Rayne Ackerman grew up in the quiet town of Riverview. As a child, she enjoyed the quietness and the pleasantries of the rural town she called home. But by the time Rayne grew into a teen, a strong, undeniable desire for adventure had awakened within her. She often daydreamed of all the things she would do when she moved out. Her mind was constantly consumed with thoughts of traveling the world, exploring and discovering its many secrets.
As the eldest of the Ackerman children, Rayne was expected to stay and marry and inherit the small plot of farmland her parents owned. She felt obliged to fulfill her parents desires, so she eventually began to give up her adventurous dreams and accept the fact that she would live the same mundane lifestyle she had known all her life.
One afternoon, not long after Rayne had graduated high school, her mother ushered her into the study and closed the door behind them.
“Rayne,” her mother said, “we need to talk.”
That whole Monday morning had seemed strange to Rayne anyway. Her mother had not been already dressed in her gardener’s attire cooking breakfast on the stove when Rayne had come downstairs. Her father had not been sitting at the table reading the morning newspaper. The only sense of normalcy Rayne had gotten from this day was that her younger brothers were at school. But those five little words spoken by her mother confirmed her suspicion that something was not quite right. Her mother’s gentle, but serious expression while she said the words brought an anxious, somewhat nauseated feeling to Rayne’s stomach. What was it that her mother needed to tell her?
“Rayne, dear, I feel that this is something I should have told you a long time ago. But I’ve never been able to find the right words…”
“What is it, Mom? You’re scaring me,” Rayne said, anxiously waiting for her mother to get to the point.
“Well… you know how you always used to ask your father and I why you didn’t look like your brothers… How you sometimes felt that you were different somehow… Well, Rayne, I guess there’s no easy way to say this. Your father isn’t really your father. I mean, he is your father, you love him and he loves you and he has raised you as his own all of this time… but you are not his biological child.”
Rayne could not control the emotions that came flowing forth. After an initial few seconds of shock, Rayne began to sob. Not that this revelation would change the relationship she had with her father, it was just knowing they had kept this hidden from her for her entire life.
“Honey, are you alright?” her mother asked.
Rayned nodded yes as she leaned in to be held by her mother. After she had regained her composure, Rayne naturally had plenty of questions for her mother regarding her “real” father.
“You know how I always said I never went to college? Well that was sort of a lie too. I met him while I was away at college my first semester. He was an exchange student here from Shang Simla, China,” her mother began. “His name was Shen Lang-Hu and he was studying to become a doctor. We were going steady for a while when I found myself pregnant with you. I had to quit school and move back here.”
“And what about him… my father. Didn’t he want anything to do with you after that?”
“Well, he called me every day for a long time and he promised to move here to be with me… to be with us… after he graduated. Frenheimer University was so far away that he wouldn’t be able to visit until then. Well, in the end, it was me who broke it off with him. Shortly after you were born I met your father and I knew that he was the one I wanted to spend my life with. Shen was heartbroken when I told him the news, but wanted me to be happy, even if it wasn’t with him. After college he moved back to Shang Simla and for the next several years he would occasionally send you a gift or a postcard through the mail. But those eventually became less and less frequent and eventually stopped altogether. I haven’t heard from him in years.”
“Mom,” Rayne said.
“What is it honey?” her mother replied.
“I want to find him. I want to meet him.. I want to meet my real father.”
And that is how her adventure began. Within the week, Rayne had searched her father’s location via Internet and purchased her plane ticket for Shang Simla, China. She planned to make it a long stay. Possibly a year. She wanted to really get a sense of China, wanted to explore it and learn the traditions of its people. Friday morning, she hugged her mother and father at the door before leaving on her grand adventure.
At the airport, Rayne was in a hurry, her plane was leaving in 3 minutes! As she was running through the airport, she suddenly collided with another hurried woman. In the midst of the chaos, Rayne and the other woman tried to gather the things that they had dropped from the floor. Both of them were in such a hurry that neither of them uttered a word. In fact, Rayne didn’t waste enough time to even pick up her favorite lip gloss and the loose change that had fallen out of her purse. She just snatched up her plane ticket and kept running.
While on board the plane, Rayne took the anxiety medicine she had asked the doctor for a few days prior. It was her first time flying and she was a nervous wreck. She just needed to calm down. That tiny little pill calmed her down all right… It knocked her out for the duration of the flight. She woke up to hear the pilot announcing “All right passengers, we are approaching our landing at our destination, Sunset Valley, USA.”
“What!?” Rayne thought to herself. “How can this be? There must be some mistake.” She tried unsuccessfully to remember what had happened before she boarded the plane. Didn’t she board flight 121 to Shang Simla? She was sure she did. Suddenly it all came flooding back to her like a movie playing in her head. She could see it all so clearly. The woman, their collision, her favorite lip gloss rolling across the airport floor, the cling of the change hitting the hard concrete, her hand reaching hurriedly for her ticket… Her ticket. She must have grabbed the other woman’s ticket by mistake. Both of them had been in such a hurry that neither of them had noticed.
“What am I supposed to do now?” she thought. She had spent all of her money on her plane ticket to China. Planning to stay there for quite some time, she had thought she could earn some cash working in order to get back home. Now all her plans were ruined. Down the drain. All her dreams of adventure, gone. She sighed. “Well,” she thought, “I might as well look for work here until I can save up enough cash to get to Shang Simla.” She wasn’t going to tell her parents about this when they called. Oh no, she wouldn’t do that. She would pretend she was in Shang Simla, eating egg rolls and catching koi fish. She wouldn’t want them to worry, or to send her money. She wanted to do this on her own.
So there she was. Rayne Ackerman. In Sunset Valley with no friends, no family, no money, and no job.