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 8, WHO'S ON FIRST; WHO'S ON SECOND
Sunday morning was predictable. Knowing Dad had a tee time at the club, we were all up early. The five of us took advantage of Mom's love for cooking. For an Irish Catholic, she made mean latkes, with homemade, cinnamon-laced applesauce and sour cream for condiments that would make Grandma Franklin proud. The ham, spinach and mushroom omelet was anti-climatic.
Clearing the table, Mom volunteered to make espresso, knowing my weakness for high-octane caffeine. "Nothing like getting Jerry more wired than he usually is," suggested my brother. "But I'll join you, bro. Mom, make it two, please."
Settling down with coffee and espresso, the family contemplated the obvious topic on the table. "Now that we're all together, let me give you a little update on what's going on with my volatile life," I offered. It was wise to let the family know the details at one time.
"Only if you want to, darling," offered Mom.
"This was a split up like any other couple. We're family, and I want you all to understand what happened."
"I just don't understand how two people in love could throw it away. Jerry, you didn't see this coming?" Mom continued.
"Looking back, I subconsciously felt all was not well for some time. As you mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this long separation was a big factor."
"You saw this coming?" Coulter questioned his big brother and best friend.
"Not exactly the conclusion in New York. But our lives and conversations had been pretty flat for a while. It was something I didn't want to admit. And the job kept me busy."
"His job also kept him busy. What am I missing?" Dad finally jumped in.
"Number one, he was in New York. And number two, he was in New York," I answered a little too flippantly. "Seriously, Dad, I think he's using this new relationship with this woman to further his business and social position. I provided security here. He just got restless in his career."
"How are you feeling now?" Coulter said, very concerned.
"After the shit hit the fan...whoops...sorry Mom...I've had time to reflect. I've concluded it's probably for the best that we're history."
"You seemed pretty loose last night. Are you ready to move on?" 'Good old Dr. Dad,' I mused. 'Always going to the bottom line.'
"I had a pretty crummy time for a couple of days. Unlike last night, the party in New York was internally pretty tense for me. But I'm a survivor. In fact, I've made some new friends recently that I may want you to meet for dinner sometime," I concluded with a smile.
"Son, you seem even looser this morning. I look forward to meeting your new friends," Dad concluded.
"Don't start registering me at Marshall Field's or Crate and Barrel yet. I'll give you the clue if the time comes," I replied with a laugh. The rest of the family was relieved to see their son and brother getting back in the groove.
The rest of the breakfast was monopolized with doctor talk and Mom's charity. By 9:30 a.m., Dad and his TaylorMade golf clubs traveled their way north to the country club, while Coulter and I followed each other back to Sheridan Road from Hoyt Place, and near-north Chicago.
The early morning Sunday traffic was light. I returned home 45 minutes later and stowed the 'Vette next to my Chevy Trailblazer SUV in the apartment garage space I rented across the street. I entered the house to find Mr. Charley impatiently waiting. He nervously meowed when I entered the front door. However, knowing who was his meal ticket, he profusely started rubbing my leg, and eagerly led me to the kitchen for fresh nourishment.
In the untouched bedroom, I unpacked the overnight bag and sorted clothes to be washed. With a detour to the kitchen for an Evian, I went to the den and turned on the PC. I was curious about email traffic and also what was new on my 'favorites' gay websites for a little Sunday morning eye candy. I also made a list of provisions needed for tonight's informal get together while waiting for the pictures to download.
Thinking about the menu and amount of food, I detailed the shopping list by stores. Returning to the garage and the more conventional SUV, I drove over to Clyborn Avenue and all the yuppie 'big box' stores.
While driving, I thought about the guests who would be here tonight. Steve would be the oldest, although he would love to defer that honor. Allen was the Jewish mother for the group, always looking out for the brood. Bill brought his own distinct, fresh personality to the table. Joe would be a challenge. It was important for me to make him feel that I was not his boss at social events such as this. Difficult, but not impossible.
Then there was Sammy. Sweet, not so innocent, Sammy. Tonight he would be seeking approval on various levels. From me it was a given. But I had turned up the pressure by inviting his Dad's number one lieutenant, his potential mentor at Martin Consulting, and my two best friends. I also guessed that Joe might become more than a mentor?
