Oh, the Bean

For Stephanie

Desire to capture essence while escaping cliché
Not of blood or kin or time or proximity
Yet unknowing of the heart possessed
Experienced and damaged and pure and innocent
Wild and imaginative and thoughtful and deep
Scared and wistful and protected and guarded
There, an enigma surrounded by pain and anger
Here, a landing surrounded by safety and comfort
Delving deeper into potential danger and darkness
Yet providing that which wants to be more
Wishing to shelter from all that harms
Longing to heal all that is broken

October 21, 2017

Poem Spam Complete

I have finally posted all my previous poetry to this blog now. A good ninety percent of it is shit, but there are a few diamonds in the rough that I’m proud of. I’ve posted everything so you can see how I’ve grown, or how someone can go from writing beautifully one day to writing like crap the next, or because I just can! If I had to choose only the ones I liked, I might be missing out on one that someone else might personally enjoy, or maybe I’d only post the really bad ones and no one would see the actual good ones. So, I’ve posted all, with the exception of a few that I wish would just burn in hell, haha. Enjoy.

What a Day

There’s no better way to realize how rough your life was at a certain point than to read the overwhelmingly depressing poetry you crafted at that time. A lot of makes me want to go back in time and smack younger me. I was so pathetic when it came to boys. I fell head-over-heels so damn quickly, and I thought each and every one was the one, my one true love. Not that I’m awfully different now, but at least I have more of a stable head on my shoulders. At least I’m not as depressed now as I was then.

I do want to make it known that without my friends and family, I wouldn’t have made it through that time in my life. My friends were my rocks, and my parents were the safety net that I could always fall into if I lost my balance. I knew that then, and I know that now. So, just a low-key shout-out to everyone in my life then and now. There’s not a thing I wouldn’t do for them, and I hope they know that.

Space Travel

From afar, the sun is impressive as it burns bright millions of miles away. I tried to land on it, but ultimately it was a giant ball of gas that burned the spacecraft. I don’t know what else I was expecting. I rebuilt my ship and set out again with limited resources, granting flight to one of two planets. I could fly to the west and land on a planet that welcomes travelers. It’s rough terrain and maybe not that interesting, but likely the safer choice. Or I could set sail for the east, in the direction of a planet that is leagues above that which lies in the west. It’s atmosphere isn’t the greatest for inhabiting, but the nature is breathtaking. The docking station accepted travelers once before, but it’s unknown if currently it remains open. My navigation has set itself toward the east; I’m not sure if I should conduct a manual override or take my chances.

October 2017

GoDaddy

Am I the only one who isn’t fond of GoDaddy’s hosting service? I guess there’s only one real complaint I have, but it’s one that they haven’t fixed for years: WordPress blogs hosted with them are ridiculously slow. I’m so irritated that I’ve spent the past ten years hosting with them. All that money means nothing to them? This Christmas, when my plan is up, I’m hoping to switch to SiteGround. Since it’s my parents who pay for this website (as a recurring Christmas gift), it’s up to them. Had I the resources to pay for this on my own, I’d make the switch automatically. But it’s currently out of my hands, unfortunately. Fingers crossed my father agrees with my decision! Then I’ll actually be able to update this site as I’d like to. Because right now, the only thing stopping me from developing this site is the irritatingly slow page load times.

Inspiration!

After finishing season one of Riverdale, which was absolutely amazing, I’ve found inspiration to write again. Watching the show sparked an idea that I’ve played with for the past several years, and I’m revisiting it, but actually writing it down this time. It feels amazing to write again, and to write something I feel passionate about. The feelings actually feel genuine, and I’ve thought the story through so often that it’s flushed out enough to the point where it’s easy to write. God, this really is such a perfect feeling.

Thank you, Riverdale. And thank you, Cole Sprouse. His character, him as an actor, is what sparked this inspiration. Well, him and his brother Dylan. Okay. Particularly Dylan. He’s the namesake of one of my characters, actually. Even though I’ve used that name before. I changed the last name! Haha. I just love the name Dylan.

Regardless, expect to see a new story soon. Hopefully I finish it in the not too distant future!

Depression

I’m pretty sure I suffer from some form of depression and/or anxiety. I’ve previously been diagnosed with dysthymia, which is a chronic form of depression. The way it was explained to me is if depression is a wildfire that can be seen from the helicopters from high above, raging and so obviously destructive and hard to control, then dysthymia is a brush fire, something not so easily seen but still damaging when left unattended. And I definitely have some anxiety. I get so overwhelmed by everything I have to do on a daily basis, such as basic household chores and checking the mail or voicemail, that I freeze. I avoid it. Even bigger things, like checking my bank account or renewing my insurance, I freak out over. It’s not that I can’t handle it. Sometimes it’s as easy as just clicking a button. But the more I think about how I have to get it done, the harder it is to do it. And it’s not like I can get help, because that requires doing something, and even when I go to make that phone call, I freeze.

But the one thing I can do is get up and go to work every day. I don’t know why that isn’t a hard enough function, but it isn’t. You would think that if anything, that would be one of the hardest things. But no. It’s harder to check my voicemail, something I can do from my bed, than actually get out and go do work. Maybe it’s because I don’t hate my job. It can feel stressful in the moment, but as soon as I clock out, I’m fine. Everything rolls off my shoulder. I don’t wake up every morning with anxiety about the day like I did with my previous job. Sometimes, I actually love what I do. I hate the store, I hate management, but I love my job. So maybe that’s why I’m able to get up and go to work when even washing a dish seems like an impossible task.

