Natalia had been happy to study in the library in silence. The quiet was a welcome change from the twenty questions game Dawn and Clara seemed to be playing with her.
Since Natalia's reappearance, the two girls had been bombarding her with questions. Luckily they all had final exams coming up in a few days...and that would be the end of high school.
At last! Natalia thought. She couldn't wait for the school year to be over with. Of course...the girls across from her had other plans.
“Natalia! Did you hand in the forms for the graduation gown?” Dawn asked her. Natalia looked up, a questioning look on her face.
“What forms?” Natalia asked her friends. “The ones we got in homeroom last week.” Clara told her.
“No...I didn't want the gown. Our school colours aren't exactly something I want to remember wearing.” She told her friends, shuddering at the thought, looking back at her notes.
“How could you not order the gown? You'll be like the only person at grad who isn't wearing one.” Clara said, looking horrified.
“Well, that suits me just fine since I won't be going anyway.” Natalia clarified for her friends.
Natalia could hear the silence fall on their table. Sighing, she looked up.
“What now?” She asked. Both Clara and Dawn looked offended. “You're not going to grad?” They asked in unison.
“No...I was never planning to go.” She told them. “Natalia, I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that...and tomorrow when we ask...I hope you will say yes.” Clara said, waspishly.
With that both girls left Natalia looking frustrated. “What's gotten in to them?” Natalia asked, only Taylor, Steven, and Andre remained. “As much as I'd like to know...I'll pass...let's go over the computer engineering exam notes he gave us.” Taylor said, changing the subject.
Natalia didn't know why Clara and Dawn wouldn't let the subject of graduation drop. It wasn't that she couldn't see why it was such a big deal...it was just that she didn't want to go.
Her friends didn't give up trying to persuade her, but Natalia was equally as stubborn.
“Why is it that you never go to any of the memorable events?” Clara asked her. Some how each lunch period wound up with an argument about graduation.
“Because I don't think it's memorable watching everyone cry about leaving high school when we've been waiting for this day to come. Most of the time it was you two who complained about how boring high school was.” Natalia shot back. Clara wasn't ever one to let anything drop.
“You never even went to the school dances...or the semi-formal...not even the prom!” Dawn told her.
Natalia sighed. “Look I was going to go to the semi...but we all know how that turned out.” She said, dryly.
“Natalia...you can be such a kill joy.” Clara muttered. Natalia was stung. She let it go...for now, Natalia thought, annoyed.
“Will you please think about coming?” Taylor asked her. “Yea...I'll think about it.” Natalia replied.
It wasn't that she didn't like her friends. She had spent many years with them. It was just high school had put a bit of a divide between her and the two girls that sat across the table from her.
While Natalia had turned to studying...those two had wanted to be part of the popular cliques. Natalia had never stood in their way. Natalia had never been interested in those types of things. All she had wanted was to get in to university. She knew popularity was something that faded, it wasn't going to do any good for her.
Things had changed over the years. It had come to the point where Dawn and Clara would badger Natalia for every school event.
Sometimes Natalia hated the fact that they had grown some what apart...but it was hard for her to give in to their every demand. She wasn't interested in the lives of the in-crowd...and they clearly weren't interested in learning how to program...
Natalia was a little torn between going and not going to graduation. She didn't want it to be a farewell to her friends...and she didn't really want to go. The year had been bittersweet...not something she wanted to be constantly reminded of but not something she wanted to forget.
Tension between Natalia, Dawn, and Clara had been rising to a breaking point.
They had pushing her every lunch. She couldn't study for final exams in peace. It was useless coming to school if only to be hounded by the two.
“Look...we have an exam tomorrow. Do you mind letting me study?” Natalia said, irritably.
Clara didn't look like she was going to drop it any time soon. Even the guys were sick of Clara and Dawn constantly bringing up the subject.
“Why aren't you going? Is it because Dallas isn't here?” Clara snapped.
Natalia's head snapped to face her, she could feel a crick in her neck.
“What?” Natalia asked, surprise coloring her voice.
“Just because Dallas isn't here doesn't make it okay for you to blow graduation. I bet if he told you to go you would, but now that he's gone...you could care less about going with us. I guess you never really cared about us, your friends.” Clara said coldly.
