(Remember, there are 2 separate but related love stories in this book...it was a challenge to write but I ultimately loved connecting them!)
Vivian stood at the edge of the stage and waited for the Dean to call her name. Since they would receive their diplomas in alphabetical order, Gloria stood at the very end of the line of graduates. If Vivian peered across the quad, she could just make out her friend’s bright red hair. No matter. They’d had their celebration together this morning at breakfast with Gloria’s parents, and they’d celebrate again tonight with dinner at a fancy restaurant in Bluffet Edge.
She shaded her eyes. Guests sat under white tents on the lawn, but the graduates themselves stood under the sun, girls lined up on one side, boys on the other.
The names began, read in stately fashion. One by one, they walked up and across the stage. I made it. I did it. Giddiness bubbled through her veins. Bachelor’s degree in hand, Vivian would take an ocean liner to England at the end of the summer and begin her graduate studies in the fall. She’d study full time at Oxford’s St. Hilda’s College, and she’d never have to go back to her life in the Midwest unless she chose to.
Someone whistled at the end of the line, and when Vivian turned, she saw Gloria grinning and waving madly. She waved back. Through it all, Gloria had been Vivian’s one true friend. They had a circle of acquaintances, of course, but they only shared secrets with each other, and even Gloria didn’t know all the ones Vivian kept close to the heart.
Some of them, the darkest ones, she hadn’t told anyone at all. The only person who knew had graduated two years ago, and he’d taken all their secrets with him.
“Do you ever hear from Will?” Gloria had asked one night a few months ago.
Vivian shook her head.
“Do you miss him?”
Of course, she wanted to say. Every day. She saw his blue eyes, his kind laugh, the smile that warmed her, everywhere she turned. She heard him say I’ll always love you and the words echo against the tunnel walls, coming back to her again and again. Truly, she never stopped thinking of him.
Now she pressed one hand to her heart, above the empty spot in the center of her chest. She’d made the right decision. She had to believe that. But it didn’t mean she didn’t miss him wildly, didn’t think about what her life might be like if she’d said yes to Will.
She dropped her hand, lifted her chin, and walked across the stage to accept her diploma.
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