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Searching for Something

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“There’s something different about you.”

Bollard had been back for a couple of days, and Kate had jumped at the chance to catch up with her.

Kate didn’t like to admit it, but the last few weeks had been lonely. She’d settled back into the same routine as before the watchtower mission, but it hadn’t felt the same. The time she’d spent at the watchtower had changed the way she looked at her life.

“I’m the same old Kate as ever,” Kate said.

“You don’t sound happy about that,” Bollard observed. “That’s new.”

Kate shrugged. “I’m fine. I guess I’m just… not happy that my whole life is my job.”

“That’s fair,” Bollard said. “I can’t relate, but that’s fair. So, what are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know. Nothing, probably.”

“You could download a dating app. That’s an easy way to meet people.”

“I don’t know if I actually want to meet anyone.”

“Did you already meet someone?”


“You don’t sound convinced. I think something must have happened that triggered this newfound dissatisfaction. Are you sure you didn’t meet someone?”

Kate hesitated, then shook her head.

Noticing her hesitation, Bollard said, “you did!”

“Okay, I kind of did. But not like that. Well, kind of like that, but I’m not just pining,” Kate said. “It’s not even that I want to date, necessarily. I just—I think I’m lonely. I think I’ve been lonely for a long while, and I got used to it. But then I got a taste of what not being lonely for once felt like, and now it’s hard to go back to my old life.”

“Okay, the way I see it, you have three options,” Bollard said. “One, you continue with your life as it has been, making no changes and continuing to be miserable. We’ll call that the sad option. Two, you continue with your life, still working for the agency, but you also make more of an effort to meet people. Get a hobby, do online dating, get a dog. We’ll call this the mature adult option, but definitely better than the sad option. Three, you quit your job and make radical life changes. That one’s the drastic option. Crazy, but it might be the most fun.”

“I can’t quit my job.”

“If that’s your first and only objection to the third plan, then you definitely should.”


“Not, ‘I don’t want to quit my job.’ Not ‘I love my job and just want something else.’ Just that you can’t quit it.”

“I—huh, you may have a point there,” Kate admitted. “But that doesn’t change anything. I’m doing important work for the agency.”

“Someone else could be doing that work.” Seeing Kate’s expression, Bollard continued, “I know, you’re a well-respected agent with an excellent track record. I’m not discounting any of that. But if your job isn’t making you happy, if you’re miserable because it’s holding you back from doing something else, then your performance is going to start suffering. And miserable you on a bad day can definitely be matched by happy someone else on a good day.”

“But I can just try to be happy here,” Kate said halfheartedly. Deep down, she wanted Bollard to convince her she didn’t have to stay.

“Be honest with me: would quitting your job let you do something, see someone, go somewhere, whatever it is that makes you happy? Is there something you have in mind for after you quit?”

“Yeah,” Kate admitted. “There is.”

“Then you have to quit.”

“The agency isn’t going to like that.”

“The agency’s going to have to deal with it. They can’t force you to stay. And besides, they know that unwilling agents aren’t good agents.”

“Thanks,” Kate said.

“No problem. What are cousins for, right?” Bollard asked. “And for what it’s worth—I’m sorry that you’ve been lonely.”

“It’s fine,” Kate said. “Trust me, it’s nothing to do with you. If anything, living near you is going to be one of the things I’ll miss.”

“I spend so much travelling, it’s not like living near each other always translates to seeing each other that often. I’m sure I’ll be able to stop by wherever you end up often enough.”

Kate imagined Bollard coming to visit Watchtower 10. “We’ll figure something out.”

“Good. I’m not letting go of you that easy,” Bollard said. “Now that we’ve got the feelings stuff out of the way, do you want to hear what Percy did last week?”

“Oh god, what did he do this time?”

It took a few weeks to make all the necessary arrangements. Finally, though, Kate’s replacement was trained, and she found a subleaser for her apartment.

Kate traded in her car for another van, now that the agency wasn’t providing her with one. She packed up her stuff and picked up provisions to last another few months. In a burst of inspiration, she stopped by a garage sale and was able to pick up a few VHS tapes that the watchtower didn’t have. It wasn’t a huge gift, but she figured having something new to watch after almost two decades couldn’t hurt.

And then she was off.

The drive gave her plenty of time to think. She couldn’t help but worry that they wouldn’t want her back; that her initial betrayal had ruined things for good. After all, she’d spent about three months there, and it had been almost that long since she’d left. It would be perfectly reasonable if they didn’t want her to live with them.

But, well, Kate had to try. The possibility that she’d be allowed to come back was worth giving up her old life for.

Finally, Kate arrived.

Last time, she’d seen that the Big Light was one and assumed that she would be in danger. This time, seeing the Big Light felt like coming home.

Kate got out of the van and walked up to the front door. She rang the doorbell.

This time, Etta answered it.

Kate couldn’t help but stare at her for a moment, unable to form words.

“Kate? What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to come back. For good. If you guys will have me.”

Etta still looked a little stunned, but a smile spread across her face. Kate wanted to see that smile for the rest of her life.

“You’re staying?” Etta checked.

“I’m staying.” Kate said.

If they had been able to touch, Kate might have kissed Etta. She would have definitely hugged her, at least.

As it was, they were left smiling at each other like fools until Bertie and Roger interrupted them.

“Kate’s back?” Bertie asked.

“I’m back. For good, if that’s okay with all of you,” Kate said. The last part was more addressed to Roger than anything.

“See, I told you she’d be back,” Bertie said to Roger.

Roger laughed. “You did. Well, in this case I can’t say I mind being proven wrong.”

For once, Roger actually seemed happy to see her.

“Does this mean that you’re going to stop glaring at her?” Etta asked.

“Now that she doesn’t have one foot out the door at all times, I think we’ll get along fine.”

“I am sorry about that,” Kate said. “Really. It took me a while to figure out that my job wasn’t the most important part of my life anymore.”

“You figured it out in the end,” Bertie said. “That’s the important part.”

“As long as you don’t change your mind, we’re good,” Roger agreed.

“Don’t worry,” Kate said. “You guys are stuck with me for good.”