Hey guys! As always thank you so much for taking the time to read these chapters. It literally mean so much to me. Like millions of other people I strive one day to have a book published. Nothing would make me happier then having the chance to put a little more creativity in the world.
I know I need an editor…I am HORRIBLE in that regard, however hard I do try. At any rate, thank you for following me, sharing my posts, and giving me your feedback, it is always VERY helpful.
Get caught up before diving into Chapter 10
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter One)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter Two)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 3-5)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 6)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter Seven)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 8)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 9)
The next morning I was serving Nana scrambled eggs and ham when she asked, “Is everything ok with Steven?”
“Things are fine. I am actually going to one of his shows tonight.” I said getting her a fork and napkin. “Why do you ask?”
“There is sadness in your eyes and sadness like that usually means boy trouble.” She held out her mug and I gave her coffee a refill before taking a seat at the table to join her.
“Do you ever feel like you got married to young?” I asked and she looked at me apprehensively.
“Honey, did Steven propose?” Nana asked looking a little pale.
“No, no, no…nothing like that,” I said laughing. Nana looked so relieved that It made me laugh even harder, “Geez Nana, I’m only seventeen.” After the words came out I immediately felt hypocritical. Archer’s words about being too young were starting to make sense to me. He was ready for marriage, kids, a dog named Cliff, and a white picket fence but I wasn’t ready for any of those this. My eyes stung suddenly with sadness and the eggs I was eating turned into acid inside my mouth, burning their way down my throat.
“What’s wrong?” Nana reached out and gave my forearm a squeeze.
“Nothing,” I said forcing more eggs down. I realized then, what Archer already figured out, we found each other, but at the wrong time.
“You better hurry up dear or you will be late for school.” Nana said, our conversation already forgotten. I stood up and collected our dishes then gave Nana a quick kiss on the cheek before saying goodbye.
Archer usually spent my independent study period with Hollis on Fridays which meant that I only had to manage two hours of seeing him today. I wasn’t sure how to feel around him, let alone act. Was I mad, hurt, upset? I honestly did not know. Processing what happened yesterday was nearly impossible because it didn’t seem like it really happened at all.
Once school ended I was eager to pack up my things and get out of there. For the first time in God knows how long I didn’t feel like practicing. Which was good because I was driving with Steven three towns over to go to his show. Hollis and Archer walked into the classroom right as I was leaving. Archer tried to make eye contact all throughout his lecture but I didn’t bother looking up. I still didn’t know how to feel and being angry or upset seemed like the best emotion to choice. Then again I could roll the dice and land on sadness.
“Hey girl!” Hollis said putting her arm around my shoulder.
“Things are sounding much better Ophelia,” Archer said walking towards his desk.
“Ready to go?” I said to Hollis ignoring Archer completely.
“Yeah, sure.” She said leading me into the hallway. “You don’t want to stay here and practice?”
“No, Steven is taking me to his show tonight.”
“But, I said we didn’t have to leave here until four. That gave you an hour of practice.” Steven said coming up from behind me, wrapping his arms around my stomach giving me a kiss on the neck.
I jumped, “Steven! Frick nuggets! Why are you always sneaking up on me? I swear you are the most stealth person I know.” I rammed my elbow into his stomach playfully which only made him grip me tighter.
“It’s all part of my charm.” He whispered into my ear, then sucking on the lobe.
“Ok you two, save something for later.” Polly, Steven’s bandmate said. I hadn’t noticed him either.
“Agreed.” Hollis chimed in.
“Anyway,” I began, “Maybe we can all grab a slice before we leave town? Hollis are you in?” What was I doing? An impromptu get together was not like me at all.
Hollis noticed my odd behavior because she gave me a funny look, “Oh, I don’t want to intrude.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t be intruding.” Polly said giving her a come-get-me grin.
We ended up getting a pizza at Mama’s with Steven, his bandmates, and Hollis, before driving down to the Bitterroot for the show. Hollis drove with Polly and the others in the van while Steven and I took his truck. The show was in an empty warehouse in the middle of nowhere. Apparently the venue was called Forgotten Hills and it was under the radar. A party palace for teenagers and bands to gather. I had never seen Steven perform before so I was excited to watch him but I definitely wasn’t thrilled about being in a huge crowd of people.
There were around two hundred people when we arrived and not all of them were teens. Steven never let go of my hand as he led me into the crowd. It was a little after five and the sky was already growing dark do to the time of the year. Two people were on stage now playing some sort of hiphop music.
“This is Flava Flav.” Steven said into my ear as he pulled me towards him by my hips.
