Castle Roland

The Concord

by Sequoyah


Chapter 16

Posted: N/A

ASP--The Concord Five--Chapter Sixteen--Dr. Walker

I got a call from David telling me he was bringing Michael in to be checked over. He had been beaten at school and seemed unable to stand on his own. I got to the emergency room just as they were bringing him in. "Michael, if you keep this up, we'll just reserve a room for you," I smiled, hoping to reassure the young man. He gave me a faint smile, but I could tell he was in pain. "What happened?" I asked as David started undressing him. Every time David moved him he groaned. I knew he was in pain because Michael wasn't the kind to exaggerate.

"Three of Independence's best used me as a punching bag--one punch from each in the gut while I was being held."

"I hope they are resting in jail," I said. "There are enough ways to get hurt in this world without some overgrown brute adding to it." As I talked I was examining Michael's abdomen. Each time I applied pressure, Michael groaned. "Michael, David, I find no indication of internal bleeding. I suspect there is just internal and external bruising which is going to be painful, but no permanent damage done. I will give you something for pain, Michael, and I want to keep you overnight for observation in case there should be internal bleeding which hasn't made itself evident. We'll have you in a room shortly. Meanwhile, just lie still--as though I needed to tell you that--and I'll give you a shot for pain. Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" I joked.

Michael gave me a feeble smile and said, "It was ok until the last act and I don't think I want to see a repeat of that."

"So three brutes beat you up. Not that they didn't do enough damage, but I would have thought they would have done more," I said.

"They would have had my friends not rescued me. They put the guys on the ground and then two of them caught Phillip Curran who had gotten the big bruisers to attack me." Michael then told me how and why the football players attacked him.

"Don't see that they had any cause to do you harm. Phillip Curran deserved more than what he got for the way he treated that poor girl. The police brought her in after you and Mary Kathryn had found the baby. She was in pretty bad shape, not only mentally but also physically. I suspect her child was still-born as a result of her being practically starved as well as being physically abused by that drunk of a dad she has. I had lunch with one of the evaluation center psychologists yesterday and he is convinced she will be ok with some TLC. As bad as the cases are they get at the center, the staff is very good and compassionate and work miracles. Here's the nurse with a shot. Bottoms up, Michael." Michael rolled on his side, groaning as he did, and I popped him with a painkiller. "There, that should take care of the pain and I won't be surprised if you're asleep in a few minutes." I saw an orderly come into the emergency room and asked if he was responsible for getting Michael settled, and he nodded. We got Michael on a gurney and the orderly wheeled him away, headed for a room.

"David, I think Michael will be all right. I'm sure there is no internal bleeding. Another thing I worried about was the possibility of something being torn loose. His insides are bound to have a lot of scar tissue from his knifing, and I sure wouldn't like to have to go in again, but I think all's ok. What's going to happen to the jerks who did this--and that super-jerk Phillip Curran who caused it?" I asked.

"I don't know. I don't know how the school will handle it and I'm not sure how I should handle it. I could press charges, but I wonder if that would accomplish anything. I think I'll let Michael decide. He's so involved in the student government that I'd hate to undermine him."

"I'm hearing nothing but good things from what's going on out there--well, this is definitely an exception. Heard Michael got suspended for fighting. Is that connected to this?" I asked.

David told me what had happened and how Phillip had manipulated three of the more "mentally challenged" football players into beating Michael. "So far as the school is concerned," he said, "the four can go before a school board tribunal or they can go before a student court. The way the school court hands out punishment, I suspect they will choose the school board. If they let the four off scot-free, I'll probably file charges. If they receive reasonable punishment, I may let the school handle it. But, as I said, I think Michael will make the final decision."

"Keep me posted. I am interested in how this comes out because I hate to see something like this happen and the perpetrators get off with a slap on the wrist."

"Will do," David said and left to go to Michael's room, and I left for home.

ASP--The Concord Five--David

By the time I got to Michael's room, he was pretty groggy. "Dad, please let Mary Kathryn and the Fellowship know I'm ok. I will be ok, won't I?" he asked, his speech beginning to slur. "I really feel terrible. The painkiller isn't doing its job."

"You're going to be ok, Michael. Dr. Walker found nothing seriously wrong. You'll be very sore for a while but, since tomorrow is Friday and you have the weekend to heal, you should be back in school Monday. Just take it easy and let the painkiller do its job." I didn't need to say anything since the painkiller had taken over and Michael was out like a light. I made sure he was asleep and then went downstairs to check out. "How's the new job," I asked Dan, who was checking in.

