What would I tell her? My best friend was going to be so upset
“Where’s my camera? Has anyone seen my camera?”
My BFF, Shani, bursts into the classroom. I look up with a start.
“You lost your camera?” Idy asks. “Where’d you have it last?”
“It was on my seat in the auditorium. But then we played that game, and after that they pushed the chairs to the side for dancing, and now I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find it!” She sounds close to tears.
I bite my lip. What should I do?
“Should I help you look for it?” Nechama offers, jumping down from the windowsill. “We could go ask all the other classes if someone took it by mistake…”
“I guess,” Shani says, her voice a little choked. “It has all my pictures of my family’s trip to Eretz Yisrael… and so many other things. I just need to get it back!”
She follows Nechama out of the classroom, and I just want to curl myself into a ball and disappear.
Because I know exactly where Shani’s camera is.
I’m the one who took it.
Okay, wait. I know that sounds really bad, but I’ll explain, okay? I didn’t mean to take it. I would never steal. And I don’t need Shani’s camera, I have my own. And besides, I would never do that to my best friend! It’s her prized possession, the sparkly pink camera she received for her bas mitzvah, an expensive brand. And besides, all her pictures of her family vacations and her nieces and nephews and her sister’s chasunah are on it….
I was really just trying to do her a favor.
You see, Shani loves her camera. She’s a little obsessed with capturing every moment of life on the screen, getting every detail there. She loves making photo albums and scrapbooks and slideshows and videos. And when the Chanukah Chagigah heads picked her to come up on stage for some surprise game, I just knew that she’d want it on video.
The game was some sort of competition in pairs — Shani and Chayala were picked from my grade. First was a braiding competition — Chayala had to do Shani’s hair in as many braids as she could within ten minutes. I videoed the scene on stage and then took a few pictures of Shani’s hilarious hairdo. I knew she’d love them.
Then they moved on to the next game… and that’s when it happened.
I’d put the camera down for a minute to take a drink… and next thing I knew, the cup overturned, and the camera in my lap was sopping wet.
Shani’s camera. Dripping with soda, possibly broken, all my fault….
What would I tell her? My best friend was going to be so upset.
But wait… maybe I could fix it myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have to tell her anything?
While the music blared and the Chagigah heads continued calling instructions to the pairs up on stage, I’d slipped out of my seat and went racing to the janitor’s closet, where I knew I could find a stash of paper towels. Maybe if I’d dry the camera right away, and leave it to air out, then soon it would be as good as new?
That’s what I’d done. I’d even said a quick perek of Tehillim before closing the door to the janitor’s closet carefully and hurrying back to the auditorium just before the game ended and we’d pushed the chairs to the side of the room to dance together. At the end of the Chagigah, I’d run down again to the janitor’s closet, my heart fluttering, hoping against hope the camera was working again….
And that’s when I’d found the door open, and paper towels drifting to the floor, and the camera — gone.
Shani and Nechama don’t find her camera — of course not. Because I know it’s been stolen. Taken from the janitor’s closet with nary a clue left behind. And it’s all my fault. But I just can’t bring myself to tell Shani.
I’ve got to make it up to her. Find it, fix it, or at least replace the camera, even if I can’t get back her precious pictures….
And then, after that, I can tell her the whole story.
That very evening, when my family is sitting around the table enjoying doughnuts and latkes over board games, I gather together all my babysitting money and Chanukah gelt and tell my mother I have to run an errand.
“It’s really important,” I say, hoping she won’t ask me what, exactly, it is.
“Are you sure you have to go now, Miri? While we’re all sitting together?”
I think of Shani’s face, devastated at losing her precious camera. “It’s kind of urgent…” I mumble.
Ten minutes later, I’m dashing down to the electronics store where I know Shani bought her digital camera. Up and down aisles, till I find the cameras, then I start scanning them, looking for Shani’s model.
Finally, I spot a picture of it, on an empty shelf. Out of stock, reads the label.
And below it, I can spot the price tag: $299.99.
Almost $300! I hurriedly count the bills in my purse, then the change. I have 140… no, 157 dollars. And 83 cents. Nowhere near enough to replace Shani’s camera.
I have to think of another plan.
I don’t speak to Shani much over the next few days. I’m too nervous that I’ll let something slip. I’m also feverishly trying to come up with a new plan.
It was the janitor who stole it. It must have been. Who else could have gone into the closet in those few minutes? Who else might have seen it and taken it?
But what can I do about it?
I decide to investigate. I’ll hang around near the closet, see when the janitor comes and goes. Maybe I’ll find proof that he took the camera. Maybe I can convince someone that he’s guilty, get him to confess, and give it back.
My imagination goes a bit wild there. I could set up a spy camera… or get hold of his phone number and call him up, pretending to want to buy a digital camera… or tell the police, and they’ll arrest him and interrogate him….
I’m so lost in my imagination, that I actually jump when I hear my name.
It’s Shani, coming up behind me with a confused expression on her face.
“Here you are. I’ve been looking for you all recess.” She looks around at the deserted corridor with the janitor’s closet at the very end. “What are you doing here? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, sure, I’m just…” I stutter to a halt. What should I say I’m doing? This looks so weird. “Just… thinking,” I finish, lamely.
Shani frowns. “Miri, can I ask you something?”
My heartbeat speeds up. She knows, she suspects, she realizes I took the camera…
“Y-yes?” I whisper.
Shani looks away. “Are you… are you upset with me? I feel like you’re — avoiding me, these past few days.”
I let out my breath in a big whoosh.
“Avoiding you? Of course not!” I say, but then I realize what it must look like: the way I’ve been trying not to talk to her too much, disappearing at recess, doing my own thing….
I take a deep breath. Maybe I can tell her something, without telling her everything.
“I just… was thinking. About your camera. That maybe the janitor took it,” I say, lowering my voice so that only she can hear me. “And I’ve been trying to… you know, find out if it was him. To get it back for you.”
Shani’s eyes widen. “The janitor? But he wasn’t anywhere near the Chagigah. How could he have…?”
“Maybe, you know, it was on the floor and he found it afterwards?” I mumble.
Shani shakes her head. “It can’t be. I checked the auditorium a million times.”
We look at each other. I look away. My head is hurting. The words are on the tip of my tongue, but how can I tell her the truth? She’ll be so upset.
I dart a glance at Shani’s face. She’s frowning; she looks confused. For a moment, I suddenly see it from her perspective: her camera disappears, her best friend is acting strange, and then, when we’re finally talking, I’m telling her some ridiculous story about suspecting the janitor without explaining my reasoning behind it….
All to stop her getting upset.
But isn’t she upset already?
My head is hurting even more. But I realize, with a flash, what I should have done all along.
“Shani,” I say, gathering all the courage I have. “I have something to tell you.”
After all that. All the agonizing and worrying and sneaking around trying to find the camera, fix the camera, replace the camera…
Shani is just so relieved to know the truth.
I feel almost silly.
“I prefer to have a friend than a camera,” she says, which I think is the nicest thing, considering that I’ve gone and lost her most prized possession. “And besides, two heads are better than one. Why don’t we try to figure out the mystery together?”
I beam back at her. “Yes!”
The bell rings for the end of recess. “Later,” we promise each other, and head to class.
But the day’s surprises are not over. Morah Gefner walks into the room with a small bag in her hand.
“Girls, this was found on the secretary’s desk under a pile of papers. We think someone must have handed it in to the office for lost-and-found on the day of the Chanukah Chagigah. Does it belong to anyone in the class?”
She opens the bag and holds up one, pink, sparkly… digital camera.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 941)
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