No, she should not think of Estele.

Adeline wraps her arms around her knees, and tries to sleep, and when she wakes again, sunlight is pouring through the trees. A finch stands on the mossy ground nearby, pecking at the hem of her dress. She brushes it away, checking her pocket for the little wooden bird as she stands, sways, dizzy with hunger, realizes she has not had more than fruit in a day and a half.

My name is Adeline LaRue, she tells herself as she makes her way back to the road. It is becoming a mantra, something to pass the time, measure her steps, and she repeats it, over and over.

She rounds a bend, and stops, blinking fiercely, as if the sun is in her eyes. It’s not, and yet the world ahead has been plunged into a sudden, vivid yellow, the green fields devoured by a blanket the color of egg yolk.

She looks back over her shoulder, but the way behind her is still green and brown, the ordinary shades of summer. The field ahead is mustard seed, though she doesn’t know it then. Then, it is simply beautiful, in an overpowering way. Addie stares, and for a moment she forgets her hunger, her aching feet, her sudden loss, and marvels at the shocking brightness, the all-consuming color.

She wades through the field, flower buds brushing her palms, unafraid to crush the plants underfoot—they have already straightened in her wake, steps erased. By the time she reaches the far edge of the field, and the path, and the steady green, it looks dull, her eyes searching for another source of wonder.

Shortly after, a larger town comes into sight, and she is about to weave around it when she catches a scent on the air that makes her stomach ache.

Butter, yeast, the sweet and hearty smell of bread.

She looks like a dress that fell from the line, wrinkled and dirty, her hair a tangled nest, but she is too hungry to care. She follows the scent between the houses, and up a narrow lane toward the village square. Voices rise with the smell of baking, and when she rounds the corner she sees a handful of women sitting around a communal oven. They perch on the stone bench around it, laughing and chatting like birds on a branch as the loaves rise within the oven’s open mouth. The sight of them is jarring, ordinary in an aching way, and Adeline lingers in the shaded lane a moment, listening to the trill and chirp of their voices, before the hunger forces her forward.

She doesn’t have to search her pockets to know she has no coins. Perhaps she could barter for the bread, but all she has is the bird, and when she finds it in the folds of her skirt, her fingers refuse to loosen on the wood. She could beg, but her mother’s face comes to mind, eyes tight with scorn.

That leaves only theft—which is wrong, of course, but she is too hungry to weigh the sin of it. There is only the matter of how. The oven is hardly unmanned, and despite how fast she seems to fade from memory, she is still flesh and blood, not phantom. She cannot simply walk up and take the bread without causing a stir. Sure, they might forget her soon enough, but what danger would she be in before they did? If she got to the bread, and then away, how far would she have to run? How fast?

And then she hears it. A soft, animal sound, almost lost beneath the chatter.

She circles the stone hut and finds her chance, across the lane.

A mule stands in the shade, lazily chewing its bit beside a sack of apples, a stack of kindling.

All it takes is a single, sharp smack, and the mule lurches, more in shock, she hopes, than pain. It jostles forward, upsetting the apples and the wood as it sets off. And just like that, the square is startled, thrown into a brief but noisy state as the beast trots away, dragging a bag of grain, and the women leap to their feet, the trills and warbles of their laughs dissolving into taut shouts of dismay.

Adeline slips across the oven like a cloud, swiping the nearest loaf from the stone mouth. Pain sears across her fingers as she grabs it, and she nearly drops the bread, but she is too hungry, and pain, she is learning, doesn’t last. The loaf is hers, and by the time the mule is settled, and the grain set right, and the apples gathered, and the women returned to their place by the oven, she is already gone.

She leans in the shade of a stable on the edge of town, teeth tearing into the under-baked bread. The dough collapses in her mouth, heavy, sweet, and hard to swallow, but she doesn’t care. It is filling enough, wearing the edges off her hunger. Her mind begins to clear. Her chest loosens, and for the first time since she left Villon, she feels something like human, if not whole. She pushes off the stable wall and begins to walk again, following the line of the sun, and the path of the river, toward Le Mans.

My name is Adeline … she starts again, then stops.

She never loved the name, and now she cannot even say it. Whatever she calls herself, it will be only in her head. Adeline is the woman she left in Villon, on the eve of a wedding she did not want. But Addie—Addie was a gift from Estele, shorter, sharper, the switch-quick name for the girl who rode to markets, and strained to see over roofs, for the one who drew and dreamed of bigger stories, grander worlds, of lives filled with adventure.

And so, as she walks on, she starts the story over in her head.

My name is Addie LaRue …

New York City

March 11, 2014


It is too quiet without James.

Addie never thought of him as loud—charming, cheerful, but hardly raucous—but now she realizes how much he filled this space when they were in it.

That night, he put on a record and sang along as he made grilled cheese on the six-burner stove, which they ate standing up because the place was new, and he hadn’t bought kitchen chairs. There are still no kitchen chairs, but now there is no James, either—he’s off on location somewhere—and the apartment stretches out around her, too silent and too large for one person, the high floor and the double-paned glass combining to block out the sounds of the city, reducing Manhattan to a picture, still and gray, beyond the windows.

Addie plays record after record, but the sound only echoes. She tries to watch TV, but the drone of news is more static than anything, as is the tinny choir of voices on the radio, too far away to feel real.

The sky outside is a static gray, a thin mist of rain blurring the buildings. It is the kind of day designed for wood fires, and mugs of tea, and well-loved books.

But while James has a fireplace, it’s only gas, and when she checks the cupboard for her favorite blend, she finds the box nestled at the back, but it is empty, and all the books he keeps are histories, not fiction, and Addie knows she cannot pass the day here, with only herself for company.

She gets dressed again, in her own clothes, and smooths the covers back onto the bed, even though the cleaners will surely return before James does. With a last glance at the dreary day, she steals a scarf from a closet shelf, a soft plaid cashmere with the tags still on, and sets out, the lock chiming behind her.

She does not know, at first, where she is going.

Some days she still feels like a lion caged, pacing its enclosure. Her feet have a mind of their own, and soon they are carrying her uptown.

My name is Addie LaRue, she thinks to herself as she walks.

Three hundred years, and some part of her is still afraid of forgetting. There have been times, of course, when she wished her memory more fickle, when she would have given anything to welcome madness, and disappear. It is the kinder road, to lose yourself.

Like Peter, in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.