Tom Everson, forced to flee his home during the 2019 oil riots, returns eight years later to find the love he had to leave behind, start a business and make a life for them both. But America’s corporation-exacerbated energy situation has only gotten worse, and the country may break out in renewed riots at any time! Did Tom arrive at exactly the wrong moment?
A romantic adventure, set in the not-too-distant future where the efforts of Big Oil have radically transformed America.
The very first thing Tom saw, on the worst day of his life, was the face of the girl he loved.
Seeing Doña at his bedroom door prompted Tom awake much faster than anything else could wake him… of that, his parents would have forsworn. Tom, being a fairly typical fifteen-year-old, had been known to sleep through the passing of low-flying jumbo jets—a fairly common thing to see when your property was bordered on one side by the Potomac River, which was along the glide-path to Reagan National Airport—as well as running vacuum cleaners, cranked stereos and televisions, and yelling adults. But at the sight of Doña, he became alert almost at once.
His very first thoughts, upon seeing her, were of the previous afternoon, when he had gotten back from school a few hours early, his mother had been out shopping, and his father was still four hours from coming home from the office. This had given Tom and Doña hours alone in the house, with which they had taken full advantage. The mere thought of the lovemaking they’d made all over the mansion, the sex he’d had with her in his bedroom, in hers, in the Jacuzzi, in the guestroom, and in the gardener’s shed beyond the pool, made Tom hard instantly. He wanted nothing more than to have her body again, to kiss her sweet lips, and to profess his love for her, again and again.
This is why, as awake as Tom was, it took him a few moments before he recognized that the look on Doña’s face was not a happy one. He blinked, a dawning concern bringing him even more awake, and he looked more closely at her. Doña stood, half-in and half-out of his room, her hand clutching the doorknob tightly, as if she was afraid to release it. That sensuous full mouth was slightly open, her lips down-turned at the corners, and those angelic Latina eyes were wide and frightened. She was not just sneaking into his room in the middle of the night, as he had hoped she would for weeks now, since they had first fallen in love. Something was wrong.
That was when he heard the bumping down the hall. And the voices. His parents’ voices. With the doors open, Tom could easily hear his parents when they were having a conversation in their bedroom, though he usually could not make out individual words. Very occasionally, when they were arguing and their voices were raised, he could hear snatches and shouts. Now, he heard tones from his father that were not shouted, but very sharp, urgent. Then, angry tones from his mother, followed by more short angry bursts from his father.
“—at two A.M.—”
“—Forget it! It’s replaceable—”
“—cost me eighty thousand—”
“—leaving it! Dammit—”
Tom pushed himself up in bed, and said, his voice sounding sleepy even if he no longer was: “Doña? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” Doña replied in distinctly Latino-accented English. “Your father told me to wake you—”
A sudden rush of footsteps down the hall interrupted her, and she turned to look behind her into the hallway. She was almost immediately propelled into Tom’s bedroom by a large hand on her shoulder, so suddenly that she bleated in surprise. An instant later, another hand gripped the edge of the door and pushed it all the way open.
“I told you to get him up!..”
Tom’s gaze shifted from his girlfriend to his father, now standing fully in the threshold. Thomas Everson, Sr. was a large and well-built man, only beginning to show the signs of a paunch that come from years of luxury finally overwhelming a no-longer-healthy lifestyle. With his handsome features and confident stance, he had the ability to dominate any room he entered… as he did now. Tom quickly noticed that, despite the late hour, his father was dressed in slacks and a casual shirt, but had not put on socks or shoes yet.
This drew his attention back to Doña, standing meekly next to his father, and who he could now see was fully dressed in the light blue maid’s uniform that she always wore when on duty in the house. Even in her work uniform, Doña was beautiful: The plainly-cut blouse, knee-length skirt and work sneakers could not even slightly take away from a figure that always reminded Tom of the phrase “the body of life.”
But it was the middle of the night… she was never on duty at this hour…
Thomas Everson looked down at his son, with a strange mixture of anger and concern in his eyes. That, too, was unusual: Tom could not recall too many times seeing his father looking outright worried about something; in fact, the last time had been—
“Get dressed, Tom,” his father barked urgently. “Pack what essentials you need. We have to leave.”
