Madison’s dad has dropped some big news: He and Stephanie are getting married. In Texas. In two weeks! Maddie’s head is spinning as the plans and the guest list for the big day keep growing. She’s not sure how she feels about being in the wedding, much less about having a stepmother. There’s a lot to stress about, like finding the perfect dress and reading a poem at the ceremony. And there’s a lot to think about, like what life will be like after her dad gets married. Maddie should be happy for him, but she’s totally confused. Good thing she has her BFFs and the Files of Madison Finn to get through the trip!
To Have and to Hold takes place after the Files of Madison Finn, Book 15: Off the Wall and before the Files of Madison Finn, Book 16: Three’s a Crowd.
About the Author
Author Laura Dower has a lot in common with Madison Finn: They’re both only children and they both love dogs, the color orange, and books! Laura has written more than ninety kids’ books to date, including twenty-five in the series From the Files of Madison Finn. Her other books include the new Palace Puppies series and For Girls Only, a guide to girl stuff. When she’s not writing, Laura loves to garden, sing (loudly), and volunteer as a scout leader for her daughter and two sons. She and her family live in New York. Want to be keypals? Drop her a note at www.lauradower.com.
Read an Excerpt
To Have and to Hold
From the Files of Madison Finn, Super Edition 1
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2004 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"You look nice tonight," Dad said, mumbling as he took a huge bite out of his bacon double cheeseburger. "I really like that outfit," he added.
Madison glanced down at her faded jeans and T-shirt that read Go, Girl.
"I look nice?" she said. "What planet are you on, Dad? I've had this ratty old T-shirt since fifth grade. And my jeans are ripped. You hate these pants."
"Well, is that a new hair clip?" Dad asked.
Usually, Dad was good at noticing the small, special details of Madison's appearance, but a hair clip?
"Oh, Dad!" Madison said, stuffing a fistful of fries into her mouth. She wiped ketchup from the corners of her mouth and stared down at the table. "What's with you tonight? You're acting so goofy."
"I'm sorry," Dad said after a moment. "I'm a little nervous tonight, honey bear. I have something I need to say. Something important."
Madison rolled her eyes. "Dad, what could be so important that you can't just come right out and tell me?"
Dad took a long, deep breath. "It's something very important, Maddie. It affects you."
"Is it bad or good?" Madison asked.
Dad stared into her eyes. "Very good ... I think."
"Does it have to do with your job?" Madison asked.
"Well, no ..." Dad said.
"Does it have to do with me?" Madison asked.
"Maddie, I really don't want to play twenty questions," Dad said.
"Just tell me, Dad!"
Dad paused before he spoke.
"Stephanie and I have decided to get married," he said softly. He took a sip of his club soda.
Madison didn't blink. She stared straight ahead, mouth open, as if she'd just seen a UFO.
"Did you hear me?" Dad asked.
The room spun, and Madison felt as if she were floating above the booth where they were seated. She was suspended in midair over Dad, the French fries, and everything else in the restaurant....
"Maddie, did you hear me?" Dad asked again.
"Yeah," Madison replied, crash-landing back at the table. "I heard you."
The waiter came over to pick up the dinner dishes and ask if either of them wanted dessert. Dad got a decaffeinated coffee. Madison ordered a giant slab of chocolate cake.
"Maddie, I understand if you feel weird about my getting remarried. This is a big deal for all of us...."
"When is it going to happen?" Madison asked.
"We made plans with Stephanie's family for a small wedding on their ranch in a few weeks...."
"A few weeks?" Madison cried.
"Two weeks, actually," Dad said.
"Two?" Madison said.
By now the chocolate cake had arrived. Madison dug into it and swallowed a big bite.
"Maddie, I know two weeks seems sudden, but Stephanie and I just don't see any reason to wait. We know this is what we want. We both have busy times coming up at work, so we figured it was a good idea to get the wedding taken care of now. And, as I said, it's not going to be a big wedding. Just family and a few very close friends...."
