tagFirst TimeGraduation Ch. 02

Graduation Ch. 02


Hey, fellas! If you haven't read chapter 1 of Graduation, or you haven't read it in a while and could use a refresher, do yourself a favor and go check it out!

For those of you who have been waiting for Chapter 2...welcome! Thanks for your patience while I figured out how to crack this thing. It's ultimately up to you whether or not this chapter lives up to your expectations; I hope I don't disappoint, but for what it's worth, I love what I came up with, and I think you'll get something out of it.

Anyway, the wordcount on this is around a smaller but still formidable 16.9K, so there's no sense screwing around any longer. TO HELL!

= = = = =

"YO!" QB1 Jeff Prosser shouted into his microphone, standing on his back porch steps, looking over his team, their friends, girlfriends—48 in all, splashing around in his pool, dancing on his patio, drinking around his bonfire. It was a surprisingly nice Saturday night, just warm enough to draw people into the water, dry enough to maintain the energy without anyone collapsing in a puddle of booze and sweat.

"I gotta cut the music for a second," he said, "and I gotta say some words. I'll try to keep it quick." The party turned to him, because how could they not, and some seemed surprised to find Caleb Bradstreet standing next to him with an unreadable expression. It was a stark contrast, if nothing else; stoic, beefy Caleb against the charming grin, slick haircut, and smug preppie gait of Jeff.

"So you guys assume we're here because high school's over, we made it, dropped the mic on a district title back in December." The crowd hooted and hollered their approval, the members of the team throwing up their District Championship rings in time with Jeff. "That's no lie! We're all here for that, but! But."

The crowd fell silent off his calming words. The word was he wanted to go into politics after college; it seemed like a good fit.

"It turns out we've got another reason to celebrate tonight." Jeff pointed to Caleb. "Y'all know him. Our boy K. I didn't give him the ball that often, but when I did, he made magic happen—like the go-ahead touchdown in the game that got us these fuckin' rings!"

Naturally, parties thrown by jocks tend to breed jock-like behavior, and this was no different; it was probably a good thing that Jeff didn't have any neighbors. Unfortunately for Caleb, he was not only around to hear it, but he had to pretend to be into what he was about to hear next.

"But here's the thing about K: Dude is jacked up, talented as shit, nicest guy you'll ever meet, and could not get laid to save his life." The crowd laughed. "We tried setting him up with Danielle Carlson last year...we're still not sure what the fuck happened there but it was hilarious." The ones who were there clapped and cheered in remembrance of the scene Danielle created; others laughed because if Jeff Prosser said it was hilarious then it was as good as watching it unfold before your eyes. "No girlfriend, no date to the prom. I'll be real, K, we started getting some ideas about you." He paused for a moment to let the crowd laugh again, and Caleb shook his head, forcing a grin. "But then I'm talking to my boy Chris a few days ago, and he mentions that he got a phone call from K, asking to back up a cover story for him...because he met some bomb-ass cougar at Silver Spoons that wanted to take him back to her place!"

Awestruck gasps and cheers rolled through the crowd as the Tale of Caleb Bradstreet seemed to evolve into life-affirming Legend.

Jeff turned to Caleb. "K, even though you're not telling us much about who this bitch is, you had every opportunity to lie to us, nobody would even BLAME YOU for lying to us, and yet...you always told the truth. It's just one of the reasons why you're the fucking best, brother. I'm proud of you."

Off Caleb's brotherly nod, Jeff took his hand off him, raised his iPod to the sky like a beacon, and shouted into his mic. "Holler if you're with me, motherfuckers! We are gathered here today to celebrate our dominance!"

The crowd hollered.

"We are gathered here today to celebrate the end of youth!"

The crowd screamed.

"And we are gathered here today, to celebrate Caleb Bradstreet, and his long-the-fuck-overdue entry into MOTHAFUCKIN' MANHOOD!"

The crowd went ballistic, and Jeff fired up his iPod and blasted "I Just Had Sex" by The Lonely Island through his sound system. And even though he was embarrassed, even though he felt that this profound experience he had shared deserved to be commemorated with something...more than some drunken blowout, Caleb saw all these friends and acquaintances that were happy for him, and he remembered how happy he felt to be with her, and he raised his arms in a sort of shamed triumph.

The rest of the night got dangerous, as he got drunker and drunker and was peppered with more and more questions about his conquest. "Did she have kids?" "What kind of body did she have?" "Be real, you banged a wealthy grandma, didn't you?" Caleb was practically a marine; he knew what he was walking into, and he had rehearsed his story so many times in front of a mirror that it might as well have been the truth.

"Yeah, an 18-year-old named Tommy. I'm just messing with you, Tommy, her kids are in middle school."

"Her body was pretty slammin' actually. Not much T&A, but she's super into yoga and shit, so that was fun."

"Don't judge me, motherfucker. You talk all this shit about 'teeth,' why wouldn't I go after a chick with removable dentures?"

When the vision started to blur and the legs started to tilt, he found one of the many designated drivers at the party and hitched the next ride home. When he puked into the storm drain in front of his house, he caught a glimpse of his watch, noted the time as 1:30, and stumbled in as respectfully as he could.

"What's happenin', hot stuff?" he heard someone ask.

"Not much," he muttered, "gonna pass out now."

He was sure he was on the right path to his room, but he felt a pair of hands guiding him there all the same. He shrugged off his shirt, peeled off his pants, and fell onto his bed. The hands turned his body to the side, and he felt his sheets stretch over his body.

"Night, Ma," he muttered, closing his eyes.

"Night, Caleb," he heard back, and he was gone.

* * * * *

It was 10:52 when Caleb's phone blasted the "X Gon' Give It To Ya" marimba remix from his pants pocket, but it felt closer to 6 or 7 thanks to the ungodly mix of tequila, rum, beer, and whatever the hell else he shamelessly poured down his throat last night.

Fuckin' Jeff. Out to show Westbrook Heights that he was King Shit before he left for Alabama. Shame on him...and on the whole team, including himself, for going along. Caleb half expected the call to be from Chris, panicking because somebody wasn't breathing and he needed to get down here NOW, MAN. The dead cheerleader disposal would have to wait until he brushed the rancid vomit out of his teeth.

Unfortunately, it was worse than that; God damn, did he not want to decline a call from Penny Piper.

He declined anyway, because he was pretty sure he'd sound like he had a mouth full of oatmeal and broken glass, and that wasn't the way he wanted to greet her after a few days of radio silence. He opted to send a text: "Not ducking you. QB1 grad party last night. Mistakes were made."

The adrenaline spike he got from seeing Penny's name on his phone was just enough to keep him from going back to sleep; just not enough to shake his pounding headache and general sluggishness. He formulated a plan: Pedialyte. Breakfast. Shower. Penny. Knowing he was about to hop into the shower, Caleb just pulled some clothes off of his carpet and threw them on. His phone buzzed with a new text:

>Sorry! Call back when you can!

>(I was going to say "I know how it is," but...I don't.)

A rueful smile crossed Caleb's face. Contact with Penny had been surprisingly light since last Thursday. They ended up going at it almost all day Friday and most of Saturday afternoon and night. Then Sunday was graduation and he had to spend it with Mom and Becca, and that turned out to be enough of a break to kill the momentum and bring in doubt. There were two phone calls between them throughout the whole week—none of which amounted to much in the way of casual conversation, let alone anything physical. With every horrible result they were worried about going forward—exposure, dependency, abuse, pregnancy (Penny was on the pill, and Caleb obviously preferred pulling out, but there was always that one hundredth of a chance)—somehow "things get awkward, we barely hook up, I opt to jack off to school-themed porn instead" wasn't on the list.

Fuck it, I can call Penny before my shower.

Caleb stepped out of his room. A quick glance showed Mom and Becca's bedroom door already open; sure enough, Caleb could hear the TV from the great room, suggesting activity, possibly anticipation.

"Morning," he muttered, shuffling into the kitchen, waving into the great room, to Mom's lithe body entangled with Becca's curvy form on the couch in front of the TV, their nudity barely covered by a...



"Oh, shit!" Mom shouted, waking up with a snap, clutching the blanket to her flesh.

"NOPE." Suddenly cured of his hangover and his appetite, Caleb spun on his heel and power-scurried out of the kitchen, returning to his room. He could hear Becca cackling from the short distance and Mom insisting it wasn't funny, like she was being teased about her secret diary.

After a handful of seconds within the safety of his room, Mom's horrified voice came through the door: "Caleb, honey, we are SO sorry you saw that."

"Yeah, we're really embarrassed," he heard Becca say, still trying to choke back her laughter. "But look, sometimes when mommies and stepmommies love each other very much—"


"—and mommies can't sleep, and stepmommies find them on the couch with a bottle of therapeutic wine, watching Sixteen Candles on TBS—"

"Jesus Christ," Mom groaned.

"Seriously, why would you watch that movie on TBS? There are commercials! What do you think happens during commercials? You get something to—"

"Goddammit Becca!" He could hear Becca get lightly shoved from the other side of the door.

"In Becca's defense, Mom," Caleb admitted, "this is kind of hilarious."

"See, Aimes?" he heard Becca say. "He gets it!"

"I do," confirmed Caleb. "Now are you guys dressed yet? I'd really like to come out so I can drink the bleach under the sink."

Nothing was heard for a few moments; eventually his mother's soft voice slipped through the door, warning Becca: "Don't you dare!"

"I was just gonna say," snarked Becca, "you could Clapton the shit outta that the way you did Critical Care!"

"You motherfucker," Mom carelessly hissed.

"Please don't ever call Becca that again!"

"Would you even be able to look me in the eye," Becca sang, haphazardly cramming the words into Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" melody with all the glee of a fourteen year old drawing a random dick in a video game, "if I saw you in heaaaavAAAAH!"

"You are so dead," Mom told Becca, her tone suggesting she was going out with (ugh) a bang.

"We're getting changed in our room, Caleb," Becca called out as fast as she could. "For real, don't drink the bleach! There's a perfectly good bottle of vodka in your mom's office!" His mother's laughter mixed with Becca's and became more distant as they presumably got closer to their bedroom. "You're such a bitch," he could hear his mother giggle-whine just before the bedroom door slammed shut. "He'll never be able to watch Sixteen Candles now!"

Caleb shook his head; a smile peeked through his disgust. Marriage vows didn't often mean a whole lot in a moneyed suburb like Westbrook Heights. So putting aside all the sights and sounds he couldn't unsee or unhear, it was kind of cool to have parents who still acted like teenagers around each other after over ten years together. Not that he didn't want to slam his head against the wall until the inevitable concussion erased the last 15 minutes of his memory, but all things considered, it was still slightly better than certain other alternatives.

Speaking of acting like teenagers, though: I should probably call Penny now while Mom and Becca are changing.

That's right. Changing.

Caleb picked up his phone and dialed Penny, dropping back onto the cheap black futon that faced his PlayStation 4 setup. Penny picked up after two rings. "Hey," she said, "that was fast!"

"Well, I'd like to say you inspire me, but the truth is, I just walked in on my parents. That woke me up real quick."

Penny cringe-laughed at Caleb's horror.

"Yeah, I should point out that this is happening just over a week after you held me back by telling me to picture my mom naked. So I blame you."

"What can I say? I'm not as smart as I look."

"Yeah, well..." Caleb stretched out on the futon, phone heavy on his ear. "That's been going around lately. And I don't even look that smart."

"Is this you apologizing for not calling me?"

"It is. Sorry for not calling you."

"You know what," she said, "in the macro, it'd probably be even worse if things weren't a little weird between us."

"The macro?"

"Big picture," she clarified. "Anyway, it goes both ways, right? I haven't exactly been blowing up your phone either."

"Yeah, but I just figured you've got, like, grown-up things to do."

"I spent most of the week working through Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix."

"Oh, in that case, go to hell."

Penny chuckled. "Yeah, if you only learn one life lesson out of this...mess we're in, make it this one: Don't put adulthood on a pedestal. We can be just as dumb as teenagers."

"So why haven't you called, really? Or is Halt and Catch Fire that good?"

"Oh, I can't get enough of it, but even though you tend to surprise me, I'm not sure you'd be impressed," she said. "But why I haven't called...I don't know. Or I do, but I have trouble putting it into words. It's like, I'll start thinking about you, I pick up the phone, but before I can dial out, I worry that I'd be intruding or I'd be a bad person if I called somehow. I end up reading crappy student/teacher erotica instead."

With a long, silent breath, Caleb released the weight on his shoulders. "Same here," he said, "except I watch crappy student/teacher porn on tube sites."

"That's so much worse!"

"Yeah, I'd say you're way hotter than any of those women, but that's—"

"—not saying much at all," Penny finished alongside Caleb's "not worth a whole lot."

"Exactly!" Caleb shook off the last of his guilt and jumped into a righteous, fiery groove. "Assuming you're lucky enough to even find any porn with a chick teacher instead of a dude, the women all look the same, they've all got the worst boob jobs, they can't act, and the stories they come up with are garbage. 'Ooh, you've been slacking off all semester, but if you have sex with me, maybe I'll let you pass.'" Penny was dying on the other end of the line, but he could only scoff. "Yeah, you laugh, but even with all the wet dreams I've had about you, if you pulled that shit on me I would've been, like, sobbing in fear."

"Well," said Penny, after catching her breath, "it's almost like stories in pornography are poorly thought out pretenses for raunchy sex, and shouldn't be taken...this is coming out snarkier than I intended."

"Oh, snark away, it's not like I stopped watching."

"Well, it's not like I have the right to judge! I mean...okay, so this story I'm reading, the student is blackmailing the teacher with a video he took of a kinky one-night stand she had with his stepdad, forcing her to do increasingly perverse things. Sounds like a good erotic thriller, right?"


"It's a romance."

Caleb opened his mouth, but no words came out. He gave Penny a look of confusion and disgust, realized she couldn't see it over the phone, and said, "I-I'm sorry, what?"

"The author's trying to play it like the perverse, rapey tasks he makes her do are actually setting her free of her inhibitions instead of traumatizing her for life, thus making her feel closer to him."

"So, 50 Shades of Grey, but between a teacher and a student."

"And in reverse, kind of. Also, it's Master of the Universe if you want to get dorky about it." This confused Caleb; Penny, being fucking amazing, sensed his confusion even over the phone. "Okay, do you know Twilight?"

"Dumb vampire books, sure."

"Do you know what fan fiction is?"

"Stories starring the characters of dumb vampire books written by people too lazy to do their own thing. I've heard of it."

There was an odd, uncomfortable pause on the other end before Penny's words stumbled across the signal: "It's a little more complicated than...forget it. So 50 Shades was originally a Twilight fanfic that E.L. James wrote called Master of the Universe. She changed the names, altered some backstory details, and voila. Publishing phenom."

Upon learning this, Caleb was pretty sure he was clinically dead for about five seconds. "Okay. Um. Putting aside my...blown freakin' mind for a second," he said, "You're reading a story that's influenced by some Twi-hard's crazy sex fantasy."

"As we speak."

"And, I gotta figure, getting off on it."

"Not, you know, a lot, but it tides me over."


"Well, a lot of the sexy stuff is exhibition-based," Penny confessed, "and I think that might be my kink."

It would be inaccurate to say that Caleb's brain finally broke while picturing his intelligent, soft-voiced, and (usually) demure English teacher taking her top off at a beach, getting riled up over it, and touching herself in the open air. However, at this point, his cooling fans had to spin at Mach speeds to keep him functional.

"Caleb? Did I lose you, sweetie?"

"Oh," he said, shaking the image of her reclining along the shore, nimble fingers slipping between swollen lips, waves crashing upon her, an audience watching in awe because it was the only reaction that made...actually, nope, couldn't really shake that image. "Sorry. Just, uh, imagining the possibilities."

"Well," she laughed, "learn to love imagining. I don't have the nerve to do anything more than fantasize."

"Oh, I get that. I'm just super turned on right now."

"Really?" Her voice seemed to make the phone hotter against Caleb's ear. "So, what kind of image did I put in your head, Caleb?"

"You fingering yourself on a beach."

"That's a good one," she exclaimed. "Although...sand can really hurt if you're not careful. I'd probably be too worried about getting any of it stuck up there to really concentrate on myself and I should stop talking."

"It's cool," Caleb laughed. "What would you be into?"


"I mean, if you could do it and not worry about being embarrassed or arrested and stuff."

"Mmm, yeah. I'm thinking."

Caleb could picture her on the other end of the phone, lips tucked behind her teeth, thumb rubbing the underside of her chin, wearing that tight bikini...he was still having trouble shaking that image.

He shook it just fine sometime after Penny answered, "Probably the gym."

Caleb's response could only come in stages. He started by asking "Really?" He was entertained, but kind of cool about it; this was stage one.

"Yeah," said Penny. "It's vain of me, really. I've always felt proud of myself after a good workout, but ever since I met you, gym sessions have been making me really horny. I'm sure I look good to you because I work out, and knowing that I look good to you drives me crazy. So, yeah, vanity."

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