Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Eighteen

Ryan Pellin’s childhood was uneventful. As a teenager, he decided he wished to pursue a career in music and got first his Bachelor’s Degree, then his Master’s and eventually his Ph.D. in music composition and theory. While studying for his Master’s, he met Denise Archer, and the two were married a few months after his graduation. Within a year, he got a teaching job at a public university not far from the town of Ighosia Falls. By the time he was thirty-five years old, he had tenure. Doctor Pellin was a very popular professor. He regularly composed music for his students-- sometimes even dedicated to them-- and was always ready with advice or for friendly conversation.

Denise Archer-Pellin, however, seemed to think her husband spent too much time at work, too much time involved with his students, and nowhere near enough time with her and their son Owen. Ryan never saw the divorce papers coming. Denise took Owen and left, refusing to even give him a chance at joint custody of the boy.

Ryan buried himself in his work throughout the divorce proceedings and even further when it was all finalized. The following fall, the cutbacks in the music department began to hit hard. Adjunct faculty were let go, class sizes rose, and Ryan’s workload practically tripled.

He fell into depression. Some nights he wouldn’t even leave the university and go home; he simply slept in his desk chair or on the couch in his office. He spent his few waking hours composing the symphony he had promised the orchestra by mid-spring.

It was his graduate assistant, Sara Kenney, who kept him going. Acting as her mentor was perhaps the only thing that kept him from sinking completely into his composing. She was a music composition major, too, but she already had a second Bachelor’s Degree in psychology, and she recognized the signs in her mentor. She tried everything she could think of to keep Dr. Pellin from sinking further into his slump, and for awhile, it all seemed to be working positively. They both knew exactly what she meant to him.

But despite her knowledge of the human psyche and her ability to size up other people’s characters, Sara got into a relationship with a young man with an anger problem. By the time she finally realized the situation she was in, he had become so attached and possessive of her that he refused to let her break up with him. He put two bullets in her head.

The loss of his friend and confidant crushed what little desire to live Ryan had. One afternoon, he swallowed a ridiculous number of sleeping pills. Another professor called the hospital before they could do their work, though. Ryan didn’t return to the university.

At reading Ryan’s childhood profile, Becca had been relieved to see he had had a normal youth. No abuse, no hatred, not like the others had endured. But his adulthood was just as bad. She found the website of the university he had attended and found a recording of a student ensemble playing one of the pieces he had composed. It made her cry.

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