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They sat Peggy's papers on the table and continued down the ladder. It went down to the basement they peeked out through a gap in the drywall and saw the laundry room plumbing, a couple of alcoves that could only be described as 'bunks' with dry rotted blankets and a notch for a lamp of some sort, the whole bunk carved into the house's substantial stone foundation. The ladder continued a little further down. It ended in what Dale recognized as an old coal bin.
"This is great!" Peggy whispered to him.
Dale ducked under a large pipe and then climbed over another one. The sub-basement wasn't high enough for them to stand in, except in between beams. They were a little disoriented, but the space was narrow and they only had one way to go.
There was a door on one side that opened with a push.
This opened onto a larger room. Well lit, and clean. Several doors lead out of the room. Dale pushed the small door they crawled through shut. The room appeared to be a general storage area for all sorts of things. Each box was carefully labeled, every shelf in order, every hanging bag covered in plastic.
This place was used, but not used often.
Peggy and Dale wandered for a minute. Then they heard footsteps on stairs, they ran and hid on the far side of the room. The butler opened a door and walked in. Then he went across the room through another door. Dale and Peggy scurried through the first door and up the stairs.
They walked out of her office. Mary was so self-conscious she couldn't stand it. When they got into the library proper she was sure everybody knew she wasn't wearing underwear. But she was still disappointed when nobody stared at them for more than a second.
They were in the graphics lab for several minutes before anybody even recognized her. Ms. Smith was waved over to a workstation at once.
Mary walked around the room, watching screens, looking at posters, and realizing that her computer background was nothing when you considered what these folks were doing. For a few minutes she even forgot she naked under her clothes.
It was the freest feeling she had ever known. She was so relaxed she even found herself sitting down and nearly forgetting to keep her skirt down and legs together. Something, she noticed, Ms. Smith did only part of the time.
The walk from the lab was uneventful until Mary realized they had to walk down stairs.
"Just do it, to hell with them." Ms. Smith coached.
She did, and again, she was kind of disappointed, nobody seemed to notice.
But she was sure she could get Jack to notice, and maybe he'd think she was the sexiest woman since Marilyn Monroe.
They talked in her hide-away office for awhile, and Mary promised she'd stop by with her skirt in the next day or so.
Leaving the building alone was a personal act of bravery for Mary, but she sucked it up and walked across the campus trying to act normal.
Jack was in the back yard of the house. The guys were trying to put a roll bar in a car with a see through hood.
She talked Jack into coming up to his room to 'talk'. Then she led him up the steep fire escape to the constantly open second floor door.
About halfway up she heard Jack take in a sharp breath.
"Mary. Are you all right?" He asked her at the top, "You're not wearing..."
She just smiled and turned to open his door.
They were all dusty and smelled of stale air. Peggy crawled under her bed and pulled the trap door shut.
Dale peeked out her door into the hallway. He was afraid they had been spotted and were now in trouble. But no storm troopers were rushing the door, no bullhorns blared their names, no cops were dropping from the roof. Nothing. He heard water running and glanced that way, Peggy was washing her face. Dale turned and opened the door.
"Where are you going?"
"I, ah, was gonna go change, and I got some homework I need to do."
"Well, OK, I need to check on Wendy."
"One of the new girls, that's her nickname. She's having trouble adjusting to this place."
"No silly. This place." She gestured to the walls with her towel. "This Rozbilti... this place. I can't even say the name of it right. Oh, did you know our stay here is free? The university has reimbursed our parents for the room and board for the rest of the year."
Dale grinned. "No wonder dad was so happy."
Dale was looking at the cathedral window, now in twilight it was lit from inside. It was beautiful. Peggy was already used to the sight, she only noticed it when she got lonely or it wasn't lit for some reason.
"How did you end up in the limmo that day we came over here?"
The question caught Peggy by surprise. "Didn't Kremin tell you?"
Dale shook his head. "I was there to surprise you. Kremin told me we were going to a fancy party and you needed a date, but you were too shy to ask me." She smiled sweetly at him. "You know, you still haven't asked me out on a real date."
Dale looked away and blushed a little. He tried to change the subject. "We really tore that car up. They still don't have it back from the dealer."
"Really? I bet it cost somebody a fortune." Peggy grinned.
"Kremin says this place, just the house and grounds, is worth millions of dollars. Did you know they have a formal garden behind the garage, its maintained by the college of horti... ah, horticulture, and one of the assistant profs is a resident here."
