Recap: Uncle Nathan confides in Aharon secret information. He’s working on a vaccine to save the world from another pandemic, and the information is being buried in a corner of the farm. .

That night, I was going to tell Mommy that I’d seen a man taking photographs of our house, but she wasn’t home. She had left a note that she had to work late.

I double-locked the door and kept peering out the window. I was about to dial Aviva’s number, but somehow I ended up calling Penina instead.

“This man was taking photos of my house,” I told her.

“They do that for computer programs for GPS or something. I’m sure that’s what it is.”

“I guess. I hate that my father left and my mother’s working late. I’m here by my lonesome.”

I heard someone yelling in the background in her house. “Do you want me to come over? I can ask my mom.”

“Yes, please,” I said.

I held on and Penina came back on the phone. “She said it’s fine, but she doesn’t have time to drive me. Can you meet me by Oak Street? It’s halfway between us.”

I locked the door and scanned the street for any suspicious people and then I headed towards Oak Street. I called Penina when I got to the meeting spot.

“I’m running late. I’ll be there soon.” Penina hung up.

The sun had set and there was a cool breeze wafting by. I pulled my sweatshirt tighter around me.

I heard a car approaching. I glimpsed a girl hanging out of the back window, shouting, and it looked like her friends where driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic.

The car screeched to a halt a few feet from me, and the loud blaring from the car radio and the laughter of the four girls inside filled the air. I studied the occupants and noted that they were laughing, but none of them looked particularly happy.

Just then, Penina strolled towards me. “Hey.” She glanced towards the car and then she hooked her arm in mine. “Let’s go.”

“Penina!” someone from the car yelled.

“Who are they?” I asked.

Penina stiffened.

“Penina, aren’t you even gonna introduce me to your friend?”

“Let’s go,” Penina whispered to me.

I followed her lead, and we strode away from the car.

The loud music was following us, and when I turned to the right, I saw that the car was following us.

“Let’s… let’s go a different way.” Penina led me to the back alley behind some houses. “I’m sorry. I know it’s a roundabout way to your house––”

“It’s okay,” I said. I noticed Penina was trembling.

“Hey, ignoring me?” A voice called from the car.

The loud reprimand died away as we both ran behind the houses towards the alleyway.

When we finally arrived at my house, we were both breathless.

I opened the door and we stepped inside. “You okay?” I asked.

Penina shook her head. “No, I’m so embarrassed.” She plopped onto a chair. “I can’t believe she did that. I’m so embarrassed.”

Penina burst into tears, and I wasn’t sure what to do.

I ran for a tissue box.

Here she was coming to help me, and she’d gotten hit with something pretty awful.

Penina wiped her eyes.

“You want to talk about it?”

Penina shook her head. “I can’t.”

“No problem. Let’s play a game.” I pulled out a board game and we set up our men on the board.

We played and chatted and neither of us touched on what had happened.

My mother finally came home at 11. She offered for Penina to sleep over.

That night, I kept thinking about the car and the girl calling out to Penina. Was that her older sister? Finally, I drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, Penina rushed home to make her bus and I headed to school.

I saw Aviva heading into the building and I waved. She was busy talking to Leah Bernstein and Rochel Hauer and she didn’t wave.

In math class, I tried to catch her eye, but she was staring straight ahead at the board.

When lunch time came, I bee-lined over to our regular table.

Aviva approached with Leah and Rochel.

“Hi,” I called.

None of them responded.

I sat down with my lunch. Aviva pointed to a different table and the three of them started walking to that table.

I froze. How could it be? My best friend since Pre-1A was totally ignoring me?

I tried chewing my sandwich, but I couldn’t swallow. I finally crumpled up my lunch bag and threw it in the garbage. I slunk out of the lunchroom.

The rest of the day was a blur. I tried to concentrate on what the teachers were saying, but I kept seeing Aviva pointing to a different table and walking away from me.

I felt like she’d stabbed me. How could my best friend leave me out like that?

At dismissal in the past, I always walked home with Aviva. Today, I walked alone. Ima called to tell me that she’d be home late. Great, I was heading home alone to an empty house again. I needed to talk to someone. The pain was searing through me. I headed to Ilana’s house. Thank you, Hashem, for Ilana.

Ilana welcomed me in. “Shani, so nice to see you. Come on in.”

I sat on the couch. ”You okay?” Ilana studied my face.

I wiped away a tear. “No,” I mumbled.

“Kiki, go play with Shlomo. He’s building a tower.” Ilana guided four-year-old Kiki into the playroom, and then she came back and plopped down beside me. “What’s wrong?”

I wasn’t sure where to start. I needed Ilana’s advice. “It’s Aviva. She’s decided to give me the cold shoulder.” I told her what happened at lunch. “At first, I thought she didn’t see me at school when I walked into the building, but now I know she’s purposely ignoring me.”

“Why? You’ve been best friends since forever.”

“I think it’s because of my new friend.” I told her about Penina and what Aviva had suggested about Penina’s sister.

“You think it’s because of that?”

Ilana shrugged. “I don’t know. People are so complicated. I’m so sorry you’re having this trouble. I think you need to speak with her when she’s not with other girls, and get her to tell you why she’s acting like this.”

I sighed.

“Do you want to read more in the journal? It might take your mind off––”

I nodded, and she brought me the journal.

To be continued…

 By Susie Garber