So maybe I don’t understand this because I like my job and I’m not severely depressed, but I can’t understand how people let their depression hold them from working. Someone close to me has been out of work for the past month because he needed to take a mental break from everything. So now he’s living off his mommy’s money while he just sits on his couch, playing Xbox and Runescape all day. And he doesn’t even live at home. And this isn’t the first time he’s done this. And he’s not the first person in history to do this. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t understand how someone could do this, because it means I’m not at that point where I can’t even provide for myself. And even though I have a hard time doing anything, it eventually gets done when the anxiety of the repercussions of it not getting done trumps the anxiety of actually doing it. I always eventually get to that point. So maybe I’m just lucky that I can work things out on my own, and that my depression isn’t as bad as it could be. And it’s not that I’m judging everyone else. I know everyone’s got different shit in their lives and their minds aren’t the same as mine. I think maybe my problem is that while I understand that fact, I’m not entirely able to fully see things from their perspective.

A Search

Chapter V

Dylan
Washington, D.C. – June 2038

Dylan sits with his head in his hands in the Oval Office. Under President Graham, the room has undergone a modern, clean look. The matching sofas in the center of the room are white-and-silver-striped suede; the silk accent pillows are black with silver trim; the walls and the oval rug covering the majority of the room, marked with the presidential seal, are a cloud gray; the grand curtains that cover the three picturesque windows behind the Resolute desk are silver silk; the leather chair behind the desk is stark black.

Dylan glances yet again at the vacant office chair. Before the month is over, the Vice President will be sitting at that desk, continuing her father’s ideals to pull America out of a depression unlike any other in history, and to force it closer to the dictatorship it’s slowly becoming. Dylan hates using such a negative word, but even he has to admit it’s an accurate description of the current government. Perhaps it would seem less negative if he inserted beneficial before dictatorship. They might control most things from the White House, but no one can disagree that America is better because of it.

Leaning back against the white suede couch, Dylan laughs at how easy it was for President Graham to take advantage of people’s desperation and fear in order to give himself the power to remain in office, and at how easy that power can be taken away. Through a series of laws aimed at rectifying the country, Rob doubled not only the length of one term, but the amount of terms one president could serve. Dylan knows that if he weren’t currently lying in bed, privately dying of pancreatic cancer, the man would be signing laws to again increase those numbers.

If he could, the man would outlaw cancer. Dylan laughs at the thought. Anything to stay in power.

Dylan can’t feign innocence in Rob’s rise to power, though. It was he who suggested the reformation of the cabinet, granting more power to both the Chief of Staff and Vice President while creating a new title, Secretary of Presidential Affairs. After appointing Carson as Chief of Staff and Dylan as Secretary of Presidential Affairs, Rob slowly increased the powers of those offices; the ultimate goal here was to give the President the ability to appoint a new Vice President at leisure, granted the Chief of Staff and Secretary of Presidential Affairs confirmed the change. Through this method, Ryan became the second-in-line.

As the Secretary of Presidential Affairs, Dylan used his newfound powers to enforce a second prohibition in America. His intentions were noble, he believed. He wanted to prevent all of America’s youth from going down the very path on which he was lost as an adolescent; but he had another, stronger motivation for passing this law: his daughter. When Ryan told him, almost a decade after she was born, that his daughter had died of SIDS just weeks before her first birthday, Dylan gave up on the prohibition. Although he didn’t believe Ryan cared about the idea, she continued it and the laws were in effect by the end of the year.

In the corner of the room, a grandfather clock rings twice. The hideous dark cherry feature has always felt out of place in the room, but Rob had insisted on splurging on it.

The door of the office opens, and Dylan looks over at Ryan as she enters slowly and joins him on the sofa. “What are you doing in here?” she asks.

“I think best here.”

She nods, placing a hand on his leg and leaning into him, resting her head on his chest. “The doctor says Daddy has weeks at best,” she says.

He wraps his arms around her out of politeness. Since her father’s health started to fail, Ryan’s attitude towards her father has shifted. Instead of seeing him as any Vice President would see the president, she’s reverted to calling him daddy, something she claims she’s never done before. Growing up, she and her brothers were forced to call him Sir. The man was able to raise and provide for his children, yet he still kept them at a distance; Dylan has tried not to let this bother him, but the more Ryan refers to him as her father instead of the President, the more he thinks of the daughter he lost years ago.

In his arms, Dylan can feel Ryan sob, and he tightens his grip. “Shh,” he murmurs, despite finding it hard to care. If it were anyone but her father, he would. As morbid as he thinks it is, he tries to remember the sympathy he had for her when her mother died of breast cancer years ago.

He wipes the hair from her face as it begins to stick to the tears, and wishes there were something he could say to dry her eyes. Instead, he just holds her until the clock rings three times, then four. Other than the chimes and Ryan’s crying, the room is silent. When she finally quiets down, Dylan sees that she’s fallen asleep. Sighing, he reaches for a decorative silk pillow and gently replaces his body with it as he lays her flat on the sofa.

Quietly, he leaves the office and makes his way through the many halls and corridors of the White House to the family kitchen on the second floor of the main residence. While he walks, he sets the coffee machine to pour a cup of hot water via an app on his phone.

He knows it’s unfair, but he can’t help but feel as though she has no right to mourn for her father. Half of him still blames her for never having the chance to be there for his daughter before she passed; the other half of him is thankful to not have been there to find Maria unresponsive in her crib. Still, some part of him can’t help but wonder whether it would have all turned out differently had he not abandoned his daughter and Anna-Marie.

