Much like everything else in this world, this is a story about how a young girl fell in love with a man.
And how that man let her go.
So that she may find herself…
My name is Ophelia, Ophelia Micheals.
I wear glasses and I am very shy.
Shy to the point of oblivion. Or maybe it’s that I’m quiet.
Very quiet. Quiet to the point of oblivion. Yes, that is it.
I am only shy in large groups of people. I get the nervous stutter, sweaty palm, heart racing, hate-my-life-thing, when I am in a crowded room. Gah, it makes me quake just thinking about it! I can handle one-on-one or small groups, maybe, provided I know the people well enough. Or a least some of the people well enough.
I’m the weird girl with oversized clothes who hugs her books too close to her chest. I sit in the middle of all my class rooms, not trying to be noticed but also not trying to pegged as a back-row-slacker either. It’s a fine line really, a talent I’ve perfected, being noticed just enough. Like adding a dash of salt to a recipe.
I’m pale and skinny, simple and archaic, not boring, but not lively either.
This of course all changed when he walked in.
My heart stopped beating. Literally. I fell off the piano bench, causing sheets of music to fly sky high then fumble lifelessly beside me.
Did I mention I’m awkward? Awkward is as awkward does, or at least that’s what I am told.
Straight up, awkward.
Once I collected myself and climbed back onto the bench, much like a toddler climbing a couch, I sat ankles crossed with my hands neatly folded in my lap. As usual no one noticed my fumble. I’m just the girl behind the piano. Never-mind that I write half the music for these chumps. I could probably stand on this bench and shake it like I’ve got something to shake and they still wouldn’t notice me. Like I said, chumps.
He noticed though, because our eyes met and he gave me a brief smile as if trying not to laugh. I hardly noticed him laughing at me because he was hypnotizing me with those magnetic-magical eyes of his.
His eyes were an unfair emerald chastised by a scar cascading diagonally across his lid. This is so cliché but he hit me like a hurricane. I was here one-second destroyed the next.
“Good Morning!” he said to the class room. I pushed my glasses up with my index finger wishing his words were only for me. “I’m Mr. O’Connor and I am a new this year at Willows Edge. I am excited to have you all for my daily seminar, ethnomusicology. As many of you know Mrs. Weathers had her baby at the end of last year, and after spending the summer with her son she decided to extend her leave of absence until fall. At any rate, I’ve been a teacher for a couple years in North Dakota, but jumped at the chance to teach at one of the most elite schools in the country.” He finished his monologue with a wonderland-style grin. His voice was like a buttermilk biscuit and I wanted to slather it with gravy.
I beamed, frick nuggets, he is a beautiful SOB. Not that his mom is a twitch with a B of any kind but it was the expression that mattered, or maybe she was for all I knew. I swallowed hard because now I wanted to know, had to know, like a compulsion that came out of nowhere, whether or not his mother was a witch of a woman or the Susie Q type. She was probably the latter, a kind woman who made tea and served wine to dinner guests. Whomever his mother was, Mr. O’Connor was a hell-on-high-water kind of dangerous/dreamy and I wanted every little piece of it.
Anyway, he was right, Willows Edge is one of the top rated Preforming Arts High Schools in the country, located in the the heart of Missoula, Montana. Unfortunately most of the people here are dancers, pop-star-wannabes, and film freaks. Not that those things are bad, but they certainly aren’t me. Don’t get me wrong, I can sing out a decent tune, but I’m more of the slow and bluesy type then a sequined out jewel queen.
I guess, I’m just the obsolete pianist in the corner, the child prodigy that is likely never going to make her own album but spend a lifetime writing all the songs that other people’s name will be plastered all over. The world will only know I exist if they do a Google search and it pops up the Wikipedia page indicating that it is an Ophelia Micheals song. I like the sound of that though, I always have. An Ophelia Micheals song. Yeah, I could get used to that.
The man-god was going on and on about his syllabus but I was in la-la-land focusing only on his full lips, high cheek bones, and Irish locks. Until now I thought the only red heads that could be beautiful were women because most red-headed men were ugly as sin. Mr. O’Connor, however, was my kind of leprechaun. Be it a very, very tall leprechaun but an end of the rainbow type for sure. He was freckle faced, but not overly so, and his hair wasn’t too orange, more of an auburn with lots of natural red and gold highlights. Not to mention he had the body of a runner. I would bet my left kidney that he was a runner.
The bell rang and I was surprised to find the whole class period had gone by. Everyone began to shuffle out of the room but I stayed, frozen, as if Midas had turned me to gold. After this period I was going to have my independent study.
