- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
She does not want to be alone.
But by the time Addie looks up to thank him, he is gone.
New York City
July 30, 2014
Henry trails her through the apartment as she gets ready.
“Why would you agree to this?” he asks.
Because she knows the darkness better than anyone, knows his mind if not his heart.
“Because I don’t want to lose you,” says Addie, pulling up her hair.
Henry looks tired, hollowed out. “It’s too late,” he says.
But it’s not too late.
Addie reaches into her pocket and feels the ring where it always is, waiting, the wood warm from being pressed against her body. She draws it out, but Henry catches her hand.
“Don’t do this,” he pleads.
“Do you want to die?” she asks, the words cutting through the room.
He pulls back a little at the words. “No. But I made a choice, Addie.”
“You made a mistake.”
“I made a deal,” he says. “And I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t ask for more time. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth sooner. But it is what it is.”
Addie shakes her head. “You may have made peace with this, Henry, but I haven’t.”
“This won’t work,” he warns. “You can’t reason with him.”
Addie tugs free of his grip. “I’m willing to try,” she says, slipping the ring over her finger.
There is no flood of darkness.
Only a stillness, a vacant quiet, and then—
And she is grateful that at least he didn’t invite himself in. But Henry stands between her and the door, his hands braced across the narrow hall. He doesn’t move, his eyes pleading. Addie reaches up and cups his face.
“I need you to trust me,” she says.
Something cracks in him. One hand drops from the frame.
She kisses him, and then she slides by, and opens the door for the dark.
Luc should look out of place in the building’s hall, but he never does.
The lights on the walls have dimmed a little, softened to a yellow haze that haloes the black curls around his face, and catches slivers of gold in his green eyes.
He is dressed in all black, tailored slacks and a button-down shirt, the sleeves rolled to the elbows, an emerald pin driven through the silk tie at his throat.
It is far too hot for such an outfit, but Luc doesn’t seem to mind. The heat, like the rain, like the world itself, seems to have no hold on him.
He does not tell her she looks beautiful.
He does not tell her anything.
He simply turns, expecting her to follow.
And as she steps into the hall, he looks to Henry. And winks.
Addie should have stopped right there.
She should have turned around, let Henry pull her back inside. They should have shut the door, and bolted it against the dark.
But they didn’t.
Addie glances back over her shoulder at Henry, who lingers in the doorway, a cloud shadowing his face. She wills him to close the door, but he doesn’t, and she has no choice but to step away, and follow Luc as Henry watches.
Downstairs, he holds open the building’s door, but Addie stops. Looks down at the threshold. Darkness coils in the frame, shimmers between them and the steps down to the street.
She doesn’t trust the shadows, she can’t see where they lead, and the last thing she needs is for Luc to strand her in some far-off land if and when the night goes bad.
“There are rules tonight,” she says.
“I won’t leave the city,” she says, nodding at the door. “And I won’t go that way.”
“Through a door?”
“Through the dark.”
Luc’s brows draw up. “Don’t you trust me?”
“I never have,” she says. “There’s no use starting now.”
Luc laughs, soft and soundless, and steps outside to hail a car. Seconds later, a sleek black sedan pulls up to the curb. He holds out his hand to help her in. She doesn’t take it.
He does not give the driver an address.
The driver does not ask for one.
And when Addie asks where they are going, Luc does not answer.
Soon they are on the Manhattan Bridge.
The silence between them should be awkward. The halting conversation of exes too long apart, and still not long enough to have forgiven anything.
What is forty years against three hundred?
But this is a silence born of strategy.
This is the silence of a chess game being played.
And this time, Addie has to win.
Los Angeles, California
April 7, 1952
“God, you’re beautiful,” says Max, lifting his glass.
Addie blushes, eyes dropping to her martini.
They met on the street outside the Wilshire that morning, the creases from his bedsheets still pressed into her skin. She was lingering on the curb in his favorite wine-colored dress, and when he came out for his morning stroll, he stopped and asked if he could be so bold as to walk with her, wherever she was going, and when they got there, to a pretty building picked at random, he kissed her hand, and said good-bye, but he didn’t leave, and neither did she. They spent the whole day together, strolling from a tea shop to a park to the art museum, finding excuses to continue in each other’s company.
And when she told him that it was the best birthday she’d had in years, he blinked at her in horror, shocked at the idea a girl like her would find herself alone, and here they are, drinking martinis at the Roosevelt.
(It is not her birthday, of course, and she’s not sure why she told him it was. Perhaps to see what he would do. Perhaps because even she is getting bored of living the same night over again.)
“Have you ever met someone,” he says, “and felt like you’ve known them for ages?”
He always says the same things, but he means them every time. She toys with the silver thread at her throat, the wooden ring tucked into the neckline of her dress. A habit she cannot seem to break.
A server appears at her elbow with a bottle of Champagne.
“What’s this?” she asks.
“For the birthday girl on this special evening,” says Max brightly. “And the lucky gentleman who gets to spend it with her.”
She admires the tiny bubbles rising through the flute, knows even before she takes a sip that it’s the real thing; old, expensive. Knows, too, that Max can easily afford the luxury.
He is a sculptor—Addie has always had a weakness for the fine arts—and talented, yes, but far from starving. Unlike so many of the artists Addie has been with, he comes from money, the family funds sturdy enough to weather the wars, and the lean years between them.
He raises his glass, just as a shadow falls across the table.
She assumes it’s their server, but then Max looks up, and frowns a little. “Can I help you?”
And Addie hears a voice like silk and smoke. “I do believe you can.”
There is Luc, dressed in an elegant black suit. He is beautiful. He is always beautiful. “Hello, my dear.”