Extra Chapter: Graduation
June 24th, 2019
“You guys are cutting it close.”
“Thanks for stating the obvious, Jonah, but she had to go to the bathroom a fair amount,” I say as I reach out to caress Amaya’s protruding belly that is barely visible beneath her long black and grey gown. “Then Cyrus and Iris started kicking and we got so caught up in it.”
“How cute, but you’ve got to get to your spot, the ceremony begins in two minutes.” I lean down to kiss Amaya with a kind smile.
“I’ll see you soon, Wonder Woman, and remember what I said on the way here. If your water breaks, clench your legs together.” She rolls her eyes before I step away from her so I’m out of punching range. “I love you!” I wait for her to say it back to go to my line up spot, two spots in front of Xavier.
“We’re really about to be high school graduates,” Xavier sighs out with a small smile on his face, but I can tell he’s having mixed feelings about this.
We’re all ready to leave here, it’s been a long four years and a lot has happened during them, so much that a big part of me didn’t believe I would make it here. I’ve learned so much that I swear to all hell I’m taking with me for the rest of my life.
“I know, it’s wild, right? I’ve also got two more kids on the way. This year has done a lot for us, hasn’t it?” I ask before he nods.
“Speaking of you having two more kids on the way, how does it all feel? Being a father, I mean.” His hands clasp together in front of him as he starts to rock on the balls of his feet, and my guess, he probably doesn’t even know he’s doing it.
Xavier’s deep cerulean eyes stare me down as he awaits his answer.
“It’s funny you ask because you already know the answer. You’ve been a father to Cameron since you found out Axel hit the hills a few months back. I can tell you’re already in love with him, he is your son, whether it be biologically or not.” He stops rocking before I notice his nervousness leave him as he smiles brightly. “I’ve seen the way you are with him, I’ve also seen how he looks at you.”
That part right there reminds me of when Aaron was a bit younger, he’d look up at me as if I was the most interesting person in the world. Like he wanted nothing more than to always be at my side which I was more than happy to oblige to.
“Are you asking me this because Charlie’s pregnant too?” His Adam’s apple bobs before he opens his mouth to answer when Pomp the Circumstance begins, leaving me wishing we could continue that conversation though we have no choice but to go.
When we reach our seats I sit back silently, waiting to be motioned onto the stage for my speech that Mrs. Douglas requested me to give last month which was a surprise in itself. I didn’t think it made sense to get me when you look at the fair amount of fights I’ve gotten in since I’ve come into the school, they usually end up choosing the kids that never do anything wrong.
I remember the day she called me into the office over it.
I look Mrs. Douglas dead in the eye, my head tilting back in the slightest as I find myself thinking about a whole hell of a lot. The thing that is on my mind the most is the fact that I’m even sitting in the office because I haven’t even done anything, I’ve been trying to be on my best behavior for my sake, Amaya’s, Aaron’s, and not to mention the babies. If Amaya gets too stressed that can cause stillbirth or some difficulties, I don’t want any problems with the twins. I want them to be perfectly healthy.
“Thank you for showing up here, Mr. Harper.” I cringe. I hate being called that.
“Alright, Shawn,” I only nod to her in response.
“Am I in trouble for something, because I haven’t done anything at all,” I say all too quickly.
“No, you’re not in trouble,” she laughs out. “I was actually wondering if you’d be willing to give a speech during graduation.”
“I’m sorry, you want me to what?”
“Look, you’ve been through a lot, Shawn. This is your graduation that many people didn’t even know you’d be able to make it to. Your injuries and experiences are marvelous in a way that I think you’d be an excellent example of what people should be doing. You’ve been knocked down a lot, so I was wondering if you’d deliver a speech.” I nod slowly, processing the information.
“Are you sure I’m the right person for this? You could always ask Jonah, I mean, he and his sister each have been through a lot, he was in a wheelchair but worked hard to get back to walking. He skipped two grades. I- I got into a fair amount of trouble here, you are aware?” I ask to make sure she knows it all, but she has to, she’s the assistant principal, she’d have read my records by now.
“I’m aware, Shawn, but I’ll have you know this, even your friends recommended you for this, he’s one of the people that believe you’d excel at a speech.”
“Okay then… I guess I’ll do it then.”
“Great, and don’t wait until last minute to write it.” I nod before exiting out of her room.
When it’s time for me to give my speech I can feel the butterflies swarming my stomach, hitting me even harder than being on the football field. At least on the field, I’m allowing my talent to speak for me, nothing else, and people seem to like that aspect of me, though there’s a lot these people have yet to learn.
I excuse myself out of the row so I can make my strides up to the stage to take that mic into my hand.
This is the first time I’m grabbing a mic not to sing, but to have people listen to me, and only me speak, that’s a bit of a rare thing.
“Go, Daddy!” Aaron calls out, making me look over to him with a smile. I guess he could tell how uncomfortable I feel up here.
He gives me the needed confidence boost to take a deep breath and begin.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of you have heard my name at one point or another in these past four years of high school, whether it be from me being the quarterback and captain of the football team, finding out that I have a son or even the accident that wasn’t exactly an accident.” I close my eyes for a second, not wanting to see all these eyes on me. “I guess I’m supposed to stand in front of you today, blowing your minds, which I think I’m more than capable of accomplishing.” I open my eyes to watch my classmates watch me.
“There are so many people here that have a fixed opinion on me, students and teachers both. Mr. Rafton, that mostly goes out to you.” I wink towards him, causing more than half of the students to laugh as he rolls his eyes at me. “On a more serious note, I’m seriously going to miss high school.
“Yes, high school was hard and sometimes a major pain in the ass, sorry Aaron and all the other younger children in here.” I notice a smile on Amaya’s face as she stares up at me in admiration. “There’s been days where I was frustrated beyond relief and there were so many times when I wanted nothing more than to quit” -that’s a double meaning- “but that’s the thing. I never did, neither did every single one of you that sits before me in your caps and gowns, most likely anxious to get out of here.” I know I am.
“But before all of this is over and you’re smacked by reality, I’m going to give you some advice that I want everyone here to think long and hard about.” I lick my lips before taking in a deep breath and blowing it out, repeating the process twice. “In my senior year alone I’ve gone through a whole hell of a lot that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I almost died, had some mental things going on, amnesia, and at a few points it felt as though I was losing everything that I love” -I make direct eye-contact with Amaya and I swear from here I can see the tears pooling in her eyes- “but I’m stubborn as hell.
“When I want something I make it clear I don’t plan on letting go easily. I can’t stress that enough. Even when everything makes you frustrated and you feel like it’s not worth it, fight for what you want and need or else you’re going to end up regretting it for the rest of your lives.
‘I love you,’ I see Amaya mouth out before my smile becomes that much larger.
“If you want to go to college and become this tech-savvy person, be the best one out there. Let your superpower be that you care and want to be the one to make a difference. When someone has their assumptions about you, say to hell with it and prove them wrong every day.
“I remember spending a lot of my life so far feeling like I wasn’t enough, but as time goes on, the people in my life help to show me that I’m more than it for them. I’m as good as I make myself and hold myself up to be. Forgetting those that I love and who I am has taught me that much, well, that and not to take things for granted because I’d regret letting those people down.”
I can see that a lot of these people are actually listening to me, some of them dapping at their eyes with handkerchiefs as though I’ve said one of the most emotional things they’ve ever heard, but I think it’s more so that they don’t want to say goodbye either. It only gets harder from here on out, and that right there is a scary-ass thought.
“I’m not about to stand here and BS you saying that I’m perfect, I’m far from it, and none of this is going to be easy either. Nothing ever worth anything is easy. Look at the people next to you, the ones that you know, and the ones that you’ve possibly come across in the hallways but never paid attention to. Know that some of them have it harder than you, I mean, look at the smart kids who always place their all in their work. That takes a lot.”
Amaya throws an arm over Jonah’s shoulders before I see him laugh and point up to me; I can’t help but let out a small chuckle of my own.
“I think I started to give more appreciation to those types of people when I began spending so much more time with my family, mostly Aaron. On my worst of days, he’s held me together without even trying, and because of him, I want each of you to surround yourselves around people that are always there for you. When you let go of high school, let go of the people that would constantly screw you over.”
This has to be the longest I’ve ever spoken in front of people that aren’t my family.
I clear my throat. “Thank you,” I say so everyone knows I’m done before I place the mic back on its stand, wink to Amaya, and head back to my seat. Along the way, I get a few pats on the back, telling me that I did a good job.
It doesn’t take long for names to start being called, and before I know it, caps are being thrown to the ceiling, painting it in all grey for a solid ten seconds. I can’t help but stare up in awe. Cheers, blaring horns, and wolf-whistling all echoes through the gymnasium along with people being pulled into hugs.
“We survived high school!” Xavier shouts from behind me before engulfing me in a hug.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” I chuckle out. God, I gave a speech and I still don’t believe this.
“That it is, and you were amazing up there, and you weren’t even reading off your paper! Why were you so nervous earlier?!”
“I don’t know, I just hate the thought of speaking in front of so many people, so my eyes mostly stayed on Amaya.” Xavier nods in understanding. “Speaking of Amaya, where is she?”
“She’s with everyone else closer to the exit, last I saw, Jesse and Jared kind of grabbed her when she was waiting for you,” he fills me in as we start to take the walk towards where he says she is. I keep a firm grip on my diploma, not believing that this is happening. “I guess I should answer your question from earlier.”
“You mean about Charlie being pregnant?”
“I didn’t say she is.” I look over to him, seeing that stupid smile on his face that always makes an appearance when he’s ecstatic about something, if only he knew it’s what gives him away every time.
“Holy shit, she is, congrats man!” I pull him into a bro hug. “You’re gonna be great.”
“I hope so… and uh, can you not tell anyone though, we plan on announcing it in a few weeks.”
I clap him on the back. “Of course, it’s not my business to tell anyway, though you should know, Amaya’s probably gonna know within the next few days. Not from me, but from Charlie, they talk about everything with each other nowadays.”
“Yeah, I know, I’ve even overheard them talking about us before with each other.”
“Like what?” I ask curiously.
“Performance-wise.” I raise my eyebrow at him. I really want to tease Amaya about that later, but for Xavier’s sake, I think I’m gonna have to take that one to the grave.
I notice Amaya before I hold my index finger over my lips so nobody gives me away. I snake my arms around her waist, resting each of my hands on her baby bump.
“Hey yourself” -she switches around in my arms, hers going around my neck as those waves cascade over my arm- “you were great up there.”
“Why thank you, Wonder Woman.” I kiss her softly, ignoring the loud chatter around us.
I feel a small kick in my stomach causing Amaya and I each to laugh.
“I missed you guys too, but can you not kick me during a kiss. I’d greatly appreciate it,” I say to the twins even though I’m not going to get a response back, or at least I didn’t think I’d get one back, but a kick to the stomach has me rethinking that. “Just like your mommy, already beating me.”
Amaya smiles at me before I smile back.
“Mommy! Daddy!” Aaron yells, grabbing my attention just in time for me to catch him as he jumps up for me. “You said my name up there!” He twists in my arms to point up to where I was speaking on the stage. I hold him a bit closer.
“I did buddy.”
He stares me down for a solid minute, not another word needing to be said as his smile says it all.
“I’m hungry,” Aaron breaks the silence.
“I could eat,” Amaya says.
“You could always eat. You’re always hungry.” Amaya’s jaw drops along with all the guys who surround us with the rest of the families; I burst out in laughter. “What? I say what I see?” A fake pout makes an appearance on his mother’s face.
“Well, that hurt.”
Aaron motions for me to step closer to her and once I do so, his arms wrap around her neck. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, Mommy,” he mumbles out, placing a kiss on her cheek.
She smiles while pulling him into her arms.
“Can we eat then watch movies all day?” I smile at the request.
“Sure, but there’s going to be a lot of us watching movies.” I’m sure everyone would be okay with that.
“Now what do you want?”
Amaya looks over to me, wondering when that happened so I mouth out ‘Grandma and Grandpa’s’.
“Only Grandpa Logan’s,” Aaron gambles.
“I’ll see if he’s up for making them, we were supposed to make them Wednesday anyway. You’re just lucky they plan on staying down here until Saturday.” He jumps back into my arms to hold me tightly and I swear to all hell that’s the way to kids’ hearts, food.
My smile becomes that much larger with a single thought. One more milestone was just passed and there’s more on the way, sooner than later and I couldn’t be happier about it.