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John's Story ("The Wedding")

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            John Travers and his wife and Maria awoke in the middle of the night to loud commotion in the next apartment.

            Muffled voices, the barking of commands. Then a terrible scream pierced the walls. John started to jump out of bed when his wife grabbed his arm.

            “Don’t, John. Don’t get involved.”

            “That’s Delia! She’s being attacked!”

            “No John,” and her thoughts tumbled out all at once – you stupid later/why don’t you laters have any common sense – “it’s not safe, don’t move!” John could barely see his wife, but he could feel her eyes on him, blazing.

            “Can’t you hear that?” he shouted. “Someone’s attacking Delia! I have to call the Corps!”

            “That is the Corps, you idiot!”

            There was silence.

            “People disappear,” Maria said quietly, panicking. “You know that. It happens.”

            “…But I thought that only happens to telepaths who break the law.”

            “You know that Delia didn’t? You know that for sure?”

            He didn’t.

            You heard nothing, do you understand me? “Don’t get involved. Don’t question the police.”

            He nodded in the darkness. His heart pounded in his chest. He heard the heavy thud of boots, and then more silence.

            It was impossible to fall back asleep.

*****

            The morning came. John knocked on Delia’s door, but there was no answer. He slogged through the work day – the exhaustion made it very challenging to pay attention, but he did the best he could, and didn’t tell any of the normals about what had happened the night before. Coffee. Everything could be solved with enough coffee.

            When he got home, Maria was still at work. The screen beeped, and John went to take the call. He looked at the ID – his brother.

            “Marty?” he said, pretending to be cheerful.

            His older brother’s face appeared on the screen. “Hey, John! How are things over there?”

            “Oh, same as usual,” John lied. “How are you?”

            “I’ve got some exciting news! Samantha and I are getting married!”

            “That’s great! When’s the wedding?”

            The wedding was soon, only three months out. “I want you and your family to join us in New York," Marty was saying. "I want you to be my best man.”

            There wasn’t any time for it to sink in. “I’m really honored, Marty. I don’t know what to say.”

            “So you accept?”

            “Sure.”

            “We're doing it so soon because Samantha’s being transferred off-world,” Marty continued. “I can’t imagine planning this from a bazillion star systems away, and then flying home for the wedding itself. How do you check out function halls and caterers when you’re on another planet?”

            John just shrugged.

            “We've hired several planners. This wedding’s gonna be huge. We’ve got three hundred people on the guest list.”

            “…You can afford all that?”

            “IPX pays its lawyers well!”

            “Yeah… I can see that.”

            “And bring your wife this time! Really, John, this is just weird… What’s this thing of hers? If mom and dad didn’t meet her that time, I’d think your wife was computer-generated. Your kids, too.”

            “The boys live at school.”

            “That’s a telepath thing, you said?”

            “Yes. I don’t like it, but I don’t have much of a choice.”

            “Well screw that, pack up the family and come out here. If it’s about the money, we’ll pay for the transport-”

            “Marty, this is not about money.”

            “Why is Maria so reclusive? Is that a telepath thing too?”

            “Can we talk about something else?”

            They spent the next hour talking about sports and funny vids instead, about mom’s garden, about wedding plans, and for a brief time, John got his mind off of the night before. Talking sports with Marty, it was almost as if he was back in high school, back in the good old days before his life had been turned upside down.

            Almost.

*****

           When the wedding invitation arrived, Maria refused to go.

           “But Maria, he’s my brother!” John shouted. “This is my brother who’s getting married! I’m going to the wedding, and you should be there with me, as my wife.”

           “I’m not going.”

           “You’ve never even met Marty! He thinks you’re computer generated! And you haven’t seen my parents since our wedding! Thirteen years, Maria – we’ve been married for thirteen years – you could at least make an effort!”

           “He’s not my family,” Maria replied curtly.

           “Yes he is, he’s your brother-in-law. I don’t know why you won’t at least make the gesture of going with me. Because ‘it’s not done’?”

