For complete Disclaimer see: Part 1
If you like what you read please give me feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm fairly new to the writing world so I would really appreciate any advice or comments.
Hayden peered through the frosty window. Over the past two weeks the weather had been insane, with sleet and snow making an appearance teasingly then the winter sun melting any evidence of them. On Red Bay's standards that was perfectly normal. She watched as a miniscule snowflake floated down landing on the edge of the windowsill, her lips quirking when it slowly transformed into a droplet. She turned her attention back to the front of the class, where Maddie – Er – Ms. Conner was reading the final chapter of the Scarlet Letter . Her voice like silk, articulating on every word perfectly as if it were just another song to her. Hayden smiled indifferently. All hostility between them had seemed to dissipate only leaving that tinge of awkwardness between them. Not that they had wallowed in it considering their brief interactions over the last two weeks. They would greet at most during class time but that was it. Except for the occasional wave and smile from across street. Hayden's smile fell a little. It was probably for the best anyway. They were on friendly terms leaving room to forget about that magical night, she thought ruefully.
Maddie licked the inside of her lips that seemed to get dry from her reading. Pulling her glasses off, she placed them on her desk on the stack of marked essays. “Finally, we are done…” She made a whooshing sound smiling triumphantly back her class that was cheering. “Oh c'mon, it wasn't that bad.” She grinned at the series of moans and groans that were supplied to that comment. “Okay, Okay… But we still have a few things to cover over the last chapter.” She opened her book, turning the pages until she found what she was looking for. “Turn to this page.” She began writing the page number on the black board and turned back to the seniors.
“But there was a more real life for Hester Prynne here, in New England, than in that unknown region where Pearl had found a home. Here had been her sin; here, her sorrow; and here was yet to be her penitence. She had returned, therefore, and resumed,—of her own free will, for not the sternest magistrate of that iron period would have imposed it,—resumed the symbol of which we have related so dark a tale. Never afterwards did it quit her bosom. But . . . the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, and yet with reverence, too.”
After drawing in a huge breath, the blonde looked back up at her class. “Okay, so anyone have any idea what that means?” She asked as she put her book aside, leaning her weight against the edge of the desk. Sarah turned around to see people avoiding eye contact with their teacher. Smugly, she twisted back, her hand rising high. Maddie sighed trying not to roll her eyes. Sarah was just one of those students that every teacher could rely on, it gets annoying. “Okay, how about we give someone else a try. I'm sure Sarah isn't the only one that has read this book.” Maddie pursed her lips, her eyes scanning the rest of the class that seemed to be sinking lower and lower in their seats. “Hmmm…Josh?”
Josh straightened inwardly cursing, as he played with his cap. “Um, well, it means that she went back to her first home.” He grinned hopefully.
Maddie smiled. “Yes… Can you elaborate on that?” He laughed awkwardly and shrugged. “Okay can anyone else?” Of course Sarah's hand rose again. The blonde sighed overlooking it until her eyes dared to venture to a certain brunette that seemed to be preoccupied staring out of the window. Her dark brunette hair sneaking out of her hood, those blue eyes so focused and her fingers rolling her pen between them. “Hayden?” The blonde called out with a raised brow and a smile. There was no response, clearly the brunette was lost in her own little world. “Hayden?” Maddie used a bit more force in her tone.
Startled, upon hearing her name, Hayden's head jerked towards the front of the class, her pen flying out her hand. The rest of the class broke out in laughter. “Crap.” Ignoring the laughter, Hayden grimaced realizing her pen was too far to retrieve before setting her eyes on Maddie. “Yes?”
Maddie tried to hide the smirk on her face. “Um, I was wondering if you would like to participate by trying to elaborate on the passage I just read.”
The brunette shook her head. “Not really…” Trying to figure out which passage they were on. Seeing the number on the board she began shuffling her paperback to that page, reading.
Maddie sighed. “Try…” She figured if it were any other student she would have said the same thing. She couldn't afford to have any favorites on her own principals.
The brunette looked up seeing all conniving eyes on her waiting for her to screw up. Boy, she hated this school. Seeing Maddie not let up, she fixed a scowl on her face. “Fine…” Picking up her other pen, she began tapping it on her notepad, needing something to do with her hand. She hated being the center of attention almost wishing all their eyes would melt and their brains would leak out their sockets. She sighed. “Well, um, Hester returned to her former home and resumes wearing the scarlet letter because her past is an important part of her identity. She doesn't feel that just because someone deemed it shameful that it should be erased. She feels the scarlet letter is a symbol of adversity overcame and of knowledge gained rather than a sign of failure or condemnation. Therefore by continuing to wear it, she controls her own identity and becomes an example of redemption and self-empowerment.” She explained calmly, not even sparing her gawking class a glare. Even Sarah's hand seemed to slowly sink under her desk. She arched a brow at an almost stunned Maddie. “Did I miss anything?”
Maddie shook her head slowly. “Um, no, I think that covers it…” Suddenly the break bell rang bringing the rest of the students out of their stupor. “Okay, see you guys tomorrow, don't forget your essays for Friday.” Some of the students grunted as they made their way through the hallway.
Hayden began stuffing her books in her knapsack recalling her pen. With her eyes searching for her writing instrument on the floor, she paced towards the front of the class with a frown. Until unexpectedly her pen appeared with a hand attached to it. She lifted her head to perceive the owner of the hand seeing Maddie with a soft smile on her face. Her frown disappeared into a small smile of her own. “Um, thanks.” She took her pen out of the softer hand.
Maddie smiled up at the brunette. “Try to be more careful , you don't want to take out someone's eye with that.”
“Or maybe I do…” The brunette mumbled, her dislike for her class mates evident.
The blonde giggled. “I'm sure it was just as effective when you answered my question. I swear if their necks weren't holding their heads, I would have seen a lot of them rolling on the floor.”
Hayden smirked at that. “Well, I try…” She shrugged.
“Sometimes even I forget your G.P.A is a 4.0”
Hayden's brows drew. “Why because I don't act like Sarah?”
“No. Thank God for that, I don't think I could handle two of her.” The blonde let out a half chuckle. Hayden grinning in response. “Just because well, you are so quiet in the back staring at something more interesting out the window than the lesson I have planned.” She wiggled her brow at the brunette.
