The following is a brief mini-interlude focusing on a conversation between Flick and Deveron.
Two weeks ago, and two days before the trip to New York
“No, no wait, you gave the article what title?” Deveron demanded incredulously. It was the middle of the night, and he was sitting on one of the tables in the cafeteria, feet resting on the chair below him while he stared at the girl who was essentially his stepdaughter. A half-eaten bowl of yogurt with fruit sliced into it sat in his left hand.
Flick, for her part, sat on the table across from him with her own yogurt bowl. She coughed, taking a spoonful and enjoying it before repeating, “Festival Of Fraud.”
“Festival of–” Deveron gave a sharp laugh, shaking his head. “You were a dramatic little twelve-year-old, weren’t you?”
Her response was a shrug. “Has anything really changed? I’d say the drama in my life has just risen to meet younger me’s expectations. Besides,” she added, “Kendall was stealing from the school. We all worked to put that carnival on so that we could have that field trip, and she was stealing from it. I had to get everyone’s attention with a snappy title. Snappy, to the point, attention-getting. Sure, it was silly. But it worked. It got their attention.”
Chuckling, Deveron shook his head. “You definitely got your mother’s sense of justice.” Even as he spoke, the man thought about how Joselyn herself would have reacted. Maybe some parents would have been exasperated, but Jos… Jos would have loved it. Even the dramatic, silly title.
He could see her in Felicity sometimes. It was painful, but also beautiful. The agony of being separated from his wife for so many years, of knowing how much pain she was in and being able to do nothing about it… but the beauty of meeting her child, of seeing the ways that Felicity was similar to her mother as well as the ways that she was different.
He was jealous of Lincoln Chambers in some ways. Being with Joselyn more recently, having the chance to raise their daughter, see her grow up.
But in other ways… no. Lincoln had had Joselyn torn away from him as well. They had that in common. And he refused to allow his heart to fill with jealousy or any other negative feeling about someone his wife loved. Lincoln was important to Jos. She loved him.
“Trust me,” Felicity was saying, “I got my sense of justice from both of my parents. I think Dad gave me my sense of drama though. I mean, look at how he forced Asenath to reveal herself to him. He acted like he was gonna shoot himself in the head!”
Choking a little on his next spoonful of yogurt, Deveron nodded. “Yeah, that might’ve been a little over the top. But it worked. Still can’t believe your dad beat the Bystander Effect, even with help. I can see why Joselyn… why she would marry him. And how they could have a kid as great as you are.”
Felicity’s smile brightened for a moment then, before fading slowly into a slight frown. Her tone was guilty. “Don’t say that. I’m not a great person.”
Reaching out, Deveron poked her forehead with the cold spoon. “If you’re not a great person, the rest of us are in some deep shit.”
Instead of giggling, the girl cringed, head shaking. “I don’t–” She swallowed hard. “Sometimes… sometimes I almost think it was better when I didn’t know what was going on with my mom. It was easier to hate her. It was–” The bowl dropped from her hands, forgotten as she moved to cover her face. Before it could crash, Deveron gave a flick of his finger, slowing its descent and adjusting it to land on one of the nearby chairs.
He was there then, moving to sit on the table beside the girl as she buried her face in her hands. “Hey, hey.” Putting an arm around her back, he laid his other hand against her arm.
“I’m scared,” Felicity whispered against her hands, her voice barely audible. “I’m scared of what’s happening to Mom, about what’s been happening to her. I’m scared of what’s going to happen in the future, about what’s gonna happen when Fossor… I’m scared. I’m scared, and sometimes… sometimes I think it was easier when I could hate her, when I thought she just abandoned me, before I had to think about how she…”
Her voice turned plaintive then, shoulders shaking from emotion that had been dragged up. “I don’t want to hate her! I don’t, I swear I don’t. I… I’m a bad person. I’m a bad daughter.”
Swallowing the hard, thick lump in his throat, Deveron turned the girl toward him. “Hey,” he started, reaching up to gently, but firmly take her hands down from her face. “Look at me. Look at me, okay?”
As her eyes met his, he spoke carefully, pointedly. “You are not a bad person. And you are definitely not a bad daughter. It’s not evil to want things to be easier. It’s not evil to wish that there was a simple solution to things. Having a thought, having a feeling, having a dream doesn’t make you evil any more than thinking about donating to charity while you murder innocent people would make you a hero.”
The tears filled Felicity’s eyes as her head shook. “But,” she sniffled a little. “But I keep… those thoughts keep… Mom… Mommy. I miss my Mommy.” Her words were not those of the beautiful, strong young woman that she had become, but rather, of the little girl whose mother had disappeared so long ago, the little girl who had shoved herself away for so long.
“I know.” Without hesitation or thought, Deveron pulled the girl up to himself, embracing her tightly. “I miss her too, kid.”
As Felicity’s arms hesitantly snaked around to cling to him, he continued. “But you listen to me. We are going to get your mom back. We are going to get her back, I promise. And you are not a bad person. You think your mom never had doubts about what she was doing, what we were doing? Believe me, she had times when she thought it would be easier to just be the kind of Heretic that everyone expected her to be. Running the rebellion, it was… stressful.”
He could feel the girl’s tears soaking through the shoulder of his shirt as she held tightly to him, shuddering heavily. Her voice was weak. “I guess she and I are both awful Heretics, as f-far as that goes.”
“Now, that’s the truth,” he informed her, reaching up to gently brush the girl’s hair. “As far as Crossroads is concerned, hell, as far as Eden’s Garden is concerned too, you and Jos are pretty terrible. Making friends with Alters, turning fellow students into sympathizers, sparing innocent beings. You’re Joselyn’s daughter alright, and you both might be a couple of the worst Heretics who have ever lived.
“But tell me something, kid,” he added while gently rocking the crying girl back and forth as they sat there on the table. “Would you rather be a good Heretic… or a good person?”
“Person,” Felicity answered quietly, without hesitation.
Deveron nodded at that, still holding the girl. “Yeah,” he murmured. “That’s basically what Joselyn said.”
For a few minutes, the two of them just sat like that in relative silence. He let Felicity cry herself out, holding the girl close to him. Finally, her shaky, soft voice came once more as she admitted, “I’m still scared about what’s gonna happen.”
“Me too, kid,” Deveron replied quietly.