Good news, family stress, and an unhappy separation

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I puzzled over Mike’s request to the point I had trouble sleeping and to distraction during the day. I had few responsibilities to keep my mind otherwise occupied. The upcoming commencement was the only obligation I still had at Tech. I was tempted to skip it, but I knew my father and Jane, Gwen, and Mike were all looking forward to it. Jane planned a Saturday party at her beach house.

I kept up with all the Physics journals but spent much of my time with the twins. It was a luxury no other father I knew had. Even changing diapers was fun. Typically, the only way to get them to cooperate was to make a game of it. I enjoyed every minute. Well, almost every minute. I gagged and felt queasy if I had to change Sara’s diaper if she pooped. For some reason, it didn’t bother me to change Seth’s diaper no matter what was in it. I still changed Sara’s diapers and made a game of it with her, but sometimes it wasn’t fun. I knew fathers who were remote from their children, present in the home but not involved in their childrens’ lives except as the disciplinarian. I didn’t want to be that way.

Paulette’s job was easier with me home most of the time. I helped with meals, baths, play time, nap time. Paulette also got more time off. She had become an important part of our household in a short time and we treated her as family. Though we gave her more freedom than the agency had suggested, she never failed to be there for us. I think she was a little overwhelmed at times by the affection showed her by all of us.

Time with Seth and Sara allowed me to avoid my dilemma to a point. But spending so much time with them also drove home why Mike wanted a child. Watching Gwen with the children gave me a sense of what being a mother meant, though I understood it was only from the viewpoint of being a father. I’d never understand a bond developed while growing new life inside you.

To their credit, neither Mike nor Gwen pressured me for a decision. When the subject did come up, it was Gwen that brought it up. And she only asked for my thoughts. Mike and Paulette were watching the twins while Gwen and I went for groceries. We were in the car when Gwen broached the subject.

‘Have you been thinking about Mike?’ she asked.

‘Almost every waking moment,’ I told her, ‘too often instead of sleep. I want to say yes but I’m afraid to. I’m afraid to say no, too. I don’t want to break Mike’s heart. Or yours.’

Gwen slid across the seat and leaned against me. ‘If you decide you’re willing to father Mike’s baby, there’s no chance you’ll break my heart. You’ll be making Mike happy.’

‘And if I decide against it?’

Gwen didn’t answer right away while she gathered her thoughts. ‘You’ll hurt Mike, which will hurt me. But not irreparably. I know what she’s asking is a big deal. People frown on unwed motherhood. Our situation will be even more scandalous. People just can’t fathom polyamory. I think adultery is far worse because of the dishonesty and deception. It’s publicly denounced yet not uncommon. Our friends may desert us once they know you’re the father. I don’t know what my parents will think about my husband fathering a child with my best friend. Especially since they consider Mike part of the family. They’ll struggle to understand how I could be happy about it. But I think they’ll eventually learn to live with it. I think Mike’s parents will be troubled that you’re the father. But eventually, they’ll be happy they have a grandchild.’

‘What about us? How do you think my being a dad to a child that isn’t yours will affect us?’ I asked. ‘If I father Mike’s baby, I’m going to be Dad, not ‘Uncle Jonas’, who’s not really an uncle.’

‘Are you kidding? Look at how Mike is with the twins. She treats them like they were her own children. That baby will be as much mine as Mike’s. And I know you’ll be its Dad. For Seth and Sara, I think it will be little different from having a brother or sister. At least until they’re older and understand more.’

‘How will things change if I say no?’ This was where my biggest fears resided. I could risk losing both Gwen and Mike if I said no.

‘When you married me, Mike was already inseparable from us. I didn’t think of it that way at first.’ Gwen stopped to gather her thoughts for a moment. ‘If you say no, I’m afraid Mike will leave us, which will break her heart. And mine. She loves me, but she loves you, too. You and I will be okay but losing Mike will sting.’

My conversation with Gwen didn’t make my dilemma any easier to resolve. If anything, it made it more difficult. And I knew any conversation with Mike if I said no would be gut-wrenching.

Mike kept busy with work and fund-raising. She often returned late, sometimes so tired she skipped dinner and went to sleep. She hadn’t joined us in bed since making her request, except for the night she asked me to father her child. Before her request, she often joined us in bed, even if only to sleep next to us.

The phone rang Tuesday morning, a couple days before commencement. After I said hello and gave my first name, the caller identified herself.

‘Good afternoon,’ she began. ‘I’m Debra Messenger, calling for Dr. Charles Tenney. Am I speaking to Dr. Jonas Taylor?’

‘Technically, no. I’m not officially Dr. Taylor quite yet,’ I responded. I knew of Dr. Tenney by reputation but had never met him. He was a prominent member of the Physics Department at UCLA.

‘Then you’re who I’m looking for,’ she said. ‘Dr. Tenney would like to meet with you on Friday morning at ten if you are available.’

‘May I ask the reason he’d like to see me?’ I asked.

‘Dr. Tenney is looking for a physicist for a post-doctoral research project. Are you interested?’

‘I’m certainly willing to talk to Dr. Tenney,’ I replied. ‘I can’t know if I’m interested until I know more.’

‘Should I tell Dr. Tenney you’ll be in his office at ten on Friday?’ she asked.

‘I’ll be there,’ I told her.

Commencement was overly solemn, foolishly optimistic, hot, and boring. Filled with ceremonial gravity and pomp. It was also oppressively hot. The temperature was in the high eighties and the humidity was unusually high. The sun and temperature were stifling for the spectators and punishing for graduates wearing commencement gowns over their clothing. I sat, wearing the ceremonial robes of a soon-to-be anointed academic and roasted, just like the handful of other doctoral recipients. I can’t imagine it was any better for those officiating. By the time the ceremony was over, I couldn’t wait to get the robes off. My suit was sweat-soaked and uncomfortable.

Jane and my father had planned a celebration with our friends for Saturday. All I wanted to do after commencement was get out of my clothes and take a cold shower. Though there wasn’t a large crowd, I had some trouble finding Gwen, Mike, Jane, and my father. Once I located them, we all walked back to the house.

After showering and changing, I met everyone on the patio. As soon as I made my appearance, my father handed me a beer and clapped me on the back. Jane and Mike both kissed a cheek. Mike winked at me conspiratorially. Gwen was beaming and for the first time in several months looked relaxed and carefree. We had a backyard cookout and spent a quiet afternoon on the back porch, out of the sun. Jane and my father left just after dinner.

The next morning, I drove to UCLA to meet with Dr. Tenney. Debra Messenger was a stocky, matronly woman of about fifty, conservatively dressed, with dirty blonde hair and haunting gray eyes. She was all business when she greeted me. She apologized for Dr. Tenney who had been detained and wouldn’t be available for about fifteen minutes. It was closer to an hour.

When Dr. Tenney arrived, he greeted me cordially and apologized for keeping me waiting. He ushered me into his office, closed the door, and motioned for me to sit. Tenney was very tall, several inches taller than me, but his posture was slightly stooped. His full head of hair, once red, was now dulled to brown and turning white around the sides. Bushy eyebrows and mustache were still mostly red brown. He fidgeted continuously after he sat behind his desk. He was imbued with a nervous energy, his movements rapid and birdlike. He had long, narrow hands that he gestured with incessantly when he spoke and a florid complexion. I guessed he was in his sixties though he could have been older.

‘It’s nice to finally meet you, Dr. Taylor,’ he began. ‘I’ve been hearing about you for almost two years now. Dr. Packer and Dr. Bennett speak highly of you. I understand you studied and worked with Dr. Augustus at École Polytechnique. How is Ferdinand?’

‘Last I knew he was well,’ I responded. ‘We’ve exchanged letters at Christmas since I returned to the States. I’ve told him what I’ve been up to but each year I only get a short note telling me he and Mrs. Augustus are well and telling me a little about doings at Polytechnique. How do you know him?’

‘Physics is a small community, Dr. Taylor. We met in 1923 when we were doing post-doctoral work at Kaiser Wilhelm Society,’ Tenney told me. ‘Now, why don’t we discuss why I wanted to see you.’

Dr. Tenney spent the next half hour asking questions about my thesis research. Some questions suggested he knew more than he should have. I was evasive. I’d been warned I could face imprisonment if I divulged the contents of my thesis. Tenney seemed frustrated by my responses and pressed for more information. But my answers remained ambiguous.

‘I’m not going to get a straight answer, am I?’ he finally said, sounding exasperated.

‘I’m sorry, Dr. Tenney. I really cannot discuss my thesis with you.’

‘Why not?’ he asked, sounding annoyed. ‘Is it a military secret?’

I didn’t respond.

Tenney got up and went to a small painting behind his desk. It pivoted away from the wall like a door, exposing a small wall safe. He dialed in a combination and opened it. He took a thick document out of it and handed it to me. ‘Take a look at this,’ Tenney told me.

Stamped across the cover in large red letters were the words ‘Secret’. I looked at the cover only briefly then dropped it on his desk. I wasn’t going to read it.

‘Pick it up and open it,’ Tenney told me. ‘I promise you will not get into trouble.’

I wasn’t going to look at a secret document no matter how much he insisted.

Tenney pressed a button on his intercom. ‘Make the call we discussed earlier, Mrs. Messenger,’ he said, then sat behind his desk and smiled at me. ‘You’re not going to look at it. Aren’t you curious?’

‘I know better than to be curious, Dr. Tenney,’ I responded. ‘I’m going to leave now. I’m not comfortable with the direction of this interview.’

Tenney’s office door opened. I turned to look at who opened it. A man with gray hair, cut in a crisp flat-top came in. He wore a black suit, white shirt and blue tie. He carried himself much like my father did; an erect posture, athletic grace, and a confident bearing that bordered on swagger and arrogance but stopped short of it. He wasn’t tall. maybe five eight or five nine but looked like he could kick my ass without breaking a sweat. I knew he was military immediately. He took the seat beside me. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pocket-sized leather folder and handed it to me. It held an Army identification card. It identified him as Lt. General William Q. Mackle.

‘Open the document and read it, Dr. Taylor,’ he said. ‘I’m authorized to allow you to examine the contents.’ I still hesitated. After a moment, he repeated himself, ‘Pick it up, Dr. Taylor.’

I reluctantly reached for the document and nervously opened the cover. I looked down at the cover page of my thesis. I looked back and forth between Tenney and Mackle in disbelief and with a sigh of relief. I didn’t think I’d get in trouble for reading my own research.

Tenney pressed the intercom again. ‘Take the rest of the day off, Mrs. Messenger. Lock up on your way out. I’ll see you Monday morning. No one said anything until we heard the outer office door close a few minutes later.

Dr. Tenney spoke first. ‘I’m sorry about the way things started out, Jonas. I had to pressure you discuss your paper. If you said anything at all about it, the interview would have ended. General . . . ‘

Mackle, Tenney, and I spent the next two hours talking about my experimental results and conclusions in more detail than I’d ever discussed the information. But they focused on aspects that I already knew had practical applications.’

Mackle got to the reason for our meeting. ‘We’re setting up a new lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It will have its own staff and will not interact with other development programs on site. We’ll discuss the nature of what we want you to do later, once the lab building is ready. You’ll be one of three research leads but will not be privy to the work being done in other parts of the project, though the work is all related to our end goal. Project work begins in the fall, though you will be considered on staff and draw a salary beginning the first of June when you’ll come to Washington for two weeks of meetings and orientation. The lab building is expected to be completed by the end of August. The instrumentation and equipment from your lab await installation under your supervision. Additional equipment has been ordered and is being fabricated. There’s a budget for anything that will have to be developed as additional avenues of investigation and additional practical applications are identified.’

Mackle spoke as if my place as a member of the project team was a foregone conclusion. I immediately thought back to the problems I had throughout my doctoral research project – intrusive security checks, unrealistic deadlines, frequent demands for more information than was available, the pointless requirement for frequent progress reports that ate into research time, unrelenting pressure to advance the project. I didn’t want that kind of grief again. ‘I have some questions and then I’ll want to talk with my wife about working at JPL.’

‘You can tell her you’re working there but you cannot, under any circumstances, discuss the nature of your work.’

Once again, a forgone conclusion I would be signing on. ‘I know that already. I haven’t ever discussed my research with her.’

‘What are your questions?’ Mackle asked, clearly annoyed.

‘I assume this project work will be classified. Will there be another vetting of the people in my life?’

Mackle’s response was immediate and concise. ‘Yes.’

‘Will someone try to bug my home again?’

The general was slower to respond, unapologetic, and not entirely convincing. ‘No. That won’t happen again,’ he answered, grudgingly.

‘We have an au pair living with us. My wife and children are very attached to her, as am I. She’s a French national. Will that be an issue?’

Mackle, again, didn’t hesitate. ‘Yes.’

‘Will Captain Duren be involved? Do I have input into project personnel selection?’

‘The project is jointly funded by the Army and the Navy. Since Captain Duren is already familiar with your work, he will be the project manager. Dr. Tenney is the senior researcher.’ Mackle responded. ‘We already have the project team chosen. As one of the research leads, you’re the last piece we need to get started.’

‘I’m not interested in working with Capt. Duren again, he’s a deal breaker,’ I told Mackle. ‘My children consider the au pair to be family. They adore her and are quite attached to her. If her presence in my home is a problem, it’s another deal breaker.’

‘Capt. Duren is not your call, Dr. Taylor. And a foreign national living with you is unacceptable.’

I stood up. ‘Not interested, General.’

Mackle looked gob smacked. ‘Reassignment of Captain Duren is out of the question.’

‘I’m not interested,’ I told him again. ‘I’m sorry you wasted your time.’

‘You should accept this offer. There won’t be anything else in the academia or the private sector for you,’ Dr. Tenney chimed in.

Mackle was obviously shaken and angered by my flat rejection of the job. I was sure lieutenant generals weren’t used to being told no. I took Tenney’s last statement to mean I’d be ostracized in both academia and industry if I didn’t sign on to their project.

‘I have to sell my sole to remain active in my field? I have to join the project whether I want to or not?’ I asked Mackle.

‘In the current economic climate, it’s unlikely any other opportunities will be available to you,’ the general answered, the threat was understated but clearly communicated.

‘I’ve had enough of Duren’s heavy-handed management of my research. And if the way you’re trying to convince me is any indication of what to expect, I’m not interested and won’t change my mind.’

‘Dr. Taylor, you’re the expert on one of the primary thrusts of the project. Your expertise is needed to avoid unnecessary delays.’ Tenney had been amiable throughout the meeting but now assumed a sterner tone.

‘That’s not my problem.’ I stood to leave.

Mackle’s face took on a gray pallor with his growing anger. Tenney was calmer but his bird-like mannerisms became more pronounced and his complexion turned redder under the apparent stress of the moment. The General moved to block the door.

‘Please sit down, Dr. Taylor. We need to discuss this further and see if we can reach some accommodation,’ General Mackle said, maintaining a calm demeanor, suppressing his anger.

‘I’m sorry, General. There’s nothing to discuss. I won’t work with Capt. Duren. He was never forthcoming with information that would help me to meet his demands. He was extremely secretive. All the equipment in my lab was seized without notice. All my research data and all the copies of my thesis confiscated. My home was searched like I was a criminal. All my notebooks, none of which had anything to do with my research, were confiscated and have not been returned. Because I’m not a veteran, which was beyond my control, he frequently demonstrated he didn’t trust or respect me. If I’m not trusted enough to be informed about the project goals, I can’t understand why you want me on the project. Capt. Duren clearly showed I’m not trusted. Worst of all, my thesis defense was initially canceled. It looked like I’d have to start all over again if I wanted to earn my doctorate.’ I hid my anger and remained calm. It wasn’t easy.

‘Capt. Duren had orders and priorities that you weren’t privy to, Dr. Taylor. Matters of national security.’

‘And yet, I’m to be a lead researcher on a classified project without a full understanding of the goals? I’m not trustworthy enough to know the full details of what I’m involved in? Sorry, I’m out,’ I told him firmly.

‘There are matters of national security to consider,’ General Mackle tried again.

‘I’m a scientist, General. Maybe Dr. Tenney won’t tell you this but he believes it as much as I do. Secrecy is the enemy of scientific advancement. We all build on the work of our predecessors. Open communication is key. A scientist knows to expect that an advancement in one area can have a profound effect on othe areas of research. I’m not interested in working under the conditions I know will be imposed.’ I stepped around him and left. I could feel the anger in the general’s glare as he watched me leave.

I drove home, gradually calming down during the drive. Gwen was home, Mike hadn’t returned from work, the twins and Paulette had already left to spend the night at Jane’s beach house where we would all spend Saturday. Gwen, Mike, and I would join them Saturday morning. My father and Jane wanted some time with the twins, so they had picked them up that afternoon. Jane invited Paulette, offering her some time on the beach. She went with them. Gwen, Mike and I would be alone for a night for the first time since before the twins were born.

Gwen could tell I was still slightly agitated when I arrived at home. I told her about the meeting and that an offer of a job had been made and declined.

‘There’s more to it than you’re telling me, Jonas. What have you left out?’ Gwen asked.

‘The project is military and classified. It means more intrusive background-checks. And we’d have to get rid of Paulette. It was made clear that a foreign national living with us is unacceptable. Plus, I’d be working for Duren again,’ I told her. ‘I told them to count me out.’

Mike came home shortly after Gwen and I talked. We went out together for an early dinner and returned home before dark. The three of us sat together on the couch on the back porch. I sat at one end, engrossed in a Raymond Chandler novel. Reading purely for entertainment had been a rare luxury since coming back to the states. Gwen and Mike sat together and talked about the upcoming weekend.

Once it was dark, Gwen yawned in an exaggerated manner and began rubbing my thigh. I was so engrossed in Chandler’s story, I hardly noticed. She decided that she had to be more assertive if she was to get my attention and slid her hand further up than she ever would have if anyone other than Mike was with us. Mike giggled and teased that Gwen must be losing her touch. I caught on, closed the book and smiled at them.

‘The children are gone for the night. I think it’s time you took me up to bed,’ Gwen whispered sweetly as she stood. She turned to Mike and ran her hand along the side of Mike’s face. ‘And Mike will be joining us tonight, too. ‘

Mike started to object, but Gwen put a finger to her lips.

‘We’ve missed you, Mike. It’s time you came back to bed,’ she said as she caressed Mike’s cheek. ‘Besides, you’ve been cranky and easily upset. You need to get fucked witless,’ she added with a grin.

Mike smiled and nodded. ‘I’ve missed being with you and Jonas. But I wasn’t sure I should join you under the circumstances,’ she said wistfully. She took Gwen’s hand and pulled herself up from the couch. She turned toward me and offered her other hand. I stood and took it.

When we got to the stairs, Mike led the way with Gwen pushing me to follow Mike. I was only up a couple of stairs when Gwen reached between my legs and ran her hand up my thigh to my semi-erect cock. I passed the goose along to Mike, who shrieked, laughed, and hurried up the stairs when my hand slid up under her sundress, along the bare skin of her inner thigh.

When we got to the bedroom, Gwen turned to me. ‘Get ready for us. We’ll be right back.’ The two of them disappeared into the bathroom.

I heard them giggling and then heard water run for a few minutes. I grabbed several condoms from the nightstand, stripped down and got into bed to await their return. The ladies returned wearing only smiles.

I couldn’t help but admire them as they approached. Gwen had kept less than five pounds of the weight she gained with the twins. Her frame was still lithe and she looked better for it. Mike still looked as she did when I first saw her naked form in Paris. Even after all the time we’d been together, I was still awed by their presence in my life.

Gwen opened the nightstand drawer and dropped the condoms inside. ‘We won’t need these tonight,’ she said softly.

I didn’t want to put a damper on the mood but also didn’t want to take a chance on impregnating Mike just yet. I wasn’t worried about Gwen. She had been fitted for a diaphragm after the twins were born. I knew there was still some risk of pregnancy with a diaphragm but so far, it had worked for us. Whenever Mike was with us, we had always used condoms, too.

‘Is that a good idea?’ I asked hesitantly.

‘Mike went to see Dr. Becker, after our talk,’ Gwen told me. ‘He fitted her for a diaphragm.’

‘I want this to work, Jonas,’ Mike said softly. ‘I want a child, but I don’t want to let you and Gwen down by getting pregnant unexpectedly. I should have gone to see him long ago. We’ve been careful most of the time, but we’ve been lucky, too.’

The three of us embraced. I turned toward Mike and gave her a gentle kiss. ‘I promise we’ll get there,’ I told her.

Gwen caressed the side of Mike’s face, kissed her softly, then hugged her tightly. When they separated, they both turned their attention to me. They roughly pushed me back onto the bed, giggling again.

‘I hope you ate your Wheaties this morning,’ Gwen said with a laugh. ‘You’re in for a long night.’

Mike straddled my chest and sat on it. She caressed my face for a moment, then guided my hands to her breasts. She held my hands against her breasts and squeezed, encouraging me to massage them. I happily took the hint. While I looked up at Mike, Gwen straddled my hips and trapped my erection between her sex and my abdomen. Her face appeared above Mike’s shoulder and her hands gently massaged Mike’s trapezius muscles. Gwen kept my cock captured between her legs and slid back and forth on it.

I slid my hands from under Mike’s and down her sides to her hips. I gently pulled them forward, causing Mike to lean back as Gwen reached over Mike’s shoulders to cup Mike’s breasts. It was difficult for Gwen to continue sliding along my cock with Mike’s weight against her. Instead, she repositioned herself briefly, and guided me inside her. She sighed as she slowly lowered herself onto me. I gasped as I entered her already wet vagina, becoming enveloped in its warmth. Mike removed her hands from her breasts, leaned back a bit and placed them on the bed to help to support the weight of her upper body. Gwen took over massaging Mike’s breasts. Gwen’s vaginal walls contracted and squeezed my cock, keeping me hard.

I pulled Mike’s hips forward more, until she was reclining against Gwen. I pulled against her legs, spreading them widely. Her labia opened, exposing the soft pink butterfly between them. I lifted my head and flicked my tongue out rapidly, barely contacting Mike’s clit for the briefest moment before I withdrew it. Mike gasped before letting out a long sigh. I pursed my lips and blew a concentrated stream of air at the sensitive little bud. Mike gasped again and spread her legs wider, sliding her hips closer to my face.

I spread her labia widely, fully exposing her clit and her entrance. I probed around the opening with my tongue for a moment, then circled around her clit, trying not to make direct contact with the sensitive bundle of nerves. When Mike gasped again, I plunged my tongue inside her. Relishing the slippery feel and salty taste, tinged with the slight bitterness of spermicide, on my tongue. Mike tried to close her legs in an involuntary response, but I held them open, struggling against the power of the involuntary muscle contractions in her legs.

I kept my focus on what I was doing. Alternating between probing around Mike’s opening, plunging my tongue inside her, and lightly flicking her clit with the tip of my tongue. The pressure of Mike’s legs against my arms grew more intense as her arousal heightened. When I flattened my tongue, swiped it past Mike’s entrance and dragged the length of it along Mike’s clit, her legs finally overpowered my arms and clamped my head between her thighs while I lashed my tongue against her clit. I heard a muffled cry as Mike pressed herself against my face. Her hips undulated as an orgasm surged through her body.

I felt Gwen lift off my cock, then suddenly Mike was being pulled down my body and lifted above my cock. Mike rested on her knees above me. Gwen guided the head into place and pushed Mike down. The head of my cock pressed against Mike for a moment before popping past the tight circle at her entrance and sliding effortlessly into her. I heard two groans as I penetrated her inner depths. One from Mike. I’m sure the other must have been mine.

Mike’s hips began undulating again, her hands resting on my chest to support her upper body. She made little mewing noises as she slid back and forth, pulling my stiff cock almost all the way out before pushing back onto it. I could tell she was still on edge. The remnants of her orgasm caused little misfires in her nervous system, introducing an occasional stutter in the movement of her hips. I relished being enveloped in the warmth and the welcome feel of being joined with Mike again.

Gwen was watching us from beside Mike, smiling benignly as we watched our lover’s arousal building again. Her position shifted slightly before I felt her fingers on my scrotum. She lightly scratched the skin, introducing another sensation to arouse me further.

Mike’s hips began moving faster but erratically. She took breath in deep drafts followed by halting exhalations. I reached up and palmed Mike’s full breasts. She leaned into my hands and increased the force behind the movement of her hips. She became so energetic that the whole bed shook. The headboard banged against the wall so hard I was glad the twins and Paulette weren’t home.

Mike gasped and held her breath. Her face, neck, and upper chest turned bright red. Her body stiffened and her hips pressed against me hard. After she took another breath, she gave voice to a piercing cry and shook, almost violently before her full weight fell against my hands. I lowered her to rest on my chest and held her close. Her body jerked and twitched, her synapses flooded with the sensations of orgasm. The spasms in her vagina rippled, squeezing my shaft, massaging my length.

Mike rested on my chest only long enough to catch her breath. I was still erect, still filling her and enjoying the feel of the pressure and heat of being inside her. She pushed herself up and locked her eyes with mine. But they seemed vacant. Blissfully lost in some distant place. Once she realized I was still erect, her hips began moving again. Slowly at first but soon thrusting away with the same energy and enthusiasm as only a few minutes earlier.

This time, I knew I would join her. Mike sat upright. Placed her hands on her upper thighs and rode me hard. Gwen moved up the bed and sat knelt beside Mike and me. She splayed her legs widely. I could see she was aroused. Her mons was pink and swollen. The sparse auburn curls were damp and matted. She rubbed her clit rapidly with one hand and stroked two fingers in and out of herself as she watched us. The expression on her face said she was beyond excited, on edge.

My scrotum began to tingle from the intense pleasure Mike was giving. She was moaning loudly. Driving herself to another climax. I began thrusting up to meet her efforts in involuntary responses to what was happening in my groin. I sat up and pulled Mike to me then leaned further forward to flip her onto her back. She groaned her disappointment briefly when the change of positions caused a momentary break in our coupling.

The tingling in my scrotum was growing intense. I knew I couldn’t hold out much longer. I held Mike’s hips and drove my cock into her relentlessly. Mike’s legs were splayed wide, held apart with her hands. Her mouth was wide open, but all I heard from was the forceful passage of air in and out of her lungs. Her head was thrown back, face, neck, and upper chest a bright pink. The muscles in her face and neck were strained. She let go of her legs and gripped the bedsheet. Her hips rocked in time with my thrusts. Her breasts moved in opposition to my thrusts, toward me when I thrust into her, rebounding away from me when I withdrew.

I cried out as the sensations in my scrotum spread rapidly through my body. I slammed my hips into Mike and held her tightly as the first jet of ejaculate forced its way up my cock. Mike’s vaginal walls spasmed around me as she went over the edge again. She held my wrists and pulled herself toward me forcefully. I thrust into her in time with each ejaculatory spasm. Her head and shoulder came up off the bed as she tried to force her hips into me. Her entire upper torso now matched the pink of her face and neck.

When Mike’s upper body fell back onto the bed, she seemed on the verge of a complete nervous system meltdown. I thrust into her a couple more times as the sensations of my orgasm weakened. My cock softened rapidly and soon slipped out of Mike. When I slipped from between her legs, she rolled onto her side. Gwen leaned toward her to kiss her but Mike, exhausted to the point of sleep, began snoring softly.

Gwen looked over at me. I could tell she was desperate for some attention. She pushed me onto my back and climbed over me. She positioned her groin over my face and fell forward. Before I was able to wriggle my arms between her legs to spread her labia, she engulfed my entire cock and began sucking.

Gwen was never squeamish about sucking my cock when wet with the combined secretions of any, or all of us. Her enthusiasm this night surprised me. I licked, teased, nibbled, sucked and tongued Gwen’s clit, labia and vaginal passage, almost immediately triggering an orgasm. Her mouth provided pleasures so magical that I was soon erect again. While Mike blissfully slept beside us, Gwen and I fucked wantonly. Then made love until neither of us could move.

I eventually fell asleep with Mike leaning against my back, my arms and legs entwined with Gwen’s. Mike woke first. Still in a fog, I felt her get out of bed and then return a few minutes later. Gwen got out of bed next. I was more awake but far from truly cognizant when she returned to bed. I heard them whispering and then a few giggles, though I thought I was dreaming. What happened next roused me to wakefulness.

Mike whispered into my ear, ‘Don’t even think about moving.’

An overwhelming sense of déjà vu penetrated the fog. I felt something warm and wet on my cock, then smiled inwardly. ‘Could it be?’ I wondered. A moment later, a tongue swiped my scrotum before a testicle experienced similar moist warmth. When I looked to each side of me, I saw a hip and the gentle, sensual curve of a beautiful. firm buttock. I freed my arms and ran my hands down their backs and across their buttocks. Both hands were stopped dead when the ladies both grabbed my wrists. The pleasant sensations on my cock and scrotum stopped and in unison they said, ‘Not now, Jonas.’

I moved my hands up to the small of their backs and caressed them, gently. The attention my cock and scrotum had been receiving returned. I relaxed, keeping my eyes closed while I relished the pleasure bestowed on my hardening staff over the next minutes. It wasn’t long before the sensations preceding orgasm began to shorten my breath. I told the ladies I was almost there. They kissed, licked, and sucked the head of my cock amd glans while a hand lightly scratched the skin of my sac and another toyed with the pubic hair at the base of my cock. My scrotum tingled, the sensation spread, and I erupted a moment later.

Once I was spent, Gwen and Mike sat up. I opened my eyes to the two beautiful women in my life. Their lips and chins glistened with ejaculate. Gwen had a big glob clinging to several of the tight curls above her forehead and a strand hanging from the end of her nose. Another glob of semen was matted in the hair on the right side of Mike’s face.

The ladies looked at each other and laughed. ‘It’s a good thing we planned to shower this morning,’ Gwen said.

Mike grinned at me, ‘Why don’t you start breakfast while we get cleaned up?’

‘That sounds like a great idea. It’ll show your appreciation for the best wake-up alarm you could ever hope for,’ Gwen added with a grin as she playfully slapped my thigh.

I pulled myself out of bed with a smile. I wasn’t about to argue with them. I followed them toward the bathroom. Mike stepped gingerly for a couple of steps before her gait normalized. I grinned inwardly, amazed she was still desirous enough of me that she was still willing to endure the bit of discomfort she felt after a night of lovemaking.

I playfully elbowed my way to the sink to wash my hands and brush my teeth while the ladies cleaned their faces. I returned to the bedroom to pull on a tee shirt and boxers then headed to the kitchen. When the ladies came down, both wore loosely tied robes. Mike’s hair was wrapped in a towel. Gwen’s hair was straight like always when wet. But I knew it would soon take on the loose ringlets that I still loved seeing. I also knew enough not to comment about good she looked when her hair was damp and straight. We ate the ham, cheese, tomato, and onion omelet I served with toast, coffee, and orange juice enthusiastically. Then while I went up to shower and dress, while the ladies cleared the table, piled the dishes in the sink, then dressed for a day at Jane’s beach house.

We left for Jane’s and spent a nice day. Gwen and I frolicked with the twins in the water while Mike hung with Jane in the kitchen. Paulette was invited to join our celebration but begged off and departed before the rest of the guests arrived. She had promised to spend the afternoon with another au pair she had met when she first came to the states.

I took a moment to talk to my father about my meeting with Dr. Tenney and General Mackle. I told him of the thinly veiled threat to my academic career, but my father dismissed it as bluster, no more than an attempt to pressure me into joining the project. But I wasn’t entirely convinced. My father was often hard to read so I might not have picked up on any concerns he might have. He left a few days later and I didn’t see him or hear from again for several months. I wondered what he was up to but knew better than to ask when I saw him next.

Later that evening, after we returned home, Gwen, Mike, and I relaxed in the back yard after putting the twins down for the night. I’d considered Mike’s request for several weeks, now. Without realizing it, I had come to a decision. I knew that Mike would be happy but wasn’t sure how she’d feel about two conditions I had already decided would be needed if I said yes to her request.

I approached the matter hesitantly. ‘Mike, I have an answer for you.’ I began. Mike tensed immediately. Gwen was surprised because we hadn’t discussed it since our talk in the car. I already knew what she thought. ‘I’m happy to help you have a child.’

Mike jumped on my lap and kissed me excitedly and hugged me tightly, tears of joy forming in her eyes. Gwen was smiling, her own eyes teary.

Once Mike settled down, I continued. ‘But Mike, I want to wait a bit for two reasons. I want to wait until Gwen is done with school. I know it’s your baby we’re talking about, but Gwen will love it like her own, just like you love Sara and Seth like they were your children. She has enough going on without another baby to shower with love and affection. Second, our baby should have its own bedroom. We need to move. I don’t think we can add on here again without major disruptions that will make the house unlivable for quite some time.’

Mike’s enthusiasm waned but didn’t dissipate entirely. ‘How long?’ was her only question, though she already knew Gwen would finish her doctorate in about a year. Finding a house with at least five bedrooms and living quarters for Paulette would be a challenge. Though Mike often spent nights with Gwen and I, she did sometimes sleep in her own bedroom. Building was also an option to consider. We talked for a while and agreed on Fall 1950 as a target birthdate. Now all we had to do was figure out how to deal with societal disapproval and where we would live.

Mike dealt with the real estate market every day. I left it to her to find a houses to consider or land if a house couldn’t be found. Mike and I looked at several houses that were nice enough but which we rejected for various reasons. But it still took Mike less than a month to find a suitable property. She found a six-bedroom house in Encino. It had a four-car garage with a caretaker’s residence above and a three-room guest cottage. It had belonged to a Warner Brothers executive and had been built to maintain the executive’s privacy. The house came with almost six acres surrounded by a brick wall with two gated entrances. When Gwen, Mike, and I did a walk-through together, the ladies fell in love with it. I made an offer that afternoon.

It took much of the summer to get the new house ready for us and hire a caretaker for the property. We moved in mid-August and quickly got comfortable. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do about the old house. Eventually, I offered it to one of the new PhD candidates that already had a family. Though I didn’t need the money, I collected the same rent, including utilities they’d have paid for one of the much smaller apartments they considered.

It soon became clear that my father had misread the Pentagon’s intention to pressure me into signing on to their project. Paulette was deported in late July. It wasn’t pretty. I spent a small fortune on legal fees fighting the deportation order to no avail. At most, the lawyer delayed it a week. Paulette had never violated the terms of her visa, but it didn’t matter. The twins cried and held onto her tightly the morning she said goodbye. Gwen and I had to pry them off her so she could leave when the immigration officer picked her up. I made sure to get her parents address so I could reach out to her in the future.

Since I’d received no responses to any of my inquiries about post-doctoral work, I insisted that I could take on care of the twins until we found someone to take Paulette’s place. While I had spent considerable time caring for the twins, I was still nervous about it. I did my best to hide it, but I sensed Gwen worried, too.

It turned out that Gwen needn’t have worried about how capably I’d care for our children. A week before the fall semester began, Gwen got a call from her department head. Apparently, there was some sudden concern within the administration that Gwen would be unable to manage her studies and care for our children. She was suspended from her program until such time as she could prove her children would not be a distraction. She got no guidance about how she could prove it. Her appeal was denied, with a comment to the effect that a mother belonged at home with her young children, not in a lab.

I was livid. I had been negotiating with the school to endow a chair in the Physics Department. I instructed my attorney to break off negotiations. I hung up if someone from Tech called. The Physics Department chair, the Chemistry Department chair, and the president showed up at the house late one afternoon, unannounced. I asked if they were there to reinstate Gwen. They looked at each other for a moment, then asked if they could come in and talk. I pointedly told them there was nothing to talk about unless Gwen’s suspension was lifted. After their visit, I began keeping the gate closed.

Just after school started, I got another call from Mrs. Messenger, Dr. Tenney’s secretary, asking me to meet with him again the following week. I told her I would get back to her later that week.

Gwen, Mike and I sat to discuss the developments. It was obvious, at least to me, that this was all due to my refusal to go to work at JPL. After discussing our options, Gwen asked if I had any interest in working at JPL. I told her the prospect of working there was intriguing, but I had no desire to work under Duren’s heavy-handed, oppressive, and secretive management again. Gwen agreed that I shouldn’t knuckle under to the pressure. Though my professional career was likely to suffer as a result, and Gwen’s was probably over, I called Mrs. Messenger and declined Dr. Tenney’s invitation.

Gwen and I took the twins and drove east for a visit. Mike wrapped up the last few open activities on her immediate schedule and left a week after we did, taking a train to Boston. We spent a little over a month in Massachusetts. We spent most of the visit at the country house though we did stay a week at the Beacon Hill house. Mike spent the visit at her parent’s home but traveled back with us when we drove back in late October.

With Gwen no longer in school, at least for the foreseeable future, I saw no reason to delay Mike’s motherhood. I broached the subject with Gwen before talking to Mike about it. She agreed and the three of us sat down to talk. The ground rules were simple. Mike and I had carte blanche to have sex whenever the impulse struck her. Gwen teased that she hoped she wouldn’t be left out while Mike and I tried to conceive. Though she said it light-heartedly, I knew I should treat it as a potentially serious problem.

Gwen had gotten pregnant easily. In fact, too easily. Accidentally. Mike would be another matter. We were getting concerned when Mike still wasn’t pregnant when the calendar turned to May 1950. But in mid-June, Mike came back from a doctor appointment. I didn’t hear Mike return because I was watching the twins play in the backyard. My first clue of good news was a loud shriek, followed by two women squealing like adolescent girls that had been asked to their first dance by the boys they liked. I smiled to myself, knowing that I’d soon be told I was about to become a father again.

Mike, Gwen, and I sat and talked extensively over the next few days. We needed to inform our respective parents as soon as possible. I didn’t look forward to any of those conversations.

When my father returned from his absence, he seemed distracted. Something was bothering him, but he denied anything was going on when I asked what was wrong. Whatever was distracting him went away when I told him he had another grandchild on the way. He grinned widely and asked the due date. I told him the baby was due in mid-February. Jane was excited, too. I took a deep breath and told them the rest. It was Michelle that was pregnant, not Gwen. Yes, I was the father. Gwen was not only aware of it, she approved. Mike wanted me to be the father and Gwen had agreed to it without hesitation. Gwen was happy, supportive, and as excited as Michelle was.

Jane got very upset. My father maintained his usual calm, though I could see the wheels turning. He nodded at Jane and rubbed her shoulder. She left the room, tears streaming down her face when he asked her to let us to talk.

‘I’m sorry I upset Jane,’ I apologized.

My father didn’t speak for a moment. ‘How long has this been going on?’ he asked pointedly.

‘Mike has been trying to get pregnant since November,’ I answered.

‘That’s not what I mean, Jonas. How long have you been sleeping with Michelle?’ he asked. ‘Your living arrangements have always been . . . unusual. I must admit I’ve had some questions, but I didn’t think it was likely that you and Michelle would be . . . involved while living with your wife.’

‘It’s both more and less complicated than that,’ I answered hesitantly. ‘Do you really want to get into a discussion about this subject?’ I asked. I didn’t and suspected my father didn’t really want to either.

‘I suppose not. When are you going to tell Michelle’s parents? How about Gwen’s?’ he asked. ‘You can’t keep it a secret long, Jonas.’

‘Michelle is wrapping up some things at work and then we’re all going to Massachusetts for a while. We plan to tell them when we get there,’ I answered. ‘I’m not looking forward to it.’

‘You shouldn’t be. Ian Kenrick has a temper. He’ll consider this a betrayal of his daughter. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes for that conversation. I imagine it will break Edith’s heart. I don’t know Michelle’s parents that well. But I can’t imagine they’ll be happy, either.’ My father hesitated for a moment. ‘Why did you do this, Jonas? You do understand what people will think?’

‘I did it because Mike asked me to. She and Gwen had already discussed it extensively before they approached me. But the short answer is because Gwen and I love Mike and want her to be happy.’

‘I’ve never seen or heard of her seeing anyone. Does she date?’ he asked.

‘Not anymore. She told us she has what she wants with us.’ My father shuddered briefly when he heard that. It was the first time I ever saw a reaction that suggested something truly upset him.

‘You should go home. I’ll try to explain this to Jane. It might be better if you’re not here,’ my father told me.

I left for home immediately. Seth and Sara were napping. Gwen was busy packing clothes for the twins for the drive to Massachusetts. ‘Mike called earlier. She’ll be done at work tomorrow afternoon. She said there’s nothing on her schedule for the foreseeable future. We can leave Thursday morning if you’re ready to go.’

I kissed Gwen and left again to go the bank to get some cash and to the post office to have our mail forwarded to the country house. Mike was home when I returned and had begun getting organized to pack.

Gwen called her parents to tell them when we’d be leaving. Mike called hers and did the same. We left after breakfast Thursday morning. The drive to Massachusetts was mostly uneventful. Until the third day on the road. The five of us were in a diner when the news of the North Korean invasion of South Korea was announced on the radio. We were all aware of the unsettled political situation in the Koreas but only vaguely. It was far away. None of thought there was an appetite for another war after the carnage of WWII.

We got to the country house just before lunch and unloaded the car with Mr. Purdy’s help. I detected a raised eyebrow when I told him Mike’s bags were coming in, too. But he didn’t say anything. Mr. Purdy had stocked our larder, so we took time for a quick lunch. Over lunch we discussed where we should go first. We decided to visit with Gwen’s parents first, since they were just down the road. Then we would take our leave and go see Mike’s parents.

The discussion with Ian and Edith went better than I expected. Ian’s reaction fell short of the SS Grandcamp explosion, but just barely. He glared at Mike and I. He ranted for about twenty minutes, then stormed out and went to his studio. Edith was fighting back tears but otherwise maintained her composure. Edith was ruled by her emotions and affection for her family. But to her dying day, I never saw her truly lose her temper or her composure. We talked with her for a while and made sure she understood that Mike wasn’t pregnant because I cheated on Gwen. We had discussed it extensively, weighed all the factors, and did it with our eyes open. We understood the social implications but decided to proceed anyway. She had calmed down considerably by the time we left for Mike’s parents. Edith promised to talk to Ian. While I appreciated her efforts, I worried about how that conversation might go.

