A Graduation Surprise

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Ivy nearly glowed as she looked around her Grandma's yard, taking in the smiling faces of her friends.

The day, thus far, had been nearly perfect.  There was a moment during her earlier graduation ceremony, just before she'd stepped up to accept her diploma, when she'd wished her mother was in the audience.  However, Ivy knew that Francesca was watching from Heaven, sending her love.  As for the audience, it had brought Ivy immense joy to look out and see her Grandma Doreen seated beside Joshua.  Both had beamed with pride and smiled so adoringly.  Zeke and Diana had cheered with gusto and Sy had blown her a kiss.  It had seemed as if only JenniAnn's arm linked through Violeta's had kept the young angel from bolting onto the stage and enfolding Ivy in one of her massive, giggly hugs.  Andrew had sat to his protege's other side and Ivy had been sure he'd blinked back a few tears whilst smiling.  If he had, he hadn't been the only one.  Kemara had swiped at her face with the handkerchief from Maryam while Sean had softly patted her back.  All these things Ivy had noted and each face, each silent encouragement had filled her spirit with joy.

But now it was time to fill her belly and the bellies of her guests with cake!

"Hey there!  Almost cake time!" Ivy shouted to get everyone's attention.  She laughed when all her friends and family immediately quieted except for Belle whose eager "Oooh!" prompted laughter.

"Just a lil bit, sweetie," Ivy promised as she smiled at the toddler.  "First, I just want to thank everyone who made a cake.  So Adam, JenniAnn, Grandma; thank you for the chocolate mousse, red velvet, and carrot cakes respectively... and to Violeta for the Froot Loops cake dip."

"Oooh!" Joshua exclaimed.

Ivy giggled.  "I'll keep this quick.  I just... I wanted to thank you all for... for being here and... and supporting me so much, especially during these past couple years.  Thank you to Mark for making sure I got to go to Our Lady of Hope.  I'm so grateful that I got to be your student but I'm even more grateful that I get to be your granddaughter."

Seated beside Doreen, Mark Spelman accepted a tissue from her and placed his hand over his heart as he smiled at the teenager.

"And I'm grateful to you, too, Grandma.  I know these past couple of years and even longer have brought a lot of change for you but I just hope you know I love you and am so proud that I'm your granddaughter and I... I'm going to miss living here with you but I promise I'll come back a lot."

When Ivy began to cry, Doreen rose and held her for a few moments, whispering her love to the girl.

"I... I love you, too," Ivy whispered before drawing in a deep breath and continuing. 

"I also want to give big thanks to the entire Hunter family.  Mrs. Hunter, I've loved being in your class, too, but I've loved even more being invited into your home and getting to know you and Mr. Hunter and Emilee, Gabby, Caleb, and Lorelai.  You came into my lives just when I most needed friends and... and I'm just so glad.  And you weren't alone: Violeta, Kemara, JenniAnn, and Andrew...  Thank you, so much, for helping me through the summer of 2013.  And Allison and Robert, too.  Andrew was my teacher but you all... everyone who was a part of 'Ivy's Village'... ended up teaching me so much and if not for you..."

Ivy's smiling, teary gaze drifted to the Wilson clan.

"I... I would never have taken that trip to Manhattan and if I hadn't taken that trip then I would have missed out on so many great friendships and a family who... who has made me one of their own and a... and just... well, I just really love you, Sy."

Diana and Zeke smiled and patted their son's back as he looked to his girlfriend and solemnly mouthed an "I love you" back.

Ivy was saved from a complete emotional meltdown by Hailey's and Kendra's teasing expressions as they looked to their brother.  With a laugh, the teenager regained her poise and continued.  She peered tenderly at the family of four seated at a table with the Hunters.

"Finally, I just want to thank Maryam, Yosef, and John for being here a-and to our wonderful and wondrous Joshua... there's so much more that I would thank you for but people want cake and I know you're pretty big on feeding people when they're hungry."