In the recently-renovated kitchen, he grabs the mug from the stainless steel machine and a packet of licorice and peppermint tea from the cupboard and places it in the cup, dunking and lifting it several times to ensure maximum flavor. After adding a small amount of milk and half a spoonful of sugar, he brings the tea to the office and sets it on the dark cherry table in front of the sofa Ryan still sleeps on. He’s about to take his spot beside her when his phone vibrates in his pocket.

Sitting on the identical sofa across from Ryan, he pulls out the mobile device and checks the message. Dylan’s brows furrow when he sees it’s from Ryan’s power-hungry brother Blake of all people. How is she doing?

Shaking his head, he sets his phone beside him without replying. Blake cares little about both Ryan and their father; he made this quite clear after Ryan was sworn in as Vice President. After Rob began passing the laws that finally shed some light on depressed America, Blake had expressed his concern and disapproval, but it was Ryan’s swearing-in almost seven years ago that pushed him away from the family. So why the sudden interest now? Curious, Dylan picks up the phone and replies. Your father is dying. What do you think? Again, he shakes his head as he looks over at Ryan. She’s watching him.

“Have a nice nap?” he asks quietly.

Sitting up, she notices the mug sitting in front of her on the coffee table, and smiles. “You’re a doll,” she says before sipping it. “My favorite.”

As his phone vibrates again, Dylan takes a seat beside her and kisses the side of her head. He thinks of Ryan’s mother as he feigns sympathy. “I thought it might help.” At least, he hoped it would. He thinks the cry and nap might have helped more than anything. “Your brother was checking in on you.”

“Carson? I’m surprised he left Daddy’s side,” she says between sips.

He inhales sharply at daddy, but shrugs it off quickly. “Not Carson,” he says, shaking his head. He hesitates before adding, “Your youngest brother.”

Ryan looks up at him. “Did he message you?” Dylan nods, and she looks down. “Since when does he care?”

He shrugs, pulling out his phone. “I couldn’t figure that out, either,” he says as he reads the message.

Forgive me for asking.

Dylan rolls his eyes, but doesn’t reply. As he sets his phone down, he receives another. Carson invited me for dinner. I’ll be there at six.a

Groaning, Dylan thinks of the best way to tell Ryan. Looking at her sideways, he knows there is no best way. Ryan’s made it very clear over the years that she wants Blake nowhere near the White House.

“What’s the matter?” she asks, grabbing his hand and setting it in her lap. Her fingers intertwine with his.

He mulls over different ways to tell her. “How about Blake comes over for dinner?” he asks cautiously.

Her grip tightens. “How about not?” She shakes her head. “In what world would I agree to that?”

Dylan smiles and looks her in the eyes. “Ask your favorite brother. He already invited Blake.”

Ripping her hand from his, she immediately stands and nearly spills her tea. “Carson?” she asks, but turns to leave before he can respond. She is out the door in seconds, and Dylan almost fears for the man’s safety. Ryan’s been known to swing a punch when pushed far enough. Slowly, Dylan stands and follows after her. He finds them on the second floor, between the central hall and landing.

“Why the fuck would you do that?” she demands, her arms raised in anger.

Carson has his hands up in defense. “Ryan, please calm—”

“No, Car,” she cuts him off, stepping closer. “I will not fucking calm down. You invited that piece of shit into this house. Why—”

“He would like to make peace with you and Dad, Ryan!” Carson holds her gaze for a moment. “No one wants to believe that time is running down, but it is. He and Dad need to reconcile their differences, before it’s too late. As do you.”

“I’m not speaking to that power-hungry bastard,” she yells.

“Dad has agreed to it,” Carson says, his voice still at a reasonable volume.

Ryan glares at her brother for a moment, but when she speaks, her voice has gone down a level. “If Dad wants to, that’s his prerogative.” When Carson stands silently, arms crossed, Ryan turns away. Her fists are still clenched as she pushes past Dylan. “Whatever.”

“That went better than I thought,” he says to Carson when Ryan is out of sight.

Carson nods. “I anticipated her getting physical.”

“You and me both,” Dylan says before turning away. Instead of following Ryan, he decides to let her cool off on her own and heads to the television room in the southeast corner of the third floor.

He enters the room, decorated in purples and blues upon Ryan’s request, and takes a seat on the oversized suede couch. He pulls out his phone and searches for something to watch on television. Rather than watch the football game he settles on, he’s on his phone, flicking through political news.

The public has yet to learn of Rob’s illness or of his eminent death. Instead, they focus on a new bill he passed for expanding healthcare. Few people oppose it, but Dylan knows better than to believe these reviews are accurate; few people openly oppose anything the government does, and for good reason, given the power it has in controlling the flow of money throughout the entire country.

Dylan barely realizes two hours have gone by until Ryan enters the den and sits beside him. “Blake is here,” she sighs heavily. “And dinner will be served in five.”

Dylan nods, shutting off the television. He studies her for a moment. She hasn’t seen her youngest brother in almost five years, not since their mother passed. “Breathe,” he whispers in her hear as they both stand. She nods and follows him as he heads down to the first floor.

Carson stands in the entrance hall with Blake, who looks exactly as he did the last time Dylan saw him. A much younger female, with caramel-colored hair and lightly tanned skin, stands beside him. Something about her wide-eyed, curious expression and insecure demeanor seems familiar.

