For complete Disclaimer see: Part 1
nyway, If you still like what you read please give me feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm fairly new to the writing world so I would really appreciate any advice or comments.
Staring at the furry stuffed audience in front of her, a six year old blonde laced her fingers together pretending to crack her knuckles. “Okay, this is my first song. I really hope you like it.” Maddie studied her favorite keyboard she had gotten for her recent birthday. Gently running her tiny fingers across the keys, she smiled one last time at the audience before she got caught up in the song. She was advanced in her skills for a tender age of six. But with David Conner as her father, it was no wonder. With her small naïve voice echoing off the walls of her room, she was lost in the song. Singing one of her father's collaborations about love, peace and life. She wasn't sure what it meant, only that it made her feel a little sad every time she sang it.
The song gradually came to an end, her eyes sealed and her small frame heaving. Suddenly those big green eyes opened and she gave her rows of furry stuffed animals a splitting grin. “Thank you, thank you.” She bowed and giggled when she witnessed her yellow monkey slowly fall over. “Aw shucks, Mr. Chimp, you don't have to faint. I wasn't that good…”
Taking in a huge breath, she flopped back on the bed, her eyes on the deep impressioned ceiling. She always felt so happy when she finished a song. Especially, when she knew she was getting better at it.
Hearing the music drift from the music room downstairs, she knew her eight year old sister was practicing with their father. Sighing, she adjusted her head back to her lifeless audience, that beautifully innocent smile disappearing from her face. Some days, she wished it was her that her father was teaching. Wanting an audience that would actually listen to her and say that's good work Maddie. Deciding today was the day, she gathered her keyboard under arm. After a struggle, she managed to open her bedroom door, heading down towards the music room. Seeing the big double door closed, she was hesitant at first, just listening to notes flowing through.
When the music finally came to a halt, she gently reached up grasping the brass handle and opened the door. Slipping inside the largest room in their mansion, she hid behind the big, black baby piano, careful not to touch it and leave smudges. They were not allowed to.
“No, no, Elizabeth… Try again!” David Conner growled in frustration. “Your last verse is off tune. We have to get it right if you are going to compete next week.” He knew his eldest daughter would already wipe the stage with his blood on her side but he would accept nothing but perfection from the Conner name. Especially, considering his son showed no interest in music. Elizabeth was his continuing decedent.
Liz looked up at her father with fatigue. “Daddy, I'm tired. Can't we take a little break? My fingers are sore.” She whined.
David glared at his daughter before resigning with a heavy sigh. “Fine, take five.” Liz's green eyes lit up as she dashed out of the room. “Just five!” He shouted after her.
Maddie shyly stepped out from where she was hiding thinking that perhaps this was her chance. “Daddy?” She called softly staring up into his handsome face.
“Madeline?” David jerked his head towards his youngest that had the same shade of eyes as his. “What are you doing here?”
“I…Well, um.” Maddie nervously stammered when her father's heated gaze was on her. Her eyes dropping to the glossy marble floor. “Would you listen to me play?” She shuffled her feet, twitching the keyboard under her arm.
“I'm busy now.” He dismissed her, pinching the bridge of his nose. He had to focus on Elizabeth and getting her better for the rehearsal.
“Please daddy, it will only take five minutes.” Maddie tried to protest but was cut off by his silencing glare.
“Madeline we spoke about this. What did I say?” Her father spoke, his voice dangerously calm.
“I said, I will listen to you when your mother says you are good enough, didn't I? Until then don't waste my time with this stupidness. I am a very busy man.” Maddie felt her shoulders deflate, tears gathering in her eyes. She stood frozen, hearing the footsteps behind her draw nearer. His hardened green eyes blatantly overlooking her to his eldest daughter. Liz slowly passed her, hopping up onto the stool. “Ah, Elizabeth, let's get started. I expect you to get it right this time.”
“Yes, daddy…” Liz let out an insufferable sigh stretching out her fingers.
Feeling utterly dejected and invisible Maddie turned towards the door, her shoulders slumped almost dragging her instrument. “Madeline…” Her father's strong voice echoed the room.
She whirled her head back, her green eyes shimmering. “Yes?”
“Close the door behind you.” He didn't even spare her a glance as he flipped through the music sheets.
Her eyes slowly fell as she left the confines of the music room, shutting the door behind her. She bit her bottom as the melody from behind the door soared through desperately wanting to be the one behind the door. The one her father saw…
Scurrying towards the kitchen, she could hear her mother yelling on the phone. Maybe she could get her mother to listen to her and prove she was good enough. She could play as well as Liz, she knew she could. Reaching the granite finished kitchen, she received a warm smile from Agnes, their housekeeper and nanny that seemed to be fixing lunch.
“Still playing, Miss Madeline?” The graying housekeeper asked, nodding at her instrument.”Why don't you put that down for a minute, wash up and come eat something for a bit.” She smiled, the wrinkles in her aged face becoming more evident. “I imagine even the biggest superstars eat lunch.”
Maddie giggled, her cheeks tainted crimson. “Agnes, I'm not a superstar…” She pulled herself up onto the high counter stool, setting her keyboard on the seat next to her.
“Not yet, Miss Madeline, not yet…” Agnes grinned at her favorite youngling in the Conner house. “But one day when you are on the TV next to your father. I will tell the whole world I changed that one's smelly diaper, there…”
“Agnes…” Maddie buried her face in her hands, her cheeks fully red now.
The older woman let out a deep chuckle. “I'm just teasing you, girl…” Maddie lifted her face and grinned sheepishly. She really liked Agnes. She was always nice to her. Giving her extra desert or just telling her stories about her own family. She wished she could have a family like Agnes's. Her children were all grown up now. But they all seemed so funny, getting into trouble and getting caught. Agnes seemed strict considering the punishment she dished out to them. In the Conner house no one got punished. Her parents were too busy to even consider it.
“Well, partially.” The nanny smiled. “I've heard you play and sing. You've definitely got your fathers blood in you, girl.”
The little blonde shyly ducked her head. “Thank you.” She suddenly jolted when her mother stormed into the kitchen screaming into the device attached to her ear.
“I don't care, Andrew! You will do whatever it takes!” Catherine Conner yelled, pinching the bridge of her nose, eyes closed. “You think David cares? He doesn't give a damn if it is during the holiday season. Just get it done!” Her eyes opened wide as she stared into the grounds through the kitchen window, listening attentively. “Yes, yes, that's exactly right. And I warn you now, Andrew, if you screw up, David will make sure you never work in this industry again!” With that she hung up pulling off her headset, running a hand through her thick blonde hair. She began to roll her shoulders in a circular motion trying to get rid of the kinks. She still had a few more calls to make. It wasn't if she could trust that invalid Andrew anyway. Without a backward glance, she spoke. “Agnes, send my lunch up to my office. I still have a lot of work to do.”
Catherine turned not even noticing her youngest daughter was in the room. “What Madeline?” She gave the six year old a detached glance while her mind was spiraling through the tour she had to set up.
“Mommy, would you listen to me play?” She asked, hopefully staring into dark blue eyes.
“No.” The older blonde waved her off going through her cellphone contacts.
“Please, mommy please!”
“I said no, Madeline. I'm very busy.”Catherine drawled in an irritated tone. She selected the one she wanted, dialing and putting her headset back on. “Eric Sanchez's office. Tell him this is Catherine Conner.” She didn't have to wait long, she mused, when he immediately answered the phone. “I'm not fine, Rick. That's why I'm calling.” She twirled a piece of hair around her finger listening to the other end. “Yes, so you've heard. Then you understand the predicament. Now, I want to know, what are you going to do about it?”
The little girl jumped off her stool, eyes still locked on her mother who was in the middle of a heated conversation. She gently tugged on her mother's formal skirt. “Please mommy.” Catherine glared down at the youngest Conner whose green eyes were full of pleading. “Later then, when you're not busy? Please?”
“Hold on one second, Rick.”Her mother growled, stifling the mike of her headset with a fisted hand. “How many times must I say no!” She snarled, the tension exploding. “God, don't you listen! I don't want to hear you play! I have no time for this stupid and meaningless venture of yours Madeline. So get out of my sight! I have work to do!”
Maddie's lips quivered, stumbling back into one of stool. Her keyboard falling with a large crash as she started running, warm tears streaming down her face. Busting through the back door, she slightly bumped the blonde teenage boy. “Maddie?” The fifteen year old stared as youngest sibling race into the grounds as fast as her short legs could manage. He turned his confused gaze to the other women in the kitchen. Stepping inside, Agnes couldn't meet his green eyes but her expression edged on solemn. His mother perceived to be disinterested as usual shouting into the mike. Then he saw it, Maddie's favorite keyboard discarded on the floor. Dropping his skateboard, he rushed to it. Crouching, he carefully flipped it over letting out a relieved breath. It wasn't broken. He picked it up and set it on the counter, his green eyes burning through his mother. “What the hell did you do?” He growled grabbing his skateboard, dashing back out the door.
On his board, he treaded swiftly through the Conner property, his eyes warily searching for his younger sister. “Maddie!” He yelled, startling some of the birds in his trail. “Maddie! Come out, please…” He sighed, picking up his pace, deciding to head towards the west lands. Just as he was about to spin around, he caught something in the corner of his eye that forced him to come to a complete stop. As his eyes darted to the little shoes sticking out of the bush, he felt the tension in his shoulders relax. Kicking up his board and catching it in his hand, he strolled slowly, the small heartbreaking whimpers becoming more distinct. “Maddie!” He shouted once more, noticing she didn't make a move. Clearly, she didn't want to be found.
