Once upon a time, in a bedroom that usually housed a single, white, cast-iron bed, three girls, Veronica Bradbury, Zoe Carter and Ellie Rose were laying down two additional mattresses on the carpeted floor, in preparation for the sleepover of a lifetime. There was an air of excitement in the room as this was Veronica and Zoe’s first sleepover. Veronica was the host and had spent a great deal of time over the past few days making sure everything would be perfect. She moved her dresser into the spare room, made sure everyone had matching sheets, and that music could be played through the old radio her father loaned her for the night. At first, Zoe stood off to the side of the room, clutching her bag containing her personal belongings including her asthma puffer, hay fever medicine and a paper bag her mother packed for her, “just in case,” but, she eventually put her bag in the corner of the room and helped to make the beds. Then there was Ellie. The other two girls could never have guessed what Ellie was truly thinking or feeling because she had become incredibly talented at pretending to enjoy herself. After all, Ellie had already experienced this sleepover eighty-one times in a row.
Around the twentieth time Ellie had experienced this recurring sleepover, she had grown tired of looking at the dinosaur on the sleeping bag she was forced to borrow from her sister and tried to convince Veronica that they should set up the mattresses later in the afternoon, giving them more room to dance during the day. Veronica’s stubbornness prevailed and, after trying and failing to alter that particular part of the day five sleepovers in a row, Ellie gave up and accepted that she would have to look at the stupid dinosaur on her sleeping bag for as long as she was stuck here. Once the three girls finished setting up their sheets and pillows, Ellie told Zoe she should move her bag from the corner of the room in case she needed to access her medicine easily. Thankfully, Zoe always agreed and hung her bag on the post at the end of Veronica’s bed.
Once the room was set up, Veronica suggested they use the large area in front of their beds and create a dance. Although her heart and mind disagreed with the words about to come out of her mouth, Ellie announced that dancing sounded like a terrific idea. Having performed the dance no fewer than eighty times before, Ellie was now proficient at pretending not to know the moves, then gradually impressing her two friends with her memory of steps they had only discussed once or twice. Out of pure frustration, the twelfth time they had performed this dance, Ellie made the audacious move of out-dancing Veronica and, as a result, spent the rest of the day receiving the silent-treatment from her friend. She never repeated that mistake again, instead focusing on building up Zoe’s confidence with some of the more complicated dance moves.
Exhausted from the dancing, the girls sat down at the small table in Veronica’s room to eat some snacks. Zoe and Veronica were always very eager to be eating the sweets, chips and soft drink that Veronica’s mother delivered promptly at 3:00pm each afternoon and Ellie was excited the first four times in a row she ate the junk food as well. Now, however, Ellie was well and truly over the taste of any of the sugary sweets and drinks, so, while her two friends smiled and enjoyed their one-off treats, she used this quiet time of the day to reflect on her single attempt to escape this sleepover.
On the third repetition of the never-ending sleepover, Ellie woke up to discover that her thrill about enjoying the sleepover again had turned to panic about when this might end, and, before her friends woke up, she made a brash attempt to leave the bedroom. She opened Veronica’s bedroom door, discovering that there was no house out there, only darkness. A darkness that Ellie never wanted to see again. She stared at the door, blocking out Veronica and Zoe’s laughter, wondering what she had done to deserve to be trapped in this sleepover. She continued to replay the first night of the sleepover in her mind, when, just before going to sleep, the three girls had wished that their night would never end.
Then, right on cue, Ellie’s train of thought was broken by Zoe requiring her Asthma puffer.
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