Absolute Convergence

Chapter Sixteen

By John Yager

This is the sixteenth chapter of an ongoing series. I sincerely appreciate all the correspondence this story has prompted. Thank you for your encouragement, suggestions and criticism. This is the most serious series I have attempted and many readers have told me it is the most serious and most issue-oriented story they have encountered on NIFTY or any other similar site.

My objective in this series is to address the major issues which have impacted and influenced the lives of gay people in the period between the 1960s and the present time.

This story is written in fictional form. The story is raising many more questions than it is supplying answers and I certainly make no claim to know the answers. It is my hope that by raising the questions I may prompt a more balanced discussion of the issues.

Andrew continues to provide much needed proofing and editorial help, for which I am sincerely grateful.

This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. Any similarity to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental. This is a work of gay erotic fiction. If you should not be reading such material or if such material is not to your liking, please exit now.

This work is copyrighted © by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.

All the stories I have posted on NIFTY can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific Authors lists.

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It should have been a time of fun and celebration but for me, at least, there was a sense of foreboding, a feeling that my world was on the verge of collapse.

Our high school graduation occurred on Saturday, May 25, 1968. It was a somewhat subdued celebration but there were the expected dances and parties, both official and unofficial, and the usual emotional speeches as we embarked into the brave new world of adulthood.

Our prom was also a rather subdued affair. Joyce and I again doubled with Rick and Deb. It was the first time the four of us had been out together since Rick had told Deb of his feelings for me. I had no idea how to behave toward her and no idea if I should say something to her or not.

Finally, the actual evening of the dance, I realized that while Rick may have confessed to her his love for me, she had no idea if I felt the same way toward him. So far as Debbie was concerned, Rick's feelings toward me might be totally one sided, perhaps just an exaggerated case of hero worship.

With that new insight, I determined to ignore the situation completely. I further reasoned that my best means of hiding my feelings for Rick was to be especially attentive to Joyce. As a result, I hardly left my girlfriend's side all evening and feigned real objection and jealousy when any of the guys asked to dance with her.

By being so attentive to Joyce all that evening I had little or no time to spare for others, including Rick. That was just as well because I got the feeling that Deb intended to keep him to herself. In fact, over those last few weeks of school and in the days leading up to their wedding, I had very little time alone with him. When we were together it was to do some task, get something the women needed for the wedding or the reception or run one of the endless errands which needed doing.

On the night of the prom I picked up Joyce before going on to Deb's, where both she and Rick were waiting. The rest of the evening I used every opportunity to dance with her, pressing my body against hers or drawing her away from the crowd to pet in dark corners. By the end of the evening it might well have seemed as if it was Joyce and me, not Deb and Rick, who were getting married in just two weeks.

That night, after we'd dropped Rick and Deb at her home, we returned to the Lynn's house and got into the most fervent necking we'd ever done. I was amazed by her passion and, despite my initial trepidation, I found myself highly aroused. We didn't go beyond kissing and fondling but we certainly did a lot of that. It was nearly two in the morning when Joyce more or less shoved me out the door. If she'd suspected what was going on in my restless brain, she gave no sign of it.

With only two weeks between our graduation and Debbie and Rick's wedding, there was an amazing amount to do. Their wedding had almost become a community project, with my mother and Joyce's mother taking most of the weight on themselves.

Rick and Debbie had virtually no money to spend on the service or the reception which followed it so everything was done as inexpensively as possible. The service was to be held at ten in the morning, followed by a light "stand-up lunch" in the parish hall, ending with the wedding cake and a fruit punch.

The service would be simple. Music would be performed by friends at no cost. The men in the wedding party would wear dark suits and ties, the women, short dresses, apart from the bride, who would wear a dress lent by one of her cousins.

Decorations would be kept simple and inexpensive, but as it turned out, the results were quite beautiful.

Immediately after the service and the reception, Rick and Deb were then due to leave together to start their married life. Very few of their friends or family knew their plans but, as I was to be Rick`s Best Man, I was in on it all.

