The CAA, the Canadian Assassination Association, is the name of the company my parents run. Through the generations, beginning with my many-something-great grandfather all the way back in the late 1600’s. He was an English explorer from the British Assassination Association, who the CAA is no longer friendly with, that decided Canada needed its own agency and decided to start one in what was originally a pretty empty place: the valleys below the mountains of Alberta. The actual building is located deep in the Rocky Mountains, hidden behind trees and rocks, and is also, like, a million meters inside the ground.
This mountain hideaway is also my official home. During the school year, while agents are still in need of mortal school, I leave the CAA to attend a public school in a small tourist community. My mom lives with me in the town of Elders in a little house with a basement hidden behind a sliding bookcase in our living room. That basement is where we keep all of our assassination equipment, and where our helicopter is, though we have to walk through a giant tunnel to reach the clearing where the landing pad is. This pad is actually underneath the ground too, located under a clearing where the center of the area has been replaced with large metal doors in the ground that open to allow the helicopter out. When the doors are closed, the opening is concealed by a sheet of grass growing on thin earth attached to the doors. It's a really cool thing to watch and when I was younger, I used to beg my mom to take me out there just to watch the doors open and close.
Since this is my last year of mortal school, I will be permanently moving into our house at headquarters come June. Instead of going to college or university, I will be training to be the Association’s leader and learn everything I need to know from my father. Of course, with leaving the town of Elders, I will have to leave everyone I have met here - including Genevieve. The thought of leaving my best friend here to never see me again hangs heavy in my mind, yet I am determined to make our last year together worth remembering, even though she has no idea this is our last year together forever.
The pain in my back has festered into something angry and, I suspect, swollen and red. I push open the door to my house and drop my backpack in the corner. I drop my dart gun down the “laundry chute” where it will land in a basket and be machine cleaned and the used dart reloaded.
“I’m home,” I call through the house, hoping for no answer.
Unfortunately, my mom appears at the kitchen door, a carrot in one hand and a large knife in the other. “Esmera! How was the mission?” She asks seriously.
I shrug, trying to look indifferent and mask the pain. “Routine. He’s dead and lying in the brush behind Mrs. Port’s.”
“You’re sure no one saw you?” Suddenly my mother seems anxious, as she always gets after I have finished a mission. She knows I am the best assassin in the CAA (I’ve been awarded best teen agent for the past three years at the CAA Assassinators Awards, or the CAAAA). Nevertheless, mom always seems to get nervous when I finish a mission. I guess the motherly instinct is still strong even with hardcore assassins.
“I made sure I took all the precautions,” I assure her. “I didn’t touch him, I didn’t touch the dart before or after entry, I used the right blood type, and I made sure no one was home at Mrs. Ports’ house. No neighboring places saw me. She lives on the edge of town so I parked my Harley in the lane a little ways behind her house, and I made sure to set the engine to mute the entire time I was there.”
“The tires will need to be changed,” she says as though nothing else I said matters. “Oh, and give me your shoes. We’ll be getting you new ones by tomorrow morning.”
I slip my feet out of my shoes and hand them to her. “I parked the bike in the garage.” The garage has a false floor that can lower into the tunnels below. It makes for easy transport of vehicles to and from the Association. I’ll have new tires on my bike by the weekend.
My mother seems to relax as she takes my shoes and tosses them down the stairs behind the bookcase. She will send them back to the Association through a pneumatic chute that carries them through a maze of underground tubes to the Association. In the morning, there will be a new pair sitting in the basement when the Association sends those back through the tubes.
“What’s for supper?” I ask, shrugging out of my jacket and slinging my backpack over my shoulder to take upstairs.
“Chicken wings, rice, and my specialty salad,” mom answers. She gracefully walks back into the kitchen and I hear her rapidly chopping the carrot.
