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Fall - Senior Year

“Lilly,” Sarah called.

Lilly made her way through the crowded hall to her best, and almost only, friend. “What’s up?” she replied.

“Have you seen the class rank?” Sarah asked.

“No, why?” Lilly said, as if she cared.

“You’re at the top! Everyone’s absolutely going crazy about the possibility that you could be Valedictorian. Marcus and Ainsley are so mad,” she said, smiling at Lilly. There was only one other person that knew Lilly would find that not only funny, but gratifying.

“Well, serves them right for thinking they’re the best. They should always remember, there’s always someone better than you,” Lilly said, her smile very sadistic.

“They said they’re going to get their parents to fight to have you dropped from the ranks,” Sarah said.

“I don’t care,” Lilly said, getting very Sassy, imitating their snobby attitude. “I’m better than them, and if they try, I’ll tell Uncle Horace,” she said, making herself sound as snotty as she could.

“Lilly, this is for real. They think they can get you removed from the list,” Sarah said.

“Let ’em try,” Lilly said, this time there was no sass, or snobbery. There was pure ire.

“What can you do?” Sarah asked.

“If they actually manage to have me removed, I really will get Uncle Horace involved,” she said.

Lilly knew, all she had to do was make As in all of her classes to wrap it up. She’d actually known where she was in the class ranks. She never really cared about being Valedictorian, or even Salutatorian, but if she earned it, she sure wasn’t going to let those stuck up snobs steal it from her.

“Where are you?” Lilly asked. She hadn’t looked to see where Sarah was, even though she should have.

“Fifth, thanks to Mrs. Burton,” she replied.

“Mrs. Burton might be a hard teacher, but she’s not the one that didn’t finish that essay,” Lilly reminded her.

“Yeah. One B and I dropped out of the top three,” Sarah said.

“That doesn’t matter. What scholarships you get is what matters,” Lilly said.

“But it would be nice to be up there with you, when you give your speech,” Sarah said.

“Oh God!” Lilly exclaimed, “I forgot I’d have to give a stupid speech.”

“They might write one for you. I doubt they trust you to write something they want to hear,” Sarah said.

“Thanks,” Lilly said, shoving her a little.

“You’re taking AP Calculus 45, or something crazy like that, along with AP Physics 37 and AP everything else. Will you be able to keep straight As this year?” Sarah asked.

“I’m taking Calculus 2, and only two other AP classes, so yes, keeping my grades up won’t be a problem. If they take more AP classes than me, and get straight As, they might end up higher than me,” Lilly said.

“I don’t think they are, but even if they do, I still don’t think they can catch you, unless you really bomb something,” Sarah told her.

“How do you know?” Lilly asked.

“What, about them not taking enough classes, or them not having a chance?” she asked.

“Either?” Lilly kind of asked.

“Well, you’re too far ahead in points for them to catch up if you make all As. As far as them taking more AP classes, that’s because I heard them talking about trying to change into more AP classes so they could get more points,” she replied.

“Isn’t it too late to change classes?” Lilly asked.

“Yeah, but you know they’ll get whatever they want, if only they ask for it,” she said, flipping her hair behind her, dramatically.

“I don’t really care. All I care about is getting the scholarships, so I can go to the college of my choice,” Lilly said.

“Do you know where you want to go?” Sarah asked.

“Yeah, for my undergrad, I’m going to Georgia Tech. For my Masters, I’m going to try and go to Florida State, I think,” she said.

“Where are you going for your PhD?” Sarah asked, almost teasing.

“Oxford,” Lilly replied.

“You’re going to try to go to Oxford?” Sarah said. She was unable to hide the fact that she doubted Lilly would be successful with that plan.

“Yeah. They have one of the best neuroscience programs in the world,” Lilly said.

“At least you’ve got big dreams,” Sarah said. Although she understood her friends doubt, it did hurt her. But that doubt, which came from almost everyone, drove her. Now, she was almost at the first milestone. She just had to make it through her senior year of high school.

Spring - Senior Year

Lilly went to homeroom, in her usual mood. Life was on autopilot, for her. School was a breeze, she had wonderful loving parents. Everything was beautiful, finally.

“You’ll all be happy to receive your yearbooks this morning,” the homeroom teacher announced. Lilly had completely forgotten about the stupid thing. She hadn’t even wanted one, but her parents had insisted, saying she’d regret not having it when she got older, or some such bullcrap. Rather than fight with them over it, she bought it.

“Priscilla,” the teacher, whom she never knew his name, said, placing the book on her desk.

Not sure why, she opened it. It didn’t take long to find her picture in the senior section of the book. Flipping the pages, she found Sarah. It’d have been nice to have Stu in there, but he didn’t go to Lakeside, not to mention he’d graduated two years ago. Continuing, she found the senior superlatives, and she froze. She heard some snickering around her, but her mind had gone completely numb.

