Saturday night and we made it a point to stay up all night. Not because there was stuff to do all night, and not because we couldn’t sleep, but simply because it was a sleepover and that’s just what you do. The irony of this was something I often pointed out to others when I wasn’t invited to sleepovers. But if we’re being honest here, staying up all night was the greatest thing that could ever happen to me… when it wasn’t happening to me.
So when I finally got the invite to tag along to Suzie Jenkins’ house with my best friend Zoë I was blissful. This was it- my chance to finally see what the other girls were doing on the weekends while I was home with my parents learning how to play scrabble. I admit that it was exciting when I ended up with a double word score but a little part of me died every time my father reminded me of how much I was learning every time we played. Learning is just not something a normal, healthy kid should be doing on a Saturday night.
I had brought extra supplies, preparing like a soldier about to go off to war. Energy bars, Red Bull, even caffeine pills I’d snuck out of my brother’s dresser when he was out doing whatever awesome things he does that he will never, ever invite me to. Jerk. I brought my favorite board games, my cutest teddy bear and my only sleeping bag. I wore the pajamas with the large cartoon lion face on the shirt which matches the little rainbow colored prints on the pants. And I asked my mom to drop me off rather than walking me to the door. Cause, you know, that’s a little girl thing to do.
The house looked like a mansion with more windows than I could easily count and a giant stone walkway up to double doors with intricate patterns on the windows. I felt like Dorothy stepping out of her newly wrecked house, but I could have used just as much courage as the lion needed. When she answered the door, Stacey Jenkins looked ridiculously gorgeous given the planned activities for the evening, and the lack of cute boys. But that fit perfectly with the mansion in the private cull-de-sack with the huge windows and- was that a pool in back?
She smiled at me and said how overjoyed she was that I could come (which was so clearly not true because the only reason she’d let me come was because she and Zoë were in swimming classes together) and invited me in. The inside of the house was like an opera house with stairs on either side of a circular wall leading up to a balcony on the second floor and a giant chandelier hanging overhead. Everything was light and dreamy and rich and I felt terribly out of place.
But then Zoë ran in laughing and jumping, accompanied by several other girls who I’d only ever admired from afar. I don’t know if it was the light or the way they’d started doing her hair but she looked like one of them, as if she’d belonged there all along and had been visiting my world. She sang my name rather than saying it and hugged me as if that were how we always greeted each other. I held onto her, scared to let go.
Then Rachel Gibbons said how pretty my hair was- my absurdly thick, horse-like hair- and how jealous she was. I didn’t know what to say. It had never occurred to me that my hair could be considered pretty, especially in comparison to the other girls with their delicate curls or natural blond color. I managed to mutter a thanks and kept the smile plastered on my face as if my life depended on it. My mother’s voice always telling me to smile finally coming in handy.
Stacey Jenkins smiled at me and it made me freeze. There was something about that smile that looked strangely like the face my dog- Buster, a husky-lab mix who shed all over our house- made before he chased my poor cat Chelsea around the yard. She said that she had a great idea and looked at the other girls as if sharing a secret. Then in unison, as if they had practiced, they all squealed “Makeover!” and Suzie took me by the hand, as if that were a normal thing to do, and pulled me into the living room.