At precisely 0855, Andy DeGroat pulled his 2015 Toyota Tacoma into the administration building parking lot of Colton College. After six years in the USMC, being dressed in civilian clothes was still a novelty to him, but his grandfather, as he always did, reminded him that if he wore the same basic pant/shirt combination each day, he would still have a uniform of sorts.

“Andrew, Steve Jobs wore the same damn thing for years. That man had enough money to burn a wet mule. You’ll be fine,” the older man had lovingly explained. With his grandmother’s sartorial help, he had settled on Bill’s Khakis, and Red Wing boots. The gray and navy polo shirts, and button-down Oxfords came from his grandfather’s Boston tailor: Sordillo’s. His sweaters bore the ubiquitous horse and rider logo of Ralph Lauren. Grandma was not happy with the uniform approach, so she made sure the constituent parts were to her standards and liking. His workout gear and casual attire were left over from his time in the Corps. She was satisfied, but not thrilled with the image he would be conveying through his appearance around campus.

To be fair, it was hard for a 6’3″ Marine not to stand out. Add to that the angry scars running down his left arm and the left side of his neck, and he was bound to be a curiosity. The scars looked better every day, and Andy knew himself to be fortunate. Others of his brotherhood could not return to their former lives, for they had been translated to that eternal brotherhood of Marines who had fallen in battle. Still, he was a good-looking, 24-year-old combat veteran. No one was shooting at him here, and Uncle Sam was footing the bill for a top-notch education. He was fortunate, indeed.

As he strode through the building, he was conscious of being watched. This was not serious recognizance, but rather a curious gawking at the new guy. His grandparents had attended, and met one another, at this college: a small, academically rigorous institution in the northeast. The walls did indeed have ivy on them, and the place reeked of old school respectability. He made his way to the second floor, and at 0858, let the receptionist know he was here for his 0900 meeting with Dr. Gloria Adams. He was told the Provost was expecting him, and to please take a seat.

At 0902, the office door opened and Provost Adams welcomed him into her office. She was a striking woman — quite tall, particularly so in her tasteful heels. Her pant suit was obviously tailored for her, and she wore the ensemble quite well. Diplomas from prestigious institutions dotted her walls, as well as photos with various VIP’s. On the credenza behind her massive desk, there was a picture of a family of 5: The Provost, her husband, and three willowy blondes. There was also a recent wedding photo adding a sixth person to the mix. The Adams family was stunningly photogenic.

“Mr. DeGroat, welcome to Colton. Your grandfather tells me the past month has been a bit of whirlwind for you. I hope you’ll find matriculating into college life easier than processing out of the Corps.”

“Thank you, ma’am. My grandparents said to be sure to pass along their greeting,” replied Andy.

“They are wonderful people. They’ve been faithful and successful ambassadors of this school for a long time. Your grandfather’s time as chairman of the board of trustees is used as a model in higher education classes. I fear we’ll not see his like again.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Andy replied sheepishly. He knew of Ralph Carlson’s love for the alma mater, and knew he’d served on the board, but had never heard this side of the story. He’d have to ask him when he called them tonight.

“Andy, to be clear, we don’t usually have incoming freshman into the Provost’s office for a sit down. You obviously are not a typical incoming student, and with it being the beginning of the summer term, it worked out well for me to sit down with you. This first week in June is much less hectic than the beginning of either semester,” she explained.

“My grandmother warned me I may get the red carpet,” mused Andy.

“Well yes, as a legacy, you are a valued part of our college community. But there is another reason I’ve called you in,” she paused. “You’re a mature young man. You’ve seen things most of us will never see in our privileged, sheltered lives. You have the physical scars to prove it. Given your unique stage of life, I have a favor to ask of you,” the Provost looked at him as though she were appraising him in some way.

“Yes ma’am,” Andy replied. “I’ll be glad to help if I can.”

“Good. Your grandfather thought as much. Three years ago, we were set to demolish President’s Hall. Two past US presidents lived there when they were students here at Colton, and the building needed structural improvements, as well as a bevy of other work done to bring it up to code. As I said, we were ready to tear it down. However, a donor agreed to underwrite the entire remodel, and so that work has already begun. The Commons Room in that building stands alone, it’s connected by a breezeway to the larger structure. That renovation was done first as a kind of showpiece for donors. It was once the small chapel on campus, so it’s a lovely space. Long story short, we have work being done at other dorms on campus, and I’m afraid all we can offer you is co-ed housing in the Common Room,” said the Provost with all the fervor of a used car salesman. “It’s quite nice — think the Gryffindor Common Room at Hogwarts.”

“Ma’am, I’ve been living in Quonset Huts, or tents with other Marines. Bunking in the Commons Room is no problem.”

“Thank you. And, to be clear, it is a co-educational space for the foreseeable future.”

“Again, I’m used to 50 jarheads. How many other students are in the Common Room?”

“You’ll be one of three. The other two students are women,” said the Dean. “And, Lance Corporal Andrew DeGroat, one of those women is my daughter. Her name is Eden.”

Andy smiled. He knew there was a catch. There always was with higher-ups. Military, academy, business — it was all the same. Shit ran downhill. SSDD.

“Roger Wilco that, ma’am.” When the Dean looked puzzled at his response, he clarified, “I hear you loud and clear Dr. Adams. And, just to be clear — it’s sergeant. I got promoted on my last tour in Iraq.”

“Yes, well, congratulations Sergeant DeGroat. As I was saying, Eden and her roommate Sara both row crew here. They are good students, and good athletes. As the Provost, I’m glad we can put students in that space temporarily. However, as a mom, I don’t like my daughter living in a place next door to all sorts of comings and goings. There’s not even an RA or RD in the complex. This may sound matriarchal and sexist, but I would feel much better with a young man possessing your resume around to keep an eye on things.”

“I understand, ma’am,” replied Andy. “Mine is a deterring presence.”

“One last thing, Andy. Please don’t let Eden know that I’ve done this — intentionally. Her sisters went to other schools, and I was thrilled when she decided to come here. I don’t want her thinking her mother is putting a decorated Marine in her building to look out for her — though that’s exactly what I’m doing.”

Andy smiled again. “Need to know, ma’am. Roger that.”

“Thank you. Marcie will walk you down the hall to get your parking pass and ID card. You’ll also need a key fab for the door to the Commons. I’ll be talking with you periodically just to see how you’re settling in.”

“Actually, ma’am — there is one more thing.”

“Yes?” The Provost looked up from her desk. Her face was partly curious, partly annoyed at this glitch in the conversation.

“My grandparents sent me the alumni magazine and they forwarded emails as I was recovering, and I’m afraid I have some concerns about my time here,” said Andy.

“Mr. DeGroat, your SAT scores were outstanding. I saw that your ASVAB scores were also quite high. I understand you turned down multiple offers to attend the Naval Academy. You may be a bit rusty academically, but I’m sure you’ll do fine,” she said soothingly.

“Well, no, actually, I’ll do very well here academically, I can assure you,” replied Andy.

“So, I don’t understand your concern. You’re a legacy. Your family is commemorated in the lawn outside the dining commons. You belong here,” she stated matter of factly.

“As I said, in reading the university media, it seems you go out of your way to be inclusive to all ‘identities.'”

“Yes, we are quite proud of our inclusion program. We were a pioneer in safe spaces. Our LGBTQ+ program is considered the model within higher ed,” she rattled off these accomplishments quite proudly.

“Well yes, but I wonder if your inclusion program includes a guy who identifies as I do,” he said.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m a veteran. I’m a heterosexual, white male who comes from a family of privilege. Some would say that’s a lifetime of advantages. However, my sisters and I never asked for our parents to be murdered on 9/11, just like we never asked to be born into a wealthy family. We just were. There’s nothing I can do about that. I can’t make up for it or feel sorry for it. I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to make the people who killed my parents pay for what they did. Pure and simple. It was not love of country, or any other form of patriotism. It was a grown man trying to get back at the people who took his parents from him when he was five.”

“Andy, you and your sisters are victims — yours is a tragic story. I’m sure this will be a safe space for you,” she said. There was a fleeting look on her face that said much more than simple words of condolence. Andy caught a glimpse, but then it was gone. Whatever was behind that look was well-camouflaged, and would likely stay that way.

