Castle Roland

The Oberlin Five

by Sequoyah


Chapter 12

Posted: N/A

ASP--the Oberlin Five--Chapter Twelve--Matt

I felt as if I was asleep and this was all a bad dream. All the Family except Margaret and David were on that plane, a plane that was going down! I was so stunned I couldn't do anything. I was barely breathing. Luke came, sat beside me and took my hand. Eugene was squatting in front of Larry, brushing his hair from his forehead. Paula was all alone until Luke reached out and took her hand. All five of us were paralyzed with fear.

I don't know who or what the man was who had told us. If he was an official, couldn't he find out something? The plane was going down, for heaven's sake! Did that mean it crashed? My mind was a whirlwind of scenes and thoughts, none of them good. Where was the man who had told us? I thought he was staying with us, but he wasn't in the room. I hadn't noticed, but there was a TV on the wall. I noticed it when an announcer broke into a broadcast and said a Gulfstream jet headed for the Lorain corporate airport had reported it was in trouble. "The pilot said he was losing fuel rapidly. He thought something had ruptured a main fuel line. We have a mobile unit headed to the supposed crash site and will keep you updated."

We were all staring at the TV, I guess thinking if we looked hard enough, the message would change. The announcer had definitely said crash. "Luke, what should we do? Should we call the house and tell those there what has happened? What if they have seen the special report on TV?"

"What could we tell them other than what they will have seen on the TV if they saw the report?" Luke asked.

We debated what to do for several minutes and came to no conclusion. We simply didn't know what to do. None of us noticed the man returning until he spoke. "I take it you had friends on the plane?" he asked.

"Yes. There were twelve family members and friends," Luke said.

"I still haven't heard anything further. I put in a call to the Cleveland control tower. We are so small and specialized we don't have one." As he was talking, the phone on his desk rang. He picked it up, identified himself and then asked, "Is one of you Matt?".

"I am," I answered.

"The phone's for you."

"Hello, this is Matt."

"Matt, Michael. We just saw a report on the TV. Do you know anything more?"

"Nothing more. The airport manager... I guess that's who he is," the man nodded, "has called the tower at the Cleveland airport. I'm going to hang up so this line is free. I'll call on my cell phone as soon as we know something."

"Any of you know the pilot?" the manager asked.

"Yes, we flew up with him last night."

"Is he inexperienced?"

"Not at all. He has been flying for Marc Langley, Sr. for over twenty years."

"That's good news. If there was any way out of the pickle he found himself in, he'll know it."

The TV announcer broke into the program again and said, "I have just been informed that the plane went down about thirty miles outside Cleveland. Our mobile unit is trying to get the exact location from which we will report as soon as possible."

"If the TV station has that much information, I should be able to find out something," the manager said. "I'm calling Cleveland again." He dialed a number and spoke into the phone. All I really heard him say was, "Thank God for the Cold War and American paranoia, at least in this case... Yes, there are people waiting here for the plane... Ok, I'll tell them and give them directions. Thanks. Bye."

"Good news kids. Don't know whether you realize it or not, but when Eisenhower got the Interstate Highway Act through congress, it had a requirement most people don't know about or forgot. All interstate highways are required to have a straight, unobstructed section every so often. The idea was to allow aircraft to land and take off during a war. Well, your pilot must have known that because he set the Gulfstream down on the interstate. Did a perfect three point landing with the last ounce of fuel he had. Everyone is safe. Of course, he is blocking one lane, the northbound one, but state troopers have re-routed traffic into the other lane, making it two-way. There are mechanics on their way out to see if the fuel line can be repaired enough to get the plane in the air and here for proper repairs. Cleveland tower contacted the pilot who asked if someone could pick up the passengers. I told them I'd give you directions. It's about twenty miles from here--no big trip. I'll radio the pilot and tell him you're on your way. Here's directions," he said as he handed me a piece of paper with a map and written directions. "Do you need to call anyone?"

"I'll use my cell phone," I answered. "Thank you very much, Sir."

"Glad to be of help and glad everything's ok."

We all ran out to the mini-bus, piled in and Luke took off. As soon as I was inside, I called home to tell those waiting everything was ok and we would probably be there in an hour or so.

Twenty minutes later, we saw blue lights ahead. A state trooper was directing traffic to an exit and then back on the opposite lane so they were going in what would have been the wrong direction. When we reached him, Luke pulled to one side, stopped the bus and the two of us walked over to the officer. "Officer, the plane which landed on the highway was carrying our parents and friends. We'd like to drive to where there they are and take them home."

