"I would never lie to you"
I’m starting school next week–Ninth Grade! Finally, I will be a high-schooler. My bestie Becky wants me to stay over tonight to celebrate. The only trouble is my mother, who is talking about Baldwin again. If she takes me out of Darby, I’ll die.
Madison was sitting in a hallway and leaning against the door of her father’s study. Her diary and her cellphone lay in her lap. Becky was on speaker phone with her. “Do you think the boys will be cuter in high school?” asked Becky.
“That’s the only thing on your mind,” replied Madison. “That, and shopping.”
“At least I know what I want,” said Becky. “Unlike some people.”
“I do know,” said Madison. “I want to be a writer.”
“What do you write?” asked Becky. “I’ve never seen you write anything.”
“I write in my diary,” said Madison. She raised her thumbs off the cellphone screen and looked up. “I think I hear my parents….”
“Alan,” said Madison’s mother from the other side of the door, “the Baldwin School will put her on the right track.”
“No,” whispered Madison.
“Tessa, dear,” said her father, “Don’t you think she’ll feel isolated there? She’ll be cut off from her friends.”
“She’s cutting herself off already,” said her mother. “Alan, I want what’s best for Madison’s future.”
“Then let her decide,” said her father.
“Yes,” said Madison. An orange cat darted in front of Madison and startled her. She bumped the back of her head on the door. As Madison rubbed her head, the cat scurried down the hallway and jumped into the bathroom.
“What was that?” asked her mother. Her heels clicked on the hardwood floor of the study.
“I don’t know,” said her father.
Madison hopped up with her diary and cellphone. She jogged through the living room and then climbed the stairs to the second-floor balcony. There, she lay prone on the floor with her curly brunette bangs hanging over her large blue eyes.
Her mother stepped out of the study, a middle-aged woman with short blond hair. She took in her surroundings, the high ceilings, the balcony wrapping around the living room, and the large crystal chandelier hanging from the dining room ceiling. As she walked across the hallway into the living room, Madison stood up, ran into her bedroom, and shut the door behind her. She placed her diary on her desk and took her laptop from her desk to her bed. She lay prone on the bed with the laptop in front of her. She logged on to Chatspace, a social media site, and then on her Chatspace newsfeed she typed, “My life is officially over!!!”
Chatspace notified her that someone named Brian had sent her a message. She opened Brian’s chat window. “Why?” he had asked.
She clicked on the link to his profile in the chat window. His profile loaded—his name Brian Wilson Wickham and a small square profile picture. He wore thick-rimmed glasses, a knitted wool hat, and a black vest. His dark brown bangs framed his dark and penetrating eyes. His profile described him as being nineteen. Beneath his name was the phrase “Poetry is a sword of lightning, ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would contain it.”
She pulled her blanket over her, and in the chat window typed, “Who are you?”
He replied to her. “I won’t tell you,” he said. “If your life is truly over, then you must be a ghost, and I refuse to chat with the undead.”
“Are you a creep?” she replied. “Because I will block you.”
“I am curious,” he said. “Nothing more. Nothing less.”
“I’m not dead,” she replied. “Not yet.”
“What are you then?” he asked.
She sighed and typed, “I’m a cruel experiment to see how much unfair treatment a girl can take from her mother before dying.”
“What sort of crimes are we speaking of?” he asked.
“My awful mother wants to enroll me in her stupid private school,” she said.
“Pardon me,” he said, “but your mother sounds like a tyrant.”
“That’s just the beginning of it,” she said. “She makes me clean the whole house by myself. She yells at me for no reason. She doesn’t listen to me. She doesn’t understand me.”
“She treats you like a stranger in your own home,” he said. “You have my sympathy.”
She scratched her chin, and then she typed, “Who are you?”
“‘All things by a law divine’,” he said, “‘in one spirit meet and mingle. Why not I with thine?’”
“That’s Percy Bysshe Shelley,” she said.
“Madison, I must confess that I am a poet,” he said.
“Are you for real?” she asked.
“I would never lie to you,” he said.
She glanced at a book of nineteenth century English poetry on her desk. “Do you like English poets?” she asked.
“Shelley’ prose has inspired my life,” he said. “One day I shall meet him and tell him this in person. Alas, then I shall also be dead.”
Madison grinned. “I love Byron best of all,” she said. “Someday I will move to Ravenna to be a writer like him. That’s where Byron lived in Italy.”
“Lord Byron, you mean,” said Brian. “You are wise beyond your years. It’s rare to meet a kindred spirit.”
She received a friend request from him, which she quickly accepted. “I suppose,” she said. “‘The loveliest things that still remain, than thus remember thee.’”
“Lord Byron,” said Brian. “I would know him anywhere. I know I have now made a dear friend.”
“It’s getting late,” she said, glancing at the timer on the laptop’s status bar. “Message me tomorrow. I’ll chat with you tomorrow. I promise.” She added a heart emoticon to the end of the message, and then she sent it.
Just as Madison closed the laptop, her bedroom door swung open. Her mother stood in the doorway, silent and still. Madison held her breath, and the hair on the back of her neck stood up. After a few seconds, her mother switched off the light and walked away. Madison sat up on her bed and opened the laptop. Brian had typed, “Farewell, my kindred spirit.”
She grabbed her diary from her desk, and using her cellphone as a nightlight, she jotted:
My mother is driving me crazy. She keeps talking about Baldwin this and Baldwin that. I think she’s serious about enrolling me there. Oh my god, I hope not!
Tonight, I met a guy online named Brian. He writes poetry. I wonder who he is. I can’t seem to find anything about him on his Chatspace profile, just a picture and his name. He seems very strange and mysterious, but I like him.