Bonus material! This happens after “I’m Not Her”…
Almost three years after I’M NOT HER is over, Tess is graduating from high school and there are a few familiar faces joining her….
Teenagers in navy blue graduation gowns are swarming the main floor of the convention center.
“I just wish Tess could have worn something a little more appropriate underneath the gown,” Mom whispers to Dad as we make our way through the crowded room, but of course it’s loud enough that I hear it. I think half my graduating class and their families hear her.
I glance down at my grad gown. Against my better judgement and motivated only by the desire to make my mom happy, I’ve given in to social protocol. Underneath the gown, I’m wearing what has to be considered an extremely appropriate dress by every mother in this building. I’ve also allowed her to drag me off to her hairdresser and my ginger locks are shiny and wavy, the way mom likes them. I’m even wearing make-up. With a sigh, I lift a foot and admire my shoes. This is what she objects to, but this is where I quite literally put my foot down. I have a suitable dress and fluffy hair but I’m wearing my purple Converse sneakers. In my opinion, they’re the most appropriate part of my outfit.
“You look amazing.” Kristina links her arm through mine and narrows her eyes in the direction of our shared nemesis. “She looks perfect,” she calls to mom and she overemphasizes the word perfect as she squeezes my arm tight. Kristina smells delicious of course, she always does. We stop walking then, halted by the growing crowd. Kristina lets me go. “The shoes are perfect, too,” she says quietly. Her eyes twinkle because we’ve grown pretty fond of abusing that word over the last couple years.
Kristina is even more startling beautiful these days. Her blond hair glistens and she sparkles in a loose short dress, even though we both know Mom suggested she wear a nice pair of slacks. The dress kicks ass though and also shows off her new prosthetic leg.
“You girls,” Mom says from where she’s also stopped, just ahead of us. She blinks quickly and wipes away tears, dabbing under her eyes to make sure her make up isn’t ruined. “Giggling together like you did when you were toddlers. You both make me so proud.” She means it too. That’s part of her paradoxical charm.
I feel a big hand sweep in and take hold of mine, engulfing, and swallowing it up. My heart beats happily as I turn and look up. “Superman!” I say. “Wow. You look amazing.” And he does. The blue grad gown makes his floppy dark hair look dapper and kind of polished. I swoon a little, even though he’s been my boyfriend for over two years now.
“Lois Lane,” Clark answers with a nod of his head, his eyes dancing behind his dark rimmed glasses. “You look pretty amazing yourself. Especially the sneaks.” He squeezes my hand and bends down and kisses me on the cheek. “But everything else too,” he whispers before he straightens.
“I tried, Clark,” my mom tells him. “I tried to get her to wear heels like a normal girl, but she wouldn’t give in.”
“Nor would I expect her to,” Clark tells my mom and gives my hand another soft squeeze.
Mom rolls her eyes but steps forward to pat him on the arm. She’s grown fond of Clark over the last couple of years. At first when we were just friends, she didn’t really get him, but he’s grown on her. I think even more so since he filled out and got hot. She tries not to care about things like that, but she is who she is, and she does.
“Oh, my God, Clark,” Kristina tell him. “You look amazing. You guys are so freaking cute together. Put your arm around her and stand closer for a picture.”
Kristina’s iPhone is out and she’s snapping pictures of us while Mom finds a friend to gab with and Dad wanders off in search of something to drink from the bar.
“Jeremy would have loved this,” Kristina says when she’s done snapping photo’s. Her eyebrows push together and the old sadness that she used to wear like a sweater around her shoulders appears on her face.
“He would,” Clark agrees and then he lets go of my hand and puts both hands around my sister and hugs the shit out of her.
“Hey!” A deep voice calls, powering over the buzz of voices around us. “You making moves on my girl?”
The three of us turn towards Adam, Kristina’s boyfriend who’s hurrying towards us and Clark lets go quickly.
“You know I can arrest you for any number of reasons in my profession,” Adam jokes. He’s a cop, but he’s sweet and gets extra points for being madly in love with my sister. Kristina met at a cancer fundraising event a couple years before. He chased her for months before she agreed to go out with him.
Clark’s cheeks turn a little pink. Adam’s part of our lives now, but Clark is still adorably awkward around him sometimes. Adam’s only about five years older than us, but he just seems way more grownup.
Kristina smacks Adam on the shoulder when he reaches for a hug, and he laughs. “I’m just bugging you, Clark, don’t look so worried,” he tells him and turns to me. “Tess. You look great!” He smiles widely. “Congrats on your big day, guys!”
“High school graduation,” I tell him. “So, it’s not exactly the biggest accomplishment in the world.” “Graduating near the top of your class with honors and however many academic and art scholarships you have, is though,” Kristina says. “I barely even passed my Senior year.”
“You were going through other stuff,” I remind her. “And now you’re halfway through your Journalism degree and on your way to other adventures, so I think you’re doing just fine…..” I roll my eyes to show that she is, as usual, setting the bar pretty high.
Adam puts his arm around her. “Beauty and brains run in the Smith family. As well as good taste in men.”
Kristina smiles at him. “Whatever, Charmer. This is Tess’s day.” She smiles at Clark. “And yours too.”
She waves her hand in front of her face then and blinks fast. “God. I can’t believe you’re moving to San Francisco soon, Tess. Art College.” She blinks away tears. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
I reach for Clark’s hand and squeeze it.
There’s an announcement over the speakers for all grads to report to the Source Room. “It’s time,” I say to Clark. I glance at Kristina, to make sure she’s okay but she’s smiling again and I know the bubbling over emotions are probably due to her pregnancy, too.
Adam reaches down and pats her bump. Kristina is young, and the baby unexpected, but it’s a miracle baby and everyone is thrilled. After her chemo and surgery, the doctor’s thought she couldn’t get pregnant and yet, here she is only a few weeks away from giving birth.
“I’m proud of you, Tess,” she says. She reaches out and hugs me. “You’re going to have an amazing time in San Francisco. But you better not leave until this baby is out of me. You’re going to be the best Auntie ever.”
I hug her back hard. I haven’t told her yet. That I’m not going to Art school after all. Everyone I love is right here in Tadita. In Washington State. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what’s important to me. And what I want to do with my life. And I plan to tell everyone, soon starting with Clark.
But not tonight.