"Sure. I know they will be as glad to see you as you will them. Just take the northbound exit. The plane is about three or four miles up the highway."

We got back in the bus and the officer waved us onto the blocked lane. A few miles later we saw the plane sitting in the middle of the highway. When we pulled up, Captain Kelly came over to the bus. "Kids, I have had enough adventure for a while. Your parents and friends are inside the plane and, I think, doing very well considering the fact that I thought we were in for a real crash."

"What happened?" Eugene asked.

"I'm not sure yet but as we were taking off, Jerry, my co-pilot, saw some kids with rifles. He swore they were shooting at the plane. I didn't think so because I didn't hear or see anything unusual, but now I suspect they clipped a main fuel line. It held up for most of the trip, but when it ruptured we lost fuel very quickly. I was afraid we'd end up with an engine on fire or run completely out of fuel, so I planned to set her down on the highway. Jerry radioed the state troopers and they stopped traffic on the northbound lane, so it wasn't vastly different from landing at a small airport."

"We're here to take your passengers home. Do you and Jerry want to come with us?"

"No, we'll stay with the plane. If the line can be jury-rigged enough to get the plane in the air and to the airfield where we landed last night, we'll do that and give the highway back to cars. I'm sure the mechanics can get the line repaired right away and we can get back to Florida only a little behind schedule. Thanks anyway."

Luke and I walked over to the plane and up the steps to the inside. "Anyone ready for a trip to the lake?" Luke laughed. His mom and dad grabbed him in bear hugs, blocking Mom and Dad from reaching me. As soon as they could get past the Larsens, I also got bear hugs.

"We have a mini-bus here to take you home," I said. "Claudia, Larry is helping Eugene get the luggage. Paula is waiting for you in the bus, Sandra."

The passengers left the plane and headed for the bus. Luke and I helped get the rest of the luggage on the roof rack and we were ready to go. We turned around and drove back to where we had talked to the state trooper. We stopped and thanked him for helping us and then were on our way. Half an hour later we pulled into the driveway, where everyone was greeted with kisses, tears and, finally, necessary introductions.

No-one was really ready for dinner just yet. The rest of the guys and I took the luggage to the rooms while Paula served everyone a glass of brandy. "Kent's Dad bought this for emergencies," she said. It was obvious we weren't into brandy because the bottle was still sealed. Gradually everyone relaxed and talked about their reactions to being told to prepare for a crash.

"I expected to go up in glorious flames," Gabrielle said, "but the landing was just like any other. Captain Kelly sure knows what he is doing."

"He sure does," Marc said. "A couple times someone has tried to hire him away from Dad, but it never works. Dad is pretty stupid when it comes to women, but he sure knows valuable employees. Captain Kelly earns about twice what he would working for someone else and is worth every penny of it. I suspect he will get a nice bonus as a result of tonight. In fact, you can bank on that."

When everyone had relaxed and had time to recuperate, we got dinner ready. Luke was host that night and, believe you me, the grace was not the usual one! Luke obviously was speaking from his heart. The grace was followed by a series of toasts, very serious at first, then funny. The dinner conversation revolved around the parents getting to know Marc and catching up on what was going on in Ohio, and us getting the parents' perspective on what was happening in Concord.

"I suspect you all will be up until all hours," I said about 1:00 in the morning, "but I have a class at 9:30 so I'm off to bed."

"How did you end up with a class on Saturday?" Dad asked.

"Seems that was the only time I could get a performance class scheduled. Took a while, but I finally got my teacher to agree to hold it here. You might have trouble sleeping after 9:30, but school comes before you sleeping in," I said with a grin. "Goodnight, everyone."

"Don't think you're going to bed without me," Luke said. "Goodnight all."

Luke and I went to the studio. While we had napped in a single sleeping bag, I didn't think that was a good idea for a whole night--or what was left of the night. We zipped two bags together, undressed and crawled in. After exchanging good night kisses, we wrapped ourselves in each other's arms and prepared for sleep.

I had not been as faithful about reflecting on my day as I once was, and that night realized what I had been missing because I was "too busy". I thought about the scare I had when I thought about not having Mom and Dad. I guess you never consider that until it becomes a very real possibility. I offered thanks for Mom and Dad and all the other members of the Family, and the friends who were on the plane and a very special thanks for Captain Kelly. It had been a night to remember and one which shook me to the core. The very solid foundation of my life was revealed as fragile and I promised myself I would never forget it.

