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Related article: Absolute Convergence 99
Absolute Convergence: Tahoe
By John Yager
This is the fourth of five chapters
of a new Absolute Convergence sequel.
While this story is being added to
the existing Absolute Convergence file, it constitutes a
self-contained narrative. I've given this sequel the subtitle Tahoe
Shores for reasons which will become clear as the story unfolds.
While it will be helpful for readers to know the original Absolute
Convergence series, in which all the principal characters were
introduced, this story should be enjoyable as an independent story.
made its first appearance in January, 2001 as a series which eventually
ran to a total of eighty chapters, the last of which was posted in January,
2004. I never anticipated the series continuing for so long and I am still
amazed by the incredible loyalty of readers who stayed with it, or with
me, from the beginning.
I am also appreciative of those newer
readers Illegal Cp Portal who have contacted me Illegal Cp Portal from time to time to say that they've discovered
the series and worked their way through the collected chapters.
I'm always glad to receive comments,
questions, criticism and encouragement and hope to continue hearing from
you. I try to answer all messages promptly. If I'm slow at times it's only
because of the pressures of work.
Andrew continues to give me much
needed proofing and editorial help for which I am sincerely grateful.
The author holds exclusive copyright
(© 2006) to this story. It may not be reproduced in any form without
the written permission of the author. It is placed in the Nifty Archive
under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied
or archived on other site or in any form without the written permission
of the author.
All the stories I've assigned to
NIFTY Archive can be found by looking under my name in the NIFTY Prolific
Authors lists. If you'd like to receive e-mail notification of subsequent
postings, previews of upcoming stories, and other news and information,
please let me know by sending your request to the e-mail address below.
The life William and I led in LA,
with occasional trips to London and frequent weekends at Lake Tahoe went
on at its own rhythm during the early 1990s.
We were surrounded by a close circle
of friends and professional associates who were, by and large, gay or gay
friendly. We felt insolated from the large world, knowing that we
were very fortunate, but also aware that the plight of gay and lesbian
people was not nearly as good elsewhere as it was for us in the rather
insular world of LA, Hollywood and the film industry.
We were also so busy with our individual
careers that we had little time to worry about much beyond that rather
small and rather unique world. What time we had after long hours
of work we chose to spend together. Our private life was relaxed
and easy. We were at ease with ourselves, with each other and with
those around us.
On a trip to see my mother in Mississippi
in April of 1993, I came upon the reality of gay life in areas other than
the open society of Hollywood, and the environment in which a majority
of gay people were forced to live. William was in England on Starmark business
and had not made the trip with me. Growing up in the South in the
1950s and 60s, I had a frame of reference William lacked. I knew that there
were deep currents of prejudice which were less visible by the 90s, but
still there. Racial prejudice was still a reality but there was part
of a deeper and more dangerous fear, a fear of anything which was seen
as different, and therefore threatening to traditional values and culture.
On Thursday, my second evening back
in Spring River, I took my mother to Claudes', a new restaurant which had
opened since my last trip home. It was quite nice, in an old 19th
century house, which faced the levy. It had been converted to seat
people at a dozen tables scattered through what had obviously been the
living room, formal dining room and library. It was more formal than anything
else in town, with a menu which looked like those you'd see in Natchez
or even New Orleans. I was surprised to see they even offered a fairly
respectable wine list. We had an excellent meal, a mix of Cajun and
traditional Mississippi Delta cooking.
As we were finishing a rich gooseberry
and cream desert the man who'd waited on us came back to our table with
a little plate of handmade chocolates to round off the meal.
"I'm Claude Rice," he said, introducing
himself. When I said I was Robert Ballinger and extended my hand,
he shook it, smiled and said, "Yes, I know. I think you must be Spring
River's most famous son."
"Really?" I responded, looking from
him to my mother, who was smiling broadly at his kind words.
"Yes, and I'm really honored that
you'd try our restaurant."
"The meal was wonderful," I assured
him. "You can count on our return business the next time I'm back in town."
"I hope we're still here," he said,
the smile disappearing from his strikingly angular face.
"You aren't doing all that well?"
"Starting a restaurant is always
risky," he went on. "Trying one like this in a town the size of Spring
River isn't easy. We gave ourselves a year and will just have to
seen if we can keep it going longer."
"My partner, Claude Jefferson and
"Ah, that would account for the punctuation,"
"Yes, plural possessive."
"If you have a moment I'd like to
"Certainly," I agreed as he refilled
our coffee cups.
A moment later he was back with a
second man. Both men seemed to be in their early thirties, near twins
so far as height and weight were concerned, other than the obvious fact
that Rice was white and Jefferson black. They were both strikingly
"We met at culinary school in Phoenix,"
Rice said. Jeff is from New Orleans and I grew up here in Spring
River, so our mutual love of southern cooking was just one more thing that
drew us together."
"How long have you been a couple?"
my mother asked.
"Almost four years," Jefferson said
with a broad smile.
"How nice," mom responded.
Jefferson's smile was contagious.
"So you do the cooking?" I asked
"We trade off."
