It’s a cold February day in smalltown, Nebraska and I’m packing my teal NYA Aquajets swim bag not for a swim meet, but for a sleepover. There are a million other bags I could pack in, but I choose my insanely large swim bag because I’m a braggy sonofabitch and I want to make sure the other girls know I’m an AQUAJET. I’ll casually say things under my breath like, “man, I’m glad I don’t have a swim meet tomorrow so I was able to come to this sleepover tonight… did you guys know I’m on the swim team now?” Just in case they didn’t catch the subtle hints like my “Eat, Sleep, Swim,” t-shirt, sweatpants, slide sandals, and Umbro shorts.
Did I mention the year is 1998 ish? Everything I packed in that stupid swim bag would probably be fought over by Tik Tok kids today. Because once they get past all of the swim apparel they’re gonna find some disposable cameras (sadly most are already used but I bring the water camera anyway just in case) a shit ton of Bonne Belle chapstick that’s all covered in bite marks from my dog, and a Lisa Frank spiral notebook. I didn’t leave home without LF notebooks. Just never wanted to be caught without one, you know? I was sure the moment I forgot one someone would say, “hey does anyone happen to have a notebook full of Doug Funny drawings we could look at to submit to Nickelodeon?” And then what would I do? I’d never forgive myself.
But anyway, this is how the night is gonna play out.
Once I’m all packed, I’m gonna call my friend Megan from the phone in our kitchen– if I can find it! Someone left it off the charger again it’s dead wherever it is. My mom’s gonna be pissed so I don’t even want to bring it up. I’ll just use the phone attached to the fax machine in her office (which also happens to be my favorite prank phone because when people call it back they get that beepy fax sound and holy shit that cracks me up.)
“Hey Meg, can I come over now?” I know Allysa has been at her house since they left school and that really grinds my gears. It’s almost as bad as catching a sleeping bag “hidden” in a room at a birthday party where you didn’t know there was a sleepover at the end.
“Yeah, my mom will just come get you because we’re gonna go to the basketball game now we decided.”
“Okay, great,” I say trying to mask my disappointment.
They’re already changing the night without my input. We were supposed to rollerblade around Megan’s basement before we started dropping Barbies down her laundry shoot and then we’d settle into an evening of green face masks that cracked after thirty seconds and made our noses all crusty while we ate Dunkaroos and Doritos and watched Billboard Dad.
But this was fine. I could make it work. I’d get one of those suckers at the basketball game that kinda felt like chalk in your mouth that also put holes in your cheeks while I ran off some steam under the bleachers. No biggy. I’m adaptable.
“We’ll pick you up after we get the others,” Megan adds in a tone I don’t like. Everyone knows pick-up order isn’t chosen randomly. And who are the OTHERS?!
“Others?” I say casually.
“Yeah, I invited Hannah, Molly, and Natalie.
She invited the girls from the other school?
“Nice,” I say with a gulp.
“Yeah, I wanna hang out with them more.”
“Cool, me too.”
I hang up the fax machine phone and try not to panic. But this changes everything.
I run back to my room and throw in a few more swim t-shirts and a track medal or two. I take out the Barbie I packed because I’ve heard these girls aren’t into Barbies anymore.
“Don’t look at me like that, Lexi,” I say sadly as I put her back in the Barbie kitchen and tie a small apron around her waist, “If it were up to me you’d come along.”
But it’s not up to me anymore. This sleepover just took a turn and I already know I won’t be getting the best spot when it comes time to unroll the sleeping bags. If I don’t play my cards right I’ll be on the outside spot, but not just the outside spot, the outside spot by the door. The thought sends a chill down my spine.