I don’t have time to write up a new blog post this week, so I thought I’d post another of my favorite fanfics I wrote. This one is called Last Call and is an examination of how Jimmy and Nick might have become true friends at the end of fifth grade. Writing the Jimmy / Nick friendship was one of my favorite parts of my The Final Battle series, so I wanted to re-examine it here.
Like Fireflies, a large portion of this story entails a long conversation that doesn’t always follow a coherent train of thought. Like in real life, Nick and Jimmy don’t always know what they’re trying to say and struggle to properly convey their thoughts. I think this makes the piece seem even more realistic and thus more enjoyable. I hope you all enjoy and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.
“Three, two, one, blast-,” for the first time that Jimmy Neutron could remember, he was awake to shut off his alarm before its deafening blare began in earnest.
Jimmy lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling for a few more seconds before giving a gentle sigh and rolling onto the floor. His feet slamming onto the ground earned a semi-annoyed huff from Goddard, but Jimmy shook off the remark and approached the calendar hanging from his wall. There, staring back at him, was today’s circled date with four words beside it.
Last day of school!
Jimmy cocked his head inquisitively and stared closer at the handwriting. It was undoubtedly his own, yet the eager scrawling seemed to come from younger fingers. Jimmy could remember well the morning he had crafted this message, how he had so begrudgingly gotten dressed and trudged out the door for his first day of fifth grade. Now here he stood, eight months later, an inch taller, and with an altogether wearier frown etched across his features.
Ten minutes later Jimmy’s teeth were polished, his hair was in its usual spiral, and he was slipping his sneakers on. His eyes glanced out his bedroom window to see if the bus was approaching, but his gaze instead locked onto that pane of glass across the street. The one that he had so often glanced at, but rarely revealed anything but pink curtains. Today, though, those curtains were pulled aside and he spotted a familiar pair of green eyes looking back into his own.
The response was instinctual yet surprising; a friendly smile crept across his lips. Cindy grinned back and finished yanking her brush through her golden hair. She pointed at her empty wrist and then at the street. Jimmy nodded, getting the message. The bus would arrive any second.
Jimmy pulled away from the window and slipped his backpack over his shoulders. For the last time, the sullen thought shot through his mind. This froze him in midstride and made him shoot another glance over his shoulder, but the green-eyed girl was gone. Jimmy gave one more look at the circled date on the calendar, rubbed a hand over his jaw, and sat back down on the corner of his bed.
Cindy impatiently tapped her foot on the sidewalk as the school bus slide to a stop beside her. The door opened and the driver cast her a friendly smile, but this politeness soon faded as Cindy didn’t make a move towards the vehicle. Instead, she leaned around the bus’ grill and stared at the Neutron’s home.
“Girl, you coming?” Libby squeaked while popping her head out of the window and smiling down at her friend.
Libby’s voice snapped Cindy out of her trance and made her take note of the bus driver’s narrowing eyes. “Sorry,” she sweetly apologized while gripping her backpack’s straps tighter and climbing aboard. She quickly took her usual seat beside Libby and stared across the aisle at Neutron’s front door, which stayed closed even as the bus pulled away.
“What’s with you?” Libby asked while pulling her headphones off her ears and crossing her arms.
Cindy took a deep breath to cleanse her thoughts and then offered a tentative smile to her best friend. “Nothing. Just…wondering where Neutron is,” she hesitated before realizing there was no reason to hold anything back from Libby. “I saw him in the window a minute ago; he seemed ready.”
Libby shrugged and turned off her Walkman. “You really think Neutron’s gonna stop being late on the last day of school?”
Cindy realized her worries were ill-founded and smiled a little easier. “Guess you’re right. There is something to be said for tradition.” She then noticed the hints of green eye shadow beneath Libby’s brow and the stunning teal dress she had on. “You look amazing, Libs.”
Libby grinned wide and brushed a few braids out of her eyes. “You like it? I thought it was overboard, but you know my mom. Figured if there was any day to dress up it was today.”
