HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY contains strong language and some themes not suitable for audiences under 17. Viewer discretion is advised.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In the End, Part 2 (Series Finale)

It has taken me three days to write this episode, not only because I wanted it to be perfect, but because, to be honest, I still wasn't exactly sure how I wanted the story to end. And then, as I sat down to write today, I remembered the roots of the blog: high school, friendship, family, and love. So, using those four elements, I was able to create an episode that satisfied the need for a perfect finale.

The time has now come to say goodbye to the characters I have grown to love so much. In rereading the first few episodes, it is almost unbelievable how each character has changed. True, Mark is still a sex hound, Aaron is still uptight, Michael is still wise beyond his years, and David is still on that search for a perfectly normal lifestyle, but through the various situations the boys have gone through, they have become so much more than the caricatures outlined in the first episode.

Before the story finally comes to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the readers out there. Some of you I know personally, and some of you I have never gotten to meet. Some of you began reading it after the very first episode, and some of you caught up on it after the first or second seasons, but no matter who you are or how long you have been reading, you are the reason I have this amazing product. Hours a day devoted to writing and proofreading and formatting the blog had a true purpose because of your loyalty to reading.

Thank you, once again, and enjoy the final episode of HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY.

Dylan Abrams
Normal Blog Writer
"We didn't know if you were hurt or sick or dead. We didn't have any idea when you would be home, and then you just show up and expect us all to forgive you?"
"Forgive me?"
"For walking out on this family just like your father did."
"Well excuse me for thinking that there was still something there between us!"
"What made you think there was?"
"We didn't break up because we stopped loving each other! We broke up because we lost a kid that we never should have been having anyway!"

"David, am I gonna see you when you go to college?"
"Don't worry about a thing, kiddo. We're best buds for life."
"Pinky promise?"
"Double pinky promise."

"My son is on drugs, and you KNEW?!?!"
"Mom, I tried to get him to stop before you found out, but--"
"But what? He didn't LISTEN to you? Of course he didn't listen! He's a DRUG ADDICT!!! You of all people should understand that!"

"Mark, I love you, and I know you love me, and what we had was wonderful. But I can't let you judge me."
"Judge you? I just wanted to meet your parents and see where you live! Was that so much to ask?"

"I love you! I want to be with you! I know we had our issues, especially at the very end, but I want to be the one in your arms at prom tomorrow night!"
"And what about everyone else?"
"Who cares? It's not about them, right?"

"It's just gonna be hard with us so far away from each other! Should we make some sort of pact that we'll always be together?"
"I don't think we really need one. I mean, how can we not be together?"
"Good point."
"Ladies and gentlemen, you can still screw this up."

Mr. Richardson, our principal, was always so positive.

It was the last Tuesday of high school and he was going into all of the Econ/Gov classes to give last-minute reminders about call-times, graduation week, etc.

"On that note, I urge all of you to have a great last week of classes and I'll see you all next week for checkout and graduation practice!"

We all clapped out of politeness before Mr. Jackson put on National Treasure. Of course, instead of watching the movie, Aaron Stanwick and I were engaged in conversation.

"Don't you just love how graduation is supposed to be this happy time, and then scrubs like Mr. Richardson come and make it all stressful?"
"Seriously. We're supposed to be celebrating and then he comes into the classrooms and makes us forget what we're celebrating."
"Well, at least we only have a few more days of this place. I've never been so happy to be in all AP classes. No finals!"
"Yeah, well because I didn't take the Econ AP exam, Jackson's making me take the final. I'm so stressed, Econ's totally not my subject!"
"Do you have any other finals?"
"Pre-Calc, but the review guides will help me out a lot. We haven't done anything in Econ since before the AP test! I'm screwed!"
"Well, just look over your notes and you'll be fine."

Easier said than done.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And if my senioritis was bad before, it was at it's highest peak now.

You would think that by the last week of high school, the seniors that are about to leave behind the school they've known for four years would get all nostalgic and sad, but the reality is that by the last week of high school, the seniors are just ready to leave and move on with their lives, and Mark Adams, Michael Florence, Aaron, and I were no exceptions.

After the Showcase Concert and Prom, everything began moving really fast. Weeks seemed like days, and days seemed like hours, and hours seemed to speed by like fish in the East Australian Current--well, at least at school. At home, things were still moving at a snail's pace, helping Lucy Greer pack up her belongings into boxes and enduring the painful silent treatment that my mom was still giving me. It wasn't my fault that my brother Jake was in rehab, but because I had been there once, Mom found it easier to blame me. One day, when my baby sister Maya and I were figuring out what toys she should bring, Mom finally broke the silence.

"So, I'm thinking it would be best if I didn't go to your graduation."

Okay, not exactly what I hoped to hear, but I guess I can't control other people's selfishness.

"Can I talk to you outside for a moment?"

The tension was already unbearable.

"You're not coming to my graduation?"
"I just don't think it's a good idea for me to be there."
"But, it's my graduation. This is really important to me!"
"Well, it was really important for me to know about Jake's drug problem, but you kept that from me, so why should I give you anything that's important to you?"
"Is this really happening right now? My graduation is NEXT WEEK! How could you DO THIS TO ME?!?!?"
"How could you have left us to go gallivanting in Israel?"
"MY FATHER DIED!!! I needed to go to his funeral! SOMEONE had to pay respects!"
"And how about your drug problem, huh? How could you have done THAT to us?"
"I was in a terrible car accident! Do you know how addicting painkillers can be?"
"Don't you DARE talk to me like that! You act like you're some sort of victim but I'M the single mother! I am the one who has provided for YOU and JAKE and fucking LUCY GREER, and YOU are just an UNGRATEFUL LITTLE SHIT!"

I didn't respond. I couldn't respond. We had been having problems for months but I never expected for it to come to this.

"David, I--"
"But David--"
"PLEASE! Just--no."

I quickly headed down the stairs and toward the Prius.

"David, just wait!"
"No, Mom! If you don't want to be at graduation I don't want you there. Just leave me alone, I can't let you hurt me like this anymore."

I speedily made my way into the garage, smacked the garage door opener full force, and slammed the door of the Prius shut once I was in the driver's seat. I jammed my thumb into the push-button start and as soon as the engine began humming I floored it out of the garage, not really knowing where I was gonna go. I just needed to go somewhere that I could clear my head, maybe bring my laptop and write a little bit, and maybe have a cup of coffee when I got there.


After receiving my text message, Aaron, Michael, and Mark met me at the Coffee Plantation right away.

"What a bitch!"
"Seriously, what on Earth could have prompted this?"
"She's been bad before, but never this bad."
"It really started when I got back from Israel. She was so angry at me and then it was like I kept screwing up. She didn't even come to the Showcase Concert, which was fine because it's not like I had a solo or anything, but this is my high school graduation! Her oldest son is graduating from high school! I mean, that's gotta mean something to her, right?"
"It sure as hell should mean something to her."
"Dude, I just can't believe this! You and your mom were close at one point."
"Yeah, before Cal died. Before I went to Israel."
"But you had to go to Israel. Cal was your father."
"Well, unfortunately this is what happens when I do things based purely on impulses. I dated Joy for three months. That was an impulse. I went looking for Cal the night my mom got arrested, which led to my car accident. That was an impulse. I lost my VIRGINITY, which was a COMPLETE impulse. I have really got to start thinking things through."
"What good has ever come from thinking about a situation?"
"Well, I wouldn't have gotten my heartbroken, I would never have even touched painkillers, and I wouldn't have had sex with Joy, that's for sure."
"But do you really regret anything that has happened?"

My first instinct would have been to say yes, but I figured that while I was in the realm of thinking before making decisions, I would think about the question posed to me. True, I would have saved a lot of heartache and trauma had I not acted on all of those impulses, but at the same time I wouldn't have learned what I did from them. By having a three-month relationship that started out as "love at first sight," I learned that not everything is always as it appears. By getting in the car, looking for Cal, and getting into that terrible car wreck, I not only learned how to be a better driver, but how to control myself with other things in my life. By having sex with Joy, which caused my ultimate break-up with Callie Anderson, I learned that jumping to conclusions can lead to very bad endings. And, by going to Israel even though the responsible decision would have been to stay at home and deal with the emotional trauma alongside my family, I learned that sometimes you have to do things for yourself instead of living your life around how other people feel. So, while many of my impulses were ultimately bad decisions, I had to respond that:

"No. I don't regret a single impulse."
"Okay, so how do we deal with your mom?"
"We can't. The only person who can is me, and unfortunately it's something I have to do alone."
"Okay, but if you need us, than you know we're only a text message away."
"I know. Thanks guys."
"Anytime, brother."

We finished our drinks and then headed home. My head was clear and I was ready for battle, but I couldn't fight just yet. I still had an Econ exam to study for.

"I got a 44%???"

The guys and I were hanging out at my house to celebrate the end of the last day of high school. I had passed my Pre-Calc final with flying colors thanks to those review packets, but even though I studied really hard for Econ, I still failed it.

"At least you aced the Gov final."
"Yeah, it's graded on a curve anyway. You still got a B for the semester."
"I know, but somehow I still feel like a failure."
"Well, cheer up! You passed all of your classes. You're graduating next week!"

It was my first real realization that high school was actually over. Suddenly, everything felt so much more real.

