We were all there. All of us in the seventh grade class, spread out in the big school yard. Golda Sima held the ball tightly around her arms. Faigy, the class queen, and her best friend Ruthy were in the center. Behind her was Devory, her tag-along. Gayil looked ready for a tough game. Tova was making her long red hair into a braid. Even Shulamit, Tirtza, Rena and Mimi, the four best friends, who would usually spend recess away from everybody, were there. Aliza and Hindy, the almost identical twins – who barely reached up to my shoulder – were chanting, “3, 2, 1, GO!” It was only when Golda Sima threw the ball across the yard that I noticed something was missing.

More like someone was missing.

And that ‘someone’ is named Tamara.

She was sitting under a large tree, reading, like usual.

I never really thought much about Tamara, the quietest girl in the class. Ever since she came to our class, in fourth grade, she barely spoke to anyone. She had long, dark brown hair and green eyes, which would never shine or light up – they would just look down sadly. The only interest she ever showed was in books.

When was the last time I, Shifra Felder, had a real conversation with that girl?

It must have been that day in fourth grade when Tamara was absent for a few days. Mrs. Bernstein told me to call and tell her about the assignment. It was only when I came home that I realized I didn’t have her number. Luckily, she came the next day and by recess I came over to her.

I told her about the assignment, saying, “You have to write a true story about a trip you and your family took. In it you have to include the names and ages of your siblings. Ask Mrs. Bernstein for an outline.”

Tamara’s eyes grew wide.

But only now did I realize that it wasn’t from excitement.

Rather from fear.

To be continued…