Rick's uncle, the same one who owned the cabin, worked for a construction company in Memphis. He'd arranged a summer job for Rick and a small apartment where they'd be living until football training started in mid-August at MSU. The uncle had even arranged for them to have the use of a hotel room in Memphis for the night following the wedding. It would be a short honeymoon, but better than nothing. On Sunday they'd go from the hotel to their apartment and then Rick was to report to work with the construction company the following Monday morning, leaving Deb alone to cope for herself during the days.

As plans for the wedding developed, it was decided that Mom and Mrs. Lynn would make fancy sandwiches, two or three hundred of them, each about as big as a small candy bar. It was such a big undertaking that they were made in advance and frozen. They would only be thawed out the morning of the wedding. There would also be some other light food and a couple of choices of non-alcoholic drinks.

Debbie's aunt, her mother's sister, who had long ago escaped the family clutches as well as the tyranny of their family and their church, offered to make the cake. Aunt Bea, as she was known, was so pleased that one more Peters was moving beyond their family's fundamentalism that she would have done anything she could to mark the occasion.

Both Debbie and Rick's parents were sullen. There had been some long discussions about how to approach them and it had been decided that the plans for the wedding should be explained to both sets of parents at one informal meeting. Only Deb and Rick and their folks would be there. The parents would be told how the service would be organized. There would be no discussion and no request for advice or financial assistance.

Deb's father would be asked to escort her down the aisle at the beginning of the service and give the bride away. Both sets of parents and any grandparents would be asked to stand in the receiving line at the reception. Other than that, they would have no role. If they chose not to participate, so be it.

Meanwhile, in those weeks leading up to the service, Deb and Rick were going off to their appointments with Ted and the occasional session with Dr. Walker. A few days before their marriage Ted was to drive them down to Jackson, where they'd be confirmed by the bishop in a short, private ceremony. By going there and back in a single day, their parents would have no idea what was transpiring and no opportunity to object.

I'd begun my summer job at dad's lumber yard but he was letting me take time off whenever I needed to do something to help with the wedding. On Tuesday evening he asked me if I'd go in early the next morning to help get the May bills out. The next day, Wednesday, was the day Ted was driving Rick and Deb to Jackson and back but I wasn't involved with the trip so I assured Dad I'd be available.

I woke that Wednesday morning to the news that Robert Kennedy had been shot.

The sense of foreboding which had hung over us since the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination just two months before was almost tangible. Dad again shut down the lumber home and sent everyone home, but I stayed on with Mrs. Long, the chief bookkeeper, sorting invoices for her so we could get the bills out. Those were the days before computers and it was a long task, one that had to be done the first week of every month. Dad went home soon after ten o'clock that morning and except for Mrs. Long and me in the little office, the lumber yard was deserted.

We kept the radio on and listened to the constant reports. We worked silently but I was aware Mrs. Long was crying. Her face remained wet with tears but she made on sound. I tried not to look at her too much but found it difficult to keep from turning to her. While I didn't cry, my own mood mirrored hers. By mid-afternoon, when we had the bills made out and ready to mail, it was clear that there was little chance Kennedy would survive.

We locked up the office and I said I'd check the gates before I left. Alone I walked through the silent yard surrounded by the smell of lumber and the complaints of crows. I wandered to the very back of the yard, where it was crossed by railroad tracks. I stood silently looking out across the scrubby valley toward the river. I wanted to cry but my eyes remained dry. I felt as if there was just too much evil, too much sadness to bear. It was a warm Mississippi day, a June day with humidity that hung in the sullen air, but the world seemed very cold. There was a brackish odor which rose from the wet land along the river and drifted toward me on the damp air. It was the smell of death and pollution and of decay.

