I woke up early―easily. Mum was taking Dad to the eye hospital again. She would be back soon, leaving Dad for his checkup. There were university-related Facebook updates―I didn’t take much notice. I turned on the news while I got ready―but I can’t remember one piece of news that day. I gathered my things, got my bike, put David Bowie on; I was as ready as I could be. I just needed to get to school, on my bike, for the first time ever, for the last time ever. On my own.

I was taking ownership of the whole situation. I could roll in there, and roll out. I just wanted my results, though I still couldn’t comprehend that I’d taken my exams. Not until I was handed my sheet of paper. It felt great.

I was the freest I’ve ever been―it took going back to school, this place that used to feel so scary to me, to realise that. This time, it was just a building. No one hated me; no one conspired against me. I wasn’t invested in what any person thought. I’d changed.

I was lucky enough to see the people I cared about most, and they were satisfied too. Especially Kathleen, my best friend, who’d gotten into her top-choice university with an A*. I stuck out my middle fingers to the big hall where we’d taken our exams, we tightly hugged, and she waited with me to see my results. Then she told me she was proud of me, and I believed her.

I rode my bike home part of the way with one of my oldest friends, Claire. It was something I’d wished I could do after school every day, but “after school” didn’t exist for me like that. When I was in school, I had often left early or was driven home. Then I just wasn’t there at all. But I did it for this last time.

There were things about not going to school like a regular girl that made me feel wistful, things I had missed out on, but they didn’t matter now. It was all finally over. All being that whole school experience. I rode downhill towards home with the wind shaking all those regrets out of my hair. It was done.

In the front drive I rang my bell so Mum could see me―smiling on my bike. I shouted “A B C!” when she opened the door. Our hug was the warmest I’ve felt all summer.

So that’s that. That was when I realised how free I can be. ♦