"Hello?" Rod Thomas said as put the receiver to his ear.

"Hi, dad," Kent replied from the other.

"Kent?"

"Who else calls you that?"

"Why are you calling? Shouldn't you be at the dance?"

"I am at the dance. It's just…Holly and I are going to be leaving soon."

"Why?" He glanced through the kitchen window and watched the raindrops splattering down onto the front yard, the driveway, and the neighbors' houses. "What could possibly be so important that you'd risk stepping back outside in this weather?"

"Well…" Kent said, "…we're…we're going to have sex."

No wonder his son had been hesitating. While it was clear that Kent was nervous both about the impending loss of his virginity and the telling his father about it, Rod wanted to know which one was bothering him more. "Under my roof?" he demanded.

"Actually, we were planning on going to Holly's place. It's closer, you know."

"And Mark doesn't have a problem with you like I do with Holly."

"Yeah, that may have also been a factor in our decision."

Rod grumbled and turned around to see Gina, his beautiful blond wife, sitting on the couch in front of a muted TV, watching him pace around the room in his conversation with Kent. Unlike him, she didn't see Holly as the type to follow in her estranged mother's footsteps; that is, as a slut in the making. Truthfully, she'd always agreed more with Kent on an emotional level than Rod had, though he more than made up for his lack of such a connection with an uncanny physical resemblance to his son, albeit with slightly more muscle that unfortunately, along with an appreciation for the benefits of living in a wealthy family, hadn't passed on to the next generation. "Hold on for just a minute, would you, Kent?" Rod set the phone down and turned to Gina. "Kent's going to have sex with Holly."

"Good for them."

"You're not worried?"

She shrugged. "As long as they use protection, it's no big deal to me, Rod."

"But this is where it begins, Gina." Without giving her any time to verbalize a response—just a confused look in his direction—Rod explained: "First she's going to have the sex with him. That'll be the only good part, because it's the only time Kent will be the one she's thinking about during. But then she's going to realize how good it feels, and just like her mother, she's going to start sleeping around as soon as he can't satisfy her—which, knowing our Kent, will probably happen sooner rather than later."

"Rod, not only have we never met her mother," Gina said, "but Holly hates her. She never wants to be anything like her."

"It's in her blood. Eventually, she's not going to be able to deny it."

"If you believe that, you probably think Kent's going to wake up one day and start exploiting all this money, too. But we both know he's too good for that, don't we?"

"He is going to wake up one day, Gina," Rod said with a laugh. "How he managed to score a fox like Holly without telling her about this is nothing short of a miracle, but that's just the thing: miracles don't repeat themselves. This could be his only shot to have the girl of his dreams, and he's about to throw it all away for some tang."

"Maybe it's because you're sending mixed messages here," Gina said, "but it almost sounds to me like you're suggesting the two of them shouldn't sleep together if they ever want their relationship to last."

"I am. He sleeps with her, she turns into a fuck-bunny and breaks his heart."

"A fuck-bunny?"

"The terminology isn't important. Look, it's rude to keep him on hold like this. They're heading to her place in a few minutes; don't you think we should stop them?"

"Rod, Kent didn't call to tell you this because he's scared or he's trying to rebel against your evil ways; he respects you, and he wants you to trust him. And her."

"Let him go?" Rod grumbled. "Are you crazy?"

"I married my boss," she said, suddenly turning on the offensive. "What do you think?"

"Fine, we'll let him go," he snarled at her, walking back towards the phone. "But when she dumps him, don't say I didn't warn you guys it wouldn't happen." He brought the phone back up to his head and resumed speaking to Kent: "Sorry to keep you waiting, Kent, your mother and I were just talking about this. Do you know what you're getting into?"

"Sort of, I guess."

"Are you going to use protection?"

"Of course."

He sighed. "Have a good time."

"Thanks, dad. I'll call you later."

Minutes later, right after Rod had finally gotten comfortable again in his recliner to resume watching TV, the doorbell rang. He groaned. "Are you kidding me?"

As he was lifting himself back up, Gina asked, "Want me to get it?"

"No," he mumbled while making his way to the front door. "If it's Kent, I want to be the one to knock some sense into him. Just because he's afraid of getting his dick wet doesn't mean he should run home." He pulled open the door, and was rather relieved it wasn't Kent. Who it was, he didn't know, but he appeared about Kent's age, and like his son he was dressed in a suit for the dance tonight, but the comparisons ended there, for he was a much stronger, more confident-looking boy. Nevertheless, these positive qualities weren't enough to make up for an untimely visit like this one. "Who the hell are you?" Rod said.

"Rod Thomas?"

"That's me, asshole."

"Good, I was just making sure. I know Kent; we go to school together."

"What's your name?"

"James Allen. Jimmy." The kid offered his hand to shake with Rod. "It's nice to finally meet you, sir."

Rod declined to shake until he knew what was going on here, and when this was made clear by the long wait he was being forced to endure, Jimmy put his hand down. "Shouldn't you be at that dance? What are you doing at my house? Is this about Kent?" That's when he saw the bruises on Jimmy's face and the creases on his suit. "Did he do this to you?"

Jimmy shook his head. "No, sir. Can I come in? I have a proposition for you."

"You have a proposition for me?" Rod laughed. "You're a kid! What do you have that I could want?"

"Claire Zielinski," Jimmy said, successfully catching Rod's interest. "As of tonight, she's my ex. I understand you have something a grudge against her."

"That cunt accused my son of rape. You're goddamn right I have a grudge against her." The two of them shared a knowing glance, and Rod stepped aside. "Come in."

Jimmy smiled and made his way into the house. "Kent isn't here now, is he?" he asked while examining the decorations in the living room.

"No, actually, he's about to finally get into Holly's pants at her place," Rod said, shutting the door.

"Wow, Kent having sex. Never thought I'd see the day. Oh, as long as we're on that subject, you are aware that when Claire called him a rapist, it was because he kissed Holly, and that's it, right? He's not actually a bad guy."

"No, but you are, Jimmy," Rod said. "I heard about how you finally got Claire to sleep with you." He let Jimmy take this fact in for a few seconds, hoping for but not witnessing any squirming whatsoever; this was a boy who didn't care what he'd done or who knew about it—but rightly so, considering how he'd been reprimanded for it afterward. "And I also heard about how she let you get away it. Interesting priorities your ex had. Trying to knock Kent down but keeping you up? What's her deal?"

With a shrug, Jimmy said, "Women are complicated."

Rod nodded in agreement, and then asked again: "So, why are you here, Jimmy?"

"You hate Claire for how she treated Kent. I hate her for how she treated me."

"You want revenge?"

"Yes," Jimmy said. "And I think with my intimate knowledge of her personal life, and your unlimited resources, we can combine forces and give that bitch what she deserves."

Rod looked at Jimmy, and contemplated this proposal, while Jimmy's previously calm and collected manner started to disappear, being replaced by apprehension. A minute later, Rod asked one final question. "What do you think about Kent?"

"I think he's a good guy, Rod, but his priorities aren't always in the right place. He didn't tell anyone about how rich you were, and look at the trouble that caused. I know he doesn't appreciate you, sir, and all you've done for him over the years. That's no way for a son to treat his father."

"Rod, who is this?" Gina said, finally speaking up after having stood around for some time watching her husband talk with their guest. Jimmy introduced himself to her, and while the lecherous look he gave the older woman during may have been rather inappropriate, Rod was willing to let that slide on account of the fact that this kid was recently single, knew Claire, and Gina was quite a looker for her age. It made Gina uncomfortable, though, and she was quick to express her disapproval. "Will you be staying long?"

"Only as long as I need to, Mrs. Thomas," Jimmy said, turning back to Rod and grinning.


As she and Kent followed Mark back into the house, Holly tossed her folded umbrella aside, shook some of the water out of her hair, and reached for the vibrating cell phone in her purse. "Whoa," she said when she saw the text message waiting for her on the screen.

"What's 'whoa'?" Kent asked, shutting the door behind her. He took a place beside her to glance at the phone, and then he repeated: "Whoa."

"So what's the 'whoa,' mates?" Mark said.

"According to Terra," Holly said, "Melanie just punched Shane."

"Lex's date?" Kent asked, receiving a nod from her in response. He sighed and lamented, "As if we hadn't had enough violence tonight."

"I think I'll turn this off now," Holly decided, pressing a button to make the screen go black. She looked to Kent and said, "It'll minimize the disturbance, you know?"

Kent nodded.

"So, you two still plan on…" Mark began, gesturing with his hands rather than speaking to convey the second half of his sentence. When he finally spoke again a few seconds later, it was a proper ending ("…After tonight's events?"), but there was no middle to complete the trifecta. Not that one was needed for this particular subject matter.

"So you did tell him?" Kent said to Holly.

"And you told your parents, so we're even," she said.

"Technically, you only told one parent, so we're not actually even, but I digress."

"Shouldn't the mood be right?" Mark said. "Didn't the incident with Jimmy kill the mood?"

"It did," Holly said, "but this is what Claire wants."

"But shouldn't it be what you want, too?"

"It was already what we wanted."

"But you said Jimmy killed the mood, the little bastard."

"Oh, he's a much bigger bastard than that, sir," Kent remarked.

"Yes, he did, dad, but prior to that, it was already what we wanted."

"So rather than do what you wanted after Jimmy showed his true colors, you're doing what Claire wants, which just so happens to be your original plan, is that right? Instead of adjusting accordingly, you're just going to act like this never happened?"

"She's hurting, dad."

"And I know you're probably hurting, too, Holly. There's nothing wrong with empathy. You don't need to hide it and pretend that everything's okay if you don't want to."

"I'm not hiding anything!"

"Hold on," Kent said, lifting a hand to symbolize the stoppage of this light argument. "Mark, do you not want us to have sex?" His eyes grew wide and he turned to Holly. "I can't believe I just said the s-word."

"If it cuts corners and spares us the awkward half-mumbled sentences, all the better, Kent."

"Well, you caught me," Mark sighed, folding his arms as Kent returned his gaze in the father's direction. "Now, while I can't in good conscience stop you two, I can certainly do my damnedest to convince you not to go through with it."

"You were fine about it earlier," Holly observed.

"That was before Jimmy turned into an asshole and took a shit on everyone's night."

"So, if he hadn't done that, you'd be happy about this?" Kent asked.

"Yes, and more importantly, so would you. Face it, neither of you are ready right now."

Kent and Holly exchanged glances and contemplated what to do next, now that Mark seemed to be simultaneously on their side and vehemently opposed to them. After a minute, Holly said, with a shrug, "What if we are?"

Mark let out another sigh. "Then that's your choice. Don't say I didn't warn you."

Holly put her hand in Kent's and said, "I'm going to go to my room and get ready. Okay?" she said with a turn to Mark, who simply nodded with reluctant approval. "Meet me in five minutes." She pecked Kent on the cheek, smiled and walked away.

As she left, she heard Mark say, "Five minutes. That gives us plenty of time to talk, Kent."

"Whatever you say, sir."