The conversation with Mike’s parents was completely different. I’d only met Gary and Betty Dickens a few times. And while we had been on friendly terms, I wasn’t nearly as close to them as Gwen was. They took it surprisingly well. I don’t believe they were happy that their unmarried daughter was pregnant by a married man and had done it intentionally. They listened calmly while we described how we discussed Mike’s desire to have a child and why we finally agreed to proceed. There was no explosion or apparent hostility toward me. I chalked up their grudging acceptance to two factors. They were going to have the grandchild they hoped for, even if the circumstances weren’t ideal. And they had lived a rather Bohemian existence in Paris among the Lost Generation for several years before returning to the States after Mike was born.

The next month was stressful at best. We spent more time than previously with Mike’s parents, and I got to know them better. We didn’t avoid Ian and Edith but my interactions with Ian remained tense. His demeanor was chilly, bordering on hostile. I tried three times to talk with him in private. But he just glowered at me and told me to leave his studio. It was Ian’s sister that finally managed to break through Ian’s anger. I don’t know what she said to him, but Edith had told Gwen that Alice showed up unannounced and violated the sanctity of Ian’s workshop. Gwen told me her mother claimed she heard them arguing from her garden.

I was home alone when Ian showed up at the house with 5-gallon pail of ice and cold beer the afternoon after his argument with Alice. There was still an underlying current of anger, but it had tempered somewhat. I let him in. He looked around and then turned and went back onto the porch and took a chair. He motioned for me to join him. I sat, hesitantly. I wasn’t sure drinking beer with someone as angry with me as he was was a good idea.

He took two beers out of the chest and took a church key from his pocket to open them. He handed one to me and took a long draw on his. He looked over at me and asked directly, ‘Did you cheat on my daughter with her best friend?’

‘No,’ I answered without elaboration.

‘Edith tells me that all three of you cooked this up together because Mike wanted to have a baby. That’s not just a story made up to hide what actually happened?’

‘No.’ I didn’t elaborate again.

Ian made a motion with his hand to indicate I should drink up. I took a pull on the bottle, but he wasn’t content with that. He again indicated I should drink. I emptied the bottle and he ceremoniously popped the caps off two more beers.

Over the next hour, we talked, between beers, and cleared the air. I told him how Mike’s pregnancy had transpired. I was open about all of it. I left out the fact that Gwen, Mike, and I had become sexually intimate when I met Mike in Paris and the three of re-established the relationship when Mike joined Gwen in California.

By the time Gwen and Mike returned with the twins, Ian was shit-faced and I wasn’t in much better shape. We also seemed on the way back to a normal relationship between a father and his son-in-law. We didn’t quite get there, but we’d come a long way that afternoon. I knew, eventually, we’d be okay again. But our relationship had changed. Ian was in no shape to drive when he decided to go home. Gwen and Mike loaded Ian into the bed of his pick-up and drove him home. I understand Edith had to help them get him into the house and into bed.

Mike’s morning sickness began one Friday in early August. The same day our mail caught up with us. I was in Boston at the foundry, helping Ian to load a sculpture on his pick-up to bring back to his studio for the finishing touches. Gwen and Mike went through the box of mail the mailman dropped. When I got back late that afternoon, it was clear that both Gwen and Mike had been crying. Their eyes were bloodshot. The area below their eyes was puffy and red. Their noses were red and irritated from blowing their noses. I asked what was wrong, fearing someone had died. As far as Gwen and Mike were concerned, I wasn’t far from wrong.

Gwen pointed to an envelope on the dining room table and ran from the room and up the stairs. I could hear her sobbing in the bedroom. I picked up the envelope. It was addressed to me and was from the Selective Service Agency. I opened it and read the letter inside. I had been directed to report to the Selective Service center in Los Angeles for an induction physical. I was already three days late.

Mike tended to the twins while I tried to console Gwen. I told her it was too early to worry. Perhaps I’d flunk the physical or get a deferment because I had young children. I could tell she didn’t buy it. Gwen, Mike and I spent the weekend together. The women split their evening between bouts of nearly uncontrolled crying and making love with me. The twins were upset and cranky all weekend. They sensed something was wrong and it upset them. By the time Monday morning arrived, the three of us were exhausted. Gwen and Mike remained on the verge of emotional breakdown all weekend.

I made my way to the Selective Service office in Boston right after breakfast Monday morning. The sergeant that met me tried to direct me straight to the area where physicals were being performed. I told him he needed to read my letter first. He looked it over quickly.

‘You’re in a bit of trouble. You’re almost a week late. And why are you here? You’re supposed to report in Los Angeles.’

I explained that my family had come to Massachusetts for the summer and our mail had just caught up with us. He led me down a hallway and turned me over to a senior NCO, briefly explaining my situation before he left. The senior NCO picked up the phone and made a call. After a brief conversation full of jargon that I didn’t understand, he hung up and turned his attention to me.

He filled out some forms while I stood in front him, wondering what was going to happen.

He handed me some paperwork. ‘Come back Thursday morning. Be here at oh six hundred, promptly. That’s six AM in case you don’t know what time that is. Bring a change of clothes and your toiletries for an overnight stay. Don’t be late, this time. Get your affairs in order between now and then.’ He waved his hand in dismissal.

I went straight to the Simon, Bailey, Perkins, and Thompson law offices. I introduced myself to the receptionist and asked to speak to John Perkins.

‘Is he expecting you?’ she asked politely after looking at a sheet of paper. ‘I don’t see you on his schedule.’

‘If you’d be so kind as to tell him I’m here, I’m sure he’ll take a moment to talk to me.’

She picked up the phone and spoke briefly to someone named Mavis. When she hung up, she said, ‘Have a seat. Mr. Perkins will see you in a few minutes. He’s in a meeting.’

Perkins came out a few minutes later and greeted me warmly. ‘Jonas, it’s good to see you. Is everything is okay? I wasn’t expecting you. Come, let’s go to my office.’ He stopped at his secretary’s desk after telling me to go in and have a seat. He joined a few minutes later.

‘What can I do for you, Jonas?’ he asked, taking on a more businesslike tone.

‘I’m about to be drafted. I need a will and I need it done quickly.’

Perkins took a notebook from a drawer in his desk and grabbed a pencil. We spent the next hour detailing how my assets would be distributed in the event of my demise. I made provisions for Gwen and the twins, Mike and her unborn child. I also provided a significant sum to the TaiBay Foundation, specifying how the money was to be managed and acceptable uses for it.

At the end of the conversation, I said, ‘This needs to be ready for my signature no later than Wednesday afternoon. I’m due at the induction center Thursday morning. I need to wrap this up before I leave Boston, which will probably be Thursday afternoon.’

‘I’ll put Ethan Davis and two associates on it right away. We’ll have it ready for you. How does five-thirty Wednesday sound?’

‘I’ll make it work. I assume you have to talk to the Williams-Davis Group regarding some things? I asked.

‘Yes. There are estate management and transfer concerns in the event of your death. Who’s your contact?’ he asked.

‘Mr. Jansen.’ I responded. ‘I’m going there directly. I’ll tell him to expect a call from Mr. Davis.’ I stood, thanked him for accommodating me, shook hands with him and went on my way.

When I got to the Williams-Davis Group’s garage, Jansen was already waiting for me by the elevator. He led me to his office, offered a seat and asked if I wanted coffee. I declined.

