Authors: Hailey Abbott
Oh my God!”
Celeste gasped as the first cop reached her boyfriend. Yellingâ¦
After spending graduation day party-hopping, Travis drove his purring BMWâ¦
Celeste! Wake up. It's nine forty-five! Where's Devon? They're askingâ¦
Celeste's mouth went dry and she felt all her musclesâ¦
Okay, I'm ready!” Celeste called, hanging upside down by herâ¦
Celeste flew down the path to the main building, almostâ¦
Celeste sat at one of the desks in the mainâ¦
To Celeste, it seemed like Nick and Devon were everywhereâ¦
No one else had noticed Nick's arrival. Travis clenched hisâ¦
Several days after the beach party, Celeste was crouched, strugglingâ¦
For a minute, no one spoke. Celeste stared at theâ¦
Celeste!” Devon's shrill voice zinged into Celeste's ear. The doorâ¦
As she approached the Saunders guesthouse, Celeste saw the frontâ¦
Celeste couldn't help feeling a little exposed that night asâ¦
Well, I don't know why you have to go,” Travisâ¦
They'd pulled up on a little strip of asphalt nearâ¦
God, it's hot,” Celeste said, on her hands and kneesâ¦
Nick!” Celeste called later that evening, poking her head intoâ¦
Celeste felt like her head was spinning around in circlesâ¦
Celeste stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towelâ¦
Celeste convulsively squeezed her Perrier glass so tightly it wasâ¦
Celeste pushed through the little gate around the deck. Theâ¦
The rest of the festival was uneventful. Celeste played theâ¦
Celeste pulled away from the curb, her headlights cutting aâ¦
h my God!”
Celeste Tippen's best friend almost sent her flying onto the last row of white folding chairs set up on Longbrook High School's lawn. Under the hot Palm Springs sun, dressed-up families were filling the aisles, clutching graduation programs, and claiming rows of seats by laying jackets and purses across them. Several audience members turned to look at the crazy girls in the back, but Devon Wright didn't let go of Celeste's elbow.
“What?” Celeste spun around, rubbing her tan arm where Devon's nails had dug in. That was definitely going to bruise.
Devon hissed, frantically smoothing
her sleek, shoulder-length black hair behind her ears. “How's my hair?”
Celeste rolled her eyes. “Fabulous, of course. When does your hair ever
look perfect?” Devon was now using Celeste's sunglasses as a mirror to apply fuchsia lipstick from an ornate gold tube. Celeste stared at the color. “Wow, that's bright. Are you worried Stefan might not be able see you in this crowd?”
“Hold still.” Devon was concentrating on her lower lip. “At least it's
, Ms. Cherry Chapstick.”
“Hey! I like my Chapstick. It goes with everything, it's not expensiveâ”
“It's nice and safe and boring,” Devon finished for her. “I know, it's perfect for you. If you weren't dating Travis, I'd already have held a funeral for your wild side.” She clicked the lipstick closed and stuck it in her lime green Prada clutch.
Celeste smiled as she thought of Travis Helding, her boyfriend of almost a year. “Maybe that's why we're so good together. He loosens me up and I bring him down to earth.” She turned away and squinted at the figures packed into the rows of chairs in front of them, trying not to wobble in her new black espadrilles. “So, which one is the infamous Stefan?”
?” Devon sounded as if Celeste had asked which one was Justin Timberlake. “Him, obviously.” She pointed to a tall guy with tousled brown hair lounging
across two seats halfway down toward the stage, his legs sticking out into the aisle.
“Isn't he that guy you were talking to at Logan's party? I think his brother's graduating today,” Celeste replied over her shoulder as she searched for seats. “Ugh, why is it so hot?” She lifted her long, wavy chestnut hair off the back of her neck and wondered what stroke of insanity had convinced her to wear her new black D&G sundress to spend hours sitting in the sun at the seniors' graduation.
“Um, I don't know,” Devon replied. “Maybe because we live in the middle of the
“Ah, yes. That might be it.” Celeste pushed past a group of leggings-clad junior high girls blocking the aisle. “By the way, thanks for coming with me. I don't think I could sit through this ceremony alone without collapsing from boredom.”
“Of course. Now when you collapse from boredom, I'll be here to catch you,” Devon said. “Kevin Fraser's after-party will be worth sitting through this.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and looked up toward the stage. “Hey, where's Travis?”
“Probably back there somewhere.” Celeste pointed to the screen hiding the graduating seniors. Black mortarboards bobbed above the top. Celeste was surprised she couldn't pick out Travis's cap in the crowdâher boyfriend was six foot six, a good four inches taller than anyone
else in the senior class. Either he was late or had decided that the final moments before his high school graduation would be the perfect time for an outdoor nap. Neither option would be out of character.
“Here.” Celeste gave Devon a little shove. “There're two seats together.”
The girls settled themselves in the third row from the back. They were surrounded on all sides by moms in Lilly Pulitzer print dresses, dads fumbling with digital cameras, and grandmothers clutching ridiculously large handbags. In front of the sleek stucco archway that marked the school's entrance, a temporary stage had been set up on risers, with folding chairs lining the back and giant potted ferns on either end. A podium was set up just below, while a huge printed banner reading
CONGRATULATIONS, LONGBROOK HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR CLASS
hung over the whole scene. Celeste could just barely see the atrium of the indoor swimming pool gleaming over the school's red-tile roof. “Are your parents here?” Devon asked. Celeste jumped slightly.
“My parents?” She whipped her head around. “Where?” Her dad wasn't Travis's biggest fan. The fact that the first time he'd met Travis, Celeste had been only partially clothed and Travis had been only partially sober had a lot to do with that. And nothing in the last eight months had really changed her dad's first impres
sion of her boyfriend, despite Celeste's pleas for him to give Travis a chance. At this point, the farther the two of them stayed apart, the better.
Devon gave her friend a pitying smile and smoothed her purple and pink Cavalli hippie dress over her knees. “You have got to relax, babe. I said,
your parents here?”
“Oh.” Celeste reclined back into her seat. “No, they didn't come. They're really busy getting ready for the seasonâyou know how that goes.” Celeste's parents owned one of the most luxurious, exclusive resorts in Palm Springs. Pinyon Ranch wasn't huge. In fact, it only had twenty guest rooms and a dozen private villas, but it was known for its five-star service andâmost important for some of their L.A. clientsâprivacy.
Celeste closed her eyes and sighed happily, thinking of the long summer days stretching in front of her. Lying out on her towel at the beach with Travis, hiking in the desert at twilight with Travis, watching trashy movies with Travis at his house in the afternoon. Then she sat up and shook her head. What the hell alternate universe was she in? She was going to be performing her usual six-days-a-week slog at the resort, folding towels and fetching water bottles, just like every summer. And Travis was going be two hours away, teaching surf lessons at the beach.
“Oh, Devon!” she wailed suddenly. A tiny white-haired
lady next to them shot Celeste an alarmed glance, then turned back to the digital camera she was holding and peered at it closely. Celeste watched the woman carefully press a button and take a picture, apparently of her lap. “I'm so sick of working every summer of my life,” Celeste moaned. “I mean, I would've loved to go to that creative writing program I told you about, butâ”
“What?” Devon's forehead wrinkled in concern. “I thought you hadn't said anything because you didn't get in.”
“I didn't even apply.” Celeste dropped her head on her friend's shoulder. “It wasn't worth itâMom and Dad would never let me go. âYou have to save money for college,'” she mimicked. “Besides, I'd feel guilty for abandoning them during high season anyway.”
Devon shook her head. “You're incredible. I'm lucky if I remember to say hi to my mom when I see her for the five minutes a day we're both in the house.”
Celeste went on. “And I only have eighty-nine days until Travis leaves for Arizona State, and I'm not going to see him all summer! Then he'll go off to college and leave me behind, and meet tons of gorgeous sorority girls and never come to visit and forget all about me.” She folded up her program and fanned her face. Not that it would do any good. The heat would have been unbearable even without the aid of whoever had doused themselves in Coco Mademoiselle perfume.
“Well, don't feel too sorry for yourself, drama queen.
going to be here too.” Devon had a job as Pinyon's guest relations rep. She'd been wait-listed at a super-exclusive acting program in Scotland, so Celeste had convinced her to spend the summer making as much money as possible.
, Celeste thought a little guiltily. She knew how much Devon wanted to go to Glasgow, but at least she'd have someone around this summer other than her crazy parents.
The girls stopped talking as a tall man with a long red neck and a prominent Adam's apple appeared from behind the screen and made his way to the podium. He began harrumphing into the microphone.
“Hello? Hello? Is this on?” The microphone responded to his voice with an angry feedback whine. The audience covered their ears.
Mr. Ransick was the school board president. Every year, he and his wife spent their anniversary at the resort. They always ordered up champagne and strawberries, and Celeste, unfortunately, was usually the one to deliver them, which conjured up all sorts of images she'd rather forget.
