My Freshman Experience

by Joel Young

Chapter 14

'Deus Ex Machina'

After a rocky week that led to our breaking up, Adam and I got back together on Saturday. Our 'make-up sex' that afternoon was incredible! Not only had we recommitted ourselves to each other, but we also moved our lovemaking to a new level that included intercourse.

Adam had been extremely reluctant to have sexual intercourse with me ever since we first fell in love shortly after the school year began. He was still traumatized from being beaten up and gang-raped at the private boarding school he attended in Vermont. That experience had left him emotionally fragile, and he would become panicked at the thought of performing oral sex, even on someone to whom he was physically attracted. And, anal sex completely 'freaked him out.' Although Adam had never told me any details of the rape, I was pretty sure that the rapists had brutally forced him to perform fellatio. And, I did not doubt that he had been sodomized.

I loved Adam, and I felt compelled to protect him. I also wanted to help Adam heal from the trauma that was still haunting him. Regardless of how long it took, I was prepared to be patient and loving, and to move our relationship along at a pace with which he was entirely comfortable. We had overcome a major obstacle that Saturday. I was very happy about that, not to mention sexually blown away. Afterward, Adam seemed a little less stressed, and maybe even more confident in his sexuality. I knew, however, that the healing process was far from complete and would probably take a long time. I was afraid that his bipolar condition would make things even more challenging.

When I woke up on Monday morning, I remembered that I had to go back to the Registrar's Office and cancel my request to withdraw from the university. I asked Mitch if he wanted to come with me. Unfortunately, he was tied up with classes all day. I was busy until mid-afternoon, so I went to see Mrs. Campbell at about three o'clock.

When I walked into the office, Sandy said, "Joel! We were afraid we might not see you today. Mrs. Campbell is in a meeting, but she should be done soon. I'll call Ms. Sanborn."

I had a seat in the waiting area, and I watched Sandy making the call to the Ombudsman's Office. I couldn't hear everything she said, but I'm pretty sure I heard her tell Ms. Sanborn that my parents were not with me.

About fifteen minutes later, I was in the conference room with the two ladies. Ms. Sanborn asked if she could take a close look at my face.

"Yeah, but the mark is all gone," I said. She got up and looked anyway. She sat back down when she was satisfied that I appeared to be fine.

"Did you talk to your parents over the weekend?" Ms. Sanborn asked.

"No," I answered. Borrowing the phrase she had used the previous Friday, I said, "That's something I chose not to do."

Ms. Sanborn looked disappointed. "Ok, then," she said. "What are your current thoughts about leaving the university?"

"I've decided to stay," I answered. "That is, if I'm allowed to cancel my request to withdraw."

Mrs. Campbell had my withdrawal form on her desk, and she handed it to me. "Just write 'Cancel Request' at the top with your initials and the date." I did what she said and handed it back to her.

"I'm glad you decided to stay, Joel," Ms. Sanborn said. "I think you made the right decision. May I ask what changed your mind?"

"Well, both of you were very kind to me last Friday," I said. "I felt better after we talked. My friend Mitch encouraged me to stay, and then …"

I stopped talking, regretting that I had started to say more about my decision not to leave Oberlin.

"And then?" Ms. Sanborn prompted, encouraging me to finish my thought.

"And then," I said. "My boyfriend and I got back together."

Mrs. Campbell rolled her eyes.

Ms. Sanborn pursed her lips and turned away, trying to hide her knowing smile. "Well, I'm sure that will make things easier for you," she said.

"What about my religion class?" I asked. The two ladies looked at each other, and there was an awkward silence. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. "I don't have to go back there, do I?!?"

"Not necessarily," Mrs. Campbell said. Her tone of voice surprised me; she sounded almost condescending. "There are some options," she continued. "Ms. Sanborn and I spoke with the Dean this morning. You certainly don't have to study religion this semester if you chose not to do so. The time frame for drops and adds, however, ended early in October. And, it is university policy that if you stop attending after that time, you fail the class."

I couldn't believe what Mrs. Campbell seemed to be telling me! Did I have to go back to Reverend McAllister's class to avoid an 'F' on my record? I almost shouted, "That's bullshit!" Fortunately, my debate training had taught me to listen carefully before starting to argue.

