Here is the fifth chapter to add to my sneak peak of my work in progress about six young adults who all meet their freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. In this chapter, you meet student athlete/scholar Madison Parker, who’s going to learn that balancing all that, plus a social life, isn’t as easy as she’d like it to be!
Also be sure to head over to my page dedicated to this project at the top menu of the website! It’s labelled as WHEN IN DOUBT (WIP BOOK SERIES), or if you don’t feel like scrolling, just click the link HERE
Hope you enjoy!
One day Madison Parker was going to change the world, and if fate didn’t make it so, she would have absolutely no problem taking it into her own hands. She knew life didn’t toss you more than a huge mess of curveballs—she’s had plenty thrown her way—so she always reminded herself to never hold her breath and wait for something to come to her; she needed to take it for herself if she wanted it enough.
Walking out of the Johnson Fieldhouse, the athletic center on the southernmost part of the University of Wisconsin-Stout campus, Madison heaved a sigh that eased the tightness in her chest. She stopped for a moment to enjoy the beautiful late-summer day. Sure, it was a bit outside of the normal hustle and bustle that made up her home city of Chicago, but she had to admit she liked the quieter, small town feel of the campus infused into the small, midwestern town of Menomonie. If she can thrive in Chi-Town, surely she would be just fine in small town, Wisconsin USA.
Growing up in in one of Chicago’s oldest and nicest neighborhoods, Beverly, Madison lived right in the middle of the action of the Southside, but never felt like it was ever totally unsafe, and she’s always been used to a close-knit, diverse community that her hometown gave her while growing up, and with the Metra nearby, she could be deep within the Windy City in a matter of minutes with her friends, and get into (not) too much trouble.
Madison was always busy putting high expectations on herself in whatever she did: being in the top one percent of her graduating class, speech team, yearbook committee, and even being a two-sport athlete with a few records she proudly left behind in her final year back home.
She supposed she could’ve gone anywhere for school, but what she didn’t bother telling her friends back home was how UW-Stout probably had one of the most affordable art programs in the midwest. Money wasn’t necessarily tight, but Madison could tell how they were worried how they’d be able to afford to send her off to school and not fall into the deep, dark hole that was student debt. Thankfully with her organization and ability to pay attention to even the microscopically-sized details, she’d been able to find enough scholarships that almost entirely financially backed her years as an undergrad.
Thinking about her mom, Madison sighed again with a sharp pang shooting straight through her chest. She hadn’t expected to already miss her family on just her second day of college; she even wished her obnoxious little turd of a brother, Dante, was around even though he stole a pair of her underwear to use as a slingshot the night before they left, or left her crude messages on her vanity mirror with her tubes of lipstick. It was a huge shock to her when her mother and baby brother helped move her into her dorm the day before and left before it’d fully hit her. She’d always had her family nearby whether she was home or out spending her hard earned money on the latest handbag from Michael Kors on Michigan Avenue, but now she was on her own for the first time ever. She wouldn’t be able to sit in her dining room and enjoy her mom’s amazing cooking everyday after school; she’d have to rely on the cafeteria or the Memorial Student Center; and there was no way it was going to be the same.
A small group of three upperclassmen guys walked by along the sidewalk, and Madison warmed under their appreciative looks as they passed by. With how much her outfit cost and how long she took in getting ready that morning, she knew she looked good.
As she drew closer to her new home for the next two semesters, HKMC, Madison heard someone playing music from plus movement on the sand volleyball court also caught her eye, and she saw Heather Gracie with two seriously good looking guys practicing sets to each other. Heather put her hair up in a high ponytail and laughed at something the darker haired guy said, but the blond one was especially some serious eye candy, Madison had to admit. She watched him take his shirt off, appreciating the way the sun brightened his golden skin and made the dips and planes of his muscles even more pronounced. She was a sucker for a decent pair of abs.
Oh my goodness, Madison mentally chastised herself. Girl, stop drooling before they catch you staring!
She waltzed inside the side entrance of the dorm to get up to the third floor of Milnes and Chinnock. Checking her smartphone and to see a Snapchat from Lindsay, Madison opened it up to see her new friends were in Mandy and Ali’s room.
It still surprised her how quickly she’d met the other girls, who were thankfully all on the same floor as her. It was only the second day at school and it seemed like everyone has already paired off into little groups; maybe they formed meaningful relationships, or maybe it was more out of pure convenience to latch onto the closest people who have anything in common with out of fear of being alone, being looked down upon in some way. Madison liked to think the former on her situation: the girls approached her immediately after that extremely long and awkward floor meeting and formed their little inner circle.
When Madison walked into the room, Mandy was curling Lindsay’s hair to give it some beachy waves while Ali sat in their red suede loveseat, watching The Walking Dead on a large TV.
Madison smirked at Mandy’s disgusted look as a group of zombies began to tear open some poor, screaming victim like a feeding frenzy. It was never her thing either, but Madison could appreciate the amount of detail the costume department put into making a show about a zombie apocalypse look so realistic.
Lindsay looked like she also wanted to protest, but just remained quiet and simply did her best to ignore the gory scene on the TV screen, and perked up when she noticed Madison in the doorway.
