Sadie had changed. We all saw it, though Diz never seemed to notice or pretended like she didn’t. I can’t say whether the change was bad or good. She seemed more driven, she had direction, so I wanted to say “good,” but I’m not sure where this drive came from either.
I decided a while back that though I think I liked her, I am too young and too much of a screw-up to be of any interest to her. She is Dizzie’s friend and I’m Dizzie’s brother and that’s just weird. That’s what I decided.
“There she is!” my mother cries. “You see her? She looks so gorgeous!”
It takes me a moment to realize she’s talking about Dizzie. Mom is giddy with excitement. She never actually graduated from high school, having run away from home weeks before her own graduation.
Even though I’m here to see Dizzie graduate, I find my eyes firmly locked on Sadie. She looks vaguely like the ghost I knew when I first met her, but now her hair is tied back and her eyes set straight out in front of her instead of at the floor. If she is still a ghost, she has become one that can affect the tangible world, kind of like a poltergeist except she doesn’t throw stuff around so much. Maybe that was a bad analogy. Well, anyway, she definitely seems more… present. Lately.
The valedictorian makes a speech about this year’s theme: rising to the occasion. It all seems very canned. She talks about how her friends have helped her make it through high school and the challenges in classes, especially Mr. Boon’s Chemisty class (laughter from the audience), however she rose to the occasion as we all have to graduate. But her especially. No, she didn’t say that. I just added that part. I guess I’m being mean, but it doesn’t seem right to me to put the most successful student up front to talk about rising to the occasion. Maybe that’s just me.
After that, it’s alphabetical, so Dizzie walks first. They made her remove her lip ring and eyebrow ring for the graduation, though I guess a few years back she wouldn’t have even been able to walk with her hair dyed purple. Sadie’s eyes follow her the entire way down and she looks like she’s in pain. I wish I could take away that pain.
Dizzie grabs the diploma greedily. It’s her ticket out of this school. She’s bitched about it for so long now and finally she’s free. Even though we’re not supposed to, our family cheers like crazy. We planned this out beforehand to wait until she has the diploma in her hand so she doesn’t have to go back to her seat and walk again. Our school is really like Nazis when it comes to graduation. I mean, people want to cheer for their family and friends. What’s so strange about that?
In contrast, Sadie grabs the diploma with hesitation. She doesn’t smile at all while the principal is shaking her hand. In fact, her eyes never really meet his. The principal’s lips move in the standard congratulatory pattern. Sadie turns and walks back to her seat, adjusting the cap on her head as she walks. She twists the tassle in her fingers. I want to be that tassle.
We all rise from our seats and applaud like mad. Someone brought a beach ball and it gets passed around a few times before one of the teachers confiscates it.
We go to the Olive Garden where everyone else seems to be. I’m not sure why Mom and Dad chose this place because there’s a wait and we’re all hungry. Dizzie starts whooping and hollering in the entryway. “Eat it, school!” she cries triumphantly. She already has her piercings in their rightful places. “We did it!”
Sadie smiles. For the first time, I see her smile. Dakota and Chev are eating at a diner with their friends to celebrate, but Kira shows up to meet with us.
“You guys finally did it, huh?” Kira rubs Dizzie’s hair playfully and gives Sadie a hug. And as all this is going on and we sit and eat I keep watching them and wondering: what’s waiting for me at the end of the tunnel? What am I supposed to do until then? How do I cope with myself after dreaming of her for so long?
Sadie smiles and looks at me. I stare at my breadstick.