Deleting Martina – Chapter Ten

When news of Callie’s death circulated around campus, it was decided, out of respect for her and her family, the play would be delayed until the following week.  A small service was going to be held in the chapel for her friends and fellow classmates, but Martina did not attend.  Her overwhelming guilt was almost tangible.

She wondered if Joe Blow would make an appearance, but she wouldn’t know him if he did. “Besides,” she thought to herself, “drug dealers don’t usually go to the services of the people they’ve effectively murdered.”

She called Randall and asked if he would meet her at the coffee shop.  When they arrived, a black wreath was hanging on the door. The mood was somewhat somber, but it didn’t dissuade the regulars from doing what they had always come to do…drink themselves into oblivion and release the animal they otherwise kept at bay.

Randall ordered two glasses of wine.  They stood and Martina said, “here’s to Callie.  Stand by your glasses steady, and drink to your comrades’ eyes.  Here’s a toast to the dead already, and hurrah for the next to die.”

Randall said, “wow.  Was Callie Irish?”  Martina said, “I don’t know.  I just know it was her favorite toast.”

After a few minutes, she said, “I don’t think Callie was afraid to die.  It was almost like what you said, about the brightest burning out the quickest.  When I think back on some of the conversations we had, her urgency to somehow get me to break free of my prison, and her dogged determination to basically live life to its fullest, I think maybe she knew that her light was going to burn out quickly.”

The next two weeks were hectic for Martina.  Most of her time was spent studying her lines, and anticipating being the next “break-out star” of the drama class.  She had been keeping Randall at bay, but he took it in stride.

Finally, the big night arrived.  Martina was a bundle of nerves, worrying and fretting about whether or not she would freeze in fear as soon as she stepped onto the stage.

Randall managed to slip backstage unnoticed, and watched as she paced the floor, script in hand.  Looking at the program he was handed when he arrived, he smiled when he saw the names portraying the characters.  There in black and white, he read, “introducing Martine as Fantine.”

He quietly slipped back into the audience and sat down in the front row.  After two and a half hours, the play was over. The cast came onstage and bowed to near deafening applause, and a standing ovation.  Martina’s performance outshone them all, and calls for her to re-appear were thunderous.

Completely captured by the adoration, Martina didn’t notice mother sitting with Randall. When she walked back stage, surprise wouldn’t quite describe the look on her face.  It was almost a combination of fear and shock.  She stood quietly frozen until mother walked over to her and said, “I’m very proud of you.”

At last, Martina felt validation.  She felt worthy.  Her staid, submissive mother had elevated her to some semblance of importance.  She expressed pride.  But of course, all those expressions were tempered with mothers’ obvious concern of her name change.

“Did you change your name, or was it a misprint?” asked mother.  Martina smiled and said, “no, mother.  It wasn’t a misprint.  I am now Martine.  Martina has been deleted.

Mother sighed with disapproval and said, “well, what are your plans now, and what happened to that dreadful creature…what was her name? Callie?”

Martina said, “if you ever want to see me again, don’t ever say anything about Callie.”  She stood inches away from mothers’ face and almost growled, “do you understand?  Now, to answer your question, I’m going to quit school and move to New York.  I’m going to be a star on Broadway.  

Just picture it in your mind, mother.  My name in lights.  Martine as Fantine.”

Mother sighed and said, “you must speak to your father.”  Martina disrespectfully said, “I don’t have to speak to father. I can do what I want.  You seem to forget that I am an adult now, and you nor father, have any control over me.”

Mother said, “maybe not, but we do have control over your finances.  How do you expect to live in New York?” Martina smugly asked, “are you threatening to cut me off financially?  Go ahead.  And while you’re at it…go fuck yourself.”

Randall witnessed the entire conversation and thought for a minute, mother might faint.  She looked at Martina and said, “Martina, what has gotten into you?  Where did you learn that filthy language? Was it from that crude, disgusting girl?”

Martina said, “it’s MARTINE, mother.  MARTINE.  Say it.  Say it.  MARTINE.”

Mother turned and walked away.  Randall knew she hadn’t noticed Martinas’ huge, dilated eyes, but he had.  He looked at Martina and said, “you’re using, aren’t you?  You’re as high as a kite, and not just because you perceive yourself to have given a hugely successful performance.  You let the animal out of its cage.”

Martina rolled her eyes and said, “oh, please.  I just needed a little pick-me-up for the play.  I needed something to steady my nerves.  You understand, don’t you?  I mean, you were once an addict.  I, however, am not.  I can quit anytime I want.”

Randall said, “Martina, I asked you not to use, and you promised.”  Martina said, “it’s MARTINE and I never promised. And, by the way, I don’t need a lecture from you.  If all you can do is preach, then just leave me alone.”

As she was leaving the room, she turned and said, “you must excuse me. The cast is going to the coffee shop to celebrate, and you are not invited.” Randall watched as she walked away.  

After a few steps, she turned and smiled at him like a bully, who had just emotionally gutted someone. She had become Martine.

Randall understood how Martine was feeling.  She was feeling in control and she was loving it.  She was feeling a sense of power and she was loving it, but in reality, she had power and control of nothing. The drug had the power and control, which she refused to acknowledge.

After that night, he reached out to her several times, but his efforts were fruitless.  When the semester ended, Martine left.  No goodbye, no note, no phone call, nothing.  She was gone.  Just as she said to mother…”Martina had been deleted.”

Mother was beside herself and father was little more than an obtuse bystander, shaking his head and saying his tired, “she’ll be back if you just give her time” statement.  Mother angrily conveyed her belief that Callie had successfully ruined Martine, and was instrumental in her change of personality and subsequent disappearance.

Randall didn’t tell them about Callie.  He didn’t tell them that Martine was using drugs.  He didn’t tell them about his own past. He only told them that he would ask around.

Putting on his imaginary Deerstalker, he began to look for her. Unbeknownst to Martine, he knew the dark shadowy figure behind the coffee shop.  “Joe Blow” had been his drug dealer in the past, and he knew that for the right price, not only could he get drugs, he could get information.

Two large was what it cost Randall to find out that Martine had gone to New York, just as she said.  “For another two, I’ll tell you exactly where she went, and I’ll even throw in the name of the dealer I hooked her up with,” Joe said with a laugh.  “By the way, I’ve got some ‘ICE’ if you’re interested. It’s as pure as the driven snow.  How ’bout it?  Been a while, hasn’t it? Come on.  I’ll even give you a break on the price…for old time’s sake.”

Randall was aware of the monsters that sometimes reappear when trying to help an addict while you’re in recovery.  You can be drawn back into their world.  You can be pulled under.  You can actually believe that it can be only once, “for old time’s sake,” and he only confessed to himself that not a day went by that he wasn’t lusting after a fix, even though he knew that fix could potentially lead to a marble tombstone being placed at the head of a mound of dirt.

Randall passed on the Martines’ “exact” location, drug dealers’ name and the drugs.  Walking away, he remembered the exhilaration he felt after his injection, and for a split second, he did think about going back. Like all addicts, the want was always going to be there, his animal would always try to get control, and he knew the cage must never again be opened.

Gathering his thoughts, he reasoned that Martine would head to Manhattan. That’s where the Broadway star wannabes always went. The question was, could he find her?

Going to New York was not a trip he wanted to make, so he sought the help of a private detective.  Richard Benton was the friend of a friend of the family. Through the grapevine, Randall heard that not only was he first-class, he could be trusted. Having no real information, other than his suspicions as to Martines’ whereabouts, he called.

Benton answered the phone. After Randall introduced himself and gave him a brief synopsis of his plight, Benton said, “call me Dick. No need for formalities here.” He told Randall that he would do what he could, with basically nothing but a name. Randall told him that he wasn’t sure if she was even using her real name.  All he could offer was Martina or Martine Hamilton, and he wasn’t sure if she had changed her looks, other than the effects of whatever drug she was using.  Dick reminded him that one could very successfully hide in New York.  “It’s a big place,” he said.  “You can move just one block away, and no one will ever find you.”

A month went by, and meager information was all Randall received.  A few people said they thought they had seen her, and wanted money for information, which of course, might or might not be accurate.  In Randall’s experience, most people could be bought, but it didn’t mean that what you were buying was worth the price.

He wondered what he would do if he found her.  Would she talk to him?  Would she treat him the way she had before she left?  Would she accuse him of stalking her?  He was sure of nothing, but felt as though he had a debt. Someone had helped him through his addiction, and he wanted to pay it forward.  Someone had saved his life.  He wanted to save someone else’s.  He wanted to save Martine.

Randall had become comfortable calling Mr. Benton, Dick, rather than “sir,” after Dick repeatedly said, “I keep telling you that I want none of that sir bullshit.” He had taken to calling Randall, “son.”

Dick was an old movie buff.  His chosen genre was about old beaten down private eyes, who lived in dank one-room flats, and sat in bars drinking beer, dreaming of the “big case” that would send their name into infamy.

He played those roles perfectly when necessary, and he had a reputation for getting the job done.  His personalities ranged from portraying a forgetful podunk hillbilly, to a man with a license, a gun and justifiable homicide in his eyes.

“Well, son,” he said.  “I have news, but not much.  Word is, she’s going by the name Martine Monroe, but I’m not sure how correct my information is. Randall chuckled as he echoed, “Martine Monroe?  That’s interesting.  Do you have an address?”

Dick said, “working on it, but nothing so far.”

Randall was tentative about asking Dick to try to locate a few of the local drug dealers, because that could potentially put him in harms’ way, but Dick was slick.  Randall believed that he was the kind of man who could actually sell drugs to a drug dealer, so he asked.

“Already on it,” Dick said.  “I’ve got some feelers out.  Money talks, as you well know, and some people will sell their mother for a little cash.”

