“We weren’t having sex.” I explained apologetically. The silence that was dragging out inside Archer’s vintage Mini Cooper was killing me.
“You don’t have to explain anything to me.” His voice was cold and distant, his eyes never leaving the road.
He was right I didn’t have to explain anything to him but I felt the need too. When the silence dragged on I asked, “How was your date?”
He glanced at me quickly before turning left, “It wasn’t a date.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” I mumbled which wasn’t exactly the best thing to say because his hands gripped tighter at ten and two o’clock.
“Not that it’s your business,” he started, knuckles turning white, and giving me a quick glance before continuing, “but, she is taking care of my mom and I asked her out. We enjoyed a nice night but it didn’t mean anything. Suzanna is just a friend.”
He was right this wasn’t my business nor was this a conversation we should be having, “Does she know that?”
“Yes, I made my intentions very clear at the end of the night. I am not leading her on in any way.”
“Oh ok.” I said awkwardly. This whole conversation was unnecessary and bizarre, but I was grateful for his honesty.
“Is Steven your boyfriend now?” He said turning right and slowing down to twenty-five.
“I’m not sure.” I looked out the window catching glimpses of the moon between the pines.
“You shouldn’t being doing things like that with boys without a commitment Ophelia. You deserve better.” Their was an edge in his voice.
“Things like what?” I didn’t like were this was going.
“Whatever the hell you two were doing!” He snapped taking another left onto my street.
“We weren’t having sex!” I snapped back.
“Thats not what it looked like, I saw you putting your shirt back on Ophelia.” He said in a lower tone but his voice just as gritty.
“You saw me put my sweater back on. Geez, we made out a little and fell asleep. It’s what people do! They make out, hook-up, and have a little fun.” My voice sharp with annoyance.
“Not everyone does that, Ophelia.” He said in a concerned tone.
My face scrunched together as he pulled into my drive, “Why are you acting like my father?” This conversation was so beyond the realm of what was appropriate to talk about with a teacher.
“Your right, I’m sorry.” He looked at me now with an expression that seemed full of angst.
“Thank you for driving me home.” I smiled and reached for the door.
“Tell your dad to call me and I’ll explain why I was alone with you in my car late on a Sunday night.”
I let out a small laugh, “I doubt he’ll notice. How did you know where I lived anyways?”
“Julie told me you were her neighbor when she prepped me on all her students.”
“You remembered that?”
“She talked very highly of you.” He smiled.
“Yeah, I love Mrs. W it’s hard not having her around senior year.”
“What, I’m not good enough for you?” He teased.
“It’s not that.” I laughed before continuing, “we were just close, that’s all. I’ve had her since freshman year and she is the one that helped me get into Willows Edge.”
“Yet, you still call her Mrs. W?”
“Force of habit,” I said shrugging.
“So where is your dad?” He asked turning towards me, his back resting against the drivers side window.
Shouldn’t I have been getting out of his car at this point? Why was he continuing this conversation? Not that I minded. I really enjoyed my evening with Steven but I could sit here talking to Archer all night and not be bothered in the slightest. “He passed away when I was twelve.” I said looking beyond his head and into the night.
“A work related accident.”
“Where did he work?”
“He was a musician. So by work related accident I mean he overdosed on coke. Cliché right?” I said finally meeting his eyes. I couldn’t believe how open I was being but If I was honest with myself I wanted Archer to know everything about me.
“Were you and your dad close?” He asked.
“Yes, my brother, Leo, and I lived with him up until he died, because our parents were never married. My dad had full custody of us. He wasn’t a bad guy but he did mess around with drugs from time to time. He wasn’t a junkie though. I’m not sure if his overdose was an accident or a suicide.” I said honestly.
“That sucks.” He said equally as honest.
“Yeah, it does.” I gave him a soft smile and met his gaze again.
“My dad died my senior year of high school, congestive heart failure.” He offered.
“That sucks.” I smiled repeating his words back to him. He gave me a light airy smile in return. We sat there like that for a moment, freely looking at each other without the worry of someone noticing. It was like seeing him for the first time.
“What about your mom?” He asked.
“She is a flight attendant and my step-dad is a pilot, they are gone for weeks at a time. So when my dad died, my brother and I were sent to live with my mothers parents. It wasn’t a hard transition because my dad sent us to visit them every time he went on tour. Nana and Pop basically raised us.”
He looked at the house and adjusted in his seat suddenly looking nervous, “Will your grandparents see us? Or your brother?”
