SCHOLASTIC PRESS • NEW YORK An Imprint of Scholastic Inc.
For glitter girls everywhereTable of Contents
Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls
Books by Meg Cabot
It’s Important to Try Not to Hurt Someone’s Feelings If You Can Help It
“Is that the one you’re going to wear?” I stared at the redspangled bodysuit Erica’s older sister, Missy, had on.
I could hardly believe how beautiful she looked in it. Usually when I saw Missy, she had on sweatpants.
Sweatpants and a really mean expression as she was slamming her bedroom door in my face.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Missy hated my guts.
But then Missy hated the guts of all of Erica’s friends, so I didn’t take it personally. Missy hated Erica, too, even though Erica refused to believe it and was always trying to do nice things for her big sister.
Like right now, for instance, Erica had enlisted our help in getting Missy to decide which of her six fanciest baton-twirling costumes she should wear for the seventh annual Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular, middle school division.
“I think you should wear the blue one,” Rosemary said.
“The blue one doesn’t have as much glitter,” Sophie said, from Missy’s bed, where we were sitting all in a row while Missy was putting on her fashion show for us. “Only sparkly fringe.”
This was the first time we’d ever been invited into Missy’s bedroom after school, so it was truly a huge occasion, and we were trying very hard not to break the rules Missy had explained to us before she’d allowed us to come in.
The rules were: 1. Do not touch anything, 2. No talking unless Missy says you can talk, and 3. Leave the minute Missy says so.
Break the rules, and Missy will breakyou.
“I know,” Rosemary said. “That’s why I like the blue one.”
“The red one is definitely sparklier,” Caroline said. “Although ‘sparklier’ isn’t a word.”
Caroline would know. She was our class spelling champion, even though she lost the district spelling bee.
“I just can’t decide,” Missy said with a sigh as she fluffed out her blond hair and stared at herself in her full-length mirror. “I do look amazing in all of them, don’t I?”
“Yes,” we all said in unison.
Always agree with everything Missy says if you want her to stay in a good mood.This was another rule.
Being friends with Erica was very good training in how to deal with teenagers. Also how not to act when I become one. Because Missy was really moody. Also rude. At least most of the time. She was being nice to us today, though, because she wanted our help deciding what to wear to the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular.
I won’t lie: I wanted to go to the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular more than I had ever wanted to go anywhere in my whole entire life. At least, ever since I’d heard about it (a half hour earlier).
Because Missy and Erica and Mrs. Harrington (who had hand-sewn all of Missy’s costumes for her) had told us about it while we were eating after-school snacks of fruit and graham crackers in the kitchen of their house.
And it sounded like the most exciting thing in the world.
First of all, twirlers (that’s what the people who spin and toss batons are called. Twirlers. Also majorettes, but “twirler” is more correct because a twirler can be a boyora girl, whereas majorettes are only girls) come from all over the state — possibly even fromoutsidethe state — to participate in the Twirltacular, which lasts a whole weekend.
At the Twirltacular, there are events in dance, strut, teams, showtwirls, solos, multiple batons, flags, hoops, and duets/pairs.
I didn’t exactly know what any of that means, but I totally wanted to see it. In fact, the more I heard about it from Erica and Mrs. Harrington and Missy, the more I thought I woulddieif I didn’t get to see it.
And I was really lucky because the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular was happening right here in myvery own town.
Missy said if we didn’t act like ingrates, which means ungrateful people, we could come watch her compete.
So there was a chance I might actually get to see her perform at the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular, middle school division. My friends Sophie, Caroline, and I decided that we were going to go with Erica on Saturday, in order to show our support for her sister.
Our friend Rosemary wasn’t sure if she wanted to go or not. She thought twirling sounded very boring, despite all the sparkles.
But of course she hadn’t said so in front of Missy, because that would hurt Missy’s feelings.
It’s important to try not to hurt someone’s feelings if you can help it.That’s a rule.
It’s especially important to try not to hurt Missy’s feelings, because she is much bigger than we are and when you do something she doesn’t like, she’ll tackle you and sit on you and then spit in your face. She’s done this to me before and it was really gross.
Missy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, were going to the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular, of course. So was John, Erica and Missy’s older brother. At first, Erica said, John didn’t want to go. Like Rosemary, John thought twirling was boring.
But then after John saw Missy’s leotards, he asked if there’d be any girls his own age at the event, and Mrs. Harrington said yes there would be, since the competition went from sixth to eighth grade, which was John’s grade.
So then John said maybe he might like to go after all.
The grand prizewinners in each event at the Twirltacular, Missy said, get a trophy that’s as big as me. At the top of the trophy is a statue of a little gold lady twirling a baton (if you’re a boy twirler, you get a little gold man, Missy said, although she doubted there would be any boy twirlers at the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular).
I wanted Missy to get one of these trophies. I wanted her to get one very, very much.
And I wanted to be there when she got it. I wanted to be there to help support her, to cheer her on, and to eat the popcorn that Erica said they always sell in little paper bags at the middle school whenever they have these events.Good News!,the local cable television news show where my mother does movie reviews, might even be there to report on the event. They came last year, Erica said.
“I think you should wear the lime green one with the rhinestone fringe,” Erica said to Missy. “And the rainbow one with the purple glitter.”
“That’s my favorite,” Sophie said, sounding as if her heart was aching because she wanted to have a rainbow-colored leotard covered in sequins, with purple glittery fringe dangling down from the leg holes.
I knew how Sophie felt, because I felt exactly the same way. I wanted one of those baton-twirling costumes, but I don’t know how to twirl a baton (although I’ve practiced a bit in the front yard with one of Missy’s old batons that she doesn’t use anymore. The problem was, the baton fell down from the tree, where I accidentally threw it, and hit me in the head. After that I decided to just stick with ballet, which I do on Saturdays and also Wednesdays after school, and softball on the Girls Club team in the summertime).
“Yeah,” Missy said, thoughtfully baring her teeth and examining her electric blue braces in the mirror. “I think you guys are right. I’ll wear the rainbow one for my dance routine and the green one for my solo.”
Then Missy signaled to Erica to turn on her CD player. And so Erica did, and Missy’s song for her twirling solo came on, and Missy started practicing it in the mirror. The song was called “I’m Gonna Knock You Out,” and it was playing very, very loud.
So loud that I’m sure Sophie thought Missy couldn’t hear her when she leaned over to whisper to us, “You guys, wehaveto go see Missy perform on Saturday.”
Erica looked over at her sister, whose back was to us as she performed in front of the mirror. “Shhh,” she said, in a panicky way. “She’ll hear you! She said no talking, remember?”
“I know,” Sophie said. “But I just think it’s really important we all go on Saturday. To support Missy. I think she has problems with her self-esteem. That’s why she’s so bossy. Allie, are you sure you can go? Don’t you have ballet on Saturday?”
I had forgotten I had ballet with Madame Linda on Saturday. My parents pay in advance for my lessons, too.
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’m sure I can skip my lesson this one time.”
This was a lie. But it was just a very small lie. I was sure it didn’t matter. Very much.
“That’s good,” Sophie said. “What about you, Caroline?”
“Oh, I can go,” Caroline said. “I have my Mandarin lesson, but it’s just with my dad. I can do it anytime.”
“You guys,” Rosemary said, when she saw we were all looking at her. “I don’t want to go. And I don’t think anything is wrong with Missy’s self-esteem. She’s just a brat. And baton twirling is boring.”
“It’s not boring,” Sophie said, looking offended. “It’s a very beautiful form of self-expression.”
“Missy is kind of bossy,” Erica admitted. “But she doesn’t have very many friends. She could really use our support.”
“Teenage hormones,” Caroline said knowingly. “I’ve read about this. You’re right. We have to support her.”
It was kind of funny that right at that moment Missy turned around and, looking enraged, yelled, “I said no talking!”
We all knew what was coming next. We jumped from Missy’s bed and ran for her bedroom door before she could leap on any of us, knock us down, and sit on us.
Thinking about what might happen after that was too terrible even to contemplate.
Fortunately, we all made it out into the safety of the hallway, where Mrs. Harrington happened to be walking by with another of Missy’s twirling costumes, which she had been hemming down in her studio, where she also makes fine collectibles, such as dollhouse furniture and miniature felt toadstools with tiny lady dwarves sitting on them, to sell in her shop downtown.
“Good heavens,” Mrs. Harrington said when we all came tumbling out of Missy’s room at the same time. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” we chimed together, coming to a halt right in front of her.
When Missy saw her mom, she pointed an accusing finger at us and said, “That’s not true! I was performing my dance routine for Saturday, and they started talking! It broke my concentration.”
“Well, honey,” Mrs. Harrington said, looking completely unruffled, though Missy looked as if she was about to cry. Really! She had tears in her eyes, and everything (except that they were fake tears, if you ask me). “I’m sure the girls didn’t mean any disrespect. And you’re going to have to get used to people talking during your performances, Missy. There are going to be all sorts of distractions this weekend. People talking, other girls and boys doing their routines at the same time yours is going on.” Also, people eating popcorn. “You’re really going to need to learn how to focus and block them all out, sweetie.”
Our eyes wide, we glanced over at Missy to see how she’d handle this information. She narrowed her eyes at her mother, then fixed each of us with a glare that could have melted snow.
Then she turned around and stormed back into her room, slamming the door behind her.
“Excuse me,” Mrs. Harrington called after her. “But we do not slam doors around here, young lady!”
This was a rule.
“Sorry,” Missy called, from inside her room.
But if you ask me, she didn’t sound sorry at all.
“I’m sorry about that, Mrs. Harrington,” Rosemary said. Rosemary was very good about apologizing to adults. “We didn’t mean to make Missy upset. And those glittery costumes you made for her are awfully nice.”
“Why, thank you, Rosemary!” Mrs. Harrington beamed. “I’m very flattered you like them. If you’d like to take up twirling, I’d be happy to make you one, as well. Twirling’s such a lovely sport. I think any one of you girls would be very good at it.”
The idea of Rosemary, whose favorite sport was football — especially the part where you get to tackle people and hold them to the ground — daintily prancing around a dance floor while spinning a baton was so hilarious that for a minute it was all I could do to keep myself from bursting out laughing.
But I controlled myself.
“Thank you, Mrs. Harrington,” Rosemary said. “But that’s okay. In fact, I think I have to be going now. My mom’s coming to pick me up soon.”
“Oh, I have to go, too,” I said.
“Why?” Erica looked disappointed.
“Because I have to ask my mom about skipping ballet on Saturday so I can go to the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular.”
I knew my mom wouldn’t like my missing my ballet lesson. Neither would Madame Linda, who is super strict and sometimes smacks us on the thigh if we don’t properly turn it out duringronde de jambe en l’air(this used to make my ex-best friend Mary Kay Shiner cry, so she quit coming to Madame Linda’s. But then, everything makes Mary Kay Shiner cry, so this was no big surprise).
But Madame Linda’s disapproval when I skipped Saturday’s lesson would be completely worth it.
Especially if I got to be there when Missy ended up winning one of those giant trophies she’d told us about!
“Mom,” I said as soon as I got home. I saw Dad first, sitting at the dining room table, which he uses as his office, grading tests from the computer science class he teaches.
But I knew better than to ask him if it was okay if I skipped ballet class to go to Missy’s Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular on Saturday. Because he would just say, “Fine,” like he does about everything.
And it wouldseemfine. Until Mom found out.
And then it would turn out itwasn’tfine. It was always better to ask Mom first. Abouteverything.
“Mom,” I said when I found her in her bedroom, putting things in a suitcase. This was so startling — my parents never go anywhere — that I completely forgot what I’d been about to say, and went, “Where are you going?”
“Oh, honey,” Mom said, brushing some hair from her eyes. “You know. I told you. Daddy and I are going to Cousin Freddie’s wedding at Grandma and Grandpa’s house this weekend in San Francisco. Pass me that shirt, will you?”
