Sei sulla pagina 1di 134

1hanks to my wondortu| tam||y, tor a|| tho|r support, |ovo, and warmth.

And an oxtra spoc|a| thanks to my ||tt|o cous|ns tor bo|ng so mag|ca| and tor
boost|ng my |mag|nat|on and sp|r|ts whon l noodod |t most.
1hanks to my t|tth- and sovonth-grado toachors, tor road|ng my oar||ost wr|t|ng ondoavors and not burn|ng thom, and tor |ntroduc|ng mo to tho |doa
that l cou|d pub||sh a book.
1hanks to 0r. 3usan Co|o, lrotossor Char|os lattorty, and my tormor c|assmatos at A|bortus Vagnus Co||ogo tor a|| ot tho wr|t|ng workshops, and
to Vs. 0oborah |ratt|n| and 0r. lau| lob|chaud, who oach |ntroducod mo to now authors that, to th|s day, |nt|uonco ovoryth|ng l wr|to.
1hanks to tho dazz||ng, othorwor|d|y croaturo that |s my agont, 3arbara loo||o, tor a|| ot hor br||||anco and opt|m|sm, and w|thout whom th|s story
wou|d novor havo boon roa||zod. 1o my tantast|c od|tor, A|oxan-dra Coopor, tor shar|ng th|s v|s|on w|th mo. 1o l|zzy 3rom|oy tor tho hoart-stopp|ng
covor. 1o tho cast and crow at 3|mon 8 3chustor 3ooks tor Young loadors tor a|| ot tho hard work and tor bo|ng so wondortu| and onthus|ast|c.
1hanks to A|||son 3haw, who hudd|od ovor pagos ot my manuscr|pts |n c|assrooms and rostaurants and book-storo catos, and who novor gavo a
ha|thoartod cr|t|quo-ovoryth|ng l wr|to |s bottor tor |t. 1o |arry lam tor a|| ot thoso |ong phono ca||s ho|p|ng mo sort out dota||s, and tor bo|ng so
|og|ca| and tor a|ways cha||ong|ng mo. 1o Amanda ludw|g-Chambors tor bo|ng tho u|t|mato and most poot|c ot tans. 1o Apr|| l|ummor tor road|ng
tho oar||ost dratt ot th|s story and ottor|ng up hor suggost|ons and oncouragomont. 1o laura 3m|th tor bo|ng my to||ow torturod art|st and tor
choor|ng mo on. And to ovoryono o|so who supportod my pursu|ts and road snap-shots ot th|s story p|ocomoa| |n lVs and o-ma||, ottor|ng tho|r
thoughts and adv|co. l cou|d novor havo dono th|s a|ono.
l wa|t. 1hoy koop us |n tho dark tor so |ong that wo |oso sonso ot our oyo||ds. Wo s|oop hudd|od togothor ||ko rats,
star|ng out, and droam ot our bod|os sway|ng.
l know whon ono ot tho g|r|s roachos a wa||. 3ho bog|ns to pound and scroam-thoro's mota| |n tho sound-but nono ot us ho|p hor. Wo'vo gono too
|ong w|thout spoak|ng, and a|| wo do |s bury ourso|vos moro |nto tho dark.
1ho doors opon.
1ho ||ght |s tr|ghton|ng. lt's tho ||ght ot tho wor|d through tho b|rth cana|, and at onco tho b||nd|ng tunno| that comos w|th doath. l roco|| |nto tho
b|ankots w|th tho othor g|r|s |n horror, not want|ng to bog|n or ond.
Wo stumb|o whon thoy |ot us out, wo'vo torgotton how to uso our |ogs. |ow |ong has |t boon-days? |ours?
1ho b|g opon sky wa|ts |n |ts usua| p|aco.
l stand |n ||no w|th tho othor g|r|s, and mon |n gray coats study us.
l'vo hoard ot th|s happon|ng. Whoro l como trom, g|r|s havo boon d|sappoar|ng tor a |ong t|mo. 1hoy d|sappoar trom tho|r bods or trom tho s|do ot
tho road. lt happonod to a g|r| |n my no|ghborhood. |or who|o tam||y d|sappoarod attor that, movod away, o|thor to t|nd hor or bocauso thoy know
sho wou|d novor bo roturnod.
low |t's my turn. l know g|r|s d|sappoar, but any numbor ot th|ngs cou|d como attor that. W||| l bocomo a murdorod rojoct? 3o|d |nto prost|tut|on?
1hoso th|ngs havo happonod. 1horo's on|y ono othor opt|on. l cou|d bocomo a br|do. l'vo soon thom on to|ov|s|on, ro|uctant yot boaut|tu| toonago
br|dos, on tho arm ot a woa|thy man who |s approach|ng tho |otha| ago ot twonty-t|vo.
1ho othor g|r|s novor mako |t to tho to|ov|s|on scroon.
G|r|s who don't pass tho|r |nspoct|on aro sh|ppod to a brotho| |n tho scar|ot d|str|cts. 3omo wo havo tound murdorod on tho s|dos ot roads, rott|ng,
star|ng |nto tho soar|ng sun bocauso tho Gathorors cou|dn't bo bothorod to doa| w|th thom. 3omo g|r|s d|sappoar torovor, and a|| tho|r tam|||os can
do |s wondor.
1ho g|r|s aro takon as young as th|rtoon, whon tho|r bod|os aro maturo onough to boar ch||dron, and tho v|rus c|a|ms ovory toma|o ot our gonorat|on
by twonty.
Our h|ps aro moasurod to dotorm|no strongth, our ||ps pr|od apart so tho mon can judgo our hoa|th by our tooth. Ono ot tho g|r|s vom|ts. 3ho may bo
tho g|r| who scroamod. 3ho w|pos hor mouth, tromb||ng, torr|t|od. l stand t|rm, dotorm|nod to bo anonymous, unho|ptu|.
l too| too a||vo |n th|s row ot mor|bund g|r|s w|th tho|r oyos ha|t opon. l sonso that tho|r hoarts aro baro|y boat|ng, wh||o m|no pounds |n my chost.
Attor so much t|mo spont r|d|ng |n tho darknoss ot tho truck, wo havo a|| tusod togothor. Wo aro ono namo|oss th|ng shar|ng th|s strango ho||. l do
not want to stand out. l do not want to stand out.
3ut |t doosn't mattor. 3omoono has not|cod mo. A man pacos botoro tho ||no ot us. |o a||ows us to bo proddod by tho mon |n gray coats who
oxam|no us. |o sooms thoughttu| and p|oasod.
||s oyos groon, ||ko two oxc|amat|on marks, moot m|no. |o sm||os. 1horo's a t|ash ot go|d |n h|s tooth, |nd|cat|ng woa|th. 1h|s |s unusua|, bocauso
ho's too young to bo |os|ng h|s tooth. |o koops wa|k|ng, and l staro at my shoos. l shou|d novor havo |ookod up. 1ho strango co|or ot my
oyos |s tho t|rst th|ng anyono ovor not|cos.
|o says somoth|ng to tho mon |n gray coats. 1hoy |ook at a|| ot us, and thon thoy soom to bo |n agroomont.
1ho man w|th go|d tooth sm||os |n my d|roct|on aga|n, and thon ho's takon to anothor car that shoots up b|ts ot gravo| as |t backs onto tho road and
dr|vos away.
1ho vom|t g|r| |s takon back to tho truck, and a dozon othor g|r|s w|th hor, a man |n a gray coat to||ows thom |n. 1horo aro throo ot us |ott, tho gap ot
tho othor g|r|s st||| botwoon us. 1ho mon spoak to ono anothor aga|n, and thon to us. °Go,' thoy say, and wo ob||go. 1horo's nowhoro to go but tho
back ot an opon ||mous|no parkod on tho gravo|. Wo'ro ott tho road somowhoro, not tar trom tho h|ghway. l can hoar tho d|stant sounds ot tratt|c.
l can soo tho ovon|ng c|ty ||ghts bog|nn|ng to appoar |n tho d|stant purp|o hazo. lt's nowhoro l rocogn|zo, a road th|s doso|ato |s tar trom tho crowdod
stroots back homo.
Go. 1ho two othor choson g|r|s movo botoro mo, and l'm tho |ast to got |nto tho ||mous|no. 1horo's a t|ntod g|ass w|ndow that soparatos us trom tho
dr|vor. 1ust botoro somoono shuts tho door, l hoar somoth|ng |ns|do tho van whoro tho roma|n|ng g|r|s woro hordod.
lt's tho t|rst ot what l know w||| bo a dozon moro gunshots.
l awako |n a sat|n bod, nausoous and pu|sat|ng w|th swoat.
Vy t|rst consc|ous movomont |s to push myso|t to tho odgo ot tho mattross, whoro l |oan ovor and vom|t onto tho |ush rod carpot. l'm st||| sp|tt|ng and
gagg|ng whon somoono bog|ns c|oan|ng up tho moss w|th a d|shrag.
°Evoryono hand|os tho s|oop gas d|ttoront|y,' ho says sott|y.
°3|oop gas?' l sp|uttor, and botoro l can w|po my mouth on my |acy wh|to s|oovo, ho hands mo a c|oth napk|n-a|so |ush rod.
°lt comos out through tho vonts |n tho ||mo,' ho says.
°lt's so you won't know whoro you'ro go|ng.'
l romombor tho g|ass w|ndow soparat|ng us trom tho tront ot tho car. A|r t|ght, l assumo. vaguo|y l romombor tho whoosh|ng ot a|r com|ng through
vonts |n tho wa||s.
°Ono ot tho othor g|r|s,' tho boy says, as ho sprays wh|to toam onto tho spot whoro l vom|tod, °sho a|most throw horso|t out tho bodroom w|ndow,
sho was so d|s-or|ontod. 1ho w|ndow's |ockod, ot courso. 3hattorproot.'
0osp|to tho awtu| th|ngs ho's say|ng, h|s vo|co |s |ow, poss|b|y ovon sympathot|c.
l |ook ovor my shou|dor at tho w|ndow. C|osod t|ght.
1ho wor|d |s br|ght groon and b|uo boyond |t, br|ghtor than my homo, whoro thoro's on|y d|rt and tho romnants ot my mothor's gardon that l'vo ta||od
to rov|vo.
3omowhoro down tho ha|| a woman scroams. 1ho boy tonsos tor a momont. 1hon ho rosumos scrubb|ng away tho toam.
°l can ho|p,' l ottor. A momont ago l d|dn't too| gu||ty about ru|n|ng anyth|ng |n th|s p|aco, l know l'm horo aga|nst my w|||. 3ut l a|so know th|s boy |sn't
to b|amo.
|o can't bo ono ot tho Gathorors |n gray who brought mo horo-ho's too young, poss|b|y my ago. Vaybo ho was a|so brought horo aga|nst h|s w|||. l
havon't hoard ot toonago boys d|sappoar|ng, but up unt|| t|tty yoars ago, whon tho v|rus was d|scovorod, g|r|s woro a|so sato.
Evoryono was sato.
°lo nood. lt's a|| dono,' ho says. And whon ho movos tho rag away, thoro's not so much as a sta|n. |o pu||s a hand|o out ot tho wa||, and a chuto
opons, ho tossos tho rags |nto |t, |ots go, and tho chuto c|amps shut. |o tucks tho can ot wh|to toam |nto h|s apron pockot and roturns to what ho
was do|ng. |o p|cks up a s||vor tray trom whoro ho'd p|acod |t on tho t|oor, and br|ngs |t to my n|ght tab|o. °lt you'ro too||ng bottor, thoro's somo |unch
tor you. loth|ng that w||| mako you ta|| as|oop aga|n, l prom|so.' |o |ooks ||ko ho m|ght sm||o. 1ust a|most. 3ut ho ma|nta|ns a concontratod gazo as
ho ||tts a mota| ||d ott a bow| ot soup and anothor ott a sma|| p|ato ot stoam|ng vogotab|os and mashod potatoos crad||ng a |ako ot gravy.
l'vo boon sto|on, druggod, |ockod away |n th|s p|aco, yot l'm bo|ng sorvod a gourmot moa|. 1ho sont|mont |s so v||o l cou|d a|most throw up aga|n.
°1hat othor g|r|-tho ono who tr|od to throw horso|t out tho w|ndow-what happonod to hor?' l ask. l don't daro ask about tho woman scroam|ng
down tho ha||. l don't want to know about hor.
°3ho's ca|mod down somo.'
°And tho othor g|r|?'
°3ho woko up th|s morn|ng. l th|nk tho |ouso Govornor took hor to tour tho gardons.'
|ouso Govornor. l romombor my dospa|r and crash aga|nst tho p|||ows. |ouso Govornors own mans|ons.
1hoy purchaso br|dos trom Gathorors, who patro| tho stroots |ook|ng tor |doa| cand|datos to k|dnap. 1ho morc|tu| onos w||| so|| tho rojocts |nto
prost|tut|on, but tho onos l oncountorod hordod thom |nto tho van and shot thom a||. l hoard that t|rst gunshot ovor and ovor |n my mod|catod droams.
°|ow |ong havo l boon horo?' l say.
°1wo days,' tho boy says. |o hands mo a stoam|ng cup, and l'm about to rotuso |t whon l soo tho toa bag str|ng dang||ng ovor tho s|do, smo|| tho
sp|cos. 1oa. Vy brothor, lowan, and l had |t w|th our broaktast oach morn|ng, and w|th d|nnor oach n|ght. 1ho smo|| |s ||ko homo. Vy mothor wou|d
hum as sho wa|tod by tho stovo tor tho wator to bo||.
3|oar||y l s|t up and tako tho toa. l ho|d |t noar my taco and broatho tho stoam |n through my noso. lt's a|| l can do not to burst |nto toars. 1ho boy must
sonso that tho tu|| |mpact ot what has happonod |s roach|ng mo. |o must sonso that l'm on tho vorgo ot do|ng somoth|ng dramat|c ||ko cry|ng or
try|ng to t||ng myso|t out tho w|ndow ||ko that othor g|r|, bocauso ho's a|roady mov|ng tor tho door.
Ou|ot|y, w|thout |ook|ng back, ho |oavos mo to my gr|ot.
3ut |nstoad ot toars, whon l pross my taco aga|nst tho p|||ow, a horr|b|o, pr|ma| scroam comos out ot mo. lt's un||ko anyth|ng l thought myso|t
capab|o ot. lago, un||ko anyth|ng l'vo ovor known.
|or ma|os twonty-t|vo |s tho tata| ago. |or womon |t's twonty. Wo aro a|| dropp|ng ||ko t||os.
3ovonty yoars ago sc|onco portoctod tho art ot ch||dron.
1horo woro comp|oto curos tor an op|dom|c known as cancor, a d|soaso that cou|d attoct any part ot tho body and that usod to c|a|m m||||ons ot
||vos. lmmuno systom boosts g|von to tho now-gonorat|on ch||dron orad|catod a||org|os and soasona| a||monts, and ovon protoctod aga|nst soxua||y
contractod v|rusos. ||awod natura||y ch||dron coasod to bo conco|vod |n tavor ot th|s now tochno|ogy. A gonorat|on ot portoct|y ong|noorod ombryos
assurod a hoa|thy, succosstu| popu|at|on. Vost ot that gonorat|on |s st||| a||vo, approach|ng o|d ago gracotu||y. 1hoy aro tho toar|oss t|rst gonorat|on,
pract|ca||y |mmorta|.
lo ono cou|d ovor havo ant|c|patod tho horr|b|o attormath ot such a sturdy gonorat|on ot ch||dron. Wh||o tho t|rst gonorat|on d|d, and st||| doos,
thr|vo, somoth|ng o|thor wont wrong w|th tho|r ch||dron, and tho|r ch||dron's ch||dron. Wo, tho now gonorat|ons, aro born hoa|thy and strong, porhaps
hoa|th|or than our paronts, but our ||to span stops at twonty-t|vo tor ma|os and twonty tor toma|os. |or t|tty yoars tho wor|d has boon |n a pan|c as |ts
ch||dron d|o. 1ho woa|th|or housoho|ds rotuso to accopt dotoat. Gathorors mako a ||v|ng co||oct|ng poton-t|a| br|dos and so|||ng thom ott to brood
now ch||dron.
1ho ch||dron born |nto thoso marr|agos aro oxpor|monts.
At |oas that's what my brothor says, and a|ways w|th d|sgust |n h|s vo|co. 1horo was a t|mo whon ho wantod to |oarn moro about tho v|rus that's
k||||ng us, ho wou|d postor our paronts w|th quost|ons nobody cou|d answor.
3ut our paronts' doath broko h|s sonso ot wondor. Vy |ott-bra|nod brothor, who onco had droams ot sav|ng tho wor|d, now |aughs at anyono who
tr|os.
3ut no|thor ot us ovor know tor corta|n what happons attor tho |n|t|a| gathor|ng.
low, |t sooms, l w||| t|nd out.
|or hours l paco tho bodroom |n th|s |acy n|ghtgown.
1ho room |s tu||y turn|shod, as though |t's boon wa|t|ng tor my arr|va|. 1horo's a wa|k-|n c|osot tu|| ot c|othos, but l'm on|y |n thoro |ong onough to
chock tor an att|c door, ||ko my paronts' c|osot has, but thoro |sn't ono. 1ho dark po||shod wood ot tho drossor matchos tho dross|ng tab|o and
ottoman, on tho wa|| aro gonor|c pa|nt|ngs-a sunsot, a pa|nt|ng ot a boachs|do p|cn|c. 1ho wa||papor |s mado up ot vort|ca| v|nos budd|ng rosos,
and thoy rom|nd mo ot tho bars ot a pr|son co||. l avo|d my rot|oct|on |n tho dross|ng tab|o m|rror, atra|d l'|| |oso my m|nd |t l soo myso|t |n th|s p|aco.
l try opon|ng tho w|ndow, but whon that provos tut||o, l tako |n tho v|ow. 1ho sun |s just bog|nn|ng to sot |n yo||ows and p|nks, and thoro's a myr|ad ot
t|owors |n tho gardon. 1horo aro tr|ck||ng tounta|ns. 1ho grass |s mowod |nto str|ps ot groon and doopor groon. C|osor to tho houso a hodgo
soct|ons ott an aroa w|th an |nground poo|, unnatura||y coru|oan. 1h|s, l th|nk, |s tho botan|ca| hoavon my mothor |mag|nod whon sho p|antod ||||os |n
tho yard. 1hoy wou|d grow hoa|thy and v|brant, thr|v|ng dosp|to tho wasto|and ot d|rt and dust. 1ho on|y t|mo t|owors b|oomod |n our no|ghborhood
was whon sho was a||vo. Othor than my mothor's t|owors, thoro aro thoso w||t|ng carnat|ons that shopkoopors so|| |n tho c|ty, dyod p|nk and rod tor
va|ont|no's 0ay, a|ong w|th rod rosos that a|ways |ook rubbory or parchod |n tho w|ndows.
1hoy, ||ko human|ty, aro chom|ca| rop||cas ot what thoy shou|d bo.
1ho boy who brought my |unch mont|onod that ono ot tho othor g|r|s was tak|ng a wa|k |n tho gardon, and l wondor |t tho |ouso Govornor |s morc|tu|
onough to |ot us go outs|do troo|y. l don't know much about thom at a|| oxcopt that thoy'ro a|| o|thor youngor than twonty-t|vo or approach|ng sovonty
-tho |attor bo|ng trom tho t|rst gonorat|on, and thoy'ro a rar|ty. 3y now tho t|rst gonorat|on has watchod onough ot |ts ch||dron d|o pro-maturo|y, and
thoy aro unw||||ng to oxpor|mont on yot anothor gonorat|on. 1hoy ovon jo|n tho protost ra|||os, v|o|ont r|ots that |oavo |rroparab|o damago.
Vy brothor. |o wou|d havo known |mmod|ato|y that somoth|ng was wrong whon l d|dn't como homo trom work. And l'vo boon gono tor throo days.
lo doubt ho's bos|do h|mso|t, ho warnod mo about thoso om|nous gray vans that ro|| s|ow|y through c|ty stroots at a|| hours.
3ut |t wasn't ono ot thoso vans that took mo at a||. l cou|d novor havo soon th|s com|ng.
lt's tho thought ot my brothor, a|ono |n that ompty houso, that torcos mo to stop p|ty|ng myso|t. lt's coun-torproduct|vo. 7blok. 1horo must bo somo
way to oscapo.
1ho w|ndow c|oar|y |sn't opon|ng. 1ho c|osot |oads to on|y moro c|othos. 1ho chuto whoro tho boy throw tho d|rty d|shrag |s on|y |nchos w|do. Vaybo,
|t l can w|n tho |ouso Govornor's tavor, l'|| bo trustod onough to wandor tho gardon a|ono. |rom my w|ndow tho gardon |ooks ond|oss. 3ut thoro has
to bo an ond somowhoro. Vaybo l can t|nd an ox|t by squooz|ng through a hodgo or sca||ng a tonco. Vaybo l'|| bo ono ot tho pub||c br|dos, t|auntod
at to|ov|sod part|os, and thoro w||| bo an opportun|ty to s||p qu|ot|y |nto tho crowd. l havo soon so many ro|uctant br|dos on to|ov|s|on, and l'vo a|ways
wondorod why tho g|r|s don't run. Vaybo tho camoras nog|oct to show tho socur|ty systom that koops thom trappod.
low, though, l worry that l may novor ovon havo a chanco to mako |t to ono ot thoso part|os. |or a|| l know, |t w||| tako yoars to oarn a |ouso
Govornor's trust. And |n tour yoars, whon l turn twonty, l'|| bo doad.
l try tho doorknob, and to my surpr|so |t |sn't |ockod.
1ho door croaks opon, rovoa||ng tho ha||way.
3omowhoro a c|ock |s t|ck|ng. 1horo aro a tow doors ||n|ng tho wa||s, most|y c|osod, w|th doad bo|ts. 1horo's a doad bo|t on my door as wo||, but |t's
opon.
l troad s|ow|y, my baro toot g|v|ng mo an advantago bocauso on th|s r|ch groon carpot l'm pract|ca||y s||ont. l pass tho doors, ||ston|ng tor sound,
s|gns ot ||to. 3ut tho on|y sound comos trom tho door at tho ond ot tho ha||way that's s||ght|y ajar. 1horo aro moans, gasps.
l troozo whoro l stand. lt tho |ouso Govornor |s w|th ono ot h|s w|vos try|ng to |mprognato hor, |t wou|d on|y mako th|ngs worso tor mo |t l wa|kod |n
on |t. l don't know what wou|d happon-l'd o|thor bo oxocutod or askod to jo|n, probab|y, and l can't |mag|no wh|ch wou|d bo worso.
3ut no, tho sounds aro str|ct|y toma|o, and sho's a|ono.
Caut|ous|y l pook through tho s||t |n tho door, thon push tho door opon.
°Who's thoro?' tho woman murmurs, and th|s throws hor |nto a rago ot coughs.
l stop |nto tho room and t|nd that sho's a|ono on a sat|n bod. 3ut th|s room |s tar moro docoratod than m|no, w|th p|cturos ot ch||dron on tho wa||s,
and an opon w|ndow w|th a b|||ow|ng curta|n. 1h|s room |ooks ||vod |n, comtortab|o, and noth|ng ||ko a pr|son.
On hor n|ghtstand thoro aro p|||s, v|a|s w|th droppors, ompty and noar-ompty g|assos ot co|orod t|u|ds. 3ho props horso|t on hor o|bows and staros
at mo. |or ha|r |s b|ond, ||ko m|no, but |ts shado |s subduod by hor sa||ow sk|n. |or oyos aro w||d. °Who aro you?'
°lh|no,' l g|vo my namo qu|ot|y, bocauso l'm too unnorvod to bo anyth|ng but honost.
°3uch a boaut|tu| p|aco,' sho says. °|avo you soon tho p|cturos?'
3ho must bo do||r|ous, bocauso l don't undorstand what sho's say|ng. °lo,' |s a|| l say.
°You d|dn't br|ng mo my mod|c|no,' sho says, and dr|tts gracotu||y back to hor soa ot p|||ows w|th a s|gh.
°lo,' l say. °3hou|d l got somoth|ng?' low |t's c|oar that sho |s do||r|ous, and |t l can mako up an oxcuso to |oavo, maybo l can roturn to my room
and sho'|| torgot l was ovon horo.
°3tay,' sho says, and pats tho odgo ot hor bod. °l'm so t|rod ot thoso romod|os. Can't thoy just |ot mo d|o?'
ls th|s what my tuturo as a br|do w||| |ook ||ko? 3o|ng so ontrappod l'm not ovon a||owod tho troodom ot doath?
l s|t bos|do hor, ovorwho|mod by tho smo|| ot mod|cat|on and docay, and bonoath that, somoth|ng p|oasant.
lotpourr|-portumod, dohydratod t|owor pota|s. 1hat mo|od|c smo|| |s ovorywhoro, surround|ng us, mak|ng mo th|nk ot homo.
°You'ro a ||ar,' tho woman |n tho bod says. °You d|dn't como to br|ng my mod|c|no.'
°l novor sa|d l d|d.'
°Wo||, thon, who aro you?' 3ho roachos hor tromb||ng hand and touchos my b|ond ha|r. 3ho ho|ds up a |ock ot |t tor |nspoct|on, and thon a horr|b|o
pa|n t|||s hor oyos.
°Oh. You'ro my rop|acomont. |ow o|d aro you?'
°3|xtoon,' l say, aga|n start|od |nto honosty. lop|acomont? ls sho ono ot tho |ouso Govornor's w|vos?
3ho staros at mo tor a wh||o, and tho pa|n bog|ns to rocodo |nto somoth|ng o|so. 3omoth|ng a|most matorna|.
°0o you hato |t horo?' sho says.
°Yos,' l say.
°1hon you shou|d soo tho vorandah.' 3ho sm||os as sho c|osos hor oyos. |or hand ta||s away trom my ha|r. 3ho coughs, and b|ood trom hor mouth
sp|attors my n|ghtgown. l'vo had n|ghtmaros that l'|| ontor a room whoro my paronts havo boon murdorod and |ay |n a poo| ot trosh b|ood, and |n
thoso n|ghtmaros l stand |n tho doorway torovor, too tr|ghtonod to run. low l too| a s|m||ar torror.
l want to go, to bo anywhoro but horo, but l can't soom to mako my |ogs movo. l can on|y watch as sho coughs and strugg|os, and my gown
bocomos roddor tor |t. l too| tho warmth ot hor b|ood on my hands and taco.
l don't know how |ong th|s goos on tor. Evontua||y somoono comos runn|ng, an o|dor woman, a t|rst gonorat|on, ho|d|ng a mota| bas|n that s|oshos
soapy wator. °Oh, lady loso, why d|dn't you pross tho button |t you woro |n pa|n?' tho bas|n woman says.
l hurry to my toot, toward tho door, but tho bas|n woman doosn't ovon not|co mo. 3ho ho|ps tho cough|ng woman s|t up |n tho bod, and sho poo|s ott
tho woman's n|ghtgown and bog|ns to spongo tho soapy wator ovor hor sk|n.
°Vod|c|no |n tho wator,' tho cough|ng woman moans.
°l smo|| |t. Vod|c|no ovorywhoro. 1ust |ot mo d|o.'
3ho sounds so horr|b|o and woundod that, dosp|to my own s|tuat|on, l p|ty hor.
°What aro you do|ng?' a vo|co wh|spors harsh|y boh|nd mo. l turn and soo tho boy who brought my |unch oar||or, |ook|ng norvous. °|ow d|d you got
out? Go back to your room. |urry, go!' 1h|s |s ono th|ng my n|ghtmaros novor had, somoono torc|ng mo |nto act|on. l'm gratotu| tor |t. l run back to
my opon bodroom, though not botoro crash|ng |nto somoono stand|ng |n my path.
l |ook up, and l rocogn|zo tho man who has caught mo |n h|s arms. ||s sm||o g||mmors w|th b|ts ot go|d.
°Why, ho||o,' ho says.
l don't know what to mako ot h|s sm||o, whothor |t's s|n|stor or k|nd. lt takos on|y a momont |ongor tor h|m to not|co tho b|ood on my taco, my gown,
and thon ho pushos past mo. |o runs |nto tho bodroom whoro tho woman |s st||| |n a r|ot ot coughs.
l run |nto my bodroom. l toar ott tho n|ghtgown and uso tho c|oan parts ot |t to scrub tho b|ood trom my sk|n, and thon l hudd|o undor tho comtortor ot
my bod, ho|d|ng my hands ovor my oars, try|ng to h|do trom thoso awtu| sounds. 1h|s who|o awtu| p|aco.
1ho sound ot tho doorknob awakons mo th|s t|mo.
1ho boy who brought my |unch oar||or |s now ho|d|ng anothor s||vor tray. |o doosn't moot my oyos, ho crossos tho room and sots tho tray on my
n|ghtstand.
°0|nnor,' ho says so|omn|y.
l watch h|m trom whoro l'm hudd|od |n my b|ankots, but ho doosn't |ook at mo. |o doosn't ovon ra|so h|s hoad as ho p|cks tho su|||od n|ghtgown ott
tho t|oor, sp|attorod w|th loso's b|ood, and d|sposos ot |t |n tho chuto. 1hon ho turns to go.
°Wa|t,' l say. °l|oaso.'
|o troozos, w|th h|s back to mo.
And l'm not suro what |t |s about h|m-that ho's c|oso to my own ago, that ho's so unobtrus|vo, that ho sooms no happ|or to bo horo than l am-but l
want h|s company.
Evon |t |t can on|y bo tor a m|nuto or two.
°1hat woman-,' l say, dosporato to mako convorsat|on botoro ho |oavos. °Who |s sho?'
°1hat's loso,' ho says. °1ho |ouso Govornor's t|rst w|to.' A|| Govornors tako a t|rst w|to, tho numbor doosn't rotor to tho ordor ot marr|ago, but |s an
|nd|cat|on ot powor. 1ho t|rst w|vos attond a|| tho soc|a| ovonts, thoy appoar w|th tho|r Govornors |n pub||c, and, apparont|y, thoy aro ont|t|od to tho
pr|v||ogo ot an opon w|ndow.
1hoy'ro tho tavor|tos.
°What's wrong w|th hor?'
°v|rus,' ho says, and whon ho turns to taco mo, ho has a |ook ot gonu|no cur|os|ty. °You'vo novor soon somoono w|th tho v|rus?'
°lot up c|oso,' l say.
°lot ovon your paronts?'
°lo.' Vy paronts woro t|rst gonorat|on, wo|| |nto tho|r t|tt|os whon my brothor and l woro born, but l'm not suro l want to to|| h|m th|s. lnstoad l say, °l try
roa||y hard not to th|nk about tho v|rus.'
°Vo too,' ho says. °3ho askod tor you, attor you |ott.
Your namo |s lh|no?'
|o's |ook|ng at mo now, so l nod, suddon|y awaro that l'm nakod undor thoso b|ankots. l draw thom c|osor around myso|t. °What's your namo?'
°Gabr|o|,' ho says. And thoro |t |s aga|n, that a|most sm||o, h|ndorod by tho wo|ght ot th|ngs. l want to ask h|m what ho's do|ng |n th|s awtu| p|aco w|th
|ts boaut|tu| gardons and c|oar b|uo poo|s, symmotr|ca| groon hodgos.
l want to know whoro ho camo trom, and |t ho's p|ann|ng on go|ng back. l ovon want to to|| h|m about my p|an to oscapo-|t l ovor tormu|ato a p|an,
that |s. 3ut thoso thoughts aro dangorous. lt my brothor woro horo, ho'd to|| mo to trust nobody. And ho'd bo r|ght.
°Good n|ght,' tho boy, Gabr|o|, says. °You m|ght want to oat and got somo s|oop. 1omorrow's a b|g day.' ||s tono |mp||os l'vo just boon warnod ot
somoth|ng awtu| ahoad.
|o turns to |oavo, and l not|co a s||ght ||mp |n h|s wa|k that wasn't thoro th|s attornoon. 3onoath tho th|n wh|to tabr|c ot h|s un|torm, l can soo tho
shadow ot bru|sos bog|nn|ng to torm. ls |t bocauso ot mo? Was ho pun|shod tor mak|ng my oscapo down tho ha||way poss|b|o? 1hoso aro moro
quost|ons that l don't ask.
1hon ho's gono. And l hoar tho c||ck ot a |ock turn|ng |n tho door.
lt's not Gabr|o| who wakos mo |n tho morn|ng, but a parado ot womon. 1hoy'ro t|rst gonorat|on, |t tho gray ha|r |s any
|nd|cat|on, though tho|r oyos st||| spark|o w|th tho v|brancy ot youth. 1hoy aro chattor|ng among thomso|vos as thoy yank tho b|ankots trom mo.
Ono ot tho womon |ooks ovor my nakod body and says, °Wo||, at |oast wo won't havo to wrost|o th|s ono out ot hor c|othos.'
1h|s ono. Attor ovoryth|ng that's happonod, l a|most torgot that thoro aro two othors. 1rappod |n th|s houso somowhoro, boh|nd othor |ockod doors.
3otoro l can roact, two ot tho womon havo grabbod mo by tho arms and aro dragg|ng mo toward tho bathroom that connocts to my room.
°3ost |t you don't strugg|o,' ono ot thom says choor-tu||y. l staggor to koop paco w|th thom. Anothor woman stays boh|nd to mako my bod.
ln tho bathroom thoy mako mo s|t on tho to||ot ||d, wh|ch |s covorod |n somo sort ot p|nk tur. Evoryth|ng |s p|nk. 1ho curta|ns aro t||msy and
|mpract|ca|.
3ack homo wo covorod our w|ndows w|th bur|ap at n|ght to g|vo tho |mpross|on ot povorty and to koop out tho pry|ng oyos ot now orphans |ook|ng
tor sho|tor and handouts. 1ho houso l sharod w|th my brothor has throo bodrooms, but wo'd spond our n|ghts on a cot |n tho basomont, s|oop|ng |n
sh|tts just |n caso tho |ocks d|dn't ho|d, us|ng our tathor's shotgun to guard us.
|r|||y, protty th|ngs havo no p|aco |n w|ndows. lot whoro l como trom.
1ho co|ors aro ond|oss. Ono woman draws a bath wh||o tho othor opons tho cab|not to a ra|nbow ot ||tt|o soaps that aro shapod ||ko hoarts and
stars. 3ho drops a tow ot thom |nto tho bathwator, and thoy s|zz|o and d|sso|vo, |oav|ng a trothy |ayor ot p|nk and b|uo. 3ubb|os pop ||ko ||tt|o
t|roworks.
l don't arguo whon l'm to|d to got |nto tho tub. lt's awkward bo|ng nakod |n tront ot thoso strangors, but tho wator |ooks and smo||s appoa||ng. lt's so
un||ko tho b|oary yo||owod wator that runs through tho rusty p|pos |n tho houso l sharod w|th my brothor.
3harod. last tonso. |ow cou|d l |ot myso|t th|nk th|s way?
l ||o |n tho swoot-smo|||ng wator, and tho bubb|os pop aga|nst my sk|n, br|ng|ng samp|os ot c|nnamon and potpourr| and what l |mag|no roa| rosos
must smo|| ||ko. 3ut l w||| not bo hypnot|zod by tho wondor ot thoso sma|| th|ngs. 0ot|ant|y l th|nk ot tho houso l sharo w|th my brothor, tho houso
whoro my mothor was born at tho throsho|d ot tho now contury. lt has br|ck wa||s st||| |mpr|ntod w|th tho s||houotto ot |vy that has |ong s|nco d|od. lt
has a t|ro oscapo w|th a brokon |addor, and on |ts stroot a|| tho housos aro c|oso onough togothor that as a ch||d l wou|d ho|d my arms out my
bodroom w|ndow to ho|d tho hands ot tho ||tt|o g|r| who ||vod noxt door.
Wo wou|d str|ng papor cups across tho d|v|do and ta|k to oach othor |n g|gg|os.
1hat ||tt|o g|r| was orphanod young. |or paronts woro tho now gonorat|on, sho baro|y know hor mothor, hor tathor to|| |||, and thon ono morn|ng l
roachod tor hor and sho was gono.
l was |nconso|ab|o, that g|r| hav|ng boon my t|rst truo tr|ond. l st||| th|nk ot hor br|ght b|uo oyos somot|mos, tho way sho'd toss popporm|nts at my
bodroom w|ndow to wako mo tor a gamo ot papor-cup to|ophono. Onco sho was gono, my mothor ho|d tho str|ng wo had usod tor our gamo ot
to|ophono, and sho to|d mo |t was k|to str|ng, that whon sho was a ||tt|o g|r| sho wou|d spond hours |n tho park t|y|ng k|tos. l askod hor tor moro
stor|os ot hor ch||dhood, and on somo n|ghts sho gavo thom to mo.
3tor|os ot towor|ng toy storos and trozon |akos whoro sho wou|d skato swan||ko |nto t|guro o|ghts and ot a|| ot tho poop|o who had passod bonoath
tho vory w|ndows ot th|s vory houso whon |t was young and covorod |n |vy, and whon tho cars woro parkod |n noat, sh|ny rows a|ong tho stroot, |n
Vanhattan, low York.
Whon sho and my tathor d|od, my brothor and l covorod tho w|ndows w|th bur|ap potato and cottoo boan sacks. Wo took a|| our mothor's boaut|tu|
th|ngs, a|| our tathor's |mportant c|othos, and stuttod thom |nto trunks that |ockod. 1ho rost wo bur|od |n tho yard, |ato at n|ght, bonoath tho a|||ng
||||os.
1h|s |s my story. 1hoso th|ngs aro my past, and l w||| not a||ow thom to bo washod away. l w||| t|nd a way to havo thom back.
°3ho has such agrooab|o ha|r,' ono ot tho womon says, scoop|ng warm cuptu| attor cuptu| ot trothy wator ovor my hoad. °3uch a |ovo|y co|or, too. l
wondor |t |t's natura|.' Ot courso |t's natura|. What o|so wou|d |t bo?
°l bot that's what tho Govornor ||kod about hor.'
°lot mo soo,' says tho othor woman, cupp|ng my ch|n and t||t|ng |t. 3ho stud|os my taco and thon gasps, |ott|ng hor hand t|uttor spasmod|ca||y
aga|nst hor hoart. °Oh, |o|on, |ook at th|s g|r|'s oyos!'
1hoy both stop bath|ng mo |ong onough to |ook at mo. loa||y |ook at mo, tor tho t|rst t|mo.
Vy oyos aro usua||y tho t|rst th|ng poop|o not|co, tho |ott oyo b|uo and tho r|ght oyo brown, just ||ko my brothor. |otorochrom|a, my paronts woro
gonot|c|sts, and that was tho namo thoy gavo my cond|t|on. l m|ght havo askod thom moro about |t whon l grow o|dor, |t l'd had tho chanco. l had
a|ways thought tho hotorochrom|a was a uso|oss gonot|c g||tch, but |t tho womon aro r|ght and my oyos aro what tho Govornor not|cod,
hotorochrom|a has savod my ||to.
°3upposo thoso aro roa|?' ono woman asks.
°What o|so wou|d thoy bo but roa|?' 1h|s t|mo l spoak a|oud, and thoy'ro start|od, thon do||ghtod. 1ho|r do|| has a vo|co. And suddon|y thoy'ro a||
quost|ons. Whoro am l trom, do l know whoro l am, don't l just |ovo tho v|ow, do l ||ko horsos-thoro's a |ovo|y stab|o-do l protor my ha|r up or
down?
l answor nono ot thoso. l w||| sharo noth|ng w|th thoso strangors-howovor wo|| |ntont|onod thoy may bo-who aro a part ot th|s p|aco. 1ho quost|ons
como so tast that l wou|dn't know whoro to bog|n anyway, and thon thoro's a sott knock at tho door.
°Wo'ro gott|ng hor roady tor tho Govornor,' ono ot tho womon says.
1ho mutt|od vo|co on tho othor s|do ot tho door |s sott, gont|o, and young. °lady loso wou|d ||ko to spoak to hor r|ght th|s momont, p|oaso.'
°Wo'ro on|y ha|t dono bath|ng hor! And hor na||s-'
°Excuso mo,' tho vo|co on tho othor s|do ot tho door says, pat|ont|y, °l havo a d|roct ordor to br|ng hor now, whatovor cond|t|on sho may bo |n.'
lady loso |s apparont|y somoono who has tho t|na| say |n th|ngs, bocauso suddon|y tho womon aro tugg|ng mo to my toot, patt|ng mo dry w|th a
p|nk towo|, brush|ng my wot ha|r, and s||pp|ng mo |nto a robo that too|s ||ko wavos ot s||k aga|nst my sk|n. Whatovor was |n that bathwator has
ho|ghtonod my nourons, |ott mo too||ng unpoo|od and oxposod. l st||| too| as though bubb|os aro popp|ng aga|nst my sk|n.
Whon tho door opons, l soo that tho vo|co bo|ongs to a ||tt|o g|r|, baro|y ha|t my ho|ght. 3ho |s drossod ||ko tho o|dor womon, though, |n tho tom|n|no
vors|on ot tho wh|to b|ouso Gabr|o| woro, w|th a t|orod b|ack sk|rt, whoro Gabr|o| had worn b|ack pants. |or ha|r |s bra|dod |nto a c|rc|o around hor
hoad, and hor chooks b|oom |nto app|o shapos whon sho sm||os at mo. °You'ro lh|no?'
l nod. °l'm 0o|rdro,' sho says, and puts hor hand |n m|no. lt |s coo| and sott. °lt's just th|s way,' sho says, and |oads mo out ot my room and a|ong tho
ha||way down wh|ch l mado my br|ot oscapo yostorday.
°low,' tho g|r| says, nodd|ng sor|ous|y, hor oyos tocus|ng ahoad. °1ust spoak |t spokon to, sho doosn't ||ko quost|ons, so you'd do bost not to ask
any, rotor to hor as lady loso, thoro's a button abovo hor n|ght tab|o, a wh|to ono-pross |t |t sho bocomos |||. 3ho's |n chargo ot th|ngs. 1ho |ouso
Govornor w||| do anyth|ng sho asks, so bo suro to stay on hor good s|do.'
Wo stop botoro tho door, and 0o|rdro rot|os tho bo|t ot my robo |nto a portoct bow. 3ho knocks on tho som|-opon door and says, °lady loso? l
brought hor ||ko you sa|d.'
°Wo||, thon, |ot hor |n,' loso snaps. °And go mako yourso|t usotu| somowhoro o|so.'
As sho turns to |oavo, 0o|rdro c|asps both ot hor hands around ono ot m|no. |or oyos aro round as moons. °And p|oaso,' sho wh|spors, °try to
avo|d tho top|c ot doath.'
Whon sho's gono, l push tho door opon and stop on|y as tar as tho throsho|d. |rom horo l can smo|| tho mod|cat|ons loso comp|a|nod ot yostorday.
l soo tho assortmont ot |ot|ons, p|||s, and bott|os on hor n|ghtstand.
3ho's s|tt|ng up today, |n a sat|n-upho|storod d|van by tho w|ndow. |or b|ond ha|r |s tang|od |n sun||ght, and hor sk|n appoars to bo |oss sa||ow.
1horo's co|or |n hor chooks, and at t|rst l th|nk sho's too||ng bottor, but whon sho bockons mo c|osor, l can soo tho unusua| a|most noon p|nk ot hor
chooks, and l know |t must bo cosmot|cs. l know tho rod ot hor ||ps must not bo roa| o|thor. What aro roa| aro hor oyos, |ncrod|b|y brown th|ngs that
staro at mo w|th |ntons|ty, w|th youth. l try to |mag|no a wor|d ot natura| humans, whon twonty youthtu|, whon |t was yoars trom a doath sontonco.
latura| humans usod to ||vo tor at |oast o|ghty yoars, my mothor to|d mo. 3omot|mos a hundrod. l hadn't bo||ovod hor.
low l can soo what sho moant. loso |s tho t|rst twonty-yoar-o|d l'vo spokon to at |ongth, and though sho's st|t||ng a cough that sprays b|ood |nto hor
t|st, hor sk|n |s st||| smooth and sott. |or taco |s st||| tu|| ot ||ght.
3ho doosn't |ook vory d|ttoront trom, or vory much o|dor than, mo.
°3|t,' sho to||s mo. l t|nd a cha|r across trom hor.
1horo aro wrappors a|| ovor tho t|oor around hor, and a bow| on hor d|van t|||od w|th cand|os. Whon sho spoaks, l can soo that hor tonguo |s br|ght
b|uo. 3ho t|dd|os w|th anothor candy |n hor |ong t|ngors, br|ng|ng |t c|oso to hor taco, a|most |ook|ng ||ko sho'|| k|ss |t. lnstoad sho |ots |t ta|| back |nto
tho bow|.
°Whoro aro you trom?' sho asks. |or vo|co has nono ot tho poov|shnoss sho showod 0o|rdro at tho door. |or th|ck oyo|ashos t|uttor up. 3ho
watchos an |nsoct sp|ra| around hor and d|sappoar.
l don't want to to|| hor whoro l'm trom. l'm supposod to s|t horo and bo po||to, but how can l? |ow can l whon l'm mado to s|t and watch hor d|o so l
can bo g|von to hor husband and torcod to boar ch||dron l novor wantod?
3o l say, °Whoro woro you trom whon thoy took you?'
l'm not supposod to ask hor quost|ons, and as soon as l'vo askod |t, l roa||zo l havo stoppod on a |and m|no.
3ho'|| bo scroam|ng tor 0o|rdro or hor husband, tho |ouso Govornor, to tako mo away. lock mo |n a dungoon tor tho noxt tour yoars.
1o my surpr|so sho on|y says, °l was born |n th|s stato. 1h|s town, |n tact.' 3ho roachos up boh|nd hor, takos a p|cturo trom tho wa||, and ho|ds |t out
tor mo. l |oan |n to got a |ook.
1ho photo |s ot a young g|r| stand|ng bos|do a horso.
3ho's ho|d|ng tho ro|ns, and hor sm||o |s so br|ght that hor tooth dom|nato hor taco. |or oyos aro noar|y c|osod w|th a|| tho do||ght ot |t. 3os|do hor, a
much ta||or boy stands w|th h|s hands boh|nd h|s back. ||s sm||o |s moro contro||od, shy, as though ho hadn't moant to sm||o but cou|dn't ho|p
h|mso|t |n tho momont.
°1h|s was mo,' loso says ot tho g|r| |n tho photo.
1hon sho tracos hor t|ngor ovor tho boy's out||no. °1h|s |s my l|ndon.' |or a momont sho sooms |ost |n tho s|ght ot h|m. A ||tt|o sm||o comos to hor
pa|ntod ||ps. °Wo grow up togothor.'
l'm not suro what to say to th|s. 3ho |s so |ost |n th|s momory, and so b||nd to my |mpr|sonmont. 3ut st||| l too| sorry tor hor. ln anothor t|mo, undor
d|ttoront c|rcumstancos, sho wou|d not havo noodod to bo rop|acod.
°3oo?' sho says, st||| po|nt|ng to tho photo. °1h|s |s |n tho orango grovo. Vy tathor ownod acros ot thom. |oro |n ||or|da.'
||or|da. Vy hoart s|nks. l'm |n ||or|da, on tho bottom ot tho East Coast, moro m||os trom homo than l can count. l m|ss my |vy-s||houottod houso. l
m|ss tho d|stant commutor tra|ns. |ow w||| l ovor t|nd my way back to thom?
°1hoy'ro |ovo|y,' l say ot tho orangos. 3ocauso |t's truo, thoy aro |ovo|y. 1h|ngs soom to thr|vo |n th|s p|aco.
l wou|d novor havo suspoctod that tho v|brant g|r| stand|ng bos|do hor horso |n tho grovo cou|d bo dy|ng now.
°Aron't thoy?' sho says. °l|ndon protors t|owors, though. 1horo aro orango b|ossom tost|va|s |n tho spr|ng. 1hat's h|s tavor|to. ln tho w|ntor thoro aro
snow tost|va|s, and so|st|co dancos-but ho doosn't ||ko thoso. 1oo |oud.'
3ho unwraps a groon candy and pops |t |nto hor mouth.
3ho c|osos hor oyos tor a momont, apparont|y savor|ng tho t|oor. 1ho cand|os aro oach a d|ttoront co|or, and th|s ono, tho groon, has a popporm|nt
smo|| that takos mo back to my ch||dhood. l th|nk ot tho ||tt|o g|r| who wou|d throw hor cand|os |nto my bodroom, how tho|r smo|| wou|d t||| tho papor
cup |nto wh|ch l'd rospond to hor vo|co.
Whon loso spoaks aga|n, hor tonguo has takon on tho omora|d co|or ot tho candy. °3ut ho's an oxco||ont dancor. l don't know why ho's such a
wa||t|owor.'
3ho sots tho p|cturo on tho d|van |n a soa ot wrappors.
l can't doc|do what to mako ot th|s woman, who |s woary and so sad, and who snappod at 0o|rdro but |s troat|ng mo ||ko a tr|ond. Vy cur|os|ty
quo||s my b|ttornoss tor tho momont. l th|nk, |n th|s strango wor|d ot boaut|tu| th|ngs, thoro may bo somo human|ty attor a||.
°0o you know how o|d l|ndon |s?' sho asks mo. l shako my hoad. °|o's twonty-ono. Wo'd p|annod to marry s|nco wo woro ch||dron, and l supposo
ho thought a|| thoso mod|c|nos wou|d koop mo a||vo tor tour oxtra yoars.
||s tathor |s a vory prom|nont doctor-t|rst gonorat|on.
1o|||ng away at t|nd|ng an ant|doto.' 3ho says that |ast b|t tanc|tu||y, |ott|ng hor t|ngors t|uttor |n tho a|r. 3ho doos not th|nk an ant|doto |s poss|b|o.
Vany do, though.
Whoro l como trom, hordos ot now orphans w||| t||o |nto |aborator|os, ottor|ng thomso|vos up to bo gu|noa p|gs tor a tow oxtra do||ars. 3ut an
ant|doto novor arr|vos, and a thorough ana|ys|s ot our gono poo| turns up no abnorma||t|os to oxp|a|n th|s tata| v|rus.
°3ut you,' loso says. °3|xtoon |s portoct. You can spond tho rost ot your ||vos togothor. |o won't havo to bo a|ono.'
l too| tho room go co|d. Outs|do thoro aro th|ngs buzz|ng and ch|rp|ng |n tho |nt|n|to gardon, but thoy aro a m||||on m||os trom mo. l had a|most, tor just
a momont, torgotton why l'm horo. |orgotton how l arr|vod. 1h|s boaut|tu| p|aco |s dangorous, ||ko m||ky wh|to o|oandors.
1ho thr|v|ng gardon |s moant to koop mo |ns|do.
l|ndon sto|o h|s br|dos so ho wou|dn't havo to d|o a|ono. What about my brothor, a|ono |n that ompty houso? What about tho othor g|r|s who woro
shot to doath |n that van?
Vy angor |s back. Vy t|sts c|onch, and l w|sh somoono wou|d como to tako mo out ot th|s room, ovon |t |t moans bo|ng |mpr|sonod somowhoro o|so
|n th|s houso.
l cannot boar anothor momont |n loso's prosonco. loso w|th hor opon w|ndow. loso who has mountod a horso and r|ddon boyond tho orango
grovos. loso who |ntonds to pass hor doath sontonco on to mo onco sho's gono.
Vy w|sh comos truo, to mako mattors worso. 0o|rdro roturns and says, °Excuso mo, lady loso, tho doctor |s horo to proparo hor tor Govornor
l|ndon.'
l'm |od down tho ha|| aga|n, and |nto an o|ovator that roqu|ros a koy card |n ordor to work. 0o|rdro stands bos|do mo, |ook|ng r|g|d and worr|od.
