Reaching Out

ch 15 Reaching Out Feb 20 2019

Reaching Out

Being Thalia

Chapter 15

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is growing up, making her own way in the world after losing both men she loved, Professors Chris Evans and Tom Hiddleston. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago holds down a job in Madrid as she tries to deal with the real world. She continues her studies and freelances as a consultant for museums around the world. Being Thalia updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

If you are looking for other stories in the sequel, click here for the beginning of Being Thalia

Word Count 2741

Summary: Thalia reaches out for help as she tries to get her life together and move forward.

Previous Chapter, Haunted

August 2021

Thalia twists the tissue in her hands, relieved by her falling tears and surprised it felt good to have it out.

“If you loved Tom, had pined for him, why did you bring Chris home that night at the bar?”

She sucks in her breath, turning over the therapist’s question in her head. She goes with her gut instinct. “How could I not? If you could have seen the way he looked at me?” She waves her hand down her body with a flourish. “Most men aren’t looking to get with this, but his look said it all. He was down to fuck, and I wasn’t the only girl in the bar that night. He coulda picked someone else.” She leans forward and wipes at a smudge of dirt on the toe of her caramel colored heels. “Tom had given me a confidence I didn’t have before…” Thalia avoids the gaze of the older woman. “And it was just supposed to be a one night stand. It wasn’t supposed to last.  Handsome devil tricked me,” she chuckled.

The rest of the session had been about Chris, and now she can’t get him out of her mind.

On the walk home, her heels bang against her thighs, holding them in her hands as her tennis shoes beat across the pavement. ‘It wasn’t supposed to last’ repeats in her head. She knew from the start she shouldn’t have taken Chris home that night. But over five years later, it was still as vivid in her mind as the night it happened. The way he’d looked at her challenged her, made her curious. He’d let her have some power and she’d thrived on that, as much as she melted under Tom’s domination.

They were such opposite men, but both fulfilled what she needed, formed who she is now…

Chris was such a contrast to Tom, so vibrant and full of life.

Stopping at the traffic light, she shakes her head. No, that isn’t right. Not to make Tom seem dull, she scoffs to herself, but Chris just had a different energy than Tom. Chris was more of a family man, domestic. She chuckles out loud, drawing the looks of strangers. Who would have thought she’d ever crave that type of domesticity? But Chris gave her a look at a life she never thought she wanted, to have kids, to settle down in one place.

Turning the corner to head up the street to her little flat, her mind tries to control her racing thoughts. Stupid therapy, she thinks. Why dig up the past? It isn’t gonna change anything. Both men are gone, and she can’t have them back. Tom should be getting married soon, and Chris’s engagement announcement is in the pile of papers in her home office, along with a note from Avery. Fishing the keys from her bag, she resolves to check in with the young girl.

Stepping into the tiny place, she’s reminded of her college apartment. After all these years, this still isn’t a step up, but at least the radiator works. In this mid-summer heat, she’s thankful the air conditioning unit works. Dropping her bag by the table, she twists her hair up, clipping it away from her neck. Having lived such a nomadic life, moving to teach at various universities or to work for internationally renowned museums, no one place has ever been home. Her eyes land on the photo on the fridge. That’s not true either. She taps the picture of the snowman in front of Chris’s house, the house they shared, with the friendly wrap around porch. She just knows now with age and wisdom, home isn’t a place. It’s the people one collects along the way.

She sighs, opening the fridge and pulling out leftovers from the night before. She sniffs the container and drops it into the trash. Tapas later, she thinks, walking over to sit at the little dinette. She pulls the laptop close and powers it on. While the old thing slowly whirs to life, she sifts through a stack of mail, tossing junk into the trash and separating out the bills and personal items. Thalia smiles at a postcard from Egypt from a former student… Egypt. Still a destination she hasn’t tackled. Paris, Melbourne, London, various places in the US… They’d all been fun, but… maybe it was time for another move. She liked Madrid, has met some nice people, but she was starting to itch to travel again.

The computer opens, with a message flashing. She rolls her eyes. Work can wait till Monday.

She tucks her wild hair over her shoulder, and turns the chair slightly to avoid the pile of dirty dishes on the counter behind her, and logs into Skype, pounding out the keys she knows in her sleep.

His image pops on the screen, rugged and handsome. “You need a trim,” she tells him. “You’re starting to look like a hermit in the woods.” She leans closer. “And it’s awfully damn red and gray.”

Chris scratches his chin. “It’s not that bad, is it?”

“You look like hell.”

“Well, thanks. A crying baby all night will do that to you.”

She leans forward on her elbow, resting her chin in her palm. With the wind nearly sucked from her lungs at the reminder of his new life, and one she lost, she nearly whispers her response. “Reason 253 on the list of reasons I don’t want kids. I need my sleep. He’s adorable though. Looks just like his dad.”

