Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 34

Posted: N/A

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--Larry

I reviewed the plans for setting up the audio and video I had done. Of course I wouldn't know exactly how good a job I had done until we could check it out. I planned to meet Friday with the engineers so we could look over the actual building. We would start setting up the systems Monday after school. If all went well, we would tape a couple of the practice sessions and make any necessary changes and adjustments. When I had finished, I left a note for Mom and walked over to Eugene's to use his computer to fax the plans to the engineers of the Lexington PBS station.

Millie met me at the door and asked if I could spare a few minutes. She got cokes and we went to the library. "Larry, I'm worried about Eugene. When he came in from practice, I asked how it went and he said, 'Shitty, Mom, absolutely shitty. Think I was responsible. I'm going to take a nap.' He went upstairs and a few minutes ago, when I checked, he was asleep. I'm really worried about what he might do. Would you please spend the night with him? I am really worried."

"You know I don't have to be begged to spend the night with Eugene, but what's wrong? He has said nothing to me."

"You mean he didn't tell you about the letter he got yesterday?"

"I know nothing about a letter. What letter?"

"He got a letter from the DA yesterday asking him to be at the courthouse at 9:00 Saturday and plan to spend four to six hours looking at tapes in preparation for McBride's trial. McBride's attorney has managed to get the trial scheduled quickly--don't know what strings he pulled to get that done. It's scheduled for the week after the concert. Eugene is beyond upset over having to look at those tapes--who wouldn't be? And he is still worried about how you will react, what you will think of him after you see them. I made sure you could go with him, but I wonder if he has decided against that since he said nothing to you."

"Millie, you know I love Eugene. If he was a willing participant in some wild sex with McBride now, I would have real problems with it. I'm not sure I could handle it. But that's not the question. McBride raped him... I can't understand how he can love me after what I did to him, but he does. I know he does. I feel like shit every time I think about what I did to him, but most of the time I can put that behind me and just love him and accept his love for me. I have to be there when he has to watch those tapes and relive the terror of six years ago. I have to be."

"I'm glad you're here, Larry, let your mom know you'll be here tonight. I don't want Eugene to do something foolish again."

I called Mom as soon as I thought she would be home and told her what was going on. While Millie was seeing to dinner, I went upstairs, faxed the plans, then went to the bedroom to get Eugene. He never completely waked up, but said, "I don't want dinner." When I told Millie, she said we should just let him sleep.

After dinner, Millie asked about the taping of the concert and Luke's exhibition. "It's as good as it can get on paper. Unfortunately, paper is not the actual space. So many things can go wrong when you start dealing with what is--rather than what you thought was."

"Just like life," Millie mused. "Well, you've got to do a good job. Don't want to put pressure on you, but a good job is important to your future and your future with Eugene." Millie sighed and said, "I don't know what I would have said if I had wanted to put pressure on you! But this concert is really critical for the lot of you. Try to get some sleep. It's early, but I'm going to my room and read."

"I'll go up. I probably should do some school work but, to tell the truth, everyone's just coasting now--well, Eugene and I do have AP physics next week, but right now I think I better make sure he's ok. Millie, when will everything settle and be normal?"

"I guess you're adult enough to know," Millie smiled, "This is normal. When things settle down, people will be saying how natural you look as they peep into your coffin! Well, I'll admit things do settle down a bit more than they have been the last month or so but, no, normal does not exist. Take care of my boy and yourself," she said and stood. I hugged her tightly. As I did, she said, "Even with all the hurt and pain, I wouldn't trade what you kids have given me for anything."

"I don't think we would have made it without you, Millie. You're super!" I hugged Millie again and went upstairs.

When I reached the room, I looked at my love who was sleeping, but hardly peacefully. He was tossing and turning, muttering in his sleep. My heart ached for him as I undressed and got ready to slide into bed beside him. As I turned the cover back, I saw Eugene was still dressed. I debated what to do, then decided to undress him. He couldn't be comfortable. I expected him to wake up, but he didn't. When he was undressed, I slid into bed and spooned into his back, hugging him to me. Eugene turned over, pulled me close and kissed me hard. "Larry, hold me. Hold me tight. Let me know you love me," he muttered. I did as he asked and soon he was asleep again, but not as fitfully as before. It took me a while, but I finally drifted off.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--Paula

The practice was terrible! It started off poorly as Eugene didn't seem to be with us. After he made a couple of blunders, Matt started making mistakes. That, of course, threw the chorus off. The practice just grew worse and worse until there was no way I could not be affected. We finally just stopped and talked about what was going wrong. Jackson, as always, spoke up quickly. "Frankly, we suck. I don't know why, but we're not working together. I don't know the reason, but unless we get it together, we better hang it up." There were heads nodding all over the place. "I know it may be hard for some and we probably all want to have Friday to party, but there's lots riding on this. I suggest we have a practice tomorrow after school--not only to get ourselves together, but also to get the program together. We've never done the whole thing as a single program."

"The only problem I have with that is getting people home. I don't think Greywolf and Mr. Allan would mind bringing everyone, but I doubt they'd be interested in hanging around to take everyone home. After all, they are doing it for free," I reminded the group.

