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The Gates of the Soul (A Time to Every Purpose 4/10) - Mo's Journal
May 2nd, 2005
10:18 am

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The Gates of the Soul (A Time to Every Purpose 4/10)
“You don’t like me because I’m a whore, right?” Scott Summers had been sitting on his bed, grading papers, when he’d heard a knock on the door. Seeing who was there – and what she was wearing - he’d suggested they move to the study alcove of the bedroom. Given the way the conversation had gone since then, he was glad he did.

He sighed. “RoseAnn, we’ve been through this before. I do like you, and you’re not a whore.”

“You know what I am. You picked me up on the street.”

“I know exactly what you are. You’re a bright, fourteen-year-old girl who has been through a very difficult time. You’re a student in my Shakespeare seminar. You’re a very powerful mutant who’s still learning to control your powers. You’re a wonder with anything mechanical and the star of the Car Club. You’re the noisiest kid in your dorm and you sing off-key. You’re a talented actress and I’ll talk you into being in the school play if it’s the last thing I do. And you’re overdue on turning in your Othello essay.” RoseAnn rolled her eyes. “I didn’t ‘pick you up on the street.’ I came to remove you from an unhealthy situation when Professor Xavier found out the distress you were in. Look, RoseAnn, you’re not the only kid here who was homeless before coming to Xavier’s.”

“I know that.”

“Well, know this: kids on the street do what they have to to survive. Most of what they do is illegal. That’s the way of the world. There aren’t a lot of legally available occupations for underage teens. So, if they have to support themselves, what kids generally do is prostitution, or theft, or they’re involved in some way in the drug trade. For some it’s a little of each.” He was looking right at her now, RoseAnn knew it. She felt like he was staring at her, even though she couldn’t see his eyes. Mr. Summers continued talking. “It doesn’t mean anything about what the kids are who do those things. It doesn’t mean they’re whores, or thieves or pushers. It’s what they did, not who they are.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Listen to me. I’ve been doing this a long time, taking kids in off the streets. I know what it means and what it doesn’t. I’ll tell you what it means: it means kids shouldn’t be on their own at fourteen.” Scott reached out and held her by the chin. “You’re not a whore. You’re a student at this school. You are under our protection. And that’s the way it stays. Through high school or as long as you need us. I’ve been here since I was sixteen and I haven’t left yet. This is your home, as long as you want it to be.”

“If it’s not because I am – was – a whore, then why don’t you like me?”

Scott sighed again. “I do like you.”

“Don’t you think I’m pretty?” He didn’t answer. “I just want to make you happy.”

“Good. You want to make me happy? Write your Othello essay. That would make me very happy.”

“What – are you gay or something?”

“As a matter of fact, I am gay.”

“I’m sorry! I won’t tell anyone, Mr. Summers. I promise. I didn’t mean to...”

“It’s fine. I don’t mind telling you. It’s not a secret. It’s just not as relevant as I think you’re concluding it is,” he added with a smile. “Xavier’s is a coed school, as I assume you’ve noticed. There are boys here, too. I’m not sleeping with any of them, either. And I’m not going to. And there are men teaching here who aren’t gay. And guess what? They’re not going to sleep with you, either, even if you show up in their bedrooms at night, too, when you were supposed to have a meeting in the office, during office hours. That’s not how it works here. This is a school. Teachers don’t have sex with students.”

RoseAnn snorted. “You’d be surprised what goes on in a school. Particularly when teachers know stuff about the kids they teach.”

“Or maybe I wouldn’t be so surprised. I do know something of what goes on out in the world. But I know more of what goes on in here. I have more control over what goes on in here. This is my school, RoseAnn Mendez. Okay, not mine alone. I know it says Xavier’s on the door, not Summers. But it was my idea, did you know that? It wasn’t a school when I first came here. The Professor and the other X-Men and I built it together. I’m really proud of that, proud of what we do here. This school is my life’s work, as much as the X-Men is, as much as the Foundation is. Xavier’s is a school full of mutant kids, many of whom don’t have any other homes.”

“I know that.”

“Well, so do I. I know more than you think I do. I know what it’s like. I was one of those kids without a home, just like you. That’s why I wanted to build a school like this. This school is built on trust. And safety. Trust and safety come from appropriate boundaries. No one working here – faculty or staff – is having sex with any of the students. If anyone did – or even tried – well, he wouldn’t be working here any longer. Got it?” She nodded.

“RoseAnn, I like you a lot. I think you have a lot of potential. I don’t think less of you in any way because there was a time in your past when you had to get by doing something illegal and degrading and scary. A whole lot of the kids here have been through the same thing. A whole lot of us adults here went through the same kinds of experiences when we were kids. It affects us all in different ways. It never goes away, but it gets better. We learn to see it as part of our pasts, not who we are. We learn to live with it.”

“Well, it’s not easy.”

“I know. I’m not saying it’s easy.”

“I feel like everybody’s looking at me, pointing at me. I feel like I’m pretending to be something I’m not, like I’m impersonating some high school kid.”

“You are a high school kid. A particularly gifted one. Not just mutant-gifted, academically gifted. You’ve also been through over a year of hell. I know that. I’ll do what I can for you. So will Professor Xavier and Dr. Grey. It’s your business who knows what you were doing before you came here, RoseAnn. I didn’t tell anyone except Dr. Grey. She’s not talking to anybody about you but me. She’s bound by doctor/patient confidentiality. And she’s not a gossip, anyway. Neither is the professor.”

RoseAnn smiled a little. “I didn’t think they were talking about me.”

“Well, there’s nobody else to talk about you, because nobody else knows. Say what you want, when you want. And don’t ever feel like you don’t belong here. This place exists just for kids like you. Okay?”

“Okay.”

They smiled at each other. “So why did you stand me up this afternoon, when we had an appointment?”

She shrugged. “I had this big seduction scene planned. I figured I had a better chance in your bedroom, didn’t think you’d be the type who’s into bending a girl over the desk.”

“Well, now that you know it isn’t going to work, can we go back to meeting in my office?” She nodded and stood up to leave. “And RoseAnn?” he added, as she approached the door.

“What?”

“Write that essay.”

******************************

“How is she?” Scott sounded anxious.

“She’s fine.” Jean looked at him, reassuringly. “No addiction, I’d say. No withdrawal symptoms to speak of. She was self-medicating to suppress her powers. Now that she doesn’t need drugs to do that, she can let them go.”

“And the medical tests?”

“All the biggies came out negative. No HIV, no hepatitis. Some scarring on her tubes from PID. She might need help if she decides to conceive at some later time. Some much later time, I hope.”

Scott nodded in agreement. “Any prior pregnancies?”

“Two. Both terminated early.”

“She’s fourteen years old!”

“I know. It’s awful. The second one was just a few months ago. Some john – no way to know which. The first was her stepfather. That’s why she ran away from home in the first place. She had no inkling she was a mutant.”

“I wondered. She told me about the stepfather molesting her, but I didn’t know if her powers had started manifesting, as well.”

“No, not until a couple of months ago. She didn’t know what was happening at first. When she figured it out, she was afraid to tell anyone. She thought Nick – the pimp – would be disgusted if he knew she’s a mutant.”

“So she ran away from home to get away from the stepfather?”

“From him, and from her mother.”

“The mother knew?”

Jean nodded. “Yeah, called her a slut.”

“Some people shouldn’t have kids.”

“We know that. Anyway, she ran to the big city. Old story. She met Nick. He offered to pay for the abortion, took care of her afterwards. She asked how she could repay him. And he told her how.”

“Bastard.” Scott thought a little more. “Have you told her about the results of the tests?”

Jean shook her head. “I’m meeting with her later today. Do you want to be there?”

“No, I think you should talk to her privately. She might feel less inhibited on some topics talking to you alone.”

“She really likes you, you know.”

