Chapter Seventeen

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"Don't just be yourself. Be all of yourself." Will spoke into the microphone, making all of the parents gathered in the green luscious field throw their hands up and clap. I looked out at the crowd, various colors collected into one large, proud group.

I looked to my right, over the sea of light blue and sharp gold, shimmering gowns, and received a smile.

As my eyes trailed back to my lap, knee tapping continuously out of nerves, they caught hold of Heidi. She unsteadily raised the corners of her lips into a smile. I smiled slightly back, still stunned by what had happened with her: first the explosion in front of Harry and I, and then apologizing a day later for everything she'd ever done to me?

I returned my focus to the event just in time.

Students, now graduates, bounced out of their seats, littering the happy blue sky with graudation caps.

This was it.

Before it was too late, I followed suit and threw mine into the air with hope as well.

People began to scatter around the field, some returning to their parents with tears sparkling in their eyes, and others dashing into the school for cake, while most fled to their cars, not forgetting to take last-day-of-school-ever pictures with their closest friends.

And I stood in the middle of it, watching the happy chaos.

My sides were squeezed and I wiggled around, turning to face Alexa.

"We did it!" She squeeled into my ear while crushing me into her embrace.

"Yes we did," I laughed, my arms clutching her back.

We parted and made our way over to our parents. My mom was now very close with Lex's mom, and we had plans to go to the fanciest restaurant in town after the ceremony.

I was squished in a group hug consisting of my proud mother and father, my giddy little sister, and a bored Brice. My grandma couldn't make it, but she was joining us at the restaurant in half an hour.

Lex and her mom joined us, my parents congratualing Alexa and her mom wrapping me in a celebratory hug.

Letting me go, she exclaimed, "Let's eat!"

Lex and I were stopped occasionally by fellow students, all embracing us in hugs and tears of goodbyes.

As my family walked to our car along with Lex and her mom next to us, I spotted Luke, with Will, Heidi and Kelly standing by. People swarmed to them, taking pictures and hugging. Luke kept his eyes on me, but I drifted them down to the black rocky pavement of the parking lot, straying behind the group.

"Aria!"

I winced and turned to where my eyes were seconds before, and waved to Will, who had called my name.

He was motioning me over while Luke pretended not to notice.

"Um," I spoke up. Lex had already gotten in the car with her mom, so I said to my family, "I'll meet you in the car."

With my heels clicking on the ground, I made my way over to them.

"Oh, hey Aria." Kelly spoke up.

"Hello." I barely acknowledged her, not really wanting anything to do with her.

Heidi made eye contact after saying goodbye to another girl, "Aria."

"Hey," I nodded my head.

"I'm sorry," Heidi began.

"Save it," I put my hand up. "It's fine. Let's just move on."

Will stepped forward, the material of his gown engulfing me as he hugged me, rubbing my back. "Aria, I'm gonna miss you."

I laughed and pulled back. "I'll miss you, too, Will."

"Don't be a stranger."

"I won't."

"Promise?" He held out his pinky.

"Promise," I giggled, linking mine in his.

I said goodbye to all of my former friends, and I was about to turn back around when Luke said, "I'll see you around, okay?"

"Yeah." I gulped. "See you."

I waved and crossed the parking lot of backed-up cars, attempting to make their way out of the high-school parking lot for the last time in their lives.

When we reached the restaurant, Lex was already seated at the long table we had reserved.

Her mom stood up and waved the five of us over.

Halfway through the meal, Mrs. Webb, Alexa's mom, looked up at me while twirling a fork in her noodles, "So, Aria. What are you going to do this summer while you wait to go to college?"

"I'm gonna get a job. Hopefully."

She laughed and smiled at my mom and dad. "What do you think of going to London for a month?"

I gave her a confused look. I turned my head to Lex, seeing her smiling widely at me.

I stuttered, looking unsurely over at my parents, "Um, I'm not sure... I-"

"Aria, it's okay." My mom smiled at me. "We've talked it over and the three of us think it's a good idea."

"Yeah," my dad piped up, "I think it might be very educational. And a nice vacation."

"What?"

Lex said, "My mom and I are going back for a month to visit. I thought you'd like to tag along."

"Are you serious?"

Everyone nodded excitedly.

Avery tugged on Mom's shirt, "Can I go? Can I go too?"

"Avery, you have camp!"

"I don't like camp." She pouted, her chubby cheeks sinking, and slumped back in her tall elegant chair and crossing her arms. A minute later, she forgot about it and returned to messing up her face by shoving Mac&Cheese into her mouth.

A month later, I was sitting in the airport, my knee tapping on the white tiled floor, with Harry on my mind.

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