~ Graduation ~
by Panther

Disclaimers: The characters are mine, all mine. All familiarities with real people and places are pure coincidence, with the exception of Akamichi Lee and Lynbrook High. One's a great, lovable old guy who acts like a kid and the other is a place that churns out a large number of top-graduating teenagers in the United States.

Warning disclaimers: Those of you who only like happy endings, you might not want to read this. Those of you who only strictly like heterosexuality, I don't know you got this far, but there isn't a hint of lesbian loving in sight. Only the lesbian part is in this story. However, I strongly encourage you to read through this short piece. Take a look at the world through someone else's eyes.

Dedications: Thank you for all those who have stuck by me. Hope you're not too disappointed with the end product.

Any comments, compliments, complaints, etcetera, etcetera and so on and so forth can be sent to pantherofartemis@yahoo.com. The bard will greatly appreciate being fed and will send thank you notes back.

One Last Thing: Thank you ShadyLady for taking her valuable time to beta this for me and for the italics section at the very end was suggested and supplied by her.

"Only the weak are cruel. Gentleness can only be expected from the strong." - Leo Buscaglia

Everything was set.

All her things were in order.

She was alone with no one to disturb her.

This would be the one last time that she made a circuit around this house.

She started in the entrance of the front door, taking in the whole of house that she could see. The opening to the kitchen. The soft lit living room. The beginning of the hallway that led to the bedrooms and the bathrooms. The glass doors that let the afternoon sun heat the carpet.

All of this, the smell, the feel, the warmth of home.

Her home.

The one place that she had known as a sanctuary for eighteen years.

Her feet took her to the kitchen, walking alongside the edge of the tiled countertop. The tips of her fingers faintly traced the grout that glued them together. There was a smell in the air, a hint of well loved meals and playful bubbly soap from many dish washings.

She moved to the living room, running her fingers along the spines of shelved books. One by one, she picked up the little knickknacks, the unique ornaments that graced the wooden shelves. Each had their own meaning. The crystal panda from a family visit to China. The little ceramic painted cat from a Mother's Day far in the past. The recent musical windmill from Christmas.

There were videos too. Many, many videos.

DVDs. VHS. Home made movies. Movies from stores. Colorful ones and unlabeled ones. All of them lined up neatly in rows.

She moved onto the hallway, giving the pictures that hung there one last long look, committing them to memory.

There was one from their trip to Yosemite, all of them up on Half Dome. Another from Vegas, Mom and Dad smooching together in front of the golden MGM lion. A painting of a field of daisies from a garage sale. That dumb oil painting that she had done in her first year of art. Pictures of bits and pieces of time passing, the young ones growing up and old ones growing older.

Her parent's bedroom was the first door down the hall.

They had painted it a lighter shade of Hunter green, trimming the walls with a wallpaper of pinecones. The eggshell white carpet was spotless, most likely due to her mother's adherence to neatness. Cleanliness was next to godliness, she had always said.

It was light and airy in her parent's room, with the curtain pulled open and the windows cracked just a little. The sounds of twittering birds and passing traffic trickled in faintly, leaving a sense of peace.

There was her sister's room right next door.

She didn't have the spirit or the energy to force the door open, so she contented herself to peeking through the small crack.

There wasn't a spot of light blue carpet that she could see.

Rumpled clothes littered the floor, strewn amongst the sea of old papers and stuffed animals. The smell of old food wrappers escaped from the room, happily dissipating throughout the house. The windows were closed and uncovered, bringing to relief the little motes of floating dust.

The bathroom was skipped in favor of her brother's room.

It wasn't like any of the other boy's rooms that she had seen.

There were no smelly socks, no discarded clothing, or guitar magazines. No old dishes, video games, or CDs. Her brother's room was neat and tidy, with posters of bands tacked neatly on the white walls and the corners of his bed sheets tucked in just right. His desk was free of useless debris, with his laptop on sleep mode in the corner opposite of the sculpture of a trio of blown glass dolphins.

It smelled like him, without the overwhelming strong scent of cologne that she was so often subjected to. It was nice, like a sweatshirt just out of the dryer or a new car.

The door to her room was just across the hall.

She hesitated, her hand on the doorknob for an incredibly long moment. A deep breath gathered the floating chaotic emotions in her heart and mind.

The door swung open.

The hinges were light, noiselessly well oiled, just the way she liked it.

She had decided to paint the walls of her room in her spare time, dedicating her time and concentration to the large minutiae that she had painstakingly colored in.

It was a huge forest, with towering trees and glinting sunlight. There were squirrels that chased each other around the large trunks. Birds perched on slim, leafing branches. Various insects buzzed and crawled throughout the forest.