Hayden smiled sheepishly. “Um, sorry about that… I was just…” Staring at the snow…
“Just what?” Maddie crossed her arms over her chest in a mock glare. “Staring at something that interests you more than me?” Her eyes narrowed playfully.
Hayden raised a brow, a smirk tracing the edge of her lips. “I'm sure I made my interest in you pretty clear…” She chuckled at the blush that crept onto the brunette's cheeks.
Maddie ducked her head, cringing, just realizing how that came out. “I just walked into that one, didn't I?” She shook her head.
Hayden grinned thoroughly amused. “Yep pretty much.”
“There you are!” Both women turned their head to face the doorway where a tall raven haired boy stood. “I was looking all over for you.” Carlos glared at the brunette before realizing she wasn't the only one in there. He smiled sheepishly at Maddie. “Oh, um, hi Ms Conner.”
The blonde smiled. “Hello Carlos.”
He shuffled his feet, ducking his head. “Hi…”
“Um, I should get going.” Hayden told Maddie, snatching her bag off the desk.
“See you tomorrow…”
Hayden rolled her eyes at Carlos who seemed frozen to his spot. Sighing, she walked past him, grabbing him by his denim jacket collar. Maddie watched amused at their interaction. “Hey, hey, hey.” He moaned as he was dragged into the hallway. She let go still walking. “What did you do that for? You made me look bad.” He raced up to her.
Hayden shook her head laughing softly. “No, I think you were doing just fine on your own there, hotshot.” She patted his cheek sympathetically. “I was saving you.”
Carlos halted. “Saving me from what?”
Hayden smirked and said over her shoulder. “Saving you from proposing on one knee, getting rejected and embarrassing the both of us.”
“I wasn't going to propose.” Carlos huffed, quite offended. “But wait…” He caught up to her again. “You really think she would have said no?”
Hayden chuckled as they made way into the small quad. “I know so.”
Carlos rolled his eyes playfully nudging her with his shoulder. “Yeah, well whatever.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Maddie stood in front of the mirror frowning at her beige cashmere sweater. Then she turned her head back to the dog that rested his head on the bedroom rug. “You don't think it's a bit much? It's only a quiet dinner with some friends.” Smurf opened his eyes and then closed them again slowly in disinterest. “Yeah, a lot of help, you are.” The blonde rolled her eyes, stepping over to her drawer. Digging through it she found her black scarf and began to wrap it around her neck when the door bell rang. Smurf picked his ears up before running for the front door. Maddie followed suit padding down the stairs in her insulated woolen socks as the ringing didn't let up. “I'm coming, I'm coming.”
She opened the door to her friend and the cold night. “Jeez, Maddie, you're not ready yet? We are already late.” Lamar pushed into the house, closing the door behind him. With Smurf's curiosity satisfied he turned on his heel towards the plush rug in the lounge.
“I only need to put on my boots.” Maddie whined as she left him to go do that.
Lamar took a seat on the couch and stretched out knowing it would take her at least ten minutes to pick out an appropriate pair. “So um, how have you been the past few weeks?” He shouted towards the ceiling.
Maddie was swimming through her shoe cupboard cursing herself for buying so many shoes. It was making it harder to find the pair she wanted. “Um, I have been okay. It's been a weird couple of weeks. How was New York?”
Lamar groaned. “New York was busy. It's always so busy and noisy. I don't think I slept much.” He chuckled. “I guess, I'm just used to the quiet nights here.”
“Yeah, you get used to it after a while.” She replied as she made her way down the stairs, boots in place.
“Yeah…” Lamar sighed, glad to be back home and resume –well sleeping. Then he puckered a brow. “What did you mean weird?” He continued to shout not realizing she was on the bottom level behind him.
Maddie flinched. “Um, ready to go?” She tied the belt to her thick coat and then slipped on her gloves.
He jerked around sharply, with an apologetic smile. “Sure…” He stood up, walking behind her and then abruptly stopped. “Wait, what do you mean weird?” Then a smile formed on his face. “You saw that girl again, didn't you?”
“Uh, no…” Maddie huffed with a scowl.
“You really have to work on your lying, Maddie.” Lamar grinned, shaking his head. “It's embarrassing. And you call yourself a teacher.” He gave her a mock glare.
The blonde's brows creased. “What does my profession have to do with lying?”
Lamar sighed. “Well my theory is you have to be a good liar in order to be a teacher. How else are you going to make students believe that whatever you teach them is relevant?”
“They are relevant.”
He opened the door, the gentle wind push through. “Yeah…” Lamar laughed. “Tell me, why would I need to learn how to kill a mocking bird?”
“That's not what the books about.” Maddie stared at her best friend incredulously.
“Exactly! See even the title lies.” Lamar waved her off. The blonde shook her head, thinking it was better not to resume this argument. “So are you going to tell me what happened with Haley?”
“It's Hayden…” Maddie sighed knowing that he would get it out of her eventually. She could never hide anything from him. Well, that is. She might as well not prolong it. “Um, we might as well get warm in the car. It's a long story.” She dropped her gaze to the ground pulling the door shut…
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
With her arms curled behind her head, Hayden glanced up at her dark ceiling. She shifted a little on the pillow trying to feel more comfortable. Her iPod set low, the music barely breathing through. She stared up tracing a pattern of the stickers as if she would find life's true meaning in them. She knew one thing for sure, her life seem to lose all purpose. She felt like she was coasting through, going day by day. No direction, no ambition, no more dreams.
The soft knock on her bedroom door brought her out of her thoughts. “Come in.”
The door slowly creaked open, the passage light sneaking into the room onto her bed. Her uncle stood in the doorway with a goofy smile on his face. “Hey, guess what I found?”
Hayden sat up with a smirk. “A brain?”
Seth rolled his eyes. “No.” He pulled the acoustic guitar in front of him. “This.”
Hayden's eyes widened, she was already on her feet drawn to the instrument. She looked at him. “Is this…” She trailed off, taking it from him, testing the light weight in her hands.
“I think so.” Seth couldn't help the smile. “I found it in the attic.” He watched her sit down on the edge of her bed never daring to take her eyes off it as if it would disappear if she did. He sat down next to her.