"I love it. Of course some nights get very long, but I have more time and a lot more money than I had before. Still work at the hospice two of my three free nights, but I really love EMS. You on your way home?" he replied.

"Yea, just completed a run out to our place. Three thugs beat up Michael at school today. He collapsed when he got home--not unconscious, just couldn't stand. Brought him in and Dr. Walker checked him out. Seems no serious damage done, but he will be one sore camper for a few days. He's asleep now. Dr. Walker gave him a painkiller. If you get a chance, look in on him."

"Of course. Are you sure he'll be ok?"

"As sure as you can ever be. Have a good easy night." I gave Dan a pat on the shoulder and left for home.

When I got home Margaret met me at the door. "How's Michael? Is he all right? What did Dr. Walker say? Is he spending the night in the hospital?"

"Whoa! Calm down a bit. Dr. Walker thinks there is no serious damage, but wanted to keep Michael overnight for observation. Dan will look in on him as well as the nurses who are responsible for his care. He's in good hands." I kissed Margaret and said, "So you can turn your mama button way down."

"David, I was really worried when he couldn't stand. I was afraid something inside had been torn loose."

"So was Dr. Walker, but there's no evidence of that. I think he is just bruised inside and out."

"What are we going to do, David? I'll be damned if those creeps beat up my son and get off scot-free. He's a good kid, David. He works hard, he behaves himself, he's compassionate and concerned. Look what he did for that poor girl who stole our baby. And because he won't have that worthless Curran kid talking about her as if he had nothing to do with her getting pregnant, he gets suspended and now beaten. I will not stand still if something is not done with those who beat him up and that Curran ass who put them up to it."

"Man, you are wound up, Margaret," I said. I started to smile, but thought better of it when I looked at Margaret.

"David, when I saw Michael lying on the ground this afternoon, I started thinking about all the kid had been through: his mom's death, finding out his brothers are gay, getting knifed protecting his brother, his experience in the sweat lodge--which I still don't understand--his participation in the cure of Chris, and now this. It's a wonder the child is sane."

"Margaret, do you know a more sane sixteen-year-old? And you can add responsible--well, most of the time--happy, caring, loving, terribly normal. Maybe normal doesn't do our son justice. Sure he has been through a lot, but he's come through. I think we can take some credit for that. The Family can take a lot of credit and he gets a lot of credit. I, too, want to know that those who beat him up are not getting off scot-free. He is sore and hurting--or would be except he is out of it--but he will be all right." I took Margaret in my arms and held her close. "Margaret, he'll be ok, Baby. He'll be ok."

"I hope so, David. If anything happened to that young man, I don't know what I would do. I was so afraid that when the twins were born, I would transfer all my love from Michael to them. I was really afraid I'd be their mother and Michael would become a step-son, half-brother, less than mine. I was wrong, David, and I am so glad. When I saw Michael lying in the yard, vomiting, I knew he was as much mine as the twins. I was angry, very angry, at those who had beaten him, but I was also happy. Does that make sense?"

"Of course it does," I said as I kissed the woman who had made me a man again.

ASP--The Concord Five--Mary Kathryn

When Michael collapsed in his front yard, I didn't know what to do. I yelled for Margaret, but she didn't hear me and I had to go inside to get help. After the EMS had been called and David arrived, I felt better about Michael but I was still upset. I was also very, very angry at the three jerks who beat him up and at Phillip Curran who egged them on.

I was ready to follow the ambulance to the hospital, but Margaret asked me to stay with her. While we waited, we talked about Michael. Mostly she talked about Michael. She told me of her fears when she and David married, that Michael would think of her as the ugly stepmother who was trying to steal his mother's place. "Mary Kathryn, you will never know how overjoyed I was the first time he called me Mom. I knew he wasn't replacing Elizabeth with me, but that I had earned the privilege of being his mom. He has suffered so much, but is not a bitter kid. He's just a great joy and now some intellectual rejects have taken it upon themselves to beat him up. Well, they are not going to get by with it! If the law or the school doesn't do something, I will!"

I assured Margaret that the school would definitely do something. "Michael has pretty much made sure of that with his work getting the student government functioning. He got suspended for three days for a one-on-one fight. This was different. Three guys jumped him, taking him by surprise. I don't know where it would have ended had the guys of the Fellowship not been hanging around to make sure Michael was all right. You can put money on the school doing something. Maybe the law too. I don't know about that."