Without explanation, Dick hesitated and said, “son, I don’t get into people’s personal business.  I just do my job and cash their checks, but sometimes I tell a client that they have to ask themselves if the person and the expense is worth it, and this is getting pretty expensive.”

Randall said, “I believe she’s worth it.  I may be wrong, but let’s just say…I’m hoping she’s worth it.”

Dick said, “you also have to understand that some people just don’t want to be found.  Furthermore, you have to understand that what you find out may not be what you want to find out.  Just keep that in mind.”

“I will,” said Randall.  After the call, Randall started thinking about what Dick said.  He questioned himself again as to his motives.  Yes, he wanted to save her, but did she want to be saved?  He didn’t believe he needed saving when he was flying high, nor he didn’t want to be saved.  He thought he was living.  He thought everyone else had a problem.  

“I’ll give it two more weeks,” he thought to himself.  “Then, I’ll let it go.”

To be continued_______________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Nine

“Speaking of singing,” he said, “are you ready for your big debut this weekend?”  Martina said, “I don’t know.  I sure hope so.” Then she looked at him and said, “would you take me by Callie’s apartment again?”

He said, “if you want me to, yes.  But if she’s not there, or if she is there, and doesn’t want to talk, you can’t let it push you off the deep end, okay?  I think you know what I mean.”

Martina and Randall got into his car. He could tell she was anxious. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “I am…I think,” she said.  “I feel like I deserted her somehow.  Does that make any sense?”

Randall looked over at her and said, “from what you have told me, she encouraged you to break free and explore the kind of life she has, and you readily embraced the idea. She didn’t force you into her world, did she?  Why do you feel like you deserted her?  Did she demand that your full attention be focused on her alone?  Or did she just make you want to as I said, taste another side of life?”

Martina said, “you have so many questions, and I don’t know the answers, but I wonder if I was a good enough friend. After she introduced me to things I had never seen or experienced or done, I just sort of went my way and left her behind.  But if it hadn’t been for her, I would have never been able to break free of my parents, and go to college, and good heavens…join the drama club.”

Randall quickly said, “and if it hadn’t been for her, you would have never become an addict.”

Martina bit her lower lip.  She wasn’t yet ready to concede that she had a problem, although, even as they were driving to Callie’s dorm, she was shaking and felt like she needed some help.

It was the same scenario as before.  She knocked on Callie’s door, and there was no answer.  She knocked on the RA’s door. No answer.  Looking up and down the hallway, she asked Randall if he thought he could shoulder the door down, “like they do in the movies.”

With very little effort, the door yielded and they walked in.  The quiet was thunderous, and the stillness was eerily disconcerting.  They called to Callie, but there was no answer.  Walking around her neatly kept dorm, nothing seemed out of place. Martina slowly walked toward her bedroom.  The door was closed but not locked.  A wave of dread came over her, and she called for Randall.  He moved her aside and said, “let me go in.”

Martina closed her eyes and held her breath as she said a silent prayer.

Randall went in and found Callie on the floor, leaning against the bed, facing the window.  One look, and he knew she was dead. The syringe, filled with cocaine was still embedded in her arm, and beside her left hand was a crumpled piece of paper.

Before Randall could stop her, Martina came into the room.  “Don’t look,” he said.  “You don’t want to see her this way, and she wouldn’t want you to see her this way.” Martina could hardly control herself.  She was hysterical and pleading with Randall to do CPR.  

“It’s too late,” he said.  “She’s been gone for several hours, and you need to call 911.  Tell them to send the police, but tell them that we don’t need an ambulance.”

“You call,” Martina said. “I don’t have my phone.” Randall called, and while trying to comfort an inconsolable Martina, and without her seeing, took the note Callie left and put it in his pocket.

Martina started running around like a caged animal, pulling pillow cases off of pillows, looking in Callies’ purse, and even taking off the top to the commode.  “What are you looking for?” he asked.  She said, “I’m trying to find her help.  I don’t want anyone thinking that she had it.”

Randall scolded her loudly and said, “Martina!  She has a needle sticking out of her arm.  Her arms are full of tracks. I’m sure people know she was a drug addict, and I think it’s time you stopped referring to it as help.  It’s not help.  Call it what it what it is. It’s cocaine.  She was a cocaine addict.  YOU’RE a cocaine addict.”

Thinking quickly on his feet, he said, “we need to get out of here, unless you’re prepared to start answering a lot of uncomfortable questions.”

They managed to slip out a side door before the police arrived.  Martina covered her ears as the haunting wail of sirens got closer and louder, and she was literally starting to fall apart emotionally.  She begged Randall to take her home, and he knew why.

“I’m not taking you home,” he said.  “I know you think you need a fix.  Stay with me for a while and let it pass.  Just take some deep breaths.”

After threatening to get out and walk, Martina finally calmed down. They sat in his car, watching the flickering red and blue strobe-lights, that to her, from that day forward, would always mean death.

“I’m so desperately sad,” she said. “I just don’t understand.”

Randall said, “yes you do. If you would just open your eyes and admit the horrible truth. She was an addict. Addicts always think they have control over their animal.  They think that animal is their friend, their release, their escape, their salvation.  But it’s really a stalker.  A soul destroyer.  An anarchist.  A depleter.  It has no sympathy. And one day, it becomes a killer.

Randall looked at Martina and said, “we need to talk about getting you into recovery.”

“I don’t want to talk about that right now…please,” she said.  “I just…I just…”  She turned, looked at him and, in a terse way asked, “how do you know so much about this? And who are you to tell me about animals and what they destroy and what they deplete? What makes you such an expert?”

Randall held out his arm and showed her the now healed and almost invisible track marks, cleverly hidden by a dragonfly tattoo.

Martina was stunned.  “You used to be an addict?” she asked.  Randall said, “I still am.  I’m a recovering addict.  I’ll always be an addict.  I’ll just hopefully be an addict who doesn’t do drugs.”

“What was your help?” she asked.  He said, “I thought we had agreed to call it what it is, Martina.  It’s not help.  It’s a drug.” She nodded, then asked what his drug of choice was.  He took a deep breath and said, Heroin.”

Suddenly the conversation shifted and almost in a panic, she asked Randall about calling 911.  “They’re going to trace the call and find out that we were there.  They might even think we were responsible.” Randall said, “don’t worry about that.  I always carry a track phone with me.  It’s something I learned from dear father.  He uses them to communicate with his trashy girlfriends.”

“Do you have a trashy girlfriend on the side, too?” Martina asked.  Randall laughed and said, “no.  I don’t use it to mingle with trash, but you never know.  I might get robbed or leave my phone laying around somewhere. That’s why I always carry throwaways.  They’re also good for calling 911 anonymously.”

For a moment, he made Martina smile, but her thoughts soon shifted back to Callie.  When she began to cry, Randall said, “Callie left a note.” Martina dried her eyes and said, “where?  When?  What…what…what do you mean, she left a note?  How do you know?”

Randall said, “it was laying beside her hand, and I took it. I wondered if it was a suicide note, and if it was, I didn’t want the police to get it and then have it on local television stations or in the newspaper.  I shouldn’t have taken it of course, but I did. I’d rather have them think it was an accidental overdose.  An accidental overdose is just that. An accident. Suicide is purposeful and intentional…and even more tragic, I think.  It’s the end game of defeat, desperation and surrender. I always wonder how alone and hopeless those victims must feel in their final moments of life.”

Martina looked at Randall and asked, “have you ever tried to commit suicide?”  He smiled, but said nothing.

She said, “do you think we should read the note?”  He said, “yes. Those are her final words. Do you want to read it or do you want me to?” Martina said, “you read it.  I don’t think I can.”

Randall unfolded the piece of paper and began to read.

If I gave you my heart,
Would you break it?
If I gave you my trust,
Would you betray it?

If I told you a secret,
Would you keep it?
If I was a treasure,
Would you seek it?

If I gave you myself,
Would you take me?
If I broke your golden rule,
Would you forsake me?

If I told you I was broken,
Would it matter?
If I fell to the ground,
Would you let me shatter?

If I left you tomorrow,
Would you cry for me?
If I asked for your life,
Would you die for me?

If I begged you for mercy,
Would you ignore me?
If I disappointed you,
Would you still adore me?

If I was in the ground,
Would you walk upon my grave?
And say that I was someone,
Not good enough to save?

Martina’s uncontrollable sobbing was interrupted when Randall said, “I think someone broke Callie’s heart.”  Turning to her, he asked, “do you know who?  Was it you?”

Martina said, “me?  No.  Why would you ask that?  We weren’t lovers.” Randall asked if she thought that maybe Callie wanted them to be.  She said Callie had never given her that impression, and besides, Callie had always loved the attention she received from men.  

“Well,” he said, “do you have any idea who the poem might have been written for?”

She said, “I can’t think of anyone…except maybe Joe Blow.”

“Excuse me?” Randall said.  Martina said, “Joe Blow. He was her…he was the one she got her drugs from, but aside from a remark she once made…that was the extent of their relationship, as far as I know.  I don’t think they were together.”

“What remark?” Randall asked.  Martina said, “I think she was teasing, but she said when times were lean, Joe Blow would sometimes trade drugs for a ‘BJ’.”

“Gotcha,” he said.  “And he was your supplier, too, right?  So, you know him?”  Martina said, “I was never introduced to him properly.  We meet behind the coffee shop when it’s dark.  He’s always in a car, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and it’s a quick swap.  I have no idea what he looks like.”

Randall said, “well, there were no signs of a struggle, and her dorm was too tidy, so I really don’t think there was any foul play.”

