Authors: Ashley Piscitelli
Playing with Fire
I would like to dedicate this book to my husband, Anthony. He has stuck by me through thick and thin. I love you! I also would like to thank my best friends; thank you girls for listening to me talk on and on about this and giving me feedback.
When was Mommy getting home? She went out to get me my princess cake this morning and now the sun was going down. Daddy sent me to my room a long time ago and I was hungry. Daddy said not to go downstairs, but I’m hungry.
I walked downstairs and Daddy was sitting in the living room. He was drinking the stuff that made his breath smell really bad. “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
He didn’t even look at me. “I don’t care.”
Why didn’t he care? When was Mommy getting home? Should I ask Daddy? I just wanted my Mommy; she would get me something to eat. “When is Mommy getting home?”
This time he looked at me he looked so mad.
“She is never coming home again and it’s all your fault. She is dead because of you.” What did dead mean? Why was she never coming home? What did I do? “Get out, Madison!”
I ran into the kitchen, hid under the table and cried. I wanted my Mommy. When she came home, she would make it all better. She would get me dinner and we would eat my princess cake together.
It was the first day of my first semester in college and I was a bundle of nerves. I had already been on campus for a week, since I applied for early arrival. Thank God they let me do that because, if not, I don’t know where I would have gone.
My mother died when I was four and my father became an alcoholic. The state took me from him when I was seven and I have been in six different foster homes since. The last one I was at was by far the best, but only because my foster father paid me no attention. I liked it better that way. I was never popular in school because I was always moving and everyone seemed to know my background.
It sucked being the outcast, the girl that never had a family. I don’t remember much from before my mother died. Sometimes I get flashbacks of what life used to be like with my dad, but those were not things that I wanted to remember.
The only person I have in my life right now is my boyfriend, Chris; we met when I started my new high school
junior year and have been together ever since. He decided to go to Duke University which was the main reason I chose this school; that and I had gotten a scholarship here.
Chris was one of the hottest guys in our high school and I couldn’t believe that he had wanted to date me, neither could half the female population in the school. He was at least a foot taller than me and had the kind of hair that was styled to preppy perfection. His eyes were a dark chestnut brown and he dressed like a Hollister model.
Out of the five classes I was enrolled in, we had one together. He was a business major and I decided to major in Psychology; I wanted to either be a social worker, or work with kids in some other aspect. I felt like if someone had really cared about me, maybe my life would have been different; maybe I would have been different. If I could make a difference in one child’s life, then maybe I would save them from becoming like me.
I looked around. I was completely lost and I was already running late for my first class. I took my schedule out of my purse to look at the building name again and, the next thing I knew, I was on the ground laying on top of some guy.
Wait! What? What the hell just happened?! I looked up at the brick wall that I had landed on and forgot how to breathe for a minute. Staring back at me were the bluest eyes I had ever seen, not to mention that he was gorgeous. He was just looking at me, giving me a sexy smile. He was wearing a USC shirt, which I found funny because that’s not the school we were at. He had this brown hair that was just long enough to give it that sexy “I just rolled out of bed” look. He was smiling at me and that’s when I saw the dimples. I personally think that it is unfair that one guy is this good looking.
“Hey, nice running into you”, the Greek god says.
Damn, his voice was just as sexy as the rest of him. I had never met someone that made my insides clench from just a look and a short sentence. That’s when I realized I was still laying on top of him, and I hadn’t even said a word. Oh my god, he is going to think I am some crazy person!
I scrambled off of him and stood up, trying to fix my now wrinkled sundress. I looked down at the ground; my purse, books, everything else was now scattered all over the sidewalk. This is just wonderful. I started to pick up all the discarded items and looked up to notice the Greek god still staring at me.
I know I probably looked ridiculous, but what was he staring at? He smiled and then bent down to help me pick up the rest of my stuff. I took this opportunity to really look at him. He had dark brown hair, just long enough to run your fingers through; he had to be about six feet tall and had a body that Hercules himself would be jealous of. He handed me my stuff and I gave him a smile.
I started to walk away when he yelled, “You know Branson Hall is this way right?” When I turned around, he was pointing behind him. How did he know what building I was going to? “Are you okay? Do you need the special services building?”
Special services? Oh my god, he thought I was disabled? Well, considering I have been with him for five minutes not saying a word and just stared like an idiot, what do I expect? “I don’t need special services, but I was trying to find Branson Hall. How did you know that?” There, I actually spoke; it was a miracle I could, at this point.
“I saw your roster on the ground. I’m actually going to the same class if you wanna go together. My name is Carter, by the way.”
“Hi, I’m Madison and, truthfully, it would be great if you could show me where to go. If it isn’t obvious, I really have no idea where I’m going.”
“Sure, no problem, come on. You know we are late, right?” He turned and looked at me. “You wouldn’t want to play hooky, would you?”
Play hooky with him? On the first day of class? No way in hell; this guy was obviously very different from me. “No, I came to school to go to class, not skip with the first guy I run into.” Literally. I saw a couple different emotions on his face…confusion and maybe a little excitement?
“Okay, okay, I was just asking Maddy.” What did he just call me? No one ever called me anything other than Madison; I really liked the way it sounded coming from him. What was I doing? I had a boyfriend! “So, I’m guessing you’re a freshman. Do you live on campus?”
