The Oberlin Five

By Sequoyah Pendor


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This is a work of fiction; any coincidence is just that, a coincidence.

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© 2000 - 2003 Sequoyah Pendor. All rights reserved.

Chapter One   


Matt and I were standing arm-in-arm, as were Larry and Eugene. Without thinking, one couple got on one side of Paula and the other couple on the opposite side, put our arms around her, and the Oberlin Five walked slowly toward the house which suddenly seemed very empty. In the foyer, we stood together, realizing that this was it. Now there were the Concord Five and the Oberlin Five. And all we had known was way, way away. We were all very silent, then Larry said, "And now the new adventure really begins."

We all nodded and continued to stand in silence until Matt said, "Somehow or other I don't feel as grown-up and independent as I did yesterday". Silence. Nods.

"Well, we don't need to just stand here. We need to get some things done. You guys get the beds stripped and remade. Store the twin mattresses again and do the laundry. I'll get started on cleaning up the kitchen," Paula commanded. I guess we knew who was in charge of the house--not that there would have been any doubt if we had thought about it. To tell the truth, Larry and Eugene might have thought they hadn't been pampered--at least until Millie took Eugene in--but, as soon as Paula spoke, I saw that we really had been. Our moms had taken care of us. As we started upstairs to get the bed linen, Paula called out, "And don't get up there and start something. In the first place, you have work to do and, in the second, I'd be jealous!" We laughed for the first time since the parents had gone.

When Matt and I had removed the sheets from our bed and remade it, he pulled me on top of himself and started some really hot kissing. "Yes!" I said, just as Paula shouted up the stairs, "I said no making out!"

Reluctantly, we tossed the sheets into the hall, and I got the towels and wash clothes from the bathrooms while Matt stripped the now-empty fourth bedroom. When he came out, he yelled to Larry and Eugene, "You heard the woman". Larry came out of Paula's room carrying sheets as Eugene poked his head out of theirs.

"I know we are good make-out artists," Eugene laughed, "but I don't think even we could make out in two different rooms."

We tossed the linen downstairs and got the downstairs bedroom and bath linen. It made a huge pile and Matt was trying to force it all into the washer. "I don't think that will work," Larry said. "It's not the way Mom does it."

"Well, how do you do it? What do you do other than put it in and turn on the machine?"

All four of us looked at each other. "We've been spoiled," I said. "What do we do? Paula!"

Paula came from the kitchen, her hands soapy, and asked, "What's the problem?"

"Ok, we may as well admit it now. We've been spoiled. We don't know how to do laundry."

"Well I hope you four don't think you have a Mama Paula. You'll just have to learn. First important step: everything you have is light-colored, so it can always be washed together. NEVER put dark colors, and especially new things, in with light colors. Red is especially bad. Then you put in a load--you don't pack it, just drop it in until it's to here," she said, as she pointed at a spot in the washer. "Add the detergent--there's a measuring spoon in the box--close the lid and push the start button--here. That's it."

"But they won't all go in," Matt said.

"Then you do several loads," she laughed and looked kinda disgusted.

With the washing going, the four of us re-wrapped the twin bed mattresses and box springs and took them to the attic. When we finished, Eugene went to help Paula finish in the kitchen while the other three straightened up the house, which didn't take long.

When we finished, it was lunch time and we found stuff for sandwiches, made them and sat in the kitchen eating. "Paula, I really meant it when I said we were spoiled. I mean we had chores around the house and I guess I thought we pretty much pulled our share of the load--maybe we did--but there are five of us here and we have it all to do. I know laundry is not the last thing I don't know how to do," I said.

"Well, I sure don't know everything either. I'm not much of a cook and, to tell the truth, I don't like it," Paula responded.

"I guess any of us could learn to do anything, and probably should as time goes on but, for the present, maybe we better decide who can do what and make out a duty sheet," Matt suggested.

We sat around the table for about an hour discussing what we could and could not do and what we liked and did not like to do. Seems all of us hated doing laundry and washing dishes, so we decided we would each do our own laundry and rotate the dishwashing. Matt, Larry and I, being farm boys, knew we'd have to dig in the dirt one way or another and said we'd take on the gardens as our major effort. Eugene said he'd do the mowing and trimming--"I did it at home," he added. Paula said she'd help and she'd divide up the routine house cleaning.

"And as soon as we have our schedules, we need to set a day for overall cleaning or the place will be a mess, if I know us," Eugene said. "And it's a huge place." We all agreed.

We had just finished when the phone rang. I reached out and got it and suddenly didn't know what to say! "Larsen residence, Luke," certainly wasn't it, although I started to. Finally I said, "Residence of the Oberlin Five, Luke here".

"Luke, Stinky, Stinky Mason here. Is Matt Greywolf around?".

"Sure, just a minute. Matt, Stinky ... Stinky? ... Stinky Mason on the phone," I said as I passed Matt the phone.

"Later, Luke. Stinky! Great to hear from you," Matt said into the phone. "No kidding? ... Really? ... I can't believe it ... Tomorrow? ... By lunch? .. Great! ... You'll have lunch with us? ... Yea, I guess that's who we are now ... Yea, half the Fellowship ... Great! ... I'm excited, as I'm sure they will be ... Ok, see you then." As Matt hung up the phone, he said, "That was Stinky Mason". It was obvious he was as excited as a five-year-old at Christmas.

"We kinda got that idea,' I laughed. "But who's Stinky Mason?"

"You know, I wrote you about him ... While I was at Sewanee ..." Matt said, a bit impatiently.

"I'm sure you did, but then that was a pretty traumatic time for me--us," I replied.

"And you sure didn't write us about any Stinky Mason," Paula said.

Matt, of course, had to tell us the whole story of Stinky--how he got his name, how he had taught him footwork and all that. Then Eugene asked, "So, what's going on with Stinky?".

"He's coming tomorrow. He'll stop and pick up Woody and they will both be here by lunch tomorrow, and they're having lunch with us, and he is coming to talk about Holtkamp, and meet with me and some people from the organ department at Oberlin, and ..."

"One would hardly know you were excited, Matt," Larry laughed. "What's all this about?"

"I don't know if it's true, although Sticky and Woody say it is, that most organ builders are not really great organists--I mean, a trumpet maker really doesn't have to be able to play concerts--and that even fewer great organists really know organ building--you don't have to know how to build a trumpet to become as good as you are, Eugene. I mean you have to know how it works, but not how to build one," Matt was still talking double time. "But I guess it's different with organs--at least Woody and Stinky think so. An organist who really understands organ building--and might even be capable of building one--would be something else."

"And you think you are a great organist?" I laughed.

"Well, I may not be now, but I damn well will be!" Matt said in all seriousness.

"Of course you will, Matt, Baby," Paula said and patted him on the head.

"You're frigging darn right I will be," Matt said.

"Thought we agreed to leave the hard stuff--language, that is--to the experts," I laughed.

Matt was looking a bit deflated at that moment when Larry said, "Hey, Matt, loosen up! You know we're kidding. You are damn good and we know you'll be better. But we still don't know what you're talking about."

Matt blushed and told the Five that Stinky and Woody were trying to arrange some sort of apprenticeship or internship for him with the Holtkamp Organ Company in Cleveland. "'Course organists disagree over who's the best, but even the doubters put Holtkamp right at the top, if not on top, of American builders. They think I can get study credit for working there and I would learn how my organ works--I mean how a pipe organ works."

"Got out of that one, didn't you?" Eugene laughed and Matt blushed.

"You'll have admit, fellows, it's pretty exciting news," Paula said, "so what do we need to do to prepare?"

"The house is in pretty good shape. Actually, it's in great shape," Eugene said. "We need to get groceries in--after we find out what we have--then maybe work outside some more. Things are really shaping up, but we need to get as much done as we can before school starts."

"Luke, since you and Matt obviously know most about cooking, why don't you two check on the food supply, make out menus for a week, and buy groceries? I don't think at this point the rest of us will be great help. And I've been thinking about the 'I don't like to do' list," Larry said. "For the present, we need to know what we are doing, but I think we all need to take our turn at everything. Right now we have to go with what we know, but we all need to be learning. Sure, Luke and Matt could take care of the cooking--they're both good. But I think we should team up with someone who is learning. One cook and one learner. Then rotate the next week with the fifth person having a week off in the rotation. That way we'll all learn to cook. We need to do most things that way, except maybe the grounds ..."

"Everything," Paula said, "I'm as able as any of you."

"Everything then." There were five heads nodding agreement. "Right now Luke and I will do the survey of what we have and then someone can help me do the menus and make out a grocery list," Matt said.

We continued talking, working out details for another half hour, then Matt and I made an inventory of the food we needed. It was a long list because, essentially, we were setting up housekeeping from the ground up. We also decided we'd pay with a credit card Matt had, so he could earn airline frequent flyer miles and to keep for a record. We'd divide expenses and pay up at the end of the month, that way we'd accrue no interest charges. "I guess I have already learned one thing," Larry said, "keeping house is not easy. Paula, we need to let our moms know we realize that, because they held it together when they had little or nothing at hand."

"Matt, Paula and I are doing the meals this week so you can be free to do what you need to do with Stinky and Woody," I said. I'll go shopping with Eugene this time."

"We three will hit the grounds again," Larry said, and we broke up the meeting. It wasn't long before we were to discover how important that meeting had been, and just how we had dropped the ball but, for the moment, all was well and Paula, Matt and Larry headed outside.

There was little left to do in the front, including the front gardens. The back, which went down to the beach, would just be kept neat without too much trimming, to prevent erosion, and a weed-eater did quick work of that. None of us had gone behind the garage to the vegetable garden so, with everything neat at the house, the three of us went to look it over.

I was really surprised when we rounded the garage. There were three huge compost bins, a shed filled with tools and gardening implements, a large garden which, of course, was overgrown with weeds--very fine and vigorous weeds. I could see some trees beyond the garden, but couldn't tell what they were. "Well, we can plan on fresh asparagus next spring," I said, as I looked around. "Also, we could probably have rhubarb now."

"How do you know that?" Paula asked.

"See those ferny looking things over there," Larry said, "that's an asparagus bed."

"Sure doesn't look like asparagus," Paula mused.

"That's because it's grown. You cut what you eat in early spring, before it comes out of the ground. And next to it is some pretty good-looking rhubarb, even grown up with weeds as it is." As we continued to look over the garden, Larry added, "Matt, do you think those trees are fruit trees?".

"Would make sense and that's what they look like from here. Let's go see." The going wasn't easy--when I said the garden was overgrown, I wasn't kidding. Before we reached the trees, we passed beds of raspberries and blueberries. We thought we saw a strawberry patch on our way, but it was so overgrown, we couldn't be sure. As we approached the trees, it was obvious they were part of what had once been a good orchard, let go. "With some pruning and care, we'll have some fresh fruit. I like this place," I fairly shouted. "Maybe we'll just have to call this the Oberlin Five Commune."

"With free love?" Larry laughed.

"Don't think that would be fair," Paula once again used her pouty voice. "Where do we start on this mess?" ever-practical Paula asked.

"The first thing we'll have to do is get rid of the weeds. We can't do much until then. I guess we need to start with the weed eater. We'll pile the weeds for the compost pile after we get what's in them out, including the healthy weeds growing in the bins."

"Matt, we may be farm boys but it occurs to me, my hayseed friend, that we know very little about gardening here. It has to be different," Larry said. Of course he was right.

"Well, until we get the weeds gone, that doesn't matter." We went to the tool shed and garage and got the tools we needed and started to work. It was hard, dirty work and the sun was pretty hot. After an hour, when we decided we had just about had it, I heard Luke's truck horn. We made a pass through the outdoor shower and went into the house.

When we got inside, Luke and Eugene were still hauling in bags and the kitchen counters were already covered. The three of us went with Luke and Eugene and brought the rest of the stuff in. "Man, we better be glad we don't have to start from scratch each week," Eugene said. "The checkout girl asked if we were feeding an army, we had so much stuff."

"Ok, we all need to know where everything is so, as we put it away, let's pay some attention. It'll take longer but otherwise we'll spend a lot of time hunting for stuff," Luke said as he opened a cabinet. "Bet I know who worked in here," he laughed. "New shelf paper and the same design as at home. Mom strikes again."

It took an hour to get everything put away and, when we finished, we all grabbed a glass of soda and the peanut butter and crackers and sat at the kitchen table snacking. "Luke, Eugene, you'll never believe what we discovered," Larry said, and then told them about the garden and orchard. "We're going to need some advice and help with that since this is not North Carolina."

"Extension agent time," Luke said. Larry and I nodded, Eugene and Paula looked puzzled. "Oh, for you city dudes," Luke said, "he's with the Department of Agriculture and helps with growing things. Used to be just for farmers but these days even metropolitan counties have them. We'll just give him a call and set up an appointment."

After the break, we all went back to the garden, first just to explore, then we set to work again. Progress was sure slow. After another couple hours, progress had definitely been made but there was still a long way to go. "Think we should call it a day," Eugene said. "I'm messing up my dainty hands."

"To the beach," Paula shouted, and started running to the tool shed to put away the tools she had been using. We all joined in the exodus and ten minutes later were in the lake.

An hour later, after a dash through the shower, we went inside and all five took a hot shower. Paula opted to take hers downstairs so the two couples could use the upstairs ones. When we were all dressed, we went down and supper was started. While Paula and Luke cooked, Larry and Eugene folded the linens which had been washed and dried, and started another load washing and one drying. I set the table. All the leaves had been removed and it was still large, but not really too large for five people. As I worked, I thought, "We need to make the evening meal special 'most every night, otherwise we'll just start grabbing stuff and calling it supper. Dinner 'most every evening." When I mentioned it at dinner, everyone agreed. 'Course, we had to remind ourselves of that decision later when things started really moving.

After dinner, we all pitched in and got the kitchen and dishes cleaned up and got the next load of dry linen folded in no time, then went into the family room. Matt had the best stereo among us and we started to set it up in the family room when Eugene said, "Look, Matt's going to need to practice in here and I know he doesn't need a stereo blasting even if he does use his headphones. Why don't we put this in the library, which is also very comfortable, and put mine in here. It may not be quite as good as Matt's, but it's close. Then when Matt's not practicing, we can use either room. And I know that when I am studying, I like soft music in the background and the stereo in the library would be good." We all agreed and spent an hour getting both systems set up to everyone's satisfaction.

When we finished, I said, "If you guys don't mind, I really do need to spend some time practicing. I have played so little recently and that begins to show quickly. I'll use the headphones."

"We'll be around when you finish," Luke said as he kissed me on the forehead.

I really had gotten careless about practice and I could tell it immediately. Of course, the work in the garden hadn't made my hands and fingers the most flexible, but I knew the main problem was lack of practice. Soon I was so involved in my music that I forgot everything else and, since I was using headphones, everything except the organ was shut out. I entered a special world where the only thing that existed was me and my music.

When Matt went to the family room to practice, the remaining four of us went to the library. We all took a turn at the computers--we had three: Matt's, Eugene's and mine.

After we had all had a chance to check our mail, Paula picked up a book and started reading while the three guys composed letters. Eugene and Larry finished about the same time, and both offered to let Paula use the computer they had been using. Eugene finally said, "Look, I need to practice as well, so take this one. Luke, mind if I use the studio to practice? I know you don't want to hear it and I can't use headphones."

"Hey, great idea--at least until I need to use it. Maybe we need to think about a practice studio. I mean, you're right. I may like a trumpet, but two hours and I'd be bonkers," Luke said. "I'll go with you and we'll see how to go about fixing a practice studio. I think that's a good idea."

The studio was one huge room which looked even larger with its fresh paint job. The skylight was now so clear, stars and the sliver of the moon were visible through it. That also made the room seem larger. One end had a closet running over half-way across it. "If we extend the side of the closet into the room several feet--enough to make it, say, nine feet, and add a wall with a door from it to the other wall, you'd have something like a nine- by twelve-foot room. Would that be large enough?"

"More than enough. And with a well-padded carpet on the floor and acoustical tile on the walls and ceiling, it should be close to soundproof," Eugene replied. "We'll need to measure it to figure out the materials we'll need."

"I brought my tape, just in case," I told him. We quickly measured the room and I took the measurements and left Eugene to practice.

When I got back to the house, I sat down and quickly made some rough sketches and figured the materials list. After that, Paula, Larry and I just talked about nothing important until Eugene came back an hour later. "Hey, it's eleven," I said. "Matt's been at it long enough."

"When's getting-up time?" Paula asked.

"We haven't decided, but these are our last few days of freedom. Let's make it nine," Eugene said. "We still have a lot of work to get done, but I would like a little sleep-in time."

"And nine's sleep-in?" Paula asked. "Gads, I don't look forward to having to get up early. Goodnight, guys," she said, and headed upstairs. Larry and Eugene said their goodnights and followed her.

As they left, I went to the family room. Matt was sitting at his organ, playing in what must have been another universe. He gave no indication at all that I existed. When I tapped him on the shoulder, it startled him.

As he turned, he removed the headphones and said, "Luke, Babe, you startled me. I didn't know you were here."

"What happened to your knowing when I approached?" I laughed.

"Honest? To tell the truth, Luke, there is only one thing that comes between us, and that's my music--well, and I guess your art. When I really get into playing ..."

"I know, you're in another universe. I know the feeling well. I've always heard that one's art is their mistress."

"Or their second lover, if one is not interested in mistresses?" Matt laughed. As he did, I leaned over and kissed him and said, "I'll not be jealous of your other lover if you won't be of mine."


Matt slid off the organ bench and, arm-in-arm, we mounted the stairs. After we had undressed each other, we lay together and made wondrous love. I swear, every time with Matt was the best, every time. As we lay in the afterglow of our passion, Matt said, "Luke, every day I think I can't love you more and, Yonghon Tongmu, the next day proves how wrong I was. In my wildest dreams, I never dreamed I could love you as much as I do, and that loving you would be so far beyond what I could imagine, but it is, Babe, it is."

I kissed Matt softly and said, "I know, Sarang Hanun Pomul, I know, because I feel the same way." After we lay in silence for a few minutes, I asked, "Matt, are you frighted, excited, or what, about the future?"

"Yea, all of the above. I really didn't expect to be, but every day I realize that what I thought being here would be like, just isn't the way it is. So many surprises, so many responsibilities. Yes, all the above. But one thing which I dreamed about is just the way it is: having you beside me. But even that is different--it's a lot better!"

"Yea, you're right. And I love it!" I kissed Matt, and he spooned his body in to mine and we were soon asleep in Ohio.

Since Luke and Paula were this week's cooks, I woke up in bed alone. I decided, even before I was fully awake, that I liked it better to wake up with Luke beside me. I could hear Larry or Eugene--probably both--in the shower off my room, so I went across the hall and took a quick shower there, managing to keep my hair fairly dry, dressed and went downstairs.

Paula and Luke were busy in the kitchen and all sorts of good smells greeted me, but couldn't compare with the good morning kiss I got from Luke. I kissed Paula on the cheek, poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down on one of the stools by the kitchen table.

"Since you're here," Luke said, "will you, please, set the table?"

I did--it didn't take long--poured juice and filled glasses with ice and water. "Where did we put the napkins? I don't remember." Luke pointed to a cabinet and I finished with the table. Then, as an afterthought, I dashed outside and came back with a bunch of flowers for the table. "Now that's living," I said, standing back and admiring my handiwork.

"Damn, we may stay civilized after all," Luke laughed. "I thought we'd just become a bunch of sex-driven feral teenagers."

"Watch your mouth, you still have a nice young lady in your presence, who might become sex-driven, but her driver is far away. You'd hate to be the object of a female sex attack, wouldn't you?" Paula laughed big time.

When we had finished eating, we put our dishes in the dishwasher and ran a "rinse and hold" cycle, since there was no need to run a full wash cycle as it was not nearly full. Larry and Eugene took care of the pots and pans while we discussed the day's activities. "I'll call the County Extension Office and see about getting the county agent out here," Luke volunteered.

"I guess the rest of us can go ahead and start work on the garden," I said. "We can get in an hour or two's work before it gets hot and we need to get lunch ready."

When we reached the garden, Eugene said, "I see from the pile of weeds, you got a lot done, but when I look at the area they covered, it sure looks small."

"And it doesn't get larger fast," Paula said. "I guess I just don't understand why people want to dig in the dirt."

"It's a little boy thing," I laughed as Luke joined us.

"The county agent, a Mr. Glaze, will be here tomorrow morning. He seemed to be very excited about working with us on this place. Seems he tried to buy it right after the owner died but couldn't, thank goodness," Luke said.

After what seemed like hours, the five of us could see real progress and were dirty and sweating like mad. I looked at my watch. "Hey, it's 11:30 already. We better knock off and get ready for lunch." No-one objected and we all raced for the outdoor shower to get the worst of the dirt off, then went into the house and, once again, all three showers were occupied.

Luke and I had just gotten dressed when the front doorbell rang. I raced downstairs, threw open the door and there stood Woody and Stinky. Stinky grabbed me in a bear hug which I welcomed. "Man, it's good to see you again!" I practically shouted. "Come in, come in to our humble abode."

"If this is humble," Stinky laughed, "I can't imagine what a lavish one would be!"

When we walked in to the living room, the whole gang was there and I introduced them.

"Looks like a promising bunch," Stinky said.

"You just don't know!" Woody said as he hugged each of the four in turn. "See you've been busy since I left," he added.

"Just wait until you see what we really have gotten done, but it seems never-ending."

"Know the feeling," Stinky smiled. "It's the curse of home ownership."

"Lunch will be ready in a few minutes," Paula said. "Woody, you can show Stinky where to wash up."

The two disappeared down the hall toward the bathroom as Larry said, "It doesn't feel right to call Stinky Stinky.'

"Good southern raisin'," Luke laughed. "Don't you just love it when some little old lady says to 'yo' momma, while you're standing there, 'He's such a polite young man?'."

"Well, actually I do," Larry said, "but I guess there's being polite and calling someone you can't stand and for whom you have no respect 'mister' and being polite and calling someone you respect and like by a nickname."

"Yea, like being forced to call McBride 'reverend'," Eugene said as his face clouded. Fortunately, Woody and Stinky returned before anything else could be said on that score.

We sat down to potato salad, fresh tomatoes and boiled corn, and sandwiches made from the delicious roast beef from dinner the night before. Stinky had a lot of questions about what had happened since Sewanee and we all talked, but nothing was said about what had happened to me and Luke or, for that matter, the trip to the Black Hills. I was glad because I wanted that to be a private conversation and I suspect the others knew it.

When lunch was finished, we showed Stinky the place, and Woody what we had done since he left. They were both impressed. When we were in the studio, Eugene and Luke told all of us about their plans for a practice studio. Both men were impressed. "Good to see you are keeping each other in mind," Stinky said. "This would become a hell-hole if suddenly you weren't getting along. You need to remember that."

Back at the house, Luke suggested Paula and the other two might like to take the truck and go into town for materials for the practice studio. "I don't think I have missed anything," he said as he handed then a materials list. "I'm sure Paula would like to get out of here for a while because she hasn't left since heaven only knows when," he concluded.

When the three had gone, Luke and I sat in the family room with Stinky and Woody and told Stinky about what had happened, holding back little.

As we finished there was a long silence, for which I was thankful, then Stinky said, "I hope you do follow up on counseling and anything else that needs to be done for both of you, and especially for you, Luke." We assured him we would. "Ok, now let's see if you have given up your whorish ways, Matt," Stinky said.

I shot a quick look at Luke's face, not sure how he'd take the comment. His face told me he had not taken it at all well. This was no time for joking. "Luke, please, it's an organist joke." I then explained what Stinky meant and Luke, I could see, was relieved--and feeling guilty.

I played for Woody and Stinky for half an hour while both watched my technique. Before the summer I would have gotten very nervous but, after spending so much time with them at Sewanee, it just seemed natural to have them watch. When I finished, Woody said, "Good. You're much better. Very good, in fact."

Just as I finished, Larry burst into the house and yelled, "How about a little help out here. We've got a shi... truckload of stuff."

"I'll help, Matt," Luke said. "I know you three have some talking and planning to do."

"Thanks, Luke. Owe you one," I said, and meant it.

"Don't worry, I'll collect," Luke replied and gave me a melodramatic sneer and went out the door.

"Matt, I have been in contact with Holtkamp. I think at first they were afraid I was looking for a job for you. You, of course, will be of little use to them for maybe a year. In fact, while you're learning, you will actually be a liability," Stinky began. "However, I finally convinced Harry that you just wanted to learn and that I was working with Oberlin to get you credit for any time you spent with Holtkamp. When I showed him the video of the concert, he had a change of heart and said he would be delighted to have you as an intern. He even allowed as how he thought he could see his way to giving you a stipend to help pay for your transportation. I knew you'd go without that, but it gives both of you an obligation which I think is good. The only problem on that end now is getting your classes arranged so you can spend time there, and not just be hopping in and out. Harry would like to have you two full days if possible, but at least one full day and a half day if you can't get two full ones."

"Sounds great to me." I was so excited I could hardly speak.

"You do know that, given the drive to Holtkamp and back, if you get two days they will be full. You'll have to leave early and won't get home until late. How's that going to sit with your housemates?"

"I can't imagine it will cause a problem but, of course, we'll need to discuss it."

"That's something all five of you need to remember," Woody hoisted a warning flag again. "Things are going to come up and it's not like you are living in a dorm where what you do is your business. Here you're a household and that makes a huge difference."

"You'll need to talk with the crew this evening. I've made arrangements to meet Harry at St. William's in Cleveland, where they have a Holtkamp, so he can meet you and see and hear you play. Then we'll go to the studio, where the organs are designed and built, for you to look around and meet some of the people. It'll take most of the day. Then we have a meeting tomorrow evening with the chair of the organ department to see what we can work out at Oberlin. By tomorrow night we should know what's real and what's pipe dreams, so to speak. I think that after tomorrow evening your registration will, for all practical purposes, be taken care of so Thursday should be a snap for you. It won't be for the other four I suspect so, to compensate for hauling you away while they work and register, Woody and I have made reservations for dinner Thursday. We even found a place we like where we can have a more-or-less private area."

"Wow! Every time I turn around things change," I said.

"Welcome to life, young Matt," Woody smiled.

"By the way, Stinky, did Woody tell you about his time with us and the parents?"

"I think so. I mean he talked my head off about it. Did he leave out something?"

"Can't say for sure, but he sure was making out with an older woman before she left."

"I think he forgot about that on purpose. Woody, you sly old dog, what's going on?"

Both Stinky and I started laughing when Woody turned bright red. "You mean you can blush at your age?" I was finally able to say between laughs.

"Guess I must be young again," Woody stammered. "Well, yea, I found Millie a most attractive woman and she didn't push me away."

"Have you heard from her?" I asked. "And don't lie."

"Well, I guess I have. I mean we've talked on the phone."


"Well, actually only once."

"But she only left Monday and won't get back until tonight."

"Well, motels have phones," Woody said sheepishly.

"I think you better take this up with Eugene before you go too far," I laughed.

"Well, let's go get in everyone's way," Stinky said. "Woody and I need to change and we'll be right out."

When the two came back, we went outside where the crew were still unloading the truck. It took a while to get that done, then Luke laid out the job and we all pitched in. "Same old story," Paula said, as Luke tried to puzzle out some construction detail, "Where's Jacob when he's needed?".

With Woody and Stinky both offering advice when asked, the studs for the wall were soon in place and ready for the sheet rock. We hit a glitch when we started installing the door. A standard pre-hung door wouldn't work, since there were two doors--one on the outside and one on the inside for sound insulation. With the help of a diagram a fellow at the home improvement store had made for Larry, we finally got it done. When we started the sheet rock which was being applied double thickness, that is, one sheet put up and another added on top of the first, Luke said, "You don't have to be too careful here inside. The sheet rock will be covered with acoustical tile. Outside, do it right or we'll have a major task of filling and sanding it, since it will be painted and a part of the studio wall."

As soon as the inside sheet rock was in place, insulation was placed between the studs and the outside sheet rock applied. It didn't take nearly as long as I had expected since there were seven of us working on it, and Larry and Luke were very good at keeping everyone working on something. While Luke and Larry applied the acoustical tile to the ceiling and inside walls, the rest of us applied the mud--that's what it was called, mud--to the cracks and dents made by hammers on the outside wall.

By the time we were finished, Luke and Larry had the thick carpet padding down and had rolled out and trimmed the carpet to fit and, using a funny tool, stretched the carpet over the floor. "Well, that's it until the mud dries so we can sand and paint," Larry said. "Time for a break."

We all piled into the kitchen, grabbed a drink and sat down. I told the crew what Stinky hoped he had arranged for me and what it would entail on my part and theirs.

"Seems to me there's no question there," Eugene said. "While I'm sure we will look back at this time together as a very important one, that's not why we're here. Seems this is an excellent opportunity--and an unexpected one--to advance your career and music, and I think that's why you're here and I think we are here to help each other do that. No problem."

"Don't know why you thought it might pose a problem, Matt," Paula said.

"Ok, so it's not a problem," Luke said, "but if he had just assumed it was ok with everyone then that might have been a problem. Paula, not only have we been spoiled, but we have also been mighty self-centered at home. We can't be that way here."

"See your point," Paula answered thoughtfully.

We relaxed and talked about what we had done and what we planned to get done. "But once school starts, we'll have to slow down around here and hit the books. I don't expect anyone to give us an easy ride, or do I want then to," Larry said. "Right now, I suspect we can sand the wall and get it painted. We'll need to take the vacuum cleaner to get up the dust before we paint. I guess the kitchen crew is excused to get dinner ready."

"Yea, let's remember food is the second thought on a teen mind," Eugene laughed. "By the way, Woody, did I see you hitting on my mama?" he asked abruptly. And Woody blushed again and got even redder when we all started laughing.

He was quiet for a while until he was finally able to say, "Well, she is a very attractive woman."

"Well, you just be careful. She has two sons who want to make sure she stays on the straight and narrow."

Woody finally had recovered and said, "Don't think you need to worry about her being straight, but I'm not sure about the narrow."

Laughing, we got up. Larry got the vacuum cleaner and, leaving Paula and Luke behind, we went to the studio and sanded and painted the new wall. Eugene had brought his trumpet and, as soon as the wall was painted, went inside, shutting both doors, and started playing. Because you knew he was playing and listened hard, you could hear some sound. Otherwise, you would never have known he was inside. When he came out his face was a bit red as he asked, "Well, did it work?"

"We could barely hear you and I think that was because we knew you were inside."

"And I was blowing as loudly as I could. Good job!"

Later, we had just finished dinner and the table had been cleared when the phone rang. Luke answered the phone and said, "Eugene, it's for you, Millie."

Eugene talked for a while and then said, "Well, yes, he's here. Ok, bye Mom. Woody, she wants to talk to you. You can take it in the library."

It was twenty or thirty minutes before Woody joined the group. "Millie said she's home and ok, and hello to all of you."

He barely had the words out of his mouth when the phone rang again. This time it was Larry's mom. When he came back from the library, he said, "Paula, your mom wants to talk to you". When Paula left, Larry said, "The two seem to have become friends while they were here. Paula's mom is sleeping over at Mom's place."

The phone rang again just as Paula walked in the door. "It's for us," Luke said, nodding toward me. We went into the library and turned on the speaker phone and talked to Mom and Dad, the Larsens and Andrews, all of whom were at the Larsens'. They had a good trip back, had enjoyed being with us and welcomed the news of what we had done and what was in store for me the following day.

Then Mary Kathryn and Michael got on the phone and we talked with them. They were spending the next day at school, getting ready for the fall term. Bill, Linda and Jacob were joining them. "And, Matt, Luke, I called that asshole Christopher today. He's already hanging out with the-bottom-of-the-scum-pool jerks. Kid's a definite bottom-feeder. Don't know what I can do."

"Think you're going to have to team up on him," Luke said. "You know the bottom-dwellers will take advantage of him as a new student then, when he wises up or runs out of whatever they want, they'll dump him. He will have already shot any possibility of getting in with decent kids and, bingo, he's a mess."

"You gotta try, Lil' Bro," I added. "You can think of ways. What you need to do is find some way to get him to leave that bunch alone. You know what they're into--drugs, alcohol, the whole nine yards. And, of course, they are first class failures so far as school is concerned. If he fucks up in Concord, I suspect he'll have to answer to authorities elsewhere. You gotta try."

"I know, but he's such an asshole."

"Even more reason to try," Mary Kathryn reminded him.

When we finished talking, we went back to the family room and all three organists played for a few minutes each, then we had a snack and headed to bed. When we got to our room, I picked out clothes for the next day. "Tomorrow is going to be one long and exciting day," I said. "We'll get back from Cleveland around six I guess and have a meeting at Oberlin at 8:00. I guess we can grab a bit to eat somewhere."

"If you're here by six, you'll have time to eat with us and we'll want to hear how things went. We'll plan supper for 6:00 and you can eat and make Oberlin by 8:00. This is important, not just to you but to all of us, and we'll want to hear all about it."

I realized Luke was right. We really were all in this together and what I did the next day would mean something to all of us, not just me.

It had been a long hard day for both of us so, after some gentle kisses and whispered I love you-s, we wrapped our arms around each other and were soon asleep, but not before I had reviewed the day and given thanks for all that had been given me. With family, friends and supporters, I was blessed beyond measure.

Chapter Two


When I awoke, I looked at the clock and saw it was 7:00 in the morning. I started to turn over and go back to sleep until 7:30 when I needed to get up and help Paula with breakfast, but didn't. Instead, I raised up on one elbow and looked at Matt lying beside me. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with love for this man--and his for me, of that I was sure. I slowly slipped out of bed so as not to disturb my sleeping lover and sat beside the bed, just adoring his beauty. He was sleeping very peacefully on his back, his magnificent hair a dark cloud covering his pillow and the rumpled white sheets. His dark, hard body rested on that cloud of black hair, his long, black eyelashes on his cheeks. The sunlight coming in the window made the scars on his cheek stand out and I was suddenly aware of just how he had suffered because of me--and of how his suffering had brought us together.

As I looked at him I thought, "Sure, I love sex with my Dark Angel but he means more, a whole universe more, than sex to me. I love this man unconditionally. I would give my life for him." Being a normal, lusty eighteen-year-old, I loved sex but I knew that if I could never have sex with my Matt again, I'd still love him, still want to be with him, still be with him so long as he would have me. And I knew, from the very depths of my being, he would always love me, want to be with me, be with me.

As I sat there worshiping, yes worshiping, my Beloved, I heard Paula coming down the hall. Carefully, very carefully so as not to awaken him, I leaned over and kissed Matt gently. He smiled in his sleep and my world, my universe, was complete.

I dressed quickly--shower and shave could wait--and went downstairs. As I entered the kitchen, Paula looked at me and smiled as I kissed her on the cheek. "Kinda slow getting up this morning?" she asked as she smiled.

"To tell the truth," I said, "I got up and then just sat looking at Matt. Paula, I absolutely worship that man. I can never tell him how much he means to me or how much I love him."

"Know the feeling," she replied. "I was thinking just before I went to sleep about how much I thought I had loved Sheldon. Well, I did love him but, you know, Luke, even at the best I never loved him as I do Jacob at the least. There is no comparison. And I miss Jacob soooo much. This is going to be a hard year. And you know what? I don't doubt his love for me--or mine for him--but I do think about being separated and meeting someone who might--I don't know--catch my attention. I don't think I'd ever fall for someone the way I fell for Jacob, nor do I think I'd ever meet anyone I could love the way I love Jacob, but being separated... well, it's hell. That's what it is."

I hugged Paula to myself, held her close and said, "I understand, Paula, but Sis, it'll work out. It has to."

As I released her, she looked up at me and said, "Sis?".

"Yea, Sis. I certainly think of you as a sister. You're a part of this wonderful family that surrounds me."

"Thanks, Luke, that means a lot to me, Bro."

"Me too. But I guess we better get cookin'." Paula laughed as we consulted the menu and found it was a waffles morning. "By the way," I said as I got out the ingredients for Belgian waffles, "we're having Belgian waffles. I found an iron for making them a couple days ago." I walked Paula through the preparation of the batter, easy enough unless you have never cooked anything beyond a box of mac and cheese, and she started cooking waffles as I set the table--with Stinky and Woody added to the group, we decided to use the dining room--and prepared a bowl of fresh fruit, and put syrup and butter in a pan to heat.

We had just taken the first waffles out of the iron when the crew--including Woody and Stinky but without Matt--appeared, ready for breakfast. Matt was right behind them and, when he appeared, he took my breath away. I guess I was never really prepared to see my love and he always took my breath away. He was dressed in his school blazer--we had each removed the crests from them--gray slacks, white shirt, and red and blue stripped tie. He looked stunning! His wonderful hair had not been braided but was held in a long, black rope by blue bands.

We had decided each meal would have a host but this morning, Matt, who was the designated host, asked Stinky to do the honors. Stinky offered thanks for us, for the food, and petitioned God to watch over us. The amen spoken, we all started eating and carrying on an animated conversation. When breakfast was over, Matt and the two priests left for Cleveland after taking their dishes to the dishwasher. Larry and Eugene cleared the table. They also took care of the pots and pans--which would have been Matt's job--and left the kitchen spotless.

I knew I'd have to shower after working outside, so I just got dressed in work clothes and joined the others in the garden. It was just past 8:30 and the sun wasn't too hot, but gave indication of a very hot day.

Promptly at 10:00, I heard a car drive up and went around the garage just as Mr. Glaze and two boys got out. He met me before I got to the front, extended a hand and said, "Carl Glaze".

"Luke, Luke Larsen, Mr. Glaze," I replied as I shook his hand. "Sure glad you could come."

"Delighted, and call me Carl. As I told you, I really wanted this place and, when I couldn't get it, hoped someone would who would appreciate it. These are my sons, Derrick and Kent. Derrick is a rising junior and Kent starts college at Case Western Reserve next week."

"Kent, Derrick," I said, shaking the hands of two very nice-looking young men. Both had obviously spent a lot of time outdoors, because they were both tanned and their dark brown hair was sun-streaked.

The four of us walked to the garden where I introduced the three working there. "And there's a fifth, Matt, who is in Cleveland talking with Holtkamp about an internship."

As we walked over the garden, Carl took notes. "I see you've begun tackling the weeds. Until they are gone, there's not much you can do. Planning on composting them I see," he observed. "Excellent." As we walked toward the orchard, he said, "I can see where there was a strawberry bed here at one time. There's some plants under the weeds. Since they have been here so long, they are well adapted to the place. Suggest you rescue what you can and then add others. I'll recommend the varieties." He continued to make observations as we came to the orchard. "These are grand old trees," he noted. "Of course, they have been neglected for years but, with proper pruning and some care, they'll produce well I suspect. It's well-balanced too. You have everything that you could grow easily here, so I'd suggest you just care for what you have already and not replace any."

"The pruning could be a problem," I said. "I'm sure that, even though three of us grew up on a farm, we don't know how to go about that."

"I can get you some material on it," Carl said. "It's not too hard. Well, it's not easy either. There's both an art and science to it," he said.

"Do you happen to know anyone who could guide us? I mean someone who could say, 'Cut this here,' not just make suggestions."

"I'd like to myself, but I'm afraid I don't have time. It needs doing and a spray program started as soon as possible."

"Dad, Kent could easily do it," Derrick spoke up. "You know he's as good as you are."

"Not sure I could trust him on someone else's orchard. He's ok, but..."

"Dad, he's every bit as good as you any day of the week," Derrick said, in what seemed to be a "Here we go again" kind of voice.

"Well, Kent, what do you think? Think you could handle this without messing up?"

"Sure, I think so," Kent answered in a kind of hopeless-sounding voice. "Sure, I could."

"Great," I said. "And, of course, we'd expect to pay you for your expertise."

"Not sure about the expertise," Carl said, and he wasn't laughing.

By the time we had finished, the sun was really hot and we all went to the house for a break. Eugene went inside and returned to the sun porch with drinks and snacks. We then sat and went over Carl's notes. He said he would leave them, but I made notes anyway so I'd be clear about what he suggested. When he finished, he said, "There's an awful lot of work here and you'll be busy with school but, I can assure you, every minute you invest in your mini-farm will pay off well."

"Kent, what's your schedule like? When can we begin?" I asked, turning to the older Glaze son.

Kent had seldom spoken while we were walking around, but Derrick was a regular chatterbox. There seemed to be tension between Kent and his father which Derrick knew and, I suspect, faulted his father for. "I have already registered and don't start school until Tuesday. I would work over the weekend if I could get here. Dad, can I have the truck?"

"Not sure. Don't think so. It's Labor Day weekend and there's going to be a lot of traffic. Don't think you could handle that."

"Look, Kent," I said, having decided I would deal with him since it was his decision to make, "we have a guest room and, if you would like, one of us could pick you up and you could just stay here unless you have other plans. That way, when it gets too hot, we could knock off and work early and late, when it's cooler. How does that strike you?"

Kent's face seemed to light up as a smile covered it but, as he looked at his father, the smile quickly faded. "Well, I'm supposed to go to the family Labor Day picnic, otherwise, I'd love to."

"You never take part in family gatherings anyway," Carl said, "so if you want to do this, you'll not be missed."

"Yes, there is definitely something wrong here," I thought, "something bad wrong."

"It's up to you, Kent," Carl said.

"Fine, I'll do it."

"Great!" Larry said. "We can always make room for one more. When do you want someone to pick you up?"

Eugene was standing behind Carl and mouthing, "Now!" over and over.

When Kent caught sight of him, he started to smile, stopped and said, "If one of you could do it now, I could show you the way to my place, pick up what I need and come back."

"Excellent!" Paula said. "Excellent! How would you fellows like to stay for lunch? It will be ready in fifteen or twenty minutes. Nothing special, but we'd be delighted to have you join us."

"I can't. I have to get Derrick home and go on to the office. Kent can if he wants to."

"Dad, you could save part of your trip if I stayed here and went home when someone takes Kent for his things," Derrick said.

"Sure, no problem," Larry chimed in.

"Ok, I see nothing wrong with that," Carl said. "Thanks for the snack and if I can be of any further help, give me a call. I am really anxious to see this place back as it was in its prime, and it's well on its way. Thanks again and I'll see you later." He stood up, we shook hands all around, and he left.

"Paula, I guess it's back in the kitchen with us." I commented, then said to the others, "Lunch in twenty minutes. Get washed up, but Paula and I have dibs on the showers if you want lunch."

"Derrick, Kent, I'll show you the downstairs bathroom," Eugene said.


When Luke and Paula came down, Larry and I rushed upstairs and took quick showers to wash off the dirt from our work in the garden. We came down just as Paula finished getting the food on the kitchen table. She and Luke had fixed a huge salad and there were cheeses and cold cuts to make sandwiches. Paula was host and offered thanks for the help we had gotten and for Mr. Glaze, Derrick and Kent, our guests. Then we all dived in. The meal over, Eugene and I cleared the table and started the dishwasher. It was noon and the sun was really hot so we decided we'd not go back to the garden. Instead, Larry, Luke and I showed Derrick and Kent around the house and grounds.

Kent was very impressed with Luke's studio. "I draw," he said, "I don't mean the kind you do, Luke. I plan to be a landscape designer so I do design drawing. I'd sure like to have a place like this to work."

"Well, if you don't live too far away and can drive, you're welcome to set up a drafting table here," Luke offered.

"It's not too far away and I do drive, but I can seldom get the car or truck. Dad doesn't want me to borrow them," Kent said quietly, and Derrick made a definite noise of disgust but said nothing. I didn't push the matter.

When we had completed the tour, I offered to take the two brothers home and bring Kent and his things back. "I'll need to check out what tools you have and their condition," Kent said. "From what I've seen, I suspect everything we need is here, but I'm sure all will need cleaning and sharpening. Let's check."

I went with Kent and Derrick and showed them the tool shed and garage. Kent was right, everything needed was there, including the tools necessary for sharpening and cleaning the pruning implements.

Luke suggested I take the truck so if Kent did need something, we could haul it. The Glazes lived about ten miles from the house in a direction opposite that of Cleveland. Their place was neat--a large old house with well-kept grounds and pretty old trees.

Inside, the house was very cosy and comfortable, not overly decorated, just very livable. Mrs. Glaze met us at the door and Kent got a big smile on his face, the first I had seen from him, when he saw her. He introduced us and told her what was going on. "I'm glad," she said. "I know how you hate the family get-togethers, especially all the jock games they play. How can I help you get ready? Do you need anything other than work clothes?"

Kent looked at me with a question on his face. "Maybe a pair of slacks and a neat shirt--nice casual I think it's called. He probably won't need them, but we may decide to do something special. Oh, yea, and a swim suit. I'm sure we'll be in the lake."

"I can take care of that, Mom," Kent said and went upstairs.

"I'm really pleased Kent's going to be with people his own age who will appreciate his skills and talents," Mrs. Glaze said. "Heaven knows it happens seldom and the family get-togethers are horrible for him, poor kid."

I wanted to ask why, but thought better of it. If Kent wanted me to know, he would tell me. "I'm sure he's getting into some hard work, but we'll also have fun. Hey, it's the last weekend before school starts."

Mrs. Glaze asked how we came to be in the house and a hundred other questions. I smiled at myself at some of them, as she would sneak in a zinger now and again. For example, I was caught off-guard when she, somehow, asked about our drinking, smoking--those sorts of things--but she seemed satisfied with my answers.

When Kent came down, he was carrying a gym bag and what were obviously his own pruning tools. "There's a couple things outside I need to get," he said, and kissed his mom on the cheek. He seemed almost happy, very different from before.

"Oh, Mrs. Glaze, I'm sure you want our phone number," I said as I handed her a card. Luke had gotten carried away and designed an attractive "business" card for us. "Feel free to call anytime and I hope we can have you over for dinner soon," I told her. "I mean after we get settled in school. I suspect the next couple or three weeks will be pretty hectic as we struggle with five new schedules."

"I'm sure they will. Take care of my boy," she said as she extended her hand.

I was very surprised on the way home. Kent was absolutely talkative, laughing and obviously enjoying himself. I wondered if he was the same person who had been with me earlier.

We got back to the house in early afternoon. It was still too hot to work in the sun, so Kent had me gather up the tools and showed me how to clean them. "I'll do the sharpening," he said. "There's a right way and a wrong way to do that and if you do it the wrong way, you can damage the tool." He worked quickly and it was obvious he knew what he was doing. As he worked, he simply oozed confidence and self-assurance.

When the tools were ready, Kent, Larry and I went to the orchard. We started clearing weeds, waiting for Luke and Paula, who had some things to do in the kitchen for dinner. When the two joined us, Kent demonstrated how and what to prune, then said, "What I really need to be sure you understand is how. For the time being at least, I'll point out what and where." Larry was going to town with the weed-eater, clearing around the trees. As soon as he had cleared five, he joined the pruning crew.

It was still hot and the work wasn't easy so we took it slowly, but it still went faster than I anticipated. After we had each pruned half or so of the tree we were working on to Kent's satisfaction, Paula went to the house for drinks. The four of us sat under the newly pruned apple tree Kent had finished--he was fast--and sprawled out on the grass which had managed to grow underneath the weeds. Kent had a thousand questions and we were talking like mad when Paula appeared behind the garage. When Kent saw her, he more or less blurted out, "Strange, one woman and four men living together." The three guys looked at each other, "Do we or don't we?" written on our faces.

"Yea, I guess it looks strange," Luke finally said, "but we are like brothers and sister. Kinda one big family that all got into Oberlin and got the opportunity to purchase this place. It was ideal. And don't go falling for that good-looking woman, Kent, she's got a redhead back home who wouldn't like it and I'm positive you'd never get to first base, but she is one good-looking woman, isn't she?"

Kent nodded just as Paula walked up with a jug and glasses. The lemonade she brought sure was refreshing! We answered a thousand questions Kent had: "Where was home? Why Oberlin? What were our majors? How did we get the house? When would Matt get back? What was Matt doing while we sweated?" He laughed when he asked the last one. By the time we had sat for half an hour, we had told him just about all that was to tell except about Larry and me and Luke and Matt being couples and anything that might have hinted at that. I wasn't sure how he'd take that. I never am when I meet someone, and it's a real drag.

We got up and tackled the trees again. Kent seemed pleased with our work and, even though he had to stop often to answer a question or point out where to cut, he finished another tree long before any of us had finished our first. Then he started helping first one, then another. Each tree went faster because as soon as one was finished, rather than starting a new one, we'd help someone who hadn't finished. It was 5:00 before we had a dozen trees done to Kent's specifications--Kent had done four while the four of us had each done two. "Well, we're over half finished with the pruning," Kent observed. "This is not a small orchard."

"Luke and I are finished with pruning for today," Paula said, "we need to go work on dinner. It has to be prompt because Matt has that appointment tonight."

After she and Luke left, Kent said, "I think you might learn faster if we all work on the same tree".

"I'll weed eat under another," Larry volunteered, picked up the weed-eater and went to work.

"I hope you're enjoying this as well as earning some money," I said to Kent.

"Oh, I am," he replied. "I absolutely love it. Besides, it got me out of a family gathering which I hate."

"Sorry to hear that, I mean that you hate family gatherings," I said. "I don't know what I'd do without my family--my extended family which extends quite a ways. Our family gatherings are always great, but then if we were talking about biological parents, it's a very different story. I don't even know where my biological parents are. They kinda abandoned me last year and disappeared. But my adopted mom and the rest of the whole extended family are very important to me and I love being with them."

"Sometimes I wish my family--well, no, not my family, my dad's family and his relatives--would abandon me. I'd sure like to abandon them. Well, to tell the truth, they have abandoned me except I'm still around."

"If you want to talk about it, I'll listen," I said softly, "but I don't want to pry."

Kent hung his head and was silent. I knew he was struggling with himself about what to say to this stranger. When I looked up, Larry was headed toward us but, even before I could signal him, he raised a hand and walked toward another tree and started work again.

Without raising his head, Kent said, "My dad thinks I am a royal fuck-up. He has from the day I was born. I was born with a heart defect and he seems to think that it is my fault--I mean everything else is. The doctors did what they could at the time, but they had to wait until I was older to do more. I was in the hospital for weeks just before I started school, then just before I went to junior high and finally when I was in junior high. Before the last operation, I had to be very careful. I had little strength and almost any activity put a strain on my heart. After the last operation I was fine, but I guess the damage had been done to any relationship with Dad."

"See, Dad was a super-jock. He was a junior high, high school and college football and basketball hero and felt--feels--that you're not a real man unless you are a super-jock as well. I guess part of that comes from growing up dirt poor and sports giving him an education and a good life but, as much as I might have wanted to follow in his footsteps, I was lucky to be able to walk, much less do sports. To be honest, I don't know what Dad said when he was told about my heart shortly after I was born, but I know what he thought, 'Why do I get a reject?' and he has always treated me that way. I can't do anything that pleases him and I try, God knows I try. I am always trying, only to be shot down. It really hurts when I do something I know is excellent and all he does is find fault. But I keep trying to please him, well, I did until I finally realized it was not going to happen so now I just try to please myself--'course that's pretty hard too."

"After surgery in junior high, I could do anything I wanted and started working out. I ran track and played baseball and was runner-up in the state tennis meet last year, but those are, in his mind, not sports. 'Why can't you be a real man and play a real sport instead of getting all dolled-up in a neat white uniform?' he said when I told him I was runner-up in the state tennis meet. I just about lost it, but he didn't seem to notice."

"At the end of my junior year in high school, he got it in his head I was queer. One night at dinner he just flat-out asked 'Kent, are you queer? I think you must be. You never go out with girls and I see you with those sissy tennis players all the time.' I told him I wasn't queer and that I didn't go out because I hadn't met a girl I wanted to go out with. 'Well, you better find one or everyone will know you're a sissy queer,' he said. I had been called Sissy in grade school and the first part of junior high because I couldn't do anything and because I was physically weak and under-developed. Then, after I was well and started working out, I had been called Sissy so long no-one, including me, thought anything about it. I mean, it was just my nickname. But when Dad said that, a nickname I had accepted became poison. Then, last Labor Day at the family gathering, there were a lot of jokes and a lot of serious--well, I don't know that it was serious, religious is a better word I guess--talk about perverts, fags and queers. Dad said, 'I hate to admit it, damn I hate to admit it, but I'm afraid I have one of those perverts living in my house. I think Kent is as queer as a three dollar bill.' You can imagine the hell I suffered for the rest of the day."

"But you're not gay?" I asked.

"No, I'm not. What I said was true. I had never met a girl that I liked or at least one I liked that liked me. Well, that is until just after Thanksgiving last year. A new student joined my AP physics class..."

"How'd you do on the exam?" I asked.

"Made a four. Did you take AP physics?"

"Sure did. All of us did. All fours except Matt. He made a five. His dad is the AP physics teacher, but don't think he gave Matt anything he didn't give all of us. Sorry to interrupt. But, since I have, wasn't your dad happy with that result?"

"No, he pitched a royal fit because I didn't make a five. Anyway, this new girl became my lab partner. She was really fun and I grew to like her a lot. I finally got up the courage to ask her for a date and, when I told dad, I thought he'd be happy. He wasn't and, had Mom not put her foot down, he wouldn't have let me have the car. We went to a movie after eating at Pizza Hut and when we came out of the theater, there was a freak snow storm going on. We started home and got to within a mile of her house when all traffic was stopped. We sat in the car, waiting for the snow plow. At first it was kinda fun. We sat and talked, I mean really talked but, after almost an hour, I began to get worried. Then I remembered the cell phone but, when I reached for it, the holder was empty. I knew Dad had taken it out. 'Can't have you running up a cell phone bill,' he had said earlier."

"It was well after midnight when we were finally able to move, and when we reached Christine's place--her name is Christine Jordan--and I called home, Dad pitched a fit. Seems, to his mind, the snowstorm was simply an excuse I was making. He even found a way my not having the cell phone was my fault. Go figure. The Jordans insisted that I spend the night and Mrs. Jordan called my mom and told her it was too dangerous for me to be out. The upshot of that was that Dad now says I can't be trusted with the car so I'm stuck. And the fact that I don't date--and man, I'd like to--means I'm queer."

Kent fell silent and I joined him in his silence. What was there to say? I mean if it had been one of us I would have given him a big hug, but I wasn't sure he'd welcome that. Finally he said, "Well, let's get the tools together, cleaned and put them away if dinner is at 6:00."

As soon as the tools had been cared for, we went to the house, showered and dressed for dinner.

Everything was ready, the table set and food waiting to be brought in when Matt burst through the front door--and I mean burst. He ran straight to Luke, grabbed him and planted a no-holds-barred kiss on his lips as he swung him around. "Luke, Babe..."

Larry broke in with, "Matt, we have a guest."


I woke up, again without Luke beside me. I would be very glad when this week was over. Even If I were on kitchen duty next week, Luke would be beside me in the morning. I hopped out of bed as soon as I remembered what was happening that day and showered, trying to keep my hair as dry as possible, bound my hair and started to get dressed. I was sure nice casual clothes would be ok, but after I had thought about it the night before, decided to wear a blazer and tie. I mean I wanted to show all possible respect to Mr. Holtkamp. I was glad I dressed as I did because, when I got downstairs, Woody and Stinky were dressed in clericals.

I was so excited I could hardly eat breakfast and as soon as it was over, the three of us headed for Cleveland Heights. Fortunately, rush hour was nearing its end and we were not going into Cleveland proper at first, so we made it to St. William's with time to spare. "Harry won't be here for an hour," Stinky said as we walked toward the back door of the church--it's really the front, but the front of the church is were the altar sits. "I wanted to give you an hour to get used to this organ and its registration," he added.

A middle-aged man with a shock of silver hair met us just inside the church. "Kevin, this is Matthew Greywolf. Matt, Fr. McCall," Stinky said as I shook hands with the priest.

"I understand you're here to impress Harry Holtkamp," he smiled. "Good luck. He doesn't impress easily. The organ's unlocked and waiting for you. Woody, Stinky, I think I can find some coffee if you like and we can let the young man practice in peace." The three left and I walked to the organ. The church was huge, as was the organ. I looked around a while before I approached the console and, when I did, I was a bit overwhelmed with the organ it commanded. I was tentative at first, but gradually warmed up to the instrument and then started having a ball.

I hadn't realized how much time had passed until the three reappeared and Stinky said, "Harry Holtkamp has just pulled in the parking lot, Matt. Maybe you'd like to come down and meet him." I must admit, what I really wanted to do was continue playing.

Mr. Holtkamp came in the back and introductions were made. "So you're the young man with whom I am supposed to be impressed," he said after the introductions. "What do you think of the instrument? You can be frank. My dad designed and built it, so it's not my baby you're talking about."

I assured him that I had nothing but good to say about the organ and he said, "Great. Dad designed it, Holtkamp built it and it's still one of my favorites. I'm sure some of my feeling for it is sentimental, but it is a great organ. Now why don't you show me you are its equal."

I played several small Bach pieces, some more contemporary ones, and the organ transcription of "Light" from "Yonghon Tongmu". When I finished those, I did the most difficult Bach piece I knew and turned on the organ bench to look at the four men. "I was a bit afraid to ask since a lot of organists feel it's not quality music," Mr. Holtkamp said, "but after that next-to-last piece--who wrote that by the way? I don't think I have ever heard it."

"I did," I answered.

"Don't get me wrong, but it's not Bach and if you can play that--incidentally, I really liked it--you shouldn't mind a request. Could you by any chance play a bit of that show-off piece, Widor's 'Toccata' from his 'Fifth'?"

As I turned to face the console, I smiled and said under my breath, "Thank you, Millie!" and ripped into the piece. The organ was larger than any I had ever played, and St. Mary's would sit inside St. William's chancel. No wonder St. Mary's organ had been considered much too large: it was! The reverberation in St. William's was unbelievable! The Holtkamp remained clear, sharp and bright as the toccata built and built, filling the whole church with sound. I must admit, I hadn't played many bars before I had slipped "off this mortal plain" into the world only my music--and my Luke--can take me. When I finished, I was physically wrung out but on a emotional high as I just sat on the bench, my head lowered, listening as the sound gradually faded away. Man! What an experience!

When I finally turned around, all four men were standing. I nodded to them and all four started applauding--Mr. Holtkamp really getting into it. I felt the red gradually starting at my feet and working its way to my neck before a full-grown blush flushed my face. The four kept applauding as I slipped off the bench and walked toward them.

"Young man, I don't know whether or not you'll ever learn squat about building an organ but you sure can handle one when it's put together. You are simply great and I have heard many of the top-notch performers," Harry said as he grabbed my hand. "And you sure got the hang of this organ quickly. I'm sure that with some time on it, you'd be even better, but I'm not sure where the improvement would be."

"Thank you, Sir," I replied. "I'm honored to play this great instrument. You know it has to be half of the equation."

"True," Harry nodded, "but I can tell you, even this instrument of Dad's can be made to sound terrible--I've heard it when I wanted to choke the organist. Thanks, Matthew."

"Thank you, Sir."

Mr. Holtkamp turned to the three priests and said, "You know, I've done a lot of work in the south and I love polite southern young men. Makes me feel old, but I like it." Turning to me he said, "Thanks again, Matthew..."

"I really prefer Matt, Sir," I said.

"Fine, Matt it will be if I can quit being sir. I had planned, to be frank, to make this short, thinking my old buddies Stinky and Woody had just got swept away in the Sewanee heat. But since I have been proven wrong, I need to call the office and make arrangements to be "out of the office" to all but the most important calls. Point me to the phone, please, Kevin."

Fr. McCall said, "Around the corner there, Harry. Surely you remember." Mr. Holtkamp slapped himself upside the head, waved and walk away. "Great job, Matt. How'd you like to do an occasional Sunday? Our organist resigned right after Easter and we are in the process of hiring a new one. In the meantime, we have a supply organist come in for a few Sundays. Most are candidates for the job, but not necessarily. If you'll give me your number, I'll have the chair of the organist committee call you. That is, if you're interested."

"Sure," I replied as I handed him one of the cards Luke had designed for The Oberlin Five.

He glanced at it and said, "Nice. The Oberlin Five is it?"

"Long story, but a great one," Woody said as Mr. Holtkamp came back into the church.

"Got that arranged. How about an early lunch? We can talk over that, then go to the studio."

"Sounds great," Stinky said, "at least so long as you're buying."

"Think I can manage that," Mr. Holtkamp laughed. "Kevin, care to join us?"

"Wish I could, but I have a pain-in-the-ass mother coming to discuss 'the wedding of the year'. Her daughter finally landed someone."

"Thanks, Father," I said as I shook Fr. McCall's hand. "And if you need assistance handling a grande dame and her wedding plans, I have a sixteen-year-old brother who does it well.

"There has to be a story there which I want to hear--and soon," Fr. McCall said as he turned to leave.

Mr. Holtkamp took us into a pretty seedy looking area of the city and to a restaurant that didn't look too good. "I know it looks pretty rundown, but Italian food you wouldn't believe is to be found right here," he said as he parked. It was obvious he showed up there often, as everyone knew him. When we sat down, he said to a man with an apron tied about his waist, "Just bring it on, Harry".

"Harry?" Woody asked.

"Yea, his mother, who still helps out in the kitchen at eighty-five, decided she'd give him a real American name when he was born and chose Harry. He kids me about having an Italian name. The woman still speaks so little English she's often hard to understand, but will remind you in a heartbeat she's "all American, by God!" Mr. Holtkamp laughed. He said the food would be great and, man, was he ever right! It was excellent! I guess I was coming down from an emotional high which had burned a lot of energy, because I ate like a pig.

When we finished lunch, we went to the studio and I was given the grand tour. We started with a letter asking about designing an organ for a church in St. Louis and then worked our way through design, modifications, case design, building, step-by-step. "This is fascinating," I said, shortly before the tour ended, "but I'm not sure I can remember a fraction of it."

"I hope not!" Mr. Holtkamp laughed. "If you could, I'd be out of business. Today I just wanted you to get a feel for the whole process and all that's involved in it. If you decide to come as an intern, you'll gradually learn it all, but it takes time, a lot of time. So are you interested?"

"I didn't think there was any question about that," I responded. "Of course I'm interested. The question, as I understood it, was whether or not you'd take me on."

"You're right. That WAS the question, but the question's changed. I'd like very much to have you full-time, but I know that's not going to happen. But to be of any real benefit to you, you need whole days at least. So I take it you are interested."

"Am I!" I practically shouted.

"Fine. See what you can work out with Oberlin and give me a call. I think I told Woody you'd have to pay your own expenses and buy me lunch when you're here."

"Think you got that backwards," Woody laughed. "YOU are to pay expenses and buy Matt lunch."

"Well, Matt, I know you understand that you'll not be contributing to the company when you start, and won't be for some time," Mr. Holtkamp was serious. "But I do want to make it as easy as possible on you. I'll cover your travel expenses. And, Woody, you'll pay for his lunches," he laughed, then turned to me and said, "Shake?".

"Shake," I replied as we shook hands.

"Great! And, if you're interested, I'd work up some good stuff for the time Kevin calls you--and you can bank on his calling. Think you might just find a job offer there."

I was shocked at the idea, but intrigued as well.

I know Woody and Stinky must have thought I was on speed, from my absolute verbal diarrhea on the way home. I couldn't stop talking about the day, and the more I talked, the more excited I became, and the more excited I became, the more and faster I talked.

Woody finally said, "Hey, Kid, slow down. You're not making sense!" and laughed.

I tried to slow down and stop talking, but the whole cycle started again. Woody had barely got the car stopped in the drive before I jumped out and ran into the house. Luke was standing in the dining room and I was so excited, I saw no-one except my Bright Angel.


As soon as Larry said, "Matt, we have a guest," Matt looked around, saw Kent and turned ninety-nine shades of red, each more vivid than the one before. "Holyyyyy shit," he said, sounding exactly like Michael as he dropped Luke.

"Kent, this is Matt. Matt, Kent. I apologize, Kent, I should have told you this afternoon when we were talking, but I was afraid... well, I was just afraid. But I guess now it's pretty obvious. Matt and Luke are a couple. In fact, as nearly as gay men can be married, they're married and have had their union blessed by a priest. If you're really uncomfortable with the situation, I'll take you home now or after dinner."

Kent was still looking thunderstruck, then got a strange look on his face. "And you and Larry are also a couple, right?"

"Yes, we are."

"I knew you had some kind of special relationship from the way you look at each other." Kent then started laughing. "It's no wonder no-one is concerned about Paula living with four men. She's as safe as she would be in a nunnery--maybe safer! It's all very strange. I mean, I don't understand it but, no, I'm not uncomfortable, I guess--at least not enough to want to go. No, just give me time. I can and will deal with it. I know it shouldn't make a difference, but somehow or other it does. But that's my problem. Nice to meet you, Matt. Larry called you a wild Indian earlier today and now I can understand why. Well, I guess I got a strange look when you kissed Luke, I'm sure I did, but I don't think I'm uncomfortable now. And, Eugene, I apologize for the language I used this afternoon. Sorry."

I started to say that it was ok and it was a matter of indifference, but that was not true. The words did make a difference. But it was clear Kent was making an honest apology and I just said, "Accepted".

Woody and Stinky walked in during the drama and just stayed silent. Bless them! They were dressed in clericals and I guess that was another shock to Kent. "Oh, Kent, these are two of our friends, Woody and Stinky--have to tell you the story of Stinky's name later. Or maybe he or Woody will. Woody, Stinky, this is Kent, Kent Glaze. He's the county agent's older son. Well, are we going to eat or not?" You can imagine the table conversation was lively and Kent joined right in. He roared when Woody told how Stinky got his nickname. Since Matt and the two priests were pressed for time, we heard a condensed version of Matt's day and he a condensed version of ours. I knew we'd be in for a grand round of talks when the three got back from Oberlin.

After dinner, and the kitchen chores handled, we all settled in the family room and relaxed. Woody and Stinky, of course, had gone with Matt to Oberlin.

Paula put on some nice music and we were just kinda mellowed out--we had put in a good day's work, especially considering the heat, and down time was welcome. Finally, Kent said, "I don't want to intrude or meddle in someone else's business, but could I ask you guys some questions?".

"Sure," Larry said, "but we always reserve the right not to answer."

"Fair enough. First off, when did you know you were gay and how did you know it? I mean, well, Dad tells people I am gay. I don't think I am, but maybe I am. How do I know?"

That was the beginning of a rather long conversation. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at Kent's ignorance, but I was. I mean he was eighteen--soon to be nineteen--and he knew very little about being gay--or about sex for that matter. I was astonished at how little he did know. I was sure glad Paula was there because she often was able to explain things Larry and I could not, and sometimes--I guess--would not explain. After an hour's conversation, Kent asked, "Then you think I would know it if I were gay, even as ignorant as I am--was?"

"Yea, I think that's safe to say," Larry said.

"But what if I decided to turn gay? Don't know why I would, but suppose I did."

"I suppose you could decide you would have sex with a man--I mean people decide to have sex with sheep, for heaven's sake--but that's not what makes you gay. You might even get involved in what some call the gay lifestyle, but that doesn't make you gay. At least, I don't think so. You just are gay. If you are, you're born that way," Luke said.

"Thanks, guys, and Paula. Not only have you helped me a lot, but I think I understand you two couples better. Thanks. And I know I'll feel more comfortable with you four. Gee, I thought when I found out you were gay, you'd be after me."

"Nope, got all I ever hoped or dreamed for," Larry laughed as he leaned over and kissed me. Luke agreed.

"Oh, Kent, Woody and Stinky are taking us out to dinner tomorrow. Sort of paying us back for taking Matt away today while we worked. These three guys and I have to go to Oberlin to register. Our appointment's for 9:00, but that means nothing from what I have heard. Anyway, plan to go to dinner with us," Paula said, just as the three who had been at Oberlin came in. It was easy to see things had gone well because Matt was all smiles.

"Think dessert is in order," Luke laughed as he met Matt, gave him a quick kiss, grabbed his hand and dragged him to the kitchen. They came back a few minutes later with bowls of ice-cream topped with fresh strawberries. "Next year, these will be OUR strawberries," Luke said as he and Matt started sitting the bowls on the table. When we had all gathered round, I said, "Ok, Matt, out with it. You look like you just won the lottery."

"I feel like it too," he laughed. "Well, we were to meet with the head of the organ department--Professor Isadore Moler, remember him?--but it turns out the head of the whole music department--Professor Roger Stewart--and a couple of college officials met with us. Professor Moler said ordinarily he would have had to hear me play before he assigned an advisor but, since he had heard me already, he was pulling rank. 'He's mine,' he said and thumped his chest like he was Tarzan the ape man."

"Anyway, they asked about my time with Harry Holtkamp and I told them. 'I assume, then, he'll be your supervisor if you are granted independent study,' one of the officials said. Stinky told them he would be and had given Woody a letter to that effect, which Woody handed them. Stinky also told them, if it were at all possible, Mr. Holtkamp wanted me two full days a week. Professor Stewart said he didn't think that would be possible, but they would see what could be done. Among them, they listed the courses I needed to take, after Professor Stewart reminded them of the classes I would not have to take but for which I would get credit because of AP courses. 'The young man is practically a sophomore already,' he said and started trying to work out a schedule. Professor Stewart said it looked pretty hopeless and the others--except Professor Moler--agreed. Moler spoke, 'Look, we're going at this the wrong way. We're trying to fit Matt into a schedule. Why don't we try to fit a schedule to Matt? He laid out six blocks of six and then crossed out the second and fourth ones. 'That's Tuesday and Thursday, for Holtkamp,' he said. 'Now let's begin plugging in classes.'

"'You're giving him a Saturday class?' one of the officials--I think his name was Simmons--asked. 'Of course, if that's what's needed,' Professor Steward said. Well, everything started falling into place except for so-called freshmen courses. 'Look, they're freshmen courses because most freshmen, let's face it, have no real idea of what they want to do. There's no real reason for him taking them this year. Besides, there's only a couple left since his AP credits cover most of them,' Professor Moler argued. Everything had fit in--with my taking 9:00 a.m. classes when I am at Oberlin and including one Saturday morning--except P.E. I though that would be no problem but, apparently, you just can't avoid it your freshman year. 'Play any sports?' Simmons asked. I told him I had played baseball in high school and was a fair tennis player. 'Fine, sign him up for those teams,' Simmons said. When I said I might not be good enough, they all laughed. 'Matt, there are so few men in liberal arts colleges these days, if you can walk you can probably make a team," Simmons laughed.

"So, Gang, everything is signed and sealed and turned in. I don't have to go back tomorrow, so I can work in the orchard with Kent. Well, so far as Oberlin is concerned that's true. I think we need to sit down and talk about it because it involves all of you. I mean, I'll get in late two days a week and will miss Saturday morning things. I think I'll be a drag on the whole household." It was clear those thoughts had just hit Matt because his happy face disappeared quickly.

"Council meeting," Paula said. "Oh, Kent, Woody, Stinky, you are free to stay or leave, but we need to deal with this now." The group discussed Matt's schedule and how it would impact us but, finally, we didn't know because we didn't have our schedules.

We talked about that until Eugene said, "Look, why are we playing 'What if'? We'll know our schedules tomorrow and we can lay out the house schedule then. Right now I say we celebrate Matt's good news and I, for one, say we'll see that you get the time you need--and work your ass off when you are here!" We all laughed and I could see Matt relax.

We sat around the table another half hour while Matt found out what had been going on while he was away, and while he told us more details of his day. Just before we broke up for the evening, Kent said, "Man, I wish I could look forward to living in a group like this. I have never known anyone, including my dad--well, my mom, maybe--who is as concerned about me as all of you seem to be about each other. It must feel great."

"Yeah, it sure does," Matt said and we all nodded in agreement. "It sure does."

Chapter Three


Ordinarily Gene was awake before I was, but this morning I was awake an hour before I would normally have even thought about getting out of bed. Maybe it was because I had gone to bed thinking about registering today and what surprises that would hold. Anyway, I was awake and turned to look at Gene lying beside me.

I don't know what made waking up beside Gene different these days. We had all the privacy we wanted at his place with Millie, and had slept together most nights for several months now. Here we had much less privacy than there, but waking up with Gene beside me was different. I think it might be that when we were at Millie's, it was always Millie's place, or maybe even Gene's place. This was OUR place and it was becoming more ours every day with every drop of sweat from working on it.

As I continued gazing at my sleeping love, I recalled the day we met and smiled. I had been struggling then with my sexuality, but didn't really know it. When he rescued me--the new kid on the block--from some school bullies, he immediately became my idol. He was big, taller by three inches than I was, and very well built. He wasn't then--and when I can be objective about him now--knockout handsome. His features are nice, strong, but he is pretty average-looking to someone who doesn't love him as I do. Gene isn't as dark as Matt, but he is dark with straight black hair and deep, deep brown eyes with gold flecks which have fascinated me from the first time I looked into them.

Now, I am taller and--unlike the runty kid Gene rescued--have a firm, hard body. Gene gave that to me by insisting I work out with him. While Matt and Luke are a study in contrast, Gene and I are a study in monochrome because I, too, am dark, but Gene is dark in an olive-complexion kind of way. My darkness comes from a more red--my mom says red brick--kind of complexion. I sometimes think the term red man could be applied to me. And unlike Gene's dark eyes, mine are... well, they are green when I wear certain colors and blue when I wear others. Don't know--or care--what the rest of the world thinks, but Gene tells me they are the most beautiful eyes in the world and I do not object when he says that.

While I idolized Gene after his rescue, and spent every moment I could with him, I refused to accept what I knew to be true--I loved him and I was gay. Even now as I thought about how violent my struggle to avoid admitting it became, tears formed in my eyes. Anyone less a man than Gene would have had my ass--a pretty poor expression it occurs to me!--for what I did to him trying to deny I was gay. I just hope I can love Gene as much as he loved and loves me.

With those thoughts still in my mind, I leaned over and kissed Gene ever so softly but, even with the barest touch of my lips to his cheek, his brown eyes opened, he smiled and pulled my lips to his for a passionate kiss. Breaking our kiss, Gene said, "How about our getting rid of dragon mouth and then making love?".

"Race you," I said.

"Only if you can be quiet," he laughed softly.

I slipped out of bed and waited until Gene slid his legs off the side of the bed, then swept him into my arms and carried him to the bathroom. I guess it was by common agreement but, aside from playing in the shower--and that was understood--there was no playing around in the bathroom, so there was no need to fasten the door to Matt's and Luke's room. I set Gene on his feet and we both grabbed toothbrushes after a morning piss. Teeth brushed, I reached for Gene but, as always, he was quicker and I felt myself lifted off the floor in his strong arms.

He kicked the bathroom door to close it, and I grabbed it just in time to prevent it slamming. When he reached the bed, he very unceremoniously tossed me on it and, quick as lightning, covered my body with his. His mouth found mine and his tongue invaded it, bringing with it the fresh taste of Gene and toothpaste. His kisses became more and more aggressive and his hands started moving over my body rapidly. When I tried to break our kiss, he reached behind my head and pulled my lips tighter against his and soon he was breathing through my mouth and nose. God, he was hot and so was I! I could feel his hardness pressing into my own as he continued to rub my chest with his free hand.

He finally moved his lips from mine and started kissing my eyes, ears--taking a nibble or two there--my neck, and when he moved to my chest, sucked a nipple--hard--into his mouth, and his tongue went to work on its hardened tip. One of his hands found my hard, pulsating manhood and rubbed the precum which was flowing freely from it over the white-hot iron rod. Stroking it slowly, he moved down my body and suddenly I felt his hot mouth covering my manhood, his tongue performing miracles on it. By this time, I had ceased moaning softly and was whispering, "Yes! Gene! Yes, Babe!" over and over again. Finally, I could hold out no longer and my back arched as my gift to Gene filled his mouth and skyrockets exploded in my head. When the last spasm of my climax shook me, I fell back on the bed, drained. But Gene was not finished.

I felt his fingers exploring, moving past my now-empty seedpods until he reached the entrance to that sacred place, a place he called his holy of holies--the place where we truly meet, he had said when I asked why that name. Relaxed, I knew he had reached into the bedside table drawer when I felt his now-slick fingers enter that place--first one then, after it had done its work, a second and finally a third. As they moved inside me I whispered, "I need you, Gene, Babe, I need you!".

Gene raised his head from where it had been resting on my chest, his beautiful, loving eyes looking into mine. He smiled and slid between my legs as he spread then raised them over my chest. He paused and I knew he was making sure his man's tool was well covered with lubricant, then I felt it at the entrance of my tunnel and he slowly, gently, entered me as I encouraged him. He buried himself in me all the way to the hilt, was very still for a few moments, allowing me to get used to and savor his being in me, and then started moving slowly in and out. I was in heaven as he filled me with himself and his overwhelming love for me.

I knew he was on the brink and encouraged him, "Deeper, babe, deeper. Give it to me, hard, now!" His movements became faster and more complex because he was not only moving in and out, but also making small circles with his hips as he thrust into me. Finally, he thrust as deeply as possible, his body became rigid and he started filling me with his man's seed and his love. After a final spasm, he collapsed on me and I wrapped my arms around him and held him close. God, how I loved this wild man, my Gene!

As he lay, his head against my heart, we both gradually relaxed, completely, filled with our love for each other. Soon, too soon, I felt Gene slip from me and, as he did, he rolled off my body and lay on his side, smiling, looking into my eyes. I pulled his lips to mine for a slow, gentle, loving kiss.

When I released him, he looked at me and then got a troubled look on his face. I knew what was coming and braced myself for it. "Lar, when am I going to have you inside me? Why won't you make love to me as I have to you? Why am I always--well, almost always--the one who has to start our love making?" The questions were purely what? Not rhetorical but unnecessary, because we both knew the answers. At least Gene no longer asked me if I loved him as he had done many times when we first got together.

I sighed, knowing that, while the questions were really unnecessary, I was expected to answer. "Babe, Gene, I want to, I really do, but I can't. Ever since that day..." Gene put his fingers to my lips to silence me, as he always did when I started to make reference to having raped him, but this time I would not be silenced. "Gene, there are times, many times, when I would like to be the one to initiate our love making. There are times, many times when I'd like more than anything to unite us, to be inside you, but every time I start, I freeze. You know, as well as I, no matter how hot I am and how much I want to be inside you, as soon as I see your rosebud--or if I don't see it, when I place my tool against it--I go limp." I was in agony and Gene knew it. He should have known I would be. "You know that, Babe," I said with pain in my voice, but also with a great deal of impatience.

In response, Gene pulled my lips to his and gave me an angel kiss. Breaking the kiss, his face was very close to mine and his eyes were looking into my very soul as he said, "Yes, Lar, I know. We have come a long way, but I needed reminding--and wanted to remind you--that we have a long way to go before we reach the place where you--we--are free to make love any way we want. We get started back in counseling soon, ok?"

"Ok, Babe, sure," I said without a lot of conviction in my voice.

Gene caught that and said, "Lar, it's not just for you, it's for me as well. Babe, I want us free of the past, please?"

Gene was right, of course. I don't know why I didn't want to go back into counseling. Well, I did too. It was painful and the old wound would be reopened again. I knew in my heart of hearts that it had to be drained, reopened so the poison I had placed there could drain away, but I wished that Gene would just take what I had to give now without putting us both through more pain. Well, that's what I told myself, but it was a lie and I knew it. I wanted us to be free and whole and I was sure that could not be without further pain. Having given myself a talking to, I looked into Gene's eyes and said, "Gene, light of my life, I guess I am just a coward but, of course, I want what you want. Not just for you, not just for us, but also for myself. Yes, as soon we get registered and can locate a good counselor, we'll start again." Gene's brown eyes sparkled, the gold flecks seeming to glow in the morning light, and a smile covered his dark face. "Hell yes, people who don't know him may think he's average, but he is the most handsome man in the world and he is mine," my heart sang.

Gene kissed me, not so gently, and said, "Lar, you are the most beautiful, wonderful man in the whole of my world". We lay entwined in each other's arms, exchanging butterfly kisses until the alarm sounded. As it did, I heard the shower in the bathroom stop and we lay together a few more minutes before crawling out of bed, showering, shaving and dressing for Oberlin.

When we got downstairs, Matt was fixing breakfast alone. "No partner?" Gene asked.

"Since I got a break yesterday, I told Luke I'd do breakfast so he and Paula would only have to worry about registration. I guess I forgot how early I'd have to get up," he laughed. "Did you hear any movement in Kent's room? he asked.

"In the bathroom," I replied, "and I heard Paula singing in her room. Man, it must be great to wake up and feel like singing," I answered.

"Would be nice. Well, since we've been here, I really have felt like singing when I wake up with Luke beside me."

"Know what you mean," I said. "And why do you think that is? I mean haven't you woke up with him beside you most mornings? I mean since you two got together."

"You forget, there were four weeks we were separated, then a week we were out of it and all the other stuff. But, now, I wake up and he's there and I know he will be there tomorrow morning as well. It's different."

"Actually, I was thinking the same thing this morning when I awoke with Gene beside me. While we have spent time apart this summer, I think that's not the reason. I think it's because we're here in our place. You know what I mean?"

"Think I do," Matt said, as he skillfully folded a delicious-looking omelet. "Yea, I think I do. Ok, the others are not down and you don't want a cold omelet, so sit down. This one will be ready in a minute."

Gene and I sat down, drank our juice and, as we finished, Matt brought each of us an omelet surrounded with crisp bacon and perfectly browned toast. It looked scrumptious. Gene and I bowed our heads briefly, crossed ourselves, made our thanksgiving, and dug in. When I used my fork to cut a piece of omelet, I saw that it was filled with red, green and yellow peppers, as well as a few circles of jalapeno, and at least two kinds of cheese.

We had just started eating when Luke and the other two from upstairs came down. "Kent, hot or not?" Matt asked as he prepared to do their omelets.

"Hot or not what?" Kent asked, a puzzled look on his face.

"Peppers in your omelet. Jalapenos or not?"

"I think not--well, just a touch," Kent said. "Never tried that."

"I'll put a tiny bit on one end and you can try it. If you don't like it, you'll still have breakfast. If you want more, I can give you a few bits. Luke will eat all the leftover. He thinks it helps his sex life," Matt laughed.

"You should know," Paula laughed back.

"Doesn't need any help," Matt grinned, "but if he thinks it helps, I'm all for it!" he said and, of course, blushed. I noticed Kent did as well. I needed to have time to talk to Matt before we left to tell him about Kent's situation, but I felt uneasy about it since I hadn't asked Kent if it was ok. I'd take care of that before we left for Oberlin.

"I'll take care of the dishes and all," Matt offered, as he brought Paula, Luke and Kent their breakfast. I noticed Kent looked a bit awkward when Luke and Matt bowed and, when they finished, crossed themselves. Paula, of course, did not cross herself, but it was obvious she offered thanks before she started eating. Something else we needed to talk with Kent about if he was going to be around, and I hoped he would be. As a matter of fact, I had started formulating a plan to make that happen. With all the help and support we had been given, it was time we passed it along.

"We'll at least clear the table," Gene said. "By the way, are Stinky and Woody leaving today? I thought I heard them say they were."

"Tomorrow. They're leaving tomorrow. They're taking us all out to dinner tonight to make up for keeping me all day yesterday," Matt said. They want to hear how registration goes. They will leave early tomorrow. Both have to get back and get ready for Sunday."

"Good morning, Sleepyheads," Paula said as Woody and Stinky entered the kitchen.

"Good morning," both replied.

"Hot or not?" Matt asked.

"Extra hot for me," Woody said.

"Not for me," Stinky answered.

Matt poured coffee for the two and refreshed our cups after he had started their omelets. When he served them, Woody took a bit and said, "I'm not going to be surprised when I come back and find all of you fat as pigs if this cooking keeps up."

"They haven't had any of mine," Gene laughed. "That will be a real weight-losing diet, for sure."

"Which reminds me," Luke said, "Matt, we haven't been running and I think we need to."

"Gotcha," Matt said. "Crew, we start in the morning, early."

"Do we have to?" I asked.

"Well, no, but it would be good for you. You know, once school starts we'll spend a lot of time sitting on our butts, reading and working," Luke said.

"Count us in," Gene said.

"Me as well," Paula added.

When we finished breakfast, we cleared the table, put the dishes in the dishwasher and the others went upstairs to make any final preparation for the trip to Oberlin but, before they left, Gene asked, "How's Mom doing, Woody?"

I swear, Woody did it again. He blushed like a schoolboy, then said, "She's doing great, Eugene. She sends her best to all of you. She also asked me to have you call her tonight and tell her how registration went."

Left alone with Kent, I suggested we go to the library, where I asked him about my talking with Matt since he know little or nothing of Kent's situation. "You certainly can if you like," he said, "but we'll be working together all day and I suspect we'll do some talking."

"Fine, that's great. I just didn't want to say anything without your permission. We all share just about everything, but never with anyone outside the group without permission. We'll talk when I get back."

"That's great," he said, and we returned to the kitchen for a last sip of coffee just as the other three came down.

Gene greeted us with, "Think we need to go in my car," and, after hugging Matt and the two priests, we patted Kent on the back and left.


Five minutes after the others left, I was finished in the kitchen and ready to go to work after I brushed my teeth. I had put on work clothes when I dressed. Coming out of the bathroom, I met Kent in the hall.

"I'm glad we're working together today," I greeted him. "I feel a bit cheated since the others have gotten to know you and I haven't. But I do know it's good having you here simply from the way my brothers and sister have cottoned to you."

"Cottoned to me?"

"Southern, I guess. It means taken to you. They like you. That's obvious to me and, believe me, I know them so well and they know me so well, we can't fool each other for very long. And, aside from their liking you as a person, they sure appreciate your knowledge and skills. Luke, Larry and I grew up on farms, but I guess we never really learned to prune. That was David's--David Andrews..." I paused to make sure Kent had this, simple to me but confusing to others, family scheme in his mind--he nodded, "...bailiwick. Of course we often helped, but we were told exactly what to do and I guess, as a result, never really learned what we were doing and why."

"Yea, know what you mean. My dad did that for ages, but I finally got to take a horticultural course in high school, my sophomore year, and really got interested in it. A friend, who has moved away now, signed up for several night classes in the continuing education program at the local tech school after we finished the course at school. His dad offered to pick me up, so I started taking classes with him," Kent laughed, "I have taken so many now I have almost as many continuing education units as high school credits. Of course, I could have added them to my high school credits, but I didn't need to."

"Gee, I guess your dad must be proud of your doing that," I said.

"Hardly. Derrick, my brother, says I'm as good or better than Dad, but Dad doesn't see it that way. Sure, I do some things differently, after all horticulture doesn't stand still any more than anything else, but you'd never know that from talking to Dad. He can always find something wrong with everything I do. I used to help him when I was in the "cut this much here" stage, but now he doesn't want me and I'm happy because he'd be all over me all the time I'm working. I do jobs for neighbors and some of their friends--started just for the practice, but now I get paid some, actually, quite well--and have saved all I earned over the last year and a half for college--but if people ask Dad, he always tells them he can't trust my work and if I work for them it's at their risk. But I've been working all I cared to for two years now and people keep coming back and others keep asking. And I have really learned to love the whole horticultural business and want to go into it, especially into landscape design."

"Great!" I said. "I'm convinced loving what you do not only makes your work better, but your life better as well. I know it has for me. I guess we better get started because it looks like another hot day. Man, I thought Ohio being north would be cool. It's hotter here than in the North Carolina mountains."

"Now," Kent laughed, "but wait a couple or three months and you will find it colder than a witch's teat in a brass brassiere," Kent chuckled.

Woody and Stinky came into the kitchen, dressed for work, and Stinky said, "Well, are we working in the cool of the morning, or waiting until it's hot as the hinges of hell outside."

"We're going," I replied as Kent and I downed the last drops of our coffee and went to the orchard with the two priests.

When we reached the orchard, Woody looked over the trees pruned the day before and announced, "Kent, you obviously know what you're doing. Superb job."

"You have an orchard?" he asked Woody.

"Sure do. Seems a rector of St. Alban's some years back had a wife who believed you should plant an orchard when you move to a new place. Priests, at least in those days, often moved after a few years in a parish and she said planting an orchard made her feel permanent and the rectory a home rather than a temporary dwelling. They moved after five years and some of the rectors who followed took care of the orchard, others didn't. The one before me stayed seven years and did nothing for the grove. When I arrived, it looked very much as this one. I didn't know what to do, so I took a couple courses at the tech school and learned how to care for the orchard--at least for starters. I attended classes off and on and have a nice orchard now. The old way of pruning wouldn't have made the trees--especially old trees--as productive as the method you and I use. Of course, Stinky knows very little about what we're doing."

"Neither do I," I added quickly.

"Well, Kent, seems you and I have two jobs, pruning and teaching these two how to do it. I'll take Stinky because I can pull rank if needs be."

"Says he," Stinky laughed as the two went to a tree yards away.

Kent explained what we were doing and how, and we worked on the same tree so he could keep an eye on me and instruct me as I needed it. The sun was out and the temperature rising, so I pulled off my shirt. "Make yourself cool," I said to Kent.

"I would except I don't have sunblock."

"As tanned as you are you need sunscreen?" I asked, hardly believing what he said.

Kent pulled his shirt up, revealing a well-developed chest with huge scars. "The scar tissue burns," he said. "I need more than sunscreen for the scars. I need sunblock."

I wanted to ask what had happened to him, but didn't think I should. "I'll run and get Luke's," I offered.

"Thanks, I'd appreciate that.'

When I returned, I tossed him a bottle of sunscreen and a tube of block. He applied the lotion lavishly to his chest. I could see why his scars were so stark against a decent tan since he went over the scars with block. "Guess Luke told you how I got these," he said.

"No, he didn't," I replied. Kent then told me not only about his surgery, but his father's reaction to having a scarred, imperfect son. I'm sure Kent made an effort to hide the bitterness in his voice, but it was there.

As we worked, he talked more about his relationship to his father, his mother's efforts on his behalf, but most about Derrick's defense of him and his brother's impatience with him for not standing up to his father. "But Derrick's two years younger than I," he said "and I realized how futile it was to try before Derrick saw that I needed to. Now I'll be staying at home, but will be away all day at college--that is if I can arrange transportation. I think I have, but it means a friend who lives near here will have to drive out to my place then back. I'm fairly sure she means well and it will work for a while, but sooner or later I fear the extra miles will be too much. I think it would be for me. Of course, I'll pay her something, but not enough to make up for her expenses and the wear and tear on her car."

After that we talked about what he hoped to accomplish in college, what excited both of us about going to college, and what we feared. I could see why the others had been happy to have him around. After an hour and half working, Woody called over to us, "You youngsters may not need it, but Stinky and I are taking a break. Anything you need from the house?"

"Yea, something cold to drink," I replied.

"Done. Back in a few," Stinky said as they started walking toward the house.

As soon as they passed the garage, Kent asked, "Matt, mind if I ask some pretty personal questions?"

"Not at all, but reserve the right not to answer."

"Strange, that's what Larry said when I asked him the same thing."

"Not so strange. We all do it. It is a reminder that you are free to ask anything you like, but I am free to answer only what I like. So shoot."

"Well, we--all of us at one time or another--talked about being gay yesterday. I must confess I learned a lot and some of it made me very ashamed of myself. But I'm really trying to understand." He then told me about his dad telling people he was gay but, after the night before, he was sure of what he had always thought--he was not. "But I kept wondering how you and Luke and Eugene and Larry knew you were gay and how you found each other."

"That's a two-parter at least and I think really a four-parter," I answered. "But part of it I won't answer. I won't answer anything about Larry and Eugene. They'll have to do that if they want to."

"But you do know?"

"Sure, there are very few secrets among the Fellowship."

"The Fellowship?"

"Yea. Surprised the others didn't tell you, but I guess it never really came up." I then told Kent about the Fellowship and how it came into being.

"And Bill and Linda are straight? And Michael and Mary Kathryn?"

"You better believe it," I laughed. "Seems we almost split the Fellowship into gay and straight when we came up. Except for Paula, of course. How and when did I know I was gay? I guess in one sense, I have always known, but didn't admit it. I do know that I loved Luke as long as I can remember and it was always Luke in my wet dreams and I fantasized about Luke when I, well, you know," I said and blushed. "Luke has always loved me and knew he was gay, I just told myself I loved Luke and it was Luke who said, 'Yea, you're gay'. Took me a while to accept the obvious. How did we find each other? I found Luke in the river." I then told Kent about Luke's attempted suicide and the letter he had left saying he loved me.

"And you didn't know?"

"No, I never dared dream of Luke's loving me as I did him."

Woody and Stinky reappeared carrying a jug filled with ice and lemonade. It was really refreshing.

We worked another hour or so before the heat became unbearable. As we worked, Kent and I talked about our families, things which had happened to us etc., getting to know each other. We stopped working when Woody called a halt. "It's too damn hot to work," he declared. We put down our tools and all walked to the house.

