“So tell me what happened after I dropped you off at Steven’s house?” Hollis said dunking a fry into a mound of ketchup.
We were sitting by the lockers in an abandoned wing of the school. I shouldn’t say abandoned because it was still used, but it was always deserted. It was the schools science wing. Do to the fact that this was a performing arts school the students here tended to take there required science classes and then scurry away as fast as they could. Hollis and I always ate here because I hated crowds and I much preferred the quiet over the crazy lunchroom scene. Hollis always grabbed whatever they were serving in there but I always packed my own lunch.
I laid my head back against the lockers, “Can’t we talk about the work we did in the studio on Saturday?”
“We can,” She said, “But I’ll just ask about Steven later. I’m not letting you off the hook.”
“Well we watched Con Air,” I started, “because he had never seen it and I told him it was a nineties classic.”
“Plus, Nicholas Cage is a stone cold fox in that movie.” Hollis said with a mouth full of hamburger.
I rolled my eyes, “Once the movie was done Steven and I starting kissing, like really kissing… and oh my goodness, I had no idea kissing could be so much fun.” I admitted. Hollis and I had no secrets. Sometimes it felt like we knew each other too well. During our Sophomore year everyone assumed we were a couple until Hollis started dating Phillip. They only dated for a couple of months before they went all the way. Once they did, Phillip broke up with her. Hollis was careful the next time around but that boyfriend ended up cheating on her multiple times. Last year she was with Marco, but when he went off to college this past August they decided to split ways. He was Hollis’ first love and when he ended it because of distance, she agreed it was for the best. I knew Hollis was hurting more then she let on. If there was anyone I could confide in about relationships it was her.
She dropped another fry into her ketchup and offered it to me. I leaned forward and opened my mouth. Hollis popped the fry in and I began too chew, “Who are you and what have you done with my Ophelia?” She said smiling. Hollis, also had a reputation at Willow’s Edge. I didn’t know to much about it, other then what she’s told me, which was that she was the school flirt. I knew she partied a lot after Marco left and had her share of fun times this past summer, but that didn’t make her a skank. Not in my opinion anyway.
“I don’t know,” I started, “after that first kiss in Steven’s car I feel like I’m hooked. How did I go this long without getting to know boys?” I asked teasingly, offering Hollis one of my carrots but she shook her head no. I had already told her all about Steven, graduating early, and my required dance class. Which I had to admit was steadily growing on me.
“Ok, so your making out and then…” She looked at me suggestively.
“Oh my gosh, no Hollis! Why does every one think I am having sex all the sudden?” I said exasperated.
“Wait!? Hold up, whose everyone?” She said turning towards me, giving me her undivided attention.
“Steven’s mom and Mr. O’Connor.” I said quietly.
“What do they have to do with it?” She asked confused. I then, explained how after she dropped me off I ran into Archer at Steven’s door because he turned out to be his mom’s big date. I then explained that when they came home they saw Steven and I in a compromising position.
“What do you mean by a compromising position?” Hollis asked suspiciously.
“Well, when Suzanna opened the door she saw my sweater on the floor and Steven mostly on top me.” Gah, even telling Hollis, was humiliating.
“Mostly on top of you! And why was your sweater off?” She wore a look of pure amusement. Her blonde hair was stuck to her thin lips and yet she made no effort to pull it away.
“We fell asleep.”
“You feel asleep?”
“With you sweater off?”
“I had a tank top on.” I argued.
“But, this is you Ophelia. You are the most conservative person I know. Hell, you always wear clothes that could fit me and I’m double your size in both height and weight.” She said sternly.
“Frick Hollis, calm down,” I took off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. “It got a little hot and heavy thats all and when It became too much, too soon, I pulled away. I was laying on my side with my head resting on his chest. His head was resting on top of mine. Our legs were wrapped around each others and Stevens arms were around me. Yes, were close but weren’t doing anything bad. It was so cozy and warm that we fell asleep.” Why was everyone on my case?
“You must really like him.” She stated.
