Chapter 2: The Ceremony

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Ivy and Selena spent the remainder of the day working on their own private operations within Gotham crime, while I emotionally prepared myself for the night to come. I reminded myself that I should be proud of this moment, as it had been a long time coming. I willed up the strength to put on a brave face for my friends who were coming to support me at the ceremony. As night approached, I let my golden locks fall down my back as I pinned my  graduation cap on my head, making sure the white tassel was on the right side. I then dawned my black gown and white stole, and I stood there staring at myself in the mirror. I readjusted Jeremiah's glasses that I had worn since he died, and I took a deep breath. I was reminded of how Jeremiah had looked on the night of his graduation, and I closed my eyes and pictured my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time of his ceremony. I remembered sitting next to my eccentric best friend, Ella, who was also murdered. I wondered if maybe it was my fault, perhaps I had this curse that killed anyone who got close to me... Jeremiah had been so proud that night, as he had graduated three years early being the genius that he was. I remembered how we had celebrated that night, feeling that we had all the future ahead of us to explore. How wrong we had been... I grabbed my purse as I passed Ivy and Selena trying to decide which dress Ivy should wear. "I'll see you guys there!" I bid them goodbye before I left. After making it out of our sketchy apartment complex, I hopped onto my motorcycle that Ivy had decided to give me in the aftermath of my grief and I headed to Saint Ignatius. A lot had changed in Gotham over the past five years... The city was rebuilt after Jeremiah's attacks to be bigger and stronger. There was a new protector of the city, everyone called him Batman, but he was really just a vigilante who helped the police stop bad guys. I was thankful that he wasn't around during Jeremiah's crusade, as he always seemed to be throwing someone in jail. After parking, I made my way across the campus to the auditorium. This place hadn't felt like home since the moment Jeremiah graduated, but after his passing I found strange comfort here. Maybe it was because sometimes I would see glimpses of him walking in the halls, just as I had the year we first met... While I knew that these visions of my husband were all just chemicals in my brain misfiring, I needed to see him again and perhaps that was why my brain had made it happen. I walked into the auditorium and I walked up on the stage to join my fellow graduates. The seats were just starting to fill up with supportive families below as we all prepared for the ceremony. My eyes were glued to these two girls who were sitting together towards the front, close to where Ella and I had sat not so many years ago. They looked excited, giggling and talking to one another. It was like watching the ghosts of my past, a simpler time free of criminal charges and death. I sighed as I forced myself to concentrate on the matter at hand. More voices filled the auditorium now, which was packed full of people eager to see their graduates. The lights dimmed and the principle came out and gave the same speech that he had when Jeremiah graduated. I let my mind wander, looking out into the crowd. I found my friends and Ivy waved at me while Selena held up the wallet of the person next to her and gave me a thumbs up. I rolled my eyes. Oh how my life had changed. I then noticed a dark figure standing at the very back of the crowd. It was a man, dressed in a black trench coat with a matching black hat with his hands in his pockets. The principle began calling names, and the row before me stood and walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. As my row rose to stand, I craned my neck to get a better look at the stranger. He hadn't clapped for any of the graduates which was peculiar. "Harleen Quinzel, Psychiatric Medicine." My name was announced and I crossed the stage and shook the principle's hand while he gave me my degree. I was in the center of the stage, and I looked back to the crowd to find the odd man. Underneath his large hat, I could see pale skin and a blood red smile. He was clapping slowly, and I felt my heart beat quicken. Could it be? No. It was just my mind tricking me. As I was forced to move along to keep the flow of the ceremony, I paused once I got off the stage. I closed my eyes and pinched my arm. "It's not real." I reminded myself, before I took a deep breath and opened my eyes again. I peaked back on the stage, my eyes frantically searching until I found my target. He was still there... I forgot about the ceremony, I forgot where I should and should not be. All that mattered was getting to him, and I exited the stage and entered the crowd. Around me everyone was clapping and cheering, and as my fellow graduates threw their caps in the air, I pushed my way through people standing in the aisles. The man saw me coming and he gave me a tip of his hat before he slipped out of the building. "Wait!" I ran after him desperately, exiting the building out into the dark night but he had disappeared without a trace. I covered my mouth with my hand to keep myself from sobbing, the cold air blowing my cap from my head. I watched as the breeze carried it away, taking my hope with it. Maybe I had officially gone crazy, but I could have sworn that he was real. I inhaled sharply, regaining my composure as I turned to face Ivy and Selena who had been calling after me since I left the auditorium. "Harleen are you okay?" Selena said worriedly as they approached me, gently touching my shoulder. I was very skilled at answering this question by now, as it was so commonly asked of a grieving widow. "Yes... I'm fine." I replied and Ivy smiled at me compassionately. "Come, let's get you home..." She said, and I was thankful that I had these two by my side. They knew that tonight was going to be hard for me, but they didn't pester me about how I was feeling. It was a mutual respect we had amongst each other. Even long after I had been home, I couldn't get the strange man in black out of my head. Was it Jeremiah? It wasn't possible... It was as if the man knew me somehow, as I had been the only one he clapped for, but I couldn't figure out why he had left. If it was my husband, wouldn't he want to be with me? Of all the confusion I was experiencing, there was one thing I knew for certain. Whoever that was, he had come to the ceremony for me.

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