An Unwitting Discovery

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Notes [Last revised 9/14/15]:

– Special thanks to Ciguardian for patiently giving feedback on pacing, editing and re-editing of this story.
– All characters are the product of the authors’ imagination, and are 18 years of age or older.
– Although this is a standalone series there are undisclosed details in Unintended Consequences and Empty Nesters.
– We don’t think there is a particular reading order, since the reveals make it more interesting in the order published. However, several readers have commented that the order should be Unintended Consequences, then Empty Nesters, followed by this tale.
– Some reveals in this story precede and follow both of those stories.
– Any spelling errors should be attributed to the use of ‘Texas jargon’, which litters the pages of this story like so many armadillos along a busy roadside.
– This story, like most of our stories, has a long lead up.
– Checking the story tags may spoil the twist.

It was the start of my sophomore year at North Carolina State University (NC State). Living on campus for the first two semesters had been okay, though having three roommates made study – and life, for that matter – a little difficult at times. I had lived in a four-bedroom apartment that shared a single open ‘common’ area and one bathroom. That wasn’t ideal, but I’d been mostly okay with it since it was inside the engineering dorm, which was supposed to be for the more dedicated students.

The problem with ‘supposed to be’ is that it often differs drastically from reality. I found my fellow occupants were dedicated, but their dedication was to pursuit of game. Their ‘prey’ consisted mostly of combatants in online video games, but a couple of the guys had a side pursuit of bedding as many of the females on campus as possible. These particular young men also seemed to tilt the tables to their advantage by making themselves immune to the effects of alcohol. The fact that the drinking age was 21, didn’t seem to interfere with their managing to languish on the edge of sobriety. They reminded me of my stepfather, although Pete had generally kept his sheets ‘throwed’ more firmly to the wind.

These distractions, coupled with simply adjusting to this new environment, caused my first year in engineering to go less smoothly than I’d hoped. I wound up pulling low B’s in some of my core courses, and I hadn’t expected that, since I’d gotten mostly A’s in high school. Another thing that I hadn’t expected was how well I’d done in the biology class I’d taken as an elective. I had taken AP Biology in high school, but always figured I’d follow in my Dad’s path by taking up some type of engineering. It seemed to have worked well enough for him. Instead, I found myself engrossed in all of the new advances in biology, so I’d followed up with two more core BIO courses in my spring semester. I found myself just flying through them, along with calculus I and II, and general chemistry I and II.

I’d gotten into college, mostly, based on my math SAT score and good grades. My English score was passable, but on the low side. That meant that I had a few courses to make up, but I’d done pretty well in my remedial English classes, both semesters. In fact, I’d gotten A’s in every course except my major, so I was really rethinking my chosen path.

Towards the end of the spring semester, I had already decided I wanted to take a break over the summer. I wanted to go see my Dad and think about things. But when I’d called in April, I found out that he and Aunt Katie were going on a vacation to Europe. I was in the midst of making a whole ‘nother set of plans when he’d called me back to invite me to go with them. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d loved taking French and German, in high school, and wanted to see more of the world. Dad had been to all kinds of cool places after my parents divorced and I felt pretty fortunate to have been invited along, on this trip.

By the end of my second semester, I had just about had a full hat of the dorm situation. I’d done the calculations and, if I spent just a little more, I could afford an efficiency apartment. The burn rate from the college fund Dad had set up wouldn’t increase too much. Additionally, I felt I could forego the fun stuff he’d told me there would be funds to cover. The final straw that pushed me to move was an incident where one of my roommates had used my room for sex while I was out studying at the library. This guy had a reputation for being the sort that was naturally horizontal. However, his activities had cost me a night’s sleep before a big test in engineering. In my opinion, it had been the reason I’d gotten a C on the final. It dropped my overall grade for the course to a mid B. That was actually a little higher than the previous semester’s engineering course, but I felt as though I should be making A’s in my major.

So I spent the last week of May moving into my new efficiency and, istanbul escort when June came, I flew to Vienna to meet up with Dad and Aunt Katie. From there, we went off to several different cities and had a great trip. It was a very enlightening trip in many respects; I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about Dad and Aunt Katie, as well.

