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This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2015 by Steven Wells.
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Jeffery Comes Home
"Well, in case you don't know, I am the co-chairperson of the search committee to find a suitable youth minister," Sam's grandmother explained. "And, both of my daughters and Sam's father are also on the committee. So, the family has sort of a monopoly of power as we choose a person to serve as youth minister. Naturally, the candidates would need to be approved by the entire board of directors. Why don't you apply, Jeffery?"
"As I was explaining to Cecelia, I'm not certain it would be wise if my mother and I work together," I advised.
"I couldn't disagree with you more," Sam's grandmother answered. "You wouldn't be working for your mother, but with her. You would both take your marching orders from the executive committee."
"As I said, I will talk with my mother before I head back to San Francisco," I explained.
"If you will excuse us" Chris began to explain to the guests remaining at the table, "Lincoln and Roosevelt probably need to be walked, don't you think, Sam?"
"Probably," Sam answered. "Would anyone care to join us?"
"I would love to join you, but I need to be heading back to the farm," Phillip answered.
"And," I added, "I think my parents are planning to leave shortly. Another time, perhaps?"
"Sure," Sam answered as they left to get coats, leashes, and whatever else you need to walk a dog.
Phillip stood and said good bye the people still at the table and the hosts. When he returned, I decided to go for broke, "Why don't I walk you out? I could use some fresh air!"
"Sure," Phillip answered with a huge grin on his face.
Chapter 02: The Limits Have Been Pushed
Two days after Christmas, I called Phillip to invite him to meet me for coffee later in the day. I was over the top excited when he accepted. We were meeting at Mel's coffee shop around 2 in the afternoon. I arrive about 1:45 because I wanted to briefly talk with Mel before Phillip arrived.
"Is this a date?" Mel asked when I told her I was meeting Phillip.
"I just want to get to know him better," I told her. "He's a nice guy. But, I really want to run something by you."
"Let's have a seat at the table by the window," Mel suggested. "I can keep an eye on the place from there."
When we were settled, I began to explain why I wanted to talk with her. "Mel, I have been approached by people in charge of hiring a youth minister at my mother's church. And, I told you I was really stressed out with my professional situation in San Francisco. So, my question for you is: Do you think I can handle coming back to Olney, Illinois after being in San Francisco for four years?"
"That's a tough one, Jeffery," Mel said after a few seconds. "It is not the same place you left when you went away to college 12 years ago. Part of that, I think, is the influx of people who are involved with the community college—both as students and as worker bees. I'm certain your father could give you better statistics than I can, but I believe the school has gone from 500 students 12 years ago to over 5,000 today. I don't have any idea how many more teachers are there. Again, I think you should talk to your father."
"I knew it had grown," I said. "But, I didn't know it had grown that much."
"Another factor that is not insignificant is the Williamson family and extended family," Mel began to explain. "Mrs. Williamson is not only an excellent English teacher, she is also one feisty woman. When Sam was being harassed in high school, she made it her mission to bring that harassment to an abrupt halt. She threatened to sue the school system if they did not apologize to Sam and make significant adjustments with their stance on the LGBT population at the school. I think if it is any indication, the high school students who come in here are basically sexual orientation blind. In other words, they really don't give a shit if a person is straight or gay. The captain of the football team is openly gay and took his boyfriend to the homecoming dance."
"I feel there is a `but' about to come out of your mouth," I said to Mel as I smiled widely.
"There are a lot of `buts', but I will only give you a few examples because your boyfriend will be here shortly," Mel began. "You know the phrase: `You can't shine shit!' Well, there is a lot of shit in this town. There always was, and, I suspect, there always will be. For example, there was a very, very prominent community leader sitting in this coffee shop not too long ago. He is also a very close personal friend of Mr. Williamson, Sam's father. I am not going to name names, but I think once I tell you this story you will know exactly who the person is. He was sitting in the corner over there with his wife and a few other so called community leaders. He was basically shitfaced because Sam Williamson had brought home his black boyfriend to meet Mr. and Mrs. Williamson. I think it would have been sort of okay if Sam brought home is white boyfriend. But, this prominent community leader began to rant so loudly about how black people were infiltrating their way into the community, I had to throw the bastard out. He is not welcome to set foot in this place again. And, he is not the only one. There are still some red necks here that feel the same way about gay people as Mr. Community Leader feels about black people. That is my `but' summary. I think the community would welcome you with open arms, Jeffery. You are a very kind, considerate, and thoughtful person. Your parents are well liked here. You would be an asset to the church if they hired you. So, I'm done with the advice columnist routine. Besides, I think you boyfriend is coming through the door!"