Together, Ryan and Dylan descend the grand staircase, lined with red and gold carpet. Ryan watches her youngest brother, just as he watches her. When Ryan finally takes notice of the girl on Blake’s arm, she freezes.

“Blake… What have you done,” she mutters, her eyes wide and face pale. She grabs Dylan’s hand and he turns towards her.

“What’s wrong?” he whispers, but she doesn’t acknowledge him. Her focus doesn’t shift from the girl. Dylan glances down at the pair; Blake has a smug expression on his face, while confusion is plain across the girl’s face. “Who is she?” Dylan asks under his breath.

Slowly turning her head towards him, something in her expression changes, almost as if she’s relieved. “I don’t know. I just…” She pauses for a moment, and then shakes her head. “I can’t believe he’d bring a date to a dinner meant to reconcile our differences,” she finishes quickly before continuing down the stairs. She slightly nods at her younger brothers before heading into the formal family dining room past the main elevator.

Dylan doesn’t believe her, but for now, he lets it go. As he walks past Blake and the girl, he hesitates, getting a closer look at her. Her eyes are an enchanting shade of green, a color that makes him nostalgic. He has to look away before his mind is brought back to a past he has worked hard to forget. As he forces himself to take a deep breath, he notices that Blake’s smile has widened. Dylan has never been fond of the man, but his distrust for him seems to grow with each visit.

Shortly after everyone is seated at a rich mahogany table beneath a crystal chandelier and the first course is served, Carson finally breaks the silence by introducing the girl, Maria, as Blake’s girlfriend.

Ryan’s head snaps up at the girl’s name, and her glare nearly pierces through her youngest brother. “Charming,” she spits, her voice more poisonous than her stare. She avoids eye contact with Maria, though. Dylan wonders if Ryan knows her. In the almost eighteen years he’s known her, though, she’s never once mentioned anyone by that name, though.

“Tell me, Blake. Why are you here?” she asks between bites of salad.

“Because, Ryan,” he starts, seemingly unaffected by his sister as he glances between her and Dylan. “I want to fix the past and ensure a better future for this country.”

Ryan crosses her hands on the table in front of her after setting her fork down. “This is between you and me. Why don’t we talk in private?”

Shaking his head, Blake chews and swallows the bite in his mouth. “On the contrary, I think it involves everyone here.” He looks Ryan straight in the eyes. “But if you want to speak alone, why don’t we go now? Take our plates to one of your other ten dining rooms. We could let Maria, Dylan, and Carson get to know each other better.”

After a quick glance at Maria then Dylan, Ryan shakes her head briskly. “No, no, I think I’m good here. No need to disrupt a dinner already in progress.” Her words are light-hearted, but her voice is bittersweet.

“She has a valid point,” Carson says, avoiding eye contact with both Blake and Ryan. Never has Dylan seen the middle child take on such a literal role, playing peacekeeper between his siblings. Though he will always support Ryan, he pities Carson and his desire to bring his family back together. He believes the rift between the two is too deep for reparations.

Ryan eyes Blake and her eyes narrow. “What do you want?”

He smiles. “I think you know what I want, Vice President.”

Dylan is certain everyone seated at the table, even newcomer Maria, knows what Blake wants: to become Vice President. Unless Ryan steps down or dies, Dylan knows Rob would never nominate his youngest son for the position. Even if he did, it would require the signatures of both Carson and Dylan. Carson might sign, but Dylan doesn’t know if he would; he wouldn’t want to go against the Rob’s wishes, but he knows how passionate Ryan is about the role. She would never back down willingly.

He looks to Ryan to gauge her reaction; her eyes are wide with fear. Blake has something on Ryan, but try as he might, Dylan can think of nothing that could be used as leverage.

Carson lowers his head; he must realize this confrontation is his fault.

“Blake, be very careful what you do,” Ryan warns. She takes a deep breath, glancing at Dylan out of the corner of her eye. “Do not test me, little brother.”

He sits up in his seat, his brows arched. After a moment, he smirks. “I really don’t think you’re in any place to be making threats, Ryan. Think about the current situation.”

Carson raises his head to speak, but Ryan slams her fists on the table, sitting forward in her seat. “Watch what you say, Blake! You are right in saying that it’s no longer between you and me. Take others into consideration before you act or speak.” Her voice rises with each word, and she’s bordering on hysteria.

“Just as you did?” he quickly replies. “You made your bed. Now lie in it.”

“Blake!” Ryan cries as she stands and steps away from the table. Dylan quickly follows, grabbing her shoulders in an attempt to calm her. She tries to push him away, but when he pulls her closer, she wraps her arms around him. Her shoulder rise and fall with each sob. Crying in private is one thing, but for Ryan to cry in front of someone she just met is completely different. What could Blake have over her to elicit this sort of reaction?

“Whatever you two are arguing about, you choose now to bring it up?” Carson asks, his voice low.

Blake stands before answering. “Now is the only time. She brought this upon herself, Car.” There’s gentleness to his voice when speaking to Carson, evidence of either admiration or appreciation. Why he couldn’t speak that way towards Ryan, Dylan doesn’t understand. “I think my work here is done,” Blake says after Maria stands.

Wiping the tears from her eyes and leaning into Dylan, Ryan glares at Blake as Carson leads them out of the dining room. Over her shoulder, Maria studies Dylan and Ryan. She seems as confused about the situation as he is. When they are out of sight, he places a hand on either side of Ryan’s face and returns her focus back to him. “What was that about?” he demands gently.

