FitzRoy's is a high-end electronics outlet. They carried just about everything. Why Daddy was taking me there, and not Robbie, I had no idea.
Inside it smelled like fresh tobacco, but not smoke.
The proprietor was a Hindu. He attended us immediately, and faithfully. If we'd have asked for his daughter's hand in marriage, I suspect we'd have walked out of there both hitched and begadgetted.
"We would like to see the new Grip," Daddy told him.
It was newer than the one we'd looked at in Dallas, and more expensive.
"But it is also faster," the proprietor said, "very much. Over seven times faster than the Grip I and thirteen times faster than the Nack."
"Daddy, are you going to buy one?"
"Yes, pumpkin, for you."
"Oh. In that case, I only care what it can do, not how fast it is."
That turned out to be a lot. It had a bigger screen that my brother's Nack, and it was LCD not LED. It was also much easier to read and had a full sized QWERTY keyboard.
He showed me the tape slot, and how I could record sound and write letters. I could even keep a private journal with a password.
But the best thing turned out to be its expansion bay. The one in Dallas had a little bread-board in it, as Daddy called it. But that was by no means all that could go in there. It was easily removable and there were lots of goodies that could plug in. You could have a screen that you could show pictures on, a radio, or even a cash register printer.
I spent a while deciding which one I wanted most. I finally decided on the video screen, and Daddy wrote him a moderately obscenely check.
I left with my new Grip, batteries, external plug, tapes, and a stack of books half as tall as me. They were also on tape but I could read them in binders, even if my Grip were buggered up.
My actual graduation was a tiny ceremony, held in the auditorium at the high-school. There were only fifteen kids from the advanced program walking across the stage that day. My family was all there, and Tammy, and Topher and Mary Jane, of course.
It was over so quick. There was a short speech from the keynote speaker, we walked across the stage and received a warm handshake and a blank scroll, and then a tearful reunion with loved ones.
We went home for a celebratory dinner, catered by Topher and my Mother, and I pigged out, still in my maroon and black cap and gown.
The next time I wore one, I'd be graduating from college.
Afterwards, there were presents, from loved-ones both those present and absent. There were a few heart-felt gifts; I've always loved getting gifts, but there were even more cards. And money.
I snuck off to the office as the party was dying down and counted it. There was $325 dollars there. Quite a tidy sum.
I put it all in the drawer next to the stationary Mother had gotten for thank-you cards. She insisted I observe the niceties.
"Oh, good, dear," she said, coming into the room as if I'd summoned her, "you're here. The party is winding down and your father and I wanted to talk to you before Topher had to leave."
"Let me go get your father."
"Can Topher be there, or is it private?"
"I'll tell you what. We'll tell you first and you can make your own choice afterwards."
She left and I sat down on the settee, totally oblivious of what might happen next.
They came back, Daddy all smiles, and he took a seat behind the desk.
"We have one last gift for you." He took a box from the desk and gave it to me. It was long and thin, like a jewelry box for a bracelet.
"A fountain pen," I asked, after I'd opened it. "Thank you Daddy."
It was beautiful, with a mother-of-pearl grip and gold nib.
The first thing you do with a gift pen is sign your name. I took it out and checked it on the blotter. It was already full of ink.
I reached for another piece of paper.
"Not yet," Mother warned, and went through her filing cabinet; she came out with a document on legal paper.
"Here," she said, placing it in front of me, beside the pen box.
I put the pen back in its box and I read the papers.
"It's a declaration of emancipation..."
"Yes, dear," Daddy assured me.
"But I don't understand. Aren't they for problem children? Kids too much for their folks to handle? Surely I've not been that bad?"
"No, dear." Mother patted my hand. "Read on."
It was a Judge's order, dated and sealed, declaring me an emancipated teenager. It further stated that I was responsible for myself, and able to make my own decisions and sign contracts. I couldn't however, vote.
"But why would you do this?" I was stunned.
"Because we think you're ready, Dani, to join the world of adults. You're done with high-school and your next step is to go out into that great-big world." Mother was crying. "We think this will help."
"Does this mean you're not throwing me away?"
"Of course not, dear." They both came around the desk to hug me. "We will always be your parents. This just confirms that you now belong to yourself."
"So what if I don't want it?"
"It's yours to sign, dear, or not. We love you no matter what, and we promise you respect either way. But if you sign it, you're an adult. If you don't, you remain our ward for the next two years. But it also means you're financially independent and eligible for financial aid for school."
"That's a lot to take in, Daddy. Can I think about it?"
"Of course. You have until your eighteenth birthday."
"I want to tell Topher."
"You may," Mother said seriously, "but until you sign it, we're still your guardians, and we direct you to make this choice on your own."
"Okay," I took the pen from its box and signed.
"Whatever you want," Daddy said.
"Yes, you are now an adult, to us and in the eyes of the law."
"Wow! Can I spend the night with Topher again? Tonight?"
"As often as you like, it's your choice. You can live with hir if you wish, and with our blessing. Not that you need it anymore."
"Wow," I said, going weak in the knees. I couldn't wait to tell Topher.