Both Mel and I stood up to greet Phillip as he came through the door. Mel was the first to speak, "Hello, Phillip! I see you took a break from the cows. Could it be the company you hope to be keeping?"
Phillip blushed profusely as I reprimanded Mel, "Mel! Don't be mean!"
"Okay," Mel said. "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, Phillip. So, to pay for my sins, whatever you want today is on the house!"
"You don't need to do that, Mel," Phillip added as he regrouped from his prior embarrassment.
"Yes she does, Phillip," I said with a smile. "She can be a barracuda at times. She needs to pay the barracuda tax!"
"Sit, guys," Mel instructed us. "What can I get you guys? Mary brought in one of her famous chocolate mousse cakes this morning along with some of her other baked goods."
"I'll go for that with a dark roast coffee," I announced.
"I'll have the same," Phillip agreed.
As we waited for the chocolate mousse cake and coffee, I decided to tell Phillip of my thoughts on coming back to Olney, "Do you remember the discussion I had with a few of the guests at the Williamson's on Christmas day?"
"Yes," Phillip answered. "Have you given it more consideration?"
"Yes," I admitted. "I am somewhat torn. I need a break from the high risk people I deal with in San Francisco. Yet, I am sort of afraid of moving back to the bigotry of this town. Comments?"
Mel brought or stuff to the table. "Here you are, boys! Enjoy! And, Phillip, if he is talking moving back here, be careful."
"Thanks, Mel," I answered.
"The only thing I have to say is that it would be your decision based on whether you want to give up the life that the city affords or you want to settle in a place that is probably more relaxed, albeit backwards," Phillip calmly said. "I don't have that choice if I want to be involved in organic farming. You, on the other hand, do have alternatives."
"In other words, you are not going to give me any advice whatsoever!" I summarized what Phillip had suggested.
"Nope!" Phillip replied. "I don't want to be blamed for a decision you might make and then regret!"
"It sounds as though you might have given advice that was not what the other person wanted to hear," I continued.
"You might say that," Phillip replied. "Only it was the other way around. When I was considering this job, I was in a relationship with another guy. He tried to convince me not to take the job because he did not want to move to the middle of `cow country' as he put it. I was on the verge of turning down the offer to manage the farm here. I came home early one afternoon and found my boyfriend in bed with another guy. Needless to say, I decided right then and there to accept the position. And, here I am!"
"Ouch!" I said to Phillip. "I take it you haven't regretted your decision."
"Nope," Phillip answered. "I love the job. I love the people with whom I work. I haven't had time to socialize much because I have only been here two months. But, so far, I have found the people here to be very kind and welcoming. The Williamsons want me to attend their church, but I haven't yet."
"Hmm," I said as I thought about my options. "What would you say if I invited you to attend the church tomorrow morning? I'll take you out to lunch afterward."
"I would probably say yes if you were to ask me," Phillip admitted.
"Then, why don't you come with me to the United Church of Christ in Olney?" I asked.
"I'd like that," Phillip answered.
"I can pick you up!" I offered.
"Not necessary," Phillip decided. "I can meet you in the church parking lot or I could meet you at your house or I could meet you somewhere else. Your choice."
"Come by the house around 9:30, and I will have coffee and a snack for us to consume while we talk. We need to be there around 10:30 or my mother will be livid that I did not socialize with the congregation," I explained to Phillip. "Now, tell me more about you!"
"There isn't really much to tell," Phillip began. "I grew up in Oak Grove, Illinois outside of Chicago. I majored in business and agriculture at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. I was an intern at a small organic farm in New England one summer. So, ever since then I've had a dream of running an organic farm, but I never imagined something of this magnitude!"
"What about your family?" I asked.
Phillip began his description of his family, "My mother and father grew up in Peoria. They moved to suburban Chicago right after they were married. My father is a sales person for a medical technology firm. My mother is a legal secretary. I have two brothers. One two years older than me. The other two years younger than me. Both of them are married and live with their kids in the Chicago area. So, I have three nephews and one niece."
"Do they know you are gay?" I asked.
