Deep (Chicago Underground #7)

By: Skye Warren

Number VII of Chicago Underground


THERE ARE MOMENTS like earthquakes in your life, when the ground splits open and nothing will ever be the same. My first moment came in fourth grade, when I got an assignment to create a family tree. I applied myself like the good little student that I was at the time, making an actual tree from construction paper and Elmer’s glue.

This is where you come from, Mrs. Fitzpatrick had said when my classmates had complained about the project. This is who you are.

My parents seemed different the moment I told them about the project, more subdued and standoffish—which was saying something for them. So I did like always and threw myself into the work, as if another A+ would somehow impress them when all the rest hadn’t. I used online sites and library references to pull actual census reports and, in a couple of cases, pictures.

I had been too naive to notice what I saw in them: blue eyes and pale brown hair ran in the family. Like my brother and my mother. Only my father had darker hair—I suppose I always assumed I got it from him. But none of them had the faintly olive toned skin or the full shape of my mouth.

During that presentation I learned that Jennifer had Native American heritage, which explained why her eyes were so pretty. And Brittney’s grandmother was part Creole—I wasn’t sure what that was, but she had curly black hair that always looked windswept.

“Where is our family from?” I asked when I got home from school that day.

“Brooklyn,” my mother said.

“I know that. I mean, I know Grandpa moved to Chicago because he got laid off. But before that, like our ancestors.”

Her lips pressed together in that way that meant she was hiding something. Kids had a sense about these things. “From lots of places. People come from all over.”

“Like Scotland?” Dad’s side of the family came from Scotland. I had learned that lineage while creating my presentation.

“Yes,” she said, her voice firm. “Lots of places.”

Why didn’t she want to tell me? I thought that was the most I would learn, but there was a fight in hushed voices in the kitchen when my dad came home. And then they both sat me down.

“Hey, squirt,” he said, tapping me on the side of the arm. We never really hugged or cuddled. For him this was the equivalent of a great bear hug. “You know your mom and dad love you.”

“Yes,” I said with the kind of guileless certainty only a child can have.

“Good,” he said, sounding relieved. “We will always love you, but we think it’s time you know the truth. Your mom and I adopted you when you were a baby.”

I felt the ground shift, felt it open wide—a dark chasm stretching beneath me, waiting for me to fall. I stared at them, unable to speak, unable to think.

Mom attempted to smile. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but honey, you’re like our own child. Just like Tyler.”

My brother. “Is he…” I had to force the word out. “Is he adopted too?”

They shared a long glance. “No,” my father said finally. “He’s ours.”

He was theirs, and I…wasn’t.

This is where you come from. This is who you are. And for the first time in my life, I had no idea who that was.

That was when I stopped wondering why they always seemed to favor my younger brother, when I stopped trying to desperately please them with good grades and obedience and presents that said Best Mom in the World. That was when I started rebelling, wearing makeup and starting fights—eventually hanging out with the wrong crowd at skate parks and underground raves.

It was my first earthquake, but it wouldn’t be my last.

It wouldn’t even be the biggest one.

As many big things do, that one came in the form of a man. I met him when I was a child and he was a grown-up. I met him when I was nobody and nothing—and he was already rich and powerful. I met him when I was in danger and he was the most dangerous man in the city.

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