The Friends in attendance all smiled at the sly way Ivy had given Joshua his due without alarming the Hunters and Doreen's friends who didn't know the humble carpenter's true identity.  After a round of applause, the adults let the little kids select their desserts first.  Soon everyone was scattered around the yard enjoying their cake and dip.  Little Leo merrily pranced from person to person, making out with more than a few sweet morsels which set his tail wagging.

The dog came to rest amongst Ivy, Violeta, Kendra, Hailey, and Sy.  He stared up at the latter with pleading eyes.

"He knows you spoil him but I think he's had more than enough," Ivy gently scolded as Sy moved to offer Leo
a graham cracker with a bit of cake dip on it.

Sy set the graham cracker down and stuck his lower lip out.

"Don't do that!" Kendra protested.  "You look just like dad when you do and it's creepy!"

Hailey laughed.  "Now you know how I feel when you wear your hair up, Miss K.  It's like looking at mini-Mom."

"So true, Kendra," Sy agreed.  "But as for our furry friend here... I don't think Leo got even a taste of the cake dip," he protested.

Laughing, Ivy rolled her eyes.  "Fine then."

Grinning, Sy gave the treat to the dog who rewarded him with a sloppy kiss.

"Such a pushover," Ivy teased.  "Are you gonna be that way with our kids?"

Sy's hand stopped where he'd been stroking Leo's back.

"Oh, umm... I..."  Ivy's face flushed.

Violeta let out a strangled squealing sound.

Sy smiled.  "Yeah, probably.  Especially if they're this cute."  He gave Leo's ears a hardy scratching then reached for Ivy's hand and squeezed it.

Ivy returned her boyfriend's smile.

"Noted," she murmured.

"Not, umm, for a while yet, though, right?" Violeta quietly asked as she tried to keep the panic out of her voice.

"Oh yeah," Sy assured.  "We both need to get through college first."

"Get jobs."

"Get married."

"Get a house or apartment."

Hailey, Kendra, and Violeta stared at each other.



"Joint bank account."

Ivy and Sy burst into laughter when they noticed the others' faces.

"Relax!" the girl urged.  "We're only seventeen.  Besides..."  She hugged Violeta and smiled at Hailey and Kendra.  "Even when I have a husband, I'm still gonna need my girl friends.  Speaking of..."  She reached for Hailey's hand.  "That's so cool that you got a car and will be able to come back to visit during the school year!"

With a bright smile, Hailey nodded.  "Yeah, Arthur knew a guy who was selling one cheap and told Dad.  It'll make it much easier to come home when I want to.  And I'll be passing Jocelyn's and Zoe's city so I could always pick them up!"

Kendra hugged her big sister.  "I'm going to miss having you at the house... but it will be fun to have them visit more often!"

Ivy noticed when Violeta brushed at her eyes.

"I think the punch is running low.  I'm going to go make some more.  Violeta, will you come help?"

"Uh huh."

Ivy led her friend into the kitchen where she began to mix orange juice, ginger ale, and grenadine. 

"Could you please get the ice cream out?" she requested.

Violeta did so and began to scoop it into the punch bowl.

Ivy hugged her.

"You seem a little sad.  What's wrong?"

Violeta shrugged.  "I guess it's just kind of hard to think...  I mean it's not that I don't believe you that we'll stay friends but... but you and Hailey are starting college and in a year Sy will and then Kendra and then Joccy and... and I just think maybe... I mean you'll all be learning and doing new things and it's not that I won't, too, but they'll be really different things... AOD things... and I do want to be an AOD but... I guess I got used to being one of 'the kids.'  But now 'the kids' are going to start a whole new chapter of their lives and I won't have a chapter at all like it and..."

Before Ivy could answer, the door swung open.

"There you are!"  Joshua smiled at the two.  "Here, let me grab that punch bowl and then, Ivy, I want to give you and Hailey your graduation gifts."  He pat Violeta's back and kissed her cheek.  "Cheer up, my Duckling.  I have a surprise for you, too."

Violeta took the handkerchief that Joshua held out to her and dabbed at her eyes before smiling at him.

"Okay, thank you."

