Friday, February 13, 2009


The line of drool between her cheek and palm pulled Maddie out of the doze she hadn’t known she was in. She wiped surreptitiously at the wetness. Mrs. Rogers was still droning listlessly at her desk, a crumpled tissue in one hand. The hand lifted, dabbing at the beads of perspiration dotting Mrs. Rogers forehead.

Maddie had lost track of the lecture. Were they still on Poe? She looked down at the scribbled mess of her notes, a little dismayed. She had never fallen asleep in class before.

It was the heat, she thought. The powers-to-be had decided the death of the school’s air conditioning system did not warrant cancellation of classes. Two of her teachers had already informed their classes that as little as twenty years ago, there had been no air conditioning in school at all.

Each classroom had been provided floor fans. The heat, the steady hum of the fan and Mrs. Rogers’ monotone lecture voice, combined with the fact that this was Maddie’s first class after lunch, a secret off-campus mission to Sonic, overwhelmed her ability to stay conscious.

And the fly. The droning buzz as it lazily made its way from one end of the bank of windows to the other, patiently seeking an exit. The Doppler effect of its buzz as it passed by Maddie’s left ear reminded her of the time when she was little and had a high fever. She remembered laying in bed, her mother patting a cool wet cloth against her face and neck. Her brother Wyatt and some friends were out in the yard, playing on the Slip ‘N Slide and their whoops of delight had had that same rising and falling.

Maddie lifted her pencil, blinking hard to try to shake off the dull feeling of grogginess. It was the heat, the fan, the fly, the chili cheese tater tots. That was it. Nothing at all to do with twelve week old mistake gestating in her belly.

Not a mistake, really. More like a lapse in reason. Maddie had not been a virgin when a study session with Chance Silverman had turned into a make out session in which she had let him go all the way. Way back when, before the big divide in her life, she’d been a normal person, with friends and a real boyfriend. She and Zack had planned the loss of their mutual virginities very carefully. They were in love. They were ready. They used birth control.

What she’d done with Chance was colder. She’d used him. Used having a warm body next to hers as a temporary respite from the isolation she’d felt since her mother’s death. A death too soon followed by the break up with Zack, who at sixteen could hardly be blamed with not knowing how to deal with her new life.

She crossed her arm against her belly. She hadn’t told Chance, hadn’t told Wyatt. She had contemplated an abortion. It was the smartest thing for her to do. She had enough to deal with. But she’d let time go by until it was too late without a second thought.

After the bell had rung and as the students shuffled slowly out of the room, Mrs. Rogers asked Maddie to wait a moment. She did, shifting from one foot to the other, book bag sagging from one shoulder as the rest of the class left, glancing at her. Maddie’s in trouble. If they only knew.

Mrs. Rogers touched a hand to Maddie’s forearm, then pulled it away a little too quickly. Maddie felt a little sting of sadness. Teachers touching students? We can’t have that now, can we?

"Are you all right?" Mrs. Rogers was asking, tentatively, as if she weren’t sure she should.

"I’m fine. It’s the heat."

The teacher nodded. "I’ve just noticed some changes in the last few weeks."

A cold zing made its way through Maddie’s body, making her stand straight and resist the urge to feel her belly. Surely it wasn’t visible already?

"Your work," Mrs. Rogers continued. "It seems less focused."

Maddie almost laughed. Instead she arranged her expression to look properly serious. "Yes, I haven’t been doing my best work this past month."

Agreeing with them always worked.

Mrs. Rogers nodded and her hand reached out, quivered in the air between them, then fell back to her side. "Are things all right? At home?"

It was one of those questions that they really didn’t want a true answer to, so Maddie lied.

"Yes, we’re fine."

"And Wyatt? Is he still in college?"

"Yes, finishing up his second year."

Mrs. Rogers smiled a real smile this time. "Good. I am so glad to see you two getting on with the business of living."

Maddie smiled, and it felt so stiff, so forced that she was sure Mrs. Rogers would know it was fake and probe further, but she didn’t.

"Don’t be late for your next class," was all she said.

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