Stepping under the deep shade enforced by the huge oak tree, he stopped just watching her. Listening to the tears that he knew rolled down her innocent face, uncontrollably. She usually wasn't a crier, always trying to find the light in the world. And he would give anything to keep it that way, knowing how neglectful his parents were. He was the lucky one, not inheriting a music bone in his body. Therefore not feeling the need to please his parents or seek out their attention. He was born early in their marriage, putting him in his grandparents' care for the most part while his parents were out there making a name for themselves. Then when they semi retired or weren't getting enough hype, Elizabeth was born seven years later. Maddie two years after that. They all hardly saw their parents until Elizabeth showed some interest in music. David ate that up, proclaiming to make his name immortal through her. Leaving his other two kids to their own devices.
Michael was old enough to not need, to not want. But Maddie… She was just a baby. She couldn't help but need, but want. He wasn't even sure if his parents even loved them. And he would be damned if he cared. Living with his grandparents showed him a lot of love. He would do his best to share it with his siblings, with Maddie. She was the only reason he was still here. He considered leaving, even at fifteen. It would be better than living in an empty home where the only thing breathing was contempt. David taking out the sudden slowness in his career out on his children.
He could hear the crying start to slow. “Maddie!” He yelled up into the tree, deciding to see if she wanted to be found now. When nothing, he stared at the trunk of the oak tree, considering a different tactic. “Excuse me Mr. Tree, but have you seen my little sister Maddie?” He smiled witnessing the slight perk of her blonde head. He nodded at the tree pretending to listen with a sober face. “She has blonde hair and green eyes and is about wee tall.” He used his hand to gesture her height against his hip.
“You have?” His eyes lit up and then grew. “What, she ran away?” He shook his head gently. “Man, I'll miss her so much. I mean, I know I have another sister, Liz. But, she's no fun… Not like my Maddie, anyway.”
He caught the slight tussle in the bushes before continuing. “Maddie is the coolest baby sister ever. Seriously, we go to the park together. She sings to me when I'm feeling sick. I love it when she sings or plays me something on her keyboard.” He smiled softly at the trunk. “I'm telling you Mr. Tree, no one is prettier, smarter or more talented than my little sister, Maddie.” He flicked his gaze once more in that direction as he sighed. “I just wish I knew where she was so I could tell her all of these things.”
He sighed dramatically again, seeing those little shoes shuffle. “But anyway, if you see her, will you tell her that her big brother Michael loves her and misses her so much?” He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his baggy pants. “And will you tell her to please come home?” With his shoulders slumped and a tiny smirk, he turned back towards the house.
Maddie hopped out of the bush. “I'm right here, Mikey.” She sniffled, wiping her runny nose with her sleeve.
The teenager whirled around at the small voice, dropping his skateboard. “Maddie is that you?” Maddie nodded slowly, blinking away a tear. He rushed up to her and gathered her in his arms. She wrapped her arms around him burying her face in the crook of his neck. “I was so worried, I thought you ran away.”
“Nope, I was just hiding…” She slowly shook her head under his chin, her breathing hitching every few seconds.
He leaned back looking into her teary face, brushing back a sticky piece of blonde hair off her face. “Why?”
“Because…” Maddie's bottom lip started trembling.
Michael sighed, sitting down against the trunk of the Oak tree, settling Maddie properly in his lap. He tucked her head under his chin as he rubbed soothing circles on her back. “What's wrong, kiddo?”
“I don't want to do it anymore…”
“What?”He asked feeling the hot liquid seep into his shirt near his collar.
“Music and singing. I don't want to do it anymore, Mikey.” Maddie's lips vibrated between her teeth as she tried to hold in her tears.
“What?” Michael gasped, severely. “But you are so good at it, Maddie…”
“I d-don't like it, anymore.”
“It's stupid and meaneenblis.” She grumped.
He tilted her head so that their eyes met. “You mean, stupid and meaningless?”
“Yeah…” She nodded briskly with her lower lip dropped in a heavy pout.
“Who told you that?” His voice was sharp and his brows drawn into a scowl.
“Mommy and daddy…” She said in a small voice.
He let out an exasperated breath, cursing his parents. “Well, they are wrong.” He shook his head violently. “You listen to me Madeline Conner. It's not. Your music is beautiful.”
She tried to drop her eyes but was held in place. “But they –”
“Don't see what I see. They don't hear what I hear.” He shook his head, his eyes piercing through hers. “And that's their loss. One day you will prove you are better than all of them.” He laid a soft kiss against her forehead, his lips curling. “You'll see... And I'll be the proudest big brother ever. ”
She felt her eyes grow heavy again, tears escaping. “I just want them to listen to me, Mikey. Just once...”
“I know, kiddo. I know” He used the sleeve of his shirt to gently wipe them away and cupped her small face so she was looking at him.” They will…” He nodded. “You are too good not to be heard. Even if you don't want to become pro like dad, I just know you'll make a difference with your music.”
“Oh, yeah… And I'm not the only one who thought so, either.” Michael smiled pressing his lips into soft blonde hair. “You know what Maddie, I'll tell you a secret?”
“What Mikey?”The blonde lifted her head, looking into matching green eyes expectantly.
“You know that black baby piano in there?” He pointed towards the mansion.
“You mean the one daddy doesn't let us touch? Grandpa's one?”
He grinned. “Yes… That one.” She nodded her head vigorously. “Well, I'm not supposed to tell anyone this but…”
“But what Mikey! Tell me! Tell me!” She almost wiggled out of his lap, anxiously.
He chuckled, sticking a tongue in his cheek. “Okaaay… But you can't tell anyone I told you this…”
“I promise.” She used her small index finger to line a cross over her heart.
He leaned in whispering in her ear. “Well, it's yours…”
“Mine!” Maddie gasped, her eyes growing twice its size.
She smacked a hand over her mouth. “Mine?” She hissed.
Michael nodded with a deep grin. “Yup, grandpa left it to you before he died. I overheard mom say that when you turn 18, it's supposed to be yours.”
“Yup.” He nodded.
“Why didn't he give it to daddy? Or Liz?”
“Because he believed in you, Maddie. Just like I do.” The teenager smiled, reassuringly. “You love music, Maddie. And we never give up the things we love just because other people think it's stupid or have no time for it. Family or not.”
“Just like when daddy shouts at you for skateboarding all the time instead of studying?”
Michael chuckled and nuzzled into the now grinning six year old. “Just like that, kiddo. I'm thinking about going pro. What do you think?”
“You're so good, Mikey! They would definitely pick you.” Maddie cupped his face in tiny hands and nodded with a huge smile, her eyes animated.
He gave her a crushing hug and pulled back. “Yeah well, why don't you go grab your coat and we'll head down to the half pipe. I'll show you some new tricks I learnt. And then maybe later before bed, you can play me something.”
“Okay!” Maddie excitedly dashed into the house leaving the teenager smiling warmly…
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Maddie eyes slowly popped open feeling the gentle breathing beside her. She turned her head, a soft smile on her face as she watched her dog sleep. The comfort of her familiar room enveloped her, reminding her where she was today. It was not like the empty one she had in LA. Memories of a past life rather than the past of the one she had today. No, she was born the day she left the Conner Manor into someone she could eventually be proud of. Someone she could rely on because family in truth was a myth to her. Loving parents were but a dream in a young girl's heart. She was a woman now and knew the harsh truth of the world. Her world…
Slowly pulling herself up, she tossed her legs of the side of the bed. Running her hand through her tousled hair, she scanned the room. Her eyes settling on the mahogany dresser of which a few picture frames were dispersed. Rising, she walked to it, picking up the small frame on the left. Her own eyes were reflected back at her but they were smiling. This face however had hard rougher edges surrounded in stubble, and happy sculpted lips. The nose distinct with the slight bend evident from where he broke it at sixteen. Even so, Michael was the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on. This picture was taken six years ago on his twenty-seventh birthday. The last one he ever had alive. She felt an overwhelming sadness consume her, the tear escaping before she could stop it. Swiping at it, she smiled weakly, hugging the picture to her chest. “Happy birthday, Mikey.”
Setting it back on the dresser, she put on her slippers and headed downstairs to start her day. Her feet dragging on down the stairs to her special liquid energy elixir. Pouring a generous mug of coffee, she settled in front of her laptop to check her emails before she had to get ready for today's rehearsals. Her music school's first performances were to take place in two days at the Christmas Eve charity event. Both Hayden's and her classes were doing really well, she mused.
Hayden… Her lips couldn't stop that involuntary twitch, curling slightly whenever her thoughts edged over to the brunette. Though her eyes remained sad. Her conscious proving to be somewhat intact. The conflicting look she wore elucidated how she felt where the brunette was concerned. Something was happening between them and it was as if she was using all the breath in her body to implement restraint. She tried restricting their interaction to the classes they taught together but somehow they found a way to milk the time for all it was worth. As much as she tried not feeling anything, just her mere presence burned through her. Coursed through her like the very blood in her veins. What was worse was it was never just the physical attraction between them. There was a need. A need to heal every wound. A need she couldn't begin to put into words. A need that put them both on very dangerous territory. With that as a reminder, she ripped her thoughts away, resolving them on the activity in front of her.
Scrolling down a few emails from school, she froze in mid-sip at one contact she hadn't seen in over a year. Placing the mug on the counter, she stared wide-eyed at the screen.