“I know. And she’s only beginning to learn there are ways to express liking someone without sex.”

“You’ll teach her.” Jean smiled at him. “How’s she doing other than medically? Socially? Academically?”

“Very well, considering. She’s smart. When she applies herself she does really well academically. I think she’s finding that hard, though, the discipline of school. Well, you know how it is.”

“Sure, there’s always an adjustment period when they come in out of the cold like that.”

“The other kids seem to like her. She’s the only girl in the Car Club, you know. The boys were all kind of drooling over her at first. Now they’re awed by her mechanical ability.”

“Mutant power?”

“I don’t think so. I think it’s just raw talent, that she’s just good with that stuff. I wish I could teach her to drive. It seems silly that she can take a car apart and put it together, but she’s too young to get behind the wheel.”

“A less law-abiding type would teach her anyway, just stick to the estate for the lessons.”

“I break the law for better reasons than that.” He thought a little more. “I’m glad RoseAnn’s settling in as well as she is. It’s a good sign that she’s getting into extra-curriculars. She’s really not ready to use her mutant power; she’s content knowing how to suppress it. I’ve been having a hard time getting Charles to back off, though.”

“I know. He told me about it. I think he was looking for me to talk you into letting him at her.”

“Damn him! He told me he’d wait. He has no business trying to get at me through you.”

“It didn’t work. I told him you know her best, that he needs to listen to you.”

“Well, thanks. What is it with him lately? He’s so impatient all the time. He’s always had a bit of a blind spot when he thinks someone’s power is useful to him, but for Christ’s sake! She’s fourteen years old. Since when do we make the students use their powers for the X-Men?”

“Not since you and I were kids, anyway.” She smiled ironically.

“Where has Charles’s compassion gone? RoseAnn was raped by her stepfather, exploited by a pimp, abused by countless johns. How can he think that being forced to do something she doesn’t want to do could be good for her?”

“And forced by yet another man,” Jean agreed. “I told him just that. I said I thought he needed to have more empathy for what she’s been through.”

“Thanks,” he said again. “I just don’t get it. I could just shake him.”

“He’s worried about Cerebro. He’s the only one who can use it now. He wants me to, as well. It will have to be a lot more stable before I can handle it. He’s excited to find someone with Magneto’s power and wants to use that.”

“I understand all that, but she’ll be just as much use to him in a few months. She’ll want to help in a few months – she’ll be eager to use it. He can get what he wants without traumatizing her.” He shook his head. “Sometimes I think he’s losing it, Jean. Maybe he’s too distracted by all the political stuff he’s doing and he can’t attend to the kids with his mind on the White House meetings and all that. But he’s different lately. He’s losing his empathy for the kids. He just doesn’t care about them like he used to. Maybe he’s just been doing this too long.”

Jean took a deep breath. “That’s not it. There’s something you don’t know. I keep telling him he should tell you.”

“What?” She didn’t answer at first. “Jean, you’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

“He’s sick, Scott. He’s really sick. I’m so scared.” And then she was crying hard. Scott held her for a long time before she could say anything more.


****************************************************
“You wanted to see me, Dr. Grey?”

“Yes, come on in, RoseAnn. Sit down.” Jean motioned the girl over to the seating area in her office, then closed the door and sat down across from her. “I’ve got all your results. I’ve discussed them with Mr. Summers, as your advisor. Now I want to talk to you. For the most part, they’re very good. Your body has been through a lot, but you are young and healthy and resilient. And lucky.” Jean picked up the chart from the table. “HIV test negative, hepatitis negative – all kinds, gonorrhea, syphilis. You don’t have any of them.” RoseAnn sighed. “Relieved?”

“Very. Mostly about AIDS. I knew so many girls who got it...” She thought a little more. “You said ‘for the most part’. What do I have?”

“Nothing that’s threatening your life. Or your health. But there is some scarring on your fallopian tubes. Evidence of PID – pelvic inflammatory disease. It’s possible that it could interfere with conception or implantation, should you choose to get pregnant at some point.”

