This is strictly experimental - one of my first long, serious fics. I'm not sure where it came from, or how easily it will be updated, but any feedback is good feedback. Please read with an open mind. I had intended this one to be funny, but it somehow morphed into something...something like this...
Chapter 1 - The Past Always Returns:
.at some point in running. we find ourselves shifting back the way we came. no matter how much we do so hate it. its gripping reality is that you can never truly run away. not forever. the past always returns to the familiar.
This is the story of a regular girl, the a-typical, generic girl. There was nothing special about her really, for her life was what some would call 'normal'. No drama, no extraordinary problems, no extreme pain. She lived with a loving family, with a mom and dad and brother, and she had a good group of friends, though some would say it was average, but small. Her house was an medium size, like the rest of the houses in her suburban neighborhood. She had a good job that was helping her to save for college, and was going to graduate with good grades. Oh of course, she had her own insecurities, had her slight quirks, like every person in the world. She had her miniscule problems and petty selfish desires, but she was only human. Everything else was almost perfect, practically normal. Yet somehow there was something missing in that picturesque life of hers, and no matter how much she attempted, she could never pin it down to anything specific. Nothing was wrong, but she felt empty. This is the story of me, Madelyn Kae MacPhaden, an ordinary girl.
I suppose every person goes through it, a stage in life where everything is supposed to make sense, yet nothing ever does. That place in time where the bright, sunny life you've led for years seems too lifeless and monotonous; normal. Maybe change is needed, or maybe something else, but even if it was change, it wasn't as though I could simply pick up and leave my life. There were commitments, plans, my future, and for goodness sakes, my family would have had a hay day. I couldn't afford to do so anyway.
Thus, at the beginning of a new semester of high school, I sat in a Literature class with almost twenty other students who felt brave enough to step up to the challenge of English writings of the past. I had decided that since I read so much, and my mother was an English professor, I would be able to breeze through the class with confident ease, astounding my teacher with the great amount of knowledge I had. There had to be something said for having good resources at least.
It was the beginning of a new semester, the last semester of High School I would ever encounter. I couldn't say that there was any sentiment extended with that bit of knowledge, rather it was one of those things that needed to percolate until it was fully understood, and usually, when it finally was understood, the sentiment lasted only a few days or minutes, depending on what the occassion happened to be. In this case I was sure that the sentiment would last about two days; one day of almost tearing up thinking that I would never see anyone from my school ever again, and then another day of leaping with utter euphoria at the thought of never seeing anyone from my school ever again. Funny how the same thing could bring such grief and joy in a relatively short period of time.
Our Literature teacher was not the man I had expected to breeze through the door, rather, he was exactly the opposite. I had expected an English-looking chap who was tall and thin, with a moustache, perhaps. He would fold his hands comfortably over his chest while he sat at his desk and lectured us about the books of old and all of their secret meanings and mysteries. This man, however, was short, and looked more like a rodent than a knowledgeable teacher. He had a tiny face with a slightly hunched back and beady grey eyes. His upper lip seemed to dip down in the center, almost covering his lower lip, with his glasses perched on his impertinent nose as though they were about to attempt suicide. There was a large balding spot at the top of his head, and one could tell that his hairline had receeded quite a few inches as his tall forehead seemed more noticeable. I couldn't help but stare, and wonder what qualifications this man had that he had been chosen as my teacher.
"Good afternoon, class." he greeted in a timid yet authoritative voice. I wondered how it was possible that such a man had the ability to sound so small and yet so overwhelming at the same time.
The class of students seemed somewhat shell-shocked with the sight of the man, because they could only mutter their short greetings. I was one of them, mumbling some sort of 'hello' while continuing to stare. He opened a one inch black binder, thick with agenda papers and class lists, and adjusted his glasses so that they perched farther up his nose and had less of an inclination to jump.
