Angels Among Us:

Jerry Connelly

Part 1. Hopes, Dreams, and Fantasies


It was over a month since Trelawney Rose had begun public school and Justin had proven his devotion to the two English sisters who had become an important part of his household. However Dr. Wallace, the university chaplain who had introduced Selena Tressidor to the handsome mathematician was beginning to have some qualms about the dynamic that he could see developing within the family. It concerned him very much. But he also felt somewhat responsible.

Over the past year, he had become a confidante and sounding board for the young woman as she struggled to bring the Harrington family together. She had succeeded on many levels. The three younger children were much more settled and well behaved, the household was running smoothly, and Dr. Harrington had reconnected with almost all of his children. It was the "almost" that now disturbed him. It disturbed him deeply.

He had known Willa Harrington since she was a little girl. Justin's first wife Helen had insisted that the family attend all the events that the university held for the faculty, including things like picnics and carnivals. He could recall seeing Helen with the children, every few years a new one in a stroller, at the side of her husband as he proudly escorted them around. They seemed to be the perfect family.

He was a busy man, between his teaching, writing, and research he had very little time for family life. His work was nationally famous and his name was well known among the circles of physicists who did research for NASA. But a university professor must also play certain political games and maintain a certain image. Dr. Justin Harrington, with his lovely wife and growing family, projected the image of the solid, family man who had it all. When Helen passed away, he very quickly seemed to lose it all.

After he recovered from the initial stages of grief and began to reconstruct his life, it became obvious that the constant turmoil in his home among his children was starting to impact his ability to perform his job. At that time it also became very obvious to many that Justin's "family man" image had been carefully crafted by Helen. Without her, he now lacked the personal resources to maintain it. From the beginning, his oldest child Willa was assigned the blame.

As far as he knew, until she lost her mother, Willa had not been a difficult child. She was spoiled, but so were all the children. She had a very close and special relationship with her mother. Although she might have resented the addition of her siblings to the family, by the time that the oldest of these, Jay, came along, she was starting school and beginning to develop her own life apart from her mother's. And Helen did an excellent job of balancing all the children's needs with one another.

Helen Harrington had been an exceptional woman. Because she had met Justin as a graduate student, she knew the world into which he would be entering very well. And while Justin was a brilliant teacher, researcher, and scholar, he was rather lacking in the social graces. He was reliant on his wife in navigating the necessary social waters in which he was forced to swim if he wished to advance in his career. Their marriage was a true university career partnership, underpinned by what all who knew them recognized as a deep, abiding love.

Helen was most certainly the heart and strength of their home. Her devotion to her husband was matched only by her devotion to her children. Ironically, of all the children, it was Willa who was most like her father in temperament. Jay might share his interests, but he was far more like his kind and gentle mother in personality. Willa lacked the social graces and was really painfully shy. Helen was as protective of her child as she was of her husband.

Perhaps the problem was that they were too much alike, but Willa and Justin, although not the closest of fathers and daughters, were never truly adversarial until Helen died. It had amused those of his colleagues who took the time to notice that Willa not only looked like her father, with her thick black hair and flashing grey eyes (one of the classics professors joked that they reminded him of Homer's epithet for the goddess Athena), but her mannerisms also mimicked his.

She was devastatingly honest and like her father, did not always recognize when she had made an observation aloud that would have been better kept to herself. Now, she was using that remarkable talent to propagate her agenda of anger and bitterness. But it need not have turned out like that.

After Helen's death, Willa was confused and frightened. She was only fourteen and Dr. Wallace could still see the image of the young girl, tall and awkward for her age, seated alone in the funeral home parlor, alternating between what looked like sulking and weeping. No one paid her much attention.

Justin, his son Jay at his side, and his mother-in-law were coping with the endless receiving line. His father-in-law was chasing after the overly energetic Max. And the youngest child, Jennie, garnered a great deal of attention and sympathy as she sat before the casket sobbing her heart out. He was aware that Justin's parents and brothers were there, but they seemed to be disengaged from the kids.

Willa sought no attention for herself. He walked over to her and sat beside her for a while but she replied to all of his questions with monosyllabic answers, designed to push him away. He held out as long as he could, but he finally had to admit defeat. If he knew then what he knew today from talking to Selena, he would have realized that she was traumatized and in desperate need of professional help.

He suspected that the entire family did, but a natural avenue (at least from his perspective) for such support, their parish church did not exist. The family were nominal Episcopalians, but Selena told him that they didn't go to church regularly until she came. Even now, they did mostly under protest, and Willa not at all.

Yet even if they were not religious people, it was a pity that no one thought that the family was in need of grief counseling. But admitting that they needed such help would also have gone against the grain of everything that Helen had taught them all about projecting the perfect family image. Justin was doing his best to maintain that image while Willa was doing her best destroy it.

Or maybe, just maybe, Willa was, true to form, demanding that her father acknowledge that whatever image Helen had built up was gone forever. Like her father, she was inarticulate when expressing her needs and feelings. As a minister, Dr. Wallace felt that if she had a belief in something greater and more loving than the fragile humans who surrounded her, it would have sustained her better.

If he had any quibble with Helen about the way that she had raised her children, it was that ignoring their spiritual development had denied them the comfort of knowing Jesus, not to mention the unconditional love of his Father. Despite her loving and generous nature, the secular values that she had taught them lacked the substance that faith would have given them.

Dr. Wallace knew that both Selena and Trelawney Rose derived great comfort and strength from their relationship with Jesus. Trelawney Rose's absolute belief that her parents were now angels who resided in heaven and watched over them was very touching. He could only think that if Willa had known this kind of comfort and faith, then it might have saved her from what she had become. She was alienated from her family, a regular user of marijuana and alcohol, and barely passing in school. By all measures she was self-destructing.

Once she had settled Trelawney Rose in school, Selena turned her attention towards Willa. Willa clearly needed her but consistently rebuffed all her attempts to reach out. Her younger sister tried even harder. Then with the devastating honesty of youth, she told Selena that the problem with the Harringtons was not Willa, but the others. Until they accepted her as she was and readmitted her into the family circle without judgment, she would remain squarely outside.

This gave him a new perspective on the family. This also gave him pause to think about what he had told Dr. Harrington when he had suggested that he offer the sisters a home. He told him that he should not consider Willa's feelings in the matter since she was the primary cause of the revolving door of housekeepers. Yet he now realized that for those two years and even this past year, Willa had been crying very loudly for help. None of them had heard, perhaps because they had not even bothered to listen.