“But the door has been broken down,” Martina said.  “So, the police are going to think something’s sinister, and start looking for suspects.  We need to be each other’s alibi.”

“Will you stop worrying?” Randall said.  “For all they know…or can prove…Callie may have locked herself out, and broken down her own door.  It wasn’t a very secure door.”

Martina began to cry again.  “I had no idea that she was so desperately sad, and I just feel so helpless.  I want to know why?  Why did this happen to her?”

Randall said, “the brightest burn out the quickest.  And through the years, I have found that the ones who seem to have the most strength are the ones who are the most vulnerable, because they are the loneliest, hiding the most profound pain, and covering the deepest scars.”

“But she had plans, and hopes, and dreams,” Martina said.  “She made me believe that I could have plans, and hopes, and dreams.”

Randall said, “you still can.  You’re still alive.  If anything, this should make you even more determined to follow those hopes and dreams you say you have.  Live.  Live for Callie.  Let something good come from this.  For whatever reason, and no matter if accidental or on purpose, Callie is at peace now.  Honor her determination by fighting for your own path toward success.  Show that determination to everyone who believed you’d fail.”

He sighed and said, “I know I’m rambling, but I just want you to focus on today and tomorrow.  I don’t want this to send you over the edge, if you know what I mean.”

Martina said, “you’re not rambling, and this may sound strange, but I think that’s what she’d want.  She’d be telling me to get on with my life.”  She laughed and said, “she’d say, go get your butt out on that stage and break a leg.”

“Are you going to be ready?” he asked.

Martina took a deep breath and said, “I am.”  Then she looked at Randall and said, “will you come to the play?”  He smiled and said, “of course, but only on one condition.”

“What?” she asked.

“You have to do it without a visit from the shadowy figure behind the coffee shop.  Promise?  Say you promise.” Martina looked at him and said nothing. Not defeated by her refusal to promise, he still had hope.

To be continued______________________________


Deleting Martina – Chapter Eight

Randal, trying to calm her down, said, “okay. “The first step in any addiction is admitting that you have a problem.  The second step is actually doing something about it.  You do understand that you can’t make Callie stop using just because you want her to, right? Are you enabling her?”

“What do you mean?” Martina asked.  Randall said, I mean are you giving her money?  Are you participating in activities with her?” Martina said, “she has never asked me for a dime.  The first several times I used, yes, I used with Callie.  It helped us concentrate while we were studying.  Then…” her voice trailed off as she said, “then, it was more about just sitting around and laughing…and making fun of mother.  Now, when I try to talk to her, she gets almost hostile.”

Randall said, “that’s the animal.  My advice is this.  Be there for her as a friend.  Don’t use with her.  If you suspect she is using around you, leave. As gently as you can, try to urge her to get into some sort of rehab or group therapy, but don’t threaten her with abandonment or retribution.  Do whatever you can for her, but remember…the most important person in this equation is you.  You can’t let yourself become one of her victims by default.”

Randall said, “why don’t we meet at the coffee shop tomorrow and we’ll talk about it some more, okay?” Martina, sounding deflated, said, “okay.  Around 11?”

Martina was already at the coffee shop when Randall arrived.  He greeted her with an unexpectedly warm and friendly smile.

She knew that this was the one day of the week that Callie didn’t have a morning class.  She was unusually distracted, looking toward the door every time someone opened it.  When Randall asked who she was looking for, she said, “Callie.  She’s supposed to be working today.”  

Randall said, “well, she may just be running late, but I’d rather talk about your problem.” Martina rolled her eyes and said, “how many times do I have to tell you?  I don’t have a problem.  Why are you so suddenly concerned about me anyway?  Aren’t you the one who said, and I quote, ‘may luck be with the unfortunate sap who next encounters such a wretched soul as yours’?”

Randall smiled and said, “you should forget what I say, and may I remind you. You’re the one who called and asked for advice.”

Martina looked at him with imploring eyes and asked, “would you go with me to check on her?”

“Do you think that’s wise?” he asked.  Martina said, “I don’t know, but I’ve got a bad feeling, and I’m worried.” Randall agreed and he and Martina went to Callie’s dorm.  As they started upstairs, Martina told him that he must announce, “man in the hall,” as was customary in an all women’s dormitory.  He smirked and said, “you do understand that I know this, right?”

She knocked, but there was no answer.  She tried the doorknob, but it was locked.  She said, “I don’t like this.  I don’t like this at all.”

“Maybe she’s in class,” he said.  Martina said, “no.  I know when her classes are and she doesn’t have one today.”  After a few minutes, Martina knocked on the RA’s door.  There was no answer. Randall said, “I can knock the door down, if you want, but one or both of us can get into serious trouble if I do, and what if she’s sleeping?  I’m not sure that’s how I would like to be awakened.”

Martina said, “you’re right.  She’s probably asleep.  We could go back to the coffee shop and ask if she’s off today.” Randall said, “no.  We need to talk about you.”

Martina surprised him when she said, “okay.  Did I tell you that I am going to be in the play, “Les Misérables?  Randall’s eyes widened when he said, “you’re kidding.”  Martina smiled and said, “no, and you don’t have to act so surprised.  I’m going to play Fantine, and if it weren’t for Callie, I’d be sitting in some tediously dull class, listening to some buttoned-down, straight-laced, long-winded professor talk about mind numbing things for no other reason than to perform an Augean task.”  She looked at Randall and said, “I just don’t think you realize what Callie did for me.”

Randall softly said, “I think I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

“Think what you like,” she said.  “Callie brought me out of myself.  She taught me that there was more to life than just sitting around like some artifact that should be seen and not heard.  She made me realize that there was more to life than just being the wife of some vexatious rich man who still thinks a woman’s place is two steps behind him.”

Randall had a twinkle in his eye when he said, “some vexatious rich man like me, you mean?”  Martina said, “you said it yourself. In so many words, you said that you expected your wife to more or less exist for your pleasure.”

He smiled and said, “I told you.  You should forget what I say.” Martina changed the subject and asked if he would come see the play.  He said, “of course.  When are you performing?”

She said, “this weekend.  I invited Callie, and she said she would come, but the last time I spoke with her, she seemed agitated or something.” Randall said, “I’ll make you a deal.  Forget about Callie for this week, and concentrate on your performance.  Then next week, we’ll put our heads together and see if we can figure out what’s going on with her.”

She smiled and agreed.  Randall took her hand and said, “and forget about the help.  You will do fine without it.” She quickly jerked her hand away and said, “that’s not in the deal.  I’ll need something.  I can’t get in front of all of those people without it. I’d go to pieces and make a fool of myself.”

Randall said, “sometimes, making a fool of one’s self is good.  It’s keeps you grounded.  I’m a perfect example.  Look at our first interaction. I acted as I was expected to act.” Martina smiled and said, “yes.  You were a horse’s behind.”

Randall nodded.  Then, in a most sincere voice, he said, “you know, I, too, am a victim of my mother and father’s rules and demands.  I have an inner voice that is constantly screaming for release and I tend toward obstreperousness, but it’s okay.  I know that one day, I will be free to do as I want, not as someone else wants.”

“Let’s have dinner tonight.”

Martina wasn’t offended, or even surprised by Randall’s invitation. She was beginning to see him in a different light. She was beginning to see him as more human. Finally, she blurted out, “okay.  What time?”

He said, “I’ll come around for you at eight.”

That afternoon, trying to study her lines, she was having difficulty concentrating.  She was thinking about Callie and her sudden absence. She decided to distract herself with a warm bubble bath.  As she lay in the relaxing, warm security blanket of water, it suddenly occurred to her…”I have a date.”  She had never been on a date.  Curiously, she discovered that she wasn’t apprehensive.  She was excited. The excitement was quickly replaced with panic.  What would she wear?  Surely she couldn’t wear faded blue jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt.  

A quick call to Macy’s, and she sighed with relief.  A courier brought a stunning outfit, just in time. As she looked at herself in the mirror, she was looking at the “before” Martina.  It was both nostalgic and liberating.  Wearing the “costume” for tonight only, was her choice and not a requirement.

The doorbell rang and when she opened it, her loud guffaw could probably be heard in the next apartment.  There Randall stood, grinning broadly, dressed in blue jeans and a Polo shirt.

She wasn’t sure what to say, but finally gathered her senses and said, “should I change?”

He smiled and said, “it doesn’t matter to me.  I thought you might enjoy going somewhere casual…you know, more suited to the new you, but you certainly look fine.”  She said, “come in.  I’m going to change.” After donning her jeans and a t-shirt, off they went.  Randall took her to a little café style restaurant, with blue-checkered table cloths, large plastic glasses for water or iced tea, wrinkled paper menus, and waitresses wearing food-stained aprons.

“This is a side of dining that neither one of us has ever experienced,” he said.  Martina smiled and said, “this is a little ‘other side of the railroad tracks’ for you, isn’t it?”  He smiled and said, “you could say that.”

She looked around and said, “I rather enjoy the ambiance here.  It reminds me of the coffee shop, but it’s a little noisier and you can hear people chattering.  Doors are swinging open and shut, and it’s not like home.  There’s not the dull hum-drum of listening to which stock someone owns or just bought.  I rather like peeking into other worlds, don’t you?  I find it somewhat charming. Where did you find this place, anyway?” she asked.

“Well,” Randall said.  “I’ll tell you, but only if you swear not to tell anyone.”  Martina was intrigued, and said, “okay, you have my word.”  He leaned over and whispered, “this is where my father brings his mistress.”

Martina was dumbfounded.  She stumbled as she asked, “what do you mean?  Your father has a mistress?”  Randall ran his finger around the top of his plastic glass and said, “yes.  For about five years now.”

