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Rated: E · Short Story · Dark · #2279459
Chapter One: Madison is taken to her Grandmother's Estate & learns she won't be leaving.
Madison's muscles in her back and neck screamed from being so tense for the largest part of the cold, silent ride to Grandmother's estate. Rain pelting the windshield was the only break from the angry silence filling the Trailblazer as it sped along the freeway. From the start, she had positioned herself so as much of her back faced the woman driving. With iron-clad stubbornness, she refused to allow herself to cast even a glance at her mother, not wanting to risk the chance she would consider that an invitation to open her lying, dirty mouth. Just the thought of it made Madison clench her fists until her perfectly polished purple nails bit into the soft flesh of her palm.

As long as she lived, she would never forgive and never forget, she vowed over and over so as to bury it deep into her shredded soul. The SUV lurched as the woman driving made a sharp turn and started driving up the long, serpentine gravel road which led to the entrance of the Kuhlman Estate. Madison looked with disdain at the German-inspired Mannor. All her life she had been told how glorious and magnificent the Matriarchal home was. If it was so wonderful, why, in all her seventeen years had she never been brought here?

As the drab grey mansion came into clearer view, Madison decided nothing about it was welcoming. Cold, slate brick was topped by more drab grey roofing. While it had massive, oversized windows in abundance, not a peek of curtain or window dressing could be seen. The lawn, which was immaculate, lush, and green was out of place in deep East Texas where most lawns were the color of burnt toast.
Much as she resented being here and as much as she would have preferred to refuse to get out of the vehicle in a final act of defiance, she sprang from her seat before her mother could roll to a complete stop and turn off the engine. She heard the muffled exclamation as she slammed the door with extra force. Without hesitation, she crunched her way across the loose, grey gravel in the drive, and marched up the cobblestone walkway, dropping her backpack on the battleship grey porch that surrounded the entire front of the home.

"Mind your manners," Her mother warned as she joined her daughter on the porch and was about to open her mouth to say something else but was cut off when the door jerked open and a tall, rail-thin man looked at them as if they were specks of unwelcome dust on a freshly polished surface. Lank, sparse hair was plastered to his egg-shaped head by some sort of gel.

"We were starting to give up on your arrival," He said by way of greeting. He looked at Madison, glanced down at the baggage at her feet, then pointedly turned on his heel and without further comment left them standing there. Madison watched her mother trot quickly after him, not even bothering to check if her daughter was following.

Her iris blue eyes rolled as if on their own accord, as she snatched up her bag and stepped into the stark, polished foyer. At least it isn't completely grey, she thought. She took in the freshly buffed, waxed oak floor, an ornate marble table that had no other purpose but to hold an oversized, gaudy display of exotic-looking flowers, a chunky bronze statue, and over it hung an equally ornate bronze gilded mirror. No hint as to the people who might live here.

Defiantly, she dropped her backpack and left it there beside the table. A quick glance at her reflection showed wisps of her honey-blonde hair had escaped the denim scrunchy holding the bulk of her shoulder-length locks in a haphazard bun at the base of her neck. With slightly trembling fingers, she yanked the scrunchy from her hair, letting it tumble free, and shoved the hair tie in her jean pocket. Using her fingers in a half-hearted attempt to coax the unruly curls to lie flat, she briefly wondered why she was even making the effort. Who cared what anyone thought of her? She sure didn't care. Still, her teenage self rummaged in her pockets until she pulled out a tube of grapefruit dew gloss. She rolled it on and gave her shimmery lips a perky smack.

The foyer offered only one choice. Off to the left, she peered into a doorless entry and saw a grand room done in white on white and bedazzled with crystal and gold. Tiny spots of rose mauve did nothing to warm the room. Why on earth would anyone want a white carpet, Madison wondered. She decided that was one room she would avoid.

Further down was another impossibly impersonal room that had beige carpet, deep chocolate brown, overstuffed furnishings, and two walls were covered floor to ceiling with books of all shapes, sizes, and topics. Brass reading laps held down glass tables scattered around the room creating small sitting areas. She had always thought libraries were warm and cozy. Not this one. Not seeing anyone in the room, she crept in and looked about. A massive painting commanded her attention and she tiptoed over to it. Massive was an understatement for it took up an entire wall. Tentatively, she reached out to touch the painting. Real paint! Textured! The feel of it sent a shiver dancing down her spine. It was dark. The human forms twisted and cadaverous. An abstract of blacks, scarlets, and greens so dark they seemed black. She thought if she looked hard enough she could see trees in a display she knew for certain to be dark. The torment of a very twisted sort. Who painted it? Where did it come from?

The painting was nightmarish, harsh, yet beautiful and at once Madison was both disturbed and attracted to it in equal parts. A knot she hadn't known was there twisted in her stomach and she bolted from the room. As the knot churned within her, she took purposeful steps further down the hall until she heard raised voices.

"So, Francine, you've decided to dump your failures on my doorstep again after all these years," It was the razor-sharp tone that had Madison pausing just outside the semi-closed door. "Now you see the apple doesn't fall that far from the trees."

"I am nothing like you!" Denied Francine. "And she is nothing like me."

"Nothing like me, you say?" Mocked the older, venom-laced voice. "Have you not lied to the child all her life? Have you not turned your back on your very children and abandoned them to lust after your own desires?

"Don't push your sins onto me Mother," Madison's mother bit back. Before any more could be said, Madison felt a presence behind her and as she turned, EggHead Wallace stood there sneering down at her. Wordlessly, he pushed the door open and entered.

