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Zoey Passmore looked at her watch. Only fifteen minutes until I'm a high-school graduate, she thought, taking a deep breath and repositioning herself in her chair. She fiddled with the gold-and-silver chain-link bracelet she wore around her right wrist and tried not to look at her watch again.
It was hard to believe this day was finally upon her, but here she wassitting in the most uncomfortable folding chair on earth, on what felt like the hottest day Chatham Island had seen all year, her legs itching under the graduation gown she was wearingwaiting for her life to change.
It was funny, but Zoey had spent so much time imagining what her graduation would be like, and she'd never had any idea how she'd actually feel. All the scenarios she'd envisioned had her feeling a little relieved, and even a little nostalgic, but none of them had her feeling like she did right now: like nothing would ever be the same again.
"If there's one thing I can leave you with, it's that you should always follow your dreams," the principal was saying as he closed his speech, his voice resonating across the football field. What's wrong with me? Zoey reprimanded herself as she felt herself tearing. I can't believe I'm letting the principal's speech get to tire even a little bit.
Zoey turned her head to see if Aisha Gray, who was sitting directly behind her, was having a similar reaction. But of course Aisha, pragmatic as ever, was just staring straight ahead, as if she were listening to a physics lecture or a seminar on how to take your SATs.
Zoey whipped around toward the audience, the tassel on her graduation caphitting her on the side of the head. She scanned the crowd for her best friend, Nina Geiger. The minute Zoey's eyes met Nina's, her friend crinkled up her nose disdainfully and gave a roll of her eyes that read: Can you believe this cheese fest?
Zoey turned back around. Just wait until it's Nina's turn, she thought. She'll see what it's like. Nina was a year younger than Zoey; a year younger than most of her friends. She had a whole year at Weymouth High School to go, and she'd already made it clear that she was not exactly thrilled to be left behind.
Zoey felt a tap on her shoulder. It was Aisha. "Look, they're handing out the awards," she muttered under her breath. Zoey sat up in her chair. "Of course, it's David Barnes," Aisha said, sighing. "You better believe he got the science award."
Zoey shot Aisha a comforting glance. After all, this couldn't be easy for her. Not so much because Aisha had wanted to win the science award herself-which she had-but because it probably wasn't very easy to see David Barnes after what had happened at the prom. Zoey couldn't help thinking: I told you not to bring two dates with you; I told you that you'd get busted. If you had listened to me, everything would have worked out.
Then again, Zoey figured, as far as Aisha was concerned, everything really had worked out for the best. In that inimitable Aisha fashion she'd managed somehow to extricate David Barnes from her life, and now she and Christopher Shupe, her long-lost fiance, were engaged to be married.
Zoey got a chill just thinking of one of her good friends getting married. She couldn't even begin to consider that for herself right now. Of course, in the back of her head she hoped that Lucas Cabral would be the guy she spent the rest of her life with, but she wasn't delusional. She knew that a lot could happen in the next four years. Lucas was forever drumming it into her head that distance would change things, and with her at the University of California at Berkeley and him at the University of Maine, there was certainly going to be a lot of distance between them.
Lucas was sitting a couple of rows back and to the left. Zoey tried to catch his eye, but he was staring rigidly toward the ground. Zoey felt a pang in her stomach. What's wrong with him? she wondered. Lucas had arrived at graduation late, and he had remained sitting in a slumped position the whole time. Even now Zoey could only see his blond head, bowed down between his shoulders.
Should I get out of my seat and go over to him? Zoey wondered. Or would I just be making a scene? She couldn't imagine what was wrong with Lucas, unless what was bothering him was the same thing that had been bothering him for the past few months: that she'd be going away to California and he'd be staying here in Maine. But we have the whole summer in front of us, Zoey thought.
She sighed and looked up at the stage. Claire Geiger was receiving her award for being class valedictorian. Zoey was struck by how good she looked: The graduation gown actually looked flattering on her tall figure, and her long black hair was glistening in the sun as she moved gracefully from faculty member to faculty member, shaking each one of their hands.
Zoey looked at her watch again and then at the program. If Claire was up there now, giving her acceptance speech, that meant that handing out diplomas was the next order of business. Zoey began to prepare herself for the trip up to the stage. She reapplied some lip gloss she had in her bag and combed down her dark blond hair as she listened to the principal rattle off the names of students, going alphabetically down the list.
"Lucas Cabral!" the principal called out, and Zoey shot to attention. She jumped out of her seat and gave a loud whoop. Lucas turned, and when their eyes met, she saw his wry half smile and felt a warm shudder run through her body.