Authors: Ahmet Zappa
“And who are you?” asked Morgan, sounding just shy of rude.
“This is Piper,” said Olivia. “I told you, she's been staying with us while she works on a school project.”
Everyone seemed to wait for Morgan to respond. Finally, she shrugged, saying, “Sure, sounds like fun.”
“It will be!” Piper assured her. “We can have a dream slumber party! We'll decorate notebooks with glitter or stickers or any way we like to make dream journals! Then in the morning we can write down our dreams. Any dreams,” she hastened to add. “From the night before or the week before, good or bad.”
Piper plowed on, not waiting for a reaction. “Maybe I can help you guys figure out what your dreams mean.” She looked down modestly. “I have a knack for dream interpretation.”
Again, everyone waited for Morgan, Piper with bated breath. She had to like the idea. It was nothing short of brilliant, if Piper did say so herself. The sleepover activity could help grant Olivia's wish
serve as a healing session, to clear Olivia's mind of any disturbing thoughts. All at the same time!
Morgan tilted her head, thinking it over. “That's cool,” she finally said.
Immediately, the two other girls agreed, and the three began chattering about what to bring.
“No!” Olivia interrupted them, her voice rising above the others. Everyone stopped talking and looked at her, surprised. “I mean, it sounds great. Really. But we can't do it. I have toâ”
“Work tonight? Don't worry!” Piper said gleefully. “I already spoke to your mom. She's totally fine with it. Diane's going to fill in.”
Morgan, Ruby, and Chase started talking again and took out their cell phones to ask permission. Meanwhile, Piper gazed anxiously at Olivia. She had thought Olivia would be thrilled her friends were coming over. Instead, she didn't seem any happier than she had earlier. In fact, her expression was downright glum.
Olivia edged away from her friends to talk to Diane. “I'm sorry you have to take my shift,” she told her.
Oh, so that was it. Olivia felt bad that Diane was working extra hours. That was why she wasn't excitedâyet. Piper felt sure that once the girls actually came to her house, everything would change.
According to the Countdown Clock, the wish had to be granted that evening, by eight o'clock. Piper's pulse quickened. She'd have to return to Starlandâwith or without Olivia's wish energy. Already she could feel her own energy level sinking. She'd been there so long and accomplished so littleâ¦.
Piper shook her head to clear it and envisioned a smiling Olivia radiating a rainbow of colored light. It could happen. It
happen. If only Piper didn't feel so tiredâ¦
“Table number two is wobbly,” Diane said, hurrying past. “Do you think you could fix it?”
“Of course,” said Piper, straightening up. She was putting a piece of cardboard under one table leg to keep it steady when the bells above the door jingled, signaling another customer. Piper felt a tingle run down her spine. She froze, her head still under the table. Something was about to change. She heard a familiar voice: “Oh, so this is a diner.”
It was Astra! In her haste to actually see a fellow Star Darling, Piper stood up without thinking. “Ouch!” she said, banging her head.
Piper sighed. This wouldn't do at all. She had to center herself, concentrate on unhurried action and calm movement.
She took a breath and came out from under the table in one fluid motion. “Astra!” she called, beaming happily as she saw her friend in her glittery glory. She knew that she looked sparkly to Astra, too, and that made her feel good. She felt so glad to see someone who knew all about her, even if it meant Lady Stella thought she needed help. And while Piper thought she had matters well in hand, another Star Darling could only be helpful.
Astra was wearing a sporty outfit, cutoffs, red sneakers, and a T-shirt with a red star on it. Her hair, now a flaming auburn, was pulled into two pigtails. She looked friendly and confident, a girl any Wishling would want as a friend.
Alice stood by the cash register, smiling at the girls. “Hiâ¦Astra?” she said questioningly. Piper nodded. “Are you a friend of Piper's?”
“Yes,” said Astra. “We go to the same school.” She was looking around, soaking in all the sights and sounds and smells. It was a little mind-blowing when you first got there, Piper knew. So much was similar to Starland, but so much was different. “Your world is amazing,” she told Alice.
Luckily, Alice said, “Yes, the diner is my world, along with my family, of course. You must be from Maylefield, too.”
“Maylefield,” repeated Astra, sounding as if she'd never heard of it before, which, of course, she hadn't.
“Yup,” said Piper, linking her arm through Astra's. “She just came for a visit.”
Astra nodded, finally realizing she had to be more careful. “Let me fill you in on what's been going on inâ¦uhâ¦Maylefield, Piper.”
She pulled Piper aside, adding, “Star apologies for being a little dense. There's just so much to take in.” She turned toward the cash register, fascinated when the cash drawer sprung open.
“Is everything okay at home?” Piper asked as they found two empty seats at the counter.
“Things haven't gotten any better,” Astra told her. “There've been more power flickers. I'm not sure anyone outside Starling Academy has been paying attention, though. But, Piper, you must know why I'm here. Lady Stella thought you could use some help.”
“I do know.” Piper was actually quite glad Astra was there. Her presence gave Piper a personal energy lift. “Let me introduce you to Olivia, my Wisher.”
Of course Astra made a good impression; she even made Olivia smile when she asked about her favorite item at the diner.
“Well, you won't find it on the menu yet, but it's the chocolate egg cream.”
While Olivia performed her magic roll-ups, Piper made Astra an egg cream and quickly filled her in on Olivia, the diner, and the sleepover.
Astra listened, picking up a nearby saltshaker. “What is this thing?” she asked.
“Wishlings use it to season their food,” said Piper. “Dishes don't come out perfectly like the food at home.”
Astra sipped her egg cream. “Starmazing!” she proclaimed. “And totally worth the trip.”
