It was finally the day. Sally had been looking forward to this party for what seemed like years. Red marker circled the date on her pony calendar so that it bled through and gave a crown to one of the ponies featured next month.
The right dress had been selected and washed. Several shopping trips were required before she settled on an appropriate present. Now the day was finally here. Sally had bathed without a fight (to the great astonishment of her mother), had sat still while her hair was brushed and braided, and was sitting carefully on the seat of the car to make sure she didn’t get wrinkled or dirty.
The present was sitting in her lap and Sally stared out the window remembering the day the invitation had arrived in the mail.
She had double-checked and triple-checked and quadruple-checked to make sure that Jeannie Sanders, the belle of the second grade, had really invited her, Sally Jennings, to her ninth birthday party.
After her mother had explained the meaning of the letters R.S.V.P., she wouldn’t leave her side until she called Jeannie’s mom to say she’d be attending the illustrious event. Rushing to the calendar in the kitchen, she insisted on doing it herself while her mother was still on the phone. Then she ran to her own room with her own calendar to mark the day a second time.
The invitation had said that there would be balloons on the mailbox but Sally knew exactly which house was Jeannie’s because they rode the same bus.
But Sally didn’t see any balloons when they turned the corner and she spied Jeannie’s driveway. There were ribbons marking the spot where balloons had abandoned their post. But there were no cars in the driveway or along the street and the house looked quiet and dark, even in the mid-afternoon.
Sally’s mom went up to the door with her while she rang the bell knocked nine times and rang the bell another eight. But no one answered. Sally had to be dragged quietly away from the house and put back into the car.
She threw the unopened present at the stairs when they got back home, then nearly tripped over it on her way up to cry on her bed. But first she threw some things across the room, including the invitation torn in half.
Her mom let her cry herself out and went upstairs to straighten things up in Sally’s room while Sally slept and cried on the bed. When she picked up the pieces of the invitation, Sally’s mom noticed that the date listed belonged to the day before.
Rather than wake up the disappointed girl, she decided to wait until after dinner to point out the mistake. She headed downstairs to leave a voicemail for Jeannie’s mom, explaining that her husband’s car had unexpectedly broken down the day before and would it be possible for Jeannie to come over for a special birthday sleepover Friday.