Read an Excerpt
Lost and Found
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 6
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
No matter how hard she shoved, Madison couldn't squeeze all her stuff into the teeny green gym locker. She had hated gym class from the moment seventh grade started. Before the winter holidays, Madison's gym class was scheduled in the afternoon. Now, gym was in the morning, first period on Mondays.
The worst part was wearing the dreaded gym uniform. Its ugly blue polyester gym shorts made Madison's legs itch, and a too tight, white T-shirt with a blue Far Hills Junior High logo was not exactly the most flattering fashion statement. And wearing that shirt meant wearing a bra, even though Madison didn't have much to fill it out.
And even worse than wearing a scary, see-through T-shirt was the fact that Hart Jones would see her looking that way. Hart, Madison's big crush at school, just happened to be in her same gym section. He would see her wearing the ugly outfit.
Madison had to stop herself from over-thinking immediately. She sighed and took a seat on the small benches between locker banks. Hart Jones. Just the idea of him made her feel faint. Or was that because the locker room smelled like wet rubber floor mats and soccer balls?
She pulled her sweater over her head and wriggled into her T-shirt. Then she carefully yanked off her stockings and tugged on the polyester shorts under her wool skirt. They felt snugger than snug, and her legs prickled with goose bumps from the chilly air.
The locker area wasn't very full, so no one had seen her change. That was a major relief. Madison was standing alone in her row. Madison's homeroom had been dismissed early. Sometimes homeroom teachers let certain groups out earlier than others. However, neither of her best friends, Aimee or Fiona, had arrived from her homeroom yet.
Madison heard whispering in the next locker bank but didn't think much of it at first. Then she heard someone say her name.
"I can't believe I still have Madison Finn as my partner," the person grumbled with a huff.
Madison knew the voice. It was Poison Ivy Daly, her mortal enemy.
Ivy was speaking about their science lab. Mr. Danehy had assigned Madison and Ivy as lab partners. He obviously didn't know how much they didn't get along.
"Just ignore her," Ivy's friend Rose advised. "What's the big deal?"
Madison stood on top of the bench, leaning into the lockers, to hear whatever more she could hear. Ivy was talking to her drones, Rose Thorn and Phony Joanie. Madison knew they might say not-so-nice stuff, but she still wanted to hear it. Unfortunately, the juicy eavesdropping stopped there. Madison's name wasn't mentioned again. They moved on to talking about hair. Ivy always wore her perfect red hair in perfect red clips.
As Madison stepped off the bench, the room got very quiet. Madison was surprised to see someone standing in the space between the locker banks. It was Ivy. And she was staring right at Madison.
"Hello, Madison," Ivy said curtly. "I didn't know you were in here."
"Yeah, well ..." Madison mumbled. She turned back to the green locker.
Madison wondered if, even for a fleeting second, Ivy felt a smidge guilty about gossiping without knowing who was nearby. But clearly Ivy felt nothing of the sort. She just stared. Madison felt Ivy's eyes watching her.
Rose and Joanie appeared from around the corner, too.
"Nice shorts," Joanie snapped to Madison. She was always snappy.
Madison felt her entire body shrink when Joanie said the words, however. Nice shorts. Ivy, Rose, and Joanie were wearing their shorts baggy and longer. They made the uniform look good. But Madison stood there in gym shorts one size too small.
"'Scuse me!" Aimee Gillespie said, appearing from nowhere and sliding past the others into Madison's locker bank. Best friends have a way of showing up just at the right time. "Hey, Maddie!" she chirped.
Ivy raised one eyebrow at Aimee's entrance and walked away to find a mirror. Her drones followed.
"What was that about?" Aimee asked Madison.
Madison sat down on the bench again. Her shorts felt tighter than ever now. "These." She pointed to them.
"Huh?" Aimee shrugged. "Not everyone got the new shorts, I don't think. It doesn't really matter, does—"
"New shorts?" Madison asked incredulously. "What new shorts?"
Aimee explained that a letter had been mailed home with an order form for a new style of gym shorts. The administration had received complaints about the sizes being too small for a lot of girls. They were offering a new style.
"I never knew," Madison said. Her mom must have thrown out the mail without reading it. She did that sometimes.
"But you look great in those shorts," Aimee said. "You have nice legs."
"Thanks," Madison said. Maybe the shorts weren't so bad after all.
Fiona appeared with a flounce and a smile. "Helloooooo! Did you guys have a good weekend?"
She'd already changed into her gym uniform, pulling off her clothes to reveal the shorts underneath her pants. Fiona said it was easier to change that way. Of course she had on the loose shorts.
"Where did you get those?" Madison asked her.
"I don't know," Fiona admitted, a little spaced out. She sneezed. "They're more comfy than the other ones."
Madison would have to ask Mom to order her a pair of those.
"GIRLS!" A booming voice echoed into the locker room. Coach Hammond blew her whistle for emphasis. "LET'S GO! LET'S GO! INTO THE GYM!"
She wasn't as mean as a drill sergeant, but Coach Hammond was strict about starting class on time, lining up in perfect rows, and playing fair.