"I guess parents might be able to pick up some of us and some of us can drive. I'd be happy to take some home. How many of you will have a problem arranging a way to get home?" Jackson asked. Several hands went up. Looking at who had a hand up, Jackson said, "Eugene, you, Matt and I could take care of those can't we? Even if we have to make two or three trips." There was no reason I couldn't, so I nodded as did Eugene. "Ok, practice from 4:30 until we finish--not before 7:30, I'd think," Jackson said.

When I got home, Mom asked how practice went and I told her. "I don't know what happened, but I'm sure something is going on with Eugene. I hope it's something he can handle quickly because if he's not all right, there's no way Matt and I can carry the concert. We're having a practice tomorrow and go through the whole concert without stopping, then go back and work on the bad places. Don't expect me home until 8:00."

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--David

I got off work about 4:30 Friday and decided to go by and see how Michael's house was coming. I got the grand tour and, when we had finished, we went out back to the carriage house. "I think it will be finished this weekend and I planned to move in here, but I have run into a problem. I thought about the great memories I had of living in the carriage house in Chicago, but got reminded--very quickly--that this isn't Chicago and I'm not that young man."

"Michael, I need to talk to you about something. I guess it's kinda the same thing. Last night as Elizabeth--I mean Margaret, of course..."

"Give me the details since you have just given me the problem," Uncle Michael said and he wasn't smiling.

"Margaret and I were in the kitchen fixing supper when she said, 'Damn, this kitchen just isn't right!' and I said, 'It's always been fine before.' Margaret looked at me with fire in her eyes and said, 'It was fine for Elizabeth, David, but I'm not Elizabeth!' I was more than a little taken aback and suddenly I remembered all the times I had done what I just did--call Margaret Elizabeth. After dinner, I walked through the house and thought about when Elizabeth and I had decided on this color for a room, that piece of furniture, that picture, this arrangement of something and realized I was comfortable in the house because it had been the way it is for years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Margaret couldn't move in the house without being reminded she was--it sounds terrible, but you know what I mean--a replacement. Well, I know she's not and I love her dearly. Of course I still remember and love Elizabeth, but what I need is a real new start, not just a replacement for Elizabeth. Does that make sense?"

"Painfully so, I'm afraid. And a good reminder which I needed. So what do you want to do?"

"I had thought about just selling the place and moving, but I don't think I could stand that and I have Michael to consider. I guess what needs to be done is to have the whole house redone--new paint, wallpaper, new furniture and definitely a new kitchen. But then there's Michael to consider and money. It will cost a bundle and I don't make that kind of money."

"How about Margaret? She definitely makes good money. I have visited a doctor a few times," Michael laughed.

"I kinda hate to do that."

"Got a problem with a wife who makes more money than you do?"

"Actually, I would say otherwise most of the time, but, yea... no. I mean I don't have trouble with her making the money, but I'll admit I have trouble when she spends her money for something I think I should provide."

"Sounds to me as if you two need to talk about the difference between 'ours' and 'yours and mine'. James and I had a problem until one day he sat me down and asked very pointedly, 'Michael, are we partners or are we two individuals who like to play around in the same bed?' That hit me between the eyes big time. I realized that by thinking 'his and mine', I was keeping us apart. You need to think about that. What do you need to do now? Having just had a similar problem tossed in my lap, I remembered what James had said, 'We're in this together or we're not. If we're together, it means there's no yours and mine; it ours and we make decisions together.'"

"You're telling me you have a new partner?"

"No, I'm telling you you have a wife, not a bed partner. You also have a son. Talk to Margaret and tell her you are aware of a problem which can destroy your relationship--and it can--and make a decision as to what to do about redoing the house. And you and Margaret need to get Michael in on that as well. He's a part of the picture as well as you two--at least for a couple more years. If money is a problem, I won't give it to you. I don't think that will be helpful. I'll loan it to you interest free and with a repayment plan you can live with, but if Margaret wants to pay for it all, then you need to think about that. In fact, I suggest you pool your income--common bank accounts, common decisions about how to spend it. As a token repayment for the time I have lived at your place--and it looks like I will be living there for a while longer now--I'll be happy to work with the two of you in finding things, locating dependable workmen, directing work--what I am doing here."

"Michael, I am so relieved. I guess I don't show it often, but I was really upset. I love Margaret as much as I loved Elizabeth and I could see a wedge growing between us over something which seemed unimportant to me, but I see now it was very important to her. Thanks, big brother."

"You're welcome, little brother. That's what big brothers are for. And you don't realize how much having my little brother means to me."

"Got a phone here?"

"I got one put in the day I closed on the house. It took some fancy footwork, but I got it done because I knew I'd be making a million calls a day as soon as the work got started. It's right over there."

I called Margaret's office and told the receptionist I'd hold when she said Margaret was with a patient.

Several minutes later Margaret's voice said, "David, is something wrong?"

"Yes, but nothing that can't be fixed. When will you be free?"