Kelly Burton: (no subject) [07:36]
Her fingers twitched on the mouse pad, unsure if she should open the email from her ex-girlfriend or not. She bit her bottom lip, feeling some unusual tension seep into the back of her neck as her mouse arrow hovered over the name. What could she want? They hadn't had any form of contact for over a year. Why now? She couldn't understand what Kelly would have left to say the way things left off between them. Staring at the unopened email, she knew there was only one way to find out. Just as she was about to click, her phone began to ring startling her. She jerked back on her chair almost tumbling over. Regaining her balance, she blew out a breath, standing. “Jesus.” She spared one last wary glance as the screen before padding her way into her passage way. Pulling the receiver off the hook she answered it.
“Hey Maddie, what color did you say you wanted again?”
Maddie grinned, shaking her head. “God, Lamar, how many times did I say red and green? How hard is it to forget the Christmas theme?”
“Yeah, yeah, hold on.” Lamar rolled his eyes looking back at the patron that was assisting him. Covering his cellphone with his palm. “Yeah, she wants the green and red.” The teenager nodded, packing the red and green decorations into the box. Lamar dropped his hand, the phone back at his ear. “Is the decorations all you wanted?”
“That's all I asked for. But didn't I tell you not to get it at the last minute or you would forget.”
“Hey, I didn't forget.” He growled into the phone pulling out his wallet.
“No…” He insisted, paying the cashier.
“So how much did you bribe the stock boy to let you in this early?” Maddie asked with an amused grin.
“Thanks…” Lamar smiled at the cashier, switching the phone to his other ear before grabbing the box. “What makes you think I bribed him?”
“Lamar?” The blonde drawled in that tone that reminded him very much of his mother.
He sighed, reaching his car. “Ten bucks…” Maddie just chuckled, shaking her head. “But the point is you are just lucky you have such an awesome best friend like me. Not many friends would almost run out of the house into freezing cold snow without their pants just to do you a favor, you know.”
Maddie's laughing seized. “Why did you almost run outside without your pants?” She asked with a raised brow.
“Well, I was sleeping and that reminder you set on my phone went off, thank you very much.” He grunted, shutting his trunk. “As for my pants, I was at Caryn's house and –”
“Oh god, I really don't need to know anymore…” She interrupted him with a shudder, catching the drift.
He chuckled into the phone slipping into the warmth of his car. “Maddie Conner, you're a prude, you know that?”
“I am not.” She frowned.
“Of course you are…” He grinned. “Talking about sex with you is like pulling teeth.”
“You're making that up…”
“Oh really?” He smirked, continuing to tease her. “Because, you know, if you weren't a prude, we could easily just go on the concepts of how a man and a woman –well in your case it would be woman on woman –”
“Okay, I'm hanging up now…” She declared in a huff.
“Wait, Maddie.” He chuckled. “Should I drop these things off at the town hall?”
“Yeah, just give it to Jim.”
“Oki doke… Later prude.” His laughing was cut off by the dial tone.
“Idiot…” Maddie rolled her eyes stepping back into her kitchen. She halted when her eyes swept over her laptop screen recalling where she was before the call interrupted her. Kelly's name in bold, bringing up issues she had made a point of getting rid of. Taking in a deep breath, she walked over to the counter and slammed the screen down. She couldn't deal with her ex just yet. She wasn't even sure she wanted to. Whatever Kelly had to say could wait. Leaving the kitchen, she decided to go up and get ready for today's rehearsal instead.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Hayden paced the lounge waiting for her aunt to get ready. She and Reese were signed up with a bunch of other people to help decorate the town hall for the Christmas Eve charity event. She also had to monitor the rehearsal of her class of youngsters that were performing a piece for the event. Looking up at the ceiling in frustration, she groaned. “C'mon Reese, we are going to be late!” She yelled towards the staircase.
“I'm coming, jeez. Just give me five minutes.” A voice beamed down from the top floor.
The brunette rolled her eyes, continuing her movement until her uncle stepped in with two mugs. “In women terms that translate into at least ten minutes.” He grinned, handing her the mug that contained the Hot Cocoa.
She took it shaking her head. “Thanks…” She wondered, sipping the warm drink. “How do you get anywhere on time?”
Seth chuckled, taking a healthy drink of his coffee. “Well, I don't know about other guys, but I have a system in place.”
“Yeah? Care to share the secret?”
His brows rose, playfully. “I don't know… I mean, this is only meant to travel among the troubled men forum.” She just stared at him with an annoyed expression causing him to laugh. “Okay, okay, I guess you are the exception, since you are troubled with woman issues.”
“Yeah, so now tell me.”
“Well, when Reese and I have an appointment or have to be somewhere at a certain time the next day, I usually wait for her to go to sleep.” He stepped closer to her, his voice barely a whisper. “After which I adjust all her watches at least fifteen minutes faster, including the one on her cellphone.”
Hayden face straightened, blinking twice. “Jesus… That's brilliant!” She grinned deviously. “Seriously, I should have thought of that.”
“Yeah, I'm a genius sometimes.” He grinned smugly. “Just don't get caught, though. Otherwise you will find yourself joining another forum by default.”
“ How to get off the cold hard couch forum.” He uttered gravely getting a chuckle out of the brunette.
“I'll try to remember that…”
“Remember what?” With a jolt, they both whipped around to see the smaller redhead eyeing them suspiciously.
“Er, that Christmas is in three days.” Seth grinned scratching the back of his neck.
“Er yeah, like I could forget anyway, dork…” Hayden forcefully rolled her eyes, turning her gaze to the door. “Ready to go?”
Reese gave them a once over with narrowed eyes. “You two are acting weird…”
“And this is different from every other day, how?” The brunette asked her aunt as she ushered her out the door.
“Good point. Let's just get out of here before we are even later…”
“Which we wouldn't be if you didn't change your shirt like three times.” Hayden muttered under her breath.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brushing snowflakes off her gloves, Hayden pushed open the thick wooden door. The loud creak echoed through the large town hall scattered with over a dozen volunteers already in the swing of things. Taking the box of streamers and other decors from Reese, they both made their way to the center table. Dumping the box on the on the wide metal, trestle table, her gaze wandered the deep colorful setting in contrast to the chestnut finish. Volunteers that were of all ages were assigned to a specific end of the hall attempting to make this into a winter wonderland. All of them faded into the background as she found her empty heart instinctively searching for something else.
“Oh, Reese, dear, I'm so glad you're here.”
Both Reese and Hayden turned to face the event coordinator who wore a gracious smile. Her hair, half blonde half grey tied back off her middle-aged face. The redhead smiled. “Hi Gladys, how are you?”
“Oh, I'm just wonderful, dear. How is that husband of yours?”
“Seth is great.” She grabbed Hayden's arm, tugging her forward. “You remember my niece, Hayden?”
The old woman scrutinized the brunette, her smile relatively forced. “Of course, Ella's daughter… My daughter, Sarah mentioned you were back at Red Bay High.” She turned her attention back to the redhead. “I'm so sorry for your loss. Ella and Wally were such wonderful people. They were always the biggest contributors to this cause.”
“Thank you.” Reese nodded, her lips drawn in a lean smile, squeezing Hayden's arm. “We weren't really sure if we were much in the holiday mood this year. But knowing my sister, she would have wanted us to be a part of this.”
“That is a generous way to honor her. She will be missed terribly on stage this year.” Gladys sighed sadly. “We just hope the youngster we have will be able to the sort of impact we hope to achieve.”
“They will.” Hayden cut in sharply, her brows drew feeling the need to defend her kids.
Gladys peered up at the brunette, nodding. “Ah, yes, you worked for Madeline Conner. I haven't really been to any of her class performances so I can't really be sure.”
“There is nothing to be sure about, Mad –er –Ms. Conner is a brilliant teacher.” She felt herself becoming irritated at the older woman's flippant nature.
“Yes, well, we will see…” Gladys nodded primly.
Reese sensing the bit of hostility in her niece stance pulled her down gently. “Are you okay?” She asked, not sure why the brunette was getting upset.
“Fine.” She said between gritted teeth, yet her eyes were like daggers.
Gladys began stirring around the box on the trestle. “Oh honey, the spare decorations go behind the stage.”
Reese adjusted her attention back to the coordinator. “Oh… Well–”
“I'll take them.” Hayden volunteered snippily, interrupting her aunt. She picked up the box before any of them can protest and trudged through the rows of neatly set chairs.
Stomping up the steps that led to the secluded stage, she pushed through closed burgundy curtains. Her footsteps came to a complete halt spotting the figure on the 4 foot step ladder.
Elevated, Maddie worked diligently on the section she was assigned to. Managing to get the tinsel ropes secured on the set canvas, she dusted her hands trying to remove the annoying glitter pieces that stuck to her skin. Sensing movement in the corner of her eye, her body jerked in that direction and her foot slipped off a rung.
“Oomph.” Before Hayden knew what was happening, the box in her arms was replaced by a certain blonde. Some content from the spilt box could be heard rolling on the stage floor before flopping still. But neither of them heard anything except the excessive rate of their hearts pounding. Maddie's eyes were squeezed tight, her fingernails clawing into the brunette's strong shoulders, her breathing coming out labored. Then as she registered the feel of the capable arms around her, her eyelids lifted slowly to be met with tormenting blue. Her breathing stopped altogether swallowed by those blue eyes so close to hers.
Hayden was mesmerized on every inch of the blonde's face, lingering on those soft pink lips. The light weight in her arms stilled. Her gaze drifting back to those big green eyes full of depth, full of apprehension. Full of desire?