Chris smiles, his energy vibrating through the connection. “Thanks. We hear that a lot.  He sleeps all day, but then is up at night. I can hardly get any work done at home. Karen took him to visit her mom today, just so I can get in one solid day of work.”

“How’s that going?” she asks, her stomach tight at the mention of the other woman’s name. She slowly breathes through her nose to control her ill-feelings.

“Oh, I think they planned to go for another dress fitting and-”

“No. No, I didn’t mean her. I meant the work,” she sighs. “But since you brought it up, how’s the wedding planning going?”

He rolls his shoulders, tilting his head from side to side. “I don’t think we should talk about this… You made your point last time. I know I don’t have to marry her, just because we have a kid together, but, it still seems like the right thing to do.”

“Chris, it’s your life. We agreed we were done for good. I just want you to be happy. And right now, you look like shit…” She rubs her hand over her forehead, frustrated and, yes, slightly jealous. “Ya know, actually, I called to talk to Avery. She’s still on break, right? Is she home?”

Chris shuffles some papers on the desk in front of him. He shakes his head no. “She and some friends went to the movies and the mall. I’m trying to get this chapter done before I have to pick her up in a few hours.”

She tilts her head. “Well, I don’t want to keep you from your work, so-”
His brow knits together, and he squints. “Thalia, you’re never a bother. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Everything.” She shrugs her shoulders. “I just left therapy. I’m a bundle of open emotions. I hate it.” Thalia pulls her notebook from her bag and lays it on the table in front of her.

He laughs quietly, but his blue eyes show his concern. “I’m glad you took my advice. Making any headway?”

“I was happier when I kept it all locked inside. Who wants to dig deep at their flaws, Chris? It’s fuckin’ stupid.”

“You keep going though, right?” She can tell he’s truly concerned.

Doodling on the blank page, she inhales deeply. “Babe, I’m okay. That was one night, during the holidays. I think everyone is entitled to that one drunken night of total self-loathing when they call a friend up, and spill it all out.”

“Yea, but usually that friend isn’t halfway across the world, sitting on a rooftop and talking about losing it all. Thal, I was worried for you. I really thought you were going to do something stupid.” He wipes his hands over his beard, obviously frustrated.

She purses her lips, her head beginning to pound. Her voice is barely a whisper. “What was I supposed to do? I didn’t have any friends here yet. It was a really low point. I’d just found out my stepmom was dating again, you’d told me a few weeks before your girlfriend was pregnant and… and the only other people who ever loved me are either dead, or not talking to me. So yeah, I was having a bad holiday. I wasn’t suicidal, like you make it sound,” she scoffs. “I’m sorry I called and fucked up your holiday.”

“You didn’t fuck up anything. I always want you to have my phone number, I wanna be your backup plan.” He adjusts the camera on the screen. “You just left therapy. You wanna do this now? Cuz I can do this now. No one’s home and I’ve always got time for you, Niña.”

“Yeah, sure.” She sighs. “You know the old saying, ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere?’ Well it is almost five here, let me get a drink. You want one?”  She rises and walks to the fridge, grabbing a beer and pointing it to the computer screen.

He lifts his coffee mug. “Way too early here, I’ll stick with this.”

“Fine, Chris.” She twists the top off, sitting back down and tossing the cap onto the table. “Say it, all the things we should have said when I left the States, or every phone call we’ve had since then.”

Sitting back in his chair, tapping the edge of his desk with his thick, calloused finger, he scoffs. “Dammit, Thalia, even if I’d said it all, you’d have grown to resent it. I wanted to marry you and have kids, and be a real family. But we already were. You just didn’t see it, kept up some invisible wall. I hope you can figure out in therapy what that is, or why, but you don’t know how to let people truly love you… You’re too damn stubborn and independent, and that’s one thing I love about you, but it makes it damn hard to be in love with you. Do you understand the difference?”

She chuckles, taking a sip of beer, and wiping a stray drop from her lip. “I’m not a child, Chris. I know the difference. You don’t have to study Shakespeare to know love, or be old and wise, like you.” She teases, taking another drink. “I just didn’t expect you to move on so fast. That hurt… a lot.”

Chris slowly bounces his head up and down. “I didn’t mean for it to happen either. I think I was pissed and hurt too, angry. Here I was, offering my heart to you for the hundredth time, and you wanted to move on, travel, take the next work challenge. And I get that, but Thalia, all those books and artifacts aren’t gonna keep you warm at night.”

“How did it happen?” Her voice is so low, so pained, she’s surprised to hear her own question, like it jumped out of her mouth before she could think. She ignores his barb at her lifestyle.

