Part One: Chapter Four

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By the time they catch up with Lance and Lana outside of customs, Mary has brushed her hair, applied eyeliner, and changed her jacket, all while walking and holding her carry on. Even her face has changed, softened, like dough after it rises. When they get within arm’s reach of the two “preps” as Mary calls them, the first thing she does is put a hand on Lance’s arm.

“I’m so sorry about earlier,” she says with a smile, saddling up next to him and dropping her carry on bag near her feet, “I was a bit out of it. You actually saved me from sleeping through our bus departure, so I owe you a big thank you.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” Lance says, his cheeks red and eyes averted, “it was nothing.” 

“We were just worried about you,” Lana says, dropping her hostile attitude now that Mary has reformed; apparently her new demeanor works on women too.

“I know, and again, I am so sorry. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to you at some point in the next week, maybe with dinner? Are you two staying near us?” she asks innocently, though Atlas knows that she already has their address typed into her GPS app. “We’re staying at Riu Caribe.”

“I think so,” Lana says, pulling out a tourist map of the city. “Well that’s funny, your resort is practically on top of our aunt and uncle’s house!”

“What a coincidence!” Atlas says with a hint of sarcasm, and Mary elbows him hard in the rib cage.

“Yes, a coincidence indeed,” Mary says, sounding like one of Jane Austen’s heroines—perhaps Emma, always scheming, though Emma usually has a less selfish goal in mind. Atlas can’t believe that Lance and Lana are buying her disguise, especially so soon after her outburst, but she doesn’t call herself a pirate for nothing—her persona is flawless, her face betraying nothing of the disdain she feels for Lance and Lana’s sheltered upbringings or the calculations she keeps making in her head to get to their aunt and uncle’s house as soon as possible. “Why don’t we get a cab together?”

At the parking lot, Mary surprises them again by speaking to a driver in fluent Spanish. Atlas took five years of middle school and high school Spanish, yet he understands only a few words of their conversation: “five hundred pesos… one hundred pesos… three hundred pesos… ridiculous… Americans… elsewhere.” Then Mary hands some money to the overweight driver, who pockets it in his saggy jeans and tips his hat in her direction, and they all pile into the back seat with Lana’s arm resting on Atlas’s leg and Mary practically sitting in Lance’s lap.

“That was incredible,” Lance says, his eyes revealing the same admiration most men seem to have towards Atlas’s sister, and Mary links her arm through his. “Where did you learn how to talk like that?”

“Oh, that was nothing! I did a semester abroad, in Seville, Spain.”

More like a semester robbing Mexican drug lords, Atlas thinks, resisting the urge to roll his eyes or ask Mary what college she happened to be attending during her semester abroad. He finds out soon enough, however; throughout the rest of the cab ride, a painful thirty minutes, Mary invents an entire story about their parents’ vacation to Alaska to study the behavior of moose, their tragic death in an ice storm, and Mary and Atlas’s hearty inheritance. “I dropped out of Princeton—I couldn’t let my baby brother go through his difficult high school years alone—and once he graduated, we started traveling for his music tours. I’ll go back eventually, and then it’s on to med school I go.”

“You want to be a doctor?” Lance asks. “That’s such a strange coincidence, that’s what I want to do, too!”

“I’m incredibly passionate about the field,” Mary says. “My goal is to volunteer in Africa and help small children, and perhaps an animal or two.”

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