Suddenly, both of them flinched at a loud crash coming from the main area of the hall. Both of them brought out of their trance like state. The trepidation in Maddie's eyes suddenly overcoming her weakness.
“You okay?” Hayden breathed, sensing the sudden change.
Maddie nodded slowly feeling the warmth of the brunette's breath prickle the nape of her neck. Her own gaze stunted on the beautiful face in her personal space. “Yes… I –I slipped.” She witnessed those full lips quirk slightly, those blue eyes twinkle in amusement.
“I know…” Hayden murmured, her small smirk quite evident. “I happened to catch you.”
“Right…” The blonde felt the embarrassing blush caress her cheeks, ducking her head. “Uh, thanks…” Hayden continued to smile softly at the blonde. After a while, Maddie turned her attention back up to the brunette. “You know you can put me down now, right?”
Hayden startled. “Oh shit, right…” Her own face started to burn up in a tinge of red as she gently set the blonde on her feet.
“Thank you.” Maddie smiled coyly, wafting her attention to the spilt box. Dropping to her knees she began gathering the dispersed contents. “So um, what brings you in so early?”
“Volunteer.” Hayden also crouched down, helping.
“Yep, Reese and I. My parents were big on this entire charity function, so we thought we could help out.” Hayden shrugged. “Take our minds off things…”
“I'm sorry.” Maddie lifted sincere green eyes to meet Hayden's. “I know birthdays and the holidays are the worst…”
“Yeah…” The brunette blew out a jagged breath. Waking up this morning was one of the hardest things she ever had to do. Knowing her mother wouldn't be downstairs with Reese, singing and attempting to bake something edible. That her father wouldn't have to give a blinding smile as he took a bite of the goodies before he was spitting it out into the nearest pot plant, when their backs were turned. “How do you get through it?”
“I can't tell you how… All I know is you have to otherwise you hit rock bottom.” The blonde smiled sadly. “It does get easier over the years, though… When remembering doesn't hurt as much.”
Hayden nodded soberly, throwing the last of the streamers in the box before both of them rose. Maddie dusted her faded blue jeans at the knees as the brunette deposited the box on the table near the others. Hayden began to dust her own clothes when she noticed the red and green sparkly glitter on her onyx sweater near the shoulders. “Aww, man…”
“What?” Maddie turned around, her whole demeanor changing when she saw the pout on the brunette's face. She let out an amused chuckle when Hayden rubbed furiously on the area only spreading the stubborn glitter around. “Oops…” She grinned holding up her glitter covered hands.
The brunette froze, glaring at the blonde's hands. “Oops? Do you know how long it will take to get all of this out?”
“Oh, c'mon, it makes you look so pretty and colorful.” The blonde teased, playfully battering her eyelashes.
“You think this is funny?” Hayden gave her an amused glare. “You just bedazzled a cult leader.” She couldn't help but smirk when Maddie giggled at that. “There are heavy penalties against such actions.”
“Oh really, mighty cult leader?” Maddie rolled her eyes. “Such as?” Hayden pursed her lips for a moment, as the cogs in her brain began to turn. Immediately regretting her taunting the blonde could only watch as a wicked smirk played on the brunette's lips. Hayden's hands dipping into one of the boxes. “Er…Hayden? What are you doing?” She took an involuntary step back as those glitter coated hands drew back out of the box. “No, Hayden…” That evil smirk pointed in her direction, she let out a half chuckle. “You wouldn't dare…” She took another step back.
“Wouldn't I?” Hayden took at step towards her enjoying the retreating action.
“Hayden… Hayden, no.” Maddie pointed a stern finger at the brunette, still moving backs, trying to keep a straight face. Who was she kidding even Smurf never listened to her. At the unrelenting mischievous glint in those blue eyes, she decided to make a dash for it. Only to be caught on her forth stride. “No! Aaaah!” She giggled as she felt fingers get grip on her shirt and arms wrapping around her waist. Hayden chuckled as she lifted the blonde easily off the ground in her struggle, smearing the glitter on her hands against the front of Maddie's woolen sweater. “Okay! Okay! I'm sorry! I'm sorry…” Both of them lost in their bout of laughter when Hayden set her back on the floor, her hands unconsciously remaining on the blonde's waist. Maddie grinned looking up into smiling blue eyes. “You suck…”
“I told you there were penalties…” The brunette shrugged her shoulders.
Maddie shook her head, looking at the mess on her sweater and then up at Hayden's. She used her fingers to trace patterns with the glitter on the brunette's sweater, before meeting her gaze. Freezing when she realized how close their faces were… How close their lips were… “This was all your fault, you know.” She murmured, her breath feeling rough.
“My fault?” Hayden's arched a brow, silently enjoying the sensation of Maddie's fingers. “How was this, my fault?”
“Well, why is it whenever you're near me, I'm stumbling in one way or the other?”
“Why is it you stumble whenever I'm near you?” The brunette countered, her grip on the blonde's waist unconsciously growing tighter.
“I just asked that…” Maddie stared up into her face searching her gaze.
Hayden's eyes looked into hers before trailing down her nose to her mouth noticing the way the poor stage light caressed her flawless skin. “Not the way I meant it…” She whispered.
Maddie lips slightly parted to bring in more air as she was having trouble breathing. Her eyes were drawn to Hayden's mouth when it opened slightly, the tongue sliding along the inside of her bottom lip. Her gaze flicked back up as the distance between them seemed to disappear more and more.
Just as their lips were about to touch, they both heard distinct footsteps climb up the steps. They sprawled away from each other swiftly as someone pushed through the satin curtains.
The brunette picked her head up at her at the surprised voice. The same blonde girl from the party appeared to be studying her with brown eyes. What was her name, again? Jane? She couldn't think with her heart banging against her chest and the blood rushing to her brain. “Jessica?” She guessed.
The blonde smiled warmly. “You remembered…”
“Uh, yeah…” She shrugged her eyes darting towards the other blonde who was tucked in the corner pretending to be going through the boxes. Shit that was close.
“Yeah, look about that night…” Jessica shuffled her feet awkwardly. “I just want to apologize. I didn't mean to freak you out.”
Hayden drew her attention back to the younger blonde, knowing it wasn't entirely her fault. “Don't worry about it…”
“Look, I was hoping we could start over?” Jessica smiled, hopefully. “I promise not to be so fast to kiss you again, if you promise not to runaway like that again?” She grinned sheepishly.
Maddie pushed passed both of them, giving them a weak smile. “Excuse me ladies, I think I'll go see if they have anymore things to do out there…” Hayden watched engrossed as the blonde slid through the curtains feeling a certain pang in her stomach.
The brunette jerked, her attention back to Jessica. “Yeah?”
“Was that Ms. Conner?”
“Yes…” Hayden nodded, her mind and body not getting over what almost happened a few minutes ago.
Jessica nodded, unfazed. “Well, what do you say?”
“What do I say about what?”
“About you and I starting over? Maybe friendship for now?” The blonde smiled holding out a hand.
Hayden stared at the hand for a moment before putting her own in it. “Sure…” She absently shook the soft hand, her mind on a different blonde…
… … … … … … … … … … … … …
Hayden peered out of her bedroom window, the starry night hazed out by the slight torrents of snow. Her warm, moist breath fogging up a small portion of the glass to the point where everything seemed to disappear into the mist. She wasn't sure what she was staring at exactly. Not that she was sure about much in her life anymore. This void inside of her growing painfully, confusing her, tainting her in a depressing darkness. The eerie sound of nothingness consuming her in her wake. Ghosts of happiness taunting her in her sleep. Was there no escape from the pain that poured out in every breath ? Maybe one…
Her lips curled into that rueful smile she wore most days. Her mind drawn onto the one vice she had. Vice would be an accurate term to describe what a certain Maddie Conner was to her. The only thing that brought a bit of immoral relief to her bleary life. The line between friendship and more had been thinning and she could feel it. She wasn't sure what to do about it. No matter how selfishly she wanted to grind her shoes into it, erasing it completely and take. With her body urging her on, her mind nearly lost, she restrained herself. Because she wasn't sure if this was what Maddie wanted?
They had almost slipped. Her eyes fell closed, taking herself back to behind the stage. Maddie in her arms, the electricity surging between them. Their lips whispers away… She could feel her breathing stop as she leaned her forehead on the icy planes of the glass window trying to regain some control. Her will that seemed to relapse. She had never felt so out of control in her life. She had never been one of those high moral fiber adolescents. But neither was she irrational, impulsive or reckless. Her parents made sure she had a good head on her shoulders. So she was one to think things through. She weighed them out and decided what she wanted. But this… This was all new to her. Her mind literally impaired from her person. She wasn't sure how much more she could take before she lost this battle with herself. With this need that her mind and body seemed so ready to succumb to.
She startled at the light knock on her door.
"Come in." She said her arms crossed over her chest as she continued to stare out through the window.
The door opened with a soft click, muffled footsteps drawing nearer to her. She felt small hands squeeze both her shoulders in a comfort gesture. "You okay?"
"Fine… You?" She smiled faintly, draping an arm over her shorter aunt's shoulders.
Reese snuggled more into her niece's side as her gaze followed Hayden's out the window. "Fine…" Her lips in a lean smile of her own.
Hayden dropped her eyes, her eyes scanning the petite redhead. "I don't believe you."
Reese raised her eyes until their gaze met. "Me either…" They both let out shaky laughs which died off too quickly.
"You ever think one day we will mean it?"
