Originally, “the wildflowers along route 77” was titled “Everloving” and the little book was 17 chapters, not 16. But near the beginning of posting each chapter, I combined two separate chapters into one.
I didn’t realize how many gaps I left in the plot and how I left so many questions unanswered. As the author, I know in my head what happened at the moments in between and where people are now, however, I wanted it to feel real in the aspect we don’t know what happens from every angle and not every person gets to find out the full the picture. Often in life we are left with so many questions.
Anything you want to know about any character, ask in the comments below, and I will respond wholeheartedly leaving nothing out.
I plan on writing a sequel that will go back and forth through Asher’s last year of college and Melody reaching out to LDS family members. As to when that sequel will be written, I don’t know yet. I have so many other ideas I want to work on and finish before they become out of season.
Anything I write, I consider it a job well done if one part can make me cry, and when I read the chapter where Asher confessed everything to his dad, and his dad was there for him as a father first instead of as a pastor, choked me up! I have some friends who grew up under the pressure of being a preacher’s kid and the ministry always came first over their needs as kids. I’m sure there are wonderful parents out there who happen to be in ministry and are more like Asher’s dad than “the-ministry-first-parents” my friends had.
I think the story makes it really clear, I don’t believe the Latter Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ is real Christianity. They don’t believe in the core Biblical things the rest of Christians believe. I’ve had a friend in real life leave the LDS Church after God Himself led her out. I did my best to present my fictional LDS characters as realistic as possible. These characters are loosely based on LDS members I know in real life, with a lot of fictional components I developed from some research.
Overall, I hope the point and message this story is clear, having a personal relationship with Christ through His love is the main point of existence. The second point, for why we live, is to connect others to the love of Christ.
I will make it clear, I don’t agree or believe in missionary dating, but I do believe in obeying God. Sometimes, God asks us to do things now that don’t make sense but one day, when we see the full picture, it will make sense!
Thank you for taking this journey with me, and one day may you see this book on a shelf or this story made into a movie! Hopefully, “the wildflowers along route 77” will be a published book and a feature film. And that I will be able to say, to God be all the Glory, for why such things were accomplished.
Thanks for participating in this Manuscript Monday,
Let’s journey on the faith track for a bit.
I’m not a stranger to Jesus, the Son of Man. As I read miracles in the Bible I believe He can still do miracles. I’ve asked and I’ve seen God work miracles in my life…
Yet, lately, I’m having a really hard time believing God for some things right now.
My dad needs a miracle.
My mom needs a miracle.
My brother needs a miracle.
My grandmother needs a miracle.
My uncle needs a miracle.
My cousins need a miracle.
My best friends need miracles.
At this point, I could care less if God ever gives me another personal miracle.
I’m super analytical. So immediately, I think about all the reasons why these miracles haven’t happened.
My father doesn’t believe God will help him.
My mother is on her own walk with God.
My brother is rebellious.
My grandmother is missing the mark on the call of God on her life.
My uncle is a prodigal.
My cousins need to be saved.
My best friends are going through tests and trials with the Lord.
Now, I admit I know nothing and I’m probably wrong, and if I am right… I saw Jesus work plenty of miracles for imperfect people. It was His perfection that healed them. He was obedient. He was in tune with the Holy Spirit. He was the vessel acting in faith and doing miracles.
And Apostle Paul is like one of my favorite examples in the Bible, but he said to imitate Christ Jesus over him.
Lately, I’ve thought about how Jesus was always praying and pressing into the presence of heaven. And we can say this was/is so easy for Him because He was/is God, but He clearly lived a human life. What if He ran to God in prayer because the presence of heaven was like eating a whole carton of ice cream and an entire pizza? What if being in God’s presence was where He ran when the temptations and anxieties of life became too much for Him?
Then if He could do it, can’t we then?
That’s why we read the Word and we believe every bit of it in our hearts, right? So nothing in this world can satisfy like the presence of heaven?
Now, we must be careful to not covet heaven that we become spiritual fruit loops and nobody on earth can relate to us. Pastor Rod Parsley says that we shouldn’t be so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.
When we go into heaven over load mode, we’re trying to escape the woes of this life, and Jesus didn’t set that example. He showed that we charge the troubles of this life and we let heaven become the remedy in the midst of that situation.
I have a knack for seeming like I know what to do in any given situation. But when it comes to kingdom business, I don’t have a clue without God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit giving the directions, dropping the revelation, and showing up and showing off!
Yes, I can easily keep a defeated mindset and wonder if these miracles for my family will ever happen, or I can read the Word, and pray to God, and trust in time these miracles will happen on this side of heaven, down here on earth…
It’s easy to type this confession. And it won’t be a challenge in my heart, if I set my gaze in the right place… on Jesus and the Word, not my circumstances.
Now, it’s perfectly healthy to acknowledge when I’m sad and when I’m hurt and when I’m angry, but the key is not to moved by the emotions to the point it determines my reaction. I need to respond like a soldier in God’s army, which often means going to God in prayer or in worship. I don’t need to reach for the remote or eat a box cookies or eat two dinners in the middle of the night… My comfort needs to be found in the Comforter (the Holy Spirit), not in my comfort foods.
TV, Movies, and Food are what I run to sometimes instead of the presence of God. They never fully satisfy like God does… More and more I’m running to Him instead of these things that only offer temporary relief. I love music too, so I try not to run to my worship playlist.
I wrote this whole thing fighting tears and listening to a bunch of strife in my household tonight… maybe I ran away from the chaos into this blog post searching for peace… All I know, is that I want lives to be changed and transformed. I want to see the Gospel manifest in the lives of those I love. Not to prove that Jesus is real, because I know He is real. Simply because I want people to be free, for that is the only way we should live, and it is an injustice to be chained in bondage our whole lives.
Pray for me saints as I pray for anyone who reads this post.
If you’re not a believer, I think you’re on your way to becoming one. Why put it off, when you can believe RIGHT NOW?!
Truth is hell is real. Truth is hell will be eternity for those who don’t choose Jesus the Messiah in this life. You can ask God later why hell is real. But today, you can believe that Jesus died paying for your sins, sins that Adam and Eve passed down to you through their disobedience. And you can give up your nature that is self-seeking and self-destructive, and undergo a life-long process of how to become humbly, selfless to the point you look like a mini Jesus to people. The Holy Spirit will empower you to live such a life. You’ll have ups and you’ll have downs, but through it all, you’ll know all is well. And on the other side of heaven, in eternal paradise, you’ll enjoy forever with God, me, and many more saints. All you have to do right now, is believe Jesus came for you, died for you, and when He rose from the dead made you alive with Him forever…
That was easy, right?!
I suggest reading the Bible now. The Hoy Spirit will teach you everything you need to know. So will a great pastor at a church you’re meant to be at, and as will other leaders and mentors and fellow saints.
Your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are as broken as you, so when one hurts your feelings in church, go to them and resolve the issue. Take the high road and let it go. Don’t expect them to take your side. Like, forgive them in your heart before you go to them.
Then next, find out why you’re on this planet and what God has called you to do. Then go through the process to fulfill your destiny. No one can say how long it will take, but enjoy the ride day by day because you only get one life. Also, you’ll never fully arrive, so you might as well enjoy the little things as they unfold into bigger things!
And when you reach a point, when you don’t see God coming through in some areas… don’t fall for the lies or base the possibilities on your feelings. Like God came through for Abraham and Sarah, God will come through for you!
Also, your actions are important. Think very carefully before you do anything, unless, you believe God is instructing you… His guidance you just do, and trust me, how things turn out will show you if it was God or not. In my personal experience, it is mostly God.
So what do you do… when you can’t see the miracles? Serious question, drop your thoughts in the comment section.
I’m not sure what to do with the Story Sunday Series: Elle… therefore, when I figure that out, she will be back and then her story will be completed.
For now, get ready for ID SYNTHESIS. A dystopian, sci-fi story anyone can sink their teeth into!
Thanks for stopping by and reading. Not sure what to look at, check out my personal favorite Story Sunday Series: Bussing It.
On the ride to her place, I ask if I’m going the right way. She nods and hums if I’m right. If I’m wrong she corrects my directions in a mopey, borderline monotone voice. I pull into her long, narrow driveway. When I turn into the half-roundabout area near her front porch, I’m a little struck with awe gazing at the three story log cabin house. It’s like a woodsman plantation home… It has that type of magnetism of a southern home but the cryptic exterior look of a mega cabin in the woods.
