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Chapter One-It's a Small, Small World

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It's basically impossible to find the right time to tell your father you're fleeing the country, and believe me I've tried. My pop has been so preoccupied lately that I kept putting it off, but this morning after an epic toaster strudel debacle-goddamn toaster has always been out to get me-I finally crack and tell him we Need To Have A Talk.

My dad blinks and adjusts his tie, a menswear atrocity I perpetrated on him when I was a pre-teen in my very first sewing class: white stars on an inky background, a design choice I made because it's patterned after the Milky Way. Well. That's what the salesperson told me when I bought the fabric. My pop was more than happy to give me a two-hour multimedia presentation about the correct formation of the galaxy after unwrapping it one Christmas morning. He used to hope I'd follow in his nerdy footsteps, but to be fair he does support most of my creative efforts; he wears that tie even though it looks like it was sewn together by a half-blind toddler on uppers.

"What?" he repeats, his brown eyes a little wild behind his Coke-bottle lenses. My pop is a double-doctorate-holding, sweater-vest-wearing Stanford researcher who specializes in the hydrology of glacierized systems, in Greenland specifically. It sounds complicated, but basically it just means he likes ice. A lot. And even though he doesn't teach, he's somehow perfected the art of looking like an absent-minded professor. It's particularly acute this morning, his balding pate shiny in California's aggressive sun, thin wisps of gray-brown hair slightly on end, his narrow mouth puckered. I sometimes wonder where I really came from; both my parents were tall, lean, dark-haired, brown-eyed geniuses. How I ended up a five-foot-two strawberry blonde ungenius is a scientific mystery for the ages.

I sip some Red Bull and try to clear out the haze of my let's have just one more Screaming Viking hangover from last night. When I've summoned enough energy to be enthusiastic, I repeat, "Toronto!" while trying to infuse my voice with a convincing, and slightly manipulative, undertone. I've been working on hypnotizing my pop for a while now. I know this sounds bad, but in a family like mine, conducting experiments on loved ones-especially without them figuring out you're doing it-is as normal as apple pie. As long as you present the results with the appropriate documentation. And pie.

"But why would you go all the way up there? I'm sorry, I'm having a bit of a hard time here, Lou," he says, using my middle name, something he's done ever since I was born. Really, what was the point in giving me a perfectly good name-Camilla, after his mother-he never uses? "I don't like the thought of this," he adds, as sunlight hits his wearable-tech Smartwatch at exactly the right angle, his whole world trapped in its 2x2 screen. Notifications for e-mail, instant messages, and today's weather report for Nuuk, Greenland glide over its face. It's powered by converting his body heat and the occasional sweat droplet-not that my dad could find the campus gym by leveraging both GPS and RFID technology-into energy.

"I don't really care for the thought of you being harvested by your wristwatch, either, Pop," I say with a grin. "But I believe in letting you have the freedom to live your life the way you want. Isn't that what family's all about?" I resist the urge to bat my lashes. No point in laying it on too thick.


He wipes his glasses off on his sweater-vest before doing that mumbling thing where he runs through his thoughts to find the tail end of the idea he's trying to express. If you're mindful of the fact he's considered one of the most prominent researchers in his field-like, in the world-you'll understand this is no mean task. "You have a job here," he says.

"Actually, here, I have an unpaid internship." I swing my bare feet over the edge of his desk. His eyes settle on them like they're the key to a potential scientific breakthrough. "This is how my life goes these days, Pop: After interning all day, I go to my second job in a teeny-tiny office with no air conditioning, where I input data so the company I work for can sell stuff no one needs. Then, on the weekends, I volunteer at the California Water Project. I'm saving the planet!"

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