As winter approached, sunny days became rare and cherished by all.
Even the most dedicated students couldn't help gazing wistfully out the windows during classes that day. So as soon as her lectures were over, Grace dashed through the door and into the brisk autumn air.
Back at the dorm she found Jamey already enjoying the afternoon sun with some friends and a game of gnubb.
"Hey," Grace called excitedly, "Can I join you guys?"
Grace's shout broke Jamey's concentration. His baton flew far off target, but he smiled graciously as he went to greet her.
"You can't stop now, Jamey," Calista giggled when her opponent walked away from the game, "I'm winning!"
Jamey didn't respond. He was already too busy pulling his girlfriend into an embrace. "Guess what," he prompted, neglecting to pause for effect in his excitement, "I heard back from Simon & Simster! They're picking up my novel. I'm going to be a published author!"
"Congrat--" Grace began, but was silenced when Jamey pressed his lips on hers.
"Ouch," Grace squeaked and recoiled, all joy in Jamey's success forgotten. "What's this?"
"That's what I asked him too, 'cause that patch of fluff certainly ain't a beard," Nathaniel laughed from behind.
Jamey grinned amiably at his friend's taunt and ran a hand over the emerging stubble. "I thought I'd try something different," he said with a hint of uncertainty.
"Oh," Grace paused, struggling to find the right words. She strove to always be supportive of all of Jamey's endeavors, but this was really testing her resolve. The way the coarse stubble had stung her was just so off-putting! And why would Jamey mar his handsome face like this?! Grace tried to avoid letting her irritation show as she stepped back to take it all in. "That's... great," she finally managed.
"You don't like it," he concluded.
Grace hesitated a moment, then let out the breath she'd been holding and shook her head almost imperceptibly. Being supportive was one thing, but she valued honesty even more.
Jamey chuckled and pulled her back towards him.
"Give it a chance." He planted a peck on Grace's cheek, making her wince. "Once it's all grown in, I'm sure you'll change your mind," he promised.
Grace forced a smile. "I'm sure I will," she said and hoped she wasn't lying.
"Come on," Jamey said, slinging an arm around Grace's waist. "Let's go and celebrate that publishing deal!"
Grace was only too happy to stop talking about facial hair.
There were better ways to enjoy a sunny afternoon.
But just a few hours later it was right back to work for Jamey.
He needed to go over some chapters of his book again, revising and polishing until it was perfect.
And, more importantly, he had some serious studying to do. Final exams were approaching quickly and Jamey was still determined to ace them.
As Jamey wrote, so did Grace. What had started as a discarded draft for a scriptwriting assignment had turned into a side project she spent every free minute on. Bit by careful bit, she wove everything she loved into it, from homages to her favorite movies to ideas born from her most defining experiences in life.
In an uncharacteristic move for the outgoing Grace, she hadn't breathed a word about her script yet, let alone allowed anyone to read it. She wasn't sure why--normally she didn't hesitate to ask for feedback on even the roughest drafts and valued receiving advice as much as she enjoyed giving it. But this was different. She was pouring her heart's blood into this script and in this unfinished state it felt too fragile to stand before anyone else's eyes.
All this secrecy needed to be balanced out though, and so her chosen place to write was a window seat in the busiest coffee shop on campus. While most would consider the constant comings and goings a distraction, Grace felt invigorated by the bustling life all around her.
Letting the noise of restless chatter engulf her, Grace was completely immersed in her work.
When the front door opened and closed, she barely glanced up, but her eyes widened in delight when she saw who'd just entered.
She crossed the distance between them in two strides and wrapped him in her arms.
"You shaved," she sighed when they finally broke apart. Grace had thought she'd managed not to let Jamey's growing beard bother her, but now that it was gone, relief flooded her. "But why?"
Jamey laughed. "Well, for one, you hated it--"
"I didn't hate it," Grace interjected feebly, but Jamey continued undeterred.
"And two," he said, grinning, "I wanted to see you smile like this again."
Grace beamed, feeling like she was the luckiest girl in the world.
After good news like these, the exams could only smoothly.
It would still be a while until they'd receive their results, but Grace had a feeling that she was going to pass with flying colors.
Unpredictable rain showers had become frequent in the past few days, but Grace managed to get inside before being caught the next one. In her hurry, she almost walked past her roommate without noticing her. Calista stood alone in a corner of the foyer, her back turned to any possible passers-by, but still in close proximity to the juice keg in the middle of the room.
Concerned, Grace approached her and asked without preamble, "What's wrong?"
Calista started to take a large swig from her red plastic cup, noticed that it was empty and dropped it with a dissatisfied grunt before replying, "Whazz not wrong?" By the way she slurred her words, it was clear that there had been several more drinks before this one. "I flunked half of my exams and the other half... gah, those prolly too!"
