The Renewed Promise
“Why are we still waiting?” Jay wasn’t even making an effort to be polite at this point. Julie’s attempts to keep him calm weren’t working, and she was getting antsy herself.
Dr. Huitre was looking pretty antsy as well. He kept repeating various forms of “I am sure the doctor will be here in a minute.”
Grater, the head of security, stood stone-faced as the group stood in the small lobby of the Epaphus building.
“I am so very sorry for keeping you waiting.” Dr. Samantha Trace, hair pulled back in a severe bun, glasses perched upon her pinched face, entered the lobby, addressing her comment to Jay and Julie. “Henry.” She acknowledged Dr. Huitre and then returned her attention to the Jordans. “I can only imagine how inconvenient and stressful this must be. It was very kind of you to bring the children in at this late hour.”
“We didn’t have much of a choice.” Jay muttered. Julie squeezed Jay’s arm.
Dr. Trace continued, “Of course, this is completely our fault. You can be sure that we’ll investigate why it took us so long to get in touch with your family. I called Henry immediately as soon as we found our error. We’ve tested hundreds of participants already and only your three children remain.” Dr. Trace turned to the security guard, “Grater, will you please get our guests some coffee.”
Grater let the slightest grimace briefly cross his face.
“We didn’t come for coffee.” Jay remarked with a mix of anger and sarcasm.
Julie interjected, trying to redirect the conversation. “How long will this take? When can we be with them?”
“Excellent question. I’m so sorry for not explaining that first.” Dr. Trace was doing her best to be conciliatory, but her voice sounded irritated.
“Your children are in the exam rooms right now. I need to interview each of them briefly, 10-15 minutes at most, and then I’ll draw some blood and you can be on your way.”
“I am sure Dr. Trace will get it done very quickly.” Dr. Huitre tried to sound encouraging.
“Great, let’s go to them and get started.” Jay clapped his hands together.
“Actually,” Dr. Trace paused, sighed, and added, “I have to do the interview on my own.”
“What?” Jay and Julie remarked in unison.
“Part of the test is having the child characterize their own experiences and health. We have a specific protocol we use to collect the information, and we’ve found that the presence of even the most restrained parents can’t help but skew the results.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“I wish I were, Mr. Jordan. But I promise, as soon as the interview is over, we’ll bring you and your wife in so you can be there for the blood draw. I assure you we take the absolute minimum, and the needle is very small.”
Julie looked like she was going to cry at the thought of her children getting stuck with needles that evening on top of everything else they’d already had to deal with.
“Don’t forget, wait for my signal.” Binny reminded Zach for the third time.
“I know. I know.”
Zach looked at his sister, his face extra serious. “Binny, why does it have to be you?”
Binny was touched by her brother’s concern. “We each have a job to do. I’ll do mine so you and Penny can do yours.”
“But yours is the most dangerous. It’s not fair.”
“Zach,” Binny’s voice got low, “There is no fair. Things just are.”
Zach shuffled his feet and looked like he was approaching Binny to try and give her a hug. Binny spared him the awkwardness adding, “We’re going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. OK?”
Hug narrowly averted, Zach continued, “Just remind me again, how will I recognize the signal?”
“Trust me. You’ll know.” Binny had a big grin on her face.
Binny closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating, “OK. Now or never. That guard is in the outer hallway around the corner. Let’s go.”
Zach typed in the code he’d seen Barrios enter in the door’s keypad. The light blinked green. Zach went through first making a quick dash down the hall and out the building. Binny left the interview room as well but instead of rushing out she moved towards the big glass window on the opposite wall.
Hunched in a corner, her face buried in her bunched up knees, was seven-year-old Cassie. Binny thought she looked scared, like she was about to cry. Cassie’s nervousness could end up revealing her powers and make all of Binny, Zach, and Penny’s efforts worthless. The thought of leaving Cassie all alone hurt Binny’s heart. She wanted to go in there and protect her. But like she’d said to Zach, they each had a job to do. Even Cassie.
Binny rapped her knuckles gently on the window. Cassie’s head jerked, looking in that direction.
Binny slid back the panel over the narrow slot in the wall under the window and bent down to whisper through it. “Cassie. Cassie.” Binny whispered as loudly as she dared.
“Binny?” Cassie asked.
“Come here. I’m on the other side of this slot.”
Cassie padded over to the wall. “I can’t see you.”
“I know sweetie. But I can see you. It’s a one-way mirror.” Binny explained.
“Listen Cassie, do you remember what I told you?”
“I’m scared.” Cassie said.
“I know. It’s gonna be okay. I promise. You just have to stay calm. Zach and me and Penny are going to get you out of this.”
A handful of silvery tendrils of light started to slowly form around Cassie.
Binny continued more urgently, “Cassie, seriously, you’ve got to do what I said. You can’t turn invisible now. We can’t show them what you can do.”
“I’m really scared.” The tendrils were swimming around Cassie now and she was starting to flicker. Binny could see the chairs and table right through her sister every time she flickered.
