Family Matters

Timeline: December, 2008

Ann-Marie was home in the living room. She had just gotten up and set up her music. Jesse, her ever helpful aid, was not home yet. On these nights, once per week at least, Johnny and her would play. It was a tradition that hearkened back to their early family days. Tuning her instrument, she waited for Johnny to come home from his shift.

She heard him coming up the walk. John opened the door, silently with every thing that had happened he had almost forgotten that it was family night. “Be right back Grace, I just need to grab my old girl by the neck and I will be there with bells on.”

She smiled as he left to get his instrument. She liked being called Grace, but only by him. No one else had that right, nor would they ever know. Speaking up as he went down the hallway she asked, “Johnny, you looked distracted. Is something troubling you?”

“Yes and no,” John said as he sat down and began to tune his instrument with out looking her full in the face.

“I have something that I have been turning over in my head and it just won’t stop and as soon as I have it figured one way then I get all wishy-washy like Charlie Brown and decide I am an idiot and start talking myself around to the other side of the argument. I have been doing it so much that I think I forgot which side I am on and am just spinning my wheels now.”

Ann-Marie (Grace) looked positively confused, she asked, “Spinning your wheels? You want to talk about it? If so, I’ll need a bit more info dear.”

“Well, there’s this woman and I like her a lot, and I want more but at the same time I don’t want to wreck what we have. There is also a complication that I don’t know how everyone will react given the apparent age difference. There are some other complications. For one thing, I can’t get a good read on her. One minute I think there’s interest and the next…”

John had begun to play a song with out appearing to realize it. “I’m getting better with people but I still have trouble and I promised that I wouldn’t read minds willy nilly anymore, so I just can’t know. When she is near me and happy I am happy. When she is sad I just want to make her happy again. She makes me want to be a better me. Not by anything she says or does but just because I want to be … argh… ” I just can’t put it into words. John’s fingers stopped picking out the song and stilled the strings. Looking up at Grace and smiling he said, “Lets just play and relax, maybe that will help me.”

A smile crept upon his sister’s face, “Johnny, you are in love! It’s as simple as that. It’s Alice right. I’ve tried not to pry.”

“Well love stinks then” John said. “I thought I was coming down with something, My palms get sweaty, my stomach gets upset. I have been entering symptom after symptom in the CADIDUS system at work and never did settle down to a diagnois.

“I remember what love was like and you definitely are in love. I’m quite envious brother. Are you afraid she doesn’t feel the same?”, asked Grace.

“I know she cares for me, and as I said there are times I feel she wants more but I don’t just want a roll in the hay I want… what mom and dad had”, John ended quietly.

“Maybe Johnny, you are what she has been looking for. You are very perceptive, more than you give yourself credit for. You’ve been together, what seven months or so? You are an adult, she is an adult. After somany years of life don’t you think she knows what she wants just like you do? If she didn’t, would she still be around, would she still want more?” said Grace, pausing, “I don’t want to jinx things, but could she be the one?”

“Yes we have been dating for about seven months and yes we are adults, and that might be part of my problem. It’s not just about our wants, I have other responsibilities.” John said, “It might not matter if she is or isn’t the one.”

“Why is that?” Grace asked.

“Grace, given the things that I keep getting into and the stuff that keeps happening, I don’t know if I need another hostage to fortune. And I have other commitments. I just don’t know if I have anything to offer her.”

“After the rat situation, and after I saw that secret library of hers, I think she is aware that there is much more to the world than the nightly news and that you do your part to help. Perhaps she sees that generosity in you that is the hallmark of your soul. You have so much to offer and as long as she is aware of the dangers, isn’t it her decision to make?” replied Grace.

John sighed and said, “What about us Grace, I feel I like just found you, I don’t want you to go away again.”

“Why would I go away?”, she asked puzzled. “Is it because I am, in all fairness, a monster to the common folk? Nonsense. In this place, I’m only one of many.”

An angry look crossed John’s face and it grew suddenly hard as stone, “Who says you’re a monster?” he growled.

She replied with her calm sister-voice, “I do sometimes. You see Johnny, a monster is simply something a person doesn’t understand and they fear. And they should. But I’m not any more unnatural than a wizard, werewolf or even a telepath like yourself. We are all part of the natural order of things. Thanks for wanting to defend me, but despite a few people being uneasy with my existence (of those who know), I don’t feel singled out as a monster by them so much. Don’t worry yourself. I don’t. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. And, neither do you. Anyway, how did this get about me? Oh, yes you were worried I’d go? Why, don’t you think your love can keep a secret? Do you fear to share it with her?”

“I would trust Alice with my life, but I won’t trust her with yours and thats not something to base a partnership on,” John said with a tone of finality in his voice.

“Come again? You’d trust her with your life, but not with mine? Why the difference? I appreciate being held in such high regard, but brother we are family. You have helped me rediscover that instead of mourn it. Do you think, should she learn the truth, that she would act against me? I don’t get that impression. Even Rey, who’s opinion is fairly obvious, won’t act against me knowing the situation in this town. To be honest, I only want you to be happy. To have what mom and dad had. To live in a way I cannot.”

She paused, “You deserve happiness Johnny.”

“The difference is … well it just is.”, John said obviously agitated. “I don’t think Alice would act against you but I don’t know the subject hasn’t come up. How do you segue into that conversation, ‘My sister is a vampire how do you feel about that or maybe How would you feel about having a vampire as one of your brides-maides.’ Let alone the fact that mom at least will want to come to the wedding or be hurt if we don’t invite her. I am building a house of cards and castles in the clouds sometimes its so real that I can taste it and sometimes it all just seems like a pipe dream. What it all boils down to is this, I want to ask Alice to marry me and I am scared spitless and I don’t know why. And thats what really bothers me I don’t know why I am scared.”

“Ah. That is tough. I still don’t know how to explain it to mom. The easy answer is that I go away during the wedding. Too much risk. Luckily those who know what I am have secrets of their own, so I’m not under threat of being exposed. But I’d have to trust that Alice is understanding and not reactionary.”, Grace answered.

“There you go talking about leaving and I haven’t even popped the question.” John said shortly.

“Oh, not leaving. Just staying away from the wedding. I’d love to be there, but how many evening weddings are there? It’s alright. I know what I am and am fine with certain limitations. Anyway, even if I could attend I’d simply ruin the wedding photos.”

“Well maybe I could make that a condition of the event, it has to be a night wedding and I get to pick the photographer. Someone who wouldn’t be in any of the pictures but would attend the wedding.”

“Me? Well that would solve one issue. But what about our extended family? Mother, our siblings, cousins, etc. How would we explain me? Oh boy, that will be risky to say the least,” she said a bit worried. “I don’t think I’m ready to confront mother with this. I doubt she’d keep the secret that her daughter Grace is still, theoretically, alive and well. I told dad on his deathbed in the hospice because I had to. I haven’t figured out what to do for Mom yet, even though its been on my mind for a year. I’m afraid of the danger I’ll put her in.”

Looking pensive she mused, “I wonder if sister knows she has a daughter named Ann-Marie?”

“What if you were you own daughter? “

“Hmm, well that would make me 45. How about my own granddaughter? A bit more plausible. So, I didn’t tell mom & dad I was pregnant, I got killed in the riot, had a premie kid postmortem who was sickly who grew up and died in childbirth with… me.” Ann-Marie said. “A little far fetched, but could be possible. You’d have to create a paper trail that didn’t attract any attention. Could you do that? I mean the exact details could be lost, the doctor long dead, etc.”

“Before you met me what was your current Identities backstory? And how solid is your current public persona?”

“As solid as I need it to be. I like to stay off the Federal radar. Even my art is under the table. Jesse takes care of the details there. I wanted to firm it up a bit awhile ago, but you said it wasn’t neccessary. Do you want to create a paper trail for Ann-Marie Morgan? Can you?”

“I can create a good starting place for a trail and I can ask some of my contacts what it would cost to make a really good electronic trail.

Ann-Marie thought about it, asking, “And this would be foolproof? I would wish to be a nobody. A young person who has never yet had to pay taxes, etc. I don’t want any attention at all.”

“What I think I can get is an ID that will stand up to casual inspection. If you got pulled over for a broken tail light, it would pass. If you got arrested for arson, then it would probably unravel. An good investigative reporter could pick it apart but some high school kid doing a research paper on local artists would never know. Basically, casual inspection it would hold up fine, if someone that knows what they are looking for were to get suspicious …”

“Let’s start with the strong identity that will handle a ticket or casual inspection. I doubt I’ll ever allow myself to be arrested anyway. Later perhaps we can build toward to stronger ID, building on the foundation of what we set up today.”

“But how do we handle family? Are you going to say you met a young artist that reminded you of Grace? Or perhaps you decided to follow up of my ‘accidental death and disappearance’ after going through some family albums or what? Any ideas?”

“Hmmmmm”, John said thoughtfully,” I say I don’t say anything unless someone else, brings it up, and then I admit to noticing a resemblance give then the cover story that we come up with your mom was given to an orphanage or raised in and orphanage. She was given the last name of Morgan. She had a child out of wedlock and died in childbirth without revealing the fathers name. You were also raised in an orphanage maybe or adopted and taken overseas? The orphanage has since burned down and a lot of the records were lost in the blaze. How does that sound? Maybe you were kick around in the foster child system. You have abandonment issues and find it hard to open up or get close to anyone. You are touchy about your past and would rather focus on the future. Any of this sounds good?”

“The burning of the orphanage is a stretch, unless you can find one that actually did. However the foster system in California was notorious with bad records, etc. That, if done right, should work. I like the ‘touchy about past’ bit, which I am anyway. I’ll need a photo of a young woman from the mid to late 80’s who looks enough like me to be my ‘mom’. Also, they are going to want family photos. How do we handle that?”

“OK it didn’t burn it closed in the late 80’s due to the recession? What family photo’s? You would be the child of an orphan that died in childbirth without naming the father. You don’t really want to remember your crumby past or the foster parents that abused you. One grainy workout picture of your birth mother, should work.” John said firmly.

Grace smiled, “This is fun Johnny! Planning with you, like when we built the tree house without dad’s permission and instead of getting mad he joined in. So, when can we get this going?”

“Well I will need to do some research and find the right sort of place. I can start doing that tomorrow. Then will need to pick a person’s name that fits the story we are trying to find or insert some files into the records. Last we will need to insert some data into some credit cards database and create some sort of electronic paper trail. Some of it I can do and some of it I may need some help on. John said thoughtfully.

“I’m afraid I don’t know anyone who can help. I can certainly disappear, but re-appearing in a new guise is trickier.”

“I know some people and I might be able to handle some of it myself.” John said slowly running things over in his mind. “So are you still in the mood to play or should we just call it a night” John asked.

“No, I came here for music. Let’s begin…”

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