Kent helped me fix lunch. He not only knew horticulture, but food preparation and presentation as well. Lunch was a simple affair, but nothing he prepared was just slapped on a plate. When I commented on it, he smiled and said, "Presentation, presentation, presentation. Even if it's only peanut butter and jelly. It only takes a few minutes to make food look good and I appreciate it. Mom says it's one way I show my love for the family when I cook or prepare food. Dad says it's a waste of time--of course--Derrick used to call it sissy stuff, but I have noticed he's doing the same when he's on meals at home. Well, are we ready?"

"Sure, as soon as I get water and juice to drink."

Just as we were ready to sit down to lunch, the phone rang. I grabbed it and, when I answered, someone asked to speak to Father Woods. "Woody, phone," I said and handed it to him. He talked into the phone for a few minutes and then came to to table where we were sitting. "Stinky, I guess we need to give the kids a raincheck on dinner and go as soon as we find out how registration went. That was the senior warden. Old Mrs. Gatsby died this morning. She was ninety-six and going strong, but just keeled over in her garden this morning--heart attack."

"In that case, we better go. Sure sorry, but we can make it up later," Stinky said.

Woody sat down and I asked him to say the blessing and he did, mentioning Kent and his talent and skills. When he finished, we had before us a lunch which, thanks to Kent, looked as good as it tasted.

When we were about half through, I heard a car pull into the drive, and the four who had been to Oberlin came in. "I hope you four haven't eaten us out of house and home," Paula said. "I'm starved! And does that look good!"

Kent and I got plates, flatware and napkins, and set places for the latecomers and brought some additional food. "Well, how did it go?" I asked, as they each finished their own blessing. "Oh, and by the way, Stinky and Woody have to go. There was a death in Woody's parish. But how did it go?"

"See what time it is?" Larry asked. "That should tell you something. Seems all four of us had been assigned to advisors who are department heads, which I learned is almost unheard of, since they generally only have juniors and seniors and certainly not freshmen. Seniors, who should have preregistered either hadn't or changed their minds, have the privilege of going to the head of an advisor's line, so we did a lot of waiting."

"But it was worth it, at least for me," Eugene said. "Professor Taylor was really helpful. Had I had someone else, I'm sure I would have been stuck in a bunch of education courses which he said are a waste of time and energy. 'If we work carefully, we can avoid many of them. We'll work out an instrumental music major and an education minor which will require you to take some education courses--enough to get you certified, but avoid all we can and especially the really bad ones. You didn't hear me say that,' he said and laughed. So I think I was saved a bunch of boring classes and that gave time to take more music. And boy am I glad I took some AP courses! Heck, I'm a freshman with over a semester of credit."

"Truth be told, the same was true in my case--both about the AP and having a good advisor," Paula said. "I was guided so I would avoid courses which wouldn't really help, but I'll have to take some psychology courses at Case Western Reserve--most likely they will actually be graduate courses. The bad news is I'll probably be here at least five years. The good news is I'll graduate with both a B.A. in choral music and a masters in music therapy. Or I may do summers. By the way, Professor Roth-Batten is my advisor and suggested we might want to invite our advisors over for an evening soon."

"'I know I have a standing invitation, and I expect to take you up on that, but it wouldn't hurt to have all your advisors over,' she offered. She also wanted to know if we gotten much done. 'I suspect you've got the front lawns looking good by now.' I told her we had done pretty well, but the heat was getting us. Thought I'd save our work as a surprise."

It was Luke's turn and he said, "I heard some students talking about Professor Henry Pross. They thought he was too hung up on his department and his position, so I was pretty scared when I sat down with him. I mean he couldn't help me without knowing I was planning on transferring to the Art Institute next year and that was the first thing out of his mouth. 'If I recall, you don't think Oberlin can give you what you want or need,' he said as I re-introduced myself. I thought I'd not beat about the bush and said, 'Professor, that was what I was told and, from studying the catalog, I think it's right'."

"'What do you mean?' he asked."

"'Well, I'm interested in studio art, not art history, and it seems Oberlin offers little in the way of studio art,' I responded."

"'Refresh my memory, just why did you choose Oberlin then?'"

"'Honest?,' I asked him and when he nodded, I said, 'Sir, remember my partner is studying organ here and we didn't want to be--weren't going to be--separated. I discovered the Art Institute requires students to live on campus their first year and most of what I would be taking I could get here and then transfer next year or even the year after. See, I am also planning on doing metallurgy at Case Western Reserve because I have become especially interested in sculpture.'"

"'I see,' he said. 'Seems a wise course of action to me and maybe we can work out an independent study each semester in studio art. And how is your partner? How is Matt?'"

"He had been playing a game with me! I wondered what would have happened had I been less honest. 'He's great. Got registration out of the way yesterday and is doing an internship with Holtkamp. And, by the way, we're married--well as married as two men can be--and had our union blessed by the church.'"

"'Great,' he said. 'you two are very fortunate that someone was willing to do that. Fr. Tom?'"

"'Yes, he told us he couldn't, but surprised us at the end of the Eucharist following the ceremony uniting us. It really pleased us.'"

"After seeing Professor Pross, I had to see Mr. Edison who heads up the cooperative program with Case Western Reserve to get a couple classes there. I hope we're not making a dozen trips a week into Cleveland, but the classes just fell where they would so we've got a lot of planning of schedules to do," Luke concluded.

"That goes double for me," Larry said. "I'll be taking liberal arts and basic required courses--what's left after my AP credit--here and about the same number at Case Western Reserve. Oberlin has little in the way of audio-video classes, but most of the theory and communications skills courses I can get here. And, by the way, we all have early classes three days a week but, thank God and unlike you, Matt, no Saturday class."

"Yep, we've got some major scheduling to do," Larry said.

"Well, we'll get to that soon, but right now we need to get these two tired priests on their way. Kent and I worked them pretty hard while all of you were at Oberlin," I said.

"Right," Woody said. "As much as we would like to stay longer, I have to get back to the parish. It's been great being here with you five--and you too, Kent."

"I enjoyed getting to know all of you after all Matt's talk about you this summer. Kent, nice to meet you. Hope you'll be around the next time I come," Stinky said.

"I hope so too, Stinky," Kent said.

Woody said. "I'll be in touch soon, I'm sure. Eugene, did you call your mom?"

"Thought I'd wait until tonight. It's cheaper," he replied. "Promise I'll call her tonight."

There were hugs all around and Stinky kept saying how glad he was to get to meet all of my friends, and how pleased he was with what we had done and were doing. Finally, the two were off.

As we turned to go into the house, Kent said, "I think it's too hot to work right now. Besides that, Woody is as good as they get at pruning, and with him working with Stinky and Matt and me working together, we got four trees done this morning. There are only two left and I wanted to check with you about one of them. It's an apple tree which has been damaged by a storm and is seriously diseased. It needs to come down to protect the others because I don't believe it can be restored to health at this stage."

"Then down it comes," Luke said. "we surely wouldn't know what to do about it."

"It was a grand old tree, I suspect here before the others, but it's doomed and really needs to go. And, hey, apple makes good firewood. Smells great. In fact, there are several limbs from the apples pruned which are large enough to keep for firewood, and you do have that great fireplace."

"Then it's settled. Kent, make yourself at home. There's a stereo in the family room and library, computers in the library, and if you can think of anything else you might want or need, yell and we'll see what we can do. Right now we need to get our heads together over a schedule for the house," I said.

"If you don't mind, I would like to check my e-mail and maybe write a couple."

"Sure, go ahead," Luke said.

"Might even turn the stereo on. If I do, do you want it turned up so you can hear?"

"Don't think so. Just set it at a level you enjoy and even close the door so you can have it as loud as you like and we can work without having to talk over it."

I looked around at the faces at the table and all were saying, "There's something strange going on here". Not that any of us blasted our ears off with the stereo, but we did like a bit of volume and it never bothered us before.

"Ok, what's up," Paula asked. "And don't tell me 'nothing'. I can smell a plot you guys come up with a mile away. What gives?"

I looked at Matt and asked, "Matt, did Kent talk to you today, I mean really talk?".

"Yea, he did. Did you see his chest?"

"Ok, what's the mystery here," Paula demanded.

"No, but he told me about his surgery and his situation. Are you thinking what I have been thinking?"

"I bet I am," Matt said.

"Will someone, PLEASE, tell us what is going on here?" Paula pleaded.

"Yea, pretty please," Larry chimed in.

"I'll start," I said, "and, Matt, fill in any details or add what needs to be added." Between the two of us, we told the gang about Kent.

"So, you see," Matt said, "he's rejected by his father for something he had nothing to do with--I mean being born with the heart problem as we were born gay. It's a situation, in one sense, at least three of us can appreciate. He's got little money, just what he's earned doing landscaping. He has transportation only because someone is willing to provide it--his girl friend, I think--and although he has a tennis scholarship--he was state runner-up last year--things are bound to be tough at best."

"He seems to have reconciled himself to the fact that he can never earn his father's approval and doesn't really try for that any more, but he really does live in hell," Matt summarized. "He has the support of his mom and brother, but I think his dad runs things."

"I can see where you are headed," Luke said. "We'll have to make some adjustments, but I don't think that's a problem. We surely know what helping others looks like from being helped." Paula and Larry nodded agreement without what Matt and I had in mind actually being mentioned.

"Amen to that," I said.

"Of course, he may not want to do it, you know," Paula said. "And another thing, if his dad has already decided he is gay, what will happen when--I said when, not if--he discovers Kent's living with four gay men?"

"I guess it's time we talked with him," Luke said. "I assume, of course, we are ready to make an offer and then work out the details. But I want to be sure of that. Paula?"

"I'm thinking."


"I think we should."

"Matt and Eugene, you have pretty much made your position clear, but I want to hear it," Luke said, looking at the two of us. We both made it clear that we were definitely for it.

"That settles it," Paula said.

"No, it doesn't, Luke said emphatically. "Maybe some things we will decide by a majority vote, but nothing as serious as this."

"Look, there was no question about my being here with you four guys. I know you and know you well. You're gay and that figures into my thinking. Kent is not, I'm positive about that. So it's not so simple for me."

"I can understand that," Luke said. "Actually, even after our long talk last night, I am trusting Matt and Eugene's judgement because they have had some real time with Kent. He might have pulled the wool over our eyes last night, but I don't think he could have with Matt and Eugene."

"Actually, I'm all for it," Paula said, "it's just that I really don't know him as I know you four. Ok, I'm all for it, with one condition. If Kent comes on to me once, just once, he's out of here. Agreed?"

"Absolutely. Not only will he be out of here, but he'll be walking on busted legs, I assure you of that," Eugene said. "And I mean every word of it!"

"Are we all absolutely sure we want to do this? And that if there is a pass at Paula, Kent's gone? Absolutely sure?" Matt asked. There were four variations on absolutely sure from around the table. "Then I'll ask Kent to come in and we'll make some decisions." Matt walked to the library door and knocked. The stereo was turned down and Kent opened the door. "Kent, if you have time, we'd like to have you join us for a discussion."

Kent came out of the library, not surprisingly, looking puzzled. He walked slowly to a chair Matt indicated and sat down. "Kent, I think I need to begin by telling you two things. First, the five of us have very few secrets from each other. That's because we really do see ourselves as members of the same family and, second, because we absolutely trust that, except in very rare cases in which to withhold something might lead to someone being hurt, what we say among ourselves stays among us unless we ask, and get permission, to tell someone else. That's an absolute. Having said that, I need to tell you, we have been discussing the things you told me today, Eugene yesterday, and what you said last night. I guess we all thought that would be ok with you since you had talked freely to all of us at one time or another. Was it all right? Not that we haven't done it already."

"Sure. I was surprised last night when Eugene said practically nothing about what we had talked about, but I wouldn't have cared anyway."

I smiled when Luke mouthed "Greywolf" and I watched Matt transform himself into Greywolf. It was very obvious he was his father's son! "I'll attempt to summarize what we talked about. First, you and your father do not get along because of his rejection of who you are and what you can do. Some of us can sympathize with that from experience. Second, while you have a scholarship to pay for college, you have little else in the way of funds. Third, you planned to live at home while attending college because you can't afford to do otherwise and you live ten miles further from Case Western Reserve than we do. Fourth..." Matt suddenly stopped, because we were all laughing our heads off. Even Kent was laughing. "What the hell?" he stuttered.

"Matt, you are a carbon copy of Greywolf doing a family meeting," Luke laughed and, in a very Greywolf voice, said, "And, ninety-nine, my son sleeps with a beautiful hunk of a man." We all had tears running down our faces.

Kent wasn't laughing quite as hard as the rest of us as he said, in a Matt voice, "I thought you were a robot!".

"Well, it gets the job done," Matt protested.

"It sure does. Do continue, Matt," Paula was finally able to say.

I thought Matt might change his approach, but he went right ahead. "Fourth, your transportation is tenuous at best and puts a burden on you and on your friend." Then in his usual voice Matt asked, "She's your girlfriend, right?".

"Yea, I guess if I have one, she's it," Kent said.

"In summary," Matt was Greywolf again, "you have problems with your dad, with money and transportation. After discussing it thoroughly, we'd like to make an offer for your consideration. We'd like to invite you to live with us. It looks as though one or more of us will be going into Cleveland every day, so the transportation problem would be solved, not on an ideal schedule, but you would have a way to and from college. And you would be away from your father."

"There are some things you need to know and think about," I said. "First of all, there is one condition which is absolute. You make a pass at Paula and you are out of here."

Kent laughed and said, "I should be so lucky. To make it out of here, I mean."

"Probably true,' Luke said with a smile.

"Another thing," Larry added, "you need to think what it might mean in terms of your life to be living in a house with four gays. I know your dad has already said you were, but apparently only to his family. None of us are joining a Gay Pride parade or anything like that. We don't go 'round announcing we're gay. None of anyone's business, but you, yourself, decided that Eugene and I were a couple or at least that we had a special relationship. Others may well pick up on that so you need to consider it as a real possibility."

"We haven't discussed anything about money, duties and responsibilities yet," Paula said, "since we wanted to know your reaction to our proposal first."

If there had been any doubt about Kent's liking the idea, one look at his face would have dispelled it. He was grinning from ear to ear. "I told Eugene yesterday I wished I could be in a situation like you have here, but never, ever, would have dreamed it might be possible. As to the condition concerning Paula, I can accept that but, in doing so, I want you to know, Paula, that if I didn't respect your wishes, I might give it a try. You are one beautiful woman!"

Paula blushed and then said, "Thanks, Kent, flattery will get you a lot but, in this case, you can look but not touch," and both laughed.

"As to living with gay men, I've thought a lot about last night's discussion. Once I really realized that what you said about being gay was like my heart--not that being gay is a defect, but that it's just the way you are born as my heart defect was the way I was born--I had my eyes opened. If someone wants to make something of it, I think I can defend myself. I don't need time to think about your offer, so let's discuss details."

"The way we're operating, so far as household expenses are concerned, is to divide the bills by five. I think it would be reasonable to just divide by six," Luke said. "The house is ours. We paid for it so there's no house payment. When we leave, we can sell it and the money's ours. We have three vehicles among us and will use them as needed. So far as transportation costs are concerned, I guess we may as well just divide that by six. We can and will have to work out a schedule for their use, but I don't think any one of us would deny use of his vehicle if it is needed. Everything in the house is shared. We have three computers..."

"I have one which I would insist on bringing since I worked and paid for it. Dad will buy Derrick one if he wants one."

"Good," Luke said. "Same with the duties. We decided we all needed to learn to do everything but, right now, I am cooking with someone who's not good at it..."

"Lunch today showed you Kent's kitchen certified," Matt said. "So we'll have three teams to cook. Later, if we want to change team mates we can."

"And you can have your drawing board set up in the studio," Luke said. "If we find having each other around is a problem, we can hang a curtain or something."

"Could we install one of the computers there? I do a lot of CAD--computer aided drafting."

"Don't see why not," Luke said.

"Anything else? Matt asked.

"Yea, room assignment. Upstairs or downstairs?" Paula asked.

"I thought upstairs," I said. "But now that you bring it up, what made you think of it?"

"Bathrooms, mainly. But, also, don't you think it would be a good idea to keep you smelly men isolated," she laughed. "I mean, I'd be happy to move downstairs and all you guys would be upstairs and wouldn't have to worry about running around nude, not that you three have anything I haven't seen."

Suddenly Kent got a "what have I gotten myself into?" look on his face. Paula laughed, "Kent, you are looking at the world's greatest skinny dipping team. These four guys and I and the other five members of the Fellowship... you know about the Fellowship?" Kent nodded, "...are all major skinny dippers. Anyway, what do you five think?"

"Basically that makes sense, but what about furnishings and decor? Your room is a bit feminine for a man, I think," Luke said.

"No reason the furniture can't be changed. My room is painted beige which has a pink overtone, but that can be toned down with curtains, bedspreads, etc. Or Kent could take the other room we're not using."

"True and, in fact, it was thinking about that room which gave me the idea in the first place," I said. "It's done in a very soft gray with red and black decor. Very masculine, I think."

"And, if you recall, I chose the color and all for the downstairs room and I have always liked it."

"Done, then. Kent, you'll join the bull pen."

"I will make one request. Haul down the queen-sized bed and exchange it for the twins. And, Kent, if you have a full-sized or larger bed, you might want to try to get it. The twins are small if you're used to a large bed," Paula said.

"I have a king-sized which I bought and paid for. It's mine."

"Well, I guess that takes care of everything except the big hassle--the schedules. I know that is going to be one ass-busting bitch, so I suggest we put it off until tonight and get back to work," Luke said. "As much as I hate to say this, Kent, I think you would be more valuable keeping an eye on the four of us, and keep us from messing up, than trying to prune."

"I hate to hear you say it too, but I guess you're right. Let's go."

The pruning went much faster than it had the two days before, I guess we had learned more than we thought. We started at 3:00 and had finished the two remaining trees at 4:30. Kent and Paula pruned the remaining healthy tree. It would have been good to have found a chainsaw somewhere to tackle the old diseased tree, but we didn't. The tree was felled with ax and saw, both using manpower. It was good exercise and we took turns as we cut the old tree and larger limbs into firewood. The smaller branches were stacked to be hauled off later.

While the tree and limbs were being cut, those not working or resting took the compost from the bins and piled it in a heap to be covered with a tarp and then gathered up the weeds and put them in the bins. It was almost 6:00 when we went to the house. Luke and Paula again got dibs on the showers--of course Luke was joined by Matt, but it was obvious they didn't play around because Luke was ready to hit the kitchen by the time Paula was. Supper wasn't fancy, but it was good and we all enjoyed it. When we had finished with the kitchen work, it was 8:00 and Paula suggested we have an hour's down time. No-one objected. Luke, Kent and Eugene went to the studio. Paula took a book to the sun porch and Matt decided to get in an hour's practice. I took my video camera outside to record the 'after' picture of the garden and orchard to complete a 'before' segment.

To say I was surprised when I got called into the meeting is a colossal understatement. I had lain awake for a couple hours the night before, just thinking about how great it would be to be in a situation like the Oberlin Five--I had smiled when I heard one of them call themselves that. When I asked, I was told more about the Fellowship and how it now had two divisions--the Oberlin Five and the Concord Five. When I mentioned it to Matt as we were cutting up the old apple tree, he suddenly got a strange look on his face and said, "I guess we'll have to become the Lorain Six, since you'll not be at Oberlin. Neither will Luke and Larry when they get settled. Yes, I guess we better become the Lorain Six. Or maybe... no, it's the Lorain Six."

"I don't think so, Matt. The Oberlin Five is connected with the Fellowship and the Concord Five. I'm sure their number will expand, but they will always be, for you five, the Concord Five. No, I think you are the Oberlin Five. It really speaks to your history, not the college."

"Man, you are so right. Got a head on your shoulders, Kent."

After dinner, everyone went their separate ways and only Matt and I were left in the house. Matt promptly went to the family room and opened the organ. When he started to put on the headphones, I said, "If you don't mind, could you leave them off. I haven't heard you play very much."

"Never turn down an audience," he laughed. Five minutes later I could have been the paint on the wall so far as he was concerned. I could tell by the look on his face that he was not in this universe. After he played for forty-five minutes, Matt took a pad of blank sheet music and started playing, then stopping, making notations, then playing the phrase over. I'm not sure he was aware that I left the room.

As I left the family room, it occurred to me that we were going to work on schedules and I didn't have mine. I called home and when Derrick answered the phone, I swore him to secrecy and told him about the offer. He was almost as excited as I was. "I'll probably be home tomorrow to talk to Dad, but I'll talk to Mom tonight. Now I have a favor to ask of you. I need my college schedule. It's in the Case Western Reserve folder on my desk. Would you please find it, scan it and, when I am off the phone, e-mail it to me? I'd appreciate it."

"Happy to, Kent. Real happy to and happy for you. I'm so excited that this has happened for you. I'll call Mom to the phone and get the schedule ready to send right now, hang on." About a minute later, Mom was on the phone. "Mom," I said, "I have some really great news!" I told her about the offer from the Oberlin Five and how pleased I was. She was too, and just kept on asking questions.

Finally she said, "Kent, I had some bad news for you when you got back. I have been bugging your dad to buy you an old car to get to and from college, but he was having none of it. 'He'll just have to find a way. I did,' he kept saying, and last night he did one of his final word announcements and said I was not to mention it again. I guess he'll just never see what's in you and I'm sorry."

"I am too, Mom, but I realize that will not likely change so I'm living my own life and no longer trying to prove anything to him... well, most of the time anyway. I'll be there some time tomorrow to talk with the two of you and get my things that I am bringing over."

"I'll see that your clothes are ready. I don't know how your dad will take this. I hope well. Come at lunch when he'll be here."

"I hope he takes it well, but I have made my decision."


"Well, I need to get off the phone so Derrick can send my schedule. Wish us luck tonight. We're going to try to coordinate schedules, duties and transportation. Wish we had a computer program to do that! Talk to you tomorrow. I love you, Mom.

"I'm excited for you, Son and I dearly love you. Bye."

"Bye, Mom."

I went into the library and turned on a computer. I almost panicked since I had just assumed I would be at my own computer and could get my e-mail. Just before I called Matt to get his address, I remembered Derrick would use my web account since he had one and knew how to use it. As I watched, the computer booted and the dialog box came up asking for a password for my login.

When I had gone into the library this afternoon--while the others were holding some kind of meeting--I wanted to check my e-mail and write a couple, but I was stymied by the same dialogue box and could not send or receive e-mail. I started to the kitchen where the rest were, but I saw they were involved in some deep discussion and didn't bother them. Instead, I just put on some music and relaxed.

Now, just when I thought about going to get Matt, I realized he was not playing and, when I looked up, he was coming in the door. "I thought about you needing a userid and password this afternoon, but we got so involved in our discussion I forgot it. When I stopped playing to ask you something, I discovered you had gone and thought you might be here. I'll set you up." In a few minutes, Matt had give me a userid--kent--and got up so I could add a password.

"You could do that, I wouldn't mind."

"You might. Luke outed himself to Michael, without knowing it when he left a file open, almost four months before he jumped in the river. No, we're friends and trust each other, but definitely don't share passwords."

I typed in a password and was logged on. I quickly checked my e-mail and Derrick had sent the schedule. I printed it out and then wrote a couple e-mails--including one to Christine telling her I would call tonight. I knew she had been working in a camp all summer, but should be back.

It was shortly after nine when we had all gathered in the dining room. I was surprised to find three large sheets of newsprint--each made from several regular sheets--taped to the wall, all with seven columns, labeled with the days of the week, and eighteen rows. I suspected Luke had done them when he went to the studio, since they were extremely neat. Matt was standing up, the rest seated, all with schedules in hand. "Kent, I'm sure you can't remember your schedule, but we'll do the best we can," Matt said in greeting me.

"I have it. Derrick scanned it and sent it by e-mail."

"Great! Before we get to class schedules, there are some things we can put in. Paula, temple Friday night?" Paula nodded and said, "7:00. plus the drive to and from. Make it 6:30 until 8:30." Matt wrote that in the proper blocks, using a red marker. I guess I looked puzzled, because Matt said, "Paula's Jewish".

"Luke, Eugene, Larry, mass?"

"Sure, but what about time? And where? I guess we go church shopping."

"I guess," Matt said. "But for the time being, and since it's Sunday, I'll just put in 9:30 until 1:00. That will cover a 10:30 mass, which is becoming common, or the usual 11:00 one. He used green, blue and purple pens to write their names. Kent?"

"I've always gone with the family, actually without thinking about it."

"You can go with us if you like or not go at all, that's your business. But if you have no objection to where your parents go, you can still go with them."

"That's about all we agree on. Dad gets upset over the welcoming of YOUR kind," Kent said with a laugh, "but I like my church. I even want to go, I guess. I'm very comfortable there. It's just that I have never thought about not going since it wasn't an option. It's at 11:00 so block me out 10:30 until 1:00." Matt wrote my name in black marker. I could see how the color coding was going to make a complicated chart a bit easier to read.

"Kent, I think that's a wise choice since it will be a sign that you are still a part of your family," Eugene said.

"I put 6:00 am on the charts because I have got to get back to running, but maybe that's a bit early," Luke said.

"It sure will be this winter," I said. "Anyone have an 8:00 class?"

My early ones are at 9:00," Matt said.

"Then if we run at 6:30 and have breakfast at 8:00, we could make a 9:00 class at Oberlin, but I don't think we could make Case or Holtkamp," I said. "I suspect it might be best to put the running in the evening."

"Everyone running?" Matt asked. Nods all the way around. "5:00 in the afternoon too early, Kent? I'm not sure about getting back by then from Holtkamp. I was thinking of being there from 9:00 until 5:00. And glad you are with us, I mean really joining in." Four nods of agreement.

"Everyone doesn't have to run at the same time, Matt," Paula said. "and it could be a different time on different days. Why don't two of us work at a time and put up our schedules? Then we'll see how other things can fit in?" We did and, when we had, Luke said, "Man, we're going to get little sleep if we have to prepare for class at night."

"Wait a minute," Eugene said, "Matt, you're going into Holtkamp twice a week. Look at when Luke and Kent will be at Case those two days. They have a whole afternoon free if you don't take two cars. That's an afternoon preparing for class. They can work in the library or somewhere. Same with those of us at Oberlin. If we make it a day at school, and not waste our time, we won't have to work at night, at least seldom." That was great news for all of us. Clearly we were thinking of high school where school meant classes every hour, all day every school day."

We were all looking over the charts when Luke said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul..."

"Whoa," I said, "what's this?"

Luke explained the name he used for Matt and told me his Korean name as well. "You'll have to hear all about those two jokers and their names soon," Paula laughed. "They each have a baby book full of names."

"Anyway, Matt, you have the only Saturday class, that's a rotten deal for you and all of us."

Everyone fell silent and then Matt practically shouted, "That's a performance class. It's studio time and I know I'll only be with my teacher every other week. I think she lives just down the road, from what I was told. If so, she might be willing to allow me to work here on my own organ..."

"That's my job you're talking about," Luke quipped and Matt blushed.

"Here on my RODGERS," he continued. "She might even prefer to come here since it would free up her day. Might even arrange another time. I'll check."

"That sure would be great," Eugene said. "This may be easier than we thought. Just takes some creative thinking."

It was midnight before we got all the schedules and the duty roster completed, but it looked good--at least on paper. It did mean a car to Cleveland every day, but one car would do it since the classes at Case for Luke and Larry were, by sheer luck, all Tuesday and Thursday when Matt went to Holtkamp.

When Matt wrote the last entry, Paula stood up and shouted, "Skinny dipping time," and started taking off her clothes. And I was supposed to keep cool around her? I could, I would, but a hardening in my jeans said it might not be easy! Five minutes later, the six of us were frolicking in the lake.

It was 1:30 when I finally slid into bed and lay there thinking just how quickly and wonderfully my life had changed today. I felt a sense of relief, happiness and thankfulness sweep over me when I thought of the kindness the Oberlin Five had shown me. I was finding out what they meant when, several times, one or the other had spoken of it being time to give after all they had received. In one sense, I felt that I had always known them and, in another, that I knew so little about them. Time would, I was sure, change that. In any event, I was happier than I has been since I couldn't remember when. It was one happy horticulturalist-to-be who finally had his excitement overcome by sleep and beautiful dreams.

Chapter Four


Since Kent was already in the fourth bedroom upstairs and was going to stay there, I didn't bother to move my things but did get the guys to exchange the downstairs twin beds with the queen-sized bed from the attic. I laughed when Matt suggested that if this kept up, the beds would learn to walk. But this would be the last time they were moved for a while. Matt had suggested we put the twins on the sun porch and get a couple day bed frames and cushions for them, which we did. There was plenty room and it looked as if we were approaching a full house.

Gads, surrounded by five men. Women would be envious because all five were good-looking, Kent not in the super-handsome, beautiful way Matt and Luke were. He was more in the Larry and Eugene school of handsome -- kinda, well, just masculine handsome. Not that Matt and Luke weren't, but theirs was a more refined handsomeness, if you know what I mean. Of course, what all those jealous women wouldn't know -- I hoped -- was that four of them found me about as sexually attractive as they would their mothers. Kent, on the other hand, well -- I can tell you, his dad may think it and he may worry a bit about it -- that was not a gay guy, trust me!

But none of them occupied a place in my dreams. That place was firmly held by a redhead -- maybe not as handsome as the five here, but I couldn't be objective. He was the most beautiful man in the world to this lonely woman. Strange, we had known each other for such a short time, and part of that was occupied by our just being friends and both working hard not to fall for the other. And when we lost that battle -- and how glad I am we did! -- we were soon separated and, after being reunited, separated again. We each wrote long love letters and sent them by e-mail. We had even tried a chat once, but that proved to be too frustrating. We phoned each other three or four times a week -- he one time and me the next, but we tried to keep it short. I forced him to keep his short because he couldn't waste a penny. Bill's parents provided him food and shelter, and insisted he tell them when he needed anything and told him not to worry about the phone bill, but Jacob wanted to do all he could to pull his own weight.

The news he had from Concord was not much. Everyone was getting ready to go back to school. Bill and Linda were happy as larks. All of them had been working on plans for the school year and Michael had called a meeting of the Fellowship at the falls for Saturday, mostly picnicking and playing I think. As Jacob said that I had a vivid recollection of our first kiss atop the falls. Man, I missed my redhead! With him in my mind, I fell asleep and dreamed of him and when we would be together again.

Friday we worked around the house, mostly on the grounds which were really taking shape. Kent had given Luke the name of a man who had a tractor and would prepare the garden, and he showed up about noon. Matt, Luke and Larry spent the afternoon working there, coming in dirty and happy. Luke had suggested Kent might like to call Christine for a date and, while he was reluctant, he finally agreed. When Eugene suggested he take his car, Kent smiled and said Christine was more the pickup truck kind of girl. Luke said, "It's yours! And ask her about coming over for dinner soon," he added.

I went back to the same synagogue Jacob and I had attended. It was small and the people and rabbi were very friendly. They had welcomed us warmly and several asked about him when I showed up by myself.

We had agreed we'd sleep until we were ready to get up Saturday morning, but even at that I was surprised to wake up and find the sun streaming though my window. It was 10:00 already! I hopped out of bed, showered, got dressed and went to the kitchen. Kent was there, sitting at the table with a cup of coffee. When I came in, he got up, poured me a cup and asked, "Sugar and cream?".

"Black, one sugar," I replied and seated myself. "You the only one up?"

"Don't think so. I heard some stirring ten minutes or so before I got up, but both bedroom doors are closed, so I don't know if I am or not."

"Kent, I want to apologize a bit about Thursday night. I certainly don't want you to think that I thought you couldn't be trusted, but I had a really bad experience last year and just don't think I could handle someone coming on to me, especially since I have a wonderful man as a friend and boyfriend."

"No apology needed," he said, handing me my coffee.

"Thanks, but I think you deserve one. By the way, how was the date?"

"We actually had a great time. We ate pizza at a little Italian place Christine knew and then went to the movies. Afterward, I drove her home and we sat on her porch and talked until her dad came out and said, 'Kent, I think you're a nice guy, but Christine turns into an ugly witch at midnight and you only have 5 minutes,' laughed, and went back inside. I kissed her goodnight and came home. I came home, Paula. It sounds strange, but I like it. But you started to tell me about last year, I think."

"It's a bit of a long story, but maybe it will help you understand the kind of people you have fallen in with." We sat drinking coffee as I told him about the prom and what followed. "Sheldon's got himself in a real jam. I neither know how it came out nor do I care." I then told him about Jacob and me becoming friends and falling in love. "Think you'd like him, Kent. He's a great guy, a wonderful guy. Got a bit of a temper to match his red hair, but also the sense of humor -- and passion -- to go with it," I laughed.

"Sounds wonderful. I guess that kind of story explains all the comments about it being time to give back after having received so much," Kent commented.

"It's only one of many stories. Yes, we have been given much in the last year -- actually since last March, although it seems much longer. I guess you'll grow tired of all the stories, but we all have been involved in a gigantic soap opera," I laughed. "There's a whole other story about how I managed to get to come here, how my mom has been able to go to school full time." I then gave Kent a condensed version of all that. I had just finished speaking when the four other guys came in from the sun porch, dripping wet. "At least shake like a dog before coming in," I said in my best stern mother voice.

"Toss us some towels," Matt said. "We forgot to replace those we used from the cupboard by the shower outside." I went to the linen closet and got four towels and tossed them to the four, who dried themselves and went upstairs to dress. They took their time but finally came down. Kent and I had set the kitchen table with juice, fruit, milk and cold cereal and he had started a new pot of coffee.

"Man, the beach is a great place to run," Luke said. "It's great running and really beautiful." The four sat down and we all ate breakfast. "Kent, Paula, who decided on cold cereal..."

"Kent's idea," I interrupted.

"Well, it's a good one when we decide to get up when we choose. That way no-one will have to get up before they are ready. I really slept in and throughly enjoyed the run," Luke concluded.

We discussed what we would do this last free Saturday, and Kent said he had called his mom and she suggested he have lunch with the family so he could talk with his dad. "Then I'll have to get my things moved."

"We'll be glad to help," Eugene offered.

"Thanks. I appreciate the offer but, to tell the truth, I don't know what dad's reaction will be -- and if there is a scene, I just as soon you not be involved. Derrick and Mom will help. I guess I'll need to borrow the truck if you don't have plans.

"Kent, you need the truck so there's no borrowing involved. We are either in this together or we are not. And if I had plans then, hey, they'd have to be changed because you have a need; all I would have is a want, ok?"

Kent smiled and said, "Ok".

"And promise, Kent, if things get too out of hand or go smoothly, you'll let us know and we'll come help. We are going to do some driving around this afternoon looking for churches, but I have my cell phone," Matt said. "Paula, if you want to come with us, we'd be delighted to have you or you can take one of the vehicles and go off on your own."

"Think I'll just hang around here and finish the book I'm reading. May not have time to read trash when school starts."    


I woke up Saturday morning when I heard sounds in the hall, or maybe from the guys' rooms. I lay there thinking about what they might be up to. I'll admit that I wasn't too comfortable with the idea of two men having sex. I mean, it was their business, but I had heard too much carrying-on from Dad and I guess more of it had sunk in than I'd like to have admitted. When I realized the sounds were coming from the hall and not the bedrooms, I was kinda ashamed of myself, but knew that I could either learn to accept -- and even love -- the four guys or get out. It was my choice.

I did have to admit that the way they looked at each other, and how they behaved around each other, gave me mixed feelings. One side of me was uncomfortable and the other found their genuine and open affection attractive. I don't mean I felt it was something I could do with a man, but I hoped if I ever fell in love, I'd have the kind of feeling for my girlfriend the two couples had for each other.

Things became quiet again and I lay in bed thinking about the change in how my future looked since coming here to do a job. Whole new avenues had opened for me as if by magic. That, of course, reminded me that I had to talk to Dad in a few hours and explain why I was leaving home. I wondered what his reaction would be. On the surface, it would appear that he'd welcome getting rid of me -- after all, all he did was criticize -- but, at the same time, he used me a lot and I wouldn't be available. I just didn't know. Well, as he told Mom about an old car, he had to manage on his own and I would have to and, by chance, I had done well. "So lying here worrying won't change anything," I said to myself, crawled out of bed, showered, shaved and got dressed.

I went downstairs and found no-one around, so I made coffee and set out a breakfast of cold cereal. I had just sat down with a cup of coffee when Paula come in the kitchen. We drank coffee and talked. She told me why she had been so adamant about what would happen if I made a pass at her. I couldn't blame her and thought what a lucky guy her Jacob was. It was obvious she was madly in love with him and sure was missing him. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to be that in love with someone and be separated for a year.

She asked how my date went and I told her it was fine, and it was, but I definitely wasn't in love with Christine. She was just a good friend and I enjoyed being with her. I didn't tell Paula that when I had kissed her goodnight, the kiss was more than a peck on the cheek and, once again, the hardness in my briefs was a pretty good indication that my dad didn't know his son very well when he decided I was gay.

While we were talking, the four guys came in soaking wet. They had been for a run and had showered outside. As we all ate, we talked about my going to my place, talking with Dad and picking up my things. Luke insisted that the truck was mine to use as I needed. He said we were in this together or we weren't, something I recall hearing one or the other of the group say from time to time. It made me feel good. I was to call them if things went well with Dad so they could help get my things or if things really got out of hand. I'll admit I didn't have the slightest idea how it would go.

I pretty much knew that Dad wouldn't be at the house until lunch. Saturday mornings he worked around the place, usually having me and Derrick help, but he wouldn't have bothered to stay around waiting for me. I wanted to talk with Mom before he came to lunch, so I left for their place at 10:30. When I arrived, Mom was outside and looked up, puzzled, as I drove in. I realized at once that she didn't recognize the truck. I hopped out and said, "Hi Mom. How do you like the new wheels?"

"Kent, what do you mean? Where did you get the truck? What do you mean 'the new wheels'?"

"Easy, Mom," I laughed. "It's mine when I need it and sometimes when I want it. Got time to talk?"

"Sure, you know I do. Come on inside."

We went to the kitchen where I got a soda, and Mom and I sat at the kitchen table where I told her, probably in more detail than she wanted, what the Oberlin Five had offered me and what we had worked out. "So you see, Mom, I have transportation to Case, a place to live that is closer in, and a very determined and dedicated group of people for support. It's great."

"You mean they are willing to do all of that so long as you pay a sixth of the expenses."

"That's right. Not only that, but I'll have transportation for other things as well. Last night I had a real date with no problems. I had the truck and we ate pizza and went to a movie and it was great. I loved it."

"Well, I agree it sounds great, but there has to be a catch."

"Yea, I can't make a pass at Paula and, Mom, it is a good thing I was told that because she is one luscious woman.

"So there is one woman living with four -- you make five -- men. I don't like the looks of that. How could her parents let her do that?"

"Parent, she only has her mother. Her mom knows the four guys so there's no problem. And she knows that if they allow another guy to live with them, there better not be any problem with him either or the four would break his legs -- well, that's all if he were lucky. There's not a doubt in my mind about that!"

"But how could any mother trust her daughter living with four guys? I don't care how well she knew them."

"Would it help explain it if I told you the four guys are two couples? In fact, two of them have had a ceremony kinda like a marriage. So far as they are concerned, they are married, just that no-one recognizes the marriage of two men. The other couple are just as committed to each other I'm sure. So Paula is just their sister.'

"They're GAY?"

"Sounds like it to me."

"And you want to live there? What if they want to turn you gay? I don't think I like this."

"Mom, we've had a long talk about that. Since Dad told his family I was gay, I wondered if I might be. But all four of the guys said it was not something you really worried about -- I mean you may deny it to yourself, but when you finally take a hard look, you know you're gay or not and were born that way. It's like my heart. That was just the way I was born, not something I chose. Or it's like the color of my hair. I was just born that way. It sure made me stop worrying. I know I'm not gay, as surely as they know they are. So what do I have to worry about?"

"I don't know. I'm just uncomfortable with the whole idea."

"I was too. Well, I still am sometimes. I don't understand it and when I see them holding hands or kissing each other, I get uneasy -- but I'm getting over it. Those four are so in love with their partners that I just thought to myself this morning, 'When I fall in love, I hope I am as in love and as affectionate as those guys are'. I'm getting used to it and I can tell you one thing: the world would be a lot better off if couples loved each other as they do and if people were as loving and caring for others as those five are. I mean they hardly knew me, but had a meeting Thursday night, after getting me out of the room, to talk about my situation -- not having reliable transportation to college, not being trusted with the car and, yes, Dad constantly putting me down. They told me they were impressed with my work, my determination, and invited me to join them. Several times one or another mentioned that they had been helped so much over the last months that it was time they started giving back. Paula told me about how the Fellowship -- that's what the group called itself before the five came here, leaving five still in high school -- helped get her a dress and all for the prom, even got a boyfriend who had moved away to the prom, and how he got mad and left when she wouldn't have sex with him, and how she and her mom were helped with an insurance settlement. They are a great bunch."

"Kent, it sounds too good to be true and such things usually are. And I still am not comfortable with you living in a house with four gays. But, in any event, you can always come home if it doesn't work out, and I wouldn't mention the guys being gay to your dad."

"Mom, I think he will find out sooner or later."

"Well, make it later," she said as Dad came in the back door with Derrick right behind him. Derrick waved and went upstairs, having anticipated what would soon happen.

"Kent, how are you doing with that orchard? Sure was a mess. Hope you haven't made it worse," Dad said.

"What a greeting," I thought. "Actually, it's all finished. We took out the old, broken, diseased apple tree, but the other trees are in great shape. A friend of the group from downstate a bit -- an Episcopal priest who came up to help one of the group, Matt, with getting an internship -- also has an orchard. He's pretty old -- actually I think he's officially retired, but still has a church -- but he knew what he was doing and that got things moving well."

"Suspect he made you see the light," Dad said. "Being older, he did things the right way."

"Yea, he did things the right way. Don't know what being older had to do with it. He started taking courses about the same time I did, so we both used the same approach." I could see Dad didn't like that, and maybe I shouldn't have said it, but he asked for it! "Got the garden cleared of weeds and hired Mr. Hickson to prepare it. They have a garden tractor, so we prepared a strawberry bed and got the plants transplanted as you suggested, cleared the asparagus beds and berries. We got as much done as we could before school starts, but everyone is taking today off."

"Sounds impressive. I'm amazed they work so hard. They look like a bunch of spoiled rich kids to me."

"I guess I'd consider them well off, since they don't have to worry about money for college or the house, but hardly spoiled. Most of what they have, they have earned or it came from money put aside for college which they didn't need. All five have full scholarships -- including books and fees. Luke, who is an artist, made a bundle from works he has sold. Eugene has money from a lawsuit he won. I'm not sure about the others except all are AP Scholars, some with honors and others with distinction, and that tells me they are not spoiled."

"Pretty impressive bunch you're running with," Dad said. "Good thing you don't have to keep up."

"Maybe I do, Dad. They have invited me to live with them."

"What do you mean, Kent? You live here."

"I mean exactly that. They have asked me to live with them. That way I'll be closer to Case and there will be no transportation problem. I won't have to depend on Christine to get me to and from school. Matt is going in Tuesdays and Thursdays to Holtkamp's organ studio where he'll be doing an internship. Luke is going to Case to take a class or two since he's doing both art and metallurgy and next year will be at the Art Institute as well. Larry is also doing a cooperative program with Case. We looked at all our schedules and worked out transportation."

"Just how are you going to afford such grand living? I mean they can't be poor with that house."

"All household expenses are charged on a credit card and divided at the end of month. I'd be expected to pay a sixth. And they don't waste money, that's clear. Case is paid for with my tennis scholarship. I have put aside all I can from working the last couple years. I don't think that will be a problem."

"Living here wouldn't cost you anything," he argued.

"And I wouldn't have reliable transportation."

"I managed."

"Yes, by taking advantage of opportunities. This is a real opportunity."

"Don't see that myself. What makes you so anxious to leave home?"

"Don't you know? Do you really need me to say it?"

"I don't know what you are talking about!"

I could see the red rising out of Dad's collar. I knew that sign well. He was ready to explode. I guess, had I been wise, I would have kept quiet -- but I had been quiet too long. "Dad, you have rejected me from the day I was born. I was born imperfect and, try as hard as I could, I have always been imperfect -- not the son you wanted. I have never done anything that pleased you. You are always on my back. I would just like to get out of a situation where I am not wanted, can never do anything right, never get a pat on the back."

"I don't know what you are talking about! How dare you accuse me of such!" He was furious and I knew it, but didn't stop.

"Yea? What did you say when I was runner-up in the state tennis competition? 'Good job, Kent'? No! You put me down because tennis wasn't a manly sport. What do you say when someone asks me to do landscaping design or work? 'Take him at your own risk, I won't recommend him.' And you know I have loyal clients and get praise for my work, but never from you. And when all else fails, you announce to that family of yours, who has always put me down because I wasn't a super-jock when I could barely walk, 'My son's gay'. Why? With what proof? Because I didn't date? How could I when you wouldn't let me have the car? Hell, I'm a virgin even if I were gay, which I am most emphatically not. Hell yes, I want out of here and you damn well know why!"

"How dare you, you reject, talk to me that way! I've spent tons of money on you trying to get you fixed and this is the reward I get?" Dad lunged across the table and grabbed me by the collar.

As he did, I heard Mom shout, "Carl, enough!". Dad paid no attention and started shaking me.

Suddenly I saw Derrick out of the corner of my eye. He raced down the last few stairs, across the kitchen, up behind Dad and said, through clinched teeth, "Dad, you heard Mom. Turn Kent loose". Dad continued shaking me and Derrick grabbed him by the collar and said, "Mom said, and I say, turn Kent loose NOW!".

Dad turned me loose and whirled and hit Derrick across the face with his fist. That did it. I practically jumped across the table, grabbed Dad and put him on the floor. I held him there as I said, "If your outburst doesn't prove my point, you are thicker-headed than I thought you were. But this settles it. I'm getting my things and leaving. If you want to see this son again, you know where to find me. I won't be back. Derrick, thanks. You too, Mom. I hope you'll come visit. We would love to have you. Derrick, protect Mom and see if you can get this hard-headed man to stop putting her down. She has no out. I do. I will get my things and go. Derrick, I'll need your help and I'm calling the others and have them come to help."

"You don't have any things here," Dad said getting up off the floor.

"Oh, yes I do. I have things I bought with money I earned. Anything else I'll leave if you want it."

"You will not," Mom said, and gave Dad a look I had never seen before. "Take everything you want or need. No-one's going to stop you. Carl, you can go to the barn and stay awhile."

"You leave this house and you'll never come back," Dad shouted.

"If that's the way you want it, so be it," I answered.

"Carl, I said go to the barn and unless you want to stay there, you better go now." I had never seen Mom openly defy Dad, must less order him around. Both Derrick and I were standing with our mouths open.

I called Matt, and the crew had been waiting for my call down the road about a quarter mile. "Thought we might need to be close," Matt said when I asked them to come.

Mom had all my clothes packed and many of my things. Derrick said he had packed my CDs, but I told him there was a good collection at the house, and a couple good stereo systems, so he could keep my stereo and CDs with the exception of two or three favorites which I hadn't seen at the place. We had a time getting my bed loaded, but finally got it on the truck and tied down. Using Eugene's car trunk, we got all the things I was taking. The rest I told Derrick to do with as he pleased.

When we were ready to go, I hugged Mom and Derrick and asked, "Mom, are you sure you will be all right?".

"She better be," Derrick said, and I knew he meant it.

 Luke climbed into the truck beside me after saying I was driving. I was surprised. Luke said, "Your trip, Kent, I'm just along for the ride".    


After Luke and Kent had gone, I said, "Mrs. Glaze, Derrick, anytime you want to come and visit, come. We'll definitely have you over for dinner as soon as we get settled in school. I'm sorry it worked out this way. Maybe Mr. Glaze will come around soon."

"It will take time," Mrs. Glaze said, "but he will. He's been forced to face what he has done to a son for over eighteen years. It's a hard pill to swallow. I should have stood up to him long ago, but it was easier just to hope things would change by themselves. I feel pretty guilty for what I have allowed to happen to Kent, but basically Carl's a good man -- stubborn and full of false pride. But he will come around, I know he will. Thanks for what you are doing for Kent."

Derrick said, "Mom's right. In spite of how it may seem, Dad's a good man. I think he wanted a perfect son and got one who almost died, so he was afraid to become attached to him. Then when Kent was finally whole, he became jealous because Kent tried so hard to prove himself and please him. Frankly, he showed Dad he was tougher and better than Dad had been. Then, finally I think, Kent realized he had his own life to live and Dad was never going to say he was proud of him, so he quit trying. When he did, I think Dad thought he had gone so far he could never be a real dad to Kent, was angry at himself and took it out on Kent. I may be wrong, but I'm positive he'll come around. It won't be easy and Kent will have to be open to it. Don't know that I would be man enough, but Kent is. And, yea, thanks for what you are doing for my brother, and I expect to be around pretty often. Yea, thanks."

"Just paying back some of the good deeds done for us," Eugene said.

We all hugged Kent's Mom and Derrick -- which surprised the two of them -- and drove back home, to Kent's new home.

When we reached our place, Luke and Kent had already started unloading. His mom had packed his clothing carefully, so it was easy to get it upstairs and what was on hangers placed in the closets. "I'll put away the rest of my clothes later," Kent said. We brought up everything from Eugene's car and from the truck, except Kent's bed. Luke took his computer and its peripherals to the studio while the rest of us got his bed ready to carry upstairs. Paula held the door and we had no trouble with it until we started up the stairs with the mattress. We were about half-way up, when it kinda flopped and shoved Eugene against the wall . We all got the giggles and had trouble holding on. Finally, it got away from us and started sliding over Larry who was bringing up the rear. "Damn, get this thing off me," he shouted, but we were giggling so no-one could.

Larry was giggling just as hard as the rest of us when Luke and Paula came up the stairs. Paula said, "Ok, schoolgirls, stop your giggling and get busy." We finally got control of ourselves and got the mattress to Kent's room. We set to work getting his bed set up, which we could do without his help, while he put his things away.

The only furniture, aside from the bed, was a desk and lamp. He had said he thought it would need to go to the studio for the computer, but Luke reminded him there was a study table and chair there already, so he put it in his room. "Glad this can stay here," he said. "I've always done my studying at this desk. It's like an old friend."

By the time we had done all we could do in his room, he had a good start on getting his things put away. "When you've finished, come down for a snack," Paula said. We all went downstairs where Paula had drinks and snacks on the table. We sat and talked about what had happened. "Well, I certainly hope you're right and that his father will come around," Paula said. "Sure hate to see parents and kids separated."

"Well, I don't!" Eugene said most emphatically.

"You don't what?" Kent said, coming into the kitchen.

"I don't hate it that my parents and I are separated -- I mean my biological parents," Eugene said. "Paula was just saying she hoped your dad came around and that she hated it when parents and kids are separated. I was disagreeing with her."

"Kinda emphatic about that, aren't you?" Kent asked.

"Damn right," Eugene said. "I'm glad my biological parents are gone to the devil knows where. Millie's my mom, the only parent I have or want. I hope I never see the Joyces again!"

"The Joyces? Who are the Joyces?"

"Kent, you're going to get sick and tired of the soap opera we have been in for the past months," Eugene said, "but I guess the more you know about us, the more you will feel at home. I know we often talk in riddles -- not to hide anything from you, but we've all been through the good times and bad times together and don't need to tell each other anything about the past. Well, you may as well know about me." Eugene started telling his story but, before he had really started, Larry got in on the conversation after looking at Eugene who kinda shrugged.

"Well, you may as well know more than you want to know," Larry said. "Our story starts together -- well, not really, I mean Eugene's story begins before mine. Sorry, Gene."

Eugene told the whole shitty story of his abuse by McBride and the outcome and, when he finished, Larry and Eugene together told their own personal story. "As I said, more than you wanted to know, I'm sure," Larry said, his head hanging down and tears in his eyes.

Eugene had moved to where he could put his arm around Larry and was holding him tight, his own eyes filled with tears. "Babe, we still have a long way to go, but we'll get there," Eugene said as he lifted Larry's chin and kissed him gently, tenderly, on the lips.

I didn't know what to expect from Kent and must admit I was surprised when I looked up and saw him sitting, looking at Larry and Eugene with tears in his eyes. He got up slowly, walked to the two, put his arms around them, hugged them tightly and said, "You two didn't have to do that -- not that I am sorry that you did, it's just that telling your story is more than anyone, even a long-time friend could ask. I am honored that you trusted me enough to do so. Eugene, I want you to know that I admire you tremendously and your power to forgive. I couldn't. But Larry, if Eugene loves you that much, you have earned my respect."

"Thanks," the two said.

"Wish you hadn't gotten mixed up with this bunch?" Paula asked.

"No, not at all. I'll admit my head's spinning and I have never known people so up-front and honest. I thought southerners were reluctant to be so open," Kent replied.

"Two things: if southerners trust you, they trust you; and you can always bet they will never give a short answer when a story will do. They may even force the story a bit, but you're going to get a story," I laughed. Suddenly the mood lifted as I was sure it would. Poor Kent sure had a lot dumped on him in two days, including his own story. "But hey, guys, this is our last Saturday before school starts and we are sitting here telling stories. Kent, know of any falls around here?" I asked.

"Falls, like on a river?"


"Afraid not, why?"

"That's too long a story for now," I said. "How about just a river?"

"Well, a branch of the Black River is fairly close. Why?"

"Think we could find a place to picnic on it?"

"Haven't tried, but we could take a look," Kent said.

Fifteen minutes later, we put a packed picnic basket and blankets in Eugene's car and the six of us piled in. It was a tight fit, but the day was beautiful, the top was down and we were off. Some miles later, we passed a farmhouse and Kent said, "I know the old couple who live here. The river runs through their place, although I have never seen it. I came out here with Dad a couple years ago and come back two or three times a year to help them get things done they can't do themselves. They have two sons who live on the west coast and only come every year or so, stay a day or two at most and leave. They send money to their parents, but I think they are ashamed of them since they are both big in the entertainment business. They're a great old couple. Why don't we stop by and see if they can tell us of a nice spot?"

"Sounds like a grand idea to me," Eugene said, as he turned the car around and drove down the lane leading to the farmhouse.

When we pulled up out front, an elderly man came to the door and peered out as Kent walked toward it. When Kent reached the porch he said, "Good afternoon, Mr. van Hook. Kent Glaze."

"Kent, Kent, good to see you. I couldn't tell who you were at first, but I see you clearly now. You've become a grown man since I saw you last fall. Come in, come in. Ask your friends in."

We walked into an immaculate living room with photos and all the treasures an old couple collect. It was a very comfortable place, well lived-in and, I suspect, lived in well. Seated in a rocker was a tiny white-headed woman. "Mr. van Hook, Mrs. van Hook, these are my friends and housemates," Kent said, and introduced us. "We were out looking for a place on the river where we might have a picnic and, when we came to your place, I thought you might be of help to us."

"There is a place on the river where Mrs. van Hook and I used to take the kids. We haven't been in years -- don't get around as well as we once did. There's still, I'm sure, a field road that takes you within a hundred feet or so of it. If you're careful, you can make it in the car. It's a lovely spot as I remember," he said, wistfully.

I saw Luke's and Eugene's faces light up as Kent smiled and turned to us with a question on his face. Eugene nodded.

"I'm not sure we could find it without help," Kent said, in what sounded like a kind of hopeless voice. "I don't suppose you and Mrs. van Hook would have time to show us would you?"

Mr. van Hook looked at his wife, who already had started getting out of her chair, and asked, "Ma, think we're up to it?".

"Well," she said, "I'd really hate to disappoint these young people. I guess we could try."

The two moved amazingly well as they got ready and came with us to the car. "Don't see how we can all fit in," Mr. van Hook said.

"We'll manage," Eugene said as he held the car door for the two. When they were seated, Paula and Larry got in and Eugene took the driver's seat. Luke, Kent and I sat on the top of the back seat, riding like heros in a parade as Mr. van Hook directed Eugene to a field road which began behind the barn.

Eugene drove slowly -- he was, after all, driving a convertible where he should have had the Jeep, but the road wasn't all that bad. When we had driven about a mile, Mr. van Hook said, "Ma, isn't this the spot?".

She nodded and said, "I think I hear the river". Sure enough, the sounds of a river could be heard.

Luke and I hopped off the car, walked through the branches of the trees and looked out on a wide, grassy area under high trees. The area sloped gently down to a broad, slow-moving, beautiful river. We went back to the car and Luke said, "No falls, but it's perfect. A wonderful spot. Let's go."

"I guess one of you needs to take us back to the house," Mr. van Hook said.

"Don't think so," Kent said. "I think you have just been invited to a picnic."

"Oh, we wouldn't want to intrude on your picnic," Mrs. van Hook said.

"Nonsense," Larry said. "Without you, we wouldn't be having one. Let's go!" He opened the car door and helped the somewhat frail woman from the car. When he reached the trees, he held the branches aside with one hand and Mrs. van Hook's arm with the other as they walked toward the river. Kent assisted Mr. van Hook, and the rest of us got the things from the car.

We soon had the blankets spread where the old couple would be a bit more comfortable sitting on the ground. As soon as they were seated, Luke asked, "Is the river safe for swimming?".

"Don't think you'll find it deep enough for swimming, but our sons always played in it so I guess it's safe to play in," Mr. van Hook replied. The words were hardly out of his mouth before all six of us were in the river, wading and playing around. From time to time, one of us would leave the river and go sit with the van Hooks since, without discussing it, we knew they shouldn't be left out. Finally Luke went up to Mrs. van Hook and said, "Madame, I think you need to remove your shoes". Mrs. van Hook looked at him with a puzzled expression as Luke repeated, "Off with the shoes, woman," in a commanding voice. Mrs. van Hook looked at him as if he had lost him mind, and slowly started removing her shoes and hose. When she had them off, Luke reached down, lifted the tiny woman in his arms and carefully carried her to the river. When he reached the bank, he very, very carefully walked into the river and, about midstream, carefully stood her on her feet. As he did he said, "A beautiful woman like yourself shouldn't have to sit out the fun". Luke never took his eyes off her and his hand never left her arm as she waded about the shallow river, a girlish smile on her face.

Seeing what Luke was up to, Larry asked Mr. van Hook if he'd like to join his bride. The old man looked at first like he wouldn't, then he looked up at Larry and said, in an excited voice, "Damn right I would, Son!" as he stripped off shoes and socks and started rolling up his pants legs. Larry picked him up as if he weighed nothing, and carried him into the river as he shouted, "Ma, it's like old times!".

Fifteen minutes later, Luke and Larry brought the couple from the river and Paula handed them towels, as she did the rest of us. When we had dried ourselves, she and Luke got the picnic basket and we soon had a delicious picnic spread. All hungry, we were ready to dive in. The van Hooks started to protest again, but we would have none of it and they joined in our evening meal. As they did, they asked about us, beginning with, "Where are you kids from? I know it's not from around here," Mrs. van Hook laughed. "You sound southern."

"We are," I said. We told then about home and why we were here and why we had been looking for a river.

"They have bought the old Roth place on the lake," Kent said, "and you should see what they've done already. It's looking great."

"How'd you run across them, Kent?" Mrs. van Hook asked, and Kent told her how we met and that he was living with us. Before she could ask why, he told them it was closer to Case and, by living with us, he'd have transportation. "Well, I hope you know you got one fine young man here," she said as she reached over and patted Kent's hand. Kent blushed! It was good to know someone was as bad about that as I was!

We sat around talking and listening to the van Hooks telling us about their life together here on the farm, about their successful sons and how much they enjoyed coming to the river after many years. Finally it was time to go, so we packed up the things and, once again, drove down the farm road.

When we reached the house, both the van Hooks kept thanking us and stood on the porch, waving until we were out of sight.

It was just sunset when we got back to the house. We unloaded the car and then all went to the sun porch to watch the sunset. As the sun finally slipped out of sight, Kent said, "You know you made two lonely old people very happy today".

"And just think how much enjoyment they added to our Saturday afternoon," I said. "It was wonderful having them with us."

"I think it was the way to spend our last free Saturday," Eugene said. There were nods of agreement all around.

We sat around talking about nothing really, for several minutes, then Kent said, "This afternoon, you asked about falls. Why falls?"

"You are really asking for stories now," Paula laughed. "Sooner or later every story we have involves the falls. THE FALLS are on the Sequoyah River which runs through the Family's farms, and have played an important part in all our lives."

"Yea, as a matter of fact, they have been important almost from the beginning of the Family," Luke said, and then he and I told how the Family came to be. When we finished, I said, "As a matter of fact, the Concord Five are spending today, and probably tonight, at the falls. I wonder what's going on? Well, anyway, I think that's enough for tonight."

"I want to hear more another time," Kent said.

"No need to worry about that, I'm sure," Larry laughed.

When we got inside, Paula said "Goodnight," and went to her room.

"Matt, go on up. I'll be up in a few minutes," Luke said.

As we walked up the stairs, Eugene said, "Matt, if you and Luke are not using the shower right now, think Larry and I would like it."

"Time to play with your water toys?" I laughed.

"Time to play with my boy water toy," he replied and hugged Larry to himself.

"I just need to brush my teeth and take a leak," Kent said, after he had turned bright red. "I'll shower in the morning."

"That's what I planned to do as well," I said. "I'll grab our toothbrushes and use your bathroom when you're finished," I said to Kent. "Go at it, you two."

I went to the room and was waiting for Kent to finish when Luke came up. "Larry and Eugene are using the shower," I said. "Suspect they will be in no hurry, so I grabbed our toothbrushes."

"Just leave mine and I'll get it in a minute. You go ahead."

Luke sure was acting strangely and I was sure he was hiding something behind his back. Since I couldn't find out what it was, I went across the hall, did my business and was brushing my teeth when he came in. He took a piss, then came to the basin beside me and brushed his teeth. As I turned to leave, he grabbed my arm and held me until he finished.

When we walked back to the room, I saw what was up. Luke had put a candle on each of the night stands and one each on the chest and dresser. The bed was covered with two beach towels and a vacuum bottle was on a night stand. As he closed the door, he took me into his arms and kissed me as he started undressing me slowly, a game two could play. I undressed my Bright Angel and, again, we stood -- holding hands at arms' length -- each admiring the body we had promised to worship with our own. Luke pulled me to himself and kissed me again, tenderly at first, but his kiss grew into a deep, sensuous one as he lifted me into his arms and carried me to the bed.

Placing me gently on the bed, Luke slowly covered my body with his as he kissed me very gently and tenderly. He raised his head a bit, looked deep into my eyes and smiled as he said, "Matt, I wish I could tell you how much you mean to me and how much I love you. Yesterday, while you were asleep, I got out of bed and just sat looking at you. Matt, I was absolutely overwhelmed by my love for you, and even more when I realized how much you love me." Luke's lips covered mine and his tongue entered my mouth slowly, softly, bringing with it the taste of my beloved Yonghon Tongmu. I was surprised when Luke's kisses continued soft and gentle. Passionate? Well, maybe not passionate, but filled with love and powerful. Slowly, he reached out and took the vacuum bottle from the night stand and, as he rolled off of me he sat up, opened the bottle and poured a stream of warm oil over my chest and started to massage it slowly with his strong, but gentle, fingers. All the time he was half-sitting, half-lying beside me, his eyes looking into mine and a beautiful Luke smile on his face. Luke moved his hands slowly over my body and, strangely enough, I didn't get aroused -- just relaxed and glowing in his warm smile. Luke continued to rub the oil over my body, carefully avoiding Chili Pepper. Even when Luke asked me to turn over and massaged my back in the same slow rhythm, I was not aroused. Rather, I felt his gentle fingers expressing his deep, deep love for me.

Eventually he stopped and I turned over, and his lips covered mine in the gentlest possible kiss. "Sarang Hanun Pomul," Luke said, "it's not about sex, is it?" At first I didn't know what he meant, but then I realized that before, when we had done the oil bit, it had always ended in fantastic hot sex but, as I said, I had not been aroused by Luke's gentle touch. Much more than being aroused, I felt that through his fingers our very souls had merged. When I looked at Little Luke, I saw that Luke was not aroused either.

I looked into Luke's blue eyes, smiled and said, "No, Yonghon Tongmu, it's much more than sex. It's about love uniting us, making us one." Luke smiled again, kissed me with an angel kiss and I melted. He lay, his head on my chest, listening to my heart. "Matt, my Dark Angel, your heart is calling me," he said.

"Always, my beloved Bright Angel." We lay quietly for a while, then I raised my head and lifted Luke's chin to look into his eyes. He knew what I wanted and lay back on the bed. I poured a stream of the still-warm oil on his body and, as he had done me, began to massage his hard body gently, lovingly. I noticed as I did that I still wasn't aroused. When I had finished his back and he turned over I, as he had done, lay with my head over his heart, listening for my name in its steady rhythm and, sure enough, that was what I heard.

We lay together, Luke's arms about me, my head on his chest, saying and doing nothing. After a long silence, Luke said, "Matt, this was a wonderful afternoon. As I watched the van Hooks, I saw their deep love for each other and thought, 'When Matt and I are old we, too, will still have each other to love and cherish,' and I felt good." I raised my head, looked into Luke's eyes and smiled, then kissed him softly. Wrapped in each other's arms, still covered with oil, we talked about all that had happened to us in the recent weeks, about having Kent live with us, and all sorts of things -- things lovers talk about which seem unimportant to others.

Finally, Luke got up, took my hand and pulled me to my feet, and we walked to the bathroom and look a long, hot shower. But other than hugs and kisses -- of which there were plenty -- we didn't play around. After we had dried each other, we stripped the towels from the bed and lay in each other's arms until we drifted off to sleep. We had made love, don't doubt that, but we had not had, or seemed to need to have, sex.  


Sometime in the night -- I could see the stars over the lake -- I woke up and didn't know why, then I heard a low chuckle. I turned toward it and saw Rich, Rich Smith, standing beside the bed. He was dressed in black leather and was playing with his cock. "What...?" I started to say when he laughed again.

"Didn't get any tonight, did you Luke? You might have known that would be the way it was. You're hot, man, and I'm hot. Had you gone along with me, you'd never have to go to sleep without fucking or being fucked. Instead, you chose Matt and look where that got you. You're a fool, Luke."

"What the hell are you doing here, Rich? How'd you get in? Who invited you to come?"

"Hey, one question at a time. What am I doing here? Isn't that obvious? I'm looking for the same thing you are: hot sex, down and dirty fucking. I've never been far away, Luke, just waiting for you to realize what a mistake you made choosing Matt and his 'making love' over good, hard fucking. How'd I get in? I supposed you left the door unlocked, suspecting I was around. Why else would you leave it unlocked? Who invited me? Why you did Luke. I could feel your frustration when Matt just went to sleep tonight without giving you any. Do you want to do it here? Might wake up pretty boy Matt. Come on, get up. The beach is nice and I'd love to have you fuck my brains out in the moonlight."

"Rich, I didn't want you, I've never really wanted you. Matt and I had a wonderful time tonight -- without having sex. Sex is just a part of it, Rich, just a part of being in love and making love. You're the fool, not me."

"Still playing hard to get, Luke? You're not. You're a cock-hungry pushover. Come on, I'll prove it."

Rich's left hand continued to stroke his cock as he reached out with his right hand and grabbed me by the wrist. "Get your dirty hands off me!" I shouted.

Rich laughed again and leaned over the bed, grabbed the back of my head and forced my mouth toward his hard cock. "God damn you, you bastard," I shouted as I struggled to get away. "Get your filthy hands off me. Get your cock out of my face! Go to hell, Rich." I was shouting over and over again and suddenly started crying while still struggling and shouting.

Rich suddenly reached out with both hands, grabbed my shoulders and started shaking me, calling my name, "Luke, take my big cock. Come on Luke, take it, you know you want it," he said as he continued to shake me.

"Luke, Luke, Babe, wake up!" someone, Matt, cried.

Dimly, and far away, I knew Matt was calling me. Once again, Rich had me and I was going to lose Matt. That was not going to happen! I summoned all my strength and shoved and kicked Rich away. I heard him hit the floor and I jumped up, my fist drawn back to slam him a good one.

"Luke, Luke Babe, stop. It's me. It's Matt!" Matt was calling me from the floor. How did he get down there? I collapsed beside Matt and held him very, very close, crying my eyes out.

"Luke, what's wrong, Babe. Why did you shove me out of bed and start to hit me? What's wrong, Yonghon Tongmu?" Matt was holding me close, stroking my hair and speaking softly. He looked into my eyes and started kissing them. "Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, you were having a bad dream -- a nightmare, I guess," he said.

We were still sitting on the floor when Eugene, Larry and Kent all burst into the room. "Are you all right?" Eugene asked.

"What happened?" Kent asked. "I heard Luke shouting. What's wrong?"

"Luke had a nightmare, right?" Larry asked.

Matt was holding me close, stroking my hair, and I heard him say softly, "Yea, apparently a really bad one, a doozie. He kicked me out of the bed and was standing over me, his fist drawn back, when I finally got him awake. Thanks for checking on us, but we're ok now."

"I had hoped all that was over," Eugene said.

"Me too," Matt answered. "But we're ok. Go on back to bed and, again, thanks."

Slowly I realized that was what had happened. I had had a nightmare, none of it was real. I was still clinging to Matt, crying, and shaking all over. It took a few more minutes for me to get control of myself.

Matt reached up and switched on the bedside lamp. Its warm glow made the dream even less real. Finally, when I had myself under control, Matt looked me, smiled and said, "Mind if we get up off the floor?".

I shook my head and we got up. I lay on the bed with Matt beside me and told him about my dream. "Matt, he was taunting me because we didn't have sex last night."

"Luke, were you disappointed that we didn't have sex? Did I keep us from having sex? Did you really want to have sex?"

"Strange, Matt, but I didn't feel any need to have sex. We made love, but without sex, and I was happy. Did you want to have sex?"

"Luke, you know me, hot-to-trot Matt, but no. I felt no need for sex tonight. I was happy and fulfilled without it. As I was falling asleep, I was thinking about our having made love, there was no question in my mind about that, without having sex, and I was happy."

"Well, I just hope the nightmares don't start again," I said, and kissed Matt softly. We lay in each other's arms, without speaking, for a long while. Finally, nestled together, we drifted off to sleep again, and for me it was sleep filled with good dreams and no more nightmares.

Chapter Five


In spite of being awakened by the nightmare, I had slept well afterwards and was awake early. Matt was sleeping soundly beside me, but as soon as I got up to go to the bathroom, he was right behind me. "Ok, this morning, Luke?" he asked as we stood side-by-side, relieving ourselves.

"Sure. Yea. I'm fine. Feel like a run on the beach?"

"Sounds great." We went back to the room and put on running shorts and shoes. Just as we stepped into the hall, Kent poked his head out of his room. "'Morning. How are you two doing this fine Sunday morning?"

"Fine," I answered. "Want to go for a run?"

"Sure. Give me a minute to get dressed and I'll join you downstairs."

When we reached the kitchen, Paula was putting on coffee. "Want to go for a run before you do that?" I asked.

"Sounds good. Give me time to get dressed. Meet you on the beach."

Matt and I walked down to the lake. The house sat on a bluff twenty or thirty feet above the beach which gave us a fantastic view of the lake, but which meant getting to the beach involved a walk down a steep, zigzagging path. Fortunately, the beach was sandy for a couple miles in both directions because much of the shoreline in our area was too rocky for running.  When we reached the beach, Matt and I started doing some stretching and warming-up exercises. A few minutes later we were joined, not by just Paula and Kent, but by Eugene and Larry as well. "Well, well, well," Matt said, "guess we don't have a lazybones in the bunch."

"I'm not lazy," Paula said, "but I'll not make an attempt to keep up with you five."

"Ok, let's run," Larry shouted and we took off. We ran about an mile, I guess, down the beach and then turned and started back. Paula wasn't far behind and fell right in with us as we ran back to the house.

We all quickly showered and got dressed in one thing or another and I reminded Matt and Eugene that it was their turn to start kitchen duties. It wasn't long before we had a big breakfast on the table but, as large as it was, it vanished quickly. "Kent, we'll take my car this morning and you can take either the truck or the Jeep," Eugene said. "Paula, if you want to look around, take what Kent leaves."

"Think I might just do that," she responded.

"Sunday dinner at 2:00," Matt announced as we went upstairs to get dressed.

It took me a while to go to sleep after Luke's nightmare. Fortunately, he drifted off to sleep quickly, snuggled against me. I wondered why he had the nightmare. Maybe it was just left over from before. Finally I fell asleep. I woke up when Luke got up to go to the bathroom and realized I needed to go too. When I asked Luke how he was doing, he kinda brushed off the question by saying he was fine. As I looked at him, I thought, "Luke, Babe, you may say you're fine, but I've been around too long. What's going on?" I wanted to ask him but didn't.

After a run and a big breakfast, It was time to go to church.

We had found a church, St. Anne's, not far from our place. It appeared to be a bit larger than St. Mary's, but not so large as to be impersonal. As we started up the walk to the church, I said to the other three, "I hope, oh how I hope, they have a decent organ!" As we got closer, I could hear the organ. Inside, I could see that it was much smaller than St. Mary's--and much older--but the sound was great!

The service was less formal--I guess Episcopalians would say it was Low Church--but the priest, who was in his thirties I think, had a decent sermon about caring for those others reject. He talked about all the times Jesus refused to judge and condemn people others considered outcasts. The four of us kept looking at each other and agreeing.

After the service, we introduced ourselves to the priest, Father Manville, although he didn't use the title Father. Luke told him we were used to it and asked if was ok to call him Father and he said it was. Several people welcomed us and asked if we were just visiting, and we told them we were Oberlin students so they asked us to come back.

When we got back home, Eugene and I finished preparing Sunday dinner and were just about ready to serve it when Kent came in. "Well, how do you like that?" he asked. "My family has always sat in the same pew and this morning when I got to it, Dad sorta wouldn't let me in. I mean, he wasn't nasty or anything, he just pretended I wasn't there. After church the pastor asked if there were problems at home and I told him there were. He made an appointment for me later this afternoon. I sure need to talk to him about what's going on."

Dinner was a fun time. We talked about all we had gotten done in the past week and laid out the week to come. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Kent would go in to Case Western Reserve by himself. He, Larry and Luke had classes there Tuesday and Thursday and, of course, I would be going to Holtkamp.


Just before we finished dinner, remembering I had an appointment with Pastor Jensen, I asked if I could borrow transportation. "Kent," Luke said, "I told you before, you don't borrow a vehicle... if you have a need for it, it's yours--and you have a need for one. Think you should take my truck because, should we decide to do something this afternoon, Eugene's car or Matt's Jeep would hold the rest of us. The truck would not."

"Thanks, Luke. I'm having a hard time getting used to the idea that I am as much a part of this as anyone else. Thanks for reminding me."

My appointment was for 3:30 and I arrived a few minutes before. Pastor Jensen was waiting for me in his study. "Sorry to have to have you come out Sunday afternoon," I said as I shook hands with him.

"Must admit that I usually spend Sunday afternoon flaked out. May not seem like hard work but by the time I have finished the Sunday service, I am just wiped out. But I ate lunch and took a nap rather than just half-watching TV so I'm ok. Tell me what's going on. I couldn't help but notice you weren't sitting with your family. I spoke to your father about it and he said there was no problem."

"I guess he thinks there's not and maybe he's right, but I don't agree. I have left home and won't be going back. I guess that's not a problem for him but, to be honest, it is a problem for me." I then told Pastor what had happened and why. "So he has forbidden me to come home and so long as I can see Mom and Derrick, I don't care."

"You don't care? Are you sure?"

"Why should I care? Dad has never been a father to me. He has always rejected me, put me down. Nothing I ever do pleases him. He didn't want me from the beginning and that hasn't changed. No, I don't care." That's what I said but, inside, I know it was a lie. I wanted more than anything for Dad to put his arm around me and tell me he approved of something I had done, that I had made him proud, that he loved me. Strange, I knew I had tried to get my dad to approve of me but, for the first time, I really felt how very much, how very, very much I wanted that. I felt hot tears welling up in my eyes and fought to keep them back.

"Big boys and real men don't cry," I heard Dad's voice as clearly as if he was standing beside me. "You'll never be a real man, Kent, because you're nothing but a crybaby," the voice continued. Well, I tried to hold back the tears but, as had always happened for eighteen years, I failed and heard Dad's voice saying, "See, I told you". That did it. Hot, scalding tears flowed down my face in spite of all my efforts to stop them. I hung my head, ashamed, because once again my dad was proven right. I wasn't even a big boy, much less a man.

"Let it out, Kent, let it all out," Pastor Jensen said softly.

"But big boys and real men don't cry," I said, still crying in spite of all I could do to stop.

"I don't know about big boys and real men, but I tell you one thing: human beings, real human beings, cry when they hurt and I sense you are hurting. Only unfeeling people don't cry. Let it out."

That really broke the floodgates. I was crying so hard I was shaking all over. Great sobs escaped my throat. Pastor Jensen got up, walked over to me and put his arm around me. "Let it all out, Son," he said. His calling me son brought fresh tears and I was boohooing like a little kid. "That's right," he said, "let it out from the time you were just a kid."

I don't know how long, out of control, I cried in great sobs. Pastor handed me a tissue and then passed the box to me. When I had finally cried myself out, I looked at him and said, "I have never cried like that my whole life. I think I might have gotten control, but when you called me son, I couldn't handle it. I have never heard my father call me son or, if he has, it has been a put down."

"Kent, your father has a real problem which he is going to have to work on and solve himself. Neither you nor I can do that for him. I will, if he will allow it, help him all I can, but he has to do the work himself. Same with you. You'll have to work through your hurt and anger and forgive your father if you are ever to have a good relationship with him. I'll work with you both if you and he will permit it. If he won't, I'll work with you."

"Thank you, Pastor. I would like to do that." We set up a series of appointments--one a week--for the next six weeks.

As I got up to leave, he hugged me to himself and asked, "How do you feel, Kent?".

"Better than I have in a while," I answered, shook his hand and left.

When I got back to the house, I told the gang what had happened. "Good, glad you are getting help," Eugene said. "Gene and I have really been helped by therapy."

"Yea, but we still have a ways to go," Larry said.


Monday was Labor Day and we decided we'd make it a real holiday and not just a free day at home. We urged Kent to call Christine and ask her to go with us for a boat trip to an island in the lake and to an amusement park afterward. Luke suggested he also call Derrick and ask him to join us. "I'll pick him up so you won't have to go to his place," Luke added.

"He has a girl," Kent said, "would it be all right if she comes?"

"Sure," Luke said.

Eugene and I packed a picnic while Luke called a boat rental place and made arrangements for a cruise on the lake, having found out we didn't have time for a trip to the island. We knew the amusement park would be crowded, but we thought that would just add to the fun.

Luke left for the Glaze place about 9:00 and came back with Derrick and a very attractive young girl, Judy Duvall. While Luke made that trip, Kent went to pick up Christine. We were finally ready to go at 10:00, arriving at the boat dock at 11:00. We planned to have the picnic on the boat since we had asked for a three-hour cruise.

The cruise was really fun, something those of us from Concord had never done. Judy was really fun, reminding us of Mary Kathryn. She was witty, bright and very determined. It was obvious, however, that she and Derrick were just good friends and not lovers as were Michael and Mary Kathryn.

Christine was fun, but not nearly as alive as Kent. She just didn't seem his type. A clinging vine, she hung on Kent all the time. I just didn't see them as a couple. Of course, Kent had said they were just friends. As the day wore on, she made more and more effort to have Kent make out with her and I thought he was resisting more and more.

It was mid-afternoon before we got to the amusement park. As we had thought, it was crowded. In fact, it was so crowded that there were lines waiting for all the rides. By 5:00, we had all had it with waiting in line for very short rides. I was sure the operators kept making the rides shorter and shorter to make more money. "How about going home and cooking out?" Paula asked.

"Sounds good," Larry said.

When we got home, Eugene and I got food ready for a cookout while the others were playing on the beach. The guys had gathered wood for a bonfire later and they were playing catch on the beach. Paula and the two girls were sitting watching and talking. As soon as the food was ready, Eugene and I went to the beach and joined in the game.

"Luke, have you renewed your sunscreen?" I asked, shortly after Eugene and I had joined the game.

"Thanks for reminding me," Luke said, "as a matter of fact, I haven't." He brought me the bottle and asked that I do his back. As I did, he said, "Matt, you keep your hands moving like that and I may jump your bones right here in front of God and everybody!" He looked over his shoulder and smiled.

"We'll discuss this further tonight, alone," I smiled.

"Not sure it will be a long discussion," Luke said. "I want action, not words!"

Eugene called to me about sundown and he and I got the grill and charcoal and took them to the beach where he started the fire. We went back to the house for the food and, as soon as the grill was ready, started cooking.

Kent left early enough to get Christine home before her midnight curfew and Luke took Derrick and Judy home at the same time. Those of us left behind cleaned up and put things away. Luke and I took a long shower together, the beginning of long, drawn-out foreplay which ended with wonderful love-making. When we had finally exhausted ourselves, I cuddled in Luke's arms, kissed him softly and drifted off to sleep.

Tuesday morning we all started in the routine of classes and daily responsibilities at the house which would be ours for the fall semester. Tuesdays and Thursdays were rough for me--and for Luke, Larry and Kent--since I found I needed to stay at Holtkamp until five, and by the time I picked them up and we got home, it was close to 7:00. That first week, Eugene and I still had to prepare supper, so it was close to 8:30 before we could eat and then I had to prepare for next day's classes. Of course the others who had been in Cleveland had much of the day to prepare there. It was long after midnight before I got to bed. Luke said he would wait up for me, but I urged him to go on to bed. Both nights he was sound asleep when I got in bed. Thursday night he had another nightmare--not as bad as the earlier one, but bad enough to get me really worried.

The next couple weeks followed the same pattern of work and school. Of course I wasn't cooking but, nonetheless, my schedule left me very little time for anything except school and Holtkamp. I felt I was short-changing Luke, but he assured me the schedule would lighten up. I sure hoped so.

By the time we got home Friday afternoon of the third week of school, I had pretty much had it. When Eugene suggested the guys take in a movie, I started to say I didn't want to go, but Luke said it was a good idea before I said anything, so I went along.

The theater was almost full so we couldn't find five seats together. We finally found four together in the middle of the theater and there was one in front of the four. The two couples took the four seats, of course, and Kent sat in front of us. There were six guys a few rows down and, when he saw them, Kent turned around and said, "Now there's trouble looking for a place to happen," but didn't elaborate.

The movie wasn't particularly good and, since we were surrounded, Luke and I couldn't even make out. We did hold hands and once I laid my head on his shoulder, but then thought better of it. As we got up to leave, the six guys were walking up the aisle. Kent said, "There go six number one assholes. They are into everything. Their leader is Shawn Hendrick. His brother Sim is a policeman and rumor has it that he covers for Shawn."

As we walked toward Eugene's car, we saw the six by it. As soon as we got closer, it was obvious the six were spray-painting something on it. "Hey, what the hell do you think you are doing?" Eugene shouted as we started running toward the car. Spray-painted several times on the car was "faggot".

As soon as the six saw us, they quickly formed a line. "We're making sure everyone knows you are all fucking faggots," one of the said with a sneer. "Want to do something about it?"

"As a matter of fact I do," Eugene said, walking toward them.

"We all do," Kent said.

"Heard you were a cocksucker, Glaze. Not surprised to see you hanging out with these shitpackers. Saw them a week or so ago, smooching like lovebirds in the back row of the theater. We don't like having queers around here." As he spoke, the six had been slowly moving toward us and when he finished, they rushed us. Each time I had seen Eugene in action, I couldn't believe how fast he was. Kent sure could move was well. Before I got a chance to get into the action, each had put one of the thugs on the ground. The one Eugene sent down didn't try to get up, but the one Kent had sent to the dirt was ready to jump Luke from behind in seconds. I grabbed him by the collar, spun him around and landed a good one on his nose. It immediately started bleeding and he grabbed it and started running.

Larry and Kent had taken care of two more who decided to run, leaving three. Kent and Luke grabbed one, put him on the ground and Luke put his knee in his back, holding him down. Kent, Larry and I started toward the other two when one of them pulled a long knife. "You three take care of the unarmed one. This asshole is mine!" Before he knew what hit him the knife-carrying jerk was on his knees, crying, and his knife had sailed through the air some distance from him. "Well, we have half of them," Eugene said as he shoved the guy to the ground and placed his knee in his back.

"Don't worry about the three who got away. I know them," Kent said. "And there they go," he said as a car screamed out of the parking lot. As the car left, a police car drove up. It had to slow down as a crowd had surrounded us, watching the fight.

The car stopped and two officers got out and walked toward us. "Shawn, what's going on here?"

"There five guys jumped us when we came out of the theater," the guy under Luke's knee said.

"Guess you five need to come with me," the officer said.

"Don't think so, Sim," Kent said. "Your darling brother and his five buddies were spray-painting my friend's car when we came out and, when we walked over, they attacked us. They are the ones going downtown.

"You're lying, Glaze. You and your faggot friends attacked us for no reason."

"We'll settle this downtown. Shawn, get up and go home. You four step over here. Glaze, you're a local boy so I think you just better hit it on home yourself. Why don't you just hop in that fag car and get the hell out of here before I run you in too?"

The two officers had the four of us lean against their car, patted us down and then used plastic  ties to tie our hands behind our back. "Shawn, I told you to go home," the officer said.

"I can't, Sim. Lewis took my car.'

"Well, call him and tell him to get back here. You don't need to be around. Jack, you can take two of these faggots downtown and I will stay here with the other two until you get back." I looked at Kent and indicated that he should go by swinging my head around.

"Officer, why are you arresting those four? They didn't do anything except defend themselves. I saw it all," a woman in the crowd called out.

"You don't know what the fuck you saw, old bitch. Shut your mouth or you'll be keeping these four company."

"Ok, Glaze, get gone. Shawn, you better get out of here as well. You two, go with Jack," the officer said to Eugene and Luke, shoving them toward the patrol car. As he went to put them in the patrol car, Larry said, quietly, "Kent, go and call everyone you can think of. I think we are in really big trouble." Kent nodded, took the keys Eugene tossed to him and drove off.


As we started walking toward the car, Matt started shaking as tears ran down his cheeks. "When will it end? he asked. "We hurt no-one or anything and we were attacked and we get arrested. And, except for the one elderly lady, the crowd stood by and did and said nothing. When will it end?"

I put my arm around him and said, "Matt, they attacked us for no reason and that pisses me off but, to tell the truth, the crowd didn't have time to do much. It was all over almost before it started. That Kent is one fast dude," and laughed.

"Yea, he is almost as fast as that Eugene dude," and Matt smiled weakly.

The crowd had disappeared except for an elderly couple. The woman was the one who had spoken up earlier. She walked very close to us and, as she passed, slipped a piece of paper into my pocket, looked at me and smiled.

Sim Hendrick walked back to where we were and as he swaggered up said, "You faggots talk like hillbillies. We don't like hillbillies in our town and we don't like queers, and we really don't like hillbilly queers." As he spoke, he grabbed Matt by the chin, forced his head back and half-talked, half-spit in Matt's face. Matt lost it and started struggling. I knew at once that was a mistake as Officer Hendrick kneed him in the balls. Matt collapsed on the ground, drew himself into the fetal position and moaned. I wanted to bust the son of a bitch one, but knew that with my hands behind my back I could do nothing.

Jack finally came back and took Matt and me to the police station and tossed us into a dirty, filthy, smelly cell. Luke and Eugene were in the cell across the narrow passageway. The other two cells in the small jail held Friday night drunks whose cheap booze was in evidence as they kept throwing up. A couple leaned against the wall and pissed on the floor, adding to the stench which was already terrible. I was surprised we had not been searched, but in case they decided to make up for overlooking it, I took the paper from my pocket and tucked it under the edge of the filthy mattress resting on a steel shelf attached to the wall.

The jailor came back and did pat us down, taking what we had in our pockets and putting it in envelopes. When he left, we started talking quietly and Matt was just still pretty much out of it--he was incoherent, he was so out of control. The jailor came back and told us to shut up and dimmed the lights. It seemed hours, but it was just 1:00 when Kent and a very distinguished man came back with the jailor. "I'm Lem Aldridge," the man said. "For the time being, I'm your lawyer. It took some doing, but we have you released without bond so you can go home and get some sleep. I'll come out to your place in the morning around 11:00. We've got a real mess on our hands, but maybe it's for the good."

When we got home, Paula was waiting for us, as upset as I had ever seen her. She grabbed all of us and kept hugging us and crying. We went over and over the night, trying to make sense out of it. Matt had gotten very quiet and just sat staring, occasionally saying, "When will it end?". Luke held him close and stroked his hair, soothing him.

"Look," Kent said, "there's nothing we can do tonight and it's almost three in the morning. Now let's see if we can get some sleep." We all nodded and slowly dragged ourselves to bed. "Damn," Luke said to Eugene, "what the hell did we do to deserve this?"

"Just who the hell said we deserved it?" he asked as he kicked the wall. Needless to say, none of us slept very well.


I had never seen Matt in the condition he was in. I had been told how he was when he learned about my second suicide attempt, but hadn't seen it. I could hardly believe the shaking, sobbing man in bed with me was Matt. I guess he finally wore himself out because finally he was--about 4.00 or so--asleep. I was able to get to sleep shortly afterward, but it was certainly not peaceful sleep. I kept dreaming I was in that filthy cell as months passed.

It was 10:00 the next morning when Paula came upstairs and called us, telling us we needed to get up and get dressed. Matt was a wreck, and I was little better, as we got up. There was a tap on the door and Kent said, "Guys, I have finished with the bathroom if you want to come across the hall."

"Thanks, Kent," I said and guided Matt across the hall. By the time we had showered, he was in better shape but still not at his best but, then, neither was I. We dressed without saying very much. When we were ready to go down, I took Matt in my arms, held him tightly and kissed him tenderly. "Remember, Sarang Hanun Pomul, we can handle anything life throws our way so long as we have each other."

"Yonghon Tongmu, just how much more can life throw our way?" I had no answer so I just kissed Matt again, took his hand and we walked downstairs.

The four sitting around the kitchen table did nothing to lighten my mood. All were drinking coffee and had not bothered with anything else. There was no talk and everyone was just sitting, blank looks on their faces, staring with unseeing eyes.

When the doorbell rang, Eugene got up and went to answer it. He came back to the kitchen with Mr. Aldridge. As he entered the kitchen he smiled weakly, "I guess 'Good morning' wouldn't go down so well today. Wish I could tell you everything's ok, but I can't. We need to do some serious talking and get to work."

"Coffee?" Paula asked and, when Mr. Aldridge nodded, she poured a mug and asked, "Cream and sugar?".

"Black. And I hope it's strong."

"Well, at least you'll find that's ok, I suspect," she said as she set the mug down before him.

"Is this ok, or do we need to go somewhere else?" Eugene asked.

"I think this is fine," Mr. Aldridge said. "I can spread out anything I have to right here. Ok, I guess you know that you have gotten yourself in a real mess. Clearly, the six attacked you, but you have learned how things operate in Waterside. Stay out of there. Go somewhere else. It may be a bit out of your way, but you'll be going to Oberlin and can do shopping and movie-going there or somewhere else. Bypass it on your way in to Cleveland if you have been going through it. Under no circumstances are you to go back except under my direct instructions. It is very important that you understand you do not go back to that town or even drive through it. Kent told me that you four are gay and I don't know how that was accepted where you came from..."

"We had some problems in the beginning, but they didn't last. Sure there are still some people who don't like it, but they're no real problem," Eugene said.

"You are lucky then. A lot of people think, since it is in the north, Ohio is more liberal than the 'bigoted south'," he looked up and smiled, "but I can tell you Ohio, especially the small towns, is about as close-mined as you can get--and Waterside ranks at the top of the list. By the way, you were sure lucky that Sim Hendrick let Kent go. I'm not sure why he did, other than the fact that he saw him as one of the local boys. Kent called Pastor Jensen, who knows what's going on, and he called me, otherwise you'd still be in jail and I'm not sure what shape you would have been in. People have been badly hurt who shouldn't have been in jail, but were. I want to be very up front with you and ask for your help and hope you will give it, although I can see why you might not."

"Right now, the town is under the control of a bunch of white racists. They hate four groups: in their words, hillbillies, niggers, wetbacks and faggots. There has always been a small black community on the wrong side of the tracks, but a few years ago middle class African-Americans left the inner city and came to the suburbs. A new group of African-Americans were showing up in the more up-scale communities, shops and other places. They were resented because they have made something of themselves. Most have not stayed. I mean if you move out of the projects to escape gunfire, why spend half a million for a house and learn you can expect gunfire and cross-burning?"

