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In Search of the Final Freedom: Chapter 57b

As it turned out, Ronda could make it that night, so Bonnie called to let Cooper know she had a dinner date with Ronda and Ashely and that he and the kids would be on their own for dinner.  When she arrived at the McGregor Mill Bistro, Bonnie was surprised to see Sherry sitting at the table with Ashley and Ronda. However, even as she sat down, she realized it made sense to ask Sherry to come if Ashely and Ronda were, as Bonnie suspected, going to talk about their relationship as it related to Ashley’s marriage to Chad.


After taking her seat Bonnie said, “You know Ronda, it’s been months since we talked. I guess that’s my fault since I’m traveling so much and then Cooper and I went to Tennessee when I was off after Christmas. Before I forget, let me congratulate you for Haley winning the barrel racing championship at the Georgia State Fair. I know that was a big deal for your whole family.”


“Thank you,” Ronda replied.  It worked out for Haley that she’d not turned eighteen before the fair so she could compete in the under-eighteen division.  Since her birthday, she has had to compete against women. She quickly found out that the competition is a lot stiffer in the adult events. Not that she can’t compete, but it is a leap for her. She’s had people at rodeos encouraging her to consider aiming for the pro circuit, but to do that she’ll need a new, better horse. That will take money. And it would almost surely derail her plans to go to GSCU since doing the circuit means a life of weeks or months on the road at a time.”

 


Sherry asked, “Do you think going professional is a viable option for her?”

“Actually, I do. And I’m not just saying that because she is my daughter or that I gave up my shot at going pro to marry my girls’ father. She has been winning consistently for two years in the under-eighteen division. My parents have offered to buy her a suitable colt she can train up, so even if she decides on that route, she would not be looking at the pro circuit for over a year. Either way, she’ll be living at home in the fall and driving to GSCU in the fall. That would also give her time to impress potential sponsors on the regional amateur circuit.  One thing she has going for her is she is pretty enough. Sadly, that matters to sponsors. She might not look like Caitlin, but she has the right look for a rodeo rider and that is what sponsors are looking for. Well, that and winning.”


To Sherry, Ashley said, “Have you seen the photo of Ronda and her girls on their horses that Misty took?”


Sherry said she hadn’t and Ronda opened up the photo of her, Haley, and Bethany all astride their horses in the nude.  Ronda told Sherry, “I took a cue from Bonnie’s playbook and it hangs right in our living room behind the sofa. Misty took an almost identical image of us with our clothes on, but the only time I’ve replaced the group nude portrait with the clothed one was when my parents came to town at Christmas. Not surprisingly the girl’s friends think it’s great I’m that bold… and the boys just drool. I even left it up when Glenna, Pastor McBride’s girl, spent the night with Bethany a couple of weeks ago. Since daily practices started in January, they are spending more time together since Bethany and Glenna are the only two sophomores on the varsity softball team.”


Bonnie knew that Glenna and her twin brother Ian were in the same grade as Lamar, though they didn’t really travel in the same social circles. The McBride twins were very athletic so their social lives revolved around sports. Bonnie asked, “How did Glenna respond? I know her parents are on board with what we do at Youth Group, and they know Cooper and I have an open marriage, but I’m not sure how much they know goes on at our house.”


Ronda answered, “Well, I don’t know how much the McBride’s knew of what when on among the teenagers at either of our houses before Glenna spent the night; but I can assure you they know everything now.  With the story of the picture as a starting point, that evening we all talked over dinner then for over an hour afterward. Haley told her the full details of the Miami trip and used her tablet to show Glenna her set of photos.



“Bethany went on to tell how her friends, guys, and girls, went skinny dipping together in our little pool and sunned naked right on the porch this summer. After that, it was no surprise that she told Glenna that during the summer at a rodeo right in our trailer, she had sex for the first time, with her sister’s boyfriend. That was the first thing she’d said that got a real response from Glenna. Not that she’d had sex… well from her eyes I could tell she was surprised that Bethany had right out said she’d had sex in front of me, but the thing that really shocked her was that she’d done it with her sister’s boyfriend… especially with her sister right there in the room with us. Haley jumped in to explain that she had given her sister permission to do it with him in advance.  Bethany went on to tell Glenna that she had done it with him at nearly every rodeo she’d gone with us since then… with me and Haley right there in our trailer when she does it. However, she glossed over the reality that she, Gregg, and Haley share a bed in the trailer.”


To Sherry, Ronda explained, “You see before we moved here from Iowa, when Bethany was six and Haley was eight, the two girls had shared a bed. To this day, Bethany crawls into bed with her big sister a couple of times a month. Oh, and I guess it's relevant to note that the girls have long mimicked my habit of sleeping in the raw. So, this summer, even before she’d begun to have sex with him, Gregg was there when she got into Haley’s bed, as well as when the three of them shared the bed in our trailer. To my girls, for Bethany to be there while big sis is having sex with her boyfriend doesn’t bother either of them in the least, just like it doesn’t bother Haley to be there when little sis is doing Gregg either.  My girls have always been very close and sexuality has never been an embarrassment.”


“However, in talking to Glenna, Bethany decided that it would just be too complicated to explain all that in a way that didn’t sound creepy. But she did tell Glenna that since August she has been having sex something like three times a week, nearly every week. She explained that in addition to Gregg, she does it with two other guys from the church Youth Group. She didn’t name names but made it clear that the other guys were the boyfriends of two of her closest Youth Group friends. With that hint, Glenna quickly worked out who the two guys were. Bethany confirmed her guess that Cassidy White and Howie Hopkins were the two boys. I suspect she’d wanted Glenna to know who they were but she didn’t want to sound like she fucks and tells. She made sure to say she wasn’t trying to steal Ester and Natalie’s guys, rather when she joins them, she is their third for threesomes and everyone has a good time.” 


Bonnie had heard Bethany was joining Natalie and Cassidy in threesomes, but she’d not heard about Howie Hopkins and Ester Green. She cut in on Ronda to say “That’s a lot of information for one sitting, especially for a fifteen or sixteen-year-old girl. How did Glenna respond to all that?”

“Surprisingly, she didn’t seem bothered by any of it. She kept asking questions, some were quite detailed and explicit. Bethany was happy to answer anything she asked and Glenna seemed very interested in everything the girls said. I didn’t pick up any sense of disgust or condemnation.”


To Sherry, Ronda said, “Likely you didn’t know that when Cinthia McBride talked to the Youth Group when Bonnie was out of town she told the whole group of teens that not only had she and Rev. McBride lived together before they got married, but she told the kids that when she was in high school,  she was a committed Christian but also had regular sex with her boyfriend without guilt. I don’t know if she could have said it any more clearly that she, and by extension Rev.

McBride, believe that teen sex can be compatible with the dedicated Christian life.”


Sherry said, “I hadn’t heard that, but that took some real courage on her part.”


Ronda went on, “Yes, I thought so. So since Glenna’s mother made such a full-throated defense of teen sex, she didn’t think what Bethany said was way out there. I’m sure that is why Bethany kept spilling out more and more stuff.   The fact I was right there as Bethany was talking made it clear that I was fully supportive. Both girls and I emphasized they both have IUD’s… well all three of us have them to prevent pregnancy and that when any of us have sex with people outside of our group of close friends, we use condoms as well. In explaining that it wasn’t an issue for her to have sex with Gregg in the trailer while I was in my bed in the loft, Bethany ended up telling her how that one day in August, she and Gregg openly watched me and Cooper have sex by the Campbell’s pool, and that she in turn had sex with Gregg right in front of us.”


Bonnie cut in, “What did Glenna say about Bethany telling her all of that?”


“She said she thought it was great that Bethany and I could do that right in front of each other. Apparently, Glenna was already quite aware of the fact that the church family swim days at your house were swimsuit-optional. I suppose that is rather an open secret among the kids in the Youth Group as is the fact you and Cooper are non-monogamous. So when Bethany told her all of that, there was no shock or even surprise. Her reaction was more that she was intrigued about how we came to do all that.  She asked several questions about that day. She was very interested in what Bethany and I thought about seeing the other having sex.”


Bonnie asked, “What did you tell her?”


“I told her quite honestly that it seemed like the most natural thing in the world for us. In our family sex is not dirty. Bethany told her how for years she’d been in our trailer while I had sex with men from the rodeo circuit. The only difference was that time by the pool she could see me directly rather than in silhouette through a curtain. I don’t know if you are aware of it, but Bethany took some phone pics of me and Cooper screwing by your pool. She showed them to Glenna. They aren’t very good, but she saw proof positive I had sex with your husband.”


Bonnie said “That’s all fine. Don’t worry about it. Unless you want better photos of you and Cooper. I’m sure Misty can take care of that.”


Ronda laughed, “Yea, if she can do a shoot with you and Samuel, I guess she can do one with me and her father.”


There was laughter and agreement all around.


Ronda went on, “After we’d talked about that day at your pool, Bethany told Glenna truthfully that at our house, summertime nudity in the common areas like the living room or the kitchen has never been an issue for our family. Ever since we moved here when Bethany was six, on hot days, the girls have never thought twice about lounging around in just their skin. And as I told Misty, once or twice a year I play Lady Godiva and ride in just my boots and hat. Bethany told Glenna how three times this summer she and Natalie rode the four-mile-long trace around the perimeter of our property just like that. Gabby was particularly interested in that part. Unless I miss my guess, this coming summer our pastor’s daughter might ask to join them.“


“Bethany further explained that there was something new at our house in that since the summer started, Haley’s sexual playmates, like Gregg, Connie, and Devin have also become comfortable going nude outside of Haley’s bedroom. I stepped in to say it didn’t bother me when they did. When Bethany talked about the skinny-dipping parties she’d had this summer in our little pool by the house, Glenna seemed a little hurt that she’d not been invited.  Since she’d already told Glenna that she’d had sex in front of me with Gregg at the Campbell’s pool and in our trailer, it really wasn’t a leap when she said she occasionally does it right in the living room even when I am home too.  And she does do that. Since she became sexually active in the summer, Bethany shows off her sexuality around here quite a bit.”


“I think that is because she lived in Haley’s shadow for so long.  Not only is Bethany two years younger, Haley discovered sexual pleasures at a very young age and Bethany did not. Haley had learned the soothing effect of masturbation by the time she could talk. When she was barely ten years old, she would come into my bedroom, wrap her legs around the bedpost and hump it till she climaxed. Of course, when she started that, she had no idea that she was mimicking having sex. She just knew it felt good. And since I never stopped her from masturbating at home when she was little, I didn’t discourage it after she’d discovered orgasms. As a result, Bethany saw her sister getting herself off wherever and whenever the urge hit her.  Bethany never did any of that. Once Haley hit puberty, she was more than ready to do it all which made Bethany feel like she’d been left behind.”


