When Anna had walked into Lawrence’s room, she was furious. The token effort Ted had made at stopping her hadn’t done anything (of course it hadn’t. Ted hadn’t tried very hard, and even if he had, she just would have turned her anger on him instead of Lawrence.) Madison had watched Anna disappear around the corner. She’d heard the exchange of harsh words. They’d gone quieter for a moment, and then there’d been laughter. Ted had called out his stupid joke, and the laughter quieted down. Things got quiet. Too quiet.
And then Lawrence’s door shut again.
Ted and Kore hadn’t noticed. If they had, they would surely have said something. Kore wouldn’t have been able to keep her mouth shut. Hell, Madison could barely keep her mouth shut. Thankfully, focusing on keeping her ears open was solving that problem, even if filtering out Ted and Kore’s babbling was making it hard to hear whatever the other two were up to.
Damn alcohol and weed. I could focus better if I had a bump.
Madison couldn’t be sure, but there didn’t seem to be any noise at all coming from the master bedroom. Were they just talking? Probably that was it. Probably they were just talking.
Lawrence had gone out of his way to show her the mater bedroom. It had its own bath. The shower had a proper tub, and the tub had jets. There was a walk-in closet and a queen-size bed.
The sheets were Egyptian cotton. Six-hundred thread count. Silky. The kind of thing not everyone appreciated. It took certain life experiences, a certain amount of class to appreciate the finer things this world had to offer.
Madison pushed herself up off the sofa. “Screw it, I’m going to bed,” she announced. Your bedroom shares a wall with the master bath. Madison stood still for a moment, winced and exhaled in annoyance.
“You okay?” Kore asked.
“Yeah,” Madison said, her voice sharp. Deep breath. Compose yourself, damn it. She smiled, forced a more cheerful tone into her voice. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just, you know.” She gave a little flourish of her hand. “Whee! My head!”
Ted and Kore both looked at her like they did not, in fact, know.
“Anyway. I need my beauty sleep. Don’t stay up too late, you two. If tonight was any indication, Lawrence probably has a five-mile long hike and a luau planned for us tomorrow.”
With that, she walked towards her bedroom, lingering a moment by Lawrence’s door to see what she could hear. But the door was still shut, and there was no sound coming from it at all, not even the whispering of voices. It stayed that way until she fell asleep.
A few hours later, the sound of the door creaking open and the uncertain tread of someone trying to go up stairs quietly woke her up. She almost felt something upon hearing that, but a hangover had already set in and all Madison did was grunt, roll over, and go back to sleep.
* * *
The morning came too quickly, the bright light of the sun and the insistent noises of nature pounding on Madison’s window. She pulled a pillow over her head. It helped to block out the outside world, but it did nothing to alleviate the storm raging within her own skull.
“Oh, fuck me,” she said, her voice barely rising above a whisper, her head sensitive even to that little noise. “No more red wine. Vodka tonics only. Vodka and soda water. Vodka, and chase it with something full of electrolytes.” At least everyone else probably feels as bad as I do.
Still, the day wouldn’t wait. Madison pushed herself out of bed and stepped on shaky feet over to the desk on the far side of the room. Her makeup waited for her, along with an old plastic film canister full of cocaine. Not the most discrete way to transport it, obviously, but it was perfectly fine for a week-long stay in a cabin. She was hanging out with friends, after all. Not crossing the border.
A small bump was enough to cut through the fog of the hangover. The clouds were still there, but she had the energy to push through them. She grabbed some of her things and showered, enjoying the hot water against her skin for longer than she would have if the others had been awake. But there was no sound from anyone. No voices, no footsteps. No squeaking of beds. Just the sound of the water, and her thoughts, and with the absolute privacy, her thoughts were as peaceful as they ever got.
I’ll cook breakfast, I think. I haven’t cooked a real breakfast in months. Eggs and hash browns and bacon. The boys will like that, and I’ll just have the eggs and some toast. I’ll put on some foundation when I get out. Maybe go down to the lake, wear the blue and gold bikini.Kore made it sound nice down there.
Aside from the big damn rock that’s been used for human sacrifices, that is.
But all of that could wait. For now, there was only the water.
* * *
She’d had to put away the plates and glasses from last night and scrape the leftovers into a trashcan labeled compost in bold letters. It was irritating, but there was no getting around it. She’d already decided she was going to cook breakfast, and the inconvenience of doing a few dishes wasn’t going to stop her.
Once the remnants of last night’s revelries were cleaned up, she turned on the stove, taking a moment to admire the silliness of the pop-up fan. She could hear her grandmother’s words in her head. “Anyone can cook, mia bambina. The trick for cooking for other people is having everything ready at the same time.”
