I dragged my feet as I walked to school one blustery morning. The wind had picked up the leaves, and they swirled around me in a whirl of color.  I usually like the wind, but today I wasn’t up to it. I scowled at a stray bird perched in a tree, who just chirped merrily back. I usually don’t act like that. I’m usually easy-going and fun to be around. I usually get what I want, since my father works hard and all the money gets spent on me. (I’m an only child.)

Even my BFF – Chana – is pretty cheerful, considering that she can’t usually get want she wants. Chana’s family is pretty poor, and we are polar opposites, but we still manage to be great friends! I managed to convince her to come out with us for pizza last week, and she could come because she had babysitting money. I’ve never babysat before, but I do love hanging out at Chana’s house and playing with her adorable siblings!

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Now I’ll tell you why I’m so grumpy today.

Today is the first day of Cheshvan, with nothing, absolutely nothing interesting happening ‘til Chanukah. Usually our school puts on a play at this time of year, but for some reason, this year they pushed it off by a couple of months. I always like some excitement to spice up my life, but excitement is not what I have right now. And that’s why I’m feeling so grumpy.

I was proved wrong the second I entered the classroom. The first thing I saw was a head of bright red hair. That might sound strange, but since we’ve never had any red-heads in our small school before, this girl stood out like… like… a poppy in a field of daisies. The rumour is that read-heads have bright personalities, but it didn’t prove true with this girl.

“What’s your name?” I asked her, wondering why she had decided to come now, instead of two months earlier.

“Eliana Tova Dina Markowitz,” she answered in a whisper.

Wow, that is one long name! Did she want us to call her all of that every time? I wasn’t sure.  Just then, Chana, as well as the other girls from our club sidled up. Chana smiled in greeting, but then shot me a puzzled look, probably wanting to know about the new girl.

“Hi!” Dassi said. “What’s your name?”

“Eliana Tova Din-“

“Ellie! Hey, can we call you Ellie?” I interrupted. Eliana Tova Dina, uh- Ellie, looked a little flustered.  She probably didn’t like being the centre of attention.

“Uh, ok,” she answered.

“Great, Ellie! What a cute name! Where do you live? And, why did you come to this school only now? Oh, and which school did you used to go to?” asked Bracha, never the one to hesitate on getting information.

“I, well, I live very close to this school. Right around the corner.” I could tell that Ellie didn’t venture out much information. I looked at her suspiciously. Maybe she was hiding some sort of secret from us? But then I realized that I was probably exaggerating. I shot her a smile – sort of to cover up any negative feelings. She did look like a sweet girl. I was all prepared to leave it at that, but Chana thought otherwise.  She pulled me and the rest of our club- Bracha, Sari, Dassi and Yocheved into a huddle.

“So guys, what do you think of letting Ellie into our group? It’s about time we had a new member. And she looks like she needs a friend or two!” Chana said brightly.

“Are you kidding?” asked Yocheved.

It’s a well-known fact that our club was very hard to get into. And when someone did manage to squeeze in, she was considered to be of of the lucky few. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m nice and friendly to everyone in my class, as well as most of the other club girls are, but the rules of our club had formed by themselves and I couldn’t change them.
Or maybe it had something to do with Sari – the unofficial leader of the club. We all sort of do what she says.

“Exactly,” said Sari, shaking me out of my reverie.  “Don’t you understand that not everyone could come into our group? It’s special, and well, she’s a new girl – we don’t even know her yet.” Sari flipped her long blond hair over one shoulder and raised her eyes challengingly at Chana.  You see what I mean about Sari being a sort of leader? Sari is usually nice enough, but when she doesn’t get her way – watch out!

But Chana wasn’t put off.  “Don’t you want to do a chessed? Besides, I think she looks like a really nice girl, and I’d like to be her friend.”

“You know what? I think I agree with you,” Dassi spoke up. Chana smiled at her.  Sari’s frown deepened. I glanced over at Ellie. She was playing with her keychain, and it didn’t look like anyone was interested in her.

“I would also like to make friends with the new girl,” said Bracha, after thinking it through.

“Fine. You all go make friends with that Ellie girl. I’m staying out of it. Anyone with me?” Sari looked at me and Yocheved with her piercing blue eyes.

“Me,” Yocheved said immediately.

5 pairs of eyes turned to me. I was the only one who hadn’t said anything regarding the matter.

“Malki?” Sari inquired. Chana shot me a beseeching look.

I already knew that I wanted to be friends with Eliana. Sari and Yocheved were wrong. So why was I hesitating? I decided to voice my thoughts.  “I also want to be friends with the new girl-” Sari started to turn away in disgust.
“Wait, I’m not finished. Why can’t we all be friends with Ellie? We’ve had this club for such a long time, it will be a real pity just to break it up now over… this,” I trailed off.

But Sari remained stubborn. She and Yocheved walked away without looking back.  I shook my head sadly. I didn’t regret my decision. Maybe those two girls weren’t such good influences after all?

“We could still continue the club with Ellie,” said Dassi after a moment of silence. We nodded, but we all knew that it wouldn’t be the same without a leader. Sari was the one with the strong, leadership personality. But, never mind. We would make do.  We made our way over to Ellie who was still playing with her keychain.

“Hey!” Chana said with a big smile. I really love Chana. She knows how to make friends in an instant just with that smile of hers. I am lucky to be her friend. Ellie looked up.

“Ellie, we wanted to invite to join our club. We don’t do anything official together, we just have fun and we’re friends, you know?” Bracha said warmly.

A shy smile spread across Ellie’s face.  “Thanks! I’d love to!” she told us.

And that, it seemed, was that.

Except that it wasn’t.

Having Ellie as our new club member is great. She tells really interesting stories and she has an amazing sense of humour.

But the best thing of all happened yesterday.

Sari and Yocheved made a conference call without Ellie. I was wary.  But these were Sari’s words:
“Listen, Yocheved and I were-” she sighed. Sari didn’t find apologies easy. “We were wrong. We’re really sorry about the way we acted. Right, Yocheved?”

“Uh huh,” said Yocheved softly.

“We really want to re-join the club. We really missed it. I thought about how I was acting and, well, I’ll try not to be so bossy from now on.” Wow, that must have taken a lot of courage for Sari to say. But she wasn’t finished yet.
“And of course, we are excited to get to know our new member- Ellie.”