On Sunday, December 28, Beth found herself praying very hard for some guidance on how to proceed with the matter of her relationship to Jay Brooke. She was not usually a very attentive worshiper at Mass, going through things more or less on automatic pilot. But it was the Christmas season, the nativity, the birth of a little boy. And this Sunday was Holy Family Sunday. Somehow some of that sunk in. Beth decided she had to discuss all this with Jay.
On Sunday afternoon, Beth sent an e-mail to Jay. The only address she had was that in the student directory, listing a campus e-mail address, J.Brooke@Clifton.edu. Beth had a campus address like that, but also had a personal address, which she has enjoyed since she was a small child. It never occurred to her that Jay had no computer at home, and no access to e-mail unless he was on campus or at a public library. Hence, she was upset when she received no response to her e-mail in more than 24 hours. Her original e-mail had simply said, “I think we need to talk about the Prentice family.”
Jay was working during the break. He had a job with a local discount house, which required him to be on the job from 8:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon five days per week. The store was open seven day per week, so it was not always weekdays, but it was closed on Christmas Day. He thus got in 37 and a half hours each week, not 40, so the store did not have to provide insurance or retirement benefits. Jay had another part-time job, which took up his evenings three days per week and all day on some Saturdays. He needed this work to help his grandmother and to supplement his scholarship and student loan income. Jay lived with his grandmother and his Aunt Melissa. Aunt Melissa also worked similar hours, and his grandmother worked two jobs as well. It took all that to keep the family going. From time to time, they were also called on to provide some supposedly temporary relief for another relative, but none of the others lived with them. It was only supposedly temporary relief because those members of the family who had become enmeshed in drugs and alcohol never got ahead, and so were always in need of relief. Uncle Frank Brooke, the father of Jay’s cousin Clarence, was making the Army his career, and was never around, although he did send some cash to help out from time to time. No one else seemed to be able to hold down a job for more than a few months.
And so, when Jay went by campus to spend some time in the library on Monday after work, doing a little preparation for his spring semester classes, and checked his e-mail, he was not inclined to respond very positively to Beth’s demand for a meeting. On the whole, Jay regarded Beth as a snob and a racist, based on their interaction during the fall, and was not in a mood to put himself out to accommodate her. So, he responded, “I do not have time for this. I have to work everyday until four, and some evenings.”
But Beth had decided that she needed to speak with Jay, and would not give up. She was insulted by his delay in responding, and the dismissal involved when he did, but she decided to give it another try. So, she send a more complete request. “I went by Dr. Peters’ office to find out my grade on my research paper in Methods. He was not there, but I saw what I thought was my paper on top of a stack on his desk. But it was your paper instead. I was very surprised by what you said about your father. I think this requires some discussion.” Beth thought she was being accommodating, but she could not keep some of the frustration she felt out of her message.
Once again, there was a delay in answering. Jay was worked pretty hard leading up to New Years Day, and the University library was not open on New Years Day, so it was Friday afternoon, January 2, before he read her second e-mail. Jay read the message as condescending, and also as challenging his claims, which he felt were based on the testimony of his grandmother, and hence any challenge was seen as something of an attack. He did not respond, but went home to consider whether to answer at all. But his grandmother noticed that something was bothering him. She insisted on knowing what that was. Jay could never resist his grandmother for long, and so on Friday evening he told her about Beth being in his class and now wanting to discuss family connections. He also told her he thought she was a snob, and just wanted to put him down. Eudora thought about that, but on Saturday morning, before he went off to work, she insisted that he talk to Father Todd about all this.
And so it was, on Saturday afternoon, after work, Jay made his way to the rectory at St. Martin de Porres. Lamar Todd had been prepped by Mrs. Brooke, and so was waiting to see what Jay had to say. After listening to the young man, Lamar counseled him to show some patience. He pointed out that he did not know for sure that Beth wanted to challenge his grandmother’s assertions. It would be better to meet at least once and find out for sure what she wanted. And so, reluctantly, Jay sat down at the computer in the rectory and responded. He wrote, “I do not have a lot of free time. But if you insist on meeting about my Methods research paper, I can meet you at the Union tomorrow afternoon at 4:00.”