The next day was Saturday, and I opted to work at The UPS Store all day. I loved my job a lot and my boss Jim, who was easily the biggest badass I had ever met, was gonna let me keep the job through the summer AND allow me to continue working there during breaks from school. It was good, stable money, and overall it was really easy work. There was only one flaw in working there.

"So, is Jake back from rehab yet?"

Steve Weiss, notorious drug-dealer and life-ruiner. If there was anything I was not gonna miss about working there it was dealing with him.

"What's it to you? You're the reason he got there. I figured you would be pretty proud of yourself."

We didn't speak again the rest of the day, except to ask each other questions about certain people's packages. We weren't friends. Sometimes I thought it would be easier if we were, but we just weren't. Not after he sold drugs to me or Mark, and especially not when he sold them to Jake.

"Okay, ladies, it's time for the annual drug test!"
"Drug test?"
"Did I stutter, dumbass?"
"No sir."
"Damn right. Now Steve, you weren't here last year, so I'll explain to you that every year we do an annual drug test to make sure that you're clean. If you're not, which often is the case, that does not mean that you'll lose your job. It just means that you have to go to rehab for six weeks."
"So hypathetically, if I was on drugs and I didn't want to go to rehab, what would happen?"
"Then you'd lose your job."
"So, if your questions are done, than we'll begin the tests. I'll take David first."

I had been clean for 9 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days, so taking a drug test was no problem for me. All I had to do was pee in a cup and get back to work. Steve's situation was a little different; not only did he sell to the rich and defenseless, but he also tested all of his drugs before selling them. He was probably high as we spoke.

"Steve, it's your turn."

Steve gulped and went into the bathroom to submit the test.

The next day was Sunday, which meant no work, and no school. Instead, we got a U-Haul truck and brought Lucy and Maya's stuff to their new home. Lucy drove the truck, so Maya rode with me on the way to their apartment, which was only about 15 minutes away.

Maya was very quiet, which is unusual for her.

"You okay?"
"No you're not."
"Yes I am!"
"No you're not. I hear it in your voice. What's wrong?"
"I don't wanna move."
"You don't? But moving is so much fun! It's a big adventure!"
"Well maybe I don't want a big adventure!"

I was usually really good at getting her to be happy, but I actually had to think about this one for a minute.

"You're right. You don't want to go on a big adventure. You're probably not brave enough."
"Am too."
"Oh yeah? Well, you're definitely not strong enough."
"Am too!"
"Oh, well you're probably not nearly smart enough."
"Miss Bonny says I'm really smart!"
"Than what's stopping you from going on this big adventure, hot shot?"
"You won't be there."

On that note, we got to the apartment building and I parked. Lucy hired some people to help her move the stuff into the apartment, so I was good to go.

"Thank you so much for everything, David."
"Oh driving Maya was the least I could do."
"No, I mean thank you for letting us into the house, and welcoming us into your home. We had nowhere else to go, and I can't thank you enough."
"Well, you may not be the most conventional form of family, but you were Cal's girlfriend, so family is what you are."

We hugged and then it was time to say goodbye to the little tyke. Tears had already begun to form in her small, innocent eyes. I knelt down in front of her and took her hands.

"Remember what I told you. No matter where I am, even if we are apart, I will always be with you."
"But what if we don't see each other for a really long time?"
"I'll call you if ever there is a long period of time when we can't be together."
"Pinky promise?"
"Double pinky promise."

I hugged my baby sister, tears forming in my eyes. Although she was technically my half, and we had only met five months ago, I don't think I had ever felt that close to anyone in my entire family.

"I'll see you both at graduation, right?"
"Wouldn't miss it for the world. Drive safe."
"Always do."

We smiled at each other for a moment before I got into the Prius and drove back home.

The next day I headed to work as soon as Senior Check-Out was over. When I got there, Jim and Steve were in the middle of a dispute.

"I need to make a living, Jim!"
"It's all fine and good if you wanna ruin your own life, but ruining other people's? That's sick."
"It's not about ruining other people's lives, it's about making money!"
"Then what are you doing working here?"
"I don't know."
"Clean out your locker. You're fired."
"No I'm not. I QUIT!"

Steve stormed into the locker room, glaring at me as he walked.

"Ain't you ever seen someone get fired before? Unless you want to be next, you will go into that locker room, clock in, and get to work!"
"Yes sir."

That night when I got home from work, there was a letter addressed to me from Israel. Confused, I opened the letter and saw a note written in scribbly handwriting--most likely that of a foreigner.

Dear David,

Your father wanted to send you this for your graduation. Before he killed himself, he gave it to me to send to you. I haven't read it, it's yours to read. Mazel Tov on graduating.


