Twelve-year-old Meredith’s world is rocked when her best friend Anjali dies from a sudden viral infection. In letters to Anjali, Meredith puzzles through how to cope with the ongoing challenges of school and regular life—without Anjali by her side. Complicating matters is the new friendship Meredith develops with Noah, the object of a crush she and Anjali once shared. Meredith’s connection with Noah leads first to guilt as the two grow closer…and ultimately to revelations that could shatter every memory Meredith holds dear regarding her lost friend.
That’s why I’m writing this on my dad;s old typerwriter
I really have to bludgeon my fingers to pound out the letters and that seems right because it DOES hurt and it SHOULD hurt to have to write the words that y!o!u!’!r!e! d!e!a!d!
If the universe was the way it should be I would not even be able to write those words
the letters would refuse to print on the page they would REBEL because it just does not make sense it is senseless NONSENSE that my best friend is suddenly and totally DEAD!!!!!
It’s so outrageous that I’ve been thinking I must’ve heard my mother wrong when she told me except I kind’ve think I must’ve heard her right as I just spent the afternoon at your FUNERAL
I am still very furious about it actually which is wierd because that is the first Feeling I have had since my mother came into my room and told me the news.
mostly I’ve been feeling all wierd and numb, like your cheek feels after you’ve been mauled at the dentist
I’ve felt so mauled and numb all week so numb I could barely get up this morning and find something black to wear and as a result we were late for your funeral which turned out to be a problem as there were no seats left by the time we arrived
it was so very extraordinarily crowded there that my family had to stand up in the back with all the other indignitaries that got there too late to claim a seat but I got to sit up front with your family because Chandra had saved me a seat there. It was very nice of her but in a way it made me feel even more alone as I’ve never been with your family without you before and so in the middle of all that damp and weeping crowd I felt most exquisitely and totally alone
it was horrible to feel so alone in the middle of that crowdedness. And it really was really amazingly crowded there so crowded that no one could shut up about it it was like they were all worrying they wouldn’t get so many people to show up at their funerals when they died. Later I heard my father saying there are 2 ways to get alot of people at your funeral 1) do alot of things with your life or 2) die before you have a chance to. He sounded kind of bitter when he said it. I guess he’s upset because it’s too late for him to do either one.
your funeral was apparantly a rousing success on account of it’s crowdedness. Everyone was there. Everyone but you, I mean, because it turned out that the actual Anjali Sen was not invited. Instead all the many speakers kept talking about all the things you would;ve done if you’d only lived a long life like a normal person. They kept on saying you would’ve cured cancer or solved the global warming or averted nucular war and so on but not one of them talked about who you actually WERE
that made me very mad because I was in point of fact missing YOU and not the YOU there might’ve been in the future and that’s when I leaned over and told your father I wanted to say something though I had previously resisted–-as you know I am not all about the public speaking
As soon as I got up to the podium I instantly regretted it because at that very moment the door opened up and my god you know who came in it was NOAH SPIVAK and I tell you Anjali then I totally wanted to barf and not only because Noah Spivak always makes me want to vomit but also because of the embarasing memory of hanging up on him last Sunday after my mother broke the news to me
I’m not really sure why I called him after all those years of being too shy to say 2 words to him it;s just that I was feeling so ALONE after my mother left the room that I started feeling I would float out into black space and never come back if I didn’t talk to someone
I was kind of grasping and groping and thinking of you and all those times we talked about Noah Spivak and I kept on remembering that day you said maybe you liked him too and what did I think of that and I don’t know it wasn’t a good reason or anything but I called him and blurted out the news that you were dead.
There was this sound on the other end of the phone like someone was choking a fish with alot of punctuation marks, like this:
and then suddenly I knew I must’ve been wrong about what my mother said. Because come on! It doesn’t make sense to think that someone could be 13 years old one day and the next suddenly and entirely dead It was just impossible and I started feeling very embarased that I had actually for a moment thought that my mother could’ve possibly said that you had DIED and then the hand holding the phone started to feel all funny and buzzy and then all of me was feeling so buzzy and funny that I could barely hear Noah Spivak over the sound of the voice in my head chanting stupid stupid stupid stupid stupod stupid stupid stupid stuid stupid stupid sfupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stu[id stupid stupid tupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stpuid stupid stupid tsupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid stooooooooopid and then the voice got so loud and the buzziness so buzzy that I had to hang up. After that I sat on my bed for a long time trying to get up the courage to ask my mother if it was true but I couldn’t ask her because I didn’t want to have to admit I had thought for a moment that she had said you were dead. Noah Spivak called me back pretty soon after but I didn’t answer the phone even though I’ve been wishing for like 2 years that he would call me. I just let the phone ring and ring and my parents let it ring too. None of us really wanted to talk.
But I guess it turns out I really did hear my mother right because there I was standing up at your funeral about to talk and there was Noah Spivak coming through the door. I watched him try and find a seat in the middle of all that seatlessness and only belatedly I realized everyone was waiting for me to speak
that was a terrible moment too because I really didn;t know what I wanted to say. I mean I knew I wanted them to know what you meant to me but I didn’t know how to say it, how to explain that you were my best friend from the first moment I saw you when we were 4 and how you were going to be my best friend when I was 40 and how you will be my best friend FOREVER even if you didn’t stop the global warming because what mattered to me was not WHAT YOU DID but WHO YOU WERE and WHO YOU WERE was MY BEST FRIEND FOREVER
that’s what I wanted them to know but as I was standing up there I knew I just couldn’t explain it
I just stood there blabbering and blathering about the last day we spent together, just the Thursday before last, before you got sick. You weren’t at all sick then--we never would’ve thought you were about to get sick. It was just a normal day. We sat in your kitchen like usual and we drank milk like usual and we played Spit like usual, and then I went home. That’s what I told everyone. I went home and dropped my stuff next to the radiator in the kitchen like I always do, and my mother looked up from her homework and asked me if I’d had a good time. Of course I had a good time, I told her. I always have a good time with Anjali.
