This is my first journey into the world of American Dad!, and apparently the first drama in the category. Hope it goes well!
Cheryl Stevens, the head psychologist at Clearview Psychiatric Ward, recognized the shy knock on her office door. That type could only mean one thing to the seasoned employee: a new patient. She returned to her paperwork briefly, waiting for her visitor to enter. Finally, the door creaked open slightly and a head poked through the doorframe.
"Is this, uh, Room 204?"
"Yes it is," the woman smiled. "Please sit down. I'll be right with you…" Cheryl affixed her signature to a last form before looking closely at her patient. She was young; late teens, early twenties. She wore jeans, a large white and yellow belt, a dark gray sleeveless T-shirt, green sandals, and a peace medallion. The girl played nervously with her long black hair, underneath it was a green bandana with pink flowers. The woman frowned further, noticing the arrival didn't look as healthy as she should, with her weary face and bruised body. Cheryl got up from her desk and sat down next to the girl.
"Hello, I'm Cheryl… you must be Hayley, right?"
"Uh, yeah," she said nervously. "Look, there's, uh, some mistake… I really shouldn't be here, it's not like I'm sick or anything…"
"Hayley, it's perfectly fine to get help for anything that's affecting your health. You're not in an insane asylum."
"I… I guess. I've just read terrible things about—"
"We've come along way, Hayley," she said gently. "Now, I'm sorry to be so blunt, but I just wanted to get some issues squared away first… Your orderly says you were brought to Clearview for 'depression, self mutilation and self starvation issues.' Is that correct?"
"Is there any answer that can get me out of here?" the teen pleaded.
"I'm sorry. Is the orderly's report correct?" Hayley sighed and nodded. "She also said that the catalyst was, uh, 'reaction to recent behavior.'"
"Is that true, Hayley?"
"All right then, that finishes the paperwork," Cheryl said, picking up her notebook. "Now, can you explain to me what exactly the 'recent behavior' is?"
"It was, um… a trip to, uh, Africa…" Hayley said, nervously drumming her fingers on her thighs.
"Can you be more specific, please, Hayley…"
"I, uh, really don't want to."
"If you want to get better… and leave… I'm afraid you'll need to tell me."
"All right, fine," Hayley sighed. "My brother, uh, got sent to Africa by mistake by my idiot father. Thought it was a summer camp or something. So he decided to go after him to, you know, bring him back," she said while nervously sweeping her hair from her ear. "So I, uh, figured 'Hey, free trip to Africa, why not?' Participate in some relief work like you see on TV and help those in need for a few hours…"
"So it turns out that, uh, Ol' Gun Psycho wants to stay for three weeks, to help my horny brother get some girl. Thing is I, uh, thought we were only going to be there for a few hours. So, instead of just going to this UN complex nearby for advice, I decided to stick around." Hayley gripped the cushion as she began to choke up. "I… I spent the next three weeks lounging around as everyone starved around me… I was eating meat and cake and everything…" she sputtered, tearing. "And, and I blocked out my conscience by overeating, made myself fat… and I was bitching about it and whining," Hayley managed as tears trickled down her cheeks, "and my fascist father and my moronic brother were actually doing some good, and I was just, just…" Hayley finally collapsed and buried her face in her hands, sobbing. Cheryl frowned sympathetically and nudged a Kleenex box over to her. The girl yanked a large wad out, sniffling.
"It sounds like it was just a mistake, Hayley. We all make them."
"You don't understand… everything I did, everything I said, I was raping what I believed in… and I'm so disgusted with myself for it. I hate myself."
"I can see that. Your mother says you were refusing to eat; even if you ever did, you were violently sick after… that you were slamming your head into mirrors and other miscellaneous objects… and actually found you unconscious in the bathroom from such blunt force trauma?"
"I did the same when that war monger of a father made me sing about how guns were awesome… another sellout of my values because he guilted me…"
"Your mother also claims suicidal tendencies?"
"She's overreacting on that one. Honestly," Hayley croaked as she wiped her eyes dry of tears. "Well… I guess…"
"It seems you're having issues with self-esteem and self-respect, and projecting the actions of others against your own…"
"You mean like realizing my psychotic father is better than me," Hayley growled in disgust. Cheryl frowned.
"I'm noticing a lot of anger and rage towards your father, Hayley…"
"Yeah, well… there is."
"Because he's an upstanding, God-fearing, clean American," Hayley said with a mock salute. "And I'm a low life, heathenish, filthy commie," the teenager added.
"So, you're on different sides of the political fence. Was it always this way?"
"Believe it or not… no," Hayley said. "We were actually pretty close."
"Understanding your background will help us analyze the present. Let's start there Hayley… how did your relationship with your father decline so badly?"
"Well, it starts pretty early on in my childhood, actually…"
"Watch me, Daddy!" five year old Hayley Smith squeaked hopping on her bike, tightening her grip on the handlebars. "I'm gonna do it today!"
"Okay, honey, I'm watching you!" Stan Smith beamed. "Want me to help you?"
"No, I can do it all by myself! I wanna prove it!"
"All right, let's see you try," Stan said, walking two houses down. "C'mon, hon. Remember to be careful, you've had some nasty bruises…"
"Okay, Daddy," Hayley said a confident smile. "But, I'm tougher than some stupid bumps."