I passed her one of Dad’s shirts, which lay folded on the bed. I’d forgotten that she and Dad were going to Cousin Freddie’s wedding. I’d only met my mom’s cousin Freddie once, at a family reunion at the country club where my grandma and grandpa on my mom’s side live in California. Cousin Freddie had let me and Mark drive his golf cart, even though we weren’t really big enough to reach the pedals.
It wasn’t our fault we accidentally drove the golf cart onto the tennis courts of the country club. No one had been too happy about this, especially Grandpa, who’d yelled at Cousin Freddie for a long time.
“What is it you wanted to know, Allie?” Mom asked.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, Missy Harrington is going to compete in the seventh annual Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular, middle school division, on Saturday, and I really, really want to go. I know I have ballet that morning, but I promise I’ll make up my missed lesson over the summer. Erica and Caroline and Sophie and probably Rosemary are all going. We think it’s important that we go to support Missy, who is suffering from self-esteem issues and hardly has any friends due to her teenage hormones. Also, I think I’ll learn positive messages there about teamwork, camaraderie, and the spirit of competitiveness.”
I had gotten that last part from a book I’d checked out from the school library about female horse jockeys. There wouldn’t be any female horse jockeys at the annual Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular. But I thought the thing about teamwork and competitiveness sounded good, anyway.
“Twirltacular?” My little brother Kevin looked up from Mom and Dad’s bed, where he was reading a fancy furniture catalog that had come in the mail. Kevin likes to collect fancy furniture catalogs. “I want to go to Missy’s Twirltacular.”
“Well, you’re not invited,” I said. Kevin was always trying to hang around with my friends. He thought they liked him as much as they liked me, which wasn’t true, actually.
“Oh, dear,” Mom said. “Is Missy’s competition this coming Saturday?”
“Yes,” I said. “But I’m sure Uncle Jay won’t mind.”
“Uncle Jay’s not — ” Kevin started to say, but Mom interrupted him, even though one of the rules at our house isDon’t interrupt people.
“Honey, I forgot to tell you,” Mom said. “This Saturday is Brittany Hauser’s birthday. And she’s invited you. And I’m afraid I already told her mother that you’d go.”Demo version limitationRULE #3
It’s Okay to Lie If No One Finds Out You’re Lying, and the Lie Doesn’t Hurt Anyone, and It Isn’t That Big of a Lie, and It’s Partially Based on Something True. Sort of
“So the thing is,” I said to Erica, Sophie, and Caroline on our way to school the next morning, “I can’t go to Missy’s Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular.”
“What?” Erica looked crestfallen, which means really sad.
“Why not?” Caroline asked. “Wouldn’t your mother let you skip your ballet lesson?”
“Ballet isn’t really that good for girls,” Sophie said. “Toe shoes are a leading cause of twisted ankles.”
“Not if you’re properly trained,” I said. Sophie was always reading about new ways you could get sick or hurt yourself. If you ask me, she was a little overly concerned about her own health, which is unhealthy. That should be a rule, actually. “And anyway, Madame Linda doesn’t let us go on toe shoes until we’re twelve.”
“But stress fractures can occur in regular ballet shoes,” Sophie went on.
“Thepoint,”I said — sometimes it’s very hard to get to the point with my friends, because they are always going off in other directions conversationally, especially Sophie — “is that I can’t go to Missy’s event, because my mom says I have to go to Brittany Hauser’s stupid birthday party instead.”
Erica, Caroline, and Sophie gasped. Kevin, who was walking between us on our way to school, sucked in his breath, too.
But that was because I was pretty sure he was going to tell them about Glitterati. So I poked him in the back of the head. Not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to remind him about the deal we’d made at breakfast: He wouldn’t say anything about Brittany’s party, and I would give him all my dessert for the rest of the week. This was part of the plan I’d come up with the night before.
“That’s terrible!” Erica cried. “Brittany Hauser?”
“Who’s Brittany Hauser?” Caroline asked.
“You remember, Caroline,” Erica said. “She’s that horrible girl from Allie’s old school who likes to put cats in suitcases and then shake them around.”
“She sounds just like someone else we know,” Sophie said. “Whose initials start withCandO.”
She meant Cheyenne O’Malley. Only I had never known Cheyenne O’Malley to be cruel to animals. Just other girls.
“Brittany Hauser is rich,” Kevin said, because he couldn’t control himself. “You should see her house. It’s practically a mansion. They have real marble floors and a swimming pool. With a slide!”
I squeezed the back of Kevin’s neck as a warning sign that he better not say anything else.
“Oh, I remember you telling us about her,” Caroline said. “She’s horrible! Why would you go to her party when you could come with us to see Missy twirl?”
“Yeah,” Sophie said. “What about Missy’s terrible self-esteem problem? I’m afraid this will be another blow to her, from which she may never recover.”
I sort of doubted that. I sort of doubted Missy had any self-esteem problems at all. But I didn’t say so out loud. Instead, I said, “I know. And I’m really sorry.”
This was the part where I had to tell the big lie. I had been practicing it all morning in the mirror, and I was ready. At least, I was pretty sure I was ready.
“The thing is, I don’t want to go to Brittany’s party,” I said. “But you know Brittany’s dad owns the BMW dealership in town, and he pays for a lot of the ads on my mom’s show,Good News!”
“Yeah?” Caroline already sounded like she didn’t approve of what she was hearing.
But I went on, anyway. This was probably one of the biggest lies I had ever told.
But it wasn’t exactly untrue. It was just slightly exaggerated.
“And my mom said if I didn’t go to Brittany’s party, Mr. Hauser might be mad and pull his advertisements from the show. And thenGood News!could lose a lot of money.”
Of course my mom had never said any such thing. But I had seen this sort of thing happen on an episode of a TV show. It definitelycouldhappen.
Just not to me. Or my mom. OrGood News!
Sophie gasped. “Oh, my goodness!” she cried. “Allie, that’s horrible!”
“That…that is so mean!” Erica looked completely flabbergasted. “It’s…it’s like…it’s like he’sbuying friendsfor Brittany!”
“It really is,” Caroline agreed soberly. “I’ve never heard of something so sad. It almost makes me feel sorry for poor Brittany Hauser. Talk about self-esteem issues.”
