|January 17, 2023
"Happy birthday, Honey!"
"Happy birthday, Mommy!"
"Happy Birthday, Mom."
It was on a joyous day when President Burkeston decided that the United States was going to war again.
Paige Gianlucas turned 42 today amidst clamorous protesting and mounting fears. It didn't matter to the CEO of Turlington Steel. She'd be raking in the money, as her company was going to be assisting in the construction of new planes and flying vehicles for the war. If all went well, she could retire by the war's end and go on a worldwide cruise with her family.
Roberto Gianlucas continued to flip the pan holding the eggs. In spite of the fact that he had class in about an hour, he was devoted to his family and wanted to make sure that their home was a happy place. Then, he'd be off to teach at Kenessau State University, only about five miles away. Being so close to the school gave him plenty of opportunities to be with his family, something that many of his fellow professors envied.
Little Martin rushed into the dining room toting a flimsy piece of paper. He ran over to Paige and handed her the paper, which was actually a handmade birthday card. His mother opened the card and gushed over it.
"Thank you, Marty," she cooed, stroking her son's hair.
Finally arriving in the kitchen was me, Bianca, not a typical fifteen year old. Instead of joining my family at the kitchen table for breakfast, I grabbed my Palm Pilot and turned it on.
"Channel 52," I said.
My Palm Pilot scanned for Channel 52 as I rooted around in the refrigerator for breakfast. I found some OJ and a Granny Smith apple and removed those items from their respective places. After setting them down, I dug out my bud headphones and plugged them into the Palm. Once Channel 52 (International Headline News, or IHN) was found, I put my Palm in my pocket as I poured the OJ into a glass. After putting the OJ away, I grabbed my breakfast stuff and retreated to my study.
"The Syrians bombed Syracuse in a sneak attack last night."
I dropped my glass as I heard that statement. After the previous war, the Syrians, not the Iraqis or Afghans, were our primary enemies. Now that they had bombed a town not all that far from my home here in Portsmith, VA, I feared the worst.
"Bianca, are you okay?"
It was my mother, always my mother. She and I never got along that great. We always struggled, ever since I was a child. My mother had slept her way to her cushy CEO job, and I knew it, even at the tender age of eight, when my brother, make that half brother, was born. She was a whore, convinced of her own beauty and convincing enough to lure others, my father included, into her spell. I never agreed with her ways, and over that we struggled.
"President Burkeston will be meeting with top advisors today over a plan of action..."
I wanted to leave my mess behind, but instead, I turned back to the kitchen to get some paper towels and the handheld vacuum. Doing so felt unreal, and I was struck by a sense of guilt. As the fate of our nation hung in the balance, I was here continuing with my daily routine. Soaking up the spilled juice and vacuuming the glass shards felt like the wrong thing to do, especially when I was the only one that knew.
My father cared for me, and he knew I didn't drop glasses for no apparent reason. I turned to him and removed the ear buds. How was I going to tell him he was going to have a rough day in class?
"Dad," I said, "you might want to turn on IHN."
My father turned on the kitchen television set as I poured myself a new glass of OJ and made a second retreat to my study. I wanted to be alone. Hopefully school would be canceled today. I never liked dealing with the vapid shallowness of my peers, and on a day like this, I had absolutely no patience for it.
Shit. What now? It hadn't been a good morning so far. I was already running late because I was not getting in my alotted research time that I usually had in the morning. Damn the orange juice. Damn the Syrians. Damn conscience.
"What?" I yelled.
"Bianca, come out here."
FUCK! That was my mother. Oh boy. I bet she was happy about this news. After all, it was common knowledge that Burkeston was a war hawk, and it was also common knowledge that Turlington Steel would benefit from war as well. Burkeston had worked for Turlington Steel, once having been the CFO. My mom had met him and lamented over how she never got to sleep with him. If only I could bitch her out for that, but I knew that would never happen.
I wandered into the kitchen, finding the rest of my family intently watching IHN. They were showing Syracuse in flames, people with blood gushing from shrapnel wounds, an overcrowded temporary morgue, and a mayor trying desperately to maintain a semblance of composure.
"Oh my God..." I muttered.
"They say three quarters of the city's populatioon is dead or injured," Dad said. "It's the worst bombing in US history."
"Even after September 11," I added.
"School across the nation has been canceled," said Dad. "You can stay home today."
In spite of the hell I saw and knew would further ensue, I was relieved. No vapidity in the face of tragedy. I had the day to contemplate the consequences of the night's events. Today was going to be a long day in the string of many long, long days to come.
Most of the day, I secluded myself in my study. Hell, I didn't even really have a room. I slept on a futon in my study. I lay on the futon either reading books on Syria's history or watching IHN. President Burkeston had yet to hold an official press conference, even though it was now, say, three in the afternoon. I admit this dicking around was angering me about as much as a day with my shallow classmates could. Damn private school life. It didn't give me what I wanted. Could anything give me what I wanted?
