The Right Thing
By SX Meagher
Townsend paced up and down in front of the gate, having arrived a full half-hour before Hennessey was scheduled to deplane. Finally the doors opened, and after dozens and dozens of people streamed out, Hennesseys dark head came into view. "Hennessey!" the smaller woman cried, waving energetically.
"Hi, sweetheart," Hennessey said, wrapping her arms around her friend even while other passengers jostled them. "I missed you."
"Oh, I missed you, too. It was all I could do not to come down to South Carolina and join your writing class. I had some close calls, baby." Her voice had grown so soft that Hennessey had to strain to hear her, but she nodded and pulled her friend out of the crowd.
"Im sure you did, but you didnt drink. Thats all that matters. You didnt drink."
"No, I didnt, but it worries me that even after all this time, I still have such a strong urge. Thats frightening, honey."
"I know it is, and you might feel that way for a long time ¾ especially when youre upset or under a lot of stress. But you resisted it, Townsend. You resisted the urge." She hugged her friend close to her body one more time, holding on for a long while. "Im proud of you. Very, very proud."
"Thanks. Its been hard, but Im getting used to being proud of myself. Its different but very, very nice."
"Lets go, pal. Time to get settled in our dorms. School starts tomorrow."
* * *
"How was your first week of school?" Hennessey asked when the pair met for dinner several days later.
"Eh all right. I think I might move out of the dorm at the end of the term, though. My parents say they trust me enough to let me get an apartment, and I think it might be time for me to move on."
"Is there a problem?"
"No, not a big one. But Ive got a new roommate, and shes a real tightass. I dont want to waste my time living with someone I dont like."
"Why not move out now?" Hennessey asked.
Townsend gave her a puzzled look and said, "My parents have already paid for my room and board for the term. I dont want to waste their money."
Hennessey reached over and grasped her friends hand. "That is so nice to hear."
Giving Townsend a very big smile, Hennessey said, "Two years ago you would have delighted in wasting your parents money. Youre so much more respectful now."
Townsend shrugged her shoulders, looking slightly embarrassed. "Oh, Im still hard to deal with," she said, blushing mildly.
Looking directly at her, Hennessey said, "No, youre not. You used to be, but youre not now. Youve grown so much," she added. "Its wonderful to see, babe."
Dropping her head just a little, Townsend picked at her food and said, "Thanks. I appreciate it."
"Hey, just for grins, why not check with the school and see if your parents can get a refund if you move out early."
"Can you do that?"
"Cant hurt to check," Hennessey insisted, adding a wink.
* * *
A month later, Hennessey rang the buzzer for the top floor of a neat brick apartment building in Cambridge. Townsend buzzed her in, and the lanky brunette took the stairs two at a time, getting to the landing before her friend could get the door unlocked. "Hi, there," she said, leaning against the doorjamb as though shed been waiting for hours.
"Get in here, you nut." Townsend took her friend by the arm and pulled her into the apartment.
Looking around with her usual deliberation, Hennessey nodded approvingly. "Nice. Very, very nice. I think someone had a decorator," she said.
Shrugging, Townsend said, "My mom offered, and who was I to say no?"
"Hey, if my mom offered to rent me an apartment and have it decorated, I wouldnt say no, either," Hennessey said, giving her friend a winning grin.
"Okay, time to stop gawking and start eating. I made this dinner with my own little hands, so lets eat it before it gets cold."
"You made dinner yourself? Really?"
"Yep. If Im going to live alone, Im going to have to learn how to cook for myself. I refuse to eat fast food for every meal. Besides, I feel better when I eat better."
Townsend took Hennesseys light jacket and hung it in the hall closet, then led her into the good-sized kitchen. "I dont have the skills to do anything fancy," she said, "but I managed to roast a chicken and make some roasted rosemary potatoes."
"Damn, Townsend, that looks fantastic!" Hennessey slung her arm around her friend and gave her a hug. "Im very, very impressed!"
"I made a salad, too," the younger woman said. "I have a few different dressings in the fridge. Pick whatever you like."
