Summary: Playing Truth or Dare at Muffy’s slumber party causes Francine’s life to spin out of control. When she refuses to answer a Truth, her life transforms, and the crush she’d intended to keep a secret breaks nearly every relationship she has. Can Francine figure herself out enough to get things right?
Francine wasn’t sure about playing “Truth or Dare” with Muffy and the girls. Maria was known for relentless truths, and Sue Ellen was up for some wicked dares. Francine couldn’t compete with that, but this was a Crosswire slumber party. Francine had no choice but to go along with whatever the girls asked. She just hoped the girls wouldn’t learn her secret.
For over a month, Francine had a crush on Alex. She loved the little patch of beard he’d just started to grow, as well as his favorite sweater, which made him look so handsome. She liked his personality too—quiet yet funny. She wanted nothing more but to end up with him, but her friends could never know.
Francine wasn’t up for Sue Ellen’s dares, so she was stuck picking one of Maria’s truths. When it was her turn, she picked Truth. Huge mistake.
“Who was the first boy you ever had a crush on?” Maria asked, a devious grin on her lips. Muffy egged Francine on to answer the question. Even though they were still best friends, Muffy didn’t think Francine had ever had a crush. But they were thirteen now, so Muffy hoped she would find out something new about her childhood friend.
“I’ve never liked anyone,” Francine lied, but they all knew her tell. She started scratching her arms, and the girls immediately called her out. They knew she had a crush, but they didn’t know on who. Francine stuck to her guns, “I don’t like anything. It’s perfectly normal.”
“It might be normal, and it’s totally normal for people to lie about liking people too. But choose your fate, Francine. Tell us the truth or else,” Muffy said with grave certainty. Francine tried to backtrack and choose Dare, but the girls wouldn’t let her.
“Fine! I-don’t-like-ANYONE!!” Francine said firmly. “I don’t care if you believe me or not. I’m telling the truth so leave me alone,” Francine hissed, turning away from the group.
“This game is supposed to be fun,” Jenna said, looking to Maria, “Pick something else to ask her. Not everything has to be so personal. You’re hurting her feelings. So she likes someone and doesn’t want to tell us who. So what? It’s not that important.”
“It’s a game, and it’s meant to be personal. That’s what the Truth option is for,” Maria said firmly. “She picked it, Jenna. The question was valid, and I won’t ask her a different one. I’ll leave her alone, but she can’t participate until she answers that one question. Be that a few rounds or the whole game, it’s her choice.”
“I like those rules,” Muffy nodded. “Let’s keep going before we watch some movies. Sue Ellen, I think it’s our turn. Which do you pick, Truth or Dare?” Muffy asked, a wicked smile on her lips. Sue Ellen quickly chose Dare, and Muffy was allowed to decide her fate: “I know just the thing! Run across the courtyard and back…in your underwear!” she exclaimed.
Sue Ellen pretended to hesitate, but the girls egged her on. She led the way to the French doors leading to the patio. Once outside, she went behind a few plants. She emerged a moment later in her bra and panties, and after waving to the girls, she darted across the lawn…directly past a stunned Bailey. The girls saw him and gasped. What kind of trouble were they about to be in?
But it was after hours for the butler. He simply turned his back to the girls and moved into his guest house, shutting the door firmly behind him. Sue Ellen made it back to her clothes without incident, and the girls darted back to Muffy’s room to continue the game.
Though Sue Ellen’s dare was a good distraction, the girls all remembered Francine. Francine remembered because she thought she’d dodged their attention, but the others remembered because they knew they had something over Francine. She had a secret that she wasn’t willing to tell her best friends, and they were desperate to get it out of her. They pretended to forget, moving on to Mari and daring her to show them her most embarrassing ability. Maria showed them a flexibility move from gymnastics that made her shit fly up, which was entertaining but not what the group wanted. They wanted to know about Francine and who she liked, and Francine was just as eager to keep that to herself.
The game was quickly back around to her. The same question was posed to her, as well as the same consequences, but with a Crosswire-level twist. If she didn’t answer, she’d have to leave the game entirely. She’d be forced to a neighboring room to sit alone for however long the girls saw fit. There were great movies set up in the Crosswire mansion’s home theatre, movies Francine knew she likely wouldn’t see. They’d probably leave her there all night and forget about her, something Francine counted on.
“Fine, where should I go?” Francine grinned, following Muffy to the room. Sure enough, after teen minutes inside the room, the girls headed for the theatre, mocking Francine as they went past the door. As soon as they were out of earshot, Francine gathered her things and let herself out through the courtyard’s French doors.
Francine knew her next encounter with Muffy would be trouble. She approached like a huge freight train, barreling up to Francine as she sat at their usual lunch table. Francine immediately regretted her decision to avoid Muffy throughout Sunday as well as their morning classes, but the storm was now approaching full speed, and Francine was soon to be ground zero.