Sherry asked, “Might I ask how old Haley was when she began to have sex?”


Ronda didn’t hesitate to say, “Six weeks after she turned fourteen. You see there was a boy at our rodeos who was kind of her rodeo boyfriend, but they only saw each other about once a month when both families were at the same event.  That made it easy for me to help guide her in pacing her explorations with him. She was twelve and he was fourteen when they first started making out. The rule was they got an hour by themselves in our trailer at each event. As we drove home after the rodeos, Haley always told her sister and me all about what she did with him. We’d discuss what she liked and what she didn’t, and I would give her suggestions on how to make it better or what she might want to try next time. Just before she turned fourteen, she told me directly she wanted to have actual sex with him. I told her I would support her on that, but she had to start on birth control first.  Bethany was right there during all those discussions. Talking about those things hadn’t bothered her when she was still prepubescent, but the same year Haley was moving toward becoming sexually active, Bethany’s body began the first signs that she was developing, yet she was still effectively asexual. She didn’t even have the desire to masturbate the way her sister had been doing for years. That is when it began to bother her. Then once Haley was having sex, not with just that one boy, but with several others who were on the rodeo circuit, Bethany began to really feel like she was the odd man out. Not only were her sister and I having sex at pretty much every rodeo; but on the drive home, Haley always wanted to talk about what she’d done with the boys that weekend.  She had lots of questions so we ended up talking about sex for hours at a time in the cab of my pickup.”


“For years Bethany knew sexuality was important to both her sister and me, yet she simply had no interest in those things. I knew she felt left out but I didn’t know what to do other than squelch her sister's openness about her sex life, and I didn’t want to do that. More than once in those years, especially after she’d begun looking like a young woman and guys at rodeos began paying her attention, she asked me what was wrong with her that she wasn’t interested in sex. Then her libido activated about a year ago.   One night Bethany burst into my bedroom all excited to tell me that she gave herself an orgasm for the first time. She was so happy that she’d finally joined the club. Both Haley and I made an effort to make her feel good about it. Her sister wasted no time in sharing with her all the ways to get herself off. In just over a week, Bethany began to go through my collection of sex toys. And to be honest, it is rather large.”


There was a round of laughter and comments. Bonnie put in, “Yea, a few years ago my toys started disappearing as Misty took them to her room.”


Ronda laughed, “But my youngest daughter didn’t take them to her room. A couple of weeks after that big event, when I got home from work, I found her spread eagle on my bed, naked, with several toys around her. Given the fact she grew up knowing, and many times seeing, me masturbate to go to sleep at night; she didn’t make the slightest effort to hide what she was doing.  Instead, as I changed out of my work clothes, she gave me a review of how each of the ones on the bed worked for her even as she used my little pocket rocket on herself.  I could tell she was trying to keep me in the room to show off her ability to climax. So once I was changed, I just sat on the side of the bed until she did. As I said, that was just under a year ago and it sort of set a precedent. To this day, she is still trying to make up for what she calls her lost years, and she makes damn sure that Haley and I know she is doing it.”


Bonnie cut in, “I think Sarah is sort of the same. She has been the little tag-along to Misty and Caitlin at my house since she was little. So now that she and Lamar are having sex, she loves to make sure everyone knows they are doing it. According to Slosh, she and Lamar do it downstairs in the living room, their front parlor, and even in the kitchen as much as they do it in her bed. And that is not to mention out on the deck and in the hot tub.  Lamar and Sarah spend the majority of their time together at the Marshals, but twice since Christmas I’ve walked out of my bedroom to find them going at it on the living room sofa. Their excuse is that there is nowhere else as comfortable downstairs to have sex. What can I say? I’m the one who decided Cooper and I would never shut our door when we make love. I wanted the kids to grow up seeing sex as normal and loving, and they did. Those two are certainly in love, and…” Bonnie leaned forward, “Don’t tell them I said so, but they really are a joy to watch. Their lovemaking is truly beautiful to behold… like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There is not even a hint of shame or holding back their feelings in their lovemaking, only passionate consuming love for each other. Both times I found them on the sofa, I had to make myself not stand and watch.”


Ashley laughed. “That is exactly how I felt way back… it seems so long ago at the first Euro-Club party at the end of last school year when I walked in on Misty with Natalie and Cassidy.”


Ronda spoke up, “I’m glad I’m not the only one. While I have any number of teen couplings going on in my house most every day, it's only when Bethany is with Natalie and Cassidy that I want to stand there and soak in the joy they are all experiencing. But I don’t. Well, not very much and I try not to be obvious about it.”


The other three, even Sherry laughed but also agreed.


Encouraged by their response Ronda said, “OK, I’ll confess. One pretty Sunday afternoon in the early fall, I looked out the kitchen window and saw where Bethany, Natalie, and Cassidy had laid out a blanket behind the house. I found myself going back to look over and over again. As Bonnie said, it was truly a beautiful and life-affirming sight to behold as they took turns pairing off while the third person watched in support. I’d been looking out the window for a good while when I finally broke down and found an excuse to go out on the veranda. Bethany didn’t see me but Natalie did. Not that she minded, it wasn’t like during the summer they didn’t do it right on the front porch more than once. But that is the only time I gave in and just watched them at length.”



After a round of understanding comments, Ronda wrapped up by saying “Once Bethany was all done spilling all our secrets, Glenna asked directly if she could tell her parents any of what we had told her.  Before I could answer, Haley paraphrased the house rule Bonnie has posted upstairs, about only doing things that you don’t mind others knowing about.” Looking at Bonnie she corrected, “Actually, she quoted all the rules you have posted and told her about your playroom and how kids from the Youth Group come by and use it. All that to confess to you that because of me, Pastor & Mrs. McBride surely know everything. That is part of the reason I wanted to see you tonight. I thought I should tell you all that in person. I should have asked you first.”


Bonnie put out a hand to touch Ronda’s. “Haley’s paraphrase is spot on. When I posted that sign, I meant it. The only reason we haven’t told Pastor McBride ourselves is that he needs plausible deniability. We didn’t want him burdened with getting that information firsthand. This way if he gets confronted about the behavior of his Youth Group leaders, he can say he’s only heard third-hand rumors.  I’m actually glad to know he has that information from a trusted source. After all, your girls just told what they knew to be true because they’d been there.”


Ashley put in “Tell her about Natalie’s mother’s response to the big picture on your living room wall.”


Ronda nodded and said, “Patty, Natalie’s mother, stopped dead in her tracks the first time she came into the house. Do you know Patty?”


“Not really,” Bonnie said. “I’ve talked to her on the phone once and had a brief chat with her one Sunday night when she came into the Family Life center looking for her daughter. But I don’t really know her.”


Ronda picked up “I didn’t know her before September, but I would count her a friend now.

Perhaps you don’t know, but since the fall Natalie has been working for me a couple of afternoons a week to work out the horses I board. While she rides the school bus to our place in the afternoon; since she doesn’t drive, either her mother or her boyfriend picks her up when she’s done. That photo on the living room wall says volumes about me, my parenting style, and my values. So when she first saw it hanging above the couch, at first I’m sure she couldn’t believe what her eyes were telling her. Then I could just see her mind processing it. I’d thought from our conversations that she would understand why I had that photo in my living room. But seeing her frozen, staring at the picture, I was concerned that with all the polite euphemisms we had used to talk about the girl’s activities, I’d totally missed the mark and we’d never see Natalie at our house again. But, slowly she regained her composure and told me the photo was wonderful.”


“In the ensuing fifteen minutes of conversation, before Natalie made it back from the barn, we dropped the euphemisms. Among other things, she directly thanked me for giving her girl a safe place to have sex with her boyfriend.  Because her father would object, they can’t do it at her house. You see, pretty much every time Cassidy picks Natalie up, they have sex before heading home.  And it was good Patty and I had that talk, not two weeks later there was a mix-up in who was picking Natalie up. Half an hour after Cassidy arrived, Patty was at my door. I just casually let her know that her daughter was having sex in Bethany’s bedroom. I asked if she wanted me to tell them to stop or let them go on. She was befuddled but said she had time to wait. I think she figured it would be just a few minutes, but we talked for over an hour.”


“Because we don’t have central air, we don’t have an open-door rule like Bonnie does. We have a door-ajar rule so as to keep the cold air from the window units in the room. Even halfway through the summer, hearing sex noise from one of my girls' rooms was so common, I rarely even noticed unless someone really let go. And by mid-fall, with two couples from Bethany’s group of friends having sex in her room at least once a week… plus Haley and her friends’ activities, I simply didn’t hear them anymore.  But Patty turned white when she started hearing her daughter vocalize how great he felt inside of her. Then when the sounds of bodies slapping and the bedframe banging started, I thought she was going to pass out.  But they went on at it for a full hour more with hardly a break and by the end, I could see real pride in Patty’s face that her little girl was really a woman now. Toward the end, Natalie began hollering, Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! It was like she was in the room with us. Patty just apologized for her daughter's language and we both broke up laughing.  That moment broke down the last barriers that she and I had in what we could talk about. After that day, she and I began to talk very candidly about sex, not just about the kids but our own sexual history and lives. She let me know that while she’d had quite a sexual history when she was a teen, she has been totally monogamous since she began dating Natalie’s father.”


“A few weeks after the day she had to wait on Natalie, I opened up that not only do I have a girlfriend, but I have a group of men and couples with whom I also have sex on an ongoing basis, both at rodeos and from the plant where I work. She was intrigued but not the least bit judgmental. If anything, I think she’s envious. And again, it was good because twice since then when she has come to the house to get Natalie, I have been entertaining in my bedroom. And just like the noise of the girls having sex can be heard in the living room, in my old house with my bedroom door ajar, when I have sex everybody knows.  Neither time did I know she’d come into the house while I was busy, but the girls told me afterward. You see, not only are my girls totally used to hearing me entertain in my bedroom, by now so are Natalie & Cassidy and Ester & Howie … and that is not to mention Haley’s friends who have been hearing it for years now. They all know I very openly take friends from work to my bedroom once a week or so and I don’t make any effort to be quiet about it. It’s just part of the rhythm of my home and has been since the girls were little.”