“Calm down, Clara.” Andre told her. As of late, even the guys were trying to get Clara and Dawn to stop hounding Natalia.
Natalia couldn't believe where all this was coming from. She had always been around when they needed help. Every time Clara and Dawn had gone and screwed up, Natalia had always been there to help fix it...it wasn't like she had never been there to listen. Why did they always make her sound so heartless?
This year happened to be the year Natalia screwed up, and they weren't willing to let her off?
Natalia stayed silent hoping Clara would calm down.
“You know what, Clara's right. We know you two broke up. You don't have to be such an ice queen about it and everything else.” Dawn said callously, teaming up against Natalia.
“Shut up, Dawn! Natalia's not an ice queen.” Steven said angrily, defending Natalia.
Natalia couldn't mask the horrified look on her face. This is what they really think of me? Her mind clicked. She couldn't stop her reflexes. Natalia dashed out of the library. She didn't stop until she was outside the school.
Natalia took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. She couldn't believe how much things had escalated. Natalia heard the door open behind her. She turned around to face Taylor. He had apparently followed her.
“Are you okay?” Taylor asked. He didn't look happy what had just taken place.
“That's what you all think of me? An ice queen?” Natalia asked, in return.
“No! It's not like that!” Taylor insisted.
“Then what is it like?” Natalia asked, the hurt was bubbling up.
“I don't think of you like that, and neither do the other guys.” He told her.
“Yea...but Clara and Dawn clearly do.” Natalia muttered, upset.
“They really want you to come to graduation, Natalia.” Taylor said, simply.
“They've got a funny way of showing it.” Natalia muttered under her breath.
“It's hard, Lia. You don't make it any easier. They're scared that all of us are going to separate schools next year. It's the one last big thing we can do together...as a group. Why is it that you're so dead set against going?” Taylor asked her.
“Because graduating doesn't mean anything to me.” She told him, without thinking.
“It means nothing to you? To be finally ending high school with your friends?” Taylor looked hurt.
“That's not what I meant.” Natalia protested.
“Okay, what did you mean?” He asked, eying her.
“Look you all will always mean something to me. I know I don't show it...okay I suck with feelings. I'm sorry I don't know how to show that...I'm not the fun, spontaneous type and I don't try to be. I just...” Natalia started, trying to find the words.
“I just don't want to go to grad because it means everything is done...finished.... I've spent how many years with you guys, knowing that I'd have you all right there and it all ends with graduation? That's it? The end?” Natalia blurted out her feelings.
“The end of what?” Taylor asked, looking a little confused.
“High school...lunch in the library...getting kicked out because of Dawn and Clara babbling about who did what...the end of everything...” Natalia said. The end of me and Dallas...everything being so final, she thought to herself.
Taylor put his hand on her shoulder.
“Natalia...just because it's the end of one thing doesn't mean everything will end. We'll still all be friends, most of us will be in Toronto. It's just another chapter...the start of something new.” He told her, sounding wise.
Natalia shrugged. “I guess...if you look at it that way...” She mumbled.
“Come on, you need to patch things up with them...whether or not you come to grad is up to you. But I know you don't want to leave things hanging with them.” Taylor told her. Natalia nodded in agreement. He had always known how to help her put things back together.
The headed back in to the school.
Natalia lay on her bed reading again. Final exams had not been as hard as she thought. She had done well in each of her classes and now she was free to relax at home.
She flipped through the pages of her book. It was called 'The Last Promise'. Natalia had always loved the book. She didn't know how many times she had read it already.
She heard a knock on the door. “Hey Derek!” Natalia said cheerily.
“Hey squirt, shouldn't you be at your graduation?” Derek asked, looking puzzled.
Natalia glanced at the clock. There was about an hour before it would start. Her friends were probably being told how to line up in the cafetorium right now.
“Nope, don't feel like going.” Natalia told him, before turning back to her book.
Although she had managed to get things back to normal with the girls...Natalia still didn't want to go to graduation.
She just hadn't been expecting her brother's reaction. He snatched the book from her.
“Natalia Elizabeth Williams!” Natalia winced as he used her full name. “There is no way you are missing your high school graduation. Not on my watch, squirt!”
