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Rated: GC · Book · Gay/Lesbian · #1890537
A story about a guy who grows and learns to see his life and socialization differently.
#775248 added February 24, 2013 at 7:50pm
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Decision Week
I sat with my parents at their four-person dining room table. I was holding up my plate as Dad scooped a large piece of lasagna onto it from the glass baking dish. “Thanks, Dad,” I said as I reached for a slice of garlic bread in the basket that rested on the unused placemat.

“No problem,” he said, then nodded at the basket as he added, “Mind grabbing one of those for me, too?” I placed the one currently in my hand on the edge of his plate and grabbed a second one for myself.

I set down my own plate and picked up my fork. I cut a small bit of lasagna and scooped it onto my fork. Lifting it to my face, I saw it was still steaming and blew on it before popping it into my mouth. I reveled in the taste of my mothers homemade sauce as I chewed and swallowed. “Fantastic as always, Mom.”

She swallowed the bite she had been adding, then said, “Thanks, hon. I considered trying something a little different tonight.”

“Don’t you dare!” I protested. “Your lasagna is perfect as is.”

“Nothing’s ever perfect, Curt,” she said flatly. “Besides, my cooking is one of the few ways I have to explore and express my creative side. So I like to experiment.”

I paused and thought about that. “Okay, I see your point. I guess it would kind of be like if people didn’t let me try new techniques with my drawing or my graphic rendering.”

“Yes, just not so fancy,” she said. I smirked. While I was a passable cook who didn’t have to worry about poisoning himself, I had watched some of the things my mother did in the kitchen and considered it nothing short of a cross between science and dark sorcery.

“So how was church yesterday?” Dad asked me. I smirked, knowing that this was his indirect way of finding out whether I still was still attending church.

“Pretty good, Dad. Worship was really moving. Pastor talked about the importance of giving.”

“Oh?” he said, skepticism in his voice. “Are they planning another addition to the building?” While my parents shared almost all the theology of my current church, they had always attended smaller congregations and looked on my church’s massive membership, stadium-sized sanctuary, and countless programs with suspicion.

“Not that I’m aware of,” I said. “However, I’ve heard rumors that they’re looking for a second location for their soup kitchen program. Anyway, it really stuck with me. Steve, Jessica, and I got talking about it after the service and all agreed we felt like we should find a way to give more.”

“Jessica? I don’t think you’ve mentioned her before,” Mom said.

“Oh yeah, she and Steve are friends and know each other through church leadership,” I explained. “Actually, right now, the two of them are working on getting me involved with the upcoming pageant and the youth.”

“Oh? How’s that?” Mom asked.

“Well, Jessica is one of the youth leaders and she’s working on getting the youth involved in building scenery and making props for the pageant.”

Dad interrupted me. “Has she seen you wield a hammer before?” he asked with a grin. “They may want to rethink that.”

“Daniel!” Mom scolded him.

“Relax, Mom,” I said. “I know he’s just teasing. No, they’re going to be drawing on my artistic side rather than my construction side. You know, since I actually have an artistic side.”

“So you’ll be painting backdrops an such?” Mom asked.

“Actually, I’m not sure how much art I’ll be making. My main job is directing and guiding the youth in doing most of the work.”

Mom considered this for a moment. “You always have been good with teenagers.”

“Well, it’s only been nine years since I quit being one, Mom,” I pointed out.

“Oh, you know what I mean. But you say they’re working on this. You mean you’re not sure you want to do it?”

“Actually, no,” I said. “I’m actually quite excited about the possibility. I’ve been going over the script -- Jessica snuck me a copy -- and I have all kinds of possible ideas. And I’ve met one of the teens I’ll be working with and she’s awesome. Though she idolizes me way too much.”

Mom clucked her tongue at me. “Teenage girls are very impressionable. And you’re a handsome man. It’s to be expected. But why isn’t your involvement a settled matter.

“Isn’t it obvious, Mary?” Dad asked. “It’s a very large church and there are probably bureaucratic concerns. He probably has to be approved by the rest of leadership. Wouldn’t surprise me if they had to run some sort of background check on him, even.” I hadn’t even considered that possibility. I wasn’t aware of background checks being a requirement for youth leaders and I would’ve expected Jessica to mention that if it had. But all the same, I could see Pastor or one of the elders insisting on it in my particular case.

“Well, that seems awful complicated just to let someone help with a project,” Mom said.

