Celeste lay looking up at the stars, her back pressed into the sand.
“Ugh, that was great,” Chris groaned from somewhere beside her. The only other sound was the gentle rolling of the waves.
Eventually Celeste heard Chris lighting a cigarette but her mind was drifting. It was the last weekend before school went back and she couldn’t stop obsessing over her senior year. Homecoming and the winter formal and prom and graduation. She already could hardly wait to pick out her prom dress and have grad photos taken.
Chris was saying something just above her left shoulder but Celeste felt suddenly alone. He’d graduated in May. He didn’t have to worry about this shit anymore.
“You wanna watch a movie or something before I take you home?” he asked, throwing the cigarette across the beach.
Finally Celeste sat up, righting her clothes and beating sand from her hair. “I have a lot to get done before school goes back,” she said. “I think I’m just gonna call it a night.”
Celeste spent the next few days picking out her outfit for the first day of senior year and packing binders and pencils into a giant purse that would serve as a backpack. “No one is using backpacks anymore,” she told her parents.
She pulled off her first day outfit effortlessly and the year started falling into place. She liked all her classes and always got invited to the little diner up the street at lunch. She started going to the movies after school just because Chris had scored a job there. “My parents said I have to do something,” he explained sheepishly.
She talked Chris into being her date to homecoming despite him hating both dances and suits. “Think of it as your practice round for prom,”she had told him with a smile.
“I didn’t make you suffer through my prom!” Chris had protested.
“That’s because you didn’t want to go to your prom,” Celeste laughed. “I’d have been thrilled to be your prom date.”
So he showed up in dress pants and a black dress shirt, forgoing the formality of a jacket but looking absolutely stunning and attracting the glances of all the girls who remembered him being a senior the year before.
“We’re shoo-ins for prom king and queen,” she whispered in his ear as he danced her around the floor.
This great streak didn’t even last until the winter holidays. She found herself too tired to go to the big Thanksgiving school football game. She started heading home after school to do her homework. The food at the diner bored her and the smell almost made her sick.
She couldn’t talk Chris into going to the winter formal with her. She realized that she would rather study for midterms anyway. She snuggled up in flannel pyjamas and ate leftover Christmas cookies with her books spread out around her.
Their Facebook still said that they were in a relationship but neither were making much of an effort and Celeste suspected that other girls had started going to the movies after school just because Chris had scored a job there.
While Celeste had been looking forward to her senior year so much, she now found herself counting down the weeks until the end of May and the end of high school. She had never been more excited for anything in her life. In the meantime she focused on doing her best in her classes.
When spring rolled around and the greyness of the winter started to fade, Celeste’s friends would ask her to blow off classes to do other things.
“I should really get to class,” Celeste told them again and again. “I’m already missing enough time for doctor’s appointments and stuff anyway.”
Eventually they quit asking.
“I take it you’re not bothering to do anything for spring break,” Chris stated one night over the phone. It was a Friday evening and he was getting ready to go out with friends. Celeste was already in her pyjamas.
“Like what?” she asked.
“Like go somewhere a little warmer and party.”
“That’s what I thought,” Chris said. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said. He didn’t.
“I think I saw him on a date,” a friend told Celeste quietly in the school hallway. “That’s what it looked like to me.”
Celeste just shrugged.
“Aren’t you even going to try? He probably just misses when you were fun-”
Celeste pushed past her.
Studying for exams ended up being one of the best times of the year. For the first time she felt like she really knew the material. She sat out under the warm sun, her tired feet stretched out on a chair in front her, reviewing the material she’d learned that year. She brought her books along to her doctor’s appointments and read in the waiting room. Every single appointment began later than scheduled. Other patients told her how “cute” it was to see her sitting with her textbooks. The doctors complimented her studiousness.
By the time exams began Celeste’s body was exhausted but she was so excited.
Celeste stood after her last exam and made her way awkwardly to the front of the room. She handed her teacher the stack of papers.
“I’m sure you did great,” her teacher told her kindly. “You were a great student this year. You should be very proud of yourself.”
“I’ll see you at the prom tonight?”
“I don’t think so,” Celeste said with a small smile.
That night, as her friends slipped into their dresses with color names like fuchsia and scarlet and peacock and salmon and burnt orange, Celeste found herself laying on the sand where she’d been just nine months before. A lifetime ago.
She had heard rumors that Chris was going to be at the prom- her prom- with another girl. Her dress was probably turquoise. Chris probably wouldn’t wear a jacket.
Her hand found her stomach, gone from a sweet little bump to an entire home. She felt her back press into the cool sand. She gazed up at the sky. The first stars were beginning to appear overhead.
She didn’t feel lonely at all.