I realized that I was crying. My own hot tears ran down over my cheeks, along my neck and down to be absorbed by the already damp fabric of my shirt. Was I crying because of Robert Kennedy, who lay dying in a Los Angeles hospital, or for my loss of Rick? It was all that, but most of all, for myself. I was a high school graduate, bound for college in the fall, my life ahead of me, and yet at that moment everything seemed meaningless to me. I stood there sobbing as the heavy air moved from the river to engulf me.

I have no idea how long I stood there, but finally, exhausted and numb, I turned and walked back through the lumber yard. I checked the office again and secured the gates. The streets were nearly abandoned as I walked on toward home.

"Where have you been, dear," my mother said as I walked through the house to the kitchen.

"I was at the lumber yard with Mrs. Long, mom," I said, trying to make my voice behave, trying to sound normal. "Remember, she was doing the bills today and dad asked me to help."

"Oh, that's right," she said, hardly looking up from her work. She was crimping the edge of a deep apple pie, preparing it for the oven and our dinner later that evening.

"Where's dad?"

"Oh, I think he's in the den, dear. He's had his eyes glued to the television all day."

"It is history, mother."

"Yes, but I just can't watch. I can't listen to the radio either."

"I know." I did know. I understood how the intensity of it was too hard to bear. I went by the den and spoke to my father, who, as mother had said, was watching the unfolding drama in California.

I stood in the door to the den for a moment, watching as yet another newsman talked on while standing in front of the hospital were Robert Kennedy was dying. "There seems to be little hope now," the reporter was saying. "The latest reports indicate that Mr. Kennedy's vital signs are weakening. His wife is at his side..."

I went on up to my room. I pulled off shoes and socks, yanked my t-shirt off over my head and crashed.

Lying on my bed, looking up at the slowly darkening ceiling, I was overcome again by a sense of loss. My world seemed to be closing in around me and I didn't know what to do. I wanted to reach out to someone but had no idea who that could be. It was Rick, of course, to whom my thoughts went but how could I call him when he was the main reason for the dark gloom which hung over me?

I tried to reason with myself. Even if Rick had not decided to marry Deb, he and I would have been going our separate ways within a few weeks at most. I was also sure that Rick's decision was best for him. At least it seemed so, considering what he'd said about his desire for a family and the stability marriage offered. I could not offer him that.

The reasons were good. They made sense, but reason had no effect whatsoever on my dark mood.

Rick was planning to spend the night with me Friday and I was not at all sure how to handle that. If he made any move toward having sex I was sure I would not have the strength to resist, but I kept thinking that on the very eve of his wedding sex with me was probably not what he had in mind. Maybe I should suggest he sleep in my brother Ted's room. But that would look odd, considering how many nights he'd spent with me in the past.

My brother was still in Oxford, working on some project, and not due home for two more weeks.

I guess I slept a while. At least I dozed. I had a vague sense of a dream hanging at the edge of my mind, an image of women dressed in pastels and men dressed in white. I heard laughter as if it were coming from a long way away and the more distant sounds of music.

"Rob, are you sleeping? Rob, can you come down?"

I woke to my father's voice calling from the bottom of the stairs. There were other voices in the background, real voices, not from the radio or the television or the voices of my dream. I rose slowly from the bed and tried to make my brain work and my eyes focus. I moved slowly into the hall and, from there, recognized both Rick's voice and Ted's blending with my mother's in the background.

My khaki slacks were rumpled and the shirt I'd worn earlier was tossed in a corner, a balled up, sweaty mess. I grabbed a clean polo shirt from my closet and hurried to the bathroom for a quick wash. With the clean shirt tucked in I tried to get my hair to behave as I hurried down the stairs.

"Well, sleeping beauty," Rick said with a good natured grin as I came into the living room. Both he and Ted were wearing nice slacks and white shirts with the collars open a button or two. I figured they'd worn jackets and ties but left them in Ted's car.

I tried to speak but all I got out was a sort of squeak.

"I just asked Rick and Mr. Tucker to have dinner with us, Rob. You don't have anything planned do you?" my mother asked.