All through Ronda’s narrative Sherry smiled broadly and nodded. When Ronda was done Sherry said, “My home was much the same when my kids were teenagers. Small house and thin walls. I guess the only real difference is that we lived in a semi-communal compound and my kids grew up knowing their father and I had sex with the other parents in the community, their friends’ parents. We didn’t do it openly in front of them, but they knew. It was a lot like the free-love circle we’ve developed with our St. Thomas friends but my kids grew up in that environment.” She made a point to look around the table. “I know that all of your kids know you have sex with any number of the other people in our group. Do any of you hide it when friends come over for sex?”


Bonnie, Ronda, and Ashely all shook their head to say no. Ashley then offered, “But I guess we all have different house rules. Bonnie has come over six or seven times and Slosh has come over twice. If Rebecca is home, she knows exactly what we are doing. We don’t hide it. But to be honest, our house is not small and there is wall insulation so I doubt any sounds get out with the bedroom door closed. Only the last time Bonnie came over, did I leave the door open even a little. But even then, sound just doesn’t travel in my house.” She paused and then added, “But my daughter has actually seen me having sex with Cooper a couple of times, so then there is that. And then there was the day the whole crew at Ronda’s house came home to find her and me getting it on big time on her living room sofa. We didn’t act like we’d been doing something we shouldn’t. We didn’t try to cover up or even apologize. Other than Howie and Ester who’d never seen either of us naked before, the group of kids just reacted like ‘oh well, just another day at the Jackson’s.’ They all went to Bethany’s bedroom and we kept on for a good while before moving to Ronda’s bed. Nobody was distressed or traumatized by what they saw.”


There was some laughter at the table.


Ronda then brought up a new topic, “Bonnie, I want to thank you for letting me keep your husband so late last night.  The time we have together after we make love is really important to me and… I guess I just didn’t want to let go of the moment even though I knew it was a weeknight. Sorry about that.”


Bonnie smiled and said “I understand. I took longer with Samuel and Rebecca than I’d planned to as well. But in my case, first in the hot tub, then after we had a great time in my bed the three of us had a very good talk. Afterward, we had an encore round when Rebeca told Samuel to lay it to me. The talk rather than the sex is what really delayed me sending them home. Well… we had sex for quite a long time, and he did lay it to me at the end. I am still sore. I’m sure if my gynecologist took a look he’d see bruises deep inside of me.”


With a sly grin, Sherry asked, “Do you have buyer's remorse?”


“Oh no,” Bonnie shot back. “I loved every second of it. I was just worried Dr. Douglass was going to ask me why I was walking funny today. I couldn't exactly tell her the whole truth of who did it to me, could I?”


Ronda laughed, “You are a bad woman. Fucking your daughter's friend and then complaining he did you too good.”


Everyone laughed at that.


Bonnie then felt obligated to give a quick rundown on her evening with Samuel and Rebecca and her talk with Misty afterward. She wrapped up by saying, “I haven’t told her I would do the photo shoot yet, but I’m pretty sure I will.”


Ashley added, “You might not have told Misty you would do the sex shoot with my daughter and her boyfriend, but Misty told Rebecca she is sure you will do it. Rebecca is already looking forward to seeing a picture of the three of you on your playroom wall.”


Bonnie shook her head, “My daughter knows me all too well. And, I guess I should get with her tonight to work out a shoot date based on my schedule.”


It had taken till they were well into dinner, but finally, Ronda said, “Ashely and I want your thoughts on how we might move forward with our relationship while being fair to everyone involved.”


Ashely picked up by saying, “When I married Chad, it was more of a marriage of convenience for both of us.  He wanted a pretty younger trophy wife to show off and someone who liked sex as much as he did, and I wanted someone who could support the lifestyle I like and liked sex as much as I do. Though I began as a mistress with a ring, I’ve come to love him, but not really in a romantic way. It's more like someone I care about and respect. He is really a good guy.”


Sherry stepped in, “Yes, he is a good guy… and a real horn dog. Understand we do more than have sex when he comes over to my place each week. And he told me pretty much the same story. He made a point to tell me that he’s come to love you too. However, he directly told me he wouldn’t object if you became Cooper’s mistress.”


Bonnie jumped in “Cooper doesn’t want Ashely to be his mistress.”


Ashely followed up with, “He doesn’t understand the nature of my relationship with Cooper at all. I’m sure he really believes Cooper wants me to be his mistress. That is just the way Chad sees the world.”


Sherry put up a hand, “No he doesn’t understand. While he is a good guy, he is who he is. He can no more understand what you and Cooper have than Cooper could understand why a man would want a trophy wife. They are two very different sorts of people. Deep down, Chad and many, probably most, men of his social status and his generation see women as things meant to service the needs of men. That isn’t an attack on him, it is simply a matter of fact. From what I understand, my Herb was just that kind of man too. Actually, he was worse. He saw other men’s wives as property. He would seduce and have sex with them as a kind of theft to show his dominance. But he’s not that man anymore. I didn’t change him; a heart attack and the death of his wife made him reassess his values.  But for you to expect Chad to be someone different would be unfair and futile.”


Ashely quietly said, “I know and I’m not trying to change him. Our relationship is premised on who he is now.”


Sherry replied, “That is actually good. He likes me and we communicate in a way you can’t with him because we come from the same generation. But I know full well that to him, I am just a different sort of mistress or perhaps whore. Yes, a friendly and socially respectable whore, but a whore nonetheless. Once he saw me fucking at the Arabian Nights party… or perhaps first when he saw me deep throat Butch by the Campbell’s swimming pool, but certainly when he and I began to have sex, his vision of who I am fundamentally changed. Before all that I was just a nice church lady, a sort of eternally virginal Madona figure. When I showed him that I was a woman who enjoyed sex for my own pleasure and was willing to have it whenever it pleased me, to him I became the polar opposite: a whore. Not that he likes me less, in fact, I’d say he would say we are now friends. It is just not in him to see me as a peer. Though he would likely never admit it, most men of his generation just can’t see women as peers. They have to be either Madona’s or whores. I accept that just as I’m sure you came to accept that is how he sees you long ago.”


Ashely nodded, “Yes.  You are right. To him, I’m a sort of whore too. He might love me, but in the same way Richard Gere loved Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  He has never seen me as an independent woman who is a successful real estate broker… which I am. In his mind he effectively bought me.  I don’t know if he told you how we got together, but I was the mistress of a couple he knows and when they traded me in for a younger model, Chad took over my lease as it were. Instead of underwriting my real estate business as payment for my services as my prior masters did, Chad gave me job security by marrying me. But yes, in his mind he was buying a socially acceptable whore with a wedding ring and a big house and a stable home for my daughter. That is why from the very beginning he has firmly believed he had the implicit right to have sex with other women, not just Bonnie and Slosh, women who work for him or he meets through business. He doesn’t even try to hide that he sleeps with other women. To him it is a right. Yet at the same time, he likes to show me off, be that in a slinky evening gown or a tiny bikini at a Caribbean beach. And to him, my vagina is his personal domain. It was only with his expressed permission was I allowed to invite Cooper into that inner sanctum. I don’t hold that against Chad. That was the bargain I made. What I didn’t expect was to have my heart opened up to real love with Cooper, or to experience true love for the first time with Ronda.”


Bonnie could see her squeeze Ronda’s hand.


Sherry very gravely said “And that is why you asked Bonnie and me to meet you tonight. Let me say right off there is no right answer. While you should do what is right by everyone involved, what that right way is, only you can decide. However, I think at some point it is only fair that Chad is in on this decision-making process.  And he is aware that you two have a relationship that goes well beyond just friends who fuck.”


Ashely nodded, “Yes. We’ve talked about it and I’ve told him that I love Ronda, but not in the same way I love him. I don’t think he fully understands what I mean by that though.”


Sherry continued, “Yes, he has told me that too and I think your assessment is correct. I think it might be helpful to tell you about what I did in a similar situation. Now understand that my first marriage was based on mutual love and we had two kids together when I met Magnolia.  We knew right off we had chemistry. I guess it helped that we had sex the first time I met her… really amazing sex.”


That got laughs from the people around the table. Then Ashley asked, “Do you mean Magnolia LeCroix?”


Sherry nodded. “Yes, we met at a party in San Francisco back when she was still acting.”


That detoured the conversation until Ronda, who’d not grown up in Sparta, could be filled in on who Magnolia LeCroix was. Then Sherry went back to her story. “I was right up front with my husband that I had fallen in love with her. Our solution was she moved in with us. We became a family of three adults who slept in the same bed and we all took on the task of raising my two children.  Long before the word polyamory was coined, we lived that life. And like we have now with our St. Thomas group, we lived in a free love compound where we had sex anytime we felt like it with the other adults in the little community. I guess the biggest difference in what we did back then in the 90’s was we didn’t have the open-door rule. While our kids as teenagers knew their mom and dad had sex with all our neighbors, they didn’t actually see it done with their own eyes.” She paused, “No that’s not true. We were rather casual about sexual privacy. All the kids in the compound had inadvertently seen a fair amount of adult sex, and as they became sexually active the adults would inadvertently see that too. But like Bonnie said earlier how Sarah and Lamar have had sex in her living room right in front of her, that didn’t happen in our home. Sex was confined to the bedroom unless we were reasonably sure no one would walk in on us. I can’t say which way is best, and it wasn’t that my kids never walked in on me having sex with our neighbors, because they did; but it was different than what goes on in your houses now.”

Bonnie had heard this story before but hadn’t considered that their free-love circle was going beyond what Sherry’s free-love community had done with regard to sexual openness. But apparently, they had done so without knowing it.


Sherry went on, “So in our case, our solution was to just be upfront with everyone, and for a decade my two kids, my late husband, Maggie and I all lived as one family. It only ended when Maggie had to move back here to care for her father. That was a very hard decision for her, but it was the right one.”


Ronda replied, “While I can see that as working in your case, in ours it won't. My horse farm is my life. I can’t move in with Ashley and Chad. And my house is just too small for more people, and the truth is, I don’t want a man living in my house. Gregg is the closest thing to a man I want and that is temporary with him joining the Coast Guard after he graduates.”


There was a short detour when they discussed Gregg’s decision to join the Coast Guard.

Ashely followed up Ronda’s comments with “She’s right that just isn’t an answer for us.“


Sherry asked, “What would Chad think of you splitting your time and living in both places?”


