"Come on, everyone! Now we are going to play 'Let's All Come In!'"
Jenny Prezzioso narrowed her eyes at the sound of that voice.
Karen Brewer. Jenny had grown to really dislike (Mommy and Daddy said you shouldn't hate. But if Jenny could hate, she would hate Karen Brewer most of all) Karen. Their babysitters, and Karen's stepsister Kristy, kept throwing them together with camps and parades and play groups and other things that meant Jenny spent entirely too much time away from her parents with one exceptionally obnoxious Karen.
Karen always had to be the center of attention, which meant that Jenny never was. Unless Jenny acted up and reverted to her more princessy self. There was just one problem with that.
Jenny didn't really like being a princess all the time. It was exhausting. And boring. Not to mention lonely because princesses seemed to be awfully short on friends. Of course, in storybooks, no one was ever mean to the princess except for the wicked stepmother. Well, Jenny didn't have a wicked stepmother but she did have Karen Brewer.
No, Jenny did not think she would be playing Let's All Come In anytime soon. Karen could just-
"Jenny? Don't you want to play with everybody else?" a soft voice asked. Jenny looked up to see Mary Anne Spier coming over to sit with her.
Jenny liked Mary Anne, even if she did cry a lot for an almost grown up. She didn't want to upset her by detailing all the reasons she would rather listen to Andrea scream every second for a week than willingly play with Karen and her groupies. Instead she simply said, "No. I just want to color."
"Are you sure? There are lots of pretty outfits," Mary Anne replied, knowing full well how much Jenny loved pretty clothes.
"I don't want to." Jenny let a bit of her stubborn princess personality seep into her voice. Sometimes princesses had to be firm.
"Okay," Mary Anne agreed.
For awhile Jenny pretended to color while half listening to Karen boss everyone around. It wasn't until she heard someone exclaim, "Oh, Karen, you're right! You really do look like the new princess!" that she paid any real attention.
"Jenny?" she heard Mary Anne say in a startled voice, but she had to see this. Jenny knew all about the new princess. Mommy had woken her up extra early to watch the wedding and it had been just the two of them! Andrea and Daddy had slept through the whole thing, so Jenny had Mommy all to herself. Jenny thought the princess was beautiful. It didn't hurt that Mommy and Daddy both said that Jenny looked just like her.
So to hear that Karen Brewer looked like the princess? Jenny had to investigate.
Karen stood in the middle of a crowd of admirers, all ooohing and ahhhing over her. Her smile stretched from ear to ear, completely at odds with the elegant white dress she was wearing. She even had the veil and the tiara! Jenny had to admit that Karen's dress looked a lot like the real thing.
Karen, thankfully, was still her freckled, blond, obnoxiously bossy self. No princess in sight.
Still, that dress was beautiful... Maybe Karen would let her wear it? Jenny had seen Claudia around with a camera. If Karen let her wear the dress, Claudia could take a picture and Mommy would be so excited!
For a moment, Jenny could scarcely believe her luck. This would be the best gift ever! But then she remembered that as much as she didn't like Karen, Karen didn't like her either.
No way was she going to ask bossy face. Just as Jenny turned to walk away, Karen's friend Nancy noticed her.
"Hi, Jenny!" she called out.
Jenny was stuck. The old Jenny would have kept on going, but she was the new and improved Jenny and she wanted to wear that dress. So she turned, smiled, and said hello. She agreed with Nancy when asked if Karen was "gigundoly beautiful", whatever that meant.
Karen shot her a surprised look. Jenny smiled sweetly. Maybe this being nice stuff wasn't so bad.
"So who is your prince?" Jenny asked.
Karen scrunched up her face. "What do you mean?"
"That's a wedding dress. So where's your prince you're going to marry?"
Karen's friend Hannie said, "Ohhhh. We hadn't thought of that."
"I did," Nancy replied.
"Really?" Karen asked.
"Yes. He's right… there," Nancy pointed to Nicky Pike.
"But he does not look like the prince! Besides, I am already married to Ricky!"
Jenny groaned to herself. Karen was supposed to be so smart, but she didn't seem to understand pretend or contractions. Jenny was only four and she knew about both.
Luckily none of the others heard her. Vanessa Pike, Nicky's older sister, offered to go get Nicky for the ceremony.
Perfect. The sooner Karen married Nicky, the sooner Jenny could wear the dress.
Only things didn't work out that way. Vanessa finally dragged Nicky to the "altar" and they were married ("Just pretend because I am already married to Ricky!" Karen kept insisting while Nicky kept reminding Vanessa she owed him ten whole dollars for this) and Karen did let someone else wear the dress. Hannie was chosen and she 'married' David Michael, Karen's stepbrother ("Now we are sisters!") and Nancy married Linny, Hannie's brother ("We are all sisters!"), and then the day was over. Before Jenny could work herself up to a good tantrum, Karen turned to Vanessa, who had been almost as quiet as Jenny as the day wore on, and promised "Because we are now almost-sisters, tomorrow you may wear the dress, okay?"
Tomorrow! The dress would return tomorrow!
Jenny ran over to Claudia and in the nicest voice she could find asked, "Will you bring your camera tomorrow, too?"
Claudia smiled. "Of course, Jenny, I'm bringing it all week."
Jenny couldn't contain the smile that spread across her face. Everything was working out perfectly!
But tomorrow was far from perfect. Vanessa got to wear the dress but Jenny did not. Two other girls that Jenny didn't really know from Karen's neighborhood wore it instead. Then the next day Claire and Margo Pike as well as Myriah Perkins got to wear the dress. On Thursday, Jenny asked Karen if she could wear the dress.
Karen scrunched her face up. "No. You are too little, Jenny. It will not fit you. Besides, I do not like you very much and I know you do not like me." With that, she flounced off.
Jenny couldn't believe it. Claire Pike was only a little bit older than she was, and just as small as Jenny, and she got to wear the dress! And Jenny had been nice to Karen all week! All week!
She needed a plan to get even. Karen was going down.
Friday, Jenny made sure to bring the hair curlers Mommy bought for her to camp. She walked up to Mary Anne and said, "I thought that Karen would like to have her hair done just like the princess had her hair done. I know all about the princess, Mary Anne. So I thought, with your help, I could help make Karen gi... gig.."
"Gigundoly?" Mary Anne offered with a smile.
"Yes, gigundoly beautiful! Mommy said it was okay so long as only Karen used them and that one of you checked to make sure she did not have lice."
Mary Anne, who had been looking a little watery around the eyes, began to laugh. "I'll go ask Stacey if she would do the honors. This is so sweet of you, Jenny."
Jenny felt a little bad because she knew how upset Mary Anne would be at the end of camp. Still, Karen had to pay. Every other girl who wanted to wear the dress had worn it. Only Jenny had not, and this wasn't fair. None of the babysitters had noticed and Jenny only felt bad about tricking Mary Anne.
Jenny walked over to Karen. "I was thinking that as much as you looked like the princess when you married Nicky, your hair was wrong. I asked my mommy and she let me bring my curlers to camp today. We could fix your hair so you looked perfect. That way you could send a picture to your grandparents to thank them for the dress," she said.
Karen's mouth dropped open, but before she could say anything, Stacey appeared.
"Did you hear, Karen? Jenny and I will be doing your hair today. Won't that be fun?" Jenny knew that Stacey would be so distracted by the thought of giving a makeover, even to a brat like Karen, that there was no way she'd realize what was really going on until it was too late.
Jenny smiled sweetly and plotted her revenge.
Hours later and camp was nearly over. Stacey was putting the finishing touches on Karen's makeup and Jenny was arranging Karen's hair. "See, you pull it back like this," she said, "and then you put the tiara on, and the veil over that and you'll be perfect."
Karen still seemed to think Jenny was up to something even though Jenny had been on her best behavior. She'd yelled when Jenny had brought over the curlers. "She wants to burn my hair off!" Stacey had to step in and point out that Jenny was too young to use the curlers, she was just carrying them while Stacey had her hands full of other things.
Now Karen seemed too amazed at how different she looked. "I look..."
"Beautiful," Jenny said, earning a smile from Stacey.
"She's right, Karen. You do look beautiful. Come on, let's go downstairs and let Claudia take your picture before your father picks you up."
Karen eyed Jenny. "I think I will wait a few minutes. Princesses are always fashionably late."
Jenny glared at Karen. Not once had she apologized or offered to let Jenny wear the dress. So the plan was definitely still on. She followed after Stacey, making sure that all the curlers were where they belonged. When they were outside, Jenny wandered off to complete the next part of her plan.
"Presenting Princess Karen!" Nancy and Hannie announced a few minutes later.
"You'd think they'd be used to that thing by now," Kristy grumbled. "They've been wearing it all week."
"Kristy, it's fun to play dress up. Besides, Karen looks so pretty. You did a really good job, Stacey," Shannon said as Jenny walked by.
No one noticed or paid any attention to Jenny as she worked her way through the crowd surrounding Karen. She'd timed it perfectly.
"Say princess!" Claudia called out.
"Hey, Karen!" Jenny said at the same time. Karen turned her head just in time to see Jenny fling a cup of cherry red paint all over her princess dress as Claudia captured the whole thing on camera.
Jenny was sure her mother would understand.