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 Bruce's Birthday Bash (aka Meet the Vaughans), March 27, 2167 | Reese Marshall
Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 10 2018, 04:07 PM
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Bruce returned the squeeze, intended as reassurance. “You’ll meet her. We do a big barbecue in May for Civil Service Day, and everyone comes by.”

Considering that most of the family drew their employment directly from the city – with Bruce as an outlier - the family’s emphasis on Civil Service Day should come as no surprise. Just as with how extroverted and gregarious the rest of the Vaughans were made for an entertaining barbecue and garden party.

The compliment on the girls’ demeanors brought a smile to Bruce’s lips, although he couldn’t take credit for that. Their personalities were a combination of innate and environmental factors, owing to their parents’ influence rather than his own.

“Much sweeter than my children, at any rate,” Calvin replied, clearly a dig at an incident that had occurred in the recent past involving his son. Such were the trials and tribulations of raising teenage boys; their son had been adorable as a baby, but with the hormone rush of adolescence and his attendant search for identity and independence, he had become frustrating on occasion.

“Erica’s a sweetheart,” Isaac countered in between sips of his Bloody Mary, already 2/3 empty.

“Erica isn’t home right now.” As though Isaac required the reminder. As though any member of an Evolute family could forget when the Carrie Institute came for one of their children. All of the Vaughan adults remained painfully aware of Erica’s entry to Carrie and had circled the day in their calendars for her expected return; Calvin and Libby had yet to plan her Homecoming in earnest, but a few ideas abounded for themes.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 10 2018, 08:37 PM
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Whatever suspicion lingered in his eyes washed away as he was invited to another get together. His expression softened slightly, and a smile tugged at his lips. "Yeah. Yeah, alright." he agreed. It wasn't like he was busy doing other things with other people. "I'll finally get to send my compliments to the right person." he offered.

As the rest of the family bantered about children, he popped some more appetizers into his mouth, chewing as he listened. Silently he was putting together the family tree, but he was starting to realize that this girl that Isaac mentioned wasn't here, and then Calvin confirmed it.

The existence of the Institute was not something that was in any way unknown to him. He knew it existed the way that he knew that women urinated sitting down, but it was just not something that impacted his daily life.

He had told Bruce once upon a time that none of his family (save the twins and Wendy) had tested positive for the Evolute gene. He was not sure that he had known a single child who attended his private school who was an evolute (though, truth be told, he could have pointed them out as the kids who dropped out before high school). The only Evos he had known before his wife were people who were beneath him, who he spoke to in passing and whose children and lives he, a well-off, self-interested rich kid, had not bothered to linger on.

So he knew that there was a Carrie Institute that kept children for a year (or more) of their lives; who put preteens through tests and trials to determine how dangerous they were to the general population. Yet he did not even consider that that was where the girl could be.

Because he had never known well anyone who sent their child away to that place.

Stupidly, he offered, "My girls missed far too many get togethers for sleep overs too." Because it was the only logical conclusion he could draw from experiences he could fathom.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 16 2018, 08:09 PM
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Awkward silence settled over the table in the wake of Reese’s doubly-whammy remark. First mentioning multiple children again after Bruce had told them that his fried was a widower and had only the one surviving child, thus implying that at least one of the girls he mentioned had perished in a fiery car crash. That quickly gave way to confusion that began with Calvin’s creased brow and swept around the table as the implication sank in.

Bruce’s friend thought that Erica was at a sleepover when he heard isn’t at home right now. In the midst of Evesdown, surrounded by a family of Evolutes, their guest had failed to grasp the implication. This was such a given among the Ark residents who possessed blue ID cards that providing a correction felt as though it should be as unnecessary as explaining the existence of the Dome. However, Bruce had also mentioned in planning for this birthday celebration that his guest was a Typic from Haven who had no experience with Evesdown. As baffling as it might be to consider, it was possible that it truly hadn’t occurred to him.

Calvin opened his mouth to speak, but managed only, “She’s twelve-” before Bruce cut in, the older brother tacitly accepting responsibility for Reese’s misstep. Under the table, Bruce squeezed the younger man’s hand, providing reassurance while also signaling subtly that he needed to pay attention. “Calvin and Libby’s daughter – she’s at the Carrie Institute right now. They don’t issue day passes.”

