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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 7

Chapter 7
About six weeks after he got back to Princeton, Rafe received a request/command from Professor Helene Barnes via e-mail to come to her office the next evening at 7:00. He wondered what it meant. He’d heard from some of the girls that she regularly preached against them ever going with him. He certainly didn’t take now, or ever intend to take, any of her Women’s Studies courses. As far as he knew, he’d never even met her. Whatever she wanted, it probably wasn’t to strew rose petals in his path.
Walking to her building the next night, he was looking forward to this get-together. Rafe liked challenges and Ms Barnes just might prove to be one. He was familiar with the strategy employed by superiors such as bosses and teachers to make the pecking order clear at the beginning of a meeting like this one. Typically, the inferior knocked on a door, to be summonsed in by their better, who then proceeded to order them to take a particular chair while they themselves assumed the authority position behind the desk. Rafe intended to disrupt that strategy. When he rapped on the door and heard Helene call out for him to come in, he rattled the knob as if it wouldn’t open.
“What the….,” she muttered. He grinned when he heard her heels clicking on the hardwood floor.
“Now who is coming to whom, Professor Barnes?” he thought.
Rafe had a theory, not a very scientific one, not one that he intended to try to publish in a peer-reviewed psychology journal, but a theory nonetheless, one that had proved out more often than not.  It went right along with his view that females usually gave early clues as to sexual desires. It went like this: whenever Rafe met a woman, if he had the opportunity, he very briefly invaded her space. He thought he could generally tell from her reaction to that small incursion into her territory, what she wanted from a man. These were usually subtle reactions, more psychic than physical, sensed more than seen.
The first type of woman instantly fell back and ceded her spot to him without protest. They were the kind of girls who, if he asked them what movie they wanted to see or where they wanted to eat, would tell him they didn’t care or whatever he preferred was fine with them. They could be dying for Mexican food but if he suggested Chinese, they’d fall agreeably in line. If you took them to bed, you had to be prepared to always take the lead and to treat them with tender loving care to keep from frightening them (much the way he’d handled Lida). They were the romantics, who were eagerly happy to turn themselves over to a man to be taken care of.
The second type would instantly stiffen and prepare to fight for her turf. They’d let you pick the movie or the restaurant the first time but the next time around, they assumed it was their turn and they should get to choose. They gave as good as they got in bed, expecting to receive pleasure but willing and able to give back to the man in equal measure.
The third and last kind of woman, hesitated at first, then took a step back if he forced the issue. Like the first group, they wanted the man to take charge, but the difference was that they couldn’t admit it. They had to put up a fight first and he had to win in order to gain their respect. Oddly, in his experience, many of the women who considered themselves feminists were in this category. He thought they were hoist on the petard of their own conflicting desires. They wanted to be strong and independent but they also wanted a commanding man.  Ask them where they’d like to eat and they’d ask back, what sounded good to him? When he said, “Mexican”, they’d instantly tell him they would rather have Chinese. He’d insist on Mexican (even though he didn’t usually give a damn one way or the other) until he prevailed. They’d put up a bit of a struggle in bed too until he overpowered them and did it his way.
Rafe didn’t really have any preference in the type of woman he preferred. He enjoyed them all. He wondered what Helene Barnes would do when he stepped into her space.
When the door opened, he didn’t wait for her to invite him in but walked right toward her, practically in her face. He chuckled inwardly, when she stood stiffly for a moment, then took that small, involuntary step backwards. He could sense that she was feeling out-of-kilter at being forced to walk ahead of him as he watched from behind. This definitely wasn’t how she planned for their tete-a-tete to begin.
He took his seat before she was able to reach her own so she had no time to turn around and motion him to a particular location. Then he simply lounged in his chair, one booted foot over his knee. She tried to out-wait him. Usually, a second year student called to a professor’s office for an unknown reason was anxious but Rafe seemed perfectly relaxed and content to sit as long as necessary. She was the one who actually felt nervous with those emotionless black eyes boring into her.
