“Jess, are you sure this is a good idea? We could just do this on one of our front lawns or something. Bianca’s house has the perfect view for it. Isn’t that right, Bianca?” Heather Fredrikson nervously said. Heather was not one to break rules, which was a widely known fact around their small town.
Bianca Thompson scoffed, “Heather, you have to chill out. We’re going to our school’s baseball diamond to look up at the stars with our classmates before we graduate. It’s not like we are breaking the law or something. It’s only a little past eight anyways.”
“Look at the sky. The stars are out and it’s super quiet outside. We’ll be fine, Heather. I promise.” Jess Nelson turned around to see her friend shaking and looking tense. She stuck out her pinky and gave Heather a reassuring look. Jess glanced at Heather’s bag to triple check that she brought her inhaler. She sighed a sigh of relief at the sight of it.
The girls were a few blocks from their high school and only twenty hours away from saying goodbye to the last four years of their schooling. Jess, Bianca, and Heather had been best friends since the first grade and were practically inseparable since then. When they were younger, they were certain that wherever one of the girls went, the two others would follow her there. But that way of thinking changed when the girls were led in different directions. Heather decided to go to Harvard, which was no surprise due to her superb grades. Bianca chose to stay in town and go to the community college before she made any major decisions about her future. And Jess received news of a wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Belgium. The different roads the girls planned to take all led to very different locations, which honestly frightened them. In a way, Heather felt like she was losing her security blanket. Bianca was the jealous type of the group and the thought of her best friends leaving her behind felt like a little bit of a betrayal. Jess was the most carefree about the whole ordeal and excited about getting out of her small town in Washington. Belgium seemed like an area on a different planet and Jess secretly loved the thought of that. Their town was, at times, overwhelmingly boring and she had finally found a chance to escape. Telling her best friends about the opportunity in Belgium was not an easy task, but they eventually felt okay about it.
Jess looked at Bianca and laughed. She teased, “The only reason we’re coming here is because Ethan is gonna be there and you want to be with him all night. Is that true?”
Bianca parked her car in the school parking lot and replied, “That’s only a bit true. He’s gonna be there, but I just want one last night with you all. So let’s get going.”
The three walked to the baseball diamond, where they found nearly one hundred of their fellow graduating classmates. Heather and Jess sat near third base and before they knew it, Bianca was off to find her boyfriend.
“The sky looks so beautiful tonight. I bet you can see the same stars in Belgium and I bet I can see them during my all-nighters at Harvard too.” Heather sighed. “Jess, is it weird that I’m so anxious about all of this? I’m moving across the country to go to a huge school and you’re moving across the world. Everything’s going so fast and I’m gonna miss this. Being here and being with you guys is what I know. I’m going to miss the familiarity.”
“Me too, but we’ll be fine. The sky is so beautiful tonight and I really just want to enjoy this night with those closest to me.”
Jess smiled at Heather and when Heather smiled back, Jess sighed a sigh of relief. Heather calmed down and began to enjoy the sight of the night sky and the company of her classmates. The two were reminded of all the summer nights under the stars they spent with Bianca throughout the years. From the “camping trips” in Jess’s backyard to getting lost together in Heather’s neighborhood, the girls were more than familiar with starry nights. That night’s sky brought a wave of nostalgia that rushed over all three girls. A little while later, Bianca kissed her boyfriend goodbye and went back to her best friends.
“Everything good with Mr. Smooch Smooch?” Heather joked.
Bianca playfully slapped Heather’s arm and said, “Yes, Ethan’s fine. He’s with his basketball teammates right now and I have more important places to be.” She winked and whispered, “I love you guys. Tomorrow is gonna be our day.”
The girls sat and talked near the baseball diamond’s third base for another hour before they decided to leave. After taking Heather and Jess to their houses, Bianca decided to stop in a McDonald’s parking lot and continue to look at the stars. The night sky and all of its shining stars gave Bianca peace. Although she refused to admit it, the thought of the upcoming changes terrified her. She was most likely more scared than her peers and made sure to keep that a secret. Stargazing comforted her and she stared at the dotted, dark sky for twenty minutes before finally deciding to drive home. She needed all the beauty sleep in the world before graduation, as difficult as it would be to get.
All three girls woke up early the next morning to get ready for their special day. All three girls did not sleep well, because of excitement and nerves. Heather’s sisters decided to glam her up for her big day with lots of makeup, much of which Heather had never had.
She screamed, “Oh my gosh! What is that?”
“Calm down, you’ll be fine.” Her older sister, Jackie, laughed. “It’s just an eyelash curler. It’s not gonna kill you. Just take a deep breath and it will be over before you know it.”
As Jackie worked her eyelash magic, Heather took a series of deep breaths. Her first experience with the contraption felt strange and unpleasant, but she trusted Jackie to not hurt her.
Gigi, her other older sister, held out two lipsticks and asked, “Which one? Rosy Red or Plump in Pink?”
“The red one, it goes better with my dress.”
Gigi put the red lipstick on her sister and proudly declared, “We’re finished!”
Under her breath, Heather muttered, “You should be, it’s been forty minutes.”
“Tada!” Jackie and Gigi shouted.
Heather looked in the mirror and was impressed with her sisters’ job on her look. Her low self esteem that had plagued her was fading away. She had never felt that beautiful before. She thanked her sisters, put on her dress and high heels, and walked down the stairs to get going.
“Wow, look at you! You are so beautiful.” Heather’s mom exclaimed and began to cry. “You’ve grown up so fast.”
“Kids grow up, honey. That’s a part of life.” Heather’s father comforted his wife. He then took out his camera and said, “You really do look great, sweetheart.”
