Chloe’s brow puckers. “Hmmm. There wasn’t one when I was there. I guess I got lucky.”
She waves off the thought. “Sabrina is freaking out over some donation paperwork she can’t find and says she needs you.” Her brow furrows. “I thought you were doing research? When did you start handling donor paperwork?”
“Last week, when she got overwhelmed,” I say, and perk up at the idea that my new boss needs me. I don’t need to leave. I need to be needed even if it’s just for tonight. “Where is she?”
“By the front desk.” She laces her arm through mine. “And I’m tagging along with you. I have a sixty-year-old admirer who’s bordering on stalker. I need to hide before he hunts me down.”
She tugs me forward, and I let her, too distracted by her words to stop her. She’s worried about being hunted but I am the one being hunted. I thought I wasn’t anymore. I thought I was safe, but I am never safe, and neither is anyone around me. I’ve lived that first-hand. I felt that heartache of loss, and while being alone sucks, losing someone you care about is far worse.
My selfishness overwhelms me and I stop dead in my tracks to pull Chloe around to face me. “Tell Sabrina I’m grabbing the forms and will be right there.”
“Oh. Yes. Okay.” Chloe lets go of my arm, and for a moment I fight the urge to hug her, but that would make her seem important to me, and someone could be watching. I turn away from her and rush for a door, and I feel sick to my stomach knowing that I will never see her again.
I finally exit the side of the building into the muggy August evening, and head for a line of cabs, but I do not rush or look around me. I’ve learned ways to avoid attention, and going to work for a place that has a direct link to the world I’d left behind hadn’t been one of them. It had simply been a luxury I’m now paying for.
“JFK Airport,” I pant as I slide into the back of a cab, and rub the back of my neck at a familiar prickling sensation. A feeling I’d had often my first year on my own, when I’d been certain danger waited for me around every corner. Hunted. I’m being hunted. All the denial I own won’t change my reality.
The ride to the airport is thirty minutes and it takes me another fifteen to figure out what terminal locker 111 is in once I’m inside the building. I pull it open and there is a carry-on-sized roller suitcase and a smaller brown leather shoulder bag with a large yellow envelope sticking up from inside the open zipper. I have no desire to be watched while I explore what’s been left for me. I remove the locker’s contents, and follow a sign that indicates a bathroom.
Once again in a stall, I pull down the baby changer and check the contents of the envelope on top. There is a file folder, a bank card, a cell phone, a passport, a note card, and another small sealed envelope. I reach for the note first.
There is cash in the bank account and the code is 1850. I’ll add more as you need it until you get fully settled. You’ll find a new social security card, driver’s license, and passport as well.
You have a complete history to memorize and a résumé and job history that will check out if looked into. Throw out your cell phone. The new one is registered under your new name and address. There’s a plane ticket and the keys to an apartment along with a location. Toss all identification and don’t use your bank account or credit cards. Be smart. Don’t link yourself to your past. Stay away from museums this time.
A new name. That’s what stands out to me. I’m getting another new name. No. No. No.
My heart races at the idea. I don’t want another new name. Even more than I don’t want to be back on the run, I don’t want another new name. I feel like a girl having her hair chopped off.
I’m losing part of myself. After living a lie for years, I’m losing the only part of my fake identity I’d ever really accepted as me.
I grab the passport and flip it open and my hand trembles at the sight of a photo that is a present-day me. How did this stranger I met only one time in my life get a picture of me this recent? It doesn’t matter that I’d once considered him my guardian angel. I’m freaked out by this. Has he been watching me all this time? I shiver at the idea, and my only comfort is my new name. I’m now Amy Bensen rather than Amy Reynolds. I’m still Amy. It is the one piece of good news in all of this and I cling to it, using it to stave off the meltdown I feel coming. I just have to hold it together until I get on the plane. Then I can sink into my seat and think myself into my “zone” that I can’t seem to fully find.
Flipping open the folder, I find an airline ticket. I’m going to Denver and I leave in an hour. I’ve never been anywhere but Texas and New York. All I know about Denver is it’s big, cold, and the next place I will pretend is home when I have no home. The thought makes my chest pinch, but fear of what might await me if I don’t run pushes me past it.
I turn off my cell phone so it won’t ping and stuff it, with everything but my new ID and plane ticket, back into the envelope. I have my own money in the bank and I’m not about to get rid of my identification and access to that resource. Besides, the idea of using a bank card that allows me to be tracked bothers me. I’ll be visiting the bank tomorrow and removing any cash I can get my hands on. When I’d been eighteen, naive and alone, I’d blindly trusted a stranger I’d called my guardian angel. I might have to trust him now too, but it won’t be blindly.