Settling into a new town and a new life wasn’t going to be easy, she knew that. But then it had never been particularly easy and she had always been okay.
Moving round the world sounded like a dreamy life to most kids that Maddy met but to her it wasn’t anything like that.
Her Dad Josh was a diplomat and as such he was moved from city to city, country to country more times than Maddy could count on both hands.
An only child, Maddy was the apple of her father’s eye and she loved spending time with him. Her mother Abigail had died when Maddy was a tiny baby and she had no memories at all of the woman whose looks she had inherited.
Josh had remained single after Abigail’s death. He was a devastatingly good-looking man and had his fair share of admirers. But nobody grabbed his attention the way that Abigail had and although he did sometimes feel lonely he had not once wanted to share his life with another woman. Abigail had been the love of his life and his love for her would never die.
Josh doted on Maddy and together they had a good life. He spent all the time he possibly could with his beautiful baby girl and ensured that he hired the very best nannies that he could find so that he knew Maddy was in safe hands when he was at work.
After work Josh took on all responsibilities himself. Feeding and bathing Maddy, reading stories, playing games and telling her tales of her mother; Josh was as hands-on a father as he could possibly be.
Occasionally Josh would have a few weeks away from work and he would travel back to his hometown in England with Maddy and catch up with his parents and family.
Maddy loved these times as she had the full attention of her father all day long. And she adored her grandparents, aunties and uncles.
Long lazy days were spent walking through the English countryside, horseriding and fishing. Picnics by the river and BBQ’s at night on the back lawn – Maddy looked forward to these summer weeks all year!
Another fortnight she thought about all year was the Christmas break. Josh and Maddy would pack up their things and head over to America where they would stay with Abigail’s parents. Maddy loved staying at the Lodge. She was always allowed to help choose and decorate the Christmas tree as the snow fluttered down outside and the sound of Christmas music filled the air. Grandma would make Christmas cookies and Grandpa would build a huge fire and the family would just enjoy being with each other.
The rest of the year was spent in various homes provided by the government in whichever country Josh was posted. Sometimes he would stay in one country for a couple of years. But other times he would be moved a few times in one year.
When Maddy was young it didn’t matter at all. She wasn’t to know where she was and as long as she had her nanny and her toys with her she was happy to be anywhere.
But when she hit school age it was a different story.
Having not been used to being around other kids very often Maddy found it hard to settle into school life. And no sooner had she managed to get her head around all the rules and routines of school and made a few friends than she was off again, being whisked away to another country, another life.
She didn’t worry too much about the language barriers as she was sent to English speaking schools. Besides, she had been brought up speaking more than one language!
Even with all the shifting, Maddy still managed to maintain friendships and emailed her pals when she moved country. She often said that she could be in the Hardy Book of World Records for having the most penpals.
Sometimes, bizarrely, she would find herself back at a school she had left several years earlier and she would catch up with her old pals again!
Maddy was always a happy child and she adapted well to all the travelling that she did. But as she hit her teens she started to find that things had become increasingly difficult and this marked the beginning of her problems with her father and her family.
Looking around the beautiful city, Maddy was happy to be settled for a year. A whole year! What a luxury!
She soon settled into the school and got on with all the kids in her class. The teachers were okay and the lessons weren’t difficult.
She started to go out at weekends with her new mates and they all hung out at the Mall and spent most of their allowances on clothes and coffee.
It was at the Mall that Maddy first set eyes on Callum. Tall, blond, muscular – not her type at all. But when he spoke to her she fell for him, hook line and sinker.
Most guys she met were totally false and phony, good looking guys who thought they were god’s gift to women. She had no time for people like them.
Some others were intimidated by her. She was so confident, so sure of herself that she scared a lot of guys away. They couldn’t impress her, she could see straight through them.
But Callum – he was different…
“Rough and rugged” was the description Sonja told all the girls when they met up for coffee after she and Maddy had bumped into Callum.
The gang were pretty excited about this new guy and the fact that he seemed to like the look of Maddy was even better.
She was the only one out of the group who didn’t have a boyfriend and the others were interested in hooking her up.
Mainly so that they could all hang out together as a group without Maddy feeling left out but also because they were worried their own boyfriends might make a move on the available and stunning brunette.
Maddy pretended not to be interested in Callum - didn’t even know herself if she was interested or not!
But she had to admit that there was something about this guy that had caught her attention.
Back home that night she lay on her bed painting her toenails and found that her thoughts returned to Callum.
She kept going over and over the first moment she locked eyes with him and it sent shivers up and down her spine. He had been putting CDs away on the shelves in the store and he had bumped into her sending a stack of CDs flying.
She had been all set to yell at him for being such a clutz when she looked up from the pile of fallen CDs on the floor into his face and practically fell into his eyes.
Crystal clear, bottle green eyes, sparkling with mischief and good humour and … something else that made her legs shake and her tummy turn somersaults. Something she had never seen in anyone’s eyes before.
Tall and muscular, a perfect triangular shape with messy blond hair and a good tan, this guy was not classically good looking but had some kind of animal magnetism about him.
