Yesterday | Prologue

When I've wailed for so long and so hard that my throat is in shreds and my fingernails ripped and fingertips bloody from clawing at the door, I collapse in front of it curled up like a dead cat I saw on an otherwise spotless sidewalk as a child once. The cat's fur was matted with dried streaks of deep red but mercifully its eyes were shut. Its fetal position posture looked like a cruel joke—a feeble attempt to shield itself from a threat it couldn't outrun and couldn't fight.

I'd never seen anything as grisly in real life, and Joanna, my minder and my parents' house servant, pulled me swiftly away from it with one hand, her other cupped to the side of my face in an attempt to obscure my view. But you can't unsee something once you've seen it. Not without a memory wipe anyway.

Joanna wouldn't remember that dead cat anymore but I haven't forgotten. I remember more than most people, it seems. Like that Latham hasn't stopped being my brother just because he's sick. The biologists will find a cure for him and the others any day now, and I can't believe my father, with all his power and influence, could allow his only son to be taken from him—from us—to be extinguished forever.

Latham was right. My father isn't any good. He only pretended and I was too naive and weak to want to see through his act. Until now.

The anger churning inside me raises me to my knees again, my fingers scraping the bloodied door of my bedroom as I shout, in a voice as hoarse and unforgiving as your worst memory, "Murderer. Latham's blood is on your hands."

I tried begging my father for hours before this. Daddy, don't let them do it. Make them hold on to Latham until there's a cure.

There's always a cure. . . .

You said you wouldn't ever let anything hurt us. You boasted that this was the best country in the world and that you were almost as powerful as the president herself.

But no matter how I pleaded or railed, my father and mother stayed mute downstairs. Their silence was deafening. It screamed that I was the only one who believes there's nothing more important than saving Latham. The one who doesn't merely remember more than most people, but knows more than the majority of them too.

Sometimes I know things before they happen. For all the biologists' knowledge, that's something they can't fully explain, and as I sink to the ground again, shrieking that I hate my father and mother with all my heart and that they should hate themselves for this too, I see, in a secret sliver of my mind, the SecRos coming for me, dispassionate and unrelenting.

My parents must have sent for them and they'll be here soon.

Any minute now.

I scramble to my feet, exhausted but frantic, and scan the room for some means of escape or at least something to defend myself with. There's nothing . . . nothing. My parents already have me on lockdown, a force field encasing my bedroom. I might as well be trapped inside a steel box with only my bare fists to defend myself against unyielding machines.

I was never someone who worried about the SecRos' strength and what it can steal from those of us who are flesh and blood; I believed they existed to keep us safe and were only following orders that someone else would have to obey in their place. It turns out that I've been wrong about a lot of things, but not about Latham. How can he and the others possibly be any threat if they're locked away? He only needs more time. Surely an antidote must be nearly within reach.

But there's no time for my conjecture now either. I do the only thing I can think of to conceal myself—I tear one of the sheets from my bed and fix the quilt over it. Then I slide underneath my bed clutching the sheet and wait for the SecRos to arrive.

First, there's a knock. From the other side of the door my father says in a reedy voice, "This is for your own good, Freya. No one's going to hurt you, I promise. Please trust me on that much."

I don't reply. The time of talking things over was finished the second he let them take my brother.

I hear the door swing open and see my father's shoes from my place under the bed, then the black boots of the SecRos entering my bedroom. I don't have the luxury of a moment's hesitation, I'm hauling myself forward in a flash, out from under the bed, my wounded fingers gripping the sheet. I toss it out ahead of me, unfurling it like a picnic blanket in an old-time movie, only higher and more furiously.

The SecRos are fast but they've probably never had anyone throw anything as ridiculous as a sheet at them before, and while the two of them are untangling themselves, as my father numbly watches, I sprint out the open doorway and into the arms of a third SecRo. His hands clamp onto my arms; he swings me into the air like I'm no heavier than the sheet his fellow Ros had to fight their way out from under. My fists pound at his arms, my fingers scraping at his sleeves and underneath to the flesh that isn't really flesh. I kick his pelvis—hard enough, I'm sure, to bring a human male to his knees. The SecRo feels no pain. He stares blankly into my eyes and then past me, to my father.

"Instructions, sir?" the SecRo asks as my limbs flail.

"Just go," my father commands. "Take them now. Escorting them to the destination is your highest priority, you understand?"

"We understand," the SecRos reply in unison.

The SecRo who has ahold of me marches through the upper hallway, flanked by the other two SecRos, one ahead of us now and one behind. Downstairs my mother joins us, her face waxy and her hair lank. "Where are they taking me?" I ask, ready to beg one last time. "Don't let them take me, Mom."

"Us," my mother corrects. "They're taking us."


"Evacuation," she continues as the SecRo carts me outdoors into the rain, my mother a step behind us. "Stop struggling and save your energy, Freya."

I watch her climb willingly into the military vehicle parked in front of the one-hundred and fifty-two-year-old house she has always professed to love but doesn't stop to look back at. The first SecRo climbs in after her, and the one holding me passes me inside, where the waiting SecRo grips my arms. They ache in a way that tells me the SecRos' tenacious hold is leaving bruises—not that they'd care about that; bruises heal quickly, and they're under orders.

"What do you mean?" I ask my mother.

"The Toxo," she says listlessly. "They expect it to spread quickly."

Then they aren't close to a cure after all. There's no chance for Latham. Maybe what was left of him has already been extinguished. I begin to cry again, silently this time, as we pull away from the house. I stare at the upper window that was Latham's for our whole lives and suddenly I spy something else in that secret sliver of my brain, something my mother hasn't told me yet. A dark void that stretches beyond the edges of my existence.

"Where are they taking us?" I ask, my voice breaking in exhaustion. Dread erupts onto my skin in the form of goose bumps. "What's happening?"

Too late. It's already done. I didn't see the needle coming and now the SecRo is pulling it out of my arm, its former contents swimming into my bloodstream.


No. Hold up your head. Don't give in.

So tired.

Latham's swimming inside my head now too. Remember me, he whispers, his voice strangled but his eyes still his own.

I will, Latham. I promise.

I close my eyes, unable to feel my body any longer. There's nothing but the two of us, Latham and me, and the promise I make him again and again as I slip away from consciousness and towards the void that will seek to strip me of everything I am in the name of salvation.

Chapter One

When I wake up I have a pounding headache behind my eyes just like I've had every morning lately. At first my eyelids refuse to open fully, and when they do the weak winter light wafting through my window burns my retinas. My brain feels sluggish and confused as I take in my surroundings: the white chest of drawers and matching mirror across from my bed; a collection of freshly laundered clothes folded neatly on top of the dresser, waiting for me to put them away; and a wooden desk with an open fashion magazine lying across it. Sometimes it takes me ten seconds or so to remember where I am and what's brought me here . . . and as soon as I remember I want to forget again.

My mom says the headache's probably a remnant from the bad flu we all caught flying back from New Zealand, but the other day I overheard her friend Nancy whisper, as the two of them peeled potatoes in the kitchen, that it could be a grief headache. The kind that strikes when you suddenly lose your father to a gas explosion and the three-quarters of you left in the family have to move back to a place you barely remember.

Today is unlike the other days since we've been back because today I start school here. A Canadian high school with regular Canadian kids whose fathers didn't die in explosions in a foreign country.

I've gone to school in Hong Kong, Argentina, Spain and most recently New Zealand, but Canada—the country where I was born—is the one that feels alien. When my grandfather hugged us each in turn at the airport, murmuring "Welcome home," I felt as though I was in the arms of a stranger. His watery blue eyes, hawk-like nose and lined forehead looked just how I remembered, yet he was different in a way I couldn't pinpoint. And it wasn't only him. Everything was different—more dynamic and distinct than the images in my head. Crisp. Limitless.

The shock, probably. The shock and the grief. I'm not myself.

I squint as I kick off the bedcovers, knowing that the headache will dull once I've eaten something. While I'm dragging myself down to the kitchen, the voices of my mother and ten-year-old sister flit towards me.

"I feel hot," Olivia complains. "Maybe I shouldn't go today. What if I'm still contagious?"

My mother humors Olivia and stretches her palm along her forehead as I shuffle into the kitchen. "You're not hot," she replies, her gaze flicking over to me. "You'll be fine. It's probably just new-school jitters."

Olivia glances my way too, her spoon poised to slip back into her cereal. Her top teeth scrape over her bottom lip as she dips her spoon into her cornflakes and slowly stirs. "I'm not nervous. I just don't want to go."

I don't want to go either.

I want to devour last night's cold pizza leftovers and then lie in front of the TV watching Three's Company, Leave It to Beaver or whatever dumb repeat I can find. All day long. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

"Morning, Freya," my mother says.

I squeeze past her and dig into the fridge for last night's dinner. "Morning," I mumble to the refrigerator shelves.

"They're behind the margarine and under the bacon," my mother advises.

And they are. I pinch the saran-wrap-covered slices between my fingers and let the fridge door swing shut. Then I plop myself into the seat next to Olivia's, although she's junked up my table space with her pencil case and assorted school stuff. I could sit in my father's place, which is junk-free, but nobody except Nancy or my grandfather has used his seat since he died. This isn't even the same table that we had in New Zealand, but still Olivia, Mom and I always leave a chair for my dad.

If he were here now he'd be rushing around with a mug of coffee, looking for his car keys and throwing on his blazer. You'd think a diplomat would be more organized but my father was always in danger of being late. He was brilliant, though. One of the smartest people you'd ever meet. Everyone said so.

I shove Olivia's school junk aside and cram cold pizza into my mouth with the speed of someone who expects to have it snatched from her hand. My mother shakes her head at me and says, "You're going to choke on that if you don't slow down."

I thought sadness normally killed appetite but for me it's been the opposite. There are three things I can't get enough of lately: sleep, food, television.

I roll my eyes at my mother and chew noisily but with forced slowness. Today's also a first for her—her first day at the new administrative job Nancy fixed her up with at Sheridan College—but my mother doesn't seem nervous, only muted, like a washed-out version of the person she was when my father was alive. That's the grief too, and one of the most unsettling things about it is that it drags you into a fog that makes the past seem like something you saw in a movie and the present nearly as fictional.

I don't feel like I belong in my own life. Not the one here with Olivia and my mom but not the old one in New Zealand either. My father's death has hollowed me out inside.

No matter how I happen to feel about things, though, I have to go to school. After breakfast Mom drives Olivia to hers on the way to work but since mine is only a couple of blocks away and begins fifteen minutes later I have to walk.

Fresh snow is falling as I trek away from my house and it makes the otherwise bland suburban neighborhood look almost pretty. I guess I should be cold, jumping from New Zealand summer to Canadian winter, but I really don't mind. My lungs like the cool air. It feels clean.

In minutes I'm at Sir John A. MacDonald High School, stalling at the main entrance with a single snowy binder under my arm because I still don't want to go in. If I thought I'd get away with it I'd double back to the house, root through the kitchen cupboards for something else to eat and then lie on the couch for so long that I'd begin to grow moss. It's not that I don't want to go to school specifically; it's that I don't want to have to do much of anything.

As I'm hesitating at the door, watching bored-looking teenagers file inside, a blond boy in a blue coat and red winter hat does a double take and stops next to me. "Are you coming in?" he asks with a smile that reveals his braces.

I shrug and trail him to the door. He goes first but holds it open for me. "Thanks," I tell him, and I guess I must look disoriented because he says, "So, new student?"

"That obvious, huh?" I pull off my gloves and try to smile.

The boy cocks his head. "Do you know what room you're heading to?"

"One fourteen."

"Easy," he proclaims, yanking off his hat. "It's right beside the music room. I can show you."

I follow the boy down the hall, around the corner and up a second hallway and when we arrive at 114 I stare down at my boots and coat realizing I should've stopped to put them in the locker they assigned me when my mother got me signed up for school last week.

I tell the boy this, frustration rolling around in the back of my throat, but he patiently offers to take me to my locker too. The narrow sameness of the hallways (off-white walls punctuated by row after row of faded green lockers) makes me feel vaguely claustrophobic—I preferred it outside in the open air, though I guess I'll get used to it. School is school. At my locker (which is midway between the gymnasium and the guidance office) I thank the boy again and he says, "No problem" and then, "What grade are you in anyway?"

"Ten," I tell him.

The boy runs one of his hands through his blond hair. "Too bad."

"Why's that?"

"Because I'm in eleven. But hey, at least I know where to find you." He taps my locker with two of his knuckles. "See you around." He flashes me one last grin before disappearing into the crowd.

By the time I've stuffed my coat into my locker, shaken my binder and boots off (having forgotten to bring a pair of shoes to change into) and retraced my steps back to room 114 I'm late for homeroom. Mrs. Snyder seems like the cranky type but because I'm new she cuts me a break. She's written today's date—Monday, February 4, 1985—on the blackboard and I stifle a yawn as I weave my way over to an empty seat in the second row. We have to stand for the national anthem and then listen to a series of announcements that most of the other students seem to sleep through. I would probably sleep through them too but I don't feel at ease enough for that.

The discomfort clings to me like a second skin as I move from homeroom to math to English. Being the new kid is never good but I don't think I've ever had people stare at me this much and it makes me paranoid. Like I'm never going to fit in here because no one except the teachers and the blond guy from earlier will ever say anything to me; they'll just keep sneaking peeks at me from across the room like I'm seven feet tall or my skin is purple.

