Renaissance Online's second serial story, "Dear Dreadful Book" will appear over four months, concluding with this issue.
SHARON E. SVENDSEN, an English teacher and writing instructor, is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. She makes her home in Bremerton, Washington.
DEAR DREADFUL BOOK
This morning, Mom and Dad gave me their graduation gift - a computer. It has a neat printer and everything. It has this one big slot where you put in encyclopedias and stuff. They got me some word processing software, too. Maybe once I learn how to use it, I'll put my diary in there. It will be great for writing college papers, and for writing letters to Larby when he goes away to school. And there's other kinds of software you can get for like accounting and stuff. Mom and Dad got me evervthing, even down to plastic covers and a mouse pad. Oh, and they got me the cutest little cover for the mouse. It has this little mouse head with whiskers and funny ears and glasses. When you put it on the computer's mouse, it makes it look like a big, fat, white stuffed mouse. I love it.
Lizzy and Rose came over to see me in my cap and gown before we left for commencement. They gave me a pen and pencil set and a funny card with a hundred-dollar bill inside. Pretty nice, huh? I wanted to let Lizzy know that I've thought about things and I feel different now. But what could I say? I realized you're not such a creep after all? No, I kept my mouth shut. I did thank them for the money, and I was going to give Lizzy a hug, but I just couldn't - not with old Rosie the superjock staring me down.
It's kind of hard to look cool in a cap and gown - unless you're like Pamela Smythe - but the fact that you're graduating is cool, and everybody else looks just as dorky as you do. But when we got to the school and I found Larby, he looked just right - as if he was born to wear a cap and gown. He had his gold honor cord on, too, and that looked nice. My Mom and his Mom took our pictures together. Then Mom took my picture with Trina and Lux and Marcy. Then we got a picture of all of us with Larby and Oogy and Ken in the picture, too. Just before we had to get in line - Larby had to go in with the honor students - Larby gave my hand a little squeeze and smiled at me. I smiled and squeezed back. It was like we were saying: go for it!
We all marched in and sat down. They had seven thousand people get up and say things. Then Gilbert Nordstrom and Gina Washington got up and spoke. Then Larby got up to give his commencement speech. It was so beautiful and he was so beautiful. I was so proud of him, I started to cry. I heard people murmuring afterward about what a great speech it was. I can't even remember what he said. I just know it was wonderful. He's going to give me a copy of it so I can read it and keep it forever. I will treasure it. Then we all marched up and picked up our diploma covers. (Our diplomas will be mailed to us.) When Larby got his diploma cover, I cheered and clapped. When they said my name, several people cheered. (Wouldn't it be awful if no one cheered for you?)
Larby danced with me a lot at the party afterward, We just had so much fun. I'm glad we don't have the pressure of being boyfriend and girlfriend. We can just relax with each other and enjoy ourselves. We laughed so much. At one point - well this is weird - he put his one arm around me, just sort of across my shoulders, just friendly like, nothing lovey or sexual, but it turned me on. I felt this kind of heat inside me and my breasts kind of swelled up or something and I had this feeling like I couldn't catch my breath. And it was Larby who made me feel like that. And I liked it. I mean, it wasn't a slutty feeling or anything. It was just sort of natural and clean. God, wouldn't Larby be horrified! I had to excuse myself and go into the bathroom. I took some deep breaths and got control of myself. I can't have any of that stuff going on.
When Larby brought me home from the school's graduation party, he kissed me. It was just so nice. And I felt so happy. I just wanted to go on kissing him forever. Isn't that funny? I mean, he isn't even my boyfriend or anything. I watched him as he walked to his car and I just felt this sweet tenderness toward him. He is such a nice guy.
So. Tomorrow is my Mom's graduation party. If I can just get through that, everything will be fine.
I told Mom I was going to help her with the party, but she let me sleep in until ten o'clock. By then she had everything ready but the food. I had a little bit of cereal to hold me over than I helped Mom put together some relish trays. There was this big cake in on the dining room table. It had a little plastic graduation cap on it and it said, "Congratulations Cindy." It was really nice.