On her way to the refrigerator, Hennessey was, as usual, checking out every detail that her eyes lighted on. "This is such a nice place, Townsend. Im really glad that you decided to do this. I think it was time for you to have your own apartment."
"Yeah, I think it was. It hasnt been very hard to deal with all of the partying and drinking in the dorm, but I dont like being around it. Why ask for temptation, ya know?"
"I do know." Hennessey brought the salad dressing to the table and poured a modest amount on the lettuce, while Townsend carried the dishes over.
When they both sat down, Hennessey looked at her friend and asked, "Have you heard from Jenna this week?"
"Yeah. Today." Townsend took a bite of her salad and chewed thoughtfully for a moment. "Theyre sending her to a different place than they had originally planned."
"Shes not going to the Philippines? But she's already started to learn Tagalog!"
"Oh, no, shes still going there, but she was supposed to go to Manila. Now she's going to a place I had a hard time finding on a map."
"What's the name of the place?"
"Cebu," Townsend said. "It's an island, not that that's news, since the Philippines is made up of islands, but it's very, very far away from a major city. She's going to have to get used to living in a very, very rural place."
"Shes not going to be camping, is she?" Hennessey asked. "I mean, shell be indoors at least at night, right?"
"Yeah, of course she will," Townsend said. "But she talked to someone who recently returned from the Philippines, and she told her that she didn't see carpeting the whole time she was gone. Im worried about her, Hennessey. Shes not very worldly, and Im afraid that being thrown into a new environment, in a new culture, and being forced to speak a foreign language are going to be very, very hard for her."
"Im sure it will be hard for her," Hennessey said, "but you have to trust that shes doing something that means a lot to her. Im sure she can rally."
"I know, I know," Townsend said, looking a little embarrassed. "I just cant help worrying about her."
"I dont blame you, buddy. I know Id be wild if Kate were in the same position. And Im guessing that you wont be able to talk much."
"Probably not at all," she said. "Ill be able to write to her, but Ill have to be very circumspect. She wont have any privacy, and she cant afford to be found out."
"Its gonna take a lot of patience, honey, but I know you can handle this ¾ if you want to hang in there."
Townsend looked at her friend with deep sadness in her eyes. "I dont have any choice. I love her too much to let go."
* * *
Two weeks later Townsend was still very down about Jenna's absence. Hennessey had spent the whole week trying to think of something that would cheer her friend up and she finally decided that a change of scenery might be just the thing. "Hey," she said when she called. "Wanna get away for the weekend?"
"Away? What kind of away?"
"I'd like to get out of town while it's nice. I thought we could go somewhere to shake things up a little bit."
There was a pause and Townsend said, "Are you trying to take my mind off my troubles?"
"That might be part of my agenda," Hennessey said. "But it's not the only item. I haven't seen much of New England, and since I'm only going to be here for the rest of the school year, I need to make use of my weekends."
"Whatever happened to the old Hennessey?" Townsend asked. "I remember when you would check your watch every half hour because you wanted to go home and study when we were on our Friday night dates."
"That was, in fact, the old Hennessey. One of Kate's positive influences has been to make me realize I don't have to kill myself to get good grades. I don't have to work twice as hard as everyone else. I'm as bright as anyone here, and if my fellow seniors can goof off a bit ¾ I can too."
"Well! That's quite a declaration of independence," Townsend chuckled. "I agree that we need to celebrate your freedom. Got any ideas about what you'd like to do?"
"Oh, I don't know. I looked on the Internet and found some youth hostels in Maine ¾ "
"You're on drugs," Townsend said, laughing. "I'll plan this weekend, pal."
"I don't have much money," Hennessey warned.
"I know that," Townsend said, giving her an indulgent smile. "Don't worry about a thing."
* * *
On Friday afternoon Townsend picked Hennessey up in a sleek, shiny, green Jaguar. "Nice car," Hennessey said, after stowing her bag in the back seat. "Your mom's?"
"Yeah. She's into SUV's now, so this one doesn't get much exercise."
Giving her a half smile, Hennessey said, "That's a problem I don't think I'll ever have."
"Hey, you never know, stretch. You might become a world-famous author and be swimming in dough."