“What happened to you?! Did you think my party was just so awful that you had to sneak out?!” Muffy exclaimed, barely taking a breath as she continued, “And Bailey saw you! He said you darted away from the house like someone was chasing you! Was that silly game that terrible for you? We would’ve included you eventually!” Muffy cried, slamming down her tray and taking her seat in a huff.
“I left because I wanted to. So I didn’t want to answer the question. None of you had to make that big of a deal out of it,” Francine spat. “I figured that running away was better than the price of being let out. Don’t pretend it would’ve been as easy as opening the door. My secret would’ve been the roll out, and my secret is mine to keep. After how you treated me, I should’ve be speaking to any of you.”
“That’s you choice, Francine, but you shouldn’t have run out of my party like that. And then you avoided me for almost two days. I can’t believe you’d act like you did either. And since this is our usual lunch table and there are more of us than you, then you should be the one taking a hike!” Muffy spat, gesturing her away as the other girls arrived with their lunches. None of them said anything as Francine left the table with her head held high, a confident expression on her face.
But Francine had to find a place to sit. She picked a small empty table, but after a few minutes, she realized that the table wasn’t exactly empty. Buster and Alex approached, confused expressions on their faces as they eyed the blushing Francine. When they realized she was here alone, they sat down with her. Before they could ask her why she was there, Arthur approached with a triumphant look on his face.
“I got the last brownie! That has to be some kind of good luck, right? Wait, what is Francine doing here?” he asked, putting his tray down beside her.
“We were about to ask when you showed up,” Buster replied, turning to Francine, “So, why are you here? Don’t you normally sit with the girls?”
“Yeah, but I kind of ditched Muffy’s slumber party Saturday night, so she’s mad at me. I hope you all…don’t mind me sitting with you,” Francine said, hoping none of them would hear her stammer as her field of vision picked up on Alex listening to the left of her.
“Wow, I heard her parties were always epic,” Arthur gasped. Buster nodded, “Yeah, you must’ve been sick or something. If Muffy was really your friend, she’d accept that you were sick and just needed to rush home. She’ll get it.”
“I left because I didn’t want to answer a question in a game of Truth or Dare, so they went after me for the secret,” Francine admitted. “I did what I had to do to save myself. I can’t answer the question, not even to my best friends. I’m never telling anyone, and I won’t tell you even the question.”
“We won’t pry,” Alex said. “I thought girls cared about each other’s feelings, but this is Muffy we’re talking about. She just wanted some juicy gossip. You two might be best friends, but your secrets would be fair game in the rumor mill.”
“I hate to say it, but Alex is right. She does only tell your friends what to say, but she’ll say it where plenty of people can hear it. That’s how Arthur heard that Sue Ellen had a crush on him,” Buster nodded.
Francine was confused, “But she doesn’t. Sue Ellen would’ve told me if she did. Who was Muffy talking to?” she asked. Buster thought it was Maria, and Arthur confirmed that it was. Muffy told Maria while they sat behind him at the last pep rally in a loud enough voice for several people to hear. Francine sighed, “That would’ve been before we got there. Jenna had to go to the bathroom so the rest of us went with her.”
“Then it’s a good thing you didn’t tell her whatever your secret is. She would’ve messed it up, told people, or something worse. I don’t know and don’t need to know, but I say you should confront her or just find new friends,” Buster shrugged.
“Buster, she should investigate first. I say you should confront her a little to get the facts, then decide whether or not to stay,” Alex suggested. “She needs to make an informed decision in case we’re wrong. We barely know them anymore.”
Francine blushed slightly. Alex’s sensible side was why she had a crush on him in the first place. She decided to do what he suggested, but she wanted to finish her lunch. She had plenty of time to confront Muffy and to decide whether or not she should allow their friendship to continue.
Muffy grinned as Bailey let Francine into her room. She looked extremely devious, but Francine looked determined. She closed the door behind her and stood in front of Muffy with her arms crossed. Muffy scoffed, moving back to her bed. She lay on her stomach looking at her laptop’s screen, ignoring Francine completely.
“I know your game, Muffy. You start things with people, spreading rumors and lies when you get the information you need. I know exactly what you’re up to. You only wanted to play that game to get more dirt on all of us. We were supposed to be friends, but that can’t continue, not if what I’m saying is correct,” Francine said angrily.
Muffy cracked up, “It was a slumber party game that everyone plays. So you picked the wrong thing and got upset. Who says we’re even your friends anymore? You ditched my party, and now you’re mad at me? What is even wrong with you?”
