The Memory Jumper

MemoryJumperMockup

The Memory Jumper (or Blackbird) is a dystopian YA novel for those that like romance, beautiful descriptions and themes of freedom and escape from abuse (both mental and physical).

 

Rapunzel meets the dystopian genre in this thrilling, heartbreaking novel about a girl who just wants to be free.

CURRENTLY: Just finished third complete draft (first round of after-reading edits). Sent to beta readers. Waiting for their feedback.

Read the first chapter for free below!TMJ_BookArt_1

Chapter One

I have never touched grass before.

I do not know the feeling of rain on my cheek.

My vacations do not involve trips to the ocean or the mountains, but rather hours spent in books alone in my room.

The only outdoor experiences I have had are second-hand.

See, I’m “special.” That’s what Fawn calls me. I call it “cursed.”

I am a Memory Jumper. I was born with the amazing ability to send myself into another person’s mind and explore their memories. It may sound creepy, but I use it only for good.

Or, at least, what Fawn thinks is good.

Fawn is the only mother I’ve ever known, but I don’t call her mother. Perhaps it’s because she’s technically too young to have been able to be my birth mother. Maybe it’s because there isn’t anything about our relationship that makes it appear we’re mother-daughter. Every day, Fawn braves the real world to fetch clients and bring them to me for my memory services. Sometimes one, sometimes two, never more than three. Sometimes they are searching for a memory of their own; sometimes they tote in with them another person whose mind they need to get into.

I know many times these people are brought against their will. But Fawn says that we have to get money somehow.

“You like food, right?” She’ll grin, tossing her tiny arms onto her dainty waist.

“Yes,” I always reply.

“Well then, just don’t think about how we got it. Do your job, and I’ll do mine, and we’ll live as well as kings.” Then she gives me a pat on the back and I forget everything.

But sometimes I wonder what would happen if I refused.

#

A knocking sounds from above me. It’s the hollow thunk of someone pounding on metal. I wait for the familiar rhythm: thunk, tap tap, thunk, tap, thunk, stomp. I cross the white tiled floor, my straight brown hair a mere inch away from sweeping the ground like a broom. I’m sure that within two months my hair will be grazing the ground. I press a button on the wall. From what Fawn has told me, it sends an elevator up so she can get into our house.

We live underground in a metal box. It’s actually pretty spacious. I’ve never had reason to complain. I’m not allowed outside because of my valuableness. If everyone knew about my powers, they’d be flying at me fast as mosquitoes on standing water. People would try to kidnap me, misuse me.

I don’t want that. And neither does Fawn.

So I stay inside, all day. I do my school, mostly. I also love reading. Fawn can’t purchase enough books for me. I whiz through math, science, grammar . . . but history is my favorite. Certain events interest me more than others, and I love exploring how they all fit together. Fawn is good enough to even purchase a book every now and then that highlights one of these events. I can read a five-hundred-page nonfiction novel on the Titanic and feel more connected to the world above me. Suddenly, I can feel the piercing water and hear the screams of thousands of people.

I can’t imagine what thousands of people would look like. I’ve only ever been in the presence of two, maybe three people. Most of the time it’s just Fawn and I.

The elevator doors slide open with a cheerful ding. I wave to Fawn, who’s daintiness makes me constantly feel like a giant. Her brunette hair is perfectly parted down the middle, so dark it’s almost black. Her skin is a light type of sunkissed brown that I can never attain because I’m kept away from the light. She’s about five foot one and all skin and bones. If she shook her arms there would be no fat dangling.

But don’t let her appearance fool you. She’s strong and wild as someone twice her size.

Fawn nods at me as she steps out with an elderly woman. The woman sways a bit, her face swollen in wrinkles, her eyes clouded over with time. She doesn’t say a word as Fawn grabs one of her arms and helps remove her from the elevator, and I grab the other arm.

We cross the entryway and enter the main room, a spacious area with soaring ceilings and cozy white sofas. Fawn tries to make our customers as comfortable as possible.