"No, mom, I'm okay," I said, my voice finally beginning to work. I looked over at Rick, hoping for some sign, some indication of what was going on, but he just smiled and I was still in the dark.

"Well, buddy," Rick went on, "we just left Debbie at her house and Ted suggested we drop by here."

"How did the trip go?"

"Fine, we made good time and the bishop is a sort of cool guy."

"I think he'd be flattered to know you think so," Ted grinned.

"So Deb and I are now official. I mean, we've been confirmed."

"Was that necessary in order to be married at Trinity?" my father asked.

"No. Dr. Walker said he'd do the service anyway but Deb and I both wanted it. I mean, we wanted to be confirmed."

"It was the fastest conformation class on record," Ted said.

They were both in such good moods that I suddenly wondered if they'd heard the news about Robert Kennedy.

"Well, I'm glad I fixed plenty of food," my mother said. "It's ready so you men get washed up and I'll get everything on the table."

When had my mother not fixed plenty, I wondered. From the sounds she was making I realized she was setting the dining room table. Company meant eating in the dining room. Otherwise she and dad and I would have had dinner at the breakfast table in the little alcove off the kitchen.

"Let me help," I called to her as Ted and Rick went off to wash.

Within minutes we were all seated around the table and my father was insisting Ted say the blessing, a nod to his semi-clerical status. He recited one of the formal table blessings from the prayer book and my mother began passing the food.

She'd fired chicken, not our normal week night fare, but I realized she'd probably been doing some extra cooking for the weekend. With the wedding on Saturday she was probably trying to get a little ahead. Well, no matter, she'd have a chance to do more tomorrow to make up for what got eaten tonight. And, from the look of things, I guessed she'd be starting from scratch. Both Rick and Ted took two pieces each when the platter was passed to them and the mashed potatoes and gravy were also an obvious hit. Ted lived alone and I guess he didn't do much serious cooking. Rick, of course, was always hungry.

My father brought up the Kennedy shooting before I could.

"Yes," Ted responded, "we heard about it on the car radio. Is there any chance he'll survive?"

"It doesn't look good," dad responded and the table lapsed into silence as we all thought about the sad events.

Despite the sad news, the general buoyancy which both Rick and Ted seemed to radiate meant it wasn't long before the conversation took a less serious turn and by the time my mother served desert, things were almost cheerful again.

As we were finishing, Ted said he'd like to talk to Rick and me. "We still need to work out a few details for the wedding," he added for the benefit of my parents.

"Well, you boys go sit in the den," dad quickly offered. "I'll help mother clean up."

"Yes, you go have your talk and I'll make coffee. We can chat a bit more in the living room later," my mother added as she and dad rose.

Rick, Ted and I went to the den. As Rick and I entered, Ted made a point of standing back, as if to hold the door for me, and then closed it behind him as he entered.

"Rick and I talked a little after we left Debbie off," Ted began, "and I think we need to cover the same issue with you, Rob."

Well, here it comes, I thought. We are going to get the sermon on sexual purity on the eve of Rick's wedding and the need for his marital faithfulness afterward.

Ted looked at me and then at Rick. "I guess you two are in for some serious changes."

"Yes," I said, looking down at my feet. I realized for the first time that in my haste to get up from my bed and come down stairs that I hadn't put on shoes or socks. My mother clearly hadn't noticed or she would have insisted I go up and put them on before dinner.

"Yes," Rick echoed.

"I'm not going to beat around the bush, so pardon me if I get personal."

"Sure," Rick said.

"We understand," I added.

"Okay then. How long has it been since you two were together?" He looked from Rick to me and when we were both silent he added, "sexually, I mean."

"Four weeks," Rick said but there was a question in his voice.

"Five and a half," I corrected, "almost six."

"Do you feel like you've said your goodbyes?" Ted said, firing his next question at us before we had time to think. "I mean, have you come to terms with all of this?"

"No," Rick said. His voice was almost a whisper. He was now also looking down at his feet.

"No. " I said. "But I'm not sure we can come to terms with it all."