After a few minutes of posing for pictures, Heather and her parents were off to graduation. In the middle of her parents’ awkward attempts at small talk, Heather sighed and asked, “Can we just be quiet until we get there? I’m really nervous.”
The girls met up near the school auditorium, where they put on their caps and gowns. Bianca laughed and said, “God, we all look like such dorks. Even Savannah Garrett and Julia Beckett look geeky, which never happens. Am I right?”
“You’re right, we all look kind of dorky.” Jess laughed. She looked over to her right and noticed how tense Heather looked. She whispered, “We’ll be okay. You’ve got this, H.”
“Line up in a single file line! It’s almost time!” One of the teachers yelled.
“I guess we have to get going.” Jess said and hugged Bianca and Heather. “See you later, loves!”
Asking a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds to line up in an organized fashion was, naturally, an unrealistic request. Shortly before the ceremony was set to commence, Jess’s parents approached her to tell her very surprising news.
“So I’m leaving for Belgium tomorrow? But that’s super soon. I thought I was supposed to leave in a month.”
“I know you were looking forward to spending some of your summer here with your friends, but the university in Belgium wants you there as soon as possible. They have a summer travel program and they’re offering you a once in a lifetime deal of a two month trip around Europe for a next to nothing price. Your travels start in a week. We know you’ve dreamed about that program too. You’d fly from Belgium to the UK and then go and explore ten countries. Your residency in Belgium would remain the same, so there are no legal issues there. I’m really sorry that this is such short notice.”
Jess’s heart raced. Her mother’s apology meant nothing to her, because she was extremely grateful and ecstatic about the opportunity. When Jess found out about the program while applying to study abroad, she fell in love with the idea of being accepted and traveling across the European continent. She tried to not get her hopes up, but it felt impossible to not think about it. Even though her plans for the next month had just flown out the window, Jess was certainly not upset. She screamed, “No way! This is the best news ever! Mom, dad, thank you! Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome.” Jess’s father hugged her and said, “We love you, sweetheart. We’re happy that you’re on board with the idea. We’ll see you later.”
Jess tried her best to not jump up and down and scream. It felt like all of her dreams were coming true and that things were finally falling into place. She ran back to the middle of the line of her graduating classmates and maintained her composure. The music played, signaling that the ceremony was officially beginning. The catchy song played at the start and end of every graduation ceremony seemed like an annoyance before, but it was a song of serenity in that moment. She walked through the school’s massive auditorium, passing a crowd of happy faces from the spectators there. The joy from her parents’ splendidly, surprising news and her final goodbye to high school was overwhelming, but in the best way possible. Her nerves started to disappear and her feelings could only be described as blissful. At that moment, Bianca’s heart started to race. She worried about everything from her makeup to the timing, but tried her best to be cheerful in that moment. Fortunately, she remembered that this day was a once in a lifetime celebration. The rest seemed to fly by for her. Names were called in alphabetical order and waiting patiently for hers to be called was torturous. She felt proud when her friends’ names were called and cheered for them, but she craved that moment for herself. The time seemed to slow down. Finally, it was her time.
Seeing the smiles on her family and friends’ faces brought one to her own. Grabbing her diploma, shaking her principal’s hand, and posing for a picture was exciting. Although it lasted for maybe thirty seconds, she knew she would never forget those short thirty seconds. Right when it was all over she ran around outside to find Heather and Jess. When she found them, Jess told them the news she had found out right before graduation about leaving for Europe much sooner than thought.
Heather’s jaw dropped. She asked, “Wait, Jess, you’re leaving tomorrow afternoon? You never told us that.”
Jess looked down at the ground and replied, “I didn’t know that I was leaving tomorrow either. My mom told me like twenty minutes before graduation and I couldn’t find you guys. Our last names don’t all start with the same letter and it wasn’t like I could interrupt the whole ceremony to tell you guys. I’m so sorry.”
Bianca began to burst into tears. She whispered, “Jess, how could you? We were supposed to have one last summer together before we all had to go our separate ways.”
“B, it’s not like we’ll never see each other again. I’ll come and visit when I can.” Jess reassured Bianca. She stuck out her pinky finger and said, “Pinky promise.”
Heather asked, “Can we come back to the baseball diamond tonight and watch the stars again? The view from there was perfect.”
“Of course. I’ll meet you guys there.” Jess answered.
At all three of their graduation dinners, the girls felt different emotions. Jess was overjoyed because of leaving for a special summer and enjoying the company of her loved ones, but she felt like she betrayed her two best friends. Bianca was glad that the last four years of her life were behind her but was more scared than ever, and a nice party could not change that. Heather was distracted during the festivities, but the thought of Jess leaving so soon triggered a sadness that she had not felt in a while. After all of the graduation celebrations were done, the girls returned to their school for one last time.
“We made it.” Heather declared. “Wanna sit at third base again? It had the best view.”
Bianca nodded and said, “Sure, let’s do that. It looks even better than last night.”
“You’re right, B. The others are missing out.” Jess said.
She smiled at the stars and then at her friends. She felt more gratitude for her friends than ever and the moment was serene. In a way, she wished that the time under the stars would last for a lot longer than one night. When she realized that this was her last night with her best friends for a while, the moment became so much more bittersweet. Heather calmed down under that night’s sky. The panicked pal of the group had not felt that at peace in a long time. Leaving her inhaler at home did not seem as big of a deal as normal. Like Jess, she wanted to stop the clock and stare at the stars for a long time with her closest friends. The shock of Jess leaving still affected her significantly and Bianca was feeling the same feeling. Bianca started to feel guilty about all the times she ditched Heather and Jess for a boy, but then took a deep breath and remembered that their time under the stars could possibly be the last one. The girls started to talk about the stars, amongst other topics, before falling into silence once again.