"Yes," Phillip said. "I came out when I was a freshman in college. They weren't shocked. They said they had thought I might be, but didn't ask. What about you?"
"That's easy," I answered. "You met my mother and father. I am an only child. I didn't come out to my family until I was settled in school in Boston. I took a lot of shit when I was in high school because I liked music and theater. I hated sports. I still do. I dated a couple of girls in high school. I kept breaking up with them so I didn't need to perform, if you know what I mean. After I completed my BS in Social Work, I went on to divinity school and finished my Masters. Shortly after I finished my masters, I was hired by the United Church of Christ in San Francisco to work as an outreach minister with the gay and lesbian community in the Castro. And, here I am four years later."
"What school did you go to in Boston?" Phillip asked.
"It was actually Cambridge," I admitted. "I went to Harvard and then to Harvard Divinity School for my Masters in Divinity."
"Wow! A Harvard grad," Phillip said. He was smiling. "You must have been really, really smart!"
"No," I said. "I was lucky. My mother has all three of her degrees from Harvard. So does my father. They met when they were both involved in the PhD program. So, I got extra points! A lot of extra points to be exact."
Mel sauntered over to our table. "Can I get you guys anything else?"
"We are on our third cup of coffee," Phillip admitted to Mel. "I think we might both be flying if we have anymore."
"So, are you trying to convince our boy here to move back to Olney, Phillip?" Mel asked.
"No," Phillip answered. "That needs to be his decision."
"You're no help, Philip!" Mel said with a smile.
"He's going to church with me tomorrow," I said to Mel. "Perhaps you and Tom would want to join us. You of all people could use a good dose of religion!"
"Listen, shit head," Mel began. "I could teach you a thing or two about religion!"
"We will pray for you, Mel," I say with a smile.
Phillip and I arrive at the church precisely at 10:30 on Sunday morning. Phillip looked absolutely gorgeous in his blue blazer, tan slacks, and blue button down oxford shirt. He had on a snappy red, white, and gold skinny tie. And, I must say he looks just as good in his dress slacks as he does in his tight, body fitting jeans!
"Hello, mom," I said to my mother as we entered the church.
"Hello, Jeffery! And, Phillip, it is so good to see you again," my mother answered.
"You, too, Reverend!" Phillip said to my mother.
"You look very dapper today, Phillip," my mother said. I knew there was something else coming. "Maybe, Jeffery, you could follow Phillip's lead and wear a tie!"
"You know I hate ties, Mom," I respond. "Besides, it's bad for my image! I would be ostracized if I wore one to my job in San Francisco."
"Well," my mother continued. "Maybe that will change if the search committee offers you a job here!"
I turned to Phillip and say with a smile, "I think we should go mingle, Phillip! We might get a more pleasant reception!"
"Jeffery!" I hear my name being called from behind and turn to find Sam's aunt Cecelia walking toward me.
"Good morning Cecelia!" I greet her. She seemed to be a lady on a mission. "You remember Phillip, correct?"
"Of course I remember Phillip!" Cecelia said as she offered Phillip her hand. "I'm so happy you could join us today. I hope this will become a regular occurrence!"
"We will see," Phillip answered Cecelia. "It is not always easy to get away from the farm. Cows need to be milked even though it is Sunday!"
"You just tell those cows that you'll be back after church!" Cecelia added with a smile. She turned to me, "Now, Jeffery, would you have time to meet with the search committee sometime this week? We are hoping that we can convince you to work for with us as a youth minister!"
"I am free until I leave to go back to San Francisco on January 23rd," I tell Cecelia. "So, tell me when and where and I will be happy to meet with the committee."
"Okay," Cecelia announce. "How about Tuesday at 7 pm here at the church?"
"Perfect," I answer. "Is there anything you would like me to bring? Resume? Current job description?"
"Ah... A resume should be perfect," Cecelia explained. "I'll tell the others to be here at 7 pm."
As we continued, Sam and Chris intercepted us, "Good morning, men!" Chris announced. "It's good to see you both up and about this morning!"
"I promise Phillip a mini breakfast if he came to church with me," I said to Sam and Chris. "Then, he is taking me out to lunch, aren't you Phillip?"
"It's news to me, but sure!" Phillip enthused. "Where does one go for Sunday brunch?"
"I am told the coffee shop, Little O's," Sam said. "Most of the other establishments are awash with a lot of blue hair and canes."
