Notes Be Known
Esmera is the first to arrive. She seems surprised to find me on the floor here already, but she sits down next to me and rests her head on my shoulder. I kiss the top of her head. “Can I come over after the meeting?” I ask.
She stiffens. “Now might not be a good time.”
“Oh,” I sigh. "Your family hates me too, I take it?"
She frowns at me and opens her mouth to respond, but Genevieve and Katherine arrive at that moment. “Okay, who wants to go first?” Katherine asks.
Genevieve ends up telling us about what they learned from her parents. “From what we understand,” she concludes, “Luka and Marcos are brothers. Marcos’s real name is Shane DeVall, and he fathered Reid and I before changing his name to cover the affair.”
"More lies..." I groan. “And that means…” I glance at Katherine. “We are cousins.”
Katherine nods. “And Gen and I are half-sister-half-cousins.”
Esmera grimaces. “Messed up, don’t you think?”
“Very,” Genevieve and I answer at the same time.
Next, I recount the information I gathered from my father. I leave out the fight at the end, and only tell them about Thalessa and the details of the affair.
“He killed your mom?” Katherine gasps. “Mom and dad thought she just went to another organization…”
“That’s not all,” Esmera says quietly.
All three of us turn to her in surprise. She said her parents hadn’t known anything.
“Mom mentioned Thalessa’s name and after thinking for a really long time about it, I looked her up,” she reaches into the bag that I hadn’t seen her carrying before. “I found this.”
A dictionary-sized stack of paper thumps onto the floor in the middle of our circle. The page on top is a newspaper article headed Woman Found Dead in Back Road Outside London. Under the heading is a picture of a sweet looking road that I recognize as one just outside my hometown of Little Kelsee. The article below describes that the body was discovered in the ditch near the road and the death was ruled substance abuse. The body was unidentifiable due to scavengers and a lack of a match in the forensic lab. All they could decipher from the body, due to the position of her pelvis, was that she had given birth to at least 3 children and that she was pregnant with another at the time of death because a nearly completely destroyed fetus was discovered in her belly. Scavenger animals had gotten to the body before police did, and the fetus was badly mutilated.
“Wait, three?” My eyes bulge. “Dad never said she had any more than Ryan and I, and he definitely didn’t mention that she was pregnant again.”
Genevieve rolls her eyes. “Your dad has told so many lies, how can you expect him to tell the truth now. He will tell you whatever he wants to tell you and no more than that.”
Her words are harsher than I expected and I think she realized this too but I nod in agreement, easing her guilt slightly.
Esmera sifts through the pile and pulls out a booklet that she stapled together. “You’ll want to see this,” she says, handing it to me. “It’s a copy of Thalessa Duke’s release papers from the London Mental Ward back in nineteen eighty five - fourteen years before you were born.”
Genevieve and Katherine shuffle through the rest of the stack of papers. “Where did you find all this stuff?” Genevieve asks.
Esmera shrugs. “Google, mostly. I snuck onto mom and dad’s computer and looked through a few records and found this one,” she pulls another page out of the stack. “Thalessa used to be a CAA agent before she went on an espionage mission on Shane DeVall, was institutionalized, and came out to join the BAA.”
She hesitates for a second and then reaches back to her bag to retrieve another page. “The is the only other thing I found on their computer.” Gingerly, she offers the face-down page to Genevieve.
Our friend takes the paper and turns it over. She takes a moment to read it, then gasps and looks at Katherine. “Mom was a CAA agent too.”
I frown. “What do you mean?”
Genevieve reads out loud; “Thalia Blane has been hereby dismissed from the Canadian Assassination Association on the following grounds: misconduct with a stolen weapon, dispute with other agents, withholding information from superiors, providing false information to superiors, fraternizing with opposition, and refusal to carry out missions. She is hereby released and deported to England. She shall join the Agency of which her actions indicate she belongs to. There will be conditional acceptance to return to Canada after the ten year sentence is carried out.”
“Mom was evicted from the CAA,” Katherine murmurs. “She was kicked out because she wasn’t listening to the McKains.”
