“Water,” Cassie says, offering me a bottle without looking my way. I take it and gulp down half in two seconds, then look out the window to the unidentifiable landscape zooming by at seventy-five miles per hour.
“Where are we?” I ask.
“Illinois,” Mason says.
Cassie jumps a little but still doesn’t look back at me. I take a deep breath, which for some reason makes me yawn loudly. I rub the sleep from my eyes and in a more measured tone ask, “How long was I out?” Mason glances at Cassie and then checks the clock.
“I’d say you were probably out about eight hours,” Mason says as plainly as if he’s giving me a weather report.
“Eight hours? How is that possible?”
“They added a calming agent to it… to smooth the rough edges,” Mason says.
I nod, still feeling woozy.
“Maybe they need to tone it down,” I say. “Unless they’re going for TKO.”
“I’ll make a note,” Cassie says, her eyes still glued to her tiny phone screen. In private, Cassie is free to be her workaholic robot self.
“What’s our new last name going to be?” I ask. With every new town comes a new last name; first names stay the same for the sake of consistency.
“West,” Mason says.
“Huh,” I answer, rolling it around in my brain. Daisy West. Definitely more interesting than Daisy Johnson from Palmdale, but maybe a little too cute. Though not nearly as bad as Daisy Diamond from Ridgeland.
“I think I liked Appleby best,” I conclude aloud.
“You were more used to it,” Mason replies. “West is fine.”
Shrugging, I consider my options for passing the time.
“I wish we could fly,” I murmur to myself, but Mason hears me.
“That would be nice,” he agrees. Unfortunately, our fourth passenger, Revive—the top secret drug that brings people back from the dead—makes that impossible. The drug is too precious to check and too secret to carry on. So every time we move, we have to drive; every time we drive, I’m at a loss about what to do. I wish I could read, but it makes me carsick, and since we left so suddenly, my iPod isn’t charged. Eventually I settle on counting mile markers until I think I might pee my pants. I ask Mason to pull over at a diner, then, considering it’s almost noon and all, we decide to eat, too.
After visiting the surprisingly inoffensive bathroom, I join Mason and Cassie at a booth in the back. They’re sitting across from each other but aren’t speaking; they look like a typical married couple. I make a split-second decision and scoot in next to Cassie, opting to pretend to be a mama’s girl. Cassie looks up at me and smiles warmly.
We’re in public now, so she’s human.
“You’re the spitting image of your mom,” the waitress says to me when she comes to take our order. We’ve heard it before, but it’s a false comparison. Cassie’s brand of blond is straight with reddish tones, while mine is wavy and so dirty it’s essentially light brown. Cassie’s eyes are round and dark blue like the ocean, whereas mine are lighter than the sky at noon, wide set and almond shaped. She’s nearly six feet tall, and I’m five foot six; she’s curvy, and I can wear jeans from the boys’ department.
But what makes the “look-alike” comment even more absurd is the fact that Cassie’s only thirteen years older than me.
And yet, we play the part.
“Thank you!” Cassie says, hand to chest like she’s beyond flattered.
“Uh, yeah, thanks,” I mutter, hoping that I’m coming off as a typical teen who doesn’t care to look like her mother. In truth, despite the fact that she barely has a personality, Cassie’s pretty. I’m fine with people saying I look like her.
“You’re most welcome,” HELLO, MY NAME IS BESS replies. “Now, what can I bring you?”
I order a veggie burger and a chocolate shake; Mason orders coffee and a Spanish omelet; and Cassie orders a hard-boiled egg, dry wheat toast, and sliced melon on the side.
Bess writes in her notepad and leaves. Then, almost too soon for it to be made to order, the food rides in on Bess’s wide arms. Quickly, she sets down plates, fills coffee cups, and pulls ketchup out of her apron pocket.
“Need anything else?” she asks. Three head shakes and she’s gone.
We eat in silence, me downing my lunch as if I’ve never tasted food before, then wondering if the scientists at the big lab added a metabolism booster to Revive in addition to the calming agent. Knowing it’s silly, I don’t ask Mason about it. But I can’t help but notice that Mason’s and Cassie’s plates are still half full when mine is all but licked clean.
“So, why Omaha?” I ask as Mason takes a bite of his omelet. I watch his jaw muscles flex as he chews slowly, deliberately. After he swallows, he speaks.
“It’s one of his favorite cities,” he says.
Mason means the Revive project mastermind. Basically invisible and in control of a program that brings people back from the dead, he’s earned the nickname God.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because it’s moderate, I suppose. Not too small or too big. Rarely in the news. Friendly. Reasonably gentrified. You know what that means, right?”
I roll my eyes at him.
“So, all in all, it should be a good cover. Assuming…”
“Assuming what?” I ask.
Mason checks the tables around us, then answers in a low tone. “Assuming nothing else happens.”
“I didn’t mean to do it, you know,” I say quietly.
“You never do,” Mason says, holding my gaze. “But you didn’t have your EpiPen, either.”
“I forgot it,” I say quickly.
It’s a lie.
In truth, I spent way too long deciding what to wear, leaving only five minutes to arrange my hair into something resembling a style. I left for school in a rush, remembering the EpiPen, which probably would have saved my life, halfway down the block. I wasn’t so late that I couldn’t have gone back, but for some reason I didn’t.
Having been trained to know when people are lying, Mason narrows his eyes at me. I assume Cassie’s doing the same, but I don’t look at her to find out. For a moment, I think Mason’s going to call me on it, but thankfully, he moves on.
“Daisy, I think you should know that we nearly couldn’t bring you back this time,” he says so quietly it’s almost like he’s breathing the words. His bluntness, I’m used to—Mason treats me like a partner, not a daughter—but I’m surprised by the idea of permanent death.
“Was it a bad vial?” I ask.
“No, it was fine,” Mason says. “It was… you.”
“He almost called time of death,” Cassie interjects. Stunned, I look at her, then back at Mason.
“Seriously?” I ask.
“It was very stressful,” Mason says. There’s a flicker of something like worry in his green eyes, and then it’s gone.
I think for a moment before coming to what I consider to be a pretty rational conclusion: “But it did work, so everything’s fine.”
“But it might not be next time,” he says. “I’m merely advising you to take precautions. Don’t you remember Chase?”