By: Meghan K.

“To the best cast ever!”
Josie raises her glass of soda, and we all raise our glasses for the toast. She’s right; this has been one of the best casts I’ve ever been in.
Josie sits down and turns to me, her usual sunny smile lighting up her face. The tears of something that can only be described as loss, the ones I saw a few hours before, seem to have been forgotten; her blue eyes twinkle with a delight I don’t often see at the end of shows and her cheeks have gone bright pink, the way they always do when she smiles.
“So, Evie,” she says, “What do you think you’re going to remember most about this night?”
“The night’s not over yet,” I reply, laughing. “But I think I’m going to remember everything. Every minute.”
“I’m glad,” Josie says, putting an arm around my shoulder. “Closing nights are some of the best nights, and if they’re not the best, they’re certainly the most memorable.”
She then proceeds to ask the rest of the people sitting at our table this question. They all give varying responses: most say that they’ll remember that this was the best run we had of this show; a few say they’ll remember the time we spent relaxing at the gazebo in the park by the theatre; one, Nicholas, very sweetly tells Josie that he will remember how supportive she was of him throughout this play. This flatters Josie so much that she nearly knocks Nicholas over with a hug; the guy sitting next to him, Tyler, then tells both of them not to kill the other people at the table, and we erupt into laughter.
“Hey guys,” says Josie after everything has died down, “remember when we first came here?”
“Yeah,” says Nicholas fondly. “I remember. We signed this tree.”
For the record, the bench some of us are sitting in extends up above us and is shaped kind of like a hollow tree, with benches carved into it.
“Maybe I can still find my signature,” says Josie.
She then spends quite a few minutes asking everyone to look for the words “Josie + the best cast ever!” with a date that’s a year before we came to this place. It turns out that it’s behind Nicholas, and Josie lets out a small squeal of delight.
“It’s still there!” Josie says. “Ah, that was a good night.”
“Are you kidding?” asks Nicholas. “Jo, as soon as the show ended, you were in tears! I vaguely remember you telling me that you cried some more when you got home!”
“Yeah,” says Josie, her face going a little bit redder, “but all the crying and ‘the show is over’ feelings aside, it was a good night! We had pizza!”
“You’re a strange little velociraptor, Jo,” says Tyler.
Josie’s in hysterics again, giggling so much that she can barely say Tyler’s name. It’s the adorable, loud, and completely unladylike but definitely not that fake laugh that she constantly apologizes for, and I can’t help but laugh with her.
They bring out our pizzas and the conversation dies down for a while. That is, until our waiter brings us paint pens.
Josie gets hers first, which is good because if she doesn’t, she’ll never get a turn with them. And of course, she finds her old signature and writes something next to it.
When she hands me her pen, I immediately seek out her signature; what did she write?
“Jo + the best, most supportive, coolest, most talented, most compassionate, most wonderful cast ever. April 17th, 2016” And of course, my soul just melts. As soon as I pass the pen on to the waiting Nicholas, I find Josie standing well away from the crowd and sweep her into the tightest hug my tiny arms can muster.
“Jojo,” I exclaim. “I didn’t know we meant so much to you.”
“Are you kidding?” Josie asks. “You guys have done so much for me that I can’t even begin to describe how much I love all of you. What I wrote was just what I could get out in under a minute; I could gush about you guys for hours.”
I feel my cheeks growing hot, and I let go of Josie and stare at her enormous smile for a second before I hug her again.
“I’m really going to miss you,” I say.
“I’ll miss you too, Evie,” says Josie. “This has been good.”
Suddenly, Tyler, Nicholas, and the rest of the boys are standing around us.
“You guys ready?” asks Tyler.
“Oh, yeah,” says Josie, running a hand through her hair as she lets go of me.
Josie and I join most of the boys outside. Of course, Josie attacks everyone with hugs first: Tyler picks her up the way he always does, inciting the usual laughter; she holds onto Nicholas much longer than usual and hugs him at least twice; she even manages to hug the awkward, nerdy Isaac, who looks quite surprised at being hugged by a girl, much less Josie.

And then Josie and I leave the boys and we get into my mom’s minivan.