As she passed the photograph in the hall, she tried not to pay attention to it. She kept it out for sentimental reasons but ignored it as much as possible. It was just a reminder of how alone she was in the world. It was a photograph of herself and her parents, taken when she was a child. But they were gone now and she was alone.
Madelyn Randell’s life was a quiet one. She’d been alone for about 3 years. Her parents had died in an accident, far from home. They were adventurers, braving the wilds of Africa and the Amazon, to try to find lost civilizations, treasures, and people. They had written papers that were published in several magazines and a couple documentaries had been made of them during their searches. One even documented their triumph in finding a village of people thought to be long extinct. Unfortunately, they were killed in the Rocky Mountains on the way home from an investigation into reports of unidentified creatures not far from where their plane crashed.
The wings of the small plane they had chartered iced up. The pilot died instantly when the plane hit the sheer face of the rock cliff. The plane fell to a ledge and remained there for a few days, according to a recording found in the wreckage. Her parents, she was told, survived for a while, but died when the plane shifted and plummeted hundreds of feet to the ground. Both were severely injured and weren’t able to get out of the plane while it was still on the ledge. Had they been able to, she was told it was unlikely they would have survived long enough for help to arrive. It was 4 weeks before anybody was able to locate and reach the wreckage, and another 6 weeks to return the remains of her parents and their belongings to her.
The money they’d put into trust for her was enough to sustain her for the rest of her life, if she didn’t make extravagant purchases, but she didn’t touch much of it. She’d taken out enough to purchase a small house in San Francisco. It was sufficient for her current needs, and she was able to make it comfortable. She was fortunate that she was old enough when her parents died that she didn’t have to go into foster care. At the time of their death, she had just turned 16. Over the next couple months, she lived with her parents’ attorney and good friend, Brian Hemming. He helped her with the forms and other requirements for emancipation and a few weeks before her 17th birthday, the court officially recognized her as an adult.
Now, she was working from home, proofreading papers for English students at the University, and doing other odd writing jobs. It wasn’t like she needed the money, but she did need something to occupy her mind and keep herself busy. It worked for her.
Madelyn’s little house on 18th St near Clover St in San Francisco wasn’t what she’d grown used to while her parents were alive, but it was at least a charming little place. The hall where the photograph sat on the antique sideboard led from her small office, which in yesteryear would have been a parlor, to the den across from the office, then further back was a staircase leading to the second floor. Beyond the staircase was her little kitchen.
The kitchen in Madelyn’s San Francisco house was a bright room, with walls painted a pale yellow and a window above the two-sided sink. Little touches inside reminded her of home, which is why she’d never updated it much. There were original hardwood built-in cabinets and the floor was original hardwood, as well. The butcher-block countertop was marked with knife cuts from as many as eighty years ago but she didn’t care about those imperfections. She felt they added character to the little room. An old-fashioned table stood in the middle of the room, with a storage shelf underneath it to hold her large pots and pans. The only modern things in the little kitchen were the stove, refrigerator and a bronze-tone goose-necked faucet that had a pullout nozzle built right into the faucet instead of sitting next to it.
The phone rang as she stood next to the sink, thinking about her current house and reminiscing about her childhood home. Answering it, she was delighted to find it was exactly who she hoped to hear from.
“Brian! I’m glad to hear from you!” she said excitedly, hoping he would have the news she’d been waiting to hear for so long.
“Hi Maddie,” he said gently. His tone didn’t sound good. Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath as she waited for him to say more.
“They’re not releasing it,” she said when he didn’t say anything more. It wasn’t a question.
“No, Maddie,” he replied. “Not yet, anyway.”
“Wait, Madelyn, before you get upset, please hear me out,” he replied. Brian wasn’t just her family’s attorney; he was so much more, and very dear to Madelyn. She called him Uncle Brian when she was a child and while she no longer called him Uncle, he was still an important person in her life. He knew her very well and this was sure to upset her.
When he sensed she’d calmed a little, he continued, “This is just a little bump, Maddie. We will get your house, and your parents’ entire estate, released to you. I don’t see why you can’t have it by the end of the year.”
“The end of the year?” she repeated, in a little more forceful tone than intended. Sighing, she shook her head and tried to swallow the lump that felt like it was forming in her throat. “That’s just, it’s...” she fumbled for the right words for a moment.
“I know, Madelyn.”
“It’s ridiculous, Brian! They can’t do this! Or, they shouldn’t be able to do it. I want to go home!”
The situation frustrated Madelyn so much she was on the verge of tears. Madelyn couldn’t understand how a person could be forced out of her home at 16 then not allowed to return upon reaching legal adulthood, when her parents had owned it outright before they died. Their will stated specifically the house should go to her. She was emancipated not long after their death to keep her out of the foster care system.
“Madelyn, don’t worry. I have a few ideas. We will get you home.”
“Please, Brian, I can’t stay here much longer,” she said, dejected. “I need to go home.”
“Trust me, Maddie, I understand more than you know,” Brian responded as he looked over the report he’d received back from the investigator for the fourth time since he got it. “We’ll get you home, sweetie, don’t worry.”
“I trust you, Brian, you’re the only person I have left in the world, and if you say it’ll happen, then I’ll believe it,” she said before saying goodbye. Hanging up the phone, she decided to go for a jog to clear her head.
In his office, Brian continued looking at the report. Madelyn’s parents had kept a lot of secrets. It was only now that they were starting to make themselves known. He just didn’t know yet how he’d tell Madelyn all of the things he’d learned.
To you, the reader. If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I appreciate your interest in my story. I hope you have enjoyed this little intro to Madelyn’s world. This is a story that has captivated me for years already, begging me to finish it. Life happens, as does writer’s block, and other things make it difficult to do at times.
In case you recognize this story: yes, I posted it somewhere else once upon a time. Or, the portion I’d finished up till then, anyway. I do plan to finish it there, too, but I think I’ll get it in better shape first. This is the beginning of the (4th? 5th? 10th?...I can’t remember...) edit of what I’ve already written.
If you enjoyed this, please post a comment below. Would you like me to continue this here? I look forward to reading your comments, as well as constructive criticism. Please let me know if you want to see this continued here!
Oh! One more thing! The cover image is from a free resource for photos I discovered online and the photographer's name is Tim Mossholder.