New York City

July 4, 2014


Lights explode over the city.

They’ve gathered on the roof of Robbie’s building along with twenty other people to watch the fireworks go off, paint the Manhattan skyline pink and green and gold.

Addie and Henry stand together, of course, but it’s too hot to touch. His glasses keep fogging, and he seems less interested in drinking his beer than holding the can against his neck.

A breeze trickles through the air, carrying as much relief as a dryer vent, and everyone on the roof make exaggerated noises, letting out oohs and ahhs that might be for the fireworks, or simply the limp gust of air.

A kiddie pool sits in the center of the roof surrounded by lawn chairs, a huddle of people sloshing their feet in the tepid water.

The fireworks finish, and Addie looks around for Henry, but he’s wandered off.

He’s been in a strange mood all day, but she assumes it’s the heat, sitting like a weight on everything. The bookstore was closed, and they spent most of the day stretched together on the sofa in front of a box fan, Book pawing at an ice cube as they watched TV, the heat enough to temper even Henry’s manic energy.

She was too tired to tell him stories.

He was too tired to write them down.

The rooftop doors burst open and Robbie appears, looking as if he’s raided an ice-cream truck, his arms full of melting ice pops. People whoop and cheer, and he makes his rounds of the roof, doling out once-frozen treats.

Twelfth time’s the charm, she thinks as he hands her a fruit bar, but even though he doesn’t remember her, Henry’s obviously said enough, or perhaps Robbie simply recognizes everyone else, and makes the deduction.

One of these things is not like the others.

Addie doesn’t lose a second. She breaks into a sudden grin. “Oh my god, you must be Robbie.” She throws her arms around his neck. “Henry’s told me all about you.”

Robbie pulls free. “Did he?”

“You’re the actor. He said you’re amazing. That it’s only a matter of time before you’re on Broadway.” Robbie blushes a little, looks away. “I’d love to come to one of your shows. What are you performing in right now?”

Robbie hesitates, but she can feel him faltering, torn between shunning her and sharing his news. “We’re doing a spin on Faust,” he says. “You know, man makes a deal with the devil…”

Addie bites into the ice pop, sending a wave of shock through her teeth. It is enough to mask the grimace as Robbie goes on.

“But it’s going to be set against a stage that’s more Labyrinth. Think Mephistopheles but by way of the Goblin King.” He gestures at himself when he says it. “It’s a really cool spin. The costumes are amazing. Anyway, it doesn’t open until September.”

“It sounds wonderful,” she says. “I can’t wait to see.”

At that, Robbie almost smiles. “I think it will be pretty cool.”

“To Faust,” she says, lifting her ice pop.

“And the devil,” answers Robbie.

Her hands have gone sticky, and she dunks them in the kiddie pool and goes in search of Henry. She finally finds him alone in a corner of the roof, a stretch where the lights don’t reach. He’s staring out—not up, but down over the edge.

“I think I finally cracked Robbie,” she says, wiping her hands on her shorts.

“Hm?” he says, not really listening. A bead of sweat runs down his cheek, and he closes his eyes into the faint summer breeze and sways a little on his feet.

Addie pulls him away from the edge. “What’s wrong?”

His eyes are dark, and for a moment, he looks haunted, lost.

“Nothing,” he says softly. “Just thinking.”

Addie has lived long enough to recognize a lie. Lying is its own language, like the language of seasons, or gestures, or the shade of Luc’s eyes.

So she knows that Henry is lying to her now.

Or at least, he’s not telling her the truth.

And maybe it is just one of his storms, she thinks. Maybe it is the summer heat.

It is not, of course, and later, she will know the truth, and she will wish she’d asked, wish she’d pressed, wish she’d known.

Later—but tonight, he pulls her close. Tonight, he kisses her, deeply, hungrily, as if he can make her forget what she saw.

And Addie lets him try.

* * *

That night, when they get home, it is too hot to think, to sleep, so they fill the bathtub with cold water, turn off the lights, and climb inside, shivering at the sudden, merciful relief.

They lie there in the dark, bare legs intertwined beneath the water. Henry’s fingers play a melody across her knee.

“When we first met,” he muses, “why didn’t you tell me your real name?”

Addie looks up at the darkened ceiling tiles, and sees Isabelle as she was, that last day, sitting at the table, her eyes gone empty. She sees Remy in the café, staring dreamily past her words, unable to hear them.

“Because I didn’t think I could,” she says, running her fingers through the water. “When I try to tell people the truth, their faces just go blank. When I try to say my name, it always gets stuck in my throat.” She smiles. “Except with you.”

“But why?” he asks. “If you’re going to be forgotten, what does it matter if you tell the truth?”

Addie closes her eyes. It’s a good question, one she’s asked herself a hundred times. “I think he wanted to erase me. To make sure I felt unseen, unheard, unreal. You don’t really realize the power of a name until it’s gone. Before you, he was the only one who could say it.”

The voice curls like smoke inside her head.

Oh Adeline.

Adeline, Adeline.

My Adeline.

“What an asshole,” says Henry, and she chuckles, remembering the nights she screamed up at the sky, called the darkness so much worse.

And then he asks, “When’s the last time you saw him?” and Addie falters.

For an instant, she is in a bed, black silk sheets twisted around her limbs, the New Orleans heat oppressive even in the dark. But Luc is a cool weight, wrapped around her limbs, his teeth skating along her shoulder as he whispers the word against her skin.


Addie swallows, pushes the memory down like bile in her throat.

“Almost thirty years ago,” she says, as if she doesn’t count the days. As if the anniversary isn’t rushing up to meet them.

She glances sideways at the clothes piled on the bathroom floor, the indent of the wooden ring in the pocket of her shorts. “We had a falling-out,” she says, and it is the barest version of the truth.

Henry looks at her, clearly curious, but he doesn’t ask what happened, and for that, she is grateful.

There is an order to the story.

She will tell him when she gets there.

For now Addie reaches up, and turns the shower on, and it falls down on them like rain, soothing and steady. And this is the perfect kind of silence. Easy, and empty. They sit across from each other beneath the icy stream, and Addie closes her eyes and tips her head back against the tub, and listens to the makeshift storm.