I do not own any of the characters from Blood Diamond; Tia is my own creation, so I do own her, however.
My name is Tia Bowen and I have no father. I'm not talking about the biological kind, so don't stop reading because you think I'm a nut job. No, what I mean is that it has always been Mom and me, or me and Mom...We've wandered the world, she and I. She's a famous enough journalist that I figured out where she was when she conceived me, but that really doesn't solve my problem...When you're conceived on a continent like Africa, your range of possibilities is still very high. I am most assuredly completely white, so that narrows down the pool a little, but I still have the major problem of the life span in Africa. What is that exactly? Haven't a clue, just know that there aren't a lot of gray heads there...
All my mother would ever tell me about her time in Africa was that it was how I got my name. Tia comes from TIA, or "This is Africa". She told me about how that whole idea was why some people who could leave the continent, wouldn't. They had no clue as to how they would survive without Africa. Before that I had always thought she had just found that particular name pretty...Should have known that wouldn't be true for my mom. Maddie Bowen is a good mother, and a great journalist. Do I mind that those adjectives aren't switched? Not really...She does her best at both, and it just so happens that she's better at the one than the other. Can't blame her there...She did have to drag a daughter all over the world with her, after all. Though there were those few times when she left me with my grandparents...It was always when she got one of those assignments that would make my Granny go, "She's on another Africa quest." It wasn't said with any anger, however, just a sad shake of the head and a small smile.
Maybe she loved my dad and maybe she didn't...I'll probably never know, right? He is, more likely than not, either dead or in his own world somewhere. I figure that if he were another journalist than she might have told me at some point. She never did that, and somehow I don't think she would fall for a journalist anyway...Not enough adventure! So that leaves...what, exactly? One title down, how many more to go? It's Africa, for Heaven's sake! He could have been a mercenary, an ex-pat, a vet, a diplomat, smuggler, a drug runner, a politician, a farmer, a who-knows-what! Sometimes I think I should just give up...And then I wonder why I don't! I guess I truly am my mother's daughter, after all...Trying to find the answers to a question I'm too afraid to ask. Why am I afraid? Because she might not tell me, or she might not know, or, worst of all, she might start crying. And if she did that, then I would know that he's dead...Because if my mother starts crying, then she's reached a point when she can do no more. If he were alive, she would have found him. She obviously hasn't...So if she loved him, then he'd be dead.
As I stand here in Africa, I'm praying she didn't love him...Because, if she didn't love him, then he might still be alive. And if he's still alive, than there's a chance that this idea of mine might actually work. Even though I have a gut deep feeling that it won't. All I have to go on is the magazine article that she wrote about Africa, twenty years ago. And I have a dead man's name...a black and white photo...and a hunch. I've come to Africa, the place that I was named after and the land upon which I was conceived, hoping that the name and the face will get me some answers.
Danny Archer. Smuggler, mercenary, and vet. I've stared at that face over the years, asking myself if I see any similarities. But the picture's black and white, and I'm not. I've dreamt about what it would be like if I could meet him. But he's dead...It says so, right there in the magazine...And my mother wrote it, so it must be true, right? But then, after staring at that photo for hours on the plane, I remind myself that I don't want the man in the article to be my father, because if he is, then I just spent too many hours and too much money on a flight to a place that I might find no answers in. Sierra Leone is not a place for a white girl to travel alone. The RUF is not like it was, but it is still there, on the fringes. And other groups are there, too. I'll be one among many people, it's true, but I'll be one among only a few in appearance.
I couldn't stop myself from getting on the plane, however. Mom was off on another assignment, and I had a break from school, so I grabbed my stuff, bought a plane ticket, and prayed that I would know what to do. Now that I'm here in the hot wind of Africa, I can only stand and think. What would it have been like if my father was the man in the article and he had survived? Would my mother have stopped looking for the next adrenaline high? Would we have had a house in the burbs, white picket fence and bird feeders in the front yard? Would I have spent Christmas' at home instead of in some tent in the jungle or in a bombed out building in a post-Soviet country? I can only sigh and look for anything that might tell me what to do...I see people, all hurrying past in a bright array of colors. And then everything blurs together, and I start to cry silently.