“Perhaps…” Ashely answered. “But there might be an issue with sex. Chad and I have always had sex more days than we don’t. That was explicitly part of our agreement. And the new things we are doing like our free-love circle so far has only improved our sex life. This summer with the nude swims each week, we were doing it nearly every day.  And as it turns out, it really turns him on to have sex with me after I get home from being with Cooper. I think that surprised him. Recently he’s actually begun asking if I’d like to start doing it with other men in our group, or perhaps another man in the church.”


“What do you think of that?” Sherry queried.


“I actually could see myself having a male lover in addition to my thing with Cooper. As she said earlier, about once a week, Ronda has one of a group of several men and one couple come over to her place for sex. As I understand it, the guys she does it with are all real friends and basically it is a date that skips the going out to eat part. That is something I think I could enjoy in my life.”


Ronda clarified, “She is right. I have a small group of people with whom I entertain in my bedroom. Each of them comes by about once a month. As I mentioned before, there are two men and a married couple from my plant that I’ve been seeing at my house for years. When I first moved to Georgia I was in my mid-twenties and single. I played the field, mostly with men I met at the Caterpillar plant where I work: hot production line workers, vendors, and a couple of executives.  Most of those were little more than hook-ups, but a few became friends. Those were the guys I brought home. I brought them home rather than do regular kinds of dates due to childcare issues. My girls were young when I took the job here so childcare was a huge issue for a single mom like me.”


“But I’m not the same person I was then. Importantly, I am now the Assistant Director of Human Resources for a plant with close to a thousand workers.  As and executive, I can’t just pull a guy from the plant floor for a fast fuck in a back room or a quick visit to the cheap motel by the plant.  I’m sure that first year I fucked twenty different guys through my work, but in the last three years it has only been those two married men and one couple and none of them are hourly employees. Because I only have them over once a month or less, it does not impinge on those married guy’s home lives. Despite the fact I’ve been doing one of them for eight years and the other for four, their wives don’t even suspect. Which is good because I’m no threat to their home. I’m not looking for a husband.”


Ashley quipped, “That is good to hear.”


Ronda elbowed her before continuing. “The married couple with whom I have a relationship were, like me, transfers from up north. Jason is an engineer and Terry works in my department. Five years ago, she and I had become good friends and we talked a lot as the days went on. She confided in me their four-year-old marriage was in a sexual rut and then one day, out of the blue, she asked me if I would consider having a threesome with them. Well, it wasn’t totally out of the blue because she knew I had an active sex life with a number of men, but at the same time I was most definitely not in the market for a man per se.  With them, from the very first time we did it at my house. They have been coming to my home so long that to my kids, Terry and Jason are like the aunt and uncle they never had. I’ve met their kids and my girls babysit for them from time to time. Of course, Haley and Bethany know not to mention the true nature of my relationship with the two boy’s parents. Terry and I have talked about it a lot over the years and she can’t imagine being remotely as open about sex as I am with my girls. But that’s OK. They are good friends and wonderful playmates… and they are just another part of life in our home.”


Ronda stopped talking and an idea seemed to come to her. Looking at Sherry she asked, “Was that the case with your kids too? Did they see the people in your commune thing like extended family?”


Sherry nodded, “Yes and no. Maggie was like family. To this day when my children are in town to visit, they always go see her. But the other people in the community, it was more like we were in a tribe than in an extended family. Let me ask you two, how serious is your relationship?”


Without a second’s hesitation, they both said, “Very.”


Ronda followed up with “I didn’t believe I could ever love someone with the same intensity that I did the girl’s father. But that is how I love Ashley, with all of my heart, soul, and mind.”


Ashely said “I’d heard other women talk about how totally and completely in love they were, but I’ve never felt that way about anyone. Not with my first husband. Not with Chad. I didn’t think it was in me.  But what I didn’t realize is that I’d never felt that kind of total love from anyone before this year. I’ve told Bonnie this before, but the nights I spend with Cooper have shown me what true lovemaking is. I would not have been open to the love Ronda gives me in bed had Cooper not shown me how. Perhaps the problem was that I really, really, like sex and I have since I was fifteen years old. For me, sex with a competent partner was a complete end in itself. I didn’t believe there was anything more, but Cooper opened my eyes to something new: unconditional love. I knew I was attracted to Ronda, but I’ve been sexually attracted to women before. In my mind, I liked sex with women but I loved sex with men. I was aware that she and I had a special friendship and have for several years. I didn’t want to mess that up by pushing her into a sexual relationship that she may or may not want.”


Bonnie interrupted, “But I’d watched you two together all summer. I could tell something was cooking, something more than just friendship.”


Responding to Bonnie she said “Yes, I felt it too. We’d begun to casually… or not so casually touch each other, like on the hand or arm. When she did that, it took my breath away. Especially at your nude swimming days, I felt what I now am willing to openly call love swelling in my heart for her. Anyone who pretends that there is not a connection between love and sexual attraction is cracked. By the end of the summer, part of me didn’t want to go to those swim events because I knew how much I wanted to wrap my arms around Ronda, pull her body to mine, and kiss her till the sun went down; but I couldn’t even tell her I wanted that, let alone do it. And then of course was the fact I was with Chad at those swim parties. I was so conflicted. One thing that made it both better and worse was how right at the beginning of the summer, Chad let me know it was fine for me to get it on with you and Cooper as long as he didn’t fuck me. That opened a door I didn’t know was possible in our arrangement.”


Smiling at Bonnie Ashely said, “Don’t take it the wrong way but over the summer when you and I started having sex in your bed with Cooper and at my house with Chad, it only fed my desire to have sex with Ronda. Bonnie, I really do value our time together. I hope I’m not off base, but I consider you a lover, not just a friend now… well you and Cooper both.”


Bonnie felt the need to say “I feel that way about you too.”


Ashley nodded in acknowledgment, then went on, “But the problem was as much as I enjoyed being with you, it just focused my desire to have sex with Ronda.  It wasn’t until after we both had a full night with just Cooper, well actually she’d had two, but she took the risk to tell me that her feelings for me went beyond friendship to love, love like she had for her girls’ father. It took courage for her to take that risk, courage I did not have. Perhaps because she had been in love before she knew the rewards of opening herself up.  I think we cried a river of tears that day as I poured out my heart’s desire for her as well.”


Ronda leaned over to Ashely’s chair and put a hand on her shoulder. When Ashley looked over to her, Bonnie saw but could not hear the words “I love you” formed with her lips.


There was a pause like no one really knew where to go from there. It was Sherry who pushed the issue. “So where do you go from here? As I said from the beginning, you need to bring Chad into this. But what I think you mean is that this is actually a question for what to do once Rebecca and Haley start college. From what Ronda said, Haley will still be living at home. What about Rebecca?”


Ashley explained, “She does not plan to stay in Sparta next fall. She’s been accepted to several colleges and between her biological father’s obligations under our divorce decree, my income, and a generous offer to help her from Chad, she is free to choose any of them without financial concerns. So, no matter what she decides, she will be out of our house in the fall. A year ago, I would have said I was happy for it, but our relationship is better than ever. I honestly never imagined I would consider my daughter a friend, but now I do. I actually dread her leaving home now.”


Sherry smiled broadly, “Yes, it takes a real paradigm shift for a mother to stop seeing her daughter as a little girl, but take it from me, she will never stop needing you to be her mother, no matter how old she gets.”


The words hit home to Bonnie even though they were meant for Sherry.


“SO,” Sherry said, “I don’t think you two need to make a decision yet. But you do need to start working out a process to make a decision.” To Ronda, she said “I suggest you give some thought to what you really want. As much as you love Ashely, I suggest you ask yourself do you really want to fundamentally change your current life, or would some less drastic adjustments give you what you want. Now that you have been the sole master of your home for so long are you ready to give that up? Relationships change when you become joint rulers of your domain. Could you be happy with another arrangement, such as one where Ashely splits her time between your home and her home with Chad? You and Ashley both need to acknowledge that outside of the St. Thomas free-love group, the world that she and Chad inhabit is one of wealthy blue-blood investors, their social functions, and high-value real estate deals; while yours is your horse farm, rodeos, and your Caterpillar plant. She is happy in that world and it would be a mistake to take that away from her.”


“If you will indulge me, I will go back to my relationship with Magnolia LeCroix. For ten years she lived with us and slept in the same bed as my late husband and I. She was very much an integral part of our family. When she felt compelled to move back to Handcock County to care for her father, she was faced with a choice. She could have simply put her life with me on hold until her father passed and then moved back to California, or she could build for herself a permanent life here.  In her case, she was both burdened and blessed with the reality that her LeCroix blood runs through the very veins of Handcock and Baldwin counties. She knew when her father passed, she would become the primary caretaker of the LaCroix family name, fortune, and legacy.  Faced with what she felt were obligations of honor, she began the process of reintegrating into the highest tier of Handcock County society when she moved back here some fifteen years ago. She quite literally built her home here.”


“While she was doing that, my life became consumed with my late husband’s three-year fight with cancer and helping my two kids transition from their life as kids in our communal farm to an adult life in the larger world. Magnolia had invited me to come live with her when my husband passed, but I just couldn’t do that… not then.  When I finally moved to Georgia to be near her, just over four years ago, a decade had passed since she’d left California. She had established herself as the vibrant leader of the extended LeCroix clan and she knew that position was based as much on her personal influence as her money. For good or for bad she, like many people of her social status, publicly fit in with her social expectations while privately living by a very different set of values. She was invited to join, and often lead, the most prestigious committees and clubs in central Georgia even while she solidified and extended her family’s financial holdings.”


Sherry looked to Ashely, “May I assume you have run into Magnolia at a good many social and business functions over the years?”


“Oh yes,” Ashely replied. “She knows everyone and both Chad and the couple with whom I was attached made efforts to curry her favor. I actually brokered a rather complicated real-estate investment deal for her a couple of years ago.”


“Did you know that at pretty much any of those big functions, more than one or two of those people were her former lovers?”


Ashley thought for a moment and replied, “I’d heard rumors, but I always assumed they were simply malicious jealousy because she is so pretty, wealthy and powerful. You know how people attack successful women.”


Sherry answered, “Yes, I do know. In her case, while her wealth and influence are not built on selling herself, she in fact does have a network of former lovers in the highest social and business circles. You see Magnolia is attracted to confident and powerful people and she has a large coterie of lovers, past and present, male and female.  As long as I have known her, she has reveled in what we call new relationship energy.  It is that passionate infatuation one has with a new lover. As such, her love affairs are nearly always white hot, but short-lived.  As far as I know, I am the sole exception to that. But even though she usually tires of lovers after three or four months, she has the ability to remain friends with those people. People just naturally like Maggie and like to be around her. So at nearly any high-class social or business function in Handcock, Baldwin, or even Putnum counties, know it or not, you will see her greeting past lovers. At Maggie’s Valentine's party, Cooper found out just how many former lovers she has.”


