Ugh… I tucked my notebook into my purse and heard familiar laughter. I looked up and realized it was the instructor from the “Understanding the Recipes” course.

“You think this is funny? I asked, feeling bold. “Kicking someone out of class?”

“It’s hilarious.” He laughed harder, looking at me. “And you weren’t kicked out of class, you were removed because I saw you going in there this morning.”

“You snitched on me? I thought you liked me…You don’t normally snitch on me.”

“I don’t,” he said. “But on test day, all bets are off. Can you not see the direct correlation between the times we have security remove you and the times we don’t?”

I was stunned.

“Exactly,” he said, patting my shoulder. “We all appreciate your passion, but test days are only for those who are actually paying tuition…I trust I’ll be seeing you more often since you’re out of college now, though?”

I nodded, and he laughed again, saying, “See you next weekend, Miss Turner,” before walking away.

Completely honored by the “appreciate your passion” comment, I smiled and wondered if I could later get him to write me an unofficial recommendation for a few other culinary schools I was waiting to hear back from.

Maybe a letter from him would help me get a scholarship?

I glanced at my watch and realized I had three hours to get ready for the college I was actually paying to attend; my graduation ceremony was today.

Track 3. All Too Well (3:42)

Yep…I definitely picked the wrong career path for my life…

I was officially convinced that Reeves University officials had held a secret meeting dedicated to listing the many ways that they could make this year’s ceremony the most boring yet.

Everything from the twenty minute organ prelude to induct the doctorates, to the thirty minute video that recapped the university’s best features, to the fact that they’d booked five different speakers.

I’d sat through nearly all of them, scrolling through social media newsfeeds and twiddling my thumbs, but the fourth speaker of the day had definitely mastered the art of sounding as monotonous as possible. Every other line was “And then I remember,” “I wish I’d known,” or “I’m not making this up, kids…Hahaha.”

There was never any laughter from the audience afterwards. Only silence. And snores.

I covered my mouth so I could yawn yet again, and the girl sitting next to me stretched out her arms and rested her head on my shoulder. Without my permission.

“Um...” I looked at her.

“Yes?” She looked right back at me.

“Um…Do I even know you? Why would you just lay on me?”

She blinked.

“No, really. Why are you laying on me?”

“Shhh!” She adjusted her position and shut her eyes.

I was tempted to jerk away and leave her hanging, but I decided to make the most out of the situation. I looked at the girl to my left—at the vacant shoulder that was calling my name, and leaned onto it.

Several minutes later, and once the speaker said he was “almost done” for the umpteenth time, my phone vibrated with a text from my mom.

I’m sorry, hon, but I can’t sit through another second of this. I got plenty of pictures of you walking across the stage, though! Oh! And I got a lot of you at the department ceremony earlier! I’ll see you at home for your party! I’m making crab-cakes! Be there by seven!

You’re my mother and you’re leaving my college graduation EARLY? Really?

I actually wanted to leave TWO HOURS AGO, but because I’m your mother I stayed a little longer. Love you!

I rolled my eyes, but I couldn’t blame her. I texted, “Love you too, see you soon,” and looked up into the arena. Some members of the audience were getting the exact same idea.

Hell, even some of the graduates were feeling the same way. The ones that still had the energy to get up, that is.

Before I could figure out what I wanted to do, my phone vibrated once more. Carter.

Are you awake right now?

I am.

I texted back.

I’m finding this speech quite inspiring. If you try to pay attention, you might learn something today.

Bullshit. What is this guy even talking about?

I listened to the speaker for a few minutes, honestly not understanding why he was now talking about a dead goldfish, but I pretended I did anyway.

He’s talking about taking chances, trying scary risks, and learning that just one of them is bound to pay off.

You’re so full of it, Ari. You should leave.

I want to listen to the rest.

Then I hope you have another way to get to your graduation party since I just saw your mom leave…

What? I don’t remember rushing you out of YOUR college graduation. I sat through the entire thing!

I wasn’t depending on you for a ride home . You’ve got five minutes.

I’ll meet you there in ten.

I gently pushed my neighbor off my shoulder and stood up.

“Sometimes, you just have to stay until the end,” the speaker said a little louder, louder than he’d been for his never-ending speech. “I wish I would’ve stayed until the end of a lot of speeches when I was younger…I definitely wished I would’ve listened to the entire speech at my college graduation…”

What? I turned around, looking to see if he was not-so-subtly referring to me.