by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 19||Table of Contents||Chapter 21|
An Awkward Homecoming, November 17, 2055
Adelle was right. I did have difficulty getting back through Customs. The time stretched on. After five hours, an iris scan and multiple DNA tests, not to mention extensive questioning by airport security, Border Control and ConSec, I was released.
Olivia was waiting for me. She was sitting in the lounge reading the news on a padd facing away from me. I walked up beside and behind her and nuzzled her neck.
She spun around and gave me a big kiss. “I thought they were never going to let you go.”
“They had to be safe. And I think they were trying to get a secure connection to Rio Triste.”
Olivia nodded. “I heard about Matt,” she said.
One of my bags was missing. I filled out a detailed form describing the contents, mainly clothes, but I haven’t seen it since. Luckily, I had kept my data on me.
While we stood outside waiting for a cab, a newseye drifted slowly above the entranceway. People coming and going ignored the floating monitor. I chuckled thinking of the Rio Triste targets. I was being immersed in the electronic soup again. I would never again take newseyes for granted.
Once we were in the cab heading home, Olivia turned to me very seriously, and said “There is something I have to tell you.”
Just the way she said it made my heart sink. “What?”
“Matt’s lawyer no longer has access to any of his accounts, so Edie is not getting any money. She and the child were going to be put out on the street.”
“She doesn’t have any family?”
“No. Do you remember the Carlisle fire?”
That took me back. When I had been young, an entire family had burnt to death one winter. A baby girl had been in hospital. “She’s the one?”
I wasn’t sure I wanted a stranger in the house. “Was there no other alternative?”
“Social services would just stick her in a camp.”
Olivia looked at me sharply and retorted, “Do you have any idea what my client list is like?”
I shook my head.
“Twenty percent of them are fetal alcohol syndrome; a third of them are some sort of attention deficit disorder, of whom maybe half are diagnosed; the rest just collided with the legal system. They break things, they hurt people and, worst of all, it’s all meaningless — thrill seeking and stupidity. I spend my days getting lawyers, getting food, getting emergency funds. And that is just the locals. The refugees have another whole set of their own problems.
She grabbed my arm. “If you think I am going to drop Edie and her baby in the middle of that, you have another thought coming.”
I knew the steady stream of climate refugees from the south had forced economies on governments at all levels, but I had managed to avoid facing any personal implications. When people around the world were starving, the indigent were lucky to be fed and housed was my attitude.
“Okay. Okay. You did the right thing,” I said to Olivia. “I heard Matt promise and if he can’t support her, Jon and I must.”
Olivia smiled and put her head on my shoulder.
Now I knew what Adelle meant when she said, “quite protective.”
The sun was setting when the cab deposited us at home. I opened the back door and was greeted by the sound of a crying baby.
As I gazed down the hallway trying to puzzle out which room they were in, Olivia said, “I put her in your father’s room, because it was free and the only one big enough for the crib.”
“There now, there now,” I could hear a female voice cooing softly down the hall.
“I’ll just pop in and say hello,” said Olivia.
“I’m going to have a shower,” I said. “Downstairs.”
“Are you hungry?”
Olivia joined me in the shower a few minutes later and we spent the night together downstairs. We didn’t sleep much.
I didn’t see Edie until the next morning. It was a Sunday, so all three of us were knocking about the house all day. Edie was nervous around me at first, but she seemed to get over it. A few jokes and and Olivia’s casual manner helped in this regard. Edie breast fed discreetly. Over the next week, we felt our way to an accomodation in the house. If I wanted to work, I stayed in dad’s library. A lot of the time during the day, I was away.
It was a very different house from the one I left. Where an old man and his son had lived, two young women now ruled the roost. I almost felt like a visitor in my own home.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified December 25, 2012