I smiled for a moment, remembering the wonderful and sexy Ronit, but I quickly remembered the reason why she was writing to me, so I flipped her cover letter up and saw before me Cal's handwriting, and suddenly I found it very hard to breathe. Still I read the letter.

Dear David,

I can't believe that you are graduating already! It is amazing how much you have grown up and I only wish that I could be in America right now to celebrate with you on this happiest of occasions.

I know that I have not exactly been the best father in the world. Hell, if there was a competition for the best father, I wouldn't even make the qualifying rounds. It makes sense to me that you don't call or write because why should you? But my point in writing this letter is not to present myself as some sort of victim, because I know that I absolutely am not. My point is to simply ask for your forgiveness. I cannot expect you to forget everything that has happened or even trust anything I have to say, but I do hope you can find it in your heart to forgive the things that I have done. You know how hard it is for me to own up to my faults, but somehow I have been able to muster up the courage to do so. I think I got that from you.

Words cannot begin to describe how proud I am of you. I know that whatever you decide to do with your life, you will do it well because you have the drive that I never did, and the skills that I never had to do so.

I love you.


I held the letter to my heart as the hysterical crying went full force. It had been a long time since I had cried that hard; even in times that I did cry it simply consisted of a few tears streaming down my face.

"I forgive you, Dad! I do! I'm so sorry for being so angry for so long! I know I can't take it back, but I do forgive you!"

Mom walked into the house as I poured my heart out to my dead father. After a few more minutes of hysterical tears, I looked up to find her staring at me, heartbroken.

"How--how long were you standing there?"
"Long enough."

We were silent as we figured out the words to say. After a moment or two she tearfully broke the silence.

"I'm so sorry, David. I never meant to hurt you like I did. I was still so angry at Cal that I took it out on you. Can you ever forgive me?"
"Of course I can."

I ran to my mother and cried in her arms.

"Please don't ever leave me again!"
"I promise!"

It was shaping out to be a nice week for a graduation.

After rushing to get to Desert Ridge for the 5:15 bus to school and an hour and a half of waiting to walk out to the football field, "Pomp and Circumstance" finally played. Mark, Michael, Aaron, and I, looking sharp in our blue caps and gowns, all headed toward the risers to sing with the choir one more time before heading to our seats. After beautiful speeches by the Class President, Student Body President, and Valedictorian, Mr. Richardson took the stage.

"Members of the school board, I submit that all of these students are candidates for graduation from Summit Peak High School. Graduates, please come forward."

The Honor Guard took their position at the foot of the stage and the first row of people, which included Mark and I, stood up and headed toward the sides of the stage. After calling about 10 people, it was Mark's turn.

"Mark Steven Adams."

Mark proudly crossed the stage and headed back to his seat. There were a few people in between Mark and I, and with each name called my anticipation only grew. Finally--

"David Aaron Adler."

I shook with my right, grabbed with my left, moved my tassel to the other side of my cap, hugged all of my teachers that were in the Honor Guard, and headed back to my seat a proud high school graduate.

"Calliope Elizabeth Anderson."

I cheered loudly for my ex-girlfriend. Even though things fell apart at the end, I could never forget the wonderful times we shared.

"Michael Evan Florence."

Michael shed a few tears as he walked across the stage. We locked eyes, smiled, and gave each other a thumbs up as he headed back to his seat.

"Leslie Marie Lawrence."

A lot had happened to Leslie over the course of the semester, but she didn't let it bother her as she strutted across the stage. I quickly glanced over at Michael, smiling proudly at his girlfriend, and I knew that they would never let anything tear them apart again.

"Aaron Arthur Stanwick."

All four of us now had diplomas in our hands, and it was getting closer to the end now.

"Mallory Joanna Wales."

I could hear Mark hooting and hollering, "That's my baby! That's my girl!" as she tearfully walked the stage.

"Steven Jamie Weiss."

Although we did have bad blood between us I couldn't help but applaud him. He taught me a lot about who I could and couldn't trust in the world and I was forever grateful for that.

After the last person walked, everyone put their hands on their caps in anticipation of the proverbial hat throwing.

"Presenting, the Summit Peak High School Class of 2010!"

As 489 hats went flying through the air, fireworks lit up the sky to the tune of "Time of My Life" by David Cook. As I watched my hat fly down, I ran toward the direction of it, grabbed it, and found Mark, who jumped on me out of excitement. A few yards away were Michael and Leslie, holding each other and crying out of excitement. Mark and I headed over to them as Mal and Aaron ran toward all of us. There were utterings of "Congratulations" all around as all of our families headed toward our group. We took a big group picture, as well as a picture of the four of us--Aaron, Michael, Mark, and me. It was a moment that would be frozen in time, us with our caps and gowns happier than we had been in a really long time, but it wouldn't be the last time the four of us would be happy, and it certainly wouldn't be the last time we would be together.

