Castle Roland

The Oberlin Five

by Sequoyah


Chapter 20

Posted: N/A

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty--Luke

Eugene and Larry took Marc and Keith with them, and the Greywolfs went with Matt and me in Matt's Jeep. I knew Matt was too excited to drive, so I just got in on the driver's side. As I did I thought to myself, "And you're the stable one here?". I was really aching inside thinking about how much Matt deserved to celebrate and we were about to break his heart. I would have suggested we put it off longer, but I knew we had been lucky that Matt hadn't suspected anything yet, and that if we did keep it from him any longer he would have our heads. In a very special way we all thought of Paula as our sister--well, I was sure Kent thought of her as much more than a sister! I had realized in the horrors of the previous night that, of all the Concord crew, Matt was most attached to her. She was the sister he always wanted and never had.

Those thoughts were running through my head when Matt turned around--he had been looking back, talking to his parents--and asked, "Luke, how did you keep all this a secret? You know I could never have kept the lid on".

"It was easy. It was as big a surprise to me as to you," I said. Which was true, I had no idea the Concord crew would come up. "You know I couldn't have kept these people coming secret."

"And, just think, we ran into a classmate of Millie's at Sunday dinner." Matt told his parents what had happened and when he finished, laughed and said, "You know, Luke, I'd hate to be Mrs. Barrington's little boy. I bet she uses her cane on him." The image was funny and we both laughed.

We pulled into the drive right behind the others. Fr. Manville's car was already in the drive. We went inside and, as we did, Matt said, "Celebration time!".

When his dad said, "Not just yet," his face fell immediately and all the concern, tension and pain we had been holding in came rushing out.

I wrapped Matt in my arms and said, through tears I could no longer control, "Matt, there is bad news. Let's go to the library."

When we got to the library and were finding places to sit, Matt suddenly got a stricken look on his face and said, "It's Paula. What's happened to Paula? Tell me!"

"Matt, it is Paula and Kent. They are out of danger so you can calm down--a bit anyway," Larry said.

I sat down and pulled Matt beside me, held him close him and stroked his hair as Larry said, "Matt, I will not kid you, it was bad and there will be repercussions, I'm sure, but right now Kent and Paula are out of danger and in excellent hands. We had to keep what happened a secret until your recital was over. You could have done nothing had you known and, had you known, today would have been impossible."

We let Larry carry the ball, and he did a good job telling Matt what happened without any unnecessary details. While Larry spoke, Matt was crying uncontrollably one minute and shaking with rage the next. When he could sit still no longer, he got up and paced the room, enraged, until he collapsed on the floor in tears. Finally, he looked up and said, "I should have been told! You should have told me!"

Dealing with this was not Larry's chore, but mine. I got up, went over to Matt, knelt beside him and pulled him to me and held him very, very close. "Matt, you gave a goodly number of people great pleasure today. You made family and friends very proud to be your family and friends. Nothing can take that away. You are right, this was a time to celebrate, but you can't and neither can we--not because you aren't a magnificent human being and a damn good organist, one of the best. You can't celebrate nor can we, because Paula and Kent cannot celebrate with us and we share their pain. But we will celebrate because good will overcome evil--maybe not today, but it will. Our world has witnessed great evil and great goodness. It is up to us to make sure that the goodness and love we have for Kent and Paula enable them to join us in a great celebration one day, we hope soon."

Matt was clinging to me sobbing softly when I finished. I held him as he gradually stopped sobbing and, when he did, he wrapped his arms around me and placed his lips against mine in a wonderful long, soft kiss. When he broke the kiss he said, "Luke, you are my beloved treasure," and kissed me again. We got up from the floor and went back to the sofa where we had been before and sat down. As we did, the phone rang and Eugene answered it.

He said very little and when he hung up, he had a strange look on his face. "That was James from the frat house where we played last night. Shapiro has been found. The police apparently had searched everywhere they thought he might be, except his dorm room. When his suitemate came back from an all-night party at Baldwin-Wallace he found Shapiro in the shower, water running, with his wrists slit. There was a suicide note. He wrote he knew the jig was up with his rape of Paula, because he didn't use a condom and she had gained partial consciousness during the act. There'd be no way he could deny he was the rapist. He confessed to six other rapes and said he knew he would do it again as soon as he had a chance. James said he wrote that he simply couldn't stop himself any way other than by suicide, and, 'I hope all my victims eventually pick up their lives and especially Paula. I did love her'."

"It is all very sad and you wish it hadn't happened," said Eugene. "I even feel sorry for Shapiro and his rotten life, but that doesn't compare with the anger I feel toward him."

