The doorbell rang, and Penelope answered the door for Betty Jane, Mary-Anne, and Laura, who have promised to give their friend Alessandra a surprise little visit. They were each holding flowers, and Penelope let them in and said, "Come in, ladies."
"Thank you, Penelope," Betty Jane said.
"Just be very quiet, though," Penelope said in a whisper. "She seems quite amused about something, and we don't wish to disturb her now, do we?" She gave a wink.
Zeke and Joanna were up in their rooms, while Quincy was out, shopping for a new ladder. Betty Jane, Mary-Anne, and Laura were standing near Alessandra, glancing down at her, hoping for a miraculous recovery. They held hands as they watched Alessandra doze off into an unknown universe that was currently existing in her mind, a journey to a place that she once knew.........
Allie wondered what on Earth Mary Beth was doing here on the Dance Team. Didn't Mary Beth realize that the Dance Team was only for people who were really committed to joining the team? Didn't she also realize that she was months late to sign up for the dance team, and it would take her longer enough to learn all the steps and routine they needed to learn for the show in two weeks? Allie now wished that the Earth would just open up and swallow her.
Betty Jane said to her in a whisper, "Psst, don't look to your left, but I see the sidekick of that spoiled snob Esmeralda."
Allie groaned. "You just made it worse for me."
"I'm sorry; I was only warning you."
"What is she doing here?" Allie wondered.
Betty Jane merely shrugged in response.
"Great, now she's gonna make things worse for me!"
"No, she's not, Allie," Betty Jane said. "As long as I'm around, I won't let some snobby schoolgirls make you feel bad about yourself."
Allie appreciated Betty Jane having her back, but she knew that neither of them could speak for Mary Beth, since there was no telling what Mary Beth could do to make Allie's life upside-down. Everyone started imitating Ms. Hazel as she gradually showed them each step, each move, which Allie successfully attempted this time. A few minutes later, Ms. Hazel turned off the radio, and praised everyone for doing much better. "Well, that wasn't actually too bad," she said, "but we could still continue to practice, practice, practice." She glanced at her watch, which was ten minutes to 4:00. "All right, I suppose I should dismiss you all right now. Rehearsals are canceled for tomorrow, but will be re-scheduled for Saturday at 1:00 p.m., and we meet right here in the gym, so please be on time, if you wish to be part of the show. Thank you all very much for your cooperation, and have yourselves a great afternoon."
The other kids began making their way out, getting ready to go home. Allie did not know it yet, but Mary Beth had just noticed her for the first time. She could not believe that the new girl in school would do something so extreme such as joining the dance team. She was going to tell Esmeralda, and Esmeralda would surely get her comeuppance. Mary Beth wondered aloud to herself, "What's that newbie snob doing here on the dance team? Doesn't she know better than to rub her 'talents' in our faces?"
Walking home together, Betty Jane said to Allie, "You actually did pretty well, Allie."
"Ah, I only tried my best, that's all," Allie shrugged with modesty.
"No, you were really---exceptional, I mean. It's like you never let the sight of Mary Beth distract you from pushing yourself. You were really phenomenal. The Dance Team wouldn't be much of anything without you, Allie. Think about it."
"Oh, you really think so, Betty Jane?" Allie said, a little flattered.
"Yeah, of course I really think so. It's kind of funny that Mary Beth didn't notice you, though." Betty Jane giggled.
"Yeah, I guess?" Allie said with uncertainty.
And little did Allie know, Esmeralda and Mary Beth were secretly planning to avenge her. Esmeralda was up in her room, talking to Mary Beth on the phone, as Mary Beth was telling her about spotting Allie on the Dance Team for the first time. "Well, I didn't really notice her the first time I walked in," Mary Beth was saying, "but after the class was over, I saw her and Betty Jane walking out, and you just gotta wonder---what would a newbie, who has the habit of showing off her 'talents' and all that other junk, be doing on the school dance team? Unless she wants to show us up even more, don't you think? That girl is an annoying little pest."
"Who needs to be exterminated, and fast," added Esmeralda. She nodded in agreement. "Then the next thing you know, she's gonna become a cheerleader, and she's gonna join the dance committee, or even yet---start a book club, or even join the swimming team. She's gonna take over the whole school!"
"Yeah, and she claims to be from Boston," Mary Beth said.
Esmeralda scoffed. "Why would she come from such a far distance just to take over a whole school and have everyone bow down to her like she's Queen Elizabeth II or something?"
"I don't know," Mary Beth said with a shrug, even though it was actually a rhetorical question.
"It was a rhetorical question, Jesus, Mary Beth!" Esmeralda said with disgust.
"Sorry." Mary Beth could be a little ditzy sometimes.
