When I was younger one of my favorite activities was imagining alternate-universe versions of myself. Sometimes I was a rosy-cheeked, outdoorsy girl who ate flowers and hiked alone, uphill, for miles. Or I was a skydiving, drag-racing, adrenaline-fueled daredevil. Or a chain mail–wearing, sword-swinging dragon slayer. It was fun to imagine those things because I already knew who I was. Now I don’t know anything. I don’t know who I’m supposed to be in my new world.

I keep trying to pinpoint the moment when everything changed. The moment that set my life on this path. Was it when my dad and brother died, or was it before that? Was it when they first got into the car on the day they died? Was it when my brother was born? Or when my mom and dad met? Or when my mom was born? Maybe it was none of those. Maybe it was when the truck driver decided he wasn’t too tired to drive. Or when he decided to become a truck driver in the first place. Or when he was born.

Or any of the infinite number of moments that led to this one.

So, if I could change one moment, which one would I pick? And would I get the results I want? Would I still be Maddy? Would I have lived in this house? Would a boy named Olly have moved in next door? Would we have fallen in love?

Chaos theory says that even a small change in initial conditions can lead to wildly unpredictable results. A butterfly flaps her wings now and a hurricane forms in the future.


I think if I could just find the moment, I could take it apart piece by piece, molecule by molecule, until I got down to the atomic level, until I got to the part that was inviolate and essential. If I could take it apart and understand it then maybe I could make just exactly the right change.

I could fix my mom and make it so she was never broken.

I could understand how I came to be sitting on this roof at the beginning and at the end of everything.

Future Perfect #2

To: [email protected]

From: [email protected]

Subject: Future Perfect #2

Sent: March 10, 7:33 PM

By the time you read this you will have forgiven me.



I stare out the window of the airplane and see miles and miles of greenery sectioned into perfect squares. Dozens of mysterious blue-green pools lie below, glowing at their edges. From so high up above it, the world seems ordered and deliberate.

But I know it’s more than that. And less. It is structured and chaotic. Beautiful and strange.

Dr. Chase was not happy with my decision to fly so soon. But anything can happen at anytime. Safety is not everything. There’s more to life than being alive.

To her credit, my mom didn’t try to stop me when I told her last night. She swallowed all her fear and panic even though she still doesn’t fully believe that I’m not sick. Her doctor’s brain struggles to reconcile what she’s believed for so long against the evidence of too many other doctors, too many tests. I’m trying to put myself in her shoes, playing games not of cause and effect, but of effect and cause. I go back, and back, and back, and I always end up in the same place.


Love makes people crazy.

Loss of love makes people crazy.

My mother loved my father. He was the love of her life. And she loved my brother. He was the love of her life. And she loves me. I am the love of her life.

The universe took my dad and brother away. For her it was the Big Bang in reverse—everything that became a nothing.

I can understand that.


I am trying to.

“When will you come back home?” she asked.

And I told her the truth. “I don’t know if this is home anymore.”

She cried then, but still she let me go, and that has to count for something.

Eventually the cloud cover grows too thick for me to see much of anything. I relax into my seat and reread The Little Prince. And, just like every time I’ve read it before, the meaning changes.

Life is Short™

Spoiler Reviews by Madeline

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Spoiler alert: Love is worth everything. Everything.

This Life

Even at 9 A.M. on a Saturday, New York City is just as loud and jam-packed as it’s famous for being. The streets are filled with honking, slow-moving cars. The sidewalks teem with people just narrowly missing each other as if their movements were choreographed. From the back of the cab I let the noise and smells of the city wash over me. I open my eyes wide to take in all the world I see.

I didn’t tell Olly what I was up to, just that there was a present waiting for him at a used book-store close to his house. I imagined our reunion for almost the entire flight. Every scenario involved us kissing within the first thirty seconds.

The driver drops me off outside of Ye Olde Book Shoppe. I push through the doors. Right away I know that I will eventually spend a lot of time here.

The store is a small, single room with floor-to-ceiling shelves, each overflowing with books. The room is dimly lit by small penlights attached to each shelf so that books are just about all you see. The air smells like nothing I’ve ever imagined. It smells old. As if it has been in this same place for a very long time.

I have fifteen minutes before Olly will be here. I wander the aisles gawking at all the books. I want to touch them all at once. I want to add my name to all the people who read them before me. I trace my fingers across the spines. Some are so worn, so well used, that I can barely make out the titles.

I check the time on my phone. It’s almost time. I make my way to the end of the S–U aisle and hide. My butterflies have come back.


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