The exact wording varies a bit between the various editions of the prayer books used by different Christian churches, going back to the original Anglican Book of Common Prayer. We may have left beautiful words like "condignly" and "betwixt" behind and we have made language more inclusive – back in 1662 only men were urged to speak up!, but the crux of this early part of the wedding service is the same; the Minister has to ask if anyone knows a reason why the marriage about to be conducted should not take place.
More than one nervous bride, or groom, or even both!, have over the years had anxious moments worrying that an old boyfriend or girlfriend would try to derail the proceedings, and many a socially upwardly mobile prospective parent in law has held their breath for those few seconds, fervently praying that no one will stop the show that she (usually it is the mother) has worked so hard to pull off, but largely it is just a ritual-within-a-ritual.
It does happen, of course, that someone does speak. Probably more in fiction: The priceless scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral where Charles, the lead character (so brilliantly played by Hugh Grant before he became a caricature of himself), almost gets married only to be derailed by a poignant question by his deaf brother, always makes me chuckle over the mayhem that follows.
Or rather did make me chuckle. Not so much now, as you will understand if you read my tale.
As I said: It does happen – even in real life. I should know. You see, it happened to me. And rare as the event may be overall, I am willing to bet that the instance I am telling you about is unique. Because the person who did speak up was me. I don't think many other grooms in history have done that.
To get an understanding of the wedding that didn't happen, I will have to fill you in on some of the background story. I was (am, but I disregard that now) the middle child of an upper middle-class family. My older brother – Brian Delaney Fairchild the Third, spoiled brat and the apple of my mother's eye, was supposed to get a little sister at the tender age of two after which the perfect family was to be considered complete.
To everyone's chagrin – even my brother's since he had been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that he was getting a little sister and that was a good thing – I turned out to be another boy and thus totally superfluous to requirements. My parents were completely unprepared for me being a boy, had given no thought to boys' names at all and, in order to curry favor with an old curmudgeon of an uncle, burdened me with the names George Theodore Fairchild. It was quickly shortened to "GT", and that's what I've answered to all my life.
With almost indecent haste – and possible only, I suspect, because my mother didn't breastfeed me, the gross family error introduced by my unfortunate birth was corrected with the arrival of the much desired girl when I was barely 11 months old. Patricia Elaine Fairchild unsurprisingly became the apple of my father's eye – and turned into an insufferable prissy princess from the word go.
I know that middle-children have a reputation for walking around with a chip on their shoulder and that all second-of-a-kind children hate hand-me-downs and claim that's the only clothes they've got. But honestly, and I can back that up with photographic evidence, I don't think I ever got new clothes of any kind until I outgrew my brother at 13 (he stalled at 5'9" – I ended up 6'6"). And long before that, the stuff I took over was grotesque because Brian is short and fat whereas I am tall and lanky.
Oh, and before the chorus of "Hold it boy – your parents had three kids to clothe on a limited budget and you are being ungrateful to them" starts sounding, I must disappoint you. Their budget was not limited; Dad ran a small manufacturing plant that did very well, and money wasn't tight – especially not when it came to what they bestowed on my siblings. So I had a lot of very expensive, hardly used but exceptionally ill-fitting clothes to choose from. I used belts and suspenders a lot, or the trousers bought to span Brian's fat ass would have fallen down.
That I was a target for bullying goes without saying. It started in Kindy and never stopped. While I grew tall quicker than most, I never put on much muscle in school and I was easy to pick on. Brian ought to have been a target too: He was fat, short and stupid, but he was also a cunning and devious bastard and he successfully directed, and frequently orchestrated, any grief labelled "Fairchild" towards me.
