Chapter Sixty: Without You

I sat next to Jordan's father a little over a month later, watching the graduating class cross the stage one by one to receive their diplomas. So many faces that I knew…and I had to wonder if I'd ever see them again. All around me, proud parents held up video cameras, filming their little girl or little boy's graduation. Camera flashes went off every fifteen seconds…including the one in Mr. Walker's hands. Big surpise there.

"Jacob Cole Sanders," the announcer read. Cole crossed the stage to accept his diploma. The stream continued, and more and more of my classmates bade farewell to high school. I was about to cry already…it was scary to think of these people I'd come to know over the past two years, and think that this might be the last time I ever saw them. I knew Cole was going to college in California…Stephen was going into the navy…and next year…next year I'd be the one graduating. I'd be the one going into the world on my own, the one leaving all my friends behind.

Karla Leigh Vaughn crossed the stage, a huge smile stretched across her face as she shook the principal's hand and took her mock diploma. Jordan's father shifted in his seat and readied his camera. Even without his signals, I knew what was next.

"Jordan Michael Walker." Jordan started across the stage in his blue graduation gown, a smile on his lips. Next to me, Mr. Walker's camera whirred and clicked rapidly. Jordan was going to have a step-by-step photographic record of his graduation. He shook hands with the principal and superintendent, then accepted his diploma as the rest of his class had before him.

It was then that everything finally sunk in. This was the end. When school started back in August, there would be no Jordan to run up behind me and grab me around the waist and pick me up. There wouldn't be any comparing of schedules so that we could find out every possible second that we'd be able to spend together. He wouldn't be there to walk me to class, or drive me to school. There wouldn't be anymore Friday night dates where we planned to go out to dinner and a movie, and ended up cuddling on his couch watching something from Blockbuster and throwing popcorn at each other instead. No more secret rendezvous in the hall during class, after we'd both told our teachers we were going to the bathroom. No more kisses between classes, no more study sessions and no more waiting for him after football games. No more Jordan.

I started crying then…I'd tried not to. I didn't want to ruin this day for Jordan by crying like a baby…but I couldn't help it. I was losing the boy that had become one of the only things I had worth living for. He was going away to college, and my protector and best friend wasn't going to be there to comfort me after I'd had a bad class period. My boyfriend wasn't going to be there to tickle me and kiss me and make me smile during lunch. He wasn't going to be there when I needed a shoulder to cry on, or when I needed someone to make me smile or laugh. He wasn't going to be there when I needed someone to pray with, or talk to…or just someone to hold me.

I'd be able to call him, sure. But it was going to be a battle between term papers, books, and new friends to get a few moments of his time. And whenever I was able to talk to him…it would be wonderful to hear his voice, but I couldn't see him. I couldn't feel his arms around me, and I wouldn't be able to kiss him…and there was no telling how often he'd be able to come home and see me. And what about the next year, when I was going away to college? We were both going to be two or three hours away from home…but each in the opposite direction.

As the graduation ceremony came to an end, I couldn't handle being in there anymore. I excused myself and hurried outside. I just needed to be alone until I could regain my composure. I went around to the side of the church where I knew I wouldn't be seen when the new graduates came outside with their families and sat down on a bench near a flowerbed. I buried my face in my hands and cried. After a while, I heard a loud noise, the mixture of two hundred cheers and yells as the graduating class concluded their ceremony and celebrated the beginning of a new chapter of their lives. A few minutes later, the voices moved outside and were joined by those of proud parents, family members, and friends.

I could hear parents ushering groups of lifelong friends together for one final picture of them before they all left for college. Groups of girls hugged and cried, vowing to stay "friends forever", no matter how far apart they were. All it served to do was make me cry harder.

"There you are," a familiar voice said gently. I felt a hand on my leg and looked up into Jordan's concerned green eyes. "My dad said you ran off…"

"Yeah," I nodded. "I didn't want to fall apart inside with everyone…"

"So you came outside to break down," he concluded. "What's the matter, baby?"

"You know," I said sadly. "I'm losing you."

"Lyds…" he sighed. "Come here," he wrapped his arms around me and rubbed one hand up and down my back. "You're not losing me. I know I'm going to be away at college…but just because I'm leaving here…I'm not leaving you."