"It might not seem like it now but one day… I'm sure we will." Reese forced a small smile squeezing her side. "Ready for tonight?"
Hayden nodded, returning the smile. She, Maddie and the kids have been working hard for tonight's Christmas Eve charity performance. "Our kids are ready."
" Our kids ?" Reese wiggled her brow teasingly. "You've grown quite attached to each other, huh?"
"What? No! Maddie and I are just friends that work together, that's all." The brunette huffed averting her eyes, trying to control a blush that threatened.
"Maddie?" Reese blinked twice. "I meant the kids…"
"Oh…Um, yeah, I guess they've grown on me." Hayden scratched the back of her neck, awkwardly. "Uh, I think I hear Seth calling us."
The redhead frowned as she was ushered out of Hayden's room. "I don't hear anything…"
"C'mon, we don't want to be late, do we?"
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Maddie's eyes were glued on the small shimmering piece of moon that could be seen from her kitchen window. She slowly raised the mug of steaming coffee to her lips, absently sipping while her mind was in a whirlwind. Thinking was never a good pastime for her. It was like an out of body experience, arguing with herself until she found herself floating on an island of denial. That her conscious annoyingly pointed out countless of times. Whose side was it on anyway?
Lamar stepped into the kitchen leaning against the frame of the door just watching her for a moment. He smiled knowing what was going on in that beautiful, conflicted head of hers. "Ready to go?"
She turned around to face him with a wan smile and nodded. They both made no attempt to move and then she let out a heavy sigh, dropping her gaze. "I have to stay away from her…"
He grinned, shaking his head slowly at how well he knew her. "Why?"
Her head perked up suddenly. "What do you mean why?"
"I don't see why you have to avoid her. You just have to avoid getting caught." He winked mischievously at her.
She blew out a breath, her eyes narrowed in a glare. "God, you are a lawyer… Isn't it your job to work within the consequences of the law?"
He tilted his head towards the ceiling in thought. "Hmmm… I always thought it was our job to find loop holes to avoid the consequences of the law?"
She rolled her eyes at that, depositing the empty mug in the sink. She sighed and slumped her shoulders. "I just don't want to get us into any unnecessary trouble."
"I doubt it. You guys never had any physical contact after she became your student?"
"Once… But she was angry and literally kissed the life out of me." She closed her eyes briefly, surprisingly still able to feel the tingle that was sent straight to her toes.
"But she initiated it?"
Her eyes popped open and she nodded. "Yes."
"If it comes to that, I'm sure I can work around it. You guys aren't sexual so it wouldn't be a strong argument against you." He frowned in thought. He might have been the goofy best friend but he had always been one hell of a lawyer.
"So you think I'm doing the right thing?" She walked passed him into the passage towards the coat rack.
He followed behind her. "I'm personally in favor of the avoid getting caught notion. I mean, you are both young, crazy and hot as hell. Not to mention the chemistry that has other people within a 5 mile radius of you two bouncing off walls. Seriously, Maddie, when I'm a room with both of you, I have an urge to take the first thing that walks past me."
"That's not saying much considering you were probably born that way…" She rolled her eyes slipping into her thick maroon woolen coat.
"True… But when Smurf is the first thing that walks past you have to blame it on external factors."
"Ewe…" She wrinkled her nose, as he wrapped her scarf around her neck still hanging onto the ends. His rakish grin turned into a fond smile.
"I haven't seen you this way in a long time, Maddie."
"What way?" She looked up at him, seeing his humorous demeanor shift.
He pressed his lips together tightly before slowly letting go and dropping his hands to his side. "It's different… Like you have some purpose, some need to get up in the morning. Not because you have to but because you want to… Seriously, it was like you forgot how to want, Maddie. Coasting through life, just going through things day by day with no definite direction in mind. I mean, seriously when last have you given music a thought?" He raised a brow expectantly.
"Lamar, I do own a music school, you know…"
"Your music, Maddie. Seriously, it took blood to get you onto Murphy's stage on your birthday." He groaned, frustrated. "Hey, I mean, do you even remember that girl that had me captivated on the stage of the campus bar. The one that used sing with all she had and smile like it was the only thing in her life that mattered."
"Lamar…" She flicked her gaze toward her slumbering hound on the plush carpet in the lounge.
He smiled, using his glove clad hands to tilt her face back towards him. "I've missed that girl, Maddie. And I've seen her a lot lately since Hayden came into your life. So don't blame me if I want you to have that. Lawyer or no lawyer. "
She frowned. "But as my Lawyer, it would still be better to avoid her in that way at least until graduation, right?"
He sighed. "I guess… In a political perspective. I mean, if you have to take the press this will bring up if a lawsuit was implemented through suspicions. Probably, some lucky fish reporter will grasp on who you are related to and this will really bring some fuel to the fire."
"David will have a fit…" She let out a half chuckle at that, thinking about her father's reaction.
Lamar stiffened like always when ever David was mentioned. "I don't see why you give a fuck what he does or thinks…"
"Good… Because if it was me and I knew I covered my bases and couldn't go to jail, I would have caused an uproar just to get under his skin. Bastard…" He bitterly spat out.
She smiled knowing she was the reason for her best friend's disdainful reaction towards her father. He was loyal if not anything else and she loved him for it. "I know, but that's not me." She slipped on her own gloves after checking the contents of her purse.
"I know, you are too nice, Maddie." He let out a resigned sigh. "Even to those who deserve the worst." Shifting on his feet, he opened the door deciding to get back to the topic on hand. "So you think you are going to be able to avoid getting up close and personal with the Goth for a couple of months?" He gave her a wicked smirk as they stepped out.
"I… I have to try. It's been way too close recently and I'll admit really hard. I'm surprised I'm not already in an orange jumpsuit." She turned around and then proceeded to lock the door. "Besides, it's not like you would have visited me in prison, anyway…"
"That would be a no." He rubbed his gloves together, blowing into them. Then he straightened at the glare he received. "What, I'm sorry, but those inmates scare me."
"But you volunteer over Seth to go to the prison all the time."
"Yes, to the men side. It's the women side that scares me…" He feigned horrified shiver. "They all look at me like I'm a piece of meat." Tilting his nose in the air, he crossed arms over his chest.
Maddie had to shake her head at that with curled lips. She then noticed something green hanging above the door. "What is that?"
Lamar followed her gaze and grinned. "Mistletoe…"
"What self respecting home doesn't have a mistletoe during Christmas?" He glared darkly at her, his tone incredulous.
She sighed slowly knowing he was completely serious. Lamar was always a Christmas nut. "Did you have to put it above the door?"
"Would you have let me put it in your house?"
"So, it stays at the door." He declared with authority in his tone.
"Fine." She groused about to step off the deck when she was harshly pulled back.
"Hey aren't you forgetting something?"
"What?" She raised a brow, quite annoyed.
"You were caught under the mistletoe with me, missy. We are not leaving until I get my kiss." He pouted and stood firmly, waiting.
"What? Really?" She laughed at him.
"Yes, really… It's my favorite part of Christmas." He smiled sweetly, battering his eyes.
"I'll bet…" She rolled her eyes and groaned. "Fine… But I swear if you stick your tongue in my mouth, I'm seriously gonna hurt you." She waved a forceful finger at him.
Lamar chuckled. "Aww, you are no fun."
She rolled her eyes again. "So you always say." She leaned up and pecked his grinning lips. "Ready to go now?"
"Yup… Let us go see that someone you wish you were kissing with tongue." He winked.
"Lamar…" She drawled in an impatient voice.
"What? We both know I'm not lying…"
"Let's just go, okay?"
After a short drive around the block, they both walked into the town hall which was half full with people bustling around. It was still pretty early for the event to start up but she still had to some last minute things to check over before the performances began. Their groups were the first act so the stage was theirs until they began. She was only slightly nervous for them but they were a good bunch and she was certain they would do great.
"So, you're still coming over tomorrow, right?" Lamar asked, fussing with the knot on his scarf, feeling a bit strangled.
Maddie smiled hesitantly at him. "Er… Well, I was thinking maybe this year I'll hang out with Smurf, we will have some nice pickled ham and do the piles of Sunday crosswords I've been neglecting."
He glared at her as they headed towards the stage. "Maddie, you are not spending Christmas alone… And I know my grandma is weird. But I promise she won't hit on you this year."
"You sure? Because seriously last year she made me some offers that I'm pretty sure are impossible for someone her age to attempt. God, I'm not even sure I could do that…" She shuddered trying not to remember.
He cringed. "I don't want to know, do I?"
"That would be a no…"
He blew out a sigh, dusting the remnant of snow off his shoulders. "Don't worry about it. Mama said she's putting –" He hooked his fingers into imaginary quotation marks. "–a little something extra into the eggnog this year, so she should be K.O'd right after lunch." They walked up the steps slipping in behind the curtains. "That reminds me –stay away from the eggnog."
"Good to know." She said absently when she spotted the brunette in the far corner with her headphones on, alone. Hayden was leaning against the wall, strong arms crossed over her chest that seemed to rise and fall to the rhythm of her breathing. Her eyes were closed, but her lips seemed to be moving. Maddie smiled faintly thinking she was probably lip singing to whatever was playing. Noticing the way the poor lighting licked her face and dark attire made her seem so far away. She realized she was also standing in the same spot that they almost, almost…
Lamar watched the noticeable changes play on the blonde's face before following her gaze. He smirked wondering how on Earth Maddie was going to avoid the stunning brunette if she was so taken by her mere presence. Restraint with these two should definitely be an interesting endeavor to watch. "Oh, look it's your tall, dark and majestic wet dream…"
Maddie was snapped out of her wandering thoughts. "Do you always have to be so crude?"