I guess we all felt the same way. After things had settled down a bit, Matt called the hospital and reached Kent. They talked for a while, and when Matt hung up the phone he said, "Poor Kent. He has not been able to see Paula yet. Sandra went in as soon as she arrived, came out and told Kent Paula was still a complete emotional wreck. The rape counselor told Kent that Paula may not want to see him for some time. He is really hurting. He's fine, so far as having been drugged is concerned, but he's blaming himself for Paula being raped. James has called him about Shapiro and he has told Sandra."

"The doctor who did the intake on Paula and the analysis of the Coke left in the can, told Kent had either he or Paula drunk it all it could have resulted in death. The Coke was well laced with Rohypnol, the date-rape drug, enough to kill since it was combined with alcohol--vodka or maybe even grain alcohol. That's the reason Kent passed out so quickly. He took a big slug from the can and drank so fast he didn't notice the alcohol."

"The rape counselor has been with Paula most of the day. Sandra says Paula wants to come home one minute and never wants to the next. In any event, she won't be released until tomorrow. Kent wants to stay at the hospital, but I suggested I come pick him up so he can shower and change clothes and go back if he wished, and he agreed."

"If there is nothing I can do here, I'll go," Fr, Manville said. "You all are in my thoughts and prayers and do call if I am needed."

"Thanks, Father," Greywolf said. After he had shown Fr. Manville out, Greywolf came back and asked, "Matt, are you sure you should be the one to go pick up Kent?".

"Dad, I am going," Matt said flat out, and it was obvious there was no use talking to him.

"I'm going with you, Dark Angel," I said, taking Matt's hand.

I insisted on driving, and drove into Cleveland without a hitch since it was early Sunday evening. When we reached the Cleveland Clinic, I parked, got out and took Matt's hand, and we went up to Paula's floor. Kent was sitting in the waiting room, his head in his hands. Matt walked over to him and said, "Kent, brother".

Kent stood up immediately, grabbed Matt and the two of them burst into tears. I joined them and we had a good cry. When we got control of ourselves, Kent said, "Thanks. Sandra came out of the room and told me Paula was definitely free of the drug. The rape counselor talked with me and Sandra about what we can expect in the next hours, days, weeks, months and maybe years as a result the rape. She will be talking to Paula again before she is released, will talk with Sandra and me again, and asked about talking with the household. I assured her we would be ready to do anything and everything we could for Paula." Kent had just stopped speaking when a young woman came into the waiting room. "Ms. Shaffer, these are Paula's and my brothers, Matt Greywolf and Luke Larsen."

"Seems Paula has a large family for an only child," Ms. Shaffer smiled. "Matt, Luke, Kent has told me wonderful things about you, all of you, and your household. Matt, I understand you played a recital today. I hope it went well."

"I'm prejudiced, of course," I said, "but he was absolutely magnificent. His teachers agreed. I even forgot this horror for a short time."

"I am pleased you were able to keep this from him until he had his day of glory. There will be plenty of times in the future when this day will haunt you, and it will be good to remember it was also a day of glory. Kent told me of your offer to take him home to get cleaned up. There is probably no reason for him to come back, but I'm not fool enough to think he would stay home. I don't know when Paula will be ready to see him. Since I don't know them, I can't say for sure, but I think Paula's rape has revealed to the two of them that they care more for each other than they might have thought. That of course makes it harder on both of them and, additionally, Paula may well continue to feel shame and not want to see him. It happens. Well I'll tell Sandra you are here, because I am sure she will want to see you. Before you leave I'd like to talk with you about future steps in Paula's and your healing."

Of course when Sandra came out, Matt grabbed her and the two of them had a good cry. "How is Paula?" he asked.

"She alternates between being in absolute control, quiet, reserved, and being enraged. In her rage she has thrown everything not nailed down, and then clinches her teeth and says, 'I'm all right. No-one has to worry about me!' Ms. Shaffer said she would probably be one way or the other for several days. I guess Paula is one of the rare ones who is both ways. Kent, if you'll go home and rest, I promise I will call you as soon as Paula is ready to see you."

"Thanks, Sandra, but I'll be back." Sandra hugged Kent, kissed him on the cheek, gave Matt and me a hug and went back into Paula's room.

When Ms. Shaffer came out, she asked when would be a good time for us to get with her and the counselor at Oberlin who handles sexual assault. "Probably this evening if that is possible. We were supposed to all be on our way home for the holidays tomorrow. I don't know what we will do now. Maybe if you two could come to the house, say in a couple hours or so?" I asked. "Kent, you could stay that long, right?" Kent nodded.

