June 2004

The band began to play 'Pomp and Circumstance', and Juliet's heart swelled with pride as the line of graduates flowed into the arena and moved toward the seats. "Look! I think that's her!" Juliet heard the enthusiasm in her husband's voice as he pointed, and she strained her eyes, trying to make out Shannon's blonde locks that were so like her own.

"I think I see Erin!" Robin, sitting with Wade and the twins, sat at Juliet's other side. Polly and Anthony were there as well, with their fourteen-year-old daughter, Jessica, and their eight-year-old son, Ethan. Jessica resembled her human mother, but Ethan had more of his Visitor father's features. He wore a suit made of human skin like Anthony did and had been vaccinated against the red dust toxin at birth.

Also present were Katie and her husband, Ryan. They were expecting their first child in six months.

At last everyone was in place, and the school principal began to speak. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the class of 2004. They are a fine, outstanding, hard-working group of young men and women, and they deserve to be recognized for all their efforts."

The valedictorian made her speech, and then the students went forward one by one to receive their diplomas. Everyone whistled and cheered as first Erin, then Shannon, were handed their diplomas. Erin's unusual growth pattern had stabilized during her childhood, and she now resembled any typical eighteen-year-old girl.

The ceremony ended, and the graduates were reunited with their families and friends. "I'm so proud of you!" Juliet exclaimed as she hugged Shannon.

"Thanks, Mom," the lovely blonde replied. "You and Dad deserve a lot of credit, too. I couldn't have done it without you."

"Hey, what about me?" Shannon turned to see her older brother, Sean, who was standing with his wife, Heather, and their three-year-old daughter, Ainsley.

"You, too, of course!" Shannon laughed as she embraced her brother. Watching the two of them together, Juliet found her mind going back nineteen years to the day she'd found out she was pregnant. She'd been so confused, so afraid, so worried about what the future would hold.

Yet in the end, everything had turned out just fine.

"Ready to go, babe?" asked Mike. He'd promised to take the whole family out to lunch at a restaurant of Shannon's choosing.

"I sure am!" She put her arm through his, and they walked back to the car together.