Her office wasn’t very big but she’d made it look larger by the clever use of furniture and decor. Her walnut desk was small so that it didn’t overpower the room. Everything on top was neatly stacked and arranged. It contained some personal pictures and a basket of daisies as well as business items. The walls were painted a light airy blue and the curtains were blue and white striped sailcloth. The posters on the walls were pastels, most of them with some kind of inspiring feminist message printed across the bottom. This was an “a place for everything and everything in its place” kind of room. Her books were confined to the wall of bookshelves, not piled here and there in stacks as they were in many of the professor’s offices he’d been in.  A white rocking chair sat in front of the window with a small antique table beside it. A lamp with a plump white porcelain base and a rose-colored shade sat on top along with a brass bowl of silk flowers.
He hadn’t known what to expect as far as Helene was concerned. The reality was an attractive woman, late 30’s to early 40’s, with a chestnut braid down her back, a firm sturdy shape wearing an ankle-length skirt, a peasant blouse and short-heeled sandals. Striking green eyes in a somewhat broad, freckled face. No make up, no surprise there. “Earth mother,” thought Rafe, wondering idly if she was a lesbian. Not that it mattered but many of the most devout feminists were. He thought she might have an appealing smile although he didn’t know for sure because he hadn’t seen it and rather suspected he wouldn’t be seeing it either.
She broke first, as he’d known she would (hardly anyone could outlast Rafe when he was in his watchful, waiting mode). “Aren’t you curious about why you’re here?”
He shrugged. “You invited me, Professor Barnes, I assumed you’d eventually tell me why.”
“I heard a lot about you last year, Rafe. I didn’t like what I heard and I’d really hate to see that behavior continue this semester. The fact is, I think you’re a sexual predator.”
“What makes you say that, Ms Barnes?” he asked with genuine curiosity. “I’ve never raped anyone. I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. I’ve never even slept with anyone who wasn’t as old as me or older.”
“I don’t accuse you of anything so obvious as assault but I believe you are guilty of emotional rape.”
A smile flickered across his face. “That’s a rather Victorian view for a radical feminist to take, don’t you think? Your students aren’t helpless victims, they’re independent and intelligent and able to make choices. I thought that’s what you liberated women were all about.” He pointed to one of her posters. “Our Lives, Our Choices” was inscribed in high italic letters across the bottom. “Choice is what you trumpet at every turn.”
“Let’s not be coy, Rafe. You are extremely skilled at the art of seduction. You and I both know it. You imply promises you don’t intend to keep and play on the vulnerabilities of girls who want to believe you.”
“No, Professor, you’re wrong. I never lie about my intentions. The only thing I offer is temporary pleasure. I promise nothing more than that. And I think I fulfill my end of that bargain. Have any of your girls ever told you differently?”  The smile was so quick, she wasn’t even sure she saw it, because she was too caught by the midnight eyes.
“Rafe’s Riders! The very term disgusts me. It’s so utterly demeaning.”
“How do you even know it, Ms Barnes? I didn’t coin it and I never say it. In fact, I’ve never told anyone who goes with me on those rides. They could keep it a secret if they chose.”
“No,” she said bitterly, “that’s the worst of it – that they’re not ashamed.”
He stirred in his chair.  
“I’m not sure what the purpose of this meeting was, Professor Barnes. I can only think of a few reasons.  Maybe you just wanted to get a look at me to see if I really have the horns and tail of the devil you seem to think I am.  Or, maybe you’re actually thinking of filing some kind of disciplinary action against me, but you might want to be careful if that’s the case. I know I haven’t done anything illegal and, as far as I know, I haven’t even broken any school rules. Promiscuity may offend you but it isn’t banned in the student handbook. And, besides, do you think you’d get any of your students to testify against me?” He paused, “do you, Ms Barnes?”
She was silent, knowing he was right. If anything, they would gladly give him a character reference.
“And lastly, maybe you thought you could prevail on my better nature to change my behavior,” the swift grin didn’t extend to his eyes,” but you can be pretty fucking well assured that isn’t going to happen. So, unless there’s something else you think we need to say, may I be excused, Ms Barnes?”
“Get the hell out, Rafe.”

“Jesus, Helene,” Gil told her, “I can’t believe you called one of our students, whose father is one of our largest individual donors, incidentally, a sexual predator with no proof whatsoever. What the hell were you thinking?”
“I suppose he went whining around about me harassing him?”
“No, Helene, he didn’t. Someone saw him go into your office and mentioned it to someone else who mentioned it to someone else who told me about it. I couldn’t figure why you’d be seeing a student with whom you have no reason to have any contact whatsoever and that’s why I called you in. I knew you had strongly negative feelings toward him. What was his reaction to your lecture anyway?”
“He was an arrogant little smart ass. He pretty much told me he was going to continue doing as he always did and he didn’t think there was anything I could do to stop him.”
“He’s right, you know, Helene. You’re a professor, not a fucking hall monitor.”
“He’s completely amoral, Gil.”
“Maybe so, Helene, but that’s not our business so long as he doesn’t commit any violations of law or policy and so far as I can see, he hasn’t.”
She was somewhat concerned now, after the fact. “Do you think his father will try to get me in trouble?”
“No, that’s one thing you have going for you. If any kid knows how to keep his mouth shut, it’s Rafe Vincennes. I doubt he’ll ever tell his father. In fact, he’s probably forgotten all about this by now. I suggest you do the same.”

In that last part, Gil was completely wrong. Rafe had barely cleared Helene’s door after their meeting until he was plotting his plan of attack.
He did a little quiet research toward that end. It turned out that Helene was, in fact, a lesbian. She lived with her partner, Kaddie Lamb, a trainer at the fitness center in town. That was good, it would be easier to pull off if she wasn’t part of the college. Part of Plan A depended on just how motivated Kaddie was in her own sexual orientation. Rafe believed, from having an openly gay brother, that some people were born to be what they were. If they were single-mindedly dedicated to their own sex, then that was that. But, of course, some people could go either way. If Kaddie, was one of those, if she had even a spark of interest in men, then he was probably home free. He’d be able to tell soon after meeting her if that was the case.
So he hied himself down to the fitness center. It wasn’t a funky old gym, his preferred kind of place to work out, if he had to work out, which he’d really rather not do at all if he had his druthers. Exercise simply for its own sake always seemed like a waste of time to him when you could actually be doing something instead. Rather than horses or cars or boats that took you somewhere real, fitness centers contained stairs that went nowhere and stationary bikes (an oxymoron to his way of thinking).
This place was called Shapes. It was all light, airy rooms and modern equipment and inspirational posters and even hanging plants, for Christ’s sake. Fortunately, the woman behind the registration desk wore a nametag that said “Kaddie”, so he didn’t have to waste time tracking her down.  She was a pretty round girl. Not fat or soft, just round with strong firm legs and round melon breasts and a round face framed by bouncy blonde curls and big round blue eyes. She wore shocking pink silk shorts and a lighter pink shirt with a Shapes logo on the chest. He bet she was always on a diet, wanting to be thinner (didn’t all women want to be thinner?) but it would never happen.  Her body shape was what it was.
As, luckily for him, was his – lean and brown, with long muscular legs, narrow hips, flat belly and broad shoulders in red shorts and loose red tanktop. It required no effort on his part to maintain – no diets, no particular exercize. She gave him a frank appraisal, taking in as well, the high cheekbones and dark eyes and black hair.
He told her he wanted to join Shapes. He told her he was more sedentary since he was in college. He told her it hadn’t started to happen yet but he wanted to be pro-active and not let himself get out of shape. He told her his name was Rafe Vincennes.
At that her head went up sharply. “I know who you are. Helene Barnes is my partner. She really, really doesn’t like you.”
Rafe smiled, his full-bore smile. “She has a wrong impression of me. I’m not as bad as she thinks. Are you still willing to help me get started here, in spite of her prejudice against me?”
“I’d have to anyway. You’re a customer and we’re expected to be pleasant and helpful to all the customers.” She crinkled her blue eyes at him as if to tell him she wasn’t going to find being pleasant to him that much of a hardship.
“I’m in,” he thought.
She did the tests that were required before approving a new client for membership. She checked his blood pressure and his heart rate (which were perfect) and his muscle to body fat ratio (which was perfect) and measured him (6’) and weighed him (170). He professed ignorance about the dials and read-outs on the various machines, (although he’d spent hundreds of hours on machines just like them under the eagle eyes of one coach or another).  She helped him devise a workout plan to help keep him fit and toned.  After she left to attend to others, he quick-stepped through the stair routine and rode the bike the obligatory distance (!) and lifted the weights set out on his program.  Lord, he hoped he didn’t have to spend a lot of time on this horseshit.
And so his patient campaign began.
He faithfully followed his workout regimen. They got friendlier as time went by.
“I appreciate your help, Kaddie. It seems to be working.” He ran his brown hand across his cut abs. She had the urge to do the same.
Eventually, she said, “so, tell me about Rafe’s Riders? That’s what seems to infuriate Helene the most.”
“It’s not the big deal she thinks it is, Kaddie, and it doesn’t happen as often either.  Sometimes, when I’m really burnt out on school, I take out my Corvette and just drive and then I stay at a hotel to get away from the dorm for a night. On occasion, I take a girl with me.”  The smiled gleamed. “I don’t just snatch them off the street and force them into the car. I always ask politely first if they want to go.” He shrugged. “Sometimes they say yes.”
“I love Corvettes.”
“You do?”
“Yes, I do. I’d go for a ride with you if you asked, Rafe.”
“I’m asking then, Kaddie. You name the time and place and I’ll be there.”
Helene is going to spend tomorrow night with her parents. I get off at 7:00. Pick me up then.”

“That was just yummy, Rafe.”
“Why are you with Helene when you seem to like men so well, Kaddie?”
“I don’t like men so well. They’re usually too fast and too hard and too self-centered. Women are slow and soft and generous. But you’re as good as a woman, Rafe.”
He laughed. “I guess, considering the source, I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Oh, yes, I meant it as a compliment.”
“And I have a cock too,” he added meaningfully.
She giggled. “Yes, and that’s an added bonus if a man knows how to use it.”
“I know how to use it, Kaddie,” he said, showing her.
“Yes, Rafe,” she breathed, “you certainly do.”

“Where were you last night, Kaddie? I tried to call until late but you never answered.”
“Oh, there was a going away party for one of the trainers who is leaving Shapes, Helene. I guess I got carried away and had a little too much to drink. I didn’t think I was safe to drive so I stayed over with one of the other girls.”
That wasn’t like Kaddie. It made Helene nervous. Kaddie was lots younger than her.  She had never loved anyone else so much. It worried Helene that she might be attracted to one of the pretty little girls who came into Shapes. Maybe she’d better think twice about leaving her alone again all night.

Kaddie was a sweet girl. He felt a little bad that she was going to end up being, what term did the military use? Oh, yes, collateral damage, that was it. But sometimes that happened in times of war.

“Kaddie,” he crooned into her ear. “Let’s go to your place.”
“Oh, no, I can’t do that, Rafe. It would be such a betrayal of Helene.”
“Yes,” he thought, “and that’s exactly what we’re going for here, a betrayal of Helene.”
“She’ll never know,” he said, “aren’t you familiar with her schedule?” (He himself knew her fucking schedule backwards and forwards).
“Yes, but….”
“Come on, Kaddie. I’ll be gone long before she gets out of class.”
“Well, okay, but we’ll have to watch the time really carefully.”
“We will.”

And they did watch the time very carefully on that occasion and the next and the next.

“Kaddie, I don’t want to leave you yet. Let me stay just a few minutes more?” His hand was between her legs, his lips were nuzzling her neck.
“Just a couple more minutes, Rafe, then you’ve really got to go.” The couple turned into a few.
She didn’t hear the door knob turn but he did because he was listening for it. And she didn’t hear the steps coming down the hall but he did. When Helene came through the door, his mouth was on Kaddie’s breast.
“Oh, my God!” The cry was anguished. She doubled over as if she’d been kicked in the stomach. Kaddie sat up quickly, pulling the sheet over her nakedness. Rafe got up and started slipping his clothes on. (He always wore what he thought of as a “quick get-away” outfit in situations that could turn dangerous, such as liaisons with married women….or the possibility of outraged lesbian lovers – running pants with elastic waistbands and no pull-over shirts, which gave you that moment of blindness when you slipped them over your head.)  
When Helene straightened up, tears were flowing down her face. The same with Kaddie.
“Kaddie, how could you, how could you? Not with him….”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Helene, I never meant for this to happen!”
Helene looked toward Rafe. She got the message his black eyes were sending her - “I did, though, Helene. It’s exactly what I meant to happen.”
He didn’t seem to be hurrying but he was almost to the doorway now.
“It’s my Times Ten rule, Professor,” he told her, as he headed down the hall.

Helene forgave Kaddie. Not only forgave her but exonerated her. But in order to give Kaddie a free pass, she had to impute to Rafe more power than he actually possessed. She had to make him virtually invincible to explain away how he’d been able perpetrate this monstrous invasion of her very being, coming right into her home and plundering the possession she prized most. She sold her grandmother’s antique bedstead. She didn’t think she could ever stand to lie on it, or even look at it, again, without thinking of him being there. She replaced it with a brand new bed with a headboard that looked like it was made of metal pipes, not at all like what usually appealed to her.
Unwittingly, Kaddie made it worse.
“I bet he even could have got to you, Helene, if he’d put his mind to it.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kaddie.”
“I bet he could have,” the other woman insisted.
(Helene had made a conscious decision to become a lesbian in college in rejection of a male-dominated society but she wasn’t completely inexperienced with men, as Kaddie knew).
 Could he have, she asked herself? There was a time she would have said absolutely not with complete confidence in her own strength of will and in the values she held. Now her self-esteem was in tatters and the charge carried a tiny pin prick of doubt.
Everyone noticed how subdued she was. She was no longer the confident, out-spoken, even argumentative woman, she used to be. They wondered why.
“Do you think it’s a health problem?” they asked one another.
“I heard it had something to do with Rafe Vincennes,” said another, “but I don’t know the whole story.”
No one ever did find out the whole story, not even Gil, who usually had a sensitive finger on the pulse of the Princeton grapevine. All anyone knew was that Rafe Vincennes had somehow got Helene Barnes, got her bad judging by the consequences. Helene never told anyone what happened, and Kaddie never told, and of course, it would never have occurred to Rafe to tell.

He heard about the changes in Professor Barnes but he didn’t feel sorry for her. He thought if people wanted to go swimming, they ought to find out how deep the water was first.

Christmas came and went again. Everyone made it home except Wyatt. He was in Iraq, but Belen came with their baby, Wesley. All three cribs in the nursery were filled this year. In addition to Wesley, there was Mariel’s blond little Victoria Grace and Jocey’s, Kianna Marie.  Magdelene thought they were single-handedly starting their own little family version of ethnic unification as she fondly considered her three newest grandchildren, Wesley with his dark Hispanic hair and eyes and Gracie, their little blond British princess, and mocha-toned Kianna, strikingly beautiful as the combination of black and white so often is. Magdelene could look fondly at these babies because all she had to do was look and maybe hold them now and then…. as long as they were being good.

Renny and Magdelene didn’t take a trip this year. Lane was bitterly disappointed that she and Rafe wouldn’t have free run of the house and she couldn’t spend the whole night with him but she tried to make the most of the time she had.