When David came back he told me there was no use in me going to the hospital. "Michael is out of it and will be for the night, I suspect. Dr. Walker gave him a stiff painkiller and he will get shots again as he needs them. I think he will probably be coming home in the morning, so long as nothing shows up beyond the bruises we know about. I promised him I'd see that the Fellowship is told what is going on, but I'll let you do that if you will," he concluded.

"I'll run on home, then, and start calling. I know everyone will want to know all the details--few as they are." I had started out the door when the phone rang. Margaret picked it up and, as she listened, motioned for me to stay.

After she told the person on the phone how Michael was doing, she said, "Mary Kathryn, Ms. Jones. She would like to talk with you."

I took the phone and said, "Ms. Jones, Mary Kathryn".

"Mary Kathryn, I want to say how very sorry I am that Michael was beaten up. I know it upset you."

"Upset is not strong enough, Ms. Jones."

"No doubt. I let the four go home to get them away from the school before Mr. Allan did a job on them. That would be a real mess, but he was ready to. He had the football coaches in his office for over an hour, reading them the riot act. He assumed they knew something like Michael's beating was in the air and did nothing about it. He has told them the Thanksgiving Eve game is off. They started to argue with him but, even with his door closed, I could hear him trimming them down," Ms. Jones said.

"I can't speak for Michael, but I am not sure he will stand still for the game being called off. I know he will raise cane if the four are allowed to play, but calling off the game doesn't seem right to me and I suspect it will not to him. But we'll know in a day or so. I am sure he will not be in school tomorrow, but definitely will be Monday unless something develops. But what is happening to the four?" I replied.

"I have been on the phone with members of the school board. The general feeling is that they should go before the school board tribunal. I have agreed to that provided the four ask for it. If they choose the student court, I will fight for that. I think the student government has shown, time and again, it can handle discipline problems--I think better than those of us in the administration did. But I called to ask you to meet with the student council before school tomorrow. I'm trying to contact everyone."

"I'll be calling the Fellowship and will tell those involved in student government about the council meeting if you like."

"I would appreciate it if you would. See you in the morning." I hung up the phone, said goodnight to the Andrews and went home. David told me to drive Michael's Tracker and I did.

I told Mom and Dad what had happened and Dad was ready to take on the four students single-handed. "I hope they don't think they can get away with this," he thundered. "If something's not done to them, I'll personally charge them with something."

"Dad, I don't think you have to worry about them getting by with anything. I hope the student court gets to try them. They will really be hung out to dry. And what I really hope is that sophomore girl judge gets Phillip Curran's case. She was ready to hang him before and... after this? I suspect he will wish he had the school board handling his case."

"Is it true students are tougher than the administration was?" Dad asked.

"I'm not sure they are tougher, but they are much better at making the punishment fit the crime and it shows. Never has Independence been as clean as it stays now. It doesn't take many days policing the campus before you realize the easy thing to do is dispose of trash right in the first place. But we'll see what happens to the four tomorrow. I have to leave early because Ms. Jones is holding a student council meeting before school. I ate with Margaret while we were waiting to hear about Michael, so I am going to call the Fellowship about Michael and the student council meeting."

It took a while to contact everyone since I didn't think the phone tree would work. Everyone would want to hear directly about Michael and not second- or third-hand. When I finished, I was not up to doing much of anything so I went downstairs, told Mom and Dad good night and went to bed. Before I went to sleep, I thought a lot about Michael, not just about how much I loved him and how I treasured his love for me, but about Michael the man. He was truly one in a million and, as much as I resented it at times, he was one that had to be shared with the world. He was too big and too good to be claimed by just one person. But I damn well was going to keep a major part of him for myself!

I got up when Mom and Dad did, got ready for school and had breakfast with them. Usually I got ready for school after breakfast, but I needed to be there early. I had just finished breakfast when the phone rang. It was Michael.

"Michael, how are you? Is everything ok?"

"Well I started to say I'm fine, but that's a lie. I am sore as hell. But Dr. Walker came in early and said everything looked good and I could go when I was ready. I asked about going to school and he said it was fine if I felt I could. I called Dad and he said you had my Tracker. I want you to get me some clothes--Mom will have them for you--come to the hospital and we'll go to school."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. Now get a move on. I understand there's a student council meeting."

I told Mom and Dad what was up, grabbed my things and headed for the Andrews'. Margaret had Michael's clothes ready, so I took them and rushed to the hospital.

Michael had showered--I needed to trim his beard again, I noticed--and was sitting on his bed with a sheet covering his privates. "Here's your clothes," I said as I kissed him. He slid off the bed in all his naked beauty. "Michael, what if someone comes?"

"Believe me, they had seen everything I have," he laughed, "just as you have. Now help me get dressed."

He had to sit down and pull on his pants because bending was too painful. Between the two of us, we finally got him dressed and left the hospital.

The student council members were just standing around talking when we arrived, and several started to hug Michael but I was standing guard. I'm sure a good hug would have been agony for him. I finally said that and the girls responded by kissing him instead and the guys shook his hand. Several members of the football team were on the council and they made a special effort to greet Michael.

Michael finally got things quiet enough to call the meeting to order and immediately turned it over to Ms. Jones.

"I called this meeting because of an incident which occurred yesterday after school. Three members of the student body, in a very cowardly manner, beat Michael Andrews so badly he had to spend the night in the hospital and probably should not be here today. The three undertook their dastardly deed at the instigation of a fourth. The three were in my office this morning with a parent and all three chose to go before the school board tribunal rather than face a student court. I think that says much about how well the student court is doing. The instigator was supposed to be here with a parent as well, but did not show up. He is suspended until he and a parent do show up."

"But that has nothing to do with you since one hasn't shown up and the three have chosen the school board tribunal. What this meeting is about is the Thanksgiving Eve football game. Mr. Allan, will you present your position on that?"

"Thank you, Ms. Jones. As all of you know, I'm sure, Phillip Curran was tried in the student court and found guilty of violating the prohibition against name-calling--to be blunt, degrading a young woman he got pregnant and abandoned. In showing what I consider wisdom beyond her years, a sophomore lady judge sentenced him to the bench for the Thanksgiving Eve game. She said, correctly, that as a member of the football team, he represented Independence High School and he had proven unworthy of that honor. Yesterday, he proved his unworthiness again as did three other football players. While I don't think it is right for me to pass judgement on the three before they appear before the tribunal, I do feel I have the right and duty to deny them representing this high school."

"The football coaches and I had a long--and often loud, I believe Ms. Jones would agree--discussion yesterday after the four attacked Michael. I feel that under no circumstances should the four be allowed to wear the uniform, much less play. The coaches contend that, without the four, Independence cannot hope to win and players who are being scouted would not be seen in a favorable light. The coaches essentially said that without the four, they were unwilling to play the game. I said no way were the four to be dressed in Independence uniforms."

"Then something happened which I have been expecting from students, not coaches. One of the coaches said, 'You say the students are in charge, but when things don't go your way, you prove they are not by pulling rank'. I'll admit, he was right. So, after they left, I talked with Ms. Jones and we agreed to hold this meeting and put the ball in the students' court, so to speak. The meeting is yours, Mr. Andrews." As soon as Mr. Allan said that, the council started applauding, then they all stood and Lakota war whoops--which hadn't been heard for some time--exploded in the room. It took a lot of gavel-banging from Michael before the group would stop.

"Thank you, very much," Michael said, then added, "The chair recognizes Richard".

"Mr. Chairman, I am in a real dilemma here. I play football and I am depending on a football scholarship for college. Without the four who disgraced themselves, the football team and the school, I definitely will not be able to shine as I need to shine to get a scholarship. At the same time, I am unwilling to walk on a field where those four are uniformed and playing. It may well cost me a scholarship, but I think the game should be called off." About half the students applauded Richard's statement.

"The chair recognizes Maggie."

"Mr. Chairman, I feel that the entire school is being punished for the deeds of four. What they did was despicable, but the entire school was not responsible for their behavior. Also, why should players who are dependent upon college scholarships be forced to give them up because four team members are asses?" There was some applause, but not much.

There were at least a half-dozen more students who spoke, but did not really say anything new. I thought we would just stay deadlocked over whether to play the game with the four or call off the game.

"Mr. Vice-president, will you take the chair, please," Michael said. As soon as he spoke you could hear a pin drop.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the student council, I will be very honest: I am not objective about what happened yesterday. Fortunately, good and faithful friends--at great risk to themselves--came to my rescue before any permanent damage was done--although my body protests that remark," Michael smiled. It was obvious he was not kidding. He was in pain. "It seems to me we have two different problems before us and we are trying to solve them as though they were one. I'm not sure what power the entire student council has in regard to discipline, but I think one problem is whether or not Phillip, Billy, Duffus and Arch can, should, will, represent this body and this school on the football field. For me the answer is no--an answer that Richard first suggested. Just for our information, I'd like to have the members of the football team state where they stand on that issue and that issue alone. In short, as a member of the football team, are you willing to play on a team which accepts the four? I'd like to know your answer."

"Michael, you are asking if we are willing to play on a losing team," Stan, a quarterback said.

"No, I want to be very clear. I simply want to know whether or not you are willing to play on a team with the four."

"I don't want to even share the toilet with them," Andy, a center, said.

"I take it that means you don't want to be on the same field with them," Michael smiled.

"Michael, I WON'T be on the same field with them, period."

"That goes for me," Richard repeated.

Some players raised their hands, others nodded, and some said, "Same for me".

"I could be wrong, but it seems to me not a single player will play on the same team with the four. Am I correct? Give me a sign," Michael asked. Every player put up a hand. "Thank you. That's settled. Now we turn to the other problem. Should the game be called off? As I understand it, the coaches say 'yes' unless the four play and Mr. Allan says 'if they do'. Well, I think they both are wrong. The coaches because they would allow ruffians to represent us. I think Mr. Allan is wrong because the whole team was not involved therefore the whole team--and truth be told, the whole student body--should not be punished. And just who says the good guys on the team can't win a game? And what is so bad about losing if it means you do so because you have principles? I say let the game go on and Independence can hold her head high, win or lose."

Michael's statement was met with silence for a few seconds, then thunderous applause. When the council was finally in order again, Michael said, "Mr. Vice-president, I will assume the chair again. Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I believe we have made a decision and I trust we are going to back it up with support for the team like it has never known before. We stand adjourned!"

Michael had asked for support from the students for the team and it was given. As he said, the football field on Thanksgiving Eve would be a field of honor, whether the game was won or lost.

I guess the coaches just didn't understand. Before homeroom, the head football coach and his assistant were seen storming down the hall from the gym, apparently headed for the office. During homeroom, Ms. Jones announced the decision of the student council. "In response the two football coaches threatened to resign and their resignation has been accepted. I have talked to the team co-captains and they have taken on responsibility for preparing the team for the Thanksgiving Eve game under the supervision of Mr. Allan."

There was a general gasp at the announcement, then applause could be heard all over the school. Michael leaned over and said to me, "This is as it should be. Students should be allowed to make decisions about how Independence will present herself." I heard what he was saying, but was more conscious of how he looked. He was definitely in pain. Finally he said, "I've got to go home. I can't handle school today." We asked permission to go to the office and Ms. Jones told me to take Michael home. When we got there, he leaned on me as we walked to his house. Margaret and I got him in bed and she checked him out and said she saw no evidence of any new problem. "Think you are just extremely sore. Take it easy for a while then I'll get you up because you need to move some from time to time." With Michael settled, I went back to school.

ASP--The Concord Five--Michael

I realized in the middle of the student council meeting that I really wasn't up to staying in school. I managed to finish the meeting but, during homeroom, I needed to get home. Mary Kathryn and I went to the office and Ms. Jones told Mary Kathryn to take me home.

When we got home, Mom and Mary Kathryn got me in bed and Mom checked me out, decided nothing new had shown up and gave me a pain pill. I snuggled down in bed and drifted off to sleep.

Mom came upstairs and got me up at eleven and said I should get up and move around after she checked me out again. "I can find absolutely nothing wrong," she said. "I know you have internal as well as external bruising, so you are and will be sore but you're ok... considering."

I went downstairs with Mom and held Mary while she nursed Elizabeth. "Mom, when are they going to start being people?" I asked, since Mary was completely ignoring me in spite of all I could do to get her to smile or something.

"Hey, Big Brother, you've had sixteen years practice and they have less than two weeks. Give them time. Won't be long before they will be responding," Mom laughed.

When Mom had finished feeding Elizabeth, we put the twins to bed and Mom asked, "You hungry?".

"Yea, I am." Mom prepared lunch for us and we sat at the kitchen table talking about the day before and the meeting that morning. "Mom, do you think I was right in insisting the game go on?"

"Since you also backed the players who said they would not play with those four jerks on the field, yes, I think you did right. I also think Ms. Jones was right in calling the coaches' bluff. It was obvious the only thing they were interested in was winning. Now they are just PE teachers without the extra money and prestige of being football coaches. Maybe they will learn a real lesson from their students."

