Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chapter Eighteen

OK, this is brief but chapter nineteen won't be far behind. :)


The little white arrow on the screen hesitated over “send” and Bekah scanned her document once more before pressing that fatal button.  Shoof.  The first draft of her Tess paper had been forwarded to English Teacher Extraordinaire and there was no taking it back.

She’d spent the past few hours crunching out that super sarcastic rant and knew she’d most likely get another “zero” if she dared to hand it in as is.  Any teacher would refuse it and most likely Dan would send it back with tons of comments, but that was OK.  She’d dropped a hint in her writing and taking her frustrations out on her keyboard had been sort of…fun.  Even if she had cried again in the process.

If only the Shields guys could see her now- no make-up, hair in a makeshift ponytail and tons of crumpled tissues littering her desk.

Her feet, which had been resting next to the slanted keyboard, fell to the cold floor and she rubbed her forehead.  Her poor, throbbing head had been equally as cluttered as her surroundings for the past twenty-four hours. Remembering how Dan had responded to her touch, remembering his curiosity over her reaction to the rainbows.  And then how he’d wound up discussing his motives for teaching instead of directly dealing with her sob-fest.  There was so much to learn about him and he’d seemed so perfect yesterday.

But he couldn’t be perfect. No guys were perfect and like Angel Clare had done with Tess, she may have been building a false image of Dan Shields in her mind.  In fact, he’d already hinted that she had, with his revelation that he “used to be” a conniving jerk…and if his father had taught him that crap, then his bad boy side might have been more engrained than he’d like to admit. 

Geez. Was there anything wrong with wishing for a real-life Superman in this screwed-up world? 

There’s no such thing as Superman.  Shields is a cute guy who tosses out bits of wisdom and doesn’t hold grudges for mistakes. At least not for mistakes that don’t seriously affect him

Touching his arm- not such a tragic occurrence.  Easy to forgive.  And just because he hadn’t “caved” right away didn’t mean he wouldn’t have moved in for a kiss if she’d kept up the pressure.

She’d been right when she’d guessed she’d awaken horrified at her sappy, over-emotional thoughts and behavior. 

More vodka, please.

Right, like that would solve anything--for her or for Alice.

She’d just folded her knees toward her chest when the bell sound on her computer indicated she’d received a message

Raising her head slowly, she blinked at the bold line at the top of the email list. It was from him- already!  He hadn’t even had time to read her writing, so why would he bother responding this quickly?

She clicked on his name and the message popped up like fireworks.  Despite all she’d been thinking, her heart pounded as though she’d just been handed a million dollars, when all she’d received was a few little lines.  Still, she could hear the warmth in his reply:

Hey, Rebekah, glad to see you’ve been working on this.  Right now I have an appointment, but I’ll definitely give this a read later on.  By the way, Ryan’s headed to your place and he didn’t seem too thrilled.  I’ll have a talk with him later, if you’d like. 

I hope you’re feeling better today.  Take care.


Ryan? Headed here?  She closed the message box and shut down the computer and rested her forehead against the palm of her hand.

What appointment could Shields have on a Sunday?  With Ryan leaving the house, what would he do with Allie?  Maybe Allie needed to see a doctor?  Since they were rich, he could probably get her into any doctor any time he wanted.  Yet he’d taken her to the regular ER last week, hadn’t he?

Gah…rich.  What was she doing even considering a couple of rich guys?

She sighed, wondering if she should shower for Ryan or just let him smell her perspiration and see her tear-stained cheeks.  She’d been far too out of sorts to pursue a relationship with any guy, so who cared what she looked like?

Still, if she planned to face him at all and spill her intention to keep her distance, then showering probably was a good idea.  Any great heroine from English Lit would have done the same, right?

She smirked and pushed herself from the seat that had born her father’s weight on countless nights.  Shuffling out of the third bedroom-turned-office, she made her way to the bathroom and threw herself into the shower.  After she’d washed up and began sloshing her toothbrush around in her mouth, her mother’s closet door roared to life in the next room.

Bekah cursed.  No sense in letting Mommy meet Ryan.  Why drag this whole thing out unnecessarily?

Poor Ryan, though…he really did seem like a nice guy. It was just a shame he’d become interested in an unstable weakling like Bekah.

