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Her Name Was Madi
Author's note: I always loved the 1950's. Grease, Cry-Baby, so many things made me want to write something for that era. Of course, it had to have a modern twist to it. Madi is much like me, and I think that's what inspired me to finish this piece. Read her story and let me know what you think. This is part one of three so the more feedback I get, the quicker part two comes along!
Her name was Madeleine Rourke, and she was normal. At least, she was as normal as she needed to be. She felt average-looking and plain, but of course, to the naked eye, she was. However, if looked upon with the right pair of eyes, she was a great deal more than average, perhaps even extraordinary. She was a deep bookworm, hopelessly devoted to her ever-growing library, and music was her one and only addiction. She had also decided after a rather fateful night that drinking was completely off-limits. If you knew what was good for you, you never, ever mentioned it. As for all other illegal activity, she saw it all as too much hassle for her taste, so she kept on the straight and narrow.
On the morning of February 14th, 2009, she reluctantly awoke to an unrecognizable love song blaring on her bedside radio. It seemed to be a mix of death metal and techno, a mix that she silently hoped would never again disgrace the radio stations during the course of her lifetime. Cautiously, she took a quick peek around her room, scanning for any sign of the dreaded holiday; balloons from her mother, for example. Speaking of which, there was an obnoxiously pink bunch of the helium filled monsters trying desperately to escape her doorknob. Cursing softly to herself, she rolled out of her low bed and glared at the stupid objects. They all seemed to mock her, squealing "I Love You!" and "Be Mine!" There was clearly nothing personal about them, considering they were from her mother. The woman had the attention span of a small child, and so Madeleine could expect little from her in the way of gift-giving. Glancing next to the balloons, Madeleine noticed a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Hey, those are pretty fun, she thought, approaching them. She turned the box over in her hands and saw that not only were they chocolates, but they were artist-inspired chocolates. Curiously, she picked up a pretty rectangular one decorated with small splashes of pastel colors, and tossed it in her mouth.
"Sweet mother of God!!!" she hissed, making comical faces at the taste that was the equivalent of a hard smack in the face. Running down the hall to the bathroom, she spat it out and stuck her entire head in the sink, trying to wash the taste out of her mouth. Still nearly convulsing at the early morning shock, she quietly returned to her room, past her totally bewildered mother. Batting at least ten balloons out of the way to shut her door again, she wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her nightshirt and took another glance at that box of chocolates, thinking maybe they had already gone bad. Now which one was I chewing on exactly? she asked herself quietly. She stifled a gag as she read the official "flavor" of the chocolate she'd eaten. "Chocolate Pistachio". Good Lord, people actually eat this garbage?! she screamed in her mind. Having suddenly lost her appetite, she sighed and rummaged through her drawers, searching for a reasonable outfit for the torturous holiday.
Not too bad if I do say so myself, Madeleine thought contentedly, gazing out her mother's passenger window. So far, she'd gotten numerous gifts from family members and friends, and had gotten a chance to spend time with her little cousins. However, she did tend to feel bad for her family. Every Valentine's Day, she was single, and every Valentine's Day, her family took it upon themselves to help her forget it. Even her eleven-year-old brother toned down his hare-brained antics for the day. The yearly routine made it seem almost as if February 14th had faded into the monotony of the rest of the year. However, her mother was usually the one that took it upon herself to make Madeleine's day a little more exciting. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, she was taking her daughter to a rather well-received horror flick to appease her for the year. She always wondered why the poor girl had spent Valentine's Day alone. Even with Madeleine being her daughter, she knew she wasn't ugly, and certainly not a bad companion. She figured fate was just waiting for the right time to pull her into the loop and decided to leave the question unasked.
Shrill screams pierced the silence of the massive Imax theater, making Madeleine and her mother jump about ten feet out of their seats. Truthfully, Madeleine was impressed with her mother's bravery in the face of big, bad, scary movie monsters just to help her enjoy the day. Since before she had been born, her mother had been petrified of the sight of blood, and in Madeleine's eyes, she was handling it very well. She'd only gagged twice.
Ugh, Madeleine thought, so much gore. Is all this really necessary??? The sheer extent of the horrific gore present throughout the movie made her severely sick to her stomach. Suddenly, her hot dog seemed less like food and more like dead animal. As yet another character suffered a severe beheading, she stifled a "burp" that would probably turn to soiling the theater floor if she wasn't careful. She could feel what was left of that chocolate at the back of her throat and hoped the horrific gore fest would end soon.
Madeleine sighed heavily and collapsed onto her messy leopard print sheets. What a day-and that was saying something for her. Her stomach was flipping in all different directions from her extreme overdose of sweets-in fact, she was fairly sure her heart had stopped somewhere along the line. Turning onto her back, she grimaced at the discomfort caused by her tight pigtails. They were cute, sure, but they were a you-know-what to get out, especially with her wild curls engulfing the extra-small scrunchies. Debating with herself on whether or not to get up and go through the long process of getting ready for bed, she finally slid out from under her sheets and went to wash her face.
She returned to her bedroom with her waist length chocolate curls unrestrained and falling around her face, wearing a stretchy camisole and Happy Bunny boxers.
"Ah. Much better," she whispered quietly, glancing at her collage-covered walls. Completely hiding the baby blue paint beneath them were four huge collages, made up of photos, magazine and newspaper clippings, and sketches of hers. The photos and sketches were mainly of her and her friends, a monstrous catalog of memories, the good and bad alike. She had always felt that the bad memories made the good ones that much more special, and so kept them all.
So many of these friends were lost along the way...Madeleine thought. Looking at the faces of those who'd abandoned her tugged at her heart. She remembered the stories her late grandmother had shared with her about the "peaceful" 1950's, the closest America had ever come to a Utopia. Or so they'd thought. Looking back, Madeleine figured she preferred those days as compared to the present, hectic and heartbreaking.
"What I wouldn't give..." she muttered to herself, lacing her fingers behind her head, "for a taste of that kind of simplicity. No sex, no drugs, no alcohol..." The age of innocence, she thought to herself, I kind of like that idea. The idea was wonderful, wonderful enough to fly her off in a blanket of dreams.
Dear God, is this what a chocolate hangover feels like?
A muggy breeze ruffled Madeleine's boxers and blew her hair in her face, tickling her nose and making her sneeze. Holding her aching head and opening one eye groggily, she asked herself, "Now, since when do we have breezes in the house, much less in my room?"
"Shut up, you stupid kid!"
A large, neon-lit question mark formed in Madi's mind as she sat bolt upright with a start, thinking, I know for a fact I didn't leave the TV on-
Her thoughts skidded to a halt when she got a good look at her surroundings. She was curled up, no longer in her comfortable twin bed, but in a bed of leaves. Oak and cider trees swayed in the breeze and a small creek ran beside her. A large metal sign towering over the trees depicted the bird, flower, and tree of her home state. There was something very, very strange about that sign and she couldn't put her finger on it, even though she'd driven past it numerous times. Still half-asleep, she believed that she had sleep-walked to the state boundary, which was quite far from her house. Supporting herself with her left arm, she noticed a crumpled note in small, neat handwriting laying beside her.
I cannot imagine how confused you must be at finding yourself here. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you much. All I can say is that you are stuck here until you perform a task. It will be difficult, but I believe in you. Make me proud.
Okay.......Madeleine thought. Rereading the note a time or two, she shrugged and stuck it in the waistline of her boxers, leaving its riddle for later.
"You say one more thing and I swear to God I'll make you eat that stupid sweater you're wearing, got it?" the voice yelled again. Madeleine blinked, uncertain whether to follow the voice to its origin or not. On one hand, maybe he-there was a possibility that it was a she, but it was very remote- could point out the way home. On the other hand, it sounded like he could beat her to a bloody pulp...or worse. Stretching like a big cat and yawning softly so as not to be heard, she brushed herself off and followed the voice, picking some leaves out of her hair and popping her knuckles as she went.
"Leave him alone," a small (seemingly pre-pubescent) voice muttered, obviously afraid of the owner of the first voice. The comment didn't do much, because a sharp, incredibly unintelligible reply and the sound of skin hitting skin was all she heard. Still following the voices, Madeleine found herself on the bank of a rather large, but pretty, lake. A few yards down the bank, she noticed a gang of teenage boys picking on a smaller pair of boys that seemed to both be under ten years of age. One was thin and lanky with dark, dark hair that was cut neatly and seemed to have been combed just so. However, his hair was tousled now and his left cheek was beginning to swell up. The smaller one had the same hairstyle but his hair was red and freckles were sprinkled across his nose. His lip was split and bleeding everywhere. I'm here five minutes and I get to tussle with bullies, Madi thought, what fun. Forgetting the fact that she was in her pajamas, Madeleine stomped towards the group, landing right on a pointy pinecone in the process.
"OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD IT HURTS! Oh my foot will have to be AMPUTATED! Oh my Go-" Madeleine stopped wailing mid-sentence, realizing that all five boys were staring blankly at her. Trying to find the right words to explain herself, her mouth opened and closed like a goldfish out of water, and in the end, she covered her mouth with her left hand and studied her fingernails like she had no interest in the world around her.
"Who the hell are you?" the (it seemed to be) head bully asked her rudely. She looked up like she hadn't noticed that he was there and replied, "Huh?" Glaring at her, he took a step towards her.
"I said, 'who the hell are you?' Answer me," he repeated with a sneer. She gaped at him, fury overtaking her dazedness and, for a second, had no clue what to say to him. Regaining her confidence, she huffed at him, "My name's Madeleine, Madi for short. Why don't you quit picking on those kids?" He raised his eyebrows at her, probably surprised that she had talked to him in such a manner. He did look like the type to react that way.
"I think that it's none of your business," he snapped, rousing a group "ooh" from his buddies. No matter where you go, Madi thought, aggravated, there are always some of these losers trying to pick a fight with you. Trying not to limp from the pinecone incident, she approached the boys, faking an air of confidence as she went.
"Well I think it is. Look at them! They're covered in blood!" she retorted, and, turning to the smaller boys, added "Hey, are you guys okay?" The pair nodded slightly, never looking her right in the eyes, probably thinking she was already dead meat. Sudden whispering breaking into hysterical laughter whipped her head around to face the bullies.
"Are you wearing boxers?!" one of the older boys asked her mockingly. Flushing a deep scarlet, she glanced down at her Happy Bunny boxers.
"Yeah. So?!" she spat back defensively. The laughter erupted into loud guffaws as the other lackey asked, "What kind of girl wears boxers?!" Thoroughly flustered, she hissed back, "Well I think they're comfortable, okay? Don't judge me!!!" Looking at her with interest, the leader quieted the others' laughter to snickering and introduced himself with a smirk on his face.
"I'm Tony Bourdain. You got spunk, kid. I like that. We should...hang out sometime," he said, grinning. Madi had definitely not missed the double meaning in his words, and know that by "You got spunk", he really meant "I think you're hot". Oh joy, Madi thought wearily. Putting her hands on her hips, she narrowed her eyes into slits and glared at him.
"You're kidding me right?" Seeing the blank look on his face, she added incredulously, "Un-freaking-believable. Look, I'm uh...flattered, but I think I'm going to have to take a raincheck." Now, Tony shrugged like he didn't have a care in the world, and gave her a boyishly cute grin. In that moment, she could see how he could seem innocent if it weren't for the rude comments and cruel behavior. Sighing in frustration, she calmed herself down and asked politely, "Tony, I hate to ask, but do you have a cell phone I could use?" He stared at her blankly.
"What the hell is a cell phone?" he asked. She blinked at him.
"The thing you text on. Every teen has one, I promise you."
She gaped at him in total disbelief of what she was hearing.
"I'm being punk'd, right?" she muttered in disbelief, looking at him like he was a total moron. He returned the favor.
"Look, I don't know what the hell you're talking about, but the only phones we have are payphones and house phones."
Now, that comment would have been a little strange, considering she herself had a cell phone, but the statement wasn't the only strange factor here. There were also the boys' clothes. The boy with the bruise on his cheek was wearing a horizontally striped tee-shirt from a company that had gone out of business fifty years ago, and the younger boy was wearing nice pants and, for some strange reason, a sweater. Madi was no genius, but it was a relatively hot and humid day. The poor kid must have been on fire underneath that hunk of wool. The older boys were all wearing matching black leather jackets open to reveal white tee-shirts and tight black jeans. Tony, however, was wearing a black tee-shirt, which, combined with his jet black hair slicked into a duckbill (better known as a duck tail or duck butt), made his ice blue eyes appear all the more striking. He was also wearing a silver dog tag round his neck and a gorgeous silver ring on his left index finger. The sheer beauty of it attracted Madi's gaze. Looking back at the clothes, Madi decided that the last time she had checked, people didn't really dress like that anymore. Wait a second, she thought, people don't dress like that anymore?
"Um, just out of curiosity," she began flippantly, "what's today?"
"May 8th. Why?" he replied. She blinked.
"What year is it?"
"1956...Again, why?" A look of sheer horror passed over her face, then disbelief, then humor.
"Aha. Aha. Very funny. No, seriously, what's today?" she retorted, snorting at her gullibility. He crossed his arms and cocked an eyebrow. Oh God, he's serious! she squeaked in her mind. Standing in front of him, she slowly put two and two together, and the more she thought about it, the more she realized what had been wrong with that sign she'd seen earlier. Every time she'd driven past it, it had been covered in rust, scratches, and graffiti. This time, there was barely a hint of graffiti, and not one single speck of rust. Now that she thought about it, she did remember her history teacher mentioning something about the signs having been built in the fifties.
"Look, we're gonna go. We're done with these losers anyway," Tony said, faking a punch at the smaller boys past Madi as she nearly hyperventilated over her recent discovery. He failed to notice, and, taking her accelerated breathing as her strange way of saying goodbye, left, followed by his friends.
Once Tony and his friends were out of sight, Madi retained just enough air to squeak in disbelief and collapsed into a heap in front of the flabbergasted boys.
"Madi? Madi, are you okay?"
"Donnie, she passed out. Give her a minute or two."
"God, you guys look awful. Glad I wasn't around to get involved in that beating."
"Leave 'em alone, Gare. You know, from what you guys told me, you owe her big time." a girl's voice interrupted.
Madi groaned, finally coming to after what felt like forever. She pulled herself up to a sitting position and glanced at the crowd of children surrounding her. The two boys she'd stood up for looked at her curiously, along with another boy and a girl that could pass as one. The new boy had a crew cut like the others, and the girl had fine, blonde hair that was tied back in a short ponytail. Both of the newcomers wore shorts and tee-shirts. Ah, Madi thought, smirking at the girl. A regular tomboy. The girl reminded Madi of herself at a younger age, and her cheekiness brought a nostalgic grin to her face. Noticing Madi staring at her, she scowled.
"What are you looking at?" she asked suspiciously. Madi flushed in embarrassment.
"Nothing, chickie. Cool your jets, alright?" Madi replied coolly. The girl gave her a confused look, reminding her that it was, indeed, the fifties and phrases like that had yet to be invented.
"Okay, scratch that. I'm Madi, in case these two haven't told you already."
"Well, I'm Di. Short for Diana," she said. Then, pointing at each boy in turn, she added, "This here's Gary, and that's Donnie and Daniel." Donnie was the smallest, and Daniel was the one with the bruise on his face. Speaking of which, the area was starting to turn funny colors.
"By the way, thanks for rescuing these two. I don't know what Di and I would do without them," Gary laughed, ignoring Donnie and Daniel's glares directed at him. They all looked so young and innocent to Madi. She wondered how Tony and his friends could be so cruel to them, other than the fact that he and his friends were, in every sense of the word, greasers.
"What were those guys picking on you for, anyway?" she asked quietly.
"Oh, that's just the way Tony is," Daniel said. Rethinking his reply, he continued, "He's treated us like that ever since I can remember. See, Tony's parents...They...you see..." The fact that he was struggling for words was a bad sign in itself.
"What Danny's trying to say is that Tony's parents are...let's leave it at strict. I mean, all I've heard is rumors, but if you look at the way he treats anyone smaller than him, you're pretty sure they aren't just rumors." For what looked like a nine-year-old girl, Di was pretty intellectual. From what she'd heard, Tony's story was one that she could relate to, and for a moment, she almost felt sorry for him. The feeling quickly dissolved into pure anger at how rude he'd been earlier.
"Oh. Well why don't we get you two cleaned up? I'm sure your parents would have an aneurism if they saw you like this," Madi laughed, standing up and brushing off her knees. Looking at her uneasily, the children stammered over their words.
Gary was the only one able to reply.
"Madi, what would people think if you went out in public like that?" he asked, suppressing laughter. "I mean, I didn't want to say anything, but geez!"
Almost taking offense at his words, Madi took a nice, long look at her attire. It was the era of girls showing nothing above their shins, let alone everything up to their mid-thighs. She, however, was doing all of the above, not to mention the pale expanse of chest she had left exposed for the world to see.
"You've got a point. Well then, I guess I'll..." she trailed off, wondering whether or not she should mention the fact that she was technically homeless here. She thought it better not to, seeing as the conversation would probably turn to her having to try and explain just why she had no home, no family, not to mention no permanent records. It was like she didn't exist -which was true, to be honest-but she needed all the friends she could get, so she kept her mouth shut.
"I'll just go home, then. I hope you guys heal up alright," she finished with a smile as she left the clearing, trying to figure out what on earth she would do about her situation.
It had been almost an hour since Madi had left the other kids, and she was beginning to regret it. In that one period of time, she had figured out two things.