When we got home, Millie and Woody were there. They had not been told about Paula until they arrived, just after Matt and I had left for Cleveland. Millie grabbed Kent and hugged him and, as she did, said, "Baby, I sure wish this was something money and good will could cure, because you could have all of both that I have. But even Millie can't fix everything. Damn it to hell!" Millie practically shouted and tears started running down her face. Woody embraced his wife-to-be and Kent, saying nothing.

Kent went upstairs to shower and get clean clothes and while he was gone, Matt and I told the family about Ms. Shaffer coming. "I guess we need to talk about plans," Matt said. "I'm not willing to go home and leave Paula here, and I don't know when she will be ready to go."

"I suspect we would be wise to wait until Ms. Shaffer is here to help guide us," Yong Jin said.

Eugene and Larry had prepared a cold supper and put it out for anyone who wanted to eat. People just kinda wandered by the table, picked up something and wandered away. No-one was still, and yet no-one was going anywhere. For some fool reason, a physics lab on Browning movement popped into my head. Yea, we were good examples of random motion.

When Ms. Shaffer arrived, she was accompanied by a Ms. Humphrey, the sexual assault counselor at Oberlin.

Both counselors expressed their sympathy. "Paula is the primary victim in this rape, but she is not the only one," Ms. Humphrey said. "Ms. Shaffer has given me the background of the immediate situation and while we have not met before, I have known about this Oberlin family--I don't think anyone could be at Oberlin long and not hear about 'that bunch at the lake'. Friends and family are always victims in a rape assault. It is clear, from what Ms. Shaffer has told me, we will need to deal with this situation as we would with a family. Kent, you are both a brother to the rest of the family and Paula's lover."

"Whoa, wait just a minute!" Kent objected. "I am in love with Paula--more than I realized--but, if by lover you mean sexual partner, you have it all wrong. Paula and I wanted to be sure we knew what we were doing. We are taking it slow and easy, making sure of our emotions. Paula is a virgin."

"Then I suspect the two of you will have a great deal of rage to work out, which might not have been the case otherwise. You may feel the rapist cheated you of something you looked forward to, and Paula may well feel the same. She may also feel dirty, shamed, even that she invited this rape."

"There is rage all right, and no-one to vent it on since Shapiro killed himself. But it is rage because of what he did to Paula. I said Paula is a virgin and she is. That may not be technically true, but I can tell you: if she will have me, when we have sex it will be an expression of our love and, so far as I am concerned, she has never given herself to anyone, so she's a virgin," Kent said.

In the days, weeks and months that were to follow, I saw absolutely no indication that Kent hadn't lived that statement from the core of his being. He did, from time to time, become enraged, but I never saw any hint that it was because of something done to him. It was because of the harm done Paula.

Both counselors laid out the phases following a rape and what we could expect in them, phases which could last for years. When we asked how we could help, we were told to listen to Paula, to be supportive, to keep reminding ourselves of what could be expected and what would indicate new or repressed trouble. We were also told Paula could be very hard to live with, and to try not to baby her too much, but certainly not to fight back when she blew up, as she was likely to do.

"What about immediate plans?" Greywolf asked. "The household was planning on leaving tomorrow--all except Kent. What do you advise?"

"It's difficult to say. She has her family here, she's getting the treatment she needs, but then she has a larger family in North Carolina, I'm sure. Why don't I check the services available there and then help you make a decision. Do you know any medical personnel there?"

"As a matter of fact we do," I said. I took the phone from the stand and pressed the speed dial for the Andrews. When Michael answered I told him I needed to speak to his mom or dad. "They can tell you what's up later, but right now I need to speak to one of them."

"I'll get Mom," Michael said.

"Luke, what's up? What's going on?"

"Bad news, I'm afraid, Margaret. Paula was raped last night and we are here with rape counselors from Cleveland Clinic and Oberlin. I'll turn you over to one of them. Ms. Shaffer, Ms. Humphrey, Dr. Margaret Andrews on the phone. She's like one of our moms. If both of you need to talk with her, there is a speaker-phone in the family room. This way."

Half an hour later, the two counselors came back into the library. "I hope you young adults realize that you have the most amazing friends--I guess you correctly talk about your family--I have ever encountered. Clearly Paula is in good hands and she--and you--will need that. Ms. Shaffer and I have talked, and clearly the best thing for Paula now is to get home. She would have good support from you here, but nothing compared with what she would have at home. With luck, she will get through the initial phase during the long holiday season so when she comes back, we will be able to sustain her healing process. Kent, were you going to North Carolina with Paula?"

"I had planned to go down later. Paula is Jewish and I am Christian, so we planned for me to be with my family for Christmas then fly down for the rest of the holidays, but I want to be with her unless I need not to be with her. I mean--you know what I mean."

Ms. Shaffer smiled and said, "You make yourself very clear, Kent. I hope, one day, Paula will realize how much you love her and how lucky she is to have you. Kent, this is a very personal question and if you don't want to answer, or want to answer in private, we all will understand. One concern in rape cases is pregnancy..."

"No! God no! No! No! No!" Kent shouted, and threw himself on the floor. He pounded his fist on the floor while crying with loud wails." Matt immediately dropped to the floor and held him close, resting Kent's head on his shoulder and stroking his hair. Matt looked up at the counselors, his eyes pleading. Yong Jin sat on the floor with Matt and Kent and, as soon as she did, I realized we had made a horrible omission. We had not called Kent's parents. I motioned for Eugene and whispered that he should call them. He left the room to do so. Yong Jin and Matt got Kent on a sofa and Yong Jin sat with him. I reached out and took Matt's hand, trying to calm him as he was almost as out of control as Kent.

I heard Ms. Humphrey say to Ms. Shaffer, "I'll handle this". Ms. Shaffer nodded.

"Kent, sometimes we all forget how much someone is hurting and hurt them more. I am sorry we hurt you."

"I am very, very sorry, Kent. I hope you'll forgive me," Ms. Shaffer said. Kent nodded.

"Kent, if you can help us, we'll not have to discuss with Paula the possibility of a pregnancy. That's the only reason I mentioned it. Do you know where Paula would be in her cycle?"

"No, there's never been any reason to discuss that and PMS just doesn't come into play around here."

"Do you know if Paula is on birth control?"

"I don't think so. I mean we have talked about having sex, but we haven't. We haven't set some sort of magic date when we would. Once she said that when it was right it would happen and I agreed."

"As practical as Paula is," Yong Jin said, "I can't imagine her waiting until what she thought was the right time and then saying, 'But we can't, I'm not protected against pregnancy'. I suspect if she thought the right time might come anytime soon, and wanted to be prepared for it, she would have started on birth control. I feel a bit like I would be violating her again," Yong Jin continued, "but I will check her room. Anything to keep from having to tell her she might be pregnant from a rape." When she came back she said, "She is on birth control pills. It appears she has just started her second month. If she has been regular in taking her pills--and, knowing Paula, she would have been absolutely faithful in that--pregnancy should not be a question."

"Excellent," Ms. Humphrey said. "One worry we don't have, at least for now. She should be safe."

"I think we can sum up things now. You all are victims of the attack on Paula, because it will affect all of your lives. I am leaving materials with you about what you might expect, and suggestions of how you can help her and yourselves. I think you should take Paula home as soon as possible, and let her healing begin among good family and friends," Ms. Shaffer said. She and Ms. Humphrey asked if we had questions, gave us their cards and left.

Yong Jin was still holding Kent, who lifted his head and said, "Thanks, Mom. Mom! My God, I haven't told my mom."

"Your parents are on their way right now," Eugene said.

"I guess we need to make plans about getting home," Greywolf said.

"I have taken care of that," Marc spoke up. "Dad is sending Captain Kelly and the Gulfstream up in the morning. We can all fly back in the two planes. Keith and I will fly Sandra and Paula back when they are ready. If that means we will be here a day or two, that's ok. The Gulfstream will take the rest of you back as soon as you are ready.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty--Mr. Glaze

When Kent didn't show up for church, Derrick said he was probably at home in bed since the combo had played for a party in Cleveland. Seemed reasonable, so I thought nothing about it.

After church, Derrick asked for the car and went off to see Judy. I had expected them to break up like most high schoolers, but it hadn't happened. Both families thought they were spending too much time with each other and agreed to restrict their time together. Derrick didn't like it at first but later admitted to Kent he was glad we had, since he didn't feel trapped--as he had since Judy wanted him to spend all his time with her--and he missed his buddies. Judy had told Kent the same thing. They both agreed it was ok to date someone else, but neither had.

Martha had not been feeling on top of the world the past week and decided to take a nap. I really hoped she was just tired and not sinking into depression again. She had been doing so well on her new medication. Anyway, for all practical purposes I was alone and decided to take a walk through the orchard. I don't know why I picked the orchard but I did, and immediately I thought back over the last few months.

It was hard to believe that Kent had been away only four months. It was even more amazing what five southerners had done for him. "Don't kid yourself, Carl," I thought, "they have done as much or more for you." I'll admit I had always resented Kent because of the trouble he caused being born with a heart condition. It didn't make sense, because I was sure he would have liked to have been born perfect, but I hadn't been rational. In looking back, I was sure I had worked hard not to become attached to Kent for fear he would die. So long as I could resent him, well, you know...

