An 80s song blares from my speakers as I dance around the room, getting dressed for school. The doorbell rings and I glance at my alarm clock. She’s early, Briana my BFF since grade school. This is a first, buckling my pants and quickly slipping on my shoes, I run a brush through my hair and head downstairs.
Rummaging through the cabinets, I locate the small jar of peanut butter. Opening it, its but a few spoonfuls left inside. “Mom… we’re out of peanut butter!”
“I’ll pick some up from the store later!” She yells back from the front door. I can hear her letting Briana in, and although it’s a big house, I don’t have to strain to hear her footsteps. “Is there something that you wanna tell me?”
“What?” I ask, dropping the peanut butter into my bag.
“What is your infatuation with peanut butter?”
“I don’t know, I’m just craving it.”
“Are you pregnant?” She whispers, concerned.
“Who would I be pregnant by?” I state, sarcastically.
“C’mon… lets go.”
She’s standing there gaping at me, which causes me to fidget.
“Everything, you are not going outside looking like that.”
“Looking like what?”
“Your hair is a mess, and you look like you just rolled out the bed and put your shoes on.”
Checking myself in the hallway’s mirror, I look fine to me. My hair is parted and hangs loosely down my back. My attire’s just a tee, leggings, a pair of hoop earrings, and a few bangles. “It’s like the 80s just threw up all over you.” She says, from behind me. “What gives?”
“I don’t know… it’s like, things that I thought mattered before, don’t.”
“Like combing your hair, and being the squad leader…”
“Not anymore, I quit.”
“What… we graduate in a few months, and now you decide to quit?”
“Girl’s, you’re going to be late!” Yells my mother, from upstairs.
“Bye Mom!” I yell back, as we hurry out the door.
My neighbor, the older guy…who I’ve had a crush on for years, comes out the door at the same time. “Hi, Dominic…” Says Briana, all smiles, twirling her hair. “Hey Briana, Duchess.” He says, before quickly making his way to a waiting car. Twenty-two, six feet tall, scruffy beach boy look, and gorgeous.
“Who’s the chick?” I ask, getting into my car.
“That blond femme fatale is Nikki.”
“Nikki, who?” I ask, confused.
“Girl you’ve been so disconnected… you remember her. The dark haired, anti-social, gothic chick.
“That’s Nikki?” I state, pulling out of the driveway. Briana’s straining her eyes, to see through the tinted window. I have no problem seeing them both clearly, she’s a platinum blond bimbo, although I can’t lie, she’s transformed into a beauty… although superficial.
“Yeah, and guess what? They’re getting married.” She says, applying lipstick in the mirror. Hitting the brakes, causes her to make a zip zag across her mouth. “What in the hell…”
“Yeah, I Know… there’s goes your chances.” She says, wiping off the excess lipstick.
I literally want to cry, I’m so confused. In my visions, he’s a part of my future, we’re together.
“I want my freaking happily ever after!” I state, banging the wheel.
“Omg… where the heck did that come from?” Says Briana, with a laugh.
Lately, the unexplainable has been happening. I’ve been able to see things before they happen, intermittently and I’ve been keeping a journal of it. I was supposed to be with Dominic, not this twit.
Gunning the engine, I drive recklessly to school, weaving in and out of lanes, honking the horn and screaming for drivers to get out of the way.
At school, Briana’s out of the car before I’ve come to a complete stop. “You know what, I think you need to see the school’s counselor.” Says Briana, as I exit the car.
I’ve finally calmed down and realization hits me like a punch to the gut. “I think that I’m having a mid-life crisis.” I was the most popular girl at school, with tons of friends, and now I’m a social shut-in, who’s taken an interest in the occult, of all things.
And then it overwhelms me, one of my visions… It’s a jolt to the senses. I see Briana and my Ex-boyfriend locked together in an intimate embrace, his kiss deepens, and then I’m back at the car.
“Hello…?” States Briana, irritated. Snapping her fingers at me, a basketball bounces off of my window. Startled, I turn and come face to face with Dax. Six-feet-two, beautiful chocolate skin tone, a small afro pulled back by a band, and Captain of the basketball team.
