Pulling Her HEARTSTRINGS Episode 23
Pulling Her HEARTSTRINGS Episode 23
A story written by HAPPY
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Primrosers surrounded us. Massive class and administrative buildings of the school, and the numerous cars in the parking lot.
Phones held out, cameras clicking, camcorders whirring and filming.
I didn’t notice them.
Neither did he.
All I thought about was that I had to get out of his arms as soon as possible to save my face, and then how comfortable it felt.
Putting up a struggle, I tried wriggling myself free.
“Stop it dolly, it’ll be bad for the public,” he crooned out. I stopped. Don’t know why I did.
Oscar carried me as if I weighed nothing but air towards his ‘0ld’ black car, both our laughs and breaths and voices filling the open and infecting the students who awed at us.
I couldn’t put words to what I felt. Sure, my stomach hurt due to the legion of butterflies that had broken loose, fluttering their wings in a rhythmic cacophony. My heart beat excitedly. Ripples and currents of emotions and tingles coursed. through my skin.
Something told me an apple wouldn’t help this one out.
But it felt so right.
Somehow he managed to open the car door to the passenger side while holding me, and slid me gently into it. Our breaths exchanged, he stared into me for a brief moment from which I got nothing out of. I underestimated his strength. And he keeps surprising me.
As he skipped around to the driver’s side, I willed myself to calm down enough to let the blush dissolve and my pulse rate to return to normal.
This was just too much. I’ve never felt this way with any other guy b4. Not Zach. Not Wayne. Not even Tom.
Guess I’m going to meet El sooner than in a week’s time.
“Sooo……how was that for a stress reliever?” he asked with a cheeky grin.
“That was crazy, surprising, impulsive and totally uncalled for Oscar! Oh gawd what will people think now…. look at the audience!”
Nonchalantly, he shrugged, “Told you I like giving them something to talk about. I’m Osos after all.” His grin turned suggestive as he eyed my laps which were exposed due to the shortness of my skirt. I tugged at it and placed my bag on it. He laughed. “Feels good holding you though.”
“I meant start up.”
For one, I felt myself in a quandary over what I did. Sure I’d marked her for my next target. I’d told the boys, even though Victor was against this one, that he was going to have her. Something I’d had the opportunity to do countless times; the night in our penthouse when she was drunk. The evening on the balcony. The night after the club.
I’m a charmer.
I could have easily seduced her.
And she’d have fallen.
Yet here I was, weeks later, and not even a kiss.
Casting a long glance at her as she stared down at her fingers deep in thought, I started the car and drove out the g8s.
She wouldn’t bulge, that’s a given. At least not easily. Could be that she was playing tough girl. Or that she was scared. Both seemed likely in this case. Audrey had said she was sworn off boys. A heartbreak? Relationship gone bad? Whatever. For gossakes, I shouldn’t care. Never have. Never will. The game was still on for him. So what if I throw a little romance into the mix? Anticipation, I always said, makes it more interesting, and the conquest grander and worth the wait.
“Ice cream?” I asked.
“Huh? No, I couldn’t —”
“Come on Umbria. Live a little,” I smacked my lips as I drove to Coldie Conie. “They say it makes blushes more attractive.”
She set her lips in a thin line, probably stopping herself from smiling.
“Who said?” We got out of the car after I found a good parking space. Grinning, I made a mock bow. “Yours truly.”
She shook her head. “Knew it wouldn’t pass you or the boys. Charmers.”
“Good for the girls.”
“Not for me,” she said seriously. All trace of humour gone as she preceded me.
“You never know,” I muttered and trailed in.
Yup, another boredom filled day for me in which Jessica was out shopping with Tiffany, Caroline, Juli and Karie. Or making strategies to implicate Umbria and get her away from Osos. So what if they called me boring, stupid and chic-less? Something being that was what made my life easier.
Sighing, I twirled my phone. I was chatting online with a few people. I wish that my life was completely simple. I wished that, like the romance novels I read and sometimes wrote, Victor would just…. love me as much as I love him. We will be happy……
I laid and spread my limbs on the bed.
Then I screamed and flung the pillows away.
“Audrey? What’s that honey?” mom asked from the corridor.
“Nothing mom. Just venting out… anger. I’m good.”
She knocked and opened the door. She entered. The smell of onions and spices followed her in. Patricia, my mom, was where Jessica and I got our looks and hair from. I love mom so much because she understands me. Dad doesn’t like it that I’m tenderhearted and modest. He prefers Jessica. And that’s why he gives her almost anything she asked for. Dad’s a senator. Mom prefers staying indoors, or visiting friends.