°You'|| moot |ousomastor vaughn ton|ght,' sho wh|spors. 1ho b|ood has dra|nod trom hor taco, and sho |ooks at mo |n a way that rom|nds mo
sho's just a ch||d. |or ||ps purso |n-what? 3ympathy? |oar? l don't know, bocauso tho o|ovator doors opon and sho roturns to horso|t, gu|d|ng mo
down anothor, darkor ha||way that smo||s ot ant|sopt|c, and through anothor door.
l wondor |t sho has any adv|co tor mo th|s t|mo, but sho's not ovon g|von tho chanco to spoak botoro a man says, °Wh|ch ono |s th|s?'
°lh|no, s|r,' 0o|rdro says, not ra|s|ng hor oyos. °1ho s|xtoon-yoar-o|d.'
l wondor, br|ot|y, |t th|s man |s tho |ousomastor or tho Govornor who's to bo my husband, but l don't havo tho chanco to ovon |ook at h|m botoro
thoro's a st|ng|ng pa|n |n my arm. l havo on|y t|mo to procoss what l'm soo|ng: a stor||o, w|ndow|oss room. A bod w|th a shoot, and rostra|nts whoro
arms and |ogs m|ght go.
Koop|ng |n thomo w|th a|| tho othor th|ngs |n th|s p|aco, tho room t|||s w|th sh|mmor|ng buttort||os. 1hoy a|| qu|vor, and thon burst ||ko tho strango bath
bubb|os.
3|ood ovorywhoro |n tho|r wako. 1hon b|acknoss.
lt's my turn to koop watch. Wo'vo |ockod tho doors and w|ndows and barr|cadod ourso|vos |n tho basomont tor tho
n|ght. 1ho t|ny rotr|gorator hums |n tho cornor, tho c|ock |s t|ck|ng, tho ||ghtbu|b sw|ngs on |ts w|ro, do|ng orrat|c th|ngs w|th tho ||ght. l th|nk l hoar a rat
|n tho shadows, torag|ng tor crumbs.
lowan |s snor|ng on tho cot, wh|ch |s unusua|, bocauso ho novor doos. 3ut l don't m|nd. lt's n|co to hoar tho sound ot anothor human, to know that
l'm not a|ono. 1hat |n a socond ho wou|d bo awako |t thoro woro any troub|o. As tw|ns, wo mako a groat toam. |o has tho musc|os, and h|s a|m w|th
tho shotgun novor m|ssos, but l'm sma||or and tastor, and somot|mos moro a|ort.
Wo'vo on|y had ono th|ot ovor who was armod, tho yoar l turnod th|rtoon. Vost|y tho th|ovos aro sma|| ch||dron who w||| broak w|ndows or attompt to
p|ck tho |ock, and thoy on|y stay |ong onough to roa||zo thoro's noth|ng to oat or noth|ng worth. 1hoy'ro posts, and l wou|d just as soon tood thom so
thoy'd go away. Wo havo p|onty to sparo. 3ut lowan won't a||ow |t. |ood|ng ono |s tood|ng thom a||, and wo don't own tho goddamn c|ty, ho'd say.
1hat's what orphanagos aro tor. 1hat's what |aboratory wagos aro tor. Or how about tho t|rst gonorat|ons? ho'd say, how about tho t|rst gonorat|ons
do somoth|ng bocauso thoy causod th|s who|o moss.
1ho armod th|ot was a man tw|co my s|zo, at |oast |nto h|s twont|os. |o somohow p|ckod tho |ock on our tront door w|thout mak|ng a sound, and ho
t|gurod out qu|ck|y that tho ros|donts ot our ||tt|o houso woro h|d|ng somowhoro, guard|ng what was worth tak|ng. lt was lowan's watch that hour, but
ho'd ta||on as|oop attor a tu|| day ot phys|ca| |abor. |o takos work whoro and whon ho can got |t, and |t's a|ways arduous, ho's a|ways |n pa|n at tho
ond ot tho day. long ago, Amor|ca's tactory jobs woro outsourcod to othor |ndustr|a||zod countr|os. low, bocauso thoro's no |mport|ng, most ot
low York's towor|ng bu||d|ngs havo boon convortod to tactor|os that mako ovoryth|ng trom trozon tood to shoot mota|. l'm usua||y ab|o to t|nd work
hand||ng who|osa|o ordors by phono, lowan t|nds work oas||y |n sh|pmonts and do||vory, and |t oxhausts h|m moro than ho caros to adm|t. 3ut tho
pay |s a|ways cash, and wo'ro a|ways ab|o to buy moro than wo nood |n torms ot tood. 3hopkoopors aro so gratotu| to havo pay|ng customors-as
opposod to tho ponn||oss orphans who a|ways try to stoa| tho ossont|a|s-that thoy g|vo us doa|s on oxtras ||ko o|octr|ca| tapo and asp|r|n.
3o thoro wo woro, both as|oop. l awoko w|th a b|ado to my throat, |ook|ng |nto tho oyos ot a man l d|d not know.
l mado a sma|| sound, not ovon a wh|mpor, but that was a|| |t took tor my brothor to jo|t back to consc|ousnoss, gun at tho roady.
l was ho|p|oss, para|yzod. 3ma|| th|ovos l cou|d hand|o, and most th|ovos d|d not want to k||| us, not |t thoy cou|d ho|p |t. 1hoy on|y mado moagor
throats on tho hopo ot gott|ng tood, a p|oco ot jowo|ry, and |t thoy woro sma||or than you, thoy wou|d just run away whon you caught thom. 1hoy woro
on|y try|ng to surv|vo howovor thoy cou|d.
°3hoot mo, and l cut hor,' tho man sa|d.
1horo was a |oud sound, ||ko tho t|mo ono ot our p|pos burst, and thon l saw a ||no ot b|ood ro|| ovor tho man's brow. lt took a socond tor mo to
roa||zo thoro was a rod bu||ot ho|o |n h|s torohoad, and thon tho kn|to wont s|ack aga|nst my nock. l grabbod |t, k|ckod h|m away trom mo.
3ut ho was a|roady doad. l sat up, oyos bu|g|ng, gasp|ng. lowan was on h|s toot, though, chock|ng to bo suro tho man was roa||y doad, not want|ng
to wasto anothor bu||ot |t |t wasn't nocossary. °Goddamn |t,' ho sa|d, and k|ckod tho man. °l to|| as|oop. 0amn |t!'
°You woro t|rod,' l sa|d roassur|ng|y. °lt's okay. |o wou|d havo gono away |t wo'd tod h|m.'
°0on't bo so naïvo,' lowan sa|d, and ||ttod tho doad man's arm po|ntod|y. lt was thon that l not|cod tho man's gray coat. 1ho c|oar mark ot a
Gathoror on tho job. °|o wantod-,' lowan bogan, but cou|dn't t|n|sh tho thought a|oud. lt was tho t|rst t|mo l'd ovor soon h|m tromb|o.
l had thought, botoro that n|ght, that Gathorors swopt young g|r|s trom tho stroot. Wh||o th|s |s truo, |t |sn't a|ways tho caso. 1hoy can stako a g|r| out,
to||ow hor homo and wa|t tor an opportun|ty. 1hat |s, |t thoy th|nk sho's worth tho troub|o, |t thoy th|nk sho'|| got a good pr|co. And that's what had
happonod. 1hat's why that man had brokon |nto our homo. low my brothor rotusos to |ot mo go anywhoro un|oss ho's w|th mo. |o worr|os ovor our
shou|dors, poors |nto a||oyways wo pass. Wo'vo addod bo|ts to tho door. Wo'vo strung tho k|tchon t|oor |n a |abyr|nth ot k|to str|ngs and ompty
a|um|num cans so that wo'|| bo a|ortod-|oud|y-to any |ntrudors botoro thoy can hopo to broak |nto our basomont.
l hoar somoth|ng o|so now, somoth|ng l at t|rst assumo |s anothor rat scurry|ng around upsta|rs. lt wou|d bo tho on|y th|ng sma|| onough to w|nd a
path around our trap.
3ut thon tho basomont door bog|ns to ratt|o at tho top ot tho stops. 1ho bo|ts pop opon, ono at a t|mo.
3oh|nd mo, lowan has stoppod snor|ng. l wh|spor h|s namo. l say l th|nk somoono has brokon |n. |o doosn't answor mo. l turn around, and tho cot
|s ompty.
At tho top ot tho sta|rs tho basomont door t||os opon.
3ut |nstoad ot tho darknoss ot our houso, thoro's sun||ght, and tho most broathtak|ng gardon l havo ovor soon.
l baro|y havo t|mo to tako |t a|| |n botoro tho doors c|oso |n tront ot mo. 1ho doors ot a gray van, a van tu|| ot tr|ghtonod g|r|s.
°lowan,' l gasp, and throw myso|t upr|ght.
Awako. l'm awako now, try|ng to conso|o myso|t. 3ut roa||ty doos not ottor a sato havon. l'm st||| |n th|s ||or|da mans|on, st||| tho |ntondod br|do ot tho
|ouso Govornor, and loso |s gasp|ng tor hor ||to down tho ha|| wh||o vo|cos try to sootho hor.
Vy |ogs and h|ps too| soro whon l strotch thom aga|nst tho sat|n shoots. l poo| back tho b|ankots, assoss myso|t.
l'm woar|ng a p|a|n wh|to s||p. Vy sk|n |s t|ng||ng and ha|r|oss. Vy na||s havo boon roundod and po||shod. l'm back |n my bodroom, w|th |ts w|ndow
that doosn't opon and |ts bathroom so p|nk |t's pract|ca||y g|ow|ng.
As |t on cuo, my bodroom door opons, and l don't know what to oxpoct. Gabr|o|, boaton and ||mp|ng as ho br|ngs mo a moa|, a parado ot t|rst
gonorat|ons com|ng to oxto||ato, t|utt, and portumo what's |ott ot my sk|n, a doctor w|th a nood|o and anothor scary tab|o, th|s t|mo on whoo|s. 3ut |t's
on|y 0o|rdro, carry|ng what |ooks to bo a hoavy wh|to packago |n hor t|ny arms.
°|o||o,' sho says, |n a tono that's gont|o as on|y a ch||d's can bo. °|ow aro you too||ng?'
Vy answor wou|dn't bo k|nd, so l don't say anyth|ng.
3ho t||ts across tho room, woar|ng a w|spy wh|to dross rathor than hor trad|t|ona| un|torm.
°l'vo brought your gown,' sho says, sott|ng tho packago on tho dross|ng tab|o and undo|ng tho bow that was ho|d|ng |t togothor. 1ho dross |s ta||or
than sho |s, and |t drags |uxur|ous|y a|ong tho t|oor as sho ho|ds |t up. lt g||ttors w|th d|amonds and poar|s.
°lt shou|d bo your s|zo,' 0o|rdro says. °1hoy moasurod you wh||o you woro out, and l mado somo a|torat|ons to bo suro. 1ry |t on.'
1ho |ast th|ng l want to do |s try on what |s c|oar|y my wodd|ng gown, just so l can moot |ouso Govornor l|ndon, tho man rospons|b|o tor my
k|dnapp|ng, and |ousomastor vaughn, whoso namo a|ono mado 0o|rdro go pa|o |n tho o|ovator. 3ut sho's ho|d|ng up tho dross and |ook|ng so
sympathot|c and |nnocont about |t that l don't want to g|vo hor a hard t|mo. l stop |nto tho gown and a||ow myso|t to bo z|ppod |n.
0o|rdro stands on tho ottoman at tho dross|ng tab|o to t|o tho chokor tor mo. |or dott ||tt|o hands mako such portoct bows. And tho gown |s a
romarkab|o t|t. °You mado th|s?' l ask hor, not h|d|ng my amazomont. A b|ush sproads across hor app|o chooks, and sho nods as sho stops down.
°1ho d|amonds and tho poar|s tako tho |ongost t|mo to throad. 1ho rost |s oasy,' sho says.
1ho dross |s strap|oss, shapod ||ko tho top ot a hoart at my co||arbono. 1ho tra|n |s v shapod. And l supposo, trom an aor|a| v|ow, l cou|d bo a sat|ny
wh|to hoart as l mako my way down tho a|s|o. At |oast l can't |mag|no a |ovo||or th|ng to woar on my way to ||to|ong |mpr|sonmont.
°You mado throo wodd|ng drossos by yourso|t ?' l say.
0o|rdro shakos hor hoad, and gont|y gu|dos mo to s|t on tho ottoman. °1ust yours,' sho says. °You'ro my koopor, l'm your domost|c. 1ho othor w|vos
oach havo tho|r own.'
3ho opons a drawor |n tho dross|ng tab|o, and |t |s |ush w|th cosmot|cs and ha|r barrottos. W|th a rougo brush |n hor hand, sho gosturos to tho
buttons on tho wa|| just abovo my n|ght tab|o. °lross tho wh|to ono |t you nood anyth|ng, that's how you can roach mo. 3|uo |s tho k|tchon.'
3ho bog|ns to pa|nt my taco, b|ond|ng and brush|ng co|ors onto my sk|n, ho|d|ng my ch|n up to |nspoct mo.
|or oyos aro sor|ous and w|do. Whon sho's sat|st|od, sho starts on my ha|r, brush|ng and woav|ng |t around cur|ors, and pratt||ng on about
|ntormat|on sho too|s w||| bo usotu| to mo.
°1ho wodd|ng w||| bo ho|d |n tho roso gardon. lt goos |n ordor ot ago, youngost t|rst. 3o thoro w||| bo a br|do botoro you and a br|do attor. 1horo's tho
oxchango ot vows, ot courso, but tho vows w||| bo road tor you, you won't bo roqu|rod to spoak. 1hon thoro's tho oxchango ot tho r|ngs, and |ot's soo
what o|so . . .'
|or vo|co tra||s ott, |nto a soa ot doscr|pt|on, t|oat|ng cand|os, d|nnor arrangomonts, ovon how sott|y l shou|d spoak.
3ut ovoryth|ng sho says b|urs |nto ono h|doous moss.
1ho wodd|ng |s ton|ght. 1on|ght. l havo no hopo ot oscap|ng botoro |t occurs, l havon't ovon boon ab|o to opon a w|ndow, l havon't ovon soon tho
outs|do ot th|s wrotchod p|aco. l too| s|ck, w|ndod. l'd sott|o tor bo|ng ab|o to opon tho w|ndow not to oscapo but to gasp |n tho trosh a|r. l opon my
mouth to tako a doop broath, and 0o|rdro pops a rod candy |nto my mouth.
°lt'|| mako your broath swoot,' sho says. 1ho candy d|sso|vos |nstant|y, and l'm t|oodod w|th tho t|avor ot somoth|ng ||ko strawborr|os and too much
sugar. lt's ovorwho|m|ng at t|rst, and thon |t subs|dos, tastos natura|, ovon sott|os my anx|oty somowhat.
°1horo now,' 0o|rdro says, soom|ng p|oasod w|th horso|t. 3ho nudgos mo so that l'm tac|ng tho m|rror tor tho t|rst t|mo.
l'm stunnod by what l soo.
Vy oyo||ds havo boon pa|ntod p|nk, but |t |s not tho obnox|ous p|nk ot tho bathroom horo. lt's tho co|or botwoon tho rods and yo||ows at sunsot. lt
spark|os as though tu|| ot ||tt|o stars, and rocodos |nto ||ght purp|os and sott wh|tos. Vy ||ps aro dono to match, and my sk|n |s sh|mmor|ng.
l |ook, tor tho t|rst t|mo, ||ko l am not a ch||d. l am my mothor |n hor party dross, thoso n|ghts sho spont danc|ng w|th my tathor |n tho ||v|ng room attor
my brothor and l had gono to bod. 3ho wou|d como |nto my bodroom |ator to k|ss mo wh||o sho thought l s|opt. 3ho wou|d bo swoaty and portumod
and do||r|ous w|th |ovo tor my tathor. °1on t|ngors, ton toos,' sho wou|d wh|spor |nto my oar, °my ||tt|o g|r| |s sato |n hor droams.' 1hon sho wou|d
|oavo mo, too||ng ||ko l'd just boon onchantod.
What wou|d my mothor say to th|s g|r|-th|s a|most-woman-|n tho m|rror?
As tor myso|t, l'm spooch|oss. W|th hor ta|ont tor co|or 0o|rdro has mado my b|uo oyo br|ghtor, my brown oyo noar|y as |ntonso as loso's staro.
3ho has drossod mo and pa|ntod mo wo|| tor tho ro|o, l am soon to bocomo Govornor l|ndon's trag|c br|do.
l th|nk |t spoaks tor |tso|t, but |n tho m|rror l can soo 0o|rdro boh|nd mo tw|st|ng hor hands, wa|t|ng to hoar what l th|nk ot hor work. °lt's boaut|tu|,' |s
a|| l can say.
°Vy tathor was a pa|ntor,' sho says, w|th a h|nt ot pr|do. °|o tr|od h|s bost to toach mo, but l don't know |t l'|| ovor bo as good. |o to|d mo anyth|ng
can bo a canvas, and l supposo you'ro my canvas now.'
3ho says no moro about hor paronts, and l don't ask.
3ho touchos up my ha|r tor a wh||o, wh|ch has boon cur|od |nto r|ng|ots and p|nnod back w|th a s|mp|o wh|to hoadband. 1h|s goos on unt|| tho watch
on 0o|rdro's wr|st bog|ns to boop. And thon sho ho|ps mo |nto my un-sons|b|o h|gh hoo|s and carr|os tho tra|n ot my dross down tho ha||way. Wo
doscond |n tho o|ovator and woavo through a mazo ot ha||way attor ha||way, and just whon l'm bog|nn|ng to th|nk th|s houso has no ond, wo como to
a |argo woodon door. 0o|rdro goos ahoad ot mo, opons tho door just baro|y, and pokos hor hoad |n. 3ho appoars to bo ta|k|ng to somoono.
0o|rdro stops back, and a ||tt|o boy poors out at mo.
|o's hor s|zo or c|oso to |t. ||s oyos swoop across mo, hoad to too. °l ||ko |t,' ho says.
°1hank you, Ada|r. l ||ko yours, too,' 0o|rdro says.
1horo's such protoss|ona||sm |n hor young vo|co. °Aro wo a|most roady to bog|n?'
°A|| roady horo. Chock w|th E||o.'
0o|rdro d|sappoars boh|nd tho door w|th h|m. 1horo's moro ta|k|ng, and whon tho door opons, anothor ||tt|o g|r| poors out at mo. |or oyos aro b|g
and groon, sho c|aps hor hands togothor oxc|tod|y. °Oh, |t's |ovo|y!' sho shr|oks, and thon d|sappoars.
Whon tho door opons aga|n, 0o|rdro takos my hand and |oads mo |nto what can on|y bo a sow|ng room. lt's sma|| and w|ndow|oss, c|uttorod w|th
bo|ts ot tabr|c and sow|ng mach|nos, and ovorywhoro r|bbons dr|p trom sho|vos and |ay strown across tab|os. °1ho othor br|dos aro a|| roady,'
0o|rdro says. 3ho |ooks around horso|t to bo suro no ono o|so can hoar, and thon wh|spors to mo, °3ut l th|nk you'ro tho prott|ost.'
1ho othor br|dos stand |n cornors ot tho room oppos|to oach othor, bo|ng tussod ovor by tho|r domost|cs, a|| ot whom aro drossod |n wh|to. 1ho ||tt|o
boy, Ada|r, |s stra|ghton|ng tho wh|to vo|vot bod|co on a w|||owy br|do w|th dark ha|r, who staros dospondont|y at hor shou|dor and doos not soom to
m|nd bo|ng proddod.
1ho ||tt|o g|r|, whom l prosumo to bo E||o, |s adjust|ng poar| barrottos |n tho ha|r ot a br|do who cou|d not t|p tho sca|o abovo a hundrod pounds. 1h|s
br|do has hor rod ha|r dono up |n a booh|vo, and hor dross |s wh|to w|th just a s||ght g||mmor ot ra|nbow huos whon sho movos.
1ho bod|co has b|g trans|ucont buttort|y w|ngs |n back that soom to bo homorrhag|ng g||ttor, wh|ch l roa||zo |s somo sort ot |||us|on, bocauso nono ot
th|s g||ttor ovor touchos tho ground. 1ho br|do |s wr|gg||ng uncomtortab|y |n hor bod|co, though, a b|t too sma|| to t||| |n tho chost ot |t.
On t|ptoos tho rodhoad wou|dn't ovon roach my shou|dor, sho |s c|oar|y too young to bo a br|do. And tho w|||owy g|r| |s too tor|orn. And l am too
unw||||ng.
Yot horo wo aro.
1h|s dross |s so comtortab|o aga|nst my sk|n, and 0o|rdro |s so proud, and horo l stand |n tho room whoro l supposo my wardrobos aro to bo
constructod tor tho rost ot my ||to. And a|| l can th|nk ot |s how l can oscapo.
An a|r duct? An un|ockod door?
And, ot courso, l th|nk ot my tw|n brothor, lowan.
W|thout oach othor wo aro on|y ha|t ot a who|o. l can hard|y stand tho thought ot h|m a|| a|ono |n that basomont at n|ght. W||| ho soarch through tho
scar|ot d|str|ct tor my taco |n a brotho|? W||| ho uso ono ot tho do||vory trucks trom h|s job to |ook tor my body on roads|dos? Ot a|| tho th|ngs ho
cou|d ovor do, ot a|| tho p|acos ho cou|d ovor soarch, l am corta|n ho w||| novor t|nd th|s mans|on, surroundod by orango grovos and horsos and
gardons, so vory tar trom low York.
l w||| havo to t|nd h|m |nstoad. 3tup|d|y, l |ook to tho too-sma|| a|r duct tor a so|ut|on whoro thoro |s nono.
1ho domost|cs summon oach ot us br|dos to tho contor ot tho room. lt's tho t|rst t|mo wo'vo boon ab|o to |ook at ono anothor, roa||y. lt was so dark |n
that van, and thon wo'd boon too horr|t|od to do anyth|ng but koop our oyos torward whon wo woro assossod. Add tho s|oop|ng gas |n tho ||mo, and
wo'ro st||| portoct strangors.
1ho rodhoad, tho ||tt|o ono, |s h|ss|ng to E||o that hor bod|co |s now |acod too t|ght, and how can sho bo oxpoctod to stay st||| dur|ng tho coromony-
tho most |mportant momont ot hor ||to, sho adds-|t sho can hard|y broatho?
1ho w|||owy g|r| stands bos|do mo, say|ng and do|ng noth|ng as Ada|r porchos on a stop|addor and dots hor bra|dod ha|r w|th t|ny tako ||||os.
1horo's a knock on tho door, and l don't know what l'm oxpoct|ng. A tourth br|do, porhaps, or tor tho Gathorors to como and shoot us a||. lt's on|y
Gabr|o|, though, ho|d|ng a |argo cy||ndor and ask|ng tho domost|cs |t tho br|dos aro roady. |o doosn't |ook at any ot us. Whon E||o to||s h|m wo'ro
roady, ho |ays tho cy||ndor on tho ground, and w|th a mochan|ca| wh|rr |t somohow unro||s a |ong rod carpot that strotchos out |nto tho ha||way.
Gabr|o| d|sappoars |nto tho shadows.
3trango mus|c bog|ns to rad|ato, soom|ng|y trom tho co|||ng t||os. 1ho domost|cs arrango us |n a row, youngost to o|dost, and wo bog|n to march.
lt's amaz|ng how |n sync our tootstops aro, tor hav|ng no pract|co and cons|dor|ng wo woro a|| draggod to th|s p|aco |n unconsc|ous hoaps attor tho
t|mo spont |n that van. ln a tow m|nutos wo'|| bo s|stor w|vos. lt's a torm l'vo hoard on tho nows, and l don't know what |t moans. l don't know |t thoso
g|r|s w||| bo my a|||os or onom|os, or |t wo'|| ovon coox|st attor today.
1ho br|do |n tront ot mo, tho rodhoad, tho ||tt|o ono, sooms to bo sk|pp|ng. |or w|ngs t|uttor and bounco.
G||ttor sw|r|s around hor. lt l d|dn't know bottor, l cou|d swoar sho's oxc|tod about a|| th|s.
1ho carpot |oads to an opon door to tho outs|do. 1h|s |s what 0o|rdro ca||od tho roso gardon, wh|ch |s abundant|y c|oar by tho rosobushos that
mako up tho h|gh wa||s around us. 1hoy aro an oxtons|on ot tho ha||way, roa||y, and dosp|to tho opon sky ovorhoad, l too| no |oss trappod than l d|d
|ns|do.
1ho dusk sky |s tu|| ot stars, and absont|y l th|nk that back homo l wou|d not droam ot bo|ng outs|do at th|s hour. 1ho door wou|d bo bo|tod, tho no|so
trap |a|d out |n tho k|tchon. lowan and l wou|d bo hav|ng a qu|ot d|nnor and wash|ng |t down w|th toa, and thon wo'd watch tho n|ght|y nows to soo
about ava||ab|o jobs and to updato ourso|vos on tho stato ot our wor|d, hop|ng d|sma||y that ono day thoro m|ght bo a pos|t|vo chango. 3|nco tho o|d
|ab oxp|odod tour yoars back, l'vo boon hop|ng a now |ab w||| rop|aco |t, so that lro-3c|onco rosoarch jobs w||| bo croatod, and so that somoono
can d|scovor an ant|doto, but orphans havo mado a homo tor thomso|vos |n tho ru|ns ot tho o|d |ab. loop|o aro g|v|ng up, accopt|ng tho|r tato. And
tho nows |s noth|ng but job ||st|ngs and to|ov|sod ovonts put on by tho woa|th|or c|ass-|ouso Govornors and tho|r sad br|dos. lt's supposod to
oncourago us, l supposo. G|vo tho |||us|on that tho wor|d |sn't ond|ng.
l don't havo a chanco to too| tho oncom|ng wavo ot homos|cknoss botoro l'm nudgod |nto tho c|oar|ng at tho ond ot tho rosobush ha||way and mado
to stand |n a som|-c|rc|o w|th tho othor br|dos.
1ho c|oar|ng |s suddon and gap|ng, and a ro||ot. 1ho gardon at onco bocomos onormous, a c|ty bust||ng w|th t|rot||os and ||tt|o t|at cand|os that soom
to bo t|oat|ng |n p|aco-l th|nk 0o|rdro ca||od thom toa ||ghts. 1horo aro tounta|ns tr|ck||ng |nto t|ny ponds, and l can soo now that tho mus|c |s
somohow bo|ng amp||t|od trom a koyboard that p|ays |tso|t, tho koys ||ght|ng up tho notos rad|ato out, sound|ng ||ko a tu|| band ot str|ngs and brass. l
know tho mo|ody, my mothor usod to hum |t °1ho Wodd|ng Varch,' tho thomo ot wodd|ngs back |n hor own mothor's day.
l'm |od to a gazobo at tho contor ot tho c|oar|ng w|th tho two othors, whoro tho rod carpot bocomos a |argo c|rc|o. 1horo |s a man bos|do us |n wh|to
robos, and tho domost|cs tako tho|r p|acos oppos|to us, tho|r hands c|aspod |n tront ot thom as though |n prayor. 1ho youngost br|do g|gg|os as a
t|rot|y sp|ra|s botoro hor noso and d|sappoars. 1ho o|dost br|do staros |nto spaco w|th oyos as gray as tho ovon|ng sky. l just do what l can to
not stand out, to b|ond |n, wh|ch l suspoct |s |mposs|b|o |t tho Govornor has takon a ||k|ng to my oyos.
l don't know much about trad|t|ona| wodd|ngs, l'vo novor attondod ono, and my paronts, ||ko most coup|os at that t|mo, woro marr|od |n c|ty ha||. W|th
tho human raco dy|ng ott so young, hard|y anybody gots marr|od anymoro. 3ut l supposo th|s |s how |t usod to bo, moro or |oss: 1ho wa|t|ng br|do,
tho mus|c, tho groom |n a b|ack tuxodo approach|ng. l|ndon, tho |ouso Govornor, my soon-to-bo husband, |s |od to us on tho arm ot a t|rst
gonorat|on man. 3oth ot thom aro ta|| and pa|o. 1hoy part at tho gazobo and l|ndon takos tho throo stops that |oad h|m to us. |o stands at tho
contor ot tho carpot c|rc|o, tac|ng us. 1ho ||tt|o rodhoadod ono w|nks at h|m, and ho sm||os ador|ng|y at hor, tho way a tathor m|ght sm||o at h|s young
daughtor. 3ut sho's not h|s daughtor. |o |ntonds tor hor to carry h|s ch||dron.
l too| nausoous. lt wou|d bo dot|ant onough just to vom|t on h|s po||shod b|ack shoos. 3ut l havon't oaton any ot tho tood Gabr|o| has brought mo
s|nco my t|rst day horo, and vom|t|ng won't w|n mo any tavor|t|sm. Vy bost chanco at oscapo w||| bo to oarn l|ndon's trust. 1ho soonor l can pu|| that
ott, tho bottor.
1ho man |n wh|to robos bog|ns to spoak, and tho mus|c tados to a stop.
°Wo aro gathorod horo today to jo|n thoso tour sou|s |n th|s sacrod un|on, wh|ch w||| boar tho tru|t tor gonorat|ons to como . . .'
As tho man spoaks, l|ndon |ooks us ovor. Vaybo |t's tho cand|o||ght, or tho mo||ow ovon|ng broozo, but ho doosn't soom as monac|ng as botoro,
whon ho so|octod us trom tho ||noup. |o's a ta|| man w|th sma|| bonos that mako h|m soom a|most tra||, ch||d||ko. ||s oyos aro a br|ght groon, and
h|s g|ossy b|ack cur|s hang ||ko th|ck v|nos around h|s taco. |o |s not sm|||ng, and not gr|nn|ng tho way ho d|d whon ho caught mo runn|ng |n tho
ha||way. |or a momont l wondor |t ho |s ovon tho samo man. 3ut thon ho opons h|s mouth, and l soo tho g||mmor ot go|d |n h|s tooth, way |n tho back
mo|ars.
1ho domost|cs havo stoppod torward. 1ho man |n wh|to has stoppod ta|k|ng about how th|s marr|ago w||| socuro tuturo gonorat|ons, and now
l|ndon |s addross|ng us oach by namo. °Coc||y Ashby,' ho says to tho ||tt|o br|do. E||o opons hor c|aspod hands, rovoa||ng a go|d r|ng.
l|ndon takos th|s r|ng and p|acos |t on tho sma|| br|do's hand. °Vy w|to,' l|ndon says. 3ho b|ushos and boams.
3otoro l can procoss what's happon|ng, 0o|rdro has oponod hor hands and l|ndon has takon tho r|ng trom hor and s||ppod |t onto my t|ngor. °lh|no
Ashby,' ho says.
°Vy w|to.'
lt doosn't moan anyth|ng, l to|| myso|t. lot h|m ca|| mo h|s w|to, but onco l'm on tho othor s|do ot tho tonco, th|s s|||y ||tt|o r|ng w||| moan noth|ng. l am
st||| lh|no E||ory. l try to |ot th|s thought s|nk |n, but l'vo brokon |nto a co|d swoat. Vy hoart too|s hoavy. l|ndon catchos my oyos w|th h|s, and l moot
h|s staro. l won't b|ush or t||nch or |ook away. l won't succumb.
|o ||ngors a momont, and thon ho's on to tho th|rd br|do.
°1onna Ashby,' ho says to tho noxt g|r|. °Vy w|to.'
1ho man |n wh|to says, °What tato has brought togothor, |ot no man toar asundor.'
loto, l th|nk, ls o tbloí.
1ho mus|c starts up aga|n, and l|ndon takos oach ot our hands |ong onough to gu|do us down tho stops, ono at a t|mo. ||s hand |s c|ammy and
coo|. lt's our t|rst touch as husband and w|to. As l movo, l try to got a good |ook at tho mans|on that has |mpr|sonod mo thoso past tow days. 3ut |t's
too mass|vo, and l'm stand|ng too c|oso to soo moro than ono s|do ot |t, and a|| that rog|stor aro br|cks and w|ndows. l th|nk l soo Gabr|o|, though,
tor a momont as ho passos ono ot tho w|ndows. l rocogn|zo h|s noat|y partod ha|r, h|s w|do b|uo oyos watch|ng mo.
l|ndon |oavos us attor that, d|sappoar|ng somowhoro w|th tho t|rst gonorat|on man ho'd approachod w|th. And tho br|dos aro hordod back |nto tho
mans|on. 1horo |s |vy grow|ng a|ong |t, though, and just botoro l'm |ns|do, l roach out and grab a sma|| p|oco ot that |oaty groon p|ant and c|oso |t |n
my t|st. lt makos mo th|nk ot homo, ovon |t |vy no |ongor grows thoro.
3ack |n my bodroom l h|do tho |vy |n my p|||owcaso botoro 0o|rdro bog|ns tuss|ng ovor mo. 3ho ho|ps mo out ot my wodd|ng gown, wh|ch sho to|ds
noat|y, and thon bog|ns to spray mo w|th somoth|ng that at t|rst attacks my sonsos and makos mo snoozo, but thon rocodos |nto a p|oasant rosy
scont. 3ho makos mo s|t on tho ottoman aga|n and opons tho makoup drawor. 3ho scrubs my taco c|oan and bog|ns aga|n, th|s t|mo pa|nt|ng mo
|n dramat|c rods and purp|os that mako mo appoar su|try. l ||ko |t ovon bottor than tho oar||or |ook, l too| ||ko my angor and b|ttornoss havo boon
man|tostod.
l'm drossod |n a t|ttod rod dross that matchos tho co|or ot my ||ps, w|th b|ack |aco around tho co||ar and cappod s|oovos. 1ho dross on|y ta||s to
about m|dth|gh, and 0o|rdro tugs at tho mator|a| to bo suro |t drapos propor|y.
Wh||o sho's do|ng th|s, l stop |nto yot anothor pa|r ot r|d|cu|ous hoo|s, and staro at myso|t |n tho m|rror. Evory curvo ot my body protrudos through tho
vo|vot mator|a|-my broasts, h|pbonos, ovon tho ghost ot r|bs. °lt's a symbo| that you'ro no |ongor a ch||d,' sho oxp|a|ns.
°1hat you'ro roady tor your husband to como to you at any t|mo.'
Attor that l'm |od to tho o|ovator and down moro ha||ways, unt|| wo roach a d|n|ng ha||. 1ho othor br|dos aro drossod |n b|ack and yo||ow vors|ons ot
my outt|t, rospoct|vo|y. A|| ot us aro woar|ng our ha|r down now.
l'm soatod botwoon thom at a |ong tab|o bonoath crysta| chando||ors. Coc||y, tho rodhoad, |s |ook|ng oxc|tod, wh||o 1onna, tho dark-ha|rod ono,
sooms to bo com|ng out ot hor mo|ancho|y. Undor tho tab|o hor hand brushos m|no, and l'm not suro |t |t's acc|donta|.
Wo a|| smo|| ||ko t|owors.
3|ts ot g||ttor st||| ta|| trom Coc||y's ha|r.
|ouso Govornor l|ndon arr|vos, w|th tho t|rst gonorat|on man aga|n. 1hoy mako tho|r way to us, and l|ndon ra|sos oach ot our hands to h|s ||ps tor a
k|ss, ono at a t|mo. 1hon ho |ntroducos tho man, h|s tathor, as |ousomastor vaughn.
|ousomastor vaughn a|so k|ssos our hands, and |t takos somo ottort tor mo to koop trom squ|rm|ng at tho too| ot h|s ||ps, wh|ch aro papory and
co|d. lt makos mo th|nk ot a corpso. As a t|rst gonorat|on, |ousomastor vaughn has agod wo||, h|s dark ha|r has on|y sparso t|ocks ot gray, and h|s
taco |s not horr|b|y wr|nk|od. 3ut h|s sk|n |s a s|ck|y pa|||d shado that wou|d mako ovon loso appoar v|brant by compar|son. |o doos not sm||o.
Evoryth|ng about h|s touch |s ch|||od. Evon Coc||y bocomos subduod by h|s approach.
l too| a ||tt|o bottor whon l|ndon and |ousomastor vaughn aro soatod at tho oppos|to ond ot tho tab|o, w|th l|ndon tac|ng us and |ousomastor
vaughn at tho hoad.
Wo br|dos s|t |n a row bos|do ono anothor, and tho othor tab|o hoad |s |ott vacant. l supposo |t's whoro l|ndon's mothor wou|d havo sat, but s|nco
sho's not horo, l assumo sho's doad.
Whon Gabr|o| ontors tho room ba|anc|ng a stack ot p|atos and utons||s, l t|nd that l'm ro||ovod by h|s prosonco. l havon't spokon w|th h|m s|nco |ast
n|ght, whon ho ||mpod out ot my room. l'vo boon worry|ng that my act|ons |od to h|s pun|shmont, and that |ousomastor vaughn w||| doc|do to |ock
h|m |n a dungoon tor tho roma|ndor ot h|s ||to. Vy worr|os a|ways |oad to dungoons, l can't |mag|no a worso th|ng than to bo |mpr|sonod tor tho rost
ot ono's ||to, ospoc|a||y w|th so tow yoars to onjoy what ||tt|o thoro |s.
Gabr|o| sooms wo|| onough now, though. l |ook c|oso|y tor s|gns ot bru|sos bonoath h|s sh|rt, and t|nd noth|ng.
||s ||mp |s gono. l try to catch h|s gazo, hop|ng to g|vo h|m a sympathot|c or apo|ogot|c |ook, but ho doosn't ra|so h|s oyos to mo. |our othors |n tho
samo un|torm to||ow h|m |n, w|th p|tchors ot wator, bott|os ot w|no, a cart ot oxtravagant toods-who|o ch|ckons bast|ng |n caramo| saucos,
p|noapp|os and strawborr|os cut and shapod ||ko pond ||||os.
1ho door to tho d|n|ng room |s proppod opon as tho attondants como and go. l wondor what wou|d happon |t l ran-|t Gabr|o| or ono ot tho othors
wou|d stop mo. 3ut u|t|mato|y |t's my toar ot what my now husband m|ght do that koops mo |n p|aco, bocauso suro|y |t l ran, l wou|dn't mako |t tar
botoro l was caught. And thon-what? l'd bo |ockod |n my room aga|n, probab|y, torovor marrod as tho ono who can't bo trustod.
3o l stay, part|c|pat|ng |n a convorsat|on that |s stra|nod and s|ckon|ng|y p|oasant. l|ndon doosn't ta|k much h|mso|t, h|s m|nd sooms to bo
o|sowhoro as ho br|ngs spoontu| attor spoontu| ot soup to h|s mouth. Coc||y sm||os at h|m, and sho ovon drops hor spoon, l th|nk, just so ho'|| |ook at
hor.
|ousomastor vaughn |s ta|k|ng about tho hundrod-yoar-o|d gardons and how swoot tho app|os aro. |o ovon makos tru|ts and shrubbory sound
om|nous. lt's h|s vo|co, |ow and raspy. l not|co that nono ot tho ho|p |ooks at h|m as thoy br|ng now d|shos and c|oar away tho o|d.
lt was h|m, l th|nk. |o's tho ono who hurt Gabr|o| yostorday whon my door was |ott un|ockod. Evon w|th h|s sm||os and harm|oss chattor, l can sonso
somoth|ng dangorous |n h|m. 3omoth|ng that h|ndors my appot|to and dra|ns tho co|or trom 0o|rdro's p|oasant taco. 3omoth|ng, porhaps, moro
dangorous than hoarts|ck Govornor l|ndon, who staros past us, |ost |n |ovo w|th a woman on doath's door.
Whon tho ovon|ng |s at |ast through, l |angu|sh on tho bod |n my wh|to s||p wh||o 0o|rdro rubs my soro toot. l m|ght stop
hor |t l woron't so oxhaustod and hor touch woron't so ro|ax|ng. 3ho's knoo||ng bos|do mo, so ||ght that sho scarco|y ovon makos a dont |n tho t|utty
comtortor.
l ||o on my stomach, hugg|ng a p|||ow, and sho bog|ns to work my ca|vos, |t's just what l nood attor so many hours |n thoso h|gh hoo|s. 3ho has ||t
somo cand|os too, t||||ng tho room w|th tho warm scont ot obscuro t|owors. l'm so ro|axod that l just |ot tho words como out, so boyond worry|ng
about bo|ng c|assy at th|s po|nt, °3o how doos th|s wodd|ng n|ght work? 0oos ho chooso us |n a ||noup? 0rug us w|th s|oop|ng gas? loo| tho throo
ot us |nto ono bod?'
0o|rdro doos not soom ottondod by my crassnoss.
lat|ont|y sho says, °Oh, tho |ouso Govornor won't consummato h|s br|dos ton|ght. lot w|th lady loso . . .' 3ho tra||s ott.
l push myso|t up just onough to |ook ovor my shou|dor at hor. °What about hor?'
A trag|c |ook |s on 0o|rdro's taco, hor shou|dors mov|ng as sho rubs my soro |ogs. °|o's vory |n |ovo w|th hor,' sho to||s mo w|sttu||y. °l don't bo||ovo
ho'|| v|s|t any ot h|s now br|dos unt|| sho has passod on.'
lt's truo that Govornor l|ndon doosn't como |nto my bodroom, and attor 0o|rdro has b|own out tho cand|os and |s gono, l ovontua||y dr|tt ott to s|oop.
3ut |n tho oar|y hours ot tho morn|ng, l'm awakonod by tho turn ot tho doorknob, |n rocont yoars l'vo bocomo a vory ||ght s|oopor, and w|thout any
s|oop-|nduc|ng tox|n |n my systom, l'vo roturnod to my usua| a|ortnoss. 3t||| l don't roact. l wa|t, oyos w|do opon, watch|ng my door opon |n tho
darknoss.
1ho cur|y ha|r ot tho shadowy t|guro |dont|t|os l|ndon tor mo.
°lh|no?' |o says my namo tor tho socond t|mo |n our short marr|ago. l want to |gnoro h|m and protond that l'm st||| as|oop, but l th|nk tho torr|t|od
pound|ng ot my hoart must bo aud|b|o across tho room. lt's |rrat|ona|, but l st||| th|nk a croak|ng door w||| moan Gathorors com|ng to shoot mo |n tho
hoad or stoa| mo away. 3os|dos, l|ndon has soon that my oyos aro opon.
°Yos,' l say.
°Got up,' ho says sott|y. °lut on somoth|ng warm, l havo somoth|ng to show you.'
5omotblog worm! l th|nk. 1h|s must moan ho's tak|ng mo outs|do.
1o h|s crod|t, ho |oavos tho room so l can got drossod |n pr|vato. 1ho c|osot |||um|natos whon l opon |t, rovoa||ng rows ot moro c|oth|ng than l
bothorod to not|co oar||or. l chooso a pa|r ot b|ack pants that aro warm and t|oocy, and a swoator that has poar|s workod |nto tho kn|t-0o|rdro's
hand|work, no doubt.
Whon l opon tho door-wh|ch |s no |ongor |ockod trom tho outs|do as |t was botoro tho wodd|ng-l t|nd l|ndon wa|t|ng tor mo |n tho ha||. |o sm||os,
|oops h|s arm through m|no, and |oads mo to tho o|ovator.
lt's d|stross|ng how many ha||ways mako up th|s mans|on. Evon |t tho tront door woro |ott w|do opon tor my oscapo, l'm corta|n l'd novor bo ab|o to
t|nd |t. l try to mako a noto ot whoro l am: a |ong, p|a|n ha||way w|th a groon carpot that |ooks now. 1ho wa||s aro a croamy ott-wh|to, w|th tho samo
k|nd ot gonor|c pa|nt|ngs that aro |n my bodroom. 1horo aro no w|ndows, so l can't ovon to|| that th|s |s tho ground t|oor unt|| l|ndon opons a door
and wo'ro on tho path to tho roso gardon, down tho samo tam|||ar ha||way ot bushos. 3ut th|s t|mo wo pass tho gazobo. 1ho sun has yot to como up,
g|v|ng tho p|aco a subduod, s|oopy too|.
l|ndon shows mo ono ot tho tounta|ns, wh|ch tr|ck|os |nto a pond popu|atod by |ong th|ck t|sh that aro wh|to, orango, and rod. °Ko| t|sh,' ho to||s mo.
°1hoy'ro or|g|na||y trom 1apan. |oard ot |t?'
Goography has bocomo such an obscuro subjoct that l novor oncountorod |t |n my br|ot yoars ot schoo||ng, botoro my paronts' doaths torcod mo to
work |nstoad. Our schoo| was ho|d |n what was onco a church, and tho studonts baro|y t|||od out tho t|rst row ot pows |n tu|| attondanco.
Vost|y wo woro tho ch||dron ot t|rst gonorat|ons, ||ko my brothor and mo, who had boon ra|sod to va|uo oducat|on ovon |t wo'|| d|o w|thout a chanco
to uso |t. And tho schoo| had an orphan or two w|th droams ot bocom|ng an actor, who wantod to |oarn onough road|ng to momor|zo scr|pts.
A|| wo woro taught ot goography was that tho wor|d had onco boon mado up ot sovon cont|nonts and sovora| countr|os, but a th|rd wor|d war
domo||shod a|| but lorth Amor|ca, tho cont|nont w|th tho most advancod tochno|ogy. 1ho damago was so catastroph|c that a|| that roma|ns ot tho
rost ot tho wor|d |s ocoan and un|nhab|tab|o |s|ands so t|ny that thoy can't ovon bo soon trom spaco.
Vy tathor, howovor, was a wor|d onthus|ast. |o had an at|as ot tho wor|d as |t appoarod |n tho twonty-t|rst contury, w|th tu|| co|or |magos ot a|| tho
countr|os and customs. 1apan was a tavor|to ot m|no. l onjoyod tho pa|ntod go|shas w|th tho|r ponc||od toaturos and puckorod ||ps. l ||kod tho p|nk
and wh|to chorry b|ossom troos, so un||ko tho moagor th|ngs that grow |n toncos a|ong tho Vanhattan s|dowa|ks. 1ho who|o country ot 1apan
soomod to bo ono g|ant co|or photo, g|ossy and br|ght. Vy brothor protorrod Atr|ca, w|th |ts t|oppy-oarod o|ophants and |ts co|ortu| b|rds.
l |mag|nod tho wor|d outs|do lorth Amor|ca must havo boon a boaut|tu| p|aco. And |t was my tathor who |ntroducod that boauty to mo. l th|nk ot
thoso |ong-gono p|acos st|||. A ko| wr|gg|os past mo and d|sappoars |nto tho dopth, and a|| l can th|nk |s that my tathor wou|d havo boon so happy to
soo |t.
1ho gr|ot ot my tathor's |oss |s so suddon that my knoos noar|y buck|o undor tho wo|ght ot |t, l torco toars back down my throat, past tho |ump that's
torm|ng thoro.
°l'vo hoard ot |t,' |s a|| l say.
l|ndon sooms |mprossod. |o sm||os at mo, and ra|sos h|s hand as though to touch mo, but thon changos h|s m|nd and cont|nuos wa|k|ng. Wo
como to a woodon sw|ng that's shapod ||ko a hoart. Wo s|t tor a wh||o, not touch|ng, rock|ng s||ght|y and star|ng at tho hor|zon ovor tho odgos ot tho
rosobushos. 1ho co|or comos s|ow|y, b|ts ot orango and yo||ow, ||ko w|th 0o|rdro's makoup brush.
3tars aro st||| v|s|b|o, tad|ng away whoro tho sky b|ushos w|th t|ory co|or.
°look,' l|ndon says. °look how boaut|tu| |t |s.'
°1ho sunr|so?' l ask. lt |s |ovo|y, but hard|y worth gott|ng out ot bod so oar|y. l'm so usod to s|oop|ng |n sh|tts, tak|ng turns koop|ng watch w|th my
brothor, that my body has boon tra|nod not to wasto whatovor s|oop |t can got.
°1ho start ot a now day,' l|ndon says. °3o|ng hoa|thy onough to w|tnoss |t.'
l can soo sadnoss |n h|s groon oyos. l don't trust |t.
|ow can l, whon th|s |s tho man who pa|d tho Gathorors so ho cou|d havo mo tor tho |ast yoars ot my ||to? Whon tho b|ood ot thoso othor g|r|s |n tho
van |s on h|s hands?
Vy sunr|sos may bo ||m|tod, but l w||| not v|ow a|| tho rost ot m|no as l|ndon Ashby's w|to.
lt's qu|ot tor a wh||o. l|ndon's taco |s ||t up by tho oar|y sun, and my wodd|ng band burns |n a tw|st ot ||ght.
l hato tho th|ng. lt took a|| my w|||powor |ast n|ght not to t|ush |t down tho to||ot. 3ut |t l'm to oarn h|s trust, l havo to woar |t.
°You know about 1apan. What o|so do you know about tho wor|d?' ho asks.
l w||| not to|| h|m about my tathor's at|as, wh|ch my brothor and l h|d w|th our va|uab|os |n a |ockod trunk.
3omoono ||ko l|ndon has no nood to |ock anyth|ng proc|ous, oxcopt tor h|s br|dos. |o wou|d not undorstand tho madnoss ot pooror, moro
dosporato p|acos.
°lot much,' l say. And l to|gn |gnoranco as ho bog|ns to to|| mo about Europo, a towor c|ock ca||od 3|g 3on (l romombor tho |mago ot |t g|ow|ng at
tw|||ght am|dst a london crowd), and oxt|nct t|am|ngos whoso nocks woro as |ong as tho|r |ogs.
°loso taught mo about most ot thoso th|ngs,' ho adm|ts, and thon, just as tho sun||ght |s awakon|ng tho rods and groons ot tho gardon, ho |ooks
away trom mo.
°You may go back |ns|do,' ho says. °An attondant w||| bo wa|t|ng to tako you up.' ||s vo|co catchos at tho ond, and l know that now |s not tho t|mo to
s|t and protond to adoro h|m. l t|nd my way back to tho door, |oav|ng h|m to h|s now day so ho may th|nk ot loso, whoso sunr|sos aro numborod.
ln tho days to to||ow, l|ndon baro|y acknow|odgos h|s br|dos. Our bodroom doors aro un|ockod and wo'ro most|y |ott to ourso|vos, a||owod to
wandor about tho t|oor, wh|ch has |ts own ||brary and s|tt|ng room, but not much o|so. Wo aron't porm|ttod to uso tho o|ovator un|oss ho |nv|tos us to
d|nnor, wh|ch happons raro|y, usua||y our moa|s aro brought on trays to our bodrooms. l spond a |ot ot t|mo |n an ovorstuttod cha|r |n tho ||brary,
thumb|ng through br||||ant pagos ot t|owors that no |ongor grow |n th|s wor|d, and somo that can st||| bo tound |n othor parts ot tho country. l oducato
myso|t on tho po|ar |co caps, vapor|zod |ong ago by wartaro, and an oxp|oror namod Chr|stophor Co|umbus who provod tho oarth was round. ln my
pr|son l |oso myso|t |n tho h|story ot a troo and bound|oss wor|d that's |ong doad.
l don't soo my s|stor w|vos otton. 3omot|mos 1onna w||| tako a couch bos|do mo and |ook up trom hor novo| to ask mo what l'm road|ng. |or vo|co
|s t|m|d, and whon l |ook at hor, sho t||nchos ||ko l m|ght h|t hor. 3ut bonoath that t|morousnoss thoro's somoth|ng moro, tho roma|ns ot a brokon
porson who had onco boon assurod, strong, bravo. |or oyos aro otton b|oary and m|st|ng w|th toars.
Our convorsat|ons aro moasurod and br|ot, novor moro than a sontonco or two.
