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: 1966
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations, angst, relationship issues
Summary: Tom meets Thalia in Paris for a holiday, bringing news from the States.
Click here to read the intro for Educating Thalia
From the table on the veranda, Tom looks through the house and watches Thalia at the front door of the little cottage, speaking broken French to the delivery boy. He smiles at the way she shifts her weight, her hands pushing her hair back from her face. He’s memorizing every moment, burning the images into his brain, knowing he’ll need them for the cold, lonely nights to come.
Pivoting on her heels as she closes the entry, she sees him through the doorway and her eyes light up. Resting the bag of food in one hand, she asks, “More tea?”
“No, darling, I’m fine. Come out here; it’s beautiful.” The sweep of his arm indicates the view over the valley below, but his eyes remain on her full figure. Just a few weeks apart, and she’s changed, even more womanly than before, but something is different. He hasn’t been able to put his finger on it… “Stop where you are,” he commands. She quirks her eyebrow and freezes mid step, one foot balanced in front of the other. “Set the bag down, darling; I’m not hungry yet anyway. Take off your robe.”
“A different hunger, then?” She teases, placing the bag on the coffee table, and she seductively unties the silk cover, letting it drop from her shoulders. She closes her eyes and sucks in her breath, as his eyes wash over her, taking in the faint bruises still on her ribcage.
Tom turns his head, squinting, finally seeing the difference. “Thalia, have you lost weight?” He motions her forward and pats his thigh, inviting her to sit there.
Resting on his offered leg, she swings her legs over his lap and he cradles his arms around her. “Well, not on purpose,” she pouts. “I’m not fond of the French food,” she explains. “Seriously, all I eat is salad, bread and cheese. I love the carbs, but I guess with all the walking around the city… I hate it. Send me to Rome! Fatten me up,” the dark haired beauty jokes.
Tom inhales the scent of her hair, a lump catching in his throat. “Italy it is, then, my love; let’s put it on the calendar.”
She tugs at the button on his shirt, her fingers creeping between the fabric and caressing the curls on his chest. She sighs deeply. “That sounds wonderful, Tom.” Her tone is sad as she pulls away, sliding off his lap and into her own chair next to him. He wonders if he’ll ever see Rome through her eyes… Looking down at the papers and books in front of him, she asks, “What’s all this?”
Tom purses his lips and nods. He pauses, looking down at the vineyards, taking in the view and judging his words wisely. “It’s a syllabus for next fall; working out some new things.”
Perched on the edge of her seat, in her silk bra and panties, she looks over the books carefully, lifting one thick volume and admiring it. “Tom? These aren’t for classes you teach… are you… Are you offering a new elective?”
He runs his hand thoughtfully over his mouth, back and forth, pushing against his lips. The scruff on his chin is raw against his fingertips. “They are. They’re for classes I’ll be teaching at another university, Thalia…”
Hugging the book to her chest, her jaw drops. “What?” she whispers. “You’re leaving? You can’t leave… Did they…” Thalia shakes her head. “Did someone find out about us? Did you get fired because of me? Because if you did–”
Tom scoots his chair closer to hers, trapping her anxiously wiggling legs between his. Pulling the book from her, his fingers graze her skin and the heat is felt in his touch. “No, no darling. Nothing like that. If anyone knows, nothing has been said to me.” Taking her hands in his, he holds them tight and runs his thumbs over the back of her hand. Tears fill his eyes and he chokes on his words. “I can’t… I can’t go back to a place you’re not.” He sucks in a deep breath, his tears falling. He looks up to her tear streaked face and tentatively smiles when she bites her lip to hold back a sob. He raises her hands to his lips and kisses them tenderly, dropping one of her hands to free his.
Tom rests his large palm against her face, his thumb caressing over the scar on her cheek. He smiles through the tears. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t be happy there anymore without you, my Warrior Princess.” He sighs. “Oh, how you lived up to that name.” Her free hand runs over his thigh, squeezing it tightly as her chocolate brown eyes rapidly read his face. “You fought so hard, darling; you’ve worked so hard, and I’m so proud of you. I loved you.” He inhales shakily, his voice rough when he repeats his words. “I love you and I never said it. I should have, a thousand times over, loud enough so you could hear it… But instead I pushed you away. I thought I was too old for you; too set in my ways–”
“Oh, Tom,” she sighs, coughing back the tears. “I–”
“No, no; don’t.” His fingertip presses her lips closed. “I know. I always knew… I knew you loved me too, yet I did nothing to change my behaviors, and I’ll live with that regret the rest of my life, Thalia.” Her gasping cries fill the space between them. He wants nothing more than to hold her close but he knows for the sanity of them both he needs to keep his resolve. He came to Paris to tell her he loves her, and he did. But now it’s time to let her go… “I had the wild orchid I always searched for and didn’t know what to do with it when I found it.” He chuckles, pulling back and wiping his nose on the back of his wrist.
