t h i r t y - f i v e

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Graduation day. The due date to finish every single item on my bucket list, and after this speech, I was pretty much done. Hopefully. As long as my plan worked.

I don't know if I could be any more scared compared to what I was feeling now. I peeked through the curtains of the stage, hearing the murmur across the hall. My heart was hammering against my chest as if it was trying to run away. I didn't know what was going to happen after tonight, and I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew that after today, I was no longer going to be a high school student.

"Are you ready?" Mr Halliday asked.

I looked at him and smiled even though my breathing as ragged and short. "I don't think so," I replied honestly.

I looked out the crowd. Why were there so many people? It was way more than one hundred. Probably more than three hundred. But through the crowd, I searched only for one face.

When I finally saw him, laughing with Peter and John who were sitting right beside him, my heart felt lighter. Dad was sitting with Daniel's parents, holding the agenda.

Dad was so excited this morning for graduation. Probably more excited than everyone else here. For the past week, he has being going on and on about graduation day. He made a reservation to one of the expensive restaurants in Melbourne three months ago. He was even eager to go shopping with him when I told him I needed to buy a graduation dress. Mia was weirded out by it when she joined us. But I was convinced this was his way to get rid of me fast.

"Okay, we're going to start in a few minutes. Your name will be announced when it's time for your speech," Mr Halliday reminded me.

I nodded and watched him leave to sit beside the school principal. I took my seat on stage next to the school captain and Kyle sitting on the captain's other side.

Principal Morris began the ceremony. I tried listening to what he was saying but it was difficult. I kept fiddling with the hem of my graduation gown, anxious about the speech.

"Now, please welcome the school valedictorian, Elizabeth Scots," I heard Principal Morris introduced.

I heard clapping but all I felt was my heart beating rapidly. I stood up and walked to the podium, trying to calm my breath. I grabbed onto the podium, and my eyes searched the crowd, landing immediately on Daniel. His eyes were on me too.

I sucked in a deep breath.

"Good afternoon, fellow graduates, guardians and faculty. I am truly honoured to be here before you presenting the commencement speech for the class of 2014. To begin, I would like to congratulate my fellow classmates on achieving this major milestone. Looking back at my years of high school, I can honestly say that there is no better school that is filled with so many amazing staff members and fellow peers. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it's a place where most of us just want to get out of high school as soon as possible," I said.

I was surprised I hadn't frozen up yet. Everyone was watching me, listening to me with respect instead of talking to their friends like they did in all my oral essays. But my eyes moved back to Daniel and he was looking elsewhere now.

"When I was asked to give a speech, I had no idea where to begin. While sitting in my room talking to my father about what I wanted to share with each of you today, my dad told me, 'I cannot believe how far you have come. I am so proud of you.' At the time, it wasn't very helpful, but then it hit me. I thought about chasing dreams or taking the next step into life. Walt Disney once said 'all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them'. This is the dilemma I've faced with my whole life," I said, noticing Daniel urning to look at me.

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