Maddy's Phoenix by Patricia Yager Delagrange
Today we have Patricia Yager Delagrange stopping on over to share two chapters from her New Adult Women's Fiction book!
Maddy McCray lives a hard scrabble life, working as a waitress at the Monte Rio Café in a little town on California’s Russian River. Abandoned by her mother when she was a teenager, then by her two worthless boyfriends, she is nonetheless grateful for the rustic cabin where she lives—and for Cheryl, the older and wiser waitress who watches over her while Maddy anticipates the birth of her baby.
Then one night Maddy goes into labor prematurely and loses her precious baby. The loss is almost more than the distraught 22-year-old can bear. A few days later she discovers a tiny infant in a dumpster behind the café. An abandoned baby, a baby no one wants, a baby who will wind up in a string of foster homes. But Maddy wants the baby. She names her Judith.
Maddy resolves to take the money in her tip jar and move to the Bay Area, where she can get a better-paying job and study to become a nurse, to be better than the things her momma said about her. But how can Maddy take care of little Judith, work and go to school?
“Hey, Maddy, what’re you doin’ here so early? It’s only six in the mornin’.” A cold breeze surged through the cafe and swayed Cheryl’s dyed red ponytail as she slammed the front door. “Man, it’s windy out there.”
Maddy yanked the wool beanie off her head. “Robert said I could get more hours if I come in and mop the floors.”
“Well, ain’t he nice.”
“What's with the sarcasm?”
“I’ve asked him for overtime hours. He always tells me there ain’t no extra money.” Cheryl shrugged. “He likes you, Maddy. He knows you’re young and strugglin’ to make it.”
Maddy grabbed the mop and bucket next to the kitchen and swung the wet strings side to side along the baseboard under the lunch counter. “Robert has a good heart. He’s a little odd, I’ll give you that. He just loves the smell of grease and cigarettes. Which makes me want to puke my guts out.”
“‘Cause you’re pregnant, hon.”
Maddy ignored the comment. “I hate the truckers more than the smells. They’re the worst thing about working here.”
Cheryl chuckled. “Ah, they ain’t so bad once you get to know ‘em. But you’re way younger than me, darlin’. They sure as heck ain’t gonna look at me the same as you.” She reached out to grab the mop out of Maddy’s hands. “You shouldn’t be doin’ stuff like this. You only got, what, two or three months left before you spit out that cute little kid a’ yours?”
Maddy held the mop out of Cheryl's reach. A hot flush crawled up her neck to her cheeks. She didn’t want to think about her dead baby. She didn’t want to think about anything. Going home and sleeping was all she could think about. “I’m fine. You don’t have to worry. I need the extra money, Cheryl. As soon as I can afford to move, I want out of Monte Rio.”
Cheryl stopped directly in front of her, frowning. “Well, this is the first time I ever heard you say that, Missy.”
“I didn’t want you to take it personally. Like my wanting to leave has anything to do with you, you know? Because it doesn’t.”
“Here, lemme do it, hon. I won’t tell Robert you didn’t do the moppin’, so you’ll still get the overtime. But I’m tellin’ you, if you don’t wanna lose this baby like the last time, you gotta take care of yourself.”
Maddy let out an exaggerated sigh and handed the mop to her friend. She held back the tears and wiped down the tables until every speck of grease and dirt vanished, as if her life depended on it. Well, actually it did. She had a plan. And she needed money to make it happen.
“Why’re you so fired up to leave here, anyways? I thought you liked livin’ here. Monte Rio's a nice little town."
“Well, for one, eleven hundred people is too small. Everybody knows your business.” And when it finally came out she’d miscarried again, every remark and comment would crawl through Maddy’s psyche like a worm in an overripe apple.
Cheryl dumped the mop in the bucket and let out a whoosh of breath. “Not that much to know 'bout people in this small place, hon."
“If I stay, I'll never make anything of myself. Just like Momma.”
“You don’t wanna be a low-paid waitress for the rest of your natural born life?” Cheryl chuckled. “I get it. Never thought I’d be sixty-five years old, still workin' at the Monte Rio Cafe, that’s for sure.”
