Once we were back in the living room we sat down on the plush black couch. Noah picked up the remote and held it out to me but I shook my head. I was barely in the right head space to function, the thought of picking a movie felt like the worlds hardest exam.
“You pick.” I replied.
Noah put on some weird comedy movie from the 90’s and we settled in to watch it. For a couple of hours it was as though nothing had happened. Like we were back at the home that no longer existed. Sure, before Noah had shown up on the doorstep we’d barely spent time together, but this just felt like normal. When the credits rolled for the film, I knew inevitably we were meant to part ways and head to our separate bedrooms. I didn’t really want to think about why that thought scared me, let alone decipher it.
“Another?” Noah murmured.
I looked at him and smiled. “You read my mind.”
My eyes grew heavy almost as soon as the next movie started. Emotionally and physically exhausted, I wasn’t sure I could stay awake.
At one point my eyes closed and didn’t open again for some time. When I woke and the room was dark. I was lying down on the couch, facing away from the TV that was no longer on, a cushion under my head. It took me a minute or so to realise I wasn’t alone, that the weight on my hip wasn’t all blanket. Noah was in front of me, fast asleep, his arm around me. I should have jumped away, I should have put distance between us. But I felt warm and safe and I wanted to feel that way for as long as possible. I closed my eyes again, and fell back to sleep.
I woke again, when it was light, to soft shaking. “Olivia.” Noah whispered. He wasn’t beside me anymore, he was above me, Standing over me.
“Morning.” I stretched and propped myself up. “Sleep well?”
Noah nodded, he shifted nervously. “Yeah, uh. We’ve got instructions.”
I sat bolt upright and focused on Noah. There was a plan, I didn’t know whether to feel sad or sick… but it didn’t really matter because I felt both anyway.
“We’re to head to the compound in New York. Today. We’ve been booked on a plane to New York that’s leaving in three hours.”
“Together?” I spoke, my voice shaking.
“Yeah, Vi… together.” He smiled and sat down on the couch. “Thing is, the guys that are looking for me… well they know were trying to get back. They know my face, and now yours. So we kind of need to go undercover.”
I bit back a smile. “So I do get to be an honorary spy?”
Noah frowned. “If that’s how you want to look at it.” He said softly. “Anyway, I need to head down to the basement to collect our kits.”
“Kits?” I replied. “Our disguises you mean?”
Noah nodded and stood up, he walked out of the room and I leaned back. I knew that letting me into his world was hard for him. He’d been on his own for so long it was probably hard to accept that for once, he wasn’t. Then of course there was the whole pesky step sibling thing. Since the moment he’d stepped onto the front yard of my house something had been in the air between us. At first I’d thought it was awkwardness, we barely knew one another and our parents had been married for years…
But then he’d literally been my knight in shining armor at the party and he’d cared enough to try and cheer me up with paintballing.
Then the carefree and almost innocent stuff ended, my world changed and aligned with his, whether or not either of us wanted it too. I closed my eyes, the way he’d kissed me to placate the cop, it was seared into my memory even though I’d pretty much forced myself to forget it ever happened.
“Deep in thought.” Noah exclaimed handing a black knapsack and a brown paper envelope.
I shrugged and looked up at him. He seemed a little more relaxed now, he sat down on the couch and opened the folder. I copied him and read the dossier.
“Mrs Jolene Right.” I murmured. “22 years old, newlywed, aspiring actress. Married to Owen Right.” I bit back a laugh. “I wonder how my Husband would feel knowing I’m travelling cross country with a man.”
“Pretty sure he’d be okay with it.” He turned his paper toward me, the name at the top of his paper was Owen Right. My stomach rolled. We were going to have to pretend to be a couple… in public.
“Could you not have picked something less… weird.” I muttered.
Noah frowned again and slid the paper back into the envelope. “We need to burn these after committing the contents to memory.” He exclaimed. “And I didn’t pick. I was given a number, I found the covers corresponding to that number. Jolene and Owen Right were it. Believe me, I’m not exactly stoked about it either.”
Noah stood up and walked with his bag and envelope to the stairs. Without another word he walked up them. I hadn’t meant to make him feel bad, but it seemed that was exactly what I’d done. My attempts to bring a smile to his face with harmless teasing were failing. I walked upstairs with my bag and envelope and walked into the room Noah had shown me to the day before. I emptied the bag and let out a half hearted sigh. It was less aspiring actress, more country singer… I wasn’t sure how comfortable I could act in a light pink mini dress and tan stilettos. I had little choice though so I stripped off and pulled on the outfit. In a smaller pocket was a blonde wig, wrapped in plastic and a bag of makeup. I sighed, for once I kind of wished mackenzie was here. She was a pro at this stuff, and I barely passed the grade. I was on my own though so I did the best I could. Once I was done I walked out into the hallway. Noah was already waiting, and despite what seemed like almost minute differences he looked like a completely different person, His hair was lighter and longer, his eyes were brown and framed by black rimmed glasses. He worse suit pants and a black button up. I smiled as I looked him up and down, given that he currently wore 99% of the clothing available I felt like he’d got the good end of this disguise deal. I huffed and folded my arms.
“I feel like a barbie.” I muttered.
“If it makes you feel any better… you look like one too.” He smiled and stepped forward. He lifted his hand to my face, I could feel my breathing hitch in my throat and I hoped he hadn’t noticed it. Finally his fingers coiled a strand of the wig hair and transferred it from one side of my face, to the other.