As I finished my reflection, Luke said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I was really made aware of just how important my parents and the Family are. I guess I thought I knew it before, but the reality that I could lose them all, except Margaret and David, really shook me."

"Same here, Yonghon Tongmu. I knew I loved them, but I guess I had never faced the fact that I might still be here when they are gone, and I don't like the feeling."

"Yea, we better make the best of the time we have with them, regardless of how much or little we have. Goodnight, Dark Angel."

With those words, Luke gave me a butterfly kiss and I said, "Goodnight, Bright Angel," as I returned his kiss.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twelve--Luke

I expected Matt to sleep until the last minute Saturday morning, but he was up at the crack of dawn and woke me with a good morning kiss. "How about we do the bathroom bit and go for a run? I feel like greeting the new day after what we went through last night," he said.

"Sounds like a winner," I said. When we crawled out of the sleeping bag, I noticed Kent, Michael, Keith and Marc were gone. The rest of the crew were still asleep: Larry and Eugene were snoring like there was no tomorrow, and Dan and Chris were wrapped in each other's arms sleeping like babies. Jack was buried so deep in his sleeping bag it looked like a snake that had swallowed a man. Bill was sound asleep, hugging his pillow.

Luke and I dressed in sweats and went down to the beach where Kent and Paula, Michael and Mary Kathryn were warming up. Keith and Marc were nowhere to be seen. Luke and I joined the four warming up and, after a short time, we six started running down the beach. Both Matt and I started throwing our arms in the air and shouting. Michael joined us. I guess anyone seeing and hearing us would have thought we were insane, but running and shouting like Navajo seemed a great way to greet the new day. About a mile down the beach there was a huge piece of driftwood and, as we approached it, I saw Keith and Marc engaged in conversation. I don't think they knew anyone was within miles of them until they heard us shouting.

When we approached the two, they suddenly heard us and waved. When we were close enough, Luke said, "You two aren't getting much exercise just sitting. Well, maybe your jawbones are being exercised, 'cause it looked as if you were engaged in deep conversation."

Marc laughed and said, "We ran to here about an hour ago and have been getting to know each other. This Keith character is a great guy."

"I may be a great guy, but I'm a half-frozen one," Keith laughed, jumped up and started getting warmed up.

"I thought all us southern men were hot stuff, but the Ohio weather cools us down fast. Guess that's how you Yankees won the 'Wahr'," Marc laughed. "You lured us southern boys into Yankeeland and froze us stiff so you could just knock us over like bowling pins."

"Hey, that 'Wahr' was before my time," Kent said. "And I don't know about southern boys, but southern women are hot--at least the ones around here, even the old ones."

"Don't you dare tell my mom she's hot or old or you'll suffer, even if it is true," Paula laughed. "You guys ready for a run?" she continued.

"Yea, and we'll take off like a herd of turtles," Keith said as he started loping along.

When we reached the house, Dad and Greywolf were busy in the kitchen. "You didn't have to start breakfast," I protested.

"I think we wanted to make sure we were not ghosts after last night," Greywolf said. "Why don't all of you wake the others and get dressed. Breakfast in half an hour."

Paula headed for the downstairs bathroom while the guys took the upstairs two. We had just about finished when those from the studio arrived. Soon all the young folks had finished and dad woke up the other women. The timing was tight but, by the time breakfast was ready, everyone was up and dressed. The dining table was huge, seating twenty easily and twenty-two in a pinch, but there were twenty-eight of us. We had thought about eating in shifts and immediately abandoned that idea. We had moved the kitchen table around, thinking those at it could be a part of what was going on in the dining room, but that wasn't going to work either. Finally Paula figured out if we moved the dining room table from the very center of the room, we could put up card tables as needed and have everyone in the dining room--and we had done that before dinner the night before.

It was 8:30 when we sat down to eat and, before I knew it, it was 9:25 and I had a lesson in five minutes. I hopped up, ran upstairs, brushed my teeth, and heard the doorbell as I was running back downstairs. I opened the door and Professor Larkin was standing outside. "Do come in, Professor. I'd like to introduce you to a full house." Everyone was still in the dining room. "I don't expect you to remember all the names, but these are family and friends here for a Halloween party." I introduced everyone and then we went into the family room for my lesson.