Maddy put her arms around Cheryl and squeezed her as tight as she could.
Cheryl laughed out loud. "What's this for?"
Maddy leaned back, grasping Cheryl's shoulders. "I'm sorry for saying that, about not making anything of myself. I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings. That’s exactly why I didn’t mention leaving before now.”
Cheryl looked her in the eyes. "You're young. Time's on your side. They say you gotta strike while the iron's hot, right?”
Maddy smiled at her friend’s old-fashioned expression—one of many—and gave her another quick hug. "Watch out, Bay area, Maddy McCray is on her way."
Cheryl’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you really goin’ to San Francisco?”
“Somewhere in the Bay area. I’m not exactly sure which city yet.”
“Wooh, doggie. I like the sound a’ that, darlin’.”
“Nothing's going to hold me back.” What would happen if people found out she’d just buried her dead baby in the back yard? That could keep her from realizing her dream. She couldn’t let that happen, so she’d better keep her mouth shut.
“What’re you plannin' on doin’ there?”
She plopped down on the nearest chair. “I want to be a nurse. And I can't do that if I stay here.” She looked down at her tightly clasped hands. “I’ll prove that I’m better than any of those things Momma said about me. What my two babies’ daddies said about me, too.”
Cheryl knelt down in front of her young friend and covered Maddy’s hands with her own. “Of course you are, hon. You’re smarter than anybody I know.”
Maddy blinked back the tears and smiled. “Thanks for saying that.”
Cheryl stood and grabbed the nearest plastic-coated menu, wiped it with a sponge. "If anyone can do it, it’s you. You been workin’ here since you were a teenager, just like me.”
“My tip jar is filled to the top with bills and coins. I’m getting close to being able to afford the move.”
Cheryl patted Maddy on the back. “I’m proud of you, Maddy.”
“That means a lot to me.”
“If I were your momma, I’d be yellin’ at the rooftops, ‘My daughter’s gonna be a nurse.’”
“I wish you were my momma.”
Cheryl shook her head. “Now, don’t be sayin’ stuff like that. Your momma wasn’t all bad.”
Maddy’s eyebrows furrowed together. “What kind of person leaves their teenage daughter and runs off with her low-life boyfriend in the middle of the night?”
Cheryl scrunched up her mouth like she’d just sucked on a lemon. “Your momma had no guts when it came to a man bein’ interested in her.”
Maddy rolled her eyes. “You think? Every boyfriend she had meant more to her than I ever did.”
“She loved you in her own way.”
“Pretty sick way to show her love, leaving me all alone to fend for myself.”
“Let’s not talk ‘bout this anymore, okay? It ain’t good for the baby, gettin’ upset and all.”
Maddy walked to the front door of the cafe, unlocked it and turned the sign around to Open. “A big eighteen-wheeler just pulled up in front.” She turned to Cheryl and waggled her eyebrows. “You better put on your high heels and lipstick. This
dude looks like just your type.”
Maddy could hardly stand up straight by the time her shift ended. Her back hurt. Her legs hurt. Her stomach muscles hurt. Her arms hurt. What did she expect? She’d had a
miscarriage three days ago.
She tore the apron off, threw it in the dirty clothes hamper and let out a huge breath. “See you Sunday.” She waved goodbye to Cheryl and slogged through the kitchen. “Later, Robert.”
She’d taken another step in the right direction for her escape. A twelve-hour shift and tips that had been more than generous. Probably due to the fact the holidays were coming up, which put people in a more giving mood.
Tomorrow was Saturday, her one day off, and she planned on sleeping in before going to the library to do research on jobs in the San Francisco Bay area.
Her bicycle stood outside at the back of the restaurant, where she’d shoved it next to the big green dumpster. She twisted the dial on the combination lock. A muffled squeak sounded from the dumpster, and Maddy jerked backward and smashed her butt on the cold ground.
“What the heck?” She sat still and closed her eyes, listening. Another squeak! She stood, brushed the dirt off her backside, and shuffled backward, cocking her head. The peeping sound was definitely coming from the big green garbage bin. God, she hated mice. Though it didn’t actually sound like any mouse she’d ever encountered.