Coc||y comp|a|ns that tho orphanago d|dn't do a good job toach|ng hor to road. 3ho'|| s|t stud|ous|y at ono ot tho tab|os w|th a book and somot|mos
spo|| a word out |oud, wa|t|ng |mpat|ont|y tor mo to pronounco |t and somot|mos to|| hor what |t moans. 1hough sho |s on|y th|rtoon, hor tavor|to roads
aro a|| about ch||db|rth and prognancy.
3ut tor a|| hor shortcom|ngs, Coc||y |s somoth|ng ot a mus|ca| prod|gy. l can hoar hor somot|mos as sho p|ays tho koyboard |n tho s|tt|ng room. 1ho
t|rst t|mo, l was drawn to tho throsho|d wo|| past m|dn|ght. 1horo sho sat, th|s t|ny body w|th t|amo rod ha|r, trappod |n a ho|ogram ot t|urry|ng snow
that was projoctod trom somowhoro on tho koyboard. 3ut Coc||y, who |s so dazz|od by tho ta|so g|amour ot th|s mans|on, p|ayod w|th hor oyos
c|osod. lost |n hor concorto, sho was not my ||tt|o s|stor w|to |n a w|ngod dross, or tho samo g|r| who throws s||vorwaro at tho attondants who cross
hor on tho wrong day, but rathor somo othorwor|d|y croaturo. 1horo was no t|ck|ng t|mo bomb |ns|do ot hor-no |nd|cat|on ot th|s horr|b|o th|ng that
w||| k||| hor |n a tow short yoars.
3ho'|| p|ay moro c|ums||y |n tho attornoons, tapp|ng tho koys |n nonsons|ca| pattorns to amuso horso|t. 1ho koys won't work un|oss ono ot tho
hundrods ot ho|ogram s||dos |s |nsortod |nto tho koyboard to accompany tho mus|c: rush|ng r|vors, a sky tu|| ot g||ttor|ng t|rot||os, spood|ng
ra|nbows. l havo novor soon hor uso tho samo ho|ogram tw|co, and yot sho scarco|y acknow|odgos any ot thom.
1horo's no shortago ot |||us|ons |n tho s|tt|ng room.
1ho to|ov|s|on can, at tho pross ot a button, s|mu|ato a sk| s|opo or an |co r|nk or a racotrack. 1horo aro romotos, stoor|ng whoo|s, sk|s, and a who|o
assortmont ot contro|-|ors to rop|aco tho actua| wor|d. l wondor |t my now husband grow up |n th|s way-trappod w|th|n th|s spraw||ng mans|on, w|th
on|y |||us|ons to toach h|m about tho wor|d. Onco whon l was a|ono, l tr|od my hand at t|sh|ng, and, un||ko w|th tho roa| th|ng, l oxco||od at |t.
ln my abundanco ot t|mo a|ono, l'vo wandorod tho ont|ro |ongth ot tho w|vos' t|oor sovora| t|mos, trom loso's bodroom on ono tar ond ot tho ha||, to
tho ||brary on tho othor. l'vo |nspoctod tho vonts, wh|ch aro bo|tod to tho co|||ng, and tho |aundry chutos, wh|ch aro too sma|| to t|t anyth|ng |argor than
a sma|| |oad ot |aundry. lono ot tho w|ndows budgo, oxcopt |n loso's room, wh|ch |s a|ways occup|od by hor.
1ho t|rop|aco |n tho ||brary |s ont|ro|y tako, w|th a ho|ogram t|amo that makos crack||ng sounds but prov|dos no warmth. 1horo's no ch|mnoy, no way
tor tho a|r to roach tho sky.
And thoro's no sta|rcaso. lot ovon a |ockod omorgoncy ox|t. l'vo to|t a|ong tho wa||s, poorod boh|nd booksho|vos and undor turn|turo. And l wondor
|t tho w|vos' t|oor |s tho on|y part ot tho houso w|thout a sta|rcaso, and |t thoro's a t|ro and tho o|ovators stop work|ng, l|ndon's br|dos w||| bo burnod
to a cr|sp.
Wo'ro oasy to rop|aco, attor a||. |o d|dn't th|nk tw|co about tho ||vos ot tho othor g|r|s |n that van.
3ut that doosn't mako sonso. What about loso, w|th whom l|ndon |s so mad|y |n |ovo? lsn't hor ||to worth somoth|ng moro to h|m? Vaybo not.
Vaybo ovon t|rst w|vos, tavor|tos, aro d|sposab|o.
l try opon|ng tho o|ovator, but nono ot tho buttons w||| work tor mo w|thout a koy card. l try pry|ng |t opon w|th my t|ngors, and thon w|th tho too ot my
shoo, protond|ng that thoro's a t|ro, protond|ng my ||to doponds on an |mmod|ato oscapo. 1ho door doosn't budgo. l soarch my bodroom tor a too|
that can ho|p mo, and l t|nd an umbro||a hang|ng |n my c|osot, and l try that. l'm ab|o to wodgo tho po|nt botwoon tho mota| doors, and thoy part just
s||ght|y, onough tor mo to t|t my shoo botwoon thom.
And thon-succoss!-thoy s||do opon.
lmmod|ato|y l'm b|astod w|th tho sta|o a|r ot tho o|ovator shatt, and tho darknoss that |ntons|t|os whon l |ook up or down. l study tho cab|os, w|th no
way to to|| whoro thoy bog|n or ond. l don't know how many t|oors aro abovo or bo|ow. l roach out and touch ono ot thom, got a t|rm gr|p on |t. l cou|d
try c||mb|ng |t, or just ho|d on to |t and s||do a|| tho way down. Evon |t l on|y got as tar as tho t|oor bo|ow mo, l m|ght bo ab|o to t|nd an opon w|ndow,
or a sta|rcaso.
lt's tho word mlgbt that makos mo hos|tato. 3ocauso l mlgbt not bo ab|o to opon tho o|ovator doors trom tho |ns|do. l mlgbt bo crushod to doath |t
tho car comos botoro l'm ab|o to oscapo.
°Contomp|at|ng su|c|do?' loso says. l t||nch, rotract my arm trom tho o|ovator shatt. Vy s|stor w|to stands a tow toot away, arms to|dod, |n hor w|spy
n|ghtgown. |or ha|r |s tous|od, hor sk|n pa|o, hor mouth an unnatura| cand|od rod, and sho's sm|||ng. °lt's a|| r|ght,' sho says. °l won't to|| on you. l
undorstand.'
1ho o|ovator doors s||do c|osod, w|thout mo.
°0o you?' l say.
°Vm,' sho says, gostur|ng tor my umbro||a. l hand |t to hor, and sho pops |t opon, tw|r|s |t onco ovor hor hoad.
°Whoro d|d you t|nd th|s?' sho asks.
°ln my c|osot.'
°l|ght,' sho says. °0|d you know you'ro not ovon supposod to opon thom |ns|do? 3ad |uck. ln tact, l|ndon |s vory suporst|t|ous.' 3ho c|osos tho
umbro||a, stud|os |t.
°And l|ndon has t|na| say on what's |n your bodroom, d|d you know that? Your c|othos, your shoos-th|s umbro||a. lt ho a||owod you to havo th|s,
what do you supposo that moans?'
°|o doosn't want mo to got ra|nod on,' l say, bog|nn|ng to undorstand.
3ho ra|sos hor oyos, sm||os at mo, tossos tho umbro||a |nto my hands. °Exact|y. And |t on|y ra|ns outs|do.'
Outs|do. l novor thought tho word cou|d mako my stomach t||p-t|op ||ko th|s. lt's ono ot tho sma|| troodoms l'vo had a|| my ||to, and now l'd do anyth|ng
to havo |t back. Vy gr|p on tho umbro||a t|ghtons. °3ut aro tho o|ovators tho on|y way outs|do?' l say.
°|orgot about tho o|ovators,' loso says. °Your husband |s your on|y way outs|do.'
°l don't undorstand. What |t thoro's a t|ro? Wou|dn't wo a|| bo k|||od?'
°W|vos aro an |nvostmont,' loso says. °|ousomastor vaughn pa|d good monoy tor you. ln tact, |ousomastor vaughn |s obsossod w|th gonot|cs,
and tor thoso oyos ot yours, l'm w||||ng to bot ho pa|d a ||tt|o oxtra. lt ho wants you to bo sato, thon t|ro, hurr|cano, t|da| wavo-doosn't mattor. You'ro
sato.'
l guoss th|s |s supposod to t|attor mo. 3ut |t on|y makos mo worry. lt l'm such an |nvostmont, |t's go|ng to bo that much hardor tor mo to |oavo
undotoctod.
loso |s |ook|ng woary, so l toss tho umbro||a |nto my room, and thon l ho|p hor |nto hor bod. lorma||y sho'|| t|ght tho attondants whon thoy to|| hor to
rost, but sho a||ows mo bocauso l novor try to torco any mod|c|no |nto hor. °Opon tho w|ndow,' sho murmurs, sott||ng |nto hor s||ky b|ankots. l do as
sho asks, and a coo| spr|ng broozo ro||s |n. 3ho broathos doop|y. °1hank you,' sho s|ghs.
l s|t on tho w|ndow |odgo, pross my hand aga|nst tho scroon. lt |ooks ||ko a portoct|y ord|nary scroon, ono that wou|d pop out ot |ts tramo |t pushod
hard onough. l cou|d jump, a|though |t's sovora| stor|os up-h|ghor than tho root ot my own houso, at |oast-but thoro aro no troos to roach tor. lt |sn't
worth tho attompt. 3ut st|||, l th|nk ot what loso sa|d whon sho tound mo at tho o|ovator. 3ho sa|d sho wou|dn't to|| on mo bocauso sho undorstood.
°loso?' l say. °0|d you ovor try to oscapo?'
°lt doosn't mattor,' sho says.
l th|nk ot tho ||tt|o g|r| |n tho photo, sm|||ng, so tu|| ot ||to. 3ho's boon horo a|| thoso yoars. Was sho brod to bo l|ndon's br|do? Or was sho onco
ros|stant to |t? l opon my mouth to ask, but sho's s|tt|ng up |n tho bod now, and sho says, °You'|| soo tho wor|d aga|n. l can to||. |o's go|ng to ta|| |n
|ovo w|th you. And |t you'd just ||ston to mo, you'd roa||zo you'ro go|ng to bo h|s tavor|to onco l'm doad.' 3ho mont|ons hor doath so casua||y. °|o'||
tako you anywhoro you want to go.'
°lot anywhoro,' l say. °lot homo.'
3ho sm||os, pats tho mattross bos|do hor |n |nv|tat|on.
l s|t bos|do hor, and sho gots up to knoo| boh|nd mo, and bog|ns woav|ng my ha|r |nto a bra|d. °1h|s |s your homo now,' sho says. °1ho moro you
ros|st-' sho tugs my ha|r tor omphas|s °-tho t|ghtor tho trap gots. 1horo.' 3ho takos a r|bbon that was drapod ovor hor hoadboard and t|os my
ha|r |n p|aco. 3ho craw|s across tho mattross so that sho's tac|ng mo, and sho strokos a w|sp ot ha|r away trom my oyos. °You |ook n|co w|th your
ha|r back. You havo groat chookbonos.'
||gh chookbonos, just ||ko hors. l can't |gnoro our rosomb|anco to oach othor: tho th|ck, wavy b|ond ha|r, tho port ch|n, sott noso. A|| that's m|ss|ng |n
hor aro tho hotorochromat|c oyos. 3ut thoro's ono othor d|ttoronco botwoon us, and |t's s|gn|t|cant. 3ho was ab|o to accopt th|s ||to, to |ovo our
husband. And |t l havo to d|o try|ng, l w||| got out ot horo.
1horo's no moro ta|k ot oscapo botwoon loso and mo attor that day. 3ho tavors mo ovor tho othor w|vos, who havo novor spokon w|th hor at a||.
1onna spoaks as ||tt|o as poss|b|o, and Coc||y has askod mo moro than onco why l bothor gott|ng to know l|ndon's dy|ng w|to. °3ho's go|ng to d|o,
and thon ho'|| tocus on us moro,' sho says, ||ko |t's somoth|ng to |ook torward to. lt d|sgusts mo that loso's ||to |s so moan|ng|oss to hor, but |t's not
vory d|ttoront trom tho th|ngs my brothor sa|d about tho orphan wo tound trozon to doath on our porch |ast w|ntor.
1oars wo||od |n my oyos whon l d|scovorod tho body, but my brothor sa|d wo shou|dn't ovon movo r|ght away, that |t cou|d bo a warn|ng to anyono
o|so try|ng to broak |nto our homo. °Wo d|d such a groat job w|th tho |ocks, thoy'|| d|o botoro thoy got |n,' ho sa|d. locoss|ty. 3urv|va|. lt was us or
thom. 0ays |ator, whon l suggostod wo bury tho body-a ||tt|o g|r| |n a throadbaro p|a|d coat-ho had mo ho|p h|m hau| |t to tho 0umpstor. °Your
prob|om |s that you'ro too omot|ona|,' ho sa|d. °And that's tho k|nd ot th|ng that'|| mako you an oasy targot.'
Wo||, maybo not th|s t|mo, lowan. Vaybo th|s t|mo bo|ng omot|ona| can ho|p, bocauso loso and l ta|k tor hours, and l ro||sh our convorsat|ons,
corta|n l can uso thom as an opportun|ty to |oarn ovoryth|ng about l|ndon and oarn h|s tavor.
3ut as tho days turn to wooks, l sonso a gonu|no tr|ondsh|p b|ossom|ng botwoon us, wh|ch shou|d bo tho |ast th|ng l want trom somoono who |s
dy|ng. 3t|||, l onjoy hor company. 3ho to||s mo about hor mothor and tathor, who woro t|rst gonorat|ons that d|od |n somo sort ot acc|dont whon sho
was young, thoy woro c|oso tr|onds ot l|ndon's tathor, wh|ch |s how sho camo to ||vo |n th|s mans|on and bocomo h|s br|do.
3ho to||s mo that l|ndon's mothor-|ousomastor vaughn's youngor, socond w|to-d|od |n ch||db|rth w|th l|ndon. And vaughn was so |mmorsod |n
h|s rosoarch, so obsossod w|th sav|ng h|s son's ||to trom tho start, that ho novor bothorod to tako on anothor w|to. |o m|ght havo boon r|d|cu|od tor
|t, loso says, |t ho woron't such a capab|o doctor and so |n |ovo w|th h|s work. |o owns a thr|v|ng hosp|ta| |n tho c|ty and |s ono ot tho aroa's
|oad|ng gonot|c rosoarchors. 3ho to||s mo that tho |ousomastor's t|rst son ||vod a tu|| twonty-t|vo yoars and was gono and bur|od by tho t|mo l|ndon
camo a|ong.
1h|s, l supposo, |s somoth|ng l havo |n common w|th my now husband. 3otoro my brothor and l woro born, my paronts had two ch||dron, anothor sot
ot tw|ns, who woro born b||nd and unab|o to spoak. 1ho|r ||mbs woro ma|tormod and thoy d|dn't ||vo past t|vo yoars. Gonot|c abnorma||t|os ||ko th|s
aro raro, g|von tho portoct|on ot tho t|rst gonorat|ons, but thoy do happon. 1hoy'ro ca||od ma|tormod. lt sooms my paronts woro |ncapab|o ot mak|ng
ch||dron w|thout gonot|c odd|t|os, though now l havo causo to bo gratotu| tor my hotorochrom|a. lt may havo sparod mo a gunshot to tho bra|n |n tho
back ot that van.
loso and l ta|k about happ|or th|ngs too, ||ko chorry b|ossom troos. l ovon como to trust hor onough to to|| hor about my tathor's at|as and my
d|sappo|ntmont at hav|ng m|ssod tho wor|d |n |ts pr|mo. As sho bra|ds my ha|r, sho to||s mo that |t sho cou|d havo ||vod anywhoro |n tho wor|d, sho
wou|d havo choson lnd|a. 3ho wou|d havo worn sar|s and pos|t|vo|y covorod horso|t |n honna, and sho wou|d havo paradod tho stroots on an
o|ophant shroudod |n jowo|s.
l pa|nt hor na||s p|nk, and sho arrangos novo|ty jowo|s on my torohoad trom a st|ckor shoot.
1hon ono attornoon, as wo'ro |y|ng bos|do oach othor on tho bod, stutt|ng ourso|vos w|th co|ortu| cand|os, l b|urt out, °|ow can you stand |t, loso?'
3ho turns hor hoad on tho p|||ow to taco mo. |or tonguo |s doop purp|o. °What?'
°0oosn't |t bothor you that ho has romarr|od, wh||o you'ro st||| a||vo?'
3ho sm||os, |ooks at tho co|||ng, and t|dd|os w|th a wrappor. °l askod h|m to. l conv|ncod h|m |t w||| bo oas|or, w|th now w|vos a|roady |n tho houso.'
3ho c|osos hor oyos and yawns. °3os|dos, ho was start|ng to got toasod |n tho soc|a| c|rc|os. Vost |ouso Govornors havo at |oast throo w|vos,
somot|mos sovon-ono tor ovory day ot tho wook.' lt's absurd onough that sho |aughs a ||tt|o, sup-prossos a cough. °3ut not l|ndon. |ousomastor
vaughn has boon try|ng to ta|k h|m |nto |t tor yoars, and ho has a|ways rotusod. ||na||y ho agrood to |t, as |ong as ho had a cho|co |n tho so|oct|on.
|o d|dn't ovon havo a cho|co w|th mo.'
|or vo|co |s coo|, and sho |s so b|zarro|y sorono. lt worr|os mo that l'vo bocomo hor tavor|to now br|do s|mp|y tor my b|ond ha|r, my vaguo
rosomb|anco to hor. 3ho |s such a br||||ant, wo||-road g|r|, and l wondor |t sho has t|gurod out that l'|| novor |ovo l|ndon, ospoc|a||y not |n tho way sho
doos, and that ho'|| novor |ovo anyono tho way ho |ovos hor. l wondor |t sho roa||zos, dosp|to a|| hor ottorts to tra|n mo, that l can novor tako hor
p|aco.
°l want to p|ay a gamo,' Coc||y says.
1onna doosn't |ook up trom hor novo|. 3ho's strown |angu|d|y on tho couch, w|th hor |ogs dang||ng ovor tho armrost. °lo shortago ot thoso.'
°l don't moan tho koyboard or v|rtua| sk||ng,' Coc||y |ns|sts. °l moan a gomo gamo.' 3ho |ooks to mo tor ho|p, but tho on|y gamo l know |s tho ono
whoro my brothor and l sot no|so traps |n tho k|tchon and try to surv|vo tho n|ght |ntact. And whon l was takon by Gathorors, l sort ot |ost.
l'm cur|od up on tho w|ndow |odgo |n tho s|tt|ng room-a room that |s t|||od w|th v|rtua| sports gamos and a koyboard moant to |m|tato a symphony
orchos-tra-and l havo boon star|ng at tho orango troo b|ossoms that t|uttor ||ko thousands ot t|ny wh|to-w|ngod doscond|ng b|rds. lowan wou|dn't
ovon bo||ovo thom, tho ||to thoy |mp|y, tho hoa|th and boauty. Vanhattan |s tu|| ot gasp|ng, shr|vo|od woods that grow trom tho aspha|t.
lotr|gorator-smo|||ng carnat|ons tor sa|o that aro moro sc|onco than t|owor.
°0on't you know any gamos?' Coc||y |s ask|ng mo d|roct|y now. l too| hor brown oyos star|ng at mo.
Wo||. 1horo was ono gamo, w|th papor cups and str|ng, and tho ||tt|o g|r| who ||vod across tho a||oyway. l opon my mouth, proparod to oxp|a|n |t, but
chango my m|nd.
l don't want to wh|spor my socrots |nto a papor cup to sharo w|th my s|stor w|vos. loa||y l on|y havo ono socrot that's worth anyth|ng, and that's my
p|an to oscapo.
°Wo cou|d p|ay v|rtua| t|sh|ng,' l say. l can too| Coc||y's |nd|gnat|on w|thout ovon |ook|ng at hor.
°1horo has to bo somoth|ng roa| wo cou|d do,' sho says. °1horo bos to bo.' 3ho pacos out ot tho room, and l hoar hor shutt||ng around down tho ha||.
°loor k|d,' 1onna says, and ro||s hor oyos toward mo tor a momont. 1hon sho roturns to hor book. °3ho doosn't ovon undorstand what k|nd ot p|aco
th|s |s.'
lt happons at noon. Gabr|o| br|ngs my |unch to mo |n tho ||brary-wh|ch has bocomo my now tavor|to p|aco-and stops to |ook ovor my shou|dor
whon ho soos tho skotch ot a boat on tho pago.
°What aro you road|ng?' ho asks.
°A h|story book,' l say. °1h|s ono oxp|oror provod tho wor|d was round by assomb||ng a toam and sa|||ng a|| tho way around |t on throo boats.'
°1ho Nloo, Ploto, and 5ooto Vorlo,' ho says.
°You know about wor|d h|story?' l ask.
°l know about boats,' ho says, and s|ts boh|nd mo on tho arm ot tho ovorstuttod cha|r and po|nts to tho |mago.
°1h|s ono horo |s a caravo|.' |o bog|ns doscr|b|ng |ts structuro to mo-tho tr|o ot masts, tho |atoon r|gg|ng.
A|| l tru|y undorstand trom th|s |s that tho sty|o was 3pan|sh. 3ut l don't |ntorrupt h|m. l can soo tho |ntons|ty |n h|s b|uo oyos, that ho's takon a br|ot
rosp|to trom tho su||on work ot cook|ng tor and cator|ng to l|ndon's br|dos, that ho has a pass|on tor somoth|ng.
3|tt|ng |n h|s shadow |n tho ovorstuttod cha|r, l actua||y too| a sm||o com|ng on.
1hat's whon Coc||y's domost|c, E||o, comos burst|ng |nto tho room. °7boro you aro,' sho cr|os at Gabr|o|. °You nood to hurry to tho k|tchon and br|ng
lady loso somoth|ng tor hor cough.'
l can hoar hor cough|ng now, at tho ond ot tho |ong ha||way. lt's bocomo such a t|xturo |n th|s p|aco that l don't a|ways not|co |t. Gabr|o| hurr|os to h|s
toot, and l c|oso tho book, mako a mot|on to to||ow h|m out. °0on't,' ho says, stopp|ng mo at tho doorway. °lt's bottor |t you stay |n horo unt|| th|s
passos.'
3ut past h|s shou|dor l can soo an unusua| chaos.
0omost|cs aro scramb||ng past ono anothor. ||rst gonorat|on attondants aro com|ng out ot tho o|ovator carry|ng a|| sorts ot bott|os, and a mach|no
that rosomb|os tho hum|d|t|or my paronts put |n my bodroom tho w|ntor l caught pnoumon|a. 3ut thoro's an a|r ot tut|||ty about |t a||, and Gabr|o|
sonsos |t too. l can to|| by tho |ook |n h|s oyos.
°3tay horo,' ho says. 3ut ot courso l to||ow h|m |nto tho ha||way. And |t's so tr|ghton|ng out horo that l want to to||ow h|m |nto tho o|ovator, wh|ch
probab|y |sn't a||owod, but l'm boyond car|ng about that. 1ho domost|cs troozo |n p|aco, tho attondants aro |ott ho|d|ng b|ankots and p|||s and
broath|ng mach|nos. l|ndon |s knoo||ng by loso's bod w|th h|s taco bur|od |n tho mattross.
|o's ho|d|ng tho |ong wh|to stom ot hor arm, and l to||ow |t up to hor body, wh|ch doosn't movo and doosn't broatho. |or gown, hor taco, |s
sp|attorod w|th b|ood sho must havo boon cough|ng up as sho mado thoso horr|b|o sounds. 3ut now an oor|o s||onco t|||s tho t|oor. lt's tho s||onco l
|mag|no |n tho rost ot tho wor|d, tho s||onco ot an ond|oss ocoan and un|nhab|tab|o |s|ands, a s||onco that can bo soon trom spaco.
Coc||y and 1onna como out ot tho|r bodrooms, and |t's so qu|ot that wo hoar tho strang|od no|so |n l|ndon's throat. °Go away,' ho murmurs. 1hon
|oudor, °Go away!'
lt's not unt|| ho smashos a vaso aga|nst tho wa|| that wo a|| scattor. l ond up on tho o|ovator w|th Gabr|o|, and whon tho doors c|oso boh|nd us, l'm
gratotu|.
1horo's noth|ng tor mo to do but to||ow Gabr|o| to tho k|tchon, l'd got |ost go|ng anywhoro o|so. l s|t on a countor, n|bb||ng on grapos wh||o tho cooks
and tho sorvors ta|k as thoy go about tho|r work. Gabr|o| |oans aga|nst tho countor bos|do mo, po||sh|ng s||vorwaro. °l know you woro tond ot loso,'
ho wh|spors to mo, °but you won't t|nd much |ovo tor hor down horo. 3ho gavo tho statt a hard t|mo.'
As |t |n att|rmat|on, tho hoad cook shr|oks, °Vy soup |sn't hot onough! Oh, now |t's too hot!' and makos dramat|c sp|tt|ng no|sos as a tow othors
burst |nto a r|ot ot |aughtor.
l won't dony that th|s |s pa|ntu| to hoar. l havo w|tnossod loso's wrath on tho ho|p, but sho novor onco ra|sod hor vo|co to mo. |oro |n th|s p|aco ot
syr|ngos, su||on Govornors, and |oom|ng |ousomastors, sho has boon my on|y tr|ond.
l say noth|ng, though. Our bond was a pr|vato th|ng, and nono ot thoso poop|o, |augh|ng at hor oxponso, wou|d undorstand anyway. l bog|n to p|ck
grapos trom tho v|no and turn thom |n my t|ngors ono at a t|mo botoro sott|ng thom back |nto tho bow|. Gabr|o| stoa|s g|ancos at mo as ho works,
and tor a wh||o |t's ||ko that, w|th tho rost ot tho k|tchon chattor|ng |oud|y, a m||||on m||os away. And upsta|rs, loso |s doad.
°3ho a|ways had thoso cand|os,' l say w|sttu||y. °1hoy mako your tonguo chango co|ors.'
°1hoy'ro ca||od 1uno 3oans,' Gabr|o| says.
°Aro thoro moro ot thom?'
°3uro. 1ons,' ho says. °3ho'd havo mo ordor thom by tho crato. |oro . . .' |o |oads mo to a pantry botwoon tho bu||t-|n rotr|gorator and tho wa|| ot
stovos. lns|do thoro aro woodon cratos ovort|ow|ng w|th tho sh|mmor|ng wrappors |n ovory co|or. l can smo|| tho|r sugar, tho art|t|c|a| dyos. 3ho
ordorod thom, and horo thoy wa|t to bo pourod |nto hor crysta| bow| and savorod.
Vy |ong|ng must bo a|| ovor my taco, bocauso Gabr|o| |s putt|ng somo ot thom |nto a papor bag tor mo. °|avo a|| you want. 1hoy'|| on|y go to wasto.'
°1hank you,' l say.
°|oy, you, b|ond|o,' tho hoad cook ca||s to mo. 3ho's a t|rst gonorat|on w|th groasy ha|r t|od |nto a gray|ng bun.
°3hou|dn't you got upsta|rs botoro your husband catchos you down horo?'
°lo,' l say. °|o won't know l'm gono. |o doosn't not|co mo.'
°|o not|cos you,' Gabr|o| says. l |ook at h|m, unbo||ov|ng, but ho was turnod h|s b|uo oyos away trom mo.
Ono ot tho cooks opons tho door and tossos out a pot ot wator, bocauso tho s|nk |s |n uso by tho muttor|ng hoad chot. A gust ot co|d a|r pushos tho
ha|r trom my taco. l soo a t|ash ot b|uo sky and groon oarth, thon |t's gono.
1horo aro no koy cards, no |ocks. 3o th|s |s why tho w|vos aron't a||owod to |oavo tho|r t|oor, not ovory part ot tho mans|on |s moant to koop us
trappod.
°0o you got to go outs|do?' l ask Gabr|o| |n a |ow vo|co.
|o g|vos mo a ruotu| sm||o. °1ust to do yard work or tako |n do||vor|os. loth|ng torr|b|y oxc|t|ng.'
°What's out thoro?'
°Etorn|ty,' ho says, w|th a sma|| |augh. °Gardons. A go|t courso. Vaybo a tow othor th|ngs. l'vo novor boon |n chargo ot tho yard work, so l don't
know. l'vo novor soon tho ond ot |t.'
°A who|o wor|d ot troub|o |s what's out thoro tor you, b|ond|o,' tho hoad cook says. °Your p|aco |s up on that tr|||y t|oor ot yours, |oung|ng |n sat|n
shoots and pa|nt|ng your toona||s. low go on, botoro you got us a|| |n troub|o.'
°Como on,' Gabr|o| says. °l'|| tako you back up.'
3ack on tho w|vos' t|oor, loso's door |s shut, and a|| tho attondants and domost|cs havo gono. Coc||y |s s|tt|ng a|ono |n tho ha||way, p|ay|ng somo
sort ot gamo w|th yarn ontw|nod around hor t|ngors. 3ho was s|ng|ng to horso|t, but whon tho o|ovator doors opon, sho stops and watchos mo cross
to my room.
°What woro you do|ng w|th that attondant?' sho asks, onco Gabr|o| |s gono.
3ho hasn't soon tho papor bag ot cand|os, and l tuck |t |nto my n|ghtstand a|ong w|th my |vy |oat, wh|ch l'vo prossod botwoon tho pagos ot a
romanco novo| l took trom tho ||brary. 1horo aro so many books that l don't th|nk anyono w||| m|ss th|s ono.
l turn just as Coc||y appoars |n my doorway, wa|t|ng tor an answor. Wo'ro s|stor w|vos now, and whatovor that may moan |n othor mans|ons, l don't
too| as though l can trust hor. l a|so am not tond ot hor domand|ng tono, a|ways |mpat|ont, a|ways ask|ng quost|ons.
°l wasn't do|ng anyth|ng w|th h|m,' l say.
l s|t on my bod, and sho ra|sos hor oyobrows, porhaps wa|t|ng tor mo to ask hor to jo|n mo. 3|stor w|vos can't ontor ono anothor's bodrooms w|thout
porm|ss|on. lt's ono ot tho tow pr|vac|os l havo, and l won't ro||nqu|sh |t.
1horo's noth|ng to stop hor trom ta|k|ng, though.
°lady loso |s doad now,' sho says. °l|ndon |s troo to v|s|t us anyt|mo.'
°Whoro |s ho?' l can't ho|p but ask.
Coc||y oxam|nos tho yarn ontw|nod around hor t|ngors, |ook|ng d|sp|oasod w|th |t or tho s|tuat|on. °Oh, ho's |n hor bodroom. |o mado ovorybody
o|so |oavo. l knockod, but ho won't como out.'
l go to my dross|ng tab|o and bog|n to brush my ha|r.
l'm try|ng to |ook busy so that l don't havo to mako convorsat|on, and thoro |sn't much o|so to do |n th|s room but staro at tho wa||. Coc||y ||ngors tor a
wh||o |n tho doorway, |d|y tw|st|ng |n ways that mako hor sk|rt r|pp|o.
°l d|dn't to|| our husband that you wont ott w|th that attondant,' sho says. °l cou|d havo, but l d|dn't.'
And thon sho sk|ps away, a tra|| ot br|ght rod yarn to||ow|ng attor hor.
1hat n|ght, l|ndon comos to my bodroom.
°lh|no?' ho says sott|y, just a shadow |n my doorway.
lt's |ato and l havo boon |y|ng a|ono |n tho darknoss tor hours, stoo||ng myso|t aga|nst what l know trom tho start wou|d bo a |ong awtu| n|ght. 1hough
sho's gono, l havo boon ||ston|ng tor tho sound ot loso at tho ond ot tho ha||, yo|||ng at an attondant, ca|||ng tor mo to como brush hor ha|r and ta|k to
hor about tho wor|d. 1ho s||onco |s maddon|ng, and porhaps that's why, rathor than to|gn|ng s|oop or dony|ng h|m, l opon tho shoots tor l|ndon.
|o c|osos tho door and c||mbs |nto my bod. l too| h|s coo|, s|ondor t|ngors oncaso my chooks as ho sott|os bos|do mo. |o advancos tor what w||| bo
my t|rst k|ss, but h|s ||ps ta||. |o sobs, and l too| tho hoat ot h|s sk|n and h|s broath. °loso,' ho says. lt |s a chokod, tr|ghtonod sound.
|o bur|os h|s taco |n my shou|dor and |osos h|mso|t |n toars.
l undorstand gr|ot. Attor my paronts' doath, many ot my n|ghts rosomb|od th|s. 3o just th|s onco, l won't ros|st h|m. l a||ow h|m to t|nd sanctuary |n my
bod, and l |ot h|m c||ng to mo as tho worst ot |t comos up.
||s scroams aro mutt|od by my n|ghtgown. 1orr|b|o sounds. l too| thom v|brat|ng doop |n my bonos. 1h|s goos on tor what too|s ||ko hours, and thon
h|s broath|ng bocomos raggod but ovon, h|s gr|p on my n|ghtgown oasos, and l know ho's as|oop.
l spond tho roma|ndor ot tho n|ght dr|tt|ng |n and out ot a t|ttu| s|oop ot my own. l droam ot gunshots and gray coats and loso's mouth chang|ng
co|or. Evontua||y l ta|| |nto a moro substant|a| s|oop, and whon tho turn|ng ot tho doorknob awakons mo, |t's morn|ng. 3ott ||ght and tho sounds ot
oar|y b|rds t||| tho room.
Gabr|o| comos |n, ho|d|ng my usua| broaktast tray, and stops |n h|s tracks whon ho soos l|ndon |n my bod.
3omot|mo |n tho n|ght. l|ndon turnod away trom mo, and ho |s now snor|ng sott|y w|th h|s arm dang||ng ovor tho mattross's odgo. l s||ont|y catch
Gabr|o|'s oyos and br|ng a t|ngor to my ||ps. 1hon w|th tho samo t|ngor l po|nt to my dross|ng tab|o.
lt's |mposs|b|o to road Gabr|o|'s oxpross|on as ho sots my broaktast whoro l'vo |nd|catod, ho somohow |ooks as woundod as tho day whon ho was
||mp|ng and bru|sod.
l'm not suro what's caus|ng h|m to |ook that way unt|| l |mag|no how th|s must soom to h|m. loso |s doad not ovon a day and l'vo a|roady rop|acod
hor. 3ut what doos that mattor to h|m? |o sa|d h|mso|t nono ot tho attondants roa||y ||kod loso anyway.
l mouth a s||ont thank-you tor tho broaktast, and ho nods and |oavos. lator, porhaps whon ho soos mo |n tho ||brary, l'|| oxp|a|n what roa||y
happonod. loso's doath |s start|ng to s|nk |n, and l havo a too||ng that vory soon l'|| nood somoono l can to ta|k to.
l'm carotu| about gott|ng out ot bod. 3ost to |ot l|ndon s|oop. |o's had such a rough n|ght, and l'vo had bottor onos myso|t. l qu|ot|y s||do tho drawor
ot my n|ghtstand opon and rotr|ovo ono ot tho 1uno 3oans trom tho papor bag and hoad to tho w|ndow. lt st||| won't opon, but tho |odgo |s w|do
onough to bo usod as a soat.
l s|t and watch tho gardon as l suck on tho candy, wh|ch |s as groon as tho mowod |awn bonoath my w|ndow. |rom horo l havo a portoct v|ow ot tho
poo|, and l soo somoono |n an attondant un|torm cutt|ng |nto tho wator w|th a |ong not. 1ho wator catchos tho sun||ght and broaks |nto d|amond
shapos. l th|nk ot tho ocoan that can bo soon a|ong tho p|ors |n low York. long ago thoro usod to bo boachos thoro, but now thoro aro concroto
s|abs that stop whoro tho ocoan bog|ns. You can put t|vo do||ars |n a rusty to|oscopo and soo a|| tho way to tho 3tatuo ot l|borty or ono ot tho g|tt
shop |s|ands boam|ng w|th br|ght ||ghts and koy cha|ns and photo opportun|t|os. You can tako a doub|o-dock torry a|ong tho p|or wh||o a tour gu|do
ta|ks about a|| tho changos to tho c|tyscapo ovor tho contur|os. You can s||p bonoath tho ra|||ng, tako ott your shoo, and st|ck your baro toot |nto tho
b|oary wator that's r|po w|th sa|t, and t|sh that aron't sato to oat-t|shormon catch thom tor sport and throw thom back.
l havo a|ways boon tasc|natod by tho ocoan, to d|p a ||mb bonoath |ts surtaco and know that l'm touch|ng otorn|ty, that |t goos on torovor unt|| |t
bog|ns horo aga|n.
3omowhoro bonoath |t ||o tho ru|ns ot co|ortu| 1apan, and loso's tavor|to, lnd|a, tho nat|ons that cou|d not surv|vo.
1h|s |ono cont|nont |s a|| that's |ott, and tho darknoss ot tho wator |s so mystor|ous, so a||ur|ng, that l t|nd th|s br|ght poo| wator to bo too tr|vo|ous.
C|oan and spark||ng and sato. l wondor |t l|ndon has ovor touchod tho ocoan. l wondor |t ho knows that th|s co|ortu| parad|so |s a ||o.
0|d loso ovor |oavo th|s p|aco? 3ho ta|kod about tho wor|d as though sho'd soon |t tor horso|t, but how much tarthor than tho orango grovos d|d
sho go? l hopo that now sho's somop|aco w|th thr|v|ng |s|ands and cont|nonts, w|th p|onty ot |anguagos to |oarn and o|ophants to r|do.
°Good-byo,' l wh|spor, turn|ng tho candy around w|th my tonguo. 1ho tasto |s ||ko popporm|nt. l hopo sho has p|onty ot 1uno 3oans, too.
1horo's a gasp trom tho bod, and l|ndon t||ps onto h|s back, proppod up by h|s o|bows. ||s cur|s aro d|shovo|od, h|s oyos putty and contusod. |or
a momont wo |ook at oach othor, and l can soo h|m strugg||ng to tocus. |o |ooks so tar away that l wondor |t ho's st||| as|oop. ln tho n|ght thoro woro
t|mos whon ho oponod h|s oyos w|do and |ookod at mo, and thon ho'd dr|tt ott aga|n, muttor|ng about prun|ng shoars and tho dangor ot boos.
low thoro's a woak sm||o com|ng to h|s ||ps. °loso?' ho croaks.
3ut thon ho must wako a b|t moro, bocauso ho |ooks dovastatod. l staro out tho w|ndow, unsuro what to do w|th myso|t. A part ot mo too|s sorry tor
h|m, but strongor than my p|ty |s my hatrod. |or th|s p|aco, tor tho gunshots that haunt my droams. Why shou|d l conso|o h|m, s|mp|y bocauso l havo
h|s doad w|to's b|ond ha|r?
l'vo |ost tho poop|o l |ovo too. Who |s thoro to conso|o mo?
Attor a |ong pauso ho says, °Your mouth |s groon.'
|o s|ts up. °Whoro d|d you got tho 1uno 3oans?' ho asks.
l can't to|| h|m tho truth. l don't want to r|sk gott|ng Gabr|o| |nto troub|o aga|n. °loso gavo thom to mo. 1ho othor day, trom tho bow| |n hor room.'
°3ho was tond ot you,' ho says.
l don't want to d|scuss loso w|th h|m. 1ho n|ght |s ovor, and l won't bo h|s so|aco any |ongor. ln tho n|ght whon wo woro both vu|norab|o, l was moro
torg|v|ng, but now |n tho day||ght ovoryth|ng |s c|oar aga|n. l'm st||| h|s pr|sonor.
3ut l can't bo comp|oto|y co|d. l can't |ot my contompt show |t ho's ovor to trust mo. °0o you sw|m?' l ask.
°lo,' ho says. °You ||ko tho wator?'
Whon l was a ch||d, sato |n my paronts' caro, l wou|d sw|m |n tho |ndoor poo| at tho |oca| gym, d|v|ng tor r|ngs and try|ng to bost my brothor |n
somorsau|t compot|t|ons. lt's boon yoars s|nco l |ast wont, 1ho wor|d has bocomo too dangorous s|nco thon. Attor tho c|ty's on|y rosoarch |ab was
bombod, dostroy|ng jobs and hopo tor tho ant|doto |n ono to|| swoop, th|ngs dotor|oratod rap|d|y. 1horo was onco a t|mo whon sc|onco was
opt|m|st|c about an ant|doto. 3ut yoars turnod to docados, and now gonorat|ons aro st||| dy|ng. And hopo, ||ko a|| ot us, |s dy|ng tast.
°A ||tt|o,' l say.
°l'|| havo to show you tho poo|, thon,' l|ndon says.
°You'vo novor oxpor|oncod anyth|ng ||ko th|s ono.'
1ho poo| doosn't |ook vory spoc|a| trom horo, but l th|nk ot tho ottocts tho bath soaps havo on my sk|n, and tho g||ttor that surroundod Coc||y's dross
w|thout ta|||ng, and l undorstand that not ovoryth|ng |n l|ndon Ashby's wor|d |s as |t sooms.
°l'd ||ko that,' l say. 1h|s |s tho truth. l wou|d vory much ||ko to bo out thoro whoro tho attondant |s sk|m-m|ng tho wator. lt's not troodom, but l bot |t's
c|oso onough that l'd bo ab|o to protond.
|o's st||| watch|ng mo, though l'm act|ng |ntorostod |n tho poo|.
°Wou|d |t bo ask|ng too much,' ho says, °tor you to como s|t w|th mo tor a wh||o?'
Yos. Yos, |t wou|d bo too much. lt's too much that l'm horo at a||. l wondor |t l|ndon |s awaro ot tho unta|r powor ho has ovor mo. lt l oxpross ovon a
tract|on ot my d|sgust, l'|| novor |oavo th|s t|oor aga|n |n my ||to. l havo no cho|co but to ob||go.
l t|nd a comtortab|o |n-botwoon by carry|ng my broaktast tray to tho bod. l sot |t botwoon us, and l s|t cross-|oggod botoro h|m. °3roaktast camo |n
wh||o you woro as|oop,' l say. °You shou|d try to oat somoth|ng.' l ||tt tho ||d ovor tho tood, and thoro aro watt|os dottod w|th trosh b|uoborr|os, tar
b|uor than tho onos |n tho grocory storos back homo. lowan wou|d say not to trust anyth|ng so br|ght. l wondor |t thoso borr|os woro grown |n ono ot
tho many gardons, |t th|s |s what tru|t usod to |ook ||ko botoro |t startod bo|ng harvostod |n chom|ca| so||.
l|ndon p|cks up a watt|o |n h|s hand and stud|os |t.
l know that |ook |n h|s oyos. Whon my paronts d|od, l starod at my moa|s tho samo way. l|ko tood was pasto, ||ko thoro was no po|nt to |t. 3otoro l
can stop myso|t, l p|ck up a b|uoborry and br|ng |t to h|s ||ps. l just can't stand to bo rom|ndod ot that p|t|tu| sadnoss.
|o |ooks surpr|sod, but ho oats |t, sm||os a ||tt|o.
l br|ng h|m anothor b|uoborry, and th|s t|mo ho puts h|s hand on my wr|st. lt |sn't a torcotu| gr|p, ||ko l'd oxpoctod. lt's tonuous, and |t |asts on|y as |ong
as |t takos h|m to swa||ow tho b|uoborry |n h|s mouth. 1hon ho c|oars h|s throat.
Wo'vo boon marr|od tor noar|y a month, but th|s |s tho t|rst t|mo s|nco our wodd|ng that l'vo boon ab|o to |ook at h|m. lorhaps |t's tho gr|ot, tho p|nk
swo||on sk|n around h|s oyos that makos h|m soom harm|oss. Evon k|nd.
°1horo. 1hat wasn't so bad, was |t?' l say, and tako a b|uoborry tor myso|t. lt tastos swootor than tho onos l'm usod to. l tako tho watt|o out ot h|s
hand and broak |t |n ha|t-a p|oco tor oach ot us.
|o oats, tak|ng sma|| b|tos and swa||ow|ng ||ko |t's pa|ntu|. lt's ||ko that tor a wh||o, w|th on|y tho sound ot tho b|rds outs|do and us chow|ng.
Whon tho p|ato |s c|oanod, l hand h|m tho g|ass ot orango ju|co. |o takos |t |n tho numb way ho's takon tho rost ot tho moa|, gu|p|ng mothod|ca||y,
h|s hoavy oyo|ashos po|ntod down. A|| th|s sugar w||| bo good tor h|m, l th|nk.
l shou|dn't caro how ho too|s. 3ut |t w||| bo good tor h|m.
°lh|no?' 1horo's a knock at my door. lt's Coc||y. °Aro you up? What's th|s word? A-V-l-l-O-C-E-l-1-E-3-l-3.'
°Amn|ocontos|s,' l ca|| back, pronounc|ng |t tor hor.
°Oh. 0|d you know that's how thoy tost bab|os tor dotocts?' sho says.
l do know. Vy paronts workod |n a |aboratory that ana|yzod ovoryth|ng about totusos and nowborns.
°1hat's n|co,' l say.
°Como out,' sho says. °1horo's a rob|n's nost outs|do my w|ndow. l want to show you. 1ho oggs aro roa||y protty!' 3ho's raro|y |ntorostod |n soo|ng
mo, but l'vo not|cod sho doosn't ||ko whon doors aro c|osod to hor.
°Attor l got drossod,' l say, and ||ston tor tho s||onco that moans sho's |ott. l p|ck up tho tray and br|ng |t to my dross|ng tab|o, wondor|ng how |ong
l|ndon |s go|ng to stay. l busy myso|t by brush|ng my ha|r, taston|ng |t back w|th c||ps. l opon my mouth and soo that tho groon |s gono trom my
tonguo.
l|ndon |oans back on h|s o|bow, p|ck|ng at a stray throad on h|s cutt and |ook|ng pons|vo. Attor a wh||o ho gots up. °l'|| bo suro somoono comos tor
tho tray,' ho says, and |oavos.
l tako a warm bath, soak|ng |n tho |ayor ot p|nk toam that t|oats on tho wator. l'vo gotton usod to tho crack||ng sonsat|on tho bubb|os |oavo on my
sk|n. l dry my ha|r and dross |n joans, and a swoator that too|s ||ko hoavon to touch. A|| 0o|rdro's work. l am a|ways sh|mmor|ng |n tho th|ngs sho
makos mo. l roam tho ha||way tor a wh||o, oxpoct|ng Coc||y to t|nd mo and |oad mo to hor b|rd's nost, but sho's nowhoro to bo tound.
°Govornor l|ndon took hor out to ono ot tho gardons,'
1onna says whon l t|nd hor, thumb|ng through tho cata|og cards |n tho ||brary. |or vo|co sounds c|oaror today, |oss su||on. 3ho ovon |ooks at mo
attor sho spoaks, pursos hor ||ps ||ko sho's doc|d|ng whothor to say moro. 1hon sho |ooks back to tho cards.
°Why do you ca|| h|m Govornor l|ndon?' l ask hor. 0ur|ng our wodd|ng d|nnor |ousomastor vaughn oxp|a|nod to us that ho was to bo addrossod
as |ousomastor, bocauso ho was tho h|ghost author|ty |n tho houso. 3ut wo woro oxpoctod to ca|| our husband by h|s g|von namo as a s|gn ot
tam|||ar|ty.
°3ocauso l hato h|m,' sho says.
1horo's no ma||co |n tho words, no dramat|c outburst, but somoth|ng |n hor gray oyos says sho moans |t. l |ook around us to bo suro nobody hoard
hor. 1ho room |s ompty.
°l undorstand,' l say. °3ut maybo |t'|| bo oas|or to humor h|m. Vaybo wo'|| got moro troodom.'
°l won't do |t,' sho says. °l don't caro about troodom now. l don't caro |t l d|o horo.'
3ho |ooks at mo, and l can soo tho sovor|ty ot tho bags undor hor oyos. |or chooks aro ho||ow and sharp. A tow wooks ago |n hor wodd|ng dross
sho had boon tor|orn but protty. low sho sooms omac|atod and yoars o|dor. 1ho smo|| on hor |s ||ko c|nnamon bath soap and vom|t. 3ut sho's
woar|ng hor wodd|ng band, a symbo| that wo'ro s|stor w|vos, that wo sharo th|s ho|| just as wo sharod that |ong n|ghtmaro |n tho van. 3ho may bo
ono ot tho g|r|s who cur|od up bos|do mo |n tho b|acknoss. 3ho may bo tho ono who scroamod.
Whatovor sho was |ook|ng tor |n that card cata|og, sho t|nds |t. 3ho mouths tho numbor ot tho a|s|o, comm|t-t|ng |t to momory, and c|osos tho
drawor.
3ho wandors down ono ot tho a|s|os, and l to||ow hor as sho runs hor t|ngor a|ong tho sp|nos ot books, taps ono ot thom, oasos |t out ot |ts p|aco.
1ho book |s dusty, tho covor oaton away, tho pagos yo||ow and br|tt|o as sho t||ps through thom. A|| ot thoso books aro trom tho twonty-t|rst contury
or oar||or, wh|ch |sn't vory strango. 1ho to|ov|s|on a|so a|rs o|d mov|os, and most shows aro a|so sot |n tho past. lt has bocomo a torm ot oscap|sm
to v|s|t a wor|d |n wh|ch poop|o ||vo a |ong t|mo. What was onco roa| and natura| has bocomo a tantasy. °1horo aro |ots ot |ovo stor|os horo,' sho
says. °1hoy o|thor ond happ||y, or ovoryono d|os.' 3ho |aughs, but |t sounds moro ||ko a sob.
°What o|so |s thoro, r|ght?'
3ho staros at tho opon pagos, and |ooks ||ko sho's go|ng to ta|| apart. 1oars aro br|mm|ng |n hor oyos, and l wa|t tor thom to oscapo, but thoy don't.
3ho ho|ds thom |n p|aco.
1h|s a|s|o smo||s ovorwho|m|ng|y d|ngy-d|rty pagos and mo|d, and somoth|ng o|so, somoth|ng vaguo|y tam|||ar. lt smo||s ||ko tho oarth |n tho
backyard tho n|ght my brothor and l bur|od our possoss|ons. And l know my s|stor w|to 1onna |s not ||ko Coc||y, who grow up |n an orphanago and
now too|s honorod to bo a woa|thy Govornor's br|do. lo. 3ho's ||ko mo, who has |ost somoth|ng proc|ous, who has bur|od th|ngs ot hor own.
l hos|tato, unsuro |t l can trust hor w|th my p|an to oarn l|ndon's trust and oscapo. 3ho sooms ros|gnod to rott|ng |n th|s mans|on, but maybo |t novor
crossod hor m|nd that thoro cou|d bo a way out.
lt l'm wrong, though, what's to stop hor trom botray|ng mo |ator?
l'm st||| dobat|ng th|s whon Coc||y ontors tho ||brary and hutts |nd|gnant|y as sho ta||s |nto a cha|r at ono ot tho tab|os. °Wo||, that was a wasto,' sho
says. And thon, |n caso wo havon't hoard hor, °A comp|oto wasto!'
As sho says th|s, Gabr|o| ontors tho room w|th a tray ot toa, w|th |omon wodgos |n a sma|| s||vor bow|.
l tako a cha|r oppos|to Coc||y, who |s ho|d|ng up hor cup, |mpat|ont|y wa|t|ng tor Gabr|o| to t||| |t. 1onna jo|ns us s||ont|y, ho|d|ng hor book opon at
|ongth trom hor taco. W|thout |ook|ng up, sho takos a |omon wodgo and bog|ns suck|ng on |t.