Sheen’s enraged eyes popped up over the back of the girls’ seat. “Oh, Libby looks amazing, Libby looks amazing,” he mocked while rolling his eyes. He grabbed a quick eyeful of his girlfriend and pointedly stated, “She really does, but what about me?”
Sheen jumped onto the school bus’ aisle to reveal he wore a full graduation gown and mortarboard. The bus took a hard turn and sent Sheen crashing into Ike Burke. “Watch it, Estevez,” he coolly warned while shoving Sheen away.
Cindy had been prepared to shake her head in disgust once she heard Sheen’s voice, but after getting an eyeful of the manic boy she felt her blood pressure skyrocket. “Why,” she asked in annoyed amazement, “are you wearing that?”
Sheen adjusted the mortarboard hanging delicately off of his head while sitting back down beside Carl. “Oh, I’m sorry,” Sheen screeched, “Did we all forget that it’s graduation day?”
“Oh I’m sorry, are you an idiot?” Cindy shot back. “It’s fifth grade graduation! How did you even get that thing; they don’t make those for kids!”
“Well excuse me for being festive!” Sheen motioned at his pudgy friend and shot him an appreciative glance. “And Carl sewed it for me.”
Cindy shook her head at Sheen before taking a calming breath. “You actually made that?” she gently asked Carl.
Carl twiddled his thumbs but offered a humble smile. “Yeah, I figured I should start practicing for home ec next year. Do you like it?”
“I think it’s idiotic,” Cindy spat at Sheen, but then offered Carl a proud half-smile, “but it is impressive.”
Libby grinned too and asked, “I got a hole in my tank top when I fell at recess yesterday. Do you think you could hem it?”
Libby’s question was interrupted by Ike huffing and staring out his window. “Neutron’s usually barreling down the street in a jetpack or some bubble-gum mobile by now.”
Her anxious mood long gone, Cindy waved off Ike’s remark. “I’m sure he’ll show up soon. Libby was right. No way he’s breaking tradition today. I’m expecting an explosion by first bell.”
Ike grinned to himself and leaned back in his seat. “I’ll take that bet.”
Jimmy tapped the button his backpack’s straps while descending towards the Candy Bar’s parking lot. His jetpack’s flames immediately disappeared and Jimmy fell the two feet down onto the ground, fluidly found his balance, and swung open the door to the Candy Bar. As he expected, it was empty save for Captain Betty having his usual fish stew and reading a book on Pinniped anatomy. The old sailor shot Jimmy a happy glance, which Jimmy politely returned while approaching the counter.
He caught sight of Sam drying a glass and flashing him a curious stare. “What, is school cancelled or something?”
Jimmy pulled back a slight at the question. It was only then that Jimmy noticed the backpack leaning against the stool in front of him. As if on cue, the bathroom door swung open and revealed Nick Dean placing a comb to his hair and pulling it away at the last second. “Neutron?” he asked while cocking his eyebrow.
“Like I was saying,” Sam gruffed while watching Nick stroll back towards his seat, “shouldn’t you two be in school?”
Nick managed an easy half-smile and asked, “Do you really care, Sam?”
Sam pondered that and then walked away with his glass. “Good point, yeah.”
Nick huffed and took his seat. With his back to Jimmy, Neutron wasn’t sure what to do. The boy genius glanced around and was about to head over to one of the empty booths when Nick’s voice crisply rang out.
“Don’t make it weird, Neutron. Just sit here.”
Jimmy nodded and took the stool to Nick’s right. The two boys sat there quietly as Sam disappeared into the kitchen. “I wasn’t expecting to see much of anyone here,” Nick admitted while shaking the last drops of water off of his hands. “This place is usually dead in the morning.”
Jimmy stared curiously at the boy. “You come here early a lot?”
“Why do you think I’m always a half hour late on Wednesday?” Nick absent-mindedly perused his menu while breathing a tired sigh. “These shakes sure beat show and tell.”
“Really?” Jimmy deadpanned. “I brought Thomas Edison to school and turned our teacher into a hundred foot tall spinach monster.”
Nick folded up the menu and slid it to Neutron. “Yeah, but Sam puts milk and dark chocolate ice cream into his shakes.”
Jimmy rolled his eyes. “You’re right; I guess I can’t compete with that.”
The boys shared a huff of amusement as Sam came back to take their orders. He raised his eyebrow upon seeing them seated together and focused on Nick. “He bothering you?”
“Not yet,” Nick coolly answered. “Give me the usual.” Sam nodded and turned to Jimmy when Nick lifted his hand. “Actually, scratch the shake. Make it a malt. Today’s special after all,” he dryly explained.
Jimmy couldn’t argue with that logic. “Make it two.”
Sam grabbed the menu from Jimmy’s grasp, shot him a warning glance, smiled at Nick, and returned to the kitchen.
“So, Neutron,” Nick began while straightening his back. He turned to his right and bluntly asked. “What are you doing here?” with a lift of his hand.
The seriousness in Nick’s tone caught Jimmy off guard, but it only took a moment to come up with a response. “I could ask you the same. There’s no show and tell today.”
Nick flicked his tongue over his dry lips and gave a conceding nod. “Fair enough.”
The two boys sat in silence for a moment as they heard Sam’s blender spin to life. “Last day,” Nick finally muttered. He exhaled deeply and glanced back at Jimmy. “That’s why I’m here.”
“Me too,” Jimmy agreed. He began tapping his fingers against the pink counter. “You celebrating?”
To Jimmy’s surprise, Nick shook his head. “Naw,” he barely whispered. Then, as if that one word was saying too much, he plastered on a fake smile. “Just skipping class one last time is all.”
Yet again, Jimmy found himself agreeing. “Me too,” he repeated
For a few seconds, Jimmy began to regret coming to the diner. The silence between him and Nick was growing more awkward, and Jimmy found himself wishing he was back in Ms. Fowl’s classroom. Then, Nick muttered, “I think we’re the only ones not celebrating.”
It was a simple statement; just a casual observation. But as Jimmy thought back to Cindy’s eager smile behind that plane of glass, the happy conversations he had watched on that bus as it pulled away, he began to realize that he and Nick might be the only sane people in his class.
“I think you’re right,” Jimmy agreed as Sam reappeared and slid the two malts across the counter.
Nick and Jimmy grabbed their glasses tight. “Your parents going to the ceremony?” Nick asked before taking a sip of the thick brown drink.
Jimmy nodded in amusement. “My Dad took off work to go.”
Nick let out a true chuckle while adding, “Mine too. They know it’s only elementary school, right? We’re not heading off to college in the fall.”
“No,” Jimmy agreed. “Not yet.”
Nick took a deep drag from his glass and wiped his wrist across his mouth. “I don’t know if I’m going to show.”
Jimmy took a moment, but then finally asked, “Why?”
Nick cast Jim a sideways glance, opened his mouth, but closed it before speaking a word. For a long moment he was quiet, and then flashed another fake smile. “What do you think they’re doing back at school?”
Jimmy glanced down at his watch; first bell had rung ten minutes before. “Ms. Fowl said we’d have a party before the ceremony. Everyone’s probably digging into Ike’s mom’s sugar cookies.”
Nick groaned and snapped his fingers. “I actually forgot about that,” he mumbled in dismay. “Those things would be worth going for.” Savoring a memory from earlier in the year, he shook his head and playfully added, “They’re almost as good as that candy that made us your slaves.”
Jimmy immediately shrunk down into his stool. “Sorry about that, by the way.”
“Eh, coulda been worse,” Nick said with a shrug. “You could have trapped us with dinosaurs, or turned the town into an ice age, or gotten our parents kidnapped by aliens, or -”
“I get it,” Jimmy groaned. “Sorry.”
Nick shook his head and took another sip from his drink. “I’m just screwing around, Neutron. We might have died at the time, but looking back? This year was a heck of a lot more fun with you in it. What else would we have done? Arts and crafts?”
“Probably,” Jimmy cautiously agreed. “Well, even if I wasn’t there, I don’t think you guys would have been bored. There’s still Sheen to liven things up.”
“Ugh,” Nick reflexively groaned at Sheen’s name. “I have no idea how you hang out with that weirdo and that llama lover.” Nick chuckled and failed to notice Jimmy’s eyes drop to the counter. “I get it, not everyone can be as cool as me,” Nick explained while running a hand through his perfect hair. “But there’s gotta be a limit. And I think staying back twice, wearing an ultralord mask to gym class, and shoveling a pound of sugar for lunch is it.” Nick shook his head and took another sip from his drink while staring straight ahead. “You can be nerdy Neutron, but I’ll never get you can be friends with those weirdos.”
Nick nodded at his words and took a few more sips from his malt. After a few seconds he realized how quiet things were and glanced at Jimmy, who was staring at the rosy marble deep in thought. Nick replayed his speech and realized how crass he had been.
“Hey,” Nick whispered with surprising placidity, “I’m sorry, man. That was too harsh.”
Jimmy drummed his fingers along his sweating glass and managed a sad smile. “No, it’s not you.” Jimmy glanced to his left and quietly admitted, “I used to wonder that. Why I hung out them.”
The bar grew silent as Nick studied Jimmy’s expression; he hadn’t seen the genius this serious since they were imprisoned on Yolkus. “I mean, I’m a genius,” Jimmy finally explained. “Carl and Sheen are nice and funny and great, but they’re the two dumbest kids in school.” Jimmy bit his lip and turned to Nick. “I know that.”
Nick gave a tiny shrug. “So why hang out with ’em?”
Jimmy thought back to the boy who had written those two words on his calendar, the kid who’d been an inch shorter and oh so much younger. “Because they’re nice and funny and great,” Jimmy easily answered. “That answer’s obvious.” Jimmy shook his head and whispered, “The thing I still don’t get is why they hung out with me.”
Nick raised an eyebrow, but Jimmy gave him no time to talk. “Do you remember what I was like when I first came here? To Retroville?”
Nick waited a moment before realizing this was a true question. “You were Neutron,” he simply offered. “You were nerdy and lame. Too into science and way too uninterested in recess.”
Jimmy shook his head. “No. I’m still all of those things,” he easily admitted. He took a deep breath and then added. “But back then? I was a jerk.”
Jimmy remembered that young boy, three inches shorter from two years prior. Walking into Ms. Keller’s third grade classroom for the first time, sizing everyone up with a single glance. The pudgy red head likely had asthma, several dermatologic conditions, and had an IQ capping eighty. The rail-thin boy next to him was seizing from hyperglycemia; his dilated pupils indicated a heightened sympathetic response. Both factors indicated ADD and a completely annoying classmate. Then there was the blonde in pigtails, the one with startlingly intelligent eyes. She was who he immediately abhorred. It was obvious that such brilliance would try to compete with, but never match, his own.
Nick’s voice broke Jimmy free from his thoughts. “Sounds like you’re letting Cindy get to you,” he joked.
Jimmy shook his head and sighed. “No. She was right. Don’t get me wrong, she was still too quick to get mad and could be a bully, but she was right about that. I was a jerk back then. And I still don’t get why Carl and Sheen ever wanted to be friends with me.” Jimmy faced Nick and looked deep into his eyes. “I turned them down, thought that I didn’t need anyone. But day after day they kept offering, sitting with me at lunch when I was alone, and inviting me to play at recess. And then, when I finally accepted,” Jimmy smiled wistfully. “I realized it wasn’t so bad.”
“So yeah, I was a jerk,” Jimmy summed up with a frown.
