o then when the class was finally quiet, I suddenly noticed they were all looking towards the door. I turned to the door and what do you know? That kid whom I had just kicked out was making funny faces in the window!”
Miriam’s voice floated over my head, blending with the rustle of leaves and the distant sound of a car honking. I dragged my feet along to keep up with her quick stride.
“What did I just say?”
I blinked. “Uh, you were talking about school?”
I blinked quickly. “Uh, something about your principal? The new plan book system?”
Miriam grabbed my elbow. “Devoiry, something is very wrong with you. What’s the story?”
I peeled her hand off me. “No story. There’s nothing wrong.”
“You’re the worst liar I ever met.”
I shrugged. There was nothing wrong, was there? Nothing happened, nobody died, nobody won the lottery.
Yeah, so then why had I barely managed to swallow a k’zayis of challah during the Shabbos meals last night and this morning? Why had I spent most of the night tossing and turning and not fallen asleep before daybreak? Why was my heart and mind racing nonstop, shivers and flashes of electricity making me jolt at random times?
We’d spoken again on Friday, Ahuva and I. She’d told me how she urgently wanted to get together. So did I — I wanted to meet her. Although the thought of facing her gave me goose bumps. Every thought of Ahuva was downright odd. Miriam stopped walking. “Devoiry, look at me.”
I inhaled slowly and turned to face her.
“I know you as well as I know myself,” she said sharply. “There’s something devastatingly wrong with you. Your eyes are glazed. Your face is white. And you’ve gone deaf overnight.”
I kept my face even. She continued talking. “It’s okay if you choose not to share whatever’s going on with me. For all I know you’re getting engaged tonight and decided not to tell me. But don’t pretend nothing’s going on. You can’t fool me.”
She locked her gaze on me. I shifted uneasily, opening my mouth to mutter something but closing it again, unsure what to say.
“I think I’ll go home now,” Miriam said. “You’re obviously not in the mood of my company.”
“N-no,” I stammered. “It’s not—”
“Good Shabbos,” she said brusquely.
“I’m not forcing you to answer,” Ahuva said softly. “It’s your choice.”
I heard her inhale slowly. Then she added, “But I think you want to tell me. I have a feeling you’re going to share this with me really soon, like, probably even before Shabbos.”
Who was this girl? A month ago, I hadn’t known her name, and here she was telling me that she was convinced I would share my most guarded secret with her in a matter of hours?
I felt nauseous. Something stirred in me, telling me to hang up the phone, forget her name, move on with my life.
But this was Ahuva. She was smart and dramatic. There was something that drew me to her like magnet.
“Let’s talk about something else,” I finally replied.
You know what happens when you make a conscious effort to change a discussion. Obviously, there was no other topic I could think of that moment. Ahuva pretended not to notice. She continued talking with ease. I have no idea what she spoke about; I didn’t hear a word. My mind was in turmoil.
We hung up the phone, but two hours later, when I was ready for bed, I locked my bedroom door and called her back.
We spoke for ten minutes. For an hour. I braided and unbraided my hair. I paced the room, moved knickknacks around on my dresser, opened and closed my closet door again and again.
Four hours later, when we hung up the phone, I continued sitting on my bed, staring at the wall. I’d told Ahuva. I’d told her everything, hadn’t spared a detail. She’d listened quietly, and then she’d confessed: my secret was hers as well. We were in the same boat.
I felt numb. I’d told my darkest secret to a practical stranger.
And worse than that: While we spoke, and it all came tumbling out, fast and furious, I did something else.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 760)
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