Maddie and Wynn

the adventures of maddie leon
- a continental SHIFT-

Dedicated to those finding out
change and uncertainty — is the way.


With heartfelt appreciation to my readers and supporters who contributed
time and talent to help me complete this novel for middle grade readers.


 Copyright© 2022

 ISBN (ebook): 978-1-7386668-0-5


Published by:

TaLedi Publishing,
a division of TaLedi Enterprise Development Inc. (2003)
Alberta and British Columbia, Canada

All rights reserved







The Adventures of Maddie Leon 
– A Continental Shift –



Maddie has a passion for fashion and possibility, but her aspirations and plans for the best summer ever collapse when her parents accept a cultural anthropology assignment in Peru. Leaving Vancouver to live in Lima totally sucks!


Then she meets Jojo Kofi Afram, another culturally transported kid travelling from Ghana to Peru, rescues Wynn the Peruvian dog from a life on the street and finds new ways to pursue her an eco-fashion dreams.


Life should be great-but it’s not! Her mom wants her to be more ‘regular,’ she misses Jenna and Grandpa Leo to the stars and back, and now Tata M has the forgetting disease. Four cultures, confusing friendships, trouble at school, and changing family dynamics are a lot for a teen to deal with. 


Follow Maddie Leon online or in-print as she and her companions learn to hang on and let go in times and places of change, uncertainty, and possibility.


The following chapters are provided here for reader review and feedback.
Your feedback contributes to the development and promotion of The Adventures of Maddie Leon. 



Graduation Day

My Life Sucks

Maddie’s Moving

Letting Go

Goodbye Vancouver 

Jojo Kofi Afram

Bienvenidas a Lima

Hanging On

Grandpa’s Map

Surquillo Market

Wynn the Peruvian Dog 

Culturally Twisted



Big News 

Caught Up 

Twists and Turns 

Competition Heat 

Full House

Lost and Found


Ties that Bind


Resources and Links

Author’s Note 




Vancouver, BC, Canada


Graduation Day


   She never used to think about sweating. Now she was thinking about his and her sweat as she boarded down Burnaby Street. She really needed to talk with Jenna about this boyfriend thing.

   “Maddie!” Kevin hollered. “Look out!”

   Maddie saw the momma skunk and her two kits scurry under the parked car. Boarding downhill, she had enough momentum to miss the spray. Two lengths behind, Kevin did not.

   Doubled over, choking and coughing, he clutched his board with one hand and backed out of the spray-zone.

   “Kevin! Don’t touch your face!”

   Covering his mouth and nose, between gags he spluttered, “I – I gotta go home. I gotta change.”

   The skunk’s spray drifted her way as she watched him push up the hill. She felt sorry for him and marveled at the chance to get sage advice from Jenna about being a girlfriend.

   She came upon Jenna shadow dancing on the corner. “Where’s Kevin?” she asked. “I thought he was supposed to meet you.”

   “He got sprayed coming down the hill.”

   “That sucks! So, tell me everything! Are you ‘the girlfriend’ now? O! M! G! Your face is redder than your hair! He kissed you, didn’t he? I told you he wanted to! Was I right or was I right?”

   “Did you kiss him back?” asked Jenna.

   “Yes, but—”

    “But what?”

   “I don’t know. He tried to hold my hand when I met him this morning. And what about Mika? She says she doesn’t like him, but I think she does. Oh Jenna, what am I going to do?”

   “What are you going to do? You’re going to have a boyfriend!”

   Maddie followed her know-it-all friend as she danced her way up Cardero Street. Her brain was full of questions and her worst companion—anxiety—was running wild.


   Maddie scanned the task list Mr. James taped on the gym wall. Relieved, she saw Mika and Jenna were on chair duty. Kevin was on assignment with her, but suspected he was now sitting in a tub of tomato juice to rid the stench of skunk spray.

   Assigned to stage decoration, she helped her team inflate thirty blue and white helium balloons; one for each of them. They draped strands of twinkling white lights up and over the archway they would pass through to receive their elementary school graduation certificates.

   Center stage, Mr. James was arranging certificates, plaques, and trophies on the double-wide table the team had skirted with the ORCA BAY school banner.

   Stepping back, she eyed with pleasure the transformation of the stage. Soon she and her classmates would be high schoolers—but before that—her best summer was just a few hours away. Eight-weeks of freedom to board, bike, bus, or boat around Vancouver, without supervision, so long as she was home for dinner.

   Mika beckoned her to join her and Jenna for photos. Not ready to tell Mika about her and Kevin, she waved her off and turned to Mr. James, who was arranging trophies on the awards’ table.

   Pointing at an orca whale breaching from its base, she addressed her teacher. “That’s a new one.”

   He came around her side and turned her towards the gym, now filling up with students, teachers, and parents. “New and confidential until awarded. Time for you to join your classmates.”

   Now or never, Maddie thought as she walked towards Mika.

   “So, you’re Kevin’s girlfriend now,” said Mika.

   Regretting not securing a 24-hour secret alliance with Jenna; she bumbled, “Ah. Yeah. I guess.”

   “I don’t care if he is. My mom says it’s too soon for me to have one anyway.”

   Maddie swung an arm around Mika and steered her towards their parents, knowing she had nothing to say.


   Maddie watched her mom’s attempt to distance herself from Jenna’s mom. She was always complaining about Jenna and her mom being free-spirited. She said they were dreamers destined for disappointment.

   Her dad’s behaviour was the opposite. He was kind and generous. Whenever her parents were home, he’d always welcome them. He was always ready to add another chair or two into their tiny dining room. Elbow to elbow, they shared meals with friends who lived nearby, friends passing through, and sometimes people he had just met.

   The intercom system screeched as Mr. James fiddled with his mic and asked the graduates to robe up and take their seat.

   Maddie gave her parents and Jenna’s mom a wave, then took her spot between Jenna and Mika. She watched the teachers’ effort to get the little kids to sit quietly on the floor. It seemed long ago she was one of them. The only thing that mattered back then was being with her besties, Jenna, and Kevin. They were still her besties, but things had gotten complicated.

   “Looking for your lover boy?” Jenna teased.

   Mika reached past Maddie and put her hand over Jenna’s mouth. “Jenna! That’s rude.”

   “Why does everything about boys have to be gushy?” Maddie replied without even looking at her.

   One by one, supported by classmate cheers and a few jeers, they went up to receive their Orca Bay graduation certificates and each take from the stage, one helium balloon. Back in their seats, they prided themselves on their high school status and speculated about the Orca whale trophy still on the table. Most felt confident it was for Kevin, their school’s sports star, who had not yet arrived.

   Through their buzz of chatter, she heard Mr. James call her name. Jenna and Mika earnestly pushed her out of the chair. She glanced over to see what her parents knew about this before turning to see Mr. James pick up the Orca trophy. With each step, she felt her face get hotter. ‘Flushing’ her mom called it. Said it was an Irish ancestry blessing. Maddie was certain it was another curse of puberty.

   On stage, Maddie watched Mr. James’ mouth move. His words sounded like they were being filtered through a voice distortion app. The butterflies that poked around her belly every day and most nights were in full out flight, dashing up and down, left, and right looking for a way out.

   “Maddie Leon has gifted Orca Bay Elementary with a unique set of analytical and innovative skills. Her passion for fashion and environment inspired us to join the eco-fashion cause and establish a reclaim and reuse textile program.”

   Addressing the audience, he said, “With your help, we collected, sorted, and re-distributed textiles to pay for the replacement of our tired sports jerseys and sourced fabric and accessories needed for next year’s school play, ‘Peter Pan Goes Downtown’.”

   She wondered if all those people staring at her could see the sweat beads on her upper lip. Grateful the graduation robe shielded her sweaty armpits; she hoped the perspiration wouldn’t stain the lace top she made from some of those donated items.

   Holding up the Orca trophy, he continued. “We are so pleased to present this STEAM[1] award that recognizes the integration of ART into the traditional STEM[2] curriculum to our very own Maddie Leon.”

   Maddie saw Jenna and Mika leap out of their chairs. Soon, the entire class and her teachers were standing and applauding. A glance at her parents proved their reception differed. Her dad’s smile stretched across his face. Her mom was clapping, but Maddie could tell by the tightness of her face, she was not pleased.

   Back in the sanctuary of her friends, she let her joy rise, knowing it would be short-lived. Her mom had come home from their last assignment determined to quash ‘Maddily Modified’ as she and Jenna had branded the refashion designs she loved creating.

   With the ceremony concluded, the grads gathered for group, family, and friend photos. She passed the trophy and graduation certificate to her dad and did her best to keep her mom at bay. She didn’t want to see or hear her disappointment; it would still be there when she got home.

   Eager to get on with the day, she kissed her dad and whispered, “We’re leaving.”

   “She means well,” he said, “don’t leave without saying goodbye to her.”

   “Home by eight.” She heard him say as they streamed out the door for their balloon release on the playground and then the traditional English Bay plunge.


   Maddie loved everything about English Bay. Its wide, expansive beach was always busy with locals, tourists, buskers, and occasionally police officers on horseback, no matter the season.

   Out in the water, anchored transport ships waited to enter the Vancouver Port and unload their cargo from around the world. In and around them, sailboats, cruisers, and speed boats dallied about or headed for open water on their way to Vancouver Island, Northern BC, the Washington coastline, or Alaska. Closer to shore, paddle boards, peddle floats, dinghies, and little blue tugboats populated the inlet.

   They marked their sand-plot with backpacks, skateboards, sneakers, sandals, and towels. Then all thirty of them lined up for the traditional junior high school baptism in the Bay.

   “Bigger! Better! Beyond!” They shouted in unison as they ran for the water, then plunged.

   Jenna poked Maddie’s leg with her toes as they lay in the sun to dry off. “Why are you moping? He’ll be here.”

   “Jenna, do you believe my only thoughts are about Kevin?”

   “Then what’s your problem?”

   “The award.”

   Jenna rolled over on her belly. “Oh yeah! Big problem. For sure, Emily Carr will want you once they find out about the STEAM award.”

   “You’re lucky Maddie. You know who you are. What you’re good at. And, what you want to do with your future. Except for being an excellent model, I don’t know what else I’m good at or what I’ll do when I finish high school.”

   “I’m giving up maddily modified. I need other interests, something more mature and regular.”

   Jenna bolted up. “What! Are you crazy? What about our plans? We’re going to disrupt fast fashion, clean up the landfills, and bring back original style!”

   “My mom says it’s a poor choice for me. Customer demands are always changing. Besides, most clothes aren’t even made in Canada anymore.”

   “When did she get to be a fashion expert? Hey ho!” said Jenna, pointing towards the Bathhouse, “lookie there. Here comes your boyfriend.”


   Hand in hand, they walked up Burnaby Street. Kevin talked about their upcoming trip to Playland, while she wondered if he could feel the sweat on her palm.

   “I’m not riding that rollercoaster. I don’t know what will give out first, the bolts on the tin buckets you sit in, or the wooden track.”

   “News Broadcast,” he said, speaking into his fist. “Grade 7 grads go down in the rubble of an ancient coaster.”

   “You should say high schoolers, not grade 7 grads.”

   “Either way, I’m not riding that rickety old thing. I’ve got a life in sports and sports broadcasting ahead of me.”

   She flashed her fob across the apartment’s entrance door panel. “That’s okay. Jenna will ride it with me. She’s always up for an adventure.”

   Anxious one of her neighbours, or worse, her parents might see them kiss at the front door; she slipped through with a wave from the other side.

   Waiting for the elevator, she wondered if she was ready for a boyfriend. It was kind of weird to kiss your friend on the mouth, and what would happen if he wasn’t her boyfriend anymore? Would they still be friends?

   Riding to the 15th floor, she thought Jenna’s special abilities included knowing how to make fun and helping her figure out life’s tough stuff.

[1] STEAM, also referred to as S.T.E.A.M. stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
[2] STEM, also known as S.T.E.M. is an acronym referring to science, technology, engineering, and math.


My Life Sucks


   She dropped her board and bag in the hall and turned into the kitchen.

   “Just in time.” He held out a spoonful of his secret spaghetti sauce for her to taste. “I believe it’s the best I’ve ever made.”

   Maddie savoured it, trying to detect his secret. She knew it was all about the spice—but what spice. Whatever she guessed; he denied. She was thinking he was not being honest.

   “I think you’re right and now that I’m a high schooler, I’ll need to know your secret.”

   He held up the wooden spoon like a scepter. “Not so fast graduate. As your father, I hold all rights to my daughter’s favourite food; making me forever essential to her.”

   “Have you forgotten you’re away from me more than you’re with me? It’s time to give it up.”

   He planted a kiss on top of her head. “Nope. You must forever await my return.”

   “How was the beach party?”

   Opening the fridge, she scanned for something to eat. “Good. The boys inhaled the pizza. I only had a piece of watermelon and two cupcakes.”

   He pushed the door closed with his foot. “Dinner is almost ready, and your grandmothers are waiting for the promised pictures. If we don’t send them soon, Irish Gran will be asleep at her kitchen table, and GG will think you didn’t graduate.”

   “Fat chance of that,” she laughed and headed to the bathroom to wash up and deal with her beach hair.


   Bent over at the waist, she coaxed the paddle brush through her hair. Grains of sand fell at her feet and most knots defied the effort. Flipping herself back up, she laughed at her reflection. Grandpa Leo said her hair was proof positive she had the spirit of a lion in her.

    Oh, to be a lion, she thought as she coaxed the brush through her mane. No one telling you what to do – or who to be. If I were a lion, no one would expect me to do or be anything other than a lion. She stared at her reflection. Green eyes looked back, questioning who she was if not who she wanted to be.

   She hadn’t seen her mom yet, but the Orca trophy — now the table centrepiece — meant trouble was brewing. Her stomached grumbled. She was hungry and anxious. Her dad’s shout that dinner was on the table sent her butterflies spinning. Why was her life so complicated?

   She gave her mom a guarded smile, slipped into her chair, then concentrated on the hill of spaghetti on her plate. Skillfully, she twirled a mouthful, thinking  it really was the best spaghetti sauce ever then slurped in the danglers.

   Her mom cleared her throat and waved a napkin at her. Maddie kept her head down, sensing she was getting closer to the trouble cliff. Her mom had come home unexpectantly from their last assignment, and she was not the same mom that went away. She was grouchy, mad, and sad, all within minutes and mostly at Maddie.

   “Why didn’t you tell us about the Award?” she asked. “Jenna’s mom knows more about your achievements and ambitions than we do.”

   Maddie twirled another forkful. “I didn’t know I was going to get it… and Jenna’s mom likes to listen and talk to us. When she was our age, she thrifted and upcycled too.”

   “And look at her life now. A single mom washing dishes at Hamburger Mary’s. With your grades, you should be a scientist, an engineer, or a professor. Even an accountant or computer programmer would be better than deconstructing good clothes or buying other people’s trash ─ then wearing it!”

   “But I don’t want to be any of those things. I want to design fashion that’s fun and fresh without adding trash to the dump. Why is that so wrong?” Risking a peek, she saw and felt her mom’s laser green eyes boring into her.

   “Good careers are rooted in science and technology. Redesigning discarded clothing is a hobby—not a career,” her mom scoffed.

   “Mr. James says STEM without ART is old-school. STEAM is 21st century, it’s supposed to be different and disruptive.”

   Her dad placed his hand on her forearm. “We’re proud of you Maddie and you’re right, STEAM is the future. Consumers, communities, and careers are changing; that’s exciting for cultural anthropologist[1] like us — and well — ” he said clearing his throat, “we’ve got some change news.”