“Uh,” I said. “You don’t have to feel sorry for Brittany. Remember the suitcase thing?”
“Yes,” Caroline said. “But now we know why she did that. What kind of parents does she have?”
Well, the truth was, Brittany’s parents had actually been really mad at her when they’d found out about Brittany putting Lady Serena Archibald in the suitcase. Her mom had grounded her for a really long time…
“Oh, Allie!” Erica flung her arms around me. “I’m so sorry! I can’t believe you have to go to that horrible girl’s birthday party. It’s going to be so terrible. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to have fun while I’m watching Missy, thinking about you at that awful birthday party.”
“It’s okay,” I said. Erica was practically strangling me, she was hugging me so hard. “You can still have a good time watching Missy. I’ll be all right. I’m a very strong person.”
“I don’t know,” Sophie said. “What are they going to be making you do at Brittany’s party, anyway? Please don’t say it’s going to be one of those awful grown-up parties where they make you dress up in a scratchy party dress and shiny shoes and go to the country club with all the adults.”
“Oh, I went to one of those once for my cousin,” Caroline said, making a face. “It was terrible! Is it going to be like that, Allie?”
“It’s not going to be like that at all,” Kevin burst out, because he just couldn’t help it anymore.
“Uh, never mind him,” I said, escaping Erica’s grip and moving toward Kevin to lay a hand on the back of his neck so I could squeeze it a little again. “Kevin, why don’t you go play on the jungle gym?”
“Allie gets to ride in a limo,” Kevin said, his voice sounding strangled, because I was squeezing slightly more tightly with his every word. “To Glitterati! And then to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner, and then to the luxury Hilton Hotel downtown, where they’re going to watch pay-per-view movies and order room service all night, then have brunch in the open-air atrium by the glass elevators near the waterfall!”
I gave Kevin a tiny push toward the jungle gym, where the other kindergartners were gathered doing their little kmdergartner business.
“Good-bye, Kevin,” I said. “Have a fun day at school.”
“Bye,” he said, staggering away, even though I really hadn’t pushed him that hard. Much.
“Wow,” Caroline said, watching Kevin go. “That’s some birthday party.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Erica said, brightening. “Glitterati! That seems like a fun birthday party. Why do you look so sad about it, Allie?”
“Well,” I said, “because I’d rather spend the day with you guys, of course, at Missy’s Twirltacular.”
This was a lie. But it wasn’t entirely a lie. Iwouldrather have spent the day with them. In a limo, and at Glitterati.
“Aw,” Erica said, moving in to hug me again. “Allie, that’s so sweet! But I’m happy you get to do all those fun things. It’s such a relief. I thought you were going to have a terrible time with that Brittany girl. But it sounds like you’re going to have a great time.”
“Yeah,” Sophie said. “I’ve never even gotten to do one of those things during a birthday party. Let aloneallof them atonebirthday party.”
“Well,” I said, feeling a little uncomfortable. Not just because I’d lied to them, but because Erica was still hugging me really hard. “Like Kevin said. Brittany Hauser is very rich.”
“I feel sorry for her,” Erica said, finally letting me go. “Look what she did to that cat. That’s a sign of an unhappy person, no matter how much money she has.”
“And you can see where she gets it from. Her dad, threatening to pull his advertising money if Allie doesn’t come to his daughter’s party?” Caroline shook her head. “That’s messed up.”
“It’s like the evil warlord,” Erica said, talking about our made-up game of queens, “trying to pour hot oil on us all because Sophie won’t marry him.”
“Really,” Sophie agreed. “I can’t believe your mom is putting up with it, Allie.”
“Well,” I said. My lie was getting to be a little bit bigger than I had meant it to be. “It’s not like she has a choice. She could lose her job.”
Sophie gasped. “And then your parents won’t have enough money to pay your bills! Like your medical bills, if someone gets sick.”
I didn’t want to admit that my mom wasn’t even getting paid for being onGood News!That made her seem like less of a celebrity. Whoever heard of someone who was on TV but didn’t even get paid for it?
“My mom would still have her other job,” I pointed out. “She works as an adviser at the same college where my dad teaches computer classes. Remember?”
“Right,” Erica said. “Hey, you guys. In a way, Allie is just like Sophie, torn between the warlord and Prince Peter. Allie’s torn between us and her mom and Mr. Hauser!”
“Only Prince Peter is way nicer than Brittany Hauser,” Sophie pointed out, glancing at the boy she’d had a crush on since forever, Peter Jacobs, who was playing kick ball over on the baseball diamond with Rosemary and my brother Mark and a bunch of other people. Today Peter was wearing a bright yellow sweater. He looked very handsome in it, as usual.
“Um,” I said. “Yeah. I guess.” I couldn’t believe how easily they’d believed my lie. I’d gotten out of having to go to Missy’s Twirltacular, and Erica and Caroline and Sophie weren’t mad at me. They even felt sorry for me!
And I was the one who was getting to go to the Glitterati store in a limo, and stay overnight in the city in a hotel…
This was turning out to be the best lie ever.
And okay…I did feel a little bit guilty. But…
It’s okay to lie if no one finds out you’re lying, and the lie doesn’t hurt anyone, and it isn’t that big of a lie, and it’s partially based on something true. Sort of.That’s a rule.
Of course, I still wanted to go to Missy’s Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular.
On the other hand…Missy herself would probably rather be riding in a limo into the city to do all the fun things I was going to get to be doing. I mean, let’s face it…it wasn’t every day you got to go to Glitterati or to eat in a fancy restaurant like The Cheesecake Factory or stay overnight in a place like the Hilton Hotel downtown.
Missy, I was sure, would understand. Anyone would.
So my lie was perfectly understandable. It barely even counted as a lie. It was practically the truth.
Sort of.RULE #4
In My House, Nothing Will Get You in Bigger Trouble than Lying
It started raining hard that morning, which meant we had to stay inside Room 209 for recess, which I sometimes like because it means Mrs. Hunter gets out her old board games from when she was a kid and lets us play with them.
