Wanda sat on the stage, staring out at the crowd gathered on plastic chairs. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mike Randell. His dirty blond hair hung around his shoulders. Her hands tightened into fists in the lap of her graduation gown. He looked up and leered, looking away as she glared. Their dates had been full of his need to always know where she was. She hissed and unclenched her hands. Her palms were covered in half-moons from her nails.
After a few moments of scanning, waiting for the ceremony to start she saw her mother. Her chestnut brown hair, the same as Wanda's, was done up into an elaborate bun. She had tears in her eyes but her smile was wide.
Next to her, an empty seat with a reserved sign attached to it. She sighed. She had doubted her father would show but had hoped he would care enough. On her mother's other side sat Jasmine. Her dark skin and hair set her apart from the sea of pale skin around her. She was shorter than most, her head peeked around the head of the man in front of her.
Everyone was called to stand as the chancellor walked up to the podium and gave his speech. His speech was long and his voice was putting everyone to sleep. Eventually, he stopped and began calling names of her peers. She waited patiently for her name, clapping politely as the other graduated got called up.
"Burch, Wanda." She stood clumsily and went to collect her degree.
She noted the chancellor's stained smile as he handed her the degree. None of their previous conversations had ended well. She sat back into her chair, watching and clapping for the rest of the graduates.
The valedictorian, a blond man she had never spoken to, stood and gave his speech. It was short and generic, going on about how much he had enjoyed the school and would miss it. Wanda strongly disagreed with him and doubted he believed that.
After the ceremony, she sat on the grass, staring out at the clouds, waiting for her mother.
"Are you ok, you seem distracted." straightening Wanda turned to face her mother, her dark brown eyes, so different from Wanda's grey, still shone with unshed tears.
"I'm fine." her face was blank as she stared over her shoulder. she started as her mother pulled her into a tight hug the moment she had finished speaking.
"Let's try that again shall we." she pulled back, her face stern but her eyes were soft "are you okay," Wanda returned her look with a small smile.
"Yea, just tired…and a bit nervous." the stern look on her mother's face faded and replaced it with a smile of her own.
"Let's go home then, unless there's someone you want to talk to first." Wanda thought for a moment.
"Where's Jasmine." she tilted her head and stared at her mother
"She told me she had to go to work but to pass on her congratulations and that she'll come by tomorrow." Wanda smiled and shook her head.
The ride home was long. She stared out the window, watching the concrete and skyscrapers fly by. The steel buildings breached the clouds. Green was nowhere to be seen except for the lights coming from the buildings, blocking out the stars. Wanda grinned to herself, so many planets and places to go
"Do you regret joining." She jumped and turned at her mother's soft voice. She tilted her head and looked back to the window.
"No..." She paused for a moment. "It was hard, getting in seemed impossible and the scholarship required top grades." She winced slightly. "Some of the people there bordered on cruel, Jasmine helped a lot but..." She turned back to her mother with a smile. "No, I never regretted it, not for a minute." Her mother returned her smile and nodded.
"Good." The rest of the car ride was silent.
The car pulled up into the driveway. Wanda looked it over with a sad smile. It was small. The sliding was grey and peeling and the pathway was uneven. She grabbed her suitcase and walked inside.
"Go drop that in your old room and get out of that gown, you must be boiling." She nodded and walked up the stairs, listening to the creak under the weight. As she entered the room she laughed, loud. The room was still as she had been when she left. The walls were still covered in posters of pop singers she had long since forgotten the names off, the closet was a mess of clothing thrown haphazardly into it, the only clean part being the now made bed.
She dumped the case on the bed and left her sneakers next it. She stripped out of her gown, leaving her in a brown tank and black shorts. She gave the room one last long look and headed back down.
Her mother sat in the living room, a plate of sandwiches on the table. The carpet was a copper brown and soft as her feet slid over it. The grey leather couch was covered in stains and cuts. The beige wallpaper was fading and peeling slightly in places. The tv was an old model, covered in new additions Wanda had added over the years as practice.
The smell of cooking fish dragged her attention from the room. She peeked her head into the kitchen and her mouth began watering. Salmon sizzled on the pan.
"I know it's your favourite so..." She turned and hugged her mother, standing in the doorway. She felt her stiffen before returning the hug.
"You shouldn't've I know how much that costs." Her mother laughed and stepped out the hug.
"What kind of mother would I be if I didn't, now go sit while I finish this." Wanda grinned wide and walked back to the living room. She dropped onto the couch and closed her eyes, listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen. Her eyes strained open shortly after. Her mother stood over her, two plates in her hand.
Dinner was loud and full of laughter, both making the most of the time they had. Excited and nervous for what the morning would bring.
A loud continuous knock came from the front door. Wanda rolled over, straight onto the floor
"Right... single bed." She stood up, groaning quietly. she hopped down the stairs towards the door. Her mother stood there talking to the person on the other side. Wanda shrugged and headed to the kitchen.
"How are you." She jumped at the sudden, loud voice, dropping the toast she had grabbed. She twisted around to find Jasmine leaning casually in the doorway. She gave her a grin.
"I'm good, why'd work call you, thought that was your day off" Jasmine grimaced and began fidgeting with her shirt.
"Schedule got screwed up" Wanda narrowed her eyes but nodded. She kissed her and lead her to the living room. The two flopped down onto the couch. The next few hours flew by as they sat and talked about everything and nothing just as she had done with her mother the night before. The conversation started out light, full of jokes and laughter and the stupid situations they had ended up in before the topic changed to work.
"You'll be recruited soon, I bet" Jasmine's tone was airy but she was retreating into herself
"You don't seem happy about that Jaz" Wanda smiled, cocking her head to the side, looking over her carefully
"The Biftos have overtaken a third planet, everyone's on alert 's why my schedule's all messed up, doctors and soldiers are being called in for extra instruction and ships out to nearby bases in case the war reaches us." She sighed quietly. "More government ships are being sent out recently, more ships and less return trips means more mechanics needed." Wanda stood abruptly and began pacing
"When are you being shipped out." Jasmine stayed quiet for a stretch, while Wanda continued pacing.
"Tomorrow." Wanda sagged onto the couch and leant into Jasmine, tears flowing down her cheeks.
They laid there for a few minutes before Jasmine stood up. She stretched and grimaced as her back cracked
"I've got to go. My doctors' instruction is today and I can't miss it." She turned to face Wanda. "I only came to say goodbye." She leaned down to kiss Wanda before turning to leave. "See ya Wand." Wanda waved with a small smile on her face as she wiped the tears off her face.
"Bye Jaz, see you 'round"
Wanda stayed in the same spot on the couch, rubbing her hands absentmindedly over the ruined leather. She watched the clouds drifting outside the window. The grief the news had caused faded slightly into the background the longer she stayed watching the shapes. She thought of leaving and getting the chance to work on and improve a government created ship and explore space and felt her grin return even as her body continued to shake.
Her mother was in the kitchen, sitting at the old table, listening to the radio. After pouring herself a glass of water Wanda sat leaning into her mother willing her body to stop shaking. Taking small sips as her mother rubbed her back like she had years ago. The shaking began to stop until she could think clearly again.
Her mother went speak when a sharp knock sounded at the door
This is my first book. Hope you enjoyed the first chapter. Criticism would be loved as this isn't beta'd.