Madison licked frosting off her fork.
"Are you okay?" Dad asked, looking ultraconcerned. He raised his eyebrows. "Tell me whatever's on your mind. Please. Stephanie and I both want you to be happy about this."
"Can I have another piece of cake?" Madison blurted out. Gorging on chocolate seemed like the best way to deal with the situation.
"Of course you can." Dad motioned to the waiter, who brought a new piece of cake immediately.
Madison didn't eat it. She pushed the plate off to the side. "I didn't think you'd really get married again. At least not so soon," she said to Dad. "Especially not after what happened with Mom ..."
Dad reached across the table for Madison's hand. "I know it's sudden," he said. "But you really like Stephanie, don't you? And you know we're happy together. Isn't that what matters?"
"I guess," Madison said.
"Do we have your blessing?" Dad asked, smiling.
"Well ..." Madison said.
"Naturally, we want you to be there. Stephanie and I already have big ideas. You will be a special part of the ceremony," Dad said. "We'll all fly to Texas together...."
"Texas?" Madison cried.
"That's where the Wolfe family lives," Dad said. "They have a big ranch west of Houston, in a town called Bellville."
"Texas?" Madison said again. She felt her stomach flip-flop. "That's so far away...."
"Not too far by plane. All the plans should come together this week. Since it's a low-key affair, I don't think you'll even have to pack much stuff," Dad said.
"Who else is going?" Madison asked.
"Not too many from my side of the family, except for Uncle Rick and Aunt Violet, who are flying down from Canada. Rick's my best man, of course."
Madison sighed. "That's it?"
"There may be a few more friends and family from our side. I have to call some people. But don't worry. You'll be surrounded by Stephanie's friends and family!" Dad gushed. "I can't wait to show everyone my little girl...."
His voice trailed off. Madison looked down at the table. She hated it when he called her that. Didn't Dad know she was almost thirteen?
From the back of the restaurant, the jukebox started playing. The machine hummed and whirred before the loud chorus of Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" came on. Dad smiled again. He loved Elvis music—especially the mushy songs.
"Dad, didn't Stephanie almost get married before?" Madison asked.
Dad nodded. "Almost."
"What happened?" Madison asked.
"She called it off at the last moment."
"What if she does that again ... with you?" Madison said.
"Oh, Maddie!" Dad cried. "How can you even say that? You know Stephanie! And she had real reasons for canceling that wedding. This is different."
"How do you know for sure?" Madison asked.
Dad's voice got low and serious. "Our wedding will happen, Maddie. I promise. I am in love with Stephanie...."
"But you were in love with Mom once, too," Madison said.
"Yes, I was," Dad said solemnly. "I loved your mother very, very much."
"So why is this any different?" Madison asked. "I don't understand."
"Maddie, I know it hurts that your mom and I couldn't stay together. I don't know what else to say about the divorce...."
For the last year, Madison had been recovering from the Big D. No matter how hard she tried to accept it, her gloomy feelings lingered.
Madison tapped with her fork on the table.
"Maddie," Dad said. He could tell she was thinking hard. "I don't know what you want me to say."
Madison sighed. "I don't know what you want me to say, either."
Dad cleared his throat as though he were thinking of a smart comeback, but he didn't speak. He just stared. Madison looked away.
The waiter came over with the dinner check, and Dad riffled through his wallet for cash. Madison quietly excused herself and headed for the ladies' room.
"I'll meet you out front," Dad said as she left.
By the time Madison returned, Dad had paid the bill and was waiting by the front doors. Madison expected him to turn, open the outside door, and exit in silence.
But he didn't.
Instead, Dad blocked Madison's path and threw his arms around her.
"I love you so much," he said, squeezing her tighter than tight.
"Um ... Dad?" Madison stammered. It was some hug. She couldn't move.
