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___________________

And Justice For All – Chapter Eleven

After I spit little pieces of half-chewed pepperoni all over the papers, I quickly wiped it away to reveal what I thought I saw, but wasn’t sure.  After a second and third look, clearly, I was right.

I saw MY name.  “What the fuck?” I thought.  “Why is my name on that list?”

Beside my name was a deposit of one million dollars, every year for the last five years, into the same account from which the check was drawn.  An asterisk denoted further information, and referred me to the last page of that particular “sub-part.”

There it was.  I was to be given care, custody and control of Parker Patterson’s entire multi-billion dollar fortune, of course with more caveats yet to be spelled out.

Harville had told me there would be demands and instructions and “most importantly,” a code of silence, but I admit that I didn’t think it was going to be on a grand scale such as this.  What exactly was I expected to do in exchange for this fortune?

I started reading the last “sub-part.”  My new “specialty” was to be a Criminal Defense Attorney, just like Parker.  I was to, as she had done and done so effectively, defend and exonerate the worst of the worst with whatever means were required, and then arrange for their “protection.”

Parker had done a good job on that front.  All of the scumbags she had so artfully defended, had completely disappeared.  Many surviving victims, as well as several judges, feared they would offend again no matter where they had been relocated, and statistically, a killer will kill again. But Parker never seemed concerned.

As I continued reading, I was feeling sick to my stomach.  I jumped to my feet and said aloud, “I can’t do this!  I won’t do this!”

But then I remembered.  Goddammit!  I had given my word.  I had given my fucking word.  Harvilles’ words again came back to haunt me.  “Great tragedy can befall a man who breaks his word.”

I decided that I would actually be okay with living in a concrete pillar next to Jimmy Hoffa.  It was better than completely deserting my honor and integrity.  That kind of unscrupulousness and contempt for the law, the law I had sworn to uphold, was not in my nature.

I was fuming as I kept reading the information in the folder, but the more I read, the more I calmed down, and the more I came to understand Parker Carolina Patterson.

Everything was not as it seemed, and it started coming together.  It started making sense.  Although not within the parameters of the law as I understood and practiced, Parker had not only sought and delivered justice, she had sought and delivered swift and mighty justice.

I smiled as I realized exactly what she had done.  It was nothing that every one of us have most likely fantasized about at one time or another, and I’m not limiting my conjecture to attorneys or law enforcement.

I re-examined the latitude and longitude coordinates noted.  They were skillfully portrayed on a map.  I sat back in my chair and sighed when I realized that the map was Harville’s property.  The count correlated exactly with the number of exonerated defendants.  “Hmm,” I thought.  No wonder they were never heard from again.”

That was the reason for the code of silence.  I now knew what happened to those “defendants.”  I now knew how they “disappeared,” and I now knew where they were.  I don’t know who actually put them there, be it Parker or Harville or someone yet to be introduced, but they were there, and they would remain nameless for all eternity.

The reason Parker Carolina Patterson chose me, was buried deep in the bowels of that blue folder. When I found it, I smiled. “Of course,” I thought. “Now it makes sense.”

The torch had been passed. I had made a promise to carry it, and I would carry it while seeking my own justice. My day of reckoning might surely come, but until then, there would be, “justice for all.”

Some say Parker Carolina Patterson was a despicable woman.  Some hated her.  Some admired her. Some, like Harville, loved her. As for me?  I came to understand her.

In my younger days, I used to wonder if she had ever lost anything. EVER! I finally realized that, no, she had not lost anything. She had lost everything.

When people asked me about her, I just smiled and said, “God called in the markers, and she arranged the meetings.”  I didn’t care if they understood what I meant, and I didn’t care what they thought.

A few months after my practice was up and running, I left my office and walked uptown.  I stopped in front of a store, and took a deep breath as I walked in. A friendly girl asked, “what can we help you with today?”

I smiled and said, “I’d like to get a tattoo.” She cheerfully asked, “do you have anything in mind?”

“Just two words,” I said.

Nan Fen An.

And Justice For All – Chapter Ten

I was in a complete fog.  I found myself looking along the side of the road for some evil, satanic, red-hued man with horns and a bifurcated tail.  I took turns looking for said man, and glancing at that blue folder that lay innocuously on the front seat.  But was it really innocuous, or would I literally be releasing the hounds of hell as soon as I opened it?

In my head, I found myself mimicking Brad Pitt in the movie “Se7en,” as he emphatically and fearfully screamed, “what’s in the box?  What’s in the box? What’s in the fucking box?”

I was reasonably sure that Gwyneth Paltrow’s head wasn’t inside that folder, unless of course it had been run through some huge hydraulic press.  For a split second, I wondered, “shit!  I wonder if Parker Patterson’s head is in that folder?”

It’s amazing what those little psychotic neurons in your brain will insinuate into your mind when you’re unsure of just about any and every little thing.

My sanity returned (I think) and I convinced myself that there was no head in the folder.  I didn’t have a clue what was in there, nor did I have a clue what I had gotten myself into.  I also knew that I had given a solemn oath, and now that I was alone with the folder, I was beginning to have second thoughts.

