The usual disclaimers apply. If for some legal reason you shouldn't read this...don't.
A special acknowledgement to Drew for encouraging me to tell a better story through his edits and suggestions. And a big thanks to Brad for his patient proofreading and editing. Finally, a shout-out to Trab for the final tweaks to get the story 'just right' and to Zeta reader, Rock.
I love to receive feedback at email@example.com. My other stories are listed in Nifty's Prolific Authors section, and on www.gayauthors.org.
Chapter 17, BOUNDARIES STRETCHED
Chicago seemed pretty mellow after Jeremy's 48-hours in New York. He related his experiences - however limited - to Charlie and edited the details of meeting Kent Jackson. Charlie was indeed familiar with one of the more famous contemporary Phi Delt alums and looked forward to getting together with Kent when the soap actor visited Chicago.
Jeremy cut his work schedule at the gym down to one shift a week in order to have time to work with the dance coach on the new routines and to practice with Charlie. His official 'buddy' was now his professional partner for the lucrative private performances but the more complex, dances needed to be learned. The two lovers were committed to a full schedule of private parties from early July through Labor Day and Jeremy had only three weeks to become proficient in the program.
As the first half of the year came to a close, Jeremy was told he needed to be an observer at a special private party for a repeat client the following week. Will Turner would partner with Charlie for the duo dances, and Jeremy would watch Will's performance while blending in as one of the servers - passing champagne, wine and hors d'oeuvres - to a group of 20 professional women who were members of Les Dames de la Bacchanale. This exclusive gourmet dinner club usually wined and dined monthly in the finest restaurants of Chicago. However, each summer they took a culinary detour and partied with a Studz Barecats night at a member's residence.
The three men arrived at the large, suburban home in affluent Oak Brook an hour before the invitation time in order to set up the music equipment and arrange the performance area. Tonight's party was called for 7:00 p.m., with the show to start 45 minutes later. Most private gigs ran approximately one hour and the dancers mingled with the guests for a half hour after the performance.
They were greeted by one of the catering staff - a hunky young man called Jacques - and were shown to a spacious, enclosed patio where the entertainment portion of the event would be presented. Along the way, everyone finished introductions.
"There's a guest bedroom down the hall where you can change your clothes," Jacques said with a slight French accent. "I'm the lead server for this event. And there's one other guy who will act as the bartender. We'll also be using the bedroom to change, if that's not a problem."
"No problem," Charlie replied. "We lock all of our personal stuff in the car. It's S.O.P. when we work a party. Um, you're aware of our type of entertainment?"
"Saw your show...about six months ago. You're the fireman...right?"
"You've got a good memory." Charlie smiled and nodded.
"It was a lot of fun," Jacques said with a sly smile. "Our bartender worked the Barecats party for this group last year and he's cool with everything."
"Good. There will be no surprises," Will Turner said with a tone of certainty.
"Don't sweat it. Our catering company is very open-minded. By the way, I was told that one of you would be working with me and I should give him a rundown on serving pointers."
"That's me. I'm the newest member of the cast and this is my first time to observe how a private party goes. Our boss knows the hostess really well and they decided that me being a server would be the least obvious way to check out the whole event - from setup to departure." Jeremy felt better knowing that 'friendly forces' surrounded them.
"I see the hostess has the chairs set up pretty well," Will said. "We've got room to make the rows a little wider...don't you think?" He turned to Jeremy and added, "Having more aisle space makes it easier to get around and work the tips."
"Yes. That's a good idea. I'll help," Charlie replied. "Jacques, why don't you take Jeremy now and show him the basics. I'll bring in his black pants, tux shirt, tie and shoes when we get the equipment and costumes."
"Excellent. Let me show you the bedroom and then Jeremy and I will go over a few serving points before we change." Jacques led them to the bedroom and said, "There's plenty of room for everyone in here and a large bathroom with a shower connects over there," he said, pointing to a closed door. "Come on back to the kitchen, Jeremy, and I'll give you a rundown on this gig from a catering service standpoint."
