Zach has dark umber skin and enormous dreadlocks and a smile that’s almost too big for his face. He immediately begins playing air guitar and singing a song that I don’t know. Olly grins from ear to ear. Zach thrashes his head dramatically while he “plays” and his hair keeps time with the “music.”

“Zach!” Olly says, and pulls him into a hug. They slap each other’s backs loudly.

“It’s Zachariah now.”

“Since when?” asks Olly.

“Since I decided to become a rock god. It’s Zachariah like—”

“Messiah,” I pipe in, getting his joke.

“Exactly! Your girlfriend is smarter than you are.”

I blush and look over to see Olly blushing, too.

“Well that was cute,” Zach says, laughing and strumming air guitar strings. His laugh reminds me of Carla’s—unself-conscious, a little too loud, and full of mirth. In that moment I miss her desperately.

Olly turns to me. “Maddy, this is Zach.”


“Dude, I’m not calling you that. Zach this is Maddy.”

Zach takes my hand and gives it a quick kiss. “Fantastic to meet you, Maddy. I’ve heard a lot about you, but I didn’t think you were really real.”

“That’s OK,” I say, examining my hand where he kissed it. “Some days I’m not.”

He laughs too loudly again and I find myself laughing with him.

“Wonderful,” Olly cuts in. “Let’s move this along. There’s a loco moco with Maddy’s name on it.”

A loco moco is a mountain of rice topped with a hamburger patty topped with gravy topped with two fried eggs. Zach’s taken us to a mixed plate restaurant for a late lunch. We sit at a table outside, the ocean just a few hundred feet in the distance.

“This place is the best,” Zach says. “It’s where all the locals eat.”

“You tell your parents yet?” Olly asks him in between bites.

“About the rockstar thing or the gay thing?”



“You’ll feel better once it’s out there.”

“No doubt, but the difficultly level is a little high.”

Zach looks over to me. “My parents only believe in three things: family, education, and hard work. By ‘family’ I mean one man, one woman, two children, and a dog. By ‘education’ I mean a four-year college, and by ‘hard work’ I mean nothing involving art. Or hopes. Or rockstar dreams.”

He looks back to Olly now and his brown eyes are more serious than before. “How am I gonna tell them that their first-born son wants to be the African-American Freddie Mercury?”

“They must suspect,” I say. “The rockstar part at least. Your hair is four different shades of red.”

“They think it’s a phase.”

“Maybe you could write them a song.”

His laugh booms. “I like you,” he says.

“I like you, too,” I say back. “You could call the song ‘This Apple Has Fallen Very, Very, Very Far Away from the Tree’.”

“I’m not even sure I’m an apple,” Zach says, laughing.

“You guys are funny,” Olly says, almost smiling, but obviously preoccupied. “Dude, let me borrow your phone,” he says to Zach.

Zach hands it over and Olly immediately starts typing.

“What’s going on with you? Dad still a bastard?”

“You thought that would change?” He doesn’t look up from the phone.

“I guess not,” says Zach, a shrug in his voice. How much does he know about Olly’s family? His dad is so much worse than just a bastard.

“What about you, Madeline? What’s wrong with your parents?”

“It’s just me and my mom.”

“Still. There must be something wrong with her.”

My mom, my mom. I’ve barely given her any thought. She must be crippled with worry.

“Well, I think there’s something wrong with everyone, don’t you? But my mom’s smart, and she’s strong, and she always puts me first.”

I know I’ve surprised them because neither one speaks.

Olly looks up from Zach’s phone. “You have to tell her you’re OK, Mad.”

He hands me the phone and leaves for the restroom.

From: Madeline F. Whittier

To: [email protected]

Subject: (no subject)

Do you have my daughter? Is she OK?

From: Madeline F. Whittier

To: [email protected]

Subject: (no subject)

I know you she’s with you. You don’t understand how sick she is. Bring her home.

From: Madeline F. Whittier

To: [email protected]

Subject: (no subject)

Please tell me where you are. She could get severely ill at any minute.

From: Madeline F. Whittier

To: [email protected]

Subject: (no subject)

I know where you are and I’m on the next flight. I’ll be there first thing in the morning. Please keep her safe.

I stop reading, cradle the phone against my chest, and close my eyes. I’m guilty and resentful and panicked all at once. Seeing all her worry and pain makes me want to go to her and reassure her that I’m OK. That part of me wants to let her keep me safe.

But another part of me, the newer part, isn’t ready to give up the world I’m starting to know. I resent that she’s logged into my private e-mails. I resent that now Olly and I will have even less time than I thought.


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