First, she needed to enroll in school somehow. Sure, this time-traveling weirdness gave her the option to skip school for the remainder of the year, but Madi had to face it. She was a deep down nerd. She was always up to learning something new, and she couldn't see herself sitting idly waiting for something to happen. Enrolling in the local school would also give her a chance to get to know people her age and not only make her time there more bearable, but also possibly give her a clue as to how to get home. The only problem with this idea was that she didn't have an address or legal guardians. She knew she needed at least that much in order to get in, and didn't want to attempt to explain her situation for fear of being committed. She hoped that maybe with her being the first teenager actually begging to get into school, she'd have luck on her side.
The second item of business was that she needed some clothes. Boxers and a cami just wouldn't cut it in this time period. She didn't have a single cent on her, so she figured it had come to the worst. She'd have to steal some, preferably from a bobby soxer. She'd always wanted a poodle skirt, but they were only sold around Halloween at home.
Thinking over all of this, Madi realized something.
She was in way, way, WAY over her head.
Madi hated to think about it, but she was a bit of a goody two shoes when it came down to it. She'd never stolen anything in her life and had no idea how to pull off what she was about to do. However, she desperately needed clothes if she was going to confront the high school principal, so she set off for the first clothing store she could see.
The store was very quiet when Madi entered, almost too quiet. Teenage girls laughed and fawned over different boys, picking through the clothing racks as they went. Trying her hardest to be inconspicuous, Madi stuck close to the girls, seeing that this would probably be the easiest way to get what she needed. The longer she followed them, however, the more she wanted to gauge their eyes out with a dull butter knife. The girls' voices were loud and obnoxious, and their incessant banter about what they wanted to do with the boys they talked about made Madi sick at her stomach. The age of innocence indeed, Madi thought in frustration. Finally, they all decided on what they wanted, and Madi did as well. One of the girls held up a black off-the-shoulder top and a pale pink poodle skirt. Luckily, she was buying four other outfits with shoes and socks to match, so Madi would have enough clothes to hold her until she could find a legal way to attain more. While the girls checked out, Madi grabbed a scrap of paper off of the floor and wrote a quick little IOU with a pen on the checkout counter. When the woman behind the counter asked her if she needed help, eyeing her clothes suspiciously, she answered no, but the woman happened to glance down and kicked her out for being barefoot. Madi shrugged, not seeing the point in arguing, and sat on a bench in front of the store's entrance.
Once the girls left the store, Madi strolled along behind them, stopping as much as she could and trying to stay in the shade as much as possible. She was eliciting enough stares already, not to mention her bare feet were practically frying on the hot sidewalk. A few minutes into her pursuit, the girls stopped and sat on a bench farther down the street, to people-watch at the diner across the road, it seemed. They all set their bags underneath the bench and almost instantly became heavily engrossed in conversation.
Snatching her chance, Madi quickly checked for any witnesses and saw no one other than the people in the diner, and strolled through the grassy clearing behind the girls' bench. Clasping her hands behind her back, she approached the bench from behind, and before she could second-guess herself, she dropped silently to her knees, replaced the girl's bag with the IOU, and left in the exact direction she'd came from.
Miraculously, no one caught even a glimpse of her in the act. Either that, or no one cared enough to report it, because she got all the way back to the woods without being seen. Making absolutely sure no one was watching, she began to change into one of the outfits in the bag.
"So, let me get this straight. You have no home, no job, no family, no records, even, and you want to enroll in our school district."
Madi smiled and nodded, realizing just how insane she sounded. Trying to help her situation, she replied, "But it's not that I don't have a home, it's that I'm sort of between homes right now." She hesitated a moment to gather her thoughts and launched into her "thoroughly rehearsed" background story.
"You see, I'm an Irish immigrant. I know I don't have an accent, but that's because my parents were from America. Before the war got too out of hand, they sent me, along with loads of other European children, to America, even though I was only two and a half. The other kids were very kind to me and took care of me until we were separated. When I got here, I ended up staying with a family of six children that, for some strange reason, wanted to take care of another child. By the time I was fifteen, I had become restless and decided to go find a place for myself, but when I asked for my records, Bertha-that was my foster mother's name- told me they'd been lost in the war. I left nonetheless, and here I am, wishing to finish my education while I can."
The look on the principal's face said enough. She knew Madi was full of it-the smile said it all. Madi was disappointed that she hadn't fallen for it; she believed it to be a good cover up...sort of. She prepared to escort herself out of the office until, for some reason, the principal nodded and gave Madi a few forms to fill out.
"Alright, here's the deal. No offense, but your story is the worst I've heard in a long time. However, it's refreshing to see a teenager that's actually willing to learn, so I'll let you use my address and no one has to know," the principal told her with a friendly demeanor.
"Thank you so mu-" A wave of the woman's hand cut Madi's gratitude short.
"There's just one problem. We have less than a month of school left, and you have no grades whatsoever. I'm sorry to say that I cannot fake them for you. Somehow, you must earn those grades."
"Mrs. Toomey? Mrs. Toomey, I'm sorry to bother you, but Jordan Rudemaker's parents want to know what percentage of her grade she's missing." a voice, probably that of a secretary, said through the door. Mrs. Toomey grumbled and got out a sheet of scratch paper. Not meaning to look at the grades, Madi saw them and figured the percentage quickly in her head.
"Thirty-eight point nine percent," she told Mrs. Toomey with an innocent smile on her face. The principal glanced at her before returning to her equation, and with a shocked expression, realized that Madi was right.
"How'd you do that?" she asked in disbelief. Madi shrugged sheepishly.
"Are you that good in all your subjects?" she ventured, an idea slowly forming in her mind. Madi blushed a bit and gave a small "I guess so," in reply.
"And how's your tolerance level?" she continued casually. Madi looked at the ceiling thoughtfully for a moment.
"Well, I lived with six other kids and I didn't kill any of them. That should say something," she replied jokingly, instantly regretting it as a sly, yet still mature, smile crept across the principal's face.
"Well, you're in luck, Madi. It just so happens that I have a class of freshman that is simply..." widening her eyes a bit, she finished quietly, "you know. They're very wild and Ms. Webster can hardly control them, let alone teach them. Perhaps you can help her." Madi looked at her, completely bewildered. Sighing, Mrs. Toomey explained.
"I propose that for one period a day, you teach her class. It can be the class of your choice, as long as you know what you're talking about, of course. That way, you can earn your grades, and those kids might actually learn something! What do you think?" Well, that wasn't exactly what Madi was thinking of, but it was the only choice she had.
"Alright, I'll do it!" she told Mrs. Toomey, her voice full of hollow enthusiasm. The principal didn't seem to notice.
"Great! Which subject would you like?"
"Well, I've always been partial to History, so..."
"History it is then! You start tomorrow!" Mrs. Toomey said excitedly. Apparently, getting another teacher for the freshman was a big deal for her. That was probably not a good sign, but Madi felt as though she could do it, so she shrugged it off and left Mrs. Toomey's office with a polite "Thank you."
The minute she closed the door, she could hear the principal cheering her head off inside. Yet another bad sign.
After returning to the forest to retrieve the clothes she'd stolen, Madi familiarized herself with the town, checking out local shops and leafing through magazines and newspapers so as to get an idea of what was going on in the world. She then spent an hour or two in a park she had walked past when "liberating" the bag of clothes earlier, lounging on a swing lost in thought. Children went up to her now and again, smiling sweetly or striking up simple conversation, which, although it struck her as a bit strange, made her day at the same time. However, after receiving many disapproving looks from the children's parents and hearing snippets of side conversations that she assumed were probably about her, Madi eventually tired of it all and went on her way.
As much as Madi wished otherwise, night eventually fell, and she was utterly without a place to stay. She considered sleeping on a park bench, but the thought of hobos bothering her throughout the night was just too much. Mulling a few ideas over in her mind, she strolled to nowhere in particular, and before she knew it, she found herself returning to the school. By the time she saw the plain building loom up in front of her, nearly unnerving in the dark, she was discouraged, hungry, and ready to give up. For now, it felt as if the only thing close to a home she had was the school, and for the time being, even it was off limits to her.
Just as she was beginning to set off in the opposite direction, a little old man opened the front door to the school and began heaving cleaning supplies out of it. Madi instantly dove into the bushes so as not to be seen. The man was whistling some sort of jazz tune and a grin crossed Madi's face. Of course! The janitor! she thought excitedly. Maybe if I can sneak in before the door closes...
Alas, there was no such luck. After dragging all of the equipment out of the doors-Madi wanted desperately to help, but didn't want to be seen out after dark for fear of questioning- he had shut and locked the door behind him. Then, after loading the equipment into his truck, he drove away. A sigh of defeat escaped her mouth as she wondered where to go from there.
In truth, there was nowhere she could stay in this town. She had no money, and therefore could not afford a hotel or inn. She knew no one in the area, and therefore could not ask to use a spare room or something of the sort. Since outdoors were off limits, this was her only choice. Watching the janitor drive away, she straightened her skirt and circled to the back of the school.
Okay, there's got to be an unlocked door or an open window or something, she thought, pulling on each of the back doors in turn. When she reached a corner of the school, she found a small window just inches above the grass. She was totally exhausted, and decided if this one wasn't unlocked, she would call it a day and just collapse on the spot. She then squeezed her eyes shut and, crossing her fingers, gave the window a small push. Amazingly, it opened with a slight squeak.
"Hallelujah!" she wheezed, sliding through the small space as quickly as she could and landing in a basement. Although, the place gave her the creeps, so, with a quick look around, she left the basement and headed for the library. Just a step out of the basement she stopped, thinking of her stomach first instead.
Ducking under the cafeteria windows, Madi tiptoed-although she had no idea why-to the kitchen in the back of the room and flicked a light switch. Fryers, ovens, and sinks stretched out around her, but she saw no food. Frowning, she explored further into the area, and she found herself standing in front of a large metal door.
"Bingo!" she muttered excitedly, pulling the door open. Tons of frozen food lined the numerous shelves. Everything she could ever picture being served in a cafeteria was present-burgers, steak, chicken, fries; just about anything and everything she loved. Not to mention, the food was all real. 100% real. Unlike the synthetic menus back at her school. Thankfully, she'd always had a knack for cooking, so keeping herself fed would be a breeze. Pulling some food off of the shelves, she figured that if she was the only one stealing food, then it would go completely unnoticed.
As it began to get late, she retired to the library, picking a spot in the very back to read in just in case she fell asleep, so as not to be noticed. She browsed the shelves, looking for any interesting titles, and finally settled on "The Great Gatsby". She'd always had a softness for love stories, and it just so happened that this was one of her favorites. As short as the book was, it was a bit of a slow read for her, and she ended up reading late into the night. Around midnight or so, exhaustion overtook her, and she fell asleep with her nose in a book.
At the same time that Madi was settling in her temporary home, Tony Bourdain and his friends, Ralph and Mark, were pacing the streets for the sole purpose of disobeying the curfew of nine o' clock. Tony didn't want to go home, anyway. It was a weeknight, and that meant that his dad had probably come home from work angry at the world. It also meant that if he was angry at the world, he would take it out on Tony and his mother. After the day he'd had, he just wasn't in the mood. First, he'd gotten a bunch of crap from his teachers, all who couldn't stand the sight of him. Like he cared, anyway. Then, there was that girl, Madi. She'd not only argued with him and yelled at him, but she'd also rejected him. The very notion of rejection was foreign to him.
"Guys, why the hell are we walking past the school?" he asked grumpily, noticing the building on his right. His friends looked back at him and shrugged, going back to talking about whatever they'd been talking about. A dim light coming through one of the library's windows stopped him a few feet behind Ralph and Mark. Stepping closer to the school, he peered through the window, looking at the clock on the wall. It was nearly midnight, and someone was in the library. Upon lowering his gaze, he found none other than Madi, sitting with her back against the wall with a single bright lamp illuminating the book she was reading.
"Tony, you comin'?" Ralph asked him, jarring his concentration. He directed his gaze at his friend and answered, "Naw, you guys go on without me." The pair shrugged as if to say suit yourself and left him there.
Tony stood at the window till half past midnight, simply watching Madi. She would read a few pages, smile here and there, and sometimes look up at the ceiling like she was thinking about something else while she read. And so the cycle went for about half an hour, when, after her head drooped dangerously a few times, she leaned until she fell on her side. With her book still in her hands, she slept.
Taking one last, long glance, Tony stuffed his hands into his pockets and strolled off into the night.
"Excuse me dear, are you alright?"
Madi's eyes fluttered open in the face of a pleasant-looking elderly woman wearing large glasses that magnified her eyes to almost five times their normal size.
"Who, me? Oh...yeah. Heh. I'm fine, just fine," Madi answered, giving the woman her best smile.
"Well why are you here so early, dear? It's only seven!" the woman answered. Madi's eyes widened as she thought up a good answer.
"Um...I love the library! What can I say? I got here as soon as I could!" Seeing her disheveled reflection in the woman's glasses, she added, "Which way is it to the restrooms?" When the woman pointed out the way, she waited till she'd walked off, and, grabbing her bag of clothes, ran through the hall so as not to be seen.
"Class, we have a new student. I want you all to make her feel welcome, alright?"
The murmuring Madi heard from outside the classroom door heightened in volume as she entered the room. She smiled uneasily at the class, her eyes darting from one student to another as Ms. Roberts introduced her to them as Madeleine Rourke. Girls chattered excitedly behind their palms, either thinking that she wouldn't see, or not caring if she did, and boys raised their eyebrows at her, some puckering their lips and giving her catcalls. It had been such a long time since she'd been the new kid in town that she felt nearly alienated as the group stare followed her to her desk. Feeling the weight of at least twenty gazes, she buried herself in a book she'd checked out after dressing.
"Now, class, I'd like you all to get out a sheet of paper to do our first problem of the day," the teacher began. Luckily, Madi had come across some paper the previous day, so she pulled it out. However, she was without anything to write with. She sighed, looking around the room at everyone else, and figured it couldn't hurt to ask for one, so she did.
The teacher smiled at her pleasantly and approached her desk with a ruler in one hand. Her silence caused Madi to squirm in her seat a bit.
"Madeleine, I must say you're making a lousy first impression," she told Madi, with a smile that definitely didn't reach her eyes. "I will lend you a pencil just this once, and after this, I will expect you to be prepared at all times, is that clear?" As she spoke, she brought the ruler down in her hand repeatedly, causing Madi to avert her eyes nervously. The whole class giggled as she fearfully replied, "Y-yes ma'am." Seemingly pleased with Madi's response, Ms. Roberts returned to the front of the classroom and began to write on the board.
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
She can't be serious, Madi thought, gaping at the ridiculously simple problem on the board. Noticing her expression, the teacher called on her. Madi then shrugged and went to the chalkboard.
In a way, Madi missed chalkboards. After all, in the 21st century, they'd all been replaced with dry-erase boards, which weren't nearly as fun. She wondered why in the world they'd been taken out of the schools, but as she did the problem, she remembered why. After about three lines drawn with the chalk, chalk dust began to irritate her nose. She grimaced as she wrote a proportion as quickly as she could to escape the cloud of chalk dust that much faster. When she finally finished her equation (complete with x's and y's), she turned to face the class. Her face fell as she saw the matching expressions of total and utter confusion on all of her classmates' faces.
"What, did I do it wrong?" she asked the teacher quietly. The woman looked at her with the same expression as the others, and replied, "Well...I'm not sure, exactly...Letters in the-...where did you say you were from, again?" Madi blushed a deep scarlet.
"Ireland..." she replied almost inaudibly. Ms. Roberts stared at her blankly and nodded slowly, sending her back to her seat and choosing another student to do the problem. Madi's heart sank. She realized that, in order to fit in, she'd have to put every bit of her knowledge into the simplest layman's terms possible, which would not be easy.
And so her classes went for the morning. A bit unnerved from the math problem earlier, Ms. Roberts refrained from calling on her for the remainder of the time, and so Madi remained in her seat, quietly secluded from the rest of the class, now totally unnoticed. Her eyes would flutter closed for a moment every once in awhile, and she'd have to almost literally hold her eyes open in order to stay awake. Never before had she had to force herself to keep her eyes open in a class; she'd always loved her classes and the teachers knew how to make their subjects interesting. Here, such was not the case. No wonder the freshmen are having such a hard time concentrating, Madi thought, ignoring the incessant growling of her stomach. Lunch was at noon precisely, but she had no reason to watch the clock, due to her lack of money. She just had to make it till nightfall, that was all. Holding her midsection and blushing at the roar coming from her stomach that she was sure everyone could hear, she figured the task was easier said than done.
When lunchtime finally came, Madi remained in her seat for a minute or two after the bell rang. Ms. Roberts looked at her curiously.
"Well, Madeleine? Are you going to join your classmates in the cafeteria?" she asked her. Madi looked up from her book dreamily, and, glancing at the clock, quickly snapped out of it and replied, "Oh, yeah. Right," and left the room quickly.
In the cafeteria, Madi was as good as alone. She grimaced at the tables full of little kids with crew cuts, poodle skirts of every color, and leather jackets galore. She didn't see any kids that seemed rich, and so assumed that they attended private school. It was fine with her, though. She preferred to stay with people that weren't totally stuck up. At the moment, however, it didn't matter whether the other kids were stuck up or not. What mattered was that she had no friends here, and therefore, no place to sit. Before it was five minutes into lunch, Madi had stepped out into the overwhelming sunshine.
"God, I'm hungry..." Madi whined, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. She'd pulled the great, curly mass into a high ponytail, and her bangs had felt it nice to stay right where they were, so they bounced with her step, tickling her nose as she walked.
"Hey, look! It's Madi!"
"Hey, Madi! How are ya?"
The two voices stopped her dead in her tracks.
It was perfectly clear that today was definitely not shaping up to be a good one. Preparing herself to face the inevitable, she exhaled loudly and whipped around to face Ralph and Mark, plastering on her best smile, and glanced at them without moving an inch closer.
"Hey guys! How are you? Good? That's great...Listen, I can't really stop to talk, so I'll just get going," she said quickly, wanting to laugh at their bewildered expressions as she turned on her heel and began to leave. To her disappointment, her path was blocked by none other than Tony Bourdain.
"Well hey there, sweetheart. How 'bout talkin' to me for a minute?" Tony said in a soft, husky voice. Her plastered smile faded instantly into a scowl as he led her back to where his friends were. The boys snickered amongst themselves as she stood between them, arms crossed, nearly glaring at Tony.
"Alright, what d'you want?" she huffed, rolling her eyes up to meet his. He snorted and shrugged, crossing his arms across his chest.
"Nothin' really, Mads-"
"It's Madi, Tony," she corrected him. His eyes narrowed for a split second, and she nearly grinned, enjoying the reaction she got out of him.
"Okay, Madi. I was just gonna ask if you wanted to see a movie later, that's all." He grinned, excited to see what she'd do next. Madi recognized his expression. It was that of a man that had never been refused. She was perfectly happy to burst his bubble.
"Look, Tony. I don't know if I made it clear enough back at the lake, but I'm not interested, okay? Nothing personal," she lied, "I'm just not...uh...ready for a relationship right now." Unfortunately, the words seemed to literally float through one ear and out the other as he stared at her blankly. She glanced at his friends, as if to beg them to reason with him, but they just laughed. She groaned, knowing that their laughter would spur Tony all the more to chasing after her. Pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, she sighed and said quietly, "Tony, I'm gonna go. Please don't follow me. Maybe, I'll see you around. Goodbye, now." She then sped away, her hand on her forehead and her ears turning a wild shade of red.
Oh great, Madi thought, in addition to being late back to school, I also forgot to ask around for directions to the freshman classroom. This is so not my day!!!
Madi raced through the hallways, dropping her rather large book at least three times and getting completely lost every few seconds. Almost five minutes passed, and she finally seemed to be at least in the freshman hall. As she walked down the hall, she read the numbers over each door, and finally, she came to C-103. Breathless and flustered, she barged through the door, and by the look of the clock, she was almost ten minutes late.
"Oh, Madeleine. Nice of you to join us," Mrs. Webster said pleasantly, even though Madi could tell that she was already disappointed. Madi apologized quickly and set her things down on the teacher's desk. Still looking thoroughly unimpressed with the girl, she took an empty desk at the back of the class, nothing more than a witness for the off chance that Madi would crack under pressure.
As Madi took a second to regain her composure, a loud tapping noise broke the silence of the classroom. It was the sound of someone tapping their pencil on their desk. There was nothing more unnerving than that small, sharp sound, and it drove Madi crazy. She turned to see who was making the horrendous sound, and her gaze fell upon none other than Tony. His icy blue eyes were looking at her, one elbow on the desk with his head resting against his hand. His expression was that of mild interest, nothing more. As she walked to the teacher's desk to grab some new chalk, still staring at him, the left corner of his mouth gradually turned up in that boyish grin that she couldn't help but smile back at ever so slightly. She turned back to the direction she was walking just in time to catch herself inches from barking her shins on the teacher's desk, much to the enjoyment of Tony's friends. The pair didn't bother to hide their laughter, and soon had the whole class laughing along with them, except for Tony. The grin remained on his face, but he made no sound. He merely glanced back up at her. She blushed for what felt like the millionth time that day and whirled around to face the chalkboard, thoroughly angry with herself. She hated the idea of having such a reaction to such a total jerk. And why should he even be in this class? Madi was sure that he was at least her age or older. Great. Not only was he a jerk, but he was a two-time failure, as well. Clearing her throat and head simultaneously, she began her lesson.
"Okay, class. Today, we're going to talk about World War Two, otherwise known as 'double-you-double-you-eye-eye'." Silence followed her (admittedly) lame joke. Exhaling loudly, she continued.
"To start off with, I'm going to teach you about Adolf Hitler. The first thing you should know about Hitler is that, as crazy as he was, he was an amazing public speaker. Why else would thousands of Germans follow him in the search for the 'perfect race' when he himself was not of the 'perfect race'?" She paused for a second and searched the classroom for even a sign of interest. Nothing. Well, nothing other than Tony, of course. But she knew that what Tony was interested in had nothing to do with Hitler.
"Moving on. Now," she began again, turning to write on the chalkboard, "Hitler led the Nazis in the killing of six million Jews, along with gypsies, criminals, homosexuals-"
"You mean Hitler killed faggots."
Without even turning her head, Madi finished her list with "the mentally and physically challenged." However, Tony saw a slight tensing in her shoulders, and so repeated the sentence, just a bit louder.
"So Hitler killed faggots."
The single word reverberated between Madi's eardrums like a furiously hopping jack rabbit. Her shoulders involuntarily tensed and she tried her hardest to ignore it, but it itched at her brain like a word on the tip of her tongue. That single word was the bane of her existence. She couldn't stand words like that, and if Tony wanted a fight, he'd get it.
"Well, Tony, if you want to be so smart about it, then why don't you come to the front of the class for me?" she said with an ever so slight undertone of menace in her voice. He smirked back at her.
"What if I won't?" She clasped her hands behind her back as Mrs. Webster waited to see how she'd react to her most difficult student. A pleasant smile crossed Madi's face as she began to travel up and down the isles of desks.
"You know, Tony, many people say that Hitler's acts were born from self-hatred. Many prejudice cases can be traced back to the feeling, such as homophobia and use of the word-" Madi cleared her throat and finished with a slightly higher pitched voice, "faggot."
"Uh. So?" Tony muttered, not quite grasping the idea as of yet. Madi smiled at him coyly.
"So, is there something you wish to share with the rest of the class?" Giggles followed her question from the entire class, including Tony's friends.
"What're you saying?" Tony asked suspiciously. She approached his desk and held his head against her chest comfortingly.
"It's okay, Tony. You can share. You'll feel so much better if you come clean now." She tried her hardest to keep a straight face as she added, "Don't be insecure! I'm sure there are plenty of boys out there who would kill for a chance with you!"
The entire class erupted into hysterical laughter. Tony appeared to be totally unfazed, but as Madi grinned at him mockingly, she could see that the corner of his right eye was twitching ever so slightly. Mentally, she tallied up the score as 'Madi-2, Tony-0'. Smiling triumphantly to herself, she finished up her lesson for the day.
"Madi! Madi, wait up!" a small voice yelled. Madi grinned, turning to face the child that had called her. It was her first Friday in 1956, May 11th, and through the course of only four days, she'd gotten closer and closer to the four children she'd befriended on Tuesday. They all simply adored her, and she felt the same way about them. The five kids usually spent afternoons together by the lake, the smaller kids telling Madi about their days and how excited they were about summer. The Wednesday she'd left school so flustered, Di had immediately picked up on it and they'd griped for hours about Tony Bourdain. The task was incredibly easy, believe it or not. The kids believed her to have a home just outside of town, and even as she politely refused their requests to come visit again and again, they suspected nothing. Madi was thoroughly glad of this, as bad as she felt about lying to them. She felt like whatever she was involved in was more dangerous than it seemed, and it would be a better idea to leave them out of it.
Madi snapped herself back to reality as the smallest child, Donnie, ran to greet her. She was pleased to see that his lip was nearly healed, and so was his ego. Little Donnie, who had just barely turned seven, was very self-conscious, and his father didn't help much. His father was the type of man that believed that the son should be chastised often, and disciplined harshly, for the simple fact that he was a boy. She frowned at this, but kept her opinions to herself when she walked him home, not wanting to start an argument over it, or the fact that she was seventeen and chose the company of such a small child. Madi just couldn't help herself. She'd always preferred the company of children. Their unrivaled innocence and normally unnoticed deep intellect fascinated her. Adults had given up all of their intuition to logic, and so were unbearably boring.
"Hey, Donnie! How's my favorite little leaguer?" she asked, tousling his hair and making him grin. The grin showed the gaps where his baby canines would be if he hadn't just lost them.
"Great! I caught three fly balls at yesterday's game!" he said excitedly, holding up three fingers for emphasis. She congratulated him enthusiastically, using the top of his head as an armrest and making him giggle.
"Hey, are you going to the lake today?" she asked him, removing her arm from his head. He looked at her uneasily.
"I don't know. When I went there yesterday, I almost ran into Tony. I'm scared to go by myself," he replied. She snorted and jokingly replied, "Oh Donnie, you should know by now that Tony's no one to be afraid of!" The look on the little boy's face showed that he was unconvinced.
"For you, maybe," he replied in an unnaturally cynical voice for such a small child. She nervously tucked a curl behind her ear.
"Alright, alright. How 'bout if I walk with you?" she offered. He gave her that toothless grin again and accepted without thinking twice. Giggling at his reaction, she took his small, pudgy hand in hers and walked on.
"Ha! I knew you two would end up together, I just knew it!" Gary laughed as Madi and Donnie entered the clearing hand in hand. Gary was the comedy relief of the group, and as much as he bothered the others, Madi found him hilariously smart. The jokes he made sometimes went a mile over the children's heads, but had Madi doubled over with hysterical laughter. Di and Daniel looked up from their comic books just long enough to wave at Madi and Donnie. As Madi removed her shoes and sat on the riverbank beside the pair, Gary and Donnie followed her to the bank and joined her.
"So what's the latest Tony update?" Di asked quietly, not glancing up from her comic book. Madi rolled her eyes, resting her chin in her hand and laughed as she noticed the eager looks on the boys' faces.
"Come on. Why do you guys always want to hear about that kind of stuff? I thought you couldn't stand him!" she replied.
"Well, yeah, we can't. That's why the way you treat him is so hilarious. It's nice to see someone treat him like he treats us," Daniel explained, putting his comic on the ground beside him.
"Well, I don't treat him the way he treats you. I could never be that cruel to someone. I just use the psychological card. The only reason it ever works is 'cause he's already failed two grades," she explained, suppressing laughter. No matter who did it, failure wasn't funny...Okay, not that funny, but still kind of entertaining. Sighing at the children's patient expressions, she began a recollection of the day's events.
"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog...cryin' all the time. Something something something something...something...You ain't no friend of mine!"
Madi had been visiting record stores all week, trying desperately to become familiar with popular fifties music, and so far, she'd been unsuccessful. She figured she'd do the safest thing, and just say she loves the oldies. She'd learned a bit about Billie Holiday from her grandparents, and so stuck with her as the main topic if music came up for discussion. In most cases, other teens gave her a disbelieving look the minute she mentioned jazz, and walked off. Such was not the case today.
"Hey Madi, hold up a second!" a slightly husky voice called from behind her as she tried desperately to wade through the sea of people rushing to escape the school building for the weekend. The luxury of turning her head wasn't exactly available to her at the time, and even if it had been, she wouldn't have done it, so she kept walking.
"Madi! Hey, I'm talkin' to you!"
A hand on her shoulder stopped her just inches from freedom. Gripping her library books tightly for moral support, she turned slowly to face Tony.
"What is it?" she sighed, glaring at him.
"Look, um, there's an Elvis concert in town tomorrow. I was wondering if you might wanna go or somethin'," he said, his voice full of confidence. She looked at him, pitying him for his persistence.
"No thanks, Tony. I'm doing chores all day tomorrow, and, no offense, but I'd rather do that than go somewhere with you. If you think one stupid concert will make everything up to me, then you had better think again, Einstein. And in case you didn't know, I prefer JAZZ," she hissed at him. After Wednesday's fiasco, things hadn't really gotten much better between them, and so she just wasn't in the mood to humor him anymore.
"Hey, you don't gotta say it like that! What'd I do?" he asked defensively. She stuck her tongue in her cheek and just looked at him.
"Oh hell no. You cannot be mad at me for Wednesday. You called me a faggot, Mads. I think, if anything, I should be mad at you!" he said. Her expression changed to one of utter disbelief.
"Oh my God, you've got to be kidding me. For one, my name is MADI. Not MADS! I get so sick of telling you that, you know it? Two, it's not just Wednesday I'm mad at you for. You've made this entire week a living hell. First, there was Wednesday. Then, there was yesterday, when you nailed me in the eye with a SPITBALL. Do you have any idea how long my eye watered after that? And what's worse is that I doubt that most of the stuff coming out of my eye was water! Not to mention today when you somehow found my desk in my classroom and sabotaged it to fall apart when I sat in it! I think I have every right to be furious with you, Tony Bourdain. We are NOT FRIENDS, and therefore, you should really take a hint and leave me alone! I ALSO think that I put up with enough of your crap during school, so if you don't mind, I'm leaving."
And so she did, leaving Tony utterly speechless at the front door of the school.
"And, uh...that's what happened," Madi finished, smiling nervously at the children's thoughtful expressions. Feeling as though she was missing something, she quickly asked, "What?" The older children shared a nice, long glance while Donnie looked at them each in turn and shrugged at her.
"Boy, he's really got it bad for ya," Di said sympathetically.
"Yeah, he does. You know he just does all those things to get a rise out of you," Daniel added.
"Awwwww Madi and Tony sitting in a tree! K-I-S-"
Madi cut Gary off with nothing more than a look, causing the other kids to giggle. She sighed.
"Alright, well since you're all such experts on teenage relationships, why don't you tell me what to do?" she asked smartly. The children stared at her blankly, bringing a grin to her face.
"That was a joke, guys. As in ha-ha funny." ************************************************************
That night, Madi returned to the library like always, and Tony led Mark and Ralph past the school as always. His friends never asked why they went the same way every night, probably because they didn't notice. Every night, Madi would cook herself something for dinner and later retire to the library and curl up with a good book. And every night, Tony would walk by, and watch her till she fell asleep. The routine was always the same, and Tony began to wonder why she never went home. He would watch over her, unwilling to admit that he was worried that someone might catch her, or worse, but nothing ever happened. He sometimes wondered why he suddenly cared so much, but always dismissed the question, unsure of the answer. He decided by that night that she just felt most at home in the library, even if that was the nerdiest thing he'd ever heard of. For the fourth time that week, he watched her nod off, and, satisfied that there was nothing about to leap out of the bushes and attack her, he walked away.
"Well, class, I want you all to know how much I enjoyed having you this year, even those of you that may have caused a problem or two," Ms. Roberts told her class dryly. Any teenager with half a brain could tell that she didn't mean a word of it, but for most, the feeling was mutual. It was May 30th, the last day of school. Madi had been trapped in this time for four whole weeks already, and they'd flown by nearly unnoticed. She'd settled into the daily routine of this town and hadn't even seen it happening. As Ms. Roberts passed out the report cards (they were so much more interesting than the ones at home!), she realized that she'd be sad leaving this place. School was so much more fun, even though she learned absolutely nothing new, other than the things she learned just by living in the 1950's. She didn't let the idea of leaving get her down, though, because at the rate she was going, she was never going to get home. Not that it mattered much, anyway. There couldn't be too many people missing her, she figured. Glancing at her classmates, it was obvious that not too many people here would miss her over the summer, either.
Oh, the joys of summer vacation, Madi thought as she left the school building. I'll probably be done with them within the first hour. As cynical as she sounded, she was actually in a relatively good mood that day. During her teaching period, Tony had stayed perfectly quiet, and rather thoughtful, it had seemed. The other freshman had paid attention to her as well, and had even asked a question or two! It had probably been one of the most relaxed days of her life, but it wouldn't last for long. Slipping around the side of the building, Madi slid her books through the small back window and, pulling her hair back into a ponytail and smoothing her skirt, she decided to go see what was playing at The Premiere.
The Premiere was the single most beautiful theater Madi had ever seen in her seventeen years, and ironically, it was built before then. The name of the theater was made of neon lights that flashed gold and red at night, and the sign underneath the letters advertised "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Watching teens line up to buy tickets for the film, she wondered what in the world she was doing here. It wasn't like she could get in anyway. Shrugging, she turned to leave.
"Hey Madi," Tony said to her. Oblivious, she gave a short, "Hi," and kept walking. Mark and Ralph snorted, and when Tony glared at them, they morphed it into a hacking cough. Realizing who she'd been talking to, Madi whirled around to face them, wide-eyed and a bit flushed.
"Tony! Hi," she greeted him, trying her hardest to be nice. It was summer vacation, after all, and, since the other kids were leaving, she could use someone her age to spend time with. He'd earned her attention, she reasoned, by behaving so well in class. However, the cocked eyebrow and lack of smile said that he was obviously suspicious of her. She grimaced at the awkwardness of it all. He sighed and addressed Mark and Ralph.
"Can you guys go inside and give us a minute?" he asked, even though the tone in his voice wasn't really that of a request. Ralph snickered and Mark made kissing noises as they sped inside to avoid Tony's death glare. Madi had to hide a grin behind her hand. Nearly growling, Tony turned back to her. The pair shared an awkward silence until Tony broke it.
"Look, me and the guys are gonna see a movie," he began uncertainly, "If you're not still mad at me, I was wondering if...maybe you wanted to use that raincheck now?" The shyness in his voice made her involuntarily smile, bringing a slightly more confident grin to Tony's face. Taking a deep breath, Madi gave him the first genuine smile he'd ever earned, and gave her answer.
"Alright, I'll go."
Shrill screams pierced through the theater, but they most definitely did not pierce the silence. The theater was ridiculously loud, and food was flying all over the place. Madi could feel bits of popcorn falling on her from the balcony above, and she would have to pick it out of her curls as she tried her hardest to focus on the interesting, yet incredibly lame movie. Ralph was on one side of her, and Tony on the other. Mark was sitting on the other side of Tony, thankfully. He was one of the teens throwing popcorn at the screen and being incredibly obnoxious. Everyone in the theater seemed thoroughly frightened, except, of course, for Madi. Her mouth hung open at the sheer lameness of it all. Turning towards her and noticing her jaw nearly touching the floor, Tony gave a short laugh and shut her mouth for her.