“Ohmygosh, Mads, how’s it going? We missed you at breakfast earlier.”
“Hey Linds, sorry about that, but I was in a meeting.” Madison sat down next to Ali. “I’m joining the Track team.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you played sports,” Mandy said without looking away from Lindsay’s hair.
“Do you play any?” Madison asked.
“Hmm, not really, they’ve never been my scene, but all the more power to you. What position are you on, anyways?”
Madison chuckled. “I’m just a runner, so sprints and relays are my thing.”
“Huh, that makes sense considering how great your legs look,” Ali said.
Lindsay grinned at her friend. “Right?! I was just saying how bangin’ Madison’s body is. Like, she totally has better legs than Rihanna ever did.”
Mandy bemusedly rolled her eyes while still working on Lindsay’s hair. “Yes Mads, you could totally be working a runway if modelings on your radar.”
“Well, my only runway right now is the synthetic rubber of my lane on the track field, but feel free to keep these facts rolling, I am high-key all for it!” Madison sat up straighter and straightened her designer blouse. “Actually, speaking of sports, I saw Heather with some really cute guys down on the court. Anyone interested to go join?”
Lindsay and Mandy both acted like they hadn’t heard her., but both jumped when someone’s scream blasted from the TV.
Mandy groaned. “God Ali, seriously?…how can you watch that crap?”
“What? This is entertaining as hell! Plus, Daryl’s one of the best characters in TV history,” Ali responded, her eyes barely leaving the screen.
Lindsay played with the ends of a few strands of hair. “She’s always been into these kind of shows. She’s defs going to, like, make us watch all her favorite horror movies once it gets closer towards Halloween too.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Ali sat up. “Actually, count me in, Madison, Heather seemed pretty legit yesterday.”
Oh right, I could I forget she’s going to be there? Madison rolled her eyes. “Mhmm, yeah…totally.”
Ali’s eyebrow rose. “Please try to hold in your enthusiasm on that. What’s your problem? She say something to you?”
Madison huffed. “Not at all, but I’m not exactly high on anyone who so obviously doesn’t want to be around us.”
Mandy’s green eyes flashed as she looked over. “Seriously though! She was a total bitch to us at the MSC for no reason at all, and was actually so rude even though we invited her to come with us.”
Ali scoffed. “You weren’t any better, Mandy.”
“Hey, I was only giving back what she was dishing out in the first place. If someone is going to be an asshole to me when I don’t deserve it, I’m gonna call a bitch out on it.”
Madison nodded. “Exactly! Ain’t nobody got time for that unjustified bitchy behavior for absolutely no reason.”
Lindsay pursed her lips and her baby blue eyes were wide as she remained silent in her seat.
Ali frowned. “Okay, then why suggest that we go out and join her?”
“Because I wouldn’t mind showing her up after putting up with her BS,” Madison shot back with a neck roll. If Heather Gracie wanted to start drama on the first day on campus, Madison swore she had no problem with some retaliation to show she was more than capable of ending it.
“Maybe she’s just shy? Being quiet doesn’t automatically mean someone is being bitchy, you know?”
Madison rolled her eyes. “Alright fine, you’ve got a point Ali, so maybe let’s go down and join in and start over then?”
“We should go for a little bit,” Mandy announced after a short pause. “After all, according to Madison there are cute boys, and I didn’t break up with my ex over the summer to just stay inside and just spend time with my girls.”
Lindsay just continued to smile and remain silent, but her smile seemed more forced.
Madison nodded at her. “Sorry Linds, I know she’s your roommate and all, but even you can admit she was being pretty ratchet towards us for no apparent reason.”
Lindsay’s smile finally dropped and she looked down at the floor. “I guess, but maybe it’s like Ali said and she’s just shy?”
Mandy scoffed. “I doubt it…a girl who looks like a younger and hotter Jessica Simpson should have absolutely no problem with self-confidence.”
Mandy finished the last few strands of Lindsay’s hair before putting her curling iron away. Ali got up and stripped down without any warning, not caring one bit that her door to the hallway was still wide open while she changed in front of her closet.
“Holy Shit, Ali!” Madison feigned shock and shielded her eyes. “Warn a girl before deciding to let it all fall out!”
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it baby,” Ali shot back with a wink. She decided on one of her faded black concert tees’ with the sleeves cut out with some with some well-worn cutoff denim shorts.
Mandy playfully poked Ali right in the chest before closing the door and changing into some workout gear. “Well, at least volleyball doesn’t have any gross, nasty AF zombies lurking around.”
Nope, just ex boyfriends apparently…
The four of them walked down to the court, and Madison couldn’t believe what was happening before her: Mandy had just called out the incredibly gorgeous blonde guy, who they all learned was named Jared, admitting he’s the guy she broke up with over the summer. Normally, Madison couldn’t help but live for the amount of drama that was happening before her eyes—it felt like she was inside one of her favorite tv shows, Gossip Girl—but it is so different when it happens in real life.
Did Mandy know beforehand that her ex went to the same school as her? Maybe she was hoping to run into him like this; she certainly seemed to be eating it up how much shaken he obviously was about it, but if she did know about him, why wouldn’t she share the news with any of her friends? Sure, they’ve only known each other just under twenty-four hours, but something felt off about all this.
Everyone is dead silent, eyebrows all shot to the sky along with eyes darting back and forth, anticipating what could possibly happen next, or who would speak up first.
Heather cleared her throat after regaining some composure. “Well, obviously I don’t know the whole story here, but I’m shooting down any drama starting right now. We’re just here to play some volleyball, so if you want to join in, feel free, but otherwise you can go if you’re just here to start shit.” She turned back towards a glowering Jared. “What do you say?”
Jared pouted a little bit while not meeting anyone’s eyes, but reluctantly nodded his head with a gaze that almost looked like respect. “I’m here to play some volleyball.”
Heather gave him a small smile as he patted her on the shoulder before jogging back towards the game, and Madison couldn’t help but sneak a peak at his retreating form.
Heather turned back towards her and the other girls and crossed her arms. “Like I said, you’re all more than welcome to join in too. Just no drama.”
Madison wanted to shoot back some retort, considering the cold shoulder Heather gave them the day before, but her new friend beat her to the punch.
Mandy tilted her head with a seemingly sincere smile. “There’s absolutely nothing to worry about, we’re all only here to play some games, that’s all.”
“Yep, playing games alright,” Heather muttered under her breath.
Madison couldn’t help but smirk at that, plus Heather’s sour expression as Mandy strutted right past her just made it even more hilarious. She had to give the blonde some credit though: she mean’t business when she actually spoke up, and she definitely noticed Mandy’s absolutely scandalized expression at Heather’s warning. Things were getting very interesting between the two of them.
Lindsay walked forward next and smiled extra wide. “Thanks for letting us join, roomy! I bet we’ll all have loads of fun.”
Heather’s expression warmed, because how could anyone be cruel towards someone like Lindsay, who always has a bright smile? “I’m sorry I didn’t invite you earlier. Honestly, I didn’t know if you and the girls would want to play or not.”
Lindsay waved her off. “Oh it is, like, so not a big deal! We made it, we’re all here now, so the real fun can begin.”
Madison noted how Lindsay practically bounced straight over to Mandy’s side on the court, all while Jared made sure to stay as physically far away from them as possible as if they had the swine flu everyone freaked out about not too long ago.
Madison stayed behind with Ali, who shared a look with her before clearing her throat to catch Heather’s attention.
Ali shot her a nod. “You know Heather, you’re alright. You don’t stand for bullshit, and I’ve got mad respect for that.”
Madison wanted to say so much more, not nearly as complimenting as her friend, but nodded her head in agreement to play along. For now. “I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty sure Mandy’s not used to having anyone actually stand up to her like that. It takes a real boss-bitch to make that sort of power play.”
Heather whole body remained taut like she was expecting them to pounce at a moment’s notice, but she shrugged a shoulder nonetheless. “It’s no big deal, I just don’t want stupid drama when it’s only our second day here is all.”
Hmmm, then what was your issue with us in the MSC yesterday? Madison wondered.
“I hear ya, and like I said, I can respect that. On that note, I say lets play already.” Madison felt Ali’s gaze land on her with a knowing smirk. “Right Mads?”
Madison frowned. “Of course, what’s with the look?”
“Oh nothing, don’t think so much about it.” Ali turned regarded Heather once again with a raised brow. “Well if you want to join us, there’s that free movie playing tonight on the quad. I know Mandy will be there, but she’s actually not as bad as you probably think.”
Heather laughed under her breath. “I’ll think about it.”
Madison continued to eye her down, and the two shared a look before Heather decided to turn around and rejoin the game.
“Well, that was reassuring,” Madison muttered once Heather was out of earshot.
Ali groaned. “Don’t be such a hater, Mads. Let’s go see those legs of yours in action.”
Ali smacked Madison right on her behind while jogging away before Madison even had a change to retaliate.
Madison couldn’t help but laugh to herself before noticing the small group of four sitting over at the picnic table. Eden Harrington and Jenna Nguyen sat at a picnic table with two guys whom Madison hadn’t seen before. One was tall, slim, and very obviously flamboyantly gay, while the other seemed much quieter, and judging by how everyone but him giggled uncontrollably, the only sober one of the four. Madison cringed and hoped none of the RA’s came out and caught them in the act, because they weren’t even trying to be subtle about it by now. They continued to pass a water bottle amongst each other.
Eden noticed Madison staring, and she smiled and waved with an exuberance of excitement that usually came with someone who was incredibly drunk and saw someone they knew. “Heeeeyyya roomy!”
Totally busted, Madison reluctantly waved back and hoped her cringing grimace was perfectly hidden by the smile she popped onto her face. Yep, her and Eden were roommates, and they couldn’t be any more different from each other. She was already in countdown mode when the housing department would allow them to put in requests to switch rooms, then maybe she and Lindsay could switch while maybe Heather and Eden could move in together.
Madison tied her dark, long hair up into an artfully messy bun that rested on the top of her head as she turned away and finally joined the game, ignoring her roommates pleas to come join her.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell