Part One: Finding Forever
Chapter One: Child of a Star
Like most 17-year-old girls her age, Destiny lounged about in fuzzy pajama pants with a short tank top that revealed a sliver of her tummy, radically painted nails and toenails and thick bands of yesterday’s eye-liner still caked on her eye rims.
Her public – and her mother’s public – could not deny that she had the looks of a star. She was tall and well-proportioned, with wavy blonde hair (which she often straightened) falling to the bottom of her shoulder blades. Her face was oval-shaped with high cheek bones and cherry-red lips. Only a couple of spare freckles had survived her growth, and they were generally paved over with make-up. The large eyes of ocean blue and forest green were sometimes seen in magazines with her mother’s.
Alyse Emerson had become a popular country singer in her time. Her albums and concerts were sold out across the country. She also performed in several movies as a leading actress, and won many awards for her talents. The only thing Destiny regretted in her mother was the lack of time and attention she had spent with her as a child.
Now Destiny, sprawled on her stomach on a mess of blankets on her bed, was finally getting what she wanted.
Or, so she thought.
Alyse Emerson was taking a week-long trip with her – and only her, no governesses or babysitters like she was used to – to their vacation home away from Hollywood. It was a fairly spacious 3-story house built on a beach with a few other vacant vacation homes peppered about over several miles. There was nothing so relaxing as hearing the lap of the Pacific Ocean on the warm California beach in May.
In her upbringing, young Destiny had formed many questions to ask her mom: what happened to my dad? Why don’t you want to spend time with me? Why is my birthmark more like a scar in the shape of a star? But her craving attention from her mother had always led her to show off, just to get the one she called “Mom” to touch her or come close to her. Her questions had always been pushed away with that greater concern. And of course, asking her governesses and babysitters did absolutely no good for her, since they frequently changed because of her atrocious behavior, and therefore they knew nothing primary of Alyse or of Destiny.
She only wished she could have experienced a normal public schooling like most kids. But, being the daughter of a nationally idolized country star had its drawbacks. As a very young child she was seldom seen or allowed in public. She was told by her mother that the media would be speculating who her father was, and nosing rudely into business that wasn’t their own. As she grew older, she was allowed into the public eye on only special occasions. Destiny was still unsure of when her exact birthday was. Whenever she asked, her mother never seemed to know. So Destiny figured that each Christmas that passed would make her another year older.
As she entered teen-hood, Destiny’s behavior tapered off into silent anger. For several years when she was 12, 13, 14 and 15, Destiny refused to even speak to her mother or her governesses, keeping quite to herself and hiding away. During those years she felt unwanted and confused, but too scared to do anything about it. She began to daydream that she was someone other than herself, staying in those creative realms of temporary relief at least until she had to face reality once more.
She didn’t daydream half as much now that she was an older teenager. At 16 she gave up her silence act and spoke mutually with her governesses and sometimes her mother. But the spirit that was ultimately hers never left her; many times it did not take much to set her anger aflame.
With a sluggish moan, she turned over onto her back and tried to get back to sleep. But the blaring rays of the Sun in her window and the soft sound of the Ocean was too much for her. Remembering why she was here, she pryed herself lazily from the bed and looked out the third-story window, yawning.
“Hm, morning breath,” she chuckled, seeing her breath fog onto the inner window. With a childlike smirk, she drew two dots and a curve in the fogged spot with the tip of her finger, making a smiley face.
“Rrrrrmmmm …” she groaned, scratching her side. She stepped into her white bunny slippers that squeaked obnoxiously every time she took a step.
Squeak! Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!
Peering into her mirror, she flattened her unruly tresses of blonde and rubbed away some of the eyeliner. After she had straightened her fuzzy dark blue pajama pants with red, orange, and yellow fireworks (strangely appropriate for her) and her chili-pepper red tank, she took it upon herself to trundle out to the kitchen and meet her mother.
The befamed country artist was sitting at the round kitchen table in her bath robe, sipping coffee and scrolling through something on her cell phone.
“Morning, Dessie,” she said without taking her eyes from the pink razor-phone.
Squeak! Squeak! Squeak!
Destiny made for the cabinet.
“You want coffee, hun? I’ve got some made,” Alyse offered.
Locating her favorite cereal – Lucky Charms – Destiny prepared herself a bowl.
“No thanks. I don’t drink coffee.”
At last, Alyse looked up from her phone.
“You’ve grown a whole two inches since I saw you last. How do you grow so fast in only four weeks?”
Destiny smiled. This was the kind of conversation she liked. With her neon green fingernails chipping, she held out the heaping bowl of Lucky Charms.
“I eat,” she explained, and joined her mother at the table. “So, how’s it feel to be out of the public eye?”
“Excellent!” sighed Alyse, her smile lighting up the room. “I told Russ if they so much as set a toe across the premises to call the police in.”
Destiny spoke around a mouthful of cereal, not at all surprised that her mother’s body guard had followed them there.
“Russ is here?”
