“I’m so excited for you!”
My mother squealed with glee as she grabbed me and pulled me tightly to her chest where she then applied a giant squeeze. I outweighed my mother by twenty pounds and I had to admit that breathing was becoming a bit of a problem at that point. How is it that no matter how grown up you are your mother is so freakishly strong that she scares the hell out of you?
“Thanks, mom,” I grunted as she finally released me.
It was great seeing the joy on her face. And my father’s too. I had just graduated from Nebraska University. I couldn’t believe it either. All of my hard work and planning all of these years—practically since middle school—had paid off. I’d really done it.
“Congratulations, sweetie,” My dad said putting his husky arm around me. People often said that if you put a long, blonde wig on my dad and rewound the clock thirty years we could have been twins. I had to agree with that on some level. My father was a big teddy bear type of guy. He was burly and husky with a wide, sweet smile. You’d never in a million years find a guy with a bigger heart. I was glad to know that I took after him.
“Did you ever doubt me?” I joked with my dad. I laid my head on his shoulder and for a moment I was transported back to being that chubby little six-year-old who waited anxiously each night at bed time for my dad to read me a story. Those were the type of fond memories you never forgot.
“What am I going to do without my baby girl around?” My dad said. “I’m going to miss you like crazy when you go away next week, but I am so proud of you.”
My father kissed me on the forehead then. It was sweet and loving, but I was starting to feel a bit embarrassed. I looked over at my best friend Callie Mills, who had also graduated. Beside her was our other great friend April Shear. God, I was going to miss the two of them. We’d been inseparable since meeting during the freshman year in English Composition 101, a basic General Education requirement for all freshmen.
Both of them were laughing and pointing at me just to make me feel even more uncomfortable. I smiled back at them and relished the embarrassment. I realized then that my life was changing and something as simple as my dad’s display of affection for me which was sure to embarrass me in public was not going to happen much anymore, if it ever did again. It was truly the end of an era and now things were going to be different.
“Thanks dad,” I said.
“So, are you excited?” My mom asked.
“To be graduating? Yeah, but I’m also a bit nervous. I mean, I’ve spent my whole life saying ‘I’ll do this when I’m grown up, or I’ll be this when I grow up’. Well, I’m grown up now, right?”
“I think you’ll find when you enter that big, bad world that you never really feel grown up, sweetie,” my dad said.
“Oh, geez. Thanks, dad. That’s very supportive. As if I’m not already terrified,” I said with a laugh.
“Just trying to keep you on your toes,” Dad replied.
“We did it!”
Callie said as she and April finally made their way through the crowd to where I was standing with my family. She quickly threw her arms around my neck and squeezed. What was it with everyone trying to strangle me today?
“I am so stoked!” April giggled.
“Of course you’re stoked,” I said. “You are going to still be in school next year.”
April had graduated with her bachelor’s but was now going to be going for her master’s degree in English.
“Well, that’s even worse,” April said. “You guys are going to be gone and making crazy amounts of dough. I’ll probably end up hanging out with freshman again.”
“Well, you should have done grad school part-time and joined the real world with the rest of us,” Callie said.
April shook her head. “No way. That was going to take almost five years to get a two-year degree. Sorry, this way I’ll have my degree in the can. Plus, I can delay paying student loans for a few more years and still act like an idiot on occasion.”
“Glad to see you have your priorities straight,” I said.
“Congratulations to the both of you,” my dad said. He and my mother had gotten to know my best friends quite well over the past few years. Luckily, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln was only about an hour’s drive away from my parents’ home where I grew up in Martell, Nebraska, so my friends often came to hang out with me on weekends when I went home to visit my family. Both Callie and April were from out of state.
“Thanks, Mr. Allan,” Callie said.
“So, what are you girls up to tonight? I take it you don’t want to hang out with the old folks? Maybe get a bite to eat at the Olive Garden?” Dad suggested in that teasing way of his.
We all laughed. My dad was the jokester of the family and he loved to tease anyone and everyone. It was just his way. I don’t think I ever saw him get really upset or angry about anything. Life had always just rolled off his shoulders. No matter what it was, he knew that he could deal with it. I liked to think I’d inherited a lot of that from him, but I didn’t think I was quite as bullet proof.
“Well, we have a party to go to, actually,” Callie said. “It’s at one of the frat houses. It’s really an end of school party, but several of their highest members are graduating with us this year, so they decided to combine the two into a graduation/end of year party.”
“That sounds like a good time.” my mother said.
I wasn’t sure how much she meant it though. I knew that both of my parents would have loved it if I’d spent the evening with them. I was leaving next week, but I still had the entire week I’d dedicated to spending as much time with my family as possible and to getting things ready for leaving. Tonight was the one night I wanted to hang with my friends and go a bit crazy. I deserved it. I’d studied like hell for four straight years, including this last year when even the most dedicated students often slacked off because they were just so burnt out and so close to the end of things. I was proud of myself. I’d graduated Summa Cum Laude from a great architecture program and I’d been offered a fantastic job as a brand new associate in one of the biggest architecture firms in the country.
I was ready to move on to the next step of my life. It was time.
* * *
The roar from the back area where a few freshmen were doing keg stands was deafening, but somehow I didn’t mind as I sipped on my own beer. The party was fantastic. Everywhere I looked I saw kids acting like complete idiots and not giving a flip. It was an inspiring time, actually. I wished I could go back and do college the fun way without constantly pressuring myself to excel and to remain focused on my career goals. But I knew I’d have hated myself by the third week. It just wasn’t in me to be a total party animal and to ignore my duties and responsibilities. I’d always been just too goal oriented and driven.
“So, I hope you enjoy yourself in Phoenix,” Callie said. “Are you sure you can stand the heat? I hear it’s like a hundred and ten degrees six months out of the year.”
I laughed. “Of course I can handle it,” I said. Though truthfully I’d always loved winter. The cold air, the dark days, fresh white snow—it just reminded me of warm apple pie, Christmas fun, snowball fights, hot chocolate, and making smores by the fireplace. But I was sure I could get used to anything.
“That sounds like paradise to me,” April said. “I’m tired of winter. I’d be in a bikini all the time.”
“You do that now,” Callie reminded her.
“Yeah, but then I wouldn’t bother putting the jacket over myself,” April teased back.
“How is the romance situation treating you, Kay?” Callie asked.
I shot her a dirty look. I’d been over this a zillion times with her.
“Don’t go there,” I warned.
“Come on,” Callie said. “It’s been six months. You need to move on already.”
“Why? So, I can just say goodbye since I’m moving a thousand miles away next week?” I asked.
“Well, it doesn’t hurt to have fun,” Callie said.
“Did it ever occur to you that life is about a lot more than fun?”
Callie thought for a moment. “I don’t understand the question.”
She and April both giggled.
I knew they meant well, but since my nasty breakup with Jamie, I just hadn’t been interested in dating anyone. I was on the final stretch of a stellar academic record, I was applying to every great architecture firm in the country, and I knew that some very important eyes were on me. There was nothing that was going to distract me from getting to where I needed to go. That was all there was to it.
“Oh, my God! There is Lacy Thompson. You will never guess who she is making out with!” Callie said, suddenly distracted by something stupid. Still I couldn’t help looking across the room. I was intrigued. Lacy Thompson was one of the more popular girls in the school. She was head cheerleader and had dated the star quarterback a brief bit last year. And yes, now she was making out with Sal Hickman, one of the nerdiest guys that we knew. I felt instantly bad for watching this. Stacy and the rest of the jock crowd were filming this and probably going to upload it all over the internet as a joke.
I didn’t know what was coming but, something really bad.
“Why are they doing this?” April asked. “She doesn’t appear to be drunk.”
“Just wait,” Callie said.
That was when I saw one of the jocks coming up behind them with a cup of Kool-Aid ready to pour it over them. I started to shout to them to get out of the way, but I was drowned out by the music and it was too late anyway.
At the last second Stacy pulled away and leapt off the couch leaving a confused Sal to be the innocent victim of a stupid prank. The jock standing behind him, whose name I could not recall but I’m pretty sure he was second string on the football team, suddenly poured the contents of the cup all over Sal covering him in red, sticky Kool-Aid.
“Those bastards,” I said. “That is the type of crap I will not miss here. This is the sort of junk you’d expect to see in high school, but not adults who were about to enter the workplace where real world problems were going to be at stake.”
“Kay, take it easy,” April said. “It’s messed up, but it’s still just a stupid joke.”
“Tell that to Sal,” I said as Sal ran out of the house.
I felt sorry for stuff like that. I’d always hated bullies and ever since I was a kid if I could stand up to a bully I did just that. And I wasn’t about to let this crap go this time. It wasn’t like I had to see any of these people ever again.
Without a word I stormed over to Stacy and the rest of the jocks who were laughing their heads off.
Callie and April tried to stop me but I was too mad and already gone.
“What the hell is the matter with you?” I demanded.
“What?” Stacy asked as if she were thoroughly confused by the question.
“What the hell is the matter with all of you?” I repeated. “Do you think this is OK? Do you really? Well, I can’t wait to see you all in five years when people like Sal are your bosses and are showing you exactly why you shouldn’t have goofed off and cheated your way through four years of classes. It’s going to be hilarious watching you all scramble at the bottom and hope one day you might reach middle management. The real world doesn’t reward crap like this!”
With that I walked back over to where my friends were sitting without giving the stupid jocks any room to retort. At first I thought they might come over to us and try to start something, but they knew better. I think they were really shunned that someone actually stood up to them.
It was even better when half of the people around started clapping to support me. The look on Stacy’s face was priceless. She looked so ashamed. She and the other jocks walked back into the back room to get more drinks and to cool off. Good. Maybe some of my words had struck home. I just wished Sal had stayed long enough to see me standing up for him.
“That was awesome!” Callie said.
“Yeah, it was,” April replied.
“And guess what?” Callie asked. “That really cute guy over there, is totally checking you out.”
I wasn’t remotely interested, but somehow my curiosity got the better of me and I glanced over to where she was gesturing. Sure enough, standing on the far wall was a sexy, hunky looking guy holding a beer, with his eyes fixed right on me. I had to say that he was more than enough to do a double take with. If it had been a few years ago at this time then I might have said yes, but I really was not interested in starting anything with anybody. I was leaving in a week after all.
He started to walk my way just then.
But then again there was no harm in talking with someone, I thought.
“Nice, he is coming this way,” Callie said. She sounded so excited I’d have thought she was about to get a proposal from the guy.
“Hey, I’m Clint,” the guy said introducing himself. He spoke with a slow, southern drawl that I found very sexy.
“Hey, Clint,” I said. “I’m Kay.”
I was lying back trying to be cool. I actually got hit on by guys a lot. The stigma that guys wanted a skinny girl who was built like Kate Moss was the stupidest thing in the world. In my experience, I’d always been more popular with guys then my thin friends were. I’ve always been a big, beautiful woman and I love it. I’ve always embraced it and men seem to agree with me. But I had to admit it was tiring constantly turning guys down left and right. It was a gift and a curse.
Most guys, Clint included, had great difficulty not looking down at my massive chest when speaking with me. I used to take it as an insult when I was a teenager, but over the years I’d learned to embrace it. It was a biological urge most men couldn’t control. I’d been blessed with large, sexy breasts, wide shapely, curvy hips, and a sexy, big ass. I was a BBW and damned proud of it.
“I just want you to know that I saw what you did and I admire that bravery,” Clint said.
“Well, thanks Clint. I appreciate it,” I said.
“Can I get you another drink, or are you good?” Clint asked.
“I’m fine, actually. But I do appreciate the offer,” I replied. “These are my friends Callie and April, by the way.”
They all said hi to each other. Callie and April kept giving each other giggly looks. They were so obvious, it was hilarious. But I stayed in character and continued to allow Clint to believe he was wooing me in any shape or form.
“So, you are graduating, I presume?” Clint asked.
“You presume correctly,” I replied. “How about yourself?”
“Same,” Clint said. “I just got my degree in engineering.”
“Interesting,” I said. I wasn’t sure if Clint expected to be turned on by his degree or if he was just passionate about engineering because he seemed to get a little nervous after my small response. I was not feeding him much to keep the conversation going, which was the idea.
“Do you ski?” Clint asked.
“What?” I replied. His question had thrown me for a bit of a loop.
“Do you ski?” He asked again.
“I haven’t for a while, but I do enjoy skiing,” I said truthfully. That was something I made a mental note to get back into.
“Where do you usually go?” Clint asked.
I thought a moment. “Well, it’s been a few years, but I used to go to Aspen, and a few other places in Colorado.”
“Yeah, Aspen is good,” Clint said. “I’m an avid skier, but I love to go to different places all the time to challenge myself. I feel that is the only way I’m going to get better and grow, right?”
“Right, I hear that,” I said. I glanced behind him at April and Callie who were both making goofy, sexually suggestive faces trying to get me to laugh and break my cool character.
“Well, my favorite place is in Arizona,” Clint said. “It’s a place in northern Arizona, called the Snowbowl. It is amazing. The elevations really high and it gets a lot of snow each year.”
“I’ll have to remember that when I move to Arizona next week,” I said. I immediately regretted telling Clint this much about me. I felt like I might have been leading him on a bit.
Clint’s face lit up. “You’re moving to Arizona? Wow, which part?”
“Phoenix,” I said. “I got a job there.”
I really wished I could shut up, but it felt good to talk to people about the exciting changes happening in my life. Actually, I wasn’t sure if it felt good because I was proud or because I was scared to death and talking about it just seemed to help a bit.
“That’s fantastic,” Clint said. “It’s too bad you’re moving so far away.”
I smiled. “Why is that?” I already had an inkling what the answer might be. Clint could not stop glancing down at my chest. I’d chosen to wear a blouse that showed a nice bit of cleavage tonight. It was a party after all and I liked to look good when I cut loose, even if I wasn’t interested in meeting anybody.
“Well, this is probably a long shot—" Clint started.
I cut him off with a wave of my hand.
“No, no, no,” I said.
Clint was utterly confused by this gesture.
I continued. “You should never use a self-deprecating remark like that. You have no idea how I am going to answer your question, so you are shooting yourself in the foot right from the start. That’s no good.”
April and Callie were doing their level best to keep from bursting into laughter, but this was ripping their guts out. I myself was having a tough time staying in character. I was never quite this cool and charming.
“OK,” Clint said. He took a deep breath. “Kay, I find you interesting and I would love to get your number to call you sometime.”
“Now, Clint. Say what you mean,” I said teasing him. I wasn’t sure if it was the few drinks I’d had, or if I was really just having fun and didn’t want it to stop. But the words kept coming out of my mouth.
“I’m not sure if I understand that.” Clint said.
“You came over to talk to me because you find me attractive. We seem to hit if off on a few levels which just makes this interaction more fun. If you want to ask me out and see where things go, then just do it.”
Clint stood there for several seconds, a look of utter shock on his face. He didn’t know how to respond to this. It was probably the first time a girl had ever just spoken honestly and stated the obvious with him.
“OK, you’re right. Would you like to go out sometime?” Clint asked.
“I would like to, but it’s not going to happen.”
Clint staggered back a step as if someone had slapped him. He was now totally confused.
“What?” He asked.
“Clint, I think you are a great guy. You are cute and fun. But I’m moving to Phoenix next week. There would be no point in us even attempting to go out, even before then. It generally takes me a long time to get to the point in a relationship where sex even becomes a possibility. Right now I’m just not interested in starting up something. Now, that I’ve taken sex off the table entirely, would you still like to go out with me this week? Just as friends?”
I knew the answer to the question before I even asked it.
Clint didn’t know how to respond. He looked at me and at my two best friends.
“It was nice to meet you,” Clint said before walking away.
“OH MY GOD!” Callie screamed giving me a hug. “That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“That was like some sort of mental voodoo you just pulled off,” April said.
“I know, right?” I said. “I just proved a point. Once you take sex off the table you can see exactly how long it takes the guy to take a hike.”
It was true. I’d learned over the years that most guys expected sex at some point and usually relatively soon. I really didn’t have any hard and fast rules regarding when to sleep with someone. It just had to be the right time and that varied from person to person. But generally for myself I needed a strong emotional connection with someone, no matter how much I wanted them physically. Unless, I happened to be in the mood to be with someone physically and just physically. But again, I had never put limitations or rules on myself.
I tried to play off the game with Clint as me just messing around, and a good bit of it was, but a bigger issue was that I was still not over Jamie. I’d dated Jamie for the better part of a year. I saw a real future with us. But then I found out he was sleeping with someone else. That was it. I gave no second chances for infidelity. If someone cheated on me once, it was over.
I’d almost taken him back a thousand times, but I stood strong. If he did it once, then he would do it again. Hopefully he learned his lesson, but he wasn’t going to get the chance to prove it with me. I was over it.
But I wasn’t. I’d cried for weeks. After all these months later, it still hurt to think about it.
So, right then it was all about the job and starting my new life. I wanted nothing that could even have the slightest chance in hell of holding me back. I was on my way. And I was excited about every minute of it.
When I got home later that night and lay down in my old bed in my parent’s house (I’d moved out of the dorms a few days before) I felt at peace with everything. Graduation, the party—it had all been exactly what I needed to close that chapter of my life and just move on. The thing with Clint (I was hardly ever that much of a cocky, jerk) was all part of putting to rest the past and moving forward with a clean slate.
I was ready to take that next step.
As I drifted off to sleep though, a part of my mind was restless. I couldn’t stop thinking about what Callie and April had said about me being afraid to move on. I knew that on one hand they were right. I was afraid of getting hurt again, but I knew that one day I’d put myself out there again. When the time was right.
I closed my eyes and tried to dream of the future and good things to come.