This year as my senior project I was going to make a full twelve-song album, one I could hopefully send to Nashville and LA for interested artists. Pipe-dream, I know. Hollis, my best friend, was going to produce it for me as her senior project. It was the perfect set up. The only problem was that Mrs. W approved supervising us last year and now I had to ask this creature of lust before me to supervise. Fun times. Really fun, frickin’ times.
I was still sitting on the piano bench lost in thought and fear. I glanced at myself in the mirror across the room. Mrs. W had us use it when practicing our form and stage introductions. She said it was healthy to know what you looked like when you were preforming. I personally didn’t see the point of knowing what I looked like. When I performed I became completely transfixed, lost in my own moment. I felt happy and alive. Oddly enough, as quiet as I am, I never once had stage fright. In fact sharing who I was musically was comfortable to me. It is something I am completely confident in. All the other areas in my life, not so much.
The mirror, reflected my wild almost black ringlets trying to escape my ponytail. When I wore my hair down my curls tumbled all the way to my waist. My gold eyes were hidden behind my black plastic, rectangle-shaped frames. My mom called them my birth-control glasses and Nana said that she liked that I hid all my beauty from boys because it would make her too nervous if I dated. Then again she said that when I was thirteen, I wonder if she still felt the same.
I kissed a couple boys before. Once in kindergarten, when a boy pushed me off the teeter-totter, I tackled him and planted one right on his lips. He ran away crying. I only did it because my mom said that when boys picked on me it meant they had a crush on me. And that is what, Kelly, my step-dad, did to my mom, kissed her on the lips. And I knew he liked her, liked her too much if you asked me.
The second time was last year, right after my brother came home from college for Christmas break, with his roommate Gabe. Apparently, Gabe had no where else to go. Gabe stayed throughout New Years and when midnight came he grabbed me and laid it on thick. In front of my parents, my brother, and sweet ol’ Nana. It was uncomfortable to say the least. To have a foreign tongue coating my throat while my family watched. The next day he apologized to everyone saying he had too much of a “good thing” in his eggnog. I haven’t seen Gabe since. Not that I wanted too. However, Leo, my brother, said he may come home with him for Thanksgiving.
I was wearing black leggings and an oversized white sweater that I stole from Pops closet after his funeral. I cut off the collar so it hung loosely over my shoulder. My feet felt warm and cozy in my slipper-shoes. I hated shoes. I preferred wearing wool socks and bare feet in the summer months. When I had to wear shoes I usually choose slippers that could pass as shoes, much more comfortable that way.
It was early September but I was dressed like it was January. I hated the cold and I especially hated air conditioning. Hollis said I could borrow some of her fat anytime I wanted to but I always replied by saying she wasn’t fat at all. She was a big girl, sure, but not fat. She stood five foot eleven inches and weighed two hundred and fifty-eight pounds. I knew this because she often stood on my bathroom scale. Hollis said she wished she had looked like me, I would tell her that I was nothing special and she would roll her eyes. I stood a little under five foot, five inches and weighed one hundred and six pounds. Nana called me her little fairy.
Mr. O’Connor was standing in the front on the room shuffling through some papers. I walked over to him slowly, achingly. “Umm, Mr. O’Connor…I’m umm Ophelia…Ophelia Micheals…and I umm…” I pushed my glasses up with my finger again and shifted on my feet. Why was I such a blubbering idiot?
“Olivia, is it?” He said arching a brow, looking uninterestedly at me from above his papers. I hated it when people could arch only one eyebrow. I tried for hours in a mirror one time only to realize I was a fool for trying.
“Ophelia.” I corrected, getting a wave of confidence. I hated it when people called me Olivia. They didn’t even sound the same expect for the O. Plus it is incredibly rude to not fully listen to someone and then called them by the wrong name because you were too emerged in yourself to give a damn.
“What, do you want, Olivia?” He said in a bored tone.
“O-PHEL-IA.” I corrected again in a very slow deliberate tone.
He stared at me his expression blank, his good looks were quickly loosing their luster. Anyone who acted like a smug A-hole lost there appeal to me. Have some decency man.
“What, is it that you want, Olivia.” His eye gleamed almost as if he called me Olivia on purpose as he was trying to grate at my nerves.
Did he think that because I was a quiet girl I didn’t know how to stick up for myself? Damn fool for his mistake. I crossed my arms over my chest and started directly into his emeralds. “Listen, Mr. Connors, it’s Connors isn’t it? It’s so hard for me to remember the last five seconds of conversation because I’m just so absorbed in myself.” I gave a fake carnival-like laugh ha-ha-ha, “I have my independent study this period and Mrs. W approved it last year. Now that she isn’t here, I’ll need you to supervise.” I deadpanned, a don’t-mess-with-me look in my eyes.
His face lit up and then he let out the glorious sound of his laughter, “You know I could send you to detention for being sassy.” He said in between chuckles.