As soon as we were inside, Professor Larkin said, "It is easy to pick out your parents, Matt. Your mom's... ?"

"Half Korean and half some kind of American. Her father was a GI."

"And your dad?"

"At least half Lakota, balance unknown."

"Well, as we say in the part of the world where I grew up, they make pretty babies--at least the grown-up baby is a handsome young man."

Needless to say, I blushed as I said, "Thank you".

"I always enjoy seeing a man blush. It means they aren't all ego, a rarity among the male population, I think. Did you say all these people are here for a Halloween party?"

"Yes," I responded and told her about the party.

"Then that plane I saw on the TV last night had your parents aboard."

"Sure did."

"I'm surprised you are sane today. I think I would have gone nuts waiting."

"We just about did, but once we found out they were all safe, we started having a great time because our parents and friends are here."

I played for Professor Larkin and she seemed very happy with my playing. "Your technique is constantly improving, Matt. I didn't expect to see that since you were very good to start with and have so many years of playing behind you. I know it's difficult to break old bad habits--not that you had many--but you are definitely improving. When are you making the tape for the audition?"

"In a few weeks now."

"You know I have had you working on more modern music, but I think we'll devote part of each session to your audition pieces and I should come weekly until the tape is done. You getting the concert series will be a feather in my cap as well as yours. Now that you've definitely decided what you will play for the audition, which piece gives you the most trouble?"

"The one I knew best, 'Come Sweet Death'. I have played it often enough to really learn some mistakes."

"And they are hard to unlearn. Play it for me."

I played the piece, watching my notes very carefully. When I finished, Professor Larkin said, "You didn't make mistakes, Matt, but you are so tied to your music, much of the piece is technically perfect but it lacks life. Do you know what I mean?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I'm playing like a player organ."

Professor Larkin laughed and said, "I'm not sure I would have been that harsh, but you're right. It's mechanical. You need to put away the music and just play. Try it again without the music."

When I finished, she said, "Much better. No mistakes and a lot more life. You're getting there. I've got to run. Spend the time you need on the Bach and try to keep up with the modern stuff as well. But if push comes to shove, work on the Bach. You have the series nailed down unless you do something really off the wall and, since it's a tape, you can always re-do it. Well I do have to run. Today is grocery day."

I laughed and said, "Somehow or other I never thought of a professor having to grocery shop."

"We are human, you know, in spite of what we or our students think."

I showed Professor Larkin to the door and thanked her for helping me with the audition.

The day was beautiful, if a bit chilly and, when I finished my lesson, everyone was out exploring the place, seeing what we had done since they left the summer before. I joined them and looked at the place through their eyes. Nothing escaped Dad or Jens, and both were surprised and pleased at all we had done. The whole crew finally ended up in Luke's studio, looking at his latest creations. I thought I had seen them all, but some were new to me. His output since, as he said, the log jam broke, was tremendous--both in quantity and quality. His painting of Paula and Kent, the day they came in from the country, was breathtaking. It was so fresh and alive, the way the two of them had been when they walked through the door that evening.

"Here's something I have been saving. It's a project I did for my class at Case. I am very proud of the piece and the fact that I have almost mastered the technique. The rejects you won't see would attest to the fact that I haven't mastered it yet." He had his hand on something, about a foot and a half to two feet tall, draped in what I recognized as part of a curtain from upstairs which we had replaced. When he removed the drapery, there were two bronze statues. It was Paula and Kent, again, as they had been the day they came in from the country.

Absolute silence filled the room as all eyes were focused on the two pieces. Finally, Uncle Michael said, "Luke, they are magnificent. Positively magnificent."

Kent took Paula's hand without taking his eyes from the statues. Finally he looked at Luke and said, "Wow! Luke, that's all I can think of. Wow!"

"You have done yourself proud, Luke," John added.

"Luke, I think I know where I could sell the statues tomorrow for a very healthy price. I hope you do some more work in bronze for this summer's exhibitions. Everyone will expect paintings--and there will be those, of course--but bronze will be unexpected and produce a lot of comment and, although I'm sure you're not interested, a lot of money as well," Uncle Michael smiled.

Everyone had to have a closer look at the statues and, while almost everyone was still crowded around them, Jacob called out from the other side of the studio, "Luke, knew you were into medicine-manning, but fortune-telling?".

The Oberlin crew started laughing because we knew Jacob had discovered the storybook panel--Luke's official title was "A Fairy Tale". "Actually, Luke and Eugene were the soothsayers while Matt and I thought they were talking through their hats," Larry said.

"Luke, I like the painting but I don't think I was really bettered by Kent," Jacob laughed.

"Not going there," Luke laughed in return.

"Luke, you get better all the time," John said. "I am really surprised that you are doing more sculpture. Not that you're not good at it, but I still think paint is your medium."

"I think you are right. Painting is easier, and comes more naturally to me, but I am really enjoying learning to sculpt, especially doing lost wax work."

"You have a good start on the summer, Luke," Uncle Michael said. "You could just exhibit paintings, but if you have sculpture as well--well that would be great."

It was after 1:30 when we all got back to the house and had lunch ready. It was a "make your own" sandwich lunch with Matt's apple pie and ice cream for dessert. By the time we had finished lunch, the weather was beautiful and a bit warmer. Kent, Paula and Sandra were going to Kent's place to visit and invite Derrick and his girl, as well as Kent's parents, to the party. Kent asked about inviting his parents to Sunday dinner and we all thought that was a great idea.

People wondered off to do what they wanted to do. Luke and I decided to take Mary Kathryn and Michael for a ride in the country and took the Jeep but, before we did, Luke suggested we keep the mini-bus until everyone was gone, if possible. "We don't know what we might like to do and we can't carry everyone in the cars." He called and we got it until Wednesday evening.

Then the four of us drove to the state park where Luke and I had talked our way through a rough spot in our relationship a few weeks before. We parked the Jeep and took the hiking trail to the small stream. I had picked up the blanket from the Jeep and we spread it, and the four of us sat down.

We were all silent for a bit, listening to the brook, then Luke asked, "Kids, how's the relationship?". Mary Kathryn and Michael both turned very red, very quickly. "That good, eh?" Luke asked with a laugh.

"I guess we never could keep something from you, Brother Mine," Mary Kathryn said. "Yes, we are no longer virgins and have had the very stuff scared out of us." And although Michael had told us about their scare, he was a gentleman and didn't tell Mary Kathryn he had said anything to us, so she and Michael told us about their first time and the results.

"Michael has neglected to tell you the best part of me not being pregnant," Mary Kathryn laughed.

"MK, you don't have to go there," Michael said, obviously embarrassed.

"Yes, I do," Mary Kathryn said, and told us about Michael thinking she was bleeding to death.

"Kinda funny, well really funny, Michael. But, Mary Kathryn, I think it tells you something about the man you're in love with," Luke said.

"You are so right, Luke. He's a great guy--and sexy."

"Matt, there's something that has been troubling me--I guess us. Gabrielle and Jens were away last weekend and Mary Kathryn stayed with your mom and dad." Michael then told us about climbing the trellis to be with Mary Kathryn. "Of course it was great and wonderful, but both of us are kinda ashamed of taking advantage of your parents. I twisted my ankle and kinda lied to Mom and Dad about that. We both don't want to betray our parents' trust in us--well, we have, but not again--and we still want to make love without having to stop."

"Wish I had an easy answer to that," I said. "You damn well don't want to lose your parents' trust, but I don't know how you can have sex without doing so. Luke and I got around that by waiting until we were eighteen, having been told after we were eighteen we could. You haven't waited until you are eighteen and you're not going to stop for a year and a half. We all know that."

"And I don't think Dad would say, 'Ok, go to it now that you're eighteen,' anyway," Luke said.

"You're right about that," Michael said, and was seconded by Mary Kathryn.

"I guess you'll just have to take the opportunities which present themselves and maybe make some others. Think you can do that?" Luke asked.

"I know it's going to be hard..." Matt started.

"You're damn right about that!" Michael said with emphasis. "I wish we were like Douglas and Janet and get married."

"Just to have sex?" Luke wondered.

"Hell no, Luke, because we are going to get married, so why wait?"

"Do you need to hear the answer to that?" I asked.

"No, not really. It's just my daydream."

"Mine too," Mary Kathryn said.

"I know you both are very mature for your age, but sixteen and a half? Do you have any idea what being married is like?" Luke asked. "I didn't. It's a lot different from what you think."

"Is it? Is it really, Luke?" I asked.

