the pretender, emily, pg
written for medie
prompt: emily and jarod / little sister gets in the game
summary: Emily closes her eyes; listens for the gunshots.
thanks to pieces.
She tumbles into the car, and watches Jarod's face contort with fear, her mother's grief ringing in her ears. She slams the door, and the car pulls away. Her mother reaches for her hand. “My baby,” her mother croons.
Emily closes her eyes; listens for the gunshots.
She is twelve; she is eight; she is twenty-four.
This is her life.
She does her research; likes to know for whom she is looking. The pictures flick past, names without faces and faces without names, and the twins who chase her brother, look for her father, search for her mother.
Lyle’s face stares back at her, and she wonders at his secrets. Miss Parker’s face stares back at her, but she doesn’t wonder at those secrets.
She knows her own brother’s secrets, and she knows all about Miss Parker.
Her father emails. Stay safe, he writes, I have seen them. She dreams of surprising her father, letting him know he is not alone and aiding him in his search. She traces the email along its route, anonymous account to a login in San Francisco, and she knows that’s not where he is.
She thinks about it all the same.
She tracks Jarod’s assignments and projects on a map she keeps folded up in her backpack. She’s folded and unfolded it so many times that the folds have started to tear, and she’s stuck them together with tape so many times the whole map shines like it’s coated in gloss. She looks for patterns in his path, looks for meaning in his choices and the only thing she knows is that he never visits the same town twice.
It’s a stupid thing to know about her brother, but she’s grateful for any little thing, and she keeps tracking him, keeps drawing circles on her map.
One day she’ll find him.
She wonders how many assignments she misses because she’s not looking hard enough, because she’s not smart enough, because she’s just not good enough at spotting the clues of her brother’s passing.
She tries harder.
She’s buying a magazine and waiting for the change when she thinks she sees Lyle’s face out of the corner of her eye; when she looks up, it’s just some guy with a bad haircut, and she frowns.
The phone in her motel room rings. “Your credit card’s bounced,” the clerk at the front counter drawls. The sound of his gum popping echoes in her ear, and she frowns.
“Give me five minutes,” she says, and on her way to the front counter she detours down the street, logs into a terminal, and transfers some funds from some random Centre account into her own.
“Huh,” says the clerk, when she asks him to try again.
“Must have been a bad read,” she says, and charges a packet of chips to the room.
She’s in a diner in Tennessee when she looks into her reflection and she sees him across the road, hair slicked back and sneer on his face as he turns to his sister. Her toes stop tapping a beat on her mother’s vacated bench, and she slides out; leaves her mug of hot chocolate behind, tugs her mother out of the bathroom and through the back door.
She doesn’t look back to see the steam still rising from her mug and the grin on Lyle’s face; doesn’t see Parker roll her eyes as he says, “You see?”
She wonders what it’s like to have a brother you see every day; a brother you can identify in a lineup and bail out of a prison cell and know something about.
Probably not that awesome, she thinks, judging from the look on Miss Parker’s face.
There’s an article in the local newspaper, VET HELPS STRUGGLING FAMILY, and there’s no photo but she knows, she’s sure he was close.
Downtown she leans on the newspaper’s counter; grins her best grin. “Did you get to chat with the vet?” she asks, and the reporter smiles back at her.
“Sure did,” he says. “He was a real hero. So no surprise everyone has been so interested.”
She tilts her head, looks super interested. “Oh?” she asks. “There been a lot of questions?”
“From some pretty far away places,” he says. “Some reporters from the Delaware Times,” he says, and Emily sneezes.
She invites him out for coffee, hopes nobody saw her in the office.
She wakes, sweat cooling on her body. When she closes her eyes, she remembers his grin, remembers Miss Parker’s grin, and she struggles to remember her own brother’s face.
She hopes Jarod is outrunning them, outsmarting them, and she closes her eyes.
You have to run, her father writes, and she thinks, no shit.
In Alabama she thinks she sees her brother, briefcase in hand and his face a mask of professionalism. She hides behind a dumpster, and two minutes later hears the clip of heels. “Jarod,” Miss Parker calls, and her voice is frustration and affection, and when Emily peers out from around the dumpster she sees the gun loosely gripped in Miss Parker’s hand, and Sydney smirking, and she wonders.
She’s bored, idly flicking TV stations, when her mother shrieks, and Emily leans forward.
As she watches her brother, she calculates escape routes; looks up schematics. Her heart beats loudly in her chest.
In Ohio she leaves a note on a wall, the shape of a
She leaves it in New York, in Syracuse, in Sammamish.
One day he’ll see it.
Sometimes, she’s not sure which he she means.
She doesn’t care.
She kisses her mother’s head. “I need some more dye,” she says. “The black is fading.” Her mother nods.
On the busy intersection, she leans against the pole and waits for the little person to flash green. Someone bumps her, and she looks down at a bandaged hand. “Sorry,” she says; meets Lyle’s eyes, looks up to his friendly grin.
“Do know you?” he asks, as he tries to place an image he’s only ever seen out of the corner of his eye.
“Watch yourself,” she says, like she’s someone else, and crosses the road, curses herself for the impulse.
“Hey,” she hears, and she’s sick of this shit.
She holds her mother’s hand. “It’s time,” she says, and her mother frowns.
“It’s not,” her mother protests, and Emily shakes her head, and she’s sure.
“No mom,” she says, “It really is.”
She doesn’t look back.