||In no way do I claim this story as my own. It belongs to my friend Maryann and she allowed me to put it up here for more feedback on it. From this point forward everything written is copied and pasted.
I hope everyone who reads it takes a minute to post a comment..good or bad!
“I don’t want to go”.
“Now Liz, we have to, and you know it.”
“No, no, we don’t. No, seriously, don’t look at me like that, listen… I’ve given this a lot of thought.”
“Oh, this ought to be good, let me hear it”
“No, Mar, really, I mean it… listen, we can just stay and go to grad school. Think about it, we can still be roommates, we can stay right in this apartment. No packing, no moving. Mr. Roper will be thrilled to have us keep the apartment another couple of years, you know we’re his favorite renters.”
“Yeah, great idea, no big job in Utah, no money, no cross country road trip to get you settled into your new place, no cap and gown nonsense, no pomp and circumstance, no painfully long boring graduation speech by the PRESIDENT of the United States, no big deal, no throwing beach balls during the ceremony, no crying parents, no hearing “I’m so proud of you”, no watching your little sister Bailey looking up at you with hero worship in her eyes as you walk across the stage to grab your degree out of the Dean’s hands. No big congratulatory hug from your hunky boyfriend. I’m pretty sure your grandfather will understand and return the convertible with the big red bow if you refuse to graduate. Yeah Liz, great idea. Let’s go, move it, we need to get to the Student Center.”
“Mariella Chase, I think I hate you.”
“I love you too, that’s why I am going to hold your hand and walk you through this day, because like it or not, we have to graduate today and officially begin our lives in the ‘real world’.”
Liz groaned and sat back on her bed frowning at the boxes and suitcases stacked in the corner. “But I don’t wanna, I’m not ready.”
Mariella laughed, “Yes, you are! You’ve worked towards this day for the last four years. I’ve never known anyone MORE ready than you!” She walked over to her roommate, her best friend, her sister from another mother and grabbed her hand. “Come on sunshine, it’s time to head over, besides, I can’t wait to hear your speech.”
Liz giggled as she got up slowly, “You mean YOUR speech, you wrote it.”
“No, I helped you write it. The ideas were yours, I just helped you find the words to express them. Nobody has to know that I had anything to do with it. All they need to know is that their valedictorian believes in them, has hope for their future and that tomorrow doesn’t have to be a scary place.”
“Oh great, how do you expect me to pull that off when I’m terrified?”
Mariella just laughed, “Let’s go chicka, your public awaits.”
Together they their way to the student center where all the other graduates were gathered. It was a sea of blue and white graduation gowns, people capturing memories with their cameras. There were tears, laughter, excitement and nerves flowing in the air. As soon as they reached their group of friends Liz seamlessly slipped from anxious graduate to the calm fearless leader everyone here thought her to be.
Not many people knew the shy timid side of Liz. Most people only saw the strong, organized, determined Liz. The public knew the Liz that couple probably run a small country single handedly with nothing more than a laptop, a phone, her ipod and an endless supply of coffee. There were only a select few who knew the ‘other’ Liz, the insecure scared one who hates thunderstorms, is terrified of spiders and secretly feared that the world outside of school would swallow her whole.
What Liz didn’t realize, but the rest of the world did, is that she probably could actually run a small country, but even though she could, she wouldn’t want to. Her ambitions weren’t that grand, no, she wanted a much more mild mannered life than that. Her dream was to marry Christopher, her boyfriend for the past four years. Marry him, help him run his family’s business and have six kids. Okay, she liked to tease Christopher and say six kids, but really she’d be very happy to have at least one or two.
Christopher, her rock. She had met him in the spring of her senior year in high school when she was working for Doc Gracy at her vet office. Doc’s business had grown faster than she anticipated and she found that she was short on storage space so she called Gerard and Sons in town to have them build some custom cabinets so she could store medications and supplies safely away from the heavy foot traffic areas of the office.
Mr. Gerard sent his best craftsman over, his son Christopher. He was nineteen, tan, all muscles, his brown hair cut military short and warm brown eyes. He had a perfect white smile that could put anyone at ease. Working in the sun gave his skin a bronze glow that made him even more handsome. He had gone to trade school and had what instructors called “natural raw talent”. He was a quiet kid, he preferred to listen rather than talk, but he could certainly hold up his end of the conversation.
