"What? We're moving again?" I screamed at my mom.
This was unbelievable. We moved around so much, never stayed at the same place for more than a year. I always had the luxury of making new friends and to be completely honest. That sucked!
"Yes," my mother replied in a stern voice. "Now, don't give me lip young lady. You still live under my roof and you will do what we say, after all, we are your parents."
I turned around to face my dad. "Dad, please! Can't we just stay here a little bit longer? I will be eighteen soon then you can move without me."
He looked at me, fear shining in his eyes, but he tried to hide it. "No Jennifer, your mother and I made this decision together, and this is a great opportunity for her. We will respect that, okay?"
My mom was the reason we moved around so much. She was a scientist of some sort. I don't think any of us except for my father knew exactly what she did. She would always say 'Its top secret', an expression she used too often than not.
"Jennifer?" my father exclaimed with his left eyebrow slightly lifted.
"Yes, Okay!" I said, hoping they would hear how unhappy this was making me.
"And where will you stay anyway, if we moved without you? With Chad? Do you think we'll allow that?" My father asked with a strange edge to his voice.
It sounded almost like he was trying not to laugh at his own words. I wish he could see how that hurt.
"He's a nice guy Dad. You guys just don't bother to get to know him!" I angrily shouted at them.
I turned around and ran upstairs. I closed my bedroom door and fell on my bed. This was so unfair.
When we moved here the beginning of the year, I'd thought that I would get a clean start; that I could forget about all the bullying at my previous schools… I even got rid of my stupid braces. And I was right, this was my clean start. I made friends quickly and even got a boyfriend.
Now I had to give it all up again… I hated my life! I can't wait until I'm eighteen, then I'll move back to this town…It was only a few weeks away, it wasn't that long. I kept telling myself that over and over until the drowsiness took control of my mind.
Chad will wait for me. He loves me enough for that.
I fell asleep while I was lying on my bed thinking of the situation that I found myself trapped in once again.
I woke up from a dreamless nap and yawned. How could I still be tired after that?
I turned around to look at the time. It was still dark in my room. It was only 3 a.m. Still two more hours that I could have slept, but I wasn't sleeping. I was wide awake.
I got out of bed and walked down to the kitchen to make myself a glass of warm milk. That should make me sleepy again. I thought.
I finished my glass of warm milk and walked back up to my room.
Suddenly I heard the sound of something breaking downstairs.
Was that my glass? Oh no, my mom was going to freak. Then I heard the sound of our front door open and I became a solid statue of ice.
"They're breaking in" I suddenly realised and my limbs loosened painfully.
I ran to my parent's room quickly but quietly. I opened the door, but they were already awake. They must have heard it too.
"Jennifer! Quick, get in the closet!" My mother whispered to me.
My father grabbed me by the arm pulling me towards the wall. The wall? "Dad, the closet's that way" I pointed in the opposite direction.
"Shh, honey." He whispered back. I could see that he was struck with panic. And so was I.
No one has ever tried to break into our house before. This was all so new to me.
My father pushed a button and a hidden door in the wall opened. My jaw dropped to the ground despite of the fear that clung to my body.
What was that?
I guessed my father read my thoughts because he suddenly muttered softly. "It's a bunker."
"What's a bunker?" I asked out of pure curiosity, although I had an idea as to what it was.
"There's no time for explanations now, sit still and don't make a sound. If anything happens, there is a box behind you that you will need. We love you honey." He said and quickly closed the door.
"Wait!" I tried to stop him. "I love you too." I said but it was too late, the door had already closed and I hoped that he heard me.
I heard the sound of wood breaking, and I assumed it was my mother's dressing table as that was the only wood in their room, and I heard people arguing.
"No! Patrick!" I heard my mother scream, and then I heard a gunshot. I shook up and started crying… Dad…?
I heard another gunshot and then there was silence, everything went dead quiet. The only thing I heard were footsteps in the room… walking up and down - pacing almost - doors opening and closing, the one guy started talking in a language that I didn't understand. I tried so hard to keep quiet but I couldn't stop myself from crying.
I heard the footsteps again and doors slamming inside the house and then nothing… It was quiet once more… they were gone.