Selena was beginning to feel guilty because she thought that she and her sister were receiving a great deal of kindness and sympathy from the family, while Willa received none. She was worried about her sister who seemed to deeply feel Willa's pain and wanted to mitigate it. The child was hurt whenever jokes were made at Willa's expense, especially about her drug use.

She identified with Willa because of her special relationship with her own recently deceased mother. It gave her a lens to view the older girl through which none of the rest of them could see. Try as she might, none of the Harringtons would listen to her. Jay dismissed her as crazy and illogical and this gave him a convenient excuse to ignore her rather perceptive observations.

Dr. Wallace tried to point out to Selena that families were complex entities. Much of their complexity lay in the fact that they were comprised of humans, who were imperfect beings at best. Dr. Harrington clearly found it easier to offer comfort to the two sisters who were kind and sympathetic people themselves. Willa was a teenager whose emotions appeared to have been frozen at a very difficult time of her life. She was still grieving. She was still very immature as well as emotionally fragile.

Of course as the adult in the room, so to speak, it was up to her father to keep reaching out, if only for the sake of her mother who had loved the girl so deeply. But he didn't have the strength of will or emotional capacity to do so. Parents are supposed to love all of their children unconditionally, but somehow Willa had slipped through a crack in her father's affections.

If Dr. Harrington should ever come to him for advice, and he sincerely doubted that he ever would, he would recommend that they both go into grief counseling together to try to find common ground on which to build a new, more loving, relationship. And if necessary, he would have played the guilt card, by invoking the memory of his much-loved wife. But there was a critical piece of moral development lacking in Dr. Harrington's own spiritual background.

He went to church with Selena and the children to please her. Most of the time, he was looking at his watch thinking of how soon it could be before he could hit the links or whether he had cut it too close when he scheduled his tee time. The foundation of any family was the unconditional love of the parents for all children no matter what. God's message of mercy and forgiveness is the ultimate model of this. It is a difficult message for humans to understand and carry out, even those with the greatest faith.

This was completely absent in Dr. Harrington's relationship with Willa. She was not the lost sheep that he would leave the rest of the flock to find. He would not climb mountains or rescue her from a steep cliff. He was willing to let her wander away into the dangerous world. But no one could teach him to love his daughter in this way. It was something that he had to discover for himself.

Selena had looked at him sadly when he had said that, perhaps because she knew that the chances of that ever happening were now slim to none. But Dr. Wallace also perceived that there was another aspect to the issue for her. He suspected that she was beginning to feel more strongly for this man than she realized. She could see this flaw in his character, this inability to love his oldest child, and it bothered her very much.

Still emotionally raw herself, the young woman saw the older man as a source of strength. He had provided her with a refuge when they needed to escape from life's complexity to cope with her grief. His generosity had extended to her sister. In a traditional culture, such as the one in which she was raised, it was the role of men to guard their women in this way. It did not surprise him that she would be attracted to an older man. From what little he had learned of her own family, she was Papa's girl and Trelawney Rose was Mum's girl.

When the little girl went missing it was clear to Dr. Wallace that both sisters were once again traumatized. Selena had reached out to the only other adult in the house for comfort and he had responded with his usual kindness and sympathy. He gallantly offered both sisters his protection from the vicissitudes of life. A man of scrupulous moral character with regard to women, she had nothing to fear from him. But looking in from the outside, it was also evident to most people who knew him, that he was falling in love with the lovely young woman.

Selena Tressidor would have been very appealing to a man such as Justin Harrington. She had the strength of will and character to bring his family together. At the same time, there was an innocent vulnerability about her that begged for protection, especially right now. It was her weakness as much as her strength that drew him towards her. And in her weakness, she was not able to clearly see the potential problems in such a relationship.

At some point, she would no doubt have to face up not only to her own feelings, but to the reality that this man who was so kind and gentle with her, was like another person to his own daughter. His initial inability had evolved into a refusal to cope with her many problems, and in doing so perhaps acknowledge flaws in his own character. Like many instances in real life, there was no explanation for such human feelings. Situations of this kind very rarely offer easy answers. History was fraught was such moral ambiguity and sadly, it was the very essence of the nature of tragedy.

The Red Badge of Courage

Fortunately for everyone involved, Trelawney Rose made an easy transition into the sixth grade. Mrs. Griegan might be an old battle-ax, but she had a heart of gold. She had been infuriated by the careless treatment that Trelawney Rose had received at the hands of her younger colleague. She instantly recognized that the girl was exceptionally bright, but very special. And she was determined that she would not simply know that she was safe in her classroom. She would feel safe there as well.

Georgina Jennings was an enormous help on this score. She used her influence with the other girls to make sure that she was accepted. It was not unusual for Georgina to put her arm around the younger girl when they walked to music or art class. Normally a stickler for straight lines, Mrs. Griegan permitted this small act of comfort.

She was not surprised to discover that the girl was very advanced in some areas (although behind in others) academically. But she was very careful not to call attention to it. The girl herself was so humble that most of the other students did not suspect it. Even when her knowledge clearly exceeded her classmates', she did not show it off. Instead, she dutifully listened attentively and meticulously copied her notes.

Luckily, many of her very insightful answers to questions about the various things that they were reading were couched in such quaint language that the half of the class that would have cared that she was so smart didn't understand what she was talking about. Their lack of comprehension was a source of amusement to the brighter students and distracted them from any feelings of envy that they might have harbored.

The little girl was very sweet and even after Miss Selena had bought her American clothing, the skirts, blouses, and dresses that she favored were all very modest. She still wore her hair braided to school. It was an old-fashioned style for a time when girls of her age were wearing their long hair straight down their backs. But Georgina explained to the other girls that there was nothing else to be done with it.

"You can curl straight hair," she explained in an authoritative tone. "But you cannot straighten curly hair. Miss Selena does not want to bother with the tangles and Trelawney Rose does not want to cut it."

Whenever Georgina defended her, Trelawney Rose got a look of adoration on her face. Since she was not adept at defending herself, she was grateful to have a champion. And she was so sweet that the other girls came to love her as well. She never had a cruel word for anyone else and was moved whenever there was any sadness. The boys ignored her.

Each day, Mrs. Griegan read to them from a book for what she called story time. Trelawney Rose clearly loved story time, but one day the story moved her to tears. She was reading to them from book The Red Badge of Courage, a book about a young private, who was injured in the Civil War.

Of course Trelawney Rose knew almost nothing of the American Civil War (other than it had occurred), however her exhaustive knowledge of British history gave her a context. She understood enough to compare it to the Wars of the Roses and the essentially religious Civil Wars of the Seventeenth Century. It was a comparison that she only made privately to Mrs. Griegan when she was asked if she needed any clarification.

Mrs. Griegan had started reading the book to the class before Trelawney Rose had come. She had chosen it mostly to hold the interest of the boys and it complemented the American history lessons nicely. However, on the day she was reading about the death of Henry's friend Jim after battle, she looked up and saw tears streaming down her face. Following her line of sight, the other children in the class also saw her weeping.

Georgina, who sat across the aisle from her, immediately jumped up and threw her arms around her. Mrs. Griegan looked around to quickly assess the response of the rest of the class and noticed that one of the boys, Sam, was also close to tears. It was then that she remembered that his brother had been killed in Vietnam only last year. Quietly, she closed the book and invited the class to sit on the floor.

The girls of course all huddled around Trelawney Rose. The boys looked uncomfortable. Sam sat apart from the class.

"War is a dreadful thing," she said gently. "Isn't it?"

The children all looked back at her solemnly and nodded.

"It has only been about twenty-five years since World War II ended," she continued. "There were many boys that never came home. And then there were others who came home wounded. It seemed like everyone knew someone who was killed or injured."

She gave the kids time to digest her words. She noticed that Sam was looking up at her intently. Trelawney Rose had her head on Georgina's shoulder, but she was also looking at her. In fact, twenty-one pairs of eyes were intently looking at her. She knew that what she said next would no doubt have a great impact on each of them.

"That was a terrible war for the boys out on the battlefields and the rest of us here at home," she continued. "My brother Kip was a sailor stationed at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. We were very lucky because he lived, but he was badly burned trying to save other sailors on his ship."

"Was he on the Arizona?" asked one of the boys.

"No," she said. "He was on the Utah. We were not so lucky with my cousin Teddy."

"Where was Teddy?" asked one of the boys.

"He was stationed in Europe towards the end of the war," she said. "He died with the troops who stormed Omaha beach in Normandy on D Day."

"A lot of Yanks died that day," said Trelawney Rose, now coming awake. "And lots of Brits and French. My Uncle Mortimer was killed that day. He never even made it to the beach. My Cousin Percy almost lost his life. Everyone I know lost family over there."

"Mrs. Griegan," asked one of the girls. "Why do we have to fight wars?"

"People have been asking that question for thousands of years," she replied. "In the United States we fought the Civil War to end slavery and we fought in World War II in Europe to stop the Nazis from conquering Europe and in the Pacific because the Japanese attacked."

"Our lot got into the war to try to save Poland," added Trelawney Rose. "And then Hitler attacked us. The blitz in London killed many people and destroyed large bits of the city."

"Why are we fighting in Vietnam?" asked another girl.

Mrs. Griegan sat to think quietly. The response to stop communism would raise more questions than it answered. And who knew what the parents were telling their children at home?

"We are fighting the war to help the people in South Vietnam live independently from those in the north," she finally said. "They want a different kind of government and the United States promised to help them."

She looked over at Sam who had listened closely when she and Trelawney Rose were talking about losing family members in the war. Then he raised his hand.

"My brother Richie died in Vietnam," he said. "I thought that he was a hero when he went away. But now people say that he wasn't. They say that Vietnam is a bad war."

"All our boys who die in war are heroes," said Trelawney Rose immediately. "And if you ask me, there is no such thing as a good war."

"Well, that's what my cousin Charlie said," added one of the girls. "That was before he ran away to Canada because his number came up in the draft. But my Dad says that he's a coward and a draft dodger. He and my Uncle Cliff aren't talking anymore."

"That's very sad," said Mrs. Griegan. "But wars do that to people. In the Civil War, there were brothers who fought against each other because they had different beliefs about slavery."

"Mrs. Griegan," asked Sam. "Do you think that Henry was a coward because he ran away?"

Tess Griegan was silent. That question was at the moral heart of the book and the author, Stephen Crane, had been deliberately ambiguous about the answer.

"I think that Henry was scared," replied Trelawney Rose when she didn't answer right away. "My Uncle Mortimer was scared before he went over. Grandmother Tressidor had a letter from him that said so. I think that all lads are scared when they see death and blood."

"I would sure be scared," said one of the boys.

"So would I," said another. "But I wouldn't run away."

"How do you know?" asked Trelawney Rose. "No one knows unless they are there. I'd like to think that I would stay, but I can't be sure."

"Girls don't fight in battle," argued the same boy.

"My Auntie Lucy was a nurse in the Great War," shot back Trelawney Rose. "She worked right on the battle lines in Verdun and saw lots of blood. And my Great-uncle David was a medic. He never fired a shot, but he was blown up in the trenches on the Somme. My Uncle David was named for him."

"You sure have a lot of family, Trelawney Rose," said one of the girls. "You're lucky."

"Yes, you could say that," she said. "But the more family that you have, the more of them that die when war comes around."

The children all nodded thoughtfully. And Sam looked like he felt a little better. He seemed comforted by the fact that at least one other person knew how he felt.

Mrs. Griegan noticed that now that the topic had shifted to focus on Sam, Trelawney Rose seemed to have calmed down. She had even begun to sit up straighter, although still under Georgina's loving arm. She couldn't be sure, but it seemed that she was more concerned with comforting Sam than her own grief.

She decided that in the future she would be much more careful about the books that she chose, and not only for Trelawney Rose's sake. The little girl could perhaps be viewed as the "canary in the coal mine," because she was so fragile. And on that day, she was not the only one who had been hurting.

A Simple Man

Justin Harrington was not a man who ever considered anything in life to be simple, except where certain human relationships were concerned. It had happened once before, when he had met his first wife. And now it had happened again. It was proof that, despite the improbability of it, lightening could strike the same place twice.

It had been over a month since he had finally acknowledged his feelings for Miss Selena, the lovely young housekeeper who had mended his very broken family. His feelings for her were in fact very simple. He loved her absolutely and when the time was right, he intended to marry her.

Until he met his wife Helen, he had never had any kind of intimate relationship with any woman. He had never even gone steady. He had dated, but the minute that he sensed that the girl wanted more than a casual relationship, he stopped calling her. His focus was on his work and future career. He had no time to waste on entanglements with lovelorn schoolgirls. But from the beginning, Helen had been different.

In her case, he quickly discovered that she was a very independent woman. After a couple of dates, he had gotten busy studying for midterms and didn't call her. After midterms, he called for a date and discovered that she was already "booked" for the evening. Disappointed, he hung up but then called her right back and asked for a date for the next evening.

