Picket Fences

As evening approaches, the residents of Benicia are getting ready for their evening rituals; putting dinner on the table, and taking the dog out one last time. 

Sydney Walker is getting ready to meet Payton to go to his night class at the Benicia Library. He notices Angela pull into her driveway and unload packages from the trunk of her car. He heads downstairs and says goodbye to his mother — “Bye, Mom; I’m going to class” — and heads out the door, meeting Angela in the driveway.  “Hi, Mrs. Wingate, let me help you,” he says, reaching out his arms. “That’s okay, I’ve got it,” she responds.  “I insist,“ he says, trying to pull the brown bag from Angela’s grasp. “Sydney ..I’m fine,” she says with an elevated tone. In that moment, they both hear the front door of the Wingate home close with Payton walking out. “Hey Syd, I was just coming to get you. Hi, Mom,“ he says walking toward the two, ”I’ll take that, Mom. I’ll be right back, Sydney,” Payton says, grabbing the bag and taking it into the house. Angela hears Sydney mutter something under his breath. “What was that?” she asks.  Sydney turns around with a look that sends a chill down her spine. “I said, you have to like me Mrs. Wingate. I’m not going anywhere. It feels nice to have a mother. I see the way you look at me, and when you hear my name there’s always doubt in your mind about who I am .. that must stop.” he says as he turns to walk away. “You meant to say your mother … it feels good to have… your mother ..right?” Angela responds, stopping Sydney in his tracks. He turns around, walking toward her, and Angela takes a step back “Did something I say strike a nerve?” she says. Sydney takes a breath, “No, not at all,” he answers. “Then you might want to unclench that fist,” she says, looking down at his hands. Sydney takes another breath and tries to calm himself. “I just wanted to say Payton has been a lifesaver and it would hurt deeply if anything happened to him,” Sydney says. Before Angela can respond, they hear Payton honk the horn of his red BMW. “Bye Mrs. Wingate,” he says with a devilish smile that leaves Angela feeling worried.

But Angela isn’t the only one receiving surprising news this evening. 

Madalyn Walker enters the study and finds Hank working on his laptop. “Hi, I wanted to talk to you about something. Do you have a minute?” Madlyn asks. “Yeah,” he responds, still typing away. “I ran into Olivia and she recommended me to Trisha Darling. Apparently, Trisha liked what I did for the fundraiser and wants to hire me to plan a party she’s hosting. She wants to meet with me soon… what do you think?” she asks. Hank looks up from his laptop, confused. “Wait, what do you mean? To hire you? Paying you money for planning a party? I don’t know, it can’t be much,” He answers. Madalyn looks at Hank, bewildered. “Why does it seem like such a surprise that someone would want to hire me? You know I have worked before, I was working when we met… I don’t think it is so far-fetched,” Madalyn fires back, getting annoyed. Hank sighs. “Look, Honey, I’m not saying you never worked before,” he says with a smirk. “What I’m saying is what you did for F.A.C.T was great … but making a business out of it…come on,” he says, going back to typing. And there it was: that look she hated. A look of smug arrogance that was one of his worst qualities. “Wait a damn minute, you don’t take it or me seriously. I thought you would believe in me.”  “I never said I didn’t believe in you,” Hank replies. “You didn’t have to… Well, I’m doing it,” she says, walking out of the study ignoring Hank calling after her. Madalyn grabs her phone out of her tan purse and dials Trisha’s number. After a few rings, Trisha picks up. “Hi Trisha, this is Madalyn Walker, when would you like to meet? I’d love to work with you.”

And Madalyn Walker isn’t the only one making plans.

As night classes let out at the library, Payton and Sydney are walking back to the car to head home when Payton notices Xavier standing by his truck waiting. “Give me a minute, I’ll be right there,” Payton says, leaving Sydney to wait by the car. “Did you talk to your folks about the weekend?” Xavier asks.  “Yeah, I’m good to go,” Payton says, trying to hold down his excitement. “Great! So I’ll text you the address. I’m driving up Friday morning, and I’ll see you Saturday morning,” Xavier says.  The two end the conversation, Xavier waving goodbye to Sydney who has been watching the interaction in a silent rage that he struggles to keep down. Xavier watches the two drive away and is left with an uneasy feeling about Sydney.