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cont. Bittersweet Beginnings

slightly and murmured, "Oh I really couldn't; we're
hardly unpacked."

"Don't worry, Vicki!" Shany assured her immediately.
"I've lived in the same house all my life, and sometimes
it still looks like we need to unpack. There was once a
huge sale on tuna fish, and my mother came home with
five cases. What she didn't know was that my father
wanted to surprise her and he did the same thing. To top
it off, some friends who had just returned from Buffalo
remembered how much tuna fish the Perl family eats.
Need I say more? Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings
or lose out on the special prices, we ended up with
cartons in every room." Shany paused for a breath of air.

"Oh, Shany," Estee remarked sarcastically. "Please
continue or I won't be able to sleep tonight."

Ignoring Estee and using her hands for emphasis,
Shany continued, "So we tried to camouflage them all
over the house. The best part came when we had Shabbos
guests, and they complimented us on our "end tables"
that were wrapped in some old living room drapes. What
I'm trying to say, Vicki, is that we've all seen boxes before,
so don't worry." She paused, then added excitedly, "Wait
a minute, I know! We can end the meeting early and help
your family unpack!"

Vicki, who had been listening silently to this great
outpouring of warmth, humor and kindness from some-
one she barely knew, was rendered speechless.

Rochel's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Girls, we have
a lot of mini cupcakes at home from a large order that
someone canceled yesterday," she told them. "You'd all

be doing me a great favor to let me host the first meeting
in my house. It would be a waste to let them sit in the
freezer, that is, if Vicki doesn't mind."

"Sure, that's fine with me," Vicki agreed, and she let
out an audible sigh of relief.

Estee, smiling broadly, gave Rochel a little hug and
said, "I love going to your house. Remember, I get my
favorite leather chair when I come." Estee turned to the
girl standing next to her and said knowingly, "We're
better off. The Kleins always have the greatest nosh,
besides a fridge bulging with fresh fruits."

"I really made a bad impression on the girls," Vicki
whispered sadly to Rochel as they walked back to class.

"Don't be silly," Rochel reassured her. "I think every-
one understands that it's just not convenient for you yet."

"Thanks for bailing me out back there," Vicki said
earnestly. "I really owe you one!"

"One thing you have to know, Vicki, is that I don't
keep records," Rochel explained. "I'm just glad it worked
out. I really wasn't sure if I should say anything at first, but
you looked so uncomfortable."

"You're a quick thinker, Rochel," Vicki said as the bell
rang. "Let's hurry, I want to be on time."

They exchanged disappointed looks when they saw
that the last two available seats weren't together, but they
soon settled in to hear Rabbi Stern, one of the school's
most beloved rebbeim, begin their Chumash lesson.

Vicki tapped Estee, who was sitting beside her, softly
on the shoulder. "Estee, could you show me which book
we are using for this class?" she asked.

With an irritated expression, Estee pointed to the
chumash and turned her attention back to Rabbi Stern's

Shany, thrilled to be almost hidden in the last row, was
oodling her name in maxi-bubble lettering on her home-
ork pad. Rochel was furiously taking notes and high-
ghting the key points. She raised her hand to answer a
ifficult Chumash question correctly.

"I'm not even sure that I understood the question,"
Icki said to herself. "Rochel must be a genius!" She
rantically searched through the Chumash. "Estee, I don't
eem to be able to find the place. Could you help me?"
ficki whispered, as she tapped Estee lightly on the
houlder again.

"It's right here, Vicki." Estee quickly found the correct
ine for her. "What did you learn in your other school,

Vicki did not answer as she stared down at her book,
lot tears stung her eyes as she tried to focus on the words
in her Chumash. She clenched her hands nervously and
waited for the class to end.

The morning was a whirl of new classes and teachers.
Is the noon bell broke her concentration, Rochel, who
had been absorbed in a very difficult commentary, looked
up and said, "Lunch already?" She spotted Vicki a few
rows away, smiling at her with mild amusement.

Even though I have lots of good friends, Rochel
reflected, I've never really felt completely comfortable
with any one friend before. Yet I feel so comfortable with
Vicki, as if I'd known her for years.

Without hesitation, Rochel walked over, and tapped
Vicki on the shoulder. "Let's rush so we can get my
favorite table by the window," she suggested.

"Ready when you are," Vicki answered joyfully, and
she followed Rochel down the noisy, crowded stairway.


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