Pivot Point Page 2

I wedged my hands beneath my thighs to keep myself from biting my nails. “Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” I looked straight at my dad, hoping he would tell me. Whatever the news, my dad was better at a gentle delivery. He actually acknowledged the existence of feelings. Unlike my mom, who seemed to think people were like one of the programs she developed: easy to reconfigure when they didn’t react as expected.

His face gave away nothing at first, then softened to what looked like pity. That wasn’t a good sign.

But my mother spoke. “Addie, after trying for several years now to work out our differences, your father and I have decided to go our separate ways.”

It felt like a hundred footballs whacked me in the forehead. The throbbing returned, and I rubbed at the welt. I tried to process what she had said, but the only answer made no sense. My parents got along just fine. Why would either one of them leave? “You don’t mean you’re getting a divorce?”

“Yes, sweetie.” Apparently the straightforward approach didn’t trigger the right response, so she changed to the look-how-sympathetic-I-can-sound voice. “It has nothing to do with you. It’s about issues we can’t work through. This was the last thing we wanted—to split up our family. But no matter what we tried, it didn’t help.” She tilted her head and squinted her eyes. Was that supposed to be her sorry face? It looked forced. “We thought maybe you would’ve seen this coming. Haven’t you Searched anything lately?” The last sentence was accompanied by a hand on my arm.

I started to look down at her hand, but it was gone in an instant and had moved on to pick a piece of lint off the arm of the couch, before joining her other hand in her lap.

It took me a moment to realize she had asked a question. “No, I haven’t.” My last Search was the week before last and went as far as the homecoming dance, which happened Friday. If I had just looked a few more days ahead, I could’ve seen this coming. “I don’t understand. Why would you get a divorce?” The word tasted bad in my mouth.

“Because we’re like strangers living in the same house. We don’t even care enough about each other to fight anymore.”

I waited for my dad to speak up, to say he didn’t want this, but he nodded his agreement. “Sorry, baby. It’s true.”

“But I care about both of you. You can’t do this.”

“Our choice has already been made,” my mom said. “You’re the only one left to make a choice.”

“I choose for you to stay together.”

My mom had the nerve to laugh. Okay, it wasn’t a laugh as much as it was a small chuckle, but still. “That’s not your choice, Addie. Your choice is: Who do you want to live with?”


Un-just-ville: n. the land ruled by my parents

I sat in stunned silence, convinced the house must’ve initiated security protocol when I came home, and these were the holographic versions of my parents, programmed to fool intruders. That’s how little sense what they said made. But they weren’t holograms. They were right in front of me, waiting for my reaction. Considering none of us had moved for what felt like five minutes, I was surprised we hadn’t been plunged into darkness. I didn’t know what my parents expected from me, but I was waiting for the world to realign on its axis and return my life to normal. Not used to surprises, I decided I didn’t like them very much.

My mom broke the silence with: “I know it’s a hard choice, Addie. And we fully expect you to use your ability to see which future looks more appealing. You don’t have to answer us now.”

“Can’t I be with both of you? Isn’t there like a fifty-fifty deal we can work out?”

“That would be okay, but your father’s decided to leave the Compound. He’s going into the Normal world.”

My stomach went from twisting uncomfortably to dropping straight to my feet. “You’re leaving, Dad?” Not many people left the Compound. No one I knew personally. So this news was almost as shocking as the divorce announcement.

My mom continued, “I don’t think you joining him there would be good for your develo—”

“Marissa, you promised you wouldn’t try to influence her one way or the other.”

“I’m sorry. It’s true. Addie, this decision is yours. Stay here with others like you, or leave the Compound and live in a world surrounded by people who use only ten percent of their brains.”


“Sorry,” she said again. This time they both laughed. I was glad they found this situation so amusing, considering my life had just ended. I stood abruptly, and they stopped laughing. My dad’s face crumpled into the pity look again, and I could tell he was about to apologize, but I didn’t want to hear it.

Without a word, I walked by them, straight to my room. I slapped my palm against the panel inside, causing the door to swish shut behind me. Angry music blasted from above, the computer obviously sensing my mood from the palm scan. “Off,” I said, and silence took over. I walked around the bookcase, placed my back against the side, planted my feet firmly on the ground, and pushed. When it didn’t budge, I slid to the floor and lowered my forehead to my knees.

There was no way I could make this decision. It would’ve been better had they just told me what needed to happen, left me no choice in the matter. Sure, I would’ve complained about that as well, but at least then I wouldn’t have been forced to pick between my parents.

I crawled to my backpack, grabbed my phone out of the front pocket, and called Laila.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m almost home. Did you forget something in my car?”

“Did I?”

“I don’t know. I just thought that’s why you were calling.”

“Oh. No, I didn’t.” I lay on my backpack, not moving when the pens and other lumpy items pressed into my cheek. The discomfort created a momentary distraction from more unpleasant feelings. Closing my eyes, I listened to the slight static of the phone line.

“What is it then?”

“My parents are getting a divorce.” For the first time since the announcement, my eyes stung and my throat tightened.

“Oh no. I’m so sorry. I’m coming back, okay?”

I couldn’t answer. I only nodded.

Ten minutes later there was a knock on my window. The window was how she snuck into my room in the middle of the night. She didn’t need to use it in that moment, but I was glad she did. I felt betrayed by my parents and didn’t think they deserved to know how much I needed my best friend.

I powered open the window and screen. Laila climbed like a pro over the struggling bush in the flower bed and into my room. She immediately threw her arms around me. “I’m so sorry,” she said again. “This sucks.”

“My dad’s moving away.” Against her shoulder, my voice came out muffled. “I have to pick.”

“What?” She brought me out to arm’s length. “He’s leaving the Compound? Why? Is he helping with containment?”

“I …” I had been too shocked to ask him what he’d do on the Outside. Most people only left the Compound to help in the process of keeping the Para-community a secret—investigating leaks, assessing damage, Erasing memories. But some left for high-powered positions, to help gather intelligence to send back to the Compound, keeping us informed on the world outside the walls. Only a few left because they wanted to integrate into the Normal world—essentially disappear. I had no idea which category my father fell into. “I don’t know.”

“But you might leave with him?”

I nodded.

“No. You can’t do that. You can’t leave. You’ll hate it out there. When’s the last time you’ve even had to deal with Norms?” she asked, putting one hand on her forehead and the other flying to her hip.

“I don’t really remember. Years.” I remembered perfectly. I was eight. We had to fill out tons of paperwork and take secrecy oaths. All for a weekend trip to Disneyland. It was crowded. Everything seemed so normal. All the rides were outdated, and the fireworks were nothing compared to a Perceptives light show. My parents argued the entire time.

“This is so unfair.” She led me over to the bed, and we both climbed on, leaning against the headboard. She kicked off her shoes and turned toward me. “So then you’re staying here, right? Otherwise you would have to leave school and all your friends … and me.”

I hadn’t even begun to think about the details of one choice over the other, but she was right.

“Are you going to Search it?”

“I need to make a list. Pros and cons.” I jumped off the bed and grabbed a notebook and pen out of my desk. I opened it to a blank page and drew a line down the center, then sat on the edge of my bed, pen ready. The silence stretched as I stared at the page, trying to think of the good things about leaving.

My shoulders tensed as I wrote the first word, because I knew there would be no other words to add beneath it. Dad. When put that way, the choice seemed easy: Lose one person, or lose everyone and everything. But the thought of losing my dad consumed me with such sadness that my stomach hurt. He was my rock. The calming force in my life. I gnawed on my thumbnail. It wasn’t like I’d never see my dad again. Of course he’d come visit, and I could go visit him in whatever Norm town he moved to.

I traced each letter over and over again until the word was black and bold on the page. As I went to add another line of ink to the D Laila grabbed my hand. “Addie, you need to Search it. It will help.”

She took the notebook from me and set it on the bed beside us. “How long?”

The longest amount of time I’d ever Searched was when Bobby asked me to the dance. He’d asked me a week in advance, and because I chose not to Erase it, I had to live and then relive that week of my life. That was rare though. When I Searched, it was usually just for a few days, sometimes only for a few hours, at a time.

I shrugged my shoulders. “A month maybe. Six weeks?”

“How long will that take?”

“Five minutes. I don’t know.” The energies I focused on just seamlessly blended into my mind. It was sort of like a stream joining a river—instant “memories” of the two paths I could take. When it was over, it felt like I had already taken both paths. That’s why I didn’t like to do it too often, because it felt so real that it was hard to separate the would-have from the would.

“Do you think six weeks is enough?” My parents’ surprise announcement was making me second-guess everything. I usually knew exactly what needed to happen and exactly what I would do to make it happen. Not because I Searched everything—I didn’t—but because I liked to have a plan. Plans were good. But now I didn’t know. I was confused and frustrated. I pressed my palms to my eyes.

“It should be plenty.”

I let my shoulders rise and fall with a deep sigh.

Laila, always ready and willing to do just about anything, said, “Well, what are you waiting for?”

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