"Neat! I love gardens." She said, then waited for him to get the hint, he didn't, "I'd like to go see it sometime."
It sunk in. Dale inhaled. "Peggy, will you go on a picnic date with me to see the garden?"
"Yes Dale, I would love too."
Mary stopped midstride. "JACK!!!"
Jack bounded into the room, his "oh shit I forgot!" was drowned out by a scream from the far bed and cursing from the floor.
A friend of Jack's from a dorm had borrowed his room to 'entertain' a girl from town. Mary got a good look at what they had been doing and left the room. Jack looked the girl over, and then he followed her down the front stairs.
"Mary! I forgot he was coming over today. I mean it. I'm sorry. Mary!" She was out the front door and halfway across the street.
Jack watched her go, she could walk fast when she wanted too. He sat on the stairs. Dr Wilson walked around the house in time to see Mary cut across the grass, heading into the campus.
"That was a short visit." The prof was sipping from a tall skinny glass with fruit floating in it. He offered it to Jack. "Yeah. I think she's going crazy." He said after a long drink.
He was thinking about what he saw on the back stairs, he told Dr. Wilson about it. All the older man did was shake his head. "Women." He said looking at his now empty glass.
Dr. Wilson went into the house. Jack stood up and started off at a full run after Mary. He caught sight of her barely halfway across the campus. In another minute he was beside her, panting after the sudden exercise. He grabbed her hand.
"Mary!. Really, please stop."
She jerked her hand away and started off again.
"Mary. I LOVE YOU!" He blurted out before he realized what he had said.
But she stopped, and turned around.
"Jack? Are you drunk, high? Sick?" He shook his head slowly.
Then he found his voice again. "I mean it, I think... I think I love you."
She stood there. It was her turn to feel really stupid, she had not expected this.
"I've never, ever felt like this before."
"Jack. I really really like you, a lot. but... well, damnit Maybe I almost love you too."
They hugged a long time, people walked by them, some guy from a photography class took their picture from a ways off.
Mary was suddenly aware of her lack of undergarments again. A plan took shape. "Is their someplace where we can be alone?"
Dale was happy that a few of his Friday classes were short, his freshman seminar was cancelled, and the Greek math class was a running discussion of the latest issue of 'Hypertheory Journal' a newsletter written by a nut who believed that the universe was imaginary and had evidence to back it up. Some of his theories made just enough sense to make the slide rule crowd nervous.
"The principle of uncertainty clearly states that we can only know when OR where but not both, about quantum particles." Dr. Canney said emphatically. Dale was lost immediately.
"Dogwater!" Ralph shouted. "That applies only to subatomics, a trans-actual can also be defined by time and space simultaneously. If you deal with a constant that is relative to..."
"You're full of it! Any constant relative to a trans-actual would have to be outside normal universe by definition so how do you get away with calling it a constant."
"I gotta go get ready for my date with Peggy. See ya Monday." Dale said quietly while everybody was catching their breath. He waved to Dr. Varscroft and left quickly.
After a moment of stunned silence over the implications of the word 'date' used in a sentence with the name 'Peggy' from Dale, Mr. Blumn said, "The uncertainty principle applies to some situations outside the subatomic indeed."
Dale had been smart enough to ask the cook Martha to 'put something together' for a picnic yesterday. She asked why, and Dale told her. Then the cook pushed him out of the kitchen and said leave everything to her, Dale had gone to bed wondering what she'd do.
He went from class back to the house and changed, then changed clothes again. He wasn't sure what to wear. A date was dress up, but a picnic wasn't. He gave up, left on what he had on, and then walked to Peggy's room. He knocked.
"Be right there." Peggy said through the door. Then she opened it. She was wearing a nice dress, her hair was done, and she had on maybe a little too much makeup.
"Peggy." Dale said, proving that he did recognize her.
"Quiet lovely, Miss High." The butler said as he walked up the stairs.
Dale came out of his daze.
"You're beautiful." Dale stammered it. But She understood it.
"Ah, lets go get our lunch," He was glad he hadn't put on his play clothes.
Martha had 'put something together' all right. Melt-in-your-mouth pastrami and Swiss sandwiches, a fine pasta salad, a fruit mix, and a big jug of hand made lemonade. The young people kept telling her it was too much, but she shooshed them out the back door and told them to have a good time.
"Miss Alice, I think you did a good thing bringing them here, they are a fresh breeze in this stuffy old house."
