IMG_1400It was an ordinary September 29th. I was studying scientific laws for school while the others were doing what they usually did – anything they put their minds to. Me? I just studied and studied. I was determined to make good grades this year, what with Madison throwing scientific laws in our face and whatnot.

IMG_1401“The Charles Law,” I mumbled to myself. “The volume of a gas is directly…”

Now, usually I have no problem tuning the world out for homework. But something about what the others were doing was so incredibly tempting I couldn’t possibly bear to keep my eyes on the formula numbers and letters for a moment longer. What on earth are they up to? I pondered as I slowly looked up.

IMG_1403“This way, Ellie, quietly now! Careful, careful… *ACK!* Don’t step on Coconut!” Jasmine was directing Ellie, carrying a near-toppling tower of… presents?

IMG_1404Chloe and Cécile were whispering in hushed voices. “Party…surprise…Emelie…ten years old…” Josefina and Molly were doing the same thing. “Cookies or cupcakes…How about both? Can’t forget…her favorite flavor…ice cream…”

IMG_1405I slowly sat up and put away my hot pink composition book and favorite No. #2 pencil. I tried to put all the pieces of the puzzle together…

“Oh my lands!” I gasped. “Today’s my birthday!

I slammed my comp book shut as I gasped, and in response to my cry, all heads turned my way.

IMG_1406“Wow. That’s new.” Jasmine remarked. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen her look up from her studies unfinished!” Everyone giggled.

IMG_1407“Well, I guess there’s no surprise anymore,” laughed Chloe. “We might as well have her party now.”

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EMELIE!” Everyone shouted.

A huge smile lit up my face.

IMG_1408Oh my goodness…it’s the day I’ve been hoping for! The gorgeous doll..she’s going to be mine! My thoughts raced faster than a speeding train as the others gathered around and Ellie slid presents my way.

IMG_1410But all my enthusiasm faded as I saw the presents. Not one was that spectacular rectangle-shaped doll box I had been hoping for. My heart nearly broke! Didn’t…didn’t they know that…all I wanted was a doll of my very own?

IMG_1412Everyone was finally settled, but I just stared at the gifts in disbelief.

IMG_1413“Open them already!” Molly cried impatiently, throwing her hands up in the air – smacking Chloe’s face in the process and nearly knocking off her glasses.


“No harm done…”

IMG_1414“Are you scared of opening them? What on earth would you be afraid of?” Jaz joked playfully at my hesitance.

IMG_1415I relucntatly pulled the presents closer. Go on with it, Em! Just put on a show and pretend you adore them!

As much as I wanted to say, “I’m afraid of what might not be in there,” all that came out was, “I’m afraid of what might be in there!”

IMG_1416Everyone laughed and giggled at my “joke”. “Aw, come on, we’re not that cruel!” Ellie chuckled. “Open them, open them!”

IMG_1418I sighed, reaching for the smallest circular box.

IMG_1419I pulled the fluffy bow-ish thing off, then the lid, and then pulled out a bracelet with a heart on it. “It’s beautiful,” I choked out, putting it on. But my thoughts were on that square box. Maybe they put her in there…maybe…maybe….

IMG_1420The bracelet was nice, but my eyes were on the purse next. “Saving the big box for last, I see,” Chloe grinned.

IMG_1421The black-and-white rose-decorated purse opened easily, and to my dismay, there was a little journal and pink pen in there.

IMG_1422Why on earth did they give me this? This would have been perfect for Chloe’s birthday. She’s always writing stuff. Thoughts jumbled together in my head, but all that came out was, “Thank you so much! I’ve been wanting to have a diary for some time now.”

IMG_1423The big box sat in front of me. This is it! Maybe…maybe…just maybe she’s in here. The lovely doll…the most perfect, wonderful, amazing…perhaps…suppose…maybe there’s a chance!

IMG_1424I ripped off the lid expectantly and tore away the tissue paper.

IMG_1425I could have cried. What on earth?! Who thought to give me shampoo and conditioner?

IMG_1427Chloe didn’t seem to notice my disgust, for she asked happily, “Do you like it? Your hair always smells so nice, but I noticed you were running out of your favorite kind, so I got you some more! Pantene is the brand, right? Oh, I’m so glad you like it!” As if she knew my answer would be, “I love it, thank you so much.”