"I have one more patient then I'll be leaving."

"I'm picking you up. Michael can come by and get your car."

"Ok, but what's going on?"

"A lot I think you'll like," I laughed, "but you'll just have to wait."

I picked up Margaret and asked if she would like to see Michael's place.

"Sure, but is that what all the mystery is about?"

"No. I told you you'd just have to wait about the mystery," I laughed. I enjoyed keeping Margaret guessing.

Michael gave us the grand tour and Margaret was full of suggestions. "But I guess you don't really need any suggestions and certainly not a woman's touch," she finally laughed.

"Says who?" Michael responded. "You've made some exciting suggestions and I certainly appreciate having a woman's touch--when it comes to renovations and decorations. I'll admit that I can do without it very well in the bed," he laughed and Margaret blushed big time. "I didn't know doctors could be embarrassed!"

"You need to learn, Michael, that sometimes I'm just a woman--not a doctor," she responded.

"Don't think I am the only one who needs to realize that!" Michael said and gave me a sharp look.

When we had completed the tour, we drove to the farm and I asked Margaret, "Feel up to a short walk?"

"It's afternoon, so sure."

"What does that mean?"

"It means I feel up to a walk in the afternoon, but not necessarily in the morning. What do you think it means?"

"Frankly, I haven't the foggiest. But would you like to walk to the falls? I need to talk."

"Always," she responded. I grabbed a blanket and we walked across the meadow, hand in hand. I crossed the canes when we reached the path to the falls. On the beach, we sat down on the blanket and were both silent for several minutes just enjoying the sound of the falls, the river and the birds. Finally I broke the silence. "Margaret, I need talk, ok?"


"Remember last night when you said something about the kitchen and I said it had always been fine?" She nodded without speaking. "And the times I have called you Elizabeth?" Again she nodded. "Well, today when Michael was showing me around his place, he talked about moving into the carriage house because of the carriage house in Chicago. I then told her about our conversation. "Margaret, I am sorry. I love you, Margaret Bailey Andrews, but I have treated you as a replacement for Elizabeth. You said you are not and I never expected you to be, but I have treated you as if you were. I want us to sit down and decide how to make the house our home."

Margaret grabbed me around the neck and gave me a big-time kiss as tears filled her eyes. "Thank you, David. I would like to say it didn't matter, but it does, it has. It has been creating a feeling in me I didn't like."

"Margaret, if it's necessary, we can sell the farm..."

"Never! That farm and the falls and the family are a part of me now. And we're not going to do anything without Michael. He is as much a part of us as if he were mine."

"But he'll only be here two more years..."

"David, he must NEVER think that I am trying to replace his mother. I neither want nor will I tolerate anything that suggests that, even if he were only going to be here for two weeks. While I'm sure we can work out anything else, but there is one thing about which I am adamant. The downstairs bedroom has to go!"

"Well, I guess since it was mine and Elizabeth's..."

"Not OUR bedroom, the other downstairs bedroom."

"No problem. It's been little more than storage space for years and I can see why you might want to do something with it."

"I don't want to do something with it. Something must be done about it and before too long."

"Whatever you say. What do you want to do with it?"

"I told you it's not a want. It's a need." Margaret's eyes were sparkling, a smile hovered about her lips and she finally said, "It's going to be a nursery."

I must have been spaced out because I said, "Well, I see no reason why, or why not if you wish, but..."

"You may be sharp in other ways, David Andrews, but I guess I'll have to spell it out. It NEEDS to be a nursery because you are going to have a child to put in it."

I'm sure I looked stunned then I stammered, "You mean..."

"About the only thing I can mean. I'm pregnant."

"But I didn't think you could know this quickly. I mean..."

"David, I guess if you want to put it that way, I am pregnant with your love child. Remember a certain day here at the falls BEFORE we said 'I will' we kinda did?"

I looked at Margaret, half unbelieving, but thought back to the mornings she was in the bathroom longer than usual, and to her comment about walking in the afternoon and morning, and I realized what she said and I had heard was the way it was. I pulled her to me for a long, tender kiss. When I released her, I said, "Margaret, when you mentioned getting pregnant that day--my God, the day you did--I felt like I was too old, and I may be, but no-one could convince me right now. I am so happy--dense maybe, but happy. Damn, I'm going to be a father again and Michael will have a brother..."

"Or sister. That I don't know yet. Not sure I want to know. At least not right now, but why don't you make mad, passionate, animal love to your new child-to-be's mother?" I didn't need a second invitation. Well, actually, I needed to be reminded that sex with a pregnant woman didn't hurt her or the baby. Of course, I knew that, but I guess the old testosterone, male protective mode kicked in. But I liked the way Margaret made me remember!

When we had finished making love we lay, naked, holding each other until the sun moved behind the trees and the shade covered us. No longer warmed by it, we dressed and walked back to the house, hand in hand. As we walked, I asked Margaret when we should talk to Michael, "Before or after dinner?"

"How about between those two? We still have dinner to prepare unless some elvies have done it while we had fun at the falls," Margaret laughed.