Opening the passenger door, she asks, “Do you want to come in for a snack? It would just be us, no one else is home.”
I am hungry, but I’m not going to be alone with a girl, in a house with a bunch of empty bedrooms, especially, when that girl is low in spirit and prone to act out of madness. I got enough common sense to turn this one down.
Right as I’m about to say no, she entices me by saying, “The caramel apple bites I made should be ready to eat.”
I have no idea what a caramel apple bite is, but it SOUNDS DELICIOUS! I put the car in park, lock the doors behind me, and I hurry to follow Melody inside.
Once we enter her screen door, and wood door, she says, “Give me your shirt.”
For a second, I’m actually stupid enough to think she meant the white shirt I’m wearing, but she’s talking about the shirt in my backpack, which I brought in with me. Opening up my bag, I try to remember why I brought it in, and then I remember why. I like to do homework while I eat my snack. I keep my brain energized while I work… It’s a win-win for my mind and my body.
The foyer’s the size of my dining room and living room combined. Across from us at the door is the first flight of stairs leading to the second floor. To the right seems to be the living room or a family room. I’m guessing family room, because it’s filled with two sofas, a couple reclining chairs, a coffee table, bookshelves but no television set. A brown, typical piano is tucked back in the corner. To the left, the direction Melody begins walking as she takes my shirt is a confined hallway. She opens sliding, shutter, closet-like doors and reveals a washer and a dryer. Pointing further down the hallway, she tells me to walk straight into the kitchen.
Each step creeks along the plank wooden floor, I’m relieved by the silence when my feet meet tile ground. The tile is bright jade, marble-like flooring. Maybe it is marble tile? I think it’s safe to say the Gartner’s have money. I look out the window above the sink and notice the lake. They have lake front property… Yeah… they’re rich alright…
The kitchen’s like two and half of my family’s kitchen. The cherry wood finish of the cabinets make the floor and the matching countertops pop. There’s a dark, wooden, elegant-looking, four person table by a row of tall windows that showcase a riveting White Mountain landscape. The slate gray clouds make the lanky, thin pine trees below look somber, and the calm lake appear mystical. The view is absolutely, cinematically serene.
I take a seat where I can focus on the view and into the heart of the kitchen. Melody joins me in the kitchen, and sets her things across the table from me. I get out my homework as she prepares our snack. She pulls a metal tray out of the fridge covered with wax paper. The potent aroma of fresh caramel and tart granny smith apples engulf my nose.
“Almond milk, vanilla almond milk, grape juice, or water?” Melody asks, pulling tall, plain glasses out of the cabinet. “Vanilla almond milk tastes really yummy with the caramel apple bites.”
“Okay, I’ll try it.” I say.
She carries both plates on one arm, while carrying an empty glass in each hand as she walks over to the table. With poise and grace, she sets everything in the proper place by the table: A plate and glass before me, and a plate and glass at her setting. She goes back and collects the metal tray, serves us, then she carries it back to the double door, black fridge and she puts the caramel apple bites away in exchange for a glass canter of what I presume to be vanilla almond milk. As she pours my glass to the brim, she mentions, “It’s homemade,” referring to the almond milk.
“Did your mom make it?” I ask.
She chuckles as she pours herself a glass. “My mother has many talents but none in the kitchen. This is my dad’s forté. But no, I made it actually.”
I look at my plate. Golden brown, flakey pie crust square bits encase what I can only guess inside is the taste bud pleasing combo of caramel and granny smith apple. I pick one up to bite into it, when the thought: pray reminds me to be grateful. Dropping my first bite attempt startles Melody.
“Too cold?” she worries as she tosses a bite in her mouth.
“No. I don’t know… it’s fine… We just haven’t prayed.”
I don’t know why I’m praying before a snack. I never do at home. I just eat.
Then the Lord questions the intent of my heart, “Do you trust Me, Asher?”
I close my eyes bowing my head. I pop one eye open and notice Melody bowing her head ready for prayer.
“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this time together as friends, and thank you for the snack we’re about to enjoy, bless this food, bless our evening, in Jesus’s name, the name above all names, the king above all kings, thank you again for all that you do, AMEN.”
“Amen.” Melody repeats after me.
Finishing the bite she held in her mouth, she stares at me waiting for me to take a bite. I bite into half of one. Buttery, flakey goodness kicks off the start of my taste bud pleasure followed by a soft, yet crisp tart gush of granny smith apple covered with cold sticky, chewy caramel. Food like this brings nothing but food-tapping good joy to my soul. That’s something I do when I eat food that wows, amazes, and impresses me as I enjoy eating what I taste: I tap my right foot to the natural rhythm of my joyful heart.
“How is it?” Melody asks, nervous to hear the verdict.
“Fantastic,” I say right before I shove a couple into my mouth.
Melody blushes as she tucks her hair behind both ears.
The milk blows my mind. Creamy, sweet, rich, yet not thick like the stuff from the store and it has the perfect amount of vanilla. No after taste either, like most milks…
Raising my glass to Melody, I say, “Epically delicious Mel.”
Happily, she points out, “You called me Mel…”
Gulping a huge swig of milk I shrug my shoulders. I manage to question, “So?” after the milk is officially swallowed.
“I love being called Mel.”
“Well, don’t ever call me Ash, I hate it.”
Nodding shortly and sternly, she says, “Sure Ashhh,” she drags out and then quickly she adds, “Sher!”
We end up eating the entire tray of caramel apple bites as we complete our homework. I look at my phone to check the time and see that it’s nearly six. The hour of dinner approaches and I’m not home. Just as I’m about to call home, a text message from mom comes through.
Are you M.I.A. for dinner tonight too?
I text back:
I’m at a friend’s doing homework. Forgot to tell you… Sorry…
Should I keep a plate warm for you or are you eating there?
“Are you hungry?” Melody asks.
Exaggerating of course, I say, “I’m starving!”
Texting mom, I say:
I’m having dinner here.
Ok, be home by 10 please. It’s a school night.
Wow… I’m allowed to stay out until 10… well 9:30 if I want to make it home by 10…
Thanks mom, love you!
Mom’s texts back:
Love you too! You have your key, right?
I inform her that I do and that I’ll probably be home sooner than curfew. She just texts back a simple:
Melody whips up a couple Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links, kettle fries, and sautéed sugar snapped peas. Of course, Melody didn’t let me sit by idly. I scrubbed the potatoes clean, and I chopped the potatoes into uneven strings of fries.
Once we sit down to eat, I’m curious where her family is. I may be crossing boundaries by asking, but I thought Mormons were extremely family-oriented. Wouldn’t they all be home for dinner? Wouldn’t her parents be asking me 20 questions trying to figure out the intentions I have for their daughter?
I try to be as subtle as possible, “Are you usually alone for dinner?”
Holding up a finger, requesting I wait patiently as she finishes chewing her mouthful of food she shakes her head no. She swallows her food and then says, “My mom is with a bunch of other moms from church planning the fall festival dance, which you’re welcome to come to, if you want. And my dad has a critical patient at the clinic. Tenor, well, he probably seized the opportunity to hang out with his buddies.”
“You’re dad’s a doctor?” I’m surprised to learn. I didn’t even know Pinetop had a clinic, I just thought there was the hospital. Wait the hospital’s in Show Low… Maybe Pinetop does have a clinic.
Melody laughs, covering her mouth so she doesn’t expose the mouthful of her food mush. Shaking her head she corrects my misconception, “He’s a pet doctor. You know a vet.”
Wow, I’m an idiot. But it’s not like they have a bunch of pets to give me a hint.
“Aren’t vets normally animal lovers?” I inquire.
“Ah-huh,” she nods, “but get this. My mom’s allergic to cats. My brother’s allergic to dogs. I’m allergic to rodents, and all three of us are allergic to rabbits. And though my dad loves fish, he likes to eat them more than take care of them. Hence, we are a pet-less family.”
Our laughter synchronizes, but falls out of sync when Melody drops her laughter as her hands clutch the ends of the table. She looks nauseated. I hope we’re not eating spoiled food. I would feel sick too then, wouldn’t I?
