The previews ramble on as the seats fill up around them, and Henry takes her hand, their fingers lacing together like links in a chain. She glances over at him, painted in the low theater light. Black curls. High cheekbones. The cupid’s bow of his mouth. The flicker of resemblance.
It is hardly the first time she’s seen Luc echoed in a human face.
“You’re staring,” whispers Henry under the sound of the previews.
Addie blinks. “Sorry.” She shakes her head. “You look like someone I used to know.”
“Someone you liked, I hope.”
“Not really.” He shoots her a look of mock affront, and Addie almost laughs. “It was more complicated than that.”
She shakes her head. “No…” But her delivery is slower, less emphatic. “But he was very nice to look at.”
Henry laughs as the lights dim, and the movie starts.
A different waiter appears, crouching low as he delivers their food, and she plucks fries from the plate one by one, sinking into the comfort of the film. She glances over to see if Henry’s enjoying himself, but he’s not even looking at the screen. His face, all energy and light an hour before, is a rictus of tension. One knee bounces restlessly.
She leans in, whispers. “You don’t like it?”
Henry flashes a hollow smile. “It’s fine,” he says, shifting in his seat. “Just a little slow.”
It’s Hitchcock, she wants to say, but instead she whispers, “It’s worth it, I promise.”
Henry twists toward her, brow folding. “You’ve already seen it?”
Of course Addie has seen it.
First, in 1959, at a theater in Los Angeles, and then in the ’70s, a double feature with his last film, Family Plot, and then again, a few years back, right in Greenwich Village, during a retrospective. Hitchcock has a way of being resurrected, fed back into the cinema system at regular intervals.
“Yeah,” she whispers back. “But I don’t mind.”
Henry says nothing, but he clearly does mind. His knee goes back to bouncing, and a few minutes later he’s up and out of the seat, walking out into the lobby.
“Henry,” she calls, confused. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
She catches up with him as he throws open the theater door and steps out onto the curb. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “Needed some air.”
But that’s obviously not it. He’s pacing.
“Talk to me.”
His steps slow. “I just wish you’d told me.”
“Told you what?”
“That you’d already seen it.”
“But you hadn’t,” she says. “And I didn’t mind seeing it again. I like seeing things again.”
“I don’t,” he snaps, and then deflates. “I’m sorry.” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry. This isn’t your problem.” He runs his hands through his hair. “I just—” He shakes his head, and turns to look at her, green eyes glassy in the dark. “Do you ever feel like you’re running out of time?”
Addie blinks and it is three hundred years ago and she is back on her knees on the forest floor, hands driving down into the mossy earth as the church bells ring behind her.
“I don’t mean in that normal, time flies way,” Henry’s saying. “I mean feeling like its surging by so fast, and you try to reach out and grab it, you try to hold on, but it just keeps rushing away. And every second, there’s a little less time, and a little less air, and sometimes when I’m sitting still, I start to think about it, and when I think about it, I can’t breathe. I have to get up. I have to move.”
He has his arms wrapped around himself, fingers digging into his ribs.
It’s been a long time since Addie felt that kind of urgency, but she remembers it well, remembers the fear, so heavy she thought it might crush her.
Blink and half your life is gone.
I do not want to die as I’ve lived.
Born and buried in the same ten-meter plot.
Addie reaches out and grabs his arm. “Come on,” she says, pulling him down the street. “Let’s go.”
“Where?” he asks, and her hand drops to his, and holds on tight.
“To find you something new.”
July 29, 1724
Remy Laurent is laughter bottled into skin. It spills out of him at every turn.
As they walk together through Montmartre, he tips the brow of Addie’s hat, plucks at her collar, slings his arm around her shoulders, and inclines his head, as if to whisper some salacious secret. Remy delights in being part of her charade, and she delights in having someone to share it with.
“Thomas, you fool,” he jeers loudly when they pass a huddle of men.
“Thomas, you scoundrel,” he calls out as they pass a pair of women—girls really, though wrapped in rouge and tattered lace—at the mouth of an alley. They, too, take up the call.
“Thomas,” they echo, teasing and sweet, “come be our scoundrel, Thomas. Thomas, come have some fun.”
They climb the vaulting steps of the Sacré Coeur, are nearly to the top when Remy stops and spreads his coat on the steps, gesturing for her to sit.
They divide the food between them, and as they eat, she studies her strange companion.
Remy is Luc’s opposite, in every way. His hair is a crown of burnished gold, his eyes a summer blue, but more than that, it’s in his manner: his easy smile, his open laugh, the vibrant energy of youth. If one is the thrilling darkness, the other is midday radiance, and if the boy is not quite as handsome, well, that is only because he is human.
He is real.
Remy sees her staring, and laughs. “Are you making a study of me, for your art? I must say, you have mastered the posture and the manners of a Paris youth.”
She looks down, realizes she is sitting with one knee drawn up, her arm hooked lazily around her leg.
“But,” adds Remy, “I fear you are far too pretty, even in the dark.”
He has moved closer, his hand finding hers.
“What is your real name?” he asks, and how she wishes she could tell him. She tries, she tries—thinking maybe just this once, the sounds will make it over her tongue. But her voice catches after the A, so instead she changes course, and says, “Anna.”
“Anna,” Remy echoes, tucking a stray lock behind her ear. “It suits you.”
She will use a hundred names over the years, and countless times, she will hear those words, until she begins to wonder at the importance of a name at all. The very idea will begin to lose its meaning, the way a word does when said too many times, breaking down into useless sounds and syllables. She will use the tired phrase as proof that a name does not really matter—even as she longs to say and hear her own.
“Tell me, Anna,” says Remy, now. “Who are you?”
And so she tells him. Or at least, she tries—spills out the whole strange and winding journey, and then, when it does not even reach his ears, she starts again, and tells him another version of the truth, one that skirts the edges of her story, smoothing the rough corners into something more human.