I am running in the wind, up our street, turning sharply left, my back to the field and the infamous hill…

It’s no use. I see her there, black hair flying in the breeze as the foursome whizz down the hill and land in a laughing heap at the bottom. In my mind’s eye I see them all scrambling to their feet, Leeba struggling, maybe slipping, or dusting off her boots, and getting to her feet again. Too late. I can hear the screech of collision. Can see the terror in her eyes. The flapping, useless motions to get away. And then all is quiet on the hill, and my friend, my has-been, dear, childhood friend, is struck down, her black hair mussed against a face as white as the snow she lies on.

I run further. I am two blocks away but still the images won’t stop coming.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it happen. I was in the thicket of trees, angry at them all.

And now?

My anger has been snuffed out like a dying flame.

I feel empty, useless, a blackened match.

I don’t know where I stand. I’m not walking around in tears, because I wasn’t there, I wasn’t traumatized like her friends were, and hey, no one in our class really knows that we were friends — or expects me to behave like one.

Where does that leave me?

I run past the stores. They are mostly empty on a Sunday morning but I don’t feel like meeting anyone now anyway. The memories come in a film across my eyelids.

We are having a sleepover. Your mother lets us stay up late. We are jumping on your bed making the springs screech, laughing and plopping down and throwing pillows around.

“We are bestest friends,” you say, draping an arm around me. I don’t tell you that bestest isn’t a word. I put my arm around you too and we fall onto the bed together.

We are in my living room learning for a Chumash test. The rabbits are romping around in their hutch. They are brand new. Habits of Rabbits is open on the table near our Chumash notes. I keep checking it and frowning over at the rabbits to make sure they are okay. I know you’re terrified of animals, you’ll dart across the street to escape from a cat, but you’re asking me questions about the rabbits as if you are really interested while you’re probably feeling squeamish inside. We are chanting out the Chumash translations. The rabbits peek out and listen, one white, one streaked with pinkish fur.

“You know, she’s beautiful,” you say. And I know you’re saying it for my sake. “All that sleek, cream fur, it’s like the color of pearls.”

I look at you. “Pearls? I love that, that’s gonna be her name, kay?”

“Oh sure, Pearl suits her,” you say. “How about I have a go at naming her brother?” And you grin, that goofy grin of yours.

I remember that grin, she was wearing it in my dream last night. She visits my dreams often, hale and healthy like nothing’s happened. I am carrying years’ worth of memories around, the sweetest of dreams. Waking up from them would hurt even if nothing had happened to her, because of how things stood between us lately. But it hurts a lot more now, because Leeba is still unconscious. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 686)