* * *

Rockaway Beach is a sea of colored towels, and flags planted in the sand.

Laughter rolls in with the tide as kids make castle mounds and people lounge beneath the glaring sun. Henry stretches their towels out on a narrow patch of unclaimed sand, weights them down with shoes, and then Addie grabs his hand and they run down the beach, the soles of their feet stinging until they hit the damp line of the tide and plunge into the water.

Addie gasps at the welcome brush of the waves, cool even in the heat of summer, and wades out until the ocean wraps around her waist. Henry ducks his head beside her, and comes back up, water dripping from his glasses. He pulls her to him, kisses the salt from her fingers. She slicks the hair from his face. They linger there, tangled together in the surf.

“See,” he says, “isn’t this better?”

And it is.

It is.

They swim until their limbs ache, and their skin begins to prune, and then retreat to the towels waiting on the beach, and stretch out to dry beneath the sun. It’s too hot to stay there long, and soon the scent of food wafting from the boardwalk is enough to draw them up again.

Henry gathers his stuff and starts up the beach, and Addie rises to follow, shaking the sand from her towel.

And out falls the wooden ring.

It lies there, a fraction darker than the beach, like a drop of rain on a dry sidewalk. A reminder. Addie crouches down before it, and sweeps a handful of sand over the top, before jogging after Henry.

They head for the stretch of bars overlooking the beach, order tacos and a pitcher of frozen margaritas, savoring the tang and the sweet-salted chill. Henry wipes the water from his glasses, and Addie looks out at the ocean, and feels the past fold over the present, like the tides.

Déjà vu. Déjà su. Déjà vecu.

“What is it?” asks Henry.

Addie glances toward him. “Hm?”

“You get this look on your face,” he says, “when you’re remembering.”

Addie looks back out at the Atlantic, the infinite hem of the beach, the memories spooling out along the horizon. And as they eat, she tells him of all the coasts she’s seen, of the time she ferried across the English Channel, the White Cliffs of Dover rising from the fog. Of the time she sailed the coast of Spain, a stowaway in the bowels of a stolen boat, and how, when she crossed to America, the whole ship fell ill, and she had to feign sickness so they wouldn’t think she was a witch.

And when she gets tired of talking, and they have both run out of drinks, they spend the next few hours bouncing between the shade of the concession stands and the cool kiss of the surf, lingering on the sand only long enough to dry.

The day goes by too fast, as good days do.

And when it’s time to go, they make their way to the subway, and sink onto the bench, sun-drunk and sleepy, as the train pulls away.

Henry takes out a book, but Addie’s eyes are stinging, and she leans against him, savoring his sun-and-paper scent, and the seat is plastic and the air is stale, and she has never been so comfortable. She feels herself sinking into Henry, head lolling on his shoulder.

And then he whispers three words into her hair.

“I love you,” he says, and Addie wonders if this is love, this gentle thing.

If it is meant to be this soft, this kind.

The difference between heat, and warmth.

Passion, and contentment.

“I love you too,” she says.

She wants it to be true.

Chicago, Illinois

July 29, 1928


There is an angel over the bar.

A stained-glass panel, lit from behind, with a single figure, chalice raised and hand outstretched, as if calling you to prayer.

But this is no church.

Speakeasies are like weeds these days, springing up between the stones of Prohibition. This one has no name, save the angel with its cup, the number XII over the door—twelve, the hour of midday, and of midnight—the velvet curtains and chaises that lounge like sleepers round the wooden floor, the masks given to the patrons at the door.

It is, like most of them, only a rumor, a secret passed from mouth to liquored mouth.

And Addie loves it.

There is a wild fervor to this place.

She dances—sometimes alone, and sometimes in the company of strangers. Loses herself in the jazz that rocks against the walls, rebounds, filling the crowded space with music. She dances, until the feathers of her mask cling to her cheeks, and Addie is breathless, and flushed, and only then does she retreat, falling into a leather chair.

It is almost midnight, and her fingers drift like the hands of a clock up to her throat, where the ring hangs on a silver cord, the wooden band warm against her skin.

It is always within reach.

Once, when the cord snapped, she thought it lost, only to find it safe within the pocket of her blouse. Another time, she left it on a windowsill, and found it hours later at her neck again.

The only thing she doesn’t lose.

She toys with it, a lazy habit now, like curling a lock of hair around one finger. She skims the edge of the band with her nail, twirls it, careful to never let the ring slide over her knuckle.

She has reached for it a hundred times: when she was lonely, when she was bored, when she saw a thing of beauty and thought of him. But she is too stubborn, and he is too proud, and she is determined to win this round.

Fourteen years she has resisted the urge to put it on.

And fourteen years he has not come.

So she was right—it is a game. Another kind of forfeit, a lesser version of surrender.

Fourteen years.

And she is lonely, and a little drunk, and she wonders if tonight will be the night she breaks. It would be a fall, but it is not so great a height. Perhaps—perhaps— To occupy her hands, she decides to get another drink.

She goes to the bar and orders a gin fizz, but the white-masked man sets instead a Champagne glass before her. A single candied rose petal floats among the bubbles, and when she asks, he nods at a shadow in a velvet booth. His mask is made to look like branches, the leaves a perfect frame for perfect eyes.

And Addie smiles at the sight of him.

She would be lying if she said it was nothing but relief. A weight set down. A breath set free.

“I win,” she says, sinking into his booth.

And even though he folded first, his eyes are bright with triumph. “How so?”

“I didn’t call, and yet you came.”

His chin lifts, a study in disdain. “You assume I’m here for you.”

“I forget,” she says, sliding into his smooth, low cadence. “There are so many maddening humans around to swindle out of their souls.”

A wry smile tugs at perfect lips. “I promise, Adeline, few are as maddening as you.”

“Few?” she teases. “I’ll have to try harder.”

He lifts a glass, and tips it toward the bar. “The fact remains, you have come to me. This place is mine.”

Addie looks around, and suddenly, it is obvious.

She sees the markings everywhere.

Realizes, for the first time, that the angel above the bar has no wings. That the curls rising around his face are black. That the band she took for a halo might as well be moonlight.

And she wonders what it was that drew her here the first time.