All of my writing is fiction, and the stories and characters are all products of my imagination. They were created for my fun and, hopefully, your enjoyment. Some of the events in the stories are not particularly condoned nor encouraged by the author but are there to create and enhance the story of the imaginary characters and their lives. Comments are always encouraged and carefully reviewed. All characters within the story that need to be are 18 years of age or older. I hope you enjoy! And take a second to vote and comment.
This is a stand-alone story, but it picks up characters from my “Love Changes Everything” series. You don’t need to read that series to understand this story, but it would give some interesting background.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Bronson.”
“Glad I caught you. Mr. Worthington would like to see you in his office.”
Mrs. Bronson smiled, actually more of a satisfied smirk, and Athena was surprised her face didn’t crack. Mrs. Bronson had been in charge of the high school office since, Athena was sure, Teddy Roosevelt had been president. Her heavily powdered and rouged face always caused Athena to worry that it might crack if she smiled too broadly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Bronson.”
Thank you for what? Informing her of another required visit with Mr. Worthington? They were never as bad as Athena feared, just annoying, and she was relatively sure she knew what the subject of this one would be.
She hurried straight to the office since this was her study hall period, and she was not at all concerned about missing that. As annoying as Mr. Worthington could be, it would be more interesting than study hall.
As Mrs. Bronson was out of the office, she went behind the counter to Mr. Worthington’s office and knocked.
“Ah,” he said, peering over the top of his glasses, obviously annoyed that the outer door had been left open. “Miss Kaminski, come on in.”
Athena entered the sparsely decorated office and stood stiffly in front of Mr. Worthington’s desk, knowing that he would ask her to be seated. She was stubborn enough to make him say it.
“Please, take a seat,” he finally ordered, not at all happy with the games he knew Athena loved to play.
“Thank you, sir,” she said as she sat down.
He shuffled some papers on the desk, a tactic he used to make the miscreants he faced more ill-at-ease. She worked to keep her expression as passive as possible. He finally looked at Athena in a way she knew was supposed to be intimidating. She coughed to distort the giggle that was trying to escape her lips.
“Sorry, sir,” she said, sitting very straight in the chair while maintaining eye contact with Mr. Worthington.
A nervous clearing of his throat.
Athena knew he hated to deal with her — she thrived on that. She wasn’t sure where that thriving originated. Certainly not with her mother or father, or even her big sister, Freya, who had dealt with Mr. Worthington during her four years of high school, but only infrequently. Mr. Worthington liked to remind Athena of that, often comparing her to Freya, who had been salutatorian of her graduating class and was now a graduate engineer, married to a physics professor.
“I assume you know why I’ve called you here,” he said, not looking at Athena.
“Yes, sir. I think I do.”
His head snapped up, and he looked at Athena very sternly. “It’s not the behavior we expect from our homecoming queen, nor any other conscientious student, which you appear to be, despite your frequent appearances in this office..”
“Yes, sir. I take my studies very seriously.”
Mr. Worthington frowned at Athena’s evident and annoying shifting away from the reason she was there.
“Then why did you cut your classes last Tuesday?” Mr. Worthington smirked after finally plunging his authoritarian dagger into her.
“I had something else I needed to do,” Athena answered lightly, not removing her eyes from Mr. Worthington’s.
He took a deep breath and let it out, tapping his pencil on the desktop, an annoying habit that all the students hated. Athena ignored it.
“Do you participate in sports, Miss Kaminski?”
“Yes, sir. Soccer.”
“Do they have rules for your soccer-playing?”
If Mr. Worthington wanted to play games with her, she was willing to go along. She put her finger to her lips, as though thinking carefully.
“Yes, sir, they do. A whole set of them?”
A huff. “And do you obey those rules?”
She could see where this was going.
“I had quite a few penalties called on me, sir. Quite a few.”
Mr. Worthington glared at her, not trying to hide it. Athena recognized it as the usual routine they followed.
“The school has rules too. And when they’re broken, there are penalties as well.” He ended that with a delighted smile. “You’ve cleverly, I think, avoided most of the penalties in the past, but this time it will be three one-hour detentions next Monday through Wednesday.
It was freaking annoying, but Athena wasn’t about to let him know that. And three detentions wasn’t that severe of a punishment.
