Like many wayward young adults, Tanya had extremely overprotective parents, though it would be impossible to say which came first: their exaggerated vigilance, or her rebellion. For as long as you had known her, Tanya had maintained at least two or three different versions of the truth, parceling it out carefully into personalized manuscripts that revealed only the essentials to each relationship she maintained. You knew that you had worked your way into a higher level of the truth than had many, including Cate and Linda, but you also knew that your copy contained plenty of omissions. It was the development of these various truths that allowed Tanya to be, in her own estimation, an honest person: she never really lied to anyone, because omissions and deflections were something different altogether. And because of their panic over her well-being, her parents received the copy of the story that was most spotted by redactions: they lived on a different continent, enveloped in a shroud of mystery, and their twice-yearly visits to Tanya at school were much dreaded and required weeks of preparation to be able to present the story of Tanya’s everyday life in the manner that fit with their expectations.
The Masons, for all their peculiarities and mysteries, had seen a good deal of the world and must have wanted to spare Tanya the knowledge of good and evil they had extracted–painfully?–from doing whatever it was they did, living and operating wherever it was they had. Against all reason, they seemed to believe that Tanya had maintained some vestige of innocence, even as her childhood and teens were spent in countless countries and among peers who knew no boundaries to money and privilege. How they could convince themselves that Tanya had absorbed none of the chaos that surrounded her was a mystery to you, given her penchant for black leather, cigarettes, and the fact that she had been forced–by her parents–to abort a pregnancy at the age of 16. But maybe they did not really believe she was innocent, and were instead trying to get her back on track, to turn back the clock to a time where they could have better protected her. You weren’t a parent then and there was no way you could have understood, since everything they had done was completely foreign to your age and experience, and the experience of anyone you had ever encountered.
There were, of course, those melancholy times when you both had been drinking, and Tanya would muse on the hypothetical age of her imaginary child. She would tell you how old her child would be now, if she had carried the pregnancy to term, and you would not know how to answer her. She was not sad, and it was not political to her. It was not even wistful, exactly, but more matter-of-fact. The teenage pregnancy had been the moment of her parents’ greatest disappointment in her, and she remembered it in the detached manner of the war historian: her mother and father in a room, the presence of doctors, some shouting, her face being put under a mask, and then darkness. Tanya had been there without being there, a party to the choice without being party, and these musings were the closest she had ever come to thinking about what it was she would have done, had she made the choice (any choice) on her own.
Because that was how it was always presented: Tanya’s life was an elaborate construction of her parents’ wants and desires for her, their expectations of her meeting potential, and the erasure of those times when she failed to live up to their standards. Or, there was the possibility that this was just another version of the truth, the one she had constructed for herself. Maybe it was easier for Tanya to believe that she had no hand in her current reality, or that she had no choice but to do what it was that would most please her parents. Maybe this belief was what allowed her to continue upon a destructive path, all the while looking back at what might have been, had it not been stolen from her. You did not know, you could only go by the version of the story you were given, and so you went along, writing your notes in the margins, figuring out the story arc as it had been presented to you, accepting that this might be the closest anyone would ever get.