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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
After the Silver Spoon
In the darkness of her bedroom, deep in the unforgiving night, Madeline Poe sometimes questioned her good fortune. In short, she didn't feel worthy of the path upon which she now trod. She was abrasive, ambitious, and arrogant. She was conniving, driven, strong-willed...and unexpectedly pregnant by a man she could never love. Thankfully, he felt the same way and when she'd presented him with the documents that would release him from all duty and responsibility toward the child growing rampantly in her womb, he'd signed them without hesitation, his grim solemnity matched only by his obvious relief.
Madeline, for her part, didn't want or need Casey Woodland's money and she certainly had no desire to saddle a child of hers with his name. However, since this particular child would only be hers until birth, she'd felt it prudent to procure Casey's wavier on the adoption sooner rather than later. She was not oblivious to the problems an out-of-wedlock child could present to the son of a conservative senator. Especially a senator with his eye on the Oval Office. Hopefully her proactive discretion would keep the taint of that toxic situation from the little girl she carried. Long enough, anyway, for her to have some peace with the couple who'd been chosen to be her parents.
The young attorney rolled onto her side in an effort to get comfortable; something she feared futile now, in her seventh month of pregnancy. She wondered--briefly--if Casey knew who had "stepped up", so to speak, and what he thought about that little plot twist. Madeline, herself, still had trouble believing it. Wasn't there some saying about chaos giving life to both shattering heartbreak and breathtaking beauty? If there wasn't, she thought there should be.
She remembered that she hadn't told anyone about the pregnancy yet. She'd been in shock and was considering abortion at the time. The days had seemed to run together in waves of oppressive heat and she'd felt like she was slowly drowning in lemon Jello. Her mind raced with fear and self-recrimination. How could she have been so stupid? How could she have gotten pregnant at all?
When she'd found out, Casey Woodland had already left LA; called back to the political fold by a senator/father who was using him to assert positive family values in his re-election campaign. During their brief affair, Casey and she had eschewed the condom only once: the time they'd had sex in that hotel room while on a case. She was on the pill, though, and felt that she was protected at least from pregnancy. So much for that. The singular afflictions of her condition early on--nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness--were a perfect reminder that the pill was not 100% effective. The little blue line on the home pregnancy test had driven that point home like a stake right through her abdomen.
Most days, she'd felt like she was either going to hyperventilate from terror or die from nausea. She'd spent a few days watching her dreams--her entire, carefully-planned life--fading into oblivion. She wondered even now if she'd been so off her game then that she'd missed something that day. Something that would have changed the course of events and subsequently her life.
They'd gone to interview the ex-brother-in-law of a murdered college student. It was a throw-away interview as far as Madeline was concerned because they'd already interviewed Chelsea's sisters and father, all of whom lived in the area. Driving to Anaheim to cross-check facts with a man who'd been excised from the family when Chelsea'd been seventeen seemed redundant and that--plus the confusion and fluttering anxiety of her unwanted pregnancy--made Madeline want to ditch the interview, her job, and anything remotely resembling responsibility in order to hang out in Disneyland. A childish fantasy she had not shared with her investigative partner that day: Jessica Devlin. The ex-DA, she'd felt, would not understand the comfort offered by a churro eaten in the shadow of Cinderella's castle. Looking back, the desire seemed anathema to Madeline. Escaping from her pregnancy fears by going to Disneyland? It was like sending someone on a diet to a candy shop to forget about food for awhile.
Interviewing Darren Whitt did not turn out to be redundant. Dangerous? Yes. Terrifying? Oh, yes. Redundant? Not so much.
He'd been more surprised than he'd let on to see the two attorneys. That surprise had disintegrated very quickly into suspicion and then fear of discovery. The unexpected arrival of representatives from the Orange County DA's office, asking questions about his ex-sister-in-law's murder, had been too much for him and his nervousness grew. Jessica became suspicious first. Madeline wrongly pegged Darren for a coke addict based on his erratic, slightly paranoid behavior. Jessica, however, focused on Darren's relationship with the child Chelsea, when he'd still been married to her older sister. First, his answers were contradictory. When Jessica called him on it, he became defensive. When she pushed further, he became blatantly hostile. Then she asked the question that changed everything.
"You raped Chelsea Foster, didn't you?"
Darren Whitt had flown at Jessica like a demon. He hit her, hard, across the temple and then split her lip with a slap that rang through the small, dark house. He grabbed her around the throat and started to choke the life out of her. Then, just as suddenly, he was off her and she was gulping air into her tortured lungs. Madeline had gone to Jessica, intending to drag her to her feet and out of that house as fast as the two of them could run, but Darren came back--this time with a gun.
"Take it back!" he screamed. "Take it back!" His face was purple with rage, tears streaming down his cheeks. His hair stood straight up on his head, making him look even more unstable. His hands shook. "Take it back, bitch, or I'll fucking kill you!"
Madeline threw herself in front of Jessica and pulled the only card she had. "Don't pull that trigger, Darren! I'm pregnant!"
