Read an Excerpt
Friends till the End
From the Files of Madison Finn, Super Edition 3
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2007 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"What are you looking at?" Madison asked, giving Egg the evil eye.
She quickly placed her hands over the screen to block Egg's view. Did he have to sit that close? What was his problem? Madison had opened a browser to check her e-mail on TweenBlurt.com. The last person she wanted to have see her private email was Walter Diaz, otherwise known as Egg.
Making a face, Egg snapped back. "Mrs. Wing would fail you if she knew how much you do that."
"Do what?" Madison asked, glancing toward the front of the technology lab, where Mrs. Wing was talking to another student.
"You know," Egg said. "Pretend to do real work. I can see under your hand. That's e-mail, isn't it?"
"Hmph!" Madison grumbled.
Egg raised his eyebrows. "So it's okay to be on your own website half the time, when you should be updating the school site," he said. "The only time you do any real work in here is when she stands over your shoulder."
Madison bit her lip. "Wh—wh—what?" she stammered. Of course, there was a bit of truth in what he said, but she wasn't about to admit that.
Egg rolled his eyes. "Wh—wh—whatever," he said, mimicking her. Laughing to himself, he turned back to his computer. He knew how to push all of Madison's buttons.
Madison knew she took some liberties in the tech lab. Egg was right about that. But she only went online to do personal stuff when she had already finished her homework and class assignments.
Egg sat back, still still chuckling.
Was he just pulling her leg? Or was he really threatening to tattle to Mrs. Wing? No fair! Egg was the one who always goofed around and never turned in his computer homework on time. He was actually the smartest kid in the whole class, but he never acted like it.
Madison jumped up and lunged for Egg's arm. Her fingers pinched his shoulder—hard.
"You stink," she growled, sounding like her pug, Phineas T. Finn.
"Ouch!" Egg said, pushing his chair back. "Get away from me."
Madison laughed to herself. She wasn't trying to be mean, of course. This was just how she and Egg communicated sometimes. They were like brother and sister—with fangs and claws.
Mrs. Wing turned toward their desks. So Madison and Egg put a lid on the quarrel. They knew how to keep quiet when it mattered, and now was definitely one of those times.
When Mrs. Wing seemed satisfied that nothing funny was going on, she glanced away. Egg made a sourpuss face at Madison.
"Nice going, Maddie," Egg said.
Then he moved his chair away from her desk and closer to the desk of his friend, Drew, on the other side of the computer terminal.
Madison huffed. Could Egg be any more annoying? She poked again at her own computer keys, pretending to get back to real work, but it was no use. After ten seconds, she gave up. She was way too distracted, and class was practically over anyway. Well, halfway over, at least.
The end of the school year was approaching fast, and it was getting harder and harder to focus on anything except the promise of beach days, fireworks, and (fingers crossed) summer crushes. Madison's mind had gotten very good at wandering. These days, she had the sustained concentration of a gnat.
She wasn't alone, of course. Ever since the beginning of June, there wasn't a seventh, eighth, or ninth grader in the building who was able to concentrate on his or her schoolwork. How could anyone? The color of the sky had turned a hypnotic, clear blue. Teeny purple and yellow and orange flowers bloomed at the edges of the Far Hills fields.
Each afternoon for the last week, Madison and her BFFs had spent time out in front of the school, lying on the lawn. All of them, Madison included, wanted desperately to embrace the air under warm sunbeams, arms outstretched and toes wriggling in trendy new sandals.
At least a part of Madison wanted all that.
Then there was the other part of Madison; the part that was super freaked out about the end of the school year; the part that wanted to hide out in a closet. This was the part of her that couldn't bear to think about the prospect of life without her seventh-grade teachers—or anyone else from school, for that matter. Summers had come and gone before, but now seventh grade was really (and truly) ending. Everything felt so drop-dead final, and Madison hated goodbyes. So today Madison wanted to pretend nothing was going to change. She wanted to stay right here in this seventh-grade class with her closest friends.
Mrs. Wing hustled from computer station to computer station, continuing her typical class rounds. She paused at student terminals, checked classwork, and chatted about new software applications with the most enthusiastic students. Madison watched as Mrs. Wing bent and stretched, laughed and talked, waving her arms in the air so her bracelets jangled. The thought of being in any tech class without someone as nice (and as good a dresser) as Mrs. Wing made Madison's stomach flip. What would the eighth-grade cybrarian be like?
"Okay, everyone," Mrs. Wing said, striding back to the center of the lab after about twenty minutes. She clapped loudly to get everyone's attention. "We have half of class remaining ... and plenty of work to be done."
"More work?" Egg asked, keeping his voice low. "Is she kidding? Why do we always get stuck with the work? The other tech class has been playing games all week."
"Yeah," Madison let out her own deep, confused sigh. "Figures," she mumbled, not wanting to do any work, either.
Undeterred by her students' apparent lack of enthusiasm, Mrs. Wing powered up a laptop with a projector at the front of the classroom and showed the students exactly what kind of work they would be doing.
It was a special project for the end of the school year.
But it actually looked fun.
"Every year, students create individual pages on the web," Mrs. Wing explained. "We call these memory pages. They get posted on the school site."
"What do you put on a memory page?" a girl asked.
"Well ..." Mrs. Wing started to say, but then she was interrupted by Lance, a boy in seventh grade who loved to answer questions but who usually had the wrong answer. "Uh ... what if I have a bad memory?" he asked. "Does that mean I have to do a bad memory page?"
Everyone chuckled at that remark, including Mrs. Wing.
"Well," Mrs. Wing went on, "I have a feeling you won't have that problem, Lance. Anything goes on these pages. You just have to put down simple memories from seventh grade. For example ... a student can write about his or her sports team, or a positive recollection about a teacher ..."
"Like you," Madison chimed in, smiling.
Mrs. Wing threw up her arms, and her bangles jangled again. "Why, thank you, Madison," she replied with a wink. "That would be nice."
As Mrs. Wing clicked a key on her computer, a sample memory page came into view on the board. At the top was a ribbon-edged border. There was room for a photograph. A student's name appeared in bold capital letters across the top.
"Wait a minute," Lance asked aloud. "Who's Johnny Somebody? Is he in our class?"
"That's obviously a made-up name, you dork," Egg said.
"Mr. Diaz ..."
Madison was sure Mrs. Wing was about to reprimand Egg for making a rude remark in the middle of class, when Drew snorted—loudly. The snort sent the whole class into hysterics.
"Class, class," Mrs. Wing cautioned them in a stern voice. "You are some of my brightest students, and I really need your help today—and for the remainder of the school year. So, let's please focus on the project at hand. Please. And that goes triple for you, Mr. Diaz, thank you very much."
Madison laughed to herself. There was nothing like watching her friend Egg be scolded like that by a teacher. It usually meant he didn't say anything else for at least ten minutes.
The web screen shots Mrs. Wing projected from her computer up onto the board were way more exciting than Madison or any of the other students could have imagined. Colorful, interactive borders framed photos and words. She displayed not only the memory pages, but also the newly updated webpages about the school year overall: pages that had been designed by her and another tech teacher, who taught ninth grade. The look of the FHJH website had gone from basic to bold in nine months. Madison smiled. She was proud to have been a part of all that.
Each memory page featured a string of questions about school life. Next to each question was a blank line. Each student's answers appeared on his or her webpage. At the very bottom was a space to write a longer message.
As they sat there watching the demonstration, Madison began to feel a twinge in her gut. Was it nerves? Or had she forgotten to eat enough lunch? Madison knew the truth: the feelings had to do with MUD, aka Moving Up Day. What else could it be?
When the demonstration concluded, Madison reached for her orange bag, which she'd dropped on the floor between her desk and Egg's. As she grabbed it, a notebook fell out of the bag. And then, a folded piece of paper slipped out of the notebook.
Madison scrambled to get up from the chair and snatch the paper back, but she wasn't fast enough. Egg got to it first.
"What's this?" Egg asked, dangling it in the air near Madison's head.
"Give it back," Madison demanded.
"Who handwrites notes anymore?" Drew asked teasingly. "Principal Bernard?"
"Very funny," Madison said. She felt her cheeks burn. "This is so none of your business," she snarled.
But it was too late. Egg already had the note open. "Dear Finnster," he said, reading aloud.
Madison cringed. The identity of the note's author was obvious: Hart Jones, Madison's on-again, off-again, and now permanently on seventh-grade crush. Finnster was his special nickname for her, and everyone knew it. Thankfully, he was not in the classroom.
"Hart wrote you a note?" Egg cried. "What a drip."
"He is not!" cried Madison.
"Dear Finnster," Egg continued reading. "I can get my dad to drive us to the movies on Sunday. Can you come? LMK, Hart."
"LMK? What's that?" Drew asked.
"Let me know," Madison said firmly.
"Why didn't he write, love, Hart?" Egg asked, letting out a huge guffaw.
Predictably, Drew snorted at Egg's comment.
Mrs. Wing heard the fuss. "What's the problem over here, boys?" she asked, striding over, hands on her hips.
Egg crumpled the note in his fist and pretended nothing was going on. Drew kept silent. Madison felt too awkward to say a word.
Luckily for all of them, the bell rang out. Class was over. Egg opened his fist and tossed the note back at Madison.
"Sorry," he grumbled, picking up his bag.
Madison pasted on a fake smile. "Sure," she said, shuffling toward the classroom door.