"You had fun? I thought I was being very serious."

"David, having sex with you is always serious fun!" Margaret laughed, stood on her tiptoes and kissed me.

A Special Place--Part-Thirty-four--Matt

When Luke and I got out of school, he asked if I could go home with his mom. Seems he had a message from Uncle Michael telling him the packing experts wanted to meet with him to look at the task they had in crating the pieces for the exhibition. "I told Uncle Michael I planned to put them in the van and haul them to St. Mary's. He got a look on his face as if I had suggested throwing the Mona Lisa in the back of a van and driving her around Concord," Luke laughed.

"No problem. But this is Friday and Dad and Mr. Allan are bringing the kids to practice and it is up to us to get home. It will probably be close to eight before we finish since we are planning a complete run through and then, if necessary, going over the worse parts. I was supposed to take some kids home, but maybe..."

"When will you finish?"

"Probably between 7:30 and 8:00."

"No problem. At least I hope. I'll try come by at 7:30."

"Ok, but not before!" When we reached the parking lot, I tossed Luke the keys and, before he walked around to the driver's side, he kissed me big time. "Luke, you've got to stop that! All Independence will know!"

"Matt, I've about reached the point where I don't care what people know. Well, actually I do. You're right," he sighed.

When I got to St. Mary's, I decided I'd do a strictly Bach program for the bishop's visitation and I had plenty in the concert. Selecting the hymns was fairly easy as Gertie had pulled the service bulletin from his last visit. I just made a few changes and gave the new schedule to Gertie. That out of the way, I decided to take a walk before practice. I wasn't very anxious to get started on that!

As I walked by Mr. Swartz's shop, he was sweeping the sidewalk. I suddenly recalled a thought I had earlier and, when he finished, we went inside. "A problem solved," I thought as I walked out.

When I got back to St. Mary's, Dad and Mr. Allen were just pulling into the parking lot with a load of singing and laughing students. I only hoped their mood would continue. Eugene and Luke drove up just as a car marked with the call letters of the PBS station pulled into the parking lot. When a couple guys got out, Larry walked over and shook hands with them. Eugene explained, "Larry faxed the plans he had drawn up for the recordings yesterday and he was to meet the engineers here this afternoon. He has promised they would not interfere with the rehearsal. Matt, Paula, I need to talk to the group before we start." He was very serious and looked troubled.

"Sure, no problem," we said.

The kids became quiet as they entered the church. When we started rehearsals, I had explained how Episcopalians felt about the church and that I would appreciate it if they would respect it by leaving the horse play at the door. "Of course, this not a service so feel free to talk when we are not working, but just talk quietly if you would. Also, I know few of you are Episcopalians or Roman Catholics but, when we enter the church, we usually kneel and spend a few minutes in prayer. I do, even when I come just to practice. No-one expects you to do so but, out of respect for anyone who might, let's agree to have three or four minutes from the time we get in until we start. Ok?" There was complete agreement and the kids had respected that and some did kneel for a short prayer--I noticed that more and more of them were.

As Paula, Eugene and I went inside, several kids were kneeling. After a few minutes, the last one got up and came up front. "Before we start, I have something I need to say," Eugene said as all the group got quiet. "Our last rehearsal was terrible," he began and there were many nods of agreement. "I want to apologize for that since basically it was all my fault. I was very distracted and started making mistakes. As you saw, that was catching--soon Paula and Matt were making mistakes. When that started, we ceased being a group, being together. I was distracted because I had a difficult decision to make and it was the only thing I had on my mind. As closely as we have been working, I think you deserve an explanation." Eugene then told them about the whole rotten mess with McBride. Before he was halfway finished, all the girls were crying and about half the boys were teary-eyed. By the time he was finished, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Even the two engineers working with Larry were misty-eyed and Larry was weeping silently. "So that's it. That was why I was distracted. Having made my decision about testifying, I have my shi... stuff together, so let's practice." But practice was not to be until there was a fifty-person group hug. Well, actually, about fifty people hugged Eugene two or three at a time and the guys were perhaps more demonstrative than the girls.

I had heard that tragedy brings people together and it certainly seemed to bring this group together. We were really tight and made so few mistakes I couldn't believe it. It was impossible to imagine the group rehearsing Friday afternoon was the same as that which sounded so bad the day before. For the first time, we ran straight through the entire program, stopping only for the fifteen-minute intermission as we would during the performances. When we finished, I said, "Ok, you have kept one secret well, can I trust you with a new one?" There were loud shouts of agreement. "I will play a piece as a surprise for Millie who was my organ teacher. It will not be on the program and I will play it after you leave for the intermission. I guess you can use it as a "going to the potty" piece. Besides, it will give you five or six minutes before the crowd hits the johns. I need to warn you, you may need earplugs." I started the piece and, when I had finished, the group started applauding, whistling and shouting.

After the students had gone, Paula and I met with Eugene and Paula hugged Eugene and said, "Eugene, what you did saved the concert, no doubt about it. This group is now together as it was not before and as it never would have been had you not done one of the bravest things I have ever seen. Thank you and, please, let me and Matt know any way we can help you though a really rocky time."