I did really like him, but I think I enjoyed acting my age for once. Feeling young and seeing the world outside of music. I can’t explain it but I felt free to be me. A different, bolder me. Archer was older and because of that it guaranteed he was more experienced then me. I knew it wasn’t right but I wanted to experience Steven. Experience life so I didn’t seem so young and innocent. Maybe it wasn’t logical but I felt as if I gained more life experience Archer would be more interested in me. It sounded juvenile and messed up even to me but I wanted Archer to like me, want me, and care for me the way I cared for him. “I guess so.” I finally said.
“Well, he seems really smitten with you Ophelia. If this is just fun to you then you should stop it before it’s too late. It’s not right to play games with people’s hearts.” Hollis said.
She was a lot of things but she was usually right about things like this. If only because one too many boys had used her and tossed her out like trash. Despite the flirtatious show she put on for everyone else, I knew that she was actually a very fragile person.
Is that what I was doing? Leading Steven on? Archer made it sound like Steven was the one leading me on. At this point, it felt as if the edges of who I was and who I wanted to be were muddled. Was I growing up or taking two steps backward? Hollis didn’t ask me what happened after Steven and I were ‘caught’, and I was grateful because I really didn’t want to lie to her.
Ophelia was settled into her bench molding into the atmosphere as if she belonged there and nowhere else. She was the kind of wonderful that made my pulse run a marathon. I hadn’t seen her settle into her groove because as soon as class was over I headed to the studio to meet with Hollis. She had Ophelia come in and lay more instruments down on her tracks this past Saturday and I was hoping that would help her album. Unfortunately, it only made a small dent of improvement. I was very impressed that Ophelia could play so many instruments, it was as if music was her actual being and her body was a mere shell. A host to the greatness inside her.
She looked now and saw me watching her from across the room and gave me a smile that reminded me of Alice finding wonderland. Ophelia had a way of making me feel discovered and I didn’t even know I was lost. I walked towards her and she scooted over, making room for me on the bench.
“How did it go with Hollis?” She sounded nervous and she had the right to be.
“Not good.” I said honestly. She frowned but kept her eyes on me. “Listen Ophelia, if you want to present this to other artists you have to give them an album they want to listen too.”
“What do you mean?”
“The music you added on Saturday helped but there is still something missing. Listening to all the songs in row is almost painful and its not because it isn’t good. It is more that it is boring and laking edge.” My words felt harsh but I didn’t sugarcoat.
To my surprise she said, “I know, but I don’t know how to fix it.”
I found the way she handled constructive criticism very impressive. Like she wanted to grow and learn. Usually when I broke down the harsh truth to my students they got all snippy and teary eyed. “First I think you need to get a band in there with you singing your songs. It would fell more collaborative and lively. When people play music, whether it’s the tuba or the flute they have there own style of doing it. Bringing other people in would stylize the sound and brighten it a bit.” I suggested.
“I guess that makes sense. What else?” She asked.
“I only have one other thought and its about your lyrics.” I said tentatively. Critiquing other peoples lyrics was like judging their private thoughts.
“Whats wrong with my lyrics?” She said, sounding defensive for the first time.
“Well, let me ask this, where is the inspiration for your lyrics coming from?”
“Mostly from what I observe from other people.” She said shyly.
“Then thats your problem. You need to draw from somewhere deep inside you and find more rawness, more grit, to your songs. It will help them from sounding surface level.”
“How am I supposed to do that when I have no life experience?” She said sounding a bit broken.
Throughout this whole conversation she never broke eye contact with me, it was extremely captivating. Every time I looked into her eyes I became an astronaut floating insider her orbit. “You’ve lived a lot more then you think, Ophelia.” I whispered, finding it hard to talk correctly when she looked at me so seriously. My eyes dropped to the pout in her lips and I involuntarily rubbed my lips together. She nodded finally looking away, lost in her thoughts. I guess I really did need to be discovered after all because at the moment I felt like someone was finding me for the first time.
Ophelia began humming and pressing a key here and there. I sat and watched her completely transfixed in the melody of her. She didn’t ask me to move and I didn’t volunteer.
I wanted this.
I wanted her.
I wanted us.
Sucking in a huge gulp of air I did something I shouldn’t have done. I reached out and tucked a fly-away curl, one that escaped her braid, behind her ear. I let my hand linger on the side of her face as she slowly turned to look at me. When her eyes met mine she realized that I never stopped watching her. Ophelia moved her head so that my hand cupped her cheek and I let my thumb rub her bottom lip. Her face was so small in my hand and her skin was softer then soapstone.
