E

verything Miriam wrote was true.

It stung. I’d always prided myself on being a loyal friend. And while I hadn’t really done anything to slight her, nominating a new best friend out of the blue was the ultimate betrayal. Worse, I’d been in denial, furnishing excuses about my unavailability and going to great lengths to “hide” Ahuva.

Miriam was intuitive. And very, very hurt.

Numbly, I reread her e-mail, wincing at every barb. In my mind, I drafted a response, full of strongly worded defenses and counterarguments. But I didn’t dare write any of it. I couldn’t fool Miriam.

In my turmoil, there was only one thing I could think of to do.

“Can we meet?” My voice was tight. I waited tensely.

“What’s up?” Ahuva asked.

“Stuff,” I said. “It’s urgent.”

We met at the boardwalk. We walked and talked and talked and talked. Our hair flapped in the wind. We huddled in our sweaters. I tasted salt. Through a lump in my throat, I told her about my confusion. How I didn’t mean to hurt her, how everything was coming apart and I didn’t understand what was happening. She squeezed my hand. It felt so good.

“I always considered her my best friend,” I said. “And now… this.”

“This?”

I swallowed. “You.”

She squeezed my hand again.

We continued walking in silence. Our footsteps fell soundlessly on the wooden boards. There was nobody around, only the two of us, walking, staring ahead.

And then Ahuva started sobbing.

I stared at her. “What? What happened?”

She couldn’t talk. She rubbed her eyes, sniffling, looking down at her shoes. I grabbed her shoulders. “Ahuva! What happened?”

I watched her throat bob as she swallowed. “It’s me,” she whispered.

We stopped walking. Ahuva planted her elbows on the wooden boardwalk rail and buried her head in her hand. I hung back anxiously, until at last she looked up.

“Devoiry,” she started.

I waited.

“I have a problem.”

My pulse quickened. My imagination erupted violently, horrific thoughts thrashing through my head. I started trembling.

“A problem?” I stammered.

She looked at me through waterlogged eyes and blinked. “I don’t know how to be a friend.”

She sniffed, pulling her sweater sleeves down over her fingers. “My mother is right. She never approved of my friendships because I don’t know how to handle friendship.”

My face contorted. I didn’t know what to say.

“There’s nothing wrong with you. I’ve been cruel to you by imposing a relationship on you. I can’t help it. This is how I am. All or nothing.”

I shook my head, back and forth, back and forth.

“You’re not cruel,” I said hoarsely. “You’re not. You’re — you’re awesome. I never had a friend like you in my entire life.”

She laughed bitterly. “That’s the whole problem.”

(Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 763)