The used to be love of my life, and unbeknownst to me, secretly dubbed the “cherry popper”. Apparently, he had too much time on his hands, and needed more than kisses and some extreme petting. So, I had to let him go, better now than later… he was supposed to be a distraction, while I waited for Dominic anyways.
“Hey.” He says, after retrieving the ball.
“Hi.” I broke up with him under duress, but a few months have passed, and I’m over him…somewhat. –Those eyes… and those lips.
“My parents will be out of town this weekend, and I’m having a masquerade party. I would love it, if you showed.” Just like him, to end the last year of high school with a bang.
“Who is Richie Rich flaunting his wealth to now?” His family’s from old money, and owns half the town. His light chuckle’s music to my ears, and that award-winning smile is amazing.
My heart skips a beat, and I can’t help reflecting on the times before I found out about his indiscretions. He’s a genuine sweetheart, an honor roll student, who excels at everything he does. But alas we are not to be…
“I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ll see.”
“Yeah, please try.” He says with a wink, before making his way back to his friends.
In history class, it’s an effort to appear alert and attentive. Our projects were to research our family history as far back as we can, going back at least two hundred years.
The lights are dimmed as we watch a projection screen, the student shows us pictures of family members, as he lists names, dates of birth and deaths. He gives a detailed story of life, in the time period where the person lived and a brief history of their personal life.
“And that’s the history of the Jenson family, as far back as seventy years.” He says. There’s a few scattered slow claps, followed by an enthusiastic fast one, coming from a guy up front. “We have time for one more, if it’s brief… anyone?” Asks, the teacher, as the lights come on.
“No, alright teachers choice then.” Looking at his attendance sheet, his eyes scroll down the list. “Miss. Winslow?”
“Um… I’m not finished with mines.”
“Okay… Miss. Mitchell?”
“Yeah, I’m not done either.”
“Aren’t you here on a scholarship, Mrs. Mitchell?”
“Yes.” She responds, quietly.
“So, it would behoove you to keep your grades at a satisfactory level, by actually doing your work. This used to be a prestigious academy, they’ll let anyone in now… The bar has definitely plummeted…”
A few chuckles follow, and I can’t help scoffing at his aggravated huff, the audacity. Bored and feeling wicked, I try my hand at controlling the bottled water on the teacher’s desk. Discreetly trying to move it, it flies across the room.
A few surprised yells echo across the room, as it hits the wall, exploding upon impact. “Calm down, it was just the wind!” Says the teacher, rattled but trying to keep the students calm. I hadn’t meant to do all that, but on a roll, and wanting to pay him back for being rude and downright mean, I try for something bigger.
The podium starts to rattle, and as everyone’s attention is drawn to it, I focus even harder. Pandemonium ensues as it topples over, and slides across the room. Everyone scrambles for the exit, with the teacher leading the way, and I have a self-satisfied smirk, plastered on my face, when I feel someone’s eyes upon me.
Dark haired, brown eyes, and clothed in a sweater, tweed jacket and jeans… a hipster, cute. His gaze never wavers from mines, and feeling that I’d been caught red-handed, I gather my things and head for the exit.
Inside of the gym, I’m writing in my dream journal, while Briana practices with the squad. Entering the vision of Briana kissing Dax, the pen starts to slow and the writing continues on in slow motion, before it comes to a complete stop.
Staring at the page, the words start to blur and I’m pulled into a vision. This time it’s me running through the woods, somethings chasing me. Looking back, I trip and fall on a tree limb. A pair of boots come into view, and breathing hard from the run, I’m too afraid to look up.
Squatting in front of me, my chin’s lifted as my eyes close. He waits, and taking a deep breath, I find the courage to face my stalker. My eyes open and the sight is breathtaking to say the least. Hazel eyes, long dark hair flowing past his shoulders, all black attire, with a dark overcoat. Standing, he pulls me to my feet. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you.” He says, with an amazingly sexy accent.
I want to stay in this dream, but sensing the danger in him, I try to force myself out of it. Latching onto my arm, his nails digging into my skin, draws blood to the surface, and he backs away from me as if stung. Confused by his peculiar behavior, I advance a few steps, as he moves backwards a few.
“You’re afraid of blood?” I ask, as he’s watching my wounded arm intently. His penetrating gaze makes me uncomfortable, and with a wave of his hand, I’m out of the dream. Back in the gym, my eyes fall to the journal, I’d written a name. “Andrei Petrescu…” I say, aloud. Gathering my things, I quickly leave, I have some research to do.
“Will you snap out of it?” Briana’s fingers clicking together in my face again, brings me from my musings. “What’s going on with you?” She whispers. I hate that I agreed to go on this double date with Dax and his friend, who she’s been obsessed with recently.
More like stalking… and like Dax, he’s a descendant of one of the twelve families that founded Crestview Summit. His family’s rolling in the dough also, and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t bag her one of the sons of the twelve “founding fathers”.
“Dax has found it in his heart, to give you another chance. The reason why you broke up with him in the first place, is ridiculous.”
She bears the name of one of the oldest families in Crestview, but one with no money. Squandered by a five times great-grandfather, her family has their name to fall back on. But that can only get one but so far…
Dressed to the nines, for some swanky fundraiser gala i’m still hungry after the microscopic servings that we ate, I’m irritated, tired, and in need of a huge fudge sundae with all the trimmings.
“You should be grateful, but instead you’re unresponsive, inattentive …
“Look, Miss. Snooty Booty…” I’ve had it with her, and her “Money hungry man hunting ways”, that seen to have escalated now that we’re about to graduate.
“What did we miss?” Asks Brent.
Him and Dax rejoining us, saves her from a verbal lashing.
“Nothing, girl-talk.” I respond, taking a deep breath to calm myself. Her narrowed eyed gaze warns me, that I’d better not mess this up for her.
“Would you do me the honor of another dance Briana?”
“Yes.” She replies, quickly accepting his offered hand with a smile.
With a roll of my eyes, I take a large gulp of the fizzy drink. Dax is watching me, and I offer a small smile.
“I know that you did this for Brie, but have you thought about us?”
“There is no us.”
“We were great together, and I miss you.”
“We had our time and it was nice, but we have to move past that.”
“Well you’re going to have to try.”
“I think about you all of the time, now even more than when we were together.”
“It’s nothing more than an infatuation Dax, you had it, and now that it’s gone, you want it even more.”
“It’s not that… it’s like I was okay with you breaking up with me. I mean it’s not what I wanted, but if that’s what you wanted, then so be it. Then … I don’t know, you’re all that I can think about. It’s gotten worse as the days go by, I want you back and this time it’s for forever.”
I care about him, I mean we were together for three years, but I’m good. My heart belongs to Dominic, no matter who I’m with.
“This is way too much, and definitely too soon. We’ve been broken up for how long?”
“About two months, which isn’t long… we just took some time off.”
“Dax, how much have you had to drink?”
“You’re really going to play that card?”
Sitting across from me, he’s stone cold sober, and his sexy dark eyed scrutiny, speeds up my heart rate.
“I’m serious, just think about it.”
His hand on mines, gently stroking my fingers, I give in, letting his entwine with mines. It wouldn’t hurt to keep my options open.
“Miss. Van de berg?”
“It’s not finished.” I say automatically, which causes a few outbursts of laughter.
“You can present what you have then.”
Taking my folder up to the projector, the lights dim. Clearing my throat, I place a photo of my father on the projector. “
This is Richard Van de berg, my father. I have no clue as to where he’s from originally. He moved here when he was eighteen and passed four years ago. He was a financial advisor and a loving father.”
Removing the image, I replace it with a picture of my mother.
“And this is my mother… Claudia Van de berg, she met my father on a bus, on the way to Crestview Summit. On that bus ride, he charmed her into moving here with him.”
“So, she just met a stranger on a bus, and followed him to wherever he was going?” Asks, a male student.