           “Because,” Maria said, carefully folding clothes and putting them away, “I won’t be made into a spectacle for normals. If you insist on going, I can’t stop you. Go alone.”

           “You’re invited, Maria. Your name is on the invitation. Look.” He pointed.

           “And got my name wrong.” Maria pointed. “Maria Travers? My name is Maria Pilar Garcia Fuentes. The least they can do is get my name right if they actually want me there.”

           “He told me himself he wants you there. He said he wants to meet you. He insisted you come.”

           “They don’t want me. I know better.”

           “Maria! These aren’t just some ‘normals,’ these people are my family!”

           “Some of them, not most of them.”

           “He’s my brother! My only brother! He wants me to be his best man! How can I say no?”

           “If you must make a fool of yourself, then go. But I won’t, and that’s final. This will be a spectacle. Three hundred normals, and us? Never.”

           “Well, I’m taking the boys,” John continued, undaunted. “I want them to meet their grandparents. I want them to meet their uncle. They’ve never met my family!”

           “The school will never allow it. It’s unsafe.”

           “They’ll be with me the whole time!”

           “John, you’re a fool. The normal world is no place for telepath children.”

           “You’re paranoid! My family won’t hurt them!”

           “Their real family is the Corps, John. The Corps is a telepath’s only true family.” And it should be yours, too, she thought.

           He rolled his eyes. “Well what if I don’t want to raise my children with those values?”

           She gave him a dark look. “Then it’s a good thing you’re not the one raising them.”

           John exploded. “And was that my choice? No! Children are supposed to live at home with their parents! You sent them away once they were weaned! I had no choice, I had no say! What if I never liked the way you people do things?”

           “‘You people’? Who is ‘you people’?”

           “You Corps-raised telepaths who think the rest of us should all be just like you!”

           “Get out, John.”

           “Now you’re throwing me out?”

           “Get out of this room. Leave me alone. I don’t know why I married you. I was young and stupid.” You don’t get it. You laters never get it.

           “I’m taking the boys to meet their grandparents!” John shouted. “I don’t care what you think about it! I’m proud to have a family that still wants me, ever think of that? I’m not ashamed of them!”

           She raised mental walls, and folded the clothes in silence.

*****

           That Saturday, John got up very early and drove four hours to the school. He could have called instead, but he wanted to have the conversation in person. Digital communication had never felt the same since he developed telepathy – he never felt like he was really talking to the person on the other end, just to a bunch of electrons.

           He showed his identicard to the guards, and wound his way through neatly manicured lawns, red brick buildings, and clusters of uniformed school children of all ages. The sun was shining, the children were smiling – it was Saturday, after all – but he didn’t feel welcome.

           The headmaster, a middle-aged man with thinning hair, reluctantly sat down with him.

           “I’m here to talk about my sons, Jeremy and Casey Garcia Fuentes.”

            “They’re doing well.” The headmaster gave John a summary of their academic progress. “You can visit them if you’d like-”

            “Actually, I’m here because my brother is getting married,” John said.

            “Congratulations. He’s a telepath?”

            “No, a normal.”

            A moment’s pause. “Ah, I see. Then what does this have to do with us?”

            “I’d like to take the boys to the wedding.”

            “Here in Chicago?”

            “No, in New York City.”

            “Out of the question. I’m sorry you wasted your trip up here. If you’d like to visit with the boys, though-”

            “They won’t be in any danger,” said John, “I’ll be with them every moment.”

            “The answer is no. Children only leave school grounds with teachers, on planned, organized excursions, and even those are very rare. I cannot allow two of our children to travel unattended to New York City.”

            “They’re not ‘unattended,’ they’ll be with me, their father!”

            “The Corps is Mother and Father, Mr. Travers. Those children are my responsibility. It is my duty to keep them safe. Surely if you were raising them, you’d do the same?”

            John bit his tongue, and decided to change tactics. He knew that telepath children were at high risk for kidnapping, but surely, if they were with their father... This was madness.

            “You think I’m a flight risk.”

            “Not particularly, although it’s always a concern. Why, are you a flight risk, Mr. Travers? Is there something I should be worried about?”

