Whisper 2.29

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Dear me,

Nothing–or at least few things–make me more nervous than opening the envelope that contains my grades.

And nothing–I mean, nothing–feels better than seeing those A’s staring right back at me!

Yeah! I did this thing! Master Controller!

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The ground was still blanketed in snow when I walked into the graduation ceremony, though the sun warmed the air.

“Congratulations, Marigold,” said Melvin Moon.

“Thanks for coming to see me graduate!” I said.

“Of course!” He replied. “I wouldn’t let my best friend graduate without offering my felicitations!”

I had to chuckle. My mind had been so full of Shannon lately that I completely forgot that Melvin and I were best friends.

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The ceremony lasted forever, and it was nearly dark when I got out. Plus, all the snow had melted!

But there I was, diploma in hand, my second degree! Phys Ed major, and summa cum laude!

Yes!

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Mom would be proud.

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Before I made it back to the dorm, I got a text from Shannon.

Congrats, babe. Party. Coming?

Hell, yeah!

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Shannon was nowhere to be seen when I arrived.

Instead, I was met by Becky Blackstone.

“Oh! I’d recognize you anywhere,” she said.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“You know me, right? I mean, no, we haven’t met. But Becky Blackstone? For sure you’ve heard of me. Famous like you, right?”

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“I’m not really famous,” I said.

She laughed.

“Get out! If you’re not famous, then how come I’ve been reading about you for the past four years in the same rags that have all the stories about my family?”

I had to admit, she was really cute. Maybe she was a little starstruck or a little full of her own status, but her enthusiasm was adorable. Plus she had the cutest mini-dreadlocks.

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We got to talking. She’d just finished her first semester as a technology major.

“I want to design video games,” she told me. While she was telling me about her idea for a game based on the jet stream, Shannon came in.

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She was wearing nothing at all. She looked kind of sad.

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“I see you two met,” she called to me. “I thought you might have something in common.”

“Right on!” yelled Becky. “Thanks for inviting me!”

By the time Shannon returned from getting dressed, I’d just given Becky my address.

We kind of decided that we wanted to spend more time with each other, and since I was leaving in a few hours, I invited Becky to come visit over semester break.

She seemed pretty excited.

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Shannon had disappeared again by the time I had to head back to catch the shuttle home.

Just as well!

I raced back in the rain, thinking about everything–about friendships starting and those that just continue. I thought about Shannon inviting over Becky so we could meet.

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All through the long flight home, I kept replaying my whole connection with Shannon, from our first meeting during my first time in college when we were so wrapped up in our own universe, then back to the time when I was home, writing her so often, to this up-and-down stint for my second degree, when it took me the whole time to figure out what Shannon meant to me and to understand what I meant to her. I thought about Becky, who’d be coming to visit in a few days. I felt like I was following through with Shannon’s wish for me.

When I got back home, the first thing I saw was the graduation gnome, tossing up his mortarboard in celebration.

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And then I noticed the plants! Did nobody tend the garden while I’d been gone?

Better get busy!

Me

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Skill U: 8.7

Honey Walker | Van Windenburg Estate

Week Eight, Day Seven – Senior Year

Editor’s Note: Honey’s journal entries are numbered according to week and day of the week. As she does not keep daily entries, gaps appear in the numbering. Please see the Table of Contents for the full listing of entries.

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It’s graduation day. Mom and Dad have arrived to hear me deliver the valedictorian address. Before the ceremony, they took me out to lunch at the restaurant on the island.

“I always wanted to ride a ferry,” Mom said. But the way she was looking at me, I knew that the words she spoke didn’t come close to expressing the thoughts she was thinking or the emotions she was feeling.

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I felt all sorts of things, too. This day was such a culmination! I felt very nervous–that, most of all. In a few short hours, I’d have to deliver the speech!