“Yes, sir. I totally understand.” She sat and stared at Mr. Worthington.
He fidgeted and tossed the pencil down.
“That’s all,” he said, a disgusted tone to his voice, waving his hand to dismiss her.
Athena left the office, bid Mrs. Bronson goodbye, and headed to her locker to get her backpack and go to English class. Three hours of detention would be a waste of time except that she would get some studying done and could lighten her carry-home load by one book. She put up with things like that though she hated them — they impinged on her freedom.
She stopped in the girls’ room to wash her hands and check her hair and the little make-up she wore. There was only one other person in the restroom since classes were in session, so she took an extra second in front of the mirror. Looking at her reflection, she had to admit, much against her will, that she was a pretty girl. People told her that, but still, it was hard to accept as there were always things that could be better.
She favored her brother, Dom, with her dark hair and complexion — her sister, and Dom’s twin, being a freckled redhead. Her dark eyes always seemed to sparkle mischievously, and when she smiled, it was like bright sunshine had suddenly enveloped her. The makeup was still in place, and she was off to English and Mr. Wolfson.
“Hey, guys. How’s your day going?” Mr. Wolfson said with a big smile … while waving a handful of papers.
A chorus of “goods” and groans filled the room.
“Gonna pass out these papers and then ask again.” He laughed good-naturedly.
Athena enjoyed Mr. Wolfson’s class. He was funny, easy-going, and not cast from the same mold as most of her teachers.
He roamed between the rows, humming Chopin’s Funeral March as he handed out the end-of-term research papers that seemed to count an inordinately large percentage of their grade. Of course, the paper’s final grade would determine how inordinate it was.
Athena was confident, the silence she received from Mr. Wolfson as he stopped by her desk boosting that confidence. She looked at the paper as he handed it to her. It had 100% at the top, along with a smiley face and an “OUTSTANDING” next to the grade. Her heart skipped at least two beats.
“Dork,” a voice behind her said. Then much softer. “You giving Wolfson blowjobs or something?”
Athena turned. “You might try that,” she snipped to her best friend, Susan, giggling. “What’d you get?”
“B-plus, and I ain’t complaining.”
Mr. Wolfson stopped at Athena’s desk on the way back to the front.
“Athena, stop by my desk on your way out, please.” His big smile reassured her.
“You owe him one more?” Susan asked innocently.
“Will you cut it,” Athena laughed as Mr. Wolfson frowned at her.
“If you’re through chatting, Miss Kaminski, we’ll go on with the class.”
“Sorry, sir,” she said, the grin on her face saying she wasn’t really sorry.
Athena was so pleased with her paper she barely heard the lecture on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” and the theme of good fences making good neighbors. Class finally over, she turned to say goodbye to Susan, who had her lips formed into a perfect O. She shook her head, waving a dismissive hand at her.
“Go away,” she giggled.
“I wanna watch, maybe learn your technique.”
“Shut up,” Athena cautioned, dancing away toward her teacher, who, by this time, looked very comfortable with his feet on the desk.
When Susan finally exited, leering at Athena, a puzzled Mr. Wolfson pointed to a chair.
“What was that about?” he chuckled.
“You don’t want to know,” was Athena’s reply, hoping her face wasn’t turning pink.
Another chuckle, and he just smiled at her for long seconds while Susan’s silly words echoed in her head.
“Quite a paper,” he began, “perhaps the best I’ve ever received. Even better than Freya’s.”
“Are you kidding me? Better than my sister’s? Will you write that here?” she pleaded, thrusting the paper toward the laughing teacher.
“Big deal, huh?”
“Anytime I do scholastic stuff better than Freya, it’s a big deal.” He didn’t volunteer to write on the paper, though.
Mr. Wolfson closed one eye, nodding at Athena.
“Talked to Mr. Worthington today too. That ring a bell with you?”
“He talked to me today too.” She replied, wondering where this was going.
“So,” he began, “I’m giving an outstanding grade on a paper to a student who cut classes to prepare it. You think that’s right?”
Before she could answer, he burst out laughing.
“Ignore that and tell me what you did. It sounds like something I would have done in high school.”
“I promise not to tell if you do too.”
Energized, Athena was anxious to tell.
“A year ago, I stumbled across Dian Fossey’s book about gorillas. It was totally fascinating, and the fact that she was murdered by poachers because of what she was doing made both her and the gorillas tragic figures.