“Isn’t this a little, uh… Showy.” I pulled on the skirt of the dress, but to my absolute dismay it wasn’t growing longer at all.
“Sometimes standing out is more camouflaging than trying to fit in.” He mumbled, although it sounded like he barely believed his own words. “Just stick close to me, do exactly as I say… and we’ll get through this.”
I nodded. “Okay.”
Noah led me downstairs and into the living room. He turned on the fire and threw the papers onto it. We stood there and watched them burn. It occurred to me that quite literally, we’d done the same thing only a couple of days ago. Effectively burned ourselves out of existence. Once our new identities were ashes Noah turned off the fireplace. We walked straight to the front door without another word. I looked back into the still messy living area and stopped.
“Shouldn’t we clean up or something?”
Noah shook his head. “No time, besides, someone will be by later to do a full clean of the place. Seriously these houses are kept cleaner than a surgical OR when no one is here.”
“Isn’t that classfied.” I mused as Noah opened the door.
I heard him chuckle and he looked back at me, he nodded and ushered me out. “Nothing gets past you does it.”
We walked out the front door and I stared down at the space where the BMW had been the day before. We’d parked it out on the driveway and now it was gone. I pointed to the now vacant gravel space in confusion.
“Someone came and took it last night and returned it to the place I took it from once it was safe to do so.” He exclaimed. “So I didn’t steal a car, I borrowed it.”
“Someone was here… last night?” I choked.
“Yeah around 3am. They’re not meant to make their presence known but I heard them. Don’t stress about it Vi, they’re part of the good guy team remember.”
I sighed and and turned to face Noah. He was grinning, clearly enjoying this way too much. He’d gone from being self deprecating and refusing to tell me anything, to some kind of twisted comedian with a loose mouth.
“How are we getting to the airport.” I muttered.
“Thought you’d never ask.” He said pressing a button on the keyring he hand in his hand. Before I could say anything else the garage door slowly began to open. As the door rose the beautiful blue dodge challenger beneath shone through. I gulped and walked toward it.
“It’s Beautiful.” I gasped, in awe of the mean machine.
“You like your cars don’t you.” Noah mused opening the drivers side door of the car.
“You could say that.” I replied. “It’s just one of the many quirks I have.”
“It’s definitely not the worst one.” He laughed. “Come on, lets go.”
I frowned and opened my door. “What do you mean by that!”
“Nothing, get in.” Noah exclaimed.
I huffed and climbed into the car, I pulled on my seat belt and clipped it in. The engine roared to life and Noah turned and looked at me.
“When we get to the airport, we need to really sell the married couple thing.” Noah whispered. “Holding hands, longing looks.”
“That going to be a problem for you or something?” I replied “Because I can be a professional about this.”
Noah turned back and looked out at the driveway, he shrugged and put the car into gear. We began to move along the gravel, down and away from the place where we’d stayed for less than 24 hours. I looked back at the beautiful homestead knowing I’d probably never see it again. I closed my eyes and tried to picture myself on the couch beside Noah, the way his mouth sat in an almost smile as he’d slept. Beside him I had felt more at peace than I had in the longest time, which was odd considering just how much was happening around us. All of the uncertainty.
I turned back and looked out the window, toward the road to nowhere. I sighed, I was more than aware of my growing attachment to Noah, I hadn’t even tried to work out what was going on inside my stupid still teenage hormone driven body. All I knew was that I needed to be professional.
Because I didn’t want to ruin what was left of my family, and because maybe… just maybe I would get to stay with him.
“Deep in thought.” Noah exclaimed a few moments later. I awoke from my thoughts and looked around, we were on the road, nearing a town. I nodded and tried to warm my hands up together, Despite it being summer I was cold. Clearly Jolene Right and I ran at different body temperatures.
“Lots to think about.” I replied, my teeth chattered as I spoke.
“Fuck.” Noah muttered under his breath. He reached out and placed his hand over mine. “You’re frozen, why didn’t you say something.”
He quickly took his hand from mine and fiddled with some knobs on the dash until warm air began to rush from the vents toward me. I relaxed and looked at Noah, whose focus was once again back on the road.
“Thank you.” I whispered.
“You’re warm enough now?” He asked as he turned down a road that was marked with an airport sign. I nodded and pulled at my skirt.
“Warm, but completely uncomfortable.”
“You look hot if it is any consolation.” Noah laughed, I glared at him as he grinned.
“Yes, gees of course. Looking hot definitely helps. At least I know what your type is huh.” I replied sarcastically. Noah’s smile dropped as soon as the words left my lips. He pulled into the airport carpark and found a spot.
“I was trying to make you feel better.” He mumbled. “I don’t have a type Vi.”
I continued to look at him after he turned the car off. I could tell he genuinely felt bad, because he wasn’t able to turn and look at me. I unclipped my belt and let out a strangled sigh, this situation had the very real chance of becoming awkward… I placed my hand on his shoulder and smiled.
“I was kidding. Come on, we’ve got a flight to catch.”
Noah turned and looked at me, an empty smile reflected mine. He unclipped his belt and nodded. “Yes we do.”
Once we were out of the car my heart began to race. Alone with Noah, all of this had almost like make believe. Like we were two grown ups playing some weird game. Out here, in the open it hit me. This was real. I really had to make people believe I was the woman whose file I’d burned back at safe house.
I leaned against the car and barely held back a panic attack.