"You know, if you don't watch it, you might find yourself eating something other than candy with your trap hangin' open like that," he told her with a smile. She looked at him and was about to laugh when a very large and very sticky piece of candy dropped right between her breasts. Right in front of Tony. Glaring at the piece of candy, she mentally cursed it and reached to take it out when Tony beat her to the punch. Reaching right into her cleavage without a care in the world, he snatched the small candy and ate it, raising his eyebrows mockingly. Her jaw dropped again and, with neither Mark or Ralph watching, she lightly slapped him across the face. His eyes widened while hers narrowed, and, blushing in unison at the sudden silence around them, they both directed their gazes back at the screen and sunk down in their chairs.
After the film ended, Mark and Ralph each went home, saying they had "homework". Neither Madi nor Tony questioned it, both secretly happy that they had time alone. They strolled along the streets, Madi's arms grasping Tony's as she pointed out all the strange yet beautiful things she'd discovered during her stay in the town. Although he honestly couldn't care less about any of it, he kept quiet, just wanting to stay with her as long as possible. He hoped that maybe she'd say something about the library.
In the weeks that she'd taught him, he'd repeated his routine every night, and had gradually come to the conclusion that, for whatever reason, she was homeless. This epiphany had come to him one morning when he had arrived at school early, strictly by chance. He had curiously walked by the library, sure that by that time, Madi had left for home, but, to his surprise, such was not the case. Upon looking in the window, he saw her just as he'd left her the night before, sleeping on her stomach using a book as a pillow. The next morning, he had arrived early again, just to assure himself that it wasn't just a coincidence, and again, he'd found her asleep with a book.
He didn't dare mention this to her, of course. He was afraid that she'd run away again, embarrassed or afraid that he'd tell, not to mention unnerved by what could easily be construed as stalking. As she glanced at him with an excited smile on her face, he smiled back and nodded like he'd been listening.
A small, helpless voice called to them from a nearby storm drain. Madi's smile of excitement changed to a gasp of horror as she turned to see a tiny black ball of fuzz struggling to escape the drain, but failing miserably. Tony followed her gaze, and, noticing only her reaction, dove at it just before its claws lost their grip.
"Gotcha!" he wheezed, one arm in the drain up to the shoulder, holding the kitten around the middle. His reply was a faint, echoing, "Mew!"
"Oh my God, Tony! Did you save it?!" Madi squealed frantically, running to where he lay on the ground. Exhaling loudly against the hot cement, he scrambled to his feet, pulling the kitten out of the drain before he dropped it. Breathing a sigh of relief, he glanced down at the tiny fur ball.
The kitten's eyes were the same icy blue as his own, and its fur matched his hair. It looked up at him fearfully, yet gratefully, nearly making him smile. Locking gazes with the wee little animal, he realized what he'd just done. He'd just done something kind, even heroic. In front of Madi, no less. Embarrassed and blushing slightly, he turned slowly to face her. Seeing her shocked expression, his head drooped, and he stared at the ground, shuffling his feet. Before he could think twice, he offered the kitten to her with outstretched arms.
"Here," he muttered almost inaudibly, his eyes never leaving the ground. In a state of total disbelief, Madi closed her gaping mouth and beamed at him, trying at the same time not to embarrass him too much. She understood that this was about a mile out of character for him, and so made the moment as painless as possible. Still beaming at his head hung in shyness, she reached out and covered his hands with hers.
"Thank you," she told him simply. As if in reply, he slowly raised his icy blue gaze to meet hers, which almost completely melted the layer of ice around her heart he'd created. Immediately following, the kitten rolled his big pale-blue eyes to look at her as well. Suddenly, Madi found herself smiling at a pair of interspecies twins, and her smile grew. Taking the small animal in her arms as Tony brushed his jacket off, she looked at him in a whole new light. They shared a long glance, accompanied by total silence, and, setting the kitten on her shoulder, Madi hugged him tightly around the neck and gave him a short, thankful peck on the cheek. Smiling back uneasily, Tony hesitantly put a leather-clad arm around her shoulders and led her off, looking away to hide the beet-red blush that was creeping up from beneath his collar.
"It's getting late...I should probably go," Madi said quietly and reluctantly. To her own astonishment, she truly hadn't wanted this day to end, but, regardless of what she wished, it did anyway. Receiving silence as her answer, she glanced at Tony, who rested against the large tree next to her, his fingers laced behind his head. He turned towards her, opening one eye, and Little Tony, the kitten dozing on his chest, looked up sleepily. She couldn't help but to grin at the perfect little picture. Still smiling, she rested an elbow on her knees and cupped her chin in her hand, waiting for a response of some kind. Realizing that she was serious, the corners of Tony's mouth turned slightly downwards in an adorable frown. Sitting up straight, he picked up Little Tony and handed him to Madi.
"Be sure to, uh, take care of him then," he told her, clearing his throat in the process. She rolled her eyes and held up three fingers in the girl scout salute, saying smartly, "On my honor," before rising to her feet to leave. Stumbling to his feet as well, Tony offered to walk her home, knowing full well the answer he'd get. Just as he suspected, an expression of panic crossed her face for no more than a moment, and, replacing her mask of contentment, she gave a short, "No thanks," in reply. Dropping the subject instantly, he reluctantly agreed and sent her and Little Tony off with nothing more than a quick squeeze on the hand. For some reason, he felt as if he was making a mistake by sending her off alone today. Watching her leave alone made every single muscle of his tense completely, and he just couldn't do it.
"Madi, wait!" he cried, jogging to catch up with her. She whirled around to face him, eyebrows raised, almost seeming hopeful.
"What is it?" she asked him, a bit taken aback by his abrupt change in behavior. He seemed to fumble with the words in his mind for an impossibly long space of time before answering her.
"Listen...if you ever need a place to stay...um...You're welcome at my place. See, I've got a tree house that I built when I was little. I know it sounds stupid, but it's got enough space for someone to stay in. I could leave a pillow and blanket up there if you needed it." He pleaded her with his eyes to say yes, and the sheer desperation of his actions made her fear for herself. Not from him, however. She feared something else, but she couldn't tell for the life of her what it was. Going against her better judgment, she put on her best smile and replied, "What makes you think I need a place to stay? I told you I have a home, didn't I?" Staring her down, he quietly said, "Madi, if you call a library a home, you've got to be the biggest dork I've ever met." Uh oh, she thought, busted. Flushing ever so slightly, she occupied herself with fixing his shirt as she replied.
"Tony, I really appreciate your offer. I promise you, I do. But, trust me when I say this. I'll be okay where I am." Glancing up to meet his frantic eyes, just inches from hers, her smile faltered for just a second before finishing, "Don't worry about me, okay? I'll be fine." Watching his expression remain unchanged, she sighed, "You wanna walk me 'home?'" Finally relaxing, he nodded quickly and took her hand in his.
"Tony, for the last time, I promise you I'll be alright for the night," Madi giggled at him from the ground. She was dangling from the small basement window and trying to convince Tony to go home without much luck. With her small feet swinging freely at least three feet from the basement floor, she rested her chin in her hands and gazed at him, waiting for him to accept that she was right. With a soft sigh of defeat, he surrendered and knelt down to hand her Little Tony when she dropped to the floor. He turned to leave, but stopped and laid back on his stomach in the grass.
"Be careful, alright?" he told her, his bangs fluttering in the breeze. Wondering what in the world had come over him, she nodded reassuringly. Giving her that gorgeous half-smile, he spontaneously leaned in towards her and kissed her lightly on the lips. Her legs kicked excitedly in the air as her heart erupted in an explosion of butterflies. Pulling away from her slowly, the smile returned to his face along with an ever so slight blush. Looking at him through her eyelashes, trying to be as smooth and alluring as possible, her face split in a huge goofy grin, making him grin in reply as he strolled off.
A giddy squeal escaped Madi's lips as she danced around the empty library with Little Tony as her one-animal audience. Never before had she felt so alive at the end of the day, and never before had she felt so vivacious and bright. It helped that she had downed about half of the school's supply of sugary products as well, but she figured the trembling and speed-freak characteristics would pass soon enough. Little Tony mewed at her from an empty space in the bookshelf to her left, stopping her in front of him.
"What is it?" she asked breathlessly. He cocked his head at her and yawned adorably, making her giggle hysterically. Unfortunately for her, yawns were dreadfully contagious, and so she came screaming down from the sugar high as fast as she'd climbed it. Glancing at the clock, which now read almost three a.m., she rubbed her eyes sleepily and sighed.
"Oh, I guess you're right. It may be the summer, but we do need to sleep," she muttered, yawning again and picking the kitten up from the shelf. Arranging her small supply of clothes into the general shape of a pillow and a blanket, she laid on her side with Little Tony sitting in front of her.
Madi's eyes shot open at her kitten's frightened cry. At first glance, she saw nothing wrong with the room, but as her eyes focused better, something was definitely going on. Nothing had been moved or disturbed, but there was something different in the air, and the longer she stared at Little Tony, the more she noticed that his breath was coming in little wisps of fog, as well as her own. There also seemed to be something wrong with the world's color. Either her imagination was playing tricks on her, or the color was being sucked out of everything around her. As the temperature of the air dropped immensely, she began to shiver, holding the cat closer to her. An extra sense told her that something very, very bad was nearby, and as if to confirm her fears, Little Tony's ears rotated until they faced directly behind her. Her breath caught in her throat as the hairs on the back of her neck stood at attention. Madi had always been the sort of person that believed if she didn't acknowledge something, it didn't exist. Therefore, she did just that. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten.
"One...two...three...four," she whispered, telling herself that she was just being paranoid. Her voice began to tremble as she felt a breeze stir her hair from behind.
"Five...six...seven." She felt something just centimeters from her, but ever so slowly backing off.
"Eight...nine...ten," she finished, hesitantly opening one eye. Everything was perfectly normal, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Trembling like a leaf, she turned to glance behind her. Nothing. Looking back at her cat, she blinked once or twice, wondering what she could have just "witnessed". He just stared back at her.
"Was it me, or did you just feel that too?" she asked him. He turned his head to the side and mewed at her, pawing her arm lightly.
"Yeah. That's what I thought."
Madi awoke with a startled gasp.
The night before had been none too enjoyable from what she could remember, and as she woke up completely, she realized that she was drenched in sweat. Little Tony lay on his back beside her, pawing at the sky. Combing her hair with her fingers, she glanced around the empty library, finding that everything was as she'd left it. Dismissing the night before as nothing but a dream, she picked up the kitten and left for the gym showers.
Almost an hour later, Madi squeezed out through the basement window with Little Tony, and decided to take a stroll down Avenue A. May 31st was as every summer day should be-sunny and bright-yet there was almost no one outdoors that day. The streets she passed were literally empty, and the world was silent and still. Hoping she might meet up with one of the greasers soon, Madi began to hum a little tune to steady her nerves.
Rather close to the intersection of Avenue F and 56th Street were numerous alley ways and back streets. Madi had always been wary of them, not exactly keen on being mugged. However, Madi decided that this was the 1950s, and such things didn't happen. When she reached the middle of the intersection, a strange sensation came over her from the hairs on her head to the tips of her toenails. Little Tony seemed to experience it as well, for he almost immediately leaned over her brow and stared at her, voicing a small "Mew!" This sensation compelled her to tear off as fast as her feet would carry her back down Avenue F. However, Madi was a curious girl, and so ignored the sensation and entered one of the alley ways on pure instinct. With each step she took into the alley, her kittens claws sunk a centimeter deeper into her scalp, and his unnaturally deep growls heightened in volume. Nearly tearing him away from her, she cradled him protectively in her arms, peeking around the dumpsters stationed against the brick walls and cautiously into the manhole cover on the ground. There was nothing there but her and Little Tony. Sighing in disappointment, she hitched the kitten up in her arms and turned back the way she'd come. A soft sighing sound whipped her around in her tracks.
The manhole cover she'd looked through was emitting scorching hot steam which was blurring the edges of her vision. As she stared at the steadily rising steam, a dark figure seemed to materialize inside of it. Watching the figure in disbelief, she noticed it begin to sway. As it swayed ever so slowly from side to side, it came nearer to her, and Little Tony panicked, clawing at her like mad before sprinting out of the alley. Suddenly utterly alone, she gaped at the figure, now completely clear and oh-so-very-real. As it (seemingly) breathed, she could see the oxygen in the air being sucked into the shape she could only figure was its head. After a moment or two, the figure emitted a sickly green cloud from the same place, and images of nuclear plants and mushroom clouds surfaced fuzzily in her mind. Completely confused and terribly frightened, her brain told her to investigate, but her instincts ordered her to run like hell was at her heels. The instinct won out in the end, and she tore out of the alley, flying over a rather large rock in the road in the process and erasing the skin from her elbows and knees. Taking in a breath to fuel a blood-curdling shriek, her head whipped around to face the alley, and to her amazement, there was absolutely nothing there.
"Wow. Wish I had a camera for that flight."
A joyously familiar voice lifted her head from the ground. Struggling to pull herself into a sitting position on trembling arms, she realized the effort was fruitless and collapsed back to the ground. Little Tony, after regaining his composure it seemed, took his place by her side, sitting like a furry knight in shining armor beside her. Watching this, Tony knelt beside her and offered her a hand up. Gazing at his hand for what felt like hours, Madi finally accepted it and rose to stand in front of him, her knees and elbows screaming in pain. She could've sworn there were at least three rather large pieces of gravel lodged inside them.
"Hey...are you alright?" he asked her, leaning down so he could look up into her downward cast eyes. Blinking away hot, oncoming tears, she nodded quickly and looped her arm in his, plastering on the best smile she could muster.
"What're you two idiots doin' out here?" Tony asked Mark and Ralph jokingly. They were playing cards on a wooden park bench, fighting away boredom, it seemed like. Both of them glanced up at the sound of his voice and, noticing Madi, uttered an unsurprised, "Hey Tony. Hey Madi." Madi waved at them shyly, looking at Tony for reassurance. She'd always been very shy when officially befriending new people, and this fact was one the time period didn't change. Approaching the boys, Madi grimaced in pain at the sting of her joints as the skin attempted to stretch with her movements. As the boys walked over to join them, she happened to glance down at where her knees were underneath her skirt. A pair of miniscule, almost unnoticeable dots of red were gradually spreading across the fabric. As she watched the blood spread ever so slowly, the three boys discussed their plans for the day, muttering amongst themselves as if Madi wasn't there. With her eyes shifting from one face to the next, she interjected, "Um...before we do anything, can I go fix myself up? I'm kinda bleeding everywhere, you know." Their gazes shifted to her and back to each other as they all shrugged indifferently, not even bothering to ask why she was bleeding. Oh well, she thought, most boys are pretty ignorant anyway. Waiting for one of them to offer her a place to clean up, she crossed her arms across her chest and looked at them patiently. The boys were none too bright, so she remained like that for a minute or two until Mark and Tony realized what she wanted and elbowed Ralph in the ribs. He glared at both of them in turn, and gradually realized what everyone was waiting for. Finally, he glanced at Madi shyly and offered, "You can clean up at my place..."
Smiling in relief, she motioned for him to lead the way.
Madi hissed in pain as Tony tried his best to extract the final ridiculously large bit of gravel from her left elbow with a clumsy looking pair of tweezers in Ralph's bathroom. Being a bit of a tough girl, she was attempting to hold back oncoming tears, but if he didn't get the rock out soon, she'd definitely lose the fight. Mark and Ralph were out in the living room watching American Bandstand, and Madi could hear them booing and cheering at the TV. She might have giggled if she wasn't in so much pain.
"Hang on just one second, Madi. I almost got it," Tony told her reassuringly. As he tried to distract her with conversation, her eyes were drawn back to the ring around his finger. It was beautiful like she remembered, but it was also a man's ring; she could tell that much. The pure silver seemed to wink at her in the bright fluorescent lights, and she couldn't help but to stare at it for a split-second before jerking her eyes back up to meet his. His brow furrowed in concentration as he angled her arm up to the light.
"Okay, Madi, I'm gonna need you to grab onto something. This might hurt...a lot. The rock's in there pretty deep," Tony sighed at her. Grimacing, she latched on to the bar on the shower door beside her. It had seemed sturdy enough. Squeezing her eyes shut, she listened to Tony count to three, and her fingers convulsed into a death grip around the bar as he quickly yanked the bit of gravel from her arm. A short, wheezy, "ow," escaped her lips as he threw away the rock and cleaned the wound before hiding it under a large band-aid.
"There. You're good," he said with a grin, making her sigh in relief. Wincing as she lowered her arm to her side, she left the bathroom a step or two ahead of him and, grabbing Mark and Ralph from their chairs in front of the TV, left the house before Ralph's parents even noticed she was there.
As they all walked down Main Street towards the park, Madi told the others to meet her there and took a detour to the school with Little Tony. Since they really weren't going to do anything that day, she slid through the small window and grabbed her latest book to take with her to the park.
"What the hell is this?" Ralph asked her, grabbing the book the moment she met up with them and passing it to Mark. Mark quickly read the cover and looked at her like she'd gone sick in the head or something.
"Gone With the Wind?! You're kidding me, right?!" he asked her incredulously. She looked at him indifferently.
"Hey now, don't be jealous just 'cause I use more than one brain cell," she retorted, making Tony snicker beside her. The four of them sat beneath a large, but beautiful, apple tree which seemed to be nearing its final years. Some of the branches dipped low enough that if one of them were to reach up a bit, they could have touched it. Speaking of which, Madi stretched one of her arms out to grab a pretty crimson apple from the branch, but alas, her arms were just short of it. As Mark and Ralph goggled over the number of pages in the book (or so it seemed to Madi), Tony smirked at her and snatched the fruit off of the branch for her. She gave him a sweet smile and a short "thank you" in return.
