AN: Prequel to "Blooming Lily". This is the party where Leni gets pregnant, her reasons for upholding the 'stupid' charade, even while not at home, and the identity of the man who fathered Lily toward the end. Lori is not being mean to Leni for no reason. She's trying to keep her little sister safe. And yes, Leni makes a Pinkie Promise. She IS channeling Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony when she does so. Leni watches My Little Pony or "Princess Pony" in the Loud-verse. And yes, I'm using Carol Pingrey as Leni's best friend. It's never been proven or not that Leni even HAS friends, so I'm giving her one.

The Party – Chapter 1

Leni was brushing out her silky blonde-silver hair exactly fifty times. She had to prepare for a party, after all. Her first popular high school party with college boys! Lori had told her that such parties were super fun, so she had to look her best. She might even find a boyfriend, one who likes stupid girls, of course.

It wasn't hard, pretending to be stupid...but it could be a pain, especially when looking for a boyfriend. She wanted him to love her for who she really was, but if her family and friends found out that she was, like, a nerd...they would all hate her.

All she had to do was look at Lisa for verification. The little girl had zero friends in her kindergarten class, they all hated her for how stuck up she was. She even refused to simply hold hands with a little boy because he didn't know basic chemistry. The teachers and students at the local college even found her attitude annoying, as most people over the age of ten would hate being told what to do by a three year old anyway. The family...even her parents got angry with Lisa much more than they did with Leni.

No one ever got mad at Leni. Stupid, 'special', Leni. How could they ever be angry with someone who couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time or turn on a vacuum cleaner? They couldn't. The few times they did, her parents had felt awful. She sometimes felt awful, pretending the way she did. She didn't do it to get away with things...she was helpful, kind, loving, obedient...everything but smart.

Leni did it to make everyone feel better about themselves, even Lynn, probably the truly least intelligent of all the Loud children...except maybe Lincoln, who seemed to have some form of ADHD and couldn't focus on a task for more than a few seconds or made up elaborate 'operations' for every event they did together. Not that it wasn't smart, but did they really need a name for every activity they did? Leni didn't think so.

"Aaaannnd fifty! Look at that shine!" Leni spun around several times, her shiny hair gleaming against her silvery-green dress that she had designed herself. Bright green gems sparkled at her shoulders and waist, where the dress was bunched into a shiny silver flower.

Walking back to her bedroom, Leni asked, "Lori, don't I look, like, awesome for my first high school party? With college boys? I might even find a hottie and have a boyfriend! Like, even before you! Are you ever gonna ask out that boy you totally like but just keep tripping and throwing food at? That's, like, you're acting Lincoln's age!"

Leni laughed and spun around again, letting Lori get a good look at her silver-green dress, sparkly earrings, and the emerald heart necklace that hung between her cleavage, making sure everyone would get a good look. She didn't think she was the most beautiful Loud, no, that prestigious title went to Lori, with her gold hair and slender, lithe-muscled frame...Lori was a definite beauty.

Leni was too fragile-looking, too...elf-like and pale. At least, that's what Lincoln had told her. That she looked like that elf, Galedrien or something, from King of the Rings, whoever that was. She imagined it was some fantasy movie character. As for the paleness...she simply couldn't tan, no matter how long she basked under the sun's rays. She simply got a bad burn, and then went back to being her normal pale self after the burn healed. A trait she shared with seven-year old Lucy. At least she wasn't alone in her eternal paleness.

"Leni, you look literally illegal!," snapped Lori, glaring at Leni, "Look at that dress! There are literally so many men going to want to take advantage of you. You should dress more casual." Lori's glare could melt steel.

Leni wilted a bit. She had been happy with the way she looked. The way she was dressed. Tears welled up in her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Lori. I, like, can't be as pretty as you. No matter how hard I try. A pretty dress is the best I can do, and I'm wearing it! If someone wants to 'take advantage' of me, whatever that means, I'll let them. It means I'm at least slightly pretty, like you," Leni dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

She'd had her mother help her put on makeup, since 'stupid Leni' didn't know how, and now Lori was going to ruin it by making her cry. Why did her big sister hate her so much? Why was she so mean? All Leni wanted was to go to a party. To be told she looked nice by her beautiful big sister for once.

Lori sighed and put her head in her hands, growling something.

"Leni, you look fine, but seriously, please pick a different dress. That dress leaves literally nothing to the imagination! I literally can't believe mom approved it," The older girl wrinkled her nose in annoyance.

"Mom helped me with the stitching! I made this dress. I made it to look pretty, like you, and mom said it looked great on me. She didn't, like, stand there making me feel a second banana. Whatever that means. Luan says it sometimes," Leni turned her back on Lori, her spine stiff, anger coursing through her at Lori.

Lori was just so mean. She was the only one who didn't care if Leni was 'special'. She was mean to her regardless. Sometimes Leni wondered if Lori knew the truth. About the mask she wore everyday, even at school. How could she, really? She acted stupid at school, at home, everywhere. Except maybe in her sleep, but unless she was spouting Calculus equations in her sleep, how could Lori know?

Even when the high school posted grades, they were all numbers and only Leni knew her grade number. No one else knew she usually topped the list on most tests. She always hid the papers the teachers handed back, and acted embarrassed, refusing to show them to anyone on the grounds that she didn't want so many people knowing she was failing. Lori...Lori would be failing, if it weren't for Lisa. Leni and Lincoln were the only ones that had no tutoring sessions with Lisa. Perhaps Lisa thought it was a lost cause for Leni. Or she knew the truth, which Leni doubted. As for Lincoln, Lisa simply had no time for his almost-constant boredom and obvious ADHD issues. He was also a pretty good student in school anyway, and didn't need her tutoring, really.

Leni dabbed her eyes again, not wanting to risk messing up the eyeshadow her mother had so carefully applied for Leni's first party. She took a deep, calming breath and looked for a pair of sea-green floral pumps in her closet.

No. No, it couldn't be. They were just there, not even thirty minutes ago, but now they were gone. Tears threatened again. They would go perfect with the dress. She bought them specifically FOR the dress. Lori took them. That was the only explanation. Lori wanted to sabotage her attempt to make her first high school party a success.

"Why did you take my shoes, Lori? I spent, like, all the money I'd been saving up for months on those shoes! I know you did it. Why do you want to stop me going to the party? I just want to have fun and be popular like you," Leni's lip trembled as she tried not to cry while asking Lori why. Why she stole Leni's stuff. Why she didn't want Leni to have fun.

Lori, sitting in a chair, rested her feet on an ottoman and glared nastily at Leni, resisting the urge to pin the beautiful girl and her too-beautiful dress down and keep her away from a shady college party.

"What makes you think I did it? You're so dumb you would lose your head if it wasn't attached!" Lori snarled.

She had took the shoes, but she really, really didn't want Leni to go to a college party. Something bad could happen to her innocent little sister. Leni was truly intelligent, but she was still innocent and naive when it came to certain things. She loved Leni, more than any of her other siblings, as bad as she felt admitting that, and anything happening to her would just kill Lori. Lori had a dark feeling, like Lucy sometimes said, a feeling like she was spiraling into a dark pit and if she didn't stop Leni, it would just get worse. She was dragging Leni into the same dark pit by keeping her silence.

Still, she couldn't prevent Leni from going to her party, since her parents had said it was okay. It wasn't okay with Lori. A fifteen-year old girl should not be allowed to go to a party with drinking and college boys. Lori was pretty sure Leni didn't mention that part to her parents. She bet Leni simply told them it was a slumber party with her friends so she could stay out all night. Her parents would believe her, because 'stupid Leni' didn't know how to make up a good lie. She wasn't sure why people even lied. And if Lori told them the truth, her parents would think SHE was lying just to hurt her sister. Either that, or she HAD told them the truth but they had been so pre-occupied with her other siblings that they'd simply said "That's nice, dear" or something along those lines.