“Yeah, or so I was told.”
“I think its uber romantic.” States a female student, and a few other females clap in agreeance.
“Yeah, if you’re poor…”
A few chuckles follow that comment, and I continue on.
“She’s a domestic worker, chef, teacher, counselor, best friend, and an awesome mother… and that’s it.” I finish.
“That’s it? Asks the teacher, as the lights come on.
“I told you that I wasn’t finished.”
“You guys have had two months to complete this.”
“Well I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been working on mines.” I state defensively.
“And in two months, this is all that you have…”
“You know it’s kind of hard to locate my relatives, my parents never talked about their families.
“No cousins, aunts, grandmother?” Asks Mr. Sparks.
“I’ve never met them.”
“So… who wants to help Miss. Van de berg, locate her long lost relatives for extra credit?” Everyone’s quiet, no one wants to do the project, let alone hep somebody else.
“Don’t all volunteer at once…” One student at the front, slowly raises his hand, the hipster.
“Mr. Rivers, and Miss, Van de berg, please come back on Monday with at least four more relatives. The bell rings, and students quickly make a beeline for the door.
“Hi, I’m Julien.” States the hipster, as I’m gathering my things. Taking his offered hand, an electric shock shoots up my wrist.
“Sorry.” He states, as I quickly release his hand.
“It’s no problem, I’m Duchess.”
As I remember him watching me practice my magic on the bottle and podium, I’m uncomfortable, but a sense of familiarity puts me at ease.
“When did you want to get started?”
“Sunday evening is fine.”
“I really don’t like to wait until the last minute.”
“Okay fine, tomorrow at four, my place?”
His uncertainty, making me nervous, I start fidgeting with my books. “What?”
“You’re beautiful, you shouldn’t just let random guys come to your home, it’s not safe.”
“I’m sure that I can take you, if you try anything.” I state, amused.
His smile lights up his face and accentuates his features. “Really?”
“My dad taught self-defense classes on the weekends, and I’ve had one on one training twice a week, since I was seven.”
“Well it’s good to know that you can kick my ass, if I go all psycho on you.”
I can’t help the laugh that bubbles forth.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He’s almost out the door, when I remember. “Hey, I forgot to give you my address.”
“I know where you live.” A raised eyebrow is my response, as I try to remember if I’d met him before. “You had a party a year back, a friend invited me.”
“Oh.” I state, slightly embarrassed.
“See you tomorrow.” He says, with a small smile.
In my living room, I’d given Julien the required information and let him have at it. He’s trying to locate my relatives, while on the couch, I bang on the keyboard in agitation.
“You can take a break if you like.” He says, not looking up from the screen.
“I’m sorry, it’s just frustrating is all.” I say, closing the laptop.
Andrei Petrescu has become my passion and trying to locate him has become a nightmare. I know he’s real… I just know it…
“What about you, any luck?”
“No, and actually… I think that your dad may have been living a double life. Are you sure, that Richard Van de berg was his real name?”
“Of course, and he worked for Schwab Asset Management, is survived by his daughter, and wife...”
“Funny, that when I called… they said that they’ve never had an employee by that name that worked there… ever.”
“They must have been mistaken then.”
“No… birth, or medical record, credit card, bank account, marriage certificate. I think that there’s something that your mother isn’t telling you. I mean this is crazy, are you guys under witness protection, or something?”
“Okay, so now you’re being offensive and borderline freaking me out.”
“I’m so sorry, I just can’t believe that there’s no paper trail for him.”
“This shouldn’t be that hard, maybe we need to dig a lil deeper.”
“I really don’t think there’s anything to dig up, but we can meet tomorrow.” He says rubbing his neck and stretching.
“Not really, just need a break…”
Feeling compelled to seize the moment, I take a small breath and go for the gamble.
“Well… I was thinking of going to the Kincaid masquerade ball, and I sorta don’t have a date.”
“I wasn’t invited, and I have to finish researching your dad’s non-existent history.”
“Oh c’mon it’s not that serious, if we don’t find anything, I’ll live.”
“Okay, um... I don’ have a mask.”
Quickly producing one, from underneath the pillow, I hand it to him.
“I have an extra one.”
“It’s not really my scene…”
“Are you really going to let me go by myself, it’s not safe.”
My playfulness gets the desired effect, a smile that’s infectious. I don’t know how I never noticed him, he’s so… James Dean.
“Well... since you put it that way, I’ll think about it.” He says, preparing to leave.
“I’ll make sure that you’re on the list, just in case.” I add, seeing him out.
Leaning against the door, I can’t stop smiling. “What in the entire hell am I doing?” I say, shaking my head in exasperation, as I make my way up the stairs, to get ready for the ball.
It’s packed, everyone who was invited and then some is in attendance. Briana’s left me, to go chase after Brent, and standing on the landing of the stairs, watching the dancers below, Dax joins me.
“You look beautiful…” He says, handing me a drink. Clad in a simple black, low cut, free flowing maxi dress, with black heels, his arm circles my waist.
“Thanks.” I state, moving from his embrace. He’s handsome as ever in his suit and black half mask, I let him apply mines. We’re both silent, as his gaze slowly wanders over all of my assets. “Maybe later, you’ll save a dance for me.”
“Sure.” Another long watchful pause, and a brief kiss on the cheek, before he leaves. If only things could have been different. Taking a sip of the drink, the bubbles tickle my nose, and I get the sensation of being watched.
My attentions drawn to a guy, with a white and gold Venetian phantom of the opera mask. He’s watching me from the sea of dancers. I know who he is, and I can’t help smiling, Mr. James Dean.
Handing my drink to a passing server, I make my way slowly down the stairs. He’s waiting for me at the bottom, offering his arm. “I’m glad that you came.” I say, accepting it.
“Yeah, me too, you look amazing.”
“You don’t look to shabby yourself.” In fact, he’s freaking stunning.
“Yeah, well... I tried.”
“Oh, please you know that you’re gorgeous.”
My shameless flirting knows no bounds, which is so not me.
“Thanks, may I?” He asks, as a slow song comes on.
“Yes, you may.”
Pulling me close, my arms circle his neck, his hands on my waist, he leads me into a slow dance. I’m aware of the attraction, the pull, and for some reason I feel secure, protected when in his company. Those dreamy brown eyes watching me, the butterflies are having a field day in my stomach.
“I shouldn’t say this, being as how I just met you, but I don’t know… I like you.” I say.
“That’s good, because I like you too.”
“I think it’s more than that… I’m attracted to you.”
“Well then it’s a shared attraction, because I feel the same way, and… I think we both need a…”
“Cold shower.” I finish, matter-of-factly.
“I was going to say a drink.” He says, with an amused smirk.
“Oh… yeah.” I respond, mortified.
And there it goes again… that incredibly endearing devious smirk, that has my body responding in ways that I’ve never felt before.
Taking my hand, he leads me over to the bar, where Dax is chatting it up with Madison. My used to be arch-enemy, and now captain of the cheer squad.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were coming… I thought you would sit this one out, as you’ve been doing of late.” She says.
“No, I just decided at the last moment.”
“Well that doesn’t look like a last moment dress.” She says, throwing shade.
We both belong to the “shady bunch” family, and so I give her two small twists, to showcase my wares. “You like?”
“It’s to tacky for my tastes.”
Eyeing her outfit, it’s elegant… but I can’t help feeding her, what she fed me. “I like yours, it’s a bit “prommie” though.”
“Ladies… you both look nice.” Says Dax, trying to diffuse the altercation.
Let me be the mature one…
“Dax, this is Julien, Julien… Dax, and that over there is Madison.” I state.
“Julien, it’s been awhile.”
“Yeah it has.” He responds, removing his mask. I’m not the only one to notice the tension between the two, as Madison shifts uncomfortably.
How do they know each other?
“Are you the designated “on standby, friend zone” guy-friend?” Asks Dax, handing us drinks.
