My life is a lie. I am not who I seem. The real me is hidden behind fake fronts and deep secrets; I wonder if she still exists.
The CIA tells me where to go, who to be. I do it. I do it because if I don’t, they tell me I will do nothing. Ever again. The Obscure Faces will end me.
That’s what I call them, these unknown people. The irony of it is that I do not remember their faces. I have nothing on them. I know nothing, can tell nothing. Yet they chase me, because they have better eyes than I. They remember me, sharp and clear. And I, I have only a blur of them.
One look when I should not have seen. One glance when I could have blinked. Now I am on the run, desperate to hide from enemies whom I do not know.
“It’s time to go, ma’am.” My agent says those words. Those words that get repeated over and over. Each time I make a friend. Each time I relax. Each time I begin to be a person.
And each time I hear the words, a little of me dies. I fear that soon there will be none left to die.
“No.” At first the word is only a whisper. I gain courage. “No! I will not be a hunted rabbit. I will not go.”
The agent looks at me. I know he tries to be understanding, but I can see the impatience in his eyes. “We’ve been over this.”
“Yes. We’ve been over it, and yet you tell me nothing. You will not tell me who they are, what they want. You won’t even tell me who I saw them kill.”
“The more you know, the worse it will be for you.”
So I sit in their black car. Tinted windows shield me from the world. I am here, where I hate, because I am too scared to face reality. This nightmare is better than the true world that waits.
My only hope in life is for normalcy. My only desire is for something that was stripped from me forever. A cruel twist of fate has banished any hope.
At my new home they hand me a paper. It is an application for a job. A new name graces the top. Facts that are not mine fill the lines. I have grown skilled at memorizing, forming a past history in a blink of time, gathering a false front to hide behind at all times.
I walk to the employment opportunity, my head held high in the appearance of confidence. In reality I am scanning, scanning my world for any hint of danger. For three years there has been no evidence, not to my unknowing eye. Each thing that has scared me, has been shown to be harmless. The Obscure Faces remain veiled. Yet the danger is there, lurking in shadows that only my handlers can see.
My first hint that today is different comes as I cross the street. Even as I open the door to enter the office building, a face in the street gives me pause. I am in a new town. I know no one. The veil begins to lift.
I let the door close behind me, shutting out the worry. As I hand the receptionist my application, her eyes focus behind me. Her face twitches.
The fear that lies perpetually below the surface of my emotions boils up with a paralyzing force. I turn, just enough. Just enough to see a man leaning against the wall, arms crossed, leering at me.
The past comes back in gray flashes of memory. This man standing with a gun, a crumpled form spurting blood at his feet. I will join that form. Soon it will be me spurting blood.
The man reaches toward his pocket, and the receptionist grabs me, pulling me to the floor. Instinct takes over and we roll, scrambling for the nearest door.
It is a bathroom. We lock it, waiting for the sound of a gun. It does not come. He wants hostages. We are left to wait. Wait in fear.
We stare at each other. Strangers thrust together.
“Who is he?”
She has seen him. She is in the same boat I am in. Relief feels strange at a time like this, and yet it is there. I pour my story out. For the first time in years I am able to talk freely.
“What is your name?” Melissa asks. "Your real name."
My name. The one I can never say aloud. The one that I repeat over and over in my head, terrified I will forget it.
“Elizabeth Martin.” It was an ordinary name. Nothing special. Why do I feel so protective of it?
“Consecrated to God.”
“Your name.” She smiles, even here, locked in a bathroom. “It means consecrated to God. He has protected you all these years, Elizabeth.”
“Protected?” Bitterness flows through me. “Protected me so I can lie to everyone I meet? All I want is a normal life. All I want is hope for a home, where I can live without fear, where I can look my friends in the eye and tell them my name. Is that too much?”
Melissa is quiet for a moment. It startles me, how her eyes can be so filled with light, even among the fear.
“You can have hope, hope for a home.” She waits for the words to sink in. Her voice is soft, but reaches me even through the shouting from the other side of the door. There is an oasis of peace here, among the ceramic toilets, and deranged shouting. It is because of this, that I listen.
“Reach out to God. He has promised a home through Jesus Christ.” She tells me of this home. This place where fear is no longer. She tells me of the horror Jesus went through, so that we can have this hope. A horror worse, even than mine.
When the door crashes open, I stand. Elizabeth and her stalker come face to face. Nothing between us. Sirens come near in the background.
I look him in the eye. I feel fear. And hope. For this life, or for the next.
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