Closing my eyes, I take a deep cleansing breath and then let it out slowly. When I open my eyes, Shiri and Rus are still there, grinning widely. “Eeeek,” I screech, clutching at them. We’re sitting on Shiri’s rug, as we’ve done thousands and millions of times before, and for a moment I can pretend that I haven’t been gone for the past five months and that nothing has really changed at all.

Shiri and Rus are still in pajamas, it is only nine-thirty after all, and it’s the last day of their winter vacation. They look so cozy that I rummage around in my bag for my own. I pull out my David Lerner pajamas, a gift from Aunt Lani, and head toward the bathroom to get dressed. When I come out, they whistle.

“Faaancy,” Shiri says, winking. Rus grins. “Is that a Stonesworth thing?”

I strike a pose. “You know it,” I say.

Shiri’s sister Dafna pokes her head in, Sari’s face hovering around her shoulder. I jump up and give her a hug.

She laughs at the sight of my pajamas and points at Sari, clad in a plaid pajama set.

“The perks of a woman-only home,” Shiri says dryly and Rus whacks her on the shoulder. “Oh, stop,” she says and the two share a meaningful look.

I feel left out. “Sari, you look adorable,” I say loudly. “Those are Ralph Lauren, right?”

Everyone looks at me funny and Sari actually sneers. “No clue,” she says coldly. “Come, Dafna.”

Dafna gives me one more hug and then the two run off whispering.

I sink back into the rug and lean my head on Rus’s shoulder. “I really missed you guys,” I say softly.

“Us too,” Shiri says, and we sit like that for a while in a comfortable silence.


“Okay, now I’m home,” I say dreamily, slowly scooping whipped cream off my shake. Shiri and Rus giggle, the three of us haven’t stopped laughing since I arrived, and it just feels so right to be back.

The girl behind the counter even remembered me and handed me my shake with a cheery, “Good to see you!”

I blame the hair; people can’t help remembering it. But I was more confused than necessary, thanks to Stonesworth’s “you must be cold and rude to work a counter in a restaurant” rule.

I tell the girls this without really thinking about it, not realizing how strange it sounds to a Brownsfeld girl. I think back to my first Stonesworth encounter with an obnoxious barista, and for a moment I can view the situation with an objective eye.

“That is kuh-razy,” Rus says, shaking her head. “Like, why work in a public place if you have an attitude problem?”

I nod emphatically, but something is niggling at me. Don’t my besties — Tamara, Rikki, Tiffy, and Bina — all have the same “attitude problem”?

Ummm, what Shiri and Rus don’t know can’t hurt them.

“It’s socially acceptable there,” I say knowingly, and the three of us delve into a DMC about Stonesworth for so long that it calls for another round of ice cream.

(Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 744)