Looking at Bonnie, Sherry asked, “Did Cooper tell you about the foursome he had in Maggie’s round bed?”


Bonnie said she had.


“I don’t know if he even knows it, but of the six people in that bed, besides Cooper and Slosh, only one person was not one of Maggie’s former lovers. I tell you all this to say, the love Maggie and I have for each other has never stopped even while our lives have gone on. For that decade when she was here and I was still in California, we talked on the phone several times each week… well we still do. However, we had both moved on in our lives. I had a disastrous short-lived marriage and in my pain, there was one person I knew I could count on to help me. Even though she helped finance me moving down here, she did not ask me to live with her. Nobody, I mean nobody, here in Sparta knew we were anything more than old friends. Sure, we were making love a couple of times a week, but it was in the privacy of her home. She introduced me to a man who had been her lover eight years before, who was now a widower and was looking for a quiet life. She let me know he had been quite a rake for decades, but that was behind him. After the terrible time I’d had with trying to recreate my swinging life with my second husband, I too was looking to live out my life in a mostly conventional quiet way. Before I agreed to marry Herb, Maggie and I told him all about us and let him know that I would continue to see her in secret, just as I had been doing.”


Ashely cut in, “But that isn’t what happened though. I mean you are fucking my husband two or three times a month, and I understand you’ve done Slosh’s husband a couple of times too.”

Bonnie added, “And you had sex with Cooper at our party and now you and Maggie are hosting those soirees that are just mini sex parties a couple of times a month.”


Sherry nodded, “No life didn’t turn out the way I’d expected. And that is due to you, Bonnie, more than anyone else. Just as you pulled me into your orbit, Maggie has been drawn in too. She worked for fifteen years to build her respectable reputation, but now she is putting that on the line by starting a group to push back on the local social conservatives.” Looking right at Bonnie she said, “Though I’m not sure you know it, you have a gravity to you that simply captures people who get too close and pulls them in. You did it to me, I dare say you did it to Ashley and you have done it to Maggie.”


Bonnie didn’t know what to say, but she tried, “I didn’t set out to do any such thing. I was just trying to do my best for me and my family.”


Sherry smiled, “Yes, I know. Had you tried I doubt your gravity would be half a strong. If I were one of those super spiritual kind of people, I’d say God had touched and called you.”


The other two women voiced agreement before Sherry turned to Ashley and said “As far as your agreement with Chad regarding sex, I might be able to help with that. I rather expected this discussion when you first asked me to join you and Ronda, so I took the liberty of talking to my very special friend Magnolia about Chad. I think I’m a fair judge of his qualities as an occasional companion as well as how good he is in bed. I can quite honestly say he has a lot to offer.”

Ashely agreed, “Yes, he does. That is part of what makes all this so hard.”


“Maggie has a lot of friends; many are in the same social circles that Chad travels in for his business. He has a reputation for being a bit of a scallywag even at his age. While some women go for young men, a surprising number of well-bred women my age prefer a man of our generation… well as long as he is up to the challenge in the bedroom. With just a little bit of matchmaking by Maggie, Chad would have all the sex he can handle, from discreet and cultured women who appreciate a skilled lover. So, the ball is in your court. You need to talk to your husband honestly and find a way forward that is fair to both of you.”


Though the conversation went on for another half hour, Sherry had provided the real help Ashely and Ronda needed. Bonnie wondered why she’d been invited because she didn’t feel she’d been any help at all. Yet, when they all prepared to leave both Ashely and Ronda thanked her profusely and Bonnie didn’t feel any disingenuousness from them. Perhaps her presence was all they needed even if the real advice came from Sherry.

 

***


Sparta Georgia was too small to have a daily paper of its own. The Hancock County Harold was published on Wednesdays and Fridays.  As with most small rural papers, it was devoted to local news: births, deaths, arrests, and local politics. The nearest daily was the Milledgeville Union-Recorder and for larger stories, the Atlanta Constitution was available everywhere.  As could be expected the editorial position of both The Harold and Union-Recorder was very conservative.  Routinely articles decried the low morals of young people, “Yankees” and through thinly veiled euphemisms, African-Americans.


The year before when a local scandal erupted after photos of a prominent woman and her daughter at a nude beach had surfaced on the internet; it had been fodder for several short articles. After all, sex always sells.  However much the paper exploited the event to sell copies, the text had condemnatory quotes from a local minister and the principal of Jefferson Davis High School. However, the most direct attacks on the woman in the photos (which of course the paper did not print) came in a pair of long letters to the editor in both The Hancock County Harold and the Milledgeville Union-Recorder. Both letters explicitly criticized both the woman for her actions and local Christian leaders for their failure to publicly condemn such immoral behavior.


When Bonnie and Cooper had read the letters, it was apparent that they were written by the same person though the exact wording of the two were slightly different. The letters made the case that the woman in question and her daughter were a corrupting influence on the young people of the community and deserved public sanction.  Though the letters were both signed “Citizens for Morality” it was assumed by many that Margo LaCroix had written them both.


Bonnie had been rather surprised that the issue died so quickly though, only later did she realize that the response to her challenge to conventional morality had just been gestating.   It took most of the past year for both sides to begin formally organizing, but in the fall, the Christian right was ready to begin challenging what they called a "relentless assault on decency and family values”.

  

Through October, November, and December, it was unclear how much the conservatives knew about the steady trickle of topless and nude beach photos of local women and teens that were showing up on the internet.  It was also unclear if right-wing Christian leaders were aware how much of the free sex "propaganda" they were hearing about was directly related to that infamous mother and her daughter. What was clear as day however was their local cocoon of morality was under threat from immoral and ungodly forces.


The Friday paper on February 24th, came out when Bonnie was out of town. Cooper didn’t see it because he never even looked at The Herald which he considered nothing more than a gossip sheet.  So, it was late Saturday afternoon when Trish came to their house to spend the night, she showed Bonnie and Cooper the article. Cooper had to read it twice to make sure he got what was being said, and implied.


It was actually two articles in the Harold that got Trish's attention. One was an AP wire article about teen sexting and its relationship to teen sexual behavior.  It discussed a school in Texas that had confiscated dozens of cell phones containing nude photos that underage girls had sent their boyfriends. On its own, it was nothing new or of note.  The second article was a local follow-up on the national article. In it, the writer specifically referred to an under-age honor student at Jefferson Davis High who had nude photos posted on several internet sites. It also had a vague reference to parties where teen sex was encouraged with free condoms for all the party goers. Further, the article questioned why law enforcement had not become involved or the school had not taken action to punish these things. The article concluded with a warning to parents to monitor their children’s behavior, associations, cell phones, and internet use. “If an honor student from a prominent family could be led into such actions, every child is at risk.”


There was no doubt that the article, which was reprinted the next day in the Union-Recorder, was referring to the Campbells. What was not so obvious was why the article pulled its punches and didn’t name names. Surely the author was aware of the identities of the local family involved.  And it was reasonable to assume that she also knew that Bonnie was actively leading a national campaign aimed squarely at the restrictive morality of the Old South.  Then why not name names?

One possible answer was that the owner-editor of the paper was an old friend of Cooper’s late father. Another possibility was that the small paper didn’t want to do battle with a national foundation over what was ultimately not a local issue.  In the end, the article was another warning that the activities of the Campbells would not go unaddressed by the local morality police forever.  A third answer might have been that after a bruising but lost battle to stop same-sex marriage, the local papers just didn't want to wade into that fight again.


Even though the article didn't name the Campbells by name, they still prompted Maggie to call for a new meeting of the Georgians for an Open Society.  On the phone, she told Cooper that it was time to plan an appropriate warning to the paper and more importantly to local elected officials that this is not 1980, and today those who once called themselves the Moral Majority, are no longer anything like a majority, even in rural Georgia.

  

***

 

On Tuesday night, it was Cooper’s turn to be out with Sherry while Bonnie stayed home. The third meeting of the Georgians for an Open Society was held at Sherry & Herb’s place, as they all had been.  There were only ten people at her house, but this was more or less the steering committee.  The group was mostly organized online and now had almost two hundred "members".


Maggie LeCroix and Steven Black had, not surprisingly, formed the leadership of the 501-C-3 non-profit when it became an official entity on the first of February. Cooper was more an ancillary to those who had more connections. However, as he had done for the FFF, he had been called upon to do writing for the new group.


Maggie reported that although her Aunt Margo had indeed been behind the article in the local papers, as Cooper had guessed; the paper’s editor/owner had significantly toned down the final version. As Maggie told the group, “Though the article as printed was still offensive and blatantly trying to gin up hostility toward Cooper's family and their allies, I think even they know this is not 1980 and they do not command the majority they did then.  They have also found that there is a certain amount of deafness to their calls. Now that it appears they have lost the battle against gay marriage there is a certain level of resignation, even from those who had once been their ground troops. The rise of the far-right by the Republican Party has buoyed their hopes, but now only those most disengaged with reality think they can re-criminalize all sexual expression outside of the heterosexual marriage bed.”


Steven Black seconded the assessment, but gave the warning that cornered dogs are more dangerous. “They know they are fighting a rearguard action, and they will more quickly resort to nasty tactics now that they don’t have the raw power of numbers they once had.”


In the end it was decided to continue organizing across the state using small meetings coordinated by social media, and not to respond to this provocation. “We don’t want to tip our hand” Maggie said. “As of yet, I don’t think Miss Margo’s people have any idea they will face an organized response once they make their move. To the best of my knowledge, they are planning their offensive for the late summer and fall to coincide with the November elections. They have sent materials out to several dozen churches to begin planning for rallies and efforts to get commitments from candidates to support their agenda.”


After it was over, Cooper thought the meeting was largely a waste of his time. However, he understood why he had to be there, especially since he might well need their help sometime in the foreseeable future. 


