Dani has longed to hear those words for years now, but she knows that he does not mean them like that. Still, she feels a little pitch of excitement in the bottom of her belly at the thought.

“I really don't want to impose on you or your roommates..” She begins but he waves her words away.

“Yeah, don't worry about that. It's just my cousin, Jay. He is probably at his girlfriends, because he seems to spend all of his time there these days.” Eddy says as he pulls the car to a stop in a parking spot that says reserved. She hopes that by reserved, it means for him, because she would hate for him to lose his job because he got her father's vehicle towed away on her behalf.

But rather than say anything to him that might make him change his mind, she just lets him open her door and she follows him into the apartment. When he grabs her hand and pulls her up the stairs behind him, she nearly swoons.

Once they climb the three floors to his apartment, he opens the third door on the right. The door is red, with chipping paint, so she assumes that is apartment is a modest little place.

When the door pushes open, she is pleasantly surprised by how nice the apartment is. Though it is much smaller and way less opulant than her fathers, she falls in love with his apartment immediately. It isn't a house designed merely to boasts one's wealth. It is a home and it puts off that vibe.

“Wow. Awesome place.” She tells him sincerely, moving forward to run her hands across the fireplace mantel.

Built into the wall and surrounded by book shelves, it is the perfect show piece for the room. An overstuffed sofa, draped with brightly colored throws and mismatched pillows are a nice touch.

“It's not what you are use to..” He comments dryly and she turns to look him in the eyes.

“That's why I like it so much. This place feels real. Comfortable. It is a place where you can come in, kick your shoes off and relax. Sit on the couch and eat Chinese food. Lay down on a rainy day and read a book by the fire. Have friends over to play games and drink beer. It feels like a home.”

“Your place isn't? It is so nice!” Eddy tells her.

“Yeah. He pays Helga and Odette to keep it clean, so it pisses him off if I mess up so much as a spoon after they leave. He hates if I leave takeout boxes in the trash, since it 'stinks up the place'. My shoes go on the rack in my closet and my books are to stay in my room on the shelf. I think I have maybe sit on our couch twice in my whole life. I eat all my meals at the table alone, then go to my room where I sit with the door shut.”

“Damn. That sounds..”

Horrible? Stupid? Excessive?


Dani looks at him and nods, turning back to look at the pictures on his wall before he can see the tears in her eyes. It is lonely. She has been o damn lonely since her mother died. She has her friends when she is at school, but they are always so busy that they can usually only ever hang out like one weekend a month.

That is the rest of the time where she is all by herself, since her father is like an elusive unicorn around the apartment; So hard to spot that she sometimes wonders if he is even real.

“You look so young here.”

Danielle point to a picture on the mantel and he comes up behind her, looking where she is pointing. He smiles widely. “I was. I think I was maybe thirteen or fourteen in that picture.”

“Where were you at? That looks like a castle.” She comments.

In the picture there is a young Eddy, standing next to three other guys in front of a large stone building. She can only see what she imagines is a small piece of the structure, but still she is getting strong castle vibes from it.

“Northwood Putus Boarding School. My favorite place on Earth.” Eddy tells her with a far away look.

“Northwood.. Meesler?” Was that someone's name?

“Named after Ivan Barrick Meesler. He was an immigrant from Russia. Born Ivan Orlov, he came to America to flee his extremely wealthy, but terrible family. This was like 1886 or something like that.” Eddy begins the story, gesturing to the couch.

Dani takes a seat where he points, waiting for him to join her. When he does, she turns to face him, waiting for the rest of the story.

“He had a two month journey that finally ended with him getting lost somewhere in the woods. No one was around and he asked the very few people that he found, in towns that were hour away, but noone knew of anyone owning it. So, he settled there. In between mountains and a big pond. Surrounded by trees, it was a beautiful slice of Heaven to him.”

“Sounds like it.” Dani agreed.

“He spent his days harvesting stones from the mountain, building a large structure out of stone. He meant it to be a place for his younger siblings. It tooks him nearly a year to make the place, which was a huge two story home. It had eight rooms, a kitchen and a large eating room. A guy traveling through stopped one night a few months in and they became friends.”

“Who was the man?” Dani asks, invested in the story.

“Thomas Shriver.” Eddy answers. “Anyways, Thomas was a boy of sixteen and he had run away from an abusive home. Ivan, knowing that story well, took him in. While built the house, the boy who was farm raised and good with his hands, worked on furniture out of trees that he cut down. They worked well togthr until they got it finished. Ivan asked Thomas if he wanted to stay and the boy accepted.”

“That's really sweet of him. The two guys are no longer alone in the bog house.” Dani feels for the two of them, being alone until they found each other.

“Yeah. Ivan left Thomas in charge of the place while he traveled back to Russia. He was gone for months.” Eddy says and Dani looks at him, surprised.

“Why did he go back to Russia, if he came to Vermont to get away from his evil family?”

“When he fled Russia, he left behind so many people. He had eleven younger brothers and sisters, as well as a woman that he loved. His parents ran an 'orphanage' as a front to sell children into slavery. So Ivan went back with a large ship that he had paid for the voyage. With the help of a few well payed companions, they smuggled all of the orphans and his siblings out of Russia. He also turned his parents in for their crimes. I don't know what happened with them, if anything, but he came back to his house in Vermont with twenty-six children, ten of his siblings and his love, Petra.”

“They kidnapped the children?” Dani asks, scandalized by the thought. She understands that it was for their own good, but wasn't it still a crime?

“Technically, but he saved their lives. They changed their names, except for him, to Ivan and Lily Meesler. They changed all of the children's names as well. Lily taught the children, while the older kids, ages fourteen to seventeen, went to a nearby town for jobs. Thomas hunted all day for food to store up and they lived a simple life. They eventually went back for Thomas's siblings, bringing them up to nearly forty.”

“Forty kids. Good God, I can not imagine. That must have been rough.”

“Yeah, I doubt it was easy. But they built a bigger house, got some help from the older kids and eventually took in more kids as time passed. By the time Ivan turned fifty, nearly twenty six years later, they had over two hundred children in attendance. They were a school for wealthy families to send their children to get top notch educations. Now, they are even bigger, with two seperate schools. One for the boys and one for the girls.”

“Damn. Big progress.”

“Yeah. It is a really great place. The two years that I was there were great. My dad started working there after my mom left us. He wanted a fresh start, where the whole town wasn't talking about how his wife had left him for his best friend. So, we packed up and moved to Vermont. I got to go there for free, since he was a teacher there.” Eddy tells her.

His words strike a chord with Dani. Fresh start where no one is talking about you. A great place. Dani decides that a remote school at the bottom of the mountains somewhere in Vermont, sounds like Heaven to her, same as Ivan. It's her fresh start, just like it was for Eddy's dad. It is where she wants to be.

“How do you apply for this school?”

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