This story is a zoo. And by zoo I do NOT mean it is about a zoo, just that it is as crazy as a zoo.
Okay, let me explain a little more. Last week in creative writing class, we all had to think of a word that had to do with a zoo. Then, for our assignment, we had to put all of those words in a story. Without writing about a zoo, of course. I managed to do it
to avoid being eaten by sharks.
I focus my binoculars on a group walking through the museum entrance. Still no sign of the target. In case I missed some one, I sweep my binoculars over the clusters of people milling around exhibits of stuffed birds. Although I’ve studied each of them, I examine them again.
“Loosen up, B,” says my assigned partner, Xavier. “Nothing’s going to happen.”
I grit my teeth. Of all the people at Silverleaf Academy of Espionage, Xavier would be the last person I’d choose to be paired with. “Well, this is an assignment. And I for one choose to take my assignments seriously,” I retort, not taking my eyes off the crowd.
To pretend like I’m doing something important, I shift my focus to an old man reading about the stuffed penguin. He’s stood there for three whole minutes. I don’t know what he finds so fascinating about a bird that eats fish instead of birdseed.
“I’m serious B,” Xavier continues.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Okay, Beatrice.” He takes a loud sip from his slushie. “You can keep looking, but there won’t be any target.”
“Do you mind?” I snap, not taking my eyes off the crowd. “We’re on a stakeout.”
He sighs. “Yeah, yeah. But it’s not a real stakeout if no one’s coming. We could just sit and talk if we wanted. Bet we could even raid the snack cart.”
I roll my eyes. “Thank you for your kind offer, but I’d sooner spend my time in cages of malodorous beasts.”
He chuckled. “Do you try to talk like that, or does it just come out that way?”
“Do you try to be this obnoxious, or does it just happen that way?”
“You know what they say about you back at Silverleaf?”
My ears perk up, but I keep my eyes trained on the crowd so that he doesn’t realize he has my attention.
“There are rumors about everyone, you know,” he continues. “They say Katrina’s been to jail, Frank’s killed three people, and Ethan’s scars are actually from some violent otters. There’s some shocking story or crazy romantic history for everyone… everyone except you.”
“Really?” As soon as the word slips out, I want to bite it back. I’m not supposed to show any interest in what Xavier is saying, yet… I’ve heard the rumors of course, but I always believed there were equally scandalous stories floating around about me. I’m not naive enough to believe I’d be the golden exception.
“Well… there have been some stories, but nothing interesting ever sticks.” He slurps the end of his slushie. “Thing is, you never really do something worth gossiping about. Your record is perfect, no failed missions. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, you’ve never had a boyfriend. And no one really knows the truth about your past.”
“So you were wondering if I’d tell you, so that you’d have a new story to show off when we return?” I cut him off.
“Might as well. What else are we going to do here?”
That’s when I lose it. I whirl around to face him, an almost feral look in my eyes. Why do the girls at Silverleaf find his ever-present smirk and messy hair so attractive? I’ll never know.
“What is it about a stakeout that you don’t understand? We are not having a slumber party. If the target does make an appearance without us realizing, there will be very serious consequences.”
If possible, his smirk becomes more pronounced. “I think you’re the one with the confusion, B. The target isn’t coming. No one will.”
“You don’t know that.”
He shakes his head. “Actually, I do. After we were put on the same Fireteam, the leaders at Silverleaf noticed we were… incompatible, as they said it. So they assigned us a useless mission to teach us to get along.”
“Because everyone knows we hate each other,” I finish for him, staring blankly at the wall. Is it possible? Would Silverleaf do something like that?
Xavier’s smirk fades slightly and his ice blue eyes adopt an almost melancholy… well, at least thoughtful look. “No B. Everyone knows you hate me.”
In the moment it takes my jaw to drop, he starts talking again. “So anyway, if you report that the only thing you accomplished this mission was having a decent conversation, our instructors will be fine. Happy even.”
“You still just don’t get it, do you?” I mutter.
He sighs, running his fingers though coarse dark hair. “What? What don’t I get this time?”
“Silverleaf isn’t just some fancy school I’m attending to get attention. It’s my ticket to success.” I’m pacing back and forth now. It’s a little difficult with the amount of space I have, but I’ve never been able to shake the habit. “You see, I don’t have a rich family to bribe me up to the top like you do. I have to work my way there. And I don’t have time to fool around with monkeys like you. I’m too busy taking what I do seriously.”
I glance at Xavier to see what effect my rant is having on him. His looks just like a statue—pale and deadly still. Did I do that to him? No, it had to be something else. In answer to my unspoken question, he gradually lifts an unsteady hand and points behind me. I silently pick up my binoculars, focusing in on the area he’s pointing to. The moment I see it, my heart stops. It’s the target.
Well, sorry I had to end there. I was a little pressed for time. But if you want, I’m open to continuing…