Mrs. Wing called out from behind her desk, "Don't forget! Tomorrow we will start inputting memory pages and fine-tuning the site together. And in addition to posting everyone else's web memory pages, you will have to write a web page of your own. Think about what you want to say. It's your seventh-grade legacy, after all ..."
Madison and the rest of the class moved quickly out into the hall. She ducked into a stairwell, opened her orange bag, and plucked out her new cell phone. She'd been saving money from birthdays and holidays for months, and Mom had finally given permission. There was so much she could do with her new phone!
No text messages.
What a disaster. If only Hart had not sent her that handwritten note. If he'd texted her instead, then no one—least of all Egg—would have been able to read it.
After the second bell, Madison dashed out of the stairwell and headed for Mr. Danehy's science class. Crowds of students changing classes in the hallway made the short walk feel like riding in a bumper car. Madison nearly lost her footing twice.
Posted on the walls in the hallway near Mr. Danehy's room Madison spotted a row of cool posters promoting the upcoming events at school. One of the main events advertised was the first Friday meeting for the musical revue. At the top of the poster, the words Are You Musical? shed light on one of Madison's end-of-year issues. How could someone as completely unmusical as she was participate in a song-and-dance show?
Her eyes lingered on the poster. The harder Madison thought about getting onstage and singing or dancing or both (aaaagh!), the harder she tapped her foot on the ground anxiously.
Just then, someone walked up to her.
"School revue," a voice said. "I am so psyched."
Madison turned to see her nemesis, Ivy Daly, otherwise known as Poison Ivy. The enemy was decked out in a sundress with flowers along the hem.
"Are you doing the revue, too?" Madison asked Ivy.
"Of course," Ivy replied.
"I wasn't sure ..."
"You're not doing the revue, are you?" Ivy asked, rolling her eyes.
Madison turned and glared. "Why shouldn't I?"
Ivy pretended to stifle a laugh. "You know ... hey ... you're not exactly a performer now, are you? I mean, you practically fall apart onstage ..."
"What are you talking about?" Madison asked. "I can do the revue if I want. I can do anything—and everything—I want."
"Wow, school's almost over, and you still don't get it, do you?" Ivy sighed, slinging her pink metallic bag over her shoulder.
"Don't get what?" Madison asked, genuinely baffled.
Ivy fluttered her lashes. "You keep trying and trying, but you'll never, ever be the class star," Ivy said smugly. "Um ... that position's already been filled."
And with that, Ivy turned on her heel and smoothly walked into Mr. Danehy's room.
At that moment, with other kids elbowing past and the poster still asking Are You Musical?, Madison knew what she had to do. Not only would she sign up to be a part of the revue, but she would do everything in her power to show Ivy Daly—once and for all—who the better of the two of them was.
The problem? She only had until the end of seventh grade to do it.CHAPTER 2
"There are going to be a few changes around here," Mr. Danehy announced boldly at the start of class. His eyes twinkled when he said it, too, which made it seem all the more genuine. "First of all, there will be no more long, tedious reading assignments."
"Cool!" someone said. The rest of the class let out a collective sigh of relief.
"Second, you can come to class late if you want. I understand," Mr. Danehy said.
Madison did a double take. She thought she must have heard her teacher wrong. He never understood, especially when it came to lateness.
"Finally, there will be no more pop quizzes for the remainder of the year," Mr. Danehy said, looking around. No one knew how to respond.
Of course, there was a catch. Just seconds later, Mr. Danehy let out a rough little laugh. "Just kidding!" he crooned. "A little springtime humor for my favorite students!"
The class sat in silence, semistunned by their teacher's prank.
Of course, Madison should have known better. There was no way Mr. Danehy would give up on his crusade against students' being late, his mission to conquer the textbook reading assignment, or his best booby-trap device of all: the pop quiz.
"I ... can't ... believe ... it ..." Ivy flipped her red hair and sighed. "I thought he was serious," she whined. "How can he possibly play a joke on us like that? That is just so ... so ... unfair."
"Now that everyone's awake," Mr. Danehy continued, "let's get to the heart of the matter: our latest assignment. Well, it's more of a project, really."
"Another project?" Chet Waters cried from across the science room. Chet was the twin brother of Madison's BFF Fiona, and he always had something to say.
"Problem, Mr. Waters?" Mr. Danehy replied. "How can you object when you don't even know what the project is yet?"
Chet gulped. "Oh, yeah," he said. "I just figured, since the year was almost over, that maybe ..."
"Almost is the key word in your sentence," Mr. Danehy said. "Almost. Not yet. Not now. We still have a few good work weeks left in us. Don't we, students?"
Half of the class nodded in silent agreement. The other half stared down at their notebooks, wondering how they could possibly face another science project. It felt as if they'd done about ten of them already that year.
But Madison knew that the boom had not even been lowered yet. She knew that the worst news about this latest science project was still to come.
Excerpted from Friends till the End by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2007 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.