Names were being read aloud, I soon realized, and all of the names I had never heard before. I bit my lip and stared around the room at the various students. You would have thought that in a school with about five hundred grade twelves, I would have met at least one of them. The only person I knew sat next to me. Her name was Kelsey, and she enjoyed the english language as much as I. When she caught me glancing in her direction, she gave me a look that told me of her fears for the looming semester. I mirrored the look and glanced about the rest of the room. Students of all shapes and sizes sat, shoved in small desks and looking about as bored as I was. The first class of each subject was always so mundane.
My ears perked when I heard my name being called. "Madelyn MacPhaden?"
Unconsciously I raised my hand to the level of my forehead and gave a small wave while calling out, "Here."
I always found it so interesting the way all eyes would automatically turn to the person being called, as if to judge them, or assess them. I was looked over and dismissed quickly by my classmates. Until we all knew each other well enough, that was all we would be resigned to do.
"Alright, let's get started." The funny little man stood at what looked like a pulpit, a wooden stand with four legs and ornate carvings etched at the bottom. Was he to preach to us the works of literature? "My name is Mr. Delphin, for those of you who don't know me. Um, I recognize a few faces from English last semester, um, and some new ones, which is always good." He seemed so sure of his words, yet couldn't quite seem to get them off of his tongue in the same amount of time, therefore inserted 'um's here and there. His credentials were plummeting in my estimations, but I was only a lowly student; I was forced to sit here, therefore my opinion did not count.
He wrote his name in neatly hand-written letters that were somewhat too feminine for a man of literature. I had expected them to be bold, sloppy: the characteristics of a literary genius, not a female.
"Now, what we're going to do today is nothing too exertive." Mr. Delphin went on with his timidly authoritative voice, cracking a small smile. I was impressed he'd used a rather large word: 'exertive', though I did not care for his smile. "What I want each and every one of you to do is stand, and, um, we're going to go around the rows and, uh, you're going to tell me your name and a little about yourself. It can be what you like to do, your favorite sport - um, anything that's important to you."
My stomach did a little flip and I began biting my lower lip. I hated speaking to groups of people, having each pair of eyes trained on you, judging you before you've even spoken a word. To tell them of my activities only seemed to add to the nervousness. I did not want anyone to know what I did in my spare time; it was personal.
None-the-less, as I heard each person down each row, I wasn't as nervous. By the time they had reached me, I had a clear, thought-out answer of who I was and what I enjoyed doing. I stood up and surveyed the room of kids my age. "Hi, I'm Maddie." I trailed awkwardly. "Um, I like to read." I shrugged and sat down.
Mr. Delphin glanced down at his binder, then back to me. "Now Maddie, the list says Madelyn. Would you prefer Maddie instead?"
I shrugged again and bit my lower lip some more. No one ever said my name properly anyway. Madelyn Kae MacPhaden. It was a simple, easy-to-remember-or-forget kind of name, and in that sense, I didn't mind it. It wasn't said a lot, having been shortened and beaten and mutilated until it came out sounding like 'Maddie' or 'Mac' or 'Kae' or 'Phad'. I often wondered if my mother and father had named me such a name so they could purposely shorten it into something other than what it was. Only my grandma ever called me Madelyn, and she said it with a thick Irish accent so it never came out sounding how it was supposed to be pronounced. What was in a name?
The names and favorite activities went on for another row and a half until everyone had spoken. Mr. Delphin seemed to comment here and there, giving bits and pieces of information about himself, what he liked. Truth be told, I didn't care. He was one man out of thousands who enjoyed a good read, loved fishing and baseball. For that matter, it didn't even matter what I had said. I was Maddie; I liked to read. Any deeper and they would be invading my personal space. My eyes drifted to the window, which was to my right, and watched the parking lot, brimming with silent vehicles and very little activity. From my seat I could almost catch a glimpse of two students sitting under a tree, edging closer and closer to one another.