“OK honey. If something’s up, talk to me?” she asked sitting on my bed.
Nodding, I sat up. “It’s Victor, mom.”
I do tell her everything.
She knows about my longtime crush on Victor, which has turned to love. And she likes Victor. He’s calm and cool. That’s what drew me to him. She also knows about Umbria, the girl who won the baking contest, and that she’s my friend. She keeps saying I should bring her over.
“Still hasn’t noticed you?” mom asked.
Like a baby, I nodded and pouted.
“Well honey, you —”
From my chats.
I ignored it. What good is there being online and chatting when the one you love is online and hasn’t said hi to you?
Its so heartbreaking.
“Got a message? Look at it,” mom said.
I shook my head. “It’s nothing mommy. You were saying?”
“I don’t wanna interrupt your social time darling, and I’ve got something cooking. Check your message and we’ll talk l8r.”
At the sound of the door closing, I checked my message:
→Umbria: Swears! You’d think I wanted that. I felt like the ground shoulda opened up and swallowed me. He should just leave me the hell alone.←
This girl is so funny, and I’m glad were friends. Although I’m still skeptical about her.
→Audrey: Lmao. I’m gon’ say it again. He likes you. Osos doesn’t spend that long sparking a girl. He doesn’t e’en spark. Just beds.←
—>Whatevs. He should stop.
Hang in there, brb.←
→Hangin’ in alright. ←
I scrolled through all my messages. I felt my heart stop when I saw Victor. No, it’s not. Maybe this over love that was soon becoming an obsession is making me see things. I looked again. Oh me gosh, it’s him.
Handshaking, I clicked on it.
→Victor: Hey, where’re y’at?←
I giggled at his New Zealand way of greeting that means ‘How’re you’.
→Audrey:I’m fine. Where’re y’at?←
His reply came in immediately.
→Victor: Lol, you got it. You speak en zee?←
→Uhm, not really. I read books.←
I squealed happily. He knows much about me! What to reply….
→Aud: Thanks I guess.←
→Vic: So what’d’ya say we meet up at Sparkeys, grab a drink, and you can tell me more about those books you read?←
I felt like jumping over the roof in excitement. He’s asking me on a date! Well, not a date, but still….
Forcing myself to remain calm, I replied:
→Sounds like a plan. See you in 10←
→Lol, I know!←
Jumping out of bed, I slipped my feet into blue pumps to match the blue dress and pink tights I wore. I combed my hair, ponytailing it. I thought of touching up my make-up. No, Victor would see me as bad. Or would he see me as ugly and plain if I didn’t? I’m so excited I didn’t know what to do! I’ll Just be me. That’s lip gloss.
“Mommy! I’m hanging out with Victor, he asked to meet up!” I said when I got downstairs.
“Aww baby….” mom cooed and hugged me with one hand while stirring the pot with another. “Have fun.”
“Yeah! Don’t tell Jessy!”
Outside, I hailed A cab.
Jessica took the car, and I don’t drive.
“Sparkeys,” I said and got in.
“Eww Jessy, this place is so trashy it’s creeping me out!” Tiffany ranted beside me, and wrinkled up her nose in disgust. She loosened her blue bandanna from around her neck and tied it over her nose.
“Yah, it smells worse than I imagined, which I didn’t because imagining how a slum smelled is definitely not on my list of to dos,” Juli sneered.
We were in my grey Rover, parked at a discreet position.
We were in Queensland aka shantytown.
And it nauseated me to the point that I nearly loosed my lunch, if I wasn’t so angry.
This place was a hellhole!
Potholes marring the dusty roads.
Small Lilliputian houses with chimneys emitting black smoke into the atmosphere.
Muddy waters and gutters.
Slum kids playing stupid games.
“Umbria is one social climbing bitch,” I spat out.
“You got that right babe.” Karie chirped in.
So just because she won the baking competition with some stupid cake, she thought she could fling her stupid self on my boyfriend.
Slum sluts like her are all the same.
“But seriously Jess, how do you actually stand her when you pretend to be her friend? I mean the body odour,” Tiffany whined mockingly.
Hands on wheel, I shrugged. “I do what I have to girls. I’m gonna get close to her,close enough that she could trust me. Meanwhile I’m gonna do a great deal of snooping, to find out the weak link in Umbria’s chain. Maybe she’s a junkie. Maybe she’s a thief. A lair. A whore. Maybe she’s some voodoo sentry. Or maybe it’s her background. Whatever it is, I’m gonna dig up enough dirt on her. The scandal would be so great it’ll push her away from Osos. Away from Primrose college and back to this pit she belongs!”
