| BEST FRIENDS
Janie opened her mail and read the invitation to a Halloween party that Manuella was giving. She looked at the envelope she had just opened to make sure that it was addressed to her and she had not received it by mistake. I wonder what she’s up to, Janie thought.
At school the next day, Janie saw Manuella and Karen in the coat room.
"Thank you for inviting me to your party, Manuella,” Janie said.
“Oh, I had to invite all of the kids in the class or my Mom wouldn’t let me have a party,” Manuella told her.
“Well, I’m looking forward to it,’ Janie replied hoping she did not sound as hurt as she felt. “Is it alright to wear the costume that we wear for the school party?
“I don’t care what you wear, Janie."
“Who are you going to dress as?” Janie asked the two girls. They had been told to dress as someone, living or dead, who they admired.
“I’m going to be a nurse, like my mother,” Karen answered. I want to be one when I grow up.”
“What about you, Manuella?” Janie asked.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“What do you want to become?” Janie asked.
“I haven’t decided that yet, either,” Manuella said. “That’s a long way from now; I’m not in any hurry to make up my mind. There are a lot of things I’d like to try.”
“Well, I have to go, or I’ll be late,” Janie told the girls. “Thank you again, Manuella.”
“Yeah. Whatever.” Manuella responded.
On the way to her singing lesson, Janie kept trying to remember any time she had been mean to Manuella. She didn’t understand why Manuella seemed to dislike her. When she got home, she called Karen.
“I can’t figure out why Manuella treats me like she does, Karen,” she said. “Did I do anything to offend her?”
“No. It isn’t anything you’ve done,” Karen answered. “It’s who you are. Manuella used to be the most popular girl in our school. Everyone thought she was pretty, smart and talented, but now they think you are the best. She is hurt and jealous. She has convinced herself that you don’t like her, because she sees herself as your rival.”
“Wow! I never thought of that. But I don’t want to be her enemy. I want to be her friend.”
“I know,” Karen said. “I’ve been trying to tell her that. But she says she is sick of all the attention you are getting.”
“So, I have to find a way to get her back into the spotlight. Mmm, I think I may have an idea. Could you sneak some of her clothes out of her closet when you go to see her after school tomorrow and get them to me?” Janie asked.
“I think so, but why?”
“I can’t tell you. That way you won’t accidentally give away my plan.”
“Okay. I can keep a secret, but I’d rather not have to. Stealing is bad enough.”
“You won’t really be stealing. I just want to borrow them. She’ll get them back.”
The next day, Janie got a bag from Karen at the end of the school day. She was careful not to look into it while Manuella was present, but she did hear Manuella ask Karen. “What was that you gave Janie?”
“Oh, some clothes I grew out of. She’s collecting them for a homeless shelter,” Karen lied.
“We could do that. Why do we have to give them to her?”
“We could, but we didn’t think of it and she did,” Karen said to her friend.
Manuella frowned. “Well, don’t give her any more,” she said.
“I won’t,” Karen replied. “The next batch of clothes you or I have to get rid of, we can take to the shelter ourselves.”
“That’s right,” Manuella said.
When they had left, Janie looked into the bag. Karen had given her a red and black plaid, pleated skirt, white blouse and black patent leather shoes. Janie had never seen Manuella wear them to school, so she knew Karen had been careful to pick out items that Manuella would not miss immediately.
The following day, Halloween, Janie did not come to school. Her mother had called to inform the school that she was ill, and she called Manuella's mother. If Janie was feeling better later she would still let her go to Manuella’s party, she told her. Janie was determined not to miss it.
After school, the children went Trick or Treating. Karen and Manuella split up to keep from being too easily recognized and Karen went to Janie’s house.
“You should have seen Manuella in school today, Janie,” she told the girl. “She was her old self again. She won the contest for best costume and best talent and she was soo happy until Ricky said it was too bad you weren’t there. Her expression changed immediately. I could tell she felt that if you had been there, she wouldn’t have gotten the attention.
“Well, she will get attention tonight, “ Janie. said.
When Janie got to the party, she was wearing Manuella's skirt, blouse and shoes and had on a long haired black wig. Manuella was shocked
“This is what I was going to wear to school,” Janie told her. "Karen did tell you a little lie. Those weren’t clothes for the homeless shelter she gave me. I had Karen sneak them out of your closet.”
“But, why would you dress like me?” asked Manuella, who was wearing one of her mothers' dresses. We were told to dress like someone we admire.”
“I did. Manuella, you don’t know how pretty, smart and talented you really are and best of all, you have real friends. You think everyone wants to be my friend, but most people just want to be around me because they think I'm different. They all want to dress and act like me. But, you and Karen aren’t like that. You're loyal to each other because of who you are. Manuella, I know you can only have one best friend and that will always be Karen, but I’d like to be your friend too. Will you let me?”
“If you can forgive me for being so jealous and mean to you. I’m sorry Janie. I’d be happy to have you as my friend."
She, Karen and Janie hugged each other and Ricky came over to take their picture.