Her fingers trailed across the neck. “It's the Santa Cruz. I thought we lost it in the move.”
“Turns out it was in the attic the whole time.” He smiled. “I remember when your mother used to play it, I would always fall into a trance. It was beautiful. She was beautiful.” He grinned shaking his head. “Actually I think the correct term would be they were beautiful.”
Hayden smiled and looked at him. “They were…” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.” He smiled as he rose. “Hey Seth?” He turned back. “Happy birthday, old timer.” She grinned.
He chuckled. “Hey I'm not that old. When you turn twenty-five, I'm going to say the same and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” He gave a bad imitation of an evil laugh.
Hayden gave him a strained grin. “You see that is why I call you a dork.”
“Yeah, yeah…” He rolled his eyes as he began to leave. Abruptly he stopped and shot a look over his shoulder seeing Hayden's eyes still fixed on the beautiful instrument. “You know what would make my birthday really happy?”
The brunette looked up into smiling brown eyes. “What?” She dared to ask.
“If you would play a song…” With a smile he left.
Hayden continued to stare at the empty doorway almost emotionless. Then looked at her mother's guitar in her hand. She hadn't given her own music a thought, banishing it from her life for over five months. Except for that faithful night in the bar and that happened by accident. Gently pulling on a string, she heard the note drift in her room. Closing her eyes, she felt her blood warm, her tears gather.
“Hayden, could you set the table?” Reese yelled from the kitchen.
She slowly opened her blue eyes a single tear escaping. She used her sleeve to wipe it dry. Then carefully set the instrument on her bed. Sparing it one last wistful look she dashed downstairs…
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
“Would you quit laughing?” Maddie sulked as she trudged through the moist ground.
Lamar had his hand on his stomach, as his laughter roared through the night. “I can't help it…” He managed in between a breath. “You… You and one of your students.” He would have collapsed onto the ground if it wasn't so wet. He was barely able to hold himself up.
“It's not funny!” The blonde groaned.
“To you.” He chuckled again and then saw her stomp off towards the white gate. He tried to bite down another wave of laughter running towards her. “Wait, wait Maddie I'm sor-oomph.” The gate slammed back into him. Grimacing he opened the gate again and caught up to her. “Okay, I deserved that.” He looked at Maddie seriously for a second before bursting out again. “It's just you and a student.”
“I didn't know!” The blonde moped.
“I know, that's what makes it funnier.” Lamar chuckled getting a swat on the arm. “Ow!” Maddie strode towards the door. “Okay, okay I'm sorry for real, now.” He walked next to her holding up his hands in defeat.
She sighed and rung the doorbell. He was still snickering on the side until the blonde shot him a glare forcing him to swallow it. “You are the worst best friend ever…”
“You say that now.” Lamar grinned. “But in a few months…” He scratched his chin. “Okay maybe years, you will be laughing with me.”
“Yeah, yeah, do you have the gift?” She asked him in an annoyed tone.
“Right here…” Smiling, he patted his coat pocket. He rang the doorbell again wanting to get out of the cold.
“I'm coming, I'm coming…” Was shouted from behind the door.
Maddie just glared at her best friend as he shrugged. Then the door opened, both of them putting friendly smiles on their faces. Suddenly Maddie's smile faltered, her eyes enlarged. “H-Hayden?”
The brunette stood there frozen with her hand on the handle and almost the exact expression on her face. “Maddie? I mean uh, Ms. Conner?”
Lamar's jaw was slightly agape as he took in the attractive brunette in front of him. They were almost the same height, some strands of brunette hair draped over the side of her face. Those sapphire eyes highlighting her face giving the woman sort of beautiful innocence. But when you looked deeper you knew they had been tainted, that hint of sadness. Then realization slowly hit. His eyes widened. “Wait…” He looked at the staggered expression on the blonde's face. “That's Hayden?”
He didn't need Maddie to say anything to confirm it. The two women just stared at each other as if they saw a ghost. Maybe they were at the wrong house. All thoughts in that direction were banished when Reese joined them at the door, wiping her hands on her apron. “Hayden don't be rude, invite them in, it's freezing out there.”
Hayden snapped out of her stupor. “Oh, right sorry. Come in.” She looked sheepish and moved out of the way.
Both of them walked in through the door, Lamar closing it behind him. “Hey red, whatever you making smells delicious.” He sniffed the air before placing a tiny kiss on Reese's cheek.
Reese giggled. “It's good to see you too, Lamar.” She went over to Maddie taking her in an enormous hug. “Hey Maddie it's good to see you again.”
Maddie smiled into the embrace with her friend. “Hey Reese, you too.” She leaned back smiling. “So where is the birthday boy?”
Reese smiled walking over to Hayden. “He is just taking a quick shower. But this is Hayden.” She slipped an arm around the brunette's waist.
“I know.” It slipped out before the blonde could control it.
“You know my niece?” Reese asked with a friendly smile.
“Oh she knows her alright.” Lamar mumbled getting an elbow in the rib. “Oomph!” He gave Maddie a dirty glare and then they both smiled at Reese.
“Yeah, she is in my literature class.” Maddie shrugged.
Reese's smile broadened. “Oh, right, I forgot you taught that now.” She looked at her niece. “Now, at least you shouldn't have any problems getting extra credit. “ She teased and heard the timer ring. “I better go check on the roast, all of you have a seat so long and help yourselves.” The redhead directed them towards the dining room.
Lamar was having a hard time keeping a straight face. “Yeah, I wonder what activity warrants extra credit.” He snickered.
Both Hayden and Maddie spared him a brief glare before settling down on the table opposite from each other. He sat down next to the blonde. “I take it, he knows.” Hayden sighed, hating the conspicuous scrutiny.
Maddie didn't know if she should feel embarrassed or mad as Lamar started laughing again. “What gave it away? The subtle hints? Or the laughing and pointing?” She rolled her eyes.
Hayden smirked finding it a tad amusing. “If it were Carlos, I'd string him from the balcony by now.”
Maddie smiled and then glowered at her best friend furtively. “I think I might just have to implement that soon.”