Surprised, she had agreed. He showed up at her door with a dozen roses, took her out to the swankiest restaurant in Pasadena, and then to a late night comedy show at a local club where, by chance, the hot new comics Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were playing. Determined to show her a good time, he even ordered a bottle of expensive champagne. They sat in his car talking for an hour before he finally walked her, reluctantly, back up to her apartment. Then, ever the chivalrous gentleman, he kissed her gently good night at the door and let her walk in alone.

The next day, he sent her a thank you note with a simple box of chocolates. Then he waited for a week. At the end of the week, he called her for another date and told her to wear her dancing shoes. This time he picked a restaurant where, by good luck, Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians were playing that offered dancing under the stars. They arrived early and sat talking until the musicians were packing up. Once again, he reluctantly walked her to her door and was prepared to depart after another chaste kiss. He was determined to prove to her than he was not just another guy.

But Helen had already figured that out. She told him later that after she received the chocolates she began to realize there were some very fine romantic inclinations beginning to awaken in the heart of the shy mathematician. And she was perceptive enough to realize that it was she who had awakened them. She had also realized that his intentions were honorable and she had nothing to fear by inviting him in for a nightcap. She knew that the man who was so sweetly courting her was very special.

Justin had grown up as the youngest of three brothers. His older brothers were twins and like himself, very good-looking. They were several years older than him and by the time young Justin reached high school, they both had established reputations of being ladies men. Dad made a very good living for them as a civil engineer during the war and then after, as Americans headed west towards the warm, sunny climate of southern California. That gave them nice allowances to spend and nice cars to drive that impressed the ladies.

Rob Harrington was a solid, church-going man who believed in upholding high moral standards in one's life and having a tremendous respect for women. Ben and Bob lived by nominal moral standards and enjoyed the company of many women. Following the war, after graduating from high school and college, they each went into business and began the serious business of accumulating wealth and the not so serious business of enjoying the women attracted by their good looks and money.

Justin was not a particularly religious person, but he had high standards of personal behavior. He was not especially interested in shallow conversations with pretty girls and then even shallower relationships with them. Helen's beauty, which was considerable, may have could his eye, but it was her fine mind and gentle personality that cultivated his interest. She had not intended to make him jealous by accepting dates with other guys while he was busy studying. After all, they had only been out on a few dates and had no "understanding."

Justin was lucky that she recognized his social awkwardness for what it was and that he had not taken for granted that she was at home sitting by the phone waiting for him to call. In fact if she had, he probably would have dropped her like a hot potato. By the same token, the more he knew her, the more he liked her. And the longer he liked her, the more he realized that he was falling in love with her.

Helen had begun to feel the same way about him. And like him, she wanted no entanglements with weak men. She was not looking for some possessive type who was going to treat her as some kind of trophy that he had won in the dating game. On the night that she invited him in, they sat on the couch together and shared their hearts.

"I've really never had a steady girlfriend," Justin admitted. "In fact, I've never really done more than kiss a girl. I guess that I'm kind of old-fashioned, but I really want to wait for the right girl."

"And what will you do when you find her?" asked Helen.

"Marry her," he said bluntly. "Then, well, then, I'll look for the other. But I'm interested in commitment first. I have to know that she's in it for the long haul too."

Helen was silent. She had known that Justin was special, but had not imagined this. She had known that he was shy, but even shy guys were capable of putting the moves on pretty girls. And not many young men would admit to what he just had.

"I guess that you could say that I'm an old-fashioned girl too," she said shyly. "I know that it sounds corny, but I'm saving myself for marriage."

They looked deeply into one another's eyes. In order to keep the moment from getting too serious, Justin said simply,

"Maybe we've been saving ourselves for each other, but we'll never know unless you agree to go out on another date with me."

Still feeling shy after her admission of a very personal piece of information, Helen lowered her eyes and replied, "I think that's a very good idea."

It did not take long for Justin to make up his mind. Helen had planned to stay in the southern part of the state for Thanksgiving because it was so close to final exams. Justin invited her to come to Thanksgiving dinner and meet his parents. Luckily, from his perspective, his two brothers would both be out of state on business trips. Realizing what a significant invitation this was, Helen readily agreed. She had made up her own mind as well.

The holiday weekend at his parents' comfortable ranch house in El Cajon was a success. Predictably, his mother fussed and his father tried to restrain her enthusiasm. Helen took her gestures in stride and later admitted that she was used to an attentive mother. As an only child, her mother had spent her whole life clucking over her only chick. To pacify her, she had gone to Cal State San Jose for her undergraduate degree and lived at home. It had been a shock to her when Helen had received a fellowship to earn her Masters degree at Caltech.

Unfortunately, Justin did not know enough about mothers and daughters to see the red flags. By Christmas, his mind was made up. He went home to tell his parents about his intentions and his mother insisted that he accept her mother's engagement ring for his future bride.

"I don't see either of your brothers needing it," she explained. "And as a graduate student you need to spend your money wisely. I had always intended that this be an heirloom. Someday it will perhaps be passed down to a son or grandson."

Justin had turned pink at the implication of that remark and his father had laughed.

"You're a good man, son," he had said. "And Helen is a great gal. She's lucky to get you, but I also have a feeling that you're lucky to have her."

Ring in pocket, Justin flew north to San Jose to meet Helen's parents and pop the question. However, things were not entirely what he had thought. Helen's father Tom was congenial and a cheerful companion. Helen's mother, Bernice, was oppositional from the beginning. By the end of dinner, the night that he met them, she had given him the third degree about just about every aspect of his life from first grade onward.

He tried to take her questions in stride and remain polite, but she made him nervous. She gave him the distinct impression that she did not approve of him and seemed to take every opportunity that she could to find some fault with him or his prospects. Helen also began to look anxious. Reading the situation, Tom offered him a drink in the living room and told Bernice and Helen to clean up dinner. He might be goodnatured, but he was also the master of his own home.

Sipping glass of scotch, Justin finally felt able to relax. Unconsciously he breathed a deep sigh of relief. Tom was amused.

"Now you know why my beautiful daughter is still unmarried," he commented. "Has she chased you off yet? Bernice that is."

"No," said Justin puzzled. "Was she trying to?"

Tom laughed.

"Helen told me that you were a little awkward socially, but I guess in this case, it worked in your favor," he replied.

"Oh," said Justin, still confused by his remark about his wife. "Well, anyway, I'm glad that we can talk alone. I would like to ask your permission to marry your daughter."

"You really don't beat around the bush," he replied sharply. "Helen told me that about you. She also warned me that you were coming up here, among other reasons, to ask me that question. It's a bit old-fashioned, you know. And I didn't actually expect you to ask. You're both over twenty-one, after all."