For the next half-hour, Jeremy patiently listened to his role as a server. In that he and Jacques would only be handling trays of finger food, as well as champagne and white wine, the training session was not complicated. Jacques emphasized smiling with eye contact, not spilling anything and being generally polite. Before Jeremy changed into his 'black and white' server uniform, he sought out Charlie to see how the room was finally set up.
"We've actually been given a very workable space for this party. It can get pretty tight in some of the condos where I've performed," Charlie said as he walked around the patio room with Jeremy. "The two speakers on stands are hard-wired to the CD player. The entire program is on one CD so all the dancers have to do is use this remote to start and stop the music."
"I guess you're not concerned about hidden cams because of who the clients are?" Jeremy asked. There were a couple of things that had been stressed by Garin to do before starting a private show. One, make sure there were no hidden devices to record the shows, and two, emphasize to the guests that no pictures would allowed during the performance.
"Will and I cased the joint for cam or video equipment, just in case. The only pictures will be our poses afterwards. The real bitch is dealing with the cell phones that can take pictures. If we see a cell, the show stops until it's put away." It was part of the contract for the dancers to pose with the guests at the conclusion of a show. Other than that, no photography was permitted.
"Hello, boys," an attractive, casually-elegant, 50ish woman said as she walked in. "I'm Vivian Borman, tonight's hostess. All the girls are excited about the party. During the day we live fairly routine lives but at night love to have a little fun." She approached Jeremy and continued, "You must be the new dancer that Garin said would be here to see how it's done at a private party."
"Yes, M'am...I'm Jer. I'll be serving with Jacques. If there is anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask." Jeremy took Vivian's extended hand and shook it.
"First, cut the 'M'am' crap. I can almost feel varicose veins forming," Vivian said with a laugh. "Tonight's a little fantasy for us old broads. When a young stud like you uses our first name, it plays into the evening."
"I'll remember that...Vivian."
"There are a few things you could do for me but being the happily-married wife of a bank president and the mother of two young women in college, I think that just your charming smile will be enough," she said with a laugh. "Our club usually gets together for 'women only' gourmet dinners. This will be more of a visual feast for us. The girls know the drill and always come to Barecats night with a generous roll of money. And I always make sure you entertainers are taken care of after the show."
"Speaking of which, we all need to get into our costumes," Will said. "If you'll excuse us, we'll see you in about an hour."
"Excellent. We're starting the party in the living room and should be back here by 7:45 p.m.," Vivian replied. "See all of you - well, except for the thong pouches - later." She tossed her head back and let out a loud laugh while she walked away.
"Vivian's terrific. If the rest are anything like her, this'll be a fun evening," Charlie said as they went to the bedroom to change.
"Fun and profitable," Will added as he started getting changed.
"Plus, not too raunchy. There have been a few parties I've done where the women were ready to gang-bang us," Charlie said with a laugh as he pulled off his pants. "If they had had two-way dildos, it might have been fun...only joking."
"My God, it's a gay man's wet dream," Jacques said when he entered the room and pulled off his tee. Jeremy was in his briefs while Will and Charlie were about to put on their thongs.
"And it's only a dream, buddy. Jer is my partner and Will is...where exactly are you with Zach?" Charlie said as he pulled up the flimsy pouch and nonchalantly tucked in his privates.
"Going steady and waiting for him to take my cherry." Will winked and adjusted himself in the thong.
"Will, your nose is growing," Jeremy said with a raised eyebrow.
"Okay, okay. Zach and I have a monogamous relationship. That's all I'm saying for now."
"Jacques, that settles it. We're taken...in all ways...exclusively" Jeremy put on the tux shirt before stepping into the black pants. He couldn't help but notice Jacques' in-shape body as the caterer started changing. 'Not bad,' he thought. 'But when he's compared to my lover, it's no cigar.'