   “Who are you leaving me with this time?”

   Her mom slapped her spoon and fork on the table. “Really Maddie! Every time we go you do this—it’s getting old. You know that work pays the household bills and buys the stuff you want and need.”

   “Most parents don’t leave their kids for weeks or months so they can go study someone else. Too bad I’m not one of those people ─ you could stay here and study me.”

   The legs of her dad’s chair scraped the floor, sending a shiver down her spine. “Okay, you two,” he said, “let’s focus on the best part of our new assignment … you’re coming with us!”

   Maddie dropped her loaded fork and stretched across the table to hug him. “Finally! Where are we going? When do we leave?”

   “Maddie! Your hair! It’s in your father’s spaghetti!”

   Maddie flicked her hair out of the plate, speckling the wall behind with saucy dots.


    “Wow! Does GG know?” Then, remembering her best-summer ever had just begun, she asked “How long will we be gone?”

   “Your grandmother is thrilled. It’s the first time I heard joy in her voice since grandpa died.”

   Maddie watched his eyes shift between her and her mom.

   “What’s wrong? Is GG okay?” Maddie couldn’t bear the thought of her grandmother dying too.

   “She’s fine. But. Well-you know. Since grandpa died, she’s been alone and so… we decided it’s time we moved to Peru.”

   “Move! To Peru?”

   “Yes Maddie. That’s what your father said. We are moving to Peru.”

   “What about my friends? And Emily Carr? You promised.”

   “We found you a new school,” her mom said. “They have an international baccalaureate program. You can study in English and Spanish.”

   Maddie shoved her plate. “Why would you think I can learn in Spanish?”

   Her mom’s palm stopped the plate from leaving the table. “You’ve done perfectly well with French. Spanish will be easy for you.”

   “We’ve been assigned to the Cusco office and working throughout the Sacred Valley. That’s close enough for long weekend visits and now that you’re thirteen, you can stay on site during a school break,” her dad added.

   She stared at them, wondered if they were her actual parents. None of her friends’ parents were trying to ruin their lives. Perhaps she was part of some weird cultural anthropology project, and it was their job to see how she coped kept in a state of distress.

   “But I don’t want to leave Vancouver! Jenna, Mika, and I planned the perfect summer, and—” Maddie hesitated. Kevin, she thought. What about Kevin?

   “And what?” her mom asked. “You always wanted a bigger room and more space. It’s the right time and perfect opportunity for all of us.” 

   She wrapped her arms across her chest to hold herself together and keep her tears inside. This was totally unfair—and just wrong—except for GG. She didn’t want her grandmother to be alone. Being alone sucked. She should know, her parents were always going off on some cultural research project and leaving her behind.

   “I’ve spent a lot of time finding a wonderful school for you. You should appreciate my efforts.”

   “This sucks!”

   “Don’t say suck,” her mother snapped. “Its rude.”

   “Immersion is the best way to learn a language — and this school — has a theater program. They’ll be lucky to have you help them with costumes and stage design.”

   “Rene! She’s going for the STEM curriculum! Maddie needs to get serious about her future.”

   “I am serious! I’m an artist, not a whatever else you think I should be.”

   Her mom pushed her plate back across the table. “Finish your dinner. Your grandmothers are waiting for photos.”

   Maddie didn’t bother to stop the meatball that rolled off the plate and hit the floor.

   “I’m not hungry.”

   Her mom’s hand flashed up like a stop sign. “No dinner. No dessert!”

   She pushed her chair away from the table. “Fine!”

   “What about cake? It’s ice cream cake from the Big Scoop,” he added. “You always say yes to cake.”

   “Cake sucks!”

   “Oh! Gross!” she groaned as the wayward meatball covered in sauce oozed between her toes.

   “Maddison Marie Leon.”

   She didn’t turn back. When her mom said her full name, she knew a lecture or lesson would follow. She didn’t want either.

   “Let her go Sophie.” She heard her dad say before slamming shut the bathroom door.

   Sitting on the edge of the tub, she ran warm water over her sauce covered toes. The water washed away the sauce, but not her angst, tears, or despair.

Maddie’s Moving


   “Anthropology!” she cursed, opening her journal to the centerfold. Through teary eyes, she reviewed her best summer ever list of TO DO and TO MAKE, then scrawled a thick black X across both pages. They were always ruining her life; coming, going, and doing whatever they pleased. Who wants a career where you leave your kid behind?

   She picked up Jolie, her one-eared rabbit of little stuffing, and held her close. “Would you leave your kits?” she asked. “Of course not. Only a cultural anthropologist would leave their kid behind!” She spat on the page and watched the black ink bleed into the porous paper.

  Tossing the journal aside, she poked around in her backpack for her phone. She needed to talk to Jenna.


Are you there?

 I need to talk to you ASAP!

   No one’s ever around when I need them! She flicked the stress ball her grandpa brought her from Thailand off the dresser with her toes, set it on her belly and practiced her relaxation breathing. Even YOU grandpa! Even you’re not here anymore.

   Deep breathing usually helped relieve her anxiousness, but what she really needed right now was Jenna.