            The headmaster was twisting his words around. “Of course not,” John said. “But is that why you won’t let the boys go? You think I’ll run off with them to New York City and go rogue?”

            “I never said that, you did.”

            Another twist.

            “If you keep treating parents like this,” John said, “sooner or later someone is going to do it, you know that, right?”

            “Who is ‘someone,’ Mr. Travers?”

            “Someone with a lot less patience than me.”

            “Someone with a lot less sense than you, too,” the headmaster replied. The unspoken question hung in the air: You do have more sense than that, right?

            “I didn’t break the law. I came here and asked for permission to take my children to my brother’s wedding.”

            “And I've told you: Absolutely not.”

            When John left the office, the sun was still shining. The children were still smiling. He wanted to scream.

*****

            John took a transport to New York City, alone. When he landed, he felt the distinct telepathic “hum” around him – the city had its own pulse and heartbeat, a cacophony of sights and sounds and the pressure of so many minds in close proximity.[1]

            The hotel Marty and Samantha had picked was huge, all glass and polished metal and lights, with a lobby full of fresh flowers. John went to the desk to check in.

            “John Travers,” he said, handing over his identicard and a credit chip. “For the Travers wedding?”

            He was relieved that in the cosmopolitan city of New York, the desk clerk didn’t react at all to John being a telepath – he seemed just as friendly and personable as he would be to normals. In a city as big as this, and a hotel as fancy as this, John figured, they must get a fair number of telepaths coming through on business.

            John helped the bellman load the luggage onto the cart, and followed him up the elevator and down several long, winding corridors. The bellman keyed in the combination on the door. John was tired – exhausted even – but something felt wrong.

            “Excuse me,” John asked, “I’m with the Travers wedding party. The groom is my brother.”

            “Congratulations, sir!”

            “Thank you… look, I may be wrong about this, but I thought we were all going to get rooms together? I think there’s been some mistake. My mom said…”

            “Oh, sorry about that sir, it’s hotel policy. Telepaths are roomed in the East Wing because, well, forgive me for saying so, sir, but you make some of the other patrons uncomfortable. I’m sure you understand, sir.”

            “That’s just not acceptable. I’m here for my brother’s wedding. We’re staying together.” John saw he wasn’t getting anywhere. “He’s a normal,” he added. “They all are.”

            “You’ll have to take it up with the hotel manager, sir. Nothing I can do about it, I’m just the bellman.”

            “Sir, I’m only a P3. Do you know what that means? I can’t go scanning people in the next room even if I wanted to-”

            “I’m sorry, sir, this is hotel policy. Some years back, before I started working here, the hotel gave a telepath a room in the main wing. Something went wrong and we got sued for mental distress and invasion of privacy.[2] It was big.”

            John sighed, defeated. This policy, that policy, always some damn policy. A policy had got him kicked out of Columbia, too. “Well, um, I see,” he said, and he tipped the man anyway. “Thank you for bringing my luggage up, at least.”

            “You’re welcome, sir. Have a pleasant stay.” The bellman gave a small bow and left.

            After a snack from room service, and a short nap, John got dressed for the pre-wedding dinner. He tried to put the room glitch out of his mind – it was still going to be a good wedding, and maybe his family could get the room thing worked out. Marty was sparing no expense – maybe with enough credits in the right hands, the problem would go away.

            John went down to the private dining room, and found himself one of the first guests there. There was no sign of Marty or his parents. He didn’t recognize anyone there – they must be from the bride’s family, he figured, or perhaps they were Marty and Samantha’s friends or colleagues.

            He made his way over to the hors d’oeuvres table, but paused in dismay – everything was hot, moist finger food, exactly what one couldn’t eat with gloves. There were tongs for putting the appetizers onto small plates, but no forks in sight.

            Rather than attract the attention of the wait staff, John decided instead to wander back out into the hallway and look for his family.

            He saw Marty standing out in the hall by himself, all nerves and jitters.

            “Marty!”

            He looked up. “John!” He grabbed his brother in a big bear hug. “Good to see you! Oh my God how long has it been, two years?”