Just then the customer sitting next to Astra picked up the saltshaker and shook it over her French fries. The shaker top fell off, and all the salt rained down on her food.
“Oh, no!” she gasped.
Piper took the plate from the customer. “I'll just get you another serving,” she said. “On the house.”
While Piper was getting more fries, she stopped to talk to Alice and get Astra invited to the sleepover, too. When she returned, Astra was spinning on the stool.
“You are officially invited to Olivia's sleepover,” she told her. “To watch me collect my wish energy!”
“I can't wait,” said Astra. “But do you really think it's going to be that easy? I mean, why am I here?”
Piper shook her head. “It's all under control, Astra,” she said.
Olivia still wasn't excited
about the sleepover, but Alice certainly was. For the first time in a long while, she left the diner early. “Just to get a few things for the party,” she told the girls.
By the time Piper, Astra, and Olivia got to the house, it was filled with slumber party supplies. “It's not every day we host a party at home,” Alice told Olivia. “I want to make it special for you.”
Olivia scanned the food, crafts, balloons, and decorations. “This is all for tonight?” she asked. “Or are we starting a party business?”
“No business tonight,” Alice said. “You've been working too hardâat the diner and at school. And you just did so well on that history test. I'm proud of you, honey. Consider this a reward.”
Olivia flushed. “I'm going to change,” she said, hurrying out of the room.
Alice frowned. “I just want to make this a fun night,” she said. “I want Olivia to have a good time.” She sighed, looking down at a stack of plain white pillowcases, ready to be decorated with fabric markers. “And I might have gone a little overboard.”
Piper glanced around the room. She was glad to see that Alice remembered the dream journals, too.
“Piper and I can set all this up,” Astra offered.
“Thanks,” said Alice. “That will give me time to make dinner and dessert.”
Alice left for the kitchen, and Piper and Astra sorted through the stuff.
The two agreed that play stations, kind of like workstations at the diner, would be fun. So they pushed tables here and there, made signs, and artfully arranged the supplies.
When Olivia returned, she looked no more enthusiastic than she had earlier. Piper gazed at her anxiously as Olivia took stock of the living room. There was a mani/pedi station and a decorate-your-own-pillowcase table next to a spot with mason jars and glow-in-the-dark paint. When they were done painting the jars, they'd look like colorful lanterns. All perfect for a slumber party, Piper thought.
“We're not done decorating yet,” she told Olivia. “Let's make glitter balloons to hang around the room.”
The three girls blew up balloons and dipped them in glue, followed by glitter.
“They look like sparkly disco balls,” Olivia said, looking pleased. Standing on chairs, the girls hung them upside down from the ceiling.
Inspired, Olivia ran to the attic and returned with twinkle lights. Working together, the girls strung them from room to room.
Olivia's spirits seemed to be rising. Piper took this as a good sign that she had identified the right wish. But she wanted to make sure. “Isn't this great, that you get to spend so much time with friends? Like a wish come true?”
Olivia shrugged, twisting a lightbulb so it turned on. The light cast a rosy glow over her face. “Yeah, it's okay they're coming over. It'll be nice. But a wish come true? I wouldn't go quite that far.”
Piper felt a sinking feeling in her stomach, as if she'd taken an express ride in the Flash Vertical Mover. She slid over to whisper the news to Astra: she had the wrong wish again! And the girls exchanged worried glances just as the doorbell rang.
Piper stole a glance at the Countdown Clock. Three hours and fourteen minutes remaining! Could she figure it out in time? Morgan, Ruby, and Chase tumbled in all at once, laughing and talking, oohing and aahing over the decorations and party ideas. Piper moved to the music station and picked out music to play. With Astra's help, she figured out how to work the device. Soon a soothing instrumental piece filled the room.
Piper snuck away to a mirror in the front hall and chanted her Mirror Mantra one more time. “You can do it, Piper,” she said to her reflection. And somehow, it boosted her mood.
Smiling, she rejoined the group.
The evening was filled with activities. They had breakfast for dinner, with the girls throwing their own veggies and fillings into an omelet pan while Alice flipped the eggs. They played Truth or Dare, a game in which they had to answer an embarrassing question or take on a dare. Piper laughed when Astra wound up standing outside with a sign reading
HONK IF YOU THINK I'M CUTE
. She stopped laughing when she saw Astra tape the sign to the back of the shirt Morgan was planning to wear the next day. Chances were Morgan would see it before she wore it outside. But to be on the safe side, Piper tore it off.
Then Morgan suggested they give each other mani/pedis. She actually looked to Piper for confirmation, and Piper nodded, pleased.
Piper picked up a bottle of nail polish. It was a deeper green than the seafoam color she was wearing, and she thought she'd give it a try.
She glanced around for a nail polish remover machine, then realized the other girls were removing their old polish with liquid from a bottle. She, too, soaked a ball of fluff in the harsh liquid and rubbed her nails. Astra joined her. “It's cold,” said Piper.
“It's not coming off,” Astra said.
“It is really sticking,” Piper agreed. “We'll just have to scrub harder.”
The girls rubbed furiously. Finally, the color lightened a bit. “Keep at it,” Piper urged. By the time the polish had come off completely, Piper's wrists ached from the effort. But it was worth it once she had the new polish on. The new green color looked lovely. She felt a bit lighter, too; with just a little more energy than before, she was ready for the next part of the plan. Would it help make the wish come true? Only time would tell.
She had the girls put on pajamas, then set up their sleeping bags in the center of Olivia's room. They were spread in a star shape, with their heads in the center, just like the Star Darlings had been at Libby's.
They all looked at Piper expectantly. “Let's do some happy daydreaming,” she said. Maybe it would lead to Olivia's revealing the real wish.