Pink and purple ponies pranced playfully along a rainbow of brilliant color. I danced amidst the whinnying procession, laughing. My kicks produced sparkling sprays of petunia petals. "Will you look at that!"
A pony nuzzled my shoulder. "Neigh!"
I petted her velvet nose. "My sweet little pony," I murmured.
The nuzzling grew more insistent.
"Pssst! Elisabeth! Wake up!"
I blinked my eyes open. A darkened face, framed in blonde hair, leaned over me.
"Huh?" I tried to focus my eyes. "Kailey? What do you want?" That's what I meant to say. But it sounded more like, "Grummumnammmum..."
Kailey shook me again. "Elisabeth! The presents! My mom opened her presents today! We have to see what they were!"
"Presents," I murmured. "Pretty pink ponies."
"Never mind the pretty pink ponies!"
A short distance away, Alicia stirred.
"The presents are upstairs," Kailey hissed in my ear. "Come on!"
"Tomorrow," I said, rolling over to go back to sleep. "My ponies are waiting."
"Would you forget your stupid ponies! This is important!"
"Oh--" I grumbled, but roused myself awake. I sat up and bumped into Margaret, who was sleeping beside me. She bolted upright. "That's my teddy!" she cried. I calmed her with a kiss and tucked her bear into her arms. "Shhh, Margaret. Here's your bear." Still asleep, she snuggled around the bear and rolled away from me.
Kailey tugged at me and I nodded. We slid off the doll display case where I slept with my sisters, taking care not to land on Lady, our dog. Lady let out a doggy snore as we crept around her and up the stairs to Kailey's mom's room. We hesitated in the doorway, listening to her mom breathing the deep breaths of sleep. I was certain she would show all of us her presents in the morning, but I also understood Kailey's anxiety. What if one of the gifts was a rival AG doll?
Kailey and I tiptoed in, and I could make out a shape foreign to the room, silhouetted in the glow of the streetlight. As we neared, I realized it was a stack of boxes. The streetlight was too dim to make out any details, but Kailey seemed to already know what was printed on the boxes.
"American Girl Today!" she whispered. "They're genuine American Girl boxes! For me!"
"What's in them?" I asked, but my question was rhetorical as I was already slipping the cover off one of the smaller boxes. Inside was something heavy, round, and wrapped in bubblewrap.
"An American Girl doll stand!" Kailey exclaimed. "Elisabeth, it's a real American Girl doll stand. Just like I asked for!"
"Shhh!" I shushed her and we paused, listening for the sound of Kailey's mom. Her breathing continued, slow and steady.
"I'm very happy for you, Kailey," I whispered a moment later as I picked up another box. Kailey grabbed the nearest box and ripped off the lid. Both boxes contained clothing, but it was too dark to make out what kind.
"But they're Genuine American Girl clothes! For me! And they're so soft. Mmmmm..." She held one of the garments to her cheek for a moment before tossing it aside. "Help me with the BIG one!"
With one of us on either side, we worked the lid loose. Kailey shoved me aside and peered in.
"EEK! THERE'S A DOLL IN HERE!"
I clasped my hand over Kailey's mouth. At her shriek, the newcomer's eyes popped open.
"Aaahh! It's alive!" Kailey's words were muffled by my hand, but loud enough to disturb Kailey's sisters.
"Shhh," came a quiet voice from the shelf above us. "It's two in the morning."
"Yes, you'll wake everybody up."
The second voice came from the box between us. We turned to the new doll.
"W-who are you?" asked Kailey.
"I can't see very well," the new doll answered. "It's too dark. I'm tied in here. Help me out, please?"
We both took a step back.
"Come on, I won't bite."
"Then why are you tied up?" I asked.
"Because Mom wanted to make a big to-do about my arrival tomorrow. Pictures and everything. I heard her tell her friend."
"How do we know you're not a doll-eating monster?" asked Kailey.
The new doll giggled. "You'll have to take that chance, won't you?"
I liked this new doll. She had a sense of humor. I giggled, too. "I can see we're going to be great friends--" I started to undo her bonds, but Kailey yanked me back.
"What are you crazy? She could be another Am-Am-Amercan--"
"American Girl doll?" said the newcomer. "I am! My name's Marisol Luna. I'm AG's Girl of the Year 2005! And I know who you are. I heard mom tell her friend. You're the special, limited edition, All-American Kailey doll! I've always wanted to meet you."
Kailey's eyes seemed to glow in the dark. "You have?!"
"Yes, I've always admired you, though I know I can't hope to be nearly as popular as you."
I stumbled backwards to avoid being trampled as Kailey shoved past me. "Elisabeth! What are you waiting for? Help Marisol out of her box! So what's happening at AG? How's Kirsten? How's Samantha? How's that new girl, Nellie? It's been such a long time!"
"Nellie is a sweetheart. She and Samantha are still excited about their movie. And Kirsten is doing well. Oh and Addy says, 'Hi!' She really misses you..."
I stood back, listening to their American Girl talk, and feeling...well...left out.
Marisol hopped nimbly from her box. "I'm a dancer, you know," she said when Kailey gushed over her gracefulness.
"A dancer!" came a voice from above, followed by the sound of someone clambering down the shelves. "I love to dance!" It was Candy.
"Oh, wow!" I heard the rustling of covers being thrown back and a chorus of voices as I was jostled from every side. "A new doll!" I tried to move out of the way and collided into Lily. She didn't seem to notice. She was too interested in meeting the new doll.
Marisol was engulfed in the onrush of dolls. It seemed everyone in the room was awake, and they all wanted to meet the new doll.
"This is Marisol," I heard Kailey announce over the noise. "She's a REAL American Girl doll! Just like me!"
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