Out of Sight, Out of Time (Page 4)

As soon as Buckingham spoke, my mother gave her a look. It was nothing more than a glance, really, but something in the gesture made me say, “What? Do you know something?”

“It’s nothing, kiddo.” Mom reached for my hand, covered it with her own, and squeezed my fingers. They were still raw and red, but they didn’t really hurt. “We just need you to start at the beginning. We need you to tell us if you know where you went when you left.”

I closed my eyes and tried to think, but the halls of my memory were black and empty.

“I don’t…I’m sorry. I don’t know.”

“What about later?” Buckingham asked. “Any flashes or scenes…feelings? It could be anything. Any little thing might be important.”

“No.” I shook my head. “Nothing. I left the report and then I woke up in the convent.”

“Cameron, dear.” Madame Dabney sounded very disappointed. “You were gone for four months. You don’t remember anything?”

It should have been an easy question for a Gallagher Girl. I’d been trained to remember and recall. I knew what we’d had for lunch on the last day of finals, and I could tell from the way she was sitting that Professor Buckingham’s bad hip was giving her trouble—that it was probably going to rain. I knew Madame Dabney had changed perfumes, and Mr. Smith had used his favorite plastic surgeon—the one in Switzerland—to rework his face last summer. But my own summer was a total blank.

My head hurt, and in the back of my mind a song began to play, lulling me. I wanted to sway with the music.

“I’m sorry,” I told them. “I know it sounds crazy. I sound crazy. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me.”

“You are many things, Cameron. But crazy is not one of them.” Buckingham straightened. “We believe you.”

I expected them to push harder, demand more. But then Buckingham took off her glasses and picked up the papers on the table in front of her. “The medical staff is expecting you in the infirmary, Cameron.” I’d thought I’d been good at hiding my fatigue, but the smile she gave me said otherwise. “And then I do hope you’ll get some rest. I think you’ve earned it.”

Walking back through the gleaming corridors of Sublevel One, I felt my mother’s hand on my back, and something about that small gesture made me stop.

“I’ll remember, Mom,” I blurted, turning to her. “I’ll get better and I’ll fight this and I’ll remember. And then—”

“No,” Mom snapped, then lowered her voice. “No, Cammie. I do not want you picking at your memories like they’re some kind of scab. Scabs exist for a reason.”

“But—” I started, just as Mom reached for my shoulders, held me tight.

“Listen to me, Cammie. There are things in this life…in this world…There are things that you don’t want to remember.”

The other teachers were on the far side of a soundproof door, halfway down the hall, and I couldn’t help wondering if Mom would have said those things in front of them. Somehow I knew this wasn’t the advice of a senior operative; this was the warning of a mother.

“But I need to know.”

“No.” She shook her head and cupped my face. “You don’t.”

When she touched me this time, I suddenly realized that I wasn’t the only one who was thinner. I wasn’t the only one whose hair had lost its natural shine. I’d seen her look that way only once before—when we’d lost my father. And right then it dawned on me—I had lost my memories, but…last summer…my mother had lost me.

“Mom, I’m sorry.” I could feel myself wanting to cry, but the tears didn’t come. “I’m so, so sorry I made you worry. I was going to come back. I was going to come back so much sooner.”

“I don’t care about that.”

“You don’t?” I asked, certain that I had misheard her.

“I care that you are home. I care that you are safe. I care that this is over. Sweetheart”—she smoothed my hair away from the terrible lump that was still tender—“just let it be over.”

“Rachel.” Mr. Smith was standing in the doorway, waving my mother back into the room. But Mom ignored him and kept staring at me.

“Promise me, Cammie, that you will let this be over.”

“I…I promise.”

She pulled back and wiped her eyes. “Can you find your way upstairs?”

“Yes, I remember.” I didn’t think about the words. “I mean…” I started, but then trailed off, because my mother had already turned. My mother was already gone.

From the moment I’d awoken at the convent, one of the nuns had always been by my side. Since my mother had landed in Austria, I’d barely left her sight. So it felt more than a little strange walking alone through the empty corridor that led to the Gallagher Academy hospital wing.

I was finally alone.

But that was before I turned the corner and saw a boy standing in the center of the hall.

His hands hung loosely by his sides, and his hair was neatly combed. His white shirt and khaki pants were clean and freshly pressed. At a glance I might have confused him with just an ordinary private school boy. But, 1) There are no boys at my school. And 2) Zachary Goode has never been ordinary a day in his life.

