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In Search of the Final Freedom: Chapter 22

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

In Search of the Final Freedom: An Erotic Socio-Political Novel

BOOK TWO: Sexual Freedom, a Revolutionary Ideal

Chapter 22

St. Thomas United Methodist Church


Saint Thomas United Methodist church was very representative of rural southern churches that can be found in virtually every small community from Maryland to east Texas. The imposing Greek revival columns fronting the white clapboard sanctuary in the front and drab masonry “educational building” in the back was as ubiquitous as grits. Inside the walls of this church, like most churches, local gossip and petty politics all but drowned out most “Christian” teachings. Deficiencies and all, the thousands of these churches are collectively the heart and soul of the rural south. From their strict racial segregation to their social hierarchy based on community standing, these churches are the gateway to the southern psyche.


Though Saint Thomas Methodist was derided as being “liberal” by some of the local Baptist ministers, it was still an important part of the local community. As one of the larger churches in the county, it was one of the better connected. Many of the leading business, social and government leaders attended services there; not the least of whom were the Campbell’s.


Brandy Connelly, the younger woman with whom Bonnie shared nursery duty during the main church service each week had been one of her good friends for several years. Though it was the Sunday after news of her nude photos hit town, Bonnie was not aware of the extent of the photos circulation. She had not even noticed the topic did not come up in the young couples Sunday School class Cooper taught. Brandy was an exceptionally attractive blond. She had been the one who had thanked Bonnie for offering the top free alternative at their pool at the end of summer before last. This week, she had made it from their Sunday School classroom to the nursery before Bonnie arrived.


As soon as the rush to drop off babies had subsided and they were alone in the nursery Brandy blurted out “OK, I want to hear all about it. Trish was too embarrassed to tell me, but said it was OK if you told me everything that happened yesterday at your house.”


“What did she tell you?” Bonnie cautiously inquired.


“She told me that you had showed her the pictures that were on the internet, then some much more explicit ones of you and other people.”


Bonnie nodded “Anything else?”


“She said she did something she has thought about, like every night, for over a year but never thought she would really do. I know she told me last fall what she had been fantasizing about. It sounded like that is what she did, but it threw me when she said to ask you about it.”


Brandy was twelve years younger than Bonnie and Trish, but her oldest son, DJ, was only a year younger than Lamar and Byron. Dwight Connelly had gotten her pregnant at sixteen. After six years of an on and off relationship they had finally grown up enough to get married and settled down.

Shortly after they were married, they had two more children. At thirty-one years old she now had three kids and Dwight made a good living as a Postal Service supervisor. Her figure was very good, though last summer Bonnie could not help notice that nursing three children had left her with pancake shaped breasts. She had asked Dwight for a boob job for Christmas and her husband happily obliged. Bonnie and Trish had finally tired of hearing about how good her boobs would look this summer but they didn’t have the heart to tell her so.


For the next forty minutes they tuned out the speaker broadcasting the service and Bonnie told Brandy everything they had done on Saturday, leaving out only Sherry’s stories. Brandy went through several stages of amazement. When Bonnie got to the end of the story Brandy said “That is so… so… I don’t think I can find the right word... It’s like you’re hippies or something.”

Bonnie asked “Is that bad?”


“No, it so free. I thought it was so great to go topless at your pool last summer. Since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to try going nude at a beach or something. Does this mean we can do that at your pool this year?”


“Yes" Bonnie chuckled “I guess it does.”



“Can Dwight come too?” she asked almost breathlessly.

“Of course I don’t care if he comes when it’s just you and my family, and perhaps Trish and Sherry if they want; but if you would like to have a day when husbands are invited when everyone is there, we’ll have to talk that over with the group.”


“Wow, can I tell him?”


“Sure.”


“Everything?”


“If Trish doesn’t mind, I have nothing to hide” Bonnie said, but she didn’t really believe it. It was one thing to talk about being open, but it was something else to have stories about her sexual activity circulate like this. It was with some effort of will she said she had nothing to hide.

Brandy smiled broadly “I can be sure we’ll have great sex this afternoon after I tell him all this”.


Evidently Trish couldn’t hide her excitement about what had happened. After the service, but before Bonnie and Brandy had finished cleaning up the nursery, Sue Ann and her sister Beth Ann came in saying Trish told them to ask Bonnie what had happened at the Campbell’s yesterday. The two women were sisters around Brandy’s age. Bonnie hadn’t known then very well when Brandy asked if they could join the tanning group the last few weeks in September. Sue Ann was a year or two older, and larger all around. Beth Ann had grade school aged children and from what Bonnie had heard, both were far from celibate. Beth Ann had never been married but had two children to her high-school sweetheart, who was killed five years ago driving drunk. She had been living with a nice man named Calvin for the past three years. Sue Ann had been married twice but she and her second husband were separated with the divorce almost finalized. She had no children and had been told by her doctor she was infertile.


Before Bonnie could begin relating the story, Brandy began for her. Though slightly annoyed about being cut off, Bonnie really was glad not to have to tell the whole story again. Since she did not have to tell the story herself, she said, “Cooper and I have got to stay for this trustee’s meeting, why don’t you guys go on, you can tell them the whole story.” All three liked that idea and they took off.


She was just finishing when three high school girls came to the door. They were Hillary Tomlinson, Sarah Marshal and Megan LeCroix. Of course Bonnie knew all their parents, but was particularly good friends with Sara's mother Marcy. Hillary and Sarah went to Jeff Davis High and were in the grade between Misty and Lamar, but Megan went to Willington Academy, a private school in nearby Milledgeville. Bonnie had known them all since they were in the nursery, now she knew them as emerging leaders in the Sunday evening youth group meetings that she and Cooper led. They were all friends of both Misty and Lamar. Seeing them standing at the nursery door she couldn’t believe how much like women the girls looked, while Lamar had just recently stopped looking like a little boy in the last year or so.


They stood at the door for a good while shifting their weight from foot to foot. Bonnie put up the last toys and said “Hi girls, you coming to youth group tonight?”


As if taken off guard they all said yes. Bonnie suspected they wanted to say something.

“Is something bothering you?”


They got confused and answered “Yes” then “No” then Megan, the oldest of the three said “We just wanted you to know we are glad you’re our youth leader.”


From left to right: Sarah, Hillary, Megan & Bonnie.


Sarah, standing to her right said “We think you’re a great role model.”


Megan added “You live in the real world. You don’t think like it is still back when our grandparents were our age.”


Hillary quietly said “We don’t care what anyone says.


Bonnie knew criticism was coming so she understood what they were saying, but was very pleasantly surprised by these girls coming to give her support like this. That took courage on their part, and Bonnie allowed herself a bit of self-praise, it also says we’ve been pretty good youth leaders she thought. With all the gratitude she could show in her voice, Bonnie said. “Well thank you very much.” And by force of will refrained from asking what was being said.


Megan spoke once more, “Don’t listen to what the old prunes say. We liked your pictures, and you can tell Misty we support her too.” Now Bonnie was sure she knew who had been talking, Megan’s grandmother, Margo.


Hillary added, “All of them, not just the ones most people have seen. Mom let me use her debit card to join your site.”


That Bonnie could totally believe. She and Hillary’s mother, Francis, had been co-conspirators in a number of nefarious plots that galled the old women at St. Thomas over the last fifteen years. Of course, she would be an ally in this. Bonnie had to point out “It’s really not my site. It would be nice if I were making money on it, but we don’t know who created it. They certainly didn’t ask me.”

Sarah followed up by saying “I heard my parents talking and they support you too, and nearly everything we hear at school about your pictures is good. I’ve heard a lot of girls wishing you were their mom.”


Hillary’s comments were similar “I know my mom is behind you, but my dad, like always, is worried about how this will affect his reelection.” Her father was the Hancock County Assessor, a white liberal Democrat which was a dying breed in rural Georgia.


Sara went on “I think we will have some extra people visiting tonight at youth group, they want to meet you”. With that they were off down the hall.


It touched Bonnie that they would come tell her this. She knew it must be embarrassing, but these girls wanted to show their solidarity. She’d expected a lot of things this morning, but the visit by those girls was not one of them.


While Bonnie had been cleaning the nursery, Cooper Campbell was in a trustees meeting in the pastor’s study. Like most meetings this one had nothing to do with spiritual issues. The meeting droned on about as to whether the parking lot should be repaved or should the roof be replaced. It wasn’t that both things weren’t important, it was the unnecessary conflict that the egos in the room created. He wished that this group at least pretended to live up to the Christian ideals; but he knew full well these men were, like him, church trustees based on their family history and community status rather than spiritual merit. The meeting went on and Cooper just tuned it all out.


Meanwhile the wives were having their own informal meeting of sorts. Mrs. Campbell, like her husband, was part of this group of society women by position and family standing, and she did not share their sanctimonious assumption of superiority over the lesser privileged women in the church. She had shunned their invitation to join the socially all-important Junior League when she first moved to Sparta; but she had long been a volunteer and board member of a woman’s shelter and a child advocacy agency. To most people this shun of the “old girl’s” network would have been socially fatal, but the Campbell blood ran deep in Hancock county and they still considered her one of their own.


The rules of conduct in this select community were simple. Middle class morality was just that, for the middle class; however, no public blemish must stain the reputation of the upper class, no matter how sordid their personal lives may actually be.


Though most of the trustee’s wives were much older than her, that did not mean they lived the life of the stereotypical matronly Southern lady. On the contrary, while on one hand Margo LaCroix was the moral watchdog of the county, the organizer of the ongoing boycott of convenience stores that sold Playboy; she was not what she pretended. The other society women knew when she was younger, the unmarried Margo had a lover, who was married, for decades. The name of the man was a closely guarded secret that the old women would apparently take to the grave. Though no one ever spoke directly of illicit affairs they were well known all the same. These women never explicitly spoke of anything off color; however, they spoke in their own special code that carried the full meaning to those who knew how to interpret them.


For instance, the week after Bonnie had entertained the pool man, Mrs. White, who rumor said had also entertained the same man on numerous occasions, said “So Bonnie, I heard that Mike Newell’s truck was at your house Thursday. Were you having a problem with your pool?” which was to say “I know you fucked the pool man, are you and Cooper having problems or was this just a fling?”


To which Bonnie said, “No problems, just thought I’d have him come by for an inspection” which was to say “No, just a fun fuck”.


To this Mrs. Winters, another very randy late 50’s social queen, added, “It’s been too long since my pool’s been inspected. Mr. Winters has not been up to the job lately, I’d better call Mr. Newell. He does such a nice job.” Which was of course to say “My husband has not been doing me enough lately. The pool man is always a good lay, I’ll get him to do me soon.”


All this was from women who very publicly decry sex-ed in schools and derided the low morals of Georgia’s African-American population. To them sexual freedom was a perk of their social status, a special right given to them due to their elite social class. Such had been the way of the world from time immemorial, and woe to anyone who challenged that.


Now, if Bonnie was honest with herself, her call to Newell’s Pools and the subsequent events were not by random chance. She was in the know, and when she got the wild idea that morning to get laid, she knew who to call and simply needed to drop the names of a few of the women saying they “recommended him.” Once he’d made a cursory inspection of the pump house, he came right to her bedroom, where she was waiting for him. From listening to years of code talk, Bonnie knew full well he was good looking, great in the bed and discreet. Additionally, she knew if anyone saw that truck outside her house on a weekday, all the society women would know she’d had sex with the pool man while her husband was away; and that none of them would have the slightest condemnation for doing so. When Mrs. White let her know she knew, Bonnie was not caught off guard nor did she try to side-step the query.


By Sunday everyone in town knew of Bonnie’s nude beach photos, and that was a very different thing than a discreet fling. Their local paper, as many small rural papers do, still ran a weekly gossip column. Among this week’s tips were: “Mrs. M. L. was seen last week buying baby supplies. Could she be having a fourth one?” and “Miss A. S. is now having her mail forwarded to an apartment that is home to the very attractive Mr. J. H.” So it was no surprise that this little tidbit showed up; “Mrs. V. C.’s vacation to Miami must have been more eventful than we had heard. An internet site posted beach photos of her wearing naught but her smile much to the pleasure of men all over the county.”


Though her name was not used, it didn’t take long for every society woman in town to figure out who V.C. (Veronica “Bonnie” Campbell) was. It was not that these trustee’s wives cared one whit what she did in her personal life, but they did care that this was now public knowledge among the working class. That was not acceptable.


The elderly Margo LaCroix looked directly in her eyes with a stare that had rarely failed to cow the most self-assured novo riche. In the most condescending way she said “Well young woman, when are you going to publicly say those pictures are not you?”


While Bonnie pretended not to know virtually everyone at church would already know about the photos, she had fully expected that such news would have found its way to Miss Margo. Thus she had been expecting this since she arrived at church hours before. She had her response ready. With a blank look she asked “Margo, what are you talking about? What pictures?”


Bonnie was playing the game correctly. Margo’s eyes narrowed as her thin face became pinched and she hissed “You know exactly what I’m talking about. If you won’t deal with it for your sake, you need to think of your daughter.”


Again, Bonnie acted puzzled “Margo, if you don’t tell me of what you are speaking, I cannot give you any sort of answer”. She knew Margo would not talk openly of the photo's content. “And since when have you ever cared anything about the teenagers in this church unless they go to Willington Academy?”


Bonnie spoke of the exclusive private school in the area that was, in effect, an all-white segregation academy where her family had sent all their children and which sponsored the annual debutant ball. Margo had long been the chairwoman of the ball committee and she had made a real magnanimous gesture last year by inviting Misty to participate even though she went to public school. Bonnie who knew full well her daughter would be treated like a peasant if she went, declined the offer. Ever since then, the dame, Margo LaCroix had ceased speaking to Bonnie socially. Bonnie thought that was the best outcome of the whole affair.