I shake my head in amusement and take the stairs two at a time. Mom thinks that every salad she makes is good, but her specialty salad is one that involves celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower mixed into the lettuce with a “secret” dressing. This “secret” is actually lemon poppy seed sauce that she makes from scratch. But salad is the only thing mom knows how to make and the poppy seed sauce is a family recipe. Dad is usually the cook in the family so we order food for supper very often. The chicken wings likely came from KFC, and the rice is plain old Minute Made.
My room is the last door in the upper hallway. I picked it out because it has a bay window that overlooks the street, perfect for studying and homework. I toss my bag on my bed and remove my shirt before turning to examine my back in the mirror. My back looks smooth as normal, nothing appearing over the burning area. Frowning, I rub some medical cream on the supposed wound and then sit against the cold winter window to cool it. The pain numbs from the cold and I grab the book I had been reading, turning to the bookmarked page as I settle against the cushions.
However, all I can think about is the thud Coleman’s body made as he hit the ground. The sound echoes over and over again in my head. I squeeze my eyes shut for a moment but open them immediately because his dead eyes stare at me from behind my closed lids. I feel sweat on the back of my neck as I shift my weight and try to concentrate on my book.
I do not usually have a problem with my missions, and I rarely think about the victim after my job is done.
But this was Gage’s killer. That must be why I cannot get this sound out of my head.
Gage has been avenged.
His killer has been brought to justice
Then why do I feel so guilty?
I close the book angrily and drop it on the table beside me. I leave sweaty fingerprints on the pages. Trying to slow my heart rate, I take deep breaths. When this does not work, I head back downstairs for a glass of water, attempting to appear casual to my mother, still hovering in the kitchen, chopping her vegetables.
“What’s wrong?” she immediately asks me.
I raise my eyebrows at her and casually sip my water.
Mom nods at the glass in my hand. “You’re shaking.”
Sure enough, I glance down to see that the water is rippling in the glass clasped so tightly in my trembling hand that my knuckles are turning white.
“I’m not sure,” I concede, setting the glass down before I break it. “I’ve been thinking about Gage.”
Mom’s face softens and she sets the knife on the counter. “Honey, you did an amazing thing tonight. Your brother would be proud.”
I force a smile. “Thanks mom. I guess I just still can’t believe that he’s only been gone ten years.”
My mother kisses my forehead. “None of us can. It feels like forever since we lost him; every moment he isn’t here is heavy on our hearts. There isn’t a day that goes by where I do not think about him. He was a strong agent when he died. We lost a terrific man.”
I nod in agreement, my throat closing with grief. Gage had been eighteen when he was assassinated. I was eight at that time and don’t remember much about him, but the few memories I do have are good ones. He taught me how to fire the dart gun I used today. I felt it was fitting to kill his assassin with the weapon he loved.
“Have a hot bath after supper and soothe your nerves,” Mom smiles. “Wash the memory of that horrible boy’s face from your mind.
I nod in agreement and take my seat at the table. A few minutes later, the chicken (indeed from KFC) and the rice is brought out along with mom’s specialty salad. We eat in silence, our minds filled with grieving thoughts.
When I finish, I shuffle back upstairs and draw a bath. The water steams and I pour my peppermint oil into the tub. When I slip inside, I feel the oils immediately calm my nerves and the hot water soothes my aching muscles. I scrub hard at the dirt under my nails and try to wash my mind of the memory of the sickening noise.
Why do I feel guilty?
With memories of Gage in my mind and unexplained guilt, I finally extract myself from the bath an hour later, the peppermint oil soaked into my skin, leaving it feeling as cold as my mouth does after I brush my teeth.
I pull my favorite bathrobe around my body and return to my room, hoping for a soothing evening of reading and going to bed. I reach the window and pick up my book, then turn to sit down.
Resting on the cushion that I normally sit on is a small folded piece of paper. Hands shaking all over again, I open it to find black ink scrawling a message.