A knock at the door jolted me from my catatonic lounging. I got up, only to realize my ass had gone numb from the way I put all my weight on it when I was lying on the futon. When I answered the door, I saw my father standing there, tears dancing on his gentle gray orbs. He looked old (especially for being 39), and I knew then something was terribly wrong.
"Bianca," he said, "the president is holding a press conference."
With that, he stepped aside so I could exit my room. I knew this meant I had to join my family, a task my father knew I loathed. Something was wrong, though, if even without words he beseeched me to do it. I stepped out of my room, wondering what could possibly be wrong.
President Burkeston gave me the answer.
"My fellow Americans, " he began, "today has brought us the most tragic death our soil has ever seen. Syracuse, New York was carpetbombed early this morning at 4:44 AM Eastern Standard time. In response to the tens of thousands of deaths that resulted from this bombing, the plan is to retaliate against the Syrians."
I looked at my father, who looked at me in tears. Even after all these years, I still can feel the weight being placed on me after seeing my father's face. He aged nearly forty years after president Burkeston's announcement. I suppose I aged, too, especially when President Burkeston continued with his speech.
"...as for the number of men and women currently in the armed forces, we will be boosting the numbers by instituting a draft policy, and we will be, for the first time in US history, requiring all law enforcement agents to fight in the war. Taking their place will be high school and college students across the nation."
It was my turn to be numb. I had been numb all day, really, but now the tragedy had really come to kick me in the ass. An indefinable amount of time in my life was suddenly going to be dictated to me. I was to be subjected to servitude in the name of maintaining order in our society. I had to put up with my peers, to boot. How would anything get done? Knowing them, I bet most of them wouldn't want to be there.
I must not have slept, because the next day didn't seem to really happen. I drifted about in a daze, wondering what was happening in Syracuse now that the place had been bombed to all hell. I remember Mom went to work and Martin went to visit his friend Zack, but nothing else registered. School was still out, and I knew I wouldn't be back for a while. This bombing left me shellshocked, even though I wasn't in Syracuse.
It must have been because of the way this tragedy affected my father. My father had a fresh load of stresses now after the attack. He told me teaching Middle Eastern studies was a tricky task, especially when he was in college and anti-Middle Eastern tensions always crept close to the boiling point. As a professor, he had the responsibility of passing along information about the region and its cultures in an unbiased fashion. Now, though, it wasn't possible. My father was biased towards Middle Eastern cultres and peoples, thus not entirely condemning the actions committed by the Syrians.
His anger was also compounded by the fact that I was going to lose my chance of receiving a full education because I was going to have to help police the nation. I had discussed this with him, saying I wasn't upset with the idea. In fact, I looked forward to serving this duty in some respects, because I felt I had a chance to do something meaningful, something that would allow me to give to a community from which I took very little in my own way. Still, it was dangerous, and I somewhat understood my father's concern. However, I was fifteen and looking for an adventure. Becoming part of the police force gave me the chance to break from prep school order.
Late in the afternoon, I got a phone call from the police.
"Hello, Gianlucas residence."
"Hello. May I speak to Bianca Gianlucas?"
"Bianca, this is Sargeant Gregory Davis with the Kenessau County Police Department. I was calling you in regards to the new policy of teenagers and college students involvement in law enforcement."
"Okay. Where do I need to show up and when?"
"...Um, I must say, no one I've called today has been anywhere near that enthusiastic about the policy."
"Even if it was voluntary, I'd still do it."
"It gives me some sort of purpose, that I'm not just another teenager in private school that'll grow up to expect everyone to obey my whim."
"Yeah. I hate the privelaged life. Makes me feel trapped. Anyway, before I bore you with my life story..."
"You weren't boring me, but you're right. Let's get to business. We will begin sign ups for basic training tomorrow at the Kenessau County Police Headquarters in the Radian District."
"It's on Thalia Drive, about two blocks east of Ackenhusen Boulevard. It's a really antique looking building-"
"You mean the one with the brass fixtures outside?"
"Yes, that building. Sign ups will be in the lobby starting at nine A.M."
"Okay. Do I need to bring a parent or guardian?"
"If you are under 18."
"Okay. Will there be anything else after the sign ups?"
"Well, we'll be giving everyone thorough physicals and conducting interviews. This will determine where we feel you will fit in the police force. After that, we will begin your training with retired or disabled/injured members of law enforcement."
"How will that be arranged?"
"We'll call you after you have signed up, possibly the same day."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"No. That should be it."
"Great. I'll be there tomorrow, first thing."
"Alright, Miss Gianlucas. See you tomorrow. Have a good day."
I hung up the phone and leaned back into the couch. I was going to have to wait to ask one of my parents to take me to the police station tomorrow. For now, though, I could enjoy the piece and quiet.