"Yes," said Justin thoughtfully. "But I also want to do this right. I'll only be up here for a few days and then it's back to school for the spring term. I want you to know that my intentions are honorable. I love Helen completely and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. Once I finish with graduate school, because of the field that I am in, I have no doubt that I will have lots of employment opportunities. I will be able to take good care of her."

"I appreciate both your honesty and consideration for my feelings," he said. "And by all means you have my permission to marry her. Just remember that my wife is part of the deal. No matter how old Helen is, she will probably never let go."

"My heart is set," replied Justin.

"About what?" asked Helen, coming in with the coffee tray.

Justin stood up and taking the tray from her hands, set it on the table. After she was seated, he got down on one knee and pulled the small jewelry box from his pocket.

"Helen, you are the love and light of my life," he stated simply. "Will you agree to share it with me? Will you be my wife?"

Even though Helen had been expecting it and knew that Justin would be speaking to her father at the first opportunity, she was still moved by the simple, elegant proposal. Her future husband might be a mathematician by profession, but he was also a romantic at heart. Tears brimming, she gave her answer.

"Yes, my love."

Justin opened the box to display the exquisite diamond engagement ring. Antique though it was, his mother had had it cleaned and the gold setting shone with the warm patina of age. The large diamond was surrounded by smaller pearls and rubies. Helen caught her breath as Justin slipped it on her finger and then leaned forward to tenderly kiss her on the lips. Sitting beside her on the couch, he looked at her hand and then picked it up and kissed it.

"Well, Tom," said Bernice with a touch of asperity, entering with a tray of cookies. "I can see that you are a very lax chaperone."

But Helen missed her tone and jumped up.

"Look, Mama," she said. "Justin and I are engaged."

Bernice immediately took her daughter in her arms. But as she looked over her shoulder at Justin and Tom, her face was taut with controlled fury. But there was nothing that she could do. Her daughter was in love and determined to marry a man that she had only met hours ago.

She had not even decided that he was worthy. In fact, throughout the course of the evening she had been tallying up all of his shortcomings to present to her clearly smitten daughter later. Justin, baffled by her reaction, looked at Tom who lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. He had tried to warn him.

Luckily, Bernice chose to be on her best behavior for the rest of the visit. It was obvious that if she wasn't, she risked alienating her beloved only child. This did nothing to improve her view of the young man whom she now considered very forward. Tom had to spend many hours listening to her various rants once the kids had gone back down south to school.

She was displeased that they wanted to marry in six months, but it was Helen who was set on the timing. Justin was simply following her lead. She would complete her masters degree in May and wanted no separation. Justin still had a couple of more years of grad school before he started to make career decisions and she was ready to set up house as the wife of a graduate student.

Despite the short preparation time, Helen and Bernice threw themselves into the madness and chaos of a big church wedding with all the trimmings. Justin went along with it because he wanted Helen to be happy. He was so busy with his own studies that he was well out of the fray. However, at Helen's graduation, he was amazed by the fact that in spite of all the distractions she had been able to earn her degree with honors. He was very proud of her.

Following the wedding, they took a car ride out to the Grand Canyon for their honeymoon. It was a sweet and special time, as they grew closer. By the the time the new school year rolled around, Helen was able to tell him that in March there would be another Harrington in the house. Justin was delighted. He was a very devoted husband. With Helen by his side he felt that there was nothing that he could not do.

A Second Chance

Justin's life with Helen had been so perfect that he never imagined that he would ever find another woman whose mind and heart were so completely in tune with his own. Unlike Helen, he had not immediately recognized his feelings for Selena. He had always thought of her as a special person, but he had attributed that to the way that she had made his house into a home again.

But now that he knew his feelings and hers, he felt that same desire to get things settled and move on with their lives. Yet, at the same time, he restrained these impulses. Young Selena was in a very different place than Helen had been when they had fallen in love. He was as well. Anyway, it was not just about the two of them. Counting Trelawney Rose, there were five children to be considered. And the young woman herself was only now emerging from the deepest depths of her grief.

Having lived through a similar grief, Justin knew that she needed time to come to terms with her feelings. She was a very private person. He had always known that and originally he had decided that it was because of the professional boundaries that existed between herself and the family. But he could see now that it was simply her nature to be private about her feelings. The only one with whom she shared them was her sister.

He knew of the vow that she had made at the girl's birth and respected it. Her love, loyalty, and devotion to the little girl were only a few of the many things that he loved about her. There were times that she pulled back from them to care for the little girl who seemed to deeply miss her mother. One morning after he commented that she appeared more tired than usual, she admitted that Trelawney Rose was having nightmares and would wake up calling for "Mummy."

The experience of spending the long, dark night out by herself with no one other than Chester for company had greatly disturbed her. Selena was concerned because when she talked in her sleep, she seemed fearful that she would be taken away. She would never speak of these fears when she was awake and denied that they were anything more than the fear of her powerful Grandfather Trelawney back in the village.

He wished that he could help her, but there was nothing that he could do with an issue as delicate and private as this. So instead, he tried to find little ways to cheer her up. He discovered that he had a break in his busy schedule at the same time that she was finished working for the chaplain. He made it his practice to go over to the campus ministry office and invite her for a walk around campus. It became a ritual and it offered them both a chance to talk and get to know each other better.

He shared with her what it was like growing up in San Diego during the war years and then through the post-war boom. He gave her more background on his parents and his two brothers, all of whom she had already met. However, when she had met them, she had no thought that they might ever be her future in-laws, although his mother had certainly done her best to promote a potential match.

Catherine Harrington had met Selena and immediately decided that her son had been a widower long enough. She attempted to create a couple of little scenarios for Justin to take advantage of but had failed each time. She had even gone so far as to gift Selena with a lovely old-fashioned brooch that had once been her mother's. But she had left in disappointment when Selena had assured her that her job, in addition to keeping house, was to set the family to rights and then move on. She was a traveler on a mission to set the world to rights one family at a time.

Justin warned her that his mother had never entirely given up that hope, mostly due to the intractable Willa, whom she now accused Helen of having hopelessly spoiled. To tell the truth, after their initial meeting, his mother had decided that she did not really like Helen as his choice of wife as much as she first thought that she had. She had had the unrealistic expectation that Helen would become the daughter she had always wanted. But the last thing that Helen had wanted was another hovering mother. Bernice was more than enough mother for any woman.

"Why haven't I met the children's other grandparents?" asked Selena one day.

Justin considered his answer carefully.

"Bernice was very much attached to Helen, who was her only child," he replied. "She was jealous of her other relationships, especially her close bond with Willa. When we moved back north and she became an almost daily visitor, she started out by trying to evolve a close relationship with her as well, but you know Willa. Young as she was, she still saw through her overtures and failed to adequately reciprocate, shall we say."

"I thought that it was something like that," said Selena. "Jay told me once about their problematic relationship."

"Jay certainly has shared a lot of family information with you," he said sharply.

"Jay is sensitive and notices everything," she answered. "I think that he is unburdening himself, not gossiping. He has been holding a lot inside for the past three years."

"That he hasn't shared with me," said Justin regretfully.

"I'm afraid not," she agreed. "But everything that he has told me, has always been in the strictest confidence."

And it never occurred to him that during these little chats, he did most of the talking. He had not yet broken down her reserve to the point where she would share the same kind of life experiences with him. It should have seemed odd to him that when he was talking about his early dating and later courtship of Helen, that she never mentioned any past boyfriends.

She looked rather longing when he described for her the most romantic time of his life and his determination to do everything right. He shared with her the very intimate detail that their wedding night was the "first time" for both of them, mostly because he wanted to reassure her of his own honorable intentions where she was concerned.

He only mentioned it once. She had looked away and blushed deeply red, a gesture that he attributed to her modesty. Of course at that point he could not known of the very real barrier that stood in the way of a future life together for them.

And of course, dense as he was, he didn't realize that their afternoon strolls were noticed and became the subject of gossip. He never even held her hand, but often he was completely engrossed in their discussions. Conversations such as this one looked very intimate from the outside.

She didn't know very many people, so she had no sense that prying eyes were always looking for some clue as to what was really going on between them. Dr. Wallace tried to warn her that people were talking, but he was overcautious in protecting her sensibilities. She might not have worried anyway. The truth of their life together was actually pretty boring.

At home they really had no time to be alone. Because she needed to get Trelawney Rose in bed for school each night, she left as soon as dinner was over and Jennie was ready for bed. Sometimes in the mornings he would run into her as she was on her way in to start her housework and he was on his way out. And once school was out in the afternoon, the kids were the main focus.

He knew that he could take her out to dinner, but anything that even hinted of a date would be duly noted and the insinuations would begin. He wanted nothing to darken her reputation. He suspected that most people would view the beautiful woman who was very nearly living in his home as an outlet for his own "pent up" physical desires. And a woman who was a sophisticated world traveler was surely experienced in this area. He was very sensitive to the fact that, like Helen, she was saving herself for marriage. He respected that and would do nothing to change it.

Even on those few occasions when he had felt brave enough to steal a kiss, she seemed shy. And he had meant it when he had told her that they would go slowly. He felt very protective of her. And he really didn't have to work that hard at controlling his more passionate desires.

Before and throughout his courtship of Helen, he had always felt very strongly that there were certain relations between men and women that belonged only in the context of marriage. Just as he had appreciated Helen's agreement with this philosophy, he had loved Selena all the more because despite the mores of the younger generation, she held onto the same traditional values.

And in spite of the fact that he had dated a number of women over the last year, he hadn't taken advantage of some of the offers that he had. Rather, he had fallen into his old pattern of dropping the woman as soon as she began hinting around at a more physical relationship. It had become a kind of litmus test for him about the kind of woman she was. However, he also dropped some of the women because they just didn't interest him. He had done a lot of dating and dropping and it had become something of a joke with his math department colleagues.

He knew that his friend Dick Driscoll made frequent jokes about him being the "Don Juan" of the math department, but he preferred to ignore it. A married man himself with three kids, he figured that Driscoll was trying to live vicariously through his own freedom to date. He and the women involved all knew that nothing ever happened. And anyone who knew him well enough would never suspect that he would take advantage of an innocent girl like Selena. He enjoyed kissing her when he had the chance, but he would wait for the other.

It mattered more to him that as she healed from her deep trauma she begin to look to him for more than fatherly comfort. She was not ready for a lover or a husband and he had no intention of pushing her. Her inclinations in that direction had always been modest and very restrained. There seemed to be some element of underlying guilt where such things were concerned.

At the time he assumed that it was because of her rather silly fear that she might be perceived as taking advantage of him. And brought up in her little English village, with old-fashioned values, it only made sense that any physical "indulgence" could cause guilt. He had no desire to bother her conscience, or to alter her moral standards in any way.

So he moderated his own gestures. Occasionally when they were alone, he would pick up her hand and kiss it. Or if she were looking over his shoulder, he would idly pick up her hand and hold it against his cheek. He never failed to stir a response. He could feel her tremble and when he looked up she would give him a shy smile. But it was also a smile tinged with apprehension.

Each time she left him after one of these little moments, he reminded himself that he would need to be very gentle with her on their wedding night. For he knew with the same absolute faith that he had when he had decided to court Helen, that given enough time and patience, there would be a wedding night.

For her part, Selena was living in a state of mild confusion. She could not deny her very real feelings for Dr. Harrington, or Justin, as he insisted that she call him when they were alone. She felt very guilty about those feelings. She actually felt not the least amount of guilt where Kenneth was concerned. She doubted that he loved her anymore than she loved him. If he did, he certainly had a funny way of showing it.

It had been over two months since the tragedy and as of yet, no one had been able to find him. It was almost as if he had fallen off the face of the earth. No, her guilt lay with her feelings for Justin. She knew that he loved her completely and that his devotion was absolute. A man such as him could only be looking for one thing from her, marriage. He was not one to toy with her feelings. And she knew that her own failure to mention her previous commitment was setting him up for an enormous disappointment.

Sometimes she thought that she would tell him. However the circumstances were never right. Such a conversation needed time and privacy. There was no privacy at all in the house and there was no way that she could start such a serious conversation during one of their very public strolls on campus.

And there was never enough time. So she let things linger and kept her own feelings in check as much as she could. And while they had never spoken of it, she knew that he had already ascertained that she was saving herself for the wedding night. Instinctively, she knew that he would respect that.

She sometimes let herself daydream about the consequences of such a marriage to an outsider. No matter how much they might love each other, that would not be a factor in whether or not they would marry. Technically speaking, she could not marry without Uncle David's permission, whether or not there was the betrothal already in place. Marriage to an outsider also meant permanently settling outside of the village.

This could compromise her custody of Trelawney Rose. Despite the fact that the changes made at school had settled her down, it was still unlikely that she would be able to live permanently in the outside world. Ultimately, she knew that Uncle David would make the decisions regarding her sister's life also. It was simply the way things worked in their little world. There was no doubt that he fully expected her to return home.