"Well, I mean a man and woman being married. Not like us. It's a lot like what I expected and a lot better. But, yea, it's a lot different from what I thought."

"Kids, the best suggestion I can come up with is that you work your asses off so you can get huge scholarships--Oberlin or Case Western Reserve or another of the colleges around here--and give thought to getting married before you start college. You'd still be very young and college puts a real strain on a relationship--as Luke and I, or Eugene and Larry, can tell you. But that's still in the future. About now, I guess all I can say is don't trade quickie sex for a loving relationship. Sorry I can't help more," I said.

"Matt, you have been a help. Mary Kathryn and I were talking about getting married while we were in college, but maybe four or five years from now. We hadn't thought of getting married as soon as we are out of high school, had we?" Michael looked at Mary Kathryn and she shook her head.

"It means you really have to pour on the coal at school because it cannot happen unless you have a pile of scholarship money," Luke said.

"And I think it would be wise for the two of you to talk to Douglas and Janet about what going to college and being married entails," I said.

"Good idea, Matt," Luke said. Mary Kathryn and Michael agreed.

We sat, saying nothing for a while, then walked back to the Jeep and went home.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twelve--Keith

Marc and I spent just about every minute we could together. We walked on the beach, spent time in the library listening to music, walked around the place, just anywhere we could find to be alone together. We talked about everything under the sun except us being gay. It was as if our talk on the beach had never happened and I wasn't sure why. Saturday afternoon people scattered. It had grown quite warm and the sun was shining in a cloudless blue, blue sky. "How about a walk on the beach?" Marc asked.

"Love to," I replied.

None of the others were on the beach and Marc and I just strolled along, talking about nothing in particular. When we reached the driftwood tree, we sat down.

We were both silent for a while, looking out at the lake. I knew well what I wanted to say, but was afraid to say it.

Suddenly Marc laughed and said, "Douglas said he had a surprise waiting for me in Ohio, but I bet he didn't know what the surprise would be. Keith, as soon as I saw you in Lexington, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Don't get me wrong, you are a good-looking dude, but that wasn't what got me. I don't know what it was, but as soon as I saw you I thought to myself, 'If that guy is gay, he's mine'. That's why I wanted you in the cockpit with me on the way up. I asked Captain Kelly if it would be possible for the two of us to be up front. He has always been my substitute father and he has known I am gay about as long as I have. He has also seen me taken advantage of by two or three lovers, so he's very protective. He finally agreed because he really did want to talk to the others."

"I've been told there is no such thing as love at first sight and I guess that may be true. But when I first saw you, if it wasn't love at first sight, it was certainly much more than lust." Marc was silent for a long time, staring across the lake. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing, but my mind was going a mile a minute. Douglas had said Marc was spoken for, so why was he saying all this stuff?

Marc turned to look into my eyes and said, "Damn, Keith, I may be fooled but I sure as hell think I'm in love with you. I feel something for you I have never felt before." I was stunned, I guess. Anyway, I couldn't trust myself to say anything or look at Marc. I sat staring at the sun sparkling on the lake, silent. Marc was also silent then said, "Keith, I hope I'm not scaring you off".

I finally looked at Marc, smiled, and got up the nerve to say, "I don't think that's possible, Marc. Just think it's not possible. I had about the same reaction when I saw you. And I'll be honest: the fact that you are knock-down, flat-out the best-looking man I have ever seen didn't hurt. But you have someone. You're spoken for. Douglas said you were taken."

Marc laughed, "Hope that didn't put you off, Keith. It's Douglas' way to protect me from women. It started when a very good friend of mine, a girl, asked Douglas to set her up with me. Douglas told her I was spoken for and he says that anytime I'm introduced to new women. He says since I'm gay, I may as well be spoken for so far as women are concerned."

We were both silent again and just sat looking at each other.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Marc leaned toward me and gently placed his lips against mine for an angel kiss. When he broke the kiss, he looked into my eyes, smiled and said, "Keith, this may not be love, but it's a damn good start toward it." I smiled and kissed Marc in answer.

It had been pleasant in the sun with no breeze, but a slight wind had come up and it was downright cold to me. Finally Marc laughed and said, "Keith, you are one hot dude, but it's cold out here," got up, took my hand and pulled me to my feet. He wrapped his arms around me and gave me a kiss that sent my blood rushing. "Maybe that will keep us warm until we get back to the house," Marc smiled. We walked down the beach, holding hands. I couldn't remember being half as happy as I was at that moment, and if it was over with the weekend, I would have known happiness for a few short days.