I sat in the bunker for what felt like an eternity. When I eventually got all feeling back into my body, I started moving my hands on the ground; looking for something…I didn't know what though.
I felt something in the corner, almost like a flashlight. And it was. I quickly switched it on to look around in the bunker.
It was not really something I would describe as different to a closet. It had shelves and drawers, but it was much bigger and the inside was steel. The shelves had boxes on it; each box was tagged with a six digit number. At the far end of the wall there was a big box labelled with my name.
I walked to it, but then hesitated to open it. Did I really want to know?
I turned around heading back to the door. My parents? Were they all right?
I tried to look for the knob, but all it had was a steel lever. I pulled it and the door opened.
It was so light; the sun had already come up.
I looked around the room, and I saw two bodies lying there next to the bed, lifeless…blood pooling around them.
"Mom? Dad?" I cried out loud. They didn't move an inch.
I ran to the phone and dialled 911. I gave the operator our location details. Within minutes I could hear the sirens closing in.
It wasn't at all what I had expected. I expected guys in police marked cars and police uniforms to show up, but these guys showed up in big SUV's and suits.
"Jennifer?" I heard a young voice ask. He had a familiar husky voice. It made me shiver, but in a good way. A really good way.
"Yes." I answered turning around.
I recognised him immediately.
"James?" I said and then burst into tears. James had been a best friend of mine almost my entire life. We used to be neighbours when we were young, and somehow we always managed to see each other even though we moved around so much.
He was a few years older than me, but he always understood me, better than even I understood myself.
"Hey Jen," he said with a sad smile and then he picked me up without effort and crushed my small body against his muscular body. I'd forgotten how attractive this guy was and it suddenly hit me in my stomach.
He had bright blue eyes and was a head length taller than me. He had black spiky hair and huge arms; I would think he was a wrestler or something.
"Are you all right? I'm so sorry for what happened. You must have a million questions." He asked cautiously.
"Yes, but first let's start with what are you doing here and how did you know?" I asked him, wondering how he knew, and wondering who these people were.
He took my hand and led me to the living room, I sat down on the couch and he whispered something to one of the ladies who walked past us.
I hadn't noticed but the house had become quite crowded. There were people in black suits everywhere, they were looking through the drawers and cupboards and almost everything in this house. Were they also looking for something?
What were those other guys doing in our house and why…? Answerless questions bubbled up.
"Here Jen," I heard the sexy voice say, interrupting my train of thought, and James handed me a cup of hot chocolate. My favourite, as only he knew.
I told Chad a few times of all my favourite things yet he always seemed to get it wrong. Not like I held it against him or anything.
"Thanks." I said. I wanted to smile. I wanted my best friend to know that I was happy to see him, but so much has happened tonight. And I needed a friendly face now; I was so confused and overwhelmed.
"So?" I asked him.
He looked down, seemed almost afraid. "Jen," he took my hand in his big warm hands, "I worked with your mother."
"So you are also some sort of scientist?" I asked, confused. I hardly knew what my mother was doing but I tried to act like I knew.
"No," he said hesitating for a moment, "we're Secret Agents working for the CIA." He whispered in my ear.
"What?!" I shouted.
"Shh, keep it down! You're not supposed to know this. No one is supposed to know." He said, his voice trailing off.
"But my dad knew I'm sure of it." I answered quickly.
He looked around me, took me by the arm and led me upstairs into my room and shut the door.
"Look, Jen, your father did know, but no one here knows that he knew. And if they find out, I won't be able to see you again. They already asked questions when I said that I wanted to be the one that interrogates you." He said his voice gentler now.
"Why?" I asked softly.
"Why what?" he retorted.
I took a few steps closer to him, "Why did you want to be the one to question me?"
He looked into my eyes, "Because you're my best friend, and I know how hard this must be for you. I didn't want them to scare you or to intimidate you. I know you, I know that if you feel frightened or pressurized then you'll pull back and you won't talk."
I took another step closer. "What do you want to know then?"
He looked into my eyes, and I had this weird feeling all of a sudden. I've never had this feeling before. My stomach turned upside down; there was an electric spark that made me shiver.