“Cass, you’re turning invisible right now!”
“I am? I am?” Tears were streaming down Cassie’s face.
“Yes. It’s okay. I know you can do this. I promise. I will protect you.”
“Then why aren’t you in here? Please come in here. I don’t like being alone.” Cassie was visible again with only a few wisps of light slowly snaking around her now.
“I have to go do something.” Binny responded slowly.
The silver light grew in strength again, and Binny knew her sister was about to turn completely invisible.
“Honestly, I’ve never heard of anything like this before.” Jay complained. “Why does the interview matter? The blood test will either be positive or negative. I want to see my kids now.”
Huitre intervened, “Actually, combining psychiatric observation with blood labs is a holistic and accepted approach to diagnosing patients. Luce Laboratories has always been at the forefront of clinical research.”
Dr. Trace waited for Huitre to finish his sentence before addressing Jay and Julie directly. Julie thought she detected some condescension towards Huitre from Dr. Trace, but then wondered if she had imagined it.
“Yes. Thank you Henry.” Trace smiled her pinched smile. “I have a son of my own.” Julie noticed Dr. Trace pausing just slightly after the mention of her own son as if she was picturing what he might be doing at that moment. “I promise to treat your children just as I would treat my own son. OK?” Dr. Trace gently nodded as if to indicate that the conversation was over and it was time to test the children.
It was not the first time on this long day that Jay and Julie felt that they were not able to protect their children from the painful experiences they were about to go through.
Binny continued, “Listen to me closely Cassie. We all have a job to do. And this is your job.”
“What’s my job again?” Cassie was whimpering. To Binny it looked like Cassie’s image was being projected by a faulty film projector, dancing on a fine line between functional and completely broken.
Binny repeated herself slowly and calmly in the hopes that it would help her sister collect herself. “Your job is to stay calm and not turn invisible.”
Binny didn’t want to scare Cassie even worse, but she needed to impress upon her the importance of staying visible. “You are a special girl. You can turn invisible. It’s amazing. It’s your super power.”
Cassie gave a faint smile, as Binny continued, “But it’s your superpower. Nobody else’s. Adults, when they see something special, like your ability, they want to find a way to be able to do it themselves.”
“How could they do that?”
“Well, I don’t know. But it’s not gonna happen.”
“Like E.T.?” Binny repeated Cassie’s question not exactly sure what Cassie was asking.
“Daddy said that when they take you apart to see what makes you tick, you don’t come back to life.”
Binny silently chastised her father for showing Cassie that movie.
Cassie turned decidedly more transparent.
Feeling that the discussion was now concluded, Samantha Trace nodded to the Jordans and turned toward the door from which she’d entered. Dr. Huitre made to go with her.
“Oh, Henry, that’s alright. What I’d really appreciate is if you could stay here with Mr. and Mrs. Jordan. I’m sure you’d be great at answering any questions that might come up. I promise to be quick.”
“But – ” Huitre blurted out, but Trace was already through the door and striding down the long hallway beyond. Grater’s position at the door made it clear that nobody would be following her.
Binny could sense a solid purple presence heading in the general direction of Cassie’s room and knew she was running out of time to help Cassie stay calm.
“Cassie, you can do this. You’re a big kid now. Like me and Zach.”
“I am?” Cassie’s face brightened and her entire body looked a little less see-through.
Binny felt in her pocket for something, grasping it in the palm of her hand. “Cassie, you are my one and only sister. I promise, I will keep you safe.”
“Then come be here with me right now. I don’t like it here, and I don’t want to be alone.” Cassie was completely visible for the moment.
“I have to go do something, but I have something to give you before I go. Now that you’re a big kid, you’re ready for it. It will keep you strong, keep you from turning invisible.” Binny took a small round object from her pocket and carefully pushed it through the slot towards her sister.
Cassie grabbed the ornate silver compact mirror just before it fell to the ground. Her eyes got wide. “I can borrow this?”
“Cassie, it’s yours now.”
“Really?” Cassie’s eyes were wide with surprise.
“Really.” Binny nodded up and down and then continued. “Open it, read what it says.”
Cassie opened the compact and read from the inscription. “You’re a vision?”
“It means that you’re special, you stand out. You’re not invisible.” Binny smiled sweetly, “Read the rest.”
Cassie read. “I will always be there for you.”
“See? I will always be there for you Cassie. Hold on to that mirror and everything will be just fine.”
“Thank you Binny.”
“I gotta go now. I’ll be back real soon. I promise.”
Binny carefully closed the slot just as the door to Cassie’s room opened. Through the door strode the thin annoyed woman from that morning. Dr. Trace. Binny was stunned.
She almost screamed thinking that the woman had seen her, but then remembered that while Binny could see in to the room, all the thin woman could see was her own reflection.
Binny hoped that Cassie and the mirror would do their jobs. Now it was time to do hers. Heart beating faster than it ever had, Binny tried her best to exit quietly.