Don’t be shy, Adelyn reminded herself. It’s a sleepover! You’ve done this hundreds of times with these girls. They’re nice, and they’re your friends for heaven’s sake! Stop being a baby! You’re gonna get in there and grin and be happy. Tell jokes and be funny! She reprimanded herself, gripping the strands of her backpack.
Adelyn walked up the front steps of Charlotte’s house, her heart pounding. Adelyn’s older sister, Alexa, bounded up the steps radiating confidence and excitement. Malorie was here already, sitting in the living room, laughing freely with Charlotte.
Alexa knocked on the door, straightening her long, impeccable hair. Charlotte opened the door, her face bright and her cheeks rosy.
“Hey guys!” Charlotte shouted excitedly, ushering the sisters into the warmth of her house. Adelyn’s heart throbbed, and she was sure her friends would hear it. She thought of what to say. ‘Hey, Charlotte! OMG, I’m so excited!’ No. ‘Hi, guys! Who’s ready to PARTY?!’ Nope. So, she just went with a simple smile.
“Hi,” She murmured shyly. Adelyn had meant for that to be enthusiastic, but it didn’t come out that way.
“You guys, I have been SO excited for this!” Malorie squealed, leaping gracefully from the couch.
“Me too!” Alexa exclaimed, throwing her blanket on the floor.
“Me too!” Charlotte agreed, thumping her feet excitedly on the floor.
“Me too,” Adelyn said, even though her mind was screaming, Not me! Nobody seemed to notice. Adelyn walked up the wooden stairs, partly to put her sleepover things up there, and partly to take a deep breath alone. She flopped her bag onto the carpet of Charlotte’s room and sighed. This is going to be different, Adelyn thought. This sleepover, I’m really going to have fun. And I’m going to say more than TWO WORDS, like last time.
“So, what do y’all want to do?” Malorie asked. Adelyn thought of what to say. Draw? No, nobody else liked doing that. Play volleyball? No, nobody really liked doing that, either. Bake? No, that was kind of her thing. Her friends liked to do social media and dance and sing and everything that Adelyn didn’t like, or so it seemed. She took a deep, mental breath and was going to suggest doing a couple dances. She knew everyone would like that, except her, of course.
But Alexa beat her to it.
“We should post some dancing,” She suggested, shaking her hips in a little dance. Malorie and Charlotte laughed and joined in. Soon the three of them were dancing in a perfected, practiced rhythm. Adelyn forced a smile and stood off to the side awkwardly. She laughed at silly parts of the dance, but felt more like crying. I just want to go home, she thought in a bout of self-pity.
“C’mon, Adelyn!” Charlotte cried, laughing. Adelyn wished she could. But she was not built for dancing in any way. She always messed it up one way or another.
“No, I’m good,” She said, flopping down in a chair in a way that she thought looked casual and cool.
“You sure? We’ll teach it to you!” Malorie said, kindness filling her voice and her eyes.
“Yep,” Adelyn said, nodding. “I’m good.” She thought of a funny joke to tell, maybe to get the girls laughing. Her grandfather had told her one that made her laugh until tears sprang in her eyes, but she couldn’t quite remember how it went. It was about a towel...or was it a tablecloth? Adelyn racked her brain, but she couldn’t fit all the pieces together.
Oh! She thought suddenly. What gets wetter the more it dries? A towel! She remembered with glee. Then she realized she was already smiling. It was one of her favorite jokes ever.
“Hey, guys!” Adelyn chirped. The three girls turned to her, overexaggerated curiosity in their kind eyes. “I have a joke. What get drier the more it wets?” She smiled. “Oh, wait, that’s not how it goes,” She laughed nervously. “What gets wetter the more it dries?” She paused. Malorie and Charlotte scrunched up their foreheads. Alexa already knew the joke, since their grandfather had told them both.
“A towel!” Alexa shouted suddenly. They all laughed, except for Adelyn.
“Hey, it was my joke!” Adelyn said crossly, glaring at her sister.
“So? It was still funny no matter who said it,” Alexa said breezily. Malorie gave Adelyn a pitying look that Adelyn suspected was supposed to be nice. Alexa turned to Malorie and Charlotte, wiping off the smug look that she only showed to her little sister. “So, are we going to do that photoshoot you promised?” Alexa asked Charlotte.
“Of course! Just let me get my cam. I’ll be right back!” Charlotte said, turning and bounding up the steps. Adelyn groaned inwardly. She was not photogenic whatsoever, and the other three were like models in front of the camera. Adelyn just couldn’t contort her face into all the expressions that everyone else seemed to be skilled at making. She looked down at her clothes, wishing she’d worn something like they had. Her short hair was in a messy ponytail, she wore a faded yellow shirt and her favorite shorts, which, come to think of it, didn’t match very well with her shirt. Alexa, Charlotte, and Malorie all wore oversized sweatshirts and jeans that fit them perfectly. Their hair was sleek and long, every hair in place.
“Got it!” Charlotte beamed, landing at the bottom of the stairs with a thud. The three girls trotted out the back door, chattering about something called ‘golden hour’. Adelyn had no idea what that was. She trailed behind, her mismatched socks trudging defeatedly on the slick wood floors.
“Ohh, I love that one!” Malorie gushed.
“That one’s my fave!” Charlotte laughed as she flipped to the next photo. They were scrolling through the pictures from their photoshoot. I look terrible in that one, Adelyn commented to herself. My eyes are closed in that one. The way I held my arm in that one looks bad. Ugh!
To Adelyn’s absolute horror, tears started streaming down her face. She kept as silent as she could, wiping them away quickly. She blinked away the rest, but her eyes just kept brimming with fresh tears. Adelyn hoped and prayed that the girls were too focused on the camera to notice their friend sobbing behind them.
No such luck.
Charlotte turned around with a grin, but her smile faded instantly.
“Adelyn!” She cried, setting the camera down and floundering across the bed to wrap her arms around her friend. “Oh, Addie! What’s wrong?” She asked, concern filling her voice. Adelyn felt vulnerable sitting on the bed, sobbing. Malorie came and sat next to her, her eyebrows creased with concern. Adelyn spotted Alexa mouth, What happened? To Malorie. Malorie shook her head and shrugged her shoulders in a hopeless gesture.
‘I look awful in all those pictures,’ Adelyn wanted to say. ‘I feel totally out of place with you guys! Nothing you guys do appeals to me, and I feel like I don’t belong…’
She wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. To her surprise, Alexa placed a gentle hand on her sister’s knee.
“Please tell us what’s wrong,” Charlotte commanded, not unkindly. Adelyn wanted to. Every fiber in her being reached out to her friend’s compassion and kindness. She wanted to tell them so bad.
But what would they think? How would it change their friendship? Adelyn didn’t want to be the center of drama and attention. She took in another deep, shaky breath.
“Nothing,” she lied. “I’m fine. Really,” She added, seeing the skeptical look on Charlotte’s face.
“Normally, people don’t just randomly start sobbing,” Charlotte concluded. “What’s going on?”
“I-um...” Adelyn couldn’t find the words. Every syllable that she had just recited escaped her mind.
“She feels left out,” Alexa’s voice was barely a whisper. “I saw it in her eyes when I told the punchline of her joke,” She explained, her eyes also brimming with tears.
“But it’s not your guys’ fault. I need to get into what you guys like, I guess!” Adelyn said with fake cheer, trying to get the subject off of her. It felt like it was slowly crushing her, breaking all her bones one by one.
“No you don’t,” Malorie murmured. Adelyn looked at her, bewildered. Malorie straightened. “God made you the way you are. You are who God wants you to be. I’m so sorry...I never realized you felt like this! You are such a sweet girl, you just always seemed so happy...” She trailed off, tears coming to her eyes as well. Adelyn looked at each of her friends, who were all huddled around her like she was telling them a really good story.
“I know what we can do that we’d all like,” Adelyn said cheerfully, standing up. She walked over to Charlotte’s closet. She searched the closet, then grabbed what she’d been looking for.
“Biblical Trivia!” She laughed. Everyone nodded, smiling. This was a silly, nerdy game, but they’d always had fun with it. Besides, they were who God made them to be, right?