Lamar's gulp was audible, fearful of the glint in the blonde's eye. “What?” He shrugged. “You're just upset now. Wait until you realize just how hilarious this actually is. First she was a student.” He pointed at the brunette who raised a brow. “And now she is the niece of our closest friends in this town. I mean this is just rich…” He couldn't help the snicker.
“What's rich?” Reese asked innocently as she placed the roast in the center of the table.
Lamar winced, eyes rapidly searching the table. He picked up the sauce pitcher and pouring some in his plate. “Uh, the sauce is rich.” He dipped his finger in it and then put it in his mouth, sighing. “It's absolutely delicious. You must give me the recipe sometime.”
Reese pursed her lips in thought as she sat down next to Hayden. “I didn't know, you know how to cook.”
Maddie felt like banging her head on the table. Lamar chuckled awkwardly. “I don't… But when I learn, I definitely have to make some.” He quickly turned his attention towards his colleague who was headed towards the table. “Hey Seth, happy birthday man. So um, how does it feel to be a year older?” He asked lamely trying to defer the topic.
Seth grinned at his friends. “Um, I did wake up with a stiff back this morning.” He took his seat at the head of the table next to Reese, his mouth practically watering at the spread in front of him. “But I don't think it has anything to do with old age.” He gave his wife a suggestive wink bringing some chuckles from their guest.
“Um, ewe…” Hayden wrinkled her nose trying to avert her attention elsewhere.
Reese's face started to burn up and turn a funny shade of scarlet. She smacked him on the shoulder playfully. “Seth!”
“Ow. What?” He put on his most innocent charming face.
Reese rolled her eyes. “Nothing, just eat.” She leaned over and kissed him slightly behind his ear. “You get away it today because it's your birthday.” She whispered, low and sexy.
He grinned impishly. “Aren't I lucky?” Then he looked over at his friends. “Well, what are you guys waiting for dig in?”
Shortly after dinner Hayden found herself in the lounge with her mother's guitar in her arms. She began striking the cords, listening and then tuning it. Maddie was listening to the conversation between Reese and Lamar when the subtle sounds caught her attention. Following the tone, she found herself leaning against the doorway watching the brunette. She couldn't help but smile. “You play the guitar?” She almost whispered startling the brunette. “Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you.” She smiled sheepishly as she walked further into the room.
Hayden glanced up at the blonde, a smirk on the side of her face. “I know a thing or two.”
“Uh, huh…” The blonde humored knowing that the brunette was probably being modest. “You know I always wondered…”
Hayden dropped her gaze to the instrument and continued to tune it. “What's that?”
“How come you are not in my music class?” Maddie sat down opposite the brunette.
“I never really took any form of music classes in school.” Hayden smiled down satisfied that everything was on key.
“Why is that?” Maddie wondered clearly the brunette was very talented.
“Because.” Hayden smiled sadly and gazed back at Maddie with those piercing blue eyes. “I already had the best teacher, right here at home.”
The blonde gave her an understanding look. She had found out about the accident pertaining to the death of the brunette's parents. Thinking about it, she should have linked it to Reese having to leave for a few months because of her older sister's death. But she probably played it down to being new in this town. “Your dad?” She found herself asking.
Hayden let out an unexpected chuckle. “No, my mom. My dad was an accountant and a tone deaf one at that.”
Maddie found herself giggling. “That must have been fun in a weird way. Having two opposite type parents.”
Hayden grinned, it reaching those mystical blue eyes. “It was great. My dad always used to say that he fell in love with her voice and that the rest of her was a bonus. For my mom, she said it was because he was a big klutz and needed someone to look after him that she couldn't help but love him. But we all knew she adored him.” She chuckled softly at that, dropping her eyes, finding it really weird she was sharing that with someone. She never thought she could open up those memories with anyone. She never thought she wanted to…
Sensing the slight apprehension from the brunette, Maddie changed the topic. “So are you going to play us something?” She smiled hopefully.
Hayden picked up her gaze. “I'm going to try. I haven't really played for over five months.”
Maddie wanted to ask why but she had a feeling she knew, having a few inner demons of her own. “Don't worry it's just like riding a bike.” She afforded the brunette a comforting hand on her shoulder when the rest of them drifted in.
“There you two are.” The blonde jerked her hand away glancing at Reese who smiled in the doorway. Lamar gave them both naughty looks before taking a seat next to Maddie. Reese smile dropped when she saw the guitar in Hayden's arms. “Is that the…” She trailed off feeling the breath knocked out of her.
Seth stepped up behind the redhead, wrapping his arms around her waist, pulling her into him. “Santa Cruz, yup.” He kissed her neck. “I found it in the attic and gave it to her. I hope you don't mind…”
She turned in his arms, tears welling up in her eyes, she beamed letting out a watery chuckle. “Why would I mind? It's great, I thought we lost it.” She hugged him tightly.
He grinned over her shoulder at Hayden. “So are you going to play us something or what?”
Hayden rolled her eyes but grinned back. “Okay, but no flaming, I'm a bit rusty.” Her eyes dropped to the guitar in her hands trailing her fingers across the strings, getting a feel for them and the music. The cords becoming more and more distinct. Her eyes closing, remembering the teachings of her mother flow through her. ‘Your instrument is just an extension of yourself, listen to the music, listen to your heart' . And she found herself lost in her mother's voice playing each note almost perfectly…
The rest of them just froze in awe at the lucidity of the player and her weapon. Reese sank more into her husband's embrace, tears already dripping down her cheek. Lamar could form no words in his brain, as the music pierced straight through him, leaving his mouth dry. He leaned over next to Maddie. “You weren't kidding when you said she was good.”
“Shsh!” She chastised him, her focus never leaving the brunette. She couldn't say what she was feeling at the moment for she had no freaking clue. The music playing on every emotion she thought possible. She was so lost in it, it was heartbreaking. The style and fluidity of each note on to the next made her breath catch, the world stop. Then suddenly music stopped and she could breathe again.
Hayden slowly opened her eyes seeing all eyes on her, she put the guitar down. “Um, sorry there are still a few kinks to work out.” She smiled a little sheepish. The whole room burst into applause.
