The Wanderings of Amy Ch. 28bycaligula97236©
Chapter 28 -- Epilogue
Ruth Burnside did not return to her classes in the fall. Being one of the first voices against the abuses being committed in the stock market, several Illinois state legislators decided to nominate her to lead a commission studying the effects of the recent corporate scandals on state pension and school funds. Burnside, in her new role, was vicious to anyone who tried to avoid telling her the truth. CEO's were afraid of the former professor and her ability to remember their words and twist confessions out of them. Burnside was noticed in Washington, and before long started testifying before Congress. The Illinois congressional delegation asked her to lead several national-level investigations. Finally, her position became permanent and she answered directly to Congress. In London, Amy felt real pride when she read the following article:
Illinois securities investigator to head SEC probes.
Controversial Illinois securities investigator, Dr. Ruth Burnside, will lead a series of probes into alleged insider trading at the national level. The former Chicago economics professor was appointed to her current position over the objections of several major corporations. Dr. Burnside, nicknamed 'Ruthless' Burnside, is credited with the recovery of $ 65 million for Illinois pension funds from several current and former CEO's. She has been widely praised for her meticulous investigations and knowledge of the Internet. However, she also has drawn criticism for her confrontational tactics. 'Yes, I confront' said the former professor in a recent interview. 'I go for the throat. I don't have time to deal with people's bull**** and lies. I want the truth, and I want it now. And if they can't remember, well, I make them remember. That's the point of investigating first and doing your homework.' Several Illinois representatives expressed their hope that the Dr. Burnside can accomplish the same results at the national level that she accomplished in Illinois...
Burnside's enemies researched her past, which turned out to be quite scandalous. They allowed rumors about her to circulate on the Hill, hoping to turn her into an embarrassment for the congressmen who had nominated her and voted for her. Finally a couple of House members, on behalf of their corporate backers, raised the issue of Burnside's moral character in committee. There were dark stories of parties in Chicago and multiple lovers, men and women. Burnside, in front of 30 House members and several reporters, momentarily shocked Washington by doing something unheard of, telling the truth. Glaring at her critics with her typical cold stare she said...
"You are asking me about my morality, and you mean my sexual morality to be specific. If you believe my sex life is relevant to the investigations I am conducting, Mr. Representative, then I will be happy to answer. Let's get the issue on the table, consider it, and move on."
Burnside then surprised the committee by pulling out her stack of underground magazines. She passed them to a congressional staff member who turned them over to the committee.
"I'm giving you some of my writings on my sexual preferences. There's a couple of stories, and the other pieces are opinion columns. I tabbed the articles for you. It doesn't seem to me that your quote, investigation, unquote, turned these up, even though they're publications. I believe that some of your questions will be answered in these articles. It'll save me from having to talk so much."
The committee clearly was caught off-guard. They had expected to slowly pick Burnside apart, to listen to her denials and then refute them with overwhelming evidence. Instead, Burnside had taken the offensive. She smiled internally as she contemplated the stacks of folders her critics had in front of them, all evidence against her, so it seemed. Burnside's next statement rendered most of that material useless.
"If I may continue, I have three issues in my life which have been the source of the rumors about me. First, I love sex. I have had many lovers, including women. I don't deny that. Second, I am into fetish. I wear leather outfits at costume parties and beat people's asses. I don't deny that. Third, I bore an illegitimate child, and gave her up for adoption. It is because of my love of sex and a moment of personal irresponsibility that I became pregnant, while on active duty in the Navy. I do not know who my child's father was, because I had three lovers at the time. I paid for my mistake by having a daughter I could not keep. I don't deny that. I accepted responsibility for my actions, and did what I felt was best for myself and the child at the time."
"Now, Mr. Representative, if you wish to explore my sexual life further, I would ask you to first explain how what I do with my sexual partners influences economic policy. If I understand how my personal life relates to the corporate abuses I am investigating, I will be glad to answer any questions you chose to ask."
With that Burnside's eyes bore into her critic. The cameras flashed at both her and the panel.
"Ms. Burnside! I am asking the questions here, not you!"
"Excuse me, Mr. Representative. I have a doctorate. I would appreciate it if you'd refer to me by my proper title. Again I ask you to explain to me, and to the public please, why you need this information on my personal life, and then I will answer..." she concluded with a cold, sarcastic smile "...in all the detail you want."
The Representative suddenly began to sweat. "Uh...well, Dr. Burnside, I am trying to determine whether you have the moral character to question others. I think that is as good a reason as any..."
"I have the moral character to have tried to tell people the truth about what was happening with the IPO's. I was right, and had anyone listened, a lot of investors would still have their money. I had the moral character not to care about my popularity when I saw what was going to happen to telecommunications. People did not like me because I told the truth as I saw it, but subsequent events proved me right. That is how I got here in the first place. As for my personal life, I have the moral character to not be ashamed of anything I have done. Most of it's there in those magazines. Read it, and then tell me if I've done anything other than exercise my freedom as an American citizen."
Burnside's answers made headlines for a day. There was no further point in dredging up the sorted details of her life. She exposed them herself and was somewhat "in your face" about her presumed moral shortcomings. She was perfectly willing to answer any question posed to her, as long as the questioner could explain why her sex life was relevant. The problem for Burnside's critics was that her sexual life was not relevant to anything, and the public knew it. Had she attempted to hide anything, her critics could have taken her down in a heartbeat. However, there was no point investigating facts that Burnside herself was quite open about. She could not be intimidated or blackmailed.
Burnside kept her job in Washington, although from that point forward cartoonists usually portrayed her in black, wielding a whip. She became a rogue hero for thousands of investors who had lost their money in the recent stock crashes. She also became a convenient political lighting rod and lurched from fight to fight and controversy to controversy, loving every minute of it.
A year went by. Amy and Paul had rough lives for different reasons.
Paul 's time in the Army started with nine very unpleasant weeks in the late summer heat of central Missouri, being shouted at by drill sergeants who had barely finished high school. In Basic Training Paul had a rude shock. He had to accept the fact that no matter how smart he was in college and in his outside world, in the Army he was no better than anyone else. He had to learn to march, to shoot, to crawl, and to polish floors from scratch. His college education was of no use to him, other than getting him a higher rank and thus more visibility with the drill sergeants, something he did not want at that point in his life.
After Basic Training Paul studied communications and then went to Monterey, California, to study Spanish. He enjoyed Monterey. Paul had expected that his entire year would be difficult, but once Basic Training was out of the way, his day-to-day existence became quite pleasant. On his free weekends he occasionally rented a car and drove along the California Coast, enjoying the spectacular scenery and rocky beaches.
Amy studied continuously in London. She had to give up exercising and put on 15 pounds during her year there. She continuously had to prove herself to her European classmates and professors. Because they looked down upon her for being an American, Amy was forced to be the best and the most diligent in her classes to earn the respect of the others. In the end she managed to impress everyone she came across. She acquired a long list of contacts and references, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the European economic situation. Her knowledge gave her the topics and much of the research she later used to write both her Master's thesis and dissertation in the years to come. She saw very little of Europe, other than the places she went to attend seminars. Burnside had been right in telling her this would not be a fun trip.
It would have been nice to say that Amy and Paul were loyal to their relationship during their time apart, but that was not true for either of them. They were two young, lonely people with healthy bodies that rebelled against their isolation.
In London Amy had two brief relationships. In the end, however, she was not attracted to British men because they all smoked. When in high school Amy herself had smoked, but was forced to quit when she and Courtney ran out of money in Detroit. Like many ex-smokers, she was sensitive to cigarette smoke and it made her sick. Kissing someone with cigarette smoke on his breath disgusted Amy. She could not handle the smell of tobacco on her lovers, and was alone when her time in London ended.
Paul's infidelity was more serious. He did not expect to be tempted while in the Army. However, in Monterey there was a short, attractive Hispanic private with the last name Padilla, from the nearby town of Salinas. Padilla was just out of high school and had enlisted in the Regular Army. She had her pick of the guys in Monterey, but she liked Paul because he was different from the others. Paul was attracted to her immediately. They went out into Monterey and to Padilla's home in Salinas, where Paul met her family and ate Mexican food. Padilla's long black hair and dark body fascinated him. For a long time he forgot all about Amy, except to answer her letters. About three months before his time in Monterey ended, he came very close to writing Amy to tell her that their relationship had ended. He decided to wait, and ultimately was very glad he did.
Padilla finished her language studies and was attached to a unit in Germany. Now Paul had two long-distance relationships he was trying to maintain. However, with both Amy and Padilla at a distance, Paul could look at them clearly and realized that it was Amy who was in his future, not Padilla. Amy was just about to come back, whereas Padilla had just left. Paul's second thoughts about Padilla were confirmed only a month after she left for Germany, when she wrote him a "Dear John" letter. The letter did not upset Paul at all. It was a huge relief to him that the issue of Amy and Padilla was settled.
Paul made it back to Pennsylvania only a day before Amy got back to Chicago. He drove overnight to be at O'Hare in time to see her get off the plane, not even having time to change out of his uniform. He met up with Robert and a very-pregnant Suzanne at the airport.
When Amy got off the plane she was not looking her best. She was out of shape from not having worked out, pale from having spent most of the past year indoors, and tired from the flight. Paul on the other hand, looked great in his uniform and from having been on active duty for a year. They embraced, but Paul's surprise at Amy's appearance and Amy's disorientation at seeing Paul in a uniform indicated that there were difficult times ahead for them. They realized that they had become strangers.