Ryan shakes her head, resting her cheek against his left hand. She turns her head to kiss his palm. “Don’t worry about it. Please,” she whispers before reaching to kiss him. Dylan returns the embrace despite her tenderness worrying him. He’s never seen Ryan so fragile; he prays she’ll return to normal after Rob passes. Looking over her shoulder in the direction Blake left, he worries that she may break before her father dies.

October 2013

« Chapter IV

A Search

Chapter IV

Maria
Ansonia, CT – June 2038

Inhaling deeply and slowly, Maria can feel the burn of the marijuana as it fills her lungs, and the calming effect as it rushes over her body like running water. When she can hold her breath no longer, she exhales quickly, suppressing the coughs that will give her away. After spending the past several hours staring at the wall until her mother and grandparents went to bed, she is glad to finally feel the comfort of the drug. At least, it’ll numb it for a while until she’s able to process the fact that the father she loved and adored is an imposter.

Usually Evan would join her here in her basement, but after he delivered an emergency replacement for the marijuana her mother flushed and a memory card containing an update to the blocking modification, he asked whether or not she blames Dylan and she sent him home without answering. She wants to be high and not think about Dylan, Dante, and her mother, not discuss it further; she wants everything to just fade away like the odorless smoke that she exhales. She turns her head to take a breath of fresh air before taking another hit from the glass pipe.

Instead of thinking about Dante and the identity of her biological father, Maria, sitting on a plastic bin in the corner of the dirt cellar with her back against the stone wall, thinks about the last time this beautiful drug entered her lungs and washed over her body, just a couple weeks ago. She and Evan were at an underground party with people far older than them both, and they had mentioned missing the scent of marijuana, that this variation was just not the same. Looking at the finely-sliced herb in the small baggie in her hand, Maria wonders what its scent used to be, and if it was really better and more enjoyable. According to Evan’s cousin in rural upstate New York, it smells similar to a skunk, and she doesn’t understand how anyone could classify that as good.

After placing the bag into the wooden box in her lap, she places it back in the hole in the wall. Never again will she wait even five minutes before stashing her score. She thanks her lucky stars that Evan had some left, else she might be tearing apart her room, using her pillow to batter everything on her desk and dresser. Neither her mother nor grandparents have discovered this hiding spot—a loose stone behind the stack of plastic storage bins in the cellar—and Maria prays they never do.

Once the tablet-sized rock is replaced, Maria takes a deep breath and heads upstairs, gently closing the heavy wooden door behind her, careful not to wake anyone in the house. When she hears her grandparents’ door open, she freezes, praying whoever is up is just using the bathroom. As silently as possible, she dashes around the corner into the living room. When she hears the bathroom door shut, she sighs and plops onto the couch, laughing quietly to herself. She can get so jumpy when she’s high and it amuses her.

After a while, her gaze drifts to the clock on the wall, the only thing in the room that moves, and contemplates why the minute hand, pointing to the six, is longer than the hour hand, pointing between the one and two. The hour is more important than the minute, so shouldn’t its hand be the longer of the two? When the toilet flushes and the bedroom door is shut again, Maria pulls her phone from the pocket of her shorts.

Tapping on the messaging application, Maria once again reads over the message from someone who is supposedly against her father. For the first time, she really focuses on that thought, and wonders why she would be involved in whatever is going on between people she’s never met nor has any knowledge of. Had Dante not brushed it off earlier, Maria would almost be concerned about it. Even now, she would worry about it if she didn’t feel as though someone injected happy into her face. Smiling, she lets her phone drop onto her chest, and she stares at the ceiling, her arms sprawled out.

She should have knowledge of these people, of her father and anyone against him, she decides. Picking up her phone again, she types a strongly-worded message to her father, only to delete it and let her phone drop again. No, this is the type of thing that needs to be dealt with in person. Not caring if she gets caught for being out past the nation-wide curfew, she stands and leaves her house. She has questions, and Dante will answer them.

The warm air of the summer night embraces her. Wrapping her arms around herself, she plops herself onto the distraught wooden steps outside the door and stares at the sky. In such a suburban city, very little beyond the moon and a handful of stars can be seen. Evan told her once that in the country, millions of stars can be seen. In her current state of mind, Maria can’t even begin to fathom what that would look like in the sky. “Man…” she sighs, shaking her head.

She didn’t come out here to look at stars, she realizes as she stands and hops to the ground. She knows the walk to Derby will take her around half an hour, but she doesn’t care; making her way down deserted Prospect Street, she thinks about who her real father could be.

Maybe he’s an astronaut, she thinks. Maybe he’s from another country, one not as tightly-controlled as America. She likes this last idea, imagining that she could flee this country with him and go back to their homeland. Developing the last thought further, she imagines a ruggedly good-looking man driving an impressive space ship back to his home planet where he’s king and rules with fairness and compassion. At this point, she’s laughing out loud at the ridiculous possibilities that come to her mind.

She immediately stops laughing. Her high is messing with her anger. She’s mad at her parents—no, at her mother and an imposter. On the one hand, that was the point: smoke and calm herself; on the other, she’s realized she has too many questions and she needs the answers now.

“Citizen, you are breaking curfew,” a man from across the street calls, breaking Maria from her thoughts. Her head snaps up and her heart skips a beat at the sight of the police uniform. In the dim lighting, she can’t see much of him other than the distinctive black clothing.

As he approaches her, Maria notices his thin arms, so unlike the muscular build of most other officers. She also notices his rather long, light brown hair. Like a deer caught in headlights, Maria wonders if he’s the same officer that was watching her earlier that day.

“State your full name, citizen,” he says, studying her closely.

Paranoid, Maria isn’t sure if she should respond. If he doesn’t realize she’s high yet, he will as soon as she speaks. Which would be worse, she wonders: getting caught under the influence of anything, or refusing an officer’s orders? Considering she’ll be caught for her marijuana use regardless, insubordination will only make things worse. Taking a step back and inhaling deeply, she does her best to keep her voice calm and attentive. “Maria Lee Thomas,” she says, then shuts her eyes, pressing the palms of her hands tightly against her thighs.

Her eyes snap open when he grabs her shoulder and spins her around. “Go home,” he demands, his voice lowered. “We’ll speak in the morning.”

The shift in his attitude unsettles Maria, and she shakes free of his grasp. This isn’t standard protocol. He should be hauling her to the station in handcuffs; she should have no second chances. “Wait, why were you watching me earlier?” Prolonging this conversation is stupid for reasons: she’s about to get away with being under the influence, and no one questions an officer.

Again, the officer turns her around, and this time points her in the direction she came from, the direction of her house. “Go home, citizen, or I will arrest you.”

High, Maria isn’t able to call his bluff as she usually would. Instead, paranoia causes her to comply. When he lets go of her, she continues back towards her house. She briefly looks over her shoulder at the officer, dressed in a uniform that doesn’t seem fitting of his stance.

Once she’s back in her house, her phone vibrates in her pocket. As she crawls into bed, noting for the first time the smooth but fuzzy texture of her sheets, she checks the message. She doesn’t know whether to be surprised or not that it’s from her father—that it’s from Dante.

High? And in public?

Sitting up, she props herself up with one elbow and quickly types her response. How the fuck do you know that?

The response doesn’t surprise her. Maria Lee, watch your language. Have we not taught you better?

Snickering, anger drives her to type her response faster. Oh, are you fucking kidding me? You also taught me not to fucking lie.

Maria stares at her phone for a while, but Dante doesn’t reply. She doesn’t realize she’s fallen asleep until she wakes the next morning to a message from the blocked number. You have questions, and I have answers. I said we’d speak in the morning. I’ll be by at eleven when I get off.

Staring at the phone’s screen, Maria processes what she reads. Quickly glancing at the clock displayed on the right edge of the screen, she realizes she has twenty minutes before the officer is set to arrive. Rising out of bed, she quickly changes into fresh clothes before leaving her room. As she passes the kitchen, she sees her grandfather, the last adult to leave for work, sitting at the kitchen table, coffee in one hand and tablet in the other.

“Morning, Grandpa,” she says before kissing his cheek. Setting his coffee and news down, he stands and pulls her into a hug.

“Good morning, sunshine,” he says into her hair. “How are you after a good night’s sleep?”

She shrugs. “Mamma and Pappa have lied to me my whole life, and I’ve come to realize I have yet to meet the man who really helped create me.”

Sighing, her grandfather guides her to the chair beside him as he returns to his. “You know, I never believed Dante was your birth father.” He pauses for a second, watching Maria’s reaction. She just stares at him, wondering how he couldn’t say something, but knowing it wasn’t his place.

“Your mom was dating Dylan when she was pregnant with you. We were told he was the father, right up until you were born. Then out of nowhere, Anna puts down Dante’s name. I didn’t believe it then, and I didn’t believe it while you were growing up.” He shifts in his seat before taking a sip of his coffee.

“Why not?”

“You look like your father.”

Maria’s eyes light up. Resting her heels on the edge of her seat, she rests her chin on her knees. “I look like Dylan?” she asks, her voice small.

“Your grandmother’ll never admit it, but I see it.”

“Grandma didn’t like Dylan?”

“Neither of us did. Now Dante, he’s always been a stand-up guy, the right kind of father for you. Your grandma was too quick to believe him and your mom. I, on the other hand, knew Dylan wasn’t the kind of guy to stay with a girl knowing she was pregnant with his best friend’s kid.”

“Best friend,” Maria quietly repeats, looking at a spot on the white tiled table, then looks at her grandfather. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

He scoffs. “I did, to your mom. She just said nothing.” He looks at her for a moment. “Of course I wouldn’t say anything to you. You think I ever wanted to put you through this?”

Maria gently shakes her head. “Why did they do it?”

“That’s something I’ve never understood.”

Of course not, she thinks. She’s convinced there is no logical reasoning behind this. “Do you know where he is now?”

“Dylan?” He shrugs. “Not a clue. Took off, never to be seen again.”

Looking away, she focuses on that spot on the table. If the officer doesn’t have the answer, she’ll never know. She wakes her phone and checks the time—still ten minutes before he arrives.

Her grandfather leans forward to meet her gaze, and holds it a moment before speaking. “He might have lied about being your birth father, but he hasn’t lied about loving you for the past seventeen years, Maria.” She looks away, not wanting to hear this. In her heart, she knows this, and she wants to forget the lies. But she can’t.

Standing, her grandfather finishes his coffee and places the mug in the sink. “You can be curious about your birth father. I think anyone would be,” he says before giving her a one-armed hug. “I’ll see you after work, sunshine.” He kisses the top of her head, and as he walks away, he adds, “But don’t hate your mom or push Dante away. He’s still your dad.”