“That’s just it. I know that technically we are victims; but identifying as a victim was not an option with the Judge. I’m not some sort of fragile victim. I don’t want a ‘safe space’ because the world is not a safe fucking space – pardon my French, ma’am. People kill people out of sheer spite and hatred. That means our government spent a lot of money training people like me to stop them. That’s what helps keep the world from going down the toilet, not inclusive language, or safe spaces. I hate violence, but I’m damn good at harnessing that beast when I need to. It’s why I became a sniper. That lethal violence is precise. I came here to further my education, not to be judged for what I’ve done, or that I’m a toxic male, or whatever the hell else goes on in people’s inclusive safe spaces. My sisters and I are not victims. We survive and we overcome. That’s not a Marine Corps thing, that’s a Judge Ralph Carlson, Colton class of 1968 thing. It was the man’s damn mantra to us when we were growing up. I’m not sure, given the literature and media I’ve read in the past six months, that this place will let me be anything other than a victim. I will fight that, and let me assure you, I fight damn well.”

Andy had not once raised his voice. He has spoken, rather, in his NCO command voice. Not loud, just assertive. The ball was now in the Dean’s court. There was a long, awkward pause before she finally spoke. When she finally did, she spoke quietly.

“Well, yes. I fear you may be right.” She looked him in the eyes, “So, why are you here? Or, maybe, where did you want to go to college?”

“I’m here because of a deal I made with the Judge. He let me enlist in the Corps at 18. One six-year stint, then I enroll at Colton for one year. I talked him down to a trial semester, and he agreed given that I start in the summer term. I looked at Hillsdale and St. John’s in Annapolis. They were my top choices. Really, anyplace with a great books curriculum was on the table.”

“Andy; your family is a valuable part of our heritage. They are a part of the fabric of this place. In truth, there would not be a Colton if it were not for your grandfather. Can I make a deal with you? Please come and see me — say once a week. Let’s talk about your experiences. If we can’t be a place where people who are committed to making their way in the world as it is feel welcome, then we may need to step back and reevaluate our approach. Can we make that deal?” The Provost looked at him, not pleadingly, but with concern and empathy. There had been damned little of that in the Corps, so it did take him aback.

“Yes ma’am. That would be fine.”

“And Andy, one more thing, please?”


“When we’re in here, just you and I, please call me Gloria.”

“Yes Gloria, I believe I can do that.”

Andy found the Commons Room at President’s Hall easily enough. He parked his Tacoma in the appropriate space and went to recon his new home. The work next door was going full speed ahead. He used his key fab, and entered through the double doors. True to the Dean’s word, the space took his breath away. There were black-out curtains over the windows, so it was quite dark for 1000 in June. Even in the dark, it was magnificent. His sisters were huge Harry Potter fans, so he got his phone out to take a few pictures. As his eyes adjusted, and he looked around, he saw that the room consisted of two levels. The main level had a high, vaulted ceiling. There was, however, opposite the fireplace, a mezzanine level. He quietly walked up the stairs. It was there that he found the real living space: a bunk bed with full-size mattresses on each level, as well as a separate full-size bed that was currently unmade and unoccupied. Both were heavy, antique-looking pieces of furniture. There were three large, wooden wardrobes and three Carnegie library desks, with library book carts for each desk. He also noticed that the bunks were currently inhabited by his two new roommates, fast asleep.

Andy realized that moving his stuff in right now would not be welcomed behavior by his roommates, so he decided to grab his shaving kit and head to the latrine. The drive hadn’t been all that long, but he realized that he had been quite nervous about getting settled and his meeting with the Provost. He wasn’t ripe, but neither was he fresh as a daisy. A quick shower and change into his PT gear would have him ready to unload his truck. Quietly, he went to his truck, retrieved his gear, and made his way into the bathroom.

The bathroom, like the rest of the Commons, was exquisite. White and black subway tiles covered the floors, and there were tile walls leading to two, large, half-walled shower stalls. This was obviously a carryover from an earlier era, and Andy quickly deduced that this presented a problem. If he were in the shower when one or both of his roommates came in, well, things would get very personal very fast. Time spent in a military hospital had removed any such misgivings for Andy, but he doubted his 20-year-old roommates shared that sentiment. “We’ll cross that bridge later,” he thought. He sat down on the bench by the showers, took off his boots, and carefully removed his khaki pants and polo, folding them neatly. The sinks and mirrors were directly opposite the showers, so Andy could not help but see the catastrophic results of his time in the Corps on his body. Still, the scars were less angry than they had been, even a month ago. He used the cream his sisters and grandmother insisted upon for scars and didn’t worry too much about it.

