Thana never knew where she came from. She had long ago stopped asking. The cute stories about being dropped down the chimney by a stork got old around age eight, and even when she threw all the anger she could at Tim in the hopes he would answer, all he would ever say was, “You just arrived. Like you’d always been there.”
He never acted like her father, so it wasn’t as simple as being adopted. She had once called him “Daddy”, shortly after she had started kindergarten. It had seemed perfectly logical at the time. Even though he had always referred to himself as “Tim”, and she had always called him “Tim”, after the week spent learning about families in school she assumed he must be her father. So one night she had let the word slip when she was going to bed.
She remembers very clearly how sad and frightened Tim had looked at the time, but only for a brief second. After that second he took a deep breath and steadied himself, betraying nothing of his feelings. She had been frightened by his feelings at the time. He’d always been so, so, *neutral* about everything. Robotic, even.
Thana tried to apologize, stuttering out something that sounded like ‘sorry’, and turning over to hide her face in her pillow in shame. Even now, almost 20 years later, the residual embarrassment of thinking Tim was her father, of calling him Daddy, made her want to dig a hole and bury herself in it. For his part, once his composure was regained, Tim took it in stride. He even smiled a little at her, once he’d persuaded her to turn back over and look at him.
“I’m not your father, Thana, although I understand why you might think that. It is my job to take care of you, to feed you, give you a place to live, to protect you. And yes, to care for you as well. And I do. But I am not your father.” Secretly she had hoped he might continue on and say that he wished he were her father. Or maybe that was something she wished for later, after watching one too many cheesy movies. But she had still wished it at some point.
But he never said it. Not once. And while it was true that he provided for her, and protected her he didn’t act particularly parental. Sure, if she went to him in the middle of the night after a bad dream he would sit with her and rub her back until she fell back asleep, but he would never have sung her lullabies or let her sleep in his bed.
So no, Tim was clearly not her father, adopted or otherwise. When she had finally realized this and accepted it as fact, it brought the questions of her origins to the forefront of her mind. She must have parents somewhere. Even if they had dropped her on his doorstep, that was an answer of a kind. But no, Tim insisted she had always ‘just been there’.
Not so helpful.
She had asked him for her birth certificate once. Clearly he would have needed *something* as identification to be able to enroll her in school? He had shown her a certificate, another thing that had ‘always been there’, and it certainly said ‘Birth Certificate’ at the top, but that was where the useful information stopped.
According to the certificate she had been born January 1st, 1986 at their town’s General Hospital, and her full name was Thana Doe. The last name they gave amnesiacs and other unknowns. No parent’s names were listed beyond ‘Unknown’. Overall it was pretty depressing, and had sucked any desire to find more information right out of her. It seemed like the universe was going out of its way to ensure her own past and identity remained a mystery to her.
Which had its fun side, actually. Thana was able to use the blank slate of her past to create her own, depending on the circumstances. She could be the cast off daughter of a Middle Eastern king, who loved her greatly but couldn’t acknowledge her because her existence would cost him the throne. And while he may love her enough to give up the throne, his country loved him and needed him even more. Without him, they would fall into despair and destruction. And so he sacrificed having his daughter with him, and she understood because it was for the greater good.
Or, she could be the daughter of two spies, one from Russian, one from America. They were supposed to be sworn enemies, and certainly they shouldn’t have revealed themselves to each other, but somehow it happened. They fell in love, all the while trying to bring the other down. Two truly star crossed lovers. They had not expected for her mother to get pregnant. Indeed, she had been told that she was sterile, something imposed on her in order to fulfill her role as a spy. That had been a lie, clearly. They both swore to quit the spy life to raise Thana, move to Switzerland or somewhere equally neutral and live a peaceful life. But they had been killed, execution style, on the way back from the hospital after her birth. She only knew this because someone had sent her an anonymous letter written with words cut out from a newspaper.
She had many of these stories. She was adopted from a Russian orphanage. Her real parents had been killed by kangaroos in Australia. Tim was a firefighter who had rescued her from the fire that killed her parents and he just decided to keep her. And sometimes she even went with the truth, that no one knew her past, that apparently she had just always been there, always with Tim, even though he wasn’t her father. Oddly enough, the real truth was the one that no one ever believed. She could absolutely understand that. Thana barely believed it herself.
But the facts, or lack thereof, were the facts and even the novelty of making up awesome stories of her life had worn off long ago. Now she generally just avoided the question whenever it came up. Not that it came up a lot. To be questioned about her past she’d have to meet people. And talk to them. And have them be interested enough in her to ask questions.
Which almost never happened.
She wasn’t sure when she started to fade into the background. It must have happened so subtly, so slowly, that she didn’t notice. Not until the day of her university graduation. Standing there in the lobby of the auditorium, dressed in cap and gown, Tim smiling that very slight smile he only saved for special occasions, she realized that she didn’t know a single other person in her major, let alone the rest of the graduating class. She hadn’t even talked to anyone new for the entirety of her fourth year.
It struck her as odd. She didn’t think of herself as particularly antisocial. She had gotten along fine, made friends throughout school, though more so in Elementary school than High School. She hadn’t found herself rejected; she hadn’t felt lonely. She realized, looking back, that she had just as little desire to talk to other people as they did to her. To Thana, her world had been small and self-contained. She didn’t think badly of the people around her, she simply didn’t notice them. And apparently they didn’t notice her either.
As quickly as the realization came on the day of her graduation, it was just as quickly dismissed. Like a mosquito that had landed on her arm and then been swatted away before it had a chance to bite, the oddness of her social isolation never really got a chance to settle into her consciousness. Besides, she had Kevin.
Kevin had been the boy next door for as long as she could remember. Kevin had been her best friend since the time their brains formed enough neural pathways to recognize that the other baby was not simply a blurry form, or reflection of themselves. Kevin was just as much a part of her small world as Tim was, filling in the role of pseudo brother. He was much better at filling his role than her guardian was. Kevin actually acted like a human.
She’d have felt bad comparing Tim to a robot if she thought he felt anything close to offense. He probably would have just told her that her analysis was fairly accurate, which was high praise for him.
Thana and Kevin had been best friends forever, to use an overplayed phrase. They’d even managed to get through the horrors of puberty and raging hormones with their dignity and friendship intact. They had supported each other through everything, and come out the other side. So she had been his obvious first choice to be his roommate when he recently decided that it was long past the time that he ought to have moved out of his parent’s house. He suspected, he told her the day he mentioned the roommate idea for the first time, that they were more excited about him leaving than he was.
So it had been a shock when Tim -- emotionless, neutral, Tim -- had absolutely forbidden it. If she hadn’t been so shocked Thana would have enjoyed seeing his reaction. It wasn’t often she got a chance to see the things he kept beneath the surface. Hell, she didn’t think she ever got close to the surface itself. It was hard, therefore, for her to eve begin to identify what was at the root of his words, why he was refusing to even finish the conversation. She had barely gotten the fact that Kevin wanted her to move in with him out of her mouth before he was saying, “No, you can’t. I have to forbid it.”