Finally connected the beginning of the book with my notes. Ugh… It was like making a puzzle piece for a puzzle that was already made.
Please let me know how you like the story so far?
Her schedule had always pretty much been set in stone. That morning, she got up and got dressed. This time was different.
There was an urgency in her mind to hurry up and get out of the house.
Just as she reached the front door, Hazel came out of nowhere to block her exit.
Without all the heavy makeup Hazel usually wore, old age at almost sixty and life was starting to take a toll on her face. She looked like a rundown, black version of Martin Short, without her long-haired wigs she always wore. Now her hair was short and brittle. Damaged by perms and coloring, she barely had any left. And the makeup hadn’t helped her skin. Hazel’s flesh was dry as a bone. It appeared no amount of lotion or moisturizer could help her.
Taking a drag on a cigarette, Hazel snipped, “Do you have to make so much noise in the morning?”
Madison had been quiet as a mouse just like any other day. Matter of fact, she’d only washed her face in the sink and jumped right into her clothes so she could get out of the house quickly.
She hadn’t even gone to the kitchen to grab anything to eat. Was this just a bad day for Hazel?
Yet, Madison didn’t want to argue. Docilely, she apologized, “I’m sorry, Hazel. I’ll be quieter.”
Hazel pursed her lips together, as if she wanted to say something else nasty, but instead asked, “Why you being so nosy all of a sudden? Who’s in your ear, girl?”
Madison wondered why Hazel suspected this, and why it had taken all night for the woman to figure she had been talking to someone. Was that the real reason her father tried to make sure none of her mother’s friends ever came in his house, so she couldn’t find out the truth about his past?
“I was on the bus and I met a Sister Onetta.”
Hazel now looked uneasy. “That cunt.”
Madison gasped, never having heard Hazel curse before, especially since Hazel tried to walk around the house and even at church as if she was a first lady already.
“She’s got nerve to get in your ear and talk anything since she was sleeping with your dad too. And don’t act so damn shocked. I’m sure she told you everything.”
Not sure how to react, Madison fumbled, “I-it doesn’t matter. It’s the past.”
“Really? The money didn’t matter, either?”
That was the second time money had been mentioned, and this time Madison paid attention. “My mother’s money?”
Hazel snorted. “Her money. Your money. Any of the money.”
“Two million,” Hazel said, taking a final drag on her cigarette. “Your father hates for me to smoke in the house, you know that?”
Madison didn’t want to change the subject. “Where’s the money?”
“Gone. Paid all the bills. My bills.” She smirked. “When I knew the type of man your father was and who his wife was, I knew I had a ticket to freedom. Using his religion and guilt was just a way to get it. I did.” She smiled wickedly. “Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes to get what you want. Getting pregnant was the easy part. And I knew one baby wasn’t going to do it.”
If Madison had eaten, she probably would have thrown everything up. Hazel was becoming sickening to look at, and the no makeup or wig didn’t help.
“Your mother knew the children were his from the moment she saw them, and I knew she’d file for divorce immediately. But she didn’t expect me to be smarter, with intentions of taking the money. By the time she confronted your father with the affair, way before the church suspected, I had convinced him to transfer her money into my accounts. He was already stealing from the church, so stealing from his wife was easy. I didn’t care she kept you. I had enough.”
“Enough of what?” Madison said, feeling her throat going dry.
She narrowed her eyes, needing to get out of Hazel’s sight. “I have to leave. I’ll miss my bus.” She started to walk away, but Hazel grabbed her arm, digging her nails into her skin.
“You just stay away from people like that bitch Onetta. And you’d better act like you know nothing if you want to stay under this roof. Your innocence is the only thing saving you. I can make your life very hard, if you push me; just like I did for your mother when she threatened to tell the church about the money.”
Madison snatched her arm away and walked out the door, not even bothering to close it behind her.
She pushed what Hazel said out of her head and hurriedly to the bus stop. Most likely, she’d missed her coach, but hopefully she hadn’t missed the stranger in the Lincoln Continental.
Getting to the corner where her stop was, she found no one was there and she became upset; Not just because she had missed her bus, but because she’d also missed the possibility of seeing the stranger again.
She was being silly, she knew.
Yet, it was the only peace of mind she knew she would feel.
Why now? Why was all this coming out?
Why was she remembering her mother’s dying words?
“Your face. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was going…and they took everything.”
Pulling out a compact, Madison looked at herself. The acne was always ever present on her skin, and most days she stayed away from her reflection so as never to see it.
Anything affected her. Too much of this. Too much of that, and never enough water.
But, she felt, maybe as she got older it would disappear…though it never did.
She wanted to pretend that morning and the day before had never happened, but everything was pouring into her brain on repeat like a tape recorder that could not be stopped.
Her bus came half an hour later, but there was no Lincoln, and no Sister Onetta.
Getting to class on time, she took out her heavy old laptop that used to be her mother’s. She connected to the school’s Internet and looked up Onetta Nate. Amazingly, she had a profile page on the popular social network and even a phone number listed.
Madison didn’t send her a friend request, but she did put the number in her flip phone.
She had tests and could barely concentrate on them. Good thing she was studious and had her easy classes that day.
Afterward, she went to the lab. Only one intern was there, and the professor was in meetings all day.
“Watching it won’t make the results come any faster,” she said, seeing the intern leaning over the pods.
“How do you know?” he asked.
“I used to do the same thing, but after round twelve, I realized that I could look all I want and there was nothing going to make it work until it felt like working.” She walked up to him and checked his name badge. “Joshua? Are you new?”
“Yes, I interviewed with you at the beginning of the semester, but was just placed on a waiting list.”
She’d been really involved in the intern process at the beginning of the year, but with the possibility of a major grant coming up, she’d devoted all her brain cells to this.
“I thought our intern quota was filled.”
“It was, until one dropped out of school and the other changed schools. I was next on the list.” He smiled proudly.
Joshua reminded her of a younger version of Bradley Cooper, except with dull brown eyes and a grim expression. He kept his brown sugar colored hair very short and straight, as if he was in the military.
“You think all this is going to work?” Joshua asked.
“I know it’s going to work. I’ve been working on it since high school and the professor really believes it will, too.”
“I hope so too,” he said.
She pulled out the chart to update the growth process. Everyone was banking on this work. Her creation. Her idea.
She wanted to hope, too.
Yet, there was so much on her mind to deter her from getting anything done, she was almost grateful for Joshua and his hovering, even though normally she never liked that.
That day was different.
That day, she needed someone to take her mind off of everything.
“You really like this,” Joshua said, as she entered her results for the daily report.
“Yes, I do. Creating something that could change lives makes me happy,” she confessed. “I like knowing I can make the world beautiful.” In her mind, she finished off, Even if I can’t be.
“What?” Joshua asked, as if he’d heard something.
“Nothing,” she said quietly.
After she was done with the lab, she went to catch her bus. Joshua pulled up beside her in his Honda Civic. “You want a ride?”
She knew if she pulled up at the house in his car, her father would have a fit. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”
“It’s late and still cold,” he said. “I don’t mind.”
A horn honked across the street. “Hey, Maddie!” Nikki called.
Glad to see her, Madison walked away from Joshua’s car and got into Nikki’s Chevy Malibu.
The brand new car smell assailed her nose immediately as she shut the door and Nikki took off. “How’d you know I’d be out there?”
“I know you stay in the lab late and I was actually going to come by tonight and keep you company.”
Madison smiled meekly. “Really?”
“Yeah, but then my daddy said he had a surprise.” Nikki slapped the steering wheel. “You like my new car?”
“Yeah, sure…what happened to your other car?” Madison inquired, a little flustered and trying not to be jealous.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Nikki said. “What’s been up?”
There was so much on her mind, she actually really needed to talk to someone about what was going on with her.
Starting with seeing the Lincoln Continental, she then progressed to Sister Onetta and then the odd conversation with Hazel that morning.
Nikki drove toward Madison’s house and they both looked a little relieved that her father wasn’t home. Hazel was somewhere in the house, but didn’t come out, and Nikki followed Madison up to her room in the attic.
“What does this guy have to do with anything?” Nikki questioned.
Out of everything she had told Nikki, Madison wondered why Nikki had focused on the guy and not on the fact that her mother died penniless when the money could have paid for medical bills and healthcare. Also, the fact that her father was a sex maniac and her stepmother was a gold digging whore.
She answered Nikki. “I don’t know. It was weird that he was just watching me.”
“Are you sure he was looking at you?”
Feeling doubtful, she said, “Well, no, I don’t know, but it felt like it, even when I got on the bus.”
Nikki wrinkled her nose. “You’re acting like you wanted him to be looking. That’s pretty slutty, Madison.”
Feeling ashamed, she denied, “No, I’m just saying it was odd.”
“He’s probably some old geezer doing a one-time favor of taking a young relative to school.” Nikki shrugged it off. “Just be careful. You’re in Detroit now, Madison, and you can’t be nice to these people. Go look for the devil and you’re bound to find him.”
Madison nodded, but changed the subject since she was feeling silly for even bringing it up to Nikki. “How’s everything going with you, Nikki? Other than the new car?”
This, of course, opened the door for Nikki to talk about herself, and Nikki LOVED to talk about herself.
With her full scholarship to Oakland University, nice new car, and parents paying for an apartment near campus, Nikki gabbed on about all the new fun and friends she was experiencing without a worry in the world.
Madison really tried not to feel jealous. Instead, she forced herself to feel happy for her friend.
“Maybe you should get serious about your face,” Nikki said offhandedly. “Maybe remembering what your mother said on her deathbed after the encounter with Hazel was just something you need to concentrate on instead of concentrating on all this other stuff that’s in the past.”
Confused, Madison questioned, “My face?”
“Remember in ninth grade, you wanted to go to a dermatologist but your mother said it was too expensive, and then shortly after that, cancer came, so you stopped pressuring her about it?”
“That’s because all the money was going to the bills and her new boyfriend told me to stop crying about my face when my mother was dying.” She remembered that time. “He said, if God made me ugly I should just accept it.” The memory brought a bitter taste in her mouth.
“You could go to a dermatologist now,” Nikki suggested.
Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Madison said, “I’m not under her healthcare anymore, Nikki. I’m too old to be added to my father’s and the cheap insurance I have through school just covers annuals and generals. Nothing covers dermatology for free.”
Nikki snorted. “Aren’t there some natural treatments online you haven’t tried?”
“I have other research to do right now to be worried over my face.”
“I think you should look into it, and your dad is shit for not helping you out.”
“Please, Nikki” Madison said, worried. “I don’t want him to hear anything.”
“Ugh…” Nikki sighed. “Then let me go before I say something that will get you kicked out of here.”
They hugged, and Madison watched as Nikki pulled away in her brand new car.
Going back to her room, Madison went on her computer and looked up home remedies. Most of them she had done already, but she found one she had never tried, and knew she would never, EVER try.
The reason she had never explored the option when she was younger was because she was just too young to be reading anything like the new research she now pulled up.
Yet, the idea of this…it was farfetched, and no one would help her. Well, no one she knew.
Madison didn’t know a lot of men to help her or who wouldn’t think she was absolutely insane for asking.