Her games are very old-fashioned and make us laugh, such as the Game of Life, which is Erica’s favorite, which has little cars for game pieces. The cars move along a board with a wheel you spin that tells you how many spaces you can move your car. Inside your car are little holes you can fill up with pink and blue pegs — the Mom and Dad and their babies, as Erica calls them.
All Erica wants to do is fill up her car with as many pegs as she can, even though that’s not the point of the game (having a career and making money is).
But Erica just wants to have a car full of little pink and blue pegs.
The game I like is Clue. It’s a murder mystery game. It’s my favorite, but the only other person in our class who likes it is Joey Fields.
Sophie says Clue is morbid. Sophie’s favorite game is Monopoly. That’s a game where you try to own as much property as you can, and if someone’s game piece lands on your property, they have to pay you. I hate this game more than any game ever invented, even more than I hate Boggle, which is a word search game of Mrs. Hunter’s that no one likes but Caroline.
The only game that all of my friends will agree to play together is the Game of Life (even though Erica won’t play it right).
We were playing the Game of Life — even Rosemary agreed to play, though usually she plays indoor finger football with the boys — when Cheyenne O’Malley walked up to us with her good friends Marianne and Dominique (or M and D as she likes to call them) behind her and said, “So, Allie. I understand that you’re taking a limo to Glitterati.”
I was busy achieving great things in the Game of Life, so I didn’t really have time to talk to Cheyenne.
“Yeah, so?” I said, spinning the wheel.
“So, I just think you should know,” Cheyenne said. “Glitterati is for babies.”
“No, it’s not,” Rosemary said, not looking up from the game board. “I heard a girl in fifth grade went there for her birthday party last month. So you’re wrong, Cheyenne.”
“And for someone who is super concerned about acting mature,” Caroline added, “you’re sure not acting like it at the moment, Cheyenne.”
Cheyenne’s face turned a delicate shade of pink that matched the pegs in Erica’s car.
“Well,” she said, “I guess you think you’re so great, don’t you, Allie, because you get to ride in a limo, and eat at The Cheesecake Factory, and stay in a fancy hotel this weekend.”
“She doesn’t even want to go,” Erica said, looking up from her little car crammed full of passengers. “She wants to go to my sister Missy’s Twirltacular. Her mom ismakingher go to Brittany Hauser’s birthday party. If Allie doesn’t go, her mom could get fired fromGood News!”
Hmmm. This wasn’t going quite the way I’d planned. Soon a lot more people than I’d thought were going to know about my lie.
“Well,” Cheyenne said. “Just so you know, if you’re going to a party where the girl’s parents are taking you out to dinner and to Glitterati and all that, you better make sure the cost of the gift you’re giving her is equal to or more than the amount her parents are spending on you. I’m only telling you this,” Cheyenne added, “because you’re so immature, I’m sure you don’t know it already, Allie. I’m trying tohelpyou.”
Rosemary slammed her fist down onto the Game of Life game board, making everyone’s game pieces jump. Then she stood up slowly.
“None of us,” she said, looking Cheyenne straight in the eye, “needs ‘help’ like yours, Cheyenne.”
“Speak softly to your neighbors, please,” Mrs. Hunter called from her desk, where she was sitting preparing a lesson. We all looked over and saw that Mrs. Hunter was staring at us with her green eyes crackling…
…which is exactly what youdidn’twant from Mrs. Hunter, who was the prettiest, nicest teacher I’d ever had, and who’d once told my grandma that I was a joy to have around the classroom.
But Mrs. Hunter could be very scary when she got angry.
We lowered our voices immediately.
Cheyenne, who had to tilt her head a little to look Rosemary in the eye because Rosemary was so much taller than she was, seemed a bit scared. And not of Mrs. Hunter.
“Whatever,” Cheyenne whispered. “I was only trying to be a friend. That’s all. Geez.”
Cheyenne and her two pals M and D slunk back to their desks, where they were busy doing what they usually did on rainy days: drawing fairies with Mrs. Hunter’s collection of glitter gel pens (which I did, too, sometimes, when I wasn’t busy drawing zombies to show Stuart Maxwell that I could, or playing the Game of Life).
“Don’t listen to her, Allie,” Caroline said after Cheyenne had left. “You don’t have to get Brittany a huge, expensive gift, no matter how much her parents are paying for her party.”
“Right,” Sophie said. “Remember for your birthdays last year, Caroline and Erica, I made you each photo albums of pictures of us together?”
“I loved that!” Erica smiled. “You scrapbooked that cover for it using funny things we used to say last summer.”
“‘Hey, you in the yellow swim trunks,’” Caroline said.
“‘I’ll have another doughnut, please. No, I’ll have two!’” Sophie cried.
Caroline dissolved into giggles — which was unusual for her, since Caroline wasn’t a giggler. “Remember Little Hiawatha?”
Sophie screamed politely.
“I was so sure we were going to get caught!” Erica said.
“Girls!” Mrs. Hunter said. “Please keep it down. We don’t want Mrs. Danielson coming in here, now do we?”
“No, ma’am,” Rosemary said. She glared at Erica, Caroline, and Sophie, who were crying, they were laughing so hard. “You guys,” Rosemary said. “Shut up. It isn’t that funny.”
Seriously. It wasn’t that funny. Rosemary and I had no idea who Little Hiawatha was, or why the mention of him — or the boy in yellow swim trunks, or the thing with the doughnuts — should make Erica, Sophie, and Caroline laugh so hard.
To tell the truth, it sort of made me feel left out. This made me worry about other things I was going to feel left out of. Like Missy’s Twirltacular. Were they going to come home from that with all sorts of private jokes, like the Little Hiawatha one, that I wasn’t going to understand?
Maybe I’d made a mistake choosing to go to Brittany’s birthday party instead.
And that was the other thing: I couldn’t make a lovely photo album (because I didn’t even have any photos of myself with her) to give to Brittany Hauser on her birthday. I didn’t even have any private jokes with Brittany Hauser (unless you counted the fact that she’d put her mom’s cat in a suitcase and shook it around and I’d told on her and she’d tortured me about it for weeks afterward by calling me Allie Stinkle).
