Miss Me Not (Page 15)

"Madison, you look lovely," she said, standing up in front of me. She walked around me, taking in the outfit from all angles. "You look beautiful," she added, stopping in front of me triumphantly and clapping her hands happily. "Go try on the rest," she demanded gleefully before dropping back in her seat.

Forty minutes later, we walked out of Dillard's with my checking account a great deal lighter. The salesgirl had stashed my four bags filled with clothes behind the counter for us so we wouldn't have to drag them along with us as we continued to shop the mall. With the help of Sarah, I loaded up on thin long-sleeved shirts and jeans at Aeropostale. It felt weird buying jeans that were actually my size, and not black, but I had to admit, I liked the way they fit. Pac Sun proved to be the ideal place to find a new jacket. I picked out one in hunter green that overlapped in the front and buttoned off center. Sarah claimed it made my eyes stand out. I also picked up a couple pairs of Vans and two pairs of sandals for the warmer Florida winter days. I smiled weakly at Sarah as I leaned against the counter. I was whipped, both physically and mentally. Who knew shopping could be so exhausting.

"I say a good lunch is in order," she said, smiling at me as I drooped against the counter while the girl swiped my credit card, which should have been smoking from overuse by now.

"Sounds good to me," I said, ready to give my aching feet a chance to recuperate. "I really appreciate you taking me today," I added, not looking at her as the salesgirl handed me my slip to sign.

"Nonsense, it should be me thanking you. I can't remember the last time I had such a productive shopping day."

"But you haven't bought a thing," I said, appalled at my selfishness. We'd been so focused on buying a warehouse of clothing for me. "I'm sorry," I added, feeling terrible.

"Don't be silly, dear. I can shop for me anytime. It's been nice to see you find so many lovely clothes," she said, grabbing one of the bags the salesclerk handed over.

I nodded my head in agreement. I felt all the credit went to her though. She had an excellent eye for picking out clothes that weren't only attractive, but extremely flattering.

"How about there?" Sarah said, pointing to a sit down restaurant that was separate from the food court.

"Sure," I said, not wanting to admit how long it had been since I'd eaten at a sit down restaurant. I could name the restaurant, the day and the exact time my parents had last taken me out to eat. It was May twenty-fifth, two thousand eight, the day I turned thirteen. Donna and my dad had decided to commemorate my journey into my teens by taking me to their favorite restaurant, J.R's Steakhouse. We were sitting down, eating our dinner at five 'o'clock on the nose, since church still trumped my day. My parents planned on attending their bible study at six, so I was told not to dawdle over eating if I wanted time to eat dessert before they dropped me off at home. I didn't care about their mockery of a family dinner, I had other plans that night that didn't include them, but did include a high school party I'd gotten wind of. My plans were to smoke some of the weed I'd bought off a senior, and drink my way through as much alcohol I could get my hands on. It would be months later that I would finally regret the fact that I didn't enjoy the meal more, since it was the last time we were all together as a family. It was the last time Donna would look at me without contempt or indifference. It was the last time I felt normal. A week later, my life was in shreds.

"Madison, are you okay?" Sarah asked, grabbing my arm.

"Uh, sure," I stuttered out, not sure how long I had been standing in front of the restaurant, staring at it like a goon. "I just felt a little dizzy. I guess I'm hungrier than I thought," I lied.

"How many?" the bored looking hostess asked.

"Two," Sarah answered, still holding on to my arm lightly. I could have pulled it free easily enough, but I didn't. The memories from long ago had left me feeling shaky and alone. Her touch felt oddly comforting.

"What's good here?" I asked, aiming for normalcy.

"I'm a fan of the cheddar bacon potato soup and the burger sliders."

"Sounds good," I said, closing my menu. The idea of perusing the menu to find something I would like seemed too daunting. I figured burgers and soup were a safe bet.

"Hi, I'm Katie, and I'll be your waitress today," a chipper voice said.