And, in the middle of all this jovial tranquility, was a burst of unexpected energy.

A herd of horses thundered in and out of the labyrinth of trees. Rippling splashes of every shade of white, creamy yellow, chestnut brown, and rook black exploded with an irrepressible aura of power and majesty.

Her room was somewhat neat. It wasn't her parent's room, but it wasn't her sister's room either. Her bed wasn't made and there were a couple books laying about the emerald green floor. Her little wooden figurines that she had made in middle school woodshop were neatly lined up, next to her huge CD tower. Her monitor was on, the screensaver of the Bellagio just at sunset with the fountains lit from underneath. Her clothes were all stacked in drawers, her jackets, sweatshirts, and favorite articles of clothing hanging in her closet.

Of all the changes that she had done in her room throughout her life, it was her closet that had invoked the least modifications. Since she was little, she and her dad had worked together to tear out the sliding doors covering the shelving and the full length mirror.

She had let the shelves stay, turning them into a sort of library. The top shelf was filled with thin cardboard bound books that she had kept since elementary school. They visibly progresses in the general timeline of her growing up. From The Little Babysitter's Club and Animorphs, to Nancy Drew and Tamora Pierce, to Emily Dickinson and Michael Crighton.

She smiled quietly to herself as she tapped on a few books that she had sequestered behind the well read classics.

The Lesbian Kuma Sutra from her eighteenth birthday, a collective gift from three of her closest friends. Tell Me What You Like, the first lesbian book that she had had the courage to purchase publicly. A novel for BDSM novices, a gag gift from a Valentines not too long ago.

She gave the books a pat before a faint glint caught the corner of her eye.

A beam of light had somehow managed to ease its way into the closet, reflecting off a bit of polished brass. She reached a hand up to caress the frozen batter as she squinted her eyes at the nonexistent softball. A familiar joke about softball dykes curled the corners of her mouth as she glanced at all the other medals and trophies that were set on the low shelf.

She loved sports, had always loved them.

It had been soccer in preschool, football and basketball in elementary, and almost every imaginable sport in high school. Her parents had shaken their heads at her athleticism, but whenever she had managed to bring something home, they'd swipe it from her and display it for all to see in the living room until she managed to weasel it away into the depths of her closet.

Her eyes looked just past them, at the wall that the full length mirror would have graced had it not met its untimely demise.

On the pristine wall were pictures. She had papered the entire sections with photos and clippings of various women. Cindy Crawford. Catherine Zeta Jones. Ellen DeGeneres. Melissa Etheridge. Lucy Lawless. Angelina Jolie. Women whom she had forgotten the name of. Females from Africa, from China, from Italy, everywhere.

It was kind of funny how her friends noticed things. Nothing big really. Just that there wasn't a single man in any of the pictures. She hadn't noticed herself until Katie had handily pointed out that one little detail to her.

She slipped out of her closet, closing the door behind her with a solid 'snick'.

It was hard, staying at home, having to constantly watch herself with her family, doubly self conscious of herself. School had been better than home, even with the teachers and the irksome students that she was forced into education with. It was far better than having to stay home.

Home hadn't really been home in a long time. She and her parents had somehow drifted from the tight, unbreakable connection that she had felt growing up. Her father was at home less and less. Her mother was more derisive. So it seemed.

If she had been told to pinpoint when all this had started, it would have been on the twelfth of February of the year two thousand four, the historical day that two lesbians decided to apply for a marriage license in San Francisco.

It had been hard, trying to sit through dinner, not saying a thing as her mother complained to her father about the evils of strangers. Hard to not say a thing as they criticized the perversion that they watched on the TV screen. It had literally made her sick and she had excused herself from dinner to retreat into her room.

Even through the closed door, her mother's voice floated in under the gaps, bringing tears to her eyes. She didn't cry though. Somehow, someway, she had managed to blink them back as she sat alone in the dark. That night had changed everything for her, she knew.

It hit her hard. Never in her life had she expected something like this to happen. She had put up with derisive salesclerks, vulgar mouthed men, and bigoted schoolmates. Had shoved the little girl, the frightened teenager, and the terrified woman into an obscure corner of her mind. Had put up with what felt like the world as she struggled to please.

Until this.

Now, she no longer joked around in the locker room with the girls around her. No longer held lengthy conversations with her mother. No longer did things together with her father. She hid away in her room rather than hanging out with her siblings.

People in school had noticed, asking her if anything was the matter. She just brushed them off like so many others before, determined to make it through to graduation. Her teachers had tried to get her to talk to them, trying to figure out why she was so sullen all the time. Her friends had just welcomed her with open arms and reassuring words.