"Thanks, Paula, I knew I had to do what I did, otherwise I would have had no credibility with the musicians. It was hard, but their support will make tomorrow easier."

As we finished, Larry and the two engineers walked up. Larry introduced them as Mr. Steinbeck and Mr. Greentree. Mr. Greentree said, "Eugene, what you did this afternoon was one of the bravest things I have ever witnessed a young man doing. I admire your courage and your willingness to fight for justice."

"I agree," Mr. Steinbeck said. "And, I would add, I can't believe the sound you got out of your ensemble. But that goes for you as well, Paula. And Matt, if your old teacher isn't impressed with the rest of your part in this concert, she should be with that display you are putting on for her."

"How did your work go?" Eugene asked, since he had recovered from his embarrassment before Paula and I.

"Splendid, splendid," Mr. Greentree said. "Larry's plans seemed to be almost perfect. Of course, all we did today were meter readings, but I think we'll get a fantastic recording out of this. We'll record both concerts and that way, should something go wrong such as a mike failing or some other technical difficulty, we'll have a backup. >From what I heard today, there'll be no need to have a back up because of a failure on the part of the musicians. I still find it hard to believe that this concert is not only with student musicians, but also directed by students and much written and arranged by high school students. My son is in middle school and plays in the band and it is terrible. I am giving serious thought to moving to Concord if this is the kind of music that comes out of Independence."

"As I recall, music isn't the only reason I would like to have a kid at Independence," Mr. Steinbeck said. "As a matter of fact, it was halfway through the program before I could remember where I had seen you four. All of you were a part of that service held here at St. Mary's." We all nodded. "Well, that should make a lot of people come running to Concord."

Larry needed to spend a bit more time with the engineers, so Eugene and I started driving kids home. Luke hadn't shown up, but Gertie gave me the keys to the church van which made only one trip necessary. Larry was still working with the engineers so Eugene and I sat on the church steps talking while waiting for Luke to show up. I told Eugene how much I admired him for what he was doing and if there was any way I could help, to let me know. "I just hope I'm up for Michael's party tomorrow night after looking at those tapes," he said as Luke pulled up. It seems he had gotten so involved with the packing problem he had let the time slip up on him.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--Margaret

When David and I got back to the house, Michael was obviously home because we could hear his music before we opened the front door. David stood at the bottom of the stairs and shouted, "Michael!" about four times before the music was turned down and Michael answered. "Could you come down? We need to talk." Michael came bounding down the stairs two at a time--his usual. I had asked David about that since it seemed dangerous to me, and he had said he had given up long ago trying to get Michael to walk down the steps rather than going into freefall.

"Michael, Margaret and I are going to prepare supper, but we'd like to talk with you at the same time if you don't mind," David said.


"Michael, I went to see Uncle Michael's place today and, while I was there..."

"Some place, huh, Dad?"

"It sure is but, anyway, while I was there he opened my eyes to something. He made me realize I hadn't treated Margaret right."

"You mean he made you realize that you were treating Margaret like a plug-in replacement wife, bringing her here into what is a kind of memorial to Mom? Frankly, I was afraid I was going to have to have a talk with you about that, but kept hoping you'd wake up. Margaret, I thought you would have put your foot down and not moved in until he did something."

"Like what? Sell the farm and move into a new place?"

"Well, I had hoped it wouldn't have to be that drastic since it would take us away from the family and the falls but, yes, something like that. Seems you and I understood that you were not a replacement mom and neither of us wanted that, but well..."

"Michael, never fear that we will move away from this place; from the family or the falls. I feel very much a part of all that. It's just..."

"It's just that everywhere you look and live, you see things Mom selected, arranged the way she wanted. As I said, the place looks like a memorial to Mom. So what have you decided?"

"Well, we have decided to decide nothing without you..." David said.

"I have only two or three concerns--and they are not major since I will only be here two more years. Of course you're going to get a new bed for starters. That's damn fundamental and I get the king-sized you have now. You can keep the trimming, but I get the bed. And my room is my territory so no-one comes in and decorates it with fat-assed cupids or cowboy scenes. And the third one is that something be done with the downstairs bedroom. I am as guilty as you, Dad, but frankly, it's become a junk room and we don't need that."

David and I both were laughing so hard we were crying. When we finally caught our breath, David said, "First, the bed is yours. I agree, it's a pretty vital piece of furniture and we'll get a new one tomorrow."

"And your room is your territory, Michael. Even if you were going to be here twenty years, it's still yours. While I had thought of painting one wall dayglo pink and papering the other three with blue cabbage roses, I guess I can forego that," I laughed. "And the downstairs bedroom has already been decided upon. I'm going to decorate it in blue or pink, I guess."

"I knew it! I flatass knew it!" Michael said, ran across the room and grabbed and hugged me. "And if you've got to be traditional, although I hate it, you'll have to go with pink. I am going to have a baby sister! And I am sooooo very glad she was conceived at the falls and in broad daylight like the rest of us!"