"All right, c'mon…" Stan said, waving her forward. Hayley nodded and started forward. The little girl grunted as she tried to find her equilibrium. Gradually, she trundled towards her father. She grinned as she gained speed and balance, ultimately shooting past him. Hayley traveled two more driveways before deciding not to push her luck and came to a stop.
"I toldja I could do it, Daddy!"
"My big girl's a biker now!" Stan smiled as he caught up. "You can race all the big kids in school now, can't you?" he added as he scooped her up and twirled her. Hayley giggled and hugged the man tightly around the neck. "I'm proud of you, Hayley."
"You're welcome. Now then… let's see if you can do it home," Stan continued as he put her on the ground.
"Betcha I can!" Hayley smiled as hopped back on her bike.
"Oh, you think so, huh? I bet I can beat you…"
"Watch me!" Hayley smiled, speeding forward. Stan faked trying to catch up to her, but the small girl had beaten him already. "I toldja!"
"You sure did!" Stan nodded, pecking his daughter on the cheek. "Now let's see what your mother's got for lunch, huh?" he said, giving her a piggyback ride.
"I hope it's peanut butter and jelly… that's my favorite!"
"Well, we'll see…" he replied, taking her inside. "Hey, Francine! Guess what our little speed demon did today?"
"What's that, sweetie?"
"I beat Daddy on my bike!" Hayley smiled.
"Did you? Oh, my little girl's all grown up!" Francine said, taking her off Stan's back and sitting her on the couch. "I bet all that racing made you hungry, huh?" Hayley nodded. "Well, I think that means someone's gonna get a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich!"
"Yay!" Hayley squealed.
"Now, you stay right there, and I'll bring it out to you."
"Okay, Mommy." Stan ruffled her hair and sat down, turning on CNN, sighing.
"I wish there was a news channel that spoke to me," Stan mumbled. "I guess this will have to do…" Hayley crawled into his lap. "Oh, hello there, Hayley…"
"News. Grown up stuff."
"Aw, that's boring."
"Well, Daddy needs to know this stuff so he can do his job and keep you safe, sweetie," Stan replied, ruffling her hair. The man turned up the volume.
"…as violence continues here in Kigali, many are asking: when will the genocide stop? When will the UN, or the West, intervene? With thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead, Rwanda is well on its way to being a country synonymous with 'bloodshed.'"
"Daddy, what's going on?" Stan twitched and quickly shut off the TV.
"Some very mean men in Africa are doing terrible things to others."
"They should be grounded."
"If only it were that easy, hon," Stan smiled as he pinched her cheek. "Oh, that's right, I wanted to give you something," he continued, digging in his pocket. He pulled out a small, flower shaped object. "This is for you, sweetie. For how proud I am of you sticking to your goal."
"It's pretty!" Hayley said, awed. "What is it, though?"
"Why, it's a hairclip!" Stan smiled, clipping it on Hayley's short black hair.
"There you go. You look pretty."
"Thanks, Daddy," the little girl said before kissing her father's large chin. His gentle face turned into a frown as his wife entered the room. "You know something, Francine?"
"What's that, dear?" she asked, giving a gleeful Hayley her sandwich and milk.
"This stuff wouldn't be happening if it weren't for the liberals! We'd show those bozos a thing or two about killing people!"
"I know, Stan, but… try not to rant in front of the kids, okay?"
"Right, right," Stan nodded. He sighed to himself.
"Daddy," Hayley asked with a face sticky with jelly, "what's a 'liberal?'"
"They're very naughty people who want to take all our money and order people around, honey. They need a time-out."
"Are they like Bill Clinton?" she gulped, biting her lip.
"Well, yes… but remember, Daddy's here to protect you, no matter what."
"Okay, Daddy," Hayley nodded, returning to her lunch. Stan smiled, watching her until the phone rang. "I got it, hon," he called to Francine, picking up the receiver. "Hello, Smith residence, Stan Smith speaking. Oh, Mr. Bullock, hello sir. Right now? All right, I'm on my way now." He hung up the phone. "Francine, I'm needed at Langley, go ahead with dinner. Sorry, sweetie, but I need to go to work now."
"Aw, do you have to Daddy?"
"'Fraid so" Stan replied, kissing Hayley's cheek. "Look after your mother now."
"Okay, Daddy. Bye!"
"Bye, sweetie!" Stan replied, closing the door. Hayley watched him leave with a sigh. Francine sat down with her.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"I wish Daddy didn't need to stop bad people so much… I want him to be with me more," she huffed.
"Well, Daddy's just keeping everybody safe, hon," Francine said. "It's a big responsibility for your father. You done with your sandwich now honey?"
"Yup. Thanks Mommy," Hayley smiled, giving her the plate. As Francine left, Hayley looked at the now empty driveway longingly.
"That sounded very sweet, Hayley."
"Yeah, I gotta admit, it's one of the better memories," the teenager sighed wistfully. "I'd have a few more over the years."
"But that's a good thing."
"In retrospect, if I knew about the future... and could think about more complex things… I'd probably have cherished them more while growing up."
"Was there another big event you remember, Hayley? That affected your relationship with your father when you were younger?"
"Yeah. The next summer was pretty big. We shared some hobbies."
"Hayley, I've got a surprise for you!"
"Really?" Hayley asked, sprinting up to her father with wide eyes.
"Happy birthday sweetie!" Stan smiled as he handed her a box.
"Ooh, what is it?!" Hayley asked, her six year old hands attacking the wrapping. She gasped as she opened it. "Ooh! You got me a guitar?"
"Just like the one I own," Stan smiled. "Now we'll be able to play together! And you know what else we're doing today?" Stan asked, kneeling.
"What?" Hayley asked on pins and needles.
"We're going to the park… and I'm gonna teach you how to fly a kite!"
"We sure are! Now get your shoes on, and we'll go."
"Now, see, the important thing is to just let it out. Just enough to catch the wind, yet short enough so you can control it," Stan said, correcting the reel on the large yellow kite. "And make sure you pay attention, so it doesn't get broken or tangled."
"Okay, Daddy," Hayley nodded, starry eyed. She watched the kite dance happily above the trees, smiling at its beauty. Finally, the excitement her small body was too much. She turned around with a small hop. "Can I fly it?" the little girl asked in awe, reaching for the string.
"Only if you promise you won't fly away!" Stan smiled, handing her the line. Seeing the kite was bigger than his daughter, he held her close. Hayley giggled and looked up at the dancing toy. She was so thrilled she never felt her feet leave the ground as she was drawn skyward. "Ulp!" Stan clucked, gently grabbing her right leg. Hayley turned her head, flashing him a huge grim. Stan smiled back. "Are you having a good birthday, hon?"
"I sure am!"
"Well, good. But don't fly away, sweetie…"
"Aw, but I like it up here!"
"Well, okay, but be careful…"
"And when we get back, I'm gonna practice my guitar so we can play together!"
"Oh, is that a fact?"
"Uh huh! And we're gonna play my favorite song, the one you play just for me!"
"But we're going to have to practice so you can be good, okay?"
"This looks like a nice spot," Stan said as he unfurled the blanket. "What do you think, Hayley?"
"Yeah, 'cause we can see the ocean and stuff," Hayley nodded. "See? Look over there! That's a sailboat!"
"I see it, hon. Now, do you remember how to play the song?"
"I sure do, I've been practicing! Don't you remember?"
"Oh, oh, you're right, how could I forget? Daddy's pretty dumb, huh?"
"Nah, he's okay," Hayley smiled as she kneeled on the blanket. She picked up the guitar. "So, you ready yet?"
"If you are." Hayley nodded. "Okay, start us off then."
"'Kay," Hayley smiled as she strummed the initial chords. Stan joined in, and the two swayed as they began to sing.
"I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony…" Stan abruptly stopped as he watched another family set up their own towels and picnic a scant few feet from their own camp. "Hey, this is our spot! Push on!" the man snapped. Hayley watched her dad yell and, feeling her own irritation towards their interruption, let loose herself.
"Are you deaf?! Push on!" she huffed, almost threatening them with her small guitar. The family panicked and ran further down the beach. No sooner had they fled, the Smiths returned to their singing.
"I'd like to hold it in my arms…"
"…and keep it company."
"I'm sorry, Hayley, could you repeat that? I didn't quite hear what you just said." Hayley blinked and shook her head.
"Huh? Oh, uh, sorry, it was nothing, really. Honestly. Just a, you know, fluke."
"Oh, I see. So, that was your favorite song, then."
"Yeah, Dad would play it when I couldn't get to sleep at night. When I thought I saw a monster, or just wasn't sleepy, or I was lonely, whatever. He stopped playing guitar altogether after 9/11. He won't even look at it anymore, really."
"A shame. It's a nice song."
"I thought so as a kid. And hell, to be honest, that's probably got that whole yelling, defiant ranting shtick I have. I got it from Dad… as much I'd hate to admit it."
Cheryl smiled. "I imagine. However, I still don't see the link between these memories and the current relationship with your father…"
"Well, actually, about then, I was starting to get… bored."
"Yeah, bored. I was like… 'Gee, we always watch FOX News, we always hear about Ann Coulter, and about how the Democrats were the Nazis reborn,' and well, I thought to myself 'there's other stuff out there, right? There has to be.' So, I guess I started to look for other things to read and do. No, if I had to pick a date where it started, it'd be sometime during 1999, just after I'd gotten home from school. It was after something a ten year old would find scary. Very scary."
April 20, 1999
"Mom, I'm home…"
"Oh, thank goodness," Francine cried, embracing her ten year old girl. "After hearing about what happened in Colorado…"
"What happened in Colorado, Mom? That's why we were let out early, that something 'bad' had happened in Colorado, and they wouldn't tell us what had happened. Do you know, Mom?"
"Well, sweetie… there's… been a shooting in a school near Denver. Some boys with guns got into a school and shot a lot of people. They don't know why, or how they got in, or anything."
"They shot people in the school?"
"Yes, sweetie. And a lot of people got hurt. And a lot died, too."
"It's not gonna happen here, is it?"
"Of course not, sweetie! Your dad would never let that happen to you!"
"You're right, Mom! I'm gonna go talk to Dad and tell him that right now!" Hayley said, dropping her book bag. "Where is he?"
"Well, he's in his office, but…" Hayley took off. "Hayley, sweetie, wait a second! You shouldn't talk to him right now!"
"It's okay, Mom! Dad would never do anything…" Hayley trailed off as she stared into her father's office. The room was full of guns, ammo, NRA magazines, and every imaginable advocation of side arms. And in the middle, back turned to her, was Stan, on the phone. He looked angry. "He's… probably calling about Colorado, to straighten things out… right?"
"Yeah, Murray? Stan. Listen, uh, we need to get a handle on what's gonna happen 'cause of Colorado. Yeah, I know, the liberals are aching for our guns. And they're just gonna rant and rave about it now. So, yeah, uh, we need to figure how the Virginia chapter can nip it before we lose the right to own guns in our own home! More than five, at least. Yeah, I know. Let's try to blame it on music or Hitler or something, make it stick. All right, good. See ya later. Bye." He hung up the phone and looked lovingly at his guns. "Don't worry my little beauties, you'll be just fine, just f—"
"…Dad?" Stan jumped and whirled.
"Hayley! Oh, uh, I mean, Hayley! What are you doing back from school early?"
"They closed it because of the gunmen," Hayley said. "Dad… are all of those yours?"
"Well… yes and no…"
"And were you telling that guy to blame something else so you could keep them?"
"Well, I… um…"
"But, Daddy… someone could use those against us!"
"Well, uh, Hayley, it's always important to be well armed and know what you're doing in case of emergency!"
"But… I thought you said you worked to get these guys off the streets."
"I do, sweetheart."
"Then why all the guns?"
"Because they're important to a healthy family. You know, to able to blast away someone that comes into your house. "
"You told me you fought guys who had lots of guns… didn't wanna let them cross the border or hurt me. But, you have lots of guns…" Hayley mumbled before walking off. Stan frowned and chased after her.
"Now, Hayley, wait a second…"
"No, leave me alone!" she spat, slamming her door shut and locking it. Stan rattled the knob.
"Hayley, let your father talk to you this instant!"
"I want to explain why I can have lots of guns and others can't!"
"Hayley, I…c'mon, Hayley, open up…"
"I said go away, Dad!" the girl huffed. Stan rattled the door further, then sighed and walked back to his office. Francine was waiting for him there.
"I told her she to wait, but she was insistent. Wanted to see what Dad thought about it and what he was going to do…"
"I certainly didn't do one for the Gipper just now, no," Stan sighed. "She can probably hear us right now, anyway." The large man looked at his feet sadly.
"Oh, Stan, Hayley adores you. I'm sure she won't hold it against you forever!"
"You know, Francine? You're right," he smiled. "I'm sure Hayley will be just fine about this tomorrow. It's probably just the shootings, made her all jittery…"
"I'm sure it is, dear."
Behind them, in her room, Hayley clutched her pillow and sniffled, wondering why her dad was doing the same thing he claimed he was keeping her safe from.
"So, you lost your hero figure."
"I guess," Hayley shrugged. "I took it pretty bad, seeing my dad with all those guns lying around, trying to blame other stuff for what happened."
"Do you think Columbine was simply because of guns being freely available?"
"It's why I support control in retrospect, but I don't know if it was just that…"
"So, it wasn't simply that incident that destroyed your relationship?"
"I think it's what started the slippery slope," Hayley said. "Between that and the catalyst that I think really signaled the end of it all, I just didn't… trust him as much after that. Part of me felt that Dad was just doing… bad stuff. He claimed it was good, you know, because he's my dad, and he knows best, but… I kind of wondered if there was an ulterior motive to it all. I thought to myself, basically, 'just what does Dad do? And is there a reason why he refuses to tell me?' I guess I never really recovered from it."
"What was the catalyst that you mentioned earlier, Hayley?"
"You know it."
"Sure you do. The nutsos in Washington and the Beltway remind us about it constantly, saying 'everything changed, everything changed!' In this respect, Cheryl, they were right."
September 11, 2001
"Get in, kids. Right now!"
"Dad, what's going on?"
"Steve, you and your sister need to listen very carefully. Our very freedom is at stake right now."
"It's true something happened in New York, Dad?"
"Yes, Hayley, some very evil people crashed planes into the Twin Towers and crashed another into the Pentagon. It was just now I managed to pick you up."
"But, Dad…" Stan's phone rang.
"Not now, Hayley," Stan pleaded as he flipped open his cell, speeding through traffic and dazed pedestrians. "Smith here." His eyes widened. "What, what do you mean, 'collapsed,' Duper? One or… what, both?! Are y—You saw it happen? Dear God. All right, I'll be right in." Stan looked at his children grimly.
"Dad…?" Steve asked.
"The… the Twin Towers just collapsed."
"Are you serious, Dad?!"
"I'm afraid so." Stan quickly turned into the driveway. "Now, I want you two to go inside, and stay there with your mother until I get back, do you understand?"
"Sure, Dad," Hayley nodded numbly.
"Good. Now, you gotta get out, I need to get to work…" Numb from the news, Steve and Hayley stumbled inside. They found their mother staring aghast at the smoke choked skyline of New York City.
