In Search of the Final Freedom: Chapter 23
Updated: Apr 4
In Search of the Final Freedom: An Erotic Socio-Political Novel
BOOK TWO: Sexual Freedom, a Revolutionary Ideal
Battle Lines Form in Sparta
While Bonnie and Cooper were finishing cleaning up the church Family Life Center (gym) after Sunday evening youth group, Misty and Lamar were out on the parking lot just wishing for Mom and Dad to come out. Misty understood why her parents had insisted that the whole family ride together tonight, but that didn’t make waiting any less annoying. During dismissal, both Lamar and Misty had been treated with a kind of awe and a certain distance by just about everyone except their closest friends. That was something they were not used to in their youth group.
Misty watched the four teenage youth group leaders, who she had seen talking to her parents, leave the building and head to Ben’s Mustang. Patty Drayman stopped the group, spoke to them, and soon all four were crossing the parking lot to where she and her brother stood by her mom’s Volvo station wagon.
Misty liked all four of the seniors. They had been role models to her for years and had always treated her well, and of course they had been at the house many times. She had spent a lot of time with them over the years and certainly considered all four to be friends, especially Patty who’d stayed at her house for days on end during her parent’s separation a few years back. The three girls were all on the varsity volleyball team. She owed them for the great access they gave her to the team during their season last fall for a photo essay entitled “A Season to Dig”. Her photography teacher had been so impressed that she had entered her work in a national competition for high school sports journalism. She’d made the semi-final cut and was awaiting word on the final judging. It was possible the girls were coming to ask her about “their” photos in the competition, but she knew they were not.
It was interesting to Misty how, prior to this week, their family had kept their life in the church youth group completely separate from their developing life of sexual freedom. Sure, there was some overlap of both her mom’s Wednesday tanning friends and the Euro-Club girls. The mother of club member Rebecca was one of the women who tanned topless at their pool the prior summer. Patty's mom was also one of the women who tanned with her mom, but Misty strongly suspected that Patty had no idea her mother had gone topless several times last August. That kind of compartmentalization had kept it all under wraps, but it was clear that level of separation was unraveling.
Misty looked over to her brother, “Mom really let the cat out of the bag tonight, didn’t she?”
“I guess so” Lamar responded, rather surprised that she was being civil to him.
“Did you get treated like you were a demi-god too?”
“Demi-god?” he laughed “Yea, good analogy sis. Yea, that was what it was like. Here and at school. People who last week just pretended I didn’t exist now move out of my way to keep from talking to me. Kinda weird.” He then noticed the four seniors coming over “What do you suppose they want?” The social chasm between a high school freshman, like Lamar, and seniors was virtually insurmountable. And beyond that, they were all varsity athletes and Ben & Patty were super popular too.
Patty gave Misty a hug, Lamar was disappointed when the pretty senior girl didn’t offer him one.
“Misty?” Patty asked “Can I ask you guys a few questions about all this. We are trying to take in a whole lot of new stuff, and I guess this isn’t so new to you.”
Lamar was surprised and very flattered she’d said ‘you guys’ which meant him too.
“You’re right none of what she said is new to us. After all, those beach pics were taken, what? Ten months ago? And, well, mom had been leaving pretty big hints for over a year before that’” Misty answered.
“How long have you known she’s been doing it with other men?”
Misty wanted to be sure not to say too much. “Did she just tell you that?”
Ben spoke up “Yea, she was pretty clear that she has sex with other men and your dad supports her in it.”
“OK then,” Misty responded “We’ve known, well, a year and a half or so now. It was around Christmas before last when we figured it out.” She thought she’d be magnanimous and include Lamar. She looked over to him “Does that sound about right?”
Lamar, taken off guard that she included him, took a moment to recall the first time he’d seen the photos on mom’s dresser. “It was a few weeks or so after Christmas break when I was in 8th grade. Think about it.”
Denise chimed in “How’d they tell you? Did they just say one day that they decided that they were going to start sleeping with other people?”
“No, no. It was last summer before we really talked about it” Misty took a breath and knew she needed to set the stage. “See, Mom and Dad have never been overly secretive about sex stuff. I remember playing with her sex toys as a little girl. I didn’t have the slightest idea what they were but she just left them in the open on her bedside table. And, Dad’s taken nude photos of her forever, and even some pics of them doing it, way before digital and sometimes they just left the photos out in the open. So one day I picked up some new prints and well, it was mom and a lady and her husband from church, all doing each other.”
Patty gasped “Who?!”
“You can’t expect me to answer that, but just say I was surprised, or rather we both were surprised. Right Lamar?”
“Oh yea!” her little brother said “I saw misty in Mom’s room just standing there with the deer in the headlights look. So I went into our parent's room to see what’s got her attention. I guess I got the same look.”
Ben just said “I don’t know what I’d do if I found something like that.”
