Molly didn’t understand what there was to celebrate about. She looked around as her graduating high school class cheered while standing and tossing their caps high into the air. Molly took her cap off and gripped it tight. She didn’t want to let it go. There were too many people surrounding her (this is what she gets for having a last name beginning with a letter in the middle of the alphabet). There were also too many caps flying around everywhere too. She didn’t want to lose hers in the crowd.
Molly craned her neck to look at the rain of black and white graduation caps cascading down. Some caps had signatures on them in permanent marker. Others were bedazzled with glitter and gems. Some had stickers and she noticed one was beautifully hand painted. They all had their graduating class’s year on it.
She looked down at her own white cap, which was just that. White. Blank. Bare. She drew it close to her chest and held on tight.
Most of the caps had fallen from the sky at this point. A handful was thrown back into the air but for the most part, her classmates were putting their caps back on and leaving their seats to find their friends. Molly knew her two friends would be together. They were near the front since their last names began with letters at the beginning of the alphabet.
When they started rehearsal for the graduation, Molly remembered being so bummed out when she found out she wasn’t going to be able to sit with her friends. She understood being in alphabetical order made it easier for the teachers to keep track of everyone and to also make sure everyone gets their diploma in a neat, orderly fashion. She was sure it was easier for the person who created the graduation programs. Despite her understanding, Molly couldn’t help but wish she could spend her last time at the high school with her friends.
This was her last chance, after all. As soon as the ceremony was over, she had about three graduation parties to go to and neither was for her. Molly’s mother decided to have her party the following weekend when things would be calmer. Molly didn’t want a party though. There was nothing to celebrate. She had always had good grades so the fact she graduated was no surprise. The only thing happening was her being split from her friends.
Iris was headed to college on the other side of the country. Wren had decided to head to college where her father lived outside of the country. Iris was part of the Italian club and they were headed to Italy for the summer. Wren was moving in two weeks to live with her father so she could intern at his company for the summer before school started again.
Molly sat down in her chair again. She was stuck in the middle of her graduating class. She couldn’t see Iris or Wren at the front of the class and the groups of people sitting on either side of her remained where they were chatting and goofing off. They seemed to all be with their friends. Molly’s only friend at the moment was her own thoughts.
It was just as well, Molly thought. She was going to have to get used to not being around her friends. She would have to get used not walking to their house every day or constantly messaging them in a group chat through text. They were now going to be in three different timezones and Molly was sure at least one of them would only be awake when Molly was asleep.
She gazed down at her blank cap once more. Iris and Wren had gotten together the previous night to decorate their caps. They wanted Molly to join them but she couldn’t bring herself to go. She had seen their caps before the ceremony started. They had decorated each other’s and Molly thought they both looked great. She felt a pang of jealously pull at her though she couldn’t explain those feelings. She had declined their invitation.
The fact remained. Molly’s cap was bare. She no longer had high school and her friends were going away. It was irony at its finest.
She looked up in confusion upon hearing her name. Molly suddenly remembered where she was and realized her mother was probably wondering why she hadn’t moved yet. The ceremony was long over. Molly stood, trying to find some way out of the mess of chairs and people that blocked her in when she noticed Iris and Wren standing at the end of the row she was in. Molly cracked a smile and waved. She parted the chairs in front of her and walked along the seats in that row, shoving a few people out of her way, to get to her friends.
“We did it!” Iris squealed, pulling Molly into a tight hug.
“What were you doing over there?” Wren asked. Her face twisted like a puzzle as it normally did when she knew something was up. Wren had a sixth sense about her to know when something wasn’t right with one of her friends.
Molly shrugged when Iris let her go.
“Can you believe this day has finally arrived?” Iris exclaimed, clapping her hands together and bouncing on her feet.
Molly cracked another smile. She still didn’t see what there was to celebrate.
Sure, she was excited to go off to college herself. She decided to go to the local community college because she wanted to stay close to home and also because she didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career. Both her friends had seemed to already figure that out and
Molly felt even more behind.
She wasn’t doing anything too special – no studying abroad, no living in a new country, no decorations on her graduation cap.
Molly knew how they would play out. Iris would meet some cute Italian boy and Wren would meet a cute intern at her father’s work. They’d both make new friends and find new activities to do. Molly would be forgotten.
She rolled her eyes to herself. She sounded so dramatic. Of course, she’d meet new friends at college. She planned on getting a summer job. She’d keep busy. But things wouldn’t be the same in the slightest.