“Are you okay?”
Silently, she nods, but it’s not very convincing. Softly, she says, “I have a… an… intolerance… toward… sugar snap peas… and green beans… I guess I’ve had too much lately… because…” holding her stomach she rises out of her seat, “if you’ll excuse me…” she blurts as she runs out of the kitchen and down the hallway. Why would you eat something your body rejects? Some people I may never understand.
In a wood house, doors opening and closing, and especially footsteps are incredibly audible. Big, heavy footsteps gait toward the kitchen down the hall. That definitely isn’t Melody coming back. I look to the doorway, and a nearly seven foot tall man, with an all-white beard like Santa, but a clean cut head of dark brown, almost black hair looks at me. Wise, wide golden brown eyes gape at me in shock. The man wears a maroon polo shirt tucked into khaki slacks. Stepping into the kitchen toting a brown, leather brief case he says, “Hello, are you a friend of Tenor’s?”
Standing I reach out my hand to greet him properly. He sets his briefcase on the counter nearest to the table as he shakes my hand. I give all the basic info, my full name, and the truth: that I’m a friend of his daughter not of his son. Smiling to be cordial, I can tell he’s trying to not to reveal his ugly face of fury.
“Is my wife home already?” He asks knowing she isn’t.
I rub my hand due to his bone crushing handshake. I know handshakes tell a lot about a man, but I’m still trying to build up the muscle to give a firm handshake. Unfortunately, my handshake says… bony wimp. It’s odd having to look up at someone for once. I’m the tallest member of my family, so I’m always looking down at my parents. I know it’s not just in my head. Mr. Gartner is laying on the intimidation thickly. I admit, “No sir.”
“Please, call me Adam, Asher is it?”
“Yes sir,” clearing my throat I realized I screwed up by calling him by a title instead of his name as he requested. Quickly, I correct my error, “Yes Adam, my name is Asher.”
“That’s some hair you got.” He comments turning to face the stove. He walks over and picks a fry out the stove top kettle. Nibbling on a bite he hums in delight enjoying the potatoey goodness of a homemade fry.
I guess I could cut my hair, but I kind of like the floppy fro I got going on lately. However, by the tone in his voice I know he doesn’t really like it. Thank God I’m not dating his daughter, or else I’d be a thousand times more nervous.
“Do you think two teens of the opposite sex alone in a big empty house is appropriate, Asher?”
I’m not sure of what answer he’s looking for. An actual response or silence, I guess it depends whether or not the question was rhetorical.
“Would your parents find it appropriate?”
Okay, he wants an answer. “Not if we’re not related sir.” I sigh because I did it again. “No Adam.” I add.
Facing me again, Adam says, “You’re welcomed in our home any time, when I’m home or Kyrene is home, okay?”
“Okay,” I nod. “I should probably get going anyhow.”
I began gathering my textbooks and notebooks into my backpack.
“You haven’t finished your food. Please, stay… enjoy. Sit, finish eating.” He says walking over to the fridge. With his head in the freezer, he asks, “Where is Melody?”
Melody returns beating me to a response, “I’m right here daddy.”
Adam drops his quest for food to give Melody a loving embrace. Adam makes a joke about being alone with boys lead to trouble. We all laugh, but it’s safe to say Adam finds it more humorous than Melody and I do.
Adam cooks himself a premade (by him) turkey burger, fresh kettle fries, and sautéed broccoli while Melody and I finish eating. Melody takes my dishes and rinses them in the sink. I offer to help, but she insists I do nothing because I’m a guest.
Melody walks me to the car. She apologizes for creating an awkward moment between me and her father. I just make her promise to avoid all possible future moments like that by not letting us be alone together in that house again. She vows so solemnly to me.
I open the driver door, toss my backpack in the passenger seat, and as I go to get in, Melody surprises me with a smothering hug.
“Thanks for being my friend today. I really needed someone and I’m glad that someone was you. I don’t know what I would have done.” She says with a cry underscoring her tone.
The last thing I want to do is leave her crying. Rubbing her back would be soothing right? As I do that, I find me hunched low resting my head on top of hers, and for the first time between us our hug feels genuine. It doesn’t touch on the type of hug Natasha can give, but this is good. After she thanks me again, I kiss her on the top of her head, which shocks me. Why did I do that? She may get the wrong idea that I want more, and all I’m willing to offer is friendship.
Wiping her tears from her eyes, she again tells me, “You’re a really good friend.” She stands outside her door, until she sees me off down the bumpy, rocky narrow road that leads to the street.
On the drive home, I realize I don’t want to disappoint Melody. I have to find a way to take her to homecoming dance. To be a good friend because that’s what a good friend would do.
When I pull into our parking lot, I see Melody’s and Tenor’s time-share truck backing out of a parking space. The tinted windows prevent me from seeing inside. For all I know Tenor could be making funny faces at me as he drives by. I park next to the minivan and walk inside. The door wasn’t even locked.
Abbey’s disrespectful voice yells from upstairs, “That’s so unfair! I swear you two want me to be unhappy! It’s just a school dance. I don’t see what’s wrong with one dance.” The smack of slamming her door rings through the townhouse.
Dad strongly tells her, “Sweetheart, you know the rules. No dating until your 16, plus, we don’t know Tenor or his family very well. There will be plenty of high school dances in your future.”
Wow, dad is like the parent of Mercy and Grace. He rarely ever yells, even when we act up. He’s never spanked us or threatened too. Yet, the idea of disrespecting him, at least for me, absolutely terrifies me. Dad’s just cool… All kids with loving dads proclaim this but my dad is the best in the world. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck with a dad like Adam… he’s just creepy.
Mom descends down the stairs with Annika on her hip, who’s been crying ever since the door slammed. Babies never like conflict, but the sudden, loud noise would alarm anyone with exceptional hearing. Or is her hearing normal by now? I stopped reading about babies a few months ago.
I was in the bookstore, by the grocery store, reading a parenting book concentrated on the toddler years. Annika was with me because Abbey and mom were getting their mani-pedis a few doors down in the plaza. A woman, with toddlers of her own, mistook Annika for my daughter and she started sharing her parenting secrets with me. I was reading the book because I wanted a heads up on what Annika would start acting like soon, since I was 2 going on 3 when Abbey was born and I don’t remember how she behaved.
Once at the base of the stairs, I make a funny face at Annika. She giggles feebly, but determined to keep crying her faces gets ugly as she begins to wail again. This time I spit a raspberry (stick out my tongue while making a motor sound) as I make another funny face. Annika looks at me uncertain of what to do: laugh, cry, or just stare blankly at her big brother? She chooses the latter. With wiggling fingers, I tickle her tiny pot belly that forces an upside down frown to post on her face. Annika’s current status is: happy, which means her big brother did his job.
“Whose house were you at?” Mom finally gets to the investigation. I’m surprised she didn’t text interrogate me.
“Melody’s house,” I admit. There’s no point in lying to parents. The truth always comes to light eventually.
“Oh,” mom huffs a little staggered by my answer. Trying to make sense of it, she asks, “Did you do homework together?”
“Yeah,” I say passing mom and stepping onto the first step.
“Where are you going?”
“To my room… I want to draw.”
I haven’t felt like drawing in eons… On the drive home, with the cinematic scenery of the open forest, and the wild yellow daisies that line the sides of the road, made me think about Melody at the grocery store last Saturday. She picked a bouquet of white daisies. In the past, I’ve seen her wear a yellow daisy in her hair to school. Clearly, she likes daisies.
Sitting at my desk, facing the large window in my room, that overlooks the wilderness valley of the White Mountain Res, I ready my sketch book and I hold the pencil still in my hand. I try to clarify the imaginary floating through my mind. Finally I see it, Melody hitchhiking her way down the hill, standing in a bushel of wild, yellow daisies with the grassy meadow behind her against a wall of piney forest, topped with a beautiful blue sky accompanied by a few glorious, puffy clouds. There’s a slight breeze that rustles her hair. A few strands swiping across her face making her look like a model from an ad.
I’m still drawing when dad knocks on my door.
“It’s almost 11 buddy, light outs in fifteen okay?” Dad says. That’s his kind, gentle way of telling me to go to bed.