In truth, Leni rarely DID lie. She was too kind-hearted and honest for such things. The only times she lied was to protect her siblings, especially Lori, which made Lori feel even worse for treating Leni so badly. The time Lori had hit a fire hydrant with Vanzilla, Leni had lied and said she had asked Lori to let her drive and that she did it. She got grounded for months. She was too young, didn't even have a permit, and knew nothing about driving, so of course her parents grounded her.

Leni was actually very smart, and Lori was the only one who knew, who had remembered. Leni had helped her with homework when they'd been little, before Leni put on the 'stupid' mask and tried to make everyone else feel better by being inferior to them. She could drive very well, in truth. Despite being barely fifteen, she could have probably managed to get her license, or at least a license that let her drive as long as a licensed driver was with her. Her permit.

If anyone could get something past mom and dad, it was Leni. Well, and Luna. Luna was excellent at staying out all night, rocking with her band. Her parents somehow seemed to know, but not care, since that's the way rock and rolled...uhm...rolled. Luan probably would have made a joke out of that, but Lori didn't have much in the way of a sense of humor so she couldn't come up with a joke on the spot. Besides, their father had been in a band, so he knew exactly what it was like to be in a rock band and how demanding it was.

Leni blinked back tears and turned away from Lori, going through her closet for another pair of shoes that would go well with her dress. After about thirty minutes of going through her massive shoe collection, she finally found some silver pumps with silky green lining and a green gem pinning the back strap together. It would be nice, but not as nice as the shoes she'd bought specifically for her dress. Lori was always so mean, and all Leni ever did was help her. Always, even as children. She heaved a sigh that Lucy would have envied and dabbed her eyes with a tissue again.

She slid the shoes on and walked over to the full-length mirror, studying her reflection. Pale blonde hair, pale skin, pale blue eyes...and the most amazing dress ever. She loved her dress and the way it made her pale features stand out rather than making her look washed out as some dresses did. The silver went very well with her hair, which sometimes had a silvery sheen in certain lighting. She resisted the urge to put on some sunglasses.

She was used to wearing them often, as they were stylish and protected her sensitive eyes. She'd never been tested, but Leni was sure she had ocular albinism since her eyes were so pale and sensitive to bright lights. Either that, or she simply had a low amount of melanin in her body. She wanted to bring it up to her mother at some point, but then she would have to explain how she even knew what ocular albinism and melanin was, and she couldn't use Lisa as an excuse because Lisa never spent much time with her siblings, especially stupid Leni, due to her superiority complex and hatred of stupidity.

Lisa especially felt Leni was a waste of space. Part of Leni wanted to march right into Lisa's room and fix her badly-solved quadratic equations, but she couldn't do that. Leni wasn't superior to anyone. She wasn't smart. She was the kind, caring, 'special' girl that everyone loved. Heaving another Lucy-like sigh, she turned to Lori, forcing a smile on to her face.

"Like, can you get over your...your hatred of me..." Leni's voice shook a bit and she forced back her tears, "and at least tell me if I look good? Or was mom lying and saying that just because she didn't want to, like, hurt my feelings?"

Leni felt as if she were being x-rayed as Lori's dark blue eyes scanned Leni. Leni couldn't help but notice the small frown on Lori's face as she did so. Lori stood up and walked over to Leni. To Leni's shock, Lori pulled her into a strong hug.

"Don't do anything stupid. Please. I love you, Leni. I...I was just trying to protect you. I don't hate you," Lori pulled back and looked Leni in the eyes, "Please, Leni, please whatever your friends are doing, don't give in to literal peer pressure, okay? Is getting hurt really worth keeping up your 'stupid' facade?"

Leni blinked in surprise, "What's a fa-sade? I don't know what you're talking about. Is it, like, something to do with my face? Does my face look stupid?" She said, injecting a tone of worry into her voice and gently touching her face to make sure everything was alright.

Lori resisted the urge to slap her little sister. She gritted her teeth. "Leni, just please, please, please don't be stupid. If there are drugs, don't do it, no matter how good people say they feel. The same with alcohol. It's just stupid and literally not worth it, okay?"

Leni clenched her jaw and turned and left the room. Her friend with a driver's license had text her and she was now waiting for Leni in the driveway.

"Byeeeee, mom and dad! I'll be back soon as the slumber party is over! Pinkie Promise!" Leni yelled, pulling on a warm, long coat since her dress was so thin. Neither parent looked at her as she walked out the door, her mother having a tea party with Lola and her father showing Lana how to fix the kitchen sink.

"Have fun, Leni, honey!" Her mother yelled, followed by a "Have a great night, dear!" From her father.

She pulled the black coat tightly around her thin dress and approached her friend's car, opening the door and settling into the passenger seat with a sigh.

"What's up, Leni? More problems with Lori?" The girl laughed and rolled her eyes, "Lori is such a drama queen. I remember when I beat her for the Queen of Hearts title at the Valentine's dance! She literally stomped her feet and threw stuff!"

"Oh, Carol, Lori isn't that bad...she's just...uhm...I really don't know," Leni admitted to Carol. She really didn't know why Lori was mean sometimes and nice other times. Lori especially hated Leni's friend, Carol Pingrey. Likely because Carol was super popular and beat her out for Queen in most of the dances they had, and Carol's hot boyfriend, Sean-something, "Maybe...maybe she's just jealous of you, Carol. I mean, you are, like, queen of the school and everyone loves you!"

Carol laughed, "Oh, Leni, that's not true. They pretend to like me, just because they're afraid of what I'll do if I get mad at them. They' other 'friends'...they're just fake. They don't really like me, but you,'re genuine. You're so nice it hurts sometimes. I just don't know how someone can be THAT nice to people, especially when..." Carol trailed off.

"When, what? I don't get mad...whatever it is, you can always tell me," Leni said, biting her lip.

Carol squeezed the steering wheel tightly, but kept her eyes on the road, and gave Leni a quick, pitying look, "They think you're stupid. They always say 'Leni is so dumb she can't add 2+2' and other horrible things like that. There are things more important than intelligence...even if you really were as dumb as they say, which you're not," Carol added.

"No, I am. I don't care what people say. If it makes them feel better about themselves to insult me...then that's okay. I don't want anyone to feel inferior to anyone else, especially to me. After all, they haven't put me in a special needs class yet, and I've been to a few, just to see, and...those kids...they are special. They just aren't stupid-special, like everyone thinks. They're not 'retarded'...they just need different things than a lot of other children do. That's all," Leni sighed and turned to watch the streetlights passing on her side of the road.

The car jerked a bit as Carol pulled into the driveway, putting it in park.

"You look great, by the way. You know, tons of girls try to look like you. That perfect, pale skin, that silvery blonde hair...I don't know how you do it," Carol sighed enviously.

Leni blushed slightly. She knew she wasn't pretty. People just said that to make her feel better about herself because she was stupid, "Carol, I'm not pretty. You don't have to lie. You, you're the pretty one. Probably even prettier than Lori. You two look a lot alike, and she's...well, she's really beautiful. She's always been the prettiest, the oldest, the first one for everything in my big family."

Leni loved Lori, no doubt, but she was almost too perfect for words, and it did irk her at times. Not as much as Lisa's superiority complex, but...close. She was born first, so she expected to be first in everything...and she was, really. She was the first one her parents got to throw a Sweet Sixteen party for. Their parents had a small budget, but had taken out a rather large loan when their eldest daughter turned sixteen. It was a huge moment, their first child turning sweet sixteen, after all.

