I never intended on writing and epilogue for this story, because I always wanted it to be about the "code" and how rules were made to be broken. Now, I think this story is really about friendship, so of course I had to finish it. Here it is:



5 Years Later:

I sat next to Mrs. O'Connor in the plush, cushiony seats inside the University of Chicago's main recital hall. It was the kind of place old people and violin experts regularly attended, so pretty much the opposite of my scene. Nonetheless, I was wearing khakis and a tie. This was a special occasion. There was going to be cake. Maybe even ice cream.

Mrs. O'Connor toyed with the ends of her handbag that occupied the empty seat next to her. I knew she was saving it for Carter. Eliza and I had a bet on whether or not he would come. She was more optimistic than me, but that was Eliza for you. I hadn't seen Carter since last Thanksgiving, when he' asked me to pass the nut cracker. He hadn't even looked up in time for me to say, "that's what she said."

"It's starting," said Mrs. O'Connor, and fanfare broke down all around us. Trumpets, bassoons, sousaphones, you name it—the marching band could play it all. They could even do it indoors. Right next to us. The class of 2017 honors students filed onstage from the wings of the auditorium. There were only forty of them, and I could spot Eliza's tall, confident walk easily. I grinned when I saw her. She looked like a model in her black cap and gown.

I'd graduated from Indiana University the year before, with a degree in Sports Management. Basically, when I finished my soccer career, I would be ultra-qualified to coach. My full-ride to IU gave me a position on their soccer team, and when that was over, I had a year as a free-agent to try out different major league teams. I would find out if I had a spot on any this afternoon.

After high school, Carter had booked it to the other side of the country. He played for Stanford, and had just finished his first year at medical school. Mrs. O'Connor couldn't have been prouder of him, and of Eliza, who was about to graduate with an art degree. Not to worry though, she'd already been picked up by Pixar Animation studios, like the amazing, talented absolute boss that she was. More than anything, I hoped to get placed on a MLS team in L.A. It had worked in college, but neither of us could do long-distance forever.

Just thinking about the future made the graduation necklace I'd bought her feel heavier in my pocket. I'd never bought real, grown-up jewelry for anyone before. I hoped she'd like it.

"Sorry," Carter bumped into my knee as he climbed over me to take his seat.

"Don't worry about it," I muttered as he sat on the other side of Mrs. O'Connor. She visibly relaxed when Carter sat. She had nothing to worry about anymore.

"Eliza O'Connor," the dean finally called. And Eliza walked across the stage to receive her diploma. I clapped like an idiot as she did, and I looked over to see Mrs. O'Connor tearing up. Carter too, was wiping his eyes for his sister's accomplishments.

It was a quick graduation, as it should be. After the degrees were conferred, the dean invited everyone's parents to come up and get photos with her and the students. It was like pictures with Santa, only he wasn't in costume, and everyone was wearing these weird medieval dresses. Mrs. O'Connor, of course, jumped at this opportunity. She was doing well, despite everything that had happened with Eliza in Australia. And even though Mr. O'Connor had done what he could to help, there was no undoing the sketchiness that man brought to their lives. No one had seen him since that night at the hospital.

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