The sound of my alarm depresses me. My tired, stiff arm tries to slap it back asleep though that only knocks it off the stand. I moan.
"Sage," Dad yells from down the hall. "Turn that off!"
His voice drags me out of bed. I hold my finger against the power button longer than necessary. The sun bleeds through my window, always cheery. Even that can't open my eyes. I rub my face, positive I went to sleep by 10. It feels like I only got two hours.
"Breakfast is ready," Dad yells from downstairs.
It's strange. He seems to only make it on the days that I feel this way. It must be some sort of father daughter telepathy thing, which is also strange considering I'm adopted. His pale, blonde self doesn't resemble an inch of me yet it's as if we share the same mind.
I quickly dress in jeans and a sweatshirt before practically falling down the stairs. My hands fumble to squeeze my curly hair into a bun. He smiles from the kitchen. "You should consider some makeup."
I roll my eyes. "Gee, thanks."
He laughs and sets a plate of pancakes and bacon on the table. "Hurry. That teacher of yours better not call me about another tardy this month."
I shovel the food into my mouth. "I can't be late. Mason's picking me up."
He can't help but smile. "That's good." He watches me from the other end of the kitchen.
I raise my eyebrows as I chug the coffee in front of me. "What?"
A car honks outside. I stand and shovel as much as I can into my mouth. Dad hands me my backpack. "Don't keep him waiting."
I grab my stuff and throw it over my shoulder. My hand secures around my phone on the kitchen counter. "Bye," I yell back to him, mouth too full to even chew.
"Have a good day," he yells back.
I slam the door behind me and run to the car. Mason watches patiently as I get in. I swallow what's left in my mouth and nearly choke. He smiles. "Rough morning?"
I sit back in the seat. "I'm just glad it's Friday."
"Amen to that." He pulls off the street. His dark eyes watch the road strictly. He only looks away to nod at my seatbelt.
I laugh. "Does this bother you." I dangle the useless safety precaution off the side of the car. The metal clicks against it. With his driving, I'm positive I won't need it.
He bites his lip. "No." His eyes concentrate on the road again.
"You need to live a little."
"I think the way I live is just fine, thank you." He runs a stiff hand through his thick, brown hair. It tightly grips the wheel again the second it can.
I snuffle another laugh. "When's the last time you were late for anything."
"Never," he responds confidently. I can't help but notice he's proud.
"I did last weekend," he defends.
"Zach's parties don't count."
"I think they're raging."
"Was there alcohol?" He doesn't answer. "It doesn't count."
"Hey," he defends. "I can be fun."
"Not if there's homework to do."
"I'm just thinking about the future."
"Future, smuture. Just live in the moment for once."
"Fine." He gestures to me despite the hand it takes off the wheel. Man, he's so polite. "Tell me about the moment."
"Ugh." I hit my head against the dashboard. "This is too much for me this morning."
He laughs. The sound is enough to drag me out of my current half-assing mood. "I could get so much more done if you weren't dragging me down."
"You need me." The words perk his mood. I want to take them back, knowledgeable about how the boy feels. I wish he was alright with just being friends. I love being his friend. He's a great friend, and a really close one at that. If only he saw me that way. I try catch the conversation before it crashes and burns. "I add something that girls might actually be attracted to."
He doesn't respond. Damn, I hate when I take it too far. I take a heavy breath and wait for him to talk about science or something but nothing comes out. My hand reaches for the radio despite the effort and I turn on some country. Mason grabs my hand before it can touch the volume. "That's loud enough."
I raise my eyebrows and he sighs. He lets go and I crank it up just enough to make him uncomfortable. I'm lucky he's into me. Truth is, I need him to keep me on track, which he has done very well for the past 11 years. What he gets out of this friendship is a mystery, but whatever the reason, I'm grateful.
Our school comes into view and my exhaustion weighs down on me. I normally don't despise the place, but now it's the last thing I want to face at the moment. The car door comes out from under me and I fall out with no seatbelt to prevent it. Mason laughs above me.
I scramble to my feet, eye wide. "Did I fall asleep?"
He hands me my backpack. "Yup."
I squeeze my eyes closed and wait for him to move me, which he does. His gentle fingers wrap around my arm and I let them pull me. "Don't make me late," he warns.
"Wouldn't dream of it."
The final bell rings after what feels like eternity. I jump out of my desk and follow the equally eager crowd into the hallway. I scout out a painfully closed off Mason in the hallway. He opens up at the sight of me. "Ready to go?"
I turn toward the doors to answer.
The car seat is just as comfortable as it was this morning. "Do you have any plans tonight?"
"Do you really want to hang out with no-fun Mason?"
"I'm not that rebellious." I hang my arm out the open window. "I'm just not you."
"Thank God," he breaths out, ecstatic with the news. I hit him playfully in the arm. He laughs. "No, I don't have any plans."