"Hey… I'm just reading what's on your face." He lifted his arms up in defense with a smug smirk.
She couldn't hold back the blush that crawled on to her face. "Just go take your seat…"
"Don't have to ask me twice…" He chuckled, and then his voice went low into an almost buzz. "I know when you two want to be left alone… In the dark, backstage, just the two of you, alone…" He about-faced and treaded back towards the steps, grinning.
She felt the heat of his words traitorously go straight to her stomach. "You said alone twice." She rasped out after him.
"So take a hint and do something about it." He shot back over his shoulder and laughed.
"Idiot…" She chastised softly with a frown. But she wasn't sure who was chastising, him or herself… She took a deep breath before daring to glance back at the brunette. She was rooted to the spot when this time she was met with those crystal blue eyes wide and staring right at her.
Hayden slowly removed her headphones, not taking her eyes off the gorgeous woman across the space. She wasn't sure what was happening but either her feet were moving or the room was getting smaller. When she almost stumbled on her final step she realized it was her feet. Hovering over the shorter woman, she cleared her throat knowing she should say something. The last time they were here were almost two days ago during rehearsals, most of which Maddie had been avoiding her after what almost happened. She didn't blame her really but it hurt a little. She wasn't sure if she should apologize or say something to put them both at ease. All she knew is it had to be good, the tension was building up by the minute.
"Hey…" She said trying to keep her voice level, internally wincing. Seriously, was that the best she could think of?
"Hey…" Maddie smiled thinly trying to push down the thoughts of what almost happened the last time, here, in the dark, just the two of them, alone. Oh god, now, Lamar got her doing it too.
Both of them seemed short for words until someone short came running in.
"Hayden, Ms Conner…" The small boy threw himself at their legs.
Hayden blew out a relieved breath at the distraction and patted his head with a welcoming smile. "Hey Bailey…"
"Hi Bailey." Maddie greeted breathily never been so glad for a third wheel in her life.
Hayden crouched down grinning at her youngest and favorite student. "Ready to knock 'em dead, kiddo?" She asked seeing the wave of fear pass through him. She remembered her first time in front of a big audience, throwing up countless of times before she wondered what she was scared of in the first place.
"What if I screw up Hayden and people laugh at me?"
"You won't screw up, Bailey. We practiced remember?" She smiled reassuringly.
"Yes but what if?" He whined.
"Well, if that happens… Then just keep going, they won't know the difference. And if anyone starts laughing, you just point them out to me and I'll, I'll…" She paused to think about it. "I'll send Miss Conner out there to beat them up…"
Bailey burst into a fit of giggles taking in the petite form of the blonde. "Ms Conner can't beat anyone up."
"Sure she can, she is like a ninja. You don't ever want to get on her bad side." She grinned sheepishly at the blonde.
He chuckled harder. "No, she's not."
"Sure she is. Now why don't you go set up, we are about start in a few."
"Okay." His laughter not dying down at the absurdity of his teacher being a ninja. He went to grab his things.
Hayden grinned, pretty proud of herself. She rose and turned around to see Maddie with a raised brow, a hidden smirk, tapping her feet. "A ninja?"
The brunette laughed. "Hey, I had to do it, it's the old –"
"Distract with humor technique…" Maddie finished and smiled despite herself. "How'd you know?"
Hayden's smile fell a little. "My mom used to use it on me…"
"Ah…" She smiled warmly. "But did I have to be your joke?"
"What joke? I was completely serious…" The brunette's face sobered, glad that some of the tension seemed to dissipate between them. It was always so unpredictable, one moment it was like they were so edgy around each other and the next it was like the most comfortable thing in the world.
Maddie's lips quirked slightly, amused. "So you think I could possibly be a cause to someone's demise? Me?"
"Of course I do. It's the small sweet ones you always have to watch out for…" The brunette shrugged, smirking.
Maddie shook her head as a chuckle bubbled out of her. "I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or feel insulted."
Hayden smiled, her gaze meeting Maddie's. "I'd prefer you take it as the compliment it was meant to be."
Stricken by the small beautiful smile on the brunette's face, Maddie turned away. Her eyes running over to a smiling Bailey as he took his seat, guitar in his arms. She smiled. "You make a great music teacher, Hayden."
Hayden stepped up behind her near the curtain and tracked her gaze to the happy blonde boy. Her smile growing slowly. "Not as good as you but thanks…"
Maddie startled at the low voice close to her ear. She turned slightly until their gaze met. Her heart pounding fervently in the small confines of her chest.
Hayden felt rooted, feeling the warmth of Maddie's ragged breath tickle her neck. She hadn't meant to be this close and now she couldn't move, her own breath jammed in her throat. Her eyelids drooped as her fingers gripped tightly onto the curtains as if to contain the physical reaction she was having to Maddie looking at her like that. She wasn't sure how long she could keep doing this until she either exploded or ravished the blonde on stage in front of the entire town. Luckily, some of their youngling crew walked through, breaking their trance.
Maddie stepped away first, trying to control her breathing. Shit, shit, shit… "Uh, Adam, Jerome, Abby, why don't you guys go set up with Bailey while we wait for everyone else." She said to the bunch of giggling kids when she was able to find her voice, though it felt a little husky. The children nodded at her still in their own banter of conversation. She followed them out onto stage not trusting herself to stay behind.
Hayden watched her go a little sadly, cursing herself for the umpteenth time.
… … … … … … … … … … … … …
With the final drop of the curtains the entire town roared and applauded, most of them on their feet. Maddie leaned against the one of the walls, a warm smile on her face as people began to gather their things and leave. Reese and Seth spotted her, waving from across the room. Her smile grew as she waved back, her hand freezing when Hayden caught her eye. Hayden lifted her hand slowly once, smiling slightly but it didn't reach her eyes. Maddie forced her hand to wave once before letting it slip as well as her smile.
"Hey, you okay?"
Maddie turned around to see an amused look on Lamar's face. "What yeah, yeah, I'm good."
"Good because your group gave a spectacular performance out there…"
"Yeah, they did great, didn't they?" She smiled proudly.
"Amazing… One hell of a show overall." He nodded in agreement as they both made their way to the car park. "So you ready to head out?"
"Hmmm…" She bit her bottom lip, dipping her gaze to the ground. "I was thinking about walking…"
He halted, bemused. "What?"
"I just need to clear my head, you know…" She shrugged her shoulders.
He opened his mouth in protest but then shut it again and studied her for a moment. "Hmmm… Well okay, but don't turn into a Maddie popsicle. Mama will have my hide if you don't show up for lunch tomorrow."
She gave a half laugh. "I'm sure I won't freeze, Lamar. It's only around the block. Plus the snow's stopped."
"Okay then…" He pulled her in for a brief hug and kissed her on the cheek. "See you tomorrow bright and early." He leaned back. "But not too early."
"Gotcha'…" She smiled watching him get into his car. Stuffing her glove clad hands in her pockets, she found herself rocking on her heels looking down the street to where her house could be seen right on the end. She pondered for a moment before walking the other way. She wasn't quite ready to go home yet. She greeted a few others in her path that had also chosen to walk home.
She let her mind drift as the cold began to soak into her clothes. Those green eyes taking in the glow of the street lights and shapes of the buildings. Her lips quirked when she took in the sound of warm music and light emitting from Murphy's bar across the street. The last time she had been there was on her birthday. That had been the most bizarre night of her twenty four years, now that she thought about it. But if she had to think about what she thought back then, it would have been the most incredible. Daringly, she crossed the road and pushed into the casual bar filled with some of the town's folk that came straight from the town hall. She smiled, nodded and greeted a few of them on the way to the counter.
"Ah, Miss Conner fancy seeing ye tonight…" The graying Irish man behind the counter grinned down at her. He was polishing a clear mug with a dishcloth.
She graced him with a smile of her own. "It's good to see you too, Murphy."
"Aye, so what will ye be having?"
"I'm good with just a beer, thanks."
"Yes, ma'am…" He nodded and filled up a deep mug with the house special. Placing it down in front of her, he winked before going to attend to another customer.
"Thanks." She smiled taking a sip, a splotch of foam still hanging onto her lips as she put it down again. Wiping it off with a sleeve, her eyes wandered the stretch of the small stage. She had enjoyed her birthday night. Lamar was right, she hadn't given her music a thought for a very long time. She didn't think she could after everything that had happened in her life. Sure, she hadn't banished from her life completely. There was no way she could have done that. It was almost half of her makeup. But doing it just because she enjoyed it, well she had forgotten all about that. Being up there, feeling the music soar through her was something she never thought she could enjoy again. But as much as you deprive yourself from something that brings you some form of ecstasy, doesn't make you want it any less. No, your craving increases submerging all rationality until you have it. Humanity, proving you can survive without it but the hunger never leaving. Either way you have it or you live with the appetite. Sometimes there's no escape. Was she still thinking about music?
She sighed and turned back to her beer as the music continued to float through the room.
Sometime later, the music died down to hum, as the lead guitarist took the mike. "So here we are. The worst part of the night for some of you. Closing time." He grinned at the half coherent shouting of boo's that roared around the room. "Yes, I know, I know, but some of us have families to spend Christmas with, so we can't afford to stay here all night with a bunch of drunkards." He chuckled good-naturedly as did others. "So, I'll be nice and give you one final song before we close for the night? Any takers?"
