Keep It Real (From the Files of Madison Finn, 19) (5 page)

BOOK: Keep It Real (From the Files of Madison Finn, 19)
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It sounded as though Rose Thorn and Phony Joanie, Ivy’s two drone friends, were trying to comfort her. Madison listened closely.

“I just don’t think I can deal,” Ivy announced dramatically.

“Yes, you can,” Rose said. “You are so strong, Ivy. Everyone knows how strong you are.”

Ivy hiccuped. She was crying again. Madison hadn’t heard her cry like that since they were younger.

“I can’t…” Ivy sniffled. “I can’t believe I’m getting like this at school…”

Joanie leaned down. She was peeking under the stalls! Madison lifted her feet up so they wouldn’t see her. Then she put a hand over her mouth.

“Don’t worry,” Joanie announced. “No one’s here.”

Rose turned on the faucet. “Here, take this. Wipe your face.”

“I can’t…” Ivy sobbed. “I’ll ruin my makeup.”

Madison rolled her eyes. Her makeup? Of course, even when she was upset, Ivy wanted to look good. And what kind of problem was she crying about, anyway? Madison guessed it was the Dunn Manor guy. It had to be. That would be just the kind of problem that would make Ivy break down in the bathroom at school. Guy stuff.

Madison clenched her fists together and held her legs up higher, just in case someone peeked under the stalls again. She couldn’t risk getting caught and branded a spy.

Ivy sniffled a little bit more. Madison had to strain to hear what she and her friends were saying now. She heard a few whispers, but couldn’t make out the exact words.

“…Be okay…” Joanie mumbled.

“…Just keep it together…” Rose said.

“Yeah, I know,” Ivy said, her voice regaining its strength.

Madison took another deep breath and filled her cheeks with air. She heard Ivy, Rose, and Joanie pick up their stuff and walk out of the bathroom.

No talking, no sighing, no breathing. Not until they were gone.

The door squeaked and clicked.

Madison dropped her legs and opened the stall.

“Maddie?”

Madison froze. Ivy was still there, standing at the sink, wiping her nose. The drones had gone, but she had stayed behind, silent.

The two enemies stared each other down in the mirror.

“Were you in there the whole time?” Ivy asked, wiping her nose (and tears) some more.

“It’s a free country,” Madison said.

Ivy cocked her head to the side. “Um…what did you hear?”

“Nothing,” Madison said.

Madison glanced over at Ivy’s bag on the ledge by the windows. She could see Ivy’s black-and-white journal poking up between the zippered sides. As soon as she saw Madison looking, Ivy grabbed the bag and pulled it close to her. The journal fell back inside.

“You’d better not have heard anything, Madison Finn,” Ivy said menacingly. “And you’d better keep your big trap shut!”

Ivy wasn’t crying anymore. She was yelling. She pushed the door hard and exited the bathroom.

Madison’s knees felt a little wobbly. The whole incident had made her uncomfortable.
Had
she been spying?

As she went back over to the sink to wash her hands, Lindsay walked in.

“Hey, Maddie, I just saw Ivy leaving. Boy, did she look upset,” Lindsay said. “She’s got such a major attitude. You know what I mean?”

“I know,” Madison said. “What else is new?”

After school, Madison hustled toward home. Dad would be picking her up, and Madison needed to change out of her school clothes and put on something a little dressier for dinner.

As usual, Dad was late, but only by a few minutes. They sped over to French Toast, their hangout for Tuesday-night dinners. The maître d’ served them an appetizer tray of pecan bread, crackers, herb-butter, cheddar sticks, and more. French Toast was one of those restaurants where some of the best stuff you got was what they served for free
before
the main course.

Madison and Dad talked their way through the meal. Even though Dad had remarried, he would still talk about the times with Mom and their days together as a family. Madison played along. Talking about the past meant that she didn’t have to tell Dad what was
really
going on in her life.

She didn’t mention Bigwheels’s secret blog.

She avoided all discussion of Ivy’s “perfect” life.

And she definitely didn’t talk about Mom’s unusually dressed-up outfits these days, whatever they meant. (Madison was beginning to think they meant something very interesting indeed, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself—let alone to Dad.)

It was way more tiring not to say certain words or thoughts at dinner than to admit everything right then and there, out in the open. By the time the meal was over, keeping so many topics of discussion out of the conversation had left Madison exhausted. When Dad suggested they share a slice of flourless chocolate cake (usually the best part of the whole evening), Madison just shook her head.

