- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
The same roof he nearly stepped off a year before, the same one where he stood with the devil and made his deal. It is a full-circle moment, and he doesn’t know if it has to be here, if he has to be here, but it feels right.
Addie’s hand is linked in his, and that feels right, too.
A grounding force against a rising storm.
There is still a little time, the hand on the watch a fraction of a fraction of a fraction from midnight, and he can hear Bea’s voice in his head.
Only you would arrive early to your own death.
And Henry smiles, despite himself, and wishes he had said more to Bea, and Robbie, but the simple fact is he didn’t trust himself. He has made his good-byes, though they will not know it until he’s gone, and he is sorry for that, for them, for whatever pain he might cause. He is glad they have each other.
Addie’s hand tightens in his.
It is almost time, and he wonders what it will feel like, to lose a soul.
If it will be like a heart attack, sudden and violent, or as easy as falling asleep. Death takes so many forms. Perhaps this does, too. Will the darkness appear and reach a hand into his chest, and pull his soul out between his ribs like a magic trick? Or will some force compel him to finish what he started? To walk to the edge of the roof, and step off? Will he be found on the street below, as if he’d jumped?
Or will they find him up here, on the roof?
He does not know.
He does not need to know.
He is ready.
He is not ready.
He wasn’t ready last year on the roof, when the stranger held out his hand. He wasn’t ready then, and he isn’t ready now, and he is beginning to suspect no one is ever ready, not when the moment comes, not when the darkness reaches out to claim its prize.
Music streams, thin and tinny, through a neighbor’s open window, and Henry pulls his thoughts back from death, and the edge of the roof, to the girl with her hand in his, the one telling him to dance with her.
He pulls her close, and she smells of summer, she smells of time, she smells of home.
“I’m here,” she says.
Addie has promised to stay with him until the end.
The end. The end. The end.
It echoes through his head like the striking of a clock, but it’s not time, he still has time, though it is vanishing so fast.
They teach you growing up that you are only one thing at a time—angry, lonely, content—but he’s never found that to be true. He is a dozen things at once. He is lost and scared and grateful, he is sorry and happy and afraid.
But he is not alone.
It is beginning to rain again, the air gone damp with the metallic scent of storms in the city, and Henry doesn’t care, thinks there is something to be said for symmetry.
They turn in a slow circle on the roof.
He has not slept well in days, and it has made his legs heavy, his mind too slow, the minutes speeding up around him, and he wishes the music were louder, wishes the sky were lighter, wishes he had just a little more time.
No one is ever ready to die.
Even when they think they want to.
No one is ready.
He isn’t ready.
But it is time.
It is time.
Addie is saying something, but the watch has stopped moving, it hangs weightless on him now, and it is time, and he can feel himself slipping, can feel the edges of his mind going soft, the night heavy, and any moment the stranger will step out of the dark.
Addie is guiding his face to hers, she is saying something, and he doesn’t want to listen, he’s afraid it’s a good-bye, he just wants to hold on to this moment, to make it last, to will it still, turn the film into a freeze frame, let that be the end, not darkness, not nothing, just a permanent moment. A memory, trapped in amber, in glass, in time.
But she is still speaking.
“You promised you would listen,” she says, “you promised you would write it down.”
He doesn’t understand. The journals are on the shelf. He has written her story—every part.
“I did,” he says. “I did.”
But Addie is shaking her head.
“Henry,” she says. “I haven’t told you how it ends.”
New York City
September 1, 2014
(3 nights until the end)
Some decisions happen all at once.
And others build up over time.
A girl makes a deal with the darkness, after years of dreaming.
A girl falls in love with a boy in a moment, and resolves to set him free.
Addie doesn’t know exactly when she decided.
Perhaps she has known since the night Luc walked back into their lives.
Or perhaps she has known since the night he wrote her name.
Or perhaps she has known since he said those words:
I remember you.
She isn’t sure.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that, three nights before the end, Addie slips out of bed. Henry rolls over in his sleep, wakes enough to hear her padding down the hall, but not enough to hear her put on her shoes, or slip out into the dark.
It is almost two—that time between very late, and very early—and even Brooklyn has quieted to a murmur as she walks the two blocks to the Merchant bar. It is an hour until closing, the crowd thinned to a few determined drinkers.
Addie takes a stool at the bar, and orders a shot of tequila. She’s never been one for hard liquor, but she downs the drink in one, feels the warmth settle in her chest as she reaches into her pocket and finds the ring.
Her fingers curl around the wooden band.
She draws it out, balances the ring upright on the counter.
She spins it like a coin, but there are no heads or tails, no yes or no, no choice beyond the one she’s already made. She decides that when it settles, she will put it on. When it falls—but as it begins to wobble and tip, a hand comes down on top of it, pressing it flat against the bar.
The hand is smooth and strong, the fingers long, the details just as she once drew them. “Shouldn’t you be with your love?”
There is no humor in Luc’s eyes. They are flat, and dark.
“He’s sleeping,” she says, “and I cannot.” Luc’s hand has withdrawn, and Addie looks at the pale circle of the ring still on the counter.
“Adeline,” he says, stroking her hair. “It will hurt. And it will pass. All things do.”
“Except for us,” she murmurs. And then she adds, as if to herself, “I am glad it was only a year.”
Luc sinks onto the stool beside her. “And how was it, your human love? Was it everything you dreamed of?”
“No,” she says, and it is the truth.
It was messy. It was hard. It was wonderful, and strange, and frightening, and fragile—so fragile it hurt—and it was worth every single moment. She does not tell him any of that. Instead, she lets the “no” hang in the air between them, heavy with the weight of Luc’s assumption. His eyes, such a smug shade of green.
“But Henry doesn’t deserve to die to prove your point.”
The arrogance flickers, cut through with anger.
“A deal is a deal,” he says. “It cannot be broken.”
“And yet, you told me once that a deal could be bent, the terms rewritten. Did you mean it? Or was it just part of the ploy to get me to surrender?”