A Good Kind of Different

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The next day I groggily walked down the hallway towards the front of the school. I was up tossing and turning all night, trying to figure out a way to help Jace. I was coming up with nothing. I knocked on the door in front of me and heard a voice say, "Come in!"

I walked into the office covered in football memorabilia and sat down across from Mr. Peterman, my guidance counselor. He clicked his mouse a few times and looked at his computer before finally giving me the time of day.

"Oh hey Chrys. Have a seat," he said.

I placed my backpack down and adjusted myself in the seat. My back was starting to bug me even more, because these two boys were getting super heavy.

"So, did you look into my graduation?" I asked.

"Sure did," he said.

I took a deep breath. With the boys coming in January, I was so scared that I wouldn't be able to finish my senior year and I'd have to take online classes, which felt impossible.

How on earth would I be able to sit and do work with two crying babies. I knew Mom was able to get her GED after she had me, but if I could avoid going that route, I would.

"What do you think? Can I graduate early?" I asked.

"I think that all your hard work paid off, Chrys." He smiled. "Thanks to your hard work and taking extra classes in the summer during your freshman and sophomore years, and then always choosing electives over your study halls, it looks like you'll qualify for early graduation!"

"Awesome!" I said.

The babies suddenly started kicking, like they were celebrating with me. I felt like I already had so much in common with them. 

"But," he said, "you still have to complete the rest of your senior seminar class."

"Huh? That class isn't even that important. We only meet once a week to talk about 'career goals' and go over the homework," I said. 

"Right. But I looked into it and there's nothing I can do. All of our early graduates still have to complete the work until the end of the year. It's a required, year-long class."

"But what if I can't make it in? I'll be taking care of two babies during the day and that class is Mondays at nine. I don't have anyone that would be able to watch them. Would I be allowed to bring them with me or something?"

"Chrys, I said you had to finish it, not that you had to physically come in. I've arranged it so that your assignments will be emailed to you. Just email the completed work back to your teacher before the due date, which I know you will, based on your GPA."

"Okay. That's something I can do," I said. 

"I'll also put in for your diploma to be mailed to you, since you won't be attending graduation in the spring."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

He laughed. "What do I mean? What? Did you think you could go to the ceremony in the spring?"

"Well...yeah," I said with my head down. "I thought I'd still get to walk across the stage with everyone else."

"I'm afraid not," Mr. Peterman said. "You're a December graduate, not a June graduate. Policy doesn't allow for December graduates to attend the June commencement. My hands are tied. There's nothing I can do. I'm sorry."

I bit down on my lip, thinking about all the times Cler and I talked about graduation. I thought about how I was going to design my cap, painting two pairs of blue footprints with the words, 'I can do anything' on it.

I thought about tossing my cap in the air while Mom and Poppy sat in the audience cheering me on with a twin on each of their laps, then going to my favorite sushi restaurant with Cler to celebrate. Now, that was never going to happen.

"Hey, you're still welcome to attend graduation, if you want," he said.

"I know. I'm just really disappointed. I wanted to go so badly."

"I understand that, but again, there's nothing I can do. And you'll have your senior pictures, too, you know."

"Yeah, I know," I said.

"Well Chrys, I guess you're all set," he said. "Is there anything else you want to talk about?"

"What? N-no!" I said.

"Are you sure?"

I lowered my head. "Just um...out of curiosity...if someone my age like, in the school is having a rough time at home, like their parents are mistreating them...and I were to tell someone, what would happen?"

"Well, they'd get sent to me first and I would talk to them about what's going on. If I see any red flags, it's policy that I call CPS. As a school staff member, I have to call them. They'd go out there and do a welfare check."

"Okay. That answers my question. Thanks," I said, getting up and leaving.

I walked out of his office as the bell rang. I wanted to go home and cry more than anything, but I tried my best to push through the rest of the day. Even though I was being torn up inside, I had to be strong.

I met up with Cler for lunch and the whole entire time she talked about Homecoming, since the dance was this weekend. I wasn't really one to care about school events, so I nodded along and wolfed down my slice of cafeteria pizza.

"So, do you think Jace will go to the dance with you on Saturday?" she asked me.

I nearly spit chocolate milk all over the table. "Are you nuts? He's way too cool for school dances, even if they have lots of girls in butt-high dresses. And I'm not even going, anyway, so it doesn't matter."

"What? But it's our last Homecoming Dance!" she said, her voice getting higher with each word. "Don't you have to give your sister a ride? If you're already driving here, just stay for the dance! They always have places to sit if you need a break."

"I'm six months pregnant with twins. I've got no dress and my feet are the size of snowshoes," I said. "Besides, Poppy said her date is going to drive her."

Cler gasped. "Your little sister has a date? Doesn't that bother you?"

"No. She's a teenager now. I can't be normal, so I at least want her to have some sense of normalcy. I asked and she won't tell me who it is, either. So I'm just gonna give her space and let her live her life. It's gotta be hard on her, becoming an aunt when you're not even fifteen yet."  

She crossed her arms and pouted. "You'll at least be at Friday's game, right?"

"Yeah. Because there's sitting involved with that, and I promised Poppy I'd watch her in the parade."

"Good. Is Poppy's date going? Then maybe we can figure out who it is."

"I don't know. If not, you'll at least see him at the dance. Just promise me you won't let him grind all over my little sister."  

"I'll keep an eye on her," she said, giving me a wink. "I can't wait for the end of the week! Have you picked out your outfits for senior portraits yet?"

"Yup. I even made sure to order my gown in an extra-large last spring."

"I wish I could be as prepared as you are in life," she said. "I still can't pick out what shoes I want!"

We sat there and giggled, talking about normal teenage things, like we should. I only had a few months left for it to be like this. Then, everything would be different.

I suddenly felt a kick and rubbed the side of my belly. Everything was going to be different, but it would be a good kind of different.

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