Like that morning, the park was completely empty, save for them and the kitten, who was chasing butterflies in the tall grass. However, unlike the morning, the silence was peaceful instead of unnerving, and she relaxed against the tree, taking a bite out of the apple and drifting worlds away as she did so.
She arrived back on Earth to the sickeningly strong smell of cigarette smoke. The scent curled the edges of her mouth into a disgusted grimace, and she covered her mouth and nose with her left hand, glancing at the other boys to see if they smelled it too.
To her amazement, they were the cause of the smell! The three of them were just smoking away right in front of her!!! However, they had no idea how much she resented the habit, so they didn't even notice her wide eyes, moments from popping out of their sockets and rolling through the grass. They may not have known about her pet peeve, but boy, was she going to give them an earful! Calmly, she stood up and plucked the cigarette from each of their fingers.
"NO!" she practically squealed, stomping the cigarette to bits. "No, no, no, no, NO!!!" The three stared at her like she'd completely blown a gasket.
"What the hell was that for?! Those things are expensive!!!" Tony demanded, glaring at her. Regaining her composure for a moment, she rejoined them on the ground and attempted to explain.
"What is wrong with you guys?!?!?! Don't you know those are toxic?!" she hissed. Their blank gazes reminded her that, in the fifties, no one really knew how bad cancer-sticks were for them. She decided to use her knowledge and a teensy white lie to help her case.
"Look, those things are called cancer-sticks where I come from." Not a lie. "In Ireland, no one smokes them anymore." Total lie. "See, here's the thing. If something isn't already in your body, and your body tries to reject it, then it's not supposed to be there. Sure, cigarettes seem great now, oh yeah. But they won't be so cool when your teeth start turning yellow, and your lungs shrivel up." Sighing in frustration at their unconcerned faces, she just came out and said it.
"YOU'RE SMOKING RAT POISON!!!" she yelled at them, her chest heaving with angry oxygen. The boys stared at her as they continued smoking, wondering where she'd heard that crazy story. Sighing in defeat, Madi returned to her spot against the tree, shielding her face from the smoke with her book.
"So...what's it like having an entire school to yourself?" Tony asked her curiously. The sun was setting, and he had once again walked her back to the school, Little Tony perched on his head like a furry fez. Madi glanced at the red-orange ball of light and shrugged.
"Well, it's not incredibly amazing, but it has its advantages I guess. I get the entire library to myself-" Tony playfully rolled his eyes at this, "and I can take whatever cafeteria food I want. Other than that, though, it's just like having a really big house...with...classrooms in it..." Tony grinned at her, gently tousling her hair. She smirked back at him, watching the sun drift ever so slowly beneath the horizon. After a moment or two of thought, Tony glanced at her.
"Why did you freak out so badly when me and the guys started smoking in front of you? Besides the fact that it's, uh...bad for us, I mean," he asked quietly. She winced at the question, as if it caused her physical pain.
"Tony...there's a lot about me you don't know. Most of it I'd rather keep to myself," she said with a sorrowful smile. He looked at her questioningly. She wondered whether she should tell him that she was from the future or not. Yet again, she decided against it and told him what she could.
"Let's just say that all of those poisons that people don't need and yet are undeniably attracted to have caused a lot of trouble in my life. I've lost so many people to drinking, smoking, and stuff I'd rather not even talk about." Realizing that her statements were making him uncomfortable, she added, "But it happened a long time ago, so it's not so bad anymore." Tony looked at her for a long while, seeming to debate with himself, and in the end, he nodded as if in agreement with himself, and took out the carton of cigarettes.
"Alright. Well, if that's the way you feel about it, I'm gonna make you a promise." Madi's eyes alighted with hope, which she bashfully attempted to hide. Taking her petite hand in his, he raised her chin so her eyes met his.
"From this moment on, I swear to you that I'll never pick up another one of those...what'd you call them?"
"Cancer-sticks," Madi interjected.
"-cancer-sticks again for as long as I live." As her face brightened with a brilliant smile, she added quietly, "Really?" Giving a short bark of a laugh, he replied, "Yeah, scout's honor." She took her hand back, cocking an eyebrow at him. His eyes widened and he said quietly, "What?!" Her smile widened into gleeful laughter.
"Oh come on!!! You were never a scout, you dirty liar!" she giggled, lightly pushing him away as he shrugged sheepishly. In response, he grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground, tickling her wildly as he went.
The next morning, Madi reluctantly awoke, rubbing her eyes like a small child.
"Hey baby, wanna see my fallout shelter?"
Her fists froze against her closed eyelids. Oh God, there's a guy in here, a big, hairy guy with totally lame pickup lines, she whined in her head. I'm totally screwed!!! Rethinking what she'd just told herself, she added, no pun intended!!!
Pretending like she was still asleep, Madi sucked in a deep breath, and, praying that she had great blind aim, shot her foot straight out behind her.
"OH DEAR GOD!!!!" Madi was tempted to giggle at the wheezy squeak until she recognized the voice. Hoping to God she was wrong, she cautiously turned over and her gaze fell on Tony, crumpled in a heap on the library floor. Her hands flew to her mouth in shock...and to suppress hysterical giggles. Biting her tongue, she rose to her knees to help him.
"Oh Tony, I'm so (she stifled a giggle) sorry!!! I didn't know it was you!!!"
"Well I'm glad to hear you wouldn't just do that to me to be a jerk..." he wheezed in reply. Geez, she thought worriedly, seeing the tears in his eyes, I didn't think I hit him that hard.
"I'll go get you some ice. Just...stay here, alright?" she told him.
"No problem...I think I can manage..."
As Madi left the room blushing like mad, she passed Little Tony, curled up in a ball staring at her, his emerald green eyes glowing in the dark corner of the hallway he occupied. Strangely enough, it seemed as if he'd grown a few inches overnight. She also noticed something else strange about him, but it didn't occur to her until she was shoveling ice from the freezer into an ice pack she'd grabbed from the nurse's office.
Weren't Little Tony's eyes the same color as Tony's?
"So what was with the disturbing wake up call, huh? Your pickup line was beyond lame," Madi said to Tony, trying not to snicker at his pained waddle. Wincing at her, he smiled wanly.
"Well, the pickup line was supposed to be lame, Madi. You should know by now that I'm too cool for them, anyway. I wanted to go get you before you spent the whole morning looking for me and the guys. I thought that maybe today, it could be just you and me," he said tentatively. When he waited for a reply and received none, he added, "...if you want?" Madi glanced up at him with a quick grin and nodded wildly.
"Great," he sighed in relief. Looking around him thoughtfully, he glanced back at her and asked, "So why don't we go to my treehouse? I mean, you don't know where it is yet, and Mark and Ralph wouldn't think to look there." Giving him an uncommonly melodious laugh, she shrugged and replied energetically, "Sure!"
About ten minutes later, the pair ended up in front of a small, broken-down looking house with peeling paint and broken shutters. There was a single red truck with fading paint in the driveway which looked to be in a dire state of disrepair. Glancing at him quickly, she asked quietly, "This your place?" He grimaced, his face flushing a deep red.
"Well yeah...but it's not as bad as it seems..." She shook her head quickly and replied, "Oh no, I like it. It actually looks...lived in." Silently, he grabbed her hand and led her through the back gate and up into the treehouse.
The treehouse, in Madi's eyes, was so much cooler than any other she'd ever seen. It was large enough for a few teenagers to fit in, and even had small pieces of furniture inside. Tony was one of the few owners with a large enough tree for a luxurious treehouse, and he seemed to have used it to his advantage. Shyly, Madi cautiously relaxed in a corner of the small room. Tony, on the other hand, plopped down in the opposite corner, shaking the treehouse ever so slightly and handing Little Tony to Madi in the process. Madi's eyes widened in panic, believing the treehouse would tumble to the ground, taking all three of them with it. Seeing her pallid face, Tony laughed.
"Don't freak out, Madi! This thing'll hold us! I built it, after all." She sneered at him, replying, "That's what worries me about it." In response, he chucked a large pillow at her head, missing ever so slightly.
"You know, if your building skills are as bad as your aim, then I definitely have something to worry about!" Madi giggled, dodging another pillow. Tony glared at her, resting his arm on one raised knee. Gradually, her giggle subsided, and she became all business. After all, she hadn't really gotten to know this boy, and, from what she had heard about him, she had become rather curious. Sitting Indian-style the best she could in the skirt, she began to interview him.
"So Tony, tell me a little about yourself." He looked up at her, one eyebrow raised.
"What d'you wanna know?" he asked. She shrugged, thinking to herself.
"Well...how 'bout you start on the day you were born?"
And so Tony narrated his life story, from start to the present. He'd been born in the year 1939 in the hospital just down the road from the school. On his birth certificate, his name really had been signed "Tony" instead of "Anthony" or something. His parents were William and Mary Bourdain, a pair that, let's face it, just wasn't meant to be. Other than to create the most beautiful boy on the face of the earth, of course! Madi thought bashfully to herself. For the first decade of his life or so, Tony's parents had been the model couple, teaching Tony to ride a bike, taking him to the park and going to his little league games (he'd been on the local baseball team from ages five to ten, where he met Mark and Ralph). He'd had a happy childhood for the most part, and surprisingly enough, Mark and Ralph had been present throughout all of it. However, as the years went on, the relationship between Tony's parents became increasingly strained, and, rather cruelly, the both of them blamed it on him. He knew this from numerous drunk arguments the couple had had with him in the house with them. Sparing Madi most of the details, he skipped ahead to where he dropped out of baseball and started spending as much time out of the house as possible to avoid his parents, who, for some unfathomable reason, were still together.
Knowing Tony wouldn't like it, she averted her gaze, hiding the sympathy in her eyes. Pursuing the subject no further, she broke the awkward silence by asking Tony about the thing she was severely interested in: his ring.
"Oh, this?" he asked distractedly glancing at the circle of gorgeous silver encircling his finger. She nodded slightly. He gave her his trademark boyish grin and replied, "It was my dad's. He gave it to me when I was little, back when we all got along. He said it was his most precious possession, and so I never let it out of my sight. Course, I couldn't fit into it then. I actually just grew into it recently," he finished, dreamily gazing out the small window. Seeing her eye on it, he added slyly, "Sorry babe, like I said: I don't ever let it out of my sight." Her cheeks flushed as she abruptly stared at the floor.
"Oh, I understand," she replied flippantly, severely disappointed. Just then, Little Tony leapt from her lap to Tony's and began to rub against his stomach, begging to be petted. She rolled her eyes at the ridiculously cute display of affection between the pair.
"You know, it seems like he thinks you're his dad or something," she giggled. As much as Tony hated to admit it, he was rather attached to the little furball, and so simply shrugged at her bashfully. As Tony played with his feline counterpart, she saw the side of Tony that few others ever got to see; the side that smiled, laughed, and joked like any other teenager. Sighing with contentment, she pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her chin on them.
To Madi, and probably any of her friends if they could ever meet him, Tony was unquestionably the most gorgeous boy she'd ever seen, movie stars and singers included. At first, she thought it just might be the time period, because she had always found the greaser stereotype attractive, but Mark, with his long brown hair and hazel eyes, and Ralph, with his short dark hair and wild blue eyes, were cute, but just couldn't compare in the least to Tony. His jet black hair hung messily over his eyes, straight but unkempt. Thin strands of it fluttered in the slight breeze, attracting her gaze to his eyes. His eyes were unlike any Madi had ever seen in her life-pale as the shadows on a glacier with slight streaks of white, blue grey, and a few spots of sky blue. The blue beauties were framed in a perfectly symmetrical face, shadowed with the slightest bit of stubble and with a pale complexion. As Tony playfully fought with the kitten, muscles flexed in his arms that Madi hadn't noticed before, possibly because the leather jacket that usually hid them was discarded in the opposite corner.
For nearly ten minutes, Madi simply stared at him. He never noticed until Little Tony ran back to her lap. When he finally glanced up to see her gazing dreamily at him, she remained totally unaware that he was gazing back. He then snapped his fingers an inch or two from her nose, bringing her back to reality with a jerk. Her dazed and confused expression made him laugh till his ribs began to hurt. As he laughed, Madi blushed a deep scarlet, completely unable to take her eyes off of him. His very smile made her weak in the knees. When his hysterical laughter finally subsided, his eyes met hers with a truly, truly content smile, and, as she responded with a smile of her own, she gradually came to realize that she was looking upon an angel in disguise.
By the time dusk arrived, Madi was begging it not to. She'd had the most amazing time with Tony, and the last thing she wanted was for that wonderful day to end. The pair walked hand in hand, with Little Tony weaving between their feet as they went. After about twenty minutes of walking, they stopped in front of the small window, their usual parting place.
"Well...I guess I'll see you later?" Madi said questioningly, clasping her hands behind her back and gazing up at him like a small child might. Tony began to shuffle his feet again, nervously averting his gaze. She cocked her head to one side like a puppy, wondering what she might have said to make him uncomfortable. After a long moment of awkward silence, he finally spoke in a small and uncertain voice.
"Madi...Madi I was wondering...if you'd...maybe wanna go steady with me-"
To be honest, you couldn't have asked Madi a better question that day. The split-second that "me" left his lips, she threw her arms around his neck and covered his lips with hers, cutting off anything else he might have had to say. When she finally withdrew, Tony's face was the exact color of a fire engine. She bashfully bit her lip and twiddled her thumbs.
"So...is that a yes?" he questioned. She gazed at him through her eyelashes and gave a small, shy, "Yes," in return. In his mind, he pumped his fist and screamed YES! but restrained himself from showing any sign of it. An awkward silence passed between them, and Madi, after fumbling with different words, turned to go into the school.
"Wait, Madi. Um..." Tony patted himself down, seeming to look for something, and finally settled on removing his leather jacket. She was a bit confused for a second, but soon caught on. She realized that here, boys gave their girlfriends something of theirs, usually a ring or their letterman jacket, to symbolize that they were going steady. This is sooooo much better than a letterman! she squealed in her mind as he slid his jacket up on her shoulders with a tentative smile. She adjusted it slightly and his smell nearly engulfed her. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, she snuggled herself tighter into the jacket, inhaling his scent as she turned to face him.
"Thanks, Tony," she told him sweetly, kissing him lightly before kneeling to slide into the annoyingly small window. After she hit the ground, Tony held the window open for their adoptive son.
"So I'll see you tomorrow, won't I?" Madi asked Tony through the window. He grinned at her, replying, "Sure thing." Madi lifted Little Tony's paw to wave at him. He waved back as he left for home.
Later that week, Tony began taking Madi places along with Mark and Ralph and their girlfriends. Being the love-struck nerd she was, Madi was excited not only about the fact that she got to go places with Tony, but she got to act like a normal teen in the 1950s. The first place they went together was a diner, and Madi had never tasted better food. It made her almost embarrassed of her own time period. Throughout their meal, a nearby jukebox played numerous hits of the fourties and fifties, some of which Madi actually knew. While they ate, Madi got to know Jenny and Katya, Mark and Ralph's girlfriends. Jenny was quiet and thoughtful, but incredibly funny and pretty. Her brunette curls and green eyes nearly matched Mark's, making them a simply adorable couple. Katya was a Russian, a bit more exotic than most girls. However, Madi was incredibly surprised at the lack of prejudice between the two, since it was a relationship between an American and an ex-Soviet. She figured this was one of Ralph's best qualities, his ability to look past the masks of society.
Throughout the rest of the month, the group went to numerous sock hops and drive-ins. Madi had never been much of a dancer, so at the sock hops, she tended to stick to the sidelines. Tony would beg her to dance with him just once, but Madi had seen Grease. All the flipping and spinning and throwing was just not for her, so she simply watched.
When she attended the drive-in, she discovered that absolutely no one cared what movie was playing. The whole point of the thing was to be alone in the dark with your date. Madi had never been very good with guys, so she tried to actually watch the movie. However, numerous...noises from the surrounding cars made it a bit difficult. Even though she felt like a bit of a lame date, she felt that Tony was a good sport about it, quietly watching the movie with her and behaving himself quite well. Unfortunately, after an uneventful movie or two, Tony stopped taking her to the drive-ins.
On another note, during the course of the summer, something rather strange had happened. It was something Madi could never truly share with Tony, so she kept it to herself. Throughout the month, Little Tony had grown...unbelievably in size. At the end of the first week she had him, he'd nearly doubled in size, and she had dismissed it as the wild growth of a normal kitten. Strangely enough, by this time, which was, in fact, June 30th, he had nearly quadrupled in size, being about the size of a mountain lion. He had become nearly impossible to hide from Tony, and she had a more and more difficult time keeping the pair apart.
His eyes had also begun to fluctuate between ice blue and the strange emerald green she'd begun to notice. It seemed as if they changed between day and night.
As baffled as she was about the "kitten's" growth and odd eye color, she kept her concerns to herself, knowing that even if he was a science experiment gone horribly wrong, he would in no way harm her or anyone she knew. So, she kept him around, making sure to keep him out of Tony's sight.
"You know, it'd be nice if you could talk to me and tell me why you're roughly the size of a freaking liger, LT." The cat growled sarcastically in reply. She had decided to give him a more manly name to go along with his new size. And yes, he had developed a very distinct personality, voicing his opinions in one way or another and poking fun at Madi the way only felines could: with the silent treatment. To Madi, the silent treatment was worse humiliation than a string of insults, and LT seemed to know it.
"Well...it seems like you're down to...chicken...chicken...chicken...chicken...and mashed potatoes. If you weren't so picky, you'd have way more choices, but, since you are, I'm guessing you want chicken," she muttered, pulling down a frozen chicken from one of the top shelves of the freezer and walking out to the cafeteria to keep her cat company while it cooked.
