The Old Foutley House

It had been a particularly rough year for Courtney Gripling. Not only had her older peers stuffed her in a trash can in the girl's bathroom, but there was also the incident with her private, fancy bathroom being dumped onto the football field. After that it was safe to say her reputation was completely shot to hell. She gave up trying to redeem her popularity after that. It seemed that Ginger Foutley, on the other hand, had switched roles with Courtney. Ever since her mother married that rich doctor, she was living in a shiny new neighborhood in a huge house… It was half the size Courtney's used to be but it still made the cut. And now, as fate would have it, Courtney lived in the Foutley house.

Things couldn't get any worse, could they?

"Sis, might I have a word with you for the briefest of moments?" Blake asked.

Courtney looked at her damaged cuticles and frowned, desperately in need of one of those mango-avocado manicures. She huffed.

"Oh, alright, Blake, but make it quick. Miranda should be calling any minute now." She tapped her foot impatiently, crossing her arms. Wouldn't she? She hadn't called in a month, and Courtney mustered a guess that they'd ran out of things to do, like go to the Bahamas and tan on the beach for the summer, or get an expensive facial. It seemed money might have been the only thing that glued the relationship together, as well as the rest of Courtney's life- or what used to be her life.

Blake cleared his throat. "Mummah is making one of those dreadful dishes this evening." He looked around to see if anyone was watching and cupped a hand over his mouth. "And the Big Fellow upstairs knows she's not the most…erm, adequate. I decided to spare you the agony of finding out yourself, from one distressed sibling to another."

That was fabulous. Things just got worse. No chef, Daddy out of work, and only one master bedroom for her parents. She couldn't bear the stress.

"Oh, Blakey- Please tell Mummah I've gone for a walk. Tell her to save me some- she shuddered- left-overs."

She began to walk down the cracked sidewalk, in a neighborhood she hardly recognized and completely forgot that the Pattersons had been Ginger's neighbors. She stopped mid-walk and ducked as she saw the Patterson boys talking in the window. Will was going off to college but Darren was still on the football team. She knew he wouldn't have seen her, anyway, seeing as how she was no longer a somebody, but she stayed out of site anyway.

She decided she'd call Miranda, even though it was inevitable she might never pick up. She figured she'd make at least one more call before her mom cut the cell phone service off tomorrow.

"Miranda speaking." Miranda's impatient voice rang out over the receiver.

"Miranda," Courtney said perkily, pronouncing the syllables like the old Courtney used to.

"Oh, Courtney. Hi."

"I was wondering if you might want to hang out. I haven't had anyone to talk to lately and it would be really nice-

"Courtney, I'm really busy."

"Oh, doing what? Maybe I can help," Courtney inquired hopefully.

"Clarinet lessons. I have to go."

"Miranda, please," Courtney nearly sobbed. "You don't even play clarinet anymore." She was starting to tear up.

"Look, if you want someone to talk to, why don't you ask Foutley?" Miranda sneered. "She's a bit more in your 'friend zone' now and you always wanted to ditch me for her in the past."

There was a silent pause. "Well, I didn't intend to make you feel that way, Miranda," she said haughtily.

"I'm glad you're sorry for it. Now you'll know what it feels like to be neglected. Now you'll know what it feels like to be second best. I don't have time to involve myself in you right now." She gave Courtney a sad sigh, which should have meant Miranda softened her tone but it only made Courtney feel worse. "It was exhausting enough being your best friend. I'm sorry, Courtney, but I've moved on. You should, too." Click.

Courtney put her head in her hands and bawled, her mascara running over her fingers. Why was her world falling apart? Where was Courtney Gripling, and who was this pathetic nobody crying on the sidewalk?

After dinner, she sat in what used to be Ginger's old room. Miranda had been so harsh to her that she couldn't get the conversation out of her head. She stared into the ice cream wallpaper. Then, she had a thought. What had Miranda said? Call Ginger? Well, fine, she would call Ginger. Ginger had done more for her than her friend, Miranda, who had no problem being along for the ride.

One last call.

"Hello, Mrs. Foutley. May I speak with Ginger, please? It's urgent."

"Is everything okay, Courtney?" Mrs. Foutley asked. "Carl did get rid of the live frog in the bathtub, didn't he?"

"Oh, yes, it's not that urgent…umm…If you could, please."

"Sure, kiddo. Ginge! Courtney's on the phone! Says it's some kind of emergency."

"Courtey?" Ginger said. "I haven't seen you in awhile. You kinda disappeared off the face of the planet."

"Ginger, I'm so happy to hear from you." And she was. "Actually, that's kind of why I'm calling, you see…"

"Do you like the house? I know it's not what you're used to living in but it sort of grows on you after awhile."

"Yes, it is sort of quaint and cozy, isn't it? Listen, Ginger, I know you've done a lot of favors for me in the past, but I was wondering if you could do me one more solid."

"What is it, Courtn-

"Oh, Ginger!" She sobbed. "The house is all cramped and small, Mummah keeps leftovers in the fridge, and Daddy hasn't landed any jobs yet. Meanwhile, Courtney Gripling is nowhere to be seen! Nowhere!"

"Courtney," Ginger soothed, slightly uncomfortable. "It can't be all bad. You're just not used to it yet. I promise it'll get better."

"But it won't, Ginger," she sniffed. "My hair hasn't seen a stylist in a month. Do you know how many split ends I have?"

"No," but-

"I have over seven, Ginger! And I never have any! Please, you have to help me."

"What am I supposed to do, Courtney?"

"Anything. Throw a party at your house. I can help coordinate it and get back some of my reputation."

"I can't do that, Courtney. The timing isn't right. Why don't I come over tomorrow and show you the best parts about living at the old Foutley house? I know it's not what you had in mind, but you're still Courtney Gripling. If you wanted your reputation back you wouldn't need money to do it. That is not the Courtney I know."

"I suppose you're right, Ginger. You do have a way of making me see things I wouldn't otherwise see. And I could use a friend right now. How about after school?"

"Sounds great. I'll talk to you later, Courtney."

"Au-revoir, Ginger," said Courtney enthusiastically.

The next day Ginger went back to her old house with a feeling of nostalgia. She showed Courtney all of the places in the house where she'd shared her best memories with her family. Later, they made cookies in the kitchen and had a dough fight.

Courtney realized her life wasn't so bad. She still longed for the days when she got facials and shopped for the trendiest outfits, but she came to enjoy the Foutley house like Ginger had. The next day she was sitting outside in the back yard.

"Oh? And what is this?" There was a doghouse on the lawn. She went inside. It was just big enough for her to sit inside and flip through her favorite magazine.

"I'm sure with a little fixing up this place would be a perfect place for me to stash my extra stuff that I hid from Mummah so she wouldn't sell it."

It was there in the Doghouse where Courtney regained her rep, not as Courtney Gripling, rich girl who got manicures and facials, but Courtney Gripling, beauty expert who gave them.