The small auditorium was packed to capacity. The Whitakers and the Rivers sat together, awaiting the climax of all the years of public education for Jon, and the eighty-one other graduating seniors. There was an almost continual hum in the building generated by the whispers and quiet conversation of the visitors. as final details were completed behind the stage, readying for the service.
Just then. three-year-old Amanda, who was sitting on Denise’s lap. whispered in Denise’s ear. “I gotta go, ‘Neece.”
“Where do you want to go, Amanda?” Denise questioned patiently.
“I gotta go to the bathroom. Will you take me?” Amanda looked at Denise, pleadingly. Denise looked at Amanda’s big, brown eyes. Exact replicas of her big brother’s, Denise thought. And they seemed to have the same power to melt her, too. Denise looked at her watch. It was just about time for the service to start, and Denise didn’t want to miss a single minute of it.
Amanda, sensing Denise’s hesitation, put her arm around Denise’s neck. saying, “Please, ‘Neece. I gotta go now!”
“O.K., Dumplin’, but we’ll have to hurry! The service is gonna start right away.”
Denise leaned over to tell Doris they would be right back, and hand in hand, Denise and Amanda walked to the back of the auditorium to the restroom. Unintentionally, Denise kept noticing the shoes of every girl she met. But, to no avail. No beige slippers!
At Denise’s insistance, Amanda hurried. Amanda was always trying to please her, Denise thought, happy to be regarded highly, affectionately, by Jon’s little sister. It made her feel just that much closer to Jon!
Straightening Amanda’s dress, then lifting her to the sink to wash her hands, she thought how she would love to be a mother to a little girl like this. A warm feeling came over her. until she remembered her mother, her biological mother, and wondered if she had ever felt this way, before giving her away to strangers.
If she just knew why!
Of course, Denise loved her adopted parents, and thought no mother could have been better to her. But, still, she couldn’t help but wonder. And there was always a sharp pain with the thought of being rejected by her own mother.
Then she heard the music start in the auditorium, and she and Amanda hurriedly made their way back to their seats, which were as near to the front as possible.
James, Jon’s dad, had brought his movie camera, with plenty of cartridges, and Tom was prepared with his camera and flashbulbs, as they waited for Jon to march down the aisle.
Just as they sat down, with Amanda again in Denise’s lap, the procession of graduating students began, as the students marched single-file to the reserved seats in the very front, each looking very distinguished in the black robes, and caps with dangling gold tassels.
Amanda was the first to spy Jon among the students. “Look, ‘Neese! There he is! There’s Bubba!” she cried excitedly, pointing toward him.
The flashes from all the cameras were lighting up the aisles, as the honorees proceeded along.
The service was brief, considering all the speakers that each had a turn at relating a humorous, sentimental, or important moment in the lives of one, or all of this graduating class.
Then, time came for each to ascend to the stage to receive their diploma.
Many tears were shed, as mothers and fathers watched their offspring receive the recognition each had worked so hard for. There were tears in Denise’s eyes. too, but she didn’t stop to analyse why. She just felt so proud for Jon, her Jon!
As the class marched single-file from the auditorium to the reception hall, holding their awards, the entire audience came to their feet, and as soon as possible, made their way to congratulate their special graduate.
Much to Amanda’s disappointment, it was soon over, and Denise rode off with Jon.
After a few drags around town, Jon headed toward home for a change of clothes. When they arrived at Jon’s house, there were relatives’ cars parked all around, and the house was aglow with lights.
There was quite a celebration right there at Jon’s house, before they left to go to the party. The house was decorated inside with streamers, and balloons. A large cake, decorated just for Jon, was centered on the table, with the punch bowl filled, and the nearby buffet was loaded with graduation gifts for him.
Jon insisted Denise help with opening the gifts, and there was much laughter, and joy. He received many gifts, some for use in the college dorm, clothes, money, and a few gag gifts! But the most special gift of the evening was from Denise! It was an expensive gold I.D. bracelet, with her name engraved on it. It had been placed on lay-away over a month ago. Originally, Jon’s name was to have been engraved, but after committing to ‘steadies’, she had changed the order. Denise had paid on the gift weekly with her allowance, leaving very little to spend elsewhere, but she didn’t mind. He was worth it! She wanted so much to please Jon!
He held out his arm for her to fasten it on him, as ‘ooh’s and aahs’ came from all over the room. Then right in front of everybody, he leaned over and kissed her sweetly, briefly.
Everyone laughed and teased Denise about blushing! But she was happy. So happy! The day had finally brightened, she thought.
Jon changed from his white shirt, tie, and dress pants, to black jeans, and a red and black striped sports shirt. And with his black and silver trimmed belt and black boots, Denise thought he could not have looked more handsome. And like a native Texan!
Denise was going next door to change, but Jon insisted she looked perfect in her new white jumpsuit. So, as soon as was courteously possible, they said goodbye, and left for the party, with a gentle reminder from Doris that Denise was to be home by midnight. And that was being lenient, Denise thought!
Denise felt so close to Jon tonight. She chided herself for even thinking Jon might have been unfaithful to her! Not her Jon! It had to have been someone else. or perhaps, the girl had just been fantasizing out loud. She knew lots of girls would like to have been in her place!