She didn't realize it until 20 years later, but Madison Finn made some of the worst choices in her life.
In the cafeteria line, she had always picked pudding; she hated pudding. In high school she had ditched her best friends to go to Ivy and her popular gang to spend time with her lifelong crush, Hart. She had started to yell at her mom for every little thing, and began to avoid her dad at all costs. She hadn't taken Phinnie for anymore walks, and when he had died one year out of high school, she was too busy partying with Ivy to care.
But one of the worst choices she had ever made was marrying Hart. At twenty-eight she should be happy, with a good job, husband, and family. She had none of those.
When Madison had gone over to Ivy's side, she had begun to spend more time with Hart; just what she wanted, right? Well, in high school the two got together, and Madison thought it would be love forever. She forgot all about Aimee, Fiona, Egg, Chet, Lindsay, and…Drew. She and Hart were together, and that's all that mattered in her life.
But when Hart proposed, Madison had a foreboding feeling something would go wrong. But he was the love of her life. She said yes, which was the worst choice she had ever made. It would haunt her for the rest of her life. At this time Madison forgot again. She forgot about how all through junior high Drew had been there to help and console her, and to make her laugh. She forgot that on the summer break of grade nine she and Drew had gotten together, only because of a dare on Madison's part. She forgot about how that one week had been one of the best in her life; holding hands, buying ice cream, and even that one kiss they had shared; Madison's first kiss.
But now she had Hart. At the wedding she invited all of her new friends and none of her old. But Drew showed up anyway; after all, he was Hart's family. One of the things Madison remembered was Drew sitting in the seats, the most forlorn expression on his face. She remembered him coming to congratulate them, but she brushed him off with wave of her hand. But she had done that all her life, hadn't she?
As Madison sat in the attic, digging through old boxes of thoughts and memories, she remembered that Hart hadn't been home in three days. She hated to admit it, but Hart wanted nothing to do her. He continuously yelled at her, blaming her for everything, and asking why she went out and wasted their money, which she never did. He always told her that he had proposed when he was drunk, and just didn't want to hurt her afterwards. She knew something was going on between him and Ivy, and it broke her heart. But hadn't something always gone on between those two anyway?
The next box she opened belched out a cloud of dust. Coughing, Madison bent the flaps back, pulling out the first thing she felt. Looking it over, she felt an emotion she hadn't felt in a long time pull at her heart. The book was one Drew had given her for her fifteenth birthday in grade nine; it was hints and tips on how to work and control your computer. Madison grinned, the first one she had grinned in years. Right there at the box she suddenly remembered that no matter what, Drew had been there. Even when she migrated to Ivy and her friends, Drew made monthly stops at her house, usually just asking about how her laptop was doing, or if Egg had stopped by. She remembered how ignorant she had been as a kid. Hadn't it been obvious Drew felt something for her? Hadn't it been obvious her life was perfect? But she just had to go and ruin it. Just to get Hart. And now look at her; a lonely woman working at a dead-end job with no friends or family anymore. She was alone.
It was an odd thing to do, but Madison hugged the computer tip book close. Normally one would do such a thing with a stuffed animal or something sentimental. Not a book that she hadn't read in years. Madison didn't care about the dust that got all over her hands and shirt or up her nose, making her sneeze. She just felt happy to hug the book close, knowing at some point in her life, someone had cared. When she was going through rough times, someone had been there to give her a hand, even if she hadn't taken it.
She remembered Drew.
What she wouldn't give to see him now! To tell him that she loved the book, and that she wanted that fling in grade nine to be more than just a fling. But she was nearly thirty now! She had a husband, she had a life…even it was a terrible one. She couldn't just pretend things could go back to the way they were. She wanted to, dearly, but it was just impossible.
Madison didn't look through the rest of the box. She didn't want to be constantly reminded of the things she had lost or forgotten; she didn't want to remember those things. But one thing she did want to remember was Drew. So she clung onto the book as she made her way down the attic, and she dusted the old cover with care. Then she sat down on the shabby living room couch, opening the book with care.
And there, written on the inside, was a note. A note written by a ninth-grader in love.
Now you have your tips on how to control your laptop! That thing's getting old, isn't it? Have a wonderful birthday Maddy!
Love. Madison remembered that word, that feeling. She hadn't felt it in along time. Not since those high school years with Hart and not since…not since she held this book the day Drew had given it to her.
With a frustrated sound, Madison slammed the book shut, throwing it on the ground. Why did it cause her to remember? Why couldn't she just be left alone from her past, going on with her life! Why did that book cause everything she had done to reel through her mind over and over? Why did she even feel these things? Drew would be happily married with children and some wonderful job with computer technology, probably bringing in the millions for his picture perfect family. And here Madison was, in the slummy part of town, ignored by her husband and working at the bottle depot. It was time she forgot. She wouldn't remember. She highly doubted Drew even remembered her.
Later, as Madison was shoving the book underneath her bed, she heard a knock on the door. With a frown she realized it was probably Hart having forgotten his key again. It was probably at Ivy's, lying beside the bed.
Madison stood behind the door. "Who is it?" she called, fumbling with the lock. There was no reply, only something like a stifled giggle. "Who is it?" she asked again more sharply. Still no answer, only another knock. With an infuriated noise Madison unlocked the last lock, ripping open the door. "Look Hart, you're being stu--," Madison halted in the middle of her sentence. Standing at the door was a familiar face, adorned with glasses and a smile that lit up his whole face.
Madison remembered him. He had been at their wedding five years ago…five years was a long time. "Drew?" she asked quietly, hearing her words come out fluttery and trembling. How odd was it that he came the day she had missed him the most? How had she known where she lived?
The man smiled even more. "I'm glad you remember me," he replied.
Madison couldn't stop herself. Before she could think she jumped onto him, hugging him harder than she had anyone. Digging her face into his shoulder, she gave an almost face-splitting smile. She didn't care how he had found her; she was just glad to know that someone still cared.
As the two silently hugged, Madison forgot all about Hart, her job, her home, losing her real friends and gaining the fakes, doing almost anything to make ends meet, and all the horrible choices she had made in the past.
At the moment, all she remembered was Drew.