Joey and the other guys slammed their beer bottles together and took a drunken toast to the end of their high school careers. They were no longer seniors and neither was I. Today was our last day of school, and so long Bernard High, because we're gone. Say goodbye to the infamous hell raisers because no teacher will ever be the boss of us again. No more shit from them. No more, not anymore.
To the left of me, Ian flipped his long jet-black hair over to the side. " Yo, Drystan, no toast? You aren't going to support your friends in our celebration into adulthood?" He was screaming. Ian and beer never fully functioned correctly.
I leaned back against my chair and touched the tip of my opened beer bottle, feeling the cold seeping moisture oozing out. " Adulthood? We're drinking underage," I told them.
" When have you decided to be the law?" Joey asked. " Or is your dad rubbing off on you?"
I smirked. " My dad's got nothing on me. You know that."
" Come on," Dylan urged. " Give a toast!"
I looked at him and shook my head. " No, I don't really need to," I said.
Wendy and the other girls were on the couch, gossiping as usual, across from us. She looked at me with her bold brown eyes and smiled. I gave a small smile in return.
Dylan laughed. " Hey, Wendy, make Drystan give a toast. He'll listen to you." He winked at her conspicuously as he took a sip out of his bottle.
I glared strongly at him as he did so and I saw Wendy giggle in return. " Drystan, give a toast!"
" There we go!" Dylan looked at me. " Now you have to."
" Now you really have to," Ian agreed. " In fact, Drystan, you are required to give a toast!" He began thumping his fists against the table and soon everyone joined in as they chanted my name like a tribal call.
I sighed, stood up and raised my beer bottle. " This is a toast," I began, staring at the faces that have been with me throughout all of high school, " to my friends. This is to every teacher who told us, every single one of us, that we weren't going to make it if we stayed they way we were. Well," I grinned amusingly, " We're not fucked over are we? Screw them 'cause we fucking made it!"
They all roared. " Hell yeah!" Joey stood on the table and began chugging his beer angrily. After the bottle was empty, he wiped his mouth with his arm and screamed. " We fucked them over!" Another roar came from guys.
I sat down and looked at them. I stared at the beer in my hand and put it down. Slowly, I got up and made my way to the door.
" Where are you going?" Dylan asked.
" I need some air, that's all," I replied. In all actuality, I couldn't take much more of their antics.
I heard a call from behind me. " Hey Drystan, wait up!"
Over my shoulder I saw Wendy running to catch up with me. Her blonde hair tousled back and forth as she came and I smiled, grabbing her hand as she approached. We both walked out of the house hand in hand, leaving behind the laughter of those inane boys.
" So Drystan," she began. " Tomorrow's graduation. Aren't you excited?"
I laughed. " About excited as anyone who gets out of high school."
" Remember, what you told me you'd tell me after graduation?"
My eyes shifted to hers and I began feeling nervous. " Yeah."
She giggled and held my hand tighter. " Well, I can't wait," she said.
" One more day. You can't wait one more day?" I asked with an obvious attempt to stop her from pushing any answer out of me.
" But I want to know. What college are you going to?" She pouted. " I mean what's one day going to do? It's not going to make that much of a difference. Telling me now would make me a lot happier," she pleaded.
" Come on Wendy, it's not that important."
" It's important to me! And besides, I want to know how far apart we'll be when we go off to college…" she looked at her feet and became silent. If she was pulling an emotional string of mine, it was working well.
I sighed. " Would it really make you feel better if I told you?" I asked.
She nodded in excitement. " Yes it would." I could tell she was overwhelmed with anticipation.
I stared at her longing eyes. If I dared to say the truth, I don't know how those eyes would change. I didn't know what would happen. But it was Wendy I was talking about. She had always supported me in everything I did, and she would support me now. I took both of her hands. " I… I'm not going to college. I never applied."
A silence was drawn for a moment.
She closed her eyes and shook her head in confusion. " Wait, what?"
" I didn't apply for a college, Wendy. I couldn't. I don't know what I want in my life yet."
She tore apart from me. " You didn't apply for college? You mean, you're not going to college?"
I shook my head. " No, I think I need a year off to think about things."
" What things?" she yelled. " God, Drystan, if you're doing this to spite your father, you are ruining your future!" She was lecturing me and I really didn't that right now. Of all people, I thought she'd be the one to at least hear me out.
" Wendy, I'm not doing this just to spite my father. Sure, it's probably going to make him angry when he finds out, but I'm doing this for me," I tried to explain.
She shook her head violently. " If you wanted to do something good for yourself, you should have applied to college. You should have just gone with whatever the hell your dad wanted because it's more of a plan than you have right now!"
" Lot's of people take a year or two off to think about things. To get their priorities in order."
" And your priority is to go to college and--"
" And what? Become a lawyer like my dad? That's the last thing I want. You know that."
" Well, what do you want? To be a mathematician? Because that's a stupid plan, okay? You make like thirty grand a year teaching some idiot kid how to add and subtract."
" I like math, and I'm good at it. I'm not saying that I'm going to be a third grade math teacher or something," I told her. " And I really don't care what I make as long as I'm happy doing it."
" Well I care!" Wendy held her head in her hands, breathing heavily. Then she turned up and looked at me. Her eyes were filled with anger and resentment. They changed from beautifully sweet brown to freezing cold. " Don't you like living the way you do?"
I looked at her. " It's a nice life. But it's my dad's life. I don't need all those fancy things."
" Then you must not need me then, huh?"
" What?" I was in disbelief.
" If you don't go to college, what future do we have?"
" I will go to college, just not now."
" If you wait too long, you'll end up like some … some … loser." She pointed to something behind me. " Like that." She walked up to the "for rent" sign behind me that hung against a broken down apartment complex. The walls were clogged with dirt and trash filled the vicinity around it. " You'll living in a place like this, but I won't let you drag me into it too."
I looked at her. " So what are you saying?"
" I'm saying that you better think about it if you want me staying in your life, Drystan," she said.
" Wendy…" But even with my pleading she turned around and walked away, back to Dylan's house. I knew I should have run after her, but I didn't. My eyes were fixated on the apartment. I kicked an empty can of soda away and took a seat on the curb.
Everyone told me that senior year was going to change my outlook on life. To be honest, I've always had this outlook on life. I've always wanted to create a life for myself by myself. People say that once high school is over with, life becomes harder. But I've always had a hard life. I've been submerged in a world of people that knew nothing about me. My family and friends knew nothing about my wants and my desires. And if they did, they disregarded them. But I never thought of my life as a dead end.
Don't feel sorry for me because I'm not looking for it. I'm not looking for pity. I'm looking for my life and my destiny. I'm looking for who I will become. And I thought that there would be one person in this world that could believe in me. And now, there isn't.
" Are you okay?" A tired, but calm voice asked from behind.
I turned around and saw a woman in her thirties looking at me with a concerned face. I nodded.
" You don't look okay. A kid like you shouldn't be out this late."
" I'm eighteen," I said.
" Yeah, even at eighteen, you shouldn't be out this late," she smiled.
I laughed a little. " You think so?"
" I know so. Trust me, only bad things happen late at night when you're out partying and drinking with your friends."
" I'm eighteen," I said to her in regards to the drinking comment.
" Yeah, even at eighteen, you can get beer. Illegally, but you can still get it. I was eighteen once, believe it or not." She sighed. " You're probably not going to listen to me, I know, but take it from someone with age and experience. Little things can change your outcome in life. I mean I'm a thirty-year old single mother with a four-year-old son. I work two jobs and crazy hours just to support him and me. And it's because I stayed up all night partying with my friends, instead of preparing for college and going to college when I had the chance. Responsibility comes in an instant, remember that."
I looked at her. She gave me the lecture I may have needed then to help me understand my current situation. For a moment, I felt like I had bumped into a messenger from above, someone to guide me. I smiled. " Thanks, I think I might have just needed that." I stood up, ready to find Wendy. I would work hard to make things work between us. I didn't want something like this to ruin my life. " Really, Miss, you helped me."
She nodded and walked into the raggedy apartment, and I stared at her for moment. Maybe I felt a little sorry for her and the life she's forced to face. I shook the thought out of my head and ran towards Dylan's house.
When I got there, I opened the door and saw Ian and Joey dueling with their empty beer bottles. I think the alcohol kicked in for them. " Hey, sorry to bother you guys, but do you know where Wendy is?"
Ian looked at me and took a clumsy step towards the table. " Uh, she was here. She was, right Joey?" He turned his head sloppily towards Joey.
" Yeah, she was … here. But then she's not… here anymore." Both of them had a dazed look on their face. " She was. I think. Wendy."
I shook my head. " Okay, you two go back to your … game or whatever."
" I was winning," Ian said. " Just so everyone knows," he slurred.
" Wendy and Dylan went upstairs. Don't know what you said, but she looked angry," Megan said from the couch. The girls never touched the beers at the parties so maybe I should have asked them first.
Carla nodded in agreement. " Yeah, she was angry. I think Dylan was trying to comfort her or something. I don't know. We tried asking her, but she went crying to Dylan before us. It's not like he's very helpful anyways…"
" Dylan?" I asked. My brain was trying to fit the pieces together in my head, but it was hard when five billion thoughts were rushing at the same time. " Upstairs?"
They both nodded.
" Before you jump to conclusions Drystan, I don't think Wendy is the type of girl to--" Carla began again. But I didn't stay for her explanation.
I shot up the stairs and raged towards Dylan's room. I put my hand on the doorknob, but I didn't open it. Adrenalin rushed through me. I didn't know what I was going to find when I opened the door. Maybe this suspicion could all be paranoia. But I wouldn't know until I grew the courage to turn that doorknob. I held my breath and opened it.
And I saw them. Wendy was on top of Dylan, practically shoving her tongue down his throat and his hands were all over her back. She was roughly unbuttoning his shirt when Dylan saw me standing by the door. He got up from under her and Wendy turned around. As she saw me, she immediately covered her opened shirt. Yeah, she shows Dylan everything but she's just a little too embarrassed to show me. Believe it or not, Wendy said she wanted to be a virgin until marriage. I respected that, but now I'm not so sure if she respected it herself.
" Drystan!" she yelped.
" Don't mind me," I said monotonously. And with that I slowly made my way down the stairs as the image of Dylan and Wendy together replayed in my head. I couldn't believe that she would do that to me. I wouldn't have even imagined she could do that to me. And Dylan. God, Dylan did that to me when he knew how I felt about her and how much I cared about her.
I was almost at the door when I heard Wendy call my name.
I turned around. Her shirt was buttoned and everything about her looked decent, but her hair was still a mess from the raging emotions upstairs. " I don't have a lot to say to you right now, Wendy."
" What you saw, it wasn't--"
" It wasn't what? So when I went upstairs, I didn't see you and Dylan making out and about to do it? That was just all in my imagination, right? And you weren't all over him?" Everyone looked at me when I said that and the room got quiet.
She looked at the floor. " I know it looks bad, but you have to know that I didn't think something like that was going to happen."
Dylan was walking down from the stairs and as he saw me, he quickly turned his head.
" So you didn't plan it, but it just kind of happened? Am I supposed to believe that?" I don't know why I wasn't yelling, but my voice wouldn't allow it. My tone was rough, but I couldn't get myself to scream although I really and desperately wanted to.
" Look, she was just really upset about the fight you two had," Dylan said.
" I really don't want to hear your voice right now, Dylan." I looked at him intently.
" I was upset Drystan," Wendy said.
" And you decide that within the next fifteen minutes, it's okay to do what you did?"
She stared at me, probably feeling embarrassed. " Are you calling me a slut or something?"
" I'm not calling you anything, Wendy. But what you did wasn't fair! We had a fight, and you go and do this? I just can't believe you would do that to me."
" Well, what are you trying to say Drystan?" She screamed.
" I'm saying that we're over. Okay? We're over. And I think you would agree. I mean that's what you implied when I saw you and Dylan together. So all's fair in love and war, isn't it?"
" Look Drystan, maybe you're not thinking straight…." Dylan interjected.
" Right, Dylan. Why should I go blaming Wendy? You were also in this, weren't you? You probably really wanted to get in her pants so you decided that since she's vulnerable now, this would be the perfect opportunity, wouldn't it?" I said angrily.
He shook his head in frustration. " Hey, I didn't take advantage of her. She wanted it!"
That was it. I lost all of my senses and drove my fist into the side of his face. When I saw him fall, I walked out of the house. Wendy followed me. I could hear her.
" Wendy, just leave me alone!" I finally yelled.
She looked at me with tears in her eyes. " Do you know how I feel Drystan? Do you? You ruined everything I had planned for us. Everything! I didn't know what to do! One thing led to another, and things happened, but it's not my fault!" She screamed.
" Oh so it's mine? Because I'm not going to college, I ruined everything?"
She was silent.
" I'll take that as a yes. But you know what, I don't care anymore. Cause we're through. Go crying back to Dylan, okay?" I paused and looked at her seriously. " I needed you, Wendy and I was willing to make things work, but it's obvious you weren't. I'm sorry for the both of us. I'm sorry."
I turned around and began running back to my house. My head spun in all directions, but my goal was to get back home. I couldn't think straight. I've always wanted to leave my old life behind. I've always wanted to run away from these guys and their social lives, their lives of drinking and parties, and I finally did. But I left behind someone I had cared for and it hurt so much. It hurt deep down into the pit of my stomach. It was like someone drove a knife into my heart repeatedly. I felt like I was growing numb.
As I got back to my house, I stood in the front for a long time. I stood there contemplating my next move because if I opened that door, my parents would be there ready to question me. I had sweat dripping down my face from running. I was supposed to stay over at Dylan's, but now I'm home. And my dad would have a fit with me. I knew he would bring up some sort of problem that I didn't need right now.
I took out the key to the house from my pocket and opened the front door.
" Drystan? Is that you?" My mom called out from the kitchen.
" Yeah Mom, it's me," I answered weakly.
She came out and walked over to me. " Oh honey, you look terrible. I thought you were staying at Dylan's house for the night."
I shook my head. " I decided to come home instead."
" What happened?" she asked.
My dad stepped out of his work-study and looked at me. " Don't tell me," he said without emotion, " your girlfriend finally dumped you didn't she?" He looked up from the files he had in his hand.
It's amazing how my dad can make me feel lower than anything.
" Charles, that's not nice," my mom coaxed.
" Well, she probably did. And it's about time, too. Maybe she finally realized that this boy wouldn't do her much good. He's out partying when he should be at home getting ready for college," my dad sternly said.
" He deserves a night out. Graduation is tomorrow."
" All the more reason for him to stay home, Janet. He never thinks about his future. He's always making other people worry and take care of his life for him. He's never doing anything for himself. He's got to learn responsibility," he kept saying.
I looked at the ground. I just wanted the night to end.
" Charles, this discussion can wait until tomorrow. Can't you see Drystan is tired?" My mom intervened.
" He's not tired. He's probably just drunk out of his mind. I'm surprised he found his way back to the house." My dad shook his head in frustration and went back into his work-study. " He's never going to learn. Never."
I groaned and walked up to my room.
" He doesn't mean it, Drystan," my mom tried to explain.
" No," I turned around to look at her. " He means every word of it."
When I got to my room, I slammed my door. I collapsed on my bed from exhaustion. I closed my eyes tightly trying to imagine what could have been if I had just done what everyone expected of me. My mind filled with images of a corporate office, my dad's corporate office. I would be sitting there at my desk, working intently on files and cases, as the night grew dark. And I'd shift over to see a picture of Wendy, our son and me. My dad might actually walk into the room and say "Good job, son" and ask if I needed any help. I'd smile and say no and he might say, " Damn, that son of mine. He makes me proud."
Then I opened my eyes. And I realized nothing could have gotten me there even if I tried.
Author's Note: Yeahhh, so I decided to change up the way I'm organizing my story. It was originally called "Breaking Silence", but as the story goes, my uncooperative mind decided that it would be good to reorganize things. So instead of having seven chapters, I think this story would be a lot smoother with just two. So yes my friends, this story is halfway done.
Explanation of the title: Commencement is another word for graduation (according to my English teacher as we were discussing My Ántonia). It's more of a commencement for Drystan.
For all who don't know, I needed to get a character for my future story all figured out. He's a prominent character in the next story, but it was important that I realized his past and his personal conflicts. So call this a companion reader.
I hope that you all enjoyed this. Comments are always welcomed and appreciated. If you would like to give constructive criticism, that is always enjoyed. A minor request though: please tell me if it's believable that this is in the voice of a boy. I am a girl after all. My guy friends tried to remind me that not all guys are idiots, they're not all jerks, and that they do have feelings. I know, shocking right? Just kidding (kind of).
Thanks for reading. You guys are what I live for.Eva