Ironically, I was the only fair Fairchild child. In fact, my hair is so fair it is bordering on white. ("Flaxen" is the term, I believe.) Both Brian and Patricia on the other hand have dark dishwater colored hair. Or had, I should say since Brian is now completely bald and Patricia became a bottle blonde at 11. They take after our mother in coloring (original coloring; she's a bottle blond too) and, I should add, stature since Mom is short and flat. Both she and Patricia corrected the latter with implants – interestingly at the same time, i.e. when The Princess was 16 and my mother 42 (but woe upon anyone who'd mentioned her age). Since strictly cosmetic boob jobs for the under-aged are frowned upon, the expensive surgery took place in Mexico. How Mom explained away her sudden porn-star chest to her friends I don't know; I don't even know if she bothered; plastic surgery was so prevalent in their circle that no one thought much about it. For The Princess it could have been different, but it took place at the beginning of a summer holiday and when she returned to school after the summer she made up some story about going on the pill and getting a sudden growth spurt. I don't know if anyone believed her, but anyone who questioned the story would get beaten up by Brian's goons.
Apart from the now long-gone hair color, Brian takes after Dad: Short, bald, fat, stupid, and cunning. (God only knows who I take after, but I have never had a chance to verify if Dad actually fathered me.) With the generous allowance from both our parents (a fact Brian successfully kept from both of them, and I was smart enough not to out him; I really had no death wish), and having been given an expensive car on his 16th birthday (including a limit-less fuel card), he was always flush with cash and could buy "friends" and services. I had no allowance, and needless to say I didn't get a car at 16; in fact I got nothing. My means of transport was a bicycle I had paid for myself from doing odd jobs in our neighbors' gardens.
The Princess got a hot pink chick mobile on her 16th. And another one 5 weeks later when she totaled the first. My parents were just "so relieved their little girl escaped a nasty injury in an accident caused by some manic" that she got an even more powerful model the second time around. The "maniac" that "caused" the accident was, if truth be told, a harmless elderly man that The Princess, urged on by her friends, thought it was OK to overtake past double lines in a blind corner near the crest of a hill because he – horror upon horrors – stuck to the speed limit. (The Princess rarely did, even after the crash. She collected speeding and parking tickets at an amazing rate, but somehow just exactly managed to avoid having her license suspended – and Dad paid all the tickets, of course.) How do I know the truth about the accident? I saw it. By chance I was first on the scene. And was told in no uncertain terms that I would back up my sister's story. Or else.
I excelled in school. I make no apologies. I am fucking bright from a purely intellectual point of view (once more seriously questioning my parentage). I just as readily agree that I was not very smart in a street-wise sense – something we'll discuss later.
But as I said, I'm bright. I started school according to age, i.e. two years after Brian, but very quickly I was only one class behind him – and would have skipped another class except my parents "obviously" wouldn't let me "for Brian's sake". I didn't care. I was way beyond both mine and his curriculum, and in fact I took so many college-level classes during my junior and senior years in high school that I was able to graduate with a master's degree at 21 before most of my peers even had their associate's.
But I am getting ahead of myself (and a bit full of myself; I apologize). Since I was useless and Brian was a demi-god, my parents invented all kinds of explanations for Brian's C- average compared to my A+. The usual one – convoluted and bizarre as it may sound – was that since Brian was older, the stuff he was doing was much harder and thus a C- in his year was at least on par with an A+ in mine. I kid you not: That is the kind of bullshit they were spouting. Only once did I call the moronic logic into question by pointing out that what I was doing now to A+ level was what Brian did last year and back then he also got C-. The smack I received from Mom had my ear ringing for hours and I never mentioned it again.
Yes, from Mom. Dad left the corporal punishment – exclusively used on me, of course, to Mom after his signet ring had once ripped my face open causing unpleasant questions at the Doctor's office. I was ordered to say that "I had fallen" – and did so, but the explanation was so implausible that the Doctor knew it for a lie. I later learned that he warned my parents that a repeat would force him to report them.
Their reaction? Letting Mum take over the smacking. I still have a noticeable scar next to my eye from the injury by the way; in no way would my parents pay for more careful stitching than what the Doctor's nurse could manage. (Had it been Brian, or God forbid The Princess, then I'm sure a top plastic surgeon would have been called in to do the job.)
