It occurs to me, belatedly – as many of my best thoughts often do – I should start from the beginning if I’m going to tell Aiyana’s story instead of jumping around like I did last week. Oops.
Aiyana Rosewind Cassidy was born on the 23rd of September, 2080, in East Grand Forks, in the Northern Imperium. Her folks lived in a tiny speck called Key West, a cruel joke if you’ve ever been to the one in the New Confederacy.
Actually, a funny story which nobody ever seems to know. During the Nameless War (2078), Key West declared its independence from the New Confederacy. They’d long called themselves the “Conch Republic”, and they took advantage of the Confederacy’s distraction to put it into action. They used the leverage they retained by having a United States naval base still on the island to push it through the final settlement. Thus, as a tiny codicil of the treaty which ended the war, Key West and the rest of the Keys north to Key Largo became an independent nation. They’re usually overlooked in any sociopolitical discussions and they’re perfectly happy to keep it that way.
Right. Key West, Northern Imperium. That’s where we were.
That’s where Aiyana grew up, with her parents and an older brother, Shawn. I was born three weeks later, a fact that Aiyana never lets me forget. She was even more of a brat back then because she got to have her birthday first, something which annoyed me no end. I think I asked my parents every year if we could move my birthday earlier, and they always told me that it was when it was and we couldn’t change that.
Our parents were neighbors, and so we fell together naturally almost from the start. My dad has way too many holos of the two of us toddling around together, holding hands.
Her folks were hamstrung by their college protests and the attention they received from the IAB. Because of that neither were able to get positions which matched their education or abilities and both ended up as teachers in the back end of the Imperium. There they stepped back from their previous activism and concentrated on raising their children.
Aiyana was reading by the time she was three, doing simple math soon thereafter, and started on multiplication and division before she turned four. By her fifth birthday she was using the network to learn algebra and geometry, and her parents were scared.
I was thrilled. All I knew was my best friend was smart and funny and nice to be around. She always made me laugh, and that was enough for me.
My parents, well, they were nice, but they were older. Hal, my dad, was retired from the Imperium Air Force; Jane, my mom, was an astrophysicist and geek. She’s where I got my love of all things 20th/21st century, by the way. They took me in when they were already in their 60s. I was essentially an only child, even though I had ‘siblings’ who ranged in age from 23 to 38 (at the time). Hell, my siblings were the same ages as Aiyana’s parents, fer gossake, so it’s no wonder I felt more at home with her and hers.
We were nearly inseparable.
Our abilities meshed so well, we didn’t compete in anything. She was smart, I was fast. She was tall, but I could jump higher. She remembered stories, but I could tell better jokes, though how good a joke any three- and four-year-old tells is debatable.
Ham and eggs. Peanut butter and jelly. We just fit, right from the start.
I’ll never forget, it was her fourth birthday, and her brother had just done something really mean to her. How do I know it was mean? She came running to me, wailing and blubbering, and practically threw herself into me. I just about managed to catch her – she was always taller than me, which I never thought fair – and then turned the almost-fall into sitting down.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Shawn!” is all I could understand, but she’s shaking and crying and that’s enough for me.
I put her down and go find her brother; he’s two years older than us and at the time about six centimeters taller. He’s in the kitchen, laughing, I assume about what he just did to his sister, and I totally lose it.
I pick him up and toss him across the kitchen, slamming into the outside door, then jump on him and get in his face. I start yelling, “What did you do to Aiyana?”
He doesn’t answer, because I’m also trying to slap him and he’s covered up. My dad catches up and lifts me off, takes me home. That was the end of the birthday party for me. I spent most of the rest of the day, and night, crying.
Next day, I wake up with someone holding me. It was Aiyana; she’d snuck over, figured out how to get into the house, and came up the stairs to climb into my bed.
I must’ve gone back to sleep; the next I knew my mom was exclaiming about Aiyana being there and telling dad to call her parents and tell them not to worry.
Best memory. Well, one of them.
So I’ll tell you more next time.