Upon returning from the last stop at Bobtail Ice Cream and a gallon of their triple vanilla bean, I worked out a basic plan for that night's cooking. I had bought a few more cold, composed salads in addition to the ice cream for the cobbler. Plenty of beer and white wine were chilling.
As anticipated, the doorbell rang at four. Opening the door, I felt an enormous burst of energy radiate from Sammy, standing there, carrying a clothing bag. I smiled and stood aside for his entry. It was obvious he had been at the beach: standing shirtless, he wore faded board shorts that molded to his defined package, and flip-flops. A tank top was tucked between the small of his back and the shorts.
"Hi, Jerry. It's good to see you again," he said with a smile, as I took his clothing bag and laid it down on the floor. He grabbed my shoulders and planted a friendly kiss on me. I pulled back after a proper moment.
"Buddy, you look edible. I'm surprised that you weren't attacked at the beach. I'm glad that you were able to come here and help me."
"Oh, I'm going to help you out, all right. If I'm not mistaken, you gave me a rain check last weekend. It's not raining today. And games in the afternoon are more enjoyable."
"Let's go in the den. It's definitely not raining there." When we got to my den and office, I said, "Sammy, we gotta talk." I had pre-placed two beers on the coffee table. We both sat down on the couch and reached for the cold bottles.
"First, buddy, let's figure out what's been happening between you and me," I said after we both drank from the bottle.
"Uh, oh. Sounds like you have the big brother hat on." He smiled and raised his eyebrows.
"You're ahead of me, Sammy. I've become quite fond of you. And yeah, I think of you as a little brother. No objections?"
"Seriously, I'm honored."
"I won't dismiss that what we experienced upstairs was everything a gay man would want for sexual variety. You're fucking amazing." I placed my hand on his shoulder.
"You're pretty terrific yourself." He pulled himself up to me and rested his head on my chest.
"What I'm telling you is, I want us to be close friends. And, as much as you get my adrenalin flowing, I think that we should leave what we did as a wonderful memory and fantastic accidental meeting that has led to where I think both of us want to go. A great friendship."
I thought for a moment about his comments. They were from a man who was going to be a very important part of my personal and professional life. It was at a watershed moment.
"Jerry, I can't say I'm not a little disappointed. You are hot in bed. But I've got to be honest. After the first couple of times, it was a case enjoying getting off with a very sexy, nice guy. I guess 'nice' is the operative word. If I had to make a choice, it would definitely be one of friendship." I burrowed into his chest deeper. It felt very comforting and safe.
"I'm glad you feel the same way. If we both decide that Martin is the company for you, I can assure you that friendship and mentoring work well together."
"Can I tell you a little secret?" I pulled back and looked at him intently and continued, "Promise me you won't be mad?"
"I don't think I could ever get too mad at you. Give me a try?"
"I kinda think I'm interested in getting to know Joe better." He noticed my shy and hesitating smile.
"Mad? Mad, that you're interested in Mr. Jenrette? Fuck, if he didn't work for me I might be tempted myself," he said with a laugh, while reaching over to ruffle my hair. "The guy is special."
"That's a relief."
"I picked up some interesting vibes from you two at the club last week. If Joe shows interest in return, go for it. But be a little discrete around the office, if we are going to be working together."
"We'll see how it plays out. But I agree about keeping a low profile," I said.
"And I'll tell you a little secret. When I saw what was happening between you and Bill, I got a little jealous. Maybe concerned was more like it. But that's what brothers do. We look after each other." Jerry kissed me tenderly on the forehead.
"Thanks, brother," Jerry replied. My life was taking a decidedly major re-direction.
By 5:45, we had finished setting out all the plates and glassware in the kitchen. In the dining room were six bright Chinoise-patterned place mats with silver and a folded, ivory-colored napkin at each setting. Four pewter candlesticks of varying height with candles in summery pastel shades set off the center of the heavy, glass-topped table. I had genetically inherited the interest in entertaining from Mom.
Thinking about the afternoon, I marveled at Sammy's youthful enthusiasm and mental agility in moving beyond our first physical meetings. His positive attitude and our friendship would be rewarding in the future. We would both work on that.
