“Madison.” She looked back to see her grandmother studying her. She looked so different than her brother and sister. Joshua had light brown hair and green eyes and Jill had wild red hair and blue eyes, two different fathers of course. Grandma smiled warmly at her. “You turned out beautifully, Madison. You look so much like your father,” she said proudly. Madison wanted to ask her about her father, but not in front of Candy.

“Thank you, Grandma,” she said. It was weird saying Grandma, but this woman fit somehow. If anyone should be her grandmother it was this woman.

“You’re welcome. You are welcome to stay here as long as you want, sweetheart. All I ask for is the occasional hand and to keep your bedroom and the bathroom you share with one other boarder clean. Does that sound okay?”

“I like to earn my keep, Grandma. How much per week for me and the kids?”

Grandma waved it off. “The kids are in my custody, therefore my responsibility. As for you, you are my granddaughter and I’ve missed you. I’m glad to have you. Just do as I ask and we’re settled. But since we’re on the subject of pay I found you a job. You start tomorrow.”

Madison forced a smile. Another menial job. After nine years of working the worst possible jobs by the worst possible people she thought she escaped, apparently not.

“I talked to Professor O’Shea who had some connections with the local high school. You have a position as a teacher in the history department at Rascal High School.”

That was not what Madison expected. She was out of her chair and hugging Grandma before she knew it. “Oh thank you, thank you!” she said.

Grandma laughed and hugged her back. She whispered fiercely in Madison’s ear. “I’m proud of you, kiddo. I’m sorry you had to do it on your own for all these years.”

Madison nodded and wiped a tear away. She sat back down. “Now, as for you, Emma, you’re welcome to stay as long as you follow the rules. You start at seven in the morning and stop at four in the afternoon. Room and board are included. I’ll pay you five dollars an hour.” Candy opened her mouth to interrupt but Grandma kept going. “I’ve already filed the papers and it’s legal so you don’t have to worry about the kids.” It was a threat and a promise and Candy knew it. She wasn’t going to hide behind the kids any longer.

“There are no drugs, no drinking, and no men in your room. Also, we have three male guests. You are not to become involved with any of them. Am I understood?”

The pout was gone. It was replaced by the bitch look. Her eyes were narrowed, her arms were folded over her chest and her jaw was set. “And if I don’t agree?”

Grandma smiled. “Then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.”

Candy ground her jaw once again. There was nowhere for her to go and no money. She was trapped. She nodded slowly.

“Good.” She turned to look at Madison. “I almost forgot, if you give your mother any money I will throw you out. You’re not doing her any favors by letting her take advantage of you and you’re not helping yourself. You’ve done enough and you don’t owe her anything. Am I understood?”

Madison could only stare and nod. “Good. Well, let’s get you to your rooms.”

Chapter 2

She ran her fingers over the quilt that covered her queen size bed and looked around her new room. It was very large, beautiful, spacious and all hers. It overlooked a large backyard. Their old trailer overlooked a tire factory and smelled horribly. This room overlooked an apple orchard and swimming pool. This was like the Ritz for her. Even sharing an adjoining bathroom with a strange man didn’t dampen her good mood.

Grandma swore the man was nice, clean and hardly ever home. He was only home to shower, which Grandma admitted he did two or three times a day. The man was a shower addict as she liked to put it. He was also a detective for the state police and was assigned locally.

For the past two years the detective rented his room and her room, but had lived here for three. He couldn’t tolerate sharing the bathroom with anyone and hated having anyone close by. He needed peace and quiet. The three people that rented the room before he took over it were anything but quiet. As soon as the last one moved out he informed Grandma that he was paying for it so that it would remain empty.

A week ago Grandma asked the man for a favor. She needed the room for her granddaughter. The man knew about the situation and was sympathetic. After promising that Madison was a quiet, respectful woman he agreed. He seemed to think that any woman who raised her siblings and put herself through college deserved a chance. His only stipulation, everyone leave him alone. He was a loner.

Grandma said he was nice and helped her out, but didn’t talk to anyone and didn’t join the rest of the house for meals. Grandma liked the detective. He helped take care of troublesome renters in the past and as a thank you Grandma made sure that everyone left the detective alone.

It was more than fine with Madison. Their rooms were on the back addition of the house above the large storage room her Grandmother used to store everything from her old motorcycles to extra tables. They were well away from the rest of the rooms which meant peace and quiet. They also had their own entrance off their short hallway that connected their rooms to the main house. Her grandmother was really going out of her way for her.

There was a room near her mother that was open, but Grandma was trying to give her some freedom and a much needed break. The kids were forbidden to come to this section of the house out of respect for the detective. That’s what Grandma said. In truth, it was probably for her as well. She understood that Madison came here not out of desperation, but out of love for her brother and sister. One which she hoped that she could save.

She walked back to her laptop computer and scrolled down. “Finally,” she mumbled.

Last week she discovered that her mother memorized her account number and password. She transferred two hundred of Madison’s hard earned dollars to her own account. She had a feeling Jill helped her, seeing how both of them came home later that night in matching outfits. If her grandmother hadn’t stepped in she would have pressed charges.

This was probably why her grandmother made the statement about her money in the living room. Madison asked her grandmother without giving too many details to open an account for her at the local bank. She did and thankfully set up online access for the account. Grandma thought of everything. Now she just had to make sure that Jill and Candy didn’t get their hands on her new debit card or account information.

It was still midmorning by the time she was done bringing her things up. She liked having her own entrance. She didn’t have to haul her meager possessions through the house and up the stairs and down the hall like everyone else.

She took another look around her room. Not surprising that it was dusty since no one had used this room in two years. Their small hallway could use a bit of a cleanup as well, she decided. Both areas smelled dusty. Her neighbor as she liked to think of him asked Grandma not to allow anyone in this part of the house. Her Grandmother readily agreed. She felt a man should have his privacy. Well, a police detective should at least. Madison had a feeling that Grandma didn’t feel the same way about her other renters. There were five in total counting her neighbor, two women and three men.