“Yes I am!” Natalia shot back.
“Oho no you aren't! You are going to your graduation even if I have to drag you there myself...even if your kicking and screaming.” He sounded menacing. Derek looked ready to do as he said.
He threw some clothes to her, dragged her off the bed, and shoved her unceremoniously in to the bathroom.
“Get ready, now! I'm calling Mom and Dad to meet us there.” He told her.
Natalia sighed, she knew better than to go against Derek. Derek wasn't someone she wanted as an enemy. Lucky Dawn and Clara...they would be getting exactly what they had wished for, she thought.
Natalia came out of the bathroom, having changed in to a blue v-neck dress that was cinched at the waist, and black capris. Her hair was pulled in to a ponytail. Natalia went in to her closet and pulled out a light, black jacket to wear. She knew the gymnasium would be cold...no matter how many people were there.
Derek came back in to her room, glad to see her changed.
“Come on, sis. Mom and Dad are almost there. I don't care if I get arrested for speeding...but you are going to grad, you will reach there on time, and you will enjoy it.” He told her, looking at her as though daring her to argue.
Natalia shook her head, biting down on her tongue so she wouldn't talk back to him. With Derek around...there was no way out of this one.
True to his word, Derek did get Natalia to her school on time. He rushed her in to the school, and shoved her in to the cafetorium.
As soon as Derek had pushed her in to the cafetorium, Natalia had turned to protest against her brother's treatment. Instead she turned to find the door being shut in her face. Derek grinned before leaving to join their parents.
“Natalia! You came!” Natalia heard a voice behind her call. There was no use to pout about how she had wound up here. Natalia put a smile on her face, and turned to face her friends.
“Hello guys!” She said, turning to face them.
It was near the end of the ceremony. Natalia had already gotten up to get her diploma. Her parents had beamed at her as she stood on the raised platform and shook hands with the principle. She had been one of the many students who had gotten an average of eighty percent or above in their courses, hence qualifying for the certificate of Ontario Scholar.
Natalia had seen her brother's grin become more pronounced. He wasn't going to let her off for this one any time soon.
She sat in her chair and watched as some of the other students received plaques and various other awards for their work at school. She fidgeted with her dress. There had always been a part of her that had wanted to leave a lasting mark at her high school. It would have been an honor, she thought watching another student receive an award.
“This year will mark the first year of our high school giving the RCC 21st Century Technology award. This award goes to the student who had given an enormous amount of their time to the study of technology, has contributed to the school in the area, and has received excellent marks in those subjects. The award includes...”
Dallas stood at the back, leaning against the wall, watching as the principle announced the award.
Natalia had looked beautiful when she had received her diploma. He couldn't believe how much his heart hurt when he saw her. He missed her so much.
He knew she hadn't come willingly. Derek had called to tell him what it had taken him to get her here. Derek had also reminded him that Dallas now owed him.
Dallas smiled at the thought. It was just like Natalia to avoid something like this.
He returned his attention to the stage.
“This year, it is my pleasure to announce that the Technological Studies department has, after careful consideration, decided to give the award to Natalia Williams.”
Having read the program, Dallas had not been surprised. She worked hard to get there, and she deserved the reward.
Dallas watched as a stunned Natalia went to the stage. With the look of shock and disbelief, she held the plaque, whose first square had her name inscribed into it. She was handed an envelope and a framed certificate.
Dallas joined in to the applause. He could hear some of Natalia's friends cheering her on, Taylor had let out a loud whoop.
He watched as Natalia was handed a bouquet of roses. He took out his aviator shades from his shirt pocket and put them on.
Dallas saw as Derek turned around to look at him. His friend smiled at him from his seat. Derek gave him a thumbs up. Dallas smiled.
It was time for him to go, he had accomplished what he wanted.
Natalia would never know.
The ceremony ended with the graduates throwing their hats in to the air.
Dallas quickly saluted to Derek and started to walk towards the exit.
As he reached the door, Dallas turned to look at Natalia one last time before heading out.
She was standing with her friends, holding on to her award. They were taking turns getting their pictures taken. Natalia didn't notice him as he stood there for a moment.
He watched as she smelled the roses and smiled. The moment forever ingrained in to his memory. With that, Dallas left.
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