Home of the Bellingwood Series – Nammynools

Prelude – Vignette #3 – Jeff

“You’re home.” Dana Lyndsay opened the front door and looked at her son, Jeff, in surprise. “What are you doing here? How long can you stay?”

“Hello to you, too, Mom,” Jeff said, still standing on the front stoop. “Can I come inside? It’s cold.”

“Oh.” She shook her head. “Where is my head? Come in. Mannie! Jeff’s here.”

“How long is he staying this time?” Jeff’s father yelled from the other room.

“How long?”

“Only a day. I’m flying back out after I hire someone to pack up my apartment.”

“Pack? Your apartment?” Dana stepped back in surprise. “Where are you going and why are you in such a rush?”

“Bellingwood, Iowa. I have a job.”

She burbled a laugh. “I’ve never heard of it. What’s in Bellingwood, Iowa?”

“I don’t know the area yet, but central Iowa is beautiful. Farmland. A lot of farmland. A bunch of small communities. A job for sure. After that, I don’t know what else I’ll find.”

“A job?” She frowned. “But you applied for great jobs with hospitality corporations here in Central Ohio. I was looking forward to you being nearby.”

Jeff walked past her into the living room. “Hey, Dad.”

“Hey, yourself. Did I hear you tell your mother that you’re moving to Iowa? What’s in Iowa?”

“A small business with big potential.”

“A small business, eh. Pay good?”

“It’s a good place to start.”

“But it won’t have all the opportunities that a company like Indus would have,” Dana said. She sat, but couldn’t relax, so held herself tightly at the edge of the chair. “Sit. Sit, Jeff. Now, explain what in the world you’re doing looking for a job in Iowa. Is this a forever job or just something to drive me crazy? I thought you wanted to travel around the world. Why would you do this to me? I looked forward to watching you become an executive for one of those wonderful companies you applied for around here.”

“Dana,” Mannie warned.

“But all those years of education he invested. He hasn’t committed to anything else because he was so focused. No falling in love, no buying a house, no future, just school.”

“School leads to a future,” Mannie said. “Jeff, what are you thinking, though? Iowa?”

“Worse than that, Dad. A little town right in the center of Iowa.”

“You’ll never find anyone in a place like that,” Dana said.

“Because gay men don’t live in Iowa?” Jeff asked, raising an eyebrow. “I haven’t found anyone worthwhile in Columbus and the metro’s population is over two million.”

“You weren’t looking.”

He glared at his mother. “I’m always looking.”

“Well, you haven’t found anyone worthwhile.”

“Because the right person hasn’t come along.”

“Maybe the right person is in Iowa, Dana,” Mannie said.

That earned him a heated glare.

“You haven’t asked me anything about the job other than where it’s located,” Jeff said.

“You said it’s in a small town. That means it isn’t a corporate job. Jeff, you’re going to be working all the time for absolutely nothing. What could it possibly offer someone with your education and background?”

“What would a corporate job offer to me?”

“Vacations around the world, pay raises that are commensurate with your growth, exposure to the entire hospitality industry, the ability to rise into better positions. You could become a vice-president or even CEO someday.”

“And why wouldn’t those things be available in the job in Iowa?”

“Is a large corporation investing in something in this Bell-town, Bellows, what is it called?”

“Bellingwood. And no, it’s not a large corporation; it’s a small business. But Mom, Dad, I have a good feeling about this place. The woman who owns it is amazing.

“What makes her so amazing?” Dana said with more than a little derision in her tone. She made air-quotes around the word amazing.

“I’m not sure how to best describe her. She did an amazing job when she took on the renovation of an old high school. She wants to make it into something wonderful. This young woman has great ideas on her own, but she listened to my ideas and got excited, telling me that I had free rein.”

“So, some lady in the middle of Iowa gets excited about your ideas and you give up your entire career to work for her. Sounds about right.” Dana shook her head. “I wanted so much more for you. Jeff, you are a brilliant young man with the potential to become anything and everything you want. There are no limits in front of you. Why would you settle for something this small?”

“There are limits in those corporate jobs, Mom. I’d have to work within their tight rules and regulations. I’d never be able to explore my own dreams and plans. In this job, I would have the freedom to do all of that. When I gave this woman a few ideas, she told me to get started on them right away.”

“And I suppose she’s willing to pay for it?”

“Who else would?”

“You. You’ve always spent money when you should have saved it.”

“Mom, stop it. Ms. Giller is a good person. She’s making good decisions. One of the first good decisions was to hire me.”

“It’s a done deal?”

“It is. My first event is a Christmas party.”

“Jeff!” His mother said. “You don’t have time to plan a Christmas party.”

“Dana, if anyone can plan a Christmas party in a rush, it’s your son. Have a little faith,” Mannie said.

Jeff stared at his father. He rarely stepped in front of his wife.

“Will this job make you happy?” Mannie asked Jeff.

“It already has,” Jeff replied.

“And you like the owner? Will she give you the freedom to do the things you want to do?”

Jeff grinned. “I believe she will encourage me to do those things.”

“Does she know you’re gay?” Dana asked.

Jeff raised his eyebrows and slowly turned his head to look at his mother.

“What?” she asked. “It’s a small town in the middle of Iowa. You know how those people are, all narrow-minded and mean. Maybe she won’t want the trouble that hiring a gay man will bring.”

“Dana.” Mannie’s voice carried another warning.

“You read those horrible stories,” Dana said.

“Narrow-minded people live everywhere, Mom,” Jeff said. “And by the way, you’re being a little narrow-minded about central Iowa. A major university is located within a half hour of Bellingwood. I’ll probably get an apartment in Ames before moving into Bellingwood, just to acclimate myself to the state. Bellingwood doesn’t even have a coffee shop.” He chuckled and waved a hand up and down in front of him. “I don’t exactly come off as a straight man. The answer is, I don’t know if she knows. If it comes up, I believe she’ll be okay with it.”

“You should make sure before you move in.”

“No, Mom. I’m not making my sexuality part of my job application process. I never have before and I don’t believe that today is the day to begin. If you met Ms. Giller, you’d understand why it isn’t necessary. I trust her.”

“You only just met her.”

“Exactly. And I trust her. I don’t know exactly how to explain it. She’s been through stuff. She didn’t tell me everything, but it’s like she understands that everyone has their own stuff and that’s okay. Ms. Giller is ready to do exciting things in a small town that’s been through it’s own stuff. But the crazy thing is, she doesn’t look at the past and say that is the way it always has to be. She looks at the present and the future and thinks about the possibilities.”

“You’ve never done anything like this before, Jeff.”

“Mom,” Jeff exclaimed. “I’ve never done anything before. I just finished college. I believe that not only can I build the business to pay any salary I want to earn, but to give Ms. Giller’s company bigger opportunities for growth.”

“Please don’t tell me you’re doing this because you’re scared you won’t be able to get a great job with one of the big companies.”

“I don’t even know why I try to talk to you,” Jeff said. “I wanted to tell you two about something exciting I’m going to do and all you want to do is give me every reason it won’t work.”

“I only want the best for you, Jeff,” Dana said. “I always have. Everything that we’ve done is to support you and your sister and brother.”

“And what exactly does that look like, Mom? I should stay safe by living in a high-rise in downtown Columbus so I can come home to show you that I’m the same person you’ve always known? The safe gay son who doesn’t step any further out of your zone of control?”

“Don’t you speak to me that way,” Dana snapped.

“No. I’m going to say what I need to say. I love you, but I can’t stay here where you are in control of my life. I can’t remain the same person that you’ve created in your mind. A sad young man whose life will be nothing unless I make a certain amount of money and have a certain title behind my name and maybe, just maybe, meet another safe young man who won’t scare your friends. I have the opportunity to be everything that I want to be with this job. Who knows? I might leave next year for something else, but this is a possibility  I can’t ignore. It will be exciting and fun. There will be challenges I’ve never faced. There will be demands placed on me that ask me to be creative. None of it will be easy. Except for the fact that I know the woman I will work for will expect me to be at my best all the time. She will do everything to encourage my success. She will allow me to choose the tools that I need and ensure that I have them when I need them. This is my shot. I am not going to stay here because you think it’s safer for me.”

“What am I supposed to do without you around?” Dana asked, tears spurting to her eyes.

Jeff wasn’t sure if these were real tears or if she was simply pulling out another tool in her arsenal. She’d been known to manipulate with her emotions, but suddenly, it didn’t feel that way. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve always been here for her,” Mannie said. “You leave, she’s going to turn all that worry on the rest of us. Twenty-three years you’ve given us. I guess it’s time for me to man up and take my wife’s concern on my own shoulders.”

Dana turned tear-filled eyes to her husband. “Your life is so rough.”

“Nope. It hasn’t been rough. I’m afraid it’s about to be, though. Do you refuse to admit that you’ve invested a lot of your emotional caring into Jeff?”

“I’ve always worried about him.”

“And I’ve always proven you wrong,” Jeff said. “I can take care of myself.”

She sagged back. “I know. It’s not easy to admit, but I know. You’re a smart young man. I’m going to miss you so much.”

“Mom, I’m moving to Iowa, not Siberia.”

“Too far to drive, too close to fly.”

“The drive isn’t that far. Ten hours.”

She clasped her hands to her chest. “I’ll be asleep in three hours. Run right off the road and then what will everyone think? My son left his dear mother and she died trying to get to him while driving on dark roads in the middle of the night.”

“Dramatic much?” Jeff asked.

His father chuckled.

“What?” Jeff countered.

“The two of you are exactly the same when it comes to all the drama. Dana, you will live. Technology makes communication easier. Jeff, you will visit your mother and call her whenever she needs to hear from you. It’s going to be fine. We’re proud of you, son. And I’m proud of you or jumping off into the abyss on your own. You’ll be a grand success. I believe it.”

“So do I,” Dana said grudgingly. “I only wish you had chosen to do it within a few hours of me. I will find a way to see you, though. You will never be alone. I will always be there.”

“I know that, Mom. And that’s why I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


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