The Worst Fear Excerpt Chapter Six
3 min Read
Madison sat alone near the front on the Metro ‘T’ bus, gazing out the window, lost in her thoughts. The ride home after seeing Dr. Katz was always the same; she always had a lot to think about. Today’s session had been even more thought-provoking than she was used to; it was sinking in that it was going to be her last time taking this ride. Big changes were coming; she could feel it.
She barely noticed that the rain had stopped, the storm had passed, and the late-afternoon sun was now out, warm and welcoming. It was only when the bright sun glinted off something above her that she snapped to. She focused on a gleaming airliner, low in the sky, landing gear down, passing overhead on approach into Logan Airport.
Madison’s eyes followed the widebody jet as it descended slowly and deliberately toward the horizon. Her fingers moved to her chest, as if under their own power, and began tracing distractedly along the outline of her arrowhead pendant. She kept her gaze on the airplane as it receded from view, remembering…
* * * * *
It had started out as such a beautiful day. The sky clear and blue, not a cloud in sight; the sun beaming down. The kind of early fall day when many Bostonians would call in sick, or take the day off, or somehow find their way to a park, or the beach, or in little Madison’s case, the airport. To drop off her father. For yet another business trip. A–gain.
Little Madison was not happy about it, not happy at all. And yet there she was, one day shy of her sixth birthday, strapped into her car seat in her neatly pressed school uniform, listening to her dad, behind the wheel, talking to her mom next to him as he drove. They were chatting about something she couldn’t really follow or understand; parent stuff, she decided, as she angrily crossed her arms and turned her pouty gaze out the window, trying to put out of her mind that despite how she wished things were different, her dad was going away, a-gain.
Staring up at the sky, her eyes focused on a massive gleaming airliner climbing up into the deep blue yonder, close enough that the roar of its engines at full throttle was audible through the tinted windows of the Mercedes. ‘We’re almost at the airport,’ little Madison thought to herself, having made this trip many, many times. And despite how familiar it all was to her, it never got any better, or easier, as far as she was concerned.
Her dad pulled the Benz up curbside at the Logan Airport departures level. Through the window, Madison could see the American Airlines signs and the Business Class check-in agents working at the kiosks. Her door opened and her dad was there, looking handsome and downright dapper as he always did in his suit and tie, holding his briefcase in one hand and carry-on bag in the other. “Sorry, sweetheart, Daddy has to hurry – don’t want to miss my plane,” he said as he set down his carry-on and leaned in to give little Madison a quick hug and kiss. But little Madison didn’t want his hug or kiss, and her expression made that loud and clear.
“What is it, honey?” asked her father when he saw how her bottom lip was turned all the way down. Of course, he knew what the problem was; this was not the first time he’d had this reaction when they reached the airport.
“Why do you have to go away again?!” demanded little Madison. “On my birthday!”
Her dad glanced at his watch, “Sweetheart, I’ve already changed my flight once; I have to go today. It’s just one night.. Tell you what –” he looked over his shoulder to her mom,“Blair, darling, can you pass me the box, please?”
Blair, radiant and elegant even in jeans and a simple polo shirt, seemed to know what her husband was referring to as she opened the glove compartment and retrieved a small jewelry box wrapped in shiny pink paper with a matching bow.
Little Madison’s eyes immediately locked onto the gift, tracking it as it was passed by her mom, all smiles now, to her dad, who held it up in front of little Madison’s adorably cute if still pouty face.
“Now, Miss Maddie and may it please the Court.” Her dad sounded very serious and lawyerly as he liked to do when he was teasing her. “Your official birthday is tomorrow, September twelfth. The Official Birthday Rulebook clearly stipulates that presents are to be opened only on one’s actual birthday.” He paused for effect, his eyes twinkling now.
Blair looked on, enjoying the moment that they had clearly pre-planned.
Little Madison squirmed in her car seat, her excitement growing.
Her dad maintained his barrister’s sober demeanor. “However, due to extenuating circumstances, your father, hardworking, diligent soul that he is, must go away – yet again – today, September eleventh. Thus I am submitting this emergency request to the Court for a temporary suspension of the Rules, such that the birthday girl may open her special gift one day early. Miss Maddie, as judge and jury in this matter, how does the Court rule?”
Little Madison giggled and waved her arms eagerly. “The Court rules Yes!” She snatched the box out of her dad’s hand. Barely able to contain herself, she tugged the pink ribbon off, tore away the wrapping paper and opened it. Inside, resting in a square of fluffy white cotton, was the arrowhead pendant with a silver chain. Little Maddie’s eyes widened and her frown was instantly transformed into a huge, delighted smile, “Ooh, look! An arrowhead!”
Her dad lifted the pendant out of the box by the chain so the arrowhead was suspended at her eye level. “A long time ago, Cherokee braves wore these into battle, to protect them,” he explained. “My Grandma got this for her birthday when she was about your age, back in Oklahoma. She wore it her whole life. Then she gave it to my mother, your Grandma. It kept them both safe. And now it will keep you safe.”
The arrowhead caught the morning sunlight and glinted brightly, making both of them blink. “See that?” her father grinned. “It’s working already!”
Little Madison watched, eyes big and round, as her dad gently placed the pendant around her neck. Her little heart was practically bursting out of her chest. “Oh, thank you, Daddy! This is the best present ever…!”
Her dad gently tapped the thin edge of the arrowhead. “Just be careful, Maddie, it’s sharp,” he warned her. He kissed her one last time on the forehead, “Okay, I’ll be home before you know it!” Then he blew a kiss to Blair, grabbed his bag and strode to the check-in kiosk.
Blair shifted behind the wheel, “Right, young lady, let’s get you to school. Wave bye-bye to daddy…!”
But a goodbye wave wasn’t going to do it for little Madison. She needed a proper hug. Without warning, she unbuckled her car seat harness, flung open her door and scrambled out after her father, calling out “Daddyyyyy…!!”
Madison’s dad was at the kiosk being handed his boarding pass when he heard his daughter’s voice. He looked back, surprised, just in time to see little Madison trip on the curb.
She fell hard on the concrete, face-first, and burst into tears on the crowded sidewalk. Several people rushing to catch flights veered around the fallen child, hurrying on their way; one young man exiting the terminal almost stepped on her before her dad scooped her up. “You’re okay, Maddie. I’ve got you!” her dad reassured her, wiping at her wet cheeks.
Madison’s mom rushed up, alarmed and concerned. “Maddie!” Blair exclaimed. Her distress quickly evaporated when she saw that little Madison was safe in her father’s arms. Blair regarded the two of them, faces pressed together, hugging each other like neither wanted to ever let go. “Oh, look at you two,” she laughed merrily. “Wait, don’t move…!” she instructed as she reached into her jacket pocket for her digital camera. “This is a keeper…!”
She leaned in to snap a few frames of little Madison and her dad, capturing their precious happy moment forever.