“How did you find out?” she asked.  He said, “my father used to leave the house every Tuesday night.  I was curious, or maybe I was being nosy, so one night I followed him.  He came here.  I parked so that he couldn’t see me and just waited.  A few minutes later, a beat-up Volkswagen, with no bumper and one fender missing, came squealing into the parking lot.  This trashy red-head got out and ran over to my father’s car.  Her breasts were bulging out of her blouse, her skirt was so short it left nothing to the imagination, and her spiked-heel shoes were so high, she sank into the gravel every time she took a step.”

“Does he know you know?” Martina asked.  “I don’t know if he knows that I know, but everyone else knows,” he said. “Everyone except mother, of course.  It’s one of the best kept open secrets in town.” He leaned over and once again whispered, “I had her checked out.  She doesn’t have a job, other than the obvious, and lives in a trailer outside town.”

Martina angrily said, “if I were you, I would tell your mother.” He looked at her and said, “why would I do that?  Why would I ruin a happy forty-five year marriage?  And why would I hurt my mother by telling her?” Martina said, “because she deserves to know the truth.”  

Randall said, “your truth, maybe, but not her truth.  I’m not going to destroy her life at sixty-five years old, because my father has some harlot on the side. What I can and will do for mother, is not be that kind of man.”

He smiled and said, “when father had ‘the talk’ with me, he said, ‘play the field and have a good time. But be careful. Don’t let some floozy trap you’…so on and so forth.  Then he said ‘after you’ve had your fun, find a good woman, get married, have a heir and settle down’.  Then he winked and said, ‘but just because you’re married, doesn’t mean you can’t, shall we say, still taste the wares of another’.”

Martina thought for a minute and said, “you’ll forgive me if I tell you that I really dislike your father.”  Randall smiled and said, “I understand…and I do forgive you.  I don’t always like him either, nor do I necessarily agree with his methods, but he’s still my father.  I believe he was faithful to mother for most of their marriage, but now he’s seeing the end of his life I guess, and wants to go out in a blaze of glory.  He’s tasted the class, and now he wants to taste the trash.”

Martina looked at him and said, “do you really believe that?”  Randall looked at her and said, “yes, I do, but like I said, whatever he does or has done just makes me want to be a better man, if that makes any sense.”

Martina said, “wow.  You sure are singing a different song than when we first met.”  Randall smiled and said, “we all sing whatever song is necessary to get us through our day…or our life.”  You’ve been lucky.  You have actually tasted a bit of the world that people like us rarely get to taste, and you’ve been able to sing a different song.”

To be continued________________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Seven

Martina managed to struggle through her classes.  Her better judgment told her to forgo the coffee shop, and just get some much needed sleep, but that feeling of blissful intoxication the help offered was overpowering.  She had once heard the quote, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” and that seemed like a good idea to her at the time.

Weeks went by, and then months.  Callie introduced her to JB and Martina became one of his best customers.  She had a new-found happiness and energy.  She was able to focus, and her mental alertness became more and more acute.

The Middle Of Nowhere had become her “center of everywhere.”  One night, while waiting for Callie to get off work, a man came in and sat down beside her.  He said, “hello, Ms. Hamilton.  Fancy seeing you here.” In a polite but surprised manner, Martina said, “well, if it isn’t Randall Taylor.  What brings you to this neck of the woods?”

He said, “I stopped by for a cup of coffee and saw you sitting here.  I must say, your venue has changed dramatically.”

Martina, speaking as if she was trying to win a contest for the most words spoken inside a minute, tried to explain the course her life had taken.  Her bubbly and interactive behavior was a loud signal to Randall that something was amiss. Her pupils were dilated and the reddish hue of the sclera, led him to a suspicion that he, for the moment, kept to himself.  Treading water carefully, he innocently asked if something was wrong with her eyes.  Her immediate response was, “I’ve been studying and burning the midnight oil, as they say.”

Carrying on as if he hadn’t noticed any peculiarities, Randal continued. “My parents and I had dinner with your folks the other night and I asked after you. They told me that you were going to college, of course, against their wishes.” He chuckled when he said it, and seemed to have a slight air of curious satisfaction.

“So, showing up here wasn’t happenstance,” Martina said.  “Did they send you to spy on me?”  Randall shrugged, tilted his head slightly and said, “yes and no.  They said they hadn’t heard from you in a while, and they’re a little worried.” Martina mockingly said, “oh, mommy and daddy.  They can’t stand the fact that they no longer have any control over me.”  Randall said, “I don’t think it’s about control.  I think it’s about what I said.  They’re worried.  You should call them.”

Like a switch had been flipped, Martina became hostile.  “I’m not going to call them.  They will try to talk me into coming back home.  They want me under their thumb.  They want power over me.  They want me to become some dull appendage of a rich man…some rich, boring man like you.”

Randall smiled and said, “you’re not fooling me, Martina, and you don’t have to be rude.  I don’t know what you’re using, but whatever it is, you need to stop before you ruin your life.

Take my number.  If you need to talk, call me.  I don’t care what time it is.”

Martina said, “thank you, but that is a call you will never receive.” Randall whipped around and said, “that’s fine Martina.  If you don’t want to call me, don’t, but call your mother and father.  Remember, a child pouts and thinks they know everything.  An adult is responsible, and grateful, and respectful.  You…are none of those.”

As he walked away, Martina made a gesture and mumbled under her breath, “who the hell does he think he is?”

Martina had taken Callie’s advice and joined the drama class.  She found that a little help, dissolved her almost painful shyness, and although the help had increased from one or two times a day, to four or five, Callie was right.  She could be anyone when she was acting.

The class was going to perform “Les Misérables” at the end of the semester, and Martina desperately wanted to play the grisette, tritagonist, Fantine. She believed the part was perfect for her.  She had never been a “working class” person, or student, or anything, but she had often felt as though she was of little or no importance to her family.  The name Fantine meant infant, and that was how Martina believed her family had always seen and treated her.

Her almost maniacal focus was focus on getting the part. She lobbied and she lobbied hard.  She boldly referenced her naturally golden blonde hair, which would run true to the description in the original novel, and promised to deliver a never before witnessed portrayal of the tragic Fantine.

After weeks of auditions, Martina was told that she had the part.  Her first inclination was to tell Callie, but they had begun to drift apart again.  She hadn’t seen her in weeks.  It was partly due to Martina’s determination to be a success in her new interest, and partly due to Callie’s every increasing dependence on the help.  It never occurred to Martina that she herself, was on the same path.

A few days later, Martina went to Callie’s room and knocked. She wanted to tell her that she had gotten the part of Fantine in the play.  After hearing a laughing, “just a minute,” Callie opened the door.  In just a few short weeks, Callie had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and being tall made the loss even more obvious.  Her skin was sallow, and her eyes were dull and lifeless.

Trying to disguise the look of shock on her face, Martina walked in and said, “I have wonderful news.”  Callie sat down on the floor and ignored her.  After a few seconds, Callie said, “did you know that I own the R & L Railroad?” Martina, somewhat bewildered, answered, “no.”

Callie said, “yep.  The Right and Left Railroad.”  She held up her right arm and then held up her left.  She raised the sleeves on her shirt and said, “see?  This is my R & L Railroad, and these are the tracks.”  She nearly doubled over with an almost insane laughter.

Martina was horrified at what she saw.  Callie had started injecting the help, and her arms were bruised and full of holes.  Martina said, “Callie. You need to stop.  Do you see your arms?  Do you see what you are doing to yourself?”

Callie stood up, looking down on Martina and snapped, “don’t tell me I need to stop.  Do you think I don’t know how much you’re using?  Do you think I don’t know that you can barely function without a little help?  And I know what your wonderful news is. You got the part in that play.  Big deal.  Try learning your lines without the help.  Try getting on the stage in front of hundreds of people without the help.  You think you’re going to preach to me about needing to stop?  I suggest you clean up your own back yard before you start complaining about the shit in mine.”

Martina got up and walked toward the door.  She turned and said, “I wanted to invite you to come see the play.” Callie said with a smirk, “oh, sure.  You can count on it.  That has always been my fondest wish.  Watching a little rich girl play a poor little waif who sells her hair and teeth.  Like you would have a clue what that’s like.”

Deeply saddened, and unable to quite understand the hostility that Callie was harboring, Martina walked to her apartment, and called Randall.

When Randall answered the phone, Martina said, “I need some advice. I have a friend who has a problem.” Randall couldn’t resist saying, “I guess never came a little earlier than you thought,” and then incorrectly believed that Martine was talking about herself. “What would you like for me to do for you?” he asked. Martina said, “I’m not sure.  Maybe talk?”  

He said, “okay.  Talking is good, but we need to start a plan of action before it gets too much further out of hand.  I will be your advocate, but you have to take the first step toward recovery.” Martina, showing her annoyance in her tone, said, “oh, you misunderstand. I’m not talking about me.  I don’t have a problem.” Randall said, “spoken like a true addict.”

She impatiently said, “are you going to help me or are you going to start making accusations and judgments?”  Randall was silent as she continued.  “I have a friend named Callie,” and emphasizing her words, said, “unlike me, she has a real problem.

Randall said, “yes.  I heard about her from your mother and father, who by the way, said they still hadn’t heard from you.  I know they disapproved of your friendship with that girl, and said that you were rebellious, and righteously indignant about their opinion, but cutting them out of your life is not the way to get back at them.”

Martina, intentionally ignoring what Randall said about her parents, said, “Callie was the only friend I had.  She had plans.  She wanted to be something special, and she told me that I could be something special, too.  I don’t know what happened, but I’m worried.”