"I know. It's going to be hard." Ted's voice was soft and full of concern.

We all stood silently for a minute or so. We were all looking down now and I realized that if my folks walked in they might think we were praying. Maybe Ted was.

"Okay," Ted went on after a few minutes. "This is completely unofficial and completely off the record, but I guess that goes for most of the discussions we've already had." He paused again and I felt as if the little that was left of my world was about to implode. "Rick told me their plans. He and Deb will leave for Memphis Saturday after the wedding. You two won't be together again for quite a while, right."

"Yeah, I guess," Rick said, his own voice little more than a whisper.

"Right, Rob?

"Yeah, right."

"Rick told me he was planning to spend the night with you Friday."

"Yeah," I agreed.

"Not a good idea."

"I know," I said, my own voice trembling. "I was going to suggest Rick use my brother's room."

"Still not a good idea." He motioned us to the sofa and he sat down in Dad's big leather chair. "I may burn in hell for suggesting this, but here's what I'd suggest." He paused again, looking at Rick and me. I'm sure we both looked miserable. "Rick, call your folks and tell them you and Deb are back and you are at Rob's house. Tell them you're going to stay over here tonight."

Rick and I looked up at Ted and I'm sure both our mouths were hanging open.

"Tonight. Tonight only. Do you understand?"

We both nodded.

"Say your goodbyes."

"We understand," I whispered.

"Before the wedding I'll be meeting with Dr. Walker. He had me direct your premarital classes and I have to assure him you and Deb are ready. Rick, do you understand what that means?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Rick muttered.

"By saying you are ready, I'm saying that to the best of my knowledge you and Debbie are suitable candidates for Holy Matrimony. I'll also be assuring him that, to use the language of the prayer book, you've both been `leading chaste and sober lives.' I don't know about the sober part, but by golly, for forty-eight hours prior to that wedding I want you chaste." He looked at us and his face broke into a smile. "That gives you tonight. No, it gives you until ten o'clock tomorrow morning. Is that enough time to say goodbye?"

"Yes," we both whispered.

"Okay. Now close your gaping mouths and assure me of one more thing."

Our mouths snapped shut and Rick's hand thrust out to grasp mine.

"Rick, you can stay with me Friday night if you don't have a better place."

Rick nodded.

"Here's the rest of the deal. After tonight I don't want you two alone together. Do you understand?"

"You mean ever?" Rick moaned.

"Well, ever is a long time. How about a promise from the two of you that you will not be alone together after tonight until a year after Rick and Deb's wedding?"

"What if I get up to see them later this summer?" I asked, not expecting that Rick and I would have sex, but just unsure how we'd handle the logistics.

"Simple, you go to see both Rick AND Deb. What you do you do with both of them."

I looked at Rick. He nodded.

"Okay," I said.

Ted stayed around a short while longer, talking with my parents in the living room. The three of them slowly drank coffee as Rick and I sat in chairs on opposite sides of the room and fidgeted. Ted watched us and occasionally smiled. He knew our frustration but seemed to be having a little fun at our expense by prolonging the conversation. Well, if not prolonging it, at least not doing anything to hurry things up.

Rick managed to make some comment about staying over and I asked my folks if that would be all right. He'd spent so many nights at our house that I knew it would not seem at all strange to my folks and, as expected, they immediately agreed. Rick then slipped out and called his folks as my mother and Ted talked over some further details of the wedding service. My father stepped in to say he'd have a truck available for Rick and me and a couple of our friends to use on Friday.

"Bill Cantrell is going to be clearing that land out on Highway D next week anyway so he said they could cut any of the trees they want."

When Rick returned Ted took mercy on us and rose to say goodnight. He thanked my folks for dinner and then went out with Rick. In a moment Rick was back with the things he'd left in Ted's car and we said goodnight to my folks.

As we climbed the stairs to my room I had a sudden realization of what lay ahead; we had one night together, and it might very well be the last I'd ever spend with Rick.

To be continued.