Chapter 1: History Project? You can have it if you like
If I had known that today I would have to save my best friend from being murdered by the most dangerous criminal leader in the world, I really wouldn’t have gotten up this morning.
My alarm rang. I rolled over to see that it was four in the morning, the time when I’m supposed to wake up. I only slept for four hours, and I felt like absolute junk. Getting up this early is the worst—no matter how many times I’ve done it. I couldn’t sleep in or snooze. In order to protect my secret, I had to get out of bed, I had to finish my homework, and I had to go to school.
I turned on my bedside lamp and covered it with a blanket. I quickly closed the dark curtains that hung from the ceiling ’cause I didn’t want my mom to know I was awake yet. More importantly, I didn’t want my dad to know.
I got out of bed and sat down at my old cedar desk. My mom had given it to me for my sixth birthday. It was the same one that she had as kid, but it was still in mint condition. Looking through my messy pile of papers, I found the exact thing I was hoping to avoid.
Other than birthday invitations, chocolate wrappers, and other crud, I had one important document, my history project rubric. My best friend since forever, Damien Richards, was my partner on the project. Mrs. Leborn assigned the project as 50% of our grade. The assignment was to write an autobiography and include a little bit about our family history. Easy enough, right?
I wish. Nothing’s easy when you’re a Lemondola.
And why didn’t you do this? I asked myself. Oh, that’s right. Because you were busy texting Paulina, and you told yourself you would do it in the morning.
I did convince myself to do it in the morning, since I was texting Paulina Demos, my closest friend since third grade, to help me with some math. She’s in Algebra I, and I’m in a regular math class this year.
It was hard, and since my nights are occupied, I couldn’t have her over for even a half hour.
Bad move, Clara. I could have kicked myself.
When I first got the project, I thought it wouldn’t be that hard to write about myself. Now, I didn’t know what to write.
Definitely not. “Hi! My name is Clarissa Aventurine Lemondola. My dad’s one of the world’s richest and nicest people, and I’m a hired assassin killing criminals with my mom. Yipee!”
It’s not even funny, so don’t try laughing. I really am an assassin. I’m not like the stereotypes you see in movies with the shady looks and bad catchphrases. Assassins (at least my kind) are always good, even though history (and everybody else in the world) portrays us as bad guys. Think of the saying “give a dog a bad name and hang him.”
Who do you think came up with that?
I’m part of a group called ANW, or Assassins Nationwide, which takes in kids as young as five to be trained to target bad guys. Our targets are serial killers or other deadly trouble the world wants to get rid of. I better not tell you any more.
It wouldn’t matter if I was her kid or not, my mom would kill me if I ever told anybody. ANW never tolerates this, not after—never mind. Just know that if there are bad people in history, well, let’s just say they were taken care of, courtesy of us.
So how are people recruited? Good question.
My mom’s whole family since the eighteenth century were ANW leaders. When I turn thirteen and complete the final level of my training, that responsibility will come to me.
So why let a teenager be in charge of a criminal organization?
The million-dollar questions just keep rolling in.
I could become a full leader if I wanted or I could wait until I’m eighteen. Besides, I still have non-assassin obligations ahead of me, like school and being a teenager. Anyway, the leader is responsible for choosing kids they think are worthy and teleporting them to the headquarters in Los Angeles, California, where I live.
Once you’re teleported, if you like the organization and pass the trial, you are given the opportunity to join. If you don’t want to join, you would be memory-wiped, and it would be like it never happened.
Well, not instantly. Each leader has a little tool for the purpose of erasing memory that is top secret. My mom would never let me use hers, since there are a couple people who I already knew I would want to use it on. My mom wasn’t having that.
That part was creepy, but it was better than going up to a kid and saying, “Congrats, kid! You’re an assassin. You’ve got ten minutes to decide if you want to accept this offer or you will be memory-wiped.”
Once you’re in, you get a uniform and weapons, and you start your training. I’ll explain more in a bit.
When you turn thirteen, like I said before, you level up to become an “adult” assassin. You join a team with four other assassins you trust and go on missions with your team. I like that part the most.
The four assassins, roughly about the same age, are grouped together (after being watched carefully by the leader) and level up together. Then they work together and help each other.
As for me? I will level up just like everybody else, but before I officially can, I have to have my prophecy dream to confirm that I am the next ANW leader.
What’s that, you say? It’s…well…we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I really shouldn’t be telling you all of this. Some things are meant to be secret.
Believe me, I wish I could tell you everything.
Now, here’s the twist: each ANW assassin has to wear an eye mask to cover their identity. You guessed it: you have no idea who the other people in your group are.
Hold up: I bet you’re wondering what type of organization kills people without even knowing each other? Like my mom says, “It’s for our own good.” And for publicity.
There are assassin tribes all around the world who don’t keep their identities secret, but Giovanna Lemondola, my great-great-great-great-grandma, created this organization 300 years ago, not to be a hero, but to make a change in the changing world.
We’re only called by the first letter of our names until we get our codenames when we level up. For example, I’m called C, but my mom is known as Poppy, her codename. Like I said before, we wear masks, like the ones you would see at the carnival in Venice.
It’s hard to recognize a masked person, trust me. When I was little, I would try to peel off another assassin’s mask, but I swear, whatever glue they use doesn’t come off! I wonder if they use Gorilla Glue…
Back to the history project.
My family? Easy. I am an only child, and I have no cousins. My parents are also only children, even though when I ask my mom about it, she just changes the subject.
A couple times, though, I have seen my mom finger a special rose-gold rose pedant, and softly cry over a photo with two girls around my age. The girl on the left has black hair, with a Cheshire cat smile. She’s elbowing a blond-haired girl on the right, who just smiles knowingly at the other girl. The blond girl is my mom, so who was that black-haired girl, and why was she so important that my mom would cry over her?
That’s suspicious. I don’t ask about it, though, since assassins like to protect their privacy a lot. That’s the number-one thing. My grandparents from my dad’s side are alive, even though my mom’s dad died when I was five. I have a few second cousins, but other than that, it gets lonely, to be honest.
Being an only child is not fun most of the time, especially when your dad’s in charge of a multi-billion-dollar business, which means I only get to spend time with him on the weekends and, if I’m lucky, sometimes at night. When you’re a billionaire’s child, most people who seem to adore you are two-faced. One minute they’ll be sucking up to you, and the next, they laugh you off like a day-old dirt sandwich.
But because of my mom and my friends Paulina and Damien, it isn’t super-bad having no siblings. They make up for it 120%.
About myself? That’s easy, too. I’ve lived in Los Angeles all my life, and I love anything sweet. I can get a sugar rush easily, so people keep their distance when I go with them to get ice cream.
I am considered popular, but only to anybody who doesn’t know me personally. I honestly don’t care, since I have friends and everything I need. I don’t need much, and I like it that way. Also, being a billionaire’s daughter is sweet (even with the struggles), and comes with many perks, like being invited to mingle with the rich and famous, even though I like peace and quiet most of the time. I have enough work to do every night.
Just as I was about to write about my ancestors, the door opened, and my mom came in. I ran to my bed and hid under my blanket. My mom chuckled.
“Clara, I brought some hot chocolate,” she said as she tried to yank my covers off. “We had a late night,” she acknowledged.
Don’t remind me.
As a level two, I practice with everybody ranging from ten to twelve years old, girls and boys. I don’t mind practicing with anyone except one person.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m good with most people, but there are some exceptions.
D joined at the same time I did, and my mom wanted us to get to know each other, so she paired us up. We were both only five, but for some reason, our tempers flared, and the next thing we knew, we were fighting. Ever since then, we’ve both made excuses to avoid fighting the other, and my mom doesn’t say anything about it. I have a gut feeling she is keeping us from training together.
I really want to find out who D is, and maybe even be friends.
On second thought, no, I don’t.
When my great-great-great-great-grandmother started this group, she obviously wanted to hide people so they wouldn’t be targeted. So, she had the great idea of training people in the dead of night. Then, they could get stronger without enemies noticing.
Just wonderful for people who need to get some sleep in the 21st century.
Wait, did people actually get sleep before technology came around?
I perked up at the smell of my mom’s homemade hot chocolate. It was a family recipe, and it made you feel like you could throw a car with one sip.
Of course, my mom won’t share the recipe until I’m a leader.
Mom left the room and I sat up. I grabbed my phone and texted Damien.
If we didn’t get an A on our history project, I would end up with a B as my final grade. Don’t get me wrong—Bs are fine, but I really wanted to make my parents proud, even with my whole life turned upside down. I hoped Damien would get the message and try to finish his part of the project before it was due, or my grade was done before I could say “hot chocolate.“