Ten years later...


"Hi Dave."
"I'm running a little late. Linds can't travel since she's due again in a month, so she had me bring both kids by myself."
"Who is that, Daddy? Who? Who? Who?"
"It's Uncle David, stupid. Hi Uncle David!"
"Leah says hi."
"Hi Leah, hi Joey. Okay, thanks for calling, I'll see you soon."


"Hey Dave, we just got off the plane and we're heading to baggage right now. We've still got to get the rental car so we'll be there as soon as we can."
"Okay, call me when you're on the road."
"Will do."

Mark turned to me.

"See, this is what happens when people get married. Us single people's schedules have to work for them.

I rolled my eyes as I let out a chuckle. We were at the J.W. Marriot at Desert Ridge waiting for all of the guests to arrive. Michael, Mark, Aaron, and I hadn't been all together since Michael and Leslie's wedding two years before, so I was naturally anxious to see everyone.


Maya, now a very mature 13 year-old, came barrelling toward me.

"Hey, kid! How are ya? You ready for the big day?"
"I'm nervous."
"What are you nervous for? You've been studying for this since you were 7."
"I know, it's just that--well--what if I screw up and Dad sees it from Heaven?"
"I think that Dad would just be proud to see his youngest daughter having her Bat Mitzvah."
"Hey, little bro!"
"Libby! Matt! Hey!"

I hugged my older sister and shook hands with my brother-in-law.

"Have you heard from Mom or Jake yet?"
"Yeah, Mom just left the house and Jake's flight left about two hours ago, so he should be here in another two hours. Congratulations, Maya. How do you feel?"
"Eh, a little nervous, but I'm ready."

She winked at me and I smiled at her.

Aaron and his kids, Leah (6 years old), and Joey (3 years old), were the next to enter the room.


The kids ran to my arms and gave me huge hugs.

"Oh my gosh! Look how much you've grown since Thanksgiving!"

Aaron gave me a bear hug.

"Well hello Mr. Law Firm Partner."
"Well hello Mr. L.A. Times Columnist."
"How's Lindsey doing with Thing 3?"
"Hormonal, but hey, what woman isn't?"
"I'll drink to that!"
"Hey Mark!"
"How ya doin', buddy?"
"I'm great, and you?"
"Awesome. I had sex two hours ago!"
"Same old Mark."
"Hey, I may be nearing 30 but I am not old."
"You're not, huh?"
"Michael, you son of a bitch, I thought you were gonna call me when you got on the road!"
"He thought this would be more fun."
"Well hey, we still have hours to kill before the big Friday night dinner. Why don't you all get checked in and maybe we can all get something to drink."
"Well I'm really tired from the plane, but why don't the four of you go? Just like old times."
"Well, you know me I never contest to some time with the boys."
"Um, what about my kids?"
"I'll watch them."
"You sure?"
"Yeah, I need to get used to having kids around anyway."

Mark, Aaron, and I looked from Leslie to Michael, back to Leslie and back to Michael.

"You didn't tell us you guys were pregnant! You sick son of a bitch!"
"I was gonna tell you guys, but I didn't want to take anything away from Maya's big weekend."
"Well, why don't you get checked in and we'll talk about it. Just the four of us."
"Sounds like a plan, I'll be right back."
"I'm gonna go check in. Leah, Joey, please be good for Aunt Leslie."
"Yes, daddy!"
"Yes, daddy!"

A half hour later, the four of us got into Michael's rental car, and after about five minutes of arguing about where we should go, we headed to the one place we all could agree on.

It had been at least four years since I had been to The Coffee Plantation, but it was still exactly how I remembered it, parked right next to The Gelato Spot at Scottsdale Shea Center.

"Home! God I miss American coffee!"
"Oh yes, the coffee in England must be terrible."
"How much longer are you gonna be there, by the way?"
"Until the board of the American School of London sends me packing!"

We walked into the familiar smell of coffee and the familiar look of writers on their laptops.

"See, in L.A. I have to haul ass to a Starbucks where everyone and their grandmother's uncle goes to write."
"That's funny, I didn't know your grandmother's uncle was a writer."
"Fuck you."

We grabbed some coffee--hot chocolate for Aaron, of course--and found a table by the window like we always did. And across the way was another familiar sight.

"Hey guys, take a look."

A young man, 16 or 17 I speculated, was standing at the deserted coffee counter waiting for someone to take his order.

"Is anyone back there?"

And like clockwork, she arrived--a girl his age with fair skin and brown hair, wearing no nametag and a beautiful smile. The boy proceeded to not order a thing and went back to the table where his three male cronies--all very different people--were sitting waiting to give him shit.

"Can you believe that ten years ago we were them?"
"It's so hard to believe it's been that long."

I raised my coffee cup to the group of friends and began drinking.

"So dude, I have got to tell you about this girl!"
"Of course, you can't have Coffee Plantation without an escapade."
"Hey, you're not a virgin anymore. You have no excuse to be grossed out."

And in that normal coffee shop, in that normal city, four normal friends drank normal cups of joe and discussed normal, adult topics. And although they led very different lives and time had taken them to very different places, they knew just by looking at each other that they would never truly be apart.

David Adler
Former Normal High School Student

Monday, May 31, 2010

In the End, Part 1

"David, we need to talk."

"I just don't want there to be any hard feelings between us. I was hoping that for these last couple months of high school that we--"
"--could be friends?"
"Yeah. I mean, if you want to be."

"Don't you want to know what sex feels like in your own bed?"
"Why--why would I want to do that?"
"Well, it's just that I've never been to your house, or met your parents, or anything."
"I should probably get going."

"Now why is it that we must be sworn to secrecy?"
"Because this isn't about anyone else. This is about you and me, and when other people get involved there's all of this pressure for us to be a couple."
"And you don't want that?"
"I don't want any complications."

"My son is on drugs, and you KNEW?!?!"
"Mom, I tried to get him to stop before you found out, but--"
"But what? He didn't LISTEN to you? Of course he didn't listen! He's a DRUG ADDICT!!! You of all people should understand that!"

"My family's in shambles, but that's nothing new."
"Well, if there is any way I can offer my assistance--"
"Thank you, Rabbi, but they're not much into religion and up until now I haven't been either."
"What changed?"
"I don't know. I guess I just did."
"The Mourner's Kaddish begins on page 226."

Rising to say the Mourner's Kaddish at Kikar Tzion Congregation had become part of my daily routine for almost a month, and yet I still felt the same comfort in it everytime I said the prayer.

It was strange; I always hated what religion had done to people. All my life I convinced myself that religion led to questons, which led to answers, which led to judgments, which led to division, and while religion does do that, it also brings people together in a time of crisis.

Every night after the service ended, I shook hands with Rabbi Starr and headed home, where things got progressively worse every single night.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And more than anything in the world, I just wanted my family to find something that could bring us together again.

But instead, we just kept pushing each other apart. Libby left for a summer abroad program at Cambridge University, where she would be for the next 6 weeks, Jake had finally been shipped off to rehab, Lucy Greer and her daughter Maya finally found an apartment, and Mom resorted to shoving everything under the rug and taking her anger out on me. I was so glad that high school would be over soon.

"David, am I gonna see you when you go to college?"

My baby sister was the only person in my house who still gave me joy.

"Of course, sweetie. Why wouldn't you?"
"Well, Mommy and me are moving to a new house, and so are you."
"Come here."

I motioned for her to sit on my lap and I kissed her forehead.

"You know, I didn't always live in this house."
"You didn't?"
"No. In fact, I used to live about 15 minutes away from here in a neighborhood called Mountaingate North, right next door to Mark."
"You did?"
"Yeah, and Mark is still one of my best friends. No, we don't see each other as much as we did when we lived next to each other, but we hang out a lot, go to movies and to pizza and coffee shops."
"Coffee's gross."
"Well, you're too young for coffee, but we can do other things. Don't worry about a thing, kiddo. We're best buds for life."
"Pinky promise?"
"Double pinky promise."

I admired Maya's naivete, how everything could simply be confirmed by making her pinky intertwine with someone else's. I remember those days; the days when you felt you could trust anyone and every apology was forgiven with the offering of a bouncy ball to play with.

And about 10 minutes away, a female friend was playing with a male friend's balls.

"Oh Leslie, don't stop!"

Michael Florence and Leslie Lawrence finished up the ball game and lay down beside each other in the play pen.

"So...that was fun."
"Yeah. I really missed this."

They lay in silence for a moment before Michael broke it.

"So, I was thinking--I know you said you wanted to keep us on the D.L. and not go to prom, but, well, are you sure you don't want to go?"
"Michael, we went over this. I don't want a huge commotion made about us."
"Ah who gives a shit about a huge commotion? This isn't about them, right?"
"But we're not a couple. People ask me if I'm single and I say yes. Don't you?"
"Lots of friends go to prom together."
"Those friends don't have the benefits we have."
"So what, all we are is friends with benefits?"
"This is EXACTLY what I was afraid would happen if we started things up again! You're getting attached!"
"Well excuse me for thinking that there was still something there between us!"
"What made you think there was?"
"We didn't break up because we stopped loving each other! We broke up because we lost a kid that we never should have been having anyway!"

When he saw Leslie's face, he immediately regretted what he had just said.

