1 | The farewell
- Henny Youngman
Graduation had always seemed so far away, yet as I stood in the now almost empty dorm room, it felt as if time had passed in the blink of an eye. And now with less than an hour before commencement, my excitement had become nothing but nerves tethering in the pit of my stomach.
"Depressing isn't it?" She asks, stopping at the center of my room, looking confidently with one hand on her hip as she glares around distastefully. I don't reply. "Anyway, this is it. You ready?" She adds after a few seconds, her dark eyes shifting to mine, no longer glaring.
I shrug nonchalantly. "I guess."
Mia rolls her eyes and walks over towards the full length mirror hanging on the wall and begins messing with her wild curly hair.
"I think we can both agree this day couldn't have come fast enough," She mumbles, drawing me out of my self-deprecating thoughts. Her assertive chocolate eyes connect with mine through the reflection.
Despite the hovering thoughts I muster a smile. She was right, we had waited for this day our entire childhood lives.
"Sorry, it's just taking a moment, it all still feels quite surreal. I mean only a few months ago we were excited about senior year and now. . ." I trail off, unable to finish my sentence.
She huffs spinning around to face me, "Yeah. Yeah. Stop with all the mushy crap, Eli." Her plum lips turn into a deep smile, her eyes glaze off into the distance as she continues. "I am more than ready to get the hell out and never look back. And by Monday we'll be on the road doing just that, enjoying our fuck-tas-tick summer."
"You're right," I agree, causing her to nod smugly.
"I know, and remember college this fall will be fun, if you know what I mean." She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
I bite back a laugh. "Uh—I hate to break it to you, but you do realize all that partying and escapades only happen in movies...right?"
Mia's smug smile falls and she groans frustrated. "Ugh, Eli! Why must you always ruin my fun!"
"Party pooper, remember?" I snort, recalling the nickname she gave me a few months ago when I kept turning down party invitations because finals. Priorities, am I right?
She huffs and pouts like a little girl and I'm unable to contain my laughter, Mia however is not amused. She stomps her foot loudly against the hardwood floor, causing her heel to click angrily in defiance.
"Go on laugh it out, have your fun. Considering I didn't have mine."
"Oh no, I told you to go without me."
"Oh yeah, why didn't I think of that?" She rolls her eyes and comes to stand beside me, placing her hands on my shoulders, I sober up. "Nothing cooler than showing up stag at a party without your best friend."
"Yep, riding solo is the new trend, didn't you hear?" I tease. Her hands fall at her sides with a groan and I laugh backing towards the door. "Anyway enough with the irrelevant pettiness, let's go graduate!" I say with newfound confidence, before slipping out of the dorm room in high spirits.
"Party pooper!" I hear her yell faintly from inside the room, before she's running down the hallway trailing to catch up.
Our walk to the auditorium is quickly filled with mindless chatter as we discuss who will wear what. And which of the girls will most likely trip over their heels as they walk up the stage. Unfortunately it happens every year. We're giggling as we turn into the auditorium hall, but we are not prepared for the chaos that welcomes us.
Throngs of students are lined up impatiently waiting to retrieve their caps and gowns from flustered teachers who are failing to calm their overly excited buzz. The ones that have successfully retrieve theirs are by the sides taking group pictures and talking animatedly with their friends.
"Holy crap, how are we going to get our stuff?" Mia shouts over the rowdy crowd. I purse my lips wondering the same, but before we can worry too much a familiar deep voice calls my name.
"Eli, Over here!" I shift my gaze across the room waving at the person on the other side.
"Yup!" Is all I muster before grabbing Mia's hand and pushing us through the crowd. After struggling through some jerks we finally come face to face with a pair of dark hazel eyes and a wide boyish grin.
Troy Wilks, stands before us like an angel fallen from heaven.
"Troy!" Both Mia and I say in unison.
"Eli, you made it and you look—" He exhales loudly, his eyes boring into mine as he gifts me a million dollar smile. "You look absolutely stunning," he says finally in a gentle voice.
"Thanks, you look great too." A slight pink hue spreads across his light freckled cheeks at my compliment. But before he can say anything further Mia clears her throat bringing our attention to her. She has a look of annoyance struck across her features as she eyes us intently.
Troy smiles sheepishly, as if noticing her for the first time. "Mia, hey you look. . .fantastic."
I nod and pat Mia's shoulder, she doesn't notice my touch but her annoyed frown is gone, a confident smile taking its place as she sways side to side showing off.
"So can someone tell me how we're getting our stuff without getting mauled?" She asks glancing back at the growing line of students.
Troy shifts in his spot and smiles triumphantly. "Actually I got here really early and picked ours up. I placed them back at my dorm, give me five minutes and I'll bring them."
"Troy, you sneak!" Mia squeals, throwing her arms around him excitedly.
"Isn't he great?" Mia asks after he disappears, I nod and meet her gaze, internally cringing at what she's about to say. "So... You do know that he's utterly in love with you, right?" Her words hang in the air solemnly as we continue to watch everyone around us.
I give her no reply and she sighs, "Are you ever giving him a chance?"
I ponder over her words, before exhaling loudly, "Troy and I are only—"
"Friends," She finishes ruefully, cutting me off. I give her an exasperated look and she snorts loudly, her face scrunching into a frustrated smile. "Can't you see that any girl here would trade places to be in your shoes."
I can't help but scoff before mumbling, "Well why don't they ask him out?"
Oh I saw it alright, and deep down I knew she was right.
Troy was the embodiment of the would be Perfect Boyfriend —if you were into the whole Golden boy, charming smile— I play-sports-kind-of-guy. He was truly as perfect as they came; sometimes a little too perfect.
"Mia dear, we're all wealthy, smart and cute or did you forget who our parents are?" I mumble sarcastically, pointing around the hall unimpressed.
She follows my gaze and I hear her sigh in defeat. Troy might be amazing but he wasn't special, none of us were, not in these walls anyway. In here we are surrounded by the progeny of some of the most influential people in the country. Sons and daughters of politicians, judges, senators, celebrities, CEO's, the list went on.
Everyone in this room might come from different backgrounds, like different things, but we're all expected one thing. Perfection.
Disappointment crawls in the pit of my stomach and the negative thoughts I'd been fighting for the past week rear their ugly head as I remember the cold text they had sent a few days ago.
We're so sorry darling, but we will be unable to make it to graduation, it had read. I had tried reaching out. Their assistant assured me she would forward my messages and I had waited patiently. But there had been no explanation and no following call. I should have seen it coming, unfortunately I had been too hopeful.
When I had mentioned to Mia that they weren't coming she had huffed and replied with, "You're lucky! My parents will be here, which most likely be another lecture about how I didn't graduate with honors." She had followed that up with a rant about how we were just a nuisance to our parents.
I had refused to believe her, until three days ago when I finally heard from my father in the form of a voicemail. My older sister Victoria —Tori, as I called her— was suddenly engaged. And they had spontaneously decided to host an announcement party the day after my graduation. Unfortunately because it was so sudden they would have to skip my graduation and stay in New York. I was to fly the day after and arrive on time for the party.
I should have known from the beginning it had something to do with Victoria. They had once again chosen her over me. She had always been their favorite.
"I'm back!" Troy's voice springs through me, making me jump slightly.
"Is something wrong?" He asks, slipping his gown on.
Mia ignores his question and blindly hands me my gown and continues eyeing her own. Troy and I share a worried look before waiting patiently for her to speak.
"This is not mine." She mutters through clenched teeth, turning the cap over, showing the apocalyptic —class of 2019— design.
Definitely not Mia's.
"Fuck, I'm so sorry Mia." Troy's eyes shift across the crowd, searching. "Mr. Carlton must've mixed the gowns, but I can try and find whoever took yours and—"
"No!" Mia shouts, cutting him off. "Don't worry, I'll go. Why don't you and Eli go ahead and I'll meet you inside."
"Are you sure? We don't mind waiting," I say.
Mia gives us a reassuring smile before turning around and disappearing into the crowd.
"Well I feel awful," Troy says, breaking the silence between us.
"Don't, it's not your fault."
Tearing my gaze away from the crowd, my eyes find his guilty one. I offer him a comforting pat on the shoulder, and a smile spreads across his face lighting up his features. For a brief moment I see exactly what Mia sees.
His long curly hair is swept to the side, tentatively falling over his left brow, his dazzling green eyes hide behind a pair of thick lashes, but I can still see the golden flakes dancing within happily. His soft boyish face is symmetrical and defined, just like his toned sun-kissed body that hides underneath his button up polo and navy trousers.
There is no denying that he is attractive, but even now, staring intently at him I feel nothing. No Magic spark, no butterflies or any of that cheesy stuff you read in books. Absolutely nothing.
He nods, "So are you still joining my parents and I after?"
Internally I cringe remembering the pitiful look Troy had given me when I casually mentioned my parents weren't coming. He had immediately offered me to join his celebratory dinner with his parents.
"Uh, yeah, of course. Your parents are lovely for inviting me."
Sad that they had put more effort in me than my own parents, that thought alone sent another pang of disappointment, but I quickly push it away shaking my thoughts with it.
"Well I guess we're officially ready," I mumble placing my cap on my hair carelessly, using it as a distraction for my glum thoughts. Troy doesn't reply and when I glance in his direction, I realize he is already looking at me, a strange glint playing in his candid eyes.
"You have..." he trails off, awkwardly pointing at my face.
Self-consciously I move my hands to my cheek, afraid that perhaps I smeared my lipstick while putting on my gown. Troy chuckles and steps closer, his hands quickly moving to my hair where I feel him lift my cap off and proceed to tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.
"Much better," he breathes out.
I'm ready to thank him, but quickly freeze when I realize our faces are mere inches away from each other. I'm suddenly aware how close he is, the heat of his body radiating into my own skin fervently. Our gazes meet then, and the crowd around us disappears.
He lifts his hand and brings it back to my face, this time cupping my cheek, his thumb running back and forth softly. I feel dazed. What the hell is going on? Before I can question myself further he leans impossibly closer, his hot breath fanning across my face, while his other hand finds a home on my hip holding me in place.
My heart strums loudly in my chest and I feel hot. Very hot and aware of his scent; sweet and smoky like a late summer evening. You need to step away, my brain yells. I don't.
"Guys, I'm back!"
The spell between Troy and I is quickly broken, his hands drop at his side emptily and he jumps a foot away, leaning against the wall casually, his eyes cast down towards the floor. I quickly snap back to reality, and plaster a smile on my face just in time to see Mia squeezing through a group of girls before coming to a full stop in front of us. Relief washes through me.
"Hey, did you get it?" I ask, averting my gaze.
Mia doesn't respond, her eyes are bouncing between Troy and me, suspicion deep in them. I repeat my question and this time Mia settles on me and gives me a reserve nod, I frown but before I can dwell on her sudden change of behavior something behind me catches her attention.
"Uhh—I thought your parents weren't coming."
She points behind me and my body freezes momentarily before I slowly spin around. There standing, looking impeccable as always, million dollars smiles plastered across their faces are my parents.
I can't help the sudden rush of excitement that spreads through my body. "Mom! Dad!"
My arms wrap around my father's waist before I can even process it, he receives me with open arms and I welcome the warmth and comfort radiating from him. I feel my cap fall off, but I don't care, burying my face further into his chest, relishing this moment. It's been too long.
Six months to be exact, during Christmas break. Mia and I had flown back to New York for the holidays, after I very much insisted she joined me. My parents and Victoria, had received us back at our lavish hilltop mansion that sat deep in Westchester. It had been an interesting holiday to say the least.
"We just landed not too long ago," He mumbles, pressing a kiss on my forehead, before pulling away.
I grin and look over at my mother, she pays me no mind, her attention trailed on her cellphone. I clear my throat and after an awkward second she finally acknowledges me, smiling haughtily, her gaze assessing me from head to toe. I cringe.
"Darling, look at you." Her piercing eyes meet mine in distaste. "You look. . .Okay, although it seems—Have you put on some weight?"
I bite back my dismay. "No mother, it's the gown."
She waves me off dismissively, her attention already back to her phone. Dad comes to stand beside her, his arm wrapping around her arm, giving it a slight squeeze, she grunts before dropping her phone into her Chanel bag.
"Congratulations," she says insipidly, patting my forehead like she does to her Pomeranian.
"Thanks." My voice is bland, so much so it sends us into a tense silence. "So, is Tori with you guys?" I ask changing the subject, for once hoping to see my older sister strutting in like the queen she thought she was.
"Oh, heavens no!" My mother rushes out quickly.
Right. What a stupid thing to ask. Tori was probably knee deep in last minute preparations. It was almost funny how she was about to announce her engagement when only a few months back in December she had just announced her courtship to this guy, gushing all afternoon over him.
Mia and I had half listened knowing that none of her suitors lasted past a month, unable to put up with her high demands. We even made bets, he would be gone before we knew it. But boy were we wrong.
"Right. So what are you guys doing here?" I ask shaking the memory away. My parents exchange a strange look and I quickly backpedal. "Not that I am not excited you guys are here. But I figured you'd want to stay behind and help Tori."
Once again they share a strange look, but this time they shift slightly apart and an uneasy feeling settles in the pit of my stomach. In an attempt to distract myself, I look around and realize the hall is almost empty, except for a few stragglers goofing off.
I glance back to where Mia and Troy are still waiting for me, feeling my gaze on them they look over and wave. I wave back and shift my attention back to my parents, who seem to be having a silent conversation with their eyes, they quickly stop when they realize I'm watching.
"Uh, I should probably head inside," I say, pointing towards the auditorium with my thumb, realizing that I won't get an answer.
They seem to suddenly remember where we are. "Yes, of course."
I give them an awkward nod and begin to retreat towards Mia and Troy, but before I can get too far I hear my mother's voice.
"Elizabeth." I freeze.
I relish in the rare touch of affection she is granting me, unfortunately it doesn't last long.
I pull away and she quickly shuffles on her spot making sure she still looks immaculate. God forbid a hair has come out of place or a crease has form on her dress.
"You mean all of us?" She nods. "But what about dinner with Troy's parents? I promised to join them." She places a hand in the air, cutting me off.
"Nonsense, I'm sure they'll understand considering the situation. It's not everyday our daughter gets engaged."
I sigh. Everything they do is for Tori. Victoria this, and Victoria that. It's as if the world revolves around my sister. What about me?
"Okay," I mumble. Knowing it's useless to sit here and argue. It's a losing battle.
"Perfect it's settled then." Not wasting time she draws her Iphone out and types furiously into it. "Let's get this graduation over with." She mumbles dismissively, before walking over to my father who walked away to answer a call.
I grimace and like a lost puppy make my way over to where Mia and Troy stand, having a heated conversation in hush voices.
"Well maybe I'll tell her after dinner." Is all I catch from their conversation, before they go completely silent as I approach them.
"Hey, what did I miss?"
They shrug nonchalantly, waiving me off but I can see the tension hiding behind their smiles. I return their smile, but deep down I know they're hiding something. It seems this weekend is going to be an interesting one.