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Authors: Jen Malone

The Sleepover

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PART ONE

Chapter One: The Promise of Epic

Chapter Two: Pineapple-and-Pickle Pizza

Chapter Three: Zombies at the Drive-In

Chapter Four: Imagine Your Happy Place

PART TWO

Chapter Five: One-a-Chick, Two-a-Chick

Chapter Six: Ninja Nancy Drews

Chapter Seven: The Terms of a Pucker-Up

Chapter Eight: Kobe Bean Bryant

Chapter Nine: Locker Rooms and Incubators

Chapter Ten: Do Janitors in Japan Play Unicycle Floor Hockey?

Chapter Eleven: White Hair and Carrot-Covered Fingers

Chapter Twelve: Flutes and Batons and Tubas, Oh My!

Chapter Thirteen: Hedgie the Havocking Hedgehog

Chapter Fourteen: A Hedgehog for a Lady

Chapter Fifteen: Moment of Truth

Chapter Sixteen: The YouTube Stylings of Madame Mesmer

Chapter Seventeen: Madame Mesmer's Mystical Masterpiece

Chapter Eighteen: When He's Bad, He's Better

Chapter Nineteen: Swings and Pinkies

Chapter Twenty: Mystery Solved!

Chapter Twenty-One: So Long, Farewell . . .

PART THREE

Chapter Twenty-Two: Revenge is a Dish Best Served in PJs

Acknowledgments

About Jen Malone

TO CAROLINE

MAY ALL YOUR SLEEPOVERS BE TAME IN COMPARISON

PART ONE
CHAPTER ONE
The Promise of Epic

T
onight is gonna be EPIC.

I smile to myself and work in a few hip wiggles in time to the song blaring (or at least nudged to the highest possible volume I can get away with without my mom appearing in my doorway with her arms crossed), as I toss my favorite polka-dot flannel pajama bottoms into my bag. I have to stop dancing to wrestle my pillow into my already jam-packed sleeping bag pouch, and then I jump in place to get the drawstring to close. Who knew packing for a sleepover could be such a workout?

My hand hovers over Hippy, my stuffed hippo, lying facedown on my comforter. Pack him. No, don't. Yes, do. No, way too babyish. This might be my first sleepover, but I'm not actually
that
young. Depending on whether you consider twelve and three-quarters young. (FYI: I don't.) And, well, it isn't technically my first sleepover, but it
is
the first one where I fully and completely intend to make it to the actual sleeping-over
part. Let's just say there was a little
Could you please, please call my mom to pick me up?
incident when it came to lights-out at my friend's house when I was seven. It, um, might have happened again at age eight. And nine. We sort of skipped trying after that, but I'm (almost, in three months)
thirteen
now.

I can do this.

I pause with one hand on the zipper of my duffel bag. Then I reach across it, grab Hippy, wrap him in my West Oak Middle School sweatshirt, and nestle the bundle gently underneath the clothes I've packed to change into in the morning.

Epic is epic, but
if
we ever get around to actual sleeping at this sleepover, a girl might need her stuffed hippo. I'm just saying.

I shake my bag to clear space for a few extras.

 Nail polish “borrowed” from Mom's bathroom: check

 Camera for maximum selfie-taking (even if I'll have to connect it to a computer to put the pictures on Anna Marie's Instagram since
someone's
parents don't approve of either smartphones or social media sites for not-yet-teenagers): check.

 
Girls' Life
magazine, latest issue: check.

I pull my iPod from its dock and tuck it on top before zipping my duffel closed. Done! Nope, not done. I open it again to slide three fair-trade organic carob bars (despite Mom's claims, these are
not
“practically the next best thing to a candy bar”—don't be fooled) along the side.
Zzzzip!

There. I hoist the sleeping bag over my shoulder and try to ignore the fact that the strap is digging into my skin. You know what? I don't even care. Nothing is going to ruin tonight!

