Authors: Laura Dower
“I guess I didn’t really realize how worried I was about this party,” Madison said to Phinnie, who was asleep by her feet, as usual. “But it really looks as though everything is coming together …”
“Honey bear?” Mom asked, poking her head through the door. “Are you talking to someone?”
“Hi, Mom,” Madison said. “Just talking to myself.”
Phin waddled over to Mom to say hello and then sat by the side of Madison’s bed until she leaned over and picked him up.
“How’s the party planning?” Mom asked.
“Excellent,” Madison replied. “Almost everyone is coming! Now all we have to do is bake the cake, if Mrs. Waters says that’s okay. She asked if we’d help make a list of other food and drinks kids would like, too. There is so much to do when you plan a party.”
“Hmm.” Mom tugged on a piece of hair—one of her classic thinking gestures. “Well, I have an idea. Since it’s a party for twins, maybe you could serve food that comes in pairs. Like, give everyone two scoops of ice cream?”
Madison giggled. “Yeah—on those side-by-side cones,” she said. “What else comes in twos?”
“Twix Bars!” Mom said.
Madison chimed in. “And Twinkies—”
“Stop!” Mom said. “Whatever happened to carrot sticks?”
“They don’t come in twos. Mom,” Madison said.
Mom laughed. “I think you’re doing a super job.”
“I hope this party is going to be greater than great,” Madison cried. “Right, Phinnie?”
Phin rolled over so Madison would scratch his belly.
For the first time in days, Madison felt as though the surprise party and almost everything else was under control.
“Hi, Dad,” Madison said, rushing down to the driveway to meet Dad’s car. It was 7:46—not 7:30 as he’d said. He was late, as usual.
“Hello, Maddie!” Dad said when she approached the car. He leaned over to give her a kiss. “Nice top. Is it new?”
“This old thing?” Madison said, smiling as she buckled her seat belt. Dad was good at giving just the right compliments. “Where are we eating?”
“Bombay Palace,” Dad said. “You like that place, right?”
“Sure, as long as I can get that tandooey skewer thing,” Madison said.
“Tandoori chicken?” Dad said, chuckling.
“You bet,” Madison said. Bombay Palace was one of her favorite restaurants. Even more than the food, Madison loved the atmosphere. They played music from Indian movies, and the interior was decorated with strings of teeny white Christmas lights. But best of all, Bombay Palace had the ultimate location.
“We go by Far Hills Animal Clinic on the way, right?” Madison asked. “Dad, could we stop there for just a second? Mrs. Wing said that one of the collies just had puppies, and I really want to see them.”
Dad checked the clock on the dashboard. “Well …” he hedged. “We’ve got a reservation, and I don’t want to keep Stephanie waiting.”
“Oh,” Madison said, deflated like a balloon losing air. Even though Madison didn’t love the idea that Dad was dating, Stephanie was always nice, she had to admit that. Madison could understand why Dad didn’t want her to be sitting by herself in the restaurant.
But, she still wanted to make the detour to see the puppies.
“I swear I will only go in for a split second,” Madison pleaded.
“I know you,” Dad said, “You’ll see one puppy and hold it. And then you’ll want to hold all of them…. Maybe we can go there after dinner?”
“They’ll be closed then,” Madison said. “Please, Dad? Puh-leeez?”
“Okay,” Dad sighed. “Okay. But you’ll have to be quick.”
“I will, cross my heart,” Madison said, giving him a peck on the cheek.
Dad pulled into the parking lot of the Far Hills Animal Clinic, and Madison opened the car door and jumped right out. “Five minutes only,” she said. “I know.”
“What about me?” Dad replied, “I want to see the puppies, too.”
“You do?” Madison said. She grinned as Dad scrambled out of the car and they walked into the clinic.
“Maddie!” said a blonde woman behind the desk. It was Eileen Ginsburg, animal nurse at the clinic and the mother of Madison’s friend from school, Dan.
“You’re here to see Fleet’s pups, aren’t you?” Eileen said.
Madison nodded and introduced Dad. After the grown-ups said their polite hellos, Eileen showed them into the back room. A volunteer was there tending to a sick kitten. Dan was there, too, washing cages.
“Hey, Maddie!” Dan yelled. He volunteered at the clinic after school to help his mom out. Madison admired how good he was with the animals. “Did you hear that Fleet had puppies?”