Additionally, Martha had been a tremendous burden. I loved her very much when we married, but when she started going into bouts of deep depression, I resented having to take care of her and the two boys, one of whom had problems as well. Not making excuses, but there were times I was so worn out physically and emotionally, I dreamed of lying down and not waking up.

When Martha was put on her new medicine, she became a new person--no, an old person, the person I had known and married. I guess I still treated her in a way to protect myself from the possibility that her medicine would stop working. And with Kent, I had developed patterns of behavior that prevented me from seeing what a great kid--no, young man--he had grown into. When I finally admitted to myself that I had been an utter asshole, I expected him to say, 'Too late,' but he didn't. I still found it hard to express the affection I had for him, but I was proud of him and what he had accomplished and I take no credit for it. He had done it himself. Well he did have the help of five great people. I smiled when I realized I had called four gay men, two sets of lovers even, great, but they were.

And the fifth? I had a good chance to see Paula and Kent together over Thanksgiving when Paula and Sandra came for a visit. Both she and Kent said they were not sure whether they were in love or not and I guessed they would be the last to know but, even as unobservant as I can be, I could see they were two people head over heels. That was the reason Sandra, Martha and I had talked about Christmas. They had solved the conflict this year by Kent staying here until after Christmas, but that was only this year. I surprised myself when Martha asked what I would do if Kent converted to Judaism. A year ago I would have gone into a rage. Now when she asked I just said, "I'll bet he'll thank me for having him circumcised if he does!" A lot had happened and it was all good, and I was thankful for it.

When I got back to the house, the phone was ringing. Both Martha and I picked up at the same time, and learned that Kent and Paula had been drugged and Paula raped. Derrick had the car, so we hopped in the rattletrap of a farm truck to go see our son who was hurting and we had not known it.

When we arrived at the house, Kent ran to meet us, grabbed both of us and started crying buckets. I didn't really know what to do--what was to do?--so I just held him and his mom. When he got control again he said, "Mom, Dad, I was so upset, I forgot to call you, I'm sorry". We both just patted his back and said nothing.

When we got inside, we joined the group in the library and Kent told us the whole story. I'd like to say I felt sorry for the Shapiro kid, but I didn't. I was just mad as hell because of what he did to my son and his girl. Kent finally said he wanted to get back to the hospital. Matt and Luke were going to take him back when I said, "Martha and I would like to take Kent back, but we are in the farm truck and I wasn't sure it'd make it even to here."

"You can take my truck," Luke offered.

"Luke, that'd be fine for Mr. and Mrs. Glaze, but they are taking Kent back," Matt said, as he handed the Jeep keys to Mr. Glaze.

Kent got lot of hugs and we left.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty--Sandra

I looked at my baby, who finally had exhausted herself and drifted off to sleep. I had only had time to react since I arrived, but now with her asleep, I sat down and wanted to scream, "Why? Why was my baby hurt?". Of course there was no answer. It was clear from what Ms. Shaffer had said this was only the beginning.

Paula was not the only one hurting; we all were. Poor Kent, Paula didn't want to see him. One time she would say she was ashamed and another she never wanted to see a man again. Her emotions were all over the place. At times she was so enraged that she threw things, and at others she was so icy cold it was frightening.

Paula slept for three or four hours--often restless, tossing and turning, whimpering, crying out. She was still asleep when Kent returned. He tapped on the door gently and I went out to see him. Carl and Martha were with him and, as soon as I saw them, I embraced both. "Sandra, we are so sorry, so very, very sorry. She is like our own daughter we never had," Martha said.

"How is she, Sandra?" Carl asked. I told him she was sleeping for the moment.

When Kent told his parents he was staying, they asked about staying with him. "Mom, Dad, Sandra is here and Derrick will come home and not know what has happened. I don't know when Paula will be leaving for North Carolina or if she will allow me to go with her. Whether I go with her or with the rest of the crew, I am going. Sorry that I won't be home for Christmas, but I don't think it would be much of a Christmas for me and I would sure be a wet blanket on yours. Anyway, I have to go."

"We understand, Kent, and wouldn't want it any other way given the circumstances," Carl said. "Is there anything you need or we can do for you?"

"I can't think of anything. To be honest, I can't think, period."

"Sandra, is there anything we can do for you or Paula?" Carl asked.

"Nothing. I am here until Paula is ready to leave. Thanks anyway."

Kent said goodbye to his parents, assuring them he would keep them posted.

