Recap: Mrs. Bauers, the owner of the house, came and asked if everything was okay. When Yehudis told her about the intruder, she said that it won’t happen again, and when Miss Gross tried to ask, How do you know?” Mrs. Bauers had already left.
Shabbos was quiet. We spent more time playing games like Bananagrams and reading. I hadn’t expected it to feel so comfortable with Miss Gross. The police car was a steady presence on the block, and that made us both feel more secure.
When Shabbos ended, Miss Gross hugged me and said she’d call to see how I was doing. As she was leaving, Sari, Chevi, and Ada appeared.
I waved to Miss Gross and ushered everyone in.
“I love sleepovers,” Sari announced. “I brought lots of nosh and books and games.”
“Do you want some music?” I asked.
I showed them some DVDs. “You have such old ones,” Chevi commented.
“Let’s listen to the Benny Friedman one,” Sari said.
“It’s so old,” Chevi said.
I felt like hitting her on the head with it, but I put my DVDs away and said nothing.
Chevi motioned Sari over and then the two of them went to a far corner to whisper together.
I thought that was pretty rude, and I was starting to wonder why I liked Sari at all.
“Ada,” I said in a loud voice, “Do you want to play Catan?”
We began the game, and I purposely tried to sound like I was having a load of fun just to spite those two rude whisperers. They went into the kitchen and they probably didn’t hear me anyway.
They’re whispering about me, I mused. Why did I ever invite these mean girls over? How I missed Tema.
“Your turn,” Ada said.
A while later, Sari and Chevi came back into the living room. Nice of them to join us. Anger was burning inside me like a smoldering fire.
“Sorry for disappearing,” Sari said.
You’re not forgiven, I wanted to shout. Instead, I just grunted.
Just then, Chevi’s cell phone rang. “Do you want me to come with you?” Sari asked. Chevi motioned her to follow. They both went back into the kitchen with Chevi talking on the phone.
What’s going on? Some private club with more girls calling them?
A while later, Chevi and Sari emerged from the kitchen. Chevi’s eyes were red.
“Let’s make the popcorn I brought,” Sari said. “Do you have a microwave?”
She was acting like nothing happened, even though she’d been in another room whispering with another girl all this time. I didn’t like hot and cold friends. Be real or don’t be.
I showed her where it was, though I really wanted to just ask her to leave. She flashed a smile at me.
Fake, I thought.
She put the popcorn into the microwave. Soon we heard popping noises. When it was done, she brought it out and offered it to us.
I declined. I didn’t want anything from her. She was a false friend.
“I noticed a bunch of police cars circling around here when we came,” Ada said.
“I’ve heard there’s some mystery about this house. People said it was haunted or something. It belonged to some rich man in the early 1800s and he supposedly lost everything, and his ghost traipses around here,” Sari said.
They wanted me to talk to them, well forget it. I had nothing to say. I shrugged.
“OOO!” Ada made scary noises and then they all burst into giggles.
At midnight, we settled down to sleep. They brought sleeping bags and they all camped out on the floor in my room. I didn’t want to be the only one with a bed, so I joined them with my sleeping bag on the floor. It was after one a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about how mean these girls were whispering behind my back. Why did Ada put up with it? Why was I putting up with this treatment? I thought everyone else was asleep. I heard their steady breathing. I tiptoed out of the room into the hallway to read. I couldn’t concentrate. I was turning pages but my mind was focused on my hurt feelings. I closed the book and just then, Chevi appeared. “I couldn’t sleep either,” she whispered.
“What are you reading?”
I didn’t want to answer but I held up the book.
“I just got this one from the library. Secrets in Disguise,” she said. “It’s really good.”
We sat together. I wished she would leave. I tried to read again but nothing went into my brain. Chevi closed her book but she still sat without moving back towards bed.
“You tired yet?” I asked.
“I could be tired but I can’t sleep. I’m too…”
I saw two fat tears trickle down her cheek. She wiped them with the back of her hand. “Sorry, you must think I’m weird; it’s just that…”
I had nothing to lose so I decided to tell her my feelings. “I don’t think you’re weird, but it seemed mean the way you went off whispering with Sari. Why did you do that in my house?” I asked. I couldn’t believe I actually said it.
Chevi stared at me. “Whoa. We came because you were hurt about the partner thing and now…you totally misunderstood.”
She was quiet like she was weighing a decision. “Look,” she whispered, “we don’t know each other and I guess things looked a certain way to you, but––” Her voice faltered. “If you knew what I was whispering about, you wouldn’t be so high and mighty on your indignant throne.”
I was ready to fire back an angry retort, when I noticed tears streaming down her cheek.
“What is it?” I asked, shocked to see her so distressed.
“It’s just… that my parents are separating and my family is falling apart. It’s awful.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “I didn’t want to make a public statement, but you have such a wrong idea—”
Now it was my turn to feel really silly. I’d accused these two girls of so much and really it was like Tema had said: You never know what someone else is going through. You have no idea.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I really jumped to such wrong conclusions. I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
“I, I’m going through some hard stuff, too, and I guess I was just thinking of myself.”
Chevi tapped me on the arm. “Don’t tell anyone.”
“I wouldn’t,” I said.
“Tell me more about the intruder and the mystery of this house. I’m good at solving mysteries.”
As I told her the details of what happened with the intruder, I suddenly recalled something one of the policemen had asked us. “Does this belong to you?” He’d held up a red bandana. I remembered that the man asking for the journal at the library was wearing a red bandana. I shivered.
“Do you have the journal here?” Chevi asked.
I tiptoed into my room to get it from my desk.
“I don’t believe in haunted houses, and I think the answer to the mystery might be in that journal.”
We sat down together and began reading.
To be continued…