I stood motionless. Waiting. Trying to reconcile the fact that Zach was there, standing in the middle of my school, looking at me like maybe I was the one who was totally out of place. He reached out one hand, his finger sliding down my arm as if to check to make sure I was real, and the touch made me close my eyes, waiting for his lips to find mine, but they never did.

“Zach,” I said, easing closer. “What are you doing here? Are you…? Is it…?” The questions didn’t matter, so the words didn’t come. “You’re here!”

“Funny, I was about to say the same about you.”

Just to reiterate: I was alone. With Zach. In my school.

Crazy was taking on a whole new meaning.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“I sort of…go…here now.”

“You do?” I asked, then nodded, the facts settling down around me. Zach’s mother was a prominent member of the Circle. The fact that he had chosen to work against her meant that the same people who were after me were after him. The Gallagher Academy was one of the safest places on earth—probably the safest school. It made sense that he would come back and enroll full-time after the summer.

“Cammie,” a woman behind me said. “I’m Dr. Wolf. We’re ready for you.”

I knew I was supposed to turn—to go take their tests, answer their questions, and start trying to unravel the mystery of my mind—but I just stood, feeling Zach’s fingers play with the ends of my hair.

“How…are you?” I managed to mutter.

“It’s different,” he said, looking at my new short locks as if he hadn’t heard my question at all. “It’s different now.”

Chapter Five

Over the course of the next four hours, there were nine tests and three doctors. I spent thirty minutes strapped inside a metal tube, listening to a mechanic whirring so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think. They X-rayed every part of my body, scanned every part of my mind. I leaned against a metal brace, squinted into a light, and recited all the prime numbers between one and a thousand in Japanese.

I kept waiting for words like concussion or trauma, but there was nothing but hasty scribbling on notepads. The doctors’ expressions didn’t betray a single thing. They were all Gallagher grads, after all. Their poker faces stayed as blank as my memory.

“Well, Cammie,” Dr. Wolf said, after I’d changed into clean clothes, “how are you feeling?”

“Fine,” I said, relieved that at least my lying ability had made it through the summer intact.

“Dizziness?” she asked, and gave me knowing look.

“Some,” I admitted.

“Nausea?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Headaches?” she guessed, and I nodded. “These things are normal, Cammie. That’s quite a bump you’ve got there.” She pointed to the knot on my head.

“What is it, Cammie?” the doctor asked when I didn’t say anything, reading me as clearly as if I were still hooked up to one of her machines.

“You’ve seen my file?”

“Of course,” she said with a nod.

“Well, it’s just that I’ve been hit on the head a lot in the past,” I told her. “I mean a lot a lot.”

The woman nodded and raised an eyebrow. “I know. That’s quite a bad habit you’ve got there.”

I wanted to laugh at the joke, to smile, to do as my mother asked and just let it be over, but all I could do was search the doctor’s eyes and say the thing that, until then, I hadn’t admitted to a single soul. “This feels different.”

“Does it?” the doctor asked.

Sitting there in only a tank top and shorts, I felt nak*d as I said, “Yes.”

“I see.”

The doctor placed a hand on my shoulder and answered the question I hadn’t quite had the strength to ask. “If your memory comes back, Cammie, it will be on its own time. It will be when you are ready. Now, why don’t you go get settled in? I’ll tell the kitchen to send a tray to your room. You should try to get some sleep.” Dr. Wolf smiled. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”

I hadn’t forgotten my mother’s words—my mother’s warning—but in spite of them, I had to ask, “Is there anything I can do…to make myself remember?”

“You can rest, Cammie.” Dr. Wolf smiled. “And you can wait.”

Waiting. Like it or not, it’s a skill all spies have to master eventually.

Walking through the halls, I closed my eyes and tried to test my memory. I knew there was a squeaky floorboard on my right and a nick in the base of the bookshelf on my left. I could have made it all the way to my room like that, eyes closed, memory guiding my way. Everything felt and sounded and smelled so familiar that the convent seemed a million miles away—like it had happened to some other girl.

But then I heard the music.

It was coming from the west, I was certain, filling the corridor. Soft and low but too clear to be a figment of my mind.

It was real, the notes clear and strong and drifting through the hall.

It was almost like a waltz, but I didn’t want to dance.

It sounded like an old-fashioned organ. But there were no organs in the mansion. Or at least I didn’t think there were. All I knew for certain was that, right then, the pain in my ankle subsided; my head stopped swirling, and I followed the sound until it was suddenly replaced by the opening of a door and heavy footsteps. Voices.

“I can’t go to the room. She’ll be there.”

It was Bex, but the tone was one I’d never heard before. I hated it. And, most of all, I hated how sure I was that “she” was me.