Who was it who ran away like this?
Lady Liberty never said, “Give me your social outcasts, your criminals, your bored, your adrenaline junkies.” But that was because she was scripted with poetry, colored with hope.
So who was it really who ran away like this?
I had been all those things Lady Liberty never said she collected, but would I have ever considered this?
The gray ribbon dangled from the center of a perfect blue sky; its slender length held up by nothing, having no beginning, only an ending here on the gleaming white platform where I stood. I tilted my head back, the infinitesimal sway of the great cruise ship leaving me floating, feeling as though I could reach up into that sky and grasp hold of that ribbon, as though I could give in to its seductive song: Come away, come away with me. Leave this all behind and begin again. This time it will be right. This time it will be real. No more lies, just a pure, new beginning.
My hand floated up, but I lowered it back to the textured blue-gray silk of my skirt, dried the sweat from my palm. I had tried that before, the running. As desperate as I had been, as terrified as I was now, I didn’t think that would have driven me here.
No, I definitely didn’t have the stuff of a pioneer. To be frozen, canned, raised up this elevator ribbon to the glittering emptiness of space, packaged neatly in a voyager, and shot off toward a promising-looking speck of light whose only name was a meaningless jumble of numbers and letters.
I felt the familiar pull, warm and gentle behind me, long before his large hand settled on my shoulder.
“Kaitlin.” My boss and mentor, Jessie Broadbent, squeezed my shoulder.
I sighed and smiled, comforted despite myself.
He kept his deep, rich voice low. “We’ve gotten this far. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Five years isn’t so long ago and this isn’t some playboy’s mansion or a corporate fortress with a little hole that needs patching.” I turned to face him and his hand slid away across the back of my suit jacket. “This is international security, a long-term, high-profile contract. They’re going to look. They’re going to find out.”
A smile creased Jessie’s tanned, outdoorsman face, framing his bright green eyes with the beginnings of crow’s feet. “If they were going to say something, they would have done it by now. We won this contract thanks to your sales expertise. No more cold feet. Kaitlin Osgood doesn’t get cold feet.”
No, but Ashley Porter sure as hell did. Especially when my signature at the bottom of that contract could be the last nail they needed for my coffin…if they knew. I took a deep breath, slid Ashley Porter back into her windowed closet where she was allowed to look out at the life we lived, but where her commentary would remain—after all these years—largely silenced. As my spine straightened and the worry slid from my face, Kaitlin settled back into place. I saw the satisfaction in Jessie’s eyes.
I inclined my head. “Shall we go sign the contracts, Mr. Broadbent?”
Jessie gestured for me to lead the way. Always the gentleman.
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