Madison hid behind Aimee and Fiona as they shuffled into the main part of the gym. She was happier than happy to see a few other girls wearing the shorter, snugger shorts.
"OKAY!" Coach Hammond yelled. She yelled even when she was standing nose to nose with a student. "TODAY WE HAVE PHYSICAL FITNESS TESTING! HEADS UP!"
Aimee turned to Madison. "This stinks. It's Monday morning. Who tests your physical fitness on Monday?"
"Yeah." Fiona sniffled. Then she sneezed three times in a row.
Madison sat down on the floor between her friends, pretending to listen and watch Coach Hammond. But her eyes were wandering over to Hart. He was looking hunky, lying on his side across from them, whispering to Chet Waters, his new best friend and Fiona's twin brother.
"UPSY DAISY, BOYS AND GIRLS," Coach Hammond commanded. "EVERYONE UP AND INTO NEAT ROWS, PLEASE. WE NEED TO TEST YOUR AGILITY AND SPEED."
Coach didn't call it a race against each other, but kids pretended like it was. Everyone in the first row was paired up with someone in the second row.
Boys mostly paired with boys, except for Fiona and Chet, who led off the rows. They wanted to race each other for the obvious reason.
Coach Hammond didn't hear their friendly exchange.
"Eat my dust," Chet whispered to his sister.
Fiona smirked. "You—ah-ah ... choo!" she said, sneezing again. "You wish."
Coach Hammond explained that the task was to run up and down the length of the gym three times, then weave through the orange cones at the side of the room and run three more times up and back in the gym.
"I'm tired just thinking about that," moaned Hart. He was standing right behind Madison.
"ON YOUR MARK, GET SET ... GO!" Coach Hammond blew the whistle, and Fiona and Chet took off for the other side of the gym.
Madison couldn't exactly remember what she had to do during past fitness tests in middle school, but they had certainly never been like this. Kids were cheering on other kids, like it was a sporting event.
"Go! Go! GO!"
As Fiona made the turn to come back toward the group the second time, she tripped and fell to the floor.
"Ahhhhh!" a bunch of girls, including Madison, screamed.
Coach Hammond shooed them away and helped Fiona to her feet.
Fiona rubbed her elbows, which had slammed into the floor. She started to cough. "I feel hot, Coach."
She was burning hot, as it turned out. So the feverish Fiona was sent to the nurse. She waved to Madison and Aimee as she left the gym.
I hope she's really okay, Madison thought.
"LET'S GET BACK IN LINE, BOYS AND GIRLS," Coach Hammond ordered. Everyone obeyed. The paired-off test subjects started up again.
Years of ballerina twirls helped Aimee to pass the fitness test easily. She was fast and graceful. Her running companion was some girl Madison only knew a little. The girl had to stop halfway through the test to take a big puff from her inhaler. She was one of two asthmatics in the class, but she still passed the test.
Most kids passed. When their turns came, boys and girls sped up and down the gym without even breaking a sweat.
Madison always knew she was good at running, or at least she was good at running away. But right there in the heat of the moment, she was losing her nerve. She had a fear that she would be the one to not pass. She'd be the one who fell into a sweaty, lumpy pile.
She looked over to see who'd be racing by her side. It was Ivy, who made a face.
Madison leaned over to retie her sneaker. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Hart looking her way, too. She thought he was smiling a little.
"Hey, Finnster," he called out.
Some kids giggled at the nickname.
"ON YOUR MARK, GET SET ..."
As soon as Coach Hammond screeched "GO," Madison was off and zipping across the gym. She didn't pay attention to how fast Ivy was going. She turned at the first wall and never looked back. Even when an orange cone got knocked over in the middle of the test, Madison ran on. She huffed and puffed as she finished up ...
"IT'S A TIE!" Coach Hammond wailed.
Madison looked over at Ivy as they walked over to the sidelines, expecting her to grimace or pout or make her poisonous sneer.
But Ivy smiled instead.
"That was wicked hard," Ivy said, breathing heavily. She walked away.
Madison shook her head and adjusted her shorts to make them a little bit longer. Seventh grade could be wicked hard.
"I hope Fiona's not really, really sick," Aimee whispered to Madison as they changed back into their school clothes in the locker room after gym ended. "Oh-em-gee, what if she is really, really sick?"
"She isn't," Madison said, hoping that her friend was okay. She pulled on her stockings leg by leg. "Nurse Shim probably already called her mom."
"Let's call her later," Aimee suggested.
Madison grabbed her things out of the teeny green gym locker and climbed the stairs up toward the computer center. Her math textbook felt heavier than heavy inside her bag. Madison had a giant exam coming up the next day; she had barely reviewed the first half of the chapter.
When Madison walked into Mrs. Wing's classroom, she found her favorite teacher sitting at her desk. She was looking out the window at the dark, blue-gray sky.
"Looks like stormy weather," Mrs. Wing said softly, her glass-bead earrings jingling as she turned her head to face Madison. "Looks like snow."
