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Why would Nikki, knowing who I was, knowing that we’d been practically sisters, suggest that I sell myself to a biker at King’s party in exchange for a warm bed and protection?

Unable to sleep and with way too many questions running through my mind, I’d come out to the front porch and had been sitting there staring at the framed picture of Nikki ever since.

King hadn’t been the only one lying to me all that time. “Why didn’t you tell me who you were? Who I was?” I asked her picture, running my fingers over the silver frame.

“Hey Ray, long time! What’s crack-a-lacking? How’s it going? How was your trip? How’s the tyrant doing these days?” I looked down to where a postman stood on the bottom step. It was light out, but I didn’t even remember the sun rising. He wore dark blue shorts with matching knee sox. His smile was one of those ginormous ones that said he was either one of those truly happy people, highly medicated, or completely insane.

“Hey…” I sat up from the porch swing, squinting in an effort to read his name tag, “…Barry? He’s fine…I guess?” I was a horrible liar, but at the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that not only did I not remember him but that I hadn’t seen my father since he dumped me off the previous day with no word on when he’d be coming back.

I didn’t want to offend the smile.

Barry didn’t say another word, but he didn’t need to. His furrowed brows and wrinkled nose spoke volumes for him. He set the mail on the ledge and without another word, he slinked backward, before turning around and walking away as if he’d just fed an angry pit bull and was trying not to get bitten.

But I was angry. Confusion is a bitch. It leads to questions, which only lead to more questions which leads to being frustrated which leads to being pissed off.

“He wants to see you in his office,” Nadine said. “Your mother is there, too. They’re waiting for you.”

“Really?” I stood from the swing, automatically smoothing down my hair and adjusting my shorts, pulling on them so they would appear longer.

Which was odd, because I didn’t care what they thought of me, but the motion to make sure I was presentable was automatic. I’d seen the same Town Car that had taken me from King’s pull up that morning, but I didn’t have any sort of urge to rush up to the senator and welcome him home either. He may not have been the one who had ordered for King to be killed but there was something way too coincidental about the entire situation that was keeping me on edge with my guard up and locked firmly in place.

“Is my mother is feeling any better?” I asked as I followed Nadine to the study. The house wasn’t large by any means. The glass doors of my father’s study could be seen from any point in the great room and kitchen and it was a straight shot from the front door. There was no need for her to show me where it was. But then I realized that Nadine was just trying to be mindful of my memory loss.

“Thank you,” I said. Nadine nodded and with a tight smile, went back to her work in the kitchen.

And then it happened again. For the second time in less than twelve hours. This time the sputtering was only for an instant, the images coming in faster, clearer.

Another memory.

*     *     *

Ray

15 years old

My father’s office is his temple, a virtual shrine to himself and all of his political idols. American flags hung on the walls in frames, photos of himself shaking hands with men with fake bright white teeth, and even faker smiles. Men who he saw as more than mere mortals.

Men who he aspired to be like.

The gods of the Republican Party.

In his quest to become them, my father had long ago chosen politics over family. Except, of course, when the bill or law he was pushing involved family values of some sort. Then, we were at the forefront, paraded around and used as examples everything a good conservative Christian family should be.

A cross hung behind his desk, next to the American flag.

It’s complete bullshit.

HE is complete bullshit.

He’s never stepped foot inside a church for reason’s other than having to do with politics, but he tells people he’s a Protestant.

What he is, is a fucking liar.

Everything about him, everything about his office, screamed formality and bullshit.

Which was why I chose this very room as the place I was going to tell him the news, and during his regular business hours, in hopes that he would curb his temper while on his sacred holy ground.

I dress for the occasion like I am going for an interview. Matching yellow jacket and pencil skirt, straight out of the Jackie Kennedy handbook. I’ve been hiding the bump for months now under baggy clothes, but the suit accentuates my rounded belly. I am six months along and there is no more hiding.

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