Before Tom could question him, his father exited the room and headed back down the hall for the master bedroom.
Doña continued to stand where Tom’s father had shoved her, and she stared at Tom helplessly, her dark eyes wide. This finally prompted Tom to whip his covers aside and bound out of bed, bellowing, “What’s going on?” But he already had an idea; after all, he wasn’t stupid, he’d heard the news of the past few days. He’d seen his father’s eyes—the same look they had now—just two days ago, watching CNN as they discussed the mounting hostilities between India and Iraq, and between Argentina and China, then reported on President Albert’s speech. The speech to convince America to go on the aggressive against China and India, to remove their hold on Iraq and Argentina… to secure foreign oil for the U.S.
The Oil War speech… that’s what they were calling it.
He remembered what his father had said on that day. “They’ll never buy it… not after all this time. They’ll march on the White House. They’ll crucify him.” And he’d said “him,” although Tom knew he’d really meant “us,” meaning “the oil companies”… and by extension, his father, who was a high-level oil company executive. “It won’t be safe,” he’d added darkly. And he’d discussed leaving town, before things got that bad.
His father had been right, but his time estimate had been too conservative. They were already rioting in Washington… it had started the day before. And judging by his father’s urgency, it was now no longer limited to Washington. Tom knew what was going on.
He just couldn’t believe it.
Tom started for the door and stopped at Doña’s side. Tom was in good shape for a fifteen-year-old, thanks to regularly working out, and already showing signs of being a very handsome adult. Yet, despite his being dressed only in the snug-fitting and flattering shorts he usually slept in, Doña did not dwell on his body, she only stared up into his brown eyes. “Did you hear anything?” he demanded. “Is something going on outside?”
“I don’t know,” Doña repeated. “I was asleep. Then he was getting me out of bed… I haven’t heard anything…”
Tom turned and left the bedroom, throwing another glance at Doña before he thumped barefoot down the hall and stopped at his parent’s door. The door was wide open, and the room was frankly a shambles. There were four suitcases on the bed, and clothes everywhere, in the suitcases, on the bed, on the floor, and on the loose furniture. The sight of such chaos drew Tom up short, for he had never seen such disarray in his parents’ room.
Tom looked to the right of the bedroom. His mother was doubled over in front of her dresser, just an ass and legs from his point of view (thank goodness she was in a nightgown and robe, sparing her son from that particular image), rifling the drawers with quick, angry movements. When she stood up, she had an armful of material, presumably underwear, though in her tightly-clutched arms it just looked like wads of silk scraps. Tom’s mother was beautiful, her face and figure defying her age as only a lifestyle full of at-home physical trainers and plastic surgeons could manage. But right now, the anger on her face made her frightening. She glared at Thomas, Sr. as she threw the silken bits into a suitcase and began tamping it down. “Dammit, Tom, we can’t just leave like this! We already scheduled the movers for July, and the contractors—”
“Too late, Kay,” Thomas Everson cut her off angrily. “We don’t have time to wait for movers and packing trainers and feng shui consultants …”
“Jesus, Tom,” Kay Everson snapped back, “they can’t even see the house from the street!”
“You can’t see Greg’s house from River Road, either,” Thomas muttered as he continued to rifle through his own drawers on the left side of the room. Greg was Gregory Moore, another executive in Thomas’ company, who lived just up the road from them. Thomas, Sr. and Greg played golf together. Tom had met him numerous times. Neither of his parents had yet noticed their son at the door, or their maid joining him at his side.
“It was a freak accident!” Kay cried, and on the word “freak,” her voice cracked. Tom, still at the door, croaked, “What accident?” but his mother was already continuing over him. “The riots are going on downtown! They’re not up here!”
“Didn’t you hear what I said?” Thomas Sr. barked. “I saw the cars from the gate cameras! I talked to Frankie, he can see Greg’s house! They’re hordes of them, right out there, and they know where they’re going—”
“—over-reacting, Tom, there’s no crazy mobs! Greg—”
Thomas, Sr. moved then, so fast that it seemed the clothing that had been in his hands a second ago actually hovered in the air a moment, before remembering to fall on the floor. He crossed the room in the blink of an eye, grabbed his wife by the shoulders and yanked her towards him so violently that her auburn hair flew crazily about her face.
