Get caught up before diving into Chapter 12
- 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)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 10)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 11)
The house was a disgusting mess. Part of me regretted inviting Ophelia over today because the house had become an embarrassing bachelor pad. Dishes were pilling up in the kitchen, the garbage can was overflowing, laundry that needed to be folded was clumped on the couch. Not to mention the half packed boxes of stuff I was setting aside for storage, selling, or donating. Ophelia said she would be here after she was done making breakfast for her Nana, it was now a quarter past seven. I had no clue when she fed her grandmother breakfast or how early she got up. I was not a morning person and I usually slept until ten on Saturdays but I wanted to make sure I was awake and ready when she arrived.
I was so excited about seeing her today that I felt restless. I was going to spend the whole day with her, alone. This was going to feel so good, but I had to keep my physical distance and maintain that friendship line. I knew it was going to be difficult but getting to know her better outside of school was exactly what I needed, what we needed. I knew I was crossing lines by having her over and I could get fired but I owed it to myself to discover what that hypnotic pull was between us. We both needed to know, actually. She was a river running through my veins and I need to know how deep that river ran. Building a friendship with her was the safest option. The one worry in my mind though, the big heavy doubt, was if I was strong enough to only be her friend.
I had barely finished loading the dishwasher when I heard a soft knock at the door. Glancing at the microwave clock it was eight thirty. Wiping my palms on my pants I headed towards the door. I knew I would be getting dirty today so I wore holy jeans and an old white cotton t-shirt.
I opened the door to a very broken looking Ophelia. She was wearing slim fitting yoga pants and a loose fitting men’s long john shirt. It’s four buttons were wide open showing a massive amount of her chest. Not cleavage because her breasts were so small but that beautiful space between her breasts. I suddenly got an image of what she looked like on top of that piano with nothing on but her under garments. This was a bad idea. Their was no way I could only be here friend.
“Hi,” She said tentatively. I realized then that I was gawking. He cheeks were rose colored because of the cold and her lips were slightly blue.
She was obviously cold, “Where is you coat?” I asked as I moved aside to let her in. Her hair was tossed in a crazy bun and her curls were poking out in every direction, some not even making it into the hair tie. It was the sexiest thing I have ever seen. I looked down and saw her perfectly round backside. My eyes grew wide and I quickly averted my sight to the celling. Blowing out air from my lips I forced myself to think of un-arousing things. Yep, this was definitely a bad idea. I wanted her so bad my testicles hurt. Not going to happen, I told myself, not going to happen.
“Forgot it at home,” she answered shrugging, Ophelia walked past the living room and straight to the kitchen. She grabbed the whiskey bottle I left on the counter from last night. “Isn’t it a little early for this? It’s not even nine am.” She unscrewed the lid and to my complete shock, brought the bottle to her lips and took a giant swig. Her eyes squinted shut as she felt the sweet burn. Was she trying to turn me on?
I walked over and grabbed the bottle from her hands, put the lid back on, and returned it to its proper place above the fridge. “You know you are underage right?”
“I am! Wow I had no idea!” She said sarcastically.
“Is this all I am to you? A one way ticket to free alcohol?” I teased.
“Well duh, why else would I be here?” She deadpanned.
I laughed and she brought her hands to her hips. I held my hand up in defense, “It’s from last night I swear.”
She nodded, “Do you drink often?”
“No, my dad always told me that addictive substances weren’t worth the trouble.”
“Sounds like he was a good man,” She said leaning against the counter.
“He was,” I stated and then, “What about you?”
“What about me?” She looked confused.
“Do you drink often, “ I repeated her question.
“Oh no, I can’t stand the taste.” Her face pinched together.
Now it was my turn to be confused, “Then way did you take a drink of my whiskey?”
“To get your goat,” She said walking into the living room. I shook my head a smiled.
“So where should I start?” She asked waving her arms around the room.
“I figured you could take down all the family photographs you see and wrap them up,” I pointed to the bubble wrap, “then box them up,” I nodded my head to where the boxes are, “and label them storage,” I finished handing her a black marker.
“Sounds good. Should I label what it is too?”
“Yeah, that would be great. I am going to keep sorting things that are either going to donation, storage, or that I am selling.” Ophelia smiled at me before getting to work. This house felt like a mausoleum of my past life and it was too painful to live amongst it. I had been applying for teaching jobs all over the country since my teaching job at Willows Edge was only for the year. Though, I was still holding out hope for Principal Bains offer at finding me a permanent position.
The house needed to be gutted and ready for renters which was going to take a lot of work due to the mass about of stuff my family had. Eventually I would settle down and raise my family in this house and at that point I would do a good amount of remodeling. I was glad I was doing this with someone I cared about. Boxing up the life my parents had together wasn’t easy but I needed to build my own life and not theirs. Put some memories to rest.
“Oh my gosh! You are so cute!” Ophelia squealed from the other side of the room.
I walked over and peered over her shoulder, she was looking at my kindergarten school picture. “I was a freckle faced carrot top.”
“But look at that grin! Adorable,” She happily started down at my six-year-old self.
“Hardly,” I said laughing.
“Your hair got so much darker and you grew into your freckles.” Ophelia was looking at me now.
“I still have freckles.”
“Not as many,” She was looking at my face so intently that I thought she may have been counting them.
Five minutes later when I was putting all my mom’s creepy clown figurines in a get-rid-of-box I looked at Ophelia to see her running her fingers gently over the glass in a frame I knew all to well. Unable to resit I walked up behind her and peered over her head at the image in the frame.
“Your mother was beautiful,” She whispered.
“She is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.” I said honestly.
Ophelia turned to face me, “You look just like her.”
We were quiet for a moment as we looked at a pixelated version of my mother smiling in the middle of a sunflower field. Her long auburn hair dropped over she right shoulder, her green eyes were laughing, and she was wearing a grin she only ever had when my father looked at her. She was in her early twenties and wore a long creme colored dress. “It was my fathers favorite photo of her. He kept it on his desk every year that he taught.”
“Your dad was a teacher” I nodded and she asked, “What subject?”
“Music, everything from drums to piano. He knew it all”
“Is he why you teach?”
“Yes, I always wanted to be just like him.” I admired my father today just as much as I did before he died.
“Interesting,” She said wrapping up the photo.
“That both of us got our musical talents from our fathers.”
I walked backed over to shelf of weird-ass clown figurines, “Yeah I guess that is interesting.”
“Those are some freaky clowns.” She said eyeballing them like they were about to jump out at eat her alive.
“Hello, Ophelia, want to come out and play?” I teased in my creepiest Hannibal Lecter voice wigging the clown I was holding toward her.
She shivered, “Gah, don’t do that, you’ll give me nightmares!”
I laughed loudly.
“Why do you have those anyway?” Ophelia asked wrapping up my third grade portrait. My mother had all of my formative years plastered on the wall. My only-child status was obvious. I could tell Ophelia was restraining from commenting on every photo she wrapped. The amusement on her face was apparent.
“My dad was terrified of clowns so my mom kept collecting them so that he would get over his fear. She figured if he saw them on a daily basis he would become so used to them that his Coulrophobia would fade away.
“And did it?”
“Not in the slightest,” I said as we both laughed. We spent the next three hours talking about old memories while we packed my childhood in boxes. It felt good to talk about my parents and about the life we had together. Ophelia was surprisingly quiet though. She laughed a lot and asked me a fair amount questions but never once brought up her childhood or past. Here we were exploring every intimate detail of my being and I still knew so little about her life.
“Are you hungry?” I asked patting my belly.
“I could eat,” She said.
“Cool, I can make grilled cheese or grilled cheese.”
She let out a small chuckle, “A grown man who doesn’t know how to feed himself? That’s just pathetic.”
I smiled, “Yeah, I’m hopeless.”
She walked into the kitchen and looked in everyplace that food could be found, not finding much. A bag of chips, cereal, bread, and some cheese. I leaned against the door frame watching her with my ankles crossed and my arms folded over my chest.
“I’ll order pizza,” I said pulling out my phone. I lived in a town called Arlee, which was twenty-five miles outside of Missoula, where I worked. Thankfully my small highway town had a delivery place. It was expensive because it was the only place that would deliver but was worth it every time. Another perk to me living outside of town was that we didn’t have to worry too much about being seen.
“Sound’s like a plan just tell them I’m allergic to pineapple so they have to be very careful.” Ophelia said causally walking back into the living room and getting to work. I wasn’t sure why that small detail about her being allergic to pineapple made me so happy, but it did. It was something so basic that I could have looked into her file at school and likely found out that information. But, in this moment, it was a personal slice of her that made me want to know her more.
Ophelia moved on from the family photos hours ago. I now had her packing the obvious give away items. The living room was boxes and furniture when the pizza arrived.
We were sitting at the kitchen table eating our olive and ham pizza when I said, “You have been really quiet today.”
“What do you mean, we’ve been talking all morning.” She wiped her mouth off with napkin.
“Yeah, about me,” I said biting off the tip of my second slice.
“Well what do you want to know?” She asking nibbling on her crust. I was absolutely adorable to watch.
Everything, I wanted to say but instead I asked, “How is your Nana doing?”
“She is fine but she did tell me that she wants to sell the house this morning.”
“Yeah, she said that after I leave for Nashville that she would get to lonely in that big house all by herself. Leo will still be in Arizona and my mom and Kelly are never home. So, she said she wants to move into retirement home.”
“Wow, that’s a big change but I can see how she would enjoy that.”
“I am actually relieved because I was worried about leaving her. I was planning on staying here until June but she wants everyone to pack up over winter break. She already has a place picked out and room on reserve.”
“So now what? Will you be going to Nashville early?” I stopped eating completely.
“That’s the plan. I am going to start looking at jobs and apartments down there soon. I plan on going and studying music at the Cherry Hill College of the Arts. Only part time though because I want ample time to try to get my songs out there. I know it’s a long shot but I have to at least try.”
“You’re a very talented young woman Ophelia don’t under estimate yourself.” What was I going to do when she left? It was mid November and December was right around the corner.
“Why thank you Mr. O’Connor,” She said in her best student voice which made me laugh.
“When was the last time you saw you mom?”
“Well, she come home in early September, signed my forms to graduate early, and then left again. She was only home for two days.”
“It’s been that long since your mother made time for you?” I asked appalled.
“She used to come home more but ever since Leo left for college she has been coming home less and less. Her and my step-dad take the abroad flights. She was supposed to come last week and stay for two weeks. Instead I got a voicemail saying that Kelly got a an extra flight to Bermuda and that she switched flights with another attendant so that she and Kelly could spend some time together.” She rolled her eyes, “Her exact words were, ‘Honey, don’t be mad we really need this vacation.’” She said using air quotes on the last part.
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
“It used to but I hardly know my mother. She always wanted her own life and I can’t really blame her for that. Besides I have my Nana.”
My heart broke for her, “Your Nana is getting up there and based on what you’ve told me, she isn’t able to do much.”
“Not everyone has perfect parents Archer,” She said standing up and bringing her plate to the kitchen sink.
“I know, they can’t because the world isn’t a perfect place.” I said walking to the sink right behind her.
“You don’t sugar coat things do you?” Ophelia turned on the water and rinsed her plate.
“I’m agreeing with you, that’s all,” I dropped my plate into the sink just as she turned off the water and turned around. One of my hands had been on counter and the other was letting go of my plate. I subconsciously put my arms around her. She was standing between my arms looking up at me. I looked down and sucked in a bug gulp of air. I couldn’t help myself I glanced down at her lips wishing I could feel them against mine again. She looked up at my lips and whether she realized it or not bit down on her lower lip. Damn. She was probably thinking about the same thing that I was.
I pushed away from Archer trying to catch my breath. He was tarring me apart inside. We have been joking and laughing all morning. Getting to know him better was the most fun I’ve had in a long while. I wanted to talk to him for hours, days, months even, being his friend was both rewarding and extremely challenging.
“How is Steven?” Archer asked still standing by the sink.
