“This is all a… a pretense,” Ben leaned over to Lisa and whispered.
They weren’t supposed to be sitting next to each other because there were half a dozen people with last names between Hammaker and Johansen, but no one seemed to care. It wasn’t like assigned seating or anything. Maybe that was why Lisa kind of felt like Ben was right.
“Shhh,” she said anyway. “At least pretend you’re listening.”
What she really thought was that she should have been valedictorian. She had a 4.0 right up until the middle of last year. About the time she hooked up with Ben and Gene her grades went down. Now look at her. Not even salutatorian.
“Why did we even come? I mean, we could be writing now.” Ben gave her this intense look.
Lisa couldn’t help herself. She gave him the same intense look back. They were neck-and-neck on the writing thing, with both of them having written about a hundred and fifty pages. She was getting addicted to the word wars. Sometimes when they did it, she felt like she wasn’t even in her own body. She was living the story instead.
The two of them grinned at each other.
“Seriously, Lisa. Why did you want to do this? It’s just middle school. It’s not like high school graduation.”
Lisa shrugged. “I just wanted to. Everything’s going to be different next year. We’re the top of the food chain this year, and next year we’re going to be the bottom. It’s kind of scary.”
“Yeah. East High is kind of scary. I mean, just the building… it’s like a medieval prison or something.”
“Plus there will be a lot more of us there. The competition for valedictorian will be fierce.”
“Shhhhh,” someone in the row behind them said.
“Sorry,” Lisa whispered back.
For a minute or two they both paid attention to the speeches and thought their own thoughts. The salutatorian finished talking about bright futures, and academic achievements and the principal took the microphone.
“As your name is called, come up to the stage and traverse it from left to right to receive your diploma, and then return to your seat.”
Like he hadn’t already said it to them a dozen times.
When it was time for Tracy to get her diploma, the students went nuts with clapping and screaming. They were even louder when Gene went for his. Hardly anyone seemed to notice when Emma got her diploma, so Lisa clapped twice as loud as she would have otherwise, but maybe Emma didn’t want that because she ducked her head and blushed furiously.
“You know,” Lisa said as she and Ben went out to meet up with the others. “I think maybe Tracy and them are going to have an even harder time starting at a new school next Fall than we are. I mean, we’re not really used to being popular the way they are. I don’t think they’re going to know what hit them.”
“Yeah, well, what ever. Before that,” the grinned at her, “it’s Summer Vacation.”
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