The tomato splattered across my face—ow. I didn’t want to kill my sister, but if looks could throw daggers I would’ve flung one just close enough to make her blanch. I settled for flour instead. I resisted taking a handful, but it was still enough. A food fight ensued. Keighley’s aim was incredibly accurate for an eight year old, whereas mine preferred to make a mess of grandma’s kitchen.
“You throw like a girl,” she declared.
“You throw like an old woman,” I countered.
Another tomato smacked me in the face. Her peals of laughter rang through the kitchen. My own laughter joined in, and the argument was forgotten. She was out of tomatoes and I released a cry of victory, about to pound her with a snowfall of flour when two halves of an avocado, peeled and pitted, hit us both at the same time. We turned in the direction of the doorway.
“Throw like an old lady, huh?”
Grandma Em, short for Emmaline, entered the kitchen and looked the two of us up and down before her eyes settled on me.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were trying to insult your sister with that comment.”
“No, ma’am,” I said
“Mmm hmmm. Look at you. And look what you did to my kitchen.”
Most of it was contained to the floor and lower cabinets, but some flour had made it onto the counter tops and there was a red spot on the wall next to the calendar. She grumbled for a minute then sighed.
“Well, I always do say, ‘if you have to make a mess, make it one worth cleaning.’ You know where everything is. This kitchen had better be sparkling when I get back, and I still want pie.”
We both said, “Sorry, Grandma Em” and “Yes, ma’am” before starting toward the linen closet.
“Hold up,” she said. “Give me some sugar first.”
Keighley was the closest, and the youngest, so she kissed Grandma’s smooth cheek first. A hug was out of the question. She didn’t want flour on the pristine outfit. It gave me a moment to realize she was dressed for a mission.
Emmaline Hughes, code name Emerald, was in a skintight suit of green so dark it looked black. Her gloves, boots, and belt matched to blend in with the fabric. If she wasn’t my grandmother, I would’ve said she was sexy for a sixty year old. I wouldn’t have known she was sixty because she looked closer to her thirties and exercised like one. She had to in our line of business.
“Can’t do my job if I stand out like a sore thumb, can I?” she said.
Keighley nodded then went to get cleaning supplies, leaving Grandma and I alone. Our gazes held each other for a moment. I had seen her leave and come home, usually without a scratch, ever since I was a baby. I was almost twenty now, but I still couldn’t shake the dread. My parents were never around, always on a mission or keeping up appearances as wealthy and responsible citizens, so Grandma Em was the one who raised us. Her days of being an assassin weren’t over, but she had slowed down to take care of me, and now Keighley. She was more of a mother to me than my real mom.
“Please, be safe,” I said.
“I always am,” she replied.
Her voice was confident.
“Not always,” I said.
“Well, almost always.”
It was our standard exchange. I wanted to hug her so bad, but I was covered in tomato juice and my throwing arm was powdered to the elbow. She took my hand in one of hers, giving it a squeeze.
“I’ll be so fast you won’t have time to miss me.”
“I know. I just can’t shake this feeling that every time you go out you won’t come back.”
Other assassins would call me weak, but Grandma was one of the best and she never told me I was weak for looking after our family.
“Just have your sister in bed by 9:00. And you too. Early day tomorrow.”
Keighley and I were technically on summer vacation, but Grandma Em never let a day go by without training or studying.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said.
“Good. Sweet dreams, honey pie.”
I gave her a kiss then she brushed her hands together to remove the flour. It wasn’t all gone, but she said,
“The rest will come off while I’m running.”
“You mean while showing off your trapeze skills?”
She smiled, a glimmer of mischief in her eye, but said nothing. I stepped around her to help Keighley, and when we came back she was gone. Not even a footprint left behind.
“How does she do it, Adam?” Keighley asked.
“Beats me,” I said.
“Do you think it’s true she’s descended from real ninjas?”
“In that case, how come you’re not covered in more flour?”
“I got the good genes?”
Another food fight was in danger of starting, but I bit back the retort.
“How about putting those good genes to work sweeping?”
When Grandma Em came home, not a speck of dust was out of place in the kitchen. She walked into the living room with her slice of tomato pie to enjoy while watching her favorite program. She went straight to her chair, not bothering with the light. After settling in and pressing the power button on the remote, the glow from the screen illuminated our figures. Grandma Em doesn’t startle easily, but the sight of our bloody, soulless faces made her scream. At our feet were the words, “AN EYE FOR AN EYE” written in our own blood from the gouges in our skulls.