"You did what????!!!" my mother cried.
"They caled me first, and considering it is pretty much federally mandated, I'd be going anyway, " I said.
Dinner was progressing very poorly, which didn't surprise me much. However, it still had puzzled me with an unforseen obstacle: rich kid exemption. I should've known my mother would try to buy me out of this whole youth as law enforcement arrangement. However, I was determined to give up my exemption, even if I had to fight my mother for it.
My mom seemed to think a girl has no business in defense matters. She had little room to talk. She was very involved in defense matters, especially now during war times. For her, it was an exciting time, as the United States Government was going to be paying into the trillions for Turlington Steel to craft tanks, planes, and supposedly a new aircraft carrier.
I, meanwhile, objected to her perspective of the country's rather precarious state. I especially opposed how we were in a position to wind up the nation's wealthiest family during times when the national economy took downturns not seen since the Great Depression of 1929. This came across as extremely unfair to me, and I wanted to level the social climate, at least for myself. I'd have gladly let some poor kid from a green card immigrant family have my exemption, and I had no problem taking his place. I figured it was my turn to have to work for a living, for respect. Too bad I couldn't convince my mother of that.
And too bad that she was my mother.
"Bianca Charlene Gianlucas!" my mother screeched. "How dare you decide to join the law enforcement without telling us!I won't let you do it! Never! Not even if I have to tear you apart limb by limb!"
Then came the rage. She started throwing things at me: her dinner plate, a casserole dish filled with green beans, and then her chair, which landed on the lit candleabra in the middle of the table. It didn't take long for the chair to become aflame, and the room filled with smoke. I could barely believe this. My mother risked her beloved dinette set to try to inflict physical scars on me. I almost wanted to laugh, but I was too upset to even completely process the absurdity of my mother's behavior. Thus, I extracted my cell phone and dialed 911.
"Hello," I said to the operator. "My mother just went into a psychotic rage and set our apartment on fire."
Next thing I knew, I was out on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building. The evening winds were potent, flinging miniature shards of ice into my face. I watched as firefighters exited the building and approached the rest of my family. As I watched them, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Though startled, I only shivered in response, as the ice was unbearable and would aggravate me more if I moved.
"Ma'am," a voice called behind me.
"Yes?" I asked without turning to face the voice.
"Is that your family?" the voice asked, a finger pointed at my family.
I turned to face the voice and said, "Yes, it is."
The man behind the voice then showed me his badge, indicating he was with police department.
"Kenneth Lundeen," he said.
"Bianca Gianlucas," I said, extending my hand while still managing to hold my jacket closed.
After we shook hands, Kenneth looked at me and asked, "What caused this fire?"
"My mother, a chair, and a lit candleabra, " I muttered.
Mr. Lundeen scratched a few notes and then said to me, "The damage isn't too bad, from what I can gather. You'll be staying at the Hyatt a block down this road, and by tomorrow afternoon, your apartment will be as good as new."
I looked at Mr. Lundeen and saw my anger reflected on his face.
The next morning I awoke trembling, about to quake from anger. How could my own mother do this? It was unthinkable, really, as she was in love with the material world, and that dinette set was worth a few grand. Well, I've never known my mother for being an appreciative figure, and she certainly had no qualms about throwing money away, which I have opposed much of my life.
The clock near my bed read 6:25. Shit! I hope Dad hadn't left yet. I wanted to get down to the station as soon as possible, and I wasn't about to go with my mother. I ran out of my room and into the common area of the suite, where I found Dad sitting on one of the overstuffed sofas reading some papers.
"Morning, Dad," I said.
"Morning, Bianca," he said. "Is today the signups for the police force?"
"Yes, it is," I replied.
"Okay, then. Be ready to go in about twenty minutes," Dad said. "I'll get you over to the station before your mother wakes up."
"Thank you, Dad," I chimed before running off to my room again.
Soon, Dad and I were on our way to the Radian District in his flying Mercedes L700. Flying cars had been designed for a few years, but this year was the first year that any auto company had begun to manufacture and sell them to the general public. It was kind of cool, actually, as the passenger could watch the traffic below, and the driver could put the car on autopilot if desired. Dad was operating the car manually, though, since the Radian District was only a few minutes from the hotel either by road or by air.
We arrived at the station sometime after seven AM. Seeing that we had nearly three hours before signups, Dad and I went to have breakfast at Alene's, a little cafe two blocks from the station. Unlike my mother, Dad liked the simpler things in life: cozy cafes over plush lounges, one course breakfasts over five course dinners, wool coats like the one he was wearing (which was nearly as old as myself) over my mother's fur coats, and spending time with his family over working until the crack of dawn (if in fact that's what my mother was doing). For the most part, we didn't talk during breakfast.