Two years ago, her brother had taken his turn, and next year, Willow’s oldest would have hers.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 18 2018, 09:55 PM
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Reese felt the tension grow in the room and noticed the silence. His brows pulled together and he looked down, towards Bruce's chest and lap and where their fingers were entwined beneath the table out of view. Whether it was in his mind, a function of his own self hatred or some sixth sense that people had had for their entire existence, he felt the eyes boring into him.

What had he said? He reviewed the last few moments. Where had he gone wrong? What had he done? (He was of course the only option for something screeching to a halt or falling apart.) He'd said that Wendy missed dinner parties for sleepovers. He reviewed and then he replayed the scene again in his head.

No. He'd said girls. Not daughter; not Wendy. Well. Fuck.

He was still looking down when Calvin opened his mouth. The words still didn't register anything. All of this was so different than anything he'd ever experienced before and so he started to nod -- His girls went to sleep overs long before twelve, but sleep overs, so he heard, lasted into early teenage years and sometimes through high school.

He felt his friend's hand squeeze his and he looked up at Bruce. Looking up, he found Bruce's eyes, brows still knit and then the words that should have been obvious came and Reese was petrified. "Oh." He managed to hold back the swearword the bubbled to his throat with realization of how ignorant he must have looked. "Uhm... okay." He looked at Calvin and his wife and offered, "Sorry. That's -- I'm sorry." He was sorry that the world they lived in took children for a year; and he was sorry that he had forgotten like some jackass Typic Havener.

"When does she get out?" He glanced over at Bruce as if to verify that that was an even vaguely appropriate question. (Though with his current track record, he was pretty sure things couldn't get worse.)

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 20 2018, 07:19 PM
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Now that his friend had understood the faux pas and had adjusted himself according, Bruce squeezed Reese’s hand a second time and settled in to allow his brother or his sister-in-law to field questions about their daughter’s current whereabouts and her future plans. Erica was theirs, after all, and the mental manipulator needn’t behave as an intermediary for the entire night.

“Thank you,” Calvin replied politely, while Libby assured Reese, “it’s all right.” Both husband and wife assumed that he hadn’t realized; while that remained a baffling possibility, it staved off any offense that they might take otherwise.

With the question about her release, Calvin sighed wistfully. “Around the winter holidays, we hope.”

“Fingers crossed,” Spencer remarked while lifting his refreshed mimosa in a toast. That had long been the family motto, to hope for a lower tier; they had been fortunate so far. Nobody had been kept for mandatory government employment, although a couple of powers had been touch and go before receiving their three and being returned for Homecoming. “Around the sixth month is the toughest.”

“Month four was hard,” Libby disagreed, speaking of their son’s time at the Carrie Institute. Erica was so early in her tenure there that they had the equivalent of an entire school year left on the calendar.

From her place at the table, Gail noticed that their guest’s plate was nearly empty, prompting her to inquire, “Reese, would you like seconds?”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 07:52 AM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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There was an incredible level of comfort wrapped up in that single squeeze and Reese's eyes moved towards Bruce and offered him the smallest smile. His eyes moved back to Calvin and Libby as they spoke about something that Reese could barely fathom.

For a moment, he weighed how much he would (again) kill the mood if he asked what actually happened at the Institute. When he was younger, they had of course learned about what happened behind those closed doors in the way that some church groups taught sexual education -- by saying that it existed, and moving immediately on to another topic.

Reese ultimately decided that asking anything about the Carrie Institute that wasn't offered as a topic of conversation with an opener was dangerous. Instead, he decided to focus on the girl -- easy questions that any parent could answer without a problem, because at the end of the day he thought of himself as an absent father and didn't dare set it up for someone else to notice that he was.

"She's twelve? She have any hobbies?"

He glanced over when Gail garnered his attention with a question and nodded. "Uh." there was a pause longer than there should have been as if direct questions made him panic. After a moment, he managed to nod. "Yeah, thanks."

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 04:24 PM
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It was for the best that Reese avoided further questions about the Carrie Institute. While experiences there varied wildly, and Bruce had had one of the better ones insofar as the growth he had managed was necessary, few could say that they looked back on that time fondly. It was best not to ask lest it smack of morbid curiosity or woeful ignorance.

“She loves plants,” Libby answered without hesitation, grateful for the opportunity to muse on her daughter’s hobbies in Erica’s absence. She experienced the same longing that every other Evolute mother did – wistfully passing by her daughter’s bedroom in the mornings before realizing she didn’t have to wake her for school. Encountering reminders of something that she might enjoy but without the ability to share it with her. Growing melancholy from the absence of skirts and training bras in the laundry.

