The sight of it snapped me out of the trance I was starting to fall into. “Not exactly.” What did she mean by that? Lila hadn’t mentioned siblings.
Not-Exactly-Lila reached into the car and unlocked the door. Just then, another figure appeared. Standing next to her was a younger version of Ms. Cold Smile. Except, her smile was warmer, flirtatious even. She couldn’t be older than 18 or 19. “Get ready, kid,” Not-Exactly-Lila said to her. The girl winked at me as she made her way to Mr. Mercedes’ side of the car. I turned back to Not-Exactly-Lila, just as she nodded to someone in the distance.
The sound of mumbling whipped my attention to my right. Mr. Mercedes was stirring in his seat, the pain in his movements obvious. His eyes opened slightly, but looked like they were rolling back. Panic started to rise within me. Before I could say something, the car lurched back into an upright position, the sound of groaning metal making my head throb.
Not-Exactly-Lila calmly walked to Mr. Mercedes and said, “Looks like you’re still conscious. Shame.” She bent down, and as she straightened her spine, I saw a shard of glass in her hand. “You could’ve gone more peacefully.” Without wasting another second, she jammed it in his neck. Mr. Mercedes’ body spazzed as blood gushed from his throat. My breath quickened as the contents of my stomach threatened to make a messy introduction of its incomplete marriage with bile.
With eyes widened in fear, I trembled as the girl approached me. She flashed a quick, reassuring smile. Confused, I looked on with furrowed brow. I watched as she tore the door open, and cut me free from the seatbelt. “Can you move your neck?” she inquired. Before I could try, she gently held my neck and slowly moved it side to side. “You’re a lucky guy, Caleb.”
“I believe this is as lucky as he’ll get,” said Not-Exactly-Lila, her voice void of emotion. She reached into a pocket and took out a piece of black fabric. “I’m going to blindfold you.” A rush of energy flowed through me, allowing me to shift away from her. I winced in pain at the sudden movement.
“Why?” I asked. “You don’t want to see where we’re going. That way, you’ll have plausible deniability should someone question you,” she answered. She gave me an impatient glare as she held up the blindfold. I stayed put, not wanting to relive the pain I had felt when I moved before. As if she could read my thoughts, she redirected her eyes to the girl. I followed her gaze to see the girl step forward. She held out her hands to help me out of the car, and I hesitantly let her. Not-Exactly-Lila got behind me, and securely tied the surprisingly soft blindfold in place.
After a minute of standing in complete darkness, the girl guided me to their vehicle. I felt the soft interior of the car as I sat. The warmth of another person’s body hovered over mine for a second until I heard the click of the seatbelt.
“Have you left all personal effects in your hotel room?” Not-Exactly-Lila asked.
I swallowed, my throat feeling suddenly dry. “Yes.”
“Good. Give him some water,” she commanded the girl.
“If you’re not Lila, who are you?”
“Open up,” the girl’s polite voice rang. I did as I was told. Small amounts of water flowed into my mouth in intervals. “Good?” I nodded in response.
“Are you going to answer me? By not exactly, did you mean that you lied to me about your identity all this time? If so, did you not trust me?” I pushed, trying to keep the hurt from being evident in my voice.
Minutes passed until Not-Exactly-Lila gave an answer. “I’m a duplicate. I was created in a lab. No further questions until you are given permission. Understand?”
I felt a sensation akin to whiplash from being hit with her answer, but managed to say, “Yes.”
The rest of the ride to this mysterious destination was silent, save for my ragged breaths. When the purr of the engine ceased, I knew we were here.