At almost six, Sammy and I had finished our work. The beans were in the oven, the salads in covered bowls in the refrigerator, and the 'brats' staged on a large tray outside in a fridge next to the grill. I would turn on the grill around 6:30 p.m. In the background, Whitney Houston's "Didn't We Almost Have It All" was playing. "You were a great help, buddy. We got everything pulled together," I said, while we waited for the guests in the living room with two glasses of Pinot Grigio. I had opted for black Dockers and a white, ribbed tee. Sammy changed into his chinos and a golf shirt and stowed the beachwear in the Jeep.
Grinning, Sammy raised his glass and silently toasted and replied, "To whatever happens."
"Yeah. I'll drink to that, little brother."
"Thanks, Jerry." The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it. Like you, Steve and Allen are always on-time arrivals."
Opening the door, my buddies in similar polo shirt/cargo shorts ensembles, bearing culinary gifts, appeared. Sammy was standing with a warm smile as we walked in from the entryway. "Guys, say hello to my friend Sammy McDonald. Steve, I'll take the food to the kitchen if you'll formally introduce yourselves." Taking the salad and dessert, I said, "Steve Phipps and Allen Stein are my best friends." I listened intently while I went back to the kitchen.
"Jerry, where did you find this treasure?" He asked in a loud solicitous voice, holding Sammy's shoulder.
Smiling, while glancing over to Sammy briefly as I returned from the kitchen, I replied, "We were introduced recently. I know his father from the Art Institute board. Sammy and I have become good friends." Sammy smiled as Allen momentarily raised an eyebrow.
"Oh, that McDonald," Allen knowingly acknowledged. The Stein seal of approval was in place. I knew that there would be explanations on my part to Allen soon.
"Steve and Allen are very generous in their donations," I tossed out casually. Just then, I heard the bell again. "Sammy, why don't you pour some wine for the guys."
Opening the door, I was greeted by my hot looking, young associate, standing with a bottle of wine. The form-fitting, worn 501's with a silver-inlayed black belt, black pocket tee, and Western boots were a complete contrast to his office garb. Getting into the spirit, I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. He was a little taken back but instantly recovered by offering a light peck on my lips. "Hi, Joe. Out of the office, we're going to act as friends should."
"Thanks. I appreciate your gesture," he replied as we walked into the living room. Sammy saw Joe and turned on a broad grin.
I took his gift and said, "Guys, this is Joe Jenrette from work." I introduced Steve and Allen. When Joe turned to Sammy, he smiled, grasped a hand, and leaned in for a friendly kiss. It was enthusiastically returned. Enthusiastic without turning heads.
'This is really going to be a perfect evening,' I thought. "Joe, we've got Pinot Grigio or beer."
"I'll join you with wine."
"Coming right up," Sammy said, returning to the kitchen for a glass.
"Better bring two glasses," I suggested. The doorbell announced the final guest. I tensed a little because this was the first real social outing with Bill. I opened the door and drank in this mature beauty before me. The pleated, cream linen pants and a soft Tommy Bahama "Cigar" shirt fit him well.
"Hi, Jerry." He pulled close to me and offered a friendly kiss that I accepted in the spirit of a new male-oriented friendship. 'Well, that broke the ice,' I mused. I also couldn't miss the subtle fragrance of Acqua de Selva: my favorite after-shave.
"Bill, I'm glad you could make it. Come on in." As we entered the living room, I announced to Steve and Allen, "Guys, meet Bill Saunders." Bill walked up and smoothly introduced himself to my neighbors and warmly greeted Joe and Sammy with a kiss. Sammy was beaming as he hugged Bill in return before pouring the wine. He explained that Bill was his Dad's in-house lawyer.
The grouping was interesting. Since most of the guys were accustomed to professionally interacting with clients, the conversation around the large coffee table was lively and casual. Sammy was just a natural. I was in the middle of one couch with Allen and Bill on either side. Sammy and Joe were close together on the opposite couch while Steve sat in a wing chair.
"Jerry, you've been a very busy boy," Allen said quietly to me while the others were lamenting another disappointing Cubs season. "This is quite a collection you've assembled."
"I'm glad you notice and approve. I've definitely moved on." Unconsciously, I placed my right hand on Bill's. I felt his weight shift as he moved closer and rotated his hand so that we were holding each other's hands, palm to palm.
"I'm really happy to meet your best friends," Bill said to both of us. "Allen, how long have you known Jerry?"