“We planted her a little garden for her birthday a few years back,” Calvin explained. His expression matched his wife’s, eager to discuss Erica’s interest but kept in check by her absence. “Every Mother’s Day after that, she would bring in a hand-picked bouquet to decorate the table for Libby’s dinner.”

“And she plays the flute,” Libby added, quick not to forget that detail. She had started through the music enrichment program in her school, but she enjoyed it well enough. The last they had spoken of it, she indicated she wanted to keep with it at least into high school to join the marching band.

As the conversation continued, Gail began gathering items for Reese’s plate. In truth, she would have done so without his affirmative answer, but that lent her behavior more legitimacy and made her appear slightly less overeager. With one hand, she reached for Reese’s plate, and with the other, she picked up the platter nearest her that contained the chicken wings. That both of her hands were occupied presented no challenge; her brown hair grew of its own accord, and two tendrils wrapped around the edges of the mozzarella stick plate, hefting it carefully before it slithered towards her.

Nobody in the room reacted; this did not interrupt the flow of discussion because everyone was used to it. Gail’s prehensile hair was simply a fact of life for the Vaughan’s, no separate from the Shabbat menu.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 06:24 PM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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Reese understood the tempered love one felt for their child coupled with that child's absence just as much as the rest of the table, maybe a bit more. The only difference was that he imagined the Carrie Institute a bit more like camp than like a lingering death -- and which was warranted only time would tell. He understood that talking about hobbies warmed hearts, but reminded them of their daughter's absence.

Maybe it had been a bad topic of conversation. It was certainly one that he couldn't reciprocate. He had a daughter, certainly, living and well in Haven, but he didn't want to bring her up and put a spotlight on her. Field questions that he might not know the answer to that he should have known easily as her father.

He was fairly focused on Calvin and Libby to an extend that when he saw Gail start to move he processed it only in the back of his mind. "Flute's a good one. My brother tried trombone, and it was like living with a dying cat for a..."

And then Gail had a third arm grabbing something else and his eyes moved towards her.

"... year..." he managed to finish his statement as he stared, eyes growing wider as it started to process through.

He would argue at another date that there was a huge difference between knowing that there were super powers in the world and them just being there. It was as different as someone describing how children were born and watching a baby crown.

To his credit, he managed to stay in his seat, squeeze Bruce's hand far harder than he meant to and whisper: "Her hair is picking things up." as if this was an important observation that no one else had managed to make and he needed Bruce to verify that he wasn't crazy.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 08:18 PM
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“Our son plays brass,” Libby murmured, a note of sympathy intermixed with frustration. He had a far better grasp on the instrument’s mechanics with several years under his belt, but the first full year of practice had been excruciating and more than a bit disgusting because children never remembered to empty their spit valves in a timely fashion or to do so over the sink or in the provided practice bucket. But the high-pitched shriek of a flute in the hands of a fourth-grader had led to many interrupted activities and a six-month eye twitch.

Reese had begun to stare, which prompted other members of the family to follow his gaze. However, as they had either been raised in the Vaughan household (Calvin, Bruce, and Willow), established it with Gail himself (Spencer) or married into it while growing up as Evolutes and children of Evolutes (Isaac and Libby), nobody grasped the source of his confusion. By the standards of Evolute abilities, Gail’s power was mild –useful but hardly noteworthy and not dangerous, not like her sons’ were.

Then Reese whispered in Bruce’s ear, confirming that it was, in fact, her prehensile hair that had spooked him. The mental manipulator returned the squeeze, gentle and reassuring. He spoke patiently, because none of this was out of place in his family.

“Yes. She does that from time to time.” During family dinner when Bruce was a child, when they had a toddler and then two boys eight and under, her hair had played a role – rocking the baby, passing dishes, and holding a child in place if he misbehaved.

He lowered his voice further as he offered the reminder, “You’re in Evesdown, now. This is how we live; none of it is remarkable.”

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 09:27 PM
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Reese wished that he could have taken Bruce's hand, walked him out of his life and into Reese's, and sat him down at a dinner table for eighteen years of meals without a single power. It might have been normal for everyone else in the party room in the back of this restaurant in Evesdown, but it put Reese's mind on tilt.

Her hair moved as if it was another hand, and he wished that he could stop staring, but the only way he could manage it was to look into Bruce's eyes to seek comfort for what was likely the most tame power in the room -- or at least on par with it.

So he looked at his friend, nodded, and then cleared his throat as if he was going to say something, opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and managed to say nothing except, "Sorry." Because it seemed like the appropriate thing to say in a situation where you were staring at someone because of something entirely out of their control -- something that should have been considered as normal as breathing if he'd had more social tact.

He finally looked up, pulled himself together and offered. "Sorry. It's all a little new. I'm getting used to it." a smile tugged at his features and he glanced over at Bruce. It rested there as he looked at a man whose label did not match how much Reese cared about him, even if he couldn't put that into words. He glanced away and the smile started to fade again as if he was a flower who wilted if he was not directly in the light of his friend's rays.

"We were talking on Valentine's Day about the range of abilities that people can have. It's -- amazing honestly." Perhaps the other amazing thing was that he had somehow turned the event that had ended in him having a literal panic attack about his daughter's safety into a positive memory.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 10:05 PM
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There had been no Typic families in Evesdown when Bruce had lived there a child; there were no Typic families as far as he knew even now. The only Typic residents of the area were the occasional Typic spouse in a mixed marriage, or the occasional Typic child of Evolutes. It was impossible in Evesdown not to encounter power use as part of everyday life, beginning with one’s own family and then at school where teachers had the right to use powers to aid with lessons or to keep children from growing to rowdy. At the shops and the restaurants and at houses of worship, particularly among the Malachites. Just as the sixth and seventh grades were only one-quarter the size of the other grades, providing lessons to children shy of their twelfth birthday or who had been sent to Carrie early, and then those who had returned after their year away. Just as nearly every child in their congregation underwent either a late or an early Bar or Bat Mitzvah to accommodate the realities of life as an Evolute.

It was another world to consider utter inexperience with powers. Bruce had inhabited that world as an adult, had forced a place for himself in Haven, but he could never change his childhood experiences (nor did he want to). He would always possess an innate comfort with other Evolute’s powers, such that he wouldn’t blink when someone became invisible or started a fire by snapping her fingers.

Gail finished refilling Reese’s plate and only then did her hair return to its usual length; she returned the plate with her hands, nodding once to accept the apology. “You’ll adjust,” she assured him.

His next words solidified the impression that the other adults had formed, about him and Bruce having some form of sexual and romantic relationship. This led credence to the notion that he would learn; one couldn’t date an Evolute and remain unused to the proposition of powers. There were holidays and family events – Reese had already agreed to attend the Seder next month – and the barbecue in May. Besides, nobody in the family thought it possible to date Bruce and be uncomfortable with psychic powers, and those more than physical or kinetic ones set a person on edge.

“You should see what some of my students have,” Willow said to break the awkwardness from a moment ago. Their mother had accepted the apology which settled that matter, but his inexperience and discomfort had been laid bare for all to see. “She creates little balls of light and keeps them as pets.”

More than once, she had landed in the office for refusing to put them away during tests.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 08:51 AM
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There are moments that the words don’t reach There is suffering too terrible to name You hold your child as tight as you can And push away the unimaginable The moments when you’re in so deep It feels easier to just swim down
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Reese's grip around Bruce's seemed to relax a bit when the table seemed to settle back into accepting him. If his scale of panic could have been read through the pressure of his fingers around his friend's and as Gail held out a plate of food for him, he pulled his hand away momentarily to use two hands to grab it and set it in front of himself before it quickly returned beneath the table to Bruce's.

He nodded and tried to smile when she said he would adjust, but the mask was gone and the smile lasted less than a second. "Yeah. Thank you." He offered. He would have to say it a thousand times in the next few months, and it would be only a handful that would likely believe him, but his shock was purely shock -- there was nothing innately negative about the response. He had never seen someone with prehensile hair, and that was it.

His attention shifted to Willow as she started to tell her story about the girl with the pet balls of light. His brows knit as she spoke, the smallest frown made it onto his face, but ti was not disappointment or sadness as much as it was focus.

"The other kids must hate her when the school's power goes out." he offered. "The boy scouts used to get beaten up for having flashlights. I can only imagine." As always when he delivered jokes, his voice was flat and there was a disconcerting lack of expression to his face to indicate whether this was a true anecdote or if it was something that he'd made up in an attempt to garner a laugh.