Misty again said, “It was surprising, but since the photos were just sitting on the dresser it was obvious that Dad knew and Mom and Dad were fine with it being out in the open. So, we were too, just something else new at our house. Since Mom didn’t think she needed to talk about it with us, Lamar and I talked and decided we wouldn’t say anything ether.”
Lamar jumped in “And we didn’t tell her we saw the video Mom made for Dad either.” He could tell the others were interested, but rather than going on he looked to his sister. She nodded, “Yea, she made no effort to hide that from us either. It was right in the video file on the study computer right next to other family events.”
Since Sissy had effectively given him permission to go on, he did. “Mom came to me asking to show her how to make videos with Dad’s DSLR and to do video editing. She said it was for something for some women, but it was really for making a little video of her and the other couple. She must have worked on it for weeks because when it was done, it was about half an hour long with a storyline, good use of composition and even music.”
“Yes” Misty added, “Later when I told her we’d seen it, she told me it took her like a hundred hours of work. She even had the other couple come back to do some re-takes of a few sections a week or so later.”
Ben asked “You mean a sex tape with your mom and the couple from the church?”
Misty nodded, “Oh, yea. But it was more like a little movie. We found it, but didn’t’ tell her about that either. She made it as a present for my dad, at the end all three of them looked at the camera and said they hoped he enjoyed watching it as much as they enjoyed making it.”
Denise spoke up again “But she didn’t know you’d seen it for some time. Something must have changed before you went to the nude beach,”
“Yea, it was in Miami that it all came out in the open. That was right after my friends and I had begun to experiment with sex, and when Mom and I saw the girls in their thongs at the pool and beach we went out shopping. It’s amazing now that I look back on it. In a shop in Miami, my mom and I were trying on bikini’s that were even smaller than most of my underwear. A lot of them didn’t even have matching tops, they were sold to be worn topless. The shop didn’t really have a changing room, just a curtain covering two little stalls in the side of the shop so when I opened up the curtain to get my mom’s opinion of the suit, I was in full view of the whole store in nothing but a thong."
The looks on their faces made Misty add, "Yes, I stood right in the shop topless. Everyone in the store saw my boobs plain as day. Then Mom did the same thing. Well doing that for an hour certainly lowers one’s inhibitions. That night, I told her that Lamar and I had seen her photos both the prints and the hundreds of pics on the PC. Oh and I told her we’d seen the video too. I even told her that we were impressed with the production value.”
Patty asked “So how’d she explain it?”
Misty answered “Well, she really didn’t have to. I just took it as something she did and used it as a way to tell her about how I had begun messing around sexually too. So, we both just came clean about what we were doing and we’ve never stopped being open since. And yes, I also believe that God doesn’t care a lick about the mechanics of what touches what, he cares how we treat each other. Our school is full of hypocrites that hate on gay people. They don’t see that their sins of how the treat gays and lesbians at school is what God cares about, not if a guy puts his dick in another guy’s butt. Why in the world would the creator of the universe care about that and just pass on hatred and violence?”
There was a period of silence.
Patty said, not to anyone in particular. “I trust Mr. & Mrs. C, I really do, and what they say makes so much sense. It’s just, the other churches are so sure it’s wrong. I know this is only going to get bigger. Brother Jeff will certainly attack all of this since he pushes the abstinence promise pledge so much. It was good he was not at the FCA meeting last week, but I’m sure he’ll be there at the next meeting. I guess it’s time for us to make a decision where we stand on this.”
Denise took a firm position “Patty, I don’t know what decision is to be made. Right is right. And I know, deep in my heart that what Mrs. C. said was exactly what real Christianity is. I’m no virgin and neither are you, Gwinn here is one of the few virgins in FCA, and I know it. Brother Jeff might twist arms to make his phony True Love Waits pledge, but I’m not doing it. Not only am I not doing it, I’m going to make a motion that our FCA chapter sever our relationship to the True Love Waits program.”
Her vehemence took everyone by surprise, but it was Gwinn who really shocked Misty.
“She’s right” Gwinn spoke up. “It’s just wrong for us to publicly support that program when in private, in our hearts, we do not. Yes, I’m a virgin. That’s my choice. But it is not really fair to say it that way, since I don’t have a boyfriend and have never been in love, it’s hard to claim some moral high ground for saying no to something I’ve never really had a desire to say yes to. But the point is that Mrs. C. is so right. To make abstinence the measure of Christianity is to totally destroy the message of love. I’ll second the motion, and Patty and Ben, you need to own who you are and what you believe. You’ve been having sex for over a year. You guys do it at least twice a week, yet you stay quiet when Brother Jeff holds you two up as a role model of abstinence.”
Ben and Patty looked like they had been slapped in the face, and in a sense they had. Misty knew what was happening was important in the lives of Ben and Patty. She wished her parents would get out here and save the day.
There was silence, and then Patty slowly said “You’re right. Just like Mr. C. said, we’ve let the rules people make us into hypocrites, pretending to believe something we don’t. OK, I’ll be ready. Just pray for me that I’ll have the courage to do the right thing.”
Misty could see tears in her eyes, and when Patty turned to leave without another word, Misty understood. She knew they had a difficult path ahead. First Gwinn and then Denise hugged her. Denise whispered in her ear, “If we wanted to come over some time and try out swimming like you guys do. Is that OK?” Misty whispered back “Of course it is, but I can’t guarantee you will have complete privacy.”
Denise broke the hug. “I kinda knew that, but I’m not sure how far we’ll really go with it. If you can just let your mom know I asked for the four of us, well, the five of us if you include Gill since we are more or less a couple now.” Patty and Ben had already walked some way, Denise added “I’m afraid this FCA meeting might go badly but we have to take a stand. It will fall on Patty, so she might need something pretty dramatic to get over things if the worst happens.” With that, she took off to catch her friends.
Misty watched her go. She knew things might not go well for them this coming week.
While that conversation had gone on outside, inside the Family Life Center, the adults cleaned up the big room. As Bonnie and Tabitha stacked the last folding table onto the rack, Tabitha said “I am so glad I came here to work with you two. You are teaching us so much. These kids don’t know how lucky they are to have you two to guide them. I was surprised how straight up you answered those four kids a few minutes ago. How do you think that will play out among the teens?”
Bonnie answered “I really don’t know. What I do know is the more power you give them to make their own choices; the less likely they will make stupid choices just to show their independence.”
The adults walked together as they went to shut out the lights and lock the doors. After a few moments of silence Butch said “We were new last year and didn’t want to seem pushy, but Tabitha would like to join your tanning group.”
“I guess by now I’m not surprise you know about that.” Bonnie said flatly.
“I hope you don’t mind?” Tabitha asked.
“No, No. We’d love to have you come out and join us. The problem is that we meet during the week day when you are at work. It’s really not a tanning group per se, it is the St. Thomas’ Women’s group, it just kinda became the tanning group during the summers when I took it over a few years ago.”
“Yea, I knew that” Tabitha said. “Could you imagine if the old bitties knew about that?” And they both laughed.
Trish Simms put in, “Just today a few of us were talking about perhaps doing a Sunday and inviting husbands or boyfriends to join us. Of course I don’t have either, but I still think it is a good idea. Would you guys be interested?”
Bonnie did not know that her conversation in the nursery had led to a full-fledged plan by the others in the group.
“Absolutely. Let me know when you have plans” Tabitha perked up.
Since she had not had her say about this plan, Bonnie added something she’d been thinking on for months, but had not begun to consider suggesting “What I’d really like to do is to invite our families to have a swimwear optional get together on Sunday afternoons this summer. I mean husbands, boyfriends and our children. Afterall, we of all people need to practice what we preach.”
Trish blinked in surprise, or perhaps disbelief, but Bonnie did not take it back.
Butch perked up “No problem here.”
Bonnie cut him a mischievous grin and said in a whisper “Oh, you wouldn’t become ill by seeing all of my forty-four year old body in real life?
“I think I could suffer” he grinned back.
“And what would I get to see?” she asked pushing the envelope.
“I have nothing to be ashamed of” he said.
Tabitha leaned over to Bonnie’s ear “When I met him his nickname was Snake, and it wasn’t for keeping strange pets.”
Bonnie, was actually taken aback by the image of Butch that popped in her head “Ohhh, well we will definitely have to plan for a day in the sun.” then feeling a need to remain the most daring one in the room, she whispered back “But if it is that nice I might want to try it out.”
Tabitha looked both ways then in a voice so low that Bonnie almost missed “I have, on occasion, let friends try it out.” Then retraced her steps and said “I can’t believe I just told you that! You were just kidding me weren’t you?”
Bonnie winked and grinned “Was I?” She then leaned very close to Tabitha’s ear and whispered “I loaned Cooper to Trish for well over an hour yesterday.”
Tabitha was finally beaten at the game of Top This. She looked over to Trish, then to Cooper. Her face showed clear disbelief.
Bonnie smiled broadly, and said aloud “Oh yea! Trish hasn't been secret about it either. Have you?”
Trish slightly blushed, clearly knowing to what Bonnie was referring; then she nodded to the group as to say "Yes it is true."
Tabitha was clearly befuddled as they all headed out of the building.
As the Campbell family drove home, Misty told her mother about the conversation with the four seniors. “I’m sure she’ll take a stand against the legalist, but I’m afraid it will get ugly. I don’t see the FCA kids backing her, even though I know few of them are virginal, and a good number have fucked around a lot longer than me. They just pretend they don’t. It's all part of their kind of Christianity that is all about condemning people they don’t like while putting on as if they are above such things.”
“Well,” her mom said “There isn’t much we can do. Let them know they always have a refuge at our house.”
