"Oh, lookie lookie," Robin elbowed Darren in the ribs. "Jonathan's hitting on that new girl again."
"Again? That's like the sixth time or something, man!"
Though he cringed mockingly, Darren felt an uplifting lightness in his heart as he watched everyone he'd known in his four years in university mingle. Boys and girls in robes hugged each other, smiling and crying at the same time. Some of the scholarship students were shaking their lecturers' hands furiously. Cameras went off everywhere like fireworks. At the far end of the field, he could even spot a group of guys tossing Thomas in the air, repeatedly singing some march anthem.
Darren smiled to himself, content to soak in the scene from afar.
Then she walked past.
Emily, her layered black hair bouncing in the slight breeze, giggling with her girlfriends at a joke one of them made. She gazed at him momentarily, then made her way to a circle of guys fiddling with an expensive camera.
"Dude," Robin nudged him, pointing at Thomas' group. "Let's go join them."
Darren's feet felt heavy. He should be making good of his chances - this was his last day being able to walk up to Emily and talk to her so easily. Reunions always bore the stigma of catching up and pleasantries. Phone calls required some previous goodwill. Internet messengers? Phooey. He didn't fancy being one of the five simultaneous conversations she was probably having.
Why yes, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. Take a picture with her, then maybe get her phone number. He'd figure out an excuse for calling, no doubt about it.
"Uh, why don't you go ahead first? I'll come by later."
Puffing up his chest, Darren walked up to her. He might not look like the most suave guy on the outside, but inside he was brimming with confidence. He tapped her on the shoulder. Untimidly, you might add.
"Um, Emily...would you, er, mind taking a picture?"
Oh, no. It was starting again. He was sounding like a practiced nerd.
"Hold on, Darren. Right after these guys. CHEESE!"
"YO! I said, WAKE UP!"
The scene blacked out. Darren could feel his eyes blink twice. He was lying on his side on something soft, a lumpy pillow resting between his arms. He turned around to find Nelson standing by the bed, arms akimbo.
It had all been a dream. Darn.
But what was he, in the first place, doing here in Nelson's house? Darren tried hard to remember, but nothing was registering. It felt like a hangover without alcohol.
"You're lucky I was up late last night. Otherwise you would've freezed to death outside my door."
Oh yeah. There was some vague memory of Nelson letting him into the house.
"What can I say? Thanks." he mumbled groggily.
"Oh, you'll be saying a lot more," Nelson waved a newspaper in front of his face. "Congratulations, Darren. You made it to the morning news."