Chapter Nineteen: Charisa
I wake up with a man’s arm around my waist. Groaning, I roll over to tell Kyle to lay off.
And find that the arm belongs to a sleeping Tim. And Kyle is nowhere to be found.
Frowning, I squirm out of Tim’s grip and glance around the gazebo. Where is that boy? And how could I have missed his leaving with my super hearing? Why does he always sneak up on me… Well, away from me this time.
Tim mumbles something and then jerks awake. Then he takes in his surroundings lazily. “So, where’s Kyle?”
I sigh. “Beats me.” Under my breath, I say, “Two; four; six; eight-”
“One; three; five; nine- stay where you are. I’ll be right back.”
I turn back to Tim, who is trying to make his tangled red hair more presentable. Makes me scared about my own. “So, Kyle will be back soon.”
“You two telepathic or something?”
I laugh. “Don’t be silly. Kyle and I would no longer be friends if that were so. Speaking of friends.” I tilt my head at him. “What do you doing now that you’re free?”
Dropping his hands from his vain attempts, he shrugs and gives me a lazy smile. “Beats me.”
“But do you remember anything at all about your life before, you know…”
“Nope. Except that I lived in Alabama. I know more about Faith than I do about myself.” He looks down, sadness in his eyes. “She was an orphan named Freya Smith, whom Jin Yin legally adopted.”
“Why didn’t you tell us her name is Freya?”
“She refuses to answer to that name… I miss Faith.”
Tim studies his lap. “She was all I had, but I still couldn’t protect her.”
I reach over and place my hand on his shoulder. “No one blames you.”
“Well, I don’t,” Kyle says suddenly, leaning against the gazebo.
I whirl around to face him. “Where were you?” I demand.
“Getting breakfast,” he answers, pulling several granola bars out of a back pack he didn’t have last night.
I frown. “Did you go home?”
“Maybe. I have something to tell you… But first, this.” He takes something out from underneath is shirt and holds it out to me.
I gape at it. “My… whistle?”
“I told you I would get it back for you.”
“I found our confiscated property in the control room I also grabbed my cell phone.” Kyle pats his shoe. “But I couldn’t’ get our costumes because, you know, these things don’t have pockets.” He gives his outfit a look of disdain.
“Did you find anything that might have been mine?” Tim asks, almost succeeding in hiding his hopefulness.
“Well, this certainly isn’t mine.” He removes a wallet from his other shoe and hands it to Tim. “Sorry I didn’t give it to you earlier. It’s been a bit crazy.”
Tim nods lazily, but his eyes are focused on the simple leather wallet. He opens it, but there’s nothing inside but a photo. Gingerly, he removes the photo- a picture of an elderly man- and studies it.
“Gramps,” he whispers.
I lean in over his shoulder. “You remember?
Tim turns the photo around and shows me where ’Gramps; is written on the back.
Tim puts the photo back into his wallet, and puts the wallet in his own shoe. “Thank you, Kyle.”
“No problem.” Then he clears his throat.
Immediately, Tim and I glare at him.
“Sorry,” Kyle says, “didn’t mean to imitate Jin. Anyway, we can’t go home.”
“What?!” I cry.
“Jin’s got missing persons posters out for us; it’ll be too dangerous for our families. We need to bring Jin to justice first.”
I nod, but I feel hollow inside. “We’re at least going to see them again, right?”
Kyle seems to hesitate a moment. Then he nods. “Yes. And we’re closer than I thought last night.”
I stand up. “Then let’s go.”
I gaze up at my house- my house! “Do you think they’re home?”
“Yep,” Kyle answers. “And my mom’s here too.”
We both stand where we are for a moment longer.
Tim rolls his eyes lazily, strolls up to our back door, and then knocks.
It takes a few moments, but finally, someone answers.
“Hello?” Mother says, looking curiously at Tim.
He points back at us. “I believe you know them.”
Mother’s mouth drops. Then she yells, “Carlos!”
Dad comes running. “Where’s the criminal?!”
“Right here,” Kyle answers.
Dad takes one look at me, and then he’s by my side, hugging me so hard I’d almost think he has super strength too.
Mrs. Rivers and Courtney join Mother at the doorway.
In seconds, everyone’s in the bear hug- including Tim.
“What happened?” Dad asks.
“It was a trap,” I answer. “We were kidnapped.”
“And, uh, who are you?” Courtney asks Tim, looking a little weirded out to be hugging a stranger.
I smile up at my father. “He followed us home. Can we keep him?”
Dad furrows his eyebrows. “But we already have a dog.”
“Again with this dog business?” Tim looks heavenward. “Seriously, do I resemble a canine or something?”
Kyle grins. “You really want to know?” His humor melts to sobriety. “We should go inside.”
A moment later, we’re all around the kitchen table. Kyle, Tim, and I are all drinking hot chocolate despite the fact that it’s summer.
“Start at the beginning,” Dad orders.
Kyle glances at the windows, and Mother immediately closes them. “I don’t think we have that luxury.”
Dad frowns. “What do you mean?”
I turn to Kyle, who turns to his mom, who nods and removes a paper from her pocket. She unfolds it.
It’s a missing persons poster.
It’s a wanted poster too.