Cooper was relieved that the meeting finally broke up and predictably, no decision was made. On the way out Vincent Goss slapped him on the back “Damn you’re a lucky guy, I’ve had mistresses that aren’t half as fetching in their skin as your misses.” Cooper could only think to say “Thank you, she’ll be glad to know she is appreciated.”


As he exited Rev. McBride motioned for him to remain.


When the others had left he quietly shut the door. “Well Cooper, when you write a controversial article you certainly know how to get publicity for it. How did you time the release of those photos to coincide with the article?”


Cooper had not considered the significance of the article and photos appearing at the same time. “Bonnie and I had nothing to do with the release of those photos. It was coincidence I guess.”


“Or providence” his pastor replied. “You must know I’ve now had a couple calls from parents wanting you and Bonnie to resign as youth sponsors. It wasn’t as much that Bonnie was at the nude beach, but that you let Misty go too. I don't think the content of the full set of photos is public knowledge yet. But it is just a matter of time before that becomes the focus.”


Cooper knew that meant their pastor had seen the photos that showed that Bonnie had sex with a college guy on a public beach, in front of Misty. However, he could not miss that Rev. McBride did not seem the least bit judgmental about that. Grimly he just said “Not surprised”.


The minister asked “What did you think would happen? To be honest the calls came from parents whose teenagers, according to my kids, don’t usually come to youth group.”


The reality of that annoyed Cooper. “You know full well that most of the kids coming to the youth group do so on their own. Their parents either don’t go to church or go somewhere else.”


Rev. McBride tried to calm him, “I know, but one of them could call the Bishop and that would be a problem. And when word of the explicit photos get out, it could be a serious issue...for both of us.”


Cooper thought for a moment. He’d not yet considered that his pastor’s support of him might be grounds for censure. He softened his tone “I’ll tell you what. Tell those concerned parents that we will resign from our position if attendance suffers. If not we’ll stay. How’s that?”


Rev. McBride agreed with a warning. “If word of this gets to the Bishop or even worst to the District Superintendent I will have no choice but to remove you from your position.


Cooper replied “I understand this puts you in a precarious place. I will not let you get dragged down by this. The only adults who come to the youth group are Bonnie and I and the Smiths and sometimes the Marshals and Trish Simms. And I’ll give you dollars to doughnuts that not one of the people who complained has a child who comes to our youth group meetings regularly. This isn’t about what is good for the young people, it is about Margo LeCroix and her group of old gossips. And you know it.“


He could tell he had hit the nail on the head. The pastor responded, “Be that as it may, I suspect, what you will say tonight when the kids ask about all this, will be way outside the bounds of what the Conference would approve.”


Cooper, working to keep his cool, said “I don’t know what will come up tonight, but I can be pretty sure that it would not be in either of our interests for you to be there. Plausible deniability is better than culpability you know.”


The minister agreed, but said “You are dangerously close to real trouble. Only your deep roots in this church is keeping this scandal at bay. I believe your work with the youth is important. There is not a youth group in the district remotely as successful as ours; however, perhaps you might consider starting a para-church ministry, independent of the church. There would be a lot of details to doing such a thing, but like I said, a single phone call could spell the end of what you have done here. Because, unless you backtrack, it will only be a matter of when, not if.”


Cooper left and found Bonnie in the parking lot speaking with the mother of one of the girls who had come by to see her.


As Cooper approached, he began to hear Francis Tomlinson speaking earnestly “...but what about modesty. How will you teach that?”


Cooper could hear a hint of exasperation in his wife’s voice when she said “Modesty is about pride, not skin. The scripture says to show modesty by not dressing up with expensive jewelry and clothes. Even Jesus was publicly baptized in the nude and he certainly was modest.”


“I am not saying you are wrong, from my experience with you and Cooper, you probably are right in your assessment; but to people around here it just looks so wrong. And I hate to sound shallow, but public perception is important to our family. You know the price we’ve paid before; I just need to be able to weigh the importance of this issue and the risks involved” Ms. Tomlinson explained.


Cooper cut in “I understand that, and I understand why James is concerned about anything that might hint of scandal that could jeopardize his reelection. But you of all people know that sometimes we must take the risk of pushing back against public opinion. I know you understand that. Your grand-father paid a high price for his opposition to the Klan, but now he is remembered as a bright spot in the very dark history of this county. He was on the right side of history. I know full well you lost friends and James lost some votes when you wrote that letter to the editor supporting the rights of gay couples, but you did what was right, not what was popular. I know the position that Bonnie and I are taking will anger a lot of people, but we have to have the courage of our convictions. Otherwise we are no use to anyone."


He could see he was hitting home. He knew how much she chafed at having to bite her tongue so as to protect her husband's political career. He ended with "Francis, you have known me all your life. Do you really think I would do anything to harm Hillary?”


“No” she conceded.


“You and James should read my article in the Chronicle, see what you think. I know we are going out on a limb here, but truth will prevail; even over centuries of mis-teaching about nudity... and sex as well. Tell you what, I'll email you guys a copy of the article." He now realized that Rev. McBride was right, in short order the issue of nudity would be eclipsed by the fact his wife had sex with another man. No amount of explanation about the circumstances would help, it would be counterproductive. Very soon they would have to be much more public about their open marriage. Bonnie had been right all along about transparency and getting ahead of the situation to control the narrative. To set up for the news that would soon come to Francis and her husband, he added, "I promise we have nothing to hide from the teens and did nothing in Miami that violates what Jesus taught. While our position might seem unorthodox to older people, I have no doubt it will ring true to the kids. I think I know you well enough that when you read my article, you will see it too. Can you and James trust me. OK?”


“Cooper, I do trust you. There was never any question I would back you publicly on this, based on general principle if nothing else. I’ve already told Hillary that. It was just, well I guess I need to think all these things through. You have forced me to abandon years of vague talk about Christian liberty and abandoning Puritanism. Now I will need to clarify what I believe constitutes Christian sexuality enough to explain it to others” Mrs. Tomlinson said as she got in her car.


***

By the time lunch was cleaned up it was hot outside. Bonnie didn’t even consider a swim suit, she tossed her dress and underclothes on the bed, grabbed a bottle of sun screen and headed out. Cooper had pulled off his slacks when the phone rang. It was Amy Douglass.


Cooper had seen her four times since the party at the LaMarco’s, but not at all since April.

She had asked him and Bonnie to model back in March. She said she wanted to add a few more works to her collection for the exhibit. So she had arranged for them to meet her at a commercial greenhouse just across the Savannah River at the end of April. They had been glad to accept the invitation to model their love-making for her, especially since she promised to give them her smaller test piece of what she would paint for the show. It was quite an experience. On a blanket laid out on the floor of a steaming hot house they made love. Cooper was glad he had taken a Viagra before they arrived. It was more work and less kinky than he'd expected, but both he and Bonnie were glad they had done it.


“Hi, Cooper how are things going in Georgia these days?” she asked. “When do you start teaching?”