He sighs, and rests his elbows on the desk, leaning forward, into her confidence, even through the computer screen. She can see the lines of worry around his eyes. “You’d been gone a few weeks, and Karen and I kept bumping into one another. About a month later, she finally admitted she would take me back, as long as you were gone for good. One thing lead to another… We were… seeing each other a few times a week and then, one night, she came over to tell me she was late. Wanted to know what we should do…” He rubs his hands across the lower part of his face, and pushes back through his hair, resting his hands behind his head and leaving his elbows splayed out behind his head. “Getting remarried, having more kids, was always my plan Thalia, so I took the opportunity. Maybe it’s a sign. I don’t know. She’s a good mom, and we’re putting together a nice life. Avery is still adjusting to her, but we’ll get on.” He leans forward. “It’s not the one I envisioned for myself, Thalia. You know I always pictured you by my side, but I couldn’t love you enough to keep you. I let us- you and I- drag on too long, out of convenience and love for you, for everything we’d been through together.”

Tears well at her eyes. “I hate you’ve moved on to another relationship of convenience…”

“Well, that’s for me and my therapist to work out, not you. Try not to see it that way. I don’t… I have a son now; he’s my focus.” He shifts his eyes, and she wonders if he’s staring at a photo of the little one. She tries to remember; she thinks he was born right before she left for London. Another reason for her poor behavior at the lecture, but she pushes that out of her mind. She focuses back on the conversation as Chris talks about his own therapy sessions. “He says I have a thing for ‘damsels in distress.’ I told him you are no weak thing needing rescuing… You fixed something in me. I think for that time, we fixed each other. But I was never enough for you, or you wouldn’t have needed Hiddl-” He clears his throat. “You wouldn’t have needed anyone else. But I needed you. I was willing to let you have both of us, just so I could keep you. Even after you went to Paris, and then came crawling back to me… I needed you, in a way you didn’t need me.” He scoffs. “‘Good guy syndrome’ is what they call it. But I think, Thalia, we were good for each other. We were perfect together in the time we had, but I knew I could never ask you to stay. It’s the most fuckin’ warped thing ever, but that’s it. I don’t really know that there’s an explanation.”

“But you have a son now, and you and Karen need to make a life together,” Thalia says, nearly choking on the other woman’s name, wiping away her tears.

“What about you? What does your therapist say?”

Thalia sniffles, wiping her nose on a napkin and holding it in her lap tightly. “She doesn’t say much. She wants me to think it through on my own.”

“What conclusions have you come to?” He asks, in a scholarly way.

“That I’m a greedy bitch,” she chuckles, wiping away her tears, smearing her makeup. “I wanted it all and too much. And I found the two people on the planet that would try their damnedest to give it to me, no matter the cost to their own personal lives.”

Chris licks his lip. He speaks quietly. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but you turned my life upside down in the best way possible. I’m a better man because of you, Thalia. I see things different, with added color, thanks to you. And my daughter has the most amazing role model to look up to as she begins to think about her future. You should hear her! Every now and then, I look at her and think, ‘she got that from Thalia.’” He scratches his nose absently. “I don’t know where you’re going to go, or what you’re going to do. But if you ever do find the right man, to settle down with, or that’s willing to travel the world with you, he’s gonna be so damn lucky, and you’ll make him the happiest man in the Universe. And just so you know, you’ve got what it takes to be an amazing mom- no, don’t laugh- you do.”

“I love you, Chris.” She tilts her head up. “Thanks for alway making me feel better.” She smiles weakly. “I don’t always believe it, but it’s nice to hear you say it.”

“Keep going to therapy, Thal. Keep talking things out. Maybe you’ll find answers in places you don’t expect to find them.”

Click here to read Chapter 16, Facing Demons

Copyright © 2019 avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando.  All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom

Flashback

ch 1 jan 2 2019

Flashback

Chapter 1

Being Thalia

Collaboration by @avenger-nerd-mom &  @devikafernando

AU FICTION

It’s TRUE! @devikafernando and @avenger-nerd-mom are posting a SEQUEL for Educating Thalia, involving Professor Hiddleston and Professor Evans! In Being Thalia, the two rivals are still vying for their right to claim the lovely Thalia Bareo. The sassy full-figured Puerto Rican girl from Chicago is all grown up now, holding down a job, continuing her studies and freelancing as a consultant for museums around the world. Story updates are posted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Warning: As a whole, this work contains adult content. If you proceed you have agreed that you are willing to see such content. Each chapter will not be coded with individual warnings. The overall story contains no hidden triggers.

Summary: Thalia has an off-day, feeling out of sorts, and retreats to her office to let her mind wander.

Word count: 970

This opening chapter follows the events in the one-shot story, The Bet, originally posted in August 2018.

If you are new to the series and characters, click here to the beginning of Educating Thalia.

