A sunny day in Williamsburg, Virginia, Rob Hughes II (Robert, technically) is finally graduating high school. His emotions are currently various, he’s leaving the place he hated for so many years, he didn’t have any friends and was constantly mocked by the athletes because he wasn’t one himself, which of course is nothing but a relief. On the other hand, he is the valedictorian and is about to hold a speech.Although Rob is very intelligent and well spoken, speaking in front of a big crowd has never been his cup of tea. It didn’t get better when he found out his father was going to be there. His parents got divorced when he was about two years old, and ever since he has never seen his father. He was told that he kept distance from them. Rob is not so sure that’s true though.Why would he show up to his graduation?
Rob saw his best and only friend Maggie waiting excitedly at a bench, as soon as their eyes met she went through her bag and up came two ice cold tin cans.
“Rob, you want a pop?” She asked teasingly.
“Yes Maggie, I do want a soda.” he jokingly replied.
Maggie moved here from Iowa two years ago and Rob’s life was forever changed. His vocabulary extended (which, according to him, is not that good) but more importantly, he finally got a friend. Not just a friend, but the best, most supportive friend you could ever find. She always says the right thing, which is something she describes as a gift.
“How’s your speech going?” She asked while fixing her hair.
“I’m not finished yet.” He replied.
“What?” She screamed and dropped her hairbrush in chock.
“Do you seriously believe I’d finish my valedictorian speech two hours before I’m supposed to hold it?”
“I never know what you’re doing with your life…”
“Well, I am panicking because my father is going to watch me speak…have I told you that?”
“Only like a thousand times! Trust me, I know it will turn out just fine. You are a great speaker, and I already know that you have written an incredible speech. And since you haven’t met him in quite a while, maybe you won’t even recognize it’s him in the first place?”
Rob didn’t know what to say, he only nodded.
“Either way, please don’t care about what he thinks about you. Your mother will be proud of you, and you will always have me. Don’t ever doubt that.” Maggie smiled beautifully and Rob couldn’t help but hug her.
“Oh, I got a hug? That must’ve been the first time!” Maggie was very chocked.
“Anything for my best friend.”
They ended the hug and smiled at each other for a while. The fact that Rob was gifted this amazing person made him euphoric.
“Now go get ‘em!” She motivated him. He chuckled and tried to relax by looking at the beautiful trees. Green usually made him calmer, and right now the trees didn’t seem to get any greener.
Apparently time grows on trees nowadays, the headmaster is already standing by the podium. Rob is next up, and also indescribably nervous.
Right nowit felt like every single sound was louder than any concert. His blue gown shone brighter than any flashlight, then you know what the sun felt like to him.
Headmaster Lewis cleared his throat before speaking.
“With pride we’d like to introduce you to our valedictorian. One of our best students who keeps on spreading a positive vibe, around everyone. He always sees the best in people andwe want to do nothing but honor this young man, so here he is: Robert Hughes II.”
Rob walks up to the podium, shaking. The applause made him even more nervous.
“Teachers, students, fathers, mothers, siblings and other family members, welcome. Whoever by your side that’s graduating here today, I am sure you’re proud. We all have waited for this day and now that it is here it feels sad. All of us will be choosing our own path to the future, which means it’s probably the last time I see most of these people. Farewells are never easy, I will miss everyone in here. Even the baseball-jocks who didn’t really like me, because I was into science and not sports.”
He looked at Zack, the captain of the baseball team, who was ashamed, but laughed at Rob to keep a good reputation. Stupid high school kids.
The speech goes on for a while, he wanted to wrap the speech up by thanking Maggie, his mother and also try to thank his father.
“When I first stepped into this school, no one wanted to see the good in me. I was just different and nobody accepted that. But then, sophomore year came by and Maggie Weppler walked into the doors. The first thing I heard you say, or scream, was “Let him be, or these books will attack your face!”when you were mad at someone for being rude to me. I’ve never known the power of a friendship, but I realized that it’s the greatest power in the entire world. So there is no one I’d like to thank more than you, Maggie. Thank you for always being there and for believing in me.”
