Chapter 73: Home - Vanessa Carlton
The conclusion of the week was impossibly bittersweet. A part of me wanted to curl into a ball and sob my eyes out, the other,more predominant portion wanted to savor every last second and smile until the end.
Morgan got into her dream school. Elle was named valedictorian. Needless to say, we had plenty to celebrate. There were plenty of parties being thrown all over campus, but we decided to stay home. We weren’t ready to deal with goodbyes just yet. We vowed never to say it to each other.
“Families will be infiltrating the fortress tomorrow. Is everyone prepared?” Elle looked around the room with a bright smile.
“As I’m ever going to be. Delia, Juno, and Geoffrey are coming. You’ll hear plenty of muffled screams. It’ll be me into pillows.” Sami scooped a spoonful of applesauce into her mouth.
“My dad and sisters are coming. We’re all quite excited. They’ve never been to America before and the palace is covering their expenses.” Adam sipped the tea Morgan had made for us.
“I’ll have a bit of a full house on graduation day. Audrey, Everett, Emmy, B, my mom, B, and Sophia are all coming.”
“My stepmother is on bed rest, but my mother and father will be in attendance.”
“Is Wilmer coming?” I asked from within Milo’s arm.
“That is a given.” He rubbed my shoulder.
“My parents are bringing Rae. She still needs a wheelchair to get around, but she insisted on coming.”
Morgan gave him a hug from her seated position on the couch. “Let me know if you need anything.” She rubbed his back.
“I love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too.” She giggled as she pulled away.
“How are you feeling?” Milo breathed into my ear as his fingers soothingly grazed my shoulder.
“My excitement to move home is sustaining me.”
“I still can’t believe you’re moving to Listonenia.”
“Believe it, Babe. I’ve gotta go to work.” I slung my arm across his waist.
We shared our guest lists and summer plans as we waited for our pizzas to arrive. We actually found a place that was able to make a gluten-free pizza for Morgan and a vegan one for Sami. It truly was a miracle.
“We have an activity.” Elle rose from her seat as we were finishing dinner.
“The goals?” I wiped my face off with a napkin.
“Yes, ma’am. It’s not the day before graduation, but things are going to be crazy over the next couple of days. It’s best we get it out of the way tonight. Who wants to go first?”
We all looked around at each other.
Sami groaned. “Fine, I’ll go.” She hauled herself off the couch.
She dug through the bowl until she found the slip of paper with her name.
She cleared her throat. “Show that you have feelings.”
She looked at the ceiling as she thought about whether or not she accomplished it.
“I did this thing because it was important to Elle.” She held up the paper. “I tell Mom I love her on the reg. I’ve hugged all of you at some point this year. People know Watson’s my dude. Mission accomplished.”
“Someone else is up.” She returned to her spot on the floor.
Finn volunteered next. “Try.” He read with zero inflection. “My grades are where they should have been all four years and I’m attending RISD and Brown to be challenged. Yeah” He was quick to sit back down.
We still clapped for him.
“I, um, I wanted to stand up for myself. I did it, a few times actually. It feels good, still terrifying, but rewarding. I don’t feel trapped anymore.” Nick timidly explained.
“Good job, Nicky.” Elle lead the next round of applause.
“He’s a good one to follow.” Morgan carefully stepped over the people seated on the floor to get to the front of the room. She fished out her folded slip.
“Fight for what I want. I did. I did it. I’m going to Japan next year.” She beamed.
“Hells yeah you are.” Sami cheered. The rest of us were quick to accompany her in clapping.
“I’ll step up to the plate.” Ryan took a drink of his soda before making his way to the bowl.
He rubbed the back of his neck once he read it. “Yikes. I forgot what I put.”
“Doesn’t matter. Read it.” Elle insisted.
“Fall in love. I didn’t do it, not even close. Clap as I sit down or this will be awkward.”
We all complied, knowing he was right.
“Do the same for me.” Elle addressed the room as she touched her hand to his shoulder, expressing her support.
“So, context: I talked to Sami’s mom on move in day ---“
“I told you to never retain a word she says.” Sami interrupted.
“Lesson learned, but at the time, her advice seemed sound. I wrote, ‘let go and be free’.” She looked up from her sheet. “I was able to loosen up a little, which was good for me. But in true Elle fashion, I pushed things too far. I ignored my better judgment in order to be less ridged and finite with my decisions. I shouldn’t have taken Art back; he ended up really hurting me. I wouldn’t be myself if I weren’t at least a little uptight and controlling. It’s what got me here.”
“I love you just the way you are, Honey.” I told her.
“I love you too, Babydoll.” She placed her hand over her chest as she smiled at me. “Don’t you dare hurt her!” She yelled dramatically and pointed at Milo as she sat down in her chair.
“For the millionth time, I’m not!” He slid forward on the couch. I set back in his absence.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I’m worth something as a person, not just as a prince. I applied to Brimmington University and other Listonenian colleges a second time under a different name. Almost all of them admitted me. –“
I was unable to keep myself from preemptively applauding.
“Iz,--“ He paused to look at me.
“I’m still so proud of you. Carry on.”
He told me shortly after he found out, but I still couldn’t get over it. He questioned his merit all the time. He had proof that he truly earned his place at school, just like everyone else.
“I have a beautiful fiancée that fell in love with me before she knew of my pedigree.” A handsome smirk was on his face as he looked at me. “ And I have all of you, --“ He gestured to everyone in the room. “You are far from false. If you didn’t like me, I’d know it. –“
“Yup.” Sami interjected.
His smirk transformed into a grin. “Thank you for always being real.”
I kissed his cheek when he returned to his seat.
Adam was next.
“I really didn’t know what to expect walking in, even after reading your case files. It was daunting walking in, all of you being so close. But all of you have made me feel welcome. I’ve never felt excluded or alone, even in a foreign country. My goal was to get along with you. It turns out that I belong and I couldn’t be happier.” He looked down at his sheet of paper when he teared up.
Morgan got up from her seat and gave him a hug. She whispered something into his ear. It made him nod and smile.
I was a bit nervous as I removed the last piece of paper from the jar. I knew what I had written, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to get through it in one piece.
I took a deep breath as both hands stretched the small slip. “I wanted to find a new favorite place. My old one was a theatre in New York. I know I can never go back there.” I grit my teeth as I willed myself not to cry. “It’s with all of you.” I squeaked and failed.
Milo was immediately at my side.
“It’s okay.” He kissed the top of my head as he held me in his arms.
“It doesn’t matter where, I –I just need to be with you!” I wailed as my tears soaked his shirt.
“Shhhh. We know. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.” He rubbed my back.
All of them joined him in hugging me.