Madison sat down at her desk. "Cool!"
Mrs. Wing chuckled. "I don't like this cold. Winter is my least-favorite season. Brrrr." She faked a dramatic shiver.
"Mrs. Wing, do I need to come after school today to help with the Web site?" Madison asked, changing the subject. She had signed on to help as an assistant school cybrarian, which meant inputting polls, answering questions, helping to keep the school data, and more. Lately extra-credit homework and volunteering at the Far Hills Animal Shelter took preference over the Web, but Madison wanted to start working even more with technology.
"I was speaking with Walter about helping with the data entry," Mrs. Wing said. "And Drew, too. There's always room for helpers."
Walter Diaz, otherwise known as Egg, was Madison's best guy friend. And Drew Maxwell was Egg's best friend and therefore Madison's friend, too, by association. Not only were the two boys into tech stuff as much as (if not more than) Madison, but they were building their own Web page. Madison hoped to make her own site one day soon.
"So what are we adding to the site today?" Madison asked Mrs. Wing.
Mrs. Wing smiled. "Let's make a Winter Wonderland section with news about hockey games and winter festivals and everything else going on inside and outside the school."
"What's up, Maddie?" Egg called out as he strolled into the computer lab. "What are you doing here so early?"
The second-period bell rang, and Drew walked into class along with everyone else. "Hey, Maddie," he said, sliding into a desk and giving her a wave.
While Mrs. Wing got the rest of the class settled, Egg talked nonstop about his new skates.
"I just got these killer hockey skates," he boasted. One of Egg's greatest goals in life was to play for the New York Rangers hockey team. "I can't wait to try them out. They're black with silver stripes on the side."
"Like racing stripes," Drew quipped. "You wearing them tomorrow?"
"What's tomorrow?" Madison asked.
Egg gasped like he'd just been punched. "Oh, man! You don't know about it? A whole bunch of kids are going down to the Lake Wannalotta after school tomorrow."
"Who set this up?" Madison asked.
"Me and Chet. Didn't we tell you?" Egg replied.
"No." Madison rolled her eyes. "Anyway, I don't see what the big deal is with skating."
"What planet are you from?" Egg asked. "Skating is way cool."
"My cousin used to be a hockey skating champion at his old middle school," Drew said. "That was definitely way cool."
"Your cousin?" Madison asked. "You mean Hart?"
"So ... is Hart going to be skating, then, too?" Madison asked.
"Of course, Maddie," Egg cracked. "Everyone is going. You can't miss it."
Madison looked down at her desk and sucked in her breath. She didn't know how to skate very well, a fact that never seemed to matter before, but now it mattered a lot. She chewed on the inside of her lip and thought about her options. Could she just skip the whole skating scene without attracting too much attention? And while she was at it ... wasn't there a way she could get out of her math test, too?
Egg leaned over and pinched her shoulder before returning to his seat. "You'd better be there," he said. "Or I'll never let you forget it."
Madison just nodded and tried to smile.CHAPTER 2
"So, are you ready for your math test?" Aimee asked Madison as they walked home from school that day.
Madison stuck out her tongue like she'd eaten something yucky. "No. Math is my enemy. Do you think I can get out of the test somehow?"
Aimee laughed as she retied her purple wool scarf around her neck. "Yeah, sure. And while you're at it, why don't you get out of your English paper and all your other homework, too? And why don't you find world peace? And then why don't you find a cure for—"
"Ha, ha! Very funny, Aim," Madison said, crinkling her nose with disapproval. As much as Madison loved her BFF, she hated the sarcasm that often came along with Aimee.
Aimee just giggled. "Race ya!" she said, and took off down the block.
The pair ran the shortcut route, dashing through someone's backyard and down a side street. Then they skipped over to Blueberry Street, where they'd both lived since they were babies. The girls were breathless from running in the cold, cold air.
"So, you didn't tell me, what are you wearing to the skating party tomorrow?" Aimee asked, still huffing a little.
Madison frowned. "What do you mean, party?"
"No, no, I don't mean party like that. I mean ... well, you know. I'm wearing my lemon-drop ski parka, and I have these great new jeans with embroidery up the sides. I think I might even wear my—"
"Oh," Madison interrupted. "What is a person supposed to wear to a skating thing?"
"What's the matter with you, Maddie?" Aimee asked.
Madison shrugged. "Whatever."
Aimee came to a complete stop. "Something is totally the matter, isn't it? I can tell these things."
"What?" Madison said.
Sometimes best friends could be annoying even when they were trying to help out the most. Aimee was ultrapersistent.
"I have an excellent idea. Why don't you borrow my Fair Isle sweater for skating tomorrow? It was my mom's, and she is a wicked good ice-skater."
"I don't need your mom's sweater, Aim," Madison said. She sighed. "What I need is to learn how to skate."
"You can skate! I remember last year, you—"
"—sat on the side of the ice and clapped for everyone else," Madison finished Aimee's sentence.
"Oh. Yeah." Aimee frowned.
Excerpted from Lost and Found by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2002 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.