The Adventures of Maddie Leon
- A Continental Shift -
With heartfelt appreciation to my readers and supporters who contributed
time and talent to help me complete this novel for middle grade readers.
ISBN (ebook): 978-1-7386668-0-5
a division of TaLedi Enterprise Development Inc. (2003)
Alberta and British Columbia, Canada
All rights reserved
The Adventures of Maddie Leon
– A Continental Shift –
Chapter one through five are provided below for reader review and feedback.
A complete e-copy of the book will be sent to all who offer constructive feedback.
The Adventures of Maddie Leon: A Continental Shift
BEST SUMMER EVER
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Maddie never used to think about sweating. Now she was thinking about his and hers as they 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 and backed out of the spray-zone.
“Kevin! Don’t touch your face!”
Between gags he spluttered, “I … I gotta go home and 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 some advice from Jenna about being a girlfriend.
Jenna was on the corner dancing to the delight of a small group, when she arrived at Cardero and Davie Street. “Where’s Kevin?” she asked, completing her high-toe pirouette.
“He got sprayed coming down the hill.”
“That sucks!” she said, pinching her nose. “Why does something so cute have to be a pest?”
“So,” she said with hands on her hips and leaning in so close their noses almost touched, “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?” she asked.
“I don’t know. 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 but steady companion anxiety, was running wild.
Maddie scanned the task list Mr. James posted 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 two tables 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, lay ahead of her. Mika beckoned her to join for a group photo. 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.
“That’s a new one,” she said, eyeing an Orca-whale breaching from a trophy base.
Mr. James hustled around the table 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, thought Maddie as she walked towards Mika.
“So, you’re Kevin’s girlfriend now.”
She felt a stab of regret for not having placed Jenna under a 24-hour secret alliance.. “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, thinking she might not be ready for one either.
Maddie watched as her mom attempted to distance herself from Jenna’s mom. She thought Jenna and her mom were too free-spirited. ‘Dreamers destined for disappointment,’ she frequently included in her criticism. Her dad, however, was the opposite. Kind and generous, he always made room for others. When they weren’t away on an assignment, he would invite neighbours, colleagues passing through, even people he’d just met at the library or coffee shop, to join them for a meal or an evening of board games.
The intercom 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 primary teachers’ trying to get the little kids to quiet-down and stop squirming about on the floor. It seemed so 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.
“Why does all your boy-talk have to be gushy?” Maddie asked, not looking at either of them.
One by one, supported by classmate cheers and a few jeers, they went up to receive their graduation certificates. Each took a helium balloon as they left the stage. 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 while Mr. James picked up the Orca trophy. With each step, she felt her face get hotter. ’Flushing’ her mom called it. ‘An Irish ancestry gift,’ her dad said. Maddie was certain it was a curse of puberty.
Maddie watched Mr. James’ mouth move. His voice sounded like it was being filtered through a distortion app. The butterflies that poked around her belly every day and most nights were in full flight, dashing up and down, left then right, searching for a way out.
“Maddie Leon, you have gifted Orca Bay Elementary with a unique set of analytical and creative skills. Your passion for fashion and the environment inspired us to become part of the eco-fashion movement through our Re-Use-It Textile fundraiser.”
Addressing the audience, he said, “With your help, we collected and re-distributed textiles to pay for the replacement of our tired sports jerseys. While sorting and separating the articles donated, Maddie and crew found fabric and accessories to costume our performers in next year’s school play, Peter Pan Visits Our Town.”
She wondered if those staring at her could see the sweat pooling on her upper lip. At least the graduation gown hid her sweaty armpits, but the perspiration would probably stain the vintage lace top she’d made for this day.
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 wasn’t 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 her eco-fashion passion.
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 the customary elementary graduation 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 peace officers on horseback, no matter the season. Along the boardwalk, vendors sold ice cream, hot dogs, popcorn, and all kinds of beverages.
Out in the water, anchored freighters 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 the 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 bay.
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?”
Jenna rolled over on her belly. “Oh yeah! Big problem! For sure, you’ll get accepted into Emily Carr once they find out about the STEAM award. You’re lucky. You know who you are. What you’re good at. Except for being an excellent model and pretty good dancer, 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 upright. “What! Are you crazy? What about our plans to bring back original style, to disrupt fast fashion and keep textiles out of the landfills!”
“My mom says it’s a poor career choice. Customer demands are always changing. Besides, most clothes aren’t even made in Canada.”
“When did your mom get to be a fashion expert? Lookie there!” said Jenna, pointing towards the bathhouse, “Here comes your boyfriend.”
Hand in hand, they walked up Burnaby Street. Kevin talked about their plan for a day at Playland. She was wondering if he could feel the sweat on her palm.