“They are as awful as their name!” I yelled back which made Steven smile. I wrapped my arms around his neck and began to swing my hips and pushed myself against him. Due to being in dance class, I was becoming a better dancer and I was already used to dancing with Steven so I didn’t feel uncomfortable. We danced for a long time, grinding, laughing, spinning, smiling, kissing, until it was time for his folk-style rock band to join the stage.
Hollis had been dancing with Polly so we were able to met up before the boys left to go “back stage.” Which was a black curtain hanging to the left of the stage.
“You and Steven looked good out there.” Hollis said.
I rolled my eyes, “You and Polly seem to be getting along.”
“He’s pretty cool.” Hollis smiled.
“Not interested?” I asked.
“Not sure yet, I’m young and I have got life left to live and no time to waste.” She said with a laugh. Her words hit me harder then she could ever know. Here I was doing a very teenager-like thing and yet all I could feel was disoriented. Was this what being youthful meant? Is this what Archer meant by us being in two separate stages in life?
“How are ya’ll doin’ tonight!” Polly yelled into the microphone taking me by surprise. Steven looked so cute sitting on his stool behind his drums. He was wearing scuffed up jeans, converse, and a black long-sleeved shirt. His hair was askew and he blew me a quick kiss from wear I was standing in front of stage left. It made me laugh. Steven really was a great guy.
The crowd cheered before Polly continued, “We are True North! Enjoy the show!” He yelled before Steven kicked off their opening song with a drumbeat. I cheered and clapped all throughout there set because they sounded so good. They reminded me of Mumford and Sons.
Nine songs later Polly announced, “Alright guys this is our last song of the evenin’ and it means a great deal to us.” He then began playing the song I wrote for them, Heartland. I had never seen one of my songs performed before, not like this anyways, and it was totally mind blowing. The response of the crowd, the way Polly closed his eyes as he sang the notes. He sang with such emotion that you would have thought he wrote the song himself. It was then that I realized the power of your voice. You could write all day long but in the end you had to sing it like it was the last note you’d ever sing. That is what I needed to do for my album. They finished the song and tore down quickly for the next band.
“How did we sound?” Steven asked coming out from behind the curtain ten minutes later. The band playing now was heavy metal so I motioned for him to head toward the back.
Once we got to the back wall of the warehouse Steven didn’t hesitate to slam me against it and kiss me. His mouth opened as he pushed his tongue inside me and then put one hand on my hip and the other right below my bra line. Steven pressed himself against me and started to grind against my hips. His mouth moved from mine as he trailed his lips down my jaw line.
“Steven…Steven…” I said giving him a firm shove.
“Don’t worry it’s way too crowded in here for people to notice.” He said raising the hand that was by my bra line to cup my breast. His lips were below my ear and sucking.
“Steven! Not here ok?” I said firmer and giving him another push. After what happened last night with Archer all of this suddenly felt so wrong. But it wasn’t like I could tell him I kissed another guy. Not only that but I wasn’t even sure how to feel about anything right now, let alone my relationship with Steven. Archer didn’t want date me. He made that clear. So should I date Steven even though I had stronger feelings for someone else? Someone I could never have? Where did that leave me? I really liked Steven but did that mean I should stay with him and let it play out or did I move on? But move on to who? Honestly, I felt so confused and conflicted.
“Sorry,” He said breathing hard hunching over to rest his forehead on mine.
“It’s ok and to answer your question you guys sounded awesome.” I reached out and grabbed his hand, intertwining my fingers with his while looking up and into his eyes.
Steven beamed, “Thanks.” He pecked me on the lips none-aggressively.
“Thanks for singing the song I wrote.” I smiled up at him.
“Yeah, I thought you would like that.” Steven said with a huge grin on his face.
“Do you mind if we head back now?” I asked.
“Sure, let me tell the others.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“No not at all if it means more alone time with you.” He winked before sauntering off. He came back a couple minutes later, “I offered Hollis a ride back but she said she wanted to hang out some more. I think Polly really likes her.” He said taking my hand and leading me outside.
“Well tell him to not get his hopes up. Hollis doesn’t want a relationship right now.” I said laughing. Once we got to Stevens truck he opened the door for me and helped me inside.
After he started the engine he leaned over and kissed me again, “I’m so glad you came tonight.”
Steven pushed me against the window and pressed his lips to mine. I let him kiss me for awhile but I was fairly unresponsive. “What’s wrong?” He finally asked.
“I don’t know.” I lied.
He scrunched his face together, “Did I do something?”
“No, I’m just tired. It’s been a long week.”