The enemy kills the innocent. Gage was not the first victim, and won’t be the last. Who knows when your turn might be. -R
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth as I reread the note, trying to recognize the writing. The single letter at the bottom stands out to me. R. Someone signed it “R”. The handwriting looks like scribbles of someone just learning to write but there is no way this is a child’s message.
Could it be a joke? I wonder.
No. I answer my own question as soon as it surfaces. Only my family members know that Gage’s death was an assassination. No one in my family would send me this note.
I look to the window and see a small fissure in the glass, just large enough to slip the note through. Someone that has assassination equipment had to have left it.
A thought strikes me and my eyes widen. Like the CAA, there are other organizations around the world that assassinate people like we do. Some are allies and exchange technology with us. Others are enemies. Our greatest enemies are the British Assassination Association, and the United States Assassination Association. Ironic, since they are the two closest to us.
But how would they have gotten it to me? I wonder, frowning at the slit in the glass. The BAA is in Little Kelsea, England, and the UAA is down in Fresh Water, Oregon. Not Alberta, or anywhere in Canada.
“Then again”, I argue under my breath, not realizing I am speaking aloud until after I say it, “we have agents sent overseas for specific purposes. Whether it’s espionage or a mission, or peacekeeping with other associations, we do send agents abroad. It would be foolish to think we are the only organization to do so. Maybe Coleman had been working for one of them and was targeting Gage. Perhaps someone there sent me this note."
The enemy kills the innocent...
I hurry across the hall into my parents' office and find a heavy volume that I studied when I was only three years old. Flipping rapidly through the pages, I find the chapter that I am looking for. My eyes dart across the words, remembering the sentences from all those years ago.
In the event that an agent kills an innocent humanoid creature, a smoldering scar shall appear on that assassin's body. This scar will be painful when it appears but the pain will fade slowly, leaving a small, circular mark in its place.
I rotate my shoulder blades, feeling the pain in the center of my back still throbbing. My stomach drops and I feel a cold remorse crawl across my skin. "Coleman was innocent," I murmur under my breath, "I killed an innocent boy."
I return to my bedroom, picking up the note to look at it again and see a blank sheet of paper. Where the letters had been only a moment ago, there is nothing. There is no trace that an incriminating message had been there to begin with.
“Disappearing ink,” I sigh and toss the blank paper to the floor.
Sinking into the cushions, I run a hand over the slit, feeling the smooth glass slice my finger tip. A little blood trickles down my finger and I stare at it, watching the dark red liquid pool where my fingers join. My eyes shift to the picture of Gage I keep on my bedside table. “Whoever R is, I’ll find him. I’ll get to the bottom of my brother’s death once and for all.”
“It took you way too long to get some free time,” I groan, flopping onto my bed beside my best friend.
Esmera rolls over and shakes her head. “You have no idea how busy I’ve been.”
I laugh as I press play for the movie. Actually, Esmera has no idea how busy I’ve been. Just recently I discovered that a boy I grew up with in England has moved here.
When I was 15, my family moved from England to Canada so that my mum could get away from the routine missions at the BAA. She finally earned espionage status and we all moved here. I met Esmera on the first day of high school and we became friends really quickly – we have been inseparable since. Now Esmera and I are graduating together and my little sister Katherine is just as close with her as I am. We were completely happy here but I am beginning to realize that I am going to lose Esmera after this year. After graduation, I will be sent back to BAA headquarters alone to train more and gain adult assassin status. I will never be permitted to see her again.
I realized this when Mum was contacted by Marcos, saying that he was coming to oversee her duties in Canada and to see if he would take Katherine in June with me or not. He and his son moved into town and I have since seen Reid walking around, checking out our school. Dad tells me he will be joining Esmera and me when the semester changes in a few weeks. I cannot say I am excited to see my old friend and fellow BAA agent; he and I did not leave on the best of terms.
Starting at three years old, I grew up in the same training class as Reid Knox. The two of us became friends immediately. He was like the big brother that I always wanted and when Katherine was born, he was so protective of her that my mum fell in love with him too, admitting Reid into our home as though he were her own child. We were like a family and we grew so close that Reid would tell me everything.