It was a slap across the face to Darren Whitt. "What?" Tears continued to stream down his face. "You're what?" He backed away from the two women, his gun now only loosely pointed at them. "What have I done?" He raked one hand through his wild hair and turned away from Madeline and Jessica. "What did I do? Oh, God, what did I do?"
Before Madeline could begin to talk Darren down, he shoved the barrel of the gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was dead before he hit the floor.
Later--much later--Stark told them that Darren Whitt had abused Chelsea from the age of eight until he'd divorced her older sister and Chelsea had never told anyone until she'd taken a Women's Studies course in college. Chelsea's professor had encouraged Chelsea to write a letter to her abuser, to pour out her pain onto the page. She hadn't meant for the girl to send it, she said later. She'd thought the writing would be cathartic. But Chelsea had sent the letter to Darren and had also said she was going to tell her father, her sisters and anyone else who would listen what he'd done to her. Darren couldn't allow that and he tracked her down through her roommate, finding her alone at the racquetball courts where she'd been taking years of rage out on the tiny rubber balls. One shot to the back of the head and she was gone.
That night, however, Madeline didn't care about the story behind the chaos. She watched, numb, as the EMS team patched up Jessica's lip and the small cut on her forehead. Unaccustomed to being fussed over, Jessica declined the offered trip to the ER to check for concussion. When the EMS team found out she lived alone, they almost insisted...until Madeline stepped in.
"What if I stay with her tonight? Watch her? What would I need to look for?"
The younger attorney ignored Jessica's protests and focused carefully on the precautions she was to take. On the way to Jessica's Beverly Hills home, Madeline had finally had enough of the older woman's attempts to talk her way out of the unwanted company and she pulled the black BMW off the side of the road, wheels squealing as she slammed on the breaks.
"Look!" she blurted, her voice shaking with emotion. "I don't know about you but it's been a really long day for me. In addition to watching my colleague get beaten by a murderer, I also had to throw myself over her to keep her from being shot, and I watched that same murderer blow his own fucking brains out less than ten feet from me! On top of all this, I found out Sunday that I'm pregnant by that...that...ugh! I haven't slept or eaten in three days. There is nothing left in my digestive tract for me to vomit. And every time I stand up, it takes a mental act of Congress to keep me on my feet! Those paramedics said that you needed to be watched and you know what? I am going to watch you. Because now I have a reason to stop obsessing about how crappy my life is right this instant!" Tears hovered on her bottom lashes and then spilled over in hot rills. "Is that okay with you??" She punctuated each word by pounding on the steering wheel with desperate frustration.
Jessica Devlin sat dumbfounded in the passenger seat, her sky-blue eyes wide with barely contained stupefaction. Madeline did not look up from her balled fists on the steering wheel and her breath came in short little gasps. She scrubbed at her cheeks to rid herself of the incriminating tears and it was then that Jessica noticed the tendrils of hair pulled from the usually perfect coif, the tiny lines around the younger woman's eyes and the dark smudges beneath them, imperfectly hidden by expensive foundation. Jessica made a decision in that instant.
"I'm feeling a little dizzy, Madeline," she said quietly. She reached out and grabbed the younger attorney's forearm as if to steady herself. "Would you please take me home?"
Madeline looked up. At first, her coffee colored eyes remained unfocused and unseeing. Then, as if a switch had been flipped, she restarted the car.
"Yeah," she said, clearing her throat. "Yes. Of course. We need to get you home." She pulled carefully out onto the street and headed into Beverly Hills.
That was the night they'd become friends.
Madeline felt the thin sheet that covered her and her round belly lift slightly. Shortly afterward, a cool body pressed close behind her, spooning her gently.
"You awake, Em?" came the expected whisper and Madeline smiled. She turned toward the voice and felt long arms wrap around her. She burrowed her face into silky smooth skin and breathed the fading remnants of jasmine and citrus.
"Stark kept you all this late?" she whispered back, brushing her fingertips over the rise of a collarbone, as white as cream in the moonlight that shone through her window.
"That bastard! Raina and Danny are still there! I finally told him that I was leaving and that if he had a problem with that, I'd happily share with him the intricacies of several of my more inventive castration fantasies."
Madeline chuckled softly, then pressed her lips against the hollow of Jessica Devlin's throat. "I thought you saved those for Cutler," she teased.
Jessica kissed the younger woman's forehead. "The great thing about fantasies? They're adaptable," she retorted, a wicked smile curving her soft mouth. She leaned in, then, and gave Madeline a proper kiss. "Mmmm..." She hummed against Madeline's sweet lips and murmured, "I missed you."
The pregnant woman nipped a tasty ear and asked, "Enough to get me some raspberry sorbet from the freezer?"
Jessica stared at the younger woman for a moment and then laughed out loud, the sound bright and sharp in the darkness. "I knew I'd forgotten something," she groused playfully as she slid out from under the sheet. "Be right back." She slipped from the room on silent feet, like a cat.
Madeline grinned in the moonlight.
That night--the night of Darren Whitt--she and Jessica had become friends.
Three months ago, though--on just another ordinary Los Angeles evening--they'd become lovers.
And Madeline Poe wondered--often and incredulously--what she had ever seen in Casey Woodland.
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