“Yes!” Madison said. “That’s why I’m here. Your mom guessed right away.” Madison introduced Dad.
“You’ve got your hands full here,” Dad said.
“Yes sir,” Dan said. “Let’s go see the dogs. There are seven. Can you believe it?”
Dan led them to a low basket lined with blankets in the corner of the room. “We thought she needed some extra space,” Dan explained. “Usually we don’t have special setups like this, but sometimes. Fleet is special.”
Fleet lay on her side, looking exhausted, while seven tiny collie puppies nursed at her side. Madison sucked in her breath. The puppies were so little that they hadn’t even opened their eyes yet! “They’re adorable,” she gasped.
“They really are,” Dad agreed, sneaking up behind Madison. “Lucky dogs.”
“Dad!” Madison groaned.
“They’re only four days old,” Dan said. “You can’t touch them yet, or else I’d let you hold one.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” Madison said. “I’m happy just to look.” She gazed at the puppies again, until she noticed Dad checking his watch. “Whoops! Hey, Dan, we have to boogie.”
“So soon?” he said.
“Yeah,” Madison said, smiling at Dad. “But thanks so much for showing them to us.”
“It was nice to meet you, young man,” Dad said.
“Come back and see them again,” Dan said. “They get cuter every day.”
“I don’t see how they could get any cuter,” Madison said, “but I’ll definitely come back.”
Dan showed them out. “Oh, by the way, Maddie, I got your e-mail invitation. It sounds like fun.”
“So you’ll be there?” Madison said. “So many people are coming. I can’t wait.” She waved to Dan as she walked to Dad’s car.
Madison drifted in a happy-puppy fog all the way to the restaurant. When they arrived, Stephanie was sitting at a table, looking at a menu.
“Sorry we’re a little late,” Dad said as he leaned over to say hello. “We had to stop and see some puppies.”
“Puppies? Wow! Where did you see those?” Stephanie said. She looked at Madison. “I bet that was your idea.”
Madison smiled. “Yeah, well this collie had puppies at the animal clinic downtown. I begged Dad to go. Sorry it made us late.”
“Nonsense!” Stephanie said. “I remember when my dog Max had puppies on the ranch and we watched them be born.”
“Really?” Madison said. Stephanie had the best stories from growing up.
The waiter came over with menus and took the drink orders. Dad requested an appetizer of vegetable samosas. Madison had never tried those before. He always made her try one new thing every time they ate out.
“So how’s school, Maddie?” Dad asked, changing the subject.
“Oh—the usual,” Madison said.
“Madison has entered a webpage contest,” Dad told Stephanie. “And I think she can win.”
Madison rolled her eyes. “Dad …” she moaned.
“What? I’m not allowed to be proud of my daughter?” Dad asked. “How’s it coming, by the way?”
“Actually, it’s going pretty well,” Madison admitted. “Fiona and I have been following your advice, keeping it simple. The link you sent to us really helped. It’s hard work, though.”
“Sounds like it,” Stephanie said. “And what else is going on? Any exciting dances or parties coming up?”
“Actually, my friend Aimee and I have been planning a surprise party for our other friends Fiona and Chet. They’re twins,” Madison explained. “We’re going bowling.”
“Twins?” Stephanie exclaimed. “My goodness. Twice as much fun then!”
“Who’s coming?” Dad asked. “The usual suspects?”
“Yeah,” Madison said—then stopped. “Actually, I
everyone is coming. I’m not sure about Egg, but everyone else says they’ll be there.”
Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “What’s up with Egg?” he asked.
Madison looked down at the pink tablecloth. “Well, he hasn’t RSVP’d,” Madison admitted. “He and I sort of had a fight.”
“A fight?” Dad repeated. “What about?”
Madison glanced up at Stephanie. For some reason, she didn’t want to talk about this in front of Dad’s girlfriend. “It’s nothing, Dad,” Madison said quickly. “Can we drop it?”
“But you and Egg are best friends,” Dad pressed. “Tell me what’s going on. I don’t like to hear that you’re not speaking …”
“Jeff—” Stephanie said.
“Wait, I want to hear this. Tell me why you’re not talking, Maddie.”
“Dad, didn’t you hear me? I said, forget it, okay?” she snapped. The last thing she wanted right now was to relive the whole Egg ordeal.
“Madison, you can talk to me about anything, you know—” Dad said.