"I guess that's a possibility, but it's more likely that I'll be just another anonymous university professor who dreams of writing the great American novel, but never gets around to it."
Townsend gave her a quick look and said, "Who's that talking? That's very pessimistic for you, babe. Everything all right?"
"Yeah, sure," Hennessey said. "I'm just fine. I don't think I'm being pessimistic, either. I'm just a realist, Townsend. It's very tough to have a full time career and find time to write. Not many people can do it, especially if you want to have a family."
"My mother " Townsend started to say, then caught herself. "Okay, my mother isn't the best example. I don't think I saw her for more than an hour a day when I was growing up, but some authors must be good parents."
"I'm sure they are," Hennessey agreed. "I just don't know that I could be one of them ¾ especially if I'm teaching."
"You know," Townsend said, "you've never talked about this, but what would you rather do ¾ teach or write?"
"Are you gonna tell me where we're going?"
"Nope. Just sit back and enjoy, and while you're enjoying the view, answer my question."
"Yes, ma'am," Hennessey said, grinning. "I'd say that I have to write. It's more than a hobby; it's a compulsion. So even if I never publish anything substantial, I'll always write. But I love teaching, too. I couldn't write all day; a couple of hours is as long as I can concentrate properly. So I suppose my ideal would be a light teaching load with enough time to be able to write a bit every day."
"That sounds like a nice plan," Townsend said. "I think you'll be able to do it, bud. Especially if Kate's a doctor."
"Oh, Kate's gonna be a doctor," Hennessey said. "No doubt about it."
They drove in silence for a while, trying to work their way through the heavy Cambridge traffic. Townsend glanced at her friend, seeing the happy, peaceful expression on her face. "Hennessey? Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Do you miss Kate?"
"Huh? Of course I do!" Hennessey's blue eyes were wide, and she gave Townsend a very puzzled look. "Don't I act like I do?"
"Uhm to be honest, no."
"You heard me," Townsend said. "You act perfectly happy, not like someone who's pining away for her lover."
"Huh." Hennessey reached up and scratched her dark head, then furrowed her brow. "I'm not sure I know how I'm supposed to act. I've never had a lover before."
"There isn't a script, Hennessey. You're either lonesome or you're not."
Hennessey turned and looked out the window for a while, obviously thinking about the question. "I guess I have to admit that I'm not lonesome, Townsend. Is that bad?"
"Yeah, I don't wanna be screwing up this girlfriend thing. If I'm supposed to be lonesome, I'll try to work on it."
She looked so sincere that Townsend wasn't sure if she was joking or not. "Are you ?"
"I'm joking," Hennessey said, chuckling. "I know I can't force myself to be lonesome, but I am a little puzzled. Are most people lonesome when they're alone?"
"I don't know about most, but I miss Jenna so much, I ache," Townsend said. "I think about her every day, usually many, many times. When I lie in bed at night, I feel so incomplete ¾ like everything would be okay again if she were just here."
"Hmm " Hennessey gave her friend a thoughtful look and said, "Maybe that's the difference. I know that Kate loves me and we'll be together as soon as this school year's over. You're not as certain about Jenna."
Nodding, Townsend said, "You might be right. I feel like I've lost Jenna ¾ for good. You know that Kate's away because she has to be, not because she wants to be."
"Hey." Hennessey patted her friend's leg, then gave it a squeeze. "Jenna's doing what she thinks she has to, baby. She doesn't want to be in a foreign country, does she?"
Townsend sniffed a little, then wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "No, she doesn't want to be. She can't be very forthright in her letters because people read them, but she sounds very depressed."
"People read her letters?!?"
"Yeah." Townsend gave her a puzzled look and asked, "Didn't I tell you she wouldn't have any privacy?"
"There's a difference between privacy and spying!"
"I know, I know," Townsend said, her voice sounding strained. "Please, Hennessey, don't get me started. This is her faith, and it means an incredible amount to her. She knew what it was going to be like, and she went into it with her eyes wide open."
"I don't want to rile you up, but what possible reason could they have for reading her mail?" Hennessey asked.
Sighing, Townsend said, "They want to make sure that the missionaries are doing all right. Jenna says that reading the mail that people send to their families is the best way to know if any problems are developing."
"Or to make sure that they can't complain about the problems," Hennessey grumbled.
Townsend shot her a look and said, "You're not helping."
Hennessey closed her eyes for a moment, then patted her friend's leg again. "I'm sorry, buddy. I know you're doing your very best to support her, and the last thing you need is for me to be ragging on her choices."
"S'all right. I know it's hard not to."
"No excuse," Hennessey said. "I promise that I won't do it again."
"Deal. Now I have to focus, so let's drop it. There's a tricky intersection coming up, and I don't want to miss it." Hennessey took a look at Townsend's profile, seeing much more going on in her friend's head than a mere search for an intersection.
* * *
In a little over an hour, Townsend put on her turn signal and slowed the car down. "Gloucester?" Hennessey asked. "We're going to Gloucester?"
"Yep. We're going to Gloucester. Ever been?"
"Huh-uh," Hennessey said, her dark head turning quickly so she could see out both windows. "Why are we here?"
"Because we have a place to stay," Townsend explained. "I promised you an inexpensive weekend, and I keep my promises."
* * *
They drove along a scenic coastal road, with Hennessey bobbing around so much that Townsend nearly asked her to sit in the back. Approaching a hidden drive, Townsend pulled the Jaguar in, slowing to make her way down the unlit path. "Where in the heck are we?" Hennessey asked.
"My grandmother's house," Townsend replied. "My father's mother."
"Jesus!" Hennessey's eyes widened as the house came into view. It was fully dark out, but the house was lit with spotlights that were obviously hidden in the surrounding trees. "How big is this place?"
"Pretty big," Townsend said. "I think it has seven or eight bedrooms."
"Why on earth does your grandmother need a place like this?"
"Oh, she doesn't. She only uses it in the summer ¾ for parties and things. You know."
"Nice place," Hennessey said, getting out of the car and filling her lungs with the salt-laced air. "Ooh that's nice," she said, her smile glinting in the moonlight. "Very, very nice."
"You're gonna like it here, stretch. I'm sure of it."
"Yeah, I'm usually pretty picky about the mansions I stay in, but I'll give this one a chance."
* * *
Late that night they lay in front of the fireplace, the crackling, popping sounds of the blaze punctuating their conversation. Hennessey had made dinner after insisting that she wanted to cook rather than go out. With their stomachs full of bluefish, roasted potatoes and sautéed squash, both women were nearly dozing from the warmth.
Hennessey was lying on her stomach. Townsend was propped up on three pillows, her bare feet close to the fire screen. "I am a happy girl," Hennessey said, her voice slow and soft. "Good food, good fire, good company." The brunette stretched and asked, "Why haven't we come here before? This is such a great weekend house."
"It is a great house, but my grandmother's not a very generous woman," Townsend said. "I think she trusts me now, but she's the type to make a big deal about how I have to be responsible and all sorts of crap. She loves having things that you want and then making you beg to get them."
Shifting up onto an elbow, Hennessey asked, "Did you do this for me? I hate to think of your groveling for a place to stay."
"Oh, no, no," Townsend said, laughing. "She's in China this month. My dad is responsible for her affairs when she's gone. I knew he wouldn't give me any trouble. Actually," she said thoughtfully, "my grandmother might not have given me any trouble, either. I think she's beginning to trust me." She laughed softly and said, "But she's still a tightwad."
They were both quiet for a while, and Townsend thought that Hennessey had fallen asleep. But after a few minutes, Hennessey's quiet voice said, "I can't imagine that everyone in your family isn't proud of you, Townsend."
The blonde sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees, cocking her head at her friend. "What makes you say that?"
"You make me say that," Hennessey said. "The changes you've made have been amazing. Don't you get a lot of praise from your family?"
"My mother and father are both proud of me," Townsend admitted, "but the rest of my family is pretty self-obsessed. Of course, my parents are, too," she said, chuckling, "but they've suffered so much that they can't help but notice the improvement."
"I'm not kidding about this," Hennessey said. "I I don't tell you often enough how impressed I am with you."
