by Bernadette Giacomazzo
(The Uprising, #1)
Publication date: March 31st 2018
Genres: Adult, Dystopian
In The Gathering, Jamie Ryan has defected from the Cabal and has joined his former brothers-in-arms — Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura — to form a collective known as The Uprising. When an explosion leads to him crossing paths with Evanora Cunningham — a product of Jamie’s past — he discovers that The Uprising is bigger, and more important, than he thought.
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I could hear him bloviating, again, from the balcony.
It is entirely too early for this, you cocksucker, I thought, but I did not say as I jammed the pillow over my head and tried, desperately, to sleep.
Of course, it was no use. It never was when this asshole started screaming at the top of his lungs at an ungodly hour of the morning. Every morning. For the past twenty some-odd years. Saying the same thing, at the same time, every day, without changing a single goddamn word.
I know it by heart, by now. I can say it in my sleep. And sometimes, I do.
So, I did what I normally do in these situations: I pulled out my iPod, flicked the wheel, and stuffed the earbuds into my ears as I listened to Faust’s greatest hits.
Now this is the kind of caterwauling that I can get behind – the sacred, now-forbidden ritual of rock’n’roll.
I always thought Ivan Sapphire – real name, Jamie Ryan – was just so damn cute, though God only knows what he looked like now. If history teaches us anything, it’s that time isn’t kind to rock stars, especially if they regularly blast their body with drinking, drugs, and strange bodily fluids.
It’d be a damn shame if that’s what happened to Jamie Ryan.
But there was one Faust member I wanted to know more about, but never could – and never would.
For this, I envied my mother, for she knew him well.
Too well, as it turns out, and I was the product of this unlawful carnal knowledge.
Rose Cunningham never talked about my father.
All I knew of him was what I saw in the rare pictures I could find.
He was tall. He was thin. He had strawberry blonde hair. He could play bass like no one before or since. He had a pixie nose and almond shaped eyes – both of which I inherited. He loved my mother and me with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. He bore a pain inside him that could only be numbed with a regular shot of pure heroin to his veins. He died when I was still a baby.
And that was the sum totality of all I knew.
I was born Evanora Joy Diaz-Barker, and nicknamed the “First Faust Baby.” My birth heralded much comment amongst the rock glitterati in the old New York – I was the latest, greatest attraction to join the Faust three-ring circus (come one, come all, in more ways than one!), born to 21-year-old Jordan Barker, psycho bassist from Mars, and his consort of sorts, the 19-year-old Puerto-Rican-from-the-Bronx Ramira “Rosie” Diaz, a hip-hop B-girl and sometime dancer/choreographer who only happened upon a Faust show because her best friend, Angelique Denham, was the dearly beloved of one Ivan Sapphire/Jamie Ryan.
Ramira loved to dance, and she did it well.
I never saw Rose dance. Not even once.
My name, of course, is just as unique as Faust’s music, but it had a sense of history, as well.
I was named for the two most important women in my parents’ lives: Eva, for Rosie’s mother, and Nora, for Jordan’s.
And my middle name – Joy – was, according to my mother, in honor of all the joy I brought into their lives, and all the smiles I put on their faces.
I don’t remember Rose smiling. Not even once.
I never doubted for a minute that my mother loved me.
Her love for me is what not only keeps me alive today, but keeps me dressed in the finest clothes, attending the finest schools, and eating the finest food.
In this New York – the new New York – the New York that exists under the tutelage of my demagogue step-father, the man known to the city and to the world as, simply, Emperor, but whom, legally, has the decidedly less-intimidating name of Roger Cunningham, though no one dared to call him that if they wanted to live to see another day – this is the most anyone could ask for.
It’s a form of protection, really.
But for this protection, my mother paid a heavy price.
She was forced to become something she never was – and never would be.
Because Emperor, God forbid, could never – would never – be caught dead with a Puerto-Rican-from-the-Bronx.
Emperor, God forbid, could never – would never – be caught dead with a single mom of a daughter whose father died of a heroin overdose – an overdose he had while he was supposed to be watching me.
He waited until I fell asleep after my feeding – and as I slept peacefully, he filled his needle with four times the lethal dose of the finest China white, plunged it as deep into his veins as it would go, and slept peacefully beside me.
My mother found us both an hour later.
My mother and I were those kind of people – those kind of people being the nod, the wink, and the dog whistle code word for the “trash” that gave the old New York its unique flavor and charm, but who were second class citizens in the new New York, subjected to psi if they dared to do anything less than toe the line drawn in the sand by Emperor…a line that seems to keep moving further and further back with each perceived infraction.
So, if Ramira wanted to save the life of her daughter, she would have to give up her own.
Oh, she would still be alive – she would be breathing, eating, sleeping. She would be performing all voluntary and involuntary biological functions. Her daughter needed a mother – Emperor needed a wife to at least have the appearance of propriety (“humanizing the dictator,” wrote one journalist who was “mysteriously” found dead not long after he wrote those words) – and Ramira was no good to anyone if she was dead.
Ramira would be alive. She just wouldn’t be living.
So, anything that suggested that she was a Puerto-Rican-from-the-Bronx – one of those kind of people – the fullness of her hips and lips, the curl of her chocolate brown hair, her natural effervescence, a smile that would light up a room, the confident and sexy way she would sway her hips with each step, almost as though she danced her way through life – everything my father loved about her – everything he lusted for in a woman – were obliterated.
Her hair was chemically straightened and dyed a garish white-blonde. I don’t know who told Emperor that this color was a good idea. Because it wasn’t. It still isn’t. She looks fucking ridiculous.
The hair on her face was burned off, unceremoniously, with pulses of light that caused her to flinch and cry with each application. Her olive skin still bears traces of these scars to this day. Of course, she covers it up with the finest makeup – nothing less for Emperor’s wife – but when she takes it off, the marks are still there, as permanent reminders of all she was, and all she was forced to give up so I could stay alive.
Her lips and hips were suctioned, tightened and pulled, and her diet was restricted to the barest of nutrients needed to survive.
Her smile slowly, but surely, disappeared, and would only flash when it was required she be the “good wife” of the “good dictator,” greeting heads of state and other luminaries the way a well-crafted robot would be designed to do. Diva ex machina.
She was sent to what was colloquially called a “finishing school” to complete the transformation. God only knows what they did to her in there, because when she came out, her gait was stilted, her speech was deliberate, and her eyes – once simmering with life – were catatonic, zombified orbs.
And so, it came to pass that when my father died, all traces of him were obliterated, including any memories he may have imprinted on the two women he loved the most in this world.
Ramira Diaz and her daughter, Evanora Joy Diaz-Barker, became Rose and Evanora Joy Cunningham.
My mother insisted that I keep my name. That’s part of the deal, she said, or you may as well kill us both, and fuck what you stand for and what you want to be.
My mother was forged from the fire. Now, she was forced to burn in Hell.
Based in New York City, Bernadette is the co-author of Swimming with Sharks: A Real World, How-To Guide to Success (and Failure) in the Business of Music (for the 21st Century), and the author of the forthcoming dystopian fiction series, The Uprising. She also contributed a story to the upcoming Beyonce Knowles tribute anthology, The King Bey Bible, which will be available in bookstores nationwide in the summer of 2018.
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