How Madison Lost Her Wolf Pack

How Madison Lost Her Wolf Pack

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A Short Story By Beverly De Soto Stevens

 “Jesus!” Madison collapsed on her bed, kicking off a mess of covers and books onto the dorm floor. “God, I hate this woman!”

Mary Kate regarded her roommate with some amusement.

“Well,” she began, folding her arms. “It’s not like you weren’t warned.”

“I know, I know,” moaned Madison dramatically, her voice muffled by the pillow she’d sunk her face into. “But I needed an easy ‘A’ this semester!”

Mary Kate snorted and shook her head.

“What made you think she would be easy?”

Madison sat up and regarded her roommate critically.

“MK, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought you were exaggerating about her because you’re so damned Catholic.”

Unoffended, Mary Kate chuckled ruefully in response, scratching her head.

“Uh, no! She really is a jerk!” she retorted.

Madison rolled her eyes in frustration.

“She just spent the entire class telling us about the evil patriarchy! Again! And now she wants an essay on Virginia Woolf, who she thinks is some kinda goddess or something. JeSUS!”

Mary Kate laughed merrily, and mimicked her roommate’s mid-Atlantic accent.

“So why don’t you do what you always do, and ‘tell ‘em what they want to hear’?”

Madison was not amused. She shook her head in despair.

“Because it’s no good. I can’t figure out what the hell she wants to hear. And this journaling crap! Oh my GOD! I have real classes to worry about – Economics, Math. And I’m gonna fail them because I spend all my time doing this crazy feminist crap! “

Just then a text burbled on Madison’s smartphone. She glanced at it, and threw it back on her bed in disgust.

“Now what?” Mary Kate asked.

“Just my mom. Again.” Madison looked despairing.

“You gonna answer her?”

“Later. After I take a shower.”

Mary Kate watched her roommate gather up her shower things. Back in September, when they’d met at the door, she’d been initially unenthusiastic. Madison’s long blond hair was expensively highlighted. Her Coach handbag dangled ostentatiously from her sculpted arm.  Her polished, East Coast prep school accent reeked of money and privilege, which Mary Kate had only known from novels.

Madison’s long blond hair was expensively highlighted. Her Coach handbag dangled ostentatiously from her sculpted arm.  Her polished, East Coast prep school accent reeked of money and privilege, which Mary Kate had only known from novels.

And Mary Kate had read lots of novels. All of Jane Austen and most of the English lady novelists, all the way through PD James. Not to mention every one of Shakespeare’s plays. All in her online home-school courses, which had prepared her so well that she’d garnered a perfect score on her SATs.

Hence, her full ride scholarship at their middling ‘Catholic’ college, which conversely charged top dollar to the likes of Madison. Like most of the other students there, Madison’s unremarkable academic performance in high school belied her 24-hour schedule of resume-building activities – all coached and administered by her full-time ‘helicopter mom.’

Mary Kate’s mom had been a full-time homemaker, too. But with six other children that she was homeschooling in their ramshackle house in rural Oregon, she’d had no time to hover over Mary Kate. What she had done was make sure that her daughter had had a thorough catechesis in the Faith before she’d sent her off –not without misgivings — to the posh groves of Catholic academe in America’s Midwest.

By Christmas break, Mary Kate and Madison had become friendly, albeit on a somewhat guarded level. Although mystified by her roommate’s lack of interest in partying, Madison admired Mary Kate’s self-discipline and singular lack of affectation. For her part, Mary Kate liked Madison’s pragmatic approach to her classes (“Look, I am here to get my ticket stamped, on my way to B-school. I don’t care what these hippie professors think; I will tell them what they want to hear.”) As it turned out, this mutual respect made them better roommates than most, judging from the vociferous complaints they’d heard around the dorm.

Mary Kate liked Madison’s pragmatic approach to her classes (“Look, I am here to get my ticket stamped, on my way to B-school. I don’t care what these hippie professors think; I will tell them what they want to hear.”)

But when they’d returned for second semester, much had changed. Over the holidays, Madison’s parents’ marriage in the affluent Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC had imploded. Her handsome father, a well-paid lobbyist, had been waylaid by an ambitious young female lawyer who’d promised great sex and a cool new life in Arlington. Amid much rancor, he’d moved out of the family home on Christmas Eve.

Now, Madison’s mom could barely hold her head up in their posh Catholic parish, where every single one of her 40-ish friends lived in mortal dread of the same fate. Her mother was almost constantly on Madison’s smartphone, seeking solace and venting her pain. Her father, seemingly guilt-free, left her hearty phone messages and deposited healthy sums in her bank account. Madison was furious with them both, though she never let them know it.

