Tori fought back tears as she ran into the house and took her book bag to her room.
“Tori, honey, is that you? Hustle out here and help me get these carrots peeled for dinner, please.”
“I’m not very hungry, Mom, and I have lots of homework.”
“Well, the rest of the family will be hungry, and you’ll have plenty of time after we eat.”
Mom knew that something was wrong when Tori kept her back turned as she worked. She was sure that a few tears were dropping into the sink along with the thin strips of carrot peeling. She wanted to hug her daughter and make it better, but she knew by now that even a mother’s hug couldn’t always make a hurt go away. “A tough test today, dear?”
“Kind of. But I was prepared, and I know I did well. That’s not the problem, Mom. It’s just that I’m, well, I’m so tired of being lonely. I don’t have any real friends.”
“Of course, you do! What about Pam? And Ellen? And—”
“Wrong answer, Mom. They’re just Sunday friends. In church they’re OK. Sometimes I think they like me then. But at school it’s different. They call me a goody-goody and ‘Mommy’s little angel.’”
“Maybe it’s a compliment,” Mom said with a smile.
Tori shook her head. “I don’t think so.” She grimaced. “All the girls at school are invited to Malorie’s house Friday night for a pizza party.”
“And you didn’t get invited?”
“Yes, I got invited, but I probably won’t go. They plan to stay up late eating pizza and chips and watching television—all the shows that are off limits at our house. I feel like a dweeb.”
“Do you really want to go, Tori?”
“Yes—and no. I’d like to be with the girls, but I’ve heard them talk about some of the late night shows. I don’t want to watch them—I’d just feel dumb and embarrassed and probably guilty. Why does it have to be like this? Why, when I try so hard to do what I’m supposed to, do I always have to do it alone?”
Mother hugged Tori and said, “Why don’t you pray about this? I’m sure that there’s a solution to your problem.”
That evening Tori prayed, “Heavenly Father, I need Thy help. I need the courage to do what I know is right. I’d like an idea of how to help Pam and Ellen too.”
Before school started the next day, Ellen asked Tori if she was going to the party.
“I’ve decided not to go,” Tori said.
“I’m sorry you’re not coming to the party. I know it’s because your folks won’t let you.”
“It’s true that Dad and Mom don’t want me watching that stuff on TV, Ellen, but it’s more than that. Parties should be fun, and it’s not much fun being embarrassed and feeling ashamed.”
“You know what? I think your folks are trying to brainwash you—you know, trying to make you think what they want you to think.”
“I don’t think so, Ellen. But sometimes I wish they could wash my brain. Do you remember the dirty joke that Malorie told us a few weeks ago? It was disgusting, and I’ve had a hard time getting it out of my mind. I’ve decided that I don’t want to get any more thoughts in my head that shouldn’t be there, because they’re really hard to get out—OK?”
“OK.” Ellen turned away, but she hesitated briefly, then turned back. “Can we still be friends?”
“Yes, of course! I really want your friendship. You can come to my party next month—Dad says I can give one for my birthday. In fact, would you help me plan some fun games for it?”
Ellen thought for a moment. “Do you like to play board games?”
“I sure do!”
“You know, Tori, I bet my mom would let us make cereal treats this Friday and play games at my house. We don’t need to watch TV at Malorie’s house to have fun. I don’t really want any more of that stuff in my brain, either. Shall we ask Pam too? Then we can call Malorie and tell her we aren’t coming.”
“I thank Thee, Heavenly Father,” Tori whispered as she headed for her math class. “I thank Thee, very much.”