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I call the student office worker on duty—currently at the reception desk, sorting mail—and hand him the copies of the PNG, then send him to deliver them to the various offices to which they are addressed.

Only then do I turn my mind to the piece for Owen’s memorial service.

What am I supposed to say about Owen? That the resident assistants couldn’t seem to care less about him? I’ve yet to see a single one of them shed a tear over his loss. I’ve had bosses arrested for murder they’ve cried harder over losing (I’m not kidding, either).

That he was a fair boss? I mean, I guess that’s true. He certainly didn’t play favorites. Maybe if he had, he might not have ended up with a bullet in his brain.

Man, this is really hard. I can’t think of anything good to say about this guy.

Wait—he was nice to cats! And Jamie! He was nice to cats and big-boned girls. That’s something, right?

I can’t stand up in front of the entire college community and go, “He was nice to cats and big-boned girls.”

Okay, that’s it. I need some protein. I’ve had way too much cherry crumble. I need a bagel or maybe a DoveBar or something, to calm my nerves.

I tell Tom I’ll be right back and head to the café. It’s closed because it’s that weird period between lunch and dinner, but I know Magda will let me in. She does… but I’m surprised to see she’s not alone in there. Besides the regular staff, there are four small, dark-haired heads bent over what appears to be homework—of the first, third, sixth, and eighth grade variety.

I recognize Pete’s kids, in their blue and white school uniforms, right away.

“Hello,” I say, darting an incredulous look in Magda’s direction. She’s sitting at her cash register, filing her nails. Today, they’re lemon yellow.

“Hi, Heather,” Pete’s kids chime, in various levels of enthusiasm (the girls more so than the boys).

“Hi,” I say. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Waiting for our dad,” the eldest, Nancy, says. “He’s going to take us home when he gets done protesting.”

“No,” her sister corrects us. “He’s taking us out for pizza, then home.”

“We’re all going out for pizza,” Magda says. “The best pizza in the world, which happens to be in my neighborhood.”

“I don’t know,” Nancy says, looking dubious. “We have good pizza in my neighborhood.”

Magda makes a face. “These kids think Pizza Hut is real pizza,” Magda says to me. “Tell them.”

“Pizza Hut isn’t real pizza,” I tell them. “The way that balloon of Big Bird they fly in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade isn’t the real Big Bird.”

“But the Santa at the end of the parade is the real Santa,” Pete’s youngest informs me, gravely.

“Well, of course,” I say. To Magda, I whisper, out of the corner of my mouth, “Okay, Mother Teresa. What gives?”

“Nothing,” she says innocently. “I’m just watching them for a little while. You know Pete can’t take them home yet, because he’s still on the picket line, protesting.”

“Right,” I whisper back. “You just happened to volunteer to babysit. With no ulterior motives.”

Magda shrugs. “I was thinking about what you said yesterday,” she says, not making eye contact. “There might be a slight possibility I wasn’t exactly clear enough with my intentions. I intend to rectify that. And see what happens.”

I nod in the direction of the kids, who’ve turned back toward their homework. “And what if you end up mother of the year? I thought you were too young for that.”

“I’m too young to have my own,” Magda says, her heavily lined eyes widening. “But I’ll take someone else’s. No problem. Besides, these are already potty trained.”

Shaking my head, I grab a DoveBar and head back to my office. Is it my imagination, or is everyone around me seeming to pair up all of a sudden? I know it’s spring, and all, but really… this is getting ridiculous. Everyone… everyone but me.

Oh, wait. I have a boyfriend, too. God, why can’t I seem to remember that? A boyfriend who has a question to ask me, when the timing is right. That’s not a very good sign, is it? I mean, that I can’t seem to remember Tad when he’s not around. That doesn’t bode particularly well for the future of our relationship.

Nor does the fact that I can’t get some other guy’s smile—and, let’s be frank, hands—out of my head.

What is wrong with me?

My phone is ringing its head off by the time I get to my desk. The caller ID says it’s the head of the Housing Department, Dr. Stanley Jessup.

“Hi, Dr. Jessup,” I say when I pick up. “What can I do for you?”

“You can tell me why you just PNG’d Mark Halstead,” Stan says.

“Oh,” I say. “Because he regularly feels up one of my residents. It’s kind of a funny story, actually. She had a meeting with Dr. Veatch to write up a formal complaint about it the morning he was shot.”

“Are you sure this girl is telling the truth?”

“Um… yeah,” I say, in some surprise. “Why?”

“Because if there’s some way you can retract that PNG, you might want to do it. Reverend Mark is the one running Owen’s memorial service, at which you are speaking. So the next couple hours of your life are about to get very, very uncomfortable.”


Step out of the shadows

Step up to the plate

Take a look at what the world sees

Don’t hide who you want to be

“Who You Really Are”

Written by Heather Wells

“Who was Dr. Owen Veatch?”

This is the question, ostensibly rhetorical, with which Reverend Mark Halstead opens his eulogy.

I glance around to see if anyone in the folding chairs on either side of me seems to have an answer… but no one does. Everyone’s head is bent… but not in prayer. My colleagues are all studying the faces of their cell phones or BlackBerrys.


“I’ll tell you who Dr. Owen Veatch was,” Reverend Mark goes on. “Dr. Owen Veatch was a man of conviction. Strong conviction. Owen Veatch was a man who had the courage to stand up and say no.”