And when he smiled at Maddy to say sorry for bumping into her - well, what a smile! Dimples, straight white teeth and a slight scar under his full bottom lip made Maddy melt.
She smiled back and read his name badge. Callum. Nice! He bent down to pick up the fallen discs and his hand brushed hers as she helped him. Electricity shot through her body and she felt her breath start to get faster.
What was happening to her? She had never felt like this before!
Sonja came over and started to help as well and Maddy soon noticed that Sonja couldn’t keep her eyes off this guy, getting all giggly and girly with him.
He smiled again at them and said that he was always getting into trouble with his clumsiness. This was what got Maddy really interested.
Most of the guys she had dated or who had tried to date her were so up themselves and into the whole macho “I’m better than anyone” gig that this was a refreshing change - someone who didn’t take himself too seriously.
Maddy smiled back, said goodbye and left the store with Sonja running after her. Sonja was full of it, telling Maddy how Callum hadn’t been able to stop looking at her as she had walked away - and why had she walked away? She could have got his number at least!
Maddy played it cool. Never one to share her feelings with her friends she kept quiet on the matter.
But back at home she couldn’t get him out of her head.
The next day she made up some excuse as to why she needed to go to the Mall on her own and went back to the CD store.
She was nervous, what if he wasn’t there? She couldn’t see him at first but as she made her way round the shop she bumped into him - literally.
As the CDs fell to the floor Callum burst into laughter and said that he seemed to have met his match - someone else in the world was as clumsy as he was!
Maddy couldn’t help laughing too and soon they were chatting away as if they had known each other all their lives.
After a while Callum glanced up at the clock and told Maddy that he would finish work soon - would she like to go out for something to eat?
Maddy thought about it for all of one second and said that she’d love to.
She walked round the Mall in a daze while she wasted time waiting for Callum to finish his shift and found that she was full of excitement at being able to see him again.
He met her at the right place at the right time - something else that differentiated him from all the other guys she knew!
And taking her by the hand, he led her to a street caf? and sat next to her, gazing into her eyes as if she was the only person in the whole world that mattered to him.
And she had a feeling that she was looking at him the same way!
After a good couple of hours of solid talking and many milkshakes later, Maddy got a frantic call from her father. Where was she? What was she doing? She had missed her piano class and nobody had known where she was!
Maddy said that she would be home soon but Josh insisted that he would come and pick her up.
Callum waited with her and when Josh arrived they went over to the car together. Callum introduced himself and apologised for keeping Maddy out so late and worrying everyone.
Josh smiled but eyed Callum up and down and told Maddy to hurry up and get in the car. Callum waved goodbye and Maddy sunk into her seat, warm with the feelings she had for him. Josh looked over at his daughter and smiled to himself - she was growing up so quickly!
She was obviously smitten with this surfy guy. And he seemed nice enough. But when he tried to talk to Maddy about him and to find out a bit about the guy, Maddy got all sulky and said she didn’t need a third degree.
Josh sighed, Maddy had never spoken to him like that before. Something told him that there was a change in the air and he wasn’t sure if he was ready for it.
“Don’t you ever come home at this time again!”
Maddy had been out all night and now as dawn was breaking she found her father waiting on the couch for her, fuming with rage and worry.
She knew that she was pushing the boundaries, knew that her Dad was worried for her. But while she looked at him there on the couch she couldn’t feel anything but hatred for him.
He had done everything he could to stop her from seeing Callum. Taken away her allowance and access to the car. He had even locked her in her room one night to try to get her to stay in but she had crept out and climbed down the tree next to her window.
She didn’t want to hurt him, not really, but he had forced the situation until she had no choice.
Callum had a hold on her that she couldn’t resist. Besides, if it wasn’t for Dad’s new girlfriend, Martha, Maddy was sure that her Dad wouldn’t have had a problem with Callum.
Martha was from an rich old family. She wore pearls and diamonds, gold and fur. Just the sort of person that turned Maddy’s stomach. But for some reason Josh was smitten and Martha could do no wrong in his eyes. And Martha thought that Callum wasn’t good enough for “Joshie’s baby girl.”
What did Martha care anyway? She called her Mosquito when Josh wasn’t around. Told her that she sucked her father’s bank balance dry with all her clothes and allowance money. That she should leave home and let Josh have some happiness in his life after years of staying single just to keep Maddy happy.
Maddy knew that wasn’t the truth. She knew that Josh had been devoted to her mother and that he had never wanted to get involved with another woman. At least she thought that’s what she knew! What if Martha was right and Josh had stayed single because he felt some kind of duty to his motherless daughter?
Wracked with uncertainty and guilt, Maddy spent more and more time with Callum and family life got more and more unpleasant.
Callum had her wrapped around his little finger. Sure he was older than she was. He didn’t have much money. He knew a lot more about life than she did. And he was a more experienced guy than she had ever spent time with before. But he was perfect for her. She didn’t mind that he was possessive and got into moods sometimes. That he sulked if she spoke to another guy. She felt flattered by his love for her. By the fact that he wanted to possess her completely.