We were like two magnets, and I couldn't back away. Did I really want to back away? No, I liked this feeling. It felt like he saw right through me with his piercing blue eyes.
He cleared his throat and looked away. "Well, tell me exactly what happened last night."
I sat down next to him and started at the beginning of the evening when my parents told me we had to move again right through to the moment I saw him. He listened intently, as if searching for a clue. I stopped talking but James just sat there with a slight crease in his forehead.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked him.
He got up and started pacing up and down. I didn't like that; it reminded me of the guys that came into the house. He must have noticed because he stopped immediately.
"Sorry," he apologised, "I'm just trying to figure out how these guys knew about your mother's true identity. It doesn't make sense, only a handful of people knew…" he trailed of and started pacing again.
"James?" I asked impatiently. I was getting agitated now.
"Jen!" he suddenly said and I jerked. "Come with me, I need to get you out of here." He grabbed my arm and started pulling me gently.
"You're scaring me?" I said although it sounded more like a question.
"I'll explain everything later, but now we have to get you to a safe place. I think I know who the mole is." He said.
God! Why did everything have to be so mixed up? It was like I couldn't place anything anymore.
"Wait! My father said if anything happens there is a box in the bunker where I hid that I'll need." I remembered his last words to me.
"Ok, you get it; I need to speak to my boss." He said and quickly ran out the room. I followed behind him but I went back into the bunker and took the box with my name on it. It wasn't as heavy as I had imagined.
"Are you ready?" I heard James ask, and then he took the box out of my arms, which allowed me to grab my bag.
I followed him to his car.
"Where are you taking me?" I asked but he did not answer.
He put the box in the back and opened the door for me. I got in. It was no use in fighting with him when he was so determined.
He got in the car and we drove off.
We drove for about three hours and then stopped at a one stop store. It had everything under one roof, from food to gas to clothes, everything. He gave me some money and said I should buy a few inconspicuous outfits.
'Inconspicuous' I thought. I buried the questions for later, when he'd calmed down more. I wouldn't get any clear answers with him being…I don't know…gritty?
I got a few cheap outfits and some underwear. This store was really cheap so I bought some shampoo as well. James bought some food and gas and then we hit the road again.
He didn't talk much, just kept staring in front of him. We'd been driving half of the day and I was exhausted.
James stopped the car at and old house, in Chicago, Illinois. The outside walls were painted two different shades of blue. It had a small yet neat garden. And suddenly I recognised it. It was the neighbourhood where James and I grew up together.
"Do your parents still live here?" I asked, surprised and awed.
He looked at me and I could see the sudden melancholy in his eyes.
"No." He said and got out of the car.
He opened my door and took all our baggage. As we stepped into the house I recognised the familiar furniture.
Nothing had changed. On the left was the living room where three antique couches stood and on the right was the dining room. Straight down the hall was the kitchen with its off-white cupboards and a gas stove.
We put away all the food James bought then he led me up the stairs. He showed me to what used to be his old room. There was still a bed with the bedside tables and a small lamp on each end, but all the things that used to be in his room were gone.
"I'd let you sleep in the master bedroom, but it looks worse than this. All the boxes are in there." He said and almost automatically started covering the bed with linen for me.
I kinda felt useless.
"Are you hungry?" he asked.
Wow, I hadn't thought about eating the whole day. And for me, that's bad.
"Yes, I'm a little hungry." I said shyly.
I felt like a child again who seemed too shy to ask for something.
''Kinda?'' he chuckled as my stomach rumbled audibly.
"Okay, well, I assume you want to freshen up, so there's the bathroom, when you're done you can come down for dinner." He said politely.
I looked at the box my parents left me. I thought I'd look inside quickly before I took my bath. My shaky fingers lifted the lid and I was puzzled yet again.
There were a lot of files in, but from what I gathered it seemed like they were all notes from one investigation. A survey on one Yakov Kovalenko, some Russian guy that looked like a really bad guy. A photo of an elderly man was taped to the file and his eyes had me shivering violently.
There were some passports for me under different names and some money. There was an envelope with a letter and a tape in it. The letter was from my mother.
