It’s Almost Time To Graduate…
Winter, Year 6
Zackery is 31, Hayley is 26, Jared s 26, Riccardo is 24, Claire is 21, Tony is 21, Richard is 21, Keith is 19, Kathleen is 19, Saffron is 17 and Alex is 13
The new term always seemed to come around too quickly after the seasonal festivities and Riccardo sat the the table in his dorm, feeling stunned. Christmas and New Year’s Eve didn’t feel that far away yet here he was, ready to start what would hopefully be his final term at Foxbury. It didn’t seem real yet.
He’d barely been back an hour before his phone started to vibrate. Pulling it out, he saw an incoming call from Zoe and smiled. She’d also returned to Britechester today for the new term.
Predictably, she had family gossip to share. Riccardo loved his family dearly but the dramas that unfolded on a daily basis were on par with a soap opera. If it wasn’t his younger brother Alex harassing Tara or Che, it was Magnus having a meltdown over Jared’s wife or Zoe’s fiancé.
This time, however, the gossip was about their mother, Marie. Normally very level-headed, she’d lately been losing her temper quickly and Riccardo did wonder if it was Magnus that was causing it.
His conversation over, Riccardo hung up and put his phone back in his pocket. “Ricky?” he heard a voice say and he spun round to find Alex standing in the hall, looking nervous.
“Alex!” Riccardo hugged his brother in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry,” Alex bit his lip. “I need to talk to you.”
“Don’t apologise.” Riccardo regarded his brother. “You can talk to me any time.”
“I should have done this earlier, when you were home for the holidays but…I didn’t really want Padre to know about it.” Alex sighed. “Do you remember you asked me in the summer if I was having problems at school?” Riccardo nodded so Alex took a deep breath. “Well, you’re right. I’m struggling to understand the lessons at school. It’s way over my head and I’m coming bottom in all my tests. Everyone’s saying I’m thick and too stupid to understand anything and I think they’re right.”
Riccardo suddenly felt awful for his brother. Alex had always been more obnoxious, ever since he was a child. He used to tease Tara and Che all the time and was constantly in trouble. These days he still teased Che but he seemed to get into trouble so easily and Riccardo had been wondering if school might have been the problem. “And you haven’t told anyone? Not even Madre?” He watched as Alex shook his head miserably. “Okay. Do you want me to talk to Madre about it? Because she can’t help you Alex if she doesn’t know about it.”
Alex shrugged. “Why? It’s not like she can do anything.”
“She could help you out with homework and projects. If you’re having trouble understanding the topics, why not ask your teacher privately for some help? If you never ask for help, Alex, you can’t expect to get it. It’s not always nice, having to ask for help but it’s necessary to learn.”
Alex thought for a moment. There was wisdom in what Ricky was saying and he knew in his gut his brother was right. He sighed heavily. “M’kay. I’ll talk to Madre tonight.”
Riccardo smiled and hugged his brother again. “Good lad. Now you’d better get off home, Madre will worry if you’re late!”
Keith was in a hurry. He’d missed his train and had caught a later one but he was still running late for his classes. He hurried across a quiet quad – a sure sign that classes had started up and he was very definitely late. Sometimes it felt like he couldn’t get anything right.
Claire was delighted when Tony turned up unexpectedly at the dorm. He hardly ever visited her last year and at times, she’d felt a little insecure about their relationship. She flung her arms around him as he stepped off the lift and into the hallway. This year felt like it was starting on the right foot.
That evening, a group of the students set off for the Arts Centre in the city. The Humour and Hijinks festival was taking place in the Arts Quarter that evening and the students loved to let off some steam there.
To Riccardo’s delight, Hayley Bolton was there with her producer, Zackery, to work on her latest album. He was a big fan of hers and it was a great opportunity to see her.
“Okay everyone, come on!” Zackery clapped his hands. “Hayley and I have work to do, let’s give her some room, shall we?”
Riccardo sighed. Maybe he’d get a photo with her another time.
Meanwhile, Claire had discovered the bubble blower, tucked away in a corner of the festival and it was having some of the most peculiar effects on her.
Keith drifted over to the Arts Centre to watch some of the local artists at work. It fascinated him, the things that could motivate an artist and he loved watching them work.
“You taking part, or just watching?” He heard someone ask behind him. Turning, he saw a teenage girl with one eyebrow raised.
“Just watching,” he replied. “I’m Keith.”
“Saffron.” The girl shrugged. “My Mum’s one of the artists. Do you come here often?”
Keith shook his head. “First visit, really. I’m not much of a fan of the festival so I sort of drifted in here.” There was a pause. “Am I in the way?”
“Yeah, a bit.” Saffron shrugged again. “Nice meeting you though.”
“Yeah, you too.”
Keith left the artists to their work and drifted into the bar instead. The bartender glanced up and his eyes widened when he saw Keith.
“Keith?” He stammered. “What are you doing here?”
“Rob?” Keith was surprised. Rob lived in the same dorm and he’d had no idea he worked at the arts centre. “You work here?”
“Yeah,” Rob replied awkwardly. “Just temporarily, you know? I just want a bit of money to pay off some of the loans when I graduate.”
Keith sat down at the bar. “There’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, it’s a great idea. You’ll have a head start over the rest of us slackers.” He chuckled. “So what are you studying?”
“Economics.” Rob winced. “Boring, right?”
Keith shook his head. “Not really. What do you want to do?”
“I’m not sure. Not completely, anyway but probably something in that field.”
Keith smiled. Now this was a better way to spend the evening.
As the fireworks exploded into the air to denote the end of the festival, Keith barely noticed as he and Rob chatted all night.
The following morning, Riccardo had another surprise visitor.
“Jared? What are you doing here?” He asked, laughing.
Jared grinned. “I’m delivering a lecture in a few minutes but I thought you might like a gift.”
“Me?” Riccardo eyed the package suspiciously. “Oh no, it’s another one of Andrea’s green ideas, isn’t it?”
“I thought you were on board with those?” Jared started to laugh. “Anyway, stop being so suspicious. It’s faux jerky cubes. We’re trying to help educate people and encourage them to stop eating meat and this is one of the best ways.”
Riccardo breathed a sigh of relief and accepted the gift. He loved how close he still was to Jared, even though both men were quite different and even though Jared was married now, they still made time for each other.
Kathleen was convinced someone was trying to stop her studying properly. The number of prank calls were getting ridiculous.
She was proud of herself for focusing on her studies instead. She loved writing and the coursework after her classes felt like dream jobs as she scribbled away. She was determined to succeed.
Exam day threw everyone into panic mode. Richard realised he had a presentation that afternoon that wasn’t close to ready, so he hastily put as much detail onto the board as possible while eating breakfast.
On route to the exams, the students were nervous. For some, this was hopefully going to be the last set of exams they took and the pressure was getting to everyone.
At last, Riccardo could relax a bit. Exams passed, he’d finally graduated from Foxbury and was ready to take on the world. In a few days time, he’d be packing his bags and heading off to Evergreen Harbour, where he was going to live for a while with Jared and Andrea.
Before leaving, he fired off some applications for his dream job. By the time he’d moved back to Evergreen Harbour, he’d know whether he was going to start his future as a Marine Biologist.