Very few things lurking in the shadows of life in this country involve so much personal terror than the thought, the prospect of the High school Reunion! The prospect of an up-coming reunion, maybe the 10th High school reunion, is about as daunting for some people as any possible life crisis.
For Stephanie Carson, the issue of a 10th High school reunion was just not on. She simply wasn't interested, not in the slightest.
She told herself that any number of times and she was now telling that to her best girl friend, from those High school days, Joan Wilson.
"No, Joanie," Stephanie said with emphasis. "I'm not going!"
"But, Steff," Joanie said, "You have to!"
"Why?" Stephanie asked, trying to not let her exasperation show.
"Because!" Joanie said.
"That's your answer, 'because'?" Stephanie said, a bit wide eyed.
"High school was such a bad time," Stephanie said, "I don't want to be reminded of that in any way."
"Okay," Joanie went on, "The reunion is all about showing people, whom you might not have liked at all, that you've made it. That you're doing great, and looking great! It's what it's for, and for those reasons, you need to go and get a chance to stare down some people and show them the new you!"
This at least made Stephanie stop and think.
(In high school and going into high school, through her earlier days in jr high school, Stephanie Carson was fat, not hugely fat but fat never the less. She was short and fat. She was popular with various girl friends, like Joanie, but was not in the social whirl at all. She wasn't asked on dates; she wasn't pursued by the guys. It had all been a very painful memory, and she didn't think that she wanted to be reminded of those painful memories.
The very last straw for Stephanie came when she had no date for the senior prom. Her Mom stepped in and persuaded her cousin to take Stephanie to the prom. Stephanie was mortified. She spent some of the time, before the prom, debating if it was a good idea or if it was the ultimate humiliation.
In this case, she did thank her Mom sincerely, in a talk that the two of them had.
Steph remembered that talk. It was then that she decided that she was going to take a year and begin inventing a new 'me'. She shared that decision with her Mom and her Mom was always there cheering for her.
Stephanie did put off college for a year and worked at a local place, while beginning the process of turning her life around.
That was one of the things about Stephanie Carson, once she made up her mind about something, she never engaged in half measures. She went into whatever it was with the gusto that she'd used for her studies —- she was a straight 'A' student and the salutatorian of the class, Joanie was the valedictorian.
Her life changing year involved her in new eating habits. She became a vegetarian. She also undertook an exercise program. The combination of them began to show excellent results during that first half year.
By the time she was ready for college, Stephanie had lost a good 30-35 lbs. She was thrilled to see the weight melt away, so to speak, from her hips and her butt. She kept at it also, having been encouraged by her success.
She gave herself over to athletics, while at the university. She was still a shy girl, her years as 'the fat friend' had provided her with that shyness. She had some dates but she knew herself to be still a 'work in progress' and wasn't terribly worried about it.
After the university she went to law school and did extremely well, graduating with honors and passing the state bar exam easily, after which she joined a local law firm.
She was still, at the time, living at home, and it was only after she was working that she, in a talk with her Mom, decided to get her own apartment. Stephanie was ready to get on with her life.
It was also during those years at the university and law school that she changed her exercise regime somewhat and began to do study karate. She was as avid in her karate studies as she had been in all the others: eating habits, studies, diet plan, exercise!
It took her a few years but she made 'black belt'.
All of this was precisely Joanie's point.
In the first place, Stephanie'd had a growth spurt. She grew two full inches, during the first years at the university. That had helped a great deal. It combined with her constant workouts, and diet had indeed left Stephanie taller, 5'9 " and lovely.
That was what Joanie was preaching to her that day. She was saying that the reunion was the perfect way to show herself off.
That got a giggle from Stephanie.
"Imagine me, Stephanie Carson going out to 'show myself off!"
They were both giggling now.
"Exactly!" Joanie said. "Look at you, Steff! Big boobs! Nice round ass!" (Here, Joanie patted Stephanie's butt!)