The spell was broken by my phone ringing in my pocket. It was Suzanna which was odd because she was my night nurse. Why was she calling me? I answered quickly, “Hello?”
“You need to come home,” she said. My heart collapsed and I raced out of the room without saying goodbye to Ophelia.
Within fifteen minutes I was through the front door of my childhood home. Which was saying a lot because I lived thirty minutes outside of town. I sped, ran stop signs and prayed to God I wouldn’t get pulled over. I rushed up the stairs and into my mothers room to find her in the middle of a coughing fit. Blood was oozing out of her mouth, I quickly walked over to her and held her in my arms. As the coughing continued, my shirt became saturated by her blood.
“Mom! I love you. God! Mom!” I semi-yelled while rocking her. This couldn’t be happening. Not yet. Please, not yet.
After a while, her coughing quieted and her breathing slowed. I kept telling her to relax and go to sleep, that I was here, she was safe now, and that I wasn’t going to leave her. Her eyes opened for e brief moment and she slowly blinked three times. I told her I loved her too and she fell to rest on my chest.
Two hours later her breathing was pretty much none-existent and by four am she was gone completely. Until Suzanna declared time of death I hadn’t even noticed she was in the room with us. The next few hours were a blur. All I could see was black as I gripped my moms lifeless body in my arms.
When they took her away I sobbed, disoriented and fractured, clutching myself. I knew it wasn’t manly but the hollow hurt etched inside my being felt like tiny shards of glass prickling every millimeter of my skin. I was expecting the end and I knew she was in a better place now but the sudden realization that I was alone in this world hit me like a cargo truck. I knew I would be a alone but I didn’t know it would feel like this. So empty and void.
Suzanna stayed with me for a while but I was unresponsive, sitting on my moms bed for what felt like days, trying to process that she was gone. I was grateful that it was Suzanna that was here with me now though. Apparently she came into work a couple hours earlier then usual because the day nurse had an appointment she couldn’t miss.
After awhile, Suzanna led me into the bathroom and told me to shower while she made me something warm to eat. I agreed because I was completely covered in my moms blood, but no amount of warm food was going to dull this burning in my chest.
Seconds, minutes, hours, days past and the loneliness in my chest was starting to become so massive that it took everything I had in me to inhale. I didn’t go to work and didn’t bother answering the few calls I did receive. Which were mostly from Suzanna, who liked to check in on me.
The truth was that there was only one other person I wanted to see, but to depend on her during a time like this wasn’t right. Nor was it healthy. I needed to find a way to grieve without dragging an innocent Ophelia down with me. She didn’t deserve that.
Six days after my mother’s death I was sitting on the couch starring at two urns. When my mom got sick again she requested that she be cremated like my father had been. She also asked me to travel to their hometown in Ireland and spread their ashes. She wanted them be laid to rest in the same place they were born.
The house was as silent as my barely beating heart. Suzanna and follow teachers came to check on me after three days of having substitutes rumors flew. They would bring me food, lots of food. For whatever reason, when someone dies people always bring food. Even though I was only one person I had enough for a feast. My larger chest freezer was crammed so full I was afraid it was going to collapse. At least I wouldn’t have to cook, or attempt to cook, for a month.
I sighed deeply and walked into the kitchen were my bag was packed and my passport and plane ticket where on the counter. I needed to call a cab to take me to the airport soon. The ashes weren’t going to spread themselves.
The door bell sounded.
I rubbed my palms along the thighs of my pants trying to ease the sweat. What now? Please no more food.
I forced myself to smile when I pulled open the door.
“Hi.” She said.
“Ophelia? What are you doing here?” I asked shocked but equally as grateful. I sighed deeply and for the first time in a week I smiled my real smile. She was the one person I wanted to see most right now and the only reason I considered going back to work. I was worried, however, that if I did, I would do something I would regret later.
Thank you all for reading this! I will post another health/beauty tip on Monday and chapter 9 next Wednesday! (catch up on the other chapters in the tags below!)
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