Lamar's hands were hurting from clapping. “Whoa Hayden, you are amazing! I think your are at this one's standard.” He pointed at Maddie. “She is the only one who can get me to sit still and listen besides from you today.”
Maddie almost beamed, feeling a little emotional. Only a musician would understand. “Then you must know, you are truly great. It takes a lot for him to sit still.” The room erupted in laughter.
Reese sat next to her niece pulling her into a crushing hug, her tears falling freely. “That was just like Ella.” She whispered into the brunette's ear. Hayden leaned back, astonished. “It was…” Reese smiled kissing her forehead.
Released, Hayden looked up at Seth, who quickly wiped any evidence of his own tear. He grinned, his brown eyes glistening. “Best birthday present ever…” He mouthed to her.
Lamar tapped a finger on his head, a thought occurring to him. “Hey Hayden, do you have a job?”
Hayden frowned and turned her head towards him. “I'm in school.” She said dryly.
“I meant on the weekends? Maddie has been looking for a music assistant for a few months now.”
Both Maddie and Hayden looked at him. “What?” They barked in unison.
Lamar rolled his eyes. “She is too picky and I happen to know she would choose you in a heartbeat.”
Maddie furrowed her brows, knowing it was true. She had been looking for someone to assist her since the classes have been getting bigger. “I would.” She nodded in agreement.
Hayden considered them, feeling a bit uneasy. “Um, I think need some air.” So she stood and left the room leaving them staring after her.
Reese sighed resting against the sofa. Seth joining her, both with pained looks on their faces. The redhead spoke up. “She hasn't really given music a thought since…”
Seth sighed. “Well she should.”
The redhead looked up at her husband. “I'm not going to force her to do something she doesn't want to do.”
Seth pinched the arch of his nose. “It's not forcing if she loves doing it, Reese. You saw her right now, she was smiling, for the minute the song went on she was happy. She was actually happy…”
“I know. What are we going to do?” Reese sighed leaning into him.
Maddie glanced at the door Hayden left through and then back at the couple. “Could I try talking to her?” She asked, no idea why. Clearly this was a bad idea. Don't ignore the sirens, Maddie. But peeking back at the door, she felt her rational thought leak out through her ears.
Seth sighed. “I'm all out of ideas so go ahead.” He motioned for her.
Maddie stood following the passage laid out for her, seeing the brunette on the small patio in the back. She grabbed her coat off the hanger and wrapped it loosely around her, stepping out behind Hayden. “Aren't you freezing?”
Hayden smiled a little. “A little, but mostly I find it refreshing.”
Maddie stared at her incredulously. “The sanity card is still out on you, I see.”
Hayden shot the blonde a smirk over her shoulder. “I warned you about that, didn't I?”
Maddie smirked back. “So you did.” She went to lean next to Hayden on the wooden beam staring out at the frozen garden. “So you didn't really give me an answer in there?”
“Did you really want me to or was that your friend getting kicks out of our situation.” She asked bluntly.
“At first I thought so. But then I realized he had a solid point.” Maddie let out a sigh and faced the slightly wind tousled brunette.
Hayden felt the heat of Maddie's green eyes and slanted her head in her direction. “Which would be?”
The blonde lifted her gaze until their eyes met. “If we met under other circumstances I would have picked you in a heartbeat.” Maddie smiled softly. “And even though we are in the situation we are in, funny enough I would still pick you.”
Hayden's eyes widened. “Really?”
“Really.” The blonde nodded. “We could even work on your own talents if you want.”
“I don't know, Conner.” Hayden looked away.
Maddie witnessed the pensiveness in the brunette. “Hayden you were given talents that are so beautiful. And I would say you a free to whatever you want with it, it's yours.” She turned the brunette to face her. “But, what you are doing right now… Is not what you want and you know that.” She patted Hayden on the shoulder. “That's all I have to say.” She smiled. “Plus, I think if I stand any longer out here my butt is going to fall off.” She chuckled softly and headed for the door.
Hayden chuckled at that. Whatever the blonde said made sense. But opening that part of her life up again fully, she didn't know if she had in her. “Okay.”
Maddie halted, her lips growing into a smile. “What?”
“Okay.” Hayden repeated. “I'll work for you.”
“Good. I'll give you the details tomorrow in class.” Maddie smiled as she walked through the warmth of the house.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The compelling aroma of fresh coffee scented the air in a certain teacher's kitchen. Maddie groggily pulled out a mug from one of the cabinets and poured herself a generous amount of God's greatest creation. Second to music of course. Palming her hands around the heated cup she slowly brought it to her lips, waiting for the caffeine to burn through her fatigue. Sighing as her senses seemed more alive she spared a brief glance to her sleeping hound on the petite rug. At least one of them was getting some sleep these days. Resigning to the wooden chair, she took another sip of her coffee, her thoughts were usually in a whirlwind of incoherency. Her past coming up more often and as much as she pushed it away, it kept lurking in the shadows, mixing with the present. And every time she finally gained some understanding, her mind was on the one thing that baffled her the most. Hayden Oliver . There was just something about her that she couldn't quite put together. She had given up on every romantic feeling she had directed in that way. She had to. She just played their first night up to the alcohol and Christmas season. Everything felt like magic during Christmas, right? Pressing her forehead against the coolness of the table surface she closed her eyes, needing to lose all delusion of that night.
It had been weeks since and she could still run through every detail. That was not healthy, right? And if she did have some type of lingering misplaced feelings, she wouldn't act on them. She just wasn't that type of person. She was probably building it up bigger than it actually was. It wasn't as if she could go back into the past and undo what had happened. She would just have to get over it especially since the brunette was going to be working for her today. “Jeez, what the hell was I thinking?” She thought out loud.
Truth was she wasn't thinking at all. Hearing the brunette sing and then play plowed right through her. Seeing the young woman so uncertain about what she had or the doubts of her love for the one thing that supposed to make the most sense. It broke her heart all over again, her own pain lingering tainting the memories of her own naïve days. She had screwed up her life on many occasions, sometimes to the point of no return. Her only savior was the music that ran through her blood that brought her to the realization of what more life had to offer. Music was her link to love, hate, hurt, to her blood, and to her apparent life. She had a feeling it was the same for the brunette. The burning of hope through every note, every verse, every piece. If her redemption lay anywhere she had a feeling it had to deal with Hayden. She let out a rueful chuckle, she usually wasn't a fatalist.