Epic. It's gonna be epic. I don't know
exactly
what that means, but Paige and Anna Marie keep saying they want my first true sleepover to be epic and it sounds like a good thing and I'm just going to pretend I don't have the teensy, tiniest, little belly-flip feeling when I try to picture the night. It might be true that I've never been an epic kind of person, but who's to say I couldn't be if I tried? And when better to try than tonight?

The doorbell rings out Pachelbel's “Canon in D” in tinny ding-dong notes.

“Mom!
Mo-ooom!
Can you get that? It's Paige!” I yell down to the first level. She hates when I yell between floors, but I know Paige, and she'll be leaning on that doorbell again in 2.5 seconds. Mom will hate that even more, I'm positive.

I take the stairs from my attic bedroom two at a time and thud onto the second-floor landing. Leaning over the railing, I spot my mom in the downstairs hallway, one arm in a
cardigan sweater and the other grabbing at the air behind her for the empty sleeve. The doorbell chimes again, followed by three short bursts as Paige jabs the button.

Knew it.

“Someone needs to teach that girl some manners. She's murdering Pachelbel,” Mom mutters loudly enough for me to hear as I reach the bottom stair. Tugging the door open, Mom raises an eyebrow at Paige, looking oh-so-Paige with her long blond hair in waves and wearing a fringed denim miniskirt and furry boots. She has her elbow propped on the doorframe.

“Mrs. A. What up?”

“Paige.” Just the one word, but I can hear all the disapproval it holds. I cringe and hope my friend doesn't pick up on it. I hurry to cross the hallway, dragging my duffel behind me, and insert myself in front of my mom. Luckily, Paige just smiles her normal grin at me and blows her bangs out of her eyes.

“Girlfriend! You ready for an awesomesauce night?”

I start to bounce a little in excitement, but then I remember Mom just behind me.

“Um, yeah, it should be good.” I shrug and kick at the door threshold with my sneaker. With my shoulders angled so Mom can't see my face, I catch Paige's eyes and send her a silent plea to play it cool.

I turn to my mother with a small smile and see her eyes narrow slightly. “I fail to see what's ‘awesomesauce' about working on a science fair project. You have your biology textbook in there, right, Meghan Elizabeth?”

I shoot another desperate look at Paige, but I know she'll catch on. She has two older brothers and an older sister, so she's well schooled in the art of parental management. She doesn't even miss a beat before she says, “No worries. She can use mine, Mrs. A. I only meant that plotting the nocturnal exercise patterns of Anna Marie's hamster has the potential to be totally amazeballs when we take first place in the science fair, is all.”

My mother does not look convinced. It's not that Mom wouldn't let me go on a regular sleepover without the whole science fair story, but then I'd have to listen to all kinds of lectures on what to do . . . and what not to do. It's not worth it. Plus, with my personal sleepover history, it's
really
not worth it. Mom's eyebrows do that meet-in-the-middle-like-a-V thing above her nose, and she shakes her head once.

“You have your retainer? And your Ladybug cell in case of an emergency? And please go to bed at a reasonable time, you hear me? We're going right from picking you up tomorrow afternoon to handbell rehearsal at church, and I don't want you yawning your way through it, or Reverend Robbins will be offended. And for heaven's sake, Meghan, don't forget to floss!”

Paige is one of my good friends, so she knows this is how it is, but yeah . . . my parents are pretty strict. (Well, mostly Mom, but Dad doesn't like to “rock the boat” once Mom's made up her mind about something.) You would think living under martial rule would have made me desperate to get away for all those other sleepovers, but the thing is, Mom's also got a pretty overactive imagination, and I think maybe I inherited it. Usually what happens when she won't let me walk to the park alone because of “stranger danger” or warns me against eating anything with Yellow 5 dye in it because she watched a talk show that said it could cause cancer, is that I end up not even really wanting to because who wants to be kidnapped or to get sick? Not me.

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