“This is the proudest day of my life,” Clary whispers to Isabelle. “I might cry.”
“Go for it, I brought tissues,” Isabelle whispers back, lifting her purse. “I figured we might need them. I mean, this is our girl we’re talking about.”
“Our girl,” says Clary happily. “Who’s graduating from college today. This is the best day of my life.”
“You keep saying that,” Isabelle remarks with an amused smile.
“Because it’s true!” Clary makes grabby hands at Isabelle’s purse. “Give me a tissue. I feel tears forming.”
“Oh, look!” says Isabelle suddenly. “There she is!”
Clary’s head snaps up to look at the stage. Sure enough, she can make out Maia stepping onto the stage with her classmates. She dabs at her eyes with the tissue Isabelle has just handed her.
“Remember when we first met her?” Clary murmurs, leaning closer to Isabelle but not taking her eyes off Maia. “She was still taking classes online, she was still a beta. And now she’s alpha of the most powerful pack in New York, graduating from Columbia…”
“Oh, dammit, now you’re making me cry.” Isabelle grabs a tissue out of her purse and blows her nose.
“Maia Roberts!” the dean calls. Maia walks across the stage, beaming widely, and Clary can’t help it. She leaps to her feet and cheers loudly. Maia looks out at the crowd, her smile widening when she spots her girlfriends.
Maia shakes hands with the dean and accepts her diploma. Clary pulls out her phone and snaps as many photos as she can, Isabelle doing the same next to her. Maia apparently catches them doing it, because she’s clearly holding back a laugh as she steps off the stage and returns to her seat in the first row of chairs.
Clary waits impatiently while the rest of the students’ names are called. The second the ceremony ends, she and Isabelle are out of their seats and halfway across the auditorium, while most of the guests are still rising from their chairs.
“Babe! You did it! You looked amazing!” Clary squeals, flinging her arms around Maia’s neck.
Maia presses a kiss to Clary’s temple. “Thanks, sweetheart. I heard you cheering louder than everyone else.”
“That’s because I’m prouder of you than anyone else,” Clary tells her.
“And we’re taking you to Brighton Beach to celebrate,” Isabelle adds. “Now that you’re an official marine biologist.”
“Not to mention, it was where we had our first date,” Maia says, smiling as she gestures for Isabelle to come closer. Isabelle does so and Maia kisses her, using the free hand that isn’t tucked inside Clary’s to cup Isabelle’s jaw.
When they break apart, Isabelle kisses Maia’s forehead. “I’m really proud of you too, babe.”
“Thanks,” Maia says softly. “I couldn’t have done it without you two.”
“You did it all on your own,” Clary insists. “We just supported you.”
“And that’s what makes you the two best girlfriends ever,” Maia says.
“And now your two girlfriends are taking you to the beach for the best day ever,” Isabelle says. “We packed your swimsuit, we prepared a picnic…it’s going to be great.”
It’s a weekday, which means the beach isn’t too crowded. The three of them enjoy their picnic first, which is a simple meal – fresh fruits, French cheese, croissants – and then they sit on the edge of the water, their feet cooling in the gentle waves while Maia tells them about the different species which live in the ocean, the various ecosystems, and so forth. Clary and Isabelle exchange glances every so often while Maia speaks. Isabelle knows that Clary is thinking the same thing she is – that they’re both so proud of their girl, of how smart she is, her passion and enthusiasm. There’s a light emanating from her that had always been there, but when Isabelle and Clary had first met her, that light had been subdued, almost repressed. Now it’s shining fully, and it’s enchanting, almost impossible to look away from.
Not that Isabelle, nor Clary, ever want to look away.
“So!” Maia announces after some time. “I think we should go for a swim. You two up for it?”
“Definitely!” Clary springs to her feet, and Maia and Isabelle share an amused look behind her back.
The three of them change into their swimsuits and have fun applying sunscreen to each other’s bodies. Isabelle and Maia have to remind Clary multiple times that they’re in public and she can’t be so tactile, to which Clary replies that there’s no one around to see anyway, and she should be able to touch her girlfriends as often as she wants, thank you very much.
Once they’re in the ocean, they have fun splashing around, dunking each other underneath the water, and of course, grabbing each other for spontaneous kisses as often as possible.
“You ready for your surprise?” Isabelle asks when they return to the beach for a break.
“This wasn’t the surprise?” Maia questions, accepting the towel Clary hands her.
“This wasn’t a surprise, this was us doing something nice for our girl,” Clary explains. “Your surprise is something much better.”
“Well then, I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Maia says, turning around to pull a bottle of water out of the picnic basket. When she turns back around, both Clary and Isabelle are kneeling in the sand in front of her, and Clary is holding up an engagement ring.