Chapter Nineteen: Flashback
A New Life

It was starting to rain as her plane came into land, spattering against the windows and obscuring the view of the busy airport as the pilot announced their arrival in Connecticut.

Madeleine got to her feet almost in a dream, reaching to grab her bag down from the overhead rack. Numbly, she followed her fellow passengers out of the aircraft and down the steep steps, glad to have her feet firmly on the tarmac once more. Ever since she had left Regine's house in California she had felt exposed and afraid. Her emotions were riding a fine line between hysterical crying and complete disbelief, and she fought to keep her expression level and natural as she searched the crowd for a familiar face.

"Hey, Mad."

There it was. His voice, piercing the melee of people greeting one another and she turned, casting him a smile.

"Hi, Luca." She said, injecting false warmth into her voice. "Are you my ride?"

"Did you expect to be made to get a cab?" Luca demanded. "Your limo awaits. Or well, my old van...but it's the best I can do."

He eyed her keenly. "Clay thought this trip to Cali was your way of ditching on us without the confrontation - I'm glad to see he was wrong. Did you come to any conclusions, out there? It seems like you've been away for ages...but then, I figure, if you were going to leave us and go to Boston, you would have gone by now. I guess you didn't get in, huh? Tough break. I know you worked your ass off."

"Yes, so I did." Madeleine agreed absently. "I suppose it wasn't enough."

"I won't pretend I'm not glad." Luca slipped a friendly arm into hers, leading her out towards the car park where his van was waiting. "I hoped you'd come back. We need you, and well, I was afraid if you didn't come back, it would have been because of me."

"You?" Madeleine stared at him, surprised.

"Yes." Luca nodded. "I know we've...not been entirely okay, since you split up with Jared, and..."

"And if you ever mention his name to me again, we'll stop being okay, permanently." Madeleine said darkly. "Drop it. He's done enough to hurt me already, without you reminding me of his existance."

"Sure." Luca held up his hands. "Sorry. I won't say anything more."

"Oh, no." Madeleine sighed. "It's me who should say sorry, Luca. It's not your fault. You were trying to look out for a friend and I probably should have listened to you about him anyway. I just wanted to prove I'd moved on, that's all. Instead..."

She faltered, then shook her head.

"What does it even matter?" She asked. "Forget it."

"Mad, are you okay?" Luca frowned. "I know you've flown a long way already, and you're probably lagged but you look...drawn, somehow. Pale. Tired."

"I'm fine." Madeleine nodded her head. "Just lagged."

"Well, if you say so." Luca shrugged. "Mad..."


"You have come back to stay, haven't you? I mean, I know that you've never been as much on the music keel as Clay and I, and I know you weren't altogether sure about bringing Stefana and Marissa into the aren't going to walk out on us, are you?"

"What other reason would I have for coming to Connecticut?" Madeleine asked. She sighed.

"Look, when I did my finals, getting into Harvard was everything to me." She acknowledged. "You know it was important. You know how hard I worked. And over the summer I guess I realised that, well, that door was really firmly shut for me now. I'm not going to grad school. I'm not going to follow that path. It's a stupid fancy, that's all. Waste more years of my life studying to get into a world I'll probably never make a difference in anyway."

"You took the rejection kinda hard, didn't you?" Luca asked gently. Madeleine looked startled. Then she shrugged.

"It's life." She said wistfully. "I'd still like to be going, I won't pretend otherwise. But it's not possible, Luca. Not practical. Not now. I thought about things long and hard in Cali. From every angle. Being there gave me the space and time to really think about what I wanted."

"Which is?"

"To be around friends." Madeleine glanced at her hands. "I think about what Tante Regine lost, and, you know, the options open to me. I never dreamt I'd be in a rock band, when I first went to college. It never screamed Maddy at me. But you know, in some ways, it's the only solid thing I really have, now. Making music makes me happy. And I want to be happy. For as long as it lasts."

"We've corrupted you, haven't we." Luca looked amused. "Clay and I, and our passion to make this work. We've infected you."

"Yes. I suppose you have." Madeleine offered a faint smile. "I guess I don't want to go back to being just a gospel choir singer on the weekends, when I can sing solo and make people sit up and take notice."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"You can spend your whole life preparing for a future you might not ever get to." She added softly. "Going to Cali opened my eyes to that more than anything. Being with the band, well, at least its an adventure. I want to live my life, not spend it in a library studying for something that might never happen. I'm done with books. I want to live now. Not put it off till it's too late to live."

A glimmer of a smile touched her lips.

"Besides, I already owe enough money on my college bills." She added ruefully. "Better not add to it."

"I'm glad you decided to come back." Luca grinned. "It would be difficult to replace you, but I was never sure if you would. I thought you'd only be with your aunt Regine for a week or two - it's been four months since we last saw each other, and you haven't really called. I did wonder."

"Well, Tante Regine needed me." Madeleine said flatly. "The love of her life died, Luca - what else do you expect me to do? Pay a couple of weeks visit and then take off and leave her? I couldn't do that. And besides, I needed the break. Last semester was intense. I needed out of here and to be away for a while. To get my head straight and work out what I really wanted."

She sighed.

"I guess I've re-evaluated all those things of late." She added, a touch of bitterness in her voice. "So here I am. I'm all yours. Ready to find some dead-end job in Hartford while we work on that pipe dream of yours."

"Ours." Luca corrected. At that moment they reached the waiting van, and he unlocked it, climbing into the driver's side and reaching over to open the passenger side. "Here. Climb in. You're still okay about crashing with us in the meantime? Our apartment isn't up to much, and it's definitely not neat, but we've saved you a corner. Just in case you needed it."

"Where else would I go?" Madeleine asked lightly. "Of course."

She turned her head, glancing out of the window as the van pulled out of the airport car park.

"After all," she added softly. "This is my life now."

Prologue: Flashback: University of Connecticut, Winter 2009
Chapter One: Starcrossed
Chapter Two: Tante Regine
Chapter Three: Flashback: University of Connecticut: Winter 2011
Chapter Four: The Poem
Chapter Five: A Shock
Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses
Chapter Seven: Flashback: Break Up
Chapter Eight: Blackmail
Chapter Nine: Conflict
Chapter Ten: Flashback: Assanti Meddles
Chapter Eleven: Pay Off 
Chapter Twelve: Stefana Gambles
Chapter Thirteen: University of Connecticut: Finals Week
Chapter Fourteen: Cracks
Chapter Fifteen: A Tiny Piece Of Truth
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback: Forever Changed
Chapter Seventeen: Secrets Will Out

Chapter Eighteen: Fall Out

Chapter Nineteen: Flashback: A New Life

Chapter Twenty: Darren Admits

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