Misty laughed, “Denise also asked if the four of them plus her boyfriend could come over and go skinny dipping.”
Her mother also laughed, “We certainly have put a lot of things in motion, haven’t we?”
Suddenly Misty though of something constructive she could do to make things easier for Denise and the others. She used her iPhone to text her “friend” at the Jeff Davis underground.
Monday morning, if anything, Misty was even more the center of attention at Jeff Davis High than she had been the week before.
Opinions on both sides seem to have hardened and polarized over the weekend. The number of outspoken church girls who made a point to be seen snubbing Misty rose dramatically from Friday to Monday. She knew full well that the photos were the topic in a number of church youth groups Sunday, and likely her dad’s lesson was the only one in the county supportive of Misty. Once in her homeroom before class, twice at lunch and once after school as she spoke to a few girls who were asking the ‘usual” questions, a small group of church girls would go by and one or more made creative snide comments like “whore” or something equally pathetic or to quote some scripture as if that was going to change her mind.
On the other hand, on each of those times someone or several someone’s responded with something on the line of “Shut the fuck up!”. As she had the week before, Misty continued to find new friends in quarters she did not expect. Monday's surprise was her English teacher, Miss Holland. The young and pretty teacher had eyed Misty funny the day after she'd been pulled from class, but after English she asked Misty to stay.
“How are things going?” the teacher asked quietly as the class left. Several of her peers clearly noticed she’d been asked to stay.
“Fine” Misty answered warily, was she to be lynched or supported?
Miss Holland came out from behind her desk as the last of her peers left.
“Do you mind being late to your next class?” She asked.
Misty’s heart began to race “No, it’s just publications class.” She braced herself for one of those lectures from a well-meaning teacher trying to save her from herself.
The teacher turned a student desk around so she could sit across from Misty. Misty could tell she was setting a stage to say something. Finally, Miss Holland said “I want you to know, there are many of us on the faculty who are completely behind you.” Nothing the teacher could have said would have stunned Misty more than that. “Not just you’re right to express yourself, but the larger issue of personal lifestyle choices. It’s not just the younger faculty; Mrs. Kimball and Mrs. Marshal have both taken pretty strong stands for you as have teachers you may not even know. There are more who would, but are afraid. But you have to know, we are the minority here at Jeff Davis. Dr. Collins is… well, she sent out an email this morning. It was a thinly veiled personal attack on your mother and a not so thinly veiled call to arms against what she believes to be the immoral forces that you have galvanized.” She handed over a folded sheet of paper. “Please don’t let anyone know where you got this.”
Misty was so taken aback she found it hard to speak. “OK.” She just put the paper in her purse.
The young teacher just looked at her for a few moments. “I really am inspired by your courage. From what I have been able to tell, you haven’t let those people get to you. I don’t know I have ever known a girl your age who could stand up for yourself the way you have. Including myself when I was your age, or even at my age now.”
Misty didn’t know what to say.
Miss Holland went on “I guess you won’t be surprised that you and your mother and your photos were the talk of the town this weekend. All my friends wanted to know if you were in one of my classes. And, yes I’ve seen your pictures, the whole set… the ones from the website. They are truly beautiful. I particularly liked the one where your mother was on the beach in the foreground watching you play in the water just as a big wave hit you. I thought it was a wonderful image of an innocent world. Like Eve watching her daughter. I guess I’m not just envious of your courage here, but your self-confidence to go to that beach in the first place, then to pose for photos. I know I’m far from the only one who admires you. I’m sure a lot of the people who publicly criticize you are thinking the same things I am; but, they attack rather than commend you because they are expected to, not because they believe you deserve it.” She stopped and began to rise then added “I want you to know, if you ever need someone to talk to or even just somewhere to hide, my door is always open, and this is my planning period.”
With that she stood up and took a hall pass from her desk. Handing her the pink slip of paper, she said “And, could you do me a favor?”
“Sure” Misty said, feeling like their roles were somehow reversed.
“Could you ask your mom to call me. She handed her a post-it with a number. This is my cell. Let her know it’s not about school, but I’d like to talk to her.”
Misty agreed then stood to leave. Feeling truly empowered she reached out and hugged her teacher then left.
When she read the email she was shocked at how personal of an attack it was and when she showed her friends she knew it would not be long before Dr. Collins would be seen as the instigator in a civil war at the high school.
A second real surprise came at the end of the day. Patty Draymond met her at her car after school. It was drizzling rain so they both got in Misty’s yellow Mini.
Patty asked, “Misty, tell me again what happened when you told your mom you knew what she was doing.”
Misty was glad to do so, but all the while she was talking, she was trying to figure out why this was so important to Patty. When she finished the story Patty asked, “And you said it helped your relationship to let her know you knew she was doing it with other people?”
