Today Tonight Tomorrow Page 2

My dad appears behind her, yawning. The book they’re working on is a spin-off about Riley’s younger sister, an aspiring pastry chef. Pastel cakes and pies and French macarons leap off the pages.

“Hey, Ro-Ro,” he says, his usual nickname for me. When I was a kid, he used to sing “row, row, Rowan your boat,” and I was devastated when I learned those weren’t the real lyrics. “Happy last day of school.”

“I can’t believe it’s finally here.” I stare at the carpet, suddenly gripped by nerves. I’ve already cleaned out my locker and taken my finals breakdown-free. I have too much to do today—as student council copresident, I’m leading the senior farewell assembly—to get nervous now.

“Oh!” my mom exclaims, as though suddenly waking up. “We need a picture with the unicorn!”

I groan. I was hoping they’d forgotten. “Can it wait until later? I don’t want to be late.”

“Ten seconds. And aren’t you signing yearbooks and playing games today?” My mom cups my shoulder and gently shakes me back and forth. “You’re almost done. Don’t stress so much.”

She always says I carry too much tension in my shoulders. By the time I’m thirty, my shoulders will probably touch my earlobes.

My mom rummages around in the hall closet, returning with the unicorn-shaped backpack I wore on my first day of kindergarten. In that first first-day photo, I am all sunshine and optimism. When they snapped a picture on the last day of kindergarten, I looked like I wanted to set that backpack on fire. They were so amused, they’ve taken photos on the first and last days of school ever since. It was the inspiration for their bestselling picture book, Unicorn Goes to School. It’s odd, sometimes, to think about how many kids grew up knowing me without really knowing me.

Despite my reluctance, the backpack always makes me smile. The unicorn’s poor horn is hanging on by a thread, and one hoof is missing. I stretch the straps as far as they’ll go and strike a tortured pose for my parents.

“Perfect,” my mom says, laughing. “You really look like you’re in agony.”

This moment with my parents makes me wonder if today will be a day of lasts. Last day of school, last morning text from McNair, last photo with this aging backpack.

I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to everything yet.

My dad taps his watch. “We should get back to it.” He tosses me a flashlight. “So you don’t have to shower in the dark.”

Last shower of high school.

Maybe that’s the definition of nostalgia: getting sappy about things that are supposed to be insignificant.

* * *

After showering, I wrestle my hair into a damp bun, not trusting it to air-dry into a flattering shape. On my first try, I draw a flawless cat-eye with liquid liner, but I have to settle for a mediocre little flick on the left side. My kingdom for the ability to apply a symmetrical face of makeup.

Last cat-eye of high school, I think, and then I stop myself because if I get weepy about eyeliner, I have no chance of making it through the day.

McNair, with his punctuation and capital letters, pops back up like the world’s worst game of Whac-A-Mole.

Aren’t you in that neighborhood without power?

I’d hate to mark you late… or have you lose the perfect attendance award.

Have they ever had a student council (co)president win zero awards?

The outfit I planned days ago waits in my closet: my favorite sleeveless blue dress with a Peter Pan collar, the one I found in the vintage section at Red Light. When I tried it on and dipped my hands into the pockets, I knew it had to be mine. My friend Kirby once described my style as hipster librarian meets 1950s housewife. My body is what women’s magazines call “pear shaped,” with a large chest and larger hips, and I don’t have to struggle with vintage clothes the way I do with modern ones. I finish the look with knee socks, ballet flats, and a cream cardigan.

I’m poking a simple gold stud through one earlobe when the envelope catches my eye. Of course—I set it out at the beginning of the week, and I’ve been staring at it every day since, a mix of dread and excitement warring in my stomach. Most of the time, the dread is winning.

In my fourteen-year-old handwriting, which is a little larger and loopier than it is now, it says OPEN ON LAST DAY OF HIGH SCHOOL. A time capsule of sorts, in the sense that I sealed it four years ago and have only fleetingly thought about it since. I’m only half certain what’s inside it.

I don’t have time to read it now, so I slide it into my navy JanSport, along with my yearbook and journal.

how have you not run out of ways to mock me after four years?

What can I say, you’re an endless source of inspiration.

and you are an endless source of migraines

“I’m leaving, love you, good luck!” I call to my parents before shutting the front door, realizing, with a twinge of my heart, that I won’t be able to do this next year.

Excedrin and Kleenex, DON’T FORGET.

My car is parked around the block, since most Seattle garages are barely big enough for our Halloween decorations. Once inside, I plug my phone into the charger, pluck a bobby pin from the cup holder, and plunge it into my mountain of hair, imagining I’m jabbing it into the space between McNightmare’s eyebrows instead.

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