The fact that the possibility of being caught caused him to freak out only confirmed that we shouldn’t be out here in his car talking late into the night. “My brother left for college last year and Pop died last July.” The last part about Pop caused a lump to form in my throat. It had been a little over a year since we lost him, but it still stung. “He had a brain aneurism and it burst while he was sleeping one night. It’s just me and Nana now.”
“Wow, must get lonely.”
I gave a causal shrug, “Kelly and mom never miss holidays or birthdays so that counts for something.”
“What about your performances?” He asked.
“Oh, they can’t get the time off in time, but Nana never misses a show.”
“How do they not have time? We already know your senior showcase will be on December fifteenth.”
“But that’s two days before my birthday and they can’t have both days off.” I repeated my moms excuse aloud robotically. I had her all of the excuses down pat. The fact is, she never once bothered to come to my shows and the truth was I would have traded my birthday or a Christmas for her to see me in my element, just once.
“She should still come see you perform, you deserve that.” I liked when he told me I deserved things. It made me want better for myself. I felt special and worthy of something bigger than anything I had ever known when Archer was around me.
“Do you have any siblings?” I asked.
“Nope, only child.” He let out a grievous sigh.
“Why is your mom in hospice care.” I was smart enough to know that having hospice in your home was basically aiding someone into there final resting place.
“Four years ago she was diagnosed with cancer, they found it in her kidneys, and last year she went into remission. Which was great news until four months ago when we discovered that the cancer was back and was spreading quickly throughout her body. Most of her vital organs have shut down, so it won’t be too much longer.” Archer said with a deep sadness in his voice and tears in his eyes. I wanted to reach out and touch him but I wasn’t sure that was the wisest idea. Just sitting here talking was dangerous enough.
“Then you’ll be alone.” I stated the obvious because I was too heartbroken for him to have a filter or to say anything clever.
“Yeah, I will be.” He swallowed and I swear I saw the lump gown down.
We sat in silence for a very long time because I couldn’t touch him, he couldn’t touch me, and it wasn’t right to leave his car after he said something like that to me. So we just sat in his Mini Cooper counting the stars in the big Montana sky.
“So you are from here then?” I said after awhile.
“Born and raised. I graduated form Willows Edge actually.” He looked grateful for the mood shift in the car.
“That’s cool,” and weird, but I didn’t add the last part. Knowing he graduated from the same school I was going to graduate from made me feel so young and I didn’t like feeling young around him. “So why were you in North Dakota?”
“Change of pace.”
I laughed, “A change of pace from Montana?” That was hardly any change at all.
He laughed too, “Yeah, I wanted to live my own life but I didn’t want to be too far away from my mom either.” He admitted.
I liked that he loved his mom so much. Maybe he came across as a mama’s boy but they only had each other after his dad passed. To me it made sense to stick close to those you loved while you could.
“You’re a good son.” I opened the door and began to get out of his car. As much as I didn’t want to go I knew that I needed to. What we were doing wasn’t right even if it was just talking. He was my teacher and there were ethical boundaries we needed to meet.
“Good night, Ophelia.” He gave me a warm smile. His wonderland smile and my heart leapt out of my chest and into his palm.
“Good night, Archer.” I said smiling back, closing the door, leaving my heart inside the car with him.
By God! Ophelia what are you doing to me?
I lay awake in bed thinking about her. I had conflicted emotions running through my head. On one hand I felt so incredibly close to her when we talked in my car. A connection that I have never felt with anyone else before. It was like I had known her my whole life. I wanted more, needed more.
But, on the other hand, I had just taken another woman out only to let her down as gently as possible because it was the right thing to do. Then I see Ophelia with Steven and my heart exploded in anger. She was cavalier about kissing someone who wasn’t a committed boyfriend. That bothered me because it made her seem so young and I couldn’t fault her for that.
She was only a teenage girl. Of course she would make-out with boys. It is what teenagers did and it wasn’t like I could expect her to be or act older then she was. The fact was simple, she was youthful and had life left to live. Which made the way my heart bled for her, unrealistic. If I met her when I was thirty-two and she was twenty-six then maybe it would have all worked out.
As it stood right now, she and I had a chemical connection towards each other that if explored would explode vividly. That could never happen though, tonight proved that. Even if I waited until she was eighteen and graduated she would still be still be on a different level then me. It was a problem as old as time. Falling for the right person at the wrong time.