“You were the person following me this week?” I looked at my aunt, baffled.
“Wait, someone was following you this week, and you didn’t tell us about it?” my mother looked at me, her brows raised in both anger and surprise.
“Well, no, it wasn’t me, per se, following you. I had my team following you,” Aunt Allly explained, but that somehow didn’t make me or my parents feel any better.
“I’m currently working on a project for the FBI, and it requires a particular team. I had my people observe her this last week to see if she was up to the challenge. Nepotism aside, I think she would be a great fit for my project, and I’d love to have her come on board. It’ll help her get more training in for the future,” she winked at me, and I couldn’t help but smile hopefully. This project was finally my chance.
“I’d love to!” I exclaimed and jumped up to hug my aunt in the most professional agent in training manner possible, of course.
“Hey, you don’t even know what this project entails, you shouldn’t sign onto it just like that,” my father ended the celebrations as quickly as they had started. His worry lines and grey hairs seemed more prominent to me now than ever before. I was sure he remembered what happened with my brother the first time he got to go on a mission.
“I can’t disclose the information about the project with you two, and I’m afraid it’s on a need to know basis. She will be debriefed on the plane ride if she chooses to come. Once informed about the project, she can also choose to back out if she doesn’t feel up to it,” she told my parents who didn’t seem happy about the situation at all. It was interesting to see them on the other side of the ‘need to know basis’ rule for once.
It took a lot of convincing on both of our ends, but after over two hours of argumentation, my parents agreed to let me go. If only because they knew I’d find a way to do it without their blessing anyway.
“We leave in an hour, pack only the essentials,” my aunt reminded me, but I was already halfway up the stairs to my room wondering what kind of essentials I would need.
Once packed, it was a blur of goodbyes, warnings, and bits of advice from my parents before I was whisked off by my aunt. I barely got a chance to say bye to Lucky, who I think got stuck in the shed again.
The private plane my aunt had somehow procured was comfortable and luxurious, but I was too ecstatic to enjoy the plump armchairs and dashing flight attendants offering me food.
“Before I debrief you, I need to make one thing clear to you. If you choose to sign onto this project, I am not your aunt. I love you, and I have your wellbeing in mind always, but when you sign on I am your supervisor and I will treat you like a trainee. Is that clear?”
I had never heard my aunt talk so seriously before. It was my fun, Aunt Ally. She was my dad’s younger sister, who always helped me get into a little trouble, and most importantly, helped me get away with it. This situation was going to be different.
I slowly, slightly uncertainly, nodded my head. She slid a manilla envelope over to me, and I cautiously opened it, anxious to read the contents.
Inside there was a picture of myself. Underneath the image of me, several pages were describing my new identity as a high school student, Charlee Wynters, at Winchester Preparatory in Malibu, California.
“Hold on. You pulled me out of high school so I could go undercover as a high school student?” I questioned her, confused.
“I told you, this project requires a particular team and to go undercover at a high school. I can’t just use my usual coworkers. I need people your age who are exceptionally gifted,” she explained calmly, clearly anticipating this issue.
I continued reading all about Charlee Wynters, which was a lot more detailed than you might think. It had everything about Charlee down to her favorite color; it’s yellow if you’re curious.
At the end of the file, there was one last sheet of paper that stated my new address and the name of my supervisor. I did a double-take as my eyes read my older brother’s name.
“I thought you were my supervisor?” I asked, flipping over the paper hoping for more information.
“I’m the overall supervisor of this project. However, each trainee will have his or her supervisor that they will live with and go to for guidance. I thought it would only be fitting that your brother be yours,”
I sat in almost complete silence for the rest of the ride. It felt like somewhat of a letdown. When my aunt mysteriously showed up at my house to whisk me away for a top-secret project, even my parents couldn’t know about; I had somehow expected something more glamorous. I didn’t think it was going to be about going to school and living with my older brother.
My brother met us at the airport once we landed, and despite my slight disappointment at the mission, I greeted him with a massive hug because I hadn’t seen him since my family relocated to Idaho. He helped us to his car and carried my suitcases for me like the gentleman that he is.
Yeah ok, I may or may not have threatened to poison his beverages when he wasn’t looking if he didn’t do this for me but let’s pretend he did this out of the kindness of his heart.
“Woah, this is your house?” I asked him, unable to hide the tone of impression. It was the complete opposite of the farmhouse in Idaho. The sleek glass and steel house overlooking the Malibu coast managed to look both modern and comfortable thanks to the addition of sandy paths, green palms, and flowering hedges.
“Temporarily,” he smiled. I guess the view counts as a perk towards this project.
“You have your room here already stocked with everything you need. A stylist is coming over in a few hours to help you unload your new wardrobe for school,”
He opened the door for me, and we walked in. He handed me my suitcases and pointed me in the direction of my room. It was on the second floor, the first door to my right.
The furniture was white, and abstract art frames were decorating the wall. I was pleased to find that I had a balcony with a view of the pool in the backyard. There was another window across from the bed that gave me a look directly to the neighbor’s equally lavish home. Their curtains, being drawn, didn’t let me see into the room across.
Moments later, I heard a knock at my door.
“Come in!” I yelled too lazy to get since I was thoroughly enjoying the view from my balcony. A pretty lady around my brother’s age came into the room and approached me.
“Hi sweetie, I’m-- Sweet Jesus!” she said as she took in my appearance. I laughed, remembering I was still wearing the clothes that had been provided for me when I lived in Idaho. I’m guessing it wasn’t the norm in Malibu.
“Well, Sweet Jesus. Nice to meet you,” I extended my hand out. She cautiously took it.
“Oh lord what mess have I gotten my self into,”
“Oh sorry, my name is Carol. I’m your much needed personal stylist,” she said, getting over her shock. Well ‘much needed’ was a bit rude, but I followed her as she dragged me into the nearest bathroom.
“I think we better get started. This session might take more than two hours,” Carol sighed, pulling her hair up into a ponytail.