Randall said, “I can tell you what happened.  The addiction animal sunk its teeth into her, and once it does, it’s almost impossible to get it to let go.” He risked Martina’s anger once more when he asked about her own addiction.  Martina said, “I don’t have an addiction!  I need a little help now and then, and that’s different.  What’s the big deal?  It’s not like I can’t stop anytime I want. Haven’t you ever had a drink to steady your nerves?”

Randall said, “I imagine Callie needed a little help now and then, too, and now it’s ruining her life.  I’ll tell you something else…something you probably don’t want to hear…but that help will eventually ruin your life, if you don’t do something about it now.”

Martina angrily said, “we are not talking about me!  We are talking about Callie!”

To be continued________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Six

The first few weeks were hectic for Martina.  She had never lived on her own, and was caught between the exhilaration of her new-found freedom, and the homesickness for the familiarity she had known all of her life.

She scurried around campus, peering around every building, glancing at every park bench, and inconspicuously peeking into every open door, hoping to see Callie.

After the third week, she went to the coffee shop.   A smile came to her face when she saw Callie, dutifully skipping from table to table. Callie finally saw her and came over.  Before she could say anything, Martina stood up and said, “I did it.  I’m going to college, I have an apartment, and look.  I’m wearing jeans.”

Callie looked her up and down, and said, “oh my God.  Your jeans are….no. Seriously?  No.”

Martina asked what she was trying to say.  Callie said, “your jeans are pressed!”  Martina said, “yes, mother had all of my clothes pressed for me.”

Callie said, “you don’t wear pressed clothes in college, and you certainly don’t have a crease in the middle of your jeans.  They should be faded and torn and look like you slept in them.  And your t-shirts should be wrinkled…clean but wrinkled, and have some clever saying on them…like ‘I’m married to Mick Jagger’ or something along those lines.  When you go back to the manor, tell your mother to stop ironing your clothes.  You’ll never fit in looking like that.”

Martina said, “I told you that I have an apartment now.”  Callie said, “oh yeah.  I forgot.  Well, I’ve got to get back to work, and then I have a mountain of studying to do.”

Martina asked if they could study together.  “I have to study, too,” she said.  Callie said, “sure,” and walked off.

She was acting strange.  It was like she was running on high octane fuel or something.  Martina knew that Callie was a go-getter and had the determination and ferocity of a Honey Badger, but she wondered if she still cared about her anymore.  She wondered if Callie thought she hadn’t yet paid enough penance, and that was the reason for the nonchalant quip when she asked about getting together.

Testing the tepid water, Martina walked up to Callie and asked, “do you want to come to my place to study tonight, or would you like for me to come to yours?”

Callie looked at her like she was seeing her for the first time.  Finally she said, “oh, yeah.  Come to my room around 10-ish. Building 201, upstairs, second door on the right.  And don’t be too obvious when you come in. The RA is a real bitch.”

“What’s an RA?” Martina asked. Callie laughed and said, “a resident assistant.” Martina, feeling a bit embarrassed, said, “oh. Well, isn’t 10 o’clock a bit late?”  Callie said, “I don’t get off work until 9.  Don’t worry about it.  It’ll be fine.  I mean, it’s not like the nanny is going to spank you if you stay up past your bedtime.” Martina though that comment was cruel, but didn’t say anything.  

Being punctual, she got to Callie’s room at exactly ten o’clock.  Callie opened the door and said, “first things first.  What are you drinking?” Martina said, “do you have some water?” Callie rolled her eyes and said, “yes. I have some water. Now, what classes are you taking?”  Martina said, “the basic core classes, I guess.  Math, Science, History.”  Callie said, “and what are you taking for fun?”

“For fun?” Martina asked.  “Yes,” Callie said.  “Something like ceramics, or pottery, or…cooking, maybe.”  She and Martina both laughed at that suggestion.  Callie said, “you probably don’t even know how to boil water, do you?”

Martina said, “I don’t know how to do much of anything, but I’m learning. I know how to make my bed…well, mostly.”

Callie said, “how about drama?  That would be good for you.  Sort of…come out of yourself so to speak.”  Martina was aghast.  “Drama?”

Callie said, “yeah, you know how, in a book, you can go places you’ve never been, and do things you’ve never done?” Martina nodded.  “Well, in drama class, you can be somebody you’ve never been.  You already know how to be rich, but as a actress, you can be poor.  You can be a queen.  You can be the first woman to walk on Mars.  You can be a serial killer, and get away with it, because you’re only acting like a serial killer.”

Martina said, “I wouldn’t dare.” Callie impatiently said, “then what are you doing here?  Still playing it safe?  Still living by the ‘high society code’?  Still playing by mother’s rules?”

“That’s not fair,” Martina said.  Callie looked at her and said, “I don’t know if, during your newfound freedom, you’ve been keeping up with current events, but I’ve got a big news flash for you.  Life isn’t fair.  Life for most of us isn’t about butlers and chauffeurs, and swanky dinner parties.  Life for most of us is real, and hard, and we worry about whether or not our next paycheck will be enough to pay for our supplies and buy groceries.  I don’t want to hear about what you ‘wouldn’t dare do’.  I want to hear about what you would dare do.”

Callie sat down and said, “are you ready to study?”  Martina said, “it’s awfully late.  Aren’t you tired?” Callie said, “I don’t have time to be tired.  Besides, I have some help.” Martina looked around Callie’s room and half-jokingly asked, “what kind of help?  Do you mean you have a tutor?”

Callie laughed and cavalierly said, “it’s called blow.”  Martina, clearly confused, said, “you mean as in a blow pop?”

Again rolling her eyes, Callie impatiently said, “you are so unbelievably naïve. No, silly.  I’m talking about Coke.” Again, a sheltered Martina asked, “you mean Coca Cola?”

Callie said, “oh my God! You are slaying me!  I forgot that you had the maturity of a five year old when you finally entered the real world.  Cocaine.  You have heard of cocaine, right?”

When Martina repeated the word rather loudly, Callie scolded her and asked, “how do you think I manage to go to class, study, and work every night at the coffee shop?  I need a little pick-me-up, and a smidgen of blow does the trick. There’s nothing to it.  Just rub a little on your gums and voila!  And, doing it that way doesn’t screw up your nose…or your arms.”

“But isn’t that illegal?” asked Martina. “And aren’t you afraid you’ll get caught?” Callie said, “are you kidding me?  I doubt there’s a student in this entire school who doesn’t use some kind of help.  Uppers, downers, pot, heroin, shrooms, cocaine, crack cocaine…but I’d stay away from the crack cocaine. That’s some bad stuff.  There’s also LSD, but it’s not as common as it was in the seventies…or so I hear.”

“Where do you get it?” Martina asked.  Callie smiled impishly and said, “I have a source.”

Like a parrot, Martina echoed, “you have a source?  What does that mean?” Callie said, “child.  You would try the patience of Job. It means that I have a way to get cocaine, and anything else I need.  I get it from a guy everyone calls Joe Blow, or ‘JB’ for short.  I have no idea what his real name is, and I don’t care.  As long as old JB comes through, I’m golden.”

“Is it expensive?” Martina asked.  Callie said, “it is, but when times are lean, JB will sometimes trade for a BJ, if you know what I mean.”  The blank look on Martina’s face told Callie she didn’t have any idea what she was talking about.  Callie said, “never mind.  You don’t need to know and besides, for you, money wouldn’t be a problem.”

Martina didn’t know what to think.  She looked at Callie and said, “I’m really tired.  Aren’t you?  Maybe we could get together tomorrow afternoon.”

Callie said, “no.  I’m not tired, and I have to work tomorrow afternoon. So…do you want to try a little help?  I guarantee you won’t be tired afterward.”  Martina said, “I probably shouldn’t.  I’ve never even had a sip of wine, and if mother found out…”

Callie raised her voice and said, “oh my God. Enough with the mother shit. You have got to let go of her apron strings. How in the world is she going to find out anyway? Are you going to tell her?  Do you think you still need her permission to do anything, or everything?  What is wrong with you?”

Martina shrugged and said, “okay.  I’ll try some.” She rubbed a little help on her gums and it wasn’t long before she exhibited the familiar signs of euphoria.  “Wow,” she said.  “I think I see fireflies.”

Callie said, “see?  I told you.  It sharpens the mind.  Get out your book and I promise that you will start to understand things you read in an entirely different way.” Martina reached for her book and looked at Callie.  “Did I tell you that mother wanted to be a ballerina?”

Callie had a blank look on her face and then they both started laughing hysterically.  It was the first time Callie had seen or heard Martina laugh out loud.  Callie said, “what happened?  Did the Devil’s ‘Corps de Ballet’ not have any room?”

Martina suddenly stopped laughing and said, “that was evil, wicked, mean and nasty…but then, so is mother.” Callie jumped up and said, “look.  I’m a ballerina.”  She started turning around as if trying to perfect a pirouette.  When she lost her balance and fell to the floor, another round of uncontrollable laughter overtook them.

After a few hours, the effects began to wear off, and Martina was feeling sluggish and tired.  When she expressed concern about being able to stay awake during class, Callie said, “if you do, meet me at the coffee shop.  If JB is there, I’ll introduce you, but don’t be offended if he’s a little leery at first.  He has to be careful, you know.  You could be a potential customer or an undercover, but I’ll vouch for you.  And whatever you do, don’t tell him about your family. He’ll start smelling money, real fast.”

To be continued_____________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Five

For the first time ever, Martina raised her voice and said, “this isn’t about YOU, mother.  It’s about me.  It’s about what I want…not what you want, or what you think is going to be shameful.  You can posture all you want, but I am eighteen and I can make my own decisions now.  I will decide what I wear, what I do, where I go, if I go to college, and where I go to college.”

