Below, you will see the graphic for the blog’s next featured story:

Grace Trials

THE STORY

If you saw the post about Manuscript Monday, going into extensive detail about why I chose the story I selected, I mentioned a story I wrote called, “Girls of Grace”.

“Grace Trials” is “Girls of Grace” rebranded, revamped, an under-new-construction rewrite. I guess, this will be my revision quest and I’m inviting all of you along for the ride.

In the original “Girls of Grace”, it was about three girls who became friends through church. In all honesty, this story is slightly based on real life, but in totality it really isn’t.

Like, the main character is a little like me. One of her friends is a little like one of my strong-willed friends that battles depression. The main character’s other friend is this super-family-oriented-person who has OCD. All three of them go to a tiny, baptist church where everybody knows everybody.  Me and my two friends, all went to a tiny, baptist church where the three of us formed a friendship. Beyond that, that is as real as the story gets. Okay, most of the story takes place in the city where we all live…

But the main plot points, the scenarios that unfold, and events that take place… never happened to me or my friends in real life… to my knowledge.

This revamp, however, will be wildly different. I started the project in 2012. Seven years later, with the characters well developed and a plot with lots of options, the content will be richer.

SYNOPSIS

Lauren Rae Tyler – 18, Melissa Grace Russell – 21, and Makayla Johnson – 17, are best friends that are closer to each other than sisters. Through all the trials life hurls them into, they rally to be there for one another and see each other overcome their tribulation. But they know they can’t obtain any victories without God’s grace.

Grace Trials may be the name of Lauren’s dad’s ranch and church, but the “Grace Trials” make up the casebook that proves God’s grace is for those who believe and cannot be saved, delivered, or set free without the free grace of God. (Okay, you’re right – the Bible has already done that, and proves so… It’s great!)

DREAM-GOAL

Yes, I want this story turned into a movie too! Executively-produced by Kirk Cameron. Pray with me y’all! (I’d accept working with David AR White too.)

It’s odd that I want to work with him so much… like I’m not a fan girl of his… I don’t really watch a lot of his ministry videos, nor have I seen any of his latest Christian Film Productions.

I just want to work with him. I think it would be cool!

WARNING

This story will feature some hard to swallow material, but the topics shouldn’t be ignored and swept under the rug in the church anymore.

MY REQUEST

If you like it as you read it, share it with someone you think may enjoy it, or benefit from it in someway.

MY HOPE

Is that someone who never had faith before, find faith in Jesus.

Yes, this may be a fictional story, with fictional characters, but the God of the Bible is the only God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… and in this little piece of fiction, God can save you or someone you’re praying for to be saved!

MANUSCRIPT MONDAY or STORY SUNDAY

At this point, I’m thinking neither, but we’ll see.

Thank you for joining this journey with me.


If you read my post,“Crossing the Finish Line”, then you heard about my story on LITNET called, “A Digital Age Courtship”. If you didn’t read that post or even if you did…

A Digital Age Courtship

The link below takes you directly to that story. ENJOY!

https://litnet.com/en/reader/a-digital-age-courtship-b106691?c=928921&p=1

I’m not sure what to do with the Story Sunday Series: Elle… therefore, when I figure that out, she will be back and then her story will be completed.

For now, get ready for ID SYNTHESIS. A dystopian, sci-fi story anyone can sink their teeth into!

Thanks for stopping by and reading. Not sure what to look at, check out my personal favorite Story Sunday Series: Bussing It.

Much love,

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Tucker brings the last of my things into the tiny, fully furnished one bedroom apartment and sets the box of dishes Cory gave me on the two person kitchen table. Milo continues his nap in his carrier that I placed in the middle of the sitting room, by the coffee table.

“I don’t understand why this is necessary…” I state.

“Look at the bright side, you’re a Beta now… Working in product development for PlumTree… You’ve been released of High School classes. This is a sweet deal. When the new housing is finished, you’ll get a bigger place. You’ve achieved every teenager’s dream. You get to be a BIG PERSON.” Tucker chuckles.

“But I’m not comfortable with anyone taking care of Milo but me.”

“Oh relax, there’s a daycare at the office and you can check on him as often as you need.”

Rex knocks on the open door as he enters in without asking.

“Miss Elle, mom wants to know if you want come back to our house for dinner or will you be okay for the evening?”

“She’ll stay.” Tucker answers for me.

“Grandpa, I asked her… not you…” Rex retorts.

“Ah… Milo and I will join you, just let me make some new bottles for Milo.”

“Okay, we’ll wait for you downstairs.” Rex smiles like a dork, super stoked I accepted his invite.

Cory set all of Milo’s supplies on the kitchen counter. I go over there and look for the open canister of formula on the gray countertop. The entire decorum of the apartment are shades of gray. Light gray carpet through most of the place, an almost white tile in the bathroom and the kitchen. Dark gray appliances, sofa, recliner, coffee table, cabinets, tub, bed, entertainment center, dresser, and wardrobe. The sinks are silver. Then every other surface and the walls a normal gray. The ceiling a light gray.

I’m allowed to repaint and decorate however I want, but then I have to put everything back to the way I found it. What a hassle. I think I’ll just let this dreary gray grow on me.

“You stay away from my grandson…” Tucker says. He clarifies what he means as I shake formula powder and water into a milk-like substance in two bottles simultaneously. “Rex is not gonna be my first grandkid to make me a great-granddad.”

I giggle. It’s funny how he’s worried about a virgin ruining his clearly mutually virginal grandson.

“Don’t worry grandpa, Rex isn’t my type.”

Legal age of consent for intercourse is 15 in the DCA. If a couple are expecting, they don’t need parent permission to marry if they’re under 18.

In the RA, age of consent remains at 18. If you’re under 25, you need a “blessing” from both sets of guardians to marry. Usually, teen parents place their child in adoption because they don’t have the means to care for the infant. No one can get employment without a college degree. Abortion is a felony for the mother and the abortionist, and if the father knew about it and didn’t notify the authorities, he’d charged with a misdemeanor…

I guess mom found the perfect place to hide Milo.

Tucker checks to make sure the apartment is secure and then picks up Milo in his carrier to help me down to Cory’s SUV.

The apartment door automatically swings shut after we both step out. The apartment A.I.- Roogle, says goodbye in a pleasant, calm male voice.

In the ride back to Tucker’s neighborhood, Cory makes small talk.

“We’re gonna miss having you next door.” She says, looking at me through the review mirror.

“I’ll miss it too… I love you guys…” I say honestly.

I only read in mom’s journal what Paxton, Cory, Tucker, Uncle Houston, and dad were like. But even though Paxton and Cory will older and wiser, their charm and joyous spirit was the same.


Standing, Paxton holds out his wine glass to make a toast. The short man’s black full beard had the two gray streaks at the corners of his lips like white fangs.

“I’m so happy, that- that Elle here is gonna come into the office and use her genie mind to like make more new awesome tech for the company… For the WORLD! I’m ecstatic that Quora and Walker are here- back with fam will on break from college. AND next week- it is the anniversary of when Cory agreed to go out with me -like a lifetime ago- a long time ago- cause we’re old…” He lifts his glass high and we join him in the gesture, “Let’s toast, to a great year ahead life just getting better!!!”

As we clang our glasses up against one another, the lights go out, rushing steps close in on us, and before my eyes can adjust to the dark to defend myself, a needle pricks my arm as a bag is placed over my head.

Two Months Later, New D.C., DCA 2039

Never in a million years did I think I would spend any time in a safe room. Yes, a SAFE ROOM. It’s really self explanatory. It’s a hidden room built into the walls of one’s home to keep people safe in case of hostile emergency. It makes sense Colonel Tucker has one being an active agent for the NDS, the DCA’s version of the NSA.

We’ve spent the full 24 hours of Xmas Eve in here… and we have another 24 hours of Xmas to go. I never heard of Xmas. In the RA, we don’t have such a holiday. Tucker told me over 200 years ago in early USA, the entire country observed December 25th as the B-day of the Christian Savior Jesus. To celebrate the season, people would decorate, sing songs about his earthly arrival, and hand out gifts to each other. They also let kids believe in a mythical figure, Santa Claus. A fat, jolly old man who lived in the North Pole, owned a bunch of tiny people called Elves who built toys and other gifts, and then on the evening of the 24th, this Santa delivered gifts by himself on a sleigh led by flying reindeer to all the good children of their world, naughty kids got coal.

It was the perfect holiday to use against children to manipulate them to be good, and when the USA become a huge consumerism society, Big Business made a fortune off people buying presents for the whole family, even people they don’t like or talk to very often.

In the RA, there’s only one religion- The Way. We celebrate the birth of Yeshua (who is the same Savior a s Jesus in Christianity) in the Spring, before we observe Passover & Resurrection. We call it First Advent. We do exchange one hand made gift the day of and sings songs about His birth, but beyond that, we don’t do anything special. Then in the Fall, we celebrate Anticipation Second Advent during the Feast of Tabernacles. That is our celebration, rejoicing a head of time for our Savior’s return. The Bible says we don’t know when He will return to make His home on the Earth forever, but we celebrate during that time, because it could have also been the season for His First Advent… no one really knows for certain except not trusting He was born on the 25th of December.

I’m not really that religious, but it’s mandatory to attend Assembly on Holy Days, and the school I went to had weekly chapel services, therefore, I know a lot about THE WAY.

The DCA is different. They changed Christmas to Xmas, because the word CHRIST was too offense to people. Any mention publicly of the Christian Savior became a 200 merit fine. People became too coldhearted to spread good cheer and when people discovered the old ways of celebrating pagan festivities on the 25th, it returned to that. People drink, partake in sexuality immorality, and mobs wander the streets forcing anyone left at home to come out into the streets and party. The DCA allows the recklessness and the borderline anarchy to purge “enraging and degrading behavior” before the New Year arrives.

We must stay in here so no one will think we are home.

Tucker observes the monitors where security cameras capture footage of the perimeter, every outer wall of the house, and every place in the house but the bathrooms. All my sense of privacy is gone now that I know I don’t have it.

