Zave and Mara agreed a few hours of sleep would be good for everyone.
Elle was given a comfortable bed to sleep in for the night, in one of the many guest bedrooms, but she couldn’t sleep. All she wanted to do was spend every waking second she had left with both Zave and Mara. Curious what they were up to, Elle got out of bed.
The wooden floor boards were old and creaky, difficult for even the stealthiest person to sneak upon, but Elle put on a fresh pair of socks and figured a sort of sock skiing could go undetected. Her first agenda was to open the door without making a creaking noise, and even if she was successful not making a sound to the normal ear, Milo and Zave could pick up her sneakery, unless they were genuinely sleeping.
The best way was to fake a trip to the bathroom.
She carefully opened the door, not caring if the door made an obnoxious subtle squeak. She quietly walked across the hall and over two doors, to the main guest bathroom, not caring if the patter of her feet could be heard on the gently noisy floor boards. She shut the bathroom door, lifted the toilet top, and then turned on the faucet to let it run softly. After a minute, she flushed the toilet. She added soap to her hands and washed them. Then she exited the bathroom door, carefully, yet not so quietly, she went back to the room she was in, she opened the door only to close it again while remaining in the hallway. She took a deep breath, and that’s when her real stealth mode began.
Like an ice skater, she glided from one foot to the other to ski towards Zave’s room at the end of the long, dark hallway. She stopped, suddenly, five feet from his door, that was close enough for her to listen in as if she were in the room.
First she heard Mara’s voice, “I don’t like the thought of us splitting up at all. We were always a better team together, not being together is what got our family in this mess in the first place.”
Zave’s voice responded, “We need to take down Spectrum first, and then we have to decide which America we want to be loyal to, or maybe just abandon America all together. Belize is a nice, affordable place to live and it is easy to become a citizen there.”
Mara’s voice, “What if I come face to face with the Sammi imposter again, she was invincible… It was like fighting someone like you and Arielle.”
Zave’s voice, “Milo did say she was special, but he mentioned she wouldn’t be very useful with both of them gone now… You’ll have two of the world’s most dangerous living weapons with you, I doubt Sammi or anyone else will be a threat. You’ll be safe.”
Mara’s voice, “But that is just it, two kids shouldn’t have to protect me, I should be protecting them.”
There was a long pause… Elle heard the rustling of sheets. She pictured them snuggling closer to each other, maybe Mara was resting her head on Zave’s chest.
Zave’s voice, “You are protecting them okay… just like you protected me when you were Theus’ handler. You look out for their emotions, don’t let them do anything that would take them too far over the edge… Be their compass for good and for truth, okay?”
Mara’s voice, “Okay…” she sighed.
Then Elle heard what was clearly a kiss, and, before things could get any more awkward, she began to slide backwards, getting far away from the noise.
By the door to the room she was resting in, she faked her bathroom routine again. She waited in the bathroom longer this time, so her trip didn’t seem that suspicious.
As she opened the bathroom door, Zave stood before the threshold in the hallway. He wore a white tee and black sweats. His feet were bare with no socks. With one eyebrow raised and a crooked smile, he said, “I heard you listening in, you didn’t slow down your breathing to barely noticeable and the brush of the socks against the floor was extremely noticeable.” He explained.
“Noted.” Elle said sort of embarrassed she wasn’t clever enough to remain undetected.
“It will be exciting to train with you more in the future.” Zave said.
Elle just nodded her head in agreement, she cast her gaze to the floor, too ashamed to look her father in the eye.
“Hey,” Zave said, directing her gaze at him, by lifting her chin gently with the tips of his fingers, “I’m very impressed, though. Your mother didn’t hear you at all.”
His words made Elle relieved and she let a smile escape on her face.
“Do me a favor while you’re with your mother, will you?” Zave began to ask.
“Anything,” Elle promised.
“Take the time to get to know her. Don’t worry about the time you lost or how you could be separated at any moment, just enjoy every second with her, can you do that?”
“Absolutely,” Elle said as she roped Zave into a hug. He radiated such a loving warmth in his embrace, she never experienced before, and she was going to miss not having him around to get one every day.
Before dawn, everyone was up with bags packed. In the foyer, Zave and Mara exchanged a very long kiss goodbye. Then he gave her the keys to a truck parked blocks away. The gps tracker was taken out of it and it had fake plates and tags. The window tint was too dark for drone cams to see inside and a layer of special casing would interfere with thermal detection. Until they got to their next destination, no one would be able to trace them in that truck.
They spent a few days taking back roads with few cameras. They slept for a few hours at a time on campgrounds instead of in motels or any form of civilized lodging. They were off grid as much as possible.
Elle took her father’s advice. She took every minute to get to know her mother. She learned how she liked her coffee, what her favorite food was, what her biggest fear was, and what was her greatest joy. She listened to Mara tell her and Milo about spy stories from back in the day. A quick bond, that was intangible, formed between. Almost as if they weren’t separated her whole life, but as if she were actually raised by Mara for the full sixteen years.
And even curiouser, Milo behaved like a fairly normal five year old. He asked a bunch of questions about what his eyes laid sight on, he always wanted to be the center of attention, and he laughed at jokes, cried when he was denied what he wanted, and annoyingly asked too often, “Are we there yet?”
About a day ago, they ditched the truck at the DCA border and were on RA soil now. Mara led them to a train station. They cleaned up in the bathroom like homeless hobos and then bought tickets to Cali to visit Uncle Ben. All the ways Elle traveled for training she never once had been on an actual train, this was going to be a fun first with her mother and her brother.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg