Madison shares her daily life in three parts: first as a teenager, next as a young adult, and then as a middle-aged single mother.
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A red strip of sunlight snuck in through the window pane and splashed against the mirror I faced. Cringing away from light, I continued getting ready for school. I spent what I considered to be too much time with my makeup: covering up blemishes whose red marks still showed through the powder, picking black chunks of mascara off of my eyelashes, and giving up on the unevenness of my eyeliner with a frustrated sigh. After one last look in the mirror, I rubbed off some of that new bright red lipstick that I loved but would never have the confidence to wear.
I may not be good with a brush, but at least I was good with timing. My grumbling ignition turned off in the student parking lot precisely ten minutes before the bell for homeroom rang. This gave me time to prepare for the day: precisely enough to make me want it to be over as soon as possible. The morning was the worst. My early grogginess could not handle the rednecks’ ostentatious trucks or the morning people’s over-enthusiastic greetings.
I slid into my assigned seat in homeroom with a few minutes to spare before Mr. Carson took attendance. My faltering eyelids snapped open to catch my name coming up in roll call: “Hayley Mathews, Jacob Moyer, Maddie Norman.”
“Madison.” I corrected him irritably, but he must not have heard as he continued down the list without a glance in my direction. Sadly, the nickname I had chosen for myself at the age of six years old had stuck, despite my effort to reform it back to plain old “Madison”.
The classroom’s TV screen crackled to life to display the blurred faces of the peppiest seniors who constantly scrambled over each other to read the next announcement in a more artificial tone. I choked back a groan at their “Sunny Monday!” weather report and buried my head into my assignment book as a refuge from the series of updates on all the trifling activities our great educational institutional had to offer. I flipped through the curling, leather bound pages for the thousandth time until I found today’s temporarily empty page. Last night’s work was already crossed off with a thin ink line.
The bell signaled a mass exodus of cattle who roamed the halls to their first period classes. I mean students, but they may as well have been cattle. Some of them just looked so dead eyed, like they were not capable of the simplest human thought. But the ones who I knew were more than capable were just as bad. Maybe even worse. I thought that you could escape the stupidity by enrolling in Honors classes.
For once, I’ll admit. I was wrong.
I walked into my AP English class to witness the same dead eyed stupidity, only it was covered with flowery language and a professional attitude. Seriously, none of the work was theirs, and if it was, it sounded like some ancient dinosaur named the thesaurus-rex attacked it. AP should have stood for Advanced Plagiarism.
I barely made it to my seat before my friend, Catherine, pounced to inform me all about how the rain had ruined her plans from the night before. I actually found the rain to be soothing as I fell asleep, but pretended to sympathize with how dreary the weather had been lately. The awful thing about Catherine was that she could go on and on about the same topic unless you stopped her.
“So, what do you think about having a get together this weekend before finals? Because let’s face it, I probably won’t live through them.” I interjected before the next wave of complaints hit me.
“You’ll do fine, Maddie!” Catherine rolled her eyes and continued before I could correct her about my name, “But yeah, that sounds like a great idea. We could totally do something at my house.”
I nodded in appreciation and turned my attention to the front of the classroom just in time for the first presentation on Hamlet to begin, not that anyone cared if Hamlet was mad or not. Most of the students just spoke an online critic’s position in a voice that made it sound like they did. It was so infuriatingly obvious that the work was not their own. But the teacher didn’t care about authenticity. She liked hearing just the right words. Everyone likes hearing just the right words.
I couldn’t wait until next year when their professors in college would be able to see through their fake intelligence. They could not possibly succeed then.
Later that week, I was greeted with flashing smiles and half-assed hugs from a select group of my closest friends who eventually all settled down into a circle around the table of food in Catherine’s basement. As everyone talked about what was happening in their lives, I realized that we weren’t close at all. I didn’t know what was happening in their lives, and I didn’t particularly care while we were supposed to be at a party. Although this get-together could hardly be called a party considering it only consisted of the same people I saw at school just without the stifling academic setting and with a whole lot more food than our “nutritional” cafeteria had.
Yet school was still mainly what everyone talked about: the classes that everyone learned nothing in for a whole semester because we had to memorize everything the night before the tests, the SAT scores we received despite the probability that no one was honest about them, and the colleges that we considered attending despite the low chance of our admittance and high chance of being indebted for the next 15 years of our lives. But somehow this whole large and scary process as a high school senior who was moving on was still exhilarating to me because at least it was some sort of change. Before the biggest change in the past four years of my life was cutting off all 12 inches of my hair and dying it a dark auburn because that brilliant red that I really wanted was just too out there.
Soon I headed home and got stopped at the most unnecessary long stoplight where I was forced to watch no one drive by as my foot itched towards the gas pedal. The red stoplight captured my gaze by standing out from the bleak dark sky ahead of me. The blinking red clock on my dashboard told me that I probably should have been home about 20 minutes ago. And as soon as the light turned green, I had to wait for a man to dash across the crosswalk before I finally crossed through the intersection towards the vivid moon.