The Witness(8)

By: Nora Roberts

Flushed with success, she opened the hair products.

Trickier, she discovered, but she believed—with practice—she’d learn. But she liked the careless, somewhat messy spikes. So different from her reddish brown, long and straight and uninspired hair, this short, spiky, glossy black.

Liz was new. Liz could and would do things Elizabeth hadn’t even imagined. Liz listened to Britney Spears and wore jeans that showed her navel. Liz went to clubs on Saturday night with a girlfriend, and danced and laughed and … flirted with boys.

“And boys flirt back with Liz,” she murmured. “Because Liz is pretty, and she’s fun, and she’s not afraid of anything.”

After calculating and setting the angles, the background, she used her new camera on a timer for several shots.

She worked till after three, finding the process simpler with the second document. It was nearly four by the time she put away all the tools and equipment, dutifully removed her makeup. She was certain she’d never sleep—her mind was so full, so busy.

She went under the moment she shut her eyes.

And for the first time in her life, barring illness, she slept soundly until noon. Her first act was to rush to the mirror to make certain she hadn’t dreamed it all.

Her second was to call Julie.

“Are we set?” Julie asked, after she’d answered on half a ring.

“Yes. I have everything.”

“And it’s totally good, right? It’ll do the job?”

“They’re excellent counterfeits. I don’t foresee any problem.”

“Awesome! Nine o’clock. I’ll get the cab, have it wait—so be ready. And make sure you look the part, Liz.”

“I tried the makeup last night. I’m going to practice with it, and my hair, this afternoon. And practice walking in the heels.”

“You do that. I’ll see you later. Party time!”

“Yes, I’ll—” But Julie had already hung up.

She spent all day on what she now thought of as Project Liz. She dressed in new cropped pants and top, made up her face, worked with her hair. She walked in the new shoes, and when she felt she had that process down, danced.

She practiced in front of the mirror, after finding a pop-music station on the radio. She’d danced before like this—alone in front of the mirror—teaching herself the moves she’d observed at dances in high school. When she’d been miserably on the sidelines, too young and too plain for any boy to notice.

The heels made the moves, the turns somewhat problematic, but she liked the way they kept her just a little off balance, forced her to loosen her knees, her hips.

At six, she took out her labeled meal, ate it while checking her e-mail. But there was nothing, nothing at all from her mother. She’d been sure there would be—some lecture, something.

But Susan’s patience was endless, and her use of silence masterful.

It wouldn’t work this time, Elizabeth determined. This time Susan was in for a shock. She’d walked out on Elizabeth, but she’d come home to Liz. And Liz wouldn’t be taking that summer program at the university. Liz would be amending her schedule and classes for the coming term.

Liz wasn’t going to be a surgeon. Liz was going to work with the FBI, in cyber crimes.

She gave herself thirty minutes to research universities with the highest-rated programs in her new field of study. She may have to transfer, and that might pose a problem. Though her college fund was tied to her trust—and came through her grandparents—they might cut her off. They’d listen to their daughter, follow her lead.

If so, she’d apply for scholarships. Her academic record would hold her there. She’d lose a semester, but she’d get a job. She’d go to work. She’d earn her way to her own destination.

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