I don’t know what time it was when I actually fell asleep, but it was late, or early, depending on how you look at it. When sleep finally came, I had the strangest dream. I dreamt I was just like sleeping beauty, a beautiful princess under a dreadful curse, asleep in the tallest tower of a bramble covered castle, waiting for my prince to come. It was a sweet and gentle kiss which pulled me from my slumber and I woke to find myself staring into the beautiful azure eyes of my handsome prince, his warm hand lightly tracing the curves of my face. Still groggy from my hundred years of sleep, I rolled over and found myself laying face to face with Ian, his eyes the same brilliant blue as my prince.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, astonished to find myself lying in Ian’s arms.
“I came to apologize,” he answered softly, his voice warm and gentle, “I didn’t mean to snap at you earlier.”
“It’s alright,” I sighed, mesmerized by those beautiful eyes, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Silence reigned as Ian gently ran his fingers through my hair, sending tingles of excitement racing down my spine. I found myself wishing I could run my fingers through Ian’s shaggy hair and before I knew what was happening, I was, his thick dark locks so soft between my fingers. Entranced by the beauty of the man beside me, I wished this was one dream from which I would never wake.
“Thank you,” Ian whispered, catching my hand as I traced the line of his cheek and brought it to his lips.
“For what?” I sighed, completely flustered by Ian’s tender kiss.
“For letting me be myself, for not judging me, for never giving up on me, even if I am a jerk.”
A second sweet kiss kept me from saying anything more and the third kiss made all the world dissolve into nothing. As Ian himself began to fade into the dark nothing of a dreamless sleep he softly whispered, “I love you.”
I woke the next morning to the delicious smell of frying bacon. My stomach growled loudly as I threw on my clothes and grabbed my stuff, eager to avoid Ian and get home. The way the night had ended had been bad enough but having dreamed about him, like I had, now made things worse. As irrational as it was, I was convinced that if Ian saw me he’d immediately know about my dream and hate me for it. Afraid to show my face I tried sneaking upstairs and out the door without being noticed, but it didn’t work, Ian’s mom spotted me the second I stepped foot upstairs.
“Good morning Lyla,” she called, sounding way too chipper for anyone awake before noon.
“Morning,” I mumbled, trying not to sound too disappointed at my failed escape.
“Would you like some breakfast? I’ve got eggs, bacon, pancakes…”
“Colin and Ian ate quite a while ago but I managed so save some for us, I thought we could have a nice breakfast while the guys are out working on the drive.”
“Alright,” I shrugged.
“Wonderful! Why don’t you have a seat at the table there,” she instructed, nodding toward the breakfast nook, “and I’ll bring you a plate. Would you like some juice or coffee or milk maybe, I have…”
“Juice would be fine, thank you.”
“Is orange alright?”
“Perfect,” I smiled as I sank into my seat.
Seconds later a huge plate of food and a tall glass of orange juice appeared in front of me, Mrs. Wallace beaming as she brought her own plate over and sat down across from me.
“So, did you sleep well last night?” Mrs. Wallace asked as she motioned for me to start eating.
“I did, thank you; it’s a very comfortable bed.”
“I’m glad you thought so. So, tell me, how long have you and Ian been dating?”
“What?” I exclaimed, so shocked by Mrs. Wallace’s question that I nearly blew orange juice out of my nose. “We’re not dating! I told you before, I’m probably the last person in the world Ian would ever like.”
“Oh honey, you don’t have to hide anything from me. I’m thrilled that Ian has found such a nice girl.”
“Um…I’m not hiding anything, we’re really not together.”
“But that doesn’t make sense,” Mrs. Wallace sighed, looking confused, “you two seem so perfect for each other.”
“I’m glad you think so but I’m pretty sure Ian doesn’t share your sentiment.”
“And that’s what’s confusing me! You keep saying that Ian isn’t interested but I just don’t see how that’s possible. You’re the only girl he ever talks about, he’s the one who insisted I take you on as a student and now, even after last night, you insist that you’re not together.”
“You mean Ian…wait, what? What do you mean ‘after last night?’”
“Oh, it’s none of my business,” Mrs. Wallace sighed, “you’re both old enough to know what you’re doing. I just don’t know why you would do that if you’re not together.”