While Justin knew of her promise to raise the child, he still did not know that she would probably always live with her. Trelawney Rose was a little fey and needed very special care. It was this care that her mother had raised her to give. Settling here with him certainly guaranteed it, if Uncle David even allowed her to stay.

There would be no question of her marrying, especially if she was not living in the village. If he could not accept her as a permanent addition to his household, she could never marry him. Trelawney Rose would always come first, perhaps even before their own children. As close as they were to the tragedy, she could not imagine a time when her little sister would not be the center of her world. All other things aside, she suspected that Kenneth would have no objections. But if he did, there was bound to be big trouble.

This was something that had always worried her about Kenneth. As far as she knew, he never knew of the vow that she had made to her mother. He had been out roaming when she had made it and she knew that she had never told him. Of course if he were unwilling to accept Trelawney Rose in their home she had no doubt that it would be grounds for breaking the betrothal. No one would ever place the child in a situation where she was not loved and cherished. And the vow to Mum had to come before all other things. It was her one and only hope of release from what she had come to view as a very great burden.

The Grateful Dead

Willa and her crew had most recently decided that they would switch their loyalties from the literally dead to the Grateful Dead. They all kind of liked the name "deadheads" anyway. It sounded cooler than burnouts. Pam had managed to talk her way into one of their concerts and returned with an eight-track tape of American Beauty. They listened to it over and over again in Dirk's van and agreed that the song Truckin' was definitely the anthem of west campus for the class of '71.

When voting came around for Prom theme, they submitted it and got all the other residents to vote for it. It almost won too, narrowly edged out by some lame ballad by the Carpenters, Close to You. The vote was so close mostly because the "Carpenter vote" was split between that song and another schmaltzy song, We've Only Just Begun. It was a pretty good joke because none of them were planning to go to the Prom anyway. Instead, they were going to have an anti-Prom party where they could have their own version of a good time.

But the closer that she got to graduation, the more concerned that she became. It turned out that she was the only one of the crew who had followed through on a pact that they had made one night when they were high on weed, and not applied to any colleges. It wasn't that she actually wanted to go, but it was disappointing that everyone else seemed to be going. Her guidance counselor suggested that she could still apply to Cal State San Jose where her Mom had gone, but she felt funny about that.

Ever since the kid had told her about her Mom being an angel and sorrowing for her, she had felt funny. It seemed like Trelawney Rose was the only one who had the nerve to talk to her about Mom anymore. And she still wasn't sure if that made her sad or mad. She was so used to being angry about everything it was just real easy to get mad at the kid and blow her off. But the funny thing was, that the kid never got mad back at her.

Willa discovered that if she yelled at her loudly enough or slammed something, it made her flinch. But if she did that than all hell would break lose over her head if Jay or Dad was around. Of course if they would watch the reaction of the kid when they did go nuts, then they would have realized that their fuss would make her cower. But they were so busy being "protective" that they didn't realize the effect that they themselves were having on her.

She also thought about how the kid had told her that she was also a difficult child. Now that she knew that, after watching her more closely, she realized that in many ways she was. She would scold Max or Jay if they picked on Jennie and she would scold Jennie if she tattled. If Miss Selena told her to do something that she didn't want to, she just didn't do it. Then she would play dumb when asked about it.

On the occasions when Willa was punished by being sent to her room without dinner, she would bring her food. Dad was trying to be stricter with her and that was his favorite form of punishment, mostly because it meant that he didn't have to see her. Since Trelawney Rose thought that it was wrong to make anyone go hungry, she brought her food. Despite this, everyone still made a fuss about her and said how sorry they were for her.

The funny thing was that Trelawney Rose never seemed to feel sorry for herself. She told Willa one day when she was making one of her illegal visitations that she felt sorry for her.

"Why do you feel sorry for me?" she asked her.

"It seems so unfair that everyone expected you to take care of Jay and the others," she said.

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"Jay told me," she said. "He told me that you were very selfish because you didn't want to help your father take care of them. You just wanted to take care of yourself."

"Do you think that I was selfish?" she asked.

"Oh, no," she replied. "I thought that you were sad. Jay was rather bothered when I said that maybe you just wanted to be left alone to grieve. Then maybe you would help later. But they never gave you the chance."

"You told him that?" she asked in surprise.

"Of course," she said. "He said that I didn't understand and then I said that he was the one who didn't understand."

"What did he say to that?"

"Nothing," she answered. "Selena told us to stop squabbling and do our homework."

Willa was silent for a minute and then thought of something.

"Hey, kid," she said. "After your folks went to heaven, you expected Miss Selena to take care of you. Isn't that the same thing as my family?"

"Oh, no, not at all," she stated very definitively.

"Why not?"

"Well," she explained. "My Selena was much older when I was born, sixteen in fact. She promised Mummy and Papa that if anything should happen to them, that she would take care of me always. And then Uncle David, Auntie Anna, and Cousin Emmeline promised to help her. But you were younger than that. And you never made any promises to your mother."

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"If you had," replied the girl with a little smile. "I am sure that I would have heard of them by now. It would be the kind of thing that they would all be reminding you of."

"Or throwing them in my face," she added.

"Yes, or that," she agreed. "And no one promised to help you either. It is rather odd to me that you don't have any other family."

"Oh we have them," she said. "We haven't seen Nana and Papa in a couple of years. Not that I miss them. And Grammy and Grampie and the uncles show up every once in a blue moon. That's not so bad. They always bring presents."

"Wouldn't it be better if they brought themselves more often?" she asked. "And why didn't any of them help your father?"

"I don't know," said Willa thoughtfully. "They live pretty far away. But my family is not like yours anyway. We've never been close, other than Nana. But she really only loved Mom. It was kind of like she tolerated the rest of us. She certainly dropped the rest of us fast enough once Mom was gone."

"Oh my," she said. "No wonder your poor Mum is so sad. She is probably feeling most betrayed by her mother."

"Come again?" she asked surprised.

"Well, you would think that a grandmother would step in to help her daughter's family if anything happened to her," she said thoughtfully. "Especially if she loved her so much. It would have saved your father so much trouble with all of those housekeepers."

Willa laughed bitterly.

"My Nana has almost no respect for my father," she said. "And as far as taking care of the house is concerned, that was my job. She did a damn good job of looking like she was keeping things running, but she made me do all the hard work."

"That wasn't very nice of her."

"There is nothing very nice about my Nana," she said. "Stick around long enough, kid, and you'll see."