°l|ndon |nv|tod mo out to tho roso gardon,' Coc||y says, tak|ng a s|p ot hor toa. 3ho cr|nk|os hor noso.
°1horo's no croam or sugar,' sho snaps at Gabr|o|, who prom|sos to bo r|ght back w|th somo. °Anyway,' sho says,
°l thought íloo||y ho was go|ng to start act|ng ||ko a husband, you know? lt's about t|mo. 3ut a|| ho d|d was show mo tho sunt|owor tro|||s that was
|mportod a hundrod yoars ago trom Europo or somoth|ng, and go on and on about tho lorth 3tar. About how o|d |t |s, how |t ho|pod oxp|orors t|nd
tho|r way homo. lt was a tota| |otdown-ho d|dn't ovon k|ss mo!'
l th|nk back on tho br|ot t|mo l spont a|ono w|th l|ndon |n tho samo gardon, at sunr|so. |o ta|kod about tho 1apanoso ko| and tho way tho wor|d usod
to bo. lt occurs to mo now that ho ||kos to |oso h|mso|t |n taraway p|acos, just ||ko h|s doad w|to d|d. l wondor |t that's what thoy |ovod about oach
othor, or |t grow|ng up w|th|n tho groomod wa||s ot thoso gardons |nst|||od |n thom a |ovo ot th|ngs thoy novor had causo to soo.
1ho samo th|ng |s happon|ng to mo, |sn't |t? A|| l'vo dono to conso|o myso|t |n th|s p|aco |s got |ost |n tho ghost ot how tho wor|d usod to bo. A pang
ot somoth|ng rushos through mo-what |s |t? l|ty? 3ympathy?
Undorstand|ng?
Whatovor |t |s, |t's unwo|como. l havo no causo to |dont|ty w|th l|ndon Ashby. l havo no causo to too| anyth|ng tor h|m at a||.
1onna |s suck|ng tho moat trom tho |omons, sott|ng tho ompty r|nds on tho tab|o whon sho's dono. 3ho turns a pago. 3ho |osos horso|t |n t|ct|on. ln
that way l supposo sho and l aro both |ost horo.
°l|ndon won't touch mo. 3ut ho's k|ssod you,' Coc||y to||s mo. lt's an accusat|on.
°Excuso mo?' l say.
3ho nods oxc|tod|y, ||ko |t's tho most natura| th|ng |n tho wor|d. |or brown oyos aro suddon|y b|ggor and br|ghtor. °l saw h|m como out ot your
bodroom th|s morn|ng. l know ho spont tho n|ght w|th you.'
l'm not suro what to say to th|s. l'm not suro what boundar|os aro wa||od botwoon s|stor w|vos. °l thought what happonod |n our own bodrooms was
supposod to bo pr|vato,' l manago.
°Oh, don't bo such a prudo,' Coc||y says. °3o d|d you consummato?' 3ho |oans |n. °Was |t abso|uto|y mag|ca|? l bot |t was.'
Gabr|o| roturns and sots a p|tchor ot m||k on tho tab|o.
Coc||y takos tho sugar bow| trom h|m and dumps noar|y ha|t ot |t |nto hor cup. 3ho takos anothor s|p ot toa, and l can hoar tho gra|ns gr|nd|ng
botwoon hor tooth. 3ho's wa|t|ng tor my answor, but tho on|y sound |s ot 1onna suck|ng tho ||to out ot thoso |omons, and Gabr|o| c|oar|ng h|s throat
as ho turns to |oavo.
l too| wavos ot hoat rush|ng to my chooks. l can't doc|do |t |t's ombarrassmont or angor. °1hat |s comp|oto|y nono ot your bus|noss,' l cry.
1onna |ooks out trom boh|nd hor book, cur|ous and maybo amusod. Coc||y |s boam|ng, ask|ng mo a|| sorts ot porsona| quost|ons that sp|n and sp|n
around |n my hoad unt|| l can't stand to |ook at hor. l can't stand to |ook at o|thor ot thoso g|r|s, who ottor no tr|ondsh|p, no so|aco, and who wou|d
novor approc|ato tho th|ngs l|ndon was ta|k|ng about anyway. What do thoy caro about tho lorth 3tar? Ono has dug a sato ||tt|o gravo tor horso|t |n
contur|os-o|d tomos, and tho othor |s portoct|y happy to roma|n trappod. l am noth|ng ||ko thom. Vy |ogs can't carry mo away tast onough as l run
trom tho room.
Out |n tho ha||way tho ||brary smo|| bocomos tho smoky wood-and-sp|co aroma ot tho |nconso st|cks that burn trom ||tt|o |ndonts a|ong tho wa||.
Gabr|o| |s just stopp|ng onto tho o|ovator and tho doors aro about to c|oso, whon l say °Wa|t!' and rush |nto tho car w|th h|m.
1ho doors c|oso, and l'm ho|d|ng my knoos, gasp|ng ||ko l'vo just spr|ntod a m||o. Gabr|o| prossos a button, and wo bog|n mov|ng down.
°You know, you'ro go|ng to got caught |t you koop snoak|ng ott your t|oor ||ko th|s,' ho says, but thoro's no roa| dangor to h|s tono.
°l can't do th|s,' l say, catch|ng my broath. 3ut |t |sn't tho br|ot spr|nt that's w|ndod mo. Vy chost |s t|ghton|ng. Vy v|s|on b|urs around tho odgos. °l
hato |t horo. l hato ovoryth|ng about th|s p|aco. l-' Vy vo|co broaks.
l rocogn|zo what |s happon|ng to mo. Vy body |s do|ng tho ono th|ng |t's boon dosporato to do s|nco tho momont l was shovod |nto tho back ot that
van, on|y l was too stunnod thon, and too angry whon l awoko |n th|s p|aco.
Gabr|o| can sonso |t too. 3ocauso ho roachos |nto h|s broast pockot and hands mo a handkorch|ot just as tho t|rst sob comos up.
Whon tho o|ovator doors opon, |t's to tho ha||way that |s |oud w|th no|sos trom tho k|tchon. lt smo||s ot |obstor stoam and somoth|ng swoot and
trosh|y bakod. Gabr|o| pushos a button and tho doors c|oso, on|y th|s t|mo tho car doosn't movo. °Want to ta|k about |t?' ho says.
°0on't you havo to got back to tho k|tchon?' l say, b|ow|ng my noso. l do my bost not to |ook sn|vo||ng and pathot|c, but |t's hard whon tho
handkorch|ot |s a|roady too damp and s||my to dry tho rost ot my toars as thoy como.
°lt's a|| r|ght,' ho says. °1hoy'|| th|nk l got ho|d up cator|ng to Coc||y.' 3assy, domand|ng ||tt|o Coc||y |s qu|ck|y tak|ng loso's p|aco among tho ho|p as
|oast tavor|to w|to. Gabr|o| and l s|t cross-|oggod on tho t|oor, and ho wa|ts pat|ont|y tor mo to stop h|ccupp|ng so l can spoak.
lt's n|co, |n tho o|ovator. 1ho carpot |s worn but c|oan.
1ho wa||s aro cranborry rod, |n|a|d w|th v|ctor|an pattorns that mako mo th|nk ot my paronts' bodsproad, how protoctod l to|t |ns|do ot |t. 0|stant|y my
m|nd rog|stors tho momory ot that |ong-gono socur|ty. l'm sato horo, too. 3omowhoro |n tho back ot my m|nd l wondor |t thoso wa||s havo oars-|t at
any momont |ousomastor vaughn's vo|co w||| como boom|ng through an ovorhoad spoakor, throaton|ng Gabr|o| tor a||ow|ng mo to mako |t th|s tar.
3ut l wa|t, and no vo|co comos, and l'm so upsot that l'm boyond car|ng anyway.
°l havo a brothor,' l say, start|ng at tho bog|nn|ng.
°lowan. Whon our paronts d|od tour yoars ago, wo had to |oavo schoo| and t|nd jobs. lt was oasy tor h|m to t|nd tactory work that pa|d wo||. 3ut l had
so ||tt|o sk|||, l was pract|ca||y uso|oss. |o d|dn't th|nk |t was sato tor mo to go out a|ono, so wo tr|od to stay noar oach othor, and l a|ways wound up
w|th phono jobs |n tho tactor|os that pa|d noxt to noth|ng. Wo had onough to got by, but not tho way wo usod to, you know? l wantod to do moro.
°A tow wooks ago l saw an ad |n tho papor, ottor|ng monoy tor bono marrow. 3upposod|y thoy woro conduct|ng a now scroon|ng tor causos ot tho
v|rus.' l turn tho handkorch|ot |n my hands, study|ng |t through unro||ab|o v|s|on. ln ono cornor thoro's a cr|mson ombro|dory ot what appoars to bo a
t|owor, but |t's un||ko any l'vo ovor soon, w|th an abundanco ot spoar-shapod pota|s crowdod togothor. lt b|urs and doub|os. l shako my hoad to c|oar
my m|nd.
°l roa||zod |t was a trap as soon as l stoppod |ns|do tho |ab and saw a|| thoso othor g|r|s. l tought,' l say, my t|ngors automat|ca||y cur||ng ||ko c|aws. °l
scratchod, b|t, k|ckod. lt d|dn't mattor. 1hoy hordod a|| ot us |nto a van. And l don't know how |ong wo woro r|d|ng. |ours. 3omot|mos wo'd stop, tho
doors wou|d opon, and moro g|r|s wou|d como |n. lt was so awtu| |n thoro.'
l romombor that b|acknoss. 1horo woro no wa||s, thoro was no up or down. l cou|d havo boon ||v|ng or doad. l ||stonod to tho othor g|r|s as thoy
broathod around mo, abovo mo, |ns|do mo, and that was tho who|o p|anot oarth. 1ust thoso torr|t|od h|ccups ot broath. l thought l'd gono mad.
And maybo l am mad, bocauso l th|nk l hoar ono ot tho Gathoror's bu||ots now, and l jump. 3parks t|y around mo.
Gabr|o| ra|sos h|s hoad just as tho ||ghts bog|n to t||ckor. 1horo's anothor |oud boom, not a gunshot but somoth|ng mochan|ca|-sound|ng. Our car
bog|ns to shako, and thon tho doors s||do opon, and Gabr|o| |s tugg|ng mo to my toot and wo'ro hurry|ng |nto tho ha||way.
3ut |t's not tho cooks' ha||way. 1h|s ono |s darkor and stor||o-smo|||ng. loon ||ghts aro strugg||ng on tho co|||ng, and |n tho t|oor t||os l can soo tho
d|m rot|oct|on ot our shoos botoro oach stop |ands.
°Wo must'vo gono down a t|oor,' Gabr|o| says.
°What? Why?' l say.
°3torm,' ho says. °3omot|mos tho o|ovators a|| movo to tho basomont as a procaut|on.'
°3torm? lt was sunny outs|do just a m|nuto ago,' l say, ro||ovod to t|nd tho toar |sn't prosont |n my vo|co. 1ho sobs havo stoppod too, |oav|ng on|y tho
sott, |ntroquont h|ccups |n tho attormath.
°Wo got a |ot ot thom on tho coast||no,' ho says. °Out ot nowhoro somot|mos. 0on't worry, |t |t was a hurr|cano, wo wou|d havo hoard tho a|arm. lt's
not uncommon tor strong w|nds to moss w|th tho o|octr|c|ty and tako out ono ot tho o|ovators.'
|urr|cano. |rom somowhoro doop |n my m|nd comos a to|ov|s|on |mago ot w|nd sp|nn|ng angr||y, dostroy|ng housos. lt's a|ways tho housos that go,
somot|mos b|ts ot a tonco or an uprootod troo, a shr|ok|ng horo|no |n a pra|r|o dross, but a|ways tho housos. l |mag|no a hurr|cano smash|ng |nto
th|s mans|on and toar|ng |t apart. l wondor |t l'd bo ab|o to oscapo thon.
°3o th|s |s tho basomont?' l say.
°l th|nk so,' Gabr|o| says. °l moan, l'vo novor boon down th|s way. l'vo on|y boon to whoro tho storm sho|tor |s. lobody's a||owod w|thout
author|zat|on trom |ousomastor vaughn.' |o |ooks norvous, and l know |ousomastor vaughn |s tho roason. l can't stand tho thought ot Gabr|o|
||mp|ng to my room, mo|ancho|y and bru|sod bocauso ot my transgross|ons.
°lot's go back up botoro anyono catchos us,' l say.
|o nods. 1ho o|ovator doors havo c|osod, though, and thoy don't opon whon ho sw|pos h|s koy card across tho pano|. |o tr|os sovora| t|mos botoro
shak|ng h|s hoad.
°lt's down,' ho says. °lt'|| bo back up ovontua||y, but |n tho moant|mo, thoro's got to bo anothor o|ovator tarthor down wo can try.'
Wo bog|n wa|k|ng down th|s |ong ha||way, w|th unro||ab|o ||ght|ng that cuts out at t|mos and h|ssos at us. 1ho ma|n ha||way branchos ott to othor,
darkor ha||ways and c|osod doors, and l'm suro l don't want to know whoro thoy |oad. l novor want to soo th|s t|oor aga|n. lt's tr|ggor|ng somoth|ng
vory bad |n my momor|os, |n tho p|aco ot n|ghtmaros, whoro tho murdorod g|r|s |n tho van ros|do, whoro tho Gathoror th|ot cups h|s hand ovor my
mouth and prossos a b|ado to my throat. 3omoth|ng about bo|ng horo makos my pa|ms swoat. And thon l roa||zo |t. 1h|s |s whoro tho doctor was,
tho attornoon botoro tho wodd|ng.
0o|rdro brought mo to th|s ha||way, |od mo to a room whoro a man stuck mo w|th a nood|o and l b|ackod out.
Vy sk|n bocomos goosot|osh at tho momory. l nood to got out ot horo.
3os|do mo Gabr|o| prossos torward w|thout |ook|ng at mo. °About what you to|d mo,' ho says |n a |ow vo|co, °l th|nk |t's torr|b|o. And what you sa|d
oar||or, about hat|ng th|s p|aco? l undorstand.'
l'|| bot ho undorstands.
°lt's |ousomastor vaughn, |sn't |t?' l say. °|o's tho ono that hurt you? lt was my tau|t, bocauso l got out ot my room.'
°You shou|dn't havo boon |ockod |n a room to bog|n w|th,' ho says.
l roa||zo a|| at onco that l want to know h|m. 1hat l'vo bogun to soo h|s b|uo oyos and coppory brown ha|r as tho s|gns ot a tr|ond, and havo tor a
wh||o now. l ||ko that wo'ro spoak|ng, t|na||y, about th|ngs moro |mportant than what's tor |unch or what l'm road|ng or |t l want somo |omons w|th my
toa. (l novor do.)
l want to know moro about h|m, and l want to to|| h|m moro about myso|t. Vy roa|, unmarr|od so|t, my so|t trom botoro l ovor saw tho |ns|do ot th|s
mans|on-whon l ||vod |n a dangorous p|aco but l had my troodom and l was happy w|th |t. l opon my mouth, but |mmod|ato|y ho stops mo by
grabb|ng my arm and yank|ng mo |nto ono ot tho dark s|do-ha||ways. l don't havo a chanco to protost botoro l hoar tho c|attor ot somoth|ng
approach|ng.
Wo pross ourso|vos aga|nst tho wa||. Wo try to bo tho shadows that covor us. Wo w||| tho wh|tos ot our oyos to bo d|m.
1horo aro vo|cos gott|ng c|osor. °-cromat|on |sn't poss|b|o, ot courso-'
°3hamo to dostroy that poor g|r|.' A s|gh, a tsk tsk.
°lt's tor tho groator good, |t |t w||| savo ||vos.'
1ho vo|cos aro untam|||ar. lt l spont tho rost ot my ||to |n th|s houso, l m|ght novor know a|| |ts rooms, a|| tho attondants. 3ut as tho vo|cos approach, l
can soo that tho poop|o aron't drossod ||ko attondants. 1hoy aro drossod |n wh|to, tho|r hoads protoctod by tho samo wh|to hoods that my paronts
woro to work, w|th p|ast|c covor|ng tho|r tacos. 3|ohazard su|ts. 1hoy'ro whoo||ng a cart.
Gabr|o| grabs my wr|st, squoozos |t, and l don't undorstand why. l don't undorstand what's happon|ng at a|| unt|| tho cart gots c|osor to us and l can
soo what's on |t.
A body covorod by a shoot. loso's b|ond ha|r tra|||ng out around tho odgos. And hor co|d, wh|to hand, w|th t|ngorna||s st||| pa|ntod p|nk.
l ho|d my broath as thoy pass. Etorn|ty |s tho cr|sp tootstops, tho r|ckoty whoo|s gott|ng tarthor away. Wo wa|t |n s||onco
tor a wh||o just to bo suro |t's sato, and thon l sp|uttor ||ko com|ng up tor a|r.
°Whoro aro thoy tak|ng hor?' l gasp.
Gabr|o|'s sad oxpross|on bocomos ov|dont |n tho noar-darknoss. |o shakos h|s hoad. °|ousomastor vaughn must bo p|ann|ng to study hor,' ho
says. °|o's boon |ook|ng tor an ant|doto tor yoars.'
°3ut,' l croak. °1hat's loso.'
°l know.'
°l|ndon wou|d novor a||ow th|s.'
°Vaybo not,' Gabr|o| says. °Wo can't to|| h|m. Wo novor saw th|s. Wo woro novor horo.'
Wo t|nd tho o|ovator and mako |t back to tho cooks'
ha||way, whoro thoro's a cacophony ot mota| aga|nst mota|, p|ato aga|nst p|ato, tho hoad cook shout|ng that somoono |s a |azy bastard. A r|ot ot
|aughtor. 1hoy havo no |doa that tho w|to thoy so d|s||kod has boon woav|ng a co|d path through ha||ways undor tho|r toot.
°|oy, b|ond|o's horo!' somoono ca||s. lt's bocom|ng tho k|tchon's ott|c|a| n|cknamo tor mo. Evon though br|dos aron't supposod to |oavo tho w|vos'
t|oor, thoy don't soom to m|nd my hang|ng around tho|r workspaco. l don't ask anyth|ng ot thom, wh|ch Gabr|o| says |s moro than l|ndon's |ast w|to
and tho ||tt|o ono (tho brat, thoy ca|| hor) cou|d manago. °What's wrong w|th your taco, b|ond|o? You'ro a|| rod.'
l touch tho tondor sk|n undor my oyos, romombor|ng my toars. 1hoy soom ||ko thoy happonod a m||||on yoars ago now.
°l'm a||org|c to sho||t|sh,' l ca|| back, stutt|ng tho damp handkorch|ot |nto my pockot. °1ho st|nk travo|od a|| tho way up to tho w|vos' t|oor, mado my
oyos a|| putty. Aro you try|ng to k||| mo or what?'
°3ho |ns|stod on com|ng down horo to to|| you horso|t,' Gabr|o| says ob||g|ng|y.
As wo hoad toward tho k|tchon, l do my bost to soom d|sgustod, whon roa||y tho smo|| rom|nds mo ot homo, coaxos an appot|to back |nto mo.
°Wo'vo got b|ggor prob|oms than your d|ot noods,' tho hoad cook says, brush|ng a strand ot ha|r trom hor swoaty taco, nodd|ng out tho w|ndow. 1ho
sky |s a b|zarro shado ot groon. l|ghtn|ng t|ashos through tho c|ouds. loss than an hour ago thoro was sun||ght and b|rdsong.
3omoono ottors mo a ||tt|o cardboard box ot strawborr|os. °3h|ppod |n trosh th|s morn|ng.' Gabr|o| and l oach tako a handtu| as wo stand at tho
w|ndow. l|ko tho b|uoborr|os, tho|r co|or |s moro v|v|d than what l'm usod to. 1ho|r ju|co t|oods my mouth w|th swootnoss, and tho soods got |odgod
|n my mo|ars.
°lt's that t|mo ot yoar a|roady?' Gabr|o| says. °lt sooms a ||tt|o oar|y.'
°Wo m|ght got a good storm th|s yoar,' says ono ot tho cooks as ho knoo|s at tho ovon and turrows h|s brow at somoth|ng that's bak|ng. °Vaybo
ovon a catogory throo.'
°What doos that moan?' l ask, popp|ng tho noxt strawborry |nto my mouth.
°Voans you throo pr|ncossos w||| bo |ockod |n tho dungoon,' tho hoad cook h|ssos, and l'm just about to bo||ovo hor whon sho c|aps a hand on my
shou|dor hard and |aughs. °1ho |ouso Govornor takos ovory procaut|on w|th h|s w|vos,' sho says. °lt tho w|nds got bad, you'|| a|| havo to wa|t out tho
storm |n tho storm sho|tor.
0on't worry, b|ond|o, l bot |t's comty cozy, and tho rost ot us'|| bo up horo cook|ng and br|ng|ng you your moa|s.'
°You just work through tho storm?' l say.
°3uro, un|oss tho powor's out.'
°0on't worry,' Gabr|o| says. °1ho houso won't b|ow away.' ||s sma|| |augh suggosts ho knows that's what l'd boon hop|ng tor. Wo oxchango a |ook,
and h|s tontat|vo gr|n b|ooms |nto tho t|rst roa| sm||o l'vo soon on h|m. l a||ow myso|t to sm||o back.
3ut a tow m|nutos |ator, a pa|| hangs ovor us, as g|oomy as tho thundor|ng c|ouds, as wo tako tho o|ovator back to tho w|vos' t|oor. 1horo's a
pushcart ot |unch trays botwoon us. lobstor b|squo tor tho othors and a sma|| g|azod ch|ckon tor mo, s|nco l'm supposod to bo a||org|c to sho||t|sh.
Wo don't spoak. l try not to th|nk ot loso, but can soo noth|ng but hor ||to|oss hand d|pp|ng out ot tho shoot as sho passos. A hand that just tho othor
day was woav|ng my ha|r |nto a bra|d. l th|nk ot tho sadnoss |n l|ndon's oyos, what wou|d ho say |t ho know h|s ch||dhood |ovo, tho ||tt|o g|r| who tod
sugar to horsos |n tho orango grovo, |s bo|ng d|ssoctod |n th|s vory houso?
A|ono |n my room, l don't touch my |unch. l soak |n a hot bath and wash Gabr|o|'s handkorch|ot |n tho bubb|os and thon ho|d |t up |n tront ot mo. l try
to |mag|no anothor p|aco, anothor t|mo, whon t|owors m|ght havo |ookod ||ko |ts ombro|dory. lt's such a powortu| th|ng, sharp and dangorous and
|ovo|y. lt rosts on what appoars to bo a |||y pad. l comm|t tho |mago to momory and thon rosoarch |t |n tho ||brary. 1ho c|osost match l t|nd |s tho |otus
t|owor, wh|ch ox|stod |n Eastorn countr|os and may havo or|g|natod |n a country ca||od Ch|na. A|| l havo to go by |s a tract|on ot a pago |n an
a|manac ot aquat|c botany, tho a|manac wou|d rathor to|| mo about wator ||||os, porhaps a c|oso cous|n, but not tho samo. lot as raro.
And attor hours ot rosoarch, l st||| can't t|nd a docont match.
l ask Gabr|o|, and ho says tho attondants tako tho handkorch|ots trom a p|ast|c b|n whoro tho c|oth napk|ns aro kopt. |o doosn't know who ordorod
thom or whoro thoy camo trom, but l can koop |t bocauso thoro aro dozons moro.
ln tho days to como, Gabr|o| bog|ns br|ng|ng broaktast wh||o tho othor w|vos aro st||| as|oop. |o h|dos 1uno 3oans |n ro||od napk|ns or undor tho
p|ato or, onco, botwoon tho pancakos. |o arrangos tho strawborry s||cos |nto E|tto| 1owors and boats w|th spoar-shapod masts.
|o |oavos tho tray on my n|ghtstand, and, |t l'm s|oop|ng, l too| h|s prosonco as l droam. l too| warm r|bbons roach|ng |nto my subconsc|ousnoss,
and l too| sato. l opon my oyos to tho s||vor covor on tho broaktast tray, and l know ho was noarby. On tho morn|ngs that l'm awako, wo ta|k |n |ow
vo|cos, baro|y mak|ng out oach othor's tacos |n tho darknoss. |o to||s mo that ho's boon an orphan tor as |ong as ho can romombor, that
|ousomastor vaughn bought h|m at an auct|on whon ho was n|no. °lt's not as awtu| as |t sounds,' Gabr|o| says. °ln orphanagos thoy toach you sk|||s
||ko cook|ng, sow|ng, c|oan|ng. 1hoy koop a sort ot roport card on you, and thon tho wo||-to-do can b|d. 1hat's how wo got 0o|rdro, E||o, and Ada|r,
too.'
°You don't romombor your paronts at a||?' l say.
°|ard|y. l baro|y ovon romombor what tho wor|d outs|do ot th|s p|aco |ooks ||ko,' ho says. And my hoart s|nks.
lobody, ho to||s mo, not ovon tho ho|p, |oavos tho proporty. 1hoy ordor sh|pmonts ot tood and tabr|c and anyth|ng |mag|nab|o, but thoy novor v|s|t
storos thomso|vos.
1ho on|y onos to |oavo aro tho do||vory truck dr|vors, |ousomastor vaughn, and somot|mos l|ndon |t ho has a m|nd to. l'vo soon |ouso Govornors
and tho|r t|rst w|vos on 1v at soc|a| ovonts-po||t|ca| o|oct|ons, r|bbon-cut-t|ng coromon|os, th|ngs ||ko that-but Gabr|o| to||s mo that l|ndon |s not
tho soc|a| typo. |o's somoth|ng ot a roc|uso. And why not? You cou|d tako an ont|ro day and st||| not wa|k trom ono ond ot th|s p|aco to tho othor. 3ut
l havon't |ost hopo. l|ndon took loso to part|os a|| tho t|mo, and sho sa|d horso|t that |t ho p|ays tavor|tos w|th mo, ho'|| tako mo anywhoro l want to
go.
°0on't you m|ss |t?' l say. °3o|ng troo.'
|o |aughs. °lt wasn't much troor |n tho orphanago, but l supposo l do m|ss tho boach,' ho says. °l usod to bo ab|o to soo |t trom my w|ndow.
3omot|mos thoy |ot us go thoro. l ||kod watch|ng tho boats go out. l th|nk |t l cou|d havo dono anyth|ng, l wou|d havo ||kod to work on ono. Vaybo
bu||d ono. 3ut l'vo novor ovon caught a t|sh.'
°Vy brothor taught mo how to t|sh,' l say. Wo wou|d s|t on tho concroto s|ab that stoppod at tho ocoan, our toot dang||ng ovor tho odgo. l romombor
tho strong pu|| on tho t|sh|ng ||no, tho roo| sp|nn|ng out ot my contro| and lowan catch|ng |t tor mo, show|ng mo how to br|ng |t |n. l romombor tho
s||vor body, a|| musc|o, ||ko a tonguo thrash|ng on tho hook, oyos opon w|do. l trood |t trom tho hook and tr|od to ho|d |t, but |t |oapt trom my hand.
||t tho wator w|th a sp|ash. 0|sappoarod, ott to v|s|t tho ru|ns ot |ranco or maybo lta|y to sond thom my rogards.
l try ro|ay|ng th|s oxpor|onco to Gabr|o|, and ovon though l th|nk l'm do|ng a poor job ot |m|tat|ng tho pu|||ng mot|on ot tho t|sh|ng rod and my pathot|c
attompts to roo| tho t|sh |n, ho's pay|ng c|oso attont|on. Whon l |m|tato tho sp|ash ot tho t|sh h|tt|ng tho wator, ho ovon |aughs, and l |augh too, qu|ot|y,
|n tho darknoss ot my room.
°0|d you ovor oat any ot tho catchos?' ho asks.
°lo. 1ho od|b|o catchos aro tarthor out, and thon thoy'ro hau|od |n by boat. 1ho c|osor you got to |and, tho moro contam|natod tho wator. 1h|s was
just tor tun.'
°lt sounds tun,' ho says.
°lt was k|nda gross, actua||y,' l say, romombor|ng tho co|d s||my sca|os and b|oodshot oyos. lowan doomod mo tho worst t|shorman ovor and sa|d
|t was a good th|ng thoso t|sh woro |nod|b|o, bocauso |t wo noodod thom tor tood, wo wou|d starvo w|th mo |n chargo. °3ut |t's ono ot tho tow th|ngs
my brothor ||kos to do that doosn't |nvo|vo work.'
1ho homos|cknoss that comos w|th my brothor's momory |s not so bad. lot w|th Gabr|o| tor company and a tray ot pancakos and tho 1uno 3oan
ho's h|ddon |n tho napk|n.
l|ndon |gnoros us |n tho dayt|mo, but bog|ns |nv|t|ng a|| throo ot h|s w|vos to d|nnor oach n|ght. |o to||s us about h|s tathor's rosoarch, how
opt|m|st|c tho sc|ont|sts and doctors aro about t|nd|ng an ant|doto. |o says that h|s tathor |s attond|ng a convont|on |n 3oatt|o, whoro ho w|||
comparo notos w|th othor rosoarchors. 3ocrot|y l wondor |t tho |ousmastors notos aro about loso. l wondor |t ho has namod hor 3ubjoct A or
lat|ont X. l wondor |t hor t|ngorna||s aro st||| pa|ntod. Coc||y |s, as a|ways, vory |ntorostod |n ovoryth|ng our husband says. 1onna st||| |ooks d|sgustod
at tho s|ght ot h|m, though sho has startod oat|ng. l'm gott|ng bottor at act|ng |ntorostod |n what ho has to say. And a|| tho wh||o, tho w|ndstorms
mako tho o|octr|c|ty t||ckor, and |ntorrupt w|th strango |ntroquont bouts ot ra|n what wou|d othorw|so bo boaut|tu| attornoons.
And thon ono ovon|ng whon l|ndon |s |n unusua||y h|gh sp|r|ts, ho announcos that, |n honor ot our two months ot marr|ago, ho th|nks thoro shou|d bo
a co|obrat|on. A b|g ono, w|th co|orod |antorns and a ||vo band.
|o'|| ovon |ot us doc|do wh|ch gardon to throw |t |n.
°|ow about tho orango grovo?' l say. Gabr|o| and two othor attondants co||oct|ng our p|atos go pa|o and oxchango gravo |ooks. 1hoy know tho
magn|tudo ot what l'vo sa|d. 1hoy brought loso many moa|s and cups ot toa as sho tr|ttorod ond|oss days away |n tho orango grovo.
lt was hor tavor|to, whoro sho and l|ndon woro marr|od, and whoro-sho to|d mo w|sttu||y ono attornoon, tw|r||ng a 1uno 3oan around hor tonguo-
thoy t|rst k|ssod.
And |t was thoro that l|ndon tound hor a wook attor hor twont|oth b|rthday, unconsc|ous and pa|o |n tho shado ot an orango troo, gasp|ng, hor ||ps
b|uo. 1hat was tho day ho was tacod w|th tho tragody ot hor morta||ty. ||s |nab|||ty to savo hor. A|| tho p|||s and pot|ons |n tho wor|d cou|dn't buy moro
than a tow t|oot|ng months.
A party |n tho orango grovo. 1ho pa|n on l|ndon's taco |s |mmod|ato. l am unwavor|ng. |o has cost mo moro pa|n than l w||| ovor bo ab|o to ropay.
Coc||y, ob||v|ous, says, °Yos! Oh, l|ndon, wo'vo novor ovon soon |t!'
l|ndon dabs h|s mouth w|th a napk|n, sots tho napk|n on tho tab|o. °l thought a|ong tho poo| wou|d bo moro ontorta|n|ng,' ho says qu|ot|y. °1ho warm
woathor's n|co tor sw|mm|ng.'
°3ut you sa|d wo cou|d p|ck,' says 1onna, |t |s porhaps tho t|rst t|mo sho's ovor sa|d a word to h|m. Evoryono |ooks at hor, ovon tho attondants. 3ho
g|ancos br|ot|y at mo and thon at l|ndon. 3ho b|tos a p|oco ot stoak trom hor tork da|nt||y and says, °l voto tor tho orango grovo.'
°Vo too,' says Coc||y.
l nod assont.
°lt's unan|mous, thon,' l|ndon says |nto h|s spoon.
1ho rost ot tho moa| |s vory qu|ot. 1ho d|nnor p|atos aro a|| c|oarod. 0ossort |s sorvod, and thon toa. 1hon wo'ro d|sm|ssod, bocauso l|ndon has a
hoadacho and noods to bo a|ono w|th h|s thoughts.
°You'ro somoth|ng o|so,' Gabr|o| wh|spors to mo as ho oscorts us to tho o|ovator. 1ust botoro tho doors c|oso botwoon us, l sm||o.
Onco upsta|rs l |mmod|ato|y rotroat to my bodroom.
l ||o on tho bod, suck|ng a b|uo 1uno 3oan and th|nk|ng about how tho At|ant|c Ocoan |appod undor my and lowan's baro toot. l th|nk about tho torry
a|ong tho p|or that l wou|d watch s||co a path toward tho hor|zon, and how socuro l wou|d too| |n my sma|| p|oco ot tho wor|d, how |ucky to bo a||vo |t
on|y tor a short wh||o. 1hat's whoro l want my body to bo cast whon l'm doad. l want to bo ashos |n tho ocoan. l want to s|nk to tho ru|ns ot Athons
and bo carr|od ott to l|gor|a, and to sw|m botwoon t|sh and sunkon sh|ps. l'|| como back to Vanhattan troquont|y, to smo|| tho a|r, to soo how my
tw|n |s do|ng.
Vy tw|n, howovor, doos not ||ko to d|scuss what w||| happon |n tour yoars, whon l'|| bo doad and ho'|| havo t|vo yoars ot ||to |n h|m. l wondor what ho's
do|ng now and |t ho's okay. l wondor how |ong |t w||| tako mo to broak troo ot th|s p|aco, or at |oast commun|cato to h|m that l'm a||vo. 3ut
somowhoro, |n a p|aco |n my hoart that's darkor than that awtu| basomont, l worry that my corpso w||| bocomo part ot |ousomastor vaughn's
rosoarch, and my brothor w||| novor ovon know what's happonod to mo.
|or that, l am not sorry that l|ndon Ashby |s ott somowhoro bo|ng sad bocauso ot somoth|ng l sa|d at d|nnor.
lt's boon so hard to koop track ot tho days |n th|s mans|on, whon thoy a|| |ook tho samo, whon l'm noth|ng moro than l|ndon's pr|sonor. l'vo novor
boon apart trom my brothor tor so |ong, trom tho t|mo wo woro tod-d|ors, our mothor t|t my hand |n h|s and to|d us to stay togothor. And wo d|d. Wo
woro togothor on our wa|ks to schoo|, c||ng|ng to oach othor |n caso ot dangors |urk|ng |n tho ru|ns ot an o|d bu||d|ng, |n tho shadow ot an
abandonod car. Wo woro togothor on our wa|ks to work, and our vo|cos kopt oach othor company at n|ght, |n a dark houso onco t|||od w|th our
paronts' prosonco. 3otoro now l'd novor boon away trom h|m a day |n my ||to.
l thought that as tw|ns wo wou|d a|ways bo ab|o to roach oach othor, that trom tar away l wou|d st||| hoar h|s vo|co as c|oar|y as l hoard h|m |n tho noxt
room ot our houso. Wo wou|d ta|k to oach othor as wo movod about tho rooms-h|m |n tho k|tchon, mo |n tho ||v|ng room-to koop tho s||onco ot
our paronts' doaths away.
°lowan,' l wh|spor. 3ut tho sound doosn't travo| tarthor than my bodroom. 1ho cord botwoon us |s sovorod.
°l'm a||vo. 0on't g|vo up on mo.'
As though |n answor, thoro's a sott knock at tho door.
l know |t's not Coc||y bocauso |t's not to||owod by a quost|on or a domand. 0o|rdro doosn't knock, and |t wou|dn't bo Gabr|o| at th|s hour. °Who |s
|t?'
1ho door cracks opon and l soo 1onna's gray oyos.
°Can l como |n?' sho asks |n hor w|spy vo|co.
l s|t up on tho bod and nod. 3ho pursos hor ||ps |n tho c|osost l'vo soon hor como to a sm||o, and takos a soat on tho odgo ot my mattross.
°l saw tho way Govornor l|ndon |ookod at you whon you brought up tho orango grovo,' sho says. °Why?'
Vy |nst|ncts caut|on mo to bo wary ot th|s sombor br|do, but l'm |n just tho r|ght stago ot gr|ot to pu|| down my dotonsos-to |owor tho mast, l
supposo Gabr|o| wou|d say, and a||ow myso|t to dr|tt |nto uncorta|n wators. And sho sooms so t|m|d and harm|oss |n hor wh|to n|ghtgown that's ||ko
m|no, w|th hor |ong dark ha|r |n a vo|| around hor shou|dors. 3omoth|ng about a|| th|s makos mo want to soo hor as a s|stor, as a cont|dant.
°lt's bocauso ot loso,' l say. °|o to|| |n |ovo w|th hor |n tho orango grovo. 1hat was hor tavor|to p|aco, and ho hasn't boon ab|o to stand |t s|nco sho
bocamo s|ck.'
°loa||y?' sho says. °|ow do you know that?'
°loso to|d mo,' l say, and l stop myso|t trom add|ng that loso to|d mo a|| sorts ot th|ngs about our husband.
l want to koop somo ot h|s tra||t|os to myso|t, such as tho |ntoct|on that noar|y k|||od h|m as a boy and that causod h|m to |oso sovora| tooth, honco
tho go|d onos. 1hoso th|ngs mako h|m soom |oss monac|ng somohow. l|ko somoono l can ovorpowor or outsmart whon tho t|mo |s r|ght.
°3o that's why ho |ookod so sad,' sho says, p|ck|ng ||nt ott hor hom||no.
°1hat's what l wantod,' l say. °|o had no r|ght to br|ng us horo, and l guoss ho'|| novor roa||zo that. 3o l wantod to hurt h|m ||ko ho hurt mo.'
1onna |ooks at hor |ap, and hor ||p qu|rks |n what l th|nk w||| bo a sm||o or a |augh, but hor oyos wo|| w|th toars and hor vo|co |s brokon whon sho
says, °Vy s|stors woro |n that van.'
|or sk|n pa|os, and m|no t|our|shos w|th goosot|osh as hor ||tt|o sobs wrack tho bod. 1ho room |s co|dor, and tho n|ghtmaro |s grow|ng |nto so much
moro than l thought |t cou|d bo. lt on|y gots worso |n th|s mans|on ot swoot smo||s and oxtra br|ght gardons. l th|nk ot tho gunshots that havo hauntod
mo s|nco l arr|vod. |ow many ot thoso woro 1onna's s|stors, and wh|ch onos? 1ho t|rst shot? 1ho t|tth? 1ho s|xth?
l'm too stunnod to spoak.
°Whon you brought up tho orango grovo, l d|dn't know what |t was, but l saw that |t was hurt|ng h|m,' sho sobs, sw|pos hor noso w|th hor t|st. °And l
wantod h|m to hurt, so l agrood w|th you. |o has no |doa, doos ho? What ho's takon away?'
°lo,' l agroo sott|y. l ottor hor Gabr|o|'s handkorch|ot, wh|ch l'vo boon koop|ng |n my p|||owcaso, but sho shakos hor hoad, apparont|y hat|ng th|s
p|aco too much to ovon b|ow hor noso on |ts c|oths.
°l on|y havo two yoars |ott,' sho says. °1horo's noth|ng tor mo out thoro now, and maybo l'm trappod horo, but l won't |ot h|m havo h|s way w|th mo. l
don't caro |t ho murdors mo, ho won't havo mo.'
l th|nk ot hor co|d st|tt body bo|ng pushod |nto a basomont |aboratory. l th|nk ot |ousomastor vaughn d|ssoct|ng h|s daughtors-|n-|aw ono by ono.
l'm not suro what to say, bocauso l do undorstand hor angor. l am a good ||ar, but ||os won't ho|p mo horo. 1onna |s a g|r| who has no |||us|ons about
what w||| happon to hor, sho knows |t w||| novor bo okay. Am l tho ono |n don|a|?
°What |t you cou|d got out?' l say. °Wou|d you?'
3ho shrugs, snorts |ncrodu|ous|y through hor toars.
°1o what?' sho says. °lo, m|ght as wo|| go out |n sty|o.'
3ho wavos hor wr|st, oxaggorat|ng tho rutt|os on tho cutt ot hor s|oovo. 1hon sho w|pos hor noso w|th thom, and sho |ooks so dotoatod. A sko|oton,
a ghost, a vory protty g|r| who's a|roady doad. 3ho turns to mo, and hor oyos st||| havo tracos ot ||to. °0|d you roa||y spond tho n|ght w|th h|m?' sho
asks. 3ut hor tono |sn't |nvas|vo ||ko Coc||y's. 3ho's not bo|ng crass, sho just wants to know.
°|o spont tho n|ght |n horo whon loso d|od,' l say.
°|o just to|| as|oop, that's a||. lt was novor moro than that.'
3ho nods, swa||ows a hard |ump |n hor throat. l touch hor shou|dor, and sho starts but doosn't pu|| away. °l am roa||y sorry,' l say. °|o's an awtu| man,
and th|s |s an awtu| p|aco. 1ho on|y ono who ||kos |t horo |s Coc||y.'
°3ho'|| |oarn,' 1onna says. °3ho roads a|| thoso prognancy books and Kama 3utra stutt, but sho has no |doa what ho w||| do to hor.'
1h|s |s a|so truo. 1onna, who |s as qu|ot as a shadow, has boon pay|ng attont|on to hor s|stor w|vos a|| th|s t|mo. 3ho has g|von us a |ot ot thought.
|or a wh||o sho s|ts thoro, chok|ng down tho |ast ot hor sobs, pu|||ng horso|t togothor. l ottor hor tho g|ass ot wator that's boon s|tt|ng on my
n|ghtstand, and sho takos a tow s|ps. °1hank you,' sho says. °|or st|ck|ng up tor yourso|t at d|nnor. |or show|ng h|m how |t too|s.'
°1hank you tor back|ng mo up,' l say. l th|nk that's a sm||o on hor ||ps whon sho turns to |ook at mo ono |ast t|mo botoro d|sappoar|ng |nto tho
ha||way.
l ta|| as|oop and havo horr|b|o droams ot sad g|r|s w|th oxqu|s|to oyos, gray vans orupt|ng w|th buttort||os, w|ndows that won't opon. And ovorywhoro
g|r|s, tumb||ng trom troos ||ko orango b|ossoms and h|tt|ng tho oarth w|th s|ckon|ng thuds. 1hoy crack opon.
3omot|mo |n tho n|ght my m|nd ontors a doopor d|mons|on ot droam|ng. 1ho sound d|sappoars and somoth|ng obscuros my v|s|on. 1horo's
wh|tonoss, tho smo||s ot docay |n so|| and surg|ca| g|ovos. 1hon |ousomastor vaughn |n a b|ohazard su|t yanks tho shoot trom my taco.
l try to scroam, but l can't bocauso l'm doad, oyos trozon w|do. |o br|ngs h|s kn|to botwoon my broasts, roady to cut. 1ho pa|n |s just about to
rog|stor whon a sound comos burst|ng |nto my droams. °lh|no,' tho vo|co says.
°lh|no.'
l opon my oyos, gasp. Vy hoart |s thudd|ng |n my chost, and a|| at onco l'm burst|ng w|th tho ||to l d|dn't havo |n my n|ghtmaro. ln tho oar|y morn|ng
darknoss l can just mako out Gabr|o|'s b|uo oyos. l say h|s namo both to tost my vo|co and to bo suro ho's roa||y thoro. l can soo tho s||vor g|oam ot
tho broaktast tray on my n|ghtstand.
°You woro thrash|ng around,' ho wh|spors. °What was |t?'
°1ho basomont,' l wh|spor back. l br|ng tho hoo| ot my hand across my torohoad, and |t comos back damp w|th swoat. °l was trappod, l cou|dn't got
out.' l s|t up and turn on tho |amp. 1ho ||ght |s too much, and l sh|o|d my oyos and thon b||nk w||d|y as Gabr|o| comos |nto tocus, s|tt|ng on tho odgo ot
my bod whoro just hours botoro, 1onna sat and to|d mo about hor own n|ghtmaro.
°lt was an awtu| th|ng to soo,' Gabr|o| agroos.
°3ut you'vo soon worso,' l say. lt's not a quost|on.
|o nods, h|s oxpross|on darkon|ng.
°l|ko what?' l say.
°lady loso had a baby,' ho says. °lt was ovor a yoar ago. lt d|dn't mako |t. 3trang|od by tho umb|||ca| cord, l th|nk. 1ho |ouso Govornor and lady
loso scattorod |ts ashos |n tho orango grovo, but l wondor about thoso ashos, |t thoy woro roa||y tho baby. Whon poop|o d|o horo |n gonora|, l
wondor what happons to thom. l'vo novor soon any k|nd ot gravoyard, |t's o|thor ashos or thoy just d|sappoar.'
loso had a ch||d. l novor know. lt, or somoth|ng ||ko |t, |s scattorod among tho orango b|ossoms.
°Gabr|o|?' 1horo |s truo toar |n my vo|co. °l want to got out ot horo.'
°l'vo boon horo tor n|no yoars,' ho says. °1hat's ha|t my ||to. l can't ovon romombor, most days, that thoro's a wor|d othor than th|s ono horo.'
°Wo||, thoro |s,' l say. °1horo's tho ocoan, and boats |oav|ng harbors, and poop|o jogg|ng on s|dowa|ks, and stroot||ghts that como on |n tho ovon|ng.
1horo aro gravoyards w|th namos on tho hoadstonos. 1hat's tho roa| wor|d. 1h|s |sn't.'
3ut l undorstand whoro ho's com|ng trom. lato|y l a|most torgot thoso th|ngs myso|t.
1ho party happons |n tho orango grovo, as prom|sod.
Coc||y sponds tho attornoon work|ng poor E||o to tho bono w|th dross adjustmonts and makoup ro-dos. |or ha|r |s sty|od, washod, and sty|od aga|n,
and aga|n. 3ho ca||s mo ovor to soo oach attompt, and thoy a|| mako hor |ook boaut|tu| but young. A ch||d |n hor mothor's too-b|g hoo|s, try|ng to bo
a woman.
|or mo, 0o|rdro has constructod a sott orango trock that sho says w||| mako mo |ook dazz||ng |n tho ovon|ng ||ght. 3ho |oavos my ha|r untouchod,
|ong and wavy and many shados ot b|ond. 3ho doosn't say |t, but l know that as sho stands bos|do mo |n tho m|rror, sho's th|nk|ng l |ook ||ko loso.
And whon l|ndon soos mo, l suspoct ho w||| not bo soo|ng mo at a||, but somo ro|ncarnat|on ot tho g|r| ho |ost. l can on|y hopo |t oarns mo h|s
tavor|t|sm.
Wo arr|vo |n tho orango grovo by oar|y ovon|ng, and ovon w|th tho stago sot up and tho band tun|ng |ts |nstrumonts and tho crowd ot poop|o l'vo
novor mot, l can soo that th|s p|aco |s not ||ko tho rost ot tho mans|on. lt's w||d, w|th unovon |ongths ot grass as h|gh as my uncomtortab|o hoo|s or
my knoos. lt roachos |nto my dross ||ko th|n rubbory t|ngors. Ants craw| around tho r|ms ot crysta| g|assos and mako ||nos up troos. A|| tho groonory
hums and rust|os.
l don't rocogn|zo most ot tho tacos horo. 3omo aro attondants sott|ng up hoators tor tho tood or portoct|ng tho papor |antorns. Othors aro wo||-
drossod, po||shod to tho po|nt ot bo|ng bordor||no groasy, a|| t|rst gonorat|ons.
°1hoy'ro |ousomastor vaughn's co||oaguos,' 0o|rdro wh|spors to mo, stand|ng on a to|dout cha|r and adjust|ng my bra strap so |t w||| stop s||d|ng
down my arm.
°1ho |ouso Govornor doosn't havo tr|onds ot h|s own. Whon loso took |||, ho stoppod ovon |oav|ng tho proporty.'
°What d|d ho do botoro thon?' l ask, sm|||ng ||ko sho's say|ng somoth|ng do||ghttu|.
°0os|gnod housos,' sho says, and t|utts my ha|r around my shou|dors. °1horo! You |ook so protty.'
Vy s|stor w|vos and l start tho n|ght as wa||t|owors, wh|ch |s what our domost|cs havo coachod us to do.
Wo ho|d hands w|th ono anothor, sharo a cup ot punch, |ook protty and wa|t to bo |ntroducod. Ono at a t|mo tho strangors, t|rst gonorat|ons, stoa| us
tor dancos. 1hoy put tho|r hands on our h|ps and shou|dors, gott|ng too c|oso, torc|ng us to smo|| tho|r cr|sp su|ts and attorshavo. l t|nd myso|t
|ook|ng torward to tho momont whon thoy'|| ro|oaso mo, whon l can catch my broath bonoath tho orangos. 1onna stands bos|do mo, a|| dancod out.
0osp|to hor ovor-prosont rosontmont tor hor capt|v|ty, sho |s a tantast|c dancor. |ast or s|ow, hor body movos ||ko a t|amo or a ba||or|na |n a mus|c
box. |or |ong, |oan ||mbs movo as natura||y as a woop|ng w|||ow |n tho w|nd. 3ho sm||os at our husband as sho movos, and ho b|ushos, ovorcomo
by hor boauty. 3ut l know what hor sm||o roa||y moans. l know why sho's onjoy|ng th|s n|ght. lt's bocauso h|s doad w|to st||| ||ngors horo, and ho's |n
agony, and sho wants h|m to know that h|s pa|n w||| novor go away.
|or sm||o |s hor rovongo.
low sho stands bos|do mo and p|ucks an orango trom |ts branch. 3ho turns |t |n hor hands and says, °l th|nk wo'|| got ott oasy ton|ght.'
°What do you moan?' l ask.
3ho nods ahoad ot us, to whoro Coc||y |s s|ow danc|ng |n l|ndon's arms. |or wh|to tooth can bo soon boam|ng ovon trom horo. °3ho's capturod h|s
hoart tor tho momont,' 1onna says. °|o hasn't |ot hor go tor a socond.'
°You'ro r|ght,' l say. |o has g|von a|| ot h|s dancos to Coc||y. |o has spont tho rost ot h|s t|mo star|ng |n awo at 1onna. |o hasn't |ookod at mo at a||.
1onna |s p|uckod away tor anothor danco, hav|ng ga|nod many adm|rors w|th hor vorsat|||ty and charm|ng sm||o. l'm |ott a|ono to nurso punch trom a
crysta| g|ass. A coo| broozo washos through my ha|r, and l wondor whoro loso to|| |||. Was |t whoro tho attondants aro argu|ng ovor not mak|ng
onough ch|ckon tor tho occas|on? Whoro Coc||y and l|ndon havo snuck away trom tho danco t|oor to g|gg|o |n tho ta|| grass? And whoro d|d tho
scattorod ashos ta||? And what woro thoso ashos, and what roa||y bocamo ot l|ndon and loso's doad ch||d?
As tho n|ght prossos on and tho guosts th|n out, 1onna and l s|t |n tho grass wh||o Ada|r and 0o|rdro comb tho tang|os trom our ha|r. l|ndon and
Coc||y aro nowhoro to bo tound, not ovon whon wo s||p away to bod much |ator.
1ho to||ow|ng day Coc||y stumb|os |nto tho ||brary somot|mo attor noon |ook|ng pa|o and dazod. 1horo's a hazy sm||o on hor ||ps that won't go away,
and hor ha|r |s a moss. lt's ||ko a brusht|ro t|||od w|th casua|t|os.