When I walked into Archer’s home I was immediately inside the living room and further back was the kitchen. Divided by a large oak framed entry way. Off the living room was two sets of stairs. One that lead upstairs and another that lead into a small den. It was more like a sunken living room but only large enough for an office desk and a small loveseat. Right before the pizza arrived we finished the living room so I headed to the small den area now and started emptying the drawers in the desk. Archer followed me and sat on the loveseat. He patted the cushion beside him and raised his eyes brows expecting me to answer him.
“We broke up,” I said taking a seat.
Archer looked shocked, “You didn’t seem broken up yesterday.”
I forgot that he saw me in the parking lot with him, “It happened late last night.”
“What happened?” He leaned forward and grabbed my legs placing them on his lap.
“You don’t want to know,” I said as he starting rubbing my left foot. The nerves in my body were now on overdrive. What was he doing?
I started to pull my foot away when his grip firmed, “Is this not ok?” He asked.
“I’m just not sure this is what ‘friends’ do.” I said
“I figured you’re helping me out today and deserve a little treat but I’ll stop if you want me too.” I relaxed my foot back into his hand and he smiled. “So what happened with Steven?”
Man he was persistent, “You honestly want to know this?”
“I honestly do.”
“He told me that he loved me,” I looked past him, but I didn’t miss the way his body stiffened.
“What did you say?” He asked quietly.
“Well at first I told him to not say it. We were, well we were, doing ummm… things,” Man this was awkward, “But he said it anyway, so I told him that I could maybe love him one day but that I didn’t love him now. Then things got more, well intense, and I knew in my heart it wasn’t right and never would be right so I walked away.” I said trying to blur out all the gory details.
“Why did you tell him not to say it?”
“Because I am a bad person for what we did, Archer. I cheated on him and he doesn’t deserve that let alone thinking he loves someone before he knew the truth.” I replied.
His eyes went wide and his body was eerily still, “He knows we kissed?”
“No, he knows I kissed somebody else because I couldn’t lie to him Archer, I just couldn’t. I promise he doesn’t know it was you.”
He sighed in relief, “So even after he found out you kissed somebody else he still told you he loved you?”
“Yeah, and that’s when I told him that I could maybe love him one day but that I didn’t love him now. I don’t like throwing those words around. When I say them to someone I want to mean them with every fiber of my being.”
His hand that was just holding my foot at this point instead of rubbing it, and I enjoyed the warmth it provided, “I agree those are very serious words, but he must really care for you if he was willing to look past all that.”
I couldn’t believe I was talking to Archer about this, “Yeah, I know, but even after I said that he wasn’t ready for us to end and honestly I wasn’t either. A huge part of me wants him in my life, wants him in general, but when things escalated to that moment I couldn’t do it.”
“Why?” His eyes were locked on mine, his voice a whisper.
“Because I knew in my heart that he wasn’t my forever and that if we gave ourselves to each other then it would hurt that much worse in the end. I care about him too much to hurt him like that, so I walked away.” I was blinking rapidly, doing my best to keep my tears at bay.
I could tell by his expression that he understood what I was saying. He understood that his words about guarding your heart and guarding other people’s hearts was getting to me. He understood that I was changing. That he was changing me, for the better. I stalled hard, because isn’t that what love is?
“I’m proud of you Ophelia. That took a lot of maturity,” He said so seriously that my heart ached.
I removed my legs from his lap and shifted myself so that I was next to him. I grabbed his arm and put it around me resting it on my shoulders and laid my head on his chest, tucking my legs underneath me. I felt so small in his arms.
“It took a lot of maturity for you to walk away too,” I said and then, “I hope this is ok.”
He squeezed his arm around my shoulders, I could feel the rise and fall of his chest, and his lips felt so warm and comforting as he planted a kiss on the top of my head,
“Always.” He said.
Hey guys! I hope you are enjoying this book. I cannot tell you enough how awesome it is that you are taking the time to read my words.
This is the halfway point in the story and I am not sure if I should post the rest of the chapters up. What do you think? Should I keep going and post the whole book or would you rather I stopped boring you with my lame attempts at writing. Let me know in the comments below!