A few days later, Ellowyne and her friends met at Déjà Brew. Knowing that Amber was often there on Wednesday afternoons, they came prepared with some ammunition. To their delight, Amber showed up, wearing a skintight dress and platform heels, and she strolled over to them expecting to create a commotion.
Prudence gave Amber a saccharine smile. “I hope you don’t mind but we ordered you a beverage. Go-Go Juice. Part Mountain Dew, part Red Bull.”
“I have something sweet for you too, Amber.” Lizette chimed in. Then she handed some Pixy Stix to Amber. “I hear this stuff is addicting!”
Ellowyne smiled with the satisfaction of a dog eating the juicy steak he had grabbed out of the kitchen. “Which was your favorite costume? Satine, Jessica Rabbit, Jayne Mansfield, a Playboy bunny?”
Penn, who first asked the question of Amber’s secret, queried, “So how many times have you been Grand Supreme Queen?”
Amidst the laughter from his friends,, Rufus, who for so long had been the target of Amber’s unwanted attention, got in the last word. “Will you holler for a dollar, honey boo-boo child?”
Amber’s eyes and mouth widened in surprise. Then she did something most unexpected. She laughed. She pulled up a chair, sat down, and laughed until her sides ached and tears streamed down her face. She even snorted a couple of times. “How did you find out?” she asked. The friends were shocked.
“I watched some reruns of Toddlers and Tiaras online. It’s kind of my guilty pleasure,” Ellowyne replied. “And I thought I saw you and decided to Google you.”
Amber wiped her cheeks and blew her nose. “Good sleuthing! And to answer your questions: Yes, Pru, I drank Go-Go Juice and ate Pixy Stix. You’re right, Lizette. The pixy stix are addictive and in the pageant circle, they’re known as pageant crack. Actually, sometimes I have Go-Go Juice and Pixy Stix, and trust me, they keep me going when I’m busy studying. Ellowyne, my favorite costume is as a Barbie doll. I wore a black and white swimsuit and mules. My father actually built me a Barbie box. And yeah, I won that competition hands down. Penn, I usually win queen in most pageants and have been Grand Supreme Queen, oh, maybe a dozen times. Maybe more. And Rufus, I knew Honey Boo-Boo. She really did holler for a dollar. But I didn’t. I kind of flirted with the judges but never did anything as brash as what Honey Boo-Boo did.”
Rufus cocked his head and furrowed his eyebrows. “You flirted with the judges? Did you ever, um, kiss any of them?”
Amber’s tears of laughter stopped at Rufus’ question. “Omigod! No! I never kissed any of them but I learned how powerful flirting can be.”
“Maybe you’re treating us the way you would a pageant judge, only more extreme,” Penn said.
Amber quietly considered his statement. “You’re right. I’ve been treating you and Rufus like pageant judges. When the judges didn’t respond, I’ve had to kick it up a notch. I guess I’ve done that with the two of you. I’m really sorry.”
Prudence spoke up. “Is that why you dress so, um, provocatively?”
Amber shrugged. “I think so. I mean, the if judges liked it, it must be okay.”
Now Ellowyne furrowed her eyebrows. “Amber, you always seem to be in competition with us. Is it because you did child pageants?”
“And I competed with every girl I knew,” replied a dumfounded Amber. “I am so sorry! I like all of you and I want to change. Can you please help me?”
Of course Ellowyne and her coterie agreed that they would be glad to help Amber be a real friend. Ellowyne, Prudence, and Lizette took Amber to a makeup counter for a makeover—or perhaps a “makeunder” to tone down the way she applied cosmetics. The girls also took her shopping and Amber found some cute clothes at a couple of thrift stores. The boys were a little hesitant to embrace Amber as a friend but she earned their trust by no longer trying to force her affections on them. When Amber stopped hitting–and hitting on–Rufus, they discovered that they enjoyed conversing with each other and engaging in friendly verbal sparring. Penn appreciated the change in Amber’s behavior and noticed how attractive she was without layers of makeup and skanky clothes. One day, everyone went to Amber’s house to look at her pageant crowns and prizes, and watch old tapes of Toddlers and Tiaras and videos taken by her parents that showed many of the things that had been edited out of the program.
And this, dear friends, is exactly what happened.