Nick shrugged and leaned back in his stool. “Yeah, but so what? I can be a jerk too. So can Butch, Cindy, and even Ike if he missed his bathroom smoke. We’re all jerks sometimes.” Nick scrunched his face in thought before adding, “Doesn’t make us assholes.”
Jimmy considered that as they both finished their drinks at the same time. Nick pushed his empty glass away and added, “Anyway, no one thinks you’re a big jerk anymore.” He offered a sly grin and added, “Especially not Cindy.”
Jimmy felt his cheeks burn as he rubbed his forehead. “Well…maybe not all the time.” He shoved his empty glass away and mumbled, “Things changed a lot this year.” He gave Nick a weary glance, took a deep sigh, and finally admitted, “That’s why I’m not at school.”
Sam emerged from the back room and quickly scooped up the dripping glasses. The serious look on the boys’ faces made him keep his snide remark to himself and quickly disappear.
Jimmy realized there was no going back and began to chew on his lower lip. “This was the best year of my life,” he admitted while meeting Nick’s gaze. “It was dangerous and crazy and…cartoony,” Jimmy wistfully admitted while remembering the countless insane adventures he’d gone on, “but I don’t want it to end.”
Nick opened his mouth for his own admission, but Jimmy didn’t give him the chance. “Eight months ago Cindy and I hated each other. Libby and I barely spoke. I thought Carl and Sheen and I were happy. But now…after everything we’ve been through…I feel like the five of us, well,” Jimmy let his voice trail off. “I feel like we’re a,” Jimmy couldn’t bring himself to say the word familyto Nick, a boy he’d barely spoken to. Yet he couldn’t keep from looking sadly into Nick’s dark eyes and uttering one last sentence.
“I don’t want it to end.”
Jimmy’s words hung painfully in the air as Nick glanced at the counter.
“We’re not going to have the same classes,” Jimmy whispered. “We never will again, not all of us. And who’s to say things will even be the same? That we’ll stay the same? We all changed so much since the year started. Sheen and Libby are together. Cindy and I, we…we’re so different now. Even Carl worked up the courage to talk to Elkie,” Jimmy said with a wistful smile. “Everything’s so different from what it was. So what if things change more? They can’t get better. That means it can only get worse.”
Nick’s eyes locked onto Jimmy’s with a newfound intensity. “That’s what you’re worried about?” he asked in disgust. “That’s why you’re too scared to go to class?”
Jimmy pulled back at the venom in Nick’s tone. “I, but-”
“For a genius, you can be really dumb. You all grew together and you think it’ll just fall apart like that?” Nick asked while snapping his fingers. “You wanna how things changed for me this year?” Jimmy waited, realized it was a true question, and offered a subtle nod. Nick flicked his tongue back over his lips and painfully admitted, “I added a leather jacket to my wardrobe.”
“But,” Jimmy searched for the right words before finally saying, “You’re Nick. You’re cool.”
“Yeah, I’m cool,” Nick angrily mumbled. “And it’s freaking awesome. But you know what sucks? Next year we go to the middle school and we start over. Sixth-graders underneath the sevenths and eighths. I was the king of Lindbergh Elementary, Neutron.” Nick exhaled loudly and shook his head. “And they just take that away. Start you at square one.”
“Well, we’re all starting over,” Jimmy offered.
“Yeah, but what have I got to show from Lindbergh?” Nick shot back. “You got your new friends, you’re less of a jerk, you’ve got a girlfriend.”
Jimmy’s cheeks burnt once more as he shook his head. “Cindy’s not my -”
“I don’t care,” Nick interrupted while waving away Jimmy’s protests. “You gained something,” Nick was practically begging Jimmy to understand. “I lose everything.”
As silence took hold of the counter, Sam awkwardly crept forward and dropped two slips of paper in front of the boys. “When you’re ready, yeah,” he mumbled before quickly side-stepping away.
Nick reached into his pocket and yanked out a handful of bills. He tossed them onto the counter and got up to walk away. He’d just turned around when Jimmy’s voice rang out.
A few seconds passed as Nick stood there. Finally he let out a deep sign and returned to his seat. “What?” he coolly asked.
Jimmy took a moment to make sure he chose the right words. “When you started this year, did you think it would ever end?” Nick raised an eyebrow and shook his head, not understanding the question. Jimmy tried to explain. “On the first day of school, I turned to today’s date on my calendar. I circled it and wrote that it was the last day of school. Obviously I knew deep down that I’d get there, that the seconds would keep ticking away and school would end sometime. But…I never really expected it to. It’s like I thought the year would last forever; summer just seemed so far away.”
“We all think like that,” Nick said with a shrug. “What’s your point?”
“I,” Jimmy breathed deeply and struggled to organize the jumble of thoughts in his head. “I’m not sure,” he admitted. “But back then, I never once thought that Cindy and I would be real friends. I never thought I’d discover aliens, I never thought that I’d get kidnapped by the League of Villains, and I never thought I’d grow another inch,” he said with a quiet chuckle.
Sensing the need for reciprocity, Nick got comfortable and stared down at the pile of bills below. “I never thought I’d kiss Betty in some play, never thought I’d break my leg fifteen times…I never thought I’d be hiding from graduation.”
Jimmy reached into his pocket and grabbed the money for his bill. “I never thought anything I’d been through would happen. Not the good times or the bad. But, more than that? I never thought I’d share every one of those moments with someone.”
Nick stared at Jimmy curiously as he went on.
“I never thought Cindy would get me through being in that cell. I never thought anyone would rescue me when the League of Villains kidnapped me. And I never guessed I’d be here today…but if I knew I would be? I’d never have guessed that you’d be here too.”
Nick deeply considered this statement and thought back on the problems he’d had in fifth grade. “I didn’t know how to be an actor,” he mused. “I was good at it, but I was a little scared at first. Betty helped me get over that. And when I broke my leg? Ike came and saw me in the hospital.” Nick furrowed his brow before adding, “Well, the first seven times anyway. After that he kinda said I was on my own. Tough love and all.” Nick locked onto Jimmy’s eyes and admitted, “And yeah, I thought I’d be alone here too.”
Jimmy offered a smile. “Maybe you won’t be king of the sixth grade,” Jimmy began. “Or maybe you will be but the eighth graders will shove us both into lockers. But no matter what, our class’ll be together. Maybe not all of us all the time, but we’ll still be there. We’ll have that.”
Nick nodded at Jimmy. “And maybe you and your friends won’t have every class together or get to ditch on movie days and fly to the moon. But there’s no way you guys won’t be friends,” Nick offered. “No way.”
“I think as you long as you have someone, at least one person, you can get through anything,” Jimmy summed up. “I didn’t used to think that, but that’s why all the best memories are from since I moved here; from after Carl and Sheen invited me to play at recess.” Jimmy nodded at his own words. “I was worried I’d lose that, but…I won’t let it happen.”
“Neither will they,” Nick assured Jimmy.
Jimmy turned to Nick and offered a smile. “It sounds like you have that; that person. You’ve got Ike and Betty. But,” Jimmy hesitated and offered Nick a sincere smile, “if you need someone, we could always grab another malt.”
Nick only needed to consider that for a second. “You know Neutron, it’s a shame you’re so lame. Because you can be pretty cool.”
Jimmy leapt off of his stool and headed towards the Candy Bar’s entrance with Nick by his side. The two stepped out into the bright sun and warm air. “You flying back?” Nick asked while jerking a thumb at Jimmy’s jetpack.
Jimmy considered this only for a moment. “I can walk.”
Nick huffed in amusement as the boys resumed their stride. “So can I.”
To Jimmy and Nick’s surprise, Ms. Fowl was nowhere to be found as they snuck back into their classroom.
“I told you they were together,” Ike loudly uttered while raising his sunglasses and staring happily at Butch. “Pay up.”
“Stupid unexpected bonding,” Butch grumbled while rolling a ten dollar bill into a ball and chucking it at Ike’s head.
“Where’s Ms. Fowl?” Jimmy asked as he and Nick took their seats. He did a double take as he spotted Sheen’s outfit and then added, “And why are you wearing a cap and gown?”
“Because he’s an idiot,” Cindy tiredly answered while running a hand down her haggard face.
“Ms. Fowl’s at a secret faculty party. Where were you guys?” Libby cheerily asked while placing a new CD into the classroom’s stereo and pumping up the volume. “Oh yeah, here we go!”
Jimmy shot a smile at Carl, who returned the favor before heading over to Ike’s desk and chatting about his newfound wealth. “We just…had a malt.”
“You know Neutron and me. Too cool for school,” Nick added while placing his feet on the chair in front of him and crossing his arms behind his head.
Libby happily raised the roof while heading towards the table of refreshments in front of the blackboard. “Cindy was worried about you,” she happily told Jimmy while grabbing a sugar cookie and heading back to her seat.
“Seriously?” Cindy asked in angry disbelief. Libby shrugged mischievously as Cindy turning to an amused Jimmy. “I was not.” She hesitated before gritting her teeth and quietly adding, “Worried that much.”
Jimmy flashed a sly grin and Cindy rolled her eyes. “You just usually let one of us know if you’re going to be late,” she explained while motioning at Libby, Carl, and Sheen.
Jimmy smiled, looked deep into Cindy’s eyes, and then leaned towards her. “Cindy?” he whispered.
Cindy sensed the seriousness in his tone and mirrored his actions. “Yeah?”
Jimmy took in a deep breath, glanced back at Nick, and saw his new friend give him the subtlest of nods. He gave his attention back to Cindy and offered a tentative smile. “I was a jerk when we met.” Unwilling to let any confession, no matter how earnest or emotional, pass without a snide remark he quickly added, “And you were too.” Cindy’s eyes immediately narrowed, but Jimmy held up his hand to ward off her reply.
“But I want you to know,” Jimmy hesitated, “and I mean this sincerely…I’m glad you’re my friend.” Cindy’s mouth dropped as he quickly begged, “Please don’t let that change.”
Cindy’s felt the blood warn her cheeks at the pure sincerity and emotion in Jimmy’s words. There no trace of this holding malice or being a trick, so she allowed herself to do what she’d only done a few times before with James. She answered honestly. “It won’t.” She swallowed hard, took a quick look around the room, and lunged her hand forward to grab his hand. She gave it the quickest squeeze possible and withdrew her grasp before anyone had noticed.
A pair of approaching footsteps cut their moment short as Ms. Fowl appeared in the doorway. “Well, class,” she brawked while ruffling her arms, “it’s good to see you all here.” She shot Jimmy and Nick a playful grin but made no mention of their earlier absence. “Your parents will start showing up soon, so what do you say we get down to the auditorium?”
“Finally!” Sheen cried out while his hands vibrated with glee. “I’ve waited eight years for this!” In a flash he’d zoomed out of the room, sending his cap flying off of his head and wafting lazily to the floor.
“That’s incredibly sad,” Ms. Fowl deadpanned while shaking her head at her deranged student.
Carl took a deep breath, flashed one last look around the classroom, and sniffled loudly. “So Jim,” he asked while turning to his best friend, “you ready to graduate?”
Jimmy watched Nick and Ike pass him by, smiled at Libby as she shut off the stereo, slowly picked up Sheen’s mortarboard, and saw Cindy grin at him out of the corner of his eye. “I think so, Carl.” As the four friends stepped outside and followed Sheen’s manic shouts of unbridled glee, Jimmy grinned wider. “As long as I’m with you guys, I think I’m ready for anything.”