“Dammit, Kay! Greg’s already dead!”
Thomas, Sr’s voice echoed through the house, and the house answered with silence. He held his wife in a death-grip, glaring down menacingly at her while she cowered silently in his hands. Tom and Doña stood staring at him, too, also unable to move.
Finally, after a few seconds that seemed like a full minute, Thomas, Sr. eased his grip on his wife’s arms, lowering her back to the floor and inching her away from him. Kay remained still, staring at her husband, her hair looking like she’d stuck her finger in a light socket, her arms and shoulders hunched up as if they were still held tightly in his hands. Thomas, Sr’s eyes softened as well, taking in the fright that he had put in his wife’s eyes. Then his head turned towards the doorway, and he saw his son and the maid.
“They killed him. They’re burning down his house. It’s too late,” Thomas said quietly but firmly, to all of them. “They’ll be here soon. We have to leave, now.” He looked directly at his son. “Go pack. No more than two suitcases. We’re out of here in ten minutes.” Tom did not stir immediately, so his father barked, “Now!”
Tom finally moved, thumping back down the hall to his bedroom. Doña started to follow him, but a shout from Thomas, Sr. made her stop. “Doña! Come help Kay!” Reluctantly, she turned and rushed back into the master bedroom.
Tom reached his room, stopped, and looked around stupidly. Like any youngster, his room was filled floor-to-ceiling with his most prized possessions: Framed pictures of friends and family, and unframed posters of rock stars and actresses and models; the Yamaha keyboard he’d never adequately learned how to play; shelves of books, magazines and comics that had never been converted to digital files, either by himself or by the publishers; the third place trophy in martial arts from the academy; a loose collection of sports paraphernalia, including balls, golf clubs, baseball bat and mitts, football pads, a jai-lai stick, and soccer cleats; and all the loose objects and toys that covered his desk and threatened to bury his laptop and computer accessories. And, of course, a ten-foot-long closet filled with clothing.
Two suitcases? he thought.
“Two suitcases?” he said aloud. “For how long?” he shouted, starting back down the hall. When he reached the door of the master bedroom, he asked, “When are we coming back?”
Thomas, Sr. barely looked up from his own packing. “We’re not coming back.” Kay and Doña, on the other side of the room, stopped their packing to stare at him for a moment. “There won’t be anything to come back to,” Thomas, Sr. added.
After another moment, Kay resumed packing. Doña turned to look at Tom.
“Shit,” Tom muttered. And he bolted back to his room. He yanked his two suitcases out of his closet and threw them on the bed. He only paused a moment before he made a beeline to his desk. He quickly broke down his tablet and hardware—fortunately for him, he’d always liked the idea of portability, and had actually taken most of his gear with him on numerous vacations… this part was almost easy—and began carefully packing them into one suitcase. Once they were in, he quickly surveyed the desk for any other gadgets he absolutely wanted to hold onto, and tossed them into the suitcase.
Then he roamed the room randomly, throwing his head back and forth. He’d thought about this, about this moment, when his father had watched CNN, gotten that haunted look in his eyes, and told them they would have to think about what they would have to take, and what they would have to leave behind, if they found themselves forced to leave their home. What was personally valuable. What was irreplaceable. “Remember,” his father had said, “we can replace everything in this house—including the house—ten times over.” And he hadn’t been exaggerating… they had that much money, and then some, Tom knew. He only needed that which was invaluable and irreplaceable. Everything else was trash.
So he packed, quickly and carefully, pausing as he worked only to kick off the shorts he’d slept in, and to get dressed in fresh shorts, jeans, his favorite light pullover, and sneakers. He salvaged a folder of every picture he had that had not been scanned into his tablet. He grabbed a few choice magazines and books, those that he knew were no longer available commercially, and would never be replaced. He folded up his poster of Victoria’s Secret model Josie Dare, and tucked it in along with the handful of women’s underwear catalogs he’d kept at the bottom of his sock drawer. He grabbed the baseball mitt that was autographed by Cal Ripken. Once he had all of the objects he wanted to hold on to, he filled the rest of the bags with comfortable clothing.