Later that evening, mother spoke with father and pleaded with him to dissuade Martina.  “She has these grandiose ideas, and she’s an innocent. She knows nothing of the world outside ours.  That Callie creature started all this, and she is most certainly behind Martina’s sudden defiance.”

Father said, “we’ve talked about this before.  Let her go to college, and I can almost promise you that she will be back home within the first month. If you try to stop her, she will resent you for the rest of her life, but if you support her, she will be grateful that you afforded the opportunity.”

“But what will all of our friends say?” mother asked.  “I mean…Community College?  How embarrassing is it going to be to tell them that our high society little girl is going to be mingling with the ‘great unwashed’?” Father spun around and said, “don’t you and your friends volunteer at homeless shelters every Thanksgiving?  I would call that mingling with, as you so delicately put it, ‘the great unwashed’.” Mother sat down and said, “yes, that’s true, but this is different and is going to be so very difficult.”

Father said, “yes, it is, but we must support her. Let her come out of her shell a bit. Let her blossom. She will fail, as I said, but let’s at least give her the chance.”

Mother and father gave Martina their approval, and offered disingenuous encouragement.  “You will be living at home while you attend this place, yes?” Mother asked. Martina said, “no.  I’m going to live in an apartment.  I want to experience real college life.”  

Momentarily forgetting herself, mother said, “to do that, you would have to go to a real college.” Martina’s mother wasn’t the only one who could give icy cold stares.  “It is a real college,” Martina said.

Mother quickly apologized and asked if she could help pack her belongings.  “As long as you don’t try to tell me what I can and can’t take,” Martina said, “yes, you may.”

Mother asked if she had given any thought as to what classes she wanted to take.  She seemed to soften a bit when Martina sat down and almost beaming, said, “anything.  Everything.  I want to know how it feels to sit in a big room, listening to a professor whose sole job is to teach us what the real world is like.  I want to experience how it feels to be treated like an adult who could someday, possibly change the world.  Do you know what I mean?”

Mother smiled and acquiesced.  “No.  I don’t know what you mean.  All I’ve ever known, just as you, are governesses and etiquette and how to take my place in society.”

Martina asked, “did you ever think about what your life might have been like if you had gone to college instead of getting married, and just becoming a rich man’s wife?” Mother surprised Martina when she said, “to tell you the truth, no.  Being the wife of a successful man is very important, and your father has been very good to me.  I have a wonderful life, and that is all I have ever wanted for you.

“But,” said Martina.  “Didn’t you ever want more?”

Mother smiled and said, “yes, I did. When I was a little girl, I desperately wanted to be a prima ballerina assoluta.” Surprised, Martina said, “you never told me that. What is it?”  Mother said, “it’s a title awarded to the most notable female ballerinas.  It’s a rare honor.”

When Martina asked what happened, mother, in a soft voice that Martina had never heard, said, “I grew too tall.”

Martina said, “you can be too tall to be a ballerina?”  Mother said, “yes.  I was already 5′ 10″ when I was 14.  My teacher said it would be difficult to find a male partner, who would have to be at least 6′ 3″, so I was cut from the class.”  She looked at her feet and Martina saw a look of sadness when she said, “I still have my shoes…somewhere.”

Mother suddenly began to look a little more human to Martina.  She had everything anyone could possibly want, but she once had a dream.   A dream that was never realized, and if that dream left a hole inside her, she had filled it with money, social status, and patched it with acceptance.

To be continued_________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Four

Life went 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 mother 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 would 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 exasperatingly 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,” he said, “I will take over the business and instill a newer, more modern view of how it should be run. Then, I shall 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.

She 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 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 suddenly amused, and quite 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 encounter each other again 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?”

“There’s a place called ‘The Middle of Nowhere’,” she said.  “It’s in the center of Packard 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 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 as she nervously sat down at a small table near the door.  She had never seen so many young people at one place.  It wasn’t like high school, where they dressed the same, and were contained in a small room, pretending to listen to disenchanted teachers, rambling about uninteresting cliched subjects.

These people were different.  They looked happy. Their bodies were decorated with tattoos, and parts of their faces had strange piercings. They were dressed the same, but differently. They wore blue jeans and various tops, along with strange shoes. Suddenly, Martina realized that she had never owned a pair of jeans, or a t-shirt.

Feeling out of place and standing up to leave, someone suddenly caught her eye. She was looking at Callie. Her heart was pounding, and she wondered if her face might crack from smiling.

Like a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, Callie was moving from table to table, leaving a trail of infectious laughter that seemed to take form and bounce around like a pinball.  She had everyone’s attention, which didn’t surprise Martina, and seeing her again after all these months, was like breathing a breath of fresh air.

As Martina watched, her mind was racing.  Almost in a daze, she wondered if she had made a mistake in coming there. Should she walk over to Callie?  Should she speak to her?  If she did, what would she say? Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted when she heard a voice say, “well look who it is.”

Martina stood up and uncharacteristically gave Callie a hug.  Callie hadn’t lost her sense of humor when she said, “you’re either drunk, or you’re lost.”

When Martina asked what she meant, Callie said, “you’re standing in The Middle Of Nowhere.”  She smiled when she said, “pun intended.  This is a little outside your milieu, isn’t it?”

Martina asked if she could sit and talk for a few minutes, but Callie said, “I’m working, and then I have to study for a big test, but maybe…sometime.” Martina was disappointed, but said she understood. She had by default, more or less abandoned Callie.  Her all but brief touch of rebellion had withered away without a whimper, and most likely in Callie’s mind, Martina had made the choice to merely exist in her pompous, strait-laced world of prodigious wealth.

Callie had invaded her world, and now Martina wanted to invade Callie’s, but she wasn’t sure how.  She was virtually unarmed. She quietly walked out without a backward glance.  It was obvious that things were different. That special bond they once had seemed to be broken, and she had no one to blame but herself, her lack of intestinal fortitude and possibly, unfairly…her mother.

When Mr. Morton arrived with the car, she asked him to take her to Neiman Marcus, and wait for her.

When she walked in, it was like landing on foreign soil.  She had never been in a store.  A salesclerk walked up, introduced herself as Carmen, and asked if she needed help.  Martina said, “yes.”

“What can I help you find?” Carmen asked.  Martina smiled and said, “everything.”

Carmen laughed and said, “Okay.  Are you looking for formal wear, casual wear, or maybe lingerie?”  Martina said, “I want what they are wearing in college.  Blue jeans, t-shirts, and some kind of strange-looking footwear.”

Carmen again laughed and said, “so, you are looking for a complete wardrobe makeover?”  Martina said, “yes.  I want to walk out a completely different person than I was when I walked in.”

Armed with bags full of new clothes and shoes, Martina motioned for Mr. Morton to bring the car around.  He said nothing as he loaded the items into the trunk, although she did catch a silent opprobrious look.

As soon as she got home, she put on a pair of jeans, an over-sized t-shirt and her brand new Doc Marten boots.  When she went downstairs to the parlor, she asked Mr. Bradley to summon mother.  With is familiar “harrumph,” he agreed.

Mother walked in and seemed to freeze in mid-step.  “What is this?  What are you thinking?” she asked.  Martina said, “this is my new look.” Mother said, “not in this house it isn’t.  You will go back upstairs and put on your proper clothing.”

Martina walked over, looked straight into mothers’ eyes and said, “no.  I won’t.”  Mother was outraged.  She said, “I shall speak to your father about this.”

Martina said, “good. When you do, tell him that I enrolled in Balfour Community College, and I begin classes in two weeks.”

Mother raised her voice and said, “I will not allow it!  A community college? Can you imagine the shame you will bring to this family?”

To be continued____________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Three

Father said, “if, and when that comes to light, we will address it.  In the meantime, it’s good to have dreams and goals. Face it, our lot dreams of the good life and money, and making more money.  If Martina wants to fantasize about college life, I say let her.  She’s fairly intelligent and frankly, I think it would be good to see her try.  She will fail of course, and when she does, she will, as you say, have a better appreciation of her social standing and its importance.”

Mother stood up and slammed her hand down on the table.  “I forbid this nonsense!” Father said, “you will not forbid it.  You must forgive my vulgarity, but Martina is our only child, and if she wishes to briefly see the world through fecal-colored glasses as it were, she has the right.”

“You have to remember, there are princes and princesses who go to land mine sites and visit war-torn countries, all in the name of good-will. They do it, and still retain their prestigious status.”

“And one more thing.  This is Martina’s home.  If she wishes to have Callie visit, you will welcome her without qualification or prejudice.  Do you understand?  The harder you try to push her away, the closer you are going to pull Martina toward her.  It’s human nature.  Now tell me that you understand, and then go talk to Martina.”

Mother went to Martina’s room but before she said anything, Martina stood up and said, “I am not going to listen to a lecture, mother.  You can posture all you like about how Callie isn’t good enough, and her parents aren’t rich enough, and cleaning toilets is gutter work.  We’re never going to be on the same page as far as what you perceive as an appropriate acquaintance.  We’re not even reading the same book, but Callie is my friend, and you will not tell me who my friends can and cannot be.”

Mother crossed her arms and said, “are you finished?” Somewhat fearing what her mother would do in response to her unexpected, bold statements, Martina quietly said, “yes.”  

Mother said, “good.  I was actually going to apologize and tell you that Callie is welcome here any time she wishes to visit.  I was wrong, and I probably need to try to be a little more sensitive to you and your needs.  I never want to say things out of anger, although it may seem so.  I just want the best for you.”

“I understand,” Martina said.  “But what you think is best for me is really what’s best for you.  Being seen with a girl like Callie, to you, is a huge social blunder.  If you would just take the time to get to know her, I think you would find that she is funny, kind, smart and wants a better life than her parents have.  She may be a bit unconventional but she’s the only person who has ever treated me like I was more than just ‘the rich girl’ and I don’t think she gives a whit about my ‘social standing’.  She’s never asked me for anything except to come out of my shell and see my true worth as a human being.  To see that there is more to life than knowing how to sit properly, or carry on a conversation with boring people who know nothing of the real world.”