She was brought out of her thoughts by sound of the doorbell. Lifting her head up, she let out a small grin when Smurf sped to the front door barking furiously at it. “Cool your jets, champ...” She ran a hand through his fur. “Let's see who it is first before you attack…”
Hayden's blue eyes slowly dropped to the wooden floor, her foot nervously tapping. She loosened her guitar strap as she waited patiently. Pursing her dry lips she was about to push the bell again when the door suddenly opened. She was struck by the wonderful sight of the warm welcoming smile that drew on the corners of the blonde's mouth. Her own lips quirking on their own accord. “Hey…”
“Hey… You're early.” Maddie smiled at the brunette who was dressed in her usual Goth attire. Smurf's barks droned down besides her, his tail wagging as he seemed to recognize the brunette.
“What? Really?” Hayden stared at her watch, realizing she was half an hour early with a wince. “Um, I can come back later…” She jerked a thumb behind her, her cheeks started heating up despite the cold. Just as she was about to step back off the deck her guitar strap was tugged.
Maddie chuckled in amusement. “Get in here, you.”
“Okay…” Hayden managed to respond as she was dragged inside, the bitter weather shut behind them.
As Hayden slipped off her instrument, Maddie took her coat hanging it on the rack. She studied the brunette realizing she was just as nervous as she was, easing her own worries. This was new territory for them both. “Trying to get a raise on the first day?” She teased, enjoying the tinge of red that covered the brunette's cheeks.
Hayden witnessed the humor dancing in the brunette's eyes, making her heart rate elevate slightly at the same time dissipate her raw nerves. “If I say yes?” She raised a brow. “Will it work?” Her straight face curled into a grin as she was greeted by the huge Labrador. “Hey buddy, you remember me, don't you?” She knelt down, scratching him behind his ears, getting an appreciative lick.
Maddie chuckled at the sight, never actually seeing her dog this friendly with anyone besides herself. That too, was when he was in the affectionate mood. “Wow, he actually likes you…”
Hayden tilted her head back up at Maddie, the splitting grin not leaving her face. “Is he not supposed to?”
“Nope, he just doesn't really take well to humans.”
Hayden smiled back at the Labrador. “Me and you both, pal. They are a waste of space.” She patted him once more for good measure, rising off her haunches. Feeling quite content, Smurf stalked off towards his water bowl.
“Not all of them are, you know.”
The brunette turned her attention back to those smiling green eyes. “Not all of them are what?”
“A waste…” Maddie smiled leaning against the kitchen door.
“I know…” Hayden whispered back, the smile returned.
The blonde stared up at the clock and drew her gaze towards the soft blue eyes. “We still have a while, before you're actually on the clock. Would you like some coffee?” She gestured the brunette towards one of the wooden chairs.
“I'm actually not much of a coffee person…” Hayden wrinkled her nose in disgust, taking a seat.
Maddie halted on her way to the coffee maker, her eyes almost saucered. “What?”
“What, what?” A dark brow peaked on the brunette's forehead.
“You don't like coffee?” Maddie asked as if it was the most absurd idea in the world.
“Not really…” Hayden shrugged. Her mother rarely indulged in coffee, so she never got into the habit.
“Wow… How do you live?” The brunette wondered, her life practically dependent on the intoxicating percolated mixture. “Or at least get up in the morning?”
“Well I'm not sure on the former but the second part is easy. I hardly sleep.”
Maddie considered the brunette's face, the rings around her eyes, the fatigue embedded within them. Hayden would eventually burn out she thought with sympathy. She herself knew what it was like to be cursed to insomniac nights, half awake days. Death made you run on empty. She dug into the cupboard below the sink, a bare smile spreading on her face when she located what she wanted. She pulled out the secret tin of Cocoa, shaking in front of the brunette, wiggling her brows. Hayden couldn't help the small chuckle that left her lips but she nodded appreciatively. Maddie grinned as she began to prepare two cups, enjoying this lighter side of the brunette. Usually she had a permanent scowl on her face or that vacant look, buried from the outside world. There was so much more depth to the beautiful brunette student that peaked her curiosity. She was so unpredictable, maybe that's what Maddie was drawn to. “So have you been taking anything for it?”
Hayden's eyes dropped to her palms, as she began to remove her thick woolen gloves. “I used to, at first.” Stretching her bare fingers out, she let her blue gaze drift back to the blonde. “But then I realized I didn't like sleep that much, anyway…” This was an accurate statement, the longer she slept, the longer her nightmares would consume her mind, drenching her body in sweat and shivers.
The blonde bit down on the questions that surfaced in her mind. There was so much she wanted to know but she didn't know how to ask. Her relationship with Hayden or whatever this was they had, had to have its boundaries. OR at least give the brunette freedom to relay whatever information she wanted if she wanted. She didn't know what Hayden was like before her parents died, but she was certain through the hardened nonchalant exterior, there was so much more pain lingering. She knew first hand that that kind of pain was never erased just bubbled until it erupts. “Okay…But just so you know, that does make you weirder.” Maddie grinned, trying to lighten the serious mood.
“Noted.” Hayden smirked back when the mug of Cocoa was placed in front of her. Enjoying the rich chocolate drink, she glanced up at the blonde with those deep blue eyes. “Sure you want someone so weird working for you?”
Maddie could only smile at the actual sincerity in the question. In terms of music this was the best idea. “Oh definitely, you aren't a decent musician if you aren't weird in one way or the other.”
“Really?” Hayden's brow rose as she looked the blonde over with focused eyes. “I don't see anything weird about you…”
Maddie chuckled awkwardly, feeling the heat rise in her neck at the clear scrutiny. Okay bad idea! Bad idea! She forced herself to calm down, there was no intent in the stare. They drew the line, right? Right? “Oh really, then I guess you haven't taken notice to these.” She wiggled her brows trying to keep a reign of control over her deprived body. She walked around the counter to Hayden's side, her eyes dropping to her feet.
The brunette's gaze followed until she took in the pink bunny slippers jiggling on the tiles. She shook her head with an amused expression on her face. “Seriously, your weirdness is bunny slippers?”
