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“I know,” Jane says quietly, like it hurts to say it. “I always knew it was you. That’s why I didn’t—it’s why I shouldn’t have ever kissed you. I look at you, and it feels like I’m realer than I’ve ever been, from right here.” She covers August’s hand with hers. “So big it burns. God, August, it’s beautiful, but it hurts so bad.” And, damningly, “You’re the reason I feel like this.”

It connects like a punch.

She’s right. August knows she’s right. She’s been digging Jane’s life back up, but Jane is the one who has to sit on the train alone and live it all over again.

Something in her recoils violently, and her fingers dig into the fabric of Jane’s jacket, bunching it up in her fist.

“Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean you can make me do it for you.”

A muscle clenches in Jane’s jaw, and August wants to kiss it. She wants to kiss her and fight her and hold her down and set this storm loose on the world, but the doors open at the next stop, and for just a second, Jane glances through them. Her foot twitches toward the platform, like she’d have a chance if she tried, and that’s what makes August’s throat go tight.

“You want me to stay,” Jane says. It’s a quiet accusation, a push she doesn’t have the strength to do physically. “That’s what this is, isn’t it? Myla said there’s a chance I could stay. That’s why you’re doing this.”

August still has a fistful of Jane’s jacket. “You wouldn’t be so angry if part of you didn’t want that too.”

“I don’t—” Jane says. She squeezes her eyes shut. “I can’t want that. I can’t.”

“We’ve done all this work,” August says.

“No, you’ve done all this work,” Jane points out. Her eyes open, and August can’t tell if she’s imagining the wetness there. “I never asked you to.”

“Then what?” The part of her that’s all blade is squaring up. “What do you want me to do?”

“I already told you,” Jane says. Her eyes are flashing. A fluorescent above their heads goes out with a loud pop.

If August were different, this is the part where she’d stay and fight. Instead, she thinks viciously that Jane’s idea won’t work. It can’t possibly be that easy to split this apart, not in just a few days. She’ll be back before it’s too late. She’ll leave just to prove it.

They’re pulling into the next stop soon, a big Manhattan one that will bring a rush of people with it.

“Fine. But this?” August hears her voice come out caustic and harsh, and she hates it. “All this? I did it for you, not me.”

The doors slide open, and the last thing August sees of Jane is the stiff set of her jaw. Her split lip. The furious determination not to cry. And then people push on, and August is lost in the current of bodies, dumped out onto the platform.

The doors shut. The train pulls away.

August reaches into her heart for the sour thing that lives there and squeezes.


* * *


August slams her bag down on the bar within five seconds of stepping into Billy’s for her dinner shift.

“Hey, hey, hey, watch it!” Winfield warns, snatching a pie out of range. “This is blackberry. She’s a special lady.”

“Sorry,” she grumbles, plopping down onto a stool. “Rough week.”

“Yeah, well,” Winfield says, “my super has been saying he’s gonna fix my toilet since last Thursday. We’re all having a time.”

“You’re right, you’re right.” August sighs. “Lucie working this shift?”

“Nope,” he says. “She’s taking the day to yell at city officials about permits.”

“Yeah, about that,” August says. “Myla and I are starting to think we’re gonna need a bigger venue.”

Winfield turns and raises his eyebrows at her. “The capacity of Delilah’s is eight hundred. You think we’re getting more than that?”

“I think we’re gonna get, like, double that,” August tells him. “We’ve already sold eight hundred-something tickets, and it’s not for another month.”

“Holy shit,” he says. “How the hell did y’all manage that?”

August shrugs. “People love Billy’s. And it turns out Bomb Bumboclaat and Annie Depressant are big sellers.”

He grins wide, preening in the grimy glow of the kitchen window heat lamps. “Well, I coulda told you that.”

August smiles half-heartedly back at him. She wishes she could match his excitement, but the fact is, she’s been throwing herself into the fundraiser to stop thinking about how she hasn’t heard from Jane in two days. She wanted to be left alone, so August is leaving her alone. She hasn’t set foot on the Q since Jane told her to forget about her.

“Who’s on the schedule today?”

“You’re looking at it, baby,” Winfield says. “It feels like Satan’s taint outside. Nobody’s coming to get afternoon pancakes today. It’s just us and Jerry.”

“Oh God. Okay.” August peels herself off her stool and rounds the counter to clock in. “I need to talk to Jerry anyway.”

In the kitchen, Jerry’s hefting a bucket of hashbrown shavings out of the fridge and toward the prep station. He gives her a quick nod.

“Hey, Jerry, you got a minute?”

He grunts. “What’s up, buttercup?”

“So, it’s looking like we might end up with double the people we planned for the fundraiser,” she says. “We should probably talk pancake logistics again.”

“Shit,” he swears, “that’s gonna be at least thirty gallons of batter.”

“I know. But we don’t have to make a pancake for every guest—I mean, there have gotta be people who are gluten-free, or low carb, or whatever—”

“So, let’s say twenty gallons of batter, then. That’s still a lot, and I don’t even know how we’d transport that many pancakes.”

“Billy said he has a spare grill in storage. He was gonna sell it, but if he could bring it to the venue, you and some of the line cooks could cook them there.”

He thinks on it. “Sounds like a pain in the ass.”

“But it could work. We can use the catering van to get the batter there.”

“Yeah, okay, it could work.”

Winfield’s head pops up in the window. “Hey, can I get some bacon?”

Jerry glances at him. “For you or for a table?”

“No tables, I’m just hun—”

At that exact moment, the creaky pipe along the wall by the dishwasher finally does what it’s been threatening since long before August started working there: it bursts.

Water explodes all over the floor of the kitchen, soaking through the canvas of August’s sneakers and down to her socks, gushing into the tubs of biscuits under the prep table. She lunges forward and tries to wrap her hands around the split of the pipe, but all it does is redirect most of the water onto her—her shirt, her face, her hair—

“Uh,” August says, kicking a tub of biscuits out of harm’s way with one soggy foot. It tips and biscuits spill all over the tiles, floating away like little biscuit boats. “Can I get some help here?”