Read an Excerpt
Save the Date
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 7
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
Thunder boomed outside Madison Finn's bedroom window.
"Rowrrrooooooo!" her dog, Phin, barked. He leaped onto the bed, knocking Madison's laptop from its pillow perch.
"Phinnie," Madison cooed, readjusting her computer. "Oh, poor Phinnie. You're not afraid of the storm, are you?"
Shakier than shaky, Phin wormed his pug body near Madison's belly to get warm. She had to maneuver her own body so she could type on her laptop and snuggle at the same time.
Madison went into her file folders, where she had been keeping a regular record of life in seventh grade. She thought that files were a great way to keep herself organized. Unfortunately, the opposite seemed to be true today. Her "perfect" system was getting messier and messier. The more things she did in school, after school, and on weekends ... the more Madison jammed into files, the harder it was to locate anything on her desktop. What a disaster! She couldn't keep her facts straight. Just the week before, Madison had forgotten about a Spanish quiz and a math assignment in the same week.
"Rain, rain, go away," Madison chanted. She typed in yet another brand-new file name.
Old habits were hard to break.
Here it is the end of March and I have the seventh-grade superblues. Doesn't that sound like a song?
I can't seem to get ANYTHING done, and I have this MEGA paper due for English honoring women's history that I haven't even started! I haven't done my Spanish homework for a week, and Señora Diaz is going to be so mad. I didn't know life was supposed to be stressed out in seventh grade. Is it just me or what?
Even Mom is superbusy these days with some new movie crew and assignment. Dad is busy, too. When we have one of our special dinners, he always has something else on his mind besides me. His girlfriend, Stephanie, says he's working on some new Internet deal. Ever since Mom and Dad's big D—divorce—last year, things have started getting busier and weirder for all of us.
Rude Awakening: If I figure out how to save time, can I store it for later? That would really help with all this stuff I have to do.
Madison closed her file and popped a brand-new CD-ROM into her laptop. She easily booted up the new software called Calendar Girl that Dad had given her.
With the click of a few keys, Madison found herself at the main menu screen. A Stardust trail chased Madison's arrow cursor as it moved across the page. Type flashed blue and pink.
Dear Diary Planner
Go to the Head of the Class
Calendar Girl to Do
Friends Contact List
Madison stared at the screen. She didn't know where to mouse-click first.
She wiped a wet droplet off her hand. Was Phin drooling again?
It wasn't drool at all.
Looking up over her head, Madison saw another pair of kamikaze drips before they landed. They were coming from the ceiling. The terrible rainstorm had made its way inside Madison's bedroom.
"MOM!" Madison screamed even louder than a thunderclap. Phin jumped and dove off the bed for the closet. "MOM!" she screamed again.
Quickly Madison pulled her laptop to a dry area for safety. She moved her pillows and the afghan, and grabbed her trash basket to put on top of the bed. She hoped that would catch the drips. They were beginning to fall more steadily now, like a leaky faucet.
"Madison?" Mom was breathless from running up the stairs. "You know I hate it when you yell for me like that. What on earth—"
"We have a leak!" Madison screeched, pointing to the wet ceiling. Phin peeked out of the closet.
"Oh, no!" Mom wailed. "You've got to be kidding me!" She dashed out of the room.
"MOM! Where are you going?" Madison yelled. "Mom, get back here. My whole room is going to be underwater if you don't get back here!"
Mom returned a moment later with the phone and the yellow pages. She dialed up a contractor she'd called once before.
"Is this Dickson Fix-It?" Mom asked. "This is Francine Finn over on Blueberry Street. We seem to have this leak upstairs...."
Madison sat down near her desk and watched, helpless, as the drips kept dripping into her orange plastic wastepaper basket. Madison wanted to say, "Mom, why don't you call Dad instead?" but that wouldn't have been a proper suggestion. Not since the big D.
Dad never freaked out during emergencies like Mom did. During the winter, the boiler had stopped working, and Mom had almost exploded the house trying to fix it alone. Had Dad been around, it would have been repaired without a second thought. He would have had this roof leak solved in a flash.
A new bolt of thunder cracked. The rain started to fall harder again. So did the drips. Phin scooted into the closet again.
"What is going to happen to my room?" Madison cried. "My stuff is all going to be ruined. MOM! Aimee's coming over soon!"
Even though it was Sunday and a school night, Madison's best friend, Aimee Gillespie, was coming over to eat dinner and do homework. Aimee's parents had to go somewhere for a business dinner with some other booksellers. Her father's store, The Book Web, had won some kind of local business award.
Madison's other best friend, Fiona Waters, had been invited to come over for the study session, too, but she had a family dinner to attend. So it was two neighborhood BFFs instead of three.
"Now, just calm down, Maddie," Mom said. "You can bring your laptop downstairs when Aimee comes. We'll move you into the den until this gets fixed."
"Aimee's here NOW!" Madison squealed. "She's going to absolutely freak out when she sees this!"
Madison skipped downstairs to answer the front door as a very wet Aimee pushed her way inside.
"Oh-em-gee! My mom had to drive me over here. It is soooo wet out!" Aimee cried.
Phinnie squirmed around on the wet floor by Aimee's feet, his tail squiggling. Even with all the rain, Phin could smell Aimee's dog, Blossom, all over her jeans. He sniffed and sniffed. Aimee just giggled and kept shaking her wet head. She looked like she was doing some kind of rain dance. As a ballerina, Aimee did everything with dancing flair.
"Here, use this, Aim," Madison said, handing Aimee a towel from the downstairs bathroom.
"Thanks!" Aimee said, still twirling. "So what's up?"
"My whole room is LEAKING!" Madison launched into a full explanation of the disaster in her bedroom.
"Whoa," Aimee said. "That sounds pretty bad." She reached into her bag and pulled out a bottle of blue nail polish. The jar said, ARE YOU BLUE?
"What's that for?" Madison asked.
"I got it at the store today. I could paint your nails tonight," Aimee said with a wide grin. "This color will look so perfect on you."
"Really?" Madison asked.
"I think we should blow off homework and have a beauty night," Aimee said. "At least before we eat dinner."
"I have an English paper to write," Madison said.
"Yeah, but this will be more fun," Aimee argued.
"I guess you're right," Madison said with a giant smile. "I wanted to show you this new lip gloss I just bought, too. Let me get it."
Madison reached over for her orange bag, sitting on a table in the hall, and fished around inside. First she pulled out a few books, a green notebook, a pencil case, a pair of socks....
"What is all that!" Aimee said, laughing.
"Oh, just stuff I really need," Madison replied. She took out a calculator, a package of gum, a purple bandanna....
"Wait. I've never seen that scarf. When did you get that?" Aimee asked.
"Last month at the mall. I forgot I left it in here."
Madison still couldn't find the lip gloss, so she turned her bag upside down and dumped everything else right onto the hall carpet. There on the carpet were two neon-colored rubber bands, two chewed-on pen caps, a pen that had just started leaking (luckily into an old tissue), a rabbit's foot key chain, and one large piece of light-blue crumpled paper that appeared to be stuck to some chewing gum.
"Bummer!" Madison said. "I must have left it in my locker."
She was about to shove all of the objects right back into the bag when she noticed the crumpled paper. She unfolded the sheet quickly.
SAVE THE DATE.
Madison read the paper aloud. It was a permission slip for the science field trip that she was supposed to have returned to her science teacher a week earlier.
"Oh-em-gee, Maddie! You never handed that in?" Aimee said when she saw the sheet.
Madison bit her lip. "Is that a bad thing?"
"Well, it's after the deadline," Aimee said.
"Yeah, b-but ..." Madison stammered. "What do you mean, I can't go?"
"Usually they're pretty strict about deadlines," Aimee said.
"I am such a space case," Madison said, frowning.
"Maddie, I'm sure you'll be able to go. Just get your mom to sign the slip right now. She can explain to the teacher what happened," Aimee said.
"MOM!" Without missing a beat, Madison yelled for her mother. "MOM!" She was determined to get her permission slip signed right now.
Mom flung open her office door with a huff. "Madison Francesca Finn, haven't I asked you a zillion times to please—"
"Mom, will you sign this?" Madison shoved the rumpled, gum-stained blue slip and a ballpoint pen under Mom's nose.
"What is it?" Mom asked, grabbing the slip to read it. "&'Save the Date'? Where did this come from?"
"Her book bag," Aimee chimed in.
Madison gave Aimee's left shoulder a thwack.
"I meant to give it to you before, Mom, but it got stuck—"
"I can see that," Mom said, fingers on the dried-up gum. She signed on the dotted line. "This trip is in a couple of days. Are you prepared? It says you have to do some research in advance."
"Oh, no!" Aimee chimed in again. "That's just stuff we do during regular class. She's totally prepared for the trip...."
Madison smiled. Aimee had come to her rescue, and that got Mom to stop asking questions. Mom handed the signed slip back to Madison.
"Next time you get one of these, give it to me right away," Mom said.
Mom threw her hands into the air. "Now what?" She raced over to the door and opened it with a flourish.
"Oh!" Mom exclaimed. "It's you!"
The Dickson Fix-It guy had finally arrived, with his gray hair and clothes drenched from the rain. His shirt read WILLIAM on the pocket in red embroidered letters. When he smiled, Madison saw a huge gap between his front teeth.
"Name's Billy," he said gruffly, shaking Mom's hand. "You must be ..."
"Fran Finn," Mom said with a smile.
Lightning and thunder flared up again, and Aimee and Madison screamed, grabbing each other around the waist. The hall lights flickered.
"Welcome to the fun ... I mean the Finn house," Mom said to Billy with an exasperated sigh. She led him inside. As he walked into the hallway, Madison noticed Mom was still smiling.
And Billy was smiling back.
"He's kind of cute," Aimee whispered, elbowing Madison in the side. "Don't you think?"
Madison made a face. "Eeeeeeew," she said softly. "He's old."
