Mindy picked up her phone, scrolled to the text function, and typed a message, straight from the heart.
Coach Brennan, this is Mindy Kostis. I’m not supposed to be communicating with you, but what’s right is right. Thank you very much for saving Evan’s life. God bless you.
Mindy swallowed hard. Her attention returned to the television, and she found herself watching her own Facebook album, the Kostis Klan in the Kaymans.
“Mrs. Kostis?” said a female voice, and Mindy looked up to see the doctor entering the waiting room, with a professional smile.
“You can see Evan now. He’s asking for you.”
Heather tossed the salad, alone with her thoughts while Jordan sat in the living room with the television blaring CNN.
“… this is Wolf Blitzer, welcoming our viewers in the United States and around the world. We’re only five minutes away from our coverage of the press conference, which we will be bringing you live from Philadelphia, regarding the terrorist bomb plot that was thwarted today by federal law enforcement, working in connection with state and municipal law enforcement…”
Heather screened out the TV, trying to process her emotions. She couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that Chris wasn’t who he said he was. She had a crush on a guy that didn’t exist. Worse, Chris, or Curt, had used Jordan to get information. She still didn’t know the details and she didn’t care if she ever found out. The bottom line was that she had been lied to, and so had Jordan.
She kept tossing the salad, bringing up the tart scent of the apple-cider vinegar, which she’d never used before. She’d finally had the time to make an Ina Garten recipe, a corn salad made from real corn, not canned, with red pepper, red onion, and fresh basil. She’d never used kosher salt either, so she’d gone to Whole Foods to buy some, celebrating the fact that she had a job interview on Wednesday, as an administrative assistant in the corporate headquarters at ValleyCo.
Heather smiled to herself. She felt confident about her prospects, considering that her boss would be Susan, who had all but told her that she’d get the job. Almost overnight her life had changed, and she had the possibility of a new job with a desk, a nameplate, and a tuition-matching program. Not only that, she could wear whatever she wanted as long as it came from a ValleyCo outlet, which was where she shopped anyway. She was even baking a poached salmon filet, filling the small apartment with an expensive, culinary aroma known only to home cooks, like her.
“… stand by for a briefing from the Director of Homeland Security, who will be outlining the details of today’s breaking news, the thwarting of the bombing of the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse and the William J. Green Federal Building in Philadelphia, which would’ve caused thousands upon thousands of deaths in and around the building. The loss of life and property would’ve been catastrophic, but for Operation Varsity Letter. You will hear from Special Agent Curt Abbott of the Bureau of…”
Heather screened out the name, which was much less appealing than Chris Brennan. She wondered how he had chosen his alias, and if he had actually looked up online for friendly-sounding names that would fool single mothers who were desperate enough to believe anything.
She tossed the corn salad and tried not to think about it. Jordan had come home from school early and had spoken with her only briefly before he went to his room and closed the door. He’d been shaken by the fact that Evan had almost been killed, as well as being involved in a lethal terrorist plot. In fact, he had come out of his room only ten minutes ago, to watch the press conference on TV.
“Mom, it’s about to start,” Jordan called from the living room.
“I’m making dinner. I can hear it from here.”
“Mom, are you serious?”
Heather didn’t answer, and in the next moment, Jordan appeared at the entrance to the kitchen in his baseball sweats.
“Mom, you’re not going to watch?”
“I’ve heard it all day, the coverage has been nonstop. You’ve been at school, you don’t know.”
“We had it on there, too. That’s all anybody’s talking about. It’s major, Mom. You have to watch.”
“They’re not going to say anything new. It’s all the same thing. We know it all. We lived it all. It’s about us.”
“Don’t you care about Evan? They arrested him. He wasn’t in school today. I think he might be going to jail.”
“Of course I care about Evan.” Heather felt terrible for Mindy, for what she must have been going through. Heather never would’ve thought it could happen to a family like the Kostises.
“Everybody says he was in with those guys, but I don’t think he was.”
“I’m sure he wasn’t,” Heather said, though she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know Evan, but her father always said, If you go through life with your path greased, you could end up on your ass.
“I mean, it’s so random that it was Madame Wheeler in the picture, but Evan is not a terrorist. He wouldn’t kill anybody, he wouldn’t blow up a courthouse.” Jordan glanced at the TV, where CNN was teasing the press conference. “Mom, come on. I want to see what happens.”
“Jordan, I’m cooking—”
“Why are you being so weird?”
“I’m not being weird.” Heather kept tossing the salad like a madwoman. Maybe she was being weird. A weird version of Ina Garten.
“You’re acting like you’re mad.”
“Well, I am mad.” Heather turned to him. “Aren’t you? How do you feel? You went in your room and vanished after school. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Okay,” Jordan answered, less certainly. “It’s a big deal, and I think you should watch the press conference. Don’t you want to hear what the coach has to say?”
“He’s not the coach.”
“Okay, I know that. Whatever.”
“Curt. It sounds like Chris, but it’s not Chris.”
Jordan cocked his head. “Are you mad at him?”
“Aren’t you?” Heather told herself to calm down. She let go of the serving fork and spoon. “How do you feel about it, Jordan? You believed he was a coach, didn’t you?”