Jack found someplace for them to be alone in one of the busiest buildings on campus, Lincoln Hall. Lincoln, or Ol' Abe as it was also called was the main underclass academic building. A huge art deco meets Greek Revival building with rambling corridors, high ceilings, and dead spaces where the interior had been remodeled time and time again. Jack knew of several such places, they were called 'study cubicles', some had a desk and chair stuck in them, others were a window seat, or just a couple of chairs in a dead end narrow hall. Jack found one of the with a door on it.
They pulled the door to and looked out the window behind the chairs. The view was confusing. Mary had thought they were on the north side of the building, yet she was looking toward the other side of campus.
"It's been a long time since I'd gotten lost in this building. I feel like a freshman again." Mary said holding Jack's hand.
"Hey, Mary, let's make out before our frosh seminar."
"Jack! You naughty boy. I'm a good girl." She kissed him.
They were starting to get rather involved when they heard voices and footsteps outside their hiding spot. Jack and Mary both held their breath, the voices seemed to fade, and they didn't hear any more footsteps. Jack turned his attention back to kissing her neck. In a just a second heard a gasp and felt Mary stiffen. Jack looked toward the door.
"This is one of the study cubicles students use for..." The tour guide froze as her eyes widened. The junior high school student's tour was smiling from all fifteen faces. The guide shut the door without another word. They heard retreating footsteps.
Jack didn't say a word. He got Mary off his lap and moved to the door and peeked out. Their side hall was empty. They smiled at each other and escaped.
They walked hand in hand out of the building smiling like they had gotten away with something.
They were giggling over everything that had happened to them.
Mary described the face of the tour guide, and the way the kids stared at them. Mary thought that they had stopped outside the room and the guide told them to be quiet in case somebody was studying. Mary said she had taken a tour like that in middle school and they tried to make it seem like college kids spent all of their time studying.
They stopped in the student center for a cold drink, then walked the rest of the way to her room.
The walkway to the garden was a brick pathway around the garage next to an old out building. They peeked through the window of the shed-like structure, nothing exciting. Ladders, rakes and buckets lay unorganized around planters full of dead flowers and a broken chair. They continued on, Dale shifted the basket and tried to open the heavy wrought iron gate, the gate was huge and its old hinges were sticky. After several rather pointless attempts, Peggy lifted the latch and they pushed together. It opened slowly.
Dale had no concept of what formal garden was, he sort of expected flowers, and maybe some bushes cut to look like animals. But not what he walked into.
The Rozbilski Garden was one of the finest medium-sized formal and kitchen gardens in the country. In an area less than a quarter of a city block the garden contained a vine-rose covered gazebo, several small but ornate fountains, a wide selection of dwarf trees, many flowers, some topiary, an interesting collection of sculpture, and some stone benches from all over the world from which to view the assemblage which wound back around the house to the fishpond. For the kitchen there was a few terraces of herbs, cherry tomatoes, rhubarb, and a few odds and ends, the border of the brick walk to the garden was home for cabbages, and Martha's own selection of beets.
The sight of the carefully maintained garden awed Peggy. Dale just looked. They wondered for a few minutes and sat the basket on the table in the gazebo to eat.
There were a few other people in the garden, but they were busy either pruning a funny looking tree, or drawing and painting flowers. The two freshmen ate in silence. Looking around, occasionally commenting on something, watching the pruning crew argue over which side of the tree to put the ladder on.
The food was delicious. They each liked the company, the garden was spectacular, and the floorshow of the ladder gang was funny enough to pass as free entertainment.
The three guys pruning the tree were supposed to be long gone, on orders from Martha, to be out of the way for 'the nice kids' to have their picnic. Martha knew the artists wouldn't be a bother to them, and vise versa, but Clyde, Joe, and Henry were another story. They were botanical students serving residency maintaining the Garden for credit. Except Martha, and the rest of the staff as well, thought they were frauds, and idiots. They did good enough work, the garden had scarcely ever looked better, but they each had there own ideas how and when to do something, like prune the tree, and they never agreed on anything, including pruning the tree.
Clyde thought it didn't need pruned at all, and kept saying so loudly and with much arm waving. Joe had at first wanted the tree cut down and replaced with a younger specimen of the same species, but he would settle for a severe pruning back and forcing the tree dormant until next spring. Henry thought the tree just needed a little off around the edges and it would be fine. So they argued, moved the ladder around in circles, swapped tools four or five times, and just carried on. Getting very little of anything done.
Dale and Peggy laughed and laughed at them, a wonderful date.
They had almost made it to Mary's room, playing touchy feelie in the elevator, and sneaking looks at each other.