"Aw, come on, I'm sure you did fine." The reassuring hand Grace put on her friend's shoulder came just in time, steadying Calista as she shook her head and almost toppled over.
"Izz not jus' that," Calista insisted and launched into yet another story of a failed date.
Grace listened patiently, but in essence Calista's dating stories were always the same, only ending in varying degrees of disaster.
Today's was no different.
"Maybe I'm jus' messed up," Calista finished. "I'll never find a guy. I might aswell stop looking..."
As always, Grace did her best to encourage her friend. Her eyes shone with passion as she delivered another one of her fervent speeches, "Calista, you know that's not true! And you can't let those bumps in the road get you down. If you want something, you need to keep on trying - and you can't stop until you get it!"
Grace couldn't tell whether she had made an impression on her friend, but at least Calista was compliant when Grace insisted to take her up to their room and tuck her into bed.
At last, after long days of agonized waiting, the students received their final grades.
When Grace ripped open the envelope and eagerly pulled out the documents inside, she saw that her hopes had come true. She'd passed all her exams with perfect scores, making it onto the Dean's list of honored students.
Calista's predictions had been right as well, which dampened her mood once again. She'd failed most of her classes and didn't have nearly enough credits to earn a degree.
For Jamey, on the other hand, all the long hours of studying had paid off. His wish of getting his degree with a perfect GPA was finally achieved.
On Friday night Grace and Jamey were in the mood to celebrate.
This would be the last weekend before the graduation ceremony. To kick off these last days of fun, they invited a bunch of friends to a bonfire party.
Soon everyone would be going their own ways, and while Grace promised herself to stay in touch with her college friends, she knew that things would never be the same again.
She was determined to make the most of this this last weekend they'd have together. However, when she shared her plans with Calista, she was gravely disappointed.
Calista had decided to spend the weekend in Bridgeport, to get away from it all for a while, as she put it. Grace could only agree that it would probably do Calista good and tried not to feel hurt that her friend wasn't going to be around for their last weekend on campus.
Hoarfrost covered the grass when the night air grew chilly, but the heat from the bonfire warmed the young couple as they sat watching at the stars.
"A shooting star," Grace gasped and pointed up at the sky, "Quick, make a wish!"
Jamey smiled and put his hand on hers. "What for?" he asked and gazed intently into her eyes. "I already have everything."
"Oh, you," Grace pulled her hand out from under his to slap him playfully on the shoulder. "You're being corny!"
"What? It's true," he grinned. "We did it! Perfect GPAs. Both of us. What else could we want?"
Grace gave him a searching look. Jamey's sense of humor could be a bit dry, so it was hard to tell when he was joking sometimes. "Are you serious?" she finally asked, her head cocked in bewilderment.
"Well, yeah," Jamey replied, equally astonished. "We're on the Dean's list. They'll probably even put our names on a plaque! We both got perfect scores on everything. Grace, there's no way you could do any better than this."
"Oh Jamey," she laughed, "I'd be devastated if we couldn't do any better than this." At his confused look she continued, "Doing well with our education is a good thing, of course. But it's just that: Education. Learning. And the reason to learn something is to prepare for a future where you might use it, don't you agree?"
Jamey gave a half-shrug, then nodded. "I guess so."
"So then, don't tell me you have nothing to wish for," she pressed on. "What about your career? You always said you wanted to be a novelist."
"I have a book deal with one of the biggest publishers in the nation," he reminded her petulantly.
"And I'm very proud of you for that," Grace conceded, leaning in close. "But what about the next book after that? And the one after that? There is so much still ahead of us. So many variables. So much to aim for, so much to hope for."
Jamey smiled as he watched her speak, her eyes sparkling with excitement for their future.
"Graduating from university is the beginning," she finished, "We're only just getting started."
The weekend flew by and on Sunday evening, Grace found Calista in their dorm room, looking refreshed and happy. Grace said as much.
"Something amazing happened," Calista beamed. "I was out shopping in Bridgeport--just walking down the street, minding my own business--when a talent scout came up to me! He said I have a great look, one that many casting directors are looking for. Grace, I'm going to be an actress!"
Grace was thrilled to hear her friend's good news. She'd never seen Calista this happy before and congratulated her with heartfelt sincerity.
The graduation ceremony was just the icing on the cake.
And after they said their goodbyes...
... it was time to leave the snow-covered campus behind and return home to Starlight Shores.
Just for the record, I can't agree with Grace. I think the facial hair was an improvement for Jamey (also, what's a hipster without his stache?), but I have to set some precedents for future story reasons :P
Poor Calista had the worst luck with men. Different guys kept pestering her when she wasn't interested, but when she approached someone for once, he turned out to be a jerk :/ Then again, I think she might have insulted him first... Let's hope she has a better time in Bridgeport!