It was six months later and life had gone on in the Hamilton house. Martina graduated, but with the usual lack of interest or fanfare. Neither she nor her parents attended the ceremony and her diploma was held hostage until someone who actually cared, arranged for its retrieval.
For a while, mother would make comments about Callie. Martina quietly grieved and asked her to stop talking about her friend as if she, and they had escaped some kind of plague.
One day, mother excitedly called Martina into the parlor. “Dear. We are going to be entertaining the Taylor family this weekend, so you must be on your best behavior.”
Martina politely nodded affirmation. Mother smiled like a proud mother hen as she said, “they have a son named Randall. He’s a bit older than you, but he is one of the most eligible bachelors in town, and I think the two of you would hit it off famously. He’s the sole heir to their fortune, you know, and I hear that he’s looking for a proper wife.”
Martina had faded back into the quotidian, routine world that Callie had so desperately wanted her to escape. As if she had finally surrendered, she smiled and agreed as mother told her which dress she should wear.
The Taylors arrived and Martina was properly introduced to Randall. They were placed side by side at the dining room table, perhaps to inspire some lively conversation which could lead to further interest in getting better acquainted.
Martina listened as Randall boasted about the family business. She immediately found him to be obnoxious and annoyingly arrogant. There was nothing remotely attractive about him physically, at least not to her, and he seemed to be quite full of himself. She listened for what seemed like hours, as he offered his rendition of his future role in the family business. “When father retires, I will take over the business and instill a newer, more modern view of how it should be run,” he said. “Then, I’ll marry.”
Martina asked, “and will your wife help you run the business?” Randall, seemingly amused, chuckled and said, “good heavens, no. Women aren’t business minded. The roll of my wife will be to give me as many heirs as I desire and, of course, keep me happy.”
As Martina began to fantasize about life with him as his wife, she surprised herself when she interrupted dinner with an unusual and loud, very unladylike-like laugh.
It was clear by the icy cold look from mother that Martina had embarrassed the family, and a quick apology was demanded. Martina obliged by saying, “I do apologize. Randall just reminded me of a story I once heard about a woman who set her husband on fire while he was sleeping.”
Unsure of exactly what to say, everyone at the table rescued Martina by joining in the laughter.
Martina sat quietly for the rest of the dinner, but smiled as she thought of Callie. The remark she made was exactly the kind of thing Callie would have said. She realized how much she missed her quick wit and biting badinage.
As the visit neared its end, Randall came over to Martina and said, “it was charming to meet you, and I hope you will grace me with your presence again in the near future.” Martina watched the cheeky grin slowly leave his face, when she smiled and said, “I’m sure I would rather be put to death than spend another minute with the likes of you.”
Insulted, but being a gentleman, he said, “may luck be with the unfortunate sap who next encounters such a wretched soul as yours.” She was impressed with his cleverness. He reminded her of Callie.
“Touché,” she said. They both smiled and for some strange reason, Martina thought they might indeed become friends some day, but not yet.
Later that night as Martina looked at herself in the large, ornate mirror that hung over her dressing table, she thought to herself, “is this really who I want to be?”
The next morning, she summoned Mr. Morton to the parlor. “I would like for you to drive me into town.”
“Very well,” he replied. “And where do you wish to go?”
Martina said, “there’s a place called ‘The Middle of Nowhere’. It’s in the center of Pack Square.”
Mr. Morton was aghast and said, “does Mrs. Hamilton know where you want to go?” Martina looked at him and said with a smile, “no, she doesn’t, and you will not tell her. Do you understand?”
Mr. Morton begrudgingly agreed, but Martina wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t betray her to mother.
The Middle of Nowhere was where all the college kids hung out between and after class. She was entering unfamiliar territory and nervously sat down at a small table near the door. She had never seen so many young people at one place. It was different than high school. All of them dressed the same, and were contained in a small room, pretending to listen to a boring teacher talking about even more boring subjects.
These people were different. Their bodies were decorated with tattoos and parts of their faces had strange piercings on them. No one was dressed the same, except for blue jeans and various tops. Martina had never owned a pair of blue jeans.
Suddenly, someone caught her eye.
To be continued____________