   She used to think being left behind was the worst part of her parents’ being cultural anthropologists, but taking her away from Vancouver, her friends, and the chance to get into the textile art program at Emily Carr was worse.

   MY LIFE SUCKS! she wrote over top of the ‘TO DO’ and ‘TO MAKE’ lists.

   She punched another message to Jenna.

   Where are you?

   I need to talk NOW!

   Maddie dropped the phone on her bed and put the reed ball back in motion. She thought about the grandmothers Grandpa Leo told her made these balls, so their grandkids had something to play with or throw at water buffalo when they got too close to the crops or their ball game.

   She didn’t have to worry about water buffalo, but she worried about most everything else. Like something would happen to her parents when they were away. Her mom said she was being silly, but GG’s dad had died while away on an assignment. It could happen to them too.

   And she worried about Grandpa Leo not listening to GG tell him to eat his veggies and fewer sweets. She was right to worry because now he was dead. And she worried if she didn’t give up refashioning, her mom would never like her, like she used to.

   She was thinking what a terrible idea it was to move to Peru when her phone pinged.

   She dropped the ball and grabbed it.

What’s up?

Jenna’s text read.

I’m moving!

What! Where?


OMG! Why?

They’ve been posted there.

Can’t you stay?

I’m 13!

What about Kevin?

What about me?

I know. What about our plans?


I don’t know what to say.
Did you tell Kevin?

I’m telling you.

What can you do?


You could come live with me.
My mom would let you.

My mom wouldn’t let me.

Want me to come over?

You know she’ll say no.

Say we have a project to finish.

Schools finished.

We can work on our bathing suits!
I can come over early tomorrow.
Maybe your dad will make us French toast.


I gotta go M.
My mom’s standing here staring at me.
Text me back with a time to come over.

   Maddie rolled herself up in her bed-sheet. She was going to be the new kid. The weird one, like Mika when she moved to Vancouver from Osaka. She shuddered, thinking of the times she and Jenna had teased Mika about the food she ate, and they laughed at her when she bowed to the teacher. And what about Kevin?

   A knock interrupted her worries.

   “Can I come in?”

  “I’m sleeping.”

   She heard the door open. “Then who’s speaking to me?”

   Her dad nudged the Maddie-roll to make room for him to sit on the bed.

Inside her sheet-cocoon, she asked, “Why do we have to move?”

   “For the work, and GG needs us now. And I want you to experience Peru. I want you to know your culture.”

   “I already know it. We’ve been there lots of times.”

   “Visiting isn’t the same as living someplace. I thought you’d be super excited about living in a house. No more waiting for elevators while our ice cream cake melts, and GG is going to share her art studio with you.”

   Maddie peeled her shield back to reveal her face and shoulders. “Why did you pick such a weird career?”

   “Cultural Anthropology is actually a real cool job. You travel around the world, live in urban, rural, and remote communities. I’ve learned so much about other people’s traditions, religions, fashion, and food preferences—even made many good friends.”

   Maddie lowered the sheet so she could snuggle up beside him. “But you always leave me.”

   “Yes, that’s a negative aspect. But moving to Peru will fix that and get you to Macchu Pichu and t that textile factory in Ollantaytambo[2]. You’ve always wanted to go there.”

   “And to that museum that exhibits the Inca artifacts grandpa found in the Sacred Valley.”  

   He wrapped his arm around her. “Its amazing all the history he and his team uncovered in Peru, and around the world. The best I can do now is show you what he showed me.”

   “Why doesn’t GG move here? You and mom could go do your research whenever you wanted.”

   “Not much work for us here, and besides, I’m ready to go back home.”

   “But it’s not my home. I don’t fit in.”

   “Why would you say that? You’re Peruvian too.”

   “I never met a Peruvian with red hair and green eyes.” She buried her face in her hands. “Remember that boy who kept bugging me at Grandpa’s funeral? He said I looked like a lizard—the kind you keep in a zoo!”

   He lifted her face. “You are a Scarlett Peacock butterfly. Have you seen one?”

   “In grandpa’s rose garden.”

   “So, you know it’s multi-colored. Each color ais as bright and beautiful as the other. I bet the boy thought you were amazing; he just didn’t know how to say it.”

   “I heard mom talking to Irish Gran yesterday. She sounded angry.”

   “They’ve got stuff to sort out.”

   “What stuff?”

   “Her mom wants her to come to Ireland.”

   “To live!”

   “No. I’m sure your Gran would like that, but she’ll settle for a visit.”

   “Why don’t we visit her?”

   “Your mom’s not ready to go back.”

   “I wasn’t ready for grandpa’s funeral. We still went.”

   “Well, the timings not good.”

   “I think something bad happened to mom when she lived there. Is that why she doesn’t talk about Dublin or want to go for a visit? “

   “She had a friend—her best friend—Annie. She died in a fire. Her death shocked your mom. So she left. Started a new life in Canada. And—well—you know the rest of that story. Sophie Rose Martin meets tall, handsome, charming Peruvian, named Rene Leo Leon in Anthropology 101 at McGill. They marry, move to Vancouver, have a baby girl as beautiful as a scarlet peacock, and the three of them live happily ever after.”

   “She doesn’t seem happy, and neither am I. I don’t want to leave my life.”

   “This is an adventure. An extension of your life,” he said and tousled her hair. “My word! Your mom is right—your hair has gone wild.”