I, not being the one to think with much confidence, had sat in the middle, which was a perfect place for me, because I had no right to be at either of the two alternative extremes. Had I sat in the front I would appear to be over-eager and easily observed; sitting in the back, however, would only make me look rebelious and disinterested. The middle was a safety zone. Having been a 'normal' girl for most of my life, I had become accustomed to sitting in the same position, and therefore staying quite unnoticed and overlooked. Teachers were always asking either the back or the front, but never the middle - it was like a rule. Those in the back were asked the questions to make sure they were paying attention, and those in the front answered the questions because they actually had been paying attention. Those in the middle were given the option of paying attention, and usually did, due to their decent grades that, like all the people who sat in the middle, were average.
That was me, Maddie MacPhaden: average. I'll admit, being average was like being normal, like being almost invisible, but visible enough that a circle of friends existed, several in fact. Liz was the first and foremost best friend who knew almost everyone in the school. She could never stay in one place without flittering to another, which at times was overwhelming. You would have thought that I, being average, would have chosen a more stable best friend. In all actual fact, I was the stable best friend, and she had singled me out. I liked to remind her of reality, because so often she had a zillion different schemes percolating through that brain of her's that she felt she could do all at the same time. She seemed to have the answers to everything, always solving my miniscule "problems" and contemplating life with me on my roof top. She had often told me that "when life gets monotonous, throw it a curve ball", and while I hated the game of baseball, I had understood. I just wasn't sure which kind of curveball to throw.
Luke was a short, opinionated musician that I had known most of my life. He played drums for his band and, at times, had caused me to feel quite exasperated. At one point he had nearly caused me to pierce my bottom lip with my teeth from biting it so hard. I'd known him for too long to hate him, so whenever he aggravated me with his need to be right, I nodded - and bit my lip some more.
Matt was yet another musician who played every instrument known to man. He was amazing, and surprisingly humble about it. He enjoyed teasing me every so often about reading so much, but I took it in stride. I never really got to talk with him in depth, but he was nice enough from the shallow chats we had had.
Ike was a hulking 6'4" and enjoyed towering over me. While he did play guitar, his biggest passion had been basketball, up until an accident that sent him into knee surgery and three months rehab. He could have gotten a scholarship were it for better timing, but such was life. He lived just one street over from me, and every once in while we would go for a walk, just to chat. He was my sounding board when Liz wasn't around.
Bridget was not a musician, but she did enjoy drama. Theatre was not her forte, but when it came to the over-dramatized, angsty gossip that ran rampant throughout most high schools, Bridget was usually the one in the midst of the rucuss. Though she claimed to hate it, drama seemed to follow her everywhere she went, but of course, as all drama queens did, she hotly denied all accusations.
Kelsey Q was the girl sitting next to me, and she was infamous for her literature-based speech, which had led us to lengthy banter back and forth. She was even more of a perfectionist than I, and I was bordering on compulsive, but it was only out of habit that she acted the way she did. I suppose her and I got along the most because we had the love of books to sustain us, and she was always good to talk to about life's uncertainties.
Thus, my circle of friends was complete. There weren't many, but I had a habit of keeping only a few friends in the 'inner circle' of my life, while the 'fringe friends' were kept in the 'outer circle'. They were the 'acquaintances', people that I could wave a smile to, but had never really talked in-depth with them. To some, I would seem a snob for catagorizing in such a way, but in all honesty it was better that way, at least for me. I couldn't be the socialite that Liz was - it was just impossible.
Books were handed out, along with the list of works we would be studying for the semester. I had read more than half of them, and the rest, my mother would most certainly know. As the bell rang, and after school anouncements were made, I walked out of the classroom feeling fairly confident about the class. Kelsey was slightly nervous, but she had read more books than I, so I was sure she had nothing to be afraid of.
Liz was waiting by the door, her class not far from mine, just down the hall a ways. "How is it?" she asked.
I shrugged. "Alright so far." I lied. Though I didn't really call it lying - as lying was telling an untruth and I hadn't - it was a half-truth, and therefore was at least a white lie. I seemed to spout those off on a constant basis. "What about yours?"
