Richard's Redemption

Chapter 23

It’s nearing the end of May… nearing our goal, graduation. It’s almost hard to believe that in two more weeks, we’ll be out of Hell-ton, free men, at least until college starts up in the fall. On this, the final pass day of the term, Todd and I are bicycling into town to buy a car for our road trip to Berkeley. It’s finally starting to hit me, the last six months have been real and we’ve almost made it. I think back as we ride…

Todd spent most of the winter break with my family once more, allowing his parents to go to Connecticut to spend time with his brother Jeffrey. Knowing something of Todd’s and my wish to go to California for college, Father gave each of us a road atlas and travel guide for Christmas, along with memberships to AAA. Grandfather gave me a checking account in my own name with $500 in it, for the trip and to pay for any car troubles that might happen as we travel, and he gave Todd a nice journal or logbook sort of thing so we could keep track of our expenses on the road. I’m glad my family likes him. I can only hope they won’t hate him whenever we finally tell them the truth. I hope they won’t hate me, too.

Mother and Father drove us back to Welton a day earlier than usual, so they could head south to Washington D.C. for the Kennedy inauguration. Even though Father knows I won’t be helping to promote the Cameron name through politics, he figures it won’t hurt AJ’s future political standings any to keep up ties with the Kennedy family. Several other students made the early return along with us, and for much the same reason. In February, Todd and I escorted Linda and Carol to the Valentine’s Ball. Both girls looked pretty, Linda in light blue and Carol in a deep green. I played photographer once more for our group, and with a little help from Carol who told me what to watch for, I managed to get pictures of Knox officially proposing to Chris, with him down on one knee and slipping the ring onto her finger.

Late April and early May brought the college acceptances. Meeks and Pitts both managed to get into MIT like they wanted, and Nuwanda and Knox both got into Yale. Chris would be going to Southern Connecticut State College to be near Knox. Ginny Danburry still had one more year at Henley Hall, but was looking into Connecticut schools as well for when she graduated next year. To his own relief as well as his father’s disgust, Todd got wait-listed for Dartmouth, and was given grudging permission to attend UC Berkeley. I also got into Berkeley. Dartmouth did accept me, but I’d already had Father’s permission to make my own choice of school.

I smile at Todd as we pull up outside the little village’s car lot. “Finally feels real, doesn’t it?” I ask.

He grins back a little nervously. “Yeah. I think this is where I’m supposed to ask you to pinch me or something, to make sure it’s not all a really elaborate dream.”

My grin turns evil and I reach over and pinch his arm. He yelps and swats my hand and we both start laughing. Parking our bikes, we walk into the lot and look around. Todd runs a wistful hand over the fender of a brand new Chevy Corvette. I wince a little at the price in the window, though. We could afford it… barely… but it’s just a two-seater, hardly any cargo space. We really need something with a back seat as well as a good-sized trunk.

After consulting with one of the salesmen, we eventually decide on one of the traded-in cars, a green 1959 Volkswagen Beetle with a reasonable price. Todd gives the lot owner an extra $10 to keep it there until school is out, as we can’t have personal cars on campus at Welton. Our next stop is the hardware store, where I purchase a good toolkit and a repair manual for Beetles, then we head to the town hall to find out what we need to do to get license plates for the car. Todd will have to come to town at some point on a weekday in order to fill out the necessary paperwork.

He chuckles as we leave the building. “I should probably go to the dentist once more on my father’s money anyway,” he laughs. “So I’ll make an appointment for sometime this week, and take care of the paperwork at the same time. Nolan respects dental appointments.”

“True enough,” I agree. Changing the subject, I ask, “Think Mrs. Keating had the baby yet? The Captain didn’t say anything in his last letter, but we’re due another soon. Unless it came and he’s too busy to write.”

“He wouldn’t do that,” Todd tells me. “No way. He knows we’re all wondering about the baby. I bet he even long-distance calls McAllister when it comes, because he knows McAllister will tell us the news. Besides,” he grins, “in my last letter, I asked not only that he inform us of the birth, but the gender and name as well.”

I grin. “Smart man. I knew there was a reason I love you so much,” I murmur, glad there’s no one around to hear me.

“I love you, too,” he whispers back, a light blush tinting his cheeks. In his own bid to change the subject, he asks, “What do you want to do for lunch and dinner?”

“Grilled cheese at the diner for lunch,” I suggest. “That’s what I’m in the mood for anyway. With onion rings and a chocolate frappe.”

Todd smiles warmly. “Sounds good to me. You know I love chocolate frappes. How about something like meatball grinders for dinner? Or since it’s light until fairly late now, we can even stay in town for dinner and have something at either the diner or the pizza parlor.”

“Staying in town sounds good for a change,” I decide after a moment of thought. “The weather is nice, we can start working out our trip, and just relax.”

“Relaxing is good,” Todd agrees as we pull our bikes up at the diner. “This year has been great, but so tense, too…”

“I know,” I nod. “But we’ve made it. It’s almost over. We’re almost free.”

“Free,” Todd echoes with a smile. “I like that word. I like it a lot.”


The sun is just sinking low enough to start tinting the sky pink and orange when Todd and I get back to the dorms that night, well pleased with our accomplishments of the day. We head inside, just in time to pass Knox escorting Chris out to her bicycle.

They both smile and say hello as we step out of each others' way, and Knox mutters, “Letters came. I tossed yours into your room.”

“Thanks,” Todd says. Then we both hurry upstairs and into our room so we can start reading. I tear mine open eagerly.

Dear Richard,

It's a girl! Her name is Jill Marie Keating, and she was born on the third of May. Jill and her mother are both healthy and happy. Expect Mr. McAllister to pull you aside at some point to show you the photo I sent him. I'm sure I'll have plenty of others to show you by the time you and Todd arrive out here.

Speaking of which, I'm quite proud of you both, for standing up for yourselves and your dreams, and for pushing to do what you want with your lives instead of following other people's plans for you. I don't believe I ever told you this before, but that's something with which I am quite familiar. My own father wanted me to become an architect, but I preferred English literature to mechanical drawing and the work of building up young minds to the work of building up houses. I was fortunate in my grandfather, who never had the opportunity to graduate high school, but who greatly valued education and educators, and who interceded with my father to allow me to earn my English degree and teaching certificate.

I'm also glad that you two seem to have made it through the year without any problems. Knowing how conservative Welton is, I worried that if you did get caught, you'd end up hurt by your classmates as well as expelled by the administration. It's good to know you're well and preparing for your trip out here. I'm very much looking forward to introducing you to Jessica and Jill. I realize this will be the last letter you'll be getting from me before the end of school, but I'm expecting at least a couple of postcards from you and Todd while you're traveling out here.

Eagerly awaiting your arrival,

your Captain, John Keating

Todd grins at me as we both look up. “Think they'll give the next one a J name too?” he asks.

“Probably,” I chuckle. “John, Jessica, Jill, and... what do you think, James, Jason, or John Junior?”

“It could be Jennifer or Janice, you know,” Todd points out.

I nod. “True enough. Well, we can always be nosy and ask once we're there. Where do you think he'll enjoy getting postcards from? I thought maybe the Smokey Mountains, somewhere in Kansas, and of course Yellowstone.”

Todd considers. “I don't know. We can always decide when we're on the road, after all.” He stretches. “I think I'm gonna hit the showers early tonight. My shoulders are still sore from gym class yesterday.”

“Go for it,” I nod. “I'm a little stiff myself.” I smile then, lowering my voice to a near-whisper. “Want a massage when you come back?”

Todd returns my smile with a nod, and vanishes to the showers. I change into my pajama pants while he's gone. From down the hall, I can hear Nuwanda hooting over a package that arrived for him while he was out. I can't make out everything that's being said, but apparently some family member sent him a camera as a graduation gift.

When Todd returns, he stretches out on his bed. I sit across him, straddling his legs as I pour a bit of suntan oil into my hands, then set to working the knots out of his shoulders. He gives a low moan of appreciation, which makes me smile. I give in to the temptation, leaning over to kiss the back of his neck.

Since we both have our eyes closed, we don't notice the door opening just a crack. But a sudden flash and shouts of laughter from the hallway make us freeze and look towards the door.

“How's it work, Dalton?” I hear.

“The picture comes out the side when you advance the film,” Nuwanda's voice sounds just outside. “It should start showing up any minute now...” His voice trails off, then he gives a sudden yelp. “What the hell? I can't believe... you fucking perverts!” he screams, slamming our door wide open.


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