“Hey, it's weird.” Maddie pouted at the unconvinced look she received from the brunette.
“Yeah, sure it is. Super weird. I mean who wears pink bunny slippers in the middle of winter.” Hayden rolled her eyes as she finished her hot beverage.
Maddie picked up the mug depositing it in the sink, then shot a confident glare at the brunette. “What if I told you, I own five pairs?”
Hayden's eyes widened slowly at the admission, her lips curling slightly. “Since you only have only one pair of feet, I'd say point taken.”
“Yes! See I told you I was weird.” Maddie did a quick happy dance which made Hayden grin.
“And you're happy with that evaluation?”
“Yes, who wants to be normal?”
“Good thing we aren't normal people then…” Maddie countered. “So can you only play the guitar?”
“Nope.” Hayden shook her head. “Piano and violin too…” She shrugged.
“Really?” Maddie grinned as the brunette nodded. “Are you any good?”
Hayden smirk could barely be seen. “I know a thing or two.”
“You know the last time you said that, I was blown away and I hired you.” Maddie rolled her eyes. “I can't afford to hire you twice.” Hayden just shrugged, her stance not revealing in the least. The blonde simply sighed. “Guess I'm going to have to find out. Ready to see where you work?” Hayden nodded as she followed Maddie out into the lounge, Smurf eyes opening and then shutting as they passed his recent nap position near the fireplace. “Well, this is my lounging area, as you can see Smurf makes full use of it.” Maddie gestured her arms, around. At Hayden's silence the blonde frowned turning her head back to see the brunette over at her black baby grand piano.
Hayden sauntered in awe around the sleek instrument. She held her breath as her fingers wearily grazed the planes of it as if she had to touch it to feel the veracity of it. She couldn't believe such beauty was contained in a simple piece of furniture. Maddie couldn't avert her gaze from the brunette as she caressed her favourite piece with the pads of her fingers, seeing the innocent wonder her eyes. Then those blue eyes were on her as Hayden simply stopped. “Bechstein, what year?” She all but whispered, the only other sound was the crackling of the fire.
Maddie let out the breath she didn't even know she was holding. “I'm not sure about fifty years ago. It was my grandfathers.” What was it about those eyes that made her feel like she swallowed her tongue?
“Jesus.” Hayden nodded. “And it's in such good condition?” Her eyes fell back to the instrument, her hands resting on the cover. “May I?”
Maddie simply nodded, then remembered Hayden wasn't looking at her. “Yes…” She said curiosity taking her over. Usually no one else was allowed to touch her baby, much less stroke it like an attentive lover aside from herself. Her tongue grew thick from the comparison she just made, so she swallowed.
Hayden's lips quirked in the slightest as she settled on the leather bench, her eyes catching one of the Chopin music sheets. Her hands swept over the cover, she lifted it with a tiny creak. Her vision was struck by faded black and white keys that were the only indication of the age of this wonderful contraption. It was used. It was loved, she mused. Her mother would have fallen in love at the sight, she thought sadly reaching for the pendant at her chest. I hope you can see this mom…
Maddie caught the brief wave of sadness that Hayden produced, making her own heart hurt for some reason. She saw the brunette roll a strange silver pendent between her fingers, before placing the music sheet on the stand. Lightly she settled her spread out fingers on the key. She looked up at the blonde who was now seated on the arm rest of the couch, her green eyes focused, almost expecting. Gently applying pressure on the keys, she tested her light and nimble fingers on such a magnificent piece. Her eyes watched her fingers flow like liquid key after key, note after note. After a while of getting familiar with each stroke, her eyelids drooped, adapting the music by letting her heart decide which note to play next. All of it coming out like she remembered her mother had played. Her face remained expressionless when she picked up the pace, the music turning from heartbreaking to violent, to tragic. The brunette felt the power overwhelm her, her fingers a bit hesitant to continue but she couldn't help herself. Her instincts taking over closing her apprehension briefly, as she continued feathering the sequential keys.
To say Maddie was flabbergasted was an understatement of note. If she had ever seen a prodigy in the making, it was Hayden Oliver. Her raw talent possessed something hidden, something locked. She thought that her encounter with a guitar was astounding and now this. At first her music had started off with a bit of Chopin before trailing off into a piece the blonde was unfamiliar with. Probably her own, she mused with awe. She could only watch with bated breath, her mind dissolving when the piece gradually came to an end.
Hayden felt the strain on her digits and her wrist. Twisting and stretching them out, her eyes blinked open to be locked on emerald eyes. Both of them remained silent for a moment trying to collect thoughts that would be coherent. The brunette broke the tense stare first, tilting her face towards her hands. “It's beautiful.” She whispered.
Maddie's brows furrowed. “I'm sorry, what?”
Sincere blue eyes met green once more. “I said, it's beautiful…” She swept her finger across the keys once more before pulling down the cover. She rose, rolling her shoulders trying to work out the kinks in her back.
“Beautiful?” The blonde tasted the word on her lips in confusion. Then it hit her. “Jeez, you meant the piano!”
“Yeah… Am I supposed to have meant something else?” She challenged with a dark gleam in her eyes and a smirk.
Maddie felt the blush creep through. “No… yes.” Maddie sighed. “I mean you're beautiful, Hayden…” Hayden simply raised a brow. “Well your talent is. Not that you aren't beautiful too. I mean, damn, you are, but…” She rambled on before she dropped her face in her hands, shaking her head. “God, I'm not making any sense.”
Hayden chuckled at the flustered teacher, finding Maddie's goofy nature amusing. “I can't say that you are…”
Maddie lifted her face with a narrowed glare. “This is all your fault, you know.”
Hayden's chuckles ceased and she sobered. “For what exactly?”
“For my momentary lapse in expressing my thoughts? I mean you should have told me…”
“Told you what?”
“That you're brilliant. Seriously Hayden, is there anything you can't do?” Maddie looked up at Hayden with awe in her softened eyes.
Hayden felt her own cheeks blush, averting her eyes shyly. She usually didn't take well to compliments. “I don't know.” She mumbled out with a slight shrug.
Maddie simply smiled, shaking her head as she fell back on the couch. She stared up the ceiling as she spoke. “I guess this means you can't work for me…” She sighed sadly.