"Whoa, wait a minute," David said. "What are you talking about?"

"Look, Dad, Margaret's pregnant with a girl who was conceived at the falls in broad daylight. All of the Gang of Four know we were conceived there in broad daylight."

"Well, if you know where and when the other three were conceived, you know more than I do," David said.

"Just check it out with Greywolf and Jens. You'll find out I'm right."

"And the only time Margaret and I ..."

David was blushing big time and I was laughing like crazy at his son putting him on the spot. "Dad, don't try to fool the expert, you and Margaret had sex BEFORE you were married and she's pregnant with my sister from that. And don't think I am going to forget that in case I need it later--I mean sex before marriage, not getting Mary Kathryn pregnant. Besides, our first will be a boy."

"Ok, Son, when and where are moot points now. But don't get hung up on having a sister."

"Yes, Michael, I'm glad you are pleased and excited. I wasn't sure how you would take it. But don't get hung up on a sister to the point you will be disappointed if it's a brother," I said.

"Don't you know?" Michael asked incredulously.

"No, I don't know and won't for a while--even if I decide I want to know."

"Well, I know. It's a girl. So decorate for a girl and be thinking about a name for a girl. There must be several hundred floating around the family since only Jens and Gabrielle managed to have a girl. Now if I may sum up this conversation so you two can get me some supper: 1. This house is going to be turned inside out and made into a home for this family--David, Margaret, Michael and the girl--or girls. Actually, I may as well tell you now, you're carrying twins, Margaret. In being turned inside out, the downstairs bedroom will become a nursery and I will get the king-sized bed and decorate my own room. 2. Margaret got pregnant at the falls in broad daylight BEFORE you two were married. 3. She is having sisters for me. 4. You two are going to get busy with supper because I'm starved. That sums that up. Now the next item of business, about which I have little say, is the money situation. You two need to deal with the "yours and mine" money situation because it will cause very serious problems down the road--not too far down the road, I might add. Is that about right?"

"On the nose, Michael, on the nose," I said, "except maybe the sister or sisters part."

"What you want to bet I'm right, Margaret? A new car, a night of utter wild passionate love for me and wild woman, name what you are willing to risk."

"The right to choose your sister's name against washing supper dishes until your brother is potty trained," I laughed.

"You're on!" Michael said and extended his hand. After we shook hands, he went back upstairs saying, "Now get busy with supper."

I was laughing so hard I couldn't stop and David was just looking very puzzled. "I don't know where he was conceived or if it was daylight or dark, but you sure got a winner in that one," I said when I could finally stop laughing.

"Well, he's right. He was conceived at the falls in the daylight, but what has me puzzled is how he knows. I certainly never told him and I know Elizabeth didn't. She was so old fashioned about sex, if she had her way he would still be thinking you went to the hospital and picked out a baby. More than that, I've never heard Jens or Greywolf talk about when or where the other three were conceived. Very strange. I'll check on that. And he is so positive you are carrying a girl."

"Just wishful thinking on his part. And I'll tell you another thing: I can't understand why his father thought a woman wouldn't find great joy in being stepmother to that kid or wife of his father."

David and I got busy and supper was soon ready and David called Michael. When he came down he asked, "What do you think of Isabell Buffy?" and laughed.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--David

Saturday morning Jens, Greywolf and I were going to help my brother get some things in place for the big Sweet Sixteen party for Michael and Mary Kathryn. When the three of us were in the van, I asked, "Guys, I have a very, very personal question to ask. If you know and won't mind telling, where were your kids conceived and what time of day?"

"Strange question, David," Greywolf said, "But I assume you have a good reason for asking. I can tell you exactly when and the time of day Matt was conceived although Yong Jin and I have never discussed it or told anyone. I mean, it's not a dinner conversation topic," Greywolf laughed. "It was before Yong Jin left to do what was supposed to be a four-week state evaluation of a school system on the coast. The team decided to work weekends so they could finish in three weeks. The day before she was to leave, we were both pretty down. It was a perfect Indian summer day, so we decided to go to the falls after lunch. We sat and talked and made love--I must say, several times. When she got back from the trip, she had started having morning sickness and knew she was pregnant. So Matt was conceived at the falls sometime between mid-afternoon and just before sunset. I remember after we had made love the last time, we walked to Lookout Rock and watched the sunset. If I had a calendar, I could even give you the date."

"Not necessary, but you're sure you never told anyone until now?"

"Positive, and you know Yong Jin would never discuss such--probably not even with me!" Greywolf laughed.

"Well, I can be as positive about my two. Luke was conceived in October as well, and damn, it was the same day as Matt! Greywolf, I guess we almost bumped into each other," Jens laughed. "Gabrielle had just received the news her father had died and she was going back to Germany for the burial and to help her mother get things in order. As with you and Yong Jin, Greywolf, we knew we would be separated for a month or so. When I got home, Gabrielle was packed and was really feeling down. When I walked in, she said, "Jens, before I go tomorrow, I'd like to spend the night under the stars at the falls. Well, we did and, strangely enough, did not have sex that night. We talked and cuddled until dawn then went to Lookout Rock to watch the sunrise. We sat in silence for over an hour, watching the sunrise, then just sitting and holding each other. Finally, we made love on Lookout Rock, twice as I remember--and I do!--then we went down to the beach, ate and made love a couple more times and left just before noon. Luke was conceived at the falls in the morning and I know it was the same day as Matt because Gabrielle was worried about what Greywolf and I would do with our wives gone. When she came back from Germany, she was sure she was pregnant and she was right."