“June 5th. It’s a Monday & Wednesday night summer graduate class in Architectural marketing and sales. Not very artistic, but they are going to let me teach one undergrad Social Anthropology Via Architecture class in the fall, that will be fun.”


Amy, the kind optimist, said “You will love all the classes. You’re a born teacher.”

“Thanks.” He said modestly “So what is the opening date for the exhibit?”


“June 8th that is a Saturday. Can you and Bonnie come up to New York and join me for the opening? Or is that too close to your first day of teaching?”


“I’d love to, but I’ll have to ask Bonnie.”


“Oh, before I forget,” she said. “Salon.com is also doing an article on my collection. When the reporter visited my studio, I was putting some finishing touches on the painting of you two. He asked about the models and I told him you now teach at Augusta State and that you had submitted to them an article on sexual freedom, but they had not gotten back with you. A week or so later he called and said they would run your piece linked to the article on my work. I think the reporter is trying to create the idea of a new philosophical/artistic movement. You know how the press is always looking for something new.”


“Wow, they haven’t contacted me yet. When does it run?”

'

“The day the show opens in New York. You might want to start prepping for reporters. Salon is very influential and I can’t imagine this won’t at least bring down the Atlanta press.”


“We may have press before that” he said, then proceeded to tell her about the unplanned publication of the photos. She told him not to worry since he’d done his legal work.


Then she continued “The real reason I called was to tell you your painting is ready. You’ll love it. The full-size painting for the show is four feet tall by eight feet wide. You are a mossy rock and she is depicted as a flowering vine growing over you as you enter her. It is wonderful. The test version I’m giving you is about half that size, and is slightly different in the details. The people I have shown said you should be able to put it in your living room because the eroticism is not immediately visible, but once you know what it is, it is very sexy.”


After hanging up, he tossed his remaining clothes on the bed and went out to tell his wife what Amy had said. She was stretched out on the chaise lounge with a book, a legal pad and a pen. She looked over his nude body and smiled, “About time you got out here, we need to look over what we are talking about tonight in youth group.”


Cooper told her about Amy’s news but he was not ready to have to think about the meeting tonight, just yet. He was ready for a nap. He, gave the male response of “Oh yea, sure, let’s do it” with not the slightest intention of doing anything. He made himself comfortable as she began to talk, “I think we should try to acknowledge the pictures and the controversy without actually mentioning them.”


His answer of “OK” was sincere, even though her idea was fraught with hazard. He saw the fact her idea was the right one, but he also saw all sorts of ways it could come back to bite them. And he didn't think she fully grasped the significance of what Rev. McBride had said.


She went on, “Last week the topic was something about the Christian’s obligation to challenge conventional wisdom. That is certainly a good jumping off point. But how should we start without being too obvious?”


Cooper knew he had to make at least one suggestion or she would not let him rest. “How about starting with how Jesus, counter to expectations, did not preach overthrowing the Romans and how that put him in a bad light with the other prophets of his time. Then we can move the discussion to how here in Georgia, it was widely considered anti-Christian to be opposed to racial segregation back in the 50’s and 60's. We could end with the point that being on the right side of history and of Christian progression are not incompatible, even if it is not understood by most Christians at the time.”


She began to write furiously, “Good idea, let’s go that route.”


Her words faded as he drifted off to sleep in the warm sun.


He was awakened from his nap by Misty and Lamar laughing. He pried his eyes open, but it was just too bright so he closed them again.


He could hear them in the pool. Misty’s voice was loud and clear “Having a nice dream Dad?”

He could not figure out what she was talking about as he again opened his eyes slowly. It took longer than it once did for his eyes to focus, when he did Misty was in the water holding on to the edge of the pool looking at him laughing, then he heard Bonnie to his right doing the same. His mind was clearing and then he realized what they were laughing at. The whole family was looking at his full erection casting a shadow like a sundial on his stomach.



His muscles twitched in an instinctive reaction to cover up, but he forced himself to refrain. He did not want to show embarrassment at something so normal; however, that is exactly how he felt. After realizing what was going on, he was awake enough to have a good come back to Misty's crack about him having a good dream. Climbing to his feet he said, “Yea, I guess it was, too bad my kids woke me up half way through it.” Then he moved as quickly as he could without looking to be racing, and dove into the cool water.


As expected, the water not only hid him from view, it soon shrank the organ to normal size. He felt rather proud of himself for his solution to his embarrassing situation. The cold water felt good and he swam a few laps.


He shook the water from his hair and his attention was drawn to the slide at the far end of the pool. Lamar was just pushing himself from the top to gain speed. All last summer he’d been working on skipping across the water before he sank, but had yet to accomplish it. His son’s renewed effort was not what surprised Cooper, it was that Lamar did not wear a swim suit. While even before the changes in their lifestyle, the pool had always been swim suit optional; but Lamar had not gone sans swim-wear since he was about ten-years-old. Even more Cooper wasn’t prepared for the fact, out of Dad’s awareness, Lamar had morphed from a child into a young man. Sure, Cooper and Bonnie had laughed about his baby mustache, and the fact he had grown taller than his sister in the past year; but now it was crystal clear other things had grown as well. Once out of the water, standing out between their son’s legs was a man-sized half-erection, right in front of his mother and sister.


Looking over to Bonnie, it was clear they no longer had babies; because, Misty had climbed out of the pool and he already knew she was no child. It was the first time in years she'd gone naked at the pool with the whole family present. Now she had breasts every bit as large as Bonnie’s, but more rounded, yet her hips were still narrower. All this made Cooper very uncomfortable. It was somehow different his son showing off his newly developed manhood than his daughter showing off her womanhood. He focused his gaze on Bonnie who evidently could read his thoughts.


She looked at him and smiled then said “I know.” He held on to the side of the pool and asked if she thought the trip to Amy’s New York opening was possible. When he finished, she said “So do you really think your article will get you that kind of attention?”


“I don’t know, but she seems to think it will” Cooper said. Cooper’s erection was completely gone so he climbed up the ladder.


“Mom, it disappeared!” Misty exclaimed pointing at her father’s now tiny penis “Should we go looking for it in the water?”


“Very funny” Cooper said, not comfortable with his daughter making comments about his dick.

“Don’t worry sweetie, I know how to get it back. And I don’t have to go looking in the pool” Bonnie assured her.


“I’m going to escape this abuse; I’m going to take a shower and get ready for youth group” Cooper said as he strode toward the back door. In the background he could hear their sniggering.


Half-way through his shower Bonnie opened the shower door, “Now let’s see if I can find that missing wood.”


It wasn’t long before she not only found the missing erection, but had it down her throat.

***

St. Thomas United Methodist Church youth group meetings were held in the family life center (gym) in the 1970's vintage educational building. Butch and Tabitha Smith, the assistant youth sponsors were setting up the chairs when the Campbell’s arrived. The Smiths were in their early thirties and had started with the youth last summer, shortly after they had joined the congregation. The kids loved them. Most Sunday’s they arrived on Butch’s Harley in their leathers. He courted a tuff guy image, but was in fact one of the nicest young men Cooper had ever met. Tabitha fit the part of the biker woman, tall, thin with long blond hair. Last Labor Day at the church social at the lake, Tabitha had created quite a stir when she showed up in the tiniest Budweiser bikini anyone had ever seen. It was not a thong, it wasn’t even Brazilian cut and her small breasts were fully covered by the triangle top, but it was the fact the new assistant youth leader was wearing that bikini, to a church function, that had won the teens over to Tabitha. Bonnie had worn a one piece that day. The teens already liked Bonnie, and she was more concerned about not offending the adults. Though she had teased Cooper telling him that he should wear the suit she’d bought in Miami.


Butch and Tabitha had lived together for a couple of years before getting married right after joining the church. In most parts of the country that would not even be noticed, but in rural Georgia, it is still scandalous for church leaders to be living together. In the Baptist churches it would have precluded them from leadership for years after their marriage, but this was not a Baptist church.

Both of them worked for Bell South and despite their youth earned a good living. Tabitha had confided to Bonnie that they had been trying to have a baby for almost two years now with no success.


Cooper had found them both to be reliable and able to connect with the kids. They were a good addition to the team. Under the leadership of Cooper and Bonnie, the Sunday evening youth groups had been steadily growing. When they took over the program five years ago, it averaged just ten to twelve middle and high schoolers for the Sunday evening sessions. It took two years to get a program down and a core group of twenty-five kids. They had first recruited Marcy & Mike Marshal and Trish Simms to help them. The addition of Butch and Tabitha, who without kids had more time, had been the final piece of adult help they needed to handle the growth and produce a weekly event that the kids could relate to.


In the last three years it had grown to averaging almost ninety every Sunday. This growth was nearly entirely from kids who came on their own, without their parents. Now less than half of the teens attending their youth groups had parents who were members of St. Thomas, and fewer still had parents who attended regularly. Cooper had heard that the kids called this the “real world Christianity” group.


Tabitha with her characteristic unabashed nature looked up across the gym to Bonnie and hollered “I didn’t think you had it in you. I must be a bad influence.”


Bonnie blushed knowing exactly what she meant. She quickly walked over to where Tabitha stood before she yelled something even more embarrassing. In a much lower tone, Bonnie said “So you saw the pictures?”


“Hell yea! A buddy from work who knows we know you gave Butch a disk the the pictures on it. Well, we went to the web site and had to fork over fifteen bucks, to see the rest. It was money well spent. You got real balls to go buck naked at a public beach. And then to screw a surfer dude. And you took Misty with you. All I can say is wow! I’m going to have to do something real crazy or I’ll lose my rep with the kids.”


Bonnie told her “According to Rev. McBride, not everyone thinks as highly of it as you do, and the sex pics haven't yet made the rounds. There are already some calls to have us fired from working with the youth.”


“NO?! Someone was offended?” she said in a mocking tone.


“Oh yes.”


“He’s not going to do it is he?” Tabitha asked wide eyed.


”He wouldn’t, but it might not be in his hands. We’d better walk carefully.”


Tabitha came back “In my dad’s church not only would you be fired from your youth ministry job, but probably kicked out of the church completely.” Cooper knew Tabitha referred to her father who was the pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist church in the next county.


As the six o’clock hour came, it was obvious that there were indeed an unusual number of visitors in the group. When Bonnie and Cooper had taken over the youth group, the chairs had been in a single row set in a circle pattern, but last spring it became four rows, in the fall it had become five and tonight it was six. It would be a record for the Sunday evening meetings if they filled the one-hundred-ten folding chairs. The teens whose parents did not attend St. Thomas’s had become the majority three years ago, but clearly tonight they outnumbered the St. Thomas kids by five or six to one.


The routine was to open with prayer and then a number of silly games the teens loved. During the hour or so of Game Time, there was a question box. In it they placed anonymous questions to be discussed during Rap Time. Sure, Cooper knew the name was a throwback to his early teen years, but the modern kids thought it was cool and retro. The meeting ended with a lesson about “real world’ Christianity by Cooper, often tailored to fit the questions of the night.


As she did each Sunday night, Tabitha gathered up the questions at exactly twenty till seven and grouped them into similar topics. At the same time the pizza boxes were set out so the kids could eat during “Rap Time”. Cooper and Bonnie made a point to greet the visitors and welcome back those who they haven’t seen in a while. Most of the Euro-Club girls came every week, but this week all ten were there along with more than a dozen first-time visitors. The chairs were not enough and they had to pull out a dozen more. There was no doubt this was the largest attendance ever. Bonnie didn’t have to guess why.


At seven the kids gathered into the circle and at a few minutes past. Tabitha acted as moderator while Bonnie and Butch answered questions; though in actual practice Bonnie did most of the talking with Butch & Tabitha acting in a support role.


For each topic Tabitha paraphrased the grouped questions, and told how many questions had been submitted on that topic. First, the panel discussed the topic then the kids had opportunity for follow-up questions. As usual, Tabitha was at the lectern and the other three were on stools to the side, sharing a cordless microphone. The first few questions were the routine, parents, teachers, peer relationships.


Cooper knew they were in trouble when Tabitha held a stack of paper slips. She said “We have a total of thirty-six questions here. They are different in detail, but I think I can get them all covered in one general topic.” Bonnie tried to calm her beating heart, she did not want to appear embarrassed or flustered. But this was different than at the principal’s office or at their home. Sure, she could assume almost 100% of the audience had seen the pictures, but still this was at church. It was a very public forum where the wrong words could get the Bishop involved and that would not be good.


Tabitha went on “These questions related to the photos posted of you and Misty visiting a nude beach. All these questions can be grouped into the two themes: half asked why did you go to a nude beach and the other half asked specifically about your sexual conduct with the young man.” There was a hush as the panelist considered what to say. Cooper knew the answer to one question now: the sex photos had already circulated, at least among the teens. He was grateful that Butch answered first.


“Cooper, you do not have to answer those questions” Then looking to the kids “You know that Cooper and Bonnie have always been open and straight forward with you. But, you have got to realize that they could get into heaps of trouble if they say too much.”

He paused and could see the faces accept this fact then went on “It would be fair to say that they did not expect those photos to become public and as such you, as their friends, need to respect that.”


As he spoke Bonnie began to form her words. “Thank You Butch, but I will try to answer your questions, however I think it would be risky to take follow ups publicly. So, I want every one of you, even if this is your first time to the group, to feel free to ask us anything that you don’t think we answered completely after the meeting or you can text me, or Cooper, or email us or even use an old-fashioned phone call.”


She got many smiles from her attempt at levity.


She paused, drew in a breath and started “Before I begin how many of you have seen at least some of the photos these questions refer to?”


Of the more than one-hundred-ten teenagers there, not a single hand was not raised. She followed up with "And how many have seen the ones that were not on the CD's being passed around Jeff Davis?"



Perhaps three quarters of them had. “Most, but not all of you have seen the full set. I think I should first give some background.”


