Strong Shoulders

ch 4 strong shoulders jan 13 2019

Strong Shoulders

Chapter 4

By avenger-nerd-mom & devikafernando

AU Fan Fiction

In the sequel to Educating Thalia, the lovely Thalia Bareo is trying to grow 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 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.

**THIS CHAPTER DOES HAVE MENTION OF A SICK PARENT**

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

Summary: Thalia returns to Chicago for a quiet holiday with her father and stepmother

Word Count 1263

Previous Chapter, Attraction

December 2018

Thalia had been looking forward to the month long winter holiday with her family in Chicago, but now she wonders if she can ever escape old memories. Walking down the hallway, the place seems smaller, and the peeling wallpaper and chipped trim adds to her dreary mood. Examining the tree, she wryly smiles at the old ornaments, things she’d made in grade school. She briefly wonders what happened to the Nativity she and her mother had painted before her mother walked out. Tapping her finger against the bell from her cousin’s wedding, she sends up happy thoughts for the couple and laughs at an old picture of her and her friend Amy stuffed in among the branches. A silly glass ornament of a hot dog catches her eye, and she wonders how it made it to the tree from the shelf in her room.

Tom. She falters at the thought of him, her heart momentarily stopping.

Tom had bought the ornament as a joke three years before when he had surprised her by turning up in the city. They’d shared such a wonderful time, geeking out over the museums, stuffing themselves with local food. Fucking each other’s brains out in the hotel that night, putting the tie she’d gifted him for Christmas to good use.

Fuck him, she mumbles, staring out the window at the falling snow.

The memories were too much. Stacey found her curled up on the couch in the den. The motherly blonde sat cradling the broken young woman in her arms. “I really fucked up, Stacey. I can’t fix it. I can’t change it, and they’re both gone.”

“Oh, honey,” she says, wiping away her stepdaughter’s tears. She cups her face in her hands and gently kisses her nose. “There are other handsome princes. You’ll love again, in time.”

Thalia sobs harder, her body quaking from a broken heart. This isn’t her first meltdown, but it’s the only time she’s let another soul in on her pain. Except for Jim Beam and Johnnie Walker, no one has seen her this bad, this devastated.

“I don’t want anyone else,” she yelps, choking on her tears. “I met, I met someone… Other than a sexy voice, and being a professor,” she scoffs, “he’s not my type. But I like him. He’s nice, he’s funny. He’s Australian and dammit, his name is Chris!” She hollers through her tears.

“Everything okay up there?” Carlos Bareo calls up the stairs.

“Nooo,” whines Thalia, collapsing again in her mother’s arms.

“Carlos, honey, we’ll be awhile,” Stacey yells back. “Why don’t you just order in some dinner tonight? We’ll be down soon.”

“Oh, God, I don’t want him to see me like this. Not when he warned me-”

“Life’s too short to say ‘I told you so.’ He won’t want you hiding away in here the whole time you’re home. He’s looking forward to the special tour you arranged for the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.” Stacey passes a tissue to Thalia, doing her best to change the subject, while the younger woman noisily blows her nose. “So tell me about this other guy? What’s he like?”

She blows her nose again, wadding up the tissue and dropping it in the trash can next to the couch. She inhales deeply, looking up to the ceiling. “Nothing to tell. I blew it. After a quick and much needed make out session on his couch the other night, when we got to his bedroom, he had the same bedspread Tom and I had in Paris, and my Chris’s book on his nightstand, the one I helped edit.” She chuckles, wiping the end of her dripping nose with another tissue, the tears finally slowing and beading up on her lashes. “I kinda freaked out a little, couldn’t breathe. I mean he’s trying to take my sweater off, and I’ve got a movie montage in my head of that damn bedspread.” She visibly swallows, making a clicking sound in the back of her throat. “We’re really only work friends, it was like the second time I’d hung out at his house. We don’t know each other well enough to read the clues, so I finally had to put the brakes on-”

“Oh, honey, that’s really-”

She hiccups and giggles. “Awful, I know, right? I just told him, well, I was tracing his abs, so it took a moment to sink in, but I couldn’t stop staring at him. I swear, Stacey, it was like a twelve pack, I’ve never seen anything like it before.” She sighs deeply. “Probably never will again,” she says wistfully, “I’m gonna be a nun. Anyway, I asked if he remembered me saying I’d recently ended a relationship, and I told him the bedspread was the same, and I couldn’t handle it.”

Stacey hides her smile behind her hand. “Then what happened, honey?”

Thalia snorts. “Guys like him don’t exist in real life. He took me back downstairs to the kitchen, and we devoured a roll of cookie dough, instead of each other. He told me about his ex, and how he ended up in the States. At some point, I think I went into a sugar coma, because I woke up on his couch yesterday morning while he was making a mad dash to gather things up to pack to go back home for the term break.” She smiles weakly. “I made him breakfast and helped him with a few things before I left to get home and finish packing my own bags.”

Stacey’s jaw drops. “So he was totally okay with it, not having sex, and just being a good guy? A real friend?”

Thalia lifts her eyebrows. “I know, crazy right?”

“A Christmas miracle,” Stacey laughs.

A quiet night in with her parents was just what she needed to help escape from memories, but then real life caught up fast. Her father was in ailing health, and they spent long hours together during her break. His repeated refrain was the old adage, ‘If you love something, let it go. If it was meant to be, it will come back.’

She never knew if he was talking about her love life, and if so, which man was he referring to, or if he was rambling about his happiness she had returned home after so long an absence.

Thalia never got a chance to ask her father about it. He died shortly after she returned to the school for the winter term.

While she was gone for his funeral, her small apartment complex was destroyed by a fire.

Once again a nomad, the young woman had shown up at Professor Chris Evans’ door with just her suitcase from her trip and really no place to go. He accepted her with open arms. Avery was pleased as punch to have her favorite playmate back in the house again. His girlfriend? Not so much…

Shortly after moving in, Thalia heard them in the kitchen late one night.

“How long is she gonna be staying here?”

The sound of a glass beer bottle hitting the table echoed through the downstairs. “Karen, she’ll stay as long as she needs to. She lost everything, what part of that do you not get?” His voice is tired, agitated just below the surface.

“She was your student, and you dated her, and now she’s living in our basement. That’s just fucked up and-”

Putting in her earbuds, she tuned out the rest of the conversation. She jogged down the steps to her room, flopping across the bed. Scrolling through the phone, she continued her search for apartment listings, looking for a new place to live.

Next chapter, Sensitivity Training

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

WIP: Coffee Shop PT 2

WIP coffee shop cover.jpg

WIP: Coffee Shop PT 2

by avenger-nerd-mom

Veronica Connors has her hands full taking care of her sick mother…

Warnings: Language, sick parent, caretaker role

Word Count: 2330

I’ve been working on some original fiction pieces aside from my fan fictions.  I will not be posting whole stories here or on tumblr, but I plan to share bits and pieces as I make progress.  No famous personalities and quirks to fall back on, no face claims… these hurting souls are all mine.

Click here for PT 1

As the summer continues a pattern develops. Mother and I develop a schedule. Breakfast and medicine. A walk around the yard before the summer Sun heats up. She enjoys telling me about her garden. On really good days we get down in the dirt and she feels productive, regaling me with stories I’ve never heard about her childhood. Lunch and medicine. Her afternoon nap. Her soaps on TV. She complains daily that her favorites are no longer on the air, having been replaced by ‘those damn game shows and ranting women.’

I try to finish my work for the office by two each day. The advice for new mothers to nap when the baby naps? I would say it holds true for anyone taking care of an aging parent. Even on a day when she is active and lucid I’m worn out.  When she settles into her chair for the afternoon I often curl up on the couch and try to catch an hour nap. I have to; I never know what the night time will bring. I’m learning it often means night terrors, fits of rage and on one occasion trying to escape the house at two in the morning.

The woman I see isn’t my mother anymore. My mother, although controlling, was graceful and arrogant. Yet she had a way about her that made everyone like her. I didn’t realize till college that was all for show. She was tolerated simply because she was head of so many committees in town.  I knew I didn’t like her but was surprised my freshman year in college when I worked at the country club over the summer that many of her friends didn’t like her either. I overheard them one day as I was helping prep for one of her charity events.  Although the things they said about Eleanor Connor were true, it was difficult to hear others hate your own flesh and blood.  That was my job.

Daytime I can handle.  I work, do laundry and take care of Mom. It’s a little mind numbing actually.  I don’t worry about the house. Her cleaning lady still comes in once a week and as long as I vacuum and keep the kitchen clean we don’t make too many messes. If mother’s state continues it will be time to consider moving her to a residential facility. Aunt Sharon and I have talked about this.  She’d like it to happen sooner than later; I think she’d like to take back the property.  Daddy deeded it to her in the event that mother no longer was using the home.

I sure as hell don’t want it. She can have it. Even as a young girl I knew the home was a status symbol; Daddy bought it so Mother could keep up her appearances and have a display home for teas and charity meetings with the other bored, wealthy housewives in town. I always felt like Cinderella with the number of chores she made me complete each week. Always giving me a list of things before I could go out-

“Roni? Be a dear,” She interrupts my thoughts and I know what’s coming. Like clockwork. “It’s chilly in here and there is a glare on the tv. Please hand me my sweater.”

I rise to hand it to her, moving the tv monitor a fraction of an inch before sitting on the couch next to her. Back to the original location it sat in yesterday when she complained.  I swear it’s a game with her.  There is no glare. She just wants to see me jump. She scowls as she takes the blue fuzzy garment, sniffing, “Where’s my pink one? I like it. It’s softer.”

“I know Mama. I had to wash it today, remember? You spilled soup on it last night.”  That’s being polite. She poured it in her lap like a child when it was cheese broccoli instead of tomato. When I began cooking around four she wanted cheese broccoli. By five when it was ready to eat, she requested tomato. When she didn’t get her way she dumped it in her lap. “You wanted me to dry it on the line because you said it would smell like your garden?”

“I did? Oh, heaven’s no child. Go get it!  I can’t have all the pollen in the sweater fibers! I won’t be able to breath for a week!”

Sighing, I look at my watch. “Do I have to go right this minute, Mama?  Can it wait till Aunt Sharon gets here so I don’t leave you alone?”

She pulls her arms through the sweater like a petulant child, pouting. “I’m not helpless. I can be left alone for five minutes.”

“Mama. The last time you said that to me I found you standing in the middle of the street and you didn’t know how you got there,” I remind her.

She stares at me blankly. “That’s a lie. You just want me to be sick. You give me too much medicine so I get foggy and I can’t think straight.”

She blames the doctor too.  Actually, he does tend to keep her in a fog.  He says her body can heal faster if she rests and he knows it makes caring for her easier on me and Aunt Sharon.

I can’t read her state and I say the first thing to come to my mind. “Mama, if I was gonna over medicate anyone right now it would be me so I could block out all this shit.”

It’s like my tone triggers something in her brain and she reaches over to pat my knee. “Hey little Roni Boney; what’s got you down dearie?”

I ignore the hated nickname and her unintended slam for all my years as a skinny, scrawny thing. This woman sounds like my Mom. I reach out to grasp her fingertips locking her frail hand in mine. When did she get old? Was she old before she got sick?  “Nothing, Ma. I’m just kinda tired.”

“Is it Thomas? He’s a nice man; I like him. Why hasn’t he come to visit you this summer?”

Of course she would like him, but I bite my tongue.  “Mama, he and I broke up last spring. We just didnt-”

She interrupts me again, snapping to attention. “Veronica Rae Connors. You are too old to still be single. That nonsense of yours about getting a job and moving to the city needs to stop. You can’t be all high and mighty and expect a man to love you.  A good man still wants his wife waiting at home with a hot dinner at night, getting the kids ready for their bath so they can have time alone and make more babies.”

“Good God, Mama!  What year do you think this is?!”  I take a deep breath to keep myself from actually yelling at her.  I rub my temples and pray dad’s sister gets here soon. “Barefoot and pregnant with pearls around my neck? I don’t live in some kind of black and white rerun on TV. In this day and age women have jobs; some of us even make more money than our male counterparts. If you’re waiting around for me to have kids or settle down, you’ll be waiting a helluva long time. I’m just not in that frame of mind or that place right now, Mama. I gotta finish making myself before I can make a wife or a mom.”

Looking at me in disbelief as if I’ve sprouted two heads, she retorts quickly,  “What kind of feminist new age bullshit is that?”

Oh, my God.  I actually want to argue with her just because she seems human now, not this collapsed shell of who she used to be.  I gleefully begin to get a little fired up about this. “Why do you spit out feminism like it’s a bad thing?”  I reply.  “You could have worked, you went to college; studied journalism.  You gave it away for Daddy.  That’s what you wanted.  Why can’t I have what I want?!”

“You think I had what I wanted?” she mocks.  “Your father was-”

“Enough Eleanor!” Aunt Sharon calls out haltingly at the arched entrance to the living room.  “You will not besmirch my brother’s name over your petty indifferences.  If you say one more word, you’ll be out now.”

