Your mother lied to you. That's the truth. The words rang in Piper's head, bouncing back and forth across her brain like a pinball, refusing to leave. She just couldn't believe it. After all these years...
She ran down a fairly empty side street, trying to keep away from people. She didn't even really know why she was running. Maybe she was trying to outrun the words, as if getting as far away from her house as possible would make them disappear. Or maybe she was running just to run, because it was freeing, her bright blonde hair whipping around in the light summer-evening breeze.
She didn't realize that she had been running towards the beach until her bare feet hit sand and she stopped looking out at the ocean. Nineteen years she had wondered why she was different. Nineteen years she had wondered why she didn't seem to look like her dad and why trouble had always seemed to follow her. Once, in fifth grade, she had gotten in a fight at school and she had knocked the other girl back fifty feet into a fence. Another time in high school she had been flirting-at-a-distance with a guy at restaurant, giving him a root beer-float kind of smile, not paying attention to what was happening. When he left and she snapped out of it, the glass that she had been holding had melted to her skin. Her mom had to take her the emergency room to get it off and her hand had been bandaged for weeks while the skin grew back. In the most recent incident, she had been at work waitressing for a coffee shop when a customer tried to grope her butt. As soon as Piper realized it, she jerked forward and at the same moment, so did his food, flying forward into his face. She was amazed that she still had her job, but her boss was a nice man who understood that some people were perverts and that accidents happen.
These memories came to the forefront of Piper's mind as she looked at the rolling waves in front of her. If only her brother Aiden hadn't found their mom's old diary. Then nothing would have happened and she could have gone on with her normal life. Well, as normal as her life could ever be.
Taking a deep breath, Piper walked to the edge of the sea, letting the water lap gently at her feet. She needed to calm down. Grabbing a stick from nearby, she did what she had always done when something had bothered her: she wrote it down by the ocean and let the water wash the words away. Although in this case, it was more habit than something she thought would actually help. This was a little too extreme for a little water to fix. Carefully, she wrote in the sand, My father is an alien.
How could her mother hide this big of a secret from her? Piper sat down in the sand, her knees pulled up to her chest, as she watched the Virgiana waves gently faded away her words while the sun set behind her. If only the real problem was as easy to get rid of. She was half alien. Half alien!
She was so lost in thought that she didn't even realize that her best friend, Dmitri, had come up behind her. "Uh oh," he said, jumping her out of her reverie. "That's your thinking face, that's a dangerous face." He sat down beside her, all brown hair and green eyes. Piper had had a crush on him for years but now that was pretty much impossible. What kind of guy would want to date a girl whose mother had cheated on her then-boyfriend with an alien from a distant planet, who she never saw again. He'd never even visited! Some father he'd turned out to be. As far as she was concerned, Alfred was her father, no matter what weird things happened around her.
Dmitri looked at her, concerned, and put his arm around her shoulders. "Whatever it is, you'll get through it," he said, giving her a side-hug. "You're strong like that."
Piper put her head on his shoulder. "I sure hope so," she said, looking out at the ocean. It looked so peaceful, but she knew better. Take a boat out there and it could turn from peaceful to deadly in seconds. Sounded like her life.
"Let's go for a swim!" Dmitri suggested brightly, standing up and pulling Piper up with him. "And don't tell me you don't have your bathing suit on because I know that's a lie. You always have it on during the summer so you don't have to go home if you want to go swimming.
Piper laughed. No matter what was going on in her messed-up life, Dmitri could always make her feel better. No doubt he could be annoying sometimes, but it was moments like this that made up for all that. She stripped of her light blue shorts and white peasant top, leaving them on the beach as she ran out into the ocean in just her sunset-colored bikini. The water was freezing, but it was refreshing and woke her up, making her mind clearer than it had been in hours.
After about an hour of swimming and splashing together, Piper and Dmitri found their way back to the beach, laughing and falling all over each other. They fell to the sand, looking up at the now star-filled sky.
"Are you ready to tell me why you were upset earlier?" Dmitri asked tentatively.
Piper sighed heavily. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she answered.
Piper took a deep breath. She had always been able to tell Dmitri anything, ever since they had met when she was only five years old and he was seven. But was this too much for even open-minded, fun-loving Dmitri to handle. She closed and opened her gray eyes slowly, stalling for time, before she took a deep breath and said, "The Annoying One found Mom's old diary. There was an entry from right before Mom and Dad got married about how she had cheated on him and felt really bad about it. An then there was another one about her getting pregnant and wondering how the baby was going to turn out. But Dmitri," she added, steeling herself for rejection, "It wasn't because she wasn't sure who the father was. She hadn't done anything with Dad yet, so she knew it was this other man's. She was worried because...because he was an alien." By the end of her speech, she had started to stare intently at the sand, drawing figure-eights in it.
For a long time, neither of them said anything. Piper didn't dare say anything until she knew how Dmitri felt. Her worry skyrocketed while he processed the information. Finally, he said, "Well, that explains why you could always beat me in track."
Piper laughed under her breath, internally sighing with relief. "No, I think that's just because you're slow," she teased, poking his side, glad that the tension in the air had been released.
"Ouch," he said, dramatically hurt. "I don't know which you injured more with that, my side or my ego."
"I don’t think I could hurt your ego if I ran it through with a javelin," Piper replied with a laugh.
"Haha true," he said with a smile. Then he stood up, looking down at her. "I know what you need, Piper," he said.
Piper sat up, using her arms to prop her up. "Oh? And what's that?"
"Movie night at my house. We can call your family and let them know where you are. Should't be a big deal." It never was. Piper had stayed late at Dmitri's house often, sometimes not coming home at all, just being put into the guest room or, every once in a while, she and Dmitri had fallen asleep together watching a movie or just talking. Long as someone knew where she was and she could always get up for class, it usually didn't matter.
The night was spent laughing, watching random movies, and eating popcorn and ice cream. Dmitri fell asleep somewhere halfway through Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but Piper made it through the end of that and the beginning of Ten Inch Hero before she fell asleep on the floor next to him, back on the couch and head on his shoulder. Little did she know that it would be the last movie they would watch together for a while.
The next morning, she woke up to sunlight in her face and looming shadow in the way of it. She blinked, eyes still trying to focus in the early bright. "Mom?" She asked as enough details registered in her brain for recognition to kick in.
"I need to talk to you," her mother said gently, holding out her hand. Piper hesitated. She didn't know yet if she had forgiven her mom, but no matter what, she was still her mom. She took the hand and stood up.
They walked down the street to their house and into the living room where Piper's mom sat them both down on the couch. "Now, I know your upset," she started. That was the understatement of the century. "But you have to understand that I did it to protect you. There are people out there who would hurt you to get at your power and I didn't want you to live that kind of life. I was hiding it from the rest of the world as much as I was from you." It made sense but Piper was still a little hurt. "There's something I need to show you," she said, perking Piper's interest as she pulled an envelope out of her pocket. "Your real father gave me this just before he left. He said that if I ever needed him, all I had to do was follow these instructions and he would come find me. I want you to have them,” she said, handing the envelope over. "There's also a plane ticket in there for this afternoon, if you want to use it."
Piper's eyes widened. A chance to meet her real father? It almost couldn't be true. But could she really leave the town she had lived in all her life? She hadn't even really gone away for college, picking the one closest to home that she could find, at least for now. Who knew where that plane ticket would take her? But as she thought about it, she realized that it wasn't really a choice. If she didn't do this now, she would wonder all her life what her father was like. She hugged her mom. "Guess I should go get packed," she said. "How long do you think I need to pack for?"
Her mom smiled. "As long as you think is necessary." Piper nodded and ran upstairs, her only chance to meet her father clutched in her hands.
About an hour later, Piper stood on her front porch, having said goodbye to her family, suitcase on the ground next to her. Closing the door behind her, she turned to see a familiar face, looking at her with sad puppy eyes.
"Were you just going to leave without saying goodbye?" Dmitri asked, eyes wide.
Piper shook her head. "Of course not. I just felt that this was something I needed to tell you in person," she said, but she knew it was a lie, and she could tell that he also knew. She had been hoping to slip out without seeing the one person she didn't think she could say goodbye to.
"Do you have to go?" He asked.
"It's not like I'll never come back," she said with a small smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
Dmitri scooped her up into a huge bear-hug. "I wanted to give you something," he said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a locket. "So you have something to remember me by."
"I don't need something to remember you by," she said with a little laugh, but she took the necklace anyways. Inside was a picture of the two of them from the summer before, Dmitri trying to eat Piper’s ice cream and getting it all over both of them. Piper's mom had thought it was so cute that she had to take a picture. Piper's copy of it was currently in the bottom of her suitcase. "But thank you anyways." She clasped it behind her neck and let the silver chain and locket hang delicately around her neck.
Taking a deep, steady breath, Piper tried to calm her shaking hands. "Well," she said nervously. "I guess I'll see you around, then."
"Yeah, see you."
Piper couldn’t take it anymore. She turned, picking up her suitcase, knowing that if she stayed another moment with him, she'd lose her will to leave. So she picked herself up and headed off towards the airport and a scarily unknown world...