"What am I supposed to do without you, Jordan?" I asked. "It's going to be horrible at school next year without you."

"No it won't," he assured me. "It's your senior year…and you'll have so much fun, you'll forget that I'm not there. And I'm going to come see you as much as I can…and I promise I'll call you at least every other day…"

"I'm just gonna miss you so much…" I whispered, burying my face in his chest.

"I know you will," he replied. "And I'm going to miss you like crazy, Lyds. But I love you, and I know you love me, too. We're gonna be okay, baby."

"Are you sure?" I asked, tears still falling down my face.

"Of course I'm sure," he smiled. "You're wearing that ring for a reason, right? I promise, everything's going to be just fine. You're still my girlfriend, and I still love you very much. I know it's going to be different when we can't be together every day…but just think about how great it's going to be when we actually do get to see each other."

I stared at the ring on my right hand for a moment before I answered him. "I love you, Jordan."

"I love you more, beautiful," he replied with a smile. He kissed me gently and then brushed away my tears with his thumb. "Don't cry anymore, okay? You know my dad…he's waiting in front of the church with the camera…and you know he's going to want pictures of the two of us. You don't want to be crying in them, do you?"

"No," I shook my head and laughed a little.

"Didn't think so," Jordan said. "Besides, I don't like to see your pretty face all tear-stained. Especially not when you're crying over me."

I smiled a little at that. "Okay," I sighed. "No more tears."

"That's my girl," he grinned, giving me another kiss. "Now come on, let's go make my dad happy and let him take forty thousand pictures of us, and then we'll go back to my house. And we can go out tonight, if you want…or just hang out at my house…"

"I don't care," I shrugged. "Jordan…what am I going to do without you?"

"Don't worry about it," he replied. "You are the only girl for me, Lydia…that's why you're wearing that ring, remember? I'm not going to cheat on you at college, and I'm not going to forget about you. I'm not going to ignore your calls, and you're more important to me than any party I'm invited to or any paper I have to write. Any other fears I need to take care of?"

"Will you still love me when you're gone?" I asked with a smile, even though I knew what he would say.

He smiled and kissed me. "You know what they say, Lyds…distance makes the heart grow fonder."

"Don't get cliché on me," I retorted. "Are you still going to love me?"

He locked his green eyes with mine and took my hands, squeezing them softly. "Lydia, I don't care what happens, or where I am. No matter what, I love you, always."

"I love you, too," I whispered, giving him a soft kiss. He held me for a moment, then took my hand. I let him pull me up, and we started walking towards the rest of the graduating class. Within a few months, almost all of them would be scattered all over the country…including Jordan. His cliché words echoed in my ears, "You know what they say, Lyds…distance makes the heart grow fonder." I just hoped he was right.

A/N: The End. I ended it with a cliché. Blah. Other than that, I rather liked this chapter. I almost made myself cry though…thinking about own graduation and all. So…wow. I actually finished this story…thanks to everyone who's stuck with me and faithfully read and those who boosted Little Ego with reviews. So…if you're like me, you can't bear to part with Jordan and Lyds…so yeah…I'm going to have to write * something * else about them. Actually…I've already started two...either:

*Companion piece to this story…but from Jordan's point of view. Pros: know what Jordan was thinking at various points in the story. Cons: It would be the same plot, so you'd know what was going to happen.

*Sequel to this story…Lydia's senior year…most likely mixed point of view. Pros: new story. Jordan's POV. New characters. New Jordan/Lyds fluffiness. Cons: Blake comes back. I have no plot ideas for a sequel, other than mindless fluff…and this one thing that would be just plain evil…

Some people have asked about a prequel, maybe from Jordan's POV, detailing Lydia's sophomore year…when they met and were just friends. I might do that eventually, but not right now.

So right now…what I'm thinking about doing is concentrating on the sequel (once I get a plot idea), and whenever I post a new chapter of the sequel, I'll post one to the companion piece, too, so you can read one or the other or both, as you choose. Or would you rather not have two stories about the same characters going at the same time? Let me know in your reviews…they will influence what direction I go in.

Hope to hear from you all….again, thanks so much for reading my story.