"MARY! JACK!" Came the voice from down the hall.
They looked at each other, 'now what?' said their eyes.
"Did you here about Professor Sabre?" The girl talking didn't wait for an answer. "He was suspended from his position, supposedly without pay, and told to stay off the campus, they even had the assistant dean and a security guard watch him while he cleaned out his desk, then they took him to his car and waved goodbye, his classes are being taught by subs and nobody even knows what he did." She smiled and nodded, then walked on shouting to the next person she saw.
"That was Abby, the dorm gossip. But she usually has good information."
"I've got a class with Professor Sabre. I want to find out what's going on." Jack took her hand and they went bock downstairs.
The place to find out what was going on on campus was the lounge in the student union. Tradition hod it when the Allies forced Kieser Wilhelm to surrender at the end of WWI, this was where the news was first told, the same with Pearl Harbor and the news of Kennedy's death. So now people stopped by to compare notes and discuss Professor Sabre.
Jack and Mary started gathering news as they walked up the stairs of the Student center. The lounge was on the third floor, overlooking the heart of the campus. They heard everything from Sabre was a Chinese Communist agent, to he was sleeping with the Governor's youngest son.
In the lounge a corner table had been transformed into a rumor control office. Jack and Mary stood and listened for awhile.
"I heard he wanted a raise." Somebody said.
"No the IRS wanted his taxes for the last twenty years." Another.
"I think he's really Elvis impersonating a teacher." Jack said. Everybody chuckled. The guy behind the table read a note that somebody handed him.
The rumor control officer was an editor from the school paper that also had connections with the TV station. As he read, he was tapping a laptop and listening to a cel phone. "OK, Here's the latest from the administration." He said with dramatic flair, he took a short drink from his can of diet cola. "Professor Sabre, was, not a professor at all."
After they finished eating and laughing they walked around the rest of the garden. The border shrubs, narrow paths, and layers of foliage and flowers made the garden seem bigger than it was. They looked at each fountain, then each statue from several angles. Peggy showed Dale how the designer used each piece as a focus for sections of the garden and the winding paths around the central walkway changed the viewers perspective and increased the appreciation of both the plants and the artwork.
"Wow, you really know a lot about this stuff."
"Well," Peggy looked at the ground, suddenly shy, "I was in 4-H for years, we got a lot of exposure to this kind of thing. I guess some of it sunk in.
They stared at a sundial with an interesting figure in the middle of it. Its plaque identified it as a miniature of somebody called 'The Sun Singer' a nude male figure with outstretched arms slightly raised, his mouth open in mute song, his right knee slightly bent as if starting to dance. The figure transfixed the young couple, even though it was only two feet tall, it conveyed a power of life they hadn't seen before. Before they realized it they were kissing, right in front of the Sun Singer. He didn't seem to mind he kept singing his song of silence.
After the kiss wore off Peggy looked around. "Dale, what are we doing?"
Of course Dale thought they were in trouble, he remembered something vague about public indecency, but he didn't see any public. The gardeners were still arguing about the tree, the artists were still drawing flowers, he thought they had gotten away with something.
In fact the gardeners and the artists all watched the kiss for a long minute, then when they saw Peggy pull out they all went back to what they had been doing.
Dale was normal, that is, confused, "Huh?"
Peggy looked at him, he was Dale, this wasn't who she had just been kissing. She glanced at the Sun Singer. He was still looking toward the horizon, singing the song that only he heard.
Peggy took Dale's hand and they walked away from the sundial, they wandered through the flowers and the gazebo where they collected the basket and jug and walked back out of the Garden without speaking. Dale was still thinking about the kiss, and what had led up to it, but he came up clueless. They were looking at the statue, then they were kissing, just like that.
Peggy was a little puzzled too, but she didn't dare say anything to Dale.
The rumor control man let that statement sink in. "Even though Mister Sabre has taught here for several years, and this reporter has been in his economics class, he is in fact, not a professor or anything else. He was just an employee of the University who got some information into the Registrar's computer and sat up shop as an associate professor of economics. He had no credentials at the beginning, and any credentials he obtained since were fraudulent. The University regrets any loss of credits this matter presents to any current students, loss of credit? NOW WAIT A MINUTE!!!" The reporter read the rest of the letter to himself, "They're saying if you haven't graduated yet your credit from his class is void. That's a load of crap. THEY let him teach the class."
The crowd muttered and jeered. Jack asked what they said about current students of his.