Because she was who she was.

Her dreams had changed.

Before, she had readily welcomed sleep, eagerly awaiting when she would be with the warmest pair of green eyes and the feel of sunshine and warmth on her skin.

Nowadays, she was doing everything she could to try and stay up, not wanting to sink into the endless black room that had taken over as her happy dream had faded. It was always the same, never changing. She always fell down forever, landing painfully in a heap in a black room. There was nothing there, just a wide expanse that left her with the constricting feeling of walking on air. There was always something, scratching or hissing at her, never appearing before her. Driving her insane. Voices ridiculing, taunting her about the unwonted tastes of her sexuality.

But now?now those nightmares would go away.

She would make them go away.

She would make everyone go away.

Her feet guided her to her bathroom, stopping for just a second to tug on the lock of her little chest that she kept under the dresser.

The tiles were cool under her feet, hard and as unyielding as the ceramic sink. The harsh florescent lights were reflected in the long mirror that housed her doppelganger. The rustle of cloth was hushed by the close walls, swallowed by the limited vastness of close quarters.

A flick of her wrist brought water to fill the tub, giving her time to reach into her pocket to retrieve two packages before stuffing her clothes into the empty hamper. She set them on the edge of the tub, slipping into the steaming water, sighing with pleasure at the near scalding temperature. With the door closed and locked, the steam condensed on the mirror, effectively clouding the reflective surface.

Carefully wiping the water from one hand, she propped the larger package on the cover of the toilet, wanting to make sure that it didn't get wet.

She hesitated, just for a moment, before unwrapping the other, smaller package, slowly slipping the contents from their home.

The water distorted the sounds of her own breathing and heartbeat as she slipped lower, closing her eyes as the water lapped on her cheekbones, just brushing the corners of her eyes. She closed them, concentrating on her breathing, timing each inhale and exhale, mediating the way she was taught in her tae kwon do class.

This time, she allowed herself to ease into the arms of sleep, confident that her nightmare would never return. She felt herself fade; unmindful of the soft 'plunk' of something dropping into her tub or of the soft footsteps that denoted someone was home.

The tension drained from her entire body, leaving her in a blissfully relaxed state. It was nice to find this sea of calm that she could turn to.

Her nose wrinkled distastefully at the hint of metallic in the air, her mind struggling to decide which was more undesirable, the smell or the sting of the water.

She sighed, breaking her regular meditative state, feeling the world fade away as she willingly sank into Morpheus' arms.

Unknowns to her, tomorrow, there would be a cheerless announcement over the speaker of Lynbrook High School, Mr. Wheti grimly announcing the reason of Chris Kolosova's inability to attend her graduation that night. Everyone, from the youngest freshman, to the oldest senior, to the teachers in their classrooms would stop and wonder. Some of them would cry. Others would sit, only slightly touched by the loss of her presence.

Some of the staff would miss her. Mrs. Vasid, the school librarian, would be melancholy at the loss of one of her favorite patrons. Akamichi Lee would sit in his battered blue chair, staring at one of his most talented student's finished artwork that he had hung on the walls for all to admire.

Her friends would sit silently together in their group in front of the library. One of them, Kristina, would pick at her flattened peanut butter and honey sandwich. Another, Kathryn, would stare off into space, pulling at the key to a lock that she now wore on a chain around her neck, remembering the promise that she had made to her friend.

Mother and Father would sit at home, eyes red rimmed and swollen from crying, reading the letter that they had found in the envelope on the toilet, choking on the words that they had read dozens of times. Her brother and sister would sit on her bed, looking at all the things around them that belonged to their eldest sister.

No one would go into the cold tiled room with the tub lined with red water, not wanting to see the clean razor that rested on the bottom of the crimson tinted depths.

A smile, her first in a long time, curled the corner of her lips.

To be continued???

"The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone." - Harriet Beecher Stowe

Endnote: I don't know if this is the end. My mind is juggling between leaving it as is and ending it on a happier note. I think there might be some fodder that could turn into another section. If you have the time, let me know what you think. Do you want to hear more, or would you rather leave it as is? Send anything to me at pantherofartemis@yahoo.com

For any of you that have been down that far and have gotten back up, you'll know what a wonderful feeling it is to be back up. For those of you who are down there or going down there, there is help. There are people who care about you and there are ways that help you to get back up. Don't give up on yourselves and don't give up on others.

Suicide is a frightening business that occurs way too often by despondent young and old people. Sometimes, knowing someone cares and recognizes their frame of mind can make the entire difference between life and death. Here is an international line: http://www.suicide-helplines.org/

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