"I really want you to be okay with the wedding," Dad said, still squeezing. He sounded as though he were about to cry.
"Dad, I love you, too," Madison said. "But you can let go, now. People are looking. I—can't—breathe—"
"I just want you to be happy," Dad said, finally releasing her. "Like me. You know I love you, right? So does Stephanie. She thinks you're great—"
"You don't have to say all this," Madison interrupted.
"Yes, I do. Stephanie wants to be a big part of your life. She wants—"
"I don't need another mother," Madison said.
Dad stepped back and dropped his arms. "Maddie! Who said anything about that?" he cried.
"Can we talk about something else?" Madison asked. She walked a few paces in front of Dad as they headed for the parking lot.
"Maddie!" Dad said, struggling to catch up to her. "You're the most important person in my life."
"Second most," Madison corrected him. "Next to Stephanie, you mean."
"You are both important to me, for different reasons," Dad explained. "But you're my only daughter...."
Madison kicked at some gravel in the parking lot. She usually liked the sound it made when her sneakers crunched over the top. But now, it didn't matter to her. Nothing seemed to matter.
"I'm tired, Dad," Madison said, getting into the car. "Can you take me home now? Please?"
Dad hopped into his car and turned on the ignition. They drove home in silence toward Blueberry Street. When Dad pulled up in front of the house, Madison leaned over to kiss him on the cheek before stepping out of the car.
"Thanks a lot for dinner," she said softly. "I didn't mean what I said."
"Can we talk about this some more?" Dad asked.
"I just ... I feel ... I want ... I don't know, Dad," she sighed.
"Why don't I e-mail and call you later?" Dad said with a wink. "We'll figure this out. I promise."
Madison made a mental note of Dad's promises. Tonight he had dropped a mega-bombshell, but then, he had done everything he could to make things okay again. She had to give him credit for that.
Dad tooted the horn good-bye as Madison climbed the porch steps and opened the front door. Mom was waiting inside. Phin scooted over and started jumping up to give her some dog kisses.
"How was dinner?" Mom asked.
"Oh, Mom," Madison said. "I don't know how to tell you this."
Mom's face dropped. "What happened?"
Madison shook her head. "It's Dad," she said.
"Dad?" Mom asked. "What?"
Phinnie started to claw at Madison's sandals. He still had not gotten his proper hello. Madison leaned over and kissed her pug's head.
"Dad told me something awful tonight," Madison said. "He's getting married, Mom. Married!"
The hallway got quiet.
"Married?" Mom said. "Well, I knew it would happen sooner or later."
"You knew?" Madison cried.
"I knew your dad was serious about Stephanie. And he may have mentioned it once or twice...."
"What?" Madison squealed. "You guys talked about this?"
Mom nodded. "I'm happy for him. For them."
Madison couldn't believe her mother was reacting this way.
"Happy?" Madison cried. "How can you be happy?"
"How can I be anything else?" asked Mom. She wrapped her arm around Madison. "Let's sit down."
Madison collapsed onto the living room sofa, and Phinnie jumped into her lap and started licking her face.
"You can't be that surprised," Mom said. "You spend a lot of time with them. You know how close they are. Didn't you think one day Dad would—"
"Get married? Never! I mean, you just got divorced! Everything is happening too fast! The wedding is in two weeks...."
"Two weeks?" Mom's jaw dropped. "Wow. That is fast. When your father makes up his mind to do something, he sure does it."
"And, of course, they want me to go," Madison said.
"Of course," Mom said, matter-of-factly.
"But I won't," Madison replied.
"Maddie ..." Mom said, making a face.
"I won't go! I swear!" Madison said.
"Where is the wedding going to be held? With Stephanie's family in Texas?"
"How did you know that?" Madison asked.
"Lucky guess. So your dad will probably get you a plane ticket...."
"Mom, I said I won't go!" Madison yelped.
"Rowrorooooo!" Phin yelped, too.