“I’d done all that reading, but I was anxious to see and experience what I’d read. So, I left early in the morning one day, was at the zoo when it opened, and got permission to take my chair with me. I sat all day, watching the gorillas, taking notes and pictures.”
“So, all the photos in the paper are yours?”
“Amazing. They were well-done and illustrated what you wrote almost perfectly.”
“Thank you, Mr. Wolfson.”
He sat there silently and grinned at her. “And they were all taken when you were supposed to be in school?”
He held his hand toward her, and they high-fived.
“Now get going and serve those detentions.” Another laugh.
“They start Monday,” she said as she stood up.
“Well, go wave the paper in Freya’s face then.”
“I will.” Athena was bubbling with energy, anxious to confront her sister.
* * * * *
“Why do you ask that, Dad?” Freya sat at the table, munching a large pretzel stick.
“I’m just always nervous,” he laughed, “when it comes to Athena. She’s not exactly a loose cannon. I don’t think she’s dangerous, but she is unpredictable. Last night she showed me her research paper. She got a one-hundred percent with an ‘outstanding’ beside it … in capital letters. She was so excited she was nearly jumping up and down because Mr. …?”
‘Yeah, said her paper was even better than yours.”
“Oh, that’s great. I’m s-so happy for her.”
“Of course, there’s another side of the story, so often the case with her. She cut school to go to the zoo to watch the gorillas and take the photos she used, so she got three detentions.
“My sister, Athena,” Freya laughed. “Love her. She’s so different than I was.”
“A lot like me,” Cole replied. “But, what I wanted to ask you is, has Athena said much to you about college?”
A nervous cough.
“A little,” came the quiet response.
Freya sighed. “It’s just Athena being, well, Athena. She wants a motorcycle … badly. She wants to go to college but said she’d be willing to hold off, get a job and save money to buy a motorcycle. I think she’d listen to Flint, but he’s in Italy for the next year and not expecting to be back, even for visits.”
“Flint and his Ducati got all of this started.” Cole caught Freya’s eye. “With you.”
“I know. I loved that ride.” She paused, looking out the window.
“Freya, your face is changing color. What’s that about?”
She eyed her father. “I just told her that if she got a motorcycle, she’d have to take me for rides.”
“Freya! That’s not helping,” Cole laughed. “You think she’s serious?”
“You can never tell with Athena. But, ever since I introduced her to Grig, Dr. Grig, she’s said she would be Dr. Athena one of these days. She’s serious about that too.
“But listen. Since I graduated and started working, Grig has insisted that we live on his salary, and we put mine in the bank. In a year, that account has gotten fairly large. I can loan Athena the money to get the bike, and she can repay me later.”
“You think she’ll buy that? She hates to owe anyone anything.”
“It would be a loan, but not like a loan since I’m her sister and not a bank. Know what I mean?”
“Yes and no. But Athena won’t go along with that.”
“Probably not. But she wants that cycle so badly; it may sway her.”
Cole stared at his oldest daughter thoughtfully. His red hair matched hers. They were much alike, and he treasured that.
“Spit it out,” she finally said.
“Two things,” he began. “Number one, you’re a jewel for wanting to help your sister like that. Number two, I think I’ve heard you stutter only once today.”
“She’s my sister,” Freya said simply. “And since I’ve been with Grig, the stuttering has nearly stopped.
Cole was thinking. “There have to be some guys at the school that have motorcycles. Why doesn’t she date one of them, even though that might be a little … questionable?
“Dad, I’m not there anymore, but I don’t think you’d want her dating most of the guys there that ride motorcycles.”
“Since you’ve said that, I’m surprised she doesn’t do it, ya know.”
They both had a good laugh at that, as it would be typical Athena. When she was elected homecoming queen, she hadn’t wanted to accept. It was far too “conventional” for her. However, when she’d shown up at the homecoming dance, in her formal gown and tiara, there was no doubt that she was the “queen.” At least half of the boys there could barely contain their drool.
Jeremy had escorted her, even though they were no longer dating. She, Jeremy, and Susan had been best friends as they grew up, and once into high school, she had dated him for about a year. They finally gave up on the dating, deciding they were better suited to being best friends. A few boys had pursued her, lucklessly it turned out, and she was awarded the title of “ice queen” by some of them. Of course, that didn’t bother Athena one whit.
