This is an exerpt from the novel: is it coffee smells like heaven but tastes like heated battery acid? Maybe a coffee shop wasn’t the best choice for this first meeting, but it seemed like a good way to impress him with my hipness and maturity. I really want a Monster but I’m lucky they sell Coke in this pretentious ‘Café.’ Like ‘Coffee Shop’ is too mundane. The cute barista with the nose-ring takes my money and I walk to a table by the window, sling my pack onto it and set the bottle down. The table’s in a corner and has a good view out the front window. I’ll spot him when he doesn’t know anyone’s looking. I want to see who he is when he’s coming to meet the long-lost daughter who tracked him down and begged him to come, just to talk. I’m even dressed up, or maybe toned down is a better way to say it. Iron Maiden t-shirt, low key for this meeting, no Eddie the Head zombie/skeleton coming at you with an axe or anything. Just a tasteful silver logo across the chest, not distorted too much since I’m kind of skinny and sadly under developed in the boob department.
I know what he looks like from Facebook, not that I would ever have an account. I got everything I needed without having to subject myself to the meme torrent and all those haters. Plus, their security’s shit.
The Social Services database? That was three years of learning everything I could about hacking—the internet is an amazing tool, if you can tear yourself away from YouTube and clickbait—to get in there and find my dad. Actually, Joe’s my biological father, that’s who I’m here to meet. My real dad? The one who took me to WNBA games, so I could have strong female role models, and took me to NBA games because, let’s face it, those guys are awesome. He’ll always be the one I run to when I really need help—I’m not that much of a self-absorbed cliche of a teenager.
Like the time in eighth grade when Serena Simpson, that stuck-up plastic bitch, threw an elbow in a pickup game and shattered my right cheekbone. Everyone standing around with their hands over their mouths, looking at the crater until I took off running, three miles to my dad’s office with tears and snot running down my face.
But that doesn’t change what happened in ninth grade, when I went looking for my birth certificate so I could sign up for summer basketball, and found my adoption papers instead. All of a sudden, my previously perfect fourteen years of life, and my amazing parents, and my awesome grandparents, who spoil me just like they’re supposed to, are all a big lie. Maybe that’s too strong a word. More like a façade. A simulacrum—It means fake. I won a spelling-bee with it in sixth grade.
Anyway, from that day, I started acting exactly like some TV movie teen who’s searching for her identity. But now I’m going to get answers to the questions that have been driving me crazy, fighting to get out and making me all anxious and twitchy, like I’ve drunk way too many Red Bulls during an all nighter: Who were my parents and what were they like? Which one do I look like? Where does my family come from?
The dark reflection of someone behind me fills the window. I’m not sure it’s him because how did he get in without me seeing? I turn with a big smile on my face and put out my hand to shake. He’s standing close and I have to tilt my head back to see his face. My smile fades. There’s no trace of the smiling man from the Facebook pictures. Just a frown, and those hard grey eyes.
His voice is low and quiet. “Adoption records are supposed to be sealed, Jenna.” When I dreamed of his first words, they didn’t sound so much like a threat. He stands with his hands on his hips, maybe six two, a little paunchy to play guard, but muscular enough. More than enough, actually. His arms and his chest stretch his t-shirt thin. A vein throbs on the side of his neck, right next to a tattoo of a claw reaching out from under his t-shirt. My mouth goes dry.
“How did you get my name?”
“I have a friend at the courthouse.” My voice is high and shaky. Makes me sound like I’m about ten.
“Bullshit.” He says it without a trace of uncertainty and looms even closer, puts a hand on the table. A thin scar runs from the corner of his left eye to the angle of his square jaw. “How does a seventeen year-old know someone at the courthouse?”
“She’s doing an internship.” I shift sideways in my chair and run into the wall. My eyes dart around the cafe. Everyone’s focused on their computers and their six-dollar coffee-milkshakes. Of course, the two people close enough to hear what he’s saying have earbuds jammed in their ears.
His upper lip curls. He’s got a chipped incisor and a silver cap on his canine tooth. “Right. You don’t have any friends. If those nasty goth clothes don’t scare people away, your bloodshot eyes and pasty complexion will.”
ing and holding my eyes with his. “Because if I ever do hear from you again, after we’re done that is, I’ll tell the police what you did. Got it?”
be downstairs with your computer.”
His work boots clomp down the unfinished wood stairs. I watch him until he gets to the dingy area rug at the bottom and disappears to the right. I take the stairs slow, muscles tensed to run at the first sign of trouble. The widening gap between the first floor wall and the stairs reveals his feet, then his legs, and finally the rest of him, sitting on a threadbare couch upholstered in a faded floral pattern that’s shiny with dirt and grease stains.
s how I actually got into the Social Services computer. A lot of times, it’s way easier to talk your way into a place, or come up with some reason why you need to be somewhere you’re not supposed to be, than it is to hack in. Then you poke around, and OMG, Bob wrote his password on a sticky note and stuck it to his moells at me some. I yell back at her. Then she takes off and I never hear another word ‘till you hack your way into my life. I hate to bust your little bubble, but your mother was the type of bitch who slept with any guy with a pulse once she got a few drinks in her. I guess she changed her mind about the abortion though. So there you go.” He leans back and makes a hand washing motion. “Now get back to work.”
I’m full on crying now and punching holes in my palms with my fingernails. I yell. “She died having me you know? And you didn’t even know it!” I want to pick up the computer and smash his face.
“Hey, how was I supposed to know.” He spreads his arms and shrugs. “You don’t even know I’m really the father. She could’ve just scribbled my name on the birth certificate.”
awake. I know he doesn’t understand what he’s seeing. Earlier, I tested him, said I was coding Python when it was really Java. I even started explaining the differences between the two, but he waved his hand like he was chasing a fly and told me to get on with it. Said my explanations were making him sleepy. That’s what I’m waiting for. I need to send two emails to make everything work, but they have to be in English and if he sees them it’ll give my plan away.
nt now?” Like he thinks I’m being so demanding, asking for food and all that Coke.
“Actually, what you need, is somewhere to put the money once I get into the bank’s system.”
He nods once.
r key with my pale, trembling hands, the screen goes blank. Then a new screen pops up with various banking options listed. “Looks like we’re in.”
Joe punches the air and jumps out of his seat. “Yes!” He does a little dance, spinning in a circle and pummeling the air like a boxer before a fight. I watch him until he calms down and puts a hand on my shoulder, leans over to look at the screen. I grit my teeth and try not to cringe. “What are you waiting for?” His breath smells like the trash can at an Indian restaurant. “Let’s do this.”