Thursday, September 27, 2012

City of Tomorrow, Part 9

When she was a little girl Celeste did not understand the political underpinnings of her family.

For instance, she did not understand why she had to dress up in her Sunday best nearly every day, because Daddy had visitors over.  It became repetitive, and Celeste wasn’t the type to enjoy the constant attention and the grownups saying how pretty she looked.

In hindsight, that’s probably why she stopped thinking of herself as pretty.  You either begin to believe such things, or reject them, even if they’re true.

Her father was important, and yet she never understood why.  As far as she could tell, nothing important happened at these gatherings, which seemed like a means to make sure everyone was happy, everyone was friends.  There were drinks Daddy didn’t enjoy except on these occasions, which made it all the more scary the more regular they became.

That’s when he started to change.  In her earliest memories of him, Daddy was perfect, not in the way that most children will accept Daddy as perfect unless given very specific reasons not to, but that he really did everything that a little girl will appreciate, even the things she will never expect, not to spoil her but surprise her, always surprise her.

That was in the beginning.  In hindsight even the perfection was an act, a means to buy her love, even if his was genuine, even if hers would have come without all that effort.

In later years, and not just because she was growing older, Celeste started to notice the change.  The gatherings were only the start of it.  How do I know any of this?  Because like Jasper Finds, I started to find answers to questions nobody asked, like a curse.

Daddy didn’t become corrupted so much as misled.  He only wanted what was best, and like all desperate men his need to satisfy his ambitions made him more desperate, more susceptible, more willing to compromise.  He was the last of the founders, come many years after the City of Tomorrow had entered the future and discovered that the rest of the world hadn’t followed.

What that meant was the end of the dream.  No one appreciated that more than the little girl who was growing up too quickly.

So one day in a meaningless act of defiance she broke the charade and made her public life take a turn that it wasn’t supposed to.  She rebelled in the most profound way she knew how and got her name tattooed on the back of her shoulder.

It was like a brand.  Everyone knew who she was already, knew who her father was, but she was supposed to be modest, be a good girl, stick to the script and let the public at large believe that she was just like everyone else, just more privileged.

The tattoo itself was a common gesture, something her kind was never supposed to do, but still common enough.  The fact that it was a tattoo wasn’t the problem, but rather that she had stitched her own name across herself.

What did it really mean?  That she had broken the code, of course.  That she had taken pride.  That was the one thing her father had never done.

But her father was dead, slumped over one evening in her favorite chair, dropped of a heart attack.

What did she have left to prove?  Who did she have left to entertain in her meaningless way?  That was when she adopted the baby.

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