Tap tap tap…
She hadn’t seen the bird land on the sill, hadn’t heard the
fluttering of its oily black wings. But the tapping drew her attention.
She turned and found herself staring into the blank, red-rimmed eyes of
a large crow.
Tap tap tap…
“Ms. Beaumont, if I may coax you back to reality.”
Padget Beaumont was dimly aware of her name being called but she
couldn’t take her eyes away from the crow. She was transfixed. The
bird looked at her with instinctual hatred and slammed its beak into the
glass, splintering it with a TAP! Her face, the cause of much recent
concern, was segmented in the cracked reflection.
She turned to the source of the intrusion. At the head of the typically
suburban classroom, her algebra teacher, Mr. Mather, stood expectantly
before a chalkboard scribbled with an elaborate equation. She was being
called on to answer it. The duty and dread of every high school student.
And at this moment Padget was woefully unprepared. She caught a quick
glance back at the window to see if the crow was still there, offering
an escape from this dreary schoolgirl reality. But the crow was gone.
“Do you have the answer or not?”
Her head snapped back to find Mather’s cold, cruel eyes narrowing on
her. She silently cursed her luck. The clock on the wall mocked her, a
solid minute stood between her and the period-ending ring of freedom.
There was to be no escaping. She would have to suffer the humiliation of
Mather’s scorn, feel the sting of his ridicule in front of the entire
class. Maybe it wasn’t a school shooting or a viral outbreak or a
nuclear war, but at this very moment it felt like an apocalypse. One
more tiny cataclysm to toss on the pile of what was turning out to be an
exceptionally bad day.
It had started the way her mornings often did, being pulled reluctantly
out of a dream. Today’s featured a boy she had been kissing, a boy
with dark hair. She assumed she had been dreaming of Daniel, but now, as
the dream faded into memory, she wasn’t sure. In truth it could have
been anyone. All she could remember was that he was handsome and that he
could never, ever be hers.
She had spent the next few minutes staring at her personal alarm clock,
a three-foot plus Ball Python covered in random, diamond-shaped
patterns. As always, Sundown’s slatted green eyes looked blankly back.
She mentally traced his body winding through the hills and valleys of
her bedcovers, then rubbed his arrow-shaped head, as was tradition.
“You jerk, I was enjoying that,” she scolded lovingly. By way of
apology he leaned into her hand, enjoying the rub. For a reptile his
behavior was positively feline. She often wondered if he had been a cat
in a past life.
On the subject of past lives, Padget had been wishing lately that she
was on to her next one. Things had been going from bad to worse since
she turned sixteen, and just when it seemed to be getting a little
better, her father had suddenly disappeared. But she didn’t want to
think about that right now. She got out of bed and set her mind to
preparing for another day of high school. Not a pleasant proposition
itself, but better to think about school than dad and his inexplicable
Padget padded across the cold wood floor to her dresser. On it was a CD
player. Old school. Padget liked CDs. She liked to hold them, look at
the artwork, photos. Read the liner notes. She had an iPod like everyone
else, but listening to CDs start to finish was the way she liked her
music best, especially when she was alone in her room. Which was a lot
She checked her iPhone, which was also on the dresser. Force of habit.
She had forgotten to charge it and it was almost dead. No matter; there
were no calls, no texts – no messages of any kind. Up until recently
it had been like an extra appendage, its constant usage driving mom
crazy. Now, she might as well not even take it to school. Just one more
way she’d be labeled the class freak.
She didn’t have to pop the lid to know what was in the CD player.
Violator by Depeche Mode. It had become her favorite album in the past
few months. It might be her favorite album of all time now. She hit the
power, skipped forward a few tracks to “Policy of Truth”. The
winding, snaky synth-bass kicked in. It always made her want to dance.
Padget had no idea if she was actually a good dancer; she only ever did
it alone in her room. She wasn’t really interested in criticism
frankly – she got enough of that in school. She let the music set her
feet in motion, and following the rhythm she danced a musical path
across her room to the bathroom. It wasn’t much of a dance, but as far
as starting the day was concerned, it was good enough.
Waiting for the shower to get hot took the usual five-plus minutes. Mom
wasn’t too up on fixing plumbing issues. It was annoying, but there
wasn’t much point in making a stink about it. There were bigger
battles to fight. A few tracks later, the room filled with steam and
Padget disrobed and stepped into the cascade of hot water. The auburn
dye was still rinsing out of her hair, cascading down her legs in red
rivulets. In an effort to cheer her up,mom had agreed to let her do
whatever she wanted with her hair and even suggested crazy colors like
electric blue or magenta. But Padget wasn’t looking to draw undue
attention these days. She wanted to blend in, to fade into the woodwork.
So auburn it was.She watched mesmerized as a little whirlpool of reddish
brown made a swirl down the bathtub drain.
Down the drain. That pretty much summed up how life had gone in the past
year. But again, best not to dwell. She shut off the water and stepped
out of the shower, allowing the crisp New England air to shock her out
of this spiraling thought pattern. She wrapped a fresh towel around
herself and went to the mirror, wiping the fog from the glass. She loved
her shaggy new haircut, though she swore she heard mom’s heart
breaking when the hairdresser chopped off her girly-girl locks. Oh well,
mom could keep her own hair the way she liked it; long and natural.
Padget tousled her hair into a satisfyingly messy look and leaned in to
see what surprises may have manifested on her face during the night.
