Castle Roland

The Oberlin Five

by Sequoyah


Chapter 21

Published: 8 Apr 14

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

I went to bed and should have fallen asleep because I'd had little sleep in the last twenty-four hours, but my mind didn't seem to realize the fact. I tossed and turned and finally dozed off, only to be awakened by a nightmare. I dreamed I was playing drums and Nathan Shapiro was walking toward Paula holding an open drink can. I could see the skull and crossbones on the can, but Paula couldn't. She was reaching for the can and I tried to shout to stop her, but could make no sound. Nathan was looking at me, laughing, as I struggled to warn Paula. I was finally able to shout and the shout woke me. In seconds, all four of my brothers were in my room.

Since Matt and Luke's room is just across the hall from mine, they burst into my room split seconds before Eugene and Larry. I was sitting up in bed when Matt practically flew across my room and grabbed me and held me close. As I had said earlier, Matt has very little between himself and the world. What Matt feels everyone knows and what others feel, Matt feels. There was no doubt in my or anyone's mind Matt was fighting for his brother. The other three piled on my bed and we talked. Seemed none of us had really done more than doze and I was not the only one with nightmares.

Finally Luke said, "Look, guys, of course Kent doesn't know, but anytime there was a crisis in the Family, all four of us--Michael, Mary Kathryn, Matt and I--slept together. I know we are all big, grownup college guys here and I don't know that it will help, but I vote we try. We really do need some rest and we sure haven't had any recently."

"Just about to suggest that myself," Matt responded, and soon all five of us were a pile of arms and legs. It took some moving around and a lot of giggling, but finally we managed to get everyone on the bed and covered and amazingly, we were all asleep very quickly.

At ten Monday morning, Greywolf came upstairs and finally found all of us. When he came into the room he said Sandra had called from the hospital and Paula was being released shortly after noon. "Seems she could have been released earlier, but she became upset thinking she may have been raped by someone other than Nathan or maybe even gang-raped. Of course the evidence didn't support that, but a policewoman came by with the test results and talked with Paula. She assured Paula that women who have been raped frequently have a very strong impression concerning the rape which has nothing to do with reality. Anyway, breakfast in thirty minutes. Matt, Kent, Paula asked that the two of you come for her."

I took a shower and then called to Matt and Luke and told them the shower was available. The two couples often took very long showers and if they wanted to this morning, I didn't want one to have to wait on the other. We were all showered and dressed well before Greywolf and Yong Jin had breakfast ready and, as soon as breakfast was over, Matt and I drove to Cleveland.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty-one--Paula

I wished I could be objective about what happened to me. Sometimes I could. Sometimes I could push it away until I was looking at it as if it was happening to someone else. That was a strange feeling. I'd learn later it had a name--disassociation or something like that. What it means is that you stand outside yourself and watch. That was objective all right, but that's not what I meant. What I wanted was to be able to see that Nathan had violated me, taken something from me, then I could just deal with it and move on. Well, it wasn't working.

Sometime before I was awakened by a nurse coming in to check on me, I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was raped by someone else, not Nathan. That was horrible enough, but then I dreamed there was not just one rapist, but several. The nightmare was so real I couldn't shake it when I did wake up. In fact, when I was awake it had taken such a hold on me and had became so real I believed it. Finally I told the nurse I wanted proof it was Nathan and only Nathan who had violated me.

Sometime later--after I had breakfast--a policewoman came to my room and sat and talked with me. She showed me the results of all the tests which proved Nathan and Nathan alone had raped me. Even with the evidence the nightmare was hard to shake.

I had been told by the morning nurse that I would be discharged as soon as the doctor who had treated me could see me. "I'm sure it will be right after lunch," she said.

Knowing when I would be released, I called home and talked with Greywolf. He said the guys were still asleep. "When I went up to check on them they were all piled in Kent's bed. I suspect they didn't get to sleep until late."

"Greywolf, I will be able to leave after lunch I think. I'd like Matt and Kent to come for me and Mom. I know all of the guys would be willing to come--and might even want to come--but I'd like to just have those two come. Do you think that is ok?"

"Of course it is," Greywolf replied. "I'll send them along as soon as they've had breakfast."