He had a lot of fights with his father and it was well known that the leader was very harsh with his son. Up until we were eight years old, Reid would be with me every time his father was in a rage, which was virtually every day.
We were together through all of our checkpoints in early assassin training. When an agent reaches the age of five, they are given a wooden dagger and taught how to use it. At six, they are given a blunted metal one to teach them the balance of a real weapon. At seven, they are given their first sharpened one. At eight they watch their first mission from afar. It was around this time that the yelling matches between Reid and his father changed. After taking Reid on his first mission, Reid toughened and was able to stand up to his dad a little more. He did seek me out for comfort quite so often anymore, though I knew how to recognize the signs of him needing me.
As years passed, he became a ‘bad boy’ and the girls flocked to him like moths to a flame. He got heavily into alcohol and experimented with drugs until I threatened to tell his father – any assassin that abuses substances can get their status revoked and they will not be assassins any longer in any part of the world. So instead of abusing substances, Reid began abusing girls. He went out with at least three every week, dating from all of the schools nearby, and earned a reputation as a player, and sometimes even a cheater. There was nothing I could do after Reid had his first night with a girl when we were fourteen; he was hooked on sex, chasing and catching any girls he could, knowing that there would be another the next night. He was the kind of guy that slept with a girl and never called her back.
This lasted all the way until I left in the summer before our school graduation – the summer before Canadian grade ten. Then, on the last day I saw him, he called me a short, ugly ginger and left. I never understood what happened and it still bothers me every time I think about how close we once were, and how our friendship abruptly ended.
“Gen,” Esmera waves a hand over my face. “Earth to Genevieve!”
My eyes focus and I drop my head into my hands. “Sorry,” I groan.
“Thinking about Nickolae?” She teases, nudging my shoulder.
Although I wasn’t, I blush at his name. “Maybe.”
Esmera raises her eyebrows. “One of you needs to set me up sometime. We’ll go on a double date.”
I nod. Ever since I started dating this boy, I have had to balance the two as best I can. Going on a double date might not be so bad, but what happens if she doesn’t like who we set her up with?
“Well Nick probably has enough friends,” Ez tosses her extremely long braid over her shoulder. The seemingly endless white-blonde rope drapes itself over her waist and coils on the sheet between us. Usually she wears her hair in a long braid starting at the nape of her neck and hanging well below her knees. When I first met her, I expected her to be a total bitch but she is so sweet and considerate, especially to me. I always think she looks like some sort of goddess, one that I admit to being slightly jealous of. She has the perfect body; hourglass in shape but muscular and fit. Her hair has maintained its natural shiny, almost white beauty. Her skin has no trace of a pimple or a blackhead, and she has the most beautiful smile without ever having had braces.
But her eyes were what drew me to her the moment I sat beside her in English class. She looked at me in a sort of expectant way and extended her hand. I had shaken it, mesmerized by those eyes. The left one a light green and the other a pale blue, she was the most peculiar looking girl I had ever seen.
Now that I know her better, I know she is not perfect; her skin is oddly colored where more and less pigment are as a result of a condition she was born with called piebaldism, which makes the pigments of her skin and hair and, in her rare case, eyes different colors. Although it is only noticeable up close, she has lighter patches of skin under her fair eyebrows, around her lips, down her arms, and in patches over the rest of her body. Her hair has natural highlights from the condition too. I have spent many days reassuring my friend that her condition makes her more beautiful and unique. The reassurance is especially necessary when her hormones start to swing and she falls into a depression.
Compared to Esmera, I am quite plain. I have ruler straight hips and not much for a bust. My hair resembles that of Merida from Disney Pixar’s Brave, and my eyes are a dark shade of green. To top everything off, I have an endless number of freckles that would take a thousand layers of foundation to conceal.
Compared to Esmera, I am the ugly short friend. The short, ugly ginger.
Again, my mind returns to Reid. When I first saw him here, he was sitting at a table in the cafeteria at school talking to the principal. I recognized registration papers between them. Reid’s father, Marcos Knox, was sitting opposite the two, his arms crossed in a very business-like manner. As I walked past, Reid looked up and his eyes met mine only for a second before I turned away. I heard a snippet of conversation from the principal: “February first. I’d like to see a bright boy like you in the higher academics…”
February first. The first day of second semester. Reid Knox, my questionable childhood friend was starting at my school on February first. He would be in some of my classes. He would be in a lot of Esmera’s classes. I would have to face the boy whose last words to me were insulting.
“God, Gen!” Esmera laughs and rolls onto her back. “Have you listened to a word I’ve said?”
I sigh. “I’m sorry. I’ve been really distracted lately.”
She mockingly shakes her head at me. “You finally get me to free up some time for you and yet you don’t pay attention to me for a single minute,” she clutches her chest, “I’m hurt. Injured. You’ll kill me if you don’t give me attention this instant.”
“Shut up,” I kick her hip, shoving her off the edge of the bed and causing her to land in a fit of giggles.
“So,” my friend says, pushing herself off the floor. She sits beside me and loops one of my fiery curls around her finger. “What do you think?”
“Think?” I stare at her blankly.
Esmera rolls her eyes. “About the rumor that we’re getting a new kid next semester?”
“Oh,” I realize that I hadn’t heard anyone talking about it. “Who told you?”
“Do I have to repeat everything I just said to you over the past five minutes?” Esmera groans. “Well you know that the biggest gossip in school is Claire Martinez. She overheard Principal Garcon talking to this shady guy about letting his kid enroll at our school. Apparently, money was exchanged and the kid’s starting next semester. Now, Claire said he’s older and stupid because he is still only in grade twelve, but I heard Harper Bell say she saw the guy - and ‘he’s a sexy piece of work,’ she said - but he was signing up for courses and he’s in Physics, Mythology, AP English, and Math 31 all with me so he can’t be stupid. And Harper said she also heard he just looks older than he really is, that he really is our age. Anyway, apparently his name is Rick or something-”
“Reid,” I correct automatically. I bite my lip and realize it’s too late to take back my knowledge of the subject. “His name is Reid.”
Esmera gasps. “You do know!”
I shrug. “I know a little.”
“Anything I haven’t said?”
“He came from England like I did, and he came from London like I did, and he was in my class until grade ten when I moved and he’s a jerk.” Technically we are from Little Kelsea, which is just a little way out of London, but no one knows where my little town is so I just say the capital.
Esmera sits silently, watching me. She slowly opens her mouth as though processing as she speaks. “You knew him?”
“And he’s a jerk?”
I nod again. “The last time I saw him, he insulted me.”
Esmera falls quiet again. After a moment she cocks her head at me. “Could it have been a mistaken insult?”
“Short, ugly ginger.”
My friend winces. “Okay,” she sighs. “What if he’s changed since England? Do you think he might be nicer now?”
I shrug. I don’t want to admit my hope that my Reid is still my Reid. My brother, my partner in crime, my other half… I don’t want to admit that I miss him.
I saw her. Genevieve. She left during the summer before we were supposed to graduate.
“Reid, get down here!” My father calls.
I groan loudly enough for him to hear me and hurry downstairs. When I enter the kitchen, I find the man leaning against the counter. “What?”
Dad crosses his arms. “Don’t take that tone with me,” he barks. “What have you been doing for the past week? I gave you a mission and you’ve been completely avoiding it.”
“I haven’t been avoiding it,” I sigh, matching my father’s tone and crossing my arms to mirror him. This is an intimidation technique that he taught me when I was just four years old. He hates when I do it. “I’ve been watching. Did you not teach me that stalking someone before jumping to action is the smartest way to do it? So I know exactly when and where to strike?”
