Stefan laughed at my dazed expression. I have to admit, what goes on in Silverthread Manor at midnight was the last thing I expected him to be asking about. There was no way he could know about the house changing in the middle of the night. That was probably just a dream, anyway. A really vivid dream.
“Anything besides working and chatting with strong, handsome men?”
I gave him a narrow-eyed look. “I do only one of those things,” I teased him.
“Now, lass, ye’ll ne’er get any work done if ye let him distract ye ’till the wee hours o’ the morn,” Killian told me.
He was next to get a cold look from me. “I’ve been doing quite a lot of writing in the past week, I’ll have you know.”
“Just not at midnight,” Stefan added. He pretended to be afraid of me when I glared at him.
I couldn’t stay mad at him, though. As much as we teased one another, he really is handsome. He’s tall and lean, but he doesn’t lord it over people constantly– and only sometimes if he’s acting ‘in character.’ He’d been letting his flaxen hair grow out for years, and he took care of it so that it shone in the light. His eyes were bright blue with speckles of darker blue. No, I don’t mean to focus on how he looks. I was trying to say he’s really nice, but I got side-tracked.
The thing about Stefan is that he’s hard to really pin down– and that’s how he likes it. He doesn’t want to fit into any one category. I don’t either, but he’s really good at it. His Norse ancestry is important to him, but it’s not all-consuming. He respects all cultures and will make friends with anyone who gives him a chance. The catch is that not many people give him a chance. When we met in middle school, everyone who knew him from elementary school thought he was a bad boy, and that reputation carried on into high school.
Let me explain. Stefan went to a different grade school than I did, but they both fed into the same middle school. We were placed in the same Honors English class. As much as other people saw him as a bad boy, what with the way he was starting to let his hair grow out and wore black t-shirts with the names of metal and rock bands, plus the chain necklace, he never caused trouble in class. He wasn’t obedient or conformist, but when he had a different idea on something, he wasn’t rude in how he expressed it.
Actually, the only time I ever saw Stefan do anything that the teachers thought was rude was when someone else had been giving him crap for a while. He wasn’t quick to anger, but he also didn’t suffer any fools. He was willing to help others in class, but when he saw that they weren’t even trying, he would call them out on it. You didn’t read the assigned chapter? No wonder you don’t understand the story. Try reading it, and then he’ll talk to you about it. If you have parts you didn’t understand, at least you tried, and he’ll explain. Stefan helps those who help themselves, so to speak.
So when a couple bullies (again, they were from a different grade school) caught on that he was in all honors classes and orchestra, and had pretty much straight A’s, they thought they could take advantage of him. They took his instrument case, put their homework sheets on his desk, and threatened to break his oboe if he didn’t do their work. It was one of the few classes that wasn’t offered as honors, so we were stuck with the bullies. Stefan just shrugged and ripped up their papers, tossing them like so much confetti. The teacher saw that part and sent him to the office. Stefan agreed to go, but calmly asked the other boys for his oboe first. The teacher stared at them, and they handed it over.
Orchestra class was a couple periods later, and Stefan showed up for it. He told me that he’d explained to the principal what the bullies had done, and the boys were called down. She tried making Stefan apologize for ripping the papers, but he refused; he wasn’t sorry for exposing the bullies and calling their bluff. He turned it around by saying that what he was sorry for was that these bullies hadn’t been exposed sooner, and that the teacher’s hard work in preparing for the lesson had been disrespected by those boys. His parents his still been called, but they seemed to understand the situation.
In high school, our Honors History teacher tried questioning his choice of attire, and was often critical of him, but Stefan just let it roll off like water on a duck’s feathers. He hoped that once the teacher saw his work and scores, he’d lay off, but the teacher just changed tactics and said that someone as smart as him should dress more respectfully. Stefan showed up the next day in a black button-down shirt, black and silver silk tie with a wolf’s head pin, black slacks, and black– well, you get the picture. The teacher made a snide remark about how he’d finally taken off the jewelry, but then Stefan pulled the chain necklace out from under his shirt. It went on like that for most of the school year. Eventually, Stefan got the teacher to see that image wasn’t everything, and that he could compete academically regardless of what he wore, and that when the situation truly called for it, he could dress for the occasion.
At the music store, Stefan could scare off would-be thieves with a look and a few well-chosen words, and a minute later come off as the sweetest young man when he helped a lost-looking mother find the newest album their teenager would like. He’d hold the door for others, but then tell off the guy in line who was yelling at the cashier for carding him. He didn’t put up with injustice or attitudes based on greed and laziness.
Now you’re thinking that I’m singing his praises. A lot. But before you get the wrong idea, I should point out that metalheads aren’t really my type. And neither are Vikings. I guess you’re wondering what my type is. I don’t know, really. I tried having a boyfriend back in high school, but he moved away and didn’t want to keep in touch– not even as just friends. It was too bad, because we liked gaming with him, even if he was a bit of a rules lawyer. Then there was the guy from community college who decided to join the stoner crowd. I was able to help him get his grades up, but he didn’t like working that hard just to get C’s, so he left with some other friends on a road trip.
The one I dated while we went to Lewis and Clark was nice at first. He wasn’t in orchestra– he was a finance major, actually– and he seemed to like that I could play. He was even nice to Killian. We had several very luxurious dates, all on his dime, but when I finally convinced him to make time to come to one of my concerts and he met Stefan, things changed. It was fine at first, but once the concert ended and Stefan changed out of his symphony clothes and into black leather and silk, with all of his silver and bronze jewelry, hair flowing freely, my boyfriend’s face dropped. We looked ready to cut out right then, but he forced himself to keep his word and come along, but the next day he questioned me on my choice of friends. We didn’t last long after that. It’s just as well; he was turning out to be the type who liked to flaunt his wealth.
These days, I don’t know what I’m even looking for– not that I’m actively looking for anyone to be with. It’s been just over a year since I finished college and got a job writing. I’m more excited about not having to pay rent and being able to write. Actually, I’m even more excited for Killian– things are going really well between him and Larsa– and Stefan; he’s been wanting to make a name for himself as a DJ for a long time.
Our song of the day: