Warning: The following story may contain graphic descriptions of sex between consenting adult males. If you are underage or do not wish to read such material, or if reading this sort of material is illegal in your jurisdiction, then read no further. This multipart story is primarily about romance and relationships between men. Any reference to actual persons, living or dead, is only to enhance the fictional nature of the story and does not suggest a particular sexual orientation.
A special acknowledgement to David from the Lakeview area of Chicago and Brad from Denver for providing diligent proofing and editing of the story, to Carey for being a patient teacher, and to Drew for helping to expand my boundaries.
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Part 7, FRIENDSHIPS EXPANDING
Returning home, I fed Mr. Charley and popped open a beer before calling Mom.
" Mom, I'm back."
~~~"Hello, dear. I want to hear all about the weekend."
"The party was fantastic. Ben had '21' pull out all the stops." I gave her a very complete verbal picture of the evening. Mom loved entertaining.
~~~"You haven't mentioned Matt. How is he doing back there?"
"Apparently pretty well. We broke up Friday night." Might as well get this out of the way fast and dirty.
~~~"Whaaat? You two are nuts. What happened?" There was nervous concern in her voice.
"Basically, I've been dumped for another person. He's met some woman and wants to get married." Lay it out, like a dog turd on the breakfast table.
~~~"You're joking." Silence. "Tell me this is a joke." More silence. "Jerry, you're serious?"
"Very serious. He dropped this on me when I arrived. I didn't even have a chance to finish the drink we ordered at the table in the hotel lounge." I offered her the 'Matt Story', version three.
~~~"There's no turning back, then?"
"No, Mom." I gave her my opinion about the turn of events.
~~~"I'll tell your father as soon as we're finished. How about your brother?"
"I'm going to talk to Coulter next. Would you call Uncle Sid and your folks? I want this all to blow over by the time the birthday party happens this Saturday."
~~~"All right, dear. I'll do that. Jerry, you'll be fine. I just know it."
"Yeah, I think I will. I just need time to sort things out. Love you, Bye."
In an orderly fashion, I called and spoke with Coulter for a while. Then Steve and Allen. I asked if I could come over for a few minutes and talk with them. They had just finished dinner and would have a glass of wine waiting.
Minutes later, I was in their condo. It was still light at 7:00 p.m., because of daylight savings time, and the lake looked magnificent as dusk approached.
"And why do we have the pleasure of your company?" Allen asked, as all sat down in the living room.
Lifting the glass of wine, I said "Cheers," and took a long sip, followed by "It appears that I'm a single man again. Matt divorced me Friday night."
As couples often do, they spontaneously responded together. "What?"
I was getting pretty good on the fifth edition of the story. I found my sense of humor returning while embellishing on Matt's new hetero relationship for the guys.
"That boy is really going to miss your dick up his chute," Allen said, with a smirk.
I laughed and replied, "Can you imagine Matt diving down for a little female muff?"
"Ewww, and he doesn't even like tuna," added Steve. We all guffawed.
"This shit I'm going through is passing. Friday night I was very upset. But weighing everything, I realize now that a breakup was inevitable. In a way, I feel sorry for Matt. His corporate posturing is going to make him one unhappy social climber." We spent the next half-hour discussing the recent details of Matt's and my deteriorating relationship.
"Move on in your own timeframe, buddy," Allen offered. "Don't overdo it. Focus on the job to revitalize your energy and come on over any time. Steve and I are good listeners."
"Guys, thanks for letting me join you and vent. Our friendship means a lot to me."
"Come on. You'd be there for us. But you're right about Matt. At some point he's going to regret his decision. As Allen said, it's definitely time for you to move on."
"What about this hot, young stud you mentioned last time? Allen asked. "Does this mean that he might be something more serious?"
I pondered the question before answering, "We've moved beyond just sex. I think we look at each other as two guys becoming good friends."
"Nothing wrong with that. Good friends don't come by easily," Steve observed.
"Listen, I'm going to get a small dinner party together Sunday. I want to invite a few friends that you haven't met. Is that good for you two? Nothing fancy. Maybe grilled bratwurst, baked beans and a few salads."
"You got a date. Let me bring over my famous Mother Stein potato salad," Allen offered.
"And, I'll make some peach cobbler," added Steve.
"That's great. Maybe I'll start with drinks around six, since it's before a work day?" We did a longer than usual group hug and I took off. Back at the house, I called Joe and Bill to include them in the dinner plans. They both happily accepted. I told them that Sammy would also be there. I assumed that Bill would have no problem being the lone heterosexual in this crowd. I would ask him about it at lunch.
Monday was active at the office. I appointed Joe to head up a team of associates and pull together a complete research outline of American Foundry, including sales and earnings over the past ten years, a balance sheet analysis, market share, competitive strengths and weaknesses, manpower staffing and executive compensation packages. It would be completed by tomorrow afternoon for executive review. I didn't want any surprises when Bill Saunders and I lunched Wednesday.
Alice called Allied Van Lines and made an appointment for a packer to be at my residence Thursday morning to pack all of Matt's belongings. I emailed him and asked for a delivery address and a credit card number to handle the move. Pickup was arranged for Saturday morning.
She also called the membership sales office at the East Bank Club. With a nominal, flat $1,000 administrative fee, it would cost Martin approximately $35 per month for each member from the company. I asked her to email all the associates and let them know of my plan for the corporate membership fringe benefit at the East Bank Club. I included Alice in the group. By Wednesday morning, eight associates had expressed interest in joining. With Alice and me, that rounded out to 10 memberships. When I talked with Ben, he agreed that it was a very inexpensive perk for my hard working group.
A little before noon, I arrived at the Union League Club for lunch with Bill. Securing a window table in the walnut-paneled Grill Room, I ordered a Pellegrino and lime, with no ice. I looked around at the older members sipping their Martinis. 'A way of life that was fading away,' I observed.
Prompt to the minute, Bill entered the room. I got up and waved as the head waiter escorted him over to the white-linen covered table with polished silver, crystal and fresh flowers neatly arranged. We both smiled while shaking hands before sitting. He also ordered a Pellegrino.
"I'm glad that we could be together like this so soon. Mr. McDonald got very excited about our conversation. He says hello, by the way."
"Terrific. I've got some interesting things to discuss. But, let's just B.S. for a while. We really haven't had much of a chance to know each other. I guess other than Matt, our circles are different?"
"Yeah. I think I hang out with too many lawyer friends. By the way, how is Matt? I haven't seen him in a couple of years. You said that you two were getting together in New York a couple of weekends ago?"
"Well, we did. And for the record, I didn't get a chance to pass on your regards."
Looking at me curiously, he asked, "Something happened?"
"Put it this way. I'm a single man after three years." I knew Bill was aware of our relationship.
"Jeez, I thought you two were the real deal. Sorry, buddy." He looked genuinely concerned.
"Me, too." I proceeded to repeat the same story version I gave everyone else.
"I'm really surprised. Matt's a neat guy and aggressive in getting what he wants. But straight? No way." He noticed that I had raised my eyebrow. "Jerry, I guess that I might as well fess up. Especially now that Matt has moved on."
Fess up? Where was he leading me?
"Matt and I were more than just fraternity brothers and roommates. He and I had a pretty hot, quiet affair our senior year."
"I never knew." My eyes opened wider.
"No big thing, Jerry. He moved to Chicago, and I went on to law school at Ann Arbor. When moving here, I was still rattling around in a closet. It was a college fling. And I didn't really come out until a year ago. Matt respected my privacy."
"Does McDonald know?" I was thinking about Sammy's comments.
"We had a real knockdown meeting last fall. Fortunately, I'm a good performer for the company. In the five years I've been with American Foundry, embarrassing nothing has ever happened for the boss to get upset about."
"Sammy said his Dad begrudgingly accepts him being gay."
"There was a lot of grumbling for a while. I had only been there less than two years when Sammy came out. But the old man has mellowed."
"How did you approach your decision to come out to him?" I asked, with genuine curiosity.
"One day while in his office, Mr. Mac made some off-color reference about some client who he referred to as a fag. I was in a foul mood and it just set me off. I closed the office door and told him that his use of the word 'fag' was very offensive to me. He looked very surprised and started to speak, but I cut him off and said, 'I'm gay, and if that's a problem I will be gone from this company immediately.' He just gaped at me with his mouth open."
I laughed and commented, "Knowing George and his need to control any situation, to have seen him without words would have been priceless. But, wow, what did he finally say."
"He sputtered and mumbled something about me not going off half-cocked. He then asked me to sit down on his office couch. After looking out his window for several minutes, he turned and joined me. Basically, he apologized and said that I was one of his stars in the company and he would not hear of me leaving. I told him I loved the company and the job. But he needed to feel comfortable with me."
"That's a big turn around. What changed his mind?"
"He told me that I had always been an asset, and he would accept my sexuality. Then he said the real clincher. That he needed to be more understanding of gays and lesbians because of his son. He thinks the world of Sammy and doesn't want to lose him."
"From what I understand, George hasn't communicated that very well with his son."
"Mr. Mac is a stubborn cuss. He just needs a big nudge."
"Well, maybe we can help."
"I'll tell you later. Let's order lunch first and I'll review a fast analysis of your company we've prepared." With that said, I pulled out two bound presentation books with our logo and American Foundry embossed on the hard cover. Never let it be said that Martin Consulting didn't pull out all the stops. The waiter came by for our order and brought two more drinks.
Page by page, I ran our numbers and conclusions where we could be helpful while we absentmindedly munched our chef salads that arrived. I'd seldom seen a lawyer rapidly scan our material so completely. From his questions, I knew he was absorbing the report completely.
"Jerry, this is fantastic stuff. The boss is going to want to go forward. Do you have a proposal with some costs we can look at?" Smiling, I pulled out a blue legal file and handed it to Bill.
"This is a top-set price based on the number of man hours and expenses needed to accomplish what we have in mind. My suggestion is to see if this meets what George and you need, and get back to me as soon as you can. I can have the documents re-calculated immediately if there are any changes."
"You move fast," he replied with a smile.
I winked and said, "Well, I know the boss. And the chance to work with a cute lawyer is just too tempting." With that, we both broke up. 'Might as well play the "G" card,' I thought.
"Well-timed comment, Mr. Franklin," he said with a wink.
"Seriously, we are just finishing up a big project and could tackle your company starting next month."
"Well, if we go forward, and I'm sure we will, it gives me a chance to work with a hot consulting executive. And, I am serious." He was looking at me sincerely as he continued, "Is there any chance you could personally handle this?"
"As a matter of fact, I'll make myself available. Along with Joe Jenrette. I think we'll all make a great client-consultant team. And this is where Sammy and his Dad come in."
"What do you have in mind?" he asked skeptically.
"When we make the final detailed proposal with timelines at our conference room, you could suggest that George bring Sammy into the project. I think that it could be a good bonding experience for the two. And for George to see the three gay musketeers - you, Joe and myself - handling the tasks, it will play very positively.
"Whoa. You're telling me that Joe is gay, also?"
I paused and smiled before replying, "Well, I didn't mean to 'out' my associate to a client. It just slipped out. And by out I mean that Joe is just that in our office."
"Yeah. That could work," he commented. "I can't think of two more positive role models than you two. Or, I guess I make three." We both smiled at that thought.
"You could suggest that Sammy be a part of the your side of the team doing fact-finding grunt work."
"That is a great plan. I guess that's why you make the big bucks," he said with a confident grin.
"Big bucks? I saw what you make in the disclosure," I replied with a friendly 'gotcha' look.
"Ouch. I plead guilty,' Bill replied, with a chortle.
We finished lunch and promised to talk over the weekend or Monday. He was genuinely upbeat about Sunday night dinner at my place. He laughed when I told him about my worry that he would be the only straight guy coming over for dinner.
Wednesday night I called Sammy promptly at eight. He picked up immediately and said "Hi, Jerry," knowing it would be me.
"Hi yourself. I had a great lunch with Bill Saunders today concerning the consulting proposal. He likes it and said your Dad was excited about the possibilities."
~~~"Yeah. Dad really opened up to me about Martin and you at dinner tonight. We may all be working together. I haven't seen him so animated with me in quite a while. It felt good." This confirmed that Bill had taken back my ideas about Sammy.
"I'm looking forward to this. I think that it will be great for you to be working on this with your Dad and Bill. And it will give Joe a chance to observe your approach to problem solving."
~~~"I hadn't thought about that. You're right."
"You going to be able to make it for dinner Sunday evening?"
~~~"Are we going to the gym first?"
"Let's rain check that. I'm inviting over a few more guys for dinner. So I need some time to get organized. You want to come over and help me set up?"
~~~"Absolutely. What time?" He seemed really upbeat.
"How about around 4:00 p.m. I've got the other guests coming over around six. By the way, in addition to my close friends Steve and Allen, I invited Bill and Joe to join us."
~~~"Hey, super. I like the plan. I s'pose you got a few things we could do before they arrive?" He was chuckling lowly.
"Hey, cool it. I'm your older brother. Remember? Let's talk about that when you arrive," I answered evenly.
~~~"I'll be there at four. Khakis and a polo okay?"
"Ideal. I'm sure that some of the guys may be wearing shorts. I'll see ya then?"
~~~"Correct. Bye, bye."
"Bye, yourself." 'A little reminder that we've both moved on is needed,' I thought with a smile.
The rest of the week went smoothly. The packers were in and out in two hours on Thursday morning. Matt had replied to my email with the address and credit card info. I noticed that the address was in Darien, Connecticut. The woman must have some money of her own, I concluded from the address. As a parting joke, I considered including a life-size Jeff Stryker dildo in his personal effects. However, better judgment prevailed.
During our Friday morning call, Ben was very pleased about the possibility of adding American Foundry to our list of clients. I told him of the family birthday plans Saturday night and thanked him again for last weekend.
Driving up Lake Shore Drive to Winnetka and the folks' place in the restored, vintage '67 Corvette with the top down was literally a 'breath of fresh air' on this warm August Saturday afternoon. Uncle Sid had given me the car for high school graduation 12 years earlier. Getting out on the 'Drive' allowed for an infrequent but deserved road workout. There was pride when I drove this classic black beauty. It was guaranteed to turn heads, even in the most sophisticated neighborhoods. My uncle loved to see it every chance he got; Grandpa had given this same Corvette to him for college graduation.
I mulled over the dinner party Sunday night with the guys. I thought about my single status. I wondered what Bill had meant about being interested in working with me. With one new friendship, there certainly was room for one more. But Bill was an unknown quantity. 'Christ,' I thought, 'it had only been since Wednesday that he had announced being gay and single.' There was something stirring inside when I thought of him. But what?
I was growing fonder of him each time we met. First, the obligatory introductory conversation. Then, another meeting with gentle probing to find out about each other. And at some point, a slightly edited spilling-of-the-guts verbal version of your life and semi-shrouded secrets would be in order. Aside from having a first rate professional and intelligent bearing, the guy was charming and very good-looking. We'd definitely have to get together alone for dinner some weekend evening. I really enjoyed the prospect of working with him.
Looking down briefly, I noticed my tented crotch straining against the material of my shorts as it pressed against the steering wheel. Upon further inspection, a small wet spot was obvious. 'Jeez,' I thought, 'Hope the moistness dries before I arrive.' With one hand on the wheel, I gingerly adjusted myself with the other.
Once I got the arousal under control, my thoughts focused on the chance to work closer with my associate Joe Jenrette and the terrific opportunity to open a door to another new friend. It had never occurred to me that Joe and I could become friendly other than work until we all got together at the gym.
And then there was Sammy. My new other 'little brother'. I couldn't dismiss the electricity between Joe and him. It was silly of me feeling protective of him at the gym. Maybe I was playing the role of big brother? Or missing what I knew Joe would enjoy if they became intimate? Considering the field of players, I concluded that Steve and Allen would approve of my choice of friends, and vise-versa.
Arriving at the folks home around 3:00 p.m., I passed the familiar two-story classic colonial-style home with the mansards and Romanesque columns, and pulled the 'Vette to the back. I, along with Judy and Coulter, would be staying for the night. The immediate family would have breakfast together before driving back to the city Sunday morning. Coming in the back way to the kitchen, I saw Mom supervising part of the catering crew. "Hi, Mom, your birthday boy is here." I walked over carrying the clothes bag and gave her a hug and kiss.
"I'm glad you're here early. There's a lot to do before the guests begin arriving at six."
"That's why I'm here in some grubby clothes. What do you need done?"
"First put your stuff away upstairs. Then find your brother outside and help him set up the tables. He's got the layout. They all need to be in place when the catering servers arrive to arrange the tables. And the florist will be here at five."
"How many Franklin and O'Reilly family members are coming tonight?"
"Last count was 75." With all my cousins, aunts and uncles on Mom's side, the O'Reilly clan would outnumber the Franklins five to one. The Irish side of the family had turned reproducing into an art form. And the 75 only included adult relatives. Mom made it very clear that this was not going to be a kiddie's event. No one under the age of 18 was invited. Mom also requested no gifts. Rather, a contribution to a woman's breast cancer charity was suggested.
"Okay, I'll help Coulter." I charged up to my old room and hung up that night's change of clothes. Returning to the kitchen, I ran into Judy. I greeted her, offered a small friendly peck on the cheek, and left to find my brother outside lugging folding chairs to banquet tables.
"Hey, bro. I'm here to help."
"Hi, guy." We gave each other a brief hug and he showed me the diagram Mom had drawn. Abbey Rents had dropped off a portable stage and dance floor for the entertainment, in addition to the tables, chairs, linens, and chair covers. For the next half hour the brothers Franklin set up the back lawn. I noticed lanterns and tiki torches in place. The pool and bathhouse would be available for those into an evening swim. Thank God it would be a nice evening outside. Rain showers were notorious this time of year.
The musicians arrived promptly at 5:00 p.m. to set up the music stands and sound system. The five pieces would be ideal for this group. Satisfied that we had done all the duties expected of us, Coulter and I adjourned to our old rooms and cleaned up.
And a nice evening it was. Although Uncle Sid's two daughters were the prototypical J.A.P.'s, I was happy to see my cousins. The older one I hadn't liked as a child. However, her younger sister was my age and we got along just fine. Tonight, we were all on best behavior. 'Like a good wine, time mellows,' I contemplated.
The buffet held up well as this demanding crew attacked it with gusto. I spent most of the evening dancing with many of my aunts and cousins. Except for a few of the O'Reilly hellions who got a little tipsy, everyone enjoyed themselves. I was really pleased that Grams and Gramps O'Reilly were doing so well.
I enjoyed immensely seeing several of my O'Reilly male contemporary cousins. We regaled in laughter at some of our pre-teen antics those summers in Northbrook. All were now married and living in the suburbs with lots of red-haired, freckled children. We all promised to get together. However, our circles didn't even come close. 'Just polite talk,' I concluded.
Like in New York, I barely ate because of constantly circulating among tables. I spent the longest time with Grandma Franklin. As the matriarch of Dad's side of the family, everyone paid her deferential treatment. Although wealthy after Grandpa's death, she knew that I was only after her love. Dad's fortuitous investments in the obscure computer-related companies almost 20 years ago were well known to her...confidentially. The eventual inheritance from Dad would be hefty for my brother and me.
Dad commandeered the microphone at an intermission as everyone was finishing the dinner. He was very gracious and officially welcomed everyone to my second coming of age party. He thanked everyone for his or her generosity. The relatives had donated over $10,000 to Mom's charity. After cake cutting and coffee, the lawn was empty by 11:00 p.m. The catering crew disassembled everything for the Abbey truck pick-up Sunday. At midnight, we all were ready to retire.
In the quiet living room, I gathered around Mom, Dad and Coulter. Judy had gone upstairs for the night. "Guys," I said, "thanks for a beautiful evening. I'm so lucky to have a great family to celebrate these occasions.
"Son, we're small in numbers, but the love is large," Mom said.
Looking at Coulter, I commented, "Well brother, I guess it's up to you to increase those numbers." My brother became red in the face as we all laughed.
"You instructed me, Jerry. All I can do is keep practicing until I get it right," he said with a shy grin.
"I want you to know that tonight took away concerns about the recent changes in my life. For the record, I'm going to be just fine." I went over to Mom and said, "Thanks for everything." She smiled when I kissed her on the cheek.
TO BE CONTINUED
FOOTNOTE: The senior Dr. Franklin's 1986 $1,000,000 investment in Microsoft increased from a pre-initial public offering price of $1.05 per share to over $25.00 per share in 2005 and split 9 times. The 1986 investment in Intel's IPO increased from $1.50 per share over a $26.00 per share, splitting 14 times.