IMG_1428Then the fluffy decorations sprang apart to be hairbands. They didn’t even care to get real bows…

IMG_1429“Let’s eat! Cécile and I prepared practically a feast for you!” Josefina declared.

IMG_1430I had to bite my lip hard to keep from bursting into alligator tears. My doll…my beautiful doll…she’s not…here!

As I slid down from my bed and watched the others joyfully set out plates and treats, Molly caught my eye.

IMG_1431“Can I talk to you for a minute?” She asked.

“Absolutely,” I replied crisply in my Brittish accent, blinking my wet eyes.

IMG_1432She led me outside where it was raining. It was humid, but on the porch we were dry. Using her gymnast strength, Molly climbed up onto the wooden rail-post-fence-thing.

I used my gymnast strength too, but struggled a little. Last time I climbed onto something, I was afraid. I wasn’t so scared anymore, just wondering how Molly climbed up so effortlessly.

Remembering she had been a gymnast much longer than I have and probably had more muscle, I finally found myself atop of the rail-fence-post-thing.

IMG_1434“So,” I mentioned after a bit of awkward silence. “What’s on your mind, Molls?”

IMG_1435She turned to look at me – it was almost scary! A burning fire showed in her eyes. “This is about the doll, isn’t it?” She demanded sharply.

“What are you talking about?”

“You can’t fool your best friend. Your act might have worked on the others, but not on me. Emelie, your friends worked really hard to prepare the party and presents for you, and all you can think about is some doll you didn’t get?”

Molly’s words stung, and I felt warmth come to my cheeks.

IMG_1436“Some poor kids around the world don’t even get a party or presents or anything! They’re dying of hunger and malnutrition, yet you stick up your nose at the blessings provided for you? Do you know how hard Josefina and Cécile worked in that hot kitchen making food for your party? What about the money spent to get your presents? It might not be much to you, but we all gave up our allowances for a week to get those gifts for you, because we LOVE you! Doll or no doll, look at what you DO have! A loving family, food to eat, clothes on your back and a roof over your head. How could you be so ungrateful, Emelie?”

IMG_1437I turned away in shame. I did act pretty selfish – make that really selfish.

IMG_1438A hot tear spilled down my cheek. It took courage to look Molly in the face again.

IMG_1440“You’re right. You’re completely right. It was really wrong of me to act like that – I’m so sorry!” I blurted.

IMG_1441“I just…I’ve always wanted a doll. Last year I didn’t get a doll for my birthday, or Christmas, and I really want one. But it seems silly and childish to yearn for one now – how thoughtless I’ve been to you, and everyone else, and Madison. I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t look her in the eyes anymore.

IMG_1442Molly pulled me into a hug. “It’s fine, Emelie. And I shouldn’t have snapped at you…I think we’ve been in the stuffy house for too long!”

We both laughed so hard until we cried. It was over nothing really, just laughing and crying. All the emotions deep inside of us – the devastation of having to move, the frustrations of Florida, the yearn for a non-chaotic life – came out in a few moments.


IMG_1445We finally dried our eyes and pulled away and just stared at each other, smiling. “Oh, Molly, it feels so good to laugh and cry,” I told her breathlessly. The raining had turned to a soft drizzle, and when we turned to look at the wet world beyond us, we saw it through different eyes, as if those unshed tears were blinding us.

IMG_1448“Florida is beautiful,” I breathed. As stubborn as Molly was, she relented until that moment. “It’s not like Texas, but…it’s pretty.”

IMG_1449I grabbed her hand, and for what seemed like an hour, we stared at the world dripping with beauty, knowing that as long as we were together and trusted in God, everything would be alright.

And, maybe I’d get the doll for Christmas.

IMG_1450“Emelie?” Molly broke the happy silence.

“I know, I know. We better get in…they’re waiting for us.” I smiled reluctantly as we both climbed down and back to the party.

IMG_1451“Yay, the birthday girl is here!” Cécile started up a cheer. Everyone began to sing in gorgeous voices, “Happy birthday to you…”

I felt warm and happy to be surrounded by my friends.

IMG_1452“This has been the best birthday ever, guys – thank you for being such amazing friends!”