The fourth weekly meeting of “The Cut-Out Club' got off to a rocky start. It was the Sunday before Christmas and everything should have gone smoothly. The paper doll production of “Little Women' was right on schedule for its planned debut on New Year's Day. The cardboard box looked very much like the March sisters' parlor.
“Oh, look!” exclaimed Brenda when she saw Tulie's latest addition. “The curtains are real cloth.”
“Totally awesome!” agreed Winsome.
“Gran made them out of some old lace trimmed hankies I found up in the attic,” Tulie explained as she placed one of the paper costumes on the doll who was going play Jo. She held it up for the others to see.
“Way cool!” Winsome decreed.
“I don't want to sound conceited or anything, but I do think the costumes I designed are every bit as good as anything Adrian designed at M-G-M,” Freddie announced proudly.
The girls looked at each other. Tulie had no idea what Freddie was talking about and she could tell that Brenda and Winsome didn't either. So they all just nodded.
“Well, as long as we're bragging, I think my script is the best thing I've written yet. I think even Louisa May Alcott herself would approve,” Tulie said. “I think it's time to call the meeting to order. “Any new business?”
Freddie raised his hand and waited to speak until the president nodded in his direction. “Last week, I did some searching on the web and found out some real neat stuff about paper dolls. Kids have played with paper dolls for hundreds of years! Some paper dolls in museums are really old, going as far back as the 1700's. They come from France or England. The oldest paper doll was named “Fanny Gray.'
“That's a funny name,” said Winsome giggling.
Freddie shushed her and continued. “I found out that we're not the only ones who are playing with paper dolls today.”
“No, I'm sure there are plenty of little girls playing paper dolls. That's not really very surprising at all,” said the president, interrupting him.
“That's not what I'm talking about, Tulie. Let me finish. There are grown-ups who collect old paper dolls. And they even have clubs, kind of like ours, all over the world. Right across America, and in England and in Denmark, too.”
“I don't want any grown-ups in our club,” said President Tulie who worried that a grown-up might not want to listen to an eleven-year-old president.
Freddie just continued as if nobody had interrupted him. “You'll never guess what else I found out. Do you want to guess?”
“No!” cried three impatient voices.
“Okay, I'll tell. I discovered that old paper dolls are auctioned on e-bay and people pay lots and lots of money for them. Sometimes a hundred dollars, or even more. At first I thought that only the real old, antique paper dolls were worth that much, but
some of them are exactly like Tulie's Gran's paper dolls. The very same ones we're playing with!”
Tulie's eyes widened and her mind raced. Gran's paper dolls worth hundreds of dollars! She could sell them! She could buy the fashion doll in the blue gown! She would even have enough money to get those snow tires for Mom's old Honda. Then Freddie said something that sent Tulie's dreams crashing down to earth with a thud.
“Of course, only paper dolls that were never cut out are valuable. Once they have been cut out of the original books, there goes their value. Poof!”
Things went from bad to worse. Winsome raised her hand. President Tulie nodded in her direction.
“What about new members?” she asked.
“New members?” A puzzled frown crossed Tulie's forehead. “Who would want to join our club?” Even as she asked the question, Tulie knew the answer. “Oh no, Winsome Lee. You didn't tell her?”
“Who?” Brenda wondered.
“Katherine Bannister, that's who,” Freddie said knowingly.
Winsome nodded. “At school the other day, we were walking down the hall together and I'm like, “Oh, I wish you'd been there last Sunday' and she's like, “Why?' and I'm like, “We have this cut-out club' and she's likeÉ”
“And she's like, wanting to butt in and like, spoil everything,” Tulie said, purposely imitating Winsome and feeling her cheeks starting to burn as she tried not to get angry.
“Well, our club isn't a secret society, is it?” Winsome asked, sitting up straighter with her chin up in the air.
“No. It's not a secret. But it's private. Members only!” Tulie snapped. “And I, as president, don't want Katherine Bannister to be a member. Never ever!”
Winsome got up from the floor where they'd been sitting in their usual circle. Tulie could tell she was almost ready to cry. She swallowed hard and blinked several times before she said, in a quivering voice, “Tulip O'Brien, just because you are president of this club doesn't mean you own it. You think Katherine Bannister is a snob, but I think you are the one who's a snob. You! You say she's stuck-up, but here she's trying to be like, friends and you won't even give her a chance not to be stuck-up. I'm going home now.” With that, Winsome dashed from the bedroom and they could hear her rushing down the stairs. A moment later, they heard the front door open and close again.
“Tulie, I think you better go after Winsome,” Brenda said.
“Why should I?”
“Because you're wrong,” Brenda answered. “This is supposed to be a club not one of those imaginary kingdoms of yours where everybody has to play by your rules.
Brenda stood up, put her hands on her hips and said, “Well, if you aren't going after Winsome, then I am!”
“I think you like Winsome Lee better than you like me. You're supposed to be my very, very best friend but you're always talking about fashions with Winsome, always asking her where she got the idea for one of her stupid outfits. Maybe you should be her best friend!”
“Tulip O'Brien, just because I don't happen to agree with everything you say and do all the time doesn't mean I don't want to be your best friend. It's just that I think my best friend made a mistake, that's all. And now I'm going to try to fix it because that's what best friends do for each other.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I'm going to tell her you're sorry,” Brenda said. “You are sorry, aren't you?”
Tulie just shrugged.
Brenda walked out of the room and Tulie sat very still. She kept her eyes on the paper dolls lying with the costumes on the floor. She didn't know what to say to Freddie. Freddie didn't say anything either.
After a few minutes that seemed longer than minutes usually are, Tulie said very softly, “Meeting adjourned.”
“Aye,” came a tiny whisper in response.
“Well, if the meeting's over, then I guess I'll just go see Winsome and apologize myself. I guess I just forgot my position for a minute. As president of The Cut-Out Club, I should have put the idea of Katherine Bannister joining to a vote. That's what I'll tell Winsome I'm going to do. But you better not vote for her, Freddie Foster, if you want to stay my friend.”