With a sigh, she removed the towel from her head and hurried to her room to dress.  After she’d selected a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt, she pulled her hair back, cursing the long strands that stuck to her neck. Time for a haircut. Screw this mop.

The doorbell rang.

She heard Mommy’s door open and dashed into the hallway, waving at her wide-eyed mother as she passed and saying, “It’s for me, don’t worry.  I’ll be back in a little bit.”

“Rebekah Rayne Rose!” Her mother called, only to be ignored as Bekah snagged her jacket from the living room couch and ran the rest of the way to the front of the house. 

Throwing the door open, she caught her breath and sidled onto the front stoop, where Ryan stood with a bunch of red flowers clutched in front of him.  She turned to lock the door. “Sorry,” she said.  “I didn’t want Mom to meet you- no offense or anything, but…”  She twisted her ankle and pulled her hair out of the jacket collar.  “Mom’s been through enough. I don’t want her to…you know, think we’re serious when we might not be.”

Yeah, and?

It’s coming, it’s coming.

The screen door slammed shut and she looked up to find Ryan gaping as he scanned over her hair and face.  Being a rich dude, he probably expected her to keep up her appearance, which was another good reason to shoot this relationship in the foot.

“You look like you just got out of the shower,” he said.

No, remember…he liked you without make-up before.

She folded her arms. “So?”

His breath puffed out, followed by a smile that took her by surprise, especially when he extended the flowers to her.  Looking at the fluff of red, she realized they weren’t just any flowers- but roses. 

Oh, no please don’t say something cheesy like “roses for the Rose.”

“I had to pick these up…I know what I was kind of a jerk last night, so…”

Slowly, she cupped her hands around the outside of the bouquet, green tissue paper crinkling as she strained to remember what “jerky behavior” he’d been referring to.  After her conversation with Dan, he’d been quiet and sort of distant but not jerky.

“You weren’t a jerk.”  Like a little girl, she sniffed the flowers and couldn’t help smiling.  So, they smelled nice.  Big deal.

“You sure about that?” He tucked a piece of hair that had begun blowing in her face behind her ear.  “Because I was feeling pretty obnoxious and it’s a good thing I was able to bite my tongue.”

She frowned upwards, knowing full well why he’d needed to bite his tongue.  But she hadn’t expected him to bring up the issue like this and wasn’t sure she could produce a reasonable response to his concerns. Not that it mattered.

“Look...” He smacked his hands together and then rubbed them as though trying to start a fire.  Not too far from the truth, maybe?  “Let’s go get some lunch, OK?”

“Just tell me what you’re thinking, Ryan.” Maybe she could break things off easier by turning his concerns on him, but that seemed like her stinkiest idea yet.

Her stomach lurched and she was tempted to hand the roses back and lock herself inside with Mommy.

But even that felt unusual.

Nothing seemed normal today. Even the sky, bright and blue as it might have been, remained void of any birds or clouds.

“I didn’t plan on dropping this question on your front stoop.” Ryan looked sheepish.  “I think we should get out of here.”

“No, just say it, I can take it.”


“Look, I don’t do well with game-playing, OK?  I’m blunt and expect other people to be blunt too.” Where had that come from?

“OK, OK….” He held his hands up defensively and then stuck one behind his neck, scratching in a very Dan-like way.  “I’ve noticed some things and I need to know the truth.”

“So, shoot it.”

“No need to get all uptight.  Just tell me point blank…do you have feelings for my brother?”

Oh, great.  She closed her eyes, the cool air invading her lungs and her brain frozen in time just like the masterpiece she’d emailed Teacher. 

Ryan’s brows slowly lowered, his sagging shoulders lending him a less than heroic stance.  Not that it really mattered.

“OK,” he said.  “I realize he’s the stereotypical handsome, young teacher…to the girls, anyway.  I understand if you’ve had a crush on him, but…” He shrugged. “If you’re at least willing to give me a chance, I’d like to see how far we can take this.  Unless your feelings for Dan are already too far gone and there’s no hope for me at all.”

Bekah’s sigh caused a rose to sway as though it had been struck by a breeze in a pretty field. 

This was nuts.  The words teetered on the tip of her tongue:  There’s no hope for any guys at this point. Even if your brother were available, I’d be giving him the ole ‘let’s be friends’ speech.  Cause I can’t handle another let down and I don’t want to ever chance it again.


