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Until Now Gives Way to Then

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Angelica Hamilton sat, back ramrod straight, in their pew at Trinity Church, ignoring the preacher's words as they washed over her. Her siblings were crying, her mother was crying, but Angie's eyes were dry. She glanced across the aisle at Theo, who winked at her.

Angie realized, then, that none of them knew her father like she had.


"Angie, I'm on the phone right now." Her mom sounded tired as she turned her back to Angie. "No, no, no, he wants the flowers to be white... I don't care if you have to import them from the moon, they damn well better be here by tomorrow!" She hung up the phone and turned back to Angie. "What is it, honey?"

"Mom, I got dirt on the dress." Her mom heaved a sigh.

"Oh, Angie, how on earth did you manage that?"

"Well, we were playing knights, and Philip said that the damsel in distress had to have a pretty dress. So I put it on, but then I had to help him fight off the dragon-"

"God damn it- The dry cleaner's is closed now, we can't even- Just wait until your father hears about this!"


"I can't believe you would be so careless! Angie, you're almost seven, you should be less-" Her mom massaged her temples. "Never mind. You can wear the dress you wore to President Washington's inauguration. The Adams's will talk, but I don't have time to buy you another dress on top of everything else."

"Mom, I'm sorry." Her mom sighed again, heavier this time.

"Don't be sorry, fix it," she said. Angie nodded. "And for God's sake don't let your father see you in that, you're filthy."

Angie tugged at the neck of her dress, looking around at the collection of D.C. elite.

"Don't tug on your dress, you'll stretch it out," her dad said irritably, glancing around as though looking for someone he wasn't supposed to.

"It's itchy."

"Just don't, Angelica." Her dad perked up, and she followed his gaze to see a man with long, curly hair and a million freckles. Her dad started to rush forward, but then his path was blocked by a familiar face.

"Secretary Hamilton," the man said.

"Senator Burr," said her dad coldly. "If you don't mind, I have some urgent business to attend to."

"Relax, it's a dinner party." Senator Burr turned to Angie, and she tried to stand taller. "How old are you now, Angie?"

"Seven," she said quietly. He nodded, giving her a warm smile.

"My daughter, Theodosia, is just a year older than you," he said, gesturing over towards the refreshment table. Angie saw her and her heart began to beat faster, though she didn't know why. Theodosia Burr was tall and dressed in a light pink dress. Her hair was done in two curly puff balls on the sides of her head. "I'm sure that she would be happy to talk with you while your father conducts his... business." For some reason, her dad bristled.

"I don't need your help, Burr," he spat. Burr just gave him a searching look over his glass of champagne and turned back to Angie, offering her his arm.

"Shall we?" he said. Angie giggled, ignoring how her dad turned his heel and almost ran towards the man with curly hair. She was too much concentrated on Theodosia.

"Hey, Dad," Theodosia said.

"Theo," Senator Burr said, "This is Angelica Hamilton."

"Hi," Angie squeaked. Theodosia (no, Theo, Senator Burr had called her Theo) just laughed.

"Hey," she said. Senator Burr smiled at them.

"I'll leave you two to it," he said. "Don't get into too much trouble." WIth that he left to mingle with the rest of the party.

"So, Angelica, huh?" Theo said.

"Yeah. But you can call me Angie. I mean, most people say Angie." Angie bit her tongue before she made an even greater fool of herself.

"Angie. It sounds like you."

Angie was so distracted by thoughts of her new friend that she didn't even notice that her dad didn't come back from the party with them.

The curly haired man from the party turned out to be Senator Laurens, but he told Angie to call him John. He and her dad had been in the army together, and he always made sure to bring her and her siblings candy every time he came over, which was often.

It was weird. The more he came, the happier her dad was, but her mom didn't like him. Angie could tell. Whenever John came over, she always took Angie and her siblings shopping or to the movies, saying bitterly that John and her dad needed "guy time." Angie wanted to ask what was wrong, but she had a feeling that her mom was trying to hide it.

It all came to a head the one time that John was still there when they came back. He left pretty quickly, but her mom still took her dad aside for a "talk." It was Philip's idea to listen at their bedroom door, but of course Angie was eager to help him.

"Alexander, you're being careless."

"Look, it won't happen again-"

"I've put up with a lot, but we decided that the children couldn't know that-"

"You decided, I just had to go along with it."

