Las Fontanas was a restaurant and tapas bar located in the North End of town. True to its Latin theme, the walls featured deep red cherry paneling. The dimly-lit candlelit room was furnished with wrought iron tables that were topped with decorative tiles.
Theora drummed her fingers nervously on the table and bit her lip, waiting for Mr. Best. A basket of sourdough rolls and a small bowl of pesto sauce sat near her elbow.
From Barcelona to London, to South Beach, New York and Metro City, Theora partied.
It was a world that was unlike any she'd ever known in the past (a world far removed from the orphanage - and the nuns - back in Romania). A speed and ecstasy-fueled world bathed in laser light and dry-ice smoke that pulsed to a house and techno beat.
When she wasn't partying, there was the sex ... and hacking (Nothing ever got stolen ... too risky. Too much of a risk of hard time. Nothing spoils a party like time in prison.)
Back in South Beach, she paid the rent by waiting tables at some of SoBe's hippest and hottest cafes and nightclubs. Gangsters, models, athletes, singers, and movie stars ... hers was now a world of glitz and celebrity. The toast of South Beach made its way to her table.
It was in South Beach that she learned to keep secrets. (This married actor might be seeing a model on the side. That athlete might be enjoying a threesome even as his wife is waiting for him back in New York or Toronto.)
"Theora! Good to see you!" said Mr. Best as the server showed him to Theora's table. Tonight, he dressed casually for this occasion, wearing khaki slacks, a salmon-colored polo shirt, and tan boat shoes.
Theora rose to greet Mr. Best. "It's good to see you too," she said with a smile.
"I must say you have excellent taste," said Mr. Best as he noted the decor. "The ahi tuna here is exquisite."
"I had a good teacher," said Theora softly with a shy smile as she and Mr. Best sat down.
After hacking and waiting tables in South Beach, Theora eventually made her way back to Metro City.
As time progressed, she'd become an expert hacker. (Someone, it was said, who could pull off the seemingly impossible. Someone who could go where few others dared.)
To her, it was a game. A game of "Catch Me If You Can" that was played on the expensive, secure(?) systems of complete and total strangers.
Tim was the last one.
Or was it Tom?
Did the guy even HAVE a name?
It didn't matter (on the drugs, nothing ever did). Theora slept with him all the same.
The morning after sleeping (and having sex with) this stranger lying in the bed next to her, Theora made a decision.
She wanted out.
She wanted a normal life.
"How are things?" said Mr. Best.
Theora swallowed nervously. "Father … I've hurt you," she began. "I've made mistakes.
"I've done things … that I regret."
Theora licked her lips. "I've treated you horribly," she continued. "After everything you've done for me, this is the thanks you've received.
Theora sighed. "For that, I am sorry," she concluded.
"We all make mistakes," said Mr. Best. He then added solemnly, "When I adopted you, I adopted a human being."
"You've treated me better than I deserve," said Theora softly. "I appreciate your help … with the Russian Mob."
"I always had faith in you," said Mr. Best. "I'm glad to see you've turned yourself around." Mr. Best paused. "Murray has told me about the great work you've done for Network 23."
"There's something I don't understand," said Theora. "Why did you not change my last name … to Best … when you adopted me?"
Mr. Best thought for a moment. "I didn't want to take away your culture … your heritage," he said. "When I adopted you, you had so little from your previous life.
"I … didn't want to take away what little you had left."
"There will always be a part of me that is Romanian," said Theora. "Nothing will change that. A court order will not change that."
"Yes, that is true," said Mr. Best.
"Who am I?" Theora asked.
Mr. Best paused to reflect for a moment. "You're the only person who can answer that question," he said.
"I've spent the last ten YEARS trying to answer that question," said Theora. "Apart from you ... apart from the state.
"Who am I ... as an individual?"
Mr. Best let out a sigh. "You're not the first person to 'sow their oats', as it were, when they're young," he said. "And you won't be the last.
"Did I ever tell you about the time when I was in the Marines in Okinawa … ?"