What am I doing here? I don't know anyone, I don't speak the language, and I'm afraid of what I will learn, if I learn anything at all! Just then, I feel a hand land on my shoulder, and I tense myself to strike at the stranger. My elbow connects with his middle, and I spin, planting a kick to the side of his neck. I might be short, but I hadn't been raised in battle torn countries without learning a thing or two about defense! I stopped thinking about my would be whatever-he-was when I see who was walking down the other side of the street.
I froze. No. NO!...no...Surely not...It was him! The man in the magazine. Archer...He hadn't even noticed the little skirmish I had just been participating in. I hurried across the street, dodging vehicles and animals until I was walking behind him. He didn't turn, didn't acknowledge my presence at all, even though I knew he was probably quite aware of it.
He reached an alley entrance and walked into it; I followed. He was waiting, which was only to be expected. If he had honestly just been walking down an alley in Africa for the sake of walking down an alley, then he was pretty stupid. Somehow, I doubted his stupidity. I still held the magazine in my hand, not having bothered to put it back in my shoulder bag. He had his arms crossed and his sunglasses were now on the top of his head.
I didn't wait for him to make a smart ass comment. I had things to do, and I wasn't going to let the miracle God had just dropped into my lap get away. Flipping open the magazine, I studied the two images: the one black and white, the other in technicolor. The living one was many years older, but there was still the same face. I had to make sure, though.
"Danny Archer?" He seemed shocked to hear me ask that. "Are you Danny Archer?" I asked again after a few seconds. Still getting no reply, only a stunned expression. I began to lose patience. "Look, if you aren't Danny Archer, let me know, kay? I have a whole continent to cover and only a few days to do it in, so I don't have time to deal with bull shit from people who can't answer a simple question." That seemed to snap him out of his trance, for his eyes looked a little less stunned and a little more guarded when he replied.
"Yes," he said, an obvious accent declaring his long residence in the country. "Why? Who are you, huh?"
I just cocked my head and looked at him. So, this was Danny Archer, alive and breathing. Mom had no idea. She honestly believed he was dead, this man. I wondered if Mom loved him. Just from his looks I couldn't blame her...He wasn't bad on the eyes. I answered his question, still studying this person who might or might not be my father.
"I'm Tia, and I came here looking for you,"I answered, watching his expression.
"Why?" he demanded, a sour look on his face, "Have they started sending girls to try and kill me now? I thought they gave up on me a long time ago..."
"No..." I answered, deciding to tell him who I thought he was. "I think you're my father."
Silence. Only the noise from the street behind us broke the quiet. He didn't even move. All he did was stare at me, his eyes even more shocked than before. Finally he sputtered out, "What!?"
"I said, I think you're my father," I repeated.
"Why?!" was his only response.
I answered by holding out the tattered magazine. He took it gingerly, and flipped through it until he came to the article. His face contorted when he read the byline. Mom's name apparently did mean something to him.
"This doesn't answer my question," he rasped as he white knuckled the periodical. "Did you just see this picture and make me into what you wanted your dad to look like!?"
"No," I answered, still watching his face. "I thought you might be my father because my mother never talks about this place...Even though this is where I was conceived."
"I've probably never even met your mother!" he exploded, his eyes glaring into mine.
"Then how did she get that picture of you? And how did she write that article? And why did she name me after this place? And why do I look more like you than her?" I gave him only a fraction of the many questions that had been in my head since I was old enough to form a coherent thought.
His face blanched white, and I thought he was going to need to sit down. "Maddie?" he mumbled. "You're Maddie's daughter?"
I nodded. Words didn't seem necessary.
"Tia?" was his next answer, this one quizzical.
We spoke together, "This Is Africa."
As I stood and watched him try to process the idea that he had flesh and blood in the world, I realized something...I wasn't without a father anymore. Even if this was the only time I ever saw or spoke to him, he was now the father I had never known. There wasn't an empty void, a blank space in my mind; the image I had seen in the magazine had come to life and he was my father...Danny Archer was my dad, and I felt, for the first time ever, like I was a complete person.