Castle Roland

The Oberlin Five

by Sequoyah


Chapter 10

Posted: N/A

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Ten--Luke

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.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Ten--Matt

"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.

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