"…we have reports of bodies seen jumping and falling from the towers before the collapses, Tom… my God, it's horrible…" a reporter moaned. The children cuddled up with their mother, terrified.
"There aren't going to be any other attacks, right Mom? I mean, they ran out of planes, right?" Steve pleaded.
"I'm sure, hon, yes…" Francine said numbly. "I'm sure…"
"Mom, what are we gonna do? I mean, what do…"
"Hayley, we can't think about that now, sweetie… we just need to be calm, be together as a family, and pray."
"But… how can there be a God with this happening?" the girl gasped.
"Well, hon, He works in mysterious ways, even if we can't see them at the time."
"I… I guess," Hayley sighed.
It had been several hours after the cataclysm in New York until Stan finally came home. His family immediately embraced him.
"I'm back," he said.
"Dad, it's over, right? It's all over?"
"No, Hayley, it's barely even the start," the man said, kneeling down to his young daughter. "Our freedom is under attack. We can expect more attacks at anytime."
"Are you serious, Dad?!" Steve gasped.
"Yes, son, I am. The best we can do is to get behind our president and do what he tells us to do. The very fate of freedom is in his hands, and we must support him without hesitation. It's the only way to get back at those goat herding bastards"
"There's really gonna be more attacks, Dad?"
"Didn't you hear me, Hayley? At anytime, anywhere! New York, Boston, Philadelphia… maybe even right here! And who knows what it could be this time? A conventional bomb? Suicide bomber? Biological weapon? Perhaps… a nuclear bomb?" Hayley's jaw dropped, imagining her small body torn to shreds in a flash of heat and fire. She whimpered and hugged her father tightly.
"I'm… I'm scared, Daddy…"
"As you should be hon," Stan nodded, stroking her back. "As you should be."
"I should have seen it then, even as a twelve year old, that something just wasn't right with that argument. That instead of trying to figure out what and how it happened, I listened to my dad and his ranting and raving about fear. He terrified me. Every night for weeks, I saw myself falling out of the Twin Towers, or being vaporized, or infected with a virus."
"Well, to be fair, Hayley, it was an extremely scary time for everyone."
"You're not getting it Cheryl," Hayley said with a vigorous shake of her head. "My father wasn't calming me, or assuring me or anything like that. No, he was scaring me and kept scaring me. He wanted me to be afraid, so I'd be more compliant about his fear tactics."
"That's a bit strong… it must only be in retrospect you feel this way."
"No, even then, it bothered me. A lot. A father's supposed to cuddle you and tell you he'll keep you safe, not make you think of mushroom clouds and hazmat suits."
"I see," Cheryl nodded as she scribbled some notes. "So, if I'm getting you correctly, 9/11 was pivotal moment in this break from your father."
"I suppose that's fair to say."
"Did you consider yourself a 'liberal' at this point?"
"No, not really… more 'concerned' or 'opposed.'"
"I see. So, what exactly did fracture your relationship, the invasion of Iraq?"
"No, that cemented it. The cracks were forming long before then."
"Can you explain something to me, Dad?"
"We're… fighting terrorism to defend our freedom, right?"
"Then, why are we curtailing it…"
"Hayley, that's utter gobbledy gook and nonsense. We need these tools to protect America!"
"Yeah, but Dad… the Times says that the Patriot Act—"
"What?" Stan cried. "Hayley, have you been reading that garbage?"
"Well, yeah," Hayley shrugged. "Why not?"
"Because, Hayley, that's nothing but liberal propaganda that will rot your silly little brain."
"I'm silly because I want to know what's going on?"
"Yes, Hayley. You should trust your leaders to be completely on the ball and beyond questioning, especially in a time of war!"
"But, that just doesn't sound right!"
"I don't want to hear anymore about this reading the Times nonsense, do you understand me?"
"But, I don't understand… why shouldn't I know? What's wrong with me asking questions? What's the problem with—"
"All right, go to your room, young lady!" Stan snapped.
"I'm taking preemptive action, Hayley. Next think you know, you'll be watching CNN!"
"Um, actually Dad…"
"How dare you! Get out of my sight!"
"But, I'm tired of Bill O'Reilly…" Stan closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"I will ignore that if you go to your room right now, Hayley."
"Fine," the young girl snorted, grabbing her book bag.
"Leave the Times."
"No, I'm not done reading it yet."
"Fine, be like that. Don't come crying to me when your brain melts from overexposure to pinko tree hugging."
"So, that's when your relationship with your father broke."
"It was pretty much downhill from there," the teen nodded. "I wanted to read more outside of the conservative viewpoint, and I was sick of how Dad was treating me."
"How was he treating you, Hayley?"
"Like I should be scared, fearful... he kept trying to scare me. He harassed me, bullied me when I wasn't toeing party line… he didn't, like, beat me or anything. But he wasn't quite the man I remembered from flying a kite."
"Did you have hope he'd come back?"
"For a while, yes. But, as time passed, I just started to drift more and more away from him. It was clear on my thirteenth birthday."
"Happy birthday, my favorite teenager!"
"Jeez thanks Mom…" Hayley blushed as Francine squeezed her. "It's all right, really…"
"Is it really?"
"What now, Dad…" Hayley sighed.
"I can't say I approve that thing on your head, young lady."
"What, this?" Hayley asked as she fidgeted with her headband. "Just something I picked up from the mall when I went to the bookstore yesterday."
"She got her present early, Stan. Gift certificate."
"Oh, oh really, huh? Why don't we just see what they are, huh?"
"What what is, Dad?"
"Your books. Let's see what you got."
"I just want to have cake…"
"You can have cake after you divulge your secrets."
"Stan, leave Hayley alone, she gave me a receipt," Francine sighed, pulling it out of her pocket. Stan ripped it from her hand. His eyes widened.
"A People's History of the United States?! Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations?! Mommy, is there a god?: An Atheist Reader for younger audiences?! Hayley, what the hell?!"
"It was my gift certificate, Dad. I could get what I want."
"These are not books that a patriotic American should be reading! You ever heard of this Zinn guy? He says America's done unethical things!"
"Yeah, I wanted a different perspective."
"And Al Franken? Do you realize what he calls Rush Limbaugh?"
"Well, he is. Just because someone doesn't agree with him doesn't mean they're Hitler or something!"
"Of course it does… and, doubting God?! Are you serious?!"
"If God's so great, why'd 9/11 happen?"
"Because it was a test of the resolve of our great leader!"
"Oh, please, Dad. Bush just screws things up. And, besides, that's a terrible thing to say!"
"No, it's my birthday, and I want to enjoy it."
"Do you realize what's happening, Hayley?! You're turning to into a… a…"
"Exactly! Do you want that, Hayley? Honestly?" Hayley looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.
"I don't see a problem with it." Stan looked as if he were going to be sick.
"Oh my God, next you'll be saying there should be gun control!"
"There should be. Remember Columbine?" Stan glared.
"No, no, you did not just say that, young lady."
"Sorry, Dad, but I think there should be." Stan stared at her before walking off. Francine frowned.
"Stan? Is something wrong?"
"Of course there is," the man groaned. "My baby girl's become one of… them!"
"It was if I were some kinda slime drooling monster."
"I gather from the way you describe the conversation. I can see the rift was widening rapidly at this point." She hesitated. "Dare I ask about…"
"Oh, when Bush was practically humping every lectern he could find to scream about his lust for Iraqi blood oil? Oh, yeah, he was gung-ho from day one. As you'd imagine, I didn't support it for a nanosecond. That didn't go over well with him."
"How bad, Hayley?"
"Should I start with him calling me Adolf Hitler reborn, or being a harbinger to the end of freedom?"
"I figured. So, Iraq is what finally did it."
"Yes. And I can even pinpoint the exact moment."
February 15, 2003
"This is your last warning, Hayley."
"Not now, Dad. I'm working on my sign."
"'Sign?' You mean to tell me you're joining those… traitors?"
"If by 'traitors' you mean 'sane people,' then yes, I am. I'm going to protest this idiotic war. See?" Hayley added as she held up her sign.
"'GEORGE W. BUSH, WARMONGER!' Hayley, you cannot be serious."
"Oh, I am, Dad. And so are three million other people around the world."
"How can you be so blind? Don't you remember that on September 11th—"
"Saddam had nothing to do with that!" Hayley spat, whirling around. Stan frowned, noting what she was wearing.
"What is that, young lady?"
"It's a peace medallion. I picked it up on my way back from school last week. I'm going to start wearing it from now on."
"No you aren't."
"Yes, Dad, I am. I'm sorry, but I'm not sharing your beliefs, especially not by force or intimidation." Hayley waved the sign a little. "It should be dry now. I need to get going if I'm going to catch my ride to Washington." She started for the door.
"Hayley, this is your last warning. If you do this, I can never forgive you. Or look at you as my daughter again."
"Are you really prepared for that?"
"I'm ready to be my own person, yes."
"But, but, you can't… I got you that ribbon!" Stan sputtered, pointing at the small clip Hayley had worn since she was five. "As long as you have that, you're my daughter. Do you understand me?" The two locked eyes. Hayley looked conflicted deep down, her hold on the doorknob altering slightly between tight and loose. A car horn sounded. The teen looked at her father for another second before removing the clip and dropping it on the floor at her feet.
"My ride's here," Hayley said curtly before exiting, shutting the door tight behind her. Stan watched the girl climb into the car and drive off. He picked up the clip at his feet, looking at it sadly. Then he clenched his fist around it.
"…a month later, Operation Iraqi 'Freedom.' started. I became ashamed to be an American, and I lost my father."
"And how has life been for you since?"
"He looks at me as I'm some kind of bizarre creature he has to endure. That I'm a freak of nature, a cyst on his patriotism."
"Well, how has your relationship been with your father since we invaded Iraq?"
"…we have a relationship?"
"I, uh, see," Cheryl frowned. "What are some of the things he's done, Hayley?"
"Where do I begin, the hogtying me Election night so I couldn't help the Kerry campaign, taunting me about the election, calling me a Communist, a Nazi, and a Communist Nazi, shaving of my head, forcing me to live in a van, my abduction in front of friends, tying me up, shocking me, stuffing me in sacks, making me think I shot someone, forcing me to sell out my beliefs… though I can't complain about that one anymore. I really disgust myself."
"We seem to be at that point in the timeline," Cheryl interrupted. "Why don't you tell me more about what happened in Africa?"
"Oh, God, not that… I see their faces every time I close my eyes…" Hayley pleaded, trembling as she clutched her head. Tears threatened in her eyes.
"All right, how about after you came home, between that point and today?"
"Oh, you mean how I'm getting what I deserve," Hayley said calmly.
"No, Hayley, I…" Cheryl trailed off. "Yes, fine, that then."
Two weeks earlier
"Why's every mirror in the house all cracked and bloody? I need to shave here…"
"Maybe you should ask your daughter," Francine called back with bitterness. "She'd probably know."
"Do I have to? She's a whiny, self righteous, hypocritical pig."
"Stan Smith!" the blonde screamed, storming into the room. "How dare you say that about your child!"
"Well it's true, Francine. You should have heard her. 'Oh, I'm gonna hold their hands tell them it's going to be okay,' 'I'm gonna be helpful,' 'I'm gonna do this and that!'" he mocked. "Instead, she lay there and stuffed her lousy liberal face. I'd have told her that I didn't see her little corkscrew tail while we were flying home, but she was bawling for some reason. It was something about being a monster and a horrible human being or some other BS. She was probably whining about her weight."
"Tell me, why would you think you're a terrible human being or a monster for being overweight."
"Uh… you're the Blob?"
"Stan, sometimes, I swear…" She jerked her head as something shattered downstairs. "Oh, God, not again…" she moaned, pushing past her husband.
"What, did Roger get into the cognac again?"
"No, it's Hayley…" Francine said as she bolted down the steps. Stan groaned.
"What now, is she whining about people eating pandas before she can?"
"Shut up, Stan…" Francine sighed as she vanished into the downstairs bathroom.
"Francine, why are you running a—"
"You deserved that, you heartless bitch."
"Hayley, sweetie, stop…" Stan looked into to see Francine hugging Hayley tight. The girl's head was badly gashed by broken glass and blood oozed down her face. She continued to stare at the mirror, oblivious of her mother's presence.
"You disgust me," Hayley spat at her fractured reflection.
"Hayley, stop… please?" Francine begged. "You're hurting yourself."
"Why can't you see I deserve this? Ever since I…" Her cheeks bulged, and Francine let Hayley go just in time to deposit her stomach's contents in the toilet bowl. "I sold out my morality and very being…"
"Thousands died in Africa while I was there… how many deaths should I be held accountable for?"
"Because I'm a craven, cowardly monster… I couldn't even remember I'm a vegetarian…"
"Hayley, you're sick."
"Of course I'm sick! I let people die as I pigged out!"
"No, baby," Francine cooed as she held her close, "you're ill. You can't keep food down, you can't sleep, you're starving yourself, you're ranting to yourself, you're smashing your head into mirrors and everything else with a reflection…"
"So I don't have to look at the bitch in the mirror."
"…and your self esteem's non-existent. You need help…"
"And probably a shower or two," Stan suddenly chimed in.
"Stan, you're not helping!" Francine spat.
"Hayley, you're hurting," Francine pleaded, stroking the girl's long, grimy black hair. "Let your mommy take the hurt away…"
"I don't deserve it. I don't deserve it or your love," Hayley sulked.
"Yes you do."
"No, I don't. Now, let me go."
"Not until you admit you need help."
"I don't deserve 'help.' Unless by 'help' you mean letting those poor people beat me for what I did to them… or didn't do…"
"Oh, oh, so now you're Jesus? I thought you didn't 'buy in' to the truth."
"Stan, stop it!"
"Are we done yet?" Hayley groaned, straining to break free.
"No, not until you fess up and admit you're sick, Hayley."
"I am sick, we were through this," the teenager growled.
"Not that kind of sick. I meant health wise. You can't do this to yourself much longer. I mean, think about it… do you want to kill yourself?" Hayley looked at her numbly.
"Cancer should have done the world a favor, don't you think?"
"How… how could you say that?" Francine managed in rage and fear.
"Why shouldn't I," she mumbled absently. She stumbled back to the mirror while glaring at it. "Why should you care when I'm nothing but a cruel, heartless, selfish bitch!" she screamed, accenting each word with another head butting. The last one was so hard Hayley reeled back and collapsed, unconscious. Francine stared down at her daughter's prone, bloodied form.
"See, Francine? All Sulkina McSulksalot needs is a nap."
"…shut up, Stan. And call an ambulance."
"…which brings us today?"
"I can see why they waited to start counseling. You still look like you could use some sleep and food."
"I don't want it… I'm a horrible person, I'm a monster, I'm…"
"I think before we can even think of trying to help you with whatever happened in Africa, we need to help you come to terms with your relationship with your father," Cheryl said simply. "I've seen love, hate… happiness, sadness… yearning, revulsion… confidence and uneasiness."
"I… I guess you're right," Hayley mumbled. She frowned. "I just bought myself a longer stint of time, didn't I?"
"It's for the best," her psychologist smiled sympathetically. Hayley slumped.
"Hayley, you'll continue to be treated as a human being."
"I feel like a caged animal…"
"But, you accepted you need help."
"I… yeah, fine, I guess I have," Hayley sighed. "I'm just… gonna go to my room, okay?"
