Never a Ever After

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I didn't know my own strength

The ride home was eerily silent as Maia attempted to sort out precisely where and when her perfect night had taken such a horrid turn. Now that her anger had faded, all that remained was disappointment chased with a hint of insecurity. Could her inexperience have been the cause of his disappearance?

Was she such a disappointment in bed that he lost interest in her altogether? Did he regret having ever bedded her at all? A delicate hand reached over from the driver seat to lightly pat hers, coaxing the Latina from her thoughts.

It was a passive gesture on the part of Victoria to communicate her willingness to listen. However, she was also ok with continuing the ride in silence if Maia would rather avoid the subject. Maia offered her friend a weak smile in a vain attempt to convince her that all was well. Having been friends for quite some time now, Victoria was a bit too familiar with Maia’s mannerisms. Skepticism played across Victoria’s face, prompting Maia to follow up with, “I’m ok. Really. Just tired.”

Thankfully, Vicki didn’t have time for a rebuttal as she pulled into Maia’s driveway. The teenager unbuckled her seatbelt and turned to thank her friend for the ride home. However, before she could speak, Victoria leaned over and engulfed her in a warm embrace. It was extremely uncharacteristic for the girl who had always been a bit reserved with her affection.

Tears sprang into Maia’s eyes as she returned the hug. The Latina began to blink furiously to keep them at bay if for no other reason than to avoid ruining Vicki’s expensive Dior blouse. Sniffling, Maia pulled away and dabbed at her eyes with the back of her hand as she thanked her friend and hurriedly exited the vehicle.

It didn’t occur to the teenager until she slid her key into the lock that in her haste to put distance between herself and the hotel, she hadn’t come up with a plausible explanation for returning home from her sleepover so early. Should she feign illness? It wouldn’t be altogether untrue as the more she reflected on Kenneth’s abandonment, the sicker she felt.

With any luck, her parents had retired for the night, which would give her plenty of time to concoct a believable story. As the lock popped open, Maia slipped into the house, closing the door behind her as softly as possible. Not feeling up to running into one of her parents, the brunette turned and bolted upstairs to her room.

Once inside her bedroom, Maia gave the door a half-hearted shove close before flinging herself face down on the bed. Unable to restrain herself a moment longer, the teen finally allowed the tears that had been stinging her eyes since she got out of the car to fall freely down her cheeks. While Maia was sure that no more than fifteen minutes or so had passed, it felt as if she had been crying for hours before she was interrupted by a soft rapping on the door.

“Sweetheart, it’s me. I heard you come in, is everything alright,” Shanna called out softly.

A hard lump had formed in the teenager’s throat, making it nearly impossible to answer. Which she supposed was just as well, being that she didn’t trust the strength of her voice anyway. Just go away, Maia willed. Seemingly undeterred by Maia’s silence, Shanna pressed, “Maia?”

Rolling onto her side, the brunette curled up into a fetal position and wrapped her arms around herself, sobbing softly. Maia could hear the hinges of the door creak in protest as it opened, but couldn’t bring herself to lift her head and meet Shanna’s gaze. As Shanna took in the sight of Maia’s tear-stained cheeks and heaving form, the socialite felt a pang of guilt. There was no need to inquire what happened as chances were that Maia wouldn’t tell her anyway.

Even so, the body language of heartbreak was universal. Walking over to the bed, Shanna eased herself down onto it. For several minutes the pair sat there in awkward silence before Maia finally lifted her head to look at her mother. The moment that she did, Shanna extended her arms, and Maia crawled into them without hesitation. At some point, the teen expected that her mother would tell her how foolish she’d been, how disappointed she was, and probably even that she told her so.

However, at that moment, Maia couldn’t be bothered to care.

Cradling Maia’s head against her chest, Shanna shifted her gaze to the bedroom door, which was still ajar to find Jose standing in the hallway staring intently at the pair of them. When their eyes met, Jose shot his wife a disgusted look before shaking his head and stalking off to their bedroom.

~ A year later~

A frown marred the features of Shanna’s lovely face, as she stared with perplexity into eyes that so mirrored her own. Shaking her head, she exclaimed, “I don’t understand you sometimes. Your father pays thousands of dollars a month for your tuition at Oak Hills Academy. You are lucky enough to be educated by some of the most accomplished individuals in their fields, and yet you’re telling me that you would much rather go to public school.”

Public school. The term tasted like bile in her mouth. It seemed like the harder she tried to raise Maia to be a well-bred young woman, the more she resisted. Maia gave an exasperated sigh as she settled into the space beside her mother on the cream-colored chaise lounge.

Matching Shanna’s frown, Maia replied, “It’s not that I don’t appreciate how much money dad has invested in my education. I just want to be a more well-rounded person. I can’t spend my entire life only associating with people who are just like me. It’s not healthy.”

With her frown rapidly mutating into a scowl, Shanna pressed, “And I suppose running around with kids who are beneath you is healthy? Is that what you would have me believe? Your father and I have worked very hard to give you the best of everything. You attend a prestigious private school. You have a chauffeur and two closets filled with designer clothing. Yet you never seem to be satisfied.”

As her frustration mounted, Maia found herself struggling to resist the urge to scream. Why did she always have to make her feel ungrateful? With a groan of annoyance, Maia answered, “Mother, how can I ever be satisfied with what if I have if I’ve never known the alternative? Our normal isn’t normal. Only one percent of the entire country live the way we do. Don’t you ever wonder how the other ninety-nine percent live?”

Shrugging nonchalantly, Shanna replied,” Not particularly, no.”

Trying a gentler approach, Maia reached for her mother’s hand, as she continued, ” Well, I do. I want to go to school dances where they wear casual clothes instead of expensive gowns. I want to sit on the bleachers at football games and eat overpriced junk food. I want to join the drama club and be in a terrible production of Romeo and Juliet.”

Maia studied her mother’s face for a moment before adding, “Mother..please.”

Maia’s heart raced as a wall of silence arose between the mother and daughter. It seemed as if an eternity had passed before Shanna finally said, “I still think it’s utterly ridiculous, but I will speak to your father about it, and if he agrees then we’ll see about getting you enrolled in Middleton Heights.”

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