How long is forever?
Forever adv. 1. Without ever ending, eternally: to last forever. 2. Continually, incessantly, always.
There are many words and definitions I have never lost.
But some I am only just now beginning to truly understand.
Lily swings her door shut and heads off to her greenhouse, to simmer, I presume. Father is standing on the walkway talking to someone. He lifts his hand and waves but returns to his conversation. I am startled to see a visitor, since we have never before had one. The visitor’s back is to me, but his girth is oddly familiar. Mother gathers two bags of groceries we stopped for on the way home. We didn’t get a red skirt. It’s not important. It never really was.
‘Come in the back way with me, Jenna,’ Mother says. Her voice is near an edge I have already calculated. How far can I push? I turn, leaving her at the garage entrance, and walk around to the front where Father talks to the visitor. They are close, keeping their words tight, like the air itself might snatch them up. Father glances at me, willing me to hurry in the door. But I linger, of course.
Not safe …
I concentrate, trying to decipher the whispered words. I detect a rush within me, an ache, and then a stillness, like the words are being whispered right into my ear. Like every available neurochip has been called to task. And they have. I have billions of available neurochips.
They’re too vulnerable where they are.
I have several possibilities. By tomorrow I’ll move them.
It can’t be—
Traced. I know. I have it covered.
Have I let you down yet?
She’s my life, Ted.
The visitor shakes Father’s hand, then turns, knowing all along that I have been watching them both. He nods in my direction, and I feel everything drop within me. He is the tourist from the mission. The one who took Ethan’s and my picture.
He leaves, shuffling down the walk and sliding his wide girth into a small car that wheezes under his weight.
‘Who is he?’ I ask Father as he approaches me.
‘It’s not important,’ Father answers. ‘Let’s go inside.’
‘I’ve seen him before.’
Father frowns, knowing I won’t let it go. ‘My security specialist. He takes care of … things.’
‘He took my picture at the lavanderia.’
‘Not you. He was investigating Ethan and the community project at the mission. Making sure the risk factor was minimal.’
‘Is that what my life is now?’