I smile and turn up the radio. He turns it back down.
Mason parks in his usual spot on our driveway. It looks bare when his car doesn't occupy it. We both crash through the front door and discard our stuff. "Dad," I yell to the whole house. "I'm home!"
"Hi, sweetie," he yells down.
"Hi, Mr. Powers," Mason answers back.
"I wasn't talking to you, Mason," he jokes, closer now as he comes down to greet us.
My friend starts to take off his shoes. "I wouldn't be so sure."
Dad only rolls his eyes. I hug him once he's in range and we exchange hellos before he becomes occupied with something else. He heads back upstairs. Mason beelines for the kitchen. I follow.
"Do you still own Mario Cart?" he asks, head deep in the fridge.
I laugh. "We haven't played that in years."
He shrugs. "Bet I could still kick your butt." He pulls out pasta leftovers from last night. Dad always makes too much for just the two of us. "Want some?"
"Sure." I take out a fork and wait for the microwave to do its job. Seconds seem to always last longer on that machine. "And you weren't good at Mario Cart when we were 10."
Silence is agonizing as the food heats up. Mason clicks his fork against the counter until the noise threatens to drive me insane. I grab his hand to stop it. The contact is awkward and I quickly pull away. He blushes. Damn it. "Stop that," I say, hopeful he thinks I'm talking about the fork.
The microwave beeps and I'm glad for the reprieve. Mason drags out the food and both of us attack. The food moves with us to the couch and he sets up the Wii that I forgot we had until now. I watch the struggle, far too entertained by it to be healthy. My friend harasses my laziness but none of his prying can drag me toward the task.
Mario Cart is eventually running and I beat Mason by one place, simply because I achieved second to last.
"Kick my butt, huh." He angrily picks the next course, his competitiveness hard to take seriously. "More like kiss my butt," I mutter.
He beats me by four places in the next round.
"I let you win," I lie, upset by the defeat.
He laughs. "Yeah right."
We play for the next hour until Mason is able to get first every time. I turn it off. "Enough of that."
He laughs. "Don't be a sore loser."
"That's all you ever are."
"Well, good thing I never lose."
I laugh and throw our remotes to the side. Neither of us move. "Want to watch something?"
He nods and hands me the remote. I click on the first movie I find. Neither of us has heard of it. It loses my interest in the first five minutes. "This is—"
"Shh," he barks back, already rooted in the story.
I shake my head and settle in to suffer through the rest of it.
Mason wakes me up. "I think I'm going to go."
"No," I argue. "Don't. It's fine. I'm awake now." A look out the window reveals the dark sky outside. "What time is it?"
"Seven." He gets off the couch and my whole position shifts without the weight. "You should get some sleep."
I stand to protest, which says a lot given how comfortable my spot was. "I'm fine."
He smiles. "Hi, Fine. I'm Leaving." He flashes a smile before stepping around the couch for the door.
I grab his arm to stop him but pull away the second I grab his attention. "Wait, now I feel bad."
He shakes his head. "Don't. We can hang out tomorrow." He turns to the door and I don't have the energy to stop him. "Get some sleep, Sage," he yells back. "Bye Mr. Powers," he yells to Dad, wherever he might be.
"Bye, Mason," Dad yells back.
He lets in the cold of winter as he leaves. I slide back onto the couch and slip far too easily back into sleep.
Forceful hands yank me to my feet. My eyes widen to find two strangers on either side of me. A scream escapes my lips and I look around the house. It's still mine, yet it fails to bring any comfort. "Dad," I scream. All I can think to do is squirm, though that doesn't do anything.
"You're fine, Sage," he says from the kitchen.
I jerk around to face him, relieved yet horrified by his calmness. I squirm harder as a third man enters the exchange. He plants a needle in my arm. I screech and tighten as the liquid drains into my system. My brain seems to swell until it presses on every side of my scull. Memories come all at once, and the panic of the situation converts to pure anger.
I stop squirming, very much aware of the three men that surround me. The injection simply makes me remember. Another will make me forget by the time this is all over. Dad—no, not Dad. James Powers—he thinks it's easier that way. Let me live a normal life and make me kill only when it's necessary. That way I won't rebel. I can't think of a way out if I don't want a way out. I hate to admit he's done a great job making me love my life outside of all this.
"I killed only yesterday," I spit at him. I've never gotten an assignment more than twice a month.
"Well, it's your lucky day." He sticks his ear piece in his ear and clicks it on. I turn to resist the smaller one that the man on my left shoves into my ear. One can barely see it from how far it sits inside me. My gut twists and I wait for the piercing needles that will come out to hold in in place. As expected, they slide into my flesh. My ear grows painfully uncomfortable.