We talked while Mom cleaned up the kitchen. I was little help because moving was painful. Mom suggested I go for a short walk, which I did, then came back and lay down again.

When I woke up, it was three and school would be out shortly. I went downstairs and Mom suggested I go for another walk. "A bit longer this time," she said.

I was sore, no doubt about that, but with Mom's encouragement, I decided to go for a walk--running made me hurt just to think about it. The day was clear and sunny. It was not exactly warm, but not uncomfortably cold either. I walked out of the house and decided I'd go the falls. I took a very leisurely stroll across the meadow and when I reached the falls climbed, somewhat painfully, the trail to Lookout Rock.

Sometimes something happens which cries out for thinking time, but I didn't know when I had devoted so much time to reflection as I had this week. There was the day while I was working in the meadow and now. When I got to Lookout Rock I sat, looking at the river below, and found myself thinking about Mary Kathryn and what she had to put up with because of me.

It wasn't just the present, but in years ahead. I wished I could just become one of those guys who has a wife and kids, watches football, drinks a beer and thinks life is great. But I knew it would never happen. Over the past what... actually less than a year... I came to realize my life was not my own. Sure, I supposed I could go against the grain. Maybe I could be just a good Joe who never got involved in anything more radical than arguing over politics. I supposed I could do that, but what a horribly dull life it would be! If I was honest with myself, I knew that I really couldn't just turn off the part of me which rebelled against the status quo when it dishonored people. To tell the truth, I had pretty much accepted that my life would be variations on the theme played out with Billie Sue, Phillip and the three brutes who beat me up. Maybe a physical beating would be uncommon, but there were other things which beat up on a person.

I wasn't thinking so much about myself. I had accepted what my life would most likely be, but there was Mary Kathryn. I loved her more than anything in this world, but... did I have the right to ask her to share a life that was bound to involve a lot of pain? If I loved her as much as I claimed, could I ask her to share my life as I knew it would be? Didn't she deserve a life without me hanging around her neck causing her grief? Sure she did. She deserved a wonderful life. The place I was headed with my thoughts was just too much right at that point. The sun had warmed Lookout Rock and it was warm on my body, making me very drowsy. I didn't know when I fell asleep.

I didn't know what had happened to the years, or remember them passing, but I was no longer a kid. I started feeling my body to make sure I was real and I was. I was dressed in clericals and walking up to a house. It was our house, but different. It was a different color and the trees had grown tremendously. When I went inside, Mary Kathryn met me and gave me a quick brush on the cheek which, I suppose, passed for a kiss. "Happy birthday, Michael," she said, but she didn't mean it. I could see that in her eyes. "How does it feel to be forty?"

"Forty! I'm just sixteen."

"Don't you wish," she said. I looked at her. She was still blond, but there was gray in her hair. Her face was lined. She looked older than Gabrielle who was about forty the last time I had seen her. "Michael, I don't want you to worry, but I got another phone call today threatening your life. I'm sure it was Duffus. Is it really that important for you to take a stand against him and his fellow brutes' mistreatment of the Mexicans he employs? I know the condition of the housing they provide in the old mill village is terrible. The wages they get paid are little enough to begin with, and those who live in the village have rent to pay and have to buy at Phillip's store at absurd prices. Frankly, there is little difference between the Mexicans in Concord now and the black slaves here years ago. I know all that, but must you stand alone on this?"

"Mary Kathryn, you know the answer to that. I have to. I just wish it didn't involve you."

"You know, Michael, if you hadn't been so selfish and me so near-sighted, it wouldn't be this way. If you hadn't insisted I keep my promise to marry you, I would have had a decent life. As it is, few people speak to me, we have little or no money and threats on your life are routine. Remember when you got beat up by those four football players? That should have been a tip-off for me. I should have realized that was the way it was going to be for all my life and told you then I wanted out. But I didn't and now I am stuck."

"Mary Kathryn, you are not stuck. You are free to go. I won't hold you any longer."

"Michael, there are the kids, What am I to do when we have five kids you can barely support now? If I took them, that would be a second household and you know you couldn't support that. No, Michael, I'm stuck."

Mary Kathryn was stuck and so was I. But what really made me sick was that the woman I loved more than anything in the world saw being with me, being my wife, as being stuck. I had done that to her!

Suddenly, I felt someone kiss me. I opened my eyes and saw Mary Kathryn leaning over me. I smiled, then remembered what? A dream? A vision of the future? I sat up and said, "Mary Kathryn, we need to talk".

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