It was a rainy Tuesday morning in May when Chris showed up at Doc Gracy’s office. His goal that day was to get started building the storage unit in the staff room. If he had the job mapped out properly he would probably need a day or two to get the unit built to specifications.
He was in the process of laying out his tools and inventorying his supplies when he heard a squeal followed by the running feet and the sound of laughter. He looked up just as two girls came running into the staff room. They didn’t see him at first. He noticed that one was soaked to the bone while the other was dry and throwing towels at the other. The wet girl was laughing hysterically as she appeared to be dripping from everywhere. She looked as though someone had taken her and dunked her in the ocean then took her out to drip dry. Her blonde hair was hanging wet and lifeless as her clothes clung to her body in (what he considered) all the right places.
As she reached for one of the towels her laughter caught in her throat. She saw him then and became fully aware of the boy with the muscles. She grabbed the towel and hugged it to her body in an effort to cover up.
He watched as her face transitioned from humor and laughter to shy and guarded. He could tell that she was embarrassed so he sent her a reassuring smile and said, “Careful, it’s raining cats and dogs out there.”
Both girls groaned and rolled their eyes at his attempt at humor.
He looked at them and said, “What? Did I say something wrong?”
The dry girl smiled and said, “Cats and dogs? It’s a vet office; we get that one a lot.”
Christopher rolled his eyes then too, “I’m a dope, sorry, that wasn’t intentional.”
The dry one reached her hand out, “Hi Dope, I’m Jennifer.”
He laughed, “It’s Christopher.”
“Hi Chris, the drowned rat over there is my friend Liz, she’s single in case you were wondering.”
He reached out to shake Liz’s hand as her face turned twelve shades of red. He didn’t miss the death stare she had flashed at Jennifer before recovering and transforming again before his very eyes into a smile, however, her eyes remained guarded.
“Do I dare ask what happened?”
Jenn waited for Liz to answer him.
“I had to run out to my car to turn off my headlights, I guess I had left them on, anyway… when I tried to come back in the employee entrance the door had jammed shut on me. I fought it for a while, it does this all the time, then I gave up fighting and started pounding on it so Jenn could push it from the inside. That usually does the trick. Unfortunately, she didn’t hear me. By the time I realized she wasn’t coming and ran around to the patient door the damage had been done and I looked like this.”
The more she talked the more relaxed she felt. Who was this guy? Where did he come from and what the hell was it about his smile? He had no business being here and looking so darn cute when she looked so awful and WET!
“I like your face.”
She almost choked, “Excuse me?”
“Your face, I like watching your emotions shift gears; it shows on your face.”
Liz was torn between being flattered, being embarrassed and being mad at her face for revealing so much.
Christopher laughed, “There you go again.” “No, please don’t be embarrassed, I meant it, I like your face, it’s real, it’s genuine. You probably shouldn’t ever play poker though. Then again, something tells me you’re not a game player.”
Was that a compliment? This man unnerved her! Did he mean she wasn’t a “player”, or did he think she was a dud who didn’t like to play and have fun?
“It was a compliment.”
Oh boy, this was going to be trouble if he could read her this easily!
“Enough about me, what’s going on in here? Oh, are you here to help old man Gerard build the closet thingy?”
Chris chuckled, “Actually I’ll be the one building the storage unit. Is it okay if I set up my stuff over there or will I be in your way?”
Jennifer chose that moment to speak again, “No, that should be just fine over there. I’m going to get back up front, we open the doors in a few minutes. I’m sure you two will excuse me. Nice meeting you Chris.”
“Nice meeting you too Jennifer.”
Acutely aware of her appearance, Liz grabbed at one of the towels and tried to squeeze some excess water from her hair. Why did it have to cling to her head like a skull cap? Why hadn’t ‘Smile Boy’ come in yesterday when it was sunny, she had that cute skirt on yesterday, her hair was perfect yesterday. No, he had to come in today when she looked absolutely dreadful!
“Here, let me help,” he reached for one of the towels. Seeing the look on her face he chuckled and said, “Your hair, I’ll get the back of your hair, you dry your body.”