Beth thought that response kind of unfriendly, as it had been four days since she sent her second e-mail, and Jay was laying down conditions of place and time without consulting her. But she decided to accept the meeting. She was additionally intrigued as to why the e-mail came from St. Martin de Porres rectory. After thinking it over for several hours, Beth responded to both the campus and the rectory address, accepting the time and place. Of course, by then Jay was no longer at the rectory, so he did not see the response until Sunday morning. Father Todd printed out Beth’s response, and handed it to Jay after Mass.
And so it was, with both of them harboring feelings of resentment, Jay and Beth agreed to meet at the student center on campus that afternoon. It would be open, as there were always a few students in residence, even during the holidays. Beth drove to campus and scurried into the Union, as the weather had turned nasty, and it was raining and sleeting out. When she did not see Jay there, she immediately thought she had been stood up, but about fifteen minutes later he entered the cafeteria dripping with icy water.
“Oh!” Beth exclaimed. “You look like you were really out in it.”
“Well, I was. Not all of us have cars, you know. I rode my bike,” Jay huffed.
Actually, it never occurred to Beth that Jay might not have a car. Everyone she knew had a car. She was immediately put on the defensive by his comments. But Jay shed his rain gear, and they got coffee and settled at a table. But he was still damp and cold, and that made Beth uncomfortable. Their initial exchanges were not very helpful. There were some rough words, with Jay resenting any question about his interpretation of the evidence, and she suspicious of his intent in claiming the relationship.
Beth in exasperation said, “After all, that’s pretty flimsy evidence. That birth certificate could be faked, so all you have is a second hand story.”
“I have my grandmother’s word, and she does not lie, unlike your family, who seem to be entirely irresponsible,” Jay retorted.
“Now wait a minute,” Beth objected. “I wasn’t even born when these things took place, and my parents were not married yet, and my mom says she knows nothing about my dad’s activities before they married.”
“Oh sure. She just married him without knowing a thing about him, just like some arranged marriage in India or someplace. I believe that!” Jay mocked.
In frustration, Beth slapped Jay’s cheek, saying, “Jay Brooke, you’re impossible to talk to.” At the same time, she broke out in tears.
Jay was surprised by that. He thought she was the one being impossible, but he did not know how to react to the tears. He was embarrassed, and mumbling something, got up to search for a tissue. He acquired one from the woman behind the counter, and brought it back to her. She felt silly, but mumbled “thanks” and wiped her eyes.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence, Beth asked, “Do you really have to ride your bike in this weather?”
“It’s either that or walk. I guess I could take the bus, but that costs money,” Jay replied.
“A few dollars for the bus would make a difference?” she wondered.
“In my family, every dollar makes a difference,” Jay asserted. Then, becoming involved in this really side issue, but determined to justify his position, he proceeded to lay out his family finances. He described the apartment where he and his grandmother and his aunt lived. He listed his hours of work during the break, but noted that he would have to cut back when classes started again. He mentioned his income from work, that from his scholarship, and that from student loans, and what they covered. He went on to lay out his grandmother’s work schedule and her income, and those of his aunt as well. Beth was astounded. She really did not know what her mother’s income was, but she knew it came from investments based on her father’s estate and insurance payoff, and came in the form of deposits in her mother’s checking account each month. She strongly suspected that the income of her mother, who was not gainfully employed, greatly exceeded that of the three wage earners in the Brooke household. And she was right, of course.
Totally distracted, Beth then asked why she received e-mails from the rectory at St. Martin de Porres. She only vaguely knew where that was, but knew it was in a neighborhood she would not enter at night.
“My grandmother insisted that I go talk to Father Todd. He told me to try to be patient with you. That has not been easy,” Jay replied.
“But that’s a Catholic church,” Beth protested.
“So? My family has always been Catholic,” Jay stated.
“But I thought .... Never mind. But why did you e-mail me from there?” Beth then asked.
“Well, I was not going to come over here to campus. I’m not sure the library is open on Saturday during the break,” Jay explained.
“You don’t have a computer at home, do you?” it dawned on Beth.
Jay grinned. “Not likely.”
It was the grin as much as anything else which did it for Beth. “You might be a brother, but you live in a completely different world from me. It’s no wonder we can’t even talk without butting heads. Can we start over?”
Jay was impressed with the sincerity of this statement. “Let’s not try for any time during the break,” he suggested. “What’s your class schedule like next semester?”