"Damn. All I want is a little safe loving. I'm not ready to settle down." Jacques tossed his cargo shorts aside and reached for his black pants.
"If that's the case, there's another guy I work with who might be just the man. Give me your number and email address." Jeremy maintained cordial relations with Gio at the club. "Charlie, whaduya think?"
"I think that Gio is going to be a very happy man."
"I know I'm going to be a happy man if two hot hunks vouch for him. Gio, eh? I always have ad a weakness for Italian men." Jacques took out a business card, wrote down his personal contact numbers and gave it to Jeremy.
Once Jacques and Jeremy were in uniform, they went back to the kitchen and arranged the first trays of food. The chef at the catering kitchen had created beautiful bite-size hors d'oeuvres that were transferred to highly polished silver trays. The third member of the service team set up a bar for the champagne and wine. By 7:00 p.m., everything was ready and the first guests began arriving. Jeremy found out later that gourmet 'foodies' usually arrived promptly so they wouldn't miss any tasty appetizers or courses of wine. Tonight, other things would take on greater importance. Vivian had joked, "Sauce Béarnaise will be cast aside for saucy boys."
By the time all 20 women were invited to adjourn to the patio room, several trays of food and a goodly number of vintage Australian and American wines had been consumed. Jeremy followed Jacques' lead and the service appeared to be flawless. The women found their preferred chairs and slowly took their seat.
Vivian stood up and announced, "Ladies, Les Dames de la Bacchanale is proud to present the fifth annual Studz Barecats night." She led a round of applause before sitting down in the front row. Jacques and Jeremy were serving the last orders of drinks when a siren started screaming over the speakers. This was Will's cue to dance into the room in the policeman's uniform. For the next 20 minutes, he went through his routine with his prop cuffs and a nightstick. By the time he was gyrating to "It's Raining Men," Will was erotically dancing between the rows of the women. Occasionally, he would straddle a woman and rub his crotch against her bust line...if the tip offered was large enough.
Will introduced Charlie and the music continued with a remix of Queen's 'Put Out the Fire.' Jeremy stood in a corner and watched his lover play the crowd, as he took off the yellow slicker uniform. His performance hit a peak with a series of Gloria Gaynor's old hits that allowed Charlie to whip up the audience. As the disco diva was warbling out 'Honey Bee' with a pounding beat, the fireman was down to his thong and proceeded to work the ladies for tips. A few twenties from one woman were an admission fee to a long, two-handed feel...in and out of the pouch. He finished with the last woman as the final bars of 'Never Can Say Goodbye' played and took a fast bow before dashing to the bedroom.
The ladies' applause was enthusiastic and they appeared quite pleased as Jacques and Jeremy started pouring more wine. Jeremy overheard several women gushing over Will and Charlie's assets. The pause in the performance was designed to give Charlie time to wipe down and get dressed in a black Lycra, square-cut Speedo for the finale number that Jeremy had already learned.
Ten minutes later, the recorded voice of Garin announced, "Please welcome back the Studz Barecats."
A beat of drums started the final set. The ladies settled down as the music started to ramp up. This was a Pet Shop Boys-inspired final act that started with one of their newest, 'I'm With Stupid.' Will came up to the front in his Speedo and the white collar/black tie accessories from the club. Moments later, a slightly refreshed Charlie joined him and they comfortably moved into the choreographed steps. When they finished 'New York City Boy,' the women had forgotten about any sense of propriety and started yelling, "More, more, more." Charlie and Will took deep bows before Charlie raised his arms to indicate a request for silence.
"Ladies, we thank you for your enthusiastic reception tonight," Charlie said. "For our last number, I'd like to invite a new colleague to join us. Jer has been serving you food and wine. Little did you realize that he is the newest member of the Studz Barecats and was here to observe how we produce a private party. Jer, come on over here."