Mother instantly stops, looking to me like a child with her hand slapped for being in the cookie jar.  My mouth ajar I have no idea what just transpired.  Aunt Sharon just shakes her head at me as she drops her bag in the chair she leaves stationed just inside the doorway.  She pulls off her light jacket and pushes a few loose tendrils behind her ear.  “Eleanor, you know that man gave you everything.  You had what you wanted.”

Her last phrase, repeated from my own words, shows she’d been in the house listening, at least for a few moments before making her presence known.

In a blink, Mom shuts back down.  Her eyes glaze over and it’s like we weren’t even in the middle of an interesting discussion.  Bile burns my throat as I want to rip into my aunt but I know if I do, my evening alone is shot.   I hand Mom the remote and she stares at it for a minute before turning her eyes back to the television.  Steeling myself, I take a big breath and rise to my feet.  “Aunt Sharon, can I see you in the hallway?”

I can see on her face she knows I’m pissed, but she simply nods her head yes and steps backwards into the open space.  She opens her mouth before I can even start.  “Veronica.  You can not do that.  She is not in a good head space and you know that.  Even when she seems like your mother, you can’t.  You can’t engage her and you can’t trust things she tells you.”

I slink back against the wall, deflated because I know she’s right. “You’re right.  Dammit, you’re right.  Just…” I huff.  “When she starts in about Thomas, or Daddy…”  I shake my head.  “I can deal with one or the other but not both.  She acts like I’ve failed at life, and she has no idea about my life.  She-”

“She tried and you cut her out.”

“Sharon, that’s bullshit and you know it.  She made her bed.  I know all the horrible things after Daddy died.  But I wasn’t around before that.  And I’m never gonna resolve all that if I don’t know.”

“But you can’t trust her.  Her brain isn’t right.”

“Then I need you to fuckin’ tell me what you know.”  She purses her lip when I curse.  She has her list of acceptable words and ‘fuck’ isn’t one of them.  “Sorry. I know… really.  I just need information and it’s like it’s all locked in her brain. I just need a time when she is cognizant, to tell me what she remembers.”

“Honey, even then… Your mother,” she pauses, sighing.  “Your mother wasn’t always a nice, truthful person.  I only know what I saw.  Snippets of gossip I’d hear around town.” She sighs even deeper.  “But if you really think it will help you, I’ll think back on those days and we can talk it out soon.”  She lapses for a moment as I shake my head in agreement.  “And I’m sorry for intruding.  But I don’t want to listen to your mother ruin my brother’s memory; I get enough of that each night when you are out… What are you doing to keep busy by the way? Still writing at the coffee shop?”

“You’re changing the subject…” I scoff, scowling at her a bit.  I know she’s right.  I take a deep breath and let her tactic work.  “Tonight is discount night at the movies.  I’m gonna go see that new show everyone’s talking about; then yeah, I’ll probably head to the coffee shop for a bit.”

Peering into the living room, I see mother rise from the couch and shuffle to the blinds, adjusting them to block out more light.  Rubbing the back of my neck, I shake my head.  “Sharon, I can’t keep doing this.  She’s got to get better.  I eventually have to get back to my life.”

“Oh, sweetie,” my aunt steps forward and wraps her arms around me, pulling me into her full bosom.  “I know.  I know.  Next week, after we meet with the doctors.  We’ll see what the next step should be.”  Pulling my head up to look her in the eye, she reminds me, “What you’ve done is so amazing.  You’ve been the best daughter, the best niece anyone could hope for honey.”  Wrapping a stray curl around one of her fingers, she tucks it back up in my messy bun.  “Stop sitting at that damn coffee shop.  You’re not gonna meet people there.”

I chuckle and kiss her on the cheek.  I love that she can make me feel sixteen again with a simple hug.  I squeeze her tight before letting go.  “There’s a reason I moved away from this place.  I didn’t want to come back.  I’m not about meeting people right now.  I’m about getting Mom better or getting her someplace where people can care for her.”

Sharon pushes me towards the door.  “That doesn’t mean you have to live like a nun.”  She hands me my purse from the side table.  “Live a little.  Karaoke night at Charlie’s tonight.  That’s where everyone goes on Thursdays.  Forget the movies.  Really?  If you called me up and said you were at Charlie’s I’d so stay a few extra hours.”

Opening the door, I shake my head at her.  “What if I make it sound like I’m at Charlie’s?” I ask, reaching for my computer bag next to the walker mom needs to start using.

“GO, child.  Live a little,” she laughs.

Copyright © 2016 avenger-nerd-mom. All rights reserved. Intellectual property of avenger-nerd-mom