One of the side-benefits of the trip was that I had time to get Dad’s honest input on the possibility of my chancing my major. Since he was an engineer, I’d expected him to balk at my idea of switching my major to biology, but he was actually super supportive! His words had been, “Tommy, I’m still putting money in your college 529 and personal funds. You need to make sure you really like what you are preparing to do in life. Get that right, everything else is gravy.”

Well, that’s my version of it. Dad has an odd way of speaking, to my way of thinking. I spent most of my ‘growing-up years’ in Texas, while Dad was raised in North Carolina, so we have slightly different vocabularies. When Mom left Dad, she moved us to Austin, and my use of colorful Texas colloquialisms increased dramatically. Lately, though, I’ve noticed my language skills are changing – most likely the result of my remedial English classes. I find myself working constantly to adjust my speech and writing. Now that I think about it Dad would never have used the word, gravy. In fact, I was starting to drop it from my vocabulary, too.

My Texas drawl had gotten me some sideways glances, my first few months on campus. It garnered some chuckles in English class, as well. Funny thing was, I was born in North Carolina, not too far from campus. On top of that, my accent had started to change to match the surrounding people fairly quickly, too. I’d bet money that most folks from up north couldn’t tell a Texan from a Tar Heel, just by listening to them speak. When I hear someone from either place, it’s pretty clear, at least to me.

Still, there’s speaking, and then there’s writing. I very quickly learned that most of my writing, in college, would be of a more technical nature, and there was no room for colloquialisms in such documents. As for speaking, I simply disliked feeling self-conscious when the instructor – or my classmates – looked strangely at me because of my choice of words when I gave an answer to a question posed in class.

One day in class last spring, while giving an answer to a question, I used the phrase, ‘rode hard and put away wet’. After the students settled from their belly laughs, the professor had me spend several minutes explaining myself. I worked hard to share the concept of the proper care of horses, before the instructor caught on that the phrase – one that any Texan would easily understand – was another way of saying ‘mistreated’ or ‘abused.’ Then he explained to me that around here term had a more vulgar meaning in the students’ vernacular. I thought about it a bit and realized the two meanings might not be all that different.

After returning from Europe, I found two experiences similar. Coupled together they both encouraged me to improve my ability to communicate and become more aggressive with my language and accent adjustments. I honestly liked hearing all the different accents I was exposed to, on campus. The thing is, accents can identify you with a particular place, and that can lead to your being incorrectly ‘pegged’ as being of a particular intellectual level, often a low one. So I listened to the sounds of the voices around me, and worked hard at minimizing my south-Texas drawl. I even fantasized that I might lose my accent, all together, while pursuing an advanced degree up north somewhere.

Dan – my father, and Pete – my stepfather, couldn’t be more different. Pete can strut sitting down, but can usually barely afford to put beer in the fridge. ‘Barely afford’ means that he does it, and then complains about anything else he has to buy.

Dan makes really good money, working as an engineer out on the oil platforms in the Gulf, and his month-on, month-off schedule doesn’t give him as much time to go spending it as most folks with ‘normal’ jobs have. He doesn’t flaunt his money, though, like some folks do. He’s got a fancy house, with a pool, down on the Gulf, but he says it’s just a house – a place for him to keep his stuff. Maybe he’s right, and it just seems like a fancy mansion to me, compared to the double-wide Mom and Pete have, just outside of Austin.

Dad always looks forward to having me visit for at least a month, in the summer, and a week or two every other Christmas. He’s kept my bedroom, there, just like it was when I lived with him. It is a place that is just mine and didn’t have to do double-duty as some other sort of room, despite the fact that I only spent a few weeks out of the year sleeping in it.