   “Why doesn’t mom like me anymore?”

   “Why would you say that? She loves you.”

   “Then why does she want to change me? Why does she want me to give up on eco-fashion?”  

   “Uh. Well … that assignment in Ghana was tough. See struggled to see so many young women following in the footsteps of their mothers and grandmothers, producing fashion that wasn’t appreciated. A global economy creates global consumers, and they seem to prefer what’s trendy, not what used to be.”

   “That’s why eco-fashion matters. Refashioning clothes instead of throwing them is good for consumers, fashion designers and the environment. Did you know a kimono is made to last for generations? The original owner passes it to their child. When it’s no longer suitable for a teen, child, or baby to wear, it’s used to patch other garments. In its last life, it becomes a rag or ash and used as a wall plaster.” 

   “That’s amazing. Where did you learn that?”

   “Off the Internet. Eco-fashion is good fashion. Mom could have introduced them to refashion if they don’t already do it.”

Letting Go

   Jenna took Maddie’s umbrella from Mika. “You’re getting all the good stuff! I should get this. I helped paint the stars.”

   Maddie wrapped her hand around the umbrella shaft. “I’ll need this. It rains a lot in Lima, too.”

   She passed Jenna her Pride Day shorts. “Try these. Velvet x’s and o’s; your favourite. Comes with a ‘sweeTARTS’ belt.”

   Jenna reached for it. “How’d you make this?”

   “Its my old Dora belt. I covered it with the candy wrappers, then sprayed it with fabric glaze. Et voila! It’s kind of small, but I like how it bunches up the shorts at my waist.”

   Jenna wiggled into the shorts and laughed. “What waist?”

   “They’re too tight!” said Mika, “and too short! You can’t wear those.”

   Jenna lay on the bed, took a deep breath, then struggled to do up the belt.

   Maddie laughed at Jenna’s scrunched up red face. “Can you breathe, or get up?”

   “Blast! Nothing fits me!”

   “Here. Take my crystal mitts and toque.”

   Jenna slipped on the red felt mitts Maddie had covered with iridescent beads. The summer sun jumped off them, casting a rainbow of colors around and between them. Jenna sat back on the bed. “Doesn’t it get cold there?”

   “Yeah, but they’re too Canadian.”

    “What about these mukluks?” asked Jenna.

   Maddie plucked the boot off Jenna’s foot. She wasn’t willing to part with anything Grandpa Leo had given her.

   “I’m going to be a fashion flunky without you!” said Jenna.

   “You’ll figure it out.”

   Jenna dropped her leg down on top of Mika. “You’re the one who figures it out Maddie. I’m a model!”

   “Hey!” Mika groaned. “Your legs are too big for this bed.”

   “You can have maddily modified. I’m not taking it with me.”

   “What! You can’t leave yourself behind,” said Mika.

   “My mom says if I’m going to fit in, I need to be more regular.”

   “But you’re not regular,” said Mika. “You’re… you!”

   “Was me. Now I’ll be the weird kid—like you when you came here. Eating lunch by myself, not understanding what the other kids are talking or laughing about.”

   “You’ll figure it out. I did.”

   “But I already fit, and I like my fit. I don’t want to be the weird one.”

   Jenna wrapped her arms around Maddie’s waist and pulled her onto the bed. “I love the weird you.”

   Mika joined. “Me too.”

   Maddie’s dad poked his head into the room. “Hey girls! What’s going on?”

   “We’re mourning,” Jenna sighed. “Just one more sleep, then we’ll never see Maddie again.”

   “You’re on your screens all the time.”

   “It’s not the same,” said Jenna, “we can’t hug her… or try on each others’ clothes.”

   Maddie picked up her vibrating phone. “It’s the guys. They’re at the bus stop.”

   “You okay with me taking down your bed while you’re out?” her dad asked.

   “Does it matter what I want?”

   “You’ll need all the floor space if the three of you plan to sleep her tonight.”

   She picked up her backpack. “Okay, but don’t move any of my stuff. I’ll finish packing when we get back.”

   “Eight o’clock – at the front gates,” he said to their backs. “Text me if anything changes … and not too much junk food.”


 They claimed two rows at the back of the bus. Maddie sat between Kevin and Jenna. Mika and Kevin’s cousin hung over the seat in front of them. She watched as they categorized the ride coupons they got with their report courts and cut out of the local Westender and listened as they tallied their combined funds. She felt like an observer rather than a participant. She was going to miss them. HECK, I’m going to miss myself.

   She stepped over Jenna. “Change of plans,” she said, scanning the bus map above the back door. “We’re going to Chinatown. Three stops till Pender Street.”

   “We can’t do that!” said Mika.

   “Can do! Remember—BEST SUMMER EVER—come and go as we please. I want Dragon Inn dim sum.”

   Jenna joined her in the aisle. “Yeah! Let’s do it!”

   “What about your dad? He’s picking us up at Playland at eight!” said Mika.

   “Mika! You’re going to have all summer – today is my only day.”


 They sat around the table littered with empty bamboo steamers, chopsticks, dirty dishes and balled up napkins making plans for ‘next’

   “Call your dad,” said Mika. “You have to tell him where you are.”

   “Why? Who’s ready for Gastown!”

