"Barbie!" the three girls exclaimed.
Barbie stood in the doorway smiling, with Ken at her side. He was holding boxes of Chinese food.
"Skipper, I sensed that something might be wrong from the sound of your voice over the phone," Barbie explained. "I thought I'd better come home a little early in case you needed help."
Skipper rushed over to her older sister and fell into her arms. Stacie and Janet collapsed on the sofa with Kelly.
"Oh, Barbie," Skipper groaned, "I don't know where to begin."
"Just as I thought," Barbie said with a gentle laugh. She gave Skipper a warm hug. "Okay, you can tell me about it. But first you all need to eat. And little Kelly here needs to go to bed."
"Kelly want story!" piped up the toddler, yawning.
"All right," said Barbie. "But only a short one tonight."
"Thanks, Sis," Skipper called as Barbie carried Kelly upstairs to her bedroom.
Ken headed for the kitchen to set the table for dinner. "You ladies must be starving," he said.
"We are!" shouted Skipper, Stacie, and Janet at the same time.
"In fact," Skipper said, steering Ken away from the soap bubbles in the kitchen, "let's save time and just eat in the living room."
When they had finished eating, Barbie came downstairs and joined them.
"So, what happened, Skipper? And why was that poor man waiting at the door?" asked Barbie.
Skipper began to tell Barbie what had happened. But she left out some parts.
"You forgot about when Janet and I added more soap powder to the washing machine. And then it overflowed," Stacie said helpfully.
"Or how about when Kelly played dress-up with Barbie's clothes?" added Janet.
Skipper gave Stacie and Janet a look. "I was getting to that part."
"What happened to my clothes?" Barbie asked, looking nervously from Janet to Skipper.
"Well," Skipper began, "you see, Kelly got some of her dinner on your pink dress."
"My favorite pink dress?" Barbie exclaimed. She winced at the thought of the pretty fabric covered with sticky peanut butter and jelly.
"Don't forget about the blouses and the feather boa," added Stacie.
Barbie looked at Skipper. "So the clothing in the washing machine is all mine?" she asked slowly.
Skipper nodded. "I'm sorry, Barbie."
Barbie smiled and shook her head. "Well, I'm sure everything will be all right. The most important thing is that no one was hurt," she said, playfully messing up Skipper's hair. "Don't be too hard on yourself, Skipper. We all have days when nothing seems to go right."
"I've really learned my lesson," declared Skipper. "I'll never try to handle too many things at once again. And I'll never ever turn my back on a toddler!"
Barbie smiled at her sister. "Hey, did I ever tell you about the time my friend Midge came over when I was baby-sitting you and Stacie?" she said.
"No. What happened?" Skipper asked.
"Well, I was about your age, Skipper, and you were about Stacie's age," Barbie began.
"How old was I?" Stacie asked.
"Not much older than Kelly," replied Barbie. "Anyway, Midge came over to keep me company. We started to watch a television program about hairstyling tips. Skipper, you were sitting on the rug watching the program with us. Stacie was playing beside you. Well, Midge and I were trying out the hairstyles on each other, and I turned my back for just a minute."
"That sounds familiar!" Skipper said with a laugh.
"Well, the next thing I knew," continued Barbie, turning to Skipper, "you had decided that Stacie needed a haircut."
"Oh, no!" Skipper exclaimed, laughing.
Barbie chuckled. "Skipper, you had cut off Stacie's lovely, blond pigtails and taped them onto your doll's head!"
"So that's why I have a really short haircut in all the pictures taken at my second birthday party!" cried Stacie, playfully punching Skipper.
"Well, at least no one's hair got chopped off while I was baby-sitting," Skipper joked.
"Luckily, Stacie's hair grew back," said Barbie. "But from that day on, I took baby-sitting much more seriously."
"Don't worry, this will never happen again," Skipper told Barbie. "And I promise to clean up the mess."
"Little lady," said Ken, doing his Elvis Presley imitation, "I'd be honored to assist you."
"Sure, Elvis. Feel free to pitch in!" Skipper said with a laugh.
"We'll get ready for bed," said Stacie. "C'mon, Janet. Let's watch My Brother Is a Two-Headed Alien in the morning. I'm too tired to be scared to death right now!"
"Good night, everyone," said the girls as they headed up the stairs.
Skipper, Barbie, and Ken turned toward the kitchen to start cleaning up.
"Well," said Barbie, "there's one good thing about all of this."
"What's that, Sis?" Skipper asked.
Barbie's eyes sparkled. "I'll have enough clean clothes for a month!"