Milo sits up in his portable crib chewing on his teddy bear’s ear. He’s only supposed to be three months. And though he is average size for a three month old, he’ got the development of a 6 month old. He can sit up if you assist him. He plays with his toes if he doesn’t have anything to stick in his mouth. And he can hold his old bottle during feeding… I try not to go out in public with him to avoid awkward situations when they discover he’s only three months.

I take classes online and offer tech support for Plum Tree online for employment. The most socialization I get is with Milo, Tucker, and every once in a blue moon Cory, Paxton, and Rex when they invite us over for dinner.

I haven’t met Zave yet. He’s away on business and no one knows when he’ll be back. I’m glad he isn’t around though. I don’t think I’m ready to lie to my father’s face yet. It’s hard enough lying to everyone else.

Rex tries to come over a lot to keep me company, but his granddad, Tucker shoes him away. He claims he doesn’t want me to take advantage of Rex and beguile him with my beauty and charm. Is Rex cute? Sort of, but he’s barely taller than, skinny like a twin, he kind of looks like an owl with his big head, wide brown eyes, point nose, and ting lip… And he’s so nerdy and all about video games and sci-fi franchise films. Not my type. I like brawny boys, who like to be on the edge… I wouldn’t say “Bad Boys”, just relevant.

For a girl like me to be with a boy like him is fulfilling some rich nerd’s fantasy. I mean, he could be rich like his dad, Paxton, one day. His dad owns and runs PlumTree Technology. They make cellphone, tablets, computers, headphones, TVs, drones, you-think-you-name-it they have in electronics. They also have a contract with the DCA and build and design all their office technology needs.

I think that’s what weirds me out the most. Rex is mini Paxton, and Paxton is my dad’s best friend.

I forget there really isn’t money in the DCA, there are merits. Every citizen has a right to free healthcare, a free home, a free education, free food weekly, free public transportation, free hygiene products, etc. Depending on what type of job you have and how important it is, determines what level of free things you get. If you work retail, hospitality, or janitorially, you are level basic. If you work in art, influencing, sporting, and entertaining, you are level omega. If you work in technology, science, or education, you are level alma. If you work for the government, law enforcement, medical field or emergency services, you are level beta. If you own a business, serve as a boss in some capacity, serve in the highest level of government, and if your job is high risk and important, you are level alpha. Based on your work completion and efficiency, and performance you are grant warrants that electronically deposited onto person merit account. Merit can a lot you to buy things a retail stores, go restaurants and events, buy other wants and luxuries not basic necessities.

All students, even if they have a job, are one of two levels: dependent or emergent. Dependents are students that live at home, have no job, and obtain merits through school work and community service and/or from guardians. Emergents are students who have jobs and may still live at home or in dormitories on a college campus. They receive merits from work, school, and guardians. What sucks about being a student is that all merits cancel out on the first of the year and have to start earning at the beginning of the year. All other levels are allowed to have merits roll over.

Now, the rest of the world operates on real currency. The government treasury still uses money with the rest of the world for business. And business owners work with real world money to do global business. When a DCA citizen transfers outside of the country, they must apply for a travel visa and a travel spend card, if their drip is approved they can pick up their visa and travel spend card at the airport.

This has eliminated nearly all theft-related crime.

Disgruntled, Tucker slurs at the monitor in upper right corner of his screen wall made up of many boxes on one giant PlumTree Genius TV. A group of six stumble onto the snowy front lawn, will bottle of alcohol in one hand and some sort of battering object in the other- like a couple has a baseball bat, another a monkey wrench, the rest pipes.

In the back, Tucker goes over to his armory way, which has automatic rotating walls that switch out with more weapons. Knives, guns, shotguns, rifles, grenades of all sorts, and some weapons I didn’t recognize. He pulls a pistol of the first wall, and readies the weapon to first. He holds the gun with two hand, barrel facing down, and trigger off the trigger resting on the side of the nose.

“I’m gonna shoot a few blanks at their feet. Scare them off. I don’t need a repeat of what happened last year.”

“What happened last year?”

“Let’s just say I don’t really have a dead pet buried in the backyard.” He says as he opens the safe room door. “Whatever happens, don’t leave this room until the 26th.” He states ominously as the door closes on his back.

I find myself glued to the monitors. There’s no sound but when I see flecks of snow bolt up around the feet of the intruders I jump a bit. The drunken little gang gets spooked and dart of the lawn way faster than they stumbled on.

Tucker didn’t even leave the house, he fired at them from an upstairs window. Closely, with fear subtly resting in the back of my mind, I watch Tucker skip from screen box to screen box. Zipping through upstairs hallways, down the stairway, through the downstairs… until he disappears completely and moments later reappears outside the safe room door. He looks up at the camera and singles to let him in.

I go over to the door and press the open button. For some reason, I can’t shake thing feeling something isn’t right. As if keeping my eyes on the screen box with a view of the outer safe room door is helpful, I do that, and unfortunately witness Tucker getting knocked out by a figure in all black and a mask.

I face the door and quickly duck to avoid getting socked in the nose. Immediately, I find myself grateful mama taught me how to fight. However, doing it in real life is way different. All the adrenaline coursing through my veins is exhilarating, yet, I’m way too scared to enjoy the high. Muscle memory of combat movies does a lot of the work for me defensively, I hardly have to think it and I do it, but getting kicked and hit at full force by a man taller than me hurts way more than mommy dearest prepared me for, but this desire not to die keeps me going.

And Milo, I’m beyond ballistic afraid Milo will get hurt or end up dead or worse, get taken… has this man come from him. Has our cover been blown. Did mom get burned and the RA is here to collect what they feel is theirs?

No, if they wanted Milo and mom was burned, this intruder would have killed Tucker not knock him out. The RA doesn’t play nice. If mom was burned by Guyon, same scenario fate for Tucker too.

The man locks my head in his elbow… Trying to… analyze… the… situation… interfered with my… body’s… autopilot… I dip low as fast as I can, then I back kick his knee as I elbow him in the gut from my force of going down… I think I did that move wrong, but he loosed his arm around my neck enough for me to snatch his hand and roll way twisting his arm into position where I can break it if I band it against a hard surface. Lucky for him, we’re in the middle of the room.

“Who are you, little she devil?” The masked man asks with his voice cloaked by auto-tune.

“Why are you here? What do you want?” I ask back.

The man raises his free arm, I twist the arm I have in hand harder. He winces in pain.

Milo starts crying. Poor little guy can feel everything I feel emotionally. He knows I’m so scared I nearly peed my pants. At least we are afraid together.

“There’s a latch, on the left side of my neck brace… it will demask me… I’m the man in that picture behind you.”

Not looking at the portrait behind me and releasing the latch myself. The gas-like mask splits in half, folds up in cm by cm squares, and slips into the top brim of the man’s neck brace collar.

Accept instead of having my father’s brown eyes, he has the gray-crystalized irises of an alert and an active Theus. He also sports a gray speckled beard and his wavy locks are chopped off into a light fade. He about 20 years older than the photo of him behind with my mom and with Tucker on this houses porch.

There’s a few problems with this picture. I’m not supposed to know how to fight. I’m not supposed to really know who he is. Tucker’s just told me about Zave, because Cory, Paxton, and Rex bring him up… but they all work really hard not to say anything about Theus.

“If I let you take what you came for, will you do me a solid and not mention to Tucker I know how to fight?”

“I’ll make no such promise.” And in a blink of an eye, he gets free from my grasp, and in a breath, he snatches me by the wrist, twirls me toward him while I exhale in panic, and forces me to face the picture on the wall as he holds me with my hands behind my back.

“You’re only conscious because I am amused and curious. It’s as if someone trained you to fight against me, you used your body weight a lot, and you used objects around you to defend yourself. You’re not experienced though, you were too afraid to grab a weapon… from the armory wall.” Theus says.

“You’re not going to kill me. You know Tucker would never take in someone he doesn’t know everything about. He was protecting me in this room. If you hurt me, he’ll never forgive you.” I plead with the truth.

“Clearly, he doesn’t know you can fight… or so you think, why would you keep this from him if he knows so much about you?”

“Because I’m not who thinks I am, but that’s for my protection, not for any other reason.”

“Who are you then?” Theus asks twists my wrists.

I scream from the sudden sharp pain. Milo cries louder, his face lobster red as his tears flood his cheek.

“You’re scaring my kid, can you let me go please?”

Theus lets me go as he steps around me and takes the picture frame off the gray wall. He sets the large portrait down gently on the floor against the wall. I thought a vault door to a safe would be hiding behind the picture, in the wall, but it is just a blank wall.

“On second thought, I don’t care who you are. I don’t have much time before he wakes up to get what I came for…” Looking over his shoulder, he commands, “Get you son and step outside please.” Then he punches a whole in the wall with a kick, close range jab. Inside the wall there’s a safe built into the reinforced steal of the walls that make up the safe room.

I just do what he says. As I pick Milo up with his teddy bear, he holds out his arm and points to the blue bear with pink belly fur.

“Where did you get that?” Theus asks?

I don’t know what to say since my mom packed it in a bag of things for Milo. I definitely can’t let it slip Mara is my mom.

“Ah… it’s just a teddy… babies love them you know?”

“They stopped making those bears in 2013, the company went of business, most likely wherever more were stored got destroyed in the war… WHO GAVE YOU THE BEAR?”

Theus likes being in control. If he knew the truth, he would keep away, and I wouldn’t have to worry about telling my father the truth.

“My mom gave it to my son… her name is Mara… Mara Taylor…”

Wait?! My mom said to never tell Theus the truth either!!! Why don’t I listen to her? Ever?!?!

Cautiously, he takes the bear from me. Like he’s thinking back on the past, he stares at the blue, slobbery bear.

“You know, I gave this bear to Zave… I left him a note with it, promising him I’d never come back because I knew he and Mara wanted to start a family…”

“Why would she give this to you?” He interrogates holding the bear beside his head, but all can I do is freak out by the sight of his flaring nostrils.