“Sassy? I think not.” I scrunched my face together surprised that a teacher called me sassy. Wasn’t there some kind of rule against that? He smiled at me, that wonderland smile. I didn’t smile in return, not because I wasn’t happy, but because I looked like a pixie-on-crack when I tried to smile. It wasn’t endearing. So I kept my face stoic and blinked slowly indicating that I was ready to get to work.
“I know who you are Ophelia, Mrs. Weathers talked you up greatly and I would be happy to supervise.” I stared at him confused, if he knew who I was then what was with the Olivia comments? “She also said that you’re shy around new people and it helps to piss you off from the start because nothing showcases your personality more then when your sticking up for yourself.” He added, smiling still. Gosh-darn on pinwheels, that smile. That frickin’ smile.
“She would say that.” I said remembering. Mrs. W was a young hippie-type with dreads. She was a free-thinker and had no filter. I loved and admired her and even cried last year when she told me she wasn’t coming back. I had Mrs. W since freshman year, she was by far my favorite teacher. Due to the fact that I was one of the very few song writers in this school I spent a lot of time with her and we became close. I even helped babysit her son this summer.
I wondered how close I would get to Mr. O’Connor having to spend at least two hours a day with him and sometimes more, as I liked to linger in this room after school. It was the only room that hosted a grand piano.
Plenty of rooms had keyboards but I liked the old school antique piano that sat in room 103. I didn’t have a piano at home. I only had my guitar. Tuition at this place was over-the-moon so I didn’t even bother asking Nana for the cheapest of keyboards. I would miss the piano after I graduated.
I learned how to play the first month I was here. It blew Mrs. W away at how quickly I caught on. But that was me in a nut-shell. I understood music in a way I didn’t understand life. Music was my life. I could pick up any instrument and play it. I helped pay for my tuition by helping the majority of the students compose something great while Hollis produced it. That was my downfall. I did not understand technology and computers. I could make the music not record it.
“You can get to work, I’ll be here if you have any questions, ok?” He said arching that damn eyebrow again.
“Actually I do have a question. I have been working on this song and I can’t seem to get the ending right. I want it to be powerful, haunting even, but it just seems to linger into weird halt and it bothers me. Do you think you could listen and tell me what you think?” Like I said, I have never been shy about my work and I was curious about Mr. O’Connor’s skill set. If we would be working closely and my future rested in the hands of a stranger, I wanted to get used to him and his style, as quickly as I could. Hollis was in the studio mixing a couple songs I put together over the summer. She wanted this song by the end of the week though.
Mr. O’Connor seemed surprised by my forwardness but nodded and walked over to the bench with me. I sat down and he leaned over the top. Looking down at me. His black dress shirt was rolled up to the elbows tucked into a pair of dark-washed jeans. The bottoms of pants were rolled up like it was the 1950’s and he wore vintage-looking blue sued shoes. My heart was doing palpitations and I couldn’t help but feel warm in all the right places. I was going to have to get over this knee-jerk crush on my teacher ASAP, it was embarrassing. The flush in my cheeks didn’t help matters either.
I decided I needed to dive into my song and focus only on my music. It was the only was to push out my attraction towards him.
I tucked a ringlet that bounced out of my ponytail behind my ear, rolled my sleeves up and began to play. I played the song exactly how I intended it to be sung. A seductive haunting. A crooning over a lost love. After I finished the song I let out a heavy sigh, “Do you see what I mean? The end is weird. It needs to be fixed but I am at a complete loss.” I leaned back on my palms a looked up and into his eyes. The music had done what it usually does, it brings the real Ophelia to life and puts that weird girl to rest. The feeling only lasts while I work and then the other girl takes form again. I have yet to discover how to be brave outside of music. To be myself outside of music.
“Yeah, I hear what you mean.” He nodded and I scooted over on the bench. He sat beside me. Thigh to thigh. I liked that he didn’t say anything else about the song but cut to the chase. He was immediately in work mode which was nice because it was how I operated too, and I appreciated it.
Mr. O’Connor immediately started playing my song by memory and he had only heard me play at once and that was mere seconds ago. Playing a song by ear was wildly impressive to me. He started to sing out a wordless melody, a sweet angelic hum that had traces of darkness coating the edges of his voice.
As he sung various notes while playing my song I became completely submerged in the handsomeness he was creating. A perfume so strong I was loosing the air inside my chest. Mr. O’Connor was the moment between breaths. You breathe in and then breathe out, and he was that tiny immeasurable moment in-between subtle intakes of air. I can’t explain the feeling but it was intoxicating.