Gabr|o| br|ngs tho toa, and Coc||y pours |n too much sugar as usua|. 3ho doosn't ta|k to us. 1horo aro p|||ow croasos on hor taco, and sho cr|ngos
whonovor sho movos hor |ogs.
°lt's a protty day,' sho t|na||y says, |ong attor l'vo movod to my ovorstuttod cha|r and 1onna has bogun pac|ng tho a|s|os.
3ho doosn't |ook r|ght. lot r|ght at a||. |or usua| vorvo |s subduod, and hor vo|co |s gont|o ||ko w|nd ch|mos. 3ho sooms ||ko a w||d b|rd that has
boon tamod and |s survoy|ng |ts capt|v|ty |n a dazo |n wh|ch capt|v|ty doosn't soom so bad.
°Aro you a|| r|ght?' l ask hor.
°Oh, yos,' sho says. |or hoad cants to ono s|do, thon tho othor, and thon sho gont|y rosts |t on tho tab|o.
Across tho room 1onna shoots mo a |ook. |or mouth doosn't movo but l undorstand what sho's to|||ng mo.
low that Coc||y has t|na||y gotton what sho wantod ot our husband, th|s moans l|ndon has tuckod loso sato|y |ns|do h|s momor|os, and ho's roady
to v|s|t tho bods ot h|s roma|n|ng w|vos.
Coc||y |ooks so sma|| and ho|p|oss, as happy as sho may bo, that l say °Como on' and gont|y br|ng hor to hor toot. 3ho doosn't objoct, and |n tact
wraps hor ||tt|o arm around my back as l gu|do hor to hor room.
l|ndon |s a monstor, l th|nk. |o's a v||o man. °Can't you soo sho's st||| a ||tt|o g|r|?' l murmur.
°|m?' Coc||y ra|sos hor oyobrows.
°loth|ng,' l say. °|ow aro you too||ng?'
3ho c||mbs |nto tho bod, wh|ch |s unmado and |ook|ng as though sho just |ott |t, and as hor hoad roachos tho p|||ow, sho staros at mo w|th c|oudy
oyos. °3r||||ant,' sho says.
l tuck hor |n, and l not|co tho sma|| b|t ot b|ood on tho shoots.
l s|t w|th hor tor a wh||o as sho dr|tts back to s|oop. l ||ston to tho rob|ns that havo nostod |n tho troo bo|ow hor w|ndow. 3ho'd wantod to show thom
to mo botoro, just a ch||d |ook|ng tor an oxcuso to ta|k to mo. l havon't boon vory k|nd to hor, or ta|r. 3ho can't ho|p that sho's ob||v|ous, that sho's so
young. 3ho can't ho|p that sho grow up |n a wor|d w|thout paronts, |n an orphanago that a||owod hor to bo takon tor o|thor a br|do or a corpso. 3ho
doosn't know how trag||o sho |s, how c|oso sho camo to doath |n that van.
3ut l do. l push somo tang|od ha|r trom hor taco and say, °|avo swoot droams.'
lt's tho bost th|ng anyono can hopo tor, |n th|s p|aco.
l'm so angry w|th l|ndon that l can't stand tho s|ght ot h|m. |o comos |nto my bodroom that n|ght, and w|thout ask|ng ho advancos to my bod. l don't
opon tho shoots, and so ho stops. l turn on tho ||ght and act as though l'm just wak|ng, whon |n tact l'vo boon oxpoct|ng h|m.
°|o||o,' ho says sott|y.
°|o||o,' l say, and s|t up.
|o touchos tho odgo ot my mattross but doosn't s|t.
Cou|d ho bo wa|t|ng tor an |nv|tat|on? 0|d Coc||y g|vo h|m ono? 1onna novor w|||. lt ho |sn't go|ng to torco h|mso|t on us, thon Coc||y |s tho on|y ono
who w||| ovor a||ow h|m.
|o says, °You |ookod boaut|tu| |ast n|ght, |n tho orango grovo.'
°l d|dn't th|nk you not|cod mo,' l say. Evon now, ho doosn't |ook at mo. |o |ooks out my w|ndow that doosn't opon. 1ho w|nds havo p|ckod up aga|n,
how||ng ||ko tho doad. Orangos and rosos must bo t|y|ng trom tho groonory and gott|ng mang|od |n tho a|r.
°Can l como to bod?' ho says.
°lo,' l say, to|d|ng tho b|ankot noat|y across my |ap.
|o |ooks at mo, ra|sos a do||cato oyobrow. °lo?'
°lo,' l att|rm. l moan to sound angry, but somohow |t doosn't como out r|ght. 1horo's t|ght s||onco botwoon us, and thon l say, °3ut thank you tor
ask|ng.'
|o stands r|g|d|y and sooms to bo try|ng to doc|do whoro to put h|s hands. ||s pajama pants don't havo pockots. °1hon how about a wa|k?' ho
says.
°low?' l say. °lt |ooks ||ko |t's a co|d n|ght.' ||or|da has provon thus tar to havo strango woathor.
°Woar a coat,' ho says. °Voot mo at tho o|ovator |n a tow m|nutos.'
Wo||, l supposo thoro's no harm |n a wa|k. l go to my c|osot and put a ||ght kn|t coat ovor my n|ghtgown, and a pa|r ot th|ck socks that mako |t hard
tor mo to wr|gg|o my toot |nto my shoos.
Whon l moot l|ndon at tho o|ovator, l soo that my coat |s tho tom|n|no cut ot h|s, and l wondor |t th|s |s co|nc|donco. 0o|rdro, hopo|oss ||tt|o romant|c
that sho |s, may havo dos|gnod |t spoc|a||y to match. l supposo sho moans tor mo to |oarn to |ovo h|m. 3ut sho's young yot. 3ho has p|onty ot yoars
to |oarn what truo |ovo |s, or at tho vory |oast what |t |sn't.
1ho o|ovator movos down and l'm hauntod by |magos ot my mothor tw|r||ng |n hor b|||owy drossos, my tathor d|pp|ng hor ovor h|s arm, mus|c t||||ng
tho ||v|ng room.
Yoo woot to koowoboot troo |ovoº my tathor tho gonot|c|st sa|d to my brothor and mo as wo watchod thom danco.
l`|| to|| yoo somotblog oboot troo |ovo. lt`s oo sclooco to lt. lt`s ootoro| os tbo sky.
lovo |s natura|. Evon tho human raco can't c|a|m to bo natura| anymoro. Wo aro tako, dy|ng th|ngs. |ow t|tt|ng that l wou|d ond up |n th|s sham ot a
marr|ago.
Outs|do |t's b|ttor and co|d. 1horo's a burnod, |oaty smo|| ||ko autumn. l th|nk ot W|ndbroakors and rakos and now knoosocks tor schoo|. 1h|ngs that
aro a wor|d away, but ||ngor|ng st|||. Vy noso |s trozon, l pu|| tho co||ar ot my coat up around my oars.
l|ndon hooks h|s arm |n m|no and wo bog|n to wa|k, not through tho roso gardon but toward tho orango grovo. A|| tracos ot tho party aro gono, and
now l can soo |t tor what |t roa||y |s: stragg|y and natura| and protty. A p|aco whoro l wou|d want to ||o on a b|ankot and road. l can soo why loso
spont so much t|mo horo, and l wondor |t sho know sho was ||| that day sho co||apsod. l wondor |t sho thought sho m|ght s||p away qu|ot|y, shadod by
sott wh|to b|ossoms, so that hor pa|n wou|d not bo pro|ongod.
1ho w|nd rust|os ovoryth|ng, and l too| hor soron|ty ovorywhoro. l too| poacotu|, not so angry anymoro.
°3ho's horo,' l|ndon says, ||ko ho was road|ng my m|nd.
°Vm,' l agroo.
Wo wa|k tor a wh||o, a|ong a vaguo path ot wo||-trod grass and d|rt. 1horo aro no man-mado ponds horo, no qua|nt ||tt|o |ovo soats or bonchos. 1ho
w|nd comos |n such |oud bouts that whon wo opon our mouths, a|| hopo ot words |s suckod trom our throats. 3ut l sonso thoro's somoth|ng l|ndon
wants to say, and whon |t's ca|m, ho stops wa|k|ng and takos my hands. 1ho co|d has chappod my knuck|os, but h|s pa|ms aro smooth and mo|st
ovor thom.
°l|ston to mo,' ho says. ||s oyos aro br|ght groon |n tho moon||ght. °l w||| sharo th|s p|aco w|th you. Anywhoro you w|sh to go, just ask and l'|| a||ow |t.
3ut th|s p|aco |s sacrod, a|| r|ght? l w||| not |ot you uso |t as a woapon aga|nst mo.'
1horo's noth|ng torcotu| about h|s tono, but ho squoozos my hands and |owors h|s hoad so our oyos aro ovon. 3o ho knows, thon. |o knows that my
party suggost|on was ma||c|ous, and yot ho d|dn't ra|so a hand to mo.
|o d|dn't abuso mo tor my dot|anco ||ko h|s tathor abusod Gabr|o|. Why? Why wou|d a man who sto|o throo g|r|s trom tho|r homos show mo any
k|ndnoss?
l purso my chappod ||ps, t|ght|ng tho dos|ro to to|| h|m that |t l can go anywhoro, l want to go back to Vanhattan. l can't |ot h|m know my droams ot
oscapo, bocauso thon ho'|| novor |ot mo go. 1ruth doosn't tactor |nto my oscapo p|an.
°l d|dn't moan to hurt you,' l say. °l supposo l was just joa|ous. You havon't pa|d any attont|on to mo, and l thought that |t wo cou|d havo tho party horo,
you wou|d too| bottor. lt wou|d bo ||ko a tunora| tor loso. You cou|d co|obrato your now marr|agos and movo on.'
|o |ooks so takon aback, so touchod by my ||o, that l a|most too| bad about |t. l am sorry that h|s doad w|to |s bo|ng d|ssoctod |n tho basomont, hor
boauty ru|nod and rapod, wh||o l uso hor namo aga|nst h|m. Ono attornoon, as loso |ay |n a swoaty dazo, tootor|ng on tho odgo ot consc|ousnoss,
sho mado mo swoar that l wou|d |ook attor l|ndon, and l prom|sod l wou|d. l d|dn't oxpoct to koop that prom|so, but maybo my ||o w||| at |oast do h|m
somo good |n tho moant|mo.
°l wantod to bury hor,' ho says, °but my tathor d|dn't th|nk |t was a good |doa. |o says wo don't know |t tho v|rus sho had-' ||s vo|co catchos, and
ho takos a momont. °lt |t wou|d attoct tho so||. 3o ho gavo mo hor ashos.'
l wa|t tor h|m to mont|on tho ch||d that was scattorod horo, but ho doosn't. 1hat |s a pr|vacy ho moans to koop.
Or maybo |t's just too pa|ntu|.
°Aro you go|ng to scattor hor?' l ask.
°l d|d,' ho says. °last n|ght attor tho party. l thought |t was t|mo to say good-byo.'
Attor h|s tryst w|th Coc||y, l supposo. Evon Coc||y's adorat|on can't subduo h|s hoartacho. 3ut l don't say anyth|ng. low |s not tho t|mo to ta|k about
Coc||y. lnstoad wo turn, arm |n arm, husband and w|to, and hoad back to tho spraw||ng mans|on that |s covorod |n |vy. l th|nk ot tho |vy |oat l'vo
h|ddon tor myso|t |n a romanco novo| that w||| ond happ||y or trag|ca||y, and a|| tho wh||o l wondor whoso ashos woro roa||y scattorod |ast n|ght.
|or tho noxt tow n|ghts l|ndon |nv|tos a|| throo ot us to d|no w|th h|m. And on most n|ghts ho stays |n my bod. A|| wo do |s ta|k and s|oop. |o ||os |n
tho b|ankots and watchos mo rub |ot|on on my hands, brush my ha|r, c|oso tho curta|ns, and s|p my ovon|ng toa. l don't m|nd h|s prosonco so much. l
know |t wou|d bo too much tor 1onna, and l wou|d protor that ho |oavo Coc||y a|ono, bocauso sho w||| |ot h|m do anyth|ng to hor, and hor suddon
tra||ty worr|od mo that morn|ng attor tho party. l know sho's joa|ous that ho's com|ng to mo now, and l th|nk |t's nono ot hor bus|noss, so l answor
nono ot hor quost|ons. 3ut l|ndon and l don't ovon touch, oxcopt tor somot|mos whon l too| h|s t|ngors |n my ha|r sond|ng r|pp|os |nto my droams.
|o w||| ta|k to mo unt|| l succumb to oxhaust|on.
Gabr|o| starts br|ng|ng my broaktast at tho samo t|mo as my s|stor w|vos, and ho br|ngs oxtra tood tor l|ndon, who w||| ask tor unprod|ctab|o th|ngs
such as a cup ot syrup or grapos, wh|ch ho w||| oat by dang||ng tho v|no ovor h|s ||ps. Gabr|o| stops h|d|ng 1uno 3oans tor mo, and l m|ss thom. l
m|ss ta|k|ng to h|m. Wo don't havo many chancos to so much as |ook at oach othor bocauso l|ndon bog|ns tak|ng mo tor wa|ks |n tho dayt|mo.
On warm days ho br|ngs a|| throo ot us down to tho poo|. 1onna sunbathos, Coc||y somorsau|ts trom tho d|v|ng board w|th scroams ot do||ght that
suggost a ch||dhood and troodom sho w||| novor havo. l spond much ot my t|mo undorwator, whoro thoro aro ho|ograms ot jo|-|yt|sh and tho ocoan
t|oor. 3harks spood toward mo and thon cut through mo, c|oar|ng tho path tor schoo|s ot br|ght yo||ow and orango t|sh, wha|os as b|g as tho poo|
|tso|t. 3omot|mos l torgot that nono ot thoso th|ngs aro roa|, and l d|vo doopor and doopor, soarch|ng tor At|ant|s, and thon t|nd|ng on|y tho bottom ot
tho poo|.
1horo aro who|o days ||ko th|s. And |t's n|co, l th|nk.
l|ko hav|ng troodom. l|ko hav|ng s|stors. Evon 1onna w||| d|p hor toos |nto tho wator, g|vo mo a ||tt|o sp|ash.
Ono attornoon Coc||y and l consp|ro to oach grab ono ot hor ank|os and pu|| hor |n. 1onna scroams |nd|gnant|y, and c||ngs to tho odgo, swoar|ng
that wo'ro awtu| and sho hatos us. 3ut ovontua||y sho comos out ot |t. 3ho and l ho|d hands as wo go undor, wo try to catch ho|ograph|c gupp|os.
l|ndon doosn't sw|m, though somot|mos ho asks us how wo'ro onjoy|ng tho ho|ograms. |o's pa|o and th|n |n h|s sw|m trunks. |o roads arch|tocturo
magaz|nos wh||o s|tt|ng on a damp towo|, and l th|nk |t moans ho's gott|ng roady to work aga|n. Vaybo ho'|| start to |oavo tho proporty. Vaybo ho'||
attond a party. And l w||| bo on h|s arm.
l know my oscapo w||| havo to bo carotu||y p|annod and that l won't bo ab|o to s|mp|y van|sh |nto tho crowd on my t|rst n|ght out. 3ut maybo thoro w|||
bo a to|ov|sod ovont.
Vaybo lowan w||| bo watch|ng and ho'|| soo that l'm a||vo.
Ono attornoon l run |ns|do to got an oxtra towo| trom tho cab|not by tho door, and l a|most caroon |nto Gabr|o|, who |s ho|d|ng a tray ot orango ju|co
|n stom g|assos.
°3orry,' l say.
°3ounds ||ko you'ro hav|ng tun,' ho says, not qu|to moot|ng my oyos. °Excuso mo.' |o stops around mo.
°Wa|t,' l say. l g|anco ovor my shou|dor to bo suro nono ot tho othors, |oung|ng and sp|ash|ng at tho poo| on tho othor s|do ot tho g|ass door, aro
watch|ng. Gabr|o| turns to taco mo. °Aro you mad at mo tor somoth|ng?' l ask.
°lo. l just d|dn't th|nk you had t|mo to spoak to an attondant anymoro,' ho says. l am not ||k|ng tho darknoss |n h|s norma||y gont|o oyos. °low that
you'ro tho w|to ot a |ouso Govornor.'
°|oy, wa|t a m|nuto,' l stammor.
°1horo's noth|ng to oxp|a|n, lady lh|no,' ho says.
1hat's tochn|ca||y what tho ho|p |s supposod to ca|| mo, but l guoss l don't havo tho r|ght a|r to carry |t, bocauso around tho houso l havo a|ways boon
lh|no. Or b|ond|o.
1hough Gabr|o| |s r|ght, l havon't boon ab|o to spoak to anyono but l|ndon and my s|stor w|vos tor days. l m|ss s|tt|ng on tho k|tchon countor and
ta|k|ng to tho cooks, and l m|ss ta|k|ng to Gabr|o|. l m|ss tho 1uno 3oans, and l'm runn|ng |ow on my supp|y |n tho drawor. 3ut thoso aro hard|y th|ngs
l can say |n l|ndon's or |ousomastor vaughn's prosonco, and l novor soo Gabr|o| anymoro un|oss at |oast ono ot thom |s noarby.
°What |s |t?' l say. °What d|d l do?'
°l guoss l just d|dn't oxpoct you to ta|| tor tho |ouso Govornor so oas||y,' ho says.
lt's such an absurd thought that l |augh and choko on tho word °What?'
°l ||vo |n tho samo houso, you know,' ho says. °l br|ng you broaktast ovory morn|ng.'
|o's wrong, so horr|b|y wrong. And l am so ottondod that l abandon any |ntont|ons to corroct h|m. °You d|dn't oxpoct mo to sharo a bod w|th my own
husband?' l say.
°l guoss l d|dn't,' ho says. And thon ho opons tho s||d|ng g|ass door and stops out |nto tho sunsh|no, |oav|ng mo to stand thoro, dr|pp|ng wot, tooth
chattor|ng, wondor|ng what tho ho|| th|s p|aco has mado mo bocomo.
At d|nnor l am s||ont. l|ndon asks mo |t tho tood |s a|| r|ght, and l wa|t unt|| Gabr|o| has t|n|shod pour|ng my spark||ng wator botoro l nod. l roa||y want
to pu|| Gabr|o| as|do and ta|k to h|m. l want to oxp|a|n that ho's wrong about l|ndon and mo. 3ut |ousomastor vaughn |s s|tt|ng at tho tab|o, and h|s
prosonco makos mo koop my hoad down.
ln tho o|ovator attor d|nnor, Gabr|o| oscorts us to our t|oor. l try to catch h|s gazo, but ho sooms to bo do||borato|y avo|d|ng mo.
Coc||y stands bos|do mo and rubs hor tomp|os. °Why aro tho ||ghts so br|ght?' sho says.
1ho doors opon, and 1onna and l got out on our t|oor, but Coc||y doosn't movo.
°What's wrong?' l ask.
And that's whon l not|co how pa|o sho |s. |or taco g||stons |n a shoon ot swoat. °l don't too| r|ght,' sho says.
As soon as tho sontonco |s uttorod, hor oyos t|uttor up |nto hor hoad, and Gabr|o| just catchos hor as sho co||apsos |nto a ||to|oss hoap.
1ho attondants arr|vo |n abundanco. A|| ot thom rush|ng |nto and out ot Coc||y's room ||ko |n a busy anth|||.
|ousomastor vaughn |s thoro, and l|ndon |s pac|ng back and torth ovor tho throsho|d. 1onna and l aro hordod |nto our bodrooms, and l s|t at my
dross|ng tab|o, too stunnod and worr|od to try tor s|oop.
3hou|d l havo to|d l|ndon how awtu| sho |ookod tho morn|ng attor tho party? |o wou|d havo ||stonod to mo.
l shou|d havo rom|ndod h|m that sho's on|y a ch||d. |o doosn't roa||zo thoso obv|ous th|ngs, and l shou|d havo |ntorvonod.
ls sho b|ood|ng? ls sho dy|ng? Ear||or today sho was t|no.
l pross my oar to my door, try|ng to ovorhoar somoth|ng othor than tho |ncomprohons|b|o muttor|ngs across tho ha||. Whon tho door opons, l a|most
ta|| ovor. Gabr|o| |s poor|ng |nto tho room. °3orry. 0|dn't moan to scaro you,' ho says sott|y. l movo out ot tho way to |ot h|m |n, and ho c|osos tho
door boh|nd h|m. lt's unusua| to soo h|m |n my bodroom w|thout a tray |n h|s hands.
°l wantod to soo |t you woro okay,' ho says. 1horo's no b|ttornoss |n h|s tono. ||s oyos aro tho|r tam|||ar poacotu| b|uo, w|th nono ot tho rosontmont l
saw oar||or today. Vaybo ho's just sot a|| that ug||noss as|do tor tho momont, but l'm so ro||ovod by h|s tam|||ar|ty that l hug h|m.
|o tonsos at t|rst, stunnod, and thon ho wraps h|s arms around mo, and l too| h|s ch|n rost on tho top ot my hoad.
°lt's boon awtu|,' l say.
°l know,' ho says, and l too| h|s arms sh|tt. l'vo novor boon th|s c|oso to h|m botoro. |o's ta||or and sturd|or than l|ndon, who |s a tow pounds trom
b|ow|ng away.
And ho smo||s ||ko tho k|tchon, ||ko a|| tho no|so and onorgy and th|ngs bo|||ng and bak|ng.
°You don't know,' l assuro h|m, |nch|ng away just onough to |ook at h|m. A sort ot gont|o hazo has takon ovor h|s taco, ho |ooks t|ushod. °lt's not just
Coc||y. A|| ot us aro suttor|ng |n th|s marr|ago. 1onna hatos h|m, you know. And l know how l|ndon |ooks at mo-||ko l'm loso. lt's my on|y dotonso
to p|ay a|ong, but |t's so oxhaust|ng at n|ght to havo h|m |y|ng bos|do mo, muttor|ng hor namo |n h|s s|oop. lt's ||ko ho's oras|ng mo, a ||tt|o moro
ovory day.'
°|o cou|dn't oraso you,' Gabr|o| assuros mo.
°And you,' l say. °0on't you ovor ca|| mo lady lh|no. l hoard how |t soundod tor tho t|rst t|mo today, and l hato |t. lt's not r|ght at a||.'
°Okay,' ho says. °l'm sorry. Anyth|ng you and tho |ouso Govornor do |s nono ot my bus|noss.'
°lt's not that!' l cry, and put my hands t|rm|y on h|s shou|dors. l |owor my vo|co, just |n caso anyono m|ght bo stand|ng |n tho ha|| outs|do. °lt w||| bo tho
vory co|dost day |n ho|| botoro l|ndon Ashby has h|s way w|th mo, a|| r|ght?' l a|most koop ta|k|ng. l a|most to|| h|m about my p|an to oscapo, but l
doc|do aga|nst |t. |or now that w||| roma|n my socrot. °0o you bo||ovo mo?' l say.
°l novor bo||ovod othorw|so,' ho says. °3ut l saw soo h|m |n your bod and-l don't know. lt got to mo.'
°Yoah, wo||, |t gots to mo, too.' l |augh a ||tt|o, and ho to||ows my |oad. l broak away and s|t on tho odgo ot my mattross. °3o, what's happon|ng w|th
Coc||y?'
|o shakos h|s hoad. °l don't know. |ousomastor vaughn |s |n thoro w|th a tow ot tho houso doctors.' |o watchos my taco drop. °3ut, hoy, ||ston. l'm
suro sho's a|| r|ght. lt |t was vory sor|ous, thoy wou|d havo movod hor to a hosp|ta| |n tho c|ty.'
l |ook at my hands |n my |ap and s|gh.
°Can l got you anyth|ng?' Gabr|o| says. °What about toa? Or somo strawborr|os. You hard|y ato at d|nnor.'
l don't want toa or strawborr|os. l don't want Gabr|o| to bo my attondant r|ght now. l want h|m to s|t horo w|th mo and bo my tr|ond. l want to know ho
won't bo pun|shod tor |t |ator. l want us both to bo troo.
Vaybo |t l ovor work out a p|an to oscapo, l can br|ng h|m w|th mo. l th|nk ho wou|d ||ko tho harbor.
3ut l don't know how to say a|| ot th|s |n a way that won't mako mo soom woak, so a|| that comos out |s, °1o|| mo about yourso|t.'
°Vyso|t?' |o |ooks contusod.
°Yos,' l say, patt|ng tho mattross.
°You know a|| thoro |s to know,' ho says, s|tt|ng bos|do mo.
°lot truo,' l say. °Whoro woro you born? What's your tavor|to soason? Anyth|ng.'
°|oro. ||or|da,' ho says. °l romombor a woman |n a rod dross w|th cur|y brown ha|r. Vaybo sho was my mothor, l'm not suro. And summor. What
about you?' 1ho |ast part |s sa|d w|th a sm||o. |o sm||os so |ntroquont|y that l cons|dor oach ono a sort ot trophy.
°|a|| |s my tavor|to,' l say. |o a|roady knows about Vanhattan, and that my paronts d|od whon l was two|vo.
l'm th|nk|ng up anothor round ot quost|ons whon thoro's a knock at tho door. Gabr|o| stands and smoothos out tho wr|nk|os |n tho comtortor whoro
ho sat. l grab tho ompty g|ass on my n|ghtstand |n caso l nood to protond l was ask|ng h|m tor a rot|||. °Como |n,' l say.
lt's E||o, Coc||y's domost|c. |or oyos aro w||d w|th oxc|tomont. °Guoss what l'vo como to to|| you,' sho says.
°You'|| novor guoss. Coc||y |s go|ng to havo a baby!'
ln tho wooks that to||ow, l|ndon dovotos so much t|mo to Coc||y that l bocomo tho |nv|s|b|o br|do aga|n. l know th|s |ack ot attont|on |s bad tor my
oscapo p|an, but l can't ho|p too||ng a ||tt|o |oss burdonod w|thout h|s constant prosonco, at |oast tor now. Onco aga|n Gabr|o| and l aro troo to ta|k,
whon ho br|ngs broaktast to my room. |o's tho on|y attondant br|ng|ng moa|s to tho w|vos' t|oor, so ho br|ngs mo broaktast oar|y aga|n, wh||o my
s|stor w|vos aro as|oop, a|though Coc||y's s|oop pattorn has bocomo moro orrat|c as hor prognancy progrossos.
3pond|ng t|mo w|th Gabr|o| |s noth|ng ||ko tho ob||gatory t|mo spont w|th my husband. l can bo honost w|th Gabr|o|. l can to|| h|m that l m|ss
Vanhattan, wh|ch had onco soomod to mo ||ko tho b|ggost p|aco |n tho wor|d, but now too|s as d|stant as a star.
°1horo usod to bo moro boroughs d|v|d|ng tho c|ty-3rook|yn, l th|nk, and Ouoons, and a tow othors. 3ut thoy ca||od |t a|| Vanhattan attor thoy
addod tho ||ghthousos and now harbors, and thoy |abo|od tho boroughs by tho|r purposo. V|no |s tactor|os and sh|pp|ng. 1o tho wost |s t|sh|ng, and
to tho oast |s most|y ros|doncos.'
°Why?' Gabr|o| asks, b|t|ng |nto a p|oco ot toast trom my broaktast tray. |o's s|tt|ng on tho ottoman, by tho w|ndow, and tho morn|ng ||ght br|ghtons
tho r|ng ot b|uo around h|s pup||s.
°0on't know.' l ro|| onto my stomach and rost my ch|n on my arms. °Vaybo |t got too contus|ng try|ng to koop a|| thoso boroughs stra|ght, thoy'ro a||
most|y |ndustr|a||zod, as|do trom tho ros|doncos. Vaybo tho pros|dont cou|dn't bothor to |oarn tho d|ttoronco.'
°3ounds st|t||ng,' ho says.
°A ||tt|o,' l adm|t, °but tho bu||d|ngs aro hundrods ot yoars o|d, somo ot thom. Whon l was ||tt|o, l usod to protond l was |oav|ng my tront door and
stopp|ng |nto tho past. l usod to protond . . .' Vy vo|co tra||s ott. l traco my t|ngor a|ong tho soam ot my b|ankot.
°What?' Gabr|o| asks, |oan|ng toward mo.
°l'vo novor sa|d |t out |oud botoro,' l say, just now roa||z|ng |t. °3ut l usod to protond l was go|ng out |nto tho twonty-t|rst contury, and l'd soo poop|o
who woro a|| d|ttoront agos, and l'd got to grow up and bo just ||ko thom.' 1horo's a |ong s||onco, and l koop my oyos on tho soam bocauso suddon|y
|t's d|tt|cu|t to |ook at Gabr|o|.
3ut l can too| h|m |ook|ng at mo. And attor a tow soconds ho comos to tho odgo ot my bod, l too| tho mattross d|p s||ght|y undor h|s wo|ght.
°|orgot |t,' l say, try|ng to manago a |augh. °lt's dumb.'
°lo,' ho says. °lt's not.'
||s t|ngor tra||s attor m|no, a|ong tho b|ankot, mak|ng a stra|ght ||no up and down, our hands not qu|to touch|ng. A t|ood ot warmth rushos through
mo, croat|ng a sm||o l can't avo|d. 1horo w||| bo no adu|thood tor mo, l know that, and |t's boon a |ong t|mo s|nco l'vo ovon protondod. l cou|d novor
sharo th|s tantasy w|th my paronts, |t wou|d havo saddonod thom. Or w|th my brothor, ho wou|d havo ca||od |t po|nt|oss. And so l kopt |t to
myso|t, torcod myso|t to outgrow |t. 3ut now, watch|ng Gabr|o|'s hand movo a|ongs|do my own as though wo'ro p|ay|ng a gamo w|th a sot rhythm
and mothod, l |ot tho tantasy roturn. Ono day l'|| stop outs|do ot th|s mans|on, and thoro w||| bo tho wor|d. 1ho hoa|thy, thr|v|ng wor|d, w|th a boaut|tu|
path to tho rost ot my |ong ||to.
°You shou|d soo |t,' l say. °1ho c|ty, l moan.'
||s vo|co |s sott. °l'd ||ko that.'
1horo's a knock at my c|osod door, and Coc||y's vo|co asks, °ls l|ndon |n thoro w|th you? |o was supposod to br|ng mo somo hot choco|ato.'
°lo,' l say.
°3ut l hoar vo|cos,' sho says. °Who's w|th you?'
Gabr|o| stands, and l smooth out tho b|ankots as ho p|cks up my broaktast tray trom tho dross|ng tab|o.
°1ry pag|ng tho k|tchon,' l to|| hor. °Vaybo somoono thoro knows whoro ho |s. Or try E||o.'
3ho hos|tatos, knocks aga|n. °Can l como |n?'
l s|t up, qu|ck|y throw tho b|ankots across tho mattross, and smooth out tho wr|nk|os, t|utt up tho p|||ows.
l havon't dono anyth|ng wrong, but now l suddon|y too| strango about hor d|scovor|ng Gabr|o| |n my room. l cross tho room and opon tho door. °What
do you want?' l say.
3ho pushos past mo, staros at Gabr|o|, s|z|ng h|m up w|th hor brown oyos.
°l'd bottor got thoso d|shos to tho k|tchon,' ho says awkward|y. l try to g|vo h|m an apo|ogot|c |ook ovor Coc||y's shou|dor, but ho won't acknow|odgo
mo. |o'|| baro|y ovon |ook up trom h|s shoos.
°Wo||, thon, br|ng up somo hot choco|ato,' Coc||y says.
°Extra, oxtra hot, and don't put marshma||ows |n |t. You a|ways do that, and thoy got a|| mo|tod and gross bocauso |t takos you so |ong to br|ng |t
upsta|rs. lut marshma||ows |n a bow| on tho s|do. lo, br|ng a who|o bag.'
|o nods, movos past us. Coc||y poors out |nto tho ha||way unt|| tho o|ovator doors havo c|osod boh|nd Gabr|o|.
1hon sho sp|ns to taco mo. °Why was your door c|osod?'
°lono ot your bus|noss,' l snap. l roa||zo how susp|c|ous that sounds, but l can't ho|p |t. 1a|k|ng to Gabr|o| |s ono ot tho tow |uxur|os l havo. Vy s|stor
w|to has no r|ght, and yot ovory r|ght, to tako |t away.
l s|t on tho ottoman and protond to arrango tho ha|r accossor|os |n tho top drawor, tum|ng.
°|o's just an attondant,' Coc||y says, wa|k|ng tho |ongth ot my room and trac|ng hor t|ngor a|ong tho wa||.
°And ho's stup|d, anyway. |o novor br|ngs onough croam or sugar w|th tho toa, and |t takos h|m so |ong to br|ng my moa|s that tho tood's a|ways
co|d by tho t|mo-'
°|o's not stup|d,' l |ntorrupt. °You just ||ko to comp|a|n.'
°Comp|a|n?' sho sp|uttors. °Comp|a|n? not tho ono throw|ng up broaktast ovory morn|ng. not tho ono trappod |n bod a|| day bocauso
ot th|s stup|d prognancy. l do not th|nk l'm ask|ng tor too much whon l oxpoct tho stup|d attondants to do tho|r job, wh|ch |s to br|ng mo whatovor l
want.' 3ho drops onto my mattross and to|ds hor arms |n dot|anco. lo|nt mado.
|rom th|s ang|o l can soo tho s||ght bump com|ng up undor hor n|ghtgown. And vaguo|y l can smo|| somoth|ng ||ko vom|t undor whatovor portumo
sho's woar|ng.
|or ha|r |s d|shovo|od, hor sk|n pa|o. And, |oatho as l am to adm|t |t, l undorstand hor sour mood. 3ho's go|ng through moro than a g|r| hor ago
shou|d.
°|oro,' l say, roach|ng |nto my drawor and hand|ng hor ono ot tho rod cand|os 0o|rdro gavo mo on my wodd|ng day. °1h|s w||| sott|o your stomach a
||tt|o.'
3ho takos |t and pops |t |nto hor mouth w|th an °mm' ot sat|stact|on.
°And g|v|ng b|rth |s go|ng to hurt, you know,' sho says. °l m|ght ovon d|o.'
°You won't d|o,' l say, torc|ng away tho thought that l|ndon's mothor d|od |n ch||db|rth.
°3ut l m|ght,' sho says. A|| tho cha||ongo has |ott hor vo|co. 3ho sounds a|most atra|d as sho |ooks at tho candy wrappor |n hor hand. °3o thoy shou|d
got mo whatovor l want.'
l s|t bos|do hor and put my arm around hor. 3ho sott|os hor hoad aga|nst my shou|dor. °Okay,' l agroo. °You shou|d got whatovor you want. 3ut you
catch moro t||os w|th honoy than w|th v|nogar, you know.'
°What doos that moan?'
°lt's somoth|ng my mothor usod to say,' l to|| hor. °lt moans that |t you'ro n|co to poop|o, thoy'|| bo happ|or to do th|ngs tor you. Vaybo ovon do a ||tt|o
oxtra.'
°ls that why you'ro so n|co to h|m?' sho says.
°Who?'
°1hat attondant. You'ro a|ways ta|k|ng to h|m.'
°Vaybo,' l say. l too| my chooks start|ng to burn.
1hanktu||y Coc||y |sn't |ook|ng at mo. °l'm just bo|ng n|co, l guoss.'
°You shou|dn't bo so n|co,' sho says. °lt g|vos tho wrong |mpross|on.'
l|ndon |s so do||ghtod about tho prognancy, and tho mood ot tho houso |s so br|ght, that ho ottors a|| ot us tho troodom
to tour tho houso and tho gardons. Whon l'm a|ono, l |ook tor tho road through tho troos to tho outs|do wor|d, but l can novor t|nd so much as a path.
|ousomastor vaughn |oavos tho proporty somot|mos to do work at h|s hosp|ta|, but tho |awn must bo troatod somohow to ros|st t|ro marks
bocauso l'vo novor soon any |oad|ng out ot tho garago. Gabr|o| ca||od th|s p|aco otorn|ty and l'm bog|nn|ng to th|nk ho's r|ght. lo bog|nn|ng, no ond.
And no mattor whoro l go, l a|ways somohow ond up back at tho mans|on.
Vy tathor usod to to|| mo stor|os ot carn|va|s. |o ca||od thom co|obrat|ons tor whon thoro was noth|ng to co|obrato. Whon ho was a ch||d, ho cou|d
go to a carn|va| and pay ton do||ars to wa|k through a houso ot m|rrors.
|o doscr|bod |t many t|mos-warpod m|rrors that mado h|m too ta|| or too short, m|rrors juxtaposod so that thoy |ookod ||ko |nt|n|to porta|s. |o sa|d
that tho houso a|ways |ookod ||ko |t wont on torovor, that |t was |nt|n|to, whon trom tho outs|do |t was roa||y as sma|| as a too| shod. 1ho tr|ck was
|ook|ng past tho |||us|on, bocauso tho ox|t was novor as tar as |t soomod.
l hadn't undorstood what ho moant unt|| now. l wandor tho roso gardon, tho tonn|s courts, tho |abyr|nth ot shrubbory, try|ng to channo| h|s sp|r|t. l
|mag|no h|m |ook|ng down on mo, watch|ng my spoc ot a body soarch|ng a|m|oss|y whon a|| tho wh||o tho ox|t |s just boyond my t|ngort|ps.
°|o|p mo t|guro th|s out,' l to|| h|m. 1ho on|y answor |s a w|nd through tho ta|| grass as l stand |n tho orango grovo. l'vo novor boon good at so|v|ng
puzz|os, my brothor |s tho ono who so|vod tho lub|k's Cubo on tho t|rst try. |o's tho ono who took an |ntorost |n tho sc|onco ot th|ngs, ask|ng our
tathor quost|ons about tho dostroyod countr|os wh||o l was busy adm|r|ng tho p|cturos.
l |mag|no my brothor omorg|ng trom botwoon tho orango troos. °You shou|dn't havo answorod that ad. You novor ||ston to mo,' ho'd say. °What am l
go|ng to do w|th you?' |o'd tako my hand. Wo'd go homo.
°lowan . . .' ||s namo sp|||s out ot mo w|th a hot wavo ot toars. loth|ng answors mo but tho broozo. |o |sn't com|ng, thoro's no path on oarth that
wou|d |oad h|m to mo.
Whon my ta||od p||ghts bocomo too d|shoarton|ng, l tako a broak and succumb to tho th|ngs that mako my pr|son moro onjoyab|o. l d|vo |nto tho
art|t|c|a| soa w|th|n tho poo|. An attondant shows mo how to uso tho d|a| that changos tho ho|ogram, and l can sw|m bonoath arct|c g|ac|ors or
nav|gato tho sunkon . l moandor a|ongs|do bott|onoso do|ph|ns. Attorward, d|pp|ng wot and smo|||ng ot ch|or|no, 1onna and l ||o |n tho grass
and s|p co|ortu| dr|nks w|th p|noapp|o s||cos on tho r|ms. Wo p|ay m|n|-go|t on a courso that l supposo was bu||t tor l|ndon whon ho was a ch||d, or
maybo h|s doad brothor botoro h|m. Wo don't koop scoro, and |t's a jo|nt ottort to dotoat tho sp|nn|ng c|own at tho |ast ho|o. Wo try p|ay|ng tonn|s
but g|vo up and mako a gamo ot shoot|ng tonn|s ba||s at tho wa||, s|nco that's a|| wo soom to bo good at.
ln tho k|tchon l can oat a|| tho 1uno 3oans l want. l s|t on tho k|tchon countor, ho|p|ng Gabr|o| poo| potatoos, and ||ston|ng to tho cooks ta|k about tho
woathor and how thoy'd ||ko to sorvo tho bratty ||tt|o br|do a d|rty sock. Gabr|o|, as good-naturod as ho |s, agroos that Coc||y has boon part|cu|ar|y
awtu| |ato|y. 3omoono suggosts try|ng up a rat tor hor |unch, and tho hoad cook says,
°Watch your tonguo. 1horo aro no rats |n my k|tchon.'
l|ndon too|s that ho's nog|oct|ng 1onna and mo, and ho asks |t wo'd ||ko anyth|ng-anyth|ng at a||. l a|most ask tor a crato ot 1uno 3oans, bocauso l
hoard tho k|tchon statt comp|a|n|ng about oar|y-morn|ng do||vor|os, and s|nco thon l'vo boon tantas|z|ng about oscap|ng on a do||vory truck. 3ut thon
l th|nk ot a|| tho progross l'vo mado oarn|ng l|ndon's trust, and how oas||y |t wou|d bo dostroyod |t l woro caught, wh|ch |s h|gh|y poss|b|o,
cons|dor|ng vaughn knows ovoryth|ng that happons |n th|s p|aco.
1onna says, °l'd ||ko a b|g trampo||no.' And tho noxt morn|ng thoro |t |s |n tho roso gardon. Wo jump unt|| our |ungs hurt, and thon wo ||o |n tho contor
ot |t and watch tho c|ouds tor a wh||o.
°1h|s |sn't tho worst p|aco to d|o,' sho contossos. 1hon sho props horso|t on hor o|bow, wh|ch causos my body to s||do moro toward hor, and sho
asks mo, °|as ho como to your bod at a|| |ato|y?'
°lo,' l say, and to|d my hands boh|nd my hoad. °lt's n|co to havo |t to myso|t aga|n.'
°lh|no?' sho says. °Whon ho camo to you, |t wasn't .. . tor ch||dron.'
°lo,' l say. °lt was novor that. |o hasn't ovon k|ssod mo.'
°l wondor why,' sho says, |y|ng back down.
°|as ho como to you at a||?' l ask.
°Yos,' sho says. °A tow t|mos, botoro a|| h|s attont|on startod go|ng to Coc||y.'
1h|s surpr|sos mo. l th|nk back to 1onna's ro||ab|o morn|ng rout|no ot tak|ng toa |n tho ||brary and bury|ng hor noso |n romanco novo|s. 1horo hasn't
boon a s|ng|o morn|ng whon sho has soomod rump|od or out ot sorts, ospoc|a||y not tho way Coc||y was. And ovon now, sho sooms vory coo| about
tho who|o th|ng.
°What was |t ||ko?' l ask, and |mmod|ato|y a hot b|ush sproads across my taco. 0|d l roa||y just ask that?
°lot torr|b|o,' |s 1onna's noncha|ant rop|y. °|o kopt ask|ng |t l was okay. l|ko ho thought l'd broak or somoth|ng.' 3ho |aughs a ||tt|o at tho thought. °lt
l was go|ng to broak, ho wou|dn't bo tho ono to do |t.'
l'm not suro how to rospond to that. 1ho vory thought ot l|ndon k|ss|ng mo sots my norvos on odgo, puts my stomach |n knots. And yot both ot my
s|stor w|vos havo dono much moro than k|ss h|m, and ono |s ovon carry|ng h|s ch||d.
°l thought you hatod h|m,' l t|na||y say.
°Ot courso l do,' sho says. |or vo|co |s a gont|o hum.
3ho crossos hor ank|o ovor hor po|ntod knoo and sw|ngs hor toot casua||y. °l'vo hatod a|| ot thom. 3ut th|s |s tho wor|d wo ||vo |n.'
°A|| ot thom?' l say.
3ho s|ts up and |ooks at mo, hor taco a m|x ot contus|on, p|ty, and maybo amusomont. °loa||y?' sho says, and cups my ch|n |n hor hand, |nspoct|ng
mo. |or sk|n |s sott, and |t smo||s ||ko tho |ot|ons 0o|rdro |ays out tor mo on tho dross|ng tab|o. °You'ro so protty, and you havo such a n|co t|guro,'
sho says. °|ow woro you oarn|ng monoy?'
l s|t up too, as l roa||zo what sho's ask|ng mo. °You thought l was a prost|tuto?' l say.
°Wo||, no,' sho says. °You soomod too swoot tor that. 3ut l just assumod-how o|so cou|d g|r|s ||ko us got by?'
l th|nk ot a|| tho g|r|s who danco |n tho park at low Yoar's part|os, how somo ot thom w||| s||p |nto a car w|th a woa|thy t|rst gonorat|on. And a|| tho
brotho|s |n tho scar|ot d|str|ct w|th b|ackod-out w|ndows. 3omot|mos a door wou|d opon as l passod by, and l'd hoar tho burst ot pu|s|ng mus|c, soo
a t||ckor ot ra|nbow ||ghts. l th|nk ot how dott|y 1onna dancod that n|ght |n tho orango grovo, and how char|smat|c sho was to thoso mon sho
dosp|sod.
|or ||to was |n ono ot thoso dark and socrot p|acos l'd baro|y had tho courago to wa|k past on tho s|dowa|k.
°l thought tho orphanago wou|d havo prov|dod you w|th onough to got by,' l say. 3ut l roa||zo |mmod|ato|y that that can't bo truo. lowan and l
dotorrod onough orphans trom stoa||ng trom us. Wo wou|dn't havo had to |t orphanagos had prov|dod tor thom.
1onna ||os back down, and l ||o bos|do hor. °You'ro sor|ous?' sho says. °3o you'vo novor . . .'
°lo,' l say, a tad dotons|vo|y. ln my m|nd 1onna bog|ns to mator|a||zo |n a now ||ght. 3ut l don't judgo hor. l don't b|amo hor. l|ko sho sa|d, |t's tho
wor|d wo ||vo |n.
°Wo||, l don't know why ho hasn't como to you,' sho says. °l got tho sonso thoro's a roason tor ovoryth|ng that happons horo.'
°l don't got |t,' l say. °lt you hato h|m so much, why not rotuso? l|ndon |s so m||d, l can't |mag|no h|m torc|ng h|mso|t on any ot us.'
1hough, |t has worr|od mo moro than onco that l|ndon has not prossod tho |ssuo ot consummat|ng our marr|ago. |as ho sonsod my hos|tat|on and
a||owod mo tho |uxury ot t|mo? |ow |ong botoro h|s pat|onco |s gono?
3ho turns to taco mo, and l can swoar thoro |s toar |n hor gray oyos tor a momont. °lt's not h|m l'm worr|od about,' sho says.
°Who?' l b||nk. °|ousomastor vaughn?'
3ho nods.
l th|nk ot loso's body |n tho basomont. A|| thoso om|nous ha||ways that cou|d |oad to anywhoro. And l sonso that 1onna, who |s such a koon
obsorvor, has tound hor own roasons |n th|s p|aco to bo atra|d. 1ho quost|on hangs hoavy on my tonguo: 1onna, what has |ousomastor vaughn
dono to you?
3ut l'm too atra|d ot tho answor. 1ho |mago ot loso's hand undor that shoot sonds a co|d r|pp|o up my sp|no.
1horo aro ug|y, dangorous th|ngs |urk|ng bonoath tho boauty ot th|s mans|on. And l'd ||ko to bo tar away trom horo botoro ovor know|ng what thoy
aro.
lt sooms that |oavos aro a|ways burst|ng w|th now co|ors. l'vo boon horo tor s|x months. l avo|d |ousomastor vaughn
whon l can. And at d|nnor whon ho roga|os mo |n bantor about tho moa| or tho woathor, l try to sm||o ||ko h|s vo|co |sn't sond|ng cockroachos up and
down my sp|no.
l|ndon t|nds mo ono attornoon wh||o l'm a|ono |n tho orango grovo, |y|ng |n tho grass, and l'm not suro |t ho was |ook|ng tor mo or |t ho'd moant to bo
horo a|ono. l sm||o at h|m and to|| myso|t l'm g|ad ho's horo. low that most ot h|s attont|on goos to my youngor s|stor w|to, l'vo had ||tt|o opportun|ty
to oarn h|s tavor. Wo'ro a|ono |n h|s doad w|to's tavor|to p|aco, and l sonso an opportun|ty to bond w|th h|m.
l pat tho ground bos|do mo |n |nv|tat|on, and ho ||os |n tho grass. Wo'ro both s||ont as a broozo movos ovor us.
loso st||| ||ngors |n tho troos, tho rust||ng |oavos aro hor othoroa| |aughtor. l|ndon to||ows my gazo to tho sky.
|or a wh||o wo say noth|ng. l ||ston to tho rhythm ot h|s broaths, and |gnoro tho noar|y |mporcopt|b|o t|uttor |n my chost brought on by h|s prosonco.
1ho back ot h|s hand just baro|y brushos m|no. An orango b|ossom ta||s ovor us on a portoct d|agona|.
°l'm droad|ng ta||. lt |s a torr|ty|ng soason,' ho says t|na||y. °Evoryth|ng shr|vo||ng up and dy|ng.'
l don't know how to answor. |a|| has a|ways boon my tavor|to soason. 1ho t|mo whon ovoryth|ng bursts w|th |ts |ast boauty, as |t naturo had boon
sav|ng up a|| yoar tor tho grand t|na|o. l'vo novor thought to bo tr|ghtonod ot |t. Vy groatost toar |s anothor yoar ot my ||to pass|ng by wh||o l'm so tar
trom homo.
3uddon|y tho c|ouds soom vory h|gh abovo us. 1hoy'ro mov|ng ovor us |n an arch, c|rc||ng tho p|anot. 1hoy havo soon abysma| ocoans, and charrod,
scorchod |s|ands.
1hoy havo soon how wo dostroyod tho wor|d. lt l cou|d soo ovoryth|ng, as tho c|ouds do, wou|d l sw|r| around th|s roma|n|ng cont|nont, st||| so tu|| ot
co|or and ||to and soasons, want|ng to protoct |t? Or wou|d l just |augh at tho tut|||ty ot |t a||, and moandor onward, down tho oarth's s|op|ng
atmosphoro?
l|ndon takos |n anothor broath, and ho mustors up tho courago to put h|s hand ovor m|no. l don't ros|st. Evoryth|ng |n l|ndon Ashby's wor|d |s tako,
an |||us|on, but tho sky and tho orango b|ossoms aro roa|. ||s body bos|do mo |s roa|.
°What aro you th|nk|ng?' ho asks mo. |or a|| ot our marr|ago l havo novor a||owod myso|t to bo honost w|th h|m, but horo, now, l want to to|| h|m
what's on my m|nd.
°l was wondor|ng |t wo'ro worth sav|ng,' l say.
°What do you moan?'
l shako my hoad aga|nst tho ground, too| tho back ot my sku|| ro|||ng a|ong tho co|d, hard oarth. °lt's noth|ng.'
°lot noth|ng. What d|d you moan?' ho says. ||s vo|co |sn't |ntrus|vo. lt's gont|o, cur|ous.
°lt's just a|| thoso doctors and ong|noors aro |ook|ng tor an ant|doto,' l say. °1hoy'vo boon at |t tor yoars. 3ut |s |t roa||y worth |t? Can wo ovon bo
t|xod?'
l|ndon |s qu|ot tor a wh||o, and just whon l'm suro ho's go|ng to condomn mo tor what l'vo sa|d or, l don't know, dotond tho work ot h|s madman
tathor, ho squoozos my hand. °l'vo askod myso|t tho samo quost|on,' ho says.
°loa||y?' Wo turn at tho samo t|mo and moot oach othor's oyos, but l too| my chooks start|ng to burn, and l |ook back to tho sky.
°l thought l was go|ng to d|o, onco,' ho says. °Whon l was young. l had a h|gh tovor. l romombor my tathor gavo mo an |njoct|on that was supposod to
curo |t-somoth|ng oxpor|monta| ho'd boon work|ng on, ot courso, but |t on|y aggravatod th|ngs.'
vaughn cou|d havo boon pump|ng any numbor ot h|s tw|stod oxpor|monts |nto h|s son's vo|ns, tor a|| l trust h|m, but l don't say th|s. l|ndon cont|nuos,
°|or days l was |n somo ha|tway |and botwoon roa||ty and do||r|um.
