As you know I have been posting my first attempt at a novel for the last couple months. I did this because the feedback I was getting from various publishing companies and editors. The general consensus was that I needed to write a book that appealed to the masses, gain a larger online following, and be bold enough to add more grit to the mix. So I wrote Discovering Wonderland to test the waters and to see what kind of response I would get.
So thank you for reading along, helping me achieve my goals/dreams, for your consistent feedback, and for your support.
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Get caught up before diving into Chapter 17
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter One)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter Two)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 3-5)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 6)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter Seven)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 8)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 9)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 10)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 11)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 12)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 13)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 14 & 15)
- Discovering Wonderland (Chapter 16)
***Parental Warning*** – Language –
I’m not sure what happened in Ophelia’s room, but when Suzanna came out she was chomping at the bit. Anger seeping out of her pores like garlic.
“Thank you so much for a wonderful evening, but we need to be going now.” She said with a fake smile. It was as if a sculptor had suddenly appeared and molded her face into a pleasing shape but the result wasn’t quite right. There was something wrong. Very wrong. My eyes darted around the room desperately searching for an answer.
Steven could tell she was upset too and rapidly moved to the door. I headed that way as well because we did come together. Even though she spent most of the night flirting with Wallace. Not that I minded, unless she thought it was going to make me jealous, then I would have minded. In all honestly though, I thought that they had a genuine connection and I hoped something came of it.
Suzanna had me meet her at her apartment because I lived just outside of town. We said our goodbyes to everyone who remained. Ophelia had yet to come out of her room so I lingered hoping to get one last look at her. Unfortunately, Suzanna dragged me out of the house before I could.
The drive to her apartment was unbearable. She was so pissed off that I thought her seat was going to catch on fire. Her body was radiating heat like an overactive furnace. Once we got to her parking space she whipped into it so quickly causing everyone in the car to jerk forward. She slammed into park. I got out the car as quickly as I could because something was clearly off. Though I couldn’t think of what it could be because she was the one ignoring me all night.
“Steven, go up stairs.” She said angrily.
“Are you sure? Maybe I can help?” Steven asked, tentatively.
“Now!” Her voice was so sharp and clipped that both Steven and I took a step back.
Once Steven went up stairs Suzanna wasted no time rushing over to me and slapping me across the face. It was such a hard slap that my eyes stung. I blinked a few times trying regain my composure.
“You. Sick. Son. Of. A. Bitch.” She spat the words in my face while jamming her finger into my chest. “Your fucking a student! A student! A seventeen-year-old girl! Screwing her while asking me out! Is that way you rejected me! Because you’re a sick freak who likes em’ young? Did you know the whole time that she was my sons girlfriend!? Huh? You’re a Mother Fucking creep. I know you are going through some things but that does NOT, I repeat, DOES NOT, give you the right to molest a young girl! You fucking monster! What the hell is wrong with you? I student for chrissakes!” Suzanna screamed into my face and then slapped me even harder then the first time.
“Wait, Suzanna you have this all wrong. It’s not what you think! I swear!” I said as calmly as I could, my face void of all emotion, she was being irrational. I knew it looked bad but Ophelia was almost eighteen. The only thing I am guilty of is breaking my oath as a teacher, but I did not molest her. That accusation was absurd.
Her eyes were seething, “You’re a bastard! Go to hell!”
She went to slap me again but this time I caught her wrists trying to calm her down, “Just let me explain, ok? This isn’t what you think!”
“Get. Your. Filthy. Hands. Off. Of. Me.” She said pushing away from me.
Out of nowhere Steven pushed Suzana away and swung hard at my jaw causing my lip to bleed immediately. He then slammed his knee into my balls sending me to the ground. I let out a loud groan, cupped myself, and rolled into the fetal position. Steven was on top of me in seconds, forcing me on my back, and begun swinging his fists from left to right over my face. I shoved him off of me and with shaking legs I stood to my feet. I took a defensive stance, I really didn’t want to hit him or hurt him in anyway but this was out of control.
“You are her teacher! A man in authority and you took advantage of her! I’ll rip you to shreds for this!” And with that he rammed me into the side of somebody’s car so hard I felt a rib bend inside my body. I pushed Steven as hard as I could, trying to get him off of me. The push caused him to spiral onto the pavement just as a car was driving past. The car ran over Steven’s torso and legs narrowly missing his head. You could hear the sound of bones breaking even over the cars engine.
The man driving the car took out his phone and dialed, he looked ghost-white. Suzanna was now on her knees crying and holding Steven in her arms which only caused him to wince. I wanted to tell her it was better to leave him as he was to prevent anymore damage but the words were lost on me. This had gotten so far out of control that I my vision was turning spotty, my breathing was heavy, and my panic attack was now in full swing.
Somewhere in the distance I heard Suzanna screaming, horrible mind numbing screams. The kind of screams that keep you up at night. I could smell the iron from all the blood that was shed. I blinked hard trying to remain focused but everything was turning to mud.
Sirens were blaring, coming closer, and closer. So close I could taste the exhaust on my tongue.
I opened my eyes wide and then squeezed them shut because my vision was blurring and I couldn’t make out all the details of what was happening. My body was twenty yards away from me trying to decipher what had happened. Sweat was drenching my clothes. My mouth felt so dry and raw. No matter how hard I tried to focus on what was happening I couldn’t. I was a vessel of pure hysteria. My eyes opened wide and I looked to my left, to my horror I saw my face completely swollen and bloody in the sideview mirror of the car Steven slammed me into before everything went black.
I woke up a few hours later in a hospital bed. I felt numb. I knew that my body was bruised and that my pain levels should be present and accounted for but I couldn’t feel anything. I was out of my body observing the scene around me and trying to make sense of it all.
My wrists were handcuffed to the railing and cops were waiting outside the door. The moment they saw that I was conscious they called a nurse in to check me out before they filled the inside of the room. What was happening? A cop with short blond hair read me my rights while the nurse quickly checked my vital signs. Tears stung my eyes. I had lost it all.
This was so far out of control.
I was being arrested for aggravated assault and statutory rape. I closed my eyes and pressed my head into the pillow trying to swallow the brokenness around me. My eyes rimmed with tears but I didn’t cry. I wouldn’t.
Once, I was cleared by the hospital I was forced to dress in front of the police. Which was hard because of all the damage Steven inflicted on my body. I was surprised when the nurse told me all my wounds were superficial. With the way my rib felt, I could’ve sworn it was broken. After I was dressed the cop re-handcuffed me and walked me down the hospital hall. I was pushed into the elevator, and dragged into the parking lot like a felon. The police officer ducked my head into his vehicle and slammed the door. Every time the officer touched me he hit a bruise and made me wince, I had feeling it was on purpose.
I was then driven downtown for questioning.
They sat me down in a cold metal room, as small as a closet. A lone table with two chairs on either side of it. The blonde haired cop sat at one end and I at the other. Handcuffed and stripped of all my dignity.
“Can you tell us what happened?” The cop asked pen in hand, notepad at the ready.
There was a camera set up in the corner causing a small green light to shine on my shoulder. Choking back my fear I told him about Suzanna slapping me and Steven attacking me. I told them that I was merely pushing Steven off in self-defense. I swore up and down that I didn’t see the car coming and that I was just trying to get him off me.
“And why was Steven attacking you?” The cop said looking at me in disgust. I guessed he already heard the distorted version of the truth.
“He and his mother were accusing me of having a sexual relationship with one of my students. A student who he had been dating.” I said tapping my foot. What was going to happen to Ophelia? I hoped she was ok.
“Are you having a sexual relationship with one of your students?” The cop looked at me with a bored expression. Bored because he was ready to put me behind bars not because he thought this case was boring. It was unnerving. He looked at me like I was a sick rapist who took advantage of my students.
“No, I am not.” I said.
“You aren’t engaging in a sexual relationship with Ophelia Micheals?” He asked leaning forward, tapping his pen against the table.
“No. I am not having sex with Ophelia Micheals.” How did he know her name? I kept my face blank and my emotions hidden in the dark corner of my mind. He couldn’t know, no one ever could know, how much being here was killing the best parts of me.
“Have you engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her?” He said, click-clicking his pen.
“Yes.” I said. I figured quick honest answers would show I wasn’t guilty. My foot was tapping restlessly.
“How so?” More clicking.
“I kissed her once.” Tap-tap-tap.
“And then what happened?” Click-click-click.
“Then I called it off.” Both feet were tapping now.
“Who kissed who?” Click. Click. Click. Was he trying to irritate me?
“I kissed her.” Now my knees were bouncing, my feet on their toes.
“You kissed her and then stopped it.” The clicking stopped and he stared into my eyes without blinking.
“Yes.” I stared back.
“So Ophelia wasn’t in your home on Tuesday night and she didn’t sleep over?” Firm accusing voice.
