A Black Suit was outside the door of Ayn’s last class. She stood frozen with anger in the doorway, her classmates asking what was going on behind her, until the Black Suit took her arm and pulled her out of the way.
Ayn yanked her arm away, annoyed that she couldn’t at least walk herself outside, before being chauffeured home. Her anger disappeared when she saw her dad waiting inside the solar craft, and she ran and jumped in beside him, throwing her arms around his neck. “I’m so glad to see you,” she cried into his shoulder.
“Me too,” her dad said, soothing her hair. His voice sounded strange, like he was getting sick.
She pulled away and looked at him. Dark circles shadowed his eyes, and his unshaven cheeks were sunken. His sideburns were turning gray. Had it been changing before and she hadn’t noticed? “Dad?”
He met her gaze with bloodshot eyes.
“You’re coming home to rest? Right?”
“Dad, you don’t look good,” she said, and added when he chuckled, “You know what I mean.”
“I wish I could sweet pea, but I’m just coming home for a little while. We’re making huge progress—”
“Can’t you tell me what you’re working on?”
“I’m sorry, sweet pea, I can’t,” he said.
“You used to tell me about your work,” she hated that she was pouting, but couldn’t help it. Why did this have to change to?
“I know, but this is different,” he said.
“Different how?” Ayn persisted.
Her dad gave her a tired smile. “I’m not so tired to not recognize that trick,” he said.
The “trick” was something she’d learned from her mom. If asking one way didn’t work, try asking another way.
“And anyway, we’re home,” he said as the Black Suit docked the solar craft in front of their apartment.