"Usually each of us cooks one night
a week and we both jump in on Friday and Saturday. We have additional
wait staff on the busiest evenings. On Sundays we do a brunch buffet
so a lot of the work can be done in advance."
"A workable schedule," I responded.
"Yes," it gives us Monday and Tuesday
to rest up and scour the area for interesting edibles."
"Like the wonderful gooseberries
we had in the desert?" mom asked.
"Oh, you liked that?" Jefferson beamed.
"Amazing," I said. "I never
had anything like it."
"Our own invention," Rice smiled.
"We try to do a lot of original things."
"Apart from the restaurant, how is
life here for a gay couple?" I asked.
"A gay interracial couple," Jefferson
"Okay so far, but we tend to keep
to ourselves. There isn't a real gay community here."
"But we get back to New Orleans ever
few weeks. My family still lives there so we see them and hit a few
of our favorite places in the Quarter."
"Any interest in moving your operation
there?" I asked.
"If we can't make a go of it here
we will probably head for the west coast, but the competition in larger
cities can be intimidating," Rice said.
"Yeah," Jefferson agreed, again giving
us one of his wonderful smiles, "here we have a corner on high quality
"And on multiracial gay relationships,"
"Openly admitted multiracial gay
relationships, anyway," Rice agreed.
"You'd be surprised what goes on
here," Jefferson laughed, looking for a moment at my mother, as if thinking
perhaps he was being too brazen for her delicate ears.
"Oh, don't worry about me," she laughed.
"I've heard it all in my lifetime."
"Well, enough said," Jefferson conceded.
"There are a lot of relationships which go on in secret but are never publicly
acknowledged. You'd be surprised how many married white men have
gay boyfriends on the side."
"I'd not be surprised at all," mom
said. "Such relationships, both same-sex and . . Illegal Cp Portal . "
"Straight?" I suggested.
"Heterosexual AND homosexual relationships
outside of marriage," she continued, "have been a part of southern culture
for as long as anyone can remember. It's as if no one really cares as long
as things are done discreetly."
"That's not just true in the south,
Mrs. Ballenger," Rice put in. "I've spent a lot of time in other
parts of the country and never ceased to be amazed at what goes on."
Our conversation ended soon after
those remarks when my mother reminded me that it was well past her bedtime.
"It was a lovely meal," she said
as we said goodbye to the two Claudes. "I will insist Rob bring me
back again the next time he visits."
When mom and I returned to her house
the little red light on the phone message machine I'd given her a year
or so before was blinking. "That's probably for you," my mother said,
gesturing toward the gadget. I picked up the receiver and pressed
replay. The voice which I heard took me totally by surprise.
"Hey, Rob," the male speaker said,
"I called my folks and they told me you were there. Is there any
chance we could get together? If you are free we can arrange to drive
down on Saturday. Deb would love to see you and I really want you
to see the kids. You won't believe how big they've gotten.
Deb needs to spend some time with her mom and maybe you and I could have
some time alone, just to talk."
There was no need for Rick Carlson
to identify himself.
My head was spinning when the machine
kicked over to the second message, which was from William. "Hi, lover,"
he began, "I hope all is well. Give me a ring when you can."
My mother called down from the upstairs
landing to thank me again for a lovely evening and to say she was off to
"Good night, mom," I called back.
"I need to return these calls. I'll see you in the morning." I went into
the kitchen and used the phone there, wanting a bit more privacy than the
hall phone provided.
William answered on the third ring.
"Hi, love," I said, my heart leaping at the sound of his voice, even from
five thousand miles away. We talked for a few minutes, exchanging
unimportant bits of information, greetings from my mother to him, greetings
from his father to me.
"Anything else?" he asked when there
was a brief lull in our conversation.
"Rick Carlson called," I said. "He
wants to come down on Saturday."
An awkward pause followed.
I knew William was considering the implications of my news. I was
not, however, prepared for his eventual response. "Are you going to fuck
him?" he asked.
"William!" I said, not knowing whether
to be shocked or amused.
"Seriously," William said after another
brief pause. "You know he wants to have sex with you, Robert."
"I don't want to have sex with him,"
I said, perhaps sounding a bit too insistent. "I value our monogamy
too much for that."
"Well, if it happened, Lover, I'd
forgive you." His voice was low and he spoke slowly, as if with great care.
"I don't think I'd forgive myself."
Another long and very awkward pause
followed and then we said goodbye. "I'll see you next Tuesday, back
in LA," William added.
Later that night, alone in my old
bed, longing for William, I again reflected on how fortunate he and I were.
Our relationship was stable and completely open. We had no secrets and
we lived in a supportive and friendly environment. So many gay men
and women had to live in the shadows of prejudice and fear while we were
surrounded by friends and associates who fully accepted our sexuality.
We were healthy and successful, financially prosperous and happy in our
Somehow, despite all that, I couldn't
help wondering, even worrying a bit, about the comment William had made.