“Why are old lovers able to become friends? Two reasons:

They never truly loved each other, or they love each other still.”

Whitney Otto- How to Make an American Quilt

2020, Early Spring

Trouncing down the stairs, Thalia momentarily stops. Two students leaning against the window ledge are arguing points for class, one clutching a copy of Coriolanus to her chest.

A cold ache fills her heart, as it always does when her former professor and former lover, Tom Hiddleston, crosses her mind. “Fuck him,” she mumbles under her breath, hitting her fist on the bannister. She waves it off when the young woman asks if she’s okay. She sighs and continues her path down the hallway. Unlocking the door to her small office, she slams it behind her. Her love of languages and Shakespeare lost their shine when her light left. Tom took it away when he walked out of her life, nearly two years ago.

Plopping in the chair, she props her dusty boots up on the desk, swiveling the chair to face the windows, looking out across campus. The trees are beginning to bud, and soon things will be green again. Moving a file, the tennis ball she keeps on her desk rolls towards her and she picks it up and begins bouncing it against the wall. Methodically her thoughts drift as she gets lost in the repetition.

***

Slamming around their small apartment in Paris, Tom throws his clothes into the two large suitcases on the bed, the sheets still rumpled from their lovemaking the day before.

“Tom! It’s not like that! Dammit, why you gotta be such a hard ass?” She shouts back at him.

“America, Thalia? I thought we were done with that? I thought you let it go?” Tom’s voice is tight and controlled, his accent clipped. He opens the top drawer, reaching in and scooping out all the clean socks and underwear. Slamming it shut, the clock he hung just days before rattles against the stucco wall. “That we had a life here, together.”

“It’s just for a few months, a semester.” She replies, stepping in front of him.

He pushes around her. “And right back in Evans’ bed, no doubt. Of all the Ivy League schools that want you, offer you teaching positions, why do you think they keep calling you? It’s him, isn’t it?”

“Tom, I haven’t seen him in months. I’ve been here with you, you fool.” She rests on the end of the bed, trying to make light of his anger. She shuts out her thoughts and feelings about Chris cancelling their Spring Break plans at the last possible minute because he’d met someone new…

“Don’t bloody lie to me, woman. I know you still talk. I hear you on the phone with him, and his little girl. I know you still send her cards and gifts.”

Thalia nods. She can’t deny it. She made one promise ages ago, and that was to never abandon Avery. And she held true to her word. The relationship with her other former lover and professor, Chris Evans, had cooled, but they had still remained friends. She says so out loud, but it falls on deaf ears while Tom roots around in the closet, pulling out shirts and dress clothes, tossing them haphazardly on the bed.

“So you’ve taken a job at our old school, where he still works? Where he still pines for you? And you want to keep me?”

“He’s moved on, Tom. If you’ll stop for one damn minute-”

“I don’t give a rat’s arse about him. I care about you and how you let him get to you after all this time, Thalia. It’s too much.” He stands in the doorway, seething with a frightful energy she’s never seen before. Another moment of his rage passes through her thoughts, when he found out she had been seeing Evans. But this fury is unmatched; there’s a finality in it. He throws his hands up in the air. “You know what? I’m done. I’m fucking done. I’ll be back to get the rest of my things tonight, when I know you’re teaching your class. I’ll change my flight, and head back to London early.”

“Tom, you’re being ridiculous. My dad is sick, you gotta understand that,” she pleads. “I have to be back in the States, closer to home. Field Museum wouldn’t hire me, and I can’t just quit working and go home. I have college debt and bills to pay. It’s just a damn job,” Thalia says, throwing a pillow to the ground. “It puts me closer to home, closer to my dad. You don’t have to leave,” she says, anguish choking her throat.

“I do. I can’t fucking stay here a moment longer, be in your presence, knowing you still love him. I won’t do it anymore, Thalia. I can’t. Since you’re not ready to grow up and give up your other toys, I’ll take one away. I’m gone.”

***

She catches the ball in her hand, gripping it tightly. He’d meant what he said. Other than the occasional professional email, Tom Hiddleston was no longer in her life. He wasn’t even someone she could call a friend anymore. He had totally cut her out. The wounds had been deep.

When she’d first accepted the teaching position at their former place of employment, to cover another professor’s maternity leave, returning to the arms of Professor Chris Evans had not been her plan. She had made a point to stand on her own and it had worked well, for the first few months. Chris had moved on, a new girlfriend taking up space in his bed. But he and Thalia had been able to resume their friendship, and Thalia enjoyed spending time with his young daughter. The girl was so inquisitive, beautiful eyes and a sharp wit, like her father. When she was offered a more permanent teaching job at the university, she had nothing in Paris to return to, so she’d gladly accepted.

Next Chapter, Collection

Copyright © 2019  avenger-nerd-mom and devikafernando. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom