Some days, Ivy really hated pretending to be an ordinary teenager. Go to school. Pretend to struggle with math homework. Listen to her mom teach her how to cook (as if Ivy didn’t already know how to bake the perfect soufflé). And now, she was expected to go out on a date with a teenaged boy.
“You have got to be kidding me.” Ivy sat back in her seat and stared at her contact, whom she only knew as J.T.
J.T.’s face was dead serious. “I’m afraid not. Your mission is to trail and gather information from the target. We believe that he may be conducting activities which threaten our national security.” Ivy gathered her composure and stared down at the chess board in front of her. “Adao Rocha-Morinho? But he’s just a kid,” she said, with a barely perceptible shake of her head.
“Are you not also ‘just a kid’?” J.T.’s voice held a trace of amusement, which shocked Ivy. “You are one of the youngest field agents I have ever seen. But you are brilliant at your job.” Ivy took a deep breath. “Okay then. I’ll do it.”
“Of course you will.”
One week later, Adao Rocha-Morinho showed up at her house, expecting riding lessons. Ivy took advantage of the situation, pretending to be friendly and giggling in all the right places, like a regular teen girl would do. She also pumped the poor kid for information, which Adao gladly offered while staring at Ivy through wide, lovesick eyes. It made Ivy feel sick with guilt. She had never before had to target someone who had a crush on her.
So when he asked her out on a date, what else could she do?
“Okay, sure,” she said. Adao looked like he had just won a trip to Disneyland, which only deepened Ivy’s guilt. Because of the nature of her job, she saw how excited Adao was to go out with her. She broke into his phone and read every enthusiastic and insecure text he sent to his best friend, Grayson. She saw his bank card transaction when he bought a cowboy hat at the Boot Barn, and giggled for real. This guy was going all out just to go on a date with her! It was actually pretty sweet.
Which is why it broke her heart that she had to stand him up.
She hated to miss out on her first date, especially since she was wearing a really cute dress, and because Adao seemed like a nice guy, if a bit nerdy. But it was unavoidable. One of her most dangerous targets had found her, and Ivy had no choice but to fight.
Her phone kept ringing. By the eighth time, Ivy began to regret using Huey Lewis’ The Power of Love as a ringtone. She could not help but worry, as she gave her opponent a swift roundhouse kick to the face, about poor Adao, standing outside the country line dance club in his cowboy hat, confused and disappointed that she didn’t show up.
She would make a terrible girlfriend.
Making the apologetic phone call the next day was even harder than it had been to subdue her enemy while wearing heels. “I got in trouble with my parents,” she said. “They took away my phone and everything, or I would have called.” “That’s okay.” said Adao. Ivy closed her eyes. This guy was way too nice. What on earth was he doing to end up as a potential threat to national security?
“Look, can I make it up to you?” Ivy asked. “Maybe at Five Flags this afternoon?”
Adao agreed, and later that day, they met just outside the amusement park. Ivy decided to ease off the spying for now and made polite small talk and tried to enjoy her date.
“I’ll be back in a sec,” she told Adao after they had gone on a few rides. She pretended to go into the women’s bathroom, then ducked around the corner and into a snack shop. She waited until the other customers left, then stepped toward the front counter.
“What have you learned?” asked her contact, Frank.
“Nothing at all.” Ivy shrugged. “This kid seems as clean as a mountain spring.”
“Keep digging,” said Frank. “This is an important job, Ivy. We’re counting on you to get the information we need.”
Ivy sighed. For the first time ever, she wished she did not have to play spy and pretend to like a boy. She wished she could be like a normal teenage girl in love, on an ordinary date with a nice, normal guy.