Right before the ceremony starts, I find a place to sit. The venue is crowded, and lots of people are holding signs for their loved ones. After the commencement speech, the announcer begins calling names by departments. My body goes rigid when I hear Viola Fisher followed by Summa Cum Laude. Not that I ever doubted her, but she received the highest honors and I’m genuinely happy for her and so proud. The smile on her face grows, and the tears in her eyes form as she walks across that stage. She’s wanted this for so long, and now the time has come. I wouldn’t have missed this moment for the world.
Hooting and hollering and sounds from air horns come from an opposite corner of the room, and I instantly spot Viola’s parents and Drew. And it fucking hurts not to be sitting with them. They’ve always been my second family, and now I’m the outcast.
Viola sees them, raises her diploma with a fist pump, and walks back to her chair. On top of her graduation cap, I’m pretty sure it says Mischief Managed in golden letters. I can’t help but laugh at her Harry Potter nerdiness.
The next name that strikes my attention is Courtney Bishop, Magna Cum Laude. Holy shit, she’s a little nerd, too. Well, who would’ve guessed that? Courtney walks across the stage with her long blonde hair in waves and big high heels, and she treats it like a catwalk. A bunch of high-pitched whistles ring out close to me, and I turn and see what must be her entire family. Most of the men are wearing cowboy hats, and the women’s hair is heaven high. I can’t help but chuckle.
Once the students exit, I watch Viola glance around the room, as if she’s looking for someone. Me, maybe? I want to stand up and yell her name, but I stop myself. The time begins to pass quicker, knowing I will see her face-to-face in a matter of minutes. I watch Drew and his dad make their way down the stairs, followed by Viola’s mom and stepdad. Though there are tons of people in the room, I keep my eyes on them, knowing Viola will be searching for them, too. I head outside where everyone is huddled, waiting for their loved ones, and when I turn the corner, I see her. Our eyes lock and the smile on her face fades. It’s just the two of us in a sea of people, and all I want to do is kiss the fuck out of her. Instead, I tuck my lips inside my mouth and force my way through the crowd toward her. She gently shakes her head, giving me a silent warning, but I don’t care.
Before I’m able to mutter a word, Drew steps up and hugs Viola, pretending I’m not there. Viola looks at him and looks at me, and it breaks my fucking heart that she’s in this situation, which was exactly what she was worried about. Apparently, I’m a liar and betrayed my best friend. It was never supposed to end this way.
I hand her the roses and the card and give her a hug regardless of how stiff her body goes when I touch her. “Congrats, princess,” I whisper in her ear, before releasing her and walking away. As much as I want to hang around, leaving was the best thing I could do because her parents would force me to stay once they saw me. The last thing I’d ever want is to ruin her special day.
By the time I get back to my car, and I’m out of the parking lot, I feel like a million pounds are sitting directly on my chest. If I had the ability to go back in time and tell her every detail from the night of the accident, I would, but we all know that only happens in the movies. Where’s a damn time-turner when you need one?
I drive to the campus coffee shop and order one of those organic soy shit coffees and sit at a secluded table away from the dude reading poetry about broken hearts. Regardless of how lost I feel at the moment, I still find myself rolling my eyes. Each time the bell above the door rings out, I look up, hoping it’s Viola. After an hour passes, I drive back to the house, go to my room, and shut the door.
Gryff is so happy to see me, and I feel bad for pushing him away. I lie on my bed, turn on the TV, and he tucks himself beside me.
“It’s just you and me buddy,” I say as I pet his little head. “But she’ll be back.”
I’m a big ball of emotions. Between all the changes in my life, graduation, moving, and the break up, I’m a mess. I’ve felt every emotion that exists in the last ten days as if I’m checking them off a master list. At first, I was hurt, distraught, and upset, which transformed into me being livid about the entire situation. Then, I wanted to pull a Courtney and go all crazy ex-girlfriend on his ass. His new Challenger almost got a dozen eggs cracked across its shiny black paint, but instead, I kept my distance. It was the best thing for me to do. I avoided Drew’s house like the plague and even did laundry at Courtney’s this week. But I miss my routine and poor little Gryff.