Discover more from STOP. KISSING. FINN.
STOP. KISSING. FINN. - Chapter 24 - The Final Chapter!
Chapter 23 Recap: Sparks fly one last time in the art room, but not like they used to. Charlie’s done with Finn’s BS.
I was next to the large vending machine in the cafeteria—my station—two minutes early. I was still a little shaky with adrenaline. Finn still had that effect on me, but I wasn’t going to let him ruin my last few moments of high school.
That’s when it dawned on me: these were my last few moments of high school. I was leaving, and I wasn’t required to come back. There was graduation in a week, but that would be different. I’d be a guest at an event, and the building would just be the venue.
I leaned against the vending machine and felt the buzz and the heat from its electricity. I thought of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye and how he’d stood on the hill at Pencey and tried to make himself feel some kind of goodbye, but couldn’t come up with anything. I glanced up at the clock on the cafeteria wall.
I definitely felt something. It wasn’t a goodbye feeling or anything like nostalgia. I think I’d already said so many goodbyes—different types of goodbyes—that year. I didn’t need to be sad about missing people or wonder what would happen when I didn’t see my friends every day. There was no point in telling everyone that we’d never lose touch. Or write “never change!” in everyone’s yearbook. Because everything did change. And it was going to keep changing.
I think that’s what I felt. Everything’s different, I thought.
2:03. My stomach was knotted with anticipation. I glanced around the cafeteria and noticed two student council kids at opposite ends of the room standing around trying to look casual. I bit down on the side of my cheek.
2:05. A teacher passed me on her way to the parking lot and I was suddenly terrified that I was being way too obvious and was going to ruin everything with just two minutes to go. But she was focused on the screen of her phone and didn’t seem to notice that I was standing there.
2:06. I stared at the second hand and watched as it slowly made its circular journey around the plain white face of the clock. As it passed the nine, I knelt down by the electrical outlets behind the vending machine and reached behind me.
As the second hand passed the eleven and, five seconds later, it was finally 2:07, I felt for the small power button to a compact, battery-operated bubble machine and clicked it on.
So did 50 other kids in strategically placed locations around the school
It actually hadn’t been all that hard to plan.
“This is genius. It’s like the infrastructure is already here,” Andy had remarked that night in his room when I’d proposed changing the donor request letters.
He was right. All we’d had to do was change every letter so that our only theater department “wish list” item was a bubble machine.
“With your help, we can make next year’s student production of The Little Mermaid possible,” we’d included as a P.S. on every letter. We’d even set up an online registry with just one item: The Turbo Pro 16 bubble machine. Retail price: $49.95. Desired Quantity: 50
We’d watched in amazement as they were delivered, one after another, to Andy’s parent’s nature sanctuary. “It’s for a school project,” was all the explaining Andy offered. They didn’t ask questions.
The bubble machine whirred to life, and within seconds it was furiously pumping out a stream of bubbles that quickly began to fill one corner of the cafeteria. A part of me wanted to run back through the hallways to see for myself what this multiplied by 50 really looked like. But my getaway car was waiting, and I had a strict timeline to follow.
I walked toward the exit, trying not to obviously make a run for it. If anyone was watching, I was pretty sure the huge, idiot smile I couldn’t manage to contain was a dead giveaway.
I pushed through the double doors just as the 2:10 bell rang and was hit with a burst of unfiltered sunlight. Shielding my eyes, I spotted Jessica first. She was leaning against the driver-side door to her car and watching the entrances. She gave me a discreet nod. I jog-walked to her car.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe we just did that,” I squealed once she was in earshot.
“Shh…” she cautioned. “It’s not over yet. We’ve got to get out of here ASAP,” she said calmly and focused her gaze back on the double doors. Andy suddenly pushed his way through and started jogging in the direction of the car. He was carrying something under his arm. As he got closer, I realized it was a bubble machine.
“You took one?!” I asked.
“This is mine. Number 51. Battery-operated version. I bought it on my own,” he said as we all piled into the car. “I had to have one. You know, like a memento.”
Jessica raised her cat-eye sunglasses and looked at me. “I tried to talk him out of it. It’s evidence. It could blow our cover.”
“Like we didn’t already leave a trail of evidence, anyway,” Andy said as he rolled down his window and carefully positioned the bubble machine so it was facing outwardly. He flipped the switch and we all watched as bubbles streamed out and were carried off in the breeze.
“I bet it leaves spots all over my car,” Jessica said with a sigh.
“Can we get out of here before they come looking for us?!” Andy demanded.
“Yes,” Jessica said and started the ignition. “Aren’t you going to turn that thing off while I’m driving?”
“No way. This is all part of our cinematic exit.”
“Seriously?” I asked with a laugh.
“Yeah, totally. You’ll write about this one day when you’ve moved on to screenplays.” He shifted himself against the backseat so he could more comfortably hold the machine.
“Now I’m writing screenplays?” I asked.
“Jess will do the music direction,” he added. “Now, Jess, this is our big exit. Don’t let me down.” He lowered himself into the backseat and positioned the bubble maker toward the open window.
Jessica looked into the rearview mirror. “Have I ever let you down?”
“I’m just saying it better not be some track from RENT or something.”
“Oh, don’t even, bubble boy.”
“I would never be so trite,” she insisted.
“So, this scene calls for…” I began.
“This scene calls for…” she repeated, taking one hand off the steering wheel to scroll through her phone. “A feeling of purposeful escape.” She said, pausing again. The music began. She adjusted the volume on a swell of strings.
“Adventure,” she added with raised eyebrows. A steady thumping of bass reached a crescendo.
“And a sense of possibility.” The thumping broke into a steady rhythm of acoustic and electric guitars.
“Wait, is this old Arcade Fire?” Andy asked from the back seat as we headed toward the parking lot exit.
“Yeah,” Jessica answered. “Keep the Car Running.”
“I love this song!” he yelled.
“I know,” she answered and smiled.
“I don’t know why, but I know can’t stay…” Andy sang along from the back seat.
I had never heard the song before but instantly loved it.
“Can I turn this up a little?” I asked.
Jessica, who was also singing along, stopped mid lyric. “Go for it.”
I leaned forward to hit the plus sign on the volume control a few times until I could feel the bass in my chest.
We neared the threshold to the parking lot. A handful of laughing students and confused teachers had gathered just outside the front entrance to the building. The double doors were propped open and a cloud of bubbles floated out and up into the sky. The group stopped to study our car, which was vibrating with music and trailing its own six-foot-long cloud of bubbles.
“WE’RE MAKING HISTORY!” Andy shouted out the window. They stared back at us quizzically.
Both Jessica and I doubled over in laughter. We caught our breath as we drove away.
“So,” Jessica said a minute later, shouting over the music. “First stop, Dino’s?”
“Next stop, world domination!” Andy yelled from the back seat.
“Sounds good,” I said as the song ended. I leaned forward and pressed repeat.
We’ve reached the end, reader! Thank you so much for joining me in this little experiment. Every view, like, and comment has meant so much to me.
Though I’m not sure what’s next, I plan to keep all chapters up on Substack. (Please continue to share the URL!) I may still occasionally send newsletters, so stay tuned.
Again, thank you. And please leave a comment letting me know what you thought of the conclusion.