Yes, Nonna. The potatoes first, of course. They would take longest. Then the bacon, then the eggs last. Scrambled, because screw it, if she was going to cook for a house full of people, they would eat scrambled eggs and like it. She did take the time to cook two pans’ worth, though. A large helping cooked in butter for the others, and a small serving cooked in olive oil for herself. A few pieces of toast in the toaster, pull out the milk and the orange juice, and that was it. She’d figured she’d serve herself and let the others rest as long as they liked.
As she sat down at the table, her modest plate before her, Madison smiled. She took pride in being able to fend for herself. Yeah, she’d come from money. Not as much as Lawrence, but more than most, and she knew it. And she’d known others who had too, and every last one of them was what her grandmother would have not-so-affectionately called “una puttana viziata.” “You are not allowed to be useless, bambina,” she had said. “I forbid it. I don’t know what happened to your mother. When your father married her, she was not as soft and helpless as she is now. She was both smart and beautiful. She had passion. She had a dream for her life. And now she is just una indossatrice.
“You must be both, Madison Mavelli. You must be everything. You must be beautiful and cunning. You must know how to eat a fancy dinner placed in front of you and you must know how to feed surprise guests when there is no food in your house. You must be comfortable fending for yourself and being waited upon. You are a Mavelli. The blood of Renaissance princes and princesses flows through your veins, the blood of men and women who took up arms against the fascists in the Great War. You are blessed, Madison. You can rule with your mind or your body, but you must know how to use both, for sooner or later, one will fail you.”
Madison smiled to herself. Oh, Nonna. If you could see me now. A night of drinking and drugs, and still I’m up, showered, made up, and cooking breakfast while everyone else is helpless in their beds. She speared some eggs on her fork, and brought them to her mouth. The olive oil never tasted as good as the butter, but it was such a small sacrifice, all things considered.
Kore was the first one to come to the table for breakfast. Madison had already finished eating by then, and she was sitting at the table with her head in one hand, her eyes locked on a book in front of her.
“Wow,” Kore said. “You really are going to be a model someday soon. You sitting there is like something out of a magazine.”
Madison looked up from her book and smiled. “You say the sweetest things, Kor-Kor.”
Kore laughed. “Oh, it’s all just flattery so I can seduce you.”
Madison smiled at that too, but she ran her eyes over Kore’s face, her hair, her piercings, her unassuming sleepwear of a man’s t-shirt and training shorts, and tried to decide just how much Kore was joking. She’s just joking.
“Holy crap, look at all this. Bacon, eggs, hash browns. It’s like being a freshman and wandering into the dining hall to discover all this delicious food.”
“My food’s way better than your dining hall’s, I promise.”
Kore grinned. “Oh, I don’t know… We had a culinary program at my school, and they put all the kids in it to work as sous-chefs.”
“Ah, but how many of them had angry Italian grandmothers telling them, ‘No, no, no, not like that! You do it again, you do it right!’”
Kore picked up a plate and began loading a helping of everything on it. “Probably not that many. They mostly… Oh, my God. This bacon is divine. I take it back. You’re the best.”
Madison smiled. Accept the compliment graciously, share the credit. “If you’re careful, it comes out perfect every time. But honestly, most of the divinity is probably just because Lawrence spent extra on a pig that was loved and pampered and given spa treatments before they turned it into bacon.”
Kore finished her first piece, started a second. “Worth every penny, I say.” She looked down, noticed the book that lay open before Madison. “What are you reading?”
“’The Bell Jar.’”
“Kind of depressing.”
“Well, that’s Plath for you. Anyone who sticks their head in an oven isn’t going to be the most cheerful person, you know?”
“I guess not.”
Kore went silent after that, completely engrossed in her food for the moment. Madison studied her. She’d been so agitated the night before over that altar, and now she seemed completely fine. The detective was gone, the activist. There was just the girl she had known for forever, eating bacon and eggs just like they used to years ago when Madison’s mom would cook breakfast for them. My cooking’s better, though.
“What’s on the agenda for today, Kore?”
Kore grunted something that sounded like “What,” only muffled by a mouthful of toast.
“What are we doing today?”
“I don’t know. I was going to read. Maybe hike. Take a nap before dinner. I didn’t really have anything in mind.”
“Come down to the lake with me. I want to work on my tan.”
Kore ran her eyes over Madison’s face, her neck, her arms. “Mads, you’re already tan.”
Madison just smiled at that. Her grandmother’s words left her mouth. “Bambina, anything worth working to get is worth working to keep.”
Word Count this Post: 1,934
Total Word Count: 17,256/50,000