I felt sad, too. I’d be leaving soon, saying goodbye to the Villareals, this island, and to Windenburg. I’d received an offer to play for the San Myshuno Symphony Orchestra, and I didn’t feel I could pass it up. Positions for violinists with a major symphony are so rare.

I felt excited, too, about the new life that was waiting for me. A violinist with an orchestra! And living in the city! I was just finishing college, but I still had so much to learn, so many experiences waiting for me.

It had been a few years since I’d seen Mom and Dad, so on top of all the other feelings, I felt that crazy mix of comfort and unease that I always feel with my parents, increased ten-fold after such a long time away from them.

I can always read my parents, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen them–so in addition to my own feelings, I felt theirs, too.

Dad looked so proud. My graduation had been his dream, too.

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“So,” I teased him over lunch, “daughter graduating from college. One more thing you can cross off your bucket list!”

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“That’s your Dad,” Mom joked back, “the family dreamer!”

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“I take my work as the family dreamer seriously,” Dad said. “It’s a big responsibility.”

He talked about all the dreams he’d had: a house for Mom, a garden for himself, a dog for me, and always time for us to spend together. Then, he said something that made me blush.

“You can dream. Well, I can. I can dream. But you know what? I can only dream so far. I can only dream what I can imagine. And so what happens when a guy like me has a daughter that’s more wonderful, talented, beautiful, and amazing than I can dream? That’s when I give over the dreaming duties to the whole universe. That’s why, Honey, you’re not my dream. You’re the universe’s.”

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When Mom left to powder her nose, Dad asked to hear some of my speech.

“What for?” I asked him. “You’ll be there to listen.”

“I won’t be able to hear right. All the people and noise. Plus, I can’t concentrate when I’m bawling my eyes out.”

I shared the opening with him:

“College begins with a dream. Maybe it’s your dream. Maybe it’s the dream of those who love you. Maybe it’s society’s dream. But along the way, the dream begins to morph. It becomes reality. And that’s when you’re put to the test.”

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He was quiet.

I couldn’t tell if he was thinking, if he was bothered, or if he was just feeling a lot.

“What do you think, Dad? Is it OK?”

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He told me a story about when he’d been in the Marines. It was a story I’d heard many times before, and it usually ended up with him getting back to base safely, after completing some kind of crazy mission, and writing a letter to me and Mom.

“Do you know what?” he told me. “I never told you the real ending of that story. I did write you and Mom, whenever I made it back safe, but never first. I wrote you later. After I wrote that other girl.”

I knew which other girl he meant.

“Why are you telling me this, Dad?”

“I never sent the letter, of course. I just wrote it and stuck it in a box. It’s just that she was a dream I never gave up on. Reality, that I’ve got. And it’s cool. It’s got your Mom in it. And sometimes it’s really hard, and sometimes it’s a piece of cake. But for me, whenever I had trials, I always went inside to where that first dream of mine was. That smart, beautiful girl. It’s like I tucked her away inside of me. Listening to you talk, the smart things you say, I feel like what I tucked away has somehow become real right here for me.”

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“Dad, that’s really weird.”

He laughed. “I know it! You don’t need to tell me! But I kinda believe in miracles. Like the stuff of our feelings–somehow that can come out and make something real.”

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Mom joined us.

“So do you think I should take out the part about the dream morphing, becoming real, and putting us to the test?” I asked Dad.

“Hell, no! That’s the good part!”

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The speech went well.

I got a big applause at the ending, after I said this:

“During the first year, you feel that college is a pole with you at one end, and success at the other. But by the time you stand here at the end of the pole, you see that it’s become a plane, and it’s possible that the whole journey is no longer about success. Maybe, the whole journey is simply about this: discovering that you stand here in an open meadow, able to see all the way around you. And now is when you can venture out, in any direction, even without a path, into the surrounding field of possibility.”

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Whisper 2.13

Hey, Riley!

How’s it all at home?

Man, these last few weeks of the term have flown by!