At first, she wasn’t sure what she was looking at. There weren’t any
zits; her complexion had cleared up with the passing of her awkward
phase. No, the thing she saw on her right cheek was more accurately
described as a blemish – a patch of skin that was a slightly darker
color than her normal, pale skin tone. It could have been a sunspot but
it looked too large, and this had been a particularly gloomy October.
She was prone to freckles, and normally a patch of them crested the
bridge of her nose, but she had spent so much time indoors lately that
they had faded. Whatever it was on her face, it wasn’t a freckle.
It was troubling to say the least.
Padget thought about telling her mom right away. What if this was some
form of skin cancer? Mom was generally pretty levelheaded about things,
but Padget could see this turning into an emergency trip to the
dermatologist, and she really didn’t feel like spending the afternoon
in a doctor’s office. It was the first day of gymnastics try-outs, and
being one of the few school related activities she still enjoyed, Padget
didn’t want to miss it. Better to apply some cover-up for and see what
the situation was tomorrow morning. So that’s exactly what she did.
She put her apprehension aside and went about the process of getting
ready for school, selecting a pair of skinny jeans and a cool olive top
to wear. She had been gravitating to natural browns and greens lately as
they brought out the color of her eyes. Her favorite accessory was a
leather wrist-band that gave her a satisfying tomboy vibe, plus it went
well with the lace-up boots she bought with the money she made from her
summer job at the plant nursery. Padget looked at herself in the floor
length mirror, pleased at the overall effect. It was a subtly stylish
look but one that didn’t demand attention. In the warm natural light
of the room her make-up job was flawless. If she squinted, the troubling
blemish was barely even noticeable.
Sundown slithered into the room and lifted his head, seeming to share in
the admiration of her reflection. He flicked his tongue with approval.
Her friends, when she had them, had always found her choice of pet to be
unsettling. But Padget hadn’t cared then and certainly didn’t care
now. She bent down and petted Sundown’s scaly head, and went about her
business with as much cheer as she could muster. She grabbed her bag off
the floor, picked up her school books from the dresser and headed out
Breakfast had been the usual yogurt and granola, followed by the daily
debate over school lunch. Padget was campaigning for money to buy lunch,
but mom wasn’t going for it. “The school lunches aren’t
organic,” she said for what must have been the millionth time. Not
organic was her mantra. So yet another day of the slightly embarrassing
brown bag lunch. Then it was in to the Hybrid for the drive to school.
The car smelled like sandalwood – mom’s favorite scent and the bane
of Padget’s olfactory system. As the dreary Massachusetts suburb
passed by the rain-speckled windows, Padget struggled with her own
stormy mood. She had been telling herself all morning that she wasn’t
going to dwell on dad’s disappearance and had no intention of
breaching the subject with her mother. But this depressing landscape
stirred it up somehow, and she just couldn’t help herself.
“So, how long has it been now? Four months?”
Mom’s lips drew into a tight straight line. “Only three I think.”
“Onlythree?” Padget said incredulously, putting her boot-sole on the
dashboard. Mom glanced at it with disapproval but held her tongue. If
this is how her daughter chose to act out, so be it.
“How hard would it be to make a phone call, or send an email? He’s a
scientist, I’m sure he could figure it out.”
“Whatever he’s doing, he’s deep into it,” mom said. She resented
the excuse-making her husband’s neglect forced upon her. “He
doesn’t like distractions.”
“Is that what I am? A distraction?” The pain in Padget’s voice
couldn’t have been more evident.
“Bad choice of words honey. I’m sorry.”
“But true,” Padget said. The car took a turn towards the school and
the tires made a swooshing sound in the rain. Mom put an instinctive arm
of protection across her daughter, as she did whenever the slightest
danger arose on the road. It was sweet. Slightly embarrassing, but
“Padget, your father is a brilliant man. But I’m afraid he isn’t a
very smart one.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Padget was already
regretting opening her stupid mouth. She needed to learn to listen to
her inner voice.
“Dad loves you very much, that’s all I can tell you. He’s very
proud of you.” Mom smiled, tickled by a memory. “He always referred
to you as his ‘greatest achievement’”.
“That’s just weird,” Padget protested, squirming in her seat. Mom
smiled, enjoying her daughter’s discomfort.
“Well, the man is anything but conventional, but what can I say?
We’re an unconventional family.”
The car slowed a half-block from school. Sondra wasn’t so clueless as
to drop her pariah daughter off right in front, and her pariah daughter
appreciated that. She pulled into the curb and put the car into park.
“Here we are, heaven on earth.”
“Leave the sarcasm to the professionals, mom.”
“Tough crowd,” mom sighed. She looked at Padget’s face and her
eyes caught something. “Are you wearing cover-up?”
The blemish. Padget pulled down the sunscreen and checked the underside
mirror. She anxiously inspected the discoloration. It was getting
larger, but she didn’t want mom making a federal case out of it. She
snapped the sunscreen back into place.
“It’s just some sort of nasty zit or something mom, thanks for
“Nonsense,” Sondra said, almost defensively. “You’ve always had
“Not today I don’t.” It was time to get out and not a moment too
soon. She leaned over and kissed her mom on the cheek. “Bye, love
“Love you too. Have a good day.” She meant it with no hint of irony.
“Yeah, right.” With that Padget was out the door.
As she watched her daughter trudge off in the rain, lines of deep worry
emerged on Sondra’s otherwise youthful features. Is it now,she asked
herself. Is it happening at last, just as we feared?
Sondra Beaumont put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb.
Excerpted from "The Patchwork Girl [Kindle Edition]" by Sebastian Bendix. Copyright © 2013 by Sebastian Bendix. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.