| Cozey Feature |

Winter Wars   

We both love to read, we love coffee and chocolate and rain, and we both don’t like Leahle Greenberg


I wouldn’t say Ricky and I are a judgmental duo, but we definitely have our opinions about some of our classmates, particularly Leahle and her group of copycats.

We’re totally careful with machsom lifi and shemiras halashon, of course. But it’s hard to keep a straight face when Leahle comes in, dramatically exclaiming over how tired she is, because her parents took her to see a private Shwekey concert last night, or flew her to a Miami restaurant for her birthday.

Honestly, I have my doubts whether every exciting story Leahle Greenberg shares is even true. Like Mommy says, take everything with a grain of salt.

And with Leahle Greenberg, it’s obviously pink Himalayan salt.

The truth is, that aside from major T4, I kind of like Leahle. She’s funny and sharp and has the cutest shoes in the world.

But I can never tell Ricky that, because of The Incident.

Now, mind you, The Incident occurred in sixth grade and we are now in tenth, but I can tell that Ricky is still not over it, and, as the best friend, I need to be supportive.

Ricky is already at the window seat when I sleepwalk into homeroom five minutes early.

I blink, pull the sleeves of my sweatshirt down over my fingers, and curl up next to her, watching girls arrive at school from the window until the bell rings, signaling tefillah time.

“I’m so tired,” I mutter.

Ricky gives me a sympathetic hug. “Poor Shevs. Don’t worry, midwinter is almost here and then we have four straight days of rest and relaxation.”

I wrinkle my nose. “And reading!”

Ricky grins. “Ohhhh, yeah, I have a stack of like 20 books just waiting for me to get to them.”

I laugh. “I have like 25.”

We take out our siddurim and begin to daven, just as Leahle Greenberg’s perky voice floats through the door.

“…We usually rent the same house every year, near the ski lodge. Ta doesn’t like being in the actual lodge. But there are nine bedrooms…. This year, my mother said it’s too cold, and we’re heading to Miami. There’s a giant arcade room in the house—”

“Shhh!” Ricky hisses.

Leahle looks around, perfect ponytail flying, and blinks. “Gosh, sorry, I didn’t realize people had started davening. My bad!” And she flashed her Leahle smile and sat down.

“Nine bedrooms,” I say to Ricky by way of greeting after davening.

I know, it’s avak lashon hara, but I was feeling jealous.

I want to go to a ski lodge. I want midwinter plans more exciting than books and hot cocoa.

Ricky rolls her eyes, but to her credit, says nothing.

The Incident was before my time, we still lived in Queens back then, but apparently, Leahle and Ricky had been friends. Like close friends. And then Leahle had double-crossed her somehow, something about a conference call that Ricky didn’t realize she was a part of. Whatever happened hurt Ricky. Badly. It had affected the way she trusted people, and it took me years before I could break through her tough shell.

But I’m glad I did.

* * *

Ma’s on the phone when I get home. She waves at me distractedly and points toward the kitchen, where a pan of brownies are cooling on the counter. I cut myself a thick, gooey piece, grab a glass of water, and settle myself at the island in perfect eavesdropping range.

“Oy vey, oy vey,” Mommy murmurs into the phone. “Oh no. Ma! Are you okay?… I know. I know.”

A pit forms in my stomach; my hands grow clammy. Something is wrong with Bubby. I close my eyes, think of Bubby, her soft skin, blue eyes, the weight of pushing her wheelchair.

My eyes spring open, and I run over to Mommy, not caring that she’ll know I was listening.

She nods at me. “Okay, Ma. Okay… I love you.”

Mommy hangs up the phone.

“What is it, what’s wrong?” I demand.

Mommy sits back. “Bubby needs hip surgery. I need to fly to Florida right away.”

I look at her. “You do? Oh. But what about winter vacation?”

Ma bites her lip. “What do you think about coming with me?”

* * *

Miami is incredible. More importantly, Bubby is doing well. The surgery was a success, but recovery is painful and slow.

And guess who I meet at the cutest coffee shop? Leahle and her sisters! Turns out they’re totally nice. We start hanging out at night and have an amazing time, although I do feel a tiny sense of niggling guilt at the thought of what Ricky would say if she saw us together. But I can’t worry about that now. I’m too busy helping Zaidy with household chores and meeting up with the Greenbergs in the evenings.

But then Leahle emailed her friend Shira a picture of the two of us, and Shira commented to Ricky, and Ricky called me.

“I saw a picture of you with Leahle,” she said by way of hello. “I thought you were there to help your grandparents.” No “How’s Bubby?” no “I miss you so much.”

And I wanted to tell her how hard I was working during the day and how painful it was to see Bubby like this, but I also had zero interest in explaining myself after her comment.



High school is around 7,000 times more fun than I thought it would be, and that is mainly due to my best friend, Perel. I’ve just never had a friend as similar to me before. There is something so refreshing about not always clashing heads or having to constantly be on your toes because you’re insecure in your friend group.

We both love to read, we love coffee and chocolate and rain, and we both don’t like Leahle Greenberg.

Okay, okay, that wasn’t nice. It’s not that we dislike Leahle, it’s just that we both agree that she’s a bit much…

Yes, I have The Incident in our past, but that’s totally ancient history. I’m over it.

Okay, I’m almost over it.

But despite high school being amazing, I’m more than ready for a little vacation. Just Perel and I, a stack of books, sleepovers, and maybe some shopping. The perfect few days.

She slouches into the classroom, looking half asleep. I make room for her on the window sill, and we sit there, talking sleepily, until it’s time to start davening.

Of course, that’s when Leahle Greenberg walks in, babbling about a fancy house in Miami. Perel and I look at each other and look away.

Leahle Greenberg is not going to be the one to get me to speak lashon hara today.

But seriously, her boasting is so childish.

* * *

I’m in my room, organizing my bookshelves, when Perel calls.

I literally can’t believe it.

Winter vacation… alone? No best friend, no book sharing, no coffee dates?

Of course I’m totally sympathetic; I know how much her Bubby means to her. My thoughts are purely selfish.

And then, once Shira Tepper shows me the photo of Perel and Leahle, my thoughts turn furious.

It’s one thing to abandon me because you have family obligations. It’s a whole ’nother ballgame for my best friend to become besties with my not-so-best-friend.

Can you blame me for being hurt?


(Originally featured in Cozey, Issue 995)

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