A row of them stare down at her from a shelf, their lenses large and wide and black.
Vintage, she thinks, though the word has never held much weight.
She was there when cameras were hulking tripod beasts, the photographer hidden beneath a heavy drape. She was there for the invention of black-and-white film, and then color, there when still frames became videos, when analog became digital, and whole stories could be stored in the palm of a hand.
She runs her fingers across the camera bodies, like carapace shells, feels dust beneath her touch. But there are photographs everywhere.
On the walls, propped on side tables, and sitting in the corner, waiting to be hung. There is one of Beatrice in an art gallery, a silhouette against the brightly lit space. One of Beatrice and Henry, tangled together, her gaze up, and his head down, each caught in the beginning of a laugh. One of a boy that Addie guesses must be Robbie. Bea was right; he looks like he walked out of a party in Andy Warhol’s loft. The crowd behind him is a blur of bodies, but Robbie is in focus, mid-laugh, purple glitter tracing his cheekbones, plumes of green along his nose, gold at his temples.
Another photo, in the hall. Here, the three of them sit on a sofa, Bea in the middle, Robbie’s legs stretched across her lap, and Henry on the other side, chin resting lazily on his hand.
And across the hall, its opposite. A posed family portrait, stiff against the candids. Again Henry sits on the edge of the sofa, but more upright, and this time placed beside two people who are clearly his brother and sister. The girl, a whirlwind of curls, eyes dancing behind a pair of cat-eye frames, the model of the mother resting a hand on her shoulder. The boy, older, sterner, an echo of the father behind the sofa. And the younger son, lean, wary, smiling the kind of smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.
Henry stares back at Addie, from the photos he’s in, and the ones he clearly took. She can feel him, the artist in the frame. She could stay there, studying these pictures, trying to find the truth of him in them, the secret, the answer to the question going around and around in her head.
But all she sees is someone sad, lost, searching.
She turns her attention to the books.
Henry’s own collection is eclectic, spilling across surfaces in every room. A shelf in the living room, a narrower one in the hall, a stack beside his bed, another on the coffee table. Comics stacked over a pile of textbooks with titles like Reviewing the Covenant and Jewish Theology for the Postmodern Age. There are novels, biographies, paperbacks and hardcovers mixed together, some old and fraying, others brand new. Bookmarks jut up from the pages, marking a dozen unfinished reads.
Her fingers drift down the spines, hover on a squat gold book. A History of the World in 100 Objects. She wonders if you can distill a person’s life, let alone human civilization, to a list of things, wonders if that’s a valid way to measure worth at all, not by the lives touched, but the things left behind. She tries to build her own list. A History of Addie LaRue.
Her father’s bird, lost among the bodies in Paris.
The Place Royale, stolen from Remy’s room.
The wooden ring.
But those things have their mark on her. What of Addie’s legacy? Her face, ghosted in a hundred works of art. Her melodies at the heart of a hundred songs. Ideas taking root, growing wild, the seeds unseen.
Addie continues through the apartment, idle curiosity giving way to a more purposeful search. She is looking for clues, searching for something, anything, to explain Henry Strauss.
A laptop sits on the coffee table. It boots without a password prompt, but when Addie brushes her thumb across the trackpad, the cursor doesn’t move. She taps the keys absently, but nothing happens.
The technology changes.
The curse stays the same.
Except it doesn’t.
It hasn’t—not entirely.
So she goes from room to room, searching for clues to the question she cannot seem to answer.
Who are you, Henry Strauss?
In the medicine cabinet, a handful of prescriptions line the shelf, their names clogged with consonants. Beside them, a vial of pink pills marked with only a Post-it—a tiny, hand-drawn umbrella.
In the bedroom, another bookshelf, a stack of notebooks in various shapes and sizes.
She turns through, but all of them are blank.
On the windowsill, another, older photo—of Henry and Robbie. In this one, they are tangled, Robbie’s face pressed against Henry’s, his forehead resting on Henry’s temple. There’s something intimate about the pose, the way Robbie’s eyes are almost closed, the way Henry’s hand cradles the back of his head, as if holding him up, or holding him close. The serene curve on Robbie’s mouth. Happy. Home.
By the bed, an old-fashioned watch sits on the side table. It has no minute hand, and the hour points just past six, even though the clock on the wall reads 9:32. She holds it to her ear, but the battery must be dead.
And then, in the top drawer, a handkerchief, dotted with blood. When she picks it up, a ring tumbles out. A small diamond set in a platinum band. Addie stares down at the engagement ring, and wonders who it was for, wonders who Henry was before he met her, what happened to put him in her path.
“Who are you?” she whispers to the empty room.
She wraps the ring in the stained kerchief and returns it to its spot, sliding the drawer shut.
“I take it back,” she says. “If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be these fries.”
Henry laughs and steals a few from the cone in her hand as they wait in line for gyros. The food trucks form a colorful stripe along Flatbush, crowds of people queuing for lobster rolls and grilled cheese, banh mi and kebabs. There’s even a line for ice-cream sandwiches, even though the warmth has dropped out of the March air, promising a crisp, cold night. Addie’s glad she picked up a hat and scarf, traded her ballet flats for calf-high boots, even as she leans into the warmth of Henry’s arms, until there’s a break in the falafel queue, and he ducks away to get in line.
Addie watches him step up to the counter window and order, watches the middle-aged woman working the truck as she leans forward, elbows on the sill, watches them talk, Henry nodding solemnly. The line is growing behind him, but the woman doesn’t seem to notice. She’s not smiling exactly; if anything, she looks on the verge of tears as she reaches out and takes his hand, squeezes it.
Addie blinks, gets to the front of her own line, spends the last of her stolen cash on a lamb gyro and a blueberry soda, finds herself wishing for the first time in a while that she had a credit card, or more to her name than the clothes on her back and the change in her pocket. Wishes that things didn’t seem to slip through her fingers like sand, that she could have a thing without stealing it first.
“You’re looking at that sandwich like it broke your heart.”
Addie looks up at Henry, cracks a smile. “It looks so good,” she says. “I’m just thinking of how sad I’ll be when it’s gone.”
He sighs in mock lament. “The worst part of every meal is when it ends.”
They take their spoils and stake out a slope of grass just inside the park, a pool of quickly thinning light. Henry adds the falafel and an order of dumplings to her gyro and fries, and they share, trading bites like cards in a game of gin.