She pads barefoot back into the bedroom, where Henry lies facedown, arms folded beneath the pillow, his cheek turned away. And in that moment, he looks so much like Luc, and yet nothing like Luc at all. The resemblance between them wavers, like double vision. His curls, spread like black feathers on the white pillow, fading to downy fluff at the nape of his neck. His back rises and falls, steady with the smooth, shallow tread of sleep.
Addie sets the cup down on the bedside table, between Henry’s glasses and a leather watch. She traces her finger along the dark metal rim, the gold numerals set into the black ground. It rocks under her touch, reveals the small inscription on the back.
A small shiver runs through her, and she’s about to pick it up when Henry groans into his pillow, a soft protest to morning.
Addie abandons the watch, and climbs back into bed beside him. “Hello.”
He gropes for his glasses, puts them on, and looks at her, and smiles, and this is the part that will never get old. The knowing. The present folding on top of the past instead of erasing it, replacing it. He pulls her back against him.
“Hello,” he whispers into her hair. “What time is it?”
Henry groans, and tightens his grip around her. He is warm, and Addie wishes aloud they could stay there all day. But he is awake now, that restless energy winding around him like rope. She can feel it in the tension of his arms, the subtle shifting of his weight.
“I should go,” she says, because she assumes that is what you are supposed to say when you are in someone else’s bed. When they remember how you got there. But she doesn’t say “I should go home” and Henry senses the dropped word.
“Where do you live?” he asks.
Nowhere, she thinks. Everywhere.
“I manage. The city is full of beds.”
“But you don’t have a place of your own.”
Addie looks down at the borrowed sweatshirt, the sum total of her current possessions flung over the nearest chair. “No.”
“Then you can stay here.”
“Three dates, and you’re asking me to move in?”
Henry laughs, because of course it is absurd. But it is hardly the strangest thing in either of their lives.
“How about I ask you to stay—for now.”
Addie doesn’t know what to say. And before she can think of something, he is out of bed, pulling open the bottom drawer. He pushes the contents to one side, carving out space. “You can put your stuff here.”
He looks at her, suddenly uncertain. “Do you have things?”
She will explain, eventually, the details of her curse, the way it twists and curls around her. But he doesn’t know them yet—doesn’t need to. For him, her story has just started.
“There’s no point really, in having more than you can hold, when you have no place to put things down.”
“Well, if you get things—if you want them—you can put them there.”
With that, he heads sleepily for the shower, and she stares at the space he’s made for her, and wonders what would happen if she had things to put inside. Would they disappear immediately? Go slowly, carelessly missing, like socks stolen by a dryer? She has never been able to hang on to anything for long. Only the leather jacket, and the wooden ring, and she’s always known it is because Luc wanted her to have both—had bound them to her under the guise of gifts.
She turns and studies the clothes flung over the chair.
They are streaked with paint from the High Line. There’s green on her shirt, a purple smear on the knee of her jeans. Her boots, too, are flecked with yellow and blue. She knows the paint will fade, rinsed off by a puddle, or simply wiped away by time, but that’s how memories are supposed to work.
There—and then, little by little, gone.
She gets dressed in yesterday’s outfit, takes up the leather jacket, but instead of shrugging it on, she folds it carefully, places it in the empty drawer. It sits there, surrounded by open space, waiting to be filled.
Addie rounds the bed, and nearly steps on the notebook.
It lies open on the floor—it must have slipped off the bed during the night—and she lifts it gingerly, as if it’s bound with ash and spider silk instead of paper and glue. She half expects it to crumble at her touch, but it holds, and when she chances to pull back the cover, she finds the first few pages filled. Addie takes another chance, runs her fingers lightly over the words, feels the indent of the pen, the years hidden behind each word.
This is how it starts, he wrote under her name.
The first thing she still remembers is the ride to market. Her father in the seat beside her, cart filled with his work …
She holds her breath as she reads, the shower filling the room with a quiet hush.
Her father tells her stories. She doesn’t remember the words but she remembers the way he said them …
Addie perches there, reading until she runs out of words, the script giving way to page after page of empty space, waiting to be filled.
When she hears Henry turn the water off, she forces herself to close the book, and sets it gently, almost reverently, back on the bed.
July 29, 1778
To think, she could have lived and died and never seen the sea.
No matter, though. Addie is here now, pale cliffs rising to her right, stone sentinels at the edge of the beach where she sits, skirts pooling on the sand. She stares out at the expanse, the coastline giving way to water, and water giving way to sky. She has seen maps of course, but ink and paper hold nothing to this. To the salt smell, the murmur of waves, the hypnotic draw of the tide. To the scope and scale of the sea, and the knowledge that somewhere, beyond the horizon, there is more.
It will be a century before she crosses the Atlantic, and when she does, she’ll wonder if the maps are wrong, will begin to doubt the existence of land at all—but here and now, Addie is simply enchanted.
Once upon a time, her world was only as large as a small village in the middle of France. But it keeps getting bigger. The map of her life unfurls, revealing hills and valleys, towns and cities and seas. Revealing Le Mans. Revealing Paris. Revealing this.
She has been in Fécamp for nearly a week, spending her days between the pier and the tide, and if anyone takes notice of the strange woman alone on the sand, they have not seen fit to bother her about it. Addie watches boats come and go, and wonders where they are going; wonders, too, what would happen if she boarded one, where it would take her. Back in Paris, the food shortages are getting worse, the penalties, worse, everything steadily worse. The tension has spilled out of the city, too, the nervous energy reaching all the way here, to the coast. All the more reason, Addie tells herself, to sail away.
Something always holds her back.
Today, it is the storm that’s rolling in. It hovers out over the sea, bruising the sky. Here and there the sun splits through, a line of burned light falling toward the slate gray water. She retrieves the book, lying in the sand beside her, begins to read again.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
It is Shakespeare’s Tempest. Now and then she trips over the playwright’s cadence, the style strange, English rhyme and meter still foreign to her mind. But she is learning, and here and there she finds herself falling into the flow.