“Don’t you ever come home at this time again!”
Maddy had been out all night and now as dawn was breaking she found her father waiting on the couch for her, fuming with rage and worry.
She knew that she was pushing the boundaries, knew that her Dad was worried for her. But while she looked at him there on the couch she couldn’t feel anything but hatred for him.
He had done everything he could to stop her from seeing Callum. Taken away her allowance and access to the car. He had even locked her in her room one night to try to get her to stay in but she had crept out and climbed down the tree next to her window.
She didn’t want to hurt him, not really, but he had forced the situation until she had no choice.
Callum had a hold on her that she couldn’t resist. Besides, if it wasn’t for Dad’s new girlfriend, Martha, Maddy was sure that her Dad wouldn’t have had a problem with Callum.
Martha was from an rich old family. She wore pearls and diamonds, gold and fur. Just the sort of person that turned Maddy’s stomach. But for some reason Josh was smitten and Martha could do no wrong in his eyes. And Martha thought that Callum wasn’t good enough for “Joshie’s baby girl.”
What did Martha care anyway? She called her Mosquito when Josh wasn’t around. Told her that she sucked her father’s bank balance dry with all her clothes and allowance money. That she should leave home and let Josh have some happiness in his life after years of staying single just to keep Maddy happy.
Maddy knew that wasn’t the truth. She knew that Josh had been devoted to her mother and that he had never wanted to get involved with another woman. At least she thought that’s what she knew! What if Martha was right and Josh had stayed single because he felt some kind of duty to his motherless daughter?
Wracked with uncertainty and guilt, Maddy spent more and more time with Callum and family life got more and more unpleasant.
Callum had her wrapped around his little finger. Sure he was older than she was. He didn’t have much money. He knew a lot more about life than she did. And he was a more experienced guy than she had ever spent time with before. But he was perfect for her. She didn’t mind that he was possessive and got into moods sometimes. That he sulked if she spoke to another guy. She felt flattered by his love for her. By the fact that he wanted to possess her completely.
She did miss her friends a bit. She hadn’t seen them for so long. Ever since she and Callum became serious he had insisted that she break ties from the old gang.
Well, she could cope with missing them so long as she had Callum. And she did. He had told her that he loved her – in his own way. And that he wanted her to be his forever.
She loved seeing him every night. She would meet him at the beach and they would lie in the dunes together, warming themselves in the last delicious rays of the sun and then by a fire that they would light when the sun went down.
And so her life continued, every night spent with Callum, every day trying to get through school and maintain her distance from the friends that now ignored her or spat vicious comments in her direction. And when she was at home to eat or grab some clean clothes she certainly kept her distance from manipulative Martha and her love sick puppy of a father.
Every day much the same – until one morning when things were different as she crept into the house after a night with Callum.
Martha was waiting on the couch for her this time and although she wasn’t angry that Maddy had been out all night she did want to talk to her.
Maddy wasn’t interested in any conversation with this she-devil but Martha was insistent and Maddy was forced to give her full attention when she was told in a cold and hard manner that Josh was dead.
Falling onto the couch rather than sitting on it, Maddy felt as if her whole world had been turned upside down. Martha told her that Josh had been ill for some time but that obviously Maddy had been too busy with her rough boyfriend to notice.
He had died the night before in hospital.
Just like that, Josh was dead. The man that had been everything to her. The one who had taken such care of her for all these years. The one who had devoted his life to her.
Her father – gone.
Martha wasted no time in telling Maddy that everything had been left to her and that she and Josh had said their marriage vows on his deathbed.
She wanted Maddy out of the house immediately. She would be given a payoff to help her get set up in some kind of hovel that her boyfriend would approve of and then she was never to set foot in this house again.
Maddy was reeling from the shock and the horror of what had happened to her. She couldn’t believe what was going on! Her father was dead and had left her destitute!
She left the house in a daze and went to find Callum.
If she expected to find any sympathy with him then she was sadly mistaken. Now that she had no money and no home, no future and no rich relatives Callum wasn’t interested. He kicked her out of his bedsit and she was forced to wander the streets in total shock and humiliation.
Her pain was beyond description and she kept herself to herself for many weeks, talking only when she had to, eating whatever she could find in the garbage.
After a while she had to pull herself together as she noticed that more kids were taking to the streets and that she had to fight for the little bit of food that was on offer. She heard from them that there was a Virus that had struck the city and that the adults were being killed off.
Surprised but not shocked, Maddy felt the need to go back to her home and get some personal items that she had left behind. If what these kids was saying – that gangs were rampaging round the city, claiming things for themselves – she wanted to get to her property before they did.
She wanted to have some memory of her father, her mother – her life.
It was broad daylight and Maddy could see that the house was still in tact although there were a few broken windows and graffiti sprayed on the walls.
As she crept inside she stumbled across a figure on the floor – Martha.
Not looking anything like Maddy remembered, Martha’s whole face was black and swollen. Her hair had turned grey and her neck and hands were wrinkled.
Maddy leant down on her knees and took Martha’s head in her hands, trying to give some support though it was clearly a lost cause.
Martha’s breath was coming out in short and noisy wheezes from her swollen lips and when she managed to open an eye and saw that it was Maddy who was holding her she let out a shriek that could have come from a banshee.
Flinching slightly, Maddy still kept a hold of the old witches head and listened as Martha ranted the ramblings of a fevered mind.
“He always loved you. Loved your mother. Mosquito. Out to get my blood. Out to get my money. He loved you. Loved you…”
Martha reached up with her claw like hand. It looked as if she was going to stroke Maddy’s cheek.
But suddenly Maddy felt a sharp pain as she realised that the hag was scratching her face!
Jumping back in horror and disgust, she stood above her stepmother who managed to drag herself into a sitting position and point accusingly at Maddy.
“Mosquito. Always knew you’d be back, buzzing round me when I don’t have the strength to swat you away. He loved you so much. His last words were about you, his precious little girl. But all you are is a mosquito. Blood sucker! Get away from me!”
Martha’s words came out in a whisper but Maddy could hear every word and as she watched, her stepmother fell back, exhausted from her rant and took her last wheezing breath before she died.
Back on the streets that night, Maddy felt strangely uplifted. It had been terrible to watch Martha die like that, to witness the Virus at first hand.
But she had heard the words that she had needed to hear – that her father had loved her.
This gave her new strength and she walked towards a bunch of girls who were standing round a fire, trying to warm themselves.
“Do you mind if I share your fire?”
A tall girl eyed her up and down. “Nah, come on in. Got to keep strong, Girl Power’s what’s gonna keep us going round here I reckon. ”
Maddy was intrigued, “Why do you say that?”
“Cause chicks always make the best leaders.”
The tall girl leant over and held out her hand. “Annie.”
Maddy swiped at something on her cheek – a mosquito. She smiled to herself. Maybe being called a mosquito wasn’t that bad – after all they were natural survivors, could adapt to any new environment and were resistant to almost everything as Maddy herself had already proved!
Maddy took Annie’s hand. “Moz.”