Maddie observed the small stage skeptically, her nursed beer down to its last drop. She downed it as Lamar's earlier words coming back to her. Then without hesitation, she rose walking towards the stage.
"Hey Billy." She smiled.
The lead guitarist beamed back. "Hey Maddie, gonna give us an award winning performance tonight again?"
"I'd like to. Mind if I take the piano, I'm not sure you guys know this one."
"Sure…" He loosened the strap on his guitar and looked over at the late crowd.
"You guys can join in when you grasp on." She settled on the empty stool, opening the cover of the over used piano.
"Okay." He stood up to his mike. "Looks like we've got us a professional for the last song. Yeah!" The half drunken patrons cheering as he set his eyes back at the blonde. "Take it away, Ms. Maddie Conner…"
Maddie smiled briefly, before her eyelids sunk. She felt her breathing deepen as her fingers caressed the keys of the tuned piano. Her lips hovering over the small mike. The only sound drifting through the room was through her as it languidly started taking form, note after note. Her mouth parted as she waited for the right moment to join in with her vocals.
Stop the world
Stop the time
It's always running
Just trying to catch my breath
Just trying to take it in
Unfold and calculate
Concentrate and reach for something
Here's to the good times
The bad times
The times that could have been
To the wrong times
The right times
I know we'll breathe again
... … ... … … … ... ... … ... ... ... ...
Hayden trudged through the half snowed pavement, her breathing causing white clouds in front of her. One side of her mouth was quirked into a smile. The Charity event was almost one of the best that the town has had yet. She had felt a sense of pride when her kids had rocked their performances and knowing her parents would have loved every moment of it. Her smile dropped as she felt the stab of pain wishing so desperately for them to be here to see it. For them to just be here...
Feeling so overwhelmed after the show, she felt restless in the confines of her bed. Slipping out of bed and out of the house had her here, walking with no specific direction in mind. Just her and her contemptuous mind. It was the only outlet she could use to deal with what life had thrown at her. Sometimes, she switched off her mind, sometimes she let it click away. But tonight it was tuned to the humming of nothingness. She had over exercised her mind earlier with circular thoughts of her life, her parents –of Conner . Can't escape that one. Feeling the numbness take over her brain as well as her limbs, she finally decided to set a course back home. She had hoped Reese hadn't woken up in the middle of the night to check on her but just in case she left a note on her empty bed.
Just as she was about to turn around, the whispers of a familiar melodious voice caught her attention. She jolted her head in the direction of Murphy's bar, knowing that sound, knowing that voice. Not even registering, her feet were already in a dash brushing though the few pedestrians in her way. Finally, she skidded to a stop in front of the heavy wooden doors, snow covering her boots, her chest heaving painfully. She slammed her shoulder into the door, opening it just as the voice got to the chorus…
Suppose that we got older
Suppose that we'd begin
Suppose that I stopped running
It could begin again
Suppose in life we made it
I'm never looking back
I'm never looking back
The heated voice soared through the room, passion blazing through every single word, every single note. Hayden walked further into the time-frozen room her blue eyes locked on the beautiful blonde behind the worn out piano. Maddie's eyes were shut as she furrowed her brows, feeling the emotions overwhelm her, pouring into the song.
The hardest part of letting go
Not easy to believe
And sometimes you'll just never know
Gets harder to perceive
You're long gone
Suppose that we got older
Suppose that we'd begin
Suppose that I stopped running
It could begin again
Suppose in life we made it
I'm never looking back
I'm never looking back
Hayden hung onto every syllable, not sure if she heard anything so wonderfully tragic. It was just as thrilling as the first time she heard the blonde sing. Her eyes mesmerized on unpainted lips that flowed gently with the rhythm of the music as she too became part of the furniture in the background.
I know you can see it, now
Can't feel it, after all
Seems it's us versus time
Think we made up our minds
All that's left is just to see
Suppose that we got older
Suppose that we'd begin
Suppose that I stopped running
It could begin again
Suppose in life we made it
I'm never looking back
I'm never looking back
The conflict in the song and singer so apparent that it made her own heart clench. The prospect of an alternate life that could only exist for the brief minutes the song lasted for the both of them. The music died down as the chorus was murmured for the last time.
Suppose that we'd begin
Suppose that I stopped running
It could begin again
Suppose in life we made it
I'm never looking back
I'm never looking back
Here's to the good times
The bad times
The times that could have been...
Hayden released a small breath as the last verse was whispered. She closed her eyes tightly trying to contain everything she was feeling right now. It wasn't wise to feel these things. Only things that the Maddie had the ability to make her feel, recently. She spared one last revealing glance to the blonde up on stage whose eyes were still shut before rushing for the door.
Maddie's entire body was heaving in a smile. She felt the sweet burn behind her throat that only a proper work out could ensure. But more than that she sensed something else in the air. Her eyes popped open as she jerked up off of her chair, searching the crowd. Her heart jumped when she caught the whiff of a black hooded jacket slip through the door. Before the patrons could applaud, she was off the stage, shoving through them towards the door. She pushed through them into the cold of the winter night, her eyes frantically looking around the empty street. There was nothing. She had been imagining what she wanted to. It was probably due to the vulnerability she allowed herself during the song. The strenuous emotions that endured coming back to the brunette. She wasn't really here…
"It's probably for the best." She mumbled softly.
Maddie startled and turned around swiftly to face the brunette that was casually leaning back against the wall of the bar. She almost swallowed her tongue as Hayden stepped away from the wall towards her, those dark blue eyes captivating her. The brunette stopped mere inches from her, their bodies almost brushing, her neck craned.
"Hi…" Hayden murmured. Silence… She raised a brow when Maddie simply stared at her not even making an attempt to open her mouth to speak. "You know, I might have bought that you didn't understand English, if you weren't singing so beautifully inside like two minutes ago." She smirked impishly. "So, why don't we try this again…" Her eyes trailed down Maddie's flushed face, past those tempting lips, down the front of her coat to the hand she held out. "Hi, I'm Hayden."
Maddie's followed the brunette's gaze to the outstretched hand. She had to giggle at the absurdity of the situation. Hayden mimicking the first time they had met. She grinned feeling some of the tension drop away as she took the hand. She looked back up into gorgeous blue eyes. "Maddie… My name is Maddie."
"It suits you..."
"My mother actually hates it..." Maddie smiled weakly, dropping the hand.
"Some mothers are so messed up..." Hayden shrugged getting a small chuckle out of the blonde. She didn't know why but recently that sound had become her favorite form of music. She smiled, noticing that they were the only one out on the street at the moment. It almost felt like they were the only two that existed in this world. Just them... "So, where're you headed?"
Maddie felt it too. The precarious comfort of them being the only ones out there. It was like there were no pretenses. No teacher, no student. Just them… Just Hayden and Maddie. "Why, are you going to stalk me?"
Hayden chuckled softly. "Well, I am part of a cult..." She retorted.
Maddie giggled shaking her head. "You just eat that up, don't you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about." Hayden smiled sheepishly and shrugged.
"Uh huh… I'm heading that way..." The blonde jerked a thumb over her shoulder.
The brunette's eyes followed the thumb before they were back at the blonde. Her smile slipping into an impassive expression. She knew that she should just go straight home. She knew that it was wrong for her to be here. She knew that she could get them both in trouble. She knew that was something she didn't want to think about right now. Knowing so much sucked. "Mind if I tag along?" She finally asked after a moment.
The blonde's green eyes wandered over the brunette's face, feeling the uncertainty take her over. "I should…"
"But do you?" The brunette arched a brow, looking into tentative green eyes.
Maddie dropped her gaze unable to hold it, slowly shaking her head. "No..." She admitted, shamefully.
They both started walking in a comfortable silence, nothing said between them. Besides the stolen glances each of them dared and the slight brush of shoulders on each stride, there was an aura in the icy air that seemed to enclose them from the rest of the world. The night seemed to be getting colder but neither of them could feel it as they headed down the road until they reached the blonde's home.
Maddie noticed the blinking porch light as they both treaded up the deck to the front door which would have normally bugged her. But her mind just wasn't function at full capacity at the moment.
Hayden wordlessly walked Maddie to her door. It was just a courtesy thing you did when you walked someone home. And technically that was what she had done. But part of her was just using it as an excuse to spend as much time with the blonde as possible.
Maddie pulled out her keys, stuffing it into the keyhole unsure if she should invite the brunette inside. She probably shouldn't not the way she was feeling right now.
Hayden watched the door creek open into the darkness before her eyes were back on the blonde. She witnessed a large snowflake land on Maddie's cheek. Before Maddie's hand could swipe it away, Hayden's bare knuckles brushed it off. Her hand froze against the icy skin as she stared deeply into green eyes. Both of their eyes widened at the gesture. Then Maddie's eyes stunned when she noticed what was slightly above them. Hayden's witnessed the staggered expression on the blonde's face before her eyes too followed the blonde's gaze to the mistletoe above them. Memories of a night lost flew into her head and she felt weak in her knees. But she dropped her eyes until their gaze met, trying to retain her composure with all the emotions swimming through her. The brunette ran her tongue over her dry bottom lip. "Hmmm, I think you should know something important." She said quietly after a moment.
"Yeah?" Maddie hummed as those blue eyes shot through her, her eyes hooding slightly at the warm fingers contrast to her cold skin.
Hayden's gaze dipped down her face to soft pink lips before running back to her eyes. She should run… "I'm really only eighteen and a senior at Red Bay high..." She whispered.
The end of the blonde's lips curled faintly. Walk inside Maddie, close the door… "Good to know…" She whispered back.