My love life at school? You've got to be joking! Being gangly, skinny, socially inept, a constant target of bullying and derision, more than a little nerdy and with no access to funds or transport, I wasn't even on the D-list of dating material. And that's before we mention my "dress style"; although I no longer got Brian's hand-me-downs, what I did wear was cheap and awful. When some girl – out of pity, no doubt, even briefly considered going out with me, The Princess and her court would ensure that the poor things backed off in a hurry. So yeah, I was a virgin when I graduated high school, and nope, I never went to a Prom.
Instead I did what nerds do: Joined various clubs. At first it was mind games: I had a Chess Rating in the low 1800s, but then I discovered Go and I was lost for the Chess world. Go, the ancient encircling game, just resonated with me on a lot of levels. Much older, vastly more complex (even if the rules are simpler) and far more philosophical than Chess, Go is permeated with Chinese culture including some special proverbs. Three of them were to have a lasting influence on my life:
· Lose your first 50 games as quickly as possible
· Your enemy's key point is your own key point
· Greed cannot prevail
After the mind game clubs came the science clubs. I spent many a night freezing my butt off trying to make the school's ancient telescope work and we did occasionally succeed in getting some great pictures from space. We being the science teacher and one or two other genuinely interested nerds. The Astronomy Club actually had quite a few non-nerd members, including – gasp – girls you could actually tell were girls. Only later did I work out why: The Club was a golden opportunity for girls with strict parents (usually religious nuts) to spend a night with a boyfriend under the eminently respectable guise of science. There was a lot of snogging going on in the darkness – and presumably more than that since several of those girls left school, last seen with bulging bellies. I didn't score. But I did win a prize for a very pretty exposure of the Orion Nebula.
In addition to Astronomy, I did Computers, Electronic and Robotics for a while. But then I discovered my true vocation – Chemistry. The Chemistry Club was run by a young ultra-hot but completely no-nonsense female teacher. And unlike the other clubs who had hardly any girls (at least not actively participating), nearly half the members of the Chemistry Club were girls. Not that this had any positive influence on my non-existing love life; I think quite a few of them were more interested in the teacher and each other, but they were a nice lot – always friendly once they found out you were there for the Chemistry and not to hit on them, mostly very intelligent and universally focused on learning. In no time the Chemistry Club became my refuge.
We did all kinds of stuff; the club was sponsored by a local company (whose founder/owner, Mr. Grant, was a reclusive elderly bachelor with a fondness for science-interested youth) and within reason we could do whatever we liked. It just had to be safe and legal: Weirdos wanting to play around with explosives and dope-heads wanting to DIY their supplies were quickly thrown out. Cost only ran a distant third to the other two requirements.
Ms. du Pont ran a tight ship; she had no time for sub-standard lab-work: Careful logs were mandatory, she insisted on state-of-the-art safety at all times and she had no time for slobs. We were using the school's remarkably well-equipped chemistry lab (also endowed by Mr. Grant, of course) and she was adamant that the place be clean and ready for school use after each session. You didn't let her down on that one if you wanted to stay in the Club.
But as I said: We did all kinds of stuff: From traditional chemical analysis to materials research. Having done Electronics, I took an interest in the chemistry of a type of component found in virtually all electronic equipment – and prone to errors unless you choose the more expensive varieties. This is one of the ways the manufacturers of electronic consumer goods screw you over: They choose very poor quality components unlikely to last more than a few months beyond the statutory warranty period. I swear, 90% of flat screen TVs, taken to the dump because they've ceased working, just need this one component replaced in the power supply, and they are good to go for another couple of years. Anyway, I investigated the chemicals used to make these components and after months of experimenting with a long series of formulations – chiefly yielding bad, expensive or outright useless components, I struck gold: Using compounds costing a fraction of what went into the really expensive commercial components, and using a process I more or less stumbled over – and which could not be found anywhere in the literature, I had components that easily outperformed anything commercially available. Even NASA didn't have access to stuff this good.