"Southerners, all of whom are called hillbillies, have also been a presence in the town, having come here in the fifties looking for work. They pretty much kept to themselves for a generation, by then they looked and talked like the natives but were still resented because they had 'invaded' the town. The latest group arriving is Hispanics, mostly Mexicans. They are resented because they are different. Like the hillbillies, they talk funny. There are complaints about them taking jobs, but that's not true--or wasn't--because no-one would take the jobs they took. Now, of course, they are working their way up the ladder and those they are leaving behind resent it. Gays? Well, there's two things going on there. First there are the churches--and I hate to say this--which preach hatred of gays. You've, no doubt, seen the slogans and maybe even heard the diatribes. Unfortunately, the churches which accept--or at least tolerate--gays are in the minority. The store-front churches and so-called Christian Right are definitely in the majority. Additionally, they have been, and are, manipulated by cynical politicians."

"The outcome of all this was a very dirty political campaign four years ago, which played the race and hate card very well--sometimes openly, especially when aimed at the poorly educated and the Christian Right. At other times it was much more subtle. The result was a group, who might as well wear white sheets, gained control of the town..."

"I thought that was the shame of the South," Matt spoke for the first time.

"As much as some would like to think otherwise, the South has actually been more tolerant of difference than a lot of other places," Mr. Aldridge continued. "So a group of racists is in control. They control the police, the city council and mayor. Not only are they stirring up hatred all the time, but they are also busy lining their pockets and, of course, have police cooperation. You have experienced one of the results of a town being run by a hate group. There have been plenty of complaints, but those who have complained have often become victims of those in control. Few, now, dare speak out. But complaints have finally been heard by the state police and they have called in the FBI for help. Pastor Jensen has been involved from the first in the investigation. He has--Kent, do you know this?--found a few trusted teenagers to purchase liquor from convenience stores that have paid off the police so they can sell alcohol to minors. He knew I was working behind the scenes and called me when Kent called him last night. Sooo, I'd like to do two things if you agree. First, I'd like to handle your case. I'll expect my regular fee, which will be $200 for each of you. Sounds stiff, but that's actually less than most would charge. I'll do what I would do in any case such as yours and the fee proves it's on the up and up. Can you handle that?"

"I'll write a check if that's acceptable," Paula said, since we had made her house treasurer and bookkeeper.

"Sure, when you get around to it. Now that I am officially retained by you, I'll file some charges. In regard to the police treatment of you, I will draft a complaint charging your civil rights have been violated and file it with the right people--that's a federal charge. I'll also file charges against those who attacked you--for assault with the intend to do bodily harm and for damaging your personal property, the car. I think the latter would be better handled as a civil case since what we want out of it is money to repair the car plus money to pay your attorney's fees and for your suffering. By the way, Matt, there will be a separate civil rights charge against Sim Hendrick, one of police brutality, for his treatment of you. He may have given you a knee in the balls, but before the federal boys are through with him, he'll wonder if he has any left--balls that is.  These charges will all be filed, but when and with whom is up in the air right now because of the situation in Waterside. To file them openly right now would jeopardize the ongoing investigation I mentioned."

"The second thing is I'd like to have you help getting the evidence we need against the police and one judge. There is a young honest judge working with us, but the old judge is a part of the bunch controlling the town. I will be honest, there is some danger involved, but I think we can offer protection to keep you safe."

We looked at each other and it was obvious that all six of us--Kent was very much with us--were suddenly alive. "I don't think you could stop us if you wanted to," I said. "I'll tell you as well, we are a pretty good team when it comes to a fight like this."

"Great! For now, I'll take you in to see the chief of police and ask that the charges be reduced to disturbing the peace. If necessary, I'll find some excuse to leave if he doesn't ask for a pay-off, so you suggest it--but be careful. If he agrees, he'll take you to see the judge. They will discuss your case and the judge will, if he follows his usual practice, hint that he is looking at jail time for you. The chief will suggest a fine and the judge will ask what is in it for him and, sooner or later, will suggest he give you a small fine instead of jail if he receives a pay-off. I don't need to be there since I am an officer of the court but, if I am, I'll file the complaint and have it held until we are ready to move. We need all this on tape, so all four of you will be wearing a wire. We're also trying to get a video so I will have a hidden camera in my briefcase. I'll take the briefcase in and if I don't get to go to the judge with you, you might pick it up to bring to me. Are you game?"

I looked around and saw that all of us were aching to go since we had all half-risen from our seats.

"Hold on, wait just a minute," Mr. Aldridge said. "I'll have to check out some things first." Having said that, he took his cell phone from his briefcase and dialed a number. "Hi, Chief, how's it going? ... Well, I'm here with my clients from last night. Appreciate you letting them out of jail... Well, Chief, I was wondering if we could discuss their case... Sounds great. Meet you in your office at 4:30. Think  Judge Harrison might show up in his chambers as well? I'd like to get this out of the way. Doesn't pay very good money, you know, and it could take up time I could be making a lot more. Yea, they came up with my fee. They are college kids, but I think they have money... Well, not enough to give me a huge fee... I know... see you at 4:30."

"I'm doing a balancing act there," he said as he folded his phone. I wanted him to know you weren't broke, but also didn't want him to think you were rolling in money or he would have upped his price. Actually, from all we have found out, he and Judge Harrison might as well have a price list posted on their wall. This is going to cost you plenty, but the alternative is jail. The chief will expect $250 from each of you--minimum, I suspect--as will the judge. Can you come up with that?"

"Well, we can, but that's sure going to take a bite out of our budget," Paula said.

"And it will need to be cash," the lawyer said.

"That will be a problem since it's Saturday," Larry said, "and the ATM will only give out $300 per person per day."

"Get what you can," Mr. Aldridge said, "and write me a check for the balance. I can get the manager at one of the banks to get the cash. He's in on the plan to overthrow this despotic reign we're living under. It really cuts into new business and housing. As a matter of fact, you just write one check for the whole thing if you can and don't bother with the ATMs."

"Separate checks ok?" Eugene asked.

"Better. And make each one include my fee. That way, should anyone question it, it is my fee. Ok, I'll run back to town. Here's my card, I'll meet you at my office at 3:30--that's an hour and a half from now. If I could get the checks, I'll get the money. I need to do that and get things set up." While we wrote the checks, Mr. Aldridge make a phone call to the manager of the bank and arranged to meet him in half an hour. "Well, I've done all I can do here," he said, as he pocketed the checks. "See you at 3:00. Paula, I suggest you and Kent stay here and man the phone should we need anything. By the way, don't drive the car in since it is known. Hope you got the paint off at least."

"I got most of it off last night," Kent said, "but it will take professionals to complete the job."

"I hope we get money to do that out of the bunch who did it when this is over," Mr. Aldridge said. "Well, I'm on my way," he continued as he shook hands all around.

"Oh, I forgot," Larry said. "While I was standing around after the police arrived last night, a woman who had spoken out put a note in my pocket. Here it is. I haven't looked at it."

He opened the note and read, "We saw everything. Contact us."

He looked up, puzzled, "That's all. No phone number or way to contact them. Not much help I guess."

"Not surprised there's no way to find out who wrote it," Mr. Aldridge said. "She knew you were going to end up in jail and couldn't risk exposure."

"Who gave that to you?" Kent asked.

"The woman who spoke out," Larry replied.

"I guess she hoped I would know about the note," Kent said. "Mr. Aldridge, it was Lucy Metcalf. Jim was with her. She spoke out, but was told she'd be in jail if she didn't shut up."

"I'll give them a call. Maybe we've got more going for us than we thought. Well, I've got to get to town."

When he had gone, we finally got something to eat although no-one really felt like it--but Paula insisted. "Man, this is going to put a real dent in the budget," Larry said.

"Sure will," Matt agreed, "but I don't think we have a whole range of choices. I'm sure sorry we got you two into this," he said, looking at Kent and Paula.

"We're in this, as everything else, together," Paula said.

"Agreed," Kent added.

"Think we should call the family?" I asked.

"Not yet," Eugene said. "Let's see what happens first. If we called now they would just worry and there's nothing they can do."

"Sounds right," I agreed. "Don't know about the rest of you, but I think I need to shower and shave." There were nods around the table and the four jailbirds went upstairs to take care of that.

We found Mr. Aldridge's office after making a couple wrong turns, but arrived at 3:00 nonetheless. When we walked in, he was on the phone and motioned us to sit down. "Everything's in place?" he asked and then nodded. "Ok, the kids are here so I'll get them briefed while you come over."

He hung up the phone and said, "Agent Perkins of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation and Agent Haines of the FBI are on their way over. They will get you wired and make sure the wires and the hidden camera are working. Things have been moving faster than we expected. Seems the Ohio Bureau got a tip that the Metcalfs might be roughed up. They stationed some of their people at the Metcalfs' house and, sure enough, your two cop friends showed up. The Bureau people had time to get the Metcalfs wired so the whole threatening conversation is on tape. When things looked as if they might get rough, a couple of the agents went to the house, pretending to be visitors from out of state, and the two cops left. Agents Perkins and Haines think we've got enough and want to move in at once before someone gets really hurt, but I urged them to hold off a while. Here they are now."

A very well-built black man and a tall, good-looking red-headed woman walked in. "Agent Haines," Mr. Aldridge said, indicating the woman, "this is Larry, Eugene, Luke and Matt. Guys, Agent Sharon Haines of the FBI. She's in charge of their part of this operation. And this is Agent Albert Perkins of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation."

We shook hands all around and Agent Perkins said, "Luke, you look surprised".

"I guess I shouldn't be, but I'm surprised a woman agent is heading up the FBI's operation here."

"It has its advantages," she smiled. "Ok, let's get you wired and checked out." She and Agent Perkins went to work and soon had us wired. The devises were much smaller than I thought. They would be hard to find unless the person doing the search was very careful. Agent Haines then opened a case about the size of a briefcase, picked up a pair or headphones and had Mr. Aldridge and Agent Perkins speak as she turned a dial. "Ok, the wires are working fine. Guess we're set to go."

"I've got the money," Mr. Aldridge said as he opened a desk drawer. "I have a list of the serial numbers which I have recorded. You can all witness that I have the correct numbers," he said, and began calling them out as we checked the bills he had given us.

"Before you put it away," Agent Perkins said, "I'd like to dust it. I have powder that won't be noticed, but glows under UV light." He spread the bills on the desk and sprinkled a powder over them and then returned the bills to us.

"It's 4:20," Mr. Aldridge said. "Time to go." We rode in his car to the police station.

When we walked in, the policeman on duty barely looked up and motioned us to the chief's office. As soon as we were inside, the chief said, "Close the door. Well, I see we have the four who attacked some innocent boys and resisted arrest last night. I have a string of charges against you four."

"Now, Chief, I don't think we want all those charges against such young people. Perhaps we can compromise a bit. How about reducing the charges to one count of disturbing the peace and seeing if Judge Harrison won't impose a fine."

"Don't know about that. The city gets the fine and I get nothing for having my officers risk their lives. Hear there was a knife involved."

"Don't know where that came from, Chief," Mr. Aldridge said as he set his briefcase down on a table beside the door. It had a clear view of the chief and his desk. We all sorta stepped aside to make sure we weren't blocking the view. "Hated to ask you to come down Saturday afternoon to discuss this, taking up your valuable time."

"My time is valuable and I'll have to spend more rewriting tickets. It's not worth my while just to do you a favor, Lem. Now if there were some money to appear here"--he tapped his desk--"then it might be worth my while."

I was amazed at how brazen the chief was. He had all but asked for a bribe!

Mr. Aldridge turned to us and held up a finger and mouthed, one hundred. The four of us each took a hundred dollar bill from our wallets and laid it on the desk, making sure we kept clear of the camera's view. "You must think my time's not worth much," the Chief said and held up two fingers. We each added another hundred on the stack. When we had done that, the chief swept the money into his pocket. "You know, I think I have lost the tickets my boys wrote last night and will have to write new ones. You were charged with a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace, right?" We nodded and the chief pulled out a ticket book and wrote four tickets, handing us the originals.

When he finished, he said, "Lem, I think Judge Harrison happens to be in this afternoon. Why don't we go to his chambers and see if we can get this all straightened out today so these young people can go home and not come back to Waterside. I don't think the atmosphere here is healthy for their kind."

Mr. Aldridge picked up his briefcase and we walked across the street to the town hall. When the Chief opened the door, we walked into the judge's chambers. Sitting behind a huge desk was a grossly obese man. Little pig eyes, almost hidden by the bags and wrinkles, looked at us from his puffy face. His red bulbous nose was a clear indication that the water glass on his desk didn't hold iced tea.

"Judge, these four guys got into a little fracas at the theater last night and got themselves charged with disturbing the peace. They came by today to get it straightened out; here's the tickets."

The judge seemed to rouse himself enough to glance at the tickets. "Disturbing the peace, huh? We like our town the way it is and don't like outsiders creating a disturbance. A few days in jail will teach you all a lesson."

"Judge, these young men are college students and time in jail would be a hardship. How about a fine?" Mr. Aldridge asked.

"Don't know about that, Lem. I mean they disturbed the town's peace and mine as well. I had planned to spend the afternoon sitting by my pool just relaxing peaceful-like but, no, I had to come down here. My peace was disturbed. My time for relaxing and being peaceful is valuable."

"Just how valuable, Judge?" Lem asked. I noticed he had set his briefcase down on the edge of the judge's desk--getting a perfect shot, I was sure, of what was going on."

"How valuable was your time, Chief?" the judge asked, looking at the chief and smiling.

"Well, Judge, there are four of them and I think my time was worth about $200 each," and laughed.

"Seems reasonable," the judge said. "A fifty dollar fine each and two hundred for my time."

"And the fine will show up in the court record?" Lem asked. "Where's the court recorder?"

The judge pulled a book from his desk, wrote in it and signed it. "There. That's taken care of."

"You signed the recorder's name?"

"Sure. Do it all the time. Saves her a trip on Saturday. Young men, I don't want to see your faces in my court or my town again. Understand?"

The four of us all said, "Yes, sir."

"Well. Judge, maybe you can get in a few hours relaxation," Mr. Aldridge said. "Guys, let's go."

We left the town hall and went back to Mr. Aldridge's office, where the two agents were waiting. "Lem, you couldn't have staged that better. We got every word on tape. Let's check the video," Agent Haines said.

Lem opened his briefcase and took out the camera, then the tape. He popped the tape in a VCR and, unlike most hidden camera tapes I had seen, the picture and sound were perfect. Mr. Aldridge and the two agents were ecstatic as they watched. "Good job, guys, Agent Perkins said. "Let's get the wires off you and we'll follow you out of town to make sure you're not followed or anything. We really appreciate what you have done. You should be proud of yourselves."

"Thanks," we all said.

"I'm worried about that elderly couple, the Metcalfs," Matt said. "After what we've seen, I don't think any of those running the town will like having their gravy train derailed."

"I must say, your concern makes me think even more of you," Agent Haines said, "but not to worry. We have two agents assigned to their home until we are sure they are safe. Lem, I think we should move now."

"I don't. Why not wait until tomorrow afternoon? You have to get warrants for arrests and we want to make sure we get all of them at once, otherwise some will slip through the net. If you wait until everyone's relaxing Sunday afternoon, you'll have time to get the warrants, get extra agents in and strike at the same time. You'll need agents to be watching the whole rotten bunch so, when the signal comes, you get them all."

"He's right, Sharon," Agent Perkins said.

"I see your point, Lem. I guess I just wanted the whole rotten mess over as quickly as possible.  Again, guys, we really appreciate your cooperation and, by the way, don't worry about your record. The charge will be erased as soon as we get the operation over. Al, let's get these young people home."

"Before we leave," Larry said, "we need to call Paula and Kent and let them know we're ok."

"Sure," Mr. Aldridge said. While Larry was phoning, we talked with the two agents about why we were in Ohio and what started our involvement in Waterside.

"We just have to get hate crime laws on the books," Agent Haines said. "Until we do, people and groups are going to be fair game for bigots."

Agent Perkins nodded in agreement and added, "Just because we root out the official bigots in Waterside, we won't get rid of the prejudice and hatred sowed here. I hope you realize that and that Lem has warned you to steer clear of this place even after the arrests are made."

"He has warned us," I said, "but I guess I thought that would change with the arrests."

"Nope. It won't change until the good people of the town decide it has to change. Stay away is my advice."

"By the way," Lem said, "these four have a pretty stiff investment in the rotten police and judge here, although they got by with less than I expected. Don't know why."

"Could be you aren't trusted as much as you might think," Agent Perkins said, "but, guys, you'll get your money back in time--except, I guess, Lem's fee."

Mr. Aldridge laughed, "I guess I owe them that for the job they did," as he took bills from his pocket and gave them to us. "I and Waterside owe you a lot more than that," he said. "Well, time to go. I'll lead you out of town just to make sure you're not followed."

When we got home, Paula and Kent ran out to meet us, hugging us as if we had been gone for a month. "We were so worried about you," Paula said. "Kent says the guys who attacked you are real trouble and, with the police behind them, well, I was worried."

"I must admit I was worried too," Kent said, "but nothing like Mother Paula." Kent laughed and hugged Paula. "I thought I was going to have to hold her down a time or two to keep her from driving in and cleaning up Waterside single-handed."

Paula laughed and said, "If I don't look after all you wild guys, who will?"

When we sat down to supper, we went over the entire afternoon with Paula and Kent. "I guess we'll find out the outcome on tomorrow night's news. Sure hope they get the entire bunch and get them good," Eugene said. "And I also hope we get our money back. It's not going to be cheap getting my car back in shape."

"Won't your insurance take care of that?" Kent asked.

"I guess it will, except for the $500 deductible. But I sure saw a lot going out the window today and I just hope we do get it back--although I guess it is worth what it cost to get the town cleaned up."

"Yea, but it's not cleaned up," Matt said. "You heard what Lem and the agents said. They may get the town leaders who give a kind of official approval to bigotry and prejudice, but the townspeople have got to get rid of bigotry and that's not easy. You can't arrest someone for being a bigot. And what did we do to get into the mess? We held hands and exchanged a few kisses in a movie, for God's sake. Big crime! Paula, you and Kent could have been sitting exactly where we were and done everything except fuck like bunnies and no-one would have said a thing. Hell, I could have picked up a girl outside the theater, paid her to neck with me and no-one would have said anything." It was easy to see Matt was really enraged. "Here we were, Luke and I married--as married as society will let us be--and Eugene and Larry forty times as committed to each other as half the people living together in Waterside, and we sit in the back row of a movie and make out, pretty calm and discrete--at least we damn well thought it was discrete--and what happens? Couple weeks later, Eugene has his car vandalized and the four of us--well five, because Kent was right in there with us--are attacked by six asshole bullies--one with a darn frigging knife."

I reached out and took Matt's hand and said, "Babe, it's a damn rotten shame, but that's the way it is. You've got to learn to let it slide off your back if you can't do anything about it. And we did do something about it. I think society's attitude is, generally, shitty and I hate our love being the butt of bigots' jokes and hatred but, today, because of our love and because we are willing to stand up and be counted, a town stands on the threshold of becoming a better place. Maybe, just maybe, our putting ourselves on the line will encourage others to be like the Metcalfs and make their town a decent place for all kinds of people. But hearts have to change, not just laws and leaders."

"Yea, but good laws can change hearts," Eugene said. "Look at what has been accomplished by civil rights laws. Now we need to have those laws to cover us."

"Kent, if you haven't figured it out, Matt can't cuss worth a damn, but his heart is in the right place and he's his father's son in a lot of ways--in good ways," Paula laughed.

"Yea," Larry added, "and you may as well know, this bunch has fought prejudice since we have been together and it looks like it's a part of us."

"I kinda got that idea," Kent laughed. "Well, so much for a peaceful Saturday. I think we all need to relax after being so uptight for twenty-four hours. How about a movie?" Kent started laughing, but stopped short when all four of us got up from the table and put him on the floor. We wrestled around for a bit and then helped each other up.

"Glad you children broke it up before Mother Paula had to take control," Paula laughed. "But, guys, I think you need to call home now that you have something to tell your parents. Kent, in case your name gets brought up in the news, you might better call as well."

We all went into the family room and put on some relaxing music and then, one at a time, called home. After I had talked to Mom and Dad, I got Michael and Mary Kathryn on the speaker-phone and Matt and I both talked with them. Seems they had their hands full getting things going at school and Michael was still having problems with Christopher.

When we finished talking with parents, we sat listening to music and talking about nothing in particular until 10.00, and then we went off to bed.

Matt and I undressed each other, taking our time so we could get in a lot of kisses. When we were undressed, I lifted Matt and put him on the bed. As I held him, I could feel the tenseness in his body. "Matt, Sarang Hanun Pomul, you are wound up tight, Babe."

"Luke, I was scared all afternoon when I realized just how big a thing we were involved in and what that police chief or judge might do--could do--and, well, I am still so angry. Yonghon Tongmu, people may say that words don't hurt, but 'faggot', 'queer'--even those words make our love sound cheap or dirty. They brand our love as wrong. But, Luke, how can love be cheap or wrong? And even if they think so, what business is it of theirs? What are they afraid of that they have to put us down?"

"Babe, you know the answers or the lack of answers as well as I do. I wish it were different but it's not, and it's the only world we have to live in. I guess we'll just have to try and make it a better world. But, right now, I'm going to do something about you, Dark Angel." I got up, threw on a robe, grabbed the massage oil and headed downstairs and nuked it. When I got back, Matt was lying on his back staring at the ceiling. This latest adventure had really upset him, a lot more than it had me and a lot more than I would have thought it would Matt. I got a beach towel to cover a place on the bed and lifted my Dark Angel and placed him on it. I massaged his back and shoulders for several long minutes before I could feel his muscles gradually relaxing. When I turned him over, I kissed him softly and started massaging his neck and chest, his shoulders and arms. He was still very tense but, gradually, I could feel his muscles relax.

By the time I finished, my hands and fingers were very tired, but Matt was so relaxed he had fallen asleep. I lay beside him, kissed his forehead gently and rested on an elbow looking at my sleeping Dark Angel. His body glistened with the oil, his black hair was a cloud on his pillow and his handsome face was relaxed and at peace. As long as I had known Matt, I could recall very few times he had been as upset as he had been that night. I really didn't understand it. I was pissed at what had happened. I was angry at the bigotry we had encountered--again--but it ran deeper than that with Matt. Maybe later I would understand it, but right now I was just tired and wanted to snuggle up to my beloved Matt. I turned out the light and lay close to Matt's oiled body, drinking in the fragrance I loved so well, the fragrance of my Dark Angel, the reason I had for living. In the warmth of his body and of his love, I fell asleep and, unlike the night before, I slept peacefully.

Chapter Six


I couldn't understand why I was as tense and angry as I was over the incident at Waterside. I knew that my love for Luke and his for me was seen as wrong, even wicked, by some, but it was more than that. I think the fact that our being gay was seen as reason by some to abuse us, not only verbally but also physically, was just more than I could take. From the time we were arrested until Luke and I went to bed, I was holding in a lot of stuff--anger, rage and fear. I had been holding it so long my body reacted. As I slipped into bed with Luke, I tried to relax, but couldn't. Instead, I was so tense I started trembling and, needless to say, Luke sensed it at once and did something about it.

He left the room without an explanation and when he brought the bottle of warm massage oil into the room I knew he had realized how tense I was. As he started massaging my body, I could feel his strong, gentle hands and fingers moving over muscles tight with tension and anger. As he continued to massage my back, I could feel myself and my muscles gradually relaxing. He turned me over gently and started massaging my neck and chest. I expected to have the session end with me massaging Luke and then us making mad, passionate love. Instead, as I relaxed, I drifted off to sleep. One minute I was conscious of Luke's presence and his fingers on my body, and the next I was in dreamland.

Luke's massage worked wonders, because my sleep was peaceful. I was, again, conscious of Luke's comforting presence, even in my sleep, and it made me feel safe and secure.

For some reason, I woke up as the clouds over the lake were just being colored by the fingers of dawn. The dawning light cast a rosy glow through the widows and on our bed. I rose up on an elbow and looked at Luke lying beside me. His hair was very long but still curled tightly, so it was just a crown of light gold covering his head. In spite of his time at Sarasota and outdoors here, his skin was still very fair, not ghostly pale but fair, radiating life. His blue, blue eyes were closed and his long eyelashes resting on his cheeks were blond like his hair. When the sun or room light would catch them, they were enough to make you catch your breath they were so striking.

The sheet covered Luke's body but, as I watched, he stretched out a leg, pulling the sheet to his waist--revealing his hard, sculptured, smooth chest which rose and fell in a slow rhythm. I couldn't resist, so I leaned over him and kissed a nipple. As I did, Luke opened his eyes, smiled and said, "Good morning, Dark Angel. Sleep well?"

"Sure did, thanks to you, Bright Angel."

"How about we take a piss then play around a little?"

Having taken care of the urgent business, we got rid of dragon mouth and Luke then took me into his arms and brought his lips to mine for a sensational Luke kiss. His tongue invaded my mouth, bringing with it a mint-flavored taste of Luke. Our kiss became more and more passionate and, without breaking it, Luke lifted me off my feet and took me back to our bed. As he lay me down, his body covered mine. He half-raised himself, looked into my eyes and smiled, "Babe, I am so glad you are happy this morning. I was worried about you last night."

His words brought back some of my feeling of anger and hurt. "Luke, I just can't get over the hatred some people have for us simply because we love each other." My romantic mood was gone in an instant. "How could the love we share be wicked or wrong? How could anyone think it is anything but pure love for each other?"

"Matt," Luke said, and I could see the pain in his eyes, "people who don't understand us are ok. There are a lot of things about some people I don't understand, but don't condemn. But people who hate us or would hurt us because we love, are beyond me. What business is it of theirs? What are they afraid of?"

Luke and I talked quietly for half an hour I guess, solving nothing, but it gave me time to get over my rage. Luke was holding me as I felt the last of my anger drain away, at least for the time being. But I had certainly done a good job of killing a romantic moment. Luke finally said, "Babe, I think it might help for us to run for a while. Then, maybe, we can start where we left off?" He gave me a wicked Luke smile and I melted.

"Ok, sounds reasonable, I guess." The sun was just above the horizon as we hit the beach. We ran, flat out, for a couple miles. On the way back, we ran a bit slower and finally slowed to a brisk walk, slow enough so we could hold hands. Occasionally, Luke pulled me to himself for a quick kiss, so our walking became slower and slower as we approached our place.

When we reached the house, I started toward the outdoor shower but Luke pulled me back, pressed his lips to mine and, as he broke the kiss, said, "No, I want the good clean smell of a sweaty Matt in bed with me". When we walked inside, no-one was in evidence downstairs. From the hall upstairs, we could hear both showers as Luke, again, swept me into his arms, walked into our room, kicked the door closed and put me on the bed.

This time there was no holding back, no ruining the moment as I pulled Luke onto the bed and covered his body with mine. My hair, which I had left free for the run, cascaded over us, shutting out the world which would deny our love or call it wrong. Our kisses became more and more passionate until I was breathing through Luke's mouth, drawing into myself the very breath of my love.

Minutes later, I was united with Luke, bound not only physically, but also by his great love for me. Long before I wanted, I gave Luke my final offering which he knew carried with it my love as well.

I lay atop Luke, my face cradled in the curve of his neck as he whispered of his love to me. I needed nothing at that moment to make my world perfect, full, because Luke held me and told me of his love.

We lay together for a short while, and then I kissed Luke and said, "Yonghon Tongmu, I would love to stay here all day, feeling your body against mine, awash with the fragrance of our bodies and of our love making, but I think we are expected downstairs."

"Hey, you're off kitchen duty, so what's the rush?"

"Remember there's a second thing on a teenager's mind? Well, one had been satisfied--at least for the moment--and now my body craves food."

"Hate to admit it, but so does mine. But not before a shower."

We took our time washing each others body, pausing for kisses, but finally had to get out of the shower--the water was getting cold! We dried each other, dressed in clean shorts and T-shirts and went downstairs.

Kent and Larry were in the kitchen when we walked in. "Grab a cup of coffee," Larry said, "I think breakfast will be ready in a few minutes." As we sat down with our coffee, Paula walked in. She had brushed her hair, but was still dressed in her pajamas and a short robe.

"Hi, Guys. Sleep well?" she asked, looking at Matt.

"Finally," I answered, "after a Luke special massage. I was really wound up last night. This morning it doesn't seem as important, but last night I was really angry and enraged that anyone thought Luke and my love or Larry's and Eugene's was wrong and even worse, that they thought our love gave them permission to attack us--even Kent who's straight--and damage Eugene's car."

"I felt the same way," Paula said. "What if someone felt my loving Jacob and his loving me was wrong? It doesn't make sense."

"Seems to me there are those who think your and Jacob's love is wrong," Luke said.

"Yea," Paula said, pensively. "I guess I just forgot."

"Damn, I just thought of something," Larry said. "You don't suppose any of us will be identified on any newscast coming out of the arrests today do you? I mean I guess naming names would be ok, but what if they identify us as being gay? Not only could that make trouble for us, but think what it will do to you, Kent."

"Don't worry about me so far as people knowing I live with four gay guys. I can handle that. What I worry about is some of those idiots from Waterside finding out where we live and making trouble for us. Especially since the house is empty all day."

"I was worried about your dad's reaction," Larry said, "and hadn't thought about anyone coming out here to make trouble."

"Dad will have to find out sooner or later and I don't know what difference it will make. But think about those ass holes who painted Eugene's car. There have to be more of them in town and with no-one here all day...."

"We definitely need to give some thought to that," Larry said. "One of you call Agent Haines and ask her what we should do. She gave me her card with a local number written on it. Call now, maybe she's not busy yet."

Eugene picked up the card Larry put on the table and made the call. While he was talking, Kent and Larry put breakfast on the kitchen table. Eugene hung up the phone, Kent said grace, and we waited.

"Not hungry?" Eugene asked, helping his plate.

"Sure we're hungry," Larry said, "but we want to know what Agent Haines suggested."

"She said she didn't think we would be identified in any news cast, but word might get around anyway. She even knew where we lived and all about our buying the place. Seems the whole town has talked about it. She also said when the trial comes up, we'd likely be called as witnesses and she supposed everything would come out then. As soon as tonight's raid is over, she and Agent Perkins are assigning agents to protect a number of people, 'like you and the Metcalfs', she said. Sooner or later they will be withdrawn, but in the meantime, we can look into some kind of protective service. I guess that means we really do have to start locking the doors, which we haven't done," Eugene concluded. "I guess we were thinking we were still in Concord."

Luke, Eugene, Larry and I got dressed and took the Jeep to church. Eugene's car really was a mess. Kent had gotten some of the paint off, but it was still a mess. Kent took the truck. We had gotten an early start and arrived at St. Anne's twenty minutes before Mass. We decided to walk around the church yard a bit, just taking in the beauty of a small memorial garden and other features. We went into the church about ten minutes before time for the service.

As we walked in, Fr. Manville, vestments flying, came running down the center aisle. He stopped in front of us and said, "I know this is very sudden and I can understand if you don't wish to do it, but Matt--you are Matt?" he paused, looking a bit lost.

"Yes, I'm Matt," I answered.

"Matt, our organist was just taken to the hospital. She tripped coming out of her house and it appears she may have broken an arm. Could you possibly play for the Eucharist? Hate to put you on the spot, but I can't think of anything else to do except not have music."

"Father, I'm not at all prepared...."

"He'll do it," Luke said. "Matt, 'Sheep' and 'Jesu'. You know you can do it."

"I'll try," I said, not at all sure of myself, "but I can't promise much."

"Thanks, Matt. If you will come with me, I'll mark a bulletin for you. I suspect you're used to playing more service music than we use."

I followed the priest to the sacristy where he marked a bulletin for me while a member of the Altar Guild found a cassock and the organist's surplice. By the time I had vested and reached the organ, it was almost time to start. I looked over the organ's registration and prayed I'd not do too poor a job of selecting stops. I thought to myself, "Well, here goes nothing," and launched into "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." I had said I could play it in my sleep and hoped I was not wrong because I didn't have the music.

As I had noted the Sunday before, the organ was an old one, but had a beautiful sound. It was small, so the number of stops were limited but I found them adequate. I was actually quite pleased with the sound and my playing of the prelude. I saw a note about registration for hymns and service music on the organ and pulled the stops, thinking the organist knew the best registration. As I started the opening hymn, I remembered the one fault I had found the previous Sunday: the organ's sound during hymns had been muddy and thick. As I ended the first verse, I looked over the stops, closed one and opened another. The sound was much brighter and definitely more suited to playing hymns.

The service music was sparse compared to St. Mary's and sounded ok, but just ok, and a couple changes in registration helped, making it better. During the second hymn, I made a couple more changes in the registration. After one change, I knew it was wrong and quickly closed the stop I had opened. The next one was an improvement. I suddenly realized the congregation must be wondering what was going on and decided not to change anything more until I had a chance to test it.

I realized the offertory was coming up and it was to be without the choir. I decided it was a good time to play around with the stops. I picked a hymn I knew well, but which was not widely known in congregations, and started with a single stop, adding stops one at a time. Sometimes I made a good choice, other times a poor one, but by the end of the offertory, I had what I thought was a good registration for hymns. After I made my communion, I returned to the organ bench and noticed the choir was to sing communion hymns. Good, I could hear how my registration sounded and if it supported singing which, after all, is the purpose of the organ during hymns. The choir seemed to come alive and the singing was great.

I had, of course, expected to play "Sheep May Safely Graze" as a postlude, but the sermon was a really good version of "Get off your ass, on your feet and do what you are here to do". Fr. Manville quoted a poem by Dag Hammarskjold:

                Tired And lonely,
                So tired The heart aches.  
                Meltwater trickles Down the rocks,
                The fingers are numb,
                The knees tremble.  
                It is now,
                Now, that you must not give in.

                On the path of the others
                Are resting places,
                Places in the sun
                Where they can meet.  
                But this Is your path
                And it is now,
                Now, that you must not fail.

                Weep If you can, Weep,
                But do not complain.  
                The way has chosen you--
                And you must be thankful.

Dad frequently quoted the poem, but I guess I had just liked the sound of the words and had never heard their meaning. Maybe it was the context in which I heard them--in the sermon, I mean--but, suddenly, the words were alive to me. Suddenly the "When will it end? Why me?" questions had been answered. I didn't exactly like the answer. These were not "comfortable words". They did not promise if I was a good little boy I'd get pie in the sky by and by, but they were words calling for strength and courage, for steadfastness in being and becoming who I was created to be. A call? I guess you could say that, but I didn't like the word. Chosen for service, that made sense out of what I had experienced in my short eighteen years and held the promise of a meaning-filled life IF I accepted being chosen.

As I thought about the postlude, "Sheep" just didn't seem to fit. Then I noticed the last hymn. It was also a favorite of Dad's and fit the sermon perfectly, "Come Labor On".

The recessional ended and Fr. Manville spoke the dismissal in a booming voice, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord," with a definite emphasis on "serve". I had changed the registration and let the organ rip as I improvised on the hymn tune for "Come Labor On". The organ was small, but gutsy, and it was really shining. I was having an absolute blast. As I played, I thought, "Damn right, come labor on. Who dares stand idle? That's what yesterday was about: laboring to bring love and justice to a world where others had sought to sow hatred and injustice. That's why Luke, Larry, Eugene and I are caught up in a battle. It is not just about us, it is about us and all others who are objects of hate. YES! Come labor on!"

Luke, Larry and Eugene came back to the sacristy and all had huge grins but I noticed what I thought were moist eyes. "Matt, did you think the sermon was directed at us, preached for us?" Luke asked.

"You too?" was all I could say. All three nodded.

As I was hanging the vestments, Fr Manville came to the sacristy and asked, "Join me at coffee hour?" We all nodded and followed the priest to the parish hall.

"Matt, I'll hear no more excuses out of you about being unprepared. Never in my ten years at St. Anne's has the organ sounded better. And how you came up with that postlude I don't understand. I have never heard it before. Where did you find the music? It was such a perfect ending."

"Father, there was no music. After your sermon, I knew what I was planning to play just wasn't right and the hymn was so perfect, I just improvised on the hymn tune."

"Amazing. By the way, the sexton left a note in my vesting room and the organist did break her arm--a very serious break which will require surgery to repair. She will not be able to play again for months. Would you consider the organist's position, at least until she can play again? I don't know anyone else who could do it and certainly no-one as capable as you."

"I don't know, Father. I have just started to school, I have to spend all day Tuesday and Thursday in Cleveland at Holtkamp and I have responsibilities to my housemates. I don't think I could ask them to take on some of my responsibilities. I assume there's a mid-week choir practice I would have to attend and that would add a third night I am away."

"I can understand. I would like to do something about the choir practice, but it took years to get the choir to practice and I'm afraid that if it stopped it would take years to get it going again."

"I'll have to give it a lot of thought and take it up with my housemates. Also, there's another consideration. Fr. McCall of St. William's asked if I would consider doing a month's stint there while they search for an organist. I'd hate to pass that up."

"I can understand that as well but, until you are asked by St. William's, would you consider St. Anne's?"

"I'll do this much: I'll take it up with my housemates."

"That's all I am asking. I still find unbelievable what you did with the postlude on the spur of the moment. By the way, Pastor Jensen says you are involved in cleaning up Waterside. We have been friends for years and he has really been concerned about his town. Fortunately we haven't had to deal with that kind of bigotry here, at least not yet. Any support I can offer you, just call on me."

"Thanks. Then I guess you know why we got involved."

"Peter, Pastor Jensen, just said you got caught by a bunch of Waterside's toughs, beat the crap out of them and got arrested."

"That's what happened all right," Luke said.

"I mean it, if I can help, give me a call. And give the organist's job some thought, Matt. Well, I've got to run and check on a broken arm. Thanks again, Matt."

"Glad to do it, Father."

When we got home, Paula and Kent were sitting in the kitchen having a glass of juice. As Larry walked in, Kent said, "Larry, I hope you don't mind, but I went ahead and started Sunday dinner."

"Thanks, I'll never get upset with you starting a meal," Larry laughed. "How did things go this morning?"

"Interesting. When I walked in church, I expected to have to find another pew but, when I looked where my family sat, I saw that Dad was on the inside. Mom and Derrick had made sure there was room on the aisle. I thought about ignoring it but decided, if they had made the effort, I would be a fool not to let them know I appreciated it. Mom and Derrick spoke but Dad looked away. When it came time for the Peace, I wondered what he would do. He worked hard not to acknowledge my existence, but finally had to take my hand and say, 'The peace of the Lord be with you'. I said, 'And also with you, Dad,' and he looked away quickly. He had a hard time ignoring me after church, but managed not to speak. By the way, I planned to invite all of them to dinner next Sunday, but I had forgotten that someone else would be fixing the meal."

"That's ok," Luke said. "I'll be back on meals then."

"Why were you guys so late getting back?" Paula asked.

"Seems Matt may have another job," Eugene said. I then told Kent and Paula what had happened.

"What are you going to do?" Paula asked.

"I really don't know," I said. "I am already late getting home Tuesday and Thursday. If I take the job as organist, I'll be home early enough Wednesday, but will have to drive in to St. Anne's, do choir practice and drive back. That's another night out late. I'm finding it hard to deal with Wednesday and Friday class preparation now. Of course, I can prepare for Thursday classes before I go to choir practice. So far I have not been able to get out of the Saturday morning class. I don't know. It seems I just have so little time to get my share of the house work done."

"Well it won't be forever," Larry said. "I think so long as we're happy with what you're doing, it's ok."

"I've got no problem with it. In fact, I think you should," Kent said. "After all, it connects with what you plan to do with your life."

"Luke, Eugene, Paula, what do you think?"

"If it gets to be a problem, I think we'll feel free to say so. Why not try it?" Paula said.

"Agreed," Eugene said, nodding.

"Well, so far as the house is concerned, I would have to agree, but then there's another part of the question that you and I need to talk about privately," Luke said. I pretty well knew what the issue was.

We all sat around the table after we had finished dinner, talking about how things were going in school. All of us agreed that it was not exactly what we expected. There was more work than high school and we were on our own more. No teacher asked for homework, for example. They just assumed we were doing it because it was for our benefit, not theirs. All of us had some kind of math class and all, except Kent, agreed that subject took more time than other things. "Well, except we are expected to work on our music as hard, but it doesn't seem as much like work as math," Paula observed. "I was also surprised how each class started without beating about the bush the way high school classes did. There was no reading the syllabus and that sort of hand-holding thing." We all nodded at that.

"Before we get busy cleaning up, we need to look at next week," Eugene said. "I don't know how long it will take to get my car fixed, so we only have two vehicles. We may get kinda cramped at times." We looked at transportation for the coming week and saw that we could manage.

"Now that I have some idea how school is going to be," Kent said, "I need to make some serious plans for working. I have as much work as I can handle with school this time of year, but it won't be long until there will be no work. I mean as soon as winter starts, I'll be done until spring, so I need to make as much money now as I can. That may complicate the transportation if it takes too long to get your car fixed, Eugene. Where did you plan to take it?"

"I thought to a dealer."

"I know a guy who does excellent work. He was a couple years ahead of me in school and was accomplished before he graduated. He had worked in his dad's shop practically from the time he could walk. If you like I'll give him a call and see if he can put a rush on your car. As a matter of fact, if you took it to the dealer is town, it would probably end up at his place anyway."

"Sounds good to me. If he could get it done quickly it would sure help us out."

That settled, we cleaned up the table and kitchen and, when we finished, Luke said, "If no-one needs my truck, I think Matt and I will go for a drive".

"Go ahead," Eugene said. "We can use the Jeep if we need anything."


I wanted to get away from the house and have time to talk with Matt. When we were at the house it seemed we were with the whole crew or in bed most of the time. "Matt, let's go for a ride."

We got in the truck and Matt put a CD in the player. The windows were down and I was enjoying the end-of-summer weather as we drove into the countryside. Neither of us said anything as we just rode and listened to music. After driving a while, I saw the entrance to a state park I had spotted on a map and turned in. I found a parking place and we got out. On a covered bulletin board was a map of the park with hiking trails marked. "How about a hike?" I asked Matt.

"Sounds good to me," he said. I reached out for his hand and, before I could take it, he pulled it away and said, "I think we better not here in this open and public area." Of course he was right, but it didn't go down too well.

As soon as we were well on the wooded trail, Matt reached out and took my hand. "I didn't want another incident, Luke. I'm afraid Ohio is no more accepting of us than Concord. Actually, it's much less accepting from what I have seen."

"Doesn't make me like it," I replied. "But I guess I'd like having to face a bunch like that Waterside crew even less. Matt..." I started to ask a question, but found it wasn't easy. I couldn't understand it, but I was hesitant about talking with Matt about something that had been bugging me. What if he disagreed? What if he thought I was nuts or just a bitching, jealous boyfriend? Well, it had to be said. "Matt, something's really bugging me and I know it will get worse rather than better, and I'd like to have it in the open."

"What's wrong, Luke?"

"It's about us. We have been in school only one month and I feel like something is separating us. Not only that, but I just feel... I don't know, kinda, well, blue or something."

"What do you mean?"

"I guess it's childish," I continued. "Well I know it is but, well, Matt, I see you in bed and, other than that, we're never alone. Don't get me wrong, I love being in bed with you but I want more. I want time for us to be together, to talk, just to be together and it's not happening. I feel like I never have time alone with you any more. I feel left out and cut off, even depressed." As soon as I said 'depressed', I saw Matt's response. To cut him off, I said, "That's the reason I wanted us to go for a ride, but we can't drive off every time we want to be alone and we can't spend all our together time in bed."

"Luke, that's one reason I hesitated about taking the organist's job. If I take it, I'll be out of the house late three nights a week. And, to tell truth, that cuts down on our time in bed together. I mean, we're in bed, but the two nights after I have spent the day at Holtkamp, you are asleep long before I get to bed. If I take the organist's job, that will be another night I'll get home late. But what's this about your being depressed?"

I ignored Matt's question and said, "But you'd like to take the job, wouldn't you? I mean really."

"Yea, I would. But if it's going to come between us, then I won't. Our relationship means a great deal more to me than a job, you know that. And while it would pay something, no job could pay enough if it creates problems for us."

"Matt, I feel jealous of anything that comes between us or might come between us but, at the same time, feel rotten when I even suggest you not do something you want to do--especially since it's related to your future and our future. I'm very undecided and torn."

"I feel the same way. I mean I think that we can manage to balance school, a job and us. We're going to have to do that from now on, I think. Even when school's over--and right now that seems as if it will never happen--we'll still have to balance careers and our life together. You know, it would be hell, but maybe it would have been easier if we were separated the way Paula and Jacob are... I can't believe I said that..."

"I can't believe it either, but I can see what you mean. But the very thought sends chills down my spine."

"Mine too. So what do I do, Luke? Tell me what you want me to do."

"Matt, I think that's a slippery slope. I can't tell you what to do. Once we start that, we're going to be trying to figure out what the other wants us to do all the time and lose who we are, trying to be who the other wants us to be. I can tell you, that would make both of us into monsters. What we have to do is to make sure we have time together to talk--and listen--to each other. We don't want to make the other over into someone who is mindless, doing only what we say or what we think he wants."

"But I don't want to drive a wedge between us, Luke. Never."

"If you do, it's because we refuse to be honest with each other and refuse to find the time to talk things out." We had been walking, slowly, deeper into the woods, following a trail which was clearly well-used, but which grew fainter the further we walked. It was obvious people walked only a certain distance and then turned back. We had now reached the point where few people had walked. "Ready to turn back?" I asked.

"Not yet. I think I hear a stream up ahead." As we walked we were silent, each busy with his own thoughts, and as we went deeper into the forest the sounds of a stream became clearer. Perhaps a hundred yards ahead of where I asked about turning back, the trail ended at a small, but rushing stream, its waters plunging over the edge of a steep cliff to the river far below.

There was a mossy bank that reminded me of the special place Matt and I had below the falls at home. We sat down, still silent, then Matt said, "Luke, I guess you thought I didn't hear you, but I did. You said you were depressed."

"Well, I didn't mean that. Let's forget it."

"We will not forget it. Have you been taking your medicine?"


"What do you mean, 'kinda'?"

"Well, since I have been here, I have felt good most of the time and it does make me sleepy sometimes..."

"Luke, you are trying to tell me you're not taking it without lying. You're not going to get away with that."

"Matt, I feel like I should be able to handle things without a pill to help out. I guess I'm just weak or something."

"Luke, Margaret and Dr. Walker both told you it's not lack of will or anything else except a chemical imbalance. If you were diabetic, you'd not think taking insulin was because you lacked will. Luke, you are going to take your medicine or else. I'm not sure what 'else' is, but I will not have you run the risk of doing something foolish because you aren't doing everything you can for yourself. Promise me you'll get back on it today."

"I'll think some more about it."

"No, Luke, you won't think some more about it. You either promise me you'll get back on the antidepressants today or you'll sleep alone. I will not allow you to destroy our relationship because you are stubborn. I'll end it right now."

"I told you I'd think about it."

"You hadn't been taking it when you had the nightmare, had you."

"Well, no, not for a couple of weeks I guess."

"That does it, Luke. I will put up with a lot, and I know that we will have our difficulties brought about by our carelessness, the pressures of school and so on, but this? No way. Promise me Luke."

"Didn't I just hear us talking about not trying to make the other over into what we wanted? Isn't that what you are doing? Why do I have to answer to you concerning my own body?" I was angry and Matt knew it.

"Because we have made a commitment to each other. We have spoken vows in front of our family and friends, and those vows included something about our bodies as I recall, and because I have seen what your stubbornness can do. I'm not trying to make you over, Luke, I'm trying to have you be yourself, happy with yourself, free from nightmares--and there have been dark thoughts again, right?"

I didn't answer. I sat with my head down, trying to make sense out of what I had done. It didn't make sense but I still felt like having to take medicine, when I was healthy as a horse, was a sign of weakness, of failure

"I'm waiting for an answer, Luke." Matt was clearly pissed off. His voice was hard and icy. I don't ever remember Matt sounding so cold talking to me.

I felt hot tears running down my face and I still could not look up. I could not look at Matt.

"Luke, I am still waiting," Matt's tone seemed even colder.

Finally I looked up and saw Matt's face. It was not hard and angry but hurt, full of pain. I reached out to him and he pulled away. "No, Luke, that's not going to work. I love you more than my own life and I long, always, to feel your arms around me. But I will give all that up if that's what it takes to get you where you need to be."

I looked at Matt and saw the hurt and pain I had caused him but, more than that, I also saw his determination. The tears were running down his face as well. Finally I could stand it no longer. "I promise, Matt. I promise."

This time when I reached out, he didn't pull away but enfolded me in his arms. "Luke, I feel like shit. I feel I have bribed you into doing what I want you to do and it doesn't feel good. But I don't regret it, Babe, not at all. I will not allow you to risk your life and the reason I have for living."

"Matt, I feel worse for bringing you to the point of having to force me to do what I know I should be doing. I am sure not wanting to take the medicine I know I need is a part of the condition. And after all, Babe, you only did what I made you promise to do. Remember? I made you promise to do something if I got off the track, whether I wanted to or not. Remember?"

Matt had buried his face in the crook of my neck and I could feel him nodding. We held each other for a long time and, in that embrace, pledged our love anew.

As we walked back to the truck, we talked some more about Matt taking the organist's job at St. Anne's and decided he would, and that we would give serious attention to making time to be together. Having reached that decision, Matt said, "You know, Luke, our bedroom, as all the bedrooms, is really huge. We have used it just as a bedroom and tossed clothes all over the place, but there is no reason we cannot make it into a bed-sitting room were we can be together without being in bed. That would be an improvement in our time together both in and out of bed."

"Sounds good, but when are we going to find time to pick out furniture and all that stuff?"

"We'll make time, Luke. We'll have to."

On the way home, Luke and I talked about ways we could make time for ourselves, and how the house schedule could be rearranged to make it easier on all of us. "You know, we agreed to have a house meeting weekly," Matt said, "and we haven't been doing that. I think we need to do so. We need to see how things stand now that we are settled into a weekly routine." I couldn't have agreed more.

When we reached the house, Kent and Larry were busy getting supper ready. Since we'd had a big Sunday dinner, supper would be pretty simple and plain. When we walked in, Kent said, "Supper is in twenty minutes. We wanted to have it over before the news at 6:00."

During supper, Matt and I talked about the things we had discussed concerning the house, and I reminded everyone we needed a house meeting because we hadn't really had one since school started.

"How about after the news?" Eugene suggested. "There may well be something there that we need to discuss."

We all agreed and quickly cleared the table and got the things in the dishwasher. When we finished it was almost exactly 6:00. It turned out there really wasn't a great deal on the news. The anchor man said there had been massive arrests in Waterside as a result of FBI and OBI investigations which had been ongoing for several months. "Among those arrested were the chief of police, the mayor and a judge." Then the usual, "More news and video at 11:00".

"So much for that," Larry said. "These days you only get teasers about the news which will be later, and later you get teasers about news coming up later and it seems you never get the news. Guess we can have a house meeting, get some studying done and then see the news at 11:00--if it has anything."

The first thing we discussed was the schedule. For example, when we had made it up, we had teams cooking, rotating on a weekly basis. "With four of us spending all day in Cleveland Tuesday and Thursday, getting dinner is a pain. At the same time, it hardly seems right for Eugene and Paula to have Tuesday and Thursday every week," I said.

"Why not?" Eugene asked. "We could do it those two days, two of you could take Monday and Wednesday and two Friday and Saturday. Then we could rotate Sundays. Makes as much sense as rotating on a weekly basis."

"Any problem with that?" I asked.

"None I can see," Paula said, and everyone nodded agreement. "Of course, you know that you are not likely to have your best meals on Tuesday and Thursday since you have two non-cooks working together, but I think I've picked up enough that, with a decent cookbook and some help meal-planning, we can handle it. While we're at it, I have a problem I want to bring up."

"Shoot," Larry said.

"It has to do with laundry. I know we said we'd all do our own but we are washing small loads, using a lot of hot water and there are times we run out. It's not so bad unless we need to wash dishes and take showers after someone has done laundry..."

"It's worse when someone decides to do laundry when someone's in the shower," Kent said.

"Yea, I have been given the cold shower treatment several times," I said. "And, even worse, the hot shower treatment."

"That's something else we can rotate. We need to get a couple or three laundry hampers and everyone use them, separating your own things. Then someone can do all the laundry, When it comes out of the dryer, put in on the table in the laundry room and each can pick up and fold their own," Paula said.

"Sounds good," Matt said. "I'll take care of the laundry Saturday morning. I can put in a load and practice for almost an hour until it is done, put it in the dryer and reload the washer. That way I can get some house work and my Saturday class done at the same time. I finally got permission to practice at home, so I can do that. The Saturdays when my teacher comes here--she finally decided that was ok too, don't know what took her so long--I can start a load before she arrives and take it out when she leaves. That won't be a problem."

"Matt, would you mind making Friday night linen change night and you doing all the linen Saturday?" Paula asked. "It a big job, but if you could do that, we would be free to do other household duties."

"Sure. Anything else anyone wants to bring up?"

"Hate to be this way," Eugene said, "but Larry and I were used to having the same as an apartment when we were home, and we sure miss having time and space to get together. It's not that I don't like you guys, but we really do need time for just the two of us. Of course we have our bedroom, but it's a bedroom and..."

"And you don't want to spend all your time together in the bed." Matt smiled. "Never thought I'd say that, but Luke and I talked about the same thing this afternoon. We thought about getting furniture and making our bedroom into a bed-sitting room."

"Seems kinda foolish since we have a library and a family room," Kent said.

"But they are for all of us," Larry said. "And, of course, Matt has to have the family room to practice and the library is used as a study hall."

"Actually, the library is used to send and receive e-mail and that's about it so far as necessary work is concerned. If the computers were moved to the family room, then the library could be a place for you two couples to be together--I mean together separately--I mean..." Kent stammered to a stop.

We were all laughing at Kent. "Know what you mean, Kent," I said. "Sounds like a good idea. You have a desk in your room and do your studying there. Paula, we could get a desk for you so you could study in your room, but the nights I have to study late, I'd keep Luke awake and the same is true of Eugene..."

"Not really. You have to study late Tuesday and Thursday because you have been busy all day. I have finished my studying before you pick us up at Case," Eugene said. "If you think about it, by the time you are ready to study, Larry and I have gone upstairs and you could use the library or family room."

"Aren't we making this too complicated? I like the idea of adding a few things to the bedroom--maybe a TV--the cable is already installed--and a CD player, couch, desks and things like that for use during the week. Friday and Saturday nights we could reserve the library or family room if we wanted to stay home. I really think the major problem is one we have created ourselves. We think we have to be together or we are hurting someone's feelings. Isn't that the real problem?" Larry said.

"Damn!" I said, "You are exactly right. Sure, we can just say, 'Matt and I would like the family room or library tonight,' and that should settle it. See, I knew we needed to talk."

"Well, there's something else I want to bring up--no, that's the wrong word--there's something I need to bring up, I hate to bring up. Kent, this will be news to you, I'm sure, but Luke..."

"No, Paula, I haven't been taking my medicine. How did you know?"

"Luke, when you start having nightmares and moping around, we all see it. So what excuse are you going to give Mama Paula?"

"None, I guess. I tried them all on Matt this afternoon. None of them worked. So, Mama Paula, I promise I will take my pill."

"I hate to be nosy and if it's none of my business say so, but what are we talking about?" Kent asked.

"Kent, I have been diagnosed with a mild form of clinical depression. It's caused by..."

"A chemical imbalance, I know. Mom has suffered from a pretty severe form and, until one of the newer drugs came on the market, she would have really bad bouts of depression. One time it was so bad she wouldn't get out of bed. Now, with the new drug, she's a different person, a real person. So, Luke, take the pill. I don't want you to have nightmares like the one you had."

"I promise, otherwise Matt has threatened to leave me."

"Anything else?" Matt asked.

"One more thing about the laundry," Paula said. "The detergent I bought last time works in warm or cold water. The most you want to use is warm for wash. I set the machine, but noticed it was changed last time I washed. Just leave it set on warm for wash and cold for the rest. Saves hot water."

"How are we doing so far as spending money is concerned?" Larry asked.

"Paula?" Matt asked

"Fine, I think," Paula said. "The first full month's bill just came and it was a whopper--I'll collect as soon as I get it ready--because we bought a lot of stuff to start housekeeping which we'll not have to buy very often. I think we're ok. Of course, having to pay off the police chief and judge took a hunk, but we might get that back. At least we got back Aldridge's fee and that helped."

We had finished clearing the air and Larry said, "Well, we have three hours before the news. Think I'll catch up on my e-mail." Eugene and Paula joined Larry doing e-mail, Kent said he had some studying to do. Matt went to the family room to practice and I went to the studio. I was working on a series of paintings for the house. I worked a couple hours and when I got back, caught up on my e-mail. Matt had done his earlier and was studying at a desk in the library.

The news at 11:00 did carry a great deal more about what had happened in Waterside. The video showed the arrest of the police chief, judge and mayor. We all burst out laughing when we saw Judge Harrison arrested. The agents walked into his pool area where the judge was sprawled out in a lounge chair, a drink in hand. He was dressed in shorts and, as Eugene said, he looked like a beached whale. "You're insulting whales, Lover," Larry said when he could get control of his laughter.

The reporter said there had been other arrests including several policemen. We really enjoyed seeing Sim Hendrick, his hands behind his back, held by a plastic tie like the ones he had used on us. He was arrested when he pulled his police cruiser into the police station. The reporter said, "There were also civilians arrested as well as officials. A number of convenience store owners were arrested for selling alcohol to minors. Officer Hendrick's brother, Shawn, and several of his friends were arrested for selling marijuana. 'They are small fish,' an arresting officer said, 'but we are out for all size fish in an effort to clean up Waterside.' There were so many arrests that several people had to be transported to the Cleveland jail as the Waterside jail quickly overflowed. The mayor, police chief and Judge Harrison all asked to be transferred to Cleveland, but Ohio Bureau of Investigation Agent Perkins refused, saying they had been responsible for the condition of the jail and it was only right that they take advantage of their work. This reporter was allowed to enter the jail and can only say that it was filthy. I asked Agent Perkins if putting the prisoners there was not cruel and unusual punishment. He replied that he thought not--since the police chief, mayor and judge had found it acceptable for people they had put there."

The four of us who had spent time in the filthy jail were practically rolling on the floor laughing. "Poetic justice, if I have ever heard of it," Luke said through his laugher.

After a commercial break, the reporter had an interview with Agents Perkins and Haines. Of special interest to us was their statement that they knew there were still others who were a part of the corruption in Waterside or who sympathized with those responsible for it. "A number of citizens have been invaluable in our investigation," Agent Haines said. "Anyone who attempts to do them harm is a fool, but there are many fools in the world. We are not giving out any details, but everyone who helped and those who would do them harm both need to know that those who helped are under the protection of both the Federal and Ohio bureaus. So to those who would harm those good citizens, I say think before you act or you will regret it."

That certainly made us feel more at ease. Watching the arrests had, frankly, been fun, but the very fact that we had to be protected sobered us quickly.


After the news, we all went off to bed. As Luke and I snuggled in bed, he whispered in my ear, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, thanks for not giving up on me. I know I was foolish for stopping my medicine, but I wanted to be a whole man for you and every time I thought about taking a pill, I didn't because I thought I wasn't."

"Yonghon Tongmu, in my eyes you are not only a whole man, but a perfect one." I kissed Luke gently and he returned my kiss, placed his head on my chest and was asleep in seconds. I lay, my arm over Luke's back, looking into the dark, thinking about how those who think a relationship just sails along without thought and effort are fools and deserve the broken relationship which is sure to follow. Thankfully, Luke and I worked on ours before it had eroded too much. I offered thanks for that and for all the other things I had been given by life. Then, at peace, I dropped off to sleep.
Chapter Seven


Monday, following the arrests in Waterside, dawned just another Monday and another new week. Kent had called and made arrangements to get Eugene's car repaired and Eugene drove it in before his first class. Luke, Paula and I followed him and picked him and Larry up for school. Kent, of course, had Luke's truck. It was obvious that until Eugene's car was ready, some squeezing into the Jeep or truck would be taking place. At lunch, we met at our usual table -- it hadn't taken long for us to establish a regular place. As soon as everyone was seated, Luke asked, "Matt, have you called Fr. Manville?"

"Glad you reminded me, I forgot. I will as soon as I finish eating."

"Matt and I talked some more about space and decided we would definitely get some furniture for the room. I think we'll get desks as well even though Matt won't be using his when he has to work after I'm in bed. I saw an unfinished furniture place nearby and would like to check it out after class if that's ok," Luke told the group.

"Sounds fine. Think we might all get desks," Larry said.

"See you after class," I said and went off to phone Fr. Manville. He seemed very pleased that I had decided to take the organist's position. He did apologize about the pay since it was only $200 per month. I assured him that was ok. He asked if I could come by before Tuesday noon to talk about details. "Father, that will be pretty hard, but I'll try. I'll give you a call."

When I met the others after class, I told them what Fr. Manville had asked. "Well, we could take you by and wait if it won't take too long," Luke said.

"I'll call Father again," I replied. When I called, he said that he thought we could get all we needed to do done in half an hour or so. The others saw no reason they couldn't wait for me.

The meeting didn't take long. Father gave me the hymns for the following Sunday and said he'd give me the freedom to make the selections from now on. I was to get them to the office by Tuesday so the bulletin could be done Wednesday.

 We still had plenty of time to check on desks at the unfinished furniture place. We ordered five since Kent already had his. The store agreed to deliver them since we ordered five. We even had time to run by an office supply store and picked out desk chairs. They didn't want to deliver, but when it was clear we wouldn't purchase them otherwise, the salesman said he'd get them to us if he had to bring them himself.

The desks and chairs were all delivered after the stores closed at 8:00, arriving about 9:00. We had great fun the next couple days finishing the desks and they were in place and ready for use quickly. The five of us at Oberlin were riding together since Eugene's car was still being restored after the spray painting. Luke had the last class of the day and didn't get out of class until 3:00 so we had to wait an hour on him. We got home by about 3:30 and I looked at my assignments for Friday. I had some work to do and spent an hour on it so I wouldn't have too much to do Thursday after I got back from Holtkamp. I put my work away and went downstairs to help prepare dinner. The dinner conversation was set on a path when Kent said, "Thank God, we're over hump day. Don't think I'd make it if I had three more days this week. I've a major test every day so far and have two more to go."

"'Bout the same for me," Paula said. "I never thought college would be this rough. I don't think the professors ever talk to each other or they might spread out tests."

"I don't have all that many tests since Holtkamp doesn't give tests and my studio class really has no written ones, but with Holtkamp and my classes, I have plenty to do and now I have to rush off to a choir practice -- without a choir director I might add. At least at St. Mary's there was an older choir director. Here there's just a snot-nosed organist. It can be a real pain," I said.

"You need to take Mother Paula with you. That would get a choir straightened out," Eugene laughed.

"Hey, that might not be such a bad idea," I said. "In fact, it's a good idea if I can get Fr. Manville to round up some money. Interested Paula?"

"I might be, but how do you think St. Anne's would handle a Jewish choir director?"

"I don't know. If they don't like it, maybe they need a new organist," I said and meant it.

"Well, run along now. We'll see about my being choir director later," Paula said in her Mother Paula voice.

"Luke, how much work do you have to do tonight?" I asked.

"Got to review for a test tomorrow. Why?

"Why don't you come with me? You can study at St. Anne's and we can have some time together going and coming."

"Don't go there, Eugene!" Larry laughed.

"I wasn't about to go anywhere," Eugene said in a hurt kid's voice.

"Sure you weren't," Kent said. "Sure you weren't."

"Matt, think you have a good idea there. Let's hit the road as soon as I get what I need." Luke ran upstairs, grabbed his book bag and raced back downstairs. "I'm ready. See you guys later."

Luke and I talked about nothing in particular on the way to St. Anne's, just things two guys in love talk about, but it sure was nice to be sitting beside him and have his hand on my thigh.

Choir practice went ok, not extremely well, but ok. I am not much of a choir director and often forgot I was directing as well as playing. I would definitely speak to Fr. Manville about hiring Paula. After choir practice, Luke joined me on the organ bench as I played through the prelude and postlude. I had done some practicing at home, but needed to get the registration right for St. Anne's organ. One way I was making one piece of work serve two purposes was to use some of the pieces I was given for my performance course as prelude and postlude, but I did have to run through them at St. Anne's because the organ there did not have the variety of stops my Rodgers does.

When I had finished the two pieces and set the registration, I said, "I'm through for the night," and smiled at Luke.

"You've been a good boy and here's your reward," Luke said as he put his hands behind my head and pulled my lips to his for a very special Luke kiss. I had assumed everyone was gone, but before we broke our kiss, someone cleared his throat. We both jumped and as I looked out into the dimly lit church, saw Fr. Manville. When Luke saw him he whispered, "Holy shit. Now I've done it."

"Yea, you sure did and I loved it. Other than that, it's nobody's damn business," I said to Luke, then raised my voice and called to Fr. Manville, "I guess there's something you need to know. Luke and I are married."

Fr. Manville walked down the aisle slowly and when he reached the chancel where the organ was located said, "Well, I hope you are at least engaged if you are going to carry on like that in church." He had a small smile on his face, but I wasn't sure what it meant. "But what do you mean you are married? I thought you both were men."

"Don't think there is any question about that," I said. "And of course we're not legally married, but we had a commitment ceremony and our union was blessed by Fr. Tom, our parish priest in Concord. And if having a gay organist is going to be a problem, then I'll quit."

"Well, it might well be a problem if you end every postlude with the way you ended that one, but otherwise, there better not be a problem. But I'm interested in your marriage. Got a minute? If so, I'd like to hear about it."

"We better not stay too long. Luke has a big test tomorrow and Thursday is one of my long days so I need to get to bed before too late. Luke?"

"Sure, we can stay a short time."

"Good, come on to my office. I'll get something for us to drink. You two just go on to the office and make yourselves comfortable."

When Fr. Manville came back with juice, we gave him a short history of our relationship and why we had a commitment ceremony.

"And Fr. Tom blessed your union?"

"He had said he could not and then surprised us by doing it anyway. So, you see," Luke said, "we are as married as we can be."

"Fr. Tom is a brave man," Fr. Manville said. "I'm not sure I have that kind of guts, but I haven't had to make that decision -- yet."

"Speaking of having guts, I'm not sure I have guts enough to keep the choir under control. Same problem I had at St. Mary's. Older people sometimes resent being told what to do by a teenager. St. Mary's had an older man who was choir director. But the main problem is I am not a choir director and often forget that I am supposed to be and just play. We have a house mate who is an excellent choral director and I think she might be open to being hired here. If you'd like to think about that, you need to know two things. First, she is damn fantastic and second, she is Jewish."

"Would a Jew direct a choir in a Christian church?" Fr. Manville asked.

"I think she would since it would give her practical experience."

"I don't know that I could round up the money this late in the year, but I'll give it a try. Think she might give us a sample of her work next week?"

"I'll ask."

On the way home, Luke and I talked about all the things we were taking on and how little time we had already. We agreed we needed to keep that on our agenda and not let it get away from us.

About half way home, Luke turned into a dirt road which, we had discovered earlier, led to a high bluff overlooking the lake. When we reached the end of the road, the moon was bright on the lake. Everything looked very peaceful as Luke stopped the truck, turned and drew me to himself. The CD player was playing old love songs softly as his lips covered mine, his tongue invaded my mouth and my being was flooded with the taste of Luke. I swear, every time that happens, I am amazed at how wonderful it is.

We were, on this Wednesday night, just two teenagers in love, parked in what became our lovers' lane, doing what teenagers do in lovers' lanes -- what that uptight high school health teacher of ours called heavy petting. As we were really getting into it, THE song started. More came through the speakers and it had a strange effect on us. Instead of getting more passionate, our love making became slow and easy, gentle. Finally, we were simply holding each other, looking into each others eyes, smiling, giving each other butterfly kisses. We were two happy, happy men. Suddenly, out of the blue, Luke said, "Matt, doesn't all the hatred against us, the abuse we have suffered last weekend seem far, far away? Anyway, we have each other and our love and it seems that is all that really matters." I kissed Luke in answer.

The next couple weeks found each of us in a definite routine. I was really learning a great deal at Holtkamp and school and enjoyed it. Recently I had been learning about metals use in building pipes for organs. I must say, I had always looked upon organ pipes as oversized penny whistles, but when I was expected to learn about metals and metal pipe building, I changed my mind quickly. Luke and I had several conversations about metals. He was surprised that metallurgy was a part of organ building -- but so was I.

The house settled into a routine as well. We did have weekly house meetings and ironed out small problems before they became large ones. The excitement of the arrest in Waterside was over shortly. All those arrested had been allowed out on bond -- some huge -- and the trials were not to start until late October or early November. Luke had started his medicine again and the nightmares ended. Things were getting a bit dull, to tell the truth.


Each Sunday I sat with my family in church and each Sunday Dad ignored me. I had invited them to Sunday dinner at the house several times, but Mom kept saying it wasn't time yet. I had been seeing Pastor Jensen on a weekly basis and knew I was making progress in dealing with the hurt and pain I had felt from being rejected by my father over the years. Last Sunday, the last one in September, Dad was sitting next to the aisle when I came in, he moved to make a place for me. At the Peace, he grasped my hand and said, "Son, the Peace of the Lord be always with you." I couldn't answer for the tears. I just grasped Dad around the neck and wept.

After the service, Dad and I walked out of the church, arm in arm. Pastor Jensen had a huge smile on his face as he greeted us. "This is the most beautiful sight I have seen in ages," he said, as he clasped both our hands and continued shaking them.

"It wouldn't have happened without your help," Dad said.

"But it happened and that's what's important," I said.

"That's what's important," Mom and Pastor Jensen both said.

As we walked away from the church, I said, "Would like to invite you all to dinner, but without some notice...."

"Maybe we can go out together," Dad said.

"Good idea, but I'm afraid I can't," I answered. "I'm on dinner today and we have invited all our advisors for Sunday dinner. If I don't show up, I may not be able to eat -- ever again! But next Sunday is the Lord's Supper. I think it would be great if we ate at the Holy Table and then ate together at our table. Can I plan on that?"

"You sure can," Derrick said. "I've seen how you and that bunch eat and I'll starve to be ready for it!"

"Sounds good," Mom said, "but I think we need a little family celebration before. How about supper one night this week?"

"Wednesday ok? I get back from Case earlier Wednesday than I do any other day."

"Can you make supper by 8:00?" Mom asked.

"I'll get there by 6:00 so we can have some time to talk. See you then. I've got to rush and finish dinner." I hugged all three of them, jumped into Luke's truck and left, a very happy young man.

We had invited all our advisors for Sunday dinner, the five from Oberlin and mine from Case Western Reserve. All the Oberlin advisors accepted, but mine said he had to have Sunday dinner with his family and he made it a point not to socialize with students. Frankly, I was just as happy as he was not a very pleasant person to be around. If I had to have him all four years, I think I might transfer schools, but freshmen advisors are just assigned at random. Next year I would have someone from my department.

Since this was a very special dinner, Matt, Luke and I all worked on it. Larry, Paula and Eugene had done special house cleaning. Actually, I was surprised how well the house was kept. We all were very careful about messing up the common areas. Of course, each bedroom told a different story, but even those were kept in pretty good shape, especially so now that we all did some studying in our rooms. The two couples have also bought furniture to make their bedrooms a combination bed-sitting room and spent time there.

When I got home, dinner was almost ready, all that had to be done were the finishing touches, which took hardly any time at all. Paula found enough fall flowers to place fresh flowers throughout the common areas. The lawns and gardens were all in good shape. I was rather proud of how well everything looked and I knew the dinner was outstanding.


Professor Ruth Roth-Batten was the first to arrive. As she walked in the door she said, "I can't believe my eyes! I thought you might have gotten the front passable, but the house and grounds look as good as it ever has. You have done yourselves proud."

"We are absolutely loving the place. And all the work we have put into it has made it very much ours," I said. "Why don't I give you the grand tour before the others arrive?"

"If I know men, they will not want their rooms seen and usually I think that is a good idea!"

"Oh, they would be disappointed if you didn't see what they have done, Professor. And they do manage to keep their rooms in pretty good shape."

"Paula, we're not at the college, Ruth, please."

"Sure, Ruth, but come on, we’ll invade the bullpen upstairs."

Of course the guys had done a bit of extra cleaning I suspect, but the truth of the matter was since the boys had made their rooms sitting rooms as well as bedrooms, they had kept them nice -- or so they told me. I am seldom upstairs. Ruth was very impressed with how, as she said, very livable the rooms were.

When we entered Matt and Luke's room, Professor Roth-Batten immediately noticed the painting of Matt Luke had hung opposite their bed. "That is certainly a striking painting which I remember seeing in the exhibition. I understand it was slashed about the time we were arriving at the airport in Jackson so I'm surprised to see it here."

"It almost wasn't. Uncle Michael Sanders had it repaired, but Matt didn't think it was appropriate to have it here, but Luke insisted. I'm glad he did, but wish it could be hung downstairs because I think it is a great painting. I haven't given up on getting it moved."

When we got downstairs, the other advisors had arrived. Eugene and Larry were serving drinks in the library while Matt, Kent and Luke put the finishing touches to dinner.

Table conversation started with what we had done to the place. All the advisors had been here at one time or another for cookouts on the beach and most had been in the house. They were amazed at all we had gotten done. After dinner, Matt offered to take everyone on the grand tour of the house and grounds. While they were going through the house, Ruth and I sat in the library and talked. She asked about Kent and I told her his story and the fact that it appeared his dad had come around. Then said, "I certainly hope so. I really hate it when parents don't get along with children and Kent is really a wonderful guy."

"Do I detect more than a casual interest there?" Ruth smiled.

"No, no more than for the other guys. Actually, not as much. I have known the others for years, but Kent only a month. Of course, you get to know someone very quickly living in the house with them. No, I'm interested in Kent only as a friend," I said as everyone started outside. "Well, shall we join the group for the grounds tour?"

The grounds really did look nice. Of course, fall was very much in the air and leaves were turning and all the flowering plants had done their due and were now preparing for winter, except for some Michaelmas daisies and fall asters.

When we went to the garden and orchard area Ruth exclaimed, "I would never have thought you would have this area looking so good. In fact, I'm surprised you even attempted it."

"You know farm boys," Luke laughed, "we have to have dirt to dig in and this is excellent dirt. The orchard is really Kent's handiwork. Oh, we helped, but it was Kent who told us what to do and how to do it."

On the way back to the house we looked at Luke's studio and Eugene's practice room. Again, everyone was impressed with the rooms and some of Luke's work there.

When we got back to the house, we all sat in the living room and discussed what we thought about college, what we liked and what we found difficult. I was surprised when Eugene said he wondered what it would be like to live on campus and be a part of the college community. The other guys agreed with him. I hadn't thought about that, but when it was mentioned, it started me thinking.

"I'm sure you would find it very different from living in this magnificent place, Professor Moler said, "but I'm not sure it would add a great deal to your life. Most of the things you might do if you lived on campus are available to you."

"Exactly so," Professor Taylor said. "Eugene, I have intended to talk to you for sometime and always forget, but there are two or three guys interested in forming a small band to play club dates. If you were on campus, it would be easier since you wouldn't have to travel as far, but that's certainly open to you. I'll give you the name of the guy who's trying to get a group together and maybe you can contact him if you're interested. And Paula, I think they could use a vocalist.

"I really don't know. I've never tried singing with a group. Might be interesting," I said.

"Actually, we talk about things which go on on campus and how we feel isolated at times, but I guess we have to make some effort to become a part of campus life. The big problem is we are all so busy there's hardly time for anything beyond what we are doing," Matt said.

After the advisors had gone, we all sat around and talked about becoming involved in more campus activities. "The band sounds good," Eugene said. "Paula, you definitely have to get connected with that and you too Luke."

"Me?? ME?? I paint, I don't sing."

"Oh, yes you do. I've heard you in the shower and all around the house and even before we came here, I had heard you sing, " Eugene said. "Your voice is untrained, but it's good and would fit a small combo perfectly. Don't you think so, Paula?"

"I certainly do. Luke, you'd be perfect and you'd have all the women after you."

"And at least one out of every ten men as well," Larry laughed.

"Kent, play anything?"

"Played drums with a garage band for a couple years. Still practice -- or did before I moved -- some. If you need a drummer, I’ll try."

"Two vocalists, trumpet and drums -- I wonder what the group has already? I'll call this guy tonight and see about getting together tomorrow."


After we had sat around and talked for awhile, we all pitched in and cleaned up the kitchen and everyone went their own way: Luke to his studio, Matt to practice. Kent said he was going to his place and to get his drums. Larry was working on a video project telling the story of our place, so he was filming again and Paula went to the library to write some e-mail. I called Richard Taylor, the person wanting to start a small combo.

Richard sounded pretty excited. He had rounded up a bass player who could play either a bass guitar or a double bass, a keyboard player and guitarist. He also played guitar. "With you on trumpet we'd be ok if we had a drummer."

"Think I might have one and a couple vocalists as well," I said and told him about the three. "When would you like to get together and see what we can come up with?"

"Don't know when I can schedule a space for us to work. I'll let you know as soon as I can find one."

"Not very big for a group, but we have a practice studio here. You're welcome to use it. But it is kinda small. It was supposed to be nine by twelve, but Luke, one of my house mates, made a change and it's almost twelve feet square. Small, but usable. And if we can convince Luke to be a male vocalist, we can expand into his studio since he won't be working when we are practicing."

"Then how about our getting together tomorrow? The guys here -- and one of the guys is a girl who plays bass -- are all free after two in the afternoon."

"I don't get free until three and I have to pick up my car which has been being refinished. It would be four before I could get here."

"That's fine. We'll meet you at your place at four. How do we get there?"

The directions to the house are very straight forward and I had him read them back to me after he had written them down.

When Kent got back, I told him about the arrangements and they were fine with him. His last class Monday was at two so he'd be back in plenty of time to get together at four. We took his drums to the practice studio and got them set up. I left when he started practicing! Fortunately, Luke had stopped working because even with the soundproofing, Kent's drums could be heard.


The week following the dinner with the advisors was a busy one. Monday the group forming a band met at our place. It took them awhile before what they were playing even sounded like music, but I guess it started coming together. Paula tried singing a couple songs, but between the band not being together and her forgetting words, it was not too successful. Eugene, Paul and Kent were all trying to get me to sing, but I knew that I couldn't when the band kept going all over the place. Finally Eugene said, "Luke, will you try to sing More?" You can close your eyes and pretend you are singing to M.... your lover."

"Do you think you guys could come close to playing More? I doubt that most of you have even heard it, much less know it." I was right of course. However, after Eugene had, using his special one finger method, played it on the keyboard a couple, three times and Paula sung it, they picked up enough in the next fifteen minutes to come close.

"Ok, Luke, we had made the effort, now let's hear you."

"I can close my eyes so I don't have to see all of you barf?"

"Close those baby blues and hit it," Paula said.

"No laughing now," I said and they started playing. I did close my eyes and imagine I was singing to Matt and just forgot where I was and what I was doing. At the first chorus, Paula blended her voice with mine -- a miracle I thought -- and we finished the song.

"Luke, you are as good at singing as we are as a band," Richard said. "If you improve as much as we have to, we may make a go of it."

"Thanks, but I think you are just being nice."

"Richard, be nice?" Sheila, the bass player, laughed. "It has never happened in the whole nineteen years he has lived. You've got a great natural voice, Luke."

"Thanks, I guess." After about half an hour more practice, the Oberlin bunch left and Paula, Eugene, Kent and I talked for awhile about the possibility of the bunch ever becoming a combo anyone would want to hear.

When we got back the house, Matt was practicing and Larry was sitting in the family room as well, working on math. He had asked Matt to leave the speakers on so he could hear him play.

"How'd it go," Larry asked when we walked in.

"Pretty good. Very good considering this was the first time we had tried," Eugene said.

"Yea, and we have two fine vocalists," Kent added.

"I'm not so sure about that. Not sure at all," I said.

"You'll see shortly," Paula added.

Matt had stopped playing when we walked in and when Paula spoke, he said, "Paula, Fr. Manville called and said he had a woman who was willing to see that you got paid IF you wanted the job of choir director and IF you proved you could handle the job and IF you'd work for the same thing I am getting paid -- which is little, he added -- only two hundred a month. I told him you would come with me Wednesday night and try out. That was ok, wasn't it?"

"Sure, why not? It will be good experience."

So Wednesday night Paula went with Matt. That took that time together away. If this band thing goes and I sing, that probably means I will be gone Friday and Saturday nights, Matt is gone Wednesday nights and gets home late and has to study Tuesday and Thursday nights which means we would only have Sunday and Monday nights together. And I suspect there will have to be a couple practice nights for the combo. We are going to have to do some serious talking about this.


Wednesday evening, Paula was introduced by Fr. Manville and rehearsal started. Paula gave the choir a workout like they had never experienced and at the end when we ran through all of the music for Sunday, it was obvious that they were much improved. She thanked then for their efforts and told them she had enjoyed working with them. Fr. Manville was very impressed and told her she had the job if she wanted it. She accepted.

As we were driving home, Paula said, "Matt, I don't want to interfere, but it seems to me you and Luke are getting so involved you don't have time for each other. I hope you two have talked about that."

"We haven't since the band came up."

"And since I have taken the job at St. Anne's, that takes away another time you might have."

"Yea, I thought about that. But it's good that you are getting the experience and I am glad Luke is singing with the band."

"Matt, all we are doing is good. That's not the question. The question is the time you do and do not have with Luke."

"Yea, you're right and we're going to have to look at that. Soon."

When we got home, Paula told the group she had taken the job at St. Anne's. Eugene said he had thought she would and the band had set up practice for Tuesday and Thursday nights. "That's good, I said, "because I have to study those nights and Luke and I couldn't spend time together then anyway. Paula had reminded me that we were getting so busy we weren't spending time with our partners. Of course, when the band gets going and had gigs, they will be Friday and Saturday nights, I'm sure."

"Larry and I have nights free except the nights I practice, so I'm not really worried about us, but I do worry about you and Luke," Eugene said.

"We'll just have to work at it," Luke said. "And we will. If we are too involved, we'll just have to say no to some things."

"That might be hard," Eugene said, "but I agree." Little did we know just how busy we could be.

Tuesday and Thursday nights, I planned to study while Luke worked with the band. On the first Tuesday night I really wanted to go hear them, but also wanted to be with Luke when he finished. About 10:30, Paula came to the house to get Larry and me to hear the band. I must confess they sounded much better than I thought they would. The real surprise was that Luke was serving as MC as well as vocalist. After they had done a couple songs, Luke took the mike and said, "Now, by special request for a special someone," and the band started playing More. Luke did the first verse and Paula joined him on the chorus, then they finished the song together. They sang to each other as if they were a loving couple, but as Luke started the last chorus, he looked at me and winked and I blushed. I knew sooner or later the members of the band would know about us, but I wanted it to be later.

As we all walked back to the house, Luke wrapped his arm around my waist, pulled me to himself and kissed me. "Luke, there are strangers here."

"Not strangers to me and if they don't like me showing affection to the love of my life, they can go to hell -- or take a shorter trip and jump in the lake," he said as he kissed me again. "Well, what do you think? Was it terrible?"

"Actually, I think it is darn good considering the fact that this is your second practice. And, Babe, you really can sing."

"Nah, it's just that you like to hear those words coming from these beautiful lips."

"That certainly helps," I laughed.

For the first Tuesday in ages, Luke and I went to bed at the same time and we made the best of it. What started as slow and easy with soft, tender kisses soon became passionate, no holds barred love making. Luke was definitely in charge as he took control of Chili Pepper. But Luke didn't get left out as Little Luke also saw serious action. Our love making was as star spinning as it had been the first time we had not observed a stopping place. Aglow from our expressions of love and our lust satisfied, we wrapped ourselves in each others arms and legs and after a tender kiss, sailed into dreamland.

Wednesday sunrise saw all six of us running on the beach. Most days we didn't run together because of our schedules, but Wednesdays we did. Paula had not been a runner in high school, but really got into it and could keep up with us most of the way. All four of the guys were keeping in shape for their sports. Although some wouldn't start until next semester, we still had workouts and so on. We had to meet a certain number of hours because we were earning a PE grade.

At breakfast Eugene said he and Larry were going to campus to do some research and asked Paula if she would like to go with them. "We'll take you by choir practice and wait for you."

"That's not necessary," I said. "She can come back with me."

"I know it's not necessary," Eugene said, "but you and Luke have little enough time together and this way you two can have some time alone going and coming. Don't go there, Larry!"

"Thanks. It's not necessary, but I certainly do appreciate it," Luke said.

"You better enjoy this great fall weather," Kent said. "It won't be long before there's nothing romantic about being out of the house. By the way, I won't be here for supper. I'm having dinner with my family."

"Kent, I forgot tonight was the night. Do enjoy it. It is just great that your dad has come around."

"Well, if we hadn't had our fight, I might never had worked through all the bad feeling I had and he certainly wouldn't had done any work toward being a dad to me. You are right, it's great."

"Paula, how'd you like to catch something to eat on campus? That way we wouldn't have to come home until after choir practice and Eugene and I could get a lot more done," Larry asked.

"I've got plenty to do on campus as well," Paula said. "Matt, I guess it's just a romantic dinner for two tonight. Shame that your are going to be all by yourselves," she laughed.

"Yea, shame," Luke said and gave me an a wicked leer. "But I guess I can stand it."

The day seemed to absolutely drag. We had lunch with the crew. My afternoon class seemed impossibly dull and dragged on and on and on. Finally I was released and found Luke waiting for me in his truck.

Wednesday was a beautiful day, very warm for autumn, but by late afternoon, there was definitely a fallish feel in the air as we headed home where we'd be alone.

Chapter Eight


In spite of what had happened Sunday, I didn't know what to expect when I got to my parents' place. When I drove up in Luke's truck, Fuzzy, our old collie, started barking. When I got out of the truck, she came bounding up to me, leaping as high as she could, trying to lick my face--and would have had I not turned away. I finally grabbed her when she jumped and roughed up her coat as her tail wagged a mile a minute. Eventually she calmed down enough for us to walk toward the house. Mom, Dad and Derrick had obviously heard Fuzzy and had come out on the porch. "What a welcome home," Dad laughed.

"Yea, quite a welcome back." I didn't want to say I was coming back home although I guess home would always be where my parents were, but I also considered where I was living home. When I reached the porch, I hugged Mom, then Derrick, then Dad. We had never been a hugging family, but no-one seemed to object.

"Come on in and tell us what's going on in your world," Dad said. I found I was bracing for a put-down every time he opened his mouth. Old habits and expectations die hard, very hard.

When we reached the living room, the smells of good food were evident and I realized I was hungry. I hoped supper didn't have to wait until 8:00!

"Well, how are things?" Derrick asked. I hadn't seen him in a couple weeks. A couple times, since Labor Day, Derrick had called and I had picked him up at school for supper and a visit at the house.

"Going great. Actually, they are going better than I expected. The work is hard--different from high school--but I'm enjoying it and learning a lot." We talked about school and then Dad asked about living at the house. "Dad, it is really great. If I run into a problem with school work, one of my housemates is usually able to help me out. Of course, I do the same thing for them. We almost let a few small things become big problems but, fortunately, we saw what was happening and dealt with those problems and now we have a weekly meeting to discuss anything we need to attend to. It really is like a house full of brothers and a sister."

"Kent, James, who works in my office and lives in Waterside, says your friends were involved in some nasty business there. Is that true?" Dad asked.

"Here it comes," I thought to myself. I looked at Mom and it was clear she didn't have the foggiest idea what was going on. "Now's the time," I decided. "Yea, it's true. As a matter of fact, I was involved as deeply as they were, except I was let off because I was a local boy." I then told my family what had happened without saying anything about why it had happened. Of course, without having some reason for the attack, it just didn't sound right and I knew it. Dad was not going to let that slip by unnoticed.

"Strange that you were attacked and arrested out of the blue. There must have been more to it than that," Dad said. "Why did you get picked on?"

I debated with myself. Dad had finally acknowledged he had not treated me right and now I was about to blast him out of the water. Did I want to dodge the issue or hit it head on? "Dad, a bunch of Waterside's worst took exception to something the four guys I live with had done and, because of that, vandalized Eugene's car. We saw them doing it when we came out of the movie and when they attacked us, we just defended ourselves. There were six of them. One pulled a knife but three ran after we had put them down, and we soon had the other three on the ground. One of them was Shawn Hendrick. His brother Sim came up, sent Shawn and me packing--because I was a local boy, he had said--and arrested the other four."

"Somehow or other, that doesn't surprise me," Derrick said. "Everybody knows Sim covers for Shawn, and that he and Shawn are good sources of weed."

"Weed? Why would anyone want to buy weeds?" Dad asked, looking puzzled.

Derrick laughed. "Guess you are not up on horticulture, Dad, weed is a very lucrative cash crop--if you can keep it until harvest time."

"Weeds, who harvests weeds?" Derrick and I were both laughing our heads off and Dad was looking puzzled and, I could see, getting angry. "This better stop right now," I thought but, before I could speak, Mom spoke up.

"Carl, you know: not 'weeds', 'weed'--pot, grass, gunga, marijuana, dope," she was laughing hard as it suddenly dawned on Dad what we were talking about.

"Oh, so now it's weed. That stuff has more names than the Queen of England. So they were in the dope business. Well, that doesn't surprise me, but I still don't see why they attacked you and your friends."

"Dad, I hoped not to have to bring this up because I know you won't like it and will probably pitch a fit..."

"Try me!" he said, in a defiant manner.

"A few weeks before the incident, Matt and Luke, Eugene and Larry had gone to an early Friday movie. The theater was practically empty so they sat on the back row and did some making out. They had no reason to think anyone saw them or would care, but they were wrong."

"They were making out in a movie? Who doesn't do that? I've even done a bit of that with your Mom in years past."

"Might be a good idea to try it again," Derrick grinned.

"So what was the problem? Who were they making out with? Was it some of the Waterside girls? Was that the problem?"

"Dad, you're not listening," Derrick said. "Luke and Matt were making out and Eugene and Larry were making out," Derrick said very slowly as if Dad was dense. Well he was being a little dense, I guess because he didn't want to hear what he was hearing.

"I heard that very clearly and I asked who they were making out with?"

I started to answer when Derrick said, "I told you: with each other."

"You mean to tell me four men were making out with each other?" Dad was getting red in the face and I knew an explosion could happen any minute.

"Well, not exactly all four making out with all four, I mean Matt and Luke are a couple and Eugene and Larry are."

"Damn queers, you mean!" Dad was holding his temper, but just barely.

"Dad, I don't like that word and I certainly will not have it applied to my friends. The four are gay and are couples. Matt and Luke have actually had a kind of marriage ceremony and had their union blessed by a priest. Eugene and Larry are every bit as committed as Matt and Luke, I suspect. And what they do in their bedroom is none of my business. All I know and care about is that they are steadfast friends. I would trust them with my life. In fact, if my life were in danger, I would sure want Eugene around. He is the smallest of the four but, man, is he fast and deadly."

"You are living in the house with four queers? Four fruits?" Dad was still holding his temper, but I didn't know how much longer he could or would.

"Dad, I said I didn't like my friends being called names and I won't stand for it in my presence. Now you can either stop and I'll stay. Otherwise I'll go, but I will not listen to them be called names or put down."

"All right, all right, but I really can't understand how you can live in a house full of gay men. It's unnatural!"

"Let's talk about unnatural, Dad. You sired me and are responsible--at least half-responsible--for me coming into the world. I wasn't what you ordered and you couldn't send me back, so you just pretended I wasn't here most of the time--and any time you noticed, you made sure I knew I was a disappointment to you. If you want to talk about unnatural, let's talk about a father's unnatural treatment of a son.

"I put up with it because I didn't have a choice. I proved myself to everyone except you. I was accepted to college on a scholarship and still you would have nothing to do with me. Frankly, I planned to go to college, but suspected it wouldn't last long because I couldn't afford to live on campus and had no sure transportation. I tried not to worry about it, but I did.

"Knowing that my college career was probably a short-lived thing, I ran across five people--five people who befriended me at once. Four of them are gay, but they gave me what you had never given me. They gave me true friendship. They cared about me and my needs. They respected what I had to offer to the group. I have a home where I am treated as an equal and a valuable addition. I have the assurance that if I want to go to college, they will see that I get there.

