I do not own (most of) these characters and make no profit from their use.

Much of this storyline has been pre-established in the story "New Beginnings: The Everett Family Saga Continues."

Matters of the Heart

Prologue

It was just an observation on his part, but Professor Hal Everett had begun to notice that now that his own love life had settled into something akin to domestic bliss, those of the young folk in the family had now become more prominent and fraught with their own dramatic tensions. Oh face it, Hal, he thought. They have actually begun to have love lives. You've settled into a comfortable marital existence after a little "late in the season" romance. Now it's their turn.

The first child who came to mind was his older son, Hal, age fourteen, who had met a nice young girl at school in his English class. They had developed a friendship that seemed to be evolving into a dating relationship. It was a slow process, but that was fine with him. He was proud of his son for his sound judgment and respectful attitudes towards the opposite sex.

The object of his affection was an artistic type. It was one of those things that he liked most about Sharon. She couldn't hold a scientific conversation to save her life, but she was well-versed in literature and the arts in general. She was also very observant of human nature. And she was different from other girls her age in that she didn't mindlessly chatter. Even when speaking with Trelawney, she spoke in quieter more measured tones. And she was gentle and kind to the younger girl. He realized that subconsciously he had begun to measure the characters of all family friends by how they responded to the rather whimsical child.

For the second potential young lover in the family was his sister-in-law, Trelawney, aged twelve who seemed to be caught up in a rather bittersweet case of unrequited love with the seventeen-year-old young man Topher. For a year, Topher had been her "knight in shining armor" who had stood guard over her and her loved ones throughout some trying times. It was no surprise to him that she had romanticized his thoughtful and somewhat chivalrous behavior and endowed him with the qualities of an ideal hero. Sadly, Trelawney's hero, like so many in real life, had feet of clay.

If it had been a normal school year, he wouldn't have noticed these things about either Hal or Trelawney. The kids had often teased him about being a little obtuse where these things were concerned, even when they were occurring directly under his nose, right in his own home. He supposed that there really was something to the old absent-minded professor stereotype. But now that he was on sabbatical, he had the time and opportunity to observe and contemplate this next fascinating phase of their adolescent development.

But if he was happy for Hal and his luck in love, he felt sorry for Trelawney and her misfortune. Like so many other instances of adoration of a young girl for a young man, the object of her affection was blithely unaware. Of course if he had been aware, it was difficult to say what he might have done about it. He certainly couldn't have reciprocated her feelings in any substantive way without forcing them to call in the authorities.

Hal liked to think, based on what he knew of him, that Topher would have gently and kindly let her down. Topher had always been an admirable person with great intelligence and strength of character. The only explanation that he could think of for his present behavior was that he was so blindly infatuated with the little tart (that was the nicest word that he could think of for her) who was now the lead singer of his band that he was ignorant of everyone else in his life and what they might be thinking.

Topher was a rare mathematical and scientific genius. He had met him the previous summer and had been deeply impressed with the depth and breadth of his understanding of higher mathematics and the latest developments in science. He was also a most unusual young man in that he was thoughtful, kind, and up to this point, had been a model of good Christian living. However, his greatest challenge in life was that his ability to fully develop his potential as a scientist was severely limited by his financial circumstances.

His own son Hal was also a scientific prodigy of sorts. He had to work for it, but he was deeply engaged in various topics of his own interest. He too showed some very promising potential. However, he also had the advantage of two unmarried, wealthy uncles who were prepared to support, or better put, underwrite his future aspirations. This opened a world of opportunity for him to pursue his interests without financial worry. The same was not true of Topher.

Topher's father was a mechanic at a local garage. He had not had the opportunity to go to college himself. And now, with six children to raise, money was tight. The family was excited at the prospect that their oldest son would be the first to attend college. But he was also going to have to pay for it on his own. They had twin daughters a year younger were also destined for college, but their prospects, not to mention their capacity to earn money, were more modest.

Proud, resourceful, and independent, Topher was determined that his family would not have to make any sacrifices to send him to university. His odds for a scholarship were excellent, but as a professor himself, Hal knew that there were many expenses not covered even by a full scholarship. Topher would need to save all the money he could, especially if he could achieve his dream of attending an East Coast school like MIT.

Despite the fact that his own school, Clinton, would kill for a student of Topher's calibre, in his heart of hearts he knew that the boy would be better served by an elite, tier one school. Of course one could get an excellent education anywhere and Topher would have more than his share of professors eager to challenge and mentor him at Clinton (or anywhere else for that matter). But there were certain things found in a private college, which were impossible to duplicate at a public university.

He would have virtually no competition among the student body at Clinton. Intellectually, he could already spar with the best graduate student minds at the school and he was presently only a high school senior. No, Topher needed the rigorous training that could only be offered where he was among his intellectual equals. He needed classmates who could challenge him and keep him on his toes. Graduate and undergraduate students in research fields pushed each other, as much as themselves, to greatness. But money also mattered.

Over the summer, Topher had worked for a local landscaper earning and saving every cent that he could. It had been backbreaking work in the heat of a California drought. He also had a band that played local high school dances and the occasional club. Recently, the band had gained great popularity and could command higher fees because of the young woman who was "fronting" them, in the lingo of the business.

