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: 3766
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, real life discussions, fluff, angst, weight issues
Summary: Due to a cancelled weekend date, Thalia has time for a special weekend with Chris.
Click here for intro to Educating Thalia
She taps her phone against her chin, replaying their call in her mind. Darling, I know this is very last minute, but I have to cancel our plans for the weekend. My friend, Professor Harelson? The one I took the teaching position from? He’s decided to elope with his love and he’s asked me to attend the ceremony as his best man. I’d love to take you to Canada with me, but other friends might be there, and we can’t risk our secret.
Shoving away from the counter, she walks to the fridge, looking over her calendar for the week. She can’t believe it’s already near the end of March and Spring Break is just around the corner. The only big thing on the agenda is the test Thursday. In her effort to comfort Tom, she’d promised they could go to dinner that evening and she’d drive him to the airport.. She totally understood the concept of keeping things secret, and she wasn’t at all upset about missing the wedding of a person she didn’t even know, although she would miss him. She sighs happily, thinking of Tom and how things have been more balanced these last few weeks. Movie night has become more commonplace, and their get away two weeks ago to see a play in New York had been wonderful.
Continuing to look over her schedule, she smiles at the notation about work hours on Friday and makes a hasty decision.
Dialing Chris’s number quickly, she opens the door of the fridge and pulls out the juice bottle, taking a long gulp, nearly choking when he answers so quickly.
“Do you just sit around and wait for my call?” she giggles, screwing the lid back on and putting the bottle back on the shelf.
“Yes, oh great one, I have nothing better to do than to wait for you,” he teases, an infectious warmth in his voice.
“I like that. Keep it that way,” Thalia jokes. “So, uh? Plans this weekend? Mine changed, and I was thinking maybe I could convince my boss to let me skip work Friday afternoon?”
Waiting while he rustles some papers around, she assumes he’s looking at his calendar. “But you work for me on Friday.”
She laughs, resting on the couch and pulling her book to her, settling in for a night of study. “Yea… I’m telling you now, I won’t be in to work. I’m gonna convince my boyfriend to go do something fun.”
“Oh really? Hmmm… He’s a lucky guy,” Chris teases, playing along. She hears him moving around other things and then a quiet groan as she presumes he drops to the couch. “I miss you. I hate that Avery and I were sick this weekend and we missed our Sunday.”
“I know, baby, me too. I’ll see you at the history department breakfast tomorrow?”
He sighs. “Not the same… Alright, Niña, I’m gonna let you get to studying. If Jim can let you have the whole week off to study for midterms, I need to respect your time. Besides, I have planning to do. I think I have the perfect idea for this weekend.”
The longer they are in the car, the quieter she gets until he realizes she’s fallen asleep. Works herself too damn hard. I can’t believe she even managed to get away for the weekend. And it’s not just work, it’s that other guy too. Fucker, I sure would-
Stop. That’s not conducive thinking to a romantic getaway, he laughs to himself, turning off on the exit and following onto the small two lane highway. Watching her peacefully, he gently tugs back at her pink scarf, thinking it’s too warm in the car to have it on her neck. Another bruise. She swears up and down the bastard doesn’t hurt her, but he just can’t seem to let his worse nightmares escape even his waking thoughts.
Chris signals right, even though there probably isn’t even another car for miles. He’s glad he drove up earlier in the week and got the cabin ready. He’s not been out here in a few years. He and Maura last came for their anniversary. Right before he realized she was fucking their friend. Kinda spoiled memories of the old family homestead. He’d like to create new memories, with Thalia. Find a reason to love the place again. If not, it’s time to pass it over to his brother, let him get good out of it, and still keep it in the family.
Pulling the car up to the front porch, he gently eases the car into park. He turns down the music and removes his seat belt. He leans over the console and gently pulls Thalia’s arm free from around her waist. “Hey, babe. We’re here. Wake up Niña.”
She is the most difficult person to wake. He chuckles, wondering if she’d ever just respond back with a punch in her sleep. He tugs the scarf and says a bit louder, “Sleeping Beauty, wake up, come on. You can sleep when I get you inside.”
Her eyelids flutter open and she yawns, quickly clamping her hand over her mouth. “Onion ring breath. Disgusting.” Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she rolls her head across the back of the seat to face him. “Why’d you let me eat those?”