Now more firmly she continued “Last summer our family stayed at South Beach, outside of Miami. South Beach is more European than American in outlook, as such women often do not wear tops when sunbathing. It is not considered vulgar or even sexual, it is just the way it is. To blend in we went along with the local custom. On the last day there, the last afternoon, Misty and I, on a whim had a cab take us to the next beach north which is clothing optional, which means topless and bottomless.”


“Why did we go?” she paused “Why not? The Bible does not teach the body is evil to behold, in fact all baptisms for the first four hundred years of Christianity were done in the nude, right in public. Even Jesus.”


She paused wanting to get the right effect “And besides some women at the hotel told me that all the best looking guys went there. Why would I miss such a treat?”


As hoped she got a good number of laughs. She looked over to Tabitha “No, they aren’t available, at least to us. Nearly all of the hot guys on that beach are gay. You’ve heard the expression that all the good men are taken or gay. I can tell you where the gay ones are, and they are gooood.” Again laughter. She was comfortable with this part since homosexuality had been a hot topic for discussion in the youth group for years.


Tabitha did the follow up “But I’ve seen the whole set of photos, those college guys aren’t gay. Even I could tell that.”


“No they weren’t” Bonnie replied. Trish continued to look right at her. Bonnie knew what she was wanting to know. Bonnie nodded to give the other youth leader permission.

Tabitha looked back to the teens. "Would someone who has seen the whole set care to tell those the rest of the room what the last few dozen photos showed?"


There was a moment of silence then Connie McGill, one of the EuroClub girls, stood. "She made out with one of the guys, then gave him a hand job before they had sex for a few minutes. Before it had gotten too intense, Mrs. C. realized her mistake and they went back to posing for those guys."


The words stunned the group. She was sure that most everyone could tell that she had inside information. But Bonnie was glad one of the kids spelled it out so she did not have to.

Before sitting Connie added, "And I think she is the bravest woman I've ever met to come here to own what she did and to talk to us about it."


The room erupted in applause. That made it much better for Bonnie. She knew they wanted to support her. When the clapping ended, she slipped off her stool and walked to the front of the platform. “You would think at my age I would know better. Misty and I had no intention of interacting with anyone when we went to that beach. We just went to see what it was like. When those college guys came over, I should have used better judgment and ignored them. But I fell into the trap of acting without thinking. Initially I had planned on just teasing these guys, but in an instant my teasing got out of hand. Those of you who have seen the photos know what I’m saying. One moment I’m in charge and the next I am doing things I had not meant to, nor should have done.” She thought it was important to make this point strong for the girls.

“If we hadn’t been in public I don’t know what would have happened. As it was I was able to just walk away. This time I played with fire and didn’t get burnt too badly. But I’ve had friends who weren’t so lucky. Unwanted pregnancy and STD's are real threats and I've seen lives destroyed by them. While, due to the fact I no longer have ovaries, I can no longer conceive children; bit I could have caught a serious or even deadly disease."


She clearly had everyone’s attention, so she went on, “To answer the questions, I went to the nude beach to see what it was like. I’m neither embarrassed nor ashamed of going. It was not wrong or un-Christian to go. While there however, I let the fun get out of hand and in the process, l got carried away into risky and poorly thought-out behavior. Even though, that moment of indiscretion only lasted a few quick minutes, it was too much. For that I am indeed regretful. I clearly set a bad example for you girls. If nothing else, the poor decision making is shown in the fact that this was a complete stranger and I clearly had not shown concern for my protection against STD’s, as you can plainly see in the photos.” She paused. She knew it was important to point out, very correctly, in that going with the moment anyone is susceptible to STD’s.


“I want you to be empowered and independent, my behavior made me vulnerable and I do not wish you to make such a mistake. It was not the particulars of what you saw in the photos I regret. What part of my body was exposed is irrelevant to my Christian walk with God. Just as irrelevant to God was what part of my body was in contact with the body of that young man. What mattered was the fact I was dancing to someone else’s tune and to the tune of my bodily desires without properly considering the impact on me, and on those guys and of Misty and of all of you. I knew one of the young men was taking photos, but I didn’t think out how that could cause you and me and this ministry problems down the road. That lack of reflection of the impact of what I was doing was the problem. The sin was not that his sex organ entered into my body. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians that it is not what enters into a person's body that makes them unclean, but the evils of the heart. My sin was that of selfishness. I did what felt good with no regard to how that might hurt you.”


She had added the last little bit to make sure she was not coming across as sex negative while setting a clear moral standard. She could tell she'd dropped several powerful ideas on them and that they were trying to process what she'd said as she went back to her stool.

Tabitha, from the lectern looked at the faces. The room was dead silent. "Connie you are right. Bonnie is the bravest woman I've ever met. I don't think I could have stood up and said what she just did. I'm sure I've done way more stupid things than Bonnie has, but I've never had to own them the way she did." She turned to Bonnie and said "I want to thank you for being the kind of person that I am happy to call my role model." Then she shifted gears and called up the members of the praise band to lead the group in a series of contemporary Christian songs.


When they were finished Cooper took over and transitioned into the lesson they had prepared, well Bonnie had prepared, during the afternoon. He spoke of the need for Christians to show courage in their moral conviction. "Despite what the Baptist say, in our community courage is not needed to stand in opposition to the unbelievers, that is the popular thing; but real courage is needed to oppose the religious legalist. It was the religious legalist and only them that Jesus condemned. It’s all too easy to say I’m more moral than you because I don’t do things that are against some rule book my church makes up. When you are attacked for abiding by the rules, you can just say I’m being attacked by the pagans for my Christian stand. It is much harder to live out the kind of religion that Jesus modeled, the kind of Christianity we are trying to teach here in this group. Jesus showed a higher morality in throwing away the rule book and living by the rule of love. If you do the same, and live by love not by rules, the religious people who are fixated on rules, will attack you.” He paused for effect. “Yes, if you live by love and not by law, the official Christian establishment will accuse you of acting un-Christian for doing so. The vast majority of professed Christians think the rule book is Christianity, that leaves you in a hard spot. That’s why it takes courage to stand against the rule makers. That’s what Jesus did, and in the end he was executed for it.”


As the kids began to file out after Cooper’s closing prayer Marcy Marshall, one of the adult helpers, found Bonnie at the back of the gym and congratulated her at her artful answers to the kid’s questions. Even after all Bonnie had told the kids, Marcy seemed taken about by her frankness about having sex with a younger man on a public beach. While she knew full well Trish had filled her in on all the events of the day before, it was still quite a leap to be so casual about sex, let alone sex outside her marriage. Yet, Marcy did not have the least bit of condemnation in her voice. “I really don’t think you could have done any better. But, I suspect, out on the beach, you were more in control than you let on tonight.”


She answered “I may have overstated it just a little bit, but it is true that I got carried away. I really wasn’t thinking through everything while I was out there, I was just going along. But realize, that was almost a year ago. I’ve progressed a lot in my thinking since then. Right now, if I was in the same circumstance, I’d would do pretty much the same, though I would make them put down the camera and insist on using a condom before he put his penis in me. That’s now, not back then. Of course, for the last few months I always have condoms in my purse... just in case. But, still, I am hoping that little bit of contrition will help make that part a non-issue here.”


