I look up from my work and catch my thirteen-year-old daughter with her magenta hair, ruby red skin and slanted eyes trying to sneak out the front door.
"Wait a minute, hold on, Clair. Where are you going?"
"Dad, please, my name is Nike. I'm the Goddess of victory. Behold and marvel at winged victory." She does a little curtsy and grabs the door knob. I beat her to the punch by locking the door from my phone.
"What? Shit! Get real, Dad. You can't lock me in here. I'm almost fourteen. I'm not an animal in a cage --"
"It's ninety-two degrees outside. Why do you have on a jacket?"
She takes a step back, leans against the wall, gives me her I'm super pissed at you look.
"Come over here. I mean it. Over here now."
She tosses her thick shoulder-length violet-purple hair, looks at the door, looks back at me, gives me the finger.
"Clair, I'm thinking you want to be grounded for the rest of the summer. I need you to step over here now."
"Fuck you, you asshole, you can't lock me up. You can't. I have rights. I'll call CPS. I'll call the cops."
I get up and walk over to her, tower over her. The daughter I hardly recognize. She looks up at me, all defiant, angry and scared.
"Take off the jacket, honey. Come on. I need to see your arms."
"You're a fuckin' bully. That's why mom left you. I don't want to live with you anymore. I don't. I want to live with mom all the time. I never want to see you again."
Slowly she peels off the jacket and reveals the fresh track marks in the crook of her left arm.
"Jesus Christ, baby, what the fuck did you do? When did you do it? What's the Kit Number?"
"Dad, I'm almost fourteen. Everybody is --"
"Is it a sex change kit? Is it?"
I'm level with her now, looking her in bright, pink-purple eyes brimming with tears.
"Dad, it's not a bootleg kit. It was approved, national approval from Uzbekistan and --"
"Go get me the kit. Now, honey, quickly."
I'm on the phone to our Sector Clinic when she hands me the plastic kit case.
"Dr. Gupta, its Kit Number, AWQ-456-10090-SX-1. Production Code is 77-1098-S. Date of production is June of this year."
I turn back to my miserable-looking daughter. "When did you inject? What time exactly?"
She wipes her nose and checks her phone. "One hour and ten minutes ago."
"Dr. Gupta can we get an antidote kit ... ok, ok. We're on our way. "
"Dad I don't want to go to the clinic. We can do the --"
I take her colorful, thin hands in mine. "Honey there is no home antidote. This has to be done at the clinic, and it has to be done quickly."
I don't tell her that twenty-two deaths have been reported for users of her Kit Number.
"Why do we have to do it in the clinic? I mean Jana said --"
I have my emergency flashers on as we race to the clinic.
"Did Jana inject too?"
"Yeah, and ..."
"And who else?"
"Roberto. The three of us --"
"When did they inject?"
"We all did it at the same time. It was a pact."
I get Jana and Roberto's parents on a conference call that last less than a minute.
"Clair, Dr. Gupta is going to do an IV and give you some heavy duty meds, ok?"
Her eyes are big as moons. I can smell her fear.
"Am I going to die? Is that why I'm here, Dad? Is it?"
I'm sitting across from Clair, in Dr. Gupta's office.
"Not for a long time kid. I promise you that."
"Will you be there with me?"
"Hey, the Army and Marines couldn't keep me from you. Let's go do this."
I'm holding her hand at her bedside as she sleeps after an hour of her painful infusion. Dr. Gupta sits in a chair near me.
"She is going to be ok. Roman, are you all right? You look terrible."
"Shit, I don't know. Kalpana, why do the kids do this? Clair and I and her mother, we have talked about the dangers of sex switching. I don't know what to do. I don't understand her. I don't understand my own daughter. Shit, I barely even recognize her."
"They can. They do it because they can. Genetic manipulation of skin, eye and hair color and eye shape is passé and too common. Even the custom skin and eye colors have faded as an attraction. My seven-year-old has yellow pupils. It gives me the shivers when I look into his eyes."
"Why would she want to be a male? She's just learning to be a woman. It makes no sense."
"Perhaps not to us, but the upside of this is there has been a significant reduction in discrimination based on color. That has been a positive."
"Sure, but poor people still end up on the bottom of the pile no matter their color or sex."
"Roman, is she sexually active?"
"Yeah, she's on contraceptives since twelve. Shit, the world is going to shit."
"Roman, they make pacts with their sexual partners to change sex and experience 'both sides of the coin' as they put it."
"Well, I think ... you're divorced. I'm divorced, twice. They may be looking for a better union, more stable, with true empathy. I think they don't want to repeat our mistakes. They don't want to be us."
Gupta stands and takes my free hand in hers. "I will have them put a cot in here for you. We're going to keep her overnight. Just to be sure everything went according to plan. She will be fine."
I squeeze Gupta's hand.
"Thank you, Kalpana, thank you for everything." I look up at her, into her huge brown eyes. "Do we have a date for dinner next week?"
"On Thursday, my night off. Are we still on?"
"Yeah, I need a date in the worst way."
Gupta pauses at the door. "Roman, for our date, would you like me to be a male or female or something in between?"
Dr. Kalpana Gupta smiles as she leaves. I hope she's joking. She better be joking. Life is too crazy as it is. I don't need any more surprises at all.