"Don't move." The men holding me in place step away and I follow his orders, unable to resist now. He never explained the science. I never asked. All I know is that I hate it. That's all I need to know.
"Who am I killing today?" I growl, uncontrollably angry.
"Don't talk," he orders.
My jaw tightens.
"The man you killed yesterday had a partner we weren't aware about." He reaches into his pocket to pull out a picture. He hands it to me. "Study it."
I do as told, trained to do this. I only started killing five years ago. They taught me how until I was 11. Shooting, martial arts, explosives, you name it. I just forget it all when they take my memory away, likely because with the memory comes the training.
He pulls the picture back. "The car's waiting outside."
That's all the information I get. I never know why I'm killing who. I don't even know the names of the men I work for besides James Powers, though that could very well be fake. I just get a picture, a ride, and a voice in my ear that tells me everything I need to do.
My uniform waits from inside the car. "Get dressed," he instructs.
I get in and do as told while he drives. The driver adjusts the mirror. I'm used to the occurrence by now. His eyes make my task unbearable. That and the absence of choice in my wardrobe change. "He's watching me again," I quietly inform whoever's listening. I know they're likely watching too, though the mystery is enough to keep my sanity.
"I don't care," he barks back, annoyed.
I don't say another word, completely unwilling.
The ride could take minutes or hours. I sometimes fly but only on occasion. That or "Dad" takes me on a convenient vacation. We often end up in New York City, which is an hour from our house in Denville. I hope it lasts longer. My near future is sickening. Every human part of me screams inside my obedient skin. Not an ounce of me wants to kill another man. I don't care what he's done, good or bad. Nobody deserves to die. No matter how many times I kill, I'll never get used to the reality of it.
Two guns lay on my hips, a sniper against my back. I almost never use that, witnesses hard to take care of. It's hard enough to make a bullet wound disappear. I don't know how they do it. I simply know the men from last night died in a horrible car accident. No questions. None from me, at least.
The hood swallows my hair and head. I always wish it will turn me into somebody else but it always fails me. I'll never be a killer, no matter how many I actually kill. I'm not the real person behind their murder. I'm just how the real killers get to their victims. I'm the weapon behind the weapon. They pull the trigger.
The car slowly rolls into a stop. My heart seizes to work the second the ignition is cut. A knot forms in my gut. "Take your hood off," he instructs. His voice is too close for comfort. I couldn't take the stupid piece out if I tried. I did once. A violent ringing nearly shattered my scull that day. I shudder at the memory.
Hood removed, I step out of the car. My attire can't look normal in the daylight, though at night, it could pass for a pair of leggings partnered with an excessive sweatshirt. Nothing out of the ordinary in the city streets.
Cold air covers me and I tense. "Turn left and walk straight."
I do as told. The skin around the needles in my ear throbs with every word he says. My fists are tight and uncomfortable. I don't want to open them to do what I have to. Maybe if I just hold them tight enough, I can close him out. Maybe…
I don't look up to see the street. I simply follow orders, desperate for this to end. I cant bring myself to look up and face my reality. Not yet. Not now. Yesterday still remains fresh in my mind. All of them do. Every person I've killed burns my conscience. I can't take the pain of another.
I turn to a street with five men, four surrounding one. I try to deny that the one I see is the target though the fact is painfully obvious. He holds a brief case in one hand, his other balled into an uncomfortably tight fist. It resembles none other but my own. I have a feeling both of us anticipate this.
I reach for my hood, desperate for it to hide me from myself. "Don't," his voice warns. It'll make me more obvious. I slowly lower my hand from it. It squeezes itself again, filled with rage.
There are less than twenty yards between us now. The guns on my side tap my skin with every step. I take slow, heavy breaths. My jaw tightens.
Ten yards now.
A car pulls up to the group. They step to meet it and the brief case is quickly passed through the window. "Kill him," he urges. "Quickly." I note the fear that creeps through his voice, amused. It could indicate my own danger but I don't care. A smile peels my lips open but I quickly close them at the absurdity of it.
The men are quickly in my path. My target jumps into the car when I approach. The door slams behind him, leaving me with the four men. I quickly dodge their relevance and run after the vehicle.
"Sage, leave the mission," he barks.
I stop in my tracks, taken back by the sudden change in plans. I want to fight him for the sake of it but realize his order is in my favor.
"Now," he presses.
I turn though that isn't merely enough to keep me from the explosion that tosses the car into the air. My head whips back despite previous orders. The car flips over its hood and lands on the roof. Glass shatters over the street.
A dark figure pursues it. He's quick and silent though I easily spot him, well aware of the drill I'm usually preforming. He easily shoots whoever might have lived. His silent gun sounds far louder in my head.
His voice makes me jump. I turn to leave, but not after catching sight of the figure's face.
A/N: I'm still unsure about continuing this... comment what you think! I need to know if I should keep writing!