When I was done telling my story I looked out at everyone watching and I could tell my words had not at all conveyed what that day meant to me
everyone was politely waiting for me to get to the POINT of my talking but here’s the thing, Anjali: there wasn’t more of a point to it than that. You and me didn’t do anything really important that day. Why would we? We didn’t know we had to.
“We didn’t know it was going to be the last day,” I tried. And then it was over, my chance to say how important you were to me. After that someone else got up and talked about what an amazing world we’d all live in if you’d only been granted another 8 decades or so to invent a Perpetual Motion Glixanator but all I could think about was how you’d never knock over another glass of milk while we were playing Spit at the kitchen table again.
That’s what I ended up telling the reporter when she cornered me at the reception.
“You’re Meredith Beals, aren’t you?” she asked in this bright and fakey voice. “I’m told your just the right person to tell me all about Anjali. I hear she was a very special little girl.”
I kept waiting for you to whack her upside the head from the beyond. Did you know you were a LITTLE GIRL, Anjali? I was under the impression that you were THIRTEEN.
“So tell me, what did Anjali like to do?” the reporter prompted. “What was she good at?”
I tell you, Anjali, that reporter should count herself lucky that i am both a pacifist and a bit of a wimp because otherwise I would have clocked her one myself. Who cares what you were GOOD AT? That’s not WHO you were. I mean Wendy Mathinson for example is good at lots of things but that does not mean she is not primarily a class A Acme Brand flying evil BLEEP [[that BLEEP is a product of the censoring system my mother installed on my typerwriter.]] But I couldn’t really explain this very well so I told the reporter she should go over and talk to the teachers so they could all tell her what A SPECIAL LITTLE GRIL you were who was good at math and who never gave any trouble in the lunch line except maybe that time you kicked Wendy Mathinson on my behalf. Maybe that’s what they could put on your tombstone:
SHE WAS GOOD AT MATH
AND NEVER GOT IN TROUBLE IN THE LUNCH LINE
EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE TIME IN 5TH GRADE
AND THERE WERE EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES
BECAUSE WENDY MATHINSON IS A BLEEEEEEP
[That bleep is courtesy of the tombstone censoring service]]
but really that’s not the point Anjali what the point is is that she was driving me CrAzY what with point-missing that the stuff that goes on a tombstone isn’t the stuff that matters at all.
It’s the little things that mattered to me, not the big ones
or maybe the little things ARE the big things in the end, I don’t know. But I do k now this: that reporter was much too dumb to comprehend.
“What about one little detail/” she wheedled at me. “Don’t you want people to know SOMETHING about Anjali? Some little something?”
“FINE,” I told her. “You can say Anjali really liked drinking milk.” It’s true. I KNOW it’s true, because I haven’t been able to drink milk at all since you died--it’s like I have the milk rabies or something. But that reporter didn’t even write it down.
“How about this,” she said, in one of those teeth-clenched patient voices that tells you the person really wants to smack you. “How about giving me some adjectives? You know, some describing words?”
OH SO THAT”S WHAT A ADJECTIVE IS!!!! I’ve been wondering when someone was going to clue me in to that
“Just one teensy little adjective?” she pressed.
Here’s the thing, Anjali: I couldn;t, and this is why: as far as I’m concerned there’s no DESCRIBING WORD in the whole ENGLISH LANGUAGE to describe you, because they’ve all been used to describe somebody else and that makes them used-up and wrong. The only words that describe you for me are ANJALI and MINE. But I don’t think anyone else will ever know what that means.
“Milk-loving,” I said at last. “Anjali was a very milk-loving little girl.”
The reporter was getting exaggerated.
“Come on, Meredith!” she said. “Don’t you want people to know what Anjali was like, now that she’s gone?”
“That’s the thing of it,” I told her heavily, and I meant it. “They can’t know what Anjali was like, now that she’s gone. You just had to be there.”
But then my eyes and my nose were all burn-y so I had to say something to stop myself from crying in front of her. “Fine, listen, you can tell people Anjali really liked to play Spit. That’s a card game and we used to play it with these plastic-covered cards with the words to “O Canada” on the back and Anjali was really good at it and once she smacked a card down so hard part of it snapped off. It was the king of clubs and we called it the Stinky King.”
But thinking about the Stinky King made me choke up. I don;t even have that any more to remember you by--I gave it to your mother to put in your grave. It was a stupid gesture and a meaningless one because even though I really wanted you to have it with you, now it’s gone too and that made me so depressed I told my parents we had to go home. But you probably know that, don’t you? Because you must’ve been there, right? I mean I guess I know you’re dead and all but that can’t mean you’re entirely GONE, can it? How can you be, when I still feel you near me? You can’t, that’s how--and that’s why I’m writing you now and why I promise I will write you EVERY DAY so that you will know how much I miss you and how much I need you and how much I really really hate it that you’re dead.
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