“Let’s go home now,” Madison said.

“Maddie doesn’t want dessert? Call the papers! What’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” Madison said. “Nothing. Everything. Nothing.”

Dad didn’t make Madison explain any more than that. He paid the check and gave Madison a warm hug, which was way more comforting than words. Then he drove her home.

As he often did, Dad walked Madison to the door. Mom answered the bell.

“Hello, Frannie,” Dad said as he squeezed Madison’s shoulder. “Don’t you look nice tonight!”

Madison nodded. “Yeah, Mom. Where’s the party?”

Mom’s usual attire of sweatpants and a long shirt had been replaced by a long black dress with a turquoise-and-silver belt. On her feet she wore a polished pair of new black boots.

“Thanks for taking Maddie tonight, Jeff,” Mom said.

“You had a good night?” Dad asked Mom.

Did he know something? Madison wondered.

Mom grinned. “Splendid.”

“Well, I’m off,” Dad said with a clap of his hands and a kiss on Madison’s forehead. He leaned over to give Phinnie a smooch, too.

Before he walked out the door, Dad smiled and patted Mom on the arm, and for a split second, Madison imagined that he was flirting with Mom and she with him again, which meant that maybe, just maybe, they still liked each other a little, which meant that there was a brief, teeny-weeny flicker of reconciliation in the air.

Of course, there wasn’t. It was all a dream, but dreams like that always popped up, even now—a year after the Big D. Even now that Dad had married Stephanie.

Mom locked the door behind Dad and kissed Madison again.

“Gee, Mom, you look so pretty tonight,” Madison said as she tugged off her jacket and shoes.

“Mmmm,” Mom mumbled. “Thanks. You look pretty, too, Maddie. Did you and your father have a good meal?”

“Yeah. Sure,” Madison said. “Did you go somewhere for dinner?”

“Oh, I ate a little,” Mom said, burying her nose in a book.

“Big date, huh?” Madison joked.

Mom didn’t answer right away. “I went for a drink with a friend,” she said after a moment. “Nothing special.”

“Oh,” Madison said. “But didn’t you go and get your hair done at Salon Pink yesterday?”

Mom looked back down at the book. “Yes,” she said softly. “I did.”

“How long was Mrs. Gillespie here this morning?” Madison asked.

“Aren’t you just full of questions tonight? Let’s see…Aimee’s mom was here for just about an hour. We had a nice, long chat. I’ve been working so hard lately. I miss dishing the dirt with my girlfriends.”

“Dishing dirt?”

“Oh, you know. It’s just a figure of speech, Maddie. Sharing all the gossip.”

“Like, what gossip?” Madison asked.

Mom clucked her tongue. “There are some secrets that aren’t meant to be shared.”

“You’re no fun. I’m going to bed,” Madison said.

“Mmmm,” Mom sighed again. “Give me a kiss first.”

Madison leaned in for a kiss and a hug before heading upstairs. When she stepped into her bedroom, she saw Phin sleeping on top of her many pillows. He stirred a little, waiting for a pat on the head, but then went back to sleep.

Madison’s laptop was still open on her desk, the power still on from earlier that afternoon. She sat right down in front of it.

Mom had said that some secrets were not meant to be shared. That got Madison thinking. Was that how Bigwheels felt? Was that why she had kept the news of the blog from Madison?

Madison hit
NEW
.

From: MadFinn

To: Bigwheels

Subject: TweenBlurt

Date: Tues 12 Oct 8:46 PM

Whassup? LTNE!

Well, things in my life are the same. I need a new wardrobe, a new haircut, ha-ha. Actually, my stepmom gave me some hand-me-down sweaters that fit me and they are retro which is cooler than cool. My mom loaned me some earrings too. I wish I could get a makeover on one of those TV shows though, don’t you?

Speaking of makeovers, my mom has been acting mighty odd l8ly. She’s getting all dressed up and going out and I have this sinking feeling about it. Is she dating again?

BTW: I was just surfing around and wondered if u saw all the new features on tweenblurt l8ly? I feel like we picked the kewlest site to join. All my friends are on it now 2. What about u? Let me know what u think of all their new features.

Yours till the polka dots,
Maddie

Would that get Bigwheels to admit to something?

