Claudia stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom.

"I can't believe I'm graduating today." Claudia said to herself and sighed.

"I can't believe it either." Mary Jo said stepping into Claudia's room.

"Mom." Claudia exasperated and hugged her mom. "I'm scared."

"I know." Mary Jo replied. "Everybody is afraid on their graduation day. It brings an uncertain future to them. I was terrified at my graduation."

"Did you know where you were headed?" Claudia asked.

"No. I wanted to attend secretarial school, but I met your dad and we married right out of high school. I worked to put him through medical school, so I was unable to attend school. You were born shortly after that." Mary Jo stated.

"I'm sorry mom." Claudia said.

"Don't be. I have you and Quint don't I?" Mary Jo asked. Claudia nodded. "I went to trade school when you were little. I got my decorating certificate and started working for Julia in 1985, remember?"

"Yeah." Claudia responded. There was a knock at the door. When Claudia turned around, there stood her father and step mother. "Dad!" Claudia rushed over and hugged him.

"Hi sweetheart." Tammy said hugging Claudia. Quint walked into the bedroom.

"Mom, Aunt Patty is on the phone." He said. Mary Jo let herself out of Claudia's bedroom and walked downstairs. She picked up the phone off the table.

"Hey Patty." Mary Jo said.

"Hi Mary Jo. I was calling to tell you I can't make it to Claudia's graduation. I'm sorry but a lot has come up in the office and with my husband so I can't go." Patty stated.

"It's fine. What's wrong with Henry?" Mary Jo asked.

"He's in the hospital. He had surgery yesterday." Patty said.

"Patty! Why didn't you tell me?" Mary Jo asked.

"You have been busy with Claudia's graduation and I would hate to even ask you to miss this joyous occasion. She's your baby girl and she's graduating." Patty replied.

"Patricia Eleanor Jackson, you are my sister; I would do anything for you." Quint walked into the living room.

"Mom, it's about time to leave for the graduation." Quint said.

"Patty, I have to go. It's about time for us to head over to the school for the graduation." Mary Jo said.

"Give the children my love sis." Patty stated.

"I will. Bye" Mary Jo hung up the phone and walked over to the stairs where Ted and Claudia were coming down. Claudia looked at her mom.

"It's about time to go." Claudia said. Mary Jo nodded.

"I know." Mary Jo took Claudia's hand to help her off the last step. They went out to the car and over to the high school. When they got there Claudia felt like her stomach was doing backflips. When they got to the doors, Mary Jo touched Claudia's arm. "We'll be right here. You go where you need to be." Claudia nodded. Mary Jo hugged her. "Claudia, I love you. You're my baby. I'm so proud of you." Mary Jo let go of her and Claudia saw her mother's tears.

"I love you too mom." Claudia said. Mary Jo smiled.

"You better get going." Mary Jo replied. Claudia walked away. Ted, Tammy, Mary Jo and Quinton walked into the gym and took their seats.

"I can't believe my little girl is graduating high school." Ted said to Tammy. Mary Jo leaned up.

"You're little girl? She's my daughter too." Mary Jo said. Ted couldn't say another word because the principal began to speak. The superintendent and assistant principal gave speeches as well as the salutatorian. Everybody was very kind and clapped after each speech. Finally a short girl with braces and dark hair in a bun came up to the microphone.

"This young lady is a woman I have admired since I started attending here six years ago. She's smart, beautiful, independent, sweet and very helpful. I would like to introduce the 1993 Atlanta High School valedictorian, Miss Claudia Shively. She stepped away from the microphone as Claudia stepped onto the platform with her notes in hand. The audience applauded as she walked over and hugged the girl. She smiled shyly as the audience clapped. When they stopped, Claudia sighed and took a deep breath.

"My classmates, teachers, faculty, and administrators; for the last four years we've been in this together. Our parents have supported us since day one. The teachers and administrators have been there to help us excel in school and life. I don't think we ever tell you how much we truly appreciate what you do for us. We've been through a lot together. I'm glad to see all my friends and classmates graduating right beside me. I want to give a special thank you to my mom for raising me and bringing me up right." Claudia said and stepped down from the podium. (A/N: that may not have been a very good valedictory speech, but hey, I never said I graduated as valedictorian to have to write this speech. [= ) Several speeches and twenty minutes later, they students were preparing to get their diplomas. Class valedictorian always gets theirs first.

"Claudia Marie Shively, Academic Honors Diploma." The principal said. Claudia walked across the stage, took the diploma and shook the principal's hand. She shook hands with the superintendent, assistant principal, and a few other administrators and walked off the platform.

"I did it. I really did it. I graduated high school class valedictorian." Claudia thought to herself with a huge smile.

A/N: There will be more than one chapter to this story, even though it seems like this is the main part of the title.