“Why?” The brunette straightened, her eyes falling on the blonde who had a serene type smile on her lips. “Did I do something wrong or inappropriate?”
Maddie tilted her head until she had the beautiful raven haired student in her view. “Wrong?” She sat up and shook her head. “No Hayden, wrong would be if you worked for me. I mean you're just too good to work for me. I wouldn't be able to teach you much…” She admitted pensively. “You should be out there trying to become a professional, or going to college. Julliard perhaps. Your musical talent is more than good enough, Hayden. All you have to do is fine tune it and audition. You have to think about your future.”
Hayden's eyes wandered to the dancing flames of the fireplace as she considered Maddie's words carefully. “I don't know.” Running her fingers through her hair, she spoke. “I honestly don't know…” She repeated her thoughts out loud. “I haven't given my future much thought. Hell, I haven't given my present life much thought. All I know is I'm here because I said I'd be…” She spoke frankly.
Maddie stared at her confused student with sincerity. “Do you want to be here, Hayden?”
Hayden pinched the bridge of her nose. “Part of me does…”
“And the other part's scared?” At Hayden's flinch, Maddie smiled. “It's okay to be afraid, you know.”
“I'm not afraid…” The brunette crossed her arms over her chest in a defensive stance.
The smile didn't leave the blonde's face. “But you're uncertain… And that's okay too. You just have to figure out what it is you want.”
Hayden sighed, her arms dropping to her side. “I don't know what I want in terms of my future.”
“–Right now…” Maddie added. “But you will… Until then you are forced to wander in the realm of trying to figure it out…”
Hayden nodded. “I still want to work here though…”
“You'd be wasting your talent here, teaching little kids. And there is only so much I can teach you…” The blonde sighed knowing that she wanted the brunette to work with her, too. But it wasn't in Hayden's best interest. She wasn't in Hayden's best interest…
Hayden's eyes hardened. “You told me the other day that it's my talent to do what I want with. I'm not sure about the future, but right now this is what I want.” She looked in Maddie's eyes taking a few steps towards her, her own eyes full of conviction. “The only way I will leave is if you break our deal and fire me.”
Maddie stood their gaze never withering, seeing the authenticity and passion burn in those sapphire eyes. So that is what the real Hayden looks like… With a smile she turned leaving the brunette frowning after her when she began treading across the room. She halted and shot a look over her shoulder. “Aren't you in the least bit interested in where we are going to be working?”
Hayden's face slowly worked up its own smile. “I…” She could only nod as she followed the brunette towards the music room.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
After an hour of getting accustomed to her work area, Hayden found herself in what the blonde had termed the practice room. This room consisted of an open space with a few chairs and some music stands and a glass door which lead into the back yard. At the moment, six pairs of eyes studied the brunette intensely as she stood in the middle of a human circle. Hayden rubbed the back of her neck nervously as Maddie began to introduce her to the small group of seven –nine year old aspiring guitarists. She had never cared to be the center of attention in any group of people, let alone people this –this short. “Good morning, everyone. Today I'd like to introduce you to my new assistant Ms. Hayden Oliver.”
“Hi…” Hayden gave a small brief wave, before dropping her arm. All of their gazes still not wavering.
“Good morning, Ms Oliver…” The class said in perfect harmony that made her feel a tad more awkward than she was. Maybe she should reconsider the new job –teacher thing?
Maddie smiled. “She will be taking over some of the guitar lessons and will be practicing with you guys. Are there any questions?” She asked witnessing six short arms shoot into the air at once. Maddie sighed. “Adam?” She addressed the small brunette boy.
Adam tilted his head to the side. “Why is she taller than you?”
Maddie looked at the brunette, her eyes traveling up her length. “I'm not sure, maybe her parents were taller than mine?”
Hayden shrugged indifferently. “Could be…” Adam nodded satisfied with the answer.
“Jerome?” She pointed to the African American kid with glasses riding low on his nose.
“Is she in a cult?” He asked innocently generally interested.
Maddie's eyes widened. “No she is not in a cult, why would you think that?”
Jerome shrugged and spoke smugly. “My daddy said all people that dress in full black are part of a cult that steals kids away from their mommy's and daddy's.” The whole class gasped, with the two girls screaming.
Maddie could only roll her eyes as Hayden scrunched her face. “Okay, okay settle down. Hayden is not part of a cult.” They seemed to tone down much to their instructors' relief.
“Are you sure?” Abigail asked in a whisper wearily eyeing out the brunette.
“Positive. Are there any more questions?” A few more arms rose. “That has anything to do with the guitar lessons?” Maddie added with a deep sigh, seeing the hands slowly dip back down. Hayden felt a sense of relief when question time was over but then glowered when she thought about the other two groups after this. “Okay, get out your sheet music and let's begin.”
Almost four and a half hours later, Maddie waved off the last student and her parent, shutting the door. She walked into the lounge seeing her assistant sprawled on the couch in exhaustion. She almost giggled. “Tough first day?”
Hayden popped her head up seeing the amused grin before groaning. “How do you keep up with them?”
This time Maddie did giggle. “Months of practice. And truck loads of coffee…”
Hayden dragged herself up, sighing. “I think I'm starting to consider it.” She stared up at her watch remembering to meet her aunt for a late lunch. “I should probably get going…”
“Are you sure you don't want to eat something.” Maddie asked.
Hayden smiled at the offer. “Nah, I'm good. Plus, I have to kidnap a couple of kids for tonight's festivities otherwise they will revoke my cult membership.”
Maddie chuckled at that. “Kids…”
Hayden joined in the chuckle. “Don't you mean some kids' parents?”
Hayden picked up the Santa Cruz and slung it over her shoulder. “Later, Conner…” She smiled despite herself. This job was an education and she admired Maddie more for it. Thinking back, she found herself enjoying it with the small people.
The blonde couldn't wipe the grin off her face. “Hayden, you do know you can call me Maddie at work.”
“I know, I just like Conner…”
“Oh okay, bye Hayden…” Maddie smiled shyly.
Hayden smirked back. “See you around, Conner…” She pulled the door closed behind her.
To be continued in Part 4
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