"Dear God, if you grow any more, I might have to hide you in a cave or something, you know that?!" Madi asked LT, straddling a chair in front of him. Singlehandedly, he covered an entire six-by-four lunch table to where one could only catch glimpses of the edges. His kitten fur had long since fallen out, and had been replaced by a thick, silky pelt. His head had grown to be as big as Madi's, possibly even bigger, and he reminded her vaguely of a manticore, with Tony's eyes in a furry face. He snuffed at her loudly and rested his chin on his paws.
"Madi? Madi, you in here?"
Madi froze at the sound of Tony's voice. He hadn't seen LT since he was small enough to fit in his palm, and she was sure seeing the animal at this size would give him a stroke, a heart attack, or both. Her eyes widening in alarm, she hissed at the cat, "Go to the library! Hide in there before he sees you!!!"
LT simply stared at her mockingly, his tail twitching ever so slightly behind him.
"Hey! You! Library! Now!" she snarled. He did nothing of the sort.
"Madi, answer me!" Tony called, his voice coming closer to her end of the school. Sighing in frustration, she sprinted back to the kitchen, grabbed the mostly raw chicken quickly out of the oven (obliviously burning herself as she did so), and waved it wildly in front of his muzzle. After a moment or two of futile resistance, LT gave in, stalking after the chicken like a lion on the prowl, making Madi wonder if she'd accidentally picked up a wildcat instead of an innocent little kitten. Hearing footsteps a little ways down the hall, she frantically tossed the chicken into a supply closet, slamming the door on LT's tail as he leaped in after it. The screech of a wounded oversized house cat answered her. Just before Tony rounded the corner to meet her, she quickly reopened the door and gingerly stuffed the tail into the closet along with the cat.
"There you are. Didn't you hear me calling you?" Tony asked her, looking at her a bit suspiciously. She shrugged sheepishly, kicking the door to silence what sounded a bit like a snicker.
"Good God, Madi, can't I leave you alone for one night without you injuring yourself?" Tony scolded, throwing her an ice pack from the nurse's storage area as they left the school for the day. Thoroughly embarrassed, Madi scratched her head and blushed deeply. He sighed, leading her out of the tiny window in the basement.
The majority of the day passed uneventfully, with Madi and Tony strolling through the forest and eating lunch at the popular diner down the street from Ralph's house. However, throughout the day, Tony was rather secretive, seeming as if he was keeping something from her. Of course, this was no different than the way she always was around him, so she paid it no mind. At the diner, after sharing a rather large milkshake (which Madi downed at least half of while Tony wasn't watching), Tony cleared his throat loudly, attracting her attention. She glanced at him, intrigued.
"Madi, how do you feel about...amusement parks?"
She stared at him like he'd just asked if she'd like a million dollars. Madi had always adored roller coasters, and therefore, was a frequent theme park visitor. Unfortunately, this was, of course, the fifties, and she doubted the roller coaster had been invented yet. There was, however, one ride she'd been anxious to try, and she was sure that it was around by now. Tony seemed to take her silence for cowardice, and so shrugged, murmuring, "Thought so," and slurped the last of the shake loudly. She whipped around to face him, her mouth wide in an open grin of playful anger. Deciding his question had been a challenge, she crossed her arms defiantly and answered him cockily.
"Ha. The question is, how do you feel about amusement parks?"
Tony and Madi stepped through the front gate into a classic amusement park, right out of an old movie. The scents of funnel cakes and cotton candy drifted through the air, making Madi drool a bit involuntarily. Tall carnival rides stretched above the food stands, with loud, vulgar colors in peeling and faded paint. Somehow, the cracked paint added to the authenticity of the place, and she smiled a bit. Her smile widened as she shifted her gaze to Tony, who grinned at her and took her hand. When she glanced back ahead of her, she found the exact ride she was looking for, seeming to gaze at her smugly. She backhanded Tony across the chest playfully, pointing at the steel monster. It was a stout cylinder in shape, with a ledge around it for riders to step on when entering and leaving it. At the moment, it was whirling wildly and making a distorted circle in the air, warping the shrieks from the passengers into muffled wails.
Tony gazed at her in utter shock, probably taken aback at her boldness. He cringed slightly, scratching his head in embarrassment.
"Really? That one? You sure you can handle it?" he asked jokingly. Her eyes widened at him as a huge knowing grin crossed her face.
"Tony Bourdain, you should know me well enough by now to understand that I'm not scared of anything!" she giggled, adding quickly, "How do you think I put up with you, you little greaser?!" He smiled at her uneasily, looking away uncomfortably. She looked at him encouragingly, saying, "You don't have to go on it with me if you don't want to. I won't tell anyone, I promise." Tony seemed to take this last bit offensively. He huffed at her indignantly.
"You're crazy if you think I'm gonna leave you alone in that line with tons of other guys around here," he practically growled, scowling at her. She snatched her chance.
"Why, afraid I'll meet someone better than you?" she snickered. His frown lines deepened, and he punched her lightly on the shoulder.
"Screw you, let's just get on the stupid ride."
Turns out the ride wasn't exactly a good idea. Madi hopped off of the steel platform, her heart pounding with adrenaline and her life now complete (rather pathetic, isn't it?). Tony, on the other hand, staggered down to the ground, his face paler than usual and very pasty. Realizing she'd lost him a few steps back, Madi turned to wait for him, and addressed his appearance when he reached her.
"Tony, are you alright? You're really pale...and you look like you're going to be-"
He finished her sentence for her, spitting in technicolor all over her shoes.
"Oh Tony, next time just tell me you have a weak stomach, alright? Don't put yourself through that just to be a tough guy," Madi scolded, gingerly removing Tony's jacket and his soiled shirt. She had practically carried him back to the school, breathing through her mouth to avoid the smell of regurgitated hamburger, and staring at the ground to avert disgusted glares. She sat on her knees, her poodle skirt flaring around her, creating a bit of a pillow for poor Tony. The pasty color in his face was gone, but he was still deathly pale. She grabbed a clean dishrag, wetted it, and spread it across his forehead. He looked at her bashfully, and probably would have blushed if he had been his normal color.
"I'm sorry Madi...I just never was that good with rides," he apologized, his voice nearly a whine. She ran her fingers through his hair (which he'd begun to let hang around his eyes without the aid of...whatever he'd been using) and removed the rag for a moment to kiss his forehead affectionately.
"Don't worry about it. It's kinda nice to get to take care of you for once, you know. Besides, you'll be better in no time," she told him. Proving her right, he blushed ever so slightly, nearly returning to his normal color, and smiled back at her. Suddenly ruining the moment, he asked her something she'd been hoping he'd forgotten about.
"What happened to Little Tony?" Her eyes widened momentarily as she became speechless. What could she tell him? LT's size would be too much for him in his current state. So, she did the only thing she could think of besides blatantly lying to him.
"Gee, Tony, I didn't think you cared!" she taunted, making him laugh before she quickly changed the subject. She disliked using Tony's sweet, yet dimwitted, nature against him, but, in this matter, felt it necessary. In the space of just a few minutes, he'd forgotten all about it. However, after awhile, guilt began to eat at her, along with need. She'd been here for almost two months, and she'd kept her origins a complete secret unwillingly. The pressure was driving her insane, and she had to tell someone. She'd been with Tony for an entire month, and he still had no idea that he was, in truth, fifty-three years her senior. She feared he'd run like any normal boy would before realizing that, as much as she refused to admit it, Tony wasn't normal. It wasn't necessarily in a bad way, however. He had a much more caring heart than those of most, and yet he had one of the most broken foundations she'd ever seen. So, ignoring the fearful voice in her mind, screaming at her to keep it to herself, she attempted to explain something she herself could not grasp.
"Tony, can I tell you something?"
He glanced up at her questioningly, noticing the distress in her eyes. She began to chew on her lip, something she did only when she was extremely nervous.
"Tony...Tony, I'm not from around here..." she began cautiously. He gave a short bark of laughter, replying, "Well I knew that, babe. You're not exactly normal, you know. Besides, didn't you tell me you were from Ireland?" She glared at him, silencing him instantly.
"No, Tony. I don't mean from another country, I mean from a different time. Tony, I'm not supposed to be born for another thirty six years." She gazed at him, fearful of his reaction, and sighed in frustration at the look of total disbelief on his face. She would have to prove it; this much was true. Desperately, she looked around her, and happened to catch a glance of the day's newspaper, which Tony had brought to her that morning. As she stared dreamily at the day's date, a memory floated up to the front of her mind. She remembered hearing something about June 30th. It was not too big of a deal, but she'd learned about it just the same, for it had happened nearby. However, since it was relatively local, they were sure to hear about it by nightfall.
"Alright. I'll prove it to you. Today's June 30th, right? Well, sometime today, two planes will crash, killing..." she racked her brain to remember the exact number, "128 people. They're going to crash over the Grand Canyon, and it should be all over the news by tonight." He finally sat up, and gazed at her cynically, one eyebrow raised.
"Okay...so who's gonna win the lottery?" She scowled at him, pushing him lightly.
"I can't predict the future, genius! I'm from the future. I don't know if you can tell, but there's a difference." He simply looked at her, hoping that maybe her sudden outburst was the effect of the ride, and that she didn't actually believe it. Sighing in defeat, she threw his shirt into the bathroom sink. As he stood and stretched a bit, her eyes couldn't help but to follow his movements. He had the slight beginnings of a six pack, lightly defined in his flawless skin. Wait a second, forget flawless, she amended, noticing a scar down the right side of his ribcage. The long line of shiny skin drew all of her attention, for it was the sole imperfection in the skin of his torso. Madi made a mental note to ask him about it one day while she fought the overwhelming urge to stare and tore her gaze away to meet his eyes. He gave her his boyish grin, having caught her in the act. She blushed and raised her arms sheepishly, as if to say, what? I couldn't help myself.
"So um, how about I walk you home today?" Madi asked him, breaking the silence. He laughed and replied, "Sure. Why not?"
The sun drifted below the horizon as Tony's arms encircled Madi's waist affectionately on his tattered front porch. His parents had yet to return, so he had a bit of time alone with her.
"I'll be sure to check the news tonight and tomorrow before I see you, 'kay?" he told her reassuringly, resting his chin in her curls. She gave a small, uncertain laugh in reply, as if she was surprised that he was still thinking about that. She hoped that maybe he'd forget about it if nothing showed on the news. Maybe the history books had gotten their facts wrong; she didn't know. She just didn't want things to become awkward between the two of them, and she felt as if she'd unwillingly driven a wrench in their relationship.
Tony's heart turned to ice as the low rumbling of an aging motor drifted to his ears. It seemed that his parents were finally on their way home, more than likely drunk. He could never let them find him like this, for not only would he be beaten senseless (probably simply for actually looking happy for once), but the past few months had given him reason to believe that they just might be crazy enough to lay their hands on Madi as well. Madi had noticed his sudden change in behavior, and she stared at him, waiting for an explanation.
"Listen babe, I'm gonna need you to do something for me. This is really important, okay? So you're gonna have to do exactly as I say." She nodded fervently, suddenly fearful.
"The minute I finish telling you this, go through the back gate into the backyard. Jump the fence and cross through the neighbors' backyards until you reach Main Street. My parents are on their way home and I don't want them to see you here. Not that I don't want to be seen with you!!!" he added frantically seeing her face fall, "My parents are just...you know. Now go. Now!" he hissed as the rumble drew closer. Kissing him quickly, she sprinted through the backyard, scrambling over the back fence.
"Oh crap!!!" she squealed, finding herself dangling from the top of the fence by her skirt. Within a few seconds, her (free for her, but still expensive in a way) skirt had ripped straight up the back before she plummeted to the soil of the neighbor's backyard, landing squarely on her knees. Terrified she'd be seen, she dashed off into the descending darkness.
"The hell you doin' out here?" Tony's father slurred. His beer belly bulged over the waistline of his pants and he reeked of whiskey. His eyes struggled to focus on his distraught son as he gradually realized that Tony looked different. The strange glint in his eyes...had it always been there? To Mr. Bourdain, it seemed as if...could it be that...Tony was actually happy? He also no longer stank of cigarettes. Very quickly, he became strongly suspicious of his son as Tony quietly answered, "Nothing...nothing, I was just...getting the mail."
Mrs. Bourdain staggered into the house behind the boys, her shirt unbuttoned and bruises blooming on her face and chest. Tony was used to seeing this, and in truth, had lost his sympathy for his mother when she had begun to gang up on him along with his father. She was just as bad as the aging man, if not worse. Watching her walk past with what seemed to be a fractured wrist, he shrugged indifferently when she looked away and took a seat on the faded sofa, picking up a book Madi had given him. She had been determined to help him get back to his proper grade in high school, and in doing so, gave him the book. It was called Hound of the Baskervilles and featured a detective named Sherlock Holmes. Tony sometimes found passages he didn't quite understand, but for the most part, he loved the story. Of course, he'd never admit that to anyone but Madi, but it was true. Sherlock Holmes may have been smart, but he was weird, which made him okay in Tony's mind. Flicking on the overhead light, he opened the book and began to read.
"Son, what in the hell are you doing?" Tony's father asked gruffly, blocking his reading light. Tony glanced up at him, replying matter-of-factly, "Reading."
Mr. Bourdain was, in many ways, a typical father. He had high expectations of Tony, and it was only because Tony was his son. If he'd had a daughter, he thought he'd probably go mad with keeping young boys away. With Tony, he wanted him to grow up to be what he perceived to be a man: an overgrown, muscle-headed bully that smoked like a chimney. The fact that his son was lounging on his living room couch, reading, no less, bothered him immensely. Come to think of it, he hadn't heard any stories of Tony tormenting the local children, and no cops had brought him to his door lately. However, don't get the wrong idea about this man. By no means did Mr. Bourdain want his son to be a lawbreaker. He just wanted his son to toughen up in his younger years so that he'd be ready to face the real world later. He figured it was simply time to remind Tony of his role in the world. Wordlessly, he snatched the book from Tony's hands, tossed it across the room, and, clutching him roughly by the shoulder, forced Tony to his feet.
His plea was cut short by his father's fist colliding with his jaw, contorting his words into a strangled grunt of pain. His head whipped to the side with the force of the punch and he collapsed on the dirty floor with blood pouring from his mouth. Wiping the blood away in a jerky motion, Tony ducked quickly to avoid his father's oncoming left hook before rolling quickly away from a kick to the chin. As Tony tried desperately to avoid his father's blows, his mother retired to her bedroom, too drunk to notice the abuse or care about it.
As Tony's feet struggled for purchase underneath him, his father gradually regained his balance, and, bellowing like an angry rhino, charged at his son, throwing him into the carpet. The adrenaline coursing through Tony's veins mostly cloaked the sparks of pain in the back of his skull as he collided with the floor. Knowing he could never stand a chance against such a monster of a man, Tony frantically attempted to escape his father's crushing weight before dizziness began to cloud his vision with huge splotches of color. In just moments, the world had faded completely to black. Seemingly satisfied once Tony ceased his thrashing, his father got to his feet, and, wiping away spots of his son's blood, left for bed.
"Oh no. Oh-h-h-h-h no," Madi squeaked. Her eyes had begun to water in frustration and she wiped away an angry tear with one hand. She was kneeling outside of the school next to LT, who had apparently taken a midday stroll, leaving the school unoccupied. She had just arrived to the nasty surprise that somehow, the window had been locked. The school was locked. She hadn't bothered to leave another door open, or even a window, thinking her luck would never run out. Now she felt incredibly stupid for not having a back up plan of some sort. She was suddenly without a place to stay, food to eat, or clothes to wear.
"Meow?" LT said questioningly. She glanced at him morosely, uttering a sulky, "what," in reply. He nuzzled the leather jacket she was wearing. She glared at him.
"What are you, crazy?! I'm not-" She stopped suddenly.
"Are you trying to talk to me?" He seemed to pshawwww at her suggestion and replaced his expression of dimwitted bliss. She raised an eyebrow at him, suddenly remembering Tony's early summer offer.
"Hey...I think I just got an idea!" she exclaimed, hopping to her feet in ecstasy.
"I can stay in Tony's treehouse!!! You, on the other hand..." She gazed at him thoughtfully. He sat on his haunches, eyeing her reproachfully. It had been his idea, after all. When he saw that she wasn't getting anywhere with her train of thought, he huffed angrily and prowled away, forming a makeshift bed on the bough of a tree. Shrugging off his hostility, Madi skipped back to Tony's house, hoping he'd be asleep by then.
"Excuse me ma'am, can you tell me where I can find the Sherlock Holmes novels?"
The pleasant-looking elderly woman behind the desk glanced up from her book to make eye contact with Madi. With a friendly smile, she pointed out the fiction aisles, and with a polite nod and "thank you", Madi followed the direction of the woman's finger.
"Let's see...which one would Tony like best?" Madi whispered to herself. She had decided to take out a library card in his name to get his education going again. Since he knew he'd instantly lose it if he kept it, he had decided to let Madi hold on to it for him. She'd checked out The Hound of the Baskervilles for him at the beginning of the month, and, since he'd surely be finishing it soon (surprisingly, he was a rather quick reader), she took it upon herself to get him another one today. Personally, she'd never read the Sherlock Holmes novels, but she'd heard about how...odd he was, and figured he'd do the trick. Giggling shyly at the mention of Tony (yes, even in her mind), she tugged his leather jacket tighter around her. Frantic footsteps echoed behind her, and she turned to see who was making them.
"Oh...Tony...Tony, what happened to you? Oh God...what..." Madi trailed off, her voice cracking before she could finish her sentence. Tony stood in front of her, his undamaged eye wide open in utter disbelief, but with an overall look of unbearable shame. An ugly reddish purple bruise had blossomed across his left cheek and his right eye had swollen completely shut. His bottom lip was split in two different places and a deep cut put a splash of red across his otherwise pale ivory forehead. It seemed like whatever had gotten him to run over here had been so important that he hadn't bothered to cover up any of the wounds.