He walked up behind her and gently towel dried her hair for her. The a/c must have kicked on then because Liz suddenly felt a chill go up her spine. She started to dry herself off as best she could.
Chris handed her the towel back after a couple of minutes, “I might have a spare hoodie in the truck, do you have any clothes you can change into before that chill gets worse?”
Damn him, he noticed that she was chilled? Did this guy notice everything? “What? Oh, yeah, I can throw on a pair of scrubs, I keep a couple sets in my locker over there.”
“Okay, why don’t you go change and I’ll run out to the truck to grab the sweatshirt.” He was out the door before she had a chance to argue. Not that she wanted to argue, she liked the idea of wearing his sweatshirt all day.
Five minutes later he was back with the sweatshirt and she was wearing the scrubs. Her hair was starting to come back to life and she had obviously applied a little make up in that short amount of time. Her eyes no longer had the black smudges under them and instead they were freshly lined and her lips had a pink gloss on them now.
He handed her the sweatshirt, “Here, put this on. When the a/c kicks back on you’ll be freezing again because I’m sure you’re still chilled after that soggy start to your day.”
“Thanks, I will give it back to you in a little while.”
“Don’t worry about it, I think this job is going to take me a little longer than I originally thought, so I’ll be here for the next few days.”
“Great, er, uh, I mean, okay. Thanks again. I have to go now, the doors are open and I’m sure Jenn is being flooded with patients with emergency flea issues or something.”
He chuckled and waved to her as he flashed her one more smile before returning to the staff room. Yes, this project had just taken an unexpected turn. This job might just take a little longer than he planned. Since Doc Gracy paid a flat rate she wouldn’t care if he was here one day or ten. While he was here he might as well take a look at that employee entrance door and see if there was something he could do for it. Heck, maybe Doc Gracy had other things she’d like him to take a look at as well, after all, he wanted to make sure she got her money’s worth.
“So, when faced with the decision of which road to choose, stop and ask yourself, do I want to travel the safe well worn path traveled by many before me, or do I want to make my own path in this world and do things my way. Only you know which choice is right for you, make that decision based on where you are going and how you want to get there. Don’t let society chose for you, don’t let your fears be your guide. Never forget what brought you to where you are today, never forget those who joined you on your journey and kept you company through the hills and valleys, the bends in the road and the slick spots, but most of all, remember those who helped you over the potholes.
On that note, I need to say a special thank you to my favorite co-pilot on life’s road, my best friend, my roommate, my ‘sister from another mother’, Miss Mariella Chase who not only held my hands through this crazy ride, she even helped me to put my words and thoughts into the speech that I gave to you today. May your journeys always be interesting, my you never lose sight of the sun on the horizon, and last but not least, always know that you are never alone on your journey. Whether I am in the front seat or hiding in the trunk (this brought a wave of laughter as it was common practice at their college to hide kids in the trunk when going to the local drive-in movie theater), I am always here to help you on your way.
When you leave here today the road is yours to travel, travel safe my friends, and travel happy.”
Liz gave a small salute to her classmates and left the podium with a smile on her face. The crowd before her stood and applauded. She could see Mariella in the crowd, smiling and wiping at tears that had somehow leaked her eyes. She sent a quick glance to her left and found her mother and father in tears in the crowd standing next to Christopher, who looked just as proud as her parents.
As she found her way back to her seat she was stopped several times for hugs and kisses from her friends congratulating her on her speech. She never rushed anyone, always stopping to return the hug and thank them for their kind words. Finally she reached her seat and hugged her best friend. When Mariella’s arms held her tight in that hug Liz found her own tears escaping her eyes. This was really happening, they were about a half hour from being alumni. How did time fly so quickly?
It seemed like just yesterday she had walked into their dorm. She was the first to arrive in their suite and she was nervous as hell. She checked out the three bedrooms, one was larger than the other two, but that one had three bunks. Her paperwork said she was sharing a room with one person, so she left that room alone and chose the middle room as hers. She was glad she wasn’t in the room with two roommates; it was nerve wracking enough trying to imagine living with this one stranger for the next year. They had written to each other, she seemed nice enough, this girl that the school had randomly chosen for her to spend all of her days and nights with. Did they use some kind of formula or did they just pick names out of a hat?