Misty gave her a smile and said “Yea, for sure. In ways we are now good friends as well as mother and daughter. I tell her all the crazy stuff I do, and she tells me the stuff she does. It’s made life at home a lot better, for both of us I think.” She thought for a second then decided just to talk like she did around her other friends, “It’s like this. A few weeks ago, I came home for lunch and caught her having sex with Mr. Newell from the pool company. The younger Mr. Newell, not the old guy, and I mean I caught her. Her bedroom door was wide open and I saw them doing it.”
She said it in a way to be funny so Patty just said “Oh no! Really?” she paused “What happened?” and Misty told her the whole story about watching and her mom coming to talk to her and then sending her dad the pix message. Patty was clearly caught up in the story “What did your dad do?”.
“Well, he could see the message came from me, not from Mom. Here let me show you.” Misty opened up her iPhone to the email she had sent her dad. Framed by their bedroom doorway, Bonnie Campbell was on their bed naked, sitting on the face of a man as she sucked his erection. The text said “I stopped home for lunch and found Mom was already eating.” Misty changed to the next pic message and it was zoomed in and it was plainly Mrs. C.'s face intensely working to get a penis as deep in her mouth as she could. Her text said “You’re welcome for the pics. Now try to get work done! LOL.”
Patty blanched. “You shouldn’t show me these!”.
“Oh, mom won’t care.” Misty assured her. “But, I’d forgotten they were still on my phone. I’d better erase them before Dr. Collins decides she needs to confiscate it to look for contraband. I was looking for my dad's response.”
“And you can just talk like that to your dad?” Patty said rather incredulously “What did he do?”
Misty showed her dad’s response. The text said “Thanks for keeping me from getting any work done. Looks like I’ll be coming home from work early.”
Misty erased the message, saying “And he did come home early, by the time I got home from school they’d already had sex and were resting in the bed.”
Misty wasn’t trying to be sarcastic when she said “Well they didn’t fuck with their clothes on.”
Patty shook her head, “I don’t know what I’d do if I walked in on my parents laying naked in the bed after sex.” She stopped and then seemed to force herself to add “and I really don’t know what I’d do if I caught my mom with her lover.”
“Your mom has a lover?” Misty asked.
“Yea. She never broke it off with the guy that almost broke up our family. I know because I’d deciphered her code for her phone even before my dad found out about it the first time. She stopped for a little while, but she meets him at least once a week. The funny thing, I don’t know who he is. I know it’s someone in town, but her code for him is Sue, but I don’t know anything else about him”
“So, she’s sloppy about hiding the fact she’s meeting him, but careful about keeping secret who he is.” Misty said aloud.
“Yea, and I’ve been so embarrassed for her for so long. I know dad knows because her messages say clearly that he’s OK with it…or….or sometimes she says he’s coming with her. So not only does he know, he does threesomes with them. Until Sunday I couldn’t imagine that it was not dirty and wicked, but I now get it, my dad loves my mom so much he does not want to take this relationship away from her. So now I’m OK with it. But it kinda makes me mad they let me feel bad about it all this time. They should have come clean.”
Misty agreed “Yea, I told my mom that same thing. But at the time I think she was embarrassed to talk to me about it. My guess is that’s your mom’s issue too. Do you want to talk to her about it?”
Patty nodded “I guess that’s why I’m here. I need you and your mom’s help to talk to her. I don’t think I can do it on my own.”
“I can do that.” Misty said “I’m sure she’ll be glad to help. Let me talk to her and I’ll text you with a plan.”
With that Patty was gone, and once Lamar got to the car, Misty was on her way home.
Once home Misty told her mother of both of the surprising talks. Bonnie had already been told by Marcy Marshal about Dr. Collins’ email “and your dad spoke to Jim Hargrove about an hour ago. You know he and your grandfather were good friends don’t you?”
Misty had already considered the importance of the fact that the Chairman of the School Board was a very close family friend, and how her dad was in Rotary with the Superintendent. “Dr. Collins doesn’t know what she’s stepped into does she?” Misty asked.
Her mom didn't answer but just said “OK girl, you get on your homework. I’ve got to call Lois and Miss Holland.”
Bonnie first called Lois Drayman, Patty’s mom. After the usual “hello how’s the family”, Bonnie said “Lois, Patty knows. She still doesn’t know who, but she knows you are still seeing him.”
“How do you know that? What brought that on?”
“Well, you must know about the scandal I caused in town. Last night at the youth meeting I addressed it head on. Cooper taught a lesson that included much of what we had come to believe as a result of looking into things after you and John had your problems. He was vague about it, but undoubtedly left the door open to the possibility that monogamy was not necessary in marriage. After the youth meeting, Patty, Ben and Denise came and asked much more specific questions about marriage & sex. Would you believe she asked me directly if I were monogamous. Well she did. Now I understand why she was so interested. I’m sure she was really asking because of what she knows about you. I tried to make a broad point about cheating being about deceit not sex, but when she asked Cooper, his answer left little doubt that I am not monogamous and that he has no problem with it.”