When they had gone, he asked me about Paula. "Kent, she finally went to sleep on her own. She's exhausted, but her sleep is restless. She whimpers, cries out. I suspect she is having nightmares. My poor baby." Kent took my hand and when I looked up, he had tears running down his face. I thought to myself, "I wonder what is going to happen to my baby and this wonderful, loving man who obviously worships her". Inwardly I smiled when I thought that, because both had been very clear in stating they weren't sure they were in love when it came up at Thanksgiving. It made them the only two who were not sure.

I sat with Kent a few minutes after his parents left, then returned to Paula's room. Paula was half-awake when I returned and it took her a few minutes to get herself orientated and, when she did, she said, "I guess Kent is so ashamed of me that he's staying away. I don't blame him, but I wish he was here."

"Paula, Kent is not ashamed of you at all. Stay away? It was all Matt and Luke could do to get him to go home, clean up, and change. He is outside where he has been since he was discharged."

"Discharged? Why was he in the hospital? I don't understand."

"I'll let him tell you if you'll see him. You have been saying you didn't want to see him, and he honored that although it has been hard. You want I should ask him to come in?"

"Yea, and just the two of us here, ok?"

"Sure." I went out to the waiting room and told Kent Paula wanted to see him.

"Are you sure," he asked, hesitating.

"Kent, she asked to see you alone." From the expression on his face I wasn't sure of his feelings.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty--Kent

I wasn't sure what I felt when Sandra came out and told me Paula wanted to see me. I mean I wasn't sure if Paula had asked to see me or if Sandra thought she should see me. Anyway, I was going in to see Paula and I was nervous.

When I walked into the room, Paula was sitting up, looking very pale and beat. "Hi, Paula. How are you doing, Babe?"

"Kent," Paula answered, as tears started running down her face. "Kent, I am sorry. I am so, so very sorry." Paula was weeping silently as she spoke.

"Paula, you have nothing to be sorry about. I'm sorry, angry, hurt, because of what happened to you. If I had been more careful..."

"Kent, I went with Nathan. What happened is my fault. Something I wanted to give to you has been taken from you."

"No, Paula. What happened is not your fault. As hard as it is for me to convince myself, it is not the fault of either of us. And nothing has been taken from me. Something was taken from you, something very precious--your trust in people and I don't know what else, but everything you were to, and for, me is still there. Paula, Babe, I told everyone I wasn't sure about being in love with you, but I was wrong. I love you, Paula. I know that from the very bottom of my being. I love you, Paula. Nothing can or will change that."

"I love you too, Kent, but I'm ashamed, dirty, soiled. I am not worthy of your love."

"Nonsense, Paula. I am one lucky guy and I hope in the days ahead I can prove that to you."

Paula suddenly changed tack and asked, "Kent, what happened to Nathan? What's going to happen to him? I don't think I could stand seeing him and I know I'll have to or he will go scot free."

Man, was I in a bind. I thought Paula would have been told but, since she hadn't, what should I say? I guess if you don't know what to say, you tell the truth. I sat down in the chair Sandra had drawn close to Paula's bed, reached out and took her hand. "Paula, you neither have to see Nathan again nor will he go scot free. He has seen to that. I suspect you will not be surprised to learn you are not the first woman he has attacked, but you surely are the last." I then told Paula of his suicide and the note he left, but did not tell her he said he had loved her. "For reasons known only to him--if he knew--Nathan was a warped human being who took his rage out on innocent women, but it will not happen again."

"I'm not glad that he is dead, not really, but I am pleased that he will never take from another woman what he took from me. Kent, Ms. Shaffer said she had talked to you."

"Yes, she did. She and Ms. Humphrey from Oberlin both came to the house while I was there and talked to all of us. Paula, I'll not lie. They both said there would likely be rough days ahead for you and for us. We are all ready to do what it takes to see you through, Paula. We are all here for you."

"Kent, if what she said is likely to happen, you are going to be hurt and have a real struggle."

"Paula, you are the one facing a real struggle, but I am here and I will be here, even when you think you don't want me."

"Always remember, Kent, you said when I think I don't want you. There are a thousand feelings and emotions like waves washing over me--I feel ashamed, I accuse myself of letting Nathan do what he did to me--a thousand emotions, but the one which I can hardly stand is the feeling that I am no good and certainly not good enough for you. I have been a fool for not being honest with you and myself about my feeling for you,and now it is too late."

"Too late for what? For admitting that you love me? Why too late? It is a thousand times as welcome as it would have been a week ago because I need to hear that you love me as I love you."

