The Graduate

Shutterstock / Abasat Baghirov ©

It was going to be a big day for Lynne and her daughter, and everything had to be just perfect…

Lynne sat at the breakfast bar with her coffee, flicking through the paper, and for the umpteenth time, glanced at the calendar hanging on the kitchen wall in front of her.

Tomorrow’s date, June 11, had one word in the line next to it: Graduation!!!

The exclamation marks were Emma’s, written when the details of the ceremony had been emailed weeks ago.

Lynne smiled – she didn’t think she’d ever seen her daughter so excited.

Now twenty-four, Emma was more like a best friend than a daughter, especially as it had only been the two of them in the house for the past twelve years. But she still had moments of bubbling childlike enthusiasm.

As if conjured up by the power of thought, Emma came clattering down the stairs, pulling a hoodie over her head.

“Mum, you need to drink that fast!” she said. “Hair appointments in half an hour.”

Lynne ran her hands through her mousey mid-length hair.

“Do I really need to get mine done as well, Emma? This’ll be fine once I’ve washed it…”

“No way, Mum! You agreed – tomorrow’s a big day and we’re pulling out all the stops. Come on!”

Lynne laughed. Her daughter’s enthusiasm was catching.

She thought back over the past few years, to all the hard work that had gone into this – the late night essays, the studying for assessments, the preparation for presentations…

They’d been through it all together and Lynne felt so proud of her daughter and only child. She’d grown up into such a decent, kind young woman and deserved every success in life.

All of a sudden, Lynne felt quite emotional.

“Emma, I just want to say… It sounds corny but – thank you for – well, for turning out the way you have,” she said.

“You don’t have to thank me, Mum.” Emma laughed. “It was you who made me – how could I have turned out any other way?

“Now, drink that coffee and get the car keys – time for our graduation makeovers!”

So, what are we after today, then?” Megan, the stylist, asked as Lynne sat nervously in the chair.

She shrugged. “Just a trim, I think.”

Emma was sitting in the chair next to her, glancing through a glossy magazine.

“Ignore that, Megan,” she said, putting down the magazine. “We have a big day tomorrow. I want us both to look amazing. This is my treat, Mum – let’s go for a total restyle: highlights, cut, the works!”

“Great idea,” said Megan. “You’re going to look fab, Lynne.”

And three hours later, when Lynne finally plucked up the courage to look in the mirror, she gasped in surprise and delight.

Her frumpy, dull hair had been shaped and chopped and straightened to perfection, with layers of gold and copper shimmering through its length.

Emma and Megan clapped gleefully.

“Seriously, Mum, everyone will think you’re my sister rather than my mum! You look incredible.”

Back at the house, there was a sparkly gift bag left at their front door, containing a bottle of champagne and some fancy chocolates.

The note said simply, For tomorrow. Proud of you x

“Aww, look, Mum – it’s from Dad!”

Lynne smiled. The divorce had been amicable and she was glad she could remain friends with her ex-husband.

However, with only two guests allowed at the graduation ceremony, Emma had suggested they give the other ticket to her granny, Lynne’s mum, who had been so helpful and supportive to both of them over the years.

So there would be three generations of Barclay women at the university the next day.

The auditorium was packed full of guests, all dressed up for the occasion, and Lynne felt a flutter of nerves and excitement as she moved amongst them.

This was what it had all been leading up to, all the time and effort and worry.

More than anything, she just felt relief.

The ceremony began. The university dignitaries stood at the front of the stage to read out the names of those who were graduating.

It only took a few minutes to get to the letter “B” in the alphabet and then the name Barclay was announced.

As she walked across the stage, terrified she’d stumble in her new heels, Lynne heard a voice from the audience:

“Well done, Mum!”

Without her daughter’s encouragement, Lynne would never have had the courage to think about enrolling at university as a mature student. But after Emma herself had graduated, she’d persuaded her selfless mum to do something for herself.

As she received her degree certificate and blinked back tears of emotion, Lynne felt a surge of pride.

But she knew what she’d always known – that, regardless of today, her greatest achievement in life would always be her darling daughter.

Our My Weekly Favourites series of feel-good fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.

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