P-47 tattoo was the mark of my imprisonment at the facility. It was proof that we were, as Dr. Denman had said, not human, but merely lab rats. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to keep the tattoo now, but somehow it made sense. It was a reminder of Dr. Kellogg, who I now believed to have known of our escape. Dr. Kellogg may even have deliberately given me information about the facility, and when Dr. Denman took Alia from her room, Dr. Kellogg gave his life trying to stop him. The tattoo was also a reminder of my own stupidity for letting Alia and me be captured in the first place. Perhaps it was, as Cindy said, a battle scar, like the bullet entrance and exit scars on my back and stomach, and the thin line along my left forearm where the researchers had experimented with Alia’s healing in Lab A. I wasn’t proud of these things. But they were a part of me.
“I still think it looks ridiculous,” said Cindy. “And you know it’s going to be a hot summer.”
I shrugged. “Yeah, so what?”
“Planning on going swimming at all?”
“I’ll put a Band-Aid over it.”
Cindy sighed. “Okay. I won’t force you to remove it, Adrian. But if you change your mind, just say so.”
“Sure,” I said, relieved that I had gotten through that so easily.
“But you,” said Cindy, turning to Alia, “are going to get yours removed as soon as we can.”
Alia shook her head, saying something to Cindy.
Cindy shook her head back at Alia. “Yes, you are, sweetie.”
Alia kept shaking her head, but so long as she was speaking telepathically, there was no way for me to tell exactly what she was saying. I could guess, of course, that she wanted to keep her tattoo as well. I couldn’t figure out why though. Cindy had to tell me.
Cindy fixed me with an accusing stare as she said, “Adrian, Alia doesn’t want her tattoo removed unless you get yours removed.”
“That makes no sense, Cindy,” I said.
Cindy held up her hands and said, “Hey, don’t tell me. Tell her.”
Turning to Alia, I said firmly, “Listen to Cindy, Ali. You have to get your tattoo removed.”
Alia frowned at me, saying equally firmly, “No, Addy, I want to keep mine too.”
“Well, that’s not for me to decide,” I said.
“Please, Addy. I like it. Tell Cindy to let me keep it.”
“But why?” I asked. “It looks ridiculous, Alia!”
“My sentiments exactly,” Cindy whispered into my ear. I scowled at her.
“You’re keeping yours,” argued Alia.
“I have my reasons.”
“Well, I have my reasons too,” Alia said angrily.
“Hey, don’t tell me. Tell her,” I said, mimicking Cindy.
Talking with her mouth full was one trick only Alia could manage, and all through breakfast she continued pestering me to help her change Cindy’s mind, but I was on Cindy’s side for this one. Later that morning, Cindy called up the tattoo removal shop again and set up an appointment for Monday of the following week. It was still Friday, so Alia would have a few more days to protest this hypocrisy. She started by marching into our room to sulk. I left her to it and helped Cindy load the dishwasher.
“I’m guessing Alia just wants to be like you, Adrian,” said Cindy as she turned on the machine. “She really loves being your little sister.”
I had been pondering going back to Mr. Baker with my unasked question when Cindy said that, and I snapped at her, saying harshly, “Alia isn’t my sister, Cindy!”
“You know what I mean, Adrian.”
“Whatever,” I said, returning to my thoughts.
Once the dishes were underway, Cindy sat down on the living-room floor to begin placing her hiding bubble over New Haven. She sat working her power in quiet concentration all the way to lunchtime.
Alia didn’t come out of our room for the rest of the morning, and when I visited once, she ignored me and continued playing with her toys.
“Come on, Ali, don’t be angry,” I said, giving her a gentle hug from behind.
She didn’t even acknowledge my