Chapter 3

I shoved another sweater into my suitcase, determined to make it fit without ruining the cashmere.

"Need some help, Miss Madeline?" Chelsea asked with her light German accent, coming in so quietly I hadn’t heard her.

"Oh, yes, thank you," I said and stepped back so she could try. Chelsea stepped up and attempted to pack my suitcase more effectively.

"Oh, dear," she exclaimed as she realized the sweater wasn’t going down without a fight.

I silently laughed to myself as Chelsea pushed and shoved, trying to be polite and get it in at the same time. "Here," I said, climbing onto my bed and sitting on top of the velvet lavender suitcase. "Try it now."

With less resistance now from the sweater and other clothes I had managed to shove in, Chelsea zipped it up quickly. I climbed down and helped her lug the bulging bag all the way down the hall, where Simon picked it up. He grunted in surprise when he realized how heavy it was, but quickly controlled his expression and managed to carry it downstairs and into the living room.

Simon carefully piled it up on top of my other bags. When every suitcase was piled nicely into a small mountain on the parlor’s floor, it nearly reached the skylight that was built into the low ceiling. I smiled to myself a little. Let those Americans think what they will of that.

"Alright," Mum said, marching into the parlor. "Let’s—" She broke off, staring at my enormous pile of luggage. She blinked a few times, the looked at me. "Really, Madeline, are all of these necessary?"

"Of course, Mum," I told her, indignant. If she really was shipping me off to America, I should at least be able to have my stuff. "They’re only the necessities."

"Mmm," she said. "Well then, lets get this show on the road, as they say in America."

I resisted a groan. Ever since my mother finally convinced me to visit the United States, I had heard nothing but comments about America, both good and bad, along with strange sayings that didn’t make any sense. I mentally winced as I remembered how Abigail, Claudia, and Marie had reacted when I told them the news.

"You’re going where?" Marie, the youngest, and, I couldn’t help admitting, dimmest, had said.

"It isn’t permanent, of course," I had assured them. "My mother simply thinks I should meet my father."

Abigail, the boldest and most headstrong of my friends, had snorted. "America." She had said it like it was a dirty word. "I sincerely hope you do not grow used to their.... customs, Madeline."

"Of course not," I defended myself, because obviously no one else was going to. "Besides, Alabama cannot truly be that bad."

I froze as I heard them gasp at my slip. Oops.

"Alabama?" Abigail chortled, "You said you were staying in New York!" She burst into laughter.

"Is your father a cowboy?" Marie cackled, joining Abigail.

"Of course not! According to my mother he is very wealthy.... and owns a ranch...." I trailed off, finding there was no point to continue. Once Abigail and Marie decided something, there was no changing their minds.

Desperate, I turned to Claudia, my last hope. Out of my three best friends, she was the kindest and had the best sense of judgement. However, my hope vanished as I saw that her lips were pressed into a thin line and she was trying to keep from laughing.

"I’m sorry, Madeline," she said as a small burble of laughter escaped, "It’s just.... the image of you riding a horse... and square dancing... I’m sorry!" Unfortunately for me, Claudia having said her mental pictures out loud had cause actual tears to roll down Abigail and Marie’s faces as they laughed thunderously.

By that time, of course, my feelings were seriously hurt, but my friends, either oblivious or uncaring toward my feelings, continued to howl uncontrollably at my expense.

"Fine!" I said, beginning to get angry. They had no right to laugh at me. I snatched up my Dolce & Gabbana handbag and stormed out of the room without saying or hearing a single good-bye.

The End

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