Just a piece of my second novel in my spy series. Enjoy!
I watched as my best friend for the past 18 years stood to take his hard-earned diploma. Alisha nudged me as I clapped as hard as I could. I smiled at her, and then looked up. Remus looked right at me, smiling. Proud of him, I grinned back. He held up his right fist in the air, our secret signal for anything happy between us. I held up my left in correspondence. Mortimer looked up at him, smiled, and gave him discreet thumbs up. Mr. Anderson smiled at his Godson, obviously proud, and wiping away a few stray tears I hadn’t noticed, probably from his daughter looking anxious, clinging to her diploma and watching her fiancé walk from one end of the stage to another, taking the diploma from Headmaster, hugging him, and making his way down the line of teachers, shaking hands with all of them, until he reached Mr. Anderson and Angela, whom he willingly embraced. I got a handshake at first, until I pulled the kid into a hug.
“You have no idea, Remus, how proud of you I am.” I whispered in his year. He grinned at me.
“Thanks John.” He said, grinning. He hugged my wife to, being gentle like he was with Mrs. Carter, or even Amie. He sat back down, and waited for the rest of his class of 40 students. I grinned at Andy, who hugged his father, and shook hands with Mr. Anderson, still slightly fearful of the tall teacher. When Seth came down the line, he awkwardly hugged his parents, refused a handshake from half of them (not really surprising anybody who really knew him) and he approached me, grinning. He pulled me into a hug, which threw me off guard (which isn’t easy, let me tell you).
“Thanks Professor. I couldn’t have done it without you standing up for me all these years.” I smiled warmly at the teen, knowing where the sudden hug came from.
“I wasn’t letting you get hurt, not when I knew why you acted the way you did. Besides, Remus really needed a friend, and so did Andy.” He grinned again.
“Still, it means the world to me.” He shook hands with Mortimer, and went to sit next to Logan Johnson, who leaned over and said something to Oscar James, who shrugged. Seth looked at Logan…than up at Headmaster. He looked concerned, turned back to the two, and nodded. Remus turned around, looked at them, and mouthed, “I noticed too” at Seth. They frowned. Upon further investigation (namely, looking at Headmaster) I noticed he was a little pale, and I looked at his suit. No… nothing there. I scanned the crowd and caught…
Moon’s parents? Wait; there was a figure deep in the shadows I could barely see.
“Dad?” I whispered, shock running through my system. Alisha’s eyes followed my stare, and she stiffened.
“What is he-“
“Later, love.” I whispered, barely moving my lips. Remus too, followed my gaze, and went still. He looked at me, and his expression read “Why?”
“Congratulations!” I looked up, and realized that all my now-former students were done walking at graduation, and Headmaster was making a speech. The teachers sat down. “Students, good luck next year, wherever you may be.” The ceremony ended when the American students started throwing their caps into the air, making the rest of the students join in. Couples kissed, students who were single ran to parents and siblings, the boys grinning and excited, girls sobbing happily and clinging to their closest friends. Teachers began mingling with parents and students alike. I pulled Alisha off to the side.
“Why is your dad here?” She looked angry. I pushed up my glassed.
“I have no idea, honey. It worries me greatly.” I said.
“What are you going to do?”
“As soon as I can, I’ll get him alone and force him to tell me.” I replied. “For now, we’re going off to talk with the students.” She nodded. We walked into the crowd, where we interlocked out fingers due to the vast amounts of crowds. We reached Remus first, who clung to Amie’s hand, and held his sobbing mother.
“Congrats, Remus!” I said, grinning. I released Alisha’s hand, and pulled Amie into a hug. “You too of course, Amie.” She laughed. I pulled her hand to my mouth and kissed it, being polite. She let go of Remus when Mortimer came up behind us, and hugged him too.
“Thanks Professor.” She said to me.
“John.” I automatically corrected, grabbing my wife’s arm, pulling her gently aside to let a tall figure through, one that resembled Jon Carter, with the familiar graying tone Jon also had.
“Uncle Romeo!” Remus said, grinning. They both hugged.
“Congratulations, son.” Jon and his brother embraced.
“Uncle Romeo, you remember my best friend John, and his wife, right?”