“Hi, Ren.”
“Hey, Gil, how’s it going?”
“Doing good. One reason I called. I’m taking two week’s vacation in February, spending it at our Mobile place. Cindy and I thought maybe you and Maggie could join us there. It would be fun, Ren. Like old times, just adults. I love these kids, Renny, but sometimes I just need a break from them.”
“I can relate to that, Gil. Just let me know when you’re going. I’m all but retired now so my schedule is flexible.”
“I’ll let you know for sure soon.  In the meantime, a progress report on Rafe. I take it you decided against talking to him about graduating in three years as I suggested?”
“Yeah, you know, I thought about it but mostly life comes pretty easy for Rafe. He doesn’t have to struggle for grades or to do well in sports or, it sounds like, to get more than his share of women. And I spoil him myself in some ways, buying him the Corvette, for instance. So, I figured it would do him good to face a less than ideal situation and have to work his way through it.”
“You don’t think he’d ever quit before he finishes, do you?”
Renny laughed. “There isn’t the remotest possibility in the world of that happening. Rafe is my most independent one but not even he would dare to take me on, Gil. Why do you ask? Do you think he’s struggling more than I realize?”
“No, nothing like that, Ren. I was just curious. In fact, he seems more accepting this year than last. He’s still carrying an A in all his classes. He did really well in baseball again. Most home runs, most RBIs. Now it’s football, of course. Coach loves him. Says he’s the most unique player he’s ever had. Says he just gives Rafe a play and then sits back and watches it happen. Says if he praises him for it, Rafe just looks at him like, “what are you all excited about, it’s what you told me to do, isn’t it?”
We did have one little incident. I’m still not clear on what took place.” He laid out what he knew had happened between Helene and Rafe. “That’s all I know. The rumor mill says he got back at her somehow but no one knows what happened. She’s not telling and neither is he. She’s a different person though, from an opinionated feminist to a whipped pup, so whatever it was, it must have been devastating to her.”
“Do you want me to try to find out when I see him next?”
“No, it’s their business and they obviously want to keep it that way. I’m just telling you for information.”
Renny stored it in the file drawer in his brain labeled “Rafe”.
“Well, hey, I’d better get busy. I’ll let you know for sure about Alabama.”
“I’ll look forward to it. And thanks again, Gil.”
“No problem. Talk to you later.”

Rafe – I just had some bad news. Cal’s dad is being transferred to California. He’s going ahead and the rest of the family will be leaving as soon as school’s out. I don’t love Cal, not like…well, you know, but still, he’s so sweet and we’ve had lots of good times together and I’ll miss him a lot.  Guess what? Denis and Jeff are going to be Daddies! It’s a sad story, really. The parents were recently killed in a car wreck. Denis and Jeff were the god-fathers of their two kids. They had it in their will and everything that they wanted the guys to get the children if anything ever happened to them. The little girl, Raquelle, is 4 and the little boy, Donovan, is 2. They’re broken up about their friends but I think they’re really happy about having the kids. Going to be a lifestyle change for them, huh? So anyway, the Vincennes family just got bigger by two. Nothing else new here. How is it going there? All my love, Lane.
Hey Lane – I think Denis and Jeff will make terrific parents and hell, what’s a couple more members to our family? I can barely remember all their names now – haha! If Gabe marries an Oriental and Annecy marries a Muslim, we’ll have all our bases covered – the United Nations of Vincennes. Everything is okay here. I’ve been working on a project so it has filled my time. I completed it though so now I have to find something else to keep me occupied.  I’m really sorry to hear about Cal. I like Cal, thought he was the ideal boyfriend for you. Now I have to worry about a new one and whether he’ll be good to you. God help him if there’s ever one who isn’t.  R

Rafe – what about us? Who are we going to marry? Love, Lane

Lane – I don’t know about you but I seriously doubt I’ll ever marry anyone. Don’t think I could ever settle down to just one. R

Rafe – I wish I could settle down with just one. I love you, Lane

Dear Rafe,
We just wanted to let you know what’s going on with the fan club. You have a website now.   www.rafevincennes.com. It’s just getting up and running but eventually it will have your schedule, a FAQ section, pictures and links to any articles written about you and other race sites, a comment section, etc. We’ll add more as time goes on. You’re okay with that, aren’t you? We’ve also started a newsletter that we’ll be sending out to members and anyone else who asks to be put on the mailing list. We’re all getting really excited about you coming back for the summer although that’s still too far away.
We miss you,
Jeri
PS – do you have Chet’s e-mail address so I can send this information on to him?

