A collaboration involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans- The two are rivals at a posh New England university and have no idea they both have taken interest in the lovely Thalia Bareo. She’s a grad student with interests in language and history; a sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago. Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Word count: 2173
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, fluffy, angst, parenting, aftermath of divorce
Summary: Chris deals with the demons from his past and puts his foot down. It’s time to make some changes and move forward.
Click here to the introduction of Educating Thalia
Sitting in the driveway, he waits to see if she’ll answer the text. He meant it when he typed if she didn’t answer by three pm, he’d knock on the front door. She still has about twelve minutes to respond.
Leaning his head back, he admires the small craftsman cottage in the peaceful neighborhood. The dream house. Thinking over bittersweet memories, he remembers painstakingly putting in the rose bushes and placing the pavers just so to create the winding walkway. Looking at his lightly calloused hands he realizes he’s forgotten how much he enjoyed ‘doing things’ with his hands. Creating something to last.
The door opens and she walks out in a tight jeans and a sweater shawl wrap. Rolling the window down, he simply says. “You look good.”
She freezes, obviously stunned by his compliment, before approaching the car tentatively. Chris reaches over and turns down the radio, noticing the monitor in her hands. “Wanna sit in here with me where it’s warm?” he offers.
“Chris, you can’t just come by unannounced,” she responds pulling the shawl tighter and looking around to see if anyone is watching.
“Maura, you didn’t answer my phone calls and texts. She’s my daughter. I get to see her.” He grips the steering wheel keeping his temper under control.
“You smell like a bar,” she replies. “Stale cigarette smoke,” she sniffs.
“Yea. Because I was pissed as hell you didn’t let me get Avery last night. I’ll admit, I got a little drunk. Stayed with a friend. Totally sober now… What was the excuse this time?” he asks bitterly.
His ex-wife kicks at the tire of the car. “Avery had a birthday party at Susie’s house; they were swimming and it would have been bed time after so-”
“So? I could have taken her there and brought her back to my house. We’ve been to Mark and Patty’s house a million times. And a birthday party, Maura? You’d have had that on the calendar for weeks. You couldn’t give me a heads up, and we could have changed dates?” He turns off the ignition and gets out of the car.
“What are you doing?” she asks, stepping back.
“Don’t act that way, like I’d hurt you, in case the neighbors are watching. I’m not playing games. I’m going inside to see my daughter.” Chris pushes past her and follows the winding path up the snow covered steps. He waits for her at the door. “May I enter my house?”
She runs her hand through her short blonde hair and sighs. “Of course.” She tilts her head. “Do you want to take her tonight? Can you get her to preschool before eleven tomorrow?”
His heart beats wildly. Not expecting a sudden show of kindness, he simply nods his head and blinks back his tears.
“Don’t try to trick me with your beautiful lashes there, Professor,” she says as she steps into his space and pushes up his glasses to wipe away a tear clinging to the long black hairs. He holds her wrist and gently pushes it away.
“You don’t get to console me anymore, Maura. I’ll find someone else for that…” The image of just the right person for that flits across his mind, tanned skin and curves, challenging brain and sweetest laugh… Crossing over the threshold the smell of fresh paint assaults his nose and he cringes. “You never liked the beige color, did you?” he scoffs.
Shaking her head, she laughs quietly. “No, I didn’t; the dining room is now the buttercup yellow I always wanted.” Hanging her sweater up, Maura points to the stairs. “She’s in her room, probably just waking up from her nap. Just throw some clothes in her back pack; whatever you’ll need for your place.”
She tries to push her body to him again but he ignores her advance and takes the stairs two at a time to reach his little Avery faster. Quietly entering her room, he watches her sitting in her big girl bed whispering to her dolls and their dog, Tramp. Her jumbled words don’t make sense to him and again the tears fill his eyes and he sniffs. Turning around at the sound, she bounces gleefully and claps her hands. “Oh, Poppa! Is ‘at really you, or am I dreamin’?”
Chris rushes to her bedside and drops to his knees, wrapping his big strong arms around his favorite little package. “No, Bug, it’s real. Poppa’s here. Momma says you can come stay with me tonight. Would you like that?”
“Oh yes! Yes, please!” she covers his face with tiny kisses and his face stings from the salty tears of happiness. “Don’t cry, Poppa, you’ll get my fav’rite shirt wet.”
Maura’s voice sounds from the door. “She wears it all the time. Refuses to take it off, Poppa. You’re gonna have to buy more just so she has one to wear when I have to wash the other.”
Chris looks over his shoulder and smiles to his ex, while she starts gathering a few things to put in an overnight bag. Pulling back from his little one, he looks at her shirt and laughs as he reads, ‘Daddy’s Favorite Girl” on the front with a kitten wearing a crown. “I can do that, no problem, Bug.” She jumps off the bed and lands in his outstretched arms and the dog hops down too, barking and wagging his tail. “Poppa, Tramp misses you too. Can he come?”
The battle over keeping Tramp had been almost as tiring as deciding the best residency for Avery. And neither are still fully worked out. Tramp was their first child, the stray they adopted shortly after they bought the house, long before they even thought of having children. Chris looks to the pretty blonde hopefully, but the words choke in his throat.
“Fine, you can take the dog too. He actually goes to the groomer tomorrow. Can you get him there by noon?” she smiles.
“I’ll just be your taxi service tomorrow, getting everyone where they need to be,” Chris replies, standing up with Avery still in his arms. Balancing her on his hip, he reaches down for her favorite doll and blanket, making sure those are along for the evening as well. Eyeing a sparkly dress in her closet he tells Maura to pack that also. “I’m taking my girl out for dinner. We’re gonna dress up fancy. What do you say to that, Bug?”
“Oh, Poppa! You’ll be so handsome; I wike it!” The little girl giggles and blows a raspberry against her father’s cheek, giggling louder when his beard tickles her lips.
Maura leads the way out to the hall, the overnight bag in one hand, and another bag in the other. “Here’s some more clothes and things I’d already packed for you to keep at your place. She needs to feel comfortable there too, Chris.”
Chris rolls his eyes. “She does Maura; she’d even feel more that way if you’d let her stay over on a regular basis, like the court papers say.”
She purses her lips together. “We go back to the mediator early next month. Maybe we can get it all figured out by then. It’s just I worry that-”
Setting her down to the ground, Chris leans down to tell Avery, “Hey, run on downstairs and get some cans of food for Tramp, his leash and put your boots on. I need to talk to Momma for a few minutes.”
The little girl looks expectantly at her mother, who shakes her head in agreement and the little girl and dog slowly take off down the stairs, grasping the rail tightly in her tiny hands. As soon as she’s out of earshot, Chris hisses to his ex, “You worry what? I’ll have a string of women in my condo? Maura, you know that’s not true. I know why you didn’t want me going to the party for Susie’s birthday yesterday. You didn’t want me to fuckin’ kill Mark or spill your little secret to Patty- “ The angered man ignores the shock on her face. “Yeah, I know about that affair too, not just the trainer at the gym… And you forget I work with your friend Brianna, and I know you’ve had three other ‘boyfriends’ since the divorce was final. You fucked up our marriage. And instead of respecting me enough to ask out, you decided to screw it into the ground. One date, Maura. I’ve had one date in nearly eighteen months as I watched my marriage fall apart and I try to rebuild my life.”
Moving down the stairs, he looks over her shoulder at her stricken face. “No. I’m not playing games anymore. I pay the child support, I pay what you need, but I’m not gonna sit back and let you keep me from Avery. Or the dog, for that matter.”
“I still love you.” Her pink lips form a pout he once found beguiling but now it just turns his stomach.
“Well you had a fucked up way of showing it, then didn’t you?” he spits out. His face red with anger, his hands ball into fists at his sides as she descends the stairs and reaches out to him. He steps back. “Stay away, Maura. Your cute little body can’t fix this. Share it with someone else.”
The little blonde curls bounce around the corner with three cans of food for Tramp in her hands and he hides away his anger as quickly as it grew. Opening the coat closet, he pulls down Avery’s puffy purple and blue coat and her warm fuzzy hat while she plops on the floor at his feet to pull on her boots. Spying an empty store bag, he takes shoes for school the next day and her silver sequined shoes to go with her dress for dinner. “Avery! Did you steal these from Cinderella?”
She giggles. “No, silly Poppa! They went with my dress for Christmas. Momma got them for me. It’s not nice to take things that aren’t yours.”
“Hear that Maura. Even the five year old gets it…” He zips up the toddler’s coat, seeing the blush of embarrassment rush over his adulterous ex-wife’s face.
Standing back up, he tugs his coat back into place. “Are my boxes still out in the garage?” he asks. She nods. “I’ll get a moving truck later this week. Be back to get them. Sorry it’s taken so long. But I think this little show, and something a friend recently said to me, makes me realize it’s time to move on, but keep doing the right thing. Can I go out there? There’s one or two things I want now.”
“Sure. You know the code. I haven’t changed it. Just come get the stuff whenever.” She sighs, wrapping the sweater shawl around her shoulders again. “Maybe when you come get Avery Wednesday night, like every week? I’ll move her to a different dance class.”
“Yes, you do that. Wednesdays are mine until we meet with the mediator,” he nods. He knows he’ll get more time then, and things will be better balanced.
“I’ll get her in her car seat while you’re in the garage.” She takes the little girl by the hand and the faithful dog follows them out into the cold.
Chris quickly finds the boxes he wants and takes them to the car. Making sure Avery and Tramp are settled in, he walks back around to Maura. “I want us to be friends. For her sake. And because I’ve loved you longer than I’ve hated you. That hate doesn’t do me any good. It just makes me old and bitter before my time. You destroyed me once. If you ever really loved me, stop all this. Focus on her first. But I’m a good dad, and you know it.”
He hugs her lightly and gets in the warm car, backing out of the drive and away from his old life, finally ready to make some changes.
A few hours later, as the sun begins to set, he’s on his way to dinner with Avery. He’s promised to take her to their favorite Italian restaurant, dressed to the nines, but he can’t help himself. Driving several miles out of the way, he drives down Thalia’s street, absently smiling to himself. Avery is singing along to the CD he plays and he watches Tina shuffle down the street, a bag in her hand. He slows when the door to her building opens and by pure coincidence, the latina beauty steps out in her signature skirt and cowboy boots, her hair a wild mess of curls, a pink scarf wrapped around her neck. She walks to a little junker car and bounces on her heels as she unlocks the door. Turning his head so she can’t see him, it kinda tugs at him that he’s elated to see she’s not all dressed up for what he’s pretty sure is a date with the other man.
Click to Chapter 19 Night at the Movies
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