“Jeff—” Stephanie tried to interrupt him again.
“It’s no biggie, all right? Egg is just being a wiener, as usual.”
“A what?” Dad said. “What did you say?” He glanced over at Stephanie, and she put her hand on his arm. “Madison, I don’t like it when—”
“Why don’t you just listen? I don’t want to talk about it!” Madison said.
“Jeff—” Stephanie tried to intervene again.
“Just leave me alone, Dad!” Madison shouted. “Go on another business trip or something, why don’t you?”
Dad sat back in his chair, stunned. Madison hardly ever raised her voice at him. She never did it in public. Why was she doing it now? She gulped down her glass of ice water and stared at the wall. Why had those words slipped out?
Madison just wanted to run away.
“I was only trying to help,” Dad said softly. Madison could tell by his voice that she’d hurt his feelings, but she didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t believe she’d said that stuff about a business trip.
“Jeff,” Stephanie said, “I think maybe we should change the subject. Let Madison just sit quietly, okay?”
Dad bristled at Stephanie. “Please, don’t tell me what to do with my daughter, Steph,” he said, his voice strained. Madison couldn’t believe that Stephanie was coming to her defense and that Dad was reacting the way he was. It felt like the way things were with Dad and Mom before the Big D.
The waiter came over with the drinks and appetizers. But when Dad handed Madison her vegetable samosa, she pushed it away. She couldn’t eat. She couldn’t look at him, either. No one was talking now.
Dinner took forever. The ride home was long and Dad and Stephanie spoke in the front seat about work, trying to include Madison in the conversation. But she didn’t feel like talking to anyone. She wanted everything just to stop or start over, or something other than this. She needed to be back home with Phin.
Madison thought she’d been on top of the world, planning the party and webpage. So why had she snapped at Dad? Would he ever forgive her for starting the fight in the restaurant?
Gramma Helen told Madison once that there were moments in life when everything crashed in at once, like a big wave. And at those moments, sometimes you felt lost. There, in the backseat of Dad’s car, a place that had always been supersafe, Madison felt lost.
Didn’t Dad remember what it was like to be in seventh grade?
After a quick good night to Dad and Stephanie, Madison ran inside to say an even quicker hello to Mom and then headed directly upstairs. Phin panted all the way up the stairs behind her.
Luckily, there was one person who
understand what she was feeling right now. And that someone could give her good advice, too.
“Hello, laptop,” Madison said, logging on to her computer. “I’m back.”
Date: Tues 26 Sept 9:00
I need ur help big time. I’m having friend and parent angst. I just got into the hugest fight with my Dad.
And I had a fight earlier today with my friend Egg. I feel like I am fighting with everyone. Meanwhile, I’m trying to plan this party and do work for that contest. My head is exploding!
Please meet me in a chat room or e-mail me back ASAP?
Yours till the tree tops,
Remember that crashing wave that Gramma Helen talked about? Well, now here comes a mega monster tsunami. It’s Wipeout City.
Fiona thinks that we’re being too mean to Egg. Scratch that. She thinks
being too mean to Egg. I guess Chet (that fat mouth!) told her all about my Egg argument in the library the other day, and now she thinks that I’m only interested in the contest so that I can show Egg up. She’s acting a little cold to me, I think. Great. The party is in two days and Fiona is mad.
NO ONE—and I mean absolutely NO ONE—gets where I’m coming from these days.
I mean, I’ll admit that part of what Fiona says is true. Showing up Egg
part of the reason that I’m in the contest. But it isn’t the only reason. The fact is that our webpage is looking greater than great. It has a bunch of different sections: English, Math, Social Studies, History, Science and Technology, Art and Music, and even Foreign Languages. Each section has a different graphical theme, and links to the most helpful sites we could find. We have a real shot at winning this thing.
So Fiona is pressuring me to apologize to Egg, but I just don’t want to. I know that she’s seriously crushing on him—but I can’t get around my feelings. I really wanted to be on Egg’s team and he blew me off. And he’s the one who turned it into this double dare. I won’t apologize.
And it’s the same thing with Dad. I can’t believe I yelled at him last night—I
do stuff like that. But I felt like he just didn’t get what I was saying, and it was frustrating. Even though he was
it didn’t really help. And now he’s off on one of his business trips, and I can’t even call him to apologize. See?
If there are two sides to every situation, why am I always on the