“What are you rolling your eyes for?” Iris wondered, waving a hand in front of Molly’s face.
She quickly snapped out of her thoughts and forced another smile. She noticed Wren’s smirk from behind Iris. “What?” Molly asked.
Wren took Molly by the hand. “Come here, I want to show you something in my car.”
“Oh, right!” Iris clapped again, jogging ahead of the two of them.
As Molly was lead away by her friends, she glanced over at the stands on the other side of the field. She happened to make eye contact with her mother, who waved frantically holding up her camera. Molly shrugged apologetically and held up a finger asking her to wait just one more minute. She was relieved to see her mother nod with a smile.
Molly was shocked when they made it to the parking lot and Iris climbed into the bed of a blue pick-up truck. “Where’s your car?” she asked.
“I asked my brother if I could borrow his truck. Now we can all sit together,” Wren said. She hopped onto the bed and motioned for Molly to join them, which she did.
Iris grabbed a bag from the corner and dumped out its contents which were stickers, gems, and permanent markers.
“What’s this?” Molly asked.
Wren took Molly’s cap off her head. “I was going to decorate Iris’s cap, Iris was going to decorate yours, and we were going to have you decorate mine. But you weren’t feeling well last night so Iris and I decorated each other’s.”
Molly pressed her lips together. She didn’t realize she had told them she wasn’t feeling well. She didn’t mean to lie to them. She was nervous to go to their house because she didn’t want that to be the last time.
Her gaze crossed Wren’s, who was smiling still. Molly looked away sheepishly. Wren knew everything. It was obvious she knew Molly wasn’t actually not feeling well the night before.
“So,” Iris continued explaining, “We’re both going to decorate yours.”
Molly sighed. “You don’t have to.”
“Too bad,” Iris replied. She grabbed a purple marker, uncapped it and got to work.
Molly sat in silence while her two friends passed her blank, white cap back and forth. Their backs faced her so she couldn’t see how they were decorating it. There was nothing for her to do but sit there and wait. She couldn’t wait to get home and re-watch her favorite detective show to drown out her sorrows.
After just a few minutes, both girls turned back around, Iris holding out the cap in front of her. They both grinned like clowns.
Molly took her cap. It was hard to see the white now, they had filled it up so much with so many words. She maneuvered the cap around to see it all.
“Iris, Molly, and Wren.” Molly read the middle first and worked her way toward the four rims of the hat, spinning the cap in circles. The words were written in a spiral. “Friendship, Love, Laughter… what does all of this mean?”
Iris flipped her cap over and Molly realized she still hadn’t seen theirs yet. Hers said the same thing. Iris grabbed Wren’s cap and it too was the same. “When you didn’t come last night,” she explained, “we decorated each other’s, but decided to do the same thing instead of surprising each other.”
“It’s cool,” Molly said. She didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t understand the significance behind it all or why they were choose to create the three caps equally.
Wren scoffed but she still smiled. “Don’t be an idiot. They’re the same because we’ll all be apart.”
Molly bit her lower lip. That made sense. Now she understood and now she needed to make sure she didn’t cry in the middle of the school parking lot on graduation day.
“When we miss each other, we can always send an email or text. I know the timezones will make it difficult to have a fluid conversation, but we’ll still be there for each other,” Iris said.
“That’s why we wrote all these words down because these describe our friendship perfectly,” Wren added.
Molly looked down at her cap again. She moved her thumb, which covered part of a word. “Forever,” she read.
Iris shrugged. “Yeah, it sounds corny, but it’s true. We know people always say you’ll fall out of touch with your high school friends, but a graduation cap is something you keep forever. Even if we go long periods without talking, we’ll see our cap and think, hey. Maybe I should reach out to them and say hi.”
Molly chuckled. Iris always had a funny way of thinking. She couldn’t disagree though. Molly thought her cap should remain bare because that’s how she felt. She thought she had nothing once today was over. Her friends had just changed all that and not she felt bad for not going to decorate the caps with them in the first place. On the other hand, this was the best surprise she had ever gotten.
Wren pointed to the words on the cap. “These are all reasons to celebrate.”
Molly looked at her shocked though she shouldn’t have been surprised. Wren was always so observant and seemed like she could read their minds whether something was wrong or not. Then Wren smiled.
“You’re mom called us last night.”
There was a moment of silence as Molly thought. Then she started to laugh and the other two chimed in. Today was a good day for a celebration.