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 12:48 PM
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“You’re welcome,” Gail replied reflexively. The politeness that she and Spencer had instilled in their children was reflected in the mannerisms of the matriarch and patriarch. Always used please and thank you. No elbows on the table. Always chew thoroughly and swallow and never speak with a full mouth. Never use profanity. Be generous with guests and ensure that their needs were tended to before one worried about oneself.

Bruce had warned his family multiple times about Reese, always speaking vaguely rather than betraying secrets about the younger man’s behavior. He had told the other Vaughans that his friend was fragile, that he was uncomfortable in groups and that his behavior became awkward as a result, and that his sense of humor was an acquired taste. He had reiterated this upon returning to the room with Calvin after Reese had run from the party like a bat out of Hell. Those warnings hung in the air now as the younger man’s remark failed to land, sounding serious when the words had to be a joke.

Willow shared a glance with her husband before she said, “That’s never been a problem. We have generators.” She smiled then, coaching the truth as a humorous remark.

Leaving a group of Evolute children in a situation where fear might cause their already uncontrollable power to go awry was not an option. Generators kept the lights on, while Evolute adults ensured that the children remained calm. Her school had a zero-tolerance policy for both bullying and mutual fights.

“Were there no Evolute children at your school?” Libby asked, unable to comprehend this. She and Calvin lived in a mixed area to ensure that their children weren’t the only Evolutes in their school or on the block. That Reese might not have known any children with powers boggled the mind, even in light of some of his other remarks.

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Reese Marshall
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 01:21 PM
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Reese simultaneously would have been pissed that he'd needed a warning given about him and relieved that there was a buffer between his lack of social comfort and wicket sense of humor if he had known about the warning to any detail. He could feel the crickets start to chirp and wondered if this had been a horrible idea.

To calm himself, he took one of the mozzarella sticks and stuffed it into his mouth so that he would have a buffer between himself and whatever he might say if he didn't have time to think. He felt himself shift a little without fully thinking it through and one of his legs touched Bruce's beneath the table.

Chewing gave him an excuse to not say the first thing that came into his head. Another joke that probably would have been just as disastrous as the first. There actually aren't any Evos in Haven. He didn't say it, he swallowed, reached for his beer, took a drink of it.

Silence lingered longer than it should have as he set the bottle down and fiddled with the bottle.

Finally, he answered. It sounded like he had practiced it a few times in his head before he had said it out loud -- maybe he had. "The school I went to isn't known for its diverse population." he said simply. "Maybe there were some evos there, but if there were, they didn't advertise." And they'd been wise not to. When Theo was one of the most popular boys in school; when half the population had been part of TU to some extent waving a blue card just was stupid.

"There still aren't evos in the part of Haven I grew up in." he ran his hand over his face. Just Wendy. But it was habit to not draw attention to that fact. "Well -- no, sorry. That's a lie. For about a year and a half, the guy across the street's PA was a carrier."

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Bruce Vaughan
 Posted: Apr 22 2018, 06:55 PM
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Only the family’s personal assistant. It was astounding because of the money aspect and how that was tied to societal and political power. The Typics had Haven all to themselves (or almost entirely) while the Evolutes had transformed a small corner of Jacks.

“I know an Evolute family in Haven,” Bruce mused. He specified family to exclude himself, as he was a bachelor and everyone at this table was well-aware of where he had moved closer to two decades ago than one at this point. He referred to his protégé, the boy who would turn nineteen in two and a half months and who had been with Shangri-La for the past nine and a half. The Coleys as a whole were Evolutes; they were Old Money, dating back to the Old World which made them difficult to dislodge from their family estate even as the Carrie Institute came for their children. They were too wealthy to live anywhere outside of Haven but their blue IDs set them apart in their district.

None of the Vaughan children could have survived such an environment. As adults, all three of them remained acutely aware of this fact.

Cracking his bread in half, he continued, “Their children went to some prep school where their budget per pupil was the same as your entire school, Willow.” That was a slight exaggeration, although it rang true enough. Bruce popped his appetizer into his mouth.”

“That’s why we don’t live in Haven,” Willow replied, which brought the conversation around to the question that Reese had posed to her and Isaac during introductions. How could they raise children in an environment like that, where they would be the only Evolutes in their school? Evendale was mixed and that was the farthest they could drift with a family of fifth-generation Evolutes.

The wail of a toddler cut through the air, drawing the attention of several of the adults. Avery had begun to cry, and Bruce pushed off from his chair to tend to her.

“If that was because of one of ours, tell them strike one,” Isaac called apologetically after his brother-in-law.

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