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Lucie looks between Annie and August, eyes narrowed. August tries to look like she’s in on it.

“Fine,” Lucie says. “We try for half an hour.” She jabs August’s shoulder with one of her pointy acrylics. “Then you are back on shift.”

“Sure, no problem,” August says. Lucie stalks off, and August whips back to Annie, who’s casually buffing her nails on her fake tits. “How did you—”

“You think I’m stupid?” she says. “Like it’s not obvious to anyone who knows y’all that something’s going on. Look at Wes. He’s sweating like a fucking hard cheese on the A train. I don’t need to know what you’re doing, but, you know, I can help.”

Wes stares at Annie for a full five seconds, and says, “Oh Jesus Christ, I’m in love with you.”

Annie blinks. “Can you say that without looking like you’re gonna throw up?”

“I’m—uh—” He visibly gulps down whatever else he was going to say. “Actually, yeah, I am. Yeah. In love with you.”

“Look, I am very happy for both of you,” August says, “but we are on a clock here—”

“Right,” Annie says. She smiles. She’s a supernova.

“Right,” Wes says. Neither of them is even pretending to look at August.

“I’m gonna kiss you,” Annie says to Wes. “And then I’m gonna go serve some pancakes to some drunks, and you can tell me why later.”

“Okay,” Wes says.

They kiss. And August runs.


* * *


Times Square is streaking, blazing, burning through August’s glasses.

Like most people who live in Brooklyn, she never comes here, but it’s the nearest Q stop to the Control Center. The streets are nearly empty at one in the morning, but August still has to vault over someone slumped on the sidewalk in a Hello Kitty costume and bank hard to avoid a shuttered halal cart.

She throws herself down the subway stairs, races to the platform, and there, somehow in perfect alignment with the universe, is the Q waiting for her with doors open. She lunges onto the train as they slide shut.

Momentum carries her across the aisle, and she smacks into the opposite side of the car, startling a drunk couple so much, they nearly drop their takeout.

To her right, a voice says, “Hell of an entrance, Coffee Girl.”

And there’s Jane. Same as always: tall and smirking and the girl of August’s dreams. She’s got her jacket settled carefully onto her shoulders, her things neatly tucked away inside her backpack like it’s the first day of school. The way she might have looked stepping onto that bus to California if she’d ever made it. August chokes out a laugh and lets the movement of the train carry her into Jane’s side.

“Incredible,” Jane says as she gathers August up in her arms. “Ran all that way, and you still smell like pancakes.”

They ride through Manhattan, across the Manhattan Bridge, and into Brooklyn, where August texts Wes his cue and Wes texts back fire in the hole and a photo of security guards rushing to put out a blaze in the designated trash can.

“Okay,” August says, turning to Jane. She holds out a hand. “Once more for old time’s sake?”

Jane laces their fingers together, and they walk from one car to the next, platform after platform, like they did all those months ago when Jane dragged her through the emergency exit for the first time. August can’t even remember to be afraid.

With every car, there are fewer and fewer passengers, until they hit the very last one. It’s empty.

They’re easing past Parkside Ave., where it all started. It’s too dark to see the painted tiles or climbing ivy, but August can picture the apartment buildings and nail salons and pawn shops standing over the tracks, turned down for the night. She imagines New York ghosts unfurling from under stairs and between shelves to stand at the windows and watch Jane skate away.

“I guess I should give you this,” Jane says, pulling her phone out of her back pocket. “I don’t want to accidentally cause a paradox or something by bringing that back to the ’70s.”

“But what if I need to—” August says automatically. “Oh. Right. Yeah, of course. Obviously not.”

She takes the phone and tucks it into her pocket.

“I also, uh,” Jane says.

She hesitates before tugging her backpack off and shrugging out of her jacket. She hands that over too.

“I want you to have this.”

August stares at her. She’s looking back softly, something pulling at the dimple on the side of her mouth, exactly and nothing at all like she did that morning they met and she held out a scarf.

“I can’t—I can’t take your jacket.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Jane says, “I’m telling you. I want you to have it. And who knows? Maybe I’ll stay, and you can give it right back.”

“Fine,” August says, reaching into her bag. “But you have to take this with you.”

It’s a Polaroid, the one Niko took of them the night of Easter brunch, before August accidentally solved part of the mystery with a kiss. Inside the little square of film, Jane’s screaming with laughter, a wad of cash pinned to her chest and a crown on her head, the constant backdrop of the Q behind her. She has a red lipstick print on the side of her sharp jaw. Under her arm is August, turned away from the chaos, gazing up at Jane’s profile like she’s the only person on the planet. Her lipstick is smudged.

It’s not the only picture she has of her and Jane together, but it is her favorite. If Jane can only have one thing to remember her by, it should be this.

Jane spends a long second looking at it before tucking it into her backpack and shouldering it again.

“Deal,” she says, and August takes the jacket.

She puts it on over her Pancake Billy’s House of Pancakes T-shirt, turning under the fluorescents to show it off. It’s surprisingly light on her shoulders. The sleeves are slightly too long.

“Well? How does it look?”

“Ridiculous,” Jane says with a grin. “Awful. Perfect.”

They’ve moved through Brooklyn swiftly, barely anyone at the final few stops.

August glances up at the board. One last stop.

“Hey,” she says. “If you go back.”

Jane nods. “If I do.”

“Will you tell people about me?”

Jane huffs out a laugh. “Are you kidding me? Of course I will.”

August curls her hands up inside the sleeves of Jane’s jacket. “What’ll you tell them?”

When Jane speaks again, her voice has shifted, and August imagines her on a fat ottoman in a smoky apartment in July 1977, a few sweaty girls circled around the floor to listen to her story.

“There was this girl,” she says. “There was this girl. I met her on a train. The first time I saw her, she was covered in coffee and smelled like pancakes, and she was beautiful like a city you always wanted to go to, like how you wait years and years for the right time, and then as soon as you get there, you have to taste everything and touch everything and learn every street by name. I felt like I knew her. She reminded me who I was. She had soft lips and green eyes and a body that wouldn’t quit.” August elbows her, Jane smiles. “Hair like you wouldn’t believe. Stubborn, sharp as a knife. And I never, ever wanted a person to save me until she did.”