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This. Is. It.
My palms are sweating as I press them together, anxiously rubbing them against one another. I squeeze my eyes tightly shut, trying to block out all the sounds around me. It’s dark. It’s quiet. It’d time.
I hear the microphone spark to life. There’s a loud screech before the speaker puffs into the object echoes throughout the theatre.
“Hello,” he chokes out, “I’m honored to be here today to congratulate the 2014 graduates on a job well done.” Everyone claps. I don’t.
My robe falls around me and slinks across the chair. One of my best friends sits to my right, the left someone I’ve hated for just about as long. I squirm in my seat.
“We will begin in alphabetical order. Please don’t yell out for your child, so every name can be heard.” I roll my eyes, of course, the speech we hear at every event. And, of course, once good ole’ Adams is announced to walk across the stage; a faraway cheer is heard throughout the auditorium.
Name after name is rambled into a microphone. Pointless handshakes and giving of diplomas begins to be the never ending process. I glance up at my friend, and he beams down at me.
“This is it,” he whispers to me. This is what? Is it the moment in time where I move on from being in high school and take a leap into the big, bad world? The moment I can never be at again? The moment I never have to see most of the people sitting around me ever again afterwards? The moment I lose my friends to colleges across the country?
The row before mine stands and makes their way towards the stage. My heart begins to pound, and I begin to rehearse what I will do in my head. Walk up to the stairs. Stand on step. Walk up steps. Stand on stage. Stand up straight. Walk towards principal. Shake hand with left. Take diploma with right. Exit stage.
I breathe out heavily and my enemy besides me scoffs. I don’t want to be next to you either, I think, last names are stupid.
I roll my head around on my shoulders. Okay, okay, okay. Almost time to graduate. How exciting, right? Wrong.
My whole body shakes as my friend stands. He smiles at me again, and we begin to make our way towards the stage. I’m very anxious about the length of my robe and how close they are to the bottoms of my shoes.
Hearing my name makes my whole mind go blank. I don’t remember walking across the stage, or shaking his hand, or hearing the whispered: “Well done.” All I remember is being on the other side of the stage, exiting with a mysterious new object grasped tightly in my hand.
The rest of the graduation goes by quickly. I watch as friends, strangers, and old enemies walk across the stage. Everyone is the same in that moment. It doesn’t matter who made As or who made Cs, who was popular and who wasn’t, who was in every club and who skipped Pep Rallies. Everyone was a graduate and that was it.
Afterwards, I stand outside surrounded by my family. There are so many mindless hugs, so many congratulations, and so many tears streaming down my face. It’s all a blur. I feel numb as I hug goodbye to my friends as they leave with their families. I take pictures with others, smiling but not really feeling anything behind it.
“We did it!” I hear from behind me. My best friend, Daniel, stands beaming behind me. He laughs and starts to talk when I see his older brother standing behind him. He’s looking at me with a slight smile on his face.
“We did,” I continue, “I don’t know how I did it without either killing myself or killing someone else, but we did it.” My friend laughs and his brother, Grayson, comes closer.
“Elizabeth,” he says looking into my eyes, “Congratulations of graduating.” The words echo throughout my head. Congratulations. He told me congratulations. I bite my lip and smile at him.
“Thank you so much,” I tell him. He just stands and watches me as I messily tuck some of my hair behind my ear. Daniel has long since disappeared in the crowd, talking to others who have just completed the amazing feat.
Without a word, Grayson lifts a hand to my cheek. Laying it softly on my flesh, my whole body tingles at the touch. It rests lightly as he continues to stare into my eyes.
“I've been waiting far too long for this,” he chuckles out. He leans in slowly, turning his head slightly, and pushes his lips onto mine. I don’t know what to do so I just start to move mine. Sparks run down my spine, and my hands awkwardly stay outstretched away from his sides.
His other hand finds my lower back, and he pulls me closer to him. My lips push against his in an even back and forth. I don’t feel the presence of all the people around me. All I can feel are his hips pressing against mine, and his hand gradually making its way to the back of my head.
We pull apart and I look at him. He smiles and pecks me before pulling apart. Applause erupts around us and I can feel my cheeks flush. He laughs loudly and takes my hand, leading me away from the crowd.
“I’m sorry I did that so publicly,” he continues, “I just couldn’t wait any longer.” I look down at my feet and shuffle them in the dirt. We’re behind the building, away from the crowd.
“Why have you been waiting?” I ask, wondering because I’ve probably been waiting just as long for him to do that as he was.
“For you to graduate,” he says. “It makes it so much easier for us to be together… Finally.” He grabs my waist and pulls me closer to him. I place my hands, open-palmed, onto his chest. He kisses the top of my head.
“I can’t stop smiling,” I tell him, “I’m so happy.” He moves his lips down my hairline towards my ear. Hovering above it, he whispers how he’s so happy as well. He moves the lips farther down my face until they’re at my jaw. He begins to kiss my neck, and I resist the urge to moan with pleasure.
He pecks down toward my collar bone, and I move my hands towards the back of his head. I pull him up and put his face in front of mine.
“Not now,” I cue, “We have plenty of time for this.” He looks almost hurt, but grabs my hand and starts pulling me back towards the crowd.
“We have the longest amount of time we’ll ever be together right now. You’re right, let’s relish every moment.”
I laugh loudly as we region my graduating friends. We’re all leaving, but that doesn't mean it’s the end. For most, it’s only just the beginning.