N I C K
SIX WHOlE MONTHS, that was long how it had been since Alexis passed and each day hurt more than the last. I felt utterly lost without her.
"Nick hurry up, Kai and Jake are already here and you don't want to be late for your own graduation," mum shouted from the kitchen.
I sighed as I took one last look at myself in the bathroom mirror before I made my way to the kitchen.
"You look so handsome and grown up," mum cooed as I entered the kitchen.
I rolled my eyes and joined everyone at the kitchen table and sat down next to Leah. I poured myself some orange juice and placed a few chocolate chip pancakes on my plate.
"I'm wearing the same outfit I always wear each day except for this stupid cap and gown."
"Which I'm totally rocking by the way," Kai beamed as he stuffed mum's chocolate chip pancakes into his mouth and moaned. "I love your cooking Hailee, maybe I should think of moving in with you guys."
Jake and I rolled our eyes while Leah turned googly eyed at him.
"I totally agree with you," she said batting her eyelashes in the most creepiest of ways.
"Thank you Leah, glad to know that someone thinks I'm attractive," Kai said smiling at her and then turned to glare at me and Jake.
"Don't get your hopes up, she's only sixteen and extremely hormonal," I said and took a bite of my pancakes. "These are really good mom."
"Thanks honey," mum smiled.
"I'm almost seventeen," Leah whined.
"And by almost, do you mean you just turned sixteen? Because that's what I recall," mum answered.
Jake and I snickered as Leah rolled her bottom lip into her mouth and huffed in frustration.
"Yes I'll be seventeen next year so what? Nick had a girlfriend by the time he was my age," she whined.
"Because I was responsible and you're not," I scoffed.
"I'm old enough to get a boyfriend if I want," she protested.
"If you live in your own house and pay your own bills, then you are free to have yourself one. But as long as you live under my roof, you will not have a boyfriend," mum stated matter-of-factly.
"We need to get going if we want to make it before the opening remarks from Principal Kingsley," Jake said as he checked his phone. "Asher is already waiting for us."
Everyone stood up and I sighed because not once did I sit down to write that damned graduation speech that principal Kinsely had been bugging me for for the last six months. And each time I always came up with a lame excuse or dodged her.
We all piled into Jake and Kai's cars and drove to the school. When we pulled up in the student parking lot, everyone was rushing to get into the auditorium on time.
"Are you coming or are you just going to stand there?" Leah asked with her hand on her hip.
"Yeah sorry I'm coming," I replied and jogged up to them.
We all walked through the main school doors for the last time. I looked around the hallways, the lockers and all the memories of everything I experienced all came rushing back to me.
I remember the first day I saw Alexis standing at her locker as everyone else was already in class. I never got to tell her this, but I thought she was cute and that bothered me a lot because I wasn't supposed to find anyone cute-it was as if I was betraying Hayley and I hated her for that.
Kai, Jake, mum and Leah sat with everyone else while I walked back stage for the dreaded speech.
"Good you're here," Principal Kinsley said, "the ceremony is about to commence shortly and when I call upon you, you will need to make an appearance and give your speech."
I swallowed, I hadn't written anything and I didn't know what I was going to say. Dang, I should have really thought it over.
"Good luck and I know you'll kill it," she flashed me a smile and patted my back before she walked onto the stage.
I heard everyone quiet down as she appeared on the stage.
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and students," Principal Kinsley cleared her throat. "I officially welcome you to this year's graduation where we will see the class of 2018 graduate and become full fledged members of the society." she said and the crowd applauded.
"Each one of you has been an exceptional student and I know that Ridgeway has prepared you to become better people who will contribute to the society." There were cheers and whistles from the student body.
"I think that's all I had to say because I wouldn't want to bore anyone with a long irrelevant speech. As I call your name please come over to the stage and receive your diploma."
I pulled the curtain back a little and watched everyone as they waited for their names to be called. "Jane Anderson," she called.
"Brooklyn Andrews, Alexander Brown," she kept calling out the names and each time the crowd applauded.
"Asher Daniels," Asher made his way to the stage and received his diploma before walking back to where he sat with his mum, Alexis' parents and James.
"Kai Easton," Kai walked to the stage with a bright smile as he received his diploma and winked at some of the girls who giggled and swooned.
I rolled my eyes at him but I was still proud of him regardless.
She went on calling names until she finally got to Jake. "Jake Miller," she called and he made his way to stage, "this is the talented artist who painted the new school mural," she said and he flushed as everyone erupted into a round applause and cheers. "Thank you."
I couldn't be happier for my friends. Asher and his team won a third of all the games they played, Kai had joined the Science club and Jake painted the school mural and won the art competition with a portrait he painted of Alexis.
"It is with a heavy heart that I give this diploma to the family of one of our students who recently passed. She was an exceptional student and had so much to give. She was our salutatorian, so will you please help me welcome Alexis Vance's brother as he collects the diploma on her behalf," she said and my breath caught in my throat.
Everyone stood up and applauded as James walked onto the stage and was handed Alexis' diploma. I saw him mouth a 'thank you' before he walked off the stage.
"And now it is with great honour that I call upon the class of 2018's valedictorian, Nicholas Henderson."
I took a deep breath and walked to the stage to receive my diploma and give the dreaded speech.
"Thank you Principal Kinsley," I began and everyone kept quiet. "I'm not really good with speeches or anything of that sort actually. So I'm not sure how this will go," I said and the crowd laughed. "I tried coming up with the right words to say, but each time I always came up blank, literally."
By now I had gained the whole crowd's attention.
"For the most part of our highschool experience, we all didn't know what we wanted and heck some of us still don't. But we've all grown as individuals and made lifelong friendships that will be with us," I said as my eyes swept over Asher, Kai and Jake. "We obsessed over who had what, who wore the best clothes and who looked more attractive than the rest, but that's just it-we're teenagers and messed up in one way or another. None of us is perfect and it doesn't matter because each and every one of us has a unique talent, something that makes us us." I said and looked over everyone.
"We are all going to take different paths after today. Others will head to college or university while others will choose a more different direction but that's okay. It's all the small insignificant things that make us who we are," I spoke. "We've come a long way and I know there's still more self-growth we need to learn before we can fully be responsible. We are the class of 2018, messed up but still unique in our own weird way," I finished and exhaled.
Kai stood up clapping and one by one, everyone followed suit until the whole auditorium was on their feet clapping. I smiled as I raised my diploma and walked off the stage.
"That brings us to the end of our graduation ceremony. I wish you all the best in your endeavors," Principal Kinsely said.
Everyone was busy taking photos with their families and smiling as I made my way to my family and friends.
"Who knew you had it in you to give such a killer speech," Asher teased.
"Not me," I deadpaned.
James rolled his eyes, "it was a great speech by the way," he smiled. "Very raw and truly emotional."
I laughed, "nothing about what I said was raw or emotional. It was just facts."
"Way to ruin a moment bro," he said. "But honestly, congratulations to all of you. You've worked hard to be here and I know Alexis is proud of you wherever she is."
"Thanks James," we all said.
"I heard Greg is throwing a party and I think we should totally go," Kai beamed, "I've not been to one in like forever and I need to loosen up and unwind before university starts."
"I'm in but I'm not drinking," Jake agreed. "I could use some inspiration for my next piece."
"I don't really care what you do," Kai shrugged, "I just want to have fun and hook up with a random girl."
"I could use a distraction from all the Steph drama, so let's do this thing," Asher agreed fit bumping Kai. "Are you coming James or are you going to be busy hanging out with Lisa?" he asked with a smirk.
James shot him a warning glare but he had a smile on his face. "A highschool party? No thank you. I've had my fair share of them and now I'm grown up from such idiocracy and childish behaviours ," he deadpanned.
"I'll come," Leah chimed in.
We all turned to look at her with baffled expressions. "Not a chance in hell young lady," mum said and went back to talking to Kate and Riley.
Leah sighed and rolled her eyes, "you're all being unfair," she said and stomped off.
Everyone laughed as we watched her leave. I'm sure Alexis would have liked to see how we were all getting along.
"Are you in or not?" Jake nudged me out of my reverie. "It wouldn't be the same without you there."
I thought about it and if it was worth it. Weighing the pros and cons in my head. What would Alexis think of me? What would she want me to do?
"It's been over six months and I know Alexis would want you to be happy," James said sympathetically. "So you're going to go and I don't want to hear it."
"Okay I'll go," I sighed. Maybe it was exactly what I needed-a distraction from all my thoughts and from myself.
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