“Don’t you see, mother?  She thinks I can be something special, and I want the chance to see if she’s right.”

Callie continued to come to the house, and Mr. Bradley continued to show, in his polite manner, his utter contempt. One afternoon, mother again strolled into the parlor.  She sat down and smiled as she said, “Callie, dear.  Tell me a bit more about your people.”

Cool as a cucumber, Callie said, “as I said, my father works at a convenience store.  My mother works at a motel, and I find it truly remarkable that they were able to come so far in life.”

Mother, a little confused, asked what she meant.

“Well,” Callie said with a delightfully devilishly twinkle in her eye, “as soon as my father was paroled, he walked into that convenience store, and was hired on the spot.  I think people find him irresistibly charming.  And when my mother became a bit too old to turn tricks anymore, she was able to land that prestigious job at the hotel, and let me tell you. Not everyone can fold the corners of a bed sheet with her expertise.”

Mother, clearly not amused, said, “you remind me somewhat of my dear lamented mother-in-law.  They say that she was, as I suspect are you, a bit of a rebel who balked at tradition, but she was eventually tamed.  Then, unfortunately, she did something extremely rude.”

Martina, looked at her mother and asked, “what did she do?” Mother smiled and said, “she died.”

Callie being Callie, said, “you want to know what’s even more rude than dying?  Not living while you’re still above ground.”

Mother said, “I imagine you are referring to Martina’s life, or what you perceive to be Martina’s life.” Callie said, “she could be someone.  Don’t you see?” Mother said, “Martina IS someone.  She is a member of high society.”

Callie’s voice softened to almost a whisper when she said, “yes.  And she’s numb.  Just like you.” Mother raised her voice and said, “who are you to come into my house and speak to me that way? And I must warn you to choose your next words very carefully.”

Callie asked, “has she ever had a skinned knee?  Has she ever had a dirty face?  Has she ever had a crush?  Has she ever known how it feels to have a broken heart?  You have a home full of butlers and maids.  You have a home full of things that money can buy.  Things that are mostly invisible and only get attention when they need a quick dusting.  Things. That’s what Martina is. Her life will become as mundane as yours…worrying about which china to choose for dinner, or which candelabra to place in the center of the table, or which expensive silk dress she’ll wear to the next party.  All she has ever known is how to just be another ‘thing’ and not everyone wants to be TAMED.”

As if dismissing everything Callie said, Mother said, “you have quite the vocabulary, Callie.  Tell me, do you have unnatural feelings toward my daughter?” Callie looked at her and said, “tell me, ‘MOTHER’.  Would you be asking that same question if I was a card-carrying member of the blue-blooded money club?”

Mother smiled politely, got up and left the room.  Taking a page from her playbook, Callie acted as if nothing had been said.

“We need to start applying to colleges,” she said.  “The National Field Archery Association Foundation is offering scholarships, but there’s only one drawback.”

“What?” asked Martina.  Callie said, “it is only granted after two years in a community college, but your acceptance into a University is guaranteed as long as you have a 2.5 grade point average.  I know I can beat that, and so can you.  What do you think your mother and father would think about you going to a community college for a few years?”

Martina looked down and said, “father will hate it, and mother will forbid it.”

Callie said, “you will be eighteen as soon as we get out of high school. You can do whatever you want without their permission or approval.  Not only will you have the right to make your own decisions, you have an obligation to yourself to at least try to be something more than just an echo of them. Isn’t that what you want?”

When Martina didn’t answer, it was suddenly and painfully clear to Callie that old tradition and money and expectations had been too ingrained into Martina.  She had tasted a tiny bit of freedom in being a part of Callie’s world, but Martina had never known how to dream of what might be, or what might have been.  Her world of privilege was all she had ever known and there was comfort, albeit pedestrian, in that affluent world.  The outside world…Callie’s world…was too frightening for someone who didn’t even know how to make her own bed, and fear of the unknown would take Martina too far from her comfort zone, even with Callie as her muse.

When Callie gave Martina a hug, she felt a slight resistance.  She seemed to instinctively know that it was a goodbye hug.  Maybe not forever, but she and Martina would soon drift apart as Callie spread her wings, and Martina’s slowly fell to the ground.

To be continued_______________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Two

Callie looked at the huge Grandfather Clock in the corner of the massive room and said, “holy shitballs! Look at the time.  Can you get Jeeves to call the driver to take me home?”  Martina laughed at Callies’ colorful language and then smiled and said, “his name is Mr. Bradley, and he will get cross if you don’t call him that.”

Callie laughed and said, “I know.  But isn’t it fun to kind of stir the pot?  People don’t have to be so serious all the time. They need to live a little.  They need to break the rules now and then.  They need to be playful once in a while.  When we’re old, there will be time to be all formal and goody-goody, but when you’re young, you should act young.  Believe me, one day our youth is going to disappear like boiling water in a tea kettle, and we don’t want wake up one day and ask ourselves where all those years have gone.”

It wasn’t long before Callie became a regular fixture at the Hamilton house, and it was almost a month before Martinas’ mother happened to walk through the parlor when she was there.

Martina stood up and said, “mother, I would like to introduce you to my friend, Callie Streeter.”  Martinas’ mother looked Callie up and down as if she was approving the new kitchen maid, and Martina could see the disapproval in her eyes.  When Callie mockingly curtsied, her mothers’ eyes were full of disdain.

In a haughty voice her mother said, “charmed, I’m sure,” then quickly turned to Martina.  “Please tell your friend that she must excuse us now.  We’re having visitors tonight and you must get ready.” In surprising defiance, Martina said, “mother, she is not deaf.”

After an angry gaze, her mother left the room. Martina said, “you have to overlook her.  She’s a bit staid and a lot snobbish.”

“You think?” Callie said.  “Quick.  Call Jeeves and tell him to take your mother a drink.”  When Martina asked what she meant, Callie said, “she needs something to loosen up that bug she has stuck up her butt.” Martina said, “you mustn’t speak that way about mother.  She can’t help the way she is.”

Callie said, “that’s just it.  She could if she wanted to, but she chooses not to.  You have to get it into your head that you don’t have to live like that.  You don’t have to be her clone.”

That night at dinner, Martina’s mother took her aside and asked about, as she put it, “that Callie person.”  Martina said, “she’s my friend.  Actually, she’s my only friend.” Martina’s mother curtly said, “you don’t need friends, and you certainly don’t need that kind of friend.”

Martina showed a resistance that her mother had never seen when she raised her voice and asked, “what do you mean…that kind of friend?  Do you mean because she’s not like us?”

Martina’s mother asked, “where does she live?”  Martina said she didn’t know.  “What do her parents do for a living?” Again, Martina answered that she didn’t know.  She said she only knew that they both worked. Martina’s mother said, “I’ll have to speak with your father about this.”

“Why?” Martina asked. Mother said, “obviously the only reason this urchin is being your friend is because your parents are wealthy.  She’s not one of us and that should be obvious.”

“What I see,” said Martina, “is a girl who has befriended me and speaks not of wealth, but of dreams and possibilities, and the future.  She speaks of wanting to go to college, and she wants me to go with her.”

“Oh, I see,” said her mother.  “And who is going to foot the bill for this elusive college education you both seek?” Martina said, “Callie is smart and she makes good grades.  She’s working hard to get scholarships.”

Martina’s mother smiled wryly and said, “and I imagine she is hoping for quite a large “scholarship” to come from the Hamiltons, which I can assure you will not happen. You will not have her over anymore, and you will end this inappropriate friendship.”

Martina, again raising her voice said, “I won’t.” Her mother said, “you will, and there will be no further discussion.”

Martina decided to plead her case to her father.  He had always been a bit more accepting than her mother, but he was still capable of being a bit “uppity.”  She also knew that it would annoy her mother if she “went around her,” but her mother was placid, and all but disappeared around her father.

Her plan worked. Her father told her to invite Callie for Friday night dinner.  Martina wasn’t sure if her mother had mentioned Callie to her father, but she intended to have Callie capture her father’s affection with her quick wit and indubitable charm.

When Callie arrived, Mr. Bradley, obviously bewildered at the prospect of this young, fiery girl supping at the dining table with the Hamiltons, hesitantly ushered her in.

While dining on delicacies that Callie had only read about in novels such as “The Great Gatsby,” the conversation shifted to her.

Father said, “I don’t believe I’ve heard of the Streeters.  Where exactly do you live, Callie?” Callie, with no detectable shame said, “I live in the Edgewater Knoll Apartments.  To be exact, I live in Unit C, number 38.”

Clearing her throat, mother gave Martina a look that could only be interpreted as an, “I told you she was trash,” look.

When Martina’s father asked about Callie’s parent’s profession, Callie, with the same nonchalance said, “my father works at a convenience store, and my mother works at a motel, you know, scrubbing toilets and making beds.”

The silence in the room was deafening, save the slight metallic sound of silverware suddenly being put to rest at four o’clock on the plates.

Martina’s father stood up, told Callie it was a pleasure to meet her, and motioned for Mr. Bradley.  “Please have Mr. Morton bring the car around to take Miss Callie home,” he said.

Martina walked down the long hallway with Callie, and apologized for the way her parents had treated her. Callie said, “do you think this is the first time anyone has tried to make me feel less than them? That doesn’t bother me.  I’d like to think that I’m better than one of those little lizards we see running around everywhere, but I’m not sure I am.  They’re in their place and I’m in mine.  The difference between people like your parents and me, is that just because I think I’m better than one of those little lizards, doesn’t mean I would stomp on them.”