“I believe your exact words were, ‘These are all mine; if you touch them, I’ll stab you with my fork.’” He chuckles when she covers her face in shame and giggles. “Besides, those are the best onion rings in the state; we couldn’t turn them down. Stay here; I’ll get the door.”
She rests her hand on his arm, holding him in place. “You do realize I’m in my boots, not heels this time. I’m perfectly capable of opening a door for myself.”
He chuckles, “Damn independent woman. I know you are. Doesn’t change the way my mama raised me. Keep your stubborn ass in the seat.”
Chris climbs out the car before he can hear her smart remark. He jogs around the front of the car, the fresh powdered snow kicking up around his ankles. Snowball fight. Definitely. Hot chocolate. Warm fire. The whole nine, like some frickin’ chick flick. He wants the weekend to be all about her, her needs. When he reaches her door, she’s making funny faces at him through the glass. Opening the door, he laughs, “One beer too many at dinner; you’re goofy.”
“Yeah, I’m not a beer girl,” she shrugs her shoulders. “I was raised on the hard stuff. I can handle it like nothing. Three beers and I’m toast.”
“Good to know,” he teases, pulling her from the warm car seat.
Thalia steps aside, wrapping the scarf back around her neck while he closes the car door. “Where are we?” she asks. “It felt like we were driving for ever.”
“Well, Miss, in a sense, I’ve kidnapped you. I’ve taken you across state lines without your permission. But I figured that was the only way to get you out of the bar and away from your books. Welcome, my sweet, to the Evans’ cabin home.”
Sweeping his arm in a grand gesture, her eyes take in the little home behind him. The cedar shakes covering the front porch are partially hidden by snow, icicles hanging from the edges. She takes in the small windows, and notices smoke from the chimney. “This isn’t a resort?” she asks, a bit confused from her stressful week and classes. “There’s a fire going?”
Chris takes her hand, and guides her up the steps, careful for any patches of ice. “The groundskeeper came up earlier. He knew I was coming and started a fire for us. The house should be warm and toasty.”
Thalia sucks in her breath, sinking in the history before her. She smiles at Chris warmly. “It belongs to your family? How long has it been here?”
“Since the early 1900s.”
“So these logs were hand hewn by one of your ancestors, painstakingly put together for his family, to protect them; to keep them safe?” Her hands brush over the worn wood, aged with time. She steps closer, pulling her phone from her pocket and turning on the flashlight to admire the work. “You can still see the ax marks. That’s amazing!” She runs to the end of the porch, checking to see the style used for placing the logs together. “Notched? That took a lot of extra effort; and the brush marks in the chinking?” Turning to Chris with her eyes wide, she grins. “God, I can’t wait to see it in daylight.”
His grin equals hers. He just knew she would love the old place. When he pulls the keys from his coat pocket, she takes them from his hand and he eyes her questioningly. She turns them over in her hand, admiring the heavy brass key from days gone by, being used now as the key ring to hold the modern ones together. She cocks her head and smiles, taking a deep breath and sighing. Blushing, she hands it back to him. “Kinda nice to get away someplace that doesn’t open with the swipe of a plastic card, ya know?”
Raising his eyebrow, he’s not really sure, but he can see her brain spinning, absorbing the history. “Whatdya mean?” he asks.
“It means something. It’s real; there’s a history and an importance to it.” She pauses, biting her lip as he ushers her into the warmth of the little cabin. Blushing a bit, she continues, “I mean I’m not knocking fancy hotels, but this… It’s something that lasts…. What did it go to?”
“One of the ancestors to originally live in the cabin worked in the local bank during the depression. The key was to one of the vaults. Story tells he brought it home every night and placed it under the mattress for safe keeping, along with the cash that was supposed to be in the vault. He didn’t trust the bank system himself and wanted to keep his friends with money there safe and secure. So he kept it at home instead.”
He watches her expression as he flips on the lights. His parents did renovations on the home while he was still a toddler, to allow for plumbing and electricity, and he’d spent many summers visiting as a child. Liking the cabin, the lake, the woods, had always been a deal breaker for him, and he’d dumped a few girlfriends back in his youth for not feeling the same… Her eyes are wide and she smiles at him. He nods his approval and she moves forward, tenderly fingering the quilt over the back of the couch. “My great, great, great grandmother stitched that,” he tells her, a quiet awe in his voice.