Amy temporarily stayed with Robert and Suzanne, but ultimately had to find a place closer to the university, as did Paul. It would have seemed logical that Amy and Paul would live together, but they decided not to. They had to start their relationship from scratch and get to know each other all over again. Paul finally moved in with another Reservist from his unit and Amy rented her own apartment with some of her modeling money.
Paul and Amy did not realize how difficult getting back together would be. At the beginning they felt very awkward around each other. They had spent a year apart, experiencing totally different things in life. Their lives had changed. The old landmarks in their lives were gone and they had to establish new ones. They even decided to put off having sex, until they could re-establish the other parts of their relationship.
Over time Paul and Amy spent more and more time with each other and gradually the old feelings came back. It was a slow process, but they were determined to put the past year behind them and make their relationship work, if at all possible. They began by returning to the university gym. Amy was in horrible physical shape in comparison with how she had been a year ago. Like her relationship with Paul, she had to restore her workout routine from scratch. She felt intimidated by Paul's fitness and her own flabbiness. However, Paul was patient with her in the gym and gradually Amy began to tone her body again. They went out to different campus activities and foreign movies. Amy was able to get Paul caught up on events in Europe.
Amy's feelings towards Paul finally recovered when she went through reverse culture shock about two months after getting back. Paul's experience in France came in handy to help him understand what Amy was going through. When Amy wanted to talk about Britain, he was there to listen, and could make comparisons with his time in France. Paul was the only person who understood Amy at that point in her life, since neither Robert nor Suzanne had lived abroad.
Amy and Paul spent Thanksgiving apart, mostly because Amy needed to spend time with Suzanne. Amy went to Robert and Suzanne's apartment for Thanksgiving dinner while Paul went back to Pennsylvania. When dinner was over Robert had to take off to his office and meet up with his two partners. The appeal for his huge liability case was looming, a case which had captured national attention and had turned into a major class-action litigation battle.
Robert's absence gave Amy and Suzanne the chance to spend some badly needed time together. It was the first chance that Amy had to talk at length to her since coming back. Suzanne took a couple of portraits of Amy and they talked about Amy modeling again once she finished getting back into shape. Suzanne then excused herself to dig out the collections of pictures she had taken with new models over the past year to show Amy. Momentarily alone, Amy looked out the dining room window.
Suddenly Suzanne's baby began to protest having been put down in his crib. Amy picked up the newest member of the Johnson family and walked back to the window. As she looked into the child's face she thought about her life's strange journey, and how different she was from whom she had been the first day she stood at this window, now almost four years ago.
Suzanne came back out with a couple of portfolios. She saw Amy holding her son, and joined her friend at the window. For a long time they stood together in silence, neither wanting to be the first to speak. They looked at the baby asleep in Amy's arms, content to share this quiet moment with each other.
By Christmas vacation Amy and Paul finally had re-established the love and passion they had felt for each other before Amy went to London and Paul went in the Army. The final step was for each of them to come clean about the relationships they had the year they were apart. Somehow each was comforted that the other had been unfaithful, since they both had been struggling with guilt over their outside relationships. Amy and Paul each had faults and weaknesses, but now they could admit that about themselves and concentrate on what was really important. What mattered was that they could put their pasts behind them and look forward to the future with each other.
The fall semester ended. Only one more to go, and then they would graduate, both of them in May.
Amy went to Paul's house for Christmas. She had not seen his family for a year and a half. There were changes in the household, all of which she was glad to see. The most important change Amy noticed was in Paul's sister Julie. She now was over half-way through the degree she needed to get a teaching certificate. Besides her studies, Julie had a part-time job at a day-care center. Amy had changed Julie's life, first by motivating her to study, then by forcing Paul to help her that one critical semester with the money from the clothing shoot. At her young age Amy had the satisfaction of having influenced at least one person's life in a very positive way.
After Christmas dinner Julie wanted Amy to pose for a picture with Paul's nephew, who now was almost six. Then Paul took a picture of Amy and Julie together. Amy realized that she no longer was alone in the world. She had lost her family, but eventually would become part of another. She had a future with Paul and would enjoy the companionship of likable in-laws. Amy knew that eventually she and Paul would have children of their own, although that would not be for a while. Graduate school lay ahead for both of them, as did the beginnings of their careers and spending a lot of time doing fun things together.
Later in the afternoon Paul and Amy walked through his desolate town, holding hands. It was a bleak overcast day in a bleak empty town, yet her surroundings did not depress Amy in the least. She was immensely happy. She knew that a pleasant, fulfilling life lay ahead of her. Amy felt a deep satisfaction that her wanderings were far from over, and that she alone would determine where those wanderings would take her.