Saturday, June 18, 2016

Liberty #60: Ben's Last Night

“You’re leaving?” Harry exclaimed to Ben right before shoving a forkful of biscuits and gravy into his mouth. The biscuits were soft and fluffy but the gravy had a thin layer of grease that had congealed around and on top.

“Leaving make it seem like I have a say in the matter,” Ben smiled. “I’m deploying.”

“You’re going to miss graduation,” Zeke said softly.

“Graduation is just a formality. Missing it doesn’t make me less graduated.”

“I know but it flies in the face of all those people who thought you wouldn’t make it, Mr. Peterson,” Zeke angrily growled.

“I think you’re the only person Mr. Peterson said that to,” Ben pointed at Zeke with his fork which had his last bite of pancakes on it.

“Not true,” Harry was scraping the gravy onto his fork. “After catching me with April Tightwater back in September, he asked me how often I’ve had sex and after I told him, he told me that I’m going to get some girl pregnant and end up losing any money I make to child support. So I told him that I can’t produce sperm so he changed his mind to me becoming riddled with various STDs. Basically, he thinks I’m going to be some kind of man-whore. Which is actually a very lucrative job when you think about it.”

“Are you doing anything for your last day?” Zeke asked.

“Hadn’t planned on it.”

“We could throw you a little something. One last blow out with your friends,” Harry said.

“That’d be nice. You know how I love blow outs,” Ben said.

“It won’t be like that. It will be laid back.”

“Sounds good,” Ben pushed away his dishes and leaned back in the booth. “I need to get going to Veronica’s. I need to tell her that I’m leaving,” Ben slid out of the booth. “I’ll see you guys later.”

“Okay, man, we’ll see you. We’ll get something planned,” Harry said.

“Later, Ben.”

They watched Ben leave the diner, get in his car, and drive away. “So what are we doing for Ben?”

“I think we could just do some bowling and drinking. I bet my Uncle Don, who owns the bowling alley in town, would discount our games and I bet he’d serve us a few pitchers of beer, especially for a military man,” Harry said. “You want to drive up there with me and see if that will be okay?”

“Sure. I have to work at three though.” After leaving the diner, Harry drove back to his house. “What are we doing back here?”

“I have a couple library books to return,” Harry said. “Plus I want to make sure Cassandra is up. She wanted to find an ensemble for graduation.”

“So you’re obeying Brandon’s stupid request?”

“How is it stupid? She’s becoming a woman. It may be weird because we’ve known Brandon our entire lives but it doesn’t make what she’s going through stupid,” Harry said. “Besides, aside from the pronoun, it’s just a name change. If I asked to be called Chauncey instead of Harry, no one would blink an eye.”


“It’s a name.”

Harry and Zeke went into the house and headed toward Harry’s bedroom. In Harry’s bedroom, Cassandra stood in front of a mirror wearing a black shirt and jeans. She had her hair that she had been growing out since her junior year slightly curled and was wearing bright red lipstick.

Harry’s mouth dropped open as Zeke grimaced. “Brandon?”

“Cassandra, please,” she corrected.

“Ignore him,” Harry waved Zeke off. “You look amazing.”

“Thank you. I’m thinking of wearing this to graduation. I may not be able to get the school to call me Cassandra but I’m at least going to look the part.”

“That’ll piss off Mr. Phillips,” Harry smiled at that thought. “You should trade robes with Lillian, that way you are wearing white like the rest of the girls.”

“Ooh, I like that,” Cassandra bit her lip and smiled. “What’s going on?”

“Not much. We’re heading into town. Ben is being deployed so we’re planning a party for him the night before graduation.”

“What? Oh, no. What do you think you’ll do for his farewell party?”

“Bowling and drinking. We’re heading out now to see if my Uncle Don will let us play and if he’ll skim us some beer at his bowling alley. It’s a special occasion so dress nicely,” Harry said, eyeing Cassandra again.

“Harry,” Cassandra grabbed Harry’s hand and began whispering into his ear.

Harry smiled and pulled away. “Come on, Zeke. Let’s go,” Harry leaned over and grabbed the library books off of his bedside table.

As they left the house and got back in Harry’s car, Zeke chuckled. “Do have a crush on Brandon?”

“Cassandra,” Harry corrected, “and I have a crush on everybody, Zeke.”

The number of times that Ben and Veronica had made love was possibly into the hundreds by now. They had stopped counting shortly after reaching the twenties. Veronica was thinking about all their times together and how they all ended the same way but then she realized that they didn’t. “We should talk about you leaving,” she reluctantly said, quietly.

“Why should we ruin this perfect moment by talking about that?” Ben asked.

“It’s important, Ben. We’ve been together since we were sophomores and this is, when you think about it, our first true relationship test.”

“I know it’s important but there are only two options to decide on,” Ben rolled onto his side and pulled the blanket down to expose Veronica’s breasts. “We either break up or stay together. Both options are terrible in my opinion.”

“I agree which is why we need to talk about them,” Veronica sat up in bed and pulled her legs to her chest. “What did you first think of us when you heard that you were going to be leaving?”

“I didn’t want to do the long-distance thing. It’s not fair to either of us.”

“So you want to break up?”

“No, I love you and thought we would be together our whole lives.”

“So you want to stay together?”

Ben sighed. “Without thinking, what do you want to do?”

“Figure out a way to keep to here,” Veronica looked at Ben.

“I’m guessing that’s an endorsement for breaking up.”


“I can’t stay and clearly you don’t want to do the long-distance thing either which is fine because those things never work and it would ruin our running as the only normal relationship out of all of our friends,” Ben said.

“It’s only fitting that we go out on top then,” Veronica nodded.

The two of them got out of bed and began getting dressed. “Zeke and Harry are throwing me a goodbye party the night before I leave. Will you be attending?”

“I have work that night. Besides, it’d probably be awkward if we were seen together after breaking up.”

“I don’t even plan on telling anyone.”

Veronica laughed. “I wasn’t either. Until you leave.”

“I hope that we can still be friends, write to each other,” Ben said.

“Probably not. You’re going to be all the way on the other side of the world and I’m going to just be getting stuffed by every guy I see.”

“So you’ll be too busy to write?”

“It’s hard to write with a penis in each hand.”

“I love you,” Ben hugged Veronica and kissed her.

Veronica pulled away and smiled. “I love you, too.” They went back to kissing and hugging each other tight.

Bowling Alley
Harry’s uncle Don reserved the two alleys that were behind the wall for them and promised them beer as long as they could keep it under control and pay for it. Harry, Zeke, Dustin, and Geoff were already at the bowling alley when Lillian and Cassandra came in with Ben.

“So why a bowling alley?” Cassandra asked.

Lillian looked up and down the lanes and how busy the bowling alley was. “Wait. If all these people are here, who’s guarding the towns’ trailer parks?”

“I like bowling,” Ben said “and I like hanging out with friends. This accomplishes both. Besides, it is my going-away party.”

“Why are you pooping on Ben’s party, Lillian?” Cassandra joked.

“I’ll poop on your face,” Lillian threatened.

The three of them went behind the privacy wall where the four were waiting along with three pitchers of beer. “Sorry it’s not the hard stuff but Uncle Don couldn’t abide by that request,” Harry said. “But we have all-we-can-eat everything else.”

“This will do just fine,” Ben said and began digging into the nachos. “Let’s get bowling,” he said with a mouthful of chips and cheese.

The gang began splitting into teams. Ben’s team had Lillian, Dustin, and Geoff. Harry’s team was Zeke and Dustin. First up was Ben, then Lillian.

“Do you remember when we first went bowling?” Zeke asked.

“Yeah, we were eight,” Harry answered. “We were at a birthday party. What was his name? He moved, like, right after that.”

“Josh? Michael?” Shelby?” Ben tried thinking.

“Those are all very different names,” Lillian said.

“We were all friends from Kindergarten to third grade. We should remember his name,” Zeke said.

“Was it Dustin?” Geoff asked.

Everyone turned to look at him. “No,” Dustin began sarcastically. “They met Dustin in third grade. You still talk to him on occasion.”

“You weren’t even here when we were friends with this guy, Geoff,” Harry said. “Bowling was really fun. Some guy, like, two lanes down complained to an employee that we weren’t playing right and said it was hurting his game. Again, we were eight.”

Lillian scoffed. “Adults are the worst.”

“Yep, and we’re all going to be adults tomorrow,” Dustin said as he played his turn.

“Being an adult is fine. It’s the responsibility that gets people,” Harry said.

“Is anyone doing anything after graduation?” Cassandra asked.

Everyone said about the same thing, getting together with family, but Harry responded with “Hitting on Ms. Rasing.”

“Really?” Cassandra questioned.

“Most definitely,” he answered. “My family stuff is in the evening. Besides, I have a small family.”

“There’s our soldier boy,” a girl said as she came around the corner. She was joined by two other girls, a twin and an older and heavier girl with long dark brown hair, smokey eyes and cute, chipmunk-like smile.

“Hey, Charlea. Hi, Cordia,” Ben responded.

Charlea took a pitcher that was a quarter full and drank the rest of the beer in it. “We’re gonna need a lot more than this,” she said.

“Okay, keep it down or there won’t be anymore,” Harry said. “I’ll let my uncle know.”

“Who’s your friend?” Zeke asked, walking up to them.

“This is our cousin from Missouri, Amber,” Charlea introduced. “She’s here for our graduation. Amber, these are our, I guess you could say friends, Lillian, Brandon, Dustin, Ben, Geoff, and this is Zeke. The guy that went to get more beer was Harry.”

“And I go by Cassandra, not Brandon,” Cassandra corrected.

“I thought you looked like a girl. Where’d Brandon come from?” Amber asked.

“I’m a transfemale,” Cassandra began explaining. “I’m transitioning from male to female. My birth name was Brandon.”

“Ah. Cool. Nice to meet all of you,” Amber said.

“Huh, who knew someone from Missouri could be so tolerant,” Lillian said quietly to Cassandra.

Harry came back with two more pitchers of beer. “Here’s more beer. Do you girls want to be added to this game or wait until the next one?” he asked.

“We can’t stay long. We’re going to a concert. One of our other cousins is playing tonight,” Charlea answered. “We’ll finish up this game and see what happens after.” The girls were added, Charlea to Ben’s team and Cordia and Amber to Harry’s, and the game continued.

“So what are your plans for the summer?” Cordia asked Dustin after he took his turn.

“I don’t know. Work, I guess. I’m going to KU so I’m not going far. You?”

“I get one month here and then I’m off to school in Phoenix,” Cordia said.

“Wow. We should plan on doing something before you leave,” Dustin suggested. “Even just to grab lunch.”

“I’d like that,” Cordia smiled.

“How long have you and the twins known each other?” Amber asked.

“The twins? Charlea and Cordia?”

“Yeah. They are twins,” she laughed.

“Sure, in the sense that they were born on the same day in the same year in the same womb but that’s it,” Zeke chuckled. “All similarities between them end there.”

“They’re the only twins in our family so we just call them ‘the twins’. So how long have you known them?”

“Since Kindergarten so basically our whole lives,” Zeke answered. “They have the same eyes. Let’s just say that they do not act the way that I was led by movies and television to believe twins should act.”

“They are polar opposites,” Amber said. “So what are your plans after graduation?”

“Working and then more working while I go to KU,” Zeke said. “It’s going to be fun.”

“I tried college--community college--but I barely made it past the first year so I dropped out,” Amber said.

“You’re in college? Well, were…”

“I’m 22 so yes.”

“What do you plan on doing now?” he asked.

“I am not sure but hopefully it’ll fun figuring it out. What are you going to school for?”

Zeke opened his mouth but nothing came out. “I don’t know,” he then answered.

They continued playing, finishing their first game and starting their second. Due to popular demand, the original teams were kept. Bowling had been forgotten as the free-flowing beer had loosened lips. No one was extraordinarily drunk but Charlea and Lillian were the closest.

“Hey, Geoff, you still coming with us?” a tall Native-looking young man asked as he approached the lanes. He was flanked on one side by a dark-skinned man with dark hair and dark beard stubble.

“Oh, I forgot. Yeah, I’m coming. Can I finish this game?”

“Yeah,” the dark guy shrugged.

Cassandra eyed the tall Native American from head to toe several times and smiled. “Who is that?” she asked Lillian, taking in the image of his slightly chubby cheeks, wide nose and thick eyebrows.

“Thanks,” Geoff said. “Do you guys want to play?”

“Nah, we’ll just watch,” the Native said.

“Okay. Everyone, this is Sequoyah and Maleev. We do business together sometimes.”

“Ah, so this is where you get your weed,” Charlea said. “Are you cash only or can I trade you something?” she asked the dark guy whose name was Maleev and thrust out her chest a little.

“Cash only. Plus, we don’t have any to spare right now,” Maleev answered.

“Sequoyah, is it?” Cassandra went up to the cute Native. “Please join us over here while you wait.”

He shrugged “Sure.”

“I’m Cassandra. This is Lillian. I don’t remember you in school. How did you and Geoff meet?”

“Through Maleev. Geoff was directed to get his product from Maleev after Duncan was arrested. I went to school in Ottawa, graduated last year,” Sequoyah said.

“And he helps you with deals?” Lillian asked.

“Not usually. Tonight is different because we’re selling to his cousin.”

“How many cousins does he have?” Lillian questioned.

“What’s the plan after bowling, Harry?” Cordia asked.

“Drive around, listen to music, talk,” he replied. “I planned a quiet but scenic route along county highways. You should come with us.”

“Sure. It sounds a lot better than the concert we have planned,” Cordia said.

“Ooh, Zeke. Since Cordia’s not coming, you should come with Charlea and me to the concert,” Amber shrieked, grabbing his hand.

“Uh, yeah, I’ll go,” he reluctantly agreed.

The game continued but after the last ball was thrown, everyone began parting, ignoring who had won. “So who is coming with us?” Harry asked, putting his arm on Ben’s shoulder.

“We are,” Cordia said, pulling Dustin to her.

“I guess I’m going to the concert with Charlea and Amber so I guess this is it, Ben. You stay safe wherever you’re going,” Zeke hugged Ben.

“I will,” Ben said. “Try to fuck at least one of them,” he whispered into Zeke’s ear and nodding toward Charlea and Amber.

“Can I come with you and Maleev and Geoff on your sale?” Cassandra suddenly asked Sequoyah.

“Yeah, it’ll be nice to get to know you more,” he smiled at her.

“Well, we lost Cassie,” Lillian huffed. “I’m coming with you.”

“So just Dustin, Cordia, and Lil?” Harry verified.

Everyone agreed and then began saying their good-byes to Ben. They lingered just a bit longer before parting ways.

The concert was held in an old movie theater that was turned into a bar and entertainment venue. It was a show with five local bands performing. Mockingbird Scout, the band they were there to see, were playing last. Charlea, Amber, and Zeke got a table, despite the large crowd and sat down to wait for their cousin’s band to start.

“Glad we’re already drunk,” Charlea said. “Bar line’s too long and they’d probably card us.”

Zeke and Amber weren’t listening. “...It was full of stuff like the people had just left and were going to be back any minute,” Zeke was talking to Amber about his ghost hunting with Harry.

“That’s so creepy. I wonder what happened,” Amber sighed.

“Harry thinks they just ran into money problems and bolted in the night. I think something more exciting happened like they went on vacation and died and the rest of their family just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of sorting through the house,” Zeke explained.

“It’s so cool that you do that. There are a lot of abandoned houses around where I live. You and Harry should come down and take a look,” Amber invited. “I don’t think there are any ghost stories with them though.”

“That’s okay. We tend to just make up our own banter.”

“How come you never take me on your stupid trips? You’ve never even asked me. It’s always you and Harry, Ben, Dustin, Geoff, and sometimes Lillian,” Charlea complained.

“You’ve never shown any interest in going,” Zeke said “and you just called them stupid.”

“Bah. Maybe if I was invited, I’d like them,” Charlea said. “And maybe we could get closer.” Charlea rubbed Zeke’s leg, close to his crotch. He shifted uneasily in his chair when the lights in the venue dimmed off.

The crowd started cheering as the band walked out on stage. They quickly introduced themselves and started playing. Despite the standing crowd, the three could see pretty easily. Charlea could partially mumble the words but Zeke and Amber just tapped their feet to the beat.

During the third song, Amber grabbed Zeke’s hand. “Come out there and dance with me.” Before Zeke could answer, he was being pulled by Amber into the crowd. They began jumping up and down and basically copying what everyone else was doing. While nervous at first, Zeke began to smile and enjoy himself. “You’re pretty cool, Zeke,” she yelled out of nowhere but was still nearly drowned out by the noise of the crowd.

“Thanks,” Zeke yelled back “I like you, too. I think you’re cool as well.”

Back at the table, Charlea had lost sight of them but was upset. Since the fourth grade when she sat on his face at recess Zeke has had a crush on her but none of that seemed to matter now. Amber clearly saw something in Zeke and he was thrilled about it.
As soon as Zeke and Amber returned, Charlea grabbed his arm. “Now dance with me,” she said, pulling on him.
Zeke smiled and followed Charlea back into the crowd. They jumped around closer to each other but she soon brought her arms around him and they kissed. Charlea shoved her tongue in his mouth and held the back of his head. She made sure to press her breasts against him. As they slowly parted, she sucked on his tongue.

“What was that for?”

Charlea smiled big at him. “When the concert is over, do you want to come back to my place with us?”


“Why not?” she asked and then kissed him again, her tongue softly caressing his lips.

After the concert, the three of them went back to Charlea’s house. “Girls, are you home?” her mom shouted from a bedroom.
Charlea clamped a hand over Zeke’s mouth. “It’s me and Amber. Cordia is still out with Harry and Ben. Amber and I are going downstairs to watch a movie.”

“Okay. Make sure to get plenty of sleep for tomorrow.”

“We will,” Charlea said as they all started to go downstairs. “You’ll have to be quiet. We’re not supposed to have boys over.”

Zeke chose a place to sit while Charlea got a movie going. Initially, Amber chose to sit next to Zeke. After the movie started, Charlea stepped outside to smoke. Zeke had counted and it was her eighth cigarette since she arrived at the bowling alley. The second time Charlea went out Amber moved closer to Zeke. “Do you like Charlea?” she asked.

“I guess. I’ve had a crush on her for several years. She’s not my type and I’m not hers but I kind of always thought we’d go out or sleep together. She’s not choosy on who she sleeps with,” Zeke explained.

“Why haven’t you went out?”

“I haven’t really asked her out. I also think she likes teasing me. That’s at least what Harry says.”

“I’m here for another week. Would you want to go out?” Amber asked and kissed his cheek near his mouth. Charlea came back in causing Zeke to almost involuntarily push Amber away. Amber let out a frustrated sigh. “I’m going to get something to drink.”

When Amber left, Charlea took her place next to Zeke. “You and Amber are hitting it off, I see.”

“Yeah, I like her. She’s cool.”

“She is,” Charlea sighed and cuddled next to him. He placed his arm around her. “Do you want to go out this weekend?”

“Could you hear us talking when you were out there?” Zeke asked.

“No, I just thought that maybe we could have some fun this summer,” Charlea kissed Zeke on the lips and forced her tongue in his mouth. She started undoing his pants and began giving him a handjob.

“I’m just going to go to bed,” Amber said as she saw what was happening.

“Okay,” Charlea breathed. “You can use my bed.”

“Good night, Charlea. Night, Zeke,” Amber went back upstairs.

Zeke was in a state of shock and was excited about what was going on but was not enjoying how ashy and stale Charlea’s mouth tasted. Charlea got on Zeke’s lap and pulled off her shirt. “Come on, let’s do this,” she panted, taking hold of his cheeks and kissing him again.

Drug Sale
“So are you seeing anyone?” Sequoyah asked Cassandra as they all got out of the car at Geoff’s cousin’s house.

“We broke up last year. He didn’t like that I was transitioning. But he wasn’t comfortable with being gay so it doesn’t surprise me. Also, he’s gay so it makes sense he’d want to be with a guy, not someone who identifies as a girl,” Cassandra explained.

“Can you two quit flirting while we’re doing this?” Geoff asked.

“We’re just talking. Sorry we don’t want to sit in silence for thirty minutes like you two,” Sequoyah said.

Geoff knocked on the door and a kid answered. He wasn’t a kid but was clearly younger that the four of them. “Geoff, finally. The gang is getting restless.:

“Yeah, sorry we’re late but I don’t care,” Geoff pushed his way in. Maleev, Sequoyah, and Cassandra followed.

“We’re all downstairs in the family room,” he led the way downstairs where three other kids were sitting around a table. “My cousin’s here.”

“Finally,” one of them said. “Does he have the stuff?”

Geoff rolled his eyes. “Yeah we have the stuff. Twenty dollars each. Maleev,” Geoff motioned for Maleev to give them the bag.

“Who are your friends?” Geoff’s cousin asked as he traded money for marijuana with Maleev.

“Who cares? Just business partners.”

“I’m Cassandra,” Cassandra introduced. “This is Sequoyah and Maleev. Are you guys playing Magic: The Gathering?”


“I loved playing that. Sadly, everybody else stopped playing pretty much right away.”

“You’ve played this dorky thing?” Geoff asked.

“Yeah. I really liked it.”

“I played it, too,” Sequoyah revealed. “I quit for the same reason.”

“We have an extra deck. Do you want to join?”

“What?” Geoff exclaimed.

“Sure,” both Cassandra and Sequoyah said.


Cassandra and Sequoyah sat down and split up the deck between them. One of Geoff’s cousin’s friends produced a bong, a pipe, and rolling papers. Geoff and Maleev went to the couch to watch TV but there was nothing on. As they all played, the family room filled with hazy marijuana smoke.

“Could we just leave them here?” Geoff asked Maleev. “I mean, town’s not that far away.”

“Sequoyah would have to walk to Ottawa. That’s fifteen miles,” Maleev said.

“Can we leave and then come back for them?”

“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?” Maleev asked. “Do you have a pressing appointment with someone at ten o’clock at night? They have a Nintendo, do you want to play something?”

“I see that they do have Mario Kart,” Geoff looked at Maleev.

Geoff got the game going while the Magic game continued in the background. After about half an hour, Sequoyah slapped the table. “Aah, I’m dead. It’s been awhile since I’ve played. I’m not very good at this. Do you have anything to drink?”

“There’s some pop in the fridge. Help yourself.”

Sequoyah went upstairs to the kitchen and grabbed a pop from the refrigerator. He opened it and took a drink then became distracted by a calendar with Norman Rockwell paintings for each month. “I wish we still got milk delivered to your door,” Cassandra said behind him.


“The calendar. It has a man delivering milk,” she pointed out.

“Oh, yeah. You coming to get a drink?”

“No. I said I was going to the bathroom but I really came up here to see if you wanted to make out.”

“Yes. My answer would have to be yes.”

When Cassandra and Sequoyah went back downstairs, Geoff’s cousin and one of his friends were using the bong while the other two, with Geoff and Maleev, were passing the pipe while playing Mario Kart.

“Hmm, must be working,” Sequoyah said.

“Let’s join in. I like Mario Kart,” Cassandra smiled.

They stayed for another hour when they started winding down. Cassandra and Sequoyah had started playing chess in the corner. Maleev and Geoff were learning how to play some sort of war game with his cousin and some other friend. The other two friends were nearly asleep in the big chairs against the wall.

“Check,” Cassandra slid one of the pieces into place.

“What? Really? I am bad at everything tonight. I must really be stoned,” Sequoyah chuckled.

“Are you two about ready to go?” Geoff called. “I’m about to dump my ass on this game.”

“Please don’t,” his cousin responded.

“Yeah, we’re almost done,” Sequoyah answered. He looked at Cassandra and smiled. “You know the one thing I hate about being stoned?”


“It makes me really horny.”

“Really? And you’re sure it’s not because of the make out session from earlier?”

“Fifty-fifty,” he shrugged.

“Come on,” Cassandra and Sequoyah went upstairs and to where all the bedrooms led off of the hallway. “Geoff’s cousin has an older brother, go find a condom. I bet their parents have a bottle of lube or something.”

Sequoyah quickly found a condom in a drawer but it took Cassandra a bit more time to find lube. They met back in the hallway. “Where should we do this?”

Cassandra looked behind him and smiled. “In here,” she pulled him into Geoff’s cousin’s bedroom. It was adorned with posters of superheroes, Warcraft characters and was littered with other nerdy stuff like statues and comic book longboxes. He also had a small-looking twin bed.

“In here? On that?” Sequoyah laughed, closing the door.

“Oh, come on,” Cassandra said as she took off her shirt. “It’ll be kinky and probably the most action this bed’ll see for at least three years.”

Sequoyah took Cassandra in his arms and they kissed. They carefully walked to the bed and Cassandra laid down. She began undoing her pants and pulled them down, exposing herself. “You’ll have to tell me what to do. I’m new to...this,” he said, suddenly.

She smiled at him. “Take your clothes off and come here.”

Old Highway 50
Harry exited off of Interstate 35 onto Eisenhower Road south of Ottawa. He then whipped right onto Old Highway 50. As they made the turn, the song that was playing ended and another began. Old Highway 50 was a narrow two-lane road that meandered through acres and acres of decent farmland.

“Remember when we came down here to see Silkville?” Harry asked.

“I remember being questioned by the sheriff and township fire chief before coming out here,” Ben said.

“Sheriff? Fire chief? What happened?” Cordia asked.

“It was last summer right before school started,” Ben began. “Zeke’s parents were out of town so we were being stupid. We found left over fireworks and Zeke thought it was a good idea to shoot them off. I guess one of the embers or something stayed lit and landed in a dry patch of grass. As we were leaving, we saw a fire truck go behind his house into the field and a sheriff’s car pull into his driveway.”

“I never knew you committed arson,” Lillian said.

“Nothing was burned but grass. We didn’t get in trouble and the only evidence was a small blurb in the paper under fire calls. We weren’t even mentioned,” Ben said.

“What did you tell the police about how the fire started?” Cordia asked.

“We blamed it on smoking,” Harry said.

“Yeah, we don’t think the deputy or fire chief saw the punks laying out on the table,” Ben smiled.

“You guys are morons,” Lillian laughed. They drove through Williamsburg, completely dark except for street lights. “But you still went?”

“We had adrenaline pumping, of course we went,” Harry said.

“We went to Silkville and when we found that there was really nothing there, we went to the Eldridge Hotel and snuck around,” Dustin said.

After a couple miles from Williamsburg, Harry suddenly pulled onto a gravel road and turned right at a four-way intersection where he stopped. “There’s the Silkville School,” Harry pointed. Cordia and Lillian leaned to look. Harry continued driving and got back onto Old 50.

“So what other things are we barely going to be able to see?” Cordia said.

“Soon we’ll be passing through what was once Agricola,” Harry said.

“Agricola? Really?” Lillian asked.

Harry shrugged. “That’s what it’s called. And we passed it.”

They all went silent and listened to the music. Conversations stayed between only a couple of people but they mostly just sat back and enjoyed what they could of the scenery. They passed what looked like an old gas station and quiet farms. After a few more minutes, they drove by the entrance to Highway 75 but continued west. They passed Key West Cemetery and more farms. They passed through Lebo Junction, a half mile south of Lebo, and over a railroad bridge.

The road then veered to the northwest and became 175 Road and crossed Interstate 35, it then straightened out to continue west. Dustin and Cordia had started to fall asleep and Ben was snoozing.

“Do you like driving, Harry?” Lillian asked.

“Yeah. It relaxes me. At least when there’s no traffic.”

“Do you think we’ll all remain friends after high school?” she asked in a more somber tone.

“When I was in Kindergarten, I had this friend. I was still friends with Zeke but at the time I thought that J.D. was my best friend. He moved away after Kindergarten but we said we’d keep in touch through letters. The letters would come once a week then every two weeks, then once a month before disappearing completely. We kept the letters going through first grade though but by that summer, Zeke and Dustin were my best friends.”

“Aw, thanks, Har,” Dustin said drowsily.

“Oh, I see,” Ben said without moving or opening his eyes and barely moving his mouth.

“Aren’t you sleep?”

“Yes,” and Ben went silent.

“So you’re saying we won’t remain friends?” Lillian concluded.

“Flash forward to summer before our freshman year. Joey introduces us to his cousin, Geoff. We all hate Geoff and he annoys the bejeezus out of us but he’s still around. We are still friends with him so what I’m saying is that anything could happen and probably will. Why worry about it now?”

“Who would you miss more as a friend?”

“I don’t know. Definitely Cassandra, possibly you. Maybe Dustin.”

“Are you trying to hurt me?” Ben said from his sleep again.

“Why not Zeke or Ben?”

“Zeke and I will probably stop being friends sooner or later and Ben doesn’t need me as a friend.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t need you as a friend,” Lillian complained.

“I know. That’s why I said probably. It’s all based on how we interact. I interact better with you, Cassandra, Dustin, and Zeke. It’s nothing personal. Correct me if I’m wrong.”

“You’re wrong, Harry,” Ben shouted. “You’re wrong.”

“Why don’t you love us?” Dustin said.

“Ugh. I’m going to drive us all into a creek,” Harry grumbled.

The graduating class all gathered together in their robes--guys in purple, girls in white--except for Lillian who was wearing the purple robe they had given Cassandra. Cassandra was in Lillian’s white robe.

“What was the verdict after the concert?” Harry asked Zeke.

Zeke got closer to Harry. “I slept with Charlea.”

“Finally. About time. How was it?”

“It was...she smelled. Cigarettes and armpits,” Zeke said.

“She always did strike me as a sweater,” Harry nodded. “But how did it feel?”

“Have you ever thrown a hot dog down a hallway?”

“Sorry I split on you last night,” Cassandra said to Lillian.

“Not a problem. I get it. I would’ve done the same thing.”

“And have.”

“You should’ve seen it last night. Cordia was all over Dustin,” she said as Dustin walked by.

He stopped and looked at them. “What? You saw that, too?”

“Of course. It was so obvious. She wanted to kiss you so much when we dropped her off.”

“She did? You know, I really wish people would let me know these things because clearly I can’t do it on my own,” he growled and walked off.

“He’s cute,” Lillian laughed. “Veronica, I’m sorry you couldn’t hang out with us last night.”

“Yeah. No, that’s okay. Ben and I broke up anyway so the evening may have just been an awkward mess if I were there,” Veronica explained. “I had to work anyway.”

“You and Ben broke up? Why didn’t you tell us?”

“We agreed to keep it quiet. The break up was a mutual decision,” Veronica dismissed.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. We need to have a girl’s night out soon,” Lillian said.

“Yeah,” Veronica nodded and walked away.

“Or not. Oh, well. How did your night go with Tree Man?”

“Very good. I need more nights like last night,” Cassandra smiled. “Thanks for trading me robes.”

“Not a problem. I’d make Mr. Phillips say your correct name if I could.

The class began getting into alphabetical order and lining up. As they finished, ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ began playing and they all began walking into the gym.