At a party the other night, I ran into Jaclyn, one of the first people I met here, and we were realizing that in just a few days, we’ll graduate.

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I haven’t really been doing much besides studying, painting, and hanging out with Shannon.

Oh, the other day, I did train one of my dorm mates. She’s a werewolf.

“Hey, you like dogs, right?” she asked me.

When I nodded, she said, “Then train me! I want to be able to run faster!”

“What kind of techniques do you want me to use?” I asked her.

“You know. Like you’d use with a dog. Or a wolf. Really hard-core stuff. I’ve gotta get in shape!”

“How about I train you like a person who wants to get in shape?” I asked.

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At the end of the session, I think she was wishing I had trained her like a dog. There’s no way I’d be that hard on a pup! But a person? I can make a person sweat!

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Of course I’m painting whenever I get a chance. I love it so much! I’m still not really that great. My prof says I’ve got a “primitive sense of color and composition,” but then he follows it up with, “and I’m not usually so lavish in my praise.” Ha! So, I guess, maybe I’m developing a style, even if I don’t think it’s that good.

It is ridiculously fun, though. I can see why Mom painted all the time.

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My dorm mates are pretty cool. They tend to be quiet and keep to themselves, but every now and then, a few of us will meet in the dining room while we’re grabbing a quick snack before the next class.

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Mom always told me about all the good friends she made in University. But, though I’ve met a lot of people, I’ve really only made one friend, Shannon.

That’s OK, though. I know I’ve got a gajillion friends waiting for me at home, and I really didn’t come to college to make friends. I came to learn, as naive as that sounds.

And I have learned so much!

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about how pieces fit together. It started when I was jogging home from class, really, and I felt how my joints fit together, then the muscles around the bones. Then I thought about that whole network of blood vessels and nerves and how they traverse and connect all these disparate parts of the body.

Everything fits.

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It’s like that in communities, too–like here at the University, we’ve got all these people, students and profs and hangers-on, and they all fit to make up this place.

And it’s like that with pieces of knowledge, how little archaic bits of data and information fit together to create something awesome.

And it’s like that with families, too.

Dang! I’m late. I’ve got to head off to my finals! I’ll finish this letter later!

–M

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Hey! I’m back!

So… we got our final results this morning…

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What do you think? You wanna make a bet that I failed?

Wrong!

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I aced those babies! I got an A in every class! Which means… I’ve graduated, Riley!

Yes, indeedy! You’re now reading the writing of a college graduate, with college honors and a fine arts degree! Woot!

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I just got out of the graduation ceremony. In fact, it’s taken me so long to finish up this letter that I’ll have to drop it off in the mailbox on the way to the airport, which means you’ll probably see me home before you get his letter!

I know. I could bring it home with me. But isn’t it more fun when I check the mail at home, and then I get to call out to you, “Hey, Riley! You got a letter!” Ha!

I know I’m all giddy now, but I felt pretty awe-struck and serious at graduation.

I was there alone, which actually made it more significant for me.

Shannon says she doesn’t do good-byes. And you know that I don’t like them, either. So when I left her still sleeping in my bed, I just left. It’s like it’s not over if there’s no goodbye. It just carries on, only I happen to be back in Moonlight Falls and she happens to be here at the university.

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When the ceremony finished, I wanted to leave a mark there on the sidewalk outside the auditorium. I spray-painted a mural. I think Mom would approve.

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I saw Jaclyn outside the auditorium.

“How’s this for symmetry?” I asked her. “You were the first person I met, and it looks like you’ll be the last one I talk with before I leave!”

“Oh, you’ll be back, though, right? I can always tell. Some students aren’t happy with just one degree.”

You know, Riley, I think maybe she’s right. And I hope that when I come back for my next degree that you’re here with me, too. And maybe Patches and Bo! We can get Mara to look after Zoey and Roxy, and we can rent a little house here on campus. I’m ready! What do you say?