   “Yeah! Gastown!” said Jenna.

   They cut through T&T and bought a mixed box of watermelon, papaya, and mango ice-pops. Maddie choked up as they passed by RICE, no more Okonomiyaki[3]. She was dewy-eyed outside of Rosebuds, her favourite consignment store, and dragged her feet past Dressew, the best fashion accessory store in the entire city. She was leaving them, and all this too.

   “What’s wrong?” asked Jenna.

   “I keep thinking about everything I’m leaving behind.”

   “Maybe it won’t be so bad. We can screen time. My mom is going to get me on at Hamburger Mary’s when I’m fourteen. I’ll wash dishes and they’ll let me serve once I’m fifteen. Then I can really save. By the time we graduate from high school, I’ll have enough money to come to Peru.”

   Maddie hugged Jenna and held her tight, ignoring those trying to get past them. Complain all you want. You don’t know what’s going on with me.

   “Hurry up,” Kevin called back to them. “Old Steamer’s going to blow.”

   Arm in arm, Maddie double stepped to keep up with Jenna’s long stride.

   They took a ton of selfies in front of the Gastown Steam Clock and more as they walked around the cobblestone lanes, dancing in front of the musicians, applauding the buskers, and eating warm caramel corn.

   They stopped at Jules French Bistro and shared two orders of frites. Relaxing on the sidewalk patio, they watched tourists, locals, and street people interact with, and ignore one another. Every fifteen minutes, the steam clock blew, reminding Maddie her time was almost up.

   She called her dad at seven to say they’d catch the bus home and promised to be home by eight.

   That night Maddie lay between her two best friends experiencing a depth of loneliness she didn’t know you could feel when other people were with you. She took slow deep breaths, over and over, until only one thought remained — their pinky promise — to go to university together.

   Mika wanted to attend UBC or SFU. She didn’t think her mom and dad would want her to leave Vancouver; she said going home for dinner a few nights a week would keep their food costs low. Maddie and Jenna voted for Paris or Ho Chi Minh City. They wanted to live some place where you could speak French and wear fashionable clothes. And Jenna wanted to ride around on a motorcycle or moped.

   Neither the sirens nor the hooting and hollering from the party across the laneway could drown out the sorrow. She watched as the rising sun nudged the night away and thought about all the things that could, and would, go wrong for her in Peru.

Goodbye Vancouver


   Maddie sat in her empty room, sketching wilted daisies in her journal. She heard the ‘wheels of goodbye’ approach as her dad pulled their travel bags down the hall.

   “Taxi in twenty,” he said as he passed her door, “you can start taking our bags to the lobby.”

   She felt her phone vibrate as she crammed her journal into a jammed-full backpack. Waiting to leave was proving to be worse than preparing to go. Every text and phone call felt like she was pulling at a band-aid, still stuck on the wound.

   Kevin text, ‘Friends forever’.

   “VC standing by!” text Jenna read. Followed by a string of dancing and twirling emojis.

   “Goodbye sucks,” Mika wrote.

   Maddie smiled at Mika’s unusual language then took one last look around the room she was leaving. She took one last photo of the wall art her dad refused to cut out for her. At seven, she was certain her parents would love it; they loved GG’s wall and ceiling paintings. Her mom confiscated her markers, crayons, and paints that day. She didn’t get them back until they left on their next-assignment.

   “Maddie!” Her mom called out, chased her remembering away. “The cases! They and you are supposed to be in the lobby.”

   She hoisted her pack onto her back and emitted a groan that sounded more like that of a wounded animal, rather than a girl moving on.

   Four black bags, covered with country and landmark stickers from every continent, blocked her exit. She used her hip and feet to nudge them aside, pulling her own and one of theirs into the hallway. Waiting for the elevator, her dad arrived with the remaining.

   “These too,” he said. “I’ll take a last look through, then we’ll be down.”

   Maddie stared at her shoes, rolled her ankles, and stretched her toes. She was grateful to feel something other than the pain in her belly and ache of her heart.

   “Maddie, I know it’s hard to leave, but it’ll get better. You need to give it some time.”

   “Will we ever come back?”

   “We’ll see.”

   The elevator bell rang, and the doors opened. She dragged two bags inside knowing ‘we’ll see,’ meant no or probably not.

   He hauled in the other bags. “Let the cabbie in. Ask him or her to load everything.”  

   “I requested a van.” Maddie heard him say as the doors closed.

   The weight of departure grew as she descended. By the ninth floor, she knew she would cry. At seven, she was.

   Waiting for the cabbie, Maddie listened to their neighbour Robert play the piano in the community room. Her mom cried when he sang Goodbye Friend, at their going away party. She was becoming harder and harder to understand. Her mom could cry, but said Maddie was too old for crying. She could argue with her mom, but Maddie wasn’t supposed to disagree with her. She could live her life, but she didn’t want Maddie to live hers.

   Squished between her parents, they crossed the Burrard Street Bridge. Below, Sunset Beach was quiet; too early for beach lovers or roller-hockey players. Out in the bay, nine tankers waited to unload. Below, she caught sight of two tugboats already ferrying people between Granville Island and downtown for the Canada Day celebration–a celebration she was going to miss.

   Her spirit sunk lower as they drove up Granville Street. They passed Nick’s Spaghetti House, her family’s favourite celebration spot. The Big Scoop’s had covered their window with images of strawberry ice, cones, and banana splits in honor of Canada Day. The last shop at the south end of Granville was Meinhardt’s. For as long as she could remember, she went there twice a year. Once to get a giant Easter egg and on her birthday to buy the best red-velvet cake..

   With every click of the fare meter, the airport got closer, and the clouds darker. This ride reminded her of the day when GG called to say-come quick. She tipped back her head to keep the tears in her eyes and rubbed her stomach to calm the butterflies kicking in protest.

   “Will the real Maddie be joining us today?” her mom asked.

   “Did you know you can get arrested for kidnapping your own kid?”

   Her mom gave her leg a pat, like she was a pet. “Most kids would love an adventure like this.”

   “I’m not most kids. I’m Maddie.”

   Her dad wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.

   Heavy raindrops fell on the windscreen, roof, and road as they ramped onto the Richmond overpass.

   “Dad! My window! The Stanley Park Fairies!”

   He squeezed her a little tighter. “It’s been too long since you mentioned them. I thought packed them up with your stuffies.” He kissed the top of her head. “Don’t worry Maddie, every West-ender knows to open their window so the fairies can sail in on their maple leaf parachutes and rest for a while.”

   The cabbie parked in front of the international departure doors. She stood on the sidewalk breathing in the ocean air and letting the rain fall on her face. Even a city knows you should cry when you need to.

   Her head hung as she pushed the loaded luggage cart inside and towards the check-in counter. As comfortable as she was with preparing for a trip, flying stressed her. She didn’t like tight places or turbulence. She shuddered, remembering the last time they flew to Lima. She was so scared and upset thinking about her grandpa in the hospital; she threw up on her mom’s shoes.

   “Cold?” her dad asked as he helped her out of her rain jacket.

   “I miss Grandpa.”

   “Me too.”

   Maddie slipped her hand into his. “I wish things didn’t change.”

   “Do you? If things didn’t change, you’d be seven or two, or not even born. Change is everywhere — all the time. You just don’t notice it when life’s going your way,” he said with a half smile, then turned to the attendant, who scanned their boarding passes and took their bags.

   In the boarding lounge, Maddie found an isolated corner and pulled out her phone. With nothing left to say to her friends’ she put the phone on airplane mode and turned her attention to the people in the boarding area.

   She’d spent a lot of time at airports, train stations, and bus depots waiting for her parents and grandparents to come or go. Waiting with grandpa, they made up a game called, ‘Who Are You?’ He was best at imagining where the people were coming from or going because of all the places he’d been. Her part was to pack their case with treats and fashion.

   She watched a pesky boy jammed between two rows of connected seats, pull at a teen girl’s hair. Must be his sister. She’d always wanted a brother—never a sister because she had Jenna—until now. She was thinking he needed a game to play, when the girl turned and swat him with her magazine.

   ELLE! Her favourite fashion magazine. It was in ELLE she first read about eco-fashion[4] and the harm fast fashion[5] had on the environment. Who was this girl? Where was she going? Was she a re-fashionist like Maddie, on her way to Toronto or Paris for the first ever refashioned fashion runway show?”

   “PARIS,” Maddie spat aloud. Another thing she had to give up. Grandpa had promised to take her and GG there. The list of things she had to give up was getting longer every day.

   A boarding announcement interrupted her ruminating. In line, the north shore mountains taunted her. She felt her butterflies swoop, then loop. They and she were headed south, so far south that summer was winter, and no one would believe that a red-haired, green-eyed, freckled-faced girl from Vancouver could be even one part Peruvian.

   Settled into seat 12E, she plugged in her playlist and flipped through the coloring book she bought at the airport bookstore. When she was a jittery test mess, Mr. James taught her and her classmates about breathwork and self-care strategies. Deep breathing, listening to music, and when she didn’t have to write a test — coloring — worked best for her.

   She closed her eyes as the plane ran like a jackrabbit down the runway. Once in the air, she picked a butterfly to color up as a scarlet peacock. Absorbed in her artwork , the flight attendant’s hand wave between her and the page startled her.

   “Something to drink or eat?”

   She glanced at her parents who seemed to have forgotten she was travelling with them. They were immersed in their anthropological world.

   Conspiratorially knowing what would happen, she ordered a coke. Grandpa always laughed at her big burps and saved her from trouble by adding one or two and declaring it a tune.

   The attendant set the pop can, along with a glass of ice and straw, on her tray.

   Ignoring the glass and straw, she took a big drink. As expected, an enormous burp erupted. Except for her mom’s reaction, there was silence.

   No doubt about it—she was flying solo.

[1] Cultural anthropologist also referred to as socio-cultural anthropologists are concerned with cultural diversity and the bases of these distinctions. Cultural anthropology is the study of learned human behaviour and can be seen within groups of people. See Resource section for additional information on culture.

[2] Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru, northwest of the city of Cusco. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region and built the town and a ceremonial center.

[3] Okonomiyaki – savoury Japanese pancake.

[4] Eco-fashion is clothing and other goods made from recycled materials or otherwise produced by methods that are not harmful to the environment. Oxford Language Dictionary.

[5] Fast fashion is a design, manufacturing, and marketing method focused on rapidly producing high volumes of clothing. https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion




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