by Caitlyn Konze -
Pain lanced Anjelika with each layer the cyborg added to her taped ankle. With every wince, her hair blinked canary yellow.
“I told you not to get those implants. They're shorting out.”
Anjelika smashed a leaking tear with the heel of her hand. “Dad, I'm not a child anymore. I can make my own decisions.”
“Yes, decisions that cause sprained ankles and attempts at...at– ”
It was hard enough for Anjelika to think the word rape. She forgave her father for not being able to shove the ugly word from his mouth.
“I'm fine. Nothing happened.”
Her father's fist struck her bedroom wall. “But it could have! That piece of bug scat deserves the broken jaw you gave him, but things could have easily turned out...different. Do you want to tell me what you were doing on the lower levels of Avenir to begin with?”
Several reasons came to mind but Anjelika doubted “because a space urchin has more joy than people up here” would do anything to minimize her father's pulsing neck vein. Instead, she pulled the tightly wadded ball of paper from her pocket.
“What is that?”
She opened her hand, and the letter began to bloom. Her father pinched it with his thumb and forefinger, shaking it open.
As he read, his skin lightened a shade, the skin under his eyes twitched, and his shoulders drooped like the gravity generator kicked into overdrive. A swell of regret chilled her heart. Then those words haunted her again, warming her with indignation. Your mother is mad. Your father is false. Your soul is tainted.
“Does it mean anything to you?” She hadn't meant her voice to sound so stern.
“Where?” The paper trembled in his hands.
“A runner passed it along while I was at a vapor bar.”
She winced at the word “bar,” expecting the conversation to divulge into a lecture, but her father's only response was to teeter from one foot to the other. How painful was the truth if this was how her calm, collected administrator father reacted? Was she ready for the answers she sought?
Anjelika inhaled and choked. She expected regret or a fond recollection, but what she smelled was fear. Heavy, paralyzing fear.
He looked at her with eyes that saw through Avenir and into the vast expanse of space. He dismissed the medical aide with a tight jerk of his head.
As the door slid shut, her father whispered, “We need to talk.”