"Well, don't let me stop you," Townsend said. "Please, go on." Her green eyes were twinkling in the firelight as she gazed at her friend.
Hennessey swung her legs around and mimicked Townsend's posture. "The changes you've made have impressed me more than anyone else I've ever known," she said softly. "I mean that, Townsend."
Townsend giggled and said, "Don't be ridiculous. I know how you feel about your grandparents and the sacrifices they've made."
"I mean it," Hennessey said again, her expression serious. "My grandparents come from abysmal poverty, Townsend. They're doing what their families have done for countless generations. They're almost like bees in a hive, if you know what I mean. After a while, you don't even think about what you're doing ¾ you just put your head down and work."
"But, Hennessey ¾ "
"But nothing," the brunette said. "I don't in any way demean the things my grandparents have done for me, but I'm still more impressed with the things you've done."
Blonde head tilting, Townsend asked, "Why? I'm amazed to hear you say that."
"Look," Hennessey said, sitting up straighter, "you had so many choices in your life. One option ¾ one viable option ¾ was to drink yourself into an early grave. Hell, you probably could have afforded a liver transplant or two to keep your body going longer than it should have. You didn't have to stop drinking, Townsend. You chose to." She emphasized the word "chose" so much that it struck Townsend.
"I guess I see what you mean," she said. "I didn't have to quit. I could have kept going, and my parents would have kept bailing me out."
"Exactly," Hennessey said. "They let you run wild when you were sixteen and seventeen years old. I can't imagine what you could have gotten away with as you grew older and could live on your own."
Townsend shivered a little, the thought of herself in that position making her skin crawl. "I didn't know what else to do," she said quietly. "I was so lonely, Hennessey. Drugs and alcohol were my only reliable friends." She smiled at Hennessey. "Until you."
"Hey, I played a role in getting you started, but you did all of the work. All of it," Hennessey emphasized. "That's why I'm so proud of you. You have a strength of spirit that's very rare, Townsend. It's even rarer in people who don't have to change. You didn't have to change, buddy, you chose to. You wanted to save your own life." She wiped a tear from her eye and added, "I admire that more than I can express."
Townsend scooted over to her friend and wrapped her arms around her. "I love you, Hennessey."
"I love you too," the older woman said. "I love you and I respect you, and I always will."
"Do you love me enough to give me a little shoulder rub? I've been so tense lately that my muscles are all knotted up."
"You've got it, bud. Let's go upstairs, and you can collapse as soon as I work my magic."
"You have the best ideas," the blonde said. "Just the best."
* * *
Townsend chose the large suite next to her grandmother's, setting Hennessey up in the second guest room. "Nice digs, huh?" the blonde asked. She pulled back the down comforter and the crisp white sheets and slid into the bed. "My grandmother has exquisite taste in beds."
Hennessey laughed softly, "Thank God I'd never been to any of your family's houses before I asked you to come to South Carolina. I don't think I'd have had the nerve to have you sleep on the floor."
"I had the time of my life," the younger woman said. "I would have slept on a bed of nails to be with you."
"Those were the days, huh?"
Townsend rolled onto her stomach and draped her arms over her pillow. "If you can get right under my shoulder blades, I'd be eternally grateful."
"Not a problem," Hennessey assured her. She tugged the collar of her pajamas down a little and started to work on the tense muscles. It didn't take long to have Townsend purring softly while the strong, sure hands kneaded her tension away.
"Damn, that feels good. Jenna used to rub my back for me when it got tense. She's just a little bit better than you are."
"Better? No way!" Hennessey said, laughing.
"Only because I was naked, and she'd usually continued to relax me thoroughly."
"Oh my favorite kind of relaxation," Hennessey agreed. "Well, I can't give you the royal treatment, but I'll do my best."
Townsend thought about her friend's comment, then said, "You know, I don't think of you in that way any longer. I don't feel that sexual tension that I used to feel."
"I'm glad," Hennessey said. "It would make me crazy to think that you were troubled by that."
"I think I've finally begun to understand that we can be best friends without having sex be a part of the equation," Townsend said. "It's freeing."
"How are these muscles?" Hennessey asked. "Are they freeing up, too?"
