“No!” Poppy yelled.

Rigel put down his history textbook to look at his sister. “It’s just a story.”

“I don’t want this story,” said Poppy. “I want to go to bed.”

“It has a happy ending,” Penn promised desperately. Princess Stephanie told Lloyd her secrets. Lloyd knew all about her but liked her anyway. There were cream puffs for dessert.

But Poppy said, “I hate happy endings.”

“No one hates happy endings,” said her father.

“They’re so fake.”

“It’s a fairy tale.”

“So?” She looked as tired as Penn had ever seen her.

“So it’s supposed to be magical and wonderful. It’s supposed to be made up.”

“Yeah, but if it’s not real, then what’s even the point?” She wiped tears out of already swollen eyes.

“Oh baby,” he whispered, “it’s real.”

“You just said it was made up.”

“Just because it’s made up, doesn’t mean it isn’t real,” said Penn. “Made up is the most powerful real there is.”


“It was me. Mom? Dad? Are you awake? It was me.”

They were awake. They could not sleep. They were lying together in the dark, turned toward each other, unseeing, unsleeping.

“It was me.” Ben was whispering, in part because it was the middle of the night and in part because it was too awful to say out loud. “I told Cayenne. Over the summer. I told her she could never, ever tell anyone no matter what. She swore she never would. She was really … convincing. I can’t believe she told. I should never have trusted her.” However things turned out, Ben was right about that last part. He confessed he told, but he did not confess he did it so she would love him back (he didn’t think of it like that). He did not confess he didn’t truly love her after all (he didn’t know that yet). He left out the part about the sex. But he told them the rest of it.

Parenting in the dark was something Rosie remembered from when they were babies. It was all so much harder in the middle of the night. In the dark, you couldn’t see them clearly, the pallor of their skin, the brightness of their eyes. When they cried during the day, she could tell from another room if the hurt was physical or emotional, to be attended or ignored. But after midnight, all cries were cries of terror, all augured alarm. Were they warm from fever or from sleep? Confused by nightmare or premonition? Might there actually be someone hiding in the closet? You couldn’t treat patients in the dark of course, but Rosie had always imagined ERs were so well lit because during the day, fear stayed at bay and sensible perspective reigned. In the dark, only the horror stories rang true.

Rosie tried to triage this situation. She wasn’t used to Ben being in trouble. She thought he probably deserved clemency as a first-time offender. But on the other hand, Ben was smart enough to know better, so perhaps it was more just to hold him to a higher standard of accountability. Did she admonish Ben for telling Cayenne (of all people) even though he clearly realized it was stupid? Did she impress upon him the enormity of his sin, the great harm he’d done his sister, his family, even though he plainly knew? Or the opposite—should she comfort him that it wasn’t his fault really, that all secrets out eventually, that he hadn’t completely ruined Poppy’s life? That when they’d chosen the path of secrecy they’d known its terminus to begin with?

Penn opened his mouth to ask Ben how hard it was to keep his closed, how hard it could possibly be to not tell this one thing, when he realized the answer to his question. It was very hard. It had not occurred to him, until Ben told his story, that Poppy’s secret could not be kept alone. Not telling about Poppy, he understood for the first time, meant not telling about Nick Calcutti, not telling about Jane Doe, not telling about Madison and how they’d loved it there and why they left, not telling about baby Claude and the joy of his childhood and the way he completed their family. For the first time, Penn understood that all that not-telling was hard as diamonds and just as surely flawed.

But before either Penn or Rosie could sort the shadows and decide what to do about Ben and Cayenne, it got more complicated. Ben was not the only one. They came in the middle of the night, in the dark, one after another, like dreams.

“I said it to Derek McGuinness one time while I was kicking his ass.” Roo was distraught enough not to notice Ben in the dark already in his parents’ bedroom. “I didn’t think he was paying attention, but I guess he was. I didn’t think he’d know what I was talking about, but I guess he did. While I was punching him in the head I was also saying, ‘That’s. My. Sister. You’re. Talking. About. Asshole.’”

“Don’t say ‘ass,’ Roo.” There were so many things to object to here, Penn defaulted back to the one that was familiar.

“‘That’s my sister you’re talking about, Hole,’” Roo amended, and then added miserably, “It was a crime of passion.”

“Mine too,” Ben nodded, also miserably.

And which was worse, Penn thought. Out of hatred or love? Loyalty to one’s sister or loyalty to one’s beloved? In the heat of battle or the heat of bonfire? But before he could decide, the door opened again.

“We did it.” Rigel and Orion sounded like creepy twins in a horror movie. They sounded like little boys. They sounded like they might cry, and Rosie tried to recall the last time they had.