“She stayed the night at my house but nothing happened.”
“I thought you called it off?”
“I did. We are friends.”
“Friends who sleep over at each’s houses?” His eyes grew darker and more serious.
“That was the only time she ever stayed over. I didn’t even kiss her.” I spoke out the partial truth. No one needed to know the details of that night except us.
He nodded and then stood up abruptly. It was obvious that he didn’t believe me and I didn’t blame him, it sounded like a lie. I was taken to a cell with a few other men. The cell had and L-shaped bench that lined one half of the room and steal seatless toilet bowl on the other side of the room. The air was cold, the seat was hard, and the hurt in my heart was nauseating. I couldn’t believe that this was happening, of what I was being a accused of. I didn’t even hit Steven and I am not a rapist. I’ll admit I was in the wrong about a lot of things but that doesn’t make me this person. I sat on the far corner of the bench, put my elbows on my knees, and my face in my hands. I can’t believe I allowed myself to get tangled up in this mess. How could I fall in love with jailbait? Maybe, I was this person. The thought haunted me all through the night.
Every hour that dragged on, I played the highlight real that was Ophelia and me. Trying to remind myself that it was consensual, the more I thought about it, the less it seemed to be. I did kiss her first, in my class room. She looked terrified standing in that back corner behind the piano. Did she kiss me back because she felt she had too? I was the one who told her to call me Archer, not Mr. O’Connor.
Oh, Jesus? What have I done?
I thought about touching her on my couch, the way I slammed by body into hers so she wouldn’t twitch. I did it because I wanted to give her that I kind of pleasure but she didn’t say or do anything to stop me. Was she too afraid to speak up? Was she a victim? Was I an abuser? Sleep deprived and in every kind of pain, I could no longer be sure what was and wasn’t the truth.
It wasn’t until the morning sun dripped through the small window that I was brought out of the cell and set free. Much to my surprise. I didn’t understand what was happening until I saw a crying Ophelia in the waiting room.
She ran over to me, “I told them everything. I said you never touched me and they can’t keep you if I don’t press charges. I explained everything to Suzanna and Steven. I told them that you could face up to twenty years if they didn’t drop the charges.” She choked out a sob and I hugged her briefly. She looked just as worn down as I felt. She must’ve been here all night, but at the moment I didn’t care. I just spent the night in jail for her. I have never felt so perverted and disgusting in my life. I didn’t blame Suzanna for freaking out and Steven for hitting me. I abused my power and authority over her. Over my sweet Ophelia. I didn’t mean for this to happen.
In this particular place and time their was no one I loathed more then myself.
I walked out of the station while Ophelia chased after me. “Archer! Archer! I love you! I love you! Please don’t go! Please don’t go, I love you!” I could hear Ophelia screaming. I could her the sob, the shake, the ragged edge in her voice but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even turn around. I just walked away, from her, from everything. It is what I should have done from the beginning, if I had been a better man.
She was saying all the words I wanted hear but at that wrong time. I couldn’t stay. Not anymore. My heart was no longer beating, my soul crushed beyond recognition. This is what it felt like to die inside.
The next few days were a blur. Principal Bain came by to my house to tell me that the police contacted him and that he had no choice but to fire me. I saw that coming. He said if I left quietly he wouldn’t make a scene so I hired movers to finish packing up my house and I was gone in record time.
A few months back I was offered a job teaching ninth grade band in Charleston, South Carolina. I originally declined their offer because Bain had been talking to me about a permanent position at Willows Edge, especially after getting Ophelia connected with Jimmy Nash. I did that because I believed in Ophelia more then I believed in myself but in the end the decision I made to help her, helped me too.
I guess there is a cruel irony in Ophelia being both my downfall and my saving grace.
I called the school in Charleston back and asked if the position was still available. Which it was, so I told them that I accepted there offer if they would still have me. They seemed really pleased that I changed my mind and said I could start after winter break. Principal Bain didn’t have to keep this scandal under wraps but I was so grateful that he did. Otherwise my teaching career could’ve come to a complete halt.
I knew I would be back to my hometown, someday, but for now this part of my life was over and the happiness that I found here was washing away with the increasing snowfall.
The man in me was standing in deep water and the boy inside of me was trying to bring him back to the surface.
There was no surface though. I found my surface in Ophelia and now I had to let her go. This was goodbye and as much I loved Ophelia it wasn’t right. So I disappeared. If it was meant to be we would find each other again. One day.