huva called me the morning after her wedding, when her husband went to daven Shacharis.
She called me when he sat down to learn a bit.
She called me when he went to daven Minchah.
She called me when he took out the garbage.
“Ahuva!” I laughed when she called me the fifth time that day. “It’s okay, I believe you that you won’t abandon me. Enjoy your husband, I’m fine.”
When this habit continued throughout sheva brachos and beyond, I realized she wasn’t doing it to reassure me. She called because she genuinely wanted to talk to me.
“I feel like a free bird,” she confessed one day. “I can call you whenever I please. I don’t have to hide from anyone. I don’t have to give din v’cheshbon about where and when and why I’m talking to you.”
Right, that was a tremendous relief. I was so happy for her. And it was a relief for me as well. I no longer had to wait on edge for her to call. I could call her whenever I desired, without worrying that her mother was around, frowning upon the phone call. It felt good. Exhilarating.
But on a practical level, this new reality was secretly bewildering. Although I tried denying the creepy-crawlies in my brain, the truth was that I couldn’t afford the “freedom” Ahuva delighted in. I had a life. Work, family, other friends. It was frightening to realize how I was neglecting so many things that were important to me for the sake of reveling in our “freedom.”
Of course, I couldn’t tell Ahuva any of this. She would be crushed, take it as a personal affront. Hadn’t we dreamed about the day when we could enjoy our friendship without any boundaries? Hadn’t we counted the moments to her wedding, when she would be released from her mother’s limitations?
So I went along with her, making myself available whenever she contacted me, at the expense of my many other obligations. Because really, Ahuva’s company was always more exciting. There was always something dramatic happening, always a topic of conversation that sizzled with challenge.
If I wondered how her husband felt toward our relationship, I shoved my worries aside. That was Ahuva’s concern, not mine. I wasn’t the one overstepping bounds. I never called when they ate supper or when I knew her husband was around.
I quieted my unease by convincing myself that time would do its thing. Ahuva was going through a major transition. Between being newlywed and having left home, she needed time to master the ropes of independence. Euphoria couldn’t last forever. Surely things would fall into a comfortable routine before long. Things would be normal between us, we would be typical friends. I had to do my part and be a loyal friend, give Ahuva the time and space to settle.
For the time being, I was happy to see Ahuva happy. Her husband was a great guy. She generously sang his praises, rhapsodizing about his wisdom and many talents. Sometimes I was even jealous.
Ahuva laughed when I told her this. “But I didn’t drop you, did I?”
Oh, no, she certainly had not dropped me. I bit back a snort. Give it time, I repeated in my head. She’s adjusting, it’s normal.
After that awful moment, in a strange way, I enjoyed the wedding. Everything I’d been afraid of, happened. I had no company — who was I supposed to sit with at the meal? People wondered who I was. It was pretty obvious that the kallah and I shared a close relationship.
But I didn’t let any of that unnerve me. I focused on Ahuva, who pulled me in for a dance every ten minutes. I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only party afraid of letting go. And in an odd way, I got a thrill from all those curious onlookers. It was fun to make people wonder. I enjoyed the air of mystery that encircled us as we gripped hands and glided across the dance floor.
And then it was over, and I was back home, face scrubbed clean. I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, replaying the events of the evening, feeling that familiar rush of sadness wash over me.
I was too weak to break down, too tired to shed another tear. And yet I couldn’t sleep.
Ahuva was married.
I was all alone.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 766)