“Yes. But he’s not allowed beyond the gate. He has a little beach house out there.”
“So no one’s allowed beyond the gate?”
“No one,” her mother promised, “except you and me.”
“Well good,” said Destiny, pleased. “It’ll be nice not to have those camera-men hovering around. I’ll bet they’d even follow you into the bathroom if they thought they could.”
Alyse offered a half-disgusted, half-genuine smile and took another long sip of coffee.
“Speaking of the media,” Alyse said, rubbing the smooth ceramic side of her coffee cup.
Destiny, engrossed in her Charms, looked up.
The film star offered a quick, nervous smile.
“Do you realize they’ve been paying more attention to you lately, Dessie?”
“Mmmhmm. Yeah, they’re relentless.”
“Good. Do you know why?”
“Cuz I’m the kid of a star?”
“Not quite,” Alyse’s voice sounded tired. She had just finished another tour across the United States. She leaned forward, hugging her coffee. “I think they’re starting to wonder where you’ll go to college.”
Destiny almost spit out her milk.
“Please tell me you’re joking,” she choked.
But her mother only shook her head, smiling in a way Destiny could hardly ever remember seeing before. She smiled proudly.
“Think about it, Dessie. You’ve done well in all of your home-schooled classes and you’re probably further in your studies now than some seniors who have graduated from a public school, and you haven’t even hit your last year of schooling yet.”
“But I don’t even know what I want to be!” Destiny exclaimed, running a hand through her slowly untangling locks. “I mean, I know I can’t sing like you can!”
“But you can sing,” Alyse countered. “And besides, you don’t have to go into college knowing what you want to do. Destiny, I never had the chance to go to college. I was your age when I began my music career.”
Destiny traced the edge of the now-empty cereal bowl. She had not even thought about going to college – all she really wanted was to spend time with the person she called Mom.
All the while she was pondering this, Alyse watched her. At last, she spoke.
“When you were little-”
But she had to stop there, because her pink razor phone started to ring with one of her most popular hits.
“Life is a babe – Life is a babe – Life is a baby layin’ on a window sill-”
Immediately, she gave Destiny a sad look and picked it up, carrying her conversation into the next room.
Destiny felt her heart compress in her chest. She had never heard those last four words come out of her mother’s mouth. She almost felt numb with the shock of hearing them. Still, she smiled in knowing that finally, she had her mother’s full attention. Nothing could take that away from her – or so she thought, until her mother reappeared, grinding her forehead into her palm.
“Mom? What’s wrong?” she said around a second bowl of Lucky Charms.
“I could say “nothing,” but then you would know I was lying.”
Destiny narrowed her eyes and gulped her cereal.
“What’s going on?” she demanded.
Alyse was hesitant and would not meet her eyes.
“Magenta Records called. They want me on a plane to Washington in two days to see me off on the European tour.”
“European tour?!” Destiny hissed. “You never said anything about a European tour!”
“I wasn’t supposed to start it until late next week,” she said, sounding injured. “I have no say in the matter. I have to comply.”
“Why?!” Destiny wailed, feeling tears come on.
“Now, we’ve discussed the terms of being binded to a contract before. I know we have.”
A pause was felt like the lull before a storm, and then something inside Destiny snapped. She stood up.
“All my life, I have asked only one thing of you: that you be my mother. But you haven’t. And you still aren’t. So as far as I’m concerned, I don’t even have a mother.”
And she smacked the half-empty bowl of Charms to the floor, where it splashed and fell with a loud clamor.
“I should have known a vacation like this would be too good to be true.”
Alyse sighed deeply.
“Oh, Destiny,” she moaned miserably, “I didn’t ask for this.”
“I know you didn’t!” Destiny snapped. All of her anger and sorrows from the past several years of her life seemed to be swelling together to spit off in streams of fire from her mouth. Indeed, the fireworks print on her fuzzy pajama pants was very suitable for her.
“I know you never asked for me. I know you never wanted me. What bothers me is that you didn’t have the guts to just come out and tell me instead of abandoning me with someone I don’t want – someone I don’t love – over and over again! I would rather spend the remainder of my years in the fiery pit of hell than to see my mother – the only one I have who doesn’t want me – walk away again with a doubtful promise to return when she says she will! I only have to wonder now, if you never really wanted me, then why on Earth would you even care to have me?”
With that, Destiny spun in a huff and stormed out of the kitchen. Spilled milk from the table dripped off into a puddle of the same on the linoleum floor with a soft plick, plick! Alyse Emerson, who had won the world but not her own daughter, sat in a fragile-looking slump at the table, her phone and coffee forgotten, and her head in her hands. Her courage had failed her again. Taking care to simply breathe, she waited until she heard the mad screaming of Destiny’s bunny slippers – SQUEAK! SQUEAK! SQUEEEEAK! SQUEAK! – and the slam of her bedroom door – SPLAMMM! – before she dared to confess the very reason for her meeting with Destiny privately.
“I didn’t.” she muttered.