Mom bent down to quiet him.
Madison frowned. "Mom, I don't want Dad to get married again. I don't want things to change any more than they already have. Don't you understand? Are you even listening to me?"
Mom's face softened. She let go of Phinnie and took Madison into her arms. "Of course, I'm listening...."
As they embraced, Phin started to growl. He didn't like being ignored. Phin nuzzled Madison and Mom with his cold, wet nose.
"Phinnie! Get down!" Madison said, half laughing and half crying.
Mom stepped away. "You'll be okay, honey bear," she said. "These things take time, that's all. You'll go to the wedding. Everything will work out. I promise."
Madison nodded, even though she was getting tired of hearing promises she wasn't sure her parents could keep. She said good night and headed upstairs for bed with Phinnie. Mom disappeared into her office to finish up some last-minute work.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Phin immediately jumped onto the bed and made a comfy spot for himself smack in the middle of Madison's stack of pillows. Madison went to her desk.
The orange laptop was waiting. It hummed as Madison powered it up.
Madison stared at a framed photograph on the filing cabinet by her desk that had been sitting there so long it had dust around the edges. She hadn't really looked at it for a long time.
It was a photograph that had been taken at Mom and Dad's wedding, almost fourteen years earlier. Mom was smiling. Dad was smiling. The sun was shining.
Madison leaned up, grabbed the picture, and shoved it into the top drawer of her desk.
The laptop screen flashed and she got online. It was a little after nine o'clock. She hoped that, since it was summertime, her friends would still be on the Internet.
Sure enough, Aimee Gillespie and Fiona Waters, Madison's two best friends in the world, were chatting online. Madison dropped in on them.
Madison stared at the monitor. She didn't know how to feel. And she only had two weeks to figure it out.CHAPTER 2
Subject: The Countdown Has Begun
Date: Fri 12 July 8:10 AM
Hey! U aren't appearing on my buddy list this A.M. But I know it's early and you prob aren't even up since ur halfway across the country and it's like 5 o'clock in the morning there so sorry.
Yesterday we got the invitations for my dad's wedding. I wanted to throw up. This whole week I thought I was getting used to the idea of him getting married but I guess I thought wrong. They were fancy invites too which is bizarre since Dad keeps saying only like fifteen or maybe thirty people max will be there. And BTW the guest list is mostly STEPHANIE'S family. There are hardly any Finns coming. Dad says it's no big deal but I think it is. Don't you?
At the end of the invite there's this line "regrets only" and I wanted to call him up and shout I HAVE REGRETS, DAD! DON'T DO IT!!! Yeah, but I won't.
I can't believe the wedding is now only ONE WEEK AWAY. I don't even know what I'm wearing. Mom wants to take me dress shopping this week.
I think I will wear all black. How's that sound? LOL.
I laughed at the jokes u sent me about stepmothers mainly because I can't believe Stephanie will be my stepmom.
My dad told me that there will be other kids my age at the wedding. I wonder who? Stephanie has nieces and nephews. Hmmmm. I wonder if any of them are cute? (That is so perfect—the worst day of my life so far is coming up and all I can think about is guys? LOL.)
Write again soon, okay? U know I will.
Yours till the wedding bells,
P.S.: I cannot believe ur parents let u get another kitten! That is so crazy. Does Pepper the new cat like your cat Sparkles? I am so glad u like animals as much as me. I wish u could meet Phinnie!!!
After logging off, Madison trudged downstairs in her Lisa Simpson T-shirt and slippers. The house was steamy. Summer—along with other upcoming events—was really heating up.
"Good morning, sunshine," Mom teased when she saw Madison's gloomy expression.
"Can we put on the air conditioner, please?" Madison asked.
"Just wait until you feel the temperatures in Texas next week!" Mom said, laughing. "I imagine it must get up to ninety degrees or more in July."
Excerpted from To Have and to Hold by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2004 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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