Early in the afternoon, after church had finished and the girls and families had all returned home, Grace entered her cabin room. On her bed, was a beautiful new dress. It was blue with little white polka dots and the yoke at the top was positively adorable. Grace wondered if it was for her. "Perhaps this was mistakenly delivered to me," she thought aloud, "I never ordered a beautiful dress such as this one."
She fingered the dress delicately, when suddenly the corner of a note popped out of the sleeve. Grace worried that the dress and note were for someone else, and that it was wrong to read the note, but she grabbed the note and began to read it.
We request your presence in the dining hall at once for a most important event. Please arrive wearing this dress.
Elizabeth and Friends
"So the dress is for me!" Grace smiled. "How I was hoping it was. Let me put it on!" Grace quickly rushed to get changed, her mind swirling with ideas on why her presence would be requested. Not once did the thought that she was going to a birthday party for herself ever cross her mind. How surprised she would be!
Grace peered into the hall. Her first glance at the hall showed many happy girls jumping up and down, waving their arms. "Surprise, Ella Grace! Surprise!"
Grace gasped in shock. "What is the meaning of this?" She laughed.
"It is a birthday party - for you!" the girls all screamed.
Grace couldn't help but frown a little bit, "Oh my, you needn't have gone through all of this trouble. My birthday is not so important!"
"Oh but it is!" Payton shouted.
"Come join us - let's party!" Elizabeth cried excitedly.
Grace entered the room and rushed to embrace Elizabeth, "Was this your idea?" She whispered.
"Well, in the beginning it was," Elizabeth replied, "But us AG Farm Girls, when we do something we all like to do it big and get involved."
"Oh Lizzie," Grace sighed in amazement as she gazed around the room at all of the festivities that had been planned and carried out just for her!
"Here is the seat for the birthday girl!" Lissie smiled at Grace and motioned for Grace to sit in the balloon-adorned throne.
Grace thanked Felicity and took her seat.
Once all of the cheering had died done a bit, Grace couldn't help but question, "Do you mean that you all did this just for me? This is such a splendid party, it must've been so much trouble!"
"We did it for you, but we wanted to have two guests of honor. After all, we figured that we may as well have another dear friend celebrate her birthday today too."
"Whatever friend could that be?" Grace inquired.
"Josefina, you can come out now!" Payton cried dramatically. From the dining hall closet, appeared Maria Josefina - Grace's friend that she had met on her first day of school.
Josefina was led to her guest-of-honor seat. "My birthday is on March 19th and today is the 13th. Your friends so generously invited me to come celebrate. Happy belated birthday, Grace!"
"Thank you so much," Grace smiled, blushing a bit, which she tended to do whenever she was given a lot of attention. "Happy early birthday to you, Josefina!"
"A special drink for the celebrated guests," Kit smiled, placing a strawberry soda ice cream shake in front of each girl.
"Oh, my favorite!" Grace exclaimed. "Josefina, you will love this drink! It is Kit's favorite recipe - straight from the 1930s!"
Josefina just nodded. She couldn't speak - she was quickly drinking down the soda shake!
Then Felicity brought out a cake. "12 candles with 1 to grow on!" Lissie exclaimed.
"Groovy Girls," Josefina read the writing on the cake and then giggled.
Felicity rolled her eyes in exasperation, "That is the sort of caption you get when Julie decides the cake's writing!"
Josefina and Grace just giggled some more and Felicity couldn't help but join in on the lighthearted laughter.
The candles were lit, the lights dimmed, the curtains closed, and then Happy Birthday was sung. As the song began to come to a close, Grace thought of what she would wish for. What was there? Her mother was on a quick road to recovery, America was becoming more and more her home, she would probably be back in Paris soon anyway, the girls were becoming more and more her friends. What did Grace want? For the first time ever, she was content. She was happy. She wanted nothing more than what she had in the world.
As the song finally did come to a close, she and Josefina reached over to blow out the candles. I wish for the feeling I have now and the friends I have now to last for a very, very long time. I wish to remember this moment forever.
With that, her wish was made, as was Josefina's. The candlelight disappeared and the room's window curtains were reopened and the lights were turned back on.
The girls ate crazy amounts of delicious cake and chattered, laughed, and some even danced to the classical music playing in the background.
Then, the gifts were brought out. Each girl received 4 gifts.
"Oh my, you didn't need to give me gifts!" Josefina was surprised.
"But we wanted to, you're our friend now. We are so lucky that Grace was able to meet you!" Molly told her.
Each girl got a stuffed animal, a tote bag, and a wrapped gift.
"These bags are just so beautiful!" Josefina exclaimed.
"Mine is going to start a new trend back in Paris," Grace laughed, "I have never seen anything like this purse made of a pair of jeans, but I love it!"
"Good!" Ivy smiled, "Julie's mom made both at her Gladrags store. We knew they would be perfect to give as gifts."
"Now you can each come up one at a time and open your wrapped gift," Elizabeth, the party director, told the girls as she cleared a space on the table for the wrapped gifts to be unwrapped.
Josefina went up first and unwrapped an Apples to Apples game.
"We didn't really know what you liked, but this is the latest Apples to Apples edition and we figured that you might not have it," Ivy told Josefina.
"No, I do not have it - in fact I have never played this game," Josefina told the girls. "But it looks very fun. I know my family will enjoy playing it with me."
"Speaking of family," Felicity and Elizabeth began, glancing around the room and building up suspense. "We talked to your parents when we invited you here. Our parents have set up an arrangement. A very special arrangement!"
"What is it?" Josefina couldn't help but ask. Everyone except she and Grace knew what the arrangement was.
"We will just say this," Felicity paused dramatically, while looking over at the other girls in on the surprise.
Then, at once, the girls cheered, "Welcome to American Girl Farms, Maria Josefina Montoya!"
Josefina gasped. "Whatever do you mean?"
"You are moving here, to the empty cabin! Now you don't just have to see Grace and the rest of us at school! Now you can live on this beautiful farm!"
Josefina could not believe her ears. She was really going to move on to the beautiful land and live with this wonderful group of girls. "Oh my goodness! Oh thank you!" Josefina cried as she embraced the other girls; her new sisters.
"I never want this day to end. Never! How it has changed my life!"
After all of the cheering, crying, and excitement of the big announcement had died down considerably, Grace too the center stage. She blushed as she began to open her present and noticed Felicity taking pictures. "You don't need to take pictures, Lissie!"
"Yes, I do!" Felicity responded, proceeding to snap 100 more.
She gave up on opening the present cleanly, and just decided to tear into the wrapping paper. She gasped as she stared down at the doll in the box in front of her. It was Rebecca! A doll that she had wished for!"
Grace shared a special moment with her first American Girl doll and sighed contently.
"How did you ever manage this?" Grace asked them all."Forget about how we managed it and smile for the camera," Lissie ordered.
She slid the box completely out of the paper, her fingers shaking with surprise and excitement.
Then she smiled for the camera that Felicity held. Meanwhile, Kit and Kanani were behind her snapping up pictures as well.
"Speech! Speech!" Payton jokingly cried out. She knew that Grace didn't like to speak, but on this occasion, Grace didn't mind speaking a little.
As the girls hugged her, Grace did begin a short speech.
"I just want to thank you all. I know that things have been rough here for my first year, but you have all made it better. Even for times when I have been a little rude or a little quiet when I shouldn't have or maybe times when I accused you girls of doing things and times when I just wished to be alone, well, even during those times, a part of me knew what true friends you all were. Every single one of you." Grace had really wanted to resist getting all sappy and all emotional, but she couldn't help it as a tear fell from her eye and slid down her cheek.
This was one of the best days of her life, made even better by the true friends that surrounded her.
Later on in the day when Josefina had gone home to pack to move to AG Farms, and the other girls had long since gone to get ready for school the next day, Payton and Ivy entered the dining hall a bit hesitantly. Grace still sat at the table, Looking at the remains of the party. Looking about as though she could still see her friends dancing and chattering.
Her thoughts were broken when Payton whispered, "Grace?"
"Yes?" Grace looked over at Payton and Ivy who had both just entered the room.
"Well, uh, those, um, monkey stuffed animals, they have a special meaning. A different meaning than what you might think," Payton stuttered out. Grace had never seen her that unsure of herself before.
"What meaning would that be?" Grace asked curiously.
"Well, you see, is that I - and Ivy - bought these stuffed animals for you to keep one monkey and the two of us to keep one monkey. When you are in Paris, our monkeys will be apart. Then, when they come together, the monkeys can connect. If we each keep one, then we will always remember each other, even after you move away. And we will also each have something that can fit with only one other - kind of like those heart friendship necklaces. You know what I mean?"
Grace smiled, "Payton, Ivy, that is really, really thoughtful. I was worried about us losing touch when I move back to Paris, but now I believe that we won't."
Ivy nodded, "We are glad you like the stuffed animal and that you don't want to forget us either."
"Ivy, Payton, you two and the other girls on this farm, are the truest friends I've ever had the pleasure of having."
With that, the three close friends embraced each other. Grace knew right then that she had found the truest friends she could ever have found, and that no matter where life took them all - even if it took them apart, they would never really be without each other.
The end of the story! I'd love to hear your feedback! Thank you for reading! It feels so good to be back to blogging!