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Teen Fiction: Friendship Blues

She was quiet for a few minutes until she finally said “I wouldn’t encourage a friendship with her.”

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D ear Diary

I feel almost sacrilegious scarring your fancy pages with an unpleasant entry but how dare she! I never dreamed Faigy Marks would do this to me! And now I’m bored to bits during midwinter vacation because of her.

Imagine last week we were inseparable! And only last year she was simply one of my 25 classmates in ninth grade. It all started in the beginning of last year when she happened to sit next to me. Faigy’s compliments flowed like water from a faucet. “Suri your notebooks are a work of art!” “I love your shoes are they new?” Or “Suri how did you manage to follow Mrs. Bloom’s dikduk class so seamlessly?”

I must admit it felt good. At home I was the dutiful daughter who faithfully took out the garbage cleared the supper dishes and helped put the little ones to bed and no one said a word.

Before long my new friend suggested “Let’s walk home together.”

“Sure” I answered flattered. A few days later I found myself joining her for a morning walk lunchtime and phone conversations at least three times a day.

The first morning of midwinter vacation the phone rang at seven thirty. “Suri you up?”

“Yeah” I answered groggily.

“Perfect. Be ready at nine. First we’ll go roller skating then window shopping at Mega-Mall and we’ll top things off at Sam’s Pizza. My treat okay?”

“Hey slow down I have to ask permission from my parents. I’ll call you soon.”

I took a deep breath. We were the type of family who rarely went on excursions during vacation. Instead Ma made her famous family breakfasts with hot chocolate topped with whipped cream fresh pancakes with maple syrup and the smoothest chocolate pudding you could only dream about. The latest novel baking cookies and living up the lack of schedule totally filled my free time. Technically my parents weren’t against outside activities but we had two rules: One ask permission and two pay your own way.

“Ma,” I began tentatively “can I spend the day with Faigy Marks?”

“Faigy Marks” she said slowly as she was mixing the pancake batter. “You mean the Marks who live on the next block?”


She was quiet for a few minutes until she finally said “I wouldn’t encourage a friendship with her.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t know. It’s just a feeling. Join us for breakfast, Suri, and we’ll have a fun day at home.”

“But she made plans already! How can I tell her no? She’s even paying for me!”

Ma pursed her lips and stopped mixing the batter. She started to say something but stopped. Finally she said, “All right, you can go.”

“Thanks so much, I gotta get ready.”

After a whirlwind day, Faigy asked, “Can you help me with the Chumash paper?”

“You mean the one due last week?”

She blushed and answered, “I handed it in, but Mrs. Goldberg told me to redo it during winter vacation.”

“All right,” I answered. “Tomorrow, okay?”

After vacation Faigy presented me with a shiny wrapped parcel.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“A little something for you,” she answered.

“A wallet!” I exclaimed as I ripped off the paper. “How sweet, thanks.”

I didn’t think we could possibly spend more time together, so I was puzzled by her knocking that Friday night.

“Good Shabbos! Come on in.” I tried to sound gracious.

“Suri, let’s go for a walk.” It was kind of a demand. Before I could answer, I caught Ma’s blue eyes. Friday night was reserved for my mother and sisters. We schmoozed about the week, the parshah, Hashgacha pratis stories. Then we davened together and set the table. “Faigy, why don’t you come in?” I tried.

“No, I need fresh air. You have to come, my mom is out, and my brothers are in shul.” I found myself involuntarily nodding and grabbed my sweater. I avoided Ma and tried not to think about the upcoming lecture.

You might wonder why I didn’t curtail our friendship. The truth was that Faigy was a ball of fun! She adored me and pumped up my self-esteem.

At the end of the school year, my walking partner sported a humongous smile and said, “Guess what?” Without waiting for a reply, she began, “I’m not going to summer camp! This way we can spend more time together, Suri,” she squealed as she squeezed my arm.

I gulped and pretended to look pleased. Actually, I was far from pleased, as each summer, Auntie Jodie flew in with my cousins. As we didn’t see each other all year, those three weeks were mega-fun. What was I going to do with tagalong Faigy?