“My guess it will, at least a little. But I think the most powerful thing you did tonight was how you spoke so frankly and honestly about a topic that virtually none of their parents would touch with ta ten-foot pole. I know without a doubt that Sarah’s hope was that you would be even half that direct” she said speaking of her daughter who was half-a-year older than Lamar.


Their conversation was interrupted when the four “Student Assistant Leaders” approached them. These were the four teenagers who had been part of the original core when Bonnie and Cooper had taken the group. All four were now seniors and all four would be going out of town to college in the fall, but for now they were the role models for the younger kids.


“So what’s the word among the teens?” Bonnie asked the group of four.


The tall attractive girl with long dark hair replied “Those who’ve been here for a year are more are very supportive.” The speaker's name was PattyDrayman. She was by all measures the leader of the youth group at St. Thomas Methodist, but she was a leader everywhere she went. She was Captain of the Jefferson Davis High School Volleyball team and the President of the Jefferson Davis chapter of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). “But,” she continued, “My FCA friends are way confused. I think you saw I had five visitors with me tonight. At first when the pics came out a lot of FCA girls just slammed you as a pseudo-Christian and a bad slutty mom.”


Marcy interrupted her “Way harsh!”


“Yea, I know, and I told them so” Patty replied.


Ben, her boyfriend beside her added “Oh yes she did! You should have heard her at the FCA meeting Thursday.” Ben was a strapping young man, 6’ 4” and all athletic muscle. He had accepted a soccer scholarship to Clemson; however, since Patty had accepted a volleyball scholarship to Georgia Tech, there was uncertainty on the future of their relationship.


Patty explained “Well. I had been hearing the yickty yack and by the time we had our weekly meeting I kinda exploded on them. I told them what you did for me when my parents were having their troubles. Since only my friends knew the details I left out how you and Cooper helped my mom and dad too, but I told them all about how you saved me that year and how I would not be what I am without your help.”


From left to right: Ben, Patty, Denise, Gwinn, Denise, Marcy & Bonnie


Her parents had been one of the few couples to quickly welcome Bonnie to St. Thomas when Cooper had moved home with his young family more than a decade and a half ago. Patty's mother, Lois, had been the one to originally invite Bonnie to the Wednesday Woman's Group. At the very beginning of Patty’s sophomore year, her father found out Lois had been having an affair. It was ugly. She promised to break off the affair but her father kicked her out anyway. Most of Patty’s sophomore year, her life was turned upside down. She spent many nights in the Campbell’s guest bedroom and many many hours in Bonnie’s arms in tears. In the end, Lois and John reconciled.


John Drayman and Cooper had known each other since childhood. Because of that relationship Cooper was able to convince him is wife was not somehow permanently soiled for having had another man’s penis inside of her. Concurrently Bonnie helped Lois to understand that sex was just sex, and even her feelings of love for the man with whom she had the affair was of far less importance than her bond to her husband and children. In the process of their months of work with the Drayman's, Cooper and Bonnie had, for the first time, really discussed and researched the meaning or lack of meaning of sex outside marriage. In many ways their conclusions paved the way for Bonnie’s first extramarital relationship a year later. Because while they were convincing Patty’s parents that sex outside marriage was not a marriage breaker, they were convincing themselves as well.


Patty continued to relate what she'd told the FCA students. “I told them in no uncertain terms, that you are the best example of what a Christian is that I’ve ever known, and no one had better criticize you or Misty in my presence. I also invited them to come hear you and Mr. C. tonight. I think you did a great job of explaining the whole thing. You did such a good job, several of them are really confused since it is so different than what all the other church people say.”


Bonnie was stuck and flustered by Patty’s compliment. Filling the shoes Patty was making for her was far more a challenge then those calling her a slut and bad mom.


Ben followed up, “But Mrs. C., I want to be sure we heard you right. With the guys on the beach, it sounded a lot like you were saying that the only thing you did wrong was to give into the moment without thinking how it could harm others later. But I’ve seen every one of those photos. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve looked at them more than once.”


Bonnie cut in, “No, Ben, that’s who I am. It wasn’t a platitude when I said I’m not ashamed of anything, and I mean not one thing, in those photographs. If Patty doesn’t mind you looking at them, just know I’m flattered that you want to and you have my permission and blessing to keep on enjoying them.”


In her mind, Bonnie had a passing image of young handsome Ben, looking at her photos. She pushed it out.


It was Patty’s turn to add “I don’t mind. I know we have looked at the whole set together twice. I am sure I like them as much as he does. I’m still working out why, but know I do.”


A new image came into Bonnie’s head, one of both Ben and Patty, naked, looking at her photos. She pushed that from her mind too.


“That gets to my question, well several people’s question. In the last part of the photo set, you are being…..” Ben blushed looking for the word.


“Being sexual” Bonnie provided the language.


“Yea, with that college guy. What you were doing a lot of people would say was cheating on Mr. C. and you seemed to say there was nothing wrong with … well… come on Mrs. C, we can play with the words all you want, but you and that guy might not have been, like in a bed or something but ..” again Ben could not go on.


“Yes Ben, his penis most definitely went inside of me. And yes, it felt really great, had I gone on I would have climaxed in just a few more minutes. So yes, I had sex with a college guy….well actually he was a PhD student, but you understand what I am saying. And yes you are right in what I meant by what I said. There is nothing wrong in what I did as far as what parts of our bodies touched or what part of him went into me. And you are also right that it is just a matter of words. Whether we say, I almost had sex with him, or partially had sex with him, or briefly had sex with him; it’s just a matter of semantics. None of it changes the fact that I was sharing sexual pleasure with a man that wasn’t my husband. I am sure you remember how you two came to me two years ago, about what is essentially the same issue. You had been dating a few months….” Then she considered the other two teens beside her and continued in a lower voice, “can I go on with them here?” she asked Patty. She was referring to her best friends Gwinn and Denise. Patty said they both knew all about her and Ben. “OK” Bonnie said “Just didn’t’ want to break your confidence. When you two came to Cooper and I, a year and a half ago, about the fact you were having oral sex and were feeling guilty. What did we tell you?”


Patty answered “You showed us from First Corinthians how holiness isn’t what one puts into one’s body, like foods and drink, but what comes out like selfishness or love.”


Bonnie followed her statement up, “If you will recall, I didn’t say what enters into your body. What I said was, as a woman, your holiness isn’t in who enters your body, right? Holiness isn’t a matter of absence of a penis in you, or who is the owner of the penis that you choose to let enter you. Now do you remember?”


“Yes I remember. You said because God isn’t interested in out genitals but in our hearts.”

“And?” Bonnie prompted.


“And that as long as we treated the other with respect and honesty, and took responsible measures not to make a baby, there was no moral reason Ben and I couldn’t continue with oral sex or when we were ready, to have full sex.”