Mrs. Campbell had more to say. "Ms. Sanborn did convince the Dean to waive the deadline for drops and adds for you. If you want to drop the class, you may. The university would not be able to refund your tuition this late in the semester, and you would not get credit for the class. You would not, however, fail the class. Dropping the class would change your status from being a full-time student to part-time. Full-time students get to register for the next semester's classes first. Since you would be a part-time student, you'd be in the last group to register. Of course, some of the required classes will likely be full by then."

"But, I've already pre-registered for next semester," I said.

"The pre-registrations haven't been processed yet," Mrs. Campbell said. "If your status changes, we would have to move you to the part-time group. That's university policy."

I was dumbfounded! All of the options she had offered me stunk! I felt like I was being railroaded, and my instincts were telling me to stand up for myself. I started preparing a rebuttal in my mind. But first, I needed to lay a foundation for demanding better treatment.

"And what happens to Reverend McAllister?" I asked. "He's the one who tried to bully me into giving up my right to privacy. He's the one who slapped me. He's the one who threatened to get me expelled. What's the university policy on faculty members who deliberately intimidate their students and then assault them if they don't do as they are told?"

Ms. Sanborn looked away from me and didn't say anything. I sensed that she saw things the same way as I did.

Mrs. Campbell looked angry. It was obvious she didn't like what I had just said, and she was probably not happy with my accusatory tone of voice. She rolled her eyes – again. That pissed me off!

Since no one was saying anything, I took the opportunity to steer the discussion toward solving my problem.

"Ms. Sanborn," I said. "You told me last Friday that there are some serious issues involved in this situation. And, I think you may be right. In fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about that over the weekend."

"I'm surprised you found the time," Mrs. Campbell said sarcastically.

I knew that her comment was a reference to my getting back together with Adam. I took her words to mean that I was probably so focused on my relationship with my gay boyfriend that I didn't spend much time thinking about my academic status.

I was outraged!

Ms. Sanborn saw how mad I was, and she placed her hand on my arm. "Alright!" she said. "Everybody, just calm down!"

"I'll calm down when I'm not being insulted by sarcastic slurs about my sexual orientation!" I said indignantly.

"This meeting is over!" Ms. Campbell announced. "Mr. Young, as you requested, I will not process the form you signed withdrawing from the university. As to Religion 101, you are welcome to finish the class or drop it. That is up to you. And, your concerns about Reverend McAllister will be handled privately by the Dean. Good day!" She got up to leave the room, but I tried to stop her.

"Wait," I said. "I've got one more thing to say." Mrs. Campbell glared at me. But, she did stop to listen.

"I think we all understand what's going on here," I said. "And, I hope we all realize how serious this situation could become. I'm truly not seeking revenge against Reverend McAllister. And, I really would prefer not to file assault charges against him. I'm counting on the university to investigate the matter and do the right thing. I only want to find a way to resolve the situation without me being penalized. I think that in a legal sense, I may be the victim here. So, how about I transfer to another section of the class?"

"We thought of that," Ms. Sanborn said. "Reverend McAllister is the only professor teaching Religion 101 this semester."

"Good luck, Mr. Young!" Mrs. Campbell said, sounding quite insincere. Then, she left the room.

"Let's go to my office," Ms. Sanborn said. "It'll be easier to talk there." Once we were in her office, she offered me a cup of coffee. I thanked her, and she poured a cup for each of us.

"I think I should file an assault charge against Reverend McAllister with campus security," I said. "That would give me more leverage in negotiating a better deal for myself. I could offer to drop the charges if the university finds a way to resolve this mess without penalizing me."

"Well, that cuts right to the chase, doesn't it?" Ms. Sanborn said. "You sound like a lawyer."

"No. Just a member of my high school debate team," I said.

"I bet you were pretty good," she said.

"Captain of the State of Michigan championship team," I bragged.

"Very impressive," she said. "But, have you considered that filing charges might cause the university to double-down on defending itself?"

I hadn't considered that, so I thought about it briefly. "I don't think the Board of Trustees would risk the bad publicity," I said.

"That may be true. But, how about saving that 'ace in the hole' until all other avenues have been explored," Ms. Sanborn cautioned. "Do you trust me, Joel?"

I had learned years before that trusting someone is always a situational matter. Would I trust Ms. Sanborn to tell me the truth? Yes. Would I trust her to take my side over the side of her superiors in administration? Not so much.

"Trust you to do what?" I asked.

"To try to resolve this situation for you," she said. "Let me see if we can't give you another option – one you will find more acceptable."

I have always preferred to settle issues without a fight. And, I thought about what my high school friend Kevin had taught me. He said that I should take the time to think about what I might regret in the future before making a final decision on important matters.

"Okay," I said. "But, there's something I don't understand. Am I wrong, or did Mrs. Campbell change her whole attitude toward me? She seemed sympathetic last Friday. Today, she acted like I was … I don't know - like I'm just a rebellious teenager who was caught doing something wrong."

Ms. Sanborn was reluctant to answer my question. "Well, people frequently see things differently once they've had a chance to talk with other people."

I realized Ms. Sanborn was in an awkward position and couldn't speak critically about a colleague to a student. But, I wanted to know more.

"It's because I have a boyfriend, isn't it?" I asked.

"Joel, this is a church school," she said. "I can't speak for Mrs. Campbell, but many people here have strong opinions on … certain Biblical issues."

"I understand that," I said. "But on Friday, I thought she believed me. Today, she acted like I was lying or something."

Ms. Sanborn turned away from me, and I knew there was something she wasn't telling me.

"I shouldn't tell you this," she finally said. "But, I believe you need to know something. Reverend McAllister is Mrs. Campbell's brother-in-law."

I was stunned! The implications of a family relationship between Mrs. Campbell and Reverend McAllister changed everything. Had she talked with her brother-in-law about my complaint? Had she told him that I have a boyfriend? Were they going to use my sexual orientation to discredit me?

"There's more," Ms. Sanborn said. "But if I tell you, it has to be in confidence."

"Okay," I said.

"Mrs. Campbell told Reverend McAllister everything. Reverend McAllister said that he slapped you in self-defense. According to his story, you told him about being gay, and he tried to explain to you that homosexual acts are a sin. He said you got angry and defensive, and you told him to go to hell. Then, you tried to hit him. He says he dodged your punch and slapped you to defend himself."

I sat in silence trying to understand what was happening. I was appalled that Mrs. Campbell had stabbed me in the back like that. I was shocked that a religion professor would lie about me and accuse me of something that he knew I didn't do. I wanted to scream! This whole thing was so unfair!

"He's lying!" I said, trying to control my temper. "I never told him that I'm gay, and I DID NOT TRY TO HIT HIM! I told him to go to hell after he slapped me."

"Joel," Ms. Sanborn said. "This is the kind of thing I meant when I said there could be some serious issues involved in this situation. A disagreement like this could backfire on both you and Reverend McAllister – and on the university. Assuming everything you said is true, what is in your best interest? Filing charges, or finding a way to settle this quietly and privately in a way that is also satisfactory to you?"

"What do you mean 'if' everything I said is true? Don't you believe me?" I asked. "Do you think I'm lying to you?"

"Joel, before I could determine that, my job would require me to do a thorough investigation. At the very least, I'd have to listen to Reverent McAllister's side of the story. I will tell you this, however. You seem like an honest and truthful young man. But the real question here is which option is best for you. Do you want me to investigate and issue a written opinion that I send up through the university channels? Or, do you want me to find a way for you to finish Religion 101 without having to go back to Reverend McAllister's class?"

Part of me wanted to see Reverend McAllister locked up in jail for assaulting me! Part of me wanted to kick him in the nuts for lying about me! But, I knew the best answer to Ms. Sanborn's question. I'd probably regret it in the long run if I chose revenge over resolution.

"I guess the latter makes more sense," I said, feeling somewhat defeated. "And, as you said, I can still keep my 'ace in the hole' ready in case I need it. But, how can I get credit for Religion 101 if I don't go back to class?"

"Let me figure that out," Ms. Sanborn said. "I'll get back with you as soon as I can, hopefully by the end of the week."

"Should I go to my religion class in the meantime?" I asked.

"Joel, I can't tell you not to go to class," she said. "But, you had an 'A' at midterm. And, the class syllabus says that more than three unexcused absences will result in failing the class. I advise that you make sure your attendance is not an issue – at least until this matter is resolved."