One wall is made entirely out of one big screen. I often change it to picture lofty mountains, sparkling oceans, or dense jungles. The pictures move, and sometimes I am lucky enough to find a scene that actually shows people milling around a busy street, or animals walking around nature. But our blind customer does not need to be impressed by any visual stimuli, so I leave it at its current view: the Rocky mountains mid-winter, carpeted in icy white that looks so plush and delicious I want to both roll in it and eat it at the same time.

I wonder what a mountain would feel like.

“Ms. Dalia, this is my daughter, Adelaide.” Fawn’s voice shoots me out of my dreams.

“Nice to meet you,” I say politely.

The old woman turns her head towards me. “Nice to meet you, doll. She sounds older than I thought she would be. Fawn, you don’t sound old enough to have a daughter this age.”

Fawn’s face tightens. I don’t know why she always acts so ticked when people ask about our past. It’s true—Fawn is only thirty-two, whereas I am sixteen. The math certainly doesn’t work out.

I hurriedly explain. “Fawn took me in when I was a baby.”

I don’t need to go over the story again: how Fawn’s old boyfriend, a firefighter, saved me from a nasty housefire during the governmental overthrow in my infancy. The chaos lasted only a month, but thousands of people died. When America resurfaced, it became a monarchy, in the hands of the Alnwick family.

Regardless, Fawn isn’t dating the guy anymore, but he still blazes brightly in her memory.

No pun intended.

He was the one that, as Fawn always tells me, “whined me into adopting you.” And then, at the age of three, I Memory Jumped into Fawn’s mind. I don’t remember what I saw, and I have never Memory Jumped into her mind again. She doesn’t let me. In fact, she gets angry if I ever try.

At first, Fawn thought I was some kind of witch . . . but she was a single woman with hardly any source of income. So she began selling my “service” when I was only five.

I can’t blame her, and I don’t. I think it’s pretty ingenious of her, in fact. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years.

If you tell yourself a lie enough times, it’ll eventually be nothing but truth.

The old woman nods. “That makes more sense. What a kind thing to do.”

“Adelaide is special,” Fawn says, bestowing a rare compliment on me. She’s usually all business. She’s not the coziest woman in the world. “Ms. Dalia has Alzeimers and will eventually lose her memory. She has already lost her husband and is just very, very tired. She would like you to erase all her memories: except one.”

I have had clients like this before. Clients who have diseases that will terminate their memory or their lives. Clients who simply want to live in a beautiful memory for the remainder of their lives. I don’t quite understand it myself; how could one memory be wonderful enough for it to be replayed over, and over, and over again?

I always feel a bit guilty about these tasks. It’s hard for destroying something to feel right. But it’s what Ms. Dalia wants . . .

“Which memory would you like to keep?” I ask. Ms. Dalia reaches into her clutch, an antique thing made of granny-approved patchwork stars and stripes. A memento of our old regime. She retrieves a piece of paper, crumpled a bit from its journey but still legible.

“I had my nurse write this down as I dictated. I told her I wanted to save it so I wouldn’t forget it upon my final decline.”

I take the paper and read it. My heart warms at the words; I curl the paper in my hand, tilting my head.

“This is a good choice,” I say. Ms. Dalia smiles as if my approval has cemented her decision.

“Thank you, Miss Adelaide.” I stick the note in my pocket and wipe my hands on my jeans. I always get sweaty palms before Memory Jumping. In fact, I get sweaty palms before anything involving my always-bound-up nerves.

“Are you ready, ma’am?” Fawn asks. Her voice sounds patient, but she’s as tense as a coiled-up slinky. I know she’s almost about to blow with impatience. Fawn likes to get them in, get them out, quick. Patience is neither a virtue she owns nor one she’d ever like to own.

“Yes. Yes.” The old woman runs her pointy, crinkly finger along the stitches of a proud star on her purse. “And all the details are planned out?”

“Absolutely.” Fawn can’t just bring Ms. Dalia back to the nursing home in a stupor. If the old woman were to wake up and only remember one thing, questions would be asked. That’s why Fawn has special contacts that can “deliver” people when their conditions have been . . . altered. I like Buddy and Perkins. They’re brothers, so similar you’d think they’re twins. Both slightly overweight, both with a marvelous sense of humor, both with a bit of stubble on their middle-aged chins.