"You knew. You...knew," he uttered in total shock. For a moment, Madi had no idea what he was talking about until she remembered the plane crash. She bit her lip anxiously and hugged herself. However, right now, she didn't really care if he decided to leave her for this.
"Yeah...I know. Look, it's okay if you don't want to be with me anymore. I'll understand." She continued quickly before he could say anything. "But right now, we need to get you cleaned up, alright?" He nodded slowly, as if even that one small action caused him pain.
"My parents are gone and my house is closer. Why don't we go there?" he suggested. Her brow creased in worry when she realized that even his voice sounded different. Some of his gums must have been swollen, then. She then regained her composure so that she could help him home.
"Here. Just hold this still for awhile and hopefully the swelling will go down enough for you to see out of it," Madi told Tony, gently placing a towel-wrapped bag of ice over his injured eye.
"Why would your father do something like this?" she asked him while gingerly cleaning the gash on his forehead. He grimaced.
"He caught me reading," he said quietly, and, seeing the guilty frown spreading across her face, added quickly, "But he was drunk, so I was probably going to get it anyway." Tears threatened from behind Madi's eyes.
"It's all my fault. Oh God, Tony, I'm so sorry!" she squeaked, nearly bursting into tears. Always terribly nervous around tears, Tony confiscated the rag she had been using and wrapped his arms around her.
"What are you, crazy? It's not your fault, Madi! Nothing they ever do to me is your fault. Come on, don't you know that by now? You're the one making all of it bearable," he told her, squeezing her tighter for emphasis. She stiffened against him, confused. Picking up on her confusion, Tony held her away from him, questioning her about it.
"You mean you're not...scared of me?" she asked in a small voice. He became deathly silent for a moment before bursting into hysterical laughter. She sighed in relief, somehow thankful for the insult.
"Madi, you know something stupid like age difference wouldn't ever bother me," he explained, wiping a gleeful tear from his eye. She simply stared at him. Oh, Tony, Tony, Tony, she sighed in her mind, you are the master of understatement. He simply gazed at her happily, completely oblivious.
The morning of July fourth began as normally as possible for Madi. After never leaving Tony's side for three days straight, she awoke totally refreshed and incredibly giddy. The day he discovered for himself that she was from the future, he also discovered that she had taken up residence in his backyard-literally. After that, he made sure to sneak her plenty of pillows, blankets, and even pajamas. When he found that she had lost access to all of her clothes, he made sure to bring her some of his day clothes as well. She'd taken a special liking to his biker boots and wore them all the time, along with jeans he'd long since grown out of.
On this particularly sunny day, Madi decided to leave the treehouse relatively early. Normally, she would wait till nearly ten to assure herself that both of Tony's parents had left the house. After seeing what Tony's father had done to him over a book, she took extra care to see that he never caught a glimpse of her. Today, however, she hadn't seen even a flicker of movement in the rather small structure, and had decided to leave the property before the Bourdains woke up.
Throwing on a faded black pair of Tony's jeans, her only black shirt, and the usual leather jacket and biker boots, Madi silently climbed down from the treehouse. Glancing distractedly at the kitchen window, feeling as if she was being watched, she quickly hopped the back fence and left for the forest.
An unearthly hangover tore Bill Bourdain from a near dead sleep. Grunting like an upset ape, he rolled himself out of bed towards the kitchen. Since the book incident, he and Tony had spoken even less than normal, only conversing when absolutely necessary. At the moment, Bill figured his son was still in bed, still trying to sleep off the damage his father had done to him. Bill, of course, couldn't care less about that. His son would thank him for it in the future; that Bill was sure of. What he wasn't sure of was what had caused the gradual change in Tony's behavior. He knew that Tony would never randomly decide to learn something. Someone else had to be behind it...but who? As he filled a glass with tap water from the kitchen sink, he had a faint suspicion of the answer.
With absolutely no idea she was being watched, a teenage girl was slowly making her way down the ladder of Tony's old treehouse. Bill could barely remember the time he'd spent building the structure with his son. It had been back in the days when he was sober, which were always hard for him to remember. The girl was pretty, that much was true, but what Bill wanted to know was what she was doing in his backyard. He was sure Tony hadn't asked his permission to bring her over, but even if he had, he was sure he didn't give it. After all, Tony was a boy, and Bill didn't feel like taking care of any early grandchildren.
Upon closer inspection, it seemed as if most of the clothes the girl was wearing belonged to Tony. Bill recognized the jacket, the jeans, and even the shoes as his son's. A hint of anger rose through the sickly haze clouding Bill's mind at the sight. Tony surely had lost his mind by now. He knew better than to bring anyone over without his father's permission, especially after the time he'd brought Mark and Ralph over before finishing his chores. That had been back when he was only about ten or eleven, but the bruises, cuts, and broken bones had served as a painful reminder for a long time afterwards. Tony also knew better than to lend other people his clothes. Bill worked hard to keep clothes on his boy, and he didn't nearly break his back at the plant every day for other children to be wearing his son's clothes. Suddenly, the girl whipped her head around to face him, and seemed to gaze straight at him. Fortunately for both parties involved, she didn't actually see him, and therefore continued on her way out of his yard. As she left and Tony sleepily entered the room, Bill decided that it was, indeed, again time to teach his son a lesson.
With an exhausted and pained yawn, Tony searched the refrigerator for something, anything edible. The bruises on his face were finally subsiding ever so slightly, and he could see clearly out of his right eye. However, the gash on his forehead had turned out to be deeper than he and Madi had initially thought, and so took much longer to heal than was expected. It was still an angry red slash across his forehead-frightfully tender-and so usually protected beneath a large band-aid.
Bill had chosen the casual approach to his "lesson", for he didn't want Tony to catch on quick enough to run. So, when his son had found a suitable breakfast, he approached him with the subject.
"So, Tony. You got a girlfriend or anything?" he asked pleasantly. Tony became immediately suspicious, for his father never asked about anyone but Mark and Ralph. Choosing his words rather carefully, he replied, "Well, I've been hangin' out with this one girl. She's pretty cool." He dared not ask why, because any hint of questioning his father's motivations resulted in an immediate beating.
"Really, now? Alright, well, where's your jacket? The one I spent four months' salary on? I haven't seen you wearing it lately," he continued slyly. Tony grimaced, not knowing how to answer. However, he didn't need to think of a reply, for his father didn't give him the chance to do it.
"And, I'm just wondering. How long have you been rentin' out your old treehouse?"
Just like that, the jig was up. Tony knew he was caught, so he tried for the truth, hoping maybe his father was in a good mood today.
"Dad...she's homeless...She doesn't have anywhere else to go and I just-" As expected, his father cut him off by pitching the dining table, along with Tony's meager breakfast, inches over Tony's head and lunged at him. Shoving his chair from behind him, Tony sprinted for the front door, knowing that beating may very well be his last. Just centimeters from freedom, his father's fingers snagged the waistline of his boxers and his other hand grabbed him by the neck, harshly yanking him down to the ground. Blows began to rain down on him, along with his father's senseless bellowing about what an ungrateful, irresponsible child he was. As his father wrenched him to his feet by one arm, he saw his mother come racing down the hallway to see what the commotion was about. When she saw the brutal, one-sided fight going on between her husband and son, she began to shriek at her husband to stop. The action was so out of character for her that Tony stopped struggling for a split second before suffering a heavy blow to the chin. Seeing the blood spurt from his suddenly split jaw, she picked up the nearest object, which happened to be a vase full of dead flowers, and pitched it at the back of her husband's head. Seconds before it collided with the base of his skull, Bill whipped his head out of the way, allowing the vase a perfect path to his son's already bloodied face. Upon impact, the glass shattered into shards, some of them reopening the wound on Tony's forehead and resulting in a river of blood cascading over his eyes. Yelping in pain, Tony stumbled and hit the ground in a heap, still shocked at his mother's reaction. As his father charged her, the whole thing seeming to happen in slow motion, he waited for some sort of explanation.
"You can't do that! You want the cops to come and arrest us?! You can't do that! We'll get thrown in jail, Bill!" she screamed at her husband.
In that moment, Tony's love for the both of them evaporated instantly, and was replaced by boiling hatred and rage. Saying good riddance to the both of them as the argument between them escalated to a fistfight, he staggered out of the front door, heading for Mark's house.
"It's Howdy Doody Time! It's Howdy Doody Time! Bob Smith and Howdy Do say howdy do to you!"
Little Donnie Jacobs sang the theme song to his favorite TV show while walking home from the library. His family had come home from California early this summer, and now he was hoping to run into Madi to tell her. After all, all of the other kids were still on vacation, and Madi was the only one he could really spend time with without being afraid of running into Tony. He tugged his baseball cap lower on his head to block the baking sun from burning his eyes as he walked. Glancing at his Howdy Doody watch to check the time, he quickened his pace to reach home in time to catch the start of (you guessed it) Howdy Doody. As he passed Main Street, voices attracted his attention from a block or two away. He stopped dead in his tracks when he realized who the angry voices belonged to.
A very abused looking Tony came sulking out from the opposite corner, accompanied by Mark and Ralph. Terrified, Donnie ducked behind a nearby large tree to see what was going on.
"You're tellin' me that neither one of you has seen Madi all day?" Tony growled at the others. Both Mark and Ralph seemed more worried and frightened than usual, and so simply shook their heads.
Huh, Donnie thought, I guess Madi and Tony are friends now. Feeling a burst of confidence, Donnie left his hiding spot to investigate the cuts and bruises that had taken over the majority of Tony's face. He crossed the intersection and stood in front of Tony, his arms clasped behind him shyly. After all, he'd lived in fear of Tony for nearly his whole life. Upon seeing the small child approach him, Tony stopped walking and stood very still for awhile, simply staring the child down. After a few moments of complete silence, he narrowed his eyes into slits, plastering on a smile, and addressed the boy.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't little Donnie. What're you doin' down here all by yourself, huh?" The small child rolled his eyes up to meet the older boy's and shrugged silently.
"Um...I was just...looking...for Madi," he muttered, shuffling his feet in the loose gravel covering the street. He hoped his answer might protect him in some way from the teenager who seemed ready to pounce at any given moment, but there was no such luck. Letting his smile fall to an expression of total disgust, Tony glared down at the child and told his friends very quietly but clearly, "Get him."
Looking at Tony uneasily for a second, Mark and Ralph each grabbed one of Donnie's legs as the boy tried desperately to escape. The sudden restraint caused his body to jerk like a dog at the end of a leash before he belly flopped into the asphalt, his head colliding brutally with the ground. Sparks of pain exploded in front of Donnie's eyes as he involuntarily began to wail at the extreme pain. Before he could attempt to pick himself back up, Tony had him pinned down on top of his right arm, which suddenly bent wrong with a sickening snap. The new surge of pain erupted from the broken arm, raising Donnie's cries to an earsplitting pitch. The loud cries seemed to drive Tony insane as he began to rain blows down on the child. After the blood began to flow, Mark and Ralph both became increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and began trying desperately to tear him off of Donnie. Their pleas and gentle tugs at his shirt resulted in Tony whipping around to face him, his eyes burning with pure fury. The unnerving light in his eyes chased the both of them away in an instant.
"Tony? Tony, what are y-Oh my God, DONNIE!!!"
Madi was sprinting towards the boys at full speed, her expression frenzied and frantic. Without even thinking about it, she barreled towards Tony, throwing him off of Donnie and quickly returning to her feet. When she returned to her feet, her knees were noticeably knocking together and her hands were shaking with fury.
"What the HELL is your problem, Tony?! DONNIE IS SEVEN, YOU JERK! What could he possibly have done to YOU?!" she screamed at the top of her lungs as she gingerly picked up the sobbing child, cradling him in her arms the best she could. The tears forming in her eyes seemed to shock Tony out of his craze. He remained on the ground in front of them, his chest heaving up and down and his eyes instantly lowering in regret.
"Shut up! Just shut up, Tony. There's nothing you could ever say that could explain this to me. You're a monster, Tony. You understand? You're a monster and I never want to see you again," Madi hissed dangerously. She opened her mouth to say more, but couldn't seem to find the right words, and so simply left.
That was it, then.
Tony sat motionless on the hot asphalt, watching Madi leave with a hurt and weeping Donnie in her arms. Tears threatened behind his wild blue eyes, but he refused to let them show. Never before had he felt so horrible, and so unbearably hurt. The loathing look in her eyes when she'd left had been enough. No matter what he did or said, she'd never take him back. The previous-had it really been only five minutes?-replayed in his mind on a loop. He truly hadn't meant to hurt the boy...had he? He couldn't be absolutely sure of his previous intentions, and that in itself frightened him. Broken-hearted and utterly alone in the middle of the street, Tony picked himself back up a torn and fallen man, knowing full well that he had nothing left to lose. His pain at the hateful glare in Madi's eyes shifted to blind fury as he stormed down the street, leaving the town for the woods.
From a nearby tree, LT looked on in concern before bounding away after Madi.
"Oh Donnie, I'm so sorry!!! I thought he was doing better, I swear!!! God, look at you! This is all my fault!!!" Madi hiccuped as she accompanied the small child on the ambulance ride to the hospital. Hot tears of pure grief and anguish had finally spilled over the rims of her eyes when they were far enough away from Tony to keep him from hearing, and they hadn't stopped since. She had tearfully told Donnie the entire story from the time he'd gone on vacation to the present, and despite the pain he felt, he pitied her immensely. She made it seem like she was crying over his broken arm and bleeding head, but he could see through her facade. Her tears were straight from a broken heart.
"Madi...it doesn't hurt that bad anymore, honest..." he mumbled, reaching his good arm out to gently hold her hand. Partly, he was telling the truth, for the sudden enormous amount of pain had gradually lessened into a low throbbing. She ceased her sniffling for a moment to smile weakly at him. Turning away from her, the child sank deeply into thought. He suddenly remembered Tony's expression when he attacked him, the immense disgust of it. Now that Madi had told him how much Tony had changed, he wondered if Tony's expression could have been full of disgust with himself.
When the ambulance reached the hospital, Madi followed Donnie's stretcher as close to the doors of the ICU as she could before being rather rudely shoved out of the way by numerous doctors muttering in what seemed to be their own created language. Flustered and bleary-eyed, she shuffled her way to an empty waiting chair, wiping away stray tears as she went. Once she finally cleared her eyes of the tears clouding them, her eyes were bright red and puffy, as well as sore. She couldn't remember the last time she'd cried so hard over a boy, and soon realized that she never had. Never before had she hurt so unbelievably much, and she was sure that never again would she feel as complete as she had when she was with Tony. The very mention of his name brought tears she hadn't even known were still there, and she had to step outside until they ebbed at least a little bit.
Standing in the strangely cold air for a summer day, Madi wished with all her heart that she'd never been brought here. Whatever that thing was, it wasn't her problem. After all, this was fourty-some-odd years before her time, wasn't it? This shouldn't have been her burden to bear, and she knew it. Whoever had left her that stupid note was just causing her more trouble. Sighing in frustration, she sank to the ground, drawing her knees to her chest and hiding her head in the valley it created.
A very cold, very wet nose nuzzled the exposed bit of Madi's cheek, bringing her out of her slump. She rolled her eyes up to meet LT's, which seemed frantic and worried. She looked at him questioningly.
"Oh no, I'm okay, honest. It's just been a bad day..." she sighed. Cocking his head the cute way only animals and children could, he poked at the leather jacket she was still wearing with a paw. Unable to answer verbally, she nodded her head once. Seeming to remember something, LT began to paw at her and push her with his head. Becoming annoyed with him, she gently pushed him away. He tried the same approach a few times, and was unsuccessful each time. Growling ever so slightly, he sat back on his haunches and gazed at her. However, he didn't simply gaze, he looked at her with the sorrowful, wistful gaze that Tony had given her for merely a second before she stormed away earlier that day. She tried desperately to avert her eyes to no avail. The heartbroken expression in his eyes made her chin tremble with the threat of even more tears, and her breath left her in a shaky sigh. She seemed to know what he was getting at, and bowed her head in defeat.
"Okay, I give. I miss him too much. But how can I find him, LT? I have no idea where he ran off to," she mumbled meekly. Rubbing his cheek against hers in an attempt to comfort her, he gently tugged her to her feet and led her into the wooded outskirts of town.
Things began to go horribly wrong about noon that day, as Madi remembered for years afterwards. She had followed LT into the forest, and after about two hours of searching had been more than ready to give up. They were going on LT's nose alone, it seemed like, and in two hours, he hadn't caught even the faintest whiff of Tony's scent. Worried and distraught, Madi had sat underneath a tree to rest for a moment when LT seemed to catch something.
"Meow!!!" he exclaimed, prodding her with his nose. Rolling her eyes, she replied, hoarse from crying, "Oh come on, we're not gonna find him. Let's just go home..." He growled angrily before going completely silent. His ears rotated in their sockets, much as they had on that fateful night in June. His appearance became that of a nervous person, if such a thing was possible, and his prodding and poking became more frantic. Staring him down and becoming a bit anxious herself, Madi rose to her feet and let LT inspect the area they'd stopped in. The clearing just so happened to be the lake where she and Tony had first met, and the memory tied a knot of worry in the pit of her stomach. LT snuffled his way to the shore of the lake, and suddenly stopped. He became frustrated, seeming to have lost the scent. She sighed in defeat, scratching behind his ear to ease his tension.
"Madi? Madi, is that you?" a distant voice called. Madi's ears practically perked up at the sound, and her expression became that of renewed hope.
"Tony?! Yeah, it's me!!" she yelled back the best she can, "Where are you?!"