Esmera nods. “Dad had a side note on her too. He said after her ten years were up, they began exchanging letters and she was allowed access to Canada again.”
I frown. “I thought you said your dad had no idea that Thalia was a BAA agent. Same with her husband and the girls.”
She nods. “Your families aren’t the only ones lying.”
Katherine’s eyebrows draw together. “Why do I feel like something big is about to happen?”
The four of us stare at each other uneasily as though we expect the roof to cave in at any moment. With a deep breath, I motion to the stack of paper. “Okay if I look over all of these?”
My girlfriend nods. “I printed it all out for you.”
Genevieve’s phone vibrates. “We have to get home,” she says to her sister. “Mom and dad want to take us to an I’m-sorry-we-didn’t-tell-you-you’re-not-actually-full-siblings dinner tonight.”
As they rise to leave, I turn to Esmera. “Please stay with me?"
Dinner with my parents is anything but fun. I sit in the booth beside my mom. Dad and Katherine sit opposite and for some reason, none of us can find anything to talk about. It is as though the recent discovery has torn a rift between us.
Our food comes and we eat. We finish one by one and the plates are carried away. No words are spoken for the whole meal except the few exchanged with our waitress.
We arrive home soon after seven and everyone seems to find some reason to go to a different room. I find myself out on the porch, shivering in the cold with a bag slung over my shoulder, my backpack over the other. It took me three minutes to pack for the week. I left a note on Katherine’s pillow while she was in the shower.
I glance back one last time at my house and then start out onto the street. My feet know the path well and soon I find myself on the walkway that leads to the front door. I do not knock as I walk inside and start up the familiar stairs. I hear voices in the kitchen. Laughter erupts as I reach the top of the stairs and I realize no one heard me come in.
Esmera’s room is at the end of this hall. Her door is open a crack and I slip inside. Walking through the door feels like stepping through some sort of portal to freedom. My bag drops to the floor seemingly of its own accord, my body drawn to the window seat as though by an invisible force. I curl up against the cushions and look out over the yard.
The voices downstairs are loud and happy, completely opposing the feelings festering in my chest. I find tears leaking from my eyes, leaving tracks down my cheeks. Sobs rack my body but I am only semi-aware of them. The events of the past two days has finally taken its toll and it feels as though I am being torn apart. I stare at my reflection in the glass as the first sound escapes my lips.
My phone rings but I ignore it; the ringtone is Katherine’s. I listen to the tune until it shuts off. Before long, my tears slow to a steady drip.
A shadow cuts across the lawn below me.
I sit up straighter and lean toward the glass as I try to see directly below. I watch the shadow move through the darkness slowly and carefully. It skips over shafts of light coming from windows, and skirts the large illuminated square emanating from the kitchen window below. Mesmerized by its movements, I watch as it disappears into the darker shadows of the house below.
A moment later, the shape reappears again. I jump back and land on the floor in the cover of Esmera’s dark room. I hear the almost imperceptible scratching sound of a glass cutter as the figure opens a small slit in the side of the window. A note flutters through and the shadow drops from the window.
I scramble back onto the window seat to see the figure taking his graceful path back out to the road before it disappears.
Grabbing my phone, my fingers stumble over the keyboard to text Esmera: Come upstairs NOW.
I listen to the voices downstairs but nothing happens. After a few minutes, a text returns to me. At The Mortman house with Reid. Where are you?
I groan and reach for the note, abandoning my phone on the floor. I murmur the words under my breath as I read; “I’ve heard of the recent discovery and it’s not pretty. A whole can of worms is opening and you’re just skimming the top of it. Remember to be careful; cans tend to be sharp. -R”
My breath catches in my throat and I close my eyes, willing the words to change when I look back at them. When my eyes open again, any trace of the ink is gone. I turn the page over in my hand to be sure and realize that I lost any chance to show Esmera or Reid this note at all.
Who is R?
Reid's name surfaces but I quickly dismiss the idea; he is with Esmera at the Mortman house.
"Besides," I reason as I crumple the paper up, "he wouldn't threaten me or Esmera."
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