As far as I could tell, Dad – Dan – was a good man. I can’t recall him ever having a cross word for yenibosna escort Mom, even after their divorce. Considering the fact that she cheated on him, and left him to run off with another man, that’s downright saintly. Even Dad’s version of their meeting gave Mom more credit than she probably deserved. The story went like this: He met this cute redhead on one of his computer gigs. She was ‘in charge of’ the computer database at a mom and pop electronics store. That was probably generous, too. I suspect she was just the one that did all the data entry, ’cause that’s what she does now. He said she was taking some night classes at one of the community colleges and needed some ‘tutoring’. The only words he used, that even approached casting a negative light on Mom, were still shaded with kindness. It was his description of how I’d been conceived.

“We’d been dating for about two months when Miss Launa Duinerua ‘forgot’ to take her pills and I knocked her up with you. It wasn’t quite a shotgun wedding, but it was close.”

Pete was the kind of guy that you can’t tell anything. To him, even my questions were wrong. I guess he fits that adage: You can always tell a Texan, but you can’t tell him much. Dan was pretty much the opposite in that regard. I could talk to him about damn near anything; he was a listener. When I was a little dude he took time to read to me, listen to my questions, and make sure I understood things in my classes. It set me up to a great start on my education.

Mom was cut from a different cloth. She spoke almost as little about her parents as Dad did, his. Still, I’d heard enough bits of information, over a lot of conversations with her, to gather that her folks were a little on the harsh side. The way they treated her bordered on abusive, and she’d wanted to be out from under them. It seemed pretty inexplicable, but she had very few nice words for Dad even when they were married. After the divorce, she would cut him down in front of me, every chance she got. My Mom wasn’t abusive to me, but she seemed to do things without considering their effect on me. I loved my Mom, after a fashion; she was my mother, after all. However, we were at odds more often than not. The God’s honest truth was Launa [Duinerua] [Anderson] Davis could start a fight in an empty house! Her dark red hair color seemed to personify her fiery moods.

Even as a kid, I understood why Dad’s job took him away from us for a month at a stretch. He was trying to make our lives better than what he’d had, when he’d been a kid. He never talked about his childhood much but certain clues would pop out: how strict his father had been, how his dad never had any real time for him, and how poor they’d been. Dad was gone for a month, and then home for a month, on account of the fact that he worked on drilling rigs and oil platforms. He couldn’t be home all the time but, when he was, he was all in. I guess Mom didn’t get that. Dan worked hard so we would have a good life – and we did, right up until the day that Mom met Pete.

It might seem a little thing, to some folks, but the break-up of a marriage is never a little thing, and that’s even truer when there are children involved. That was the biggest issue I had, with my Mom. I thought that her leaving Dan, for Pete, was a bad choice from the get go. She treated me like a naïve thirteen year old at the time, but I knew it was a raw deal and told her so. I was being ripped away from a truly good man who tried his best to be an excellent dad to me.

In his place was a weak excuse for a man, who really didn’t seem all that interested in me, or any kids for that matter. Worse, I was getting uprooted from my really nice home in Corpus Christi to move to a damn trailer park in Austin. The whole deal just plain sucked, and I resented it. The only good thing I had, going for me, was that – thanks to Dan’s coaching and patient tutoring – I was already taking advanced classes in high school when Mom left him. That, at least, got me into the advanced placement program at my new school in Austin.

During my last few months in high school, Pete reminded me fairly regularly that I’d better get a scholarship, or I was going to need to find some work and pay him some rent…. My grades had been good, but my SAT scores – while they were good enough to get me into college, weren’t high enough to qualify me for any scholarships, especially when Dad’s income was added to the equation.

When I got the letter of acceptance to Dan’s alma mater, NC State, I began to panic. During the week before visiting Dan for the summer, I’d been trying to figure out how I might get some college loans and then how I’d pay ’em all off when I got out.

Dan had, of course, provided my deliverance. When he told me he had my four years of college covered; I could have kissed a coyote! Not even Pete could let the air out of that balloon! Dan made that sefaköy escort whole ‘get a job’ threat, from Pete, a moot point. On top of all the college funds, Dan bought me a brand new Ford Taurus. As much as I wanted to be my own man, I had to be honest with myself: Dad’s help was a Texas-sized relief.