Bonnie knew she was laying out a lot of new information on Lois. Several years ago she had told Lois she and Cooper had agreed if she wanted to take a lover that she was free to do so; but, that had been before she had actually done anything. Now she was throwing out to Lois that she was non-monogamous as if it were old news. However, she knew that was of secondary importance to Patty's mother; so she just continued explaining. “Denise was also there and she was the first to really understand what I was saying. She brought Patty along and I think they both understand that good Christian marriages do not necessarily require sex to be limited to one man and one woman. At the time I didn’t realize she was asking about you and John and George. But, today after school, she told Misty she knows you are still seeing what she calls your lover, and she knows her dad knows and sometimes goes with you to meet with him. From what Misty said, I’m sure she hasn’t a clue it is George.”
“How does she know?”
“I guess you’re not very careful about letting her use your phone and she seems to have known from even before you and John got back together your code name for George on your phone is Sue. It’s a wonder she has never linked his phone number to find out who he is.”
“So what should I do?”
“Well, I think she wants it all out in the open, even if none of you are ready to be as open as Misty and I are about the sex stuff.”
“Heaven’s no” Lois said. “Even I have heard how you two went to a nude beach together. And, no, we aren’t that open. But, I guess she is old enough to know the truth.”
“Both girls are. I have a suggestion….” Bonnie went on and then they agreed to meet at her house tomorrow night.
Her second call, to Miss Holland was much shorter, but there was an agreement she would come by for lunch on Saturday. She made it clear she wasn’t coming as a teacher, but just as someone looking for guidance from an older woman. Bonnie had no doubt this was related to the pictures, but she was unsure how.
In her room, Misty scanned and emailed the message from the principal to the Jeff Davis Underground with a note about the changes she’s seen in attitudes at the school since Friday. He had emailed her back and said he would have an “operative” at the FCA meeting to act as a reporter of what happened.
Later she texted Patty and said her mom had invited her, her parents and Denise and Denise's dad over for dinner tomorrow night. Misty was not too surprised at the invite of Denise and her dad. After all Patty and Denise were best friends as were there father’s John Drayman and George Pataki. Both were leaders in the church, but unlike Cooper, neither were trustees. Denise’s mom had passed away when she was in 10th grade after a yearlong fight with breast cancer, and since Denise was an only child, it was just her and her dad at home.
On Tuesday at school, Ms. Kimball, the photography/yearbook teacher told Misty that her photo essay on the Volleyball team had been selected as an honorable mention in the national contest. “That is quite an honor for your first effort” she told her. She then, lowered her voice. “You have a lot of talent, and if you combine that with the free spirit you showed in your beach photos you might consider what doors you could open for yourself if you combine the two. Mrs. Marshal and I have been talking; I know she’s a friend of your mother’s. I have a relationship with a nationally known fine art photographer based in Atlanta that normally takes college students as summer interns, but Misty, I think you might be just what she’s looking for this summer. Would you be interested in doing an internship?”
What got Misty’s attention was that Ms. Kimball had clearly seen the beach photos and just saw them as showing a free spirit, not a big deal. A free spirit? That was a first. And to arrange an internship, that was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
“Yes, I’d be very interested. Thank you so much for thinking about me.”
“Good. I’m glad to hear you are ready to move beyond what I can teach you and what you can learn in a public-school environment” her teacher said. “Now, you and your parents must understand this is not a school sponsored activity, I’m just giving you a recommendation. Do you understand that?”
Misty said she understood. And Ms. Kimball told her a website to look up and that she would need to email a letter of interest mentioning her, along with JPEG’s of her photo essay and up to twelve of her best other photos including a self-portrait by a week from Sunday. She also said she would be glad to help her select which of her photos to send.
When her teacher went on to other activities, Misty couldn’t wait to text her mom and tell her the exciting news. She knew this was part of their new relationship. Middle school had been hard and they seemed to do nothing but fight. Now she wanted to share this kind of news with Mom even before she told her best friends. That was a real change.
At home that evening her mother was wearing a light silk sleeveless top with her jeans as she prepared for their company. Misty could not help but notice that she'd not worn a bra under that very light material. Her breasts moved under the fabric visibly as she set the table. Even with her mom's change in wardrobe over the past year, that look for an evening with friends from church was new. It was raining outside, so eating by the pool was not an option. Misty took the opportunity to push boundaries. She decided to wear her Miami Beach top, sans bra, as well.
Patty and Denise arrived together at just before 5:00. Bonnie and Misty’s lack of undergarments was not lost on either of them, but they said nothing about it. As soon as they were inside, Denise said “Misty, I want you to know, I’ve stood up for you several times in the past few days.” Patty quickly added that she had too. Denise went on “and, even more important, I came out of the closet as being sexually active and unapologetically so. That was a lot harder to do.”
Misty did not miss that Patty did not say the same thing.
Bonnie, who had actually greeted them at the door, answered for Misty “We really appreciate your help. Misty says there was more nastiness today.”
Patty stepped in and said “Yea, I’m kinda surprised how many are getting on the Scarlet Letter band wagon. What makes it aggravating is some of the very people who are leading the teenage sex is bad charge are sleeping with their boyfriends or girlfriends. It’s all I can do not to call them out on it.”
Bonnie said “Its best you don’t. It won’t help. That’s no different than it is in the adult world I’m afraid.” With that she went back to the kitchen.
Misty said “I want you to see something” and she took them up the stairs while the adults talked. As they went up the stairs, Misty said “I think you already have heard that some of my friends who can’t have sex at home have been coming over and using our guest room.”
Patty said, “Yes, I’d heard a rumor. I was going to ask about it the other night but forgot.”
Misty anticipated the question. “Yes, of course you can come over and use the room any time you would like.”
They headed down the hall, “That’s what I wanted to show you. Mom has officially sanctioned my room and the guest room as safe places for any of my friends, or pretty much anyone visiting who wants to have sex without subterfuge. I guess in a year or two, Lamar’s room will be added to the list. But, two things I wanted, well actually Mom wanted, me to get your input on.”
She stopped short of the guest room door, which was closed, and indicated toward the two signs. “First, we’d like to hear your take on what Mom has posted for people coming up here to have sex.”
Perhaps it was just how blandly Misty had put the fact that she expected people like them to go upstairs openly for the express purpose of having sex that made the girl’s eyes go wide. Or perhaps it was what the two signs said. Likely it was both because the two very self-assured young ladies went silent.
Denise was the first to respond. “Well, she says it plainly. I like that. And I really like the thing about respect. But, I’m a little confused about the bit about opening the door before someone takes off their clothes. I get it that she’s talking about getting ready to have sex, but why?
Patty followed, “Does she really mean that it’s OK to look in and watch people have sex?”
That was the response both she and her mother had expected. She gave the explanation the way her mother said she had explained it to Mrs. Conners.
“O.K., I get that. The lack of privacy is a safety measure, but who is going to let people see them having sex?” Patty asked.
Misty was already opening the guest room door open as she spoke. “I guess that is a rule in the open marriage community. But you can see that Mom practices what she preaches.
Since Saturday, Bonnie had moved five of the framed photos that had been in the study to the guest room, including the big orgy photo, or what she had, only half-jokingly, called the love room. With Misty’s approval she’d, one of the photos was an 8x10 of two of them on Haulover. In decorating the room Bonnie had placed two pieces of erotic sculpture (one was a quite explicit bronze of a couple having sex). She had also taken an antique mirror from the store room and hung it at the foot of the bed. Her dad, at Mom’s instruction, had hung it at an angle so that people lying in the bed could see themselves. Beside the bed the little pirate chest of condoms stood open. All told, it looked like a room very much specifically set aside for sex.
Two steps into the room, Denise stopped dead in her tracks, so quickly that Patty ran into her. When they were both fully in, the two of them just stood staring. Their mouths literally hung open. All around them were images of explicit sexuality.
“Mom isn’t done setting the room up yet. She thought about putting a mirror over the bed like she put in her room, but she said she needs this room occasionally to still act as a guest room, so everything needs to be moveable. She is also going to put a lock on the door to prevent people from accidently wondering in, but it’s going to be one of those digital locks and I’ll be free to let all my friends know the pass code.”
That last part had been at her father’s insistence. Once he saw what her mother had done, he was quite concerned about increasing their legal exposure. Caitlin and Kelli and a few others had seen her mother’s photo display when it was in the study, but these two girls had not been prepared to see all this by a long shot. Misty cringed at the response she saw. Had she made a mistake by showing them the room?
Slowly, without speaking the two tall volleyball players began looking at the photos one by one. In a subdued voice, Misty said. “Mom and Dad went on a cruise in February sponsored by his old boss. They pretty much knew that it would be nudist, but they actually had no idea it was a sex cruise. Though it was a surprise, they talked and agreed they would both fully participate if only to decide if they really could live out the free-love Christianity they have come to believe in.”
Denise and Patty continued to looked at each and every photo. “Mom put all these photos out just a few days before all the mess happened at school. She was working to come out of the closet as it were, the photos showing up at school just sped up the process.”
Finally, Denise stood in the center of the room. Quietly she said “And after doing all this, did your parents decide this was how they wanted to live?”
Misty replied “Yes and no. They were able in a single week to try out more things than they ordinarily could have in years. A lot of things they liked, some things were OK, and they also learned things that they did not like and did not want to emulate. They think the whole thing was providential. They would not have just gone looking for a week-long sex fest; yet, it worked for the good helping them fully form the idea of Christian free-love. They said a couple of the men were very much there to simply get what they wanted without regard to others. They now understand that to many open sexuality is driven by selfishness, and they say that lesson alone would have been worth it.”