I left the Ombudsman's Office feeling very conflicted. I hoped that Ms. Sanborn could fix things for me, but I had my doubts. It didn't seem likely that my problem would go away by some 'deus ex machina!' That's a playwriting technique used in ancient Greek theatre. Ben had told me about back in high school. It means a sudden resolution of a seemingly unsolvable problem by a totally unexpected turn of events or intervention by God. I knew I couldn't be magically saved by something like that. But, that's exactly what I needed.

I ran into Peter on my way back to Pilgrim Hall. "Hi, Joel," he said. He looked like he was down in the dumps. But, he gave me a concerned look. "What's wrong, Buddy?" he asked. "You look like you've had a really lousy day. Can I help?"

"It has been a bad day," I said. "But, I'll be okay."

"You sure?" Peter asked. "I'm always ready to listen to a friend."

'Well, maybe talking about it might help," I said. "And you know you can always talk to me too, right?"

"Actually," he said. "I'd sort of like to talk to you about something – something kind of personal. But, if you've had a bad day, it can wait."

"Why don't we go to the cafeteria and get some dinner?" I suggested. "Maybe we can help each other out."

"Sounds good," Peter answered. "But let's not go to the cafeteria across from Pilgrim Hall. It gets too crowded. How about the dining room by Scott Hall - where I used to live? It won't start filling up for a while."

I thought that was a great idea, so we dropped off our books in Pilgrim Hall and headed across campus. It was cold that day, and there was a nip in the air. But, being with Peter was somehow comforting. I started to relax a little.

The cafeteria next to Scott Hall was almost empty. The dining room was warm, and the food in the steam tables smelled great! I wanted the lasagna and garlic bread. I served myself a grilled chicken breast and steamed vegetables.

Once we sat down, Peter and I began eating quietly. Getting started on talking about our personal problems took a minute or two.

"Mitch told me about Reverend McAllister hitting you and how you were going to drop out of college," Peter said. "Is that why you had such a lousy day?"

I wanted to tell Peter what was going on. So, I picked up the story from the point where I canceled my request to leave the university.

"Well, I'm glad you're not quitting," he said, smiling. "I wouldn't want all that work I did trying to get you through chemistry to go to waste!"

"Yeah," I said. "You really have helped me out, Peter. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. You saved my butt!"

"Just remember," he teased. "You owe me – big time!"

I started singing James Taylor's song, 'You've Got a Friend.'

Winter, spring, summer or fall

Yeah, all you have to do is call

And I'll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah

You've got a friend!

But, I can't sing, and Peter put his hands over his ears.

"Okay. Okay. No more singing!" I promised.

"I'm holding you to that!" he said.

I told Peter the rest of the story about what had happened at the registrar's office; well, most of the story. I explained how Mrs. Campbell had turned on me because I have a boyfriend, and how Ms. Sanborn had promised to try to help me. I did not, however, tell Peter anything that Ms. Sanborn had shared with me in confidence.

"Do you think there's a chance she can fix it for you?" Peter asked.

"I don't know. Ms. Sanborn asked me to trust her," I said. "I suppose I owe her the benefit of the doubt. She's been very professional and nice to me – so far."

Peter commiserated with me about my situation, and I appreciated all the encouraging things he said.

"Okay, that's enough about me," I said. "What did you want to talk about? It sounded kind of serious."

Peter said, "I don't know how to start. It's about Tom and me."

"You guys have gotten pretty close, haven't you?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "We spend almost all our free time together."

"You mean too much time together?" I questioned. "Are you getting tired of hanging out with him?"

"No," Peter said. "I love…I mean … I really like hanging out with him. It's just that things are getting, well, sort of weird between us."

"How so?" I asked.

"Well," Peter said. "I lift weights several times a week, and my muscles get pretty sore. By bedtime, I really tighten up. Whenever that happens, Tom gives me a back rub."

"Back rubs are supposed to make you feel good, not weird. If Tom needs to improve his technique, maybe I can give him some pointers." I grinned at Peter and said, "Guys like me have a natural gift for things like that."

"Please, Joel," he said. "Don't tease with me."

"Sorry, Peter," I said. "I was just joking around. So, what's going on in your head? Are you uncomfortable with Tom touching you?"

"That's part of it," Peter said. "But then, there's the other part."

I looked at Peter and saw a guy who was obviously conflicted. He was struggling with whatever was bothering him. And, I was pretty sure I knew what that was.

"Go on," I said. "You can tell me anything."

