My heart light, I approach the girl that I love to share this important moment with her.
It still doesn’t feel real. I’ve just walked across the stage at Riverdale High, and now hold my diploma in my hand. But the fact that I won’t be walking back through these doors next fall hasn’t really settled in yet. It’s intimidating to think that this is my last summer as a kid, and that in just a few months, I’ll be moving out of my parents’ house and into a college dorm room. It’s so surreal. I’ll be leaving Illinois in the dust.
Unfortunately, Michael is part of Illinois. My heart’s heavy when I think of leaving him behind, but I’m sure we can make it work.
We’ve pulled it off so far, right?
Even after all these months, I’m still head over heels for that man. When he waved to me on stage today, in front of the entire town, the butterflies in my stomach began to somersault wildly. I was so excited to have him be a part of this milestone in my life that I totally slipped and waved back. I wonder if anyone noticed.
Outside the auditorium, new graduates are milling about, taking the time to mingle with their families and hug their friends goodbye. It’s a bittersweet moment for us. We’re happy to move on and begin our lives as young adults in the world and yet sad too. It’s scary to be saying goodbye to each other, and to everything we have always known. Nothing will be the same from this day forward. I wonder how many of my peers I’ll see again after today. This chapter of my life is closing and I feel slightly anxious at this thought.
Nicole and I lock eyes across the room. She throws her arms up and begins to run through the crowd towards me, and just like that, I forget that I was feeling scared at all. I run to meet her.
“Can you believe it? We are high school graduates!” she cries enthusiastically, using a sing-songy voice.
“I know, I was beginning to feel like this day was never going to come!”
“And the best part is, no more Samantha Nelson and the mean-girl brigade in our lives. Woot woot!!!!” She begins to do a dorky victory dance. God, I wish I had the confidence to dance around like that in public. Nicole may be a big girl like me, but she’s not scared. She’s raw and very much so her unbridled self at all times.
My friend stops suddenly and grabs my shoulders with such vigor that I am momentarily convinced something horrible has just happened.
“And you and Mr. Nelson, risking it all to acknowledge each other in public. On stage of all places?! Girl, that is hot,” she whispers.
“Oh no, you saw that? I totally slipped. Do you think anyone else noticed? I mean gosh, what would people think?”
“Tilly and Michael sitting in a tree, F U C…”
“Nicole!!!!! Quiet!” I squeal, quickly covering her mouth. She breaks out into laughter and I can’t help but to laugh with her. I will admit, it’s still pretty wild to me that I’m in a relationship with my bully’s dad.
And we do F-U-C quite often these days.
Nicole’s voice pulls me out of that seductive thought.
“Don’t even worry Til, no one else knows. They could never pinpoint who you were waving to in that massive crowd of peeps. No one would even care to try. I’m the sole holder of your dirty little secret.”
I smile at the silliness and change the subject.
“Can you believe that in three months we’ll be living together at college? I can’t wait. I’m so glad we both got into Loyola, and our dorm room is going to be fabulous. We should get together later tonight and start looking for décor. I’m thinking we go retro style, yeah?”
Nicole bobs her head happily.
“Oh yes, we will have the most stylish room on campus, baby.”
Suddenly, I feel a hand slip onto my lower waist. I don’t even have to look to know who it is. I spin around in excitement.
“Congratulations, graduate,” Michael says with a twinkle in his eye.
I tilt my head at him and smile saucily.
“Thank you, I’m so happy we got to share this moment together.”
“I am too, and you look absolutely stunning today, may I add.”
“Just today?” Nicole interjects teasingly.
Michael looks stunned, as if he just realized someone else was standing here listening in on our conversation. I haven’t expressly told him that Nicole knows about us, but I’m sure he has an idea. She is my best friend after all.
“You look great too Nicole,” he says, obviously trying to play it cool. Nicole doesn’t thank him verbally but chooses to curtsy like a ballerina at the end of a recital, holding the corner of her dress with her thumb and forefinger, pulling it up and to the side as she does. Michael laughs a little and then turns to me, speaking in a hushed voice, as if he’s going to share a great secret.