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“The Secret Friend” by Amanda Araújo de Castro

Read the original Portuguese version here. To discuss this and other finalists, visit Mormon Lit Lab.

The Secret Friend

by Amanda Araújo de Castro translated by Katherine Cowley

Pedro is lying on his bed with his cellphone headphones in. His mother enters his bedroom.

“I can’t believe you aren’t packing your things.” He hears enough of what she’s said to pull out his headphones and say, “I’ll clean it.”

She leaves the room, impatient, and he throws himself to his bed, thinking about this change of cities. To think that he will have to leave the neighborhood he loves so much, his friends, and move to a new ward and stake and have everything be new and different.

Two days pass and they are already in their new house, their new neighborhood.

Today is his first Sunday in his new ward and he decides not to talk to anyone.

On the way back to the house, his family chats in the car.

“Everyone here seems very friendly,” says his mother. “Our classroom was quite full,” says Pedro’s fifteen-year-old sister. “The juice was a nice welcome,” comments his father. “And you son, what did you think?” asks his mother. “It was fine,” responds Pedro without animation. “You sound so excited,” says his sister. Pedro continues to look at the view through the car window.

A few days pass, and now it’s vacation. Pedro’s mom calls into his bedroom, telling him that some teenagers from the ward are waiting for him in the living room. They invite Pedro to go with them to an activity and he accepts.

They arrive and everyone is very excited, having all sorts of fun, but what catches Pedro’s attention is a girl singing while a boy plays a guitar.

What a pretty girl and what a lovely voice, he thinks. I wonder what her name is. He keeps watching her. At the end of the day, the activity is over and he leaves without having any contact with her—not even eye contact.

On Sunday he is in his young men’s lesson when he needs to leave to get copies from the library. As he walks down the hall, he sees that beautiful young woman coming. She walks past him and smiles. What a beautiful smile. She seems shy, and I think I like her. I should tell her that I’ve been watching her, he thinks.

More days pass…it’s Sunday, again. At the end of the meeting his mother informs him that they will eat lunch at the house of another member.

When they arrive at the member’s house, to his surprise he discovers that it is the house of the young woman he has been watching. He feels a bit shy but is glad to get a chance to meet her. After lunch he goes to the porch and plays with a kitten, and the girl comes out to talk to him.

“He’s adorable, isn’t he?” She smiles. “Yes,” Pedro responds, smiling, and then he sits there, not knowing what to say. Then he risks it and says, “What’s your name?” “Liz. What’s yours?” “Pedro. It’s good to meet you.” “Same. Are you liking the ward?” “I’m adjusting well. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming.” “That’s good. If you need something, feel free to let me know.” “Ok! Thanks!”

Two days pass. Pedro is in his house and receives a call on the landline.

“Hi, it’s Liz.” “Hi Liz, how are things?” “I’m good. How about you?” “Really good. I was just calling to invite you to family home evening with me.” “Let’s do it. What time?” “In thirty minutes. Can you make it? “I can. I’ll come to your house then.” “Ok! I’ll be expecting you.” “Sounds good.”

Pedro gets ready and meets Liz. They attend family home evening, they enjoy themselves, and after he heads home by himself. On his way home, he keeps thinking how he might approach her. He decides to start sending her email anonymously. Once he’s inside, he logs onto LDS Tools and finds her email in the ward directory.

He opens his laptop and writes.

From: Secret Friend To: Liz Subject: can we be friends?

Hi. How are you? I am looking for someone I can talk to and I chose you.

From: Liz To: Secret Friend Subject: we can

Hi. I’m good. First I want to know how you found my email? And why did you choose me?

From: Secret Friend To: Liz Subject: I am a very shy person

I found your email on a site, you should be careful where you leave your personal info haha and I chose you because I think your name is very different and pretty.

From: Liz To: Secret Friend Subject: now I am scared

I really leave my email in a lot of places haha I need to be more careful and thanks for the compliment on my name haha my dad heard it in a film and named me it.

From: Secret Friend To: Liz Subject: I’m a good person haha

Careful haha yes… you’re welcome

They chat quite a bit and Pedro is happy that things are going as planned.

Ten days pass and they exchange emails every day.

He goes to the chapel to play soccer.

As he arrives, he runs into Liz.

“Hi Liz.” “Hi Pedro. How are you?” “I’m good and you? You disappeared!” “Wow, I’m sorry. I’m not being very welcoming, am I?” “No worries. You already did your part.” “I thought about you this week. I was going to call your house.” Was she really thinking about me? thought Pedro. “Can you give me your number? It’s easier to keep in touch.” “Of course, why didn’t I think of that before?”

She gives him her number and she leaves saying that it will solve some things. When he arrives home, he sends a text to Liz.

SMS: I saved your number on my phone. SMS: great, I saved yours too.

He decides to open his email and speak to her there.

From: S. F. To: Liz Subject: say three things about yourself

I like to play video games I love eating French fries I don’t like it when people walk slow in front of me.

From: Liz To: S. F. Subject: I like this game

I’m 16 years old I like to sing I don’t like it when people yell at me How old are you?