At lunch I don't know where to sit without making it look obvious that I'm alone and I pause just a few feet inside the cafeteria door, scanning the tables as though I'll magically spy someone I know. Just as I'm resolving to stride boldly forward a girl I recognize from math class appears at my side. She has wavy black hair that you can tell was dyed and is wearing equally dark clothing but her makeup (except for her paint-thick black eyeliner) is as pale as death. "Freya, right?" she says.

She doesn't allow time for me to answer or maybe I'm just too slow, neck-deep in that fog I can't escape. "You can sit with me if you want," she says, pointing to a table on our left. "Derrick and I usually sit over there."

"Thanks." I step forward to trail the girl from my math class to her table. Her friend Derrick is already seated. He's black and skinny and his clothes are as decisively dark as hers. His hair, however, is the exact same color as a bumblebee's—wide, alternating strips of black and yellow. I can't work out why everyone's staring at me when his head doesn't seem to be scoring the slightest bit of attention.

"This is Derrick," the girl tells me as we sit down across from him.

"Hi," I say.

"Freya's in my math class," she explains. "Is it your first day here?" she asks, turning towards me. "I don't remember you from last semester."

"First day," I confirm.

Derrick rests his sandwich on his lunch bag. "So what other classes do you have?"

He brightens when I run through the names of my teachers. "You have bio with me last period," he notes. "Believe me, Payne is the nicer tenth-grade biology teacher, despite his name. We lucked out."

"Cool," I murmur. I need all the luck I can get. I've already forgotten virtually everything my math and English teachers said this morning and I doubt my afternoon concentration levels will be much of an improvement.

My stomach roars like a wildcat as I head over to buy my lunch (chili with a bread roll), but I'm relieved that I don't have to sit alone and now know people in half of my classes. Once I return to the table, Derrick and the girl, who I learn is named Christine, are bad-mouthing a French teacher and discussing bands I've never heard of. It's like eavesdropping on two people speaking a secret language and after I've polished off my lunch and have essentially been staring into space for a few minutes, Derrick notices that I've tuned out. He wags a finger at me as he remarks, "We're losing her."

Christine scrapes at one of her cuticles and switches her attention to me. "So, who do you listen to?"

I shrug. "Whatever's on the radio. I'm not big into music."

Christine's chin dips like I've given the wrong answer and, not wanting to be a disappointment, I rack my brain for band/musical artist names to give her. Coming up with any is surprisingly difficult. "Wham's okay," I offer at last. "And, like, Prince and Van Halen. The Police. Cyndi Lauper."

Christine's and Derrick's twin expressions reveal that these, too, are the wrong answers. Then Derrick shrugs with his elbows and says, in what I think is meant to be a charitable tone, "Music's a really personal thing. Everyone's taste is different."

Christine scrunches up her face. "Van Halen, though, seriously? David Lee Roth is such a joke."

I mean . . . I don't know. Why does it even matter?

"Whatever," I say, her disapproval beginning to grate on me. "I told you I wasn't really into music." I can't remember a single person asking me about bands at my old school, not one, and I struggle to recall who my best friend Alison's favorite band or musical artist was but the information's not there. I see us riding horses together and laughing about boys. She'd land herself in trouble with teachers more than I would but never about anything serious, just stuff like talking and passing notes in class.

Last July she convinced me to walk to the supermarket three blocks from my house and finally speak to the cute stock boy I liked to stealthily stare at. His name was Shane and he kissed me by the bike rack behind the grocery store three days later. In another week and a half he was my boyfriend and two months after that we were breaking up.

Suddenly I can't stop thinking. About him. Alison. Everyone. Everything. My mind's racing with thoughts of life in New Zealand and all the other places I've lived in the past sixteen years. Teachers I liked. The gerbils my mother let me keep as pets in Hong Kong. My father building a network of elaborate sand castles with me on a Spanish beach. My parents coming home from the hospital with my sister days after she was born. Dates, names, geographic locations and cultural events flood my brain, making my head throb like I've just gulped down a frostbitten scoop of ice cream.

December 8, 1980: John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in New York City.

January 20, 1981: After fourteen months, fifty-two American hostages were released, ending the Iran hostage crisis.

July 29, 1981: Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England.

November 30, 1982: Michael Jackson's Thriller album was released.

March 23, 1983: U.S. president Ronald Reagan announced a defense plan popularly known as Star Wars.

April 23, 1984: The discovery of the virus that causes AIDS was announced.