Now, different chemicals from what others use, a new and radically different manufacturing process, a high yield and a low cost is a sweet, sweet combination: It is the Holy Grail of this kind of research. Ms. du Pont was excited for me and set the train in motion to obtain patents. Yes, patents for a 17 year old socially inept virginal high school boy. I was more excited than I'd ever been!
In fact I was so excited that I forgot to think, and that was to cost me. I didn't know that a 17 year old can hold a patent; neither did Ms. du Pont or the school; they assumed that you needed your legal guardian to do that – in fact all dealing with authorities must go via guardians anyway so in one sense they were right. Had I "sat" on my discovery until I turned 18, I wouldn't be where I am today, but I didn't and my guardians – to wit my parents – screwed me over completely. Sure, patents – two actually; one for the new material and one for the process to make the electrodes – were issued to "Mr. Fairchild"; however they were issued to Dad – not to me. He knew I could have gotten them, but that was not in his plans, so he doctored the papers.
An area of Dad's factory was converted to produce the components and it very quickly turned profitable. Within a year he stopped producing the other crap they had been doing and converted the entire production area to make "my" electronic components. That's how I thought of them; the local paper even did a write-up on how this was partly based on work done by Mr. Fairchild's son. But somehow it was Brian, not me, shown in the pictures. I was eradicated form the official history of the inventions.
I didn't discover the depth of the deception at first. I finished high-school as Valedictorian with a perfect GPA and won a full-ride scholarship for college. My parents weren't there to see me graduate, but I hadn't expected them to be either. I just didn't count, but Ms. du Pont and a lot of the Chemistry Club cheered for me. I got more hugs that morning than I'd had from my family all of my life.
With a generous scholarship I didn't have to ask my parents for support (and it certainly wasn't forthcoming) so I took no interest in the financial state of the production enterprise – and the distribution, or lack thereof, of the spoils. Of course having nearly amassed enough college credit for a degree while in high school, I graduated with a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering in just over a year, and the donor of my scholarship (Mr. Grant; the afore mentioned benefactor to the Chemistry Club also wanted science graduates) was more than happy to let me use the balance to gain my Masters. Again no call on parental support was required, so it wasn't tested.
In the intervening years, Dad had attained a virtual monopoly on producing and supplying high-quality, low-cost components using the Fairchild Method. (They couldn't name the company Fairchild since there already is a semiconductor company of that name, so they renamed it from BDF Manufacturing to BDFTech – highly original, I know, but who cares?) I had followed it at a distance, but hadn't been home much – and not at all during the last year of my Masters since I was very busy at term time and they were away for all the holidays.
Anyway, there I was – 21, MSc in Chemical Engineering and ready to take on the world. I was certain that, having provided all the intellectual property while Dad set up the production, I would join the company on an equal footing. Brian, on the strength of an associate's degree in General Business from a dubious mail-order college, was VP for sales. Given the quality and price of the product, any idiot could sell it – and he did, or rather his sales force did; their most difficult task was keeping Brian away from the customers. Even The Princess had a job there in Marketing, again unable to cause any real damage since competent people did the real work, and all she had to do was to look pretty – which is about the only thing she does well. I saw no problems with my siblings riding the gravy train – family share with each other, right? – and I envisaged myself VP for research and development.
I was disabused from that notion in a hurry. Dad and Brian laughed their asses off when I suggested it and said there was no place for me. Stunned, I mumbled something about my rather crucial contribution to the enterprise. That didn't help; Dad said that the patents were his and I had no rights to anything. I was told to leave, or Security would escort me out.
Something similar occurred when I went home. Having come directly from my college town (by bus – I still didn't own a car), I had stopped at the factory first since it was close to the bus terminal and I was naturally curious about our factory. Having no desire to walk with all my stuff, I used some of my scarce cash to get a taxi home – only to find out that my family no longer lived in the house that had been my home as a kid! The new owners were snooty, unable (or unwilling) to tell me where Mom and Dad had moved to and keen to get me off the property.