Well, long story short, the encouragement from Dad, during the vacation, convinced me to switch my major to biology with a minor in engineering. It wasn’t like I was failing engineering. I just found the biology came to me naturally and was much more interesting. The start of the fall semester of my sophomore year I got into a junior level class on genetics that was only offered every other year. There were only twenty of us taking BIO-310, Principles of Molecular Genetics, and the associated lab. The class met every day at 3:00 PM, which was fairly unusual. Most classes gave days off, but this one met daily and included a required lab on Fridays at 5:00 PM following the class, for a total of five credits.

Monday was the last chance course change day, and Tuesday was the first day of classes this fall semester. Morning classes had gone smoothly, and I was waiting outside the lecture hall for my genetics class. A prior class was still going on, but about to let out. That was when a vision appeared beside the doorway. My eyes beheld the face and figure of the woman I hoped was going to be the future Mrs. Anderson. God, she was a sight! I was in love with her before we’d even spoken. I was certain it wasn’t just a physical attraction, like you might feel toward a super model; there was some strange, indefinable something that drew me to her.

Trying to place what it was about her, I assumed a casual leaning stance against the painted cinder-block walls of the old building, studying her as surreptitiously as I could from my position across the hall. Her face was very symmetrical and her figure feminine, but not overly so. She had strawberry blond hair that came down to her mid-back. She was a just about my height, maybe a little shorter since she was wearing low heels when I first saw her. Her lips were full and a little pouty, but they looked just right on her. None of that seemed to make a lick of difference, in my head. I was convinced it wasn’t purely a carnal attraction despite the fact that the only interaction we’d had, thus far, was visual.

The previous class had finally let out, but I kept staring until I realized I had probably looked a little too long. I blushed lightly as I passed her, going into the room. I headed for the back of the class, which I considered my normal spot. Sitting in back meant I could see everyone, plus it seemed to garner me less attention. Today, it also meant I would have a very good view of her as she had chosen a seat that was across the aisle of the small platform lecture hall.

Professor Franklin came in, introduced himself, and handed out the syllabus. Then he said, “There are some of you who shouldn’t be in this class.”

I thought to myself, Bet that fella is talkin’ about me.

He continued on, “The pace of this course is quite rapid. We’re going to cover a lot of material in the first two weeks. If you’re not keeping up by then, I suggest you drop.”

That stunned me. It was probably the most honest advice I’d ever heard, from an educator. Thing was, I took it as a challenge. I went home to my little efficiency and started reading the textbook that very night. I got through about a quarter of the book, and then started in on the supplementary material.

When Wednesday’s genetics class rolled around, there was a pop quiz. I knew I aced it cold, and that impression was verified when he collected the quiz sheets. He had kind of looked mine over with an astonished expression on his face. During the rest of that class session, I raised my hand for many of the questions he asked. Additionally, I asked him some questions when I felt that he glossed over some items that seemed important. When I left the class, that day, I felt like I was on top of the world. I walked down the hallway, heading for the parking lot, thinking about how great this semester would be. That’s when someone tapped me on the shoulder, prompting me to turn around.

I’m sure the astonishment on my face was unmistakable. I hadn’t forgotten about her, but had hardly expected to find myself face to face with her, that day or any other. I usually didn’t have that kind of luck with ‘average pretty’ girls, let alone drop-dead-gorgeous ones! My mind went momentarily blank, as I got lost in the twin glistening gems of her emerald eyes; I couldn’t believe she was standing there, talking to me.

“Hello, my name is Suzan. What’s yours?” she asked with a voice that melted my heart instantly.

It took me several agonizing seconds to realize it was my turn to speak. “Oh – um – I – uh.” The words stuck in my mouth. I tried again. “I’m Tommy,” I told her, keeping it simple.

“Nice to meet you, Tommy,” she smiled at me, seemingly unaware of how I’d just made a babbling fool of myself. “You really seem to have a grasp on this stuff. I haven’t seen you in any of my other biology classes, though. Did you just transfer in, here?”

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