"Mary Kathryn was a very different matter. I know we all did everything we could to have children after Matt and Luke were born--both Gabrielle and I were seeing a doctor, hoping she would get pregnant. She kept one of those fertility charts and the doctor told me to avoid sex until the best time for her and then have at it--as many times as I could on the right day, then hold off to see if Gabrielle was pregnant. When the day arrived, I took the day off and Gabrielle suggested we go to the falls, 'It helped once,' she had said. As soon as we could get Luke settled with Elizabeth, we went to the falls and had sex as many times as I could! We finally came back around five and, sure enough, Gabrielle was pregnant."

"Who all knows that, Jens?"

"Gabrielle and I. Why?"

"Well, I asked Margaret if it was ok to talk with you and she said it was, but keep this under your hat until tonight. Michael was ready to make an announcement to the world and Margaret told him he could make the announcement at his party. Margaret is pregnant..."

"Got a little ahead of the game, David?" Jens laughed and I blushed.

"Well, kinda. And Michael assures me he'll not forget it in case he needs it."

"He better not need it anytime soon," Jens said, only half joking. "But why the question about the kids?"

"When we told Michael last night, he assured us he knew already, that the baby--or babies--he says Margaret is pregnant with twin girls, and where he got the idea, I don't know. He said he was pleased that she or shes were conceived in broad daylight at the falls like the rest of the kids. I knew neither Elizabeth nor I had told him about his own conception and I sure didn't think either of you have told him about the other three, but he was adamant and said they all knew it. Damnedest thing. Now I wonder about the girl twins!

"Sure strange and I will definitely check it out with mine," Jens said.

"Same here," Greywolf said. By the time the strange conversation was over, we had arrived at Michael's place.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-four--Matt

Luke had been at loose ends when his exhibition was completed and now I was at loose ends because he spent Saturday with Uncle Michael supervising the packing of his work. It was to be moved to St. Mary's Sunday afternoon and he and Uncle Michael would start setting it up Monday after school. We had talked about his not sneaking a listen during practice and I promised I wouldn't try to see the exhibit.

He finally came by about 6:00 and said he was going home for a nap before he got dressed for the party. "Man, getting everything packed was a job and I was a nervous wreck half the time because, although I knew the guys packing knew what they were doing, it was like watching someone pack your children. I am as exhausted as if I had been running all day," he laughed.

"Are you coming here to get ready?" I asked, hopefully.

"I'm not sure. Do you think I'd be welcomed?" he laughed. That did it! I tackled him and laid one on him he's not likely to forget. "I guess that answers my question," he said, returning my last kiss. "I'll be here by seven. If I get a nap, I'll be fine for the party, otherwise I'd probably fall asleep the minute we sat down. Guess we won't have time to play around. We'll just have to get dressed when I get here."

"Better than nothing," I replied and, after another deep kiss, he left. Since I had been helping Dad around the farm, I decided I was pretty tired myself and went upstairs, undressed and slipped into bed.

For the first time in a while, I felt Luke's approaching presence before waking up. As he slid his wonderful body next to mine, I awoke, turned and saw his face before mine, his eyes sparkling, a huge smile on his face. He leaned down and his lips touched mine, his tongue found my open mouth and brought the taste I loved so much, the taste of Luke. His arms encircled my body, pulling me to himself. The touch of his hands against my bare skin send a thrill through my body as his fingers set my hair free. Luke's hair was now long enough for me bury my fingers in it to bring his lips, once again, to mine. "Do you want to be my party animal or my sex kitten?" Luke asked as he looked longingly into my eyes.

"No question about that! But I don't think we have a real choice do we? I guess we better hit the shower--and little playing around because we'll be late." Of course, there was some playing around, but not as much as either of us would have liked. Choosing what to wear was no problem. Uncle Michael had said this was a dress--coat and tie--occasion. Luke and I dressed in identical navy blazers and grey slacks with red and blue striped ties. I had to admit, we were dreamboats!

When we arrived, most of the Fellowship of the Rings were already present; only Bill and Linda were missing. When they came in, Gabrielle said, "Bill, next time you decide to wear lipstick, use a mirror. It goes on your lips, not all over your face!" I guess Bill had been around me too much because he had contracted the blushing disease!

When we had all arrived, Uncle Michael brought out champagne and said, "I think Sweet Sixteen calls for special toasts" as he opened the bottles and handed them to Jens and David who poured. "Michael, Mary Kathryn, here's to your passing a milestone. May there be many others and may they all be happy ones. Here's to your health and happiness!" Uncle Michael said as he raised his glass, and we all followed suit.