"Stop handling my ass!" Stephanie said broken by laughter.
Joanie grinned at her friend and said: "Steff, you're a drop dead fox! You've got to go and show them."
Stephanie had tears in their eyes then; she grabbed Joanie into a hug, and eventually whispered: "And just keep your hands off of my ass!"
"Rats!" Joanie said, with a grin.
"Steff," Joanie went on, "Steve and I are going. Please go with us!"
Stephanie stared at her for a few seconds, and, smiling, said:"I might just do that!"
"Goodie," Joanie said, with barely concealed glee.
When it came right down to it, Stephanie was nervous. She had a great deal of encouragement, however, from both Joanie and her Mom.
That night, after her talk with Joanie about going to the reunion, she sat down with her Mom and they talked it over.
"Mom," Stephanie had said, "My 10th High school reunion is coming up and Joanie wants me to go with her and Steve."
"Oh, sweetheart," her Mom said, "That sounds like a treat."
"I don't know," Stephanie replied, "High school was such a downer for me."
"No," Helen said, "We're not going to dwell on that. They were bad times, I mean with your Poppa's illness and the way it affected both of us. Not taking time to concentrate on yourself is the most natural thing in the world."
"Oh, Mom," Stephanie said then, "I love you so!"
They hugged and Helen said: "Okay tell me about this."
Stephanie then told her Mom what Joanie had said about how she'd changed since High school.
"Only the truth, love," Helen said.
"Look at you! Lovely, physically beautiful, successful! What you've done with yourself!"
Stephanie blushed and her Mom went on: "Why not look at this as a kind of a chance to show your accomplishments? It might even be fun, looked at in that way."
Stephanie hugged her then, holding her tight. "I wish Poppa were here!" she said softly into her Mom's ear.
"I know sweetheart! I know! You just get yourself all prepared and go to this reunion. Make both me and him proud!"
It was what finally turned the trick for Stephanie.
They began making plans: shopping for dresses and accessories. It became a project for them. At times, she had help from Joanie; at times, she had help from her Mom.
In the process, Stephanie decided to do it from the ground up. She shopped for new underwear and bought herself a version of the 'little black dress'. Both she and Joanie thought that she looked like a positive treat in the dress. When she brought it home, she also tried it on for her Mom.
"A vision!" Helen said, with joy and tears in her eyes. "You are a vision, my love!"
They also agreed that the three of them, Joanie and her husband Steve, and Stephanie would go to the reunion together.
As a matter of fact, her Mom took that day to help Stephanie get ready for the reunion, helping her do her hair and all sorts of little things.
"I'm going to leave now, love," her Mom, Helen said. "You look lovely and beyond lovely. I'm sorry that your sainted Papa didn't live to see this day."
"Oh, Momma," Steph said, hugging her Mom. "Thank you so much. I'm just so sure that Poppa will be with me tonight."
"I believe he will," Helen said, and then left Stephanie to get herself finally totally ready to go.
Joanie and Steve were precisely on time picking her up.
"My, my," Joanie said, "Don't you look marvelous."
"Just don't be standing next to me all the time," Joanie said, "Or no one will pay any attention to me!"
"I will!" Steve said, and got a kiss for his efforts.
REUNION TIME AND THE FALL OF THE SERGEANT:
Stephanie realized, initially, that she was nervous about it, especially as she approached the table that held the name tags for people attending.
One of the first reactions she got was from Beth Swain, who'd been an all around popular girl in those High school days.
Beth looked up and smiled at Stephanie, and apparently didn't recognize her at all.
"Hi, Beth," Stephanie said, "I'm Stephanie Carson."
"Stephanie," Beth said, with a totally surprised look on her face. "Why, girl! I hardly would have recognized you."
"Yes," Stephanie said with a grin, "I grew, and have taken better care of myself."
"I guess!" Beth said, rising and giving Stephanie a hug.
"Gorgeous!" is what Beth whispered into Stephanie's ear, as they were hugging.
It was the beginning of a lovely evening for Stephanie. She also, almost as soon as she entered the room, let her 'lawyer' persona shine forth. It gave her a kind of confidence and poise that she always had at the office and with clients and might not have otherwise had at this Reunion affair.
She began to circulate and was pleased that some of the buzzing among the various crowds was because of how good she looked.
Joanie and Steve went one way and Stephanie went the other. There were some people who had been her friends and others, who were now pleased to see her and talk with her, who had not been friendly at all.
There was also one character, he'd called himself Sergeant or just Sarge, during High school. He came from a well to do family and was one of the 'elites'. During High school he had no time for Stephanie Carson at all. He'd simply said: "Fat Girls are not on my dance card!" It caused laughter among some people.
Sarge, Sarge Milton, was there that night. He'd kept in touch with some of them and, with one couple, asked who the 'fox' in the black dress was, was surprised to be told that it was Stephanie Carson.
"My, my," he said, "How some people have changed."
Sarge considered himself 'a card'. Others either put up with him or encouraged him. He'd made it a habit that night to lightly pat the ass of women he'd known in High school. Most people thought it cute, or if they thought it rude, they simply let it pass.
Sarge made his way across the room and just as he got to Stephanie, he cupped her butt cheeks with his hand.
She'd been working on her self-defense ideas for such a long time, that she, almost as an automatic reaction, simply spun around and slapped Sarge's face.
It made him mad, making him look much like a jerk among the group.
"You bitch!" he growled at Stephanie, at which point, she hauled off and slapped his other cheek.
"Don't you dare, call me names!" she said.
Now Sarge was in a rage. He was being made a laughing stock, he thought and, before thinking at all, he grabbed Stephanie's arm.
He was off balance for a moment and that was all that she needed. She twisted his arm and had him flat on his back in just a few seconds.
"Don't you even think of laying a hand on me!" she said to him, in a cold tone of voice.
He jumped up and thought to himself that this time he show her.
It was precisely then that a voice to the side was heard: "Leave it, Sarge."
Standing off to the side was a U.S. Marine in full dress uniform.
"Not your affair, corporal!" Sarge growled.
The Marine just smiled and said: "Actually, Sarge, it's Colonel, and I'm making it my 'affair', as you say.
The Marine was large and certainly menacing. Sarge glared at him for a few seconds and then began to back off.
It was obvious that Sarge was debating whether he should do anything further or not.
The Marine smiled and said: "Sarge, leave it go. She already has shown you that she can kick your ass, and that wouldn't be necessary at all if you weren't acting like a jackass and going around the room, goosing women or feeling up their butts. What the heck are you thinking, man?"
Sarge just looked at him and said nothing.
"I understand!" the Marine said next; "Weren't thinking! Well, man, you get to make a decision here. You apologize to the lady or else you and I are going at it. We've already seen what she can do to you but I warn you, you don't want to mix with me. I've been in the middle east and Asia for a while dealing with armed killers. Just keep that in mind."
Sarge turned to Stephanie, who was watching with both interest and a little bit of pleasure. "I'm sorry," he said, "I was out of line."
"Thank you," Stephanie said and Sarge nodded to the Marine and walked away.
Then Stephanie turned to the Marine and said: "You're so familiar."
"Ned Wagner," he said.
"Neddie Wagner," she said, with obvious joy, "Bean Pole Wagner!"
He smiled and nodded his head. "I'm Stephanie Carson, Fat Stephanie!" she said next.
It made both of them laugh.
"Nice pair we are," Ned said to Stephanie.
"Yes," she said. "Nice pair."
"My how you've changed!" he remarked.
"So have you, Colonel!" she replied.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked then.
"A very small glass of wine," she replied
He nodded and went to get the glasses of wine for them.