Mary Kate could not imagine such a fate for her own parents. Married since their early 20s, they had decided to take the road less traveled. With her father earning a modest income, money had been tight for as long as she could remember. She had to laugh at the absurd idea of a hot young thing falling for her dad, in his 20-year-old barn coat, driving his battered Subaru.

And her parents were a team, she knew. When Gina, their last sibling, had been born with Down’s syndrome, this became abundantly clear.

In fact, Gina had been the reason behind Mary Kate’s uncharacteristic explosion at her feminist English professor last term. She had tried to take Madison’s practical advice — ‘remember, you want the ‘A’ — but could not believe her ears when the woman had breezily announced that ‘if men got pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

A snicker had rippled through the classroom.  Mary Kate, white as a sheet, had simply stood up and walked out, without explanation. But the long knives were out for her with this professor. Despite her high test scores, inexplicably her final grade in “Women in Literature” had been a disappointing B-.

Her handsome father, a well-paid lobbyist, had been waylaid by an ambitious young female lawyer who’d promised great sex and a cool new life in Arlington. Amid much rancor, he’d moved out of the family home on Christmas Eve.

“Why don’t you raise hell?” Madison wanted to know. “My mother would have been all over this!”

Mary Kate had simply shaken her head. As always, she admired Madison’s pluck, but she sensed that fighting this professor would only bring down more opprobrium on her from the rest of the academic staff, whose tenured positions guaranteed their right to ‘academic freedom’ – that is, the right to be as offensive as they chose. ‘Tolerance’ was a virtue they demanded, but did not practice when students’ viewpoints differed from their own.

“I’ve learned a lesson,” she’d said grimly. “I just have to learn to pick my professors more carefully.”

Maybe it had been this experience that had prompted her to seek out Juventutem. Their flyer had been posted on the bulletin board in the school chapel, where she’d gone more than once to seek solace.

At the first meeting she’d attended, she’d found a small group of older students, some of whom had been home-schooled like herself. But Sean had not. Tall, angular, with dark hair and intense blue eyes, Sean was a junior studying engineering. They had liked each other immediately, and soon were spending every possible waking minute together.

For her part, Madison was astounded by Mary Kate’s good luck. She’d stumbled upon them talking earnestly in the cafeteria. After the introductions, Sean had given them both a wry grin and headed for the library, a long night of studying in front of him.

Madison slipped into the seat he’d vacated and lowered her voice meaningfully.

“Okay, you are incredible,” she’d said, half-seriously glancing around. “Without attending one beer thing or so much as downing one Jello shot, you find this guy! How’d you do this?!”

Madison herself, despite her stellar looks, relentless dieting and daily trips to the gym, had so far only managed to acquire a pack of wolfish admirers.

Madison, despite her stellar looks, relentless dieting and daily trips to the gym, had so far only managed to acquire a pack of wolfish admirers.

“Not one of them is interested in a commitment,” she’d confided sorrowfully in Mary Kate after her non-stop, serial ‘dating’ streak first semester. Mary Kate had refrained from condemning her errant roommate, confining her remarks to a quiet suggestion that perhaps Madison should ‘take a break’ from ‘dating.’

That was last semester. Now, with the divorce, Madison’s wolf-pack had melted back into the forest. Not one wanted to hear her agony.

Mary Kate had been reflecting on all this when she noticed the time. Madison had been in the shower for almost an hour, and the water was still running. She knocked cautiously on the door.  When no response came, she opened it.

Peering anxiously through the steam, she saw Madison crouched in the corner of the shower. Her roommate was naked, wet and hunched over, unmoving.

“Madison!” she shouted, terrified, rushing to shut off the water. When her roommate did not respond, Mary Kate cautiously tipped her head back. Madison’s eyes rolled back; she was barely breathing.

Many hours later, in the hospital emergency center, Mary Kate was called in after the doctors finished pumping Madison’s stomach. Her roommate was awake, though pale and groggy.

“Promise me you won’t tell a soul about this,” she’d whispered. She’d taken an overdose of Paxil, it turned out. The anti-depressant had been prescribed for her by the university health service after they’d returned from break, along with a renewal of her birth control pills.

“Too late,” Mary Kate hung her head, guiltily. “Sean’s been sitting with me outside all this time.”

“Oh-h, well, I guess Sean’s okay,” Madison replied moodily. “I just don’t want my parents or anybody else to know.”

Mary Kate hung her head sorrowfully.

“Madison, it’s no good. The whole dorm saw the ambulance. They saw you – and everything.” She finished helplessly. Madison’s shrunken wet form had been strapped to a gurney and rushed through the dorm halls. By now the whole college probably knew.

