The curious case of Zuri Walsh turned out to be less curious, and more sad; in part, thanks to the decisions of her grandparents, which ultimately influenced the actions of her parents.
Our story begins on a humid night off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, fifteen year old Theodora laughing as seventeen year old Luke spun her around the dance floor, whispering sweet nothings into her ear with promises that he'd never be able to keep. Theirs was a summer fling, fleeting like the sunlight that marked the end of their first evening together, and when they'd parted at the end of the break, he went back to his school in Boston, and she to hers in London. It wasn't until a month later that Thea realized that Luke had left her with something far more memorable than keepsake box full of mementos and a fond memory: she was pregnant.
Her father was less than pleased. This wasn't part of his plan for her, and a teenage pregnancy was the type of scandal that would have tongues in his social circle wagging for years to come, but he had a lot of parenting to make up for, so he was planning to support her in whatever decision she made.
Luke had pressed a letter with his phone number and address into her hands before he'd kissed her goodbye, and Thea clung to that crumpled sheet of paper like the lifeline it was, unsure if she should contact him and tell him that he was going to be a father or if she should keep it to herself. Her own father, guilty of a level of promiscuity in his younger years that left Thea as a half-sibling to many, gently suggested that while he wasn’t thrilled about the circumstances, he would be there to help her in any way that he could.
Her fingers shook as she dialed, and she ran through her script a few more times before he picked up with a slightly confused hello. What little courage she’d built up, immediately rushed out of her, and she spent the next twenty-five minutes making idle chit-chat before he inadvertently dropped a bomb on her. Luke said it with an amused but frustrated tone, because apparently his parents had decided while he was on summer vacation, that it would be a sound business decision to merge his family with his father’s business partner’s. For all intents and purposes, he had flown back across the Atlantic Ocean to find himself in an arranged marriage. A contract that would come to fruition when they’d both finished their undergraduate degrees from whichever hoity toity Ivy League school their parents had picked for them.
In that moment, she decided that she couldn’t tell him. By virtue of the situation, he’d rejected her, and bruised pride wouldn’t let her admit to him that she’d fallen pregnant during their summer fling. Her pride wouldn’t let her ruin the seemingly perfect little life his parents had planned. Her pride wouldn’t let her force him into a relationship with a child he hadn’t wanted or planned for. So, it was her pride that made her mumble some excuse about talking to him later, when she knew full well that she was going to lose his number and pray that she’d be enough for her unborn child.
Strong-willed, bossy, mischievous, calculating, these were all words that Zuri's teachers used to describe her over the years. They'd never seen so much personality from such a tiny little thing, but even at the tender age of three, she was aware of what she wanted, and would stop at nothing to get it. At the time, that had been more reading time, and less of that nap foolishness, but her inability to back down from a challenge was something that followed her throughout her young life.
For most, the upheaval of moving across the ocean, losing a grandparent, and suddenly being thrust into a world of daycare centers and public schools would've been jarring. For Zuri, she saw it as an opportunity. Her challenge suddenly became showing the teachers in her Kindergarten class that she was capable of so much more than just sharing and naps and coloring inside the lines (both figuratively and literally), and they rewarded her with time-outs and letters home to Thea asking if she was able to 'have a talk with' her daughter, because 'her insistance that the lessons were wrong' was making it hard for the other students to learn. Her special brand of inquisitivity wasn't welcome, and there just weren't enough resources to give her the type of attention and mental stimulation that she'd need to be less of a nuisance during the day.
Still, it was too much for Thea. She hadn't even graduated before she'd given birth, and now she was an ophan raising a precocious child with the help of an old family friend who was more like a father figure than someone that had been paid by her father to make sure the household ran smoothly. Then Zuri got sick, and the stress of trying to keep the roof over their heads and holding down several jobs was too much, and that number that had been burning a hole in the box she'd shoved deep in her closet seemed like a shining beacon of hope. Maybe if she told Luke, she could get some help. Maybe he deserved to know he had a daughter. Maybe he'd understand.
Understanding wasn't his initial response, it also wasn't his secondary response, or that of Zuri's newfound paternal grandparents. Words were exchanged that could never be unspoken, and that unfortunately set the tone for the relationship that Zuri would eventually grow to have with her grandparents. They tried their best to be there for the growing girl, offering up suggestions for where she should go to school, and even going so far as putting in a good word with friends to get her an interview at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge. A school that would finally cater to the academic needs of her curious daughter. Something that Thea was now able to afford thanks to an inheritance she hadn't been expecting, but had been nothing short of heaven-sent, as she'd summarily denied any assistance from the Walshes after they'd implied terrible things about her character. Beyond a monthly dinner that she, Thea, and Luke were forced to endure, Zuri's stubborness made sure that she never forgot a cut or unkindness, especially when the blow was dealt to someone that she loved. Her grandparents spent years trying to push past Zuri's initial wariness of them, and only within the last five has their relationship strengthened.
It was with this unseen fire, and a deep-seated need to prove herself that she graduated from BB&N at sixteen, and went on to raise hell at M.I.T, both academically, and through her penchant for seeking out trouble. After all, 'well behaved women seldom make history'. To Zuri, that's a challenge she intends to accept.
• understands (thanks to taking latin), but can barely speak: italian and spanish. understands (thanks to a seychellois grandmother), but can barely speak: french and seychellois creole.
• believes in the mystical powers of a good red lipstick and winged eye, but will still spend the majority of her time in sweatpants and sneakers.
• lived in the dorms at m.i.t for the first year, but moved back home because she missed her mom too much.
• named her dog ares, as a nod to her love of greek mythology. he was a college graduation present from her mom, and the name is ironic because he's scared of nearly everything.
• has an decent relationship with both parents, but is closest with her mother (they're basically lorelai and rory). she spent the majority of her childhood being raised with greek traditions (from her mother's side), but still unapologetically celebrates her blackness.
• well-meaning, and loyal to a fault, but sometimes comes across as a cocky know-it-all. probably isn't helped by the fact that sarcasm is her first language.