Alice had always been a little wild, a little different. As a child, she had been fearless too, always rushing headlong into things with a single goal in mind and no idea about what she would do when she got it. Fear was something Alice had to be introduced to: an ill-fated trip to the Empire State building had taught her to fear heights, the death of Dinah had taught her to fear death, and despite all Carol's best efforts, Robert's disappearance had taught her to fear abandonment.
She got into a lot of fights as a teenager, accumulating detentions and suspensions and even one expulsion until finally a neighbor suggested enrolling Alice in a martial arts studio that had an emphasis on self-control. While Carol had been unsure as to how being lectured by a sensei would have a greater impact on Alice than being lectured by her own mother, she'd been desperate to follow the advice. As Alice began to channel her energies into judo, the fighting stopped, but she started talking to people askance, presenting her side to them rather than her front. It was something she'd picked up at the dojo, Carol later learned. It minimized her as a target.
It was also around this time the Alice began to spend her time and money searching for Robert. The Dad Search, as she dubbed it, gradually took over her room, with the printouts from likely sources and the map of the country, a pin in each place Alice had exhausted as a possibility.
So fighting stopped, but Alice didn't. In addition to the Dad Search, during her later high school years she gathered two citations for underaged drinking, several more hangovers, and then there was what Carol privately referred to as The Great Pot Incident of '03. She graduated, though, and was accepted to the perfectly respectable CUNY College of Technology, where although she had trouble settling into a degree at first, she quickly discovered dating.
Her boyfriends were always from out of town, at the very least. The closest she got to dating someone from home was Thomas from Atlanta, or perhaps Kevin from Toronto. Besides them, there was Sergei from Ukraine, Kieran from Ireland, Marc from South Africa, Enrique from Argentina, and Sendhil from India. There was also Amir from Egypt, Erik from Germany, and Juan from Mexico, but those didn't even last long enough for Carol to do more than hear about them from Alice in passing.
The Dad Search expanded as well, the map of America replaced by the map of the world, and as Alice began to earn more money, she began to subscribe to more and more missing person finders with wider and wider scopes. She developed a routine around it, get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast over the computer, go to school, go to work, come home, check the computer, eat dinner, check the computer, go out, come home, check the computer, go to bed.
Carol would be less worried if she was doing more than checking her school email and the missing person's website. She didn't even have a Facebook account!
She graduated with a bachelor's degree in computer science, which she proceeded to use updating the dojo's enrollment and payment systems, but otherwise, life continued more or less the same way as it had the past four years, only with more time on the computer, and a greater number of boyfriends, break-ups becoming more and more frequent until it was hard to remember a time when she would see a boy for more than a month.
Alice didn't notice what she was doing, checking out places like Kokatahi when she'd overlooked towns that size upstate, picking boyfriends who had lived at least part of their lives in other parts of the globe. Her not-so-fearless daughter was, in some cases, still that little girl who thought that going around the world in eighty days was silly, because of all the places you would necessarily pass over. She was staying home because her father hadn't, because otherwise it would just be Carol, and selfishly, Carol wasn't quite prepared to suggest that she do otherwise. Yet.
She sat through Jermaine (New Zealand), Ben (Israel), Dae-Hyun (Korea), and Akira (Japan) with ever-growing guilt, and by the time Jack showed up , she was resolved: if this wasn't The One (as in, The One Alice wouldn't preemptively scare away) she was going to find some way to get her daughter into the world.
And then Alice ran after him, was knocked unconscious in a warehouse, and woke up crying about her father and somewhere in that was the news that not only was Jack not The One, but he was engaged already. Carol head was still spinning, and when she found Alice packing up the Dad Search, she couldn't do much more than acquiesce, and nudge her in the direction of the construction worker that had rescued her, who if nothing else, was probably good for a rebound.
Although, no nudging was necessary, apparently, for no sooner had Alice laid eyes on David then she'd launched herself at him with a shout. Her arms flung open and she pressed her front to his in a passionate embrace.
Carol's head was already spinning from the changes in her daughter, and she gaped as her reserved little stoic leaned up to kiss a perfect stranger.
Did head injuries normally change people's personalities? Or had Alice grown up while she wasn't looking. Who was the woman she'd bought home from the hospital?
And more importantly, why was she making out with some random guy right in front of her?