Declan Reed sat on the ground, on a charming little planet called Lafa II, sketching. The tofflin stalks were high and turning from tan to green. The linfep were scampering around or digging in the ground. And there was a small herd of perazzin in the distance, grazing. It was the back yard of his mother's home. His father, Malcolm Reed's, house was up a little rise. Reed was away, as usual, teaching a class for Starfleet although there were rumblings about a cold war.
His pencil took it all in, including the spreading olowa tree, under which his half-sister, Marie Patrice Beckett, was sitting and laughing with her human friends, Jia Sulu, and Cindy Morgan and a Calafan friend, a bald silvery girl named Yinora. The teenaged girls occasionally chucked olowa flowers at each other and talked about where they were going to go to college.
The big dining table had been taken outside and his mother, Lili O'Day Beckett, had just put a pitcher of homemade lemonade on it as Lili's husband, Doug Beckett, barbecued nearby. The aroma of roasted perazzin meat – it was a bit like beef – and linfep meat – which was a lot like rabbit – began to fill the midsummer air.
In the sky, the system's four suns were shining and, at times, small spacefaring craft could be seen traversing the sky as they launched or landed.
Declan's focus shifted, and he turned the page on his sketch pad and instead began to draw Cindy's old dog, a graying Boston terrier named Fenway.
Lili took over the barbecuing as Doug went inside their house, in order to get something or other from the kitchen. Doug came out with a stack of plates and set them down on the table. He then came over to Declan. "What're you drawing there?"
"Huh?" Declan's hand slipped a little.
"Oh, sorry, did you mess it up? I, er, I could come back."
"No, Doug, that's okay." Declan erased the small error. "See, here's Fenway. And this part is a bit of the real Fenway Park. Thanks again for taking all of us."
"That was three years ago, Dec."
"Still. I can see you taking the others – Neil and Tommy of course, too," he said, referring to Doug's sons with his paramour, Melissa Madden. "But you didn't need to take me. I'd've understood."
"C'mon, you're family. Really, it was all right. And then Joss almost catching that foul ball!" Doug recalled the day, when his eldest, Marie Patrice's older brother, had been captured on the big viewer screen but could not hold onto his prize. "He's been writing from Cornell. Says he loves it there. Empy, I guess, will go to some fashion college. At least, that's what she's saying today."
"I think Neil will end up at business school," Declan opined. "Tommy'll be at the Academy, right?"
"Don't tell anyone, but your dad is pulling some strings about that right now, as we speak. It's a surprise for Melissa."
"Mum's the word."
"What about you, Dec?"
"Yeah, you," Doug said. The barbecue was all but forgotten as the rest of the family and the guests tucked into their meal but he and the teenager continued talking.
"I suppose there's some small place I can go, some commercial college. I could go into advertising, probably."
"Advertising? Uh, not for nothing, Dec, but I've never seen you sell anything. Not even to help out your school."
"Oh, well, maybe there's something or other. I don't know."
"Dec, I know."
"Yeah. You want to – or at least you should – go to Art School. But you're afraid your father won't approve."
"He'll say it's not practical. That, that I won't be able to make a living."
"That's not necessarily the case," Doug explained. "But even if it is, so what?"
"I, I was asked not to mention this."
"Mum will be worried." Declan got up from the ground and gestured vaguely in Lili's direction.
"Here, let's hike up to your dad's house for a second, all right? That'll be private," Doug suggested.
"Good idea." Declan gathered up his art supplies and the two of them carried them up the rise.
Once they were inside the turquoise house, Doug asked, "Well? What is it?"
"I, I don't think Father can afford it. At least, not what I truly wish to do."
"What is it that you wanna do, Dec?"
"It's not important."
"But it is," Doug insisted. "See, I watch. You might not think I do, but I do. Whenever I'm home from the defense unit, I watch all of you kids. I'm interested in everything that you do. And, see, well, look at this." There was a framed image of a bowl of different-colored olowa fruit in a bowl. "You painted this."
"Yes. It was a few years ago. I can see where I got the shadows wrong."
"Well, I can't see that. Not at all. To me, that just looks, it looks perfect. And, and there's this." It was a framed charcoal drawing of Lili. "You really captured her."
"No, I didn't. I got her nose all wrong, Doug."
"Listen to me, Declan. Please. Listen carefully." Doug's tone was utterly serious.
"Uh, all right." Declan looked up in just a tiny bit of fear. Doug had never, ever harmed him, but Doug was strong and huge and, at that moment, seemed to be as big as a house.
"You have something. You have talent. I, see, your mother, she sometimes takes me to art galleries or to musical theatre, you know, stuff like that. And I have a lot of trouble following it. I can't, I can't see it, okay? Does that make any sense to you? It's just, it's just so much noise and light and color. I can't describe it, but I just don't get it, okay? But you – I know you can see it, Dec."
"I, I don't know. It's impractical. I should stay here and help out. Isn't there a war coming?"
"No, Dec, don't. You'll regret it forever. If you have to be kicked out of my house, or out of Reed's, then consider your ass kicked. You have to go to whatever is the best possible art school you can get into. Wherever it is and whatever it costs. Trust me, Dec, you'll hate yourself, and you'll end up hating all of us, if you stay and give up on this. If I could see like you can, I wouldn't give it up so easily."
"I had thought," Declan whispered, "but I said nothing to Father. But I had thought, see, I'm not a senior yet, but I can start submitting work in my portfolio as a part of my application."
"Click it to my PADD, okay?"
"Don't tell anyone. If I don't get in, I, I don't wish to be reminded of it."
"'Course not." Doug clicked his PADD next to Declan's, and the data was transferred as the devices were forced out of sleep mode where they briefly showed the date, which was in 2175.
That night, with Lili's okay, Doug transferred a substantial draft of funds into an account that he told only her about. The two of them gathered together the best works of Declan's they could find and, six months later, while Malcolm was in space patrolling the Neutral Zone and everyone else had forgotten all about it, Declan received his acceptance letter, to the art program at Oxford University, in England, on Earth.
It was only after Doug's death that Malcolm was informed of the identity of his only child's benefactor.