Shira studied the other girl, sitting hunched inside her
sweater and her bitterness like a warrior besieged in his fortress.
"Boy, you are a sour one. How do your friends put up with you?"

"What friends?"

Shira nodded her head slowly. "I see."

"What do you see?" Avigayil bristled.

"Well, why you don't have any friends, for one thing."

Avigayil leaped to her feet and began to pace the shadowy
living room. Every time she crossed the circle of candlelight,
Shira could see her face, pinched and angry. As for Avigayil, she
didn't know why she was even bothering to talk to this girl. It
was just the strange circumstances, she guessed, and the dark-
ness, which made it easier to drop her guard.

"Look," she said at last, "we don't have to do this. You came
in here just to get out of the rain. We don't have to talk."

"I know we don't," Shira said cheerfully. "The point is, I
want to talk to you. Or rather, to listen."

"To what?"

"To your reason for not having friends."

"Oh, I've had friends!" Avigayil said scornfully, sitting down
in an armchair across from Shira. "Lots of them. But they were
bad apples. I guess I just don't know how to pick 'em right. So —
I'm through with all that for now."

"Bad apples? All of them?"

Avigayil nodded. "Every one. You just can't trust people,
you know? They'll pretend to be your friend, then turn and stab
you in the back soon as you turn around."

Shira leaned back, her eyes never leaving Avigayil's. The
candlelight flickered, and the shadows moved along with them.
"Tell me how they betrayed you, Avigayil."

Avigayil took a moment to collect her thoughts. "Well, first
there was Estie. She and I used to study for all of our tests to-
gether. Then one day, out of the blue, she told me that she was
going to study with Iladassah instead. Hadassah's the math ge-
nius of our class."

"Maybe Estie needed more help with the math than you

could give her," Shira suggested gently.

"Even so," Avigayil waved that off. "She should have been
more loyal! And then there was Tova. She and her family went to
an amusement park one Choi HaMoed, and they took along two
of her sister's friends, but Tova said there was no room in the
van for me!"

"Maybe that was her parents' decision."

"Whatever," Avigayil shrugged. "I have no use for people
who won't fight for their friends.... And just last month, there
was Shani. I thought we were real friends, you know? But then,
she did it, too."

"Did what?"

"Sat with some other girls at lunch. She said she didn't see
me around and thought I'd eaten already." Avigayil sniffed.

"Well, where were you?"

"I had to go down to the office for a minute. But she could at
least have waited!"

Shira considered the other girl for a long moment. When
she finally spoke, her voice was compassionate. "Poor Avigayil,"
she said softly. "See this house, all dark in the blackout? Well, I
think you're living in a state of permanent blackout!"

"What?" Avigayil stared at her guest, stunned.

"Permanent...emotional...blackout. You insist on seeing the
absolute worst in everyone. You expect to be abandoned and re-
jected — and so you make it happen!"

Avigayil opened her mouth to answer. Then, slowly, she
shut it again.

"Tell me," Shira said. "When is the first time you ever felt
that way? Abandoned and rejected, I mean."

Avigayil was silent for so long that Shira was afraid she
wouldn't answer at all. She tried not to feel too badly. She'd

given this strange, isolated, embittered girl her best shot. If
Avigayil didn't want to look inward and see where the problem
lay, there was no —

"Four," Avigayil said suddenly, into the silence. "1 was four."

"What happened?" Shira asked quickly.

"My mother was in an accident. She had to go away to a hos-
pital, then a rehabilitation place, for months and months. It — it
felt like forever to me. My father was also away a lot, at work and
with my mother. I...1 thought she'd never come back."

The lashings of rain and wind had dropped to a marked de-
gree. The girls no longer had to raise their voices to be heard
above the storm. But neither of them paid attention.

"That must have been so sad for you," Shira said, real sym-
pathy in her voice. "Only four years old, and you thought you'd
been abandoned by the person you needed most in the world."
She paused. "But that was then. You're older now. You under-
stand now that she never rejected you. You know she didn't
leave on purpose."

"1 know it here," Avigayil whispered, a finger to her temple.
"But not here." She pointed at her heart.

"And so, you still go on expecting to be rejected and left out
in the cold by anyone and everyone you care for."

Avigayil hesitated, then bowed her head.

Shira felt excited and cautious at the same time. She
thought she could help this girl - she knew she could! And yet,
she had to be careful....

"Avigayil," she said, gazing directly into the other's eyes. "Isn't
it time you forgave her?"

Avigayil stared. "But I thought you just said it wasn't my
mother's fault!"

"True," Shira agreed. "But you don't know" She
placed a hand over her own chest. As the silence stretched, she
leaned forward and urged, "Go on, Avigayil. Say it. Say, '1 forgive
you, Ma.' "

"1 - 1 can't...."

"Go on. Try."

Somehow, in the shadow-shrouded room and the dickering
light of the two tiny flames, it wasn't as hard as Avigayil might
have expected. Staring straight ahead into the darkness, she
said, very low, "1 forgive you, Ma. 1 — I'm not angry at you any-
more. 1 know you really did love me. You just had to stay away
for a while, to get better. Only I was too little to understand...."
Her breath caught in her throat. Closing her eyes, Avigayil whis-
pered again, "1 forgive you...."

Shira left a little while later, the storm safely passed. The
two girls exchanged a warm — if slightly awkward — farewell,
wondering if they'd ever see each other again. As Shira walked
away, there was a new certainty in her heart that hadn't been
there before. If she had a choice of working with people or ma-
chines, the machines would have to take the back seat in her life!

Everyone has a contribution to make to the world. And
now, Shira knew exactly what she wanted hers to be.

Avigayil watched her visitor step out into a rain-washed
street. Though the street lamps were still dark, the puddles
glinted in the light of the newly risen moon. The heavy rain
clouds had dispersed like a bad dream. She didn't remember
saying good-bye or thank you, though she supposed that she
must have done both. All she knew now was that she was sitting
on the living room couch, filled with the exquisite wonder of
facing a world that was filled with light.

It was a world in which darkness might never have existed.
A world where friendship was possible, and love, and trust. Ev-
erywhere, only light....

A voice at her shoulder startled her. "Avigayil!" her mother
exclaimed, leaning down to give her a hug. "I can't believe you've
been sitting here in the dark!"

Blinking like a person newly awakened, Avigayil turned
around — to see that the candles she had lit had long since gut-
tered and died. She had been sitting in near-total darkness.

"That's funny," she said. "I didn't see that the candles had
melted down."

There was something different about Avigayil, her mother
thought. This was not the girl she had left here at home a few
hours ago. But she hadn't a clue as to where the difference lay.

Avigayil turned a radiant face to her mother, a face in which
the inner light lingered like a flame, burning strongly with fresh,
sweet life.

"Honestly, Ma," she smiled. I never even noticed!"


                                                  .....end of sample selection

                                      back to Books for Children in Middle Grades


Home   Jewish children's books-middle grades   Jewish children's books-young teen books    Jewish teen books   Jewish books - Jewish inspirational books   site map