“We’ve already had this discussion, Rylee.” she said, a note of warning in her voice as she poured the batter for the blueberry pancakes. I opened my mouth to say something else, but she sent me a look and I suddenly thought better of it. It was seven o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday and I’d just gotten done with an hour session with my personal trainer. It was when my mom had told him this next month would be the last I would be using him that this argument had started up again.
We had already talked about this, about two or three times now in the last week, but seeing has how she’d never told me anything more than the basics, I was none the wiser on the matter than I’d been in the beginning. All I did know was that I was being sent somewhere called “Atlas Academy of Something or other”, and it wasn’t just some old school that lasted just eight hours like regular. I was going to have to live at this place, and only allowed to come home on major holidays. All because I’d almost been kidnapped and my parents were too paranoid and didn’t trust that I could take care of myself.
And I could take care of myself. Things had changed a lot for me from November to now in July. After I’d gotten over the general fear of everything, I’d turned around. I’d gotten into sports, now one of the best in volleyball and track, and had gotten a personal trainer. I was in great shape and if it happened again at least I knew I could outrun them.
“But why?” I asked persistently. If my life was going to change, I’d really rather know why and exactly how it was going to change. I was thirteen now, and that had to stand for something.
She paused in flipping one of the pancakes and glanced at me. “Because, well, your father and I went there.” she said delicately, like she was trying to make it out to be no big deal that she’d kept that little tidbit of information from me my entire life.
“What?!” I said incredulously, feeling a little angry and hurt. “How come you never told me?”
It was at this very moment that Dad walked in; tall, lean, with a long face, brilliant green eyes showing behind smart reading glasses, short brown hair and a smile that sparkled. “How are my girls doing this morning?” he asked in a cheery voice, squeezing my shoulder before kissing Mom and getting a cup of coffee. “Very big day today, you know. We’re near a breakthrough on the project.” he added, leaning back on the counter with a smile showing behind his cup.
Mom tried to defuse the tension and said, “You’re always near a breakthrough.”
“Yes, but today we might actually go through with the breaking through part.” he said and she shook her head with a smile.
My dad was ‘Mr. Alan Damien’, a genius scientist, quite an important and well known one at that, and was always working on something big and top secret. He was the reason I’d almost been kidnapped, or really for the simple fact that I was his only daughter and we were loaded. Not that we showed it of course. Mom and Dad liked to seem as normal as possible, so aside from being the daughter of a famous scientist, my life was pretty normal. Or, at least until the kidnapping thing happened, but I pushed that thought away. I had bigger things to worry about, like why my own parents were sending me to a school they’d failed to mention my entire life they’d gone to.
I sat at the island that was situated in the middle of the kitchen and tried not to explode and demand answers then and there. Then, when I was just starting to wonder whether Mom was going to bring our conversation back up, Dad said, “But forget about the project, I bet you’re ecstatic about going to a new school like this one.” He sat on the bar stool opposite me and smiled enthusiastically.
“Actually, that’s what we were just talking about.” said Mom, glancing between him and me.
“You already started?” he asked, his face snapping in her direction and looking like his feelings were hurt for some reason.
“Just started.” she said, looking at him like she was telling him something with her eyes.
And apparently it worked because he brightened again and said, “Good! I wanted to see her face when we told her.” Then he sipped his coffee and patted the table beside him for Mom to sit down. I just sat there watching them take their sweet time telling me whatever they were going to tell me, all the while thinking of what it could be.
Dad made a flying car of the future? He found another planet with life on it and we were going to be the first family to live on another planet? They were setting up the first establishment on the moon? It couldn’t be bad news could it, since they were taking so long telling me? I was going insane over here and couldn’t take it any longer. “Okay, so can you tell me already? I already know you went there, what it’s called and that it’s an academy, so what else is there to tell?” Did this new school have aliens in it? Or clones? I had to stop myself for jumping to even more outrageous conclusions, including some with wings, fangs, or fur.
“Okay Rylee, calm down.” he said and held up a hand for me to stop overreacting. I took a deep breath and rested my arms on the counter top, waiting for him to start. “Okay, now there’s a lot to tell, and some of it is big stuff so I don’t want you to freak out.” I nodded and he smiled. “Good, now I want to start by saying that Atlas isn’t what you call a normal school.” I waited for more. “It’s a school for geniuses.”
“Okay.” I said, not really getting why he was telling me this. “But I’m not a genius like you, Dad. And speaking of that, what about Mom? I mean now I know why you went, but how did she get in? You’re not a scientist or anything.” I said, the last part directed at Mom as I looked from one to the other.
They exchanged glances and then Mom sighed. She looked down at her hands, intertwining them, and then looked up at me. I knew instantly there was something weird going on. What the hell kind of school were they sending me to? “Rylee, now I’m going to tell you something and I don’t want you to overreact. I know I don’t look like anything special (Dad snorted and she smiled), but back before I got pregnant with you, I was an agent.”
They looked at me nervously like that single word and my reaction depended on everything. But I just looked at her for a minute, my brain going, “Compute, compute” and then I made a confused face. I was picturing 007 movies and other movies with secret agents kicking down doors, concealing guns under dresses and up sleeves. But mom,my mom, couldn’t be one of those. She had a hard time opening pickle jars and had trouble knowing what all the buttons did in the car. I’d never seen her do anything even remotely close to a round-house kick, or anything high-tech.
“I, I don’t understand.” I said unsurely, grasping for any other kind of agent they could mean. There was no way my mother was a spy. No way.
Dad looked at me with a fond smile and said, “A real agent sweetie, like in the movies.”
My eyes narrowed speculatively and then widened when I saw they weren’t kidding. I looked at Mom, who was smiling and blushing like she was embarrassed about it. I think it suffices to say that my mind was blown, and they looked at me as if expecting me to say something, but my brain seemed to have shut down or imploded or something. Everything I’d ever known or thought to be one way was now completely upside down and inside out.
“I was a secret agent to be precise, but when your father and I got married and I had you, I decided to retire.” she said, “I know it’s hard to believe since I’ve never acted like an agent or anything, but it’s true.” She looked at me apologetically.