Whoever said that graduation is the greatest moment of your life is absolutely delusional. The entire graduating class is seated on plastic white chair on the large turf field look towards the huge audience. Parents, family members, and friends sat in the bleachers excitedly to watch their beloved child, relative, and friend finally receive his or her diploma. We finally arrived to the end of the ceremony when the superintendent makes his speech before introducing me, for the last speech, the valedictorian speech. The entire graduating class is fidgety after sitting down quietly for so long and waiting to finally walk off the field to officially be done with high school.
I fiddle with my bright crimson graduation robe that seemed to trap the heat inside my body. Today is the day. The day when we end our high school careers and begin the rest of our lives no matter where they lead. I look around the graduating class around me. Some of these people, I've grown up with together; others, I've become close with quickly in the last couple of years.
After the hospital visit from the Witch, I've very carefully and secretly without anyone around me knowing. Today is the day I'll make the big reveal during my valedictorian speech.
"And now, I'd like to introduce the valedictorian for the Class of 2012, Miss. Cassandra Forest," the superintendant introduces me.
I grip tightly on to my newly printed speech and walk toward the podium. I hear a round of applause from the audience and the whooping from my friends.
Nervously, I look over the large crowd in front of my to finally make my speech. Although I spent the last two weeks practicing my speech, I actually wrote a different one that I wanted to say instead. I've been hiding it secretly so that no one could stop me and fill me with fear.
All throughout high school, I was Perfect Casey Forest who would never do a bad thing in her life. Everyone always put me on this pedestal where they always called me the perfect role model or leader.
But, I was just a coward. Someone who could never say no to others. Someone who obediently followed orders. And, someone who would never do anything just for herself.
Now, I am not the same person that I was because of some German boy who came crashing through my life. I'm not going to live the life that was created before me. I'm going to make my own path.
I take a deep breath.
"Friends, family, and faculty," I say confidently to the crowd. "And, Class of 2012."
"We started at the bottom of the totem pole as young, ignorant freshman who did not know anything better," I start the speech. "We looked towards upperclassmen for advice, and we paved our own path and identity throughout our four years in high school." Up till that point, the faculty and fellow classmates recognized my familiar and generic sounding speech.
I look quietly over the crowd once more before doing the most rebellious thing I've ever done and go off book.
"This is the part when I tell you that this is not the end of a journey and the beginning of a new one. When I tell you that everyone is going to successful in future endeavors. But, the truth is, only few of us will be successful, and the rest of us may end up living mediocre lives," the crowd that was bustling with excitement is eerily quiet at my harsh words. I see the faculty all at a loss of words debating whether or not to kick me off of the podium.
Before anyone could interfere, I continue on, "But that doesn't mean we should be afraid of the future. You can't run without falling, and you can't stand still hoping that your destination will come to you. That's what we've learned in the past four years in the safety of high school. We learned how to make mistakes, and we learned how to fix them.
"As we leave these safe walls, we'll be making these mistakes without the supervision of adults to give a helping hand when we fall. But, that doesn't mean we should be afraid of the future. From our experiences that we went through… From the people that we met," I remember Benji's smiling face whenever he would wait patiently for me outside of the classroom. "And, from the lessons we learned, we've become stronger.
"Even if we fall, even if we stumble, we won't break. We'll get back up and keep walking our own path. And this I say to my fellow classmates is don't be afraid of the path you choose. The path will be filled with thorns and monsters," I laugh at the thought. I muse at the though of my fellow classmates meeting a werewolf and a witch. "But, don't be afraid. Believe in yourself. Congratulations to the Class of 2012. Take the bold step forward to the rest of the world cause I am."
The crowd confusedly stares at me, and instead of walking back to my seat, I walk off of the field. No one expected that the highlight of graduation would be the valedictorian to walk off the field during the middle of graduation. The crowd bubbles in excitement as the principal walks over to the microphone to calm everyone down.
I take off the graduation robe and let it fall to the ground. Unlike all the other girls who were wearing pretty sundresses, I was wearing shorts and a comfortable t-shirt, so I would be comfortable during the journey.
As I walk over to the far end entrance, I see Ms. von Adalwulf standing with a proud smile and holding my backpack filled with travel essentials.
"You've caused quite a scene," she hands me my bag.
"Well, I wanted to make everyone's last memory of me memorable," I say nonchalantly even though I'm freaking out inside. I still can't believe I even did that.
"The cab is waiting for you," the Witch tells me.
"Thank you," I tell her.
Before she could say anything else, I hear my father shouting, "Cassandra Forest, you march right back there young lady."
I panic and look to my right to tell the Witch to go away, but she already disappeared leaving me to defend for myself.
You can do this Casey. Just like you rehearsed.
"I'm not going back," I said, my voice even. I look at my parents who look very flustered after watching their usually obedient daughter make a huge scene in front of the entire school.
"What do you mean you're not going back?" my mother asks shrilly. Her usually perfect bob look disheveled from running to catch up to me.
"I'm not going back. I'm going to go to Germany."
"Germany? Are you crazy? You could've waited till after the ceremony!" my father shouts.
"I'm done waiting patiently like a little child. I'm going to Germany, and I'm going to make my own path."
"Is this about Benjamin?" my mother sobs.
I close my mouth shut. The day at the hospital I decided to take charge of my own life. Everyone always kept deciding things for me when it came to my life. I was in the hospital because Jason used me in order to get to Benji. And, my parents decided where I would go to college like some ignorant child who couldn't make her own decisions.
Instead of going to my father's alma mater just like he planned, I'm going to see the world and decide what to do with the rest of my life without the interference of others.
First, I have to find Benji. I have to see him. I don't know if we'll get back together like some cliché fairy tale, but I think I'll know what to do right after we meet.
"No," I answer slowly. "I'm going for myself."
"You can't go! Do you think you can survive by yourself in Europe?" my mother asks.
"I've been saving up every penny for my trip to France, and I made enough for to get a ticket and have lodging in Germany," I explain calmly.
"If you leave here, young lady, you are no longer our daughter," my father threatens. If he said this to me a couple of weeks ago when I was formulating my plan, I might have fallen under his overwhelming presence. But, now with adrenaline rushing through me from leaving graduation, I did not bend to his will.
"Then, I'm no longer your daughter," I smile sadly. "Goodbye Jonathon, Vivian," I say their first names and walk away towards the waiting cab. I could hear the wails of my mother and my father shouting about how he has no daughter.
With head held high and tears falling, I get into the car.
"Where to?" the cabbie feigns ignorance to my tears.
"The airport," I respond.
The cabbie nods and drives away from this school that I've called home for the past four years. Good-bye to the old and cowardly me.
I wonder what Benji would think right now. He would probably give me his biggest and say, "You were fantastic, mein schatzi."
I look out the window and take in the last sight of this small town that I've grown up in ever since I was born. Fear and excitement for the future bubble within me. I look up to the bright blue, June sky wondering light-heartedly if Benji is also enjoying the same beautiful sky.
This time I'm coming for you Benji. Just wait.
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