She walks around the room, taking in the little details. “So much history…” She runs her hands along the mantle, looking at the pictures, some dating back to the early 1900s, with small descriptions placed in the frames to identify the family members. “Genealogy… Wow.” Bending down, she pokes at the fire a bit and then admires the masonry of the fireplace, swinging out the arm for the old fashioned kettle. “We could pop corn in this!” Her grin is huge and Chris releases the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.
“That’s the plan, there’s some in the kitchen. You wanna do that now?” He asks, shrugging out of his heavy coat and laying it over his grandfather’s rocking chair. Her appreciation of the small details has him bouncing on his heels in veiled excitement.
“No. No; come here. Sit with me.” She removes her coat, wrapping up the scarf around her hand and placing it into the pocket. “I wanna hear all the history of this place. Is that where your fascination with the past started?”
Chris pulls an album and family bible from a shelf and brings it to the hearth to join her. She snuggles next to him as he tells her all he knows about the home and shows sketches passed down for generations, hidden in the pages of the leatherbound book. At her prodding, he shares tales of his childhood, the mischievous troubles he caused with his siblings, and the time their father actually chased after them with a switch from the willow tree off the edge of the back porch. Tossing her head back in laughter at their antics, her eyes light upon the loft above. “Is that where we’re sleeping? I’m not real balanced on ladders,” she shares, biting her lip, squeezing his knee.
“No, I thought we’d stay in the larger room, an addition on the back. It’s not original to the cabin. Dad, Pappo and Scott and I built it when I was about sixteen. Cut the logs down ourselves and everything. Following the notes left in the bible and the trees we used were-”
“Wait, wait,” her hands fly to his chest and he instinctively flexes under her touch. “I need to picture this. You. With an ax. Chopping logs and splitting them to build a house with your damn bare hands… That’s just… Shit, I need a cold shower.”
Throwing his head back in full body laughter, he pats his chest, feeling the soft plaid flannel under his fingertips. “Oh, Niña, believe me, at sixteen I was not the fine specimen of the man you see before you now. I was a theater geek. I took dance lessons at Mom’s studio. I played lacrosse but was the worst player on the team; girls weren’t exactly beating down the door to date me.”
Flipping a few pages in the album, she finds a picture of him in his youth. Tracing her finger over the image, she says lowly, “They were idiots. Sounds like you were just the kind of guy I dreamed of.”
He tilts her chin up to meet his eyes. “What about you, Thalia? Tell me about you, what kind of boys did you date, what was your childhood like?”
“Chris, I don’t… Ah, you know, you’re gonna bug me all weekend if I don’t answer, aren’t you?”
“I can be very persistent,” Chris smiles. “I could maybe even withhold some things you’re needing.”
“Needing? You think very highly of yourself, don’t you?” Her hand graces down his chest and pushes against the bulge in his jeans. “Fine, put some more wood on the fire. Let me get something from my bag.”
Seeing the hurt in her eyes, he holds her close, kissing the top of her head. “Oh, Thalia, I didn’t mean to make you sad. I just wanna know you; all of it, the good and the bad.”
“It’s okay, really. Isn’t that why we’re here? Getting to know each other more? You mean a lot to me; I think… I think I want you to know. But it’s not stuff I really talk about, you know?” She shrugs her shoulders, tenderly kissing his cheek, her lips grazing his, but not a fully planted kiss on the lips. “There will be tears… I’m tough, but you’re too big of a softie. You won’t be able to handle it.” Winking at him, she pulls from his grasp and stands up.
“Oh is that right?” His stomach coils, wishing he hadn’t even started this line of conversation. She’s probably right.
The pause in the conversation lasts longer than he anticipated as she took time out to make coffee on the stove, an addition to the cabin in the late ‘30s. The wrought iron metal beast was no trouble to her, something Maura never mastered in twelve years. The kettle whistles and she pours two mugs over the instant brand he’d brought earlier in the week.
“Real caffeine. None of that tea shit you’re always making at work,” he teases as she hands the steaming cup over the back of the couch to him and then a package of cookies.
“Real caffeine,” she laughs, a blush rising over her cheeks, taking one of the cookies he offers before she rests between his legs. “But I happen to like tea also, so don’t knock it. It’s a talent in how you make it.” She sets her coffee on the little table behind the couch and leans back against his chest, pulling the quilt over their feet.