***


On the first Thursday in March, Bonnie flew to Austin, Texas for a 2:00 PM lecture for a group that included faculty and students at The University of Texas. That night she had a community-focused lecture and panel discussion sponsored by the same group. Even after all her public speaking over the past half-year, this venue was intimidating. The hall on the University of Texas campus seated over a thousand and it appeared to be filled. The events in Austin and the one the next day in Houston were all sponsored by the same Texas-based progressive social/political group. It had been a real coup to have a well-heeled group pick up the FFF cause after one of their board members saw Bonnie’s presentation in Atlanta.  She didn’t know whether to be flattered, insulted, or feel used when the organizer in Austin told her directly that they hoped that her controversial topic and explicit photos would generate interest in their group’s message of personal freedom.  From what Bonnie could tell, the students and community people were quite receptive to her and the questions at the panel Q&A were right up her alley.


After her evening meeting, she’d been driven to the airport for a shuttle flight to Houston. On the little plane, Bonnie was feeling quite good about herself. Sure, she’d honed her skills at some rather seedy swing clubs and stood in front of her audiences totally naked at nudist resorts; but after only half a year on the road, she felt like she’d finally arrived. This trip, these venues, were what she and Amy had aimed for from the start. She firmly believed that it was on college campuses that the message of the FFF would have its longest-lived impact.


For Friday she had a similar itinerary at Rice University with a talk to students at 2:00 and a community-focused presentation that evening. While being driven to speaking events by someone from the sponsoring group had been exciting back in September and October, at the start of March, it seemed quite normal. The hotel was not far from the university campus, but in Houston traffic, it took well over a half an hour. As they pulled up to the building in which she would be speaking, there was quite a commotion. There were dozens of people with signs in some kind of protest.


Bonnie initially laughed to herself at the commotion, just writing it off as over-eager college students protesting some right-wing speaker. Suddenly she got a chill. She thought perhaps she wasn’t the only speaker tonight. The night before there had been a panel of three for the Q&A, perhaps this had been set up as a point-counterpoint sort of event. However, the young woman driving her assured Bonnie that she was the only speaker and she alone would be behind the lectern for the Q&A time afterward.


The car was in a parking lot a block from the steps to the venue, she strained to see what the signs said. When she got close enough, the first sign she could read puzzled her. It read:  Adultery is still a Sin. Stop the FFF.  A second sign had a printout of her face with a red “X” across it and it read “Sin is Sin.” With a start, she realized they were protesting against HER!


Bonnie stopped in her tracks. Standing on the sidewalk holding her briefcase. She took in the reality that protesters were objecting to her personally as well as to the FFF.  A wave of fear ran through her. She’d seen news footage where speakers were mobbed by student protesters. However, as she waited for the woman who had driven the car to catch up, she realized these were not students. They were middle-aged people and they appeared mostly to be performing for someone holding a video camera.


The young woman who had brought Bonnie from the airport said, “We’d gotten word this might happen. It seems our sister chapter in Austin did an overly good job in promoting your talk last night. Some zealot from the Christian right went as a spy and to secretly record a video of some of what you said. The spy sent the recording to the pastor of a right-wing mega-church here in Houston. They didn’t have much time to put this together, and I doubt most of these people really know what they are protesting, but they were told you were bad so they are here.”


As Bonnie and her escort stood there watching from only about thirty yards away, nobody seemed to notice them. She took the time to button her overcoat up as far as it would go. No sense letting the mob get a look at what she was wearing. Once the fear subsided, Bonnie got excited. With a video camera there, the protesters might give the FFF far more publicity than she would ever have gotten otherwise. Who knows what kind of right-wing website they might put this stuff on? Personally, she felt a surge of importance. After all, she mattered enough to bring these people out. She'd come a long way since she started this.


“Well, I’m flattered,” Bonnie said. “Someone noticed us.”


Despite calling her out by name, and the grainy photo on one sign, the protesters clearly had no idea who she was as a person. No one even noticed when she walked right through the picketers to the doors of the lecture hall. The thirty or so people just continued to wave their signs opposing pornography, adultery, homosexuality and fornication as the doors closed behind Bonnie.  The humor in this made her literally laugh out loud. The lecture went on with the protesters making no difference, except to perhaps help fill the auditorium.


At 10:00 PM that night she was on her way back to the airport for a red-eye flight home.  She was exhausted but it had been a very productive couple of days. Not only had she spoken to more people than she had ever done on a single trip, the protesters brought out the news media which gave them the most exposure they had received since New York.  A particularly intrepid reporter for the Houston Chronicle offered her a ride to the airport if she would agree to be interviewed on the way.  He was young and cute, but she distrusted what he might write so while she took him up on his offer, she was very careful about what she said.


He asked about the Foundation and its work and goals. He very specifically asked about the art and photos used in the PowerPoint. Though he had only caught the Q&A time, he had heard about the explicit nature of her words and images.


She left him with several pieces of literature and let him know she now had a blog which she updated three times a week. She then gave him her business card with the web address and her email.


On the plane, Mrs. Bonnie Campbell was very tired but very pleased with herself. She thought she’d handled the series of lectures and panel discussions well. She was no longer blindsided by hostility coming from either the moral conservatives or the equally narrow-minded neo-feminist. The reporter was a surprise, though she knew it should not have been. Amy had prepped her months ago for just such an event and she thought she’d handled it well, but it was hard to say.

 

****


By the time March arrived it appeared that Bonnie’s suggestion that the board consider hiring Gayle as a contract speaker for the foundation had been a good one. It seems that independent of Bonnie, there was growing discussion among some of the board members that there was a need to lay the groundwork for academic production from the Foundation. They pointed out that, while they were getting good articles and literature from Cooper and the others who had been volunteering to write for the FFF, if they were going to have staying power and a national visibility, they would need to begin producing a more regular stream of materials. Further, the new demand for speaking at colleges gave weight to the argument several board members were making that they needed to make a concerted effort to reach out to both academia and college students. All these discussions were pushed forward by the scheduled board interview with Gayle.


****


On the second Tuesday morning of March Bonnie met the newly minted Dr. Gayle Simmons-Perkins at the Columbia, South Carolina airport in advance of her job interview. The Columbia airport was much closer than the huge Atlanta airport to the FFF office in Augusta.


The plan was to spend the late afternoon with Amy to let her get a feel of the candidate, and then meet the board.   Over the last month Gayle and Bonnie had talked on the phone a great deal. Bonnie had provided all the available written resource material that Amy and the board’s committee had asked. 


“You do understand” Amy continued the discussion that was now into its second hour. “We are looking for representatives that not only can present our material well, but openly live out our beliefs.”



For Gayle, after she had just recently defended her doctoral dissertation, this was more a friendly discussion than an interview. But she did want to do well. Over the past months, she had spent a lot of time learning the FFF’s positions and the underlying philosophical underpinnings. She had always been an over preparer, and she was sure she had done an excellent job of summarizing the FFF position to the Executive Director.


“Oh, I agree.” Gayle enthusiastically responded “That is what makes Bonnie such a compelling speaker. It’s not just words to her, it’s her life.”


“And when you first heard her speak, how did you know this was her life?” Dr. Douglass inquired.

Gayle had not prepped that question. She thought back to that night just before the holidays when she met Bonnie for the first time. No, it hadn’t been then, it was her presentation. It had been so believable. “Because the presentation. I’ve heard a lot of presentations of new ideas and I can tell the difference between those speakers who have passion for what they are saying and those who just recite information.”


Amy nodded, “Yes, Bonnie is committed, but do you think the visuals supported the presentation’s believability and impact?”


“Certainly, the fact she, without comment, apology or even a blush had photos of herself as an integral part of the presentation gave it punch it would not have otherwise.”


Amy leaned back in her chair. “I agree. I was not going to use any photos of her, but when we put the presentation together Bonnie insisted that some of the photos must actually be her. She knew then, that it was the only way to convince the audience she was what she claimed to be. You might not know it, but we did four full photo-shoots. One of her by herself, one with her husband and one each with two different partners having sex. A total of four full photo-shoots just for the few photos you saw in her PowerPoint.  And, her judgment about their impact was right on the money.  They make all the difference.”


Gayle now knew where she was going with this. She and Orin had spoken at length about it. Though her husband vehemently denied it, she did not think she was nearly as pretty as Bonnie. But, Gayle reasoned, the fact that she had the appearance and body of a rather boring academic, might make images of her all the more believable since she thought herself the definition of a wallflower. She also could tell that Dr. Douglass was not going to ask her to sit, or rather, perform, for a painting and photos to include in the presentation. She was sure that Dr. Douglass wanted to see if she would suggest it for herself. This she had prepared for.  She provided an answer to the unspoken question.  “Since meeting Bonnie the first time, my husband and I have opened up to a lot of new things and done quite a bit of experimentation. We have done things that I never thought I would be able to. Frankly, we found joys in our marriage we’d not expected. Bonnie pointed us in the right direction, but we walked through the door.”


Gayle didn’t know if she could ever be as casual about this as Bonnie was, but she would try. “We have come to believe in what the FFF is about. I would think if I were to start doing presentations for you, I would want to have photos of myself of a similar nature made to replace those of Bonnie for my version of her presentation.”


That was what Dr. Douglass was evidently waiting to hear because she shifted to a new subject. “How much experience do you have in dealing with the press?”


“Some, but not an extensive amount.  I have developed press releases for the Free Thinkers and have done a few media interviews.”


 Dr. Douglass said with a smile, “From what Bonnie told me about her last trip, we may finally be getting some press attention. Protesters are a good start. Hopefully our Baptist friends will have more protests when Bonnie speaks at her alma-mater, Vanderbilt, next week. Even more I am hoping the reporter she spoke to gets his story picked up in syndication. That would increase our exposure significantly.”


Bonnie was a little surprised when Amy went off on a discussion about Gayle’s research, publications and dissertation. She could tell this was not off the cuff, because she asked a few very detailed questions about Gayle's writings. The two of them had quite the discussion on the philosopher Emanuel Kant and a guy named Michelle Foucault whom Bonnie only knew because she had read from two of the author's books on the History of Sexuality from Cooper’s library. Evidently the man was primarily famous as a philosopher.


By quarter to six, Amy seemed to be convinced, as Bonnie was, that Gayle would be an asset to the team.  “OK, Bonnie, why don’t you take Gayle to dinner. Be back at 7:30. By then the Board will be ready to see her.”


Bonnie took Gayle to Nanny’s, a local, very Southern experience. Augusta, due to the Savannah River Nuclear Site and the annual Masters Golf Tournament, was a progressive city, as rural Georgia went. As such there were a number of fine dining establishments, but Gayle asked for something authentically Southern, so they went to Nanny’s.  In a converted home, it served what southerners called “Meat and Three”: a meat dish such as country-fried steak and three vegetables such as collards and/or fried okra. The atmosphere was, for want of a better expression, authentic, provided mostly by the colorful country locals who frequented the place.