Looking up, I nearly groaned out loud when I saw Katie Nelson standing at the end of our table. I watched with some satisfaction as her jaw dropped when she recognized me. Katie Nelson fell into the Populars group with her bubbly personality, designer clothes and don't-screw-with-me attitude. We'd been friends years ago when we were paired as partners in the youth group mission we took to Mexico the week after Christmas when we were twelve. We were two peas in a pod during that mission trip as we broke as many rules as we could. Together, we'd snuck out to hook up with two boys we'd met from the nearby village. We both experienced second base that night with those boys, and probably would have slid into third if Marcie, our youth leader, hadn't dragged us back to the camp, threatening to call our parents if we ever did that again. Later, we'd giggled together, not caring about her reprimands as we both discovered we had our very first hickeys. Once we got home, our friendship continued to blossom as we moved from one risky adventure to the next. We smoked our first joint together, holed up in my room while our parents were at church one evening. We had giggled uncontrollably as we dipped our fingers into the jar of peanut butter I had snagged from the kitchen. We polished off the entire jar as we gossiped about the kids we went to school with. Katie was my best friend, my only friend. Because of her, I got to sit at the Populars’ table and attend all the parties she was invited to. The five months following our mission trip were the happiest months of my life. If only I could have been happy with things the way they were. If only I could have lived with being ignored by my parents. Maybe everything would have been different. Hindsight is a mocking bitch for sure. Katie and I were no longer friends after I turned thirteen. She became the ringleader of my torment as she led the brigade of hate notes tossed at me all through seventh grade. I didn't care though. Really I didn't. It meant nothing that more than half the notes I saved were in her writing.

Chapter Fourteen

"What can I get you?" Katie finally asked, looking away from me.

"I'll take the lunch special with the burger sliders and soup," Sarah said, handing over her menu. "Oh, and I'd like a Diet Coke.

"I'll have the same," I said, meeting Katie's eyes. "Except with a Coke," I added, pretty convinced she'd most likely spit in it.

"I'll put your order in and be back in a sec with your drinks," Katie said, obviously in a hurry to be done with us.

"Can we get some chips and salsa too?" Sarah asked before Katie could escape.

"Sure, I'll bring them out with your sodas."

"She looks familiar," Sarah mused after Katie walked away. She looked at me questioningly, waiting for me to fill in the missing puzzle piece.

"She's a Popular," I finally answered, expecting that to clear everything up.


"Yeah, you know, jocks, cheerleaders, class presidents, class clown, etc."

"Ah, I see. You mean The Goldens," she said.

"The Goldens? Why Golden?" I asked intrigued.

"We called them that because everything they touched seemed to be golden."

"Were you a Golden?" I asked.

She laughed. "Hell no. I was too much of a troublemaker. I was always getting into something that would set my parents’ perfectly straight teeth on edge," she said, still laughing.

Katie returned with our drinks and chips before I could say anything. I waited until she was gone before asking my question. "Do you get along with your parents now?" I asked, fiddling with my silverware and wishing I could retract the question before she could read too much into it.

"We have a love-hate relationship," she said, smiling at me knowingly. "It's a relationship that we have to continue to work on. We'll never have the easy camaraderie that Tim has with his family, but we've learned to at least coexist. So, there's hope," she added.

"I'm pretty sure that doesn't apply to my family," I admitted. "We don't have any kind of relationship, and really never have."

"Madison, Dean has filled me in on your home life, and I hope you don't mind when I say that sometimes parents are just assholes," she said, shocking me.

I choked back a rare laugh. I couldn't ever imagine Donna swearing, let alone ridiculing another adult. Growing up, it had always been shoved down my throat that adults are always right. Having Sarah on my side kind of empowered me. Of course, she has no idea what I had done to make Donna the way she is. She'd be looking at me a whole lot different if she had all the facts. Matter of fact, I was quite certain she would bolt from the table quicker than you could say “scandal” if she knew.

"Donna has her reasons," I said, feeling guilty for misleading her family.

"Just the fact that she has you calling her Donna is wrong, sweetie. Nothing a child ever does justifies being ignored and crucified," Sarah retorted with fire in her eyes.

Any further conversation was put on hold as Katie returned, juggling our burgers and soups on a tray.

"Can I get you anything else?" she asked, pointedly ignoring me by only looking at Sarah.

"Just a refill on our drinks?" Sarah said, indicating our almost empty cups.

"Yes, ma'am," Katie said, scurrying off with our glasses.

"I'm guessing you two aren't BFFs," Sarah said blandly, not missing Katie's snub.

"You could say that," I grimaced, not used to being around someone so observant.

"Don't mind me. Tim says I'm a Nosy Rosie," she said, digging into her soup.

