And this time, when he speaks, it is with the voice she knows so well.

“Well, my darling…” he says, one hand rising to her cheek. “Are we so different now?”

She does not have the chance to answer.

He gives the barest push, and the wall opens up behind her, and she is not sure if she falls, or if the shadows reach out and pull her down, only that Luc is gone, and the composer’s room is gone, and for an instant, the dark is everywhere, and then she is standing outside, on the cobblestone banks, and the night is full of laughter and lights shining on the water, and the soft, melodic strain of a man singing somewhere along the Thames.

New York City

May 15, 2014


It is Addie’s idea to bring the cat home.

Perhaps she has always longed for a pet.

Perhaps she simply thinks he must be lonely.

Perhaps she thinks it will do Henry good.

She does not know. It does not matter. All that does is that one day, as he is closing up the store, she appears next to him on the stoop, a novel under one arm and the ancient tabby in the other, and that is that.

They carry Book back to Henry’s place, and introduce him to the blue door, and go up to the narrow Brooklyn apartment, and despite Henry’s superstition, he does not turn to dust, severed from his store. He simply toddles around for an hour before leaning up against a philosophy stack, and he is home.

And so is she.

They are curled together on the couch when she hears the click of the Polaroid, catches the sudden flash, and there’s a moment when she wonders if it will work, if Henry will be able to take her photo, the way he wrote her name.

But even the writing in his journals isn’t entirely hers. It’s her story in his pen, her life in their words.

And sure enough, when the film exposes, and the Polaroid appears, it’s not of her, not really. The girl in the frame has her wavy brown hair. The girl in the frame wears her white shirt. But the girl in the frame has no face. If she does, it’s turned from the camera, as if caught in the process of spinning away.

And she knew it wouldn’t work, but her heart still sinks.

“I don’t get it,” says Henry, turning the camera in his hands.

“Can I try again?” he asks, and she understands the urge. It is harder to manage, when the impossible is so obvious. Your mind can’t make sense of it, so you try again and again and again, convinced that this time, it will be different.

This, she knows, is how you go mad.

But Addie indulges Henry as he tries a second time, and a third. Watches as the camera jams, spits out a blank card, comes back overexposed, underexposed, blurred, until her head is swimming with flashes of white.

She lets him try different angles, different light, until photos litter the floor between them. She’s there, and not there, real, and a ghost.

He must see her fraying a little more with every flash, the sadness rising through the cracks, and forces himself to put the camera down.

Addie stares at the photos, and thinks of the painting in London, of Luc’s voice in her head.

It does not matter.

You do not matter.

She picks up the latest attempt, studies the shape of the girl in the frame, her features blurred beyond recognition. She closes her eyes, reminds herself there are many ways to leave a mark, reminds herself that pictures lie.

And then she feels the solid body of the camera being placed into her hands, and she is drawing in the breath to tell him it will not work, it will not, but then Henry is there, behind her, folding her fingers over his, lifting the viewfinder to her eye. Letting her guide the pressure of his hands the way she did the paint on the glass wall. And her heart quickens as she lines up a shot of the photos littering the floor, her own bare feet at the bottom of the frame.

She holds her breath, and hopes.

A click. A flash.

This time, the picture comes out.

* * *

Here is a life in still frames.

Moments like Polaroids. Like paintings. Like flowers pressed between the pages of a book. Perfectly preserved.

The three of them, napping in the sun.

Addie, stroking Henry’s hair while she tells him stories, and he writes, and writes, and writes.

Henry, pressing her down into the bed, their fingers tangled, their breath quick, her name an echo in her hair.

Here they are, together in his galley kitchen, his arms threaded through hers, her hands over his as they stir béchamel, as they knead bread dough.

When it is in the oven, he cups her face with floury hands, leaves trails everywhere he touches.

They make a mess, as the room fills with the scent of freshly baking bread.

And in the morning it looks like ghosts have danced across the kitchen, and they pretend there were two instead of one.

Villon-sur-Sarthe, France

July 29, 1854


Villon was not supposed to change.

When she was growing up, it was always so painfully still, like summer air before a storm. A village carved in stone. And yet, what was it Luc said?

Even rocks wear away to nothing.

Villon has not worn away. Instead, it has shifted, grown, new roots thrown out, and others cut. The woods have been forced back, trees on the forest edge all felled to feed hearth fires and make way for fields and crops. There are more walls now than there were before. More buildings. More roads.

As Addie makes her way through town, hair tucked beneath a well-trimmed bonnet, she marks a name, a face, a ghost of a ghost of a family she once knew. But the Villon of her youth has finally faded, and she wonders if this is what memory feels like for others, this slow erasure of details.

For the first time, she does not recognize every path.

For the first time, she is not sure she knows her way.

She takes a turn, expecting to find one house, but instead finds two, divided by a low stone wall. She goes left, but instead of an open field, she finds a stable, surrounded by a fence. At last, she recognizes the road home, holds her breath as she makes her way down the path, feels something inside her loosen at the sight of the old yew tree, still bent and knotted at the edge of the property.

But beyond the tree, the place is changed. New clothes laid over old bones.

Her father’s workshop has been cleared away, the footprint of the shed marked only by a shadow on the ground, the weedy grass long filled in, a slightly different shade. And though Addie braced herself for the stale stillness of abandoned places, she is met instead by motion, voices, laughter.

Someone else has moved into her family home, one of the new arrivals in the growing town. A family, with a mother who smiles more, and a father who doesn’t, and a pair of boys running in the yard, their hair the color of straw. The older one chases a dog who has absconded with a sock, and the younger one climbs the old yew tree, his bare feet finding the same knots and crooks as hers, back when she was a girl, the drawing pad tucked under her arm. She must have been his age … or was she older?

She closes her eyes, tries to catch hold of the image, but it slips and slides between her fingers. Those early memories, not trapped within the prism. Those years before, lost to that other life. Her eyes are only closed a moment, but when she opens them, the tree is empty. The boy is gone.