Liz was taking Debate and Speech class, which I thought brave. Personally, I could barely make it through a confrontational conversation before running away, but Liz liked to take problems head on and with great, lengthy speeches. The class suited her perfectly. She grinned, her dark brown hair shining along with her teeth. "Oh, it's so awesome! My teacher is Mr. Maholley and he makes the class so interesting. Today we started talking about ethics and civil rights and he actually agreed with me."
We slowly moved with the thick molasses crowd headed in the direction of the stairs that led down to the main floor. Once there we would somehow make it to our lockers located farthest away from the front entrance, of course. I had wanted a large space between me and the main gate of traffic, though it was in a far hallway that rarely anyone ever went down. Liz hadn't questioned my decision, though she never used her locker since the end of the first semester.
"You mean Mr. Maholley that lives across the street?" I asked.
Having a teacher living across the street from me had been odd at first, even intrusive. He was, however, just a regular person, like me, and he was nice enough. After awhile it didn't matter that I knew he enjoyed trimming his shrubs every Saturday morning at the crack of dawn; it was just normal. Actually, Mr. Maholley wasn't as intimidating when viewed as a regular person instead of an academic figurehead.
Liz nodded and continued to go over her class, which I tuned in and out of. With so much talking around me, I overheard blips of conversations here and there. A girl was getting her belly button pierced against her mom's wishes; Franky Burmon wanted to drop out, but probably wouldn't; Cherise Cole had seen U2 live and was gushing about the experience. Nothing terribly vital or extremely interesting, just average teenager conversations. The monotony of it all was wearing on me. After thirteen years of school, my attention was wearing thin, and the 'newness' of it all was lost amidst the need for change. I needed to get out of the place called prison.
Alas, I had already applied to several universities and colleges, most of which had accepted me. I wasn't too keen on entering school after finishing thirteen years of hell, but one would never know what lay ahead. On the outside I had lied through my teeth, sounding so sure, so exact on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Inside I couldn't even comprehend any of it. I felt just as unsure as everyone around me felt, only I was better at hiding it.
In all matter of fact, it was Liz who had things together. She was determined to take a year off of school and travel to as many places as she could afford. So far, she had one trip in mind; that was all. But it was more than I had, and so she won. If I had the spine, I would have joined her; left my university woes and worries in the dust. I couldn't, and she knew that. Even so, I envied the way she was so carefree about it, as if time would wait if she shrugged off a year. My mind couldn't even wrap around the notion.
After squeezing through the crowd of students, and dropping off our books at our lockers, we proceeded to walk to the back parking lot. With so many students, they had had to create a front and rear entrance, along with matching parking lots. Liz preferred to park in the back, as it was easier to get onto the main road from the back.
"Is your car working yet?" Liz asked.
I sighed and scuffed my shoe on the stubbled pavement. Spring was not over, but it had pounded torrents of rain against the cement until the rocks had shown almost naked through the asphalt. "Nope."
Wordlessly we made our way to Liz's car, as it was a functioning piece of machinery, like 'normal' cars were supposed to be. Unfortunately, my very old, very rusty forest green piece of machinery was about as stubborn as a Scot, with an Irish temper to boot. They said cars reflected their owners, and mine did quite a good job of portraying me: barely functioning and tired. The rickety rattletrap wouldn't be rumbling any time soon, and so Liz had offered to drive me home. My quaint house was only on the other side of town, quite close to her.
"So, what are your other classes?" I asked as she turned her beautiful Honda Prelude on to a purr.
She shrugged. "Literature first block, Spanish second block, History fourth block, and Debate and Speech last block - oh, and a spare in third. What about you?"
I made a face as I attempted to conjure up my classes. "Geography first block, Spanish second block, English AP third block, spare fourth block, and Literature fifth block. I just hope I can get through this semester without failing."
Liz nodded in agreement and turned on her music which blared loudly. I enjoyed the lulls in our conversations. They made me feel comfortable with silence, where as normally I hated awkward silences. No matter how quiet I tended to be, awkward silence was an uncomfortable feeling that I had to interupt before it stifled me.
As we drove into the little neighborhood I called home, I noticed how each home seemed to looked exactly the same, only in different pasty pastel colors. The quiet suburbia looked almost picturesque with its straight sidewalks and leafy trees spaced perfectly along the sides. It was almost sickening to see, and my house was no different. The only difference was that it had been painted a deep navy blue, and stood out, bolded among the boxes it sat amongst. Despite that, it was all the same. The same neatly trimmed shrubs, the same neatly tended gardens, the same neatly painted picket fences, the same blossoming buds, the same bloody cars for goodness sakes: SUVs, 'a great family car'. I would have been lying to say that I truly hated it. This was the place where truth was relative, and the outside world could, for a few moments, be pretended, only in our imaginations.
We pulled into my 'perfect' little driveway and I struggled with my seatbelt. "Thanks for the ride." I said, pulling my bag into my lap so I could heave it over my shoulder once I got the door opened.
Liz shrugged. "I'll see you tomorrow at break?"
I nodded and managed to leave the vehicle without doing myself any bodily harm, a rarety for me since I was always running into something. "Bye!" I waved and watched her reverse and speed down the road.
My house was almost eerily quiet had I not been used to it. With my mom still at the University half an hour away, and my dad working as a construction manager, it was only my brother and I until at least five. We weren't overly chatty children, either.
I didn't bother to take my shoes off, walking straight through the living room and past the computer room/office. My fifteen year-old brother, Kevin, sat with eyes glued to the computer screen like they always were most days after school. "Hey, Grump." he greeted absently. With sudden movements he was clicking rapidly and shifting his fingers over the keyboard. Apparently he was in the middle of playing a game, the same game he'd been playing since summer had arrived last year.
Without answering I went up the stairs and into my room. Our house had been built a bit oddly. While two bedrooms sat at one side of the house, mine had been placed on the opposite corner of the top floor, facing the road and the generic neighborhood. In many ways, I enjoyed this due to the fact I had almost complete privacy from my family, and the sound of my parents snoring at night time.
My room smelled of stale air, dirty socks, and a light hint of the chocolate oil I had been burning in the corner of the room. One of the windows, the one that faced the neighborhood, sat half open as it did most days when it didn't rain or snow. I heaved a sigh and plunked myself onto my bed, staring up at the ceiling. Light blue and painted white clouds stared back at me. They had been there when we'd moved in, and I had thought them creative enough to keep them. They lightened up the mocha brown that had been painted on my walls, warm and soothing.
I sighed. A weight sat on my shoulders, and I couldn't understand why it wouldn't go away. Perhaps it was due to stress, the beginning of a new semester with new demands and deadlines. This shouldn't have been a problem. I had been dealing with deadlines and demands for most of high school, and I had little distractions like rowdy parties or boyfriends.
Just the word 'boyfriend' brought back ugly memories. I had been naive and full of too many hormones for sanity to create any reason at the time of lowly grade ten. For me it hadn't been that I hadn't met the right boy - he had been perfectly normal - but he just hadn't been the right boy for me. For one, he had been quiet and shy, qualities that I and I alone were supposed to have possessed. Liz said that it was a good quality to match up with someone who talked a lot, and she did. After almost a year of pretending we actually had some sort of relationship, we had parted over the internet. Communication hadn't played a particularly large role in our relationship. He had claimed he liked another girl and proceeded to gush about how much he liked her to me. True, I had been hurt at the time, but it was one of those situations that I viewed as being juvenile and not worth my time to dwell on.
Pushing the memories away, I sighed again and pulled a book off my dark maple side table. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolfe had intrigued me when I had first read it, yet held new meaning the second time through.