"Now the fact that four of them are gay may have disturbed me at first. I'll admit that when Matt and Luke or Eugene and Larry kissed each other or showed affection in my presence, I was uneasy. But you know something? It wasn't long before I not only expected that, but appreciated it. I saw very quickly that the expression of love--I don't care if it is male-to-male--was something I missed, something I had longed for. So, to be honest, I don't give a damn whether you understand it or not, or whether you like it or not; being in the loving presence of those five has given me more joy and more peace than I have known in my lifetime. Unnatural? I think that home is full of naturalness--the naturalness of people in love and who love and care for each other and for me."

When I finished, Derrick stood, applauded and shouted, "Bravo!". Dad looked a bit like I had hit him in the face and Mom looked as if she was expecting an explosion. There was utter silence in the room after Derrick's outburst.

After what seemed like minutes, Dad looked at me and said, "Kent, I'm sorry. I guess I really deserved that. Yes, you're right. They have offered you more in a short time than I have in a lifetime. Son, I am working hard at changing. It's not easy, but I'm working at it."

"Dad, that's all I ask. I know change is hard. I know that we both have nineteen years of acting one way to change. But you have to know that I value the friendship and love and caring I have found with my five housemates--right up with any relationships I have or have had. You tread on them and you tread on me."

"Son, I wouldn't have it otherwise. So back to what started this unpleasantness... how do things stand now with the four and Waterside? What happened after they were arrested?"

I told them the whole story and that the four would probably be called to testify when the trials came up in late October or early November. "I think the police and the political mess in Waterside will be cleaned out, but the prejudice and hatred will still be there until decent people stand up and take charge. Meanwhile, none of us will even drive through Waterside. The only time I am even close is Sunday morning when I come to church."

"Good idea," Dad said.

We then talked about school and how it was going. I told them--Derrick, of course, knew--about the combo and things we had done. Aside from the one bit of "unpleasantness", everything was fine and dinner was delicious.

After dinner I told my folks I had to get back to get some studying done and reminded them they were expected for Sunday dinner.

Just as I was leaving, Derrick asked if I was still going out with Christine and, if so, why I didn't pick him and his girl up. "I haven't been out with Christine in a couple weeks. I've been kinda busy."

When he walked to the truck with me, he said, "Kent, that Christine is hot-to-trot, man. I think you're missing out on something there."

"Little Brother, there is more to a relationship than a piece of ass," I said as I climbed in the truck. "See ya," I said to him as I started out the drive.

As I drove home, I thought about what Derrick had said and my response. I was pretty inexperienced when it came to women and I didn't know whether I was misreading Christine or if I was wrong. I laughed when I thought about asking one of the guys anything about dealing with women. I supposed they might have had some ideas, but would probably not be a great deal of help to me. My mind was just wandering around. Actually I was semiconscious when suddenly I came to my senses. Of course there was help at hand! If anyone could help me out, Paula was the girl. I laughed at my denseness and increased my speed. I would talk to Paula.

I got back to the house at 9:30 and saw Eugene, Larry and Paula pulling in right ahead of me. As soon as we had the car and truck put away, we all walked into the house, went to the kitchen and I put on coffee. We were all sitting at the kitchen table and when the coffee was ready, I poured four cups. We sat and talked about how choir practice went, all the work the two guys had gotten done and how dinner at my place went. I started not to tell them about Dad's blow-up, but decided they needed to know--that he had blown-up and had apologized, at least as much as he could.

"You'll have to admit, Kent," Larry said, "it must have been a pretty big shock to find your son is living with four men who love men."

"Yea, I'm sure it is and would be, but he had no right to put down my friends."

"Don't think it will happen again," Eugene said. "Well, I'm for a run on the beach. Anyone else?"

"It's dark already," Paula said.

"It's light enough to run," Eugene said. "Ready, Larry?"

"Yea, let's get dressed." The two raced upstairs, leaving me with Paula.

We sat in silence for a couple minutes, drinking another cup of coffee and, finally, I said, "Paula, I have a problem. I thought about talking to the guys about it. I mean, that's what would be usual but, well, what I mean is, I'm having a bit of a problem about women and don't think they would be much help."

"You might be surprised. They have been big brothers that way to Michael--and Mary Kathryn--but shoot. What's the problem?"

"Well, you've met Christine." Paula nodded. I don't know why I made that obvious statement.

"I've noticed you haven't gone out recently. Too busy and she's upset?"

"No, that's not it at all. I haven't asked her out because of a problem. This is kinda embarrassing, Paula, and I'm sure most men would laugh like hell and say they wished they had my problem."

Paula laughed and said, "Are you going to tell me about it or do I have to guess?".

"Damn, Paula, its embarrassing and, well, maybe not natural." I stammered to a halt and sat with my head down, not looking at Paula.

"Oh, so that's the problem, the reversal of the usual one. She wants to go faster and further than you. Right?"

"Yea, how did you know?"

"It wasn't too hard to guess. I saw her Labor Day and saw your reaction when she was crawling all over you."

"Don't you think it's unnatural? I mean not to want to go all the way big time?"

"Kent, I have been in love twice in my life. The first time it all came unglued because I wouldn't have sex. The second time, I know Jacob and I could have had beautiful sex, but we decided to wait. I guess that might be seen as unnatural if we were animals, but I don't think so for two human beings in love and who expect to spend years together. Sometimes we pass up pleasure today for something more important tomorrow."

"That's not my problem, Paula, not at all. We're not talking about two people in love. Maybe she loves me--she's never said so--and I know I'm not in love with her. So long as we were just friends and all we ever did was have a few kisses, it was ok. But the last couple times I have been out with her, she has had her hands all over me. The last time we were out, she actually, well, kinda, I mean she, well, damn it, she unzipped my pants and took my cock out. Now I'd be a fool to think you would believe me if I told you I wasn't aroused. I was. I was as hot and hard as hell but, at the same time, I didn't want to do anything with her. Well, I did but I didn't. If I have had, it would been just sex with no feeling. Well, I'm sure I would have felt it if I had, you know, shot off. What I felt was kinda disgusted with the whole thing. I mean, Paula, I'm no prude and I sure as hell am not sexless. I am as horny as the next guy, but I can't bring myself to have sex with just anybody. I mean I want to feel love for the person when I have sex. I mean..."

"Look, Kent, you don't have to say any more. You never need to apologize to anyone for not having sex. Usually, I'll admit, it is the woman in your situation, but it doesn't matter. Sex to some people is just a way to feel good and they aren't interested in their partner or, if they are, they still don't want to hear no. I guess if you didn't resist and Christine kept turning you on, you'd end up having sex. There comes a point beyond which it is nearly impossible to say no, but to drive someone to that point--who doesn't want to go there--is dirty and rotten."

"But when I tell Christine I'm not ready, she just keeps on."

"Kent, when I say no, I mean no. If you do and Christine doesn't respect that, then you need to move on."

"I hate to hurt her. She has been a good friend."

"Kent, she has been a good friend, but she's not being one now."

"What do I do?"

"Have you told her how you feel, I mean really."

"Yea, that's why I can't understand why she keeps on."

"My advice is just to forget it and not call her again. If she calls you, you can explain again or just tell her you have other plans. I'm not sure she will be all that hurt. She'll probably have someone else in short order."

We sat in silence a few minutes and I said, "Thanks, Paula. You are sure you're not available?"

"Very sure, Kent, but thanks for asking," She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "And some young woman has a real treat in store for her one of these days."


I had nothing I really needed to do Wednesday night. Well that wasn't quite true. I could have spent the time in the studio working on the paintings I was doing for the house, but time with Matt was more important to me. I loved watching him play. I sometimes wondered if I was second in his life. I knew I wasn't most of the time, but when he started playing, I wasn't sure I even lived in the same universe he was in!

Choir practice went extremely well, I thought. Paula was a hard task master and if anyone thought she was too young for the job, they hadn't seen her work. She treated the choir with respect, but that didn't mean she took any nonsense just because they were all older. St. Anne's was getting two bargains in Paula and Matt and I was sure of that.

I was sitting in the darkened church, watching Matt and Paula, when Larry and Eugene came in and sat beside me. "Get a lot done?" I asked, "or did you just find a dark spot in the library and make out?"

"We thought about that, but decided our room was better for making out. That way you can stop when you want to and not when you are really getting in to it and realize the library frowns on naked bodies," Larry whispered.

Paula finished with the choir a few minutes after the two housemates had arrived, and the three left together. I joined Matt on the organ bench while he worked on his prelude and postlude. That didn't take long, and soon we were on the way home.

Sunset was clearly much earlier than it had been when we came to Ohio as it was dark when we left the church. Once again I drove to our lovers' lane, parked, and Matt and I got out. I had thrown a blanket in the truck before I left the house, so I grabbed it and we walked, arm-in-arm to the lake. I spread the blanket on the beach and we sat down, Matt between my legs. We just sat silently for a few minutes, then Matt turned his head toward me for a great kiss. As we broke the kiss, he said, "Luke, do you ever think about what life would have been like had we never discovered we were loved by the other?"

"Not really, but I do have nightmares sometimes in which that is true and I sure don't like them."

"Pity I was so dense I couldn't see you were in love with me. Sure would have saved a lot of anguish."

"But you didn't, nor did I but we are together now and that's what counts." I kissed Matt, then we stretched out on the blanket. Matt continued kissing me as he moved atop my body. As he did, I reached up and took the bands from his hair. It fell in a black cloud, creating our private world and flooding it with the fragrance of Matt. As we kissed, our passion increased until we both were rock hard.

Matt slid his hands under my shirt, pinched a nipple, then pulled my shirt over my head. As soon as my chest was bare, he started kissing it, nipping my nipples and rubbing his hands over my bare chest. Finally I was able to get Matt's shirt off and we lay, bare chest to bare chest.

Our kisses became more and more passionate, tongues working overtime. Soon I was breathing through Matt's mouth. Matt, without taking his lips from mine, found my belt and zipper, opened my pants and took Little Luke in hand. Not to be outdone, I did the same for Chili Pepper. The position we were in made doing anything, once we had our tools in hand, pretty much impossible until Matt rolled off of me and lay at my side. We stroked each other while exchanging kiss after kiss. Finally, Matt started kissing his way down my chest and when he reached my belly button, he gave it a good tickling with his tongue. Moving further down, he reached Little Luke and took him into his hot, hot mouth, sending shivers up and down my spine with his tongue work. Sixty-nine was not one of our favorite activities because we both liked to watch our lover's face and look into his eyes when we were having sex. But it was dark and I couldn't really see Matt that clearly and knew he couldn't see me too well. Without taking Little Luke from Matt's control, I pulled my body around until my face was at Matt's pleasure place. I used my tongue on his thigh, his balls, and then took Chili Pepper into my mouth.

Since Matt was uncut, I had learned that a tongue between his foreskin and shaft gave him tremendous pleasure. Not to worry, although I was cut, Matt's tongue was sending skyrockets through my head. We continued giving each other pleasure, using our tongues as we sucked each other's tool and stroked it at the same time. I felt myself reaching the point of no return but before I could say anything, Matt exploded in my mouth, rapidly filling it with his gift. As his first charge hit the back of my throat, I exploded in his mouth.

Both having experienced a tremendous climax, I turned my body around again and kissed my dark lover. "Sarang Hanun Pomul, promise you will never, ever leave me... never."

"Of course I promise, Luke, but why do you think you need a new promise? I have promised to be with you until we are parted by death and I meant it."

"I know, Matt. And I don't know why I need to hear it from time-to-time, but I do. I just get to feeling insecure. It's a bad feeling and I need to hear you say the words. Ok, Matt, Dark Angel, I need to hear you say it because I am very unsure of myself right now. I hope you don't mind, but I made an appointment to see a psychologist on campus and made an appointment for you as well. I think after the first one, we need to see her together. Do you mind?"

"Luke, I told you we needed to see someone, so I'm glad you took the initiative. I should have done it but I didn't. And maybe she can help with some of our problems, Luke, my Bright Angel, but I don't think she could help much with the problem I'm having lying naked on a beach in Ohio the last of September. Luke, it's cold!"

"Want me to warm you up?" I laughed at Matt.

"I think I'd rather you warm me up in a nice warm bed!"

"Ok, killjoy," I said in as pouty a voice as I could manage, while trying not to laugh as Matt shivered beside me.

When we got home, Paula and Kent were in the library, Paula writing e-mail and Kent reading a botany book. "Where are the other two, upstairs making out?" I asked.

"Probably, but they went up to shower after a run on the beach," Kent said. Just as he spoke, Larry and Eugene walked in, hand-in-hand. They were dressed in sweats, their hair wet from the shower.

"Where have you two been? I would ask what you were doing, but I know the answer to that!" Larry laughed.

"We were on the beach too," Matt said. "Found a nice place at the end of a dirt road. What have you all been up to?"

Kent told us about the dinner with his family. When he finished, Matt said, "Sounds as if things are well on their way to being where they should have been all along."

"Yea, that's right," Kent agreed. "And they are definitely coming for dinner Sunday."

"That means it has to be special," Paula said.

"I also had a good talk with Paula about Christine." Kent and Paula then told us about their conversation.

"Kent, I may not be into women, but I am definitely a man and I know a lot of men will take sex any way they can get it. Some gay men screw any woman who will stand still for a minute--to prove to themselves they are not gay. I knew guys in school who made terrible remarks about this girl or that and their loose ways, but who delighted in using them for their own pleasure. I think a guy who has sex only with someone he at least respects, and hopefully loves, is the right guy, not the one who has a string of conquests," Eugene said, and there was general agreement with him. For a while we talked about sex and attitudes, and loving and being loved, then all went to our rooms. Matt and I were soon in a warm bed and asleep before there was much playing around.


Sunday the choir sounded great and it was noticed. Several parishioners came up to Paula during coffee hour and complimented her on the job she was doing. Matt was hugging her when Luke, Larry and I finally got to tell her how good the choir had been.

We rushed home to finish dinner which had to be special for Kent's parents. They arrived shortly after us. Matt served them a glass of wine in the living room and gave Derrick a glass of juice. As soon as dinner was done, Paula, Larry and I joined them. We also had glasses of wine with them. When he brought the wine in, Matt had told the Glazes that we had wine at home and our parents knew we served it here as well. Mr. Glaze commented that if more families handled wine that way it wouldn't be a way of showing off for kids and we all agreed. Hearing that, Matt asked Derrick if he'd like a glass and he said he was fine with juice.

Dinner conversation revolved around all we had done on the place and how school was going. Derrick was interested in the sports we were playing and we all laughed. "I'm sure your high school team could beat any of ours," Luke said. "There are so few men at Oberlin all are on a team if they can walk. But it keeps us in shape and it's fun. Of course, winning once in a while would make it more fun."

After dinner, we went outside so Mr. Glaze could see what we had done with the garden and orchard. He even admitted that the orchard looked great. "Have you set up your spray program yet?"

"We haven't," Kent said. "Of course we sprayed when we had finished pruning, but that was the last of it. Got any information on what we need to do? Spraying fruit trees is not something I know a great deal about."

"I'll see you get the information and the materials you need. Little enough I can contribute to this operation." As we were walking back to the house, he turned to me and said, "You are married?"

"No, it's Luke and Matt who are married, at least as married as they can be. Our parish priest at home blessed their union. It was a great day and a very impressive ceremony."

"Are you and Larry planning such a ceremony?"

"We have talked about it a little but not much. It was important for Luke and Matt, but Larry and I have made our vows to each other and that is enough for us... at least for now. If we could be legally married or have whatever it would be for two men, we might but, when you get right down to it, Luke and Matt are no more married than we are. And I think I am right when I say the four of us are not only living in sin according to most people, but also violating the laws of the state. I wish the state would just admit it has no business in the bedroom, but I don't expect that to happen any time soon."

"Kent told us about the mess in Waterside. It's our closest town, but I stay away as much as possible although our church is there. It is a filthy mess that I hope gets cleaned out. He said you were pretty fast and something to deal with. That surprised me because you are the smallest of the crew."

"Yea, but I haven't been involved in martial arts for nothing. It has served me well. As a matter of fact, it got me Larry."

"You karate kicked him until he gave in?" Mr. Glaze laughed.

I told him how I had defended Larry when he was the new boy at school. "When that happened, I was much larger than Larry, but I stopped growing and he started."

"To be honest with you, Eugene, I am having a hard time with the idea of two men being married or living together like a husband and wife. I guess I'll get used to it, but I'll admit it's not easy."

"Well, we are not exactly like husband and wife--we are, after all, two men."

"But isn't one like the woman and the other the man?"

"No, not at all. We are definitely two men and we live and act as men."

"But I mean when you... well, when you... I mean, you know..."

"You mean when we have sex?"

"Well, yea. I don't want to pry or anything, but isn't one a woman then?"

"Nope. Anything Larry does, I do. Who does what depends on our mood at the time. Guess that's a bit hard to understand, but what you have to remember, at least for the four of us, is that our partners are our equals in everything. One doesn't rule and the other obey. And if you are wondering about Kent, he's as straight as they come--I'd bet on that--and none of us will hit on him. We have what we want and are united by a sacred bond, recognized or not."

"I hope you know I am very new at thinking being gay is ok. I have always thought it was a horrible sin. I might have thought otherwise, but I had a very bad experience while I was in the military. You know there are no gays in the military, right? Wrong! I had a corporal in basic training who was in charge of a squad. One night he asked if I wanted to sneak over to the PX for a beer and I certainly did.

We drank more than we should and on the way back to the barracks, we passed a shack of some sort. He said, 'I need to take a piss, let's go inside.' There was a latrine inside and as soon I took my dick out to piss, he grabbed it. When I protested, he said, 'Look, Glaze, you are absent from the barracks without leave and you are half-drunk, which you could not be unless you had left your area. Now we can have a little fun or I can turn you in. It's up to you.' I was scared shitless. I knew I didn't stand a chance if I was turned in or got caught, so I went along with him. I had to give him a blow job and then he said he was going to pay me back with a good fuck. I drew the line there and he laughed and said, "Fucking or being fucked, I like both. Fuck my ass. Get naked.' While I was undressing, he went to a closet and came back with a jar, I guess, of Vaseline. So I fucked his ass to save mine."

"When we got back to the barracks, I managed to slip in without being caught, but the company commander had been looking for the corporal and he was gone the next day. You're the first person I ever told that, Eugene, but I wanted you to understand my aversion to gays is not just empty-headed prejudice. After Kent told us the four of you were gay, I had a hard struggle reconciling my one experience with someone I knew was gay with you four. I mean you are hardworking, honest, caring--all the things a father hopes his sons will be--except you're gay. It is going to be hard for me to reach the place where I can say, 'They're gay, so what?'. I'm not there yet, but you four sure make it hard to think there is something evil and rotten about being gay. I mean if that's what you want..."

"Mr. Glaze, it's not a question of what we want or don't want. It's just the way it is. I didn't choose to be gay, I just woke up one day and realized I was."

"That's what Kent told me about you guys, but I found it hard to believe. But it's true then?"

"Yea, as a matter of fact, Larry did just about everything to prove to himself he was straight, but it didn't work. He was born gay and he's still gay. And if you want to know the truth, I'm glad because I love the guy. I can see why, from your experience, you'd hate gays, but that was only one guy. There are four of us here and I can tell you, none of us would force someone to have sex." I knew I was telling the truth now and I sure as hell didn't want Mr. Glaze to find out about Larry. I didn't think he would, but I needed to make sure Kent never told his father about that dark moment in my relationship with Larry.

When we got back to the garage, Kent said, "How'd you like to see the studio and practice room?" The Glazes were all for it, so we climbed up the steps to the studio. All of Luke's work was hidden behind drapes except one. "When did you finish that, Luke?" I asked.

"Couple days ago. It's ready to hang when we get around to it." The painting was of the falls. Very different from the one he hung in the exhibition. This was a scene at sunset and the colors reflected that. It was beautiful.

When we got back to the house, the Glazes said they had to go. They started walking toward the car and Kent was with them. When they reached the car, Kent hugged each of them. It was clear this was an unexpected gesture on Mr. Glaze's part, but he got into it when he realized what was going on. When Derrick got in the car on the driver's side, Kent said, "Yea, Man! I forgot you had a birthday and have your driver's license! Now you can come by more often. That's great!"

"Yea, Derrick, we expect to see you around. And bring that good-looking woman with you. You are still hanging on to her aren't you?" Luke said with a laugh.

"Yea, still hanging on, see you."

As we walked inside, I had an opportunity to tell Kent he was never to tell his dad about the painful part of my relationship with Larry.

After the Glazes left, the six of us made short work of cleaning up after dinner. As we went about the job, we talked about the change in Kent's dad. "He didn't say it was a secret, so I suppose it's ok to talk about it. Mr. Glaze told me a horror story today which sheds some light on his attitude toward gays." I then told them what Mr. Glaze had told him about his experience.

"I can see how that would definitely color his thinking," Paula said, "but women who are raped don't assume all men are rapists. Stereotyping, even when it is based on an experience, is a damnable thing."

"Yea, but we're all guilty of it at one time or another, I'm sure. Remember when we talked about coming to Ohio and living among Yankees? Look at Kent and his family, the van Hooks, the people at St. Anne's. None of them are like what we talked about and expected. To be fair and just, you have to stay on guard against painting a group with a wide brush," Luke said.

We were all silent for a while, then Paula said, "Yea."

After getting things cleaned up and our "debriefing", everyone went to their rooms. When Larry and I got to our room, he wrapped his arms around me, pulled me close and whispered in my ear, "Eugene Willingham, I love you, do you know that? Do you believe that? I love you Gene."

"Lord, I'm glad to hear that," I laughed as I kissed Lar, "I'm really glad to hear that. I thought you might have changed your mind."

"Never. You have me as long as I live, so just get used to it, Gene."

"I guess I better get started then," I laughed and started undressing Lar.

Lar and I had started seeing a counselor several weeks before and brought up a new problem. When we first got together as a couple, it was as I told Mr. Glaze. Anything I did, Larry did, but that was no longer true. Ever since we had been in Ohio, Lar could not get inside me. The counselor encouraged Larry to at least try giving me what I wanted, him inside me. "Pick a time when you are both being playful and, Eugene, keep Larry from your penis until you are both very ready and have him try. Sooner or later it will happen." I remembered her words because Lar was being very playful.

I kept putting up some resistance to Lar's undressing me and at one point he was chasing me around the room. When he caught me, he took the rest of my clothes off and then it was my time to undress him. It wasn't easy! When he was finally undressed, he was fully aroused, as was I. Each time he reached for my cock, I moved so he couldn't get it in his hand, but made sure I got his in mine. After horsing around a bit more, Larry grabbed me and lifted me off my feet. Had I chosen, he could never have taken me, but I wanted him to win this fight! He tossed me on the bed and immediately covered my body with his. His lips covered mine and he sucked my tongue deep into his mouth. As he did, I reached for his cock, took it in my hand and stroked it gently as he continued his passionate kissing. When he moved to start kissing down my body, I flipped over on my stomach, drew my knees under me, my ass in the air.

Lar started kissing the back of my neck, nipping an ear as his hard cock slid up and down my crack. I reached into the bedside stand and took out a tube of lube, opened it and squirted a generous amount in my hand. It was difficult, but I managed to apply it to Lar's hard, hot cock and a large amount on my ass pucker. Larry certainly knew what I was up to and continued kissing my neck and nipping at an ear as he worked more and more lube inside me. I reached back, grabbed his cock and placed its head against my ass pucker and started pushing back slowly. This time, Lar didn't go limp or protest. I was ready and said so. Lar answered, "Babe, if you want it, turn over. I have to see your face 'cause you'll never tell me if I am hurting you."

"You promise you'll keep at it until I feel you inside?"

"Promise, Babe."

I turned over and said, "Lar, I'm ready. I want you now!" urging him on. I spread my legs wide and Larry placed the head of his cock against my hole and pushed slowly, gently forward. I was deep-breathing and doing everything else I could think of to relax. There was some pain, sure, but I tried to keep from showing it. Lar was entering me slowly when suddenly he was inside and if there was pain, I was too happy to notice as I felt him moving in slowly until his pubic hair was against my ass. Lar was fully inside me and, I can tell you, he had not gone limp! Once inside, he was very still for a time then started drawing his cock out of me, then pushing it in again. He was definitely being slow and easy and it felt far more wonderful than I had remembered it.

Lar kept up his slow rhythm, but I wanted more. "Lar, faster, Babe, and deeper." Lar paused, raised first one, then the other of my legs and placed them on his shoulders. He was kneeling behind me as he grasped my waist and pulled me to himself until his knees were under my ass. Now he could really plunge deep inside me. Once he was in position, his thrusts were deep, fast and hard. Once he was inside me, I had gone half-limp, but now Lar took my cock in his hand and began to stroke it in rhythm with his thrusts. "Yes, Babe, yes," I said through clinched teeth. His thrusts were now hitting a magic spot inside me, sending electric shocks through my body. I was determined to hold off but, with Larry's cock in my ass and his hand stroking mine, there was no way I could last much longer. I started to tell him to slow down with the hand but, just as I opened my mouth, Lar thrust even deeper inside me, his body became rigid, and I felt his hot seed explode into me. That did it. I started shooting, globs hitting Larry's chest and one actually getting him in the face.

Having reached our climax together, our last shots were also together. When he stopped shooting, Lar lifted my legs from his shoulders and lay on me. His mouth found mine and, once again, he was kissing me passionately. Finally he just lay his head on my chest, over my heart, and stayed there until his cock became limp and slipped from my ass. When it did, he rolled off of me and we lay side-by-side, my eyes smiling into his and his into mine. After a few minutes I said, "Thank you, Lar. You have made me very happy."

"Not half as happy as you have made me, Babe. I never thought I would be able to make love to you that way again, and I knew it was very important to you. But, Gene, I think it was even more important to me. For the first time, I really feel forgiven for what I did. You accepted me, wanted me, and that makes my world."

"And mine as well." We lay together, exchanging kisses for a long time, then Lar got up, took my hand and pulled me up, swept me into his arms again and took me to the bathroom where we cleaned up after our fantastic love-making.

When we got back to our room, we crawled into bed and, holding each other, were soon asleep.

We slept late Monday morning, too late for a run. We showered, shaved and got dressed. While we were dressing, we heard Matt, Luke and Kent come into the hall talking about their morning run. We went downstairs, fixed coffee and sat at the kitchen table drinking it. When the other three guys came down, Matt started breakfast but, before he did, he said, "I think I see a happy look on two faces this morning."

Both Lar and I blushed and said, "Yea, bet you do!".

Chapter Nine


When I got to Oberlin Monday morning, there was a note in my student mailbox asking me to see Professor Moler at my convenience. I had three classes that morning and didn't get to go by his office until lunch. When I got there, his student assistant said he was not in, but would be in all afternoon. I asked her if she knew why he needed to see me and she said she did not.

A couple people from the newly formed combo had started eating lunch with us and the lunch conversation generally revolved around what the combo was doing. Richard, who was more or less the leader, said they had been asked to play for a party a week from Friday. "They requested love songs and I think, from what the lady who called said, that means fifties and sixties. I don't know that many or where we can get them. Any ideas?"

Luke laughed, "Ask Matt. He's got all sorts of tapes he made from his dad's old LPs. We did one of them already, 'More'."

"Sure, I have plenty on tape. You're welcome to use them," I said. I told my housemates I had to see Professor Moler after my 1:00 o'clock class. "I had a note in my box asking that I see him as soon as possible. I have no idea what's up. I'll meet you at the gym," I said to Luke, who had PE at 1:00 and would be at the gym.

After my 1:00 o'clock class, I went again to Professor Moler's office. When I got there, I was told he was in and knocked on his office door. "Come in," he said and as I stepped through the door, he said, "Matt! Very good. Have a seat. I have a bit of serious business to discuss." I sat down, wondering just what "serious business" could be.

"Matt, I have a request which I think is right up your alley. I am a member of the Bach Organ Society. There are chapters across the country. It's a pretty loose federation, but occasionally the chapters do get together and plan something. The federation board has just asked that chapters--maybe two coming together if they are small--sponsor a series of organ concerts this summer. We all realize that most chapters--even if two chapters combine--cannot afford a well-known, professional concert organist. A call has gone out for good organists to play the series. I immediately thought of you. To be honest, I have several good organ students who could do an adequate job, but--now don't start getting a big head or be an ego problem for me--you are an excellent organist. I expect you to made advances in your four years here. Your technique will improve some, but not a great deal. Your time here will best be spent in other areas--composition, arrangement, learning to write for the organ and other instruments. But I'm beating about the bush again. Chapters are urged to send tapes to the planning committee and they will select two organists to play the series. Are you interested?"

"Of course I'm interested. I mean it is an excellent opportunity, but I'd like to know a bit more about the whole setup."

"Good thinking. You can get yourself in some real messes if you don't look hard and close at such offers. You'll need to get a manager soon. That's a step full of pitfalls as well. I'd like to talk with you about that before too long. Since I am on the board of the Society, I know this is on the up and up but, just to make sure, I suggest you find someone to look over the contract should you be selected. I will, of course, but there's a conflict of interest involved, so you need an outsider. For this contract, a good lawyer will be what you need."

"Of course you want to know about the setup. The program, selected by the organist, will be all Bach, of course. I did hold out for the encore, if there is one, to be Bach or not Bach as the organist chooses. I was hoping to find someone who would do a crowd-pleaser using a pop tune or something 'in the manner of Bach', but I lost that battle. Anyway, we envision two concerts of an hour to an hour and a half each week, Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Some chapters will want a Saturday evening concert as well. Whether or not they get it is up to the organist and, Matt, they pay extra for a third concert and, of course, the expenses for two or three concerts will be less than for a single one as they only have to fly you in once. I think if you are asked to do a third concert, the cost should be more than half of what you get for two. I'd suggest about three-fourths of what you get for two. "

"The chapters will be responsible for your transportation--at least business class--and housing. We're insisting on hotels, otherwise fanatic organ lovers will get you in their homes and keep you up all night talking. You will be free to choose where you have your meals."

"Concerts will pay you well--not like you were an established professional, but well. What do you think?"

"My head's spinning so fast I can't think. It sounds like a real opportunity--it is a real opportunity if I should be chosen as one of the two. When would these concerts be taking place?"

"Good question. One series will be in July, the other in August. The first series will start on July 7, the second August 4. Do you have a preference?"

"Assuming I am one of those chosen, I'd like the July concerts if I have a choice."

"Very good." I was suddenly aware that Professor Moler had been busy making notes all the time we were talking. "Anything else you need to ask?"

"Yes, sir. How long do I have before I make a tape and where will that be done?"

"Good thinking, Matt. You'll make the tape here. I'll see about arranging the taping. Unless I tell you otherwise, plan on taping Saturday October 28. That will give us time to re-tape anything necessary since the tapes don't have to be in until November 15. The judges are meeting December 15 and the decision will be made then. If you are selected--and you have a good chance, an excellent chance, Matt--you will be notified by phone the 16th or 17th. Otherwise, you'll be notified by mail. So you will actually know not later than the 17th, one way or the other."

"Professor, I'd like Larry to participate in the taping. He did such an excellent job of the recital/concert and then worked all last summer with the PBS station in Lexington."

"I'll get in touch with the right people and get Larry put in charge if you think he can handle it."

"I'm sure he can and he will not be satisfied with anything less than perfection. Thanks for your interest in me, Professor Moler."

"Matt, I don't think I have ever had a student as advanced as you are and with your potential. It will be a feather in my cap when you make good. You just have to promise never to tell anyone you were damn good when I laid hands on you," he laughed.

"Promise, and thanks again."

I was walking on air as I headed toward the gym through the crisp October afternoon. The campus was ablaze with the colors of maples and the sky was crystal clear and blue beyond imagination. I was feeling on top of the world.

When I got to the gym, Luke's conditioning class was still going on. There were several very hot hunks exercising, their sweaty bodies displaying superb builds. I could have lusted after any of them, except right in the middle of the crowd was one body which made all the others pale in comparison--Yonghon Tongmu, my soulmate, Luke. He finally saw me standing on the edge of the floor, waved and smiled. Shortly afterward, a whistle sounded and a rotund figure who should have been working out big time, shouted, "Showers, Ladies".

Luke rushed down the stairs to the showers and I went outside and sat on a park bench in the sun. Life was good, love was good, sex was good, Luke was good, all was good. I was a peaceful and happy young man. I was so comfortable and the sun was so warm I became very relaxed and, I guess, slipped off into dreamland because the next thing I knew, Luke was shaking me and saying, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, join the land of the living!". When I opened my eyes, Luke was leaning over me with a great Luke smile covering his face. As soon as he saw I was awake, he bent down and gave me a great Luke kiss.

"Don't you think you need to be careful about that?" I asked. "Not that I don't think it's about the greatest way I know of waking up!"

"Matt, sometimes I just don't feel like being careful and this is one of them!" Luke pulled me to my feet, wrapped his arms around me and gave me a real, tongue-tingling kiss.

As we broke our kiss, a couple guys came out of the gym and, seeing us, whistled. One of them shouted, "Way to go, Luke, Babe!" and Luke glanced over to them and waved, his fingers giving the victory sign.

"Well," I thought, "so much for being careful". The damage, if any, having been done, Luke and I walked across campus, arm-in-arm. I didn't know what to think or do when, from time to time, Luke kissed me. Finally I thought it was time for some explanation of Luke's behavior, not that I didn't like it. But, at the same time, we had gotten ourselves in a real bind just making out in a movie and here we were walking across campus like the two love birds we were. "Luke, what's come over you? We've been so careful and now you are practically announcing to all the world that we are a couple."

"Yea! I have always wanted the world to know but, today in showers, one of the guys asked if I wasn't gay. Don't know how he came to ask the question but, when he did, I said, 'Damn right!'. He then asked if I had a lover and I said, 'I'm married to him,' and the rest of the guys started asking questions and I told them I was married to you, Babe. Matt, I know we said we wouldn't tell anyone without the other knowing, but I knew you were waiting for me and was feeling soooo good that I just couldn't not tell. Mad?"

"Noooo, I mean no, but I just hope there's no problems as a result of it."

Luke laughed and said, "You know what one of the guys said? He said, 'Damn, you have to get the best-looking and hottest hunk on campus,' and I said, 'Damn right and you better keep hands off!'. Then I said, 'Holy Shit! I hope this doesn't result in another gay-bashing. I've had enough of that this fall.' One of the guys said, 'Luke, I'm straight, none straighter, but if anyone wants to give you trouble on this campus, I'm there for you'. Several of the other guys agreed. It really felt good to have some of my classmates ready to fight for us."

"Yea, but I sure hope they don't have to. But I've got big news, Babe." I then told Luke about the concert series. "Luke it is a very big break if I can just land one of the two series."

"Another summer separated? Think we can handle it?"

"I think we better get used to it, Luke, because I suspect we are going to spend a lot of time apart for most of our life."

"Maybe so, Matt, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. And I do think it's something we need to talk about."

"Right, Luke. Definitely."

Luke said, "Matt, I am so proud and so excited for you." He suddenly spun around until he was facing me, put his arms around me and bent me backwards as he placed a long, passionate kiss on my lips.

As Luke finally broke our kiss, two girls walking near us looked at us and one said, "Shit! Every time I find a good-looking one, he turns out to like cock better!" Luke and I started laughing and, holding hands, continued laughing as we walked to the Jeep.

As we drove home, we talked about the summer and, I guess, just thinking about it brought bad thoughts to both of us. Finally Luke said, "Matt, last summer is behind us. It's over and done with. There's no reason to be thinking bad thoughts. I said it and I meant it: I am very proud of you and I am very excited about this real opportunity. We'll handle summer this time. We've made our mistakes. So let's be happy and excited."

I agreed with Luke but, still, there was a gnawing something in the back of my mind. "Luke, let's be happy and excited, but we keep our appointments with the psychologist and work on those things we don't want to think about but which keep popping into our minds, such as last summer."

"Right, Matt, but now I'm happy and I'm excited."

I took my eyes off the road for long enough to kiss my love and said, "Right, Babe, I AM happy and I am excited".

When we got home, I went into the kitchen and set out juice and snacks, knowing the others would be home soon, even Kent. Luke had gone into the library and called me from there. "Matt, we have a message on the machine from Margaret. She wants us to call as soon as all the rest of the Concord crew gets here. She says it's not an emergency and we needn't worry if we can't get her right away."

I had hardly gotten things on the table when the Oberlin crew arrived, followed shortly by Kent. Everyone immediately congregated in the kitchen and, as soon as everyone was present, I said, "We have real good news but, first, there is a phone call from Margaret. She wanted us to call her as soon as we all were here. So let's take care of that."

Margaret answered the phone promptly and immediately assured us that there was no real emergency. She just wanted us to know what had happened to Christopher, but told us she thought everything would be ok. I then told her my news. She was very pleased. She told us what was going on with the Fellowship, the changes in the school and that she thought others were beginning to take our place. "Unless there's some significant change in Christopher, we can keep in touch by e-mail, but I did want to talk to you about this development. Michael seems to be on top of it. I hope so." We chatted a few minutes more and the others went back into the kitchen for more juice and snacks. I phoned Mom and Dad to tell them the news and both were very excited and pleased. "I guess that means we'll have you here in June and August. Will be great to have you at home again, you surely are missed," Mom said.

"You may have me all summer," I said. "I don't have the concert series yet."

"Matt, who could possibly be in competition with you?" Dad laughed. "You may as well get measured for tails now!"

"Dad, I think I can draw some lines and tails are way past the line I'll draw," I laughed. We talked about what was going on at school, and community news.

Dad then told me about the allegations against Mr. Stevenson and the cross-burning. I was livid! "Dad, how can that kind of thing go on? You know Mr. Stevenson is innocent! And a cross-burning in Concord? It makes the town look like the hick town the people here think southern towns are!"

I ranted and raved for a few more minutes until Dad finally said, "Matt, Matt, I know, I know. I am sure it will be solved soon. Some of us have some ideas, but we're keeping them very much to ourselves right now. Don't worry!"

I went in to the kitchen and told the others about Mr. Stevenson and the cross-burning. Just as I expected, Kent said, "Now that sounds like the southern towns I know about from the movies".

"Yea, that's just what I was fucking afraid of! Shit!"

When I looked around, all four of my Concord pals were looking at me with their mouths open. Luke started laughing and started singing, "By jove, I think he's got it! He's got it!" I realized what I had said and, I guess, did a good job with the four-letter words. I blushed and then felt a slow grin spreading over my face.

We talked about the situation a few minutes and then Luke said, "Look, John Stevenson is a friend, as is Uncle Michael. I think we should call them just to let them know we are thinking about them and pulling for them." We all trooped into the library, Luke dialed the number and, when Mr. Stevenson answered, turned on the speaker-phone so we could all hear and talk.

He told us how he appreciated our call and support and that he had good support from Ms. Jones and Millie, but really didn't know where the mess would end. I asked if he had any ideas who was behind it and he said he did not. I started to mention what Dad had said, but decided against it. After we had talked to Mr. Stevenson, we all talked to Uncle Michael. He said he had told John they could just move to Charleston and forget the whole mess and Concord, "But John wouldn't hear of it and I am glad. I would take him out of this mess if he wanted to go, but I'm proud of him for wanting to fight--and fight we will." We talked a bit longer, then went back to the kitchen where we sat and talked and worked on supper.

We were all talking about what was going on in Concord, rehashing what we had all heard, when Kent said, "Didn't I hear something about some good news when I first came in?"

"In all the Concord excitement, I forgot it but, yes, I have good news," I said. I then told them about the concerts and that I was going to compete for one of the series. "Of course, it is not a sure thing at all. I suspect there will be tons of organists, all as good or better than I am, competing, but I'll have a crack at it."

"Matt, you know that there are not tons of organists as good or better than you and those who are are already professionals," Eugene said.

"Well I'm not so sure, but I'm glad even to be recommended for the competition. Which reminds me, Larry, I asked that you be in charge of making the audition tape. I suppose there are others as good, but I know you and your work. Think you can handle that?"

"Don't see why not. Besides, I can use it as a class project and get credit for it. The more things we can make double duty, the better. I suppose you'll use your Bach audition pieces for your performance class, won't you? Would make sense."

"Would, but I can't. My teacher is hell-bent on me doing modern stuff this semester. I'll just have to double up my practicing. Of course, I have several Bach pieces I know well."

"Yea, we know, 'Sheep' and 'Jesu', Eugene laughed.

"I know I know zilch about music," Kent said, "so what is with this 'Sheep' and 'Jesu' bit? I keep hearing it."

"Two Bach pieces," Paula said. "Matt once said any church organist could play 'Sheep'--its real name is 'Sheep may Safely Graze'--and 'Jesu'--real name 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'--in their sleep, and use them when they haven't practiced. They're pieces which have been overplayed, I suspect, but are lovely pieces and people do like them."

"Because they know them," Matt said. "Well, I need to pick several pieces that haven't been overplayed and a couple that are familiar, I suspect, for the audition tape. And, of course, I can use them at St. Anne's."

"So you have your summer planned," Paula said. "Think you and Luke can be separated without fucking up this time?" I hadn't realized just how much our last summer had affected Paula until she said that.

"I sure as hell hope so," Luke said. "Another summer like the last one and we'll both be to bury and I'm not kidding!"

Kent sat looking very puzzled. "You guys have a problem with summers? He asked then said, "Well, I didn't mean to pry."

Luke sorta hung his head and then said, "We had problems last summer". And the two of us told Kent a very condensed version of the story of the last summer.

When we finished, Kent asked, "And the nightmare from hell is a result?"  Luke and I nodded.


Matt and I discussed his opportunity, and what it might mean for our summer, but nothing was definite since he still had to be accepted as one of the two organists. I was absolutely confident he would be accepted, but he kept maintaining there had to be tons of organists as good as he was. My thinking was if the organ teacher at Oberlin thought he had a good crack at it, he did. Surely Professor Moler had other students, advanced students, he could have recommended, but he had asked Matt and I thought that said a lot.

Sunday he and Paula once again showed how good they were and it was appreciated by many of the parishioners, including those who were in the music department at Oberlin, and that also bode well for Matt being one of the two organists chosen by the Bach Organ Societies.

When we all got home Wednesday, there was a letter waiting for me from Uncle Michael. When I saw it I wondered why he would be writing me, especially since I had talked to him a week before. I opened the letter and was stunned by its contents. Seems Uncle Michael had planned my summer. The letter asked about me doing a series of exhibitions in some of the best and most exclusive private galleries. "You, of course, will travel with the exhibition and be on hand for people to meet and talk with. If you don't have enough works now, will you have by summer?" he had asked. "The exhibition will cover a large number of cities with an opening and reception Sunday afternoon, closing Friday and moving to the next city Saturday. It will be a real trying schedule but will definitely give you exposure."

"Starting when?" Matt asked.

"The first will open in Charleston, at Sanders and Sanders Gallery of course, on June 16th, three weeks after we finish here."

"Will you be ready?" Paula asked. "Can you use some of your earlier works?"

"I think I can be ready and I'm sure I can use some of my earlier works, but I don't think there are many available. I guess I'll need to ask Uncle Michael about that."

"I sure hope you include the painting of Matt," Kent said. "That is a piece of work even I can appreciate."

"Kent, you keep putting yourself down about not knowing music and art. Since you're not an artist or musician, no-one can expect you to know as much as we do, but you know a lot more than you give yourself credit for," Larry said. "I'm not an artist or musician and do not know as much as those who are, but I don't have to apologize for it. None of them could make a decent tape or video just as they couldn't properly care for the orchard. Different folks, different talents. Don't put yourself down so."

"Thanks, Larry, I guess I do. Maybe some of my dad's attitude toward me rubbed off on me."

"Well wash it off," Eugene laughed. "And Kent's right, Luke, that painting of Matt has to be included."

"I don't know. I suspect all the works have to be for sale and in that case it definitely will not be included. It is not for sale!"

"Damn, it seems we have just gotten here and already we're planning the summer," Larry said. "Remember when it was a year between December first and Christmas? Now it's only a week between summers."

"Speaking of planning the summer," Paula said, "has the schedule for the exhibitions been set? I mean other than the opening in Charleston?"

"I don't know," I answered. "Why?"

Matt jumped up, kept thrusting his fist in the air and shouting "YES!".

"Did I miss something?" I asked, wondering just what the hell was going on. As I looked around, Paula was laughing, Kent looked puzzled and then a grin spread across his face, just as Larry and Eugene gave each other a high five. "Would someone please tell me just what the hell is going on here?" I pleaded.

"Luke, I bet that most of the cities on your schedule will be on mine. We may not have to be separated for any length of time this summer," Matt said through his laughter. It took me a while longer to see what they had all seen almost at once. "Call Uncle Michael and find out if the schedule has been set. If not, I'll get a copy of the schedule from Professor Moler and see if Uncle Michael can't schedule the exhibitions at the same time as the concerts."

"But you don't know whether you will be chosen for July or August," I said.

"Luke, Yonghon Tongmu, I don't know that I will be chosen at all. But it doesn't matter! The exhibition can be scheduled for both months and if I get one, that's great. If I get none, your exhibitions' schedule will still be good."

I pounded myself on the forehead. "Damn, I am sooo dense! Of course it won't matter so far as the exhibitions are concerned. I'll call Uncle Michael right away."

"And ask about exhibiting Matt's picture," Kent said.

I phoned Uncle Michael and we talked at length about what was going on in Concord. He told me nothing had developed concerning the cross-burning or the attack on Mr. Stevenson. He assured me they were being very careful and the police were patrolling their street on an irregular schedule, but were by at least once each hour. We finally got around to talking about his proposal for a series of exhibitions. When I asked if the schedule had been set, he said it had not been, but that it would have to be set by January first.

"You're planning on opening in Charleston?"

"Of course, at Sanders and Sanders Gallery. Roger is doing a great job and this exhibition will certainly get people into the gallery. I have one painting here that will definitely be included, 'Death and Transformation'."

"That answers a question I had--at least I think it does. Will 'Death and Transformation' be for sale?"

"Certainly not! How could you even ask?"

"Well Kent, our new housemate, said he thought the picture of Matt should be included, but you know it is not for sale."

"What's done by some galleries which are not quite as ethical as Sanders, is to put an outlandish price on paintings that are not for sale and put a sold tag on them. I just make a note in the catalog saying the painting is the property of the artist and is on loan for the exhibition. Planned to see if I could get Sandra to part with her painting of Paula for the summer. But how is your work coming, Luke?"

"To be honest, Uncle Michael, not very well. I can't seem to get inspired and the time I have is so hacked into pieces that I just get started and have to stop. I need to do some serious looking at that."

"I certainly hope so. But what do you think of the traveling exhibition? I guess we could arrange for you to get home for a day or two now and then to see Matt, but the schedule is really grueling."

"Uncle Michael, that's the reason I called. Matt just got some good news--he says it's not good news until it happens, but I know it will happen." I then told Uncle Michael about the possibility of Matt doing concerts all of July or August. "He told Professor Moler he'd prefer July if he gets one of the concert series and if he has a choice. Matt is sure the concert series dates have been set. Would it be possible for us to schedule the same cities on those dates, provided you have gallery contacts in them?"

"Splendid idea, Luke! we can probably both get some good publicity that way. Send me the schedules and I will get busy."

"Thanks, Uncle Michael. I'll fax the schedules to you as soon as Matt can get them. He's at Holtkamp tomorrow, so it will probably be Friday before I can get them to you."

"Good enough, but the sooner the better. This sounds like it will be a great summer."

"Well, you and Mr. Stev... John take care so you will be around this summer and a lot more summers."

"Believe me, we will."

When I hung up the phone, I told the others nothing had developed in the way of finding out who was behind the attack on Mr. Stevenson and the cross-burning. "John accused of hitting on a student," Matt said. "That is really insane. I don't know anyone who is more of a dedicated teacher and I know he would never do that."

"They are after him and Keith Lewis as well? I wonder how Keith fits into the picture?" Eugene asked.

"Well, there's no use in worrying about it, I know, but we will," Paula said. "But, right now, someone needs to get on supper."


After supper, we all hit the books. I was getting ready for Friday so I wouldn't have to be up late Thursday night. After working an hour or so, I was ready and went downstairs to practice. I also spent some time looking over the Bach I had and making a few selections. When I finished, I wrote a note to Professor Moler asking for a copy of the proposed concert schedule and telling him why I wanted it. I started to say that Luke would pick it up, then remembered Luke would be at Case Western Reserve the following day. I walked down the hall, tapped on Paula's door and called, "Paula, need to see you a minute". When Paula came to her door, I asked if she could carry a note to Professor Moler's office and pick up a schedule for the concert series the next day.

"Sure, no problem. I'll drop the note off as soon as I get to school. Ask him to put the schedules in my box. No problem."

"Thanks, Paula." I kissed her on the cheek and said, "Sweet dreams".

She said, "Yea," in a voice that said, "I doubt it".


I almost laughed to myself when Matt said, "Sweet dreams". My dreams lately were anything but sweet. I kept having a nightmare in which I was dressed like a fairytale princess, watching two knights do battle. Both were dressed in white armour, one trimmed in gold and red, the other in silver and blue. Handsome knights they were. I did not know how I knew, but I knew the knight who won the combat would be my fairy prince. Seldom did a week pass that I did not have the dream.

I took Matt's letter to Professor Moler's office as soon as I got to Oberlin. His student assistant was sitting out front, half-asleep, drinking a Coke and eating cookies, leaving crumbs all over her desk. I wanted to tell her off but just handed her the note and asked when Professor Moler would be in. "Sometime. He's supposed to be here for the second hour's class."

"Does he miss it often?"

"Are you kidding? He never misses."

"Then one might suppose, might one not, that he will be here at nine or shortly before?"

"Yea, I guess." She went back to drinking her Coke and eating cookies, adding to the crumbs already on the desk.

"Do you think you might give him this note?" I asked, handing her the note.

"Yea, I'll put it in his IN box."

"If you would, and be sure he sees it. It's important."

"Yea, every student thinks his or her note is important."

I left the office and headed for class, very uncomfortable about the fate of Matt's note. I rushed out of my 10:00 o'clock class, raced across campus to Professor Moler's office, hoping to catch him in. He was just closing his office door when I raced up, all out of breath.

"Hold up, young lady, get your breath. Miss Wright, I believe."

"Yeee, yes," I was finally able to get out. "Paula, old gal, you better get in more running if this is the shape you are in," I thought to myself. "Yes, Professor. I wanted to make sure you got Matt Greywolf's note. Did you?"

"I don't remember seeing it. When did he put it in my box?"

"He didn't. I brought it in this morning and gave it to your student assistant. She said she would put it in your IN box."

"Well, let's check. I don't think I had anything in my IN box this morning." He unlocked his office and looked inside and said, "No, nothing in the box".

I looked at his assistant's desk and saw the envelope laying on it, covered with cookie crumbs. "There it is," I said, wanting him to see the mess on the desk.

He walked over, picked up the envelope, shook the crumbs off and said, "Paula, you wouldn't be looking for a job, would you? I have had it with that Coke-swigging, cookie-eating non-assistant!"

"Sorry, but I think you had something to do with my getting a full scholarship. But if you are looking for a hard-working assistant, I think I know where you can find one." I told him about a girl I had befriended in my choral music class who was having a hard time making ends meet. "Don't know how she would be here, but she's a real worker in class and has a great personality."

"Tell her to come by to see me and make that yesterday. I am ready for a change! Now let's see what Matt wants."

"If it will speed things up, I can tell you what he wants and you can read the reasons later. He'd like a copy of the dates for the proposed concert series if you have one."

"Sure do. Just got it yesterday. Actually, it came three days ago, but my non-assistant didn't pick up my college mail for several days. I'll get a copy right now." Professor Moler went into his office and came back with two sheets of paper. "Walk down the hall to the copier with me and you can have them now."

As soon as I got the copies, I thanked Professor Moler and, as I turned to go, he called, "If you really want to thank me, send that young woman around."

I was a bit late slipping into my choral music class, but no-one seemed to notice or care. While the basses were being chewed out for not working on their part of a piece, I leaned over to Lucinda, who was directly in front of me, and said, "May have some good news for you. See me after class." She nodded in response.

"Miss Wright, how would you handle a chorus in which the basses don't seem to want to work?" Miss Ludlum, our teacher for this class, asked.

Since I had been only half-listening, I knew that this was her way of putting me on the spot and making an example of me. She did it to intimidate students and I had fallen for it at first, but now I wasn't going to be intimidated and thought it was time she stopped. I stepped down from the risers, walked to the front of the class, took her baton from her hand, said, "Thank you," turned to the class and said, "Basses on your toes". I nodded to the student accompanist. She started the introduction and when the basses should have come in, they straggled in. "Gentlemen, you may think you are all great, and you may be, but this is not a piece for soloists, so you are going to have to get together. Shall we try again?" The second attempt was a bit better, but not good. "You, you and you, down here with me." The three guys came down. "Now I want you to listen and tell me what's wrong. Again, basses." On the third attempt, it was better. I turned to the three I had called down. "Who was not working this time?"

The three guys stood looking at the floor. "Well?" One of them muttered something. "Who?" He pointed to a guy in the back. "Ok, down here. We'll finally find who is interested and who is taking choral music because they think it's a crip course. "Now," I raised the baton and this time the basses were very much together. "Thank you," I said, then turned to the four standing with me. "Any of you here because you think it's a crip course? If so, you can go. The rest of you get back in place and get with the program." The four went back to their places and I raised the baton again. The basses were fine and I nodded and the accompanist played the piece from the beginning. The group didn't do too badly and the basses were good. When the piece was finished, I turned to Miss Ludlum and said, "That's the way I would do it," as I handed her the baton.

When class was over, I told Lucinda about the job Professor Moler was ready to offer anyone who had half sense. "Probably doesn't pay a lot, but at least it would pay something."

"I'm counting every penny and anything is a plus," she said. "Thanks, Paula. And thanks for what you did in class. Maybe Ludlum will stop trying to embarrass people. See you later. I'm headed for Professor Moler's office right now."

I was finished for the day but had to wait for Larry and Eugene, so I went to the library. I checked out a couple pieces of music which I thought might be good to use at St. Anne's. There is a lot of good music that is simple enough for a small, untrained choir to do well. What they had been using was either just a hymn--nothing wrong with that, but hymns are for the congregation--or music much too ambitious for them and not what I would call good music at that. Having done that, I found a table near a window and sat working on an assignment from my math class. I had finished and took out a book to begin an assignment for another class but, before I started, I glanced out the window and saw two guys tossing a frisbee back and forth. I guess I was in a semi-conscious condition because suddenly they seemed to be two white knights engaged in some kind of match. In the back of my mind, I knew they were seeking to win me. It was really weird. I shook my head and looked out the window and, again, saw two guys tossing a frisbee.


I was really excited about the possibility of Matt and me being able to travel over the country the coming summer--together! When Paula got home, we looked at the schedule and saw that the two concert series were each a grand tour. When Matt got home he looked at the schedule and said, "Either series will take me to four grand cities. It's exciting, Luke, especially if we are together."

I scanned the schedule and faxed it to Uncle Michael. "Now we'll see what he can do with scheduling exhibitions. I think setting up and taking down an exhibition every week and being 'the artist' between putting up and taking down will be pretty demanding."  "Yea, but it's months before we have to worry about that. Now it's Oberlin's demands we need to be worried about, but I do need to start selecting pieces for the audition tape and get to work on them as well. Anyway, I'm ready for tomorrow." I kissed Luke and said, "I picked up a couple books of works by Bach on my lunch hour today and am going to look them over and start selecting."

"I've got to practice with the combo, I suppose." I gave Matt a quick kiss and was out the door, right behind Eugene, Kent and Paula.

After the combo had its practice--we were working on some sixties and seventies stuff--I stayed in the studio. I just sat down, my head in my hands. I hadn't been inspired in ages. I had done a couple of decent paintings for the house, but definitely nothing I would put in an exhibition. I knew I had to get to work doing some really good stuff, but what? As I sat, I started thinking about a recurrent dream Paula had told me about, in which two knights did battle for her hand. What was that all about? As I sat thinking, suddenly a brainstorm took over. I knew I would be doing acrylics as water color but wasn't really sure of where I was headed. I grabbed a sketch book and started sketching furiously. "Yes!" I said to myself. "This will be worthy of an exhibition, definitely!"

When I got back to the house, Matt was still at the organ even though it was almost midnight. I walked up behind him, put my arms around him and rested my chin on the top of his head. "How's it coming, Dark Angel?"

Matt leaned his head back and I gave him a kiss. When we broke it, he said, "I think it's going ok, Luke. There is so much great music to choose from. Right now I just need to select pieces and work on them. I will ask my performance teacher for suggestions. I think she will be helpful. It's not that she dislikes Bach, she just wants to have me experience playing a wide range of music. How was the combo? Why didn't you come back with the rest?"

"One thing at a time, Dark Angel. The combo practice was ok, I guess. You know I'm not too good at deciding whether something is good or not. I tend to say, 'I like it' or 'I don't like it' and let it go at that. I really do like some of the old songs. I mean you can actually hear the words and they say something--at least most of the time."

"When the others left, I just sat thinking, hoping I would be inspired one way or another. I haven't done a decent work since I finished the exhibition in Concord and here I am supposed to come up with another one. As I sat, I had a sudden inspiration, but it'll have to be a secret for a while. I think it will really be something different and, I hope, good."

"Not even a hint, Bright Angel?"

"Not even a hint. Should you let something slip about it, we would be in real trouble--at least until, well, until it is finished. But, Matt, it's almost midnight. Think it's time we go beddy bye."

Matt slid of off the organ bench and, when he was standing, took me in his arms for a long, passionate kiss. "Think we might be awake a bit longer, Bright Angel," he said, and smiled. I wrapped an arm around him and we went upstairs, did the bathroom bit, made beautiful love and went to sleep happy, wrapped in each other's arms.

Chapter Ten


Our routine had been upset when the combo became a part of our lives, but we quickly settled into a new one. A part of my new routine was spending every free moment sketching and painting. I didn't know what broke the floodgates, but I was painting like mad these days. It seemed that, once I got started again, I couldn't keep up with the ideas that kept falling into my head. I started sketching and making notes on the edges of my class notes, the way I had done at Independence. I was almost finished with one work--the one inspired by Paula's dream. I kept it covered because I was sure it would be ok one day, but would get my ass in trouble if the wrong person saw it now. I was definitely on a roll. Painting, keeping up with school work and singing with the combo took every minute of time I had, but I was loving it--and was actually spending more time with Matt, just the two of us.

Our first gig almost didn't happen because it was for Friday night and Paula planned on going to synagogue. However, it turned out the gig started at 7:30 and was only a short distance from the synagogue, so Paula agreed to make it. Everything worked out pretty well. The woman who hired us had said she wanted love songs for a party and we had been on target with sixties and seventies tunes. The first thing I sang, with Paula, was "More" and when I finished, I couldn't believe the applause. I knew I wasn't that good, but I guess it was the right song for the right time. Strange, though, I got applause each time I sang.

We had asked if our friends could come toward the end of the party, and the hostess had said it was fine. Larry and Matt came in about 11:30. The hostess told them to help themselves to food and whatever they wanted. When the combo started again, Eugene--it was soon decided that Eugene should direct, a wise decision--winked at me and mouthed to the combo "More". I didn't have to close my eyes and imagine Matt, he was sitting almost in front of me. I sang, not for the party, not for the combo, but for Matt. His eyes sparkled and a smile covered his face. Before long he was mouthing the words with me. Paula didn't join in this time but I didn't need her support, I was singing to my beloved.

Saturday, after we played the party, we all slept in except Matt. His teacher was coming for his 9:30 class so he was up by 8:45. The rest of us slept until about 10:00. All except Matt were sitting around the kitchen table, drinking coffee or having cold cereal and fruit, when Kent said, "Look, it's going to be very cold around here soon. Today is a glorious fall day. It's not warm enough to get in the river, I suspect, but what say we take the day off and go out to the van Hooks'? It's been a while since we've seen them."

His suggestion met with immediate approval and we all started preparing a picnic, putting blankets in the Jeep and Eugene's car and getting ready to roll. Matt finished his class at 10:30 so we left the house about 11:30 and were soon at the van Hooks'. The two old people were delighted to see us and only put up what they considered a necessary protest against going to the river with us. Kent was right, the temperature and the water were both too cold to enjoy being in the river, although we all had to try it to be sure. We sat, talking to the van Hooks, listening to them tell stories of when they were young, what living on a farm in those years had been like, and of their sons when they were boys.

While the rest of the crew continued to talk with the van Hooks, I sat a short distance away, sketching like mad. The two old people's faces were an artist's dream. The lines and wrinkles told of both the hard times and the good times they had in their lives, There were definitely more smile than frown lines. Where we were was also perfect for doing a riverscape and for capturing my housemates in a different setting. I was having a grand time.

Mid-afternoon, we spread out the picnic. There was food enough for half a dozen more, I thought, but was to be proven wrong. Once again, Mr. and Mrs. van Hook protested that they were intruding on our party and would eat later. Paula said, "We intended to eat with you two and unless we can, we'll just have to go home.

Mrs. van Hook smiled and said, "You do know how to get your way, don't you, Paula dear?"

"Always," Paula replied.

Matt took out eight wine glasses and opened a couple bottles of good red wine, poured the glasses and handed one to each of the van Hooks. "Our parents have been giving us wine since we were kids," he said, "and we treat it with the respect that one of God's gifts deserves."

"I say 'Amen' to that," Mr. van Hook said, raised his glass and continued, "To six young people who give me great hope for the future."

Eugene raised his and said, "And to two elders who show us what love and commitment mean." Mrs. van Hook actually blushed, then leaned over and kissed Mr. van Hook on the cheek.

Too soon after we had finished eating, the temperature started dropping rather rapidly, so we packed everything up, took the van Hooks home and went back to our place. When we got there, everyone wanted to see my sketches and all exclaimed over them. They were just sketches, but I had another bushel of ideas from our afternoon as well as having had a marvelous time with friends and the van Hooks.

"You know," Larry said, "we need to make it a point to get out to see those people, the van Hooks. I know they have to get lonely out there by themselves."

"They do have friends around them. They have lived on the farm since the day they were married," Kent said, "but I think you are right. Most of the people they know are about their age and they never see any young people because, although their sons have married--both several times I think--and have kids, Mr. van Hook told me once he had only seen one grandson and him only twice when he was just a kid. So I think you're right, Larry, we need to go to see them, as much for our sakes as theirs."

"And we need to bring them here," Matt said. "They remember this place when it was in its heyday and I'm sure would like to see it now."

"I think we can all agree on that," Paula said. "I certainly enjoyed being with them this afternoon." That statement brought a general nodding of heads in approval.

When I went to the library to check my e-mail, I had a letter from Uncle Michael. He wrote he was making progress on getting the two schedules--mine and Matt's--for the summer together. "You know they can't always be together, but it looks as if you two will be in the same city well over half the time, regardless of whether Matt does July or August."

When I told Matt, he complained that everyone was making a pretty big assumption. "I am not at all sure I will be chosen, so don't plan on it."

"I'll plan on it and if you don't get one of the series, then you can travel with me," I told him.

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful, and the rising sun found all six of us running along the beach. For some reason, Paula had become a running fanatic and it was showing. "She is one beautiful woman. I wonder how long it will be before Kent presses the issue of not hitting on her? Were I straight, I think I'd find it hard to keep my eyes off her," Matt said to me.

"Well you're not, so I'm not worried."

When we got back to the house, there was a message on the machine from Michael. We called him and he told us about Christopher taking a nose-dive and how he, Danny and Mary Kathryn had done for him what Matt and I had done for Michael. "We'll be going back to school before Christopher and expect to help him get caught up on his school work. Seems Danny has been spending a great deal of time with Christopher. Man, you have never seen such a change in a person as there has been in Christopher."

There was no further news about who had been harassing Uncle Michael and Mr. Stevenson, but Millie had a lawyer working to clear Mr. Stevenson. "And Keith Lewis is doubly pissed," Michael said. "Not only is Mr. Stevenson his favorite teacher, but he has been slandered as well. His daddy says he will hire a lawyer to drop the axe on the people behind all the crap--if they can be found."

Mary Kathryn told us about Michael getting the package from Singing Sparrow just when it was needed. "That is as strange or stranger than what has happened to us before. Somehow or other, I guess we are in the middle of something we know very little about." We could only agree.

After we had all talked, using the speaker-phone, I talked to Mary Kathryn and Michael alone. They talked a great deal about the new Fellowship and then Michael said, "Luke, I'd hate to start something that isn't true, but it seems to me Jacob is spending an awful lot of time with Susan. They'd make a great couple, but I don't know what's happening between him and Paula."

"Nothing so far as I know, but there may be. I'll keep my ears open so we can pick up the pieces if we need to."

After church, we had lunch--nothing special today--and everyone went their own way. Eugene and Larry decided they would take the afternoon off and go to the Cleveland zoo. I told them Matt and I would take care of cleaning up so they could just go. After they left, Kent asked Paula if she'd like a drive in the country, since he was caught up on his school work, and she said she would. Matt had some school work to do for a composition class and then planned to work on selecting music for the audition tape. I went to the studio.

After working until four, I went back to the house and found Matt sitting on the floor in the family room with music books all over the place. "Making progress?" I asked.

"I guess," he replied. "There is just so much good stuff that it's hard picking what to use. I certainly need something which shows what I can do for the audition tape but, at the same time, it probably doesn't need to be a bunch of show-off pieces. Seems to me if they are going to compare everyone who applies, there should be set pieces and maybe one chosen by the contestant. Anyway, I'm ready for a break."

"How about a walk on the beach? The wind's up, so you'll need a jacket, but it's still beautiful outside."

As we walked along the beach, I told Matt what Michael had said about Jacob.

"I sure hate to think that he's letting things go too far before he shoots straight with Paula. I know people fall in and out of love, but I'd hate to have her blind-sided," Matt said.

"Yea, but maybe she'd welcome a break. I think she might."

"What do you mean? Why would she welcome a break?" Matt asked with a blank look on his face.

"I don't know, but I have a feeling there might be a spark there for Kent."

"Man, that could make life sticky around here."

"Yea, it could."

We talked about that a bit more and finally decided it was none of our business, at least until we needed to help Paula, if she ever needed help.

When we got back to the house, the answering machine light was flashing. I punched the button and heard, "Hello, kewl dudes, it's your warm dudes from Florida. What's the plans for Halloween? Give us a call." It was Douglas! I quickly found the address book, looked up his number and called him. When he answered the phone, I said, "Hello, warm dude this is your hot dude from the chilly north."

"Luke! Damn, it's good to hear your voice. What's going on up there?" I had switched on the speaker-phone so Matt and I could both talk, and we did! Douglas and Janet got in a good talk as well. Douglas' parents had done everything they could to get his marriage annulled, but without success. They had been so nasty to Janet that Douglas finally had had it and purchased a small condo on the east coast of Florida--"as far away from me as I could get"--and sent them packing. School was fine, both were having a grand time in school and at home. Married life suited both of them and I said the same was true for me and Matt.

Finally I asked, "To what do we owe this unexpected call?".

"Janet and I were just talking about your place there and saying what a great place it would be for a Halloween party. We finally decided we'd just fly up and have a party at your place. Think you jokers could arrange a good party?"

"Sure, but who are you inviting?"

"All the summer crowd and anybody else your kid brother wants to add. Parents and all. Yea, and Woody as well. Any friends you have there. You friends with any Yankees?" Douglas laughed.

"As a matter of fact, we have one living with us. Great guy," Matt said, and then told Douglas about Kent.

"Sounds like a real winner," Janet said. "Good looking? Hot? You two would know."

"Good looking in a rugged kind of way. Yea, I guess you'd say he's hot. And straight as they come," I replied.

"Doubt that the parents could make it since Halloween is Tuesday--they'll have to work. And Margaret will be within a few weeks of producing twins. Don't think the parents would allow the kids to take a week out of school to drive up and back. Good idea though," Matt told them.

"Hey, would I invite people to a party and not get them there? I've arranged all that. Private jet from Lexington to Cleveland. Let's see, there's Michael and Mary Kathryn, Bill and Linda, Jacob--they could come up right after school Friday.

"Think you might add a few more? Seems the Fellowship has grown back to full size," Matt said.

"Up to a dozen that trip."

"Well, there's a new girl, Susan, a couple new guys. Oh, and there are two others I know about."

"Up to a dozen. Then the old folks will get there Saturday. Everybody back home Wednesday morning--old folks first."

"Damn, Douglas, you're spending money like it's going out of style."

"Nah, not too much. The plane's a friend's who will be coming. Belongs to his dad and he says it's cleared for the trips. I'll foot the bill for fuel since the crew is drawing pay flying or sitting."

"Great! And we might have a little surprise for you in the music area. When are you two arriving?"

"Halloween's on Tuesday, so we'll get there Thursday night before at the latest. And, hey, if some of the Concord crowd can get away Thursday night, we'll pick them up."

We talked some more and then Douglas said, "Man, we are going to have a party! Talk to you later."

I hung up the phone, looked at Matt and asked, "Can you believe that? Ferrying people from North Carolina to Ohio for a party."

Matt laughed, "Yea, sounds like Douglas. But you know what he is really doing, along with having a good time, is getting his family together. Our family is all the real family he and Janet have or have known. But, YES, we are going to have a party!"

Matt and I decided we'd prepare dinner since the others had not returned. We had a grand time in the kitchen, cooking and making out at the same time. Matt had decided it was cookie-making time and, before I knew it, the kitchen was full of delicious aromas and the kitchen table loaded with cookies. Lunch had been simple, so I decided we should have a real Sunday dinner and I had put on a nice roast and prepared vegetables, started potatoes for mashing--I asked Matt to make the gravy, I'm not very good at that--and made a salad to go with it. The last pan of cookies was just coming out of the oven when Larry and Eugene came in.

They had stopped by a bakery and picked up some great-looking rolls. "Thought we'd have rolls for supper, I guess," Eugene laughed. "And picked up some real butter to go with them."

"If you and Larry will set the table, we'll have them with some roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, veggies and salad," I said.

"And keep your hands out of the cookies. You'll ruin your dinner," Matt said in his nagging-mother voice. Both guys had grabbed a handful of cookies as soon as they put the rolls down.

"Where's Kent and Paula?" Larry asked.

"They went for a drive in the country," I answered.

"I smell romance there," Eugene said.

"Get serious," Matt said. "Paula's got a beau."

"Yea, she does, but I smell a romance brewing," Eugene reiterated.

"Man, I hope not," Larry said. "Jacob would be to bury and things might get real sticky around here."

The two guys set the table and we were all sitting in the kitchen having a glass of juice when Kent and Paula walked in. I guess it was because of what I had thought and Eugene had said, but Paula seemed to be all aglow. She was carrying an armload of beautiful asters of all colors. Bingo! Definitely another painting if I can keep it fixed in my mind. Kent was carrying a basket of apples, all colors of reds and greens. Yet another painting.

"Decided to buy out a roadside stand," Kent laughed. "It reminded me that we probably have a few apples of our own. I noticed some were ready for picking last Sunday."

"Will you two stand right there for a minute?" I asked and, when they nodded, ran upstairs, got my camera and took a couple quick shots. Both were obviously happy, but their expressions were not as good and relaxed as the ones they had when they walked in the door. The photos would help jog my memory.

"You guys doing dinner?" Paula asked.

"Yea, thought we'd have a good, hot meal waiting for those who had risked the great Western Reserve wilderness to bring us flowers and apples," Matt laughed.

"Will someone help me with these flowers?" Paula asked. "We brought piles in ice cream buckets, which will hold them until I can arrange them, but these need to be put in water."

We found a container, filled it with water and put the flowers Paula had in her arms in it. Paula selected a dozen or so and made a beautiful arrangement for the dining room.

I can't remember when the six of us had such a light-hearted dinner. It was amazing what a day off had done for all of us. Of course, Matt and I really hadn't taken time off, but then we were doing what we loved.

Eugene and Larry had a hilarious story about two chimps who got it on big time, and mothers were trying to get their little kids away, shushing their questions and comments. Larry and Eugene ended up role-playing a couple of scenes and we were all in stitches.

When we got control of ourselves, Kent and Paula talked about their drive into the country. "We passed all kinds of roadside stands," Paula said. "All of them had piles of pumpkins but when we passed one with apples, Kent had to stop and, once we started picking out apples, we got a bit carried away. Those we brought in are just a sample. We'll be eating apples a long time!" Paula laughed. "Then when we saw the stand with the asters, I asked Kent if we could stop and get a few. When we stopped, I couldn't decide which ones I liked best and Kent just kept buying any I liked and finally asked the lady in the stand about buying them all. She smiled, said as soon as they all were sold she'd be finished and could go home and watch TV. 'You're such a sweet couple,' she said, 'you can have them all for five dollars.' Kent handed her a five and she had those five-gallon fiber ice cream buckets with the asters in them and just handed us asters, buckets and all. The ones I brought in were just those I had picked out before Kent bought them all."

Paula had obviously had a wonderful afternoon and when I glanced at Kent, he had a grand smile on his face. His eyes were sparkling and he was definitely focused on Paula. Yep, there was something going on here!

After we finished dinner, Matt said, in a pretty terrible British accent, "If the lady and gentlemen will adjourn to the drawing room, coffee and cookies will be served and Milord Luke will make an important announcement."

Eugene offered his arm to Larry, as Kent did his to Paula, and the four went to the library. Luke and I prepared coffee and a plate of cookies, and took them to the library where we served the four as if they were royalty. "Milords and milady, the King of Hearts, Luke the absolute first," Matt said as he bowed to me then came and sat at my feet.

"Loyal subjects, Douglas, Duke of Sarasota, and his Duchess Janet have decreed that this royal house will host a Halloween party. Further, the Duke and Duchess have arranged a magic carpet ride for Prince Michael and Princess Mary Kathryn of Concord."

The four were laughing so hard they all had tears in their eyes. Every time one or the other would try to say something, there would be a new outbreak of laughter. Finally Paula got control enough to say, "Ok, what's up?".

"When Matt and I got back from a walk on the beach this afternoon, there was a message from Douglas asking that we call. We did, and had a great talk with him and Janet. They had decided that this house would be great for a Halloween party and essentially said we were having one."

We had to stop and tell Kent about Douglas and Janet. After Kent had his questions answered, Matt said, "Yea, and just get this: He's got a friend who is supplying a jet to pick up people in Concord and fly them up for the party! And that includes all the new members of the Fellowship--Keith, Jack and Susan--I made sure I was looking sideways at Paula when I said that. "Oh, and Danny and Christopher as well. Any who can get away Thursday after school will come up with Douglas and Janet if there's enough to warrant the stop. I know that will include Millie. The plane will pick up any other student types Friday after school--and parents who can stay over if there's room, otherwise parents will arrive Saturday. The plane will take people back Wednesday."

"A private jet? What kind of money does Douglas have?" Kent asked, amazed.

"He's got tons, but a friend's father has the jet and Douglas said the crew gets paid flying or sitting, so it's only cost Douglas fuel. Of course that would be enough to keep us freeloading a year, I suspect," I replied.

"I'm really glad Jacob is coming. I want very much to talk with him," Paula said.

"Just talk?" Larry asked.

"Yea, just talk. I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you guys. Jacob and I are no longer a couple. No earth-shaking something caused it. And I know it seems awfully sudden since we were such a hot number a couple months ago, but it soon became obvious when we were separated that what we thought was love was... gee, I don't know what it was. I think both of us saw everyone else coupled up, and we were two left shoes, so we just naturally drifted together. Hey, don't get me wrong. I loved every minute of it, regret not a second of our time together but, once we were parted, I guess we had time to sort things out. I noticed a few weeks after Jacob went back that our letters--e-mail--talked about school, what we were doing, what our friends were doing, new people on the scene, that sort of thing. When he first went back, our letters were real mush notes but gradually they became letters between good friends."

"I finally decided we needed to face what our relationship really was, and asked Jacob why he thought our letters were no longer burning cyberspace. He said, 'Friends' letters don't burn cyberspace, do they?'. I can't tell you how relieved I was that it was mutual. I suspect we are one in ten thousand, because we are still friends--good friends, solid friends. We still write each other and enjoy it because we don't have to pretend something is there which isn't."

"Wow! What a bombshell, Paula," Larry exclaimed. "You're sure you are still friends?"

"Jacob is the second best friend I have," Paula answered. "And as to who's on first, you'll just have to guess."

"Ok, Paula, you can play coy if you want to, but we are not blind," I said. "I saw you walk in the house today, loaded down with flowers looking happier than I have ever seen you, even when you were being hot stuff with Jacob." Paula and Kent both blushed big time. "And I think that blush means we abolish the 'no hitting on Paula' rule."

"Wait a minute!" Kent cried. "I have kept my word. I have not hit on Paula." His sparkling eyes kinda gave him away, but he added, "I didn't have to!" and laughed.

"Look, guys, I know this kinda poses a sticky question. I mean, yes, I think Kent and I see more in each other than we ever thought we would, but one reason we went into the country today was to try to untangle what we didn't know existed a week or so ago. I think we both just kinda woke up one morning, came to breakfast and found a new person at the table. Kent has just had a bit of a bad time with Christine and I had a hell of a time with Sheldon then fell for Jacob, bless his heart, without really taking time see what was going on inside either of us. So, guys, it's slow and easy. I told Kent I had known him for such a very short time, and I had been mistaken about my real feeling for Jacob whom I had known much longer."

"Then I pointed out to Paula that she had been with Jacob very little over a longer period and she had seen me every day, in good moods and bad, so she probably knows me better than she knows Jacob..."

"But she's seen more of Jacob, I bet!" Larry laughed. "They are champion skinny-dippers."

"Yea and she's slept with him--just slept--but still was mistaken about her feelings, as was Jacob. So I'm not pushing because, if there is to be something serious between us, we both want to be sure."

"Do I hear you saying you'll still sleep downstairs?" Matt asked.

"At least for the time being, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Silver Wolf Greywolf."

"Just wanted to be clear, Ms. Wright."

"By the way, you might be interested to know that Jacob is still going to synagogue. Says he's found a home there," Paula said.

"Does that mean Kent has to go to synagogue?" I asked, half-joking.

"Doesn't mean anything other than the fact that Jacob is still going to synagogue and, I might add, his present girl friend is Jewish. He seems to have a thing for Jewish women."

"And she is?"

"I thought you knew or had figured it out. It's Susan who is a part of the Fellowship now. She has to be a great gal for Jacob to fall for her and to be a part of the Fellowship."

"I guess we'll find out because WE'RE HAVING A PARTY!" Matt shouted, and did a little dance around the room.

"I guess I know what a lot of our house meetings will be dealing with for the next couple weeks," Kent said.

We had finished our coffee and cookies, and I think everyone was really feeling great. I know I really felt relieved that Paula and Jacob had parted friends, good friends. It so seldom happens. We all took our coffee cups to the kitchen. As I sat mine down, I asked, "Kent, Paula, would you be willing to model for me a while? I got a photo of the two of you coming in this afternoon--and, by the way, suspected something was going on between you two--but I'd like to get some sketches. Would you do that for me?"

"After we clean up from dinner," Kent said. "You and Matt took care of dinner. The least we can do is clean up."

"Gene and I will do that," Larry said. "You go ahead and get yourselves immortalized. And, by the way, I am also happy for you two and for Jacob. Think it's wonderful."

"Thanks," Paula and Kent said.


"Before we go to the studio, we need to bring the apples in from the truck. They need to be put in the cellar where it is cool," Kent said. "And we need to take a look at our own orchard this week. How about having our very own apples for bobbing for Halloween? That will be something even Douglas couldn't do."

The five guys went to the truck and each got a box of apples and took them to the cellar. We had very seldom gone to the cellar--we called it a basement at home but, I guess, in Ohio it's a cellar--since it was essentially empty except for the furnace and water heater. After we had the apple boxes on a storage shelf, Kent said, "This reminds me. We need to have the furnace checked. Actually, it should have been checked before it was started. I'll take care of that tomorrow because we have already had some pretty cool mornings and we frequently have snow in October."

When we got back upstairs, Larry and Eugene went to the kitchen to clean up. Kent got his basket of apples and Paula her flowers, and they went with Luke. I went back to the family room and started sweating over selecting music again. My performance teacher had suggested that while I should certainly use power pieces for the tape, I should also include one piece which she called "pretty Bach". "You might even use 'Sheep May Safely Graze'. It's good music, just a bit overdone. But definitely one pretty piece. Think about 'Come Sweet Death', that's a nice, pretty piece--especially the Virgil Fox arrangement." I finally decided on four pieces which I would talk over with Professor Moler: "Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C", "Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor", "Fantasie and Fugue in A" and the Virgil Fox arrangement of "Come Sweet Death", and if more was needed for the tape, I'd surely do "Sheep May Safely Graze".

Having made my decision, I resolved not to try to second guess myself. I would talk with Professor Moler but, unless he had other suggestions, that was it. Three "heavy" pieces and one "pretty" one. I thought these were pretty good selections and I would expect to use them for the series, should I luck out and be chosen which, frankly, I still felt was unlikely. I knew I was good--damn good, to use Luke's terminology--but I also knew I was young and just starting, and I was sure there were plenty older, more experienced organists who would try for the series and who were better than I. But it was good to be asked to compete and I intended to give it my best.

I felt as if it was midnight at least but, when I looked at my watch, I was surprised to discover it was not quite ten o'clock. Luke wasn't back, so I decided I might as well get started on the pieces. I switched on the recorder so I could listen to myself to see where I needed to work hardest, and started working on "Come Sweet Death". It was a piece I had played--not really often, but not infrequently either--and I was sure I had allowed mistakes to creep in. When that happens, it is harder to re-learn to play it correctly than to learn it fresh. I played through the piece twice, then played back the tape. Yep, I had goofed a few times and I knew they were not new goofs, but mistakes which were etched in my brain. Hard work ahead on a "sweet" piece!

As I listened to the recording, I marked my music where I, like Handel's sheep, had gone astray, then I played the piece again, paying attention to my markings. Sure enough, I discovered what I already knew, unlearning is a lot harder than learning. Half an hour later I was growing very frustrated with myself and decided it was time to play something else. I spent a good while working on the Toccata part of the "Toccata, Adagio and Fugue" and was finally getting it close to right when I heard the front door open. I walked into the hall in time to see Paula and Kent come in, she still carrying her flowers and he his basket of apples. The two were holding hands and I thought to myself, "That's just as it should be". Luke was right behind them. As he came in he said, "Know it's kinda late, Matt, but would you like to join us for coffee? We decided we needed a cup."

"Sure. I'm ready to stop for the night anyway." Luke put coffee on and the four of us sat at the kitchen table, talking.

"Kent, Paula, just want you two to know that when you walked in the door this afternoon, I was sure there was something different about you two. Luke and Eugene had said there was a romance brewing between you, but Larry and I didn't believe it. Then you walked through the door and I knew they were right. I'm really glad for you and really pleased, Paula, that you and Jacob came out of your time together friends. You and Kent make a great couple."

"Thanks, Matt. I, too, am glad that Jacob and I are still friends. I said he's my second best. I think Kent is my best friend. And for right now, it's pretty much going to stay that way. This time I have to be sure, real sure."


"Hey, I'm really new at all this and I am delighted for us to take all the time we need. I haven't even kissed Paula yet but, I can tell you, I have never had as much fun--that doesn't sound like what I mean--as good and as happy a time as I did this afternoon. And we did nothing special except enjoy being together on a beautiful October Sunday."

With the romance out of the way, we did some talking about a Halloween party and an influx of guests. "We're going to have to do some serious planning about sleeping arrangements," Paula said. "Don't think sleeping outdoors in tents will cut it the last of October in Ohio."

"Not unless you have some heavy-duty sleeping bags. It can get real nasty and cold," Kent said.

"Well we do have the day beds on the sun porch. I noticed there are gas wall heaters out there, so I guess it could be heated enough for sleeping. And the studio is heated and divided into two rooms, so that's two more places," Luke said. "And I suspect we'll just have to do some doubling up."

"Sure, it's a house party and we'll manage," Paula said, "We'll just have to do some planning. And we do have the sleeping bags and foam pads for them we used in the tents. Those can easily be put on the floor for sleeping and taken up during the day. We'll manage. But if I don't get to bed now, I'll not manage tomorrow." She got up, as did Kent and, as they walked out of the kitchen, Paula looked back over her shoulder and said, "By the way, I think you all need to know the blue and silver knight won".

"As if I didn't know before," Luke laughed.

"You know you could have been killed for that," Paula called back from the hall.

"What did she mean?" I asked Luke.

"Come on," he said, taking my hand and walking toward the front door.

"Where are we going?"

"To the studio."

Once in the studio, Luke showed me a long canvas divided into a series of panels. It was done in water color style and clearly told a fairy tale about a beautiful princess and two knights. It was a really delicate and beautiful piece. I didn't have to look too closely to see that the beautiful princess was Paula and the two knights, bowing to her after the blue and silver knight had won her hand, were Kent and Jacob.

"You knew all along," I exclaimed.

"Yea, I knew as soon as Paula told me about her recurring dream. Of course, it helped that Mary Kathryn had said in an e-mail that she thought Jacob and Paula were drifting apart because Jacob didn't mention her very often of late. Yea, the entrance this afternoon was no surprise. It's the artist's eye, you know."

Later, as we lay in bed cuddling, I said, "I'm really glad we didn't have to get to know each other and think we were really in love and all that stuff."

"We did, Matt. It took us almost eighteen years. Our love had been tried by fire before we found we were each loved by the other. Then our love was old stuff, well-aged and solid."

"And we still had a bit of a rough time."

"Yea, but now I've got you, Babe."

"Are you going Sonny and Cher on me?"

"Nope, I'm going Luke and Matt on us." Luke kissed me softly and gently, wrapped me in his arms, lay his head over my heart, and we both were asleep in minutes.

Chapter Eleven


Monday dawned cold, windy, with a leaden sky. It was the kind of morning which makes me want to just stay in bed, but I had to get up and get moving. I leaned over and gave my Dark Angel a butterfly kiss. It was so soft I didn't think it would wake him, but it did. He opened his black almond eyes, looked at me, and a smile spread across his face--a smile which melted me every time I saw it. "Good morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul, my dark angel," I said.

"Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, my bright angel," Matt replied. He reached up, put his hands behind my head and pulled me to himself, planting a special Matt kiss on my lips. He continued smiling after he broke the kiss and said, "Luke, are we running today?".

To tell the truth, I had decided I'd pass up the morning run, but the thoughts of racing through the gray morning with Matt beside me changed my mind. "Sure we are. Just because it's a dirty dishwater day doesn't mean we give up our run." I kissed Matt again, went to the bathroom, came back and dressed in sweats. Matt was a little slower getting dressed, but we were finally ready.

When we got downstairs, Kent was knocking on Paula's door. "You guys going for a run?" he asked.

"Yea. You?" I answered.

"I wanted to run with Paula, but she seems to be hibernating this morning."

"I'm what?" Paula asked as she came from her room.

"You are one beautiful woman, that's what you are," Kent responded.

Paula stood on tiptoes and kissed Kent on the cheek. "You keep that up and one day you may earn a real kiss," she laughed. "Well are you jokers ready to run?"

"Now that Lady Late is here, we are," Matt said. When we got down to the beach, Larry and Eugene were already there, doing stretching exercises.

"Thought you all had decided to sleep in," Eugene said.

"We were waiting on Paula. Seems she's always late," Matt said. Paula gave him a slap on the butt and took off running. Chasing her were five men. I laughed to myself when I thought about what anyone seeing us might have thought.

The morning was raw and I knew that the next time I came out for a run, I would have to give more thought to what I wore. We ran down the beach about a mile, then turned and ran toward the house. It was entirely too cold to use the outdoor shower. As we passed it Kent said, "By the way, I turned off the water to the outdoor shower last week. I was afraid we'd forget it and have frozen pipes."

"You'll probably have to remind us of a lot of things we either never had to think about or someone did for us. Know things are different here," I responded.

"I'll take care of having the furnace checked today. If you have no-one in mind, I'll call the man that does Dad's."

"Go ahead, we know no-one here," Eugene said.

"Also, if you don't have them, you better get gloves to wear when you run. The cold can really do a job on your hands and face. You'll need to make sure you use a lot of lotion on your face or get a ski cap."

After breakfast we all went our way, starting the last week before the big party weekend.

By Wednesday we were all hyper, anticipating the arrival of the crew Thursday evening. There was no way we could get all twelve of those arriving in our three vehicles. We debated having just one driver in the cars and truck go to pick up everyone, but we all wanted to be there so we made arrangements to rent a mini-bus. It wasn't easy because none of us was twenty-one, but we finally found a local company and rented one for Thursday afternoon through Saturday and again Tuesday evening through Wednesday to take everyone back to the airport.

We had worked hard making sure everything was in tip-top shape. The house looked great--we still had ice cream buckets of asters, as well as several arrangements in the house which looked good for the most part, and would take just a little work to get back to first-class shape. The pantry was well stocked and the grounds had been carefully groomed. We had piles and piles of leaves, as well as the flowers killed by frost, which we took to the compost bins. Matt, Kent and I had done massive amounts of cooking of food which could be prepared ahead.

Wednesday night, Jacob called to tell us his cousin Rachel would be coming Friday with Jack. "We'll all be there Thursday night, so have a place for us and plenty of food. Michael talked to Douglas and he thinks we will be landing about 8:30. He said he'd call you to find out how long it would take you to get to the airport. He will also call from the plane to give you our arrival time."

We realized we hadn't worked out sleeping arrangements so we set to work on that. It took a while, but we finally came up with a workable arrangement. "Thursday night we can all stay in the house," I said, "then, when the others arrive, we'll go with the arrangement we've worked out.

"That means a major bed linen wash Friday. Can we handle that?" Paula asked.

"Don't see why not," Larry said. "We can start a load when we get up. It can be in the dryer by the time we leave for class and another load in the washer. First one back starts the next cycle."

Finally we were as prepared as we would ever be, except for some last-minute things. Matt had made arrangements to leave Holtkamp at noon and not show up Tuesday. Everyone would be at the house by 3:00 Thursday and I would have picked up the van and any more pads and sleeping bags we needed.

We were through planning by 9:30 and everyone went off to prepare for class. We were all back downstairs at 11:30 having a snack. No-one would admit it, but we were all as excited as kids at Christmas.

It seemed Thursday would never be over. I did my classes, then Matt picked me up and we went to get the mini-bus. When we got home, Kent was already busy in the kitchen. Michael had said the Concord crew would leave directly from school for Lexington, and there would be no time to eat until they arrived. "By the way, I passed a roadside stand and bought some great pumpkins..."

"You actually bought the Great Pumpkin?" I laughed.

"Well, they all looked like the Great Pumpkin to me, so maybe I got fooled, but I'm sure we have him and he can't make his trip to take presents to kids this year," Kent laughed in response. "We can have pumpkin pies and some great jack-o-lanterns."*

"I'll pass on the pumpkin pie," Matt said. "I asked Mom to bring some sweet potatoes. Sweet potato pie is what I like. Also asked her to bring some real corn meal. This Yankee stuff is for the birds."

"Always heard you could take the boy out of the south, but couldn't take the south out of the boy," Kent laughed.

"Darn tootin'," Matt replied.

Shortly after we had started work in the kitchen, a man in work clothes came up from the cellar.

"Checked the furnace, and the water heater is installed. You should have plenty of hot water now," he said. "Here's the bill," he said, handing Kent a sheet of paper. "Thanks for the business, Kent."

"Sure thing. Can you show yourself out?"

"No problem," he said and left.

"What's this about a water heater?" Matt asked. "We haven't talked about a water heater. Something go wrong with the old one?"

"No, it's working fine. It's just that we run out of hot water pretty frequently when we all take showers so, when I called about the furnace, I checked about a water heater and was told they were on sale so I had a second one put in. Is there a problem with that?"

"I guess not, but it's a big item and I think we should have discussed it first," Matt said.

"It's not that expensive and we definitely needed it," Kent said.

"No doubt you are right, but we can't just go making decisions on our own when that much money is involved."

"Well I expect to pay my part."

"Kent, you don't have a part," I said. "A second water heater has been added to the house. You can't pay part of that because it becomes part of the house."

"I'm sorry if I overstepped my bounds," Kent replied, "but I thought, since we could get one for half price, this was a good time to get it and have it put in when we are going to have two dozen extra people this weekend. I'll remember to check things out with the house before making a large purchase again."

"Please do, otherwise eventually you will buy something which will cause a lot of hard feelings," Matt said. "I'll admit I am kinda put out this time that you just assumed you could make such a large purchase without asking."

"I said I'm sorry and that I won't do it again. What more can I do other than offer to pay for the water heater? I suppose I could over time, but you know I can't just pay for it outright," Kent replied.

