For the past five days Carly’s mentions were full of speculation and pledges of support. Local media were hounding her for a definitive statement on her own sexuality, but, per her mother’s advice, she remained vague, only reaffirming her support for the local LGBTQ community and encouraging people to show up and donate. They were generating a lot of buzz, well Carly was, and Stephanie was glad to have her daughter’s assistance in distracting attention away from Amara Hughes’ investigation into the family finances.
Carly was so pleased with herself she hardly noticed when her dad Evan came storming up to her as she prepped for a press conference in front of her aunt Rondell’s restaurant.
He clutched a newspaper clipping angrily in his hands. “Baby girl, what is this?” he demanded as he slammed the article on top of the podium that divided them.
“Dad!” Carly whispered cautiously. Her eyes scanned the article her father had confronted her with. It was the OpEd she’d written on the rate of LGBT homelessness in Atlanta. “There are cameras here” she cautioned.
Evan bit his lip, suddenly remembering his surroundings. He drew from within himself to find the falsified smile he’d crafted into perfection. He leaned in close to his daughter and tapped on the podium microphones to ensure they were still off.
“You wanna support social issues, I’m all for it, believe me.” He huffed out hot air in frustration. “But, you run it by me first.” Evan looked around him at the place he used to call home, feeling every bit the interloper he now was. “Now, Mrs. Dorothy Dandridge, figure out a way to cancel this shit without making me look bad.”
Evan turned to walk away fully expecting his daughter to comply, the way she always had. But instead he heard the camera crew calling lights up and counting down. His daughter’s voice broke the silence.
“Nearly a third of all homeless people in the city of Atlanta identify as members of the LGBTQ community.” Carly paused for dramatic effect. “Nearly a third” she repeated. “That’s an increase of almost thirty percent in a five-year period.”
Something about the conviction with which Carly spoke caused Evan to pause. “Members of our community, Atlantans just like you and me struggle every day with the dilemma and the stigma of deciding whether the consequences of living an authentic life will be worth it for them.”
Evan watched as many in the small camera crew and the restaurant patrons who had gathered to watch began to nod their heads in agreement.
“While I’m lucky enough to have the support of my family and access to resources,” The camera crew instinctively shot to Evan who couldn’t move fast enough to avoid being seen. “Many others are not. In an effort to combat the socioeconomic divisions that negatively affect our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, Please join me and the wonderful volunteers at the District 10 Center this Friday. We’ll be auctioning off a date with me, as well as a five-course family dinner catered by my aunt Rondell.
Carly was preparing to wrap when she suddenly felt her father’s hand placed flatly on her back. She turned to see his jaw squared and his lips pursed. He was prepping to steal the show.
“I’m very proud of the work my daughter is doing to combat this issue in our great city. As a show of support the mayor’s office is offering up a summer internship. We look forward to seeing you all out there.”
Carly knew better than to be fooled. She’d seen her father at work, she knew he had something else in mind. Once the lights went down and the cameras were off, she did not hesitate to demand an explanation.
“Way to steal the spotlight dad, what are you up to?”
“What? I can’t offer a show of support?” Evan smiled with almost no effort to hide the duplicity in his thoughts. “You should post this to your SnapFace, or FaceChat…I’m not up on the vernacular, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
Evan prepped to leave again. But something stopped him in his tracks. He turned to face his daughter one last time. “And honey, next time you want to come out to me, just know you don’t need a damn camera crew to protect you.” He stepped closer, just enough to ensure Carly could see his sincerity. “I love you, and that will never change.”
With that, Evan walked off leaving Carly to feel a small twinge of guilt for not trusting her dad enough to come out to him personally.
Evan waited all of a full minute after entering his town car to put in a call with the chief of police.
Daniel, “Danny” O’Rourke sat behind his desk staring at the phone with disdain, hating the fact that the mayor treated him as nothing more than a personal errand boy, and hating even more that there was little he could do to change the dynamic.
“Hey Danny, it’s me Evan. Listen I need a favor” A short pause followed.
Danny sighed, anticipating a big ask. “What is it now Evan?”
Evan could sense the frustration and did his best to Assuage Danny’s fears. “How’s your girl Monica?”
But Danny was in no mood for small talk. “Evan, stop dicking around, and keep my daughter’s name out of your corrupted mouth.”
“Okay, okay. Simmer down Sparky” Evan mocked. “It’s nothing big, I promise. Just some silliness with my daughter. How good is your guy in computer crimes?”
Carly could not wait to go home and show the finished video package to her mother. She’d just picked it up from the editor and it turned out far better than she’d expected. She must have played the 90-second-long spot at least five times before she even walked through the door. And, if she was being completely honest, it felt great to finally have something she and her mother could bond over.
She was so excited in fact, that she rushed over to her mom’s home office space, completely ignoring the fact that Stephanie was presently engaged in a meeting of the minds with her grandmother.
“Mom, you have got to see this.”
Irene raised an eyebrow, causing Carly to suddenly remember her place. “Sorry grandma. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Carly paused to allow them to continue whatever it was they’d been deliberating before she arrived. But Irene conceded the floor. “Go ahead dear,” she insisted, feigning conversational fatigue. “We could use the distraction.
Carly pressed play on the video and let them both watch. At the video’s conclusion Stephanie seemed pleased as punch.
“Honey, I do love getting your father’s knickers in a twist” she smiled. At the comment Irene raised a shocked eyebrow. “Oh don’t play dumb mother, you know as well as anyone else that my marriage to Evan is not without its complications.”
Irene paused, not wanting to comment on the abrupt and public revelation of her granddaughter’s sexual identity. “I’ll leave that to god” she told herself. “Well, at least it’ll distract from the nonsense investigation Amara Hughes and the DA’s office just announced” she offered. Then as if biting into a fruit hanging low on the vine she added “But Carly, honey, do you really have to offer yourself up like some common escort available to the highest bidder? It’s not very becoming.”
Carly smiled her grandmother’s concerns away. “It’s just for fun grandma, it’ll be a prearranged night on the town with cameras following. Nothing untoward, I promise.”
As Carly walked away Stephanie mouthed a silent thank you to her mother for refraining from voicing her personal objections to Carly’s sexuality.
“Stephanie, sweetheart, I’m of another generation perhaps, but she’s still blood. No need to be cruel if it serves no purpose.”
Stephanie wanted to get back on the soapbox she’d been on before Carly arrived, but she knew it was no use. She knew Irene agreeing to bite her tongue was the best she could hope for in the moment.
Carly sat up in her room trying and failing to post the press packet to her Insta account. The video upload kept hanging and getting rejected. When she finally tried logging out and logging back in, she received a message saying
Account temporarily suspended pending investigation
She could have kicked herself for not seeing this coming. She knew her dad was up to something. But, she was sure that he’d underestimated her as well. Carly was nothing if not resourceful, a trait she’d picked up from her father. She was going to get that video posted. Better still, she was going to make her dad wish he’d never tried to silence her.