At least Mom and Dad still had the same phone number, so I called Mom who – reluctantly, I thought, gave me the new address. It was in a new subdivision on the opposite side of town, so once more I had to dip in to my meagre funds to get there by taxi.
I shouldn't have bothered. Mom was on the way out to play tennis when I arrived, would not put it off, and told me outright that I wasn't welcome. Not that space would have been a problem; the new house was a grotesquely huge McMansion, but I wasn't even let in the door. She told me out-right that Dad had called (I suspected as much), and there was no way they were going to let me "sponge off" on them. I was on my own.
No, I couldn't get a lift back to town (even though the tennis club was on the next block to the bus terminal), so a third taxi ride brought me back to where I'd started; the bus terminal.
In the middle of the busy hall, I slumped down to sit on my sturdiest suitcase and phased out.
I was pretty much at an all-time low. Robbed and shunned by my family with nowhere to go, burdened with a lot of stuff, and with no money to speak of – come on, even the toughest guy would be out for the count on that combination and I am not afraid to admit that I was close to tears at that point.
But then things started to look up.
"GT!" a loud excited female voice exclaimed.
Despite the infectious enthusiasm in the call, I turned around only slowly towards the sound, and the visage I presented shocked the caller.
"GT?" came the follow-up – this time much more hesitant. "Whatever's the matter?"
"I, I..." I stuttered and then faltered. Seconds later I found myself embraced, head buried in the soft and amble bosom of my Chemistry Club teacher Ms. du Pont, bawling my eyes out.
I don't know how long it took for me to pull myself together. Enjoying the touch, comfort and compassion of another human being had been rare in my life so I was in no hurry. In retrospect we must have looked a sight – cool and collected Ms. du Pont in a smart pants suit, cradling the flaxen fuzzy head of crying gangly beanstalk of a young man clad in a non-descript tee and threadbare jeans, and currently slumped on a battered suitcase.
Wonder of wonders, I felt another comforting hand on my shoulder and looked up into a pair of humorous and strangely familiar sky-blue eyes. "Hi," the apparition said. "I'm Connie Ingalls, Debbie's partner."
That's right – Ms. du Pont's Christian name is Deborah. Some of the randy blokes in high-school made dubious jokes about DD's DDs – cruel, but apt since Ms. du Pont's chest actually sported a large pair of DDs, looking even bigger since she is otherwise slightly built and only about 5'2" tall. Same scum rarely failed to add some sneering remark about it being a cruel waste for a dyke to have such a killer-bod. Having never had any sexual interest in my teacher, mentor and best (and, in reality, only) friend, their intolerance doubly infuriated me. At least they seem to have been correct in their assertion of Ms. du Pont's sexuality, but it was none of their fucking business. Ms. Ingalls was gorgeous and I just felt happy for the two of them.
"Obviously I could have wished for better circumstances, but I'm thrilled to meet you. I've heard so much about you from Debbie," Ms. Ingalls continued. "You were her all-time favorite student – bright, always interested in learning, always courteous. Whatever it is that has happened to you, and from the looks of you it must be pretty bad, we're here to help you. OK?"
I could only nod I grateful wonder. It was a very pleasant feeling since Ms. du Pont still held me close to her magnificent breasts. She was gently stroking my hair and making the kind of soothing noises mothers use to settle an upset baby. If only I'd had a mother like that! The notion was absurd, of course. Ms. du Pont must be just under thirty – she'd been a very young teacher when I was in high school. Ms. Ingalls looked to be of similar age, perhaps a few years older but certainly no more than in her early thirties.
Ms. Ingalls then addressed Ms. du Pont: "Lisa's bus is just pulling up – I'll go get her and we'll come back to you and GT."
Suddenly worried that I was making a spectacle of myself and being an inconvenience to Ms. du Pont and her partner who were obviously at the bus terminal for someone else, I tried to mumble something about making myself scarce.
Ms. du Pont would have none of it. "You're not going anywhere GT! You're not fit to go anywhere, and even if you were I wouldn't let you. Connie spoke the simple truth; I adore you and if I can do anything to help you, I will."
She hugged me even tighter and I fear the waterworks started up again. "What about whoever you are here to pick up?" I sniffled when I was finally able to speak again.
"That's just Lisa. You might remember her; she was also in the Chemistry Club but two years behind you."
I remembered Lisa very well. A bright but quiet girl. Very sweet too; she had been amongst the huggers at my graduation.
Getting Lisa and her luggage had been quick; I saw the two of them approaching and it suddenly dawned on me that Lisa looked a lot like Ms. Ingalls; build, coloring – especially the sky-blue eyes, were very similar. "Is Lisa a relation of Ms. Ingalls'?" I asked quietly.
"She is," Ms. du Pont confirmed. "She's the daughter of Connie's older brother. He and his wife were wiped out in a Maryland train collision, so she came to live with us."
"How did that work?" I faltered. Our state is not known for being gay-friendly.
"Connie's a lawyer, so she knew how to pull the strings," Ms. du Pont explained. "Officially I was just a roomie, and only Connie is on the adoption papers. Since the state doesn't recognize me, there were no bars against me having Lisa in my class. But we've been a family ever since."
That started me crying again. "Not much luck with family for you, huh?" Ms. du Pont stated more than asked.
She could say that again!
"Hi GT," Lisa said when they joined us. "Auntie C says something beastly has happened to you, but she doesn't know what."
Before I could make any appropriate response to that, Lisa wrapped me in a friendly hug. Hey, I could get used to this! "Thanks," was all I managed to say, but Lisa apparently understood.
"Whatever it is, you're in good hands now," she stated. "Auntie C and Auntie D will see you right."
Ms. du Pont – "Auntie D" – was the next recipient of a Lisa hug. "How's school?" she asked.
"Marvelous," Lisa exclaimed. "The courses are fascinating and the professors are really top-notch; they make it all so interesting – and I'm in a really spiffing study group."
Ms. Ingalls laughed. "And no-one is teasing you about your language?"
Lisa pulled a face, but I must have looked like a big question mark. "Lisa's mother was British," Ms. du Pont explained. "So Lisa's always had a little bit of an accent, but after going to a liberal arts college, you would think she was at Oxford!"
Lisa blushed slightly and I smiled – it did explain words like "beastly", "marvelous" and "spiffing" and expressions like "top-notch" and "see you right".
"Hey, it's good so see you smile," Ms. du Pont said and pulled me down for a gentle kiss. "Let's all go home and then you can tell us as little or as much as you feel like."
With a much lighter heart, I gathered up my stuff and followed the three women out to the car – which was, mercifully, a huge SUV. Two students returning for the summer have a lot of luggage.
The journey home was long – Ms. du Pont and Ms. Ingalls live in a rambling colonial style house on the outskirts of town. I was later to learn that Ms. Ingalls had inherited the place from a great aunt. Had things gone differently she would have had to share the legacy with her brother – now she was sharing it with her niece, who was legally her daughter through adoption. She couldn't share it with Ms. du Pont in the same way, but scores of legal documents were in place to attempt to achieve what one – a marriage certificate – would do on its own. Only years later – when the Supreme Court told the haters to go to hell – did they finally get that protection and recognition, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
The place was impressive. Not ostentatious like my parents' house, but really very impressive and yet very homely at the same time. On the way we got a comprehensive update on Lisa's pursuits as a freshman at one of the liberal arts colleges that actually uses that term. I would have pegged her as science-oriented person from our days together in the Chemistry Club, but apparently she'd found her true vocation in junior year and wanted to study English Literature.
