Of course she was going to go.
Ally Paulson invited to Mallory Freshman’s birthday bash? It was outrageous.
Ally brushed her dirty-blond bangs out of her eyes as she dialed the number Mallory had given her on her phone to RSVP to Mallory’s party. It was just a dream come true. Ally had come from being an unknown nothing to being one of Mallory Freshman’s friends! Mallory Freshman—the most popular girl in the whole school!
“I’ll be there!” Ally squealed, finding that was all she could say to the answering machine. She was too nervous to leave a long, thoughtful message.
Ally plopped down on her bed, overwhelmed with excitement. She was actually going to be hanging out with the popular crowd!
Ally’s pink polka-dotted, old-fashioned-style telephone rang on her side table. She picked up the phone and merrily squealed, “Hello?”
“Ally.” It was Rachel, Ally’s best friend since preschool. She was a really nice person but too dorky to be seen around. “Movie night at the church this Saturday, you in?”
Ally wanted to say yes; the church always chose good movies for them to watch, but Saturday would be Mallory’s birthday bash. She had to reject the offer. “Sorry, Rachel, but I already have something planned.”
“What?” Rachel asked curiously, always having to be a part of everyone’s business.
“Mallory Freshman’s birthday bash.” Ally answered in the most arrogant way she could, as though she’d been invited to dine with the Queen of England.
“Mallory Freshman?!” Rachel exclaimed. “Holy smokes!”
“Yeah,” Ally replied in an I’m-too-cool-for-you kind of way. She could just imagine Rachel’s jaw dropping, her almond-colored eyes large in surprise.
“Well,” Rachel chirped happily, “maybe I’ll be invited next time and we can carpool!”
Ally didn’t know what possessed her to be so mean all of a sudden, but all she could think of to reply to that was, “Don’t expect to be invited to a party like this anytime soon.”
With that, Ally Paulson, newest popular girl, hung up on her nerdy friend.
* * *
Friday night, the night before the party, Ally got an instant message from Ruby, one of Mallory’s best friends. It said, “Ally, Mallory told me to inform you to wear pajamas on Saturday. There’s going to be a pajama contest and she didn’t want you to feel left out,” followed by a smiley face.
Ally received the message after Ruby had logged out, so she just made a mental note to find some pajamas for Saturday.
* * *
Finally, Saturday night came. Ally wore her pink polka-dotted button-up silk PJs with matching shorts and a pink robe. She even managed to dig out an old pair of bunny slippers.
She thought she might be going too far, but she knew that she’d win the contest now!
* * *
When Ally arrived at the door to Mallory’s house, she could feel the base from the party music and hear screaming kids. Her heart pounded nervously to the beat of the music.
Whatever it takes to fit in with the right people, Ally told herself.
When Ally was just about to walk in, she could hear a few girls whisper, “She’s here!”
When she opened the door, the room fell quiet except for the loud rap music coming from the basement. Everyone stayed silent for a few more seconds and then began bursting out in laughter, Mallory Freshman among all of them.
Ally looked down at herself and realized, right then and there, she was the only one wearing pajamas. She felt her face grow hot and red and then ran out the front door before everyone could see her cry. She remembered her father saying, “Don’t let the bad guys see you sweat.” In this case, she didn’t want the bad guys to see her cry.
Ally ran up and down the curb and then finally sat down in a nice place about a quarter of a mile away from the party.
She could feel a sharp pain in her stomach, replacing her tingling excitement she felt earlier, and began wishing she could just sprout wings and take off somewhere else—somewhere other than where she was.
“Ally!” She heard Mallory’s voice from about 200 feet up the block. “Ally!”
Mallory drew closer and closer, accelerating and then slowing down as she neared Ally.
Ally hid her tear-stained face in her pajama pants, not letting the bad guy see her cry.
“Ally.” Mallory sat down beside the sad, blond-haired girl in the pink PJs. “It was all Ruby’s idea. Seriously. And we all thought it was a joke and you’d laugh about it like us.”
“Stop making excuses for yourself,” Ally spat back, fighting back her tears, turning her head away to insure their eyes wouldn’t meet.
“Al-ly!” Mallory whined, emphasizing the “ly.” “You’re making me feel like the bad guy here!”
“Well then,” Ally looked up and wiped her face with her sleeve, daring herself to look into the eyes of Mallory, “you feel like what you are.”
With that, Ally took off down the curb, far enough away to call her mom and be driven home without Mallory trying to come back to make more excuses for herself. Mallory stood there watching. Ally dared not look back, but she could feel Mallory’s ice-blue eyes piercing into the back of her head.
“I’m so sorry, Al,” Ally’s mother told her as they rode out of Clear Meadow estates, leaving Mallory’s house far behind them. Mrs. Paulson looked back at Ally through the rearview mirror.
Ally didn’t know what to say, so she just kept looking out the window.
Then Ally’s mother struck an idea like a miner finding a jackpot of diamonds. “Why don’t you go to the church movie with Rachel?”
Ally thought that was a great idea, but Rachel wouldn’t want to see her. She just grunted, “Yeah, I guess so.”
Ally and her mom arrived before the previews, when everyone was just settling in. Rachel was sitting in the front row. As soon as she saw Ally, she beckoned for her to go sit with her.
Ally was surprised. She knew she didn’t deserve for Rachel to be nice to her.
“You’re not mad?” Ally asked when she took her seat next to Rachel.
“Of course not,” Rachel whispered. “Everyone makes mistakes, and I know you didn’t mean what you said.”
Ally smiled as the movie began. Looking around she knew she was right where she belonged. She didn’t need to be friends with Mallory Freshman.
As she scanned her eyes around the room, her grin grew wider as she noticed she fit in perfectly; the whole group was wearing their pajamas.