"It's only fair I warn you in case I do something stupid..." The brunette managed feeling her breath thicken, the space between them fading slowly. Run, run, run…
"Stupid like?" Maddie's own breathing coming out unevenly.
"Kiss you..." Hayden murmured her eyes flicking between those green eyes and pink lips.
"That is stupid..." The blonde's eyes fell painfully closed at the admission. Inside, Maddie, go inside!
"So stupid..." Hayden breathed, their faces only mere inches away.
Just as Maddie opened her eyes again the distance between them ceased to exist as a hot mouth was crushed against her. Her hands instinctively tugging on brunette hair as they both stumbled inside. The door was shut and she was almost slammed against it in their haste, mouths still fused. Still she couldn't get Hayden close enough.
Hayden's arms swiftly wrapping around the smaller body, trapping it flush between her and the hard wooden door as her lips were on a full on assault. She let out a grounding moan when a tongue dipped into her mouth meeting hers. Her hands roughly running up the sides of the blonde's coat, bunching up the annoying thick material. Pulling back with a pant, they both sucked in deep breaths before their mouths met again in series of faster more impatient kisses. Hayden tugging on the zipper of Maddie's coat needing that gone.
Maddie feeling the irritated pull dropped her hands to yank on her coat letting it fall before working on the brunette's. The lips never missing a beat as she maneuvered Hayden backwards until she hit the passage table soundly, the porcelain vase rocking off it and crashing loudly. Neither of them fazed. With both jackets gone, Hayden pulled Maddie's hips more into hers feeling the heat between their bodies scorch her. Maddie moaned into her lips at the move, her fingers tangling back in the thick brunette hair. It was as if nothing else existed. No one else...
Hayden slipped her hands under the layers of clothing Maddie wore craving to feel the burn of her bare back between her palms. The blonde broke the kiss in a loud gasp at the feel of cold lengths trailing up her feverish body. Taking this opportunity Hayden lowered her mouth to the planes of the blonde's neck. Sucking and nipping a trail up to her jaw.
Maddie was straining against the brunette, her fingers clawing into the back of her shoulders, her swollen lips slightly parted, her eyes half closed. She arched her neck as Hayden hotly licked against her jaw up to her earlobe. Maddie moaned when she felt the tiny nip in that spot behind her ear. The sensations waking up parts of her body that had been dormant for a very long time. She couldn't take it, dragging Hayden's lips back to hers as they stumbled more into the room and onto the floor.
The brunette felt the shock of the fall go straight through her spine but she could care less. More powerful surges took her over feeling the luscious weight of Maddie's body on top of her. Maddie's breasts pressed against hers. She gripped Maddie's hips painfully against her as her mouth was getting properly ravished, a few dragging nips, creating an inferno that melted between her legs.
The blonde straddled on Hayden's stomach already feeling the uncomfortable slickness spread in her thermal underwear. She let her fingers rake down the brunette's sides as the phone started to ring. But neither of them could hear it so consumed in what they were doing. So consumed in each other...
" Hey Maddie, just calling to see if you got home okay."
Then as if reality came crashing down at the sound of Lamar's voice emitting through the answering machine, Maddie's eyes widened as she scrambled back off of the brunette. Hayden stayed where she was her own eyes big, her chest heaving trying to draw in air to her starving lungs.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit!" Maddie paced around the room, sparing the brunette that was sprawled on the floor a glance. What had she done? "Shit!" Then her head picked up towards the machine that still sounded off Lamar's voice.
Hayden also tilted her head towards the machine, her body in shock at what happened a moment ago. It was like she wasn't even here. God, she was probably dreaming, right? The way her breathing huffed, her pulse ringing in her head and the sweat dripping down her neck indicated a no.
" Mama said we should come around a little early, that she has some nice girls for us to meet. Whatever that's about. But I warned her not to play matchmaker because you are in between something at the moment. Then she asked me what that something was and I told her I have no idea. Which I don't. No, seriously, I don't, what do you call whatever you and Hayden are doing? I mean, if you would just jump her bones already at least I could call it an illicit affair." He laughed. "Well, I doubt it will be illicit since you can't be prosecuted anymore. But it makes it sound so cool. Uh anyway, I still wish you consider Hayden jumping, you will seem a little less tense." He chuckled again. "See you tomorrow."
Maddie buried her face in her hands, feeling the blush burn through her cheeks. Not that anyone would notice considering how flushed she already was. "Shit, why doesn't that stupid machine have a damn limit?" She mumbled. "Oh, God…" She ran a hand through her blonde hair. If he only knew how close his wish came to being true.
Hayden watched Maddie, a little blush of her own at the words of Maddie's friend. She sat up her eyes never leaving the blonde, feeling a bit of fear prickle through. She didn't know what to say as she did a scope of the passage and the aftermath they created. The broken vase, their coats and gloves tossed around, one of them missing a boot and the frames of pictures all hanging skew. Holey shit, not to mention the rip on her shirt above her shoulder that she had no idea how it got there. Standing up, slowly, she looked at the disheveled blonde who continued to pace and curse under her breath. God, she never meant for this to happen but she couldn't regret it. She knew that the blonde did and that hurt a little even though it was understandable. Averting her gaze to the floor, she spoke.
"Maddie…" Her voice crisp and dry.
Maddie halted her motion, her head jolting to the brunette. Her eyes trailing over her glowing eyes, flushed features, the tousled hair, the messy ripped clothes. She had never seen anything so sexy in her life. "Oh, God…" She crumbled to the stairs, sitting on the third step, her face in her hands. "Shit, Hayden, I'm sorry…" The brunette was taken aback by the apology. "I didn't mean for this to happen… Crap, sorry doesn't even cut it."
"No, it doesn't…" Hayden murmured, Maddie dropped her hands to stare into penetrating blue eyes, apologetically. But Hayden shook her head. "Especially, coming from you. Hell, Maddie this was my fault. It was my fault… I shouldn't have come, I know." Her eyes found the dark wooden floor. "But then… God, the things you do to me…" She ran a shaky hand through her hair. She looked at the blonde with remorse. "Selfishly, I wanted this to happen. But you have to know I really didn't mean to put you in this position. So I'm sorry that I did. But I can't be sorry it happened… I can never be sorry this happened… But-"
"Hayden-" Maddie tried to interrupt but Hayden cut her off.
"No, Maddie, I know that it's wrong, that you're a teacher at the high school that I go to. That you can get in serious trouble. Shit… I…"
"I just –" Hayden frowned at the interjection not sure what it meant. "You're not what?"
"I'm not a teacher…" The blonde shook her head.
Hayden's mouth opened, then shut again trying to process what the blonde just declared. "You're not a – I don't understand."
Maddie sighed at the puzzled expression on the brunette's face. "Hayden, I quit Red Bay High. Lamar helped me file for immediate resignation two days ago…"
"You're not my teacher…" Hayden's eyes grew in disbelief.
"No, I'm not your teacher."
"So, that's what Lamar meant about you not getting prosecuted?"
"Yes, that is what he meant…" Maddie said softly and nodded.
Hayden stood there in the dark, speechless for a moment. What could she say to that? Part of her was jumping for the moon but the other part of her was cautious, curious. She picked up her coat feeling Maddie's gaze on her. Slipping into it, she zipped it up turning to face the lounge window where moonlight streamed in. "Okay, so I can understand why I freaked out, since I didn't know. But why did you?"
"Because we still can't do this, Hayden." Maddie's head shook, her eyes anywhere else but on Hayden. "We weren't supposed to do this."
She whirled around, her brows drawn. "Why? You can't tell me you don't feel this…"
The blonde stood up. "No, I can't tell you that… God, I was part of that too." She jerked her arms to the chaos on the floor, frustrated. Then her arms dropped limply to her sides. "But it's too soon and if we jump into something now, people still are going to start getting suspicious and the school might call in for an investigation." She hugged herself feeling the sudden chill of the air. "And even if they won't find anything worth prosecuting me for, they will dip into both of our backgrounds. We won't be the only ones involved if the press gets into it. And I'm not talking local press. It will go national, possibly international if they find out who I'm related to. Trust me, it's not the type of publicity either of us wants. Reese, Seth, Lamar, all the people we care about get involved…" She looked at the brunette with pleading green eyes.
Hayden looked at her soberly for a moment. She understood the blonde's concerns but..."So we can't…"
"Not right now…" She said sadly.
But she didn't say not ever , Hayden thought to herself. "I see…" She pressed her lips tightly together, still in a deep thought. "I, uh, should head out…"
Maddie nodded knowing the brunette needed to go home and process everything further. It was a lot to take in. She watched as Hayden opened the door. "Hayden…" The brunette halted at her name with her hand still on the handle but she never turn back. Maddie continued. "I'm not asking you to put your life on hold just because I quit. I didn't do it because of that… You are still really young, it's okay if you want something else." After a moment, she spoke. "Jessica is nice…" She smiled weakly.
"She is…" Hayden's lips curled into a slight smile of her own. "But she is not what I want." She confessed, her back still to the blonde.
"Wants change all the time."
"Maybe for some people…"
"Maybe you should think about it. That is all I'm asking."Hayden's smile grew slightly. "You can ask me anything you want, Maddie. But you can't ask me not to want this…" This time she did turn back, her gaze traveling up the blonde's body until their eyes held. "You can't ask me not to want you …" With that, she pulled the door closed behind her…
To be continued in Part 7
Song: Breathing by Prime CircleFeedback at: email@example.com
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