Patty, who had been looking closely at a couple of the sex photos said “I don’t see anyone wearing condoms.”
That was a legitimate question, one that Misty had also asked when she had first seen the photos. “Mom said everyone but them had been recently tested for STD’s. My parents suspect the reason they were not asked to get tested was the people in charge did not want to tell them it was a sex cruise until they were out on the ocean. That kind of risk taking and the way the true purpose of the trip was hidden from them were two of the things my parents learned that should not be done. Oh, and Dad’s had a vasectomy and Mom’s had a hysterectomy. They can’t make babies. So, they were not taking those kinds of risks by having sex with all those people.”
Patty nodded her head “That makes sense. And your parents were the only ones there who were not part of the swinger group?”
“Yes. They even called my dad a virtual virgin since he’d only had sex a handful of times before he met my mother in college when they started dating. So after twenty years of marriage, in some ways he was less experienced than even me.”
Both Patty and Denise laughed at that. The tension seemed to be easing.
“I like the photos” Denise said. I like that she was willing to put them out so openly even better. No one can accuse her of not practicing what she preaches. Your mom has even more nerve than I’d realized.”
Patty slowly nodded.
“Yes she does have the courage to practice what she preaches. Do my parents know?”
Misty said “I’m not sure. From what my mom said today, she’d talked to your mother about non-monogamy before. But does she know about the cruise and the photos? I don’t think so, but she might. Mrs. Simms and Mrs. Connors were over Saturday and I know they saw the pictures.”
Patty asked “Do that do this all the time? Like have sex with lots of people?”
“No” Misty answered. Like I said, they believe this cruise and the after-cruise party a few weeks later will almost surely be one-off things. The swinger community is not their thing. They don’t think what those people do all the time is wrong, but it’s not them and it isn’t something they could promote.”
The two girls just nodded.
“I think they are still working it out themselves, but I think they envision free-love Christianity more like sex is a way for friends to both bond and to just have fun. Sure it’s not like bowling, but from what I’ve learned in the past few months having sex with my friends is that it is a way of sharing and sometimes comforting one another as well as just a really good time. I think they are leaning that way.”
Denise and Patty started another round of looking at the photos, this time asking questions. Some Misty knew the answer to others she said they’d have to ask her mom.
Denise was the first to speak “They are beautiful photos.”
Misty agreed “Yes, they really are. They were all taken by Dad’s old boss. He is an amazing photographer. That’s his boat they are on.”
Denise nodded “Yea, it is. Thanks for letting us see them. It’s like there is a whole world of things that we try to keep boxed up, but you and your parents just take them all out to enjoy all the time. Even when I’m with Gill, it’s always rushed and secret, even if I know my dad or his parents won’t be home for hours. But you guys don’t feel that way do you?”
Misty laughed “No, not here. No need to hide or rush.”
The doorbell rang, the adults had arrived.
Bonnie met her friends at the door, hugging Lois. “Relax” she whispered as she held the hug. She had chosen the slightly provocative top intentionally so as to make a subtle but clear point that adult sexuality was OK around the kids. She was now glad she’d moved the explicit photos upstairs. Sherry’s advice had been good. Though she really was looking forward to augmenting the three nudes left on the study walls with photos from years ago. She wasn’t sure if tonight’s company would go well enough to suggest they step into the study, but it was the principle of the thing.
Dinner went well, slowly Lois’s tension subsided. Near the end of dinner, Bonnie brought up the issue that Lois, John and George had been avoiding like the elephant in the living room. She asked about what they’d been hearing about “the scandal I’ve caused by posing with Misty on the nude beach?”
There was a little hemming and hawing but, in a few minutes the discussion was in full swing. Both men admitted that they’d seen at least a few of the photos. With some pushing George admitted he’d paid to join the site to see them all. Then Bonnie said clearly “You know Lois, if it weren’t for you, I’d never have even looked into non-monogamy as an option for a Christian couple. It isn’t for everyone, but it is an option.” The tension returned. “Cooper, would you agree that our marriage is better and stronger since we opened it up?
“No question” he agreed. “I don’t see us ever being monogamous again. Well, I could see me doing it, but I don’t think there is a chance you would ever go back.”
“You are likely right” she responded with a laugh. “I think after Youth Group, the girls understand now how true love or marriage does not necessarily mean you will have sex with only one person for the rest of your life.” Bonnie looked to the teenage girls. It was Denise that stepped up to speak “Yea, at first it was a lot to take in, but now I think I get it. Insisting your mate have sex only with you is really selfish if you think about it. I think Mr. & Mrs. C.’s marriage is a role model for the 21st century. What do you think Dad?”
Her father, George, a stocky man of Polish heritage was clearly on the spot. “Yes, Denise, you might be right” he said in an equivocal manner.