Sophie got a fitness wristband for an early graduation present, and promptly forced Andrew to take a walk along the seawall with her. At least, that’s how he felt. He had no objections to walking the seawall; it was scenic and fresh and good exercise, but having to do it because of a plastic wristband was agitating.
“Why are you so grumpy?” Sophie asked, as they dodged a pair of cyclists who passed them too closely without a warning. When Sophie called after them, one raised a finger. That agitated Andrew, too.
Andrew picked up the pace. “I’m not grumpy,” he lied.
“Is it because I am graduating ahead of you?” asked Sophie.
“Of course not,” said Andrew. But he supposed it was. As irrational and maybe sexist as it was, it bothered him that Sophie was graduating a year ahead of him. She had skipped a grade, she was entitled to graduate. She was prepared for college or university. Andrew was just ordinary, graduating at the same time as everybody else, and had no real plans. Boring. “How far have we gone?”
“1,312 steps, about a kilometre,” said Sophie.
“Feels farther,” said Andrew.
At one kilometre they stopped for a hot dog. They bought all-beef dogs from a vendor and sat on a slatted wooden bench, watching the cargo ships crawl into the harbour.
“I need your help,” Sophie said. She tossed the un-eaten half of her hot dog into a garbage bin. Then someone walked by with their dog, and tossed in a plastic bag of poo. Andrew said, “Let’s keep walking. What’s up?”
“Well,” said Sophie.
It probably had something to do with university, Andrew thought. Maybe they couldn’t afford it. Or maybe she had been awarded three or four scholarships, which was more likely, and didn’t know which one to accept. Or maybe her final term paper for Advanced Poli-Sci had hit a rough patch. He could help with none of these things. He sighed; a careful, silent sigh.
“I need to change my name,” Sophie said. “They announce your full name from the stage during graduation ceremonies. First, middles, last.”
“What is your full name?” Andrew asked. He was grinning at her. Sophie was not smiling at all.
“Since I’m changing it anyway, I guess I can choose any name I want,” she said. “Like, Gwyneth, or Alexandria, or Lee, or Parker, or Audrey.”
“Is it like, Sophia Gnarlissa Poopsack?”
“Will you help me or not?” She stopped walking, looked at her fit band, and turned and started marching back the way they’d come.
Andrew had to hurry to catch up with her. He noticed the back of her calves were getting sunburnt, but instead of pointing it out to her, he said, “Sophia Chocosquirt Thighburn?”
Sophie stopped. They were in the middle of the walkway. Andrew realized they were going to be one of those street-drama couples at any second, arguing right there in public, not caring who heard them.
“I am graduating ahead of you,” Sophie said. She hadn’t raised her voice, yet. People walked and rode past on their bicycles and with their dogs and paid them no mind. “I’m sorry that makes you unhappy. Really sorry, because I thought you were a friend.”
“Listen, Sophie… If that is your real name…”
“Funny. My grandparents named me. I am officially Lucretia Sofia Cosmina Handler. OK? You are officially an asshole.”
Right, now it was drama level. A few people smirked as they walked by. The sky was cloudless. He had been wondering what to get her for a graduation present. He was thinking about a necklace. Her face was flushed with anger.
“That is pretty terrible,” said Andrew. “But I guess they are family names?”
“Yes, they are. My mother will probably give me permission for the name change, but my grandmother would be devastated.”
“Don’t change it. Who cares what anyone thinks?”
Sophie then amazed Andrew by starting to cry. Now people frowned at him as they walked by. He tried to lead her to the side of the walkway where they could sit on the curb, but she resisted him. “I care!” she said.
Sophie was right. He really was an asshole. A selfish asshole. He put his arms around her.
“Do I get to go to your graduation and hear the new name?” he asked. “And I’m sorry I’ve been an asshole. I promise, um, I promise you won’t have to call me that again.”
Three weeks later, Sophie and her mother went to the government offices, where she had her name changed officially to Sophia Star Lucille Handler. It cost $140. The change gave Sophie great comfort, and she was happy to concentrate on her grad dress, which was white with sequins, and her hair for the ceremony, which was fixed in place by a fresh orchid, and her date for the after-grad, who was Andrew, and whose graduation present was a sterling silver chain with a star pendant.