A slight, nervous smile crept over Jeremy's face. But the ladies' applause encouraged him forward. He set down the tray and walked over to Charlie and Will. He smiled and slightly bowed his head.
"With a little encouragement, maybe Jer could loose that shirt," Charlie suggested.
Jeremy grinned as the women cheered louder. "I think I need a little music to help get into the mood."
"A promise is a promise." Will pressed the remote 'play' button and 'Radiophonic' started a steady beat.
Will and Charlie started the practiced steps while Jeremy playfully unbuttoned his shirt - one button at a time. By the time he had the shirt out of his pants and one shoulder pulled down, Les Dames de la Bacchanale were clapping to the beat. The song and atmosphere drove the group to a frenzy as Jeremy tossed away the shirt. He looked at the crowd and raised his eyebrows while he unbuckled his belt. His questioning expression caused more applause and some uncharacteristic catcalls.
"Go for it," Charlie said to Jeremy with an approving nod. "You do have your briefs on, don't you?" He moved around so that Jeremy was between Will and him.
"Guess we're going to find out." Jeremy toed off his shoes and danced in step as he unzipped his fly. He slowly pulled off his belt and threw it aside. With his legs close together, without missing a beat, he pulled down his pants and carefully stepped out of them. He felt the energy coming from the small group of women as he turned around. He suggestively wagged his butt and pulled down his briefs to expose just part of his crack as the song ended.
"Final song, ladies. Are you ready?" Charlie yelled. The answer had already been scripted as the first beat of 'East End Boys and West End Girls' erupted from the speakers. The days of practice and rehearsal paid off when Jeremy, clad only in white CK's, danced in step with Charlie and Will, who were flanking him.
In a West End town, a dead end world
The East End boys and West End girls
In a West End town, a dead end world
The East End boys and West End girls
West End girls
Too many shadows, whispering voices
Faces on posters, too many choices
If? When? Why? What?
How much have you got?
Have you got it? Do you get it?
If so, how often?
Which do you choose
A hard or soft option?
(How much do you need?)
And so the evening came to a close. The three men grabbed each other's hands and took three deep bows before the appreciative audience of women. Women who would be in courtrooms, hospitals and executive suites the next morning tending to their professions.
Summer was in full bloom and Jeremy was scheduled to work the 4th of July eve with Charlie. Rather than soaking up the excitement of Chicago's annual night-before fireworks festivities on the lakefront with a group of friends, the guys would be dancing at an all-men's party in a high-rise condo near Navy Pier. Jeremy had been told that the host - Rick Franz, a retired executive - held a party annually during the spectacular celebration. The condo's southeast location on the 39th floor presented an unobstructed panorama of the event. He mentioned to the booking agent that he thought it would be fun to surprise everyone at his party with a Studz Barecat live entertainment after the fireworks display finished around 10:00 p.m.
The dramatic pyrotechnics show drew many citizens who made the fabulous, patriotic entertainment a reason to picnic and party. Seasoned attendees knew to arrive early and stay late to avoid the jam of crowds - an informal headcount always exceeded a million people in and around the lake adjacent to Grant Park. The afternoon of the party, Jeremy accompanied Charlie to drop off the costumes and set up the sound equipment. It was not yet 5:00 p.m. and traffic was already almost nonnegotiable even though the fireworks were not scheduled until 9:00 p.m.
Fortunately, Mr. Franz had arranged for them to park in the condo garage and the trip to the lobby with their paraphernalia was very convenient. They stopped at the front desk and waited while the attendant called the condo. After verifying that the guests were expected, the attendant unlocked the door to the elevators for Jeremy and Charlie.
"Fellows, over here," said a tall, distinguished man with a full mane of white hair. "I'm Rick Franz." He stood by the doorway of his condo and watched the two young men emerge from the elevator. "Can I help carry anything?"
