"Ms. Baxter, we're nearing our destination." The chauffeur lowered the partition that separated him from me.
"It's about time!" I whined sticking to my cover of snotty prep school girl.
I could feel the car slowing, waiting for the Gallagher gates to open. I glanced up from the iPod I had been occupying myself with for the last few hours of travel and looked out the window at the perfectly manicured school grounds I had come to know brick by brick, pebble by pebble. The striking blue sky and the bright green grass were darkened by the tint of the window, but it was still a welcome sight after the sands of Egypt where I had spent my summer with my parents. I watched as the mansion came into view I sighed, relaxing against the seat.
There they were. Macey was standing beside one of the lion statues by the doors, holding her arms out, waiting for Liz to run into them. Jake and Grant were kneeling beside the thick gradient wall that ran beside the stairs, one on each side, arm wrestling. If I inclined my head, I could see Jonas exiting a car up ahead of me, heading straight for Liz, his now-official girlfriend. I imagined that Cammie and Zach were hidden away in some tower room or hidden passage, enjoying the last few moments of quiet since they were the only students (aside from eleven year old Ronnie, but he still had a ten o'clock bed time) in the mansion over the summer.
"Rebecca! Good to see you!" Cammie's mom smiled warmly, playing the average headmistress trying to please her spoiled clients.
"Headmistress Morgan." I nodded, keeping my headphones in my ears and walking away, "Can you make sure my bags get up to my room? Thanks!"
"Bex!" Liz collided with me with enough force to make me stumble, but when Macey collided with us, I actually did fall over.
"Oh my god!" I screeched, "You got dirt in my hair!"
"Get off of me!" Liz groaned. Macey was tiny, but Liz was tinier and she was having the wind slowly leave her lungs.
Macey laughed and stood up, brushing dirt from the only true designer outfit on campus (the rest of us wore government sanctioned, and created, knock offs) before realizing the two of us were still on the ground, "Well come on then! We haven't seen Cammie yet!" She ran off into the opulent mansion.
"Come on Cam, time to wake up." I felt soft lips brushed against mine. I felt the silky sheets around me. I could feel the mattress being pressed down on beside my head by one of his hands, the other resting on my stomach.
"Five more minutes." I groaned.
"Come on, Gallagher Girl." He gave me a little shake, "Flights are getting in. Which means it won't be long until they're here and I'm guessing you want to throw on something less... form fitting."
I opened my eyes and looked accusingly at the boy leaning over me, "Did you call me fat?"
"No. I called you pregnant." He stated, kissing me on the forehead before standing up straight with that smirk on his face, "Now come on. Get up."
I sat up in bed; gravity pushed the comforter down to my waist. I looked down at my ever so slightly engorged stomach. I was at the point where it wasn't noticeable unless you were looking for it, but seeing as it used to be entirely flat and now was slightly rounded, people trained in observation would do just that. Observe.
I quickly got ready and dressed while Zach made the bed (he had lost a bet regarding the type of ammunition used by the Chinese Mafia of Los Angeles in 1982). I slid on a pair of jean shorts, struggling a bit with the button, but I eventually triumphed proceeding to pull a flowing tank top down over my head.
"When do you want to tell you're mom?" He asked, pulling my back against his chest while I brushed my teeth.
"Once the baby turns forty." I met his eyes in the mirror.
"Think we can keep it a secret for that long?" He asked with a sigh, "Because I'm all for it." He wrapped his arms around my stomach, lacing his fingers while stroking my stomach with one of his thumbs, just above my naval.
"I think she'd figure it out eventually, my dad too. And your mom and my aunt and-" I went on listing all of the fully and partially trained operatives who trusted us and would be disappointed when they found out what we had done.
"Hey. Hey." Zach spun my around at his arms, leaning his torso back, so he can look at me better, "What's done is done Gallagher Girl. We can't change that. All we can do is make sure this baby stays happy and healthy. That being said, you really need to tell your mom, you can't be in P&E, CoveOps isn't great, but I won't complain."
"I can't just skip two terms of P&E. Do you know how far behind I'll be?" I asked.
"I know it sucks Cam, but you need to think of th-"
"I know I need to think of the baby! I know! But I hate it how it seems like I'm the only one making sacrifices for this baby." I felt tears rise to my eyes.
"I know Cam, I know." He pulled me closer to him, resting my head against his chest, "I wish I could take some of the burden, but right now, I don't think it's possible."
"I'm sorry. I don't know why I-" Zach just shushed me and held me to him.
"Don't worry Gallagher Girl, I'm here." He smiled down at me, "I suggest we go find a quiet place to hide."
"Trust me," I looked up at him, "In a few hours nowhere will be quiet."
"Come on girls." I attempted to coax the three young children into their mini-Gallagher Girl outfits, but they weren't having it.
"It itches Auntie Rachel." Joan, the youngest Goode, spoke up, yanking at the plaid skirt.
"I know sweetie, but it's only for a little while." I smiled, straightening the pouting three-year-old's skirt for the umpteenth time.
"Why can't we just wear a dress? One without a suit?" Lucy, my daughter, complained with Nina, the older Goode daughter nodded along.