"I've said too much already. This isn't your problem, Joel," he said. "It's mine."

"Sharing whatever it is with me isn't the same thing as dumping it on me," I tried to explain. "I told you about all the shit that's been going on with me, and just talking about it helped. Friends can tell each other stuff, and it's okay."

Peter put his head down and placed his hands on his forehead. Without looking up, he said, "I like it when Tom rubs my back."

I almost said that there isn't anything wrong with liking back rubs. But, I sensed that wasn't the whole story. I was silent, waiting for Peter to continue when he was ready.

Finally, he said, "I get a hard-on when Tom touches me." Then, Peter looked up. "That doesn't make me gay, does it?"

"I don't know," I said. "It might mean different things for different guys. Are you afraid of what it might mean for you?"

"No, not really," Peter said. "Well, maybe a little. I've never felt like this before."

"You're probably feeling confused – maybe like you're being pulled in two different directions," I said. "Tom's a pretty special guy. And, I think you're his best friend on campus."

"Tom is the greatest guy I've ever known," Peter said. "I want him to touch me, Joel. I want to touch him back."

"Does Tom know how you feel?" I asked.

"I don't know," Peter answered, sounding very anxious. "Sometimes, I think he does. But, I've been pushing him away because the whole thing scares me."

"Well," I said. "It sounds to me like Tom enjoys rubbing your back, and you're the one pushing him away – even though you may not want to. Maybe you need to figure out what you really want. Maybe Tom wants the same things you do."

"Has he said anything to you?" Peter asked.

"No," I lied. "The only thing Tom's said is that you guys have become really good friends."

Peter nodded his head. He seemed relieved that Tom and I hadn't talked more about him. Then, Peter asked, "What made you decide, you know, to be with a guy?"

"When I was a junior in high school, I met a guy named David," I told Peter. "I really think it was love at first sight - for both of us. We were on an overnight school trip one time, and we shared a room. He came on to me, and I sure as hell didn't put up much of a fight. That was my first time. But, I've been in love with a girl, too."

"So, you're bi?" Peter asked.

"Yeah," I said. "Having an experience with a guy doesn't necessarily mean that you're gay. But, at least in my opinion, it does mean that you're probably not totally straight, either."

Peter said, "I don't know. I've got to think about it. I don't want to ruin my life – or my friendship with Tom."

"Take your time," I suggested. "You don't need to decide anything until you're ready."

Peter and I finished dinner and walked back to Pilgrim Hall. As we both headed to our rooms, Peter said, "Thanks, Joel. You're a really good friend. Let me know what happens with your religion class." He walked over and hugged me.

"It'll all work out, Peter," I said. "It always does."

I didn't hear anything from Ms. Sanborn early in the week. I decided not to go to Reverend McAllister's class. I wouldn't reach the fourth absence until the following week, so I thought I'd be okay – even if I were forced to go back to his class. Of course, I told Mitch and Adam about the latest developments, and both of them were supportive.

Adam was also optimistic. "I'm sure everything will be okay," he told me. "You deserve better choices than Mrs. Campbell gave you. Besides, Oberlin doesn't want to risk losing you; you're too cute! They'll probably want to feature that innocent, choir-boy face on the cover of their next college catalog!"

"I doubt that," I said.

"Don't be so quick to dismiss the idea," Adam said. "For all you know, I may have seen the cover – in a premonition."

"Have you?" I asked.

"Well, no," Adam said. "But that's not the point."

On Wednesday, I got a note in my mailbox asking me to meet with Ms. Sanborn in her office the next afternoon at three o'clock. I finished my last class at 2:30, so I showed up for the meeting right on time.

"Come in. Joel," Ms. Sanborn said as she led the way to her office.

I took a seat in front of her desk. "I was glad to get your note yesterday," I said. "I've been on pins and needles since last Monday."

"Well," she said. "I hope you feel less anxious after we talk."

"Does that mean you managed to fix my problem?" I asked.

"Not exactly," Ms. Sanborn answered. "I can offer you a new option. I'm not sure you'll like it, but please, think about it before making up your mind."

I wasn't pleased with what Ms. Sanborn had just said. Without thinking, I replied, "Let's hope I like it better than I would like playing my 'ace in the hole,' as you call it."