"God damn it, Alexander, I don't think I'm being unreasonable. All I've ever asked is for the least bit of effort from you-"

"Eliza, I have things I need. Maybe you can't understand that-"

"You don't have needs, you have wants. It's not my fault that you can't tell the difference." Angie heard her mom heave a great sigh. "Look, I know that I can't give you everything you want, and I made my peace with that long ago. But keep our family out of it."


In the split second before they scampered away, Angie looked at Philip and saw the look on his face. It was full of anger and hurt and understanding. Angie didn't understand what had been left unsaid behind that door, she was only eleven after all, but Philip did, and no matter how she begged him later he wouldn't tell her.

In retrospect, it may have been that conversation that cause him to leave the moment that he turned eighteen.

Angie hated college.

Well, no, she was glad to get away from the house that felt smaller with every silent fight, and she couldn't deny that the sheer amount to knowledge to learn was exhilarating. But after Philip left without a word or a goodbye, leaving her parents' expectations behind him, all of the weight of their hopes suddenly fell on her.

The last time that she and Philip had talked, he'd been at a payphone in St. Louis, "finding himself," and she'd begged him to come home. He'd told her to fuck her parents' expectations. She resisted the urge to say that she wasn't him.

At least Theo was her roommate. Theo, who never failed to make her heart beat faster whenever she accidentally brushed against her. Angie had figured out a few years before that she liked women, but she would never tell Theo that. She had no idea how her best friend would react to her admitting her real feelings, and she would never risk her finding out.

Angie was very drunk.

She had meant to just go out, have a few drinks, maybe blow off some steam with the cute redhead who was "83% bi." Instead one drink had led to another, which had led to shots, and now she was out on the sorority lawn, cackling like a loon at the way that the headlights of cars looked as they passed by.

"Come on, Angie." Angie looked up to see Theo. Two Theos. She smiled and patted the ground next to her.

"Sit with me," she slurred.

"Angie, you're drunk," the Theos said. They only had one voice. Weird.

"I know I am. Sit." Theo became one person as she plopped down on the ground next to Angie, who leaned over and kind of flopped onto her lap.

"What are you doing?"

"Warm," Angie murmured. She was suddenly very tired.

"Alright." Angie felt a hesitant hand in her hair and she purred.

"Theo, can I tell you a secret?" she said.

"Of course."

"It's a reeeeally big secret."

"What is it?" Theo was laughing at her, and Angie frowned.

"I'm being serious," she whined.

"Alright, tell me." Angie nuzzled Theo's stomach.

"The secret is I love you."

"Well, I already knew that." Angie sat up, frustrated.

"No, no, no, I love you. Like this." She kissed Theo.

And then, after a brief, frozen moment, Theo kissed her back.

Theo glanced over at her, and Angie tried not to meet her eyes. She didn't want to think about introducing her girlfriend to her parents. She didn't want to consider their reactions.

"Are you sure you don't just want to go to mine?" Theo said. "My dad's coming back from Albany tonight, and you know that he loves you." Angie almost laughed. Telling Theo's father about them had been... an experience. He'd reacted by congratulating them and asking when the wedding would be. It took more time to convince him that, no, they weren't engaged than it took to convince him that they were together in the first place.

"No," she said, watching her driveway come closer and closer, "I'm sure. I just- I just don't know whether my parents will react as well as your dad did." Theo reached over and squeezed Angie's knee.

"Whatever," she said. "If they kick us out, I'm sure my dad would love an excuse to kick your dad's ass." Angie gave a nervous chuckle and walked up the steps, Theo by her side.

It was amazing how the house was almost exactly how she had left it. It had only been a few months, sure, but she had thought that something would have changed. But, no, the family photos still stood polished on the mantel, the table was still set for one too many to preserve the illusion that nothing was wrong. Theo looked around as though studying a museum, hand hovering between Angie's shoulderblades.

"Huh, I would have thought that any place that your dad lived would be a disaster," she said.

"This is just the public part. You should see Dad's office. It looks like it got hit by a hurricane." They were saved from more awkward small talk by Angie's mom coming down the stairs. As soon as she saw them she smiled.

"Oh, Angie," she said, hugging her, "I'm so glad to have you back."

"Hey, Mom," Angie said. "Um, I have something I have to tell you." Theo's hand didn't waver anymore, it sat, reassuringly solid. "I know that you know her, but... This is Theo, Mom. She's my girlfriend." Of all the realistic and not-so-realistic reactions that Angie had imagined, she had never expected her mom to tear up.

"Angie, come here. You too, Theo." She led them into the living room and gestured for them to sit next to her on the sofa.

"Mrs. Hamilton-" Theo said, but Angie's mom held up her hand.

"I don't want any explanations," she said. "All I want is the answer to one question." She paused, taking a deep breath. "Are you... are you happy, both of you? Do you truly love each other?"

"Of course we do, Mom." Angie blushed when Theo looked at her and she realized that she hadn't told Theo she loved her since the drunken night when they first kissed.

"Good," said her mom. "That's all I want for you. That's all I've ever wanted for any of you."

"Mom?" Angie said, reaching forward as her mom began to cry. She looked to Theo, but Theo seemed as helpless as she was.

"I'm sorry," said her mom. "I don't- I'm just so happy, Angie. I'm so glad that you've found someone you love and who love you back. At least I did something right in raising you, so that you won't- won't squander your life with-"

"With someone like Dad?" Theo's arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders, but Angie was completely focussed on her mom. It was as though a veil had been pulled away and she was seeing her for the first time. Angie's mom dried her eyes and gave a weak smile.

"Oh, it wasn't all bad. There was a time when your father swept me off my feet with words. He was an aide under General Washington at the time, but he told me everything, even things that, had I told, would have ended with him dishonorably discharged. He flattered me, made me feel special, and then-" She broke off, and a hint of bitterness entered her smile. "And then I gave myself away to someone incapable of loving me in the same way I love him, someone who wanted to use me to hide the fact that he was a gay man trying to make his way into the government."

"But- But Dad loves us-" Her mom sighed.

"Of course he does, Angie. He's not evil or- or heartless. You have to understand, it was a different time. The AIDS crisis was just beginning, Reagan had been elected president... In his mind, there was no other way to achieve his ambitions. Your father- It's not as though he doesn't care. He does, he just has trouble seeing beyond himself and what he wants. He takes and he takes and he takes, and I gave him everything I had, because I thought as a wife I was meant to. But now... now look at where we are. Philip's left, you're coming into your own. No matter how hard I try-"

"I'll stay with you," Angie heard herself saying, but her mom just shook her head.

"No. After this break, don't come back here. I didn't raise you to give away your days like me." She turned to Theo. "Take care of her."

"Of course I will." Angie heard a choked sound behind them and turned. It was her dad, staring at them. His face was a mixture of horror and something almost like jealousy.

"Angelica," he said, hand reaching out as though to grab something that he knew was already out of reach.

"Dad!" Angie tried to jump up, but Theo's arm was too tight to disentangle herself quickly. She finally stood, but it was too late. Whatever brief window of possibility there had been was gone. Her dad's arm dropped, and he suddenly looked incredibly old and tired.

"We- we don't have an extra bed," he said.

"Yes, we do. What are you talking about?" Angie said.

"We don't have an extra bed." He was kicking her out. It was like all of Angie's worst nightmares come true. She caught her mom's eye, but there was no answer there. She had to make her choice herself.

"Okay," she said. "Okay, that's fine. I can just crash at Theo's for the rest of break, right, Theo?" Theo nodded.

If Angie had known that it was the last time she would see her dad, she would have stayed. She would have stayed and argued and tried to somehow reach him, get it through his head that this changed nothing, that she was still his daughter and he was was still her dad, no matter what, but-

As it was, she and Theo left without even a goodbye, and her dad was hit by a beat-up old pickup coming back from Albany on the freeway that night.

"Are you sure it wasn't insensitive for me to come?" Theo said after the funeral.

"Look, my mom didn't kick you out, what more do you want?" Angie knew that it was unfair of her to snap, but she couldn't stand the idea of not having Theo at her side right then.

"Would it help for me to say I'm sorry for your loss?"

"Oh, shut up." Angie glared at the fresh grave. "Theo, could you ask your dad if..."

"He stepped in front of the car." Angie flinched. "Dad told me everything- everything that happened that night. I asked, and he always tells me everything anyways."

"I wish we had been that close." Theo put an arm around her.

"This isn't your fault. It was his choice."

"God, Theo, if I had just been able to say something-" For the first time that day, Angie felt tears prickling in her eyes. She scrubbed them away and turned away from the grave.


"It's fine. I'm fine." Angie looked up, trying to put on a brave face, but then she froze. Coming from the back of the church was a figure that she would have recognized anywhere, even with the bulky black coat and beard. He was the only one of her siblings not to be at the service.

"Philip?" she said. He grinned weakly.

"Hey, sis," he said. "I'm back." And there, in the Trinity Church cemetery, Angie laughed.