Elvira had made a pair of honey colored slippers, too, and at 11 we made our way to the schoolhouse. We didn't live far from it. Thomas had been given a home by the city for being such a hard work and a devoted brother, sacrificing his time and happiness to make sure I was well taken care of. It was truly a blessing and he insisted on paying 10 gold pieces every month.
The closer we got, though, I slowed down. I was nervous. I hung back behind Thomas when we got there. All my fellow graduates were gathering in the front, standing in perfect rows. Thomas laughed gently.
"Well, talk about déjà vu," he said quietly.
"What do you mean?" I muttered, watching my best friend Morgan get to her place.
She was looking around and I knew she was trying to find me.
"Don't you remember?" he asked and turned me to him. He was smiling, his eyes watery. "You were like this on your first day of school." I looked back over nervously. "I promise it'll be fine."
I immediately stuck my pinky out and he laughed, looping his around mine. We kissed our hands and I hugged Elvira before passing through the gates. Morgan jumped up and down when she saw me, waving.
I giggled and she tackled me.
"You look great!" she said, stepping out of the hug. "That dress is gorgeous!"
"Thanks," I said. "Elvira made it for me."
She clicked her tongue. "I'll have to get her to make me one!"
I giggled again. "I can't believe we're graduating today!"
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, my father must have cried a bucket of tears." We both laughed. "Oh! My brother's coming today! I'll have to introduce you!"
I laughed. "All right. Let's focus on not falling our faces first."
She grinned. Morgan and I had become best friends fast. We met on my first day and it started what Thomas called the Terror of the Ms. It was true, I suppose. We got into a lot of trouble over the years and played a lot of pranks. I've lost count of how many times we were kept from recess in Mr. Pink's office to do lines.
Mr. Pink came out of the schoolhouse holding a stack of folders. When he saw all 15 of us assembled, he beamed at us.
"Look at you all!" he said while the family members merged onto the grass behind him. "You look so beautiful and handsome! I'm so proud of all of you! You put in many years of hard work and dedication. Today, you are going to be given the highest honor we can award you."
I nudged Morgan and she nudged me back.
"Now, when I call your names, please come forward." He cleared his throat and, just like every day, my name was called first. "There you are," he said and I curtsied as he gave me what he called a diploma. "You did wonderful over the years, Megan Buckley, and we are all proud of you."
I grinned and went back to my spot, catching Thomas's eye and brandishing the diploma a little. He winked at me, his arm around Elvira's waist. She was wiping her face with the end of her scarf and I giggled.
As everyone went forward to get their diplomas, I started to get restless. It was getting cold and clouds were starting to move in. Mr. Pink had just finished his speech when thunder cracked and rain poured from the skies.
Everyone squealed and raced into the schoolhouse. I laughed, fighting through the crowds for Thomas, and shaking my wet hair out of my face. Suddenly, I bumped into someone and gasped. I started to fall back but a firm arm grabbed me. I looked up and lost my breath.
It was a young man with pitch black hair and bright blue eyes. He was tan and had some stubble on his chin.
"Are you okay?" he asked, helping me stand straight.
His arm was still around me and I pushed it off. He looked shocked and I cleared my throat.
"Yes, thank you. I was just looking for my brother and wasn't paying attention I guess."
He smiled kindly. "Yes, I'm looking for my sister." He looked around. "With this mass hysteria, though, perhaps we should wait for them."
I bit my lip. "Well... I guess."
We walked to the wall but I kept a foot between us.
"My name is Ewan Kinsley," he said, holding out his hand.
"Megan Buckley," I returned and shook his hand. "Wait. Kinsley? Oh! You're Megan's brother!"
He smiled. "Yes, yes I am. Do you know my sister well?"
"She's the other reason this school has had the highest antic record in the last 12 years."
Mr. Pink had come over, dripping wet, and smiling. I laughed. Ewan did, too.
"So you're the partner in crime I've heard so much about," he said and I grinned.
"Thomas is on the other side of the hall," Mr. Pink said. He grabbed my hands. "I am very proud of you, Megan," he said in a more serious tone. "After everything, you've become such a great young woman."
I kissed his cheek and hugged him.
"Thank you," I whispered. I cleared my throat and turned to Ewan. "It was a pleasure meeting you."
"The pleasure was all mine," he said.
I followed where Mr. Pink was pointing and laughed. Thomas was on the other side of the corridor, wringing his shirt out with an irritable expression on his face.
"Rain," he was mumbling. "Of all the things, it had to be rain!"
I giggled. "Talking to yourself?"
He smiled and hugged me. "Are you ready to go to the party?"
I bit my lip and looked to Elvira who was laughing with one of the parents.
"Is she okay to go?" I whispered and he nodded.
"Bryant's had the parlor shut off," he promised and beckoned to Elvira.
The house looked the same as when we were in it last. This time the atmosphere was different, though. Everyone was happy and laughing. There wasn't any black, no sad faces....
The last time we had come here 9 years ago, it was for Bryant and Elvira's mother's funeral. She had committed suicide when Bryant told her he was going to marry Lauren instead of staying to take care of her. So, he inherited everything, including the house. The only thing he changed was the parlor. He got rid of all the furniture, having a certain couch burned.
Though their mother had claimed they were on the verge of being sent to the poor house, they were still wealthy.
"You look like a ret wat," Morgan teased and I smirked.
"A ret wat, huh?" I asked and she thought for a second.
"Oh! You know what I meant!" she said, laughing. "Come on, let's meet my brother!"
I blushed a little again as Ewan Kinsley joined his sister. Even I had to admit he was handsome.
"You've met?" she asked with a frown.
"I nearly knocked him over in the schoolhouse," I said, wrinkling my nose.
She giggled. "Well, Ewan's going to be here for a while," she said, nudging me and I rolled my eyes.
"Shove it," I said.
"Aw, come on. He's a bachelor, you're a bachelorette and-"
"Maybe when we're not both in front of each other?" Ewan suggested and I groaned.
"I'm going to go see Lauren," I said, shaking my head but I was smiling.
"But what about-?"
"See you later, Morgan!"
I walked away.
"Here's our beautiful graduate!" Lauren said and I giggled as she hugged me.
Lauren was a gorgeous woman with long blond hair and blue eyes. They would have been married sooner but, with his mother's passing and everything with Daniel, it was pushed back. Finally, in two weeks, they got their chance.
"Is your dress done?" I asked, accepting a cup of my favorite punch.
"Almost," she sighed. "I don't know what is taking them so long."
Bryant came over, laughing. "They've only been working on it for a week, Lauren."
She pouted. "It's still taking too long!"
We all laughed and Bryant had me stand beside him, facing the guests.
"What do you see, Megan?" he asked.
I shrugged. "A lot of soaking wet people."
Thomas walked up, looking nervous, as Bryant laughed. Thomas put his arm around my shoulders.
"That too," Bryant agreed. "You know what your brother and I see?" he asked and I shook my head. "A lot of eligible bachelors."
I groaned. "Bryant," I began.
"Come on, Megan," Thomas sighed. "You're almost 19 and-"
"Oh look! There's Morgan!" I lied, slipping out from under his arm. "I'll see you later!"
I disappeared into the crowd and sighed. Lately Thomas has been talking about men more often. He kept claiming it was to make me happy but I already was. The last thing I needed was a man.