I could tell by the look on Ms. Sanborn's face that I was pushing the limits of her patience. I felt bad about starting off the meeting with a snide remark, so I apologized.

"Let's just move on," she said. "You told me that you were on the debate team in high school. Do you have any other public speaking experience?"

"I was the understudy for the lead in my high school play," I said. "I wound up having to take over all of the performances when the lead actor was hospitalized."

"So, you're comfortable speaking in front of a large group of people?" Ms. Sanborn asked.

"I'm okay with it," I said. "But, it's not something I really enjoy. I'd much rather write than speak in public."

"Well, I'm glad you like to write, and that you're okay with public speaking. What I've come up with involves both," Ms. Sanborn explained.

"Okay," I said. "You've got my attention."

"Other than a few quizzes, the only major assignment left in your Religion class is the final. Instead of a test, the final is a speech about your personal experiences with the Christian faith. Did you know about that?" Ms. Sanborn asked.

"Yeah," I answered. "It's a five-minute speech, basically about how we've grown as Christians."

"Well, it's 50% of your final grade," Ms. Sanborn continued. "Anyway, here's what you can do to get credit for the class. First, you can take the quizzes in my office. They're all multiple choice questions, so I can grade them and turn them into Reverend McAllister. That's easy enough, but here's the part you may not like. There's an original oratory contest each spring for students at faith-based colleges. Students compete for a scholarship. The subjects vary each year. This spring, the topic is "My Personal Faith Journey," and Oberlin is hosting the event. If you agree to compete, that can substitute for your final examination for Religion 101."

"So, does that mean I take my final in the spring?" I asked. "Would I have an 'incomplete' for the course until then?"

"No," Ms. Sanborn said. "Look, I'm just going to lay it all out. You'd write your speech this semester, and you'd present it in the chapel during a Sunday service. Reverend Stuart would grade it. That grade would be factored in with your other grades in Reverend McAllister's class. Assuming you did well, you could keep your 'A' and have the credits show up on your first-semester transcript."

"So, I just give my speech at a Sunday service in the chapel, and then I'm done?" I asked. "That doesn't sound so bad."

"Well, you would have to participate in the oratory contest in the spring," Ms. Sanborn said. "And, those speeches have to be fifteen minutes in length. And, since you'd basically be giving the sermon in the chapel this semester, you'd have to make that about fifteen minutes as well."

As what I was hearing sank in, I started counting the ways that my new option was unfair. One: I had to give my presentation in front of the entire congregation – not just my class. Two: My speech had to be three times as long as the ones of my classmates. Three: Even after I earned my grade, I was being forced to compete in an oratory contest in the spring!

I wanted to cut loose with some choice vulgarities. But, I thought a little negotiation might be in order first.

"I think giving my five-minute speech in front of the congregation would be acceptable," I said. "It would be asking more of me than is being asked of the other students, but I can live with that. Making my speech three times longer is unfair; it feels like a punishment. And, making me compete in the spring oratory contest against my will is clearly unreasonable."

"Joel, Ms. Sanborn said. "I hear you when you say that parts of this proposal seem unfair. I tried to get a better deal for you. It wasn't Reverend McAllister who insisted on a longer speech and participating in the contest. Reverend Stuart is in charge of the competition this spring. No one at Oberlin has signed up in the last several years. He's afraid that it will embarrass the college if we have no one competing. He says he knows you, and you'd do an excellent job for the university. He'll agree to grade your Religion 101 final if you agree to make the presentation – this semester in the chapel during finals week, and next spring at the competition. And, Joel, you might win a scholarship."

Ms. Sanborn's proposal certainly wasn't the 'deus ex machina' I was hoping for, but I realized it might be the last offer the university would make – at least unless I took a gamble and filed assault charges against Reverend McAllister.

As unfair and unreasonable as the new option was, I found myself becoming excited about the opportunity to compete again. Giving a 15 minute prepared speech would probably be easier than debating - where I had to speak extemporaneously on any topic my opponent decided to use. And in my high school play, I had to memorize long speeches. At least in oratory, scripts would be allowed.

I really didn't want to file charges against Reverend McAllister. If I did, my parents would find out about the entire situation. And, I didn't want to lose my full-time student status and risk not getting into the classes I needed next semester.

I thought about the situation for only a few moments longer.

"Okay," I said. "I'll do it. I'll take the deal."

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