They found they were both signed up for Dr. McCoy’s class on the American Revolution on MWF at 11:00 and had the next hour free. So, they agreed to put all questions on hold, and meet again after class on Friday, January 9. And Jay would be on campus on Thursday, so he could get any e-mails just in case she decided to cancel or something, he said.
From this beginning, Jay and Beth began to meet fairly regularly, and began to at least begin to understand each other. They dropped the confrontational attitudes, and agreed to accept Jay’s genealogy as a working hypothesis. Something like a major turning point arrived when, on the last week of January, Beth noted that her sorority was having a party on Friday, and she did not have a date.
Jay grinned. “Are you inviting me on a date?”
“Well,” she replied, “you’re supposed to do the inviting, but seeing that you come from such a disadvantaged background, I have to take the initiative. Besides, since we have different last names, no one would suspect that we’re related. Do you think you can work me into your busy schedule?”
A month ago. Jay would have bridled at that comment about his disadvantaged background, but by the end of January, he simply took it as Beth showing off. “I’m scheduled to work, but I can probably switch with someone, as I’m off on Saturday. I’ll let you know.”
And so they went on a date together. He was a lousy dancer, as he had very little opportunity to learn, but Beth undertook his instruction. He was a good sport. And she did notice that he had strong arms and a solid chest when they danced. As she had a car and he did not, she also picked him up and took him home, making mocking comments as she did. Jay repeated that Father Todd was right to advise patience with her. But he kissed her before he jumped out of the car. That left her surprised, so she did not react until he was inside his apartment building. Then, hearing an unfamiliar noise, she quickly started the car and got out of that neighborhood.
Grandma’s birthday was February 21. Eudora Brooke was turning 62. It was also a Saturday, and one of the days Jay had most of the day free. He had to work in the morning, but had no obligations after noon, so a party for Grandma was planned for the early afternoon. In addition to Jay and Aunt Melissa, also attending were Leon Luttrell, his wife Anne Nicole, their two small children, and Clarence Brooke. They all gathered at the apartment and presented Eudora with small presents. She pretended to be surprised. They ate some birthday cake and drank some punch.
In the aftermath, as everyone was just being friendly, Jay mentioned to his cousin Leon how much he envied him. He was married, with two kids, working a job he liked, and earning good money. Leon responded with a comment about Jay being at the University, but he answered with a moan about his work schedule, and about being in debt for years from student loans. Leon caught the eye of Clarence, who had been listening in.
“Come on, you’re going on a little trip with us,” Leon decided.
“What? Where?” Jay responded.
Clarence, meanwhile, got on his phone and called Brandon Dowling. When Brandon answered, he said, “This is Clarence. Do not, repeat NOT, leave for the Farm or anything. We have a charity case for you to handle.” He then signed off.
Making sure Aunt Melissa and Anne Nicole could entertain Grandma and the kids, Leon and Clarence bundled a confused Jay into the car Leon now sported, and drove him, not to Brandon’s Boys, but next door to the Dowling house. There, they introduced Jay to Brandon Dowling, and went on at some length about his need for assistance, and how much he had accomplished on his own. “And he did not cause Grandma any trouble, like Leon and I did,” Clarence concluded.
Jay was embarrassed by all this, but Brandon was amused. He insisted on taking Jay into the library, and excluding his cousins, so he could get a straight story about Jay’s circumstances. So, Jay cooperated. He repeated his story of woe about his working hours, leaving him almost no time for a social life, which was becoming important as things developed with Beth. He also confirmed that he was carrying a 4.0 g.p.a. at the University, and the circumstances of his scholarship and his student loans. He noted that he needed to continue working, as Grandma needed the extra support, as her two jobs did not quite cover her needs. Brandon elicited all this information by careful questioning.
Brandon gave Jay a look, then said, “Now, I realize you have been pretty independent, but are you willing to sacrifice a little of your independence to help Mrs. Brooke?”
“Well, sure,” Jay said. “What do you mean?”
“What I suggest is that you accept a Todd Scholarship, funded by me, but handled by the Todd Educational Foundation. That way, I get credit for a charitable donation on my tax returns. I will make it equal to what you are earning with your work. But to make certain that Mrs. Brooke does not suffer any loss as a result, I will provide her with a kind of pension equal to what she is making now, plus whatever you contribute to her needs. After all, it’s her birthday, and age 62 is a good age to retire,” Brandon proposed.
