@50K ~ Romance/Suspense/Contemporary
Maddie wants to forget her years in captivity. She’d rather spend her time getting reacquainted with her parents and her sister, not to mention her cello-playing, beautiful boy next door and childhood best friend Wesley. But paint is everywhere, and tormenting shadows linger in every portrait she encounters.
When the yearly Art Showcase once again approaches, Maddie has the chance to win a scholarship and start planning a future far away from the horrors of her past. She knows she has to make a choice–confront her memories of The Painter and overcome her fear of the canvas, or give up painting forever.
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Character Interview with Autumn Deacon
Autumn Deacon is Maddie’s younger sister. She is, in many ways, the opposite of her older sibling, but she plays a vital part in keeping Maddie together, even if she doesn’t know it (or at least doesn’t let it show).
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I’m Autumn Deacon. I’m thirteen, in the eighth grade, and I like dance and yoga. Um, I have one older sister, Maddie. Three years ago she went missing...but she’s back now, which is perfect.
2. How did you feel when you discovered your sister had been found?
*Laughing* I didn’t believe it. Like, it’s funny. Until that moment, and after that moment, I always believed she was going to come back. But in that instant, I didn’t. I couldn’t believe it until I saw her in the hospital. I thought they’d got the wrong girl.
3. Your sister used to paint. Have you ever been interested in art?
Oh, no. Maddie’s the artist in the family. I can’t even draw a stick figure without messing something up. I guess I could learn, but I don’t really want to. It’s like, painting’s for her, you know? I have my own hobbies.
4. Can you tell us about those hobbies?
Well, like I said, I like dance and yoga. Fitness of any kind, really. I want to have my own fitness studio someday. There’s just something really great about breaking a sweat and moving till you’re exhausted and sore all over, you know?
5. What's your earliest memory of you and your sister?
I was four, I think? So Maddie would have been, like, seven. And she made me sit inside for an hour so she could paint my picture. I squirmed the entire time, and she yelled at me the entire time. But when she was done she told me it was beautiful, and for the rest of the day I felt like a princess.
She framed that painting, and it hung on her wall for years. She’s taken down all of her art now, but she still has that picture, somewhere.
6. Use ten words to describe yourself.
Ha! Just ten? Well, I’m Outgoing, and usually Excited. Wandering but not Lost (so...like Found?). Honest and Fun. Hyper, most of the time. Obnoxious, some of the time. Damaged all of the time, but Happy, too.
7. What's your idea of a perfect day?
My perfect day would be outside, in the sun, with lots and lots of activity. Yoga to start, then a run, some dance, and maybe a workout. I love the idea of only stopping to eat, and never worrying about cramps or dehydration. Endless energy, and a whole big group of people around to share it.
8. If you could have had your sister home for one single day during the length of her abduction, what would you have done?
I would have run. I would have taken her as far away as I could, so she wouldn’t have had to go back. We would have run all day, and then, even if she had magically disappeared at the end of it, at least I would have run off some of my worries while she was with me.
9. Is there anything deceiving about you? Something people would be surprised to know?
Some people think I’m conceited or self-centered or whatever, but I’m not. I talk a lot, and I change the subject in serious conversations. Not because I’m bored, but because I know when people are, like, going too far, you know? When it’s going to be too much, or when someone’s going to start a fight. I don’t like conflict, so I try really hard to avoid it. But not many people get that, and sometimes they think I don’t care.
10. We'll finish with an easy one. What is your favourite colour?
Yellow. Like the sun, like flowers, like smiley faces. Yellow is bright and alive, and I love that.
“Hello, Maddie,” Tim says, taking a sip from his Healing Expressions coffee cup. I’m glad he and Juliet call me Maddie instead of Madison, like Klara does. I’ve gone by Maddie since my days in preschool, and being called it here makes the office seem slightly less institutional.
Of course, it doesn’t make this moment any less awful.
“H-hi,” I stammer, my voice thin. My feet ache as I force them across the threshold. Tim prefers it if I close the door behind me, but I need to see my escape route. Shakily, I cross the room and sit on the bench along the wall of windows that look down over the parking lot. The cushions are soft, bright orange, and there are pink and green and blue throw pillows scattered along the seat. I grab the blue one, and hug it to my chest as I stare at the world on the free side of the glass panes.
It’s a strange sensation, watching the world like this. In elementary school, at recess, I would sit by the fences backing the neighborhood houses. With my head tilted into the cool fall or warm spring breeze, I would close my eyes and picture the people in those houses: people not working, people working from home, people driving the streets or watering their lawns or relaxing in front of the TV, while I remained stuck at school for another several hours. I have the same thoughts now as I gaze over the parking lot, far out to the park, the townhouse complex, and the streets beyond. So many people sleeping, reading, shopping––all while I’m here, trapped behind a wall of glass.
It helps to keep my back to the easel. Slowly, the panic of my arrival subsides, and I take full gulping breaths until I’ve settled into muted unease.
“How are you feeling today, Maddie?” Tim asks. He remains seated. I get antsy if his six-foot-three inch body looms over me.
“I’m fine,” I lie. I’m never fine. Not anymore. But declaring it is like stating the obvious.
“How’s school?” I can hear a smile in his voice. I like Tim’s voice, with its deep, quietly enthusiastic tone. I’m fairly certain I like Tim, too. Or at least I would, if the circumstances were different. If he didn’t have the task of prying, of guiding me into frigid, infested waters every time we meet.
“It’s fine,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.
Tim’s chair scrapes across the floor as he stands. I keep my eyes fixed on the parking lot outside. I’ve found Wesley’s tiny van, and I watch it intently.
Tim approaches, sits on the bench a ways off. “Did you read any papers this week?”
“No.” The tension I nearly shed on the ride over here is creeping back again. I hate therapy. I don’t understand how digging into every unpleasant crevice of my subconscious is supposed to make my life easier.
“How about the news? Did you watch any?” Tim asks, even though I’m already shaking my head.
“Y-You know I didn’t,” I reply, and Tim breathes out, the resulting sound just short of a sigh.
“How many times have you had to avoid his picture?” he asks, and I squeeze the pillow until my fingers are white.
“S-Seventy … S-Seventy-two,” I choke out.
It’s become a habit keeping track of the number of times I stop myself from seeing him. When I go to the drugstore and see the papers lined in a hideous row. When the news comes on, and reporters rehash what happened.
In the beginning, it was far harder. There were articles all over, news stories, constant threats to my sanity. Five months on, most of my count comes from the personal attacks, the times I remember something, imagine something, and his face almost manages to push its way in.
“Good. An improvement on last week,” Tim says, the pleasing smoothness of his voice giving the achievement a more respectable air than it deserves. Last week there were seventy-eight occurrences. Having six fewer episodes means nothing, except Tim is trying to be as positive as possible.
Plus, there’s the phone call to consider. Last week might have been an improvement, but I’m certain my methods of diversion will fail to keep me from replaying the conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear this morning.
Mere Joyce lives in Ontario, Canada. As both a writer and a librarian, she understands the importance of reading, and the impact the right story can have. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and holds a Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario.
When she’s not writing, reading, or recommending books, Mere likes to watch movies with her husband, play games with her son, go for walks with her dog, and drink lots of earl grey tea with orange chocolate on the side.
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