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Her Name Was Maddie


Catherine E. Smithwick

 I open my eyes and stare at the head in front of me. Red hair, trim and short, with a few streaks of brown. There's a mole on his neck, big and gross; it's hypnotizing. I have to look at this person's head for the rest of the school year. Life is unfair.

Our teacher walks in the room and writes in big, curly letters 'Mr. Miller'. I instantly think of beer, which reminds me of parties, which in turn reminds me of the end of the year party last summer. It was wild and out of control, of course, and everyone was either drunk or stone or both. My stomach churns just thinking about it, and I smile a goofy smile. I'm brought out of my thoughts as the mole calls my name.

"Miss Lee?" it asks. I stare at it in amazement till I realize the teacher is standing next to me. "Miss Lee, are you awake?" He scowls down at me as his glasses slide on his nose.

"Yes," I say.

"Well maybe you'd like to share the answer to the question on the board," Mr. Miller suggests in a way only teachers can; it's not really a suggestion, more of a smarmy demand. I glance at the board, which reads, "Fascism is bad; why?" Inwardly I roll my eyes. I don't want to answer this question.

"Fascism is bad because it's immoral and a bad system of government. No one person can be in charge, and of course, the government has to work for the people," I say.

A few students laugh because I really say, 'Fascism is be-ad becuz it's immoral and a be-ad system of Government.' My accent is funny to people for some reason. I admit silently I laugh at myself sometimes, but now is not one of those.

"Oh, Miss Lee," Mr. Miller says in a sing song voice. "The things they teach you down in Florida." He speaks to me as if I'm a child, an idiot. I immediately label him as 'Yankee Jerk'.

"Are you saying fascism is a good thing Mr. Miller?" I challenge him. The students that were once laughing stop. "Because, if you hadn't heard me directly, I did say fascism is immoral." I try to speak clearly and control my drawl and keep my palms from sweating. Mr. Miller looks down at me in disgust.

We continue our lesson and when the bell rings I race out of class and to the nearest bathroom. I have bags under my eyes and my face is wane and sickly. I splash water on my face and keep steady, but as the day goes on it gets harder. Everyone here seems to think I'm a moron. It doesn't help that half the residents in Florida didn't know how to use ballots.

I walk out of the bathroom and am pulled down the hall like a riptide. The plane is packed and noisy, and right now I want to be safe and hidden under my comforter. That's the only place where I feel like I'm back in Florida, hanging by the Cotee, talking to friends.

I make a desperate leap and grab onto the nearest locker, pressing my back flat against it. I'm breathing hard and I watch as the masses go by. The bell rings from somewhere and they all disappear in a matter of seconds. I linger out in the hall, and as my breathing slows, I realize I'm not alone. I look next to me and see a guy, standing nearby, looking inside his locker. He turns and smiles at me.

"Hi," he says.

"Mm," is all I can say. I take a step away from the locker as he shuts the metallic door.

"That was a wicked cool stand you made in Miller's class," he says, giving me a smile. If he wasn't wearing that dorky hat, he may be cute. "I'm Jazz, by the way."

"Jazz?" I ask. "Is that your real name?" He looks at me for a few seconds, trying to figure out what I said.

"Nah," he says. "My real name is Michael…" I smile and look at my watch.

"Nice to meet you, Jazz," I say and turn and walk down the long hallway.

"What's your name!?" he calls down the hallway. I raise my hand and wave with my back still turned. My next class is dull and slow, and the teacher keeps scratching the board, causing everyone to cringe.

By the time school ends I'm tired and dragging, but nothing is more important than getting home. I run to my locker, grab my bag, and head out the doors. Immediately I look for Jazz, the only person who made me feel human the entire day. I don't see him, but I shrug my shoulders and trudge outside. I suck in a deep breath and the cold wind cuts at my lungs. My eyes sting.

It's only August and it's freezing already; in Florida, November wouldn't even pose a threat. Kids all around me are wearing shorts and T-shirts, and I feel like a dweeb in my hoodie and jeans.

I make my way down the stone steps, admiring the huge oak trees, larger than any I've seen in Florida. This was partially because the minute they grow, they're cut down for a shopping mall or summer home. Trees like this only grow on the Cotee, and out in the country. I quicken my pace, wishing for a jetpack.

"HEY!" someone calls out, but I don't turn around. Who here knows me, anyway? "HEY!" Again with that voice. Once more I'm hailed, and I look around. I keep my face straight as Jazz approaches, silently giddy inside.

"Hello," I say softly, not realizing he's about a foot taller than me till he looks down.

"I was calling you," he says. "Didn't you hear me?"

"Yes, I heard you." He pauses, waiting for me to explain; I don't.

"So…why didn't you say something?"

"Why should I?" I ask him. "I don't know you."

"Well, usually when people shout HEY across the quad, it means they know you."

"I'll have to remember that," I say, noticing the dark green of his eyes.

"You never told me your name."

"I know."

"Are you going to?"

"That depends."

"On what?"

"If you buy me a burger and fries," I tell him, and he smiles.

"Great. I know this place in the mall. Wanna walk?"

"Do you have a car?" I ask him.


"Then what choice do I have?" We start down the sidewalk, inches apart. After a few minutes of silence, I ask, "What kind of car would you want?"

"Red sixty-four Rambler," he says without hesitation.

"Original parts?"


"Thought about it much?"

"Since I was four."

As he says this, I hit a bump in the sidewalk and fall. Years of doing this keep my instincts sharp, and I fling my hands forward to catch my plummet. I skin my palms raw, nevertheless. Jazz helps me to my feet, probing my hand. He blows on it and I snatch it back.

"Hey, I'm just trying to help!" he defends.

"It's fine."

We walk the rest of the way through the sleepy town, making idle chat here and there. I find out Jazz's favorite band is the Screaming Mimi's, one of my favorites also. He pulls out a handful of Tootsie Rolls and I take half of them. He smiled at me in surprise, and I look slightly guilty.

When we reach the burger place, I expect him to walk in front of me. Instead, he holds the door, like a true gentleman. We sit down at a booth and order greasy burgers and fries, still chewing the Tootsie Rolls. I feel like I've been transported back into the fifties, and momentarily picture myself in a poodle skirt, smiling and innocent, but I'm not, and I hardly ever smile. Burst that bubble.

The food comes and Jazz pays, looking at me expectantly.

"What?" I ask him, biting one of the french-fries.

"What's your name?"

I sigh and in the seconds before I tell him, memories of Florida race through my mind. I'm three, sitting on a dock, smiling and catching minnows. I'm seven, winning a spelling me. Middle school in my room, death metal and poetry all over my room. My first full length story, my first kiss, shuttling between quarelling parents. I sigh again and look at Jazz.

This is all me, something I own, tied to one little thing. To tell him would be to give him myself and all that comes with me. He could ebb my memories, and they could be lost, replaced with him. I make my decision and bite into another fry, chewing as he looks at me.

"Maddie," I murmur. "My name is Maddie."

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