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Chapter 20

As I huffed and puffed into the night, my initial emotion was swirling rage aimed at the Colonel. He never stopped – one dig after another – and to do it tonight, of all nights, was quite telling about his disdain for me. Is this how all fathers feel about guys dating their daughters, I wondered. Then I realized it wasn’t, because the Colonel never treated Greg the way he treated me.

The more I thought about it the angrier I became and I struggled with the urge to head back and let him have it, but something wouldn’t let me. Something about what he said plagued my thoughts. Why hadn’t I pressed my dad about my biological parents? I mean, I knew their names now, but I hadn’t forced the issue and demanded more info. But then maybe he didn’t know anything about them. I guess there would be no reason for him to know.

Drop it, I told myself. You’ll only cause more problems if you go down that path. Allison loves you. It doesn’t matter. You live for this life alone based on your own merits. The past doesn’t matter, especially one that wasn’t yours.

Or was it?

I stopped and forced myself to concentrate on where I was going. Looking around I realized I had subconsciously brought myself to Allison’s favorite place of refuge: the Crimson James Memorial. The small gate was locked and I suddenly realized with Allison’s new gig at the Time Travel Department, or whatever fancy name they wanted to call it, my gift was pretty much pointless. She would now have access to this memorial and the museum and countless other resources. I couldn’t decide which would have been more humiliating: showing up like I did without a gift or bringing the gift and having everyone snicker because of its sudden worthless value.

I shook it off and hopped the small security fence, crossed the bridge and headed into the memorial.

Although I had only been here a few times – mostly when Allison dragged me – the monument had always made me feel safe: an intellectual harbor whose force-field consisted of one great idea after another encircling the monument and securing the future. It was a testament to ideas, not the man behind them. This was evidenced in the absence of a statue of the great thinker. What stood was an empty circular, marble monument with selections of his writings inscribed on panels. No one knew what he looked like. No photographs of him existed. In fact, not much was known about his life. His works had been discovered some twenty years after his death.

I spun around, taking it all in and placed myself on the bench in the middle of the monument. I had calmed down, but was unable to concentrate on any one thing. As usual, the hurricane in my head eventually rotated around Allison.

I always wanted to believe that good things happened to good people. Allison deserved good things and was primed to begin receiving them. But what did that say about me? Was I having to payback a debt built on bad karma? I mean, why did my mom die so young and what about my test scores being misreported? More importantly, how did my biological parents fit into the scheme of things?

Something clicked behind me and I turned, half-expecting a security guard. However, much to my surprise, Allison appeared.

“I didn’t think you had it in you to break in to this place,” I said coarsely. “Unless they already gave you a key.”

“I came to apologize. He told me he wouldn’t do that.”

“Forget it.”

“No, I don’t want to forget it. I want to talk about it.”

“Fine. Then why the hell is he so interested in my past?”

“I think he’s more interested in the fact that you’re not.” I rolled my eyes and Allison tried to lighten things up a bit. “Come on. He’s an intelligence officer. He’s curious by nature.”

I stood. The uneasiness brought on by his questioning came back to me.

“Maybe he knows something I don’t,” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean there’s got to be good reason why my dad didn’t tell me about my birth-parents. Maybe your dad knows why.”

“I doubt that. My father’s not a snoop, Trenton,” she said defensively.

“Well, he’s sure a pain in the ass.”

“Oh, be quiet,” she insisted. “Anyway, haven’t you even considered it?”

“What?” I asked, confused.

“Opening your letter and figuring out where it is you came from.”

“Why is everyone so interested in what I’m going to do? Why can’t they just leave me be?”

“Maybe you should think about that. Some people would gladly trade places with you.”

I could sense where this was going and didn’t like it.

“Look, Allison, I know by my playing along and revealing my past on top of digging into my birth-parents’ lives, it will somehow demonstrate my allegiance or some crap like that to your father.”

“Maybe some of that’s true, but it will also be good for you … and us. You have so much to offer. It will give you an outlet of some sort.”

Trying to hide my growing agitation, I placed my hands gently on her shoulders.

“Allison, I know how much your father’s approval means to you, but his approval shouldn’t dictate your love for me. Besides, it’s not like we’re saving lives here.”

“The fate of the world may not hinge on us, but the fate of our relationship depends on the value we place upon it.”

“What are you a poet now?”

“No, I’m the girl who loves you but just walked out of your life,” she snapped scornfully. “Maybe my father was right about you, after all.”

With that salvo, Allison disappeared into the brisk night air, leaving me and her hero to ruminate over the past, the present, and more importantly, the future.

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