I guess they’re a type of henchmen, but the best and kindest kind there is.

“All right, Ms. Dalia.” Fawn looks at me. She can see the nervousness in my eyes, I know it. I give her a thumbs up so she won’t snap at me later about chickening out. “Thank you so much for allowing us to help you.”

I place one hand on Ms. Dalia’s temple. My hands are always cold, so the old woman gasps a little as they meet her warm forehead. But she doesn’t beg me to stop; at least she doesn’t chicken out.

I close my eyes and focus, really hard. I dig into the core of my brain, the epicenter, imagining a pinpoint. The world fuzzes out, becoming blurry. I can’t feel my hands or legs anymore. In fact, I can’t feel anything except a sizzling in my soul.

Then comes the actual Memory Jumping. I target the center of Ms. Dalia’s brain and then focus my energy on catapulting myself there. The feeling is sharp but not unpleasant. I travel through her brain in a blur of black and white and occasional colors and feelings. I finally land in one of her memory locations.

I have read all about memory in my science books. Most everything is theory; people hardly know how it’s stored, where it’s stored, or why certain memories fade away. And there is certainly nothing about Memory Jumping.

I never thought myself peculiar until I saw the look in my first customer’s eyes. The funny thing about people is, we all think we’re normal until we meet other people. Then we realize that this quirk about us is abnormal, and not everyone thinks the way we do.

And that not everyone can Memory Jump as easily as they can whistle or shoot hoops.

Sometimes, people think we’re using black magic. One guy ran out when I placed my hand on his forehead, screaming like the Devil himself was on his tail. I saw myself a little differently in the mirror after that.

Now I need to search for the memory. I decide to try the bottom part of Ms. Dalia’s memory first. A golden door appears, shining and certain. Then it shoots out, far away from me, and other doors visualize along a long corridor. My feet reappear, then my legs. Soon I can see and feel my body again.

I’m in Ms. Dalia’s mind.

Almost every door is different in some way. They are all labeled, neat and tidy. Not everyone’s brains are like that. I have been in some brains that were the most disheveled, disorderly things. It’s a good thing I can search for memories when I need to or I would’ve been in there for the rest of my life.

Ms. Dalia’s memories, at least here, are ordered alphabetically by people involved. There are simply names, no explanations as to whom the people were. I stick my fingers into my back pocket and retrieve the piece of paper.

 

 I would like to forever remember the moment I knew David Watersby loved me. We had been just friends up to the time, but one night we went to the movies. We were supposed to go with a group, but somehow they all cancelled last minute so it was just me and Dereck. I was watching the movie when I felt something, and I looked over . . . he was just staring at me. And I don’t mean in a strange way, or even an unmeaningful way.

I swear, when a man looks at you that way, you know he loves you. There’s not a doubt about it. It’s written all over his face.

The car was an aqua Ford.

I was wearing a yellow headscarf and a pink floral dress.

 

I pass a couple “b” names and continue down the hallway, searching for the “d’s”. There are a whole lotta “c” names, that’s for certain.

I finally locate the d’s, and Daniel is one of the first. I open the door and see opaque images floating everywhere. They’re all from Dalia’s point of view, of course, tinged with her emotions.

In one, she hugs a younger man tightly, her eyes scrunched as little droplets of water fall down her cheeks. I can feel the tears dripping down my own cheeks as I let myself melt into the memory. In another image, Dalia sits on a couch, having a serious conversation with the man. A thread of dark purple worry snakes through the memory, which makes me curious. I put my own feelings away and get back to my job. I find a memory in which Dalia wears a yellow dress. She looks out the window at an aqua ford.

It’s time to do my job.

I close the door. But I don’t immediately destroy the other doors. It always takes a bit of time for me to get up the courage.

I don’t know why this is so hard for me. Memory Jumping is what I do. It’s what I was made for.

But something about destroying someone’s memories, even if it is their choice . . . it doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s because, deep down inside, I know that these memories aren’t theirs to destroy.

Before I wimp out anymore, I turn to the door next to this one and rip off the doorknob. It does not come off easily, but it releases with less effort than an actual doorknob. Golden flickers and flashes swallow the door, turning it into golden sparkles.

From amidst the burning destruction, I see the nameplate.

And realize I have made a terrible error.

“David” it says. What? I look at the other door; its nameplate says “Daniel.” Wait . . . I pull out the piece of paper and reread it. Dalia’s husband was named David. And I just destroyed the David door.

Ugh! I’m so stupid! I always get the names David and Daniel mixed up, I never know why. My cheeks flush and the heat pounds against them.

I destroyed the wrong memory.

The door isn’t completely gone yet. I grab the side that is still visible and push away the flying sparks, but my hand goes right through them and they keep eating away at the door like voracious termites.

I bend down to the ground where I threw the doorknob. I pick it up and press it against the door as if it will magically reattach itself.

“Come on, come on, come on,” I mutter, and start sweating. Again.

The light gnaws at the hole where the doorknob was, removing it from existence. Then, with a final flash, the door disappears.

Forever.

Oh wow. This is bad.

I reopen the “Daniel” door and enter. The memories float through me, slipping and sliding around, new ones showing up every few seconds. I pull the closest one towards me. The memory expands and plays. A door opens and Dalia walks out onto the front porch to see a young woman (her daughter?) and her companion pull into a driveway. The car is an aqua Ford, indeed. Must’ve been the family car. Or just really popular back then. The girl gets out of the car, waves to the guy, and then walks onto her porch.

I fast-forward the memory and Dalia talks to a man. They are in a living room.

“I don’t want her with that boy,” Ms. Dalia says.

“Dalia . . .” The man starts, but I stop listening.

That girl in the car was Ms. Dalia’s daughter. I misinterpreted the memories I saw. Badly. I drag my hands over my face, moaning. David was Ms. Dalia’s husband. . . Daniel was her daughter’s boyfriend. All the names starting with “d” float around in a mass, and my mind spins.

Yup. I deleted the wrong memory.

#

“It’s done?”

I try not to wince at Fawn’s question as I sit on the couch, fresh from my Memory Jump. My shoulders hurt and my lungs cry out for more air. Memory Jumping usually leaves me a bit tired; the longer I stay in there, the more I feel as if I’ve been through crossfit. “Yup.” Oh, it’s done all right.

I wrestle with something deep inside pressuring me to tell the truth.

“Grace,” Ms. Dalia whimpers. Fawn’s head shoots at her and spikes of dread fire up my cheeks, rendering them hot . . . and telltale red, I’m sure. I had hoped Dalia wouldn’t say anything; she would just sit there in the memory, not saying a word. Then Fawn will never know.

But this memory is too emotional for Dalia to stay silent.

“I don’t want her with that boy.”

Fawn’s eyebrows shoot downward and I run my fingers over the couch cushion, fingers twitching in anxiety. “What is she talking about?”

I don’t say a word. I don’t have to, because Dalia keeps muttering and sniffling.

“In the memory you saved, was there a girl named Grace? Did she steal Dalia’s boyfriend?”

I dig my nails into the soft flesh of my palms. I go deeper and deeper and the stings drown out everything else. Then I shove my hands underneath my legs, willing Dalia to shut up.

“Why would she want to live in that memory forever?”

I have messed up before, but never this bad. This is an epic failure. A destruction of someone’s future.

“We can’t have her babbling like this at the nursing home. Too suspicious.” Fawn glances at me. I force myself to keep her gaze, try not to blink. Fawn is too worked up to notice my suspicious activity. Her mouth grows tighter. “You need to go back in and fix the memory.”

As much as I hate going into people’s memories, I hate altering the memories even more. There is just nothing right about that.

“Fawn . . . I—”

“Listen, Adelaide, I know it hurts your conscience. That’s okay. But just see what your conscience thinks tonight—tomorrow—next week, when your hair is all over the floor.”

I bite my lip. I keep my hair long for a reason; it’s just the Adelaide thing to do. It’s my one gift in life. I’m such an average person; I don’t have any freckles for a cute fairy look, no dark and romantic eyes, no long legs or dainty hands.

Rather, my eyes are a dull, dead gray. Not even a sparkly bluish-gray. My hair, dark brown and long. I’m of average height, average weight, average everything. My nose is too big, too upturned.

I can’t lose my hair.

I can’t mess up again. But I can’t tell Fawn that.

“And listen, we can’t let Dalia live in misery the rest of her life.” Fawn looks so pretty when she smiles, even if the smile is as fake as my life.

I place a hand on Ms. Dalia’s forehead and close my eyes. I center in on her brain . . . and Memory Jump.

There is only one door this time. I turn the knob and enter, feeling like a thief of the worst kind.

I would remake Dalia’s memory of the moment she knew her husband loved her, but I’m not powerful enough to create the emotion of love. I’ve been able to synthesize anger, sadness, pain and grief. Even joy sometimes, when it’s not rooted in something shallow.

But love is the most powerful emotion of them all. It’s the core of what a human is. If all other emotions were to be destroyed, but still love existed, we’d all still be able to survive. In fact, we would thrive.

I’m going to have to work with what I have.

I pick through a few of the memories playing inside of the Daniel door. There is a memory of Dalia arguing with Daniel, apparently because he didn’t bring her daughter home by curfew. Another memory is Daniel kissing Grace right in front of their house. Dalia turns to her husband. The betrayal she feels is similar to that of a spurned love. I can almost feel the sadness.

Then there is a memory of the day Grace got married to Daniel. A thin veil of solemnity overshadows the heaviness of the sadness despite these strong emotions. And yet she showed up to the wedding.

I jab my finger at the memory and my finger dissolves into it. My body soon follows, and I find myself inside the memory. The feeling is a bit like entering a room that has metallic streamers in the doorway. It’s a shivery kind of transition feeling.

I am at the back of the room. No one can see me. I can manipulate the memory just as I want to; this isn’t actual reality, rather a bunch of chemicals and cells. It is always possible for a memory to be incorrectly stored. I tell myself all this, trying to make myself feel less guilty.

I pinch my fingers and fling them to my right, fast-forwarding the memory. The pastor asks the young couple if they are willing to accept each other in marriage.

I insert doubt in the girl’s mind; make her pause as Daniel, the pastor, and the audience watch her. She glances up at Daniel. Her eyes trace his features. Suddenly, she can’t remember why she fell in love with him. Did she even love him?

“No.” The word hardly takes up a second, but it blasts across the room like a sonic boom. At first, everyone is silent.

“No,” Grace repeats. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m sorry.”

Whispers ricochet around the room like bullets in a saloon. The feeling of relief that washes over Dalia is so potent, it’s like what I imagine diving into water must feel like.

I leave Dalia’s mind and when I readjust my eyes, I am back in the living room sitting on the couch. I stand up and join Fawn, who stands tense as an irate rattlesnake.

“Did it work?” My words wobble. I am so upset I failed, terrified Fawn will punish me by taking away my books or not letting me eat dinner.

Fawn doesn’t say a word. She watches Dalia. The old woman’s lips move back and forth, up and down in inaudible words. Then . . . a tear trickles down her face and conceives a smile.

“Grace,” she whispers. Then, she’s silent. I wait a few more very long seconds, willing her to stay quiet. Fawn slaps me on the back, without a smile. I’m afraid she might startle Ms. Dalia and cause her to freak out again, but Ms. Dalia is mute.

“You’re lucky you got yourself out of that situation,” she says.

“I know. And I’m sorry.”

“Not sorry enough. We can’t afford mistakes like that.” Her eyes blast into mine. They’re aloof, but meaningfully so. Something is hidden behind those watery-blue-bordered pupils. I bet she won’t tell me what’s so embedded into her mind.

Her eyes harden, eyebrows shooting down in degradation. “Stop trying to dig into my mind.”

I feel myself drop the line I had automatically attempted to connect to Fawn’s brain. She never lets me in there. Ever.

“I didn’t mean to.”

Her eyes harden and her eyebrows crack. “Wait . . . how did you do that without touching my forehead?”

I honestly didn’t even notice I did that. I shrug. “Not sure.”

Fawn stares at me as if I’m an alien she wants to dissect. It makes my skin wriggle. Then she walks away without another word. I follow her. I have to walk fast to catch up with her; she can speedwalk like no one’s business with her long, skinny legs. As she walks, I mentally give myself a high five for making her hair look so good. It’s shoulder length, but I managed to wrestle it into a really cool fauxhawk style. Her almost black hair makes it look even more intense than it would on a blonde or redhead.

Well done, Adelaide, I congratulate myself. No one else will ever be able to give me a compliment, so I must shower them upon myself.

“When are Buddy and Perkins coming?” I question.

“W within the hour. I paged them and they’ll bring Dalia back to the nursing home.”

Fawn doesn’t turn back to talk to me but keeps walking. The speed of her voice matches her walking pace.

I stop in my tracks, done trying to talk to her. In moments like these, when Fawn ignores me, I always retreat to my room. It is a good-sized room, smaller than Fawn’s, but I don’t need lots of space anyway. Everything is white: the walls, the floor, the bookshelves, the bed. The floors are cold, hard tile. For that simple fact, I always wear socks. I have a stash under my bed. Fawn thinks I’m messy, but I like them under there because they’re easily grabbable.

There are shelves all over the place, hanging from the ceiling and stuffed with books. I’ve taped pictures of places I want to travel all over my walls.

My bed isn’t made; the covers are all twisted up like an uncooked pretzel, with my favorite fluffy white blanket piled on the top like chunky whipped cream. I usually don’t forget to make it in the mornings but this morning I was particularly nervous.

Maybe I can tell the future too! I laugh at the thought.

Fawn’s voice comes through a security camera in the corner of my room. I like to forget that it’s there. “What are you laughing at?”

“Just myself.”

She scoffs; it comes out really grainy through the sound system. Then she doesn’t say anything else.

I smooth out the covers and fix the blanket on my bed. Then I plop onto it and fly up a bit in the air before thunking back down. My hair is a silky curtain and it spreads over everything like another blanket. I run my hands through the strands closest to my face and my fingers catch a few knots. I pull myself back up and walk over to my dresser, littered with various history novels, and find my brush. I also dig up my book of useless facts. It’s my most valued possession.

It’s so thick and heavy. One of my clients gave it to me. He was such a wonderful man, perhaps the person’s mind I most enjoyed jumping into. His name was Oscar, and he was absolutely brilliant. I never told Fawn, but before I completed the task for which he paid me, I toured the depths of his cavernous intellect.

When Fawn walked out of the room to get him some tea (“with a little bit of lemon juice, please”), I admitted to him how I had looked around his mind. He simply laughed, a snorky kind of laugh that made his belly jump up and down. And then he told me he would bring me a book the next time he came.

He never came back.

But Fawn got the book from him somehow. Inside, there was a message for me. It said, “Knowledge is freedom. Oscar”.

I asked her why he didn’t come back. I had only been eight at the time. Fawn, as usual, gave me little details. She said he “was busy” and didn’t have time to “play around with little girls.” But she gave me the book anyway. It was one of the nicest things she’s ever done for me.

I look at it now as I tug the brush through my hair.

USELESS FACT #45

“Men process women’s voices in the part of the brain that they process music.”

I’ve read all these facts countless times, but they still fascinate me, particularly the ones about the brain. I make a note to ask Fawn for another textbook about the brain sometime.

#

That night, I try out a new recipe for chicken parmesan. Fawn took a look at the calorie count for the sauce and nearly gave up the ghost. She always does this; throws a fit and acts like she might actually gain enough meat to not be in danger of blowing away in the wind. But then, after I cook, she’ll smell the delicious scent and scurry into the kitchen like a little mouse, complaining the whole time.

I feel like I’m dancing, whipping around one way to turn the stove on, then circling the other way to swipe the plastic off the container for the chicken. A heavy dance beat pumps from the living room. Fawn must be doing her old lady workouts.

I start to chuckle, recalling an image of Fawn huffing whilst squatting with a five-pound weight. I place the chicken in the pan, then douse it in herbs.

I glance at the clock on the wall. It’s white and only the five glows right now, a perky neon green. The minute hand has barely left the number.

I make sure my chicken is safe, then walk over to the refrigerator to grab some vitamin water. I look back at the clock.

I make my way to the living room. Fawn stands there, watching the moms and old ladies on the wall doing some complicated dance routine.

“Here’s your water,” I say. She jumps, probably burning the most calories she has for the past 15 minutes.

“It’s 5:01.”

“I’m sorry; my hands had chicken on them.”

“You should plan better.”

I take a deep breath mentally. She grabs the water from my hands and dismisses me by staring back at the television.

At dinner, she dives into the chicken. It’s gone in a minute flat, and then she complains I put too much sauce on there and added an extra 300 calories. I don’t know how she stays so tiny, what with how much she eats and how little she actually exercises.

She never tells me my food was good. She’s not super vocal like that. Instead, her wolfing the food down like a rabid pig is my compliment.

She chooses now, as I’m digging into my own meal civilly with a knife and fork, to tell me about a new client.

“He’s extremely important.”

I tug at the collar of my bright orange shirt, which suddenly feels as if it’s shrinking. Fawn loves wearing white and tries to make me wear white too, but my small act of rebellion is wearing only colored clothing. We each have ten items of clothing: four shirts, two skirts, two pairs of pants, and two dresses. “Okay.”

“No. No, not okay. Addy, you don’t understand.” She only calls me Addy when she’s really annoyed with me. My knife slows. I stare at a spot on the sleek metal table where Fawn dropped a bit of sauce. I’m gonna have to clean that up later. “This man . . . he could change our lives.”

I look into her eyes and give her a smile and a nod so she can’t say I’m ignoring her. Then I shove a bite of chicken in my mouth. It’s too big.

“You could go outside if you do this right.” The chicken attacks the side of my cheeks, then slips down my throat. I swear it’s trying to kill me. I should thank it, I think as I cough and splutter and almost die.

“What day is it?” I ask, smacking my chest.

“Why?”

“You’re lying. It’s April Fools. How will we get back down without someone to press the button?”

Fawn grabs one of my hands, yanking me towards her. My knife jumps ship and clatters on the ground. “Buddy or Perkins will stay down here until we come back. And stop that. I don’t lie to you, and I won’t ever.”

“You won’t tell me who my parents were.”

Fawn rubs her thumb over my hand. “That’s not lying. That’s wisely choosing to withhold information. You don’t want to know, trust me.”

I laugh. I’ve read all the philosophers. There are debates about what lies are, and I’ve come to the conclusion that not giving people information is lying.

I pat down a piece of my bangs that always wants to stick straight out. “But I do want to know.”

“No, you don’t.”

A small laugh leaks out of my mouth.

Fawn’s eyes tighten. “What’s so funny?”

I have the words all planned out. If I were any other girl at any other table with any other parental figure, I’d say it. I mean, I’m the Memory Jumper here. But it seems that you’re always telling me what to think.

But, as usual, I hide the truth inside of my aching frame. “Just a fact I heard today.”

Her eyes go back down to her empty plate. Her long fingernails shine in the light coming from the suspended lightbulbs above us. They’re so long, they could dig a grave. Her nails are always perfectly painted. She always keeps them long, too. I’ve never painted my nails in my life.

I’m not sure about this new client. I’m not sure why Fawn’s never taken me to The Outside to get my nails painted or, at least, painted them for me herself.

All I’m certain of is the color of Fawn’s nails: blood red, her favorite color.

USELESS FACT #97

It’s impossible to remain angry at someone you truly love. Anger lasting for more than 3 days indicates that you don’t really love them.

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