A/N: Wow, so, I think it's agreed that it took me forever and a grandmother to write this and put it up, agreed? I'm real sorry 'bout that, I'll try to update more frequently, but I'm afraid I can't make any promises :o

Chapter 9: Graduation Is Full of Surprises

I jittered nervously as I sat on stage with the rest of my relatively small high school senior graduating class. I couldn't believe it was over, those four awkward years of transition and preparation have finally ended and I could step out into the world as a confident young adult. Avery, who was sitting to my left, took my hand in his and gave it a comforting squeeze, telling me to relax, before he took it away and I was called.

"Jane Kallistê Shan. Miss Shan has graduated at number ten in her class, is the Historian of Student Council, the Vice President of French club, and the President of both Art club and Photography club. "

I took a deep breath and stood, walking over to my principal for my diploma. He smiled at me and handed me my diploma as he said "You did great, Jane. Congratulations." I smiled and nodded my head in thanks before stepping up to the podium that was turned at an angle so it faced both the crowd and my fellow peers to give a small speech, as the other students in the top ten have been doing. I cleared my throat before beginning.

"Wow, it's hard to believe that we're finally here; that we've made it. We've survived the awkward and trying transition of high school, and now we're ready to take life by the reigns." I looked among the crowd as I paused.

I soon located my mother and father, who were looking so proud. Beside them, I saw my humanly disguised god parents and Shancus, who were smiling up at me encouragingly, and then I saw Mr. Tall, giving me the warmest smile I've ever seen. I smiled softly and dabbed my eyes before continuing.

"I know I'm speaking for everyone up here on this stage when I say this, but I wouldn't have been able to make it as far as I have without the love and support that my family and friends have given me." I looked at my peers and smiled when I continued. "My friends and peers, if there is anything I want to say to you, it's to remember your past." I looked out into the crowd as I continued.

"It may be painful and embarrassing, but not only can we learn from whatever mistakes and successes we had, but it is the basis of our future—it is the reason for our future."

"We should all look back at what we have done and realize that with a little work, we can achieve so much more. Thank you." I finished before stepping away from the podium and towards my seat next to Avery as everyone clapped. He stood up, grinned, and pulled me into a huge hug, spinning me into a circle.

"You did great Janey." He said as we sat back down. I grinned. "Thanks, Avery. I was so nervous!" I whispered as the last few people were called.

"Now, I present to you, the graduating class of 2012." The principal said. We all stood up, cheering and whooping as we threw our caps into the air and left to join our families.

When I exited the building with the rest of my fellow graduates, I was immediately picked up and swung in a circle by my adoptive dad. I laughed and hugged him back. "I'm proud of you sweetie." He said with a goofy grin on his face as my adoptive mother came up to me crying. I started crying a little too as we hugged each other.

"Aw, I know my little Jane isn't crying." A voice behind me teased. I turned around and smacked Shancus on the back of his head, grinning. "Oh be quiet, Shacus! This is an emotional day for me!" I said, wiping tears of joy from my face. He laughed and gave me a hug before Evra and Merla came over, hugging me and giving me congratulations before turning to talk to my parents.

I squeaked as I felt someone wrap their arms around me from behind. Turning in their loose grasp, I looked up to find myself looking at Mr. Tall. I flushed furiously, as I always did when we had any physical contact in public. The kiss always burned in my mind. He grinned and I grinned back, returning the hug.

"Your parents would be so proud." He whispered in my ear. I looked back at him and smiled. I had gotten to know him well enough in the past week to find out that that meant he was just as proud of me. "Thanks." I smiled before I heard a couple of whooping boys.

"Avery, Trevor!" my dad greeted. They grinned and all exchanged man hugs. My parents looked at me and Avery. "So, where do you guys wanna go eat? It's your graduation, you decide." They said. We grinned and shouted together. "Olive Garden!"

I turned to Mr. Tall and my Cirque family, a stern look on my face. "You do know you're included in this, yes?" I asked in my most sophisticated voice. Shancus smacked the back of my head softly and grinned. "Heck yeah we do." He laughed.

We ended up taking up the largest table at Olive Garden. My parents, god parents and Mr. Tall sat on the left side of the table, and Trevor, Shancus, Avery and I sat on the right side. I smiled tiredly as I listened to all the conversations around me, putting in appropriate comments when necessary.

I felt a hand gently squeeze my left knee and looked over to see Mr. Tall looking at me worriedly. "Are you alright, Miss Shan?" he asked quietly, now taking my left hand that had been in my lap under the table. I nodded. "Yeah, I'm just a little out of it. I think I'll go to the bathroom and splash some water on my face." I said, giving his hand a squeeze before letting go and excusing myself.

I sighed when I got into the empty bathroom, looking at my reflection. My cheeks were still flush from excitement but I felt…drained. I shook my head and splashed some cold water on my face. When I looked up into the mirror, I nearly screamed as I saw a young man a little older than myself reflected in it. I whirled around to face him…only to find the space behind me empty of anyone. I turned back to the mirror, my frightened reflection the only one that greeted me.

I quickly went back to the table, just in time for our food to get there. Mr. Tall must've noticed I was spooked about something, but he didn't say anything. I took a bite of my grilled chicken and sighed dreamily, savoring the decadent taste. I took another bite and nearly choked when I saw the boy from before sitting on the table, watching me in amusement.

Avery, sitting next to me, freaked out. "Jane? Are you okay? What's wrong?" he asked frantically. I felt my eyes widen before I closed them and regained control of my emotions. I opened my eyes and grinned sheepishly at him, the strange boy still watching me with interest. "Nothing, I'm fine. Food just went down the wrong pipe." I laughed.

He laughed along with me. "You're such a klutz, Janey." He said, ruffling my hair before diving back into his food. The boy in front of me snorted. "What a nice friend, just blowing you off. It's obvious that you're not okay, even Mr. Tall over here picked up on it." He said, pointing at the main in question. I looked at Mr. Tall and, sure enough, he was looking at me in concern. I quickly looked away and down at my plate, blushing slightly. The boy laughed.

"Damn, you got it bad." He smirked. I pushed myself from the table, a little harsher than necessary. Everyone at the table looked at me. I blushed as the boy rolled in laughter. "I, uh, sorry, I just need to get some fresh air." I said, completely flushed, before I briskly walked away.

I walked outside into the cool spring air and sighed when I saw I was alone.

"Well, that was rather entertaining."

I whirled around to fin the boy sitting on a bench outside the restaurant. I took this time to look him over. He was blonde, maybe a little bit shorter than Avery, and was pale. He had beautiful grey eyes and three small scars on his left cheek. He had a few other scars on his bare chest and wore strange robe like pants. Something weird that I noticed were his sharp nails and lack of shoes. I frowned at him.

"Who are you? Why are you following me? Why am I the only one who can see or hear you?" I demanded. He blinked at me for a few moments before smiling. "Name's Kurda Smahlt, I'm your first cousin once removed." He said. I nodded, my hands on my hips.

"Uh huh, and why am I the only person who can see or hear you?" I asked impatiently. He smiled and stood up, walking in front of me. I gulped as he bent over, a toothy grin on his face, and said,

"Because I'm dead."