Madelyn Ch. 00byFaireSansa©
I hope you have enjoyed this story in its original submission. This is a new prologue to the story. It is richer, with more information, and I hope you enjoy the reworking of it. Oh, and the prologue is longer than it was to begin with. I'm sure many of you will like that.
I've been reworking the entire story to some extent and trying to write new stuff, but school comes first, so it's slow going. Hopefully, with only online classes during the second half of the summer quarter, I'll be able to get some more writing done for your reading pleasure. Fingers are crossed, anyway!.
As she passed the photograph in the hall, she tried not to pay attention to it. She kept it out for sentimental reasons but ignored it as much as possible. It was just a reminder of how alone she was in the world. It was a photograph was of herself and her parents, taken when she was a child. But they were gone now and she was alone.
Madelyn Randell's life was a quiet one. She'd been alone for about 3 years. Her parents had died in an accident, far from home. They were adventurers, braving the wilds of Africa and the Amazon, to try to find lost civilizations, treasures, and people. They had written papers that were published in several magazines and a couple documentaries had been made of them during their searches. One even documented their triumph in finding a village of people thought to be long extinct. Unfortunately, they were killed in the Rocky Mountains on the way home from an investigation into reports of unidentified creatures not far from where their plane crashed.
The wings of the small chartered plane they were in iced up. The pilot died instantly when the plane hit the sheer face of the rock cliff. The plane fell to a ledge and remained there for a few days, according to a recording found in the wreckage. Her parents, she was told, survived for a while, but died when the plane shifted and plummeted hundreds of feet to the ground. Both were severely injured and weren't able to get out of the plane while it was still on the ledge. Had they been able to, she was told it was unlikely they would have survived long enough for help to arrive. It was 4 weeks before anybody was able to locate and reach the wreckage, and another 6 weeks to return the remains of her parents and their belongings to her.
The money they'd put into trust for her was enough to sustain her for the rest of her life, if she didn't make extravagant purchases, but she didn't touch much of it. She'd taken out enough to purchase a small house in San Francisco. It was sufficient for her current needs, and she was able to make it comfortable. She was fortunate that she was old enough when her parents died that she didn't have to go into foster care. At the time of their death, she had just turned 16. Over the next couple months, she lived with her parents' attorney, Brian Hemming, and he helped her with the forms for emancipation, and a few weeks before her 17th birthday, the court officially recognized her as an adult.
Now, she was working from home, proofreading papers for English students at the University, and doing other odd writing jobs. It wasn't like she needed the money, but she did need something to occupy her mind and keep herself busy. It worked for her.
Madelyn's little house on 18th St in San Francisco wasn't what she'd grown used to while her parents were alive, but it was at least a charming little place. She'd found it when Brian Hemming, her family's attorney and longtime friend, helped her become emancipated after her parents' deaths. The hall where the photograph sat on the antique sideboard led from her small office, which in yesteryear would have been a parlor, to the den across from the office, then further back was a staircase leading to the second floor. Beyond the staircase was her little kitchen.
The kitchen in Madelyn's San Francisco house was a bright room, with walls painted a pale yellow and a window above the two-sided sink. Little touches inside reminded her of home, which is why she'd never updated it much. There were original hardwood built-in cabinets, and the floor was hardwood, also. The butcherblock countertop was marked with knife cuts from as many as eighty years ago, but she didn't care. She felt they added character to the little room. An old-fashioned table stood in the middle of the room, with a storage shelf underneath it to hold her large pots and pans. The only modern things in the little kitchen were the stove, refrigerator and a goose-necked faucet that had a pullout nozzle built right into the faucet, instead of sitting next to it.
The phone rang as she stood next to the sink, thinking about her current house and reminiscing about her childhood home. Answering it, she was delighted to find it was exactly who she hoped to hear from.
"Brian! I'm glad to hear from you!" she said excitedly, hoping he would have the news she'd been waiting to hear for so long.
"Hi Maddie," he said gently. His tone didn't sound good. Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath as she waited for him to say more.
"They're not releasing it," she said when he didn't say anything more. It wasn't a question.