"Yeah. They feel much better. Thanks, bud." She rolled over and looked at her friend, asking, "Any chance you'd share this huge bed with me? I'm feeling awfully lonely tonight."
Without hesitation Hennessey kicked off her slippers and slid into bed. "Anything for you," she said. She reached out and started to stroke Townsend's blonde head, sighing when she heard her friend begin to cry softly. She knew there was nothing she could do to take the hurt away, but she knew she'd do anything in her power to soothe Townsend's pain.
* * *
The next morning, Hennessey woke when the sun crept along the bed and landed on her face. Blinking in confusion, she looked around and saw Townsend lying on the other side of the bed. "Oh, right," she said aloud. "We're in Gloucester." She sighed contentedly and draped an arm over her eyes, allowing herself to sleep in for a very welcome change of pace.
* * *
On Sunday afternoon, the pair drove back to Cambridge, the relatively short trip taking quite a while in the heavy traffic. "I'd never ask you to beg, but if your grandmother's more generous after her trip to China, I wouldn't mind going back to Gloucester," Hennessey said.
"You liked it a lot, didn't you, stretch?"
"Oh, yeah," the brunette said, grinning widely. "I'm relaxed, I've been very well fed, and I loved having a whole weekend with you. I never grow tired of you, Townsend ¾ never."
The blonde shot her friend a smile. "The same goes for me. You know, I like you even more now that we're not romantically involved. I can appreciate your marvelous qualities without all of the emotional highs and lows we used to go through."
"I know what you mean," Hennessey said, nodding. "Things are so much more volatile when you're with your lover."
"Yeah, but volatility leads to some good sex," Townsend said.
The momentary silence of the car was broken by both young women sighing heavily, then making eye contact and breaking into a prolonged bout of laughter.
* * *
"Guess where you're going the Saturday before Thanksgiving?" Hennessey asked her friend during one of their Friday night dates.
"I have no idea," Townsend replied, "but I hope it's someplace fun."
"Oh, it's fun, all right. Just make sure you mark your calendar, 'cause I've had to work some serious magic to get tickets for both of us."
"Tickets? You're taking me somewhere that requires tickets?"
"Don't act that surprised," Hennessey said, feigning hurt. "Am I that cheap?"
"Yeah, you really are," Townsend said, laughing at the astounded look on Hennessey's face.
* * *
On a bright, clear morning in late November, Hennessey showed up at Townsend's dorm, wearing a deep red sweatshirt with a large "H" on the front. She thrust a bag at her friend, narrowed her eyes at the green wool sweater that Townsend had on and said, "You've gotta change."
"Because you'll stick out like a sore thumb, buddy. You've gotta wear crimson. Trust me."
Their destination quickly dawned on Townsend, and she opened the bag to find a Harvard Department of Athletics sweatshirt. "We're going to the Harvard/Yale game!" she said.
"This is your third year in Boston, and I've never taken you to a Harvard game," Hennessey said. "This is our last chance!"
"I don't have to show my SAT score to get in, do I?" Townsend asked.
"Everyone's a comic," Hennessey said. "Ya know, Princeton was recently rated the best school in the country. I wonder if Princetonians have to put up with this kinda harassment?"
"I certainly hope so," Townsend said. "If you're gonna go to a brainy school, you've gotta pay the price."
* * *
Their tickets were not the best, but the fact that they were in the last rows of Harvard Stadium didn't dim the young women's enthusiasm in the least. Hennessey had faithfully attended most of the Crimson's home football games, considering herself lucky to be enrolled during a particularly successful period. The stadium was full nearly a half-hour before game time, but this was always Hennessey's favorite time ¾ when both teams boosters were full of confidence and mercilessly taunted their opponents.
"You know, I've lived in Boston my whole life, but I've never come to this game," Townsend said.
"It's not this game," Hennessey explained, "It's the game."
"Ooh just because it's the smart kids, it has to have a special name," the blonde teased.
"No, baby, that's not why. It's the game because it was the first college football game ever played. It started in 1875! Hell, South Carolina was still trying to recover from the Civil War when this match began."
"Really? Are you serious?"