"I'm over here. Follow my voice!" he replied. Madi sprang to her feet to follow before LT's teeth snatched her by the back of the jeans, yanking her back to the ground.
"What?! It's just Tony, LT!" she told him, breathless with excitement, before dashing away in the direction of his voice, leaving LT caterwauling desperately after her. Tony's voice resumed its speech, and she quickened her pace as she heard it getting closer. In no time, it seemed as if her feet were hardly touching the ground as adrenaline pumped through her veins.
"Tony?" she asked the forest quietly as a sudden silence overtook the area. When she got no reply, she dropped to her knees, gasping for breath. Her arms and legs were trembling like mad, and her muscles felt like broken guitar strings. She hadn't run that fast in her entire life; of that, she was sure. She was also sure that she'd never run that fast again, seeing as her heart was threatening to beat its way out of her chest.
I'm right here, Madi."
Her head jerked up hopefully, and her eyes searched the dimly lit clearing. A tiny hint of movement attracted her attention, and a brilliant smile crossed her face.
"Tony! Tony, I looked everywhere for you! I was so worried!" she stuttered, her words almost blurring into one another in her ecstasy. She came to a stop a few feet in front of him, her smile fading quickly. He didn't seem at all happy to see her as he stood, shadowed by the trees and completely unmoving. She became unsure of her situation, and the next time she addressed him, it was a question.
Her jaw dropped in a soundless scream as he left the shadows. At first he looked like a ventriloquist's dummy, complete with the unnatural light in his eyes and the carved lines that allowed movement in the jaw. The longer she stared at him, the less the lines on his face looked like they were carved, and the more they looked like dried blood. As she watched, a figure seemed to appear behind him, and upon closer inspection, the figure seemed to move ever so slightly, causing Tony's mouth to open and close, his lips never seeming to completely form words.
"I'm right here, Madi. I've been waiting for you," he told her, a slight tone of mockery creeping into his voice. She tried desperately to scream, but it seemed as if her voice had left her, and all she could do was stare at the nightmarish picture. The thing seemed to find her behavior amusing, for it made a deep sound slightly resembling a laugh that shook her to her bones. Ha, she thought weakly, bones. 'Cause...it looks like the Grim Reaper...ha ha... Her ridiculous thought failed to bring even the slightest smile to her lips. Abruptly, the deep sound ceased, and the thing seemed to become bored with Tony, throwing him impossibly far, forcing his head to strike a tree, audibly splitting his skull, before his body fell lifelessly to the ground, landing in a heap. Screaming his name in her mind, seeing as it refused to leave her lips, she tore through the long grass to his side, gingerly lifting him ever so slightly from the ground, her voice finally sounding in a nearly inaudible squeak.
"Tony? Tony, please answer me. Oh God, please don't be dead. Please wake up..." A broken sigh of relief escaped her as his icy blue eyes fluttered open to gaze weakly at her. The trance the creature had put him under seemed to have left when he struck the tree, for recognition dawned on his face as he graced her with a broken-hearted smile. Tears that seemed to come from nowhere rained down on him as she felt blood begin to run in thick rivulets down the back of his neck. She no longer realized that she was crying, figuring that possibly, her tear ducts had gone numb if there was such a thing. His skin was unnaturally shiny, and each of her tears seemed to hurt when it touched him. He shook and shivered, and his eyes seemed unable to focus. His strength seemed to be fading fast, for as she held him, his body temperature seemed to drop steadily. Meeting her pained expression, Tony's smile became all the more sad, for he hated seeing her this way more than anything in the world. He tried his best to give her what little comfort he could.
"Well hey there, gorgeous. I never thought I'd see those big brown beauties again," he sighed, his words as honest as they'd ever been. A smile blossomed on her face like a ray of sunshine, and he couldn't help but return it, despite the immense pain. However, his smile quickly became a grimace before his stomach roiled and blood came pouring from his mouth. A whine of concern left her throat as she gently wiped what was left of the blood from his chin and his breathing became more shallow.
"Tony, you can't leave me. Please don't leave me. I don't wanna be alone. Please don't die," she begged, her voice breaking with grief. Her eyes became like those of a child, filled with innocence and completely lost. Her eyes squeezed shut as she finally let herself say it. She finally knew why she was so frightened of losing him, and she couldn't let him leave her without knowing.
"You can't leave, Tony! You can't leave because," she grimaced, "Because I love you, okay? You can't die now that I told you! It wouldn't be fair!" she whimpered, sounding like a child. Her eyes broke his heart all over again, and he wished with all his might that he could somehow make it better. Tony Bourdain may not have been bright, but he knew full well that he was dying, and so he did the only thing he knew might make her pain bearable. He used what little of his strength remained to lift his arms just enough to touch the silver ring encircling his index finger.
"Tony, don't move. You'll be okay, just rest, alright?" she whispered, her voice leaving her again. doing his best to hide the tears forming in his eyes, he removed the ring with trembling fingers and took her hand in his. Shaking his bangs to cover the single tear running down his cheek, he placed the ring in her outstretched palm, an amazed smile forming on his lips.
"Huh...You know, I never....thought this...day...would..." His words trailed off as the breath to form them left him. Seeing nothing but her eyes, the pain gradually left him, and Tony Bourdain knew no more.
Grief washed over Madi's heart like an angry wave, drowning out her thoughts and silencing her tears into nothingness. Tony's cold, limp body lay in her arms, his eyes glazed over and his lips slowly turning blue. She remained like that for what felt like hours, but in reality was only a minute or two. As he noticeably became nothing but dead weight, her expression of disbelief became one of resigned understanding. Gently replacing his head on the ground, Madi shakily rose to her feet, having to use the tree he'd hit for support. For a long time, she simply stared at the large splotch of blood he'd left on the bark. Watching her breath turn to fog, she knew what she'd do to fix it. Her face becoming pale with adrenaline, she turned to meet the thing she intended to kill.
Seemingly pleased with itself, the creature stood in front of her, creating a cloud of mist around it. The air around it gradually took on a greenish tint, and she soon had to cover her mouth and nose with one hand in order to breathe. For an impossibly long moment, she and the creature simply stared each other down, seeing who would flinch first. Since it seemed like the thing wouldn't make the first move, she took her chance to, scooping up a huge pebble from the ground and pitching it at the thing, the rock skidding over the top of its "head". Seemingly unfazed, the creature stood immobile, allowing what suddenly appeared to be a hood fall back from its face. She froze in horror at what lay beneath it.
Madi now had an idea of where the flashbacks of nuclear plants came from, for the deformed thing under the hood looked like a far past dead radiation poisoning victim. The skin of its face bulged in grotesque patterns, seeming to pulsate in certain areas, and chemical burns marred the unnaturally shiny skin almost to the point where its features were completely indiscernible. The creature seemed to glare at her with eyes so terrible that it was impossible to look away. One eye lay sunken and drifting around in its socket with no eyelid left to hold it in place, bloodshot and dilated. Nauseating sucking noises followed the eye's every move. The other was nearly hidden beneath tumors bulging around it, but the small bit of it that Madi could see was enough to make her want to run screaming into the daylight. The iris took up the entire eye, and the pupil was a tiny spot of black with a wild red light at the center. Around the pupil were patterns of color that seemed almost reptilian, appearing to swirl and lead into a void of madness. Watching her reaction, the creature's ripped and bleeding lips split in an asymmetrical grin, revealing jagged, yellow, bloodstained teeth. The very sight made Madi sick to her stomach, and her mind went completely and totally blank, trying desperately to wipe the image from her brain. Fighting the fear paralyzing her body, her adrenaline coaxed her forward, first at an angry walk, and soon at a furious run. Ignoring the noxious fumes filling the air, she tackled the thing, throwing it against the ground repeatedly. Blind rage fueled her actions, making her run on instinct alone. She cocked back a fist, and simply a moment before she hit it, a decaying, almost skeletal hand shot out of the black robe and stopped her, bringing with it the overwhelming scent of charred bone and rotting flesh. Its other hand followed impossibly fast, wrenching her close to it in a rib-crushing bear hug, and it rolled until it was pinning her down. Thrashing underneath the monster, she soon felt a gradually intensifying burning sensation where the thing was touching her. The pain of it tore an earsplitting screech from her throat and she could hear the skin on her hands sizzling away. Her body begged her to escape the pain, and she did whatever she could to squirm out from under it, finally overthrowing it and scrambling away from the embodiment of poison. Her heart beating like a caged animal's, she cradled her scalded hand and searched for some sort of a weapon. Her good hand searched the grass around her frantically, when it suddenly struck something solid. She clasped her hand around it, yanking it out of the soil.
Yanking it up to her line of vision, her heart leaped in relief to see that she was holding a yard long rod of steel. It was wide enough that her fingers and thumb were about an inch from touching, but not thick enough to be hard to carry. The end of it was slightly jagged near the end, and she swung it through the air with ease. Seeing her opponent rising from the ground, she barreled towards it, knocking it back to the dirt with a heavy blow to its skull. The jagged edge of the weapon ripped the thin and liquidy skin covering its face, rupturing the bone and bursting one of the tumors on its head, resulting in a gruesome fountain of blood sprinkling over Madi's face and neck. Seeming surprised at the sudden injury, the creature's mouth opened, but no sound came out. Instead, the earth below her feet rumbled with the intensity of sound too low for her ears to perceive. The shock of it shook her to the ground, narrowly avoiding a slash to the face from the monster's broken and ragged claws. She rose to her feet a millisecond too late as it suspended her in midair by the collar and sent her rocketing down to the ground with a lightning fast rabbit punch to the face. Almost immediately, a pinkish burn formed on the tip of her nose. Before she could roll out of the way, the thing was on top of her like an angry shark, slashing and tearing at her throat and face, its poison-tinted appendages stinging the blood dripping from her wounds. Gripping the rod tighter, she swung at the creature's already bleeding skull and beating it back to the ground. As the steel rod came down on the monster again and again, its hand whipped out and grabbed her ankle, unintentionally forcing her to her knees on top of it. Now in the position of power, Madi grinned maliciously, and with a sudden burst of adrenaline, she drove the rod through the creature's left eye and almost a foot into the soil. The ground began to rumble as its mouth opened again in a seemingly silent scream. Somehow still living, the thing continued to thrash wildly beneath her, yet its thrashing seemed weaker than before. Knowing full well the creature's end was near, Madi beamed triumphantly as she planted one boot on the creature's face to extract the rod before plunging it into the spot where she assumed its heart would be.
Madi seemed to have been dead-on in her aim, for the second the rod pierced the creature's heart, a noxious black liquid spewed from the wound, coming just short of her eyes and forming a sizzling puddle beneath the figure. A toxic fume leaked from the body as the monster convulsed beneath her, making her short of breath and gradually light-headed. She soon had to rise to her feet to watch the monster die, her consciousness refusing to fade before she got to see it. Soon enough, the creature's movements faded, and it seemed almost as if she could hear its heartbeat slow and eventually cease entirely.
As her entire store of adrenaline left her, Madi keeled over backwards into a trembling pile of fatigue.
Madi was coaxed from her sleep by a soft, white light that seemed to almost envelop her in warmth. Disoriented and confused, she opened one eye to glance at the world through a veil of curls. The world she'd known was gone, leaving her in a large white space that seemed to go on forever. A hint of fear still lingered in her heart, yet the reason behind it was suddenly unknown to her. A deep, yet comforting voice whipped her around.
"Oh, my dear child. I see you received my note. May I just say, you have made me exceptionally proud," a man told her. He reminded her of an average person, the kind you see when walking down the street and then forget about within a few moments of seeing them. There was nothing special about his appearance, yet she felt some sort of connection with him. What could he mean "my dear child"? And why did he seem so sad?
"Madeleine, you have gone miles above and beyond what I expected of you. I just wish it hadn't taken so much from you." She simply stared at him, her memory completely blank. He seemed confused by her silence, and made a face as if something just occurred to him.
"Oh, I forgot. This is a place where no one can feel pain or despair. However, I promised myself I wouldn't get too involved in you and your brother's affairs, so I'll leave you with this: The problem you've solved and the pain you've felt are simply temporary. Time heals all wounds, my dear." She pondered over his words for a second, and the cryptic message seemed to bring back a bit of a memory, simply a name: Tony. She was about to question the stranger, since he seemed to know so much about her, when her knees grew weak and her eyes closed involuntarily with the stranger's paternal smile imprinted on the back of her eyelids.
Madi opened her eyes for the second time, awakening yet again surrounded by white. However, this time, the white was cold and unfeeling. When she rose to her feet, she noticed that the white was actually snow, falling from the clouds like heartbroken stars. The analogy brought a confused frown to her face, and she wondered why her mind would think of such a thing. A black leather jacket hung loosely over her shoulders, and the frigid air made her pull it tighter around her. When she did, an overwhelmingly familiar scent enveloped her, and the day’s events replayed themselves like a terrible nightmare before her eyes. Remembering the tragedy she'd witnessed earlier, she searched the surrounding ground frantically for her fallen hero. He lay less than a foot from her, lightly covered in a blanket of snow. She knelt beside him, simply gazing at him, completely emotionless. A thin layer of frost had set into his dark eyebrows, and perfect snowflakes were caught in his long eyelashes. His skin had gone a translucent white, and his bangs no longer blew in the breeze. Judging from his appearance, she figured she'd been out for somewhere around an hour, and, seeing as no one had noticed their absence yet, she took a seat beside his motionless form, and remained there, her eyes never leaving his face and her body and heart going more and more numb as the minutes passed.
A muffled crunching sound brought Madi out of her stupor and back to reality. Her pulse quickened and her eyes shifted from side to side as she listened to the sound approach her. When the noise was less than a yard from her, she whipped around to face it, her arms taking a defensive stance in front of her face. Her actions were too slow, however, for a huge black shadow threw her on the ground, pinning her to the snow with a huge pressure on her chest. Upon closer inspection, she found the pressure to actually be a rather large paw, and her gaze slowly traveled up the front of her "attacker" to find that it was none other that LT. She could do naught but stare at him as he opened his mouth and began to speak to her after noticing Tony beside her.
"Madi...Oh Madi, I'm sorry. I..." He rethought his choice of words when he noticed her eyes bulging out of their sockets.
"Que?!?!?!" she squeaked.
Rolling his eyes, he explained.
"Oh, come on, you didn't think I was a normal cat, did you?" She simply stared at him. Clearing his throat, he continued.
"Alright, well, I guess I'll have to start at the beginning," he sighed, removing his paw from her chest. "When time began, there was one entity. He could do anything, become anything, and create anything, but he was never truly happy. Like anyone living their whole life alone, he became lonely. Therefore, he created a child for himself. The child was born a boy, mischevious at most, and the entity loved him as his own. Soon after, however, the entity began to wonder if the child was lonely, since when the planets and their creatures were created, none of them could stand being alone. So, he soon created a younger child, a girl. You. You were innocence in a body, bringing light into this dark world. Why else would children take suck a liking to you? You loved your older sibling, but your sibling resented you. He was the typical son, jealous and angry, and soon, he began to act out. The more he acted out, the more your father favored you, and the angrier your sibling became. Eventually, his anger dissipated into hatred, and his heart turned to poison." Glancing at Madi's confused expression, he asked her, "You know about radioisotopes and nuclear waste and all that jazz, right?" She nodded slowly. He sighed in relief.
"Well, the poison in his heart was left wherever he traveled, and became radioactive poisons. Soon after, humans discovered the poisons, and gave them names, seeing them as weapons against each other and ignoring their true danger." She seemed to put his words together and summarized for him.
"Sooooo basically, I have a brother that's the root of all evil?" she asked. He shrugged, agreeing with her.
"But where do you come in?"
"You see, that part's a bit more complicated. When your brother began to attack you, eventually starting your feud, your father was saddened by it, for he loved you both. He couldn't bear to see either of you hurt, so he vowed to keep out of it. Instead, he sent me to help you protect the innocent when he decided to act up. This was one of those times, as you can probably see. However, you had already gone into your own form of hibernation, after making sure the world wasn't in dire need of you. So, we had to pull you from the present to fix the past. Make sense?" She shrugged, replying softly, "More or less...but...why Tony?" The cat grimaced at her question, gazing at the snow.
"Madi, we didn't expect any of that to happen, I promise you. We didn't expect you to...you know. If any of it could have been prevented, believe me, it would have," he told her. She pulled her knees up to her chest, smiling at him in resigned understanding. He gazed at her sadly, wishing he could help her somehow.
"Look...Your job is done here. I have to take you home now," he mumbled, sitting beside her. Her gaze shifted instantly to Tony, her eyes frantic and pained.
"Madi, he can't come with us. I promise you he'll be...taken care of, alright?" She sighed in defeat, resting her chin on her knees. He drew her closer to him with both paws, reopening the rift in time that he'd pulled her through. The pair reappeared on Madi's bedroom floor, just as she'd left it. Madi gazed at her things, now a bit dusty and unused-looking, and then at her bed, the sheets and covers thrown back like someone had searched for her after she'd gone. She looked at Tony's ring and jacket with a twinge of sorrow, and saw that they were now slightly tarnished and worn as if she'd had them for years instead of a month. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she climbed up onto her bed and underneath her sheets, cold and trembling. LT, knowing words would never help, tucked her in and licked her cheek before leaving through her bedroom window for the woods nearby.
As Madeleine Rourke drifted off into a fitful sleep underneath her covers, LT circled her home, altering her family's memory the best he could. When he was through with Madi's brother and mother, they both believed her to have just returned from studying abroad in Europe for the past three months. After he left, a strange mist curled around her home's foundation. The mist seemed to stop at her bedroom window momentarily before continuing on to her younger brother's bedroom window. As the sun set on May 8th, 2009, a malevolent fog seeped into Damien Rourke's bedroom and into his esophagus, shifting his eye color from an ugly brown to the crimson shade of blood.