“What!?” I shrieked, horrified by Mrs. Wallace’s implication. “What in the world! I can’t believe this! You…you…you think that Ian and I…that we…”
“Well, didn’t you?”
“NO! Not at all! Never! I told you, he can’t stand me!”
“Then why did I catch him sneaking upstairs at five this morning?”
“What? How should I know? We started watching a movie a little after you and Dr. Wallace went to bed but I went to bed before it ended. Maybe he stayed up to watch TV or something, I don’t know.”
“So you mean you two didn’t…?”
“Oh, what a relief,” Mrs. Wallace sighed. “I was so worried.”
“Oh, not that there’s anything wrong with you, I just…well…it’s just…you’re both so young.”
“Yeah, well, glad you’re feeling better now,” I muttered turning my full attention to my breakfast.
What in the world! I screamed in my head as I fumed at the plate in front of me. What in the world! How could she think something like that? Did she really think so little of me? I felt as if I were in some horrible dream where I was bound to appear on stage in my underwear at any moment. But the longer I sat there, the more obvious it became that this was no dream. For whatever reason, Ian had stayed downstairs all night and now I was being interrogated as an accomplice to some dastardly deed. I pictured a thousand painful deaths for Ian as I sat there, humiliated, as his mother accused me of being a…
“Oh Lyla, I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Wallace sighed, breaking into my thoughts, “I’ve upset you and I’m sorry. Please forgive me, please. I was just so worried…”
“Yeah, well, I suppose I can see how that might look suspicious,” I sighed, trying to hide my infuriated annoyance, “sneaking upstairs and all. And I can see how you might think I’m the type of girl who’d do something like that, I mean you don’t really know me, but do you really have so little faith in your son?”
“Lyla, I’m so sorry. I know you’re a good girl and I know my son is a good boy but when a boy feels as strongly for a girl as Ian does about you, and the two of them are alone, well, even good kids can do stupid things in a situation like that.”
“I suppose they can, but Ian doesn’t like me, at all. He’s made that perfectly clear on more than one occasion so you really have nothing to worry about.”
“But Lyla, you’re wrong. I know Ian likes you…”
“No, he doesn’t.”
“Honey, he wouldn’t stoop to subterfuge for you if he didn’t like you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m sure, by now, you’ve noticed you’re the only piano student I’m teaching.”
“I am? I thought I was just the only one with a lesson on Monday.”
“You’re the only one, period. I stopped giving private lessons a little over a year ago.”
“Then why are you teaching me?”
“Because of Ian. He was at the music store, the day your mother came in, asking about piano lessons. He must have talked to your mom that day because she called that night, asking about lessons. Ian had told me I might be getting a call from a Mrs. Andrews and that if I did, I should say yes. I have to admit, I wasn’t all that interested in giving lessons but Ian was so adamant about my teaching you that by the time your mother called, I had no choice but to say yes.”
I sat, staring at my breakfast in stunned silence, as Mrs. Wallace spoke, completely unable to believe anything she was saying; none of it made any sense. I just couldn’t believe that Ian would do something like that, for me, of all people. I was his nemesis, his archenemy, the thorn in his side, I was the last person in the world he would want to have coming to his house every week. With my mind a confused muddle of thoughts and questions, I lost my appetite and quickly excused myself from the table.
“Lyla, are you alright?” Mrs. Wallace asked, looking concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine, I just remembered that I left something downstairs, I better go get it before I go.”
“Alright, but the roads are still covered in snow, it may be a while before you’re able to go home.”
“Oh, right, well, I probably ought to get it anyway, just so I don’t forget.”
I ran downstairs before Mrs. Wallace could say anything else, desperately seeking the quiet solitude of my temporary room. Shutting the door behind me, I flopped onto the bed and tried to calm the raging torrent of my mind. I couldn’t believe that in the last half an hour I had been told, by his mother of all people, that Ian really did like me and then been accused of sleeping with him. It was humiliating and confusing all at the same time, which seemed to be pretty typical of anything that had to do with Ian.
As I lay there wondering for the zillionth time why anything involving Ian had to be so complicated, someone knocked lightly on the door.
“Come in,” I mumbled.
“Hey,” Ian called as he stepped into the room, looking as if he were stepping in front of a firing squad.