I had insisted Mom go to the cafeteria and get breakfast. When she came back I told her Matt and Kent would be coming for us. I was a bit surprised that she didn't ask why it was Kent and Matt, but she didn't. I didn't know what I would have told her had she asked, but I knew that was what I wanted. I mean of course I wanted Kent to come, but why Matt rather than any one of the other three? I wasn't sure.

Kent, poor Kent. I knew he was hurting big time, but I just couldn't stand the thought of seeing any male for most of the day before. I did know that I thought more of Kent than I had been willing to admit. I hoped he would return the feeling and had as much patience as he seemed to have because he would need it. I mean when Ms. Shaffer talked with me I thought I would be able to control my thoughts, emotions and feelings, but it seemed I was proven wrong just about ten times an hour. I knew Kent would be understanding, but after a while you get worn down no matter how understanding you are, and I had been told I was in for a long haul. One thing about it, I couldn't have been with better people than my house family.

When Mom came back from breakfast, I had showered and was ready to get dressed as soon as the guys arrived with my clothes. We talked about what we were going to do. I had the holidays to recover although I had been told the recovery process would take longer. Kent and I had planned to go home and not get together until after Christmas. That was the way we solved the conflict between our two religions. But I didn't want to go home without Kent. The thought of making out with him wasn't very comfortable and the thought of sex really out, but I wanted him around. He made me feel safe. He understood being drugged. Damn it, he made me feel safe and I didn't feel safe unless he was around. Of course, I wondered how long he'd stay around if he had to keep hands off. I didn't even know that I wanted him to keep hands off. I was just plain messed up and didn't know what I wanted or didn't want. Well, I did know I wanted Kent around.

The doctor came up just after lunch--and I did eat a little lunch--and talked with me. She said physically I was fine. "I suspect you are in as good shape emotionally as any young woman who has been raped is," she said. "It is going to take time for you to heal emotionally. I have talked with Ms. Shaffer and she assures me you have a good support group."

"The best," I said.

"You may want to get involved with a support group of women who have been raped. I think you will know whether you need that or not. I expect you to see a counselor at Oberlin or somewhere and I am here if you need me."

"Thanks for all you and everyone have done for me," I said.

The doctor hugged me and said, "Good luck and call if you need me".

As soon as she was gone, Mom came back into the room with clothes Kent and Matt had brought. She said Kent hoped Yong Jin had got what I needed. She laughed, "Having grown up in a house without girls, I'm not sure he knows a great deal about women's clothes."

"I can tell you, only Luke has the faintest idea, that's for sure," I laughed. "Larry called me in a panic the first time he did laundry. You would have thought a bra was a snake the way he was trying to fold it. Wrestle it is more like it." I got dressed quickly and Mom went out to get the guys. When Kent walked in with Matt, he looked like a shy little boy, holding back, waiting to see how he should respond. Matt was not at all hesitant, walking right over and hugging me. He kissed me on the forehead and said, "Doing ok, Sis?" I nodded, looked over at Kent and smiled.

Kent smiled in return and walked toward me and I toward him. I reached out to him, took him in my arms and held him close. As I did I whispered, "Kent Glaze, I love you. God, I never knew how much, how very, very much I love you."

When I released him, Kent pulled back so he could look at me. He looked into my eyes, smiled--his eyes actually sparkled--and whispered, "I love you, Paula". He leaned forward slowly until his lips touched mine, a touch so gentle, so tender I could barely feel his lips on mine, but his nearness and the touch of his lips filled me with a sense of safety and well-being I thought I'd never know again. When he took his lips from mine, he said again, "Paula, I love you more than anything in the whole world".

"Kent, let's go home," I said, taking his hand in mine.

The drive home seemed to take forever. Matt was driving and Mom was in the front seat with him. Kent and I snuggled together in the back. "Kent, you make me feel safe, cared for, wanted. I have been told I may not always feel that way toward to you. If I don't, please remember it's because of what..." I choked. Kent gently pulled my head to his chest, held me and stroked my hair.

"Paula, I love you. I know you love me. I have been told there will be times when you can't stand the thought of me touching you. If that happens, I'll know why. I'll know and trust that it is not your heart speaking when you tell me to go away. It may be tough for us, especially for you, but we will all get through it because we all love you, Paula, and we know you love us. We are your brothers, Paula, regardless of what else I might be to you, I am one of your brothers."

I suddenly found myself giggling helplessly. "I hope, sometime in the future you don't find you have something against incest, brother," I giggled. When I looked at Kent he was turning bright red.

When we reached the house, there were hugs from everyone and then we sat down in the family room to make plans. Kent told me he was going to North Carolina with me and Mom unless we had decided to stay in Ohio. "I have already talked with Mom and Dad and they agree. Millie has invited Mom, Dad and Derrick to come down and have Christmas at her place. I told her I though that was a bit much since she had a wedding to plan for, but she insisted. Dad has made arrangements to get off Christmas week so they will be leaving after he gets home Friday the twenty-second and will come back the twenty-ninth after Millie's wedding. Derrick will be staying until we have to get back."

"It may be a bit late to get started today," Marc said, "but we can leave now or in the morning."

"Derrick will be house-sitting for us until he comes to North Carolina," Luke said. "I told him he could come over tonight or wait until in the morning. He decided to spend the night here, so we can leave as early as we like."

"Let's get everything packed and ready to leave, and try to leave early enough to beat the rush-hour traffic or wait until it is over," Larry said.

"Think we can get out of here by seven?" Kent asked. "If we can, we shouldn't have any problem with traffic. We're going against traffic anyway."

That settled, everyone went to their rooms to get packing done. Mom and I went to my room and I started getting my things ready, but I finally had to just sit down. I shouldn't have been exhausted since I had done nothing, but suddenly I had absolutely no energy. When Mom started asking me what I wanted to take and tried to do my packing for me, I got angry, feeling that she was pushing me into doing something I wasn't interested in doing. I started to shout at her, but caught myself and said, "Mom, later. Right now just leave me alone so I can sleep." Having said that, I lay across the bed as Mom left the room. I had come to briefly while Nathan was raping me. Now when I opened my eyes, his face was only inches from mine. I have never looked into eyes so crazy looking. His face... his face was so distorted he looked more like an animal than a human being. When I closed my eyes, I saw that face.

I got up and paced my room. I was exhausted. The only time I had slept was when I had been given sleeping pills and when I woke up I was groggy, so I stopped taking them. Now I was exhausted. I lay down again.

Then there he was, Nathan, his eyes leering into mine. His hot beer breath in my face nauseated me. Then I felt him plunge into me. I screamed again as I had before I blacked out when he raped me. This time I didn't pass out, I kept screaming.

Suddenly I felt someone's arms around me and I no longer saw Nathan's face. He had vanished. "Paula, Paula, Baby, you're ok. You're safe. You're safe, Baby." It was Kent's voice I heard. I had closed my eyes and kept them tight shut, but when I heard Kent's voice, I opened my them and saw it was Kent holding me, stroking my hair and whispering to me. As soon as I realized it was Kent holding me and that Nathan was only a figment of my half-asleep state, I relaxed and wept softly. "Let it go, Paula. I'm here. You are safe, Babe." Slowly I felt the nightmare slipping away. I looked into Kent's face. I saw care, concern, worry there, and wondered how long he would be there for me if I kept reliving the rape or imagining a new one over and over again. I may have to give him up later, but now he was there and he was holding me, safe in his arms.

I looked into Kent's eyes and saw his love and concern shining there. I smiled at him then drew his lips to mine for a soft kiss. When I broke it I said, "Kent, I'm sorry. I don't want to keep upsetting you. I'm sorry."

"Paula, don't worry about me. I'm fine. Well, I'm not fine so long as you are hurting, but I'm ok myself. Now we have to get you well, over this horror. I'm here, Paula, and that's where I want to be." Kent kissed me on the forehead and then looked into my eyes, smiled and then kissed me on the lips. "Paula, do you want me to call your mom to help you pack? Are you ready to pack?"

"Kent, I want you here. Can you stay? Will you stay?"

"Of course I will, Paula. Do you want your mom to help?"

"No, I can do my own packing, but I don't want to be by myself."

"Fine, I'll stay."

I got my bags and started packing. Kent helped as much as he could, and more than once we got the giggles over his efforts at helping. Half an hour after I started, I finished packing. Hand-in-hand Kent and I went to the family room where Derrick and Larry and Luke were with the Greywolfs, Marc and Keith. "All packed and ready to go," I said.

"Ready for supper as well?" Greywolf asked.

"I sure am," I replied.

"Good," Matt said. "It's ready."

Mom had helped Matt and Eugene prepare supper. I was suddenly aware of the delicious odors coming the kitchen and of how hungry I was.

ASP--The Oberlin Five--Chapter Twenty-one--Eugene

Last night it had been Kent screaming and today it was Paula. I was kinda surprised that I hadn't had nightmares as well. I hadn't, I had what I guess you could call daymares. I mean I was awake and all that, but I found myself lost in thought, not pleasant ones. I surely would never tell Larry, but I often found myself thinking about Nathan forcing himself on Paula and, when I did, I remembered the pain--physical and emotional--Larry had caused me when he forced his cock up my ass. But Paula could never come through the pain to love and be loved as I had. Even if Nathan had wanted it to be that way, it couldn't be because he was dead. The future didn't look very bright for Paula. I just hoped Kent's love would be enough to heal her.

When dinner was ready we all gathered in the dining room. Sandra had helped me and Matt get dinner and it was a great meal. Matt had said he thought we should celebrate even though Paula had a long way to go before she could be considered emotionally well, "She's alive and that's worth celebrating big time," he had said. Among the three of us we came up with some of Paula's favorite dishes.

When Paula saw what we put on the table she said, "Guys, I couldn't have asked for better brothers had Mom had a house full of sons. You are the greatest."

After dinner and cleanup, we all went to the family room and just relaxed. Marc told us about all the twisting and turning he had gone through to get his dad to accept him going to Independence. "By the way, I'll have to give the Concord Five a lot of credit," he said. "What finally caught Dad's eye was the number of AP honors Independence turned out past year--tops in the nation Dad discovered. He also found out a great deal about the teachers. Mr. Greywolf, you especially impressed him with the number of high scoring AP physics students you turn out."

"Marc, so far as I know, I am the only teacher who has no honorific. It's just Greywolf, not Mr. Greywolf. Don't know why, but it's always been that way. I do have a lot of high scores on AP physics exams. The reasons are simple. Students have to have demonstrated their abilities in math and science before they can get in the program. Many schools just say, 'Take AP courses if you want to'. Since many schools give an extra quality point for AP courses, parents want their child to take them. In that case, you either water down the course or have a high failure rate. Everyone knows at Independence there are no extra quality points and the courses are hard. They are equal to or better than the college courses they can replace. So, yes, we seldom have a student who does not score high enough to exempt a college course or two."

"And that goes for all the AP courses," Matt said. "But look what a little hard work in high school can do. Luke and I are sophomores next semester and Luke will be at Cleveland Art Institute full-time. Eugene, Larry and Paula lack only a few credits being sophomores. Given what we all plan to do, that means we can possibly graduate with our class and the degrees we want.

"Well, as I said, Dad was impressed. With housing worked out with the Greywolfs, I'm set to go as soon as the second semester begins in January."

We talked about school a while and just generally enjoyed being with each other. About eight, Kent's parents brought Derrick over. "I'm not sure what kind of watchdog Derrick will be," Mr. Glaze said. "Are you sure you want to leave your kingdom in his hands?"

"Sure, we're sure, Dad," Kent said.

"Well, we need to be going. Have a safe trip and make Kent behave," Mrs. Glaze said as they prepared to leave.

"I'll be back in the morning to drive one of the cars to the airport," Mr. Glaze said.

When they were gone, Derrick sat down with us and we helped him make a list of things he needed to keep an eye on, who to call if he had something go wrong, that sort of thing. "Derrick, you are taking on a big responsibility," Kent told him. "I know you are perfectly capable of handling the job. Just don't let your teen party animal get you in trouble. No women, no drugs, no alcohol. No more than one or two of your friends."

"Don't expect to throw a party. But how about a friend staying over with me?"

"Fine so long as it is not Judy," Kent said.

"Fat chance!" Derrick said. "Her dad would have my bal... head on a platter!"

"Derrick, we trust you or we wouldn't have asked you to house-sit. You have use of the vehicles, run of the house, just don't do serious damage to the house and especially do not do serious damage to yourself. As Mom says, 'Be responsible'. That's all we ask," Matt said.

"Kent, we were really going to miss having you home for Christmas, but now we'll all have a Christmas vacation."

"You can bet you'll have a Christmas to remember," Matt said. "Millie has a thing about Christmas. When she said she'd get married right after Christmas so she'd not have to do decorations for the reception, you better believe it. I think she has a whole storeroom of Christmas stuff. And everyone who is anyone makes sure they get to Millie's Christmas Open House. It starts after the midnight mass and generally breaks up three or four hours later.

We all were getting droopy from lack of sleep and at 9:00 Kent said, "Derrick, you can stay up as late as you like, but I'm going to bed. Try not to wake me when you come up."

"Thanks, I saw a movie on TV I wanted to see, so I'll be up when it is over."

We all said our goodnights and went off to bed. I didn't know about Luke and Matt, but Larry and I didn't play around. We were both exhausted so, after a couple of great goodnight kisses, I spooned myself into Larry's back, rested my arm across my beloved and was almost asleep when I felt Larry sobbing.

"What's wrong, Lar?" I asked. "What's wrong, Babe?"

Larry turned to face me. There was a night light in our room, a concession to my paranoia about the dark, and by its faint glow I saw tears on Larry's face. Larry looked at me and said, "Gene, Paula's rape has made me so ashamed about what I did to you. It's like her rape was my rape of you." Tears were now streaming down Larry's beautiful face.

"Lar, I'll be honest with you. It also made me think about it. But, Babe, there's a difference. Your love for me has brought healing. It was a very small price to pay for the happiness you have given me and for your love. Can't you let my love for you heal you?"

That started a fresh flood of tears. I reached up, took Lar's face in my hands and pulled his lips to mine for a long, soft, gentle kiss. When I broke the kiss, Larry looked into my eyes, smiled weakly and said, "Gene, your love is enough to heal anything. I know I don't deserve you, but you're mine, all mine."

"You're damn frigging right, Lover Boy." Our kiss this time was not soft or gentle, but passionate. The kiss ended, I lay with my head on Lar's chest, listening to his heartbeat, the heartbeat echoing his love for me and soon both of us were asleep.

ASP-The Oberlin Five--Matt

We had all been missing sleep since Paula's attack and I suspect all would have liked to be able to sleep-in Tuesday morning, maybe as much just to avoid what had happened to Paula as to catch up on sleep. Dad made sure we were up and getting showered and dressed, but he had to make two trips upstairs before everyone was moving. When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and got ready for the day, we went downstairs where Mr. Glaze was sitting with Dad drinking coffee. He had just arrived to help get everyone to the airport.

When we were all at breakfast, the phone rang. It was Captain Kelly. When I identified myself he said, "Matt, good to hear your voice. Sorry about Paula, damn sorry. Maybe getting home will be good for her. I arrived last night at 10:00 and have gassed and all this morning. I'm ready when you are."

"We'll be along as soon as we have finished breakfast and get last-minute things done. We plan to leave for the airport about 8:00."

"Ok, just let me know when you leave and I'll be ready to fly when you arrive."

We were ready to leave shortly after we finished breakfast. Derrick drove Kent, Paula, Sandra and my parents in Eugene's car, a tight squeeze. Mr. Glaze drove the family car with the rest of us. I was sitting in the back on Luke's lap, leaning over to keep from bumping my head. Eugene was sitting on Larry. The two of us got a good bump when we went over a railroad crossing and our heads hit the roof. Marc and Keith were in front with Mr. Glaze.

When we arrived at the airport, Captain Kelly told Marc he had gassed up his plane and done the preflight check. "Not that I don't trust you, Captain," Marc said, "but I need to do a preflight check myself."

While Marc was doing that, Captain Kelly said, "Glad to see Marc takes preflight checks seriously. If he hadn't insisted on doing his own, I would have gotten on his case. You can never be too sure of your plane."

When Marc finished, we all got aboard the two planes and, as soon as they were cleared for take off, we headed to North Carolina.

The flight to North Carolina was uneventful, thank goodness. I had had enough "eventfuls" to last a long time. Dad had left the van at the airport in Concord so he had to drive to Lexington to pick us up. Jens had met the plane in Concord and took Paula, Kent, Sandra and Mom home.

It was very good to be home again, but I think I had withdrawal pains. All afternoon I kept thinking I'd check on Paula and then remember she was at her mom's place. I finally called about 6:00 in the evening and Sandra said Paula and Kent had left her place at 1:00, right after lunch, to show Kent the town. "I asked them what they would do after 1:05," she chuckled. "Paula actually seemed excited about showing Kent where she grew up. I hope she continues to enjoy things. She was very nervous coming down, worrying about what people might think. Kent asked her why people needed to know everything. That calmed her a bit."

"Good, tell them I called." As soon as I hung up the phone, I told Larry, Mom and Dad about Paula's concern.

"Sandra's right, Paula's tragedy shouldn't be community news," Luke said. "I need to call Mom and Dad and make sure they know that. I bet Mary Kathryn knows already." She did and she and Michael had talked about it and had agreed it was news which should be kept in the family--the extended, extended family. Just to make sure, Luke and I talked to everyone and all had come to the same conclusion.

Fr. Tom called just after supper. He and Millie had been talking and he wanted to know if I thought Christmas Eve was good for my concert. "There are some other good events coming up," he said. "We could pretend we are St. John the Divine in New York and celebrate the winter solstice the twenty-first. Or it could be a Christmas concert any time after Monday. Or a New Year's concert a week from Sunday. It's up to you," he said.

"Millie's wedding is a week from Thursday, right? The day before and the day after would not be too good." We finally decided on New Year's evening, "after everyone has time to get over their hangout," Fr. Tom had laughed. "By the way, there's a party planned for New Year's Eve at the teen club. You Ohio people might like to show up."

"How's that going?" I asked.

"Well, the place is full every Friday and Saturday night and we have had practically no trouble inside. Remember the skinheads who showed up?" I said I did. "Well, they have been here every time the club has been open. Pure prejudice, I know, but I have been waiting for them to cause trouble. Apparently we have attracted attention at Bob Jones University--the son of the preacher at First Baptist is a student there--because six or seven 'clean cut, American boys' with dates showed up last Saturday night and after they had been here for a short time, took the mike and started preaching about how evil the place was. Pop Cop tried to put them out, but they just laughed at him. The skinheads took the mike away from the guy preaching and said, 'Go on with your fun, we'll handle this'. Whereupon they literally carried the guys out with their girlfriends trailing behind. That was a big surprise."

"St. Mary's vestry has had one member who was much opposed and he was told the club had been approved by the vestry and he was there when it was voted on. I don't know whether he will continue to cause dissent or not, but so far he's been the only vestry member saying anything. One family left and went to the Baptist church, but nothing major has happened." We talked a bit more and he said he'd make sure the concert got announced in Concord and Lexington.

When Luke and I went up to bed, he said, "I know we said we'd let Paula call the shots, but I'd really like to know how she's doing. I hope she doesn't think we have forgotten about her."

"Sandra knows that we are concerned and if she thinks Paula needs us, she will call." We were both exhausted from the emotional strain we had been under, losing sleep and the trip home. Luke was asleep practically as soon as he had kissed me goodnight and I wasn't far behind.

North Carolina mountain weather can be unpredictable, to say the least. After a snowstorm Thanksgiving, here we were approaching Christmas will balmy weather. Wednesday morning dawned fair and amazingly warm. I know we had agreed to let Paula call the shots, but this was a day too good to miss. I called Michael and asked about a picnic at the falls. "Hey, glad you called," he responded. "I was thinking the same thing. You round up your bunch and I'll round up mine. Maybe we can all get enough food together."

I called Larry and Eugene and asked them. "Are you kidding?" Eugene asked. Millie has a week's work laid out for today for me and Larry."

