The Girl With Four Names - Chapter 1 - Arallute1 (2024)

Chapter Text

A black Mercedes pulls up, as close to the shoulder of the road as possible. I’m not sure whether to stop and acknowledge the driver or run in the opposite direction. At home in Toronto, I would definitely run. But in this crazy, f*cked-up place, I’m not sure of the protocol.

The driver’s window rolls down. A Commander, alone. Forties, kind face. Handsome, for an older guy. He beckons at me with long, tapered fingers. What did I do wrong? My face was turned down, I’m dressed modestly with my perfect little gray Pearl Girl uniform. I know I’m supposed to approach this Commander guy, but I’m frozen in place.

“Blessed morning,” the man says neutrally. A hint of a smile, but not a creepy one.

“Blessed morning,” I parrot back, still unmoving.

“I’m here to give you a lift.”

f*ck that. Before I can edit myself, I blurt out, “I’m not getting into a car with a stranger.”

He makes a sound, somewhere between a cough and a laugh. So glad I’m amusing to him…but I’m not getting into that Benz.

“I can explain,” he says. “Please, just get in.”

“Sorry, Commander, but no.” I should add something religious, I think, but I can’t think of any of the Gilead phrases I was supposed to have memorized. “By His hand,” I say, though I’m pretty sure that’s wrong here. I’m making matters worse and worse.

He looks at me, still smiling a little bit, and shakes his head in wonder. “You’re as stubborn as your mother.”

I manage not to yell what the f*ck at him. “You…know my mother?” No way does he know that. Nobody here knows my real identity. I’m supposedly a runaway from Toronto, seduced into coming south of the border by a Pearl Girl. But curious despite myself, I walk a little closer to the car. “What’s her name, then?” I test him.

“June,” he answers right back.

Not Melanie. June. That’s my birth mother’s name. She was a handmaid here in Boston, raped by her Commander until she bore me. Then she escaped to Canada for a couple of years before disappearing. I assume she’s long dead.

How could this man possibly know about June Osborne? I just found this out a few days ago, from a file put in my dorm room anonymously.

He looks straight into my confused eyes. “Get in, Daisy, please, and I’ll tell you all about her.”

He called me Daisy. My real name. Holy sh*t.

I get in the car, and we drive off.

“You were told that Mayday would get in contact with you, to get you back to Canada?”

I say nothing to that.

“I’m your Mayday contact,” he says. “I’m Nick. Nick Blaine.” His eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror and hold my gaze. “Does that name mean anything to you?” he asks gently.

“No. Should it?”

He shrugs. “I knew your parents in Toronto. I thought they might’ve mentioned me.”

“You knew…June?” I’m confused.

“Well, yeah, her too, but I meant Neil and Melanie.” He drops my adopted parents’ names casually. No big deal. But this is huge: nobody in Gilead is supposed to know this stuff. He must be Mayday. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” he continues. “They always seemed like really terrific people.”

“They were.” So he also knows they were blown up, murdered in their shop on my sixteenth birthday. I swallow the sudden lump in my throat.

“Were they good parents to you?” He’s still looking at me through the rearview mirror.

“Yes.” I pause to consider him. “Why do you care?”

He shakes his head, looks at the road. After a moment, he says out of nowhere, “When you tilt your head like that, you look like June. Different coloring, but--”

“Who are you?” I blurt out.

“I told you. I’m Nick.”

“How do you know my birth mother?”

“Well, here’s what we’re gonna do. I’m gonna drive you to my house and we can discuss all that. It’s just a few minutes away. Suffice it to say, I know things about you that you don’t even know.”

“Oh yeah?”


“Like my real name.” Nobody in Gilead should know the name Daisy.

“I know all four of your names.”

I squint at him. I’ve actually had three names, not four. Daisy is the name I was raised with, Jade my new spy-in-Gilead alter ego. And just before leaving Toronto, I found out my birth name: Nichole. I am the famous Baby Nichole, smuggled out of Gilead by a handmaid when I was an infant. Otherwise, I would have grown up here in this hellhole.

“Three names,” I tell him.

“Four,” he shoots back. “I guess you think of yourself as Daisy?”

I nod. “But what was my name before that?”

“Are you testing me?”

“Look, I really don’t know who you are.”

“Fair enough. Your legal Gilead name was Nichole Joy Waterford. Serena Joy—Mrs. Waterford, in those days—she named you after her household’s driver. She wanted to remind her husband that the driver was the one who got their handmaid pregnant.”

“That’s not what happened,” I interrupt bitterly. “Commander Fred Waterford, that son of a bitch, he owned my mother. And he raped her over and over until she had me.”

“All that’s true, except for the last four words. He’s not your father, Daisy. You were conceived in love.” We arrive at a large, pretty house. The Commander parks, switches off the ignition, turns around to look at me. “June lived at the Waterfords’ for about a year and a half. She became friends with their driver, then lovers. Getting you out was one of the things we’re proudest of in life.” He notices my still-befuddled look, I guess, because he points to his chest and says slowly, “I’m Nick. Nicholas. As in, Nichole. Before I got promoted to Commander, I was assigned as the Waterfords’ driver.”

My jaw has fallen open. I can feel it sort-of hanging there. I don’t know what to say. I study this man: his dark eyebrows and eyelashes, his wavy hair, his prominent cheekbones. Features I have, so unlike the photo of June in the file. A picture I’ve been scrutinizing all week, trying to see similarities in our faces. I have her blue eyes, but the rest of my face…is his. Nick Blaine’s.

I stare mutely at my father.