“I tried to tell you last night,” Mrs. Rivers says.
Dad furrows his eyebrows again.
“Well,” Mother adds, looking between the poster and Tim, “at least the extra picture makes sense now.”
“You still haven’t told us exactly who you are,” Courtney points out.
“That’s because I don’t know myself,” Tim answers.
Courtney shrugs. “Fair enough.”
“Is this Jin Yin your kidnapper?” Dad asks, reading the paper.
Clenching my fists, I nod.
Dad mutters something under his breath. Then he asks, “Why is that name familiar?”
I un-clench my fists. “His sister is Mulan Yin.”
Recognition floods everyone’s faces- as does the knowledge of just how dire this is.
“He’s got this plot about some kind of ‘Cure,’” Kyle adds.
I glance down. “Which he tested on us.”
Everyone’s silent for a moment.
“My poor baby!” Mrs. Rivers finally cries, pulling Kyle into a ferocious hug.
“And where does Tim fit in the picture?” Dad asks through gritted teeth. “Besides his picture on the poster, of course.
“I was there too- only longer,” Tim answers lazily. “I’m an amnesic superhuman.”
Dad raises an eyebrow.
“There was another superhuman there too,” he adds. “Her name was Freya. She… she chose to stay behind.”
Tim, Kyle, and I look down at our hot chocolate.
Suddenly, Mother stands up.
“I think it’s time to get you all cleaned up. Claudia, do you think Tim could fit in one of Kyle’s outfits?”
Mrs. Rivers nods. “I’ll go fetch some clothes for them.”
I stand up too. “Well, I’ll be right back, but a shower sounds really good all of a sudden.”
And maybe I’ll burn this outfit while I’m at it…
“No,” Dad says. “Absolutely not.”
I glance down at my stuffed back pack and then around the living room for support. No one speaks up- not even Kyle or Tim, who, like me, are wearing fresh clothes.
“But I don’t want to bring danger down on you guys,” I add. “Again.”
“We’ve taken care of danger just fine before,” Dad answers. “This is no different.”
“But it is. This is bigger than everything else we’ve ever faced- even Marcus Greene.”
Kyle comes to stand beside me. “We need to stop Jin Yin. And only then will it be safe for us to come home.”
“But we’ve only just gotten you back again!” Mother cries. “And now you want us to let you go again?”
“You were gone for a week,” Courtney adds. “A week!”
“I wonder how long I’ve been gone,” Tim says. Then he glances at Rylie, who is reproachfully watching him. “I take it that’s my almost namesake.”
Dad steps toward me like he used to approach Rylie when she was a skittish puppy. “Look, we can figure this out together.”
I bite my lip and nod.
Suddenly, someone rings the doorbell.
Mother stands up. “I’ll be right back.”
I hear her answer the door. Then I hear an unfamiliar voice ask, “Excuse me, but have you seen this girl? There have been reports that she might be found here.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Mother answers, but her voice sounds scared.
“I’m sure it is,” the stranger agrees, “but I’m afraid I have to search your house.”
“What?!” Mother cries.
“That’s against our Constitutional rights,” I mutter.
“I have a search warrant, ma’am,” the stranger says.
Oh, well that changes everything.
“So if you’ll just step aside-”
Dad clenches his jaw and tosses me a credit card. “You were right; you’re not safe here. Get a head start on stopping Jin. I’ll join you when I can. Now run.”
I turn to Tim and Kyle, and then back to Dad. But Dad’s already hurrying to Mother’s aid.
I shoulder my back pack. “Come on, guys.”
“Stay as safe as you can,” Mrs. Rivers orders.
“And come back the moment you can,” Courtney adds.
I nod. “I will.” Then the boys and I hurry to the back door.
After closing it behind us, we link hands and run.
I look around our hotel room. “I can’t believe we’re in Tennessee.”
“I can,” Kyle says from the bed he had plopped down on. “I feel half-dead.”
Tim comes up to stand by the window I’ve put my focus on. “It might take a while for your dad to catch up, Chrissie.”
I stare at the skyline outside. “Yeah. I finally got to see my family again… But then they were snatched away. Again.” I feel tears filling up my eyes and I try to choke them down.
Tim gently places a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay; you have it even worse.” The tears start to flow out of my eyes.
Ugh, I really need to get better border guards for my tear ducts.
Kyle comes up to my other side. “It’s okay, Chrissie. We’re going to fix this- just like we’ve fixed everything else before.”
“I know,” I sob, “but I’m getting a bit tired of always having to fix things.”
He sighs heavily and pulls me into his arms. “Me too.”
“At least you can fix things,” Tim mutters before his eyes widen. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-”
“It’s okay,” I assure, burying my face into Kyle’s shoulder.
“Hey,” Kyle adds, “on the bright side, we aren’t sleeping in a secret underground bunker for the first time in a long time.”
“A very long time,” Tim agrees, handing me a tissue.
“Yeah.” I take the tissue. “That’s nice.” Then I remember Faith, who still is in that bunker and start crying all the harder.
I cry and I cry and I cry. All the while, Kyle lends me his shoulder and Tim gives me tissues. And once I’ve cried all my emotions out, I fall into a deep, deep sleep, the kind where you can escape reality itself.