I was worried.  I was kind of scared.  Could I keep my word?  Would I keep my word? Would this be the first time I betrayed my lifelong commitment to honor…the very thing on which my reputation was based?  Harvilles’ words echoed in my head like a gunshot bouncing off the walls of a deep canyon. “Great tragedy can befall a man who breaks his word.” Why didn’t he just say, “it doesn’t matter what you do…you’re fucked.”

I stared at the folder almost like it was a living thing.  I had trepidation, anticipation, curiosity, dread, fear and I admit, a little excitement.  It seemed to have an almost mystic quality, like it was going to either give me transcendental power, or quite possibly kill me.

The answers to most of my questions were in this folder, according to Harville. I sat down, took a deep breath and reached for the folder.  I almost wished I had one of those fine Gurkha Her Majesty’s Reserve cigars, if for no other reason than to have something to chew on other than my fingernails; either that or light it and use it to set fire to the folder.

I opened it, and the first thing I saw was an envelope with my name neatly written on the front. I literally moaned aloud, “shit.  What’s in the envelope?  What’s in the envelope?  What’s in the fucking envelope? Instructions? Demands?  The Grim Reaper? Dynamite? White powder?”

After my initial shock and a few minutes of reservation, I reached for my letter opener, unsure of whether to use it to carefully slice along the top of the envelope, skillfully slit my wrists, or prepare to stab whatever crawled out until it lay there screaming for mercy.

It was time to put on my big boy panties again.

I opened it.

I was wondering if this was some cruel joke, and all I would find was a condensed version of “Understanding the Law for Dummies,” but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I wiped my eyes and checked my pulse to see if my heart was still actually beating.

I was shaking my head as I looked at a check made out to me in the amount of FIVE million dollars. Attached was a note, containing very specific instructions that I was to open my own law firm.  An account had been established in my name and “funds” would immediately be made available for expenses.  The amount would be known as soon as I set up a “password.”  What the hell?

Word balloons were floating over my head as I thought, “what attorney doesn’t lust after having his or her own firm along with the funds for the practice?  No more groveling and putting up with incompetent, empty-headed clerks.  No more ass kissing, hoping to be made a senior partner.  No more being known as Mr. 2 or 3 or 4.”

Harville may have had to do that at one time, but he didn’t now.  He was what they used to call “shittin’ in high cotton and fartin’ through silk.”  He had his maid and his butler and his chef and his chauffeur, not to mention the grand estate on ‘hundreds’ of acres of land.

Was I going to become him?  Did I want to?  I believe he had done well for the Pattersons, and I felt he had done the same for Parker.  Aside from my jealous, “pretend hatred” for him, I truthfully believed he was an honorable man, but I had this disturbing feeling.  Had I unknowingly, as I said, made a deal with Beelzebub himself, or I had just accepted a suicide mission?

I went through the folder, visiting each and every case Parker Patterson had won.  I recalled how twice, she had stomped on my ego, and made me look like a pathetic bird-brain, limping out of the courtroom. I also remembered how much I despised her.

I kept asking myself.  “Why me?  What could she have possibly seen in me that had made her choose me as her successor?”  Choosing me made no sense. We had barely exchanged ten words between us during all those years, and they had not been pleasant by any means.

There were several “sub-parts” to the folder.  One part contained handwritten notes by Parker, which I found odd.  Why didn’t she use a computer?  Could it be that because once it’s out in cyberspace, it’s out there forever?  Was there something she didn’t want anyone to know?  So many questions.  I decided that I would scrutinize them later.

Another part contained the names of the defendants, whose freedom and “protection” had been so masterfully arranged.  I found it curious that their names were coupled with “latitude and longitude” coordinates.  No new identities, addresses or employment records were attached.  There weren’t even any pages where that information had been redacted.

“Hmm.  That’s strange, I thought.”  I knew about witness protection, and I knew that it was kept secret from the general population, but the arranging officers or departments were privy to that information, and there was always a record somewhere.

The last part of the folder was a sort of “accounts payable” spreadsheet.  It went back twenty years and the first entry was a name that I didn’t recognize.  Underneath the name was “Jackson Alton Benson.” For some reason, that name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite recall why.

I carefully followed the line across the top name, and gasped when I saw the amount “paid.”  It was a cool one million dollars.

The next entry was also a name I didn’t recognize, and the scenario was the same.  I halfheartedly scanned through the names, and the last one caught my eye.

The name was a Mrs. Cumberbatch.  Underneath her name was “Bernard Copley.”  Even after twenty years, I knew that name well.  It was the case that first introduced me to the famous Parker Carolina Patterson.  It was the case “she won.”  It was the case that made me start despising her, not because she won, but because she had made me look ridiculous.  Not only that, but she had made a mockery of the judicial system, and the coup des grace was arranging protection for that horrible excuse for a human being.

The records indicated that Mrs. Cumberbatch was Evelyn Copley’s mother.  She had received one million dollars every year for the last twenty years.  Wow.  I was on to something here, but I wasn’t exactly sure what.

A quick call to Harville went unanswered of course, so after ordering a pie from the local Pizza Hut, I settled down to have another look at the papers.

I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to see.

To be continued_________________________________