Alison Hendrix drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as her minivan crept toward the little booth marking the Canadian–United States border. Why was this taking so long? She just wanted to get it over with. Why were all these people traveling to the United States in the evening, anyway? They couldn’t all be trying to save a stranger’s life.
No, this Dana Emmett person wasn’t really a stranger. She was another clone, so she was basically family Alison hadn’t met yet. She glanced at Charlotte, dozing in the passenger seat. Once upon a time, Charlotte—and Cosima, Sarah, Helena, and so many more—had been strangers too, but they were sestras now. Family was family, whether bound by DNA or by circumstance. You stuck with your family, no matter how messy and inconvenient it could be—especially when they needed you most. Dana had that awful clone disease, they had the cure, and that was that.
But what about that red-haired clone they’d run into at Pearson Airport this afternoon? The woman hadn’t been surprised to see Alison and Charlotte, which suggested she’d been following them, until a security guard had stopped her. Probably because of the blood dripping from her leg. And what was that all about? Alison figured she had to be the clone spy Cosima had mentioned, but what did she want with Alison and Charlotte now?
Whatever the spy was up to, it was a good thing she’d been there; her hasty exit had provided a perfect distraction to allow Alison and Charlotte to make their own escape from airport security, just as they had given her a chance to slip away. At least they were even.
Charlotte stirred and sat up, rubbing her eyes. “Oh, we’re nearly at the border.”
“We’ve been nearly there for half an hour,” Alison said. The delay had her worried that they were already too late. If they were also checking DNA here like at the airport, they would really be in trouble.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” Charlotte yawned.
Alison covered a yawn of her own and reached for her thermos, wishing the tea had a little more kick to it. “You weren’t missing anything. I was tempted to nap too.”
They were only a couple of cars away from the border check, and a wide gap opened between them and the next car. She shifted into drive and nudged them forward. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel again.
“Don’t be nervous,” Charlotte said.
“I’m not nervous, I’m a professional,” Alison said. “I know my lines. I’m just working out my motivation.”
“Your motivation is not getting us arrested,” Charlotte said. “This isn’t a play, Aunt Alison. Just act natural.”
“You said it: ‘act natural.’ But what even is natural? Charlotte, ‘All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.’”
“You hate Shakespeare. And it’s ‘All the men and women merely players.’”
“Oh, who cares,” Alison said. “Shakespeare is overrated.”
Their car was next in the queue. Alison smiled when she saw the border agent was a handsome young man. Oh, I’ve got this, she thought.
She pulled down the visor and checked her reflection in the little mirror inside. She fluffed her hair. She was tired of the undercut; maybe she would grow it out for a bit and go all red this time. She flipped the visor back up. “Show time.”
“Oh no.” Charlotte sighed.
Alison lowered her window.
“Passports,” the guard asked. No sign of one of those screening kits from the airport. That was a relief.
Charlotte passed her passport over to Alison, and she handed it to the guard with her own.
“Traveling to the United States today for business or pleasure?” he asked.
Alison tried to make eye contact with him. “Pleasure.” She raised her eyebrows. “No wait. Business.” She sat up straighter in her seat and tugged down the collar of her dress slightly. Charlotte groaned.
“We’re looking at colleges, but like, that’s going to be fun, right?” Alison said. “So more like pleasure than business, but definitely business. My niece, Charlotte, she’s so smart, but she has a hard time really applying herself sometimes? It’s important to find the right environment for her, but I don’t know about an entirely different country!”
“Is there something wrong with your eyes?” the guard asked.
Alison stopped fluttering her eyelashes. “No.”
The guard peered at Alison more closely. He glanced back at the passports, then leaned in to look at Charlotte.