Maggie was crying, but tried to hide it. She hates being emotional, especially in front of others, and she has always been like that. Rob chuckled a little, he realized he knows more about her than himself.
“I also want to thank my mother, Erin, who raised me and basically made my childhood a fairytale. You taught me that life is a gift itself, everything else is up to me and that I’ll never regret. Last but not least I’d like to thank the man I was named after, my father Robert.”
It was impossible to make eye contact with his parents at this point, he wasn’t even sure if the man next to his mother was his father or someone else’s.
“I have become the man I am today because of you, so thank you for everything.” Rob didn’t have anything to thank his dad for, but he didn’t want to be disrespectful.
They have just sent their mortar boards to space, and Rob now wanted a first real conversation with his father. He looked for his mother, who always wore a turquoise dress at these events.
“Robert, you were incredible up there!” She was very touched (and also the only one who called him by his real name).
“Thank you, mom! I meant everything I said about you.” He hugged her tight.
“Where is dad, by the way?”
“He walked out of here just like he walked out of our lives, but that’s not a surprise, huh?”
Someone just stabbed Rob in the heart. That was not easy to hear. He had been looking forward to finally see and talk to his father. Tears filled his eyes. He thanked his fatherbut he didn’t even think about thanking Rob. Maggie could see how hurt Rob was and walked up to them.
“What happened?” She asked.
“He walked away!” He replied and hugged Maggie. He rested his head on her shoulder and sobbed.
“Sorry for ruining your dress.”
“I don’t care about the dress, Rob. Let it out!”
It probably looked like they just walked out of a funeral, so sad he was. That’s one of the many differences between him and Maggie.
“Let’s go for a little walk!”Maggiesuggested.
“Fine.” Rob replied.
They walk and talk about how much they are going to miss each other. Maggie’s probably moving back to Iowa and Rob is going to Yale in Connecticut.
“What will you be studying in Iowa?”
“My friends will go there…”
“And they’re better than me?” He interrupted.
“No one can ever take your place, but we both know you and I will interact more than anyone else even though we’re not seeing each other physically.”
Rob heard someone sobbing and wanted to check on who it was.
“Wait here.” He told Maggie.
He tried to be as sneaky as possible, but it didn’t really work. The man who was crying turned around the same second Rob saw him..
“Can I help you with anything?” Rob asked politely.
“What did you thank me for?” He then said.
“Wait…dad? You’re my father?”
“No, I’m not and I have never been. The person you are is nothing like me. I’m just an ignorant bastard and I flee from problems. You have become who you are because of your mother and not me. All I’ve ever given you is my name, but you deserve so much more than that. The relationship you have with your friend is the relationship you and I were supposed to have. Instead I left you. I don’t deserve to be a part of your life. I want to owe both you and your mother an apology, so if you don’t accept the apology, then just get away from me and don’t ever come back.” He turned around. Rob started sobbing, he didn’t know what to say, but he knew that he wanted to give his father a second chance.
“No, I am not getting out of here. You have realized what you have done and even apologized for it. That was very brave of you and I appreciate that. So, please just hug me and promise you’ll always be by my side from now on.”
He turned around and cried a lot more, bu this time it was lucky tears.
“I assume I got the emotional part from you?”
Robert laughed so much even Maggie started wondering what was going on. She came there and saw the two of them hugging. At this point she couldn’t even hold her tears back. Everything about this moment was beautiful.
“Hey, dad, I want you to meet someone.” Rob said when he saw her.
“I’m Maggie.” She said and they shook hands.
“Robert. You seem to be an amazing person, young lady.”
“So I’ve been told a couple of times actually.” She said and giggled.
“When’s the wedding?” Robert jokingly asked.
“Oh, come on.” Maggie said and walked away.
“I promise you, me and Maggie are nothing but soulmates.”
“Your eyes looked different when you said her name, my son!”
They laughed for a long time and it felt like he always had his father by his side. The warmth of the sun traces down his skinand for a moment, everything felt perfect. Rob had nothing to complain about, he could only focus on what he and his father would do next.