We enter his house. In the hallway, there are framed portraits of Nick, a red-haired woman, and a boy of varying ages. Or maybe it’s several different boys.

“Who’re they?”

“That’s my…wife, Rose.” He swallows before saying the word wife. “And my son, Jeremy.”

“You’re married?!”

“It’s Gilead, Daisy. Everyone’s married.” He shrugs like it’s no big deal. I mean, I know about arranged marriages, but… “So Jeremy is my half-brother?”

“No. I mean, yes. Legally. Kinda.” He shakes his head in bewilderment, and gestures to the couch in the living room. “Make yourself comfortable.”

“The biology’s not that difficult.” I flop into the couch, not caring if I’m wrinkling my gray Pearl Girl dress. “We’re half-siblings.”

“Rose was pregnant when she married me. I raised Jeremy and love him like a son, but he’s not mine, biologically. Whereas you are mine, biologically, even though I didn’t raise you.”

I grin. “Well, however you define fatherhood, you’ve got at least one actual child.” I look around. “Where is your family?”

“Jeremy’s at school, Sarah—our Martha—is doing the shopping. Rose is gone. She had a long-term relationship with our driver, and his wife finally found out about it and turned them both in to the Eyes. They were executed for adultery last month.”

What the flipping f*ck is wrong with this country? “You don’t sound very upset.”

“I’ve learned to keep my emotions in check, Daisy. You can’t survive here otherwise.”

“You don’t care that your wife was having an affair?”

He snorts. “That would’ve really made me a hypocrite. Peter—our driver—was a good guy. And me and Rose, we had an understanding. I was, still am, in love with your mom, and Rose could be in love with whoever she wanted. We were just friends and co-parents.” He shifts in his armchair, fiddles with his tie. “Jeremy is thirteen. He’s a nice kid; you’ll like him. He’ll be home pretty soon.”

I wonder what Nick has told his son about me. If anything. Then I realize he said he is ‘still’ in love with my mom, even though… “How did my mother die?” I ask quietly.

His eyebrows go up. “Who told you she was dead?”

“The internet. I googled myself when my parents’ friends told me I was really Baby Nichole. Google wasn’t sure if June survived, but AI concluded she must’ve been killed over a decade ago. 97% chance.”

He smiles that tiny smile. I wonder if he ever actually laughs. I guess if I’d lived here for the last twenty years, I wouldn’t laugh much. “Well, Google doesn’t know everything, I guess. We faked your mom’s death when you were just four, to stop Gilead agents from coming after her.”

“Wait, she’s still alive? Is she still in Boston?”

“No, of course not. June got out a year after you did. She lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec, near the Vermont border. She smuggles people out and…does other stuff for the resistance.”

I’m torn between feeling excited to meet my real mother, and pissed as f*ck at her for abandoning me. The latter feeling rises to the surface. “If she’s in Canada, why the hell didn’t she raise me? Why did she give me up?”

Nick sits back on the couch. Takes off his tie and blazer. “You want something to drink?”

“Quit deflecting and answer my question.” I’m not usually this direct with adults I barely know, but my instincts say that I can trust this guy. My supposed father. I remind myself firmly that I’m in Gilead, and he’s a Commander wearing a pistol in a holster, easily visibly now that he’s taken off the blazer. He could shoot me if he wanted to. Legally, probably.

Luckily, my cheeky attitude doesn’t seem to bother him. He leans towards me and speaks gently. “Daisy, she never wanted to leave you. She got to Toronto when you were fourteen months old—her husband Luke had been your caregiver til then—and June moved right in to be your mommy. But Gilead kept coming after her, and, well, your mom and me finally decided you’d be safer if we changed your name and gave you to a foster family until you got older. Keeping you safe was the most important thing.”

Your mom and I decided--not your mom and me, I think to myself. Still pouty, correcting his grammar in my head. “So why didn’t you come to Canada to raise me?”

“I’m the head of the Eyes in this district. I know a lot of secrets. If I’d defected, they would’ve hunted me down and killed us all.”

“You could’ve changed your name.”

“I would’ve spent every day looking over my shoulder, waiting for Gilead agents to show up. You deserved a safe childhood, Daisy.” He stands up suddenly, crosses the room and kicks a floorboard. It pops open, revealing a hiding place. Nick brings a box over to me. I open it—it’s filled with old-fashioned photographs on thick, glossy paper. “Look, Neil took plenty of pictures of you over the years,” he explains. “And Melanie wrote letters, keeping us updated on your progress. We never, ever forgot about you.”

“My father—I mean, Neil—he never took any pictures of me,” I protested. It used to drive me crazy, his total lack of interest in documenting my life, even though he collected old cameras as a hobby. But I start leafing through all these pics and realize they’re all of me. Smiling at the photographer as a little kid. As I get older, though, the pictures are of me asleep or oblivious to the camera. So that he didn’t have to answer my awkward questions, I guess.

The pictures go backwards chronologically, from this year’s science fair back to me as a baby. Many the ones from toddlerhood are next to a blond woman. I seem very comfortable with her, and she’s looking at me with a warm smile, like a mom is supposed to. “Is this my mother?” I ask, fascinated despite myself.

“Yeah.” He sighs longingly, like a lovestruck teenager.

“She’s pretty.”


“She looks a whole hell of a lot happier here than the picture in her handmaid file.”

Nick raises one eyebrow at me. “You could say that,” he says drily.

I continue to flip back in time. My hair was so blond when I was little; I look more and more like my mother as I get younger. Then I see a picture of me as a baby with two people I recognize only from dreams, and gasp in shock.

The Girl With Four Names - Chapter 1 - Arallute1 (2024)
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