“Oooh gurl, you got the b-rain!” Juli said.
“No, Aud’s got the brain. Jessy’s the master planner,” Karie said and they high five.
I studied the place some more.
The only thing that looked nice enough was the big bakery, and even with that who knew if they served stones for scones, and sand for icing?
Hissing, I started the car.
Then I caught sight of a girl smoking and holding a bottle in her hand. She was crouched behind the shadows of a dark alley, and her eyes were trained on this vehicle.
But on second thoughts, I think she’ll be useful for info.
I’ll meet her when I return again, alone and loaded with enough cash to drown a giant.
Right now I had to get outta this mosquitoes breeding ground!
🍞BRUCE’S BAKES AND BREAKFAST🍟
“One hot plate of hot pasta coming right up,” I said to Miss Poona as I left her table to fill other orders from other customers.
”Louisa, one plate of hot pasta and stew for table eleven, ” I called out and began filling orders.
“Look stop bossing me around you’re not the boss of me,” she yelled.
“Ignore her Ummy, I’ll serve. Come over here and do the dough,” Maggie said handing me the rolling pin, which I collected and began rolling the kneaded dough on the counter.
“Carl,hand me the pepper and salt shakers from the condiment board,” Louisa called out.
Carl came in, hefting a pile of dirty dishes which he dumped in the sink.
“You got hands, and you got legs. Get’em yourself, and while you’re at it do the dishes!” he gushed and bent to gather up clean plates.
Louisa scoffed and muttered to herself.
It’s a busy evening here at Bruce’s.
We’re so tight that at times we forget who’s to do what.
And that just get everybody tensed during and after work.
But not Carl.
He’s been in a cranky mood lately. I have to talk to him.
I placed the flatly, smoothly, softly rolled piece of flour over a bowl of berries. Grabbing a fork, I pressed it in while bringing out designs on the edges. Then it went into the oven and I set the timer.
“Carl, I need to talk to you,” I Called while wiping my hands on my apron.
He glowered, but his eyes softened when he saw it was me.
“Not now Um, I’m busy,” he said and lifted a tray of milk and cookies, and another of noodle soup with bay leaf spice salad.
” Please,” I added, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I’m worried about you,” I said truthfully.
His eyes went to my hand on his shoulder and back to me.
He opened his mouth to say something what my phone ringing cut him off.
“Sorry, let me see who’s it,” I said apologetically.
I checked the ID.
“Hello? You shouldn’t have called me now I’m really busy,” I said into the phone.
Not knowing why, Carl scowled at me and stomped angrily away.
Oscar and I spoke for quite a long time, him making his usual annoying jokes that pissed the hell out of me, but also had me laughing and trying to tone it down to a giggle.
“UMBRIA!!! This is no time for — for ‘a little kitchen romance’ so get yourself into this oven room and get baking!” Bruce B barked, poking his head out of the oven room door. The poor man was sweating profusely like he apparently ended up baking himself and not bread.
“Yes chef,” I replied.
On the phone I said, “Gotta go now, things to do. My boss has my plateful.”
“Is he making you work your butt off? Tell him he shouldn’t overwork you else I’m gonna fire him!”
He hung up.
God, this guy always makes it a point to get on my nerves.
“Mmm……” Maggie buzzed in my ear like a bee hovering about flower.
“Jeez Mag!” I blurted and she laughed.
“A little kitchen romance eh?” she asked.
Carl brushed pass us into the storeroom.
“Mag you —”
“YES CHEF! I’M WITH YOU MON CAPITON!” I saluted and dashed into the baking room.
Work closed quite late.
And everyone was tensed, as I foresaw.
All I thought of was dragging my tired self straight home for a brief shower and sound sleep.
Talking to Carl or Maggie didn’t even come to mind.
I had that shower.
But not the sleep.
Dad was asleep, mom was out. Drinking and smoking probably. Someone had to be on the lookout for her.
And who’s a better gal for the job if not Umbria Lee?
I stepped into the house.
The house I haven’t been in for a long time because I spent most of my life in the penthouse with the boys, partying, sleeping late and being the sensible and responsible one. Os, Stan and Chris would have been lost by now, especially Stanley and Christoph, those careless guys whose thoughts were mostly women. But they weren’t. I like to think it’s because of me, because I know it’s because of me.
The scent from incense sticks and air freshener wafted into my nostrils as I walked through the small hallway that led from the door into our wide sitting room that was mostly kempt by mom, with the help of weekdays housekeepers.
Vases of withering flowers of the day decorated the top of each tabletop or corner. Mom loved flowery things so much, their smell, colours and appearances.