"We're fine, Mr. Franz. I'm Charlie Barnett and the ugly one here is Jer Sloan." The guys nodded with their hands full and entered the condo.
"And that's a comment from someone who has an I.Q. of 75," Jeremy shot back with a smile.
"Ha, I know neither is the case. Charlie, walk left to the living room and drop off your equipment. I'll show Jer where the guest bedroom is located so he can hang up the clothes bags. We'll join you in a sec. Oh...drop the mister, please. It's Rick."
"Okay...Rick. I'll check out the space for the best area to stage the show," Charlie replied as he went down a gallery hallway to the living room.
"I've seen your picture somewhere," Rick said to Jer while they walked the opposite way down the wide, art-laden hall. "And I don't mean anything from the Barecats website."
"I've done a little modeling in the Trib and a few other layouts. But that's primarily to pay for my college expenses. I'll be a freshman at DePaul." Jeremy was struck by the size of the condo. He followed Rick into a bedroom and nodded when the host opened a closet.
"Hmmm, I do seem to remember a recent spread in the Sunday magazine. Pretty good as I recall. I retired from the old Marshall Field Company a few years ago but still maintain an interest in merchandising." Rick moved some clothes aside to make room. "Freshman, you say. I thought you were probably a little older."
"Old enough," Jeremy said with a chuckle as he hung up the costumes. "Charlie will be a junior at Northwestern this fall. Does someone else live here?"
"My partner...whom you'll meet in a little bit. He and I bought this place several years ago and the clothes in this closet are just out of season rags from both of our wardrobes. Jim dashed down to the store for a few last minute things. More RSVP's came in last night from a few characters who asked to bring a friend. More likely they got lucky up in Boystown last night."
"Then we'll give them a good show. Is it all right to use the adjoining bathroom? We usually get pretty sweaty during the show and a quick shower afterwards would be appreciated." Jeremy closed the door and followed Rick out of the bedroom and down the hallway.
"No problem. I'll set out extra towels for you."
"How many men - I assume they're all guys - will be here tonight?" Jeremy asked as they entered the expansive living room. 'Christ,' he thought, 'this room is larger than most apartments.'
"With the add-ons, we're expecting close to 30. And it'll be a broad range of ages." Rick replied. "We'll have the guys standing, sitting on the floor...whatever will work."
"As long as we can have a 12 foot by 6 foot space, Jer and I can navigate in front of the crowd." Charlie turned, grinned and urged Jeremy to the window. "Rick has a fantastic view...check it out."
"Whoa. I've never seen Navy Pier from this angle. And the lakefront...wow," Jeremy said as he surveyed the scene. To the south of the historic pier - which from this height resembled a large, unwieldy phallus that jutted out over the lake - was an expanse of water rapidly becoming congested with boats of all sizes and descriptions. "This is the first time I've seen a traffic jam in the lake."
"It's a miracle there aren't more accidents with all the consumption of cocktails by the weekend captains," Rick replied. "But somehow the hundreds of boats seem to all make it home. I still think it's much safer watching the fireworks at a party up here, though."
"If I had a place like this, I'd have a party, too. Guess we'll miss the fireworks."
"Miss the fireworks? Not at all. We probably need to talk for a few minutes so we can work out the details of your involvement tonight. I'm going to get a bottle of water. You guys want some?"
"Sounds good," Charlie said as he turned from the window.
"Sit down and I'll be right back." Rich went through a large adjoining dining room to the kitchen while the guys walked over to the large couch.
"Nervous about tonight... this being a group of gay men?" Charlie asked.
"No. Rick seems like a decent guy and this is a fantastic place. He said that his lover was at the store and would be back soon." Jeremy sat down at one side of the couch while Charlie sat on the other side.
"Lover? How long..."
"We're an ancient 'married' couple," Rick said as he returned to the living room and placed the bottles of water on the coffee table. "Jim and I have been together 25 years."
