Week 31: Val & Jessica
(Val graduates from college)
Val felt completely out of place sitting there, wearing a cap and gown in black. It was midday in the Southern California summer, and she was sweating through the suit she’d worn under the all-black ensemble. Jessica had dressed her in a navy suit and a white button-down with navy dots on it, and while it was what Jessica had called a ‘summer suit,’ so it was breathable, Val wasn’t breathing in it under the heavy gown. Her short hair was tucked under the graduation cap, and she knew she had sweat building up around its edges. All of that made her want to get up and go.
She’d already graduated. She had the grades to prove it. She didn’t need the ceremony. Most of these people sitting around her were at least ten years younger than her, and some of them, more than that. She’d spent most of her life thinking she’d never get here and knew it should be something to celebrate, but she’d asked Jessica on more than one occasion if they could have a party at home with friends and family instead of making her go to the actual graduation ceremony.
“No, babe. You’re going to sit there, walk up, get your fake diploma because the real one will come in the mail, and let us cheer for you,” Jessica had told her.
Val had agreed because she loved this woman and wanted to make her happy, even if it meant she was sweating behind her knees and hated the shoes Jessica had made her wear because they bunched her toes together. The thin socks she had on were maybe breathing, but mostly, they were just annoying.
“You look hot,” Jessica had said when she’d dressed her that morning.
“I hate these shoes.”
“I told you to try them on before today,” Jessica had argued. “You didn’t want to. Now, it’s too late.”
“You know my shoe size. Why do these feel too tight?”
“Because they’re a different shape,” she’d pointed out.
“Can I wear something else?”
“No.” Jessica had kissed her on the nose. “Also, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Val had laughed.
When the dean started calling names, Val felt like it was about to end. She stood up when it was her row’s turn, and they made their way to the stage. She waited in line, and when he said her name, she walked toward him, praying that she wouldn’t fall. Then, she heard it. She turned to see Jessica, Maddox, Avery, Kenzie, Lennox, Dani, and Peyton all standing up and clapping. They weren’t supposed to do that. ‘No applause till the end’ had been the order more than the request by the dean, but her friends were all there, and they were standing next to her family and clapping for her.
It had helped to have famous people in her life because she’d only been given four tickets initially, but Jessica had made some calls and managed to convince the university that it would be great for them to have people like Peyton Gloss, Dani Wilder, Kenzie Smyth, and Lennox Owen there, along with Jessica Morrison. The college had buckled, and now, Val was watching them all applaud her for graduating. She smiled as she took her diploma from the dean and hurried off the stage.