"Practically forever. We grew up together. Went to school together. Fraternity brothers. Both had a crush on the same fraternity brother gymnast," Allen said.
"As I remember, Allen, you were the one that got his cherry after our fall beer bust," I replied. The rest of the group became interested in our conversation. 'Leave it for sex to be a common ice-breaker,' I thought with a smile.
"It was one of those 'oh my god, I can't remember what I did last night' moments. He did walk funny for a few days, though." We all laughed at Allen's comments as he rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner.
"Well, I had one of those moments in college with a friend on the swim team," Joe commented. "But once I remembered what happened, I couldn't wait to repay my teammate. We were late studying one night in my dorm room. Let's just say I got an 'A' and got laid." That comment produced a friendly chuckle from all the guys.
"Our families have known each other for a long time, and I'm just finding out that Joe is into different strokes," Sammy added with a grin.
"Buddy, as I recall, you were dating my sister, and I had gone away to school."
"Excuses, excuses. Anyway, I came out to your sister, and you just came," Sammy added, as we all shared the repartee.
"Sammy, wash your mouth. Bodily fluids are not a good dinnertime topic," I said, playfully chiding him.
"It depends, big brother, on what you're having for dinner," he replied, with a wink as he squeezed Joe's thigh.
"Touché. But tonight the desert is cobbler and the cream is iced," I added. I grinned, and added a wink and a satisfied nod.
"Now that we've established that we're not going to have a ménage a six, Jerry, could I ask what the common denominator is for all of you?" Steve asked in his dry sense-of-humor banker manner. I couldn't miss the raised eyebrow he shot at Allen.
"The four of us may be working on a project for Mr. McDonald's company," I volunteered to Steve and Allen.
"Not may. It's will be. Mr. Mac signed the contract today at the country club after golf. In fact, I've got it in the car. I was planning on giving it to you before I leave," Bill said.
"That's great news." I reached and shook his right hand. "Joe and I look forward to working with you two." I smiled at Joe and Sammy. "If you guys will carry on, I'll fire up the grill," I announced, getting up. "There's plenty of wine." On cue, Sammy took the full bottle and topped off everyone's glasses.
"Watch out, Joe," Sammy said. "If you drink too much wine, I may act on my evil thoughts."
"Thoughts are not what I have in mind," I heard Joe say, with a chuckle, as I entered the kitchen. 'Clearly,' I judged, 'the relationship of my two youngest guests had approached the friendly tit for tat phase that two people use to explore feelings and establish terra firma.'
Out on the patio, I ignited the gas burners and adjusted the temperature. It would take a few minutes before the 'brats' could start cooking. In the kitchen, I laid out the food in buffet fashion. Not being a fan of bread, I had a basket of thin grissini bread sticks as an alternative. When the beans were removed from the oven, I turned it off and placed the peach cobbler inside. It would just be warm enough when we were ready. A great contrast to the cold ice cream. While prepping the final touches of dinner, I thought about this lawyer in the living room. I felt something stirring.
I couldn't remember when I was enjoying myself more. 'Okay, the sex would have been great this afternoon,' I considered. 'But Jerry's approach to being a friend had much more value.' To be included with his friends and colleagues was special.
Colleagues? What a happy coincidence getting reacquainted with Joe again. I had thought of Joe's image on the ladder of the pool the night I came out to his sister. That he was gay and attracted to me played in my head. "...I'm sorry Bill, would you repeat the question. I was thinking about something else," I said with a smile.
"I said, what do you think about this project being approved by your Dad?"
"We know that it is needed. That I get to help is really neat. Dad said he'll let me devote my full attention to working with you guys until I return to Loyola in September."
"When do you graduate?" asked Steve.
"I'll get out next June. Then on to graduate school. Probably the University of Chicago."
"Great plans. Any idea what you want to do after that?"
"Actually, I've talked to Jerry and Joe about joining them at Martin."
Joe answered, "I'm going to sponsor Sammy in our fall indoctrination for college seniors we do every year." Turning to me, Joe continued, "I'm going to pay special attention to this guy. Especially if he does as well as I know he will on the project." I caught his special emphasis.
"Sammy will do well. His Dad and I have great confidence in him," Bill replied. I was glowing internally at the thought of getting closer to my father. A personal thaw was beginning.
"Joe, if you want to come out to the office sometime this week, I can show you around," I suggested, slyly hoping that my motives were camouflaged.
"If that's okay with you, Bill? I'd like that," Joe asked tentatively.
Bill considered the request briefly and replied, "It's not like you're strangers. I think an early look around could be very beneficial. However, you might just want to introduce Joe as a friend of the family. I want roll out Martin properly so the troops don't get their panties in a wringer."
"I understand. Joe and I will fly under the radar," I said.
"Fly under what radar?" Jerry asked, returning to the living room tongs in hand.
"Sammy invited Joe over to see the office and plant next week. I was just pointing out that he should introduce Joe as a friend until we're ready to announce the project properly," Bill answered.
"I understand, and it's a good idea. Joe, coordinate your schedule with Alice and do it," Jerry said smiling. I looked at Joe and studied his face for a reaction. He was beaming.
Turning to me, Joe remarked, "I'll call you tomorrow and work out the details." I nodded with a confident smile.
"Well guys, chow's on," Jerry announced. "We're doing buffet style in the kitchen." Everyone grabbed their glasses and went to the kitchen. In the background, Brian Adams was singing "Where Angels Fear to Tread:"
'I never thought I'd find someone to move me
someone who could see right thru me
you found your way into my head
where even angels fear to tread'
Since Joe and I were the last two in line, I had a chance to study him. We hadn't seen each other much in the past few years. Now, all of a sudden, we seemed to run into each other constantly. What about his personal life? How single was he? He seemed to enjoy being around me. Looking at him, I said, "Jerry mentioned that you live around here?"
"Over in Sandberg Village about eight blocks from here. Not a bad walk."
"Want a lift after dinner? It's not out of my way," I said nonchalantly.
"That would be great. After a certain hour, I don't get excited about being on the streets. Even in my neighborhood." He smiled and put his arm around my shoulder.
"If it's not too late when we get to your place, maybe you could give me a few pointers about how Martin works?"
The Brian Adams song continued:
This must be an illusion
I know this can't be real
But right here and right now
This is paradise I feel.
"Yeah. That's a good idea. But no funny stuff, McDonald," he said with a raised eyebrow and smile.
"Oh, anything I do is not funny stuff, Jenrette." We both snickered, moving into the kitchen. 'Message sent and received loud and clear,' I concluded.
Conversation continued to flow. I asked Bill to help me plate the peach cobbler and ice cream in the kitchen. Sammy and Joe had paired off sitting together, as I had done with Bill. It seemed to naturally work out.
"This is a great place you have. Been here long?" Bill's hand was lightly stroking my arm.
"I bought this when I moved back from New York three years ago. The timing was great. The Gray Mansion and the coach house had just been renovated and converted to condos." I pulled the cobbler out of the warm oven.
"About the time I bought."
"Where do you live? 'I didn't think we'd ever discussed this,' I wondered, while reaching in the freezer for the ice cream.
"I'm at 2800." In Chicago you always talk in grid reference and numbers. His address, 2800 Lake Shore Drive, was a Mies Van Derow classic that everyone referred to as '2800.' Generically, the condo was in the 2800 block, North.
"Up high and facing downtown, I bet?" The southern city view, like Steve and Allen's place, was coveted. I laid out the plates for easy assembly.
"Five points to the good looking guy in front of me. Good guess," Bill said, as he kissed my hand with theatrical exaggeration.
"Bill, I read a person pretty accurately. I know you're someone who will analyze everything to achieve the best results. Buying at that location on a high floor with a downtown view was a smart investment decision." Smiling, I gave him the ice cream scoop while I started cutting portions of the cobbler.
"I think we're pretty much alike on decision making. If you don't object, Jerry, I'd like to spend some quality time with you and find out other similarities," he replied warmly as he looked me in the eye. As I placed the cobbler on a plate, he was right behind me with the ice cream.
"No objection. That would be fun," I volunteered, as we portioned out the desserts for everyone. After putting the ice cream back in the freezer, I turned and continued, "How about dinner someplace next weekend?" I grabbed three plates and he followed suit.
"Deal," I said as we entered the dining room. "My place first for cocktails, Bill."
TO BE CONTINUED