“Seriously, Rika? You had us waiting all this time just because you wanted to flirt with Marcus?” Nora asked, arms crossed and pointer finger impatiently tapping against her bicep.
“What?” Rika’s face lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. “We aren’t like that! We were just coming up with plans for next year.”
Nora looked like she was about to implode. “Bitch, we’ve graduated. There is no more student council work for you to do. You are literally planning a date. Holy shit! Is anybody in this group not dense?”
I began to hold up my hand before withering under her glare and allowing it to drop to my side. Instead, I stepped closer to Ethan, hoping to get out of her range of sight.
“Don’t come over by me, dude. You reap what you sow.”
Her scowl deepened as she looked between Ethan and Amelia. Chloe and Rika at least had the foresight to clamber up the stairs behind my girlfriend. Out of sight, out of mind was probably the smartest play they could have made.
“Oh, I’m screwed,” Ethan quietly mumbled.
“Yeah, you must have been, considering how long it took you two to come back from the bathroom together. It doesn’t take no twenty minutes to wet a paper towel and take it to the auditorium. Why the teachers trusted you, I’ll never know.”
“Would you believe the sinks weren’t working…” he cut off, Nora’s scowl twisting into something that would scare the devil himself. If looks could kill, my best friend would be a dead man. Amelia could only fight back a blush, a difficult thing considering how pale her skin was.
Everybody looked to me as Nora began muttering about loose morals, idiots, and the downfall of society. I wasn’t sure how suddenly this became my problem, but I decided to try to calm her down. It wouldn’t be good for her to get an aneurysm on graduation, after all.
“Don’t you sweetie me. I’m just trying to get this goddamn picture that we all agreed on. One last beautiful photograph to commemorate our time in high school.”
She spread her arms wide to fully display the beauty of the stairwell. With the excitement from the upper floor fading over a year and a half, it had more or less returned to its original state. Cobwebs were rampant, dust bunnies were free to roam, and dirt and grime were more visible than anything else. And yet, we had never found another hangout spot. Somehow this had been it throughout our time at school, making it a fitting location for a final picture.
“Alright, everybody.” Rika rose to her feet, clapping her hands together. “As fun as it is to piss Nora off, let’s not waste any more time. We’ve got parties and everything else to get ready for tonight.”
Nora huffed but otherwise remained silent, agreeing to the truce. We all gathered close together in front of the first step, and Ethan pulled out his phone. He raised it high above his head after ensuring it was primed to take a selfie.
“Alright, everyone set?”
We all nodded.
That was all the warning we got before the flash went off, and the photo was taken. He brought the phone back down, so we could examine it. It was a nice photo I had to admit. The girls all looked beautiful, and Ethan and me were alright too. And I couldn’t deny how happy I looked to be there, squished in the middle of everyone with my smile stretching from ear to ear.
Rika nudged me, bringing me out of my daze. “C’mon, we still got to pick up those wedding invitations from Mr. Morrison.”
That was right. He had invited me to his wedding after introducing me to his fiance after school one day; the same girl that had broken his heart years ago was now the reason he seemed more content than ever. Funny how things could work out that way. Of course, he extended the invitation to the rest of my friends too after we had exchanged those stories we promised, likely seeing a lot of similarities between us and himself from high school.
Rika grabbed onto my arm, yanking me toward the heavy door of the stairwell. I grabbed onto Nora, who in turn grabbed onto Amelia, who in turn grabbed onto Ethan, who in turn grabbed onto Chloe. With this crazy procession complete, we rushed down the hallway, laughing like a bunch of morons on our way to his room. None of the other teachers bothered to correct us, tired from the events of the day, so we continued on.
And as I ran through the halls I thought about how good it was to have control over my own destiny, how I no longer felt like some sort of sidekick. I was just me, and that’s all I ever needed to be.