Well, I poured over this for weeks, trying to make it prefect. It seems I've reached an end, and I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you to everyone who has read and enjoyed this, and thank you for being so amazing. I hope that this is a fitting end to one of my favorite stories I've written, and that you have also liked it. It has been a long ride, but I'm glad to be able to share it with all of you!
"Holden, you just look adorable!"
Holden spun around just as he was fully embraced by a smaller blonde individual.
"Thanks…Morley." He replied, and she pulled back to grant him a big grin. He readjusted his cap as she stumbled back. "Are you…drunk?" He questioned, raising an eyebrow. She put a finger to her lips.
"Shh…I just had a shot or two. Just wanted to be a little buzzed for our big day!"
He rolled his eyes, placing a hand on either shoulder as the girl rocked back and forth. "Just go find whoever you're walking with, and please try to keep some sense of sobriety."
"So many big words, you're getting me all dizzy." She responded with a disoriented grin.
"That's not me, that's the alcohol." He replied, pushing the girl slightly toward where the mobs of people were. He had just arrived, and scanned the vicinity for familiar faces. He found Julia talking with Reed, so he headed over there, curious as to where Sean was, but not worrying too much. The guy seemed to make a point of being late to school events.
"Hey; you nervous?" Julia asked, turning toward him.
"Not too bad, but it hasn't really sunk in yet. What about you guys?" Holden asked.
Reed gave a shrug. "High school's kind of been my life for the past four years, but I'm over it. I'll miss everybody, but it's not that big of a deal."
"I only spend a few hours a day in this place as it is, so it won't be that big of a transition for me. I barely recognize half these people!" Julia replied, rubbing her hands together and betraying the slight nerves that seemed to be taking her.
"I think we'll all be fine. We're just going to need to hang out a lot this summer." Holden said, reaching over and grabbing one of Julia's hands in his. She offered him a kind smile, and he felt his heart soften, nerves that he didn't realize he had seeming to dissipate a bit.
"Everyone start lining up with your partner in the gym, single file!" Mr. Halk called from the front of the Common's Area. All the students began to head into the gym, searching for their partner.
"Have you guys seen Sean anywhere?" Holden asked.
Julia and Reed shook their heads, and Holden furrowed his brow, looking toward the entrance for his walking partner. He was not about to go in there alone. He entered the gym regardless, getting in line behind Julia and Reed before striking up a conversation with Cecily Founder, known as the petite advocate for the school's branch of PETA.
He turned at his name, finding Kate there. He couldn't tell whether her expression was earnest or restrained, so many emotions playing out on her profile that he couldn't pinpoint one. Either way, he could see the slight glaze of her eyes, similar to Morley's, but this was different. Without even thinking, he reached out, wrapping his arms around her. She returned it, grappling to him like she was being thrown off of a cliff and he was her only means of survival.
"I love you, Holden. I'll never forget you." She whispered into his shoulder, and he felt his stomach knotting. All of it was hitting him now, overtaking him and throwing him into a tsunami with nothing to cling to. What was he supposed to do now? There was no standard, nothing that was going to stay the same. In three months, he would never see another one of these people again for at least four months, in not longer. If ever again.
"I love you too, Kate." He muttered, not because he didn't want to say it but because he just couldn't. She pulled away, and he scrubbed at his face, getting the sleeve of his gown wet. She was crying too, far more than him. Her face was scrunched in a sort of compact way, her eyes squinted shut.
"We've just been through so much, you know?" She continued, wiping at her eyes. He nodded, reaching in again and hugging her tight. He wished he could just pause this moment, just stay in high school forever with his friends and Sean and never have to worry about money or a job or just life.
"Hey, sorry I'm late!"
Holden pulled away and turned to find Sean attempting to get his cap adjusted, a big grin plastered to his face despite his attempts to regain his breath. Then, he caught Holden's expression, and his brow knitted in concern. "Whoah, babe, what's wrong?"
Holden just shook his head, not really able to speak.
"It's all gonna be over, Sean! We're graduating and we're gonna be adults and it's all just gonna…it's all just gonna change and it's just, just…" Kate stuttered, still wiping madly at her face.
"Hey, why don't you go find your boyfriend? I'm sure I spotted Harrison somewhere." Sean said, turning and looking at the girl a bit sternly. She nodded though, not seeming to notice as she meandered her way further back in line.
"Why'd you do that?" Holden asked, sniffing hard. Sean gripped his shoulders.
"You two are toxic for each other right now. Any more of that crap and you'd have the whole student body in tears."
"I…" Holden began, but then Sean pulled him into a tight embrace. The first thing Holden wondered was why in the world Sean would hug him if his goal was to stop the tears. Then, he just allowed himself to melt into the other boy, because this was all he really needed right now. Just someone to tell him he was going to be okay, that it was all going to be okay.
Sean finally pulled back, offering Holden a soft smile before grabbing his hand in his.
"It's time to go everyone! Get ready to start walking!" Mr. Halk roared over the bustle of talking. Everyone turned to the front, and the first couple began walking, heading through the Common's Area to stand outside of the auditorium. Being about tenth in line, Holden had a bit of time to get himself under control before everyone's eyes were on him.
"It's going to be okay, you know."
Holden sighed, gripping Sean's hand tighter. The other boy ran his thumb along the back of his hand, trying to rein in his boyfriend's nerves, but it wasn't doing a ton of good.
"What are we going to do next year, Sean? We're going to colleges that are nowhere near each other. High school relationships, they don't…"
"We'll back it work. I will make it work. I'm not losing you." Sean interrupted, leaning forward to catch a glimpse at the crowd.
"But, what if…" Holden began, but then Sean turned to him, grabbed his face in both hands, and kissed him. Holden's eyes went wide from shock, but then he closed them, hands finding their way to Sean's arms, kissing him back. It was a deep kiss, taking every bit of Holden's heart and nuking it, all of his worries blown away so easily that he wondered what he had even been thinking.
Sean pulled back, and Holden took a deep breath, looking at the other boy. His eyes were calm but strong, and his hands still held Holden's face.
"It's going to be okay. I promise you that everything is going to work out."
Holden nodded, and he actually believed him. Sean smiled then, letting go of his face and grabbing his hand again, turning back to face forward.
"I love you." Holden whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.
"I love you too, Holden." Sean replied, not caring who heard.
And that was when Holden let go. All of his thoughts and fears, he let drift away. He held Sean's hand tight, and just allowed himself to soak in this moment. This was their time, when life became real. There was no more messing around, but it was time. He was ready.