"She around?"

"What do you think? Does the slave master leave her slaves without supervision?"

"Let me talk to her."

I heard Eugene shout, "Ma, telephone," then quietly, "please rescue us," he pleaded.

"Millie, Matt, what's up?"

"Millie, it's just too good a day to waste decorating for Christmas. If you will release your son and his lover for a picnic at the falls, Promise we'll pitch in to do the decorating."

"Deal, Matt, what do I need to get together?"

"Whatever. Everyone's bringing something and hoping it's not all cookies," I laughed.

I was hesitant, but I called Paula's place. Sandra answered the phone. "Sandra, Matt. We're getting together for a picnic at the falls. Think Paula is up to it?"

"I think it would do her good, but I'll see if she wants to do it."

A few minutes later, Paula was on the phone. "Matt, I'm delighted! It's a great idea. What do you want from Kent and me?"

"Your presence, just your presence. Meet us about 11:00."

Luke and I raided the fridge and got some sandwiches made, boiled some eggs and packed some fruit into our picnic basket, and made thermos of hot chocolate and were ready to go by 10:00.

"You college brats ready?" Michael called as he and Mary Kathryn came in. After hugs all around, he continued, "We have cold fried chicken--well, it'll be cold by the time we eat--and, of course, potato salad."

"Why don't we go ahead and get a fire started? I know it's warm, but a fire might feel good later," Mary Kathryn said.

"Sounds good," Luke said. "Matt, why don't we load some dry wood into the four wheeler?"

Half an hour later, the four of us had a fire going, blankets spread for sitting, and were just waiting for the others.

Bill and Linda arrived with Jacob and Susan. "Santa Claus should be good to someone for coming up with this idea," Linda said as she hugged Luke and me.

Larry and Eugene showed up next. "You know you promised Millie you'd help with the decorations," Eugene said. "Man, I am holding you to that! You'd think she was decorating the whole town."

"Should be a fun time for all," Mary Kathryn said. "You two got a problem with that?" she asked, turning to Susan and Jacob.

"No problem," Susan said. "It's just a party so far as I am concerned." Jacob nodded in agreement.

Marc, Keith and Chris showed up next. "Dan's sleeping," Chris explained. "He's been pulling extra hours this week. I guess he thought since he didn't have school, he'd do extra."

Everyone was present except Kent and Paula by 11:00. "I suspect Paula and Kent will be here by the time we get the food ready," Mary Kathryn said as she started taking food from baskets. The last dish had been set out when Paula and Kent arrived. More hugs and the Kent said, "I see food and I didn't have to cook".

Soon we were all eating, laughing and enjoying being in each other's company. It almost seemed as though the last few days hadn't happened. When we finished eating, we cleaned up after ourselves and all were half-sitting, half-lying on the blankets. It was very warm in the sun, so we had moved back from the fire. Kent was lying with his head in Paula's lap and she was running her hand through his hair when she said, "I think I'd like all of you to know what happened to me so when I act weird--and I will--you will understand." she then told about being raped, sparing none of the details.

When she finished, everyone was silent for a few minutes when Linda said, "Paula, it was nothing to compare with your ordeal, but I can understand a little bit of how you must feel. You all know what Orie did, but it was more than I have ever admitted to myself. He didn't rape me, but the only reason he did not was because I was strong enough and got his nuts hard enough to escape. I felt violated and at the same time as if I was, some way, responsible for what he did. In my head I knew I was not, but that didn't mean I didn't feel as though I had." She got up from where she was sitting and went over and hugged Paula. soon Susan, Mary Kathryn and Rachel joined in a group hug.

The guys were all looking at each other, not knowing what to do. Finally Keith broke the ice since he had seen Paula in Ohio. Soon the whole bunch were involved in group hug. Paula was weeping silent tears as she started hugging individuals. When that was over, she said, "I knew I could count on you guys. Thanks. And as I said, if I start acting weird, you know why. Well, I guess for the first time in my life, this little Jewish girl is about to help decorate for Christmas. Anyone want to help?"

As we were packing up everything, Paula came up to me and said, "Matt, this is a healing place. I know it is," and she held me close.

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