It’s the name of the game
Did you never know, long ago,
how much you loved me—
That your love would never
lessen and never go?
You were young then,
proud and fresh-hearted,
You were too young to know.
—Sara Teasdale, Did You Never Know?
Jonathan Clement sits in his
ceilingless, octagonal office, re-inking his pen and scribbling notes
in a book. When the door opens, his dancing feather halts on the page
and Jonathan looks up from his desk.
“Great to see you, Beaman. Any news today?” Jonathan asks.
“None sir. He seems to have forgotten everything.”
Jonathan is pleased by Beaman’s response. He rolls his chair back a few feet, removes an iron rod from the fireplace behind him, and stamps the cover of a book before responding. “I foresee some obstacles in his future. Would you mind continuing to monitor him?”
“Not at all. Should I still report daily?” Beaman asks.
Jonathan dips his pen into the ink well. “Yes, thank you.”
Beaman narrows his eyes on the feather. “You do know we’re in a digital age now, right?”
Jonathan laughs. “Ah, yes. Old habits die hard, it seems.”
Chapter 1. It’s the name of the game
“You wanted to see me?” I wish my candlelit dinner with Troy wasn’t being interrupted.
“Yes, thank you for arriving so promptly, Willow.” Jonathan stops a few feet from the K hall in the grand marble lobby. “I am in need of your assistance with an assignment.”
Anxiety hits quick, making my heart rate spike when my mind ticks through all of my Tragedies. “For who?”
“I am saddened to say, Tatum Jacoby. She is careening off course once again.”
Tate. I’d bet the farm she is off course. Things like this tend to happen when the natural order gets altered. “But you said…never mind. What’s going on with her?” Aside from the fact that she erased all of Grant’s memories is what I want to say, but don’t.
“Grant’s inherent memory loss is a natural part of the process,” Jonathan says, using his unnerving mind reading ability—he can deny having this gift all day long, but I’ll never believe him.
“We both know the way his memories were erased was not natural,” I taunt.
“Despite how his memories were taken, losing them was essential, especially now that—”
“Now that he’s an Elite,” I mumble, knowing Jonathan is right. Probably, anyway.
“As a member of the Elite team, distractions in our work can be treacherous. Wouldn’t you agree?”
I hesitate before nodding. Regular Satellite assignments are strenuous enough. The kid has no idea how agonizing the road ahead is going to be. “Working towards the greater good,” I say with phony enthusiasm.
Jonathan smiles. “That’s the spirit. I would like you to accompany Liam on Tate’s assignment until we can get her advancing forward again.”
“I’m guessing you need me to go now?”
Jonathan nods and squeezes my shoulder.
So much for my chicken marsala, and more importantly, my husband-time.
“Thank you. You are one of our most exceptional, though you mustn’t need me to tell you that.”
How is it that this guy knows flattery always brings him forgiveness? “Oh, come on Johnny, you say that to all the Satellites,” I tease. “Am I expected in training?”
“Unless you feel the need, I think you can manage without. I’m here if you need anything. Good luck.”
“Will you get a message to Troy that I’ll see him at break?”
When Jonathan nods, I thank him and dig in my bag. When my fingers find Tate’s gold necklace, I whisper, “Displace,” and fall through the dark marble floor of the lobby. On my way down to Earth to save another Tragedy, I think of Troy. At least he will understand. God love my husband. He’s more than a girl could ever hope for and I’m somehow lucky enough to get eternity with him. Not a bad trade for missing out on a few years of my mortal life.
I breathe deeply to pull the zooming wind into my lungs and then I grin. Being a Satellite will always be a close second to being with my husband. As the houses below quickly approach, I still find it difficult to believe there really is something better than this. Six months ago, before I was reunited with Troy, I didn’t believe it myself.
When Liam almost jumps out of his Sketchers from the shock of my landing, I can’t help but snicker.
“Bloody hell, woman!”
“What’s up?” I ask beautiful, British Liam. Shocked expressions always look silly on him. He should really lose the hat; his wavy, sand-colored hair is too perfect to be covered. I shift my eyes toward Tate. “I hear our girl is still going all mental-ward on us.”