Because she and I weren’t even that good friends. We were frenemies, really. Which is a mix of friends and enemies. We’d started out friends, then become enemies, then she’d tried to become my friend, then I’d shoved a cupcake in her face.
And now, for some reason, she was still trying to be my friend.
I was sort of starting to regret saying I’d go to Brittany’s party.
Especially when I went home for lunch that day and yelled from the mudroom (which, for once, really was filled with mud, because it was raining so hard, Kevin and I got soaked walking from school), “Mom! What did you get for me to give to Brittany for her birthday? We have to give her something super good. Because Cheyenne O’Malley says you have to get something that costs equal to or more than whatever Brittany’s parents are spending on what I’m going to eat and drink at the party, not to mention the cost of my going to Glitterati and however much it’s going to cost for me to spend the night at the Hilton Hotel…Mom?Mom?”
But there was no response from Mom. Just…nothing.
Which was weird. Because she and Dad weren’t supposed to leave for the airport until later that night.
I followed Kevin into the kitchen, where Mark was already standing. He’d gotten home before us, since he’d ridden his bike…but that meant he was more soaked. He hadn’t even gone upstairs to change out of his sopping wet clothes yet, he was just standing there making a big puddle on the kitchen floor. At first I had no idea why.
Until I saw that he was staring at Mom. Mom, who was on the phone by the kitchen counter, with a very worried expression on her face. She was going, “Uh-huh. Of course. I understand. Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.”
What had happened? Clearly something very, very bad. Mom looked awful. Her face was pale and she was holding the phone so tightly, her knuckles were white.
I knew right away that something had gone wrong.
And I knew what it was, too.
My lie. My lie about how Mom was making me go to Brittany Hauser’s party had been found out.
I didn’t know who had told. Probably no one had done it maliciously (which means on purpose and to be evil). It had probably just slipped out.
And now I was going to get in big trouble. I would probably be grounded and I wouldn’t be able to go to Brittany’s partyorto the annual Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular.
Of course, I had brought it all on myself. But still. It wasn’t fair. I had only been trying to spare my friends’ feelings. It hadn’t been a lie to hurt anyone. I had done it so asnotto hurt anyone.
I stood there in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do. Should I go to my room now, before my mom could send me there? Surely she’d let me have lunch first. My parents had never let me starve before. What was going to happen? Who was that on the phone? Mr. Hauser? Was my mom going to get fired? Could you get fired from a job you weren’t paid for? Probably, since my mom had had to audition for it in the first place.
I couldn’t believe how much trouble I was in. My mom really liked that job. And Harmony, Uncle Jay’s girlfriend, really liked my mom’s job, too. She was trying to get a summer internship with Lynn Martinez, the news anchor at the station that showedGood News!Now, because of me, that wouldn’t happen, either.
I had ruinedeverything.
I couldn’t lie about it, either. The one thing my parents hate more than anything in the world is lying. You can pretty much do whatever you want in my house, and you’ll get in trouble for it, sure.
But in my house, nothing will get you in bigger trouble than lying. That’s a rule. My parents can’t stand lying.
So though it might have seemed like a good idea to make up some big excuse about why I’d lied to Erica and Caroline and Sophie about my mom’s job being on the line if I didn’t go to Brittany’s party, I didn’t, because she already looked like she was in a bad mood…a bad enough mood that if I didn’t just confess, she might kill me on the spot.
“Mom,” I said, as soon as she hung up. “Listen. I can explain — ”
Mom reached up and pushed some of her hair from her face.
“Not now, Allie. That,” Mom said, “was your great-aunt Joyce. She threw out her back giving her cat, Mr. Tinkles, a bath. So now she won’t be coming to stay while your dad and I are at my cousin Freddie’s wedding…”
I closed my mouth. So, thathadn’tbeen Lynn Martinez or Mr. Hauser on the phone with my mom? No one had found out about my big lie? I was actually…safe?
There was a beat while we all held our breath.…Did this mean Mom and Dad wouldn’t be going to Cousin Freddie’s wedding? Or…
“I guess your uncle Jay will be staying with you instead,” Mom finished.
Mark, Kevin, and I all looked at one another. It was really hard, but we restrained an urge to high-five one another. Even though we were all sorry for Great-Aunt Joyce and the pain she was going through, hearing this was like hearing that Christmas and our birthdays had all come at once. Uncle Jay was staying with us for a whole weekend, instead of Great-Aunt Joyce? It was truly a miracle. Whatever had happened to make Great-Aunt Joyce throw out her back while giving Mr. Tinkles a bath (and who gave cats baths? I could understand it if the cat was an outdoor cat who got into a fight with a skunk or something. But Mr. Tinkles is an indoor cat…and not a show cat like Lady Serena Archibald), it could not have happened to someone who deserved it more. I mean, why make someone eat tomatoes when they make her feel like she is choking? That is nothing but mean.
“It’s not funny,” Mom said, seeing our smiles. “Great-Aunt Joyce is a very kind person.”
Um…not really, Mom.
But you can’t always change moms’ minds about things.
“And don’t think it’s going to be like last time Uncle Jay stayed over,” Mom went on. “There will be no hide-and-seek in the dark with bicycle lights on your heads. There will be no Hot Pockets morning, noon, and night. I am going to have someone look in on you to make sure you kids are being fed properly.”
This made us curious. Because I am the oldest, and naturally it is my job to do these things, I asked, “Who?”
Mom was already flipping through her address book.
“Harmony, of course,” she said.
A Present Should Come from the Heart
The next morning I wasn’t in a much better mood than the day before, despite having gotten to make my own pizza in a real restaurant kitchen. Mom had left a note that said, since the limo was coming for me at noon, I still had to go to my ballet lesson with Madame Linda at ten o’clock.
Who could concentrate on ballet when a limo was coming to pick them up and take them to Glitterati?
It was horrible to have to stand there in a boring black leotard and pink tights and dobattement tendusand pliés at the barre with the rest of the class when all I could think about was how I was going to be leaving for Glitterati in two hours! Madame Linda had to slap my thigh three times because I wasn’t concentrating on my turn-out (and pardon me, but that hurt)!