Hi Jeri – I’m amazed. You all are something else. I checked out the website and it looks terrific. No, I don’t care if you do it as long as you don’t put anything too personal on it! Trust me, you’re not looking forward to this summer half as much as I am. Thanks for all you do. I don’t know Chester’s e-mail address. We don’t keep in that close of touch during the school year. You’ll have to call him – Chester Hughes Racing in Benedict – don’t know the phone number off hand either. Love you girls, R
            He picked her up at the airport.
           “Do you want to go get something to eat, Lane?”
           “No.”
           “Do you want to take a ride around the campus?”
           “No.”
           “Do you want to go to the beach?”
           “No.”
           “To a movie?”
           “No.”
           He put his hand on her upper thigh.
           “What do you want to do, Honey?”
           “You know what I want to do, Rafe.”
           “Yes, Lane, but I want to hear you tell me. While we’re driving to the motel, tell me exactly what you want.”
“First, I want you to take my clothes off, kissing me as you go. Then I want to take yours off. I want to touch you and lick your nipples and see you hard. I want you to kiss me all over and suck my breasts and down my stomach.” Her voice was getting husky, “I want to feel you inside me every place you can be. I want to go to sleep with you next to me, then, I want to wake up in the morning and start all over again. I just want to love you, Rafe, for two days I don’t want to do anything but love you.”
He looked over at her and grinned. “Thy will be done, Sweetheart.”

“So are you going to be okay with Cal gone, Lane?”
“Oh, you know, it’s going to be hard but I guess I’ll get through it. I like him a lot but it’s not that kind oflove, Rafe, although I think it might be for him. In a way, I’m almost relieved. He’s such a good person. He deserves someone who cares for him wholeheartedly like I care for you. Sometimes I feel really guilty for being so dishonest.”
            “I wish you could be more of a compartmentalizer, Lane, like me.”
            “I know, but I can’t. My heart is just one whole thing and you fill up every bit of it.”
            “It’s not good to be so dependent on one person, Sweetie,” he said gently, “especially when that person is me. I’m not always that dependable. I’ll only ever be able to give you a small part of what you want.”
            She sighed. “I know, Rafe, but I guess that’s just the way it is.”

            Raven died in April. God, she hated to tell him.

            Rafe,  I’m so, so sorry but Raven died. We didn’t think you’d want an autopsy done but Doc said it sounded like his heart just stopped.  He was asleep in his bed. I know how much you loved him, Rafe. Are you going to be okay? We buried him under the dogwood tree on that little hill closest to the stables where all those Lilacs are against the fence. I tried to call your cell but it was shut off. Call me if you need to. I don’t know what else to say. I love you, Lane.

            Lane – no, I wouldn’t want an autopsy. What does it matter why he died? Fuck, Lane. Next to you, he was my best friend. Sounds like you guys picked a nice spot although to tell you the truth, it doesn’t make me feel all that much better, lilacs or no fucking lilacs. I wish I’d been there with him. Yes, I’ll be okay. No, I probably won’t call. I don’t think I want to talk about it but thanks for the support.  Love, R

Well, Lane, tell Dad I bickered (Christ, just saying those words makes me cringe!) and I’m an Ivian now, for what that’s worth. I guess its worth something to Dad since he made such a point of ordering me to do it. The eating clubs offer food and social interaction, neither of which are especially high on my list of priorities but anyway…..R

            “Dad?”
            “What, Laney?”
            “I got an e-mail from Rafe. He said to tell you he bickered and he’s an Ivy member now. He said he thought that would please you.”
            “And did your brother seemed pleased about that too, Lane?”
            She hesitated.
“It’s okay. I can guess his reaction. I was just curious to know how he expressed it.”
“He said saying the words, ‘I bickered’, made him cringe.”
Renny grinned. “Yes, I can see him thinking that. I’m a father though so every now and then I get to throw my weight around just to prove I can. Even your brother needs to feel the bit in his mouth on occasion.”
Laney just looked at him in puzzlement. She totally did not understand the relationship between Rafe and their father.

















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