"Let's go get that leak!" Billy said. "Where do I need to go?"
Mom laughed even though he hadn't said anything funny. As they walked over to the staircase, Billy stepped carefully over the pile of stuff Madison had emptied out of her bag in the hallway.
"What is this?" Mom said, pointing to the pile.
"Oh. Nothing. I'll pick it up later. Mom." Madison groaned. "I promise."
Madison expected an instant lecture. Lucky for her, Mom didn't make a scene or say another word. She just turned and smiled at Billy again.
"The problem is coming from my daughter's bedroom," Mom said as she led him upstairs. Billy hovered behind her like an insect, his tools dangling and clanging on his belt.
"Come on, Aimee," Madison grumbled. She grabbed Aimee's wrist and headed upstairs. "I want to keep an eye on things."CHAPTER 2
Aimee gasped when they walked into Madison's bedroom. It was wetter than wet—and the waste-basket wasn't doing much good anymore. New leaks had started in different spots on the ceiling.
"It's all coming from the same main leak," Billy said, reaching up to touch the ceiling. "It's traveling along the beams in the ceiling. You got a chimney on this side of the house? Had any problems with that roof?"
Mom shrugged. "I don't have a clue," she said. "I thought we were fine. We never had a leak before."
Billy opened the window and stuck his head out into the rain. He said if he arched his back, he could see the chimney. Mom went over to the window to make sure he wouldn't fall out.
"Please be careful," she said, flailing her arms. She bobbed and weaved herself to avoid getting pelted by raindrops. "Isn't that dangerous?"
Aimee thought Billy was cool.
Madison thought he was acting like a show-off.
"You got a bigger problem than one little leak," Billy said, climbing back inside.
"How much?" Mom asked. She sat on the windowsill and groaned.
Billy smiled, and his teeth gleamed. "Well, I think your chimney is busted and some of the shingles out there need to be replaced. You have some rotten wood and corrosion. And unfortunately, with this rain, I can't really do much until it dries up...."
"Oh!" Mom sighed. But then she smiled. "But it can be fixed? You can fix it?"
"That's why we call the company Dickson Fix-It, ma'am."
"Please. Call me Frannie," Mom said.
Madison crossed her arms against her chest and made a face. How could Mom be acting so nice to this total stranger when there was a total disaster in her bedroom? And why was she still smiling?
Aimee was getting a little restless, too. "Let's go back downstairs, Maddie," Aimee pleaded. "I have something to show you—and we have to paint our nails, remember?"
"Yeah, yeah," Madison said. She didn't want to leave all her stuff. She didn't want to leave Mom, either.
Before they went back down, Mom asked the girls to help move some of Madison's things out of the way and against the walls. They pushed the purple inflatable chair over by the closet, covered the bed in plastic, and made sure no clothing, stuffed animals, or posters were in a potential "wet zone." Then Madison followed her BFF back downstairs, reluctantly.
Sharp rain plinked against the windows in the den. There was a flash of yellow in the evening sky that made the room glow. Madison counted one, two, three until a thunderbolt cracked. The storm sounded like it was churning around the house and trees in the backyard.
"I have to show you my new pictures!" Aimee said, rushing over to her schoolbag. She pulled out a fat blue portfolio. "I need you to help me pick one out for the ballet revue program."
Aimee pulled Madison over to the couch and sat her down.
"Do you like the one with my hair in the bun or a French twist?" Aimee asked as she took out more photos. "What do you think of this one?" Aimee held up a photograph of her in a pink-and-blue pastel leotard. "I look way too fat, right?"
"Huh?" Madison sighed. She got up and wandered over by the stairway to see if she could hear anything else from upstairs.
"Maddie?" Aimee asked. She held up another photo that looked exactly like the first one. "What about this?"
"You always look great," Madison said, distracted. She could still hear faint noises from upstairs.
Laughter. A hammer. More laughter.
Aimee held the two pictures up again for a side-by-side comparison. "I think I like this one better. Don't you?"
Madison was staring up the stairway, trying to hear the conversation between her mom and Billy.
"Earth to Madison! I just asked you a question," Aimee said.
"Sorry," Madison said. She took the photographs from Aimee and picked one. "I like this. You look pretty in this one."
Mom came down the stairs. "Well! We're in capable hands with Billy. Isn't he great?"
"Great," Madison said, not feeling the situation was great in any way.
"Anyone hungry for some dinner?" Mom asked the pair.
Madison and Aimee followed her into the kitchen. Since pizza was the ultimate friend food, Mom ordered a large one with mushrooms and pepperoni.
"I think that Billy guy is so weird," Madison said to her mom.
"Oh, Maddie! But he's so nice." Mom laughed. "Billy works as a cameraman for a film company.
Isn't it a small world that we both work in the industry? He does contracting work on the side when he's not filming. Actually, Billy and I have a lot in common. Isn't that funny?"
"Hysterical," Madison said. She wanted Mom to stop smiling and stop saying his name. The word Billy was really bothering Madison, like a pesky mosquito buzzing at her ears.
Excerpted from Save the Date 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.
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