Wait, I didn’t tell the full truth… I didn’t say Mara was my mom…

“She saved my life and she owed my mother a favor. When she put me on a plane in London to come here, she had packed in Milo’s bag… I just saw it when we settled in here.”

“She never told you about this bear? I mean, I made Zave swear he got it for her- for their future first child…  I knew she would be upset if I wanted them to have a family more than he wanted to have one- but his lack luster was my fault anyways… Even when I leave, I never leave him alone…” He says and then hands the bear back. He adds, “She taught you how to fight, didn’t she?”

“My mother wanted me to know how to protect myself… She had Mara train me.”

I watch Theus takes out a little domino size of clay explosive I forgot the name off. It’s not quite C4, but it is a lot like it. I hurry to leave the room.

A small explosion occurs. A bright green light flashes. A few weird blaring pitches go off. Then masked Theus barges out the room. He drags Tucker’s body back inside and I walk back in assuming that would be his instruction.

In the threshold of the safe room door, he says, “I won’t tell Tucker your secret, but it won’t take him long to figure it out. I took the footage from the safe room feed, so that will buy you a little time. And if Mara comes to visit, tell her Zave goes to their spot every year, waiting for her to come back. Happy Xmas.”

He leaves. I close the door behind him. I look at knocked out Tucker on the ground and the rubble on the floor. I can’t wait until this Crazy Christmas is over. At least Santa brought me half of my dad… and he is way cooler than my mom’s journal made him out to be. Now I have to think of a cover story of what happened to me… Oh, easy, I got knocked out too! Where should I lay down? First, I have to put Milo back in his portable crib.

Elle After Civil War 2

I thought we were heading for the border, but I was wrong… after a stop to Wally World to buy things for Milo, and a stop to mom’s safehouse, we went to the airport in Tulsa. The DCA Border Wall puts the Mexican Border Wall to shame. It’s like Great Wall of China of the West World.

Mom pulls up to the drop off curb at Air Canada Ticketing Terminal. She hands me a blue folder. Inside is a ticket a one way Quebec City and fake documents for Milo. His birth certificate says he was born in London, England and now my last name is Bardem? According to my new documents I was born in Madrid, Spain. I went to boarding school in England, just outside of London. Neither Milo or I have dad’s listed on our birth certificates. I have a different mom on mine… What is going on here?

“The safest place for you to be is in the DCA, but unfortunately, you can’t go there as my daughter.”

“And why not?”

“Tucker is smart, I could never pass you off as mine with a different dad than Zave. He knows me too well. The only child I would belong to your father.”

“I still don’t get-,” she cuts me off.

“You don’t need to have a thick Spaniard accent, it can be subtle. When you get compliments your English is really good, sell the boarding school in London, but throw in as a kid your mom took you to the RA a lot. And um, read the background profile I put in there for you, that will help you build your cover…”

“You put a lot of thought into this…”

“Well, you always have to be prepared for things to change. Now, there’s nothing in there about Milo’s father, you’ll have to come up with that, but keep it simple and model him after someone you would go for, you know… and if you give him a name, never come up with last name… just keep it at a first name, but don’t really talk about Milo’s father… Tucker or even Zave is the type to go track him down.”

I try to interject but she just keeps talking.

“The only person you can trust will be Tucker. He won’t be very trusting of you, which is fine… And you’ll want to break down and tell Zave you’re his daughter, but you have to promise me you won’t.”

I nod silently promising to keep the truth from the man I’ve dreamt of meeting my whole life. The way mom talks about him, she wouldn’t be a human being without ever falling in love with him.

“And avoid talking about London at all costs because you haven’t been there in a while. If you meet someone who knows the area well, unless you bring up the place and location, don’t agree with what they say.”

“Clearly, wait, I’ve been to London?”

“You were two, not a big deal… and um… if you ever have to leave the DCA, I left an email address you can contact me once. Don’t directly tell me where you’re going. Use that cipher we created when you were nine.”

“The Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale one?” I double check not understand typing childish gibberish could be useful and still translatable. I don’t even know if I remember how to use it…

“In case you forgot the cipher, I put a cheat code in the folder, for your eyes only.”

Moms think of everything.

She grabs be by the head, digging her hands into my wavy black hair, and she kisses me on the forehead, “I love you so much, you know that…”

“I love you too,” I say, trying not to sound panicked.

She let’s me go, “You don’t have to bring Milo…”

“No,” I say feeling attached to him already. Mom explained that since he imprinted on me, for the first few months of his life, if he’s away from me for than a week he’ll die.

“As soon as take down Guyon and terminate Project Hercules II, I’ll come for the two of you.” Mom promises. We both probably have that eerie feeling, she may never come for us.

We get out of the SUV and she helps me bring in my bags and the stroller while I carry Milo in his carrier. A courtesy escort takes over for mom inside by the ticketing. I set Milo down on the ground and reel mom in for one last hug. My eyes let loose the tear as I cry, preparing to forego life without my mom. Now, I’m supposed to tackle motherhood without her. It’s insane!

On my travels, everyone is super nice. Freakishly kind… even when I drop that I’m a teen mom, still overly polite to me.

I thought for sure on the flight, Milo would wail during takeoff and during landing, but he remained asleep in my arms. The Flight Attendants checked on me like every twenty minutes and worried about Milo’s uncanny ability to sleep all the way through a plane ride. It’s a good thing I can brush his peculiarity off and blame it on him being genetically engineered, otherwise their concern would have me panicked.

According to the lovely backstory mom came up with for me, I was born to disowned Spanish heiress. Her father owned a vineyard and had several business ventures in Spain, France, and England. She went to Madrid to pursue a career as a model but got stuck waiting table, after she got pregnant with me. That’s when her father took her back in, because of me, and I was spoiled to death.

My mother started working for my grandfather. When he started vineyard in the RA, he sent me and my mom out there to look after it. In middle school, I fell in with the wrong crowd and grandpa said boarding school was the answer to fix me. However, they were wrong… I stuck with the bad and go myself pregnant. I was shipped back to my grandfather.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed my grandfather’s death by Guyon’s men. For years, granddaddy was cutting deals with Guyon and his men. My mother’s been an informant for the RA, but becoming close friends with Mara, my real mom, she begged Agent Taylor to take me away and keep somewhere safe. This also includes baby Milo now too.

Tucker will tell his neighbors and friends that I’m the child of an old Interpol buddy who just died in the field. To ensure my safety, I’m to stay with Tucker until his Interpol buddy’s killer is caught and it is safe to say no one is after me. I really don’t know why I just could be the dead Interpol buddy’s kid, but then again, I’m not an official spy… I don’t know how weaving a web of lies convincingly works.

In the waiting area, a gray-haired man dressed in a navy blue suit, white button up, and a red tie held up a sign with me new name one “Elle Bardem”. Me and my courtesy escort walk up to the man I presume to be Colonel Benjamin Tucker.

“Elle and Milo Bardem?” The man asks in a raspy, monotone voice.

“Do I have to call you Colonel or can I just call you Tucker?” I wonder.

He takes the stroller from the escort, while he follows me to baggage claim. He’s definitely the quiet type. This will be interesting…

History Lesson

Elle After Civil War 2.png

When I was a toddler,  the Republic of America declared independence against the United States of America. Sleeper agents for the RA within branches of military and intelligence agencies rose up. Those who considered themselves to be conservative, patriotic, capitalistic made of the RA. It wasn’t over race, even though race served as a factor. Minorities had a tendency of siding with the USA over joining the USA. Russia backed the RA sending aid and troops.

For three years, Americans were forced to pick sides that offered them the best chance of survival. It was clear the RA was never going away. Out-manned, out-gunned, and at the risk of losing territory, what remained of the USA on the East Coast signed a peace treaty with the RA… agreeing to new borderlines and recognizing the RA as a country.

Washington, Oregon, and California remained as a part of the USA. Everything between those states and the Mississippi River became the Republic of America.

The year of the treaty, the great lakes flooded, drowning Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and most of Pennsylvania and New York. A virus spread across Washington State, Oregon, and California killing 80 % of the population. The land also became incapable of producing vegetation. The survivors were forced to seek asylum in Canada, the RA, and Mexico because USA was found guilty of using biological warfare that devastated those three states. Their target was the was RA, but they miscalculated. Some think the RA did it and framed the USA. Those regions are now the “Dead Zone”, an unlivable place.

The next year, the USA reformed their branches of government and agencies forming the Democratic Coalition of America. The government gave more power to the people over policymaking, eliminated capitalism and started merit economy called meritism, and became determined to be the manifestation of Utopia.


The Republic of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Russia, France, Italy, Israel)

National Language: English

Agencies of Intelligence for the Republic of America

MIB: Main Intelligence Branch (CIA knock-off)

PAN: Protection Agency of the Nation (NSA knock-off)

CDI: Countrywide Department of Investigations (FBI knock-off)

The Eagle’s Senate

The meeting place of Senators of the Republic that represent each RA State. Just 1 Senator per state.

The Eagle House

The Eagle (President knock-off)

1st Olive Branch (First Lady/First Gentleman)

__________________________________

The Eaglet (Vice President knock-off)

2nd Olive Branch (Eaglet’s spouse)

The Democratic Coalition of America Government & Agencies

(Allies: Australia, England, China and Japan)

National Languages: Spanish and English

HORAI: Headquarters of Reconnaissance and Intelligence (CIA knock-off)

NDS: National Department of Security (NSA knock-off)

DDI: Division of Domestic Investigations (FBI knock-off)

Hall of Democrats

The meeting place of hundreds of Democratic Representatives from each DCA State. (Half the number of the USA Congress)

House of Liberty

Lead Democrat (knock-off president)

1st Assistant Democrat (spouse of the LD)

________________________

Associate Lead Democrat (knock-off vice president)

2nd Assistant Democrat (spouse of the ALD)


Opinions vary but each country still operates a lot like the old USA. Except on is highly conservative and the other is super liberal.


Mom speeds down the highway heading for east border. Clearly, she is not worried about getting pulled over or caught by speed regulator cameras.