She did miss her friends a bit. She hadn’t seen them for so long. Ever since she and Callum became serious he had insisted that she break ties from the old gang.
Well, she could cope with missing them so long as she had Callum. And she did. He had told her that he loved her - in his own way. And that he wanted her to be his forever.
She loved seeing him every night. She would meet him at the beach and they would lie in the dunes together, warming themselves in the last delicious rays of the sun and then by a fire that they would light when the sun went down.
And so her life continued, every night spent with Callum, every day trying to get through school and maintain her distance from the friends that now ignored her or spat vicious comments in her direction. And when she was at home to eat or grab some clean clothes she certainly kept her distance from manipulative Martha and her love sick puppy of a father.
Every day much the same - until one morning when things were different as she crept into the house after a night with Callum.
Martha was waiting on the couch for her this time and although she wasn’t angry that Maddy had been out all night she did want to talk to her.
Maddy wasn’t interested in any conversation with this she-devil but Martha was insistent and Maddy was forced to give her full attention when she was told in a cold and hard manner that Josh was dead.
Falling onto the couch rather than sitting on it, Maddy felt as if her whole world had been turned upside down. Martha told her that Josh had been ill for some time but that obviously Maddy had been too busy with her rough boyfriend to notice.
He had died the night before in hospital.
Just like that, Josh was dead. The man that had been everything to her. The one who had taken such care of her for all these years. The one who had devoted his life to her.
Her father - gone.
Martha wasted no time in telling Maddy that everything had been left to her and that she and Josh had said their marriage vows on his deathbed.
She wanted Maddy out of the house immediately. She would be given a payoff to help her get set up in some kind of hovel that her boyfriend would approve of and then she was never to set foot in this house again.
Maddy was reeling from the shock and the horror of what had happened to her. She couldn’t believe what was going on! Her father was dead and had left her destitute!
She left the house in a daze and went to find Callum.
If she expected to find any sympathy with him then she was sadly mistaken. Now that she had no money and no home, no future and no rich relatives Callum wasn’t interested. He kicked her out of his bedside and she was forced to wander the streets in total shock and humiliation.
Her pain was beyond description and she kept herself to herself for many weeks, talking only when she had to, eating whatever she could find in the garbage.
After a while she had to pull herself together as she noticed that more kids were taking to the streets and that she had to fight for the little bit of food that was on offer. She heard from them that there was a Virus that had struck the city and that the adults were being killed off.
Surprised but not shocked, Maddy felt the need to go back to her home and get some personal items that she had left behind. If what these kids was saying - that gangs were rampaging round the city, claiming things for themselves - she wanted to get to her property before they did.
She wanted to have some memory of her father, her mother - her life.
It was broad daylight and Maddy could see that the house was still in tact although there were a few broken windows and graffiti sprayed on the walls.
As she crept inside she stumbled across a figure on the floor - Martha.
Not looking anything like Maddy remembered, Martha’s whole face was black and swollen. Her hair had turned grey and her neck and hands were wrinkled.
Maddy leant down on her knees and took Martha’s head in her hands, trying to give some support though it was clearly a lost cause.
Martha’s breath was coming out in short and noisy wheezes from her swollen lips and when she managed to open an eye and saw that it was Maddy who was holding her she let out a shriek that could have come from a banshee.
Flinching slightly, Maddy still kept a hold of the old witches head and listened as Martha ranted the ramblings of a fevered mind.
“He always loved you. Loved your mother. Mosquito. Out to get my blood. Out to get my money. He loved you. Loved you…”
Martha reached up with her claw like hand. It looked as if she was going to stroke Maddy’s cheek.
But suddenly Maddy felt a sharp pain as she realised that the hag was scratching her face!
Jumping back in horror and disgust, she stood above her stepmother who managed to drag herself into a sitting position and point accusingly at Maddy.
“Mosquito. Always knew you’d be back, buzzing round me when I don’t have the strength to swat you away. He loved you so much. His last words were about you, his precious little girl. But all you are is a mosquito. Blood sucker! Get away from me!”
Martha’s words came out in a whisper but Maddy could hear every word and as she watched, her stepmother fell back, exhausted from her rant and took her last wheezing breath before she died.
Back on the streets that night, Maddy felt strangely uplifted. It had been terrible to watch Martha die like that, to witness the Virus at first hand.
But she had heard the words that she had needed to hear - that her father had loved her.
This gave her new strength and she walked towards a bunch of girls who were standing round a fire, trying to warm themselves.
“Do you mind if I share your fire?”
A tall girl eyed her up and down. "Nah, come on in. Got to keep strong, Girl Power’s what’s gonna keep us going round here I reckon. "
Maddy was intrigued, “Why do you say that?”
“Cause chicks always make the best leaders.”
The tall girl leant over and held out her hand. “Annie.”
Maddy swiped at something on her cheek - a mosquito. She smiled to herself. Maybe being called a mosquito wasn’t that bad - after all they were natural survivors, could adapt to any new environment and were resistant to almost everything as Maddy herself had already proved!
Maddy took Annie’s hand. “Moz.”