I’m packing a bag to go out with Nicole tonight. It’s her eighteenth birthday, and Michael gave me a bottle of wine for us to split. She was hesitant at first because we’ve never been the type to drink. But I pleaded that her eighteenth birthday only happens once. Plus, we’re probably going to drink in college. It’s best that we do it together first, now, in the safety of our own homes. She eventually caved and said that as long as we stay in while we do it, then she’ll have a sip of wine.

But first, we’re going bowling and then out to our favorite pizza joint. Then, we’ll sneak the bottle of wine up to her bedroom where we’ll watch funny movies, dance like fools, and get our wine buzz on. Then, I’m leaving for Michael’s place, while she sleeps off the alcohol.

I stick a box wrapped in silver paper in my bag. It’s a set of crystal earrings. Michael gave them to me for Nicole, and she’s going to just die when she sees them.

“I’m heading to Nicole’s! Bye everyone!”

My dad pokes his head out from the kitchen.

“Again? Don’t you two ever get sick of each other?” William asks with a puzzled look on his face.

I smile.

“It’s her birthday! We haven’t missed a single birthday since the sixth grade. We sure aren’t about to start flaking now.”

“But didn’t you celebrate earlier this week?” my mom asks, a look of confusion on her face. Oh shit! I realize that I’ve finally slipped up. I can’t believe I was dumb enough to use Nicole’s birthday as a lie to get out of the house for a night. But I really am celebrating with her!

“Um, yeah, but that was a whole family thing. We want to have a night with just the two of us. That way we don’t have to deal with her little brother and all her boy cousins. We are doing the usual: bowling, pizza, and a movie night.” I wait on tenterhooks for their response.

Do they buy it?

“You only turn eighteen once, you know,” I say to fill the silence. I feel like I might throw up. Hopefully my face hasn’t turned green, or they might just tell me to stay home because I look sick! Now wouldn’t that be something?

“Okay, have fun!” Dad says. “Tell Nicole happy birthday from us.”

“See you in the morning Tilly,” my mom adds lovingly as I walk out the door.

I breathe a sigh of relief. That was close. Good thing I really am meeting Nicole, because one day, my parents might decide to call her house. I need to start being more creative with my alibis.



A few months later.

Today is the big day. We’ve just arrived at Riverdale High for Sam’s high school graduation. I appreciate Riverdale because they took her in as young child, transformed her, and are now sending her back out into the world at large. Today, she is seen by the world as a newly initiated adult. I wonder if I’ve prepared her sufficiently for this.

Sam catches glimpse of her friends and takes off shortly after entering the auditorium.

“Bye Dad, I’ll see you later,” she waves, her blonde head disappearing in the crowd. I’m left alone to observe the masses. There is a celebratory energy in the air, with lots of friends and family milling about.

I reflect back on my own high school graduation. I remember thinking of it as one of the most important days of my life. I thought about what I would do on stage, and the pace I would walk. I remember the girls being worried about tripping on the stairs in their fancy high heels, borrowed from their mother’s closets.

Yet, now I know better. Now I realize that these moments are actually quite miniscule. And yet society continues to build up the idea that ceremonial rites of passage are an essential and monumental part of life. Oh well, these ceremonies bring me good business at the very least. Everyone drinks at graduation parties, after all.

The walls are adorned in white and gold banners. There’s already confetti covering the floor. In the far corner, there’s a photographer taking last minute family photos. I take a look around the room for Samantha, but she’s disappeared. A family photo-op may have felt strange for her without my ex-wife here anyways.

I head over to a vending machine to get myself a water. As I’m waiting for the machine to dispense my bottle, I see Mr. Mortensen out of the corner of my eye. He’s beaming, and his entire form is radiating with pride for his little girl. I can’t help but smile myself at how much he adores Tilly.

Mrs. Mortensen is standing next to him, facing away from me talking to an elderly woman who I assume is Tilly’s grandmother. The older woman shifts to one side just enough for me to spot Tilly.

Tags: Winter Renshaw Romance
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