Liz’s parents were behind her with boxes and quickly got to work. Her mother’s emotions were on high alert that day, she cried at the oddest things. She was making Liz’s bed and stopped to hug the pillow. When she was putting the box of dishes in the little kitchenette she got choked up. Yeah, mom was on an emotional roller coaster ride that day.
Liz was claiming a small spot for herself in the vanity closet when they heard someone come into the suite yelling, “Helloooooooooooo, anybody here?” She looked up in the mirror at her reflection, tried to calm the fluff of ball that was known as her hair, and tested her smile before walking downstairs to greet whoever it was.
When she got to the bottom of the stairs the girl before her said, “Please tell me you’re Liz”.
“I am, are you Mariella?”
In response she came forward and grabbed Liz into a big hug. “Oh thank goodness, are we the only ones here or has anyone else gotten here yet?”
“Uh, no, I’m , uh, no nobody else is here, I mean, yes, we’re the only ones here so far.”
“Yay! Please tell me you picked a room with a view?”
This was all al little overwhelming for Liz, suddenly she realized she never even looked out the window, she had no clue whether the room had a view or overlooked the dumpster! “Come see for yourself, if you don’t like it we can hurry up and change rooms before the others get here.”
“Show me the way.”
Together they climbed the stairs. Liz led the way, walking slow, worrying about whether her roommate would approve of her choice or not. Mariella, on the other hand, eager to check out her new space wanted to take the stairs two at a time.
First Liz showed her the larger room, “This room is bigger, but it had three beds in it, so I left it for whoever is in the three. Of the two other rooms I picked the one in the middle, be honest, if you don’t like it we can change it.”
“Oh man, I love it, this is awesome. Wow, how long have you been here? Your side of the room looks like you’ve lived here for a week already!”
Liz gave a nervous chuckle, “really, are you okay with it? I don’t mind moving to the other room if you like it better?”
“Are you kidding? It’s great! I love your comforter, it actually looks a little like mine.”
“I hope you don’t mind, they originally had it set up as bunk beds, but my dad and I took them apart, we can always go back to bunks later if we want.”
Just then Mariella walked over to Liz’s father and said, ‘Hi, I’m Mariella. I promise not to get your daughter into any trouble, I’m not a huge partier and I am actually here to get good grades.”
Liz’s father cracked up, “Hi, I’m Mike. I am thrilled that you’re here to study and get good grades, but it’s okay to attend a party now and then too. Heaven knows that Peg and I went to several when we were going here.”
“How cool, you guys both went here?”
Just then Peg walked back into the room, wiped the last stray tear from her eye and said, “We sure did, and we have given Liz the run down on where to eat and where NOT to eat. Hi, I’m Peg, nice to meet you.”
“I’m Mariella, you can call me Mar. That’s so cool that you guys went here too.”
The mood in the room changed once Mariella was there. She was full of energy and somehow managed to get the whole room laughing, even Peg was smiling more and less tears were leaking out. Mariella must have sensed that Peg was emotional because she kept engaging her in conversation and keeping the focus on when Peg went here rather than on the real reason they were all there.
Slowly the other roommates started arriving. There was Kathy, the fireball petite one who had a contagious smile and bright brown eyes, there was Kimmy with the long wavy hair and the larger than life boyfriend, Maureen with the beautiful copper hair, and Linda the quiet religious one. The seventh roommate, Margie decided to swap rooms with another girl named Laurel. All in all the rooms seemed to be pretty balanced personality wise, and everyone seemed to be nice.
When it came time for Peg and Mike to leave Peg was once again emotional, but she felt better knowing that her daughter had a wonderful roommate who she was comfortable with. Liz would never forget the calming effect Mariella had on her mother, something that came in handy many times through the next four years.
The roar of cheers brought Liz back to the moment, it was time to walk the stage with her class and receive her degree. Blinking back the tears that came with remembering, Liz put a smile on her face, smoothed her gown, straightened her cap and grabbed her best friend’s hand. Together they walked towards the stage.
Written by Maryann Ziman
comment welcome ....She doesn't believe others will love her writing as much as I do!!!!