And at the end of the class, when we didrévérence,I did not get to wear Madame Linda’s tiara (no surprise). A couple of the girls asked me why I was in such a rush to get out of there when I was jamming my shoes and leg warmers into my backpack, and I got to say, all casual, “Oh…a limo is coming to my house to pick me up to take me to Glitterati.”
At first they were all, “No way,” but then I explained it was for a birthday party, so they were pretty excited for me.
That got me feeling pretty good…
…until Uncle Jay was pulling into the driveway for home, and I saw Erica and her family, along with Sophie and Caroline, all getting into the Harringtons’ minivan to go to Missy’s Twirltacular. Erica and Caroline and Sophie saw me and smiled and waved. I waved back. I couldn’t open the window because it was raining kind of hard. But I think Caroline and Sophie and Erica all yelled, “Have fun!”
Then they got into the van, all giggling and poking one another and having fun, and shut the door. Then Erica’s dad drove away.
And that was that.
Except that it was kind of like they’d closed the door on my going with them.
And I couldn’t help feeling like I had made a terrible mistake.
Only I hadn’t. Right? I mean, who wouldn’t rather go to Glitterati in a limo than to a gymnastics contest in a minivan? Um, hello. Me.
As soon as Uncle Jay stopped the car, I got out of it and ran upstairs to put on my best party clothes (purple shirt, jean miniskirt, yellow leggings, and orange cowboy boots) and try to get into a party mood. I put on some dance music and danced around my room, scaring my adorable kitten Mewsie, who crawled under the bed.
But when I looked in the mirror, I realized the party clothes and dancing hadn’t done any good. I was still regretting not going with Erica and those guys to see Missy perform at the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular. The first events were due to start any minute.
And I wasn’t going to be there to support Missy. Or to enjoy any of the delicious popcorn they’d be serving to the spectators in the middle school gym. Or to see any of the amazing twirlers, coming from as far away as out of state, in their beautiful twirling costumes, all competing for a chance to win golden trophies as big as me.
I mean, yes, I was going to get to ride in a limo, and go to Glitterati, and do all this other stuff I’ve always wanted to do.
But all of a sudden, the closer it got to the time for me to go, the less fun the idea of going seemed to get.
What waswrongwith me? All of my dreams were coming true! I was about to get to ride in a limo!
“So, have you got everything?” Uncle Jay asked as I came down the stairs, dragging my overnight wheelie bag behind me,thump, thump, thump,one step at a time. “Your toothbrush, your pajamas, some clothes for tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I answered. Kevin and Mark were pushing all the furniture in the living room back to make space for our family tent. Since Kevin was so upset about me getting to ride in the limo and stay in a luxury hotel, Uncle Jay had said they could have “boys’ time” while I was gone. “Boys’ time” meant they got to set up our family tent in the living room (since it was so wet outside) and pretend that they were world explorers, then watch adventure movies and eat adventure food, the kind you could only cook over an outdoor fire, such as campfire beans and hot dogs.
Only Uncle Jay had said they could cook them in the fireplace in the living room instead of outside.
I wondered what Harmony was going to say about this when she stopped by to check in.
“Good,” Uncle Jay said. “What about your present for the birthday girl?”
I stared at Uncle Jay blankly. “Didn’t Mom leave that with you?” I asked.
Uncle Jay looked back at me just as blankly.
“No,” he said. “She just left me a hundred bucks to feed you all.”
“She didn’t say where Brittany’s present was?” I could feel something rising in my throat. What I felt was panic. I’d been right: Deciding to go to this party had been a terrible idea. “I can’t go to Brittany’s party without a present!”
“Hold on, hold on,” Uncle Jay said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his cell phone. “I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. Let me call your mom and ask her.”
Uncle Jay dialed the number for my mom’s cell phone, while I stood at the bottom of the stairs, icy fear gripping me. What if my mom forgot to buy a present for Brittany? I couldn’t go. I wouldn’t be able to show my face at Brittany’s party if I didn’t have a present that cost equal to or more than the cost of the food I would consume at the party. Not to mention however much it would cost for my picture at Glitterati, or my share of however much a room was at the Hilton Hotel —
“Oh, hi, Liz?” Uncle Jay was saying into his phone. “It’s Jay — no, no, the kids are fine. Yeah. No, it’s still raining. Well, drizzling. What are they doing? Oh, we’re just about to sit down and play some of those educational board games you left out — ”
“Uncle Jay.” Mark walked over, carrying one of Mom’s Waterford crystal vases she and Dad got as a wedding present. “Where should I put this so it doesn’t get broken as we set up camp?”
“Hold on, Liz,” Uncle Jay said. He pointed toward the dining room. “In there, champ.”
Mark nodded, and carried the vase away.
“So, listen,” Uncle Jay said into the phone. “Allie was wondering where you put the gift for Brittany. She’s just about to get picked up for the party.” Uncle Jay listened for a minute. Then he nodded. Then he handed the phone to me. “She wants to talk to you,” he said.
I took the phone from Uncle Jay and pressed it to my ear. “Yes, Mom?” I said.
“Allie, honey,” Mom said. She sounded funny. Maybe it was because she was so far away. Or maybe it was because she was staying at her mom and dad’s house, and everyone was getting ready for Cousin Freddie’s wedding, and someone had stolen a golf cart again and driven it onto the tennis court. In any case, she didn’t sound good. “I forgot Brittany’s gift.”
These were not the words I wanted to hear. They were so not the words I wanted to hear, my throat closed up and for a second I couldn’t breathe.
“Mom,” I gargled. “No!”
“But, honey, listen,” Mom said. “Just tell Brittany that it’s my fault, that I forgot, and that I’ll drop her gift off next week — ”
“Mom.” In front of me, Uncle Jay’s face began to swim. That’s because my eyes had begun to fill with tears. “You don’t understand. I can’t go to Brittany’s party without a present!”
“Yes, you can, honey,” Mom said. There were some kind of crashing noises in the background, and I heard a voice yell, “Oh, no. Freddie!” “Oh,” Mom said. “I have to go. But, Allie, just explain to Brittany that I had to go out of town for a wedding and that I’ll drop her gift off next week. She’ll understand, I promise you. I’ll talk to you later, sweetie. Bye-bye.”
I handed the phone back to Uncle Jay, even though I couldn’t see him very well through my tears.
“She hung up,” I said. “It doesn’t sound like Cousin Freddie’s wedding is going very well.”
“Big surprise,” Uncle Jay said. He didn’t know Cousin Freddie, but he knew of him. He put his phone back in his pocket. “What did she say to do?”
“She said she’ll drop Brittany’s present off next week,” I said. Now the tears were coming, spilling out of my eyes and trickling down my cheeks. “But you don’t understand. I can’t go to this party without a present! Not with these kinds of girls. Brittany and her friends…they used to call me Allie Stinkle. They’ll make fun of me if I don’t bring a present.”
“Well,” Uncle Jay said. “Why do you want to go to a party with a bunch of people like that, anyway?”
This was a very good point. Suddenly, more than anything, I wished I had gotten into that van with everyone going to the Little Miss Majorette Baton Twirling Twirltacular over at the middle school.
“I don’t know,” I wailed. By this time, Mark and Kevin had come over, lured by the sound of my tears.
“Why is Allie crying?” Mark wanted to know.
“She doesn’t have a present for Brittany’s party,” Uncle Jay explained.
“Oooh,” Kevin said, looking concerned. “That’s bad.”
This just made me cry harder.
I really couldn’t even remember anymore why I’d said I’d go to this stupid party in the first place. Nothing was turning out the way I’d imagined. All my good friends were off having fun without me, and I was left with nothing but mean friends, who were going to kill me because I didn’t have a present for the main mean girl.
“We have to go to the mall really quick,” I said, doing my best to wipe my eyes with the sleeve of my purple shirt. “We have to buy Brittany a present that costs equal to or more than whatever her parents are spending on what I’ll be eating at her party, my photo at Glitterati, and the cost of my share of the room at the Hilton Hotel.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Uncle Jay said. “First of all, we don’t have time to go to the mall, because your ride is coming any minute. And second of all, I don’t have any money.”
“How can you not have any money?” I asked him. “You just said Mom and Dad left you a hundred dollars!”
“That’s for us to eat with while they’re gone!” Uncle Jay cried. “I’m not blowing it all on a present for some girl who used to call you Allie Stinkle.”
Mark started laughing. “Allie Stinkle! That’s a good one.”
“Shut up,MarkStinkle,” I said to him. “Don’t you have any money of your own?” I asked Uncle Jay. “You have a job at Pizza Express!”
“I’m not spending my hard-earned money on a birthday present for Brittany Hauser,” Uncle Jay declared, “a girl you don’t even like. And that thing about how the present has to cost a certain amount — that’s just insane. A present should come from the heart. And so should an invitation. Why did this girl even invite you to her party if she calls you names?”
“Because,” I said, “I think her mom is impressed that our mom is the star of a TV show. Even though Mom doesn’t get paid for being onGood News!But Brittany’s mom doesn’t know that.”
Uncle Jay made a face. “And why do you want to go to this party again?”
I didn’t want to have to bring up the limo and Glitterati and The Cheesecake Factory and the hotel thing. I just pressed my lips together and glared at him.
Finally, Uncle Jay said, “If you’re so concerned about bringing a gift to this party, go upstairs to your room and find something in it that you think this girl would like and bring it down here and I’ll wrap it for you.”
My mouth dropped open. “I can’t give Brittany Hauser ausedgift!”
Mark, who is a boy and doesn’t know anything about girl stuff, started laughing at this idea. Even Kevin, who is onlysix,looked appalled.
But Uncle Jay defended himself.
“For Pete’s sake, Allie, you have a million books in your room. Give her a book. Books make the best gifts because you can open them again and again. Pick out your favorite book and tell her you wanted to share it with her because it meant so much to you. That’s what I always give my friends on their birthdays — the gift of my favorite book. Now go do it, quick, before she gets here.”
I thought about what Uncle Jay had said. The gift of a book was a good idea.
And I did have a lot of books. Some of them even looked new because I like to keep my books in very good condition.
And Brittany could stand to learn a little. Maybe if she read more books, she wouldn’t do things like put her mother’s cat in a suitcase (although I doubted she’d ever do that again, after her punishment last time).
“It’s here!” Kevin suddenly yelled. “The limo!”
We all ran to look out the window. It was true. A huge white SUV limo, almost as long as our front yard, had pulled up outside. You could hear rock music blaring from it. Twinkly purple lights were flashing all around the bottom of it.
“Go get a book!” Uncle Jay yelled at me. “I’ll stall them.”
I ran up the stairs faster than I’ve ever run up them before. I burst into my room, startling Mewsie, who’d been grooming himself on my bed. He arched his back and hissed, then realized it was me and calmed down.
Panting, I scanned my bookshelf. What to give Brittany Hauser? A copy of one of the Boxcar Children? No, she would think that was too babyish.
Nancy Drew? She would think it was too old-fashioned.
The Narnia chronicles? I wasn’t sure Brittany would believe you could stumble through a wardrobe and find a magical world.
Harry Potter? Brittany had probably seen all the movies and would think she wouldn’t have to read the books.
Outside, I could hear my brother Kevin’s voice. He was demanding a tour of the inside of the limo. Ordinarily, I would be mortified by this, but in this case I was proud of him. He was trying to buy me time to make my selection…
…while at the same time achieving his own dream of getting to sit inside a limo.
I wasveryproud of him.
Finally, my gaze landed on the perfect book. Of course. Why hadn’t I thought of it before? And I had two copies, one in perfect condition because Harmony had given it to me, not knowing I’d already read it a million times. It had been her favorite growing up, too.
I didn’t really want to give it to Brittany, even if I did have two copies of it. I mean, it was my favorite book. And the copy from Harmony was so clean and nice. And inside the front cover, she’d written,To a true friend.It didn’t have my name, or her name, or anything. So you couldn’t tell who it was to or from. I could still give it to Brittany.