The spell broken, she shoves her wild hair back and ties it loosely before reaching for a napkin on the table. Wiping her tear stained cheeks, she holds the wadded tissue to her mouth. “Tom… Tom, you’re too important to me to just let go; I don’t know if I can go on alone. I don’t know if I want to…”
“But you should, darling, and you can. And maybe… Maybe you’ll choose someone else.” He stands from his chair and walks to the railing. If she chooses him, his competition, he doesn’t want to know. He’d run to the ends of the Earth to hide from that pain. Turning back to her, his eyes glimpse into the other open doorway, the jumbled sheets and silk tie hanging from the edge of the bed, her favorite boots haphazard on the floor… He sucks in a sharp breath, clenching his fists at his sides. He pulls himself together and he smiles bravely. “And maybe I’m deluding myself, thinking we were friends before, and we can be friends again. I feel like in our line of work, we’ll cross paths soon enough. I already saw your name listed for the return trip to Stratford Upon Avon next Spring. My new school is taking students as well; that’s one of the reasons why they hired me when I approached them. They know my work in the field… Work I couldn’t have accomplished without you, Thalia. I feel like you’ve made me the man I am today.”
Shaking off her sadness, obviously still stunned, Thalia stands from her chair, rising tall. Following his lead, as she always has, he thinks to himself… Her words are quiet and filled with sorrow. “Well, I know for damn sure I wouldn’t be the person I am now without your influence during the last year.” Sucking in a deep breath, she walks back into the cottage and bends to pick up her robe. Sliding the delicate fabric back over her skin, she looks to him. “Okay, then… As they say, ‘We’ll always have Paris…’” Her voice is shaky, but she continues. “And, well, your new school will be lucky to have you, and as your friend, I’d be happy to give guest lectures on various topics.” She knots the belt and walks back onto the veranda, leaning against the rail next to Tom.
For quite some time, they stand in silent next to one another. The breeze catches the sleeve of her robe and the fine silk brushes against his arm. The smell of her is so close to him, it wraps around him and becomes part of his memory. From the corner of his eye, he can see her tears still silently fall and her chest heaves. Tenderly, he places his arm around her and holds her close. The Latina beauty melts into him and is so right in his arms. He prays for a different outcome some day, but knows in his heart this isn’t what either of them need right now. They both still have some growing up to do.
When her cries subside, her body warms again and she chuckles quietly.
“What’s so funny?” he asks, kissing the top of her head and stepping back to look down at her.
“Well, Sir, could you define ‘friend’ for me?” Her eyes dance and he knows her teasing tone. Sassy. Thalia. “Do you mean the ‘let’s get a coffee and catch up’ kind, or the ‘Hey, I just happen to be in your city and wondered if your bed was available’ kind?”
Tom’s ‘eh, eh, eh’ laughter bounces off the walls of the patio and birds startle and fly from the trees. His amusement echoes hers. “Oh, my darling, you are a wild child!” With a slight push, he turns her around and points her towards the bedroom. “Go get dressed, and let’s finish our sightseeing list for today. We’ll just take it one day at a time, and learn a new way to be with one another.”
Thalia nods. “Yes, Sir, what would you like me to wear?”
She laughs and runs away when he swats her rounded ass. Out of his reach, she turns and sticks out her tongue. “I’ll be a bit. Gotta wash my hair; make a few calls for work. You get some more planning done,” she orders.
All thoughts of getting any work accomplished have escaped him. He knows she has reports to write for her office as well, so they’ll have to settle down again later in the evening. Sighing, he cleans up his papers and shoves things back in his leather satchel. His eyes rest on his glasses, folded on top of the copy of ‘Hamlet’ she’d lovingly held.
He whispers aloud, “Oh my dearest Thalia… ‘Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.’”
His eyes fill with tears again and he chuckles quietly. The words of the Bard always provide him comfort somehow… Sucking in a deep breath, he pushes forward. He only has two more days in Paris before meeting with his sister in London for a short visit before going back to the States to restart his life yet again.
Tom feels like he’s always running from something, but maybe now Thalia has shown him a greater purpose, something to run towards; to not be scared of the next time he sees it. Picking up the spectacles, memories of their love and lovemaking dance through his thoughts. He wonders for the hundredth time if he did indeed take advantage of a student, purely for his own whim and fantasy. Walking into the little cottage he rented outside the city, he turns on the kettle and prepares to make a fresh cup of tea. He decides it doesn’t really matter how it happened – he’s simply glad it did.
Click here to read Chapter 45 Mended
Author’s Note: There are only two remaining chapters of Educating Thalia
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