"I'm not gonna let this Allie girl take over the whole school. She can kiss up to the teachers all she wants and be the teacher's pet that nobody really likes, but there is no way on Earth that I will let this new girl spread like a virus across the school. She needs to be put down in her place once and for all, and just like a deadly virus........she needs to be eliminated, and fast." Esmeralda had a devious grin on her face, and Mary Beth giggled. "And I have a feeling that I know exactly what I must do."
"And what is that, Esme?" Mary Beth asked with a giggle.
"You'll see. Just you wait and see." Esmeralda was very determined to take Allie down once and for all. Allie really did not know it yet, but she was yet to be put down in her place for an unfathomable reason.
Just then, Esmeralda's mother was calling her to come down for dinner, "Esmeralda, dear, please come down and get ready for supper!"
"Hold on a minute, Mary Beth," Esmeralda said, then opened the door and called back, "I'll be down there in a minute, Mother!" She said that with a slight hint of annoyance in her voice. She was certainly not a mama's girl.
She then said to Mary Beth, "And I think I know one thing I could do."
"And what is that?" asked Mary Beth.
"Hmm.........so, word on the street is that Quincy MacKenzie has a 'crush' on her, huh?"
"He does?" Mary Beth was completely oblivious to that.
"Yes, don't you see, M.B.? I caught the way he was staring at her that time I knocked her off the swings at recess. Staring at her like she's a lost little puppy or something. Ugh." She made a sick face. "And I see the way he constantly stares at her in the lunchroom, talking to his friends about how he likes her and such. Well, we all want what we can't have---don't mean we should have it, though." She started chuckling deviously.
"Oh, no, am I really thinking what you're thinking?" Mary Beth groaned.
"But that's so.......so........"
"That's so what, Mary Beth?"
"Dishonest!" Mary Beth blurted out. "It's wrong, it's dishonest, it's immoral---it's also genius, too!" As the sidekick of Esmeralda, Mary Beth could be a little bit of a goody-two-shoes sometimes. Unlike Esmeralda, she was actually a little nicer; she may be a little naive and ditzy, but at least she wasn't pure evil like Esmeralda, who seemed to have no trace of goodness in her heart whatsoever.
"Why, thank you, Mary Beth," said Esmeralda, grinning with arrogance.
Allie could not imagine having the worst Friday of her life, all thanks to Esmeralda and Mary Beth. Both girls have contributed to making Allie's life even more nightmarish than it already was. Mary Beth was the one who started the rumor that Allie had "cooties," thus making every single boy at school afraid of being seen next to her, or even a few feet next to her at all. Esmeralda contributed to making "subtle" moves on Quincy in order to make Allie crazy jealous, and also found the time to write an extremely cruel note on Allie's locker, which read, "You dance like a snail, you have no talent, and you're dumb and ugly, and you should go on back home to Boston."
Allie and Quincy were walking to school together that morning, when it was raining out, and Allie entered the school, only to have encountered her very first nightmare. Esmeralda came out of nowhere and ran up to Quincy, putting her arms all over him, kissing him a million times on the cheeks, and said in an attempted flirtatious manner, "Hey, Quincy MacKenzie. How are you doing today on this fine, lovely Friday morning?"
"Uh......it's raining outside," Quincy said, a little uncomfortably, as he tried to resist her constant touchings and other affectionate gestures.
"Hey, Allie." Mary Beth was smirking deviously. "Just a forethought, before you join the Dance Team, try not to make such a huge fool out of yourself. No girl should ever be out on the dance floor if she's got........cooties." She, Esmeralda, along with a few other girls, chuckled in unison. She and Esmeralda gave each other a high-five, as if to say, "Mission accomplished."
"Cooties?" Betty Jane said dubiously. "Mary Beth, what are you talking about?"
"I don't have cooties," Allie claimed.
"Yeah, what kind of joke is this?" Quincy said, glaring at Mary Beth.
"Oh, but everyone knows it's true," Esmeralda said, and everyone else just laughed, despite not really knowing what was actually funny. "Oh, and Allie, there's a piece of paper on your locker. You might as well read it---'cause you know, you really love to read, don't you?"
"What are you doing now, you nasty bully?" Betty Jane said angrily to Esmeralda.
"Shut up," Esmeralda said to her cynically.
Allie read the note that Esmeralda had written to her, and she looked like she was about to cry. She said to Betty Jane, "Is this really true about me? That I have cooties, and I have no talent?"
"What?" Quincy was shocked. He and Betty Jane each took turns reading the nasty note. "Allie, you know that's not true!" he said to her. "You're beautiful, you're talented, you're........you're exceptional. Don't listen to these mean bullies."
"No, I get it now," Allie said, sniffing as two, three tears came running down her face. "Just because I'm the new girl in state, I don't know anything about anybody, and apparently, I'm so contagious that nobody will ever look at me the same way again. I'm just a nobody." She started running off, tears coming down her face harder as she started crying her poor heart out.
Everyone else went off their own way, minding their own business, leaving Esmeralda and Mary Beth feeling like they were the queens of the world. Betty Jane and Quincy were glaring at them, telling them to feel ashamed of themselves for what they'd done to Allie. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves," Betty Jane scolded them. "Allie does not deserve this kind of treatment from you jerks. She's a human being, and she deserves to be treated like one."
"Human being my butt," Mary Beth muttered cynically, then giggled.
"Oh, put a sock in it, Betty Jane," Esmeralda said. "The least that your 'friend' can do is quit the Dance Team, if she really feels that poorly about herself."
"You were the one who wrote her that mean, nasty stuff, you big bully," Quincy snapped. "You did that on purpose! You want her to quit the Dance Team!"
"No, we want her to stop invading the school with her constant showing-off of talents that she claims to have; there's a difference," Esmeralda said snarkily.
"No, there's not," snapped Betty Jane. "The similarity is, you're both being mean, and you're both gonna get into huge trouble."
"Oh, snitch on us.......if you dare," said Esmeralda sardonically. "Oh, that's right, I didn't think so!"
Then Suzy Ann, Angel, and Carolyn, who were Betty Jane's other friends, came over and Suzy Ann said to Esmeralda, "That was really mean of you to push Allie off the swings at recess when she didn't even do a single thing to you. You just like to put innocent people to pain for no reason; you're a sadist, as well as a bully!"
"A sadistic bully," Angel said in agreement.
"Where did you three come from?" Mary Beth asked.
"Great, more remarks from the peanut galley," Esmeralda groaned.
"You two need to apologize for what you've done to Allie, otherwise we will snitch on you, and you will be in huge trouble," Carolyn said.
Esmeralda then decided to get a little threatening. "Excuse me, but you are not the principal of this school, are you?" she said to Carolyn. "No, I didn't think so, so you really shouldn't be telling me what to do. I've got my mother to do that."
"That may be so, but I'm still your cousin, and I'm older than you," Carolyn said. She, Suzy Ann, and Angel were in the seventh grade, while Esmeralda and Mary Beth were sixth graders.
Esmeralda scoffed. "You're not my authority figure!" she said to Carolyn. "Therefore, you're really not supposed to be telling me what I should or shouldn't do. You need to back off, Carolyn."
"Actually, I am supposed to tell you what you should and shouldn't do," said Carolyn. "We're cousins; I'm still responsible for you. You're being a bully, that's what you're doing. And it is my right to tell you to stop being such a jerk, and learn to grow up and do the right things for once."
"Yeah," said Betty Jane and Quincy in agreement.
"And you too," Carolyn said to Mary Beth. "Just because you're someone's sidekick, it doesn't mean you should go along with everything they tell you to do. If Esme here tells you to jump off a cliff, would you do that?"
"I would never tell my friend to jump off a cliff," Esmeralda growled, seething with rage now.
"A true friend would never manipulate another friend, like you always do to Mary Beth," Suzy Ann said.
"Yeah," said Angel in agreement. "We could turn the tables on you and tell everyone that you have cooties, but at least we're mature enough to know that two wrongs don't make a right."
"If you don't apologize to Allie, this mistake will haunt you all the days of your life," Quincy said to Esmeralda.
"And who's gonna make me?" Esmeralda scoffed. "What are you, my father? You might as well should have dressed up as a ghost for Halloween and make creepy sounds, telling me that I should regret my mistakes. Oh, and by the way, I notice that you are rather defensive of Allie, aren't you? You really seem to have a crush on her, don't you? If you really care about her that much, then for God's sake, why don't you just marry her?!"
"Maybe I will!" retorted Quincy.
"Yeah, maybe he will, you loser," snapped Betty Jane. "Quincy knows better than to end up with a loser like you."
"Oh, and by the way, nice try, because I would never go steady with a girl like you," Quincy said. "You're just mean, and all you ever really care about is yourself, and you enjoy putting other people down and don't even seem to regret it. At least Allie is much nicer. She's the type of girl that you will never be."
At that time, Esmeralda did not really have a good remark, because she hated to admit that the others were right. Esmeralda was the type of person who hated to admit whenever she was wrong, which was pretty much most of the time. She had the type of attitude where she thought she was right about everything, and everything at all. Instead, she only said, "I think I'm gonna be sick to my stomach," and ran off to the bathroom, which was her own little way of saying, "I give up."