Blinking back tears, Maria nods. “I know.” She rests her feet on the floor, and her head on the cool tile of the table. She knows Dante is still her father; he’s still the one who changed her diaper as a baby, who taught her how to throw a ball and a punch, who gave her her first taste of alcohol at Thanksgiving, who told her she’s a beautiful girl who deserves better than scumbag.

What she fails to comprehend is why they had to lie about it instead of Dante being that cool uncle that filled in for his best friend when he went AWOL.

Her head is still on the table when she hears the doorbell. Startled at first, she flies out of her chair and down the hall to the front door. Swinging it open, she’s more than happy to see the officer. She stands to the side and shuts the door behind him. Sliding her hands in the back pockets of her shorts, she faces him. He’s dressed in jeans and a tee, but he appears tense as if still in uniform. In the daylight, with his brown hair brushed away from his face, Maria can tell he’s closer to her mother’s age than her own. His round face and long nose aren’t attractive in the slightest bit, but he has a sort of confidence that almost compensates for it. “Who are you and how do you know about all this?”

He stands in the foyer with his arms crossed and legs slightly apart. “Officer Blake Graham. How much of the story do you know?”

Shifting her weight to one leg, Maria studies him before answering. “Dylan and my mamma got pregnant as teenagers. Dylan, I guess, struggled with addictions, and when I was born, he disappeared and Dante stepped in, putting his name on my birth certificate.”

Blake scoffs. “Dante said he wanted to tell you the truth before I did,” he says, shaking his head, “but he left out so many details. Your father was into drugs and alcohol when you were conceived.”

As he says this, Maria’s eyes widen. You’re becoming more and more like your father every day. Suddenly, her mother’s words make perfect sense, but she isn’t sure how she feels about it.

“Trying to better himself for Anna,” Blake continues, “he focused his addiction towards politics, and worked as field manager for Robert Graham. After you were born, Dylan realized he couldn’t be the father you needed or deserved, so he did the best thing he could do: step aside and let a real man take over.”

“But why is Dante’s name on my birth certificate and not Dylan’s?” Maria interjects.

“Robert Graham had plans for Dylan, and it didn’t involve being tied down to a baby mama and a child. He was advised to cut all connections with you.” Maria opens her mouth, but he holds out his hand. “Rob paid Dante and Anna to get them to put his name on there instead of Dylan’s.”

They both received monetary compensation to lie to her. Running her hands though her hair, Maria crouches, resting her back against the door. Dante had said that he’d have been there for her whether his name was on paper or not, but of course that’s easy to say when he’s been paid. She looks at Blake. There’s a plea in her eyes as she shakes her head, silently begging for him to be lying. “My fucking mother was paid to lie to me about something so…” Her voice trails off, and she slams her fist against the wall to keep the tears at bay.

Blake’s head tilts to the side. “I don’t know. If he was my dad, I’d want my mom to lie about it, too.” He shrugs, taking a step back. “At least, back then. But maybe you should get her side of the story before you go on hating her.”

“No,” she says. “I always got the feeling she resented me. If she hated him so much she wanted to erase him from her life…” She looks up at Blake. “I’m a constant reminder that he exists. Maybe she wanted Dante to be my father, and the money was just incentive.” She’s trying to make sense of it out loud, but it doesn’t help her understand. Eventually, she gives up trying, and returns to her initial question. “How do you know all this?” She shakes her head. “And why are you telling me all this?”

Inhaling, he looks away. “Because Robert Graham is my father.”

Maria stands, then takes a seat on the couch in the living room. “Wait. Dylan abandoned me and Mamma for politics?”

Following Maria, Blake sits in the armchair across from her. “I’d say politics abducted him from you and your mom.” Sitting forward in his seat with his legs wide, he rests an elbow on each knee. “But that’s not the point. The point is my sister has weaseled her way into being vice president and plans to take our father’s place as president and continue his bullshit.” Blake shakes his head. “She can’t do that. Not only should it have been illegal that she become vice president, but my dad shouldn’t still be in power in the first place.” He pauses a moment and looks into Maria’s eyes. “They’re slowly morphing our country into a dictatorship.”

Maria leans into the couch, waiting expectantly. “And what does that have to do with fucking up my life now?”

Blake eyes her for a moment. “You’ve hacked your phone, preventing the servers from connecting to it properly, have you not?” Maria looks away and remains silent, so Blake continues. “Hacking the encrypted software on mobile devices requires a skill level we’re in need of.”

This interests her. “Who’s we?”

“A counter-revolution. Help me, and I’ll help you.” He pauses for a moment. “You want to meet your father, and I know where to find him. It’s a win-win situation.”

Maria sits up and resting her hands on the cushions on either side of her. Joining this covert operation would mean eventually meeting her true father.

If she faced him, what would she actually say? Would the child inside her, the child questioning why she was abandoned and lied to, beg for answers; or would the jaded adult she’s quickly become tell him to fuck off? Thinking about this brings her to a question she’s not yet asked before, but one she now fears the answer to: how will he receive her?

Catching her breath, she realizes Blake’s been speaking and she’s heard none of it. Returning her focus to him, she does her best to clear the thoughts from her mind. She doesn’t know why she cares so much about a man who should mean nothing to her when she has a father that already means everything.

“The President’s dying,” he says quietly. “He has days, maybe weeks, left. If we plan to do something, we need to do so before my sister takes office.” When she just blankly stares at him, he scoffs. “We need to leave now.”

“Now?” Maria asks, her voice rising. “Leave now, for where?”

“We’re based in Virginia, near the Washington boarder.” He stands, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Do you want answers from Dylan or not?”

Maria nods. More than anything she wants answers. “Let me grab some clothes,” she says as she heads down the hall to her room. The first thing she does as she sits on her bed is pull out her phone and send a message to Evan. No time to explain. Pack a bag and meet me at my house in five minutes. After tapping send, she falls onto her back and stares at her ceiling.

She’s going to meet the man that helped create her. Dante may be her father, but she is Dylan’s flesh and blood. She isn’t sure what she wants from him, exactly, or what she plans to accomplish by going. Aside from getting answers, of course. Does she expect more? This leads her to wonder what exactly Blake expects from her. Hacking a phone is one thing; hacking the president’s office is another.

Her phone vibrates in her hand, pulling her from her thoughts. Unsurprisingly, Evan is worried. I’m fine. I’ll fill you in when you get here, she replies, then digs through her closet for a duffel bag. Taking her time, she fills it with enough clothes for a week.

By the time she’s back in the living room, Evan is knocking on the door. Blake, standing in the foyer now, eyes her suspiciously as she answers it and is greeted with a kiss.

“This isn’t some high school field trip,” Blake says, annoyed.

“If you think I’m going to go all the way to Virginia with some guy I just met, you’re fucking crazy,” she says, searching the desk in the living room for a piece of paper and a writing utensil, a task that is far more difficult than it should be.

“Virginia?” Evan asks, setting his back onto the couch.

“I’m going to meet Dylan, and we’re going to hack the President.”

Evan crosses his arms, his eyes narrowing. He turns to Blake. “What the fuck?”

“I’m assuming the phone modification is a joint coding effort,” Blake says. “The President has, at best, weeks to live, and I need my sister, the Vice President, out of the office before he is gone. In order for that to happen, there are files on their server that I need access to. With your coding skills—”

“Why not hire professionals?” Evan interjects.

Blake eyes Evan a minute before speaking. “Because Maria wants to know who her biological father is, and I know where to find him. Win-win.”

Before Evan can respond, Maria holds up an old take-out menu and an almost-dried-out marker she’s found. “‘Leaving with Evan for Virginia. Sick cousin.'” She looks at Blake and Evan. “How does that sound?”

“Like it’ll freak your mother out and piss off your dad,” Evan says.

“Dante,” Maria says, correcting him. Until she decides how she feels about both Dante and Dylan, she will call neither her father.

“It sounds great. Let’s go,” Blake mutters as he leaves the house.

Hanging the note on the refrigerator, Maria grabs her duffel and follows him, Evan in tow. She locks the door behind her, and when she turns around, it becomes quite obvious how they’ll be getting to Virginia. Of the very few cars that line Prospect Street, one in particular stands out with its ultra-sleek body and chrome color. Both of the car’s door lift open, a feature Maria hasn’t personally seen in a car before, and Blake slides into the driver’s swivel seat while Maria and Evan take the seats on the passenger’s side. As expected, the front dash is full of lights surrounding a large holo-projection screen. Using his phone, he programs the address into the car’s navigation system and before Maria can open her mouth to question if the car will drive itself, it pulls away from the curb without Blake pressing a pedal.

“Of course,” she mutters to herself, quickly pulling the seat belt across her chest and gripping the arm rests tightly. She swivels her seat to face Evan behind her, not wanting to watch the road through the dark-tinted windows.

“It’s safe,” Blake says, watching her reaction. Leaning back in his seat, he slides his hands into his pockets.

Maria, still gripping the arm rests, shakes her head. Evan, seemingly at ease in the self-driving car, laughs at her, but she ignores it. By the time the car is pulling on to the Route 8 on-ramp in Derby, Maria has allowed herself to look out the window. As expected, everything outside blurs past and she has to take deep breaths to keep from becoming nauseous. Through the glass which she assumes is missile-proof, she watches as buildings, trees, and the occasional car pass by. Those in other vehicles watch Blake’s car in awe. None of them, like Maria, have seen something so impressive and modern, despite living in this modern world. The great technological advancements are rarely seen by the common person except through a screen; they’re saved for the elites of big cities like New York and Los Angeles, the top quarter-of-a-percent that must be above the law.

“Do you have a picture of him?” Maria quietly asks after a long silence. Her voice is small, almost as if she’s afraid to ask. This is her birth father; she has a right to be curious about him, doesn’t she?

Blake shakes his head. “Sorry.” After another long moment of silence, he shifts in his seat, swiveling his seat towards Maria. “UConn’s accepted you.”

Evan’s face lights up at the news, but Maria doesn’t share a similar reaction. Instead, she wonders how he could know. She opens her mouth to ask, but Blake speaks first.

“I had access to things.” He’s quiet for a moment. “I’ve seen your grades. Why did you apply?” He is prying, and Maria doesn’t like it. Evan watches her, and she can tell by the expression on his face that he’s curious about the same thing.

“I’m interested in political science.”

“You know how this democracy used to work, before Rob started fucking with it?”

Maria nods. It was a conversation with her economics and government teacher in the beginning of senior year that inspired her to want to change the government back to the way it was. He had told her that the only way to do that was to be educated. Her grandmother might think that Maria’s applying to UConn was only a joke, but she does actually have aspirations, even if she herself doesn’t believe she can attain them.

“I hope to someday restore that,” she says quietly, staring out the window. Everything moves so fast; the only things she can really focus on are the other cars, moving at comparable speeds. Now that they are on I-95, there are several more cars.

Evan eyes her, but she ignores it. “You never cease to surprise me, Maria Lee.”

October 2013

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