“Into Mr. Unthank’s office,” said Rachel. “I’m going to find that boy Carl—or what remains of him—and I’m going to expose this whole insane place for what it really is.”
“Rachel!” This was Elsie, her voice a quavering whisper. “You’ll—you’ll get a demerit!”
“Or two. Or five,” said Martha. Then, almost to herself: “I wonder what happens to you when you get more demerits than you need to be Unadoptable.”
Rachel ignored them. She popped off her bed and kneeled down by Elsie’s. She waved Martha in close. “I’m sneaking in there. While you guys have been dead asleep, I’ve been watching; two nights ago, I had to pee and on my way back I noticed there wasn’t anyone at the door. Turns out Miss Talbot does a shift change at midnight and it takes, like, fifteen minutes for the replacement to come. I made it all the way to Mr. Unthank’s office door before I got too spooked and came back.”
“But doesn’t he keep it locked?” asked Elsie.
Rachel smiled knowingly and reached behind her, pulling from beneath her pillow a little brass key on a yellow ribbon. She dangled it playfully in front of the two girls.
Martha gasped. “Where’d you get that?”
“Janitor’s closet,” said Rachel. “A pit stop on the way back to the dorm. Couldn’t help myself: Miss Talbot had left it open. It had spare keys for all the rooms. This one was labeled ‘J. U. Office.’”
“Whoa,” said Martha.
Elsie was not so impressed. “You stole that, Rachel,” she said, feeling perturbed. “You shouldn’t steal stuff.”
“I’m just borrowing it.”
“When you gonna go?” asked Martha.
“Tonight,” said Rachel,
flipping the key back into her palm and tightly closing her fist around it. She gave a quick look at the loudspeaker above the doors. “After lights-out,” she whispered. “When Miss Talbot does her shift change.”
Martha, by this point, had climbed out of her bed and was kneeling on Elsie’s, her body leaning forward to better hear Rachel’s plans. “I wanna go,” she said.
Elsie stared at her. “You guys. This is crazy. You’ll get demerits! Rachel, you’ll get a second demerit!”
Rachel cocked an eyebrow at Martha.
“I’m a clean slate,” Martha responded. “No demerits. I’ve been here, what, five years? And always the good girl. I’m sick of it, actually. I’m ready to make some mischief.”
Rachel reached her hand out; Martha shook it firmly.
“Tonight it is,” said Rachel.
“Oh no,” said Elsie.
Martha Song’s first march into the dormitory of the Unthank Home for Wayward Youth, some five years prior, came back to her in a sudden, lucid flash as she and Rachel Mehlberg crept into the darkened hallway and made their way toward the proprietor’s locked office. It was strange; she’d walked the hallway many times since and had never experienced such a flash of remembrance. But now she could feel her father’s calloused hand in hers, the citrus blossom of her mother’s perfume. They were being sent back to Korea, they’d explained. They’d come back for her in time.
Maybe this sudden memory-recall was why she didn’t see that Rachel had stopped suddenly and Martha bumped into her, hard. Or maybe it was because she was wearing her goggles.
“Hey,” whispered Rachel angrily. “Watch it.”
“Sorry,” said Martha.
“Why do you have your goggles on?”
“For good luck.”
“Are they still good luck if you wear them on your forehead, off your eyes?”