"Pardon, Ladies," he said haughtily and bowed towards the eldest. "May I escort Madam to the dining hall?"

"Indeed," Grandmother said as she gracefully rose from her perch. "Come, Francine, Cook has prepared Cornish hens. As I recall, you were always partial to them." The matron did not wait for her daughter to respond before taking the arm Wallace had extended to her and starting to walk away.

"Mother!" Francine yelled in exasperation. "I don't have time for this! Are you going to do as I asked or not?" She glared at her mother's retreating back. Francine huffed and muffled a curse and with no choice, followed in the direction her mother had gone nearly crashing into Madison.

"Where have you been?" Demanded Francine. "Oh, never mind, it doesn't matter. We are being forced to endure one of Mother's formal dinners." Madison tried hard not to roll her eyes at her mother's show of barely restrained temper. Without a word, she trailed behind her mother.

The dining hall was huge. In the center was a massive, ornately carved cherry wood table buffed and polished until it gleamed from the light spilling from an overhead chandelier, that looked to Madison to have at least a million iridescent crystals dripping from it. Five straight-back chairs lined the length of the table and one on each end. The table was bare of adornments, save for a trio of silver candlestick holders that held simple, slender white pillar candles yet to be lit. Three places had been set at the far end of the table with crystal water goblets and fine, bone-white china.

Madison's eyes widened as she saw the spread of food. At the center was a plater of perfectly roasted Cornish hens. Dishes of herbed finger potatoes, carrots with something sticky-looking drizzled over them, a bowl of crisp greens and vibrant diced vegetables created a colorful salad, and a basket of plump, crusty bread rolls.

Mother could say what she wanted. Madison's mouth watered as her stomach gave a growl of anticipation. Suddenly, she couldn't remember the last time she had eaten.

With somewhat tender assistance from Wallace, her grandmother took her place at the head of the table. Francine reached out to pull the chair on her mother's right and Madison just stood there not sure where to go.

"No," Grandmother stated sharply, stopping Francine and turning her icy blue eyes on her granddaughter. "You sit there." To Francine, she indicated the chair on her left. Almost immediately as they were seated a petite woman in a plain black skirt, white blouse, and sensible shoes entered with a pitcher of water and a pitcher of tea. Wordlessly, she filled the glasses. The tension had Madison's mouth feeling as if she'd eaten a pack of crackers, so she broke the silence with the rattling of her ice as she sipped her water.

"Mother, I don't know why you insist on this ridiculous display," Francine said as she slumped in her chair knowing how her mother hated slumping. The matriarch knew how to pick her battles. Instead, she turned her attention to her right.

"Did your mother tell you why you were brought here?" Madison set her water glass back on the table before responding.

"Yeah, said it was time I met you and saw where I come from." Madison eyed the food. Was it ok to just dig in? Grandmother gave a gawff.

"Meet me? My dear, you met me when you were barely three. I hardly expect you to remember that though." Her anxiety rising, she bit her lower lip.

"Mother," Francine cut in with a warning tone Madison knew well.

"That's right, you spent nearly a year with me," Grandmother confirmed. "Care to explain to her why she was dumped on my doorstep back then?" Grandmother directed her question to her daughter and Francine glared at her mother. Hostility filled the room and Madison's only regret was all that yummy-looking food was getting cold.

"She has a right to know what kind of mother you are," The venom in the old woman's tone was laced with sarcasm. Without asking permission, Madison reached out and snatched a roll from the basket. She paused for the rebuke, but when none came, pinched a small chunk off and popped it into her mouth. It fairly melted on her tongue. Grandmother pinned her with her icy blue eyes.

"You two go at it, I'm hungry," Madison said defiantly and quickly shoved more bread into her mouth. Without a word, Grandmother signaled to Wallace who approached and helped her serve herself a hen then assisted the other two. While he did that, Grandmother passed around the other dishes. Madison didn't hold back.

"This is all so delicious," Madison declared around a mouthful of hen.

"Don't speak with your mouthful," Francine rebuked.

"Marissa always makes the best Cornish hens," Grandmother replied. "She is a finely trained chef I had flown over from France." The three focused on their food and ate the rest of the meal in silence. When the petite woman had cleared all the dishes Francine broke the silence.
"Mother, are you going to do as I asked or not?" It was a direct question and the tone said she was at her limit.

"Do you agree to all my stipulations?" Grandmother shot back.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever mother," Francine bobbed her head in agreement.

"Does Madison know what you just agreed to?" A sudden, unexplainable chill swept over Madison.

"What are you two talking about?" Madison forced the words from her mouth.

"Your mother is running off to get married again, " Grandmother stressed the word "again". "In addition, in order for her to dump you here, I've issued three simple, non-negotiable stipulations. One. You will remain here until your nineteenth birthday. Then, you are free to go as you please. Two. I will do as I see fit with you. Three. Your mother will have absolutely no contact with you the entire time you are here."

Madison stared shocked at her mother. "You agreed not to have any contact with me for two years?" Her pulse was pounding in her ears as she felt her heart shatter.

"Oh, come on Maddy," Her mother cajoled. "It's not like we have all that much to talk about, now, is there?"

"Whatever," Madison spit out as she turned on her heel and stormed off. As she left, she overheard her grandmother tell her mother," Two years is nothing. Look at us, you haven't had any contact with me in nearly fourteen years and we turned out just fine."

If they were just fine, Madison was in worse trouble than she feared.
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