“You couldn’t pay me to ride that coaster. I don’t know what will give first, the bolts on the tin bucket seats, or the wooden track.”
Kevin spoke into his fisted spare hand with his broadcaster’s voice. “Breaking News. Grade 7 grads go down in the rubble of 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 broadcasting ahead of me.”
She flashed her fob across the apartment’s entrance panel. “No problem. Jenna will ride it with me. She’s always ready for an adventure.”
Anxious a neighbour, or worse, her parents might see them kiss at the front door, she slipped through the door then turned to give him a wave from the other side. Waiting for the elevator, she wondered if she was ready for a boyfriend. Riding up to the 15th floor she pondered what her parents would say and knew she had to have a serious conversation with Jenna about all of this.
 STEAM or S.T.E.A.M. is a 21st century education model that stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math.
 STEM a.k.a. S.T.E.M. was integrated into schools in the 20th century to prepare students for the future of work. It is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math.
My Life Sucks
She dropped her skateboard and bag in the entrance hall and stepped into the kitchen.
Her dad held out a spoonful of his 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.
“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 royal mace. “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 are here 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?”
“It was good,” she said, opening the fridge then bowing in to search for something to eat. “Kevin’s dad sent us seven large pizzas. The boys inhaled them. 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 to see some 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 thick, curly mane. 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 she had the spirit of a lion in her. Oh, to be a lion, she thought as she coaxed the brush through her hair. 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. Bright green eyes full of questions and concerns looked back.
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 turned her attention to the hill of spaghetti in front of her. Skillfully, she twirled a mouthful, thinking it really was the best spaghetti sauce ever as she slurped in the danglers.
Her mom cleared her throat and waved a napkin at her. Maddie kept her head down, sensing she was getting close to the edge of her mom’s tolerance. Since returning home from their last assignment, her mom was grouchy, mad, or 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. Serving at Hamburger Mary’s—there are no extra’s on those wages. With your grades, you should be a scientist, an engineer, or a professor. Even an accountant or coder would be better than deconstructing good clothes or buying other people’s throw-aways!”
“But I don’t want to be any of those things.” Risking a peek, she saw her mom’s laser green eyes boring into her. “I want to design fun and fresh eco-fashion. Why is that so wrong?”
“Good careers have their roots in science and technology. Redesigning discarded clothing is a hobby — not a career,” her mom scoffed.
“Mr. James says STEM without ART misses the mark. STEAM is 21st century. It’s supposed to be innovative and disruptive.”
Her dad placed his hand on her forearm. “You’re right Maddie. All of us need to adapt and Cultural Anthropologist wouldn’t have a job without all that change. And” he said, clearing his throat a telltale sign that he also had something else to say.
“Who are you leaving me with this time?”
Her mom smacked her utensils on the table. “Really Maddie! Every time we get a posting, you complain. It’s getting a little old.”
“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 your subjects ─ 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 the assignment … you’re coming with us!”
Maddie dropped her loaded fork and stretched across the table to hug him. Forever, she had been waiting forever to go on assignment with them, but company policy required she be thirteen.
“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. “How long will we be gone?”
“Yes, 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?” She 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 move to Peru.”
“Move! To Peru?”
“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. “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.”
She stared at them, wondering if they were her actual parents. Perhaps she was part of some weird cultural anthropology project, and it was their job to see how she coped when 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. 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.”
“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.”
“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 she slammed 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.
 Cultural anthropologist, a.k.a. socio-cultural anthropologists are concerned with cultural diversity and distinctions. Cultural anthropology is the study of learned human behaviour influenced by one’s society and environment.
Teary-eyed, she opened her journal to review her best summer ever TO DO and TO MAKE lists, then scrawled a thick black X across both pages. They were always ruining her life; coming, going, and doing whatever they wanted to. Who picks a career where you leave your kid behind?
She cradled Jolie, her one-eared rabbit of little stuffing. “Would you leave your kit?” she asked. “Of course not. Only cultural anthropologists leave their kids!”
She spat on the page and watched the black ink bleed into the porous paper, then tossed her journal aside. She needed to talk to Jenna—now.
M: JENNA! R U there!? I need to talk ASAP!
She flicked the reed-ball grandpa brought her from Thailand, off the dresser with her toes. She set it on her belly and took a long deep breath to slow down her racing heart and thoughts. No one’s ever around when I need them! Deep breathing usually helped relieve her anxiousness but what she really needed right now was to talk to Jenna. She used to think being left behind was the worst part of her parents’ being cultural anthropologists, but taking her from Vancouver, her friends, and the chance to get into the textile art program at Emily Carr was worse.
She sent another message off to Jenna.
M: Where are you? I need to talk NOW!
Maddie dropped the phone on her bed and put her stress ball back in motion. She thought about the grandmothers Grandpa Leo said made the reed balls, so their grandkids had something to play with or throw at water buffalo when they got too close to the crops or 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 died when he was 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 refashioned fashion, 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.
J: What’s up?
M: I’m moving!
J: What! Where?
J: OMG! Why?
M: They got an assignment there.
J: Can’t you stay?
M: I’m 13!
J: What about Kevin?
M: What about me! THEY’RE TAKING ME AWAY.
J: I don’t know what to say. Did you tell Kevin?
M: I’m telling you!
J: What can u do?
J: Come stay with us. My mom would love that. I’d love that!
M: That will never happen.
J: Want me to come over?
M: You know she’ll say no.
J: Say we have a project to finish.
M: Schools finished.
J: We can work on our bathing suits! I can come over early tomorrow. Maybe your dad will make us French toast.
J: GtG M. My mom’s standing here staring at me. Text me back with a time to come over.
Maddie rolled herself in her bed-sheet. She was going to be the new kid. The weird one, like Mika when she came 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?”
She heard the door open.
“Then who’s speaking to me?” her dad asked as he nudged the ‘Maddie-Roll’ to make room for him to sit on her bed.
From inside her cocoon, she asked, “Why do we have to move? Why don’t you just leave me like you always do?”
“Because now you’re 13, you can come onsite, and GG needs us. And I want you to know your Peruvian 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 protective wrap back to reveal her face and shoulders. “Why did you pick such a weird career?”
“Cultural Anthropology is actually a real cool career. 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.”
“We’ve never liked that part of our work. But moving to Peru will fix that, and you can finally go to Macchu Pichu and that textile factory in Ollantaytambo.”
“And the Inca Museum. I want to see the artifacts grandpa found in the Sacred Valley.”
He wrapped his arm around her. “Its amazing all the history and treasures he 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.”
“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 beautiful scarlet peacock butterfly. Each of your colors as bright and beautiful as the other. I bet the boy thought the same, 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.”
“Her mom wants her to come to Ireland.”
“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.”
“Did something bad happened to mom when she lived in Dublin? Is that why she won’t talk about it or doesn’t want to go there?“
“You know her friend Annie died in a fire. Your mom found it to difficult to face, so she left Ireland to start a new life in Canada. And—well—you know the rest of that story. Sophie Rose Martin meets tall, handsome, charming Peruvian, Rene Leo Leon in Anthropology studies at McGill. They marry, move to Vancouver, have a baby girl as beautiful as a scarlet peacock butterfly, and the three of them live happily ever after.”
“She doesn’t seem happy. Neither am I. I don’t want to leave my life.”
“You’re not leaving your life—you’re heading on an adventure, an extension, a new chapter,” he said as he tousled her hair. “My word! Your mom is right—your hair is wild!”
“Why doesn’t mom like me anymore?”
“Maddie! Why would you say that? She loves you!”
“Then why does she want to change me? Why does she want me to give up my Maddily Modified fashion?”
“She wants you to pursue a career that isn’t so risky.”
“How is fashion risky? Everyone wears clothes!”
“True. But you know, it’s the type and abundance of clothes that make it risky. You mom knows designers struggle to compete with fast fashion, roadside stitchers, or clothing hawkers selling thrifted items for a fraction of the price. Its hard to take care of yourself or your fashion business, if you can’t earn money at what you do.”
“That’s why eco-fashion matters. You make new clothes from what you have. A kimono lasts for generations. No one throws it out or gives it to a thrift store. People redesign them. And if it’s torn or worn out, it gets mended.”
 Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who conquered the region and built the town and a ceremonial center.
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 it. 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 this SweeTART belt.”
Jenna reached for it. “How’d you make this?”
“I covered my old Dora belt with the candy wrappers, then sprayed it with fabric glaze. Et voila! It’s kind of small, but I like how it bunches the shorts at my waist.”
Jenna wiggled into the shorts and laughed. “What waist?”
“They’re too tight! And too short!” said Mika. “You can’t wear those.”
Jenna lay on the bed. She took a deep breath and struggled to do up the belt.
Maddie laughed at her scrunched up red face. “Can you breathe, or get up?”
“Blast! Nothing fits me!”
“Here! You can have my 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’ll 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. I’m the model!”
“Hey!” Mika groaned. “Your legs are too big for this bed.”
“I’m done figuring things out. I’m leaving Maddily Modified in Vancouver.”
“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 misfit, the weird kid sitting by herself in the lunchroom.”
Jenna wrapped her arms around Maddie’s waist and pulled her onto the bed. “I love the weird you.”
“Me too,” said Mika, joining the entanglement.
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 are still planning to sleep here tonight.”
She picked up her backpack. “Okay, but don’t move 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 tallied their combined funds and the ride tickets they got with their report cards and had cut out of the local newspaper. 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, scanned the route map, then announced, “Change of plans. 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 dim sum, not deep-fried twinkies.”
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.
“You have fifty-eight days of summer vacation left,” she said, challenging Mika. “Today is my last.”
They sat around the table now 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 felt heavy as they passed by RICE; no more Okonomiyaki. She was dewy-eyed outside Rosie’s’ consignment store, and dragged her feet past Dressew, the best fabric and accessory store in the city. She was leaving 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 still text and screen time. And my mom said she can get me a job at Hamburger Mary’s. I’ll start with doing dishes, but once I’m fifteen, I can serve. Then I can really save. By the time we finish high school, I’ll have enough money to come to Peru.”
Maddie hugged Jenna. She 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.” Kevin called back. “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 caramel corn.
At the French Bistro, they shared two orders of frites and watched tourists, locals, and street people mostly 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 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. And she thought having dinner at home 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 her sorrow. She watched the rising sun nudge the night away and thought about all the things that could, and would, go wrong for her in Peru.
 Okonomiyaki is a savoury Japanese pancake.
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.”
Her phone vibrated as she crammed her journal into her overstuffed 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 stuck on an oozing wound.
Kevin text read, “friends forever”.
“VC standing by!” Jenna’s read. Followed by a string of dancing and twirling emojis.
“Goodbye sucks,” Mika wrote.
She smiled at Mika’s expressiveness, then snapped a photo of the wall art she had to leave behind. At seven, she was certain her parents would love it. Instead of loving it like they did GG’s wall art, 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’s call-out chased the 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 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 hips and feet to nudge them aside, pulling her own and one of theirs into the hallway. Waiting for the elevator, her dad arrived with two more.
“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 the ache of her heart.
“I know it’s hard to leave,” her dad said, “but it’ll get better. You need to give it some time.”
“Will we ever come back?”
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 in the lobby for the cabbie to arrive, Maddie listened to their neighbour Robert play the piano in the community room. Her mom cried when he sang goodbye friends, at their going away party. Her mom hard to understand. She could cry, but said Maddie was too old for tears. She could argue with her mom, but Maddie wasn’t supposed to disagree with her. She could live the life she wanted but didn’t want Maddie to live hers.
Squished between her parents, they crossed the Burrard Street Bridge. Below, Sunset Beach was quiet; too early or cloudy for sun tanners, bike riders, or roller-hockey players. Out in the bay, nine tankers waited to unload. In the inlet, she caught sight of two tugboats already ferrying people between Granville Island and downtown for Canada Day. 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 had plastered its windows with posters of Canada Day strawberry and cherry ice-cream cones, cups, and cakes. 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 a red-velvet cake.
With every click of the fare meter, the airport got closer, and the clouds darker. The 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. They’re homeless!”
He squeezed her a little tighter. “It’s been too long since you mentioned them. I figured they got packed away 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 parachute 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 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.”
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 before turning 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 surrounding people. 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, she and grandpa made up a game they called, ’Who Are You?’ He was best at imagining where the people were coming from or going to because of all the places he’d been. She focused on what was or should be in their travel bag.
She watched a pesky boy jammed between two rows of seats, pulling on 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 smacked him with her magazine.
ELLE! Her favourite fashion magazine. It was in ELLE she read how fashion consumption and dumping made textiles the fourth largest environmental waste. Having to fill in for grandpa, she decided this girl was a changemaker off to Toronto to meet with government leaders and demand a stop to dumping useable textiles into landfills. Or maybe she was a model on her way to Paris Fashion Week.
Paris! That was a word and a city that hurt just to think about. Grandpa promised to take her there when she graduated from high school. She would finally see all the places he told her about; the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, the church where he’d discovered a secret vault, and the place he first saw GG sitting with her friend and Sorbonne roommate, Madeline.
A boarding announcement interrupted her ruminating. Waiting in the pre-board line, she felt her butterflies swoop, then loop. They and she were heading south. So far south, 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 in seat 12E, she plugged in her playlist and flipped through the coloring book she bought at the airport bookstore. Mr. James had introduced them to the benefits of doing something creative with your hands, listening to music or deep breathing when stress or anxiety interfered with your well-being. Right now, she needed everyone of those self-care tips.
She closed her eyes as the plane ran like a jackrabbit down the runway. Once in the air, she picked a butterfly line drawing to transform into a scarlet peacock. Absorbed in her artwork, the flight attendant’s wave in front of her face startled her.
“Something to drink or eat?”
She glanced over at her parents. Immersed in their anthropological world, they seemed to forget she was travelling with them. “Coke please.”
Grandpa always laughed at how coke made her burp and he’d save her from trouble by adding a burp or two and declaring it a tune.
The attendant set the 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 on her own.
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r. April, 2023