August 30th, 2013
My dearest Hatter,
I’m sorry this letter finds you so late. I was immensely busy with life. I spent a week with rabbit—we visited his grandmother’s farm. She isn’t alive anymore, and his sister owns it now, but nobody lived in it during the summer months…so we spent a week and four days there. It was perfect, Hatter. He told me all about how he used to grow up here, visiting every weekend and during holidays. Rabbit told me all about himself, and not once did I grow bored. I think I want to marry him.
Beth came over that night, and I told her everything. We giggled like grade school children in my dorm room late past midnight. We ate fat-free popcorn and drank diet sprite and vodka. It was a lovely night.
The next morning, I had a raging hangover. I rarely drink, you know how I am, so I was regretting every glass. It also happened to be a day where I had Mister Alley, which was (sarcasm) perfect.
He must have been psychic, since he had the curtains pulled and the lights off from the very beginning of class. We were thankfully watching a documentary on…something, I honestly don’t remember. I think I fell asleep. Yes, yes! I did! Because I remember Beth kicked my chair and my desk’s two front legs fell off the platform. I startled awake, giving a little yelp.
Mister Alley called on us both after class. We made our way to the front of the class, our heads hanging.
“I can smell the vodka on your clothes. Were you out late last night?”
“Not out—” we protested in unison.
“We just had a party, the two of us. So what?” whined Beth. She rubbed at her tired, naked eyes.
“Miss Baxter and Miss Peregrine, I dearly hope you’ll come to my class next Tuesday alert and awake. And not smelling of vodka, please.”
We hurried out the door, Beth muttering under her breath in a mocking tone. “Not smelling of vodka, please,” she snorted, her voice trying to match our professor’s. I laughed so hard my headache throbbed. I had to lean against the wall of the East building once we got outside to prevent myself from vomiting. Beth was laughing, too, but just held her head in pain. I had been the one who drank the most.
On Friday, Beth and I went to a club with a few of her other friends. All boys but one, we all clicked very quickly. It made me feel at home. Like I belonged in England. I had more friends here than I had back at home, Hatter. And I’d only been to school for two months. Already, Beth considered me one of her best friends, she had told me so herself, and her other friends had accepted me without any problem. They were all fascinated by my accent.
We got drunk before midnight struck. The boys all flirted with me, the foreign girl, but I let them down easy—told them I wasn’t interested in a relationship right now. They still tried to buy me drinks and booze me up, but Beth told them to lay off.
At half past one, two men walked into the club; one of them being Mister Alley. The other was my first class professor from Monday, Mister Wimble. Mister Wimble had his hand on Alley’s shoulder, the two laughing up a storm over some unknown joke.
Beth nudged me so hard I almost fell off the stool.
“Lookie look—it’s Mister A!” she hissed low into my ear.
I blushed and took a sip of my cranberry champagne. “And Mister Wimble.”
“Wimble,” she repeated. A fluttering sigh escaped her as her shoulders hunched in. “He’s so dreamy.”
I snorted my drink. “Seriously? Betts, you have a crush on him?”
“I had a crush on him last year, too. Ain’t he presh?”
I shrugged. The boys of the group had left to go dance and try to pick up girls. The other female of the group went with them. It left Beth and I to talk alone.
“I love ‘im.” Beth couldn’t take her eyes off of him. “Should I go talk to him?”
“Wait until he’s drunk, Beth. He’ll turn you down, otherwise. Does he remember you?”
“Nah. Doubt it. Last year, he was a lecturer of mine. He didn’t teach, for some reason? I don’t have him this year. You’re so lucky, babe.”
I giggled. “When they get drunk, we’ll both go talk to them, deal?”
“Deal,” she said, her lips around the edge of her wine glass.
It was nearing three in the morning before we could tell that the two men were drunk enough to talk to. Beth scampered towards him, dragging me behind her; her first two fingers curled around my index finger as she yanked me along.
We leaned up against the bar beside them, Beth’s behind poised, her short skirt rising ever so slightly. Mister Wimble let out a low whistle. Mister Alley smacked the other’s chest, laughing so hard tears sprung to his eyes. “That’s a student, mate!” He couldn’t stop laughing. He took a swig of his beer.