She was given keys to Vanzilla on her birthday. Her party was at a local swimming pool that had been reserved. Her parents only allowed her family in after her large group of popular, pretty friends had left. Leni was sure Lori's party had been great. Due to her own popularity, Carol had been invited, but turned it down on the principal that her best friend, Leni, hadn't been invited to her own sister's pool party.

Leni's party would probably just be a cake and presents. She couldn't figure out how to drive, after all. All she did was crash. Even though Lori crashed and Leni took the blame, a few months ago before Leni had turned fifteen and been able to drive with a permit. Which she didn't have anyway, so it was her fault all the way in the eyes of the law, so Lori didn't even get a ticket.

Leni even claimed she took the keys from Lori and started driving before Lori found her crashed into a fire hydrant. The police had believed her. It had been so long ago, and so stupid, that she'd forgotten about it. She just remembered that she'd been grounded for three months, but that was it.

Leni sucked in a deep breath and pulled her long black coat around her, the chill air biting through the thin dress underneath, as she climbed out of the car. She looked up at the stars above Carol's fancy house, where the party was being held. The stars never worried about a thing. They were above it all. The stars had always made Leni feel so tiny. Billions of balls of gas, billions of miles away...away from it all.

All the stupid crap that made life so complicated. Sometimes Leni wished she could just disappear into the strands of starlight and forget everything. The pain, the jealousy, the...envy. She hated how badly she envied Lori and Carol. They were her sister and her best friend. A nice person doesn't want to try and be someone they care about. Leni pulled a tissue out of a coat pocket and dabbed lightly at a cold tear that had trailed down a cheek. She glanced in the car mirror. It hadn't messed up her mascara, thankfully.

Throwing her silvery-blonde locks over her shoulder and plastering a 'Leni-smile' on her face, she followed Carol and her skimpy pink dress into the party. Leni imagined that Carol was what Lola would be like when she turned sixteen. Pink, prissy, popular, and a party animal. If a party existed, Carol was there. If a school dance needed a Queen, it was Carol ninety-nine percent of the time. Lori had won once, and it had shocked almost the entire school (except those who had voted for Lori).

At least Carol ACTED nice to everyone, Leni thought, but Lori never bothered. She was snotty, bossy, and rude to almost everyone, Leni included. Leni knew that Lori still loved them all, but she was a totally different person in school...almost like vacant, blank-faced, Leni.

She didn't show any more emotion than pure happiness and niceness around the kids at school. Her family sometimes saw the pouty, angry Leni, but never the mean one, because Leni didn't think she even HAD a mean bone in her body. Stupid Leni would ask where the mean bone was located and glance to the ceiling thoughtfully, wondering if her anatomy class had forgotten something.

Leni blinked her sensitive eyes against the irritating strobe lights throughout the entrance hall. She winced and pulled on a pair of silver-framed sunglasses to help with the irritation. She took a deep breath. Here was where she would be on her own. Where Carol would leave her to go party with her fake friends, the ones who followed her like puppies just to bask in the glow of her popularity.

Leni knew she wasn't part of that entourage, but she figured she could find something else to do here. It was a college...well, at least high Surely there were far more interesting things to do than hang around Carol and listen to her talk about how awesome she was. At least Carol didn't lie. She WAS awesome. Great at school, pretty, rich, everything Leni wasn't. Everything LORI wasn't. Which was why Lori hated her so much, Leni guessed.

The girl took off her coat and hung it on the rack near the entrance and found her way to a room with some soft couches to sit on. She sat down and gave another Lucy-like sigh of relief. No one should really bother her here. The only other person was a nervous-looking young man with wavy brown hair and pale skin and...if Leni were honest...a very nice body. And the most amazing green eyes she'd ever seen. She blushed slightly and looked away, biting her lip.

"May I get you something to drink, ma'am?" Leni jumped as one of Carol's butlers or servants or whatever appeared out of thin air with a tray of sparkly red juice or something in wine glasses.