"Mary Kathryn, may you continue to grow and may you bring to many others as much happiness as you have given your mother and me in your short sixteen years," Jens gave the second toast.

"Michael, may you know as much happiness as you have given me in your sixteen years," David toasted his son.

There were other toasts and Luke said, "I would toast Michael for his teaching me that love is fun!"

After Luke, each of the Fellowship toasted Michael and Mary Kathryn for some aspect of their character and personality. Finally, Michael raised his glass and said, "Here's to the family which has stood beside me and guided me in the right way and especially to Mary Kathryn who has given me love I would never have dreamed possible."

Mary Kathryn was the last to raise her glass and toasted Michael and the family, "Here's to the blessing that I have been given by being surrounded by a loving family--my mom and dad, Yong Jin and Greywolf, David and Elizabeth and now Margaret and three wonderful brothers and a lover!"

Just as we headed to dinner, Uncle Michael filled our glasses again and, when he did, Michael raised his glass and said, "A final toast. Here's to Eugene who has the courage of a lion and the willingness to risk all on behalf of others!" As glasses were raised, all present cheered.

As soon as the blessing had been said and the food served, Eugene spoke up. "You all know Larry and I spent most of the day at the courthouse looking at tapes McBride had made of me. Knowing your love and care for us, I know you'd like to know what happened. I had feared reliving those horrible events and what Larry might think about me after seeing them. Larry spent last night with me and I was essentially zoned out. The TV was on and there was a biography of Marilyn Monroe on. We were half watching it at first, but gradually we both got involved in the tragic history of that beautiful woman. On the day she married Joe Dimaggio, a reporter asked her what about her life she would change. She replied, after a moment's thought, 'Nothing, because if anything were changed, I wouldn't be here and know the happiness I know today.' Today, when the tapes started, I remembered that. I was not the person I was watching. I had been then, but this is now. And I realized had those events not happened, the love I know from you all would not be. I would not have Millie as my mom nor Larry as my lover. Far from being distressed tonight, I am here celebrating the birthdays of two wonderful friends and of my present life."

Dinner became more festive after Eugene's revelation. After dinner, before the adults retired to the carriage house for drinks and coffee, Uncle Michael brought in a large tray loaded with packages. Most were obviously from Mr. Swartz's shop. "Are you kids keeping Mr. Swartz in business?" Dad laughed.

"If it's necessary, I guess we would," Bill laughed. Larry and Eugene, Bill and Linda, Paula and Jacob, Luke and I had all bought "couples' gifts" for Mary Kathryn, all from Mr. Swartz's shop--necklaces, bracelets, pendants and a brooch--all featuring Michael's roadrunner or kokopeli. Bill and Linda, Paula and Jacob had given Michael several CDs he had mentioned from time to time at lunch. Larry and Eugene had given him a silver chain from Mr. Swartz's and Luke and I had debated for a while, but finally settled on a Hopi overlay belt buckle with the roadrunner on it. The adults in the family had given each of the two more practical gifts, clothes and such as they always did. Uncle Michael said, "Michael, I wanted to get something I knew my long-unknown nephew would enjoy. I hope you will--and Mary Kathryn with you." He handed Michael a very small box, plainly wrapped. When Michael opened it, there was a key inside. "I expect you to follow Larry's mom's rule--be responsible and show respect," Uncle Michael said as Michael remained speechless. The key was to a new Geo Tracker. "Jens, from what Luke has said, this car has built-in birth control--a stick shift and a four-wheel drive lever," Uncle Michael laughed.

It was now time for Michael and Mary Kathryn to open their gifts to each other. Mary Kathryn was ecstatic when she saw the earrings with the roadrunner on them. When Michael opened his, it was a medallion with a beautifully engraved St. Michael on the front, slaying a dragon. On the back were the words, "To Michael from one who loves him for his fearless dragon slaying. MKL." With the gifts opened, the adults were ready to leave when Michael said "Hold up! There's one more gift. Won't be opened for about eight months or so, and it has some pretty beautiful wrapping. Margaret is giving me twin sisters!" A flood of questions and comments followed. Margaret finally made it clear the twin sisters were Michael's idea and that she wasn't sure whether she was carrying a boy or girl.

"Were they conceived at the falls in daylight like the rest of us?" Mary Kathryn asked.

"You know they were," I replied and Luke and Michael were both nodding. The adults looked puzzled. I don't know why. We all knew we were conceived at the falls in daylight.

The adults left us to ourselves and we ate, drank, and danced until long past midnight--long past. But before we started, we all had to go outside and see Michael's car. It was the brightest lime green I had ever seen. It practically glowed in the dark!

"So much for parking in a lovers' lane," Bill laughed. "Everyone will raise hell because you will light up their activities."

When the evening finally ended--actually the evening ended in the morning--I knew we'd be a sleepy bunch since we all had things to do Sunday, but it was worth it to spend time with such great friends and family. Luke and I were so exhausted that when we reached his place, we just undressed, tumbled into bed, kissed each other goodnight and were asleep in seconds.

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