You are cordially invited to view one of a triptych of stories involving the lives and loves of gay men who work or volunteer at the Sunrise Arts Center in Stafford, North Carolina.
When Dr. Whitney Pell's relationship with his long-term partner comes to a surprising and acrimonious end, Whitney decides a change of scene is in order. Becoming the director of an arts center close to where he grew up seems like the perfect opportunity for a fresh start.
Whitney is busy at his new job, enjoying the challenge. He soon finds a house he likes. His personal life is less settled however. Hurt at the breakup of his previous relationship, Whitney enjoys playing the field ... for a while. Then he begins to miss being part of a couple. But finding Mr. Right isn't as easy as finding a house or settling into his new job.
Whitney feels an immediate attraction to Stuart Blount, the hunky art teacher at the local high school. However, the wedding band on Stuart's finger indicates he's married and probably straight. Things between Stuart and Whitney continue to hot up, and Whitney learns more about Stuart's past, showing he isn't as straight as Whitney first believed. But will Whitney's present cause the picture of domestic bliss they're painting to be torn apart?
Note: This story has a minor character discusses past physical abuse from a former partner.
One afternoon about four P.M. Jean stepped in to say that someone wanted to see me. I asked who it was. She said it was Stuart Blount, of the art department at Stafford High. I recognized the name and got up to go to the outer office to greet him.
Wow! Louis said he thought I was hot, and this was his art teacher? I guessed this hunk was about thirty. He was at least six feet tall with curly red hair and green eyes. And he was built like the proverbial brick facility.
"Hi, I'm Whitney Pell."
He stuck out his hand, which I took. I winced a little from his grip.
"I'm Stu Blount. Would you have a few minutes to talk?"
"Sure, come on in."
I took him into my office and gestured him to a seat.
"You're Louis Lefevre's teacher. He's told me a lot about you. I'm amazed by his talent. He keeps saying it isn't talent, that he learned it all from you. I'll bet you'd disagree with that, wouldn't you?" It felt like I was babbling, but the guy was a hunk, and I was still a little flustered.
He reached up to scratch his chin. That's when I noticed a wedding ring on his left hand.
"Oh, I've helped guide Louis a little, but the boy has, as you said, an incredible natural talent. It's because of Louis that I'm here, as a matter of fact."
"I'm glad you've come. I've been planning to get in touch with you, in fact. I'd like to meet your colleagues in the art department to see if we can improve the interaction between your program and ours. But tell me more specifically why you're here."
"Louis belongs in a good university art program somewhere, and I thought perhaps if we worked together, we could get him into one."
"My thinking exactly."
We talked for another fifteen minutes or so about Louis. I suggested several universities with excellent art departments and we considered the merits of each. Then we talked a little about how Sunrise had helped the art program at the high school in the past, and I asked him for his ideas about how we could improve our working relationship. He said he had some ideas, but he'd like to work them out, run them by his departmental colleagues, and then get back to me. I told him I'd look forward to that.
As he was leaving, I asked if he knew Judd Thomas.
"Sure. He's our best soccer player. I don't really know him, but he seems like a nice kid."
"I understand he's taking an art course this fall and having lots of trouble in it."
"I didn't know that. I'll bet he's in Helen Burleigh's class, but I don't know why he's taking art at all, much less with her. She has a reputation for not being particularly sympathetic to jocks. Why did you ask about Judd?"
"Well, he's been here several times, and I've tried to help him focus in on a topic for his term paper. He's a bright guy, but he just doesn't have the vocabulary that we artists use. Interestingly, he wants to do his paper on the sculpture of Bernini."
Blount looked puzzled. "Really? That surprises me. Where did he ever get to know anything about Bernini?"
"Right here, apparently. He remembers being here while he was in middle school, when he saw a book with pictures of the Bernini sculptures and was taken with them."
"I guess you guys at Sunrise don't realize how much good you're doing in the community." He stood. "Look, do you want me to talk with Helen about Judd?"
"No, not yet. I've got something else in mind, and I'd be interested to know if you approve. I'd like to encourage him and perhaps get him some help. I'm thinking that an art student might be willing to take Judd under his wing."
"Are you thinking of the same art student I am?"
I grinned. "I suspect so."
I asked if he wanted a tour of the facility. He thanked me but declined, saying he'd been coming to Sunrise and sending his students here for years.
We shook hands, and he left. What a waste, I thought, that that hunk of manhood is married. But then, the good looking ones are usually straight.