‘Mr. Perkins called and told me to expect you. How can I be of service?’ he asked.

‘I’m about to be drafted. Mr. Davis will be in touch to discuss any issues related to the will he is drafting. Please cooperate with him fully. I want to make sure my wife has access to my account while I’m in the service.’ I told him succinctly.

‘She’s not with you today?’ he asked, though since he met me at the car, he already knew she wasn’t.

‘No. I’ll bring her by on Wednesday.’

‘I’ll have all the paperwork ready. You want her to have access to all your available funds?’ he asked.

I thought for a moment. ‘She should have access to the savings and checking accounts.’

‘That’s a great deal of money. Are you sure?’ he asked.

The question annoyed me briefly, but I quickly realized it was a question he had to ask. I didn’t hesitate. ‘Yes.’

‘Very well. I’ll have all the paperwork ready for your signatures Wednesday. Three o’clock?’

‘That’s fine. I’ll see you then.’ I got up, left immediately, and drove home.

Gwen, Mike, and the twins were playing on the front porch when I got home. I was greeted by cheerful faces, but I sensed both were still upset, just endeavoring to hide it. Edith and Betty were in the kitchen getting dinner together. Ian and Gary would join us around six. I was a little disappointed that we were having company. I needed to talk to Gwen. It would have to wait.

We all spent a relatively pleasant evening. My impending induction weighed heavily on everyone’s spirits. Ian, Edith, and Gwen were especially troubled, having already lost a son and brother during WWII. Mike’s parents left first, a little after eight. Ian and Edith stayed to play with the twins. We let them stay up well past their normal bedtime. Gwen and I carried two limp, surprisingly heavy little bodies up to bed a little after nine. They had fallen asleep sitting between their grandparents while Ian and Edith read to them in funny voices, playing the characters in a Dr. Seuss book. Gwen’s parents left a few minutes after we put Seth and Sara down for the night. Edith was on the verge of tears when she hugged and kissed me goodnight. Ian was unable to speak when he shook my hand before leaving.

As soon as Ian and Edith were out of the driveway, Gwen and Mike pulled me toward the stairs. I resisted, telling them we needed to talk. I told them everything that had happened that day and that Gwen and I had to go into Boston on Wednesday to take care of some legal matters. I told Mike that Gwen and I would spend the night in Boston so she could drop me at the induction center by six Thursday morning. Before I asked, Mike volunteered to watch Seth and Sara for the night.

Once we were done talking, Gwen and Mike pulled me upstairs. It would be the last time the three of us would spend a night together for some time. To say it was memorable would be an understatement. I can’t bring myself to describe the night. I’m not capable of finding words adequate to describe the range of emotions and sensations the three of us experienced that night.

We spent all day Tuesday with the twins. I wanted every minute with them while I could get it. Tuesday night with Gwen and Mike was spent much the same as Monday night. Wednesday morning, I was exhausted but spent it playing with the twins. I kissed them goodbye after lunch when Gwen and I had to leave for our appointments in Boston. It was all I could do not to cry as I held them.

Gwen and I took care of our business in Boston, found a quiet restaurant and had what might be our last romantic dinner. But of course, neither of us mentioned that. We just held each other that night. Gwen woke me at two. We made love one last time before having an early breakfast together. Gwen kissed me goodbye at the induction center and drove away with tears in her eyes. I felt like shit. I thought back to that first day Gwen and I met up with Mike in Paris. They were horribly upset as they grieved the death of Gwen’s brother together, over three years earlier. Gwen and Mike were terrified that I might suffer they the same fate. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

I knew about the military tradition of hurry-up and wait. I found it humorous. Until I lived through it at the induction center. We were given black coffee and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. They fed us a decent meal for dinner though it eating it was an exercise in misery. Everyone had sore arms from the shots we received that day. I was put in a seedy hotel room with three other draftees. Lights out was nine PM. We were up at three for a meal of room temperature, over-cooked eggs, stale donuts and more black coffee before we were loaded onto buses for the ride to Fort Dix.

The next eight weeks passed in a blur. We were up long before light for calisthenics, followed by breakfast and then a full day of activities that ended at eight PM. We were given an hour of personal time between eight and nine, unless the drill instructor decided we hadn’t met his expectations that day. I tried to write to Gwen and Mike every day, and mostly succeeded. But there were some nights I was so exhausted I couldn’t stay awake long enough to put words to paper. And there were nights when the DI was unhappy with us. But I always stayed awake long enough to read when I got something from home.

After graduation, I was detailed to Advanced Combat Training. I knew what that meant and wanted badly to avoid it but no one in my unit received a different assignment. I’ve tried to forget that eight-week nightmare but is still manages to pop into my head even now, more than fifty years later.

Once Advanced Combat Training was completed, my orders put me on a train with hundreds of other newly minted privates to the San Diego Naval Yard. I expected to board a troop ship for Korea. I admit I was terrified of what the future held for me. But I was more worried about Gwen and Mike.

The morning our ship was scheduled to leave, we were standing at ease awaiting orders to board. In another classic example of hurry up and wait, we were mustered in the boarding area by oh seven hundred. At thirteen hundred hours we were still awaiting orders to board. When the order finally came, we made our way toward the ship. I was halfway up the gangplank when two MPs arrived in a speeding Jeep and hurriedly rushed by us. They spoke to the officer at the top of the gangplank briefly and showed him some papers. The line stopped moving while the officer looked at his clipboard. The MPs and the officer spoke again briefly and the MP’s started back down the gangplank.

One of the MP’s a heavily muscled sergeant first class stripes walked past me and bellowed. ‘I’m looking for one Private Jonas Taylor, I repeat Private Jonas Thomas Taylor.’

Everyone near me was looking at me, wondering why the hell two MPs were after my ass. I called out, ‘Here Sergeant!’

He was already about forty feet past me. He stopped and turned around looking for me. ‘Where are you Private?’ He was already hustling back toward me.

I raised my hand and said, ‘Here, Sergeant!’ He was already nearly on top of me with his partner hot on his heels.

They each took an arm and roughly pulled me out of line and down the gangplank without explanation. They were far from gentle. The corporal nearly ripped my arm out of the socket he grabbed me so forcefully. They dragged me down to a waiting jeep and ordered me into the front passenger seat. The sergeant took my pack, tossed it into the back then climbed in behind me. The corporal started the engine and accelerated away rapidly. He took a left turn at the end of the wharf. I held on tightly so I didn’t get thrown from the Jeep.

From behind me, the sergeant asked, ‘What the fuck did you do, Private?

”Excuse me, Sergeant?’ I asked, unsure what he wanted to know.

‘I said, what the fuck did you do?’ he repeated, much louder.

‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, Sergeant.’

‘Yeah, right. I get dispatched all the time to collect soldiers that haven’t done anything. Well, you’re about to find out. I ain’t never seen the Top Kick so pissed off as he was when he ordered me to take you into custody before the ship left. And I’ve seen him plenty pissed. I’m glad I’m not in your boots, Private. Whatever you did, you’re in deep shit.’

I couldn’t think of anything that I’d done that would send two MPs to collect me on orders from a first sergeant.

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