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When I got back to the dorm to pick up my luggage, all my dorm mates came out to say good-bye. I kept looking around for Shannon, but she was long gone.

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And now, I’m guessing that this letter is feeling jealous of me, for I’ll be seeing you before this letter does! I hate to seal it up and stick it in the mailbox, for then it’s got its long, lonely trip in the mailbag, but I can see my plane taxiing in to the gate, and soon they’ll be calling us to board.

Oh, Riley! I did it. I got my degree–well, my first one at any rate–and I had my college experience, complete with a Big Love and all!

I won’t even say goodbye as I finish up this letter, for I’ll be seeing you so soon… and when I wrap you in a big hug, I’ll say…

Hello!

–Marigold

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Whisper 1.42

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Marigold takes over the bedtime story routine.

“I love it, Mom!” she says. “It’s so fun to read these stories that I loved so much as a kid.”

“It’s not boring to you?” I ask.

“If it is, I just make up a new story.”

I hear her with Patches.

“They always tell you to dream. To live! They say ‘magic is in your heart!’ I’m here to tell you that magic is all around us, and dreams are OK, but what’s more important are the feelings they evoke. Rather than ‘follow your dreams,’ I say, ‘follow your feelings.’ Love, inspiration, peace, enthusiasm–let these be your guides! Then your life will be rich.”

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It’s her valedictorian speech. I’ve heard it a hundred times already, as she walks through the house practicing.

“Do you like the message?” she asks me.

“Very much,” I say, reflecting that it took me a lifetime to learn that lesson. I imagine the students sitting in the auditorium. Will they listen to her? Or will they each be so wrapped in the membrane of their own dreams that their ears close while their eyes follow the chimera of all they hope to make real?

The night before graduation, we celebrate Marigold’s birthday. Though frost lies on the ground, she wants to have the party outside.

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We’re all there to celebrate: Annie and Mara Nix, Pip, Bobobo, Patches, Gator Wolff, and more friends.

“Let me go change,” Marigold says. She runs inside and when she returns, she’s dressed like a go-go Greek goddess. “All set!” she says.

And we cheer.

I have lived to see this bunny become a young woman. I exhale the breath that I’ve been holding these past five years. Wish granted.

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That night, I read Patches her story. I don’t know how many more chances I’ll have for bedtime stories.

“Is it true that feelings are more important than dreams?” she asks me.

“They’re both important,” I say. “Feelings lie at the deeper level, at the core. And the dreams, they’re just one of many pointers to the feelings. You can follow the dreams or follow the feelings, Little Patches, whichever feels right to you. Just don’t mistake the pointers for the real thing, OK?”

“Like the moon story?” she asks. I look at her quizzically. “The finger isn’t the moon.”

“Exactly,” I say.

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I live to see my daughter walk out of our house wearing her cap and gown. This is the valedictorian, top of her class. She’s been rehearsing her speech all morning.

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I feel tears of gratitude, pride, and relief as I head out to the cab. This is what I’ve prayed for, that I would live to see Marigold graduate. I’ve accomplished what I set out to all those years ago when she was brought to me, a funny little bunny in a basket, and now, she is a young woman, ready to inspire and lead others. What a miracle.

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I tell Marigold that I’m proud of her, and then we fall into the silence of our thoughts as we wait for Patches and Bobobo to join us in the cab.

I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the whispering voice.

Maybe you have integrated it into yourself, so there’s no longer a need to hear it as if from without.

Maybe so.

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Patches and I follow the trail of daisies that Bobobo leads into the auditorium.

“Think I’ll graduate one day?” Patches asks me.

“Absolutely,” I say.

“Will you be proud of me?” she asks.

“I’m proud of you already, Patches,” I say, “and nothing will ever change that.”

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Marigold’s speech is received with cheers and a standing ovation. Her classmates vote her “Most likely to take over the world.” Bobobo looks at me and says, “How’d she get that job? That’s supposed to me mine!”

