“Step on red, and you love Tami Cobb,” Travis whispered as we filed down the hall behind our teacher, headed for the cafeteria. Twenty-five pairs of shoes, including my own sandals, zigged, zagged, and leaped to miss the red-tiled squares.
Mrs. Simon stopped and faced us. “Where’s my nice straight line?” she asked, not smiling.
We straightened up. All but Tami, whose head hung down. Her stringy red hair looked as if she hadn’t washed it for weeks. No doubt she had that ugly, mean look on her freckled face—the one it always had. I tucked my own red hair behind my ears, glad it wasn’t as bright as Tami’s—and my freckles not quite as dark. Mrs. Simon turned back around, and we continued to the cafeteria. Shoes still skipped over red tiles, but more quietly this time.
“You’re Tami Cobb’s twin sister,” Zachary said to me as we ate our lunches.
Tami looked up at me as she nibbled on the corner of her sandwich. Her dark eyes looked afraid—and hopeful.
“Am not!” I protested.
Tami looked back down at her crumpled brown lunch bag. I felt bad, but it wasn’t my fault. Maybe if she washed her hair once in a while, and stuck up for herself instead of making ugly faces all the time, people wouldn’t pick on her so much!
At recess a bunch of us played tetherball. Tami stood alone by the fence, watching. I didn’t dare ask her to join us, or Zachary would call me “Tami Cobb’s sister” again, for sure. Besides, no one would touch the ball after Tami touched it. Everything Tami touched was automatically considered to have cooties. “Touch Tami’s paper, and you’ll get cooties,” someone always whispered when we passed our papers to the front of the class to be graded.
That night the missionaries came to dinner. It was nice outside, so Dad barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs on the back porch.
“Becca, I think you know one of the investigators we’re baptizing this Saturday,” Elder Ryan said, bouncing my little brothers on his knees while we waited. “She says she’s in your class at school.”
“Who?” I asked, surprised and excited. Maybe it was Brittany. She was so pretty, and everyone liked her. Or maybe Heidi. Yes, I hoped it was Heidi. We always got the giggles together during music class when Mrs. Bradley’s voice quavered on the high notes. Then there was Alix and Kira and Emily. “Who is it?” I begged, bouncing on the edge of my lawn chair.
“Tami Cobb. We’re baptizing her whole family.”
“That’s great!” Mom said. “Isn’t that great, Becca? You’ve always wanted to have a friend at school who’s a member of the Church.”
“Yeah, great,” I mumbled. I knew that I should be happy, but I wasn’t.
The next day at school, I caught Tami watching me. Every time I glanced in her direction, she was looking at me. I wanted to say something to her, but I didn’t dare. Anyone who talked to her was teased all day long.
That night the phone rang. My dad answered, then covered the receiver with his hand. “Becca, it’s the missionaries. They want to know if you’ll sing a Primary song at Tami Cobb’s baptism on Saturday. Tami requested you.”
I didn’t know what to say. Tami knew I liked to sing, because I always volunteered to lead the class in “America the Beautiful” each morning. And just last week I sang a solo in music class for extra credit. Tami had me trapped. There was no good reason why I shouldn’t sing at her baptism—except one.
I looked at Mom. She was smiling and nodding her head. “I’ll play for you,” she volunteered.
I was doubly trapped. “Oh, all right,” I agreed reluctantly. At least no one else from school would be there to see.
At the baptism on Saturday, Elder Ryan spoke about the baptismal covenant as explained in the Book of Mormon. “When you are baptized, you promise Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ that you will bear one another’s burdens,” he explained, “and stand as a witness of God at all times, even until death.”
I remembered my dad reading those words* at my own baptism last year, but they didn’t bother me then.
“We are all children of the same Heavenly Father,” Elder Ryan continued. “That’s why we call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister.’ When we are baptized, we also take upon us the name of Jesus Christ, which makes us brothers and sisters in the gospel, as well.”
As I sang my song, I sneaked a peek at Tami. She smiled at me. She was pretty when she smiled! It made me all warm inside, just looking at her.
I knew what I had to do.
At school Monday morning, Mrs. Simon picked us up from the gym as usual, and we began our single-file trek to our classroom to start the day. Travis whispered his usual line about Tami, and everyone began hopping over the red tiles. Except me. “Knock it off, you guys,” I said. “It isn’t funny.”
Mrs. Simon stopped and faced us. She raised her eyebrows at me and waited.
“Becca is Tami’s sister,” I heard Zachary whisper, followed by several snickers.
My face grew warm. Tami looked back at me, her eyes afraid—and hopeful.
“Would you like to repeat what you said so the whole class can hear you, Zachary?” Mrs. Simon asked.
Zachary shook his head.
My heart thumped as I raised my hand. I was going to keep my baptismal covenant and help bear Tami’s burden, even if it killed me. After all, red hair wasn’t the only thing we had in common. We were sisters.
“Yes, Becca?” Mrs. Simon said.
I swallowed hard. “Zachary said that I’m Tami Cobb’s sister.” I smiled at Tami. “And it’s true.”