Ma was unusually accommodating and included my Siamese twin in our family’s activities. During one late night private DMC with Ma, she remarked, “Tenth grade is coming up. You have the power to set the tone when it comes to friendships. I trust you, Suri.”

How I wished I’d engraved those words of wisdom on my heart!

A month into the new school year, on our walk home, Faigy started, “Next week is the dikduk test. I’m petrified of failing.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll have our usual study session. Wanna come over tonight?” I offered.

“No, you don’t understand. My parents are expecting a top grade. And Suri, this test is going to cover last year’s material, too. That adds up to a tremendous number of rules! You know, I have an idea,” she began.

“What?” I asked.

“The teachers send their tests into the office to be typed. Then the secretary puts them into the appropriate boxes in the teachers’ lounge. So… well, um, I was thinking. As Mrs. Goldberg is usually the last teacher to leave the room, maybe you can detain her with a question, while I sneak in the room and take a picture of the test with my cell. I know when the test will be ready,” she finished quickly.

I stopped in my tracks. I’m even embarrassed to write this in the privacy of my diary — that girl wanted me to be a partner in crime, to enable her to cheat!

“My dear friend, I’m having absolutely nothing to do with this inane idea of yours. You can just forget about it.”

“Suri, I’m surprised at you, don’t you remember the birthday party I made you?”

How could I forget? My birthday was a week before Pesach. The standing joke was that we’ll celebrate on Pesach. Well, last year Faigy surprised me with a stupendous chometz birthday party in her parents’ storage room (which they sell for Pesach). It was a blast! I sighed. “Sorry, cheating is cheating,”

“And don’t forget the shabbaton,” she continued in a soft voice.

Oh that. I nearly missed the Shabbos of the year because my mother thought I’d signed up and I thought she did. When we realized the mistake, registration was long over. But good ol’ Faigy came to the rescue, pulled the right strings, and I had a Shabbos to remember. Gosh, she has really done, done, done for me. All the presents, trips, and goodies piled up and made it impossible for me to see straight.

How could I let her down?

How could I give in?

“Let me sleep on it. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

“Thanks loads for considering it, Suri. You can’t fathom how much this means to me.”

After supper, I announced, “Ma, I’m going to bed.” I got under my quilt with my latest fiction, but couldn’t get past the first paragraph. How can you think of being an accomplice to cheating? What will I really be doing wrong? Was it a crime to speak to a teacher? Be honest, you know it’s a method to enable Faigy to cheat. But the girl was petrified of disappointing her parents. If she aced the exam… But that won’t make it kosher!

What should I do? Ma and Dad would say keep away like fire. But did I really want to spoil this friendship? What was I going to do? I succumbed to a night full of dreams that involved the police, a prison sentence, and Faigy’s pleading face.

In the morning, I walked slowly to our meeting spot. No one spoke. A car honked and the wind whipped ferociously, threatening to undo my ponytail. “Faigy… okay, I’ll speak to Mrs. Goldberg,” I said before I could stop the flow of words.

The principal’s call came last night, the first day of midwinter vacation. Ma beckoned me to the kitchen. “That was the principal,” began Ma. “When the teacher asked Faigy how she achieved 100 on the dikduk exam, she was extremely evasive. They have no conclusive evidence, nevertheless, due to facts I can’t relay, they strongly suspect cheating. The principal was adamant that you break up the friendship.”

“Right Ma,” I said as I sped, in total shame, to my room.

As I sat on my bed, I felt like I’d narrowly avoided an oncoming bus. What if somebody had overheard our conversation?

The next morning loomed as large as the Atlantic Ocean. My official program coordinator was out. So here I am, reliving this difficult parshah. Hmm, what’s that smell? Yum, Ma’s fresh pancakes. I slowly got dressed and a sudden realization came over me. I didn’t have to meet Faigy at nine nor at three. As I brushed my hair, I noticed a new novel on the shelf. Mmm, the aroma of hot chocolate filled my room.

Hey, you know, life might be different, but I think I welcome a Faigy-less vacation.

Love, Suri

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 642)

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