“Yes, it’s my first day of class but I guess that’s obvious. I live in the dorms.” I hadn’t met my roommate yet; her name was Nicole and she was supposed to show up today. I wonder if our dorms were close to each other. I wonder what his room looked like. No! Madison, what are you doing! “So, do you live on campus, too?”
“No, I rent a house off campus, it’s just the first floor of it and I live by myself.” He has a house? That must be great to be able to come and go as you want and to
be independent. My foster father told me this summer that I had till the beginning of September to move out. Which was ironic considering my birthday wasn’t until November 23 and he was still collecting checks. However, today was a new day and I decided I wasn’t going to let it get to me. He interrupted my thoughts. “So, what’s your major?”
“Um, it’s Psychology.”
“That’s cool. Can I ask what you want to do?”
Why was he so interested? I never really had any guys pay me attention, except for Chris. The only guy that ever noticed me is Chris. “I want to work with kids in some aspect. I don’t know how yet; maybe be a social worker.”
Chris’s mother told me I was foolish for wanting to waste my degree in social work. She said I should just become a licensed psychologist, like her doctor. Truthfully, though if I had to sit there all day and listen to all these snobby country club women whine about not getting the newest designer handbag, I think I would be the one that needed therapy.
“I think that’s great. I’ve always admired people that work with kids. My mother was a teacher.”
“You said she was a teacher; what does she do now?”
“Nothing, she died when I was ten.”
Oh god, there I go sticking my foot in my mouth. How the hell am I supposed to respond to that? I hated when I would tell people my mom died and they would say “I’m sorry” and give me a pity look, so I was sure as hell not going to do that. “Well, I’m sure that she would be proud of you today, going to college and everything. What’s your major?”
His head snapped up at me and he looked at me like he was confused. Did I say the wrong thing? “Uh…its uh…architecture.”
We walked up to one of the buildings that looked like a huge castle. I guess this was Branson Hall. I followed Carter to our class, but he didn’t say anything else. I must have scared him off; maybe I came off too cold when he mentioned his mom?
“Well, here we are.” He opened the door and held it for me while I walked in. Luckily, the door was at the back of the classroom so it was easier to sneak in unnoticed. The class wasn’t even that full and there were tons of open seats. I found myself hoping that Carter would sit next to me. I picked a seat somewhere in the middle and sat down. As I was unpacking my books, I looked to my right and he had sat down next to me.
The teacher did most of the boring “first day of class” activities--going over the syllabus and making the students participate in icebreakers. It went by fast and before I knew it, we were being dismissed. Great, now I had to try not to get lost again. I was walking down the hallway trying to find my roster, when I felt someone come up beside me.
“Hey, I realized I still had this in my pocket. I must have forgotten to hand it to you.” Carter held out my roster for me. “We have the next two classes together, if you wanna go with me. I have a break after that so I can even show you where the cafeteria is.” He shot me one of those heart-melting smiles, and I couldn’t say no.
“That sounds good, although I already know where the cafeteria is. I’ve been living on campus for a week now.”
He looked surprised, which did not shock me. I was only one of a handful of students who chose to come early. Although, for me, it wasn’t really a choice; more like a necessity.
Even Chris had gone on vacation the week before school had started. I had secretly hoped he would ask me to come with him, but he had mentioned it was mostly family and he wanted to be free to have a good time and not babysit me.
“Okay, then let’s go. You’re mine for the morning.” For a second, I wished I could be his for longer than the morning, but a guy like Carter would never want me. I had Chris and he liked me enough. He told me he loved me before but, the truth is, I never really believed him.
However, he was all I had and I needed to make it work. I knew he didn’t treat me that great, but it was better than being alone. Chris was really jealous and hated it when I even so much as looked at another guy, so I knew what I was doing with Carter wasn’t very smart.
I don’t know what it was about this girl but, from the minute she ran me over, I couldn’t get enough of her. She seemed so real, honest and, not to mention, she was gorgeous, which I don’t even think she realized. Her hair was this beautiful shade of light brown, and her eyes were a stunning hazel color. She had a nice body and was tall enough that I knew she would fit perfectly against me. What the hell was I saying?
When I told her about my mom, I braced myself for the normal “I’m so sorry” pity look and the awkward silence. But she didn’t give me anything like that. She addressed it and moved on which, I have to say only made me want to get to know her more. She had a story and I was dying to find out what it was. We had the same morning schedule this semester and I was going to take full advantage of getting to know her.
“So, where are you from?” I wanted to play twenty questions with her and find out everything. What the hell was wrong with me? I never got like this over girls, never even had a relationship past a couple of dates with a girl.
“Um…I moved around a lot.” There is something she isn’t telling me, and I don’t think she is going to at this point. “Where are you from?”
“I was born in California, but my family moved to North Carolina when I started my freshman year of high school. My father went to USC and wanted me to go there, too but I wanted to stay close to home.” She just smiled and let out a little laugh. I think my heart may have stopped for a minute. “What’s so funny?”
“I was trying to figure out why you had a USC shirt on at Duke.”
“Well, if you must know, USC sent me here as a spy; its very hush hush, though.”
There was that giggle again. “Oh, really, and what are you supposed to be finding out?”
“I was supposed to see if the girls at Duke University are better than the ones at USC and, after this morning, I think my mission is over.”