"That's a long time for any couple. For gay men, it's an eternity. Congratulations...and thanks for the water," Charlie replied as he took a sip.
"There've been a few thorns...but all in all, we're very happy. Let's talk about tonight. Jim and I have about 30 guys coming over. Mostly friends except for some boyfriends du jour."
"We planned to get everything set up, go out for dinner, and come back later. We thought we'd change into our costumes, wait in the bedroom and do the show after the fireworks," Jeremy said.
"Perhaps you two could be part of the party? I assume that there's no problem being with a group of gay men?" Rick raised his eyebrow and looked at Charlie.
"None, whatsoever. I don't think Jer will mind me telling you that we...we're partners, too."
"Even better. What might be fun is for you and Jer to arrive around 8:30 and just get to know the guys in the party without revealing why you're here. You can say that we know each other through another couple and let everything else play out naturally. You're both students and us old farts love a few goodlooking college guys at a party. Just don't mention anything about your primary mission. Watch some of the fireworks and then about 9:30, sort of disappear until I announce at the conclusion of the display that the fireworks are only part of tonight's entertainment."
"Rick, that sounds super. But I don't think that your crowd is going to be in cargo shorts and a polo shirt like I am," Charlie said.
"Or jeans and a tee," Jeremy added.
"This isn't a grand cocktail reception...just a bunch of guys ready for a good time. I think that except for the t-shirt, you two are fine. We're about the same size, Jer. Last count, I was down to my last three-dozen polo shirts. I'll loan you one and you'll be just fine."
"Then, I guess we just need to figure out a few..."
"I'm back," came a voice from the front door.
"Jim, park your bags in the kitchen and meet our special guests who will be entertaining," Rick called out. "Grab a bottle of water or something."
"Okay, right. Just a minute," Jim said.
"He'll just take a detour to the kitchen and be right out. Then we can work out the rest of a plan. This will be fun. Charlie, where do you think we should stage your show?"
"Let me show you." Charlie stood up and walked over to the window area. "I think that..."
"Hi, guys. I'm..." Jim stopped as he entered the living room and his mouth dropped open. "Sloan?"
"Mi...Mister Franklin," Jeremy said, "Um...hi." He squirmed a little and nervously smiled as he stood. 'Fuck,' he thought, 'how was I supposed to know that Jim is James Franklin...my old principal?'
"I gather that you two know each other?" Rick asked with a slight scowl.
"Make that three. The man over by the window...Chuck Barnett. Right?" Jim Franklin looked back at Jeremy, then Rick and let out a big laugh. "It appears that we have engaged some former students of mine for tonight's performance." He walked over to Jeremy and extended his hand. "How are you doing, champ?"
"Alright until a minute ago. I didn't know, Mr. Franklin, that..."
"Stop for a second, Jeremy. First, none of this Mr. Franklin stuff. I'm Jim. Further, like Chuck, you're no longer in my school and are both adults. Got that?" Jim combined firmness with his soft delivery.
"Good. Now if you'll join us, Chuck, let's figure out a few things."
"I'm now called Charlie...Jim." He walked over and shook Jim's hand before everyone sat down. "I guess this is a big surprise for all of us. Rick, if you and Jim are uncomfortable with us entertaining tonight and want to cancel, we'll understand. Right, Jer?"
"It's a really, really strange experience. To be honest, I look at Jim as one of my protectors after, ah...you know...the attack. Knowing Mr. Fra...Jim is here gives me a feeling of security. By the way, I should mention that I am gay and Charlie is my other half. Ah, does that make any sense?"
"Completely," Jim replied. "I was aware that some of your friends at school seemed to be close to each other...more than just buddies...and I'd sometimes hear gossip in the teacher's break room. Nothing malicious, you understand. I'd never allow that. It was more about the staff being alert to young men, or women, who might be targets...well, you know all about that."
"Only too well. Did my name ever come up?" Jeremy asked.