Mister Wimble shrugged, bumping hips with Beth. In minutes, the two were locked at the lips, their drinks discarded along the bar. I shuffled awkwardly away from them, allowing space.
Mister Alley found me sitting at the other side of the round bar. I was watching Beth, fascinated by how confident she was—to gather up the courage to kiss a professor!—and I didn’t notice Mister A sneak up beside me.
“Hey, you,” he cooed into my ear. It tickled, and I rose my shoulder to push his face away.
I heard him laugh lightly. “If anyone finds out he’s a prof, and she a student, he’ll lose his job,” Mister Alley chuckled.
I rose an eyebrow and glanced at him. “I doubt he cares. Look at the way his hand is up her top!”
Mister Alley nodded thoughtfully, taking a quick sip from his brown bottle. I sipped at my champagne tentatively.
“Have you danced with any boys yet?”
“No,” I replied too quietly.
“No, I haven’t,” I repeated.
His stare glazed over as he watched Beth and Mister Wimble. He seemed deep in thought, the way his brow was furrowed so darkly. I didn’t want to disturb him. Mister Alley was leaning up against the bar, while I sat, one leg crossed over the other, on a too-high stool.
He nudged me ever so gently with his shoulder as he took a drink. “So?”
“…So, what?” I laughed.
“Are you enjoying your evening?”
I smiled while I downed the rest of my champagne. “Mhm. You?”
“Aw, yeah. Beautiful women, cheap booze, and loud beats. I’m having a blast.”
I blushed and looked into my empty glass. “Anyone catch your eye?” I still stared into my glass.
“Oh, yeah. She’s got a rockin’ body, and hair I could really dig my fingers into, you know? She’s got these freckles, just kissing her nose, and—bwuah, I could count them over and over. And her eyes—” He inhaled sharply through his nose; his nostrils flared as he did so. “Her eyes are like liquid emerald. They shine like jewels, too. She’s…perfect.”
Slowly, I tilted my gaze to search for his.
He was staring at someone beside me, I could see her in my peripheral vision. He gave a nod towards her, and I casually glanced over. My stomach sank.
Hatter, it…we sat at the end of the bar. It was a mirror that he was looking into. He was staring at my reflection.
I blushed a deep crimson, ducking my head. He continued watching my reflection.
“I’m not allowed to compliment a pretty, young lady?”
“N-not if she’s one of your students!”
He only shrugged. “A simple compliment never hurt anybody.” He shifted a few steps closer. The muscles of my stomach clenched and my heart oozed into my lungs.
“We—we’re both drunk. You’re a professor, I’m your student…” I said slowly, hoping to persuade him not to try anything he’d definitely regret tomorrow.
“Liquid courage, remember?”
“You’ve got your beer goggles on.”
He laughed at my comment. It was a full, whole-hearted laugh that vibrated through my core. A shiver rolled up my spine.
“Only makes you that much more stunning, Miss.”
My blush deepened; I stared at the wood of the bar and traced my finger along the wet circles that dotted it. Mister Alley reached out to grab my hand, but I pulled it away just in time.
“I should head home; it’s pretty late.”
Mister Alley looked crestfallen. “What? You only just got here!”
A laugh slipped past my lips. “I got here at nine, Mister A.”
“You only just got here!” he repeated.
I rolled my eyes with a faint smile. I slid from the stool and flattened out the back of my dress. “I’ll go tell Beth I’m leaving. Maybe…you could walk me home?”
I don’t know what came over me, Hatter—I was setting us both up for failure. Too many situations blipped into my brain, the lower half of my stomach growing warm. Letting my glass occupy the bar, I bit my lower lip and stalked off back towards Beth.
“Heeeey!” she cooed, her arm curled around Mister Wimble’s neck. He was nuzzling her ear, but she didn’t seem to care. The hair on my legs tingled underneath my pantyhose. Beth raised her new glass of alcohol to me, winking and throwing a nod behind me—to Mister Alley.
I looked up at the ceiling, my fingers curling around the hem of my party dress. “Hey, Betts, I’m headed off, yeah?”