Dad rolls his eyes at me and casts an arm out to the door. “This mission requires no such preparation. You should have already had it done. Your mission must be completed before the end of tonight, understand?” He turns away from me and mutters under his breath as I leave.
I tighten my jaw and slam the door behind me, knowing his muttering is insulting but not able to hear what he is saying. I march myself down the street as fast as I can until my anger has evaporated and as always, I feel deflated and abused.
My mission tonight is not an assassination. I am to locate the DeVall family and bring them to my father. This way they know where he is and how to contact him again. Only Thalia, Genevieve’s mother, has been in contact since they moved. My father said they have become somewhat inactive and quite disappointing in the past few years.
I stuff my hands in my pockets and wander aimlessly through the street. My dagger bounces against my leg with each stride, giving me the confidence I need in this new town. I know that in the event that a CAA member runs into me, I’ll be able to protect myself.
As the thought enters my mind, I stumble over something and fall forward. I land on my hands and easily push myself back up. Looking around, I realize I tripped on a large textbook. I frown and pick it up.
“Thank you,” a voice says behind me.
I turn to see a girl only a few inches shorter than me standing with her fair hand extended. As I pass the textbook to her, our eyes meet and I stifle a gasp. I cannot help but stare as I see one light green eye and a pale blue eye looking at me.
“Hey,” she says thoughtfully. “Are you Reid?”
I nod, unable to formulate words.
“You’re the new guy coming to our school,” she says it more like an observation than a question. “I’m Esmera,” she says with a smile.
It feels as though I swallow my tongue as I take another breath. “Nice to meet you.”
“I was just heading into the school for a debate meeting,” she says, gesturing behind her. As she moves, I see a long, white braid wave around her waist. “Would you like to come and check it out?”
I hesitate then shake my head. “As much as I’d like to, my dad wants me to go do something.”
Esmera nods understandingly. “Well consider it an open invitation. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday at five at the school in the cafeteria. We order something every night for dinner and practice debating certain topics. We cover everything from fictional works to real-world theories. It’s really interesting and we’d be happy to welcome someone to the team if you’re interested.”
I smile. “I might be.”
She beams. “If you want to come check it out sometime, you can just sit and observe.”
I nod. “I’ll see you there sometime.”
Esmera returns my nod and spins away, her braid whipping around her waist and touching itself on the other side. As she walks away, all I can watch is that hair swinging behind her like a long white tail.
Feeling oddly elated, I continue down the street toward Genevieve’s house. I know there are four people there. Genevieve and Katherine are still Thalia and Luca’s only children, so I know if I bring two of them to my dad at a time, he will be happy. Luca will not be home until eight tonight, and Genevieve is at work until six. Thalia and Katherine should both be home.
As I near the front door of the DeValls’ house, I see that the light is on in Katherine’s room, as well as the one in the kitchen. I climb the short flight of steps to the porch and knock on the door.
Thalia opens the door and smiles when she sees me. “Reid! I was wondering when you’d show up. Come inside.”
I return her smile, stepping through the door into the warmth of the house. “Your accent is nearly gone,” I observe.
Thalia shrugs. “two years does that to you. Luca still has the most left. You can hear it when he gets passionate about something.”
I look around the small foyer. “Have you been living here since you came?”
Thalia nods. “We looked at other houses over the years but none of them have an appropriate place to put the chute or the tunnel.” She is referring to the weapon chute that I suspect is hidden behind the family picture on the wall, and the tunnel that leads to the jet runway. The door to that must be behind the stairs.
I nod. “I presume you already know why I’m here.”
Thalia’s smile vanishes. “Marcos wants to see us, doesn’t he?”
I do not need to answer. Thalia turns and hurries into Katherine’s room. Before long, both have their coats and boots on, ready to follow me back to my father’s house. I pull a note out of my pocket that my father gave me and leave it on the table in the foyer.
“It’s not too long a walk,” I say, slinging an arm around Katherine’s shoulders. “I’ll have you there before it gets too dark out. Once Genny and Luca come, the four of you can stay at the house until tomorrow. I’ll drive the girls to school in the morning. This shouldn’t take too long.”
Thalia remains quiet beside me and Katherine shivers. Now fifteen, little Kathy isn’t so little anymore. Nevertheless, she looks up at me and I see the young girl I used to know. “What is going to happen?”
“Nothing,” I lie. I know my father will not hurt Genevieve or Katherine because they are under twenty. By BAA standards, you are self-accountable to the Association only once you are twenty years old. The parents are responsible for anyone under that age. If it were any other way, I would have left my father’s house long ago.
I meet Katherine’s eyes. “My dad just wants to be sure that you all still want to be BAA agents.”
Thalia smiles. “We wouldn’t be loyal to anyone else.” Something about her tone makes me look at her but her expression gives nothing away.
It only takes a few minutes to walk back to my house; this town is not very big. When we arrive, I hear my dad moving around in the kitchen and lead the DeValls through our porch.
“Dad,” I call stiffly.
My father turns around. His eyes fall on first Katherine and then Thalia. He smiles widely and opens his arms. “Welcome,” he bellows. “You’re just in time for supper.”
I look to the table and see a cooked chicken with vegetables, potatoes and gravy. “Wow,” I say unenthusiastically. “You went all out.”
Ever since I was young, I noticed that my father acted awkwardly around Thalia. Only as I grew up did I realize it was because he is in love with her, though I can never get him to admit it.
I watch my father’s eyes follow the woman around the kitchen as she sits down in a chair. He then hurries forward and places a plate - one of our good plates that are reserved only for special guests - in front of her.
Dinner consists of mostly awkward silence and my father’s attempts at conversation between helpings of food. As the clock nears the eight o’clock mark, I rise from the table. “Kathy, do you want to come with me to get dessert?”
The young girl wrinkles her nose at me. “I haven’t been called Kathy since England. I’m Kat now.”
I chuckle to myself and shrug into my coat. “Alright, Kat. Do you want to come with me?”
She glances from her mother to my father and bites her lip. Then, having reached her decision, she joins me at the door and slides her coat over her shoulders. “Let’s go.”
The walk through town is quiet and I watch my old friend walk slowly beside me. When I last saw her, she was only twelve years old, turning thirteen only a few weeks after she left. She was still a little girl then. Her deep brown hair was in curly pigtails and her body was still that of a carefree little tyke. I look sidelong at the fifteen-year-old now. She has grown into a young woman, a spitting image of her mother with her father’s dark hair and eyes.
I think about the lack of resemblance between this girl and her sister. Genevieve, her long fiery hair always untamed and curling out of control with dark green eyes, looks nothing like her sister, all brown hair and eyes so dark they look black. As children, I remember hearing many people ask if Katherine and I were siblings rather than the two girls.
“It’s as if I’m adopted,” Genevieve used to tell me. “I look nothing like them except for mom's hair. You can’t even tell Luca is my dad, let alone that Kathy is my sister.”
I remember how she used to get so upset that she was so different. Silently I still wonder if she is like that; if she has come to resent her family because of it.
The Dairy Queen comes into view and my thoughts are shattered when we open the door and I see Genevieve standing in line inside. Katherine rushes forward when she sees her sister and the two embrace, the little girl I used to know appearing for a moment before disappearing into the strong exterior that Kat has become.
I nod toward Genevieve. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
“I have some,” she answers, a sharp tone to her voice. Her emerald eyes flutter away and she looks down at her feet.
I frown but turn back to her sister. “I’ll go get the cake and meet the two of you outside, alright?”
Katherine nods. Together she and her sister leave the building and I join them a few minutes later. The three of us walk back to my house in silence. I cast a few glances at Genevieve, wondering what happened to take the sweet friend she used to be and turn her into a stranger.