"Oh, ah, sure, thank you," Leni took a glass and smiled at the servant again, vacantly waving him away.

She fingered the glass thoughtfully and took a sip. She almost gagged in shock. It wasn't cranberry juice, that was for sure, but it tasted very...unique. Nice. She took another big gulp of the drink. She could almost feel the warmth spreading through her body.

Was this...alcohol? She'd never drank before, but if this was how it made one feel...why was it bad? It relaxed her, made her feel less nervous. She finished her glass of red wine, burped softly into her hand, and put the glass down on the table.

The servant appeared with a bottle and looked hopefully at Leni and the now-not-so-nervous young man (who had also imbibed several glasses of wine) sitting on the other couch.

"Would the young lady and gentleman care for the bottle?" He asked, apparently not caring if they were underage. Carol was probably paying him quite well to serve drinks to her friends, and no one would find out, or if they did, nothing would happen.

Carol was nice to Leni, but she was a bit of a spoiled brat. She lived on the wealthy side of town, with Lincoln's friend Clyde. The houses were amazing...but she wouldn't trade her family for one of these fancy houses, massage chairs, butlers, nothing. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

"Sure. You can, uhm, just leave it, I guess. Thank you, sir," Leni poured some more into her empty bottle and offered to pour some for the young man.

"Oh, my dear lady, I couldn't possibly have you serve me. It isn't gentlemanly...sincerely, I should be the one serving you. I-I...may I please sit by you? I'm a bit nervous know, women. I'm not used to people feely, and so emotionally volatile. I am a bit scared to be honest," He blushed furiously. Leni smiled as she noticed a he had a very lovely accent. Obviously he wasn't from here, perhaps adding to his nervous demeanor.

Leni smiled, "Of course you can sit with me. I'm not a person to be scared of. I won't turn into a monster or try to touch you or anything! I promise!" She said in her 'stupid Leni' voice, turning her vacant smile on the young man.

He smiled back, and bit his lip, "Ah, oh, I wasn't trying to, you know, what's that expression? Uh...'pick you up'...yes...I wasn't trying to do that, by the way. Just so you know. I won't know. Do that," Another blush.

"It's alright. I may be a girl, but I'm not scary or touchy or anything, I promise. I'm just...just a girl," Leni smiled, a hint of sadness creeping into her voice. She definitely had nothing this adorable young man would want over Carol. At least he was being nice to her.

"Alright...well, have a nice dress. Very fashionable," He sat down on Leni's couch, barely. An inch forward and his butt would hit the ground. Leni shook her head. The poor man was a nervous wreck!

"Please stop being so nervous. This is a party. It's, like, supposed to be fun. If it's your first time at a party, you should know it's, like, everyone's dream to be invited to one of Carol's parties. She's super popular and rich and everyone wants to be here!" Leni grinned vacantly at the young man, realizing that she'd repeated herself at least once, maybe more.

Was SHE nervous? Her heart did beat a little faster when talking to this handsome young man, but she wouldn't fall all over herself like Lori would in the presence of a cute boy. She pushed her silky hair back, pulling a jeweled green clip out of her purse and clipping it back. Hopefully that would help with the slight heat that was spreading through her body.

She resisted the urge to fan herself and closed her eyes. Let the wine do it's work, she thought, taking another sip of red wine. She'd filled her own glass, and the young man's, despite his protests that he couldn't have a lady serve him.

Leni took a deep breath and let it out. The wine was working wonders to relax her. Her body felt more at ease than it had in years. No one here really knew her, except Carol. She was still Leni Loud. Stupid, 'special', blank, and vacant. This party might help her make friends, or perhaps get a boyfriend. She glanced sideways at the young man, who was nervously sipping from his wine glass. A nice, handsome boy. Maybe it would be worth getting to know him a little more.

Leni smiled, a real smile, not a 'vacant' Leni-smile, and turned to finally talk, really talk, to this boy.