If I had known this letter would cause so much grief between us, I would have left it unopened, marked it “Return to Sender,” and placed it right back in the mailbox.
First, it was odd that Geoffrey would write, rather than drop by for a conversation.
Poppy always said if a friend writes you, it’s either to deliver bad news or break a deal, or both.
“Salutations, Mr. Sevens.”
He addressed me by last name.
Really, that’s all I needed to know. I should have returned the letter right then.
Instead, I showed it to you.
“It does seem a little odd,” you said. We read it together.
Salutations, Mr. Sevens.
I have an urgent matter I need your help with. Or more correctly, your son’s help.
Let’s get straight to the point: Foundling number 42, a little girl of two, is missing. And it’s completely my fault. I can’t tell you all of the details, but as the result of a fatal computer error I delivered her to a wrong address and an entirely wrong country. Because of the isolated city-state’s strict border control I can’t apply for a new visa before three months have expired without risking the exposure of the project. Their officials are difficult to work with.
I asked you where you thought she might be. You didn’t say much. I continued reading it aloud.
The only bit of luck I have is that the right participant never got to the point where he found out about the child. I’ve canceled his meeting.
I left the girl at the hands of a polite young man who didn’t look shocked at all to see a Sixan at his doorstep. He signed all the papers without batting an eye, but back at the office it turned out there is no Hades Rcane in any country’s registers.
The phone number is fake, I lost the address and it’s likely that he doesn’t even live in the same place anymore. I have no idea what kind of a criminal I’ve gifted 42… I can’t bear to think of what could have happened to her.
This is where Septemus comes in. I want him to attempt contacting 42. Just the confirmation that she still lives would be enough for now.
“Would you be able to do this?” I asked.
You’d pulled out your journal and had begun writing.
“Keep reading,” you said. “I’m listening.”
I read on:
As the matter is highly confidential and could, if released to the public, endanger the entire program, I’ve tried to keep this information from spreading even within the Agency. Please treat this seriously.
I am deeply sorry to burden you and Septemus with this, but there is no one else I coud turn to right now. Should you manage to find her, no words could express my gratitude.
Head of the Family and Children Services, Program H9110
“It doesn’t sound good,” I said when I’d finished.
You wrote a few more lines, then closed your journal.
“First off,” you replied, “Don’t worry. But second, we’ve got to figure out what to tell Geoffrey.”
“I don’t even know if I want you involved, son,” I said. Here’s where the first conflict enters in. You say you’re already involved, and that if one of your pagotogo is in trouble, you’re obliged to help.
My obligation is to keep you safe. That’s first for me.
If this child is with a criminal, if she’s in the city-state I think she’s in, then I don’t want you involved. Period.
You said you were already involved. But that didn’t matter: what mattered was what we told Geoffrey.
You reminded me of my obligation to Geoffrey. Frankly, I don’t have an obligation to him, or at least, not to him as the head of Family and Children Services. My obligations to him are the obligations of a friend, but if he writes to me in official capacity, as the head of a program, I have no obligation. I’m a participant in H9110, but that doesn’t oblige me to help out the head of the program. Besides, Geoffrey never disclosed to me in our conversations that he was in charge of the day-to-day operations of H9110. He said he was influential with policy, but that’s a lot different than getting involved with the placement of children. As far as I can tell, the whole thing is shrouded in secrecy and that makes me not trust it.
You reminded me of my obligation, as a father of a bizoopagoto, to help all other bizoopagotogo.
“Is she bizoo?” I asked.
“I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to say,” you replied. You closed your eyes and listened.
You know things. I asked you, right then, point blank, if you were in touch with her. I can tell that you are and that you were singing to her and listening to her right then. I’ve come to recognize that look.
“Here’s the thing,” you said at last. “What’s most important? Love is most important. For all of us, with what we’ve been through, if we love and are loved back, that will be enough. With that, we can get through anything. Danger. Hardship. You name it. But if you take that away, we won’t make it. We’d crumble.”
“Is she loved then?” I asked.
“I haven’t decided what I’m telling yet,” you said.
I took a break and made a batch of cookies.
You started singing:
“I like pancakes, too.
E inna-inna O.
O inna-inna E.
“Now you’ve got two
I’ve got one who cares for me.
“Apples in the tree
O inna-inna E.
E inna-inna O.”
We left the topic and went about our evening.
We both needed time to think.
The next day, when we were working on the rocket, seemed to me like a good time to bring it up again. Why didn’t you want to talk about it then? I know you said you wanted us to concentrate on what we were doing, and I know that’s a good idea. But I thought that, with the rocket between us, it might have been easier to talk about difficult things.
The problem with this muddle is that it doesn’t seem to be getting better as time passes.
“Let’s just talk,” I said. “Let’s just be straight between the two of us, and then we can take it from there. We can decide together.”
“It’s not easy,” you said. “What if I tell you something, and then you feel you’ve got to report it back, and then it all gets messed up from there? It would be my fault.”
It took me a long time to figure out what was bothering you. It seemed so muddled to me. What it came down to was that you were worried I would feel compelled to report back to Geoffrey what I found out–if, hypothetically, it turned out the that child was in danger.
I tried to assure you that I would respect your wishes. That I would trust you.
But I realized that you’re right. You know me too well. While it’s true that I don’t have an obligation to Geoffrey, I do feel obliged to do what’s right. And if the child’s well-being is jeopardized, I would feel obliged to let Geoffrey know so he could do something.
You are right. That’s what I’d do.
You told me you’d reached your decision, too.
I know you feel that emotional bonds–that healthy attachment–is the foremost thing of value. “Love is the most important,” you’ve been telling me.
Love is important, son. Of course it is. But so is safety of life and limb. So is having enough to eat and a warm roof over one’s head. Being secure is also important to a little one.
You tell me there’s no security like being loved. That’s what keeps the spirit strong.
“For a bizoo, especially,” you said, “strength in spirit is everything.”
So you’ve made your decision not to tell me what you know. You won’t even admit that you’re in contact with her. You won’t let me know if she’s safe or in danger.
All you say is that you’re protecting what is most important.
You’re asking me to trust that you’re doing what you feel is right.
I guess that’s a brave thing to do, son, and a sign that you’re growing up. Knowing that what I feel is right and what you feel is right might not align, you are sticking to your right. That’s the best thing a good man can do. And by keeping what you know to yourself, you feel you’re protecting me from having to choose between my ethics and my trust in you.
But son, that’s a heavy burden for you to carry. I wish you could trust in what I think is right and be satisfied with leaning on your father.
But you’re getting too old to let anyone else make your decisions now, aren’t you?
Know this, son: Even when we don’t see eye-to-eye, I know you always do what is true for you.
Author’s Notes: Geoffrey’s letter was written by @For_Eorzea/Summonerd. Foundling number 42 is Fi, and her story can be found at SMNerd Writes.
Also: just made a minor edit on Sept. 24 to account for a consistency lapse regarding Sebastion’s knowledge of the extent of Geoffrey’s involvement with the agency. Thanks much for pointing this out, @For_Eorzea!
I really appreciate and value editorial help from readers: Please don’t hesitate to point out typos, mistakes with Vingihoplo, missing possessive apostrophes (What? No!), or errors in consistency! I value every opportunity to correct the text! 🙂