"Of course, Hayley. You have the freedom of campus here."
"Except the freedom of leaving campus," she said bitterly. "I'll call the next time I want to talk about this stuff."
"I won't push, Hayley. We'll get you through this, I promise," she said with a smile. The teen didn't respond, merely closing the door behind her. Cheryl frowned, her eyes falling on a nearby phone. Perhaps it wasn't the greatest idea, she admitted to herself, but it might help. She picked up the phone and dialed.
"This is Cheryl Stevens at Clearview, I was wondering if I could speak with you about Hayley. I know you planned on leaving her be but I feel I must insist…"
Hayley's eyes shot up from The World Without Us as she heard the knock on the door. She scowled slightly.
"I said I'm not hungry right now."
"Uh, hey Hayley…" a voice said behind the door. "Can I come in?" The girl scowled, recognizing the voice. How dare he come here.
"Well, too bad." Hayley sighed, irritated, as her unwelcome guest walked in.
"What do you want? Come to bask in what's left? Please, go ahead. Bask away, fascist!"
"Now now, Hayley… just because I hate everything you stand for, it doesn't mean I hate you." Stan scolded.
"Oh, please," the girl snorted.
"What? What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
"You? Not hating me? You haven't treated me like anything but some bizarre entity for years. If you love me, explain shaving me in my sleep, abducting at random hours, locking me out of the house after protests, dropping me through trap doors, and all the other bull you pull. Please. Do. I'm waiting."
"Hayley, I know how things may seem…"
"…but I certainly don't hate you."
"I wish I could believe you. I really, really do. But I can't. And I think you know exactly why."
"The whole shaving thing?"
"Among so very many things I could name. Now are we done here? I really just want to be left alone and sulk."
"Not until you let me say something."
"Fine," Hayley grunted. "What."
"The reason why you think I hate you is because I want to… well… make you stronger."
"It's true. I didn't think you were prepared for the world. You were so open eyed and innocent, I thought you'd be eaten alive. I had to make you see the truth."
"Of what, conservatism?"
"Well of course. That and in a post 9/11 world, we can't be too careful."
"Oh for… Dad, you were pulling this before frigging 9/11 happened! What is it with you clinging to that like it's the best thing that's ever happened to you?!"
"God did bless us with George Bush, dear." Hayley growled in desperation.
"Just… get out. Go. Now."
"One more thing."
"Well, I actually… I, uh…"
"…miss you." Hayley cocked an eyebrow.
"What was that?"
"You heard me. I miss you."
"Please. Cut it out."
"No, it's true," Stan urged as he walked over to her bedside. "Even though I strip search you and tried to send you to Gitmo three—"
"—five times, you're still my little girl."
"Look, Hayley, this is hard for me to say, being an American and all, but, well, if I really need to prove it to you… you dropped this." He dropped a small object on the sheets. Sighing, Hayley picked it up.
"What is it…" The teen trailed off as she realized what she was holding. "I remember this. This was the…"
"Hair clip I got you when you were five. Yeah, I sorta… kinda… kept it for you," Stan mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. "Thought you might want it back someday." Hayley looked at the small bauble, rubbing some of the grime away from its cracked, faded surface with a thumb.
"Dad, I… you kept it?"
"Yeah, I, uh, guess I did…" he added, looking away shyly.
"Well, like I said, you were my little girl. I've kept it in my jacket pocket since you went to that Saddam support rally."
"Why didn't you give it to me when we actually bonded over the guns?"
"Because I knew it was artificial. I wanted it to be real. You know, like, when we flew kites and sang and stuff."
"Or visit me while I've been locked up?"
"I dunno," Stan said, idly scuffing a shoe on the tile floor. "I guess it's because I know I didn't exactly help over the years."
"Dad, I… I don't know what to say," Hayley said.
"And now that you're gone, I actually miss having a terrorist coddler to scold. And, well… I miss the little girl I played with a long time ago."
"I had no idea," the teen said simply. She hesitated. "But, Dad… she's gone. This is what I believe now. Even if I sold o—"
"Stop that. We can talk about right and wrong in Africa later. That's an order, Hayley."
"I'm a monster."
"Look, the, uh, doctor said you weren't psychologically prepared for a three week stay. So you panicked. I guess I kind of brought this on you in a way. You're being too hard on yourself."
"I disgust myself."
"Hayley, do you want me to…" Stan trailed off. He stared into her eyes before sweeping her close. "Just… get better kiddo." Hayley blinked before wrapping her arms around her father.
"I'll try, Dad," she said simply.
"Good." He let go, straightening his tie. "Well, uh, I should hunt down Osama so you can still shave your armpits…"
"You should, yeah…"
"Well, maybe I will. Terrorist enabler."
"All right then." Stan paused. "I'll keep Brit Hume on TiVo for you to yell at when you get back, okay?"
"I look forward to it," Hayley smiled. "I'll… see you later, Daddy."
"You too… sweetie," Stan said simply before slipping out of the room. Hayley looked at the door, hearing his footsteps fade away. She looked down at the small piece of plastic in her hand, bouncing it up and down slightly. Finally, she quietly reached up, pulled a lock of hair straight, attached the clip, and resumed her reading.