Disaster strikes

As I’ve mentioned, from my first day at VA I’d been flirting vigorously with Meg Petronius, albeit to no avail. What I didn’t know was that Meg had recently ended a troubled, long-term relationship and the last thing she wanted was to fall into another one.

But as the days and weeks went by, Meg gradually became more receptive. If I’d gotten extremely busy for a few days and had forgotten to flirt with her, she’d start flirting with me.

Still, nothing had happened between us until one evening in late June. It was about ten p.m. and I’d been in the kitchen putting away pots and pans the boys had left out to air dry. When I finished I headed for the front hall to watch TV with Rich, turning out lights as I went.

I heard Meg’s footsteps behind me, so I waited for her at the entrance to the front hall. But when she came up to me I didn’t move.

“What’s going on?” she said.

“I’m sorry, miss,” I said, “but this is a toll hallway. You can’t use it unless you pay the toll.”

“What’s the toll?”

I put my finger on her lips and then on my lips. “Oh,” she said, “okay,” and she stood on her tiptoes and kissed me lightly but lingeringly on the lips. I felt that kiss all the way down to my toes.

Meg stepped back and smiled at me. I said, “I just remembered – the toll is two kisses.”

Meg cracked up and we strolled down the hallway arm-in-arm. But when we got to the front room we had to separate because fraternization among staff members was verboten.

Matters progressed rapidly between Meg and me after that. Still, it was extremely difficult to find a time and place to be alone together at VA, given that the house was crawling with kids, supervisors, teachers, contractors, visitors from juvy hall and the Department of Social Services – and, of course, Rich Bolotin.

It was extremely hot in the third floor bedrooms that summer, so I would often open my gable window as far as it would go and lean out to enjoy the cooler night air. One night, as I was doing this, I heard a noise and looked off to my right – Meg had opened her gable window and was leaning out, enjoying the night air.

I said, “Psst!”

Startled, Meg looked over at me and we began an odd conversation in the night, whispering for some reason.

After we’d talked for a while, Meg said, “Why don’t you come over?”

“How will I get past the girls?”

To get to Meg’s room I would have to descend the stairs all the way to the first floor, walk all the way to the back of the house, climb up the back stairs to the second floor, walk past the girls’ bedroom and bathroom, then climb the stairs to Meg’s room on the third floor. If even one girl was awake – to say nothing of Rich Bolotin – I’d be in big trouble.

But Meg made her fingers into little legs and walked them from my window to her window. “Across the roof?” I exclaimed.

That roof wasn’t especially steep and it wasn’t especially high, but I have a fear of heights and I would have thought that nothing on earth could’ve got me out on that roof in the dark. But it’s amazing what dumb things a guy will do if a girl’s somewhere in the picture.

So I crawled across the roof, climbed into Meg’s window, and we spent some, um, serious quality time together night after night. When Meg fell asleep I would climb out her window and crawl back across the roof to my room.

But then we caught an unexpected break. One Monday Rich called us both into his office and when we sat down he beamed at us. Normally, when Rich called you into his office it wasn’t so he could beam at you.

Eventually he said, “I want to tell you what a great job you two have been doing this summer!”

Meg and I exchanged a look and then Meg said, “Thanks, Rich.”

Rich beamed some more, then said, “Since VA got started up here in the Kingdom, we’ve never had two good supervisors at the same time. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes!”

I said, “Thanks, Rich.”

“In fact,” said Rich, “I feel so good about you two that I’ve decided to start working on my thesis again. That means I’ll be spending a lot of time at the BU library.” He meant the library at Boston University. “I’ll be away a lot, including overnight.”

We knew generally that Rich was under pressure to get his PhD because the Department required people in Rich’s role to have a doctorate. Rich had already missed several deadlines and now the Department had given him a final deadline of the end of the year.

Rich told us he was “ABD,” which Meg explained to me later meant “all but dissertation.” He’d completed his coursework and had begun to write his thesis under the direction of Dr. Sam Levin, but then he’d started VA and got busy and had set the thesis aside.

Naturally, Meg and I took full advantage of Rich’s many overnight absences. After checking to be sure all the kids were asleep, we would retire to the couch in the front room and have some serious quality time together. We followed the same procedure whenever Rich was away overnight, which was increasingly often.

All went well until Saturday, August 20, a date which will live in infamy. As usual, Meg and I had checked to be sure the kids were asleep, and now, just after eleven p.m., we were on the couch in the front room having fun.

But suddenly Meg’s body went rigid and she blurted, “What was that?

Next up: VA, Part 19

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