            “Close to it!”

            “John, you look great.”

            “Thanks Marty, you do too. You look fabulous.”

            “Where’s Maria?” asked Marty.

            “She… couldn’t make it.”

            Marty gave him a look. “The same reasons?”

            John nodded. “I did my level best to explain to her that you’re not like what she thinks, but she’s somewhat set in her ways. You’re both wonderful people, Marty, it’s just… you wouldn’t get along. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

            Marty waved down the hall. “Mom! Dad! Come quick! Look who’s here!”

            “John!” Their mother shouted down the hall, and half tripped in her heels as she ran. Their father followed close behind, somewhat less clumsily. “Where’s Maria?”

            “She couldn’t come.”

            John’s mother rolled her eyes. She said some polite words, but he could feel it all –

            Why did you have to marry that woman? / Thinks she’s better than us / Won’t even come to her brother-in-law’s wedding

            John hesitated. He didn't want to think how Maria had been saying the same thing... why did I marry you, I was young and stupid...

            “So Marty! How about the Yankees this season, eh? Now that’s some baseball!”

            Everyone chatted about baseball for ten minutes, and then John’s parents went into the dining room.

            “Hey, John, um,” Marty began, and John braced for another comment about Maria’s absence. “Could you do me a favor before we go on in there?”

            “Sure, what?”

            “Could you, um…” he gestured, “take that off?”

            “My jacket?” he asked, hoping he wasn’t hearing what he knew he was hearing.

            “No, that pin.”

            John looked at him stunned, and more than a bit confused. “Marty, I can’t do that, and you know why-”

            “Yeah yeah I do, but look… I don’t want Samantha’s family to be uncomfortable, you know?”

            “Marty, you asked me to be best man, and now you’re saying-”

            “No, I’m not saying that, not at all.”

            “Then what are you saying?”

            “Look, I just mean… it would make things a lot easier.”

            “Easier?”

            “Look, I get it, I get it, telepaths have to wear the pin and gloves. It’s just that Samantha… well, I don’t know how Samantha…” Marty trailed off, and John figured it out.

            “What you’re telling me, Marty,” John said, cautiously, “is that you haven’t told Samantha.”

            “It never came up, you know? There was just never any way to talk about it, and now you’re here, and um…”

            “You never told your bride-to-be. Is that what you’re saying? You asked me to be your best man, and you never told her.”

            “It never came up.”

            “Well, Marty,” John said dryly, “here she comes now, so I guess you’re going to get your chance.”

            The thin and pretty woman John recognized from Marty’s pictures was quickly approaching, in a little black dress and heels. When she saw Marty standing with John she froze dead in her tracks, did a double take, and walked up to her fiance.

            “Marty?” she asked, pulling him aside one step, giving John a sidelong glance and speaking in very audible “quiet tones” – “why is there a telepath at our wedding? Is this some kind of trick? Do you not trust me?”

            “Samantha, this is my younger brother John. You remember him from the family albums?”

            She glanced back over at John and looked him up and down. “You’re not actually serious,” she said.

            “Yeah, Samantha, I am. You understand.”

            “You can’t be serious.”

            “Um, yeah.”

            “This is a prank. Right? This is a prank.”

            “No.” John felt his brother starting to panic.

            The truth began to sink in for the bride-to-be. “You never mentioned him being a telepath.” Samantha's eyes were shooting icy daggers at John.

            “Well, it never came up, but yeah. John, this is Samantha, Samantha-”

            John reached out a hand, and Samantha literally recoiled, as if John was a scorpion. “Don’t touch me,” she spat. “You stay over there.” Then back at Marty, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

            “I just told you, it just never came up-”

            “Bullshit. Are you out of your goddamn mind?” She glanced briefly at John. “No offense.”

            Marty gestured to the dining room door. “Um, look, can we all just go in and sit down?”

            “No. What else are you hiding from me, Marty? Anything else you ‘forgot to tell me’ before the wedding?”

            “Uh, no… no…”

            “Why should I believe you?”

            “Look, maybe I should go…” John began, but Samantha held her hand up.