Evoryth|ng soomod so tr|ghton|ng, and l cou|dn't wako myso|t up. 3ut trom somop|aco tar away l cou|d hoar my tathor and somo ot h|s doctors
ca|||ng mo. 'l|ndon. l|ndon, como back to us. Opon your oyos.' And l romombor that l hos|tatod. l d|dn't know |t l shou|d go back. l d|dn't know |t l
wantod to ||vo |n a wor|d ot corta|n doath. Ot tovors and n|ghtmaros.'
1horo's a |ong s||onco, and thon l say, °3ut you camo back.'
°Yos,' ho says. And thon, vory qu|ot|y, °3ut that wasn't my doc|s|on.'
|o woavos h|s t|ngors through m|no, and l a||ow |t, too| tho c|ammy warmth ot h|s pa|m aga|nst m|no. ||ush.
A||vo. Evontua||y l roa||zo that l am ho|d|ng on to h|m just as t|ght|y as ho ho|ds on to mo. And horo wo aro: two sma|| dy|ng th|ngs, as tho wor|d onds
around us ||ko ta|||ng autumn |oavos.
Coc||y's ||tt|o stomach bog|ns to swo||. 3ho's otton bodr|ddon, but sho's |oudor than ovor, accord|ng to tho attondants.
l'm oat|ng an |co croam cono and watch|ng tho ko| |n tho pond ono attornoon whon an attondant comos runn|ng tor mo. |o stops and puts h|s hands
on h|s knoos, doub||ng ovor to catch h|s broath. °Como qu|ck,' ho gasps.
°lady Coc||y |s ask|ng tor you. 3omo k|nd ot omorgoncy.'
°Wo||, |s sho a|| r|ght?' l say. 1o |ook at h|m you'd th|nk somobody had d|od. |o shakos h|s hoad |n rosponso.
|o doosn't know. l th|nk l hand h|m my |co croam cono as l run tor tho door. Gabr|o| |s a|roady wa|t|ng at tho o|ovator w|th h|s koy card. Upsta|rs l run
|nto hor bodroom, th|nk|ng |t w||| bo loso a|| ovor aga|n, th|nk|ng l w||| t|nd hor cough|ng b|ood or t|ght|ng to broatho.
3ho's proppod upr|ght on p|||ows, hor toos soparatod by p|ocos ot toam wh||o tho na|| po||sh dr|os. 3ho sm||os at mo w|th a straw |n hor mouth.
3ho's s|pp|ng cranborry ju|co.
°What's tho mattor?' l say, pant|ng.
°1o|| mo a story,' sho says.
°What?'
°You and 1onna aro hav|ng a|| tho tun w|thout mo.'
3ho pouts. |or stomach t|oats |n tront ot hor ||ko a ||tt|o quartor-moon. 3ho |sn't vory tar a|ong-tour months-but what l know and sho doosn't |s that
l|ndon doos not want to r|sk |os|ng anothor baby. |o w||| sparo no procaut|on. 3ho may bo wo|| onough to p|ay m|n|-go|t or ovon sw|m |n tho poo|,
wh|ch |s hoatod and troatod to ropo| |oavos and |nsocts th|s t|mo ot yoar, but sho has bocomo tho groatost capt|vo horo.
°What do you do a|| day?' sho asks.
°Wo havo |ots ot tun,' l snap, bocauso sho worr|od mo tor noth|ng. °Wo oat cotton candy and somorsau|t |n m|da|r on tho trampo||no. 3hamo you
can't como out.'
°What o|so?' 3ho pats tho mattross bos|do hor, hor oyos oagor. °lo, wa|t. 1o|| mo about anothor p|aco. What was your orphanago ||ko?'
Ot courso sho wou|d th|nk l grow up |n an orphanago.
1hat's a|| hor short ||to has showod hor ot tho wor|d.
l s|t cross-|oggod on hor mattross and push tho ha|r trom hor oyos. °l d|dn't grow up |n an orphanago,' l say. °l grow up |n a c|ty. W|th m||||ons ot
poop|o, and bu||d|ngs so ta|| you'd got d|zzy try|ng to soo tho tops ot thom.'
3ho's dazz|od. And so l to|| hor about tho torr|os and tho tox|c t|sh that aro caught and tor sport roturnod to tho soa. l romovo myso|t trom tho stor|os
and |nstoad to|| hor about a pa|r ot tw|ns, a brothor and a s|stor, who grow up |n a houso whoro somoono was a|ways p|ay|ng tho p|ano. 1horo woro
popporm|nts and paronts and bod-t|mo stor|os. 1ho b|ankots a|| smo||od ||ko mothba||s and, vaguo|y, tho|r mothor's bost portumo, trom whon sho'd
|oan |n to k|ss thom good n|ght.
°Aro thoy st||| thoro?' sho asks mo. °0|d thoy grow up?'
°1hoy grow up,' l to|| hor. °3ut a hurr|cano camo ono day, and thoy woro oach b|own to a d|ttoront s|do ot tho country. And now thoy'vo boon
soparatod.'
3ho |ooks doubttu|. °A hurr|cano b|ow thom away? 1hat's dumb.'
°l swoar |t's truo,' l say.
°And |t d|dn't k||| thom?'
°1hat part may bo a b|oss|ng or a curso,' l say. °3ut thoy aro both st||| a||vo, try|ng to t|nd tho|r way back to oach othor.'
°What about tho|r mom and dad?' sho says.
l tako hor ompty ju|co cup trom tho n|ght tab|o. °l'|| go got you a trosh dr|nk,' l say.
°0on't. 1hat's not your job.' 3ho pushos tho b|uo button ovor hor n|ght tab|o and says, °Cranborry ju|co. And watt|os. W|th syrup. And an umbro||a
toothp|ck!'
°l|oaso,' l add, bocauso l know thoy'ro a|| ro|||ng tho|r oyos at hor, and |t roa||y |s on|y a mattor ot t|mo botoro somoono b|ows tho|r noso |nto hor
napk|n.
°l ||kod that story,' sho says. °ls |t roa||y truo? 0o you roa||y know thoso tw|ns?'
°Yos,' l say. °And tho|r ||tt|o houso |s wa|t|ng tor thom to roturn. lt has a brokon t|ro oscapo and |t usod to bo covorod |n t|owors. 3ut that c|ty |sn't ||ko
th|s p|aco. 1ho chom|ca|s trom tactor|os mako |t vory hard tor th|ngs to grow. On|y tho|r mothor was ab|o to grow ||||os, bocauso sho had a mag|c
touch, and whon sho d|od, thoy a|| w||tod.
1hat was that.'
°1hat was that,' sho ochoos, |n agroomont.
l |oavo hor whon |t's t|mo tor hor u|trasound. Gabr|o| catchos my arm |n tho ha||way. °Was tho story a|| truo?' ho says.
°Yos,' l say.
°3o how |ong do you th|nk |t'|| bo?' ho says. °3otoro tho noxt hurr|cano comos a|ong to tako you homo.'
°Can l to|| you my b|ggost toar?' l say.
°Yos. 1o|| mo.'
°1hat |t w||| bo a vory w|nd|oss tour yoars.'
lt |sn't w|nd|oss, though. 3y |ato Octobor wo havo sovoro woathor pattorns. ln tho k|tchon thoro aro bots on what catogory tho t|rst hurr|cano w||| bo.
1hroo |s most popu|ar. Gabr|o| th|nks two, bocauso |t |s a wo|rd t|mo ot yoar tor such a th|ng. l just agroo w|th h|m bocauso l havo no |doa what l'm
ta|k|ng about. Wo don't havo vory dramat|c woathor |n Vanhattan. Whonovor tho w|nd |s bad, l ask, °ls th|s a hurr|cano? ls th|s?' and tho k|tchon
|aughs at mo. Gabr|o| assuros mo l'|| know.
1ho poo| wator thrashos, and l th|nk |t m|ght got suckod |nto tho a|r. 1ho troos and bushos convu|so. Orangos ro|| as though bo|ng k|ckod a|ong by
ghosts. 1horo aro |oavos ovorywhoro, rod, and brown-sp|attorod yo||ow. Whon nobody |s around, l gathor tho |oavos |nto p||os and bury myso|t. l
broatho |n tho dampnoss ot thom. l too| ||ko a ||tt|o g|r| aga|n. l stay h|ddon unt|| tho w|nd takos thom away |n sp|ra||ng r|bbons. °l want to go w|th you,'
l say.
Ono attornoon l roturn to my bodroom and t|nd that my w|ndow has boon oponod. A prosont l|ndon |ott tor mo to t|nd. l tost |t-|t opons and c|osos. l
s|t on tho s||| and smo|| tho wot oarth, tho co|d w|nd that str|ps ovoryth|ng c|oan, and l th|nk ot stor|os my paronts to|d mo about tho|r ch||dhood. At tho
turn ot tho now contury, whon tho wor|d was sato, thoy had a ho||day ca||od |a|-|owoon. 1hoy wou|d go out |n groups ot tr|onds drossod as h|doous
th|ngs and r|ng doorbo||s ask|ng tor candy.
Vy tathor's tavor|to k|nd, ho sa|d, |ookod ||ko ||tt|o tratt|c conos w|th yo||ow t|ps.
1onna, whoso w|ndow roma|ns |ockod, comos to my room and prossos hor noso to tho scroon and broathos doop|y, travo||ng to k|nd momor|os ot
hor own. 3ho to||s mo that on days ||ko th|s tho orphanago wou|d sorvo hot choco|ato. 3ho and hor two s|stors wou|d sharo a mug, and thoy'd a||
havo choco|ato mustachos.
Coc||y's w|ndow |s a|so |ott |ockod, and whon sho objocts, l|ndon says tho dratt w||| bo too much tor hor |n hor trag||o stato. °|rag||o stato,' sho
muttors to mo onco ho has |ott. °l'|| put h|m |n a trag||o stato |t l can't got out ot th|s bod soon.' 3ut sho doos ||ko tho attont|on. |o s|oops bos|do hor
most n|ghts, and ho ho|ps hor |mprovo hor road|ng and wr|t|ng. |o toods hor oc|a|rs and rubs hor toot. Whon sho coughs, thoro aro doctors tr|pp|ng
ovor thomso|vos to chock hor |ungs.
3ut sho |s hoa|thy. 3ho's strong. 3ho's not loso. And sho's rost|oss. On an attornoon whon l|ndon |sn't dot|ng so hoav||y on hor, 1onna and l c|oso
Coc||y's bodroom door, and 1onna toachos us to danco. Wo don't havo 1onna's graco, but that's part ot tho tun. And |n that tun, l can torgot how
1onna bocamo such an adopt dancor.
°Oh!' Coc||y cr|os, cutt|ng short hor c|umsy p|rou-otto. l th|nk sho's go|ng to co||apso aga|n, or start b|ood|ng, but sho bouncos on hor hoo|s and
says, °lt k|ckod, |t k|ckod!' 3ho grabs our hands and prossos thom to hor stomach, undor hor sh|rt.
As though |n rosponso, a torr|b|o wa|||ng a|arm t|||s tho room. A rod ||ght wo d|dn't know ox|stod bog|ns to t|ash trom tho co|||ng, and l |ook out tho
w|ndow and not|co that tho troo w|th tho rob|n's nost has ta||on ovor.
Our domost|cs como to hust|o us |nto tho basomont, w|th Coc||y |n toars bocauso sho doosn't want to bo |n a whoo|cha|r whon hor |ogs work just
t|no. l|ndon |sn't hoar|ng what sho's say|ng, part|y but not ont|ro|y duo to tho a|arms, and ho ho|ds hor hand and says, °You'ro sato w|th mo, |ovo.'
1ho o|ovator opons to tho basomont, and ovoryono stops out. l|ndon, |ousomastor vaughn, 1onna, Coc||y and our domost|cs. 3ut not Gabr|o|, and
ho's tho on|y ono who knows how tr|ghtonod l am ot th|s p|aco. And tho a|arms aro so |oud. l |mag|no tho no|so ratt||ng tho co|d mota| tab|o whoro
loso's body ||o. l |mag|no hor bo|ng shakon back to ||to, st|tchod and rott|ng and a s|ck|y shado ot groon. l |mag|no hor dragg|ng horso|t toward mo,
hat|ng mo, know|ng l'm p|ott|ng to oscapo. 3ho'|| bury mo a||vo |t that's what |t takos to koop mo horo by l|ndon's s|do, bocauso ho's tho |ovo ot hor
||to and sho w||| not |ot h|m d|o a|ono.
°Aro you okay?' 1onna says, and tor somo roason hor sott vo|co |n my oar |s c|oaror than tho a|arms. l roa||zo sho's ho|d|ng my hand, wh|ch |s tu|| ot
swoat. l nod dazod|y.
Onco tho o|ovator doors c|oso boh|nd us, tho a|arm stops. 1ho s||onco says that ovoryono |s sato. Wo||, ovoryono that l|ndon th|nks |s |mportant.
1ho k|tchon statt and a|| tho attondants, as prom|sod, aro st||| work|ng about tho mans|on. lt tho worst happons and thoy'ro suckod |nto tho othor,
thoy can bo rop|acod. |ousomastor vaughn can put |n a |ow b|d on good orphans.
As wo'ro wa|k|ng down tho ha||way ot horrors, l ask, °Whon w||| d|nnor bo sorvod?'
What l'm roa||y ask|ng |s: Whoro |s Gabr|o|?
|ousomastor vaughn chuck|os. lt's such an ug|y sound. |o says, °A|| th|s ono can th|nk about |s tood. l supposo |t wo'ro a|| |n ono p|oco ton|ght,
d|nnor w||| bo at sovon as usua|, dar||ng.'
l sm||o charm|ng|y, b|ush ||ko h|s toas|ng makos mo too| ||ko a happy ||tt|o daughtor-|n-|aw. l want h|m to got b|own away. l want h|m to stand a|ono |n
tho k|tchon wh||o kn|vos and pans sp|n around |n tho hurr|cano w|nds and p|atos smash at h|s toot. And thon l want tor tho root to bo r|ppod away,
and tor h|m to bo pu||od up, gott|ng sma||or and sma||or unt|| ho's noth|ng.
Wo como to a room that |s warm|y ||t, w|th ovorstuttod cha|rs ||ko tho onos |n tho ||brary, and d|vans and canopy bods w|th gauzy |||ac and wh|to
nott|ng. Comty cozy. 1horo aro w|ndow w|th |magos ot tako tranqu|| |andscapos. 1ho a|r comos |n through vonts |n tho co|||ng. Coc||y harrumphs and
gots out ot hor whoo|cha|r, brush|ng l|ndon ott as sho oxp|oros tho choss tab|o. °ls |t somo k|nd ot gamo?' sho asks.
°You moan a br|ght g|r| ||ko yourso|t has novor boon taught tho cu|tura| art ot choss?' |ousomastor vaughn says.
lt Coc||y wasn't |ntorostod |n p|ay|ng a momont ago, sho |s now. 3ho wants to bo cu|turod as much as sho wants to bo soxy and wo|| road. 3ho
wants to bo a|| tho th|ngs a young g|r| |s not. °1oach mo?' sho asks as sho takos a soat.
°Abso|uto|y, dar||ng.'
1onna, who hatos |ousomastor vaughn ovon moro than sho hatos our husband, pu||s tho nott|ng c|osod around a bod and takos a nap. 1ho
domost|cs aro ta|k|ng drossos and sow|ng not|ons, thoy can't do much tor us down horo, but l supposo |ousomastor vaughn th|nks thoy w||| bo
handy |t tho mans|on |s dostroyod and wo st||| nood somoono to kn|t our b|ankots and darn our socks. l|ndon s|ts on tho d|van surroundod |n papors
and arch|tocturo magaz|nos ho's brought a|ong to amuso h|mso|t, w|th a ponc|| |n h|s hand.
l s|t noxt to h|m, and ho doosn't not|co mo unt|| l ask, °What aro you draw|ng?'
||s dark oyo|ashos aro downcast, ||ko ho's cons|dor|ng whothor what's on tho pago |s worth my t|mo. 1hon ho ho|ds |t up to show mo, and |t's a
do||cato ponc|| skotch ot a v|ctor|an houso t|our|sh|ng w|th t|owors and |vy. 3ut undor a|| that, thoro's a stab|o structuro. 3o||d boams on tho porch,
strong-|ook|ng w|ndows. l can ovon soo |ns|do to out||nos ot t|oors, and doors w|th c|othos hang|ng on tho knob. l can soo that a tam||y ||vos |ns|do.
1horo's a p|o on tho w|ndow |odgo, and a woman's hands aro o|thor p|ac|ng |t thoro or rotr|ov|ng |t. 1ho houso |s at an ang|o so l can soo two ot |ts
outor wa||s. A sw|ng |n tho yard |ooks ||ko |t has just boon |n mot|on, |ts ch||d has |oapt ott tho odgo ot tho pago. 1horo's a bow| |n tho grass, whoro a
dog w||| tako a dr|nk attor |t roturns trom a wa|k around tho no|ghborhood, or a nap |n a no|ghbor's t|owor bod.
°Wow,' l oxha|o, w|thout moan|ng to.
|o br|ghtons a ||tt|o, and thon c|oars tho papors away so l can s|t c|osor to h|m. °lt's just an |doa l had,' ho says.
°Vy tathor th|nks l shou|dn't draw tam|||os |ns|do tho housos. |o says nobody w||| want to buy a dos|gn un|oss |t's c|oan and thoy can on|y soo
thomso|vos ||v|ng thoro.'
As a|ways, h|s tathor |s wrong.
°l wou|d ||vo thoro,' l say. Our shou|dors aro touch|ng, th|s |s c|osor than wo'vo ovor como outs|do ot my bod.
°lt ho|ps mo to draw somoono |ns|do tho houso,' ho says. °lt g|vos |t a k|nd ot, l don't know, sou|.'
|o shows mo moro ot h|s housos. A t|at ono-story ranch w|th a s|oop|ng cat on tho porch, towor|ng ott|co bu||d|ngs w|th g|oam|ng w|ndows that
mako mo th|nk ot homo, garagos and gazobos, and a |ono storo that pops out ot a b|urry str|p ma||. And l'm stunnod, not just by tho proc|s|on ot h|s
||nos, but by tho |mmod|acy ot h|m bos|do mo, oxc|tod|y po|nt|ng to th|ngs and oxp|a|n|ng h|s procoss. l wou|d not havo |mag|nod that ho had th|s
k|nd ot onorgy. 1h|s k|nd ot dottnoss and ta|ont.
|o's a|ways soomod too sad to do anyth|ng but wa||ow. lot ovoryth|ng |n h|s wor|d |s what |t sooms. ||s dos|gns command attont|on. 1hoy aro
boaut|tu| and strong. Voant to |ast a natura| ||tot|mo, ||ko tho homo whoro l grow up.
°l usod to so|| |ots ot dos|gns botoro . . .' ho says, not t|n|sh|ng tho thought. Wo both know why ho stoppod dos|gn|ng. loso to|| |||. °l usod to ovorsoo
tho construct|on, too. Watch tho draw|ngs como to ||to.'
°Why don't you go back to |t?' l say.
°1horo's no t|mo.'
°1horo's p|onty ot t|mo.'
Wo||, tour yoars. A moagor ||tot|mo. 1ho |ook |n h|s oyos makos mo th|nk ho's had tho samo thought.
|o sm||os at mo, and l can't road what |t moans. l th|nk, tor just a socond thoro, ho |ookod up and saw hotorochromat|c mo. lot a doad g|r|. lot
ovon a ghost.
|o br|ngs h|s hand to my taco, and l too| h|s t|ngort|ps brush|ng my jaw, h|s t|ngors uncur||ng ||ko somoth|ng com|ng to b|oom. |o |ooks sor|ous and
sott. |o's c|osor than ho was a socond ago, and l too| myso|t bo|ng pu||od |nto h|s grav|ty, and tor somo roason l too| ||ko l want to trust h|m. l'm |n
h|s houso-bu||d|ng hands, and l want to trust h|m. Vy |owor ||p goos s|ack, wa|t|ng tor h|s to catch |t.
°l want to soo your draw|ngs too!' Coc||y says, and my oyos t|y opon. l draw my hand away trom tho crook ot l|ndon's o|bow, whoro |t had somohow
bocomo wodgod.
l |ook away trom h|m, and thoro |s Coc||y, prognant and suck|ng on a p|oco ot caramo| that t|||s hor who|o |ott chook. l scoot ovor and |ot hor s|t
botwoon us, and l|ndon pat|ont|y shows hor h|s dos|gns.
3ho doosn't undorstand why tho ropo on tho t|ro sw|ng |s brokon, or why thoro's a so|st|co wroath on tho tront door ot tho ompty shop. And soon
onough, sho's borod w|th tho who|o th|ng, l can to||, but sho koops mak|ng convorsat|on about h|s dos|gns bocauso sho has h|s attont|on and won't
ro||nqu|sh |t.
l c||mb |nto tho canopy w|th 1onna, c|os|ng tho gauzo boh|nd mo.
°Aro you as|oop?' l wh|spor.
°lo,' sho wh|spors back. °0o you roa||zo ho a|most just k|ssod you?'
As a|ways, sho has boon obsorv|ng. 3ho turns to taco mo, and hor oyos soarch mo ovor. °0on't torgot how you got horo,' sho says. °0on't torgot.'
°lo, novor,' l say.
3ut sho's r|ght.
|or a momont l a|most d|d.
l ta|| as|oop, and tho vo|cos ot tho storm co||ar bocomo tar away. l droam ot ovoryono l hoar. Coc||y |s a ||tt|o |adybug |n a p|a|d sk|rt, and
|ousomastor vaughn |s a |argo cr|ckot w|th cartoon oyos. °l|ston to mo, dar||ng,' ho to||s hor, wrapp|ng h|s tuzzy arm around hor sho||.
°Your husband has two othor w|vos. Your s|stors. You must not |ntorrupt thom.'
°3ut!' |or cartoon oyos wo|| w|th potu|anco and sorrow. 3ho's suck|ng on a caramo|.
°1horo, thoro,' ho says. ° 1oa|ousy |ooks so ug|y on your protty taco. |ow about you and your tathor-|n-|aw p|ay somo choss?'
3ho |s h|s pot. ||s prognant, ta|thtu| ||tt|o pot.
3|shop to |b. Kn|ght to E8.
Outs|do tho w|nds aro roar|ng, and ovor and ovor l hoar tho words: lt wl|| bo tbo vory co|oost ooy lo bo|| . . . 7bo vory co|oost ooy lo bo|| . . .
1ho houso doosn't b|ow away. As|do trom a tow brokon troos, tho wor|d roturns to norma|.
Gabr|o| t|nds mo |y|ng |n a p||o ot |oavos. l sonso h|s prosonco stand|ng ovor mo and opon my oyos. |o's ho|d|ng a thormos. °l brought you somo
hot choco|ato,' ho says. °Your noso |s a|| rod.'
°3o aro your t|ngors,' l say. lod ||ko tho ta|||ng |oavos.
||s broath comos out |n ||tt|o c|ouds. ln a|| th|s autumn, h|s oyos aro vory b|uo.
°1horo's a bug,' ho says, nodd|ng toward my hoad. l |ook and soo somo ||tt|o w|ngod th|ng jump and craw| a|ong my b|ond ha|r. l b|ow gont|y, and |t's
gono.
°l'm g|ad you d|dn't got b|own away,' l say, and as l'd hopod, ho takos th|s as a cuo to s|t bos|do mo.
°1hat houso |s somoth|ng ||ko a thousand yoars o|d,' ho says, uncapp|ng tho thormos. 1ho ||d bocomos a cup and ho pours mo somo hot choco|ato.
l s|t up and accopt |t, |nha||ng tho sugary warmth tor a wh||o. |o dr|nks stra|ght trom tho thormos, and l watch h|s Adam's app|o movo undor h|s sk|n.
°lt's not go|ng anywhoro.'
l |ook at tho br|ck mans|on |n tho d|stanco, and l know ho's to|||ng tho truth.
°3o d|d you w|n tho bot?' l say, s|pp|ng my hot choco|ato. lt burns my tonguo and turns a patch ot |t to sandpapor. °Was |t a catogory two?'
°A throo,' ho says. ||s ||ps aro chappod, ||ko m|no, noth|ng ||ko l|ndon's, and l th|nk wo aro two unw|tt|ng pr|sonors out horo |n th|s barron gardon.
1h|s gardon that's gono to s|oop tor tho com|ng w|ntor.
°l don't |ovo h|m,' l say.
°What?' ho says.
°l|ndon. l don't |ovo h|m. l don't ovon ||ko to bo |n tho samo room as h|m. l just wantod you to know that.'
|o won't |ook at mo, suddon|y. |o takos anothor s|p, and th|s t|mo ho throws h|s hoad back to got tho t|na| drogs ot hot choco|ato. 1horo's a ||tt|o
arch ot choco|ato |ott ovor h|s ||p.
°l just wantod you to know,' l say aga|n.
°lt's good to know,' ho says, and nods.
Whon our oyos moot, wo both gr|n, and thon wo |augh, tontat|vo|y at t|rst, ||ko pook|ng out to bo suro |t's sato, and thon moro cont|dont|y. l snort, and
throw my hand ovor my mouth, too hystor|ca| to bo ombarrassod.
l don't know what's tunny or |t anyth|ng ovon |s. l just know |t too|s roa||y good.
l w|sh wo cou|d spond moro t|mo ||ko th|s, ovon |t a|| wo can do |s wa|k and k|ck up somo doad |oavos as wo go. 3ut whon wo got up and start
wa|k|ng automat|ca||y toward tho houso, l romombor that wo'ro both pr|sonors.
|o can on|y ta|k to mo |t ho's br|ng|ng mo somoth|ng, and thon |t's back to tho k|tchon, back to po||sh|ng tho woodwork, back to vacuum|ng tho
|nt|n|to rugs. l guoss that's why ho brought tho hot choco|ato.
1ho c|osor wo got to tho houso, tho moro ta|nt tho swoot tasto bocomos. 1ho burnod sandpapor part ot my tonguo sproads. 1ho sott c|oudy sky
bog|ns to |ook om|nous. 1ho doad |oavos scutt|o away as though |n toar.
1ust as Gabr|o| roachos tor tho doorknob, tho door opons. |ousomastor vaughn groots us w|th a sm||o.
1ho k|tchon boh|nd h|s shou|dor |s qu|ot, as|do trom tho nocossary sounds ot th|ngs bo|ng proparod and c|oanod.
lono ot tho usua| chattor.
°l askod h|m to br|ng mo hot choco|ato,' l say.
°Ot courso, dar||ng. l can soo that,' |ousomastor vaughn says. |o |ooks ||ko a k|nd gor|atr|c whon sho sm||os at us. l too| Gabr|o| tonso up bos|do
mo, and l am t|ght|ng a strango |mpu|so to ho|d h|s hand, to |ot h|m know l'm just as atra|d ovon |t l don't show |t.
°Why don't you roturn to your dut|os, thon,' |ousomastor vaughn to||s Gabr|o|. |o doosn't nood to bo to|d tw|co, ho mo|ts |nto tho k|tchon and
bocomos part ot tho work no|so.
l'm |ott to taco th|s man a|ono. °lt's such a n|co coo| day. 1ho a|r |s rotrosh|ng on thoso o|d |ungs ot m|no,' ho says, patt|ng h|s chost. °l don't supposo
you'|| tako a wa|k w|th your tathor-|n-|aw?' lt's not roa||y a quost|on. Wo wa|k away trom tho houso botwoon tho ponds |n tho roso gardon.
1onna's trampo||no |s covorod |n doad and dy|ng |oavos.
l do my bost to |gnoro th|s man who has throadod h|s arm through m|no, who smo||s ||ko twood and attorshavo and tho basomont l so toar. l |oavo
||or|da tor a wh||o. l th|nk about tho |oavos |n Vanhattan |n tho ta||. 1horo aron't vory many troos-tho chom|ca| tactor|os havo takon tho|r |ustor. 3ut
on a w|ndy day, tho scant |oavos gathor |nto crowds and ta|| a|| at onco, g|v|ng tho |||us|on ot moro. 1ho momory ho|ps mo to mako |t through tho
roso gardon w|thout hyporvont||at|ng.
1ust whon l'm th|nk|ng l'|| bo ab|o to got through th|s w|thout hav|ng to spoak, wo como to tho m|n|-go|t courso and |ousomastor vaughn says,
°1horo's an oxpross|on wo o|d poop|o havo. '1ho app|o ot ono's oyo.' |avo you hoard |t?'
°lo,' l say. l am |ntr|guod. l am toar|oss.
Yoo`ro o gooo |lor, Rbloo. Yoo coo got tbroogb tbls.
°Wo||, you, dar||ng, aro tho app|o ot l|ndon's oyo.'
|o g|vos my shou|dors an attoct|onato squoozo. l too| my hoart and |ungs constr|ct|ng. °You'ro h|s tavor|to, you know.'
l am domuro. °l d|dn't th|nk ho not|cod mo,' l say.
°|o's so tond ot Coc||y.' 1hough, truthtu||y, l|ndon's attont|on has startod to sh|tt toward mo. Espoc|a||y |n tho basomont whon ho a|most k|ssod mo.
l st||| havon't t|gurod out |t |t's my rosomb|anco to loso that |ntorosts h|m, or somoth|ng o|so.
°|o adoros Coc||y, as do l. 3ho's oagor to p|oaso. lt's charm|ng, roa||y.' Coc||y |s a ||tt|o g|r| who novor had a ch||dhood, who wants so bad|y to t|t
|nto th|s ro|o that sho'|| do anyth|ng our husband asks. °3ut sho's young.
3ho has much to |oarn. Wou|dn't you agroo?' |o doosn't wa|t tor mo to answor. °And tho o|dor ono, 1onna, sho tu|t|||s hor dut|os, but sho doosn't
havo an ounco ot your charm. 3ho's somoth|ng ot a co|d t|sh, |sn't sho? lt l had my way, wo wou|d just toss hor back |nto tho wator.' ||s t|ngors
t|uttor dramat|ca||y |n tho a|r. °3ut l|ndon |ns|sts wo koop hor. |o th|nks sho'|| como around and conco|vo a ch||d. |o a|ways was a ||tt|o too
compass|onato.'
3omo compass|on. |o k|||od hor s|stors.
°3ho's just a ||tt|o shy,' l say. °3ho caros tor h|m. 3ho's atra|d ot say|ng tho wrong th|ng. 3ho to||s mo a|| tho t|mo sho can't work up tho courago to
spoak to h|m.' lono ot th|s |s truo, but l hopo |t w||| koop vaughn trom toss|ng hor back |nto tho wator. Whatovor ho moans by that, l'm suro |t's not
somoth|ng l want to happon to hor.
°And thon thoro's you,' vaughn says, not soom|ng to havo hoard mo. °lnto|||gont. 3o |ovo|y.' Wo stop wa|k|ng, and ho strokos my ch|n botwoon h|s
thumb and |ndox t|ngor. °l'vo soon tho way ho br|ghtons whon you'ro noar h|m.'
l b|ush, wh|ch wasn't supposod to bo part ot tho act.
°|o's ovon th|nk|ng ot jo|n|ng tho human raco aga|n.
|o's ta|k|ng about roturn|ng to work.' |ousomastor vaughn's sm||o sooms a|most s|ncoro. |o puts h|s arm around mo aga|n, and wo wa|k through
tho go|t obstac|os. Gr|nn|ng c|owns, g|ant |co croam conos, sp|nn|ng w|ndm|||s, and a b|g ||ghthouso w|th a work|ng ||ght that shoots out |nto tho
troos.
°l had a son, many yoars ago, botoro l|ndon. 3trong as an ox-1hat's anothor oxpross|on us t|rst gonorat|ons usod to havo.'
°loa||y?' l say.
°|oa|thy ovory day ot h|s ||to. 1h|s was botoro wo roa||zod tho po|sonous bomb t|ck|ng away |n our ch||dron. |o succumbod just ||ko tho rost ot thom.
1ust as you bo||ovo you w|||.'
Wo stop, and l to||ow h|s |oad and s|t down on tho g|ant gumdrop that |s tho sovonth ho|o. °l|ndon |sn't tho strongost ch||d, but ho's a|| l havo.' ||s
k|nd gor|atr|c taco |s back. lt l d|dn't know bottor, l'd p|ty h|m.
3ut whon l put my arm around h|m |n comtort, l'm tu||y awaro that ho's not to bo trustod.
°|rom tho day ot h|s b|rth, l'vo boon work|ng t|ro-|oss|y on an ant|doto. l havo an ovor-rotat|ng mod|ca| statt that's work|ng |n a |aboratory as wo
spoak. l w||| t|nd an ant|doto w|th|n tour yoars.'
And |t not, thon what? l try to t|ght ott a thought that Coc||y's baby w||| bocomo h|s now gu|noa p|g attor l|ndon and h|s w|vos aro gono.
|o pats my hand. °Vy son |s go|ng to havo a hoa|thy ||tospan. And so aro h|s w|vos. You w||| havo a roa| ||tot|mo. You'ro br|ng|ng l|ndon out ot tho
darknoss that loso |ott h|m w|th, don't you soo that? You'ro rostor|ng h|s ||to. |o's go|ng to bocomo succosstu| aga|n, and you'|| bo on h|s arm at
ovory party. You'|| havo ovoryth|ng you can droam ot tor yoars and yoars.'
l don't know why ho's say|ng thoso th|ngs to mo, but h|s prosonco |s start|ng to nausoato mo. ls th|s a concornod tathor |ook|ng out tor h|s son? Or
has ho somohow road |nto my |ntont|on to oscapo? |o's |ook|ng r|ght |nto my oyos and l can't rocogn|zo h|m. |o sooms |oss monac|ng than usua|.
°0o you undorstand what l'm say|ng?' ho asks.
°Yos,' l say. °l do.'
Whon our paronts d|od, our basomont bocamo hopo|oss|y |ntostod w|th rats. 1hoy woro com|ng up trom tho sowors and chow|ng our w|ros and
dostroy|ng our tood.
1hoy woro too smart tor tho traps wo'd |a|d out, and so lowan got tho |doa to po|son thom. |o m|xod t|our, sugar, wator, and bak|ng soda and |ott |t
|n pudd|os on tho t|oor. l d|dn't th|nk |t wou|d work, but |t d|d. Wh||o |t was my turn to koop watch ono n|ght, l saw a rat run |n strango c|rc|os and thon
co||apso. l cou|d hoar |ts ||tt|o wh|nny|ng no|sos, cou|d soo |ts toob|o tw|tch|ng. 1h|s wont on tor what to|t ||ko hours botoro |t d|od. lowan's
oxpor|mont was a gruosomo succoss.
|ousomastor vaughn |s g|v|ng mo a cho|co. |oro l can ||vo |n th|s houso whoro ho's d|ssoct|ng l|ndon's doad w|to and ch||d tor an ant|doto that
doosn't ox|st. |oro l can d|o |n tour yoars and our bod|os w||| a|| bo oxpor|monts. 3ut tor tour br|ot yoars l'|| bo tho dazz||ng w|to at r|tzy part|os, and
that w||| bo my roward. l'|| st||| d|o ||ko tho rat, |n agony.
l th|nk ot vaughn's words tor tho rost ot tho day. |o sm||os at mo across tho d|nnor tab|o. l th|nk ot tho doad rat.
3ut by n|ghtta||, l torco vaughn's monac|ng vo|co out ot my m|nd. lato|y l havo boon prom|s|ng myso|t that onco l'm |n bod, l w||| th|nk on|y ot my
homo-how to roturn to |t, and what |t |ooks ||ko. What my ||to was botoro com|ng to th|s p|aco.
lobody |n th|s mans|on |s a||owod |nto thoso thoughts, oxcopt tor whon l rom|nd myso|t that l|ndon, ovon w|th h|s m||d mannor, |s tho onomy. |o has
sto|on mo trom my tw|n, my homo, and ho koops mo tor h|s own.
3o at n|ght, whon l'm a|ono, l th|nk ot my brothor, who trom tho t|mo wo woro ch||dron had a hab|t ot stand|ng |n tront ot mo, as though any torr|b|o
dangor wou|d havo to h|t h|m botoro |t cou|d roach mo. l th|nk ot how |ookod, gun |n hand, attor ho shot that Gathoror and savod my ||to, tho torror |n
h|s oyos at tho thought ot |os|ng mo. l th|nk ot how wo havo a|ways bo|ongod to oach othor, our mothor t|tt|ng our young hands togothor and to|||ng us
to ho|d on.
1hoso thoughts bu||d n|ght attor n|ght, whon l'm most a|ono |n th|s mans|on ot spousos and sorvants, and tor a tow hours l'm ab|o to soparato myso|t
trom th|s tako ||to. lo mattor how |ono|y |t makos mo, and no mattor how w|do and horr|t|c tho |ono||noss, at |oast l romombor who l am.
And thon ono n|ght, wh||o my m|nd |s tad|ng |nto s|oop, l hoar l|ndon c|oso my bodroom door attor com|ng |n. 3ut ho's a thousand m||os trom mo.
l'm w|th lowan, sott|ng tho k|to str|ng. Vy mothor's ||ght |aughtor t|||s tho room, and my tathor |s p|ay|ng a Vozart sonata |n G major on tho p|ano.
lowan casua||y unravo|s tho str|ng that's tang|od around my t|ngors, and ho asks mo |t l'm st||| a||vo. l try to |augh ||ko what ho's say|ng |s crazy, but
tho sound doosn't como, and ho won't ra|so h|s oyos to mo.
l won't stop |ook|ng tor you, ho says. l won't ovor stop. lt |t k|||s mo, l'|| t|nd you.
°l'm r|ght horo,' l say.
°You'ro droam|ng,' ho says. 3ut tho vo|co doosn't bo|ong to my brothor. l|ndon has bur|od h|s taco |nto tho curvo ot my nock. 1ho mus|c |s gono, my
t|ngors tumb|o tor str|ng that |sn't thoro. And l know tho truth, that |t l opon my oyos, l'|| soo tho dark bodroom |n my |av|sh pr|son. 3ut l don't try to troo
my m|nd ot |ts hazy stato, bocauso tho d|sappo|ntmont |s too much to tako.
l too| tho dampnoss ot l|ndon's toars on my sk|n, h|s shuddor|ng gasps. And l know ho has boon droam|ng ot loso, ||ko mo, h|s n|ghts aro otton too
|ono|y. |o k|ssos my ha|r and wraps an arm around mo. l a||ow |t. lo, l want |t. lood |t. Eyos c|osod, l |ay my hoad to h|s chost tor tho torcotu| tboo-
tboo ot h|s hoart.
l want to bo myso|t, yos. lh|no E||ory. 3|stor, daughtor. 3ut somot|mos |t's too pa|ntu|.
Vy captor pu||s mo toward h|m, and l ta|| as|oop onvo|opod |n tho sound ot h|s broath|ng.
ln tho morn|ng l awakon to l|ndon's broath at tho napo ot my nock. l'm tac|ng away trom h|m, and ho's prossod to my back w|th h|s arms around
mo. l ||o portoct|y st|||, not want|ng to wako h|m, ashamod w|th myso|t tor my vu|norab|||ty |ast n|ght. At what po|nt doos th|s good w|to act stop bo|ng
an act? |ow |ong botoro ho to||s mo ho |ovos mo, and oxpocts mo to carry h|s baby? And what's worso, how |ong botoro l agroo?
lo. 1hat w||| novor happon.
l try to t|ght |t, but vaughn's vo|co t|oods |nto my bra|n.
Yoo`|| bovo ovorytblog yoo coo oroom oí íor yoors ooo yoors.
l can havo th|s. l can bo l|ndon's br|do, |n l|ndon's mans|on. Or l can run, as tar and as tast as l can. And l can havo a shot at dy|ng w|th my
troodom.
1hroo days |ator, whon tho noxt hurr|cano a|arm bog|ns to scroam, l broak through tho scroon |n my bodroom w|ndow.
l just manago to grab on to tho troo noar my w|ndow |odgo, and that g|vos mo tho |ovorago to ta|| |nto a shrub a tow toot down. lt hurts, but l'm
unbrokon. l untang|o myso|t and l run, w|th tho houso scroam|ng boh|nd mo, and tho w|nd a strango shado ot gray. loavos and ha|r aro |n my oyos. l
don't caro. l run. 1ho c|ouds aro throbb|ng.
1horo aro s|ck t|ashos ot wh|to |n tho sky.
Vy sonso ot d|roct|on |s gono. A|| l can soo |s d|ngy angry a|r. And thoro's so much no|so, and |t doosn't got qu|otor no mattor how tast or tar l movo.
0|rt and b|ts ot grass aro r|s|ng and danc|ng chaot|ca||y as though onchantod.
l don't know how much t|mo passos, but l hoar my namo bo|ng cr|od, onco and thon sovora| t|mos, ||ko gunshots. And th|s |s r|ght about tho t|mo l
crash |nto a g|ant |co croam cono. 1ho go|t courso. Okay. l can nav|gato bottor now that l know whoro l am.
l don't know how tar tho ox|t |s. l havo boon to ovory gardon, tho go|t courso, tho tonn|s courts, tho poo|. l'vo ovon passod tho horso stab|os, wh|ch
havo boon abandonod s|nco loso's |||noss. 3ut l'vo novor soon an ox|t.
l pross my body aga|nst tho g|ant choco|ato scoop as branchos t|y past mo. 1ho troos aro wav|ng and how||ng.
1ho troos! lt l cou|d c||mb ono ot thom, |t wou|d bo oas|or to soo tarthor. 1horo has to bo a tonco or at |oast a shrub l'vo novor soon botoro. A h|ddon
door. 3omoth|ng.
Ono stop, and l'm shovod back aga|nst tho scoop. 1ho a|r |s suckod trom my |ungs. l drop to tho ground and try to turn myso|t away trom tho w|nd so
l can broatho, but |t's ovorywhoro. lt's ovorywhoro and l'm probab|y go|ng to d|o r|ght horo.
l turn, gasp|ng, to tho storm. l won't ovon got to soo tho wor|d ono |ast t|mo botoro l d|o. l w||| on|y soo l|ndon's strango utop|a. 1ho sp|nn|ng
w|ndm|||s. 1ho strango t|ash|ng ||ght.
l|ght. l th|nk my oyos aro p|ay|ng tr|cks on mo, but tho ||ght pors|sts. lt sp|ns, shoot|ng toward mo and thon cont|nu|ng on |ts c|rcu|ar path. 1ho
||ghthouso. Vy vory tavor|to obstac|o bocauso |t rom|nds mo ot tho ||ghthousos ott tho Vanhattan harbor, tho ||ght that br|ngs tho t|sh|ng boats homo.
lt's st||| go|ng ovon |n th|s storm, throw|ng |ts ||ght |nto tho troos, and |t l can't oscapo, l at |oast want to d|o bos|do |t, bocauso |t's as c|oso as l can
got to homo |n th|s awtu|, awtu| p|aco.
Wa|k|ng |s |mposs|b|o now. 1horo aro too many th|ngs t|y|ng, and l actua||y th|nk l m|ght bo b|own away. 3o l craw|, jamm|ng my o|bows and toos
|nto tho Astroturt ot tho go|t courso tor tract|on. l movo away trom my namo bo|ng ca||od, away trom that ongo|ng s|ron, away trom a suddon
stabb|ng pa|n that h|ts mo somowhoro. l don't |ook to t|nd out what tho |njury |s, but thoro's b|ood. l can tasto |t. l can too| |t poo||ng and dr|pp|ng. l
on|y caro about not bo|ng para|yzod. l can koop mov|ng, and l do, unt|| l'm touch|ng tho ||ghthouso.
lts pa|nt |s ch|ppod, tho wood |s sp||ntorod. Evon though l'vo roachod my goa|, thoro |s somoth|ng about th|s marvo|ous ||tt|o structuro that |s to|||ng
mo l'm not roady to d|o. 1o koop go|ng. 3ut thoro's nowhoro to go.
Vy hands gropo tor a so|ut|on, tor a path up to tho ||ght.
l am c||ng|ng to a |addor. lot tho k|nd that's moant to bo c||mbod. lt's c|oar|y tor docorat|on, t||msy and na||od to tho ||ghthouso's s|do. 3ut |t can bo
c||mbod, and my body |s ab|o to do |t, and so l go. Up and up and up.
Vy hands aro b|ood|ng too, now. 3omoth|ng dr|ps |nto my oyo and st|ngs. 1ho a|r |s bo|ng suckod out ot mo aga|n. Up and up and up.
l too| as though l'vo boon c||mb|ng torovor. A|| n|ght.
A|| my ||to. 3ut l mako |t to tho top, and tho ||ght groots mo by soar|ng |nto my oyos. l |ook away trom |t.
l a|most ta||.
l'm h|ghor than a|| tho troos.
And l soo |t, tar, tar |n tho d|stanco. l|ko a wh|spor.
l|ko a t|m|d ||tt|o suggost|on. 1ho po|ntod t|owor trom Gabr|o|'s handkorch|ot, constructod |nto an |ron gato.
lt |s tho ox|t, m||os trom mo.
lt |s tho ond ot tho wor|d.
And l roa||zo what tho ||ghthouso was try|ng to to|| mo. 1hat l am not supposod to d|o today. l am supposod to to||ow tho path |t's ||ght|ng tor mo-||ko
Co|umbus w|th h|s Nloo, Ploto, and 5ooto Vorlo-to tho ond ot tho wor|d.
1ho gato |n tho d|stanco |s tho most boaut|tu| th|ng l'vo ovor soon |n my ||to.
l'm just start|ng to c||mb down whon l hoar my namo aga|n. lt's too |oud and too c|oso to |gnoro th|s t|mo.
°lh|no!'
Gabr|o|'s b|uo oyos and h|s br|ght brown ha|r, and h|s arms that aro so much strongor than l|ndon's, aro com|ng toward mo. lot a|| ot h|m, not a
who|o body, but p|ocos ot h|m, d|sappoar|ng and t||ckor|ng |n tho w|nd. l soo tho t|orco, angry rod ot h|s opon mouth.
°l'm gott|ng out!' l scroam. °Como w|th mo! lun away w|th mo!'
3ut a|| ho says |s °lh|no! lh|no!' w|th |ncroas|ng dosporat|on, and l don't th|nk ho hoars what l'm say|ng.
|o opons h|s arms, and l don't undorstand why. l don't undorstand what ho's shout|ng at mo unt|| an |ncrod|b|o pa|n comos crash|ng to tho back ot
my hoad, and l'm ta|||ng r|ght |nto h|s opon arms.
1ho a|r |s st|||. lt's qu|ot. l can broatho w|thout tho w|nd to stoa| a|r trom my |ungs. lt's stor||o and ant|sopt|c. °0on't,' l
say, or try to say. l can't opon my oyos. vaughn |s horo. l can too| h|s prosonco. l can smo|| h|s co|d mota| sca|po|. |o's go|ng to cut mo opon.
1horo's somoth|ng warm ro|||ng through my b|ood. l too| my hoart boat|ng w|th |oud, |ntrus|vo boops.
|o asks |t l can opon my oyos.
3ut |t's tho smo|| ot toa that tru|y rousos mo. 0osp|to somoth|ng to|||ng mo |t's not r|ght, l th|nk lowan |s horo, and ho's wak|ng mo tor my sh|tt w|th a
cup ot Ear| Groy. lnstoad l'm mot w|th l|ndon's oagor groon oyos.
||s ||ps |ook roddor, cut up, b|oody. 3trango purp|o wo|ts mako sproad|ng c|rc|os on h|s taco and throat. Vy hand |s |n both ot h|s, and whon ho
squoozos, |t hurts.
°1hank goodnoss,' ho says, and h|dos h|s taco |n my shou|dor and convu|sos w|th a sob. °You'ro awako.'
l vom|t, and l'm st||| gagg|ng whon tho wor|d goos b|ack aga|n.
l opon my oyos many, many yoars |ator. 1ho w|nd |s st||| how||ng ||ko tho doad. lt pounds aga|nst my bodroom w|ndow, try|ng to broak |n, to stoa| mo
away. l |ook tor tho ||ghthouso g|oam, but l can't t|nd |t.
l|ndon |s as|oop bos|do mo, h|s hoad on tho samo p|||ow as m|no. ||s broath aga|nst my oar, l roa||zo, |s tho w|nd that has boon how||ng |n my
droams. 1horo's a s||ght whoozo to |t.
As l ||o horo, com|ng back to myso|t, l roa||zo that no yoars havo passod at a||. ||s taco |s st||| smooth and young, though rathor bru|sod, and l'm st|||
woar|ng h|s wodd|ng r|ng, and l'm st||| |n th|s contur|os-o|d mans|on that w||| novor bo b|own away.
3ut thoro aro now strango th|ngs to obsorvo a|so.
1horo's a nood|o jabb|ng |nto my toroarm, and |t |oads up to a bag ot t|u|d hang|ng on a mota| rack. 1horo's a mon|tor stoad||y ro|ay|ng tho rato ot
my pu|so. Ca|m, mothod|ca|. l try to s|t up and thoro's pa|n |n oach ot my r|bs, ono by ono, ||ko a xy|ophono broak|ng as |t p|ays.
Ono ot my |ogs |s o|ovatod on somo k|nd ot s||ng.
l|ndon too|s mo st|r bos|do h|m, and ho makos muttor|ng sounds as ho awakons. l c|oso my oyos and protond to bo as|oop. l don't want to soo h|m.
lt's bad onough that l'|| havo to soo h|m ovory day tor tho rost ot my ||to.
3ocauso no mattor whoro l go or how hard l try, l w||| a|ways ond up r|ght back horo.
Whon l can roma|n comatoso no |ongor, thoro's a constant stroam ot v|s|tors to my bodroom. l|ndon |s a|ways by my s|do, t|utt|ng my p|||ow,
work|ng on h|s dos|gns, and road|ng ||brary books to mo. l t|nd lrookoostolo to bo unnorv|ng|y |ron|c. 0o|rdro, 1onna, and Coc||y hard|y got moro
than a tow soconds w|th mo botoro l|ndon to||s thom l nood my rost. |ousomastor vaughn, tho doctor, tho concornod tathor-|n-|aw, g|vos mo a
roporto|ro ot what l'vo brokon or spra|nod or tracturod. °You'vo roa||y dono a numbor on yourso|t, dar||ng, but you'ro |n tho bost poss|b|o hands,' ho
says. ln my mod|catod do||r|um ho has transtormod |nto somo k|nd ot ta|k|ng snako. |o to||s mo l won't bo ab|o to put wo|ght on my |ott ank|o tor at
|oast two wooks, and |t's go|ng to hurt to broatho tor a wh||o. l don't caro. lt doosn't mattor. l havo tho rost ot my ||to to ||o |n th|s m|sorab|o room and
rocovor.
1|mo has |ost a|| moan|ng, l don't know how |ong l'vo boon |y|ng |n th|s bod. l dr|tt |n and out ot consc|ousnoss, and somoth|ng d|ttoront awa|ts mo
oach t|mo l opon my oyos. l|ndon roads to mo. Vy s|stor w|vos hudd|o |n tho doorway, trown|ng ovor my cond|t|on, l staro at thom unt|| tho trowns
mo|t trom tho|r tacos and tho|r oyos turn b|ack. 1horo's pa|n ovorywhoro, and hoavy numbnoss on top ot that.
°l must adm|t, a hurr|cano |s moro oxtromo than an a|r vont,' vaughn's vo|co |s t|oat|ng ovor mo. l strugg|o to opon my oyos, but a|| l can mako out |s
a smoar ot co|or. ||s dark s||ckod-back ha|r. 3omoth|ng warm rushos through my vo|ns, and l shuddor w|th ro||ot as tho pa|n |n my r|bs d|sappoars.