“You have fun, kids! Make sure to protect yourselves; you don’t want to wreck yourselves,” she yelled over the music that pumped through our veins.
I shot her a scared glare and she let loose a giggle. Mister Wimble had one hand wrapped around her back, groping at her breast; the other was gripping the edge of the bar. They continued kissing. I looked away, embarrassed.
When I stumbled from the club, sudden deafness overcoming me, I felt a hand slip into mine. I glanced at it, following the arm up to its owner. It was Mister Alley. Oh, God.
“Mister Alley, please, you’re going to regret this tomorrow. You’ll tell me it was ‘unprofessional and inappropriate’ on Tuesday,” I mocked. “You won’t be able to stop apologizing if—if…”
“If I kiss you right now?” He began to lean in towards me, ducking his head.
I pulled back, my eyes wide. “Mister Alley—!”
“Come on, darling, don’t be like that; don’t pull away from me. Please.” His voice was sad and a little bit desperate.
“I think I’ll take a cab, instead. I can’t walk straight.”
He looked up at the open sky, pointing up at the stars. “I hear them,” he cooed.
“They’re telling me…you should let me kiss you.”
I blinked and returned back to earth. “Wh—Mister Alley, no!”
He pulled away and a pained expression danced across his features. “Why don’t you like me?” he finally asked, a cab rolling up to the curb.
I couldn’t find the words. I clambered in, my professor following me. He slammed the door shut. “Just drive,” he instructed. “Why don’t you like me?” he asked again.
I sucked on my lips and he flicked his gaze between my eyes. “Mister Alley, I can’t answer that,” I whispered.
“The university, faculty apartment. It’s the one with the two steeples,” he told the cabbie.
Blanching, I turned to him. “Mister Alley, that’s on the other side of campus, my feet hurt, and—” I suddenly slapped my forehead, eyes shutting tightly. “Fuck, the key! I gave it to Beth, she brought a purse, oh no, this is the worst ever,” I cried out, both hands at my head now.
“See? It works out perfectly. You’ll stay with me tonight, get the key tomorrow, everything will be fine.”
“No, no, you’re going to—this is not fine! This is the opposite of fine! This is horrible, horrible!”
Mister Alley cupped my cheek and I tore it away.
When we arrived at the building, we snuck in through the back balcony; I felt like a dirty, little secret that would be swept under the rug the next morning.
“You can sleep on the sofa,” he chipped.
“Wow, what a gentleman.”
“I don’t have a bed. I’m sleeping on the floor.”
That shut me up quick. I curled up on the couch, tugging a blanket from the back of it and wrapping myself in it. Mister Alley disappeared into a room, returning some moments later with a thin mattress and some blankets. “Hand me a pillow?”
I yawned, stretching over to toss him a pillow from the couch. He plopped down on the mattress, gazing at the ceiling.
“Don’t look at me,” I then informed him, beginning to unhook my bra. The underwire was digging into my chest and was bugging me. He rolled onto his side, facing away from me. I couldn’t hear his breathing over my huffing and puffing as I wiggled out of my bra. When it was off, I tossed it behind the couch. I didn’t care where it landed. Maybe that idea was influenced by the alcohol in my system.
I began to tug off my tights, balling them up and throwing them behind the couch, too.
“Can I turn around now?” he asked quietly.
I shrugged, though he couldn’t see me. “Oh, uh, yes.” I was so drunk, and so stupid.
Mister Alley returned on his back, one leg bent at the knee which pointed to the ceiling. The man folded his hands behind his head.
I was slipping into sleep just before Mister Alley cleared his throat. My lids parted and I turned my head to stare at him.
“You know,” he started sleepily, “I think, even if I hadn’t been drunk tonight, I would have tried to kiss you.” He paused, considering something. “I would have walked you home, my hand around your waist, and once we arrived at your door…I would have.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“No, no, I do!” he insisted. “I’ve been plucking up my courage ever since you—um. Since we talked that afternoon at the cafe.”
“That was weeks ago.”
“I—I was waiting for the right moment.”
“Of course.” I yawned, covering my mouth with fanned fingers.