"It isn't a suit." I instructed, "It's a blazer." If they were going to grow up to play the part of privileged schoolgirls, they needed to know the difference. "Now let's go, we have to get to the welcome back dinner."
"Bex!" The little girl ran up to me and wrapped her arms around my leg.
"Hi Joanie." I smiled running my hair through the bouncy blonde curls. "How was your summer?"
"It was a lot of fun! We stayed here all summer since Mom had to go away. " Joan's sister, Nina, appeared.
The young girls had coped rather well and already decided Catherine was their mother. I'm not going to lie. I have no experience with losing a parent, knock on wood, but I was quiet certain the grieving process takes more than four months. And I never did think you could move on and call another woman your mother. But these girls were taking it all in stride as if the life they had in the Circle of Cavan was a dream or a past life.
"Have you girls seen Cammie or Zach anywhere?" Headmistress Morgan asked us, approaching with her younger daughter, Lucy.
"We have been here for a six hours and have neither seen nor heard from them." Macey answered, "I wonder where they are?"
"As long as they don't set off any security breaches or set the Director of the CIA on me, I'd rather not know." Cammie's mom shook her head. "I was hoping I could pawn the girls off on them while I make my speach." She hinted.
"We'll take care of them." I answered, scooping Joan up into my arms, "It could be an apology for earlier."
"You were sticking to your cover." The headmistress shrugged, "But we really should get some retired CIA agents to run the limo service. Security measures and all."
"I can't believe you didn't wake me up!" I complained while throwing one of my uniforms.
"You were the one who woke me up!" Zach exclaimed, throwing off his t-shirt and replacing it with the white button down shirt.
We dressed quickly, all but sprinting from Zach's room where we had been living for the summer. After all, there was a huge mansion at our disposal with only three or four staff members inside at a time. Sure, they were trained operatives who have preformed on who knows how many missions, but they just couldn't cover all the bases all the time.
"There you two are!" Bex exclaimed running over to us and pulling me into a hug. Macey was the last to hug me, pulling me up close to her. When she pulled back, she looked at me in shock, then over at Zach, who was giving each of his friends that half hug thing guys do, and back to me. She couldn't know. She couldn't. I wasn't even really showing yet! Macey moved onto Zach, though, pulling him into a hug. I saw his eyes flicker with worry, but it was just that. A flicker. I hugged the guys and the girls hugged Zach.
We all exchanged our summer stories. Macey hanging out by a pool in her parent's beach house in Virginia. Liz down in Alabama with her little sister, Ellie, who was inside our grand hall for the first time with the seventh graders. Bex told fascinating stories about northern Africa where she had helped her parents bring down a drug smuggling ring. Grant and Jake had vacationed with Jake's parents, both lawyers, in Aruba. While Jonas taught a class at MIT (under a false name and age, of course).
"So what did the love birds do this summer?" Bex asked giving Zach and I a mischievous look.
"We were here all summer. Babysitting." Zach grumbled as we sat down at one of the junior tables.
Now that the boys were going to school on the Gallagher campus, everything had doubled. Classrooms higher than the second floor had been turned into dorms for the boys. Never used parlors were turned into classrooms and I was forced to reveal the locations of some of my hidden rooms to provide space for the Blackthorn faculty to live.
I watched as my sisters and new brothers, are they? Cousins? I don't know. I watched as the boys and girls attending class at my school filled the hall, taking seats at their tables. I saw Ellie smile and wave at us, she was so excited to be here with her big sister, too bad she didn't truly know what here was. Once everyone was seated in the Grand hall, the my mother strolled through the doors at the back of the hall, leading the pack of forty teachers along with Dr. Steve, the headmaster of Blackthorne. We waited until the faculty took their seats at their table, leaving my mother and Dr. Steve, now Co-Headmasters of the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young People, standing by the podium.
Dr. Steve stepped to the podium, "Men, who are we?" All of the boys, even little Ronnie, stood from their seats.
"The sons of Blackthorne." The boys all spoke in unison.
"To what ends do you work?"
"To end all evil and darkness."
"How long will you strive?"
"For all of the days of our lives." The boys all sat down.
"Top that." Zach smirked to me when he sat back down beside me.
"With pleasure." I gave him a kiss on the cheek, causing my sisters to stare. They still weren't used to this.
My mother replaced Dr. Steve at the podium, "Women of the Gallagher Academy, who comes here?"
Every girl (we still outnumbered the boys) stood from their seats. "We are the sisters of Gillian." I could feel Zach's hand on the back of my calf.
"Why do you come?"
"To learn her skills. Honor her sword. And keep her secrets." The hand crept up to my knee.
"To what end to you work?"
"To the cause of justice and light." The hand was on my thigh.
"How long will you strive?"
"For all the days of our lives." The hand was on my upper thigh, underneath my skirt. I was the first girl to retake her seat, pushing Zach's hand down.
"You handled that well." He smirked into my ear.
"You cannot do that!" I whispered.
"Because, you just can't!"
"I don't see that as a real reason Gallagher Girl."
"Welcome back students. This year, we make history."