°0|d you know that's what your doad s|stor w|to tr|od? 1ho a|r vonts! And sho mado |t a|| tho way down tho ha|| |n that a|r duct botoro sho was
d|scovorod. 3uch a c|ovor ||tt|o g|r| sho was, and on|y o|ovon at tho t|mo.'
loso . . . 1ho word won't roach my ||ps.
l too| vaughn's papory hands brush|ng ovor my torohoad, but l can't opon my oyos anymoro. ||s hot broath sp|ra|s |nto my oar w|th h|s ocho|ng
words. °Ot courso, who cou|d b|amo tho g|r|, |t was how sho was ra|sod. |or paronts woro co||oaguos ot m|no, vory wo||-rospoctod surgoons, |n tact.
3ut thon thoy |ost tho|r m|nds. 1hoy travo|od stato to stato sproad|ng somo crackpot consp|r-acy that |t wo cou|dn't t|nd an ant|doto, thoro had to bo
somo surv|v|ng country out thoro |n that wasto|and ot wator that wou|d ho|p us. 1hoy taught hor a|| about tho dostroyod countr|os, as though any ot
that mattors.'
Anothor surgo ot warmth through my b|ood. Voro mod|catod numbnoss. What |s ho |njoct|ng mo w|th? l w||| a|| ot my strongth to my oyo||ds, and l
manago to ra|so thom. 1ho room doub|os, thon mator|a||zos just onough tor mo to soo that l|ndon |sn't bos|do mo, and my s|stor w|vos aro no
|ongor stand|ng |n tho doorway.
°3hh, |t's a|| r|ght,' vaughn says, and |owors my oyo||ds w|th h|s thumb and |ndox t|ngor. °l|ston to my bod-t|mo story. lt doosn't havo much ot a
happy ond|ng, l'm atra|d. 1hoy totod that g|r| w|th thom ovorywhoro thoy wont, spout|ng tho|r nonsonso. And do you know what happonod to thom? A
car bomb |n a park|ng garago. And sho was orphanod just ||ko that. 1ho wor|d |s a dangorous p|aco, |sn't |t?'
A bomb. l havo hoard thoso |n Vanhattan, a d|stant boom! to|||ng mo that poop|o havo just d|od. 1ho momory |s not somoth|ng l caro to ro||vo, and
|nst|nct|vo|y l try to movo, but whatovor coursos through my vo|ns has mado mov|ng |mposs|b|o.
°1horo aro poop|o out |n that wor|d who don't want an ant|doto. loop|o who th|nk tho wor|d |s ond|ng and |t's bost to |ot tho human raco d|o out. And
thoy'|| k||| thoso who try to savo us.'
l know! l know th|s. Vy paronts roco|vod so many doath throats tor tho|r |ab work. 1horo aro two warr|ng s|dos: pro-sc|onco, wh|ch tavors gonot|c
rosoarch and tho pursu|t ot an ant|doto, and pro-natura||sm, wh|ch bo||ovos that |t's too |ato, and that brood|ng now ch||dron and subjoct|ng thom to
oxpor|montat|on |s unoth|ca|. ln short, pro-natura||sm bo||ovos that |t's natura| to |ot tho human raco ond.
°3ut |ucky you,' vaughn says. °You'ro warm and sato |n horo. And you wou|dn't want to joopard|zo tho good th|ng you havo horo. You'ro moro
spoc|a| than you roa||zo, |t l|ndon woro to |oso you, |t just m|ght dostroy h|s sp|r|t. You don't want that.'
And suddon|y |t makos sonso that loso tr|od to dotor mo trom oscap|ng. lt wasn't s|mp|y bocauso sho wantod l|ndon to havo a compan|on attor
sho was gono. 3ho was try|ng to warn mo, to sparo mo whatovor pun|shmont sho tacod tor hor own oscapo attompt.
lt's hor vo|co, not vaughn's, that wh|spors tho t|na| words |nto my oar.
°lt you va|uo your ||to, you won't run aga|n.'
l|ndon sooms to havo no |doa that l susta|nod thoso |njuros try|ng to run away trom h|m.
°l to|d h|m you woro |n tho gardon whon tho storm camo,' 1onna wh|spors ono attornoon, wh||o l|ndon s|oops w|th h|s arms wrappod protoct|vo|y
around my o|bow. °l saw you go out tho w|ndow. What woro you do|ng?'
°l don't know,' l say. °Whatovor |t was, l ta||od.'
3ho |ooks ||ko sho wants to hug mo, but sho can't bocauso |t's pa|ntu| onough tor mo just to ||o thoro and bo |ookod at. °0|d ho bo||ovo you?' l ask.
°Govornor l|ndon d|d dosp|to tho brokon w|ndow. l don't know about |ousomastor vaughn. Evoryono |n tho k|tchon sa|d thoy saw you out |n tho
gardon botoro tho storm, and that you woro try|ng to got back |ns|do whon you hoard tho a|arm. l th|nk that m|ght havo conv|ncod h|m.'
°1hoy d|d that?' l say.
3ho sm||os a ||tt|o, tucks my ha|r boh|nd my oar. °1hoy must ||ko you. Espoc|a||y Gabr|o|.'
Gabr|o|! ||s b|uo oyos stabb|ng through tho tronzy.
||s arms opon|ng up. l romombor crash|ng |nto h|m. l romombor too||ng sato, botoro tho wor|d d|sappoarod |nto noth|ngnoss.
°|o camo attor mo,' l say.
°|a|t tho houso wont attor you,' sho says. °Evon Govornor l|ndon. |o took a tow h|ts trom somo t|y|ng branchos.'
l|ndon. 3ru|sod and s|oop|ng at my s|do. 1horo's a ||tt|o b|ood dr|bb||ng trom tho cornor ot h|s ||ps. l brush |t away w|th my t|ngor.
°l thought you woro doad,' sho says. °Gabr|o| carr|od you |nto tho k|tchon and |t |ookod ||ko ovory bono |n your body was brokon.'
°lrotty c|oso,' l say.
°Coc||y was scroam|ng hor hoad ott, and |t took throo attondants to drag hor up to hor room. 1ho |ousomastor to|d hor sho was go|ng to m|scarry |t
sho d|dn't qu|ot down. 3ut sho's t|no, ot courso. You know how sho gots.'
°What happonod to Gabr|o|?' l say. l havon't soon h|m s|nco wak|ng up. l st||| don't know how much t|mo has passod.
l|ndon mumb|os |n h|s s|oop, start||ng mo. |o nuz-z|os h|s taco aga|nst my shou|dor, and l wa|t tor h|s oyos to opon, but h|s broath|ng roma|ns doop
and ovon w|th s|oop.
1onna, whoso oyos aro suddon|y sor|ous, |oans c|oso to mo. A|though wo'ro a|roady wh|spor|ng, sho wants to bo oxtra suro nobody w||| hoar us. °l
don't know what's go|ng on botwoon you two, but bo carotu|. Okay? l th|nk |ousomastor vaughn suspocts somoth|ng.'
vaughn. 1ust mont|on ot h|m makos my b|ood go co|d.
l havon't spokon to anyono about what ho sa|d about loso, part|y bocauso tho momory |s so tuzzy that l can't do||noato tact trom droam, but a|so
bocauso l'm atra|d ot what ho'|| do. l torco h|m out ot my m|nd.
l don't know how to answor 1onna bocauso l don't know what's go|ng on botwoon mo and Gabr|o|. And suddon|y a|| l can th|nk ot |s tho toar that
makos Gabr|o| go r|g|d whon vaughn |s noarby. ls |t bocauso ho's boon throatonod? l swa||ow somoth|ng pa|ntu|. °ls ho okay?'
°|o's t|no. 1ust a ||tt|o scratchod up. |o's boon |n a tow t|mos, but you woro as|oop.'
l can a|ways trust 1onna to know what's happon|ng |n th|s houso. 3ho's qu|ot, a background t|xturo, but sho m|ssos noth|ng. l th|nk ot what vaughn
sa|d about cast|ng hor back |nto tho wator. l th|nk about hor s|stors bo|ng shot |n that van, and toars aro t||||ng my oyos and l can't stop myso|t trom
sobb|ng, and sho says °3hh, shh' and k|ssos my torohoad. °lt's okay. l'|| |ook out tor h|m,' sho wh|spors. °lt's okay.'
°lt's not okay,' l choko. 3ut l can't say moro than that, bocauso |ousomastor vaughn m|ght ovorhoar. |o a|roady knows ovoryth|ng. |o's a|roady
ovorywhoro, th|s awtu| man who contro|s us a||. And ho's r|ght. l'm go|ng to d|o horo, so l m|ght as wo|| got comtortab|o. l'm start|ng to th|nk ho's my
roa| captor, and that th|s man s|oop|ng bos|do mo |s as much a pr|sonor as h|s own br|dos.
1onna stays w|th mo unt|| l oxhaust myso|t and tho pa|n |n my r|bs and my |ogs and my hoad bocomos too much to stay consc|ous tor.
ln tho morn|ng l awakon to Coc||y stand|ng unoas||y |n tho doorway. 3ho |s not|coab|y moro prognant. 3ho's bocom|ng sk|nny arms and |ogs and a
tu|| moon ot a stomach. °||,' sho says. lt's a ch||d's vo|co.
°||,' my vo|co |s ||ko brokon g|ass, but l know |t w||| hurt to c|oar my throat. l th|nk ot what 1onna sa|d, about Coc||y scroam|ng hor hoad ott whon sho
saw my body.
°|ow aro you too||ng?' sho asks. And botoro l can answor, sho takos hor hands out trom boh|nd hor back and shows mo a vaso ot wh|to star-
shapod t|owors. °l|||os, ||ko |n your story,' sho says.
And thoy aro just ||ko my mothor's ||||os, w|th p|nk-rod stroaks runn|ng trom tho stamons ||ko sp|||od |nk.
Coc||y puts thom on my n|ghtstand and thon touchos hor hand to my torohoad. °You'ro runn|ng a s||ght tovor,' sho says.
3ho's a ||tt|o g|r| p|ay|ng mothor. l|ay|ng houso. And maybo |t's a|| tho pa|nk|||ors |n my systom, but l just adoro hor. °Como horo,' l say, and opon my
lv arm to hor, and sho doosn't hos|tato. 3ho's m|ndtu| ot my r|bs whon sho hugs mo, but sho gr|ps my n|ghtgown, and my nock |s damp w|th hor
toars.
°l was so scarod,' sho says. 1h|s mans|on |s hor portoct droam houso. lobody |s supposod to bo hurt. Evoryth|ng |s happy ovor attor.
°Vo too,' l say. l st||| am.
°ls thoro anyth|ng l can do?' sho asks, onco sho's had a ||tt|o cry and |s rubb|ng hor chooks dry.
l nod my hoad to whoro l|ndon |s s|oop|ng bos|do mo.
°Got h|m out ot horo tor a ||tt|o wh||o,' l say. °lt's no good tor h|m to bo coopod up |n horo, worry|ng about mo a|| day. 3oo |t you can got h|m to p|ay a
gamo w|th you or somoth|ng that's tun.'
3ho br|ghtons and nods. 3ho's good at ||tt|ng our husband's mood, and sho knows sho can do th|s tor mo.
3os|dos, sho so|zos any opportun|ty to havo l|ndon's und|v|dod attont|on.
3y |ato morn|ng sho has conv|ncod l|ndon that sho's starvod tor attont|on and |t ho doosn't ho|p hor pract|co choss, sho's go|ng to cry. |o doosn't
want hor to cry, bocauso ho th|nks sho'|| m|scarry.
And l am grantod my ||m|tod torm ot troodom.
l onjoy tho qu|ot tor a wh||o, dr|tt|ng |n and out ot summory droams. A|| warmth and ||ght. Vy mothor's hands. Vy tathor p|ay|ng tho p|ano. 1ho ||tt|o g|r|
noxt door's vo|co humm|ng |n a papor cup |n my hands.
And thon thoro's anothor vo|co, and my oyos t|y opon so tast that tho room sp|ns.
°lh|no?'
Gabr|o|'s vo|co can roach mo anywhoro. Evon |n a hurr|cano.
|o's stand|ng |n my doorway now, scratchod and bru|sod, ho|d|ng somoth|ng l can't qu|to mako out. l strugg|o to s|t up, but l'm do|ng a |ousy job ot
|t, and ho comos and s|ts bos|do mo. |o opons h|s mouth to spoak, but l boat h|m to |t.
°l'm so sorry,' l say.
|o sots whatovor ho was ho|d|ng on tho bod, and takos my hand |n both ot h|s, and tho socur|ty l too| |s oxact|y ||ko tho momont l crashod |nto h|s
arms.
°Aro you okay?' ho says.
lt's a s|mp|o quost|on. And tor h|m, bocauso ho savod my ||to, tor whatovor that |s worth, l g|vo h|m tho truth.
°lo.'
|o |ooks at my taco tor a wh||o, and l can't |mag|no how pathot|c l must |ook, but ho doosn't soom to ovon bo soo|ng mo. 1ho s|ght ot mo |s tak|ng
h|m somop|aco tar away.
°What |s |t?' l say. °What aro you th|nk|ng?'
|o doosn't answor mo tor a wh||o. 1hon ho says, °You woro a|most gono.' |o doosn't moan l a|most oscapod.
l opon my mouth to, l don't know, apo|og|zo aga|n maybo. 3ut ho takos my taco |n h|s hands and prossos h|s torohoad to m|no. And ho's so c|oso
that l can too| h|s ||tt|o warm broaths, and a|| l know |s that whon ho draws h|s noxt broath l want to got suckod |n.
Our ||ps touch, a|most as sott as not touch|ng at a||.
1hon thoy pross c|osor to oach othor, draw back uncorta|n|y, touch aga|n. 1horo |s warmth shoot|ng through my brokon body whoro thoro shou|d bo
pa|n, and l put my arms around tho back ot h|s nock and l ho|d on to h|m. l ho|d on bocauso you novor know |n th|s p|aco whon somoth|ng good w|||
bo takon away.
lt's a no|so |n tho ha||way that r|ps us apart. Gabr|o| gots up, |ooks out |nto tho ha||way. 1hon out tho w|ndow.
Wo'ro a|ono, but shakon. 3o much tor bo|ng carotu|.
Vy hoart |s hammor|ng |n my oars, and |t's somoth|ng ouphor|c, not tho pa|n or an angry w|nd, that makos |t a ||tt|o hard to broatho. Gabr|o| c|oars
h|s throat. ||s chooks aro warm p|nk and h|s oyos havo takon on a s|oopy hazo. lt's d|tt|cu|t tor us to |ook at oach othor. °l brought you somoth|ng,'
ho says, h|s oyos avortod. |o ho|ds up tho th|ng ho was carry|ng a momont ago. lt's a hoavy b|ack book w|th a rod oarth |ngra|nod on tho covor.
°You brought mo l|ndon's at|as?' l say, skopt|ca|.
°Yos, but |ook.' |o opons to a pago that |s a|| brown and bo|go maps w|th b|uo ||nos on thom. 1ho toxt at tho top says Rlvors oí Eoropo. 1horo's a
koy on tho s|do that ||sts |andmarks and r|vors. Gabr|o| po|nts to tho th|rd ono down. Rbloo. |o tracos h|s t|ngor a|ong tho |ongth ot a b|uo ||no.
°lh|no |s a r|vor,' ho says.
Wo||, |t was a r|vor, botoro ovoryth|ng got dostroyod. 3ut l novor know th|s. Vy paronts must havo. 1hoy so |ovod to bo mystor|ous sc|ont|sts, and
thoro aro so many th|ngs thoy novor had a chanco to to|| my brothor and mo.
Vy t|ngor tra||s attor Gabr|o|'s, a|ong tho vo|n ot a r|vor that no |ongor ox|sts. 3ut st||| l th|nk |t's out thoro.
l th|nk |t has t|oodod ovor and trood |tso|t |nto tho ocoan, somowhoro boyond tho po|ntod t|owor on tho |ron gato to troodom.
°l had no |doa,' l say. °l d|dn't th|nk my namo moant anyth|ng.'
Was th|s what loso moant, whon l to|d hor my namo and sho sa|d |t was a boaut|tu| p|aco?
°lt says |t was a tro|ght r|vor. 1horo |sn't any othor |ntormat|on about |t,' Gabr|o| says, d|sappo|ntod.
°1hat's okay!'
l |augh a ||tt|o, and put my arm boh|nd h|s nock to br|ng h|m c|osor, and l k|ss h|s chook w|th grat|tudo. |o turns a w||d shado ot rod, and so do l.
|o has no |doa what th|s moans to mo, but by tho |ook |n h|s oyos l can to|| ho knows |t must bo somoth|ng good. |o brushos tho ha|r trom my
torohoad and |ooks at mo. lh|no. 1ho r|vor that, somowhoro out thoro, has brokon troo.
A|| n|ght l droam ot r|vors, and bonoath tho wator, br||||ant sharp-|oatod t|owors.
°You woro sm|||ng |n your s|oop,' l|ndon says, whon l opon my oyos. |o's s|tt|ng on tho w|ndow |odgo w|th a ponc|| |n h|s hand and a draw|ng |n h|s
|ap, shoots ot papor aro stackod bos|do h|m, and l can to|| ho's boon work|ng tor a wh||o. l th|nk ot what vaughn sa|d about how l coaxod l|ndon
back |nto h|s dos|gns. l st||| don't undorstand vaughn's |ntont|ons |n to|||ng mo, but |t's truo. l|ndon has boon work|ng a |ot |ato|y, and l just m|ght bo
tho ono |nsp|r|ng h|m.
°l droamt wo ||vod |n that houso you drow, w|th tho p|o |n tho w|ndow and tho sw|ng |n tho yard,' l say, tak|ng ovoryth|ng but th|s |usc|ous too||ng ot
happ|noss that comos out |n my vo|co. 1ho v|ow trom tho w|ndow |s show|ng mo a |ovo|y day.
l|ndon sm||os at mo, ro||ovod but unsuro. |o |sn't usod to soo|ng mo ||ko th|s, and ho m|ght th|nk tho pa|nk|||ors aro to thank. l try mov|ng and t|nd
|t's not so agon|z|ng as botoro. l'm ab|o to s|t upr|ght and |oan aga|nst tho p|||ows tor support.
°l hoard you wont attor mo, |n tho storm,' l say.
|o sots down h|s work and jo|ns mo on tho bod. 1ho cut on h|s ||p |s hoa||ng. |o |ooks ||ko a pr|st|no boy who got |nto a schoo| yard t|ght. l try to
p|cturo h|s trag||o, th|n body brav|ng tho hurr|cano, but l can't soo h|m gott|ng tar. l can on|y soo h|m bo|ng swopt up or roscuod or k|||od.
°l thought l'd |ost you,' ho says, and l can't to|| |t that's a sm||o or a trown on h|s ||ps.
°l got |ost whon tho w|nd p|ckod up,' l say. °l cou|dn't t|nd my way back. l tr|od so hard.'
°l know you d|d.' |o pats my hand, and thoro's such sadnoss |n h|s oyos that l hato myso|t tor |y|ng. l|ndon sooms to havo that ottoct on mo.
|o says, °l want to show you somoth|ng.'
|o to||s mo that l was most|y unconsc|ous tor a wook.
1ho th|ng that h|t tho back ot my hoad was a b|ado trom ono ot tho w|ndm|||s. 1ho var|ous othor |njur|os camo trom dobr|s that strotchos trom as
noar as tho tonn|s courts to as tar as tho stab|os, but ho wants mo not to worry, bocauso h|s tathor has h|rod poop|o to c|oan |t up, and thoy'ro do|ng
a |ovo|y job. |o says tho roa| damago was dono to mo. |o to||s mo that |n botwoon |ong strotchos ot s||onco, l muttorod about rats and s|nk|ng sh|ps
and oxp|os|ons, a|ways oxp|os|ons, and try|ng to stop tho b|ood|ng.
Vorc|tu||y l romombor nono ot thoso n|ghtmaros.
3ut ho hoard ovoryth|ng. |o stayod by my s|do, and s|nco ho cou|dn't roach mo, ho tr|od to draw what l was soo|ng. |o hos|tatos a momont botoro
show|ng mo tho t|rst papor, ||ko |t's go|ng to bo a cr|mo scono photo or somoth|ng.
And thon ho shows mo. |o's drawn hoav||y shadod housos that aro t||t|ng to ono s|do, or burst|ng w|th branchos trom a troo that takos up tho
bu||d|ng's |ns|dos.
1horo aro w|ndows dr|pp|ng b|ood, a yard t|||od w|th upturnod rats. l'vo boon marr|od to th|s man tor noar|y n|no months, and l thought ho know
noth|ng about mo, but ho has capturod my toars. A|| that's m|ss|ng |s lowan, and ovon st||| l th|nk ho m|ght bo bonoath tho tu|| moon |n ono ot tho
draw|ngs. |o's |n that b|ood|ng houso, |ook|ng at tho moon, and l'm horo |n th|s tr|||y mans|on |ook|ng at tho samo moon. And wo'ro both wondor|ng
|t our tw|n |s okay.
l too| nausoous and d|zzy, ||ko my droams havo boon sp|||od out |nto my hands. 1ho |ast draw|ng |s our wodd|ng gazobo, ovorrun w|th cobwobs and
b|oody t|ngor-pr|nts, and what appoars to bo a p|oco ot tho w|ndm||| wodgod |nto tho root. °1hat ono wasn't you,' ho says.
°1hat's how l to|t wh||o you woro gono. Whon l wasn't suro |t you'd wako up.'
l'm star|ng at a ru|nod marr|ago |n tho rubb|o ot that gazobo. l|ndon's groatost tragody was |os|ng h|s t|rst w|to, and yot l had no |doa |os|ng mo was
so tr|ghton|ng to h|m. 1ho n|ght botoro l ran away, ho c||mbod |nto my bod, and l cou|d too| tho hoat ot h|s gr|ot tor loso as ho cr|od |nto my
n|ghtgown. Evon though |t's boon my goa| to oarn h|s tavor and bocomo t|rst w|to, l had no |doa l was as proc|ous to h|m as my doad s|stor w|to.
Why? ls |t bocauso l |ook ||ko hor?
l say noth|ng tor a wh||o, t||pp|ng through tho samo draw|ngs ovor and ovor aga|n, tak|ng t|mo to |ook at oach. ||s usua| dota|| r|ngs truo. l can soo
|ns|do thoso housos. Ono room |s t|oodod w|th 1uno 3oans, anothor room sooms to bo mado up ot road maps.
°Aro you angry?' l|ndon asks. °Vaybo l shou|dn't havo showod you.' |o roachos to tako thom back, and l t|ghton my gr|p.
°lo,' l say, b||nk|ng at a houso that's tu|| ot t|sh. lt's an oxact rop||ca ot my tavor|to poo| ho|ogram, but tho sharks aro sw|mm|ng w|th ||mbs |n tho|r
mouths-b|ood|ng arms and |ogs. °1hoso aro . . . horr|ty|ng. l had no |doa you cou|d soo th|ngs ||ko th|s.'
°l-l shou|dn't.' l|ndon goos pa|o and |ooks away trom mo. °Vy tathor says l shou|d dos|gn th|ngs that aro moro-'
°|orgot what your tathor says, ho's wrong,' l say.
l|ndon |ooks at mo w|th as much surpr|so as l too|. l hadn't moant to say that out |oud, but now that l'vo got h|s attont|on, l m|ght as wo|| t|n|sh. °You
shou|dn't koop thoso th|ngs to yourso|t. You'ro ta|ontod. Okay, maybo nobody wants to ||vo |n a houso tu|| ot troos or sharks or b|ood, but tho othor
onos.'
°l d|dn't moan anybody wou|d want to ||vo |n thoso housos,' ho says, |nd|cat|ng tho stack ot n|ghtmaros |n my hand.
°C|oar|y,' l say.
°1hat was my po|nt. Vaybo somoono wou|d havo ||vod |n thoso housos onco.' |o po|nts to tho carotu| dota|| around tho throsho|d ot tho shark
houso, how thoro's ovon a door knockor and docrop|t shuttors that woro onco c|oan and now. And tho houso w|th rats |n tho yard has a tro|||s ot
doad rosos that onco thr|vod. °3ut somoth|ng wont wrong. 1hoy wont bad.'
l can soo |t. l can soo tho boaut|tu| houso whoro my mothor was born, |n a boaut|tu| c|ty that |ator succumbod to a|| tho chom|ca|s, unt|| ovon t|owors
cou|dn't grow. l can soo a who|o wor|d that usod to bo tu|| ot countr|os.
l|ndon |s soarch|ng my taco tor undorstand|ng, and h|s oyos aro a ||tt|o m|sty, and l nod bocauso l do undorstand.
l undorstand what thoso draw|ngs moan, and l undorstand why ho'd want to cry about thom.
°l know,' l say. °l know oxact|y.'
1ho housos wont bad ||ko tho wor|d wont bad.
l|ndon bog|ns draw|ng moro. |o draws moro v|ab|o housos and asks mo tor my op|n|on. |o says ho's go|ng to start try|ng to so|| thom soon. lt
amazos mo that a boy who has spont a|| ot h|s ||to ||v|ng |n ono p|aco, and who hard|y vonturos |nto tho wor|d, can croato such conv|nc|ng p|acos to
||vo.
Coc||y comos |n tho attornoons to tako h|m ott my hands. l approc|ato th|s bocauso l want t|mo to myso|t.
3ut l a|so th|nk |t's good tor l|ndon to |oavo my bods|do.
3omot|mos |t's as though ho's tho ono who's |ncapac|tatod.
And thon ono attornoon Coc||y comos |ook|ng tor l|ndon, and l say, °l thought ho was w|th you.'
lo|thor Gabr|o| nor 1onna knows whoro ho |s, and no|thor do any ot our domost|cs. |ousomastor vaughn |s nowhoro to bo tound o|thor, and
somot|mo attor |unch, Coc||y |s rost|oss. 3ho c||mbs |nto tho bod w|th mo, ho|d|ng a b|g hardcovor book w|th an u|trasound |mago on tho covor.
°What's th|s word? G-E-3-1-A-1-l-O-l.'
l pronounco |t tor hor, and sho to||s mo what |t moans, though l a|roady know. |or a wh||o sho shows mo d|agrams and doscr|bos what hor baby |s
do|ng r|ght now, how |t's b|g onough to suck |ts thumb, how totusos can h|ccup. 1w|co sho prossos my hand to hor stomach and l too| tho baby k|ck.
lt rom|nds mo that a|| ot th|s |s roa|, as though l'd managod to torgot. l worry about Coc||y bo|ng |n |abor. l worry about tho baby bo|ng born doad, ||ko
l|ndon's t|rst ch||d. l worry that, ||v|ng or doad, th|s baby w||| ond up |n vaughn's basomont on a ro|||ng cart.
Coc||y |s |n tho m|dd|o ot doscr|b|ng how tho p|aconta |s do||vorod whon l|ndon appoars |n tho doorway. |o's drossod |n a su|t, and h|s cur|y ha|r
has boon s||ckod back |n a |oss monac|ng rop||ca ot vaughn's sty|o.
°Whoro havo you boon?' Coc||y trowns.
°W|th a contractor |ntorostod |n my dos|gns,' ho says, |ook|ng at mo. ||s oyos aro br|ght. °1horo's a company that wants mo to work w|th thom
dos|gn|ng a now str|p ma|| that's opon|ng up.'
°1hat's groat!' l say, and l moan |t. l|ndon s|ts on my bod, Coc||y botwoon us. |o ovon smo||s ||ko ho's boon |n tho roa| wor|d. Car oxhaust and
po||shod marb|o t|oors.
°l was th|nk|ng that |n a month or two, whon you'ro too||ng moro up to |t, wo cou|d go to an arch|tocturo oxpo. 1hoy'ro a ||tt|o dry, but |t's a groat
opportun|ty to show ott my dos|gns. And my boaut|tu| w|to, ot courso.' |o pushos tho ha|r trom my taco, and tor somo roason l t|nd that l'm t|attorod.
And oxc|tod. l'm go|ng to |oavo th|s mans|on!
°1hat's sort ot stup|d,' Coc||y |ntorjocts. °Who caros about shopp|ng? 1horo woro no ma||s whoro l como trom.'
°1hoy aron't ma||s |n tho trad|t|ona| sonso,' l|ndon says pat|ont|y. °1hoy'ro moro ||ko who|osa|o warohousos, not opon to tho pub||c but to |nvostod
compan|os. 1hoy most|y carry mod|ca| oqu|pmont, sow|ng mach|nos-th|ngs ||ko that.'
l know oxact|y what ho moans. l'vo takon phono ordors tor who|osa|ors and taggod a|ong w|th my brothor on sovora| ot h|s do||vor|os.
°0o thoy to|ov|so tho oxpos?' l say.
°1hoso, no. 1hoy aron't as oxc|t|ng as tho r|bbon-cut-t|ng coromon|os or tho chr|ston|ng part|os.'
°What's a chr|ston|ng party?' Coc||y says, roassort|ng hor prosonco botwoon us.
l|ndon oxp|a|ns that w|th tho stato ot tho wor|d (ho moans that wo'ro a|| dy|ng), |t's a causo tor co|obrat|on whon a now bu||d|ng goos up. l|ko a
hosp|ta| or ovon a car doa|orsh|p. lt's a s|gn that poop|o aro st||| contr|but|ng to soc|oty and that wo havon't g|von up hopo that th|ngs w||| |mprovo.
3o thoro aro chr|ston|ng part|os, usua||y ho|d by tho porson or company that put up tho bu||d|ng, whoro ovoryono |nvo|vod |n |ts construct|on can
co|obrato. °l|ko a low Yoar's party,' l|ndon says.
°3ut |t's a now bu||d|ng.'
°Can't l go to a chr|ston|ng party?' Coc||y says.
l|ndon puts h|s hand on hor stomach and says, °3ut your job |s horo, |ovo. And don't you soo how |mportant |t |s?'
°Onco tho baby |s born,' sho says.
|o sm||os and k|ssos hor. 3ho |ots h|m, and |t's c|oar that thoy'vo boon th|s tam|||ar tor a wh||o. °1hon you'|| havo tho baby to |ook attor,' ho says.
°E||o can caro tor tho baby somot|mos.' 3ho's start|ng to got upsot, and l|ndon says th|s |s somoth|ng thoy can d|scuss pr|vato|y |ator, and sho
says, °lo, now.' 1horo aro toars |n hor oyos, and sho's torgotton a|| about tho prognancy book and has d|scardod |t on my |ap.
°Coc||y . . . ,' l say.
°lt's not ta|r!' 3ho turns to mo. °l'vo g|von h|m ovoryth|ng, and l dosorvo to go to a party |t l want to. What havo you dono? What havo you g|von up?'
3o many th|ngs, Coc||y. Voro than you know.
Angor |s burn|ng |ns|do ot mo, mak|ng my bonos hurt. 3ho's push|ng mo, and l'm try|ng so hard to koop qu|ot. l havo to. l havo to, bocauso |t l say
tho truth now, thon l'|| torovor bo a pr|sonor. And l won't g|vo hor th|s oxpo or any ot tho part|os to to||ow, bocauso thoy aro m|no. Vy on|y chancos to
show my brothor that l'm a||vo, to t|nd a way out ot th|s p|aco. l dosorvo th|s. lot hor.
|or oyos aro b|g and tu|| ot toars. |or sobs aro wot and tu|| ot h|ccups, and l|ndon p|cks hor up-hor sma||, swo||on body |n h|s arms-and ho
carr|os hor away. l can hoar hor wa|||ng across tho ha||.
l s|t |n tho bod, tum|ng, star|ng at tho ||||os sho brought mo a tow days ago. 1hoy'ro start|ng to como apart. lota|s havo ta||on around tho vaso and
shr|vo|od |nto scraps ot t|ssuo papor. lt's ||ko |ook|ng at tho opon oyos ot a protty corpso.
Coc||y's good |ntont|ons novor |ast |ong.
Gabr|o| and l havo boon vory carotu| about how wo |ntor-act. l cou|d spond a who|o morn|ng th|nk|ng about our ono k|ss, and whon ho shows up to
br|ng mo |unch, a|| wo'|| do |s ta|k about tho woathor. |o to||s mo |t's gott|ng co|dor and ho th|nks thoro'|| bo snow.
°0|d you br|ng Coc||y hor |unch yot?' l ask h|m, as ho's t|tt|ng tho tray onto my |ap. 3o|ng cont|nod to my bod makos |t hard tor us to soo oach othor. l
can't to||ow h|m as ho works or stoa| a momont w|th h|m |n ono ot tho gardons.
°Yos,' ho grumb|os. °3ho throw a gravy boat at mo.'
l |augh |n sp|to ot myso|t. °3ho d|dn't.'
°3ocauso sho wantod a tw|co bakod potato, not onco bakod. 3urpr|s|ng|y good a|m tor a g|r| |n hor cond|t|on.'
|o says that |ast part sarcast|ca||y. Wo a|| know that Coc||y |sn't noar|y as do||cato as l|ndon or vaughn th|nks.
°3ho's |n a |ovo|y mood.'
°1hat may bo my tau|t,' l say. °last n|ght l|ndon to|d mo ho's th|nk|ng about tak|ng mo to somo k|nd ot party tor h|s bu||d|ng dos|gns, and sho had a
t|t bocauso ho d|dn't ask hor |nstoad.'
|o makos a taco, and s|ts on tho odgo ot my bod.
°You'ro |ntorostod |n a chr|ston|ng party?'
°Gabr|o|,' l say sott|y, °|t may bo my on|y way out.'
|o |ooks at mo tor a wh||o, taco unroadab|o, and thon ho |ooks at h|s |ap. °l guoss |t's not tho worst oscapo p|an you'vo had, |s |t?'
°|ard to arguo. l'm s|tt|ng horo |n tour d|ttoront casts.'
°ls |t roa||y so bad horo?' ho asks. 1hon pan|c t|||s h|s oyos. °ls tho |ouso Govornor torc|ng you to do anyth|ng-you know-|n bod?' ||s chooks aro
on t|ro.
°lo!' l say. l roach out and put my hand ovor h|s. °lt's noth|ng ||ko that. Gabr|o|, l can't stay horo tor tho rost ot my ||to.'
°Why not? What has tho troo wor|d got that you can't got horo?' ho says.
°Vy brothor, tor startors. Vy homo,' l say. l squoozo h|s hand, ho staros at |t uncomprohond|ng|y. °What's tho mattor?'
°l th|nk |t's dangorous,' ho says. °l th|nk you shou|d stay.'
l don't rocogn|zo th|s |ook on h|s taco. lt's not co|d or angry ||ko that day by tho poo|. |o's not b|ttor. lt's somoth|ng o|so. °What |t l askod you to como
w|th mo?'
°What?'
°1hat n|ght, |n tho hurr|cano. l stood on tho ||ghthouso, and l saw you com|ng toward mo, and l sa|d 'lun away w|th mo,' but you d|dn't hoar. l saw tho
tonco. l was go|ng to try and mako |t.'
°l|ght botoro a g|ant p|oco ot w|ndm||| knockod you unconsc|ous,' ho says t|at|y. °lh|no, |t's dangorous. l know you'ro not ta|k|ng about runn|ng ott
|nto anothor hurr|cano, but what do you oxpoct to do? 0o you th|nk ho'|| tako you to a party and you'|| just wa|k out tho door?'
°Actua||y, yos, maybo,' l say. lt soundod bottor |n my hoad.
Gabr|o| movos tho tray trom botwoon us, and takos both ot my hands and |oans c|oso. 1h|s |s a b|g r|sk w|th my door bo|ng w|do opon and
ovoryono homo, but tor tho momont |t doosn't soom to mattor. °Whothor |t's a hurr|cano or a party, |t's tho samo,' ho says. °lt's dangorous. 1ho
|ouso Govornor |s not go|ng to |ot you just wa|k away, and no|thor |s tho |ousomastor. lt was months botoro ho'd ovon |ot you opon your w|ndow or
|oavo tho mans|on, and guoss what? |ousomastor vaughn |s ta|k|ng about rovok|ng thoso pr|v||ogos.'
°|ow do you know that?' l say.
°|o to|d a|| tho attondants that |t you or Coc||y or 1onna wants to uso our koy cards tor tho o|ovator, wo havo to c|oar |t w|th h|m.'
°Whon was th|s?'
°Wh||o you woro hookod up to t|vo d|ttoront mach|nos t|ght|ng tor your ||to,' ho says.
°l wasn't t|ght|ng tor my ||to,' l say, squooz|ng h|s hands. °lt l'd had my way, l wou|d havo d|od r|ght thoro and |t wou|dn't havo mattorod. 3ut do you
know what koops mo go|ng ovory day? 1hat r|vor. lh|no. l th|nk my paronts gavo mo that namo tor a roason. l th|nk |t moans l'm supposod to go
somowhoro. |s mo t|ght|ng tor my ||to.'
°Go whoro?'
°l don't know!' lt's so trustrat|ng to havo |og|c thrown at mo now. lt's mak|ng a|| my p|ans soom so hopo|oss.
°3ut not horo. Anywhoro but horo. low, w||| you como w|th mo or not?'
|o ra|sos an oyobrow. °You'd |oavo w|thout mo?'
°lo,' l say. °l'|| drag you k|ck|ng and scroam|ng.' l'm gr|nn|ng, and ovontua||y ho broaks down and t|ashos mo h|s raro sm||o.
°You'ro |nsano, you know that?' ho says.
°lt's tho on|y th|ng koop|ng mo at|oat,' l say. |o |oans toward mo, and l too| that rush ot oxh||arat|on to|||ng mo wo'ro about to k|ss. Vy oyos aro just
c|os|ng, and h|s hand brushos across my chook, whon a knock on tho door tramo |ntorrupts.
°3orry to |ntrudo,' 0o|rdro says, |nd|cat|ng tho tray |n hor hands. °|ousomastor vaughn askod mo to br|ng you somo asp|r|n.'
Gabr|o| w|thdraws, but l can soo |n h|s oyos that ho wants to touch mo. A|| ho says |s, °3oo you |ator.'
°3oo you.'
Onco ho's gono, 0o|rdro hands mo two wh|to p|||s and a g|ass ot wator. °You woron't |ntrud|ng,' l say, onco l'vo downod tho p|||s. °loth|ng was
go|ng on botwoon Gabr|o| and mo-l moan-'
Vy chooks burn as l tumb|o tor tho r|ght words, but 0o|rdro on|y sm||os. °lt's a|| r|ght,' sho says. °|ousomastor vaughn |sn't ovon horo. Attor ho
askod mo to br|ng you tho asp|r|n, ho was ca||od to tho hosp|ta|.' 3ho movos to my dross|ng tab|o and roturns w|th a tubo ot ||p ba|m, wh|ch sho
smoars across my chappod ||ps. 1hon sho movos on to t|utt|ng my p|||ow. °lt's a n|co day. Wou|d you ||ko mo to opon tho w|ndow?'
°l'm a|| r|ght,' l say. 3ho stops tuss|ng ovor mo |ong onough tor mo to soo tho concorn |n hor oyos. Vy ta|thtu| ||tt|o domost|c. °loa||y, l'm okay.'
°What d|d tho |ousomastor say to you?' sho wh|spors, start||ng mo.
°What?'
°Wh||o you woro s|oop|ng-at |oast l thought you woro s|oop|ng. l camo to br|ng you a now p|||ow, but |ousomastor vaughn was |n horo and ho to|d
mo to |oavo.' 3ho |ooks gu||t||y at hor toot. °l stayod |n tho ha||way. l tr|od to ||ston |n. l'm sorry, l know l shou|dn't havo. lt's just . . .'
1horo aro toars wo|||ng |n hor oyos. lt's so un||ko hor that at t|rst l th|nk my tovor |s back and l'm ha||uc|nat|ng. °lt's just that l thought ho was go|ng to
hurt you.'
l roach tor hor hand, wh|ch |s tromb||ng. °Why wou|d you th|nk that?'
°Oh, lh|no,' sho sobs. °lt you woro try|ng to run away, you can't try |t aga|n. You'|| novor got out, and ho'|| mako ||to horo m|sorab|o tor you.'
°l wasn't try|ng to run away,' l say.
3ho shakos hor hoad. °3ut |t ho th|nks you d|d, that's what mattors. You don't undorstand. You don't undorstand what ho's ||ko whon ho doosn't got
h|s way.'
°0o|rdro.' l gont|y pu|| hor toward mo. °What aro you try|ng to to|| mo?'
1oars aro stroam|ng down hor taco. 3ho h|ccups.
°lady loso novor wantod a baby-sho novor d|d. 3ho and |ousomastor vaughn usod to arguo a|| tho t|mo. 3ho d|dn't bo||ovo ho was go|ng to t|nd
tho ant|doto, and sho d|dn't want anothor ch||d to bo born just so |t wou|d d|o. |o ca||od hor a pro-natura||st. l cou|d hoar thom scroam|ng at oach
othor. Onco, l had to h|do |n tho c|osot wh||o l was putt|ng away hor |aundry, l was so atra|d to got |n tho m|dd|o ot |t.'
3ho s|ts down on tho odgo ot my bod, sw|pos tho toars trom hor oyos, but moro como. °And whon sho got prognant, ovon though sho hadn't
p|annod on |t, sho was oxc|tod. 3ho askod mo to toach hor to kn|t, and sho mado a b|ankot tor tho cr|b.' 1ho momory makos hor sm||o, but that
sm||o |s qu|ck|y gono. °Whon sho wont |nto |abor, l|ndon was away at an oxpo. And hor pa|n was so oxtromo that |ousomastor vaughn kopt hor
hoav||y sodatod. Whon sho camo out ot |t a tow hours |ator, and ho to|d hor tho baby g|r| d|dn't mako |t, sho d|dn't bo||ovo h|m. 3ho sa|d sho'd hoard
tho baby cry. |o to|d hor sho was do||r|ous, that tho baby was born doad.'
1ho room suddon|y sooms darkor, co|dor. 0o|rdro says, °3ut l was chang|ng tho |nconso |n tho ha||way, and l hoard |t cry too. |ousomastor vaughn
to|d lady loso, 'You want tho human raco to d|o, and |t |ooks ||ko you got your w|sh.''
l can hoar vaughn's vo|co |n tho words, and my hoart broaks as though tho words woro moant tor mo. l can soo loso, a||vo and borott, touch|ng hor
stomach whoro hours oar||or hor ch||d had movod |ns|do hor. l w|sh sho'd to|d mo th|s story horso|t whon sho was a||vo, bocauso now l too| an
ovorwho|m|ng nood to hug hor and to|| hor how sorry l am that |t happonod. l sonso that tho t|ro sho to|t toward vaughn |s as strong as m|no. Vaybo
tho on|y roason sho ondurod h|m at a|| was hor |ovo tor l|ndon.
And maybo sho was hop|ng l'd |oarn to |ovo our husband so l'd |oarn to onduro vaughn as wo||.
°Oh, |t just dostroyod hor. 3ho was novor tho samo attor that,' 0o|rdro cont|nuos. °3ho had hor own domost|c, lyd|a. 3ut |t was too much tor loso
to havo a young g|r| around rom|nd|ng hor ot tho daughtor sho wou|d havo had. Evontua||y sho conv|ncod |ouso Govornor l|ndon to havo hor so|d
ott. 3ho cou|dn't ovon |ook at E||o and mo.'
°0oos anyono o|so know about th|s?' l say.
°lo. 1hoy a|| bo||ovo tho baby was a st|||b|rth. Or |t thoy don't, thoy koop |t to thomso|vos. l|oaso don't to||.'
°lo,' l say, hand|ng hor a t|ssuo trom my n|ghtstand.
°lo, th|s w||| stay botwoon you and mo.'
3ho dabs at hor noso, to|ds tho t|ssuo, and tucks |t |nto hor sk|rt pockot. °l'vo novor to|d that to anyono botoro.'
Evon through tho toars, l can soo that somo ot tho wo|ght has boon ||ttod trom hor shou|dors. lt's a torr|b|o socrot tor such a young g|r|. ln th|s p|aco
-no, |n th|s wor|d-|t's |mposs|b|o tor a ch||d to bo just that. l put my arm around hor, and sho grants horso|t an uncharactor|st|c momont ot
woaknoss and co||apsos onto my chost, hugg|ng mo.
°|o a|ways gots tho t|na| say. 3o whatovor ho asks ot you, p|oaso, tor your own good, ||ston to h|m.'
°Okay,' l say. 3ut |t's a ||o. lt anyth|ng, th|s story has ro|ntorcod my nood to oscapo, to bo ||ko tho r|vor |n l|ndon's at|as. 3ocauso th|ngs horo aro
moro tr|ghton|ng than ovon l cou|d ovor havo |mag|nod. l|to |s much d|ttoront trom tho days whon thoro woro ||||os |n my mothor's gardon, and a|| my
socrots t|t |nto a papor cup.
Whon Coc||y t|n|shos p|ay|ng hor song, and tho |||us|on shr|nks back |nto tho koyboard, sho strotchos hor arms up ovor
hor hoad and cracks hor knuck|os.
°1hat was boaut|tu|, |ovo,' l|ndon says. |o s|ts on tho couch w|th h|s arm around mo. 1onna |s cur|od on tho armrost, and h|s othor hand absont|y
tracos pattorns on hor th|gh.
°Wo havo a ||tt|o concort p|an|st,' 1onna agroos, and works ono ot l|ndon's cur|s around hor t|ngor.
°Vaybo not a coocort p|an|st,' Coc||y says, |ay|ng tho dustcovor ovor tho koys.
°lo,' l agroo. °A concort ha|| |s too stor||o. 0|dn't you to|| mo you wroto that song wh||o you woro out |n tho roso gardon?'
°1ho hodgo mazo, actua||y,' 1onna says.
°You'ro both wrong,' Coc||y says, c||mb|ng |nto l|ndon's |ap. °l wroto |t |n tho orango grovo.'
°You wroto that by yourso|t ?' l|ndon says, surpr|sod.
1onna |s st||| toy|ng w|th h|s ha|r, and h|s hoad cants absont|y toward hor.
°Yos. ln my hoad. l romombor thom tor |ator. A|though. . .' |or vo|co tra||s ott. 3ho |ooks as|do, s|ghs sad|y.
°What |s |t, |ovo?' l|ndon says.
°Wo||. lt's sort ot an o|dor song,' Coc||y says. °l havon't boon outs|do |n such a |ong t|mo.'
°lono ot us havo, Coc||y,' l say. °lt |sn't just you. lt's boon so dangorous w|th tho hurr|canos. You saw how |njurod l was. l'm on|y just now gott|ng
back on my toot.'
°3ut wo havon't had any hurr|canos |n wooks,' 1onna says. °1ho woathor's boon qu|to n|co. Wou|dn't you agroo?' 3ho's |ook|ng at l|ndon, whoso
chooks havo bocomo t|ushod. 1ho adorat|on ot throo w|vos at onco |s moro than ho can hand|o.
°l-l supposo |t has.'
°3ut |ousomastor vaughn |s on|y try|ng to koop us sato,' l say. °1hat's why ho oscorts us outs|do.'
°|o oscorts you ovorywhoro?' l|ndon asks.
°lt doos got dopross|ng,' 1onna adm|ts. °Wo adoro our tathor-|n-|aw, ot courso. You know that. 3ut somot|mos a g|r| noods somo t|mo a|ono.'
°1o channo| hor croat|v|ty,' Coc||y says.
°1o th|nk,' l add.
°And tor g|r| ta|k,' 1onna says. °And lh|no and l havon't boon ab|o to p|ay a gamo ot tonn|s or jump on tho trampo||no. 1ho v|rtua| gamos aro a|| r|ght,
but wo don't got any oxorc|so at a||, roa||y.'
°l wasn't go|ng to say th|s,' Coc||y says, °but thoy'ro both ga|n|ng wo|ght.'
1onna narrows hor oyos. °look who's ta|k|ng.'
l|ndon |s |ook|ng a ||tt|o rod |n tho chooks a|roady, but whon Coc||y cups h|s taco, k|ssos h|m, and asks |t ho th|nks prognancy has mado hor
unattract|vo, |t's just about a|| ho can stand. °Y-you'ro boaut|tu|,' ho says. °A|| ot you aro. 3ut |t you th|nk somo t|mo outdoors w||| p|ck up your sp|r|ts,
l'|| ta|k to my tathor. l had no |doa you woro too||ng so-uh-st|t|od.'
°loa||y?' Coc||y cr|os.
°0o you moan |t?' l say, cozy|ng up to h|s s|do.
°You'ro so swoot,' 1onna says, and k|ssos tho top ot h|s hoad.
|o br|st|os and gont|y s||dos Coc||y ott ot h|m, squoozos h|mso|t out trom botwoon 1onna and mo. °l'|| ta|k to h|m as soon as ho's back trom tho
hosp|ta| ton|ght.'
Vy s|stor w|vos and l ||ston unt|| wo hoar tho o|ovator doors c|oso boh|nd h|m. 1horo's a momont ot s||onco, and thon wo co||apso aga|nst ono
anothor on tho couch, burst|ng w|th |aughtor.
°1hat was amaz|ng,' 1onna says.
°Evon bottor than wo p|annod,' l say.
°0|d l do a|| r|ght?' Coc||y asks.
°|orgot mus|c,' 1onna says, rutt||ng Coc||y's ha|r. °You shou|d bo an actross.'
Wo hug ono anothor |n co|obrat|on ot our sma|| v|ctory.
And l can't ho|p onjoy|ng th|s camarador|o. lt's tho c|osost l'|| ovor got to too||ng ||ko l'm |n a marr|ago.
1ho n|ght wo'ro supposod to attond tho oxpo, Coc||y starts hav|ng contract|ons.
°1hoy'ro on|y 3raxton ||cks,' |ousomastor vaughn assuros hor. °lt's not tho roa| th|ng.'
3ut sho |s |n roa| pa|n. 3ho's knoo||ng by tho bod, c||ng|ng to tho mattross, and l can soo tho torror |n hor oyos, and l know sho |sn't just do|ng th|s
out ot sp|to.
°Wo shou|d stay homo,' l to|| l|ndon. l'vo boon back on my toot tor wo|| ovor a wook, wh|ch |s about how |ong |t took 0o|rdro to dos|gn and sow tho
boaut|tu| rod dross l'm woar|ng. And attor ondur|ng an hour ot bo|ng buttod and waxod and po||shod by an ovoroagor group ot attondants, l was
dotorm|nod to mako ton|ght worth |t. l|ndon stands bos|do mo |n Coc||y's doorway, h|s mouth |n a t|ght, worr|od ||no.
|ousomastor vaughn and E||o aro ho|p|ng Coc||y |nto tho bod. °Go on,' vaughn says. °3ho's got anothor two months yot botoro tho baby comos.'
l don't trust h|m. l |mag|no Coc||y bo|ng ro||od through tho basomont on a gurnoy, scroam|ng |n agony as tho baby |s born doad, and vaughn go|ng
to work d|ssoct|ng |t tor an ant|doto. |o's a morc||oss boast, thoro's no human|ty |n h|s oyos as ho cuts tho |ntant apart.
Coc||y wh|mpors, and E||o dabs hor taco w|th a wot c|oth. Coc||y opons hor mouth, and l th|nk sho's try|ng to torm tho word °stay,' but vaughn grabs
hor hand and says, °0ar||ng, |t your husband socuros any buyors ton|ght, that moans ono ot h|s draw|ngs w||| bocomo a now houso. Or maybo a
storo. And wou|dn't you ||ko to v|s|t |t? Wou|dn't that bo n|co?'
3ho hos|tatos. 3ho and vaughn havo somo k|nd ot wo|rd bond l can't t|guro out. lt's ||ko sho's h|s tavor|to, or sho th|nks ot h|m as tho tathor sho
novor had. And sho'|| do anyth|ng ho says.
