Jupiter woke to the sound of the alarm blaring and Mama commanding, ”Jupiter get up. Make the coffee.”
She dragged herself out of bed with a groan and went upstairs, automatically going through the motions of filling the water and measuring out the grounds.
She was exhausted. And sore—her muscles ached all over. Had she even slept last night? She slumped against the counter listening to the sputtering water, anticipating that first hot cup of coffee.
Something was strange, but she was so tired she couldn’t think straight.
She couldn’t recall coming home last night. Last thing she remembered was that dive bar downtown. She and Caine had flown around the city for hours, finally stopping to find a spot still open for burgers and beer. They’d snuggled into a booth in the back, and she’d been thinking about where to go for the rest of the night.
She switched on the overhead light in the kitchen.
“Hey,” mumbled Vladie from where he slept on the couch, covering his eyes to escape the glare.
There was something different about the room...but she couldn’t place it.
She didn’t remember how the night had ended with Caine. It felt like they were doing a dance sometimes. Two steps forward, one step back. It was hard to know where he was coming from. He was holding back, but she wasn't sure whether that was just his nature, or if she should be doing something different.
Everything in her life had been changing so quickly. She didn’t want to push. She could be patient.
She’d been so euphoric all week.
Her family was safe. She’d escaped death so many times she’d lost count. She’d saved the whole freaking planet. She’d been in a bubble of pure joy. Even cleaning toilets made her smile.
There were things she was putting off. Whether she wanted it or not, she couldn’t really go back to her old life. Not permanently. But there were still things she needed to figure out.
Including her feelings for Caine.
Had she actually passed out last night? She’d only had one beer...
Vladie stumbled in, and Jupiter rolled her eyes as he grabbed a mug and took the first of the coffee before it finished brewing.
“Don’t forget about the clinic today," he whispered. “It’s all set. I’ll cover for you while you’re gone.”
“You know the...” he mouthed the word “eggs” and wiggled his eyebrows. He looked ridiculous, with his knock-off Green Lantern pajama pants, hair alternating between matted down and standing straight up. Maybe the memory wipe had affected his brain?
“Vladie,” she said patiently, picking up her cell phone and turning it on to check the date. “You know today is...”
“June 24th. Don’t tell me you forgot." His voice turned whinny." Come on Jupe. This could be a big break for us. You’re still doing it right?”
“Um,” Jupiter stared down at her phone:
Wednesday, June 24
But that didn’t make sense. It had to be at least July? Something was off here.
She looked around the kitchen and it hit her.
The hideous floral wallpaper. It was the same.
The same wallpaper that had been there ever since she could remember. It had been destroyed along with the kitchen wall when Balem's people abducted her family. The keepers had repaired all the damage to the house, but they hadn’t bothered to recreate the exact same wallpaper—replacing it with an equally ugly print of egg yellow and puce daisies instead. No one else had noticed for some reason. But then again, their memories had been wiped once they’d returned to earth.
She looked at the date on her phone and strained to remember exactly what had happened last night.
Never mind Vladie’s brain, had the keepers done something to hers?
“Jupe, you gotta do it” Vladie pleaded.
“Yeah, yeah, okay.” She couldn’t deal with him now. “Just—don’t spend the money yet, okay? Don’t buy anything!”
“No, I'd never...”
She tuned him out, looking at her phone again, going through her contacts. She didn’t know how the space tech worked exactly, but the numbers had been programmed into her phone before: The Aegis, Stinger, Caine.
They were all gone.
She went to the dining room and turned on the light.
Her telescope was gone.
Feeling desperate, she went back to her phone to look through photos, and there it was: The picture of the keepers in Katherine’s apartment.
If those things could erase memories and rebuild skyscrapers, what else were they capable of?
The last few weeks hadn’t been a dream, or a hallucination. But somehow she was reliving the morning before her clinic appointment.
Could the Keepers also turn back time?
“What is that?” Vladie asked, leaning over to peek at her phone.
“Nothing,” she said, shutting it off. “I need to use your car today.”
“What?” he sputtered.
She placed her hands on her hips and glared at him expectantly.
“Okay, okay. It’s yours.”
One thing she knew for sure: She wasn’t going back to that clinic again. The last time, she’d barely escaped alive.