January 20, 1996, Ellicott City, Maryland
Lily Parker is finishing her evening prayers when her mother, Deborah, calls from the first floor. The President’s State of the Union address is about to begin. Lily opens her bedroom door so her parents can hear her over the downstairs television. “Thanks Mom, but I think I’m going to skip it.” Her mom is standing at the bottom of the stairway looking disappointed.
Lily’s father, Bruce, pokes his head around the corner and joins the conversation. “Sweetie, are you sure? This is the last presidential address before the November elections.”
“I know, Dad, but I just turned eighteen. These things aren’t all that interesting to me.”
“Well, they certainly should be, darling. This is the first year you can vote. It would be great if you were familiar with President Clinton’s position on the important issues.”
“I will read the transcripts at the library before I vote. I promise.” Lily flashes them her most disarming smile. She knows exactly how to smile to show off her dimples. “If it’s okay with you, I’d rather go running.” The dimples work like magic on her parents. They both smile and agree she can skip.
Lily returns to her bedroom and pulls her long brown hair into a high ponytail. She grabs her running shoes and heads down the stairs. At the doorway, she blows a kiss to her parents. Both smile and wave goodbye, but it’s clear they are fixated on the debate.
Outside, Lily sits on the top step and pulls on her shoes. She takes a deep breath of the crisp January air. Usually, the weather in Ellicott City and nearby D.C. is brutal this time of year, but at fifty-five degrees, tonight is perfect for running. Lily does not mind running in cooler temperatures, as long as they don’t drop below freezing and sting her lungs. She decides to take the trail through Centennial Park. A perfect 2.4 miles, it is just enough to get her heart rate elevated to her goal zone for twenty minutes. Afterwards, she will follow the run with a warm bubble bath and fall right to sleep.
There is just one obstacle to running through Centennial: the park officially closes at dusk, so she’ll have to sneak in. It’s a wooded trail she knows well. The park rangers are usually posted near the main front and back entrances, though Lily is not even sure why the government pays rangers to keep people out of the parks at night. Rogue runners cannot be all that common—or, for that matter, all that dangerous.
On the positive side, when the park is closed, Lily is free to run through the quiet stillness that makes her feel as if she is the only person on the planet. She can drift off with her thoughts and ease into a nice runner’s high. Yes, she knows she is breaking the law. It’s just little law, though, and she is only breaking it for twenty minutes.
Her parents would say otherwise, of course, so Lily keeps her late night visits to Centennial Park to herself. They are sticklers for following rules—which is in direct contradiction to their life choices. Both are Jewish by birth, but do not adhere to the religion. They raised Lily in the Christian faith.
They are also scientists working side-by-side on a top-secret project involving germline gene editing at a company named Humanetics. Lily knows “germline” is biology jargon for a human egg and sperm cells that come together to make an embryo, but is not exactly sure what her parents do. They only give information on a “need to know” basis, and, apparently, she doesn’t need to know. When they first told her, they seemed to expect her to react negatively. Lily only shrugged her shoulders. On more than one occasion, she thought of informing her parents that teenagers don’t care what their parents do for a living—as long as the thing they do supports their desired lifestyle and, of course, status. She always thought better of it, though, and assured them she understood.
Now that “designer baby ethics” is the debate topic for her second semester, though, Lily’s apathy for her parent’s work is over. In an effort to collect data to give her an edge in her tournaments, Lily convinced her parents to allow her to shadow them at work for her winter break work study project. In three days, she’ll be in the company’s biology lab watching altered DNA cells become something special. Even if the work bores her to death, it will look good on her college resume.