Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Do you like school events? I never did. Now that I had a friend, though, it was a different story and I was kind of looking forward to my grade’s melave malka. Especially because I knew who I’d sit next to!

Mommy had bought me a new Shabbos outfit for the event, as a kind of reward for working so hard lately. I liked how I looked in it, which was a first for me. Anyway, I felt cheerful and confident when Mommy dropped me off at the school on Motzei Shabbos.

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The very first thing I needed to do was look for Gitty. Once she was by my side I’d feel more sure of myself and less self-conscious, less lonely. I set out determinedly to find my friend.

On the way in, I passed crowds of chatting, animated girls. And then I passed by the tables, groaning with goodies, loaded with luscious-looking delights. Huge round baskets held dozens of bagels of different types – sesame bagels, onion bagels, soft white bagels and bagels sprinkled with poppy seeds. Each bagel seemed to be calling my name, softly at first, and then louder. I plowed past them, looking for Gitty.

On the next table were platters of cheese – so many kinds of cheese. Smooth white cream cheese and cream cheese studded with chives and cream cheese with dill. Garlic cream cheese, olive cream cheese and even tomato-flavored cream cheese. Sliced yellow cheese rolled elegantly into crescents. Large vegetable platters with thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh green lettuce, studded with round, plump cherry tomatoes. Bowl after bowl held creamy tuna salad and egg salad dotted with scallions, and smoked lox took center stage on an elevated platter.

My stomach turned and twisted and my mouth watered. Resolutely I pushed past. Where was Gitty?

As I walked past the third and final table, my eyes caught sight of glistening Danishes, crammed with sweetness. Sweet cheese pastries vied for room with apple cinnamon rugelach and cherry Danishes and pastries oozing blueberry with their sweet glaze reflecting the lights.

And there was Gitty, coming towards me with a big smile and a warm cherry Danish in her hand. “Hi, Shevi!” She exclaimed. “Isn’t this beautiful?”

“Beautiful,” I repeated. My mouth felt dry. The pastry in my friend’s hand was loaded with more garbage than I could imagine. All the things I had been working so hard to avoid stared back at me in that delicious-looking treat. Mountains of sugar. Loads of saturated fats that were just waiting to jump into my arteries and clog them up. But it looked so good.

Gitty noticed my face. “You look pale,” she said. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Okay?” I echoed. I knew I sounded stupid but I couldn’t help it. On Shabbos I ate more heartily than I allowed myself to eat during the week, as Mrs. Rich often told me not to be strict with myself all the time. But Shabbos was over now. I had eaten well. And I was actually full – seuda shlishis hadn’t been all that long ago. It was a new and marvelous sensation to recognize when I felt satiated and didn’t need more to eat. But… but everything looked so, so good. Everything seemed to be crying: “Eat me! Eat me!” And I wanted to – so badly! I wanted to choose a yummy fresh bagel and load it up with a thick layer of velvety cream cheese or stuff it with rich egg salad. And that wasn’t even starting at the Danishes! I would have added some vegetables too, even before I started going to Mrs. Rich, because the crunch of the lettuce and cucumbers and the tang of the onion and the juiciness of the tomatoes would just make the cream cheese and bagel taste SO much better! But… I was full. Mrs. Rich had coached me and taught me to recognize that feeling – it was a sign that my body didn’t need more! And I was working so hard.

But… but it was a special evening, an event, and everyone was eating! It would look so strange if I didn’t take food. Worse than strange. I would look like a nebach. Worse than that – I’d feel like a nebach, too! Everyone would stare and whisper and wonder at the overweight girl who wasn’t eating. I felt my cheeks growing hot as I pictured it. I had to take some food!

“You said you’re allowed a treat every day,” Gitty whispered urgently in my ear.

“It was Shabbos,” I said robotically. “I had treats today.”

Gitty looked at me with her forehead creased. She looked almost as anxious and worried and upset as I felt! Everyone around me was choosing food and settling down at the tables for the evening’s first activity. My heart beat quickly and my mouth felt dry.

What was I supposed to do now?

To be continued…

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