"Hold it right there," I said emphatically, "before this thing gets out of hand and feelings get hurt. Look, Kent, you did something you thought needed doing because it could be done at half price. Matt, you have pointed out that Kent should have checked with the house before making a major purchase. Kent has acknowledged he overstepped his bounds and realizes he must check with the house in the future. Matt, you have pointed out it upset you. We three have witnessed all that. Now don't you think it is time to drop it? Matt?"

"Kent, I'm sorry. I should have just let it go, but I... Kent, I'm sorry," Matt said and extended his hand.

I was very surprised when Kent didn't shake Matt's hand, but used it to pull Matt to himself. As he hugged Matt, he said, "Matt, I was afraid a water heater was going to get both of us so angry we'd say something we'd regret. I would never want anything to come between us. So far as I am concerned, you are all my brothers and sister. A little family fuss now and then I can take, but I certainly don't want anything to come between us that is serious."

I saw Matt hug Kent as he said, "Sorry, Bro, just got up on the wrong side of the bed I guess. No damage done."

I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Matt has a bit of a temper and I thought he could and maybe would do some permanent damage to his relationship to Kent. I relaxed when they hugged each other. I knew that Matt couldn't resist anyone who gave him a hug. He's a real teddy bear. That's one thing I loved about him. Hell, truth be told, I love everything about my Sarang Hanun Pomul.

The three of us prepared a lot of food so we wouldn't have to spend all the time in the kitchen while the guests were with us. We had a great supper planned for when the folks arrived since they, and we for that matter, would not have eaten since lunch.

Paula came in the kitchen from the butler's pantry carrying a basket full of vases. "I can't believe how long the asters have lasted," she said. "Even most of the ones we left in the ice cream buckets are still pretty. I have re-done all the arrangements and still have bunches to use. Do you guys want arrangements in your rooms? Larry and Eugene did."

"Sure," I answered.

"Yea, sure," Kent said.

"What are Larry and Eugene up to anyway?" I asked.

"They are both busily engaged in creating the perfect jack-o-lantern. You'd never know they adore each other if you saw the competition," she laughed.

"We all need to get in on that," Kent said. "I bought seven pumpkins so we each could carve one and have one for pies. How much more do we have to do in the kitchen?"

"I have a little cleaning up to do. I think that's it. We all need to remember to listen for the buzzer when the apple pies are done," Matt said. "I forget and burn stuff."

"Set your watch to alarm as well," Kent said. "Man, Luke, that fresh bread smells heavenly."

"Sure does," Paula said. "I guess I can do the other arrangements later and get in on this pumpkin-carving competition."

We joined Larry and Eugene who were busily working on two huge pumpkins. "How's it going, fellows?" Kent asked.

"Fine," Larry said, "At least mine is. I think Eugene is just making a mess."

"We'll see about that when we are finished," Eugene said. "Larry thinks he has talent for this, but I'm not sure. I'm afraid he's going to cut himself."

"Sounds like a little family feud going on here," Kent said.

The four of us who had been busy elsewhere got a pumpkin and started work. "This looks a lot easier than it is," Matt said.

We were all doing serious work and talk was at a minimum when, suddenly, Kent said, "Guys and Paula, I made a major boo-boo and need to tell you about it". I started to stop him but thought better of it. If anyone was going to be as upset about Kent's purchase of the water heater as Matt, it was better to get it over with. "I called to get the furnace checked and, when I did, remembered we ran out of hot water frequently. I asked about a water heater and was told they were on sale. I could get a second one installed for half price so I had it done. When I told Matt and Luke about it, Matt reminded me that such a large purchase should be something we discussed in a house meeting before doing it. I wasn't thinking. Well I was. I was thinking about adding two dozen people this weekend and knew we'd run very short of hot water. I wasn't thinking about us being in this together. I'm sorry."

"Adding a second water heater is a very good idea," Eugene said, "but you're right. We can't have people just running around making decisions on their own, especially when it is something as expensive as a hot water heater."

"Yea, we could get ourselves in a real bind doing that," Larry added.

"Look, Matt was very upset when Kent told him about it, but the air got cleared and Kent understands why it is something that we just can't have happen again. So we're all still friends, right?" I asked.

"Right," Eugene said and we all agreed. "And I know we will appreciate it this weekend."

We were carving in silence when Matt's watch alarm went off. "Time for the apple pies to come out," he said, as he jumped up. When he came back he joined us carving again. In a short while the six jack-o-lanterns were finished.

"Look at that," Paula said, "all of the jack-o-lanterns are pretty standard except Luke's. Ever the artist, Luke, I see you have carved six faces on yours, some of the cuts only partially through the pumpkin. In the light the characters are obviously the six of us. Later when it is dark, I bet the faces will glow. Those faces will still be recognizable in the dark. That one goes on the table as a centerpiece," she said. "Which reminds me, I still have flower arrangements to finish. Is that all that still has to be done?"

"I think so," I said. We had been carving pumpkins on the sun porch and it had gotten dark before we finished. Four of the jack-o-lanterns were put on the front steps and the fifth put at the end of the front walk. Larry put votive candles in them and they were cheerful looking. Paula had me take mine to the dining table, where she did an arrangement around it.

Everything ready, we all gathered around the kitchen table for milk and some of Matt's cookies. We had just sat down when the phone rang. Larry grabbed it and said, "Oberlin five Case one"--he had started answering the phone that way after Kent had kidded us about Oberlin's losses on the athletic field--losses always, regardless of the sport. Kent generally answered, "Case first, Oberlin fifth". "Gotcha. We're on our way." When he hung up the phone he said, "That was Douglas. They will be landing in forty-five minutes. It will take us thirty minutes to get to the airport." As he was speaking, we all cleaned up from our snack and, that done, piled into the mini-bus.

The small airport where the plane would be landing was on our side of Cleveland and practically a straight shot from the house. Even though it was rush hour in Cleveland, the traffic on the way to the airport was light. We actually made the airport with time to spare. It was pretty windy and cold, so we stayed in the terminal while watching the runway through a large plate-glass window. There was no traffic at the airport since it was used primarily for corporate jets, and business people generally do not leave at night. Before we heard the plane, we saw its lights. Soon it touched down on the runway. I didn't know what I expected, but this was not a tiny plane.

As soon as it was stopped and the hatch opened, we rushed out on the tarmac. There was much hugging going on and, finally, Jacob introduced everyone except one guy. Douglas introduced Marc. I was totally and completely committed to Matt and I knew he is the most beautiful and handsome man in the world, but I had to acknowledge that Marc ran him a very close second. He was one good-looking hunk.


It was very good to see the folks from Concord. I had wondered how I would react to seeing Jacob, especially seeing him with a girl. I was actually surprised when he came off the plane and walked down the ramp holding hands with a beautiful young woman. I was surprised because I was glad to see him the way I was the rest of the crew--no more, no less. Jacob introduced Susan to us, but I knew her somewhat already because she attended temple in Lexington. Actually the only one, other than Marc, I didn't know somewhat was Chris.

When we got back to the house, everyone was really ready to eat. Eugene took the visitors on a tour of the house while the final preparations for dinner were done. The meal was great and we kept talking until we had been at the table two hours. After dinner we continued talking, catching up, until Matt reminded us we had classes the following day.

Susan, Linda and Rachel shared my room. Linda chose to share my bed, the other two slept on the floor in sleeping bags. Linda asked how I felt when I saw Jacob. I was sure Susan was all ears on that one. I told Linda it was the same as seeing the rest of the crew. "He is an old and good friend and I am delighted to see him, of course. That's it. In spite of how much Jacob and I thought we were in love, it was nothing like my feeling for Kent. But after thinking I was so in love with Jacob, Kent and I are taking it slow and easy--but I can tell you, I adore the guy. He is good and kind and thoughtful. Not that Jacob wasn't, but it's different somehow with Kent." There was a little more talk about things, then I slipped off to sleep.


I snuggled down in my sleeping bag and lay awake, thinking about how great it was to be with my brothers again. "Matt, Luke, I was just thinking how great it is to be with my brothers again. Most of the time I don't think about missing you two, but there are times when I'd give anything to have you around."

"Michael, you are surely missed as well. We are so busy there's not much time for getting homesick and missing the family, but when I do, I really do," Matt said. "Of course, I guess I may as well get used to it since it will be a while before we are all together again, if ever."

"Yea, same here," Luke added. "So how's things with you and my baby sister?" he asked.

I was kinda dreading that question, but I was sure it would come sooner or later. Just what did I want to tell my brothers and how much did I want to keep secret? I wasn't sure. For the first time in my life, I wasn't sure I could trust them, especially Luke. After all, Mary Kathryn was his baby sister and to his mind, I suspect, really a baby sister--not the grown woman all the rest of the world saw.

"Are you two still virgins?" Luke asked, and pretty much made the decision one of telling the truth or lying, and I had never really lied to either Matt or Luke. At the same time, was this any of their business?

I decided to be honest and answer truthfully. "Not hardly, Luke."

"You have been fucking my baby sister?" Luke sounded angry.

"Hell no. You know better than that! But we have taken the boundaries away from our love-making," I answered in what I hoped was a very manly voice.

"Good. So long as you know what you are doing and not doing. Mom and Dad know?"

"Are you kidding? As Greywolf said the other evening, if I'm not careful, I will have a Danish troll after me. Mary Kathryn is sure her mom knows and I think she's right. Mom and Dad know. They wished we hadn't, but they haven't make a big fuss over it. Well, Dad did." I then told my brothers about our scare and how Dad had reacted.

"Damn, you are young," Luke said, "and, unlike Matt and me, you have a long time before you can be together."

"Yea, we talked about that when I asked Mary Kathryn to marry me."

"You asked Mary Kathryn to marry you?" Matt asked. "When? I mean when are you planning on getting married?"

"I hope while we are in college. I have another year of high school and four years of college and three of seminary. That's eight years before we could be married unless we can get married before. I don't want to wait that long."

"Yea, I can understand that," Matt said. "So was your first time special?"

"Every time is special, Matt, every single time. We don't get a chance too often. It was ages from the first time to the next, but Jens and Gabrielle were away last weekend and we took advantage of that. But we don't have to have sex to make love and enjoy being with each other. We don't get a whole lot of chances just to be together these days." I then told them about all we were involved in.

We talked about that for a while and then Matt said, "I'd like to go on all night, but I have a class in the morning at 9:30 so I better get to sleep. It's 2:00 in the morning. Goodnight, Lil' Bro."

"Goodnight Luke, goodnight Big Bro," I responded. Yes, it was great being with my brothers again.

The next thing I knew, Matt and Luke were tugging at my sleeping bag. "Holy shit, brothers, what's going on?"

"It's time for a run," Matt answered. "Grab a pair of my sweats and get dressed. We'll meet you downstairs."

When I got downstairs, the whole Oberlin crew was dressed in sweats, as was most of the Concord crew. Susan and Rachel had decided to sleep in, as had Jack--which was probably just as well because I was sure the supply of sweats was exhausted. Chris was getting into shape rapidly. Of course, he had a long way to go, but he was working out every day after school and I guess running as well. He and Dan were holding hands and I was surprised when Dan kissed Chris. Of course they were just doing what the rest of us was doing.

We ran about a mile down the beach. It was colder than it would have been in Concord, but not terribly cold, thank goodness. About half-way back, the bunch slowed to a fast walk and the couples were all holding hands and managing a walking kiss from time to time. It was great to be together again and to have some really great new faces.

Marc caught up with me and Mary Kathryn and said, "I was surprised when Douglas asked if I wanted to run this morning. I was even more surprised when almost everybody turned out for a run. Man, I really wish I was a part of something like this bunch. It's great."

"Yea, it is," Mary Kathryn said, "but we need reminding of that every now and then. We tend to think the rest of the world is like our families and the Fellowship."

"I'm here to tell you, it's not. Race you, Michael," Marc said, and immediately started running.

He was good, and I still had a bit of a problem with the ankle, so he got to the house well ahead of me.

After our run, those of us who had been out sat around the kitchen table having coffee and delicious homemade coffee cake. Paula asked, "Guys, did you tell Michael the schedule for today, where things are, that sort of thing?"

"Sure did," Kent said. "We'll all be back by 1:00. I suspect those still in bed will sleep in since we were up so late. You others will probably go back to bed..."

"You're frigging right," I said. "In fact, I'm on my way right now. Don't worry about us. We'll make out."

"I'm sure we can count on that," Luke laughed.

Kent left for Case and the rest of the crew headed for Oberlin. I was positive their minds would not be on class that day.


When it came time for bed, rooms were divided up. Since Kent had a room to himself, three of us were sharing it with him. He had a king size bed and said it was fine with him if someone shared it. We tossed for it and Jack won. Marc and I got the floor with sleeping bags. It was comfortable enough and I actually preferred it to sharing a bed.

Kent was very quiet when he got up. I don't think Jack missed a minute's sleep. As quiet as he was, I was awake, and when Kent noticed he said, "We're going for a run on the beach. If you'd like to go, I've got sweats. Marc raised up and said, "I'm game," and I joined him.

After the locals had left for class, Marc and I were having another cup of coffee when he asked, "Keith, how about a walk on the beach? We had a run, but I'd like to just walk."

"I'd love it," I answered. Truth be told, I would have gone for a walk through hell with Marc. I had never had a guy bowl me over the way Marc had. I tried to act normal around him, but it was difficult.

We went back to the room and got our heavy coats--Jack was still sawing logs and didn't stir when we went in.

If there had been any wind I don't think we would have stayed out very long, but the air was still and the sun warm, so walking on the beach was very pleasant. We were walking in silence when, suddenly, Marc asked, "What do you think about this group here? I mean the guys living as a couples?"

I didn't know how to answer. I mean I knew what I felt about it, but I wasn't sure what Marc wanted to hear. In such situations my usual reaction was to avoid the question, even one as direct as this. Somehow or other I didn't want to do that this time. "I think it's great. Both couples--Matt and Luke, Eugene and Larry--went through some hell last year. Well, Eugene had been through hell long before. Anyway, I think they deserve some happiness and they seem to have found it. Most of the time anyway. They had an episode since they have been here and will probably have to show up in court before Thanksgiving."


I told Marc what I had learned from Michael and Mary Kathryn about the problems at Waterside. "I'll never understand why people think because someone is gay they have the right to beat the shit out of them."

"Yea, I agree completely," Marc said then, point-blank and out of the clear blue, he asked, "Are you gay, Keith?".

Again I would have, under most circumstances, sidestepped the question, but I guess I was so taken with Marc that, without thinking, I said, "Yes, I am".

"Do you have a lover?"

What was I to say? I could say, "No," and let it go at that or I could say, "I had one, but no longer". I could have done that, but I didn't. When I opened my mouth to speak, I couldn't make a sound and huge tears started rolling down my face. I cried as I had never cried before over what Rocky had done to me.

Marc stopped, wrapped his arms around me and said, "I'm sorry, Keith. I wouldn't have upset you for the world." He was holding me close and I rested my head on his shoulder, still crying. "I'm sorry, Keith. Damn, I'm sorry."

"It's not you, Marc. It's something I thought I was over." We stood, Marc still holding me, while I told him about Rocky. "So you see, it's nothing you have done. I guess I needed that cry because of what was done to me and, damn it, for allowing it to be done."

"You better be glad the son of a bitch is not here now or I'd beat the ever-livin' shit out of the bastard," Marc said through clinched teeth. "I mean it." And there was not the slightest doubt in my mind he did mean it.

Just ahead of us was a large piece of driftwood, actually most of a tree. Marc led me toward it and we sat on it, side-by-side, our backs to the sun. Marc sat with his arm around my shoulder. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped my face, then gave me the handkerchief so I could blow my nose. We were both silent for a long time.

Marc was staring out across the lake when he said, "Keith, I'm gay and have known it since I was twelve or thirteen. I played around with friends until I was fifteen, when I realized they were straight and just experimenting. Two or three times I fell for a guy and we had sex but, while I thought I was in love, the guys just saw money and things I could give them. I thought they were friends, but they were just high-class whores in my book. Oh, they didn't have a price list, but I finally realized they were in it for what they could get out of me. Having money has its advantages, make no mistake about that, but it also means that most of your so-called friends are in it for the ride and when the going gets rough, they get going. Douglas is the one exception. Of course, he has money as well, but I would trust my life to Douglas. He is one super guy."

"Does he know you are gay?"

"Sure. I think he knew it before I did. I was really down in the dumps and bitching about being gay several weeks ago and he said, "You need to see how beautiful gay love can be. Can you get the plane? If so, we are off to a party." When I found out I could get the plane this weekend, he told me I was in for a surprise. Of course I haven't seen very much of Matt and Luke, or Eugene and Larry, but they seem very happy. I guess they have their problems, but they seem just like normal, everyday people. Of course they are gay, but still normal if you know what I mean."

"I think I do," I replied.

As much as I loved being with Marc, I was getting cold as a brisk wind has sprung up. "I think that wind is coming straight from Canada--northern Canada," I said. "This southern boy is freezing to death."

"We have been on the beach longer than I thought," Marc said as he looked at his watch, "and, to tell the truth, I'm suddenly chilled to the bone." As we walked back to the house he said, "Keith, thank you very much for trusting me. I won't say a word about what we talked about."

I laughed and said, "Marc, remember I told you that the Fellowship has few secrets? They know all about me and about Rocky. In fact, Rocky and his dad tried to get me and Mr. Stevenson--you'll meet him and his partner tonight--in deep doo-doo, but it backfired." Marc asked what that was about and I told him.

When we got back to the house, it was only 10:00 and everyone was up and dressed. Michael had been told what needed doing to get ready for the next influx of people, and he was directing traffic while trying to do most of the work. "Marc, Keith," he said, "we're moving out to give the adults our rooms tonight. Mary Kathryn is getting the linen washed and we're taking stuff to the studio where the guys will be sleeping." Marc and I got a load of sleeping bags and pads and followed Michael out the front door.

The college kids came in about 1:00 and we all had lunch. After we had cleaned up, Matt said, "Don't know about the rest of you, but I didn't get much sleep last night and I'm going to take a nap."

"In the studio in a sleeping bag, then," Paula said. "Michael and Mary Kathryn have seen that all the linen is clean and the beds made."

"Don't care where, just so long as I can lay my bitty head down." Matt may have been the only one to admit it, but the whole crew needed a nap and by 2:00 the place was quiet.


I found a pad and sleeping bag in the studio, slipped off my pants and shirt and slid into the sleeping bag. I was almost asleep when Luke whispered in my ear, "Room enough for two in there?".

"There's always room for you in my bed, Lover Boy." Luke slipped off his clothes and climbed into the sleeping bag with me. It was a kinda tight fit but, the way we slept wrapped together, it didn't matter. Luke gave me a great kiss, wrapped me in his arms, rested his head in the crook of my neck and we were both half-asleep when the rest of the guys came in and found sleeping bags. I noticed Larry and Eugene, predictably, climbed into a sleeping bag together. I guessed Dan and Chris really were a couple because they followed the couple's example. It didn't take long for everyone to get settled down and asleep.

I was having a wonderful dream about Luke and me at the falls when there was a knock on the studio door and Mary Kathryn called out,"Everyone decent?". There were a lot of groans as gradually we all returned to the land of the living.

"Ok, MK, you can come on in," Michael answered.

Mary Kathryn came through the door and said, "There's hot chocolate waiting and some more of Matt's cookies."

Within minutes we had all gotten dressed and were into the kitchen. It was 5:30. "Well, I guess the crew are just about on their way," I said. "Wonder what Millie is up to? The thought just occurred to me that she said she'd come on her own, but that was all."

"Yea, I know," Eugene said. "I tried to worm it out of her, but she wouldn't tell me anything. When I called last night I didn't even get the answering machine. That means she's out of town. She has been holding her cards very close to her chest lately."

"Well, she's got chest enough to hide several hands," Michael laughed.

"One thing about it, if Millie doesn't want us to know what's she's up to, we won't," Luke said.

"Who's Millie?" Marc asked.

"She's my mom," Eugene said, and explained how he had been adopted by Millie the year before.

"The longer I am around this bunch, the more I feel as if I flew from Florida into a soap opera," Marc laughed.

"The big difference is that soap operas are more believable," Janet said. "And it's been this way ever since I met Luke."

"Luke, Janet told me you were the first man who failed to fall for her charms," Marc said.

"Afraid her charms were the wrong flavor. Besides, if I had given her a whirl, she would never have gotten into the Douglas Armstrong soap opera."

"Never thought of it that way, Luke, so thanks for not falling victim to my usually fatal feminine charms," Janet laughed.

"Well, if you all will excuse me, I need to prepare for class tomorrow," I said, getting up from the kitchen table.

"You have a class on Saturday?" Jack asked, in a voice which clearly indicated he wasn't believing what he heard.

"Yea, but I finally got it here at the house since it's a performance class. Unfortunately, my teacher will be here tomorrow, so I'll be in the family room from 9:30 until 10:30 and you'll just have to suffer with the organ."

Paula, Susan and Jacob had already dressed for synagogue and left after eating very little.

When we finished, the rest of us set to work getting everything ready for dinner when the next Concord group arrived. It was decided that only the Oberlin Five would go to the airport this trip. The night before, Captain Kelly had told us he would be landing about the same time so we left the house at 8:00.

Capt. Kelly had called the house at 5:00 to tell us he was taking off and expected to be landing about 8:30 Ohio time. At about 8:20 we were at the airport when we were paged over the intercom and asked to step into the terminal office. When we got in, the man who has paged us asked, "Are you waiting for Marc Langley's jet?

"Yes we are," Luke said.

"I'm sorry to tell you, I just heard a mayday from the plane. It was beginning its approach when the pilot said it was suddenly out of fuel and going down. That's all I know right now. I'm sorry. If you like you can wait here to see if we hear anything further."

We all just slumped into seats, stunned, unable to say anything.

Chapter Twelve


I felt as if I was asleep and this was all a bad dream. All the Family except Margaret and David were on that plane, a plane that was going down! I was so stunned I couldn't do anything. I was barely breathing. Luke came, sat beside me and took my hand. Eugene was squatting in front of Larry, brushing his hair from his forehead. Paula was all alone until Luke reached out and took her hand. All five of us were paralyzed with fear.

I don't know who or what the man was who had told us. If he was an official, couldn't he find out something? The plane was going down, for heaven's sake! Did that mean it crashed? My mind was a whirlwind of scenes and thoughts, none of them good. Where was the man who had told us? I thought he was staying with us, but he wasn't in the room. I hadn't noticed, but there was a TV on the wall. I noticed it when an announcer broke into a broadcast and said a Gulfstream jet headed for the Lorain corporate airport had reported it was in trouble. "The pilot said he was losing fuel rapidly. He thought something had ruptured a main fuel line. We have a mobile unit headed to the supposed crash site and will keep you updated."

We were all staring at the TV, I guess thinking if we looked hard enough, the message would change. The announcer had definitely said crash. "Luke, what should we do? Should we call the house and tell those there what has happened? What if they have seen the special report on TV?"

"What could we tell them other than what they will have seen on the TV if they saw the report?" Luke asked.

We debated what to do for several minutes and came to no conclusion. We simply didn't know what to do. None of us noticed the man returning until he spoke. "I take it you had friends on the plane?" he asked.

"Yes. There were twelve family members and friends," Luke said.

"I still haven't heard anything further. I put in a call to the Cleveland control tower. We are so small and specialized we don't have one." As he was talking, the phone on his desk rang. He picked it up, identified himself and then asked, "Is one of you Matt?".

"I am," I answered.

"The phone's for you."

"Hello, this is Matt."

"Matt, Michael. We just saw a report on the TV. Do you know anything more?"

"Nothing more. The airport manager... I guess that's who he is," the man nodded, "has called the tower at the Cleveland airport. I'm going to hang up so this line is free. I'll call on my cell phone as soon as we know something."

"Any of you know the pilot?" the manager asked.

"Yes, we flew up with him last night."

"Is he inexperienced?"

"Not at all. He has been flying for Marc Langley, Sr. for over twenty years."

"That's good news. If there was any way out of the pickle he found himself in, he'll know it."

The TV announcer broke into the program again and said, "I have just been informed that the plane went down about thirty miles outside Cleveland. Our mobile unit is trying to get the exact location from which we will report as soon as possible."

"If the TV station has that much information, I should be able to find out something," the manager said. "I'm calling Cleveland again." He dialed a number and spoke into the phone. All I really heard him say was, "Thank God for the Cold War and American paranoia, at least in this case... Yes, there are people waiting here for the plane... Ok, I'll tell them and give them directions. Thanks. Bye."

"Good news kids. Don't know whether you realize it or not, but when Eisenhower got the Interstate Highway Act through congress, it had a requirement most people don't know about or forgot. All interstate highways are required to have a straight, unobstructed section every so often. The idea was to allow aircraft to land and take off during a war. Well, your pilot must have known that because he set the Gulfstream down on the interstate. Did a perfect three point landing with the last ounce of fuel he had. Everyone is safe. Of course, he is blocking one lane, the northbound one, but state troopers have re-routed traffic into the other lane, making it two-way. There are mechanics on their way out to see if the fuel line can be repaired enough to get the plane in the air and here for proper repairs. Cleveland tower contacted the pilot who asked if someone could pick up the passengers. I told them I'd give you directions. It's about twenty miles from here--no big trip. I'll radio the pilot and tell him you're on your way. Here's directions," he said as he handed me a piece of paper with a map and written directions. "Do you need to call anyone?"

"I'll use my cell phone," I answered. "Thank you very much, Sir."

"Glad to be of help and glad everything's ok."

We all ran out to the mini-bus, piled in and Luke took off. As soon as I was inside, I called home to tell those waiting everything was ok and we would probably be there in an hour or so.

Twenty minutes later, we saw blue lights ahead. A state trooper was directing traffic to an exit and then back on the opposite lane so they were going in what would have been the wrong direction. When we reached him, Luke pulled to one side, stopped the bus and the two of us walked over to the officer. "Officer, the plane which landed on the highway was carrying our parents and friends. We'd like to drive to where there they are and take them home."

"Sure. I know they will be as glad to see you as you will them. Just take the northbound exit. The plane is about three or four miles up the highway."

We got back in the bus and the officer waved us onto the blocked lane. A few miles later we saw the plane sitting in the middle of the highway. When we pulled up, Captain Kelly came over to the bus. "Kids, I have had enough adventure for a while. Your parents and friends are inside the plane and, I think, doing very well considering the fact that I thought we were in for a real crash."

"What happened?" Eugene asked.

"I'm not sure yet but as we were taking off, Jerry, my co-pilot, saw some kids with rifles. He swore they were shooting at the plane. I didn't think so because I didn't hear or see anything unusual, but now I suspect they clipped a main fuel line. It held up for most of the trip, but when it ruptured we lost fuel very quickly. I was afraid we'd end up with an engine on fire or run completely out of fuel, so I planned to set her down on the highway. Jerry radioed the state troopers and they stopped traffic on the northbound lane, so it wasn't vastly different from landing at a small airport."

"We're here to take your passengers home. Do you and Jerry want to come with us?"

"No, we'll stay with the plane. If the line can be jury-rigged enough to get the plane in the air and to the airfield where we landed last night, we'll do that and give the highway back to cars. I'm sure the mechanics can get the line repaired right away and we can get back to Florida only a little behind schedule. Thanks anyway."

Luke and I walked over to the plane and up the steps to the inside. "Anyone ready for a trip to the lake?" Luke laughed. His mom and dad grabbed him in bear hugs, blocking Mom and Dad from reaching me. As soon as they could get past the Larsens, I also got bear hugs.

"We have a mini-bus here to take you home," I said. "Claudia, Larry is helping Eugene get the luggage. Paula is waiting for you in the bus, Sandra."

The passengers left the plane and headed for the bus. Luke and I helped get the rest of the luggage on the roof rack and we were ready to go. We turned around and drove back to where we had talked to the state trooper. We stopped and thanked him for helping us and then were on our way. Half an hour later we pulled into the driveway, where everyone was greeted with kisses, tears and, finally, necessary introductions.

No-one was really ready for dinner just yet. The rest of the guys and I took the luggage to the rooms while Paula served everyone a glass of brandy. "Kent's Dad bought this for emergencies," she said. It was obvious we weren't into brandy because the bottle was still sealed. Gradually everyone relaxed and talked about their reactions to being told to prepare for a crash.

"I expected to go up in glorious flames," Gabrielle said, "but the landing was just like any other. Captain Kelly sure knows what he is doing."

"He sure does," Marc said. "A couple times someone has tried to hire him away from Dad, but it never works. Dad is pretty stupid when it comes to women, but he sure knows valuable employees. Captain Kelly earns about twice what he would working for someone else and is worth every penny of it. I suspect he will get a nice bonus as a result of tonight. In fact, you can bank on that."

When everyone had relaxed and had time to recuperate, we got dinner ready. Luke was host that night and, believe you me, the grace was not the usual one! Luke obviously was speaking from his heart. The grace was followed by a series of toasts, very serious at first, then funny. The dinner conversation revolved around the parents getting to know Marc and catching up on what was going on in Ohio, and us getting the parents' perspective on what was happening in Concord.

"I suspect you all will be up until all hours," I said about 1:00 in the morning, "but I have a class at 9:30 so I'm off to bed."

"How did you end up with a class on Saturday?" Dad asked.

"Seems that was the only time I could get a performance class scheduled. Took a while, but I finally got my teacher to agree to hold it here. You might have trouble sleeping after 9:30, but school comes before you sleeping in," I said with a grin. "Goodnight, everyone."

"Don't think you're going to bed without me," Luke said. "Goodnight all."

Luke and I went to the studio. While we had napped in a single sleeping bag, I didn't think that was a good idea for a whole night--or what was left of the night. We zipped two bags together, undressed and crawled in. After exchanging good night kisses, we wrapped ourselves in each other's arms and prepared for sleep.

I had not been as faithful about reflecting on my day as I once was, and that night realized what I had been missing because I was "too busy". I thought about the scare I had when I thought about not having Mom and Dad. I guess you never consider that until it becomes a very real possibility. I offered thanks for Mom and Dad and all the other members of the Family, and the friends who were on the plane and a very special thanks for Captain Kelly. It had been a night to remember and one which shook me to the core. The very solid foundation of my life was revealed as fragile and I promised myself I would never forget it.

As I finished my reflection, Luke said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I was really made aware of just how important my parents and the Family are. I guess I thought I knew it before, but the reality that I could lose them all, except Margaret and David, really shook me."

"Same here, Yonghon Tongmu. I knew I loved them, but I guess I had never faced the fact that I might still be here when they are gone, and I don't like the feeling."

"Yea, we better make the best of the time we have with them, regardless of how much or little we have. Goodnight, Dark Angel."

With those words, Luke gave me a butterfly kiss and I said, "Goodnight, Bright Angel," as I returned his kiss.


I expected Matt to sleep until the last minute Saturday morning, but he was up at the crack of dawn and woke me with a good morning kiss. "How about we do the bathroom bit and go for a run? I feel like greeting the new day after what we went through last night," he said.

"Sounds like a winner," I said. When we crawled out of the sleeping bag, I noticed Kent, Michael, Keith and Marc were gone. The rest of the crew were still asleep: Larry and Eugene were snoring like there was no tomorrow, and Dan and Chris were wrapped in each other's arms sleeping like babies. Jack was buried so deep in his sleeping bag it looked like a snake that had swallowed a man. Bill was sound asleep, hugging his pillow.

Luke and I dressed in sweats and went down to the beach where Kent and Paula, Michael and Mary Kathryn were warming up. Keith and Marc were nowhere to be seen. Luke and I joined the four warming up and, after a short time, we six started running down the beach. Both Matt and I started throwing our arms in the air and shouting. Michael joined us. I guess anyone seeing and hearing us would have thought we were insane, but running and shouting like Navajo seemed a great way to greet the new day. About a mile down the beach there was a huge piece of driftwood and, as we approached it, I saw Keith and Marc engaged in conversation. I don't think they knew anyone was within miles of them until they heard us shouting.

When we approached the two, they suddenly heard us and waved. When we were close enough, Luke said, "You two aren't getting much exercise just sitting. Well, maybe your jawbones are being exercised, 'cause it looked as if you were engaged in deep conversation."

Marc laughed and said, "We ran to here about an hour ago and have been getting to know each other. This Keith character is a great guy."

"I may be a great guy, but I'm a half-frozen one," Keith laughed, jumped up and started getting warmed up.

"I thought all us southern men were hot stuff, but the Ohio weather cools us down fast. Guess that's how you Yankees won the 'Wahr'," Marc laughed. "You lured us southern boys into Yankeeland and froze us stiff so you could just knock us over like bowling pins."

"Hey, that 'Wahr' was before my time," Kent said. "And I don't know about southern boys, but southern women are hot--at least the ones around here, even the old ones."

"Don't you dare tell my mom she's hot or old or you'll suffer, even if it is true," Paula laughed. "You guys ready for a run?" she continued.

"Yea, and we'll take off like a herd of turtles," Keith said as he started loping along.

When we reached the house, Dad and Greywolf were busy in the kitchen. "You didn't have to start breakfast," I protested.

"I think we wanted to make sure we were not ghosts after last night," Greywolf said. "Why don't all of you wake the others and get dressed. Breakfast in half an hour."

Paula headed for the downstairs bathroom while the guys took the upstairs two. We had just about finished when those from the studio arrived. Soon all the young folks had finished and dad woke up the other women. The timing was tight but, by the time breakfast was ready, everyone was up and dressed. The dining table was huge, seating twenty easily and twenty-two in a pinch, but there were twenty-eight of us. We had thought about eating in shifts and immediately abandoned that idea. We had moved the kitchen table around, thinking those at it could be a part of what was going on in the dining room, but that wasn't going to work either. Finally Paula figured out if we moved the dining room table from the very center of the room, we could put up card tables as needed and have everyone in the dining room--and we had done that before dinner the night before.

It was 8:30 when we sat down to eat and, before I knew it, it was 9:25 and I had a lesson in five minutes. I hopped up, ran upstairs, brushed my teeth, and heard the doorbell as I was running back downstairs. I opened the door and Professor Larkin was standing outside. "Do come in, Professor. I'd like to introduce you to a full house." Everyone was still in the dining room. "I don't expect you to remember all the names, but these are family and friends here for a Halloween party." I introduced everyone and then we went into the family room for my lesson.

As soon as we were inside, Professor Larkin said, "It is easy to pick out your parents, Matt. Your mom's... ?"

"Half Korean and half some kind of American. Her father was a GI."

"And your dad?"

"At least half Lakota, balance unknown."

"Well, as we say in the part of the world where I grew up, they make pretty babies--at least the grown-up baby is a handsome young man."

Needless to say, I blushed as I said, "Thank you".

"I always enjoy seeing a man blush. It means they aren't all ego, a rarity among the male population, I think. Did you say all these people are here for a Halloween party?"

"Yes," I responded and told her about the party.

"Then that plane I saw on the TV last night had your parents aboard."

"Sure did."

"I'm surprised you are sane today. I think I would have gone nuts waiting."

"We just about did, but once we found out they were all safe, we started having a great time because our parents and friends are here."

I played for Professor Larkin and she seemed very happy with my playing. "Your technique is constantly improving, Matt. I didn't expect to see that since you were very good to start with and have so many years of playing behind you. I know it's difficult to break old bad habits--not that you had many--but you are definitely improving. When are you making the tape for the audition?"

"In a few weeks now."

"You know I have had you working on more modern music, but I think we'll devote part of each session to your audition pieces and I should come weekly until the tape is done. You getting the concert series will be a feather in my cap as well as yours. Now that you've definitely decided what you will play for the audition, which piece gives you the most trouble?"

"The one I knew best, 'Come Sweet Death'. I have played it often enough to really learn some mistakes."

"And they are hard to unlearn. Play it for me."

I played the piece, watching my notes very carefully. When I finished, Professor Larkin said, "You didn't make mistakes, Matt, but you are so tied to your music, much of the piece is technically perfect but it lacks life. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I'm playing like a player organ."

Professor Larkin laughed and said, "I'm not sure I would have been that harsh, but you're right. It's mechanical. You need to put away the music and just play. Try it again without the music."

When I finished, she said, "Much better. No mistakes and a lot more life. You're getting there. I've got to run. Spend the time you need on the Bach and try to keep up with the modern stuff as well. But if push comes to shove, work on the Bach. You have the series nailed down unless you do something really off the wall and, since it's a tape, you can always re-do it. Well I do have to run. Today is grocery day."

I laughed and said, "Somehow or other I never thought of a professor having to grocery shop."

"We are human, you know, in spite of what we or our students think."

I showed Professor Larkin to the door and thanked her for helping me with the audition.

The day was beautiful, if a bit chilly and, when I finished my lesson, everyone was out exploring the place, seeing what we had done since they left the summer before. I joined them and looked at the place through their eyes. Nothing escaped Dad or Jens, and both were surprised and pleased at all we had done. The whole crew finally ended up in Luke's studio, looking at his latest creations. I thought I had seen them all, but some were new to me. His output since, as he said, the log jam broke, was tremendous--both in quantity and quality. His painting of Paula and Kent, the day they came in from the country, was breathtaking. It was so fresh and alive, the way the two of them had been when they walked through the door that evening.

"Here's something I have been saving. It's a project I did for my class at Case. I am very proud of the piece and the fact that I have almost mastered the technique. The rejects you won't see would attest to the fact that I haven't mastered it yet." He had his hand on something, about a foot and a half to two feet tall, draped in what I recognized as part of a curtain from upstairs which we had replaced. When he removed the drapery, there were two bronze statues. It was Paula and Kent, again, as they had been the day they came in from the country.

Absolute silence filled the room as all eyes were focused on the two pieces. Finally, Uncle Michael said, "Luke, they are magnificent. Positively magnificent."

Kent took Paula's hand without taking his eyes from the statues. Finally he looked at Luke and said, "Wow! Luke, that's all I can think of. Wow!"

"You have done yourself proud, Luke," John added.

"Luke, I think I know where I could sell the statues tomorrow for a very healthy price. I hope you do some more work in bronze for this summer's exhibitions. Everyone will expect paintings--and there will be those, of course--but bronze will be unexpected and produce a lot of comment and, although I'm sure you're not interested, a lot of money as well," Uncle Michael smiled.

Everyone had to have a closer look at the statues and, while almost everyone was still crowded around them, Jacob called out from the other side of the studio, "Luke, knew you were into medicine-manning, but fortune-telling?".

The Oberlin crew started laughing because we knew Jacob had discovered the storybook panel--Luke's official title was "A Fairy Tale". "Actually, Luke and Eugene were the soothsayers while Matt and I thought they were talking through their hats," Larry said.

"Luke, I like the painting but I don't think I was really bettered by Kent," Jacob laughed.

"Not going there," Luke laughed in return.

"Luke, you get better all the time," John said. "I am really surprised that you are doing more sculpture. Not that you're not good at it, but I still think paint is your medium."

"I think you are right. Painting is easier, and comes more naturally to me, but I am really enjoying learning to sculpt, especially doing lost wax work."

"You have a good start on the summer, Luke," Uncle Michael said. "You could just exhibit paintings, but if you have sculpture as well--well that would be great."

It was after 1:30 when we all got back to the house and had lunch ready. It was a "make your own" sandwich lunch with Matt's apple pie and ice cream for dessert. By the time we had finished lunch, the weather was beautiful and a bit warmer. Kent, Paula and Sandra were going to Kent's place to visit and invite Derrick and his girl, as well as Kent's parents, to the party. Kent asked about inviting his parents to Sunday dinner and we all thought that was a great idea.

People wondered off to do what they wanted to do. Luke and I decided to take Mary Kathryn and Michael for a ride in the country and took the Jeep but, before we did, Luke suggested we keep the mini-bus until everyone was gone, if possible. "We don't know what we might like to do and we can't carry everyone in the cars." He called and we got it until Wednesday evening.

Then the four of us drove to the state park where Luke and I had talked our way through a rough spot in our relationship a few weeks before. We parked the Jeep and took the hiking trail to the small stream. I had picked up the blanket from the Jeep and we spread it, and the four of us sat down.

We were all silent for a bit, listening to the brook, then Luke asked, "Kids, how's the relationship?". Mary Kathryn and Michael both turned very red, very quickly. "That good, eh?" Luke asked with a laugh.

"I guess we never could keep something from you, Brother Mine," Mary Kathryn said. "Yes, we are no longer virgins and have had the very stuff scared out of us." And although Michael had told us about their scare, he was a gentleman and didn't tell Mary Kathryn he had said anything to us, so she and Michael told us about their first time and the results.

"Michael has neglected to tell you the best part of me not being pregnant," Mary Kathryn laughed.

"MK, you don't have to go there," Michael said, obviously embarrassed.

"Yes, I do," Mary Kathryn said, and told us about Michael thinking she was bleeding to death.

"Kinda funny, well really funny, Michael. But, Mary Kathryn, I think it tells you something about the man you're in love with," Luke said.

"You are so right, Luke. He's a great guy--and sexy."

"Matt, there's something that has been troubling me--I guess us. Gabrielle and Jens were away last weekend and Mary Kathryn stayed with your mom and dad." Michael then told us about climbing the trellis to be with Mary Kathryn. "Of course it was great and wonderful, but both of us are kinda ashamed of taking advantage of your parents. I twisted my ankle and kinda lied to Mom and Dad about that. We both don't want to betray our parents' trust in us--well, we have, but not again--and we still want to make love without having to stop."

"Wish I had an easy answer to that," I said. "You damn well don't want to lose your parents' trust, but I don't know how you can have sex without doing so. Luke and I got around that by waiting until we were eighteen, having been told after we were eighteen we could. You haven't waited until you are eighteen and you're not going to stop for a year and a half. We all know that."

"And I don't think Dad would say, 'Ok, go to it now that you're eighteen,' anyway," Luke said.

"You're right about that," Michael said, and was seconded by Mary Kathryn.

"I guess you'll just have to take the opportunities which present themselves and maybe make some others. Think you can do that?" Luke asked.

"I know it's going to be hard..." Matt started.

"You're damn right about that!" Michael said with emphasis. "I wish we were like Douglas and Janet and get married."

"Just to have sex?" Luke wondered.

"Hell no, Luke, because we are going to get married, so why wait?"

"Do you need to hear the answer to that?" I asked.

"No, not really. It's just my daydream."

"Mine too," Mary Kathryn said.

"I know you both are very mature for your age, but sixteen and a half? Do you have any idea what being married is like?" Luke asked. "I didn't. It's a lot different from what you think."

"Is it? Is it really, Luke?" I asked.

"Well, I mean a man and woman being married. Not like us. It's a lot like what I expected and a lot better. But, yea, it's a lot different from what I thought."

"Kids, the best suggestion I can come up with is that you work your asses off so you can get huge scholarships--Oberlin or Case Western Reserve or another of the colleges around here--and give thought to getting married before you start college. You'd still be very young and college puts a real strain on a relationship--as Luke and I, or Eugene and Larry, can tell you. But that's still in the future. About now, I guess all I can say is don't trade quickie sex for a loving relationship. Sorry I can't help more," I said.

"Matt, you have been a help. Mary Kathryn and I were talking about getting married while we were in college, but maybe four or five years from now. We hadn't thought of getting married as soon as we are out of high school, had we?" Michael looked at Mary Kathryn and she shook her head.

"It means you really have to pour on the coal at school because it cannot happen unless you have a pile of scholarship money," Luke said.

"And I think it would be wise for the two of you to talk to Douglas and Janet about what going to college and being married entails," I said.

"Good idea, Matt," Luke said. Mary Kathryn and Michael agreed.

We sat, saying nothing for a while, then walked back to the Jeep and went home.


Marc and I spent just about every minute we could together. We walked on the beach, spent time in the library listening to music, walked around the place, just anywhere we could find to be alone together. We talked about everything under the sun except us being gay. It was as if our talk on the beach had never happened and I wasn't sure why. Saturday afternoon people scattered. It had grown quite warm and the sun was shining in a cloudless blue, blue sky. "How about a walk on the beach?" Marc asked.

"Love to," I replied.

None of the others were on the beach and Marc and I just strolled along, talking about nothing in particular. When we reached the driftwood tree, we sat down.

We were both silent for a while, looking out at the lake. I knew well what I wanted to say, but was afraid to say it.

Suddenly Marc laughed and said, "Douglas said he had a surprise waiting for me in Ohio, but I bet he didn't know what the surprise would be. Keith, as soon as I saw you in Lexington, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Don't get me wrong, you are a good-looking dude, but that wasn't what got me. I don't know what it was, but as soon as I saw you I thought to myself, 'If that guy is gay, he's mine'. That's why I wanted you in the cockpit with me on the way up. I asked Captain Kelly if it would be possible for the two of us to be up front. He has always been my substitute father and he has known I am gay about as long as I have. He has also seen me taken advantage of by two or three lovers, so he's very protective. He finally agreed because he really did want to talk to the others."

"I've been told there is no such thing as love at first sight and I guess that may be true. But when I first saw you, if it wasn't love at first sight, it was certainly much more than lust." Marc was silent for a long time, staring across the lake. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing, but my mind was going a mile a minute. Douglas had said Marc was spoken for, so why was he saying all this stuff?

Marc turned to look into my eyes and said, "Damn, Keith, I may be fooled but I sure as hell think I'm in love with you. I feel something for you I have never felt before." I was stunned, I guess. Anyway, I couldn't trust myself to say anything or look at Marc. I sat staring at the sun sparkling on the lake, silent. Marc was also silent then said, "Keith, I hope I'm not scaring you off".

I finally looked at Marc, smiled, and got up the nerve to say, "I don't think that's possible, Marc. Just think it's not possible. I had about the same reaction when I saw you. And I'll be honest: the fact that you are knock-down, flat-out the best-looking man I have ever seen didn't hurt. But you have someone. You're spoken for. Douglas said you were taken."

Marc laughed, "Hope that didn't put you off, Keith. It's Douglas' way to protect me from women. It started when a very good friend of mine, a girl, asked Douglas to set her up with me. Douglas told her I was spoken for and he says that anytime I'm introduced to new women. He says since I'm gay, I may as well be spoken for so far as women are concerned."

We were both silent again and just sat looking at each other.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Marc leaned toward me and gently placed his lips against mine for an angel kiss. When he broke the kiss, he looked into my eyes, smiled and said, "Keith, this may not be love, but it's a damn good start toward it." I smiled and kissed Marc in answer.

It had been pleasant in the sun with no breeze, but a slight wind had come up and it was downright cold to me. Finally Marc laughed and said, "Keith, you are one hot dude, but it's cold out here," got up, took my hand and pulled me to my feet. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss that sent my blood rushing. "Maybe that will keep us warm until we get back to the house," Marc smiled. We walked down the beach, holding hands. I couldn't remember being half as happy as I was at that moment, and if it was over with the weekend, I would have known happiness for a few short days.

At dinner, Matt asked who was going to St. Anne's Sunday. "You have a great opportunity to hear just how good Paula is," he said.

"And, of course, how good Matt is," Paula added.

Everyone, including Jacob and Susan decided to go. "We'll have to make two trips, even in the mini-bus, to get all of us there," Kent said. "I think I will go as well, since I have never heard my housemates in action."

"Uncle Michael, you are going to feel like you are back in South Carolina at St. Anne's. It is looooow church sure enough," Luke said.

"Guess I can take it one Sunday or two, but it was good to get to St. Mary's after my years of low church in the low country."

"I can drive Paula and myself over early so we can get ready, and then the rest of you can come in shifts," Matt suggested.

I'm sure the priest--Fr. Manville, I think--was thunderstruck to see the church packed. The addition of twenty-something people sitting in the congregation made a big difference in the nave. Whoever said Paula was good at choral work knew what they were talking about, and Matt really was a master of his instrument.

Sunday dinner found three more people present, Kent's parents and his brother Derrick, so another card table had to be added. The house was beginning to look like Grand Central station with all the people, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I know I sure was!


I had tried to call Mom again Saturday night, and still got no answer. I planned to call again Sunday night and if I got no answer, call the Concord police and have them check on her. Millie was independent as hell but, given her age--which no-one dared mention--she could have fallen or gotten very ill and be lying in the floor, and would be there until Monday when her maid came to work. Or maybe even longer, since the answering machine was off. She may have told her maid she would call when she got back in town.

About 4:30 we were all in the house in one room or another, just enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Larry and I were in the living room with Larry's mom, Claudia, Uncle Michael and John, when suddenly the front door burst open and in walked Millie in her full glory with Woody right behind her. "Hello everyone. I knew it had to be the Concord bunch on that plane. I can't take many more scares. I'm getting too old for plane-crashing, cross-burning and slandering letters. Where is that young man Keith? I want to meet him. Sure glad he agreed to hold Dr. Rockford's feet to the fire. Should have thrown that worthless son of his under the jail." It was obvious Millie was on a roll.

I walked across the room, grabbed Mom and hugged her good fashion. "Good to see you, Mom," I said. "Just where the hell have you been and why didn't you let me know? I couldn't get in touch with you and have been worried sick."

"You know, Jason said almost the same thing. Good to see you too, Son. Guess you heard all about the trash Dr. Rockford and his worthless son tried to heap on John and this Keith fellow."

"You didn't answer my question. Avoiding it? Sure we heard about the mess. Glad they got what they had coming to them."

"Not sure about that. I think they had a lot more coming than they got," Mom said.

Larry had spoken to Mom and Woody, then left the room. He came back shortly with Keith and Marc in tow. He introduced them, and when he did Mom said, "Keith, sure glad you got something out of the attempt to slander you. You need to know that Dr. Rockford suffered greatly because he got hit in the pocket book. That really hurt him. John, glad you got something out of the jerk as well. So you are a Bad Man, Keith. You look pretty tame to me, but I'm no longer a teeny bopper."

Mom continued, "You are one damn good-looking hunk, Marc. I know you drive men and women wild. Keith, Marc, this is Woody. He's a priest here in Ohio and was a good friend to Matt last summer. Well, where is everybody?" I don't think Mom had stopped for a breath since she walked in. "Round them up, Eugene."

I soon had everyone in the living room, and introduced those Millie didn't know to her and Woody. "I just knew that plane was yours when the TV announced it had gone down. I was ready to come over at once, but Woody talked me out of it. Then we heard that everyone was all right. Sure did relieve me."

"Mom, you were at Woody's? All alone with him? What will people think? There will be talk all over Concord!" I exclaimed in mock outrage.

Mom laughed and said, "I was afraid we wouldn't be the talk of Concord, so I told Eloise, my maid, that I was going to Ohio to spend a week with my boyfriend. You can be sure everyone who is anyone in Concord knew about it before I hit the Kentucky line."

After the introductions were done, Woody said, "I need to see what you got done outside before dark. Sorry I haven't been back, but it has been a busy fall." We took Millie and Woody on an inspection tour of the outside, and both gave their stamp of approval to what all we had done.

When it came time for dinner, Woody said, "Gonna need wine glasses and three or four bottles of your best,"

When everyone got into the dining room for dinner, Eugene, who was host, asked Woody to do the honors. After the blessing, when we were all standing, Millie raised her glass and said, "Here's to love, romance and real living."

When we had finished Millie's toast there were a few more.

Glasses were refilled and Woody said, "I see I am going to have a hard time getting a word in edgewise, but I have an announcement and a couple invitations to make." Having said that, he put his arm around Millie's waist and said, "I'd like to announce the forthcoming marriage of Mrs. Millicent Willingham and the Reverend George Woods--Saturday, December 28th, in St. Mary's Church, Concord. You are all invited to the rehearsal dinner Friday, December 27th, and a reception following the wedding."

I just couldn't resist, so I ran up to Woody, sank down on my knees, grabbed him about his knees and in my best baby voice said, "Dada".

"Millie, I'm not so sure I want to go through with this wedding. This is the second son of yours who seems developmentally retarded." Woody laughed, reached down and pulled me to my feet. As he did, he laughed again and said, "Son, it's time you stood on your own two feet. Most babies your age can if they try."

Needless to say, there were toasts to Millie and Woody and the room was a madhouse of congratulations.

When things had settled down a bit, Greywolf asked, "Just how did this romance come about?".

"I suspect like most romances," Woody said. "As you know, we met here at the kids' place last summer. I saw a good-looking woman and asked myself why I didn't go after her. When I didn't come up with a good reason not to, I went."

"I know all you young folk--and all of you are young folk in my book--think you have a monopoly on love and romance, but you are mistaken. We oldsters may move a bit slower, but we can fall in love just like the youngest. Probably not as hot, fast and passionate--maybe, I did say maybe--but it's just the same at--well my age--as it was when I was at Oberlin and met Willingham," Millie said.

"Millie invited me to come down to Concord the first of October and I went down for four days--we didn't let any of you know because we knew we'd not have a minute alone--and she has visited Ohio a couple times since Labor Day. Between the trips and the phone calls, we decided it was cheaper to get married. You understand that, don't you, Jens?" Woody chuckled.

"Sure do. Especially the phone call bit. I wondered why Millie's phone bill suddenly took a leap upward."

"Mom, don't you think you should have consulted your sons before you made this drastic step?" I asked in a voice as serious as I could make it.

"Don't recall either Jason or you consulting me about your partners. I am right on that, I think."

"Just know what you said about Jason. As I recall your story, he just showed up with a partner. I think I came with one when you made me a Willingham. So I guess you're off the hook this time. What are your intentions concerning my mother, Woody?"

"Not one of them honorable, I assure you, Son. At our age you don't have time for honorable intentions. Actually and seriously, we talked about waiting until spring after I had done Easter, but decided if the parish can't get along without me, they have no business being a parish. They have saved a bundle the last several years because I was retired officially and don't cost them anything except the rectory. Finally we set the date. I'll finish at St. Alban's with the Christmas Mass, then go to Concord. It's a tight schedule but that shouldn't matter. Millie chose the date because you all will be home and the Christmas decorations will be up, so the reception at her place will not require a lot of doing about decorations. It just seemed a good time. Two weeks ago we went to see Jason and told him about us. He said he was happy with his partner and didn't see why Millie shouldn't be."

"Woody, I agree wholeheartedly," I said. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather have as a stepfather."

"Thanks, but I think you can just keep calling me Woody. Stepfather just sounds, well, old."

After dinner, the whole clan gathered in the family room where Millie, Woody and Matt played for us. When they finished, Luke said, "Millie, do you know Matt is doing a concert tour this summer?"

"No, I don't. What kind of tour, Matt?"

"Millie, they all keep assuming I will be selected. I don't know why. I'm not the least bit sure." He then told Millie about the series.

"Don't know why you think you might not be selected, Matt. You were good enough five years ago."

"Don't think so, Millie. But I'll know before the wedding."

When we went to the studio to go to bed, I noticed Keith's and Marc's sleeping bags had been zipped together. I hoped this whirlwind romance was not going to break Keith's heart. He had had enough rotten experiences with being in love, and Marc was wealthy, good-looking and a real heart-breaker. Keith said he had stayed with Rocky because he feared being lonely all his life. Well if Marc hurt him, I might just mess up that pretty face of his.

Chapter Thirteen
(This chapter opens Sunday night, October 29.)


There was a kind of unofficial party, celebrating Woody's and Millie's engagement, which went on until after 2:00 in the morning. Finally, before we broke up, Eugene said, "I'm glad the parents are here to hear this. None of us have missed a single class since we started school. I'm willing to bet we are among a very small percentage who haven't. I vote we all cut class Tuesday. Matt has already gotten off from Holtkamp. We need time to get ready for the party."

"Second the motion," Luke said. "All in favor say 'Aye'. The 'Ayes' have it. Motion carried."

"One of these days that Luke kid is going to learn how to railroad a motion," Woody laughed.

"I know it's not going to be easy getting up in the morning," Larry said, "so I'm headed for bed. Mrs. Woods-to-be's son, are you going with me?"

"Anytime you're headed for bed, I'm with you, Boy Toy," Eugene answered.

"Those of us who are off to school in the morning will try to keep it down so the rest of you can sleep in," Paula said. "Right, guys?"

"Right, Mama Paula," we all said together, and headed for the studio.

It had been a long, busy and exciting day, and Luke and I were asleep almost by the time our heads hit the pillow.

Monday morning, we all got up, went to the house to shower and--for those unlucky enough to have to--to shave. When we were ready, we went to the kitchen and discovered Dad and Jens preparing breakfast again. Since we didn't have to fix breakfast, we had a few extra minutes to visit with them. Both told us again how pleased they were with the place. "I understand most students live in a pigsty and I was half-afraid that, when the pressure got heavy, you all might slide into letting things go. Glad you haven't," dad said.

"It hasn't been easy at times," Paula said, "but I think we all realize that when things start to get too messy, emotions get messy as well. We're actually getting along very well. There have been some minor irritations, but we've handled them."

"It's great that you have," Jens said. "And school's going well?"

"Very well," Kent said. "We are diverse enough that we can help each other out and do. I'm taking a general humanities course and have the class fooled into thinking I am an expert on music. How could I not look good living in a house with three musicians? Luke is great helping me with art and I am the resident tutor in math. Aside from enjoying each other's company, we are good at helping each other academically. The house was a great idea." Kent took a sip of coffee, looked at his watch and said, "Wow, I've got to rush. Have an early class today."

"We have to go too," Paula said. We grabbed our books and rushed out the door.


I'd told Keith I had a few lovers, but they were just in it for what they could get out of me. That was true, but I hadn't told him the really painful part and I guessed I should have. I had actually been with three lovers--I didn't count the playing around I had done with buddies--and the break-ups had all been painful to me. Since the last one, I'd had my guard up all the time--I thought.

When I was sixteen, I met a college junior at a party and was swept off my feet. Ike took me places and showed me off. He was a big man on campus which meant that I was invited to all the right parties and events. He had an apartment in town where we would go to have sex. He introduced me to gay sex and I guessed I should appreciate that. He had many and expensive tastes and I loved giving him gifts.

We had been together six months when I saw him downtown, with a woman, and they were acting like more than friends. When I asked him about it, he said she was a family friend who just happened to be in town. A couple weeks later, I saw him with her in a pawn shop. After they left, I went in to see what he had been doing there. I didn't have to ask. The pawn broker was putting a very expensive watch I had given Ike in the show case. I wondered why he had pawned the watch since he was supposed to have all kinds of money. I started out of the shop and spotted a gold chain with a medallion I had given him. When I asked him about it, he tried to pretend I didn't know what I was talking about. I got angry and when I did he said, "You little fucker! Why did you think I fucked your ass? Not because I wanted to. Hell, I don't even like it, but I sure as hell like what I got in exchange." I left in tears and was depressed for weeks. I had been deceived and used and it hurt, it really hurt.

I swore it would never happen again, and it didn't. Not exactly, but close enough. My second lover was several years older than I was. The age difference was greater than that between Ike and me. Kevin was good looking, a sharp dresser, fun to be with. He showed me a good time and admitted from the beginning that he had no money. I did and didn't mind spending it. He got me a fake ID and we did clubs, bars, all the right night spots. I wasn't fool enough to think I was in love, but the times were good, as was the sex. We had been dating for three months when, one Saturday night, we were in a gay club and a fellow older than Kevin came up to our table and said, "Kevin, I see you're robbing the cradle". That started an angry exchange and suddenly Kevin said, "Sug, the only reason I am with this good-looking kid is because I wanted to make you jealous. You are the only man I ever cared for and you were neglecting me."

"Why the hell didn't you say you felt neglected? You know I adore you."

"You mean that, Sug?"

"Sure I do, Baby. Let's get out of here and I'll show you." Kevin didn't even bother to say goodbye. I wasn't devastated, because Kevin was just a fuck buddy, but I was angry at being used--again.

I became a loner until I met Joe at summer camp. He was a counselor and I fell for him almost on sight. He seemed to fall for me as well. We found places to have sex all over the camp. At first it was infatuation and great sex. I was cautious after my two other experiences, but Joe convinced me he loved me and soon I fell in love with him. It was very different from anything I had felt before.

I was broken up when camp ended and I had to go back home. I phoned Joe almost every night and arranged to spend weekends with him in some very expensive resorts. I gave Joe a credit card so he could make reservations for us--since I was underage and that, occasionally, was a problem. Dad didn't care about the bills so long as I didn't interfere with him and his latest woman. I noticed a couple times, when I checked us out of a hotel, there were things on the bill I didn't remember having, but I didn't care. I had Joe and that was all that mattered. Because I was underage, he insisted we have separate rooms. "I love you, Marc," he said, "but I don't want to do time for having sex with a minor." I was so ignorant that I didn't realize having sex with another man--regardless of age--could get you time. Anyway, we'd spend mornings or afternoons together, but never whole days. He always had a good reason why that was the way it had to be.

I begged him to move to Sarasota and live with me, but he said he couldn't, because of obligations about which he was very vague.

I had a long weekend in mid-winter, called Joe and suggested we go to Cancun. He thought it was an excellent idea. He had the credit card I had given him, but asked for mine to make the reservations at a resort and get the plane tickets. I asked why he needed mine and he gave me some excuse, but I didn't pay any attention to it. I never saw the bills for the credit card I had given him. It, as mine, was sent to Dad's accountants. I had a practically unlimited line of credit on my card, so I guess our relationship would have gone on for ages except Joe got careless.

In Cancun, his room was across a courtyard from mine and one afternoon I stepped out on my balcony and saw Joe with someone in his room. They had not pulled the draperies and the two of them were going at it hot and heavy. I went back into the room and called his. I looked across the courtyard as the phone rang and rang and they never missed a beat. When he called later about dinner, I told him I wasn't feeling well and to go on without me. I saw the two leave the room and followed them downstairs. They were very lovey-dovey throughout dinner--I had chosen a table where I could see them, but they probably wouldn't see me. For the next two days, any time Joe had an excuse for not doing something with me, I found him with his boyfriend.

When we got on the plane to go home, Joe and I were in first class, but I saw the boyfriend walk past on his way back to the coach area. As he passed, I asked Joe who he was. His response was, "How would I know?".

"You fuck people you don't know?" I asked.

Joe turned red then tried to recover. "I don't know what you are talking about, Marc. You know I love only you."

"We're not talking about who you love," I said." We're talking about who you fuck, or more accurately, who else you fuck."

"You little shit," he whispered through clinched teeth, "you don't know what the fuck you are talking about." He was really angry, so angry he had lost it.

"I want the credit card, Joe," I said.

He laughed and said, "Lot of good it will do you. It is maxed out. That's why this trip was on your card."

"I want it anyway and I want it now." He gave me the card, tilted his seat back and closed his eyes, refusing to talk with me. This time I really was cut deep because it might not have been mature love, but I really was in love with Joe. After that experience I was determined never to fall for a guy again. But that was before I knew Keith existed. In just a couple days he had come to occupy most of my waking thoughts and I thought, from his experience, I could trust the guy with my life--and my heart, which he had completely.

The day before, after we'd got back from a walk on the beach, Keith had said he wanted his camera from the studio and I went with him. He got the camera and, before we left, he put him arms around me and gave me a hot, passionate kiss. "You keep that up and you'll have me forever," I'd laughed. Keith had promptly given me an even more passionate kiss. "Think you better stop that before you start something we can't stop, and this is not the most private bedroom I've ever been in. It's practically wall-to-wall sleeping bags."

"Maybe we can help the space situation," Keith smiled at me. "Seems to me Larry and Eugene, Matt and Luke, Dan and Chris are taking up less room than the two of us."

"Is that an invitation?"

"It sure sounded like one to me," Keith laughed.

"I accept! Damn right, I accept!" I exclaimed, grabbed Keith, kissed him quickly then proceeded to zip our sleeping bags together.

"You know that we are limited to just sleeping together," he said.

"Keith, Dude, I'll take what I can get."

So when I went to bed late Sunday night--actually early Monday morning--I held Keith in my arms and kissed him goodnight. Was this a whirlwind romance or what? So far as I was concerned, I was in love, a feeling very different and much deeper than the feeling I'd had with Joe and, to be honest, I really had been in love with him. I had now fallen in love with Keith in the midst of the most loving, caring group of people I had ever known, a group of which he was a part. The man sleeping in my arms was special in a thousand ways, and I knew a lot of those because I was coming to know his friends. I kissed him ever so softly on the forehead and went to sleep happy, at peace as I had never been--and all it had cost was asking Dad for the plane. "Man, what a bargain," I smiled.


I had been at a complete loss most of the time since we had arrived in Ohio--well, actually before we arrived. You need to remember I had seldom been in a situation where anyone gave a shit about me, or anybody except themselves, and here I was in the middle of a group of people who obviously cared a great deal about each other. I had never known a really loving family except for the short times I had spent with Granddad, not a major part of my seventeen years. This bunch of people seemed to look at each other as members of a large, caring family and I found it new, exciting, interesting and hopeful. Dan and I talked often about that and how healing for us just being with them was. It was kinda amazing that we were accepted, both as individuals and as a couple.

Keith and Marc seemed headed for a relationship and spent a lot of time together at the beach. Dan and I didn't want to interfere, and headed along the beach in the opposite direction when we took walks--which was often. We had found a boulder which sheltered us somewhat from any wind and where, sitting behind it, we could watch the sun reflecting off the lake in quicksilver flashes. At first we talked about our sordid past, but finally Dan said, "Chris, we both know what we have been through and it seems to me the more we talk about it, the deeper it cuts. I know it will trouble us as long as we live, but I think we are giving it life every time we march it out. Unless there is a real good reason to do so, let's let the past be in the past." It sounded like a valuable insight to me and from then we both worked hard at letting the past stay in the past.

Once we had made that decision, we spent our time talking about the present--which usually involved more action than words. We may have been hesitant about having sex--we were--but not about kissing and caressing each other's body. We also did a lot of talking about our future. It didn't take Dan to convince me I had to really work in school. My previous education was so lacking that I had a hard time keeping up and moving ahead. I told Dan, "But you know how close the people here are, and they are determined that I do well. Jack and Bill are tutoring me and I am in better shape than I have ever been in school. And, while it's not the same thing, the whole crowd is making sure I work out to get in shape physically as well as academically."

"I'd be a liar if I denied I appreciated what they are helping you do physically as well as academically. I notice you are shaping up well and I like the shape I can see coming!" Dan said. "Don't get me wrong, I loved you when you were little more than skin and bones, but a beautiful body sure won't hurt."

I told Dan I thought he needed to find a way to spend less time working. With the hospice and hospital, he was working sixty hours a week and taking a full load at school. "If you keep up that pace, sooner or later it's going to catch up with you. As much as I love being with you, I feel guilty much of the time because you could be sleeping or at least resting."

"I agree I am burning the candle at both ends, Chris, and I would like to have more time for us but, try as I may--and I have really tried--I can't see any other way. I have to have a place to live and food to eat, and both cost money."

"Dan, I haven't told Granddad about us so I don't know what his reaction will be. He knows about Luke and Matt and has nothing but praise for the two of them, although he has never mentioned their relationship. I know I'm going to tell him sometime about us. I have been thinking that if I tell him, and he is accepting, you could come live with us. That would give us more time together and cut your expenses to practically nothing."

"Chris, think long and hard before you tell your granddad. He loves you, we know that. He has gone the extra mile for you, but how he will react to you being gay, and especially to our relationship, is a real question and we don't know the answer. If he accepts us, we are way ahead of the game. BUT if he doesn't, not only would I not be better off, you might well be on the street. So be careful. Don't make things worse by trying to make them better."

"I can't believe Granddad would reject me. Look what he has put up with already. I mean, he probably should have tossed me out on my ear, but he didn't."

"Chris, believe me I hope you are right, but some people would say you were just being a rebellious teenager--smoking a little weed, getting a little drunk, screwing a whore--but being gay? That's different. It's unnatural. You are a pervert. You know the speech since you have given it more than once."

I felt as though Dan had given me a fist in the ribs. He had reminded me of how big an asshole I had been, and it hurt. "Yea," was all I could say.

"Chris, you were running away, hiding from yourself, but most who make those kinds of speeches are just plain bigots. Is your granddad one? I don't know. I don't think so but I don't know, and I'll bet you don't know either. Until you have some feel for how he will react, I suggest you keep your own counsel."

"Dan, you sure know how to hurt a guy," I said, weakly.

"Chris, I am not out to hurt you, just make you realize what you--we--face, that's all."

"Yea, I know, and I needed to be shocked into reality. I was busy romanticizing our relationship and Granddad's reaction to it without having any good handle on what it will be. But I want to find out as soon as I think it's ok, and I hope we can be together."

"That would be great, Chris," Dan said, and gave me a passionate kiss which went on and on and I got harder and harder but, suddenly, I saw my "uncle's" face and his cock ready to rape me. Instant softie.

A breeze from off the lake sprang up and I was suddenly cold. I think it was the conversation as much as the breeze, but I suggested we walk back to the house. When we got there, Mrs. Wright and Mrs. Watley were busy fixing sandwiches for lunch. Dan and I pitched in helping them, and when Marc and Keith came in they set the table.


Monday Luke has a 2:00 p.m. PE class, the last class any of us have on that day. I usually went to the library after my 1:00 p.m. class and worked until time to meet him. That Monday, however, I had a note in my box asking me to drop by Professor Moler's office. At lunch I told the gang I had to see Professor Moler and I would come home with Luke as usual after I saw him.

When I arrived at Professor Moler's office I spoke to Lucinda, the young woman Paula had recommended to him. Since she had started working for him, the office was neat, clean and had new, attractive decor. "Professor Moler wanted to see me," I said after greeting her. "Is he in?"

"He just finished a class and hasn't come to the office yet, but should be here any minute."

"How's the job?"

"I love it. Professor Moler is great, and very caring. I am so thankful Paula told me about it. The money means I don't have to pinch pennies quite as tightly. Not only that, but Professor Moler found out where I was living and told me of a nicer and cheaper place. It's in the home of an older woman who lives alone and likes to have students in an apartment she had added upstairs. She says it keeps her young. She's also a big help when I have to be out in the evening, or am late getting home from class, since she is delighted to keep my daughter."

"You have a daughter?"

"Yea, she's three now. The result of some bad decisions in high school, but the delight of my life."

"I hope her father is helping support her."

"It was a very sometime kind of thing. That's why I was so hard up for money when Paula mentioned this job. I finally told him to pay up or I would go the authorities and get a court order, so he's been fairly regular with support the last month or so. He didn't want me to go to court, because he denies she is his but won't take a paternity test. He knows she's his and he might even have something to do with her except, by denying she's his, his parents can stick to their 'our pure son' nonsense. I manage, but Paula did me one good deed when she sent me to see Professor Moler... Here he is now."

"Matt, glad you got by. Come on in the office." When we were inside, Professor Moler said, "Matt, whatever you do, don't ever get stuck on a committee. The man who said a camel was designed by a committee has never been on one or he would know that nothing as successful and good-looking as a camel could come out of a committee. Had a committee been in charge, there would be no camel... How are you coming with the pieces you planned on submitting to the Society?"

"Pretty well, I think. Professor Larkin is helping me a bit."

"She's off her 'all modern music' kick I take it?"

"I'm supposed to keep at it, but let the pieces for the tape take precedence."

"I needed to see you because the committee wisely, but belatedly, has decided each person interested in the series will submit a tape of two specific pieces. I thought that was a good idea and said so in the beginning, but there were objections that it would restrict the creative spirit. Now, to my mind, saying it must be an all-Bach program was a bit restrictive, but I got outvoted. Now they have changed their minds and are asking each person to submit a tape of two pieces. As I recall, one of the pieces was on your list anyway, 'Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor'. Care to take a guess as to what the second piece is?"

"I'll bet it's 'Sheep' or 'Jesu' and if I had to select one it would be 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring'. Yes, definitely 'Jesu'."

"Before I tell you what it is, give me your reasons for selecting 'Jesu'. I'd be very interested in how you arrived at your decision."

"'Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor' is a long piece, so it probably would not be something an organist could just sit down and play. It poses a challenge so the judges can get a real feel for how well the performer could be expected to do. More than likely, anyone submitting a tape will have had to put extensive practice in learning the piece. So it's just a good piece for the judges to use. 'Jesu', on the other hand, is so familiar and played so often, organists get careless with it. I found that true of 'Come Sweet Death'. I haven't played it too often--not like 'Sheep' and 'Jesu'--but I have played it often enough to have allowed mistakes to creep in and become habit. I have had the devil of a time unlearning as a result. I shudder to think how many mistakes I have woven into 'Jesu'.

"Matt, your reasoning's flawless and you are almost correct. I guess the committee didn't want to listen to a day of 'Jesu' complete with mistakes, so they selected 'Sheep May Safely Graze' for exactly the reasons you pointed out. How mistake-free is your playing of it?"

"There are fewer than would be in 'Jesu', but it will take some work."

"Concentrate on these two pieces. You want them to be perfect, but not mechanical. I have the taping set up for November 4. I think Larry knows that, but check if you would. I'll want Professor Larkin to hear you sometime next week, and I will speak with her about the changes."

"Thanks, Professor."

"Matt, that's not the only change. The audition tapes have to be in by November 15 for a meeting of the selection committee. They will select four to six finalists at that time. Then, at a time and place to be announced, there will be live auditions--and I haven't the foggiest what those will be like since the when, where and how are 'To be announced'. This committee is a firm believer in 'To be announced', which is just an excuse for trying to make up its mind. Anyway, you needn't worry about that until you are officially a finalist."

"You mean IF I am a finalist, don't you, Professor?"

'No, I mean when you are a finalist. So, Matt, just get your sheep properly pastured and we'll get this concert series yet."

I was relieved in one way--knowing that I could concentrate on only two pieces--but, man, getting rid of the mistakes in 'Sheep' was going to be difficult, and I knew it.

It was 2:30 when I finished talking to Professor Moler, and I walked to the gym to wait for Luke. When he saw me, he went to the coach, spoke to him, then came to where I was standing. "As soon as I've showered, I'll be ready to go."

"I'll wait in the truck," I said, "it's a bit chilly to wait outside."

Monday evening we had an early dinner, after which Luke suggested we get the living room ready for the party. We had decided to roll up the rug and take most of the furniture out so we would have a dance floor. As soon as that was done, he insisted we all go into the family room while he, Eugene and Paula prepared a surprise.

Fifteen minutes later, Luke came into the family room and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, if you will retire to the dance hall," and waved us toward the living room with a great gesture. When we got to the living room, Richard, Sheila, Marshall and Hank--the non-resident members of the combo--and our in-house members had set up. Luke took the mike and announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the 'Stranded in Time' combo is happy to present a pre-Halloween concert. Our theme song..." The combo started playing "More" and it was sounding good. I think you could have bowled over any one of the Concord crowd, who knew him, when Luke started singing. Not only had the combo gotten good, so had Luke. After "More", the group did a group of Beatles' songs and, after that, a number of other Golden Oldies.

After they had played for about half an hour, Paula said, "Time for a break and refreshments". She, Luke and Kent went to the kitchen and came out with hot chocolate and cookies. While everyone was eating, the band members got a thousand questions tossed at them. Rachel asked one which had everyone listening, "Why do you only play old stuff? Seems you only play songs by people who are dead." She realized what she had said and blushed, but I think everyone wanted to know the answer to her question.

Richard answered, "Rachel, there are two reasons. One is that's what we were asked to play at our first gig and every gig we have had since. People who hear us ask us to play for parties and things, and we are asked to play what they have heard us play before--Golden Oldies. The other reason is we happened to like them and enjoy playing them, once the group living here introduced us to them--from tapes of your records, Mr. Greywolf. Since so few groups do them, we have all the gigs we can handle and could do more if we had time. So, in one sense, we play them because they sell and are in short supply. And, again, we like them."

After a good long break, the group started playing again. When they did, Luke said, "Hey, there's no law against dancing," and came and took my hand. When he did, I whispered, "Luke, do they know about us?"

"Matt, the whole damn campus knows about us. We are the gay poster children after my display the other week."

Mom and Dad, and Jens and Gabrielle, joined us on the dance floor and were followed by Woody and Millie. Woody was a pretty fair dancer even if he did claim to have a gimpy leg. Michael and Mary Kathryn were urging others to dance and finally Chris and Dan, Jacob and Susan were on the floor.

Paula was singing and I knew Luke was supposed to join in. When it came time for his part, he looked me in the eyes and started singing, "It Had to be You". Now that was an oldie! Eugene put down his trumpet and waltzed Larry on to the floor as Keith and Marc finally got moving.

Before the next song, Kent said, "Guys, I'll get you started, but you've got to go this one without a drummer". As soon as the song was well on its way, he put down his drumsticks and led Paula onto the floor. Only Rachel and Jack had held back, but the music finally got to them. Larry let Eugene go back to his trumpet and went to dance with his mom. Luke was needed again and I asked Sandra to dance with me. After another half hour, the combo stopped and Richard said, "I understand the 'always in class bunch' is cutting tomorrow to get ready for a big party. Don't start without us!"

There were promises to hold the party until they arrived, and many thanks for the evening. As soon as they left, we all started talking about the combo and Gabrielle finally said what, I'm sure, others were thinking, "Luke, you sound great. You have a great voice. Shame we never heard it before."

Luke blushed and started to downplay his singing, but Paula told him it was false modesty. "We all know you can sing, so just say thank you."

"Yes, Mama Paula," Luke said. "Thank you all."

"What's with this 'Mama Paula' bit?" Dad asked.

We laughed and Luke said, "Being the only woman in the house, Paula has to remind us of things now and again. And we all know her 'Mama Paula' voice and hasten to do as she bids."

"Sometimes," Paula added.

We all went to the family room, where we just sat around and talked. Rachel and Marc were interested in how we had all gotten together. You would have thought they had heard enough by now, but even Jack and Chris had questions. They were even interested in how the Family came to be. I guess all were astonished that the three families had been so close, and that Luke and me being gay--and in love--had rocked the boat, but hadn't capsized it.

After a while Chris, who had been very quiet, asked, "How do you think Granddad would react if I told him I was gay?"

"Are you?" Dad asked.

Chris turned bright red and Millie said, "From the color of your face, that's a yes, I take it."

"Yes, I am. I tried to hide it, pretend it wasn't true." He laughed and said, "Michael was onto me before I was onto myself, I think. He told me I protested too much. The rest of the gang really got on my case when I said some rotten things about gays. I guess I didn't want to be gay and I sure hated what had been done to me by a couple of my mom's boyfriends. I'm seeing a counselor and it's helping a whole lot, but I have a long way to go yet."

"Maybe not coming to grips with our sexuality, but we all have a long way to go and will never get there in this life," Mom said. "It's great when you realize that and rejoice in the journey and not worry because you're never going to see it end. Don't know anyone who has as his epitaph 'I've finished everything I started'."

"Chris, I have known Demetri as long as I have lived in Concord. He's a good and just man. I don't know how he will react, at first, to you being gay. I doubt that he will react as badly as I did, but even I, hard-headed and opinionated me, eventually came to see that Luke's and Matt's love for each other is love--and there's too little of that in the world. Having said that, I really don't know how Demetri will react but rest assured, if he reacts poorly, you have a home. Gabrielle and I will be delighted to have you share ours," Jens said, and meant it.

Mom and Dad added that they would also have a place for him if he needed it.

There was a bit more talk about that, and then Marc asked a strange question--at least it seemed strange to me. "I have only been around this bunch a few days. Douglas told me what you all were like, but I didn't believe him. I thought he was nuts for inviting you parents to a party. I sure wouldn't want my dad at one of my parties--well I really wouldn't, because he'd be busy trying to pick up all the young women. I thought adults would ruin a party, but this weekend wouldn't have been half as good without you parents here. What I want to know is how did such a great group of parents end up with such a great group of kids?"

"I suspect the parents would have an answer to that but, so far as I am concerned, you have answered your own question," Jacob said. They are a great group of parents and great parents produce great kids."

"Not so fast, Jacob," Bill said. "I don't think you would say you have great parents. I certainly didn't until you shocked some sense into my dad, and I think we are great kids, all false modesty aside."

"Look," Luke said, "Marc, Douglas, Janet, Jacob, Eugene, Chris, Dan all have rotten parents in one way or another. Most of their parents don't give--if you'll pardon the expression--a flying fuck about their kids, and the kids are all great. The rest of us are lucky to have great parents, and turning out ok should be easy for us and I guess it has been. Maybe we can't take much credit for being who we are, but those seven have almost done it on their own."

"Not so fast," Chris said. "I had a rotten mother and look how I would have turned out had Michael and others of the Fellowship not gotten me on the right track. Same, I suspect, with all the others. Someone, somehow, intervened when it was needed. Maybe not everyone needed to be baptized in cow shit to get his head screwed on straight, but something happened."

"Hear! Hear!" Dan said. "Had someone not intervened on my behalf, I would have been successful in hanging myself or would be serving a life sentence in prison. Eugene was well on his way to being as screwed up as I was, but Millie intervened. Jacob had Bill and his family waiting to take him in and show him what a family looks like. "Don't know about Marc, Douglas and Janet."

"In spite of his own problems, Luke has to take some credit for me and Janet. He didn't do a whole lot, but he let us know that we could have a loving household even if we had to create it ourselves, and we have. Besides, I had an old family friend, Mr. Blalock, and he and his wife made it possible for Janet and me to get married. He also guided me throughout my growing-up years. I guess it all boils down to being lucky enough to have someone love you--great parents or someone else--who just happens along when you are at a turning point."

"And I like to think it is more than luck," Jens said.

After everyone talked for a while longer, we all started drifting off to bed. After Luke and I said our goodnights to each other, I spent several minutes thinking about how lucky we were to have great parents, and I was very thankful for them. I also offered thanks for those who had helped all the others gathered in Ohio to become great people, often having to overcome great handicaps. Then, snuggled against my beloved Luke, I fell into peaceful sleep.

Suddenly I was awakened by a pounding on the door. "What the hell?" Luke yelled as he jumped out of the sleeping bag. Michael's "Holy shit" was also heard. Luke grabbed his pants and pulled them on as he rushed to the studio door.

When he opened it, a huge, muscular man was standing outside. "No time for questions. Get some clothes on and get outside. At once!" Everyone was awake and there as a mad rush to get clothes on. "Hurry! Hurry! Move! Move!" the stranger kept urging us. It probably took only two or three minutes for us to get outside. As we poured down the studio stairs, I saw everyone else standing several hundred feet from the house. As soon as we joined them, Luke asked, "What's going on?".

"You know as much as I do, Luke," Jens said. "Millie was awakened by a pounding on the door and a man told us to get out at once and move at least 500 feet from the house."

There were half a dozen men moving around the house and studio, but it was too dark to see what they were doing. Two of them, dressed in some kind of protective gear, came from inside the garage. They were carrying two propane tanks, like the ones used on a gas grill, and something else. They put the tanks and whatever else they were carrying in a van and walked over to where we were standing, shivering from the cold. None of us had on enough clothes to be outside. "I know you are wondering what is going on," one of them said. "Sorry if we appeared abrupt and rude--well we were at least abrupt--but we wanted you out of danger. Which ones of you were involved in the mess at Waterside?" he asked. Like kids in a classroom, the five of us held up our hands.

"I know Agent Haines told you we'd keep an eye on you, at least until the trial is over. Well, we got a tip that some of the people you fingered were planning to do something this week. When we checked on you a couple times this past weekend we learned you had guests and were planning a party. It seemed too good a chance to pass up I suspect. Agents were told to keep a sharp lookout. Two were assigned to cover the approach, so they parked under a huge tree where they were not likely to be seen. About half an hour later a van, with license plates covered in mud and its headlights off, passed them. The agents reported what they had seen and were told to get ready to move, but to wait for backup. When the backup arrived, they moved in and captured six guys and, shortly after, the bomb squad got a rush call to get out here on the double and we did."

"The van held what appeared to be bomb-making materials, so we were called in. Agent Haines--you have met her, right?" we nodded, "suggested we just keep the six near the house to see what would happen. All of them started getting antsy and finally one tried to make a run for it. He, of course, was brought back and started talking very fast, telling us where they had planted six bombs. We knew we had very little time so, while the bomb squad did its work, others got you all out of the house. You're lucky we got the scum. Had those six bombs gone off with the propane tanks attached, no-one would have gotten out alive, I'm afraid. Sorry we appeared to be so rude."

"You can be as rude as you like saving my life," Larry said. "We are just thankful you were here and found out what was going on."

"We're doing our job," the agent said. "It's safe to go back inside now. I don't think we'll need anything from you, since we had agents who can write a report and you only know what I have told you. Try to get some sleep. You can trust you are safe now. I think you will be without us soon, because I think we got all functioning parts of the boil on the butt of Waterside." As he spoke, his shoulder speaker squawked and he pushed the button and said, "Yea? Right. Six bombs--dynamite, timers and propane tanks... Ok. Let's wrap it up." When he re-attached his speaker-mike he said, "You weren't the only ones on tonight's list. Do you know the Metcalfs?" We nodded and he continued, "There were two bombs at their place. I think there's no-one left who has little enough sense to start anything else." We thanked him again and he said, "Just doing my job. Goodnight, sleep well." The agent walked over to the bomb squad vehicle and left, followed by the other agents, one of whom was driving the van.


Needless to say, no-one was ready to go back to bed after all the excitement. Paula said, "I'm making hot chocolate to warm us up and maybe calm us down." It was good to get inside where it was warm. It was freezing outside and none of us had on warm clothing, so we were ready to get warm again.

"When I heard about the burning cross and verbal attacks on John and Uncle Michael, I said it sounded like the south I had heard about," Kent said. "Well, I guess I have had my nose rubbed in it good. Waterside is a hot-bed of bigots and I, for one, would be glad to have all of them behind bars. And I apologize for any remark I have ever made about the south."

"Guess we all need to remember that prejudice knows no boundaries," Greywolf said. "But, I must say, a few molotov cocktails and a burning cross can hardly compare with propane bombs. Sure glad the agents were on their toes. Just wish I felt safe now."

"I think you can, Dad," Matt said. "I'm sure that anyone who would do us harm is safely in jail right now. Those who are out on bond may well have their bond revoked if it can be proven that they even knew about the night's little program, and I suspect that will be easy."

While Matt was talking, the phone rang and I got it. "Oberlin five Case one, Luke here."

The person on the other end started laughing and said, "Luke, Agent Sharon Haines. As much as I admire Oberlin, I can't imagine a contest in which the score would be 5 to 1 in Oberlin's favor."

"Have you thought about bull fiddle riding?" I asked and laughed.

"You've got me on that one. Look, I have just gotten reports from tonight's little drama. We have known something was in the wind for a couple weeks now, but really held back hoping, given enough rope, the group would hang itself. We didn't want to warn you for fear you might let something slip. I won't say you weren't in danger tonight. One of those bozos may have screwed up something in putting the bombs together, but we had you pretty well covered. We had taps on the phones of everyone arrested earlier, and I think we have rounded up the whole bunch this time--little fish, big fish and beached whales. Just wanted you to know we will still be looking out for you, but I don't think you have anything to worry about. I can't believe there is anyone in Waterside who has the stomach for any more shenanigans. So who's the crowd?" I told Agent Haines, briefly, who was here and why. "Go ahead and have fun. You're safe, safer than most people. Goodnight, Luke." I told her goodnight and hung up.

I told the crew what I had learned and Paula said, "Well, I guess we are safer than most with our FBI protectors, but I'm still kinda nervous. I mean, those things they had were real bombs, and enough to have blasted us all to kingdom come."

"What gets me is that they were stupid enough to believe they could get away with it," Matt said.

"I don't know, maybe they thought propane tanks would look like an accident," Eugene said.

"But six propane tanks when we have natural gas? I guess they were as dumb as they seemed," Larry said.

We took a while to wind down, but about 3:00 in the morning we all went back to bed with the understanding that no-one, but no-one, had to get up before noon.

As Matt and I settled in each other's arms, he said, "A near plane crash Friday night and bombs tonight. Luke, a soap opera would seem tame compared to our life."

"Yea, but this is real Babe, and you are real," I said, and kissed him goodnight again.

Chapter Fourteen
(This chapter opens early morning, October 31, 1995)


Once we had all gone back to the studio and climbed into our sleeping bags, sleep didn't come easy. The new members of the Fellowship, and Marc especially, kept asking questions. They started, of course, with questions about the incident that night, but eventually there were questions about earlier events, such as Michael being cut and healed. Finally I said, "Guys, you all have heard the stories and some of you were there. Why all the questions?"

"I guess, Luke, it's kinda like telling family stories," Jack said. "We all have heard them a thousand times but each time there are little differences, and each time they tell us who we are. Understand?"

"Now that you put it that way, I sure do. I mean I sure understand about family stories. I don't know how many hundreds of times we have been told the story of how the three families got together. Now that we're older, we don't ask as often because we don't have to. We know the stories and just a few sentences call the whole story to mind. But I don't see exactly how that applies here," I said.

"I do," Eugene said. "Remember when Douglas called about having a party? Matt said Douglas was not only getting friends together for a party, but also getting together the only real family he and Janet have? I remember that and thought about it later. We are family and," Eugene laughed, "a lot like a rabbit family, we just keep growing."

"I hope that means I'm now part of the family," Marc said. "You don't know how much I'd like to be a part of this group."

"Guess you are a part of it," Michael said. "Just a pity you're so far away. It's not like Douglas who has Janet."

I kinda waited for Marc or Keith to say something, declare they were a couple, but it didn't happen. Everyone was about talked out when Chris said, "Goodnight, Brothers. I need my beauty sleep."

To which Dan replied, "Don't think you really need any beauty sleep."

Michael laughed. "Chris, you may need your beauty sleep, but don't get your hopes up. All the beauty sleep you got last night didn't help."

"Hey, don't know when he got it, but he's had enough sometime. He's one beautiful guy to me," Dan answered.

Shortly afterward, I was asleep, curled against my Dark Angel.

Yong Jin

I supposed when I became very old and gray, I would have learned that living with Greywolfs--husband and son--meant living in an never-ending drama--or melodrama. I sometimes thought I would like to lead a nice, quiet, dull, comfortable life--but to do so would mean living apart from husband and son. When Matt called and said we were being flown--in a private jet yet--to Ohio for a Halloween party, I supposed I should have been surprised, but I hadn't been. The only things in my family which surprised me were things which were conventional. Then I was surprised. Why was I not surprised when all the parents were invited to our children's Halloween party? Because NOT to be invited would have been conventional. As two girls talking in my class had said, "How dull to have parents at a party". That was conventional wisdom, not valued among the Greywolfs.

For some reason I had waked up long before sunrise, while all the house was still asleep after the previous night's bomb scare. It had frightened me, but was no real surprise. As I lay beside the man who had shared my bed just over twenty years, my thoughts had wandered over those years, years of great joy. Sure there had been times of sadness and pain, but far more had been the times of joy, beginning when I first met a dashing young American GI in Korea. Because my mom had become pregnant by a GI who left her, she was unhappy when I started dating him, but eventually she had come to accept Greywolf and wasn't too unhappy when we married.

When he was sent back to the States, I--his new wife--had followed him and we became an extended family, joining the Larsens and Andrews. The children came along--not nearly as many as we all wished, but what children they had been and continued to be! Talented, beautiful and loving children. Matthew was the joy of our lives, Greywolf's and mine. Of course we were disappointed when he revealed he was gay and in love with Luke--not because he was less than we had believed or because he loved Luke, a child as precious to us as our own Matt. We were disappointed because, of course, we had dreamed of, and hoped for, a house full of grandchildren and that was not to be. But he had given us such great joy that the disappointment faded far, far into the background. And, of course, as we had shared the Family's children, we would share the grandchildren--the children of Michael and Mary Kathryn.

I had found myself thinking about the previous night when some who hated my sons' love for each other--yes, I counted Luke as mine--so much, they were willing to snuff out the lives of thirty people, most of whom they had never seen or known. Why did they hate so? Because, by playing on the ignorance and prejudice of a small town, they had gained power. But they had not planned on the passion for justice and hatred of prejudice in the hearts of the four young men of Concord. As a mother, I worried about them. I had seen the power of prejudice and, should I ever forget, all I had to do was look into Matt's face, one cheek scarred by love and the other by prejudice. David called the scars sexy and I suspected they were. It's hard for mother to see her son as sexy. Handsome, beautiful, manly, yes, but sexy? But to really see the power of hatred, I had to look into the face of Michael. He was, of course, still beautiful, handsome and a magnificent young man, but his once-handsome face was marred by a large scar and his perfect smile was somewhat one-sided as a result. The scar marred his once-perfect face, but was a badge of honor and courage, witnessing to the perfection of his heart and spirit.

