Page 63

It’s always the same.


* * *


The next day, August takes the file her mother mailed her down from the top of the fridge.

She didn’t open it after the first time, didn’t think about it, but she didn’t dump it in the garbage either. She wants it gone, so she crams it into her bag and climbs onto the Q heading toward the post office. It feels heavy in her bag, like a relic of the family religion.

It’s incredible, really, how the sight of Jane sitting there like she always is, picking at the edge of the seat with her Swiss Army knife, unspools the tension in her shoulders.

“Hey, Landry,” Jane says. She smiles when August leans down to kiss her hello. “Save Billy’s yet?”

“Working on it,” August says, sitting beside her. “Have any epiphanies yet?”

“Working on it,” Jane says. She gives August a once-over. “What’s going on? You’re, like … all staticky.”

“Is that a thing you can do?” August asks. “Because of the electricity thing? Like, can you feel other people’s emotional frequencies?”

“Not really,” Jane says, leaning her face on her hand. “But sometimes, lately, yours have started coming through. Not totally clear, but like music from the next room, you know?”

Uh-oh. Can she feel terrible dumbass love radiating off of August?

“I wonder if that means you’re becoming more present,” August says, “like how the wine worked on you even though you couldn’t get drunk before. Maybe that’s progress.”

“Sure as hell hope so,” Jane says. She leans back, hooking one arm over the handrail beside her. “But you didn’t answer my question. What’s going on?”

August hisses out a breath and shrugs. “I got in a fight with my mom. It’s stupid. I don’t really want to talk about it.”

Jane lets out a low whistle. “I got you.” A short lull absorbs the tension before Jane speaks again. “Oh, it’s probably not that helpful, but I did remember something.”

She lifts the hem of her T-shirt, baring the tattoos that span her side from ribs to thigh. August has seen them all, mostly in hurried glimpses or in semidarkness.

“I remembered what these guys mean,” Jane says.

August peers at the inky animals. “Yeah?”

“It’s the zodiac signs for my family.” She touches the tail feathers of the rooster sprawling down her rib cage. “My dad, ’33.” The snout of the dog on her side. “Mom, ’34.” The horns of a goat on her hip. “Betty, ’55.” Disappearing past her waistband and down her thigh, a monkey. “Barbara, ’56.”

“Wow,” August says. “What’s yours?”

She points to her opposite hip, at the serpent winding up from her thigh, separate from the others. “Year of the Snake.”

The art is beautiful, and she can’t imagine Jane got any of them before she ran away. Which means she sat through hours of needles for her family after she left them.

“Hey,” August says. “Are you sure you don’t want me to…?”

She’s asked before, if she should try to find Jane’s family. Jane said no, and August hasn’t pushed it.

“Yeah, no, I—I can’t,” Jane says, tucking her shirt back in. “I don’t know what’s worse—the idea that they’ve been looking for me and missing me and probably thinking I’m dead, or the idea that they just gave up and moved on with their lives. I don’t want to know. I can’t—I can’t face that.”

August thinks of her mom and the file in her bag. “I get it.”

“When I left home,” Jane says after a few seconds. She’s returned to her Swiss Army knife, carving a thin line into the shiny blue of the seat. “I called from LA once, and God, my parents were furious. My dad told me not to come back. And I couldn’t even blame him. That was the last time I called, and I … I really believed that was the best thing I could do for them. For us. To drift. But I thought about them every single day. Every minute of the day, like they were with me. I got the tattoos so they would be.”

“They’re beautiful.”

“I like permanent marks, you know? Tattoos, scars.” She crosses the letter A she’s been carving and moves on to N with a soft chuckle. “Vandalism. It’s like, when you spend your life running, sometimes that’s the only thing you have to show for it.”

She carves a small plus sign underneath her name and looks up at August, extending the knife. “Your turn.”

August glances between her, the knife, and the blank space below the plus sign for a full ten seconds before she gets it. Jane wants August’s name next to hers in the permanent mark she’s leaving on the Q.

Reaching into her back pocket, August clears the feelings out of her throat and says, “I have my own.”

She flicks the blade of her knife out and gets to work, scratching a clumsy AUGUST. When it’s done, she sits back, holding the knife loosely in her palm, admiring their work. JANE + AUGUST. She likes the way they look together.

When she turns to look at Jane, she’s staring down at August’s hand.

“What’s that?” Jane asks.

August follows her gaze. “My knife?”

“Your—where did you get that?”

“It was a gift?” August says. “My mom gave it to me; it belonged to her brother.”



“No. August,” Jane says. August frowns at her, and she goes on: “That was his name. The guy who owned that knife. Augie.”

August stares. “How did you—”

“How old is he?” Jane cuts in. Her eyes are wide. “Your mom’s brother—how old is he?”

“He was born in ’48, but he’s—he’s been missing since—”

“1973,” Jane finishes flatly.

August never told Jane any of the specifics. It was nice to have one thing in her life that wasn’t touched by it. But Jane knows. She knows his name, the year, and she—

“Fuck,” August swears.

Biyu Su. She remembers where she saw that name.

She fumbles the fastening on her bag three times, before she finally pulls out the file.

“Open it,” August says.

Jane’s fingers are tentative on the edge of the manila folder, and when it falls open, there’s a newspaper photograph paperclipped to the first page, yellowing black and white. Jane, missing a couple of tattoos, in the background of a restaurant that had just opened in the Quarter. In the cutline, she’s listed as Biyu Su.

“My mom sent me this,” August says. “She said she’d found someone who might have known her brother and traced them to New York.”

It takes a second, but it comes: the fluorescent above their heads surges brighter and blinks out.

“Her brother—” Jane starts and stops, hand shaking when she touches the edge of the clipping. “Landry. That was … that was her brother. I knew—I knew there was something familiar about you.”

August’s voice is mostly breath when she asks, “How did you know him?”