Lilly left homeroom, working very hard to hide her tears. She knew she couldn’t stop them, but she would be damned if she’d give those bastards the pleasure of seeing them.

“Lilly,” she heard Sarah call, but rather than reply, she simply ran. The tears which were never really contained contained began pouring, and she could no longer stop some sobs from escaping.

Making it to the girls locker room, which she knew would be empty at that time, she dropped against her locker. Now, the sobs grew in intensity.

“What’s wrong?” Sarah asked, finally catching up.

Lilly wasn’t sure if she really didn’t know, or was trying to act like she didn’t in hopes of sparing her. Unable to speak, she simply shoved the nasty yearbook at her, the page marked.

“They’re all jerks,” Sarah said, barely glancing at it, confirming that she did in fact know. She dropped beside Lilly and held her.

“That’s not the word I would’ve used,” Lilly croaked out.

“I didn’t think you cared what they thought?” she said.

“I don’t,” she managed to say, between sobs, and calming down a bit. “But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. That sticks and stones stuff where words don’t hurt is all bullshit, and everyone knows it. Words do hurt,” she said.

“Yeah, well, you’re going to show them in a couple weeks, when you walk on that stage ahead of them all,” Sarah said.

“Yeah, if they don’t manage to steal it from me,” Lilly replied.

“They can’t do that,” Sarah tried to assure her, but Lilly was pretty sure they were going to try. Priscilla Pimlott, voted most likely to overdose on heroin, couldn’t be allowed to represent the class of 2016 of Lakeside High School as valedictorian. But it was even better. Unlike anyone else in the class of 2016, she’d been voted for two prestigious superlatives. She’d also been given the dubious distinction of most likely to become an adult movie star. No, that simply could not be allowed to stand, and she knew it.

Senior Week - End of School

“Lilly!” Sarah came running, almost barrelling into her.

“What?” Lilly asked.

“You got it!” she screamed.

“Got what?” Lilly asked.

“The grades are posted, and based on current scores, you’re valedictorian,” she said.

“What?” she replied, a little surprised, in spite of the conversation they’d had at the beginning of the school year.

“You knew you had it,” Sarah said, taunting her.

“I knew I had a good shot at it, but when Marcus added those extra AP classes, I thought he’d overtake me,” she said.

“Nope, you still won. I’m sure Ainsley’s mad as hell, since Marcus knocked her out of salutatorian,” she said. Lilly started laughing with that bit of news.

“Priscilla Pimlott, please come to the front office,” they both heard, barely, over the noise in the hall.

“Why are they calling you? What’d you do this time?” Sarah asked.

“Thanks for the vote of support,” Lilly said.

“You’ve always been a troublemaker, so it’s only logical that you did something,” she said, but smiled and nudged Lilly with her shoulder.

“Let me know what you did,” Sarah said, as Lilly walked off.

“Maybe,” Lilly replied, over her shoulder.

“Ah, Priscilla,” Principal Laughlin said, as she walked in. Marcus and Ainsley were also in attendance, which told Lilly everything she needed to know. Lilly wished Mrs. Stiles was still principal. At least she was fair.

“Yes, Mr. Laughlin?” Lilly asked.

“It seems you have managed to somehow sneak ahead of Marcus and Ainsley in the class rank,” he started.

“I didn’t ‘sneak’, sir. I just did my work, and earned it,” she said, almost cutting him off.

“Anyway,” he said, a little irritation in his tone, “We’re going to move you down to third in the class.”

“Like hell,” Lilly stated, not raising her voice, although she felt like screaming at the jerk.

“Excuse me?” he replied.

“I earned valedictorian, and I think I’m going to stay there, sir,” she said.

“I don’t think you understand, Priscilla,” he began, but she cut him off.

“No sir, you don’t understand. I earned it and I’m keeping it,” she said, turned around and walked out.

The next day, Lilly was again called to the front office, this time sent straight to the principal’s office. Marcus and Ainsley weren’t there, thankfully.

“Priscilla, I wanted to be nice yesterday, but you’ve chosen to be difficult. You ARE being moved down, and you don’t have any choice,” he said.

“It’s not right,” she said.

“You don’t want to be valedictorian, anyway,” he said.

“You don’t know what I want or what I don’t want, but even if I don’t, it’s not your right to take it away from me without my say,” she said.

“Alright, will you agree to step aside, letting Marcus and Ainsley move ahead of you,” he asked, feigning kindness.

“No, sir,” she replied, her gaze riveted to him.

“How about if we make you co valedictorian with Marcus? You share the crown, and Ainsley gets salutatorian,” he offered.

“No thank you, Mr. Laughlin,” she said.

“Marcus’ parents, along with Ainsley’s are threatening to go to the board, with their attorneys,” he whined.

“I don’t care,” she replied, not making any attempt to hide the attitude she felt.

“They’ll probably win, and then you’ll have nothing,” he said.

“Then I won’t be any worse off if I fight them. I earned it, and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to change that, even if they try to steal it from me. But they don’t have anything, which is why you’re trying to convince me to let them have it,” she said. She then stood up, looking at him, letting him see the disdain she felt for him, “They didn’t earn it. I did,” she said, and stuck her tongue out at him, then walked out.

“Uncle Horace,” Lilly said, as soon as Horace answered.

“Lilly! What’s wrong, princess?” he asked.

“You saw me yesterday. Why do you think something’s wrong?” she asked.

“Because you don’t normally call me on the phone, unless something’s wrong,” he said.

“Alright, so there is something wrong, maybe,” she said, then continued, “I won valedictorian, but the principal is trying to get me to let two other kids move ahead of me in the ranks. There’s no way in hell I’m going to let those jerks have it, but he said their parents will probably go to the board with their lawyers to give it to them,” she said.

“Don’t worry about it Lilly,” he said.

“I’m not really, but it’s not right that they can steal something they didn’t earn,” she said.

“I’ll bet you don’t even want to be valedictorian, do you?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she replied. “I’m going to have to give some stupid speech, and you know how I am with talking to people,” she said.

“Yeah, I know how you are,” he replied, sarcastically.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked.

“Nothing at all, but if you don’t really want it, then why not let them have it?” he asked.

“Because it’s not right,” she replied.

“You’ll stand on that stage and give that speech come Saturday, so don’t worry about it,” he said.

“Yeah, thanks,” she said, with a sigh.

Lakeside High School Graduation

“And now, it is time to introduce your class of 2016 valedictorian, Priscilla Pimlott,” Mr. Laughlin announced, to very limited applause. Most of the class was still trying to figure out how she managed to become valedictorian, and many parents were still angry that the board hadn’t stepped in and removed her.

“Good evening, class of 2016. Thirteen years ago, we all began a journey, a journey to become real people. In those early days and years, many of us dreamed we’d one day be astronauts, or maybe doctors, or even the president, not that I could ever be president, but some of you no doubt had that dream, and might still,” she said, and there was a tiny bit of laughter, but not much. Most of them didn’t know she wasn’t a natural born American.

“I’m sure at least a few of our class aspire to be lawyers, and eventually politicians. But here we are, things probably a bit different than many, or almost all of you, expected. I know, none of you thought you’d ever see me up here, did you,” she asked, pausing for effect, and receiving some jeers, before continuing, “but here I am. In this country, with hard work, and determination, you can be almost anything you want, and sometimes something you don’t, such as valedictorian of your senior class. My story should inspire the lowest of you, those that are looked down on by everyone else, seen with disfavor, as if you’re lower than them. You, the ones considered the lowest, can achieve greatness. Almost everyone along the way gave up on me, sure I was a loser and a lost cause, yet here I am, standing before you, because I stayed true to my goals, never letting them slip, never floundering in my aspirations. I maintained an almost straight A average my entire academic career, much to the surprise, I’m sure, of almost everyone here,” she said, and again paused, looking out at the audience, letting her eyes scan the entire crowd, in a very hard, cold stare.

“I’ve been accused of being a member of a gang, into drugs and prostitution, among other assorted and less than desirable activities, but think about this, would I be standing here if any of that were true? Would I be speaking with any level of intelligence if any of that were true? Would I have a collection of very coveted scholarships to Georgia Tech, and similar offers to many other fine institutions, such as MIT, or Caltech, to name a few, if a single bit of that were true? When we were young children, our parents and teachers told us not to judge a book by its cover,” she said, and paused, closing her eyes, letting the tears fall freely.

“For most of our time in school, you’ve treated me with disdain because false rumors were spread when I was still little, and you believed them, with never a shred of evidence that they were valid. I have lived my life alone, thanks to your lack of faith in me, one many of you once called friend. Most of you still believe those rumors, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Further, you despise the fact that I’m here, walking among you, but more, that I have risen to this coveted position, your valedictorian. You took it further and named me most likely to die of a heroin overdose, but that wasn’t enough, so you also voted me most likely to become a porn star. Know this, I’m none of those things, and your superlatives are nothing more than the hot air and wasted ink that invented them. The book that I am is very different than the cover you tried to put on me. Because I believed in myself, along with a handful of people that truly love me, rather than all of you, I have risen above all of that, breaking free of what could have been my fate, making my own cover, the one none of you care to see. It’s not by my own power that this has occurred, but by God’s grace and also because of others that have supported me, and lifted me up when I would have fallen, but instead only stumbled. God and those few people have been that bedrock for me that so many others never have, or will. Some of those others are the people you see sleeping in the parks, or under interstate overpasses. Yes, I have slept among them, shared a meal with them, cried on their shoulders when you shunned me, but here I stand, and let me tell you, most of them are better than most of you. With the help of those few people that love me, in spite of my many faults, and yes, I have many, I have risen, like the fabled phoenix, becoming greater than I was before. You too can be like me, and rise above what life has handed you, that life has tried to trample under its cold hard boot. Put aside your pettiness. Become the greatness that makes America a beacon of hope, for the countless masses who have no hope. Class of 2016, I challenge you to be greater than all that have come before. Show them they’re wrong about us. Show them we are great. Become a legend that future generations will speak of with wonder and awe,” she said, her fist pumped into the air. She then turned, and walked off the stage, never having had any notes to read from, and having delivered a speech different than the one provided for her.

It took a moment for the audience to collect its wits, but then there was an explosion of applause. Her speech, very personal, and entirely unorthodox, had touched them all.

Six Years Later

Lilly was thinking back on the past few years. So much had happened, in such a relatively short time. It was amazing to her, as she recalled the bad and all of the good. Now, she was about to walk into that future she’d been dreaming of since she was little, although changed, wanting to make her life better than her mother’s had been. She wasn’t going to be able to give her mother the treasures she’d wanted to give her, but she was okay with that.

“Priscilla Lilibeth Rafferty, graduating with a doctorate in neuroscience, magna cum laude,” the President of Oxford University declared. As people clapped and cheered, Lilly made her way to the podium receiving her certificate. It was the last in a line of certificates she’d received, all with top honors.

The best, no the second best, was her high school diploma, and she couldn’t help smiling at that memory. She’d tried to use words to undo their smallness, but they wouldn’t hear. Sure, there might have been a few, but not many.

In spite of everything they thought about her, she was on the cusp of being possibly the most successful of her high school senior class. She knew it was wrong, but she still enjoyed how her earning that top spot had rankled them so much.

As much as she had enjoyed earning her high school diploma, the best was the certificate that made her Mrs. Stuart Rafferty. They a beautiful daughter and a handsome baby boy, with the hope for more. She wasn’t sure she was up for more, but they were beginning to discuss adopting, something they both held dear.

As she received her degree, she shook the hands of the president and the deans, then made her way back to her seat. She was vibrating with anticipation, waiting to go to her family, and it was a very large group, indeed.

Since moving to Oxford to attend the University, her Scottish family had insisted on very regular visits. As a result, she’d become increasingly close to them. But her love would always be back in America, where she would be returning as soon as they finished packing.

“You did it,” Stuart said, grabbing her in a strong embrace once she managed to escape the throng of graduates.

“I did it,” she whispered, holding him tightly, while he lifted her up and swung her around, almost taking out a few other graduates.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“I wish grandma would’ve been here,” she said.

“I’m sure she saw you, and I know she’s proud of you. You could see it when the two of you were together,” he said.

“You think so?” she asked.

“I know so,” he said, putting her face in his hands, and kissing her, oh so gently.

“Now, what are you going to do with it?” Horace asked, walking up.

“Whatever I want,” she replied, and he smiled. Letting her husband go, she all but jumped into Horace’s arms. “None of this would’ve been possible without you, Uncle Horace.”

“No, I think you would’ve just found a different way. There are some people in this world that are winners, no matter how much crap is slung at them. I could have been one of them, but you are one of them,” he said.

“You’re one of them, too,” she told him, holding him almost as tightly as she had Stuart.

“You’ve always been a lot of trouble in a very small package, and I hope that never changes,” he said, with a very big smile.

“Mom, Dad!” she screamed, as Sherri and Leonard finally made their way to her.

“We’re so proud of you, baby girl,” Sherri said, as Lilly was working to strangle them both.

“Where’s Nick?” she asked. Nick was the Bazemore’s youngest birth son, the one of their children Lilly had befriended within the first couple of years after her adoption. They’d become very good friends, in fact.

“He’s here somewhere,” Leonard said.

“You know,” Sarah began, as she walked up, “I remember you saying what your plan was before graduation from high school, and I thought, ‘she’s got nice dreams, let’s see how close she can get’,” she said. “But you actually did it, exactly as you said you would. I’m so proud of you,” she said.

“You made it!” Lilly exclaimed, once Sarah stopped talking. “I thought I was going to have to kick your ass,” she said.

“You think I’d miss this? I made it to every one of your graduations, and your wedding. You’re my sister. Of course, I made it, you nitwit. Not only that, I don’t want to face your wrath,” Sarah said, grabbing her in a fierce hug.

“Of course, it was close, thanks to that storm in the Atlantic,” she said.

“I love you,” Lilly said.

“I love you too, best friend,” Sarah said, wryly.

And so, Lilly’s life continued. It was one adventure after another, which is always the case, where children exist.

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