I can get up early and finish it. I think all that’s left are the daisy petals, her hair, her eye color, and the double yellow line of the road. Everything else I’ll just outline in black marker. It will be perfect.
I thought we were heading for the border, but I was wrong… after a stop to Wally World to buy things for Milo, and a stop to mom’s safehouse, we went to the airport in Tulsa. The DCA Border Wall puts the Mexican Border Wall to shame. It’s like Great Wall of China of the West World.
Mom pulls up to the drop off curb at Air Canada Ticketing Terminal. She hands me a blue folder. Inside is a ticket a one way Quebec City and fake documents for Milo. His birth certificate says he was born in London, England and now my last name is Bardem? According to my new documents I was born in Madrid, Spain. I went to boarding school in England, just outside of London. Neither Milo or I have dad’s listed on our birth certificates. I have a different mom on mine… What is going on here?
“The safest place for you to be is in the DCA, but unfortunately, you can’t go there as my daughter.”
“And why not?”
“Tucker is smart, I could never pass you off as mine with a different dad than Zave. He knows me too well. The only child I would belong to your father.”
“I still don’t get-,” she cuts me off.
“You don’t need to have a thick Spaniard accent, it can be subtle. When you get compliments your English is really good, sell the boarding school in London, but throw in as a kid your mom took you to the RA a lot. And um, read the background profile I put in there for you, that will help you build your cover…”
“You put a lot of thought into this…”
“Well, you always have to be prepared for things to change. Now, there’s nothing in there about Milo’s father, you’ll have to come up with that, but keep it simple and model him after someone you would go for, you know… and if you give him a name, never come up with last name… just keep it at a first name, but don’t really talk about Milo’s father… Tucker or even Zave is the type to go track him down.”
I try to interject but she just keeps talking.
“The only person you can trust will be Tucker. He won’t be very trusting of you, which is fine… And you’ll want to break down and tell Zave you’re his daughter, but you have to promise me you won’t.”
I nod silently promising to keep the truth from the man I’ve dreamt of meeting my whole life. The way mom talks about him, she wouldn’t be a human being without ever falling in love with him.
“And avoid talking about London at all costs because you haven’t been there in a while. If you meet someone who knows the area well, unless you bring up the place and location, don’t agree with what they say.”
“Clearly, wait, I’ve been to London?”
“You were two, not a big deal… and um… if you ever have to leave the DCA, I left an email address you can contact me once. Don’t directly tell me where you’re going. Use that cipher we created when you were nine.”
“The Grimm Brothers’ Fairytale one?” I double check not understand typing childish gibberish could be useful and still translatable. I don’t even know if I remember how to use it…
“In case you forgot the cipher, I put a cheat code in the folder, for your eyes only.”
Moms think of everything.
She grabs be by the head, digging her hands into my wavy black hair, and she kisses me on the forehead, “I love you so much, you know that…”
“I love you too,” I say, trying not to sound panicked.
She let’s me go, “You don’t have to bring Milo…”
“No,” I say feeling attached to him already. Mom explained that since he imprinted on me, for the first few months of his life, if he’s away from me for than a week he’ll die.
“As soon as take down Guyon and terminate Project Hercules II, I’ll come for the two of you.” Mom promises. We both probably have that eerie feeling, she may never come for us.
We get out of the SUV and she helps me bring in my bags and the stroller while I carry Milo in his carrier. A courtesy escort takes over for mom inside by the ticketing. I set Milo down on the ground and reel mom in for one last hug. My eyes let loose the tear as I cry, preparing to forego life without my mom. Now, I’m supposed to tackle motherhood without her. It’s insane!
On my travels, everyone is super nice. Freakishly kind… even when I drop that I’m a teen mom, still overly polite to me.
I thought for sure on the flight, Milo would wail during takeoff and during landing, but he remained asleep in my arms. The Flight Attendants checked on me like every twenty minutes and worried about Milo’s uncanny ability to sleep all the way through a plane ride. It’s a good thing I can brush his peculiarity off and blame it on him being genetically engineered, otherwise their concern would have me panicked.
According to the lovely backstory mom came up with for me, I was born to disowned Spanish heiress. Her father owned a vineyard and had several business ventures in Spain, France, and England. She went to Madrid to pursue a career as a model but got stuck waiting table, after she got pregnant with me. That’s when her father took her back in, because of me, and I was spoiled to death.
My mother started working for my grandfather. When he started vineyard in the RA, he sent me and my mom out there to look after it. In middle school, I fell in with the wrong crowd and grandpa said boarding school was the answer to fix me. However, they were wrong… I stuck with the bad and go myself pregnant. I was shipped back to my grandfather.
A few weeks ago, I witnessed my grandfather’s death by Guyon’s men. For years, granddaddy was cutting deals with Guyon and his men. My mother’s been an informant for the RA, but becoming close friends with Mara, my real mom, she begged Agent Taylor to take me away and keep somewhere safe. This also includes baby Milo now too.
Tucker will tell his neighbors and friends that I’m the child of an old Interpol buddy who just died in the field. To ensure my safety, I’m to stay with Tucker until his Interpol buddy’s killer is caught and it is safe to say no one is after me. I really don’t know why I just could be the dead Interpol buddy’s kid, but then again, I’m not an official spy… I don’t know how weaving a web of lies convincingly works.
In the waiting area, a gray-haired man dressed in a navy blue suit, white button up, and a red tie held up a sign with me new name one “Elle Bardem”. Me and my courtesy escort walk up to the man I presume to be Colonel Benjamin Tucker.
“Elle and Milo Bardem?” The man asks in a raspy, monotone voice.
“Do I have to call you Colonel or can I just call you Tucker?” I wonder.
He takes the stroller from the escort, while he follows me to baggage claim. He’s definitely the quiet type. This will be interesting…
Natasha runs off to put the daylilies in a vase of water while Chastity escorts us to the dining area. The table is set with all the fixings, seven place settings, and a high chair for Annika stands at the end of the table where an eighth place setting would normally be. When Natasha joins us, she’s accompanied by Zeven holding hands.
We all take our seats, the way everything works out, Natasha ends up sitting across from me. Today she sports a blue, faux peacock feather in her hair. It matches her dangling, lab-made sapphire earrings. Zeven has frosted the tips of his black Mohawk with blue to match Natasha’s color phase fascination with blue. Looking at the two of them, side by side, they do look like a cute couple. Their features complement each other, and will one day blend well together… if… they’re meant to be together…
Chastity asks dad to say grace, we all take hands and bow our heads.
“Dear heavenly father, thank you for this gathering of friends. Thanks for the food you’ve provided for the Lane household and we’re grateful they’re sharing it with us. We ask that this food be blessed, and especially, our time together. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’s precious holy name, Amen.” The rest of us follow suit and say a collective amen.
Chastity hands the main course, meat loaf, to dad and allows him to serve himself. Natasha picks up the basket of crescent rolls and takes one as she passes the basket to Zeven. Zeven does the same, continuing to pass it on to Chastity. Zeven grabs the bowl of green beans and serves Natasha a few spoonfuls on her plate. Graciously, she thanks him with a peck on the cheek. They’ve been dating for a week, and they’re already at the kissing phase? Getting through this dinner is going to be harder than I thought.
Chastity kicks off the table talk by telling my mother, “The flowers are gorgeous Becky.”
“They are, aren’t they? Actually,” mom starts to say.
“Daylilies are my favorite.” Natasha interjects.
Zeven looks to Natasha surprised, “I thought wild, yellow daisies are your favorite.”
In unison, without intention, Natasha and I say, “They were.”
She looks at me caught off guard. She further explains without breaking eye contact with me, “But once I saw and smelled my first daylily back in June, daylilies are my new fav.” Clearing her throat, she directs her attention to Zeven, “I thought you were around when I talked about it at Worship practice?”
Zeven shrugs his shoulders as he takes the dish of meat loaf from my hands. “I guess I need to pay more attention to my girl.” He remarks.
Mom finishes what she meant to say earlier, “Actually, Asher picked out the flowers.”
Both Chastity and Natasha look at me, but with different opinions displayed on their faces. While Chastity’s expression reads as impressed, Natasha’s expression seems conflicted. Getting the daylilies was a good move… Natasha knows my selection wasn’t by chance.
We move on to another subject: Chastity’s upcoming sermon series for Youth on Sexuality creatively titled Knowing Him and Her. She came up with that title from the scripture Genesis 4:1a from the New King James Version, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife…” More modern versions tell how it really was by replacing “knew” with “made love”. Since Chastity was a teen mom, and based on the high rate of teen pregnancy in America and on the Res, and some of the concerns parents have brought to her, she felt God placed on her heart to discuss sexuality with the youth of the church.
In actuality, it’s more about God’s design and purpose of marriage, and how Christ comes first for both husband and wife. She’s hoping that through the message God will instill in the youth a desire to do things God’s way, and that each young man and young woman will feel precious in the eyes of God. And as current temples of the Lord our God, we’ll respect that honor and choose to do it God’s way… by waiting to have sex until we’re married.
Mom and dad are impressed. They agree that the youth are in need of such a message and they are glad to hear she’s doing it. Showing the sliver of uncertainty left in her, she asks dad and mom for their prayers that when she begins the message the Holy Spirit leads the series. Proudly, my parents accept the request and promise her they will do so.
After dinner, Zeven shares the new worship song he wrote in the living room with everyone else while I help Natasha stack the dishwasher. Natasha isn’t her normal, snarky, talkative self. Deafening silence builds a barricade between us. I can tell she’s deep in thought. I want to speak… but I don’t know what to say. The song of Zeven travels faintly into the kitchen. I listen to what I imagine the chorus is… it sounds like it’s in the Key of E or maybe C.
“We will shout on the hilltop.
We will sing in the streets,
And dance in the yard.
Praising the only worthy-
Of our praise- Jesus Christ
Lifting our voices
We sing- Hallelujah
To our King-
As we band together
In unity not conformity
The light that’s in us
We let it shine
As we lift our arms
Lifting praise we sing
To our king
As the body of Christ
We will shout from the hilltop…” he continues to sing on, singing the chorus again.
Now I have a talking point. “That’s a pretty good song.” I say.
Natasha winces, “It needs a lot of work. The words don’t flow. They’re good, but the song needs to be fluid, not forced. I’ve tried to help, but he’s too proud of it. Maybe now that I’m his girlfriend he’ll let me revise it.”
“Musically, it’s perfect though.” I comment.
Smiling in defeat, “True, when it comes to notes Zeven is a genius.”
“So maybe he’s the music and you’re the lyrics,” I say. Wow, I sound supportive of their relationship. I know I’m kind of coveting my neighbor’s significant other, it just feels like she’s been taken away from me, and I didn’t ever really have her.
Her whole face lights up with excited joy as if I prophesied to her. “You’re so right!” she closes the dishwasher, now that it’s stacked full, and then gives me a quick hug. Every hug from her is magical and heart-warming. As she slips out of my reach I wish the hug could have lasted a second longer, and I wish I had the guts to reel her back in, but I let her walk away. I follow her into the living room, where we’re all about to enjoy a game of Bible Trivia. Well, Annika’s gonna watch.
Sierra Vista, Arizona, Former USA 2012
The setting sun stroked the streaky clouds with the hue of coral pink. The pale blue sky prepared for the coming starry night. Out in the Sonoran desert, by a bunker entrance of a southwest intelligence base, stood CIA agents Xavier D. Wace and Mara Taylor-Wace watching the sun pass away unto the other side of the world. All Zave wanted to do was to take Mara’s hand and hold it in the peace the coming dusk. The words, “I love you, Mara”, tickled the back of his throat, begging to be voiced. As if this very moment, was a flashback from the evening they officially became a team. It was that evening Zave knew one thing for certain, that he could trust Mara Taylor with his life. Now five years later, his future depended on Mara trusting him with her life.
Zave could only imagine what it was like to be Mara. Mara knew, however. Angry that a man madly in love with her was stolen from her soul. She looked at him, and felt guilt and shame. She felt guilty for lacking the capacity to love him back and she felt shame for being unworthy of his love. Aside from her last boyfriend that she co-dependently cohabitated with, Max, who apparently has been a dead rogue agent for the past five years, she didn’t do the love thing. She wasn’t even sure if she loved Max. Max was another warm body to lie down with to lessen the sting of loneliness. And he was a great spy… together they were great spies…
But Zave claimed, he and she were elite spies saving the world side by side. And in terms of the love thing, they set the bar for true love. If endless love were a real thing, they came close to it. And knowledge of such a great romance infuriated Mara! She could never be a good spy in a massive vulnerable state like being-in-love. Yet, somewhere deep at her core, she wanted to know what that felt like and to understand the impact that would have on her life. Therefore, she found a nearby, big rock and took a seat. She looked up at Zave and asked him to tell her a story: the story of them.
Practically bowing at her feet, he sat at the base of the rock and he told her. He saw for the first time at Langley, when she was given an award for outstanding work in the field. At that celebration, he heard about all her missions and knew she was way out of his league since he was just an analyst. But the day they became a team, was where they currently were and after they got their orders they stood at this very spot and watched the sunset and that’s when everything changed.
He talked about all their missions. The first time they kissed for real and not for show, when they thought they were about to die in a vault running out of air. When they were on the run, and they realized they couldn’t be without each other. The time he made his first kill and lost Mara over it, and the time he won Mara back by saving her life… How he proposed the day Paxton’s third child was born. How he saved her life again a few weeks before their wedding day. And how he felt the moment he lost her.
Embracing their current reality, Zave looked up at her and cleared his throat, “Quorra made a cute suggestion… you know… she’s at that age where she watches movies about princesses all the time. The prince fixes everything with one kiss. She thought, maybe if we kissed, it would fix us… you might remember us.” He explained as he got up to face her on bended knee.
Those teary brown eyes of Zave intrigued her. It was a stupid idea and most likely wouldn’t work at all, but it was the least she could do for the man that saved her life twice. Swooping down by leaning forward gently, she went to kiss him. He met her lips halfway by cupping her face in his slender, lanky hands. The kiss was infused with passion lacking for nothing and it did stir something in Mara she couldn’t explain, but as far as the faintest memory of Xavier Douglas Wace… the kiss did nothing.
Reluctantly, Zave freed her from his lip lock. Holding his hands up, ready to embrace her in another kiss, he desperately asked, “So, anything?”
Remorsefully, she answered honestly, “I’m sorry… no…” Mara’s truthfulness surprised her. She’s never been so forthtelling nor has she ever wanted to be so frank with a person. Maybe she was in love with him. Unfortunately, only her subconscious knew it. Maybe she needed more of his affection to evoke that love for him. “Maybe if we kiss again…” she said leaning down for another kiss.
He was entranced to succumb to her will, but just as the surface of their lips skimmed each other’s, he pulled himself back and hurriedly stood up. Defensively, he held his hands out as if he could push her away with some invisible force. Wincing with discomfort, Zave knew it wasn’t right, whatever it was they were doing.
“It’s not supposed to be like this, Mara! I know the kiss thing was stupid… It was a little girl’s idea after all, but we’re in love, Mara… People in love are different than this…You deserve better than this.”
Baffled by his reaction, turning down another chance to kiss the woman he madly loved, Mara rose to her feet. Rising, the faint wind caught her hair and rustled her auburn strands across her face like a model picture-perfect-ready for a glam-bam-moment-money-shot. She reached for his hands, but he tucked them safely away into his pockets.
“So what are you saying, Zave… you want me to leave?” She asked, highly confused.
Reacting rapidly, his hands sprang from his pockets and up in the air as a gesture to aid his words, “No-no-no-no, GOD, no! That is the last thing I want. And I’m sorry Mara, but I can’t let you go back to being the lone spy. We’re a team. We’ll always be a team. It’s crazy to think that everything we had could come flooding back in single moment, when it took years to build it.” Coyly, he took her hand and rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb smiling like a dopey Snow White dwarf, and he finished saying, “We should take things slow like a Sunday-Evening-Drive and along the way take many trips down memory lane.”
Rule number one of dating, never compare, but since her last recollection of intimacy in a relationship was with Max, she automatically thought about what Max would do. By now, they’d either be in his car having sex, or in a hotel room… having sex… But Zave… he probably doesn’t use the word sex in the same context… Or does he? Why did she have to compare, when she could be wooed by his romantic gesture of chivalry? Perhaps, she fell for him because he’s not like other guys.
“Where do we begin then?” Mara asked, wondering where they’d go next.
“Motel 6,” Zave smirked, “We spent the night there before heading to San Diego. There was only one room available, with one bed, room 114…”
Fate was on their side. The room was vacant and they took it for the night. Cautiously, stepping into the room, Mara hoped a memory would sprout from the deep trenches of her mind, but her recall remained blank. As Zave scoped out the room, he recreated every detail of their night there five years ago as best he could with what the room had. Disappointed, she fixed her gaze on the newly installed, standard hotel red carpet. The carpet was obviously new because it didn’t even look worn, and what were the odds Motel 6 had champion carpet cleaners?
Zave just closed the egg-shell white drapes, when turned to Mara to say something, but he noticed her long, drawn out observation of the carpet. Hope burned eagerness in his heart thinking if she could remember what changed about the room, more time together could trigger memories of their life together, and eventually he would have his Mara back: his entire life back. Restraining himself from running over to her, he froze where he was, as if he moved more than his lips he could compromise her potential memory from surfacing.
“What is it, Mara?” He asked.
“The carpet…” Mara started to say it was brand new, but Zave assumed her impending statement would offer more.
He interjected with the truth, “It’s different, isn’t? A different color… what color did the floor used to be?”
Zave bit his bottom lip, wincing with a hint of shame. He knew he shouldn’t forcefully elicit memories from her mind, but he couldn’t help it. If she couldn’t remember the faintest thing about him, he would lose her forever, and life without her wasn’t fathomable.
Mara didn’t have to be a spy to read his face. His face encompassed an expression of total dependency. He depended on her having a recollection about the carpet. She could fake it, but if she was wrong, it could make the evening awkward. Truth would be best.
She was about to confess she only made an observation, but then she noticed the drapes. White would go much better with a deep blue color. It was a Motel 6. Their colors were quite patriotic. And years ago, two years back according to memory, in reality seven years back, she stayed at a Motel 6 in northern Arizona. The architecture of both franchise motels resembled a similar style. Chances were the decorum was the same too.
Mara made a lucky guess, “Blue… it used to be a dark blue…”
Relief reverberated through Zave’s soul, she remembered SOMETHING! He couldn’t contain his joy. He leaped forward and engulfed her in his embracive arms. A cuddling warmth emitted from him and into Mara. Mara’s heart enjoyed such abounding affection, but her mind repulsed the very nature of that adoration resulting in the safety of stiffness, which signaled Zave to let her go and step back.
“It’s okay. I’m fine.” Mara beamed a quick, forced smile trying to show she was fine when she really wasn’t.
Her headache was more like a migraine now. And on the car ride over, her nausea came back. All she wanted to do was lie down and sleep until the pain, the queasiness, and the tiredness went away. The medical examiner at Fort Hauchuca said she didn’t have a concussion. She didn’t even need stitches for her forehead, just a big band aid. Normally, even on her worst days, Mara could battle her nausea and prevent puke from pouring out of her mouth, but today wasn’t one of those days. She nudged Zave out of her way, and rushed to the bathroom. Mara managed to pay alms to the poor john with perfect timing.
Highly concerned, Zave knelt behind her and held her hair.
“Maybe we should go back to base to get you checked out again.” Zave suggested.
“I’m fine.” She said standing up. After rinsing her mouth with water, she added, “I think I’m just coming down with something.”
Zave stroked some loose strands of hair behind her ear faintly chuckling, “Unless poisoned with super-spy truth serum or targeted with bio-warfare by my arch-nemesis, you never get sick.”
Humored and annoyed at the same time, Mara rolled her eyes as she giggled with subtle disbelief.
“You don’t believe me?” Zave huffed. “I’ll have you know, since I’ve known you, aside from the few cases I’ve mentioned, you’ve never been sick. The common cold couldn’t catch you.”
Laughter sprang from the core of her soul without an open invitation, but the way he talked about her health made her genuinely laugh. She can’t remember the last time she laughed this hard… with him it was probably a few weeks ago. Maybe he made her laugh the day she was taken from him. Did she trade in the life of espionage for a life of normalcy? A normal life being something she never really had.
Though the stew from the diner didn’t agree with her, she could eat a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon and no onion. What was the nearest fast food chain with decent pig-angus-curdled milk-sandwich-galore? When Mara inquired about getting more food, Zave looked at her like she was insane.
“Seriously?” He asked making sure.
“Seriously.” She said as deadpan as possible to stress how important it was she got more food.
“Okay… You sit tight and I’ll go grab us a bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon and no onions to split.”
“No,” Mara snapped.
Confused, he wondered if he was mistaken about her favorite fast food item, “Did you lose your taste buds too? Since when have you ever refused to split such a delicious beast with me?”
“My taste buds are the same. I want my own.”
Zave raised an eyebrow finding her appetite peculiar. He knew if he thought about it, he could figure out what it was, but right now he had to keep his bride happy. “Whatever the lady wants, she shall get… two heart-disease monsters coming up when I return.” Zave promised making his way out the door.
A calmness came over Mara while Zave was out. For protection reasons she was alert, but her tough exterior guise was down, because she felt a slight sense of security. She no longer had to worry about Xavier, deep down in her gut she knew she could trust him.
It wasn’t until she was braless and pant-less lying on the stiff, firm bed an uneasiness began to stir in her. What was she going to do as a civilian now? Xavier had the Plum Tree of course, but what did Mara have? Would she become a Kung Fu instructor to suburban spoiled brats or a cook at any number four star restaurants? Or would she work at a shooting range? Sure, she had a wide skill set and any number of jobs could be hers, but what would become of her? Would she be stuck in a mundane job for the rest of her boring normal life? Could she live a normal life knowing she could do nothing to protect the Free World? Sorry Mr. Wace, but Mrs. Wace couldn’t do this… She couldn’t be the wife he needed.
Hurriedly, she got dressed. Before leaving the room, she checked how many rounds she had in her 9 mm. Cautiously, she tucked the gun in the back of her pants. Taking one glance around the room, she took in one final glance at a normal life. As a child a normal life was all she wanted. She imagined she wanted that with Zave too. But now, it was the last thing she desired.
A stone wall in stature and a tank in attitude stood outside the room door, blocking Mara’s quick getaway. That stone wall tank was none other than Colonel Ben Tucker. Standing sternly, with his hands cupped on his belt poking his elbows out at the side, and glaring at Mara suspiciously, he asked, “Where you going, Taylor?”
Mara noticed a bucket for ice in her peripheral vision, on the table near the door. Snatching the bucket, she put on a forgetful act, “I almost forgot this,” she held up the ice bucket. “It would be hard to get ice without it.”
“Mmmhmm… And I just stopped by to say hi,” he said condescendingly as he stepped into the room, forcing Mara back inside.
Tossing the bucket back on the table, Mara asked, “What are you doing here, Tucker?”
Working the room, staying on guard, Ben explained, “I figured Mr. Warm-and-Fuzzy would be eager to spark your old memories. This would definitely be the first stop down memory lane, except he forgot one major detail. I was stuck in this room too. I took the floor, and man, I gotta say I’ve slept better in guerilla infested jungles than on this floor.” He grunted disdainfully under his breath with his grizzly gaze upon the floor.
Ben positioned himself in front of the door again, looking at Mara with one hand behind his back, she knew he was ready to pull his gun if necessary, she too had a hand behind her back ready to pull her weapon.
Ben went on to say, “I’ve been your partner for five years. I know the old you and I know the new you. Old Mara Taylor, would do what your about to do. She’d take off and we’d never see her again. New Mara Taylor, Mrs. Xavier Wace, would stay and give Zave a chance. I decided to embark on the memory journey, just in case Old Mara Taylor got cold feet and wanted to flee.”
“I’m not cut out for this…” Mara reasoned.
“Without Xavier, I’d agree with you. But he changed you… he changed me even… Take it on good authority: think with your heart not your head.”
Mara knew she couldn’t get past Ben without a hassle. Another opportunity would present itself later for her to leave. “You’re not actually going to sleep in here on the floor again, are you?” Mara asked, defusing her defensive stance and resting both hands at her side.
Ben followed suit and reattached his hands to cuffing his belt around the buckle. He answered, “No. But don’t get any ideas in the middle of the night about leaving. Any move made outside of this room, I’ll know about it.”
Taking a seat at the edge of the bed, Mara asked why Ben cared about Xavier so much. Ben took a seat at the table. He took his wallet out of his side pocket. With the wallet open to sheaths of pictures, he handed it over to Mara to look at.
The pictures captured the portrait of a genuine, average, American family. There was a picture of a typical couple in love. The man was a scrawny, goofy but cute looking, bearded man embracing a stunning, vibrant woman with Tucker’s soothing, cool sage green eyes. Written on the back was: Paxton and Cory, 2005- 3rd anniversary. Another picture, with the same woman, she held new born twins and on the back of that picture was written: Mommy Cory with babies Sky Leia and Walker Luke, 2007.
In the picture after that, Mara held a fairly new baby girl and Xavier stood behind her looking down at the precious little girl. Mara held the child with her left arm and a huge diamond engagement ring sparked from the flash of picture captioning. Written on the back of that picture was: Baby Quorra Tronna with Auntie Mara and Uncle Zave- best engagement gift ever: their new goddaughter, 2010. The final picture had to be a recent one. Paxton, Cory, Mara, Xaiver, two little kids, a toddler, a woman, another man that looked incredible, a young teenager, and Tucker stood in a courtyard of some complex. On the back of that picture was written: the whole gang, 2012.
Mara flipped back to the face of the last picture. She stared at it knowing everyone and that place was familiar to her, but like a word on the tip of her tongue, she was at a loss as to who everyone was in relation to her and what that place was to her.
Ben talked about when that picture was taken and who those people were. “Mr. Incredible there-,” Mara stated his name in unison with Ben, “Houston Wace,” which surprised Ben.
“You remember your brother-in-law?”
“I worked with him on a few cases before he retired. Zave and Hew are brothers? They’re so different. I knew the director had two sons I just never knew Xavier was the other.” Mara was shocked too. Would she really marry to advance her career within the agency?
Ben grumbled a hum… not really sure what to say Mara. Therefore he played it safe, and went back to talking about the photo. “So Mr. Incredible, and his wife, Bea, threw a party for your first anniversary. Paxton’s buddy Logan from the Plum Tree took that picture. It was a good party. The only one who hated it was Egan, he was on babysitting duty.” He was in the middle of telling a story about the mischief the twins Leia and Luke got into, when Mara interrupted him.
“I get that Cory’s your daughter, but why do I get the feeling Paxton is more than a son-in-law to you?”
“He’s nothing more than an idiot son-in-law to me, but to Zave, his buddy Paxton is more a brother to him than Hew.”
Shocked slightly, Mara questioned, “You have a daughter? That bombshell Interpol agent isn’t her mother, is she? What was her name? Amiee Brasseur, right?”
“It’s a long story, wait, you didn’t find out about Amiee until four years ago?”
Huh… that’s the key to unlocking her memories… No pressure.
“Okay, so I remember something within the last five years… I remembered a few things while we were taking down Nee. Is Amiee Cory’s mother?” Mara couldn’t picture Ben with any other woman. Amiee and Ben were perfect together.
“Ah… no… Look, family is worth suffering the slings and arrows of civilian life. Xavier taught me that.” Ben tried to assure Mara.
Staring at those captured moments made Mara think about the woman those people expected her to be. She was a sister-in-law, a godmother, an aunt, a wife, and a friend. By no fault of her own, she failed each and every person because currently she was just a spy. Worried she’d drown in her thoughts, she slammed the wallet shut and handed it back to Ben.
“Tell me about civilian life then…” Mara sighed. A part of her wondered, if a man like Colonel Ben Tucker could manage normal life. Then perhaps she could do it.
Listening to Ben talk about his daughter Cory, and how his eyes filled with joy at the mention of her name, Mara knew he wasn’t the same NSA agent she remembered. She wasn’t sure what to think of him. Was it sweet he was a caring father and grandfather? Or was it just awkward and almost terrifying to comprehend? Ben Tucker had gone soft. It made Mara’s queasy stomach return.
Ben was in the middle of sharing how he found out Cory was his daughter, when Zave walked in with greasy, fattening food delight! Ben closed his lip and rose to his feet quickly. He greeted Zave like a fellow soldier without the saluting part. Serving up the food at the table, Zave asked Ben if he wanted to stay while Mara moved over to the table to get her food. Ben kindly rejected Zave’s offer, but that didn’t stop Zave from trying to convince him.
“Are you sure, Tuck? I can’t eat a heart-disease-waiting-to-happen by myself.”
With the door open, and ready to back out of it within the moment, he said quickly, “As much as I would love to die of a heart attack, I should call Cory and let her know we’re all alright. You two have fun. And try not to keep me up with all your baby-making noises.”
Immediately, after the door shut, Zave asked Mara, “How much did he tell you about our life?”
“Not much… what did he mean by baby-making noises?” Mara asked unfolding her foiled-up broiled burger. She salivated by the aroma alone. Her imagination went wild with high expectations of delicious satisfaction as the sweet memory of the combo taste of angus beef, smoked bacon, and cheesy cheddar awakened the taste buds on her tongue.
“It’s nothing… Obviously, something we’ll revisit in the future, if ever!”
“Anything referring to baby-making is not nothing? Were we trying to get pregnant?” Mara asked with a mouthful of burger.
Blushing ferociously, red throughout his face all the way up to his ears, he took a bite into his burger without saying anything. Mara swallowed her bite ready for more, but taking the time to tease was more appetizing than a bite of food.
“O my gosh… You want little carbon copies of us running around… Taking off their diapers and prancing around naked!” Playfully, Mara fist-bumped his shoulder, “Don’t you?” she egged.
Frustrated, Zave dropped his burger onto its wrapper and clearly stated sternly, “No I don’t… You do or did or do… You know what I mean. I agreed because I would do anything to make you happy.”
Now that was interesting. Zave turned Ben into a family. Zave was head over heels in love with Mara. Zave had an interconnected familial intimacy between his friends and actual family and he didn’t want to have kids and build a family of his own. Xavier Wace was not the open book Mara pegged him to be after all and Mara wanted to understand the reason why.
“How come you don’t want a baby?” Mara asked plainly.
“Because of Theus. A few years ago, he took over my consciousness and I almost didn’t regain control. You made me promise to leave Theus as inactive as possible. I’m just afraid I can’t keep that promise. I know you could survive without me, but it would be unfair to ask our child to do that.”
Theus, if Mara understood the gist of it, Theus was a semi-self-aware-artificial-intelligence that was integrated with cutting edge biotechnology based on Neuro-Science breakthrough discoveries. The goal was to create the Ultimate Spy with only enough humanity to make safe judgment calls. What the human host lacked in skill, Theus made up for it in more than one way. What Theus lacked in judgment, the human host took care of it. It was the intention that Theus and the human host were meant to merge in some way, becoming some new way to be proficiently human, but Theus was never supposed to override the human host’s soul.
But if weren’t for Theus, Xavier wouldn’t be married to Mara. Yes, Xavier and Mara both work for the CIA at Langley. But they worked in separate departments. While Xavier analyzed intelligence with a task force that cooperated with Interpol frequently, Mara handled clandestine affairs primarily in Europe. Ben Tucker and Mara had a history of running into each other, since Ben worked in a similar department for the NSA. And though the NSA was supposed to strictly handle affairs directly a threat to the USA, duty called divergent action at times. When Xavier active the Theus Sphere on accident, and merged with Theus Sphere in gauntlet form, he become a valuable asset to the CIA and NSA.
Xavier would see Mara around in the elevators or in the cafeteria, but he never had the courage to even say hello. All he could muster was a goofy smile. She always initiated a simple, “Hello, how are you doing?”, and he would stutter in his response of simply being O-K.
Approximately five years ago to the day, Francis Wace, the Director of the CIA called Xavier into his office. Xavier was not made for field work but he was a brilliant analyst. Francis had his son working on some Top-Secret intel that mostly everyone who knew about it was dead. Xavier had to decrypt a highly encrypted file on a flash-drive, Francis wanted to know how much longer it would be until he cracked the code.
Xavier was about to tell his father, Francis, he had just finished it that night, and if the Theus Sphere from the Prometheus II Project really existed, the entire spy game could change, in the wrong hands, the entire world could change and not necessarily for the better. But Francis made the mistake bringing up Houston, the golden child… the perfect spy that gave up the spy game six years prior to that day. Francis wasn’t sure what agent he could trust to recover the intelligence on the flash-drive. Xavier offered himself, but Francis chortled at the thought. Xavier was cleared for field work, in his report it’s noted he’s not likely to survive in one piece. Thinking back on his training, he probably only passed because he was the Director’s son. Driven by the urge to prove his father wrong, he chose to lie saying he needed more time with the decryption, and he left his father’s office determined to recover the Theus Sphere and bring it directly to his father.
“New or old me, I know myself pretty well… If I thought, we were ready for a kid… then we were.” Mara said.
Yawning, Zave asked, “Are you tired? I sure am… we got a long drive back to Virginia starting tomorrow.” He gets up gather his trash into the fast food bag.
That night Mara slept in the bed and Zave slept on the floor. Early in the morning, Mara relied on good ole Ben not changing his tactical ways. She discovered his booby traps and escaped from room 114 before Zave or Ben woke up. As much as small part of her wanted to stay and find out who she could become, for the time being she was who she was and that person was a spy… not a civilian wife…
True Dallas, the Republic of America, 17 years later
“At that time I was who I was and that woman was a spy… not a civilian wife…” I read out of mom’s old secret journal. If I get caught looking at this she will have my head.
She never tells me anything about dad. I ask and she says he was a great spy for the former USA. She talks about great the old America was. It wasn’t perfect but at least it was a genuine, united republic democracy.
In the RA, here in the west, we have an oligarchy that operates as a legit republic. Only the people with money and power have a say in the affairs of the country.
The Democratic Coalition of America, in the east, claims to be a true democracy, but they all blindly follow the nonsensical, so-called wisdom of Philosopher Jessey… They don’t have liberty. They have a dictatorship, but he isn’t savage… maybe he’s more like a despot?
Mom was pregnant with me when she left dad and Ben behind at the Motel 6. She didn’t find out until a few weeks later. While she was pregnant with me, her memories started coming back. By the time I was one, she remembered who she was, and she contemplated going back to my dad, but then the Second Civil War broke out.
My mother fled with me to Europe. Madrid, Spain to be exact. She planned on raising me there, but then Civil War II ended and she decided to come back to North America. One would think it was to tell my father about me and reunite with him and we would become one big giant family… but no…
We leave in the RA as Spanish Immigrants. She works in PR for a fashion company. I go to fanciest Private School in the area: Bush Washington Academy.
Not wanting to tempt fate. I put her little black journal where I found it, locked in the safe in her bedroom walk-in closet. I hurry across the upstairs hallway to my room. It’s almost 6 pm. She’s been away all week on a business trip and she said she would be home today at 6 pm. My mom is never late.
As my plain white desk I stare at the screen to my tablet. I’m supposed to be researching on why Civil War II occurred for my history paper, but I find myself wondering if I look like my dad. If he met me and got to know me, who he be proud of me?
Right at six, I hear the garage door open. I rush to my window and watch mom’s black SUV zoom down the street, turn sharply onto the driveway, and brake abruptly taking shelter. Speeding home from a business trip is unusual. What gives?
As I head down the long, steep carpet staircase. I hear mom come into the kitchen from the laundry room, which leads to the garage. Mom enters her black hair in a messy bun and she’s dressed in pink hospital scrubs like a nurse. Something tells me mom is still a spy…
I mean, I’ve been thinking it for some time. She has a safe in closet with several different passports and alias, various types currency, a couple of guns and a knife. Plus, sometimes in the middle of the night, she’s not in her bed. Occasionally, I hear her take phone calls in German, other times Russian, and Cantonese… Never in Spanish or in French and she works for a Fashion Company… And as I read today, she’s a spy through and trough not some suburban single mom… well, she is that too, but do spies ever quit the game? I think not!
“Mom, what’s going on?” I ask.
“Remember how I had you pack a bag in case of an emergency?” Mom inquires rushing up the stairs meeting me in the middle.
“Go grab it. We need to go.” She orders grabbing me by the shoulders and forcing me back up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” I ask again. I know she won’t tell me but I can’t help put try.
“We don’t have time for discussion. Go!” She snaps.
As I race to me room, trying not to freak out externally as mush as I’m losing it internally, mom barks, “And change your clothes. Keep it simple like jeans and a t-shirt. However you’d dress to travel for a long time.”
“I take it you don’t really work PR for Noir Creations.” I state pausing in my doorway.
“Just do as I say, now is not the time to talk!” Mom hounds slamming her door shut.
In my lame travel outfit, blue jeans, a black tee, white cardigan, and black boots and my emergency backpack slung on my shoulders. I knock on mom’s door.
“I’m ready. Now what?” I yell.
Not opening the door and yelling back she directs, “Go to the garage. Get in the front passenger seat and wait for me. We’ll be leaving shortly.” Right as I step away, mom poke her head out of the door, “And leave the duffle bag in the backseat alone. Don’t open it.”
Telling a curious person to not touch or look at something is idiotic! It’s almost like she doesn’t know her daughter?
Standing outside of the vehicle in the stuffy, humid garage I stare at the bag through the tinted window. It just looks like a regular duffle bag. There’s probably just wads of cash inside… Oh that would be SO COOL to SEE!
No, I should listen to mom. Maybe the bag is laced with a bio chemical that would splatter all over me opening and I would contract a deadly, contagious virus and put the entire RA at risk for a pandemic.
Slowly, I take off my heaving backpack and open the backseat door. I toss it inside on top of the duffle bag. Suddenly, mom’s mysterious bag moves like a cat is inside of it. Weird for the cat not to snarl and meow though. The bag isn’t big enough to fit a dead body inside, well, not of a normal size person… maybe a little person.
Would if she killed an arch enemy spy that is a dwarf or something?
I’m sorry mom but I have to look!
Holy Mother Mary, Joseph, and Jesus… It’s a baby… a blue, blindfolded baby swaddled in a blue blanket. Mom killed a baby… why?
Carefully, I untie the blindfold from the infant’s eyes. His perfect head of black hair silky soft. I jump when I notice his stomach moving and feel hot breath come out of his agape lips. Without notice, his eyes pop open but instead of screaming, his ice blue eyes lock me into a hypnotic gaze. As we stare at each other his color gently comes back to new born baby pink.
Mom comes barging through the door from the house with a few bags, but she drops them she spots me disregarding her orders.
“You opened the bag?!” She screams as she lunges around the front of SUV toward me.
She shoves herself in between me and the open door and looks at the baby, “You had to remove the blindfold…” She grabs my cardigan by the back of my neckline and pulls me back as she slams to door shut. Instantly, the baby begins wailing.
“Why were you suffocating a baby in a duffle bag? What kind of spy kills babies?”
“A spy serving her country preventing pure evil from existing in the world!” Mom screams massively pissed off. “You have no idea what you just did?!”
“Ah, I saved a baby’s life!” I shout back.
“We don’t have time for this we need to go. Get in.” Mom says reopening the backseat.
“I can’t ride upfront anymore?”
“Just get in a quiet the baby.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“He’ll be quiet when he sees you, get in.”
She’s right. The moment I sit in the baby’s sight… no more crying. My mom is right, I have no idea what I just did and I feel like when I find out I’m going to freak out externally.
Note from the Author
Have you ever watched that show CHUCK on NBC, starring Zachary Levi and Yvonne Strahovski? Well, if you haven’t, stream it on Amazon Prime Video! (If it is still available there.) CHUCK is one of my favorite shows ever and if not for this show I wouldn’t have been inspired to write ELLE. Zave is my version of Chuck and Mara my version of Sarah, along with a few other characters.
Now, I could never re-create the magic of such a show, but when something ends I always like to think about what happened afterwards. ELLE is my sequel to CHUCK changing a lot of factors, combining my own concepts from my love of made up espionage.
So this Story Sunday is a little influenced by some Fan Fiction, but I also throw my own trademark flare… like there’s a baby in it already! This seriously will be a blast and I look forward to this ride with you!
For my fellow CHUCK fans, what were your favorite moments from the show? Comment with a GIF or words on this post!