Annie leaned against her locker and sighed. What a day! What a disaster! This school year wasn't starting out the way she had planned it at all.
Of course, Annie hadn't planned on that new girl, Kristen. And she definitely hadn't planned on the new girl wearing the exact skirt Annie was supposed to be wearing.
It wasn't just any skirt. Annie had baby-sat three active brothers all summer to buy that skirt and its designer accent top. When she saw them in her Teen magazine, Annie knew they were meant for her. She had gone right to the phone and called the 800 number for the "outlet nearest" her.
With price and picture in hand, she had set off to convince her mother.
"It's great, hon," her mother agreed. "I just can't see spending as much on one outfit as I do for all your clothes." Annie wasn't surprised, but she was disappointed.
"Well, if it's that important, we could put it on layaway," her mom said. "You'd have to pay for it, though."
So she did. Every Friday, Annie took all her baby- sitting money and paid down the balance.
She had made her final payment just last week and hurried home to try on the skirt and top. The moment of truth had arrived and she was afraid to look! She stood in front of the mirror with her eyes squeezed shut. She counted to three and forced herself to open them.
It was perfect. From the side, from the back and even from the front, it was perfect. She walked, she sat and she turned. She practiced humbly taking compliments so her friends wouldn't think she was stuck up.
The next day, Annie and her mother gave her bedroom the end of summer "good going over." They washed and ironed the bedspread and curtains, and vacuumed behind and under everything.
Then they sorted through the closets and drawers for clothes to give away. Annie dreaded all the tugging on and pulling off, the laundering and the folding into boxes. They dropped the boxes off at Goodwill, then headed to her grandmother's for the weekend.
When they got home Sunday night, Annie ran straight to her bedroom. Everything had to be just right for her grand entrance at school the next day.
She flung open her closet and pulled out her top and her...and her...skirt? It wasn't there. It must be here! But it wasn't.
"Dad! Mom!" Annie's search became frantic. Her parents rushed in. Hangers and clothes were flying everywhere.
"My skirt! It isn't here!" Annie stood with her top in one hand and an empty hanger in the other.
"Now, Annie," her dad said, trying to calm her, "it didn't just get up and walk away. We'll find it." But they didn't. For two hours they searched through closets, drawers, the laundry room, under the bed and even in the bed. It just wasn't there.
Annie sank into bed that night, trying to figure out the puzzle.
When she woke up the next morning, she felt tired and dull. She picked out something - anything - to wear. Nothing measured up to her summer daydreams.
It was at her school locker that the puzzle became, well, more puzzling.
"You're Annie, right?" a voice said from behind her.
Annie turned. Shock waves hit her. That's my skirt. That's my skirt! That's my skirt?
"I'm Kristen. The principal gave me the locker next to yours. She thought since we lived on the same block and I'm new here, you could show me around." Her voice trailed off, unsure. Annie just stared. How...? Where...? Is that my...?
Kristen seemed uneasy. "You don't have to. I told her we didn't really know each other. We've only passed each other on the sidewalk."
That was true. Annie and Kristen had passed each other, Annie to and from her baby-sitting job and Kristen in her fast-food uniform that smelled of onions and grease at the end of the day. Annie pulled her thoughts back to Kristen's words.
"Sure. I'll be happy to show you around," Annie said, not happy at all. The entire day, friends gushed over Kristen and the skirt while Annie stood by with a stiff smile.
And now Annie was waiting to walk Kristen home, hoping to sort this out. They chatted all the way to Annie's house before she worked up the nerve to ask the big question. "Where did you get your skirt, Kristen?"
"Isn't it beautiful? My mom and I saw it in a magazine while we were waiting for my grandma at the doctor's office."
"Oh, your mom bought it for you."
"Well, no." Kristen lowered her voice. "We've had kind of a hard time lately. Dad lost his job, and my grandma was sick. We moved here to take care of her while my dad looked for work."
All that went right over Annie's head. "You must have saved most of your paycheck then."
Kristen blushed. "I saved all my money and gave it to my mom to buy school clothes for my brother and sister." Annie couldn't stand it. "Where did you get your skirt?"
Kristen stammered, "My mother found it at Goodwill in a box that was dropped off just as she got there. Mom opened it, and there was the skirt from the magazine, brand new, with the tags still on it!" Kristen looked up.
Goodwill? Brand new? The puzzle pieces finally fell into place. Kristen smiled, and her face glowed. "My mother knew it was meant for me. She knew it was a blessing."
"Kristen, I..." Annie stopped. This wasn't going to be easy. "Kristen," Annie tried again, "can I tell you something?"
"Kristen." Annie took a deep breath. She hesitated for a moment. Then she smiled and said, "Do you have a minute to come up to my room? I think I have a top that would go great with your skirt."
By Cynthia M. Hamond
from Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul
Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Irene Dunlap
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