As we talked, I had been holding Paula's hand. When I finished, she pulled my hand to her lips and kissed it and told me she loved me. I didn't know what to expect, but I stood, leaned over and kissed her gently. When I broke our kiss, I sat on the edge of her bed and we talked. It was not the talk I wished we had after confessing our love for each other, but it was the talk which needed to be. We talked about what Ms. Shaffer and Ms. Humphrey had told us. Occasionally it was too much for Paula and she would turn away from me, but she always turned back. Finally she asked that I get Sandra.

When Sandra came into the room, Paula asked if she could go home. Sandra told her she would be discharged in the morning and that Marc was ready to fly them home. "That's later, Mom," she said. "I want--I need--to go home before I go to North Carolina." I felt tears welling up in my eyes when she said that. She wanted to go home to her family, and that was us, the crew on the lake. "Kent, will you go home and tell everyone I am going to be ok, and get some rest? You can come back in the morning. Oh, how did Matt's recital go? I hope I didn't ruin it."

"Paula, you didn't ruin anything," I said. "As to Matt's recital..." I hesitated, what should I tell her? "Kent, try the truth," I told myself. "Paula, Luke knew what I guess we all knew, but never thought about: as much as all the household love you--and it's heaps--Matt's feeling for you is different. Luke says you are the sister Matt always wanted and never had. Regardless of the reason, they all knew that if Matt found out what had happened, the recital would go by the boards. The snow gave Luke an excuse for the crew not going home last night. Luke went home this morning and told Matt you and I had gotten ill from something we ate or drank, and Eugene and Larry stayed until the last minute. Everyone agreed that Matt performed better than he had ever done, and he was told after the recital and reception."

"I ruined his celebration," Paula said and, again, turned away from me.

"No, Nathan Shapiro ruined the celebration today, but there will be other days to celebrate, when we can celebrate Matt's success and your recovery."

We talked a while longer and, before I left, Paula made me promise I'd go home and get some rest and come back for her in the morning. When I started to protest she said, "Mom will be with me. You need to go so the family will know I am going to be ok. I don't know when I will be ready to go to North Carolina. I want to be at home with you all. I guess the rest of the household can go, late tomorrow? I don't want to go without you. Maybe I'll..."

"Paula, you are not going without me unless you tell me to stay, and I may still go. Mom and Dad told me they thought I should, before I told them I was going with you. But we can talk about that tomorrow."

"Kent, will you kiss me?" Paula asked.

"You bet I will," I said softly. I guess Paula and I had been so much on guard that we had never had a really hot make-out session, and our kisses had been pretty tame affairs, so I was surprised when I leaned over her bed and she grabbed me and gave me the hottest kiss I had experienced in my entire life. As she did, I found myself wondering, "Is this for real or is it a reaction to the rape?".

After the kiss, we said goodnight and I promised to go home and try to sleep. As I walked toward the waiting room, I remembered Mom and Dad had taken the Jeep back. I'd have to wait until someone could come for me, and I dreaded another hour, another minute in that waiting room. As I turned the corner, I saw Matt and Luke waiting for me. "This is a surprise," I said, hugging the two--there had been a lot of hugging the past several hours, but no more than was needed!

"I called them," Sandra said. "Paula asked me to before I came and got you. She also wanted me to check with her before you left. She thought she wanted to see Matt and Luke. I'll see if she still does."

When Sandra came back, she said Paula wanted to see Matt and Luke, and they went in. They were back in five minutes. Matt managed to get back to the waiting room before breaking down. Luke wrapped his arms around him and the two wept. I realized I had wrapped both in my arms without knowing it. When we got control of ourselves, we drove back to the house.

Eugene and Larry had hot chocolate waiting, and we and the Carolina crew sat around the kitchen table. After I told them what I could about Paula's situation, Matt and Luke added that she was anxious to get to the house. "She kept talking about going home," Luke said, "and at first I thought she was talking about North Carolina, but she soon made it clear she was talking about here. She said she was going to North Carolina only because Kent promised to go with her."

I was recalling my conversation with Paula and her asking for a kiss. I must have been quiet longer than I realized. I suddenly realized Matt was calling me, "Uh, I guess I wasn't listening," I said, "sorry. I was thinking about something."

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty--Larry

When we went up--Greywolf and Yong Jin were in the guest room and Marc and Keith and gone to the studio with sleeping bags and pads--Kent asked his four housemates if we could talk. Of course we said yes and turned into Matt and Luke's room. As soon as we were all comfortable, Kent said, "Guys, I don't know what I wanted but, well, you heard what the two rape counselors said. I have no doubt, none at all, that you will be there for Paula--and me as well. But I had an experience tonight which shows just how difficult it's going to be. You have been around enough to know that Paula and I have been pretty reserved about showing affection. Part of that was because we were being careful--too careful, I think now--about leading the other to believe we were in love when we weren't..."