Hennessey looked confused. "Does this really surprise you? How have you avoided hearing about the game while living in Boston?"
The blonde shrugged, her smile beaming. "I guess I'm just oblivious. To add fuel to the fire, my father, grandfather and great-grandfather all went to Yale."
Hennessey slapped herself on the forehead, "What am I gonna do with you? Are you sure you don't wanna root for Yale?"
"Are you nuts? I'd be beaten to death cheering for Yale while I sit on the Harvard side. Hell, I'd root for Harvard if I went to Yale!"
"That's my girl," Hennessey smiled. "Now, memorize this cheer sheet. The music's easy, but some of the lyrics are a little cumbersome."
Townsend looked at the sheet, then slowly turned her head towards her friend. "Are you kidding? Some of these lyrics are in Latin!"
"You don't speak Latin?" Hennessey asked, an impish grin on her face. "No wonder you didn't do well on your SAT's."
Townsend elbowed her and said, "I did darned well on my SAT's ¾ considering I was ripped!"
Hennessey's blue eyes widened. "You were drunk during the SAT's?"
"No! What am I, stupid? It's hard to take a test when you're drunk. I was high," Townsend said, chuckling heartily at the look on her friend's face.
* * *
A short while later, Hennessey draped her arm around her friend, guiding her through the words of the song the student section was singing.
We say Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!
Theres never an Eli can teach us to play!
Harvard! Harvard! Harvard!
See how the bleachers blue turn pale with fright;
Send a cheer across to bleach em nice and white!
Oh, look at the way we smash and rib em through
While the blue bull-dog howls "Boo-la, boo-la, boo!"
Let out your voices now so loud and hale,
Tis a funral ode we sing to Eli Yale.
Oh, give us a yell, Hi! Hi! For Harvard
For the Crimson today!
"That was, by far, the stupidest song I've ever sung," Townsend said, leaning close to her friend so as not to be overheard.
"Ha! That was nothing!" Hennessey insisted. "Wait till we get to the ones that refer to the epic battles of the Peloponnesian Wars."
"You're kidding, right?" Townsend asked.
"You'll just have to wait and see, but I'd suggest you spend halftime at the library if you're not familiar with the battle at Syracuse."
With her green eyes twinkling impishly, Townsend said, "You can't fool me, Hennessey; I know Syracuse isn't in the Ivy League."
* * *
Not long after they returned to Boston after winter break Hennessey went to Townsend's apartment for dinner. "What in the heck are you doing?" Hennessey asked when she looked at the mess on the living room floor.
"Trying to send Jenna something that won't be stolen."
Townsend sighed and rolled her eyes. "She hasn't gotten the last four packages I sent her, and she said that she thinks it's because the boxes looked like they might have something of value in them."
"Who's stealing her stuff? People from her mission?"
"No!" Townsend have her an irritated look. "She isn't with a bunch of thieves!"
Hennessey sat next to her friend on the floor, then gently patted her back. "I'm sorry, bud. I didn't mean to upset you."
Townsend shook her head and tried to smile. "S'okay. It's just so frustrating! Apparently, the customs people and other postal workers look through the packages and take things if they have much value. Now I'm just trying to send her a few of the things she wants while trying to disguise them."
"Kool-Aid?" Hennessey asked, shaking one of the packets.
"Yep. She has to boil her water and add bleach, so it tastes like hell. She says the trick is to add sugar-free Kool-Aid to disguise the taste."
"What disguises the taste of the sugar-free Kool-Aid?" Hennessey asked, earning a sharp look from her friend. "Sorry. I don't care for sugar-free drinks."
"You'd prefer bleach flavored?" Townsend asked.
"Mmm good point. Why are you using tennis ball cans?"
"Jenna says that the best idea is to fill the tennis ball can with the Kool-Aid, then wrap the cans with a ton of reinforced strapping tape. The idea is to make it more trouble than it's worth to steal."
"Hmm do you think a lot of people want to steal medicated powder?" Hennessey asked, reading the label on a container.
"If everyone has the kind of rash that Jenna has people would walk through fire to get at this stuff."
* * *
Continued in Part 13Return to the Academy