And there she was, sitting cross legged on a sofa, bending over a novel. She wore a dusky blue flowered pattern nightie.
Wait, was it night already?
I checked my phone.
Must’ve spent a lotta time with Audrey.
I smiled as I stood at the entrance.
Mom would like Audrey. They were both book lovers, quiet people.
“Whose is that? Nora Roberts, J. D. Robb, Happy William or Anne Rice?” I asked, startling her. Once mom reads she’s so engrossed that she wouldn’t hear if a bomb went off in the kitchen.
She took off her glasses.
“It’s Happy William. Left Behind. But I’ve got a copy of Nora Roberts Midnight Bayou right here, and I’m wondering how I’ll sleep with all this… spooking thoughts jamming into my head.”
“Well you could hang witch bottles outside the trees, or you could cuddle dad, but since he’s not here, try a teddy bear. I’m only game if you’re not going to squeeze me thin.”
She grinned, giggled, then laughed as she stood up and reached for me with outstretched arms.
“Come here you…. oh look at my baby! My Vic all growing so tall—! And handsome —! And thinner cos he’s not eating well!” she tightened her hold.
“Choking, not breathing,” I managed to gasp.
Sarah Evans, my mom, is known for her bone crushing hugs.
“I missed you too mom.”
“Oh dear boy, come on….let’s see, I should have something…” she dragged me to the kitchen table, “ah hah, lasagna. I’m gonna fatten you up and we can talk, catch up.”
Sniffing, my mouth began to water.
When mom talks lasagna, she means ‘lasagna!’🍱
Dinner done with, I went up my room and freshened up for the night.
Clad in only boxers, I phoned Oscar.
That crazy boy who’s just playing a dangerous game.
That crazy boy who happened to be my best friend.
Although our friendship was a bit strained now because of that night he’d walked out to find Um and I holding hands.
I told him not to do anything stupid, Umbria was a simple complicated nice hardworking girl. She didn’t need the complexity that was Oscar. Especially if she didn’t know what was up.
One of them was going to get hurt in this game he’s playing that’s for sure.
“Yeah, well. Remind me the date you gave birth to me again? That’s right, you don’t know. Cos you’re not my mama,” Oscar said a little bit irritated.
Sighing I said, “Down boy. Put those claws back in, no point in getting aggressive —”
“I’d punch your nose right now if I was there,” he said.
“Wish I was. Don’t cross the limits with Umbria.”
“Dude seriously? You think that I — Never mind. Sleep it off. No drinks ‘cept maybe a glass of milk, no music, and no ANgeLS.”
“Gee, thanks dad,” he said sarcastically. He paused. “Night buddy.”
Before I slept I thought about Audrey.
She’s got a sweet smile.
GENERAL (Years ago)
The men were drunk.
Drunk enough to sink a ship.
And they were in need of a good time. This pretty, fragile lady was like the answer from the gods to them.
One of them leaned in, and huffed his alcohol stinking breath into Elizabeth’s face. She winced.
“We just wanna have a good time with a pretty doll like you. You just come with me, and it’ll go nice and easy. Or we take you by force.”
White and shaken with fear, Elizabeth stuttered, “Plea—please, I–I have m–money, I–I will tell the king to reward you handsomely but please…. just l–let me go,” she cried. Tears streaked down her cheeks.
Bad Breath guffawed and gestured to his guys. “She’s talking about the king!” he laughed.
“Dzon let’s not waste any time. Let’s take her here!” the one with a ring in his nose said.
“Nah, privacy,” Dzon said, and hauled her up, using his hands to muffle her screams which otherwise wouldn’t be heard due to the loud hip hop of the nineties streaming out of big art deco jukeboxes.
She kicked and flailed, bucked and bit, but they wouldn’t leave her.
She sunk her teeth into Dzon’s palms and bite him hard, causing him to yelp and drop her.
Elizabeth took to her heels.
She ran and cried as she went.
Everything that led to this place.
Maybe she should’ve died, that way she wouldn’t experience this suffering. Even though her paren—
She screamed, and couldn’t scream again when the air was knocked out of her lungs by a blow to her ribs which sent her flying to the ground, bruising her jaws and face.
“You’re a bitch you!” Bad Breath spat out.
He pressed a foot to her abdomen to stop her from crawling away while he rapidly undid his belt.
Chokes and screams, pleas and bribes. They wouldn’t budge.
They were going to take away her dignity.
And there was nothing she could do about it.
Just like she was too weak to do anything when her parents announced the marriage to the old Earl of Rutherford.
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