When we get home, Marigold and Patches play chess, and I look out the window, watching Bobobo as he rides his rocking horse, deep in concentration. I will not see him graduate and become a young man, this I know. But I’ve seen him grow into a young sprout, and with his sister, I can trust that he’ll receive the guidance that he needs. She’s got more strength and wisdom than I could ever muster. He’ll be in good hands.

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Whisper 1.10

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My last term at university flies by.

Some of my dorm mates complain that their papers are being graded too harshly: one misused semi-colon, one missing possessive apostrophe, and the essay receives a D. I can understand about the missing apostrophe until Shea explains to me that the entire notion of possession is culturally biased. “Plants don’t own things,” he says.

I see his point. So I stage a protest against the culturally biased, too harsh grading.

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I notice that the other students there are fellow Dean’s List members. I guess, since we’re coming from a place of academic strength, we feel like we’re in a position to speak up for those who aren’t.

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We shout and rant and rave for hours, until finally, the Dean’s secretary comes out of the administration building and says, “Enough. Go home. Everybody gets higher grades tomorrow, the Dean says.”

By then, we’re starving.

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I race back to the dorm to tell Shea that we won–now he can leave out all the possessive apostrophes he wants.

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Back at the dorm, Shea is lining up a battalion of snow people.

“We persuaded them, Shea.” I tell him.

“That’s great,” he says. “I’ve got more important things to do than study punctuation right now.”

“But punctuation is always important!”

“Not as important as snow people!”

He has a point there!

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On the last day of the term, Anoki invites me to a party at his dorm.

I realize this might be my last time to see him for while.

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Finishing college means leaving behind best friends.

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After talking with Anoki, I notice a guy hanging out in library.

“I don’t think we’ve met yet,” I say.

“Jeffrey Dean,” he says. We talk for a bit, and I feel like we’ve got a lot in common.

“Hey, what do you say we ditch this place and go on a date?” He asks.

I look around. Anoki has already gone to bed and the party seems to be wrapping up.

“Sure,” I reply.

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We head over to the student lounge, but we don’t even make it inside. We just stand out in the snow, talking for hours.

“College life has been good for me,” Jeffrey says. “Before college, I spent all my free time hanging out, racing cars, getting stoned. It was a sure way to noway. How about for you?”

I tell him about my life back in Moonlight Falls, with all those random-seeming things that kept happening.

“I think college has been good for me, too,” I say. “I’ve got focus at least. Or that’s what it feels like.”

It has been good.

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It’s late, and our date ends.

The next morning, I hear the sound of an envelope being slid under the door. Oh! The term grades!

Ugh! I can’t bear to look! What if they were as bad as last time?

Then you’ll be a proud B student who’s graduating from university!

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But when I look, I see all A’s staring back at me!

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Ooo! Yes! I did it! A perfect GPA! I guess my extra credit compensated for last term’s B’s!

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And then, it’s time for graduation. A snowman watches as I file in for the commencement ceremony.

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I can’t believe that all that hard work paid off!

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The ceremony lasts all afternoon, and I have plenty of time to reflect on all I’ve learned: a lot about art, that’s for sure. And art history. I learned how to stage a successful protest. I’ve learned that best friends come from all different cultures, even plant!

And I’ve learned a great new recipe for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! The secret is in the spices.

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Jeffrey Dean invites me to one last party before the shuttle leaves for Moonlight Falls.

Shannon Arkers is there, but I don’t see Jeffrey anywhere.

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I head back to the dorm to pack.

eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh has found a new friend.

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Somehow, this makes me feel less sad about leaving my own best friend.

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The shuttle horn honks.

“Move it!” calls the driver.

I watch my friends file out the dorm to say goodbye.

“Bye, Shea! Thank you! Keep in touch! Take good care of eeeIIshiiiiimaaaaiiioh and his new buddy!”

And like that, an adventure is over.

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