The minivan pulled up to the Baldwin schoolhouse at seven forty-five in the morning. The parking lot was packed with vehicles and people. A tide of girls swept across the concrete, waves of blue and white. “Now remember what I told you,” said her mother. “Your first block teacher is Mrs. Bellevue.”
“First floor, room fourteen,” said Madison, opening the door. “I know, Mother.”
“Have fun,” said her mother.
“I won’t,” said Madison, as she stepped out of the minivan. She slammed the door shut, and then she slung her backpack over her left shoulder. She crossed her arms before walking up to the building entrance.
In front of room fourteen, she halted and pulled her cellphone out of her backpack. She checked her Chatspace account. Becky had sent her a new message. “I wish you were here with me today,” she said. “Mrs. Brenner assigned us a bunch of homework. I missed you at the sleepover. When will you be able to hang out again?”
“I don’t know,” replied Madison. “I miss you.”
A bell rang, and a throng of girls funneled into room fourteen from the hallway. After the throng had dispersed, Madison dropped her cellphone in her backpack and walked inside.
The classroom had white walls, wooden tables and chairs, blinds over the windows, and a large gray chalkboard at the front. A middle-aged woman was sitting in a desk near the front of the classroom. She wore a black and white checkered blouse and had very short gray hair. Madison pulled out a chair at a table with two blond girls. One of the blonds scooted it back under the table. “This seat’s taken,” she said. She smiled, revealing her colorful braces.
Madison walked to the table in the back of the classroom. She pulled up a chair next to a plump girl with freckles and glasses. She took a seat and crossed her arms.
The girls at the tables chatted while Madison watched them from the back of the classroom. The woman in the checkered blouse stood up and said, “Welcome back, young ladies.” The girls kept chatting. “Welcome back,” she said, louder, and clapped her hands. The girls faced her. “That’s better,” she said. “Now, today’s a very special day because today we welcome a new student. I want everyone to give your warmest welcome to Miss Madison Sadler.”
Chairs scraped against the floor as the girls turned to face Madison. Madison froze. She suddenly felt as if she could not breathe. Her hands trembled. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. “Go on,” said Mrs. Bellevue, “stand up and introduce yourself.”
Madison took a deep breath. She rose from her chair, leaning against the table. “Hi,” she said.
“Do you want to say anything else?” asked Mrs. Bellevue.
Madison shook her head, and some of the girls laughed.
“Eyes front,” said Mrs. Bellevue. The girls, almost in sync, faced the front of the classroom.
Madison returned to her seat. She took a notebook and a pen out of her backpack and placed them on the table.
“Because this is Madison’s first day at Baldwin,” said Mrs. Bellevue, “today we’ll review last semester’s notes. Can anyone tell me what a polynomial is?”
Madison held her cellphone under the table as Mrs. Bellevue continued to speak. The plump girl watched her as she logged onto her Chatspace account. Brian had messaged this:
No matter how far away you roam
I see your face and yours alone.
While I walk through the woods
Your peerless eyes stare back at me
Through the myriad trees.
Why do I think you can see
My words scribbled on this leaf?
Distance can bring two things close.
A wave crashes against two shores
Parted by a thousand miles of sea
Each wave upon a lonely beach.
Yet, the water is the same, the same.
So it is with us—an ocean wide and deep
Is not big enough to keep you from me.
“That’s beautiful,” she replied with a text message. “Is it for me?”
Suddenly Mrs. Bellevue towered over Madison. “Miss Sadler has volunteered to clean the board after class,” she said. Mrs. Bellevue leaned forward and whispered to Madison, “We don’t allow phones in the classroom.”