Was he actually inviting me to step out of our monogamous relationship
and engage in sex with Rick? Did his acceptance of my possible infidelity
suggest he was himself unfaithful, or at the very least, considering sex
outside our relationship. Was this, perhaps, the first sign of some
sort of mid-life crisis? Was William suddenly plagued by the desire
for something more than I could offer him?
I slept fitfully, thinking about
the implications of our phone conversation. At four the following
morning, knowing with the time difference between Mississippi and England,
that William would be up, slipped out of bed and as silently as possible,
went down to the kitchen and called him.
He was at his father's estate in
Sussex and it took several minutes for one of the servants to find him
and get him to a telephone. "Robert," he said suddenly when he finally
came on the line. "Is anything wrong?"
"No, not really," I admitted, suddenly
feeling foolish. "I've worried all night about our conversation. What did
you mean about me and Rick?"
"I didn't mean anything. I
just wanted you to know that my love is unconditional. I love you
for who and what you are, Robert, not because of anything you do or don't
do." I was silent, not knowing how to respond. "Are you still there,
Lover?" William finally said.
"Yes," I managed, then blurted, "have
you ever been unfaithful to me?"
"No, not once."
"Have you thought about it?
Have you been tempted to have sex with anyone else?"
"No, not really."
"Well, you know, I see some hot guy
and think he'd probably be great in bed, but it never goes any further
"You've had other men come on to
"Sure, and a few women."
"But you've never strayed?"
"Not once, Robert."
"Say hello to Rick for me."
"I will," I agreed. We talked
a minute longer and said our goodbyes. I went back to bed and slept
soundly until 10:00 AM.
"Oh, I was afraid you were ill,"
mother said when I finally came down stairs.
"I'm fine," I said, "just couldn't
sleep and came down and called William about four o'clock." I always left
money to cover my rather excessive phone calls but knew she'd see Illegal Cp Portal the call
on her bill and figured I'd just as well mention it.
"And once you talked with him you
went back to bed and slept soundly."
"Yes," I admitted.
She smiled as she poured coffee for
Later that day I walked along Main
Street, looking into the windows of a couple of shops and finally went
into a surprisingly trendy little bookshop, were to my surprise, I found
the two Claudes talking amiably to the two women standing behind the sales
When the four of them saw me Claude
Rice called me over and introduced me to Anne Bourke and Sharon Tolliver,
the two women whom, he explained, ran the shop and lived together above
"There's another reason which keeps
us here," Rice explained, "other than the restaurant."
"Oh?" I responded, not knowing what
might be coming next.
"Yes, the kids," he said.
"You have children?" I said, perhaps
sounding a little shocked. Had this lesbian couple and these two
gay men conspired to produce biological children their individual relationships
"Not our kids," Rice laughed, reading
my thoughts, "the local kids. The four of us sponsor an after school
program for gay, bi and lesbian kids in the local high school."
"Now that is something I didn't expect
to happen in Mississippi," I admitted.
Mississippi needs it as much as any
other place," Anne said, "maybe even more than other places."
"Can you imagine how isolated gay
kids feel growing up in a community like Spring River?" Jefferson added.
"And it's even worse if you are young, gay and black."
"You're forgetting I grew up here,"
I reminded them.
"But you weren't out."
"Nobody was out in those days," I
said with a laugh, but not one of mirth.
"Well, now out is more common, but
still not easy."
"So the four of you started this
local support group?"
"Yes, but it's grown to include quite
a few others. Even the local school administration has gotten behind
it. We also have support from a couple of churches."
"I'm amazed," I admitted. "There
really has been progress in Mississippi."
"Well, don't think it's all acceptance
and approval," Sharon said. "There is a great deal of prejudice left
"But the four of you are doing something
and you are getting some local support."
"And some local harassment." Rice
"Yes, serious, but anonymous and
nothing you can say for certain was targeted against the group, Illegal Cp Portal even though
we feel it obviously was."
"What sort of things?" I asked, wondering
if I really wanted to know what small mindedness and prejudice still existed
in Illegal Cp Portal my home town.
"The most serious incident was the
burning of a house which had been offered to us for a club and meeting
"Was it overt arson?"
"No way to be sure. The sheriff
said it was just bad wiring and could have happened to any old building,
but the announcement of the loan of the house and our plans for it had
appeared in the local newspaper a week earlier."
"So where does the group meet now?"
"At the Episcopal church, in the
parish hall, which is fine, and quite bold of the rector and vestry, given
the house burning, but we need to schedule around regular church events
and we can't just keep it open as a club or meeting place as we'd planned
to do with the house."
`Interesting," I said, filling the
comments away. "Have there been other problems?"
"Nothing you can put your finger
on," Sharon said. "For the most part the people here are friendly
and tend to leave us to ourselves. In fact, there is a small, more
progressive group of men and women who really go out of their way to be
friendly. Anne and I are lucky. We have a great group of regular
customers and even host a reading group on women's issues which meets here
at the shop. Some of Spring River's most prominent women are members."
"Still," I said, thinking of the
accepted way of life William and I enjoyed in LA, "this must not be the
easiest place to be out and gay."
"No, but it's getting better.
We just want the local kids to have an easier time of it than we did."
To be continued
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