Richard's Redemption

Chapter 22

I wake up to an unexpected chill beside me. I instinctively try to snuggle closer to Todd before realizing he's not in the bed and that's why I feel cold. The sound of a pen scratching on paper tells me he's either doing a class assignment or writing to the Captain. I suspect it's the latter.

I stretch, and he looks over and smiles warmly, then offers me a stick of Wrigley's spearmint... a trick we figured out over the summer, to keep from greeting anyone with suspicious odors on our breaths. And much more important to do here, where the bathrooms are public areas. I pop the gum in my mouth with a smile. “Thanks, Todd.”

“You're welcome,” he tells me, sticking the paper he was writing on into his English textbook. Huh. Maybe it was an assignment after all. Not that it really matters. “Do you know if we had any particular plans for study group tonight?”

I think. “Pittsie was looking for some help with Latin,” I say. “But I don't know if he wanted to do it in group or just have Meeks give him that help this afternoon. Why, do you have anything you need help with?”

Todd laughs. “Well, I can always use help with calculus. Honestly, I don't see why they make us take it. Oh, sure, it'll help us get into the Ivy League schools. But really, if you're not going into engineering or architecture or something like that, what earthly use is knowing how to calculate definite integrals?”

“You do have a point,” I admit, chuckling. “But then again, I've never quite figured out the use of analyzing the writings of Mark Twain or Charles Dickens, either. Maybe it's helpful to those of you who intend writing fiction someday, but how is that going to help me find a vaccine for measles?”

Todd comes over and gives me a hug. “We are an ambitious pair, aren't we? And that reminds me, we've only got a week left to get our college applications out. Did you finish all your essays?”

I nod as I pull him close. “Mmhmm. But I wouldn't mind if you edited for me.”

“Sure, I can do that tonight, unless the others have anything in particular to do.” Todd kisses my cheek, then pulls away slowly. “We should get dressed. It's almost time for chapel.”

I climb out of bed with a sigh, and we dress and go about our day. I don't know why, but it seems harder in some ways, hiding from everyone this year. Maybe it's because I'm finally comfortable with myself and I want everyone else to know who I am, and not who I pretend to be. Or maybe it's just because I love Todd so much and wish I could tell the world... without fear of the consequences. Maybe someday. But not today.

Chapel, lunch, study, dinner, more study... it's a normal Sunday, perhaps a little livelier than most due to everyone still being silly following the dance last night. Todd ends up editing Pittsie's application essays as well as mine, while Nuwanda does the job for Knox and Meeks. I help Todd and Knox with calculus while Meeks gives Pitts and Nuwanda some Latin pointers. And after dinner, we all write to the Captain.

Oh Captain, my Captain,

Well, my first date went reasonably well. Carol seemed to enjoy herself, anyway, and I have to admit, she's not bad to have as a friend. I almost hope she and Linda don't get asked out by anyone before Valentine's Day, so that Todd and I can take them to that dance as well, and be spared the random draw. Of course, that's being a bit selfish. I certainly wouldn't begrudge either of them finding a proper boyfriend they could be happy with.

Still, I can be comfortable with Carol, I think because we both know she's not going to become a girlfriend, just a friend who happens to be a girl, you know? So there's no feeling of expectation, like I've gotten from some of my random draws of the past, that maybe I'll like her enough to make her my girlfriend.

Of course, what I'd really like, is to be able to take Todd to a dance as my date. Or at least to be able to hold his hand in public, without fear of being expelled or beaten up or both. That hurt more than anything else... knowing that even though Todd and I were with Linda and Carol just as friends, we were still with them sort of under false pretenses. That we really wanted to be at the dance with each other, because we love each other the way Knox and Chris do, or Nuwanda and Ginny Danburry. I love him so much, Captain, I'd marry him if it was possible. But I can't even say that out loud around here for fear of what would happen as a result.

But enough of feeling sorry for myself. We have each other and that's what's important, right? And we did have fun at the dance. My grandfather sent me a camera for my birthday, so we'll be sending pictures of all of us, once I get them developed. Mr. McAllister showed me and Todd some pictures from your wedding... Mrs. Keating looks very nice, by the way, and you look good with frosting on your nose... and said he'd send you some pictures of the six of us if we gave him some.

It will be pictures of the twelve of us, though, since they're all from the Halloween dance. Knox and Chris as Sigfried and Brunhilde, Nuwanda and Ginny as Prince Charming and Cinderella, Pitts and Meeks and Amy and Tina as Martians, then Todd and Linda as the Scarecrow and Dorothy, and me and Carol as an Army Air Corps officer and Rosie the Riveter. Plus a couple of group shots that I had Jim Chapman take for us, if he didn't mess them up.

In other news, we've finished up all our college application essays, and we'll be sending the applications out tomorrow. Todd and I are busy making our plans to drive out to California, and we're looking forward to seeing you again at Berkeley. And we do seem to be keeping things going here... at any rate, I've not seen any signs that anyone suspects we're anything other than roomies and good friends.

Study group is going well, and we've discovered that Pitts is surprisingly good in physics, especially considering how tough a time he has with most of his classes. Maybe it's because of how much he likes tinkering with electronics and such, and with physics, he can actually see some of the applications for the formulae we have to learn.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Your friend,
Richard

When we're done with our letters, it's almost time for lights-out. Todd hurries upstairs ahead of the rest of us, saying something about getting into the showers quickly because he thinks there's still some hay from his costume down his back. I don't believe him, since I inspected his back quite thoroughly last night, but if he wants to grab a shower a little early, before there's danger of the hot water running out, I can't blame him.

Nuwanda takes the letters, as he'll be having dinner with the Danburry family tomorrow, and so he'll be able to mail them in town. We all head upstairs and to our rooms to grab our pajamas and take our showers.

When I get into my room, I suddenly understand why Todd ran on ahead. There's a piece of paper on my pillow, in his handwriting. Whatever it is, he wanted me to see it without him hovering nearby. My heart clenches for a moment in fear... does he want to break up with me? I take a deep breath and pick it up, then smile.

Better Than Perfect

Some say that love should be a perfect thing.

They place the ones they love above the rest
To stand below, and adoration bring.
They think to treat their loves this way is best.
My love is human, though, and so I say
We share too much to place him up on high.
We share our smiles and laughter every day.
I see my love reflected in his eye.
Had he been perfect, we would not now share
Our love, which came about through our shared pain.
I'll be forever grateful he did dare
To offer me his hand to both our gain.
Perfection is a dream I don't repine.
My love is better: human, and he's mine.

I'm completely stunned, and nearly in tears. When Todd returns from the showers, all I can do is pull him into my arms and whisper, “Thank you!”


Life at Hell-ton carries on as usual for a few weeks following the Halloween dance. When the pictures come back from being developed, we all get a laugh at how we look in our costumes. Since I ordered double prints, I give one whole set to McAllister to send to the Captain, then offer the others the pictures of themselves with their dates. I still have the negatives, of course, so I can get more prints made later if I want them. But I have the group shot for myself, and that's the one I really want, since Todd and I managed to stand next to each other in it.

The day before Thanksgiving, Nuwanda comes back from the play rehearsal at Henley Hall with a packet of letters for us from the Captain. As usual when letters arrive, study group breaks up earlier than usual so that we can all head to our rooms to read in relative privacy.

A small newspaper clipping falls out of when I open my letter. Curious, I look at the headline... “Politics: A Queer Thing?” The little article talks about the recent mayoral election in San Francisco, the attempted smear campaign by one candidate accusing the incumbent of “harboring sexual deviants” in the city, and the subsequent abstention from voting for either candidate by a sizable chunk of the population. Presumably, all the queer people of San Francisco. I turn to my letter, figuring the Captain must have some sort of point he's illustrating with the article.

Dear Richard,

I'm glad you had a good time at the dance, even if Carol isn't your first choice for a date. I am glad to hear that you can consider her a friend. You all looked wonderful in the pictures, and seemed to be having fun. Which is the point of a dance, after all.

I do sympathize with your desire to tell the world honestly who you love. Even out here, you'll need to be careful. But change seems to be in the wind. I've enclosed a news clipping you might find interesting... although I suggest you destroy it after you and Todd read it... which shows that the city's elected officials are starting to realize they can't just ignore the people, even the ones they don't approve of. And I'm hearing rumors that some of the taverns frequented by those same people are planning to protest the police harassment that so often comes with such things.

It likely won't happen this year, or even in the next few years. But I do firmly believe that changes are coming. Changes that will make it possible for you to be able to stand up and tell the world who you love. Who knows? Perhaps one day you will be able to marry the one you wish to.

In other news, I was correct in my suspicions about my wife's behavior. I am indeed to become a father. In early May, according to Jessica and her doctor. I'm still not sure whether to be ecstatic or terrified. Most days I'm both. She is doing well so far, and the doctor doesn't see any problems happening at this point, so all I can do is try to remain calm and help her shop for the nursery furnishings.

Looking forward to seeing you come summer!

Your Captain,
John Keating


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