(Stephanie and Ned Wagner had indeed been friends in high school. It had almost been the friendship of the outcasts. He'd been tall and skinny, not popular at all; certainly no more popular than 'Fat Stephanie' had been.There was indeed a small group of people like them in those days. They tended to be loners, keeping to themselves.)
It was while Ned was getting the wine that Joanie and Steve came over.
"You okay?" Joanie asked.
"Yes," Stephanie said, "Taken care of!"
"I guess!" Steve said with a chuckle, that caused Stephanie to smile and Joanie to giggle.
"Fairly kicked his ass!" Steve said then, both women grinning.
"And then the Marines showed up!" Steve concluded.
"Yes," Joanie said, "Who is that?"
"Ned Wagner!" Stephanie said, with a smile.
"I'll be!" Joanie said, "Another transformation, it seems."
"Yes," Stephanie said, "Here he comes."
"Ned!" Joanie said, "Remember me? Joan Shay? This is my husband Steve."
The four of them talked for a bit and then went to a table for four, since the band was about to begin playing.
The music was struck up and filled the room. It was slow and lovely tune. Ned looked at Stephanie and said: "Dance?"
"Love to!" she said.
They went to the dance floor and she fit herself into his arms.
"Oh," she said softly, "In those days it was never like this! No one asked me to dance!"
"And I never tried to ask anyone!" he said. "But look at us now!"
"Yes," she said with a sigh, "Look at us now."
"Stephanie," he said, softly to her.
"Yes?" she said, looking at him now.
"I want to say this and mean it with as much respect as I can possibly muster," he began.
She smiled at him then and he went on:
"You are gorgeous of gorgeous, breathtakingly gorgeous!"
"Thank you," she said, "What a compliment from one of our nation's heroes!"
"I'm afraid that I can't say much more than that without getting downright vulgar!" he said with a grin.
"Can't wait for that!" she said.
They danced for a few minutes. She noticed him shifting his hand around on her back.
"Trying to figure out where to put your hand, Colonel?" she asked.
"Trying to figure out where I need to put my hand, as opposed to where I want to put my hand!" he said.
She giggled. "You'll be turning my head now!"
"How nice!" he said.
After that they circulated a bit but always together. They spent some time at the table with Joanie and Steve just talking for a bit.
Then Steve took Joanie out to dance and Stephanie and Ned sat and talked. They went, in brief, through their development and had a few laughs about Fat Stephanie and Bean Pole Ned.
"Who would have thought, looking at us now?" he said and she giggled and agreed.
They danced again as the evening wore down a bit. People had already begun to drift away from the reunion.
"Oh," she said then, when she noticed. "People are leaving. Never thought that I'd say about this event that I didn't want it to end."
As they danced then, he said to her: "Don't think I'm just ready to let you go. Late dinner after this shindig?"
"Love to," she said, without a second thought.
They went to Steve and Joanie then and declared their intention to go out to dinner.
While Joanie and Stephanie were hugging, Joanie whispered: "Good for you! He's gorgeous! You call me! I want details!"
They were both giggling by the time the hug was finished.
"Yes?" he asked, curiosity on his face, after Joanie and Steve had gone.
"She was telling me that you're gorgeous and that she wants details!" Stephanie said. "Though I'm not sure that enough is going to happen to warrant details for Joanie," she went on, a twinkle in her eye.
"I'm a very patient man!" he said, "I can live with that."
"How nice! The patient Colonel!" she said.
"Yep, that's who I am!" he replied.
"Ned, if you don't mind," she said, "I really need to stop and see Momma before we go to dinner. She knew how bummed out I was about even attending this event and will be anxious about how it went for me."
"How did it go?" he asked.
"Wonderful!" she said, smiling, "Even the part about Sarge!" That made her giggle and he joined her with his own chuckling.
"Okay," he said, "Let's go and see your Momma."
"You'll be such a surprise for her!" Stephanie said.
"Pleasant, I hope!" he quipped.
"Pleasant, I'm sure!" she said. Then she added: "I got a ride from Steve and Joanie."
"Don't worry," Ned said then, "You're in the hands of the U.S. Marines; we're up to the task."
She grinned at him and hugged him.
"So handsome, so lovely in your uniform," she said.
"Thank you," he replied. "Glad you approve."
"Oh, I do!" she said.
When she opened the door at her Momma's —- she had, by then moved into her own apartment —- she called out: "Momma, it's me."
Her Mom appeared, all smiles and saying: "How was it, sweetheart?"
She stopped almost in the middle of the sentence, when she saw the tall Marine Colonel standing there with Stephanie.
"Well, hello!" Helen said.
"Momma," Stephanie said, "Look who this is! This is Ned Wagner!"
Helen threw her hands up to her face and said: "Neddie Wagner! All grown up and one of our nation's heroes!"
She was sobbing, when she went and put her arms around the tall Marine.
"Oh, Steffie," she said, still holding on to the Colonel, "This is the best of the best."
"Momma," Stephanie said then, "We're going out to dinner."
"Oh, lovely," Helen said, backing off from Ned and wiping her eyes with her tissue.
"I must talk to Grace about this," Helen said, meaning Ned's Mom. "She and I are in the same quilting group at the church. She must be simply bursting with pride!"
Ned smiled and said: "Yes, I believe she is."
"Oh, this is so wonderful, it makes me want to cry!" Helen said then and hugged Stephanie.
She backed off then and said: "Have a lovely dinner, you two."
"We will, thank you, Mrs. Carson," Ned said, "And next time we'll insist that you join us!"
Helen put her hand to her mouth again for the surprise and the joy of what he'd just said.
"I'm going to call Grace on the phone immediately!" Helen declared.
"Tell her that I ... we said 'hi'," Ned said as they were leaving.
They had a light dinner and a long talk. She brought Ned up to date with her developments, growing a few inches, her diet change and her determined managing of her weight.
"You look marvelous!" he said, she smiled at that and thanked him.
She went on then to talk about her education and how much she enjoyed practicing law.
"It's mostly corporate law," she said, "My specialty."
"Exciting!" he said, "It's so grand to know exactly what you want to do."
"Yes," she said, "But speaking of exciting, tell me about you!"
Then it was indeed his turn. He told her about his tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I have another coming up in the rotation," he said. "We're doing a training mission there."
"Won't that be dangerous?" she asked.
"Well, potentially," he admitted, "But it's what we're trained for. It's kind of like you and Sarge tonight at the Reunion."
That made her giggle but the idea of his being deployed again, suddenly didn't appeal to her at all.
He drove her home, after the dinner. When they arrived at her apartment building, they stood by his car, in the side lot for a number of minutes. She grabbed him and hugged him to herself.
Then she began to whisper to him: "Ned, I'm not a ... a 'first date' kind of gal. I mean, since I worked and got this 'new me', I have never rushed into love making or such."
He put his finger on her lips and said: "Don't say another word; I understand that, and I can wait very patiently. I imagine that you, Stephanie Carson are well worth waiting for."
"Ohhhh," she sighed and bent her face up to kiss him.
The kiss was slow and soft, and got more passionate at the end.
He smiled at her and said: "That was one of the things!"
"The things?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "The things that we talk about on the dark nights, when we're deployed. Kissing a lovely woman!"
"Ohhh," she said, "Then let's do it again; I'm all for keeping up your morale!"
They kissed again and then it was 'good night' for them.
"What kind of time do you have?" she wanted to know.
"Well, I've been here about three weeks, and have another week to go on my time," he explained.
"Dinner this Friday?" she asked, "At my place?"
"Great!" he said, "What can I bring."
"Just the U.S. Marine Corps!" she said.
He grinned and said: "I can do that!"
She was on the phone for a while with her Mom that night, talking about all of it.
"Oh, honey," Helen said, just before ringing off. "I'm so glad you had a good time. And the Marine, Neddie Wagner: wonderful!"
"Yes, Momma," Stephanie said: "That's the way it felt."
DINNER AT STEPHANIE'S:
She talked over with her Mom; she planned; she fussed; finally she was ready. The dinner, she hoped would be a success.
Helen assured her it would be. Cooking was something that Stephanie and Helen both worked on for years, especially since Helen's love, Dan, died.
When it looked like it was all coming along nicely, Steff turned her attention to herself.
She decided on a good hot, fragrant bath for herself. She did stand around naked for a bit to decide on clothes to wear. At one point, a small voice in her head suggested that she not dress at all. It made her giggle, and she said to herself: "Next date!" That made her giggle too, for she knew that she meant it. The smile didn't fade from her face for quite a while.
In the end, it was a pair of black, stretch pants, like leggings, that simply molded to her butt and simply showed it off. She put on a red tee shirt over it; it was a 'vee' neck, and showed cleavage. It was a short one that came to her waist but didn't hide her butt. Over all of that she wore a shimmering blue, silk shirt that had long tails, that came to her knees. This she kept unbuttoned. She wanted to show the possibilities here.
She stood in front of the mirror and was very pleased with herself.
Then a thought occurred and she called Joanie.
"Hello," Joanie said.
"Joanie," Steff said, "I'm dressed for my dinner date with Ned here at the apartment. Can you go to skype and see how I look, please?"
"Oh, you're gonna flash me first and then the Colonel?" Joanie said.
"Yep," Steff said, "That's my plan. Thought of answering the door naked but decided to wait for another date."
"Sultry lady!" Joanie said, "Be on skype in a moment."
"Good," Steff said and hung up.
"Terrific!" Joanie enthused, when they met on skype.
"Thanks, love," Steff said, "Not too much?"
"When you were thinking of doing it naked?" Joanie quipped, "I guess not. Just make sure that at some point in the evening, you take the silk shirt off."
That made both of them giggled.
"Gee," Steff said next,"I guess I sound like a girl that has it bad."
"That you do," Joanie said, "We'll talk about it, and the Colonel has to go back in about 9 more days."
"Oh, don't remind me!" Steff wailed.
"Honey, just keep your head and know what you want," was Joanie's advice.
"Oh, thanks," Steff said, "I love you, Joanie; you have always been the best, just the best!"
"Well, take good care of our nation's heroes!" Joanie said wtih a grin.
"I intend to do that!" Steff answered.
"Remember, at some point, silk shirt off!" Joanie reminded.
"Yes, ma'am!" Steff said, giving Joanie a salute.
She met him at the door, when the bell rang. He stood there, with flowers in his hand and said, softly: "Oh, my! Look at you! Just look at you! New definitions of 'beautiful', totally new definitions!"
"Welcome to my place!" she said, "Come in! We take care of our nation's heroes here!"
He grinned! "Good! Hope one shows up!"
"Colonel Wagner, behave yourself!" she said.
"Okay!" he answered, "But only for now."
"Only for a while!" she said and then she took the flowers with thanks and was hugging him, when she got them into a vase.
He had his arms around her and the sense of it, right then, for her was an idea of being as secure as it were possible in her life. She told him that.
They kissed then!
After the kiss, she whispered to him: "Ned, I need to tell you that for you I am a second date girl!"
He kissed her again and said: "Gives this boy something to look forward to!"
"Me!" she said.
"Exactly!" he answered.
Dinner was marvelous! He praised her cooking, and she told him how her Mom had taught her to cook, as she was growing up.
When they got up from the table, remembering what Joanie had said, she took off the blue, silk shirt.
She smiled, as she folded it and put it on a chair.
"Oh, my!" he said, looking at her with undisguised joy. "Another thing that helped pass those dark nights, only I never had an image like you to call up!"
"You do now, Colonel Wagner!" she said and the they were kissing. About as soon as the kiss began, she pushed his wrist, propelling his hand down to her butt.