The baby stays quiet in my arms. He’s sort of cute. But his constant hypnotic stare at me is totally creepy.

“In New Jerusalem, we’ll get a motel and I’ll go out and get us some things for our trip.” Mom says like she’s still thinking about a million other factors to flee the country successfully.

The RA has spent millions of dollars to rebuild and wipe the memory of the old America away. I hear the DCA mends what is broken, but they don’t generate enough revenue to start over and build everything new.

“Where are we taking a trip?”

“Well, if you never opened the bag, I was just going to take you to a safe house for a few days, but your disobedience changed our plans big time.” Mom sounds disappointed as she keeps her eyes on the road.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t think you were in the baby smuggling business… a weird smuggling baby business that has genetically engineers infants that imprint on their masters/caretakers.” I defend myself, weakly.

What am I talking about? This all sounds nuts! When mom explained it all, I felt more insane by every unfolding detail.

The Chinese were working on Project Hercules, which combined the research of the Prometheus II Project with the concept of coding the Theus Sphere properties into a genetically engineered human being. The Theus Sphere was designed to fuse with a person and make someone average into a superior human being that would a be killer machine taking orders from the boss. Project Hercules would breed humans that at birth would imprint on their handler, forming a bond to secure total allegiance and compliance. (Sort of sounds like a video game about assassins, huh?) The baby in my arms is the very first baby if the reality.

A wealthy mercenary, Baptiste Guyon, stole Project Hercules the Chinese and destroyed all their research and either kidnapped or killed every person connected to the project. At first, when the RA got the intel 10 years ago, they thought Guyon wanted to sell the project to the highest bidder, and the RA was prepared to purchase it, but then it became clear he wanted it for himself.

He set up headquarters for Project Hercules II in the RA near the Mexican border. Mom was sent in to infiltrate his organization. She played herself. A spy without a country to serve. For the past eight years, she’s been a field agent for Guyon, while feeding his plans and operations to the MIB. Occasionally, she would send misinformation to Guyon.

Mom’s original orders, once the first Hercules was born, was to destroy all the research and to bring the baby back to MIB central in True Dallas. But the day this baby was born, mom learned Guyon has several facilities around the world and more babies like Hercules I were about to be born. She called her MIB handler and got a new directive. Fake the baby’s death, bring the child to HQ, and go back undercover to find all Project Hercules Facilities across the globe.

Seeing what Hercules I was capable of, mom planned on killing the baby for real, lying to the MIB and to Guyon. But in case her plan failed and the RA was going to burn her for treason, she wanted to come take me to a safe place. If Hercules didn’t imprint in the first 24 hours of his life, he was going to die. Mom figured he could die slowly and peacefully in that duffle bag not wanting to add baby-killer to her repertoire. I screwed up the plan.

She’s going to still tell the RA and Guyon the kid died. It will be convincing because mom was on security detail transporting the surrogate in labor back to the facility from Guyon’s house, when Mara and her team were ambushed in a tunnel. Mara got out of the vehicle just as it exploded, unable to rescue the surrogate and the baby.

The real story is that mom stopped in a tunnel the MIB was sending a drone to attack. She killed everyone under her charge. Then she ripped baby Hercules out of the surrogate’s womb and fled for cover with the baby in the getaway SUV she parked nearby. She drove away as the drone bombed the tunnel.

I’m not sure how she’s going to fill in the holes to the MIB or to Guyon, but she’s survived being a spy for over twenty years, I’m sure she’ll figure it out.

“Do we have to call him Hercules?”

“You can call him whatever you want. He’s your new baby son.”

“Why can’t he be your kid?”

“I’m not going on this trip with you. I can’t and it will be easier to keep the cover that he’s your son and not your brother.”

I don’t see her logic. But the last time I didn’t listen to her I became a mom, so if I don’t want to end up dead, I ought to do what she says.

“Milo Xavier Taylor.”

“Xavier? You like that name, huh?”

“It’s dad’s name…” I say.

That much she has told me. My father is Xavier Douglas Wace. When they met he was an analyst for the CIA. They fell in love while he was a field agent after fusing with the Theus Sphere from the stolen Prometheus II Project. She was sort of in love two different people for a bit. When dad first used Theus, his own consciousness would be suppressed by a the persona built into the sphere. Agent Xavier was Agent Theus, a different man in attitude, demeanor, decision-making, and personality. But eventually dad figured how to use the properties of Theus without letting the Theus-persona loose. Then they got married and were working on impossible missions as part of a deal with the CIA that would end in their early retirement to enjoy civilian life. More than anything my mom wanted to start a family with my dad and they didn’t want to be spies raising a family.

Their last mission was to intercept a piece of technology similar to Theus, but instead of fusing with the technology, the tech was a giant download onto some willing person’s brain. All this information would be in their mind to learn without having to take time to learn how to do things. What would take months or years to learn, only took seconds after finding the info on the hard drive of their brain. There was one version before the type they intercepted but it killed the person was the guinea pig. The Traverse 1.0 fried their brain into liquid… literally. Good thing that didn’t happen to my mom. Neither of us would be here.

Dad wasn’t as good of a spy as Theus. He got himself captured by the bad guys they took the Traverse 2.0 from. Mom wanted to save him, so she used the stolen tech– the Traverse 2.0, and it worked long enough to save dad. But her brain couldn’t handle all the information and she passed out. When she woke up she could talk and walk, but she couldn’t remember the last five years of her life… She couldn’t remember dad at all.

Mom got pregnant before that mission, but she didn’t find out until that mission was complete and she had already left my dad in the dust. Her mind rebooted during her pregnancy  and by the time I was one, she remembered her whole life with my dad, and was in love with him all over again. But thanks to Civil War 2, there was no family reunion.

Now, all my life, she told me she picked up a regular civilian life after the war. The truth is, the MIB formed and drafted her services. If she refused, they were going to kill her and put me in an orphanage, because they didn’t want her joining the former USA now DCA.

Until a few months ago, I believed her civilian life lie. But then I began to wonder why my mom forced me to learn to Spanish, German, French, and Mandarin. She’s taught me Kung Fu, Krav Maga, and how to use guns, swords, and knives. I know how to read a room to find a way out in case of an emergency. Every once in a while, we would go on free shopping sprees where she taught me how to shoplift without getting caught. When I was 12, she ditched me on a camping trip and left a note for me to get home using what I had and without getting help. If didn’t make it home in three days, she would come for me. Sometimes in sparring she would beat me to a pulp just to increase my pain tolerance. I know how to make a bomb out of household cleaners and house items. Need I think on this more, she trained me to be a spy! So I started snooping on her.

First, I cracked the code to her safe in her closet and found her journal. I know it is a major invasion of privacy but reading someone’s inner thoughts is the fastest way to discover what is going on with a person. I learned fast mom was still in the spy game. I just didn’t what she was doing. I know if I read about this Baby Hercules Project, I wouldn’t have removed that blindfold and I would be childless now.

“You want me to be his mom because if he loves me like a mother, that’s the best way to ensure he won’t become a monster… Right?” I check if I figured out her angle.

“Um, I guess… He’s designed to only form a personal connection with a parent figure. I’m not sure he’ll have the emotional intelligence to care about siblings… But I’ve been thinking. We should kill the baby.”

“What? Why?”

“You’re not ready to be a mom and if my plan goes south, it will be easier to survive on your own. Plus, if anyone ever figures out the truth. They’ll kill you just to get him. Then whoever has him, will make more of him.”

“Cloning people doesn’t work.” I point out.

“No, but anyone with the right background could make an army like him with his DNA. And they wouldn’t hesitate to train him and use him in the field. It’s better to kill him and burn his body.” Mom argues.

Before we make any rash decisions, I have to know, “What is the plan, with me as his mom?” I ask.

Prologue

Sierra Vista, Arizona, Former USA 2012

The setting sun stroked the streaky clouds with the hue of coral pink. The pale blue sky prepared for the coming starry night. Out in the Sonoran desert, by a bunker entrance of a southwest intelligence base, stood CIA agents Xavier D. Wace and Mara Taylor-Wace watching the sun pass away unto the other side of the world. All Zave wanted to do was to take Mara’s hand and hold it in the peace the coming dusk. The words, “I love you, Mara”, tickled the back of his throat, begging to be voiced. As if this very moment, was a flashback from the evening they officially became a team. It was that evening Zave knew one thing for certain, that he could trust Mara Taylor with his life. Now five years later, his future depended on Mara trusting him with her life.

Zave could only imagine what it was like to be Mara. Mara knew, however. Angry that a man madly in love with her was stolen from her soul. She looked at him, and felt guilt and shame. She felt guilty for lacking the capacity to love him back and she felt shame for being unworthy of his love. Aside from her last boyfriend that she co-dependently cohabitated with, Max, who apparently has been a dead rogue agent for the past five years, she didn’t do the love thing. She wasn’t even sure if she loved Max. Max was another warm body to lie down with to lessen the sting of loneliness. And he was a great spy… together they were great spies…

But Zave claimed, he and she were elite spies saving the world side by side. And in terms of the love thing, they set the bar for true love. If endless love were a real thing, they came close to it. And knowledge of such a great romance infuriated Mara! She could never be a good spy in a massive vulnerable state like being-in-love. Yet, somewhere deep at her core, she wanted to know what that felt like and to understand the impact that would have on her life. Therefore, she found a nearby, big rock and took a seat. She looked up at Zave and asked him to tell her a story: the story of them.

Practically bowing at her feet, he sat at the base of the rock and he told her. He saw for the first time at Langley, when she was given an award for outstanding work in the field.  At that celebration, he heard about all her missions and knew she was way out of his league since he was just an analyst. But the day they became a team, was where they currently were and after they got their orders they stood at this very spot and watched the sunset and that’s when everything changed.

He talked about all their missions. The first time they kissed for real and not for show, when they thought they were about to die in a vault running out of air. When they were on the run, and they realized they couldn’t be without each other. The time he made his first kill and lost Mara over it, and the time he won Mara back by saving her life… How he proposed the day Paxton’s third child was born. How he saved her life again a few weeks before their wedding day. And how he felt the moment he lost her.

Embracing their current reality, Zave looked up at her and cleared his throat, “Quorra made a cute suggestion… you know… she’s at that age where she watches movies about princesses all the time. The prince fixes everything with one kiss. She thought, maybe if we kissed, it would fix us… you might remember us.” He explained as he got up to face her on bended knee.

Those teary brown eyes of Zave intrigued her. It was a stupid idea and most likely wouldn’t work at all, but it was the least she could do for the man that saved her life twice. Swooping down by leaning forward gently, she went to kiss him. He met her lips halfway by cupping her face in his slender, lanky hands. The kiss was infused with passion lacking for nothing and it did stir something in Mara she couldn’t explain, but as far as the faintest memory of Xavier Douglas Wace… the kiss did nothing.

Reluctantly, Zave freed her from his lip lock. Holding his hands up, ready to embrace her in another kiss, he desperately asked, “So, anything?”

Remorsefully, she answered honestly, “I’m sorry… no…” Mara’s truthfulness surprised her. She’s never been so forthtelling nor has she ever wanted to be so frank with a person. Maybe she was in love with him. Unfortunately, only her subconscious knew it. Maybe she needed more of his affection to evoke that love for him. “Maybe if we kiss again…” she said leaning down for another kiss.

He was entranced to succumb to her will, but just as the surface of their lips skimmed each other’s, he pulled himself back and hurriedly stood up. Defensively, he held his hands out as if he could push her away with some invisible force. Wincing with discomfort, Zave knew it wasn’t right, whatever it was they were doing.

“It’s not supposed to be like this, Mara! I know the kiss thing was stupid… It was a little girl’s idea after all, but we’re in love, Mara… People in love are different than this…You deserve better than this.”

Baffled by his reaction, turning down another chance to kiss the woman he madly loved, Mara rose to her feet. Rising, the faint wind caught her hair and rustled her auburn strands across her face like a model picture-perfect-ready for a glam-bam-moment-money-shot. She reached for his hands, but he tucked them safely away into his pockets.

“So what are you saying, Zave… you want me to leave?” She asked, highly confused.

Reacting rapidly, his hands sprang from his pockets and up in the air as a gesture to aid his words, “No-no-no-no, GOD, no! That is the last thing I want. And I’m sorry Mara, but I can’t let you go back to being the lone spy. We’re a team. We’ll always be a team. It’s crazy to think that everything we had could come flooding back in single moment, when it took years to build it.” Coyly, he took her hand and rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb smiling like a dopey Snow White dwarf, and he finished saying, “We should take things slow like a Sunday-Evening-Drive and along the way take many trips down memory lane.”

Rule number one of dating, never compare, but since her last recollection of intimacy in a relationship was with Max, she automatically thought about what Max would do. By now, they’d either be in his car having sex, or in a hotel room… having sex… But Zave… he probably doesn’t use the word sex in the same context… Or does he? Why did she have to compare, when she could be wooed by his romantic gesture of chivalry? Perhaps, she fell for him because he’s not like other guys.

“Where do we begin then?” Mara asked, wondering where they’d go next.

“Motel 6,” Zave smirked, “We spent the night there before heading to San Diego. There was only one room available, with one bed, room 114…”

Fate was on their side. The room was vacant and they took it for the night. Cautiously, stepping into the room, Mara hoped a memory would sprout from the deep trenches of her mind, but her recall remained blank. As Zave scoped out the room, he recreated every detail of their night there five years ago as best he could with what the room had.  Disappointed, she fixed her gaze on the newly installed, standard hotel red carpet. The carpet was obviously new because it didn’t even look worn, and what were the odds Motel 6 had champion carpet cleaners?

Zave just closed the egg-shell white drapes, when turned to Mara to say something, but he noticed her long, drawn out observation of the carpet. Hope burned eagerness in his heart thinking if she could remember what changed about the room, more time together could trigger memories of their life together, and eventually he would have his Mara back: his entire life back. Restraining himself from running over to her, he froze where he was, as if he moved more than his lips he could compromise her potential memory from surfacing.

“What is it, Mara?” He asked.

“The carpet…” Mara started to say it was brand new, but Zave assumed her impending statement would offer more.

He interjected with the truth, “It’s different, isn’t? A different color… what color did the floor used to be?”

Zave bit his bottom lip, wincing with a hint of shame. He knew he shouldn’t forcefully elicit memories from her mind, but he couldn’t help it. If she couldn’t remember the faintest thing about him, he would lose her forever, and life without her wasn’t fathomable.

Mara didn’t have to be a spy to read his face. His face encompassed an expression of total dependency. He depended on her having a recollection about the carpet. She could fake it, but if she was wrong, it could make the evening awkward. Truth would be best.

She was about to confess she only made an observation, but then she noticed the drapes. White would go much better with a deep blue color. It was a Motel 6. Their colors were quite patriotic. And years ago, two years back according to memory, in reality seven years back, she stayed at a Motel 6 in northern Arizona. The architecture of both franchise motels resembled a similar style. Chances were the decorum was the same too.

Mara made a lucky guess, “Blue… it used to be a dark blue…”

Relief reverberated through Zave’s soul, she remembered SOMETHING! He couldn’t contain his joy. He leaped forward and engulfed her in his embracive arms. A cuddling warmth emitted from him and into Mara. Mara’s heart enjoyed such abounding affection, but her mind repulsed the very nature of that adoration resulting in the safety of stiffness, which signaled Zave to let her go and step back.

“Sorry…”

“It’s okay. I’m fine.” Mara beamed a quick, forced smile trying to show she was fine when she really wasn’t.

Her headache was more like a migraine now. And on the car ride over, her nausea came back. All she wanted to do was lie down and sleep until the pain, the queasiness, and the tiredness went away. The medical examiner at Fort Hauchuca said she didn’t have a concussion. She didn’t even need stitches for her forehead, just a big band aid. Normally, even on her worst days, Mara could battle her nausea and prevent puke from pouring out of her mouth, but today wasn’t one of those days. She nudged Zave out of her way, and rushed to the bathroom. Mara managed to pay alms to the poor john with perfect timing.

Highly concerned, Zave knelt behind her and held her hair.

“Maybe we should go back to base to get you checked out again.” Zave suggested.

“I’m fine.” She said standing up. After rinsing her mouth with water, she added, “I think I’m just coming down with something.”

Zave stroked some loose strands of hair behind her ear faintly chuckling, “Unless poisoned with super-spy truth serum or targeted with bio-warfare by my arch-nemesis, you never get sick.”

Humored and annoyed at the same time, Mara rolled her eyes as she giggled with subtle disbelief.

“You don’t believe me?” Zave huffed. “I’ll have you know, since I’ve known you, aside from the few cases I’ve mentioned, you’ve never been sick. The common cold couldn’t catch you.”

Laughter sprang from the core of her soul without an open invitation, but the way he talked about her health made her genuinely laugh. She can’t remember the last time she laughed this hard… with him it was probably a few weeks ago. Maybe he made her laugh the day she was taken from him. Did she trade in the life of espionage for a life of normalcy? A normal life being something she never really had.

Though the stew from the diner didn’t agree with her, she could eat a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon and no onion. What was the nearest fast food chain with decent pig-angus-curdled milk-sandwich-galore? When Mara inquired about getting more food, Zave looked at her like she was insane.

“Seriously?” He asked making sure.

“Seriously.” She said as deadpan as possible to stress how important it was she got more food.

“Okay… You sit tight and I’ll go grab us a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon and no onions to split.”

 “No,” Mara snapped.

Confused, he wondered if he was mistaken about her favorite fast food item, “Did you lose your taste buds too? Since when have you ever refused to split such a delicious beast with me?”

 “My taste buds are the same. I want my own.”

 Zave raised an eyebrow finding her appetite peculiar. He knew if he thought about it, he could figure out what it was, but right now he had to keep his bride happy. “Whatever the lady wants, she shall get… two heart-disease monsters coming up when I return.” Zave promised making his way out the door.

A calmness came over Mara while Zave was out. For protection reasons she was alert, but her tough exterior guise was down, because she felt a slight sense of security. She no longer had to worry about Xavier, deep down in her gut she knew she could trust him.

It wasn’t until she was braless and pant-less lying on the stiff, firm bed an uneasiness began to stir in her. What was she going to do as a civilian now? Xavier had the Plum Tree of course, but what did Mara have? Would she become a Kung Fu instructor to suburban spoiled brats or a cook at any number four star restaurants? Or would she work at a shooting range? Sure, she had a wide skill set and any number of jobs could be hers, but what would become of her? Would she be stuck in a mundane job for the rest of her boring normal life?  Could she live a normal life knowing she could do nothing to protect the Free World? Sorry Mr. Wace, but Mrs. Wace couldn’t do this… She couldn’t be the wife he needed.

Hurriedly, she got dressed. Before leaving the room, she checked how many rounds she had in her 9 mm. Cautiously, she tucked the gun in the back of her pants. Taking one glance around the room, she took in one final glance at a normal life. As a child a normal life was all she wanted. She imagined she wanted that with Zave too. But now, it was the last thing she desired.

A stone wall in stature and a tank in attitude stood outside the room door, blocking Mara’s quick getaway. That stone wall tank was none other than Colonel Ben Tucker. Standing sternly, with his hands cupped on his belt poking his elbows out at the side, and glaring at Mara suspiciously, he asked, “Where you going, Taylor?”

Mara noticed a bucket for ice in her peripheral vision, on the table near the door. Snatching the bucket, she put on a forgetful act, “I almost forgot this,” she held up the ice bucket. “It would be hard to get ice without it.”

“Mmmhmm… And I just stopped by to say hi,” he said condescendingly as he stepped into the room, forcing Mara back inside.

Tossing the bucket back on the table, Mara asked, “What are you doing here, Tucker?”

Working the room, staying on guard, Ben explained, “I figured Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy would be eager to spark your old memories. This would definitely be the first stop down memory lane, except he forgot one major detail. I was stuck in this room too. I took the floor, and man, I gotta say I’ve slept better in guerilla infested jungles than on this floor.” He grunted disdainfully under his breath with his grizzly gaze upon the floor.

Ben positioned himself in front of the door again, looking at Mara with one hand behind his back, she knew he was ready to pull his gun if necessary, she too had a hand behind her back ready to pull her weapon.

Ben went on to say, “I’ve been your partner for five years. I know the old you and I know the new you. Old Mara Taylor, would do what your about to do. She’d take off and we’d never see her again. New Mara Taylor, Mrs. Xavier Wace, would stay and give Zave a chance. I decided to embark on the memory journey, just in case Old Mara Taylor got cold feet and wanted to flee.”

“I’m not cut out for this…” Mara reasoned.

“Without Xavier, I’d agree with you. But he changed you… he changed me even… Take it on good authority: think with your heart not your head.”

Mara knew she couldn’t get past Ben without a hassle. Another opportunity would present itself later for her to leave. “You’re not actually going to sleep in here on the floor again, are you?” Mara asked, defusing her defensive stance and resting both hands at her side.

Ben followed suit and reattached his hands to cuffing his belt around the buckle. He answered, “No. But don’t get any ideas in the middle of the night about leaving. Any move made outside of this room, I’ll know about it.”

Taking a seat at the edge of the bed, Mara asked why Ben cared about Xavier so much. Ben took a seat at the table. He took his wallet out of his side pocket. With the wallet open to sheaths of pictures, he handed it over to Mara to look at.

The pictures captured the portrait of a genuine, average, American family. There was a picture of a typical couple in love. The man was a scrawny, goofy but cute looking, bearded man embracing a stunning, vibrant woman with Tucker’s soothing, cool sage green eyes. Written on the back was: Paxton and Cory, 2005- 3rd anniversary. Another picture, with the same woman, she held new born twins and on the back of that picture was written: Mommy Cory with babies Sky Leia and Walker Luke, 2007.

In the picture after that, Mara held a fairly new baby girl and Xavier stood behind her looking down at the precious little girl. Mara held the child with her left arm and a huge diamond engagement ring sparked from the flash of picture captioning. Written on the back of that picture was: Baby Quorra Tronna with Auntie Mara and Uncle Zave- best engagement gift ever: their new goddaughter, 2010. The final picture had to be a recent one. Paxton, Cory, Mara, Xaiver, two little kids, a toddler, a woman, another man that looked incredible, a young teenager, and Tucker stood in a courtyard of some complex. On the back of that picture was written: the whole gang, 2012.

Mara flipped back to the face of the last picture. She stared at it knowing everyone and that place was familiar to her, but like a word on the tip of her tongue, she was at a loss as to who everyone was in relation to her and what that place was to her.

Ben talked about when that picture was taken and who those people were. “Mr. Incredible there-,” Mara stated his name in unison with Ben, “Houston Wace,” which surprised Ben.

“You remember your brother-in-law?”

“I worked with him on a few cases before he retired. Zave and Hew are brothers? They’re so different. I knew the director had two sons I just never knew Xavier was the other.” Mara was shocked too. Would she really marry to advance her career within the agency?

Ben grumbled a hum… not really sure what to say Mara. Therefore he played it safe, and went back to talking about the photo. “So Mr. Incredible, and his wife, Bea, threw a party for your first anniversary. Paxton’s buddy Logan from the Plum Tree took that picture. It was a good party. The only one who hated it was Egan, he was on babysitting duty.” He was in the middle of telling a story about the mischief the twins Leia and Luke got into, when Mara interrupted him.

“I get that Cory’s your daughter, but why do I get the feeling Paxton is more than a son-in-law to you?”

“He’s nothing more than an idiot son-in-law to me, but to Zave, his buddy Paxton is more a brother to him than Hew.”

Shocked slightly, Mara questioned, “You have a daughter? That bombshell Interpol agent isn’t her mother, is she? What was her name? Amiee Brasseur, right?”

“It’s a long story, wait, you didn’t find out about Amiee until four years ago?”

Huh… that’s the key to unlocking her memories… No pressure.

“Okay, so I remember something within the last five years… I remembered a few things while we were taking down Nee. Is Amiee Cory’s mother?” Mara couldn’t picture Ben with any other woman. Amiee and Ben were perfect together.

“Ah… no… Look, family is worth suffering the slings and arrows of civilian life. Xavier taught me that.” Ben tried to assure Mara.

Staring at those captured moments made Mara think about the woman those people expected her to be. She was a sister-in-law, a godmother, an aunt, a wife, and a friend. By no fault of her own, she failed each and every person because currently she was just a spy. Worried she’d drown in her thoughts, she slammed the wallet shut and handed it back to Ben.

“Tell me about civilian life then…” Mara sighed. A part of her wondered, if a man like Colonel Ben Tucker could manage normal life. Then perhaps she could do it.

Listening to Ben talk about his daughter Cory, and how his eyes filled with joy at the mention of her name, Mara knew he wasn’t the same NSA agent she remembered. She wasn’t sure what to think of him. Was it sweet he was a caring father and grandfather? Or was it just awkward and almost terrifying to comprehend? Ben Tucker had gone soft. It made Mara’s queasy stomach return.

Ben was in the middle of sharing how he found out Cory was his daughter, when Zave walked in with greasy, fattening food delight! Ben closed his lip and rose to his feet quickly. He greeted Zave like a fellow soldier without the saluting part. Serving up the food at the table, Zave asked Ben if he wanted to stay while Mara moved over to the table to get her food. Ben kindly rejected Zave’s offer, but that didn’t stop Zave from trying to convince him.

“Are you sure, Tuck? I can’t eat a heart-disease-waiting-to-happen by myself.”

With the door open, and ready to back out of it within the moment, he said quickly, “As much as I would love to die of a heart attack, I should call Cory and let her know we’re all alright. You two have fun. And try not to keep me up with all your baby-making noises.”

Immediately, after the door shut, Zave asked Mara, “How much did he tell you about our life?”

“Not much… what did he mean by baby-making noises?” Mara asked unfolding her foiled-up broiled burger. She salivated by the aroma alone. Her imagination went wild with high expectations of delicious satisfaction as the sweet memory of the combo taste of angus beef, smoked bacon, and cheesy cheddar awakened the taste buds on her tongue.

“It’s nothing… Obviously, something we’ll revisit in the future, if ever!”

“Anything referring to baby-making is not nothing? Were we trying to get pregnant?” Mara asked with a mouthful of burger.

Blushing ferociously, red throughout his face all the way up to his ears, he took a bite into his burger without saying anything. Mara swallowed her bite ready for more, but taking the time to tease was more appetizing than a bite of food.

“O my gosh… You want little carbon copies of us running around… Taking off their diapers and prancing around naked!” Playfully, Mara fist-bumped his shoulder, “Don’t you?” she egged.

Frustrated, Zave dropped his burger onto its wrapper and clearly stated sternly, “No I don’t… You do or did or do… You know what I mean. I agreed because I would do anything to make you happy.”

Now that was interesting. Zave turned Ben into a family. Zave was head over heels in love with Mara. Zave had an interconnected familial intimacy between his friends and actual family and he didn’t want to have kids and build a family of his own. Xavier Wace was not the open book Mara pegged him to be after all and Mara wanted to understand the reason why.

“How come you don’t want a baby?” Mara asked plainly.

“Because of Theus. A few years ago, he took over my consciousness and I almost didn’t regain control. You made me promise to leave Theus as inactive as possible. I’m just afraid I can’t keep that promise. I know you could survive without me, but it would be unfair to ask our child to do that.”

Theus, if Mara understood the gist of it, Theus was a semi-self-aware-artificial-intelligence that was integrated with cutting edge biotechnology based on Neuro-Science breakthrough discoveries. The goal was to create the Ultimate Spy with only enough humanity to make safe judgment calls. What the human host lacked in skill, Theus made up for it in more than one way. What Theus lacked in judgment, the human host took care of it. It was the intention that Theus and the human host were meant to merge in some way, becoming some new way to be proficiently human, but Theus was never supposed to override the human host’s soul.

But if weren’t for Theus, Xavier wouldn’t be married to Mara. Yes, Xavier and Mara both work for the CIA at Langley. But they worked in separate departments. While Xavier analyzed intelligence with a task force that cooperated with Interpol frequently, Mara handled clandestine affairs primarily in Europe.  Ben Tucker and Mara had a history of running into each other, since Ben worked in a similar department for the NSA. And though the NSA was supposed to strictly handle affairs directly a threat to the USA, duty called divergent action at times. When Xavier active the Theus Sphere on accident, and merged with Theus Sphere in gauntlet form, he become a valuable asset to the CIA and NSA.

Xavier would see Mara around in the elevators or in the cafeteria, but he never had the courage to even say hello. All he could muster was a goofy smile. She always initiated a simple, “Hello, how are you doing?”, and he would stutter in his response of simply being O-K.

Approximately five years ago to the day, Francis Wace, the Director of the CIA called Xavier into his office. Xavier was not made for field work but he was a brilliant analyst. Francis had his son working on some Top-Secret intel that mostly everyone who knew about it was dead. Xavier had to decrypt a highly encrypted file on a flash-drive, Francis wanted to know how much longer it would be until he cracked the code.

Xavier was about to tell his father, Francis, he had just finished it that night, and if the Theus Sphere from the Prometheus II Project really existed, the entire spy game could change, in the wrong hands, the entire world could change and not necessarily for the better. But Francis made the mistake bringing up Houston, the golden child… the perfect spy that gave up the spy game six years prior to that day. Francis wasn’t sure what agent he could trust to recover the intelligence on the flash-drive. Xavier offered himself, but Francis chortled at the thought. Xavier was cleared for field work, in his report it’s noted he’s not likely to survive in one piece. Thinking back on his training, he probably only passed because he was the Director’s son. Driven by the urge to prove his father wrong, he chose to lie saying he needed more time with the decryption, and he left his father’s office determined to recover the Theus Sphere and bring it directly to his father.

“New or old me, I know myself pretty well… If I thought, we were ready for a kid… then we were.” Mara said.

Yawning, Zave asked, “Are you tired? I sure am… we got a long drive back to Virginia starting tomorrow.” He gets up gather his trash into the fast food bag.

That night Mara slept in the bed and Zave slept on the floor. Early in the morning, Mara relied on good ole Ben not changing his tactical ways. She discovered his booby traps and escaped from room 114 before Zave or Ben woke up. As much as small part of her wanted to stay and find out who she could become, for the time being she was who she was and that person was a spy… not a civilian wife…


True Dallas, the Republic of America, 17 years later

“At that time I was who I was and that woman was a spy… not a civilian wife…” I read out of mom’s old secret journal. If I get caught looking at this she will have my head.

She never tells me anything about dad. I ask and she says he was a great spy for the former USA. She talks about great the old America was. It wasn’t perfect but at least it was a genuine, united republic democracy.

In the RA, here in the west, we have an oligarchy that operates as a legit republic. Only the people with money and power have a say in the affairs of the country.

The Democratic Coalition of America, in the east, claims to be a true democracy, but they all blindly follow the nonsensical, so-called wisdom of Philosopher Jessey… They don’t have liberty. They have a dictatorship, but he isn’t savage… maybe he’s more like a despot?

Mom was pregnant with me when she left dad and Ben behind at the Motel 6. She didn’t find out until a few weeks later. While she was pregnant with me, her memories started coming back. By the time I was one, she remembered who she was, and she contemplated going back to my dad, but then the Second Civil War broke out.

My mother fled with me to Europe. Madrid, Spain to be exact. She planned on raising me there, but then Civil War II ended and she decided to come back to North America. One would think it was to tell my father about me and reunite with him and we would become one big giant family… but no…

We leave in the RA as Spanish Immigrants. She works in PR for a fashion company. I go to fanciest Private School in the area: Bush Washington Academy.

Not wanting to tempt fate. I put her little black journal where I found it, locked in the safe in her bedroom walk-in closet. I hurry across the upstairs hallway to my room. It’s almost 6 pm. She’s been away all week on a business trip and she said she would be home today at 6 pm. My mom is never late.

As my plain white desk I stare at the screen to my tablet. I’m supposed to be researching on why Civil War II occurred for my history paper, but I find myself wondering if I look like my dad. If he met me and got to know me, who he be proud of me?

Right at six, I hear the garage door open. I rush to my window and watch mom’s black SUV zoom down the street, turn sharply onto the driveway, and brake abruptly taking shelter. Speeding home from a business trip is unusual. What gives?

As I head down the long, steep carpet staircase. I hear mom come into the kitchen from the laundry room, which leads to the garage. Mom enters her black hair in a messy bun and she’s dressed in pink hospital scrubs like a nurse. Something tells me mom is still a spy…

I mean, I’ve been thinking it for some time. She has a safe in closet with several different passports and alias, various types currency, a couple of guns and a knife. Plus, sometimes in the middle of the night, she’s not in her bed. Occasionally, I hear her take phone calls in German, other times Russian, and Cantonese… Never in Spanish or in French and she works for a Fashion Company… And as I read today, she’s a spy through and trough not some suburban single mom… well, she is that too, but do spies ever quit the game? I think not!

“Mom, what’s going on?” I ask.

“Remember how I had you pack a bag in case of an emergency?” Mom inquires rushing up the stairs meeting me in the middle.

“Yeah.”

“Go grab it. We need to go.” She orders grabbing me by the shoulders and forcing me back up the stairs.

“What’s going on?” I ask again. I know she won’t tell me but I can’t help put try.

“We don’t have time for discussion. Go!” She snaps.

As I race to me room, trying not to freak out externally as mush as I’m losing it internally, mom barks, “And change your clothes. Keep it simple like jeans and a t-shirt. However you’d dress to travel for a long time.”

“I take it you don’t really work PR for Noir Creations.” I state pausing in my doorway.

“Just do as I say, now is not the time to talk!” Mom hounds slamming her door shut.

In my lame travel outfit, blue jeans, a black tee, white cardigan, and black boots and my emergency backpack slung on my shoulders. I knock on mom’s door.

“I’m ready. Now what?” I yell.

Not opening the door and yelling back she directs, “Go to the garage. Get in the front passenger seat and wait for me. We’ll be leaving shortly.” Right as I step away, mom poke her head out of the door, “And leave the duffle bag in the backseat alone. Don’t open it.”

Telling a curious person to not touch or look at something is idiotic! It’s almost like she doesn’t know her daughter?

Standing outside of the vehicle in the stuffy, humid garage I stare at the bag through the tinted window. It just looks like a regular duffle bag. There’s probably just wads of cash inside… Oh that would be SO COOL to SEE!

No, I should listen to mom. Maybe the bag is laced with a bio chemical that would splatter all over me opening and I would contract a deadly, contagious virus and put the entire RA at risk for a pandemic.

Slowly, I take off my heaving backpack and open the backseat door. I toss it inside on top of the duffle bag. Suddenly, mom’s mysterious bag moves like a cat is inside of it. Weird for the cat not to snarl and meow though. The bag isn’t big enough to fit a dead body inside, well, not of a normal size person… maybe a little person.

Would if she killed an arch enemy spy that is a dwarf or something?

I’m sorry mom but I have to look!

Holy Mother Mary, Joseph, and Jesus… It’s a baby… a blue, blindfolded baby swaddled in a blue blanket. Mom killed a baby… why?

Carefully, I untie the  blindfold from the infant’s eyes. His perfect head of black hair silky soft. I jump when I notice his stomach moving and feel hot breath come out of his agape lips. Without notice, his eyes pop open but instead of screaming, his ice blue eyes lock me into a hypnotic gaze. As we stare at each other his color gently comes back to new born baby pink.

Mom comes barging through the door from the house with a few bags, but she drops them she spots me disregarding her orders.

“You opened the bag?!” She screams as she lunges around the front of SUV toward me.

She shoves herself in between me and the open door and looks at the baby, “You had to remove the blindfold…” She grabs my cardigan by the back of my neckline and pulls me back as she slams to door shut. Instantly, the baby begins wailing.

“Why were you suffocating a baby in a duffle bag? What kind of spy kills babies?”

“A spy serving her country preventing pure evil from existing in the world!” Mom screams massively pissed off. “You have no idea what you just did?!”

“Ah, I saved a baby’s life!” I shout back.

“We don’t have time for this we need to go. Get in.” Mom says reopening the backseat.

“I can’t ride upfront anymore?”

“Just get in a quiet the baby.”

“I don’t know how to do that.”

“He’ll be quiet when he sees you, get in.”

She’s right. The moment I sit in the baby’s sight… no more crying. My mom is right, I have no idea what I just did and I feel like when I find out I’m going to freak out externally.




Note from the Author

Have you ever watched that show CHUCK on NBC, starring Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski? Well, if you haven’t, stream it on Amazon Prime Video! (If it is still available there.) CHUCK is one of my favorite shows ever and if not for this show I wouldn’t have been inspired to write ELLE. Zave is my version of Chuck and Mara my version of Sarah, along with a few other characters.

Now, I could never re-create the magic of such a show, but when something ends I always like to think about what happened afterwards. ELLE is my sequel to CHUCK changing a lot of factors, combining my own concepts from my love of made up espionage.

So this Story Sunday is a little influenced by some Fan Fiction, but I also throw my own trademark flare… like there’s a baby in it already! This seriously will be a blast and I look forward to this ride with you!

For my fellow CHUCK fans, what were your favorite moments from the show? Comment with a GIF or words on this post!

“Baby Buddies”

I’m an idiot. Roger, my case manager at school, advised me to take only one college course this spring. When have I ever listened to such sage advice? I signed up for three: Botany, Psychology, and Photography 1. The Psych and the Photography class were like made for me, but the Botany class happened to be other worldly… like info from another world with a language barrier I can’t crack!

Biology… why didn’t I take Biology? Well, for my third quarter in high school I’m taking it. Now, maybe taking high school and college Biology together would have enriching but at the time it seemed like getting put on a skewer and roasted over an open fire to me… In other words, just no. That wasn’t happening for me. I’m three weeks in, just past the point of the ability to drop the class without affecting my GPA and I’m in a sinking ship I need to make sure it gets to shore with a passing high C. If I flunk, I get my privileges to take college course for free revoked.

My two and half hour, twice a week class just ended and I’m frozen in my seat… looking over the notes I took during the lecture don’t have any fluidity page to page. I AM ON A SKEWER ROASTING OVER THE FLAMES OF HELL!

“Baby Brain got you bewildered too?” Kim asks standing next to me as I remain seated. She’s 28 weeks pregnant like me. We keep joking that our babies will be born on the same day. She’s half White and half Korean and her husband, Miguel, is half Mexican-American and half Japanese. She’s 36 and this is her fourth child. She’s been a stay at home mom, but not she’s going back to school to follow her passion and to become a teacher… She took Botany over Biology because she’s squeamish. I love the fact she pretends to be lost with me, but she totally understands this stuff more than me, and that’s why I sit next to her in class.

Pulling out her phone, Kim displays the latest 3D sonogram of her little one and hands me her phone so I can gawk over her growing miracle.

“Awe…” I say… Not really sure what to say.

“We finally decide on a name for her, it just came to us.”

“What is it?” I say handing the phone back to her. I close my notebook and pack up my things.

“Sonya Lucia Mary Soo Yun Tanaka… hopefully they count Soo Yun as one name or else we’ll be charged for a sixth name.”

Waddling out of class with Kim, I have to know, “Why so many names?”

“Well, my father is of Russian descendant and none of the other kids have a name to honor that… Then I’m really proud of my mother’s heritage. Of course, Miguel would die if we didn’t have a name that paid tribute to his family and Catholicism.”

That didn’t exactly explain why, but what more can I ask…

Right as we hit the parking lot, the gloomy rain clouds fulfill their purpose and release a steady rainfall. Kim whips open her hot pink umbrella with white pokadots and shares with me since all I got is Derek’s hoodie of his favorite baseball team.

“You’re not stuck taking the bus tonight are you?”  Kim wonders with genuine concern in her voice.

“Yep, I’m bussing it.” I sigh.

“The last think you want to catch is the flu or a bug. I got the flu with Junior and it’s the worse illness you’ll ever experience. You want a lift home. You live on the east side right?”

“Um, I’ll take my chances… thanks though…” I sneak out of the covering of her umbrella. The cold, thick rain quickly drenching the hoodie

Locking elbows with me and reeling me back under the shelter of her umbrella, she makes it clear, “Oh nonsense. I live on the east too. I’ll take you home. Do you live on your own or with your boyfriend?”

“With my mom…”

“Your boyfriend isn’t in the picture anymore?”

We stop in front of a white SUV. “He’s in military…”

“I never pictured you to be the military man type?” Kim as she unlocks her vehicle. She walks me to the passenger door and makes sure I get inside.

Once she takes the driver seat, she tosses the umbrella in the back, that clearly looks like it belongs to young children. Two car seats sat in the back, food crumbs, a musty, moldy aroma, and toys of all kinds from actions figures and hot wheels to baby dolls and teddy bears.

Now would be good to clarify and spill the truth about me… but people assume a lot, and when I talk about my life, I just want to disappear…

“That’s sweet you’re staying with your mom while your man is away, will he be back in time of the birth?”

“Hopefully…” I say surprising myself. Do I have a clinical lying problem? Am I a pathological liar?

“You know what we should do together?”

“A mommy and me class when the babies are old enough, we could be Baby Buddies?” Kim says excitedly turning on the ignition.

“Can you explain something to me? If the war is over, why do we still send soldiers over there? And is your man a marine, an army man, an airman?”

“Um… I’m in high school. I get to take college courses for free. My boyfriend got shipped off to military school before I found out I was pregnant, and after I told him about the baby on FaceTime, we haven’t spoken since… I’m 16… I turned 16 two weeks ago.” The truth feels good to say.

We sit in a loud silence for a moment. The rain comes down harder. Finally, Kim speaks, “You’re so mature for your age! You could have fooled me the whole semester and I wouldn’t have known… If you want to fake being older the rest of the semester, I will totally go along with it.”

As she backs up erratically, she babbles on and on about how great Mommy-and-Me-Classes can be. We zip through the parking lot and through the rain way too fast for two pregnant women inside an SUV.

“Remembering Jewel is Mom”

Jewel made Saturday mandatory family day. We all get up by 9, we leave by 10, and go out to eat for breakfast. Then we go see a movie. After the movie we go to the park, if it is too cold, we go to the library. We go out for lunner (lunch/dinner). Then we spend the night playing board games as we over indulge with ice cream sundaes.

I barely remember this side of Jewel. She was a lot like this when I was super little, when she was married to my dad.

Even though she’s dying, and she can smoke as much as she wants to, she doesn’t have a single cigarette in the apartment. She drinks sometimes, and she’s not supposed to, but instead of being an angry drunk, she’s a crying drunk.

I sit at the kitchen table, organizing the movie tickets and printed pictures for the past three weeks. Scrapbooking is the art of memorializing life moments in a photo album, an art form Jewel will teach me tonight. We have color paper with quirky patterns, scissors, glue sticks, sticker letters, and a blank scrapbook album my mom’s had for eons.

Mom takes her seat beside me, at the head of the table, and looks through the paper… “I’m thinking pink?”

“Eww… just because were girls doesn’t mean we need to make it girly… how about red?”

“The male version of pink… okay…”

I laugh. I never looked at red that way.

“So… uh… what do you want to do for your baby shower?”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Well, do you want people to know the gender or not?”

I get what she’s doing… she wants me to tell her the baby’s gender…

“I think I’d rather get gift cards to buy baby clothes… so the guests don’t need to know, but who am I going to invite who can afford to bring anything? Do I have to have a baby shower?”

I watch mom cut and glue pink paper that looks like strokes of paint into the first page of the album. She takes the movie tickets and our pics outside the movie theater and arranges them in a manner pleasing to the eye.

“I never really asked you, I just assumed, but… do you fluffing want to raise the baby? Have you thought about adoption?”

She’s the third person to mention adoption to me. Last week, at work, I went to a grand opening to La Vie downtown to take pictures for Troy’s food critique, and he suggested Derek and I look into adoption. Then Kaylie brought it up yesterday saying that she felt led to bring that up to me. Now, my mom.

“Sniff, there was this sweet couple from church that wanted to adopt you… sometimes I think I should have let them…”

I hate it when she brings that up. It makes me loathe myself more. It makes me feel like she hates me and thinks I ruined her life.

“O fluff, are you crying, what for?” Jewel asks as she gets up. Coughing, she rips a piece of paper towel from the roll, hanging above the sink and comes back over to me. She hands the paper towel to me use as a tissue.

“I feel like you don’t love me when you bring that up…”

“If I didn’t fluffing love you, I would have aborted you.” She erupts into a long coughing fit as she covers her mouth with her fist.

Like on code blue alert, I shoot up from my seat, and worry, “Do you need your inhaler? Where is it?” I go to the bathroom to check the medicine cabinet. It’s not in there. I scan the bathroom counter and don’t see anything. I barge into her room and look on the dresser, the night stands, and then I remember she probably brought it with us… It must be in her purse. I think her purse is in the living room.

Before I can get to her purse, and I’m back in the kitchen, her coughing stops.

“I fluffing fine… You panic too easily.”

“How can I not panic? You’re dying… you’ve chosen to die and that can happen at any moment… how cannot freak out about that?”

“Oh Savannah…” Mom says embracing me. She squeezes me tight and kisses me on the forehead. “I love you…” She says with a shakiness to her voice like she’s about to cry. “I know I’ve been the world fluffing worst mother… A real mother fluffer mommy dearest and you don’t need to forgive me for the sniff I’ve done, the blick I’ve been, but please, do me a favor… don’t panic… everything is gonna be okay, okay?”

There’s something about being held by your mother. Listening to her heart beat in her chest. The scent of her, her shampoo, her perfume, her clothes, her sweat… and the peace that hits you and makes you feel safe… If I could stay like this with her forever, it would erase all the terrible things she’s done, and it would stop any future of her not being there. To not panic, I have to remember Jewel is a mom, she is my mother.

“Alexis”

Alexis Fabry… she took back her maiden name when she divorced Derek’s dad. She’s a nurse at the hospital right down the street from my mom’s apartment. When Netty wanted to cart me around and look at hospitals to see which is the best one to have the baby, I was actually praying we wouldn’t go to Alexis’s hospital. Dr. Varejao can makes to four hospitals within the city, and its up to us which hospital we want.

We nearly make it out unseen, when Alexis enters the elevator before we can make it to the lobby.

“Savvy…” The tall, skinny aging blonde can’t say anything beyond my name.

“Hi Alexis…”

“Ms. Shay?” Netty double checks she’s Derek’s mother.

“Yes, you’re Netty, right?” Alexis questions shaking my sister’s hand.

“The one and only… how’s Derek?”

“He’s doing much better… Um…” Alexis gulps as she nervously pulls on her ear lobe. “How, are you Savvy? Other than pregnant, I didn’t know you were pregnant… does… did… you tell… Derek?”

“That’s a good question, Savvy, have you told the father of you baby about his child?”

The doors to the lobby open up and I choose to escape. I barge in between them and book it for the exit. I’m not ready to tell Netty the truth… I will but do I have to on this day?

They both catch up with me outside the sliding entrance doors. Those similar blue eyes to Derek, gaze at me with a fused look of confusion and concern. I’m sure she sent Derek away to prevent becoming a young grandma. Good news, she’s not going to be a grandma any time soon. Bad news, I can’t go over that.

“Since Christmas, Derek’s been begging to come back home and to stay with me. He said you needed him, you told him, didn’t you?” Alexis wonders.

I nod yes.

“I don’t get it… If you told him about the baby, why didn’t he say anything to you Alexis?”

Alexis shrugs her shoulders… She suddenly grabs my hand and caresses my backhand with her thumb.  “I’d love to have you and your family over for dinner tomorrow night, your sisters, your mom, and whoever else, and we can talk about what needs to happen from here… does that sound like a plan?”

Netty agrees to dinner without my consent. She never declines dinner. But if Alexis didn’t work all the time, she would be a perfect mom. She’s thoughtful and caring. She does all the house work even though she works over 50 hours a week. I used to wish all the time Alexis was my mom. I looked forward to her being my mother-in-law. Who knows what she is to me anymore? I don’t even know if Derek is still my boyfriend.

“Texting Derek”

Savvy: Derek… I still love you…

Derek: SAVVY! I love you. I thought you were done with me. I just want you to know, I’m still here. You and me, always.

Savvy: What about the baby?

Derek: You, me… and the little bambino too😊

Savvy: Really?!

Derek: Yes, who else have you told… everything to?

Savvy: Just you… and my mom… no one else…

Derek: Did your mom believe you?

Savvy: I think. IDK.

Derek: …

Savvy: Why?

Derek: I got a plan, but it won’t work if my parents learn the truth… How did dinner with my mom go?

Savvy: I’m alive… the baby is fine…

Derek: LMBO. My mom called me and reamed in to me for not telling her that you’re having my baby.

Savvy: But I’m not.

Derek: For my plan to work, you are…

Savvy: Is Jesus okay with you lying?

Derek: Probably not, but I don’t care. I’m never living without you.

Savvy: COME HOME!

Derek: I will be, Monday night? Will you come with my mom to pick me up from the airport?

Savvy: I’d love to but I have Botany at West Campus.

Derek: I’m getting in super late… like 9pm.

Savvy: I get out at 8:30.

Derek: Okay… Will Jewel be at work, maybe I can drop by?

Savvy: She works day shifts now, she’ll be home. Sorry.

Derek: When will I see you then?

Savvy: I guess whenever.

Derek: Can’t you skip one class? We haven’t seen each other in MONTHS!

Savvy: I’ll think about it.