A guy at a soundboard in the back fiddled with some dials and then nodded at Mr. Ransick.
“Okay!” Mr. Ransick said. “First of all, welcome to the sixtieth commencement exercises for the graduating
class of Longbrook High School!” He paused to let a little ripple of applause scatter throughout the audience. Celeste opened her knockoff burgundy Marc Jacobs bag and checked her iPhone to see if Travis had texted. Nothing. She shifted on the hard plastic seat and surreptitiously tried to peel her dress off the back of her legs. Devon was tapping away on her BlackBerry.
“Who are you writing?” Celeste hissed.
“Stefan!” her friend whispered back. “I'm asking if he'll be at Kevin's after-party.” A woman with a helmet of blond hair turned around and glared at them. Celeste shot her a gold-plated smile straight from Pinyon customer service.
Up front, Mr. Ransick was blathering on about commitment to their school's core values of equality, liberty, and paternity or something, and people were starting to shift around in their seats. Beside them, the white-haired lady took another picture of her lap.
“And without further adoâ¦” Mr. Ransick seemed to be winding down. Celeste looked up. “Please welcome this year's graduating class.” He gestured at the frizzy-haired school orchestra director at the front of the patio. The director raised her arms and the band struck up that perennial graduation favorite, “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Celeste sat up in her seat, trying to spot Travis in the wobbly line of black-gowned seniors now gathered at the foot of the stage steps. Devon gasped.
“Look!” She pointed a pale pinkâmanicured finger at the stage.
A golf cart crammed with five guys wearing rubber monster heads and striped terry-cloth bathrobes accelerated up the wheelchair ramp onto the stage. A loud murmur rustled through the audience and a few people laughed. The music trailed to an uncertain halt as the orchestra director's waving arms wilted.
Celeste squinted her eyes. “What the hell?”
Devon was laughing next to her. “It's gotta be the senior prank! I can't believe they waited until the last possible day!”
The golf cart jerked to a halt in the middle of the stage. The five guys jumped out and lined up. In unison, they tore off their bathrobes and exposed matching purple, rhinestone-encrusted thongs. Mr. Ransick and the principal, Dr. Weaver, stood as if turned to stone. The microphone dropped from Mr. Ransick's slack hand and thumped to the floor with a loud whine. There was a moment of dead silence, and then all the students in the audience erupted with cheers. People started climbing onto their chairs and whistling. Some of the parents tried not to laugh, with varying degrees of success. The little old lady beside Celeste was sitting up very straight and frantically pressing every button on her camera as she finally aimed it toward the stage.
Celeste climbed up on her chair too, trying not to
break her ankle in her wobbly espadrilles. “Woo-hoo!” she yelled and took a couple of shots with her iPhone.
Suddenly, Celeste shrieked. She recognized two things a little two well: the swirling Pinyon Ranch logo across the side of the shiny white golf cart and the perfectly muscled chest of the tallest guy on stage, the one right in the middle.
Celeste shook Devon. “It's Travis!” she hissed, pointing frantically at the stage. “And that's
“Oh my God,” Devon said, gasping for air.
Mr. Ransick suddenly snapped out of his trance and ran toward the steps leading up to the stage. “Stop!” he shouted. He slipped on the pages of his speech, which had scattered across the stone patio, and fell heavily on his rear. “Call the police!” he yelled over his shoulder to no one. By now, everyone in the audience was on their feet. People were crowding the aisles trying to get a glimpse of the stage. Celeste clenched her teeth as she saw Dr. Weaver fiddling with a cell phone.
Up on stage, the guys draped their arms around each other's shoulders and began a Rockette-style kick line. They did a few do-si-dos, and then the audience screamed as Travis turned a cartwheel, nearly flashing two hundred parents and grandparents. In the distance, Celeste could hear the high blare of police sirens.
“Get out of there!” she moaned. “You're the world's biggest idiot! Go!”
The guys finished their dance and vaulted onto the golf cart, leaving the bathrobes heaped on the stage. Travis grabbed the wheel and floored the accelerator. The cart shot forward, but Travis lost control. With an awful cracking noise, he drove right off the side of the ramp. The audience, including Celeste and Devon, winced as the cart fell three feet down onto the patio, landing with a tremendous crash. The guys scrambled out and ran across the school lawn like crazed nudists, just as three police cars, sirens wailing and lights flashing, pulled up at the curb.
“Shit, Celeste!” Devon screeched, pointing at the crashed golf cart. Celeste followed her finger. There, next to the cart, struggling to his feet with his hand clapped over one eye, was Travis. Of course.