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She could have smacked twelve-year-old Etta, because the longer they stood in front of the house’s gate, the less sure she was that they’d found the right one. She was definitely not sure that she wanted to ring the bell, at any rate.

“You said you’d been here before,” Nicholas reminded her. “If your instincts are telling you this is the place, I believe it.”

If her mother and Alice had brought her here three times, then they wanted her to remember it. How to find it.

But Alice…

“Will you be all right?” he asked quietly. “I can speak to her if it feels unbearable.”

The house faced Kensington Square, a short walk south from the palace and gardens. The neighborhood was quiet, beautiful—nearly untouched by war. The midafternoon sun disappeared as the sky grayed over with clouds, but the trees in the park stood out in flaming contrast, all gold and red. Men worked nearby, pulling up some of the fences and railings, collecting them in piles to be carted away. Here and there were small gardens—including one in front of the green door.

Etta shook her head. She was grateful for the offer, but if he was right, and she really couldn’t save Alice, then…This is my last chance to see her. The thought broke something wide open in her.

Nicholas opened the gate and gestured for her to enter. Etta set her shoulders back, stomach flipping between excitement and dread. Then she lifted the knocker and pounded out three sharp knocks.

For a terrible second, Etta thought no one was home. She leaned forward, her ear against the wood, when she heard a girl cry, “Just a moment!” and the sound of feet on the stairs. Etta stepped back. Something scraped—the peephole cover, maybe? She glanced at Nicholas, who stood at the base of the steps with one hand on his bag. There was an audible gasp, a cry, as the door flew open.

“Rosie? But what are you doing—”

Etta drank down the sight of her in one long gulp.

The girl’s long, auburn hair was loose around her shoulders, her face shaded by a green felt hat. The collar of her grayish-green dress had been unbuttoned down to the spot where a white patch was placed over the pocket on her chest, its red letters reading WVS CIVIL DEFENCE.

She was so young. Unbelievably young. Alice had freckles, a whole galaxy of them spread across her nose and cheekbones. Etta had seen pictures…but…but this Alice hadn’t yet lost the baby fat from her round face. It was her eyes that Etta instantly recognized—that pale gray she knew so well. Etta’s whole body seemed to seize, her voice too thick to speak, and she had to cross her arms over her chest to keep from throwing them around her.

“You’re not Rose,” said Alice slowly, gripping the door as if prepared to slam it shut.

“No,” Etta said, reaching out to keep the door open. “I’m not.”

“I HAVEN’T ANY TEA TO OFFER you, but there’s no milk or sugar for it anyway. Rationing and such. Very sorry.”

Alice led them into the front parlor of the house, motioning for Nicholas and Etta to sit on a stiff, overstuffed Victorian couch. She disappeared for a moment, but rather than let her vanish completely, Etta leaned into the hall to track her progress. She returned with glasses of water and a few crackers.

“Everything all right?” Alice asked her.

Etta forced her eyes away from her and onto the painting hanging over the fireplace—an impressionist’s take on a field of red poppies—and let a smile curve across her lips. It was like seeing another old friend. The thing had traveled, complete in its ornate gold frame, across the Atlantic to Alice and Oskar’s apartment on the Upper East Side. But that wouldn’t take place for another ten years.

Sheet music was piled neatly on top of a closed piano, and tucked beneath its gleaming wooden body was a small music stand and a violin case—Alice’s violin case—containing the violin that Etta would, decades later, hold and practice on for hours every single day. She’d forgotten this, that the war had forced Alice’s lessons to come to a halt; she’d only begun playing professionally in her twenties, after she grew restless with London.

“You’ll have to excuse me for being rude,” Alice said, sitting in a leather chair across from her. “But I’ve got to be off to my shift in a few minutes.”

“That’s okay,” Etta said, her voice thick with the need to cry. All those things she’d said to her at the Met before the concert…

Some things never changed; including, apparently, the way Alice’s face softened in sympathy.

“I just have a few questions,” Etta continued. “If that’s okay with you?”

“About Rosie?” she asked, studying Etta as closely as Etta was studying her. “I’m afraid you’re out of luck. I haven’t seen her in years.”

Etta shifted uncomfortably in her seat at Alice’s firm tone. Up until now, Etta had been convinced the coolness she’d detected from her had been mere wary politeness. Now she recognized it for what it was: outright suspicion. Etta’s appearance, so close to her mother’s, must have caught Alice completely off guard at the door.

She’s not going to tell us anything. Did she actually know anything at this point in time?

“Were you…are you close to her?” Etta asked.

“Hardly,” Alice said, and Etta knew it had to be a lie, just based on how she’d opened the door. “We went to school together until the professor—her grandfather—passed. She disappeared on and off, ran with a certain crowd, but she stayed with us occasionally. As I said before, I haven’t seen her in years.”