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Maddie, at a school where everyone is a stranger. Maddie, surrounded by people trying to make her talk all the time. Maddie, forced to wear a uniform with scratchy socks. Those are the images running through my head. They make me feel weak, like my knees are going to buckle beneath me.

I’ve got to stop this. Without giving myself time to think, I open the office door and walk straight into the middle of the room.

What happens next is like someone setting off a pile of firecrackers: everything starts to pop. Mom and Dad both jump, staring at me with wide eyes.

“Sadina!” Dad shouts. “What are you doing down here?”

Mom has something in her hand and, without taking her eyes off me, she jams it into the top drawer of her desk and slams the drawer shut.

I square my shoulders. “You can’t send Maddie away!” The words were supposed to come out loud and angry, but my voice sounds high and thin.

Mom and Dad stare some more, like I’m someone they’ve never seen before.

“Send Maddie away?” Dad says. “What are you talking about?”