What a grand family we had and were, and what wonderful children we had! And as time passed, others had become a part of that family--Millie and her adopted son Eugene, Bill and Linda, Paula and her mother, Larry and his mother. The list went on and was still growing. With each addition come new problems, new heartaches, new pain, but oh so much more joy and happiness, so much more love! How very, very blessed I had been and continued to be. And it had all started when a mixed-breed American GI fell in love with a mixed-breed Korean. My thoughts relaxed me completely and I snuggled against the man who was my very life and fell asleep.

It was almost noon when I woke again. I was in bed alone. As I got up and dressed, the warm aroma of breakfast was drifting up from the kitchen below. When I went down, Greywolf and Jens were preparing breakfast. I think, given an opportunity, the two would become breakfast chefs. I walked up behind Greywolf, tiptoed, and kissed him on the back of his neck. He turned, smiled at me and took me into his arms. "Korean soulmate," he said, "you are one beautiful woman". His kiss was as thrilling as his first, over twenty years before, outside a humble Korean house.


It was noon when Matt woke me with a kiss. I opened my eyes to see his black almond eyes gazing into mine. "Morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul, my precious treasure," I greeted Matt.

"Morning, Yonghon Tongmu, my soulmate," Matt replied and, in spite of morning dragon mouth, gave me a great kiss. We crawled out of the sleeping bag, pulled on sweats and dashed for the house and the bathroom, followed by a herd of young men all in sweats and, you can bet, sporting morning woodies.

As we entered the house, the aroma of breakfast welcomed us. When we had taken care of morning ablutions, we assembled in the kitchen where Greywolf and Dad were preparing breakfast. "We have set up a feeding station for the victims of last night's near-bombing," Jens said. "Grab a plate and order your eggs. Toast, coffee and juice are on the sideboard." He didn't have to repeat his invitation.

The moms of the clan were in the dining room with the daughters. Michael hastened to greet Mary Kathryn with a kiss, as did Bill, Linda; Jacob, Susan; Kent, Paula; and Douglas, Janet. I laughed to myself as Jack looked at Rachel with a definite sick-calf look. She finally said, "Jack, since we are odd men out in this group, I guess you could greet me." We all laughed as Jack turned red, walked over to Rachel, gave her a peck on the cheek and started to back away. As he did she said, "I am not your mother, Jack," grabbed him and laid a full-mouth-press on the lonely boy.

When he came up for air, he punched a fist in the air and shouted "Yes," to which Rachel replied, "Don't go getting ideas, Young Man. I just didn't want to see you left out," and laughed.

"Damn, Rachel, we don't allow PTs in this group," Jacob said.

"PT?" Mom asked.

Without thinking, I'm sure, Jacob said, "Prick tease," realized what he had said, blushed and said, "Sorry, Mrs. Larsen, sorry."

Mom laughed and said, "I thought that was what you meant, but wasn't sure, Jacob." Fair of skin and red of hair, Jacob's blush practically lit up the room.

"I guess it's up to Jack to discover whether or not I have been unjustly accused," Rachel said, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

"A warning, Cousin," Jacob said, "this is a pretty powerful group you are with, and it's mostly made up of couples. Don't fall into the trap Paula and I did and think that, just because you and Jack are the only two not coupled, you are in love." He stopped, appeared to be in deep thought and then said, "Well, maybe that's ok too. I don't regret a single moment Paula and I spent together. It was great. It was fantastic. I'm glad it happened, but it was not love until death do us part."

"I wondered how you were going to get out of that one, Jacob," Paula laughed. "But he's right, Rachel. It is so easy when you're around this crew--most of whom will say, and believe it, their commitment is until death do them part--to believe you are experiencing the same kind of love. But I agree with Jacob. I don't regret a moment I spent with him. He's a wonderful guy and, Susan, you are a lucky woman to have him."

"Same goes for you, Kent. Paula is a great woman and you are a lucky guy," Jacob added.

"Don't think that I don't know it," Kent replied. "When I came to live in the house there was one hard-and-fast rule. If I made a pass at Paula, I was out. I was convinced that meant my dead body was out. A hit on Paula, clearly, would bring down on my head the wrath of her four brothers. In spite of the feelings I found I was developing toward her, I valued my life more. But she made the first move and there was no rule, thank goodness, against her hitting on me! Susan, you have something to live up to: even though Paula and Jacob decided it wasn't really a 'til death do us part love, her friendship is something to behold."

"Light breakfast conversation we're having," Mary Kathryn said, "but both Susan and Kent are lucky to have the hearts of two of the members of the Fellowship. 'Nough said. Now, what's on the docket for today?"

"We got a lot done yesterday," Kent said. "I guess we need to move a few more things around, make sure the food and drinks are ready to be put out, and maybe do a bit more decoration."

"I noticed a field of corn near the van Hooks' place when we were out there," Luke said. "How about I see about getting some for decoration?"

"Good plan," Kent said. "Why don't I call and see about that? That way you won't have to make a useless trip should it not be in their field."

"Sounds good."

Kent went to the phone and came back a few minutes later, saying the corn was on their property and they were sure the farmer tending their fields wouldn't mind us taking some corn stalks for decoration. "Ok if Matt, Michael, Mary Kathryn and I do that?" Luke asked. There was general agreement and we left for the country.


"Since you all are here and there is little work to do, why don't those who would like to, go into Cleveland to the Art Institute?" Paula asked. "You'd have a couple or three hours and its a shame to miss it since you are so close."

"There's also the zoo," Eugene said. "Larry and I spent a great afternoon there."

All the parents decided to go to the Art Institute. Douglas and Janet, and Jack and Rachel, decided to go as well.

When they had gone, Eugene said, "My car can carry six if some of you would like to go to the zoo."

Jacob and Susan, Dan and Chris decided they would like to go. Eugene gave Jacob directions and the keys to his car, and the group left for Cleveland.

Paula and Kent said they would mix the punch base. "That way we'll only have to add ice and the sparkling stuff tonight," Kent concluded.

"Good idea. Eugene and I can get the mulled cider ready to heat. Most of the food is ready except for those things which will need warming up," I said.

"Anything for us to do?" Marc asked.

"There are veggies to be prepared and put on a tray with dip, and the dip needs making."

"I can handle getting the veggies ready, but I don't think you want me doing dip," Marc said.

"I can handle that if you have recipes," Keith said, "or I can just improvise."

"You pays your money and takes your choice," Eugene said. "Here's the recipe book that keeps Paula, Larry and me from poisoning the crew here, or you can improvise. You'll find the stuff you need in the fridge in the kitchen or the one in the pantry."

"Two fridges?" Keith asked.

"Yea, and both are full once a week at least. We try to shop just once a week."

The six of us settled down to getting food and drinks ready for the party while engaging in idle chatter. After three quarters of an hour we were finished, and Paula and Kent said they were going to Kent's place to check on Derrick and make sure Kent's parents were coming to the party.

The weather had grown much warmer and, when we had everything done, Marc and Keith said they were going for a walk on the beach. "You two are going to wear out our beach," Eugene laughed.

"We only have until tomorrow together and I want to make the most of it," Marc said. "If you haven't noticed, I have fallen in love with this guy. I'm already missing him. Am trying very hard to figure out a way to keep him."

"You sure it's love and not lust and infatuation?" I asked, half-joking.

"Been there and this may not be love, but I know it's not just lust and infatuation--although both of those are there as well," Marc answered. I was sure he wasn't joking at all.

"How about you, Keith? Have you caught the same disease?"

"Definitely infected. Having a hard time enjoying being together, because I know it ends tomorrow."

"It ends? Doesn't sound like love to me." Eugene wasn't joking, even a little bit.

"I only mean being together will end. I know my feelings for Marc won't change, but tomorrow he will be in Florida and I will be in North Carolina. Why couldn't he be from Concord?" Keith asked. "But, right now, we have to make the most of the time we have."

"You ought to talk about how you are going to handle being separated, if you are really in love. I'm afraid absence makes the heart grow fonder--for someone else. "We, and they as well, thought Jacob and Paula were in it forever and, three months later, they are each with someone else," I said.

"Yea, I've thought about that," Keith said. "I really have, but I can't see it happening to us. To the beach, Marc!" And, having said that, the two left.


I guessed Marc and I were avoiding talking about what lay ahead for us when we were separated, and I didn't know that we would have talked about it if Larry had not more or less told us to do so. We walked to the driftwood tree which had become a special place for us, sat down and were silent, just sitting with arms about each other's shoulders. Finally Marc said, "Keith, tomorrow we will be separated. There's no way we can avoid that so I guess we need to talk about it."

"Yea, I know that, but don't like to think about it. This has been an enchanted weekend and I don't want it to end," I responded.

"If we are realistic, it would end even if we were together. You're right: this has been, and is, an enchanted weekend. We have spent time together without worrying about anything except us," Marc said.

"Well, I'd say that is almost true, but we sure did some thinking about bombs!" I corrected him.

"Even when I was thinking about that, I thought about us being killed or, more specifically, you being killed. All my thoughts this weekend have, in one way or another, been about you--about us. But what I started to say was that, even if we were together, we'd be involved in all sorts of things--for example school, doing things with our friends. We couldn't be as wrapped up in ourselves as we have been this weekend. We have been pretty selfish, thinking only about ourselves," Marc said.

"Just making the best use of too little time," I replied. "I know that if we were together like, say, Mary Kathryn and Michael, we'd be involved in many other things as they are and not just with ourselves."

"Keith, I have a plane on order. It should be delivered in a week or so. When I get it, I can fly to Concord and spend weekends with you. Not every weekend, as I can't spare that much time from school and other things, but we could have a couple weekends a month together. I could come Friday night or early Saturday morning and stay until Sunday afternoon. It's not a lot of time, but better than nothing."

"Marc, every minute I can spend with you is precious. I hadn't dreamed we would see each other except major holidays."

"I'll definitely spend those with you. A few weekends and holidays are not what I would like, but at least it is something."

We continued to talk about how we were going to nurture our relationship. We knew it had to be nurtured. Relationships don't just develop without work. Both of us had enough experience to realize that. Finally, all we could say was that Marc would spend as much time as possible in Concord. In between, we'd definitely talk by phone and send each other e-mail.

We did talk about having sex. It was just not in the cards that weekend. I suppose we could have asked for, and been given, privacy to have sex, but that wasn't the way we wanted it. We'd both had bad experiences when sex was involved, and didn't want anything to mar that part of our relationship when it happened.

After exchanging some great kisses, we walked back down the beach, hand-in-hand, stopping often to exchange another kiss.

Before we left the beach for the climb to the house, Marc wrapped me in his arms, looked into my eyes and said, "Keith, others may question my feelings for you but, in my heart of hearts, I know that I love you. I love you far more than I have ever loved anyone, and I know that my love will continue to grow long after the initial rush or glow of new love is gone."

"Marc, I'm not sure the initial rush or glow will not be there every time I look at you. But, whether or not that's true, I know my love for you is real, yes, and something very different from anything I have ever known."

Marc kissed me again and said, "Keith, we will find a way to be together because we are supposed to be."

When we got back to the house, the crew who had gone into the country were busy arranging corn stalks and pumpkins around the front entrance. We pitched in to help and the job was soon done. We were just finishing when Kent and Paula drove up.

It was 5:00 when the crew who had gone to the zoo arrived. Larry and Eugene had prepared a snack--actually a light meal. People filled their plates and found a place to sit and eat. Luke was discussing the Art Institute with those who had gone there. Matt was with him. These who had gone to the zoo were trading stories with Eugene and Larry. Other small groups were talking about all sorts of things. At 6:00 everyone had gone to their room. We had decided those who liked could take a short nap, since the party was scheduled to start at 8:30. Marc and I undressed and crawled into our sleeping bag, wrapped our arms around each other and were soon asleep.


Luke, Michael, Mary Kathryn and I had a delightful drive into the country. The day was beautiful and we were all very light-hearted. The serious discussion of them becoming sexually active had been done and there was nothing more to say. The same could be said for their involvement at school, so our talk was as light-hearted as our mood.

When we reached the van Hooks', both old people were delighted to meet Luke's sister and Michael. We just introduced him as her boyfriend, since if we had started talking about the family we'd miss the party! After a short visit, we went into the corn field and cut a couple dozen nice stalks. Before we left, Matt asked the van Hooks about coming to the party. Both said they just couldn't be out that late, but were profuse in their thanks and urged us to visit again soon.

When we got back, the four of us started using the corn stalks and pumpkins, purchased at a roadside stand, to decorate the front entrance. Marc and Keith joined us. Keith had seemed very subdued when I first met him, but he certainly wasn't as they helped us. It was clear that he was one happy young man. Of course Marc had never been subdued, but he was definitely subdued when they came in. No, that wasn't correct... he wasn't subdued--he was calm. That's right, he was calm, and obviously adored Keith. If the two weren't in love, they sure were doing an accurate imitation of two love-struck young men.

After a light lunch, we all went to the studio, and Luke and I undressed and slid into our sleeping bag and were asleep in minutes.

It was 7:30 when Michael called, "It's an hour before the show goes on. Time to get dressed." We had debated letting couples dress together as a surprise for the rest of us, but decided we didn't have the space for that--so the guys would dress in the studio and the gals in the family room and library. Adults would dress in their rooms. Luke and I had long ago decided we would wear our Lakota clothing. Not really a costume, since it was what we wore as Lakota, but we decided it was no dishonor to wear it this special night. We had looked at our collection of armbands, headbands and then wore what we generally chose: black and red. Michael was also wearing his Lakota clothing and I was sure Dad would. Luke and I painted our faces, half black, half red. Michael's face was white and black. As Michael inspected us, and we him, he said, in his horrible fake Indian movie voice, "Thinkum white man gettum ass kicked by heap big Lakotas."

"See you really did take the Fellowship's suggestion, Keith," Michael said. Keith was wearing tight black leather pants which showed off his equipment very well. He wore an open vest, also black leather. He had temporary tattoos--bands encircling both upper arms and a very elaborate dragon on his chest--and was wearing a silver earring. He really did look like a rock star.

Bill dressed as a farm boy: overalls, straw hat and plaid shirt, in sharp contrast to Jack who was wearing white tie and tails.

Chris had told us his grandfather allowed him to wear his great-grandfather's dress uniform. I didn't know exactly what I expected, but I wasn't prepared for a young man dressed in red slippers, white knee socks, large-sleeved white shirt, a heavily embroidered vest and a pleated skirt with several under-skirts. It was a striking outfit. Dan was very plain compared to his lover; he was wearing green hospital scrubs.

Jacob took advantage of his red hair and dressed as a leprechaun, complete with green slippers with turned-up toes.

Luke started laughing and pointed to Kent. He was dressed as a white knight wearing court dress decorated in silver and blue. He was the knight from Luke's painting.

Appropriately, Marc was wearing a pilot's uniform, obviously custom tailored as it fit him perfectly, hiding none of his physical beauty.

When we had all inspected each other and Luke had made photos of everyone, we went to the house. We were met at the door by an elegantly dressed elderly lady. It was Millie dressed as the figure popularly called Whistler's mother, but actually the figure from Whistler's "Study in Black and White". "Welcome to the south in Ohio. Please accept our southern hospitality and exercise southern politeness," Millie said as she ushered us into the house.

As soon as we were inside, Michael found Mary Kathryn, who was dressed in her beautiful white buckskin gown. I spotted Dad in the kitchen and he, of course, was dressed as Lakota. Jens was helping him do something. I guessed some of the parents had remembered Luke's exhibition, because Jens was a pretty ferocious-looking Beowulf. As I walked into the dining room, Gabrielle and Mom came from the kitchen carrying food. Gabrielle was a very good-looking German barmaid and Mom was wearing hanbok.

"I wonder what Woody will wear?" Luke asked. "Think he'll just dress in his clericals?" As if in answer, Woody came down the hall wearing a black cape over a tux, a medallion around his neck. As he came toward us, he slipped false fangs in his mouth, becoming a very good Dracula.

There was a knock on the door and when Millie opened it, the combo members came in. The guys were dressed in T-shirts and jeans, their hair slicked back and cigarettes rolled in their shirt sleeves. Sheila actually was wearing bobby socks and a poodle skirt. Definitely a fifties combo!

Paula came out of the family room also wearing a fifties outfit. Right behind her was Linda, a farm girl matching Bill's farm boy.

"Ok, we need to see the rest of you," Michael called down the hall. Raggedy Ann and Andy--Claudia and Sandra--peeped out from Paula's room. When they stepped from the room, Susan--a ballerina--and Rachel--a doll--were right behind them. Janet and Douglas came down from upstairs. They were sixties hippies.

Luke was making photos like mad, but finally put down his camera and started the stereo with an up-beat CD. Everyone got veggies and dip, or chips and other snack food, and started eating. We were enjoying the food when Derrick and his girl, Judy, came in. Derrick was dressed in a diaper--nothing else. One look at his build gave a clue as to why he chose to show off his body. He was a well-defined young man. Judy was also dressed as a baby, in a sun suit and bonnet. "Damn, the next time I decide to go naked somewhere, I hope it's in the summer. This is not an outfit for late October," Derrick said as he rushed to stand in front of the fireplace.

"Just wanted to show off your bod," Kent laughed. "There's always a price to pay when you try to impress women."

A few minutes later, Ruth Roth-Batten showed up wearing academic regalia. "This is the first time I looked forward to wearing this garb," she laughed. "Usually when I have to wear it I am in for a very boring time."

Uncle Michael and John had not shown up and I wondered where they were. They finally came in, Uncle Michael as a fine South Carolina planter and John as a French painter.

After everyone had time to snack a bit, Luke said, "Ok, ladies and gentlemen, it's time for Golden Oldies. The combo started playing "More". After Luke and Paula had sung the song, the combo started it again and Paula and Luke encouraged everyone to join in. About half-way through, the Glazes walked in--two Pilgrims--and immediately joined in the song.

The combo played for the next hour and couples were dancing during each song. Luke stepped down a couple times and we danced. Dad danced with Paula a couple times. "Pity you have to play drums, Kent," Derrick said. "I'd like to show you just how good I am and how poor you are."

"Think I can take care of that," Rachel said, and walked over to where the combo was set up and motioned for Kent to get up. She took Kent's place, did a couple riffs on the drums and said, "You guys do Iron Butterfly's 'In A Gadda Da Vida'?".

"Little lady, that's a tall order." Sheila responded.

"Yea, it is. But if these two brothers are in for a dance-off, think that should give them something to work with."

"I think we might do a passable job, but we've only played it for ourselves. I guess we can try it."

Rachel started the count and the loooong piece started. Kent and Paula, Derrick and Judy had the floor to themselves. Their dancing became wilder and wilder as everyone encouraged them. The Oberlin crowd were Kent's and Paula's cheerleaders and the Concord crowd backed Derrick and Judy. "Kent, you're dancing like Oberlin plays football," Derrick laughed.

"I'm not an Oberlin dude," Kent retorted. "Case first, Oberlin fifth," he was able to say in spite of the fact he was practically panting. All four dancers were dripping sweat as the music went on. Rachel definitely knew what she was doing.

Suddenly the whole place was rocking, not with music but with laughter. During an especially wild gyration, Derrick's diaper fell off. Derrick turned bright red, grabbed his diaper and dashed down the hall. He came back a few minutes later, extended his hand to his brother and said, "Kent, you danced my pants off!" which brought a round of applause from everyone.

Rachel kept her place at the drums and the combo played a slow piece which allowed Paula and Kent to cool off by slow dancing. They may have been cooling off in one sense, but the way they were dancing suggested that they were heating up in another! Almost everyone was on the floor during the slow dance. Luke had me in his arms and, as we danced, he pressed his lips to mine in a long, slow, wonderful kiss. When he broke the kiss, I said, "Wow, you still have it, Yonghon Tongmu."

"Only because I still have you, Sarang Hanun Pomul."

When the song ended, people stood around in small groups talking. I was surprised when I looked at the clock over the fireplace and saw it was almost 10:30. "No wonder I'm getting hungry, Luke. All I have eaten has been snacks. I think it's about time we all ate."

"Sounds good to me. Folks, Matt's hungry. Anyone else?" There was a general roar of "yes!". "Then give us a few minutes and we'll eat," Luke said. The Oberlin crowd went to the kitchen and started bringing out more food. The dining room table held loads of food as well as the necessary equipment for eating. Mom and Yong Jin checked to make sure we had everything, and then Woody was asked to say grace. I guess some of those present thought it was strange to have grace at a party, but I knew the Family and the Fellowship were very thankful to be together and needed to say so.

The food was abundant and delicious. With plates piled high, people found places to sit--the young crowd all sat on the family room floor--and started making food vanish. When everyone had finished eating, they just sat in clusters talking and joking. About an hour later, the combo started playing again, beginning with a wonderful slow tune, "Chances Are". Most everyone was back on the dance floor, but Luke was singing, so I sat on the floor in front of the combo and he sang to me. When the group started "I Look at You", Paula took the vocal and Luke extended a hand, pulled me to my feet and we danced, holding each other very close.

When the song finished, the combo started a favorite of mine among the Golden Oldies, "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You". I expected Luke to go sing, but he didn't. Instead, he sang to me as we danced. It was a bit fast for dancing and singing, I thought, but Luke managed.

Shortly before midnight, I heard Dad ask Marc when they were scheduled to leave. "The plane will be waiting for you at 10:00." Marc called to me, "Matt, when will the group need to leave here to make the plane at 10:00?"

"I think 9:15 will be plenty early even at the tail end of rush hour."

"Who's driving?" Dad asked.

For the first time I realized that the house crew were due in class tomorrow. "I haven't thought about that. I guess we'll have to cut class again tomorrow," I replied.

"Any reason I can't drive the bus?" Marc asked. "I could take care of that."

"I don't see why not. It's rented to me, but the fellow who rented it to us just said be sure anyone driving was over eighteen and had a valid license. If Marc could drive all the adults to the airport in the morning, we'd all be back here by two. Well Luke will have to cut PE, but that's not a big problem. We could have a late lunch and get things ready to go. When will the plane be back?"

"I planned for us to leave at 5:30. That wouldn't push the pilots too much and we would get back to Sarasota before very late."

"Sounds like a good plan to me," Dad said.

At 1:00 Richard said, "I'm sure we'd like to stay longer, folks, but we have class tomorrow. Thanks for having us, and it was good to get to know all of you."

Jens said, "Thank you. You made the party special and I finally heard Luke sing. Before, every time I got close while he was singing, he stopped. But before you go..."

"I know," Sheila said, and the combo played "More" once again. After playing "More", they started packing up and were gone by 1:30. Derrick and Judy left with his parents at the same time.

We all were reluctant to call a halt to the evening. All of the kids just flopped on the living room floor and the parents took the chairs. We talked about how much fun the weekend had been and, before long, everyone was silent, I suspect thinking about separating the following day. In the midst of the lull, the doorbell rang. Michael was closest so he hopped up, went to the door and threw it open. Most of us caught our breath as Michael exclaimed, "Holy shit, it's Red Hawk!".

Michael's exclamation was greeted with the Red Hawk belly laugh we knew so well.

Chapter Fifteen


I almost did a mess in my pants when I opened the door and saw Red Hawk standing there, "Holy shit, it's Red Hawk!" I shouted.

Red Hawk answered with the belly laugh we had all come to know and appreciate. Then he said, "Don't mess your pants, Michael. I'm Wounded Hawk, Red Hawk's son. Taequo and I heard there was a party here tonight. Sorry we didn't get here for the whole affair." He stepped aside and revealed Taequo standing on the porch.

"Taequo! Both of you get inside!" I turned and shouted, "Taequo's here with Red Hawk's son! What a party!"

Luke and Matt came over, hugged Taequo and Wounded Hawk, then I introduced everyone since none of us knew Wounded Hawk or he us. The old members of the Fellowship were all crowding around the two Indians, excitedly giving them hugs.

"Taequo said I'd get a welcome like I'd never had before, but I thought he was pulling my leg. But... well I'm glad to be here."

"Man, you really made me believe in Halloween ghosts," I said.

"No such things as ghosts," Wounded Hawk said, "but... spirit beings..."

"Like the red hawk which came to Luke's and Matt's commitment ceremony, yea, I know," Mary Kathryn said. "You don't have to convince us of spirit beings. But seeing one in the flesh is a bit disconcerting, to say the least.

Greywolf embraced Taequo and then Wounded Hawk. "I can see you scared the bejeepers out of the boys," he said. "So good to see you two."

"Wounded Hawk showed up yesterday on the side of the road. He stood, his thumb stuck out, and I was about to pass him when I heard Red Hawk's voice say 'Taequo, you better pick up the boy'. I stopped and he ran to the truck and climbed in. I was as taken aback as you were. I knew Red Hawk had a son and I had met Wounded Hawk's daughter, you have too--Spring Fawn. Anyway, I had a delivery in Cleveland and was late getting it done and Wounded Hawk kept saying, 'We're going to miss the party'. I couldn't get anything else out of him and he directed me out here, where he had me park the truck at the entrance of the driveway and we walked. So here we are, late for the party."

"There's food aplenty and there's still talking time," Luke said as he brought heaping plates of food to the two. "Least I can do is feed my lifesaver and my medicine man's son."

"Think there might be a correction there. Think it might be your lifesaver and medicine man, but more about that later," Taequo said.

Wounded Hawk and Taequo sat beside the fireplace, their plates in their laps, eating.

How do you explain two Indians showing up at the front door and causing all the excitement Taequo and Wounded Hawk had? Of course those who had gone through the previous summer with Matt and Luke--well, with me and Mary Kathryn as well--knew Taequo and Red Hawk, so his son made sense, but the others in the room? We'd be there all night telling stories and still some would be confused I suspect. I was glad when Taequo and Wounded Hawk took on that job.

"These are good people, your friends Silver Wolf, Fire Thunderbird, Golden Eagle, Daughter of the Dawn. Good people." As he called us in turn by our Lakota names, he reached out and touched each one. Then he laughed a good belly laugh and said, "Chris, never knew someone who had to be washed in shit to get his shit together, but it worked. You can thank Golden Eagle and Daughter of the Dawn for that--and the love of Dan. Singing Sparrow told me all about it. And I agree, Danny is a boy's name and Dan's a man--finally--so you are to be known as Dan. The rest of you need to tell me who you are and I mean who you are, not just your names."

That started a round of story-telling which went on for a couple hours. When we had pretty much run down, Wounded Hawk said, "Chris, I thought you being dunked in shit was just vision stuff. Didn't know it wasn't a metaphor, but reality."

"Metaphor? You said metaphor?" Chris asked.

"Sure, what do you think I am? A dumb Indian? Kid, I have a Ph.D. in literature and one in psychology."

"Look, I think I find visions easier to believe," Chris laughed.

"Don't knock the visions either," Wounded Hawk said. "Well Taequo came by as I expected him to so I could come. Golden Eagle, Fire Thunderbird and Silver Wolf--you too, Daughter of the Dawn--the task of completing your training has been given to me. Needed to let you know that and thought this was a good time because I wanted to meet all these new people in your medicine circle. I have seen them all in visions, but sometimes Red Hawk fools with my visions. I have to be careful of the old buzzard." Wounded Hawk laughed one of his father's laughs. "I guess that's it. You can all go to bed now."

"Hold it right there, Wounded Hawk. You can't just walk in, eat my food, make announcements and say 'That's it'. Your old man did that, but I think you and I are on a bit more even footing," I said and I wasn't laughing. Maybe Wounded Hawk thought I was a bit rude--a lot rude--and had overstepped my bounds, but he wasn't going to pull this on me.

I looked at Taequo and saw he was about to burst laughing. Suddenly Wounded Hawk sputtered, then roared laughing. "The old man definitely got a-hold of you. You sound just like I did when I was twice your age, but then I was twice your age before I was sober enough for the old man to begin my training." After another hour or so of talking--I noticed Wounded Hawk was very observant--he left some of the crowd wondering how he knew things about them, but there was no magic here; I said Wounded Hawk was very observant. Finally he said, "Golden Eagle, Silver Wolf, Fire Thunderbird and Daughter of the Dawn, you will be together Thanksgiving, right?"

"We'll be leaving Oberlin Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and have to be back Monday," Matt said.

"I'll be in North Carolina and we'll get in some training then. Now I'm going to sleep."

I knew what to expect and, sure enough, Wounded Hawk curled up by the fire and was asleep in seconds. I looked at my watch and discovered it was 3:30 in the morning. Class was going to come very early for the Oberlin crew.

As we walked to the studio, Matt was on one side of me and Luke on the other, all arm-in-arm. Luke said, "That was one damn big surprise. I thought sure Red Hawk had come back."

"What do you think about me?" I asked. "I opened the door and he was right there in my face. Damn! I mean I really did think I'd shit my pants."

"Well, I guess we have a chunk of Thanksgiving taken care of," Matt said. "I dreamed the other night Red Hawk had come back to continue our training. I guess I just didn't pay enough attention."

When we got to the studio, there were more questions, but finally Luke said, "Guys, we have an early class tomorrow--today--very few hours from now. I need to get some sleep."

Everyone finally settled down and snores resonated around the studio. I couldn't go to sleep immediately. I kept thinking about having my life planned for me and no-one had asked me if it was what I wanted.


Luke and I had set our watch alarms and neither of us wanted to get up when they went off, but we did. When we got to the house, Wounded Hawk was making coffee. "Good morning. Hope you are ready for a new day," he laughed.

"I may be, after a shower and shave," Luke said. We went upstairs, showered, scrubbing off our war paint, and Luke shaved. Then both of us realized we hadn't gotten clothes out to wear. "Do we tiptoe in and hope we don't wake Mom and Dad," I asked, "or do we knock?". As if to settle the issue, Dad came from our room. "We need to get clothes from our room," I said.

"Try to be quiet. Your mom's still asleep."

We got our clothes, dressed in the hall and went down. Kent and Paula were dressed, drinking coffee and talking to Wounded Hawk and Taequo.

"Where's Eugene and Larry?" I asked.

"They showered and shaved and have gone to the studio to get dressed."

"I guess you all had sense enough to get clothes out for today. Luke and I didn't," I said.

Larry and Eugene walked in and got a cup of coffee. Wounded Hawk started serving up eggs and bacon. "Thanks, Wounded Hawk," I said.

"Figured if I fixed it there'd be some for me."

"Help yourself," I said. "How long are you going to be around?"

"Taequo has to move on today. I'll start with him. Got to be in Phoenix later this week. I'm delivering a series of lectures on the psychology of the Indian to a bunch of stuffed-shirt academic types. They think Indians are a different animal. Then next week I'm going to Colorado to lead a symposium on literature of the oral tradition. Find I am freer and make more money being an expert Indian than a professor. Academics get all goose-bumpy when they think they have a real Indian telling them secrets. Truth of the matter is if I told them what you, Luke and Michael have done, they'd toss me out on my ear. They have already decided everything and just want an Indian to say it's ok. So generally I just nod wisely and get a lot of rest until some jerk really gets off base, and then I blast him and he thanks me for it. Guess he thinks it absolves his liberal guilt for the way we have been treated. It's academic game-playing and I have two doctorates so I'm a highly desired player. Mostly meaningless bullshit, but that's academics for you."

We finished breakfast and Luke said, "We have to run". Luke and I hugged the two Indians and Dad. "See you all Thanksgiving," Luke said, and we left with Paula and Kent right behind us. We met Larry and Eugene coming in as we were going out.

"We're grabbing a bite of breakfast and then we'll be on our way." Larry said.

Michael was right behind the two, and we hugged our brother and left.

Luke and I talked about missing saying goodbye to everyone, but all had gone to bed very late and I'm sure enjoyed the extra sleep.

When we got back from class, the house seemed very quiet. Of course the parents were gone and we soon discovered the Fellowship were all walking on the beach which was unexpected because, in spite of the sunny weather, it was chilly and made more so by a breeze off the lake.

We prepared a late lunch and Eugene went down to the beach to bring in the troops. We all gathered in the dining room for lunch and, as we ate, talked about the weekend and especially Wounded Hawk and Taequo showing up. There were still a lot of questions about them and their place in our lives--by our friends and, in truth, by ourselves.

After lunch the crew offered to help us get the house in order and at first we said we would get it done later, but they insisted. Mary Kathryn had already supervised getting the linen off the beds and had started washing it. We got fresh linen out and the gang had a ball making beds. Didn't seem like play time to me, but they seemed to enjoy it. All the dishes had been washed and were waiting to be put away. Marc and Keith helped me with that task. Larry and Eugene were getting help with vacuuming and other house cleaning. Michael, Dan and Chris got the sleeping bags and pads and stored them in the attic. We had finally finished most of the work about 3:00 and all were in the kitchen having a snack when Douglas said,"This has been a grand weekend. Pity we can't be together all the time."

"Sounds good, but don't know how it would work out," Janet said. "You six are getting along ok, I guess."

"We almost let some things get out of hand, and there are occasional disagreements, but we work at it. There is a strong base in our friendship, but you have to work at things just as you do any worthwhile relationship," Paula said.

"I think we need to plan the next get together," Marc said. "This weekend has been very special for me--I mean even if Keith hadn't recreated my world."

"We'll have to work out the details with the parents--which should be no big deal--but we will be in Concord for Thanksgiving. Why don't you three plan to spend Thanksgiving with us? You don't have family plans do you?" I asked.

"Hardly," Marc replied.

"Yea, hardly," Douglas and Janet added.

"Ok, Thanksgiving it is," I said. "Won't be as big a problem getting everyone there since all except the six of us will already be there. Oh, Kent, what about you?"

"I'd probably be killed if I wasn't home Thanksgiving. I hoped Paula would be as well--home with me I mean."

"I can't leave Mom alone for the holiday," Paula said. "Sorry."

"Look," Marc said. "I will have my own plane by then--not a big jet, but not tiny either. Paula, you and Kent check and see if I could bring your Mom up here for the holiday and take your four housemates back to Concord. That way you and Kent could be with your parents and the crew would get home much earlier than otherwise."

"I'll check," Paula said, "and Kent and I will let you know. Do we have your e-mail address?" Marc took a card from his pocket and gave it to Paula who said, "Thanks".

"Well I hate to be this way, but by the time we get our luggage together it will be time to leave for the airport," Marc said.

The luggage was taken to the mini-bus, and Luke again stashed it on top and we were ready to go. The trip to the airport was uneventful and the plane was on the tarmac when we arrived. Luke tossed the luggage down and we carried it to the plane. We were all reluctant to end the weekend, but finally Captain Kelly said, "We need to fly, Marc". There were hugs all around and promises to get together at Thanksgiving, and then the crew boarded the plane and took off. The six of us stood on the tarmac, watching the plane as long as it was in sight.

"What a weekend this turned out to be," Kent said. "And a new couple has been added to the circle. Paula, I can see why you enjoyed being with Jacob so much, but I'm glad you decided he wasn't the one." He was standing with his arm about Paula's waist as he leaned over and kissed the top of her head.

"Guess we need to get back to the house and pick up my truck so we can take the bus back," Luke said, sort of officially announcing the end of the weekend.

When we got back to the house, I drove Luke's truck and we took the bus back while the others finished the little house cleaning left to do.

It had been a grand weekend, but it was over. Settling down to the old routine was hard, but it had to be. At least I thought we would settle down in to the old routine, but there was a major surprise Friday. We had just gotten home and were relaxing before dinner when the doorbell rang. Luke went to the door and ushered a uniformed man into the living room. "Hey everyone, you're wanted in the living room."

When everyone had gathered in the living room, Luke said, "Housemates, this is Marshall McCoy."

"I know you are very busy with school, but I'm afraid something is being added to your schedule. Luke Hans Larsen?"

"I'm Luke."

"Luke, here's a subpoena requiring you to show up in court in Cleveland next Wednesday, November 8, at 8:00 am." Marshall McCoy then called Larry's, Eugene's, Kent's and my names and gave us subpoenas as well. "I know you want to spend as little time as possible in court and the District Attorney hopes to be finished with you Wednesday, but make arrangements to be ready for court for at least a week. Maybe you can get assignments so you can work while you wait, because you can be sure there will be a lot of waiting. These subpoenas are for the trial of the judge, police chief and mayor of Waterside on bribery charges. There will be others for civil rights violations and for the attempted bombing of your house. What everyone hopes is that the defendants will start rolling over on each other and making deals for lighter sentences. If that happens it could all be over very quickly."

"How about the money we were out paying bribes?" Larry asked.

"You'll need to file a civil suit seeking to recover your money. I think Lem Aldridge has already filed one on your behalf. You might want to check on that."

Luke showed Marshall McCoy the door and we all sat around, gloomy, thinking about having to keep up with school work and all our other activities and spend all day in court for no-one knew how long.

"Wednesday is NOVEMBER EIGHT!" I suddenly had a sinking sensation. "Holy shit!!!" I exclaimed.

Everyone was staring at me and Luke said, "Well, Michael, I thought you were back in Concord". All just about flipped when Larry got a stricken look on his face and exclaimed, "Wednesday is November 8th! Double holy shit!"

The rest of the crew was looking at me and Larry like we had completely lost our minds. "Yes, double holy shit, Larry!" I exclaimed.

"Will someone please tell us what is going on and why we have so much divine feces around," Paula asked. I guess all the rest were just struck dumb.

"If Wednesday is November 8th," Larry said, "then tomorrow is November 4th. It is very clear why Matt and I are about ready to explode."

"Maybe it is clear to you two, but the rest of us are in the dark," Luke said.

"November 4th is the day scheduled for Matt to make his audition tape and we both, apparently, had allowed that to slip our minds. How ready are you, Matt?" Larry asked.

"I guess I'm ready. It's just that I have slacked off during all the partying. I'll play both pieces straight through a couple times before I go to bed. We can get to Oberlin early enough for you to make sure everything is set up and working, and I can play the two pieces through a couple or three times before we start recording."

I phoned Professor Larkin to remind her I was making the recording so she wouldn't come for a lesson. "I have it on my calendar, Matt, but thanks for reminding me. I have talked with Professor Moler and we will both be there. We want to make sure your recording shows just how good you are. See you around 10:30."

I played through the two audition pieces a couple times, then ran through "Sheep" again, trying to avoid mistakes but not be mechanical. I wasn't satisfied, but then was I ever? I knew that any further practice that night would just be fretting and would actually work against me.

When I went to bed Luke was already asleep but, as I crawled into bed, he opened his eyes, smiled and said, "Matt, I love you. I love you so much, so very much, even when you forget something as important as an audition tape." Luke wrapped me in his arms and said, "You are ready for tomorrow, aren't you? I mean even having had it slip your mind for a couple days, you are ready, right?"

"I guess I am. Well of course I am, and if I'm not I'll never be."

"Good. Now relax and rest, Dark Angel." Luke's lips touched mine in one of his butterfly kisses. I felt myself relax, melting in the arms of my beloved.

I planned to get up early and let Luke sleep in, so I was surprised when he woke me with a kiss. "How about a bathroom break and then some playing around," he asked, still propped on an elbow, his eyes smiling into mine.

"Sounds like a good way to get ready for an audition," I smiled back. Our bathroom break was a short one, just time for bleeding our lizards and brushing our teeth. When we got back in bed, we made wonderful love--easy, gentle, tender love. Afterwards I lay in Luke's arms, our eyes telling the other of our great and wonderful love, our beings radiating because we had each other.

"Luke, I have to get up, get ready and go," I reminded him.

"Not before a shower, I hope," he said. "Matt, I love the fragrance of our love-making, but I don't think it's socially acceptable," he laughed.

I thought I'd take a quick shower, but Luke had other ideas. After a long, hot shower with my Bright Angel, he said, as we were drying each other, "I bet you're not upset about Kent's second water heater now," and laughed.

When we got downstairs, Eugene was serving Larry breakfast. "I wondered if you two were going to eat this morning," he said as he started making French toast for Luke and me. When it was ready, he joined the three of us for breakfast.

"Larry, how much do you have to do to get set up this morning?" I asked.

"Professor Moler told me the equipment would all be in Warner ready to be set up. That will take little time since it's almost a permanent set up. Of course, it will have to be tested."

"Lar, can I be of help in setting things up? I don't have a lot I have to do today," Eugene asked.

"If you think you can keep from jumping my bones, sure you could be a big help," Larry said as he leaned over and kissed his soulmate.

"It'll be hard..."

"No doubt," Luke laughed, "but the question is can you function that way without hopping Larry's bod?"

We four were having a good laugh when Kent came down the stairs, looking as if he had tumbled out of bed and just kept rolling down the stairs.

"Just what is so funny this early in the morning?" He asked as he poured a cup of coffee.

"Larry's trying to decide whether or not he can work with Eugene lusting after his body. The vote right now favors no," I answered. "Paula sleeping in?"

"Seems that way," Kent said. "Guess she's not up to the testosterone this morning."

"That is a consideration, since she's the only woman around again," Larry said. "What are you up to today while we slave away over a hot organ?"

"I thought you had a recording session, and now I hear it's sex," Kent responded.

"Don't I wish," Eugene said. "Looks as if all four of us can be involved in Matt recording his audition tape. Guess you and Paula will have the house to yourselves."

"I'm afraid not. I started a project last week for a woman who owns a place a couple miles down the beach. She bought an older house--almost as nice as this one, but not kept as well--and is re-doing the gardens from scratch. As a matter of fact, she has asked that I become her landscape designer and gardener. She is willing to pay through the nose to get what she wants. Seems she came by here a couple times shortly after we started work and since. She liked what she saw and asked if I could do something similar to her place. I told her I could, but it would take a couple years and I would have to have helpers. She has more or less given me a blank check. It's great because I won't have to run here and there working. I can leave my tools there unless we need them here. It is really a break. AND I can use just about everything I do for class projects."

"Speaking of class projects, I have to do a recital for the grade in my performance class," I said. "Certainly wish I could use what I'm taping today for that, but even though we're getting pretty good at making things do two jobs." The recital will have to be more modern music," I observed. "But, hey, I guess we better go."

"I need the truck today. Are you four going to drive both cars?"

"I guess I assumed we were, but that would leave Paula stranded. Know what she's up to today?" Eugene asked.

"She said last night she needed to do some shopping, including grocery shopping for the house and I think some personal shopping as well."

"Then I think we should take the Jeep," Eugene said. "Paula likes to drive the car more than the Jeep."

"No problem," I said. "Let's roll."

When we got to Warner Concert Hall, only the janitor was around. He let us in and unlocked the recording equipment booth for Larry. Since the hall is used for most student recitals as well as many other music programs, it has a more-or-less permanent set-up for recording, which Larry had checked out when Professor Moler first met with him to discuss the audition tape. Larry promptly went to work getting the equipment set up to suit himself. Luke and Eugene were busy carrying out Larry's instructions.

I went directly to the organ and discovered it had not been unlocked for my use. "What a way to start!" I said. Just when I was beginning to get frustrated at being unable to practice before I had to start recording, the janitor came running toward me. I had met him the first time I was in the hall and learned his name was Jake Swanne. He had taken a liking to me because I was part-Lakota. His grandmother had been a Lakota and he was very proud of his Indian blood. "Mr. Swanne..." I started to say when he interrupted.

"Mr. Greywolf..."

(Professor Moler had laughed the first time Mr. Swanne had called me Mr. Greywolf, telling me later that Jake called no-one, but no-one, Mister, Doctor or Professor. "He has put us all on a first-name basis--from the president on down, but you are MR. Greywolf." I had replied, "Us Indians have to stick together".)

"Mr. Greywolf, Sir, I forgot to unlock the organ for you." He was still practically running when he reached up to the console and unlocked the organ. He then stood back and watched until I played the first note. "It's ready when you are, Mr. Greywolf," he said after I had played a few notes.

I had practiced on the organ enough to be comfortable with the registration I had selected earlier, and got it all set up and ready to go. I took a deep breath and launched into "Sheep May Safely Graze". I had had a real struggle unlearning the mistakes I had allowed to creep in over the years, and when I had conquered that aspect of the piece, I had worked very hard to give it some life rather than playing it mechanically. It had, once again, become a piece with which I was comfortable--an old friend again. It was a lovely piece. Professor Larkin would call it a "pretty piece", which had just about been done in by being played too much and too poorly.

When I finished, Luke came to the console and said, "Larry would like for you to play that piece again. He thinks he has everything working perfectly, but wants to be sure."

I started the piece again, and suddenly I felt as if I were alone at the console of St. Mary's organ. I was, as Luke called it, "in another universe". The piece simply flowed and I flowed with it. Finishing "Sheep", I paused briefly and started "Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor". It was not something I had overplayed. In fact, I didn't think I had ever played the whole piece until I started working on it for the audition. I knew that if I became a finalist I would have to commit the piece to memory, but I wasn't sure enough at that point to try it without having the music at hand.

I managed to get through the piece without stumbling and I thought I had done a passable job. When I finished it, I turned around and called to Larry, "How's that?".

"Fine. Great," he answered.

"Can you spare Eugene?" I asked.

"Depends on what you want him for," Larry laughed.

"Luke's here, so Eugene's safe," I laughed back. Only after I spoke did I see Professor Larkin walking toward me. I didn't know what she'd think, but surely she had been around the house long enough to have figured out the relationships among the six of us. "If you can spare Eugene, I need him as a page turner."

"Be right there, Matt," Eugene called.

"How is it coming, Matt?" Professor Larkin asked.

"Fine, I think, and Larry seems to have the recording bit down."

"I guess you thought you would play your recital here so this session could be serving two purposes--getting a tape and allowing you to get a better feel for the instrument--but your recital will be modern music and the Aeolian-Skinner in Finney Chapel is much better suited to that music."

Professor Moler walked in while we were talking and called to Larry, "Larry, got any tape yet?".

"Got both pieces, Professor."

"Can you let us hear them before Matt starts again?"

"Sure, no problem." Larry started the tape and I was surprised at how well "Sheep" had gone. The longer piece had gone well also, but there was room for improvement.

When the tape of the two pieces had played, Professors Moler and Larkin talked with me about what they had heard. They were pleased with my rendition of both, but agreed that I should, at least for the longer piece, use the music when I needed to. "You have plenty of time to memorize the piece after the tape is ready, so use the music when you need it."

"Eugene will be my page turner," I said, "because I thought I needed to have the music as back up."

"I was going to suggest that I handle that but, if you have Eugene, I'll sit out front and listen," Professor Larkin said.

"Ok, let's record," Professor Moler said as he went down front and took a seat.

"Ready, one, two, three, tape running," Larry called. I played "Sheep", and the two professors asked Larry to play it back.

"Are you satisfied, Matt?" Professor Moler asked.

"No, I'm not, and I don't think I am just being nit-picky."

"Larry, how do you feel about the recording?" Professor Moler called back to Larry.

"It's good, but could be better."

"Then let's go again." Larry called out the signals and I played "Sheep" again.

I knew it was better before I turned and saw the two professors nodding. "Good job," Professor Larkin said.

"Larry?" Professor Moler asked.

"Couldn't be better. That is definitely excellent, grade A, number one."

"Then let's hear it," Luke said.

As I have said, I am never completely satisfied, but the tape was good. Both professors announced it was excellent.

I played the longer "Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor" and both thought it was also good, but I insisted on playing it a second time. When I finished the second time, both agreed the second one was better and, when we listened, we all thought it was good.

"I guess that's it, Larry," I said.

"Ok," Larry replied. "It'll take a few minutes to make the audition tape since I'll have to combine the two pieces into a single tape."

The two professors and I talked about the recital I had to do for my performance class. "I can live with you using those two pieces you have just played, if you absolutely have to, which means you have about fifteen minutes already. But I'd really prefer you do twentieth-century pieces. I could be really mean and tell you it had to be all American composers," she laughed.

"I really don't have a lot of time to get that together," I said.

"Right," Professor Larkin said. "I just checked before I left, and it is scheduled for December seventeenth.

"Wow, I guess I have not been keeping a close look at the calendar."

The three of us talked about my recital and picked out several pieces to be included. We had finally come up with most of the recital program when Larry called to us, "The tape's done and I have made three copies."

"How long will it take you to make a dozen more?" Professor Moler asked.

"I can make a dozen in five or ten minutes," Larry responded.

"Do it and I'll get them off to the committee. How about lunch? I'm treating," Professor Moler said.

We went to one of the favorite eating places near the college and had a good lunch and some great conversation.

Wednesday found the five of us in the Federal Courthouse in Cleveland, sitting, waiting, time dragging. Just before lunch, we were called into the courtroom. The judge informed all those waiting to testify that court was recessed until 1:00. We were told where we might get lunch and we left. During lunch we talked about what we could do in terms of school work and what we could not do.

After lunch we began the waiting game again but, at 1:30, Kent was called into the courtroom. An hour later, Eugene went in, then Larry. When Kent came out he reported all three of those charged with bribery were being tried together. Luke was called at 4:00 and my time came at 4:30.

After I was sworn in, Mr. Greenstreet--the prosecutor--asked if I had been involved in a fight outside the theater in Waterside, giving the date and time. "I was," I replied.

"Will you, in your own words, tell the jury what happened."

I told what had gone on and how we were arrested, even though we had not started the fight, and had to defend ourselves against six fellows, one with a knife.

"After you were arrested, were you jailed?"

"Yes, we were."

"At any time, were you advised of your rights?"

"No, we were not."

"Were you allowed to call an attorney?"

"No. We didn't know one and were not offered one."

"But you were released on bond after a lawyer interceded for you."


"How did a lawyer just happen to show up?"

I told how Kent had been released and got a lawyer for us.

"Why was Mr. Glaze released?"

"The officer arresting us told him to leave because he was a local boy."

"He was released because he was local and you were held because you were not?"

"That's what we were told."

"Just what provoked the fight?"

"When we came out of the theater..."


"Kent Glaze, Eugene Willingham, Larry Watley, Luke Larsen and myself."


"There were six guys I did not know spray-painting something on Mr. Willingham's car. When challenged, they attacked us."

"Five to six?"


"And the five were winning the fight?"

"Mr. Willingham is an expert in the marital arts and the rest of us are pretty good as well."

"So you were winning?"

"Yes, until two police officers arrived, told the attackers to go home and arrested us."

"Mr. Aldridge arranged bail and you left. What happened the following day?"

"Mr. Aldridge came to the house and told us we could probably get off with a pay-off. He also asked if we would cooperate with an ongoing investigation and we agreed. We were wired and then went to see the chief of police who asked for money to take us to the judge. When we reached the judge's chambers, he asked for money or threatened us with jail, so we paid off."

"Mr. Greywolf, this is people's exhibit 12, a transcript of the tape made when you were wired. Will you read through it quickly?" I took the transcript and scanned it very rapidly. "Mr. Greywolf, is that an accurate transcript of the conversations during the time you were with the chief of police and the judge?"

"Yes it is."

"No further questions, your honor."

"Mr. Miller," the judge said.

"Thank you, your honor."

"Now, Mr. Greywolf, a couple weeks before the incident in question, were you in the same theater?"

"I was."

"With whom?"

"Objection! Irrelevant."


'Mr. Greywolf, when you were in the theater earlier, how would you characterize your behavior?"

"Objection! Irrelevant."


"Mr. Greywolf, have you at any time kissed a man in..."

"Objection, your honor! Irrelevant."

"Sustained. Mr. Miller, you will abandon this line of questioning now. I have warned you before."

"Mr. Greywolf, when you came out of the theater and saw the six young men, you said they were spray-painting your friend's car. Correct?"


"What were they painting on the car?"


"Your honor, I will show that four of the five testifying today actually provoked the attack."

"Overruled, but you must show provocation now."

"I repeat my question. What were they spray-painting on the car?"

"Derogatory names."

"What names?"



"What names?"

"Faggot among others."

"Are you or any of your friends faggots, Mr. Greywolf?"

"You honor! Objection!"

"Sustained. Mr. Miller, you better get off that track right now. If you try something like that again, I'll hold you in contempt. I warned you when you were questioning the others."

"Your honor, I am trying to show the young men spray-painting the car were provoked."

"No doubt they were, but that is no defense. Being provoked because of your prejudice is hardly a defense."

"Mr. Greywolf, are you gay?"


"Sustained. I have warned you, Mr. Miller."

"Yes, your honor. Mr. Greywolf, are you aware of laws against sex between men?"

"Objection, your honor!"

"Mr. Miller! Apparently you have no intention of heeding my warnings. You will pay the bailiff $1,000 for contempt of court. And if you try the same tack again, you'll be spending your evenings and nights as a guest of the government."

"Yes, your honor. Mr. Greywolf, do you know what entrapment means?"

"I do."

"Are you aware of the laws against entrapment?"

"I am."

"Are you aware of the fact that the three on trial here today are victims of entrapment?"

"No, but I only know of the event involving me and my four friends. There was no entrapment involved there."

"Move that be struck from the record, your honor. Mr. Greywolf is not a lawyer."

"But you asked him if he was aware of the laws of entrapment and he said he was. You then proceeded assuming he knew the laws. His answer stands."

"Are you aware that bribing an official is a crime?"

"I am."

"Then you admit you are guilty of a crime?"

"Objection! Mr. Greywolf is not on trial here."


"But, your honor, I want to establish that the so-called victims in this case are criminals."

"Mr. Miller, they have neither been charged or convicted. They cannot be criminals until they have been. Are you planning on bringing charges against them?"

"No, your honor."

"Then get on with the trial at hand."

"I have no further questions of this witness."

I was sent back to the waiting room. When I was called in, I had left my cell phone with Luke. and as soon as I walked into the waiting room he said, "Great news, Matt! Margaret gave birth today and Mary Margaret and Elizabeth Kathryn are doing fine. So is Margaret, but Michael wasn't sure David was going to make it," Luke laughed.

The five of us discussed what had gone on in the court room, and at 5:00 we were dismissed and told if we arranged a method where we could be contacted and be back in Cleveland within an hour, we were free to go. We gave the bailiff my cell phone number and left.

We were barely inside the door when Paula came running from the kitchen. "Great news! Michael called. Margaret had the twins today--Mary Margaret and Elizabeth Kathryn--all three are doing fine."

"Yea. Michael finally got us on Matt's cell phone," Eugene said. A hug-fest followed and we all went to the library and called Margaret's hospital room. We turned on the speaker-phone and all talked to the Andrews family. It was good that all had gone so well. We then told them about the trial.

When we hung up, Paula said, "I have supper ready. Let's sit down and eat."

"It's almost 6:30 and I'll be interested in what the news has from the trial." Kent said. "Why don't we eat in the family room?" We all thought that was a good idea--this time. We had pretty strict rules about eating somewhere other than the dining room.

The dinner conversation was, of course, about the birth of the twins and the trial. Seems I got off easy because Miller had tried all his questions on the others and earned a pile of objections. "He wanted to make sure the jury saw us as faggots," Eugene said. "He kept coming back to new ways to ask me if I was gay."

"He tried a bit with me, but didn't get anywhere with it. In fact, he got fined $1,000 because he did keep on," I said. "He just wouldn't quit."

"I will bet he got his message across and probably thought the $1,000 was well spent," Larry observed.

"Let's see what the news has to say," Kent said as he turned on the TV.

"Tonight's lead story concerns the trial of three Waterside officials in federal court. Robert Brown is live from the federal courthouse. Robert, what were the developments in today's trial?"

"Jim, today the trial of the former police chief, mayor and a city judge from Waterside continued. The previous three days have been devoted to pre-trial motions and jury selection, opening arguments and the first witnesses. The jury of seven women and five men were seated early yesterday and opening arguments were concluded just after lunch yesterday. The first witnesses were FBI and OBI agents who gave an account of their investigation. The three are being tried together on bribery charges and the agents indicated they had used several citizens to gather information."

"Today the trial opened with testimony by several people who had been arrested without cause and threatened with jail time by the police chief and judge unless, and I quote one of the witnesses' conversations with the police chief, 'some money appears on my desk to pay for my time'. All of the witnesses told essentially the same story. They were arrested, the chief suggested money would get the charges changed. The victim would then be taken to the judge who hinted that some money to compensate him for his trouble would prevent a jail sentence. The mayor's involvement was unclear until two witnesses said the judge and police chief indicated the money they were offered was inadequate because, and again I quote, 'we have a mayor to support'."

"This afternoon, five young men from Lorain were called as witnesses. They recounted how they had been to a movie in Waterside and when they came out, six young men of Waterside were spray-painting the car of one of them. When challenged, according to the young men--and earlier testimony by an elderly couple who witnessed the incident--a fight ensued, provoked by the spray-painters." The reporter gave an accurate account of what happened, including the fact that we had been wired and recorded the bribery requests.

"The defense lawyer, well-known Cleveland attorney Sandy Miller, made several attempts, it appeared to this reporter, to establish the fact that the five young men from Lorain provoked the attack because they were gay. He kept questioning the last witness, a Matthew Greywolf, to get him to admit he was gay, but the judge finally fined Miller $1,000 for contempt of court for his efforts. The trial resumes tomorrow at 9:00. However, it is rumored plea bargaining started this afternoon and may go on into the night."

"Robert, what is the purpose of trying to prove the young men from Lorain are gay? What has that to do with the case?"

"Jim, I learned today that the owner of the car has had a civil suit filed on his behalf seeking damages because of the car painting. The four who were actually arrested also have civil rights violation charges against the defendants and are seeking damages because of the money lost in the bribes. I suspect Miller believes if he can brand the four as gay, he will have public opinion on his side when those cases come up. And, of course, if he has a jury which is prejudiced against gays, they are less likely to convict the three."

"Did Miller establish the sexual orientation of the young men?"

"He certainly raised questions, but none were allowed to answer as, the prosecuting attorney kept stating, it is irrelevant."

"So the trial continues tomorrow?"

"Yes, and I guess we will learn what the plea bargaining produces."

"Thank you, Robert. In other news..." Luke switched off the TV.

"Well, Matt, you were the only one named in the newscast, but I picked up a newspaper and the story there named all five of us and didn't say we were gay, but certainly left an impression that we are or might be. Kent, I guess you have been branded gay as well as the four of us. I'm just glad Miller got slapped with that fine.

"I just wonder what we'll have dropped on us tomorrow," Eugene said, summing up the feeling of all of us. If we had only known...

Chapter Sixteen


Thursday was a day at Holtkamp for me and, of course, Larry and Kent were at Case. Luke took the cell phone so he could be contacted. The plan was if he was contacted, he would call me and I would pick up Larry and Kent at Case. They were to spend the afternoon in the library so I could find them if they were needed. I think we all suspected we would not be called. However, during lunch, Luke called and said we were to be at the courthouse at 1:30. He was leaving immediately with Eugene. I finished lunch and left for Case.

When we got to the courthouse, we were taken into the courtroom. When the trial resumed, Shawn Hendrick was called as a witness for the prosecution.

After he was sworn in, Mr. Greenstreet started questioning him about his involvement with the three officials. He admitted his brother gave him protection for his small-time drug dealing and bullying people. Then Mr. Miller took over.

"Mr. Hendrick, did you have any direct dealing with the three on trial here?"

"Not really, I know just what my brother told me."

"Which, I would point out to the jury is hearsay and not admissible. Mr. Hendrick, were you offered a deal if you testified in this trial?"

Shawn tried to play dumb by responding, "I don't know what you mean about a deal."

"Let me re-phrase the question. Did Mr. Greenstreet tell you that if you would plead guilty to the case against you, and testify in this case, he would get you a lighter sentence?"

"Yea, well, not exactly. He didn't seem too interested in this case. It's all the other cases that I'm to testify in that got me a deal. Wouldn't you do the same?"

"I'm not on trial. But, to make it clear, are you are testifying in order to get off light?"

"I don't call six months in jail and five years probation light," Shawn whined as though the actual sentence he had agreed to had just occurred to him.

"No more questions."

The five of us put our heads together and Eugene said, "I don't see the purpose of having Shawn testify. He had nothing to do with the three officials. I hope they have something better."

"The prosecution calls Sim Hendrick." Sim was sworn in and seemed ill-at-ease.

"Mr. Hendrick, would you state your occupation for the jury."

"I'm a police officer."

"Where, Mr. Hendrick?"

"I was on the force at Waterside."

"And now?"

"I have been suspended without pay."

"Why, Mr. Hendrick?"

"For several reasons, I have been told."

"And do you know what those reasons are?"

"Not really."

"Strange, Mr. Hendrick. Two days ago, when you were in my office, you seemed to have a very clear understanding of why you had been suspended. Now you have forgotten?"

"I wasn't truthful in your office."

"Oh, then I suppose everything we talked about is null and void."

"I don't know what that means."

"It means, concretely, that you lied about what you agreed to testify to in this court and, since you did, any offer made to you no longer holds. You will go on trial as planned."

"I think I might remember now."

"Mr. Hendrick, I don't believe your testimony is worth anything. You said you lied, then you forgot, now you are remembering. If I were sitting in the jury box, I wouldn't believe you if you told me my name while sitting on a stack of Bibles. No more questions."

Sim was definitely squirming now. He apparently had made a deal and then backed out. I wondered why.

"Mr. Hendrick, I have only a few questions for you," Miller said. "Mr. Greenstreet suggested you were in his office two days ago and the two of you discussed a deal. Is that true?"


"And would you tell the court what the deal you discussed was."

"I face two civil suits and a criminal suit. Mr. Greenstreet offered me a plea bargain provided I testified about what I knew and did with the chief, mayor and judge."

"And you accepted?"


"And now you state you lied about your involvement with the chief, judge and mayor?"

"Well not exactly lied. It's just that I thought about what I had said and don't want to repeat it."

"You don't want to repeat it because it was a lie?"

"That's not it. I mean that's not exactly it."

"No more questions."

"Your honor."

"Yes, Mr. Greenstreet?"

"Can you and I meet in your chambers with this witness?"

"Mr. Miller?"

"No objection."

"The court stands in recess for fifteen minutes," the judge declared.

"Man, that's a surprise." Eugene said. "I thought he would take any deal he could get and roll over on his mother if necessary to get a lighter sentence. Something strange going on here."

"Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in the judge's chambers?" Luke asked. "And I still haven't figured out why we are here."

"Now that you mention it, neither have I," I said.

Eugene and Larry were nodding agreement.

"Order in the court," the bailiff called, and the lawyers and judge took their places.

"Some new evidence has come to the attention of the court. It is the feeling of the court that a number of cases could be settled if the defendants and the lawyers of others involved have some time together. Accordingly, Court will recess for one hour, meeting again promptly at 4:45. Mr. Miller, Mr. Greenstreet, defendants, in my chambers. Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf, Mr. Greywolf, Mr. Watley, Mr. Willingham and Mr. Larsen, you are excused for the moment, but be available when court reconvenes.

An hour to kill wasn't long enough to do anything, and was too long just to sit some more. "Look, I'm going to call Paula and make sure she's home and safe. When do you think we'll be home?" Luke asked.

"No telling. If they work out deals in an hour, we may be home by 6:00. Otherwise, I have no idea," Larry said.

"Well, let's at least get out of here," I said.

We left the courthouse and started just to walk around a bit when a very aggressive young woman shoved a mike in our faces and asked, "Are you the five young men involved in the fight at the Waterside theater?"

"Ma'am, we are not interested in speaking to you," Larry said.

"It was suggested yesterday that you are gay. Are you?"

She shoved her mike in Kent's face as she asked the question.

"Ma'am, my friend told you we weren't interested in speaking to you. What part of that sentence did you not understand?" Kent asked.

"And you are?"

"I don't think there is any reason to answer that," Kent said.

"May I assume that you are so touchy because you are gay and just don't want to admit it?"

"Now you have made me angry. If you even suggest so much as that, I will sue you, your station and anyone remotely connected with either for slander. Further, if you don't stop your harassment at once, I will be forced to call the police."

"Young man, the public has a right to know."

"No, it does not. I have a right: a right to privacy. Now I suggest you leave."

The four of us were trying hard not to laugh, and when Kent motioned for a policeman standing on the courthouse steps, the reporter beat a hasty retreat and we cracked up. "Some people just can't get it right," Kent said and joined our laughter.

We walked around the block and stopped in a quick-food place for a Coke. We talked about what might be going on with the plea bargaining, but of course had no real idea. After we finished our Cokes, Kent looked at his watch and said, "Hey, we've got to get back".

Promptly at 4:45 the bailiff called for us. When we got to the front of the courtroom, the bailiff told us we were needed in the judge's chambers.

Inside we found Lem Aldridge, Mr. Greenstreet, Mr. Miller and the judge.

"Gentlemen, I am Judge Harrison and, of course, you know Mr. Miller and Mr. Greenstreet. I believe you know Mr. Aldridge." We introduced ourselves and shook hands all around. "Gentlemen, we have had a development in this case which throws a great deal of light on what has been going on. Mr. Greenstreet, perhaps you would like to tell these good people what has happened."

"I was very puzzled as to why the Hendrick boys suddenly developed bad memories this afternoon. They had agreed to testify and while I didn't think their testimony would do the three defendants any great harm, I was depending on it in other cases. In chambers I learned they had received threats on their lives if they testified. Mr. Miller was, and is, very upset over attempted intimidation of witnesses. I suspected it would be impossible to determine who made the threat, but it turns out to be otherwise."

"The FBI and OBI had the three defendants' phones tapped. Since they are all out on bond, they are free to make any phone calls they wish. It seems the two Hendrick boys had a conference call last evening in which all three defendants made threats. In light of that, Mr. Miller is in a very bad position. Accordingly, he has agreed to us making offers to the five. Since you are involved in civil rights suits and civil suits, Judge Harrison asked Mr. Aldridge to be here to represent you."

"Here's what we are thinking about offering. For Sim Hendrick, six months in jail and five years probation with the proviso that he testify, if the trial continues. It also means he cannot serve as a police officer again. Additionally, he is to pay each of you $200 to have you drop the civil rights and civil suits against him. I know that is very little, but it's all he can pay so you will get something.

"For Shawn Hendrick, the same and, in addition, he is to pay the cost of having Mr. Willingham's car restored. Mr. Aldridge finds those terms acceptable, I believe."

"I do, and advise you to accept," Mr. Aldridge said. "I only find them acceptable because the two were not involved in the attempted bombing of your house. My advice is to take the offer because you will get something out of this. Otherwise, even if you win, you'll probably get less and certainly no more--since they don't have it."

"Fine," Eugene said, "but what about the chief, mayor and judge? And what about the others involved in the attempted bombing of the house?" There may be no Millie genes in Eugene, but she definitely seemed to be rubbing off on him.

"Those involved in the attempted bombing of the house pleaded guilty at their arraignment and have already been sentenced to ten years," Judge Harrison said. "Mr. Greenstreet, about the other three?"

"We will accept a guilty plea to lesser charges which will earn them ten to twenty-five years in prison and they are to repay you triple the amount they took from you in the pay-off. Frankly, I think that would be all you would get if the trial went on and you'd still have to sue for your money."

"Mr. Aldridge?" Judge Harrison asked.

"Judge, when this crew accepted the challenge of helping clean up Waterside, I felt sorry for them since they were out the payoff money, so I returned my fee. Seems to me it would be right for the three to pay this crew's attorney's fee."

"And that would be?"


"You're cheap, Aldridge," Miller said. "They are paying me $1500 plus time and expenses."

"Sounds reasonable to me," Judge Harrison said, "especially in light of the fact that their own lawyer suggested it. Did that include Mr. Glaze?"

"No, he was a local boy and apparently not subject to false arrest," Mr. Aldridge laughed.

"So that's four times fifteen hundred. Mr. Miller add a $6,000 payment to Mr. Aldridge, $2,000 from each of the three. Have we agreed on that as an offer? Mr. Miller?"

"Seems fair enough judge. Even though they are my clients, I would find it hard to defend them after they made death threats."

"Mr. Greenstreet?"

"Fair enough if it's acceptable to Mr. Aldridge's clients."

"Mr. Aldridge?"

"Yes, if it sends a strong enough message to the bigots in Waterside."

"It should at least make them think," Judge Harrison said. "How about you four? You are the ones who have been put through the wringer."

"It's fine with me provided the Metcalfs are included one way or another," Luke said. "They tried to come to our defense and, as a result, were threatened and had to be protected, but didn't back down."

"I don't believe they have filed a suit, so there's no way they can receive any compensation," Judge Harrison said.

"I believe you will find they have filed a civil suit against the three, Judge," Mr. Miller said. "It's not asking much, a thousand each. If they are willing to drop the charges for a thousand each, I will certainly advise my clients to accept."

"Are they here?" the judge asked.

"They were before the recess," I said.

"Miller, see if you can find them and find out if they agree."

Mr. Miller left and came back in five or ten minutes with the Metcalfs. "Mr. and Mrs. Metcalf, we think we can clean up this court mess by offering deals to the five being tried. Mr. Larsen has agreed to the terms we have set out with the proviso that you be included. Would you be willing to drop the charges if you were given the amount you asked in your suit?"

"Not unless there is some punishment for the boys who attacked these young men," Mrs. Metcalf said.

"We just hit a snag," Mr. Aldridge said, "because the only one charged was Shawn Hendrick."

"Not exactly true, Mr. Aldridge. I don't know how Shawn escaped being in on the bombing attempt, but he wasn't among those arrested. The other five were. They are already serving time," Mr. Greenstreet said. He then told the Metcalfs about the offers being made and they accepted.

Judge Harrison buzzed the bailiff and told him to bring the three and the two Hendrick boys. When they arrived, the Judge told them the offer and asked if they wanted to accept it. Before they could speak, Mr. Miller said, "I advise you to accept". The mayor started whining and Mr. Miller said, "Again, I advise you to take the offer". Finally all did and were taken out by the bailiff to begin serving their time.

It was 6:30 when we were finally finished. Kent called Paula and told her we were on our way. When he closed the phone, he laughed and said, "Seems a certain female reporter made it abundantly clear that the attempt to smear our good names by implying we were gay had failed and she had direct evidence it was not true. She showed a part of the clip she made of my response to her question and concluded that the question had been laid to rest once and for all." We all had a good laugh as we started walking toward the entrance of the courthouse.


When we walked through the courthouse doors, we were confronted with a very different world than the one we had left when we walked in. Huge fluffy snowflakes were falling like large white goose feathers floating down from a leaden sky. It had been snowing long enough for the white fluff to cover the sidewalks and streets except where traffic had left ugly black trails in white snow. "I suspect none of you have had a great deal of experience driving in the snow," Kent said. "I think it might be wise for me to drive your car, Eugene. Matt's Jeep is four-wheel drive so he has an advantage but, even at that, I think I should follow you, Matt, in case you get into trouble. There's not much on the road now but, the way it's falling, we could run into some real snow before we get home."

"Sounds wise to me," Matt said. "Strange that Paula didn't mention the snow."

"If she has been inside all the time, she may not have noticed," Larry suggested. "Well, I guess we better get moving."

 We walked the three blocks to the parking garage. It seemed that even in the short distance to the parking garage, the snow had started coming down harder. We got the cars and started home. As we left Cleveland behind, the snow changed. A strong wind was swirling the snow around on the ground and that falling was no longer large fluffy flakes, but wind-driven icy flakes. The snowfall continued to increase rapidly and the gusts of wind driving it against the side of the Jeep actually rocked us. Visibility was decreasing quickly, making it difficult to see the highway and cars ahead of us. Finally we were creeping along at fifteen or twenty miles an hour, using the tail lights of a car ahead as a beacon.

I looked out the back and could see Kent's headlights. He was right behind us and had he been even a few hundred feet further back, he would be invisible. The cars ahead of us left clean ruts so the road did not seem treacherous and, while we were moving very slowly, everything seemed to be going well when suddenly the Jeep started skidding. Matt fought to keep it under control and finally managed to do so. "I guess there was an icy patch on the highway," he said, "because I didn't see any change in the snow and the ruts looked clear."

"Must have been black ice. Just keep cool and it will be all right," I said as I patted his thigh.

"Luke, I am beginning to wonder why two nice southern boys like us are up here in Yankee country," Matt laughed.

"'Cause them there Yankees be paying the bill for us nice southern boys. Have to get even some way," I laughed as I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

The snow was really coming down now and we were being lashed by the wind. I kept looking back to make sure Kent and the crew were behind us. They were about as close as they could be safely. I glanced at the speedometer and saw we were traveling at less then fifteen miles an hour. At that rate, we would be lucky to get home in two hours.

I could see Matt was getting very tense as we continued to creep along.  From time to time the Jeep hit an icy spot and slipped or skidded a bit, but so far nothing serious. "Luke, get the phone and call Paula. We should have done that earlier. She will be worried about us since we should have been home by now."

I dialed the number and when Paula answered she said, "Thank goodness you called, Luke. I have been worrying about you. I hadn't looked outside until after you called and, when I did, the ground was already white and the snow just keeps coming faster and faster. Where are you?"

I gave Paula our location as best I could, since I couldn't see the mile posts and saw very little I recognized. "Just have something ready to warm us up when we get there," I said. "We're warm in the Jeep, but all this snow makes me feel cold. I remember how excited we got when it snowed at home, but we didn't have to drive. This is definitely not fun!"

"Luke, please keep calling me. I won't stop worrying until you are all home safe."

"Will do, Mother Paula," I said and closed the phone.

I noticed then that Matt was very tense, having a death grip on the steering wheel and leaning over it, trying to see. "Would you like for me to drive awhile? I see the weigh station just ahead, so we are ten miles from home. We could pull in there and change drivers."

"If you don't mind. I think every muscle I have is in full tense mode."

"Signal so Kent will know to pull in as well and I'll take over. We still have five miles to the exit for home."

Matt turned on his blinker and we eased into the weigh station exit. When Kent pulled up behind us, I took Matt's phone and got out to run back and tell the others what was going on. As I stepped out of the Jeep, a gust of wind caught me and almost blew me down. I had on a decent coat but not one designed for a winter blizzard, so the wind cut right to the bone. When I reached Eugene's car, I told them we were changing drivers. I handed the phone to Kent and said, "Thought you might like to call Paula."

Kent took the phone and called Paula. He sounded very confident and reassuring as he spoke to her. When he finished he said, "I hope I sounded a lot more confident than I feel. Luke, the way the snow is coming down, we may have to abandon Eugene's car before we get home. I think the Jeep can keep going after it is impossible for this car. If I see that we need to do that, I'll find a place where we can leave the car with a measure of safety and blink my lights so you will know to stop. This is no longer a little lake effect snow; the wind's turning it into a real blizzard."

"I'll make sure Matt keeps tabs on you so we will know when you decide to stop."

I struggled against the wind getting back to the Jeep and was half-frozen before I made it. Matt turned the heater all the way up as I started driving toward home.

Five miles from the weigh station, we took the exit ramp to our road. The ramp was pretty steep and, as I started down it, the Jeep started skidding. I fought to regain control, but it was useless. The Jeep was going where it wanted to go, skidding toward the left side of the ramp regardless of any steering maneuvers I attempted. I was skidding very slowly and finally took my hands from the steering wheel and just watched as the Jeep skidded to rest against a low curb. "You want to know helpless?" I asked. "Try steering on ice."

I made sure the Jeep was in four-wheel drive, changed into reverse and cautiously depressed the accelerator. The Jeep moved slowly, but enough to gave me a chance to turn the wheels away from the curb, clearing it so I could get it headed down the ramp. I stayed in low gear as I carefully drove down the ramp and onto our road.

I was barely moving so Matt could watch Kent as he started down the ramp. He skidded several times, but didn't lose control as I had. When he was off the ramp, I gradually increased the speed of the Jeep until we were going about fifteen miles per hour.

A mile or so from the exit, there was a road off to the right which came to a dead end at our road, its approach down a slight hill. As we neared the intersection, I saw a car on the road, moving faster than we were, and the side road was not as good as the one we were on. There was no way I could stop or speed up, so I just kept moving. Matt said, "That car may not be able to stop, but we'll be past by the time it reaches the intersection."

Matt turned to look out the back as we passed the intersection. "The car's skidding, Luke, and it just ran the stop sign directly into Kent's path. You better stop."

I took my foot off the accelerator and started braking gently and we rolled to a stop just as Matt said, "Oh my God. Both of them went off the road." I put the Jeep in reverse and drove slowly until we reached the two cars. The one which came through the intersection had gone over the bank and was nose down in the ditch. When Kent swerved to miss hitting the other car, he had gone off the road. Two wheels were still on the shoulder, but the other two were definitely stuck.

I stopped the Jeep and Matt and I went running toward the two cars. When we reached them, the three guys were crawling out of Eugene's car. When the three were out, we all rushed down into the ditch. A young woman was leaning over the steering wheel. I couldn't tell whether or not she was conscious until we opened her door. When she raised up, I could see she was crying. I reached in and helped her get out of the car. "Are you all right?" I asked. She nodded.

"Lucinda!" Matt cried, "Are you sure you are all right?"

She nodded and then answered, "I'm all right, aside from being scared half to death."

"We don't need to be standing out here," Kent said. "It is very cold. There is no way we can get these two cars out. We'll have to get a tow truck in the morning. Lucinda--that's your name?" Lucinda nodded. "We'll all get in the Jeep and you can go home with us. It's not safe to be traveling at all, but the Jeep will probably get us home, otherwise we're in danger of getting frostbite."

We all walked to the Jeep and, as we approached it, I said, "Kent, you have more experience with this stuff than we do. I think you should drive."

"I was going to suggest the same thing," Larry said.

We all got in the Jeep and Kent started driving down the road slowly. "What are you doing out on a night like this?" Matt asked.

"Another student and I are working on a project and she asked me to come to dinner at her parents' place so we would work after dinner. Unfortunately, we paid no attention to the weather. When we finished and I started home, I discovered the snow."

"Why didn't you just stay put?" Kent asked.

"I needed to get back to my daughter. Mrs. Kinsey, my landlady, is keeping her for me and I know she is worried and doesn't need the responsibility for Faith any longer than is necessary."

"Why don't you give her a call and tell her you will be staying with us tonight?" Matt asked.

"I'll call when I get to a phone and see how she is doing, although I don't know that there is a lot I can do about getting there tonight."

Matt was sitting in my lap--six in a Jeep is a bit crowded to say the least--and had to move around until he could get his phone out of the glove compartment. His butt slipped as he turned toward the back to give Lucinda the phone and got me. "Holy shi... Damn, you got me, Matt." He started to move and I said through clinched teeth, "Just be still, Babe. One more like that last one and I may be to bury."

There had been no cars on the road since the snow started and Kent must have been driving by instinct, because I couldn't see how he knew what was road, shoulder, ditch and corn field. The five miles from the exit to the house were not covered very quickly. In fact, it was over half an hour from the time we all got in the Jeep until we turned in to our drive. We had called Paula twice, telling her we had to drive slowly, not about having to abandon Eugene's car. The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed 9:30 as we walked in the front door. It had taken us over three hours to drive what should have taken less than an hour.

We had all gotten very cold at the intersection and the Jeep had done a fair job of getting us warm, but the very presence of snow everywhere made me feel much colder than I was. As soon as we got inside, we took off our coats and gathered around the fireplace in the family room where Paula had a nice fire going. Shortly after we walked in, she came to the family room with a tray of hot chocolate.

"Kent, you better watch out or one of us will steal Mother Paula," Larry said.

"Don't think she's your type," Kent laughed.

"The way she takes care of us, I think I might overlook that," Larry laughed.

"Don't know that you have to steal me to be taken care of--in most ways," Paula laughed.

"Lucinda, I assume Mrs. Kinsey will be able to care for your daughter and there is no real need for you to try and get to Oberlin tonight," Matt said.

"She said I was not to worry about Faith. She had put her down at 7:30 and she was sleeping peacefully. In fact, Mrs. Kinsey said I better not try to get in tonight or she'd have to assume I was crazy, too crazy to care for a child. Paula, you didn't know what a great blessing you were bestowing on me when you mentioned Professor Moler needing a student assistant. That was great, but him helping me get settled in Mrs. Kinsey's apartment was really a tremendous help. I don't know what I would do without her now."

"Glad it worked out," Paula said. "If you are all thawed now, I have dinner ready." I didn't realize I was hungry until Paula mentioned dinner. Of course dinner conversation was about the trial and its outcome. "I'm just glad it's all over. I certainly think we have had enough excitement to last us for a long time," Paula said as we got up from the table and cleared it.

"I guess we'll be out of school tomorrow," I said, "a snow day!"

Kent started laughing. "You've got to remember snow is the usual here, not the exceptional. This is not North Carolina. I'll get up early and put the snow plow on the garden tractor and we'll clear the drive. Once we get to the road, it will be clear, I'm sure."

After dinner, a great dinner--she was becoming a good cook and enjoying it, although she denied both--Paula showed Lucinda the guest room and we all went to our rooms.

When Luke and I got to our room, I said, "Luke, Kent did one hell of a job getting us home tonight, but he was still all tensed up during dinner and when he came upstairs."

"Are you suggesting what I think you are suggesting? That he needs a good massage?" Luke asked.

"Yes, that's what I was thinking, but I don't know how Paula would take to the suggestion that she give him one. Somehow or other I don't think she would take kindly to the idea."

"I think you are right. Matt, a massage doesn't have to end up with making love--although I hope you don't think I don't wish it always did."

"Luke, you really know how to give a massage. Why don't you offer to give Kent one?"

"You won't mind if I do?"

"Certainly not, why would I?"

"Because they are special for us."

"Luke, just a massage without all the extras," I smiled. "I think it's a good idea. I'll ask him while you warm the oil."

"Ok, if you are sure it's all right."

"I'm sure."

Luke got the bottle of massage oil and the vacuum bottle and went downstairs. I went across the hall and knocked on Kent's door.

"Come in," he called.

I went in and found Kent in bed. "Kent, Luke and I both noticed how tense you were driving home--with good cause I might add--and how you were still pretty tense throughout dinner. Luke has gone downstairs to heat a bottle of massage oil. Maybe you'd like to ask Paula to give you a massage, but if not, Luke will. He's terrific.

"Don't think I'm ready to ask Paula to do something which I suspect would be pretty intimate and damned erotic."

"It is when Luke gives me a massage, but it damn well better not get intimate and erotic for you," I laughed.

"Hey, I appreciate the thought and you can stay if you like to make sure Luke doesn't get all carried away."

"Don't think that's necessary--it better not be," I smiled. "I'll get towels to protect your bed."

As I was walking back in Kent's room with two large beach towels, Luke came up the stairs with the vacuum bottle in one hand and a half-empty massage oil bottle in the other. "Ok, out from under the cover, Kent," Luke said.

"Uh, I am nude, Luke," Kent said and blushed.

"Ok, Matt and I will turn our backs while you get something on."

A few minutes later, Kent said, "Ok, I'm decent."

"On your stomach, Kent," Luke said as he crawled on the bed and started giving Kent one of his Luke Special massages.

As Luke started the massage, I asked, "If it's not prying too much, Kent, how do things stand between you and Paula? I'm sure you'd rather have her fingers on your back."

"No problem," he answered. "I really wish I knew. Well, I guess I do--sorta. Everything is fine, but she is so reserved, holding back."

"Paula was never one to rush into things exactly," I said, "But neither is she one to hold back when she's made up her mind."

"I might have thought she wasn't over Jacob, but that's hard to believe having seen them together," Luke said, puzzled.

"I have meant to talk with you two before," Kent said, "but I'm so new at this romance thing and thought... well, I don't know exactly what I thought. Let me try something on you two. I think Paula really got burned--nope, burned herself--by rushing into a relationship with Jacob. The break-up was by mutual agreement and they are still friends, but I think she is very afraid of thinking she's in love again when it might be something like it was with Jacob. At that time, she and Jacob were the only unattached pair in a very paired-up group. The same thing is true here." Kent laughed, "There are married couples not as paired as the two couples in this house. So she and I get together and it's bound to raise the question of whether this is the same type of thing she had with Jacob."

"On your back," Luke said. Kent turned over and Luke continued his massage. "You know, I think you are right, Kent. It sure makes sense."

"It sure does, but it's kinda tough on you," I said. "I mean, if I were you, I sure would not like to have to stand aside and wait to see what happens."

"I don't know. As I said, I'm new at this game. I know she's always here when I come in. We see each other every day, so I can wait. I guess I'm afraid to push, for fear she will decide she's not sure so she will break it off. I suspect the time will come when I will ask that she make a commitment or call it off, but I'm not ready to ask for that yet and not sure I am ready to make that kind of commitment myself."

"I guess I can understand," Luke said. "It's kinda like Matt's and my reluctance to tell each other we were in love for fear of ending our friendship."

"Similar," Kent said. "I mean Paula's friendship means more to me right now than... than... I'm not sure." Kent looked up, smiled and said, "I told you I am new at this romance game. I'm not even sure of anything."

Luke gave Kent a slap on the chest and asked, "There, feel better?" as he closed the vacuum bottle.

"Man, I can't believe how good I do feel," Kent responded.

"If you don't want to shower tonight, you better sleep on top of the towels or you'll get everything oily," I said. "But since you are not--and you definitely are not--going on to the next stage, a hot shower will finish the job," I said.

Kent laughed and said, "I think I'll have a hot shower and go to sleep."

Luke and I went to our room and Luke said, "Massage?" with a wicked grin.

"When have I ever said no to a massage," I said as I kissed Luke softly, "but you have done one. I think I should give you one."

"When have I said no to that?" he laughed.

I took the oil from Luke and set it on the night stand, wrapped my arms around him and kissed him passionately. Luke's tongue found its way into my mouth as I took care of his snap and zipper, allowing his pants to slide down his muscular legs. Our kiss continued as I unbuttoned his shirt and slid it from his body. We had to break our kiss so I could pull his T-shirt over his head. I took Luke into my arms and put him on the bed, after which I removed his shoes and socks.

I stood at the edge of the bed, just worshiping the beauty of my Bright Angel's body. I guess I should have known better than to stand so close to the bed because Luke reached up so quickly I didn't see him, grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the bed with him. I mostly fell on the bed where he quickly undressed me.

Luke was covering my body with kisses and tickling me at the same time. He knew just exactly the spots which would send me into hysterics.  I was trying to say, "Luke, please stop," but I couldn't, because I couldn't stop giggling long enough.  Finally Luke wrapped his arms around me and covered my mouth with his.  Breaking the kiss, I said, "Did you decide against that massage?".

Luke was kissing my nipples and flicking them with his tongue. He stopped, covered my mouth again with his then, ending the kiss, turned over on his stomach.

I poured a stream of warm oil on his back and started massaging his shoulders and neck. As I did, I noticed something strange. "Luke, I thought you had some different oil when you were giving Kent his massage. It didn't have the right fragrance, but now it does."

"Matt, it's the same oil, but on my body it does not have the fragrance it has on yours. Last summer..." Luke paused for a minute. I stopped massaging his back and waited, holding my breath. "Last summer I missed you so much and, remembering the fragrance that is Matt, I put a bit of oil on my arm, thinking I would at least have that, but it was different. It wasn't the fragrance I knew. I guess it has something to do with body chemistry. It's special. It has to have your body to bring out its wonders," Luke said.

"Or your body," I said as I started massaging Luke's strong back again. Kent was right: a massage was a very intimate and erotic experience if it involved two lovers, and this massage did, and our love-making proved it was just an erotic and intimate prelude to greater eroticism and intimacy. After our love-making had exhausted us, we showered and, back in bed, slept, still surrounded by the fragrance of the two of us, the massage oil and our love-making.


I guessed the drive home from Cleveland in the snow would have made me tense under any circumstance but, as soon as I saw Luke start sliding on the exit ramp, I remembered getting snowbound in the car last year and Dad's reaction. Sure he had come around recently, but old ways of thinking and acting were hard to break. I realized I was all tensed up over something that no longer counted, but I was tense. Once I got tense, kinda bracing myself for a tirade from Dad, I couldn't relax even when I realized there would be no tirade. Driving had gotten more treacherous all the way from Cleveland, so Luke skidding had just added to the tension, not caused it. Then, shortly after we got down the ramp on the road home, a car couldn't stop at an intersection and we barely missed a major collision. By the time we got home, I was practically a nervous wreck.

After dinner I went to my room, undressed and slipped into bed, but was so tense I couldn't relax. Matt came in and asked if I'd like Luke to give me a massage and, when he did, I really found myself relaxing all over. We talked a bit about my relationship with Paula and the two guys agreed she was probably gun-shy of falling in love too quickly, afraid she just thought she was in love. I could wait.

I was sound asleep when I heard someone knocking on my door. I got up, threw on my robe and went to the door. When I opened it, Paula was standing there, tears in her eyes. I reached out and drew her to myself and held her close. When I did, she really started crying. "Paula, Babe, it's 2:00 in the morning. What's wrong? What happened?"

It took Paula a few minutes to get control enough to talk. When she did, she said, "Kent, Dan called and Elizabeth has been kidnapped." As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she started crying hard again. I tried to soothe her. I was stroking her hair and kissing her forehead and making noises like my mom used to make when I was upset as a child.

"Kent, we have to tell the others and I can't do it by myself. Will you go with me?"

"Of course I will, Paula. Come on." Paula looked at me, smiled weakly and said, "Thanks, Kent." Then she tiptoed and kissed me--on the mouth. I liked it!

I knocked on Matt's and Luke's door and when Luke came to the door, Paula said, "Luke, bad news: Dan just called and said Elizabeth has been kidnapped."

"Oh, my God!" Luke said, and got a horrified look on his face. "Oh my God! Matt and I will be down in a few seconds."

"We have to tell Larry and Eugene as well," I said.

Eugene came to the door when I knocked and when I told him, he went snow-white, then turned and ran to the bed and shook Larry without saying a word. "We're all going downstairs," I said, and Paula and I went down. I immediately started coffee.

Matt and Luke, Larry and Eugene all came down at the same time. We sat at the kitchen table and Paula said, "I heard the phone, looked at the clock and knew it was something bad to get a phone call at this time of morning. When I answered, it was Dan. He said he just wanted us to know he was thinking about us and we had his prayers. I asked him what was going on. He was surprised we hadn't been told. When Margaret got ready to leave the hospital yesterday morning, Elizabeth was gone and had not been found. That was all he knew. I wanted all of you up when we called the Family."

"I am really pissed that something as serious as that has happened and we weren't notified," Luke said.

"We can take care of that later," Matt said. "Right now, let's call the Family."

We all got coffee and went to the library, called the Andrews' and had a long conversation with Michael, speculating about the kidnapper and the kidnapping. We were using a speaker-phone, so all of us got our thoughts into the mix. Michael apologized for not calling, but said he thought we had our hands full with the trial and there was nothing we could do.

"There was something we could do, Michael. We could hold you all in our thoughts and prayers. We are family, Michael, and we need to know about things affecting the family," Luke said.

"Speaking of which, how is the trial going?" Michael asked.

"Ok, you got me," Luke said. "We should have called. I guess we were so concerned about getting home in the snow we forgot." We told Michael about the trial and its outcome, and getting home in the snow. That finished, we talked more about the kidnapping.

"Look, Michael, we'll go on with the regular routine tomorrow," Matt said, "but I'll have my phone and you call if something develops. Otherwise we'll call."

"Yea, wish we could be there with the family," I said, "we're thinking about all of you." Everyone said good night and we all had a hugging and crying time and went back to bed for a couple hours since we had to get up and plow the drive to get out in the morning.

We were all up early Friday morning. Larry and Luke went with me to attach the snow plow and we cleared the drive directly in front of the house before we were called to breakfast. I ate a quick breakfast and started plowing snow again. Luke came and took over, telling me to get ready for school since I had to drive all the way into Cleveland. By the time I was ready to leave, the drive had been cleared and, sure enough, the road had been plowed when I reached it.

As I drove to school, I thought about Luke giving me a massage the night before. It had been very erotic even if Luke was a guy. I guessed I was very glad Matt and Luke had not asked Paula to do it. If she had, I think I might have embarrassed us both! Just the thoughts of her hands on my body, as Luke's has been, were enough to give me a woodie. She might not have been willing to do it at that point, but I put massage on my list of things I definitely wanted included in the love-making kit!!

There were several abandoned cars along the highway, and when I saw the first one I remembered we had abandoned Eugene's car. I hoped someone remembered to call a tow service. We had all been so concerned about the kidnapping, it hadn't been mentioned in the morning. I was sure the crew would remember when all five of them and Lucinda had to pile into the Jeep.

Lucinda had slept through the night's excitement but had been horrified when told about the kidnapping at breakfast. I guessed having a child of her own had something to do with her reaction. Anyway, I needed to call when I reached Case.

I had a few minutes to spare when I got to school, so I found a phone and called Matt's cell phone number. He answered quickly and when I asked if there had been any news from Concord, he said there hadn't been. I then asked if they had been able to get someone to get Eugene's and Lucinda's cars, and he said that Eugene had just gotten back from picking his up. "The tow truck also got Lucinda's car back on the road and she is probably at home with her baby now. We are on our way to school even as we speak. See you this evening."

A couple of kids in one of my classes mentioned the trial and we talked a bit about it. They seemed to think it wasn't real. "Seemed too much like a bad southern movie," one of them said. I just laughed to myself, imagining what Matt would say to that.

I was the last one getting home Friday. I didn't need to ask if there had been any news from Concord; the long faces told me that. The whole crew was sitting in the library, all more or less staring at the phone. "You all stay here and I'll get supper," I said.

"I'll help," Paula said, getting up. "Maybe it will take my mind off what's happening in Concord, well at least a little."

We had just started getting ready to prepare supper when the phone rang and Paula and I were in the library in about two steps. Luke answered the phone and switched on the speaker. "Luke," he said.

"Luke, David. Thought I'd let you know that Mary Kathryn and Michael found Elizabeth and she is ok. They are on their way home now. Michael will call you with all the details since I only know some of them."

"Thanks for calling, David, and thank goodness Elizabeth has been found and is safe," Luke said. "We'll be waiting for Michael's call." Luke hung up the phone and we all started crying and hugging each other. The whole crew went to the kitchen with Paula and me to help get supper ready. Of course, they actually hindered since there were so many of them. Because of the crisis, we were having canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, so the meal was ready in a few minutes and Michael still hadn't called when we finished eating. Paula prepared a tray with coffee and cookies and took it to the library where we all waited for Michael to call.

The phone finally rang and Michael and Mary Kathryn gave us all the details, including how our speculation had helped. It was a very happy bunch who finally went to bed.

Matt, of course, had his usual Saturday lesson and then spent a great deal of time practicing and selecting works for his recital. Luke worked in his studio. He was painting like mad these days and sculpting. I spent several hours working on the gardens and landscaping plan for the house down the beach. It was a large project and I was presenting the plans as my semester project in landscape design. Not only did that make the project do double duty, but also I had the criticism and suggestions of an expert, my teacher.

The combo had a gig Saturday night at a veteran's club. It was a dance celebrating Veterans' Day. By the third set, several people were incapable of dancing since they had too much to drink, but no-one was rowdy and most people just had a good time. It was a very profitable night as we had a pile of bills--many fives and tens--from people who had asked us to do a special song. Luke was really great as MC, coming up with a hundred very sentimental ways of saying, "this song is for Mary from Joe," and all the Marys and Joes loved it.

Matt started getting nervous Monday after supper. The audition committee meeting was Wednesday, and Matt was practicing as if he could improve the music on his audition tape. Tuesday, Luke finally told him they were going for a ride in the country. The snow-covered landscape wasn't something I found too exciting, since I had seen it every year, but I guessed for the southern boys it was something new. One thing the five had given me was new eyes to see familiar things. Except for a bright moon reflecting on the snow, it was dark when they left around six.


Luke insisted I go for a drive with him Tuesday. I'll admit I was very uptight. I had told myself that I stood a chance of getting one of the two concert spots, but I didn't believe it. I had told myself it wasn't important, but it was. I knew I had done my best on the audition tape, but there were hundreds, thousands of organists more experienced and better than I was. What made me think I stood a chance? But I really knew I did and I really wanted to be chosen to play one of the series.

We had driven out into a snow-covered, moon-lit world. It was a very quiet world we were traveling in, the silence broken only by the steady hum of Luke's truck motor and a golden oldies tape playing softly. Luke was driving and I was sitting as close to him as my seatbelt allowed, my fingers under his hair, stroking his neck. I felt myself gradually relax and I became very aware of Luke and of how much I loved him. I kissed his cheek, then rested my head on his shoulder. "Luke?"


"Can you even imagine how very, very much I love you?"

Luke looked around, smiled and said, "Yea, Matt, I think I can. I think it's almost as much as I love you," he said, taking his eyes off the road briefly to look at me. As he did, he hit an icy spot and the truck skidded. Quickly putting his attention where it needed to be, he said, "Whoa, hold it. We've had enough of that nonsense already," as he regained control of the truck. "Think we'll have to save lovin' for later, Dark Angel," he said.

Realizing we were nearing the van Hook farm, I said, "Luke, let's drop in on the van Hooks". Luke objected, saying Yankees didn't just drop in on each other the way southerners expected to and did.

"Then they will just think we are southerners who don't know any better, but I bet they will welcome us."

Luke turned into the van Hooks' drive. The lights were on in their living room, casting a golden glow on the snow outside. The house looked warm and inviting.

We went toward the porch on a walk which had not been cleared. "This is dangerous," Luke said. "We need to clear their walk."

We knocked on the door and when Mr. Van Hook opened it, he exclaimed, "Luke, Matt, how good to see you! Come in! Come in!"

"Before we do, do you have a snow shovel near by?" Luke asked.

"There's a couple under the front steps. Do you need to dig your truck out or something?"

"Yes, we need to shovel something. We'll be in when we finish." It took over half an hour to clear the walk, and both Luke and I managed to work up a sweat in spite of the temperature. When we reached the end of the walk, Luke opened the mail box and found a large pile of mail. We took it and the shovels back to the house, replaced the shovels and knocked on the door.

When Mr. van Hook opened the door, he said, "Come in! You must be frozen!"

"Hardly," Luke said. "We kinda worked up a sweat, but very long out there doing nothing and we really would be cold." As he spoke he handed Mr. van Hook the mail. "Seems you have several days mail there," he said.

"Yes, I'm afraid to walk on the snow, afraid of a fall that would be very bad for an old guy. But what did you need to shovel out? Your truck's not stuck is it?"

"No, but we saw a walk that needed shoveling," I smiled. "Guess us southern boys can't get enough snow play time."

"You shoveled our walk?" Mrs. Van Hook asked, as she brought steaming cups of hot chocolate for all four of us.

"Sure," Luke said. "Good exercise."

"It's such good exercise I can't do it any more," Mr. van Hook said. "Two neighbor boys took care of it until this year, but now they are at Ohio State. Sure appreciate you doing it."

They asked about the rest of the house crew. Then Mr. Van Hook said, "We saw the news about the trial and read about it in the newspaper. Someone actually arrested all of you in spite of the fact that vandals had damaged Eugene's car and started a fight?"

"That's right, but we came out ok. It's just that it took time we needed for other things," Luke said. "Now Matt's all uptight because he is being considered for a summer concert series and will know whether or not he's a finalist this week."

"Well, of course he will be," Mrs. Van Hook said. "Matt's a very nice young man so he'll certainly get the series."

"Afraid being nice doesn't count if I can't play well enough," I answered and smiled. I was afraid to look at Luke because Millie always referred to a gay man or a man who "acted gay" as a nice young man.

"Actually it does," Luke said. "If he is a finalist, and he will be, he has to spend time with the committee to make sure he is socially acceptable. I'm not worried about him getting a series, but he is."

"They better not pick someone else," Mr. Van Hook said, "especially if they are looking for a nice young man."

We talked a while longer, but finally Luke said, "We have to go. Thanks for the conversation and hot chocolate."

"Thank you for shoveling the walk. It is a big help to us."

"No thanks necessary," I replied.

"Yes, sir, happy to do it," Luke said.

Chapter Seventeen


When Matt and Luke got back from their drive, they told us about their visit with the van Hooks. Matt was clearly more relaxed and definitely excited. I had long ago noticed that Matt's emotions were obvious to anyone who looked. He just couldn't hide his feelings. It was refreshing, especially when he was excited. He was like a little boy on Christmas morning. He was all excited about the moon-lit snow-covered landscape, but more so over the visit they had with the van Hooks.

"I suggested we drop in and Luke objected, saying people here didn't just drop in the way they do at home. But I convinced him they would just dismiss us as southerners who didn't know better. We had a grand visit. If we were going to be here, we'd definitely have to have them for Thanksgiving dinner, but we will be in Concord."

"Are you hinting?" Paula asked.

"Not really," Matt answered. "I had forgotten you might be here with Kent."

"It's a good idea, Matt," I said. "I'll talk to Mom about it."

"We also need to keep an eye on the snowfall," Luke said. "Their walk hadn't been cleared from the first snowfall and they hadn't been able to get their mail. We need to be sure that doesn't happen again." Everyone agreed with Luke that we needed to make clearing the van Hooks' walk a priority.

Paula asked if we would like dessert and coffee. "When have we ever turned down dessert?" Larry asked. I went with Paula to prepare a tray. As we were serving everyone, the phone rang. Matt jumped on the first ring and picked it up before there was a second. "Oberlin Five, Case one, Matt here," he said as though it was one word. He didn't have to tell us the news. By the time he had finished the conversation, which seemed awfully long, he was practically levitating. "Thank you, Professor Moler," Matt said, and hung up the phone.

"I'm a finalist!" Matt fairly shouted. He danced about the room, finally grabbing Luke, pulling him to his feet and kissing him passionately. When he had finally settled down--using the term loosely-- he told us that Professor Moler said he was a solid choice as soon as his tape had been played. "He said before my tape was finished--the committee didn't know who was playing--there was an immediate decision to include me as a finalist, in spite of the fact that only two other tapes had been played. And you know what?"

"No, what, Matt?" I laughed.

"There were fifty entries. Professor Moler said some were eliminated as soon as the committee heard 'Sheep'. I don't know whether this is a great honor or not, if people who couldn't play 'Sheep' were contestants."

 "We told you, Matt, you were a natural," Larry said. "But no-one selected you to apply, really, did they? I mean, you were asked to apply, but I suppose anyone could who wanted to."

"I hadn't thought about that. I guess I thought all who applied had been selected. I mean Professor Moler said he had others who were good, but he didn't ask them to apply."

"Do you ever think that someone could be a member of the society who is tone deaf? I mean all you got to do is pay your dues, I suspect, and any member of the society could urge someone to apply. There were bound to be people who held too high an opinion of their abilities," Luke said.

"What's next? Why don't they just admit that you are going to play one of the series?" Eugene asked.

"I wish it was that easy," Matt said. "The next step is a live audition and a looking at to make sure we aren't social rejects. Unfortunately it's going to put a lot of time pressure on me as well as the pressure which goes with being in a competition. I fly to DC for the final step Friday afternoon.* Professor Moler has already taken care of reservations. We leave Cleveland at 5:00 and the interviews and auditions take place Saturday and Sunday."

"Our first official meeting is at breakfast. We'll find out the order in which we will play and be given a new short piece then. I also have to pick a short piece as well. One long and three short pieces, one of which I will not know about until breakfast the day I play, that's what I am up against. Starting at nine we will, one at a time, be given fifteen minutes practice time and then play the three pieces. The auditions will be held at the Kennedy Center. We will not be allowed to listen to other contestants until after we have played.

"Sunday the contestants will play again in some venue. Those of us who don't object will play in local churches. I have been assigned to about as difficult a situation as possible since I will play at Ascension and St. Agnes, higher than which there is not. Fr. Tom mentioned it once when a group of us from Concord was making a trip to DC. He laughed and said, 'The rector thinks the Pope is a Protestant'. I will meet with the organist Saturday afternoon, after I have played the audition. He--or she--will help me with the organ at the church and then we will have dinner with the committee and contestants. Sunday, I will play the service. There are twelve people on the selection committee and two will accompany each contestant--or if a contestant is eliminated, more than two may show up. Also, committee members who can make another service before or after their official one will also show up here and there."

"So you'll know whether or not you have been selected Sunday, right?" Eugene asked.

"No, the two who get the series will be advised of their selection December 16th--the original date--and those who are not chosen will be advised by letter--at least that's the original plan. But then, again, this committee keeps changing things so I don't really know when I will know definitely but, one way or another, I should know not later than December 19th or 20th, after my recital December 17th. And then--home!"

"And you are going to Washington. Isn't that kinda strange? I mean it's not close to anything since it is on the east coast," Kent said.

"Professor Moler said originally the live auditions were to be in St. Louis, but the chapter there couldn't get its act together and the DC chapter got all the arrangements made and asked that it be held there. Since nothing was happening in St. Louis, the switch was made."


It was hard keeping my mind on my classes Friday. Finally I met Luke at two--he cut PE again. I had packed the night before and put my luggage in the truck so we drove straight to the airport. I checked in and Luke went with me to the gate where Professor Moler was waiting for me. We didn't have a lot of time to spare, but we weren't pushed either. I was so nervous I didn't think I could have handled worrying about being late. When our plane was announced, Luke gave me a hug, but no kiss. I knew he would kiss me unless I told him not to. When we got to the airport I asked if he would be upset if I didn't kiss him at the gate. He said he wouldn't be so long as I made it up to him when I got back. I promised I would and he laughed. We were still in the truck when he kissed me, then kissed me again.

When we got on the plane, Professor Moler asked how confident I felt. "Not very," I said.

"I don't want you becoming arrogant and egotistical," he said, "but I do want you to feel confident. I have heard the audition tapes of the finalists and they are all--well, almost all--good, as you would expect. The other finalists are all older--some by only a few years--and more experienced than you, so you don't want to be over-confident. At the same time, you are the only one picked to be a finalist before all the tapes had been heard. Matt, you are an excellent organist and are still developing and improving. Additionally, you are a well-mannered, considerate young man. Believe me, this weekend, those are the qualities that will finally separate equally excellent organists. Just relax, be yourself and play as well as you can and you'll have your summer planned. Oh, by the way, if you are selected for one of the series, you will earn performance credit as well as gaining experience, earning some money and getting to travel and meet people who love the organ and Bach."

"Professor Moler, I hadn't thought about all of that. I guess I really wanted one of the series to prove to myself that I am good. People keep telling me I am, but I'm not convinced."

"You should be. I know that you know a good organist or a bad organist when you hear one, so listen to yourself and you will hear an exceptional organist. Also, you should be convinced this weekend that you are good, even if you are not selected, because you will see you are in competition with some very, very good organists. But enough of that. How are the housemates working out? Still speaking?" Professor Moler laughed.

"As a matter of fact, we are," I laughed in return. "We've had a few things come up, but we decided we'd have a weekly house meeting to keep the air clear."

"Couples hanging together?"

"Yes, all three." I then told Professor Moler about Kent and Paula. "Don't know where that is headed, but they are taking it one step at a time. Professor Moler, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure, Matt, what's on your mind?"

"I really don't know how to say this, but I keep wondering how Luke's partnership with me will, well... I guess, affect my career. I mean it doesn't really matter because our partnership takes precedence over career and almost all else, but I do wonder."

"Matt, I'm surprised the thought has even occurred to you. Usually, I would have thought you would have been so wrapped up in your relationship that you never would have thought seriously about the world outside it. How will your relationship affect your career? There's another parallel to that: how will your career affect your relationship? I can't answer either fully. I can speculate and that is all it is, speculation."

"Ok, I can accept that, but may I hear some of your speculation?"

"Well, let's start with our departure today. Luke came to the gate with you. Now I have seen enough of you two to expect you to give a new meaning to a kiss. But I didn't see that. What I saw was two young men hugging each other. Had it not obviously been otherwise, you could have been two brothers saying goodbye. Since you are very definitely not brothers--at least blood brothers--then you were just two friends saying goodbye. I'll admit the hug was more than it would have been for most friends, but it did not call attention to itself. I know when I leave my wife, that goodbye kiss is very important. I'm sure we never think of it consciously but, unconsciously, I wonder if we don't think it may be our last. How long do you think you and Luke can go to an airport for a concert or exhibition and part with just a hug? What's going to happen when one or the other of you decides 'to hell with it'? Whether it is you or Luke, how will the other handle that?"

"Just as a side note, Luke and I ARE blood brothers. Our Lakota mentor made us his blood relatives--actually, I guess, blood grandsons--so Luke and I are blood relatives if not blood brothers. But I can see your point." I smiled a bit and said, "This is not something one would say to his professor, I suspect, but I have always been Matt, hot to trot, but then lately Luke seems to have become very open with his displays of affection. When I question it, he says he doesn't care who knows. I can see where what you suggest could be a problem."

"No doubt you will be doing a lot of traveling as a concert organist even if you have a regular position. How will your relationship stand up under frequent separations? Have you been separated for any length of time?"

I knew where Professor Moler was headed before he asked the question and I got a sick feeling in my gut. I didn't know how to respond to Professor Moler's question. I did know he had hit a real sore spot--still. I didn't realize I had been silent as long as I had when Professor Moler said, "Sorry, Matt, I didn't mean to pry."

"Oh, I was just thinking..."


I didn't answer right away. I couldn't decide how to answer. Finally I looked at Professor Moler and said, "Professor Moler, it's not easy to talk about, but Luke and I were separated for six weeks last summer." I hesitated for a few minutes and then told Professor Moler about the previous summer, omitting all the details. "So I think we can learn to deal with separation--not to like it, but to live with it. I can't imagine doubting each other will ever be a problem again."

"Matt, how your career will impact your relationship will always be a larger problem than how your relationship will impact your career. Sure, there will always--and I mean always--be those who see you as a gay man and nothing else. You know already there are places you won't be accepted regardless of how good you are at your art, but that's no problem because there will always be more offers than you can accept. Since you are openly gay, no-one will be surprised when you show up with Luke. Luke will face fewer problems than you because his work is in private and only exhibitions will require his presence. Both of you have to maintain open communication, but that's as important for me and Mrs. Moler as it is for you and Luke. And, Matt, what you have told me will stay with me."

"Thanks, Professor."

"Matt, I hope you will always consider me more than just one of your professors, more than just a mentor. I hope I will be a friend, maybe an older brother or uncle. I meant it when I said you are the best student I have seen in my career, but you are more than that. Your manners and social skills are excellent and will serve you well. You are an excellent organist, who is still growing, and a nice young man I would welcome as a friend."

Professor Moler looked at me like I had gone nuts when I suddenly burst out laughing. When I finally got control of myself and told him that Millie referred to gay men as nice young men he, too, had a laugh.

We chatted about the audition a bit, but not a great deal. He asked about the Halloween party which apparently had been a topic of campus gossip after the members of the combo had talked about it. He kept asking questions about Wounded Hawk and Taequo. I finally told him about Michael's healing and then told him the whole story of Luke's and my problem over the summer, our experience in the sweat lodge and our vision quest.

When I finished he said, "Matt, you never fail to amaze me. All of this is fascinating." He then made what I thought was a very abrupt change in the flow of the conversation. "How are your classes going? How's composition."

"Very well, I think. Everyone in the house is having a struggle with our math classes. Luke and I both took AP calculus, but the jump from it to the math I am taking now is a big one. Still it is easier than composition. If I hadn't done some before I came here and taken composition at Sewanee last summer, I think I would have to back up. I love it, but it is not easy. Well I guess that's not exactly right. It just takes a great deal of time and effort, but I am doing well so far as my grades are concerned."

"How about what you are learning and your level of personal satisfaction?"

"I learn something new every class so I am pleased so far as that is concerned. Personal satisfaction? I hadn't really thought about that but, yes, I find tremendous personal satisfaction when I get something done to my standards."

"And how would you rate your personal standards? And don't go modest with me!"

"Professor, sometimes I think they are impossibly high. I know that I often feel a piece is not up to my standards when members of the class and the professor think it is very good."

"Matt, there is a razor-sharp line between high standards, even very high standards, and unrealistic standards which lead to putting yourself down."

"Fortunately I have five housemates who call my hand when I start, as they call it, nit-picking."

"Good. I asked you about composition because I think you might do well to transform some of your story into a composition. Think about writing a piece about the quest, or about the sweat lodge experience. You say some chants are involved?"

"Yes, although I haven't learned some of them. Michael is much further along in that part of our training."


"Yes, Luke, Michael and I are being trained as medicine men. Seems, somehow or other, I am from a long line of Korean shamen and, apparently, there are Lakota medicine men in Dad's lineage. Red Hawk and Mom both said I had been able to give power to Luke and Michael, I guess because we are so close. I must confess I don't understand all I know about the whole thing. I don't talk about it often because people will think I'm nuts."

"Fascinating. As I said, Matt, you never fail to amaze me. So give some thought to a composition based on some of your experience. Maybe even try to get a short one done for your recital. That would really be a treat and impress some people who need to be impressed, not that your playing won't do that, but really bowl them over. I remember what you did for your high school recital and it was impressive, so I'll expect something equally as good."

Professor Moler then asked about what I was learning a Holtkamp. We got into a long discussion about metal pipes. He was very interested in the fact that Luke and I were talking metallurgy. In light of some of the diasters organ builders have had with metal pipes, knowing metals and alloys would would be a definite plus. "Seems like you two are partners in many ways. I can see how your relationship is built on a very solid foundation. That's not true with many gay relationships, especially those involving young men--men the age of you and Luke."

We landed at National Airport and took the Metro to our hotel. When we checked in, I was surprised that we had separate rooms. "My wife says I snore like a freight train," Professor Moler laughed, "and you need to get a good night's sleep. I left a wake-up call for 7:00. Breakfast is at 7:30 and the auditions start at 9:00. There is an audition every hour on the hour. If you are among the first, you can get to hear the others. Lunch is at noon and auditions start again at 1:00. If you are one of the afternoon ones, you may as well enjoy some of the sights of Washington. Ever been here before?

"Only a couple of times. Mom and Dad brought all four of us here when I was a freshman and I came to a program at the National Cathedral with Fr. Tom year before last. I always wanted to get back, but never did."

"Well, there is plenty to keep you busy for days but now, even though it's early, I am turning in."

"So am I." When we reached our rooms, we said goodnight and went inside.

I got undressed and crawled in bed, hoping I'd drop off to sleep immediately, but I didn't. The bed felt wrong because I was alone in it. I started thinking about my discussion with Professor Moler about my relationship with Luke. Then I started worrying about what the new music would be. Finally I started thinking about how good life had been to me and about all the wonderful people in my world. Half-asleep, I started speaking to them, telling them how much I appreciated them. The next thing I knew, the phone rang and a very pleasant voice said, "Good morning, Mr. Greywolf. This is your wake-up call. You are to meet a Professor Moler in the lobby in half an hour." I thanked the woman, got up, showered and got dressed.

I had asked Professor Moler how I should dress. He had said any way I pleased, but I got the definite impression that wasn't what he had wanted to say. When I had brought it up at dinner a couple nights before, my housemates told me what I had about decided on my own. I was not to be casual because this was not a casual occasion. That having been decided, I had chosen soft gray slacks, white button-down shirt, red and blue striped tie and my navy blazer. I knew I looked sharp in that outfit and I felt sharp when I put it on. Of course I carried my organist's shoes and wore a pair of black slip-ons. When I was dressed, I had to decide what to do with my hair. Paula had once said, when I was fussing with my hair, "Just like a vain woman, can't do a thing with your hair," and laughed. Luke suggested I leave it loose, but it could get in my way. All the house thought I shouldn't braid it, so I just used navy bands to hold it. I took a last look at myself in a full-length mirror and I thought I really looked good. "Conceited ass," I smiled to myself, then said, "Luke loves you, so you got to be something special!"

When I met Professor Moler in the lobby he said, "You look sharp, Matt. It's picky, I suppose, but I would have told contestants to dress well. Members of the committee decided not to offer suggestions about dress, assuming any contestant would know how to dress. Can you play in a blazer?"

"Prefer an organist's surplice or just a shirt, but a blazer is not a problem."

"I doubt that anyone would care if you removed your coat. Feel free to do whatever you feel best with."

"Thanks. I really hoped it would be like that, but I think I'll keep it on. Dignity, you know."

Professor Moler laughed and then asked, "You sleep well?".

"Like a baby once I went to sleep. I'm just not used to sleeping in a bed alone," I said then, darn it, I blushed.

"Know the feeling," Professor Moler said and laughed. "Hungry?"

"Always, I think," I replied.

"Well, breakfast is in ten minutes and we have a short walk, just across the street, to the Hyatt." We crossed the street and down about a half block to the Hyatt and a private dining room. There were perhaps a dozen people present when we arrived and others came in directly behind us.

Professor Moler introduced me to several people, all members of the selection committee. Three of them, as he, were with organists they were mentoring. All were older than I, but mostly they were not very old--late twenties to early thirties, I'd guess. The one closest to my age--I might have thought he was my age or younger--was Oliver Singleton. When I was introduced he said, "Nice not to be the baby organist. I usually am. I guess at twenty-three I'm getting old, but I'll never admit it."

As I shook hands with him I thought to myself, "I guess that's why you are dressed like a "kewl skater dude" because he was--baseball cap on backwards, fatigues almost falling off his flat ass and enough things pierced to make Douglas look like a preppy. Guessed what you were wearing had nothing to do with the selection--which was as it should be.

The chairman of the committee, a Mr. Lawrence, announced breakfast was a buffet and we should serve ourselves. Professor Moler laughed when he saw my plate and commented that I must have been right when I said I was always hungry. We found our place--we were seated with an older white-headed man who dominated the conversation telling of his success as a concert organist, an organ teacher from Vermont with his student, a thirtyish woman who looked as if a good scrubbing and a decent outfit would help her confidence and definitely would help her looks. There were two more candidates with a teacher, Mr. Norway, from New York--a young man and woman, both well-dressed. When we could get a word in edgewise, we introduced ourselves. They were Lester Row and Alice Makin. The woman and older man didn't bother to introduce themselves and paid no attention to us introducing ourselves. Alice, Lester and I talked about what we did and how we got connected with the series. Finally I guess we were impolite, but we just ignored the older man as he went on and on.

Alice and Lester were working on MFAs in organ and I was very interested in what that involved because I suspected I'd be doing the same thing. They had high praise for Oberlin and both knew Professor Moler from summer music programs. The young man, Lester, laughed when I said Professor Moler had asked me to try for one of the series. "Alice," Lester said to the young woman, "we may as well pack and go home." He gave Professor Moler a nudge with his elbow and continued, "If old Moler here thinks Matt is good enough to try out, we are skunked before we start," and laughed. Both were absolutely fascinated with my internship with Holtkamp and asked tons of questions.

I was ready to go back for seconds when I looked across the table at the mousey woman. She was chewing with her mouth open and kept stuffing food in so fast some fell out. I may not have the best table manners in the world, but I really lost my appetite when I saw her. I wouldn't have had time for more anyway because Mr. Lawrence tapped his glass for our attention.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, "I'd like to begin by introducing members of the selection committee," which he did. "The committee was not prepared for the number of entries from students or proteges of committee members. We have discussed this at great length and concluded that in the selection process, those of us who teach or mentor a candidate will excuse himself or herself from any discussion or voting on that candidate. From fifty audition tapes, six finalists were selected. In alphabetical order, they are..." Mr. Lawrence then introduced us. When that was finished, he said, "I have asked a young lady from the hotel staff to pass among the candidates with a box containing slips of paper with numbers on them. The number you draw will be the order in which you will play today. While she is moving among you, I have the stop list for the Kennedy Center organ and sheet music for the additional selection you will be playing. I know you are all anxious to learn what the surprise piece will be. It will come, I trust, as no surprise that it is a little piece by Bach. From the Leipzig Manuscript, BWV 667, 'Komm, Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist'."

As soon as the announcement was made, it was pretty obvious who knew the piece and those who, like myself, were searching their brain for a hint. The old fellow, his name was Reginald Watkins, got a very smug look on his face and said, "I almost always include the piece in my concerts. Some of us are very lucky to get something we know so well."

I wondered to myself if he might not be as I had been with "Sheep", playing with years of built-in mistakes. Maybe not, maybe that was just a bad habit I had to break.

When the lady came with the box of numbers, I drew mine and was hesitant to open it. I didn't know whether I wanted to be in the afternoon and enjoy Washington before I played or be early and get to hear everyone else as they played. "Well, Matt," I said to myself, "it doesn't matter since it has already been determined. I unfolded my slip of paper and saw a large 2 on it. Mr. Lawrence tapped his glass and said, "When I call out your number, will you please stand and state your name so we can get a list." The first name he called was Lester. Alice had the last one.

When Lester sat back down, I said, "I had hoped to hear you play".

"Listen to Alice, take away two or three points and you'll hear me. We have had the same teachers since we switched to organ from piano when we were in high school, so we really do sound a great deal alike. I just regret having to listen to the same pieces over and over and over."

"Lester, I have been thinking about that," Professor Moler said. "I'm dreading the same thing--hearing the same pieces over and over--myself. In theory all of you are good organists, but there are bound to be those having an off day. But even with good ones, I am going to become very tired of the same pieces. What I am thinking is that, since you will be finished very early, you and Matt should enjoy the city. I think that would mean more than hearing the same Bach bashed over and over."

"You are sure that's ok, that no-one expects me to be in the audition hall all day?"

"I'm sure."

"Lester, you will have finished before I do and, Alice, you won't play until afternoon. How would you like for the three of us to take on the town?"

"I, for one, am definitely for it," Lester said.

"I really am," Alice said, "since the other choice is to spend the day in the hotel room."

"As soon as Matt finishes, you three are free to explore. If you want to come back to lunch, it will be here or you can grab something and stay until time for Alice to get back. Don't you think that is a good plan, Mr. Norway?"

"I only wish I could go with you," he laughed. "I am already aching at the thought of listening to "Sheep May Safely Graze" again. I love the piece, or I guess I should say it was one of my favorites. I think I can go a long time without hearing it after listening to it fifty times in one day and now having to listen to it again six times."

"Actually, you only have to hear it four more times today since you don't have to hear Lester's and Alice's."

"True, but that's more than enough. And, of course, I will hear hear them even though I can't vote."

Professor Moler and I were waiting for the bus to take us to the Kennedy Center when I finally got a chance to ask him a question I had been dying to ask. "I don't want to nasty or catty, but I have a question."

"And I bet I can guess what it is. Shoot."

"Well, I mean I really don't want to be picky, but is Mr. Watkins as good as he says he is and, if he is, why is he trying for this series? I would think his concerts would pay more."

"Matt, I'm not surprised that you have a question about his playing. He is very second-rate in my book and I argued against making him a finalist, but there are some sentimental people on the committee who have known him for years and wanted to give him a chance. His concerts, if he played regularly, would pay well but he seldom gets a concert because he is all show. That works some places where people don't know the instrument or the music, but want to see a show. He can do that. He plays after you. Why don't you stick around? I think you will wonder what the committee was thinking of when they included him."

When we got to the Kennedy Center, we were all shown a large room where we were to be when our time came. "Someone will come and get you," Mr. Lawrence said. "Just be here when your time comes. After you have played, you may remain in the hall to listen to the others if you wish. Mr. Lester Row, you are first. If you will come with me you can get your practice time in and then play for the record."

Alice and I wished Lester luck and he left. I found a quiet corner and studied the sheet music for "Komm, Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist". I also studied the stop list. Of course all I could do was get a general idea of how the organ would sound because each organ has a unique sound and the same stop on two different organs may sound very little like each other. I had listened to several recordings of the Kennedy Center organ and had some sense of its color, but that was nothing like hearing the real thing.

I made several notes on the new piece. I had marked up the two pieces I had played for the tape, some at Professor Larkin's suggestion and some at Professor Moler's. I was so absorbed in what I was doing that I hadn't realized an hour had passed until someone came for me.

I decided what I needed to do during my fifteen minutes at the organ was to work at selecting stops. If I couldn't play the two familiar pieces, I didn't deserve to get one of the series. After I was satisfied with my registration for the two pieces I knew, I played through the new piece. I found registration for it was easy and so I concentrated on playing it. I had a few minutes left when I thought I had done all I could to get ready except play through the new piece. I didn't have time to back up and start over several times, so I just played the piece through and then made notations on the music.

"Mr. Greywolf, if you would like a short break before you start, you may take it. The three pieces will not take all the time remaining," Mr. Lawrence said.

"I am ready to play when the committee is ready," I said.

"Then play. You may choose the order."

"Thank you. I will play 'Sheep May Safely Graze' followed by 'Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, 'Komm, Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist' and ending with my selection, 'Fantasia in G major'." I took a deep breath, offered a short prayer of thanksgiving for Millie, Professors Larkin and Moler, and started. I thought I would be nervous, but I had gotten into the music when I was practicing and was ready to go with it.

When I finished, several people in the hall applauded. I stood, bowed and walked toward the back of the hall. As I did, several people thanked me and as I passed Professor Moler he said, "Excellent, Matt, excellent."

I went to the back of the hall where Lester was sitting. As I sat down beside him, he leaned over and whispered, "Matt, I was half-kidding when I said we should just pack and go home, but I was pretty much on target. Man, you are awesome at that console, just awesome."

"Thanks and I wish I was as sure as you are. Holy shit, will you look at that?" I asked, as I caught a glimpse of Reginald entering the hall. He had done something with his hair so he had a fly-away white mane and he was dressed, so help me, in tie and tails.

Lester saw him and said, "Well, I guess we have both extremes--kewl skater boy and tie and tails".

Reginald made a great show of getting his tails fixed, exercising his hands and placing his music. He pulled a few stops and launched into "Sheep". I got my question answered quickly. He had well-practiced mistakes throughout the piece. I didn't like his registration but that, after all, is finally a personal call. He didn't improve when he started "Komm, Gott Schopfer", in spite of the fact that he said he played it often. When he started torturing the "Passacaglia", I leaned over to Lester and said, "I have to go before I get sick".

He followed me out and, as soon as we were out of the hall, he said, "Can you believe that? I think it is an insult to all of us to allow him to touch the same instrument we played. He is worse than bad. What is really sad is that if someone had told him he was bad, he might have worked at becoming good. As it is, he has gone along in a dream world."

"Yea. As it is, he thinks he's good and the committee is reinforcing that. Well, here comes Alice. Let's roll."

Alice and Lester had been in Washington several times and knew their way around, so they were my pathfinders. I guess as anyone coming to DC does, we spent our time in the Smithsonian. We debated going back to the hotel for lunch and decided just to grab something from one of the street vendors.

I was full of questions about the MFA program Alice and Lester were in. They both said there were advantages and disadvantages in going somewhere other than Oberlin for further education. "On balance, I think I would stay at Oberlin if you work well with your teachers there. Of course there is the question of living arrangements. Maybe in three more years you will have had all of Oberlin life you can take," Lester said, and Alice agreed.

"Actually, my living arrangements would be one reason I might choose to stay. Except for living in the north and having to endure Ohio winters, my living arrangements are just about perfect," I said.

All three of us had walked ourselves out when we needed to get back for Alice's audition. As we waited for the Metro, Lester asked, "Just what are these great living arrangements you have in Oberlin?".

"Actually, not in Oberlin. I live with five other students--one at Case Western Reserve and two others who are taking some courses there as well as Oberlin. Five of us own a house on the lake." I then told then how we had lucked into the house and about my housemates.

"I'm surprised a mother would allow her daughter to live in the house with five men," Alice said. "I'm long gone from home, but mom would pitch a fit at such an arrangement."

Without thinking I said, "Paula's mom had no worry in the beginning since we are two couples..." I stopped short and thought, "Matt, you and your big mouth". Having gone that far, I saw no reason to hold back and told the two about the Oberlin Five. "Of course, now that Kent's in the picture, I think Sandra might have some concern for her daughter, but she knows Paula is a responsible young woman and will make her own decisions anyway." Alice and Lester were still plying me with questions, but none about me being gay and having a lover. We got back to the Center shortly before Alice was to play.

As soon as Alice had played, she came back to the room where we were all gathered. Mr. Lawrence came in and announced that Reginald Watkins had withdrawn from the competition, as had Miss Monica Spiegel. Alice leaned over to Lester and me and said, "She was that slob at breakfast this morning. I wonder if she dropped out or was asked to drop out. Mr. Norway told us social skills and organ skills were not equal, but social skills definitely did count. But 'kewl skater dude' is still among us, I guess."

We did not get to talk long since we had appointments with the organists at the places we would be playing Sunday. My name was called before Alice's or Lester's and I said, "Wish me luck," and we gave each other high fives. I walked over to Mr. Lawrence who was standing with a stunning woman. I guess she was in her late forties or early fifties, with beautiful gray hair and dark eyes which caught mine as I walked toward her.

"Matt, this is Ms. Hudson, organist at Ascension and St. Agnes. Ms. Hudson, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf."

Ms. Hudson laughed and said, "Matt, call me Sara. That is some name you have. Are you sure that's all?"

"Actually it is all of my legal name, but not all my name. I also have a Lakota name, Silver Wolf, but I'm just Matt most of the time."

"Matt, I have talked with Professor Moler and he tells me you have played in your parish church and are playing in a church now. I doubt that the Ohio church is even close to Ascension and St. Agnes liturgically and don't know about your home parish."

"St. Anne's in Ohio is very low compared to St. Mary's in North Carolina, but I am sure St. Mary's is much lower than Ascension and St. Agnes if what I have been told is true."

"I suspect you have been given good information. Ascension and St. Agnes is definitely a member of the smells and bells club. Well, if you are ready, we will be off. I'd like for you to have all the time you want at the organ at Ascension and St. Agnes."

"I'm ready."

Ten minutes later we were driving through the city and Ms. Hudson was pointing out the sights. "We'll go by the church and give you some time there now. We can come back after dinner if you like. Dinner with the committee, candidates and organists from the various venues is at 7:30. We should be finished by 8:30 or 9:00 and if you really need more time at the organ, I will go by with you. We'll need to let the sexton know because Ascension and St. Agnes is not in the best part of the city and is pretty tightly locked when everyone leaves. Also, you can get some practice in between Masses tomorrow if you need to. I want you to be as comfortable as possible under the circumstances and I am sure you will be. Professor Moler tells me you could play the service blindfolded. I haven't met him before but know his reputation, and when he told me you were superb in today's audition, I was thrilled that you would be playing at Ascension and St. Agnes."

When we entered the church, I found it comforting. St. Mary's didn't use incense often, but often enough until there was always a lingering smell of it in the church, and I missed that comforting smell at St. Anne's. As soon as I was seated at the organ, I felt at home in that strange church and at a strange organ. Ms. Hudson showed me the service music and I had played it all, most of it every Sunday at St. Mary's. We worked getting the tempo right for the way the service moved at Ascension and St. Agnes, which didn't take long. I'd just have to remember to take it a bit slower than I would have played it at St. Mary's. The stops Ms. Hudson suggested were perfect, so I didn't have to worry about that.

"Generally the choir has an offertory anthem, but in light of you being here tomorrow, you will play an organ offertory. I suppose we could have had you work with the choir in the morning, but it would be rushed and I didn't think that would be good for the choir or you. Professor Moler said you would be playing selections from the pieces you did for your audition today."

"Yes, ma'am. I planned to use the fugue from "Passacaglia and Fugue" for the prelude. I don't know about the length of the offertory."

"Under ten minutes or so, but there is a lot of ceremony connected with the reception of the people's offering and preparing the table. Why don't you use the piece you chose for today, the 'Fantasia'? Everyone would be perfectly willing for you to take the time you need so long as it is reasonable. Then use 'Komm, Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist' and 'Sheep May Safely Graze' for the postlude. Does that suit?"


"So why don't you work on getting the registration correct for those, while I do a couple things I need to do, and then we'll go by your hotel so you can freshen up before dinner. I'm meeting Professor Moler there. I think he wants to make sure you are being treated right," she laughed. "Then after dinner, as I said, if you think you need to come back, I'll bring you back. Otherwise, you can just relax as I know today has been stressful."

Ms. Hudson left me with the organ and disappeared. I wasn't aware when she returned. I played through the four pieces, working on registration, and was surprised how quickly I was satisfied. I guess playing different organs makes it easier and easier to get the stops you want on any particular instrument. When I had decided on the registration for the pieces, I played them through, one after another. When I finished, I relaxed a few minutes and then played the pieces and the service music as it would came in the service, pausing briefly between pieces. As the last notes of the postlude died away, Ms. Hudson called from the nave. "Young man, I hope you know you are good. That was magnificent. I can't believe you just sat down and played as you did. Don't think there is any reason for you to come back tonight."

"I will defer to your judgement. I would probably be here all night if I listened to myself," I smiled.

"You need to learn to be more objective," Ms. Hudson said. "I know you don't want to become overly confident, but there is a point beyond which you are actually doing the music and yourself harm. You can be too self-critical as well as too lax in your self-criticism."

"Both Professors Larkin and Moler tell me that and I guess, as I play more for people I don't know, I will learn, but I am always afraid I will do a poor job."

"From what I have just heard, Matt, I don't think you have it in you to do poorly. But let's get ready for dinner."

When we reached the hotel I went up, showered and put on fresh briefs, socks and shirt. I surely felt refreshed as I dialed the house. When Paula answered, she asked, "How did it go? Wait! Let me get the others."

She was back in a few minutes with the whole crew and we talked about the day. I told them about Reginald and Monica. "He was terrible, so I can understand why he was eliminated--although we were told he dropped out, but I don't believe it was his idea. Monica? I don't know. It could have been her table manners. She ate like a pig." I then told them about Ms. Hudson and the organ at Ascension and St. Agnes. When we finished, Luke turned off the speaker and we talked. We had little to say, really, but we did have to tell each other of our love.

When we finished it was quarter of seven and I went downstairs where I met Professor Moler and Ms. Hudson.

Dinner was uneventful. Alice and Lester were at the table with us, along with Mr. Norway and the organists from the two churches where Alice and Lester would play. There were a lot of questions about how we had spent the day, how we thought we had done at the audition and where and what we would be playing Sunday. Mr. Norway and Professor Moler both assured the three of us we had been among the very best. "I am going to be very surprised if one of you doesn't get a series and not surprised if two of you don't get one," Mr. Norway said.

"I agree completely," Professor Moler said, nodding.

"If he did half as well in his audition as he did this afternoon at the church, I would be very surprised if Matt didn't get one," Ms. Hudson said. "You have trained him well, Professor," she added.

Professor Moler laughed and said, "I love to hear those words but I'll have to be honest. Matt has not, yet, studied with me. He is a student of Professor Larkin who is dragging him, kicking and screaming sometimes, into the modern age. But even she cannot take a lot of credit, since Matt came to us an excellent organist. And he blushes easily." Professor Moler laughed and I, who was blushing, turned even redder.

When we finished dinner, Mr. Lawrence called for our attention and said, "Since we only have four candidates remaining, each of you will be observed by three committee members tomorrow. In fact, all twelve may show up at your venue, Mr. Row, since you are playing at 8:30. Most will, I suspect show up at Ascension and St. Agnes, Mr. Greywolf, because you are playing for the 11:30 Mass. Miss Makin and Mr. Singleton, you are both playing at 10:30, so you can be sure you will have only six of the committee members observing. I assume all four of you have had an opportunity to spend some time at the organ you will be playing?" All four of us nodded our heads.

As soon Mr. Lawrence finished, Ms. Hudson said, "Matt, I have enjoyed the short time I have had with you. I'll send my husband around to pick you and Professor Moler up at 10:30 in the morning so you will have plenty of time before the 11:30 Mass. I am assuming, of course, that you feel no need to practice between Masses."

"I think I'll accept your advice and not."

"Good," she said, and took her leave of us.

"Matt, Alice, Lester, Mr. Norway and I would like to treat you three to a movie if you like or you can just go to the hotel and relax," Professor Moler said.

"I'm game for a movie," I said. "Otherwise, I'd probably just sit in the room and worry."

"Same here," Lester said, and Alice nodded.

"You have a choice. We can either go for excitement and see 'Braveheart', or real drama and see 'The English Patient'. The choice is up to you," Mr. Norway said.

"Frankly, I just as soon not get something too emotional tonight," Alice said, "and from what I have heard, 'The English Patient' can get pretty tense."

"I have also heard 'The English Patient' is very tense and I'm with Alice," Lester said.

I laughed, "Well, I have a problem with Mel Gibson's stance on gays, but then I have to remind myself that I'm going for his art, not his political stance, and hope others return the favor."

"Well put, Matt," Lester said. "So let's go defend Scotland!"

We all three enjoyed the movie and it made few demands on us as audience. I just relaxed and enjoyed it.

I had a problem getting to sleep. I worried about the following day and missed having Luke to hold me. That beautiful hunk of manhood played an important part in all aspects of my life, and I needed to remember that. I started thinking about the falls and making love to Luke there, and slipped into sleep without knowing it.

I had left a wake-up call for 9:00 Sunday morning since I didn't have to rush. Of course Professor Moler had to be up to hear Lester play at 8:30. I took my time showering and getting dressed. I went down for breakfast at 9:30. When I finished, I went back to the room and brushed my teeth and glanced through the morning paper. At 10:15, the phone rang. It was Professor Moler. I told him I would be right down. When I got to the lobby, he was there with Lester. "Mind if I tag along?" Lester asked.

"Certainly not. Glad to have you." Promptly at 10:30 we were paged, and met Mr. Hudson.

After we had introduced ourselves to Mr. Hudson, we went out to his car and started to Ascension and St. Agnes. Mr. Hudson told us he worked for the Defense Department, but that his real love was photography. "I hope that by the time our daughter, Rebecca, is out of college, I can retire and devote my full time to nature photography."

We were traveling easily through the Sunday streets, when we turned a corner and suddenly came to a halt. Apparently a water main had burst and the street was blocked off. "I'll have to turn around and try another route," Mr. Hudson said. Of course, with the street being blocked, the traffic on the other route was fairly heavy. "We'll get you to Ascension in plenty of time, Matt, but I had hoped you would have more time with the choir than you will."

We finally arrived at the church and Mr. Hudson let us out and told me where to go. "I'll have to park the car and it will take a few minutes you'd probably like with the choir."

When I reached the choir room, I introduced myself and apologized for being later than I planned. The choir director started to get up from the piano, and I asked that he play through the hymn the choir had been working on so I could get some idea of the tempo. When the choir had sung two verses, the choir director got up and indicated I should take his place. I did, and played through the hymns. I just had to remember to take it slower than I would have at St. Mary's. The director was good and I would use his direction to the choir as mine as well.

The service went extremely well, I thought, and the choir director was highly complementary. Ms. Hudson rushed up as soon as I finished my postlude and told me I had done an outstanding job. Several choir members told me I had done well, so I was happy. I knew that, given more practice, I could have done better but I was satisfied with the job I had done.

The Hudsons took the three of us back to the hotel, arriving at 1:15. Professor Moler had invited the Hudsons, Lester, Alice and Mr. Norway to his room for a bit of a celebration. He had champagne on ice and the Hudsons, Mr. Norway and Professor Moler toasted the three of us organists. "You have made Moler and me very proud. Pity all three of you can't get the series, because all of you would do a good job," Mr. Norway said. "So here's to three winners." We enjoyed the champagne while we told tales about our morning experience. We were really enjoying ourselves and talking about the boo-boos we had made--which I'll admit, were few and not serious. But it was a good way to come down from the tension of the morning.

It was 2:00 when we went down for lunch. It was also an enjoyable experience since, by the time we got to lunch, we had gotten to know each other and the champagne had relaxed us all. We were almost finished lunch when Professor Moler and Mr. Norway got a page.

When they went to answer the phone, I remembered Mr. Hudson saying he hoped to be able to support himself with his photography. "Mr. Hudson, I am sorry I didn't get to see some of your photographic work. Have you ever exhibited any of it?"

"Just in a couple of arts and crafts shows. I have thought about putting together an exhibition, but I really don't know where to start. I don't have an agent. I guess I need to get one if I plan to do anything with my work in the future."

"My partner is an artist and my uncle--well he's not really an uncle, but we'd be here all day if I go into that--is an art dealer. He has a gallery in Charleston which is operated by the co-owner and he has a small gallery in my home town. I know he is good and is honest. If you get a portfolio together, I'm sure he'd give you an honest evaluation and would be your agent if he thought he could sell your photos. If you are interested, I could give you his name and address."

 "I'm definitely interested. Maybe it would get me moving toward doing something with my work." I wrote Uncle Michael's name and address on the back of one of my cards and gave it to Mr. Hudson.

As I handed Mr. Hudson the card, Mr. Norway and Professor Moler came back to the table. "Well, Matt, as I told you ages ago, never get yourself on a committee. Mr. Lawrence has called a committee meeting for 3:30. I'm not sure what is going on now. We have to run. The closing meeting has been shifted to 4:30. Ms. Hudson, Mr. Hudson, sorry we have to run."

"We need to go as well," Ms. Hudson said, "thanks for loaning us Matt today. Matt, Lester, Alice, good luck. We'll look forward to hearing one of you again this summer."

I said goodbye to the Hudsons, thanking them for making my time in Washington pleasant. I also took my leave of Lester and Alice, went to my room and packed. I was ready to leave as soon as the final meeting was over. I kinda crashed as soon as I was ready to go. The high from my morning was carried through lunch, but now I relaxed. Our plane left at 8:30 and we'd need to get to the airport not later than 7:30. I guessed we wouldn't be too rushed, even with this change in schedule. I saw no reason I couldn't take a short nap while the committee was meeting. I knew that I might sleep right through the closing meeting unless someone called me, so I set the bedside clock but didn't trust it, so I called the front desk and asked to be called at 4:00.

The alarm went off and the front desk called at he same time. I sat straight up in bed, completely confused about where I was and what was going on. In a few seconds I oriented myself, got up, went to the bathroom and then got dressed again and re-did my hair. When I had myself back together, I went downstairs and across the street to the Hyatt where the closing meeting was being held.

I found Professor Moler with Mr. Norway, and both had a kind of cat-that-ate-the canary look. "Packed ready to go, Matt?" Professor Moler asked.

"Yes. I have it all together waiting for this meeting to get over."

Alice and Lester had walked up while Professor Moler was speaking, and Lester said, "This is kind of anti-climatic. We've jumped through the hoops and now we wait for a few weeks to see how well we did."

He had just finished speaking when Mr. Lawrence called the meeting to order. "Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know, we started with six finalists. Two withdrew from the competition yesterday. I will be very honest with you. The committee had a very difficult task before it but, given we have four finalists for the two series, we met this afternoon and asked why we should not go ahead and select the two who would play the two series. No-one could come up with a reason for waiting until December before announcing our decision. We have seen and heard all of the organists in the competition and can expect nothing to be added in terms of information we might use to make our decision."

"The decision of the committee was unanimous. Mr. Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf was the committee's first pick and will have the first choice of the two series. The organist for the second series is Miss Alice Makin. In case either Miss Makin or Mr. Greywolf cannot play their series, Mr. Lester Row will play it. And should he not be able to do so, Mr. Oliver Singleton will take the series. Top notch organists all. Congratulations."

I wasn't sure I had heard correctly. I mean we weren't supposed to hear the results until December. Maybe I was dreaming. I mean I had flopped on the bed. Suddenly I realized Alice was pounding me on the arm and saying, "Matt, Matt, we won." I realized it was real.

Mr. Lawrence adjourned the meeting and asked the four of us to see him before we left the room. When we reached his table, he shook our hands and congratulated us again, then said, "All four of you will receive a contract from the Board of Directors sometime next week. Please have it checked before you sign it. If you have any questions about the contract, contact me at once and we will try to reach an agreement. If you have a preference as to the month you play, we can make those assignments now. Mr. Greywolf, do you have a choice?"

"I do. I would like the July series."

"Then it is yours. Miss Makin, do you have a problem with August?"

"Not at all."

"Then that's settled. I am very glad we could make the decision now and not have to wait, and I am sure the Society will be honored by your work this summer."

Lester, Alice, Oliver and I exchanged addresses and I went to the room and got my things. I met Professor Moler in the lobby and we took the Metro to National Airport where we checked our baggage. "Matt, we have two hours before we need to be back to check in ourselves. How would you like to go back into town, have dinner and look around a bit?"

"Professor, ok, but I'm not sure I will be able to eat for a week. This afternoon has been something else! I hoped I would have a chance at the concert series. I was pretty sure I was good enough to be considered, but I'm still finding it hard to believe I was selected and, of course, I didn't expect to find out one way or the other today."

"Matt, the deliberations of the committee are not supposed to be talked about just anywhere, but we agreed that we would talk to the four of you if you were interested and asked. I won't go into why the others were or were not chosen. I don't think that would be proper. What I can tell you is that the decision was almost instantaneous. There was no debate about you being selected as first choice. Nor was there much discussion about Lester and Alice beyond saying they were almost equally as good. I thought for a while there would have to be a coin toss to decide between the two. Anyway, you were the unanimous choice. You have a right to be proud, but no big-head, ok?" Professor Moler laughed. "Now all you have to do is create your program. I will be happy to help and so will Professor Larkin. One bit of advice I would give you: select a number of pieces from which you can build each concert. Otherwise, you will get very bored playing the same thing over and over as though you were a recording."

We were downtown and found a nice restaurant and had a leisurely dinner. I guessed we were both pretty tired of talking about the concert series, organs and organists because our conversation at dinner was about the crew and what they were doing. We talked about the trial and its outcome. I mentioned the van Hooks, and Professor Moler asked me about them. He found it interesting that we had elders as friends but then added, "I guess a group that invites its parents to a party knows the value of friends of all ages. I have noticed when I am with... what do you call yourselves?"

"Well it was the Oberlin Five and then Kent came along. He pointed out that he was not at Oberlin, so we are still the Oberlin Five to our family but, generally we refer to ourselves as the crew or the gang."

"Well when I am with the gang, and when other faculty members are with them, you all seem to be at ease. I don't mean you seem cavalier, just at ease and, at the same time, very respectful."

"I guess there's a couple things playing into that," I responded. "We have had manners pounded into our heads from the day we were born. Even more than that, I suspect, is the adults have been our friends and even saviors. Luke and I have always looked upon the three sets of parents we have as our friends and protectors. They have allowed us to be ourselves and respect ourselves, so we can respect others. Larry and Paula are from single-parent homes, but with loving mothers. Eugene, well, Eugene lived in hell but was rescued by Millie, and you can't be around Millie without learning to love, respect and stand in fear of her if you are wrong. With Mom and Dad being teachers, we never feared teachers. They, too, were friends until they proved otherwise. I used to think we were the norm, but I have been proven wrong often enough to realize we are just lucky."

Professor Moler asked more questions about the Family, but then it had to come to an end. Finally he said, "This is great, but we have a plane to catch," as he asked for the check. When we got outside, I realized I had been in such a cloud that I hadn't called home. "I forgot to call home, but I think I'll wait and tell the crew the news firsthand."

The flight was certainly uneventful and we landed right on time. The whole crew was waiting for us at the gate and we all exchanged hugs. Once again, Luke did not kiss me and I didn't try to kiss him. Mrs. Moler wasn't shy and really laid a kiss on the professor. As soon as we got our baggage, Professor Moler said, "Oberlin Four plus one, I will leave it to your fifth member to tell you about the weekend, but I did want to tell you I am very proud of him. Matt is a perfect gentlemen and I was honored to be associated with him as I am sure you are. Matt, when you get a minute, drop by so we can talk about next semester. I looked over your courses before we left and meant to tell you: you are a sophomore next semester. Well goodnight all, I have a good-looking woman I want to spend time with."

"Matt, tell us all about it," Eugene said as we walked to his car.

"I don't want to keep you waiting, but I think I'd like to have a cup of real coffee and sit around the kitchen table to tell you all about it, but I will say I have a summer job. The committee made its decision and announced it this afternoon and I have the July concert series." My announcement was met with a lot of high fives and shouts.

When we got home, I called Mom and Dad and told them the news while Luke made coffee. When I finished my call home, we all sat around the kitchen table and I told them about my weekend. They were almost as excited as I had been.

Later, when Luke and I were snuggling in bed, I said, "Yonghon Tongmu, I can tell you one thing about the summer: the weeks we are not together, I'll not sleep too well. I don't like sleeping alone."

"Neither do I, Sarang Hanun Pomul, neither do I. But now we can make real plans since we know you will be playing concerts in July. We have the last half of May and half of June before the exhibitions start, and July we'll be together most of the time and then August you'll travel with me. It's not going to be like last summer."

"Luke, it wouldn't be like last summer even if we were separated, right?"

"Right. Damn right, Matt."

I didn't realize how tired I was until I woke up and it was morning. I didn't know when I slipped into dreamland.

At breakfast Monday morning, Paula told us she had talked to her mom and they would be spending the Thanksgiving break in Ohio. "Mom was reluctant at first, thinking that this had some deep meaning about my relationship with Kent. I finally convinced her that Kent and I were good friends and I thought she would enjoy being with his family Thanksgiving."

"Mom asked if this meant we were engaged or something," Kent laughed, "and Paula told her it meant something, but neither or us were sure what. I think she was ready to start planning a wedding."

"We'll miss you two in Concord," Eugene said. "There's bound to be a lot going on, especially since the Indians are planning on showing up."

Tuesday night, Kent and Paula went to the airport to pick up Marc, Keith and Sandra. They got back to the house about 8:00. While Paula was getting her mom settled, Marc said he had planned to fly right back to Concord. "I'd just squeak by the regulations about how long I could fly without a rest, so if I can sleep with my man, I'll stay over and we'll leave tomorrow."

"Some of us really need go to class in the morning and the guest room belongs to you two tonight," Larry said. "I think everyone will be ready to leave by 10:00."

"I'll see that we have a lunch packed so we can leave as soon as everyone gets here," Eugene said. "Paula, Kent, can you drive us to the airport?"

"Sure, no problem," Kent answered as Paula nodded.

I'm sure none of us got anything out of our Wednesday classes, we were so excited. My last class had hardly been dismissed before I was in the Jeep and Luke and I were headed for the house. We had put our luggage in Eugene's car before we left for class and when we got home, everyone was ready to go. We left later than we would have liked but, as we took off, Marc said we'd be in Concord about the time school was out.

Keith was excited about the Thanksgiving Eve game and told us all about it. "Michael has been a real hero," he said. "Not only because he took his punishment like a man..."

"His punishment? What punishment?" Luke asked.

"He didn't tell you? Well, he cold-cocked Phillip Curran." Keith then told us the whole story and how Michael had taken a good beating at the hands of three football players. "As a result, Independence has lost four players and the coaches. Everyone thinks Jackson will mop up tomorrow night, but I'm not placing money on them winning."

We had a good tail wind, so we made up some of the time we lost by getting a late start. We landed in Concord just about the time school was getting out and I called Michael. The whole gang came to meet us.

Chapter Eighteen


When we landed in Ohio, Paula and Kent came racing across the tarmac. They had driven Eugene's car and Matt's jeep to the airport and, after hugs all around, we all piled in the cars and were soon home. Kent and Paula had dinner ready and as soon as we had taken our things to our rooms, we sat down to eat.

Paula was full of questions about Thanksgiving in Concord. When we asked about Thanksgiving in Oberlin, Paula said, "We can talk about that later. Tell us about the game and everything." We all got excited again, telling about the parade and ball game. Keith and Marc told of their experience in the sweat lodge and what had happened to them during the sweat.

We had been at the table an hour when Marc said, "I hate to be this way, but we have to be on our way". Paula and Kent took Sandra, Marc and Keith to the airport while the rest of us got unpacked, got things put away and started preparing for classes Monday.

When Paula and Kent got back, they told us about their Thanksgiving and how much the van Hooks had enjoyed being with the Glazes. "They had some grand stories about living on the farm here in Ohio when they were young. It was like having grandparents around, and that was good," Kent said.

After a short while Eugene said, "Well, as good as it was, it's over now and it's back to the grind. I've got work to do for tomorrow." It seemed he wasn't the only one.

Just as I started upstairs, the phone rang and I answered it. It was Fr. Manville. "Matt, I wanted to talk with you sometime this week if you can find time. I didn't want you to think you were being tossed aside after pulling St. Anne's ox out of the ditch, so to speak."

"I don't feel that way at all, Father. I know that I will be away again for Christmas, which is a kinda busy season for church organists, same with Easter. Additionally, I have a very full plate--as I told you when I agreed to take the job until your organist was up to playing again. Paula said she did a passable job and was easy to work with. I'm glad of that, since I think Paula has made as much difference, maybe more than I, at St. Anne's."

"You both have made a big difference, Matt, and I wish we could have you full-time, all the time, but..."

"But you need someone all the time. Someone who will be around long after I am gone. I am pleased I could help out when I was needed, and am glad I am free now that I am not needed. Feel free to call on me when I am needed and am free but, again, I am glad your old organist is back." We chatted a while longer and I promised I would drop by St. Anne's sometime soon.

When I went upstairs, I got out my calendar and was thunderstruck when I looked at it. My recital was only two weeks away. I should have known that, but I guess I didn't want to face it. "Luke, Babe, you are going to see very little of me for the next two weeks," I said, turning in my desk chair to look at him. "I have a recital and, while I have worked on everything I will be playing, there have to be a lot of practice hours between now and then, starting right now!"

Having said that, I went downstairs and laid out an all-American, twentieth-century composers program. There were pieces I would have liked to include on the program, but when you look at an hour-long recital, there is only so much you can include. Since the recital was in mid-December, I included some Christmas music but I didn't have anything for Chanukah, maybe the following year. I had all I could handle already without searching out and learning a new piece from scratch.

Professor Larkin and I had gone over a long list of pieces I had worked on and she checked those, from which I was free to choose my program--so what I chose was final. I wasn't going to second-guess myself and, since she had already approved the list from which I was choosing, the program was now set. I marked the pieces from one to three, with ones needing little work and threes needing a great deal. I also had to polish up a composition I was working on. Professor Moler had suggested I do something with my involvement with Red Hawk and Wounded Hawk. Actually, I had sketched a four-movement piece called "Sweat Lodge" before he mentioned the idea. The four movements were the four endurances, and I had the first movement in pretty good shape. I had used a spirit-beseeching chant as the base for it. I would play it as a "work in progress", since I knew that movement would be the only one close to being ready to play, and even it would need more work. One thing for sure, it would be what I presented for my final examination in composition.

At 11:30, all my housemates came downstairs and we had a snack and complained about all the work we had to do before our Christmas break. It was only two weeks before finals. "I finish with finals December 14," Kent said. "How about the rest of you?"

Everyone would be finished by the 14th, "but of course I have the recital Sunday the 17th," I said. "When do we leave for home?"

"I assumed after the recital," Larry said. "Marc has offered to come for us."

"I won't be going with you," Kent said. "Paula and I talked about it and immediately came face-to-face with a problem we just don't want to wrestle with right now, and that's Christmas and Chanukah. Unless something happens, I will spend the first part of the break here, having Christmas with my family, and then fly down to spend the rest of the holidays with Paula and her mom."

"By the way, Matt, your recital is on the first day of Chanukah. Thought you might like to know that and include a Chanukah piece in the recital," Paula said.

"Thanks. Thought I might do something with that as I am doing some Christmas things but, after looking at the recital and the time I have to get ready for it, that will have to wait until next year. But if you two are finding your religions a problem, I guess your relationship is getting serious."

"I think so," Kent said, "actually serious enough that our parents seem to think it is very serious. They were the ones who--subtly, they thought--brought up the Chanukah-Christmas conflict. My first impulse was just to say there was no conflict, but as soon as I had a minute to think about it, I realized that I would never ask Paula to give up her religion and that I was unwilling to give up mine. It's a problem that I'm sure we will be working on at least until we find some solution or realize it is not a problem because we are never going to be a committed couple."

"Seems Jacob has solved any problem he might have had with Susan. He has not officially converted yet but, as he says, Judaism is for him," Larry said. "Well I'm off to bed. Only two weeks to go!"

Everyone, except Luke and I, went off to bed. "Luke, I need to practice a bit longer," I said.

"I figured you would, so I brought a book down to get some studying done." Luke sat at the library table reading and taking notes while I worked on pieces for my recital. I did use the headphones since I was sure the others, and especially Paula next door, would not welcome my playing when they were trying to get some sleep.


Monday, Lar and I had our weekly appointment with our counselor. We had been seeing her for some time now and were making great progress. Strange that Larry was the one having problems with the sexual side of our relationship when I had been the abused one and could have expected to have problems all the way around with relationships. Anyway, the counseling was going very well. Especially wonderful was the fact that Lar had overcome his hang-ups about our love-making, which was now absolutely out of this world and I loved it!

Lar was also doing well in school, which was not a surprise to me but was to him. He is very bright and creative, but came to Oberlin with a pretty low opinion of himself. For some time after school started, when he made a decent grade he considered it a fluke. Then when it was obviously the rule rather than the exception, he decided Oberlin and Case Western Reserve had low standards. When he said that at dinner one evening, he immediately had five people on his case. "Larry Watley, I am working my ass off and I am neither dumb nor ill-prepared," Luke said.

"Neither am I, and I am having to work very hard to keep my grades up. Don't know about Case Western Reserve," Paula said, "but I can tell you Oberlin's standards are not low!"

"Don't try giving me any shit about low standards at CWRU," Kent said emphatically. "I was a top student in high school and I took the hard courses but, I can tell you, keeping up and keeping grades up is tough--and you know that, Larry. I am working my balls off, which is ok because I don't need them right now," Kent laughed and gave Paula a dirty leer. "Anyway, you are making good grades for the same reasons the rest of us are. Let's face it, we are all intelligent, creative, have a good high school background and are good students. That's why my grades, all our grades, including yours, are good."

After that session at dinner, Larry gradually accepted the fact that his grades were the result of his work, study and intelligence. With his acceptance of that, he became a much happier person and much more sure of himself, which pleased me no end.

After our discussion of the need to become involved in campus life, all five of us Oberlings looked at clubs and organizations, but finally did nothing. We were just too busy to get involved in organizations which had as their primary goal a good time, or which spent endless hours discussing things about which we could not have cared less. Might seem selfish or antisocial, but playtime was reserved for being with our housemates and our partners, and most good discussions, interestingly, took place in classes. Of course three of us were involved with the combo and so was Lar to a certain extent, since he kept the sound equipment in excellent shape, but that didn't require much time.

I was surprised one evening when we were relaxing in our room, cuddling, when Lar said, "Gene, I was asked some time ago if I was gay and, when I said I was, the guy asking me wanted to know if I had a partner--I thought he might be hitting on me," Lar smiled one of his special smiles, which made his eyes light up with a devilish glint. "When I said yes, he asked why we didn't belong to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I told him I'd think about it, but have never mentioned it or thought about it until today as we were coming back from Concord. What do you think?"

"I guess I'd have to know more about its purpose before I could answer. College policy says we can't be discriminated against, and that's certainly been true. Students either don't care that we are gay or, if they do, keep their mouths shut. I guess if I were on the prowl, such an organization would furnish prowling ground, but I'm not. Social life? I don't need to be at an all-gay and lesbian party. I am a firm believer in 'I can work with anybody, but I'll pick my drinking buddies,' speaking figuratively, of course, and my buddies are right here in this house. So, why would I want to join the organization?" I asked.

"I guess I was thinking about after college more than now, you know, having a network of friends, learning as much as we can about how a gay couple can live together in peace. Would you at least check it out with me?" Larry asked, not in a pleading tone, just asked.

"Sure, if you want to. I'll at least do that. Maybe we need to talk with Matt and Luke as well."

"Why not?"

At dinner Wednesday, I brought up the Gay and Lesbian Alliance and it provoked a lively discussion. I was surprised when it was Matt, not Luke, who had almost the same thoughts about it as I had.

"Look, the guys in my PE class know I'm gay," Luke said. "They have seen me kiss Matt and pretty much said, 'Go, Luke, go,' but I think knowing other gay men and couples would be helpful. I sure could benefit from getting to know lesbians since I haven't known any or at least have not known that I knew a lesbian."

"I hadn't thought about that aspect of the organization," Larry said. "I guess that would be reason enough to at least look into it."

"I can see some reason for the organization," Kent said, "but if it's just for socializing, I can't see any advantage. I mean, you are welcome at any campus social events as a couple, aren't you?"

"Seems that way to me too," Matt said, "but I guess we could check it out."

"The next meeting is tomorrow night at 7:30," I said.

The four of us attended the meeting. To say there were not men and women there on the prowl would be untrue, but they were few in number. Most of the meeting really had nothing to do with being gay or straight. Almost all of it was devoted to discussing a Christmas party. When Matt asked if it would be open to anyone, the social chair said it was for gays and lesbians only. Matt asked why the group discriminated against straight people, since all social events on campus were open to gays and lesbians. The answer he got was that gays and lesbians needed social events where they could be themselves.

Larry asked why they couldn't be themselves at a mixed event. That provoked a lively discussion. As we were going home, Matt said, "There are definitely places where you don't want to walk around announcing you are gay, but Oberlin is certainly not one of them."

The discussion of the organization wasn't over and resurfaced from time to time.


Thursday night four of us attended a meeting of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance on campus. I saw no need for the organization, same as Larry, but Eugene and Luke were all for going. I had no real objection to going, just that I saw no real reason for doing so. I got very impatient with a seemingly endless discussion of a Christmas party. It was not that I was against a party. I love parties, but I couldn't understand why this was only for lesbians and gays. Every event at Oberlin which is open to students is open to all students--gays, straights, lesbians and undecideds--so why shouldn't the GLA party be open to straights? Seemed some animals were more equal than others!

I guess we might have gotten more involved had we gone to meetings earlier in the semester, but we were all really busy with approaching finals and me with my recital. Luke was working on two more bronze pieces, and had a couple paintings to finish for his studio art class. Both Paula and Eugene had to prepare for and conduct a piece before groups, and Larry was busy editing the tape he had done of the house and grounds for his project. Kent had finished his design for the house down the beach, but the owner had come up with a number of last-minute changes. Kent thought working them out would improve his project, so he was burning the midnight oil working on that.

Everyone was so intense, and under such pressure, that tempers started getting very short. Lack of sleep contributed to the short tempers and to pretty bad expressions of them. Interestingly enough, temper flare-ups were worse between partners. Thursday night Kent asked Paula to do some laundry for him when she started some of her own. "I need to get this drawing done and I also need a few things washed."

Paula exploded. "Kent Glaze, you may think because I am a woman you can expect me to do the house work while you do those macho male things, but that's not the case. I have studying to do the same as you. You want to save someone time, YOU do the laundry and save me time."

"Just leave my things on the floor and I'll do them when I finish. I just thought it wouldn't take you two minutes extra to put my things in, and we did decide to do laundry together. But don't put yourself out."

Paula was still fuming, but she did throw in the few pieces Kent wanted washed. And I do mean she threw them in!

Four of us were in the library when the fuss started and we all hightailed it to our rooms. Later, Eugene and Larry had words about something, and Luke and I snapped at each other at breakfast Friday morning over something that was unimportant. When we did, Paula said, "I feel like I have started a round of tempers flaring around here and I'd like to stop it. To be honest, I really said some things to Kent which cut deep. I didn't mean them, but I was so wound up, once it started I couldn't stop. Kent didn't let things get too far out of hand, although he certainly made his feelings known. Larry, you and Eugene have had words and I hope patched things up and, Luke, you and Matt were ready to go at it just now. Look, we are all under a lot of pressure, but we don't want to cause hurt. I think we need to agree to help calm each other down and declare Saturday night party night--no studying, and couples get away from school work--and each other. Well, I mean couples get away from other couples. Otherwise we are going to do our living together harm."

"Sounds good and needed to me," Eugene said.

"Anyone for a movie Saturday night? Understand there's a good one showing at Waterside," Luke laughed, and ducked in time to miss being hit by a potholder Paula tossed at him. We all had a good laugh which I think, along with having the problem pointed out, made a real difference.

Saturday night Eugene and Larry went into Cleveland to a gay jazz club. Kent had been invited to a party on campus at CWRU, and he and Paula decided to go. Luke and I debated what to do and finally we went to the Art Institute for a new exhibition there. Afterward we had a really nice, leisurely dinner and then went to Severance Hall for a concert by the Cleveland Symphony. We were back home by 11:00, long before our housemates showed up.

"Babe, we're home alone," Luke said as he unlocked the front door. "I think I'm going to take advantage of that and of you," he said, giving me a melodramatic leer.

As soon as we were inside and had our coats off, Luke pulled me to himself and placed his lips against mine, giving me a passionate, hot kiss. His tongue invaded my mouth and started working the wonders only Luke's tongue can. The taste of my Luke filled my mouth and seemed to go through my body, making me hot and horny. Since he had put a leg between mine as we pressed into each other, it was obvious we were both hard, rock hard.

"Think I'll jump your bod right here," Luke said, breaking our kiss.

"Think I'd like it a lot better in our room after a massage," I replied. "I'll make it worth your while."

"An offer I'll never turn down," Luke responded. Arm-in-arm, we walked to our room where Luke got the massage oil and the flask and, after giving me a quick kiss, went downstairs.

While he was gone, I put candles about the room and lit them, put a romantic CD on the player to play softly, and got undressed and put on a robe. When Luke returned, I took off his clothes and dressed him in a black kimono embroidered with dragons. Luke's blond, blond hair and beautiful face stood out even more against its blackness and the smooth silk did not hide his hard, trim, well-defined body.

We had been so pushed for time lately that our love-making had either gone by the wayside or was dangerously close to becoming quickies. I suspect we both realized that we had time--no school work Saturday evening, Paula had decreed--and intended to take full advantage of it. Rather than getting in bed immediately, I walked over to the couch we had bought for the room, sat down and pulled Luke onto my lap. We started with slow, easy kisses, but with plenty of tongue action. Before long, Luke was lying on the couch with my body covering his. His hands were in my hair, taking the bands from it, letting it go free. It cascaded around Luke's face and, as it did, he smiled and said, "Our own private world, Sarang Hanun Pomul, and it's filled with that wonderful fragrance of my lover".

I ran my hands through Luke's hair as I pulled his lips to mine for a long, hot kiss. When I broke it, I said, "Our own private world, Yonghon Tongmu". Luke had finally decided he had more hair than he needed and had his cut--it was still long, forming a soft halo around his face--and I liked it, although I had thought I wouldn't.

"Ready for a massage, Silver Wolf?" Luke asked, looking deep into my eyes.

"Ready, Fire Thunderbird," I said, standing up.

Luke stood up, picked me up and took me to the bed. I had already turned the bed down and covered it with beach towels. Luke stood me on my feet and slipped the robe off my shoulders, allowing it to drop to the floor. He then picked me up again and rolled me onto the bed so I was lying on my stomach. He slipped off his kimono, dropping it on the floor beside my robe, took the flask from the night stand, straddled my body and poured a stream of warm oil on my back and began massaging my shoulders. "Matt, Babe, you are really tense. Your shoulder muscles are all knotted up." I hadn't realized how very tense I was until I could feel myself relaxing under Luke's magical fingers. He moved down my body, relaxing knotted muscles until he reached my feet. When he did, he kissed the bottoms of my feet which tickled like mad. Laughing, he kissed them again. Then he had me turn over.

Luke massaging my shoulders and stomach was relaxing and, more than him massaging my back, his fingers on my front were very erotic. He massaged my nipples, thighs and feet, then moved back down my body, finally grasping my rock-hard cock. He stroked it a couple times, then took it in his hot mouth. I was very hot and very near climaxing when he took Chili Pepper in his wonderful mouth and worked on it with his tongue. I wanted his love-making to last a long time, but Chili Pepper was in a hurry and it wasn't long before I exploded in Luke's mouth as fireworks exploded in my head. I thought I'd never stop cumming, but I finally collapsed, exhausted by a star-spinning climax.

Luke looked up, smiled, moved up beside me and pressed his lips against mine, bringing our mingled tastes to my mouth. We lay wrapped in each other's arms, looking into each other's eyes. I smiled and traced lines across Luke's face with a finger.

After I had recovered from my climax, I said, "Your turn, Bright Angel," took the flask of still-warm oil and poured a stream down Luke's back. His shoulders and back showed the work he put into his PE class. Running makes for nice legs, but weight training makes for a nice back, shoulders, stomach and ass. As I massaged Luke's back and shoulders, he started purring. "You keep that up and I may not finish this massage before I massage something else," I laughed, whereupon Luke really started purring. I was hard again and, when I had Luke turn over, so was he. In the middle of massaging his front, I leaned forward and started licking his nipples. When they were hard, I took first one then the other into my mouth and flicked them with my tongue. I knew Luke was getting harder and hotter and I certainly was! Luke reached up, locked his hands behind my neck, pulled my lips to his and sucked my tongue into his mouth. Still using his tongue in his own amazing way, Luke locked his legs around me. I broke Luke's lip lock, smiled and asked, "Are you asking for what I think you are?". Luke smiled and nodded his head vigorously. Luke unlocked his legs so I could get the lube from the nightstand and use it. As I prepared Luke for what he wanted, he started purring again and smiling while he mouthed, "I love you".

When we were ready, I entered Luke slowly as his purring got louder and was interspersed with tiger growls. Once inside him, I leaned forward and worked on his nipples. Luke continued his tiger noises until I got tickled. Luke gave a loud growl, locked his legs around me and pulled me deep inside.

Having climaxed a short time before, and with the easy, slow and playful love-making we were having, it was much longer than usual before Luke said, "Matt, I'm ready for you, tiger, give it to me!". As he spoke, be arched his back, giving me deeper access to his body.

I leaned forward, grabbed Luke's legs and gave him and Chili Pepper a real workout. As I did, I took Little Luke in hand as well. "Now, Matt, now!" Luke shouted as he started cumming. The fragrance of his man's seed was all it took to push me over the edge. After a blinding climax, I relaxed on Luke's body as he ran his hands through my hair.

We lay in each other's arms, saying nothing, just exchanging a butterfly kiss from time to time. Finally Luke said, "Matt, you and I have to remember that love-making needs time and playfulness, something we seem to have forgotten."

"Yea, Luke, Babe, but it's like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how, you don't forget--and tonight proves it."

"Yea. It proves something else as well. Love-making can make you hungry," Luke laughed. "Second thing in a teenager's mind... Shower?"

After Luke and I had a wonderful time in the shower, we dried each other, put on our robes and went downstairs. When we reached the kitchen, he asked, "Coffee or hot chocolate?".

"Hot chocolate. Want something with it?"

"Sure, how about some more of you?"

"Think cheesecake will have to do right now."

When the hot chocolate was ready, we put our mugs and a slice of cheesecake for each of us on a tray and went to the family room. After some discussion, the household had decided to have gas logs put in the family room. That way we could have a fire quickly and we actually used them a lot. You could always tell when things were getting tense for one of us, because he or she would be found in the family room sitting on the floor, music playing softly and the fire burning. That was a sure "Do Not Disturb" sign. I set the tray down while Luke turned on the logs and put a great CD on the player.

I sat down and Luke came and sat between my legs as we ate our cheesecake and drank our chocolate. Neither of us said anything as we sat watching the flames from the logs. When we had finished eating, Luke got up and took our mugs and plates to the kitchen. When he came back, he reached out for my hand and pulled me to my feet just as a song, which had become special for us, started. Luke always sang it when the combo played, but he had learned it and first sang it as a surprise for me. Now he looked into my eyes as we danced slowly and sang:

My love must be a kind of blind love I can't see anyone but you

Are the stars out tonight?  I don't know if it's cloudy or bright I only have eyes for you, dear

The moon may be high But I can't see a thing in the sky 'Cause I only have eyes for you

I don't know if we're in a garden Or on a crowded avenue

You are here, so am I Maybe millions of people go by But they all disappear from view And I only have eyes for you

The moon may be high But I can't see a thing in the sky 'Cause I only have eyes for you

You are here, so am I Maybe millions of people go by But they all disappear from view

I don't know if we're in a garden Or on a crowded avenue

You are here, so am I Maybe millions of people go by But they all disappear from view And I only have eyes for you

He sang to me as we danced, my head on his shoulder and his strong arms around me.

The song and our dance ended, and Luke held me very close and give me a super-special Luke butterfly kiss. Neither of us heard Larry and Eugene come into the room until Larry asked, "May we join you or do you want to be alone?".

"Come on, join us," Luke said. When I looked up, Larry and Eugene were just inside the door. They, too, were wearing robes and had mugs of chocolate and plates with cheesecake. "Seems the cheesecake is the dessert of choice tonight. You two have a good time?"

"We had a great evening," Larry said. "Good music and a really relaxed club. Gene sat in on a couple numbers. Don't know how long the combo is going to be able to keep him," he said. "He's really getting into this jazz thing."

"Do think that's where my performing will be in the future. I am just beginning, but I am enjoying learning and playing. Yep, I think it'll be jazz for me," Eugene said.

"When did you two get back?" I asked. "We didn't hear you come in."

"Almost an hour and a half ago. I suspect you were busy doing what we did later," Eugene laughed. "You two do have that 'Ain't love grand' glow."

"Look who's talking," Larry said as he kissed Eugene.

We sat in front of the fire, Eugene and Luke between Larry's and my legs, and talked about the future. Eugene was serious about going into jazz. "I can still play in the combo. I won't really have to make any serious changes in my program and I find it really comes easy. I'd like to find a group to play with this summer if I get good enough. And it looks as if I will be alone this summer."

"Oh, something you haven't been telling, Larry?" Luke asked.

"Nothing to tell. You remember that application Professor Haynes gave me? The one to join a film crew going to India and Nepal?" Luke and I nodded. "Well, I was positive there would be no way an undertaking like that would want a rising college sophomore tagging along. They are undertaking a very serious film project and, while they are well-financed, the crew has to be small for mobility. A green nineteen-year-old on that kind of project? No way! I guess I was mistaken. Mr. Greentree called yesterday and told me how excited he was that I had been accepted. I told Eugene but I still haven't heard, so there's really nothing to tell."

"He can say that, but Mr. Greentree told him the head of the film crew had called him and they talked for ages about Larry. The head of the crew, a Mr. Hampton, said the crew were all impressed with Larry's application and the tape he submitted. In fact, Mr. Greentree said Mr. Hampton wanted to call Larry as soon as they looked over his submissions, but cooler heads convinced him to follow their stated procedure to avoid legal problems. Larry should receive his contract any day now."

"They talked to Mr. Greentree about Larry's personality. They just wanted to make sure he was the kind of guy who wouldn't be complaining, bellyaching and being a snot. The crew will be together for eight weeks and the whole project will be pretty trying, and they didn't need someone who couldn't take the stress."

"Congratulations Larry," Luke and I said. "Seems you have the place if you want it. Have you two talked about being separated?" I asked. "If you haven't you need to, and I think Luke and I may have some insights after almost ruining everything last summer."

"We have talked about it," Larry said. "I guess we need to realize we are going to be separated if we stick to what we have planned for our future. This overseas opportunity will open a lot of doors if it is real and a lot of those doors will require travel. But we'll see when something is definite."

Larry had just finished speaking when Kent and Paula came in. It was 1:30 in the morning, but we were all very much alive and awake. Luke offered to fix hot chocolate and cheesecake for them and Paula said, "Getting into a robe seems a really great idea, I'll change and be right back."

"Same here," Kent said and bounced upstairs.

When Paula and Kent came back, Luke had a tray with cheesecake and chocolate for them and had refilled our hot chocolate mugs. "Good evening?" he asked as he sat the tray down.

"Great evening," Kent said. "The combo was really good and we danced until we were tired and ready to come home. Of course Paula had an especially good time, since an old boyfriend showed up," Kent smiled.

"Boyfriend, my foot," Paula said emphatically. "You remember me telling you about a guy who attempted to have sex with me last summer, Nathan Shapiro? I was surprised when he showed up at the party. Seems he is a student at Case Western Reserve. I was really surprised to see him--not pleasantly I might add. He was a complete asshole last summer, but he was a perfect gentleman tonight. I even enjoyed talking with him, briefly, but mostly I danced."

"She sure did, guys, it was great."

"Hate to be this way, but I've got to hit the hay," Paula said. "I have a choir to direct in the morning, and with an organist I don't know very well and who, to put it mildly, is not Matt Greywolf."

"Must confess I am glad I don't have the organist's job to think about, given what I do have to worry about the next few weeks," I said, "but think I am ready for bed anyway."

Kent turned off the fire, Luke took the dishes to the kitchen and we all said goodnight. As Luke and I walked upstairs, he said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, it has been a perfect evening. Thank you," as he kissed me softly.

"A wonderful, perfect evening, Yonghon Tongmu," I replied, "thank you, my bright angel," and returned my lover's kiss.

Chapter Nineteen


The combo had not taken any gigs after Thanksgiving, since we were all super-busy getting ready for finals and making sure all assignments were in on time. Matt was practicing every minute he could squeeze in, and would have been sleeping little except Luke would not permit that. Luke stayed up and studied while Matt practiced at night, but at the stroke of midnight practice was over. Matt only tried to argue with him once, and I think only then because Paula and I were using the computers and Matt thought he could get away with not closing the shop, but that didn't stop Luke. Luke also insisted that Matt run every morning unless it was pouring rain.

Truly, after the "Saturday of Freedom" Paula ordered, things in the house were on a much more even keel. Actually we were generally happy and relaxed afterward, even with the pressure that finals were placing on all of us and, even with his recital ahead of him, Matt was pretty relaxed. Paula debated asking her chorus teacher to attend a choir practice at St. Anne's for her directing grade. "With the old organist it won't be as good as it would have been with Matt," she said, "but it would take some pressure off."

She finally talked to Matt and then Fr. Manville. Both thought it was not a good idea to push the organist aside, even for one practice. Paula saw the logic of their position and went ahead and asked her teacher to attend a regular choir practice, and she agreed. After Paula refused to be cowed by her earlier, the choral teacher and Paula had actually came to appreciate each other. Since Paula knew the choir inside out and had picked music that was both good and within the choir's capabilities, it went well.

I decided to try the same tack, and asked my instruments teacher about attending a practice session of the combo--we still practiced each week, in spite of agreeing not to do any gigs--and she agreed. Afterward she asked me to come by her office.

When I got to Professor Grace's office, she asked me to sit down and relax, "You're not here because you are a naughty boy," she laughed. I didn't realize I was uptight until she said that. I laughed and relaxed. "Eugene, you mentioned liking jazz and considering switching to a jazz program. There will be little problem with you doing that. I have looked over your program carefully and can tell you many of your classes would be essentially the same. The focus of some would shift and a few would be different, but you have neither wasted this semester nor would you be behind if you switched now. You can still get in all the courses you need, so you could get a teacher's certificate if you desire."

"I thought about you and your combo when I got an inquiry about a combo to play for a summer place on the lake, east of Cleveland. They are looking for a group that can do some jazz, but mostly oldies, nothing really difficult. I didn't have anyone in mind, but when I heard your combo practice I thought that might be a possibility. Are you interested?"

"I would be, but I know that Luke won't be available as he is touring with an exhibition of his works, and I'm sure Paula is planning to go back to the camp where she worked last year. I don't know about the others. Larry is going to India and Nepal--he hasn't been officially notified yet, but his mentor knows that he will be with a film crew there this summer--so I am definitely looking for something, since we will be separated."

"Larry is ... ?"

"I guess I thought everyone knew. Larry, Larry Watley, and I are partners. I'll need something to take my mind off him being away this summer. This sounds like a good way to spend the summer. I'll check and see what we can come up with. Also, I need to talk with my advisor about courses for next semester, since we register before the holidays. Thanks for thinking of me."

At dinner Thursday evening, I told the household what Professor Grace had said. "Paula, Kent, what do you think about the summer?"

"Don't think so," Kent said. "I have taken on the garden down the beach. I sure don't want to mess up being the landscape designer and gardener for that house."

"Yea, I can see that. But if you could commute."

"It's not very realistic, Eugene," Kent said. "I'd have to be here five days a week and would be pretty bushed, then have a seventy-mile commute. That kind of commute looks out of the question as I would not get back here until the wee hours of the morning. I doubt the gig would pay my transportation."

"You're right, of course," I said, "but it sounds like a golden opportunity."

"It would be if I was a music major," Kent replied. "My garden is my golden opportunity."

"Maybe Rachel would be interested," Matt said. "I think you'll agree she is capable of being drummer."

"That's true," Kent said. "Yea, Eugene, ask her. What have you got to lose?"

"How about you, Paula? I asked.

"I planned to go back to the camp and do music therapy this summer. Thinking about the job I had last year, I really couldn't even if the summer place was next door. Sorry."

"Look, it seems to me you need to get a group together who can handle the job this summer and work with them. I don't see the present combo taking the job," Luke said. I had to agree with him, but everyone encouraged me to get a group together and I thought I'd see what could be done.

We all had appointments with our advisors Friday before finals, and got pre-registered for the second semester. Because of the AP courses we had taken in high school, and the class load we had all carried the first semester, Paula, Matt and Luke were sophomores second semester and Larry, Kent and I were ahead of the game, but not quite sophomores. We all got the classes we wanted. Matt even managed to keep two days free for Holtkamp, but they would be Monday and Wednesday. Paula would start courses at CWRU and be going in with Kent Tuesday and Thursday for morning classes, since Kent was able to get his Tuesday and Thursday classes in the morning as well. Luke and Larry would also be going in to CRWU Monday and Wednesday.

The weekend was a quiet one, since we were all preparing for final examinations which started Monday.


Eugene had been asked about having the combo play at a kind of adult summer camp on the lake, but east of Cleveland, a good seventy miles away, it turned out. It would involve playing during dinner each evening and for a Saturday night dance. Easy enough, and the pay wasn't too bad, but when the combo got together and discussed it, there was no way it was going to happen--because of commitments already made or hoped for. Sheila and Marshall, the bassist and the keyboard player, were interested. "If Rachel is interested, and can get permission to come, we'd have a nice set-up," Eugene said.

"Think she might be a vocalist as well," Matt said. "She was singing very nicely when she was here."

When Eugene called Rachel, she was very excited and asked Jacob's dad if she could do it. After she assured him she would be protected by Paula he agreed. "Just a little fib," she had said. She did say she had done vocal work with a group she had played for before her parents split. "How about a sax player?" she asked. "Jack's not bad at all and I'd sure like to have him around. He's such a teddy bear."

"We'll have to figure out when we can get together and be realistic about doing the job," Marshall said, and Eugene agreed, but they decided to let everything ride until after finals. "We'll all be here through Thursday evening, so we can discuss it further then," Marshall said.

There was one development which surprised us. Although he had never offered before, Marshall said he could do some vocals.

Wednesday evening, Kent said the combo had a gig Saturday night if they were interested. Some of his CWRU buddies had heard the combo play in a club, and asked about them playing for a fifties-sixties after-finals party in one of the frat houses. "Don't see why not," I said. "We'll all be finished with finals, so we can practice Friday and even Saturday morning if necessary. Everyone in the house will just be rattling loose, since we'll be waiting for Matt's recital before we all leave. Sure, why not?"

We all got home in mid-afternoon or earlier during the examination period. As soon as we got home, we hit the kitchen for snacks, to rehash the exams and relax for a while before preparing for the next day's ordeal. We were all finished with exams by Wednesday so, while Matt continued to prepare for his recital, the rest of us gave the house a good cleaning. It wasn't really bad, but things had been allowed to slip during the semester. "Since we're all leaving before the holidays, I guess we're saved from the Christmas tree/Chanukah bush conflict," Kent laughed.

Thursday we all turned in our end-of-semester projects. Fortunately, each of our teachers was available to sit down and discuss them. At dinner we talked about those. Of course, Paula and Eugene had already gotten a favorable report on theirs, and Matt still had his to do. Kent's landscape design professor had asked if he'd be interested in taking on another landscaping project, after seeing his final plan for the beach-front garden he had planned.

"It's a great deal smaller than the one on the beach but more demanding, since the space is small and the owner wants a design that will be striking all year 'round. That's important since it is outside a wall of glass in the master bedroom. He wants it to appear as though one wall of the bedroom is open to the outside. Money is no object and I can tell you he will change his mind a few dozen times, from what the designer who did the major landscaping tells me. If tearing something out and starting over is a problem for you, don't do it. He'll not place the blame on you as though you had done something wrong. If he does, remind him he approved the design and he will back off. Also, he will pay to have it redone until he's satisfied. You'll surely learn how to deal with people who do change their mind, and will never make the mistake of changing something without being paid," Kent had been told.

Larry had gotten a call about the India-Nepal project. The pay was good and he was told where to go in Cleveland to purchase clothes, supplies, everything he would need. "Be sure to take your school photo ID," Mr. Hampton told him. "Just show that and they will know what you need and see that you have it, and in the right size. You'll need very little besides what you'll pick up there. Go ahead and pick it all up and start wearing anything that you can. You'll want everything broken in, and if there is a problem with anything, it can be solved here. The cold weather stuff for the high elevations in Nepal you can wear here now, but I guess the lightweight clothing will have to wait until spring. Other than what you pick up in Cleveland, all you'll need to pack are your toiletries and a casual dress outfit, nothing else. Oh, do you have a decent 35 mm camera of your own? If so, take it. If not, spring for a really good one, but without a lot of extras to lug around. Don't worry about film, we'll have plenty of that!"

He was also told that arrangements for getting shots, and anything else he needed so far as health was concerned, had been made at Cleveland Clinic's travel clinic. "Probably will cause no problem but, just in case you have a reaction to something, I'd wait until after the holidays--but start as soon as you can. Give the clinic a call to set up specific appointments."

I had an appointment with Ms. Jamison, my art teacher at Oberlin, on Thursday afternoon to discuss my paintings. She had raved about everything I had done, so I was not surprised when she did the same for my semester project work. She was actually frustrating me because she raved about everything, so I wasn't sure whether my work was improving or not. When I went in, she had the painting of Paula and Kent with the apples and asters on display in the student gallery, along with one I had done of Matt from sketches I made at the river on the afternoon we had spent with the van Hooks.

