UNFAITHFUL

UNFAITHFUL

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Unfaithful

Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.

Proverbs, 18:24

When Jason and Rebecca broke up in April of our senior year, I felt like I was the one being dumped. Rebecca and I had been best friends since before kindergarten. Jason had been her boyfriend for the last two years, and during that time I’d gone from being resentful of his claims on my friend’s time to really liking the guy. He was easy to like: funny, nice, an all-around good guy. Plus, as captain of the football team he always had lots of cute football player friends I got to hang out with.

Rebecca didn’t just break up with him, she cheated on him with Robert Mitchell, a shrimpy, dorky troublemaker no one liked. During spring break Jason visited his grandma upstate, I skied with my family, and, as I found out from rumors swirling around school after we all got back, Rebecca and Robert were at home making out. I knew Robert had been writing her love letters for the past few months, even though she kept asking him to stop. And I knew things were kind of awkward between Rebecca and Jason since he got into his first-choice college and she’d been rejected, but I never expected anything as low as this from her.

Everyone was disgusted at Rebecca’s unfaithfulness. Even Rebecca’s dad, who considered Jason part of the family, sided against his daughter.

Rebecca and I never discussed what happened. Other friends would talk about what a terrible thing she’d done, and I never felt like she deserved to be stood up for. Sometimes I even contributed to the criticism.

At first we tried to pretend things were the same; we went to dance class after school and to the beach with our group of girlfriends on the weekend. One weekend Rebecca brought Robert to our Saturday beach outing. We all ignored him as much as we could without being obvious. We had no interest in making friends with someone who’d pursued another guy’s girlfriend. The next weekend we “forgot” to invite her along.

Rebecca didn’t want to go to parties where she knew Jason and his friends would be, so I’d go without her, even if we’d made plans to hang out that night. She tried to set me up with a friend of Robert’s for prom, so we could go to dinner before and share a limo like we’d always planned, but I made excuses and found another date.

As graduation approached we spent less and less time together. I missed the goofy fun we used to have, but I thought it wasn’t my fault things had changed. She was the one who had done something terrible.

One Saturday morning during dance rehearsal, I was talking with some girlfriends about a party that night that Rebecca hadn’t been invited to.

“I’m not deaf,” I heard behind me. I turned to see Rebecca with tears welling in her eyes. “I thought we were best friends.” She stormed off and drove home.

Later, her sister called me.

“Rebecca’s been in her room crying all day,” she said. “I think you should come talk to her.”

“Why?” I almost asked. But I knew why: because for the last twelve years she had come over to my house every time I had cried and needed her.

I brought her a plate of homemade snickerdoodle cookies, our favorite treat to cook and eat.

“I know what I did to Jason was wrong,” she said. “Everyone at school, even my family, looks down on me. I didn’t expect you to approve. But I didn’t expect you to abandon me. I’ve heard what you say behind my back.”

I’d never said anything that wasn’t true. Just that Rebecca had been wrong to let Robert keep writing her those letters, that she’d always been too much of a flirt—then I realized, this wasn’t how you were supposed to talk about your best friend. I had been unfaithful. A friend’s job was not to pass judgment, but to be there, no matter what.

I apologized and for the next few hours we hugged, talked and ate snickerdoodles. She told me how upset and lonely she’d felt when she’d found out she didn’t get into the school Jason and I would be going to. I told her how bummed I was that we wouldn’t be roommates next year, but I was glad we wouldn’t be that far away. And most importantly, I’d be there for her, not as a critic, but as a friend.

Chiara Tomaselli

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