In Plain Sight

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Does DNA determine your destiny?

Megan Caliente is out to save the world. The sixteen-year-old prides herself on rallying for causes and standing up for the underdog. But when Megan learns the father she thought was dead is in jail for committing a terrorist act, everything she believed to be true is blown apart. Her whole life has been built on a lie. How can she make sense of that? Facing humiliation from friends and struggling with guilt, Megan must confront two painful questions: how much of who we are is programmed into our DNA and how much of it is within our control?


I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “You’re saying that my mother lied to me? That she’s not Rochelle Caliente. That she’s somebody named Alice Farnsworth. That all these years she’s been hiding in plain sight.”

Bev nods. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Her dark eyes are grave and unblinking.

I think of Mom’s paranoia every time she saw a cop. Her unease around my Grade Six friend whose parents were both lawyers. The way that lieutenant looked at her earlier today. The guilty flush on her cheeks when she told me everything would be fine. And, like toxic smoke slowly rising in a house fire, the truth starts seeping through the cracks of my disbelief. “Really?” I finally ask.


“Then who am I?”

“You’re still you,” she says. “You are your mother’s daughter. She carried you for nine months. She gave birth to you.”

I stare around the kitchen, looking for a sign that tells me I’ve stepped into the wrong life. But everything is familiar: the box of cereal on the counter where I left it this morning, the vegetable magnets on the fridge, the gravy splatter on the front of the microwave Mom asked me to wipe off days ago. I look back at Bev. She looks the same too. Right down to the familiar red polish on her nails and the large, gold hoops in her ears. This aunt I’ve adored my entire life. The only aunt I have. The only family I have. “Are you even my aunt?” I ask. There are other things I need to know, more important things, but as I struggle to make sense of something so huge and so unthinkable it’s all I can do to latch onto the tiniest corner of it.
Her eyes glisten. “I’ll always be your aunt.”

I’m suddenly furious. “Don’t patronize me. I’m not a five-year-old. I deserve to hear the truth. All of it.”

She fiddles with the stem of her wine glass. “I’m your mother’s cousin. On her father’s side.”

Blood rushes to my head. “I have a grandfather?”

“You did.” Bev scratches at a fleck of granite with the tip of her nail. “He died a long time ago.”

What about a grandmother . . . do I have cousins . . . who is Alice Farnsworth . . . Rochelle Caliente . . . and how does a person up and disappear? The questions tumble through my mind, one on top of the other, a landslide of wanting. But one question dominates. “Why would Mom disappear? Innocent people don’t do that.”
“To protect you,” Bev says simply.

My stomach flips, a nasty mix of coffee and nerves. “From what?”

“Your mother got caught up with the Dodger Five.”

The Dodger Five. We learned about them in school. The radical, anti-establishment group was responsible for a massive bombing at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that killed over two hundred people. The 16th anniversary of the attack is only weeks away. The local paper ran a big story about them last weekend. “What do you mean she got caught up with them?”

Bev won’t meet my gaze. She sips her wine. “Your mother was in a relationship with one of the members,” she says after putting her glass down. “She didn’t know who they were or what they were about. She didn’t think of them as a group. Just friends of -.” She hesitates. “Of the man she was involved with. And then the bombing happened and the police showed up at her door and her laptop was seized and her life went to hell.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Evidence of the plot was on her laptop.”

Bile creeps up the back of my throat. “But she was innocent, right?”

“Yes, but-.”

“She didn’t do anything wrong, did she?”

No, but-.”

“She should have told the police that.”

“She did. She was questioned and released but she knew she’d have to testify in court. She panicked and she ran.”

It sounds so movie of the week. I stare at Bev, trying to make sense of it.

“Your mother was terrified,” she says. “You were only two months old. She was nineteen. Only a few years older than you are now.”

Another lie? Mom said she was twenty-four when I was born. We celebrated her fortieth birthday a few months ago. I feel like I’m staring into one of those crazy mirrors at the fair. The kind where everything is distorted. My entire life has been twisted into something I don’t recognize. “Mom’s not the type to panic. I don’t get it.”

“She was afraid of . . . of one of the bombers.”

“I thought they all died in the bombing.”

“One didn’t.” Bev hesitates. “And the one who survived is your father.”

I cannot breathe. “No way.”

“Yes.” She nods. “Your mother isn’t a terrorist, Megan, but your father is. Your father is Sal Gaber, the ringleader of the Dodger Five.”