"Leslie, I--"
"Just go."
"Please, let me just--"
"No. Just get out of my house. I can't believe I actually thought this was a good idea."

Without another word, Michael walked out the front door, got into his Jeep, and drove away. Needless to say, an emergency meeting with Aaron Stanwick, Mark Adams, and me at the Coffee Plantation was called to order.

"Okay, so let me get this straight. You and Leslie have been kinda sorta back together for a month?"
"No, not back together. Just sleeping together. Secretly."
"Mark, if there was ever an inappropriate time to high five someone commending them for a purely sexual relationship, that would be now."
"So anyway, she said some things, I said some things, and then she kicked me out."
"What exactly did you guys say?"
"She said that we broke up because there were no feelings there and I said that we broke up because we lost a baby we never should have been having."

We fell silent.

"I know, it was a shitty thing to say, but nonetheless it's true, is it not?"
"Technically yes, but in her heart she felt that she was supposed to have that baby and raise it. Otherwise she would have gotten an abortion or put it up for adoption.
"Losing that baby was a tragic thing, and you made it sound like it was a relief."
"Okay, so what do I do now?"
"I don't know, you're usually the one we ask for advice."

We all chuckled a little bit at the idea that our free therapist was asking us what to do.

"Well, until we figure it out, let's move on to something else. Mark, how's Mal?"
"I don't know, we haven't spoken in two weeks."
"What? Oh my gosh, did you guys break up?"
"Not officially. It all started when I suggested that we go to her place for a change, and then she just left my house. We had bulshit conversations for the next week or so and then just stopped talking altogether. All because I wanted to see where she lives."
"Well, she's always been kind of secretive about her house. One time I offered to drive her home and she made me stop like 4 blocks away."
"Yeah, and I offered to drive her home from Dave's Hanukkah party and she said she would just walk."
"I don't get it! Why won't she let anyone in?"
"Maybe she's waiting for someone to have the right key."
"What, my dick's not good enough?"
"I'm sure your dick is fine--I can't believe I just said that--but what else have you offered to the relationship?"
"Well, I love her."
"But is that enough for her to let you all the way into her life?"
"It damn well should be!"
"Well, there's a lot of things that should be. The contraceptives should have been enough to protect us from getting pregnant, the baby should have been born, and I should be going to prom with Leslie next weekend, but none of that is going to happen, so we should all stop worrying about what should be and focus on what is."
"Great speech. How long were you working on it?"
"Five minutes."

The next day, Mark called Mal Wales to try and get to the bottom of her trust issues.


Mal looked at the Caller ID and pressed the "Ignore" button.

"Who was that, honey?"
"No one."

Monday came too soon, but it was worth it knowing it was the first of only two Mondays we had left. AP tests had ended, and now we were in full force getting ready for the Showcase Concert.

Acme Choir's set was really cool--well--it had potential to be really cool. The theme was "Legends" and our choir's legend was none other than Michael Jackson. Our set started with "Thriller" (of course), followed by "Beat It," "Billy Jean," "Man in the Mirror," and ended with "Black or White." The music sounded great, the lighting was killer, and the choreography was legit. If only it actually looked good on stage.


And Miss Connolly was in a GREAT mood!

Since Aaron was Acme's class president, Miss Connolly turned to him to inspire us.

"Okay, so like Miss Connolly said, we have a show on Friday. Not just a concert--a show. We are called Acme because we're the top, and do you really want Novice Choir to kick our butts? Their rendition of 'Gypsy' by Fleetwood Mac is beautiful, and the rest of their set is awesome. They perform, then there's a Solo Act, and then it's us. And we're the last choir before the big finale! We're supposed to build the excitement, not crush it and force an exciting finale. So, for the next four days, let's give it everything we've got and after it's all over we'll go to Sonic and relax."

Sometimes I forget just how inspiring Aaron can be. Miss Connolly even cried a little bit.

The last Showcase Concert was not the only "last" that would occur that week. The next day, we distributed the final issue of The Summit Sentinal that would have my name down as Editor-in-Chief. My final "Letter from the Editor" was very inspiring as I discussed how the members of the Class of 2010 were about to go far beyond the school they've known for four years. It was a little cheesy, like a valedictorian speech, but it was my only chance to give the entire student body advice from a senior. It was so strange bringing the Sentinal to each classroom knowing that I would never distribute a high school newspaper again. It was a wake-up call that high school really was ending and that life was really about to start.

"So, last newspaper."

Callie Anderson and I were finally able to be on semi-good terms for the first time since our dramatic break-up.

"Yeah, I guess it is. How do you feel?"
"A little weird, but I was only on the staff for a year. You've been on it since you were a sophomore. How do you feel?"
"It's surreal, I guess. This publication has been a huge part of my life and now it's just over. By the way, I'm really happy with how the layout turned out. I shouldn't have been so harsh with you that day."
"You're right, you shouldn't have, but it's all good. We're graduating!"
"Amen to that."

I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss being in a relationship with her, texting her whenever anything was going wrong, and just feeling totally comfortable in her presence. But it was what it was and all I could do was remember the good times with a smile and accept that things were over.

Before we knew it, it was Friday, the big night! Were we ready? Kinda. Were we confident? Sorta. Were we excited? Not at all.

Miss Connolly gave us her annual pep talk, where she allowed us all the chance to say something to the rest of the choir so we all could have a good cry before the show. Then we all got backstage for the big opening number, "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel, then the guys all got in our Elvis costumes for "Viva Las Vegas" and waited backstage. We watched Mal's Solo Act ("Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin), and as she walked offstage she walked right past Mark without even a word.

"Alright that's it."

And he chased after her.

"You can't avoid me forever."

Mal stopped in her tracks and reluctantly turned around to face Mark.


Awkward silence.

"We haven't talked in a while."
"I know. Uh, how are you?"
"Shitty. How are you?"
"Equally shitty."
"So, being that we both feel like shit, how can we help each other feel good again?"
"Mark, I can't do this."
"You can't do what? Be in a relationship? Because newsflash, we've been in one for five months!"
"I can't let you into my life the way you want me to."
"Mark, I love you, and I know you love me, and what we had was wonderful. But I can't let you judge me."
"Judge you? I just wanted to meet your parents and see where you live! Was that so much to ask?"

He was silent as he witnessed the tears form, breaking through her tough exterior.

"They died when I was 9 and I've gone from foster home to foster home ever since. I'm the oldest of the nine kids that live in the house. I knew that if you or anyone else saw the huge house you would get the wrong idea. I can't have you over at my house because it's not my house, and my foster parents never come to any of my concerts because all they care about is getting the check at the end of each month. So there, now you know. This is me. Feel free to judge."

Mark didn't say anything. He just walked forward, grabbed her, and kissed her. They just held each other for what felt like forever, bawling in each other's arms. They never wanted to let go, and they knew that nothing could ever tear them apart.

Except for the opening guitar riff of "Viva Las Vegas."

"Go. I'll be waiting right here when you get back."

It was a crowd pleaser, just as we expected, and then intermission happened.

"Where the hell were you?"
"Making out with my girl."
"That's great, man!"
"Thanks. Now, if you will excuse me we have more making out to do."

Mark ran toward his girlfriend, leaving the three of us single men to our devices.

"So, our last concert is half over."
"Insane, isn't it?"
"Seriously. How the hell did we get here?"
"I have no clue. It seems like only yesterday I walked into choir on the first day of sophomore year and there you guys were; the Three Amigos."
"Well, maybe we had been the Three Amigos since grade school, but it was much better once we became the Fantastic Four."

The three of us stood silently for a moment before we engaged in a group hug.

"Hey! You guys can't do a group hug without me!"
"Come here, dude!"

Mark joined us, and everything suddenly seemed complete.

"I love you guys!"
"Love you too, man!"
"It's just gonna be hard with us so far away from each other! Should we make some sort of pact that we'll always be together?"
"I don't think we really need one. I mean, how can we not be together?"
"Good point."
"And besides, with Facebook we can always stay connected!"

So we got into our costumes, performed our kick-ass Michael Jackson set, and then everyone joined us for our finale, none other than "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. After our Senior Bow at the end of the curtain call, we all ran out to the lobby to greet everyone.

"Oh my gosh, you actually came!"
"Well, we saw that you had it on the calendar and we felt it was important for us to be there."
"This is just so unexpected! Um, this is my boyfriend Mark. Mark, these are my foster parents and foster siblings!"
"So nice to meet you Mark. Mal, we bought a cake to have at home in honor of your concert. Mark, would you like to come too?"

Mal gave Mark a nod of approval, so he said "Hell yeah!"


Another surprise of the evening.

"Leslie? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see the concert and tell you how stupid I was! I love you! I want to be with you! I know we had our issues, especially at the very end, but I want to be the one in your arms at prom tomorrow night!"
"And what about everyone else?"
"Who cares? It's not about them, right?"

The two shared a long embrace. I turned to Aaron.

"So, it looks like it's just you and me and a bunch of people we don't care about for Sonic tonight."
"Wanna go to The Coffee Plantation instead?"

So the show was a success, the happy couples were back together, and Aaron and I stayed at our favorite cofee shop until closing time, which was a ton of fun. The next night we all danced the night away at our senior prom, which was a much happier occasion than last year's prom. Afterward, we went over to Michael's and stayed up until 4 a.m. before crashing on the floor.

All that was left to do now was graduate.

David Adler
Normal High School Student