, and after I had written two pages I heard a clinking noise. I glanced outside. There was someone in front. I couldn’t see who it was. It must be a gardener I thought.
At around 5:00 my phone rang. “Hudi, I got your message. What’s wrong?”
Just hearing Tema’s voice calmed me.
“Everything is awful. I can’t even begin. School was horrible.” I told her about science class and how Chevi didn’t want me to be partners with her and Sari, and then I didn’t have a partner.”
“You mentioned before that Chevi is close to Sari. Maybe…well, I don’t know, but sometimes when someone doesn’t act correctly, she could be going through her own problems. I mean you don’t know what’s going on with another person.”
I sighed. “I don’t, but she sure wasn’t kind to me. And that’s not the worst. The worst is I found out something. You know the secret I always told you about. Tema, it’s true. I’m adopted.”
Tema let out a breath. “Whoa, Hudi. I wish I was there to give you a hug. That’s a lot to take in.”
“I just can’t believe I’m adopted. I mean it feels like this is happening to someone else.”
“I can’t imagine what it feels like for you.”
“I feel angry, even though I don’t want to be angry at my father. It’s like strange that he never told me.”
“Why didn’t he?”
“He told me it was because of my mother’s last wishes. I don’t get that either. I mean why wouldn’t she want me to know.”
“She wanted to protect you. That’s all. She loved you so much.”
I felt a lump in my throat.
“There’s more. My father is dating someone and she’s coming to dinner tonight. I feel like the walls are closing in on me.”
“Wow, what a rough day. I’m sorry, Hudi. I’m sorry I’m not there.”
Tears blurred my eyes. “Can I come live in your house? I can’t go to that awful school anymore.”
“I’m sure my parents will agree and I’d love it.”
I thought about my father. What would he say?
“But Hudi, just one thing. Are you sure about leaving your father and your grandmother? Are you sure you’re not just running away? I mean, I’d want to run away, too, if I was you, but I know my father always tells me it’s not a good idea to run from your problems. They’ll come along with you.”
“Tema, thanks for listening. Sorry for dumping it all on you. I’m gonna think about what to do. I think right now I’ll read Yishai’s journal. It’s a good distraction.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).