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My Mission is Simple (part five)

When I stepped out of the trees and into the clearing the pale morning sun stung my eyes. I covered them with my hand and focused on Quinn’s moving feet in front of me. He placed his feet carefully and was thankfully silent. It must come from the years he has spend in the country, he must know how much you can really see if you’re just silent. I’ve seen plenty of sights from just being quiet, maybe not the beautiful sight of birds and baby deer. More gruesome sights, things I would never forget and that would change my attitude forever.

Some of the things I’ve seen would give people nightmares; in fact many give me nightmares. But, they’ve toughened me up. I feel like I can survive anything. But they have come with a price, my personality. Like Quinn has found out, I’m not the happiest person in the world. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve laughed. Well, a real laugh, the kind you can’t control.

“My dad used to take me hunting in these woods,” Quinn suddenly broke my thoughts, “We would pack up for the day and head out early in the morning. He taught me how to track animals and set traps and stuff. It was really great.”

“What happened to him?” I said not really caring, but I wanted to keep the conversation going.

“He died about a year ago. A car accident,” Quinn’s voice almost cracked. It must have been tough for him. Didn’t sound like he had a mother either so he had to take care of himself.

“You just took care of yourself?” I said, refusing to say sorry. Sorry sounded weak.

“Yea, I didn’t want to live with a relative and just leave the land my dad and I worked so hard on. Basically, I kept his death a secret, only a few people know about it. I guess you could say I moved out early,” He spoke.

“How old are you anyway?” I asked trying to change the subject.

“17,” He replied. Only a year older than me. I nodded as if he could see me then we fell into another period of silence. The only thing that could be heard was the subtle stepping of our feet and the bird’s melodies. It was pretty back here and I hoped I wouldn’t forget it.

“What about your parents?” Quinn asked after a while. I took a deep breath and collected the story in my mind. I decided to leave out the important details and get right to the point.

“I never knew them, I don’t even know what they look like,” I said.

“How come?” Quinn asked.

“As soon as I was born my parents dropped me off at The Company, the place I work at. They had to raise me there. They’re the only family I know,” I said like it was nothing.

“At least you had someone to love you,” Quinn reminded me. I instantly thought of my boss’ sullen face, old and leathery. He never smiled, never laughed, yet he was the dad I grew up with.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I smirked at the thought, “I was never taught love. I was told I didn’t need it, that it would only pull me down.”

“Come on, someone must like you,” Now he changed to like? Yea, someone must like me. Quinn does, it’s not like I forced him to join me. But we’re just friends. Just friends. In real life. The bad guys must think I have a boyfriend after how we acted a few days before.

“Yea, someone must. I just don’t know who,” I played dumb.

“I can think of someone,” Quinn replied with a little chuckle.

“Who?” I pushed him.

“Well, that guy that got kicked in the face and the fellow with the hole in his leg must be very fond of you,” He joked. I rolled my eyes. Not what I expected for an answer, but okay.

“I’m sure they are,” I said sarcastically, “How much further until we reach that town you were talking about?”

“It is just down this hill,” He answered. I removed the hand from forehead and looked down upon the smallest town I have ever seen. It must have consisted of only 10 one story, wooden buildings.

“It’s perfect,” I sighed.

***

I walked next to Quinn down the dirt road with my hands in my pocket and head down. We were headed to the clothing store. If I’m going to hide I’ve got to look like someone else. After we change out our clothes I was going to bleach out my hair and possibly cut it. Now it was pitch black and more than half way down my back when undone from its braid. It is definitely something they would remember me for. I couldn’t do much for Quinn, he was already blonde with short hair. We could change his clothes but not his hair.

“When we get inside this store here is the plan,” I began. I looked over my shoulder and quieted my voice, “We pick up some casual looking clothes then ask to try them on. We can’t draw too much attention to the clothes because they might remember them. When we change we put on the new clothes and put our old clothes on the hanger. Then we return the hangers to the racks and walk out, be sure to take any tags off the new clothes. Simple as pie if you do it right.”

“Alright,” Quinn whispered. We got closer to the store and I raised my head again so I looked like a regular customer. We walked inside casually and stopped near the clothes. I acted like I was looking through the racks of clothes but I was actually looking around. Luckily, there was an old man at the register. The man who looked like he could hardly see and needed a nap. I nodded quickly at Quinn and he walked over to the coats and chose a brown leather jacket.

I returned to my clothes, going through my head what I needed. A shirt, new pants, a warmer jacket, socks, and if I was really daring a new pair of boots. I swiftly picked up a plaid shirt, a pair of jeans like the ones I was wearing, a thicker jacket, and some wool socks. The boots were too close to the register for me to go get them. I didn’t want to risk bringing too much attention to myself. Once I had collected what I needed I looked over at Quinn. He had an armful of dark, boring clothes as well.

“Excuse me sir, where can we try these clothes on?” I raised my voice to the man working there while hiding my clothes behind a rack so it looked like I was just standing there. He pointed to the back where there was a single wooden door, “Thank you.”

We walked on the far side of the room, behind all the clothes to the door. I walked up to it and opened the door. I quickly shoved my clothes inside the room before me and turned around the close the door. Quinn’s foot blocked it from closing.

“You’re just going to leave me out here?” He mumbled.

“We can’t change together,” I hissed quietly. He obviously didn’t look very comfortable being out there by himself.

“What if he just watched me wait while you change? I will be the only other person in the store!” Quinn snapped.

“But-“ I started.

“I will turn the other way,” Quinn insisted. I sighed, rolled my eyes, and then opened the door for him. He practically jumped in.

“You look at that wall and I’ll look the opposite way,” I ordered. Quinn nodded then retreated to his wall. I couldn’t believe I was doing this, out of all things this is what I didn’t expect an assassin to be doing.

I faced my wall and dropped my clothes on the floor. I chose the jeans first and quickly slipped mine off and the new ones on. They felt clean and fresh. After being sure I still had my knife I hung the dirty ones up on the hanger again, trying my best to hide the dirt and grass stains. Second came the shirt and I did the same. This time I noticed the blood stains on the shirt. I wasn’t sure if that was only my blood or someone else’s as well. I slipped the new jacket on over the new shirt and zipped it up so it covered the whole shirt.

After pulling my new socks on I asked Quinn if he was done. When he had finished I made sure he had no tags on the new clothes while he checked mine. Once we had finished the inspection we picked up our old clothes and opened the door. The man behind the counter was now out and checking the belt rack near the back. I took a deep breath and dived behind the clothes rack with Quinn right on my heels.

We normally returned the clothes to the racks then gathered up enough courage to walk out the front doors. I stuffed my hands in my new pockets. And strolled out, “Too bad that shirt was too small for me, I really liked it,” I said to cover us up a bit as we walked out the doors.

We walked ordinarily past the store and down the street. Once we were at least two blocks away I looked over at Quinn. His eyes danced in the light with excitement and a wide grin spread across his face.

“I was sure that wasn’t going to work,” He admitted.

“I wasn’t sure either, good thing we had that old man at the register,” I added.

“I hope we’re that lucky next time,” he said.

“Same here because our next stop is the grocery store,” I said.

“What’s your plan this time?” Quinn asked with a bit of a quavering in his voice.

“I thought maybe we could use your distraction skills,” I answered curtly.

***

I placed a bunch of bananas in the basket I had picked up an aisle back. This store wasn’t much of a grocery store, it was much too small. Quinn called it a general store but I thought it looked more like a garage sale with food to me. I watched as Quinn placed a red bag into the basket. I wasn’t quite sure what he had put in there, but we were almost filled.

“Chose one more thing,” I told him and reached for a bunch of bread rolls. I was nervous for this one; the man at the counter seemed much more attentive of what was going on in his store. Quinn would have to keep him distracted for a while so I could escape with the goods without him noticing then get out safely.

Quinn placed another bag filled with a mysterious item in it into the basket. I nodded at him and he nodded back with a smile. I could tell by the glint in his eyes that he had a plan. He strolled away from me and over some aisles. I resumed seeming like I was scanning the shelves. Most of the food here I had never seen before. I was curious to see what they tasted like.

Suddenly I heard a thump and then a crash. My head flung up at the sound. I heard Quinn mutter a few things under his breath quite loudly. He had gotten the store clerk’s attention quickly; he was almost out from behind the counter, but not quite. Keep going, I told Quinn in my mind.

“Dang nab it! Excuse me mister!” He yelled from the other side of the store. At this the clerk dashed out from behind the register and walked briskly towards Quinn. Now was my chance. I jogged silently to the end of the aisle. I peeked out to be sure the clerk was nowhere in sight, then made a mad dash for the exit.

I felt free as soon as I exited the doors and stepped onto the porch. I gathered myself and strode down the steps and down the street. Two stores down I sat down on a bench and waited for Quinn. I was curious what he had done. My eyes wandered to the basket. I looked over the bags and loose things inside.

I creased my eyebrow at most of the labels. They didn’t make any sense, why had I never heard of these foods? I’ve eaten bananas, apples, carrots, chicken, and many other things, but still some of these foods stumped me.

I looked up to the clouds and began to think. I recalled the first mission I was sent on. I small smile curled my lips. I was sent to learn how to work with a regular civilian. I was taught many things growing up like martial arts, marksmanship, survival, and all sorts of other neat things. But I was not taught how to act around normal people. This, I had to learn on my own.

I was sent to a lady’s home just outside of town for dinner. I was supposed to be the neighbor girl down the street who was invited for dinner. The lady happened to be a real civilian, she was just foolish enough to believe that a little girl down the street would show up for dinner without her parents.

I remember when I first arrived she came at me to give me a large bear hug. I took this as a threat and began to back up. Eventually she had pinned me against the wall and gave me the hug. I was so surprised when it happened. I was ready to kick her or something but the hug took me by surprise, up to that point I had never gotten that close to someone.

The afternoon continued with the strange activities, I spazzed out when she gave me water with ice cubes in it, and freaked when she turned on the old gas stove with an open flame. I was just not used to these types of things and they scared me. I was constantly on my toes. I finally broke down when he tried to serve me a spoonful of corn. I had jumped up and onto the table, sprinted off it and across the room and out the door. Thankfully my boss was waiting for me just down the street. I had failed my mission, my very first mission.

“Hey, whatcha thinking ‘bout?” I heard a voice. I shook my head from the thoughts and twisted my head to the right to see Quinn staring down at me with his hands on his hips. I took a deep breath and patted the seat beside me. He sat down and helped himself to the basket full of food on the ground. He pulled up the red bag. He opened it up and pulled out a triangle shaped food that was bright red. I blinked a few times and watched him eat it.

He offered the bag to me. I cautiously pulled one out and examined it. It was hard but delicate and it was bright red because of some dust that stuck to my fingers. I slowly put it in my mouth and crunched it in my teeth. As soon as it hit my tongue I was blown away. It was the best thing I had ever tasted.

“What are those?” I asked Quinn immediately. He looked at me like I had five heads.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never tried a chip before,” he laughed.

“A chip? That’s a weird name,” I bent down a pulled out a plastic bottle filled with a dark liquid and a bag full of dark brown strips with pepper on them.

“What are these?” I asked.

“Soda and beef jerky,” Quinn sounded worried, “You’ve never eaten these before?” I shook my head and tried to pull the small cap off the bottle. It just would not come off.

“Twist it,” Quinn instructed me. I did as I was told but jumped when I heard a hiss and a pop come from it. I looked up at Quinn with creased eye brows and he just laughed, “You’ve seriously never tried these!”

“No, I haven’t! Where I was raised we ate carrots and broccoli, fruits and vegetables and some meats,” I explained, “I’ve never even tried these foods.”

“Man, that’s sad,” Quinn chuckled.

“We didn’t eat these at your house,” I said.

“I don’t usually come to town. Most of those foods came off the farm,” He told me, “and I definitely can’t afford anything like this.”

“Where have I been,” I looked down at my boots. A sullen mood had come over me all of a sudden. How could this be? I thought I knew everything. The Company said I knew everything, but it was just a lie.

“Well, you grew up in a pretty harsh situation, forced to do what you do,” Quinn said.

“I’m not normal, am I?” I asked Quinn truthfully. He looked at me with sad eyes.

“No,” He simply replied. We fell into another stage of silence. Thoughts raced through my mind. What else didn’t I know?

“Caprice?” Quinn disturbed the stillness, “Tell me, if you were normal, and you had the choice to join The Company, would you?” I thought about this for a second. If I was a normal person like Quinn would I join The Company if I had the choice? I wouldn’t know anything I know now, about being an assassin. I would be normal. I would know what these foods are and what things do.

“No,” I replied.

“Why?” Quinn continued.

“Because if I was a normal person I wouldn’t have seen the things I have seen. I see things that would make you pee your pants, but I’m ok with it and I don’t get why. If I was normal I would know nothing and be happy. I would know how to laugh and smile. I would know how to love. I would see the world normally, and not be constantly on my alert,” I spilled out. It was true. Being normal would be good.

“Oh,” Quinn sighed.

“It is my parent’s fault,” I blamed.

“How so?” He asked.

“You know that I am strange but what you don’t know is that I was once normal. The period when I was still in my parent’s care I was a normal human. The Company turned me into this. If my parents have kept me I would be normal,” I said angrily.

“It might be good to know what you know,” Quinn argued.

“It’s not,” I spat back. I felt as if I carry around a burden, like a secret that I’m not ever supposed to know, “Now I have a question for you.”

“Go ahead,” He encouraged.

“Now that you know I’m not normal and far from that, why are you still with me?” I asked truthfully.

“Because you could use a normal guy around,” He answered with a grin. I looked into his emotional eyes and for the first time in my life I felt like someone cared for me, actually like me. Even loved me.



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