Ellen Flint was Patty Derma’s best friend, and Patty was Ellen’s best friend. From the time they were old enough to cross the street from one house to the other, they had been best friends.
They played hopscotch together on the sidewalk. They whispered secrets in their tree house. They both liked peanut butter sandwiches with strawberry jam, and they both hated pea soup with carrots and onions. Their favorite dessert was cupcakes with pink frosting and sprinkles.
Ellen and Patty went everywhere together. They went to swimming lessons and learned to hold their breath. They went to ballet lessons and learned to turn somersaults. Where you saw one, you were sure to see the other.
Ellen and Patty sat side by side on the bus to school. They practiced their spelling words and multiplication facts. They were happy together when one of them got a wiggly tooth. They were sad together when one’s kitten ran away. They were scared together when one had a bad dream. They promised each other that they would be best friends forever.
One day, a new girl moved into the house next to Patty. She waved to Patty from her porch. Patty waved back. Her name was Allie Ghant. Allie got on the bus with Patty and sat next to her. She invited Patty to come to her house after school to see her pink bicycle and swimming pool and fancy dollhouse with real lights.
When Ellen got on the bus, Patty was talking with the new girl, and Ellen had to sit by herself. She didn’t smile. She didn’t laugh. She felt very sad.
The teacher wanted everyone to be nice to Allie and put the new girl right behind Patty. All day long, Patty talked with Allie, showing her where to put her coat and how to find the restroom. They sat together at lunchtime and shared some pickle-flavored potato chips.
Ellen sat at another table. She wasn’t hungry. Her tummy hurt and her head hurt. Her peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich didn’t taste very good.
When she picked up her carton of milk, it spilled all over the floor. Allie laughed and Patty laughed, too.
Ellen’s eyes filled with tears. She ran back to the classroom and sat at her desk, laying her head on her arms. Her teacher felt her forehead. “Are you sick, Ellen? Where do you hurt?”
“I just want to go home.”
When Mamma came, she talked to the teacher while Ellen waited in the hall. Mamma kissed the top of Ellen’s head but didn’t say anything. Ellen closed her eyes as they drove back home. She didn’t want to talk to anyone. Mama looked at her little girl. “I need help baking some cupcakes. Would you like to help me?”
Ellen opened her eyes. “Cupcakes…with pink frosting?”
Mama smiled. “And sprinkles on top.”
“What are the cupcakes for?”
“They are for a new friend party.”
Ellen’s face got sad. “I don’t have a new friend. I don’t have any friends.”
“Your teacher told me about Allie Ghant. I think it would be nice to invite Patty and Allie over for a party. One friend is good, but two friends are even better.”
All afternoon, Mamma and Ellen made cupcakes and decorated the house with balloons. Ellen walked to Patty’s house and Allie’s house, too, with cards she made that said,
TO A NEW FRIEND PARTY
ELLEN FLINT’S HOUSE
AT FOUR O’CLOCK
Ellen waited. She heard the bus come down the street and stop to let off the children. She waited until four o’clock. The doorbell rang. It was Patty.
Patty hung her head and scuffed her toe back and forth. “I’m sorry I was not kind to you today. Will you still be my friend?”
Ellen gave Patty a big hug. “Yes, I will always be your best friend forever.”
The doorbell rang again. Allie stood at the door in a lace party dress, holding a present. “Thank you, Ellen, for inviting me to your party. I’m glad you want me to be your friend. I’d like you to have this gift.”
Ellen opened the bright package. It was a long jump rope, much too long to use alone. It was perfect for three friends to play with together. As Patty and Ellen turned the ends, Allie hopped in the middle.
“One is good,
Two are better.
How many friends
Can play together?
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