Addie startles, realizing that means her.

“So,” says the boy when she sits down. “Eve?”

No, she thinks. “Yeah,” she says. “And you’re…”

Henry, she thinks just before he says it.

“Henry.” It fits him, like a coat. Henry: soft, poetic. Henry: quiet, strong. The black curls, the pale eyes behind their heavy frames. She has known a dozen Henrys, in London, Paris, Boston, and L.A., but he is not like any of them.

His gaze drops to the table, his cup, her empty hands. “You didn’t get anything.”

She waves it away. “I’m not really thirsty,” she lies.

“It feels weird.”

“Why?” She shrugs. “I said I’d buy you a coffee. Besides,” she hesitates, “I lost my wallet. I didn’t have enough for two.”

Henry frowns. “Is that why you stole the book?”

“I didn’t steal it. I wanted to trade. And I said sorry.”

“Did you?”

“With the coffee.”

“Speaking of,” he says, standing. “How do you take it?”


“The coffee. I can’t sit here and drink alone, it makes me feel like an asshole.”

She smiles. “Hot chocolate. Dark.”

Those brows quirk up again. He walks away to order, says something that makes the barista laugh and lean forward, like a flower to the sun. He returns with a second cup and a croissant, and sets them both in front of her before taking his seat, and now they are uneven again. Balance tipped, restored, and tipped again, and it is the kind of game she’s played a hundred times, a sparring match made of small gestures, the stranger smiling across the table.

But this is not her stranger, and he is not smiling.

“So,” says Henry, “what was all that today, with the book?”

“Honestly?” Addie wraps her hands around the coffee cup. “I didn’t think you’d remember.”

The question rattles like loose change in her chest, like pebbles in a porcelain bowl; it shakes inside her, threatening to spill out.

How did you remember? How? How?

“The Last Word doesn’t get that many customers,” Henry says. “And even fewer try to leave without paying. I guess you made an impression.”

An impression.

An impression is like a mark.

Addie runs her fingers through the foam on her hot chocolate, watches the milk smooth again in her wake. Henry doesn’t notice, but he noticed her, he remembered.

What is happening?

“So,” he says, but the sentence goes nowhere.

“So,” she echoes, because she cannot say what she wants. “Tell me about yourself.”

Who are you? Why are you? What is happening?

Henry bites his lip and says, “Not much to tell.”

“Did you always want to work in a bookshop?”

Henry’s face turns wistful. “I’m not sure it’s the job that people dream of, but I like it.” He’s lifting the latte to his mouth when someone shuffles past, knocking against his chair. Henry rights the cup in time, but the man begins to apologize. And doesn’t stop.

“Hey, I’m so sorry.” His face twists with guilt.

“It’s fine.”

“Did I make you spill?” asks the man with genuine concern.

“Nope,” says Henry. “You’re good.”

If he registers the man’s intensity, he gives no sign. His focus stays firmly on Addie, as if he can will the man away.

“That was weird,” she says, when he’s finally gone.

Henry only shrugs. “Accidents happen.”

That isn’t what she meant. But the thoughts are passing trains, and she can’t afford to be derailed.

“So,” she says, “the bookshop. Is it yours?”

Henry shakes his head. “No. I mean, it might as well be, I’m the only employee, but it belongs to a woman named Meredith, who spends most of her time on cruises. I just work there. What about you? What do you do when you’re not stealing books?”

Addie weighs the question, the many possible answers, all of them lies, and settles for something closer to the truth.

“I’m a talent scout,” she says. “Music, mostly, but also art.”

Henry’s face hardens. “You should meet my sister.”

“Oh?” asks Addie, wishing she’d lied. “Is she an artist?”

“I think she’d say she fosters art, that it’s a type of artist, maybe. She likes to”—he makes a flourish—“nurture the raw potential, shape the narrative of the creative future.”

Addie thinks she would like to meet his sister, but she doesn’t say it.

“Do you have siblings?” he asks.

She shakes her head, tearing a corner off the croissant because he hasn’t touched it, and her stomach’s growling.

“Lucky,” he says.

“Lonely,” she counters.

“Well, you’re welcome to mine. There’s David, who’s a doctor, a scholar, and a pretentious asshole, and Muriel who’s, well—Muriel.”

He looks at her, and there it is again, that strange intensity, and maybe it’s just that so few people make eye contact in the city, but she can’t shake the feeling he’s looking for something in her face.

“What is it?” she asks, and he starts to say one thing, but changes course.

“Your freckles look like stars.”

Addie smiles. “I’ve heard. My own little constellation. It’s the first thing everyone sees.”

Henry shifts in his seat. “What do you see,” he says, “when you look at me?”

His voice is light enough, but there is something in the question, a weight, like a stone buried in a snowball. He’s been waiting to ask. The answer matters.

“I see a boy with dark hair and kind eyes and an open face.”

He frowns a little. “Is that all?”

“Of course not,” she says. “But I don’t know you yet.”

“Yet,” he echoes, and there’s something like a smile in his voice.

She purses her lips, considers him again.

For a moment, they are the only silent spot in the bustling café.

Live long enough, and you learn how to read a person. To ease them open like a book, some passages underlined and others hidden between the lines.

Addie scans his face, the slight furrow where his brows go in and up, the set of his lips, the way he rubs one palm as if working out an ache, even as he leans forward, and in, his attention wholly on her.

“I see someone who cares,” she says slowly. “Perhaps too much. Who feels too much. I see someone lost, and hungry. The kind of person who feels like they’re wasting away in a world full of food, because they can’t decide what they want.”

Henry stares at her, all the humor gone out of his face, and she knows she’s gotten too close to the truth.

Addie laughs nervously, and the sound rushes back in around them. “Sorry,” she says, shaking her head. “Too deep. I probably should have just said you were good-looking.”

Henry’s mouth quirks, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. “At least you think I’m good-looking.”