"No, Maddie," he replied. "Not yet, anyway."
"Wait, Madelyn, before you get upset, please hear me out," he replied. Brian wasn't just her family's attorney; he was so much more, and very dear to Madelyn. She called him Uncle Brian when she was a child and while she no longer called him Uncle, he was still an important person in her life. He knew her very well and this was sure to upset her. When he sensed she'd calmed a little, he continued, "This is just a little bump, Maddie. We will get your house released to you. I don't see why you can't have it by the end of the year."
"The end of the year?" she repeated, in a little more forceful tone than intended. Sighing, she shook her head and tried to swallow the lump that felt like it was forming in her throat. "That's just, it's..." she fumbled for the right words for a moment.
"I know, Madelyn."
"It's ridiculous, Brian! They can't do this! Or, they shouldn't be able to do it. I want to go home!" The situation frustrated her so much she was on the verge of tears. Madelyn couldn't understand how a person could be forced out of her home at 16 then not allowed to return upon reaching legal adulthood, when her parents had owned it outright before they died. Their will stated specifically the house should go to her. She was emancipated not long after their death to keep her out of the foster care system.
"Madelyn, don't worry. I have a few ideas. We will get you home."
"Please, Brian, I can't stay here much longer," she said, dejected. "I need to go home."
"Trust me, Maddie, I understand more than you know," Brian responded as he looked over the report he'd received back from the investigator for the fourth time since he got it. "We'll get you home, sweetie, don't worry."
"I trust you, Brian, you're the only person I have left in the world, and if you say it'll happen, then I'll believe it," she said before saying goodbye. Hanging up the phone, she decided to go for a jog to clear her head.
In his office, Brian continued looking at the report. Madelyn's parents had a lot of secrets. It was only now that they were starting to make themselves known. He just didn't know yet how he'd tell Madelyn of all the things he'd learned.
Madelyn ran. The words of her attorney in her head clashing with the incident so long ago, both fueling her to push harder until she stopped, out of breath, in a park quite far from her little city house. Collapsing on a park bench, she leaned forward, forearms on her knees, head in her hands, and sobbed quietly as the incident played out in her head again...
Madelyn stepped onto the elevator, not paying much attention to much of anything. She pressed the button and the doors began closing. Just before they snapped shut, a folder slipped between them and they slid back open again. Looking up, Madelyn let out at defeated sigh. The probate officer. Just the person she didn't want to talk to...not alone in an elevator, anyway.
"Miss Randell," he said in his cool voice.
"Mr. Price," she responded, equally cool.
"Why, Miss Randell, aren't we a chilly one today," he retorted back.
"Wouldn't you be, too?" she snapped back.
"Why, I --"
"No," she said icily. "I don't care to hear you prattling on any longer." She didn't care about having interrupted him. "You've denied me my home, Mr. Price. My home. I grew up there. It was there that I learned to walk, learned to talk, to ride a bike. It's where my dog is buried." She paused a moment for a breath.
"Miss --" he tried to speak again.
"I said no, Mr. Price," she again interrupted. "I won't listen to why you can NOT let me return home one moment longer. That property is my heart. My parents are DEAD, Mr. Price! Dead! What am I to do now? Where am I to go? I assure you, Mr. Price, I can look after myself. I've been well educated -- better, I'm sure, than your own children, who, by the looks of you, are probably at least 10 years my senior."
The probate officer stood there, aghast, his face flushed slightly.
"Miss Randell, as I've stated many times, your case is a unique one. We have not had a situation quite like yours before," he tried to soften his voice as he spoke, not quite achieving the goal, but the effort was there.
"Frankly, Mr. Price, I don't give a rat's ass about the 'uniqueness' of my case," Madelyn fumed, yet was able to remain mostly eloquent with her words. "This is my life you're playing with. Not a game of chess or Monopoly. My life. And it's not a game, Mr. Price. You're so damned enthralled with the 'uniqueness' of my 'situation' that you forget you're dealing with a sixteen year old girl who has nobody left in the world save her attorney; a young girl who has lost the people who were her rock, her foundation: her parents. They were my world, Mr. Price! And now they're gone!" Tears were flowing freely now.
