“What?” Rose is confused. “Kansas? Toto?”
“Of course,” I say, rolling my eyes. “Of course you’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Wizard of What?”
“Oz.” I throw my hands in the air. “Gosh, it doesn’t matter! I was being ironic anyway.” I spread my arms wide to take in the very un-English blue sky above us and the rows upon rows of stereotypical cornstalks spread all around. I can hear tires crunching over gravel somewhere to our left, beyond the corn, and birds chirp as they swoop low overhead. “Welcome, my dear ghosty compadre,” I say, “to the Land of the Free. Or at least Canada.”
“The greatest place on Earth? ¿La parte del norte de las Américas?” Still blank. “The New World?”
“I know what you’re talking about, Mary,” says Rose. “I just want to know what makes you think we have actually left the continent.”
“Besides the fact that it’s not overcast and we were just magically transported through the Norlands by a pixy stick?”
“Yes,” says Rose. She is especially transparent under the bright sunlight, her heavy dress darker and her skin paler. She seems out of place around such happy weather.
I am home.
“Come on.” I point in the direction of the car sounds. Rose stares at me, expressionless. I bite my lip out of the sheer awkwardness. We tramp through the rows of corn to the road. The leaves slap me across the face, scratching at my neck and legs, but Rose just drafts on through. She has her arms crossed, her expression still skeptical.
The instant we reach the gravel, a rusty, dirt-coated red pickup truck nearly runs us over, and I have to jump back to avoid going the same way as the diplomat. Rose lingers back a step, her mouth open in a full-out gape.
“That driver was on the American side of the road!” I cheer, pumping my fist in the air. “Believe me now, sucka?”
“Yes,” says Rose, “but not because of the side of the road. The fact that he almost just ran you over and you don’t even seem to care is what makes him seem most American to me.”
“You,” I say, turning and pointing at her, trying to hold back my obnoxious five-year-old-on-Christmas shrieks of joy, “are a blossom of hope and optimism, Rose.”
Finally, I can’t hold it in anymore, and I start happy dancing on the spot. “I’m home, I’m home, I’m home!!!” I jump up and down and do a cartwheel across the gravel.
“Uh, I hate to break it to you, Mary,” Rose says, trailing after me apprehensively, “but isn’t it dangerous for you to be this side of the pond? Because of the government’s vendetta against you?”
“So what?” I scream to the vast, bright, beautiful blue sky. “This country’s huge, there’s noway they’ll find me! Yay yay yay!!!” I do another cartwheel.
“Mary, shouldn’t we be concerned as to how we ended up all the way in the rural United States of America from a newspaper office in urban Great Britain? Of Europe? Of an entirely different continent?”
“Well, it’s the same planet,” I say with a shrug, “so I’m not too worried.” Then it occurs to me—“Wait!” I freeze mid-dance move.
“Finally, has your brain caught up with the sudden, extreme physical shift of your body?” Rose inquires.
“No,” I say. I scrunch my eyebrows low and frown. “Namely because, if anything, my brain got here first. Because obviously my reasoning hasn’t been working 100% for the past year or so, if I decided to work with you.”
“Oh joy,” Rose scowls, “your charming and selfless personality has also caught up with you.”
“Shut it, Keira Knightly-impersonator.” I narrow my eyes. “All I was going to say was that we need to find a phone so we can call Randy. Let him know what’s up. Make sure he doesn’t call the CIA on me.”
“You truly think Randy would call the CIA on you?”
“Now that I’m not in near enough to murder him in reaction before they got to me, yeah.”Rose’s eyes go wide and I throw my head back, laughing. “What, you actually thought Randy and I are close enough not to rat each other out when we get the chance? The CIA pays so well for turning in suspects in assassination cases. That poor thief-child would never have to klepto his way through a newspaper office again!”
I look up and down the road, guess the direction of the nearest farmhouse, and set off that way. Rose scampers after me. Another rusted pickup truck speeds past us without even attempting to make us feel like the driver cares about our presence at the side of the gravel swath.
Gosh, if I had known working with that Norlands dweeb would get me back to the country faster than stopping the alien apocalypse would, I would have gone along with that whole find-the-king craziness so much sooner.
“Why do you want to let him know you aren’t still somewhere in London, then?” Rose calls after me.
“Because unless that magic fellow shows up again sometime soon to whisk us back to the City of Doom, Randy’s going to put his two brain cells together and realize that we’ve vacated the continent. And then he will surely try to turn me in, and we can’t have that when I’vejust now gotten home, now can we?”
“Are you even from farm-country?” Rose asks.
“Ha! No, of course not. You think I learned how to kill people out in the boondocks? That’s so MI6, not PWNBEIBER. I’m from Maryland. Look!” There’s a little white house just on the horizon, with a picket fence and a cow out front and everything. I break into a sprint. “HOME!” I shout. “HOME ON THE RANGE! WHERE THE WIND COMES SWEEPING DOWN THE PLAIN!” I do a twirl while I run.
“You’re barmy!” Rose shouts after me. “Absolutely, bleeding, nutzo bonkers!”
I reach the picket fence and swing myself over it without looking for a gate. “Hey! Hi! Hello! Wonderful, antisocial American people! Get off your wifi-abusing butts, I need to ask you for a favor!” I call.
“Mary, what if the pixie left us in Canada after all, and you just insulted them by referring to them as Americans?” Rose huffs from somewhere up the road.
I’m about to turn and tell her to shut up again when the front door of the farmhouse squeaks open on its hinges and a hairy man with a beer belly the size of Alaska steps out. I turn my head back to face him so fast my neck cracks. I reach a hand back instinctively. “Oh. Oh, ow. Bloody hell.”
“Who are you?” the hairy man asks. He leans against his doorframe like it’s just far too much effort to stand upright and squints against the sunlight. “You one of them foreign missionary people?”
This stops me. “Huh?”
“Your accent, kid. What is that, Australian?”
My accent. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, God do not save the queen, those awful Brits have worn off on me.
Rose bursts into laughter behind me, doubling over and wiping at her eyes. The only assurance is that the man remains completely oblivious to her otherworldly, European presence.
“I’m from Maryland, you heathen,” I growl. I cock a hip. Probably not the smartest move, seeing as the guy appears to be the type of American who takes his shotgun to bed with him, but oh well. I’m a trained assassin wanted by the U.S. government. I’m not really concerned about a pesky little shotgun. “Don’t you dare compare me to the Australians. They’re almost as bad as the British, and don’t you dare get me started on the English specifically. Now could I please use your phone, please please please, just for like five seconds? I need to make a call. It’s urgent. Like really urgent. Like… girl problems. Yeah. Girl problems. The phone call is about girl problems.”
“Where’d you come from, kid?” the guy asks. He doesn’t look like he’s going to let me in. He needs to let me in. He needs to. I need to call a taxi or something, get back to civilization, enjoy my Americanism while it lasts. Get to Randy before he can blabber about my new location.
I employ the most drastic name I have at my disposal. “Michigan,” I say. “Specifically,Detroit.”
The man jumps. “Oh, well in that case, come right on in, darlin’!” He skitters out of my way. Rose sobers. I go inside.