"Do you want to join us?" Phillip asked.
"That could be fun, don't you think, Chris?" Sam answered.
"I'm game," Chris agreed. "I think it would be entertaining to see the sights of Olney from a local perspective!"
"That will probably take about 10 minutes, Chris," Sam announced.
We took our seats as the service began. It was interesting to again see my mother in her element. She did have a sense of humor that came through in her messages to the congregation. After the service Phillip and I again mingled in the back of the church.
We followed Sam and Chris out of the church and into our respective cars for the ride to the coffee shop. "Am I correct in assuming that is a fairly new BMW that Chris is driving?" I asked Phillip.
"Yes!" Phillip answered. "It is the one that came out during the summer. Why?"
"Just curious," I told Phillip. "Isn't that an expensive car for a college student to be driving?""
"Well, Chris is not just any college student," Phillip began to explain. "His grandparents have a fair amount of money. I didn't put two and two together until I met them at Christmas dinner. The attorney that Sam's father hired to negotiate the sale of the farm was a junior partner—probably a senior partner after the sale—from Billingsley, Gifford, and Washington in Chicago. Mr. Washington is the managing partner. Billingsley, Gifford, and Washington is the biggest law firm in Chicago, if not the country."
"Okay," I said to Phillip. "What does that mean exactly?"
"There is another part of the equation," Phillip continued his explanation. "At the UIUC, the health center is the Thomas and Elaine Washington Student Health Center."
"I'm beginning to grasp the scope of things," I said to Phillip. "I guess that explains the car!"
"I think, maybe," Phillip agreed. When we pulled into a parking space beside Sam and Chris, he continued. "I think you might not want to broach the subject of financial security."
"I think you might be right, Phillip," I added as we stepped out of the car.
As we entered the coffee shop, Tom and Mel greeted us. Tom was the first, "Jeffery you old fart! Finally, I get to see you!" Tom had pulled me in for a man hug.
"Tom, this is Phillip Harris," I introduced Phillip.
"Good to meet you, Phillip," Tom said with an outstretched hand. "How are you adapting to our fair city?"
"So far, so good," Phillip answered. "I haven't had much time to explore yet!"
Tom turned his attention to Sam, "Sam! How's college treating you?"
"Excellent!" Sam answered. "Tom, this is my boyfriend Chris Johnson. Chris, this is Mel's husband Tom Ryan."
"Nice to finally meet you, Chris! Mel told me about your engagement. Congratulations!" Tom responded as he shook Chris's hand
"Thank you," Chris added.
"Pick a table, have a seat, tell us what you want. It's on us!" Tom explained.
I picked the table by the window and we told Tom what we wanted to eat and drink.
"Your aunt Cecelia, Sam, is making it her mission to get me to apply for the youth minister position," I began. "I'm trying to decide if it is the right choice for me. I'd love to get out of the high stress environment I am in in San Francisco, but I am not certain I am ready to live here! They always say you can't come back!"
"First of all," Sam began. "I don't think it is a matter of convincing you to apply as much as it will be a matter of convincing you to accept the job offer. But, I can certainly understand why you have second thoughts about moving back to Olney. I only come back here to visit my family and some friends. Chris and I are lucky to live in our condo in Champaign during school. And, we have the luxury of escaping to our place in Chicago on breaks and during the summer."
"You have a place in Chicago, too?" I asked.
"We have a condo there," Chris answered. "It was an investment idea my grandfather came up with several years ago."
"Would you ever move back here, Sam?" I asked.
"I don't think that will happen," Sam explains. "Not that I don't like it here, but there are a lot of other factors. I'm a computer geek. There are no jobs for computer geeks here. Chris in a music and dance major in school. I hardly think there would be a lot of opportunities for him, either. So, to answer your question, probably not!"
"I can see I have a lot to think about," I said to the group.
I noticed a group of guys enter the coffee shop. I recognized a couple of them from my high school days. One of them apparently recognized me because he sauntered to our table, "Jeffery LeBlanc?"
"Yes," I answered the guy. "Jake Morgan, right?"
"That's right, Jeffery," Jake said. "What brought you into town?"
"Just visiting family and friends," I answered. Jake was a tormentor of mine from high school. He was a jock. I wasn't. He didn't know I was gay, but he still hated my guts for some reason. `He was chunky in high school and he is still chunky.' I thought to myself.