Tom looked around. His father was at the door, with a suitcase in each hand and one under an arm. His face had lost its ferocity, but was still stern, and his eyes reflected the need for haste. “Get them in the car,” he said simply, before vanishing down the hall.
Tom secured his bags, threw on a windbreaker, and started after his father. By the time Tom reached the top landing, Thomas, Sr. was already at the bottom of the long main stairway to the foyer. The entire mansion was lit, just as it usually was on any average evening (though usually only until midnight, when the lights automatically shut off and switched to proximity activation). From the top of the stairs, it was easy to see the opulence throughout the living room and foyer, and by extension everywhere else in the house: Valuable paintings in ornate frames, classical sculptures, fine carpets and oriental rugs, and fine window drapery, bought and arranged by Tom’s mother. The windows themselves were dark… among his father’s contributions to the house were the latest in privacy glass, which included an LCD layer capable of obscuring the view to the outside with the flick of a switch, and a tinted outer layer that always made it seem to someone outside of the house as if the lights inside the house were dimmed or off.
Nothing had been removed from the walls or tables. Nothing was out of place. Clearly his father considered all this to be replaceable, too.
Tom started down the stairs, moving so quickly he almost tripped on the way down, and he wryly considered that his midnight flight was almost over then and there. He reached the bottom, turned right, and struggled down the hallway to the entrance to the garage. The inside door to the garage was open, as was the big garage door to the outside, and Tom could feel the chill of the early June air seeping in. Tom could see his father at the back of the Escalade, muscling the suitcases in through the open rear hatch. Next to the big Caddy was his vintage Jaguar, a car Tom hoped he would inherit once he got his license; and he felt momentarily sick at the prospect of having to leave that behind, too. Tom’s father broke his reverie by grabbing the closest bag from him and cramming it into the truck after his.
Thumping and irregular footsteps behind them alerted father and son to Kay and Doña struggling down the hall. Kay had a large suitcase, and used her free hand to try to smooth down her hair as she walked. Doña had two, one she was carrying in a hand, the other she was rolling behind her. Tom recognized all three suitcases as those of her mother, and as he was closest, he grabbed the bags from his mother, then Doña, passing each one in turn to his father to cram into the back of the truck.
Then Tom took Doña’s hand and started to lead her back into the house, saying, “I’ll help Doña pack—”
“We’re leaving now, Tom!” Thomas barked.
“Dad,” Tom cried, “Doña hasn’t packed anything! Give us two minutes—”
“She’s not coming,” Thomas, Sr. snapped back. “Get in the car.”
Tom stood there, dumbfounded. He became aware of a squeezing sensation in his hand—Doña’s hand—and he looked at her seemingly for the first time since he’d been awakened in the middle of the night. She returned his stare with a wide-eyed look of fright and desperation… and Tom began to fully realize what was really the most irreplaceable thing he had.
“What?” Tom croaked. Then he turned to his father and shouted, “No!” He marched at his father, his hand still tightly around Doña’s, almost knocking aside his mother. “Are you crazy? She has to come! You can’t leave her here!”
“She’s not coming!” Thomas, Sr. insisted.
“She has to!” Tom fairly screamed, leaning into his father while at the same time pulling Doña close. “We can’t leave her!”
“She’s not a member of this family!” Thomas, Sr. snapped. “She’s not my daughter! She’s better off here.”
“No!” Tom cried, his eyes beginning to sting. “She’s—she’s my—w-we—”
“You can’t even say it, can you?” Thomas snarled at his son, and punctuated his words by reaching down and effortlessly pulling Doña’s hand out of Tom’s grasp. “Get in the car!”
“No!” Tom shouted. “I—won’t go! I—”
“I said get in the car!” Thomas, Sr. was a much larger and more powerful man than his fifteen year old son, and he used that power to swing Tom about, wrench the truck door open, and pitch him bodily inside. He slammed the door closed with such force that Kay and Doña visibly flinched. “Kay, get in! We’re leaving!”