Matt was the first to start what became a tension-relieving giggle session--we sounded like a twelve-year-old girl's pajama party. "Kent, the only people you two have fooled, at least since Halloween, have been Paula and Kent," he said when he could stop giggling long enough.

"Yea, well, a part of it was I didn't want to push Paula. I really did stand back and wait for her to set limits. Like, I mean, I would never had said anything about having sex until she asked me about it. I mean she had been preparing for that happening, but I didn't know. Anyway, tonight she asked me to kiss her. We have exchanged kisses, but never had a really hot make-out session. A couple times, I'll admit, our goodnight kiss did get pretty hot, but we never just made out for a hour or something like that. Guys, I feel like I sound like a complete idiot."

"Kent, you pretty much know how Eugene and I relate to each other, and it is different from the way Matt and Luke relate to each other. Well, we four know how you and Paula relate to each other. It has seemed too slow and careful to me, but it is your business and when you two are ready, you'll be ready for--well, whatever."

"Yea, well tonight Paula asked me to kiss her and, man, it was some kiss. But you know what I was thinking? I was thinking, 'Is this because Paula has realized she loves me as I have realized I love her, or is it just a reaction to being raped?' You know, Ms. Shaffer talked about one reaction being a change in patterns of relationships. I mean when she kissed me, I was on cloud nine but then I half-crashed when I thought this might not mean anything other than it being a reaction to a rape! That son-of-a-bitch bastard Nathan Shapiro took away from what could and should have been the most wonderful moment in my life. I really hate the bastard and am very angry at what he has taken from me as well as Paula and all of us. And there is no way I can let him know how much I hate him for what he has done."

Kent was shaking when he finished. I was sitting beside him and reached out and put my hand behind his neck and said, "Yea, Kent, we all feel that way".

"Kent, you know I have tried the coward's way out twice," Luke said. "One of the things I have learned in counseling with Matt is that suicide is difficult to deal with because the murderer and the victim are the same. As a result, you suffer the loss of someone you love and are angry at the same person as well. Of course, in my case, Matt and my family and friends were angry because I attempted to take myself from them. In this case, the dynamics are different but the results are the same. You are angry at Nathan for making it impossible for you to make him pay for what he has done."

"And now it makes you even more angry as you see that what he did to Paula has effects much more far-reaching than you thought. I mean who would have thought that what he did would raise questions in your mind about what Paula meant by a kiss. I suspect this is, as we have been told, just the beginning. We, all of us, are really going to be tested in the weeks ahead. It's going to require a lot of forgiving and a lot of support and, as much as I would like to say we'll come through with flying colors, I can't. All I can say, and I think you know this, is that we will all give it all we have. You, Paula, we, are too important not to do everything we humanly can to make the weeks ahead as good as possible."

"I know that," Kent said, "I really do, but it's good to hear it."

"We are going to prove that Paula knew what she was talking about when she said she wanted to come home, here, to our home," I said.

Kent stood up and said, "Thanks, Brothers, and I mean that. I really do feel like this is my family--more than I ever thought I would." He opened his arms and we all hugged each other and said goodnight.

When Eugene and I were in bed, wrapped in each other's arms, he said, "Lar, this has been very painful for me. I know Paula is really hurting, confused, bewildered, because I have been there. I just have to be strong enough not to let my past prevent me being a rock for Paula."

I didn't respond because I was having my own struggle. Eugene could understand Paula's reaction because he had been there and I had put him there. As if he was reading my mind he said, "No, Lar. I wouldn't have said anything if that was what I was thinking. To be very honest, Lar, what you consider your rape of me was nothing compared with what had happened over and over again. I know why you did what you did and it was wrong, painful, but you have more than made up for it with your love for me. Damaged goods? You better believe it, but not because of what you did. I now realize that moment when you went out of control will always be with us. I guess it's like Paula and Kent will always have her rape as a part of their relationship. But it's not what their relationship is about and ours cannot be about that one moment when you hurt both of us."

Eugene brushed my hair from my forehead, smiled into my eyes and kissed me so gently it was like the kiss of a breeze on my lips. "I love you, Larry Watley. I love you with my whole being."

"And I love you Eugene Willingham. I love you and I will never deserve it," I said.

"You don't have to deserve it, Lar. I give it to you, now and forever."

I smiled back at Gene and said, "And you have mine." I then reached over and turned off the bedside lamp, and soon the two of us were asleep, but our sleep was not peaceful.

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