Jeannie was a very good singer with a lot of sex, appeal which she was using quite successfully to draw crowds wherever they played. A senior at the high school with minimally passing grades, the starring role in every musical, and a reputation for living in the fast lane, she was the last person that he would thought that Topher would fall for. But fall he did, to the disappointment of Trelawney, his family, and every other person who had admired his sterling character and loved him for his high moral standards. As far as Hal was concerned, his association with this young woman even called into question his previous assessment of his intelligence.

It wasn't that he would begrudge him a girlfriend. There was no reason why he shouldn't date like any other normal young man of his age. It was both his choice and the rumors of their behavior that had him baffled. The band was now popular enough to have played a few gigs at the university. He was not one to pay attention to gossip, particularly if it involved students. However, his two colleagues, Fisk and Pulski, who were working with him on a project for NASA were. When Topher's name popped up, he was all ears.

"Yeah," said Pulski. "I heard that at the last mixer they got this great band from the high school. They used to be the "Jets," but now they have this hot little ticket named Jeannie as their lead singer. Their new name is "Jeannie and the Jets."

"So how hot is hot?" asked Fisk.

"Smokin'" replied Pulski with a smirk. "And she and the drummer, you know, the science prodigy Topher, are something else onstage."

"What kind of something else?" asked Fisk eagerly.

"Well apparently they're an item among the high school set," replied Pulski. "She dresses to kill, with just about everything hanging out. During their various numbers, she'll go back to him and be all over him, if you know what I mean. It's amazing that he can keep a beat with everything she's got going on."

"I imagine that that is pretty popular with the kids, even our kids," commented Fisk.

"Well, I haven't told you the best part," said Pulski, obviously having saved the most salacious for last. "In between sets the two of them go off to his van to 'relieve the tension' so to speak. Then they come back out and do it all again."

"And you say that they're in high school?" asked Fisk incredulously. "Don't they have parents?"

"I guess they're just out of control," shrugged Pulski. "With all this talk of free love and sex on demand these days, is it any surprise that our youth has been corrupted? That, or they're just more open about what used to go on only on the men's room walls. You know, 'for a good time call . . .' I guess that we all need to wake up and remember that we're in the seventies now."

"Yeah, I remember," said Fisk. "I always thought that that was more myth and legend than reality."

"Maybe for you," replied Pulski with another smirk. "But not for some of us."

"Well some of us had better get down to work," interjected Hal. "Or we'll miss our next deadline."

"You always were a square, weren't you Hal?" asked Pulski.

"And proud of it, now shut up and concentrate!"

Hal looked over at Fisk who rolled his eyes at him. He knew that Fred just liked to hear their colleague talk, but truth be told, old Pulski had been as much of a math and science grind as either of them in high school. The cool cats never ended up as mathematics professors, now or at any other time. Pulski seemed to like to relive his youth, or rather his fantasy youth, vicariously through his students.

But it still disturbed him to hear this kind of talk about Topher. The young man had done more than one favor for the family over the past year. In fact the word "favor" didn't even tell half the story. He was glad that he was no longer in contact with either Hal or Trelawney. If what he was hearing only partially true, the young man who he had first seen as an excellent role model for his eldest son was most certainly not. And he wouldn't want him within a hundred yards of innocent, little Trelawney.

He was looking forward to the time when she returned home and was living safely under his roof again. It was not that he didn't trust his parents, but he knew that they tended to indulge her more like a granddaughter than be as strict as they would be with a daughter. No one with a reputation like that, not even Topher, was going to get near her if he had anything to say about it.

They had all noticed that despite the many positive changes in her life, she was still feeling blue. Factor out everything that was going right and there were only two things left to bring her down: living apart from Phoebe and Topher's change of heart regarding her. She must have realized by now that she would be returning home soon. Her Uncle David Figalilly had no reason to deny that request, at least that he could think of. He knew that Phoebe was cautiously hopeful, but after all of the recent disappointments in her life, that was not too surprising.

He tried to sound Phoebe out as to her read on the Topher situation, but she clammed right up. Considering the amount of time that they spent discussing all of the children, including Trelawney, this was most unusual. And she had never obfuscated where the girl was concerned before or put her in a different category than his own three kids.

Whatever was up, she knew something about it and she wasn't talking. Having known her for almost three years, he knew that if she did not want to discuss something, then she didn't. No one could keep her own counsel better than his Phoebe. It was one of the reasons that he loved her so much.

So all he could do was wait to see what happened next. He purposely did not pass along Pulski's gossip. Aside from its unsavory nature, it was impossible to know how much was true and how much was exaggeration. He had always known Topher to be one of the most upstanding young citizens of the community. He was hardworking and churchgoing. Until the proof was evident to his very eyes, he would keep his mouth shut and mind his own business.

Matters of the heart, particularly where young people are concerned were often a very fluid situation. No sooner might he have thought that he had it all figured out, then things were turned upside-down again. Still and all, he was grateful that his own matter of the heart was permanently settled. Given enough time, he knew that things would work out for each of the kids too. And that was a lesson that he had learned from his very own loving wife.

To be continued . . .