“I was, honest. I could hardly kiss you in a classroom, and I couldn’t just lock the door—that would have spooked you. Made you think I was going to, to, I don’t know. Violate you. I’m—I’m not like that. I would never hurt you.”
“Okay.” My voice was small and quiet. I just wanted to sleep, but he obviously had other plans.
It started to rain, I could hear it pitter-patter on the balcony door. A smile oozed its way onto my face. My lids slid shut.
“Thursday. I’m sure I would have kissed you if we had been in private. God, Alice, are you like this with every boy?”
I rose an eyebrow, my eyes tugging open again. “What? I don’t get what you mean—”
“You’re a tease. You wear such elegant clothes, apply simple makeup, yet you have them eating out of your hands. Like—like love zombies.”
“Love zombies?” I laughed.
“Yes!” He sprung up into a seated position. His hands were clawed before him, and one of them raked through his messy hair. Mister Alley kept his hand knotted in the black. He turned to stare at me through the darkness.
“I should let you sleep,” he finally said.
Shrugging, I yawned for the final time before I fell into unconsciousness.
The second I stretched awake, I knew I was in unfamiliar territory. The air smelled of ground coffee and Mister Alley’s cologne. My eyes popped open and I clenched the couch I was curled up on. I glanced around wildly, my eyes finally landing on my unshaven legs. That had no tights on them. The evening came flooding back, and I scrambled—perched on the cushion like fucking Tarzan, I scanned the floor for my bra and pantyhose. I found them both; my bra was dangling from an unlit lamp, the tights crumpled in a heap upon the floor. I crawled over the couch and hurried to slip into my bra.
Mister Alley stirred awake, my dress hanging down around my stomach as I desperately tried to hook the bra strap behind me. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I hissed under my breath. I snapped my head to the side to check if Mister Alley had his eyes open, and God forbid I have any good luck, he was staring at me, his cheeks red as he rested on an elbow. His jaw hung open.
“Don’t look at me!” I screeched, forgetting there could be other professors next door and above us. He blinked and whipped his gaze to the opposite side of the room.
I hitched my dress up over my neck again, adjusting the neckline and the bottom hem. My pantyhose ripped as I tried to shove my legs into the feet. In that moment, I didn’t care. I wanted nothing more than to flee from Mister Alley’s apartment.
“Miss Peregrine, wh-why are you in my a-apartment?”
I froze, midway through yanking up the second leg of my pantyhose. I looked up, then swivelled around to stare at him. “Oh my God, don’t tell me you don’t remember,” I spat.
“I—I’m terribly sorry, but I am a-afraid I don’t.”
“Shit!” I growled. He looked around, frightened, and his gaze finally landed upon my own torn expression.
“You’re, uh, you’re still dreaming…?” I tried, my last ditch effort.
He blinked. “I m-must be, the way you’re dressed,” he whispered under his breath, though I had caught it.
“Okay, uh, see you!” I rushed, sneaking out through the balcony on tip-toes. He nodded and collapsed back onto the mattress.
Racing through the gardens in my heels, I found my way to the East building. I locked myself in the handicapped stall of the bathroom, my heart beating so fast I thought I would pass out.
My mobile was nestled in my small bit of cleavage, and I pulled it out to dial Beth’s number.
“Hnn, call me back later, chicka. I’m not here right now. Beeeeep.”
I groaned. “Beth, Beth, are you—is that—” I lowered my voice to a complete whisper. “Mister Wimble?!” My eyes were wide, irises blown. I could hear his voice in the background.
“No…it’s, er, it’s…okay, shit, it totally is.”
“Beth!” I let out a laugh out of how ludicrous our evening had been.
She lowered her voice, and I could imagine her lips pulled back to reveal her abnormally long teeth. “We, er, we—well, you know.”
“Beth!” I shrieked, laughter bubbling out of me, my breath smelling of alcohol.
“I will not apologize, either.”
I slid down the stall’s wall and hugged my knees once I reached the tiled floor. “He doesn’t remember.”
A snort into liquid. She coughed, complaining about how I made her choke on her OJ. “You sure he isn’t just trying to fuck and duck?”
“We, we didn’t.”
“No,” she gasped.
“Honest to God.”
“You don’t believe in ‘im.”