“Tom,” Kay said, “don’t do this to the boy. Can’t you see they—”
“Forget it,” Thomas shook his head, and his eyes locked with Doña’s. “She stays.” For a moment, Thomas and Doña regarded each other wordlessly, and something passed between them which attracted Kay’s notice. Suddenly, Doña’s eyes went wide and her mouth fell open, and Thomas swung around to get into the driver’s seat.
Kay’s eyes went wide, too, and she suddenly snarled at her husband, “Why, you son of a bitch…”
But Thomas, Sr. was already in the driver’s seat and closing the door, just ahead of Doña, who was now rushing at him. “No! Mr. Everson, please! Let me—”
“God damn you!” Kay was saying as she jumped into the other side of the truck, slamming the door. “She’s young enough to be your daughter, you filthy—”
“Shut up!” Thomas, Sr. barked. “We never—” He was interrupted by Doña’s desperate pounding on his driver’s side window. After a glance at her, he started the truck.
“Mr. Everson! Please… don’t leave me here!” Doña shouted, pounding on the glass with her open palms.
“Dad! Let her in!” Tom cried, fighting with the door. It was locked… the driver could override the door and window locks from his console, and try as he might, Tom could not get his door open. “Mom, help me!”
“So,” Kay snarled at her husband, “you’re going to leave her behind because she wouldn’t let you screw her? You bastard!…”
“Shut up!” He put the truck in gear, and took one last look at the petite Latina maid pounding helplessly at his window. “If I were you,” he said, loud enough for Doña to hear through the glass, “I’d be a mile from here when the mobs show up.”
“No!” Doña pleaded, and she helplessly followed the locked truck, slapping her hands against its sides as Thomas, Sr. pulled out and onto the driveway.
The sight of Doña being left behind finally brought out the words that Tom had not been able to say before. With tears in his eyes, Tom cried, “Dad, I love Doña! I love her! Let her in!”
“Then let me out!”
Tom’s next words were interrupted by a jolt that forced the truck to bounce and stop short. Tom was thrown forward, bounced off the back of the front seat, and tumbled back into the cushions of the back seat. Doña, running too close beside the truck, ran into its side, stumbled, and just caught herself from falling. She stopped and stared at the truck, at Thomas, Sr.; but his full attention was directed down the driveway. Doña turned to follow his gaze down the drive, at the distant point on the front lawn where the driveway entered the woods beyond.
Spears of light began to poke out from beyond the woods that separated the house from the street.
“Damn!” Thomas, Sr. glared angrily down the driveway. “They’re here!”
Even Kay’s anger was momentarily forgotten, and she turned and looked down the driveway. “Oh, my God,” she muttered, with a distinct sound of dread in her voice.
As they watched, the multiple spears of light stabbed out of the woods crazily, like concert show floods out of control, dancing about as if searching for something. Slowly they resolved into multiple pairs of parallel lights, all pointing in a single direction… directly up the driveway from the woods, brightening and focusing by the second. Headlights. Moments later, the first car appeared, bursting into view from beyond the treeline and roaring up the long driveway. Mere yards behind, almost obscured by the dust kicked up from that car, came another… then another, and another, and another… seven cars and trucks altogether. As they cleared the trees, a car and a truck veered off the driveway and proceeded towards the house across the well-manicured lawn to either side. As they approached a gentle curve in the driveway, the car in the grass on the far side spun out of control, doing a complete three-sixty and churning up dirt and grass in long roostertails, before it regained control. They all bore up at the house, right up the drive where the Escalade stood.
“Damn,” Thomas, Sr. muttered again, as he tromped on the gas pedal and yanked the steering wheel to the right. The truck jumped sideways and left the driveway, itself kicking up roostertails of grass and dirt, and started across the front lawn. At once, three of the vehicles coming up the driveway swerved uphill, in the truck’s direction. But the truck was heading downhill, and Thomas had more than enough time and momentum to get past the pursuing vehicles as he angled across the lawn.
