hoosing what to wear to Ahuva’s wedding was complicated. However weird it felt, at that point in time, I was her best friend. Girls wear their fanciest dresses to best friends’ weddings.

But there was no way I was showing up in a wedding hall, where I knew absolutely nobody except the kallah, in a long, chiffon dress. I could just hear the questions: “And you are…?”

Devoiry Braunstein. Ahuva’s best friend, whose name she didn’t know all of three months ago.

I settled on a classy black dress, assuring myself that Ahuva wouldn’t be insulted: Our friendship didn’t depend on a petty thing like fashion.

With a twinge of fear — this couldn’t be happening — I stepped into the hall. In the lobby, I recognized the faces of Ahuva’s friends from pictures she’d shared with me and from our brief meeting at her Shabbos kallah. They were dressed to the nines and chattering excitedly, huge smiles stretched across their faces.

I passed a mirror and glanced at my reflection. Smile, I ordered my lips.

They refused to oblige.

The air conditioning was too strong and the music too loud as I shuffled through the entrance doors. Immediately, my eyes traveled to the kallah’s stage. I caught a speck of white amid a garden of greens and lilacs. Ahuva. Beaming to the camera. Drowning in flashes.

At that moment, Ahuva gave a sharp turn away from the photographer and gazed directly at me. A wave of nausea engulfed me. She squinted, giving an almost imperceptible nod.

My eyes filled.

Smile, my brain screamed. Your best friend is getting married!

I tried. But instead of basking in happiness, like the group of ecstatic friends in the lobby, I was crushed by an overwhelming sadness. I escaped the ballroom quickly, rushing to the powder room. Locking myself into a stall, I sagged against the wall, pressing tissues to my eyes.

I don’t know how long I stood there, sobbing quietly and ruining my makeup. I knew I had to return to the hall. The wedding would proceed, and I couldn’t miss it. Collect yourself, I scolded my stormy emotions. What’s wrong with you?

Eventually, after fixing my makeup and practicing a smile, I reentered the hall. Forcing myself into a state of numbness, I approached Ahuva to wish her mazel tov.

So much for trying. The moment Ahuva reached for my hand, the tears started flowing with a vengeance. I’d always smirked when I watched a kallah’s friend getting all emotional at the kabalas panim. It was so not my type. I was a mature, no-nonsense girl, macho even. I didn’t do all this girlie fluff stuff, I didn’t do drama.

But this was Ahuva, and with Ahuva around, I wasn’t me. I was a different person, a person I didn’t recognize. A person who thought and acted and felt in ways that surprised me.

A person I was ashamed to be.

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 765)