I twirled a loose curl that had escaped its bun between my index finger and thumb. “Well, still, I am telling the truth. And I think he really doesn’t remember.”
“Well, fuck me,” she hissed. I heard movement, then the phone hit fabric. A giggle from Beth, then a playful yelp. “Sorry, sorry,” she hushed, returning back to the phone.
I stuck the very tip of my thumb nail between my teeth. “Is he going to fuck and duck? I mean, well—you know who I mean.”
I could hear lips upon flesh, and my heart grew jealous.
“I dunno. Doubt it.”
“The way he screamed my name is probably the best reason I can offer you right now.”
I smiled. “This is like an episode of Sex In The City, only university edition. And based in England.”
“And—and there’s only two of us.”
“Yeah,” I laughed. I could hear Beth giggling, too, but for another reason. My smile faded. A sigh escaped me.
“What’s up, buttercup?” she finally said through light giggles.
I poked at the toe of my heel, picking at the rubber that had begun to peel. “Truth?”
“What?” Beth sounded suddenly focused. I could hear her move around on a bed, then she heaved a sigh as she settled. “Why?”
I shrugged, though she couldn’t see me. “I dunno. Just because. You’ve got something beautiful blossoming, and I’ve got nothing. I’ve never had anyone.”
“Don’t be such a Nancy,” she cooed. I could hear her tell Mister Wimble to go do something for a bit while she ‘comforted a bestie.’ I smiled at her words.
“Well, we just have to make him fall in love with you. While he isn’t drunk. Because it is obvious to me that he wants you bad, Alice. But…maybe he’s just scared? Scared to initiate anything without the help of booze. Yeah?”
I yawned. “He asked me why I didn’t like him. While we were in the cab on the way to his apartment.”
“Serious? Did you sleep in the same bed?”
“He doesn’t have one. Apparently.” I sniffed.
I heard Beth move. The bed creaked beneath her. “He was lying.”
“What? How do you know?”
“Each professor apartment is equipped with one bed, one fridge, a stove, microwave, toilet, shower—”
“Okay, I get it. So he lied. Maybe he didn’t want to sleep on the couch? He pulled a mattress from somewhere. Why he wouldn’t just give me the bed…”
“He was probably embarrassed to lend you the bed. If you catch my drift.”
I swallowed. “I don’t think he…”
“He’s a stammering recluse who overworks and is in love with a student. I’m sure he does.”
“But he’s so—…so proper. He’s a gentleman.”
“All English blokes are, sweet thing. Well, except for the wankers. They’re wankers. They don’t count.”
“Wait, so is Mister Alley a gentleman, or a wanker? Or, uh, both…?”
“He’s a wanker pretending to be a gentleman so he can get up your princess tutus.”
“I don’t wear—never mind.” I pulled my thumb from my teeth and inspected my nails. The skin around the beds were ragged and torn. I bit the inside of my cheek. “But, so, then, I don’t…I don’t really get how we’re going to make him admit that he’s…” I felt so silly finishing the sentence. “He’s definitely not in love with me.”
“How can you be so sure? I think he at least has a shy boy crush on you. That’s a good start.”
“He was drunk. He probably just said those things because he’s a little lonely, and I’m…”
“Yeah. Easy.” I pulled a frown, pinching my bottom lip between my thumb and index finger.
“You’re just a little inexperienced. Desperate, perhaps. He’s probably only had a girlfriend or three; I’m sure he’s in the same boat you are, love.”
“I’ve never even held a boy’s hand. Well, last night doesn’t count. He isn’t even a boy.”
“He held your hand?” she piped up.
“…Yeah, well, it—he grabbed it before we hopped in the cab. It meant nothing. And he was drunk.”
“And I’m telling you that anything an excruciatingly shy person, i.e., Mister Alley, does whilst drunk means a whole lot more than nothing. He likes you. Do you like him?”
“O-of course I do—”
“Then flirt with him a little, give him a chance!”
“He’s our professor, Bethany.”
“So? Wimble was my professor, too, and look where a couple of drinks got me. It got me laid.”
I snorted a laugh. “I hope he treats you right.”
“He will. He pinky promised.”
August 30th, 2013