In the dark, the room lit only by the warm fire, she shares details of her past. Her mom leaving one day when she was barely six years old and never coming back; how her father retreated into himself, not really knowing how to raise a little girl. With more nephews in the family at the time, she was just raised like ‘one of the boys,’ and could hook a worm and change a flat tire faster than any of them. Her father always dreamed of sharing his shop with her one day, but she knew her dreams were bigger. Chris hears her story and it tugs at his heart, wanting to make sure to always remember Avery needs to be a girl. But a side of tomboy isn’t so bad either, if it leads her to have the confidence Thalia has, an inner sense of self.
“No one ever talked to me about it, it’s just always what it was. When Dad married Stacey, when I was nine, things changed. She took me to therapy, but by then the physical damage was already done,” she tells quietly, pulling a photo from the back of her wallet. “This was me, at eleven. Food was my solace, and it was the one thing I could have control over. My mother reappeared when I was ten and for awhile I was shuffled around between the two homes. She always had boyfriends, and some of them gave me the creeps, so I ate more. If I was fat, no one would pay attention to me.”
Chris’s hands stroke her arms tenderly and hold her close, resting his lips against the top of her head. The more she talks, he can feel her relax in his stronghold, like all the years of therapy and all she needed was this. She continues her story, how books and intelligence was her way out. “Stacey really saw something in me no one else did; she encouraged Dad to send me to camps and her parents were my surrogate grandparents and they footed the bill for a lot of things Dad couldn’t afford. I worked hard for scholarships, but I took a year off college. I came out East to establish residency to cut down on school tuition. I stayed with Big Jim and his wife and worked at the hotel in town. I met a woman there who hired me as a nanny for her son. I later overheard her talking at a luncheon with some of her friends, saying that at least her husband wouldn’t stray with the ‘fat nanny.’ She should have been more worried about what her step-son was up to under her own roof, sanctimonious bitch…” She pauses and shakes her head. “Anyway, my aunts all thought that it was a wonderful job, that I’d finally tap into the ‘mother gene.’ No such luck. That child was the devil’s spawn.” Turning in his arms, she looks over her shoulder. “He was like eight, or something. One day, he was supposed to clean his room and I went to do laundry? The kid climbed out the second story window, jumped on top of the pool house and ran away and hid for hours.” She pauses in her storytelling and takes a deep breath. “My job was already on the line, but the final straw was the day she found me in bed with the step-son. But by that time, I’d taken free use of their home gym, the pool and the nutritionist. I was just the help. She never paid attention to me. She hadn’t realized while I was running after her brat every day I’d lost over fifty pounds.”
Chris lets her words flow, fighting the urge to clench and fight against the rich bitch, and her step-son. Her tone drops. “I’m not necessarily proud of it, but that job helped me get ahead. I knew I wouldn’t survive in the heat of archaeological digs at my weight, so I got in better shape. Round? It’s a shape, right?” She giggles. “A lot of her pals are alumni at school. They knew some secrets might not be safe, as I had been in their circle. After that, getting scholarships and fellowships wasn’t as difficult as it had been before. My first year of school was practically paid for by that group. Since then, I’ve rejected their money, and worked to attain other connections. Now, my education is what I can control, and my food choices are just for pleasure. All things in moderation…”
She quiets and the silence hangs between them for a bit. Her head lulls against his chest as she watches the fire, still fingering the edges of the photo of the heartbroken chubby little girl she once was.
His ears and heart take it all in, wanting to patch up her pain. Breaking the silence, Chris speaks. “Fuck. That’s quite an origin tale, Thalia. Ya know, you’re an amazing woman. What a bunch of assholes! I don’t know who I wanna hit first… Ok, yea, I do… the fuckin’ step-son…” She chuckles, and he wraps his arms tighter around her holding her to his own pounding chest. “What do you think pushed you the most, to be who you are now?”
When she doesn’t answer, he shifts her against his side, so he can see her face in the light of the flickering flames. Tears wash over her freckled cheeks and his stomach drops; his heart hurts with hers and he quickly wonders if there’s more pain to her tale she’s keeping to herself. He finds tears stinging at his eyes. She said I’d cry; she knows me too well.
“Always feeling like no one wanted me, or knew what to do with me” she whispers into the night. “That’s my origin. I had to be strong for me because no one else was.”
Gently pushing her forward, Chris wiggles out from behind her and stands up. “I want you,” he tells her boldly, sweeping her up in his arms and carrying her to their room. “And I definitely know what to do with you. Thalia, let me be strong for you.”
Click here to read Chapter 32 Prize
Copyright © 2017 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando