He was. He nodded and gestured for me to return to my seat.

“You never know what you’ll miss out on…” he said.

I took a step back.

“This could be the most important speech of your life…”

I took another step back.

“And you might regret it for the rest of your—”

I turned around and rushed out of the room, hearing the laughter and applause of my classmates behind me. When I made it to the hallway, I looked back to see other students following my lead and joining the exodus.

College was officially over…

I took off my cap and gown and met Carter in the parking lot. “Since you made me leave early, you have to stop at Gayle’s before we go to my graduation party.”

“Do we have to sit inside?”

“I’m shocked you even have to ask…” I got into the car and he let the top down on his black Camaro—quickly speeding away to the diner.

Gayle’s was the number one waffle house and sweets company on the beach. It was so popular that the company bought mobile-store trucks and drove them around campus during its season.

The menu wasn’t anything special; it was beyond simple with its typical home-style American breakfast fare. What set it apart from anywhere else was the 1950s atmosphere and the undeniable this-shit-is-the-best-I’ve-ever-had-in-my-life waffle recipe. For years, the locals jokingly accused them of using crack in their batter to get people to come back so often, so the owner started boxing the batter in tins with the word “CRACK” written right on front.

Gayle’s was also the only restaurant that had a ten page menu solely dedicated to their desserts, and they added new options and concoctions every week.

I’d pulled countless all-nighters, hosted several dates, and even held a birthday party there before. But no matter what, it was where me and Carter met up whenever life veered left and we needed to talk, or whenever there was nothing else better to do.

We met there so often that sometimes his other friends would simply show up if they needed him instead of calling him on the phone.

“Let me guess,” the waitress rolled in front of us on her white skates as soon as we entered. “A Belgian waffle with vanilla yogurt and strawberries—with a sprinkle of chocolate chips for one order, and a waffle tower with chocolate yogurt, peanut butter, and a sprinkle of Oreo chips and candy on the side for the second order?”

We both nodded. We ordered the exact same thing every time we came here.

“Have a seat,” she said. “I’ll be right with you.”

We took a seat in a booth by the bay windows—in perfect view of the tourists who were starting their annual takeover of the beach.

“I’m going to miss this so much…” I said. “If I don’t get into anywhere else soon, I’ll have to accept the offer from that culinary school in Cleveland. I don’t think they have a beach, though…Or a restaurant that’s similar to this one.”

“They don’t have much of anything. It’s Cleveland.”

I laughed. “Just try not to rub it in since you’re lucky enough to be staying here for law school.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to send you ocean-view pictures every day.”

“Here you two are.” The waitress set down our orders and I swiped a spoonful of yogurt from Carter’s plate.

“Ugh!” I swallowed it. “How can you eat that? The words ‘chocolate’ and ‘yogurt’ should never be allowed anywhere near each other.”

He swiped a spoonful of my vanilla yogurt in return. “It’s not like vanilla is that much better. There’s no flavor in that whatsoever.”

I shrugged and picked a few Oreos from his toppings cup while he picked a few strawberry chips from mine.

As I was stealing one of his peanut butter swirls, a few members of his college basketball team walked inside—super loud and obnoxious. Spotting Carter, they immediately walked over and shook his hand—asking a few brief questions, leaving Carter plenty of room to congratulate them on a hard fought season. Plenty of time for them to reminisce on his short-lived, yet high-profile freshman season.

The team had actually been quite terrible this year, posting the worst record in all of college basketball. And although his former teammates would never say it to his face, I’m sure they wondered if he’d lied about his diagnosis years ago, if he used his sudden ACL injury as an excuse to walk away from everything.

“Do you miss it?” I asked, after they’d said their goodbyes.

“I miss the groupies.”

“You still have groupies. Just a different type.”

“Well, in that case…” His eyes followed the team out of the store. “I never did appreciate other people unloading their expectations onto me when I had my own. So, no. I don’t miss being a part of that at all.”

“Totally understand. Speaking of which, when it comes to things we miss and don’t miss…” I took out my phone and pulled up my secret “Long-term Relationship Compatibility” spreadsheet. I never told Carter it actually existed because I was sure he’d find a way to get me to delete it.

“What is one thing you wish you could’ve done differently in regards to your relationship with Emily?” I asked.

“I wish I’d never met her.”

“Come on…” I started to type. “This always helps me know what not to do in my next relationship, so I’ll go first. In me and Scott’s case, I could’ve tried to talk to him about my reservations about intimacy a lot sooner.”