From: S. F. To: Liz Subject: that’s cool haha

I’m 16 years old. But don’t ask me my name haha

They chat a little more on email. I wish I could tell you more details, but I need to summarize what happens between them.

Forty-five days pass and Pedro is growing a lot closer to Liz, both as a friend and as a secret friend. He has discovered the things she likes and has managed to impress the girl. Liz asks a few questions to see if she can figure out who the secret friend is.

Two months go by and they are very close friends.

A few days later, Pedro invites Liz to go out for ice cream.

“What do you like best, chocolate or strawberry?” she says, trying to discover if Pedro is her secret friend, because her secret friend once said that if any option is placed against chocolate, he will always choose chocolate. “Chocolate,” he responds with a smile. “Vanilla with chocolate flakes or chocolate?” she asks again. “Chocolate!” He smiles. “Always chocolate.”

Immediately Liz wonders if this was already a coincidence.

“I love chocolate too,” she says, smiling.

Liz starts asking questions and bringing up certain subjects to see if the two are similar and she reaches the conclusion that they are. When it’s time to leave, Pedro drops Liz off at her house. She finds herself thinking of Pedro and realizes she is falling in love with her friend.

Pedro reaches home and wonders if it would be too suspicious to email her right now. He keeps thinking about her and how close they are to each other. And he asks himself what she might think about him.

Meanwhile, Liz is in her house, rereading the conversations from the emails and the text messages, searching for similarities between the two. She notices that the writing is different, but that the two participate in similar things. But pretty soon she grows sad because of course lots of boys like the same things, and so it must be a coincidence, but if she could choose, the secret friend would be Pedro, because the secret friend seems to like her and Pedro doesn’t.

Pedro is lying down, listening to his music, and he comes to the conclusion that he should tell Liz that he’s the secret friend even if it could put their friendship at risk.

On another day, there is an activity at the church building. Pedro watches Liz and their eyes meet and they stare at each other in a cute way. Then Pedro winks at her and blows her a kiss; she starts laughing and he feels his heart race. At the end of the activity he runs to her and gives her a big hug. They keep hugging without saying anything.

“Did you know…?” Pedro begins to say but then changes his mind at the same moment. “What?” she asks, still hugging him. “That I am very hungry.” He smiles. “This isn’t a new thing.” She looks up to see his face. The two of them look at each other closely without speaking. He still doesn’t know how to tell her, so he says, “You are beautiful!” He gives her a kiss on the cheek, which makes his heart skip out of his mouth. He pulls her affectionately on the arm and says he’ll take her home.

Pedro still hasn’t told her that he is the secret friend, and so he starts showing more affection in his emails, leaving some shyness aside.

From: S. F. To: Liz

Good morning, love of my life! Haha

From:  Liz To: S. F.

Love of your life? Hahaha good morning. Speaking of love, have you ever fallen in love with someone?

From: S. F. To: Liz

Yes, I have fallen in love. And you?

From: Liz To: S. F.

I am in love with someone, and I’m beginning to think that he may be too, before it didn’t seem like he was at all, but now he’s been getting closer to me and I really want this to happen. When he smiles at me my heart races, I’ve never felt like this before. I don’t know if you even want to hear about, but we talk so much about everything and I just need to pour out my heart.

From: S. F. To: Liz

You can pour out your heart to me any time you want. You were very kind to me to be my friend without knowing who I am. And with Passion, she always leaves us without ground to stand on. I know I’m being foolish, but tell me more about this passion…

From: Liz To: A. S.

I really like him, but I don’t have the courage to tell him, and I’m also afraid that he just sees me as a good friend and I’m confusing things. I don’t even know if I should say this to you haha but once I thought you liked me. You were always a fluff with me, and I even thought that I wanted you to be Pedro because he seemed to like me only as a friend haha but I came to the conclusion that even though you like the same things, it was because boys always like the same things, and your writing was different and sometimes I would be talking to both of you at the same time… you must think I’m insane. Hahaha

Stop everything, she wrote my name, thinks Pedro. He starts jumping with happiness, thinking that he should tell her everything. Fueled by his excitement, he gets on his bike and rides to Liz’s house. His arrival surprises her.

“Pedro, I wasn’t expecting you, come in! You seem flustered.” “Hi Liz, I’m sorry for coming here without warning, but there’s something I need to tell you.” “You can tell me.” She gives a worried smile. “I am the secret friend, I am the one who exchanged emails with you every day. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re going to think about this, especially since you opened up your heart to me today.” “It’s you?” she says levelly, still afraid he doesn’t like her. “But before you get worried, I want to say that I really like you.” He gives her a hug. “Good. I really like you too.” She hugs him, still a little shocked.

The two remain in their embrace. After, they sit.

“I did all of this because I didn’t know how to win your affection. I am a bit shy, but when you said today that you liked me, I came here on impulse.” “No worries, I think everything you did was cute, but I was just scared when you told me you did not like me.” “Never. You are the most incredible girl I’ve ever met.” “And you are the most incredible boy I’ve ever met.” She blushes as she smiles.

He takes her hand, and the two exchange passionate glances. He shifts a little closer to her and gives her a kiss.

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