Polly decides to spend the night at the clinic. Everyone else goes home, relieved that Claire wasn’t badly harmed by Ramon and his gang. Unfortunately, when they get back to the church, Jose blames Maddie for what happened to Claire, making her cry.
Gabe was nearby. He rushed over to see what had happened. Maddie flung herself at him and he held her close, talking soothingly in Spanish. Maddie wept piteously, her tears soaking his shirt.
“It’s not her fault, Dad.”
“Why are you taking her side?”
“Why aren’t you? You never make your judgements without knowing all the facts. That’s what you always tell me.”
“It’s just the facts sound so damn weird,” Jose said. “How can anyone hate so much with no reason?”
“Because that’s just Claire!” Maddie said. “Don’t you see? She is a professional at warping and manipulating. I’m sorry this happened to her, but I didn’t make her go there. I don’t know why she hates me! Why can’t any of you believe me?” she yelled.
“I believe you, Maddie,” Gabe said. He held her in his arms.
“I believe you,” Patti said.
“Me too,” the boys all walked over to back her up.
“I’m behind ya,” Craig said softly.
“I have no reason not to believe you,” Leslie added, walking over to stand by Craig.
The only ones left were Jose, Caroline and the girls. Looking somewhat sheepish, Jane walked over to standby Maddie. Everyone was stunned that Claire’s best friend would do that. For a moment, the tension in the air was palpable, then it eased.
“Maybe I can explain,” Jane said. “Maddie’s right. She hasn’t done anything to Claire—at least not directly and not on purpose. Just being who she is upsets Claire. For her, it’s all about being popular and liked. She knows that people are more afraid of her and she really doesn’t understand why. She’s mean when she doesn’t get her way, but she doesn’t see it that way.” She shook her head, shrugging. “Nothing we say makes any difference.” Jane cleared her throat, gazing at the floor. “Her dad’s really mean,” she said quietly. “And no one knows how nasty he is because he hides it. He’s a drug addict. Sometimes he hurts her. And no one believes her.”
“But why Maddie?” Craig asked.
“Because she’s so much the opposite of what Claire is. She’s everything Claire wants to be and isn’t. She’s sweet and popular and people like her. And your dad, Maddie, he’s like your best friend. She sees all that and it just eats away at her.”
“If she was just friendly—” Maddie began. “If she was nice, I probably would think she was up to something. Honestly, I used to try to be her friend. We got along fine when we were little. When we were around ten, that’s when she changed.”
“That’s when her dad—” Jane said. “I really shouldn’t say anymore.”
“You’ve said just enough,” Craig said softly. “And looking back, I can see the changes in her too. I can do something about this,” he decided firmly. “I’m not a frigging lawyer for no reason.” He whirled on his heel and stomped from the room.
© 2015 Dellani Oakes