I'm a human encyclopedia, pictures, concepts and people flashing behind my eyes: Macintosh personal computers. Pac-Man. Cabbage Patch Kids. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Compact discs. MTV. Mount Saint Helens. E.T. Rubik's Cube. Duran Duran. Madonna. Space Shuttle Discovery. Atari. Margaret Thatcher. Pope John Paul II. James Bond. Blondie. Trivial Pursuit. Darth Vader. VCRs. Oreos. Playboy magazine. Tylenol. Touch-tone telephones. Big Macs. Easy-Bake Ovens. Kool-Aid.

Remembering, remembering. Lost in an avalanche of information . . .

"Hey!" Christine snaps, waving her hand in front of my face. "Earth to Freya."

I hurtle back into the present, my fingers massaging my forehead and the pain beginning to subside. I shouldn't have come today; I should've tried Olivia's line about still being sick. I'm not ready to be around people. Not right.

I could beg off sick after lunch. Postpone my first full day at school until tomorrow or the next day. But will being here feel any more natural then? I doubt it.

When the bell rings I stick with Derrick and head for bio, feeling quiet and tired (and already hungry again, always hungry). Because this is the first day of second semester Derrick and I are able to grab seats together and as I slip into mine I notice what I've been noticing all day-furtive eyes on me. I try to let it slide, act like I don't notice, but thirty minutes into the period my resolve cracks and I lean close to Derrick and whisper, "Why does everyone keep looking at me?"

Derrick's expression shifts from slightly sheepish to incredulous. "Have you looked in a mirror lately, Freya?"

My eyes dart to my cable-knit sweater and then my jeans and casual winter boots. Is there something wrong with what I'm wearing?

"You look like a model," he adds. "You must get guys staring wherever you go."

Derrick's not kidding but his explanation comes as a shock. I know Shane considered me pretty but it's not like I had guys lining up at my door to ask me out in New Zealand. I've always been the kind of girl who blended into the crowd.

I take a sweeping look around the room, eyeing up the other girls in my class. Maybe I'm better looking than a few of them—I don't have braces, acne, or frizzy hair—but I'm nothing special. As I'm scanning the room, thinking this over, my gaze collides with a dark-haired guy's in the row ahead of me. Caught, he fixates on Mr. Payne talking about worksheets and quizzes at the front of the room.

A similar scene plays out during history class last period. Guys staring. Some girls too. Most of them avoid my eyes when I zero in on theirs but a couple of the boys are bold enough to smile at me. It's bizarre to have this attention out of nowhere; I'd feel out of place enough without it but now, more than anything, I don't want to stand out.

I look exactly the same as I did when we left New Zealand two and a half weeks ago—it doesn't make sense for people to see me differently-and as soon as I'm home again I track snow into the hallway, tugging off my coat, gloves and scarf as I approach the mirrored sliding closet door. Olivia, already back from school, has the TV on in the other room and I hear a siren wailing and pretend cops shouting as I focus on the image in the mirror.

Of course I know what I look like. Slim. Just shy of five foot nine. Dirty-blond hair. Fair skin. Straight teeth. No scars. The mirror doesn't reflect anything other than my usual self.

"What're you doing?" my sister asks, coming up behind me.

"Nothing. I thought I had something in my eye." I lean closer to the closet, pulling one of my eyelids down and scrutinizing my eyeball like I'm searching for a stray lash or speck of dust. "It must be gone."

I twirl around to study Olivia. I never noticed how flawless she is compared to other people, like she won the genetic lottery. Symmetrical, blemish-free, each part of her body in perfect proportion to the rest. Her hair's dark and curly where mine is light and straight and her skin tone's closer to olive than ivory. Even her eyes are darker than mine—navy blue to my pale aqua. You probably wouldn't guess we were sisters if you didn't know us. We really don't resemble each other much.

I don't know why it should come as a surprise to me that Olivia and I don't have the same hair or eyes. Why does my entire life suddenly feel so alien to me? Can my father's death really account for all of that?

"Laverne and Shirley's going to start in a second," Olivia says, like she's offering the best news either of us will hear today.

A smile jumps to my lips, despite my confusion. My sister and I have both transformed into absolute TV addicts since being back in North America. But that's one thing I'm actually not worried about. The television stops me from thinking, blocks out my sadness and the feelings of strangeness that cling to this new life in Canada. Could it be that I need to stop fighting the strangeness and simply surrender? What would my father advise if he were here?

I know the answer to that one as well my own name.

He'd say, "Trust me, Freya. This is for the best."

And maybe being home is what's right, even if I don't feel that yet. Give it time, I tell myself. You just lost your father and moved across the globe. Disorientation is normal. Stop thinking so much and just let things be. I'm not as convinced by my own words as I want to be but I follow my little sister into the family room, curl up in an armchair and give in to the higher power of television.