Lisa is a bright girl too, but scholarships are so much harder to get for the humanities so I wondered how an orphan could afford to go to a top school. The answer was simple: Every penny from Lisa's parents' estate – including life-insurance payouts and a sizeable compensation after the accident – had been put into a trust fund for her; Ms. du Pont and Ms. Ingalls had never touched it. From the day their shell-shocked orphaned niece showed up on their door step accompanied by a kind but overworked social worker, she had been their child and they had given her everything she needed – of material things, of guidance and encouragement, and, most importantly, of love.
I was shown a spacious bedroom with a nice ensuite upstairs and urged to freshen up before dinner. I had a long rejuvenating shower, shaved carefully (not that I had much in terms of facial hair yet) and dug out the nicest clothes I could find out of my suitcases. The shirt would have improved with ironing, but I didn't want to make a fuss.
The overall effect was still appreciated. I was met with "Doesn't he scrub up nicely" and similar kind remarks when I entered the huge kitchen an hour later. Ms. du Pont was at the range cooking something that smelled mouth-watering while Lisa was arranging an array of tempting snacks and Ms. Ingalls was getting ready to fix drinks.
"Right, this will look after itself for the next half hour. Now I need a drink," Ms. du Pont exclaimed, took off her apron and joined us at the breakfast counter.
"G&T GT?" Ms. Ingalls offered flippantly. I laughed, but declined. I am not into spirits and mixed drinks. Being barely of drinking age at the time, my repertoire was limited to light beer.
"Just T, please" I asked and Lisa, not yet of legal drinking age, joined me in that. So we nibbled on snacks, sipped our drinks and made small-talk of the very small variety.
Dinner was fantastic – it was thin slices of beef in a richly flavored sauce served with a baked mash of potatoes and roots and a tossed salad. Ms. du Pont and Ms. Ingalls drank a dark red wine that looked amazing in large crystal Bordeaux glasses (from my snobbish parents I had a – peripheral – knowledge of stemware). I was tempted to try the wine but stayed with water in solidarity with Lisa. The conversation, what there was of it, was about food. Mostly we devoured the wonderful meal.
Ms. Ingalls brewed coffee in a fancy implement that looked like something out of a fashionable café and we took our cups with us into the central living room ("No Lisa, it is not a 'drawing room'"), flopping down into the deep comfortable sofas and lounge chairs.
I took a sip of my coffee, gathered my thoughts and looked up – realizing that 6 eyes; two pairs of sky-blue and one pair of hazel, were gently, but intently, looking at me.
I cleared my throat, but before I could actually say anything, Ms. Ingalls spoke first. "GT – George – you don't have to tell us anything. You are welcome to stay for however long you want to be here regardless. You must not feel pressured." Her niece and her lover murmured their agreement.
The kindness and unquestioning support was almost too much for me. "I want to tell you," I finally managed. "In fact, I really need to tell you. I'll go mad if I don't get it out."
It turned out I had a lot I needed to tell – going back as far as I could remember. Ms. du Pont and Ms. Ingalls had lived with discrimination and condemnation from society – and, sadly, from large parts of their families – ever since their adolescence and Lisa's appalling loss was almost off the scale, and yet they were all three incredulous, but believing, when they heard my life's story. It was cathartic to get to tell it at last.
Lisa flinched when I got to the origins of the scar next to my eye. She too had a scar on her lower leg from the accident that killed her parents but left her otherwise unscathed. At least physically. She couldn't fathom parents inflicting that kind of thing deliberately.
I was gently and subtly interrogated – by Lisa – about my love life, or rather complete lack of same. In retrospect she seemed strangely pleased by the answers, but that didn't register with me at the time. I thought she was amused by it, and while just a little offended, I could see the humor.
"I think I was one of the girls that your bitch sister decided to scare away", Lisa observed when I told them about The Princess' antics. "We were in the same class and she found out I'd joined the Chemistry Club. I knew you were her brother and mentioned that I thought you were nice. She and her posse came down on me like a ton of bricks."
Her aunts were shaking their heads – it was obvious they held my mother and sister in contempt.
