Despite the “terrorist attack” I passed all of my finals and had to worry about graduation.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to actually walk. Surtur might be well occupied, but there were other people who wanted a piece of me. And people were suspicious. There was only so much that could go on before whatever mechanism made people not want to see the truth started to fail.
I was a trouble magnet and I was glad I wouldn’t have to go to school any more. It was too regular, too obvious a target.
But Kanesha convinced me I had to do it anyway. I wondered if I could hide my sword under the gown. I decided against it – there would be metal detectors and fooling those gave me a headache. I’d have to rely on…well.
On the fact that the biggest threat was busy and anyone else I could deal with hand to hand. Or with whatever weapon I could get. Thruor had been drilling me on improvised weapons lately. You couldn’t always count on being armed.
And as it approached, I realized I was more nervous about being on stage. Which was stupid. Nobody was even going to notice me in the crowd. Not the way they’d noticed Kanesha. She was smart. I wasn’t in the same way.
Our graduation robes were blue and red. I didn’t look good in the particular shades chosen, but again, nobody would notice me. I wasn’t even sure I’d get an audience at all.
If I did they’d have to be careful. I officially didn’t have family. But I had friends. And unlike prom, nobody was hassling me about inviting Kanesha.
And my father. Who had better, I thought, behave. With him there, though, I was even less worried about somebody causing trouble. We got the mayor as speaker.
But when I stood with the others, I realized I had a good audience after all. Not just Kanesha and my parents – both of them for once – or Clara, who was sitting with her classmates. Charles Sarlac had shown up. Thruor. Angrboda. And…I was sure, absolutely sure, Mike was sitting next to Thruor.
I was fairly sure nobody else could see him. But it made my heart do weird things in my chest. He had been something very special to me.
No, he still was, and I had to stop thinking like that. Even as I had the thought, he seemed to solidify in my vision.
Yes. He was definitely there. And…was that Father Will?
I had family. I had plenty of family. Not all of them family of blood, but that didn’t matter.
Loki and Odin showed family of choice were just as important – and just as likely to screw each other up. All of my nerves went away. I was able to accept my diploma without shaking, and while I was sure nobody else noticed me, most of the people I cared about were here. I was even pretty sure I saw at least one raven.
And nobody attacked. I was going to get to celebrate again. And then shake the dust of this place off of my feet – an attitude I knew I shared with most of the other young people on stage.
Nobody wanted to stay in school. Except teachers, I thought wryly. Kanesha, of course, intended to spend much of her life in places like this.
I hoped loving me wouldn’t get in the way of that.