"Luke," she said, "you are frankly out of my league. I'm a good, solid, drawing and painting teacher for students who aren't too advanced, and who never intend to make studio art their major life project. I know that, even though you may doubt it." She looked at me and I didn't know what to say. I would have had to agree with her and I wasn't sure I wanted to do that. "You don't have to respond to that, Luke. I know it's true and have been around you enough to know that you are a southern gentleman and would lie through your teeth rather than even appear to show disrespect to a teacher. You have a tremendous talent. I understand you will be traveling this summer with some of your work."

"Yes ma'am, I will be."

"Great! I'll expect to see it assembled and on display here before it goes on exhibition elsewhere. As I said, I'm a good, average, studio art teacher, but you are ready for more, you need more. I have talked to your advisor and the two of us pulled some strings and called in some IOUs. It is going to cost you a bit more than Oberlin--because we couldn't get you a full scholarship--but as of the end of this semester you will no longer be a student at Oberlin. You have been accepted at the Cleveland Art Institute. We did wrangle a remission of tuition scholarship, so you'll only be responsible for your fees and supplies. Your advisor assured me you could handle that."

I didn't know what to say. I had hoped to transfer the following year, maybe, but it had happened already. I realized I was just staring at my teacher with my mouth open. She finally laughed and said, "You can close your mouth, and a simple thank you will suffice."

I did close my mouth, grabbed my teacher and hugged her as I said, "Thank you, Ms. Jamison, thank you, thank you!"

"I take it you are pleased," she laughed. "If there are courses outside your art you need, and they are offered here, you may take them here. But I suspect you'll find being on campus at the Art Institute will work out better."

As soon as I heard that, my heart sank. "On campus", that was the reason I was at Oberlin in the first place. The Art Institute required first-year students to live on campus. "Ms. Jamison, I thank you very much, but I can't take the transfer."

"Why not? I thought that's what you wanted."

I explained that my partner and I lived together and the reason I was at Oberlin was so we could live together. "Next year I will jump at the chance to transfer, but I can't live on campus with Matt living in our house here."

"Luke, I know all that. I understand the two of you actually had a kind of marriage ceremony."

"That's right. No-one would expect a husband and wife to live apart and, so far as we are concerned, we are married even though no-one recognizes it."

"Luke, you are thinking in terms of a nine-month school year. The Art Institute thinks in terms of semesters. So far as Oberlin and the Institute are concerned, your next semester is next year. You will be a sophomore. You just did a year in one semester because of the credits you brought with you from high school."

"Then I am ready for a transfer. Yes! Again, thanks."

I was on cloud nine as I drove home. The household was still in the kitchen when I got home, devouring snacks and telling horror stories about their exams. When I walked in I said, "You all are sitting there celebrating when I just got told I am no longer a student at Oberlin." Five faces stared at me in disbelief.

"You're kidding!" Eugene exclaimed. "There has to have been a mistake. Tell us about it and we'll get together and decide what to do. Who has Lem Aldridge's phone number? Let's retain him right away!" Yes, Millie had definitely rubbed off on Eugene.

It was all I could do to keep the pitiful look on my face. Finally Matt looked at me and started laughing. "Luke Larsen, I don't know what's going on, but you sure aren't upset. I can see that tell-tale glint in your eyes."

"It's true. I am no longer a student at Oberlin. I am now a student at the Cleveland Art Institute!" There were shouts and high-fives all around. Matt just kept hugging me.

"Wow! Good news!" Kent said.

"Don't have my schedule yet, but Ms. Jamison is taking care of registration for me. We'll have to redo transportation when I do get my schedule."

"Small problem compared with the opportunity, Luke," Paula said.

Thursday evening we had the combo over for dinner. Larry and Matt finished preparing dinner while the combo practiced. It was quite a festive affair, since we all had done well on our projects and grades had been posted for everyone except Matt--and Professor Larkin had told him he had an A unless he really messed up his recital. We all had As with a B sprinkled here and there--Kent made a B in his humanities class and the rest of us had Bs in our math classes, otherwise it was all As.

After dinner the combo took a break while Eugene, Paul, Richard and Sheila talked about the possibility of playing at the lake resort. Eugene had talked with Rachel and she was up to joining the group. Jack was uncertain. They planned to get together after Christmas and practice in NC.

Saturday morning Matt was as jumpy as a cat. About nine, I suggested we go for a drive and he was all for it. We drove out into the country and when he suggested we visit the van Hooks, I asked him to call and see if it was convenient for them. He called our house and got their number. When he called the van Hooks, they were delighted and asked that we come.

We had a great visit. We didn't have snow to shovel because there had not been snow since Kent and Larry had gone out to clear the van Hook's walks a few days before, so we just visited. Matt had already called them and let them know he had gotten one of the summer series. Both said they hoped to get to hear him play one day, and that was one reason I wanted to see them that day. "Matt's playing a recital Sunday afternoon at 2:00. If you two would like, I'll arrange for someone to pick you up and bring you back after the recital." Both were excited about hearing Matt play.

That afternoon, Matt and I went for a walk on the beach. It was very cold outside but there was no wind, so we were comfortable enough bundled up as we were. We said very little because Matt was getting more and more uptight, and I knew that what was best was just to be with him. Any attempt to talk him out of his concern would backfire.

When we got back to the house, the combo was packing up, getting ready to go to Case Western Reserve for their gig. Eugene has asked Larry to go with him since there was no reason he could not go and enjoy the party. Matt was left alone when we left at five. After a long, deep kiss, I made him promise not to work too hard or get frustrated. I knew he was getting up-tight about the recital and thought about asking him to go with me but knew that, even though he might, he would resent it.


I had very mixed feelings about Luke playing a gig Saturday night. I selfishly wanted him to stay with me, but knew he was needed by the combo. I was afraid he'd ask me to go with him and I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable going, or not going if he asked. I think we both knew I needed to stay and do little or nothing Saturday night and not be out until one or two in the morning.

After everyone left at five, I dressed warmly and went down to the beach and sat watching the waves on the lake. Even dressed as I was, I started getting cold and knew that would not be good for the fingers and legs which I needed to be in excellent shape the following day. I got up and walked up the steep path to the house.

When I got back inside, I made a mug of hot chocolate and went into the family room, lit the logs and sat reflecting on the past months, my first semester at Oberlin. It was hard to believe so much had happened in what had been, really, a short time. It sounded foolish, but I missed Luke. He had been gone less than two hours and I was missing him.

We'd had a few rough spots, but I thought very few for newlyweds. After the fantastic night we'd had the Saturday before, we both knew that we had been skating on thin ice in allowing ourselves to get too busy to spend time with each other. Sex Saturday had been absolutely perfect because we took our time and we also had gotten very playful. As I thought about it, I remembered how Luke and I had kinda envied Michael and Mary Kathryn--who seemed to have being playful built in, while Luke and I had to--what?--to relax enough to be playful.

I decided I'd fix myself something for supper, eat, and then play through the music as if I was actually performing the recital. After I had a sandwich and some fruit, I sat down at the organ, turned on the recorder and closed my eyes, imagining I was in Finney Chapel, and then started playing my opening piece, "Fanfare for the New Year" by Calvin Hampton. As I finished each piece, I paused briefly then started the next one. I wanted to have the recital come very close to an hour, and certainly not over an hour and fifteen minutes--and that included encores if those were warranted. When I finished playing the program proper, I found it had taken sixty-nine minutes. I could keep the whole thing under seventy-five minutes with my encores, an organ reduction of Sousa's "Stars and Strips Forever" and a second one if needed, Robert Elmore's "Donkey Dance". Of course I had timed it before but I just wanted to make sure, and each time I came out with almost exactly the same time.

I then listened to the tape and found that there were small mistakes. "You are still human," I told myself, "but you are damn good." I was surprised when I looked at my watch and saw it was not nine yet. After having been at the books getting ready for finals, I couldn't relax. Each time I did, I started feeling guilty and anxious, thinking I needed to be doing something. I paced the floor awhile and finally decided to call Mom and Dad. They had talked about coming up for the recital and I thanked them for asking about it but suggested they not. "You can hear it at St. Mary's," I told them.

"We saw an announcement in St. Mary's newsletter," Dad said. "It just said you'd present a program Sunday afternoon, Christmas Eve."

"Millie asked that I play my recital there and, since St. Mary's has been good to me, I was delighted to do it. I'll play at two and then the altar guild and helpers will decorate the church for the midnight Christmas Mass," I said. We talked for half an hour about nothing in particular. Before we hung up, Mom said, "I hope you feel more relaxed now," and laughed.

"Can't fool Mother Greywolf, can I?" I responded, and said goodnight.

I put on a favorite CD and picked up a book to read--a McCaffrey fantasy--and got absorbed in it. I was so absorbed, I was surprised when the phone rang and saw it was 10:30. When I answered it, Luke asked, "How you doin' Dark Angel mine?"

"Missing you."

"Missing me? I haven't been gone long enough to be missed."

"Don't care, Luke, I miss you. I guess I have started winding down a bit and... anyway I do miss you. Had a long talk with Mom and Dad--nothing important. I'm just kinda at a loss here by myself."

We talked for a few more minutes then Luke said, "Got to run and charm the ladies with this wonderful voice of mine".

"Charm all the ladies you like, but no guys. You belong to me."

"Sounds like a song there somewhere," Luke laughed then added, "Not to worry, Babe, there's no-one but you, now and forever. Call you at the next break."

I started reading again, then put my book down to watch the late news. The weather forecast was for more snow. I didn't know what was meant until I looked outside and saw the ground was covered with fresh snow. Lake effect snow was expected to pile up several inches in the next couple hours. Luke called again at midnight and said the snow was really coming down and the crew had made arrangements to spend the night in Cleveland. "The roads will be cleared in the morning so I don't think we'll try to come home tonight."

"Miss you, but rather have you later and in one piece," I said. "I'll dream about you, light of my life."

'And I of you, Sarang Hanun Pomul. Goodnight. God, I love you."

"Goodnight, and I love you."

Well I would have the bed all to myself and I didn't like the thought, but I went upstairs, got undressed, put on my robe and flopped down on the couch to read. I dozed off to sleep sometime and woke up at three in the morning, slipped off my robe and crawled into bed.


I helped the combo get set up, then found a comfortable chair in a dark corner and collapsed. I had done really well--much better than I had expected or even dreamed--my first semester in college. I had to admit I had worked hard and Eugene wouldn't let me whine about being too dumb to do the work. I had proven I could, so I guess I was stuck with doing well from now on. Being selected for the filming trip to India and Nepal was a real surprise. Eugene and I had talked about that. We had planned to have the summer together but, as he said, if I turned down this offer there might well not be others. If this one turned out as well as he and Mr. Greentree thought it would, it could open a lot of doors for me. We both agreed we had to spend time with Matt and Luke talking about avoiding what had happened to them the summer before. It was going to be hard being separated after living together--sleeping together--for nine months, but we had four more months before we were separated.

When the combo took its first break, Eugene found me and brought two Cokes. He sat on the arm of the overstuffed chair in which I was sitting, and we were just chatting when Paula and Kent came over with another guy. "Eugene, Larry, this is Nathan Shapiro. We worked together in camp last summer," Paula said. We shook hands and I could see Kent was not exactly pleased with having Paula being around this fellow. I had never thought about Kent being jealous, but if he wasn't jealous, there was something going on.

We were engaged in idle, meaningless chit-chat when Luke walked up. "What you been up to, as if I didn't know?" Paula asked. "How is Matt doing?"

"He misses me and, more than that, he can't get over feeling he is supposed to be doing something. I was surprised. He said he had played the recital through and that was it. He's reading a Pern tale and then going to bed."

Some fellow walked in and said, "Man is it snowing outside".

Luke called Matt again about midnight and told him we would be staying in town. "Told Matt I was sure the streets would be clear in the morning, but we'd stay safe tonight. I talked with the frat president and he said he'd make arrangements for us here."

We played a short set--our last--and, as we got ready to start packing our equipment, Nathan handed Paula a Coke. She took a long drink and he said, "If you guys don't need Paula, I'll show her where she can sleep. She can show Sheila later."

"Thanks," Richard said.

As the two left, Kent picked up the Coke Paula left and downed most of it. Not five minutes later, he collapsed on the floor, barely breathing.

"Someone call 911," Sheila shouted as Eugene, Richard and I started working on Kent. Everyone was running hither and yon, no-one sure what anyone was doing. Eugene whipped out his cell phone and dialed 911 and gave the operator instructions. When he closed the phone, Sheila asked, "Where's Paula?".

"She left with Nathan," I said, then the world collapsed. "My God, Kent drank the rest of her Coke, but she has downed a good bit of it. We have to find her NOW!". James, the frat president, was standing over Kent when I spoke. "James, where could Shapiro have taken her? That Coke was intended for her."

James spoke to several guys and they rushed out of the room looking for Paula. The EMS team from Cleveland Clinic arrived minutes later and, when they reached Kent, James said, "Fellows, I suspect this is a date-rape drug case. If you can treat him right here and give us a few minutes, I suspect we will have a young woman as well."

"James, the library was locked so we broke the door down. The young woman was inside--alone--passed out," one of the guys yelled.

"I hate to be this way, but I suspect you will need your rape kit," James said, as two members of the EMS team rushed to the library.

Five minutes later, Paula and Kent were on their way to Cleveland Clinic and we were all in shock.

"I'm really sorry this happened," James said. "I hope you don't think we condone what was done to Paula and Kent. We don't. I have had my eye on Shapiro for some time, because a couple times he seemed to go a little far with women, but nothing I could really put my finger on. You have your equipment together, just leave it here and I'll see that it is safe. I suspect you'll want to go to the hospital. As soon as I have your equipment safe, I'll join you there."

"Don't we need to call the police?" Richard asked.

"No, the EMS team did that before they left."

We had Eugene's car and Luke's truck, so we drove both to the hospital. When we got there, a policewoman wanted to talk to us immediately. We told her what we knew and what we suspected. "I hope you kept the Coke can the two drank from," she said.

"I don't know that anyone did. We were too upset to think straight," Sheila said, then asked, "Paula was raped, wasn't she."

"I'm probably not supposed to tell you but, yes, she was. She'll get the best possible care because there is a rape crisis center here. But she's going to need a lot, a whole lot, of support for heaven only knows how long. Does she had any support here?"

Luke told her about our living arrangements and that Kent was her boyfriend.

"I hope he won't push for sex for a while. It's going to take time for her to feel free to have sex again."

"Think you are making an invalid assumption," I said. "I don't think Kent and Paula were having sex. In fact, I think you will find she was a virgin."

"That usually makes the trauma worse, because she may well feel she is soiled and dirty and is cheating her boyfriend because she was saving herself for him. Response to being raped is always bad, very bad. It's great she has a group of supportive friends. And you think this Nathan Shapiro is to blame?" We all nodded.

We were still talking to Officer McDonald when James arrived. He was carrying a Coke can very carefully, a Coke can he had placed in a plastic bag. "Officer, this is the Coke which Paula and Kent drank. I have very carefully not touched it and managed to get here without spilling the small amount of drink left."

"Great! I was afraid someone had made the can disappear," she responded.

A doctor came out and talked with us. He told us the two were out of danger. He talked about the date-rape drug and the fact that it can be fatal, cause real mental problems, loss of memory, and was difficult to detect. "I think we got to your friends before any medical damage was done. I doubt that the young man will have any emotional problems caused by the drug. Well that's not true. I was told he is the young woman's boyfriend. Correct?"

"Correct," I said.

"I am sure there will be emotional problems because of what has happened to her, but nothing directly related to the drug. Since Miss Wright was still unconscious when she arrived here, she had done nothing to destroy the evidence of a rape. If this Shapiro is guilty of having done it, there should be an airtight case against him. Since there's nothing you can do here, I suggest you go home and get some rest."

"You said the drug would be difficult to detect?" James asked.

"It is if the test is not done quickly as this one will be. No, there's no question about detecting it if it was used."

"I doubt that any of us will want to budge. If we want to stay?" Luke asked.

"Make yourselves at home, as nearly as you can. We'll see that you are kept posted."

When the doctor left, we had a family meeting. "Look, all of you know we can't go home and keep this a secret from Matt, and he will be a wreck when he needs to be as worry-free as possible," Luke said.

"But how do we explain not going home?" Eugene asked.

"I told him we would be spending the night in Cleveland. I don't know which would be worse: me going home in the morning and risk him finding out, or not being at his recital."

"Look, why don't you go in the morning, Luke--only a few hours away I just realized--and tell Matt that there was bad food or drink at the party and Kent and Paula ate or drank something which made them sick," I suggested. "Or you can say Paula, Kent and Eugene got sick and I was staying with them and you came home for the recital. Then you can tell him after the recital."

"Sounds like a good plan to me," Luke said. He stayed until the doctor told us both Paula and Kent were out of the woods, then went home, leaving Cleveland about nine Sunday morning.


By the time I got home, Matt was worried half-sick. He calmed down when I told him the bad drink story and, since it was true, I guess he suspected nothing. "Kent and Paula will be ok, but it seemed best for Larry and Eugene to stay with them to make sure they were out of the woods. Eugene said he'd rather hear you at St. Mary's anyway. 'It's home,' he said and Larry agreed."

For one time I was glad Matt was thinking about Matt and his recital. Nothing I said was a lie, but if Matt had not been so absorbed with thinking about his recital, he would have spotted something amiss I was sure.

I told Matt I had to call Fr. Manville and managed to get away from him, so I told Father what had happened and asked prayers for all of us. "Especially for Kent and Paula, but for all of us as well because of what happened to them, for Matt's recital and our trip home. Oh, I just thought of something. I was supposed to pick up our friends, the van Hooks, for the recital."

"The elderly couple who live out in the country?"

"Yes, you know them?"

"I do indeed. I met them several years ago. I'll see that they get in. They have friends at St. Anne's."

Fr. Manville was pretty sharp. He mentioned Kent and Paula in prayers for the sick, Matt in general intercessions and all of us for those who travel.

After the Eucharist, Matt was practically attacked by the choir asking about Paula. I was glad they saw him as the obvious person to ask, because a couple times during the celebration I felt tears ready to betray my "everything's ok" attitude. Fr. Manville helped me slip away to his office so I could call the hospital.

I called the waiting room and got Eugene. Kent was doing ok and would be released. A rape counselor had just gone in to see Paula. "It took major efforts to control Kent when he was told," Eugene said. "The doctor came out to get us because Kent was tearing up jack. We finally got him calmed down, but I'm glad Shapiro is not around. The police had an officer, Officer Kaye, come by this morning to talk with Kent. She told us they haven't found Shapiro yet. Larry is talking to her now across the room. I'm having a hell of a time with him as well. He is reacting to Kent's reaction. I have a call in to our counselor. He just kept saying, 'Shapiro did to Paula what I did to you,' and crying as soon as Kent was calm. Hate to say this, but Larry getting upset wasn't all bad, because Kent turned the tables and helped get Larry calm. He actually asked me to leave so he could talk to Larry. We sure got a winner in that guy. We've yet to see Paula. The rape counselor wants to talk with us before we do, especially Kent."

"Has anyone called Sandra?"

"Not directly. I called the Greywolfs just after you left, after I was assured again that, physically, the two were ok. They were going to call the rabbi and the three of them tell her. They called back a few minutes ago and said Marc would bring Sandra and the Greywolfs up as soon as they are ready. He's also planning on taking them back. Kent plans on calling his parents after he has seen Paula. He wants Paula and Sandra to stay here until they are ready to go back, and he is definitely going back with Paula."

"I convinced Matt to go out to Sunday dinner, and Fr. Manville told me of an elegant place where we could be semi-private and it would be quiet. By the time dinner is over it will be time for him to go to the chapel. Fr. Manville will be at the recital, of course, and offered to be with us when I finally tell Matt. I suspect Matt will want to hightail it to Cleveland." As I spoke, Fr. Manville knocked on the office door, and I said goodbye and walked out to see Matt headed toward me.

"I made reservations for dinner for you two," Fr. Manville said, "so you have a cover for being in the office." To be honest, he was sharper than I would have given him credit for. "It's also on me," he added. When Matt walked up, Fr. Manville said, "Matt, I just had Luke checking on your housemates and making reservations at Erie House for Sunday dinner. On me."

"How are the guys?" Matt asked. "Apparently Kent and Paula got the worst of it," I said. "Kent is being released this afternoon and he, along with the others, will be home as soon as they can. Well, Kent may not be, since they are keeping Paula a little longer. But they will all be ok. Of course it will take time to recover after a bout, but not to worry. I am relieved. Guess for one time I was lucky for not wanting to drink anything except water when I sing."

Erie House was a turn-of-the-century place, very much like ours, but not on the lake. It was in the middle of a section of Oberlin which looked like New England transplanted. It was a bed and breakfast, but also an elegant restaurant serving dinner only during the week, but famous for its Sunday brunch. When we arrived and said Fr. Manville had made reservations for us, we were shown in to what had been the ladies' parlor, a small room with floor-to-ceiling windows and two tables. The other table was occupied by an elderly woman and a couple in their forties or early fifties. The man was facing the door and, when we walked in, got an expression on his face which clearly said, "How dare they put two teenagers here with us!". I was surprised when the elderly lady spoke to us.

"Good afternoon," she said. "Nice to see young men dressed for Sunday brunch."

"Nice to have such elegant company," Matt replied as he bowed slightly in her direction. As we were seated, Matt whispered, "I'm glad I am not in her son's or son-in-law's shoes!" and smiled.

We had a magnificent meal and Matt proved, once again, food is the second thing on a teenager's mind. I think the recital was completely forgotten as we ate. Fortunately, although there were several courses, the portions were properly small so he didn't eat too much.

The trio sharing our room finished before we did and, as they prepared to leave, the elderly lady walked over to our table--using an ebony cane with a silver head, I noticed. She really did remind me of Millie. "Gentlemen," she said, "I am Sylvia Barrington and this is my son, Rudolf, and his wife, Eugenia. He was sure we were being invaded by noisy teenagers when you came in, and was greatly disappointed. It is obvious you have been taught manners."

"Thank you, Mrs. Barrington," I said as we stood. "I am Luke Larsen and this is my partner, Matthew Greywolf." Mrs. Barrington didn't bat an eye when I introduced Matt as my partner. Her son couldn't hide his--negative--reaction.

"If you have the afternoon free, there is to be an organ recital in Finney Chapel at Oberlin you might enjoy," Mrs. Barrington said.

"Thank you. It sounds like something we might attend," I smiled.

"If you do, you might better get a move on. It starts in forty-five minutes."

"I'll bet they'll wait until we get there," I said, smiled, and then looked at Matt who was about to lose it.

"Don't depend on it," Mrs. Barrington laughed.

As the three walked out, her son said, making sure it was loud enough for us to hear, "Arrogant snot," and his mother slapped him one upside the head.

We did have to get a move on. As soon as Mrs. Barrington mentioned the time, Matt started getting antsy. I had planned to get him to the chapel as late as possible, but we had to get moving.

It was 1:30 when we got to the chapel. I expected maybe a dozen people, as recitals are a dime a dozen at Oberlin. I guess Professors Larkin and Moler had worked to get out the troops, because there were people all over the place as we walked in. Professors Larkin and Moler were waiting for Matt, in what served as a green room, when we arrived. They told him how sorry they were about the rest of the crew. "Larry and Eugene told us what happened. We met them as we came in a few minutes ago," Professor Larkin said. She and Professor Moler assured Matt that he would do great and they were looking forward to the recital. They seemed to hang around longer than they should--I guess because I wanted to be with my babe. "Luke, come with us. We have a place reserved for you."

Remembering what Professor Moler had told Matt about kissing, and the fact that I didn't care, I took Matt in my arms, looked into his black almond eyes then kissed him slowly, passionately, broke the kiss, gave him a soft tiger growl and said, "Go get 'em, Silver Wolf".

Matt returned my kiss and said, "Think I'll have to add a name, Tony Tiger".


I waited in the green room for the signal to start. I really didn't have time to get overly nervous and concerned. Luke had kept me occupied very well, so there was little time to get upset. I did wonder a few times if something was going on, because he seemed distracted, but I guess it was just concern about the rest of the crew. Since Larry and Eugene were out front, things must be ok.

I got the signal to start, crossed myself, and said, "Matthew, make it good". I walked to the front of the audience, bowed and headed for the organ, then did a double-take. Seated in the middle of the front section were Mom, Dad, Millie, Woody, Eugene, Larry, Marc and Keith. The Barringtons were sitting with them, as were Professors Larkin and Moler, Luke and the van Hooks. When I did the double-take, Mrs. Barrington raised her cane and saluted me. As she did, I saw Fr. Manville come into the back of the chapel. I was on top of the world.

I seated myself at the organ, re-checked the registration and started Calvin Hampton's "Fanfare for the New Year". I am sure there were tons of mistakes in my playing that Sunday afternoon, but it seemed flawless to me. Not only was I playing well, but I was enjoying myself tremendously. I played the two pieces I had prepared for an encore, to thunderous applause, and took a couple bows afterward. Finally I stepped in front of the audience and, in a little-boy voice, said, "Please, Professor Larkin, Professor Moler, can I go home now?". I could hear the roar of Professor Moler's laugh above all the others. There was another scattering of applause and people starting moving, some toward me and some toward the exits.

Luke was obviously frustrated, since he was having a hard time getting through the traffic to reach me. When he did, he grabbed me, lifted me off the floor and, in front of God an everybody, gave me a Luke-special kiss. By the time he released me, Dad grabbed me in a bear hug. I got passed from one to the other until I was sure I would be sore the next day! Even Professor Moler hugged me, as did Mrs. Barrington. "I guess we would have waited for you to arrive, Mr. Greywolf," she laughed. "We were honored to be invited to sit with your friends. You are some organist, young man!" She turned to Luke and said, "And you are the good man behind the good man, obviously". She turned to Mom and Dad and said, "You have a delightful treasure in your son". Which caused a general outburst of laughter.

Millie took Mrs. Barrington's arm and said, "I'll explain."

There was a reception following the recital. As we entered the room, Professor Moler said, "Matt, you better start developing a taste for punch," and laughed.

Luke stood with me in the receiving line, holding my hand. He really had decided he didn't care what people thought. I wasn't quite to that point yet but, here at Oberlin where people knew us, I didn't care, and loved the feel of his hand in mine. As soon as we could leave the receiving line we did, but I still hadn't had a chance to talk with my family and special friends, as everyone wanted to talk with me. Half an hour after the reception started, most people has paid their regards and gotten on with their business. Luke and I were finally able to walk over to where our friends and family were standing. As we approached, Mrs. Barrington said, "You two are two kewl dudes," and laughed, which broke me up, releasing a lot of tension I didn't realize I had.

"How did you happen to get up with the family?" I asked.

"My son was helping me up the steps when I spied another cane and waved mine in that direction. As I did, Millie shouted, 'Sylvia, you old lady!'. I didn't recognize her until she spoke, and I'd recognize that voice anywhere after a hundred years. Millie and I were classmates here, but hadn't seen each other since. She went back south and I went to Europe with my new husband. Our paths hadn't crossed again until today."

"And just how did you happen to be here, Mrs. Millie Willingham?" I asked.

"I flew up to spend time with Woody and we decided we could postpone love-making for an event as important as this one," Millie laughed, and Woody blushed. "Actually, since you were playing today, and Woody and I had some things to talk over, it seemed worth a trip instead of a phone call. Matt, you do know how to make an old lady--not too old though--proud," Millie said as she hugged me again. "And I'm glad to see the two lovers are still together," she said as she hugged Luke.

"Stinky wanted to come, Matt," Woody said, "but he came down with a terrible case of the flu last week and is still in the hospital. He may be discharged tomorrow. You gotta send him a tape. He will be pleased."

I finally got to Eugene and Larry and asked, "How are Paula and Kent?".

"Kent's been released, but he stayed because of Paula. She should be released later today," Eugene said.

"They need to get home so we can celebrate," I said. When I did, Larry and Eugene both got a strange look on their faces, I thought.

"Marc, Keith, why are you two here?"

The two guys blushed and Marc said, "Hey, any excuse to get with hot-pants Bad Man Lewis," and kissed Keith on the cheek.

"Mom, Dad, I thought you were going to wait until I played at St. Mary's."

"With seats on Marc's luxury liner? No way."

"Well, let's get back to the house. I'm ready to celebrate."

"Sure," Luke said, then asked, "Father, can you join us?". Fr. Manville nodded.

"Woody and I will be along later, I'd like a visit with Sylvia," Millie declared. Then, turning to Mrs. Barrington, she said, "Remember when we managed to sneak out of the dorm and join Willingham and Barrington for a trip to a speak-easy?" Millie laughed. Mrs. Barrington nodded, and the two old college mates walked off, laughing and waving their canes.

An Organ Recital
Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf


Fanfare for the New Year Calvin Hampton
Yankee Doodle with Variations Edward Little White
Concert Variations on "The Star Spangled Banner" Dudley Buck
Variations on "America" Charles Ives
Jerusalem, My Happy Home Arr. Charles Shearing
Wonderous Love: Variations on a Shaped-Note Hymn Samuel Barber
Prelude and Fughetta on "St. Kevin" Seth Bingham
Suite for Organ: III. Air with Variations Leo Sowerby
Go Tell It on the Mountain arr. Charles Callahan
Prelude on "Greensleeves" Richard Purvis
Meditation on "Silent Night" David Conte

The Composer Comments on Sweat Lodge

As a person of mixed heritage -- my father is Lakota and my mother Korean -- I have shaman in both ancestries.

Within the last year, I have studied under a Lakota medicine man (shaman) and his medicine-man son. Important to my studies and personal health and development is the sweat lodge.

My mentor, Professor Isodore Moler, has encouraged me to continue a work I started as a result of looking at my Lakota heritage. The result is a four-movement work-in-progress based on the chants, prayers and symbolism of the sweat.

The first movement corresponds with the First Endurance of the sweat lodge, Wiyopeyate, the endurance of the west. In this endurance, participants beseech the spirits to join them in the lodge and be their spirit guides. The movement arises out of a chant beseeching the spirit guides.

Chapter Twenty


Eugene and Larry took Marc and Keith with them, and the Greywolfs went with Matt and me in Matt's Jeep. I knew Matt was too excited to drive, so I just got in on the driver's side. As I did I thought to myself, "And you're the stable one here?". I was really aching inside thinking about how much Matt deserved to celebrate and we were about to break his heart. I would have suggested we put it off longer, but I knew we had been lucky that Matt hadn't suspected anything yet, and that if we did keep it from him any longer he would have our heads. In a very special way we all thought of Paula as our sister--well, I was sure Kent thought of her as much more than a sister! I had realized in the horrors of the previous night that, of all the Concord crew, Matt was most attached to her. She was the sister he always wanted and never had.

Those thoughts were running through my head when Matt turned around--he had been looking back, talking to his parents--and asked, "Luke, how did you keep all this a secret? You know I could never have kept the lid on".

"It was easy. It was as big a surprise to me as to you," I said. Which was true, I had no idea the Concord crew would come up. "You know I couldn't have kept these people coming secret."

"And, just think, we ran into a classmate of Millie's at Sunday dinner." Matt told his parents what had happened and when he finished, laughed and said, "You know, Luke, I'd hate to be Mrs. Barrington's little boy. I bet she uses her cane on him." The image was funny and we both laughed.

We pulled into the drive right behind the others. Fr. Manville's car was already in the drive. We went inside and, as we did, Matt said, "Celebration time!".

When his dad said, "Not just yet," his face fell immediately and all the concern, tension and pain we had been holding in came rushing out.

I wrapped Matt in my arms and said, through tears I could no longer control, "Matt, there is bad news. Let's go to the library."

When we got to the library and were finding places to sit, Matt suddenly got a stricken look on his face and said, "It's Paula. What's happened to Paula? Tell me!"

"Matt, it is Paula and Kent. They are out of danger so you can calm down--a bit anyway," Larry said.

I sat down and pulled Matt beside me, held him close him and stroked his hair as Larry said, "Matt, I will not kid you, it was bad and there will be repercussions, I'm sure, but right now Kent and Paula are out of danger and in excellent hands. We had to keep what happened a secret until your recital was over. You could have done nothing had you known and, had you known, today would have been impossible."

We let Larry carry the ball, and he did a good job telling Matt what happened without any unnecessary details. While Larry spoke, Matt was crying uncontrollably one minute and shaking with rage the next. When he could sit still no longer, he got up and paced the room, enraged, until he collapsed on the floor in tears. Finally, he looked up and said, "I should have been told! You should have told me!"

Dealing with this was not Larry's chore, but mine. I got up, went over to Matt, knelt beside him and pulled him to me and held him very, very close. "Matt, you gave a goodly number of people great pleasure today. You made family and friends very proud to be your family and friends. Nothing can take that away. You are right, this was a time to celebrate, but you can't and neither can we--not because you aren't a magnificent human being and a damn good organist, one of the best. You can't celebrate nor can we, because Paula and Kent cannot celebrate with us and we share their pain. But we will celebrate because good will overcome evil--maybe not today, but it will. Our world has witnessed great evil and great goodness. It is up to us to make sure that the goodness and love we have for Kent and Paula enable them to join us in a great celebration one day, we hope soon."

Matt was clinging to me sobbing softly when I finished. I held him as he gradually stopped sobbing and, when he did, he wrapped his arms around me and placed his lips against mine in a wonderful long, soft kiss. When he broke the kiss he said, "Luke, you are my beloved treasure," and kissed me again. We got up from the floor and went back to the sofa where we had been before and sat down. As we did, the phone rang and Eugene answered it.

He said very little and when he hung up, he had a strange look on his face. "That was James from the frat house where we played last night. Shapiro has been found. The police apparently had searched everywhere they thought he might be, except his dorm room. When his suitemate came back from an all-night party at Baldwin-Wallace he found Shapiro in the shower, water running, with his wrists slit. There was a suicide note. He wrote he knew the jig was up with his rape of Paula, because he didn't use a condom and she had gained partial consciousness during the act. There'd be no way he could deny he was the rapist. He confessed to six other rapes and said he knew he would do it again as soon as he had a chance. James said he wrote that he simply couldn't stop himself any way other than by suicide, and, 'I hope all my victims eventually pick up their lives and especially Paula. I did love her'."

"It is all very sad and you wish it hadn't happened," said Eugene. "I even feel sorry for Shapiro and his rotten life, but that doesn't compare with the anger I feel toward him."

I guess we all felt the same way. After things had settled down a bit, Matt called the hospital and reached Kent. They talked for a while, and when Matt hung up the phone he said, "Poor Kent. He has not been able to see Paula yet. Sandra went in as soon as she arrived, came out and told Kent Paula was still a complete emotional wreck. The rape counselor told Kent that Paula may not want to see him for some time. He is really hurting. He's fine, so far as having been drugged is concerned, but he's blaming himself for Paula being raped. James has called him about Shapiro and he has told Sandra."

"The doctor who did the intake on Paula and the analysis of the Coke left in the can, told Kent had either he or Paula drunk it all it could have resulted in death. The Coke was well laced with Rohypnol, the date-rape drug, enough to kill since it was combined with alcohol--vodka or maybe even grain alcohol. That's the reason Kent passed out so quickly. He took a big slug from the can and drank so fast he didn't notice the alcohol."

"The rape counselor has been with Paula most of the day. Sandra says Paula wants to come home one minute and never wants to the next. In any event, she won't be released until tomorrow. Kent wants to stay at the hospital, but I suggested I come pick him up so he can shower and change clothes and go back if he wished, and he agreed."

"If there is nothing I can do here, I'll go," Fr, Manville said. "You all are in my thoughts and prayers and do call if I am needed."

"Thanks, Father," Greywolf said. After he had shown Fr. Manville out, Greywolf came back and asked, "Matt, are you sure you should be the one to go pick up Kent?".

"Dad, I am going," Matt said flat out, and it was obvious there was no use talking to him.

"I'm going with you, Dark Angel," I said, taking Matt's hand.

I insisted on driving, and drove into Cleveland without a hitch since it was early Sunday evening. When we reached the Cleveland Clinic, I parked, got out and took Matt's hand, and we went up to Paula's floor. Kent was sitting in the waiting room, his head in his hands. Matt walked over to him and said, "Kent, brother".

Kent stood up immediately, grabbed Matt and the two of them burst into tears. I joined them and we had a good cry. When we got control of ourselves, Kent said, "Thanks. Sandra came out of the room and told me Paula was definitely free of the drug. The rape counselor talked with me and Sandra about what we can expect in the next hours, days, weeks, months and maybe years as a result the rape. She will be talking to Paula again before she is released, will talk with Sandra and me again, and asked about talking with the household. I assured her we would be ready to do anything and everything we could for Paula." Kent had just stopped speaking when a young woman came into the waiting room. "Ms. Shaffer, these are Paula's and my brothers, Matt Greywolf and Luke Larsen."

"Seems Paula has a large family for an only child," Ms. Shaffer smiled. "Matt, Luke, Kent has told me wonderful things about you, all of you, and your household. Matt, I understand you played a recital today. I hope it went well."

"I'm prejudiced, of course," I said, "but he was absolutely magnificent. His teachers agreed. I even forgot this horror for a short time."

"I am pleased you were able to keep this from him until he had his day of glory. There will be plenty of times in the future when this day will haunt you, and it will be good to remember it was also a day of glory. Kent told me of your offer to take him home to get cleaned up. There is probably no reason for him to come back, but I'm not fool enough to think he would stay home. I don't know when Paula will be ready to see him. Since I don't know them, I can't say for sure, but I think Paula's rape has revealed to the two of them that they care more for each other than they might have thought. That of course makes it harder on both of them and, additionally, Paula may well continue to feel shame and not want to see him. It happens. Well I'll tell Sandra you are here, because I am sure she will want to see you. Before you leave I'd like to talk with you about future steps in Paula's and your healing."

Of course when Sandra came out, Matt grabbed her and the two of them had a good cry. "How is Paula?" he asked.

"She alternates between being in absolute control, quiet, reserved, and being enraged. In her rage she has thrown everything not nailed down, and then clinches her teeth and says, 'I'm all right. No-one has to worry about me!' Ms. Shaffer said she would probably be one way or the other for several days. I guess Paula is one of the rare ones who is both ways. Kent, if you'll go home and rest, I promise I will call you as soon as Paula is ready to see you."

"Thanks, Sandra, but I'll be back." Sandra hugged Kent, kissed him on the cheek, gave Matt and me a hug and went back into Paula's room.

When Ms. Shaffer came out, she asked when would be a good time for us to get with her and the counselor at Oberlin who handles sexual assault. "Probably this evening if that is possible. We were supposed to all be on our way home for the holidays tomorrow. I don't know what we will do now. Maybe if you two could come to the house, say in a couple hours or so?" I asked. "Kent, you could stay that long, right?" Kent nodded.

When we got home, Millie and Woody were there. They had not been told about Paula until they arrived, just after Matt and I had left for Cleveland. Millie grabbed Kent and hugged him and, as she did, said, "Baby, I sure wish this was something money and good will could cure, because you could have all of both that I have. But even Millie can't fix everything. Damn it to hell!" Millie practically shouted and tears started running down her face. Woody embraced his wife-to-be and Kent, saying nothing.

Kent went upstairs to shower and get clean clothes and while he was gone, Matt and I told the family about Ms. Shaffer coming. "I guess we need to talk about plans," Matt said. "I'm not willing to go home and leave Paula here, and I don't know when she will be ready to go."

"I suspect we would be wise to wait until Ms. Shaffer is here to help guide us," Yong Jin said.

Eugene and Larry had prepared a cold supper and put it out for anyone who wanted to eat. People just kinda wandered by the table, picked up something and wandered away. No-one was still, and yet no-one was going anywhere. For some fool reason, a physics lab on Browning movement popped into my head. Yea, we were good examples of random motion.

When Ms. Shaffer arrived, she was accompanied by a Ms. Humphrey, the sexual assault counselor at Oberlin.

Both counselors expressed their sympathy. "Paula is the primary victim in this rape, but she is not the only one," Ms. Humphrey said. "Ms. Shaffer has given me the background of the immediate situation and while we have not met before, I have known about this Oberlin family--I don't think anyone could be at Oberlin long and not hear about 'that bunch at the lake'. Friends and family are always victims in a rape assault. It is clear, from what Ms. Shaffer has told me, we will need to deal with this situation as we would with a family. Kent, you are both a brother to the rest of the family and Paula's lover."

"Whoa, wait just a minute!" Kent objected. "I am in love with Paula--more than I realized--but, if by lover you mean sexual partner, you have it all wrong. Paula and I wanted to be sure we knew what we were doing. We are taking it slow and easy, making sure of our emotions. Paula is a virgin."

"Then I suspect the two of you will have a great deal of rage to work out, which might not have been the case otherwise. You may feel the rapist cheated you of something you looked forward to, and Paula may well feel the same. She may also feel dirty, shamed, even that she invited this rape."

"There is rage all right, and no-one to vent it on since Shapiro killed himself. But it is rage because of what he did to Paula. I said Paula is a virgin and she is. That may not be technically true, but I can tell you: if she will have me, when we have sex it will be an expression of our love and, so far as I am concerned, she has never given herself to anyone, so she's a virgin," Kent said.

In the days, weeks and months that were to follow, I saw absolutely no indication that Kent hadn't lived that statement from the core of his being. He did, from time to time, become enraged, but I never saw any hint that it was because of something done to him. It was because of the harm done Paula.

Both counselors laid out the phases following a rape and what we could expect in them, phases which could last for years. When we asked how we could help, we were told to listen to Paula, to be supportive, to keep reminding ourselves of what could be expected and what would indicate new or repressed trouble. We were also told Paula could be very hard to live with, and to try not to baby her too much, but certainly not to fight back when she blew up, as she was likely to do.

"What about immediate plans?" Greywolf asked. "The household was planning on leaving tomorrow--all except Kent. What do you advise?"

"It's difficult to say. She has her family here, she's getting the treatment she needs, but then she has a larger family in North Carolina, I'm sure. Why don't I check the services available there and then help you make a decision. Do you know any medical personnel there?"

"As a matter of fact we do," I said. I took the phone from the stand and pressed the speed dial for the Andrews. When Michael answered I told him I needed to speak to his mom or dad. "They can tell you what's up later, but right now I need to speak to one of them."

"I'll get Mom," Michael said.

"Luke, what's up? What's going on?"

"Bad news, I'm afraid, Margaret. Paula was raped last night and we are here with rape counselors from Cleveland Clinic and Oberlin. I'll turn you over to one of them. Ms. Shaffer, Ms. Humphrey, Dr. Margaret Andrews on the phone. She's like one of our moms. If both of you need to talk with her, there is a speaker-phone in the family room. This way."

Half an hour later, the two counselors came back into the library. "I hope you young adults realize that you have the most amazing friends--I guess you correctly talk about your family--I have ever encountered. Clearly Paula is in good hands and she--and you--will need that. Ms. Shaffer and I have talked, and clearly the best thing for Paula now is to get home. She would have good support from you here, but nothing compared with what she would have at home. With luck, she will get through the initial phase during the long holiday season so when she comes back, we will be able to sustain her healing process. Kent, were you going to North Carolina with Paula?"

"I had planned to go down later. Paula is Jewish and I am Christian, so we planned for me to be with my family for Christmas then fly down for the rest of the holidays, but I want to be with her unless I need not to be with her. I mean--you know what I mean."

Ms. Shaffer smiled and said, "You make yourself very clear, Kent. I hope, one day, Paula will realize how much you love her and how lucky she is to have you. Kent, this is a very personal question and if you don't want to answer, or want to answer in private, we all will understand. One concern in rape cases is pregnancy..."

"No! God no! No! No! No!" Kent shouted, and threw himself on the floor. He pounded his fist on the floor while crying with loud wails." Matt immediately dropped to the floor and held him close, resting Kent's head on his shoulder and stroking his hair. Matt looked up at the counselors, his eyes pleading. Yong Jin sat on the floor with Matt and Kent and, as soon as she did, I realized we had made a horrible omission. We had not called Kent's parents. I motioned for Eugene and whispered that he should call them. He left the room to do so. Yong Jin and Matt got Kent on a sofa and Yong Jin sat with him. I reached out and took Matt's hand, trying to calm him as he was almost as out of control as Kent.

I heard Ms. Humphrey say to Ms. Shaffer, "I'll handle this". Ms. Shaffer nodded.

"Kent, sometimes we all forget how much someone is hurting and hurt them more. I am sorry we hurt you."

"I am very, very sorry, Kent. I hope you'll forgive me," Ms. Shaffer said. Kent nodded.

"Kent, if you can help us, we'll not have to discuss with Paula the possibility of a pregnancy. That's the only reason I mentioned it. Do you know where Paula would be in her cycle?"

"No, there's never been any reason to discuss that and PMS just doesn't come into play around here."

"Do you know if Paula is on birth control?"

"I don't think so. I mean we have talked about having sex, but we haven't. We haven't set some sort of magic date when we would. Once she said that when it was right it would happen and I agreed."

"As practical as Paula is," Yong Jin said, "I can't imagine her waiting until what she thought was the right time and then saying, 'But we can't, I'm not protected against pregnancy'. I suspect if she thought the right time might come anytime soon, and wanted to be prepared for it, she would have started on birth control. I feel a bit like I would be violating her again," Yong Jin continued, "but I will check her room. Anything to keep from having to tell her she might be pregnant from a rape." When she came back she said, "She is on birth control pills. It appears she has just started her second month. If she has been regular in taking her pills--and, knowing Paula, she would have been absolutely faithful in that--pregnancy should not be a question."

"Excellent," Ms. Humphrey said. "One worry we don't have, at least for now. She should be safe."

"I think we can sum up things now. You all are victims of the attack on Paula, because it will affect all of your lives. I am leaving materials with you about what you might expect, and suggestions of how you can help her and yourselves. I think you should take Paula home as soon as possible, and let her healing begin among good family and friends," Ms. Shaffer said. She and Ms. Humphrey asked if we had questions, gave us their cards and left.

Yong Jin was still holding Kent, who lifted his head and said, "Thanks, Mom. Mom! My God, I haven't told my mom."

"Your parents are on their way right now," Eugene said.

"I guess we need to make plans about getting home," Greywolf said.

"I have taken care of that," Marc spoke up. "Dad is sending Captain Kelly and the Gulfstream up in the morning. We can all fly back in the two planes. Keith and I will fly Sandra and Paula back when they are ready. If that means we will be here a day or two, that's ok. The Gulfstream will take the rest of you back as soon as you are ready.

Mr. Glaze

When Kent didn't show up for church, Derrick said he was probably at home in bed since the combo had played for a party in Cleveland. Seemed reasonable, so I thought nothing about it.

After church, Derrick asked for the car and went off to see Judy. I had expected them to break up like most high schoolers, but it hadn't happened. Both families thought they were spending too much time with each other and agreed to restrict their time together. Derrick didn't like it at first but later admitted to Kent he was glad we had, since he didn't feel trapped--as he had since Judy wanted him to spend all his time with her--and he missed his buddies. Judy had told Kent the same thing. They both agreed it was ok to date someone else, but neither had.

Martha had not been feeling on top of the world the past week and decided to take a nap. I really hoped she was just tired and not sinking into depression again. She had been doing so well on her new medication. Anyway, for all practical purposes I was alone and decided to take a walk through the orchard. I don't know why I picked the orchard but I did, and immediately I thought back over the last few months.

It was hard to believe that Kent had been away only four months. It was even more amazing what five southerners had done for him. "Don't kid yourself, Carl," I thought, "they have done as much or more for you." I'll admit I had always resented Kent because of the trouble he caused being born with a heart condition. It didn't make sense, because I was sure he would have liked to have been born perfect, but I hadn't been rational. In looking back, I was sure I had worked hard not to become attached to Kent for fear he would die. So long as I could resent him, well, you know...

Additionally, Martha had been a tremendous burden. I loved her very much when we married, but when she started going into bouts of deep depression, I resented having to take care of her and the two boys, one of whom had problems as well. Not making excuses, but there were times I was so worn out physically and emotionally, I dreamed of lying down and not waking up.

When Martha was put on her new medicine, she became a new person--no, an old person, the person I had known and married. I guess I still treated her in a way to protect myself from the possibility that her medicine would stop working. And with Kent, I had developed patterns of behavior that prevented me from seeing what a great kid--no, young man--he had grown into. When I finally admitted to myself that I had been an utter asshole, I expected him to say, 'Too late,' but he didn't. I still found it hard to express the affection I had for him, but I was proud of him and what he had accomplished and I take no credit for it. He had done it himself. Well he did have the help of five great people. I smiled when I realized I had called four gay men, two sets of lovers even, great, but they were.

And the fifth? I had a good chance to see Paula and Kent together over Thanksgiving when Paula and Sandra came for a visit. Both she and Kent said they were not sure whether they were in love or not and I guessed they would be the last to know but, even as unobservant as I can be, I could see they were two people head over heels. That was the reason Sandra, Martha and I had talked about Christmas. They had solved the conflict this year by Kent staying here until after Christmas, but that was only this year. I surprised myself when Martha asked what I would do if Kent converted to Judaism. A year ago I would have gone into a rage. Now when she asked I just said, "I'll bet he'll thank me for having him circumcised if he does!" A lot had happened and it was all good, and I was thankful for it.

When I got back to the house, the phone was ringing. Both Martha and I picked up at the same time, and learned that Kent and Paula had been drugged and Paula raped. Derrick had the car, so we hopped in the rattletrap of a farm truck to go see our son who was hurting and we had not known it.

When we arrived at the house, Kent ran to meet us, grabbed both of us and started crying buckets. I didn't really know what to do--what was to do?--so I just held him and his mom. When he got control again he said, "Mom, Dad, I was so upset, I forgot to call you, I'm sorry". We both just patted his back and said nothing.

When we got inside, we joined the group in the library and Kent told us the whole story. I'd like to say I felt sorry for the Shapiro kid, but I didn't. I was just mad as hell because of what he did to my son and his girl. Kent finally said he wanted to get back to the hospital. Matt and Luke were going to take him back when I said, "Martha and I would like to take Kent back, but we are in the farm truck and I wasn't sure it'd make it even to here."

"You can take my truck," Luke offered.

"Luke, that'd be fine for Mr. and Mrs. Glaze, but they are taking Kent back," Matt said, as he handed the Jeep keys to Mr. Glaze.

Kent got lot of hugs and we left.


I looked at my baby, who finally had exhausted herself and drifted off to sleep. I had only had time to react since I arrived, but now with her asleep, I sat down and wanted to scream, "Why? Why was my baby hurt?". Of course there was no answer. It was clear from what Ms. Shaffer had said this was only the beginning.

Paula was not the only one hurting; we all were. Poor Kent, Paula didn't want to see him. One time she would say she was ashamed and another she never wanted to see a man again. Her emotions were all over the place. At times she was so enraged that she threw things, and at others she was so icy cold it was frightening.

Paula slept for three or four hours--often restless, tossing and turning, whimpering, crying out. She was still asleep when Kent returned. He tapped on the door gently and I went out to see him. Carl and Martha were with him and, as soon as I saw them, I embraced both. "Sandra, we are so sorry, so very, very sorry. She is like our own daughter we never had," Martha said.

"How is she, Sandra?" Carl asked. I told him she was sleeping for the moment.

When Kent told his parents he was staying, they asked about staying with him. "Mom, Dad, Sandra is here and Derrick will come home and not know what has happened. I don't know when Paula will be leaving for North Carolina or if she will allow me to go with her. Whether I go with her or with the rest of the crew, I am going. Sorry that I won't be home for Christmas, but I don't think it would be much of a Christmas for me and I would sure be a wet blanket on yours. Anyway, I have to go."

"We understand, Kent, and wouldn't want it any other way given the circumstances," Carl said. "Is there anything you need or we can do for you?"

"I can't think of anything. To be honest, I can't think, period."

"Sandra, is there anything we can do for you or Paula?" Carl asked.

"Nothing. I am here until Paula is ready to leave. Thanks anyway."

Kent said goodbye to his parents, assuring them he would keep them posted.

When they had gone, he asked me about Paula. "Kent, she finally went to sleep on her own. She's exhausted, but her sleep is restless. She whimpers, cries out. I suspect she is having nightmares. My poor baby." Kent took my hand and when I looked up, he had tears running down his face. I thought to myself, "I wonder what is going to happen to my baby and this wonderful, loving man who obviously worships her". Inwardly I smiled when I thought that, because both had been very clear in stating they weren't sure they were in love when it came up at Thanksgiving. It made them the only two who were not sure.

I sat with Kent a few minutes after his parents left, then returned to Paula's room. Paula was half-awake when I returned and it took her a few minutes to get herself orientated and, when she did, she said, "I guess Kent is so ashamed of me that he's staying away. I don't blame him, but I wish he was here."

"Paula, Kent is not ashamed of you at all. Stay away? It was all Matt and Luke could do to get him to go home, clean up, and change. He is outside where he has been since he was discharged."

"Discharged? Why was he in the hospital? I don't understand."

"I'll let him tell you if you'll see him. You have been saying you didn't want to see him, and he honored that although it has been hard. You want I should ask him to come in?"

"Yea, and just the two of us here, ok?"

"Sure." I went out to the waiting room and told Kent Paula wanted to see him.

"Are you sure," he asked, hesitating.

"Kent, she asked to see you alone." From the expression on his face I wasn't sure of his feelings.


I wasn't sure what I felt when Sandra came out and told me Paula wanted to see me. I mean I wasn't sure if Paula had asked to see me or if Sandra thought she should see me. Anyway, I was going in to see Paula and I was nervous.

When I walked into the room, Paula was sitting up, looking very pale and beat. "Hi, Paula. How are you doing, Babe?"

"Kent," Paula answered, as tears started running down her face. "Kent, I am sorry. I am so, so very sorry." Paula was weeping silently as she spoke.

"Paula, you have nothing to be sorry about. I'm sorry, angry, hurt, because of what happened to you. If I had been more careful..."

"Kent, I went with Nathan. What happened is my fault. Something I wanted to give to you has been taken from you."

"No, Paula. What happened is not your fault. As hard as it is for me to convince myself, it is not the fault of either of us. And nothing has been taken from me. Something was taken from you, something very precious--your trust in people and I don't know what else, but everything you were to, and for, me is still there. Paula, Babe, I told everyone I wasn't sure about being in love with you, but I was wrong. I love you, Paula. I know that from the very bottom of my being. I love you, Paula. Nothing can or will change that."

"I love you too, Kent, but I'm ashamed, dirty, soiled. I am not worthy of your love."

"Nonsense, Paula. I am one lucky guy and I hope in the days ahead I can prove that to you."

Paula suddenly changed tack and asked, "Kent, what happened to Nathan? What's going to happen to him? I don't think I could stand seeing him and I know I'll have to or he will go scot free."

Man, was I in a bind. I thought Paula would have been told but, since she hadn't, what should I say? I guess if you don't know what to say, you tell the truth. I sat down in the chair Sandra had drawn close to Paula's bed, reached out and took her hand. "Paula, you neither have to see Nathan again nor will he go scot free. He has seen to that. I suspect you will not be surprised to learn you are not the first woman he has attacked, but you surely are the last." I then told Paula of his suicide and the note he left, but did not tell her he said he had loved her. "For reasons known only to him--if he knew--Nathan was a warped human being who took his rage out on innocent women, but it will not happen again."

"I'm not glad that he is dead, not really, but I am pleased that he will never take from another woman what he took from me. Kent, Ms. Shaffer said she had talked to you."

"Yes, she did. She and Ms. Humphrey from Oberlin both came to the house while I was there and talked to all of us. Paula, I'll not lie. They both said there would likely be rough days ahead for you and for us. We are all ready to do what it takes to see you through, Paula. We are all here for you."

"Kent, if what she said is likely to happen, you are going to be hurt and have a real struggle."

"Paula, you are the one facing a real struggle, but I am here and I will be here, even when you think you don't want me."

"Always remember, Kent, you said when I think I don't want you. There are a thousand feelings and emotions like waves washing over me--I feel ashamed, I accuse myself of letting Nathan do what he did to me--a thousand emotions, but the one which I can hardly stand is the feeling that I am no good and certainly not good enough for you. I have been a fool for not being honest with you and myself about my feeling for you, and now it is too late."

"Too late for what? For admitting that you love me? Why too late? It is a thousand times as welcome as it would have been a week ago because I need to hear that you love me as I love you."

As we talked, I had been holding Paula's hand. When I finished, she pulled my hand to her lips and kissed it and told me she loved me. I didn't know what to expect, but I stood, leaned over and kissed her gently. When I broke our kiss, I sat on the edge of her bed and we talked. It was not the talk I wished we had after confessing our love for each other, but it was the talk which needed to be. We talked about what Ms. Shaffer and Ms. Humphrey had told us. Occasionally it was too much for Paula and she would turn away from me, but she always turned back. Finally she asked that I get Sandra.

When Sandra came into the room, Paula asked if she could go home. Sandra told her she would be discharged in the morning and that Marc was ready to fly them home. "That's later, Mom," she said. "I want--I need--to go home before I go to North Carolina." I felt tears welling up in my eyes when she said that. She wanted to go home to her family, and that was us, the crew on the lake. "Kent, will you go home and tell everyone I am going to be ok, and get some rest? You can come back in the morning. Oh, how did Matt's recital go? I hope I didn't ruin it."

"Paula, you didn't ruin anything," I said. "As to Matt's recital..." I hesitated, what should I tell her? "Kent, try the truth," I told myself. "Paula, Luke knew what I guess we all knew, but never thought about: as much as all the household love you--and it's heaps--Matt's feeling for you is different. Luke says you are the sister Matt always wanted and never had. Regardless of the reason, they all knew that if Matt found out what had happened, the recital would go by the boards. The snow gave Luke an excuse for the crew not going home last night. Luke went home this morning and told Matt you and I had gotten ill from something we ate or drank, and Eugene and Larry stayed until the last minute. Everyone agreed that Matt performed better than he had ever done, and he was told after the recital and reception."

"I ruined his celebration," Paula said and, again, turned away from me.

"No, Nathan Shapiro ruined the celebration today, but there will be other days to celebrate, when we can celebrate Matt's success and your recovery."

We talked a while longer and, before I left, Paula made me promise I'd go home and get some rest and come back for her in the morning. When I started to protest she said, "Mom will be with me. You need to go so the family will know I am going to be ok. I don't know when I will be ready to go to North Carolina. I want to be at home with you all. I guess the rest of the household can go, late tomorrow? I don't want to go without you. Maybe I'll..."

"Paula, you are not going without me unless you tell me to stay, and I may still go. Mom and Dad told me they thought I should, before I told them I was going with you. But we can talk about that tomorrow."

"Kent, will you kiss me?" Paula asked.

"You bet I will," I said softly. I guess Paula and I had been so much on guard that we had never had a really hot make-out session, and our kisses had been pretty tame affairs, so I was surprised when I leaned over her bed and she grabbed me and gave me the hottest kiss I had experienced in my entire life. As she did, I found myself wondering, "Is this for real or is it a reaction to the rape?".

After the kiss, we said goodnight and I promised to go home and try to sleep. As I walked toward the waiting room, I remembered Mom and Dad had taken the Jeep back. I'd have to wait until someone could come for me, and I dreaded another hour, another minute in that waiting room. As I turned the corner, I saw Matt and Luke waiting for me. "This is a surprise," I said, hugging the two--there had been a lot of hugging the past several hours, but no more than was needed!

"I called them," Sandra said. "Paula asked me to before I came and got you. She also wanted me to check with her before you left. She thought she wanted to see Matt and Luke. I'll see if she still does."

When Sandra came back, she said Paula wanted to see Matt and Luke, and they went in. They were back in five minutes. Matt managed to get back to the waiting room before breaking down. Luke wrapped his arms around him and the two wept. I realized I had wrapped both in my arms without knowing it. When we got control of ourselves, we drove back to the house.

Eugene and Larry had hot chocolate waiting, and we and the Carolina crew sat around the kitchen table. After I told them what I could about Paula's situation, Matt and Luke added that she was anxious to get to the house. "She kept talking about going home," Luke said, "and at first I thought she was talking about North Carolina, but she soon made it clear she was talking about here. She said she was going to North Carolina only because Kent promised to go with her."

I was recalling my conversation with Paula and her asking for a kiss. I must have been quiet longer than I realized. I suddenly realized Matt was calling me, "Uh, I guess I wasn't listening," I said, "sorry. I was thinking about something."


When we went up--Greywolf and Yong Jin were in the guest room and Marc and Keith and gone to the studio with sleeping bags and pads--Kent asked his four housemates if we could talk. Of course we said yes and turned into Matt and Luke's room. As soon as we were all comfortable, Kent said, "Guys, I don't know what I wanted but, well, you heard what the two rape counselors said. I have no doubt, none at all, that you will be there for Paula--and me as well. But I had an experience tonight which shows just how difficult it's going to be. You have been around enough to know that Paula and I have been pretty reserved about showing affection. Part of that was because we were being careful--too careful, I think now--about leading the other to believe we were in love when we weren't..."

Matt was the first to start what became a tension-relieving giggle session--we sounded like a twelve-year-old girl's pajama party. "Kent, the only people you two have fooled, at least since Halloween, have been Paula and Kent," he said when he could stop giggling long enough.

"Yea, well, a part of it was I didn't want to push Paula. I really did stand back and wait for her to set limits. Like, I mean, I would never had said anything about having sex until she asked me about it. I mean she had been preparing for that happening, but I didn't know. Anyway, tonight she asked me to kiss her. We have exchanged kisses, but never had a really hot make-out session. A couple times, I'll admit, our goodnight kiss did get pretty hot, but we never just made out for a hour or something like that. Guys, I feel like I sound like a complete idiot."

"Kent, you pretty much know how Eugene and I relate to each other, and it is different from the way Matt and Luke relate to each other. Well, we four know how you and Paula relate to each other. It has seemed too slow and careful to me, but it is your business and when you two are ready, you'll be ready for--well, whatever."

"Yea, well tonight Paula asked me to kiss her and, man, it was some kiss. But you know what I was thinking? I was thinking, 'Is this because Paula has realized she loves me as I have realized I love her, or is it just a reaction to being raped?' You know, Ms. Shaffer talked about one reaction being a change in patterns of relationships. I mean when she kissed me, I was on cloud nine but then I half-crashed when I thought this might not mean anything other than it being a reaction to a rape! That son-of-a-bitch bastard Nathan Shapiro took away from what could and should have been the most wonderful moment in my life. I really hate the bastard and am very angry at what he has taken from me as well as Paula and all of us. And there is no way I can let him know how much I hate him for what he has done."

Kent was shaking when he finished. I was sitting beside him and reached out and put my hand behind his neck and said, "Yea, Kent, we all feel that way".

"Kent, you know I have tried the coward's way out twice," Luke said. "One of the things I have learned in counseling with Matt is that suicide is difficult to deal with because the murderer and the victim are the same. As a result, you suffer the loss of someone you love and are angry at the same person as well. Of course, in my case, Matt and my family and friends were angry because I attempted to take myself from them. In this case, the dynamics are different but the results are the same. You are angry at Nathan for making it impossible for you to make him pay for what he has done."

"And now it makes you even more angry as you see that what he did to Paula has effects much more far-reaching than you thought. I mean who would have thought that what he did would raise questions in your mind about what Paula meant by a kiss. I suspect this is, as we have been told, just the beginning. We, all of us, are really going to be tested in the weeks ahead. It's going to require a lot of forgiving and a lot of support and, as much as I would like to say we'll come through with flying colors, I can't. All I can say, and I think you know this, is that we will all give it all we have. You, Paula, we, are too important not to do everything we humanly can to make the weeks ahead as good as possible."

"I know that," Kent said, "I really do, but it's good to hear it."

"We are going to prove that Paula knew what she was talking about when she said she wanted to come home, here, to our home," I said.

Kent stood up and said, "Thanks, Brothers, and I mean that. I really do feel like this is my family--more than I ever thought I would." He opened his arms and we all hugged each other and said goodnight.

When Eugene and I were in bed, wrapped in each other's arms, he said, "Lar, this has been very painful for me. I know Paula is really hurting, confused, bewildered, because I have been there. I just have to be strong enough not to let my past prevent me being a rock for Paula."

I didn't respond because I was having my own struggle. Eugene could understand Paula's reaction because he had been there and I had put him there. As if he was reading my mind he said, "No, Lar. I wouldn't have said anything if that was what I was thinking. To be very honest, Lar, what you consider your rape of me was nothing compared with what had happened over and over again. I know why you did what you did and it was wrong, painful, but you have more than made up for it with your love for me. Damaged goods? You better believe it, but not because of what you did. I now realize that moment when you went out of control will always be with us. I guess it's like Paula and Kent will always have her rape as a part of their relationship. But it's not what their relationship is about and ours cannot be about that one moment when you hurt both of us."

Eugene brushed my hair from my forehead, smiled into my eyes and kissed me so gently it was like the kiss of a breeze on my lips. "I love you, Larry Watley. I love you with my whole being."

"And I love you Eugene Willingham. I love you and I will never deserve it," I said.

"You don't have to deserve it, Lar. I give it to you, now and forever."

I smiled back at Gene and said, "And you have mine." I then reached over and turned off the bedside lamp, and soon the two of us were asleep, but our sleep was not peaceful.

Chapter Twenty-one


I went to bed and should have fallen asleep because I'd had little sleep in the last twenty-four hours, but my mind didn't seem to realize the fact. I tossed and turned and finally dozed off, only to be awakened by a nightmare. I dreamed I was playing drums and Nathan Shapiro was walking toward Paula holding an open drink can. I could see the skull and crossbones on the can, but Paula couldn't. She was reaching for the can and I tried to shout to stop her, but could make no sound. Nathan was looking at me, laughing, as I struggled to warn Paula. I was finally able to shout and the shout woke me. In seconds, all four of my brothers were in my room.

Since Matt and Luke's room is just across the hall from mine, they burst into my room split seconds before Eugene and Larry. I was sitting up in bed when Matt practically flew across my room and grabbed me and held me close. As I had said earlier, Matt has very little between himself and the world. What Matt feels everyone knows and what others feel, Matt feels. There was no doubt in my or anyone's mind Matt was fighting for his brother. The other three piled on my bed and we talked. Seemed none of us had really done more than doze and I was not the only one with nightmares.

Finally Luke said, "Look, guys, of course Kent doesn't know, but anytime there was a crisis in the Family, all four of us--Michael, Mary Kathryn, Matt and I--slept together. I know we are all big, grownup college guys here and I don't know that it will help, but I vote we try. We really do need some rest and we sure haven't had any recently."

"Just about to suggest that myself," Matt responded, and soon all five of us were a pile of arms and legs. It took some moving around and a lot of giggling, but finally we managed to get everyone on the bed and covered and amazingly, we were all asleep very quickly.

At ten Monday morning, Greywolf came upstairs and finally found all of us. When he came into the room he said Sandra had called from the hospital and Paula was being released shortly after noon. "Seems she could have been released earlier, but she became upset thinking she may have been raped by someone other than Nathan or maybe even gang-raped. Of course the evidence didn't support that, but a policewoman came by with the test results and talked with Paula. She assured Paula that women who have been raped frequently have a very strong impression concerning the rape which has nothing to do with reality. Anyway, breakfast in thirty minutes. Matt, Kent, Paula asked that the two of you come for her."

I took a shower and then called to Matt and Luke and told them the shower was available. The two couples often took very long showers and if they wanted to this morning, I didn't want one to have to wait on the other. We were all showered and dressed well before Greywolf and Yong Jin had breakfast ready and, as soon as breakfast was over, Matt and I drove to Cleveland.


I wished I could be objective about what happened to me. Sometimes I could. Sometimes I could push it away until I was looking at it as if it was happening to someone else. That was a strange feeling. I'd learn later it had a name--disassociation or something like that. What it means is that you stand outside yourself and watch. That was objective all right, but that's not what I meant. What I wanted was to be able to see that Nathan had violated me, taken something from me, then I could just deal with it and move on. Well, it wasn't working.

Sometime before I was awakened by a nurse coming in to check on me, I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was raped by someone else, not Nathan. That was horrible enough, but then I dreamed there was not just one rapist, but several. The nightmare was so real I couldn't shake it when I did wake up. In fact, when I was awake it had taken such a hold on me and had became so real I believed it. Finally I told the nurse I wanted proof it was Nathan and only Nathan who had violated me.

Sometime later--after I had breakfast--a policewoman came to my room and sat and talked with me. She showed me the results of all the tests which proved Nathan and Nathan alone had raped me. Even with the evidence the nightmare was hard to shake.

I had been told by the morning nurse that I would be discharged as soon as the doctor who had treated me could see me. "I'm sure it will be right after lunch," she said.

Knowing when I would be released, I called home and talked with Greywolf. He said the guys were still asleep. "When I went up to check on them they were all piled in Kent's bed. I suspect they didn't get to sleep until late."

"Greywolf, I will be able to leave after lunch I think. I'd like Matt and Kent to come for me and Mom. I know all of the guys would be willing to come--and might even want to come--but I'd like to just have those two come. Do you think that is ok?"

"Of course it is," Greywolf replied. "I'll send them along as soon as they've had breakfast."

I had insisted Mom go to the cafeteria and get breakfast. When she came back I told her Matt and Kent would be coming for us. I was a bit surprised that she didn't ask why it was Kent and Matt, but she didn't. I didn't know what I would have told her had she asked, but I knew that was what I wanted. I mean of course I wanted Kent to come, but why Matt rather than any one of the other three? I wasn't sure.

Kent, poor Kent. I knew he was hurting big time, but I just couldn't stand the thought of seeing any male for most of the day before. I did know that I thought more of Kent than I had been willing to admit. I hoped he would return the feeling and had as much patience as he seemed to have because he would need it. I mean when Ms. Shaffer talked with me I thought I would be able to control my thoughts, emotions and feelings, but it seemed I was proven wrong just about ten times an hour. I knew Kent would be understanding, but after a while you get worn down no matter how understanding you are, and I had been told I was in for a long haul. One thing about it, I couldn't have been with better people than my house family.

When Mom came back from breakfast, I had showered and was ready to get dressed as soon as the guys arrived with my clothes. We talked about what we were going to do. I had the holidays to recover although I had been told the recovery process would take longer. Kent and I had planned to go home and not get together until after Christmas. That was the way we solved the conflict between our two religions. But I didn't want to go home without Kent. The thought of making out with him wasn't very comfortable and the thought of sex really out, but I wanted him around. He made me feel safe. He understood being drugged. Damn it, he made me feel safe and I didn't feel safe unless he was around. Of course, I wondered how long he'd stay around if he had to keep hands off. I didn't even know that I wanted him to keep hands off. I was just plain messed up and didn't know what I wanted or didn't want. Well, I did know I wanted Kent around.

The doctor came up just after lunch--and I did eat a little lunch--and talked with me. She said physically I was fine. "I suspect you are in as good shape emotionally as any young woman who has been raped is," she said. "It is going to take time for you to heal emotionally. I have talked with Ms. Shaffer and she assures me you have a good support group."

"The best," I said.

"You may want to get involved with a support group of women who have been raped. I think you will know whether you need that or not. I expect you to see a counselor at Oberlin or somewhere and I am here if you need me."

"Thanks for all you and everyone have done for me," I said.

The doctor hugged me and said, "Good luck and call if you need me".

As soon as she was gone, Mom came back into the room with clothes Kent and Matt had brought. She said Kent hoped Yong Jin had got what I needed. She laughed, "Having grown up in a house without girls, I'm not sure he knows a great deal about women's clothes."

"I can tell you, only Luke has the faintest idea, that's for sure," I laughed. "Larry called me in a panic the first time he did laundry. You would have thought a bra was a snake the way he was trying to fold it. Wrestle it is more like it." I got dressed quickly and Mom went out to get the guys. When Kent walked in with Matt, he looked like a shy little boy, holding back, waiting to see how he should respond. Matt was not at all hesitant, walking right over and hugging me. He kissed me on the forehead and said, "Doing ok, Sis?" I nodded, looked over at Kent and smiled.

Kent smiled in return and walked toward me and I toward him. I reached out to him, took him in my arms and held him close. As I did I whispered, "Kent Glaze, I love you. God, I never knew how much, how very, very much I love you."

When I released him, Kent pulled back so he could look at me. He looked into my eyes, smiled--his eyes actually sparkled--and whispered, "I love you, Paula". He leaned forward slowly until his lips touched mine, a touch so gentle, so tender I could barely feel his lips on mine, but his nearness and the touch of his lips filled me with a sense of safety and well-being I thought I'd never know again. When he took his lips from mine, he said again, "Paula, I love you more than anything in the whole world".

"Kent, let's go home," I said, taking his hand in mine.

The drive home seemed to take forever. Matt was driving and Mom was in the front seat with him. Kent and I snuggled together in the back. "Kent, you make me feel safe, cared for, wanted. I have been told I may not always feel that way toward to you. If I don't, please remember it's because of what..." I choked. Kent gently pulled my head to his chest, held me and stroked my hair.

"Paula, I love you. I know you love me. I have been told there will be times when you can't stand the thought of me touching you. If that happens, I'll know why. I'll know and trust that it is not your heart speaking when you tell me to go away. It may be tough for us, especially for you, but we will all get through it because we all love you, Paula, and we know you love us. We are your brothers, Paula, regardless of what else I might be to you, I am one of your brothers."

I suddenly found myself giggling helplessly. "I hope, sometime in the future you don't find you have something against incest, brother," I giggled. When I looked at Kent he was turning bright red.

When we reached the house, there were hugs from everyone and then we sat down in the family room to make plans. Kent told me he was going to North Carolina with me and Mom unless we had decided to stay in Ohio. "I have already talked with Mom and Dad and they agree. Millie has invited Mom, Dad and Derrick to come down and have Christmas at her place. I told her I though that was a bit much since she had a wedding to plan for, but she insisted. Dad has made arrangements to get off Christmas week so they will be leaving after he gets home Friday the twenty-second and will come back the twenty-ninth after Millie's wedding. Derrick will be staying until we have to get back."

"It may be a bit late to get started today," Marc said, "but we can leave now or in the morning."

"Derrick will be house-sitting for us until he comes to North Carolina," Luke said. "I told him he could come over tonight or wait until in the morning. He decided to spend the night here, so we can leave as early as we like."

"Let's get everything packed and ready to leave, and try to leave early enough to beat the rush-hour traffic or wait until it is over," Larry said.

"Think we can get out of here by seven?" Kent asked. "If we can, we shouldn't have any problem with traffic. We're going against traffic anyway."

That settled, everyone went to their rooms to get packing done. Mom and I went to my room and I started getting my things ready, but I finally had to just sit down. I shouldn't have been exhausted since I had done nothing, but suddenly I had absolutely no energy. When Mom started asking me what I wanted to take and tried to do my packing for me, I got angry, feeling that she was pushing me into doing something I wasn't interested in doing. I started to shout at her, but caught myself and said, "Mom, later. Right now just leave me alone so I can sleep." Having said that, I lay across the bed as Mom left the room. I had come to briefly while Nathan was raping me. Now when I opened my eyes, his face was only inches from mine. I have never looked into eyes so crazy looking. His face... his face was so distorted he looked more like an animal than a human being. When I closed my eyes, I saw that face.

I got up and paced my room. I was exhausted. The only time I had slept was when I had been given sleeping pills and when I woke up I was groggy, so I stopped taking them. Now I was exhausted. I lay down again.

Then there he was, Nathan, his eyes leering into mine. His hot beer breath in my face nauseated me. Then I felt him plunge into me. I screamed again as I had before I blacked out when he raped me. This time I didn't pass out, I kept screaming.

Suddenly I felt someone's arms around me and I no longer saw Nathan's face. He had vanished. "Paula, Paula, Baby, you're ok. You're safe. You're safe, Baby." It was Kent's voice I heard. I had closed my eyes and kept them tight shut, but when I heard Kent's voice, I opened my them and saw it was Kent holding me, stroking my hair and whispering to me. As soon as I realized it was Kent holding me and that Nathan was only a figment of my half-asleep state, I relaxed and wept softly. "Let it go, Paula. I'm here. You are safe, Babe." Slowly I felt the nightmare slipping away. I looked into Kent's face. I saw care, concern, worry there, and wondered how long he would be there for me if I kept reliving the rape or imagining a new one over and over again. I may have to give him up later, but now he was there and he was holding me, safe in his arms.

I looked into Kent's eyes and saw his love and concern shining there. I smiled at him then drew his lips to mine for a soft kiss. When I broke it I said, "Kent, I'm sorry. I don't want to keep upsetting you. I'm sorry."

"Paula, don't worry about me. I'm fine. Well, I'm not fine so long as you are hurting, but I'm ok myself. Now we have to get you well, over this horror. I'm here, Paula, and that's where I want to be." Kent kissed me on the forehead and then looked into my eyes, smiled and then kissed me on the lips. "Paula, do you want me to call your mom to help you pack? Are you ready to pack?"

"Kent, I want you here. Can you stay? Will you stay?"

"Of course I will, Paula. Do you want your mom to help?"

"No, I can do my own packing, but I don't want to be by myself."

"Fine, I'll stay."

I got my bags and started packing. Kent helped as much as he could, and more than once we got the giggles over his efforts at helping. Half an hour after I started, I finished packing. Hand-in-hand Kent and I went to the family room where Derrick and Larry and Luke were with the Greywolfs, Marc and Keith. "All packed and ready to go," I said.

"Ready for supper as well?" Greywolf asked.

"I sure am," I replied.

"Good," Matt said. "It's ready."

Mom had helped Matt and Eugene prepare supper. I was suddenly aware of the delicious odors coming the kitchen and of how hungry I was.


Last night it had been Kent screaming and today it was Paula. I was kinda surprised that I hadn't had nightmares as well. I hadn't, I had what I guess you could call daymares. I mean I was awake and all that, but I found myself lost in thought, not pleasant ones. I surely would never tell Larry, but I often found myself thinking about Nathan forcing himself on Paula and, when I did, I remembered the pain--physical and emotional--Larry had caused me when he forced his cock up my ass. But Paula could never come through the pain to love and be loved as I had. Even if Nathan had wanted it to be that way, it couldn't be because he was dead. The future didn't look very bright for Paula. I just hoped Kent's love would be enough to heal her.

When dinner was ready we all gathered in the dining room. Sandra had helped me and Matt get dinner and it was a great meal. Matt had said he thought we should celebrate even though Paula had a long way to go before she could be considered emotionally well, "She's alive and that's worth celebrating big time," he had said. Among the three of us we came up with some of Paula's favorite dishes.

When Paula saw what we put on the table she said, "Guys, I couldn't have asked for better brothers had Mom had a house full of sons. You are the greatest."

After dinner and cleanup, we all went to the family room and just relaxed. Marc told us about all the twisting and turning he had gone through to get his dad to accept him going to Independence. "By the way, I'll have to give the Concord Five a lot of credit," he said. "What finally caught Dad's eye was the number of AP honors Independence turned out past year--tops in the nation Dad discovered. He also found out a great deal about the teachers. Mr. Greywolf, you especially impressed him with the number of high scoring AP physics students you turn out."

"Marc, so far as I know, I am the only teacher who has no honorific. It's just Greywolf, not Mr. Greywolf. Don't know why, but it's always been that way. I do have a lot of high scores on AP physics exams. The reasons are simple. Students have to have demonstrated their abilities in math and science before they can get in the program. Many schools just say, 'Take AP courses if you want to'. Since many schools give an extra quality point for AP courses, parents want their child to take them. In that case, you either water down the course or have a high failure rate. Everyone knows at Independence there are no extra quality points and the courses are hard. They are equal to or better than the college courses they can replace. So, yes, we seldom have a student who does not score high enough to exempt a college course or two."

"And that goes for all the AP courses," Matt said. "But look what a little hard work in high school can do. Luke and I are sophomores next semester and Luke will be at Cleveland Art Institute full-time. Eugene, Larry and Paula lack only a few credits being sophomores. Given what we all plan to do, that means we can possibly graduate with our class and the degrees we want.

"Well, as I said, Dad was impressed. With housing worked out with the Greywolfs, I'm set to go as soon as the second semester begins in January."

We talked about school a while and just generally enjoyed being with each other. About eight, Kent's parents brought Derrick over. "I'm not sure what kind of watchdog Derrick will be," Mr. Glaze said. "Are you sure you want to leave your kingdom in his hands?"

"Sure, we're sure, Dad," Kent said.

"Well, we need to be going. Have a safe trip and make Kent behave," Mrs. Glaze said as they prepared to leave.

"I'll be back in the morning to drive one of the cars to the airport," Mr. Glaze said.

When they were gone, Derrick sat down with us and we helped him make a list of things he needed to keep an eye on, who to call if he had something go wrong, that sort of thing. "Derrick, you are taking on a big responsibility," Kent told him. "I know you are perfectly capable of handling the job. Just don't let your teen party animal get you in trouble. No women, no drugs, no alcohol. No more than one or two of your friends."

"Don't expect to throw a party. But how about a friend staying over with me?"

"Fine so long as it is not Judy," Kent said.

"Fat chance!" Derrick said. "Her dad would have my bal... head on a platter!"

"Derrick, we trust you or we wouldn't have asked you to house-sit. You have use of the vehicles, run of the house, just don't do serious damage to the house and especially do not do serious damage to yourself. As Mom says, 'Be responsible'. That's all we ask," Matt said.

"Kent, we were really going to miss having you home for Christmas, but now we'll all have a Christmas vacation."

"You can bet you'll have a Christmas to remember," Matt said. "Millie has a thing about Christmas. When she said she'd get married right after Christmas so she'd not have to do decorations for the reception, you better believe it. I think she has a whole storeroom of Christmas stuff. And everyone who is anyone makes sure they get to Millie's Christmas Open House. It starts after the midnight mass and generally breaks up three or four hours later.

We all were getting droopy from lack of sleep and at 9:00 Kent said, "Derrick, you can stay up as late as you like, but I'm going to bed. Try not to wake me when you come up."

"Thanks, I saw a movie on TV I wanted to see, so I'll be up when it is over."

 We all said our goodnights and went off to bed. I didn't know about Luke and Matt, but Larry and I didn't play around. We were both exhausted so, after a couple of great goodnight kisses, I spooned myself into Larry's back, rested my arm across my beloved and was almost asleep when I felt Larry sobbing.

"What's wrong, Lar?" I asked. "What's wrong, Babe?"

Larry turned to face me. There was a night light in our room, a concession to my paranoia about the dark, and by its faint glow I saw tears on Larry's face. Larry looked at me and said, "Gene, Paula's rape has made me so ashamed about what I did to you. It's like her rape was my rape of you." Tears were now streaming down Larry's beautiful face.

"Lar, I'll be honest with you. It also made me think about it. But, Babe, there's a difference. Your love for me has brought healing. It was a very small price to pay for the happiness you have given me and for your love. Can't you let my love for you heal you?"

That started a fresh flood of tears. I reached up, took Lar's face in my hands and pulled his lips to mine for a long, soft, gentle kiss. When I broke the kiss, Larry looked into my eyes, smiled weakly and said, "Gene, your love is enough to heal anything. I know I don't deserve you, but you're mine, all mine."

"You're damn frigging right, Lover Boy." Our kiss this time was not soft or gentle, but passionate. The kiss ended, I lay with my head on Lar's chest, listening to his heartbeat, the heartbeat echoing his love for me and soon both of us were asleep.


We had all been missing sleep since Paula's attack and I suspect all would have liked to be able to sleep-in Tuesday morning, maybe as much just to avoid what had happened to Paula as to catch up on sleep. Dad made sure we were up and getting showered and dressed, but he had to make two trips upstairs before everyone was moving. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready for the day, we went downstairs where Mr. Glaze was sitting with Dad drinking coffee. He had just arrived to help get everyone to the airport.

When we were all at breakfast, the phone rang. It was Captain Kelly. When I identified myself he said, "Matt, good to hear your voice. Sorry about Paula, damn sorry. Maybe getting home will be good for her. I arrived last night at 10:00 and have gassed and all this morning. I'm ready when you are."

"We'll be along as soon as we have finished breakfast and get last-minute things done. We plan to leave for the airport about 8:00."

"Ok, just let me know when you leave and I'll be ready to fly when you arrive."

We were ready to leave shortly after we finished breakfast. Derrick drove Kent, Paula, Sandra and my parents in Eugene's car, a tight squeeze. Mr. Glaze drove the family car with the rest of us. I was sitting in the back on Luke's lap, leaning over to keep from bumping my head. Eugene was sitting on Larry. The two of us got a good bump when we went over a railroad crossing and our heads hit the roof. Marc and Keith were in front with Mr. Glaze.

When we arrived at the airport, Captain Kelly told Marc he had gassed up his plane and done the preflight check. "Not that I don't trust you, Captain," Marc said, "but I need to do a preflight check myself."

While Marc was doing that, Captain Kelly said, "Glad to see Marc takes preflight checks seriously. If he hadn't insisted on doing his own, I would have gotten on his case. You can never be too sure of your plane."

When Marc finished, we all got aboard the two planes and, as soon as they were cleared for take off, we headed to North Carolina.

The flight to North Carolina was uneventful, thank goodness. I had had enough "eventfuls" to last a long time. Dad had left the van at the airport in Concord so he had to drive to Lexington to pick us up. Jens had met the plane in Concord and took Paula, Kent, Sandra and Mom home.

It was very good to be home again, but I think I had withdrawal pains. All afternoon I kept thinking I'd check on Paula and then remember she was at her mom's place. I finally called about 6:00 in the evening and Sandra said Paula and Kent had left her place at 1:00, right after lunch, to show Kent the town. "I asked them what they would do after 1:05," she chuckled. "Paula actually seemed excited about showing Kent where she grew up. I hope she continues to enjoy things. She was very nervous coming down, worrying about what people might think. Kent asked her why people needed to know everything. That calmed her a bit."

"Good, tell them I called." As soon as I hung up the phone, I told Larry, Mom and Dad about Paula's concern.

"Sandra's right, Paula's tragedy shouldn't be community news," Luke said. "I need to call Mom and Dad and make sure they know that. I bet Mary Kathryn knows already." She did and she and Michael had talked about it and had agreed it was news which should be kept in the family--the extended, extended family. Just to make sure, Luke and I talked to everyone and all had come to the same conclusion.

Fr. Tom called just after supper. He and Millie had been talking and he wanted to know if I thought Christmas Eve was good for my concert. "There are some other good events coming up," he said. "We could pretend we are St. John the Divine in New York and celebrate the winter solstice the twenty-first. Or it could be a Christmas concert any time after Monday. Or a New Year's concert a week from Sunday. It's up to you," he said.

"Millie's wedding is a week from Thursday, right? The day before and the day after would not be too good." We finally decided on New Year's evening, "after everyone has time to get over their hangover," Fr. Tom had laughed. "By the way, there's a party planned for New Year's Eve at the teen club. You Ohio people might like to show up."

"How's that going?" I asked.

"Well, the place is full every Friday and Saturday night and we have had practically no trouble inside. Remember the skinheads who showed up?" I said I did. "Well, they have been here every time the club has been open. Pure prejudice, I know, but I have been waiting for them to cause trouble. Apparently we have attracted attention at Bob Jones University--the son of the preacher at First Baptist is a student there--because six or seven 'clean cut, American boys' with dates showed up last Saturday night and after they had been here for a short time, took the mike and started preaching about how evil the place was. Pop Cop tried to put them out, but they just laughed at him. The skinheads took the mike away from the guy preaching and said, 'Go on with your fun, we'll handle this'. Whereupon they literally carried the guys out with their girlfriends trailing behind. That was a big surprise."

"St. Mary's vestry has had one member who was much opposed and he was told the club had been approved by the vestry and he was there when it was voted on. I don't know whether he will continue to cause dissent or not, but so far he's been the only vestry member saying anything. One family left and went to the Baptist church, but nothing major has happened." We talked a bit more and he said he'd make sure the concert got announced in Concord and Lexington.

When Luke and I went up to bed, he said, "I know we said we'd let Paula call the shots, but I'd really like to know how she's doing. I hope she doesn't think we have forgotten about her."

"Sandra knows that we are concerned and if she thinks Paula needs us, she will call." We were both exhausted from the emotional strain we had been under, losing sleep and the trip home. Luke was asleep practically as soon as he had kissed me goodnight and I wasn't far behind.

North Carolina mountain weather can be unpredictable, to say the least. After a snowstorm Thanksgiving, here we were approaching Christmas will balmy weather. Wednesday morning dawned fair and amazingly warm. I know we had agreed to let Paula call the shots, but this was a day too good to miss. I called Michael and asked about a picnic at the falls. "Hey, glad you called," he responded. "I was thinking the same thing. You round up your bunch and I'll round up mine. Maybe we can all get enough food together."

I called Larry and Eugene and asked them. "Are you kidding?" Eugene asked. Millie has a week's work laid out for today for me and Larry."

"She around?"

"What do you think? Does the slave master leave her slaves without supervision?"

"Let me talk to her."

I heard Eugene shout, "Ma, telephone," then quietly, "please rescue us," he pleaded.

"Millie, Matt, what's up?"

"Millie, it's just too good a day to waste decorating for Christmas. If you will release your son and his lover for a picnic at the falls, Promise we'll pitch in to do the decorating."

"Deal, Matt, what do I need to get together?"

"Whatever. Everyone's bringing something and hoping it's not all cookies," I laughed.

I was hesitant, but I called Paula's place. Sandra answered the phone. "Sandra, Matt. We're getting together for a picnic at the falls. Think Paula is up to it?"

"I think it would do her good, but I'll see if she wants to do it."

A few minutes later, Paula was on the phone. "Matt, I'm delighted! It's a great idea. What do you want from Kent and me?"

"Your presence, just your presence. Meet us about 11:00."

Luke and I raided the fridge and got some sandwiches made, boiled some eggs and packed some fruit into our picnic basket, and made thermos of hot chocolate and were ready to go by 10:00.

"You college brats ready?" Michael called as he and Mary Kathryn came in. After hugs all around, he continued, "We have cold fried chicken--well, it'll be cold by the time we eat--and, of course, potato salad."

"Why don't we go ahead and get a fire started? I know it's warm, but a fire might feel good later," Mary Kathryn said.

"Sounds good," Luke said. "Matt, why don't we load some dry wood into the four wheeler?"

Half an hour later, the four of us had a fire going, blankets spread for sitting, and were just waiting for the others.

Bill and Linda arrived with Jacob and Susan. "Santa Claus should be good to someone for coming up with this idea," Linda said as she hugged Luke and me.

Larry and Eugene showed up next. "You know you promised Millie you'd help with the decorations," Eugene said. "Man, I am holding you to that! You'd think she was decorating the whole town."

"Should be a fun time for all," Mary Kathryn said. "You two got a problem with that?" she asked, turning to Susan and Jacob.

"No problem," Susan said. "It's just a party so far as I am concerned." Jacob nodded in agreement.

Marc, Keith and Chris showed up next. "Dan's sleeping," Chris explained. "He's been pulling extra hours this week. I guess he thought since he didn't have school, he'd do extra."

Everyone was present except Kent and Paula by 11:00. "I suspect Paula and Kent will be here by the time we get the food ready," Mary Kathryn said as she started taking food from baskets. The last dish had been set out when Paula and Kent arrived. More hugs and the Kent said, "I see food and I didn't have to cook".

Soon we were all eating, laughing and enjoying being in each other's company. It almost seemed as though the last few days hadn't happened. When we finished eating, we cleaned up after ourselves and all were half-sitting, half-lying on the blankets. It was very warm in the sun, so we had moved back from the fire. Kent was lying with his head in Paula's lap and she was running her hand through his hair when she said, "I think I'd like all of you to know what happened to me so when I act weird--and I will--you will understand." she then told about being raped, sparing none of the details.

When she finished, everyone was silent for a few minutes when Linda said, "Paula, it was nothing to compare with your ordeal, but I can understand a little bit of how you must feel. You all know what Orie did, but it was more than I have ever admitted to myself. He didn't rape me, but the only reason he did not was because I was strong enough and got his nuts hard enough to escape. I felt violated and at the same time as if I was, some way, responsible for what he did. In my head I knew I was not, but that didn't mean I didn't feel as though I had." She got up from where she was sitting and went over and hugged Paula. soon Susan, Mary Kathryn and Rachel joined in a group hug.

The guys were all looking at each other, not knowing what to do. Finally Keith broke the ice since he had seen Paula in Ohio. Soon the whole bunch were involved in group hug. Paula was weeping silent tears as she started hugging individuals. When that was over, she said, "I knew I could count on you guys. Thanks. And as I said, if I start acting weird, you know why. Well, I guess for the first time in my life, this little Jewish girl is about to help decorate for Christmas. Anyone want to help?"

As we were packing up everything, Paula came up to me and said, "Matt, this is a healing place. I know it is," and she held me close. 1