Martina said, “my parents don’t want us to be friends anymore.”  Callie said, “yeah.  I got that impression, but you have to decide.  Do you want to be like them, or do you want to spread your wings?  Between you and me, I’m not going to settle for life among the lizards.”

After Callie left, Martina overheard her mother ask her father how he could possibly consider allowing Martina to be friends with such a low-class creature?  “I mean, this Callie person may be a nice girl,” she said, “but she’s no better than trailer trash.  Really.  Her father works at a convenience store, and her mother scrubs toilets?  How much further down the food chain can you possibly get?”

Martina’s father said, “you’re being a little harsh, don’t you think?  Not everyone was born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and Martina needs to be somewhat exposed to regular people.  Besides, this is her last year of school, and this unsuitable misalliance will soon have run its course.”

Mother angrily said, “I raised Martina to be proper and appreciative of her social standing, and this girl is filling her head with notions of unreasonably unobtainable things like…a college education.  How ridiculously selfish is that?”

Father said, “College?”

“Yes.  College!” Mother said.  “You know the only reason this girl has latched onto Martina is because she is smelling money.  She comes from nothing.  She is nothing.  She will always be nothing, and she thinks that if she ingratiates herself to Martina with her grand notions, we’ll foot the bill. Like I said, ridiculously selfish.”

Father said, “I don’t think it’s ridiculous, nor do I think it is selfish, and who mentioned ‘footing the bill’?  Did Martina or Callie ask for money?” Mother said, “no.  Not yet, but I feel it will be forthcoming.”

To be continued_______________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter One

Martina Maria Hamilton grew up in modern times, but was raised with old world style, and new world money, inherited by wealthy ancestors.

Her family was among the nouveau riche upper crust, whose sole journey of life seemed to be nothing more than having afternoon tea, and attending elaborate week-end parties.

She had been raised by nannies who cleaned and dressed her for the daily hour of attention given to her by seemingly non-nonchalant, uninterested parents.

She was driven to school by a chauffeur, and after the required mundane studies, private tutors were called in for the important things, like learning how to be graceful and using proper language and etiquette.  That, her tutor said, was necessary to secure an appropriate husband of “her own kind.”

She was an average student, finding the need for excellence unnecessary. Her lot was to get her education and then settle into an existence that echoed her parents’ lifestyle.  She was to be a prim and proper girl, married to a wealthy tycoon…a mere shadow…a quiet symbol of beauty…seen and not heard…much like she viewed her mother.

She was an obedient child.  That way of life was the only way of life she knew.  She knew nothing of poverty or hunger or dirty knees from taking a fall.  She had never experienced the fun of having someone push her on a swing, while her hair danced back and forth, nor had she ever known the warmth of a hug from anyone other than the nanny.

She did however, know how to sit straight as if knives were implanted in the back of a chair at the ready to puncture her flesh, should she slouch or lean too far back. She also knew how to enter a room with the agility of a well-seasoned heiress.

Martina wasn’t what you would call shy, but she had always been a loner. Making friends had been difficult due to the obvious gap between her wealth and the children of working class people.  In her senior year in high school, she was introduced to a new student named Callie, who couldn’t have cared less about social status, couture or designer clothes and handbags. It was then that Martina realized there was an entirely different world that she had never seen.

Callie was like a storm that blew in, swept everyone off their feet, and left them wondering what the hell had just happened.  She clearly enjoyed life, and epitomized the saying, “carpe diem.”

She smoked, drank beer, told dirty jokes and was extremely recalcitrant.  At least once a week, she would land in the principals’ office after blatantly and unapologetically calling one of her teachers an idiot.  She didn’t consider herself to be a know-it-all, she just didn’t suffer fools.

All the boys instantly fell in love with Callie, and she set their hearts aflutter by loving them right back.  But despite her free spirit image, she had plans.  She just wanted to have fun while, as she put it, “I’m still young and beautiful.”

Her beauty was not so much in the physical aspect, but in the way she carried herself, and executed her eccentric, nonconformist ways.  She exuded self-confidence, had a delicious sense of humor, and her rebellious streak was intoxicating.

Martina had never met anyone like Callie, and her boring, regimented life of charm schools and protocols was about to be turned upside down.

One day the flashy, flamboyant, bodacious Callie walked up to Martina, and with no hesitation said, “what’s your story?” Martina sheepishly said, “I don’t have a story.”  

Callie, with an almost scary seriousness said, “you’re alive aren’t you?”  Martina said, “Yes.”  Callie laughed and said, “then you have a story.” Martina, almost submissively said, “it’s not a very interesting story.” Callie put her arm around the much shorter Martina and said, “well, that’s something we shall have to change, isn’t it?  Meet me in the downstairs rotunda after school, and we’ll have a chat.”

Before Martina could tell her that the chauffeur would be waiting, Callie was off like a streak of lightning.

After the bell rang for the dismissal of the day, Martina nervously made her way to the rotunda.  When Callie came walking up, Martina said that her “ride” was waiting outside and she had to go.  Callie said, “okay.  I’ll come with you.  I can come to your house with you, if you like. Both of my parents work and they won’t be home for hours, so they won’t mind.”  She laughed and said, “can’t mind about something you don’t know about, can you?”

Callie was an enigma. Martina had never really known anyone, other than the children of her parents’ friends, whom she found stodgy and ridiculously uninteresting. They were all little adults in childrens’ bodies, wrapped in the same dull, dreary cloth just waiting to emerge from their cocoons to become just like their dull, dreary parents, living their dull, dreary and monotonous lives.

Martina had never had an “outsider” visitor.  She wasn’t sure what Morton, the chauffeur would say, but she knew her parents would be busy and wouldn’t notice.  When Morton opened the door for Martina, Callie jumped in like she owned the car, and said, “home, Jeeves.”  Martina smiled as she followed. Callie looked over at her and said, ”I’ve been watching you for a while, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you smile.  You should do it more often.”

Morton turned onto what seemed like a mile long driveway.  When Callie first gazed at the stately manor, she said, “great jumping jellybeans! This is where you live?”  Martina nodded.  Callie said, “cool.  Let’s go inside.”

Morton drove them around to the back entrance, and Martina took Callie to the drawing-room.  Callie plopped down into a comfortable, down-filled chair just as Mr. Bradley, the butler, came in.

“Good afternoon Miss Martina.  Could I get you and your visitor something to drink?”  Before Martina could answer, Callie laughed as she said, “Yes, Jeeves.  Could your bring us a beer?”

Mr. Bradley frowned as he said, “the name is Mr. Bradley.  I am the butler and no, miss, I will not bring you a beer.  Perhaps you would enjoy a glass of lemonade.”  Martina looked at him and said, “this is my friend, Callie.”

Mr. Bradley grunted as he walked out of the room.  As soon as he was out of earshot, Callie said, “now, am I going to have to call your mother and father, ‘my lord and my lady’?  I mean, are they royalty or something?” Martina smiled and said, “no, they’re not royalty.  They’re just rich.”

Like flipping a switch, Callie said, “okay.  Do you have homework?”  Taken a little aback, Martina said, “yes, but not much and it doesn’t matter if I do it or not.”  

“What do you mean?” asked Callie. Martina said, “my parents have endowed the school, which of course, ensures that I will receive my diploma.  A diploma that will have absolutely no value.  A diploma that will never be framed or even looked at.  A diploma that will be stored in the attic, along with all the other trophies, awards and accolades my parents have bought for me.” “Well,” Callie said, “you know, you have to think about college.”  

This free-spirited, fly by the seat of her pants, seemingly not a care in the world girl was now talking about college.  “You do want to go to college, right?” Callie asked.  Martina just looked at her like a deer caught in the headlights.  Callie said, “you do, right?  Say yes.”  Martina continued to look at her with a blank expression and once again, Callie said, “say yes.”

Martina smiled and said, “okay, yes.”

“Okay,” said Callie.  “How are your grades?”

Martina said, “average, I would imagine.  Do you have good grades?” Callie said, “I have to.  I need all the scholarships I can get.  I’m going to try to get one for archery as well as academics.  I know I have a bit of a problem with authority and most of my teachers think I’m a bit truculent, but I have plans and those plans are to go to college.”

“You know archery?” asked Martina.  Callie laughed and said, “it’s not something you know.  It’s something you do.”

“Are you good?” asked Martina.  Callie said, “yes, I am.  I can shoot the wings off of a fly at fifty paces, but I have practiced for a long time.  My first bow and arrow set were two sticks and a piece of twine, and my quiver was one of my knee-socks.”

Callie looked at Martina and said, “this is what we’re going to do.  We’re going to go to the same college and we’re going to be roommates.  But it won’t be one of those community colleges.  We’re going to shoot for the moon.  Somewhere like Harvard or Yale or Princeton.”

Martina said, “I don’t think I could get into one of those schools.”

Callie said, “are you kidding?  Sure you can.  Your father can build a library on campus and they can name it after him, or he could maybe…I don’t know…buy the Dean a kidney or something.  You don’t have to worry about getting accepted to a school.  I do.”

Martina was intrigued with the notion of going to college.  It had never been discussed, but she wondered aloud what good it would do if she did.  Callie said, “with a degree, you can do anything.  You could start a business!”

“What kind of business?” asked Martina.  “Well, what can you do?” asked Callie.  Martina thought for a minute and said, “I know how to sit properly, and I know where the silverware is supposed to be when we dine.  I know how to…”

“To what?” asked Callie.  “I know how to be seen and not heard,” said Martina.

Callie said, “you are going to learn how to be seen and heard.  You are going to learn how to roar!”

To be continued___________________