Ivy linked her arm through Violeta's and led her back to the Wilson kids. 

After replacing the punch bowl, Joshua joined them. 

"All right..."  He reached into a bag he'd stashed nearby and held two matching parchment-wrapped packages out to Ivy and Hailey.  "For our two graduates."

Beaming, Hailey and Ivy tore away the paper to reveal wooden covered books.

"Open them," Kendra urged. 

The two girls obeyed.

"Oh..." Hailey murmured.

Ivy blinked back a few tears then gave up and let them fall.

Joshua patted their hands.  "All of the Friends and some others wrote you encouraging notes.  Every other page is blank, though.  That's so you can journal about your adventures and observations while at college."

"I love it!" Ivy gushed.  "Thank you so much!"

"It's perfect!"  Hailey added.  "Thank you, thank you!"

Both girls hugged Joshua, each kissing one of his cheeks.

"I'm so glad you like them," he replied.

"Me too!  We all thought it was such a cool idea," Kendra gushed.

Violeta nodded.  "It was a lot of fun."

Though she smiled, Joshua could tell his angel was rattled.  He reached back into the bag and pulled out an envelope.

Ivy cocked her head when she got a look at it.  The envelope was very familiar to her.  She'd received one like it months before.

"For you, Duckling."

Violeta laughed when she took the envelope from Joshua.

"Violeta Jackman?"

Joshua grinned.  "I know you like the name."

"But why is the Fordham logo on the envelope?" the angel questioned.

Ivy, who was beginning to suspect something, elbowed her friend.

"Just open it, Violeta," she prodded.


Violeta tore open the envelope and gaped at the letter.

"But... but... this says I... I've been accepted into the freshman class at... at Fordham.  How..."

"Well, it may not be customary but I filled out your application.  I also took some of your notes from after your assignments and wove them into an entrance essay," Joshua explained.  "What do you think, Duckling?"

The letter fluttered from Violeta's hands.  Crying from joy, she flung her arms around Joshua and rested her head on his shoulder.

"Th-thank you...  So, so, so, so, so much!"

Ivy scooped up the missive and marveled over it.

"Can I look at your class schedule, Violeta?" she requested.

Still embracing Joshua, Violeta turned to look at her friend.

"My class schedule is in there?"

"Looks like it."

"Ooh, let's see what you're taking!" Hailey encouraged. 

Ivy laughed as she studied the schedule.

"Violeta, look!  It's almost the same as mine!" she cheered.

Finally releasing Joshua, Violeta moved to peer over Ivy's shoulder.

"It... it is?"

"Yep!  We have different creative arts classes... mine's writing and yours is dance... but otherwise... same schedule!"

"Is that okay?"

Ivy hugged her.  "Of course it's okay!  It's awesome!  Unless you don't want to spend practically all day with me..." Ivy teased.

Violeta laughed.  "I do.  I just didn't know if you wanted to spend practically all day with me."

"Of course, I do," the other girl assured.

"I need to go tell the others!" Violeta announced.  She started to run towards Andrew and JenniAnn then paused and turned back to Joshua.  "I'll be careful so people don't know you did it.  Might be hard to understand for some of them."

With a chuckle, Joshua nodded.  "Thank you.  I'm really hitting it off with Carrie and Kevin and their kids and would rather they not think I'm shady."

After letting out a giggle, Violeta tore off with Ivy, Hailey, and Kendra right behind her.

Sy approached Joshua and set a hand on his shoulder.

"That's really great what you did.  Ivy was getting a little nervous about heading to Fordham without knowing anyone beyond the girl who gave you both the campus tour.  Now she'll have a friend with her almost all the time.  Well... she was going to have a Friend with her constantly, anyway, but you know what I mean."

Joshua clasped the boy's hand.  "I know what you mean.  It'll be really good for the two of them.  And their class loads will differ more starting with sophomore year but for now, this is good."

"Very good," Sy averred.  "And... I certainly won't mind having Ivy close by.  Not that she was ever very far away with the portals anyway but..."