I had known him for little over an hour, but it was like seeing for the first time or hearing the orchestra for the first time. A symphony of wonderment, as if the notes that echoed in my veins were meant to sing for him and only him. Something loud and quiet, wild and broken, beautiful and damned. It was in this exact moment that I was about to free-fall with someone I couldn’t free-fall with. I was knee-deep in the quick sand with no way of getting out. Trouble was in the air, I could smell it.
Mr. O’Connor paused and looked at me, “You know I’m not sure if it’s the music as much as it is your voice.”
“What, you don’t think my voice fits the song? Do you think that’s why it sounds so off?” I have been told that before. Some voices weren’t meant for certain songs, even if you were the one writing them.
“No, I don’t think you are using you voice correctly for this song. You are going too high. You start too low and gradually get too high.”
I sighed, which made my lips make a motor-boat noise and a little spittle escape. I quickly wiped my face embarrassed. “I don’t sing low very well.” I admitted.
“I think you can, echo me.” He started singing low notes and I mimicked him. Not hitting anything exactly right. Me moved to straddle the piano bench and I copied him. We were face to face, knee to knee and my soul felt like it escaped my body and molded into a bubble that surrounded us. Trapping us in my world. Our world. He began tapping out a beat, hands on thighs and after a minute I replicated the beat. 123…4…123…4…12…34…123…4….12…34…
It went on like that for a while. Singing notes in form of oooh’s and ahh’s. I was slowly getting it so I began to sing my lyrics to see how they sounded in a lower tone. It was a challenge for me but I tried it anyways, “Burry me deep inside; your broken place…” Mr. O’Connor started to harmonize with me and the song was sounding much better.
Without warning I jumped off the benched and screamed, “Yahtzee!” Mr. O’Connor let out a small laugh before I continued, “This song needs to be sung by two people not one. Yes lower is perfect but the lyrics need a stronger story, two perspectives.” I squealed, like a piglet. I quickly changed the words and sat back down, knee to knee with Mr. O’Connor again. I laid the sheet between us and started the beat again, once we were on the same wave length we started the revised version on my song:
Across my chest
You begin to cover me
Dirt to skin
(He Echos ‘Dirt to Skin’)
Until I’m six feet under
(Together ‘six feet under’)
Burry me deep inside
your broken place…
And I see her
And I see him
She is in my place
He is in my place
And I love you
Beat me until I’m blue
“Damn, ya’ll sound delicious!” Hollis shouts over us, I hadn’t even heard her enter the room and by the look on Mr. O’Connor’s face he hadn’t either. That moment was ours and ours alone.
Mr. O’Connor stood up and smoothed his palms over his pants and extended a hand to Hollis, “Nice, to meet you, I’m Mr. O’Connor.”
Hollis grinned wickedly, “Well, hello Mr. O’Connor, I’m Hollis.” She said his name slowly, deliberately. It was a fantasy of hers to have a fling with a teacher. I would always tell her that, that was a gross over-used fantasy but after my moment with Mr. O’Connor I could completely understand where she was coming from. It was as if I felt a gravitational pull towards him.
“You must be the Hollis that is working with Ophelia?” Mr. O’Connor said as a question.
“The one and only.” She replied flirtatiously. I rolled my eyes from behind the piano.
“Good, I expect you to check in with my daily and I want a soundbite on my desk every Friday. Have I made myself clear.” He said sternly trying to nip her flirty wit in the bud.
“Very.” Hollis said biting her lower lip and giving him the once over. Mr. O’Connor scrubbed his hand over his faced, clearly annoyed. “Are you ready to go to Mama’s?” Hollis continued turning her attention towards me. Mama’s wasn’t either one of our parents’ houses but a pizza joint on the edge of town. We went every Monday. It was the one day a week I devoted to her, the rest of the week you could count on me sitting right here until I was kicked out.
I began to gather my things, “Thank you Mr. O’Connor, that was very helpful. The song is drastically different from when we first started.”
“I agree, find someone too sing it with by Friday.” He said matter-of-factly.
“Umm…can’t you just sing it with me?” I asked hopefully.
“I’m sure every guy in this school would love the opportunity to sing with you.” He replied in a way that seemed like he was asking me about my boyfriend history.
Our eye contact didn’t break, I adjusted the strap on my messenger bag. “Hardly.” I whispered embarrassed.
“You’ll find somebody.” He smiled, that wonderland smile again, but this time there was a deep hue to it that seemed to belong only to me. I swallowed hard and allowed myself to smile back at him hoping I didn’t look ridiculous When his saw my smile his deepened and something flashed across his eyes. Something with high alarm like a sky-diver without a parachute.
Once we were out of the classroom and into the hallway Hollis grabbed my arm, “Oh my frickin’ goodness! That was intense!”
“The sexual tension between you two, I could have cut it with a meat cleaver!”
“Your imagination is steep and uncivilized, Hollis.”
****Next section will be posted 01/08/20 at 6am****
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