May 13th: Tris
I've always loved the last day of school. Tests coming to an end, signing yearbooks, and the promise of a warm and cheerful summer ahead. But now, it's the last day of my senior year, and I don't know what to feel.
Seniors typically get out a week earlier than everyone else, so the rest of the school are sitting their finals right now. I've been wandering around the hallways for most of today, saying goodbye to teachers and school friends. And right now, I'm stopped by the trophy case of the school. I repress an eye roll when I see Caleb's name on many of the awards, but my mouth stretches out into a smile when I see Tobias's on one of the more recent additions.
He led the school's lacrosse team to victory at the championship, and I've never been more proud. He truly is phenomenal. And now all students who pass by will know it too.
All of the seniors are pretty much doing whatever today, saying their goodbyes, signing last minute yearbooks, and just soaking up what is essentially the final day of our childhoods. It's hard to think about.
I don't feel a particular attachment to this school or anything, but I did spend four life changing years in these halls. Christina and I both entered together, gawky fourteen year olds with wild expectations for a tv show style high school life, and now we're leaving with not exactly that- but an amazing friend group, loving boyfriends, and our dreams ahead of us, just within our grasp. That is, if I can make my decision about where to go to college.
I check the time on my phone, seeing that it's lunch time. My respective friend group has decided to meet for a final meal at our regular table. Something so normal shouldn't feel so sad. Sure, we'll have get togethers, see each other over school breaks and try to find times when we aren't all traveling to see each other over the summer, but it will never be this simple again. High school. Homework. Hangouts. Repeat. The world is getting more serious for us now.
When I enter the cafeteria, I see that everybody else is already there. Their heads are all huddled together, and as I approach the group I realize that they are staring down at somebody's phone.
"Hey guys," I announce my presence.
"We were wondering where you were!"
I chuckle at my friend's responses, turning my grin towards Tobias as I slide into my regular spot next to him, and he slings an arm around my waist to pull me to him.
He brushes his lips across my cheek. "Hey."
I curl up close to him, trying to savor our last time in this cafeteria together, one of the last times that the pressures of the adult world won't infiltrate our perfect little bubble that we've cultivated for ourselves.
"What is everybody looking at?" I ask, gesturing to the cell phone in the middle of the table.
"Ruby took her first steps!" Uriah announces, lifting the phone in front of my face to show me.
I marvel at the video of Ruby getting off of her hands and knees and onto her feet, walking eagerly towards Zeke as he claps his hands and calls out to her. I'm guessing Shauna was filming this, based on the happy crying noises that can be heard behind the camera.
"That's amazing! Wow, she's really growing up so fast."
"Right? It feels like just yesterday we were waiting at the hospital for her to be born," Christina shakes her head in wonder.
"It honestly seems like just yesterday that Shauna announced that she was pregnant," Tobias remarks, and our group collectively laughs as we remember that New Year's eve party, and how scared Zeke and Shauna were.
Now they're phenomenal parents, with a beautiful daughter and a loving family. It's hard to believe that they were ever so nervous, when parenting is obviously what they were meant to do.
"Yeah," Uriah looks down at his phone fondly, "My biggest fear is that I'll just blink, and then all of a sudden she'll be all grown. I don't want to miss out on anything."
"You won't, Uri," Marlene says comfortingly, covering his free hand with her own, and nuzzling her head into his shoulder. I guess the two of them are done with their "off" period. To be honest, the whole on and off thing has never made much sense to me, but as long as they're happy… I guess that's all that matters.
"Uriah, why the hell did you write 'H.A.G.S.' in my yearbook?" Lynn demands, sliding the book into the center of the table and forcefully placing her finger down on the glossy page.
"'Cause I hope you have a great summer!" He states, chuckling a bit.
"I'm literally your sister-in-law, you think you'd write something more sentimental."
"Exactly. I'm gonna see you all the tiiiiime. It's fine," Uriah states, and we all laugh at Lynn's eye roll. Those two really do bicker like siblings.
"Hey, Will wrote 'you seem cool' in my yearbook, so…" Christina gives her boyfriend a playful glare, who ruffles her hair in return. I grin at those two. I didn't have Tobias write anything in my yearbook, it seemed silly since we've already written each other so many more personal things, and we'll be together for the entire summer anyway. My yearbook is filled with a myriad of signatures and notes from my other friends, though.
I choked up the other day when I read Christina's page long letter about how much we've grown these past four years, and how proud she is of us for getting this far, and that she hopes we will remain best friends for the rest of our lives. It was quite sentimental, and I feel lucky to have had an amazing friend like her by my side, getting me through the trials and tribulations of high school. Not many people have so much loyalty in their lives.
"Can you all believe we graduate tomorrow?" Marlene asks excitedly.
"Yeah, Will, how's that speech coming along?" Uriah asks.
"Oh yeah it's great, I'm just going to say how thankless I am for every curveball that high school has thrown at me, and how I did all of it on my own with no friends by my side and somehow made it out on top," Will deadpans. As our class's valedictorian, he has the honor of speaking at tomorrow's graduation. I'm excited to see it. Will is incredibly bashful, but I'm sure he will find a way to sway the crowd with a moving speech. Besides, he's probably a better alternative than Caleb, who finished the school year as salutatorian, second in our class.
He was a bit disappointed that he didn't end up first, but I think getting accepted to Harvard cushioned that blow. Will is headed to a great school too, the University of Chicago. And Christina is staying in the city as well, at the University of Illinois-Chicago. For right now, both of them are planning on commuting to school from home, but as the school year progresses on they will look for apartments together.
I am both happy for them, and envious of them. They'll be in proximity of each other, with no qualms about it either. I wish I wasn't so confused about what I really wanted. I know that my relationship with Tobias could withstand almost anything, but I'm nervous about putting something so precious at risk, especially with us in such a good spot right now.
"Don't expect him to give anything away, Uriah. He won't even tell me what he's written," Christina sulks.
"Where's the fun in that?" Will asks.
"Well, just know that I'm incredibly proud of you," Christina tells him, and they both lean in for a kiss, seemingly forgetting that the rest of us are here. They only break it up when Lynn starts making retching noises.
I pick a few fries off of Tobias's tray, giving him a sheepish smile when he glares at me. Of course, even on our last day, I'm still going to eat all of his food instead of going to the lunchline and getting my own.
"So," Uriah begins, lifting his bottle of apple juice. "A toast, to our final day of high school. It's been a hellish ride, but we all found each other. Here's to many more years of friendship."
"Here, here." We all raise our respective water and juice bottles in response. Uriah's eyes twinkle as they meet mine, and I feel a strange feeling rise in my chest. Anxiety coupled with anticipation, and almost a sense of nostalgia for this period of time, even though I haven't quite left it yet.
"Uriah and Will want to go shoot some hoops in the gym. Is it okay if I join them?" Tobias asks me once we make our way outside the cafeteria.
"Of course. You really don't need to ask permission, you know," I let him know.
His cobalt eyes dance with mirth as he leans down, brushing his lips gently against mine. "Well, I just wanted to make sure. You're more than welcome to join us."
I snort. "Please. I'll probably just head to the library. Say goodbye to Mrs. Webb and chat with Christina for a bit. But hey, you're still riding home with me, right?"
"Yes I am. I'll meet you up in the library. He lifts my up hand, linking his fingers through mine, our promise rings joining together. The gesture is a warm reminder of everything we have ahead of ourselves. I need not get so worried about what the future may hold, not when I'll always adorn something on my hand that will give me strength, and knowledge that Tobias loves me. No matter what.
I tilt my head up and he meets me halfway for a soft and sweet kiss. "I'll see you soon," he murmurs once he pulls back, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. I watch him walk away with a small smile on my face.
A few minutes later, I finally find Christina. She's roaming aimlessly around the performing arts corridor, looking at her surroundings with a sad expression.
"Hey," I sling an arm around her shoulder. "Whatcha thinkin about?"
She doesn't jump in alarm at my surprise appearance. We're that used to each other by now. "Just sad that all of this is over," she sighs, "I know I could never make a real career out of it… but performing is what I love to do. Now, I'm done."
"Aw, Chris. I'm sure UIC has some recreational theatre programs."
"That's true," she grumbles as we walk in step together. "But what if I'm no good? Or I don't fit in?"
I laugh at the mere idea of it. "You? Not fitting in? You are Christina Allen. Number one trend setter. It Girl. The day you don't fit in is the day that pigs fly."
"You always have the right thing to say."
I smirk, "I know. And I also know that you're going to be an amazing marketing major."
"And what about you? Are you ready to make your decision yet?"
I groan. "Definitely not. I mean, going to college in New Zealand would be phenomenal, but am I that ready to be so far away from my family? From Tobias? From you?"
"Hey, hey, don't worry about me. No matter what, we'll facetime and text all the time. Modern technology has nothing on the Atlantic Ocean."
"And the Indian Ocean," I point out.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever… I mean… no matter what you won't be in Illinois anyway. You haven't gotten accepted off the waitlist at Duke yet, and you may not find out about that for months… So really, it's either the school of your dreams… or another random school that you don't even want to go to, just to quell your anxiety. And guess what? No one ever made it in this world by playing it safe."
I look up at my best friend as we both come to a stop in front of the library. "You're right, Christina," I admit.
"What do you want, Tris? Don't think about it, just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind."
"I want to go to Wellington," I blurt out, my eyes going wide at how easily those words came out of me. No matter what… Duke or no Duke… I want to go to Wellington.
Christina nods at me, her lips drawn into a line as if she already knew that was the answer. "Then you know what you have to do."
"Thanks, Chris," I tell her gratefully, internally sighing at the amount of mental deliberation I'll have to do about this later. I may know what I really want, but making the decision is easier said than done. "Come on, let's go give Mrs. Webb a proper goodbye. If I recall, we spent a lot of lunch periods in her library freshman and sophomore year."
The two of us rattle off our favorite memories here as we walk inside, searching for the old librarian who became somewhat of a maternal figure to us in this school. We're about to head to the back bookshelves to see if she might be there, when my phone buzzes in my pocket.
"Hang on, Chris," I tell her.
I click on the notification, my mouth drying up when it opens the email app and I see who it's from. I scan the words quickly, my heart hammering in my chest.
"Well?" Christina demands. "What is it?"
I look up at her, then down at my phone, and then up at her again, and down at my phone again. "I was admitted off of the waitlist at Duke," I breathe.
Sorry for the delayed upload, I was out of town this weekend. I would love to hear people's thoughts on this chapter, if you are still following this story despite my slow updating tendencies. See you all next week.