“That’s larger churches for you,” Dad said. “Besides, they probably have to be concerned about liability and stuff. Remember that church over in Freeville that had a big to-do over the wrong parent picking up a child from the nursery after services one day?” I remembered the incident Dad was talking about. A mother had shown up to pick up her four year old son one day. The nursery attendant that week was shocked when confronted by the father five minutes later. Apparently, the couple had separated a couple months early and the mother was under investigation for child endangerment. There were rumors floating around that the church in question had to develop a whole new procedure for dropping children off and picking them up to prevent such incidents in the future.

“I guess,” Mom said, her voice making it clear she was still unconvinced. “So, when will you know?”

“Well, Steve, Jessica, Pastor, and others are having a meeting to discuss it more this Wednesday. I don’t know if they’ll have a definite answer then, but hopefully there’ll be some news of progress.”

“You’re not attending?” Dad asked.

“Not this one,” I said.

“That strikes me as odd. Why not?” he pressed.

I shifted in my seat uncomfortably. “I guess there are things they need to discuss amongst themselves without me.”

“I see.” Dad’s eyes told me he knew exactly what things they needed to discuss in my absence. I had to give him credit. He may not have been comfortable with my sexuality, but he had strong feelings about what he felt was injustice in any church. To him, talking about someone else in their absence counted as an injustice, no matter the reason.

“Well, I think it’ll be great if you do get involved,” Mom said. “I think it would be very healthy for you to get more involved in church activities like that.”

“That’s what Steve thinks, too.” I refrained from pointing out that Steve doesn’t expect it to turn me straight or even convince me to quit sleeping with men, unlike her.

“You don’t agree?” she asked.

I took another bite of lasagna as I pondered the question. I really hadn’t put much thought into it. “I suppose it might. It’ll certainly give me something else to do in my spare time.”

“Yes,” Mom said. “I think you spend too much time alone in that house of yours. And while I’m sure Katie keeps you company, I worry about you.”

It seemed like everything caused her to worry about her, but I had to admit she had a point this time. I had already noticed that I tended to get more depressed and self-critical the more time I spent alone. That was one of the realizations that pushed me to ask Ted to start joining me on Saturday’s when I took Katie to the dog park. Granted, it also forced me to take Katie to the dog park, rather than sloughing it off and just taking her for a short walk around the block when I was going alone. “Yeah, it’ll get me out of the house and give me opportunities to meet and interact with others,” I agreed. Granted, I there was part of me that would have preferred opportunities to interact with potential dates.

I paused and considered that thought. Here I was dating a great guy and I was wishing for dating opportunities. Had my brain just not adjusted to the fact that I was in a relationship? Or was this evidence that Patty and Steve were right about me being convinced things weren’t going to work out with Nate?


When I got home after dinner, I called Steve and shared with him my troubling thoughts during dinner with my parents. Steve listened patiently. When I finished, he asked, “Do you want my opinion?”

“Of course. Why do you think I’m talking to you about it.”

“Because you seemed to need to talk about it.”

“Okay, that’s true. But I also want your opinion.”

“Fair enough. So let me start by saying that yes, I am still concerned that you’ve reached the point where you expect things to go south in the relationship department. I think that in many ways, you subconsciously do things that help make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. But in this case, I think you’re reaching. I think you just started dating this guy three days ago and that some parts of your brain haven’t caught up with or fully digested this new development. So cut yourself some slack.”

“How sure are you about that?” I asked.

“About 99.999 percent. But I’m not done.”


“No problem, just let me finish.” He paused as if to make sure I wasn’t going to interrupt again, then continued, “But in the end, it doesn’t really matter what your reasons are for still having those thoughts. Because even if it is due to some part of you expecting things to fail, getting all worked up over the fact that some part of you is thinking like that isn’t going to help anything. All that’s going to do is cause you even more stress and make you get in your own way. So just chill out, man.”

I considered his words. I saw his point. Getting more worked up was just going to make things worse, even if I was getting worked up over my tendency to get worked up. In fact, the thought of that caused my head to swim. “So you’re suggesting I not do anything about it?” I asked. That didn’t seem like much of a solution either.

“No, of course not. But you can do something about it without turning it into another avenue for neurosis.”

“The what do you suggest?” I pointedly ignored the neurosis comment.

“Well, like tonight. You started thinking about meeting other guys. All you needed to do is remind yourself that you have a great guy and you don’t need to look for anyone else right now. Maybe ever, if you prefer.”

“That’s it?” I asked, somewhat dumbfounded.

“That’s it, Curt. Just a gentle reminder that you don’t need those thought patterns anymore. That’s all you ever need to do. It’s even better if you remind yourself on new, better thought patterns your mind can focus on instead. But whatever you do, don’t beat up your brain for engaging in hold habits. It’s not fair to you and it doesn’t work anyway.”

“I’ll try,” I said. “So, what do you think about my father’s thought about Pastor or the other leaders wanting to run a background check on me?”

“Won’t happen. They don’t do that. Not even with youth leaders.”

“Yeah, but they could make a special case for me. You know what some people think about gay guys.”

“It won’t happen,” Steve said. I was a bit shocked by the forcefulness in his voice.

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because if they even try to suggest it, I will raise a fit like they have never seen before. And while I probably shouldn’t speak for Jessica, I’d almost guarantee she’d join in. As would the parents who met with you last week.”

“You feel that strongly about it, then?” I asked, feeling touched and humbled by his conviction and loyalty.

“I’d resign over it, if it came to that. Very loudly, mind you.”

I smirked at that. If there was one thing that made Pastor more uncomfortable than homosexuality, it was controversy. “Well, I hope it doesn’t come to that. I’d hate to be a source of division.”

“You’re not the one who would be making an issue out of your sexual orientation, Curt. And quite frankly, some things are just worth taking that kind of strong stance on.”

“I appreciate it.”

“I’m sure you do. And for the record, you’re worth taking that strong of a stance on, too. This isn’t just about principle. It’s about people. Something Pastor and the others sometimes lose sight of.”

“Ah, so I’m guessing that would be your answer to his response that he feels just as strongly about his stance?”


I chuckled, then glanced at the time on the cable box. “Hey, it’s getting late. I better get to bed. Thanks for the reassurance though.”

“Not a problem, man. You get some rest. When are you seeing Nate again?”

“Well, we’re talking about going out dancing with Tina on Friday.”

“Tina, that’s the one you had to pick up from the police station on Saturday?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Make sure she doesn’t ruin the night for you and Nate, okay?”

I was a bit taken aback that Steve would suggest that Tina would do such a thing. Then I realized that he had a point. “I’m sure we’ll have a good time, regardless. But anyway, I’m hoping I’ll get to see him before then.”

“Well, good luck to you with that. I’ll be in touch with you sometime after our meeting with Wednesday.”

“Thanks, Steve. And thanks again.”

“You’re welcome. Have a good night.”

“You too.”


Tuesday and Wednesday were uneventful. Nate had been to busy to meet with me, though we made a point of talking on the phone and texting every day. I had gotten ahold of Tina on Wednesday afternoon and finalized our plans for Friday. I was going to pick up Nate at 10:30 and we’d meet her at the club a little after 11pm.

It was Thursday night and I was walking toward the entrance to Roy’s Deli. I had texted Steve Wednesday evening when I got home to ask him about the meeting with Pastor, but he only responded to say that we’d talk about it tonight over dinner. His terseness caused me to spend much of my night playing over dozens of possible scenarios, none of which were pleasant. I was quite nervous as I walked in. Joey, the teen working the counter waved at me and said, “Steve already put your order in. Go have a seat and I’ll bring it out to you.”

“Thanks, Joey,” I said and headed toward the small group of tables. I spotted Jessica and Steve. Stan Anderson sat with them. I glanced at steve who looked at me and looked away. His grim expression didn’t allay my fears much.

Jessica spoke as I sat next to Stan, across the table from her and Steve. “Thanks for meeting us, Curt. How has your week been?” She seemed to be in much better spirits than Steve, though she seemed a bit more reserved than previous

“Pretty uneventful. I’ve mostly spent it working. I’ve done a bit of drawing in the evenings, too. That’s been pleasant.” I paused and took a drink from the soda that had been waiting for me on the table. I looked at each of them. “So, I hope you don’t mind my directness, but the suspense is tying my stomach in knots. What’s the word?”

Jess smiled. “Well, Pastor and the other leaders have approved our proposal. I can now formally invite you to lead the youth effort to build scenery and props for the Easter pageant.”

“Well, that’s good news,” I said. “So, why does Steve look like he wants to throw something at someone.”

Jessica glanced at Steve, who remained silent. She said, “Well, because he’s not happy with some of the concessions we had to make to get their approval.”

“None of us are,” Stan added. “All six parents in attendance stated their objections.”

Jessica continued. “Yes, none of us are happy, though I’m afraid that the bargain we struck is the best we can hope for at this juncture. That being said, every one of us will understand and support you if you find the terms Pastor is demanding unacceptable and turn down the invitation.”

Steve finally spoke, his voice thick with contempt. “Personally, I think he should turn it down. Unacceptable doesn’t even begin to describe it.” Jessica and Stan both glanced at him. Their expressions made it clear they were struggling to disagree with Steve on this one.

“Okay, what terms are we talking about here?” I asked. “I need to know what would be expected of me before I can decide if I think it’s unreasonable.” I nodded to Joey who set a chef salad large enough to feed at least three people in front of me along with a small cup of honey mustard dressing.

Jessica straightened her spine and pulled out a small notebook. “Well, there has to be at least one other adult present at all times while you’re working with the teens.”

“That’s not a requirement with all youth leaders?” I asked.

“Well, it is,” Jessica acknowledged.

Steve spoke up, “However, this is the first time that any leader felt it necessary to specifically bring up the policy when discussing letting any other adult work with the youth.”

Jess nodded. “Yeah, I found it pretty sleazy of them to mention it.”

Stan said, “I think Shellie made our feelings clear when she specifically asked Roy why he brought it up yesterday when he never once mentioned it when leadership got together to talk about me helping with the youth camping trip last July.”

I swallowed my mouthful of salad. “Okay, so the implications of specifically mentioning the rule because I’m gay are nasty. But the rule itself isn’t unreasonable. Anything else?”

“Well, the big one is that you’re not allowed to talk about your love life or your sexual orientation around the youth,” Jessica said.

“That’s a little rough,” I said.

Stan nodded. “Yeah, it is. This is what has Steve worked up, and I certainly don’t blame him. Pastor isn’t insisting that you not mention having sex or anything like that. He’s insisting that you don’t even mention going on any dates or even any guys that you find attractive.”

Steve said, “Curt, you can’t mention Nate at all. Not even if you talk about him as if he was a friend.”

“That does seem pretty extreme,” I admitted. I thought about the time I used to spend censoring myself during my college years. It was exhausting. I took a few more bites of my salad. The others picked at their food silently, waiting for me to say something. “I don’t like it, but it’s not the end of the world.”

“It’s nonsense, Curt!” Steve practically explode.

“Yes, it is,” I said flatly. “I don’t like it at all. But I have to look at the big picture.”

Jessica cocked her head, her face broadcasting her curiosity. “Please go on,” she said.

“Look, I’ve spent the past week thinking about this project. I’ve come up with a lot of potential ideas. I’m excited for it. I also think it’ll excite your teens. I became more convinced of that after talking to Becka this past Sunday. If you’ll forgive me for a bit of pride, I think the kids would really benefit from this.”

Jessica spoke. “I don’t think that’s prideful at all. I also agree with you.”

I nodded to to her gratefully. “So, here’s the way I can see it. I can be selfish and get upset -- no matter how justified that I may feel I would be -- and refuse to do it. If I do, then the teens lose out on something great. Effectively, they suffer along with me. Or I can accept the leaders’ terms -- no matter how stupid I think they are.”

“And they’re incredibly stupid,” Steve offered.

I shot him a look that was half appreciative and half annoyed. “And by doing so, I can do something great for the teens. And something I admit I’d enjoy and benefit from too. So that’s what I’d rather do.”

I took another bite of my salad. My companions sat there watching me. Finally, Stan spoke. “Steve’s right, Curt. Our church doesn’t deserve you.”

I shrugged. “The teens do.”

Jessica said, “I intend to tell Pastor all of that when I tell him you accepted the offer.”

Steve said, “I’d like to be there when you do. I’d love to see his reaction.”

Jessica winked at him and said, “I’ll see if I can find a way to record him with my phone’s camera without him realizing it during our conversation.” Everyone laughed at that. We sat and made small talk while everyone finished eating.

Eventually, Stan stood and said, “Well, I best head home. Shellie is going to start wondering where I am soon. I stood to let him out of our side of the booth. He shook my hand. “I’m glad you’ll be working with my son and the other teens on this project Curt. I do wish it was under less restrictive conditions.”

“Thanks Stan. And thanks for your support. As for the restrictions, I’m used to dealing with such things at this point.”

“I’m glad, but it doesn’t make it right,” Stan said. “Goodnight, all.” I sat back down as he walked toward the exit.

I met Jessica’s eyes as I turned my attention back to the table. “He’s right, you know. It’s not right. I’m glad you’re going to help the teens. But it’s still not right.”

I shrugged. “I know. But there’s nothing I can do about it. I doubt there was anything you could’ve done about it, either.”

She smirked. “No. Believe me, we tried. Especially Steve.”

“I have a low tolerance for bullshit and I don’t like to leave it unaddressed,” Steve said flatly.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “That’s something I like about you. Except in those cases where it drives me up a wall.” We all chuckled at that.

Steve said, “Are we all ready to go?” I looked at my half-finished salad and closed the cover on it before nodding.

“I’m ready too,” Jessica said. She paused, then turned to Steve. “Actually, I was hoping for a chance to talk to Curt alone, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure,” Steve said before turning to me. “Call me when you get home tonight or sometime tomorrow, okay?”

“Sure thing. And thanks for everything,” I said.

“You’re welcome.” With that, he put on coat and made his goodbyes before heading out.

“He’s an amazing friend,” I mused aloud.

“I get that impression. And he seems to think a great deal of you. Honestly, I’ve occasionally wondered if you two,” she hesitated.

I laughed. “No, he’s straight,” I said. “I’m pretty sure if he wasn’t, I’d know by now.”

“The way he acts toward you, I think you’d know very well if he was into guys.”

I nearly choked on the drink I had just taken. “Maybe. Who knows. I won’t deny I’ve certainly entertained thoughts about what it would be like.”

Jessica nodded. “I’m not surprised. Has he ever told you about some of the elder’s suspicions about the two of you?”

“No. He hasn’t. Some of them think we’re an item?”

“One or two have speculated, yes. To be honest, they tend to look at his defense of and promotion of you suspiciously because of it. Steve may get upset if he knows I ever told you this, but one of the elders has even made noises about his fitness for leadership.”

“Because of me? Our close friendship?” I had always appreciated Steve’s friendship and his defense of me at church when there was any conflict, but I had never considered how our friendship might cause problems for him personally. “I feel bad.”

“I’m not surprised. Of course, you know he wouldn’t want you to, right?”

“Yeah, I know. It just reminds me how lucky I am to have him in my life.”

“I’m inclined to agree. I think all of us could use more people like Steve in our lives. And more people like you.”

I blushed. “Thanks.”

“Actually, on that note, there’s something I want to talk to you about privately. I think a couple of my teens could use someone like you in their lives. And not just as an artistic director and mentor.”

“What do you mean?”

“Curt, we have a hundred or so teens in our church. Think about the statistics.”

My lower jaw slackened as comprehension took root. “Some of them are probably gay.”

She nodded. “I know one is for a fact.”

“Please don’t tell me who,” I said quickly. She gave me a puzzled look, so I added, “I’m a strong believer in letting other people own their own coming out process. If the teen wants me to know, they should tell me themselves. It doesn’t matter that I’d be cool with it. It has to be their choice.”

She nodded. “I hadn’t planned on telling you on the grounds that I’d be violating their trust by doing so, but I like your reasoning too. It also tells me that you’d probably make a great youth leader in general. That’s actually a possibility I’d like to pursue after this project. Provided you’re interested.”

“I might like that, but can I give you a definite answer about whether I’m interested after this project.”

“Absolutely. Anyway, like I said, we have at least one confirmed gay teen and I suspect there are others. And while we have great youth leaders -- more than half of us are gay-affirming, too -- I don’t feel that we really have anyone who can help them with some of the things they may need help on.”

“Well, I’m more than happy to help where I can. But I’m not sure how much help I can offer, given the conditions we all agreed to so I could even work on the art project.”

Jessica smirked. “Yeah. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to it, and I think we can work around it. Provided you’re willing to keep to the letter of the agreement while pushing the spirit of it.”

“I’m listening,” I said, both intrigued and concerned. I didn’t really want to spend a lot of time lawyering the conditions I agreed to.

“Well, first of all, we don’t have to worry about you telling the teens your gay. That’s fairly common knowledge -- or a topic of speculation -- among anyone in church who knows you at all. I suspect the teens who would find that information helpful already know or strongly suspect.”

I grinned wryly. “Well, it’s good to know that something positive has come out of me being a topic in the rumor mill.”

“No kidding. Though I’ll understand if you find little comfort in that. Being the subject of gossip must totally suck for you.”

“Yeah, it does. But anyway, you figure they already know or suspect I’m gay, so there’s no reason for me to tell them. So I don’t have to break my word on that count. But if they ask me about it?”

Jessica winked. “You know, Pastor never said anything about what you should do if one of the teens start the conversation. So it seems to me that it’s a bit of a gray area. And given what an emphasis our religion places on honesty.”

I finished the thought for her. “It seems entirely reasonable that I’d answer any direct questions as honestly as possible. That’s both sensible and a little devious.”

“Then you approve?”

“Absolutely. But what if they ask what they think they should do?”

Jessica nodded gravely. “That I’d encourage you to be a bit more cautious about. Obviously, I don’t expect you to tow the party line, or at least what Pastor and some of the elders wished was the party line. But on the same hand, if you come right out and contradict the party line, it’ll go over like a lead balloon when -- not if -- it got back to leadership.”

“I’m guessing I’d be yanked from the project immediately.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much guaranteed. That would be tragic, too.”

A thought occurred to me. “What about you? Could you suffer from any blowback if I did that? For that matter, could you get some flak if any conversation on the topic has whatsoever.

“The answer to both questions is a resounding yes.”

I looked at her with concern. “Are you sure you want to put yourself through that?”

“Are you?”

I didn’t have to consider the question at all. “Of course.”


“Because I remember what it’s like to be that young, have these feelings that everyone around me tells me I shouldn’t have, and feeling horribly alone as a result. If I can help make things a little bit better for others, then it’s worth the personal risk. The only thing I’d really regret if it blows up in my face would be the fact that I wouldn’t be able to offer that kind of help anymore.

Jessica nodded. “I’m not gay, so I can’t say I understand what you went through or what my teens are going through. But I’ve worked with these teens for almost five years ago. They’re dear to me. And while I might not understand what some of them are going through, I’ve spent enough time with them to want to do whatever I can to make some of their lives a little better for some of them, I’m willing to take that risk too.”

“I wish I had a youth leader like you growing up.” Another thought came to me. “Is this why you asked Steve to let you talk with me alone? So he wouldn’t get caught in the crosshairs if things get heated?”

She nodded. “As I said, he already gets a lot of flack for defending you. If Pastor or the others thought he was involved in your talking to the teens, it’d just be more grief for him. I hope you won’t be offended if I try to spare him that.”

“Not at all. I think it’s a good idea. Thanks for watching out for him.”

“No problem. I don’t know if any of the teens will talk to you. And if they do, they’ll probably want someone who will just listen to them and offer them understanding and compassion. I doubt they’ll look for much advice. Though they might ask you how you handled things and what choices you made. Which I fully support you choosing to share that.”

“Speaking as a person rather than as a voice of the church?” I suggested.


“I can do that. And obviously, I won’t get into discussing anything intimate.”

She chuckled. “I figured you wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of you and what Steve says, you strike me as pretty reasonable and smart when it comes to things like that.”

“Thanks,” I said, hoping my cheeks weren’t too pink. “So, on the topic of the pageant work, what’s the next step?”

“Actually, if you’re free, I’d like to meet with the teens next Sunday after second service. It would give them a chance to meet them and vice versa.”

“That sounds great. I already have some ideas, but I’d like to get to know them and find out what all they can do artistically.”

“That’d be perfect. We can set up informal. I’ll call a few parents and see if they can provide snacks.”

“Is there anything you’d like me to bring?”

“I think you’re doing enough. Let other people take care of bringing food. Speaking of which, anything you’d like to request?”

I considered the question for a moment. “I’m a huge fan of cool ranch Doritos,” I suggested.

“You and half the youth group.”

“Then we should all get along well.” I stood. “Unless there’s something else you feel we need to discuss, I better get going.

“Actually, I should jet too,” she said as she gathered up her garbage and stood. “Work’s going to come pretty early tomorrow.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. You have a good night and I’ll see you on Sunday.”

“You too. Care to sit with me again?”

“Sure. I assume Steve will join us? You can sit between us and make sure we behave,” I said with a grin.

She laughed at that. “I’m amazed at your ability to keep a sense of humor with some of this stuff.”

I shrugged. “It’s a coping mechanism. There are days I think it’s the only thing that keeps me from having a mental breakdown.”

She nodded and hugged me. “Well, if you ever need to have one of those, let me know. I’ll gladly listen. Speaking of which,” she said as she stepped back and shuffled through her purse. After a minute, she handed me a business card. I accepted it and glanced at it. It had her name and number. “I figure if we’re going to be working together, it would be helpful if you had my number. Plus, it’ll give you a way to get ahold of me if you need to have that mental breakdown.”

“Thanks. That means a lot. I’m afraid I don’t have any business cards on me. Not that I have any business cards that have my personal number on them, anyway.”

“That’s not a problem. Just text the number on my card. I’ll save you to my contacts that way.”

“Sounds good. Anyway, you have a good night.”

“You too.” We hugged again before parting ways.
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