Dan slumped in his booth at the bakery, iPhone in one hand while he covered his slight grin with his opposite paw.  To his left, a trio of cops were busy scarfing on artery-clogging fair, and before him a cup of stevia-sweetened coffee continued to steam, much like Rebekah’s essay.  While it blew the other kids’ papers to pieces in the character department, the blaring anger issues sizzled away most of the humor and the song playing over the speakers blended pretty well with Rose’s work:

Here comes the rain again, raining in my head like a tragedy. Tearing me apart like a new emotion

He imagined she’d practically hammered her keyboard to death, typing out this assignment.

Angel Clare deserved hostility, but Rose’s disdain for men in general had come through loud and clear:

Angel Clare, supposedly the hero of the novel, was nothing more than a closed-minded jerk who created a pie-in-the-sky image of Tess simply because she was beautiful (like with most guys, his brains were in his pants). So, of course, when he realized she wasn’t as “perfect” as he, their marriage became of no value (his poor wittle world had been shattered) and he believes he’d never loved her to begin with. Which he didn’t, because if he’d truly loved her, he never would have left her. 

But that’s aside from the point.  Basically, Hardy’s hero and villain shared so many characteristics that it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.  Perhaps Angel and Alec should have been executed for screwing so much with Tess’ life that she eventually snapped.

Is it raining with you?  Obviously it was with Rose, and she was smart enough to know that he couldn’t accept this paper in its current state.  So why had she wanted him to read it? Was she angry with him again?  After their discussion the night before- after everything that had happened, he’d thought she’d softened significantly but he guessed with girls like her, it was hard to tell.

Hence another reason he shouldn’t have found her so attractive.  Physical beauty only goes so far, and Rose mostly needed a good friend, a counselor to level with her and help guide her from the despair and anger in which she’d been stumbling.

And there he’d been, admiring every pretty thing about her, just like the brainless jerks she’d described in her paper.

But there were other reasons for his attraction.  Curiosity, he guessed.  A good mystery easily draws unsuspecting idiots.

So does a soft heart.  And it’s not so idiotic to be drawn by that.

He recalled her tears and her admissions and the regret she’d displayed for having popped Brian in the nose.  How many girls would feel bad for bloodying that punk’s snout?

“I’m sorry it took me so long…”  Grace slid into the seat across from him, folding her hands atop the table and immediately driving her gaze outside the window.  Her hair hadn’t been pulled back today, but he guessed that was because another girl had taken charge of service behind the counter.  Dishing out garbage, no less.

His stomach rolled but he doubted it was merely due to the disgustingly rich scent that filled this entire place.

He raised his iPhone, scanning once more over the piece he’d received in his email and then clicked the button at the top of the phone.  Rebekah’s words vanished and he frowned as he slowly tucked the device into his side pouch. 

He’d known she might have reacted badly to some of the issues Hardy had ingeniously driven home in the miserable piece known as Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but he hadn’t expected quite so much volatility. 

Lord, help her, he thought and rubbed his temple.  He should have sent a more thorough response before leaving the house.  Because apparently her rough draft was a cry for help. 

Chapter Nineteen:

1 comment:

  1. Things are starting to get very interesting indeed!

    Ryan and Bekah are still treading on thin ice, me thinks... I still don't know if it's good if they tried to work things out... I doubt it somehow. At least not if Bekah's feelings are the same and that intense for Dan.

    I love Bekah's character! I know Dan seems to be the knight in shinning armour etc., but I really feel for Bekah... the way she struggles with her emotions, not even admitting the existence of some of them! She's trying hard to protect herself through this badass facade and alcohol etc. but all she needs, is to just bare herself totally, see what is going on really inside of her, come to terms with her flaws, emotions etc.

    Nasty process I know, but me thinks it's highly needed. That's why Dan is right on pressuring her about counceling.

    Ironically, Shields could act as some kind of a shield for her... protect her from her bad self. Show her the way or at least encourage her towards it.

    You wrote at some point: Was there anything wrong with wishing for a real-life Superman in this screwed-up world?

    Exactly my thoughts sometimes!!! Hahahahaha

    Going to chapter 19!