Without warning, there was a crack, and Tom felt something sting his cheek. Kay coughed out a scream, and Tom looked in her direction before bringing his head back around to the direction of the crack.
In the glass behind the passenger seat, he saw a neat round hole.
“Shit!” Father and son shouted together, as Thomas began to alter the truck’s course. Tom heard a second shot ring out, then a third, though nothing hit the truck this time. Did they miss, or—? Tom wildly craned his head around in time to see Doña, her light blue uniform and white shoes catching the light from the vehicles like glowing targets in the night, as she ran frantically in the opposite direction, heading for the thick woods around the far side of the house.
“They’re shooting at Doña!” Tom wailed.
“They’re shooting at us!” Thomas, Sr. rapped out, and yanked the wheel hard to the left. The Escalade regained footing on a gravel path, and Tom realized what his father was doing: He was making for the service entrance at the opposite edge of the property. They plunged into woods on either side of the gravel drive, their pursuers were lost from view… and in another moment, so were Doña and the house. Thomas, Sr. gunned the Escalade up the drive, then started stabbing at the ceiling of the truck. He stabbed upward numerous times, all while fighting the wheel and the insanely-bouncing truck, until he shouted out: “Kay, the gate!”
Kay and Tom realized then that he had been trying to trigger the automatic gate, but that he hadn’t managed to hit the remote control button in the dark, in the bucking truck. Kay cried out in alarm, and pitched sideways to find the remote on the visor. Tom could do nothing to help her from the back seat, and he could no longer see behind him, so he finally plopped down into the seat and hastily pulled his seatbelt on.
“Got it!” Kay yelled, and flopped back into her seat. But they were already upon the gate, moving at a breakneck pace, and the chain link gate did not open quickly. Kay screamed in terror, Tom braced his arms against the front seat and cringed, and Thomas, Sr. bellowed almost as if he hoped to scare the gate into opening faster.
The Escalade hit the gate with a bang, knocking the gate off its motorized rollers and peeling it aside like a stiff metal curtain. The truck jumped violently when it hit… then it jumped again, as it reached the edge of the gravel road and hit the edge of the street’s pavement. Thomas jerked the wheel to the right, but it was too soon, and the truck lurched over sickeningly, threatening to overturn. It seemed to balance precariously on its two left wheels for a few seconds… then it came down, hard, on the other two wheels.
As it turned out, if Thomas, Sr. had not turned the wheel when he did, he would have struck an oncoming truck, a massive extended-cab pickup that was even bigger than the Escalade. The pickup swerved, locked up its brakes and skidded sideways, itself almost overturning in the middle of the street. Tom distinctly heard someone from the pickup shout, “That’s Everson!” At once, a chorus of voices were heard on the pickup, from the driver and all of his passengers. A beer bottle sailed out of the pickup’s window and shattered against the back window of the Escalade; doors opened on the driver’s side of the pickup, and shouting men poured out. Thomas paid them no mind, and instead gunned the Escalade and pointed it down River Road. The truck shot away before the men from the pickup could reach them; and within moments, they were racing down the dark road at well above the posted speed limits.
Tom helplessly looked over his shoulder, through the beer-stained rear window, at the driveways to his home, where he could already see other vehicles swerving and disappearing down the driveway and into the woods.
“Lucky,” Thomas, Sr. muttered as he raced the truck down the street. “Damn that moron Albert… all his fault. Gonna get us killed… just like Greg. If Frankie hadn’t called…”
“Tom, they’re going to destroy the house,” Kay moaned. “Can’t we… can’t we call the police, or—”
“Too busy dealing with rioters,” Thomas, Sr. growled. “Hell, they might even be helping ‘em, considering Albert’s big mouth. It’s too late.” He pulled his eyes from the road long enough to give his wife a meaningful look. “Just be glad we got out of there alive.”
In the back, Tom’s eyes went wide. “Doña…” he moaned himself, and continued to look helplessly up the road behind them. It had happened so fast… he barely remembered taking a breath, from start to finish. But he did realize—and would never, ever forget—that the very last thing he had seen, as he was being carried away from his home for the last time, was the girl he loved… running for her life.
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