“I don’t want to get pregnant. I’ve mostly worried about how not to! And how to get rid of it when I did.”

“I know. But you’re young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. At some point – some point many years down the road, I think – you may want to start a family. And, just to be clear, I’m not saying you won’t be able to. The scarring is not that much of an impediment. At worst, you might need some intervention. It’s just something to watch for.” Jean put on her glasses and looked through the chart. “Beyond that, everything looks good. You’re young and strong.” She looked up at RoseAnn. “I do think we should talk about sexual activity, about how to stay healthy.”

“I’m not having sex,” RoseAnn answered quickly. “I’m not planning on it.”

“Good. I think that’s an excellent choice at this point in your life.”

“It hasn’t always been a choice, you know.”

“I know. That’s a terrible thing that happened to you, RoseAnn. It’s not going to happen again. You’re safe here.”

“That’s what Mr. Summers keeps telling me.”

“Smart man, that Mr. Summers. Listen to him.” She turned back to what they’d been discussing. “Like I said, I think not having sex is a very good choice right now. Delaying sexual activity is good for your growth, for both your body and your mind. But you will likely want to at some point. Most people do. When you’re older, when you’re in love, maybe. And I want you to approach sex responsibly, to know that it’s important to think about staying healthy, and it’s important to think about the emotional consequences, too.” She paused. “So when you think you might be interested in becoming sexually active, come talk to me. Don’t assume you know everything just because you’ve been on the street. I want to arm you, to give you the knowledge – and anything else you need – to keep you healthy.”

“Do you provide condoms and stuff to kids here?” Jean nodded. “So you think it’s okay for them to have sex in high school?”

“I don’t know if it’s okay or not. I don’t think it’s my place to decide whether or not it’s okay. I think it’s a very individual decision. I do think it’s better for kids to wait until they are mature enough, but I don’t think there’s a set age when that happens. People feel ready at different times in their lives. My main concern is that no one here feel pressured or coerced into sex, and that those students who are sexually active take precautions to keep themselves healthy. So I try to give them the information – and the materials – to make that happen.”

“You’re real big on this health shit, right?” RoseAnn was smiling, sardonically.

“Well, they kind of tend to stress the health shit in medical school, what can I say?”

RoseAnn laughed. Then she scowled. “What you said about when I’m older and in love I’ll want to have sex? I’m in love now. Well, I think I am. But you don’t have to talk to me about ‘precautions.’ It’s not going to lead to sex. He has no interest in me.” RoseAnn looked down at the last part.

“That’s hard, I know. Few things are more difficult than unrequited love.”

“Not wisely but too well.”

“Are you reading Othello in Mr. Summers’s Shakespeare seminar?”

RoseAnn nodded. “Yeah, but you’d think if he loved her so well, he wouldn’t have killed her.”

Jean laughed. “Well, it’s a wonderful line. Seems to apply to most people’s lives at one point or another. Usually without murder and suicide. I’m sorry you’re going through that now. Although,” Jean added, “I don’t know that you can be sure he’s not interested. Boys your age often have trouble letting girls know when they like them.”

“I know. The boys here are such... children! Anyway, he’s not a boy, the guy I’m in love with. He’s a man. Mr. Summers. I really do think I’m in love with him.” She looked down. “Is that stupid?”

Jean sighed and smiled sadly. “No, it’s not stupid. He’s a wonderful guy. And having a crush on your teacher is so common an experience as to be almost universal.”

“This isn’t just a crush.”

“I’m not saying that to suggest your feelings are trivial. Scott Summers is a very special man. Hey, I’ve been there. Believe me, I understand the appeal. It’s not stupid. If I thought you were stupid, I’d have to think I was, too.” She laughed at RoseAnn’s questioning look. “Yes, me. Scott and I lived together for years. We were going to get married.”

“But he’s gay!”

“Now where were you ten years ago when it would have been really useful to know that?” She smiled, and then RoseAnn did, too.

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