Maddie, Paddington 1981, Diana

I passed the television in the sitting room. It had turned itself back on—something that should probably worry me—and there again was the picture: a willowy scrap of a girl arm in arm with what I could only describe as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Her suit was the worst of it, a sky blue two sizes too large, as if she’d only bought it that morning for the afternoon’s announcement and she had a false impression of her own size in the world. It’s more innocent than wedding-white will be, the enormous jewel on her finger shown to the waiting horde like a brand on a heifer. They flashed back then to that other picture, the one that might frighten her, her skirt made see-through in the morning sun, her long legs exposed for all the world to gawk at. Of course it frightened her. That was the point.

‘Run!’ I shouted at the screen. ‘Scream your head off!’ But she couldn’t hear me and wouldn’t know what I was talking about if she could. That was all yet to find her.

Helen. Is that who she reminds me of? Helen, whose adventurousness people mistook for sophistication, or some Machiavellian nature that was not Helen, not in any way. Is this what the world does to women who pretend to be worldly, buy suits two sizes too big? Cut them down to size, shrink them?


The True Story of Maddie Bright, available NOW at community-loving bookstores like Avid Reader, Riverbend and Anna’s Shop Around the Corner.