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
Seated beside Doreen, Mark Spelman accepted a tissue from her
and placed his hand over his heart as he smiled at the
"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
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,
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
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
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
"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
"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'
"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
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
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
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?"
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
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
"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
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
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
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.
Joshua grinned. "I know you like the name."
"But why is the Fordham logo on the envelope?" the angel
Ivy, who was beginning to suspect something, elbowed her
"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
"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
Finally releasing Joshua, Violeta moved to peer over Ivy's
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"Can we get one with Joshua, please?" she requested.
"Joshua, can you step over here for a moment, please?" Andrew
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
"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.
to the Author's Cut