III.
CAUGHT (PT. I)

the interviews usually start with the question: how did you get into cybersecurity?

fox usually thinks of a moment when she's thirteen, beginning with the phrase: "she doesn't sound sorry!"

her grandfather's voice booms through the house. fox curls up in her bed, wishing that she'd been a little bit smarter. she pulls the pillow over her head as the arguing continues, bouncing off of the walls.

her grandfather was right though: she wasn't sorry about what she'd done, staying up late at night in the chatrooms, talking to everyone she could in the chatrooms that were available. as far as fox reasoned, she had done as she had been told: she'd helped her grandfather fetch the remotes, had done the writing he'd asked her to do, helped him with dinner, and helped him into bed. the detail that she hadn't gone to bed, had barely showered, and gotten to school on almost nothing was another.

she really would have gotten away with it if she hadn't fallen asleep in class or if nosy janice hadn't ratted to the teacher--which of course led to a domino effect of the teacher asking why she was tired, her grandfather being called...

she was in trouble now though: they'd finally come to the school, had seen her real grades, and the report from her teachers. her father was on the phone with her grandfather right now, trying to sort out how to both discipline her and to get her grades up before the fall semester--and probably the best way to take away her privileges online.

that was the worst thing about it, her stomach turning in knots. her favorite thing to do was stay up all night, talking, learning new skills, finding more and more things to understand. phreaking phones was one thing--being in the chats, competing, learning, listening to everyone else compete, was another thing.

her fingers picked at the blanket beneath her as her grandfather's footsteps grew closer. he wasn't like her father, who seemed to be cool to everyone else, who relished suits and pretended as if fox couldn't see the hair he dyed black to cover up the gray. her grandfather kept his hair neatly trimmed, allowed the grey and silver hairs to permeate, and when he knocked on her door, he respected her privacy, and hung in the frame instead of stepping in like her father.

fox looked up at him--without guilt for doing what she'd done, but guilt for making him worry.

he must sense that she isn't guilty for what she's done, when he looks at her, expression more annoyed than outright angry. "i expect you to be in in bed by nine. tonight. and tomorrow, you and i are going to figure out what we're going to do until your father comes home, understand me?"

fox nods mutely, hands clenching on the covers.

her grandfather nods, satisfied. "good. come give me a hug, then we can start on dinner." he opens his arms wide for her, and with a sense of relief, fox wraps her arms around him--and still thinking all the while of how to get around the curfew.

she doesn't wait long. the study is locked when she tries for the door that night, forcing her back to bed. she falls asleep at ten o'clock, feeling annoyed and sad, imagining what she's missing.

the next two days are much the same, her grandfather making sure to lock the door night after night. frustration mounts for her, and by the third day, fox starts to ponder how to get into the study at any cost.

the third night, when her grandfather is snoring, she counts her breathing, remembering she'd read somewhere that people slept deepest at two am. she waits and waits, only dozing lightly until the clock reads 2.15 AM.

carefully, she creeps out of her room, down the steps, mindful of the creaking floorboards. the television is playing some older noir movie on as she makes her way to her grandfather's bedside stand.

her heart is hammering in her ribcage wildly as she listens to him snore--and then carefully, she extends her fingers to the drawer where she thinks the key is.

it feels like a full hour as she pulls slowly at the drawer, centimeter by centimeter. finally, when it's pulled out far enough, fox reaches her hand in blindly, chewing on her lip in nervousness.

when the key's cool form meets her fingers, her heart leaps up--and she pulls her hand out of the drawer much too fast, banging against the drawer in her haste.

"shit--!" she claps her hand over her mouth before she can finish. it's a futile gesture, as her grandfather wakes up with a snort that moment. fox is frozen to the spot, as he comes to, squinting at her frozen form.

"uh-- i--," her mouth goes dry in fear of how badly she screwed this up--, of the magnitude of trouble she was in.

her grandfather turns his head to her from the pillow. it takes a full five minutes for him to cast an eye over her, before he sighs. "it took you long enough to try."

"...what." the word is flat, confused, surely he's joking.

her grandfather huffs, slapping his knees. there's a twinkle in his eye there that fox normally only saw when she was a small girl, who had figured out the presents he'd gotten her with one shake of the box. and that's when it clicks, finally, that no, he hadn't been joking. her grandfather had wanted her to try to take the key--and she hadn't understood why.

"come now," he offers his hand, "let's go talk about this."

fox takes his hand, half helping him stand up. "grandpa, what is going on?"

he laughs and ruffles her hair. "you sound like your father when i caught him. don't worry," he drops a kiss to her hair, not at all helping with her frustration, or curiosity. "we'll talk."