"The new memo doesn't say, but the last notice said that his classes would be taught from now on by subs. THAT makes sense doesn't it? They'll keep going with his current class, but last year's class is out."
More muttering, and some cussing from the crowd. Jack and Mary listened some more and eased their way to the bar. They got some drinks and found a table away from the rumor desk. They held hands and talked and stared into each other's eyes. It had been a long day.
Mary said it first. "It has been a long day and its getting late."
"You're going to desert me after everything that's happened today?"
Mary thought about her day, it had been strange, Ms. Smith in the library, she had been carrying her underwear around in her purse since just after lunch when she had stalked out of class after a passionate monologue about passion. A strange day, true, but thinking about it gave her a second wind. "Is there anywhere within a hundred miles where we could be ALONE WITHOUT INTERRUPTION?" She asked bluntly,
Jack thought awhile. "You're really not wearing underwear are you?"
"It wasn't my idea, but no, I'm not." She admitted boldly, staring him in the eye. Then she smiled like the Cheshire Cat.
Jack swallowed hard. Then thought some more. "No there isn't. I can't afford a motel, the House is a zoo, your room is out."
Mary made a face, 'if we were married' she thought. IDEA! "How about a little fraud and deception?" Mary was smiling.
"I love it, tell me more." Jack leaned close.
Peggy needed to talk to somebody in a real personal way. After they got back to the house she thanked Dale for the date and Martha for the wonderful lunch and walked one street over to sorority row. There was only one person she could think of that she could talk to about something this personal. Her old next-door neighbor, Jeannie, who had moved into the Kappa Io sorority after the fire.
Many Sororities had allowed their pledges to move in early after the fire. Jeannie was thankful all the way to the ground that she hadn't had to move into the small dumpy old Catholic dorm. Besides, they had a lot more fun in the sorority house than in the dorm anyway.
Jeannie wasn't there but several girls she knew were, and they made girl talk, gossiped and exchanged opinions on campus news. Jeannie walked in and Peggy ambushed her. Jeannie was a little surprised to see Peggy, let alone all dressed up, but she got no explanation, just pushed down the hallway toward her room.
"What is so urgent?" She paused, "Are you pregnant?" Jeannie asked.
Peggy stopped dead. "NO! How would I be pregnant? No. Jeannie."
"Sorry." Jeannie led her into her room. The room was a single, which meant it was about the size of a small jail cell. There wasn't much room for anything besides the bed and a dresser, Peggy, used to her suite at the Rozbilski mansion only said, "It's a little small."
Dale was suddenly alone, a little confused. He wandered around the house rather aimlessly, and found a room he had never seen or heard of before.
It was a smallish room, lit by electric candles mounted on the walls, there was an ornate stained glass alcove on the other three walls with one of them was lit now from behind. He hadn't noticed that there was anybody in the room when he walked in, the serenity of the room had taken him aback, he stared at the stained glass, then at a corner cabinet that seemed to swarm with Buddha's, lotus flowers and small candles.
"Have you come to touch the soul of yourself?" A soft voice asked him.
At first Dale thought one of the figures of the Virgin Mary in front of the far alcove had spoken to him, then his eyes found the real woman that had asked the question. It was Colleen, the graduate art student.
She looked at him with a philosophical air. "You seem like you need answers to questions you do not know."
"Boy do I ever." Dale blurted. His voice sounded hollow and stupid in this room.
"This is the meditation room. It started as a Catholic chapel when the house was built, as others have lived here, other faiths have been represented. Every day one of the displays is the focus. Today it is the Hebrew's. I have chosen to meditate not only on my own Hindi faith but on parts of the others every day, in search of the Greater meaning."
They walked to the Alumni service area of the student union, they had the act practiced.
"Do you have any Courtesy rooms left?" Jack asked the man behind the counter.
"No." Mary said. "We agreed your sister would stay with me."
Jack looked at the man with a 'why me' expression then said to Mary, "I told you she might want some privacy and her plane doesn't get in until late. Do you have any rooms available? I don't need a headache before she gets here."
The counter man was looking at Mary waiting for her to object, "We don't have any smoking rooms at all."
"She doesn't smoke." Mary said. "That's why she can stay in my room FOR FREE, it'd be a lot better company too. I don't want her to feel like we're dumping her off and forgetting about her."
"I understand." Said the man.
"I just want the room in case she wants it, if she wants to stay with you I'll bring the key back OK." He looked at the man, "Sign the room out to me and if she stays we can change the name, that way the room won't be gone later."
Cont in Two Dorms Part 18
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