Tate appears normal enough, minus the black jeans, black tee, and black make-up. The protruding ribs aren’t overly flattering either. Not that I can blame the poor thing, having lost first her fiancée and then her brother within a few short months. If she knew Grant and Elliott were both Satellites and that she would see them again, it would make my job a lot easier. Until then, Liam and I will have to keep her slogging on through life. “She’s still on the black kick, huh? Pity. She wears color so much better.”
“Her attitude is as dark as her clothing. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m glad you’re here. I could certainly use the help.”
“I can see that. Have you been coding during breaks?”
“Yeah, but my relaxed state is usually diminished within the first ten minutes of being with her.” At the same time Liam says this, Tate cranks her radio up to ear-piercing volume. “Here she goes again,” Liam shouts over the noise.
“I got this one,” I yell back and focus on pulling in my filter. When my energy is formed into a pretty, purple ball floating in front of me, I say, “Haze,” and then send my thoughts to Tate through the film than has enclosed the two of us.
Turn it down.
Oh, it hurts! My body clenches in pain. Labor, Willow, labor! Remembering childbirth alwayssnaps my mind back into the game.
“Block.” The connection between Tate and me is severed, making the vapory filter fall to the carpet in droplets before vanishing.
In my head, my arms raise in victory when Tate spins the volume dial down.
When she switches her attention to the family photograph on her nightstand, I ask Liam, “Has Elliott forgiven Grant yet?”
Liam shakes his head. “I can’t blame Elliott. The bloke put down his sister.”
“He didn’t really put her down. According to Clara, Grant just said something along the lines of ‘so what if Tate was a Rebellion’.”
As usual, Liam isn’t buying my downplaying attempt.
“All right, his tone probably wasn’t super-sweet.”
“A Rebellion, Willow. The worst-case-scenario for a Tragedy, and Grant pretty much told the girl’s brother he didn’t care. Don’t forget, he and Grant were almost brothers themselves. It was cold.”
“I understand Elliott’s point, but in the kid’s defense, his memories of her are gone, so he really didn’t know what he was saying.”
Liam lets out a loud breath.
“I guess this means you’re still mad at Grant, too?”
“I had to endure watching Grant here, remember?” He points his eyes at Tate. “He broke every rule we have to be with her, even leaving his own Tragedy—whom he should have been watching—unattended.”
I wince, knowing my own son was left unprotected while Grant was making illegal visits to Tate. Liam continues and paces around the room. “She erased his memories one by one. She destroyed all the reminders of him from her life: photographs, music, even her clothes.”
“I know!” I immediately regret my sharp tone that was merely a result of wishing he’d stop with the rehash. “I’m not cool with how his memories were wiped from his mind either; it’s not the way they were supposed to disappear, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. The fact is they’re gone like they should be, like how it is—or was—for all of us. It’s not his fault and it’s not fair of you and Elliott to blame him.”
“He’s changed,” Liam says in a quieter voice.
“We all changed when we became Satellites, Liam. It’s the name of the game. You forgot your life, I forgot mine. That’s what Programming is for: to return our memories when our loved ones join us. You weren’t so quick to lose your memories either, and as I recall, you were able to keep more of them than a lot of people around here.” Oh Christ have mercy; I wish I could take the words back as soon as they are out.
Liam squints his eyes and his hand freezes on his ball cap. “Do you think I want to remember my death?”
“Do you think I want to remember the look on my son’s face when he pulled my body from the water?” Liam shouts.
“No! I’m sorry. But how about the alternative, Liam?” I yell back before I’m able to calm myself. “How about not remembering you had a son at all? How about not remembering you died while giving birth to him?”
We both retreat to our respective corners, speechless.
“Just try to cut the kid a break, Liam,” I finally say. “Being a Satellite isn’t always an easy road. If it were, there’d probably be a lot more of us.”
I take the next block, which is better than any apology I could give him. His grateful expression says so.