By Kait Leonard
This Story Won Third Prize in Our Contest
Maddy was just a girl who sometimes wore dungarees and other times wore silky circle skirts that brushed her knees and made the loveliest swoosh-swoosh when she walked. She was just a girl trying to figure out calculus and boys and how cheerleaders at her high school managed to look so grown up. Maddy ate lunch every day with three friends, under the tree, near the back fence. It felt daring to sit apart, as if they had important things to talk about. They mostly talked about boys and sometimes homework.
Maddy’s friend, Gillian, had the same boyfriend since seventh grade, but they never seemed to do much together. Sandy had a crush on a basketball player who went steady with the junior class president, so she always needed to discuss her latest plan for capturing his heart. Sasha wrote poetry in a special journal, inside her textbooks, and sometimes even on desktops, about the boy she loved back home, in Boise.
Maddy thought the boy who sat in the back corner of math class was cute, and she laughed when the guy with the glasses who always came late to history told jokes. But she didn’t have anyone in mind to be her boyfriend. She wasn’t too worried, but she did hope to change her status by senior year.
Every day Maddy walked alone to school and home again because her family lived in the trailer park, and her friends all lived in real houses. She didn’t mind too much. Sometimes, when she wore her favorite yellow skirt, she would twirl as she walked, turning it into a blazing pinwheel. Sometimes she stopped at the liquor store for a soda. The walk wasn’t so bad if she took the shortcut through the park and behind the recreation center.
Then one day, from a distance, Maddy saw a man up ahead on the path. His greasy hair stuck to his head like a cellophane wrapper, and his pants bagged as though they belonged to someone a lot bigger. She considered turning around and going the long way. But Maddy didn’t want to seem rude, and anyway, he was probably just poor.
Between classes, Maddy tried her best to smile when her friends talked about last Friday’s football game or what they might wear to the next school dance. But she couldn’t. And soon there would be that moment when the girls fell silent, and the only sounds Maddy heard were shifting backpacks and the whispers of her own memories.
Maddy was just a girl who couldn’t make herself go out to the tree by the back fence and who never wore her silky circle skirts again.