"It's not like I was going to ask you out or anything," Lisa continued. "But it is like she was hell-bent on ensuring that you had no friends."
"Between her and my brother, they were pretty successful in achieving that goal," I observed bitterly.
"Rubbish – you had plenty of friends in the Chemistry Club," Lisa counted.
"In one way yes," I conceded, "but in another way no. I couldn't openly have friends without dire consequences."
We got to the most recent events – including the confrontation with my father and brother earlier in the day. I noticed the Ms. Ingalls sat up a little straighter, and Ms. du Pont filled me in. "I told you Connie is a lawyer. She is not an expert of intellectual property, but she may find a loophole. Tell us everything you know; no detail is unimportant."
There wasn't all that much to tell – it was all cut and dried. My original assessment that I should have kept my mouth shut until my 18th birthday was a good one. It would have been even better if we'd asked somebody in the know and learned that I could hold those patents. We just assumed I had to be an adult and you know the old quip: Never assume – it makes an ass out of you and me.
"Well GT," Ms. Ingalls said. "I am really not an expert, but I would guess that by now the patents are legally your father's intellectual property. You'd be hard pressed to recover them. Sure, the rule is that only the true inventor is entitled to a patent, but that avenue will be hard to follow. Sometimes when people have developed things while working for others, there is a little wriggle room – and thus big bucks for us lawyers," she added with girlish giggle, "but it hardly ever results in a patent changing hands. In your case, your father seemingly deliberately set it up so it will be very difficult to prove. And remember that under school rules, Debbie had to talk to your parents; she couldn't do anything without involving them. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. I'm sorry; I really don't think there is anything we can do."
"But it is just so unfair, so immoral," Lisa pleaded.
Her aunt-cum-mother looked kindly at her. "I know sweetheart, and I'm sure there are ambulance-chasing shysters who would tell GT that he had a case – undoubtedly feeding on peoples' skewed 'knowledge' of the law that they have from sit-coms."
We all nodded.
"The courts that deal with intellectual property are different. GT would only lose his money. He doesn't have a case if he can't prove he was the inventor – and his father made sure everything looked right at the time of filing..."
"I am truly sorry I stuffed that up for you," Ms. du Pont said – and she really looked crest-fallen. "I should have checked it out better."
I couldn't have that.
"Stop that Ms. du Pont," I exclaimed. "Stop that right now! You have never done anything but help me, guide me and support me. You had to involve my parents and there was no way in hell you could have known I had feral thieves for parents. Besides, if you hadn't urged me to patent my discoveries, they would likely have gone unnoticed. At least there are a lot of people in this town with good jobs because the patents were made and the production started."
Ms. Ingalls and Lisa were nodding in agreement. Emboldened I continued. "As I mentioned, I like Go not just for the game but also for the philosophy, and a central tenet is that you have to lose the first 50 games as quickly as possible. I think I am pretty close to that. What Ms. Ingalls told us just confirms that I have lost that game. No point in letting that drag me down."
"I like the way you think GT," Ms. Ingalls said. "But I would like you to call me Connie."
"And I'm Debbie," Ms. du Pont agreed. "You're no longer my student. I want you to be my friend."
What would you know: I wasn't finished with crying after all...
We had another round of hot drinks but then decided to call it a night. It had been a long day – tiresome bus journeys for both Lisa and me, and more emotional upheaval for me than any person should endure. I thought I would find sleep difficult, but surprisingly I was asleep seconds after my head hit the pillow.
"Wake up sleepy head; breakfast in five!" Lisa yelled with a cheerful freshness that was almost contrary to nature. I yawned, stretched, rolled out of bed and went straight out under a quick cool shower (having slept in the nude) that woke me up. Only 10 minutes later I was down in the kitchen for a scrumptious breakfast. "If you keep feeding me like this, I'll weigh a ton in no time," I mock-complained.
"You could do with a little meat on your bones, but apart from that: Just use the gym and the pool – like we do," Ms. du Pont smiled.