I read for an hour or two before heading downstairs to make supper, as it was my turn to cook. This was our family rule. Since my mom was working, she had less time to be a mother and wasn't able to be in two places at once. My dad had come up with the suggestion, probably because he knew he wouldn't be included in the little "tradition". Twice a week one member of the family cooked dinner. Kevin usually ended up making Mac n' Cheese, but on a few occassions he would add flare by making hot dogs. He was trying at least.
That night I decided on tacos. The only thing that needed cooking was the hamburger, and it wasn't too hard to put it together in a short time.
Soon the family arrived, loud and yet tired at the same time. My dad was the loudest of us, being an Irishman and Scotsman - the two combined tended to create greater conversation at the table. Keenan MacPhaden had the same auburn colored hair as mine, with grey green eyes that changed color at times to a blue. Unfortunately I hadn't inherited my eyes from him. Kevin hadn't either, and looked more like my mom.
My mom's plain maple-colored eyes were the genetics I had been handed, which was fine. Sherrie MacPhaden was a bit quieter than my father, but they say opposites are good for each other, and they were. They had their fights like every other 'normal' family, but they were never anything major. My mother was a mix of Spaniard, Italian, and English, with a wee bit of Irish in for good measure. She had olive skin, though it had turned pale through the winter months, and shoulder-length almost black hair that she had pinned up most of the time. As a professor, she said she'd wanted to look the part, and I supposed it had made her look smart.
All throughout dinner I listened to the conversation. Work was good, school was good, Kevin and I were good. It all seemed so empty; wonderful, but lacking something. The silly banter between my dad and Kevin hit dulled senses, and I stared listlessly at my food. My mom made bits of conversation with me, but I was content to be silent, and my mom somehow knew this. She and I were so alike, at times it was scary, but at other times it helped that someone understood what I was thinking.
I went to my room after cleaning up and washing the minimal amount of dishes we had dirtied. My room was part of my haven, my world away from the world. The brown of the walls soothed me, made me feel as though I were drowning in melted chocolate; a place to sit and think without any questions. The other part was the garage roof that jutted out just to the right of my window. It overlooked the neighborhood, and the sun setting straight ahead. As the night breeze blew through the trees, so did it blow through my never-ending stream of thought. I would sit out there most nights and watch the sun sink below the horizon of "perfection", revealing the pricks of light twinkling in a darkened night sky. The stars had always made me feel so small and insignificant in comparison to them.
With practiced movements I slipped onto the roof and sighed, watching the last quarter of the sun descending to the other side of the world. Hugging my knees to my chest, I let the breeze soothe my troubled thoughts and stared onward listening to faint traffic and the birds in the trees.
When it came to my future, I had always been so sure. I was going to become a cop one day, I had proclaimed at the age of eight. That dream had stuck with me until the age of thirteen, when being a cop didn't seem as interesting as it had at one time. Next had come a criminologist, as that was far more fascinating than boring old cop work. A teacher had popped up at some point. Now, as my eighteenth birthday drew closer, I had no idea. I had been so convincing that I had even fooled myself. Well, that was a white lie; I knew that whatever my profession, it would have something to do with English Literature. I read too much to keep it a hobby. Yet, I didn't feel ready to jump off the cliff of High School and land on University soil. Perhaps it was my own self-conscious inhibitions that kept me back, maybe it was just fear. But maybe it was something else all together; something I couldn't quite place.
Faintly, through the quiet of dusk, a guitar strummed a tune. If I hadn't known about it, I would have thought I was losing my mind, but it was there all the same. The song played wasn't discernable, but the guitar hadn't been played in over a year and a half, and it could only mean one thing. A chill swept over me, whether from the breeze, or something else.
The past had returned.
A/N: A more serious story I suppose, but I thought that I would try, seeing as I have never written a novel that was serious, only comical. I have no idea if this will go anywhere, but it's worth a shot. Any feedback or constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated!