Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 26)

When the car finally stopped, I watched my friends climb from the backseat of the limo, saw Townsend take Abby’s hand, hold it tightly in his own and say, “If you’d like, I can come inside and help.…”

“No.” Abby shook her head. “I’ll tell her.”

Mom, I thought, the cold realization sweeping over me. Someone was going to have to tell Mom. And right then I was certain that Summer Me must have been willing to trade her memory for not having to face that moment.

I knew because it was a trade I would have willingly made again.

“Ms. Morgan.” Agent Townsend’s hand was on my shoulder, squeezing twice. He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t have to. Then he climbed back into the limo, and I stayed frozen, watching him drive away.

“Cam, come on,” Macey said, but I just stood there looking up at the moon. It was the first time in years I didn’t wonder if my father was out there, looking at it too.

“Cammie!” someone yelled, and something in Bex’s face made me turn to look at Liz, who stood in the doorway, light streaming around her yellow hair. She looked almost like an angel, and I expected her to say, “I heard about your dad.”

I thought she might scream, “I’m so sorry.”

Liz is the kindest of us all. I fully expected her to throw her arms around me and let me cry and cry until I couldn’t cry anymore.

What I wasn’t prepared for was to see her smile.

And yell, “It’s Mr. Solomon! Mr. Solomon is awake!”

* * *

Liz’s hand was in mine. She was running up the stairs, pulling me along. And while I know that, physically, Liz really isn’t a match for any of us, right then I couldn’t stop her. As soon as we reached Joe Solomon’s secret room, though, I froze, unable to go inside.

“Mr. Solomon!” Bex yelled, pushing past me, Macey on her heels. Then Aunt Abby was beside me, her hand on my shoulder, but neither of us moved. We just stood there staring at the woman by the bed.

She didn’t look like a spy or a headmistress or even a mother in that moment. She was just a woman. And she was beaming.

“Hi, girls,” Mom said. She held his hands and smiled at me. “Look who’s up.”

I don’t think I realized it at the time, but a part of me had been wondering if I’d ever see my mother happy again. A part of me was wondering if I’d ever be happy again. But the look on my mother’s face was one of pure, undeniable joy. I turned to my aunt, saw that realization in her eyes too, and then, more than ever, I wanted to run away and take my bad news with me.

“Welcome back, ladies,” Mr. Solomon said, but his voice sounded different, as if the smoke from the tombs was still in his lungs.

He was propped a little higher than he had been when he was sleeping. A little color filled his cheeks, but his lips were chapped and dry. Mom held a cup to his mouth, and he sipped, then smiled at her, but the effort must have been too much for him, because he started coughing.

I’d slept for six days. Joe Solomon had been out for six months. I didn’t want to know what that felt like.

“Joe!” Zach cried, pushing past me and Bex and Macey, rushing to his mentor’s side. “Joe…” He let the word trail off.

“Well, Rachel, the standards in this place must be dropping. I go to sleep and they start letting just anyone in here,” Mr. Solomon said, then coughed again. And I realized just how much tension there must have been in the room for a man like him to try to break it.

“Cam, Abby, Joe’s awake,” Mom said, because I guess our expressions weren’t at all what she was expecting. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Yes. Of course,” Abby said. Faint traces of dirt and blood still clung to her fingers. Her voice cracked when she said, “We missed you so much.”

Only Liz seemed to share my mother’s smile as she studied the machines. “The brain scans and EEGs are really good.” She spoke to us all, but she looked at Mr. Solomon. “You look really good.”

“Thank you, Ms. Sutton.”

“You do,” Mom said, leaning closer to my teacher. “You look perfect.”

Zach was smiling like I’d never seen him smile before, looking down at the closest thing to family he had left. But not me. I was thinking that I would never get to smile at my father again.

“So,” Mr. Solomon said, “what did I miss?”

A lot of people think that being a Gallagher Girl means not being afraid of anything. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not about ignoring fear. It’s about facing it, knowing the risks and the costs and sacrificing safety and security anyway. I’d seen my aunt Abby jump in front of a bullet once, and yet in that moment she was terrified. I didn’t want to know what I looked like.

“What is it?” my mother said, but I was already turning from the room that held so many people who didn’t know that this wasn’t the time to be happy.

“Rachel.” I heard my aunt’s voice fading away. “We need to talk.”

Of all the nooks and crannies, the narrow passageways and grand halls that comprise the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, my very favorite space might possibly be the Protection and Enforcement barn at night. The moon shines through the skylights, and in the dark it’s all stillness and shadows. Plus, it’s the only place on campus where it’s almost always okay to hit things.

“You’re making a bad habit out of this.”

I don’t know what was more surprising—that Zach had found me so quickly or that he’d actually left Joe’s side. If the man I loved like a father were upstairs, I don’t think I’d walk away from him ever again.

“You should be with him,” I said, standing at the center of the mats, looking up at the moon.

Zach stepped closer. “I’m right where I need to be.”

“Did Abby…”

“She’s telling them now.”

“Is Joe your father, Zach?”

I don’t know where the question came from, but it was out, and I couldn’t take it back even if I’d wanted to.

“No.” Zach shook his head. “I never knew my dad. I don’t know anything about him.”

Suddenly I felt guilty for my foolishness. For my crying and my tantrums. After all, nothing could have made me trade mourning my father for not knowing him.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“I’m not. I have Joe.”

“I’m glad he’s awake,” I said. My throat burned. “I’m glad he’s…back.”

“Gallagher Girl,” Zach said, reaching for me, but I stepped away.

“My dad’s not coming back,” I said.

“I know.”

“He’s not missing, Zach. He’s dead.”

“I know.”

“They killed him!”

“You’re alive, Cammie.”

“Mr. Solomon is alive,” I said, and Zach took my arms and squeezed them tight.

“You’re alive.”

“My dad…”

“You’re alive.”

I don’t know how long I cried. I don’t know when I slept. All I know is that Zach’s arms were still around me when I woke on the mats, lying in the center of the floor.

“Go back to sleep,” he said, smoothing my hair.

I’d been sleeping. I realized that I’d been sleeping and I hadn’t dreamed.

“Zach,” I said as I lay there. “Where did you go? When you were looking for me?”

I shifted in his arms, looked into his eyes.

“Crazy.” His voice was a whisper against my skin. “I went crazy.”

Chapter Thirty-two

THINGS THAT SIMPLY MUST BE DONE WHEN YOU MISS THREE DAYS OF SCHOOL, SURVIVE A TERRORIST ATTACK, VISIT THE PLACE YOU WERE TORTURED, AND SOLVE THE MYSTERY THAT HAD PRETTY MUCH DOMINATED YOUR ENTIRE LIFE

(A list by Cameron Morgan)

Laundry. Sure, it’s not the most exciting part of post-op life, but it’s a part of it nonetheless.

Homework. It is either a great advantage OR disadvantage to have Elizabeth Sutton in charge of collecting class notes and assignments while you’re gone. Really, it’s a toss-up.

Paperwork. Because even unauthorized missions have A LOT of people who have to be kept in the loop. Eventually.

Answer the well-meaning but slightly nosy questions of well-meaning but slightly nosy classmates (delegated to Rebecca Baxter).

Figure out how to make it look like you haven’t spent the past few days crying (or trying not to cry) (delegated to Macey McHenry).

Do your best to get on with your life.

For reasons that had nothing to do with my mother’s cooking ability (or lack thereof), I totally wasn’t looking forward to Sunday night.

Sure, we have a lot of traditions at the Gallagher Academy, and Sunday night dinners alone with my mom in her office were usually one of my favorites. I didn’t wear my uniform. She didn’t talk about the school. We weren’t headmistress and student on those nights. We were mother and daughter. And that was why I stood in the Hall of History for a long time, almost afraid to knock.

The door was open just a crack, and I could see my mom inside, sitting on the leather sofa, her legs curled up beneath her as she fingered the gold ring on her left hand. She turned it over and over, then pulled it from her finger, held it up to the light as if looking for some kind of crack or flaw.

My father had been dead for years, but my mother had only been a widow for a week, and suddenly I felt guilty for standing there, spying. I wanted to slip away, but when I moved, the floor squeaked and my mom yelled, “Cammie?”

“Yeah,” I said, easing the door open. “Sorry to bother you. I just…”

I stepped inside.

“It’s Sunday,” Mom said. Her expression changed as she realized what day it was—what that day meant. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I forgot all about—”

“That’s okay. I’ve got a lot of homework to make up anyway. I’ll just go.”

“No. Sit. Stay. I can call the kitchen and order some…” She trailed off.

“I’m not hungry,” I said.

“Okay. Then we’ll just talk.” She sat up straighter and patted the seat beside her. “So, kiddo, how are you?”

“Fine,” I said, and I tried to mean it. I really, really did. “How is Mr. Solomon?”

“Better,” Mom said. “The news…it set him back a little.”

I nodded because, let’s face it, I totally knew the feeling.

“What do you…I mean, what do we tell Grandma and Grandpa?”

Mom’s hand stroked my hair. Her voice was soft and low. “There’s nothing we can tell them, sweetheart. As far as your grandparents know, their son is already buried in the family plot in Nebraska. To tell them any different now…”

“Of course. Yeah,” I said, shaking my head. “They shouldn’t have to go through this. They should get to stay…at peace.”

“I agree.” Mom nodded. She smiled. Peace seemed like the operative word. When I looked at her, I knew I wasn’t the only one who had been searching, running. Everything was different now that my father was officially “in from the cold.”