At dinner, Matt asked who was going to St. Anne's Sunday. "You have a great opportunity to hear just how good Paula is," he said.

"And, of course, how good Matt is," Paula added.

Everyone, including Jacob and Susan decided to go. "We'll have to make two trips, even in the mini-bus, to get all of us there," Kent said. "I think I will go as well, since I have never heard my housemates in action."

"Uncle Michael, you are going to feel like you are back in South Carolina at St. Anne's. It is looooow church sure enough," Luke said.

"Guess I can take it one Sunday or two, but it was good to get to St. Mary's after my years of low church in the low country."

"I can drive Paula and myself over early so we can get ready, and then the rest of you can come in shifts," Matt suggested.

I'm sure the priest--Fr. Manville, I think--was thunderstruck to see the church packed. The addition of twenty-something people sitting in the congregation made a big difference in the nave. Whoever said Paula was good at choral work knew what they were talking about, and Matt really was a master of his instrument.

Sunday dinner found three more people present, Kent's parents and his brother Derrick, so another card table had to be added. The house was beginning to look like Grand Central station with all the people, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it. I know I sure was!

ASP-The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twelve--Eugene

I had tried to call Mom again Saturday night, and still got no answer. I planned to call again Sunday night and if I got no answer, call the Concord police and have them check on her. Millie was independent as hell but, given her age--which no-one dared mention--she could have fallen or gotten very ill and be lying in the floor, and would be there until Monday when her maid came to work. Or maybe even longer, since the answering machine was off. She may have told her maid she would call when she got back in town.

About 4:30 we were all in the house in one room or another, just enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon. Larry and I were in the living room with Larry's mom, Claudia, Uncle Michael and John, when suddenly the front door burst open and in walked Millie in her full glory with Woody right behind her. "Hello everyone. I knew it had to be the Concord bunch on that plane. I can't take many more scares. I'm getting too old for plane-crashing, cross-burning and slandering letters. Where is that young man Keith? I want to meet him. Sure glad he agreed to hold Dr. Rockford's feet to the fire. Should have thrown that worthless son of his under the jail." It was obvious Millie was on a roll.

I walked across the room, grabbed Mom and hugged her good fashion. "Good to see you, Mom," I said. "Just where the hell have you been and why didn't you let me know? I couldn't get in touch with you and have been worried sick."

"You know, Jason said almost the same thing. Good to see you too, Son. Guess you heard all about the trash Dr. Rockford and his worthless son tried to heap on John and this Keith fellow."

"You didn't answer my question. Avoiding it? Sure we heard about the mess. Glad they got what they had coming to them."

"Not sure about that. I think they had a lot more coming than they got," Mom said.

Larry had spoken to Mom and Woody, then left the room. He came back shortly with Keith and Marc in tow. He introduced them, and when he did Mom said, "Keith, sure glad you got something out of the attempt to slander you. You need to know that Dr. Rockford suffered greatly because he got hit in the pocket book. That really hurt him. John, glad you got something out of the jerk as well. So you are a Bad Man, Keith. You look pretty tame to me, but I'm no longer a teeny bopper."

Mom continued, "You are one damn good-looking hunk, Marc. I know you drive men and women wild. Keith, Marc, this is Woody. He's a priest here in Ohio and was a good friend to Matt last summer. Well, where is everybody?" I don't think Mom had stopped for a breath since she walked in. "Round them up, Eugene."

I soon had everyone in the living room, and introduced those Millie didn't know to her and Woody. "I just knew that plane was yours when the TV announced it had gone down. I was ready to come over at once, but Woody talked me out of it. Then we heard that everyone was all right. Sure did relieve me."

"Mom, you were at Woody's? All alone with him? What will people think? There will be talk all over Concord!" I exclaimed in mock outrage.

Mom laughed and said, "I was afraid we wouldn't be the talk of Concord, so I told Eloise, my maid, that I was going to Ohio to spend a week with my boyfriend. You can be sure everyone who is anyone in Concord knew about it before I hit the Kentucky line."

After the introductions were done, Woody said, "I need to see what you got done outside before dark. Sorry I haven't been back, but it has been a busy fall." We took Millie and Woody on an inspection tour of the outside, and both gave their stamp of approval to what all we had done.