If you have this then it means that we did not make it. You must be very confused by now. I wasn't a scientist like I told everyone, I was a spy. I did a lot of good things honey; I saved a lot of people's lives. I was hoping to get this case solved without involving you, but unfortunately things don't always go as planned. If they found us, it means they know about your identity too. I need you to give this tape to James. For the time being, he is the only one you must trust. It is crucial that this ends up in the right hands.
I hope that you get to give this to James before they find you; they got to us before I could do it. He must give it to Chris Jones, he was my boss. I am sorry for having to put you through this, if I could have it any other way I would keep you away from this.
Please be careful. Give James our love.
Know that your father and I love you very much.
Mom and Dad.
Wow, everything was happening so fast. It felt as though I didn't have enough time to deal with everything. I put everything back in the box and headed for the bathroom.
I soaked in the bath for a half an hour when James knocked on the door.
"Are you okay?" he asked in a concerned voice.
"Yes, just enjoying the peace… and my bath." I said sarcastically. It had been a hectic day and I needed some serenity and quiet.
I hadn't yet come to terms with everything that happened. It still felt like any moment I'd wake up from this nightmare and everything would be back to normal.
"Okay, well hurry up. Dinner is ready." He said.
After about another five minutes my stomach started rumbling. "Oh okay, I know you need food so I'll get out!" I sarcastically spoke to my stomach.
I got out of the bath and dressed in a pink loose top and a pair of shorts I bought to sleep in. I was tired and needed to get some sleep.
I brushed my teeth with a toothbrush James gave me, combed my hair and tightened it in a loose ponytail. I looked at myself in the mirror for a couple of minutes and then suddenly it hit me.
I was supposed to meet up with Chad for lunch today. He must be so worried. I hurried to my room to check my cell phone in my bag which I managed to grab before we left the house.
Five missed calls. Three were from Chad and the other two from my friend, Felicia.
I called Felicia's number first and told her that I was fine, and that we are out of town for the weekend. I didn't feel like explaining anything to her now and besides, it wasn't like she'd understand something I didn't know how to explain. I called Chad after I hung up with Felicia. It rang a few times before he picked up.
"Jenny?" he asked.
"Yes love, it's me. I'm so sorry that I missed your calls and that I missed our lunch date." I started.
He kept quiet for a few minutes, "Where are you? When you missed our date and you didn't take my calls I went over to your house to check on you but no one was home?" He said, sounding calm.
Wow, they cleaned up quick. I thought to myself. "I'm at an Aunt's house in Chicago; I'll explain everything to you later."
"No, I need to know now. There are rumours that there were police at your house. What's going on? Are you in some sort of trouble? Because I don't need this kind of exposure right now, you know with the College scholarship and everything." He rumbled through the words that didn't make any sense to my ears.
"What?" I shouted at him, "Why would you think I am in trouble? And what is that supposed to mean? If something doesn't go your way you cut your losses?" I cried angrily. What's with Chad today?
"Well I have to think of myself first you know. If something bad is linked to me or my friends it puts me in a bad light and I need the scholarship Jenny." He shouted back.
I just know he didn't mean that in a bad way; he must just be worried.
"I'm sorry Jenny. I have to let you go." He said insincerely.
I felt the last piece of thread that held my world together break, everything just waiting to tumble down on me.
I knew this had to be a dream; Chad would never do this to me for real. We had plans for the future and everything.
"What do you mean?" I shouted back at him. I didn't mean to shout, I was shocked.
"I am sorry honey, but you will be okay, you'll see." He said.
"Don't you love me?" I asked, hoping he would change his mind.
There was silence for a moment and I thought I heard Chené's voice on the other end. Chené was my arch enemy. We couldn't get along and she would always try to catch Chad's attention, but it never bothered me, because I thought Chad loved me.
"I'm sorry. I have to go." He said and hung up.
What was going on?
Did he just dump me, for no reason? He didn't even know what happened.
I felt so angry; I took the lamp on the bedside table closest to me and threw it towards the door. James stood there. I hadn't even noticed him standing there. How much had he heard of the conversation I just had with Chad?
"Are you all right?" he asked calmly.
"Yes, sorry, I didn't mean…" I burst into tears before I could finish my sentence and I was crushed against his chest with force.
"Shh, it's okay," he comforted me, "everything will work out just fine."
Dinner was surprisingly good, I had no idea James could cook this well.
He'd made us hot chocolate after dinner and got the fire going in the living room. We sat on the couch in front of the fireplace and he threw a blanket over my shoulders and held me in his arms. We didn't talk much.
I had so many questions but I was too tired to ask them. I was completely drained. He started singing me a lullaby. I always thought he had the voice of an angel, and not only when he spoke. I must have dosed off because the lullaby was the last thing I heard.
I started dreaming. I was trapped inside the bunker, with no lights. It was so dark, and I heard people arguing. Suddenly I was standing in my mother's room watching two tall guys with masks pointing guns at them, I heard my mother scream, "No! Patrick….!" I wanted so much to help them but I couldn't move, my feet were chained to the wall behind me. Suddenly I heard the sound of the gun and I started screaming.
Next thing I knew I woke up in the bed screaming. I looked at the time, and it was 3 a.m.
James ran into the room with his gun. It was totally unnecessary and I felt like an idiot for misleading him. But I wasn't in any danger, not here at least.
"Shit Jen, are you okay?" he asked half asleep.
"Well yeah, sorry, I didn't mean to scream. I was standing in my mother's room and I saw how they shot them." I started crying.
He relaxed a little and walked towards the bed. He sat down next to me. "Do you want me to sit with you?" He gently asked, lifting his right hand to put a strand of hair behind my ear.
"No, I don't want to keep you from your sleep. You also need it you know." I said, trying to hide the fear in my voice. I didn't want to be alone and I so much needed him right now, but he needed his sleep as much as I did. I would start with the ten million questions tomorrow.
He gazed down into my eyes and I felt that spark between us again, his body pulling mine towards him.
"I don't need anything except for you to be all right. I've managed perfectly fine with less sleep before." He softly whispered in my ear, sending shivers down my spine.
"You must be cold? I should have given you more blankets." He said.
I knew it wasn't just because I was cold. There was something else, and I didn't know if he felt it too.
He got up and got another blanket. He threw it over the bed and then got in with me throwing his big broad arm over my body.
"Warmer?" he asked.
"Much better" I whispered, knowing that I wasn't cold.
We laid there. I felt safe with James next to me, but I couldn't sleep and I knew he wasn't sleeping either.
"Do you think those guys that killed my parents will come after me?" I asked, afraid of what the answer might be.
"Well, I hope not, but if they do… I'll protect you, no matter what." He said with a nervousness that clung behind the words.
"I know." I said softly.
He hugged me tighter and I couldn't help but smile in the darkness. To feel his skin against mine made me shiver again.
"Go to sleep Jen," he murmured.
"Okay." I said and closed my eyes.
I was lying there for probably another hour, my mind too busy to switch off and go to sleep. James had been lying still for some time and I assumed he was sleeping. I closed my eyes again, trying to fall asleep for the tenth time, hoping the dark would help. But it didn't. All I saw was the two tall men with the guns…
"I love you Jennifer." I heard James mumble.
My heart stopped beating for a second and took of at a gallop again almost immediately.
Was he dreaming? I wanted to turn around to see if he was awake, but I was afraid of just that. What would I say to that if he was awake? Did I feel the same? I've always felt very close to James. He had always been there for me, always comforting me.
Was that what he meant? A friendship brotherly sisterly type of love that I was stupidly mistaking for the real thing? Did I even know what the real thing was?
The answer was simple. No. I didn't know because I'd have known with Chad.
Was he asleep?
He was quiet now. I decided that he was dreaming. I mean how can someone love me? Not even Chad could love me.
I felt my face heating up again at the thought of Chad. I made him disappear in my mind.
I thought about James's words, even if he was just dreaming. Maybe I was dreaming. But it still made my heart flutter out of control again. Why was my heart being so foolishly? Did I secretly feel the same about my best friend? I fell asleep with that thought.
Copyright © 2012 by Suzette Coetzer