The rest of our lunch was filled with lighter conversation as Sarah filled me in on the child Dean had been. I wasn't surprised in the slightest when she told me he was always dragging stray animals home when he was younger. After all, wasn't that what I was? Saving just seemed to be a part of his DNA makeup.

"I hope you don't mind, but I set up an appointment to get our hair and nails done this afternoon," Sarah said after paying our lunch bill. She'd flat-out refused to let me pay for my own meal. "This afternoon is my treat," she said, linking her arm through mine.

"Gah, no. It's bad enough you paid for lunch," I said, balking at the idea of her paying for something else.

"Nonsense. This is my idea, so it's my treat. Now, no arguing with your elders," she admonished. Her smile totally ruined the effect of her reprimand. "Just consider it a thank you for letting an old lady tag along on your shopping spree," she added.

I tried arguing, but she wouldn't listen to any of my excuses as she dragged me to the salon adjacent to the mall. Before I knew it, I was encased in a smock and staring at my reflection in the long mirrors that lined the wall in front of me.

"You have beautiful hair," the hairstylist said, running her hands through my dry locks.

I fought the urge to bolt from the chair at her touch, willing myself to stay seated.

"Who normally cuts it?" she asked, running a comb through my hair so she could look at the ends.

"Um, me," I admitted, squaring my shoulders defiantly when a flash of dismay crossed her face. Sure, the fact that I usually gathered my hair into a ponytail and then hacked the ends off all at once wasn't the best idea, but I sure as hell wasn't going to apologize to someone I had just met for my amateur hairstyling.

"I see," she said, smoothing her hand down my back so she could get a better look at my jagged ends. I tried to take my mind off her hands on my back as I silently recited lines from my favorite song in my head.

"Are you looking for more volume and less weight?" she asked, interrupting my silent reciting.

I shrugged my shoulders. I had absolutely no freaking idea what I wanted. My hair had been nothing but something I could hide behind as I allowed it to veil my face from sight. "I really haven't thought about it. I guess whatever you think will look decent," I admitted. "I don't like short hair though," I added, afraid she'd go batshit crazy on my hair and give me a bad pixie cut or something.

"No, your face is too lean for a short style, but I think if I give you some layers it will help enhance some of these breathtaking highlights," she mused, petting my hair almost lovingly. "Okay, let's get you shampooed up, and then we'll breathe some life into this," she said, raking her fingers up beneath my hair so it cascaded back down my back.

This chick had a serious love affair going on with my hair. I wondered if I should offer to leave her alone with it. Seriously, if she started rubbing her face against it, I was out. Trailing behind her, I apprehensively eyed the chair in front of the sink where she indicated I should sit. I would have to sit powerless in the chair with my neck kinked back while she would be washing my hair for me. Considering the way she was just practically making love to my hair a moment ago, I was freaking.

The stylist, whose name I'd forgotten in my I-hate-to-be-touched anxiety attack, wrapped a small white towel around my neck and tucked the ends into the smock I wore. Placing her hand on my forehead, she gently pushed my head back until my neck was flush against the cold porcelain of the sink. Closing my eyes, I willed myself to relax. Obviously, my “no touching” rule had been blown to hell the moment I met Dean, and at the moment, I wished he was here, so I could chuck something at him for making me go through this. I could do this, I could do this, I could do this, I silently chanted to myself as she leaned over, obnoxiously close, to wash my hair. I tried not to think about her forearm that was resting against my shoulder, or how her stomach was pressed against my arm on the armrest of the chair. I wished I would have had the foresight to clasp my arms together across my chest, keeping them in a touch-free zone. After what seemed like an eternity, Ginnifer with a G, yes, I finally remembered her name, finished washing my hair. I swear, if she would have put one more product in my hair, I wouldn't have been responsible for my actions.

Ginnifer moved me back to her stylist chair and wasted no time getting down to business. It was as if she sensed I had bolting on my agenda. I kept my eyes down, not daring to look in the mirror as she snipped away with her scissors. I tried to ignore the chunks of my long hair falling to the floor around me, convinced that Ginnifer had heard my inner monologue and was now punishing me by hacking off all my hair. Finally, when I thought I couldn't handle another snip of the scissors, she stepped in front of me and studied my hair appraisingly before picking up her hair dryer and styling it for me.