“I heard what you said about Sue Ellen! If she liked someone, I’d know, and I know what they heard was a lie. What were you even trying to do to Arthur? What was your motive? You were obviously up to something, and I know you were up to something the other night. I know that was a party game, but you never would have been that pushy before. And don’t tell me you would’ve helped me. I know you only would’ve helped yourself!” Francine spat.
“How would you even know? So Sue Ellen kept a secret from the group? She wanted me to do that, to say something near Arthur to see what he would do. I know you sat with them at lunch today, and since you told me what you did, I know my plan worked,” Muffy smiled. It quickly faded, “I could’ve done something for you, but you’ve insulted me.”
“I don’t want your help! I like a guy, whatever! I don’t want the whole world to know. I can handle everything myself!” Francine exclaimed. “We’re done, okay? I don’t care if you were ‘helping’ Sue Ellen, but I believe the guys. I can’t trust you, and I won’t. Never again, Muffy, never again,” Francine sighed, fleeing the Crosswire mansion for hopefully the last time.
When Francine arrived at school the next morning, she hoped to find Sue Ellen alone to get her side of the story. Because Sue Ellen was already sitting with Maria in the school’s gym, she knew that was a risky move. If Muffy hated her now, the others were probably mad at her too, even if it was because Muffy manipulated them. She’d have to talk to her some other time.
In the cafeteria, she found the guys sitting together. She decided to sit with them, and Arthur immediately noticed that she didn’t look very happy. But it was Alex who decided to ask her what was wrong. Francine was flattered and told them everything.
Buster whistled, “Wow, I see why things aren’t very good for you right now, but you’re making the right choice. Muffy lies about everything. Even if they did say something about Sue Ellen around Arthur to get him to ask her out, the details aren’t right.”
Arthur nodded, “I talked to her a few days later. I turned down the thought of dating her and she looked confused. She didn’t like me, and she didn’t seem to know where my rejection came from. Muffy must’ve been pulling something.”
“I gathered that. You guys are more helpful than she ever was. I just wish you were around to tell me sooner,” Francine smiled. “I hope you don’t mind me hanging out with you until I get everything together. Just tell me if I get in the way.”
“I’m sure you won’t, but we’ll let you know,” Alex smiled, making Francine blush. It was going to be hard spending time with her crush. While she hoped for some alone time with him sometime in the near future, she didn’t expect it so soon. Within minutes of her arrival at the table, Buster and Arthur got into the breakfast line, leaving them by themselves at the table.
Francine was immediately nervous. Alex studied her carefully, and after a moment, he smirked, “You know, I’ve been curious about your secret. It must’ve been really important to do what you did. I mean, I’m happy you’re away from such a toxic person, but you’ve been friends for years, and you’ve known the others almost as long. What did you want to tell them?”
His sincerity and charisma made Francine blush again. She sighed softly, “Well, I didn’t want to tell them who I had a crush on. I just didn’t want them to know yet. Sometimes it’s good to have a little privacy.”
“I understand,” he nodded, “but if you never tell anyone, how will you ever find out of the person you have a crush on could eventually be with you in a relationship? I’m not asking you to tell me or anyone else. I’m just letting you know how these things work most of the time,” he said.
“Well, I…I wanted to tell someone, maybe even the guy, but it’s so hard! If I say the wrong thing, I could be rejected on the spot. If he can’t like me that way, there’s another rejection. So many things could go wrong, but I guess so many things could go right too. Alex,” Francine blushed, pausing to look him over. She exhaled, “My crush is on you. I didn’t want to tell them I liked you because I wanted to find a way to tell you without them bothering me all the time.”
“I’ll be honest with you, Francine. I didn’t expect that,” he smiled. “I’m proud of you for speaking up, but…if you would’ve told them, they could’ve helped you know more about me. I’m dating a girl I met online. She’s from Summerville where my grandparents. Live. We’ve been together since sixth grade, and we’re really happy together. I’m sorry, but I’m glad you told me. Sorry I had to ruin your morning,” he smiled, moving his books out of the way as Arthur and Buster returned with their breakfast.
“How did you ruin her morning?” Buster asked, prying the plastic from the lid of his cereal.
“He didn’t,” Francine smiled. “The only one ruining my morning is me. It’s fine, it really is,” she said, seeing that Alex wanted to say something else. “I’ll be fine. I’m just glad everything went okay,” she said, standing up, “I think I’ll go get one of those biscuits Arthur has.”
“It’s ham—“ Arthur said quickly, but he was too late. Francine left the table and headed out of the cafeteria completely. Arthur was confused, “What’s her problem?”
“She’ll be fine,” Alex whispered. “She’s just trying to get everything together. She’ll work everything out.”
Alex was right. Francine was hurt, and she’d lost so much in just a matter of days. Her losses were just consequences of the truth, but she eventually found new friends, a new crush, and a new life.