Palo Alto Weekly 35th Annual Short Story Contest
Young Adult Honorable Mention

COVID Killed My Friendship

by Rebecca Kapiloff

Author Bio

Rebecca Kapiloff is 15 years old and a rising sophomore at Mountain View High School. In her free time, she enjoys figure skating, writing, and reading, and hopes to become a fiction writer in the future. When she is not constantly thinking of plot ideas, she attends events for her Jewish youth groups where she is the Regional Religious Education Vice President. She hopes to bring a Jewish perspective into her writing.

Inspiration

During quarantine, in my family, the rules of being with friends were constantly changing. I was very close with a friend at the time, and the constant changing of the rules and her refusal to accommodate led to a dramatic end to the friendship. It was extremely hard on me to lose my closest friend. I took that emotion and put it on paper, telling the story from my point of view. I hoped people would relate to my story as everyone had their own challenges during the pandemic.

"So do you really think we won’t be going to school on Monday?" I asked Emilie as we walked to her house with our bikes in the pouring rain.

"To be honest, I don’t think so," she responded. "The pandemic is getting really bad and I heard one student already has COVID...yeah, we will definitely be at home."

"You’re right, and then we will have no class!"

"Oh my gosh yes! And we can hang out everyday without having to worry about school!" Emilie exclaimed. The rain had stopped for the moment, and Emilie pulled the hood of her light pink hoodie off her head. She pulled her luscious red hair out from under the sweatshirt and let it hang, reaching her lower back. The ends were dyed a dark pink.

"This is going to be so much fun!" I said as we turned into her driveway.

After putting our bikes in the garage, we went to her room and I plopped down on her white comfy chair while she sat down on her bed. Leaning against her pink sham pillows, she said, "So guess what!"

"What?" I was intrigued.

"I got the third book of the Red Queen series!" she squealed as she grabbed it from her bookshelf. I fell in love with the series after she begged me to read it, and we both wanted to continue the series, but none of us had the rest of it.

"When did it come in?" I grinned.

"Yesterday."

"Oh my gosh yes! Can I read it first? You know how fast I read."

"Ugh fine," Emilie rolled her eyes with a smile. "One day and then I want it back."

"Sounds good," I said as she handed me the book. I put it in my wet backpack in between two dry notebooks.

"So what will you read in the meantime? Which one of the thousands of books you are in the middle of will get read tonight?" I joked.

"Keeper of the Lost Cities: Unlocked, duh," she said, like that was obvious. This was one of many series she was in the middle of.

"How far are you in?"

"Page 12."

"Nice." All of a sudden, we both started cracking up. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. We could hear our sisters yelling "Dancing Queen" as they jumped on the trampoline. Her sister, Chloe, and my sister, Lily have been best friends since they met the previous year in a common class.``

"Hey, want to go jump with them?" I asked.

"Yeah, let’s go," Emilie motioned as we got up and left the room. We jumped, singing along to the playlist the four of us made together. Falling on each other was inevitable with my clumsiness, so it was fair to say that I was on the floor of the trampoline more than jumping. I was thrown around as the others jumped around me. We jumped until the sky was a pastel rainbow.

"We should go now," I told them as we all stopped jumping to admire the sky.

"See you guys tomorrow?" Chloe asked as we climbed off.

"Yeah, of course," Lily replied. Lily and I walked back into their house to grab our backpacks. Closing the front door behind us, we saw that Emilie had already pulled out my bike.

"Thanks," I expressed as I put my helmet on. My sister put her backpack into my basket so she could run beside me. She loves to run but hates to bike.

"Bye, our house tomorrow right?" I yelled to Emilie who was standing with Chloe on their porch.

"Yes! Bye," they yelled back as I started pedaling.

The sun had already set by the time we pulled into our driveway as I had to keep in time with Lily’s running for the several blocks between our houses. She was fast, but not faster than the sun. After putting my bike into the garage, we entered the house. Mom had just made dinner, and Dad was watching CNN on his phone while setting the table.

As we dropped our bags in the breakfast room, she asked, "Girls, did you see the email from the district?"

"No…" I replied as I pulled my phone from my back pocket and opened the gmail app on my phone. There was one new email which was from the principal at my high school. The email read:

There will be no school for three weeks due the spikes of COVID-19 in our area. After that time, we will see what the guidelines say and decide then. Please stay healthy and have a good weekend!

"CDC guidelines say we have to stay inside, and if we go out, we have to be wearing masks at all times. If you are going to see the O’Rileys tomorrow, you need to be staying 6 feet apart," Dad said after turning off his phone.

"So they can come over here, then?" Lily asked.

"Yes," Dad answered, "as long as you guys don’t get close to them."

"Sounds good," I said as we all sat down at the table. I ate quickly because I wanted to call Emilie and give her a heads up on the circumstances. Excusing myself, I grabbed my backpack and went upstairs to my bedroom to facetime Emilie.

"Did you see the email?" I asked as her face filled the screen of my phone.

"Yeah, no school!"

"Just like you said," I smiled. "So anyway, I just wanted to let you know that when you come over tomorrow, we have to stay six feet apart and wear masks."

"Sounds good, and my mom already bought us some masks so we should be good," she held one up.

"Okay great! I gotta do some homework, so see you tomorrow!"

"See ya," she said as I clicked the red ‘end call’ button. I threw my hair into a messy bun before opening my jansport backpack and pulling out my homework. Turning on Spotify and plugging in my earbuds, I sat down at my desk with my homework and started to work on it.

Just after breakfast the next morning, Emilie and Chloe walked into the backyard where we were waiting for them.

"Finished it just like I said I would," I smirked, but she couldn’t see that, as I threw the book to her when she sat down on the grass 6 feet away from us.

"Wow, so talented," she laughed as she caught it with ease and put it into the small black backpack that has kitty ears on it she takes everywhere.

"We have news," Chloe said.

"Ooh what is it?" Lily asked.

"We are going to LA to see our aunt!"

"Oh my gosh, that is so exciting!" Lily shared her excitement.

"Isn’t the COVID surging there?" I asked, having researched the case counts in California and in our county last night.

"Yeah, but we will be very careful," Emilie replied. I pointed to her nose because her nose wasn’t covered by her mask. She got my silent message and lifted hers up over her nose.

"So when are you leaving?" Lily asked.

"A week from Sunday which means we can hang out all week," Chloe answered.

"Cool," Lily and I commented.

"Girls, masks on properly, please!" Mom yelled from her office window which happened to have a view of where we were sitting. I turned to Emilie who had her mask under her nose again. She quickly put it over her nose, turning a bright red.

We had talked for a bit more before they had to go home for lunch. When we walked back into the house, Mom was standing right there.

"Girls, you all aren’t being very responsible," she stated.

"It is just Emilie, and I reminded her to put it back on," I said as Lily had already sneaked off upstairs..

"It was off for most of the time-," Mom started.

"It won’t happen again," I assured her.

"This is serious, you know?"

"I know."

After lunch, I called Emilie to make sure she is staying safe when we are together.

"Hey Isabelle, what’s up?" she asked as she picked up.

"I just wanted to let you know that you have to be wearing your mask, like over your nose, when we hang."

"I was, and I am totally being safe about it."

"Your mask was not over your nose a lot of the time," I reminded her.

"Yes it was," she assured me.

"Okay, okay. Can we just be a little more mindful of where it is?"

"Sure."

"Okay, talk to you later," we waved to each other, and she clicked off.

The next day, we hung out at her house. We jumped on the trampoline again which was a little too close for comfort. But while we were jumping, her mask wasn’t covering her nose.

When we got home, Mom was sitting in her office. I came in to say hi and she asked, "Were you guys being safe?"

"Yes," I lied.

They came back over to our house the day before they were supposed to leave for LA.

"Oh my gosh thanks!" I squealed as Emilie gave me the rest of the Red Queen Series.

"Yeah, of course!"

The entire time we talked, I watched her mask drop to her mouth to her chin and back up again. Mom had commented once, but that didn’t make the mask stay up.

This made dinner hard to sit through because as soon as we were all seated, Mom started, "I’m not sure I feel comfortable with you guys meeting up with the O’Rileys anymore."

"Why, what’s wrong?" Dad asked.

"Emilie wasn’t wearing her mask properly," she explained.

Dad turned to us with a disapproving look on his face. "You guys do realize how serious this is, right? People are dying, and people can pass on COVID if they have it and are asymptomatic. COVID affects the lungs, and I have asthma. How would you feel if I died because Emilie passed it on to you and you infected me?"

I sat there stunned, and Lily said nothing. "Well, Emilie doesn’t have it, and we have been getting COVID tests every week," I said.

"Those COVID tests have been known to be false," he said which, of course, was true because I had read about that.

,p>"Well, they are going to LA tomorrow, so we won’t see them for a week" Lily piped in.

"And after that, you guys can’t see her until she gets tested or waits two weeks. Hold on, you guys said that they have step siblings, right?" he asked.

"Yeah, why?"

"Well, they are probably seeing people and then the siblings come over and pass it to them. They see you and can pass it to you. Can you honestly tell me she will be safe around you?" he asked with a look that basically meant: you won’t be seeing them anytime soon.

The worst part is I knew he was right. She has been really unsafe, and I could get sick. If Dad gets it, he could die. I can’t let that happen, no matter how much I want to see her.

"So what do I do?" I asked, frustrated I can’t see my best friend.

"Facetime," he smiled.

I rolled my eyes which made his smile disappear.

"Don’t roll your eyes at me, young lady," he raised his voice, but I had already excused myself and raced upstairs.

Tears rolling down my flushed cheeks, I called her and told her the bad news.

"What do you mean we can’t see each other anymore?" she asked, angry.

"You haven’t been safe, and I can’t risk getting my dad sick," I replied trying to hold it together.

"I am being safe. I wear my mask," she defended herself.

"No, you wear it without it covering your nose. And what about LA?"

"I’ll be careful. God, don’t you trust me?"

"Yes..." I lied.

"Well, then what’s the problem?" she asked.

"Look, my parents said we can’t hang out anymore, but we can facetime-," I try.

"Why? Because I don’t wear my mask, because I do," she yelled.

More tears stream down my face. "You don’t," I yelled back, defending my parents. "They’re right, you don’t, and you're going to a COVID hotspot where you could get it and bring it home. Not only that, you live with your step-siblings who go out and do things as well-."

"My step-siblings see us on the weekends, and they don’t have COVID either. I can distance myself from them.."

"What about aerosols?"

"Well they have to come into the house. Isabelle, does this mean I really can’t see you?" she was crying too.

"No," I told her.

"I still don’t see how I am not being safe. My whole family is being careful and so am I."

"No you aren’t."

"So you don’t trust me" she said and she hung up.

We didn’t talk until she came back from LA. As frustrated with her as I was, I missed her a lot. She was my best friend. But I still couldn’t see her.

"Hey," I said when she picked up.

"Hey."

"How was LA?" I asked after an eerie silence.

"Good." Another one-word sentence.

"Is this really how you are going to act?"

"Well, you accused me of not being safe and said you didn’t trust me and now you want to act like everything is fine?" she sneered.

"How is this my fault? I told you what my parents said and they were right. I can’t see you. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t because they said no. So why are you accusing me?" I retorted. Her eyebrows started angeling down.

"You are the one who doesn’t trust me and accuses me of things that aren’t true." How does she not know that her mask falls? She has to know that she’s lying.

"Your mask does fall," I raised my voice.

"And when it does, I put it back up," she yelled, which was a lie.

"Are you accusing me of lying? Why are you being such a jerk about this?" I asked, so fed up with this conversation.

"And now you are name calling! God, you have changed. Goodbye Isabelle, goodbye!" she said as if she didn’t know what to do with me anymore. She hung up, clearly done with me, which made me burst into tears. I spent the rest of the day trying and failing to get her to pick up and talk to me. Eventually I threw my phone across the room, cracking the screen protector into a thousand shards. I sat in my room eating ice cream and binge-reading the Red Queen Series until I fell asleep.

A month later, Emilie still wouldn’t take my calls. Lily came into my room one night and said, "Emilie wants her books back." That was the moment I knew that our friendship was over.