Recap: Libby tries to handle the difficult second-grade class. Two boys get into a fist fight and one boy is injured. Libby has to fill out an accident report. She feels terrible that it was during her class that he got hurt, and she’s sure also that she will be fired.

Driving home, the girls kept up a steady chatter. The grayness hovering outside portended an impending storm, and that feeling of gloom and gray filled my heart. Why hadn’t I stopped Michael. Would Ralph be okay?

I started the meatballs and spaghetti on automatic. Marnie came into the kitchen. “Can I help?”

“Thank you, yes. Please set the table.” I handed her the plates. I should focus and ask how her day is, but my mind was too distracted.

After serving the girls dinner and cleaning up the dishes, I sat down to say T’hilim. When Avi walked in the door, I was about to pour out my terrible story when he handed me a newspaper. “Libby, the news in Israel is terrible.” A terrorist attack on a playground. I read with growing horror the account of the innocent Jewish baby killed by a terrorist.

For a moment, I forgot my own troubles.

“It’s really scary, this new wave of terror in Israel. We have to daven so hard for everyone there.” Avi hung up his coat.

“How was your day? Sorry for coming in with such bad news.”

“Oh, Avi, today was so awful.” I shared my experience.

“I don’t think I’ll have a job there anymore, and honestly I don’t think I should. I’m so incompetent.”

“You are not incompetent. You were given an extremely challenging situation. How many teachers did you say this class went through already?”

“Still, I don’t know if Ralph…” I swallowed. “The principal said he may need stitches. I couldn’t get them to sit down. I just couldn’t. Tears leaked from the corners of my eye and trickled down my cheek.

Marnie stepped into the room. “Sabrina wants a snack if it’s okay.” She noticed my tears and stopped. “What’s wrong?”

“Fine, everything is fine,” I lied. “You give her some crackers. They’re in the pantry.”

Marnie took some crackers and went back into the dining room.

“Libby, you didn’t hurt that boy. You did the best you could. Right now, the best you can do is daven and then call and see how he is doing,” Avi said.

“I’m scared to call. I’m scared what I’ll find out.”

“So, this is a good time to work on that fear.”

I dialed.

It rang twice and then Ralph’s mother answered.

“Hi, this is Mrs. Perlman, the literacy consultant at school. I wanted to know how Ralph is feeling. … Oh, I’m so sorry he had to have that. Yes. Please tell him I hope he feels better. Thank you.”

I hung up.

“How is he?” Avi asked.

“He got stitches but he’s doing better. He has to stay home tomorrow,” I said.

“Are you glad you called?”

“Yes, thank you, but still, I wonder if I should keep working there.”

The phone rang and it was the principal.

My stomach clenched. I was sure she was going to fire me.

“Mrs. Perlman, I just wanted to let you know of a schedule change for tomorrow. We have a guest speaker on bullying coming in, so we won’t need you to come until 2:00.”

I waited for her to say I was dismissed but she didn’t say it. How could it be that I still had the job?

“I can’t believe it,” I said. “She didn’t fire me.”

“I didn’t think she would. She’s lucky to have such a caring, dedicated educator working for her. What’s for dinner?”

“Oh, sorry. Let me warm up the spaghetti and meatballs.”

“Yum, my favorite.”

I sat down near Avi while he ate his dinner. “I really don’t want to go back, Avi. It was terrible.” I felt my hands sweating, remembering when Ralph was screaming in pain. “A little boy got hurt because of my ineptitude.”

“Libby, you are so good. It wasn’t your fault, and my wife is not a quitter. Remember, we’re flying together this fall and you’re going to overcome that fear too. This is nothing.”

Flying. Just the word made my heart pound.

“We have to start Pesach shopping,” he said. “Can you make me a list?”

“Sure. I need to finish cleaning.”

“I wish Mom and Dad would come…” his voice trailed off.

“Have you heard from them at all.”

He shook his head. “Daniella thinks soon they will call me. It’s so painful.”

“I’m sorry. I wish I could make it better, but they’re mad at me, too. Do you think Rabbi Kurland can speak to them?”

“I thought of that, but I don’t think they would like it.”

 To be continued…

Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), 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 Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).