"Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders"
When I was little, I thought life was perfect. But now, everything is a lie. I face things every single day ever since my mom died. About 80 percent of them involve my dad. He wants me to be something that I'm not, and it's stupid. I can't change myself, but in order to appease to him, I made this compromise with him. This compromise was worse than what he wants me to actually be. I've got 99 problems. But you, Ashton, won't be one.


37. Lionheart

"And now, presenting the class of 2015 valedictorian, Connor Watson." Principal Eisenhard announced as I stand up and walk up to the stage to the podium as I stand in front of my class.

I look out into the 237 students that are going to receive their diplomas. I can see Marlee smiling at me like a mad woman. I can see Luke, Calum, and Mike giving me thumbs up. I can see the scowl of Amy as she crosses her arms. I can see Mara, Odelia, Amber, all of my classmates.

In the audience somewhere I know is Audrey and Hanna with the laptop showing my dad. Also there is my aunt Andrea and uncle Greg, the parents of my cousin Conrad.

But one face that I always make sure I'd find was Ashton. I found him and we smiled and he winked at me.

I finally unfold my speech, take a deep breath, and begin.

"Many would probably be thinking that I was probably the obvious choice of being valedictorian because I had the good grades, I had hours of volunteering, et cetera et cetera. But let's be clear, I'm not perfect. I've never been perfect. Never have, and never will. I definitely have failed some things in the past. But hey it's okay to fail. That's the rollercoaster of life. And now we're at the end of the rollercoaster called high school.

"In the song 'Live Like You Were Dying' by Tim McGraw, yes I'm quoting country, a man recalls all of the things he is proud of accomplishing before he died. Sure some of us probably won't go skydiving or Rocky Mountain climbing or go two point seven seconds on a bull named Fumanchu. But now as we come to the end of our high school lives and move on to college, we look deeper into what we did during our four years. All of the Friday night lights, all of the dances, all of the running down the halls to get to class on time, all of the late night studying, all of the inside jokes that only you had in your class, all of the problems.

"Now it's time to create new memories. Meet new people. Work our as—butts off. Make our lives the best we can make them. Let's go and graduate, Placer High class of 2015. Thank you." I receive a long round of applause as I return to my seat.

We are then told that it's the moment we've all been waiting for as it's time to receive our diplomas. We line up and wait.

Being valedictorian, I was up first.

"Connor Liana Watson." I walk across the stage, shake hands with the principal as she hands me my high school diploma. I shake hands with my guidance counselors and other people and walk off stage.

I take my seat listening to my friends' names being called.

"Michael Gordon Clifford."

"Odelia Grace Hancock."

"Lucas Robert Hemmings."

"Calum Thomas Hood."

"Ashton Fletcher Irwin."

"Marlee Alyssa Olsen."

My smile remained as they got called saying they graduated. It got wider when Ashton's name got called. He's changed a lot and everyone, even the teachers, are proud.

Once we were done, we stood up to sing our alma mater, moved our tassels from left to right, and Principal Eisenhard says "congratulations class of 2015!"

We proceed to throw our caps into the air.

My most emotional year is finished. I graduated high school.

Afterwards we picked up our caps and met with our families. I found Aunt Andrea, Uncle Greg, Conrad, Audrey and Hanna with the laptop with my dad still on the screen. He was smiling and crying.

"I'm proud of you Connor. I'm sorry I couldn't be present. I...I'm sorry I was a terrible father. I understand if you don't forgive me." I take a deep breath and nod.

"Thanks dad." I mean I still don't forgive him, but it will take years for my trust in him to come back. "I'll see you soon." That's when I give him a small smile and the call ends. I sigh and proceed to hug my aunt, uncle, cousin, and maids. Conrad graduated two days before me so he was thankfully able to graduate before meeting me.

As we took some pictures, I felt a pair of arms wrap around my waist. I jump a bit and looked behind me to see Ashton still in his green graduation gown. "Hey." He smiled at me. I turn around so my front is facing him and give him a quick peck on the lips.

"Congratulations on finally making it." I say. "Those calc study sessions must've worked."

He chuckled. "They must have. Thanks to you I'm now a high school graduate." My smile widens as I hug him. "You never really told me where you were going to college." He says.

"You never told me, either." I reply.

"University of Alabama. Economics." He smiles. I stay silent for a bit making him really anxious to know where I'm going to college.

"New York University. Creative writing."

His smile starts to falter a bit. "We'll be far away." He sighs looking at his feet.

I lift his chin up slightly so his eyes are locked with mine. "We will make this work. I promise."

I hope I can keep this promise.

Oh my god so I can now say I am one chapter away from finishing Problems. I'm about to begin the epilogue so that's going to be a lot. Once I publish the epilogue I'm going to be planning the sequel to Problems and work on some of my other stories like Ericka's Opus. I'm sure that the sequel is going to take a while as I still have marching band until next month, school, and student teaching. But I promise I'll have the sequel up hopefully sometime before my own high school graduation.

Thanks for reading!

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