"You still have friends here?" Jake asked. "I didn't know people in this town liked homos?"
Chris turned around and glared at Jake.
"Maybe you guys didn't know Jeffery was a homo," Jake suggested.
Chris stood up from his seat. Chris towered over Jake's 5' 8" frame, and he was all muscle. "You don't call my friends a homo!" Chris hissed at Jake. "I suggested you find another table and have a good time with your other friends."
By this time, Tom was also standing beside Jake. "Jake! Jeffery is a friend of mine. He is welcome here anytime. You on the other hand are a piece of shit. If you don't get the fuck out of my coffee shop in 30 seconds, I am going to call the cops. If they aren't available, I will personally throw you out."
"I'll help," Chris hissed at Jake.
"Can't a guy just have a little fun, Tom?" Jake whined.
"Out!" Tom screamed.
Jake and his band of hoodlums left the coffee shop quietly and quickly.
"I'm sorry, guys!" Tom apologized. "I suspected Jake might be trouble the minute I saw him walk in the door."
Chris sat down. I looked at Phillip. I looked at Sam. I looked at Chris. I looked at Tom. I said to the group in a very quiet and calm voice. "I guess I will have my work cut out for me when I accept the youth outreach minister position! I just can't let people like Jake run roughshod over people who are having issues with their sexual identity."
I promptly arrived at the search committee meeting on Tuesday at 7 pm. Cecelia Stuart, Sam's aunt, Ruth Black, Sam's grandmother, Elaine Williamson, Sam's mother, and Charlie Williamson, Sam's father, as well as a few more committee members were all seated around a conference table in a conference room of my mother's office.
After we had all greeted each other, Cecelia started our discussion. "So, Jeffery, tell us what we need to do to convince you to take the job of youth minister?"
"You are certainly direct, Cecelia," I told her. The others were smiling. "First off, I would hope that we could rewrite the job description to include a few other responsibilities. Otherwise, I will not be interested."
"What would those responsibilities entail?" Cecelia asked.
"Let me tell me a story, and I think you will understand where I am coming from," I said to the group. "Twelve years ago when I was going to high school, I was not a jock. I was into music and acting. While the music and acting areas of the high school are extremely strong for a small town district, being involved in the program was not always a badge of honor. I was bullied. I was harassed. I was always looking over my shoulder. Because of that, I did not come out of the closet as a gay young person because I was afraid. I was afraid that if I were being bullied and harassed for being in the music and theater groups, I would certainly be harassed for being gay."
I paused and surveyed the group. They were all silently listening to me. I noticed Mrs. Williamson had a very big smile on her face. She nodded to me. That gave me courage to continue, "I thought the town had outgrown the tradition of ostracizing gay people. However, I was at lunch on Sunday with Phillip Harris, Sam Williamson, and Chris Johnson. One of my former high school classmates stopped by the coffee shop where we were having lunch. I won't go into the details, but I can safely assure you that gay people are still on the outside looking in."
Again, I paused. No one was fidgeting so I continued, "So, to answer your question Cecelia, I would want assurances that an LGBT youth outreach program would be part of my responsibilities."
"You will have my assurances," Mrs. Williamson answered.
"Mine, too," Mrs. Black, Cecelia, and two other committee members agreed.
"Do you need board approval?" I asked.
"No," Mr. Williamson answered. "The executive committee that decides on programs run by the church includes all of us here on the search committee. The only thing we can't do is change the salary that has already been approved by the board."
"And what would that salary be?" I asked.
"I am have a feeling you might make more than we are prepared to offer, however I think the cost of living in San Francisco is much more. So, we were thinking that we could offer you $40,000 to $50,000 plus a car allowance and a housing allowance. Of course, you would get health insurance and the standard benefits." Cecelia explained.
"Where do I sign?" I said to the group.
To be continued...
I hope you liked the direction that `Jeffrey Comes Home' is taking. I would enjoy hearing your comments about this story. You can write to me at MaWriterBoy@yahoo.com.
This is my second posting of my fourth story on Nifty.org.
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Sam and Chris in the `College' section
John's Journey Forward in the `Beginnings' section
Life With Tom in the authoritarian section (Please note, this story is not for everyone because there are several scenes depicting Master/slave and BDSM relationships. So, if you are not interested in this activity, please, please do not read this story.)
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