Jay had heard of Brandon, and of his many good works. He had no doubt that he could carry through with what he promised. He also recognized the plan Brandon proposed as a lot more than just a birthday present for Grandma. “Why me?” he asked.
“These scholarships are set up to help people who show ability along with a determination to make good use of their opportunities. I think you fit. Besides, Mrs. Brooke has been a great inspiration. Look what her care did for your cousins. And she has been a kind of grandmother to some of the other boys here as well. She deserves it,” Brandon assured him.
Put that way, how could he turn down anything which would ease the life of his grandmother. And so, Jay accepted an application for a Todd Scholarship, and signed it right there. Brandon then called in Leon and Clarence, and told them they were all going back to the birthday party, as he had a present for Mrs. Brooke, too.
Two vehicles headed towards West Clifton, Leon’s pretty ordinary car, with Clarence on board, and Brandon’s Lamborghimi, with Jay in the passenger seat. They went inside, where Brandon told Eudora Brooke about her ‘retirement package,’ allowing her to quit her two low paying jobs and Jay to attend the University without having to work so much he had no time to look after her. She blessed him, saying she just knew he was one of God’s angels after the way he helped get Leon and Clarence back on the straight path.
That brought out the fact that Clarence was not with them. “Where is Clarence?” Brandon asked.
Leon and Jay both laughed. “He’s outside keeping an eye on your car. You can’t just leave a car like yours with no protection in this neighborhood. Even if no parts went missing, it would be scarred up in seconds.”
That got through to Brandon. He has enjoyed his Lamborghini since the fall of 2000, and it still after more than 13 years did not have a scratch on it. To the amusement of Leon and Jay, he rushed outside, to find Clarence lecturing some neighborhood boys on the proper care of a Lamborghini.
In a reckless moment, not like him, Jay said, “If you have some free time, I know of a place where this pretty wagon of yours would be safer and more appreciated, and I could use a ride.”
Having made his presentation to Mrs. Brooke, Brandon was ready to leave anyway, so he decided to go along with Jay’s request. As a result, he found himself in Balaclava, where expensive cars were commonplace, although not quite as expensive as Brandon’s vehicle. Jay said he hoped Brandon’s GPS worked, as he had never been to the address before, and was thoroughly confused by all the curving and dead end streets. The planners who laid out places like Balaclava seemed to have an aversion to straight lines. They did, however, arrive at the home of Sarah and Beth Prentice. Jay called ahead, so as they pulled in the drive, Beth rushed out to greet them. She was appropriately impressed with Brandon’s Lamborghini, but, significantly, her mother, who was watching out the window, was even more impressed. She had some idea of the value of a car like that. She was also impressed when she was introduced to Brandon Dowling, as she knew him by reputation. While the reputation included the fact that he was gay, it also touted his many contributions to Clifton, his great wealth, and his close connections to the influential Todd family. Sarah almost overlooked the fact that she was being also introduced to the young man who claimed to be the illegitimate son of her late husband, and someone who was clearly of mixed race. In the company of Brandon Dowling, Jay Brooke was almost respectable.
They did not stay long. Jay had made his point by showing up as he did. He might not be top drawer in Clifton society, but he could claim some impressive connections. After explaining that, thanks to Brandon, he would have more free time in the future, Jay also explained to Beth about his grandmother’s birthday. Beth then demanded that, as Jay had shown up, and been introduced to her mother, that she be allowed to accompany him back to his grandmother’s place and be introduced to her. And so, after a brief visit of only about twenty minutes, Beth squeezed in with Jay in Brandon’s Lamborghini, and they returned to the Brooke apartment in West Clifton. After dropping the other two off, Brandon continued on home.
Jay escorted Beth into the apartment where he lived with his grandmother and aunt. Leon, Anne Nicole, and Clarence, along with the two youngsters, were still there, and so she met his entire family, or at least the respectable part of it. Beth loved Eudora Brooke, and found the others acceptable, but she did not fail to note the shabby apartment. She was coming to realize more and more the differences in living conditions of Jay and herself. Of course, as Brandon had not stayed, Beth was now dependent on Leon and his car to get back home. Leon joked about going off and leaving her there, but Jay got after him when he noticed that Beth was actually frightened at the idea. But it was a very different vehicle which delivered Beth back to her home than the one in which she left.
