Back to Basics| August 29, 2018
I roll my eyes. It’s the first time I can remember wishing that Penina lived too far away from my house to just walk over
My front doorbell is ringing and I’m not getting up to answer it.
I know who it is. Penina is standing at my front door, and I’m sure she’s holding at least one chocolate bar. She knows me long enough to know that chocolate is the way to my heart. Usually.
This time, it’s not going to work.
I sit on my bed with my back against the wall, listening to the doorbell ring again.
I already ignored three phone calls in the past hour.
“Adina!” my sister Racheli’s voice booms up the stairs.
I throw my head onto my pillow. I hadn’t realized anyone was home.
Racheli taps my bedroom door and throws it open before I can say a word. It hits the opposite wall with a thwack.
“Adina,” Racheli says, announcing my name in the loudest voice possible for the fourth time in 30 seconds.
She must not see my face, my eyes begging her to just be quiet, because she continues speaking.
“What are you doing just sitting on your bed?” she asks. “Don’t you hear the doorbell ringing?” She shakes her head. “Penina’s here for you and she’s holding chocolate.”
I roll my eyes. It’s the first time I can remember wishing that Penina lived too far away from my house to just walk over.
“What’s wrong with you?” Racheli says. “Why are you just sitting there?”
I yank myself off my bed and jam my feet into my shoes. Being upset at Penina is miserable enough. I don’t need my whole family to know about it.
“I’m coming,” I mutter as I follow Racheli out the door.
My bedroom is right at the top of the stairs, leaving me about ten seconds between stepping into the hallway and seeing Penina at the bottom of the stairs.
“Hi,” she says as I walk down. Her voice is quieter than usual, which makes me feel weird and relieved at the same time.
“Hi,” I mutter.
I reach the bottom of the stairs.
Penina takes a step back.
I look at her. She looks at me.
“I brought chocolate,” she says. She pushes two bars of chocolate toward me, but I leave my hands hanging at my side.
I don’t want chocolate right now. Not from Penina, that is.
“Uh,” she says.
I stand like a wooden block, saying absolutely nothing. She didn’t want to hear me yesterday when I asked her not to tell half the world that our new teacher is my first cousin.
“What’s the big deal? Everyone loves Miss Stein,” she said before sharing my secret with our entire class.
Clearly, she doesn’t like the sound of my voice. Which is why my voice is not going to help her now. Not one tiny bit.
“Uh,” she says again.
I look at her.
She rubs her hand against the wall.
I scratch the top of my head.
“I’m really sorry,” Penina finally says.
I suck in my lip, because I do want to make up with Penina, but I don’t know if sorry is enough. Sorry won’t take back what she said.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Penina said. “I guess I thought it just wasn’t a big deal.”
I raise my eyebrows. “It was a big deal for me.”
She nods quickly. “I know,” she says. She shakes her head back and forth. “Well, now I do.”
I step back against the banister, feel it rub against my spine.
Penina opens her mouth. She swings her chocolate bars and then closes her mouth.
I bite my lip.
“I don’t know what to say,” Penina says.
I shake my head. I know what she shouldn’t have said, but she already knows that. And she feels bad about it now. I know she does. I don’t have to tell her again how wrong she was.
I shrug my shoulders.
“You can’t take those words back,” I say. “And I don’t know what you should say either.”
Penina turns her shoulders inward, like she’s shrinking into herself. “Can we sit down?” she asks. She points toward the window. “I didn’t walk all the way here in the rain for both of us to say we don’t know what to say.”
I look outside. I hadn’t even noticed that it was raining, but now I hear Penina’s wet shoes squeak against the floor as we walk to the couch.
She sits on one end of the gray couch and I sit on the other.
It feels weird to be sitting so far away from each other — almost like there’s an ocean that’s spewing rocks between us. I have no idea how Penina is going to make this right again, because right now I can’t even look at that chocolate, and that’s major. For me, in any case.
I look at my (old) best friend.
“I don’t have anything so earth-shattering to say,” Penina says. She leans forward and I feel my heart begin to race. “But,” she says, “I will say this: I did something really dumb. I thought it would be really funny to tell the class who Miss Stein is….”
My nostrils flare and Penina holds up her hand.
“I realize now that it wasn’t funny,” she says. She shrugs. “I can’t say I really understand why you don’t want everyone to know, but that’s not what’s important right now.”
She takes a deep breath and shifts slightly toward me on the couch.
I feel my body freeze.
“What’s important is that I hurt my best friend,” Penina says. “Enough to make her roll her eyes at chocolate, and that’s bad.”
I try to stop the smile that spreads on my face, but it’s unstoppable.
“I’m really sorry,” Penina says. “Really, really sorry.” She speaks to me with her mouth, but her eyes look like they’re talking too.
I dig my fingers into the side of the couch. It’s okay, I almost say, but I keep those words in my mouth. “Thanks for coming over and apologizing,” I say.
Penina dips her head.
“I don’t like when you’re upset,” she says. “You’re much more fun when you’re eating chocolate.”
This time I don’t even try to stop the smile. Penina passes the bag to me and this time I take it. “You know—” I say as I rip open an Encore bar, make a brachah, and take a big bite. Chocolate swirls over my tongue. “It’s weird,” I say. “Because even though I’m still really upset that the class knows that Miss Stein is my cousin, I just want to say it’s okay and just forgive you.”
“Because you really want chocolate?” Penina asks.
I shake my head. “No,” I say. “Because I really want a best friend.”
I realized something tonight. Do you know why I was able to forgive Penina even though she really hurt me? (No, not because of chocolate.) It’s because she’s my best friend. My friend who has helped me too many times to count.
This time? It was like one raisin in a huge chocolate chip cookie. If there are enough chocolate chips, you can swallow the raisin and kinda just forget about it. That’s what I was able to do with Penina.
And so I realized this: Friendship works. Taking the time to really care for your friend is nice in the moment, but it’s also worth it in the long run.
It makes solving problems and forgiving so much easier.
I gained two things tonight.
Two bars of chocolate and the knowledge that Penina is really a good friend.
Not bad, I’d say. Not bad at all.
Your two favorite friends Adina and Penina want to spend even more time with you. Now you can read (and reread) all of their stories in their special F is for Friendship book available in Jewish bookstores now.
(Originally Featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 725)
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