“Exactly.” Bonnie agreed “And the next week, your mom and I took you to the doctor about birth control didn’t we? So, how is that different with me on the beach?”

The teenager shot back “You are married.”


“You of all the teens should know that isn’t really the issue” Bonnie challenged her. “We spoke several times about this in my living room. You are close to what I said but you are failing to make an important distinction.”


Patty thought for a few seconds “Mr. C. wasn’t there. You were betraying his trust.”


“Bingo. The real issue is about betrayal of trust. Now, there is something that was not relevant when we were talking back then, when we were speaking about your mom, but is at the very heart of the question Ben asked. It is usually assumed that when you are a couple, married or not, that you have committed to your partner that you will only be sexual with him or her. Right?”


The four teens all nodded, Bonnie continued “But, what if a husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, have agreed that such a requirement is not the expectation. If you know your partner would not object to you having sex with someone else, would it still be wrong?”


The teens had to chew on that question.


“Remember,” Bonnie said “The sin of adultery is the betrayal of trust. So, is sex outside of a person’s marriage always adultery?”


Patty then hesitantly said “So, if your husband says it’s OK in advance it’s not cheating?”


“Exactly.” Bonnie asked, “Is it cheating in an open book test to look up the answer?”


Denise, who had yet to say a word answered “No. Cheating is breaking the teachers trust, but if the teacher says it’s an open book test, no matter how much you copy answers from the book you are doing what the teacher wants and expects you to do.”


Bonny looked over at Denise, another tall volleyball player, who was the daughter of Cooper’s cousin. “Exactly so.” She looked at Ben “Now do you see, the answer is simple.”


Patty’s voice was choked. “So, does that mean you have Mr. C.’s permission to have sex with other men whenever you feel like it?”


The hall had emptied out except for the four teen leaders and the adults. Cooper and Butch had begun stacking chairs. Bonnie looked beyond the teens and called for Cooper to come over, then back to Patty she said. Perhaps I shouldn’t answer that question but you should ask my husband if he objected to anything he saw in the photos.”


Patty did just that. Cooper assured her that he had not objected in the least. He knew all three of Patty’s friends knew about her parents’ marital problems, so he was free to use them as an example. “Patty, your parents went through a very hard time when there was a breakdown in their mutual expectations of one another, in many ways, not just about sex. Every couple works out what is best for them. You and Ben have levels of trust that many teens don’t. For instance, last month Ben and Misty drove together to Atlanta to pick-up the new volleyball net for our gym here. Did that violate your trust?”

“No.”

“But for some couples, would driving alone with a girl to Atlanta be a violation of trust and cause jealousy and even a break up?”


A look of understanding dawned on Patty’s face. Slowey she said “So, when Mrs. C. did those things with that guy it was OK with you because you trust her so much that just having sex with him didn’t threaten your relationship.” She gasped “Wow! I get it now. It’s like you guys have gone to a whole new level of love, one that is so secure and deep that she is free to have sex with others because it’s not a threat to your marriage, just like Ben can spend hours with Misty and not be a threat to our relationship!”


Denise, looking at Cooper said “But you have to know that pretty soon everyone in town will know your wife had sex with another man. Are you now wishing she hadn't done that?”


Cooper calmly answered “Not one bit. In fact, I rather like the fact that now everyone knows how much I love and trust Bonnie. And to be clear she has had recreational sex with more than one or two men. I want her happy and we have found that having sex with a variety of people brings her a kind of pleasure she just can’t get from me alone. I will not let my ego get in the way. The Bible says love is not jealous and does not want for itself. Christian love is giving and it is never selfish. I am giving to her whether it is my body next to hers, or that of a handsome young man. When she is making love to another person, the sensual pleasures she feels are from me. Even if it is another’s hands stimulating her breasts or some other man’s penis pressing deep inside of her; it is still from me. When afterward she lays there panting for breath, she thanks God for her husband that provided that experience for her. I could be right there with her or miles away, how near we are doesn’t matter; in that moment of post orgasmic bliss we are as in love as a couple can be. There is nothing like that thankyou kiss after she’s had an amazing sexual experience. I hope it doesn’t embarrass you for me to say, but some of our best sex is after she’s been with someone else first. So no, I do not wish she had passed on that experience on the beach.”


Bonnie smiled at Cooper and said “That was exactly right. I don’t think I could have said it half so well…and yes, right on the money. That first kiss with you after is very special indeed.” She turned back to the four teenagers, but the same goes for when I watch him with another woman (and I really do like to watch) it brings me a kind of pleasure I can’t describe. I know he is having sex with her, but he is still making love to me.”


Denise was almost breathless when she said “Now that I understand, that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.”


Bonnie wrapped up this little discussion by saying “The Bible says for husbands to love their wives and give themselves to them, like Christ gave himself for the church. Do you now see, how love is not keeping that dead set of rules that bind, but love is the giving of all you have to the ones around you. You tell that to anyone who brings up those pictures, and ask if any woman could have a more loving, Christ like husband than I have.”


With that, Bonnie told the kids that the adults would finish up. She wanted them to have time to talk over what she had said among themselves and how to deal with questions from parents.

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Wow, this is one of the most profound, and important chapters in the whole book. Love over law, the true definition of adultery, and how true love is not jealous, and desires for the loved to have blissful experiences, even outside the relationship if that's desired.

Gilla

Ananda
Ananda
01 mars 2023

There are a lot of issues thrown into this teaching chapter, things we can take to heart.

1. I love the way the author set the background of the church, some of the characters, and events as an authorial comment. These telling narrations cannot be from a character’s point of view. To understand the story, this information is necessary.

2. Sex is never just sex: “Eros is not merely ordinary love, which human egos deploy as a strategy to achieve security and status. Rather, Eros is the outrageous love, which moves the sun and the stars, which is the very heart of existence itself. When we awaken to the Eros of evolution alive within us, we awaken as outrageous lov…

Gilla
sugarlessroark
sugarlessroark
01 mars 2023
Svarar

What I was thinking was that it is true, and what a game changer that is.

Gilla

Ananda
Ananda
07 dec. 2021

Congratulations on another excellent teaching tool. With a well told story you can reach an audience better than any fact based talk. "Story was more crucial to our evolution than opposable thumbs. All our thumbs do is let us hang on. Story tells us what to hang on to." (Cron, Lisa. Story or Die.)

You two main characters, Bonnie and Cooper, have neutral characters arcs. A positive arc is where the main character starts off negative, learns something, changes and ends positive. A negative arc is the opposite, as Michael Corleone in the Godfather. Bonnie and Cooper don't change because they are the catalysts to help the young people to change their attitudes towards sex and nudity. Bonnie uses her…

Gilla
Svarar

Oh, though I normally go a full chapter from one person's viewpoint, since my chapters are sometimes quite long, I sometimes will shift from one person's view. I am editing chapter 24 this week and the narrative works better with more than one view.

Gilla

sugarlessroark
sugarlessroark
05 dec. 2021

No need to apologize for portraying the church settings. The story and ideas are what's important.

Gilla
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