The next hour passed in silence as he drove me home. Once at Nana’s house, Steven walked me to the door before giving me a hug and a quick kiss goodnight. He started walking away but then paused, “You can talk to me you know. About anything, I’d listen.”
“I know and I’m sorry…” I trailed off not sure how to explain.
“Are you breaking up with me or something?”
“No.” I answered quickly but then I wondered if that was true or not. I stared at Steven for a long time contemplating what I should do. The fact was, I cheated on him and If I could tell him, I would. The other fact was that Archer didn’t want to be with me and probably never would. So why couldn’t I keep perusing Steven? Someone who did want to be with me.
I walked up to him, wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him with everything I had in me. Willing it to be enough. Steven smiled down at me before pulling me into his chest and wrapping me in a hug. He knew something was off about me but didn’t press any further for details. I clutched on to the back of his coat fighting back my tears. I needed to get over Archer and embrace what was right in front of me.
Ophelia avoided me for the next two weeks. She was the last to arrive to class, the first to leave, spend all of her independent study working with Hollis in the studio. Or she would play in Mr. Sans keyboard room, which I knew she hated. I missed her all the time and I often woke up in the middle of the night dreaming of the moment we had. What she felt like against my skin, the lavender on her lips, the moans she made.
The house was lonely and dark. I hated being there. I swear I could hear whispers of my childhood in the hallway, the smells of the meals my mom used to cook, the laughter in the family room, and everything else that built me into the man I am.
Thanksgiving was just around the corner and I dreaded it. I wasn’t sure I could handle all the memories. When I was home I could feel all the love that had once filled the space linger in the air like perfume. I figured I would travel somewhere otherwise I would be eating pizza and drinking too much Jim Beam. Which, of course, I was already. I had never been much of drinker because my dad always told me that you needed to be the one to control the substance and not the other way around. He said that anything addictive wasn’t worth over indulging in because it would shape you into a person you didn’t want to become. My existence seemed void and hapless.
I had just finished my lecture and I could see Ophelia trying to hurry out of the room just like she had the last two weeks. “Ophelia, a word please,” I said in my best teacher voice. A few kids cooed looking at her like she was about to receive detention. I hated thinking that I had that kind of power over her. Knowing I could kick her out of the class, fail her, or send her to see Principal Bain, was disturbing to think about. It made me feel like a pedophile.
She paused and looked at me expectantly but not daring to move any closer to me. She was standing halfway between my desk and the piano. “You haven’t checked in, in two weeks and I need to know the progress on your album.” I said clearing my throat.
I few kids still lingered watching us. “You know I’m good for it.” She said with a smug tone and started towards the door again.
“Ophelia if you don’t check in I will be forced to take the necessary repercussions.” My eye contact never wavered. It was the first time we had looked into each others eyes since that night two weeks ago.
“What, like, fail me Mr. O’Connor?” Her voice was dark and the few kids who still lingered looked at her that she had gone mental. I was certain that she had never back talked a teacher before. She was acting immature and it bothered me greatly. She had the right to be mad but to cause a scene was completely unnecessary.
“I will have to tell Principal Bain that you are not cooperating with me and he will likely send you to detention.” I was using my stern teacher voice and I hated it. I looked at the students who were watching us and I cleared my throat in a way that suggested they better get out of here before they were sent to Bain’s office.
Once we were alone I walked toward Ophelia and put my hand on her shoulder, “Please don’t act like this.”
“Like what?” She snapped pulling her shoulder away.
“Like a child.”
“Well, thats what I am aren’t I?”
I stared into her eyes and I saw the Grand Canyon. The hurt wedged between the cliffs was unmistakable, “You aren’t a child, you are a young woman, “ I said.
She rubbed her hands over her face, “You’re right and I am sorry. I guess…I figured if I was mad at you all of this would be easier.” Ophelia waved her hands between us.
“But it’s not?”
“No, I can’t be mad at you when I understand why you pulled away.”
“I had to,” My voice was a sad whisper.
“I know,” She whispered back.
“Ophelia, I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too.”
“Just because we can’t be together romantically doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed, “You’re pulling the ‘let’s just be friends card’, really?”
I laughed too because when you put it that way it did sound fatuous. “Ophelia, I am your teacher. Technically I am not even aloud to be your friend. What I am offering here is for us to put the student/teacher thing aside and act like equals.”
“What would that even look like?”
“We would have to keep it a secret until you graduated because otherwise it would look bad but I want the chase to get to know you unfiltered. Like the night we talked in my car? I want you in my life but in a platonic sense.” What I offering wasn’t the best idea but it was a middle ground and I felt like that was fair. Besides I was going to go mad if she kept on ignoring me. Ophelia was one of the few reasons, if not the only one, for my smile these days.