I went up and took my shower and got ready, then I helped Mom set out nuts and mints and stuff. Marcy and her sister Janice were the first to arrive. I hadn't seen Janice for almost a year, so that was nice. She brought me a present of some darling earrings she'd bought in Chicago. I just love them. Then Mom's friends started arriving. They brought me presents. It was kind of embarrassing. Then Trina and Oogy and Lux and Ken and other kids from school got here. I kept watching for Larby. finally he arrived. Then more people.
Lizzy and Rose were the last to get here. I saw them come in and I meant to go over to them right away, but one thing led to another and I didn't do it. Then Mom was putting the last of the food on the table and she asked me to go find the napkins. I went into the kitchen and didn't see the napkins, so I went into the pantry. I heard somebody come into the kitchen, but I didn't think anything of it at first. Then I realized the people were arguing. Then I realized it was Aunt Lizzy and Rose. They were arguing over me and Lizzy was crying. "Sh," she said. "I won't shush," Rose said. "Why should I? I can't just stand by and watch some little spoiled snot hurt the woman I love." Lizzy sniffed. "You don't understand. She's just young." Rose said, "I don't understand? The hell I don't. I understand she's been breaking your heart for the last two months." "Oh," Lizzy said, "she hasn't been breaking my heart." "The hell she hasn't." I started to cry. Rose said, "I'm not going to stay here and watch it. It just tears me up." Lizzy said, "Please stay. I want to stay." Rose said, "I can't. I just can't watch it." I came out of the pantry blubbering. "Aunt Lizzy, I'm so, so sorry." They were both surprised.
"Cindy," Lizzy said. I said, "Mom was right. You've never given me anything but love. And I've been such a butthead." Aunt Lizzy said, "Well, yes, you have." Then we were laughing and crying and hugging each other. Rose was looking astonished. "I love you," I said to Aunt Lizzy. She said, "I know." Then Larby comes into the kitchen saying, "Cindy, your Mom wants to know - Oh." Lizzy and I laughed and sniffed and broke away from our hug. "What does Mom want to know?" I asked. He said, "If you found the napkins." I found a Kleenex and blew my nose. "No. Not yet. Larby, have you met my Aunt Lizzy and her friend Rose?" "No," he said, "nice to meet you." "Larby?" Aunt Lizzy said. "Oh. Lawrence. Margaret speaks very highly of you." They talked to each other while I went and found the napkins. I just felt so kind of free and grateful. I found my Aunt Lizzy - and I hadn't even known she was lost!
Dinner was "buffet style" as Mom says. Larby and I sat near Aunt Lizzy and Rose. Rose kept looking at Lizzy and me, as if she was skeptical of our reunion, or whatever you'd call it. Let her be skeptical. I don't care. I still don't have much use for Rose. But I guess Rose and I can tolerate each other for Lizzy's sake.
I went shopping with Trina and Lux today. We all got graduation money. Trina and Lux said I looked all glowing. Isn't that nice? I've been trying to eat right and exercise. It must be showing.
I got the cutest outfit. It's a blue top with a matching split skirt. Larby likes me in blue. It looks like a jump suit when I put it on, but it doesn't have all the hassle of having to take the whole thing off when you go to the bathroom.
We were all going to meet Larby and Ken at the movies. It's so nice to have such good friends. So we were walking through the mall, and who did we meet? Rita and Sid! They were all lovey dovey and I was surprised: I didn't mind seeing the two of them like that at all. I must be over Sid. They, however, could not resist being nasty. They tried to bug me about Aunt Lit and Rose by making a comment which was too stupid to repeat. I just stared at them. I told them, "They are actually normal people, you know. They happen to love each other." "Huh?" said Sid. "Love?" said Rita. They stood there with this dumb, stunned look on their faces - as if I had been talking about people from outer space. I just turned around and walked away. They looked so dopey. They both have a lot to learn and understand.
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