The numbers on my phone stare back at me. Thirty more minutes of target practice before I can start my homework. I take a breath and run the back of my hand across my forehead. It’s still damp with sweat from my run and the hour of Krav Maga with Mom. I shake out my arms. The exhilarating buzz that comes from fighting is starting its slow leak from my veins as I stand alone in the silent shooting range.
My Glock 22 pistol feels heavy in my hands tonight. My muscles must be more tired than my brain is registering. I aim my gun at the dummy target and squeeze the trigger.
Bang. Bang. Bang. Two shots to the heart, one shot to the head.
“Reagan. Reagan.” I hear my father’s muffled voice. I remove my bulky black earphones.
“Yeah?” I call back.
“Get in the panic room,” he screams. I open my mouth to ask if this is another one of his many drills but before the words can escape my lips, the secret door that leads to our basement slams shut so hard, I jump. My parents’ heavy footsteps bounding down the hardwood stairs tell me this is not a joke. This is not a fake break-in or drill. They don’t have to say another word. I feel my stomach drop. My body moves without me telling it what to do. I tuck the gun into the back of my pants as I sprint into the weapons room, tear open a metal cupboard, and grab two assault rifles off the shelf.
Just in case.
“Get in,” Mom calls from the doorway of the panic room.
“Hang on, I’m just grabbing some—”
“Reagan, there’s no time!” There is a tightness and urgency in her voice I’m not used to hearing. She’s normally the picture of calm. Grace, even. The flash of fear in her eyes makes my knees momentarily weak. I slam the metal cupboard and the crushing sound of metal on metal echoes off the walls. I tuck the guns under my arms and run into the small panic room. As soon as I step inside, Dad slams the heavy steel door shut. My eyes widen as he frantically punches in a six-digit code. The weighty click of the steel beams locking into place makes my heart race.
“Mom, what’s going on?” I ask and slide the guns onto the concrete floor.
I wait for her answer but she’s too focused on switching on all the security camera monitors built into the steel and concrete. I lean my back against the wall. My exposed skin bristles against the cold concrete and the gun I tucked in my pants digs into my spine. Ouch. I reach around my body and pull it from my waistband. I hold the warm steel in my cold hands, still waiting for an explanation.
“What’s happening?” I ask again. We never use this panic room. Ever. It was built for those code-blue-emergency moments that we’ve practiced many times but never had. Until now. I search their faces for an answer, for anything, really. They are stone-faced, staring up at the monitors, their bodies frozen. I follow their eyes. And then I see him. Air catches in my lungs as a man, dressed all in black, walks across my dimly lit family room.
“Oh my God,” I whisper. I stare up at the security cameras as the stranger with long dark hair and high cheekbones walks down the hallway and into the kitchen, his arms outstretched, a pistol in his hand, his finger on the trigger.
“It’s him. I know it’s one of his guys,” Mom says.
“It’s who?” I ask. My voice is sharp and high.
“Not now, Reagan,” Dad answers.
I open my mouth to protest, then close it. I lay my pistol at my feet and dig my fingers into my hip bones. I know I’m not supposed to ask questions, but the worried lines on their faces are making me sick. I should be used to being kept in the dark by now but I still hate it. “For your own good,” they always say. “For your safety.” But I’ve never been safe. Being their daughter makes me a target. I know their lives are dangerous. The work they do is dangerous. Their enemies would gun me down and kill me in broad daylight without giving it a second thought.
Mom and Dad do their best to ease my mind but I don’t know of too many other sixteen-year-olds who have weapons stashed in hiding spots outside of school. Who sleep with knives taped to their headboards or know ten different ways to break someone’s neck. Looking over my shoulder will be my life and I guess I’m okay with that. I just wish they’d stop leaving me in the dark; stop pretending like no one can hurt me.