“The driveway’s clear now, and the snowplow just finished clearing the road, so you can go home now.”
“Oh, okay,” I sighed, rolling off the bed and onto my feet, “thanks.”
“Sure,” Ian shrugged as he disappeared into the family room.
Completely used to Ian and his many moods, I just rolled my eyes and headed for the front door, grabbing my bag on the way. Never in my entire life had I been so glad to leave a place than I was leaving the Wallace’s house that day. As I stepped through the front door of my own beloved home I sighed an enormous sigh of relief, it was so good to be home.
“So how was it?” my mom asked with a smile as Bills eagerly licked my hand in greeting.
“You don’t even want to know.”
Of course telling my mom she didn’t want to know how my night at the Wallace’s had been made her want to know even more. I had just barely shed my coat before my mom dragged me into the living room and demanded to know everything. I tried to skip the details of my humiliating time at the Wallace household but my mom wouldn’t allow it; she wanted to know it all and I had no choice but to tell her. I had to admit, that having someone to talk to made me feel a whole lot better. Mom beamed with pride when I told her how I’d fared in the game of Risk, she laughed when I told her about the zombie incident, but it was one of her sympathetic “oh honey, I’m so sorry” laughs so it made me feel better, rather than worse. I finished my story with me going to bed but my mom instantly knew that I was leaving something out. Reluctantly, I told her about the incident at breakfast and then sat back and watched as steam started pouring out of her ears.
“Oh that woman!” my mom cried, as she jumped off the couch and started stomping around the living room. “Who does she thinks she is? Accusing you of that! Why I ought to…”
“Mom! It’s okay! It’s no big deal!”
“No big deal? She called you a two-bit hussy and you say it’s no big deal! Oh, I’m gonna give her a piece of my mind. Accusing my daughter of…”
“Mom, please, calm down! It’s okay!”
“It most certainly is not okay! Now where did I put that phone?” Mom asked, as she tore through the living room, wildly searching for the phone. “I’m gonna…”
“You’re not going to do anything. Okay? Mom, please! Just calm down.”
“Lyla, I can’t just sit back and let someone slander you like that. It’s not right. I didn’t raise you to be walked over by some high and mighty social sob. You’ve got to stand up for yourself.”
“But mom, I did. I told her what happened last night, I told her that Ian and I would never do anything like that, especially since he can’t stand me and I told her that even if she didn’t trust me, she ought to have a little more faith in her son.”
“Well good,” Mom huffed, giving up on her frantic search for the phone as she slumped onto the couch, “but I still think I need to have a talk with her.”
“Fine, but can you wait until you’ve cooled off a little? Please?”
“I suppose I can do that, but I don’t want you going back to the Wallace’s until I’ve had a talk with your teacher.”
“What? Why not!”
“Because I’ll not pay someone to degrade my daughter.”
“But mom! What about the recital? The scholarship? I’ve been working on getting ready for months! I can’t just quit now!”
“I didn’t say you had to quit, I just said you needed to take a break.”
“It’s only until I get things settled with Mrs. Wallace. If all goes well, you should be able to go back in a week or two without a problem.”
“And if it doesn’t go well?” I asked glumly.
“Then I’ll just have to find you another teacher. I’m sure there are others as highly qualified as Mrs. Wallace. I know how much this recital means to you honey, and I promise, you will go, one way or another, alright?”
“Fine,” I grumbled, trying to ignore the sinking feeling settling in the pit of my stomach.
With Mom storming around the house for the rest of the day, I retreated to my room and spent most of the day on the phone with Yuuki. I had so much to tell her I hardly knew where to begin. She was shocked to hear that I had spent the night at Ian’s house but agreed that it was way too dangerous last night to drive.
“My dad took out the mailbox, pulling into the drive,” Yuuki laughed as she recounted the tale. “He’s alright but the mailbox is toast.”
“Poor mailbox,” I chuckled, happy to have a diversion, if only for a second.
“So, what happened at Ian’s? Stranded at his house for the entire night, how romantic!”
“Dream on,” I muttered.
I told Yuuki everything that had happened from the time I hung up with my mom to the second I left, while Yuuki just listened in silence. When I had finished my story Yuuki just sat there, her breathing the only clue that she was still there.
“So what do you think?”
“I think that’s crazy,” Yuuki sighed.
“I know, right? So what am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do. You already told your side of the story and I’m sure Ian’s going to say the same thing when they question him.”
“So you think they’re going to attack him too?”
“Of course they are! There’s no way his parents would let him off easy if his mom freaked out like she did. I just can’t believe they would ever think something like that. I mean I don’t think Ian’s the kind of guy who would do something like that and I know you’re not that kind of girl. Anyone who knows either of you at all would know better than to think something like that, especially considering the fact that…”
“Ian hates me?” I sighed, knowing exactly where Yuuki was headed.
“Well, I wouldn’t say he hates you, but given the circumstances, I don’t see you two getting together any time soon.”
“Yeah, I know,” I sighed glumly.
“Of course I could be wrong,” Yuuki offered optimistically. “You never know, maybe Ian’s a jerk to you because secretly he likes you.”
“No, I mean it. Maybe it’s like in Itazura na Kiss.”
“You know, the manga about the girl who confesses her love to the coolest guy in school and he says no thanks but secretly he likes her.”
“Oh, isn’t that the one where the guy’s a real jerk?”
“Yeah, so maybe Ian is like that, maybe he really does like you and he’s just putting up a front because he’s afraid.”
“I don’t know…”
“Come on Lyla think about it! Ian’s been a jerk to you ever since Ashley read your letter, right?”
“Well, he’s also been kind of your hero since then too. Saving you at auditions…”
“I’d hardly call that saving,” I interjected, “he completely humiliated me and then was a total jerk!”
“Alright, but he did save you at the soccer field, carrying you across the field and taking you to the hospital and all.”
“Yeah, but he also sent me a bill for that.”
“Okay, but what about the incident at the movies? He didn’t send you a bill for that and he let you drag him around a bookstore for hours. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is,” Yuuki chuckled.
“Ha, ha,” I answered dryly, not amused by Yuuki’s sense of humor.
“Oh my goodness!”
“No way! No stinking way!”
“What about my dream?”
“Well, what if your dream wasn’t a dream? What if it was real?”
“Oh yeah, like I’m really Sleeping Beauty.”
“No, I mean, that part was a dream, obviously, but what if when the prince kissed you, it really was Ian! What if he really was there and you just thought you were dreaming? What if he did kiss you? Oh my gosh! What if you really did spend the night together?”
“Yuuki, I think you’re cracked,” I groaned.
“No I’m not! That would explain why he was caught sneaking around at five in the morning. He must have dozed off in your arms! How sweet!”
“Yuuki! You’re insane! This is Ian we’re talking about! Ian! Wallace! You know, the guy who’s spent the majority of the year either ignoring me, insulting me or humiliating me. We’re talking about the guy whose icy glare would make Chuck Norris flee in terror.”
“I seriously doubt Chuck Norris would run from Ian,” Yuuki laughed.
“Okay, so maybe not Chuck Norris,” I chuckled, “but you get my drift.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Yuuki sighed. “Still, wouldn’t it be funny if it weren’t a dream?”
“No! Now will you please drop it? There’s no way Ian would ever fall in love with me. Ever!”
“You never know,” Yuuki chuckled. “I don’t think Ian’s the type of guy who would beg his mom to give piano lessons to a girl he didn’t like.”
“I think he only did it to find another way to humiliate me. He must have known something like this would happen and he was just waiting until it did so he could get back at me for the letter.”
“Yeah, right. As if Ian could possibly predict a blizzard would leave you stranded at his house overnight.”
“Okay, so maybe he just saw the opportunity and took advantage of it. It sounds like something he would do.”
“Maybe,” Yuuki sighed.
“But you don’t think he’d do something like that, do you?”
“Not really. I mean that’s pretty low, even for Ian. Now if it were Ashley we were talking about, I agree with you completely.”
“Well thank goodness we don’t have to worry about her!”
“Here, here!” Yuuki laughed.
When my conversation with Yuuki finally ended, I hung up, feeling a thousand times better. With my mind no longer troubled, I spent the rest of my Christmas break working on new chapters for my latest comic and rotting my brain on stupid movies. By the time school started the following week, my night at the Wallace’s was nothing more than a memory.