She tip-toed to the side of the bin. There! A whimper. Should she ask for Robert’s help? Nah. He’d just say she was “making something out of nothing,” his favorite phrase whenever anyone complained about anything. He’d say he was too busy frying meat or smoking a cigarette to help her anyway, so why bother asking?
She grabbed the lid of the bin and tossed it backward. It clattered against the wall and she stumbled, nearly falling to the ground again. She peered ever so slowly over the edge, and the sickening stench of garbage wafted into her face. Instantly she pulled back, covering her nose with her hand.
Another whimper emanated from deep inside the bin. “Oh, my goodness. Is it a puppy?” She couldn’t take care of a puppy. Not when she planned to leave soon.
“God help me,” she whispered, as she snuck a second glance over the edge. Rotten meat, snotty tissues, chicken bones, moldy bread. She gagged and turned her head to the side, took a deep breath through her mouth. As soon as her stomach stopped pitching and her heart quit thundering against her rib cage, she poked her head over the edge of the bin again, searching for something, anything alive.
A pink doll’s hand stuck out from underneath a soiled paper towel. Just like her childhood doll she’d kept that lay at the top of her bed. The tiny fingers of the doll wiggled. “Oh, my dear God.” Maybe it was a doll. They made dolls that moved and
cried. Even pooped. Maybe some kid left it in a booth, and Robert had thrown it away.
It moved again. A tiny cry came from underneath a half-eaten corncob on top of a large piece of lettuce. Hesitantly, Maddy touched one of the fingers. Warm. She yanked her hand back and swallowed.
A baby in the dumpster? “Please don’t let this be happening.”
She looked up and down the alley, making sure she was alone, heart thumping madly. She delicately lifted the piece of lettuce. The corncob rolled to the side, revealing an infant in the middle of the waste. She gasped, staring. “Oh, you sweet little thing.” She picked up the child and cradled her in the crook of her arm. Maddy untied the sweater encircling her waist and wrapped it around the baby. “You’re the prettiest baby girl in the world,” she whispered.
The baby stared at Maddy with wide eyes. Not whimpering or crying. Not making any sound at all.
She couldn’t take her eyes off the infant. “Who did this to you, honey?”
Maddy’s future hung like a boulder on the precipice of a gigantic mountain. Should she bring the baby to the police station, the fire station, inside the restaurant? A heavy brick lay on her chest. She took a deep, cleansing breath through her nose and blew it out slowly through her mouth. She had to calm down. What should she do now?
Whoa, whoa. Wait! Someone didn’t want this gorgeous, precious gift? “How could anyone throw you away? What is wrong with people these days?” She paused, blinked several times. “Whoever threw you away isn’t fit to raise a child, that’s for sure.” She shook her head. “But I am.”
Maddy slipped her finger between the baby’s clenched fingers. “I’ll be the best momma ever, I promise. And I’ll never, ever leave you.”
She placed the infant in the basket of her bicycle and pedaled as fast as her legs could go, block after block, zooming past houses, trees, and the occasional car, along the backroads to her cabin on the Russian River. Tears whipped into her hairline, and she smiled up at the moon, feeling as if she were in the movie “E.T.”
“I’m taking you home, little sweetheart.”
With permission from Ravenswood Publishing
Fascinated by broken-hearted couples and atypical families, Patricia weaves engaging tales of men and women who create cohesive families where love reigns supreme. She sprinkles her books with intriguing characters who struggle to find balance in life after tragedy. Whether an unwed teenager, desperate widow, abandoned father, or a couple who stray from their marital vows, her characters form relationships impacted by their desire to create a family.
Aside from writing, her favorite things to do include riding her Friesian horse, Maximus, dot-to-dot for adults, and watching Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington movies. She spends a majority of her days writing while her two very large Chocolate Labs lounge on the couch cuddled next to her and her MacBook.
She writes a blog every Wednesday, so if you're interested, sign up on the mailing list on her website and she'll notify you after she posts her blog. Or just drop by Wednesday mornings and leave a comment.