Dear Carolyn: I have two kids in elementary school. After a year of virtual school, we let them go back to the building in April. They play nearly exclusively with a child around the corner from us, and her family was part of our pandemic bubble. The parents are vaccinated and my husband and I are as well.

The neighbors decided not to allow their daughter to go back to school, but they knew our kids were back and let the kids continue to play inside their house.

They recently found out there were a few covid cases at our school. My children weren't part of the affected learning pods, which had to quarantine. The school notified everyone via phone calls, emails and posts on their Facebook page.

The neighbors are upset with us now and believe we should have told them about the cases. They think we intentionally lied to them.

We apologized but said we didn’t think it was necessary to mention since our children were not affected. Now they say they can’t trust us. We honestly didn’t intend to hide the info from them. Are we in the wrong?

— S.

S.: “They think we intentionally lied to them"? That is goodbye.

That’s because, to get there, your neighbors had to vault over the gray area of all the other possible explanations for your not discussing the coronavirus cases.

They could have accused you of being thoughtless, or reckless. Negligent, even.

They could have accused you of being ill-informed about your child's risk, although you weren't; if the contact-tracers didn't trace their way to your children, then it was appropriate for you to continue business as usual.

They could have accused you of being dismissive of their higher level of fear or lower tolerance for risk.

But they haven't called this an oops or even a serious mistake; they're calling you bad people. Deceitful, self-interested.

And they’ve done so after … what, a year-plus? of your relying on each other as extended family of choice during an enormously stressful time.

I won't presume to declare who is wrong here, not knowing the full context — but either way, one of the two families has delivered a fatal blow to the friendship. Either you did by acting in bad faith or they did by falsely deeming you capable of it (projecting, even, perhaps?).

The one playdate-saving possibility is the hysteria factor: If your neighbors are lash-out-first, ask-questions-later types — or if pandemic anxiety has made them so — then maybe they will wake up one of these days to recognize the breadth and consequences of their overreaction, and apologize to you for their disrespect. If that leads to a constructive conversation about what each of you expects the other to share, then that could save the friendship. To the extent you can have one, anyway, with emotional lashers-out.

So, what now? Do a full soul-search, to see if you had any selfish intent. If no, then say so. If upon deeper reflection the answer is yes, then say so.

Then ask if they truly believe you're capable of the level of bad faith they're charging. To an affirmative, reply that you can't see either family wanting to remain friends on those terms. Here's hoping it won't come to that.

Dear Carolyn: I unknowingly offended a woman in my friend group. As a result — punishment? — she has included all the other women in some secret, and told them not to tell me. This has been going on for two years, and I only just found out. None of our mutual friends will tell me what I did, saying, “It’s complicated.”

This woman is no shrinking violet. Why would she hold this grudge instead of confronting me? She is badmouthing me to the rest of the group. If I could avoid her, I would, but this is a decades-old group. How do I resolve this? I could not care less about her as a person, but she’s part of this group, and therefore a ticking time-bomb.

— Bomb-Defuser?

Bomb-Defuser?: Is she, though? Two years. Her bomb could be a dud.

She certainly is. But ask her anyway, to her face, what the problem is.

For the record, that would make you the only group member with guts, given the others' choice to enable this double-secret probation. You may well have done the offensive thing, but any penalties by now would be offsetting for all the secrecy and backstabbing in its wake.

In fact, one argument for not walking away from the lot of them entirely is that the effort to sabotage you has apparently failed. Again — you've gone two years without noticing anything amiss and without anyone dropping your friendship.

If addressing your nemesis goes nowhere — and if you don’t have a “Sixth Sense”-style flashback-montage where suddenly all recent weirdnesses get explained — then you can choose to ignore the whole drama unless and until circumstances take away that choice.