The weekend after Mrs. Brooke’s birthday marked the beginning of spring break at the University, and for the first time Jay could actually look forward to a break. During the last week of February, he and the Business Office on campus got his scholarship from Brandon straightened out, and he quit both his jobs. At the same time, his grandmother quit both hers. She knew Brandon a lot better than Jay did, and she trusted him completely when he said she was now on a retirement income, and simply did not worry about it. Jay could not be quite that trusting, but he did quit two unpleasant jobs, including the one where he had been harassed all last semester about showing up for his Historical Methods class on time. He still had his original scholarship and his student loans which paid basic expenses, and he could live on what Brandon offered, and still have a little over to help his grandmother if she needed it. But most important, he now had some free time. All the time between classes, eating, and sleeping was not devoted to a job. He could actually enjoy some social life. And so, he invited Beth to be his date for a party celebrating the beginning of spring break.
“What?” she pretended shock, “You want to date your sister?”
“Well,” he responded, “as you have denied that I am your brother, that does not come into play, now does it?”
And so they went to one of the many parties on campus on Friday, February 27.
Jay was feeling elated with his new-found freedom, made possible by his grant from Brandon, and so he was in great spirits for the date. Beth was influenced by his high spirits. She still had to provide transportation, as Jay’s grant did not extend to buying a car, but he did present her with a bouquet when she picked him up. And he covered the cost of tickets at the door. They spent hours at the party, dancing and drinking and talking, and eventually making out some as well. Both seemed to be in the mood, and simply ignored the social barriers. They were not the only mixed race couple at the party, and, of course, no one knew about their possible relationship except Dr. Peters, who very definitely was not at this student shindig.
It was about midnight when they left the party, feeling pretty good, and with inhibitions reduced. Rather than heading back to West Clifton, Beth drove out to Wallace Park and to the overlook, the rendezvous of young lovers for generations. There, Beth and Jay began making out in earnest. It was, however, uncomfortable trying to make out with the gear shift between them, and as it was still February, it was too cold to make out on the grass. So, keeping the motor running and the heater blasting, they got into the back seat. There, with Jay on his back and Beth on top, they managed a pretty good sixty-nine, then, grinning and panting, they turned around, scrunched up, and Beth lowered herself on Jay’s hard cock. They fucked for over half an hour before he reached climax, but she came three times, including a final one as he poured his semen into her. Amid many giggles and more touching, they pulled up their clothing, got back in the front seats, and took off for home. When Beth dropped Jay off, this time there was a passionate kiss shared by both of them.
With no job, for the first time he could remember Jay had extra time on his hands. During spring break, he spent time at home, handling a couple of little jobs which had developed in the apartment, and carrying out some improvements which had been talked about for a long time. He was often at the campus library working on term papers. He also made use of the campus gym, using the excuse that, as he was no longer working, he would turn to flab otherwise. He visited Brandon’s Boys, and thanked Brandon, visited Clarence, and actually went with him out to the Farm and rode a horse for the first time. During this same time, Beth also put in some work on her classes, but she did a lot of shopping. She tried to get her mother to talk about her father, without much success, but Sarah did admit that Jay seemed like a nice boy.
But much of the time, Jay and Beth spent in each other’s company. Jay was back at the Prentice home in Balaclava twice more, and Beth visited the Brooke apartment once more. But they could not engage in sex at either place. Jay got a key to the apartment Leon and Anne Nicole shared at the Kenilworth, and at times when they were both at work and the kids at day care, the two teenagers spent hours there. They always left things in perfect order, being grateful for the help rendered by Jay’s cousin. Clarence also arranged for them to make use of the room he had at Brandon’s Boys on one occasion. Beth was able to get the use of a room at her sorority house, as most sisters were away for the break. Jay teased her about fucking a black boy and her brother. She replied, “I don’t care about what color you are, and I don’t care whether we’re related or not, this is the best sex I’ve ever had, and I want it more and more.” Then he teased her about being a sex fiend. But he continued to fuck her as often as they could manage it.In all this, it never occurred to Jay to ask about Beth’s protected status. He knew she was not a virgin when they first got together, and he just assumed she was protected. And usually she was. But Beth was not entirely rational these days. She was so entranced by her new relationship with Jay that she simply did not think of protection, sometimes for days on end. And when she did take her pill, it did not register that she had neglected it the day before. And she was very fertile and very horny all through break. In consequence, the inevitable happened, but they would not know for a couple of weeks