"Oh," she said. "Well, I still think that they expected too much from you."

"You know, kid," said Willa. "I really don't get why you are always defending me. It doesn't make any sense."

"According to Jay," she replied. "Nothing that I do makes any sense. But I made a promise."

"You did?" she asked.

Then the kid clammed up tight and wouldn't say anything else. Willa figured that her sister must have made her promise to be nice to her or something. That was just the kind of thing that Miss Selena would do. Dad's attempts to "reach her" were such a joke that Willa figured that she must have given up on him again. Then one day Miss Selena stopped her on the way into the house.

"Willa?" she called tentatively. "May I please have a word with you?"

"Why not?" she asked with a sigh.

"I received a call today from your guidance counselor," she said. "She is very worried about you because in addition to not even trying to get into college, you now are not even trying to pass your classes so that you can graduate from high school."

"So what's it to you?" she asked defiantly.

"Well," she admitted uncomfortably. "Normally, this would have had nothing to do with me. But your counselor has been trying to reach your father by telephone for the past few weeks and he has not been returning her calls. She called me as a last resort, so to speak."

"Okay," said Willa. "I appreciate the fact that you don't want to get mixed up in my business. So if we can just keep it that way, then we'll get along fine."

"I'm not trying to get mixed up in your business," replied Miss Selena. "But I wanted you to know that I did tell the guidance counselor to lay off, you might say, on the college stuff. I do think that it's a shame that you Americans are expected to go to university directly out of high school. I think that it is very possible that you are not ready for college."

"Because I'm almost failing all my classes?"

"No," she said. "I think that you don't see the point in going. Now, I know that most of your friends probably don't see the point either, but they are going because they don't know what else to do. I told the counselor that she should help you explore other options."

"You what?" asked Willa amazed.

"I told her that it might be better for you to work or travel for a year or two," she said calmly. "You see where I come from everyone doesn't automatically go to university. There's no expectation at all that you will, especially if you are a girl. And it's not uncommon for both boys and girls to work or travel before they go, if they even go at all."

"Have you told my Dad this?" she asked, still astounded.

"No," she said. "I thought that I would talk to you first. This is about you, you know, not him. I wanted you to know that if you had other plans then I would support you and help you talk to your father."

"You mean keep him from yelling at me," she commented.

"That too," she admitted. "I still haven't given up on reconciling you two with one another."

"Then you're a hopeless optimist," she replied. "That is never going to happen."

With that, Willa walked up the stairs, but before she could get in the door, Miss Selena had one more thing to say.

"No, I am a hopeful optimist."

This was a touching little scene that was too rich to be withheld from the crew.

"So let me get this straight," said Snake. "She wants to go to your Dad and tell him that he shouldn't make you go to college. She thinks that you should work or travel for a year. How cool is that, man?"

"Yup," she replied. "She thinks that I'm not ready."

"Jeez," said Dirk. "Maybe she should talk to my Dad. I'm stuck going to UC Davis."

"Oh, cool," said Pam. "What are you going to major in?"

"As soon as I get to campus," said Dirk a little smugly. "I'm going to rush a fraternity and major in drinking and smoking dope. What do you think of that? A four-year party courtesy of dear old Dad and the state of California."

"Gotta make those tax dollars work for you," remarked Brad. "I'm going to Pepperdine so that I can major in surfing."

"And drinking," added Pam.

"That too," he said with a grin. "It's amazing how dumb our parents are. What else is there to do in Malibu? It's a great scam when you think about it. And it's not too late for you, Willa. Forget about your old man and make the party scene, on his dime no less."

Willa smiled bitterly.

"I'd rather do things my way," she said. "He thinks that he'll get rid of me by sending me off to college and then he'll put the final moves on Miss Selena."

"You don't think that he has already?" asked Snake.

"Driscoll is a pig," she shot back. "And she's going to hold out for the ring and the white wedding. Right now the fact that I'm around is holding him back. He wants things to be happily ever after for the little angel. As long as I'm in the picture, it's happily never after."

"What makes you think that he's not doing, or at least dating, her already?" he asked. "I know for a fact that every day after she finishes working in the campus ministry office they go for these little walks around campus. Of course he won't even hold her hand, but he's not fooling anyone."

"He goes walking with her every day?" asked Pam. "What does he think? That he's living in the nineteenth century or something?"

"Man," said Brad. "That is so intense."

"You bet," said Snake. "Driscoll figures that it's a cover for what he's really up to."

"And what is that?" asked Willa with her usual annoyance.

"Hopping down to the motor inn for a quickie," he said with a wink and a suggestive grin.

Willa rolled her eyes.

"I gotta ask my old man about this," said another girl named Barb. "It sounds too good to be true."

"Your old man works in the business office," objected Willa. "How would he know?"

"The walls of that place have ears," answered Dirk. "This is too juicy not to be all over the place. I wonder how many of his students know?"

"It would only improve his reputation," joked Snake. "They all think that he's a real drag."

"So are you, Mr. UCLA," replied Willa sarcastically. "And you're no better Miss USC. You guys are the biggest bunch of sellouts that I ever met. You all were a whole lot more interesting before you decided to fall into line and make the college scene."

"Willa," said Snake uncomfortably. "Maybe it's time for you to face reality. Make the college scene and party your brains out. Your old man is going to do what he wants anyway. Driscoll may be an old rumormonger, but where there's smoke there's fire."

"That may be true," she said. "But I'll think of something. After what he's put me through there is no way he gets a free pass."

"Boy, Willa," said Pam. "I'm sure glad that I'm on your good side."

"Why is that?"

"Because you've got to be one of the meanest people I know."

Only where my father is concerned, she thought. But it was almost impossible to tell what was really up with Miss Selena. She certainly fit the stereotype of the cool, unemotional Brit. And she didn't seem to reciprocate any of Dad's feelings. In fact, she knew that she argued with him on occasion, usually about her.

She had gone to a lot of trouble to stay here in California. There was no logic to the rumors up at the university that she had stayed for him. In fact, sometimes it almost seemed as though she was holding him at arm's length. Of course that only added another layer of irony to the whole thing. Her Dad may have fallen for one of the most unattainable women out there.

Chances were that she was being polite. She suspected that he was doing most of the talking. In all probability, he was making a fool out of himself mooning over a beautiful woman who also happened to be young enough to be his daughter. A quickie over at the motor inn? Driscoll was not only a pig. He was also living in la-la land. Deflowering young virgins was definitely not a part of her father's MO. There had never been a more upstanding and boring man where women were concerned. He obviously didn't know her father at all.