“This is my turn to show you some local hospitality; but without the snow you used as a backdrop” Bonnie said as they sat down at the table. “This is the real south. The south I live in, it’s not Atlanta or even Charlotte. Just regular people trying to live the way they have for generations.” Leaning over to Gayle and whispering she said “Now you see why my task at home is so much harder than it is on the road.”


“I think I understand” Gayle replied. “How do you think it went with Dr. Douglass?”


“Great. I told you beforehand it would be no problem for you.”


“Thanks.”


“And the meeting tonight, you’ll really just need to do a little of what you did for Amy.  They’ll just go through the formalities; but in the end they will do what she recommends.”


“Which will be what?”


“For the first month you will simply meet me at the places I speak and assist me. After a few weeks, you’ll do part, then all of some of the presentations. If that goes well, you can consider yourself past your probationary period and one of the team. You were right to volunteer to pose for photos. That was what she was waiting for as sort of your commitment to what we do. Assuming you still want to, you would come back here for several days to do photos. You’d be surprised how much work modeling can be. If you would like you can stay at my place, or if you would prefer we can put you up in the same hotel you are in now… or a combination of the two. After that you will take off on your own, speaking at venues around the country two days a week. Though with travel that really translates into working for us half-time: sometimes two and sometimes three days a week. It is possible the board will modify it, but that is the plan as of this morning.”


“Thank you again” Gayle replied “I would need a few weeks to arrange my schedule in Minnesota before I could start.”


“So what does Orin think of you traveling a couple of days a week?”


“You know, I think he likes the idea of me being out of town a lot. That way he can spend more time with his real love.”


Bonnie gave her a puzzled look.


“His research. His research agenda is his mistress and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to compete with that”


Bonnie laughed out loud. “If that’s as sexy as he gets, what will he think of you posing for photos with other men for the presentation?”


“It’s odd, he seems ambivalent about me and other men. It doesn't seem to bother him, but it doesn't seem to get him all excited either.  It is almost like he thinks it's no big deal either way.”


Bonnie cocked her head. "That is an odd reaction. From my experience men either get angry or turned on, or both at the idea of their wife doing other men."


"That just isn't Orin." She paused, then looked around then said in a low voice, "I haven’t told you, I haven't told anyone; but I have been dying to tell someone, but don't know anyone I can tell back home.” She paused and then lowered her voice “We took a risk and… well we have had other people in our bed with us.”


Bonnie tried not to grin, but failed. “So are you going to tell me about it?”


Gayle leaned in even further, and just loud enough for Bonnie to hear said. “Right off we contacted the couple you hinted to us that might be open to… you know…sharing. We went out with them and they were surprisingly candid about the fact they’d had sex with you. I told them what happened in the hospitality suite, that we didn’t really have a threesome that night, but you were right there with us when we did it. I said you were sort of a coach while Orin and I had sex. Then we let them know that we were considering sex with other people. They made it clear they were open to the four of us trying out a more intimate arrangement. We all left agreeing to talk it over with our spouses before we took things further. Then the holidays came which was when you and I began to email seriously about the idea of me doing presentations for your foundation.....”

“Our foundation, not my foundation” Bonnie corrected.


“That remains to be seen” she countered, “But, whichever, I brought it up to Orin that it would be hard to be believable making those presentations if I didn’t have the kind of openness in my lifestyle that you have. And just like he’s working on a student’s research project, in his monotone voice he says that I’ll have to bring someone home and try it out to see if I’m comfortable with having sex with other men.”


“Was that the response you were looking for?” Bonnie asked.


“Not really, I mean, yes, I did hope he’d not object to me giving it a try, but I did figure he’d show a little interest. Object or encourage but something that showed he had an opinion about his wife screwing other men. He noted that Kinsey, back in the 1950’s did clinical observations of his wife having sex with other men for decades. In effect, this would be the same thing. The only thing he told me to do was to make out a clear plan for my experiment, keep careful notes and take all necessary steps to ensure safety and prevent the transmission of pathogens. A few days later in passing he said I needed to have protocols in advance in the case I became pregnant during the experiment. He was right of course. While I am good at taking my pill every day, there is a chance, however small, that I will become pregnant.”


Bonnie thought how odd it was that even in talking about what to do if she became pregnant, Orin was forthright, but detached.  While his response was odd, it did make Bonnie consider that she sometimes didn’t give enough thought to pregnancy for younger women, since she herself could not become pregnant.  That would be a good place for Gayle to start in the changes she would make in the presentation so as to make it her own.  Bonnie shifted the topic a bit to ask “What has he had to say about what happened in the hospitality suite?”


“Not much. I brought it up a couple of times but it’s like the whole thing embarrasses him.  It’s not that he regrets doing it, he actually encouraged me to wear your shirt to a New Year’s Eve party we went to in Minneapolis. So, he’s glad for your help, it’s just, for all his surety in an academic setting, he is totally insecure about sexual things. I think that is why he intellectualized my question about having sex with other men.”


“It’s not like he’s incapable,” Bonnie said. “He did a very nice job the night I was there.”

 “Oh yea, when it’s all there laid out for him as it were, he’s more than willing. It’s just that he is so afraid to initiate sex. I can count on one hand how many times he’s initiated sex with me. From the very first time; if I want to do it, I have to make it very obvious I want it right then. Outside of his role as an academic, he is very passive.”


“So, what did you do with his suggestions?” Bonnie inquired.


“About wearing your see-through shirt or about approaching sex with other men like a formal experiment?”


“Both.”


“I wore the shirt, but I don't have an open front bra like you do. So I wore a sheer white lace bra and a jacket. Unlike you I kept the jacket on most of the night. I didn’t take it off till I’d had a little too much champagne just before midnight. Once it was off, I liked the attention I got. But that’s the only time I’ve worn it."


Bonnie nodded, "Yea, I understand how the first time feels. I'll email you the links to the places where I get my quarter-cup bras. You know I'm wearing one today. On the road they pretty much are all I wear now, and a good many days I wear them to the office. To be honest, I like how my breasts are allowed to move more than in a normal bra, and I like how it feels to have the fabric of my blouse sliding over my nipples. If I were younger and had slightly smaller breasts, I’d go braless; but for me, it’s not really an option in a professional setting. I’m sure you noticed that Amy was bare under her blouse. It's hard to miss especially when she leaves her shirt half unbuttoned. She rarely wears a bra to the office, but she can pull it off. So the quarter cup bras are sort of a compromise for me.  I've gone on quite the bra & panty shopping spree. I now have more quarter-cup bras than full-coverage ones.  Nearly half didn't work for me and so I sent them back, but that was to be expected. And also not surprising was that the most expensive ones looked the best.  I think the one I'm wearing today costs more than all my old bras combined."


Gayle laughed at that.


Bonnie then said "Should you come to work for us, you can dress in any way you think best. Oh, I'm sorry for interrupting, go on"


"About the other; well, after I got over his indifference, I started making plans but had to wait till classes restarted to act on it,” she said with a hint of irritation. “It took the entire Christmas break to think of someone to bring it up to.  In the end, I realized Orin was right on the money. I should approach it like a formal experiment. Since this was seven weeks before I was scheduled to defend my dissertation, I was still considered a graduate student even though I’m not taking any classes this semester, I posted an entry in the University’s graduate online community bulletin board. I actually posted it the day before classes restarted. I said a female graduate student would like to start a discussion and exploration group to pursue the issues brought up by the Final Freedom Foundation.”


“How would anyone know what that is?”


“You underestimate the impact of your visit or the speed in which new ideas move through the humanities community. Besides, there were a good number of teachers and students from the university at the conference. Your presentation did indeed generate discussions on campus. Also, the material on the FFF website has been read by quite a few people at school as well. I’ve got to tell you that the post on your blog about Valentine’s Day got a lot of people I know talking.”

“So, it wasn’t too graphic?” Bonnie asked.


“No, I don’t think so.”  She paused, deciding whether to ask or not, then blurted out, “Did I read the post right? It sounded like you were saying you had those two men do you vaginally and anally at the same time. Did you do that?”


Bonnie couldn’t help but smile. “That is exactly what happened.”


“I thought that was just something from porn. Do you like it?”


Bonnie laughed, “If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it anytime I have two men that I think would be willing.  There is nothing else like it… the utter fullness of having two men inside of me is amazing. We have a weekly foursome with a young couple and I guess I have the two men do me front and back about once a month.”  Bonnie then went back to what Gayle was talking about, ignoring Gayle's look of incredulity. “So did anyone respond to the notice you posted?”


“Yes. I set up a meeting in one of the library’s group study rooms. Seven people showed up. We had a good discussion and have been meeting every week. Over the seven meetings so far, we've averaged just under nine people, and at the last meeting we had thirteen.”


“Wow. What have they had to say?”


“Since these are all graduate students, they over think everything, but there are some interesting perspectives, especially from those who are not from North America. We have a woman who is from American Samoa and a couple from Argentina who are regulars as well as several people from Europe. It has turned out better than I had expected.”


“And what about your search for someone to bring home?”


“At the first meeting, I knew two of the people who came very well and one more casually. One of the ones I knew well, his name is Mike, is also a doctoral candidate and we have had classes together.  I emailed him a couple of days after our first meeting and we had lunch on campus. At the end I just out and out asked if he would like to come over that next Saturday afternoon for lunch and sex with me and my husband.”


“And?”


“He came over on Saturday, we had spaghetti, and afterward I ushered Orin and Mike to the bedroom. They were both very nervous, but after I’d given them both head, pretty good head if I say so myself, they were all into it.”


"And?"


"I told you they were all into it. They both screwed me like crazy. They took turns, one just watched and rested while the other one did me. We went on all afternoon until both guys had cum twice."

Bonnie asked,” And you?”


“More times than I could keep count of. Without question, it was the longest and best sexual experience in my life. I really did try to keep count because I planned to do what Orin had suggested and write up a narrative of the encounter. That evening I spent another two hours typing up a detailed description of what happened and how I felt at different stages.  I think I will use my notes for an autoethnography about moving from monogamy to non-monogamy. In the narrative, I used a dispassionate scholarly veneer about the physical actions we took to generate arousal and orgasmic response. It is very dry by intent, but I'll admit to you, it reads like geek porn. Writing it up made me horny as hell. Not just while I was writing it the first time, but even when I went back to edit a few days later, I ended up masturbating." 


Bonnie got a big smile.