“Madison, it’s no good. The whole dorm saw the ambulance. They saw you – and everything.” She finished helplessly. Madison’s shrunken wet form had been strapped to a gurney and rushed through the dorm halls. By now the whole college probably knew.

In response to this news, Madison looked weary. Then she turned her head to the wall. A moment later Mary Kate saw that she was crying silently. She stood there, not knowing what to do. She had never seen anyone so wretched.

That was when Sean walked into the room with Father Daniel, the youthful, clean-cut priest who celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass on campus. Sympathetic but correct, Father Dan was beloved by the Juventutem students.

However, his un-looked for appearance now made Mary Kate panic immediately. She widened her eyes and shook her head vigorously, pointing silently to Madison’s turned head. But Sean was unmoved.

“Madison?” Sean called gently.

Madison turned her head. When she caught sight of Father Daniel’s Roman collar, she grew paler.

“Um, I-I don’t think this is the right time,“ Mary Kate started to say, but to her shock Madison interrupted her.

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “I-I actually would like to talk with him.”

So that is how Madison came to be involved with the Latin Mass, and a regular at Juventutem meetings. And this is just part of the changes she’s made.

She’s dropped her “Women in Literature” class in order to concentrate on the business classes she loves. She’s also summarily dismissed her wolf-pack, some of whom — incredibly, to Mary Kate — had come around sniffing for easy sex in the wake of Madison’s very public melt-down.

Madison’s parents are still getting divorced, but she’s elected not to renew her Paxil prescription. The constant texts on her smartphone abated after she told her mother that she cannot act as counselor or go-between. To his utter shock, she has also told her father that he needs to go to Confession, and that no amount of his money in her bank account will make him feel better about the choice he has made.

Her blonde highlights have faded, and she no longer haunts the gym, but her new Latin Mass friends don’t seem to mind. Undoubtedly, her new boyfriend Christopher likes her just as she is. They spend every minute possible together, and she’s taken to cheering him on as he rows for the school’s up-and-coming crew team.

And she doesn’t need to be on birth control pills anymore, either, she informed Mary Kate one evening. She had just left Christopher at the dorm door. It was a spring night, and finals were looming.

“I don't need them,” she said simply.

Mary Kate nodded, and waited. Madison was sitting cross-legged on her bed, arms folded. Her expression was serious.

“I-I guess I'm trying to say that he loves me enough to wait for sex,” she said slowly, wonderingly. “He is very serious about me.”

“And how do you feel about him?” Mary Kate asked.

“You know, I am sort of shocked,” Madison shook her head. “He's the first guy who has acted like that with me. At first I wondered if it was an act. But, he's for real.”

“Well, you seem to have a new, uh, approach, ever since…”

Madison nodded.

“It's not just Christopher, though,” she said slowly. “Ever since I started attending the Latin Mass, I have this completely new perspective. Before, I was all about what I looked like, and how to get ahead, find the right guy — all that. But nothing worked. Not for me. Not for my parents. I felt like I was frantically chasing a dead dream. Somebody else's dead dream…”

“What do you think the Mass has to do with your, er, change in perspective?”

“I don't actually know, but it's something about the slowness of the Latin Mass,” she went on, a faraway look in her eyes. “I love the silences. I love the chant. It's like an experience from another world.

“At first, I went because of you and Sean because, well, I didn't want to face all the people I used to hang around with. I was also really done with the guys.”

“And when you guys brought me to the Mass and to the breakfasts afterwards to tell you the truth I wasn't sure who these people were — I mean, they certainly weren't like the ‘cool' people I knew — most  were kinda nerdy,” she glanced sheepishly at Mary Kate, who laughed outright.

“All depends on what you think is ‘cool', I guess,” Mary Kate grinned, shrugging.

“I guess,” Madison replied somewhat doubtfully, “But after awhile, I liked how intelligent they are. I liked their sense of humor…you know, I like being invited to people's house for dinner and sitting around and talking about stuff…” her voice petered out.

She regarded Madison thoughtfully. “At first I had no idea what these people were talking about. I mean, they're interested in all sorts of things that I had never even thought about — history, liturgy, politics. Even cooking!” Madison looked so surprised that Mary Kate had to laugh again.

“My mother would call that ‘civilized,'” Mary Kate smiled. “She is always harping on that.”

“I guess it is pretty civilized,” Madison answered thoughtfully. “But there's more to it. I don't even think about the stuff I used to worry about, anymore. I just focus on getting done what I need to for today, spending fun times with Christopher  and…promise not to laugh?”

“I promise,” Mary Kate replied gravely.

 fessio

 

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