I raised an eyebrow, but I didn’t dwell on it. After all, Brachi and I had been friends since forever
Eighth grade. The words made a tingle run up my spine. This was it! The last year of elementary school. The year my friends and I would be the oldest in the school, with everything that came along with that. I couldn’t wait.
I was so glad that I was going into eighth grade with a great group of friends, especially my BFF, Brachi. Since both of us were the youngest in our families, we had a special relationship; we understood each other, and we had lots of time for each other, unlike many of the other girls who had loads of family responsibilities. They had to help their mothers, babysit their siblings, and all that. Brachi and I were inseparable. We’d been best friends since forever, spent hours a day talking on the phone and sharing our deepest secrets with one another.
In fact, I had no qualms about starting eighth grade at all. Why would I? Between my BFF, my academic talents (I always got 100s with very little effort), my positive track-record with my teachers (they all always loved me), and my parents (the most awesome parents ever), I was a happy, carefree girl. Looking back, I wonder at my calm, relaxed attitude. If only I’d known…
The trouble started on the very first day of school, though I didn’t know it yet. One of the girls from the parallel class, Kaila, switched into our class. Within a few days, I noticed that my BFF was always talking about Kaila. “Kaila is so cute. She’s so cool,” she said. I raised an eyebrow, but I didn’t dwell on it. After all, Brachi and I had been friends since forever.
In fact, her birthday was coming up, and I was planning a surprise party for my best friend. Realizing that Brachi liked Kaila a lot, I decided to invite her to join us. I worked hard setting up my house. I blew up tons of balloons, decorated the kitchen, and put all of Brachi’s favorite nosh out. Kaila and I waited together for the birthday girl to arrive.
At exactly eight, Brachi showed up. She was shocked and thrilled. But before I knew what was happening, Brachi noticed Kaila. Her smile widened, and, ignoring me, Brachi dashed over to her. I gaped. She didn’t greet me, acknowledge me, or thank me. I was sure that she would turn around in a moment, but… she didn’t. Brachi schmoozed excitedly with Kaila for five minutes… and another ten minutes… and I spent the next hour awkwardly trying to be included in their conversation. Time seemed unmoving and still. I even started wondering if our kitchen clock’s battery had died! The whole situation was bizarre; I was actually feeling left out in my own house, at the birthday party I’d planned and prepared!
Eventually, the two of them left together, chatting happily. I stared at the closed door with a boulder in my stomach. What had just happened?! Brachi hadn’t even glanced in my direction! With heavy footsteps, I dragged myself up the stairs to get ready for bed.
Before I went to sleep, Brachi called. She apologized. “I feel so silly that I acted so weird,” she said. I graciously accepted her apology, and I was sure that would be the end of it. As I went to sleep, I actually entertained the thought that the three of us might become a trio.
Over the next few days, I became aware that Brachi was calling me less often. Things came to a head when I agreed to babysit at my married sister’s house. I called Brachi; we always babysat together. “Sorry,” Brachi said. “I’m busy tonight.” That was weird, and it had never happened before, but I tried to believe her anyway. I called three other friends, but they all said they weren’t available, either. One told me she was “too tired.” The other ones both claimed they were “busy.” In desperation, I even called Kaila to ask her to join me, but her mother picked up the phone. “Kaila’s not here,” she said. My heart felt like it was at the bottom of a landslide, with rocks tumbling onto it relentlessly. Was it possible that my friends had actually gotten together — without me? But I didn’t let my mind go there. I kept assuring myself that it was just a coincidence.
On my way to my sister, I heard familiar voices. I looked up, and there, across the street, were all my friends — Brachi and Kaila included. My heart thudded painfully in my chest and tears started pouring down my cheeks, even though I was in the middle of the street. What had I done to deserve this? Why was I suddenly not good enough for them? Had I hurt anyone? Was I such a terrible person they had to drop me like that? The group didn’t notice me, and I silently turned onto my sister’s street, agony wrapping itself around my body.
The next day in school, Brachi gave me a huge smile and said loudly, “So Nechy, how was it at your sister’s? I felt so bad I couldn’t come… I was just so busy!” It felt like I was in a dream. No, make that a nightmare. Brachi winked and smirked at Kaila. This was no dream. Not even a nightmare. It was painfully, awfully real. My chest felt like it was on fire and it was hard to breathe. It felt like my heart was slowly breaking in two, with a knife thrusting deeper and deeper inside it.
Within days, I went from a popular, happy girl to a lonely, miserable creature. I sat at a table alone at lunchtime. During recess, I organized and reorganized my stuff, because I had nothing better to do. I was so lonely that my body actually hurt.
But things just got worse.
To be continued… issue 856
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 855)
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