G turned red, “I can’t believe I just said that. But, I’m saying and doing a lot of new things lately.”

She fully understood what the young Ph.D. was saying. “How was Orin afterward?”


“He was so non-committal I initially wondered if he was mad. But like two days later he asked if I was just going to bring home guys or was I going to invite women to join us as well. So, I decided he liked it but there is no way he was going to admit it. And I noticed he used the plural, so he expected I would have multiple new partners.”


“Cooper’s sort of like that, I understand.”


“I think that Orin doesn’t want to seem like a macho pig so he won’t tell me it turned him on to watch me have sex with another guy.” Then she grinned, “but as they say actions speak louder than words” and put one finger up like an erect penis. “That first time was six weeks ago. With Mike & Orin's permission, at the group's next meeting, I brought up my first extramarital sex as the topic of conversation. I told the group that I was doing research into marital non-monogamy, gave a link to my write-up of my first experience, and asked for others to consider assisting me.  In the last five weeks, we have had a visitor in our bed every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon. The couple you slept with at my conference will be joining us this coming Sunday. They are super excited. Though I am a little intimidated since the only other woman they’ve had in bed with them is you.”


Bonnie shook her head, “Don’t be. If you are just yourself, I have no doubt they will be glad they joined you. Will they then be part of your study?”


“Oh yes. Once I told them they would only be identified by a number they were fine with it. It will be interesting to compare the emotional side when the subjects are just normal people and not grad students doing it for research.  Mike has been over twice more. Once by himself and once with one of the women from our group.  Though there is no doubt having sex with a total of six men and four women in a little over a month has been exciting, it has also been interesting. For each new subject, the first time he or she is with us, it is just the three of us. But we have also begun experimenting with different combinations of multiple males and females. We have a tentative plan for a full-on orgy in about a month. Like I said about the couple we are having over this week, each partner has a number for anonymity and I write notes about each encounter and then later thoughts.  I found that by phrasing it as research, I was able to get Orin to write about his feelings in a way that he has not been willing to say out loud."


Bonnie asked "And what does he have to say?"


"Mostly he enjoys the novelty and he actually said he is learning new things. Both what to do for me as well as things the women have done that he likes. But reading his writing is actually funny how clinical he makes everything. Way beyond what I do. Even in describing watching other men doing me, his words are so dry he could be talking about watching a male and female wildebeest rutting rather than another man fucking his own wife to seismic orgasms.  Now, to be sure, he is good at observing and catches everything, even recording my different vocalizations at different parts of my arousal.  He actually now has worked out I have a very predictable pattern of responses as I go through the stages of arousal up to orgasm.  I'd never realized it myself, but he is right. He even records his own arousal to both watching and participating. In reading his reports, there is no question watching me have sex with both men and women turns him on; but he likes to watch other guys cum in my mouth more than anything other than to watch my partner bring me to climax.”


“The most enlightening thing was, reading what he had to say about subject number 4 (a male) putting Orin's penis in his mouth. I found it very illuminating on several different levels.  The text made reference to something he had never told me.  When he was an early teen going through puberty, he and his best friend sucked each other's penis regularly for over three years and experimented with anal sex too.  He'd never even hinted to me he'd done a guy before.  In the "after action" narrative, he stated clearly that in all the years since he last had oral sex with his friend, when they were both fifteen, he's had homoerotic sexual fantasies, but had never acted on them.  Even while I watched Orin suck the guy's cock till he ejaculated in my husband's mouth, I knew I would have to wait for the formal write-up to understand what happened that Sunday afternoon.”


“Not only are Orin's narratives very well done, they are giving me a window to see things in my husband I'd never imagined.  Now I wonder if he is also learning about me at the same time.  He has also agreed that at the end of three months and again at six months, and a year from that first threesome, to let my co-researcher, the woman from Samoa, interview both of us to help us clarify the impact on our marriage. But, one thing I can tell already is that by making it a research project, we have artificially taken out much of the emotional difficulties many couples might have with this."


Bonnie understood what she was saying. They had made this something of a joint project for them. They had simply discarded the emotional response of seeing their partner enjoy sex with other people. She let Gayle know that Ira Fletcher on the board has a degree from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and that he would likely be willing to review her work when the time came. “But..” Bonnie said, “If you join our team, you can publish your work as an FFF document if you want.”


Gayle said she’d not thought of that before and asked Bonnie to have Dr. Douglass introduce her to Dr. Fletcher.


 Bonnie then asked, "Have all the people who you had in bed worked out? Especially since they are part of your weekly discussion group."


"Mostly it's been great.  Contrary to stereotypes, the females have shown the most ability to have very high-intensity sex with us and then a few days later come to the group and not have lingering attachment sort of issues. Only one didn't work out. A guy from Poland. The simple fact is he was a dud in bed. In like five minutes he’d ejaculated, dressed, and left. He didn’t come to any more meetings. Oh well.”


Bonnie understood that too, "It's like that. But I’ve found those with more experience in these kinds of things are much better at pacing themselves.  And how will Orin be about you doing it if he’s not there?”


“He’s OK with it. One Sunday he had an obligation so it was just me and subject number 7 that day. It changed the dynamic and we have plans to do it again by design.  I told him that I would offer to have people from the foundation paint and photograph me with other men and women for the presentation and he just said that he was behind me in whatever I do.”


Bonnie completely understood that kind of support since she had it from Cooper. She decided she should say something, “I get that from Cooper too. I really can’t imagine being in a marriage without that kind of total backing.”


Gayle agreed then Bonnie said, “And Gayle, I really do appreciate you telling Amy that having photos of me in my main conference presentation has given me the credibility I would not have had otherwise. I was told one of our board members has expressed concern that I've become too explicit in my presentations and in my blog.”


Gayle replied "Even had I not helped with your blog, I'd still say it is both unique and terrific.  Yes, some would call it porn, especially the two posts where you talk about your sexual encounters. Anyone who reads it regularly will find you simply paint a picture of your life that includes family, friends, work, church, and sex: sex with many partners. And you present it all as just normal parts of your overall life.  What makes you different, is that you don't shy away from writing explicit things about your sex life, but you don't make it gratuitous either.  And, that you have photos of you, your family, and your trips make it stand out among blogs with sexual themes. I guess I should say, as part of my review of the literature, I’ve been looking at a lot of sex-oriented blogs. Even though you’ve only been doing it for two months, yours stands out. I know all my discussion group members read it. Every week it comes up in our meetings. You give us a lot of topics to consider.”

Later Bonnie took her to meet the board and then drove her back to Columbia to stay at the Airport Hyatt in advance of her morning flight. She made a point to thank Gayle for mentioning to the board the good Bonnie's blog was doing and that her uncommon choice to be so direct about sexual matters gave it both popularity and power it would not have without it.


There was no mistaking the sexual tension when she walked Gayle into the hotel lobby. Had it been other circumstances Bonnie would have asked if Gayle wanted her to come up to her room. But as it was, she thought it best to just give her a hug and kiss on the cheek. She told her she would call tomorrow with the board’s response, though Bonnie assumed it was a foregone conclusion what the answer would be.


What Bonnie did not know was that, while she was promoting Gayle as a part-time speaker, the board’s Executive Committee (of which Cooper was not a part), had been carefully looking over her work with an eye to something more substantive. On her drive home, Cooper and Amy called her when the board meeting broke up. They had just arrived at the hotel to which they always went on board meeting nights. Amy explained to Bonnie that while the board was offering Gayle a part-time job as previously discussed, they were also putting out the possibility they might later offer her a second role as researcher/writer so as to make the job full-time.  Amy said the board was thankful to Cooper for acting as the primary writer for the foundation; but looking to the future, they were sure they needed someone with a background like Gayle’s in political philosophy and research to take the next step. Cooper fully agreed with the Executive Committee’s conclusion.   There was some discussion that while Gayle could do the work from Minnesota, ideally, they would like her to move here.  Amy let Bonnie know that between the different board members and their contacts, they thought they had a very good chance of ensuring Gayle’s husband got the associate professor of philosophy job at Agusta State that would be opening up next summer. That would be a step up the academic food chain for him as well. 


Cooper explained that the board’s vision of the future of the FFF, with some promised major support from a couple of well-heeled private foundations, was rapidly evolving. They discussed the idea of the FFF continuing its other work, but also pursuing an identity as a think-tank. This change in vision owed a great deal to Bonnie’s work in demonstrating that the country was ready for the foundation’s message.


As she drove down the dark highway toward Sparta, Bonnie was keenly aware of how they had, by what had seemed to be random events, found their lives taking on meaning in the larger world that even the prior summer they could not have imagined.

 

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Ananda
Ananda
Dec 24, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I like this idea. Why not rate the comments as well?

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Ananda
Ananda
Dec 16, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

The French term is "le petit mort," the little death. The question is what or who dies?: "You cry out, “Oh God, Oh God,” when you climax in orgasm. Orgasm is a little death. John Donne, the English poet, wrote that to orgasm is “to die” into the beloved and God. You die to your small self in orgasm. You are fucked open to God. All that is personal dies and is reborn...In ego death you move from being isolated and a-part to being part of a larger whole, part of the infinitely loving spaciousness of God rising through and as every moment. You enter the orgasmic process of divine penetration and purification. This is the stage of dis-illusionment, in…

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sugarlessroark
sugarlessroark
Dec 13, 2023

I liked Ronda's comment about Bethany, Natalie and Cassidy; "It was truly a beautiful and life-affirming sight to behold as they took turns pairing off while the third person watched in support."


We are beautiful. Sex is beautiful. Witnessing lovers taking and giving pleasure with their bodies would be a sign of grace.

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Ananda
Ananda
Dec 12, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I know it is a big ask, because I am in the same situation - the women must show the men the way. Hopefully the next generation of young women would honour their pussies and show their lovers how to treat women.

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Ananda
Ananda
Dec 12, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

My overall impression of the chapter is, like I said before, that the women of Sparta dictate the sexual narrative of rural Georgia. The men are bit players in the unfolding drama of sexual liaisons between the women and their lovers. Their daughters are the next generation of sexually active women to express their freedom to do with their bodies what they want and without shame. The young daughters discovered the pleasure their bodies could provide at 14 and even younger. (Is that legal in the USA?) It seemed as if sex between the women and the different husbands was a free-for-all. Only a few confessed their love for the women, and even with Cooper, the only positive male character…


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sugarlessroark
sugarlessroark
Dec 15, 2023
Replying to

I think that's apt. (Not every time, but for sure every once in a while.)

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