Andy had no sooner gotten into the shower and turned the water on, when the door burst open. Two of the most beautiful women he had ever seen barged into the bathroom. He recognized Eden from the picture in her mother’s office. The other girl, Sara, looked to be bi-racial. Both were close to 6 feet and dressed only in cotton tank tops and boy shorts.

“If you’re name is not Andrew… Andrew something or other, you’ve got about 10 seconds to clear your perverted ass out of our room!” shouted Eden angrily.

Andy was slow and certain in his response to this challenge. “Whoa. Yes, my name is Andrew something or other, but you can call me Andy. You must be Eden and Sara,” he said as calmly as he could. “I just got here, and I didn’t want to wake you up moving my stuff in, so I figured I’d grab a quick shower and change my clothes ’till you woke up. I’m sorry if I woke you.”

“Oh. So, Andy something or other, what is your last name?”


“Are you related to Ralph and Helen Carlson?” Eden asked tersely.

“Yes. They’re my maternal grandparents.”

“So, you’re the big deal legacy that got stuck here as well?”

“It would appear so, but this is a hell of a nice place to get stuck. And, the two of you are much prettier than my previous roommates,” smiled Andy.

“Not to be rude, but what happened to you?” Sara spoke up for the first time.

Andy realized that his upper torso was easily visible to his new roommates. “I was a Marine. IED in Iraq. Or, as we liked to say in the Corps, I got BTFU’d.”

When he noticed their blank looks, Andy explained, “Blown the fuck up.”

“That would explain your ink,” Sara said, glancing at the globe and anchor tattooed on his right pec. “Are you OK?” she asked.

“I am, thank you. I was lucky. My sisters and grandmother tell me that if I follow their regimen with scar cream, it’ll look less — startling. Plus, it didn’t mess with my tattoo,” he said smiling.

Satisfied with his bonafides, the tension in the room dissipated and the girls’ mood got more playful and more inquisitive. Much, more playful.

“Well, Andy the Marine. If you need help with that cream, please let us know. We’d be glad to help our new roommate,” said Eden with a rather wicked grin on her face.

“Umm hmm. Girl that is the truth,” echoed Sara.

Andy blushed. “Yes. Well, if you will excuse me, I’ll finish up here and get dressed so that we can be properly introduced, and I can bring my gear in.”

“Oh no, Andy,” said Sara quickly, “we like the view just fine. We’ll wait. We are roommates after all. You’ve seen us in our underwear, so it’s only fair.”

Andy froze, suddenly feeling very naked.

“That’s true, Andy,” said Eden, “fair is fair.”

“Yes. Well, I seem to be the only one sans clothing. While you are — I believe the term is scantily clad — you’re not in your altogether. So please, we can play peep show later,” Andy said sounding much more like a USMC non-com than he intended to.

“Well, OK. But you can’t blame sisters for wanting to check out the goods when the goods are quality,” retorted Sara. “But, for the record, we really do need to pee.”

“Be my guest. I’m used to sharing a latrine with 50 other Marines, so I suppose I can handle two beautiful young women handling their morning necessities.”

Two hours later, all of Andy’s gear was moved in and stowed. This, however, did require the help of his lovely roommates. The girls had used the third wardrobe as overflow for their own space, and so there was some re-organization that had to happen before Andy could stow his clothing, as well as his Marine Corps Class A uniform. Ultimately, Eden made a phone call, and a fourth wardrobe was wheeled in by a crew of men who were obviously college maintenance. Thankfully, at this point both girls had completed their morning rituals and were fully clothed — though Andy was sure his grandmother would contest that claim. Both wore yoga pants (panty lines not visible), as well as Colton Crew t-shirts. It was abundantly clear that both women had foregone any kind of undergarment this morning, and their young, firm breasts announced their presence with great authority in Andy’s mind. He was glad to have put on a pair of compression shorts with his PT gear. His low-grade erection would be somewhat constrained by the lycra. Their attire was form fitting, which gave Andy a chance to discreetly (he hoped) check out his roommates. As he unpacked, they peppered him with questions about his background, and time in the military. He, in turn, got to know more about them.