I should have known better.
“I don’t know… what are we doing?” Inquires Julien of me.
“Well… I thought, that per our recent conversation, we were attracted to each other.” I state, playing along.
“Yeah, we were.”
“So, I guess… we’re a couple?”
“Yeah, I guess we are.”
I know him, and inside he’s fit to be tied, but on the outside he’s cool, calm and collected.
“Well its nice seeing you again, Julien.”
“Enjoy the party.” He says, leaving with Madison on his heels. We’re both silent for a moment, neither of us not knowing what to say, and then I shrug, which causes him to laugh.
“You have an amazing smile.”
“You know with all these compliments, my head is gonna be like “poof”. He says, gesturing with his hands, as to the inflated size of his ego.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, it’s like I’m all …”
Pulling me into his arms, his lips meeting mines, it takes only a second for me to get over the shock. Pulling me even closer, my arms go around his neck, and I’m melting into his embrace. This feels so right, that I don’t want to let go, and I’m more than a little bit miffed, when he ends the kiss.
“I’ve been wanting to do that, since the first time that I saw you.”
“A year ago.”
I’m not at all creeped out about it, in fact I’m literally speechless, at the romanticism of it all, when he comes into view ending Julien’s hold on me.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here with Nikki.”
“Yeah… I heard, your fiancée.” I reply, with a touch of sarcasm.
“Yeah, we’re getting married, one day I woke and decided that I wanted to marry her.”
“There’s a lot of that going around, impulsive actions.”
“I know, but that’s what makes it so exciting.”
“How did you two meet again, I mean I never saw her at your house.”
He doesn’t have time to respond, before the she-devil interrupts us.
“Hi, is my future husband bothering you guys?”
She was pretty before, in a dark mysterious way, but now she’s all light, chipper and most definitely model material.
“Duchess?” Wow… you’re still as beautiful as ever, one would think that the fall from grace would be rough on one’s ego.”
“I actually didn’t fall, I decided to part ways.”
“Yeah but it’s hard to walk away from the limelight, I was thinking depression… followed by a little bit of suicide would be your outcome.”
“Well that’s harsh.”
“Yeah, well do unto others, as you would have them do onto you.”
What the hell is wrong with her?
“This is getting kind of bleak and dreary, you want to get out of here?” Asks Julien.
“Yep, sure do.”
Parked outside of his home, I take in my surroundings. “It’s beautiful…” I state as the lone light pole illuminates the grounds. A cottage, a mile into the woods, away from the main house beside a brook. Unlocking the door, he turns on the light and I’m amazed at the modern furnishings. “Wow…”
“Welcome to my humble abode.”
“This is your place?”
“Yeah, my father lost interest in being a father after my mom passed, so he gifted me this place. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“No, it’s fine. I like having my own space. I get to do what I want, when I want, how I want.”
“Well… it’s beautiful.”
Glancing at his watch, he leaves me waiting at the door as he quickly disappears around a corner. Reappearing, he has a bottle of whiskey and two shot glasses. “C’mon we’re going to miss it.” Leading me back outside, it doesn’t take long for a camp fire to be ignited and he barely has the drinks poured, when a streak of light shoots past us.
“Just wait...” He says, taking a seat next to me.
“Knocking my shot back, the burn on the way down doesn’t last long, when a mass of lights illuminates the night sky as they zoom by. “This is beautiful!” I exclaim, almost knocking his drink out of his hands, when I turn to him.
His smile slowly disappears and confused, I’m concerned… my smile dropping.
“I’m sorry.” I state.
“No, it’s not that. Your eyes sparkle when you’re excited, and it’s an amazing sight.”
“Thanks, you have a nice setup here, I wish that I had somewhere that I could go, to just get away from it all.” I say, changing the subject.
“You’re welcome to come here anytime, i’ll give you the code.”
“No, I couldn’t...”
“I want you to, it would be nice to have someone to talk to, it gets kind of lonely at times.”
Can he be even more amazingly charming and sweet?
“You don’t even know me.”
“I trust you.”