“Of course!” He turned around and shook our hands.
“Oh, and this is my fiancé, Amie.”
“Nice to meet you.” They shook hands. Mr. Anderson, clinging to Angela’s hand, came through the crowd then. “James!”
“Romeo, nice to see you again!” They shook hands. Amie hugged Angela, then her mother and stepfather, reaching her father last.
“Congratulations baby.” Mr. Anderson shouted, pulling Amie into his arms, kissing the top of her head. “I am so proud of you.”
“Thanks, Daddy.” She said, snuggling into her father’s hold. Remus grinned at them, and came over to me.
“John.” He said, and we hugged again. I smiled at him and held him at arms length.
“Congratulations, son. I am so very proud of the man you turned out to be.” He was blushing.
“Thank you, John.” He smiled and hugged Alisha too.
“As soon as you can, come visit, any time.” She said. “We’re always happy to have you.”
“Thanks Mrs. Stratford.” Remus said, kissing her cheek. “You have no idea how much that means to me.” Or me, for that matter. Seth and Andy joined us then. Remus grinned.
“We’re done, can you believe it?” Andy asked.
“Not really. It’s almost…unreal.” Remus said. Seth grinned. Remus grinned back, hugging Seth, then Andy.
“Professor, did I hear right about this being like… almost a dance?” Amie asked me.
“It is a dance, love.” Remus said to her. “How did you not know, your own father planned it.” I laughed, grabbing Alisha’s hand again.
“I could care less, I just wanted to dance with you.” Amie said, flashing a flirty smile towards Remus. He grinned at her. Seth and Andy pretended to throw up. I laughed. Alexa and Lexi joined them then. I pulled Alisha through the crowd, congratulating more students as we went. Finally, I got her alone, and saw the very man I never thought I’d see again.
“Hello, father.” I said, tensing up. “what are you doing here?”
“Just… I heard you taught here. Hello Alisha.” She stiffened.
“Mr. Stratford.” She said, her voice cold.
“Well, now, no need to be mad. I just wanted to-“
“Leave.” I said. “Get away from here.”
“I’m 27 years old, I can handle my life myself father. Now, if you’ll kindly leave.” He looked mad. He raised his hand slightly. By natural instinct, I flinched back.
“ Fine.” He stalked away. My hands were in fists, the scars on my back suddenly tingling….the man who gave them to me looked back one last time, and turned back around to walk away.
“Well, that was awkward.” Remus said behind me. I laughed.
“Yes it was.” Yes it was….
* * * * *
Later that evening, was the party for the graduates and their parents, where music was played, and food was served. A slower song played over the speakers, and I approached my beautiful wife and smiled, holding my right hand out to her out of politeness.
“May I have this dance, Mrs. Stratford.” She looked up from her conversation with Amie, blushed, giggled, and took my hand.
“Of course you may, Mr. Stratford.” Holding her index and middle finger, I guided her across the room to the dance floor, where Remus joined us. We slowly rotated around in a circle. Within moments, I had pulled her closer than ever, our hands clasped together, and clutched to my chest, on of her arms around my neck, my arm around her waist.
“Why suddenly so romantic, John?”
“Can’t a husband take his beautiful wife out on the dance floor?” I asked, smiling at her blush. She pulled her hand from mine, wrapping it around my neck. I slipped my other arm around her waist too, pulling her close to my body, keeping her warm from the chilly central air that formed goose bumps on her shoulders, upper back, and arms. Why she wore a sleeveless dress, I never could figure out. I kissed her forehead.
“I love you.” She said, leaning her head on my chest.
“And I love you, my dear.” I replied. Looking up for a moment, because my neck had chosen then to become stiff. I caught Remus and Amie in a close dance, as Remus tenderly kissed Amie on the forehead. I smiled in his direction. Seth and Alexa kissed as well, smiling and giggling afterwards. Andy was lost in the sea of other dancers, but was most likely treating Lexi with the most tender embrace and kiss, because that’s what Andy did. I smiled and touched my forehead to Alisha’s. She smiled and tilted her head up, kissing my nose. I chuckled, and we continued to dance the night away, lost in each other’s arms.