Midway through writing the message, Madison had decided it was smarter not use the word blog or mention BloggerBlurt by name. Madison didn’t want to sound like a snoop or anything. She wanted—she
needed
—Bigwheels to be the one to tell her what was going on, without any prompting. She wanted to give Bigwheels a chance to be honest first.

With fingers crossed, Madison pressed
SEND
.

Chapter 5

“I
VY DALY IS DATING
a college sophomore?” Chet said.

He was sitting with the gang at the orange lunch table toward the back of the cafeteria. The rumors about Ivy’s relationship with the Dunn Manor guy had become greatly exaggerated.

“College? What?” Egg cried. “Are you kidding me?”

Fiona nodded. At one point in the school year, she would have raced to defend even Ivy Daly from the spiraling gossip that could happen at school. But today Fiona was a party to all of it.

“I heard it from Aimee, who heard it from her brother,” Fiona explained.

“Right,” Aimee agreed. “But he’s in high school, not college, Chet. Duh.”

“Whatever,” Chet grumbled. “Who cares about Ivy, anyway?”

“We do,” Aimee said. “She’s always talking about us.”

Madison picked at the food on her plate, moving a pea from one side to the other without touching the potatoes in the middle. She didn’t know what to say or think about Ivy anymore. Right now everything seemed different. Madison wasn’t sure what was going on.

Linsday pulled up to the table with her tray and got in on the conversation. Apparently she had heard even more information about Ivy than Aimee had.

“I heard that Ivy went to Dunn Manor after school last week,” Lindsay said softly. “I wonder what that means.”

“Huh?” Madison’s head shot up. “Do you think she went to meet that guy?”

“Yeah, maybe,” Aimee said. “My brother told me that half the guys in his class saw Ivy making out with him.”

“Come on…” Madison said. “Making out? At the school?”

“You guys!” Drew said. “Leave her alone, for goodness’ sake.”

“Who are you, her boyfriend?” Egg taunted Drew.

Madison smiled. Drew was sometimes the shy one, sometimes the silly one, but occasionally the voice of reason. A lot of times he got sucked in to Egg’s craziness, but he also knew when to stand up for his own opinions. Madison liked that about him.

“Hey, everyone! What’s going on?” Hart asked, joining the group.

“Look, I’m not her boyfriend…” Drew said. “But he is.”

Drew pointed directly at Hart.

“Me? Who? What are you jokers talking about? Whose boyfriend?” Hart stammered.

The table erupted with laughter—except for Madison. She had finally gotten to a place where she was secure in the knowledge that Ivy posed no romantic threat to her crush on Hart. But here was everyone else, still teasing Hart about Ivy’s being his girlfriend, and laughing about it. Laughing!

Madison wanted to slink under the table and go
poof
in person—the same way she was able to go
poof
online.

The truth was, however, that everyone at the table was laughing at what was
behind
Madison. Across the lunchroom, Poison Ivy had suddenly stood up from her table when a carton of milk spilled on her shirt. She looked angry.

“Uh-oh. The enemy’s in trouble,” Aimee quietly joked.

“Yeah, someone go tell her not to cry over spilled milk,” Egg added.

Everyone laughed even louder—this time including Madison, now that she knew what was going on.

From out of his backpack, Chet pulled a plastic container. Mrs. Waters had baked pumpkin cookies for everyone. Among their group of friends, Chet and Fiona’s mother was known as the Cookie Queen.

Egg grabbed a handful of cookies and started to chomp. The rest of the group grabbed handfuls, too. Madison bit into one with a jagged edge and frosting, and savored the sweet flavors. She liked things that smelled and tasted like fall. It was one of her favorite times of the year.

“Did you guys work on the new journaling assignment?” Drew asked. Madison was relieved that he’d changed the subject.

“I did,” Madison answered quickly. “It was a better task than yesterday. I didn’t love writing about a scar.”

“A scar? Which one was that? In our class, I don’t think Mrs. Quill has been going in the right order of journaling assignments,” Aimee said. “Did everyone have to make a list last night?”

Fiona opened her backpack, pulled out a black notebook, and pointed to the most recent entry. “Yup,” she said. “Here’s mine.”

Madison looked around the table. She’d been keeping files and folders forever, but now all of her friends were writing, too. A part of her thought that that was a great thing—and another part of her wondered if it meant that now everyone would be muscling in on the things that she liked to do. It was fun to share interests—but was this too much?

BOOK: Keep It Real (From the Files of Madison Finn, 19)
5.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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