Do you think they’ll ever be a place for us? I mean, do you think there’s a place for someone who lives under the radar, someone who has to pretend, someone who is a spy? Yes. Daly said it with such confidence that I sat up in my bed, my cast dangling over the edge. How do you know? I asked. There has to be. I don’t usually philosophize, but I do know one thing. What’s that? That even when we’re pretending, even when we’re hiding under wigs or accents or clothes that aren’t our style, we can’t hide our nature. Just like I knew from the moment I met you that you would choose this life. And just like I knew, when you told me about this mission, that you would agree to help the CIA find this girl. You would sacrifice yourself and your time with your brother to save someone. It’s just who you are. I’ve already messed things up, Daly. What if I’m not good enough? What if I can’t do it? That’s the thing, though. You’ll find a way. I lay back again and buried the side of my face into my pillow. I’m just not sure how. If you continue to think as you’ve always thought, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got, Daly said. I considered that. I wasn’t ready to give up. At least not yet. That one is Itosu wisdom, in case you wondered. I yawned into the phone. It’s good advice. I’ll let you go. You should be resting. Don’t you have school in the morning? He said the last part in a teasing tone. Yeah, if I make it through another day at school. Maybe they’ll get rid of me—kick me out or something. You’d think I would have inherited some of my mom’s artistic genius. Can I give you one last bit of advice, Alex? Sure. Throw it all out the window. What? I stared at my open window. A slight breeze blew the gauzelike drapes in and out as if they were a living creature. Everything you’ve learned about art, the lines, the colors, the pictures in your head from other artists—just throw it all out. And throw out everything you’ve learned from books and simulations about being a good spy. Don’t try to be like someone else. Don’t force yourself to follow a set of rules that weren’t meant for you. Those work for 99.99% of the people. You’re telling me I’m the .01%? I asked skeptically. No, I’m telling you you’re not even on the scale. Daly’s soft breathing traveled through the phone line. With a mind like yours, you can’t be put in a box. Or even expected to stand outside it. You were never meant to hold still, Alex. You have to stack all the boxes up and climb and keep climbing until you find you. I’m just saying that Alexandra Stewart will find her own way. The cool night air brushed the skin of my arm and I wished it was Daly’s hand instead. You sure have a lot of wisdom tonight, I told him. I expected him to laugh. Instead, the line went silent for a moment. Because I’m not there. Because I wish I was. His words were simple, but his message reached inside my heart and left a warmth—a warmth I needed. Thank you, James.Take care, Alex. I wanted to say more, to keep him at my ear just a little longer. Yet the words itching to break free couldn’t be said from over two thousand miles away. They needed to happen in person. I wasn’t going home until I found Amoriel. Which meant I had to complete this mission. Not just for Amoriel anymore. I had to do it for me. (page 143)
Robin M. King