Revised as of 11/16/2015

Hey all, after years of letting this story sit here and adding a chapter at a time, I really wanted to go through and make it better. I'm going through all the chapters, and while the major events will be the same, I am adding character interactions and basically just trying to make the story better. Thanks for your patience and I appreciate those that are still reading this story!

Chapter 1

May: My College Graduation

"Lil! Lil! Lil!"


"Way to go Lily!"

The ruckus my family made was all I could hear as I walked carefully across the stage to receive my diploma from the dean of the university. My mind felt like it was in the eye of the storm, and I honestly felt a bit removed from the moment. It's almost unbelievable that four years have already passed and graduation day has come.

After shaking Dean Miller's hand and taking a hilariously staged photo, I turned and focused hard on not tripping down the stairs in my super cute new wedges. It would have only been fitting punishment for me to trip after laughing to myself over the shortness of Dean Miller, approximately one foot shorter than my own 5'8" in 4 inch wedges. I made it safely down the stairs and promptly had a card and alumni gift bag shoved in my hand by a harried work-study student.

I sought out my parents and siblings in the crowd as I made my way back to my seat. The look of pride on my father's face was enough to bring tears to my eyes. "Don't cry. Don't cry." I chanted to myself on repeat as I finally dropped back down into my seat to watch the rest of the education graduates receive their diplomas.

"We fucking did it Lil!" My best friend Alex's voice rang out as she barreled into the seat next to me.

It was the jolt I needed to banish the tears that were threatening to overflow, "You're goddamn right we did!"

I was ecstatic that the ceremony was at last coming to a close as I could feel my fair skin starting to sizzle under the hot Southern California sun. Alex and I began to weave our way through the crowd stopping to take pictures and speak with fellow graduates, teammates, and professors. As we made it to the designated spot where our families were waiting, we peeled away with hugs and promises to catch up later in the day.

My sister Alyssa enthusiastically threw her skinny arms around my neck, hugging the life out of me. I tolerated it until I ended up with a hunk of her bright purple hair in my mouth. Our father's hand on my back was the only thing keeping us from falling.

"Damn shoes and sister. Thanks so much for almost knocking me down Lys. Dad's the only thing keeping us up right now." I glared down at my sister, but without much heat. Although seriously, if I were to ever break my first bone, it would predictably be here and due to one of my own siblings.

My sister of course gave it right back to me, "Well it's not my fault you're fucking clumsy. You would think you were already tall enough without the heels, but nooooo you insisted on wearing them."

"Yeah whatever," I rolled my eyes as I reached up to adjust the awkward cap on my head, "We all know you will snatch them the second I turn my back."

My mother chose that moment to intervene, "Girls! Can't we take you anywhere? I swear the pair of you act more like children than the adults you claim to be."

She was the shortest and smallest member of our family, but I swear she had a way of making a person shrink down a few sizes. There is truly nothing like being chastised by your mother on your graduation day. However, I took this as a moment to suck up.

"Sorry mom, I'm just feeling a little be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this day. Please, say you'll forgive me for falling back on familiar habits." I batted my eyes at my mother as Alyssa tried to discretely roll hers.

My mother shook her head, "Lily! Do you really thing I would fall for that? And Alyssa Marie, do not roll your eyes at me."

We both nodded our heads and mumbled an apology to each other.

Mom took her time looking through her bag for her phone before leveling a true Mom stare on the two of us, "Pull it together, and get in here Lily Ann!"

I was pulled into my mother's arms, and my dad came up to complete the parental group hug. It was nice to sink into their arms as a small amount of terror was starting to seep in and mix with the jubilation of graduating.

"Oh no. No. No. No. You need to pull it together mother. Right now." I had pulled back to see that my mother was starting to tear up, which was honestly the worst thing in the world as I am such a sympathetic crier. Especially with the emotions of the day running through me, but she just had to take it farther.

She sniffled and leaned into my father's embrace, "Oh Lily Ann, congratulations on graduating honey. I swear it seems like just yesterday that your father and I were dropping you off for your first day of kindergarten." By the end of this she was losing the battle against her tears. Damnit woman, get it under control.

I was really struggling to keep it together at this point. I made one last stab, "Mom, do you think we can save the mother/daughter hugging, crying, and reminiscing session for later please? Maybe when we aren't surrounded by 3,000 people?"

"Yes Annie, keep it together. You girls are going to get me going with the damn waterworks." My father's eyes were suspiciously bright, validating his declaration of tearing up.

I turned and threw my arms around his neck, my shoes putting me almost eye level with him, "Oh dad!"

He squeezed me carefully, "Your mother and I are so proud of you Lily. Congratulations honey. I love you so much."

I was just about done in, "Thanks dad," was all I could sniffle out before my little brothers, or rather lack of them, butted in.

"Christian, where are the boys?" My mom asked, her voice sounding much more put together. Thank god.

Alyssa pointed over mom's shoulder, "They were right under that tree, but they obviously left and I didn't see where they went. I wouldn't be shocked if they ended up lost in this crowd to be honest." My sister lacked tact and timing among other things.

Dad leveled a look at her, "Thank you Alyssa. That was completely unhelpful."

Before anyone could say anything else, both of my brothers popped up beside me and I was suddenly in the middle of a bone-crushing hug.

"I swear I haven't see so many hot chicks in one place since well, ever." Jamie was the older of the two boys and the one to utter this charming line. However, Nick, the baby of the family and not to be left out, was nodding enthusiastically beside him.

As they've both just about reached high school age, with Nick in 8th grade and Jamie in 9th, they are fixated on about two things only these days: girls and soccer. Possibly food depending on the time of day. I suppose they think that it would be a compliment, calling the college-aged girls around them "hot chicks".

"Thanks for breaking up the nice family moment here asshole," I of course had to say something, even knowing what was about to come.

And Ann Hawkins didn't disappoint, "Lily! We have already gone over this! All of you need to act your age and remember where we are. I swear you are all acting like this is the first time that your father and I have ever let you out in a public. Given the event and your ages, this is frankly embarrassing."

Like I said before, nothing like getting chastised by your mother on your graduation day. I contented myself with the fact that my siblings all looked a little shame faced as well after these words from our mother.

"Well let's get it together, and take these pictures! We have a lunch to get to after this. Lily stand here between your father and I." General Hawkins barked out orders. No one changes gears or attitudes faster than Ann Hawkins. Or hands out orders for that matter.

The rest of the day was perhaps one of the most memorable days of my life. Food, family, friends, stories, and laughter.

It was the end to a great day, and as I slid into bed, I willed myself not to think of those fleeting moments of loneliness. Seeing all the happy couples, my parents, Alex and her boyfriend, Alyssa and her boyfriend, it honestly made me wish to have someone by my side to share the happy moments with. Regardless, it was a great day, and with that I pushed those thoughts from my head and fell asleep with a contented smile on my face.