"Dead, Mr. Price! Their bodies broken on that mountain, Mr. Price," by now, she spat out his name as if it were poison. She paused and turned away, only now noticing the doors of the elevator were wide open and a crowd was gathered, watching in shock as she spoke.
She stood there staring at the crowd for only a few seconds before noticing Brian standing at the back of the crowd. She looked into his eyes then back at the probate officer.
"Good day, Mr. Price," she ended their conversation without a question to its finality. With a flip of her golden curls, she rushed off the elevator, into her attorney's arms, the people all around staring as she passed.
Together they left the probate officer standing alone on the elevator. When they exited the building, the people all turned to stare at him this time. Some faces were still clearly shocked by the scene they partially witnessed. Others bore clear disgust for the man who pushed his way past them to head home for the night.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months following that call. Her 19th birthday came. She celebrated with Brian, and he'd brought her a Swedish Princess cake from Schubert's. It was a little bakery on Clement Street Brian frequented. It was one of his favorite bakeries and he would bring her pastries and breads from there from time to time, but this was the first cake she'd tasted of theirs. The cake was composed of layers of white sponge separated by raspberry and kirsch custard filling, with a whipped cream and marzipan icing. Madelyn was delighted by the delicate piping decorating the top of the cake and surprised by how good it tasted. It was so good she helped herself to a second slice that night.
It was a nice birthday celebration, but shadowed by the fact she still couldn't go home. She took a long bath that night after Brian left then went to bed and dreamt of home.
A few weeks later, she walked alone down the quiet San Francisco street after visiting Fenway Market, which was a little grocery store right down the street from her house on 18th. The light from the streetlamps was dim and a cool breeze played through the trees. It lifted her blonde hair, gently playing with the curls before setting them down, only to pick them up again from time to time. The moon rose above the tops of the buildings. Slowing, she turned her violet eyes upward to gaze at it with a familiar longing. It was nearly full, yet it wasn't all that impressive to her that night. The haze of the city sky dulled the beauty she once found in it.
Picking up the pace once more, she noted that she was nearly to her house. As she approached her building, she pulled her keys from her pocket then ascended the steps to her front door with a soft, defeated sigh. Once inside, she closed and locked the door before moving down the hall to the kitchen. She put her groceries away then headed upstairs, stripping off her clothes as she went, leaving them in a trail on the stairs as she made her way through the house to prepare a hot bath. It was her nightly ritual, one she always looked forward to when she returned home from one of her long walks.
Stepping into the old claw foot tub, she eased into the hot water and felt the tension in her body begin melting away. Turning off the water, she settled back, her golden curls floating in the water around her shoulders and closed her eyes, drifting off to sleep.
"Maddie?" a voice woke her from her nap in the bathtub.
"Yes, Daddy?" she called as she stepped out of the now cool water.
"Everything ok in there?"
"Yeah, just a moment, please," she responded. She'd fallen asleep in the tub again. It was a usual thing for her. She would climb into a nice hot bath and relax so completely that she'd fall asleep.
She wrapped a plush robe around her dripping body and twisted a towel around her hair, then reached down into the water and released the stopper plugging the drain of the old claw foot tub. Opening the door, she found her father standing there with a half-grin on his face. She smiled up at him and gave him a hug with one arm before pushing past him to scamper off to her room.
"We'll be leaving soon, darling," he said as she went into her bedroom.
"Ok, Daddy," she responded as she started to close the door. "I'll be down in a couple minutes."
She dressed in her usual attire: sweat pants, a tank top and a light long-sleeved zip up hoodie. She'd already planned to go for a run in the woods surrounding their home after her parents left for their trip. She walked down the hall and stairs to find both standing at a table with a cake and candles lit. Tears welled in her eyes as she realized they hadn't forgotten her birthday, which would be two days after they left.
"Surprise!" a voice said from the kitchen. It was Uncle Brian. Laughing, she ran and gave him a warm hug then went and blew out the candles on the cake as everybody sang "Happy Birthday" to her.