            “Not so fast, I want the full story first.”

            “That is the full story, Samantha. John’s a telepath. He’s not like other telepaths, he’s a normal guy, like us. He wasn’t even a telepath till he was eighteen. You’re making a big fuss out of nothing-”

            “My God, Marty, we’re planning on having children! I want you tested right this instant!”

            “Samantha, I have been tested! And I’m not carrying the gene, they tested me too when John manifested-”

            “I’m not either,” John cut in. “I’m in the thirty percent who doesn’t have the genetic marker-”

            Marty shot him a “you’re not helping!” look.

            “You stay out of this!” Samantha shouted at John. “No one asked you for your opinion!” Then she turned back to Marty. “So how do I know if we have kids they won‘t turn out like him?” She pointed, as if to impale John on one of her manicured nails.

            “Samantha! For God’s sake, calm down please, just calm down-”

            “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me this!” I can’t… I can’t… oh my God.” She broke off and stormed into the dining hall.

            John muttered something about leaving.

            “No John, stay, I’ll handle her. I’ll handle her somehow.”

            “No Marty, I think I’ve given – and taken – enough offense for one night.”

            Moments later Samantha stormed back out of the dining room, followed by an older couple, who John took to be her parents. They headed down the hall in the opposite direction from the lobby. Samantha seemed to be dragging them. They were talking in excited voices, but John couldn’t make most of it out. He didn’t even try to catch their thoughts. He already knew they were talking about him.

            “John, please, stay for the dinner, we’ll work this out somehow-”

            “Tomorrow, Marty, tomorrow. Goodnight.”

*****

            John ordered room service up in the room. He’d expected awkwardness, but he hadn’t expected this.

            Good God, why did Maria have to be right?

            John let insults roll off his back all the time – the looks, the comments, getting assigned a room on the other side of the hotel so normals wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. He picked his battles, learned to live with it as an unfortunate part of life. But from family – from his own brother – John didn’t know to make sense of that. It was crushing, it was confusing, and it made him furious.

            It wasn't his "fault" he was telepathic.

            John sat in the suite’s living room, silent, thinking. He didn’t want to call Maria – he just wanted some time to himself.

            There came a knock at the door. Exhausted, John got up and looked through the peep hole, and opened the door for his brother.

            “Hey,” he said. “Come on in… I can order up a drink if you want.”

            “Don’t bother… I’m just up here for a moment… look, I wanted to apologize for tonight.”

            John nodded. “Come on in.”

            Marty stepped inside. “Samantha never should have said those things,” Marty began, clearly having rehearsed these lines. “I’m shocked and surprised that she said them, because I didn’t think she was like that. I've never seen that before from her. You have to believe me.”

            John nodded.

            “Now she’s talking about calling off the wedding, and I don’t know if she’s serious or not. Maybe she just needs time, I don’t know. I think she’ll come around. She’s a good person. I’ve never seen her act like this before. I swear, it came out of nowhere just as much for me as for you.”

            John nodded.

            “So I wanted to apologize to you for that. That wasn’t right. And she’s not a bigot. She’s just… I dunno… she was shocked I guess, and she’s been really stressed out with this wedding, and she’s been screaming at everyone for everything… I mean really small stuff like the napkins on the tables. She threw a fit about the napkins. Screamed at everyone. She’s not herself, you know what I mean?”

            John sat down on the bed.

            “So… yeah, I wanted to apologize for her.”

            “Marty… why didn’t you tell her about me?”

            “It never came up! That’s the truth! It just never came up!”

            “Marty, as much as I dislike having something in common with Samantha right now, I’m also having trouble believing that.”

            “But it’s true! It’s the truth! I just never thought it was a big deal! You’re not scary, you're not like those Psi Cops, you’re just a regular guy! I just didn’t think it mattered.”

            “Marty… this is a big deal, you know that. Shit, do you know why my room is all the way over on this side of the hotel?”

            “No, I was going to ask you…”

            “It’s because the hotel has a policy of sticking telepaths over here in the East Wing so we don’t make anyone uncomfortable. The bellman told me. He told me I could take it up with the manager, but I stopped caring at that point.”

            “Uh, well, telepaths do make people uncomfortable.” John shot him a look. “Well no, no, I don’t mean you, and you really should be staying with the rest of the family, I agree. But in general, you know what I mean?”

            “Better than you do, Marty.”

            “Look, John… I wanted to apologize for Samantha’s behavior, but I also wanted to point out that you contributed to it, too, you know?”

            “What the hell?” John stood up again.

            “Well, just that I asked you to take that off, and you couldn’t just make this one exception, couldn’t be at all flexible. I mean none of this would have happened if you’d just-”

            “This isn’t a choice! You're a lawyer - you know that! Believe me, if this was a choice, I wouldn’t do any of this, and God help me if the walls are bugged. But it’s not a choice, Marty. Do you know what happens to telepaths who step out of line? Let me tell you – a neighbor of ours disappeared in the middle of the night a few months back. And do you know why?”

            “No.”

            “Well, me neither! And that's the point. They came for her in the night, and that was it, she was gone. Poof. Yanked out of her bed in her nightclothes. No warrant. No lawyer. You still live in a world of due process, Marty, of judges and courts and trials. You still have free speech, you still live in a world where they tell you why they’re arresting you. You have rights, Marty. But I don’t live in that world, and I never will again. Are we clear?”

            “John, don’t you think you’re slightly exaggerating? I mean this was just for the evening, who here was going to call the police-”

            “Anyone, anyone at all. You wanna tell me what happened to our neighbor?”

            “John, I’m just asking you to be flexible.”

            “This isn’t a matter of flexibility. This isn’t a matter of accommodating you. This is because staying alive and out of prison is a hell of a lot more important to me than how comfortable some normals I’ve never met are feeling. They’re scared of me all the time, that happens everywhere I go, every day. And I quickly realized that that wasn’t my problem, it was theirs. Because if I made it my problem, then I might as well live under house arrest.”

            Marty didn’t know any of this, John realized. Marty wasn't the only one guilty of never mentioning things... John had never spoken to his brother about this, either. Sure, Marty might have learned pieces of the law and the history back in school, but he'd never heard from a telepath what life behind the gloves was actually like.

            But it was worse, John could see - Marty didn’t believe him.

            “John, calm down, you’ve become totally paranoid. No one's going to arrest you! Is this Maria’s influence? I’ve never seen you like this.”

            John slumped back into a chair and put his face in his hands. He took several deep breaths. “Marty, you set me up. You invited me here, and you set me up. And you set Samantha up. And now you’re coming up here under the guise of an apology to find a scapegoat for your own fuck-ups. I’m not buying it, Marty. You should have told her.”

            “But it’s not important-”

            “Well, it’s pretty damn important to Samantha,” John shot, “and it’s pretty damn important to everyone else in Earth-controlled space. For generations telepaths have been regulated – several committees in the Senate, a regulatory authority, and now the Corps, an agency whose sole job is to monitor and control the activities of people like me, with its own police force – and you say it’s not important? I’m stuck on the other side of the hotel! I got kicked out of college! My children can't leave their boarding school! If it’s not important to you, congratulations, you’re the only exception in the universe.” There was an awkward pause. “Maybe Maria was right,” he said. “Maybe you’re not my family anymore.”

            “John I can’t believe-”

            “And no, I don’t mean Psi Corps propaganda. I mean the Marty I grew up with wouldn’t have set me up like this. Wouldn’t have pretended like this was no big deal when it really is, and buried his head in the sand, and then just invited everyone together and hoped it would miraculously all turn out OK. It doesn’t work like that, Marty.”

            “Well, the John I know wouldn’t be so damn paranoid and inflexible.”

            John sighed. “Why did you even invite us? You could have found a hundred excuses not to. You could have told Samantha I work on some distant colony. It would have hurt, yes, but not like this. You were off-world when Maria and I got married. Why did you even invite us?”

            “Because I wanted you here! I wanted us all together like we used to be!”

            John stood decisively and walked to the door. “Marty, you shouldn’t even be here with me. You should be downstairs trying to patch things up with Samantha. She’s your fiancée, and you’ve got a hell of a job cut out for you, piecing that back together.” He opened the door.

            “John…”

            “No Marty, there are three hundred people here in New York City who expect a wedding tomorrow. This is your time, and Samantha’s time. You should be down there.” He gave his brother a stern look.

            Marty protested.

            “No. She’s the one you might lose for good. You’re stuck with me. No matter how damn inconvenient it is for you, I’m still your brother.” He led Marty out the door. “But you’re going to have to find another best man.”

*****

            John ordered up some red wine, sat back in one of the plush arm chairs, and did his best not to give a damn. Maybe Samantha would calm down, and everything would be all right. Maybe she’d call the wedding off, and Marty would find some way to convince himself it was all John’s fault. Blame the teep – as if that wasn’t what happened in business all the time when some deal went south. Same old shit, different flies.

            Oh, you’re not willing to break the law for my convenience? You’re not willing to risk your life so I can be a bit more comfortable? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know that I’m the exception?

            If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, John mused darkly, it’s still the telepath’s fault.

            He called Maria. She appeared on the screen, wearing her favorite soft pink bathrobe.

            “John… it’s midnight in New York. Is everything OK?”

            “Well… not exactly.”

            “What happened?”

            “You were right, I never should have come. My brother conveniently forgot to tell his bride that I’m a telepath, and it hit the fan.”

            “Oh my God.”

            Telepathy didn’t work at nearly that distance, but John could hear it anyway:

            I told you so.

            “Maria, he’s been living in some sort of fantasy-land all this time. He managed to convince himself that everything was the same, or at least that it should be, and self-deludedly invited everyone to the wedding thinking everything would be OK. He’s got these ‘I don’t see you as a telepath’ blinders on, and meanwhile his bride’s a Grade A bigot and he doesn’t want to see that, either. And our poor parents are stuck in the middle.”

            “John, come home.”

            “If there’s a wedding tomorrow I’ll stay for it, and if there isn’t, then that’s that. Nothing I can do about it. But he’s going to have to find another best man, because you were right, that would be a spectacle. Might even cost him his job for all I know.”

            “John, he’s not the only one who’s been pretending nothing’s changed. I hear what you guys talk about. Sports, politics, your mother’s garden…”

            “Yeah, well.” John closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

            “You have both been living in that fantasy-land together, acting like you’re not really a telepath. You’ve done this ever since I met you. I’ve been indulging your little make-believe, since it always made you feel so much happier.”

            “Yeah, well… it did. It just seems that Marty took it too far.”

            “John…”

            “I know what you’re going to say, Maria,” John said, head down, worn out, bone tired. He stared at the carpet, not wanting to meet his wife’s eyes, even through the screen. “You’re going to say I took it too far, too. You’re going to say that I’ll never understand, because I was raised as a normal and manifested at eighteen. You’re going to say these people ceased to be my family the day I first put on this badge. You’re going to say that the Corps is a telepath’s only true family. You’re going to say ‘I told you so.’ You’re going to say that a telepath can’t live in normal society, even for a weekend, and I was foolish for thinking otherwise. I’ve heard it all before.”

            She sighed. “John, I love you. Just come home.” She clicked off the call.

            Rationally, John knew that it was Marty’s fault if Samantha called off the wedding, not his own, but that didn’t make him feel any better. It wasn’t just laws that destroyed families – prejudice did a fine job of it, too.

            Was Maria right? he wondered. Had he also been hopelessly naïve?

            He’d never thought of the Corps as family. A community, sometimes, but not a family. He wasn’t like Maria, and he never would be. He didn't even want to be, and that's why they fought so much.

            But that also meant he didn’t fit in anywhere.

            John finished his glass of wine and went to bed.

 

[1] Gregory Keyes, Deadly Relations, p. 26-27, 65-66, 121, 223, Gregory Keyes, Final Reckoning, p. 200, 226-227, 246, Dust to Dust

[2] Moments of Transition