L unchtime in school has become such an ordeal, I brooded. The comfortable blanket of our friendship no longer wrapped itself protectively around our threesome like it had. Talia had left for greener pastures, mingling with the elite clique in our class, a bunch of snooty girls who thought the world of themselves but of no one else. And Ahuva at first spent break time exclusively with me, but recently she too had joined a different group of girls. I was left oscillating between the two groups; Talia’s and Ahuva’s.

Sometimes I’d join Talia and her new friends, but although Talia seemed to find favor in their eyes, my presence was mostly ignored, and just barely tolerated. Talia was still my friend (for the moment) so she didn’t tell me outright to bug off, but I was getting the vibes that she was fed up with me hanging on to her whenever she hung out with her clique.

Ahuva’s group was a bit better. Friendly girls — sweet and nice to everyone; not a mean bone in their bodies — they always welcomed me with open arms (they were that sort). Sometimes I felt like I should just stick with them and make more of an effort to get to know them properly, but they were so regular, with none of the charm Talia’s friends had. There were other cliques but I wasn’t courageous enough to try to break into one on my own. I longed for the days when the only problem free time presented was that there wasn’t enough of it. When you have no group to call your own, each minute becomes a painful eternity.

When my birthday approached, I wondered how my two best friends would celebrate it. In past years, celebrations had always differed. Sometimes they’d buy a present independently and some years they’d pool their resources for a gift or a surprise, such as a trip to the ice cream shop. I didn’t think a joint celebration was in the works this time. Talia and Ahuva hardly spoke to each other. Only I kept up the friendship with both of them.

Occasionally, when I sat with Ahuva, I noticed Talia’s clique talking animatedly with the occasional pointed glance at me when they thought I couldn’t see. When I did sit with them, their attitude toward me had become slightly more civil; instead of ice-cold it had cooled to room temperature. Somehow, I got the feeling that they were planning a surprise birthday bash for me. I didn’t know what had brought about the change in their attitude, but I suppose they finally realized that I was deserving of joining their group and this was their way of letting me know I was in, that I had become one of them. Although, judging from their still frosty attitudes, I supposed full acceptance would only come after the birthday surprise.

What really clinched my suspicions was what happened the day before my birthday. I had tagged along with Talia and sat down next to her at the end of the table, the only available place. Libby, the undisputed leader of the group, shot me a dirty look and the rest of the group also looked disappointed that I’d chosen to join them, though thankfully, they didn’t banish me from their presence or I would have had to shuffle over to Ahuva’s table like a discarded ping-pong ball. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 669)