May 4, 2018
After work, I quickly managed to get to the subway, and half an hour later, I arrived at my car. Lucy stood there waiting for me as we previously agreed, and she held a duffel bag containing some more of her clothing. To my surprise and dismay, it looked like she had been crying.
"That bastard tried to steal Jason from school," Lucy explained. "At least the lazy ass tried to send some of his minions to do the job. If he had gone himself, the outcome could have been completely different. Jason and Nora were walking through the parking lot when they were ambushed. If she had not been walking through, I don't know what would have happened."
"Where are they?" I asked as we quickly loaded Lucy's bag into the trunk. "When did this happen?"
"You were still on the train when this happened. Apparently there was some an orchestra rehearsal after school and there were no school buses set up to take them home. I ought to give those school administrators a piece of my mind…"
"Where are they?" I interrupted. I started to dial Nick from my cell phone to let him know what had happened.
"They're at Coach Sullivan's place. She called me, and assured me that both kids were unharmed," Lucy replied, but before she could say anything more, Nick answered the phone.
"Maia, what's going on?" he asked.
"Something happened to Nora and Jason when they left rehearsal today. Coach Sullivan took her to her place, and Lucy and I are on the way to pick them up now."
"What happened?" he probed.
"I'm not entirely sure, and I can't discuss this over the phone," I explained. "Can you start dinner? We have company, and I am running a bit late."
"Actually, it's just us tonight," Nick said. "Nora's uncle called and said that there was an emergency. He sounded really stressed out, and he got off the phone before I could ask for any details." At the time, I didn't think anything of it. I was too worried about my daughter, and besides, her uncle was a doctor, so there must have been some massive emergency which required the assistance of whoever was around.
As we headed towards Crystal Lane, I tried to wrap my mind around what had happened. Greenwood Middle School was way too well run for something like this to occur. I had a bad feeling that someone else had cancelled the buses behind the administrators' backs, and I had a feeling that I knew who was responsible. If only Lucy could tell me who Jason's father was. I had a feeling that the answer was on the tip of my tongue like some far away melody that I couldn't place.
Crystal Lane was in the next town, about a fifteen-minute drive from where I lived. The Sullivans lived in a pale blue Victorian house towards the end of the street. Their front yard wasn't too big, but as I parked my car in their driveway, I caught a glimpse of a large backyard that included a swing set and a small jungle gym.
Lucy and I quickly got out of the car, and rushed to the front door, but before we could even knock, the door opened to reveal Coach Sullivan standing on the other side. Despite the fact that it was a warm spring day, she was shivering and wearing a sweatshirt. She wore her long hair down, and was dressed casually in jeans and sneakers. She still smelled of chlorine, and her hair was still damp since she clearly didn't have a chance to shower due to recent events. In her arms was a baby boy who looked about a year old at most.
The three of us stood in the doorway, not knowing where to begin. It had been ten years since we had last seen each other, and even longer than that since all three of us had a civil conversation, yet she just saved our children's lives. Unless this was all some big set up, she probably wasn't in league with whoever was setting this all in motion. In fact, she had been the one to resist joining the organization the most in the first place.
"That's a cute little boy you have there," I broke the ice. "How old is he?" Coach Sullivan motioned us inside and closed the door behind us.
"Peyton will be a year old on the day of our reunion, actually," she replied with a warm smile on her face. "They grow up so fast. Is Nora still an only child?" She led us into the living room where Nora and Jason were glumly watching TV. There were three other kids in the room, a three year old boy, and a couple of girls that looked to be about seven and five years old. They all looked occupied with building some sort of lego city, and while they glanced occasionally at Jason and Nora, they were too shy to approach them, and the older kids were far too preoccupied to ease the awkwardness. Of course, after what they had been through, I couldn't blame them.
"No, I got married a while back and had two more kids," I replied. At the sound of our voices, Nora stood up and tackled me, burying her head in my chest. It was moments like these that I was reminded that despite her gifts, she was still far from being an adult.
"I was so scared," she whispered softly. "There were too many of them, and none of them had any powers that I could turn against them. Coach Sullivan saved our lives."
Meanwhile, Jason didn't move from his perch in front of the television. Lucy tentatively sat down next to him, and put her arm around him. He didn't cry, but instead leaned his head against his mother's shoulder and closed his eyes while Lucy rubbed his back soothingly.
"If you don't mind my asking," Coach Sullivan whispered, "why did you change your last name to Spencer? Was it because of what happened with your father?"
"It's complicated," Lucy whispered back as she shook her head. "But that's part of it. I'll tell you more tomorrow, when the kids aren't here. Speaking of kids, Mrs. Sullivan, it looks like you have been busy over the last decade." Even though Lucy's remark was a bit snotty, we could tell that she was kidding by the semi-warm smile on her face.
For the next few minutes, none of us spoke as we watched our children play. They all looked so normal that it made my heart break. Is this what could have been if we didn't have all of this drama get in our way, if all of us were normal people? Nora gave me a side glance that indicated that she caught onto what I was thinking, but didn't say anything to me in front of everyone.
"Mom, don't we have to get going?" she asked. "We have dinner plans, remember? Not to mention that we never cooked dinner!"
"The dinner plans are cancelled," Lucy explained for me, "and I think that we need to get on this right away. First, Mr. Sullivan, or whatever his name is, needs to know the truth, just in case." She didn't want to frighten the little kids, but I knew what she was implying.
"He is running very late," she noted, but just as she said this, we heard the door slam, and her husband walked in. He seemed surprised to see all of us, but recovered quickly and gave hugs and kisses to his family.
"Sorry I'm late," he apologized to his wife. He then turned to us. "Hi, I'm Jake Sullivan," he introduced himself as he extended his hand.
"I'm Maia Alexander, and this is Lucy Spencer," I said. I almost introduced the other woman with a different name, but caught myself just in time. "We both went to Merryweather with your wife, and we recently discovered that she is the swim coach for our respective kids. Small world, is it not?" I shook his hand.
"It's a pleasure to meet you both," he replied as he shook my hand. Since Jason had fallen asleep on Lucy, the two of them simply nodded in each other's direction.
"Is everything alright?" Coach Sullivan asked. "I was beginning to worry…" She had left the room for a split second, and came back with a can of diet coke for her husband. "Would anyone else like something to drink?"
"My replacement never made it into work," he explained as he took a sip of his soda. "I don't know much about it, but he apparently was attacked by a group of teenage thugs. He was badly beaten and stabbed once, but thankfully none of the wounds were deep enough to be fatal. His fiancé is a doctor at MGH and was notified immediately."
"We need to leave now," Nora insisted. "I'm really sorry, but I'm not feeling well. Please take us home mom." Her wide eyed expression was all too familiar to me. She must have caught something in Jake's mind that I had missed, but what?
"Thanks for everything, but I think that we should go," I agreed. "My kids must be starving by now. We'll be back at our original time, but we figured that since we were in the neighborhood anyways, we'd stop by. Thanks for being so accommodating. It was nice meeting your family, and have a good night!"
"Yes, I second that," Lucy said, waking Jason up so that she could get him to my car. "Hopefully everyone will know what's going to happen at the reunion soon." She gave Coach Sullivan a significant glance, and the other woman nodded to indicate that she understood what she had to do. Her husband should no longer be left in the dark.
We drove off, and as we did, Nora said something in Japanese, and I realized what she caught. The random attack by thugs was not nearly as incidental as I originally believed. The same organization was behind it all, and their new leader clearly knew who had been involved ten years ago. As I glanced at Jason, I started to get suspicious, but I needed more proof before these suspicions were confirmed…