Joshua's grin lit up his face.  "I know.  And it'll be good for the three of you to spend more time together so Violeta realizes she's not going to be cast off."

"Never!  I love Ivy but I can only talk about the goings on at Avonlea for so long before my eyes start to glaze over.  We need Violeta."

Joshua laughed.  "Friends are good to have.  Including furry ones... even if they are pushy."

Sy chuckled when he looked down and saw Leo pawing at Joshua's leg.

The carpenter scooped the little dog up. 

"C'mon, Leo.  Lets go see my Ama.  She's been wanting to cuddle you since we got here."

While Joshua rejoined his parents and cousin, Sy made his way to the girls.

"Sweetheart, this is great!" Andrew enthused as he embraced his protege.

"You really knew nothing about it?" Violeta pressed, looking from him to JenniAnn.

The woman shook her head.

"Not a bit!  I suspect someone knew we'd struggle to keep it quiet," she said, just loud enough for Joshua to hear and smile over at them.  "Oh, honey, you'll have so much fun!"

"All three of you will," Kemara added, smiling at Ivy, Hailey, and Violeta.  "I had a great time at college!"

"College..." Sean mused.  "We need to start a college fund..."

Ivy beamed at him then looked to Kemara whose hands were resting on her stomach. 

"Always good to plan ahead!" she encouraged.

"You all think I'll do okay?" Violeta questioned.  "I mean... I can be pretty awkward and confused and..."

JenniAnn patted her arm.  "You'll do wonderfully!  And you can always ask questions."

"And I'll be right there," Ivy reminded.

The two girls clasped hands.

"And maybe we can even have a study group once a week or something via Skype or the like," Hailey suggested.  "We may even have some things in common and if not... it'd still be nice to talk about college life."

"Definitely!" Ivy agreed as Violeta nodded.

"And high school life, too?" Kendra softly requested.

Hailey hugged her.  "You bet!"

"Co-ed?" Sy asked with a sly smile.

"I suppose," Ivy replied, grinning as she wrapped an arm around his waist.

Diana and Zeke, who had gotten involved in a discussion with Mark about teaching and reaching teenagers, smiled as they approached.  They cast amused glances at each other when Sy snuck in a quick kiss of Ivy's hair.

"What's all the excitement about?" Diana asked.

Violeta bounced over to her and held out her letter.

"Joshua did it!" she whispered.

"Well, I'll be!" Zeke exclaimed. 

"And it's the same schedule as Ivy's except one class!" the angel informed.

Diana hugged her.  "That's wonderful, Violeta!  Congratulations!"  Her eyes misted as she smiled at all the teens.  "Let's get a photo of our college-bound girls and then I want Kendra and Sy in there, too."

The teenagers posed as directed while Diana, Kemara, and Andrew snapped several photos.

"You have to get one with Ivy and Violeta holding the letter!" Hailey insisted, motioning for her siblings to step away.

Ivy and Violeta posed with their arms around each other's shoulders and the letter held in front of them.

As Andrew counted down from three, Ivy snuck a quick glance at her beaming, blissful friend.  She was grateful for all of her graduation gifts but none more so than knowing her best friend would be making the journey with her.

After the photographers got their shot, Ivy looked over to Joshua's table.

"Can we get one with Joshua, please?" she requested.

"Joshua, can you step over here for a moment, please?" Andrew relayed.

Joshua joined the group, receiving many hugs and whispered thanks from Violeta's friends.

"We want you in our photo," Ivy explained.  "You got us here, after all."

With a lump in his throat, Joshua moved to stand behind the two girls and rested a hand on each of their shoulders. 

When the photograph taking was done, Ivy and Violeta hugged Joshua together.

"My girls..." Joshua murmured.  He thought of their births within months of each other.  He remembered their first meeting at Our Lady of Hope and their friendship which had formed so quickly.  Joshua saw their futures, too, and knew that the two girls would celebrate each blessing and face each trial together.  Others would come and go and, yes, Ivy and Sy would marry but, always and forever, Ivy and Violeta would share an unbreakable bond of true friendship.

The End

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