"You didn't think we'd forget, did you?" her father asked, smiling as he passed her a small wrapped package, gently kissing her forehead as she took it from his hands.
"Of course not, Daddy, I just figured you planned to celebrate after you return from your wild goose chase," she laughed as she tore the paper from the small box. Her father rolled his eyes as they laughed at her teasing tone. She'd always called her parents' adventures wild goose chases, as they most often came back either empty handed, or nearly so.
Madelyn gasped as she opened the box. Inside was a lovely golden locket set with gems that together formed a sprig of holly. She turned and held her hair up as her mother took the box from her and removed the locket from it before fastening it around Madelyn's neck.
"We had it specially made, Maddie, dear," her mother said.
"Oh, thank you, Mother, thank you, Daddy!" Madelyn exclaimed as she hugged them both. "I love it!"
"And we love you, always remember that, my darling," Marie told her, pulling back to cup Madelyn's head in her hands. They looked into each other's eyes, both tearing up a little as they stared at one another. Marie's green eyes sparkled as she gazed into the violets that were Madelyn's. "Never forget how much we love you, Maddie."
"I won't, Mother, and I love you, too," she said, moving to hug her mother again.
They were interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing. Daddy went to pick it up and turned to say something to everyone.
Madelyn awoke with a start as the phone rang, tearing her from her dream. Tears began forming in her eyes as she heard the digital voice of her phone's caller id saying it was the attorney. Perhaps he had news about her parents' home that had been tied up with legal issues since their death?
Sighing, she climbed out of the tub, not bothering to dry herself off, and made her way to the hall to grab the wireless handset. Pressing the button, she put it to her ear and said, "Hello?"
"Hi, Madelyn, it's Brian. I have some news for you," the voice on the other end said.
Brian Hemming was an odd, but trustworthy and mostly pleasant, man. She believed he was well over 50 years of age. Standing 6 foot 7, with salt and pepper hair and the most beautiful blue eyes she'd ever seen, he'd been her parents' attorney since before she could remember. They had an interesting relationship, and he'd always treated her as if she were a granddaughter, or a niece. On Christmas and birthdays, he never failed to bring her a present. When he'd visit her parents for business, or even for a social visit, she'd always run to give him hugs and kisses on his cheek. As a small child, she called him 'Uncle Brian' and would sit upon his knee while he told her stories. When she got older, his gifts went from toys to perfume or strands of pearls, and when she went to the prom for her sophomore year of high school, he surprised her with a limo and paid for her and her date's dinner at an upscale restaurant.
"Yes?" she replied as she returned to the warmth of the bath water, taking care not to let the phone get wet.
"It's concerning your parents' home," he said, pausing a moment. Hearing the rustle of papers in the background, she was certain a decision had been made regarding her parents' estate, which had been tied up in probate since their death. The money she'd used to purchase this house had come out of her trust fund, which had been a couple million dollars to begin with, and over the years before their death it had doubled because the type of trust they'd set up for her was an interest-earning one. That combined with the investments that had been made over the years had put Madelyn in a very good position, financially.
'Oh please!' she thought. 'Maybe I can now go home, finally.'
She held her breath and bit her bottom lip as she awaited his next words.
"It's all settled. The court has released your parents' estate. You may return home just as soon as you're able to pack and sell your house in the city!" his excited voice told her. She knew he was just as excited for all of this to finally be over as she was.
She sat there, tears welling up in her eyes.
"I can go home?" she said hesitantly. "I can go home!" she exclaimed, without giving him time to say anything.
"Oh, Brian, thank you! Thank you so much for all you've done to help me!"
"You're welcome Maddie," he said, calling her by her parents' and his pet name. "Would you like me to arrange for your city house to be put on the market?"
"Yes, please." She replied. "I'd like to get rid of this place as soon as I'm able, and go home."
"Leave that to me," Brian told her. "You concentrate on getting your personal belongings packed up, and just go home. Everything is as it was when you left. Well...everything but the kitchen."