“I’m still gonna offer to give her the money and see what she says.” Freya was determined and was willing to fence with her sister about it. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d fenced, nor the last.
“Lemme know,” Cole said.
* * * * *
“You really gonna do it?” Brian said, his eyes wide with disbelief.
“You don’t have to if you’re chicken,” Athena answered. “I’ll find someone else.”
Brian looked at the girl who had been homecoming queen, her dark eyes sparkling in the half-light of the autumn moon. He had thought she’d be afraid, not him, but she wasn’t. That was easy to see. Plus, he wasn’t about to turn down a chance to spend some time with her, even as he questioned why she had asked him.
“No, no, I’m good,” he countered.
They both stood very still, gazing up at the vast mansion.
Gathering his courage, Brian surprised himself by asking, “So, why did you pick me?” He was an average-looking guy, here with this dark-haired beauty, and was puzzled.
“Remember earlier in the year, when you read your paper about ghosts? I figured you might enjoy this.” Athena’s big smile was wilting any reservations he might have had.
He had written a paper about ghosts because it had been fun to imagine. Brian enjoyed imagining. But that was a long way from sneaking into an abandoned mansion, reputed to be haunted as well.
A deep breath. “How we gonna get in?”
“Dunno. We’ll find a way.”
Athena was holding the three-step ladder she’d brought. Her scouting trip had shown that they’d need that to reach any of the windows. She’d checked the doors on that previous trip, and they seemed hopeless. She decided she’d give Brian a little help.
“Why don’t you steady the ladder, and I’ll climb up and check some windows.”
“Sounds good. We don’t need you to be falling.”
“You’d catch me, wouldn’t you,” she asked as she climbed, sure Brian’s face was red.
He was picturing how nice it would be to catch the homecoming queen. She was right there above him, close enough that the scent of her cologne was filling his nostrils, making him want more. She was gorgeous, and the thought of holding her in his arms was causing his heart to pound a little harder and making his hands want to wander just a little. Her delicious butt was hovering just above his head, and he could only imagine where the rest of the night might be headed.
Athena tried the window, but it seemed to be locked securely. They moved to a second window, then a third and fourth. At the fifth, the window was locked, but she could see some rotted wood where the latch was attached.
“Okay, strong man, your turn,” she said, climbing down the ladder. “Some rotten wood up there.”
Brian climbed the ladder, pushed on the window, and watched the lock mechanism drop away. He carefully lifted the window.
“Go on in. I’m right behind,” she said as Brian disappeared through the dark opening.
Athena carefully climbed the three steps and was inside as Brian switched on the flashlight. It glowed, flickered, and went out.
“Shit!” Brian grumbled under his breath.
She was looking around carefully.
“The moon is lighting up the next room. Let’s take a peek in there.”
She cautiously approached the doorway into the next room and poked her head inside.
“Pretty light in here,” she said, beckoning to Brian.
She was in the big room, moving along the wall with Brian right behind. Suddenly there was a bumping sound, then a scraping noise …
“Look out!” Brian shouted, too late.
Athena squealed and was on the floor, Brian quickly beside her. She looked up to see Brian’s face close to hers, her head hurting.
“Are you okay,” he asked frantically.
“I dunno. I think so,” was her tentative answer as she lifted her head. “What happened?”
“You bumped into that shelving unit, and that figurine fell and hit you on the head.” His hands were tracing paths through her hair and around her head, and while he was searching for injuries, her silken black hair slipping between his fingers was beyond what he had been able to imagine. “I don’t feel any blood,” he finally stammered out, hoping his accelerated breathing wasn’t giving him away.
“Help me stand up.”
“You should sit up before you stand.” He took her hands and helped pull her to a sitting position.
Athena put her hand to her head and grimaced. “Big bump,” she said as she watched the concerned look on Brian’s face and in his eyes, barely visible in the moonlight filtered through the dirty windows. “I’m good,” she said, smiling at him. “Just clumsy.”
She twisted her legs to get them under her, holding tight to Brian’s hands as he helped her stand.
“You dizzy or light-headed or anything?” he asked.
“Don’t think so.”
“We probably better scoot before anything else happens.”