When it came time for dinner, Woody said, "Gonna need wine glasses and three or four bottles of your best,"

When everyone got into the dining room for dinner, Eugene, who was host, asked Woody to do the honors. After the blessing, when we were all standing, Millie raised her glass and said, "Here's to love, romance and real living."

When we had finished Millie's toast there were a few more.

Glasses were refilled and Woody said, "I see I am going to have a hard time getting a word in edgewise, but I have an announcement and a couple invitations to make." Having said that, he put his arm around Millie's waist and said, "I'd like to announce the forthcoming marriage of Mrs. Millicent Willingham and the Reverend George Woods--Saturday, December 28th, in St. Mary's Church, Concord. You are all invited to the rehearsal dinner Friday, December 27th, and a reception following the wedding."

I just couldn't resist, so I ran up to Woody, sank down on my knees, grabbed him about his knees and in my best baby voice said, "Dada".

"Millie, I'm not so sure I want to go through with this wedding. This is the second son of yours who seems developmentally retarded." Woody laughed, reached down and pulled me to my feet. As he did, he laughed again and said, "Son, it's time you stood on your own two feet. Most babies your age can if they try."

Needless to say, there were toasts to Millie and Woody and the room was a madhouse of congratulations.

When things had settled down a bit, Greywolf asked, "Just how did this romance come about?".

"I suspect like most romances," Woody said. "As you know, we met here at the kids' place last summer. I saw a good-looking woman and asked myself why I didn't go after her. When I didn't come up with a good reason not to, I went."

"I know all you young folk--and all of you are young folk in my book--think you have a monopoly on love and romance, but you are mistaken. We oldsters may move a bit slower, but we can fall in love just like the youngest. Probably not as hot, fast and passionate--maybe, I did say maybe--but it's just the same at--well my age--as it was when I was at Oberlin and met Willingham," Millie said.

"Millie invited me to come down to Concord the first of October and I went down for four days--we didn't let any of you know because we knew we'd not have a minute alone--and she has visited Ohio a couple times since Labor Day. Between the trips and the phone calls, we decided it was cheaper to get married. You understand that, don't you, Jens?" Woody chuckled.

"Sure do. Especially the phone call bit. I wondered why Millie's phone bill suddenly took a leap upward."

"Mom, don't you think you should have consulted your sons before you made this drastic step?" I asked in a voice as serious as I could make it.

"Don't recall either Jason or you consulting me about your partners. I am right on that, I think."

"Just know what you said about Jason. As I recall your story, he just showed up with a partner. I think I came with one when you made me a Willingham. So I guess you're off the hook this time. What are your intentions concerning my mother, Woody?"

"Not one of them honorable, I assure you, Son. At our age you don't have time for honorable intentions. Actually and seriously, we talked about waiting until spring after I had done Easter, but decided if the parish can't get along without me, they have no business being a parish. They have saved a bundle the last several years because I was retired officially and don't cost them anything except the rectory. Finally we set the date. I'll finish at St. Alban's with the Christmas Mass, then go to Concord. It's a tight schedule but that shouldn't matter. Millie chose the date because you all will be home and the Christmas decorations will be up, so the reception at her place will not require a lot of doing about decorations. It just seemed a good time. Two weeks ago we went to see Jason and told him about us. He said he was happy with his partner and didn't see why Millie shouldn't be."

"Woody, I agree wholeheartedly," I said. "I can't think of anyone I'd rather have as a stepfather."

"Thanks, but I think you can just keep calling me Woody. Stepfather just sounds, well, old."

After dinner, the whole clan gathered in the family room where Millie, Woody and Matt played for us. When they finished, Luke said, "Millie, do you know Matt is doing a concert tour this summer?"

"No, I don't. What kind of tour, Matt?"

"Millie, they all keep assuming I will be selected. I don't know why. I'm not the least bit sure." He then told Millie about the series.

"Don't know why you think you might not be selected, Matt. You were good enough five years ago."

"Don't think so, Millie. But I'll know before the wedding."

When we went to the studio to go to bed, I noticed Keith's and Marc's sleeping bags had been zipped together. I hoped this whirlwind romance was not going to break Keith's heart. He had had enough rotten experiences with being in love, and Marc was wealthy, good-looking and a real heart-breaker. Keith said he had stayed with Rocky because he feared being lonely all his life. Well if Marc hurt him, I might just mess up that pretty face of his.

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