“Obviously.” The two of them had no reason to be angry with each other, but the relief at seeing each other alive seemed to have evaporated under all this new stress.

   The door opened, and we all turned. “The border with Egypt is sometimes less strict. We could go directly to Alexandria overland,” Elodie said, standing in the doorway.

   We all watched her silently for a second. “How could we get to the border—and across the border—without the Melechs knowing?” I said, signaling to everyone to let the rest go for now.

   “We could hire a small plane. Or a helicopter,” Jack said.

   “We’d have to bribe the pilot to not say anything,” Stellan said.

   “Or threaten him,” Elodie added.

   As Circle, we’d gotten used to getting anything we wanted with a snap of our fingers. Suddenly, we were just regular people again.

   That gave me an idea. “How about we take a bus?”

   Elodie cocked her head to the side.

   “A bus,” I said. “Regular people transportation. We’d disappear in the crowd.”

   “Not a terrible idea,” Jack said. “The border will still be difficult, though, since we won’t be in their system.” I must have looked confused, because he explained, “Israel is different from many countries. When you enter, you get an entry stamp and they check you in to their system, and they have to check you out, as it were, when you leave. We didn’t have to show ID to get into the country, since we came in with the Circle, so the passports we use to get out won’t be registered.”

   “We may be able to convince them that we had the entry stamps on separate pieces of paper and lost them,” Elodie said.

   “If someone can get us into their computer system,” Stellan said. By someone he meant Elodie, but he wouldn’t speak directly to her.

   Elodie gave him a withering look anyway. “It’ll have to be once I’m within range of the computer they’re looking at, so it might be cutting it close at the border, but I can do it.”

   “What about Avery and Stellan?” Jack said. “Will anyone here recognize them? Not Circle, just regular people?”

   Elodie pursed her lips. It’s not like we were real celebrities, but when we’d had lunch with Colette in Paris a few days ago, there had been lots of people taking sneaky photos, and not all of her. I’d been all over the news for a while after Takumi Mikado died in my arms, then both Stellan and I had been all over the papers following the Paris attack. There was one photo in particular. It was a beautiful shot, I admit. My arms were covered in blood; there were smears on my face beneath my wide, haunted eyes. I was clinging to Stellan, and Colette held my other side. I’m sure the paparazzi had meant to get a picture of Colette, but it was me and Stellan the tabloids had picked up on. When it leaked that my mother had died in the attack, I’d become something even more fascinating, deified by tragedy.

   The feelings I’d managed to force down started to build back up into a hard knot in my throat.

   “Once we get to Egypt, it’s less likely they’ll be recognized,” Elodie said. “Here—it’s very possible.” I could see the wheels turning in her head. “Disguises. Just until we get to the border. We’ll be playing tourists anyway. I’ll go get them.”

   “I’ll go get them,” Jack said, casting a suspicious glance at Elodie that she pretended not to notice.

   Half an hour later, we looked like summer tourists in ridiculously loud outfits and sunglasses headed to the beach. The only problem was my hair. “Ironic that I originally did this as a disguise and now it’s the most recognizable thing about me,” I said, pulling at the pink.

   “We don’t have time to dye it again,” Elodie said. She reached up to her own head, the thought plain on her face.

   “You don’t have to—” I said.

   She pulled her wig off. “Just until we get to Egypt,” she said, handing it to me.

   I held it, trying not to stare at her head. We’d only seen it for a second before. Half of it was scarred badly. The other half was buzzed close to her head.

   Elodie folded her arms across her chest. “What are you looking at? Let’s go.”

 

 

CHAPTER 8

 

The bus was musty and tinged with the smell of someone’s tuna sandwich. We were winding through terrain that had us on switchbacks, the bus shifting into lower gears, jolting over rough pavement.

   I crossed my arms over my chest and tried to get my head in a position that wasn’t killing my neck, and closed my eyes.

   I hoped this worked.

   Getting caught at the border would be as good as admitting guilt, as far as the Circle was concerned. Maybe we should have appealed to someone after all. Begged the Circle to believe us. Maybe I should have just confronted Lydia. I knew she was in Jerusalem.

   In those too-short days between when I’d gotten my mother back and when I lost her forever, we’d argued. It was almost all we’d done.

   We should leave, she’d said. Go somewhere safe.

   Safe no longer existed, I’d countered. Not now that the Circle knew what I was. So we didn’t run. We stayed. I was too confident in the goodness of human beings.

   This time, we’d made the opposite choice. If I was wrong again, it could mean all our heads.

   My eyes flew open.

   Through the gap in the seats, I could see Stellan in the next row up, his head against the streaky window, snacking on a bag of chips from a bus station vending machine. Some weird flavor of Cheetos. All the words on the bag were in Hebrew. He’d used Jack’s phone to call Anya’s nanny twice more, and had finally reached her. I knew he’d told her to go to the safe house and stay there. I wondered if I was the only one who’d noticed his foot was still bouncing nervously anyway.

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