"Until the incident...no. I do recall hearing about some of the female students seeing you at the Barecats Club but I didn't think much about it in that you were all legally adults and the club has a sterling reputation. Honestly, I never drew the dots together even when Rick wanted to have some guys dance for our party."
"That was a crazy night at the club...dancing before those girls. But we all had a good time. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have encouraged the guys to see the show a few weeks later. That's when Boring and Cortez picked up on my job."
"Very regrettable. But those two will be paying for their mistakes a long time. Jeremy, I hope you can appreciate, however close I am with my lover, I never mentioned to him anything about your attack. With your permission, I'll tell Rick later."
"Absolutely," Jeremy said with a slight smile. "And I'm ready to put on a show if you two want to continue." He looked at the two older men and winked. "I'm pretty proud of what we do. Jim, I just want to make sure you understand that what I'm doing is a really unique job that'll get me through school and provide some savings. There's absolutely nothing we do that is X-rated...cuz we don't cross that line. "
"I do understand...and we won't want you to do anything that's uncomfortable. And I'll monitor our friends to make sure they don't get too crazy." Jim took his arm and put it around Jeremy. "If you don't mind, I'll leave out how I originally met you two whipper-snappers," he said with a laugh. "I think the key is for everyone to have a good time and give some of these soon-to-be senior citizens a vision they won't forget for several years."
"As long as it doesn't give them a heart attack," Jeremy replied with a chuckle.
"Then let's move forward and I'll run through a few things." Charlie walked over to the window and continued, "The space by the window will be cleared for the fireworks so it's the most logical place to dance. And we're up high enough on this side of the building so no one can look in the windows. I'll set up the speakers and CD player out of the way and tuck the wires in the crack where the carpet meets the wall. Rick, the one thing that you can do when you introduce us to mention that we will pose for pictures after the performance. But other than that, no pictures of the performance are allowed. And please ask everyone to keep all cell phones turned off."
"I'll handle that. By the way, Jim, the guys will be using the guest bedroom to change into their costumes. They've agreed to play the role of being guests, so I think we've covered everything. Oh, since our guests aren't expecting your type of show, Jim and I will make sure that there's an adequate tip."
"I think it will be fun. Rick, if you'll leave me that polo shirt in the bedroom, we'll set up and then be off for some dinner. Charlie and I will return around 8:30."
The next few hours sped by without pause. Charlie and Jeremy set up the living room and left to take a leisurely walk up Michigan Avenue. Along the way, they cruised through Saks and Neiman-Marcus before arriving at the Water Tower Place. After checking out a few of the shops in the landmark, vertical mall, they headed for "foodlife" and a light dinner. The self-serve restaurant consisted of a dozen or so kiosks that offered both ordinary staples and exotic specialties on the mezzanine of Water Tower Place mall. The food ranged from burgers and pizza, to south-of-the-border dishes, to bar-be-que and to an assortment of Asian fare...just for openers.
They knew not to pig-out before a performance and sensibly settled on sharing noodles and pot-stickers while they discussed plans for the rest of the summer. After dinner, the guys decided to take a stroll back to Rick and Jim's condo via the sidewalk along Lake Shore Drive. On this eve of America's official birthday, Jeremy and Charlie observed an upbeat, happy crowd as they walked south. The flow of thousands of Chicagoans going to Grant Park gained momentum as they got closer to Navy Pier. At Ohio Street, Jeremy and Charlie turned off there and walked to the condo.
The night was a roaring success for the hosts, guests and the performers. The hosts were very generous, the guests were most appreciative and frisky, and the dancers were extremely creative. After the last picture was taken, and the last guest departed, Jeremy and Charlie showered while Rick and Jim cleaned up. Before leaving, Jeremy accepted a fatherly hug from the two older lovers. He could feel friendships had been established amongst them. Everyone agreed that next year Jeremy and Charlie would be back to celebrate the '4th' as friends and guests.
TO BE CONTINUED