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Family Man

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The arrival of a healthy baby girl on Oct. 16 in a Tacoma, Wash., hospital might, like most births, have been an occasion for celebration. And indeed the mother, Mary Kay Letourneau, was delighted. But there were complications. Hours after the delivery, Letourneau, 36, a former teacher, was returned to the Washington Corrections Center for Women, where she is serving a 7½-year sentence for the rape of the newborn’s father, 15-year-old Vili Fualaau, her onetime elementary-school pupil. The baby, Alexis Georgia, Letourneau’s second by Fualaau, went home with the boy’s mother, who is also raising the first, 17-month-old Audrey.

“It’s unfair. I want Mary to be with me and the kids,” says Fualaau, 15, who spoke to PEOPLE in Paris, where he was promoting a book, Un Seul Crime, L’Amour (Only One Crime, Love), that he and Letourneau collaborated on with a ghostwriter. “They say I’m a victim, but I’m not. I’m more a victim without her.”

The lovers, bound together in a perplexing romance that has fascinated and repelled people worldwide, are unlikely to be reunited anytime soon. With the birth of the second child, prosecutors are considering filing additional rape charges against Letourneau, because Fualaau was 14 at the time of his last encounter with her in February, while she was out on parole after her sentence had been suspended. “The danger of this case is that it tends to undermine the seriousness of sex abuse cases involving adolescent boys,” says Dan Satter-berg of the King County, Wash., prosecutor’s office.

The couple’s literary effort, to be released in the U.S. later this year, reportedly earned a $250,000 advance from French publisher Robert Laffont, who grabbed the rights to the book after American publishers showed little interest. Still, Fualaau maintains, money wasn’t the reason the two did the book, and in fact Letourneau can’t be paid, since Washington bars felons from profiting from works based on their crimes. “We wanted to tell the real story of our relationship,” says Fualaau. “The bond we had, the spiritual feelings.” (However, some remain skeptical of their motives. “Nobody cares about her,” says close friend Michelle Jarvis. “She isn’t anything more than a commodity to those people.”)

Spirituality notwithstanding, Letourneau, who at one time was medicated in prison for bipolar disorder, was sent back to serve out her term after she and Fualaau were found in a parked car just a month after she was paroled on condition that she not see him. And according to their book, Letourneau had been sneaking visits with Fualaau practically from the moment she was released. After she was returned to prison, Fualaau says, he was shocked that—contrary, he claims, to her assurances that she was using natural birth control—she was pregnant again. “Now I’m surprised I have another daughter,” he says, “but I’m not angry.”

Nor, apparently, is Fualaau’s mother, Soona, 39, who, in the book, claims she first wanted to “strangle” Letourneau but eventually came to sympathize with her. “I know it wasn’t rape,” she writes. “[She] wasn’t strong enough to refuse what my son wanted.”

In the book, Letourneau and Fualaau set forth their account of the relationship’s history, from her recognition of his artistic talent in her second-grade class to his sexual precocity when she had him in class again as a sixth grader at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, Wash. At age 12, Fualaau claims, he bet a friend $20 he would have sex with Letourneau. When he began spending time at her house doing schoolwork, Letourneau—unhappy in a troubled marriage—began to fantasize about sex with him too. “I had promised myself it would not happen before my divorce,” she writes.

But a few days before Vili’s 13th birthday, it did. Steve Letourneau (who now lives in Alaska with his and Mary’s four children, aged 6 to 14) had left for his job as an airline cargo specialist one morning while Vili, by then a frequent guest at their house, was still asleep on the couch. When Mary Letourneau got up to lock the door after her husband, the boy “held out his arms and pulled me towards him,” she writes. “In a few seconds, my life had turned over.” For his part, Fualaau insists she tried to resist. “That’s the brutal truth,” he says. “It was my idea.”

For now, the burden of raising the couple’s children has fallen mostly on Fualaau’s mother and an aunt, assisted by his three older teenage siblings. Meanwhile, Fualaau hopes to attend art school and isn’t putting his life on hold—though a friend says Letourneau believes the two will someday marry. “I wouldn’t say I’m waiting,” Fualaau says. “I have to stay focused on how to live my life. I have to find my way. I have to stay busy until the day comes that I can see her.”

Bruce Frankel

Cathy Nolan in Paris and Alex Hardy in Seattle