“I would like that,” She said a soft smile on her lips.
“Ophelia, I am so sorry for disrespecting you the other night.”
“You didn’t disrespect me, I wanted it too.”
“Maybe you did but if I hadn’t allowed my selfish desires out then I wouldn’t have caused you pain. I didn’t protect your heart the way I should have. They way I want too because you deserve a man who honors you.”
“Ok, then I’m sorry for not guarding your heart too. If you weren’t protecting my feelings then I had no regard for yours either. We got lost in the moment, in each other, and maybe that was a mistake, but we are only human.”
“Ok,” I smiled at her. I loved how wise she just sounded and it meant so much to me that she felt the need to apologize for not respecting me even though I was the one to blame.
“Shall we,” I gestured towards the piano.
She played all her new songs for me and then she showed me how she revised the others.
“You are sounding much better,” I said honestly.
“Thanks, I kind of hand an epiphany a couple weeks ago at Steven’s show.” I tried not to cringe at the sound of his name. I had no right to cringe.
“Has any ever told you, you sing like Lady Gaga.” I said needing to change the subject. The last thing I wanted to talk about right now was her boyfriend.
She made a face and then did a perfect impression of Poker Face, “Yeah, I don’t think so. Lady Gaga, really? Archer, come on.”
She was laughing and I was too, “No seriously you sound like her when she sings he more serious stuff like Dope or Million Reasons but with a Lana Del Rey flare in your style choices.”
“I’m not sure if that is a compliment or an insult,” She teased but her grin was huge.
“Compliment,” I clarified and then, “what is your favorite song by another artist?”
“I’ll tell you but you have to promise not to laugh,” She scolded me with her eyes and I made a motion of zipping my lips shut. “Ok,” she said and then started playing Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons.
I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing, hard. She stopped playing and gave me a light shove, “You said you wouldn’t laugh!”
“Lady Gaga, really? After all the crap you just gave me!” We were both laughing now. I started playing the same song to encourage to play again.
“You know the song?” Ophelia asked.
“Of course,” I started playing again and this time she played along side me.
“What about you?” She asked when we finished playing. Her face was glowing and I am pretty sure mine was too. When we played together, magic happened and the universe shifted.
I started playing Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable.
“What seriously?!” She said giggling,
I stopped playing, “No, not seriously.” We both laughed harder and tears were actually coming out of her eyes.
“Ok, in all seriousness, let me know if you know this song.” I said calming down a bit. This is the most fun I’ve hand in a long, long, time.
“Wait, is this your actual favorite?”
“A favorite, yes,” I said and then started playing Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter. I hope she understood what I was saying without me having to say it. I’ll admit it wasn’t the best song for me for me to choose but it has been the number one song on my playlist recently.
To my surprise she starting sing alongside me with more passion that I have ever heard from her voice before. Which only made me sing with everything I had too.
“I can’t take my eyes off you
I can’t take my eyes…
Did I say that I loathe you?
Did I say that I want to
Leave it all behind?
I can’t take my mind off you
I can’t take my mind off you…”
The song ended and I looked into her eyes feeling more emotionally connected to her then I had to anyone else in my entire life.
“It’s a beautiful song. A tale of unrequited love,” She said meeting my hungry gaze.
“That’s on way of looking at it,” I breathed.
“What’s the other way of looking at it?”
“It’s a song about a man who desperately loves a woman he could never have.” I swallowed hard and we stared into the span of each other’s faces.
“How are you doing with everything?” She asked changing the subject.
I let out a sigh, “It’s lonely, to be honest. The house is so lifeless, yet it feels haunted.”
“I get that, lives once lived. The memories in that house have to be rich with nostalgia.”
“They are and it’s eating me up inside. I started packing things, donating items, and selling a few things. I am meeting with an agency next week to help me rent it out.”
“Why are you renting it?”
“I wont be here after this year because this job was temporary. I am going to have to look elsewhere for schools with open positions. I don’t want to sell it because it’s my family home and I hope to raise my children in that house one day, but I can’t afford the upkeep if I won’t be living in it.”
“That makes sense, so you are boxing everything up and finding your own place?”
“I wont rent it out until the end of the school year but I am starting to clear everything out now. Because there is a lot of junk I don’t want. Plus I’ll need to do some repairs before I rent it out.”
“Sound’s like a lot of work,” She said.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Do you need help?”
I smiled at her, “That would be great.”
“I’ll come over Saturday.”
LET’S STAY CONNECTED