“There is… one last option,” Dr. Douglas said. “Maybe.”
“Maybe? This is my husband’s life! Can you help him or not?” Charlotte asked. Her husband, Daniel, remained quiet. The weight of the news was almost too much for him. Dr. Douglas gestured at Mrs. Fernandez to calm her down, but he shook his head.
“As I said, there’s nothing more we can do here,” The young doctor leaned over the desk and lowered his voice. There is someone who can help, but there’s no guarantee she will.”
“She’ll help. Who is she, how do I get in contact with her?”
“Well, that’s part of the problem,” the doctor shrugged. “If anyone has the technology to help it’s Dana Sharp, but I have no idea how to get in touch with her.”
“Can you give me a start?” Charlotte asked. She stood from her seat then helped Daniel up. “I’ve never heard that name.” Before the doctor replied Daniel chuckled weakly.
“Yes you have,” he responded with a raspy whisper. “Remember the VR game?” He chuckled some more. Charlotte moved closer to keep him steady, but she laughed at the memory too. Their daughter, Bailey, was bouncing off the walls. Bailey’s emotions are contagious and all three of them were overflowing with excitement in the days leading up to the game’s release.
“Oh! Her?” Charlotte asked Daniel, then she turned toward the doctor. “The Dana Sharp that invented the AlterNet?” The doctor nodded. “Well, that makes sense, okay. Thank you, Doctor.”
“Good luck,” the doctor said. He stood from his desk and shook both their hands. The Martins left the doctor’s office. They climbed in the car and Charlotte started it to get the air going, but she did not drive anywhere. She reached for her husband’s hand.
“Are we going to tell Bailey?” She asked. She already decided not to, but it was not a decision she could make alone.
“Are we not?” Daniel asked. “She can handle it.”
“She’s only 13. I know my emotions were a mess at that age,” Charlotte squeezed her husband’s hand. She turned and locked eyes with him, tears flowing out of hers. “I can’t handle her emotions on top of mine.” Charlotte felt his weak grip tighten slightly around her hand.
“That’s why,” he smiled at her. “When was the last time you felt her emotions?” Charlotte only thought for a second.
“The week we got the game… oh my god that was four years ago. What happened?”
“She saw what she did to us. It took me a while to notice it, but she’s gotten a pretty solid grip on her emotions.” Charlotte began shaking her head.
“No. No no, I don’t like her bottling things up like-” a squeeze of her hand interrupted her.
“That’s not it. She’s always had a level head, you know that. I think she learned not to let her emotions get carried away. And I think we should tell her because if she can spread some of that calmness around, we’ll all be better off.” Charlotte nodded, then shifted then shifted the car into Drive to head home.
“Okay, we’ll tell her. That makes it easier to get in touch with the Sharp woman anyway. She’ll probably have some ideas.”
“Right,” Daniel replied.
The drive home was quiet, neither of them had much to say. As Charlotte pulled into the driveway she and her husband immediately burst into giggles. Giddiness flowed into them like pixie dust from a straw. A brown-haired girl peered out through the Venetian blinds in their living room and waved excitedly at them. The blinds closed and Bailey was running at the car before they managed to get out.
“COME INSIDE!” She repeatedly made a “come here” gesture with both arms as she hopped up and down.
“WHAT’S GOING ON!” Charlotte ran to her daughter and they squealed like school girls. The woman started bouncing along with her daughter. Each of them smiled broadly. Daniel laughed as he placed a hand on Bailey’s shoulder.
“Calm down, Honey B. Tell us what’s going on.” Daniel felt a warm glow in his chest when he used her nickname. After the warmth disappeared he felt level headed again. He glanced at Charlotte and she looked to have calmed down too.
“There was a big tournament in the game and I won,” Bailey said in a more subdued tone.
“That must be some prize,” Daniel smiled at her. “Let’s get inside and you can tell us about it. We don’t need to be standing in the driveway.”
“Okay, but uh,” Bailey hesitated. “We have guests. Don’t be mad!” Charlotte looked at the driveway and on the street but did not see any unfamiliar vehicles. She smiled at her daughter.
“Did you finally make some friends at school?” Bailey rolled her eyes in response. “Hey, I felt that,” Charlotte reprimanded her daughter.
“Sorry,” Bailey apologized. “But this is way better than friends.” She put her hands up to keep her parents in the driveway. “It was a private tournament, right? They picked the best people out of 100 servers and I got first place. The prize is I get to be the captain of a roller derby team,” Bailey shrugged. “And so that’s what they’re here to talk to you about.” She clasped her hands together. “Please give me permission!”
“You’re the best player in the game?” Daniel asked.
“Not everyone showed up, and there’s way more than 100 servers. But yeah, I’m pretty good,” she smiled at Daniel and he felt her confidence.
“That’s my Honey B. Let’s go sign you up for the team.” He started walking towards the door.
“Mom?” Bailey asked.
“You want to join a team?” Charlotte hugged her daughter and kissed her forehead. “Of course! You’ll definitely make some friends there. C’mon.” She wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulder and they walked into the house behind Daniel.
The three of them stepped into the living room where Charlotte saw the guests. Two women, a seated one with short dark hair in a solid white suit and one that stood when they walked in. The woman that stood wore a matching suit in all black.
“Mr. and Mrs. Martin?” the woman in black asked. She held a clipboard in one hand and stretched out her other hand in greeting. Daniel shook her hand and nodded. She handed him the clipboard.
“Your daughter is a very talented gamer. My boss…,” she cocked her head toward the woman in white. “…is putting together an exhibition team to demonstrate her new product and we think Bailey would make an excellent team captain.” Charlotte looked toward the woman in white in time to see her stand from the couch. Her eyes widened and in a hurry, she turned to Daniel and yanked the clipboard from his hand; the pen left a long line of ink leading off the page.
“NO,” Charlotte said. She felt her heart break the moment she said it. She hoped Bailey would forgive her, but she developed a hunch. A woman powerful enough to hold such a large competition is talking about releasing a new product soon. It had to be her.
“Not unless you help my husband, Mrs. Sharp.” She stared at the woman in white. Dana Sharp smiled.
“Don’t do something for nothing, is that it?” she asked. “I can respect that. What can I help with?”