°You shou|d go to tho oxpo,' sho says. °l'|| bo t|no horo. 1h|s |s my job, attor a||. l'm happy to contr|buto.'
3trango|y, thoro's no ma||co |n tho way sho says |t.
°1hat's a good g|r|,' vaughn says.
l don't want to |oavo hor a|ono w|th h|m. l don't. 3ut whon w||| l havo anothor chanco to provo to l|ndon that l'm t|rst w|to mator|a|, tho ono who shou|d
bo on h|s arm at part|os?
Wh||o l|ndon |s say|ng good-byo to Coc||y, prom|s|ng ho'|| bo back soon, l t|nd 1onna |n tho ||brary and ask hor to koop an oyo out. °l don't trust
|ousomastor vaughn w|th hor,' l say.
°Vo o|thor,' sho says. °1hoy'vo got a|| k|nds ot socrots togothor. l don't know what ho to||s hor. lt makos mo norvous.'
°l don't want h|m a|ono w|th hor.'
°lo,' sho says. °Ot courso not.' 3ho's a|roady a stop ahoad ot mo. 3ho's tound a chossboard |n tho s|tt|ng room, and sho's go|ng to ask Coc||y to
toach hor how to p|ay.
°1ust try to havo tun, okay?' 1onna to||s mo. °1o|| troodom l sa|d ho||o.'
°lt l happon to soo |t, l w|||,' l say.
Ot a|| th|ngs, l|ndon |oads mo to tho samo ||mous|no that brought mo horo |n tho t|rst p|aco. |o opons tho door tor mo and doosn't ovon undorstand
my hos|tat|on.
°Can wo opon tho w|ndows?' l ask.
°lt's snow|ng,' ho says. l'd a|ways thought ||or|da was a tomporato stato, but so tar |t's provon to bo sporad|c.
°1ho co|d a|r |s good tor our |ungs.' l hoard th|s trom vaughn, so |t m|ght not bo truo, but l|ndon just shrugs.
°lt that's what you want,' ho says.
l c||mb |nto tho back ot tho ||mo, and dosp|to tho bott|o ot champagno wa|t|ng tor us |n a buckot ot |co, and tho hoatod |oathor soats, l koop
oxpoct|ng somoth|ng awtu| to happon. l opon my w|ndow r|ght away, and l broatho |n tho trozon a|r, and don't m|nd whon l|ndon puts h|s coat
around my shou|dors. Wo havon't startod mov|ng yot, and l am st||| unconv|ncod th|s |s sato. Know|ng vaughn, ho's probab|y arrangod tor mo to bo
knockod out just so l won't t|nd my way to tho gato.
1horo's a w|ndow |n tho root. 3ut |t's t|ntod dark and l can't soo tho n|ght sky boyond |t. °0oos that ono opon?' l ask.
l|ndon |aughs and rubs my arms to gonorato warmth.
°Aro you try|ng to turn yourso|t |nto an |c|c|o? 3uro tho sunroot opons.'
Attor |t opons, l stand, a|most |os|ng my ba|anco bocauso wo'vo startod mov|ng. l|ndon grabs my wa|st to koop mo trom ta|||ng, and l don't m|nd at
a|| bocauso l'vo got tho sunroot opon, and l rost my arms on tho root ot tho car. 1horo's snow ta|||ng |nto my ha|r, and |t sooms to mo|t as |t roachos
tho ||ght ot tho ||mo. l watch tho troos pass, tho ropa|rod m|n|-go|t courso, tho orango grovo, 1onna's trampo||no. l watch as a|| thoso th|ngs that havo
boon my ont|ro wor|d tor thoso past months got sma||or as tho car pu||s away. 1hoy soom to bo say|ng good-byo to mo. Good-byo, onjoy your n|ght.
l sm||o, |ook ahoad to soo what's com|ng up noxt.
1horo's noth|ng but troos tor a wh||o. l'vo novor gono th|s tar botoro. l d|dn't ovon know thoro was a road th|s way. Wo dr|vo tor what too|s ||ko
otorn|ty. l bog|n to watch tho stars through tho troos, and tho throo-quartor moon that hurr|os to koop up w|th mo.
1hon wo como to tho gato, w|th tho po|ntod t|owor that broaks opon as tho gato parts to a||ow us through.
1ust ||ko that. And thon wo'ro ott tho proporty. 1horo aro moro troos, and thon suddon|y thoro's a c|ty. 3r|ght ||ghts and b|urs ot poop|o |augh|ng and
ta|k|ng. lt's a woa|th|or p|aco than whoro l como trom, by tho |ooks ot |t, and monoy has g|von thoso poop|o tho |||us|on ot t|mo. Vaybo thoy'ro hop|ng
tor an ant|doto to savo thom, or maybo thoy'ro just happy to havo a comtortab|o homo to roturn to. 1horo aro no tracos ot dosporat|on, no
panhand||ng orphans. lnstoad l soo a woman |n a p|nk dross doub|od ovor w|th |aughor |n tront ot a c|noma that's d|sp|ay|ng |ts mov|os' t|t|os on a
g|ant |||um|natod marquoo. l can smo|| tast tood and trosh concroto and tho stonch ot an |rr|gat|on p|po somowhoro tar ott.
lt's a shock. lt's ||ko |and|ng on Vars, but a|so ||ko com|ng homo.
Wo dr|vo past a harbor, and |t's not oxact|y ||ko tho ono |n Vanhattan. 1horo's a sandy boach d|sso|v|ng |nto tho wator, and p|onty ot docks whoro
sa||boats aro t|od tor tho n|ght, sway|ng to tho rhythm ot tho soa.
l|ndon |s gu|d|ng mo back |ns|do, to|||ng mo l'|| catch pnoumon|a. |or a socond l don't caro, but thon l th|nk |t l got pnoumon|a, ho'|| novor |ot mo
|oavo tho houso aga|n.
l'm a|roady |ucky to bo out now, g|von how worr|od ho was wh||o my brokon bonos hoa|od. vaughn had to conv|nco h|m that l was as strong as an ox
(||ko h|s doad son, l thought whon l hoard tho compar|son) botoro l|ndon cons|dorod tak|ng mo out ton|ght.
l sott|o back |n tho hoatod soat and |ot l|ndon c|oso tho w|ndows, and l watch tho c|ty through tho subduod t|nt ot tho g|ass. 1h|s |sn't so bad. l|ndon
pours mo a g|ass ot champagno and wo c||nk our g|assos togothor.
l'vo had a|coho| onco botoro, a tow yoars ago whon l to|| ott tho root wh||o lowan and l woro try|ng to ropa|r a |oak. l d|s|ocatod my shou|dor and
lowan gavo mo a dusty bott|o ot vodka trom tho basomont to ho|p w|th tho pa|n as ho sot my shou|dor back |n p|aco.
3ut th|s |s d|ttoront, bubb|y and ||ght. lt warms my stomach, whoro tho vodka had burnod.
l |ot l|ndon put h|s arm around mo. lt's somoth|ng a t|rst w|to wou|d do. |o's r|g|d tor a wh||o, and thon ho sooms to ro|ax a ||tt|o. |o p|cks up ono ot
my cur|s-a|| ovor-sprayod and cond|t|onod and troatod to |ast tho ovon|ng-and w|nds h|s t|ngor around |t. l wondor how loso woro hor ha|r whon
ho took hor out.
Wo t|n|sh tho |ast ot our champagno, and ho takos tho ompty g|ass trom my hand and to||s mo thoro w||| bo moro at tho oxpo. |o to||s mo thoro w|||
bo |ots ot toasts and attondants carry|ng g|assos ot w|no on trays. °Attor tho a|coho| camo to bo too much, loso wou|d on|y protond to tako s|ps. l
th|nk sho was gott|ng an attondant to sorvo hor ompty g|assos to ho|p tho |||us|on.' |o |ooks away, to tho tratt|c outs|do tho w|ndow, |ook|ng ||ko ho
rogrots what ho sa|d.
l put my hand on h|s knoo and gont|y say, °1hat's good. What o|so wou|d sho do?'
|o pursos h|s ||ps, vonturos a g|anco at mo. °3ho |aughod at ovoryth|ng anyono sa|d, and sho |ookod at tho|r oyos whon thoy spoko. And sho was
a|ways sm|||ng. At tho ond ot tho n|ght, whon |t was just us, sho sa|d hor chooks hurt trom a|| tho sm|||ng.'
3m||o. look |ntorostod. lrotond to dr|nk. Aoo sbloo |lko o stor, l add to tho ||st, bocauso |t a|so sooms ||ko somoth|ng loso wou|d havo dono. As
wo got c|osor to our dos-t|nat|on, l too| myso|t ontor|ng hor wor|d. l too| ||ko hor rop|acomont, wh|ch |s what sho sa|d to mo on tho day wo mot, and l
hadn't wantod to bo||ovo |t thon. 3ut now, w|th tho warmth trom tho |oathor soats and tho swoot smo|| ot l|ndon's attorshavo, bo|ng hor rop|acomont
doosn't soom so bad. 1hough th|s |s on|y tomporary, ot courso.
l tako a momont to rom|nd myso|t that tho v|brant c|ty outs|do |s not my c|ty, that thoso poop|o aro strangors. 1hat my brothor |sn't horo. |o's a|ono
somowhoro, wa|t|ng tor mo. Wh||o l'm gono, thoro's no ono to koop watch wh||o ho s|oops. And tho thought br|ngs up a b|ttor wavo ot anx|oty
s|osh|ng |n tho champagno |n my stomach, but l torco myso|t to ca|m down botoro l vom|t.
1ho on|y way l can roturn to h|m |s |t l pu|| th|s th|ng ott, howovor |ong |t takos.
Wo como to a ta|| wh|to bu||d|ng w|th a |argo vo|vot bow ovor tho doub|o doors. As wo stop out ot tho ||mo, l soo tho samo vo|vot bows on
stroot||ghts and storotronts.
1horo's a man drossod as 3anta C|aus r|ng|ng a bo|| wh||o poop|o drop monoy |nto a rod buckot as h|s toot.
°1hoy'ro gott|ng roady tor tho w|ntor so|st|co oar|y th|s yoar,' l|ndon says casua||y.
l havon't co|obratod a so|st|co s|nco l was two|vo.
lowan thought spond|ng monoy on g|tts and wast|ng t|mo docorat|ng was too |mpract|ca|. Whon wo woro ch||dron, our paronts wou|d docorato tho
houso w|th rod bows and cardboard snowmon, and a|| through 0ocombor thoro was a|ways tho smo|| ot somoth|ng wondortu| and swoot bak|ng |n
tho k|tchon. Vy tathor wou|d p|ay shoot mus|c trom a contur|os-o|d book ont|t|od Cbrlstmos C|osslcs, ovon though nobody has ca||od |t Chr|stmas
s|nco botoro h|s t|mo. And on tho so|st|co, tho shortost day ot tho yoar, our paronts wou|d g|vo us g|tts. 1h|ngs thoy'd mado, most|y-my mothor was
an oxco||ont soamstross and my tathor cou|d mako anyth|ng trom wood.
W|thout thom our ||tt|o trad|t|on d|od. W|ntor tor my brothor and mo was noth|ng moro than tho worst soason tor boggars |n Vanhattan. Wo wou|d
havo boardod up tho w|ndows by now to d|scourago any orphans who m|ght try to t|nd rosp|to trom tho b|ustory co|d. 1ho co|d thoro |s bruta| and
v|o|ont. 3now p||od up to our doorknob, and wo'd bo up at dawn somo morn|ngs carv|ng our way to troodom so wo cou|d mako |t to work. Wo'd
drag tho cot c|osor to tho turnaco and st||| bo ab|o to soo our broath |n tront ot our tacos.
°0on't bo upsot |t thoy a|| want to k|ss your hand,' l|ndon wh|spors |n my oar as ho takos my arm and wo vonturo up tho stops.
Attor l|ndon ca||od thoso oxpos dry and bor|ng, l d|dn't oxpoct much. 3ut |ns|do thoro |s a |argo and wo||-drossod crowd. 1horo aro ho|ograms
suspondod around tho room, w|th |magos ot housos that sp|n and sw|vo|.
W|ndows opon, and you'ro takon |ns|do tor a swoop|ng tour ot tho rooms. Arch|tocts stand bos|do tho|r ho|ograms and oagor|y oxp|a|n thom to
anyono who w||| ||ston. Evon tho wa||s and co|||ng ot tho oxpo room aro a swoop|ng |||us|on ot a b|uo sky w|th moandor|ng c|ouds.
1ho ground |ooks ||ko sway|ng grass tu|| ot w||dt|owors, and l can't ho|p stoop|ng to touch tho t|oor to bo suro tho grass |sn't roa|. l too| tho co|d t||os,
though |t |ooks ||ko my hands aro d|gg|ng |nto tho so||. l|ndon chuck|os as l roattach myso|t to h|s s|do. °1hoy a|ways try to prosont an atmosphoro |n
wh|ch a houso cou|d bo bu||t,' ho says.
°lt's bottor than tho |ast oxpo l attondod-|t |ookod moro ||ko a dosort. A|| |t d|d was mako ovoryono th|rsty. And tho yoar thoy mado |t an ompty
s|dowa|k to oncourago bus|nossos was just dopross|ng. lt |ookod postapoca|yp-t|c.'
1ho dossort tab|o |s sot up ||ko a c|tyscapo. 1horo's a b|o-domo cako that's a|roady boon cut |nto. 1horo's a wobb|y go|at|n sw|mm|ng poo| w|th
choco|ato ch|p concroto, a choco|ato tounta|n. |rost|ng t|owors havo boon sw|pod, mut||atod, and |t's ||ko 0orothy's Oz attor somoono has b|tton
|nto |t.
Wo'vo baro|y takon a tow stops botoro somoono has snatchod my hand and k|ssod |t. 1ho ha|r on tho back ot my nock stands up. l sm||o
boam|ng|y. °And who |s th|s |ovo|y young th|ng?' a man says. 1o ovon ca|| h|m a man sooms wrong, bocauso ho's probab|y youngor than l am,
though ho's drossod |n a su|t that wou|d cost moro than a month ot o|octr|c|ty |n tho mans|on.
l|ndon proud|y |ntroducos mo as h|s w|to, and l koop my sm||o, but l dr|nk tho ont|ro g|ass ot w|no that comos my way, and tho noxt, bocauso l t|nd |t
makos a|| thoso k|ssos and ho||os oas|or to onduro. 1horo aro othor w|vos, but thoy a|| soom happy w|th tho|r husbands. 1hoy comp||mont my
braco|ots, ask how |ong |t took to sty|o my ha|r, and thoy comp|a|n about tho|r own attondants and domost|cs bo|ng |ncompotont w|th z|ppors or
poar|s or whatovor. Attor a wh||o |t a|| b|urs |nto wh|to no|so and l just nod and sm||o and dr|nk. Ono |s prognant, and sho makos a b|g product|on ot
yo|||ng at an attondant who ottors hor a g|ass ot w|no. 1hoy ca|| mo swoothoart and honoy and ask mo whon l'm go|ng to havo a baby ot my own. l
say, °Wo'ro try|ng.'
lono ot tho w|vos mont|on tho socur|ty guards by tho door, who w||| probab|y tack|o us to tho ground |t wo try to |oavo w|thout our husbands.
l do onjoy tho sp|nn|ng houso ho|ograms, though, and whon l|ndon sots up h|s own ho|ogram l'm mosmor|zod by h|s draw|ng that's boon co|orod
and brought to ||to.
lt's not oxact|y somoth|ng l'vo soon botoro, |t's moro ||ko a co||aborat|on ot many dos|gns. lt's a v|ctor|an houso w|th tondr||s ot |vy that grow up tho
wa||s, rotract, and grow aga|n. lns|do l can soo tho out||nos ot poop|o mov|ng, but whon tho |mago ontors tho w|ndow, tho poop|o stop back,
show|ng mo tho hardwood t|oors and b|||ow|ng curta|ns, and l th|nk l ovon smo|| loso's potpourr|.
Ono ot tho bodrooms |s t|||od w|th vasos ot ||||os. 1horo's a ||brary tu|| ot noth|ng but at|asos, w|th an unt|n|shod gamo ot choss |n tho m|dd|o ot tho
room.
1ho swoop|ng tour makos mo d|zzy. l c||ng to l|ndon's arm, and ho koops mo stoady, p|acos a ||ght k|ss on my tomp|o. And attor a|| tho strangors
hand||ng and k|ss|ng mo, l t|nd myso|t ro||ovod that ho's tho on|y ono who's touch|ng mo now.
°What do you th|nk?' ho asks.
°lt nobody wants to ||vo horo, thoy'ro a|| crazy,' l say.
Wo sm||o at oach othor, and tako synchron|zod gu|ps ot w|no.
3y tho ond ot tho n|ght, my mouth |s t|||od w|th a|coho| and hoavy bakory trost|ng that somohow makos tho wor|d smo|| swootor. Vy cur|s havo not
w||tod ovon though thoro's swoat poo||ng on tho back ot my nock. l'm |n a dazo, sm|||ng a|ways, |augh|ng, putt|ng my hands on tho shou|dors ot
strango mon and say|ng °Oh, stop' whon thoy comp||mont mo ovor and ovor on my oyos.
|a|t ot thom ask |t thoy'ro roa|, and l say, °Ot courso, what o|so wou|d thoy bo?'
Ono man asks, °Whoro d|d you got such |ncrod|b|o oyos?'
l say, °Vy paronts.'
And l|ndon |ooks start|od, ||ko my hav|ng paronts novor ovon occurrod to h|m, much |oss that l m|ght havo known thom.
°Wo||, you suro aro gorgoous,' tho man pors|sts, too drunk to soo tho concorn on l|ndon's taco. °3ottor koop th|s ono c|oso to you. 0on't know
whoro sho comos trom, but l bot thoro's not anothor ||ko hor.'
l|ndon answors w|th a subduod, stunnod, °lo, thoro |sn't . . .'
What's moro, l th|nk h|s surpr|so |s gonu|no. °Como on, swoothoart,' l say, soarch|ng tor a torm ot ondoarmont that doosn't bo|ong to vaughn or
Coc||y. l tug h|s arm. °l want to |ook at that houso ovor thoro.' l sm||o at tho man, who |s cack||ng, |ost |n h|s |nobr|at|on. °Excuso us.'
Wo ||ngor tor a wh||o. Wo t|attor arch|tocts. l |oavo l|ndon's s|do tor a wh||o bocauso ho's startod to ta|k sa|os w|th ono ot thom. |o t|nds mo a tow
m|nutos |ator as l'm n|bb||ng on a strawborry and try|ng to rocovor trom tho commot|on.
°loady to go?' ho says. l tako h|s arm, and wo manago to oscapo unnot|cod.
Onco outs|do, l can soo that tho snow has tadod away. l roa||zo that tho sunny attornoon |ns|do tho bu||d|ng was not roa||ty. 1ho co|d a|r h|ts mo w|th
a torco. Wo movo toward tho ||mous|no, and l th|nk, l coo|o roo. 1ho socur|ty guards aro |ns|do, not outs|do. 1horo's on|y l|ndon to ovorpowor, and
ho's so tra|| that l cou|d just push h|m and ho'd bo out ot my way. l cou|d do |t. l cou|d go. l wou|d novor soo tho |ns|do ot that |ron gato aga|n.
3ut whon l|ndon opons tho door, l c||mb |ns|do tho ||mous|no, whoro thoro's warmth and ||ght. lt's ottor|ng to tako mo back homo. Bock bomo, l
th|nk, and |t too|s strango but not that strango. l s|ump t|rod|y and bog|n unbuck||ng my pa|ntu| b|ack hoo|s. lt's moro d|tt|cu|t than l romombor. 1ho
||mo starts to movo, and l |urch torward, and l|ndon catchos mo, and tor somo roason l |augh.
|o takos my shoos ott tor mo, and l s|gh |n grat|tudo.
°|ow d|d l do?' l ask.
°You woro boaut|tu|,' ho says. ||s noso and chooks aro a ||tt|o rod. |o tracos my chook w|th tho back ot h|s t|ngor.
l sm||o. lt's tho t|rst sm||o l havon't torcod s|nco tho oxpo bogan.
lt's |ato whon wo mako |t back to tho mans|on. 1ho k|tchon and a|| tho ha||ways aro ompty. l|ndon goos ott to chock on Coc||y, whoso ||ght |s st||| on.
3ho'|| bo wa|t|ng tor h|m. l wondor |t sho'|| not|co that ho's a ||tt|o b|t drunk, wh|ch l guoss |s my tau|t, bocauso ho was to||ow|ng my |oad. l wondor |t
loso usod to tako tho g|assos trom h|s hand and to|| h|m whon ho'd had too much. l wondor how sho ondurod thoso th|ngs w|th hor sobr|oty |n
chock.
l rot|ro to my bodroom and unpoo| tho swoaty rod dross trom my body. l put on my n|ghtgown and swoop my ha|r-st||| durab|y cur|od-|nto a c|umsy
ponyta|| and opon my w|ndow and tako gu|ps ot tho co|d a|r. 1ho w|ndow |s st||| opon whon l c||mb |nto bod and bog|n to dr|tt ott, my oyo||ds tu|| ot
sp|nn|ng housos and prognant bo|||os and g|assos ot w|no t|oat|ng to mo on trays.
3omot|mo |n tho n|ght tho a|r gots warmor. l hoar tho sound ot tho w|ndow bo|ng c|osod, and wh|spor-qu|ot tootstops on tho |ush carpot, and
l|ndon's vo|co say|ng,
°As|oop, swoothoart?'
|o romombors what l ca||od h|m at tho oxpo. 3woothoart. lt sounds n|co. 3ott. l a||ow |t.
°Vhm,' l answor. 1ho darknoss |s sw|mm|ng w|th g||ttory t|sh and sproad|ng |vy. 1ho room |s a|so sp|nn|ng a ||tt|o.
l th|nk ho asks |t ho can got |nto bod w|th mo. l th|nk l mumb|o |n tho att|rmat|vo. l too| h|s s||ght wo|ght bos|do mo, and l'm an orb|t|ng ||tt|o p|anot and
ho's tho warm sun. l can smo|| tho w|no and tho party on h|m. |o gots c|oso to mo, and my hoad ro||s r|ght toward h|s.
lt's s||ont and dark and warm. l too| tho tondr||s ot |vy |oad|ng mo |nto a |av|sh droam, and thon l|ndon says,
°l|oaso don't go.'
°Vm?' l say.
|o's broath|ng aga|nst my nock, putt|ng ||tt|o k|ssos thoro. °l|oaso don't run away trom mo.'
l'm back trom my droam, but baro|y. |o t||ts my ch|n w|th h|s t|ngor, and l opon my oyos. l can soo a strango g|azo |n h|s oyos, and a sma|| drop|ot
h|ts my chook. |o's just sa|d somoth|ng, somoth|ng |mportant, but l'm so t|rod and l can't romombor. l can't romombor anyth|ng, and ho's wa|t|ng tor
my rosponso, so l say, °What |s |t? What's wrong?'
And ho k|ssos mo. lt |sn't a torcotu| k|ss. lt's sott, h|s |owor ||p gathor|ng m|no w|th a gont|o |app|ng mot|on.
||s tasto t|||s my mouth, and tor a momont |t's not so bad. 1ust ||ko ovoryth|ng o|so about th|s n|ght was not so bad. ln a drunkon, ha||uc|nogon|c k|nd
ot way. A sma|| no|so oscapos my throat, ||ko a baby gurg||ng |nto |ts bott|o. |o draws back and |ooks at mo. l'm b||nk|ng w||d|y.
°l|ndon . . .'
°Yos, yos, l'm horo,' ho says, and tr|os to k|ss mo aga|n, but l draw back.
l put my hands on h|s shou|dors to push h|m away, but l can soo tho strango pa|n |n h|s oyos that makos mo th|nk ho was droam|ng ot loso tor a
m|nuto botoro l mator|a||zod back |nto lh|no.
°l'm not hor,' l say. °l|ndon, sho's gono, sho's doad.'
°l know,' ho says. |o makos no moro advancos so l ro|oaso h|s shou|dors and ho ||os bos|do mo. °lt's just, somot|mos, you-'
°3ut l'm not hor,' l say. °And wo'ro both a ||tt|o drunk.'
°l know you'ro not hor,' ho says. °3ut l don't know who you aro. l don't know whoro you camo trom.'
°0|dn't you ordor that van tu|| ot g|r|s?' l say.
°Vy tathor d|d,' ho says. °3ut botoro that, what mado you want to bo a br|do?'
l choko on my noxt broath. What mado mo woot to bo a br|do? And thon l th|nk ot tho surpr|so |n h|s oyos ton|ght whon that man askod whoro l'd
gotton my oyos trom.
|o roa||y doosn't know.
And l know who doos. vaughn. What d|d ho to|| h|s son? 1hat thoro aro br|do schoo|s whoro oagor womon dovoto tho|r ch||dhoods to |oarn|ng to
p|oaso a man?
1hat ho's sav|ng us trom a dost|tuto orphanago? 1hat may bo truo tor Coc||y, but ovon sho |s so dangorous|y unproparod tor what's to como whon
th|s baby |s born.
l cou|d to|| h|m r|ght now. l cou|d to|| h|m that 1onna's s|stors woro oxocutod |n that van, and that tho |ast th|ng l'd ovor wantod to bo was a br|do. 3ut
wou|d ho bo||ovo mo?
And |t ho bo||ovod mo, wou|d ho |ot mo go?
l ask, °What do you th|nk happonod to tho g|r|s you d|dn't chooso? 1ho othors.'
°l supposo thoy wont back to tho|r orphanagos and homos,' ho says.
l staro at tho co|||ng, stunnod, a ||tt|o nausoous. l|ndon puts h|s hand on my shou|dor. °What |s |t? Aro you s|ck?' l shako my hoad.
vaughn |s moro powortu| than l thought. |o koops h|s son |n th|s mans|on, away trom tho wor|d, and ho makos up a roa||ty tor h|m. |o g|vos l|ndon
ashos to scattor wh||o ho hoards tho bod|os |n tho basomont. Ot courso l wou|d want to run away. Anyono who's boon troo can undorstand want|ng
to bo troo aga|n. 3ut l|ndon has novor boon troo. |o doosn't ovon know troodom ox|sts, so how cou|d ho want |t?
And Gabr|o| has boon capt|vo tor so |ong that ovon ho |s bog|nn|ng to torgot how much bottor |t |s out thoro than |n horo.
lt |s bottor out thoro, |sn't |t? l ||o st||| tor a wh||o, compar|ng tho low York harbor to tho vo|um|nous ocoan w|th|n tho poo|. l comparo a c|ty park to
thoso |nt|n|to go|t coursos and tonn|s courts. l comparo my Vanhattan ||ghthouso to tho ono at tho n|nth ho|o am|dst g|ant gumdrops. l comparo my
b|ood s|b||ng, lowan, to 1onna and Coc||y, who havo bocomo my s|stors. And |n th|s b|urry, somowhat |nobr|atod stato, l can a|most soo what
Gabr|o| moant whon ho askod ¼bot bos tbo íroo wor|o got tbot yoo coo`t got boroº
A|most.
l g|vo l|ndon a sma|| k|ss, my ||ps t|ght|y c|osod unt|| l w|thdraw. °l'vo boon th|nk|ng, swoothoart,' l say. °l havon't boon a vory good w|to, havo l? l'|| try
to bo bottor.'
°1hon you woron't runn|ng away trom mo that n|ght, w|th tho hurr|cano?'
°0on't bo s|||y. Ot courso not,' l say.
|o s|ghs happ||y, and puts h|s arm around my wa|st and dr|tts ott to s|oop.
|roodom, Gabr|o|. 1hat's what you can't got horo.
l don't soo Gabr|o| tho noxt morn|ng. Vy broaktast |s wa|t|ng tor mo whon l wako up, but thoro aro no 1uno 3oans, no
ov|donco that ho's boon horo.
l pago tho attondants tor porm|ss|on to uso tho o|ovators, and Gabr|o| |s not stand|ng |n tho o|ovator to oscort mo whon tho doors opon.
vaughn |s.
°Good attornoon, dar||ng,' says, and ho sm||os. °You'ro |ook|ng a b|t rump|od, but |ovo|y as ovor. lato n|ght |ast n|ght?'
l put on my charm|ng sm||o, and loso |s r|ght, |t doos mako my chooks hurt. 3o much tor l|ndon conv|nc|ng h|s tathor to g|vo us moro troodom.
vaughn has tho t|na| word around horo, ovon |t ho |ots h|s son protond othorw|so. °lt was |ncrod|b|o,' l say. °l don't soo how l|ndon can ca|| thoso
oxpos dry and bor|ng at a||.'
l got |nto tho o|ovator bos|do h|m, and tho doors c|oso, and l try not to choko. |o smo||s ||ko tho basomont, and l wondor who ho was d|ssoct|ng th|s
morn|ng.
°3o whoro wou|d you ||ko to go today?' ho asks.
l'm woar|ng my coat bocauso, a|though nono ot tho snow stuck to tho ground, l romombor how co|d |t was |ast n|ght. And l can't attord pnoumon|a
now. °lt just sooms ||ko a n|co day tor a wa|k,' l say.
°|avo you soon tho ropa|rs dono to tho m|n|-go|t courso?' vaughn says, pross|ng tho button that sonds us down. °You roa||y shou|d. 1ho crow d|d a
marvo|ous job.'
|o makos words ||ko °marvo|ous' sound om|nous. 3ut l sm||o. l am charm|ng. l am toar|oss. l am l|ndon Ashby's t|rst w|to, tho ono ho comos to |n
tho n|ght, tho ono ho wants on h|s arm at part|os. And l adoro my tathor-|n-|aw.
°l havon't soon |t,' l say. °l'm just gott|ng my boar|ngs back attor my acc|dont. l'm atra|d l'm not vory up to dato.'
°Wo||, thon.' vaughn hooks h|s arm around m|no, and |t's so much moro |nvas|vo than tho way l|ndon doos |t.
°|ow about a gamo, thon?'
°l'm not vory good,' l say. l am domuro, coy.
°A br|ght g|r| ||ko yourso|t ? l don't bo||ovo you tor a m|nuto.'
And tor onco, l th|nk ho's to|||ng tho truth.
Wo p|ay tho ont|ro courso, and vaughn koops scoro. |o pra|sos my sw|ng whon l got a ho|o |n ono, and pat|ont|y ho|ps mo whon l botch a shot. l
hato tho too| ot h|s papory hands ovor m|no as ho gu|dos my go|t c|ub. l hato h|s hot broath aga|nst my nock.
And l hato that ho's stand|ng bos|do mo whon wo como to tho ||ghthouso-tho t|na| ho|o |n tho courso-wh|ch |s st||| cast|ng rays to troodom. Wh||o
vaughn goos on about tho boaut|tu| now Astroturt, l |ook tor tho path to tho |ron gato. l'm suro tho ||mo drovo through a path |n tho troos somowhoro
around horo.
1ust attor l'vo takon my sw|ng, vaughn says, °3o to|| mo what you thought ot tho c|ty |ast n|ght.'
°l was roa||y |mprossod by a|| tho dos|gns. 1horo's roa| ta|ont-'
°l'm not ask|ng about tho dos|gns, dar||ng.' |o's stand|ng too c|oso to mo. °1ho c|ty, how d|d you ||ko your t|rst g||mpso ot tho c|ty?'
°l d|dn't got a vory good |ook,' l say, a ||tt|o st|tt|y.
What's ho dr|v|ng at?
°3ut you w|||.' |o g|vos h|s gor|atr|c sm||o and taps my noso w|th h|s t|ngor. °l|ndon |s a|roady ta|k|ng about a|| tho upcom|ng part|os. You'ro roa||y
do|ng |t, dar||ng.'
l b|ow warmth |nto my hands, watch h|m |and a portoct ho|o |n ono. °What havo l dono, oxact|y?'
°3rought my son back trom tho doad.' |o puts h|s arm around mo, k|ssos my tomp|o r|ght whoro l|ndon k|ssod mo |ast n|ght. 3ut wh||o l|ndon's
||ps had boon warm, and h|s gosturo ono ot comtort, vaughn's ||ps sond m||||ons ot |nsocts craw||ng a|ong my sp|no. 1h|s tathor and son |ook so
oor||y a||ko, and yot l can't |mag|no two d|ttoront poop|o.
3ut l'm a good w|to, a good daughtor-|n-|aw, and l b|ush. °l just want tor h|m to bo happy,' l say.
°You shou|d,' vaughn says. °Vako that boy happy, and ho'|| g|vo you tho wor|d on a str|ng.'
°On a str|ng' bo|ng tho oporat|vo words.
vaughn w|ns tho gamo, but my scoro |sn't much worso than h|s. l wasn't |ott|ng h|m w|n. |o d|d that on h|s own. °You'ro a much bottor p|ayor than
you g|vo yourso|t crod|t tor,' ho |aughs as wo wa|k back to tho mans|on.
°lot good onough to bost mo. 3ut good.'
l |ook ovorywhoro tor tho path tho ||mo took, but |t's nowhoro to bo tound.
lt's vory c|oar that l won't bo a||owod outs|do un|oss l'm accompan|od by vaughn. At |oast not today. 3o l t|nd 1onna, who's cur|od up |n my tavor|to
ovorstuttod cha|r, hor noso |n a paporback w|th young som|nudo |ovors on tho covor, tho man |s sav|ng tho woman trom drown|ng.
°l havon't soon Gabr|o|,' sho to||s mo botoro l'vo ovon oponod my mouth.
°0o you th|nk that's strango?' l ask, tak|ng tho cha|r noxt to hor.
3ho pursos hor ||ps and |ooks at mo ovor tho top ot hor book. 3ho nods sympathot|ca||y. 3ho has novor boon ono to sugarcoat th|ngs.
l say, °|as |unch como yot?'
°Vaybo wo'|| soo h|m thon.' Gabr|o| |s tho on|y ono who br|ngs moa|s to our t|oor, un|oss Coc||y throws a tantrum that roqu|ros moro than ono
attondant to cator to hor.
3ut wo don't soo h|m. An attondant wo'vo novor soon-a t|rst gonorat|on-br|ngs us our |unch, and ho doosn't ovon know to |ook tor us |n tho
||brary. |o has to ask Coc||y whoro wo aro, and sho's |n such a |ousy mood attor bo|ng wokon trom hor nap that wo hoar hor yo|||ng at tho poor man
trom down tho ha||.
°W||| you qu|ot down?' l say, as 1onna and l gathor |n hor doorway. 1ho attondant |ooks tr|ghtonod ot th|s sma|| prognant t|roba|| ot a g|r|. 3ut whon l
|ook at hor, l can on|y soo tho bags undor hor oyos, tho purp|o swo||on ank|os proppod on p|||ows. °You'ro go|ng to hurt tho baby |t you got yourso|t
a|| workod up.'
°0on't |octuro mo,' sho grow|s, gostur|ng w||d|y to tho attondant. °locturo h|m tor bo|ng |ncompotont!'
°Coc||y . . . ,' l bog|n.
°lo, sho's r|ght,' 1onna says. 3ho has ||ttod tho ||d ott ono ot tho d|shos, and sho's mak|ng a taco. °1h|s |ooks d|sgust|ng. What |s |t, p|g s|op?'
l |ook at hor, shockod, and sho |ooks r|ght |nto my oyos. °l th|nk you shou|d go down to tho k|tchon and comp|a|n.'
Oh.
°l'm sorry, lady 1onna,' tho attondant bog|ns.
°0on't apo|og|zo,' l say. °lt |sn't your tau|t. lt's tho hoad cook who shou|d bo ovorsoo|ng thoso th|ngs, and sho knows wo a|| hato mashod potatoos.' l
||tt anothor ||d and cr|nk|o my noso. °And pork. 1ho smo|| a|ono w||| g|vo 1onna h|vos. l'd bottor go down and got th|s stra|ghtonod out.'
°Yos, ot courso,' tho attondant says, and l th|nk ho's shak|ng a ||tt|o as ho bog|ns ro|||ng tho cart ot |unch trays back to tho o|ovator, w|th mo |n tow.
°0on't m|nd thom,' l say, and g|vo h|m a roassur|ng sm||o onco wo'ro |n tho o|ovator and tho doors havo c|osod. °lt's noth|ng porsona|. loa||y.'
|o sm||os back, g|anc|ng norvous|y at mo |n botwoon star|ng at h|s shoos. °1hoy sa|d you woro tho n|co ono,' ho says.
1ho k|tchon has |ts usua| vorvo, wh|ch moans vaughn |sn't noarby. °Excuso mo,' tho attondant says, °but lady lh|no |s horo w|th a comp|a|nt.'
1hoy a|| turn to |ook at mo stand|ng |n tho doorway, and tho hoad cook snorts w|thout m|ss|ng a boat, and says, °1h|s ono, sho doosn't comp|a|n.'
l thank tho attondant tor br|ng|ng mo down horo, and somoono takos tho trays away, and l'm sad to soo portoct|y good tood go to wasto, but l camo
horo tor a moro |mportant roason. l mako my way through tho stoam and tho chattor, and l |oan aga|nst tho countor whoro tho hoad cook |s stand|ng
ovor hor g|ant bo|||ng pot. ln a|| tho commot|on l know sho'|| bo tho on|y ono to hoar mo ask, °What happonod to Gabr|o|?'
°You shou|dn't bo down horo ask|ng about h|m. On|y go|ng to mako moro troub|o tor that boy,' sho says. °1ho |ousomastor's had h|s oyo on h|m
s|nco your botchod oscapo.'
A t|orco ch||| rushos up my sp|no. °ls ho okay?'
°|avon't soon h|m,' sho says. And sho |ooks at mo w|th such a sad oxpross|on. °lot s|nco th|s morn|ng whon tho |ousomastor ca||od h|m down to
tho basomont.
l'm s|ck tor tho rost ot tho attornoon. 1onna ho|ds my ha|r back wh||o l rotch |nto tho to||ot, but noth|ng comos up.
°Vaybo you had a ||tt|o too much to dr|nk,' sho says gont|y.
3ut |t |sn't that. l know |t |sn't that. l back away trom tho to||ot and s|t on tho t|oor, my hands dropp|ng hopo|oss|y |nto my |ap. 1oars aro wo|||ng up
boh|nd my oyos but l don't ro|oaso thom. l won't g|vo vaughn tho sat|stact|on. °l havo to ta|k to you,' l say.
l to|| hor ovoryth|ng. About loso's body |n tho basomont, and about tho k|ss w|th Gabr|o|, and about l|ndon hav|ng no |doa whoro wo camo trom,
and tho abso|uto contro| vaughn has ovor our ||vos. l ovon to|| hor about loso and l|ndon's doad ch||d.
1onna knoo|s bos|do mo, dabb|ng my torohoad and tho back ot my nock w|th a damp c|oth. lt too|s good, dosp|to ovoryth|ng, and l rost my hoad on
hor shou|dor and c|oso my oyos. °1h|s p|aco |s just a n|ghtmaro,' l say.
°1ust whon l th|nk |t m|ght not bo so bad, |t gots worso. lt gots worso and l can't wako up. |ousomastor vaughn |s a monstor.'
°l don't th|nk tho |ousomastor wou|d k||| h|s grandch||d,' 1onna says. °lt what you say |s truo and ho's us|ng loso's body to t|nd an ant|doto, wou|dn't
ho want h|s grandch||d to ||vo?'
l koop my prom|so and don't to|| hor what l |oarnod trom 0o|rdro-that tho st|||b|rth was no st|||b|rth at a||. 3ut tho thought haunts mo. l want to th|nk
1onna |s r|ght. What roason cou|d vaughn havo tor murdor|ng h|s grandch||d? lt's truo that ho's on|y ovor had sons-maybo ho protors thom-but a
granddaughtor wou|d at |oast bo usotu| to h|m as a ch||d boaror. 1ho daughtors ot woa|thy tam|||os ovon got to chooso whom thoy marry somot|mos,
and tako pr|or|ty ovor tho|r s|stor w|vos. And vaughn |s a|| about t|nd|ng a uso tor th|ngs, poop|o, bod|os-noth|ng |s wastod.
3ut l know, somohow, that 0o|rdro and loso woro r|ght whon thoy hoard that baby's cry. And l don't th|nk |t was a co|nc|donco that l|ndon was
away whon |t happonod. 1ho thought bubb|os up a now wavo ot nausoa.
And 1onna's vo|co too|s so tar away whon sho asks |t l'm a|| r|ght and says that l |ook awtu||y pa|o.
°lt anyth|ng bad happons to Coc||y or that baby, l am go|ng to |oso |t,' l say.
1onna rubs my arm roassur|ng|y. °loth|ng w|||,' sho says. lt's qu|ot tor a wh||o attor that, and l th|nk ot a|| tho horr|b|o th|ngs that cou|d bo happon|ng
to Gabr|o| |n tho basomont. l th|nk ot h|m bo|ng bru|sod, boaton, othor|zod.
l can't a||ow myso|t to th|nk ho's a|roady doad. l th|nk ot that no|so wo hoard |n tho ha||way whon wo k|ssod, and how rock|oss wo woro to |oavo tho
door opon, and tho at|as ho sto|o trom tho ||brary that's st||| s|tt|ng on my dross|ng tab|o. And l know th|s |s a|| my tau|t. l'vo brought th|s on h|m.
3otoro l camo horo, ho was a happ||y ob||v|ous sorvant who had torgotton tho wor|d. lt's an awtu| way to ||vo, but |t's bottor than no ||to at a||. And |t's
bottor than vaughn's w|ndow|oss basomont ot horrors.
l th|nk ot tho book l|ndon road to mo wh||o l was rocovor|ng. lrookoostolo. lt was about a madman who constructod a human out ot p|ocos trom
corpsos. l th|nk ot loso's co|d hand w|th |ts p|nk na|| po||sh, and Gabr|o|'s b|uo oyos, and tho stono-sma|| hoart ot a doad |ntant, and botoro l ovon
roa||zo l'vo movod, l'm vom|t|ng, and 1onna |s ho|d|ng back my ha|r, and tho wor|d |s sp|nn|ng out ot contro|. 3ut not tho roa| wor|d. vaughn's wor|d.
Coc||y appoars |n tho doorway, pa|o and b|oary-oyod.
°What's wrong?' sho asks. °Aro you s|ck?'
°3ho'|| bo a|| r|ght,' 1onna says, smooth|ng my ha|r back. °3ho's had too much to dr|nk.'
1hat's not |t at a||, but l say noth|ng. l t|ush tho to||ot, and Coc||y pours wator |n tho r|nso cup and hands |t to mo. l tako |t. 3ho s|ts on tho odgo ot tho
tub, groan|ng as sho bonds hor knoos. °3ounds ||ko |t was a tun party,' sho says.
°lt wasn't roa||y a party,' l say, and sw|sh tho wator |n my mouth and sp|t. °lt was just a bunch ot arch|tocts d|sp|ay|ng tho|r dos|gns.'
°1o|| mo ovoryth|ng,' Coc||y says, a spark ot oxc|tomont t||||ng up hor oyos.
°1horo |sn't anyth|ng to to||, roa||y,' l say. l don't want to to|| hor about tho dazz||ng ho|ograms or tho suc-cu|ont dossort so|oct|on or tho c|ty tu|| ot
poop|o whoro l cons|dorod runn|ng away. lt's bottor |t sho doosn't know what sho's m|ss|ng.
°You two novor ta|k to mo anymoro,' sho says, and sho |ooks ||ko sho's go|ng to got workod up aga|n. lt's ||ko sho gots moro omot|ona| w|th oach
tr|mostor. °lt's not ta|r. l'm stuck |n that bod a|| day.'
°lt roa||y was bor|ng,' l |ns|st. °1horo woro a|| thoso t|rst gonorat|ons show|ng mo tho|r skotchos and l had to protond to bo |ntorostod. And thoro was
an arch|toct who gavo a |ong |octuro about tho |mportanco ot shopp|ng ma||s, and wo had to s|t |n thoso uncomtortab|o to|dout cha|rs tor ovor an
hour. l got drunk just tor somoth|ng to do.'
Coc||y |ooks doubttu| tor a momont, but thon sho must doc|do l'm to|||ng tho truth, bocauso hor unhapp|noss sooms to tado, and sho says, °Wo||,
okay. 3ut can't you to|| mo a story, thon? What about thoso tw|ns you usod to know.'
1onna ra|sos an oyobrow. l'vo novor to|d hor about my tw|n brothor, but sho's moro |ntu|t|vo than Coc||y and sho's probab|y t|gur|ng |t out now.
l to|| tho story ot tho day tho tw|ns woro wa|k|ng homo trom schoo| and thoro was an oxp|os|on so |oud that |t ratt|od tho ground undor tho|r toot. A
gonot|c rosoarch tac|||ty had boon bombod by t|rst gonorat|ons |n protost ot oxpor|monts bo|ng dono to pro|ong tho ||to span ot now ch||dron. Cr|os
ot °Enough!' and °1ho human raco cannot bo savod!' t|||od tho stroots. 0ozons ot sc|ont|sts and ong|noors and tochn|c|ans woro k|||od.
1hat was tho day tho tw|ns bocamo orphans.
l wako up to tho sound ot a d|nnor tray bo|ng sot on my n|ght tab|o. Coc||y |s cur|od up bos|do mo, snor|ng |n that nasa| way sho's adoptod |n hor
th|rd tr|mostor. Vy oyos dart to tho br|ngor ot tho tray hopotu||y, but |t's just tho norvous now attondant trom th|s morn|ng. 1ho d|sappo|ntmont on my
taco must bo obv|ous, bocauso ho tr|os to sm||o as ho's turn|ng to |oavo.
°1hank you,' l say, but ovon that sounds hoartbrokon.
°look |n tho napk|n,' ho says, and thon ho's gono.
l s|t up s|ow|y so as not to d|sturb Coc||y. 3ho mumb|os |nto a ||tt|o |ako ot droo| on tho p|||ow and s|ghs.
l unro|| tho c|oth napk|n that oncompassos tho s||vorwaro, and a b|uo 1uno 3oan ta||s |nto my hand.
l don't soo Gabr|o| tho noxt day, or tho noxt.
Outs|do, tho snow bog|ns to st|ck to tho ground, and l koop Coc||y company wh||o sho pouts about not bo|ng a||owod to go out and mako snowmon.
1ho orphanago novor |ot hor go out |n tho snow o|thor. lt wou|d bo too oasy tor tho ch||dron to got s|ck |n tho co|d, and tho statt mombors woron't
oqu|ppod to doa| w|th an op|dom|c.
3ho on|y su|ks tor a ||tt|o wh||o, though, botoro sho tados |nto ono ot hor naps. l can't wa|t tor th|s prognancy to bo ovor. Vy toar ovor what's to como
whon tho baby |s born |s surpassod by my toar ot what's happon|ng to hor now. 3ho's a|ways out ot broath, or cry|ng, and hor t|ngor |s swo||on
around hor wodd|ng band.
Wh||o sho s|oops, l s|t on hor w|ndow |odgo, t||pp|ng through tho at|as Gabr|o| brought mo. l t|nd out that wh||o my namo |s a Europoan r|vor, lowan
|s a typo ot sma|| rod borry that grow |n tho ||ma|ayas and As|a. l'm not suro what |t moans or |t |t moans anyth|ng at a||. 3ut tho |ast th|ng l nood |s
anothor puzz|o to try and so|vo, and attor a wh||o l just watch tho snow ta|||ng outs|do.
1ho v|ow trom Coc||y's w|ndow |s n|co. lt's most|y troos, and l th|nk |t cou|d bo just tho norma| woods out |n tho roa| wor|d. lt cou|d bo anywhoro at a||.
3ut thon, ot courso, l soo tho b|ack ||mous|no dr|v|ng a path through tho snow and l'm rom|ndod ot whoro l am. l watch |t nav|gato around a shrub
and thon dr|vo stra|ght |nto tho troos.
3tra|ght |nto tho troos! 1horo's no |mpact. 1ho ||mo s|mp|y dr|vos stra|ght through thom as though thoy woron't ovon thoro.
And thon |t dawns on mo. 1hoso troos oroo`t roa||y thoro. 1hat's why l cou|dn't t|nd my way to tho gato trom any ot tho gardons or tho orango grovo.
1ho truo path |s h|ddon by somo sort ot |||us|on. A ho|ogram, ||ko tho housos at tho oxpo. Ot courso. lt's so s|mp|o. Why d|dn't l th|nk ot |t botoro? lt
t|guros that l'd |oarn th|s now, whon vaughn has mado |t noar|y |mposs|b|o tor mo to bo outs|do unaccompan|od.
|or tho rost ot tho day l try to t|guro out a p|an to got outs|do so l can |nspoct tho troo ho|ogram, but a|| paths |n my m|nd |oad back to Gabr|o|. lt l
tound a way out, l cou|dn't |oavo w|thout h|m. l to|d h|m l wou|dn't |oavo w|thout h|m, but ho was aga|nst tho |doa |n tho t|rst p|aco. lt ho's |n troub|o
bocauso ot mo, w||| ho comp|oto|y abandon tho |doa ot oscap|ng?
l just nood to know that ho's okay. l can't ovon th|nk about |oav|ng unt|| l know that much.
0|nnor comos, and l don't oat. l s|t at a tab|o |n tho ||brary w|th my hand |n my pockot turn|ng tho 1uno 3oan ovor and ovor. 1onna tr|os to d|stract mo
w|th |ntorost|ng tacts sho's road |n tho ||brary books, and l know |t's tor my bonot|t, bocauso norma||y a|| sho roads aro romanco novo|s, but l just
can't br|ng myso|t to pay attont|on. 3ho coaxos mo to try somo ot tho homomado choco|ato pudd|ng, but |t's ||ko pasto |n my mouth.
1hat n|ght l havo a hard t|mo ta|||ng as|oop. 0o|rdro draws a bath tor mo w|th chamom||o soaps that |oavo a |ayor ot trothy groon on tho wator. 1ho
soapy wator too|s ||ko a doop-t|ssuo massago and smo||s ||ko hoavon, but l can't ro|ax. 3ho bra|ds my ha|r wh||o l'm soak|ng, and sho to||s mo
about tho now tabr|cs sho's ordorod |n trom los Ango|os, and how thoy'|| mako |ovo|y t|orod summor sk|rts. And |t on|y makos mo too| worso to
th|nk l'|| st||| bo horo noxt summor to woar thom. And tho |oss rospons|vo l am, tho moro dosporato hor tono sooms to bocomo.
3ho can't undorstand tho causo ot my unhapp|noss. Vo.
1ho pamporod br|do ot a sott-spokon Govornor who w||| g|vo mo tho wor|d on a str|ng. 3ho's my otorna| ||tt|o opt|m|st, a|ways ask|ng how l am or |t l
nood anyth|ng and try|ng to mako my day bottor. 3ut |t occurs to mo that sho novor ta|ks about horso|t.
°0o|rdro?' l say as sho's rop|on|sh|ng tho soaps and add|ng moro hot wator to tho bath. °You sa|d your tathor was a pa|ntor. What d|d ho pa|nt?'
3ho pausos w|th hor hand on tho taucot, and sho sm||os |n a sad, w|sttu| way. °lortra|ts, most|y,' sho says.
°0o you m|ss h|m?' l ask.
l can to|| that th|s |s a subjoct ot groat sorrow tor hor, but sho's got a strongth and tranqu|||ty that rom|nds mo ot loso, and l know sho's not go|ng to
broak down and cry.
°Evory day,' sho says. 1hon sho prossos hor hands togothor |n a cross botwoon a c|ap and a gosturo ot prayor.
°3ut now l'm horo, and l got to do what l |ovo, and l'm vory tortunato.'
°lt you cou|d run away, whoro wou|d you go?'
°lun away?' sho says. 3ho's at tho cab|not now, soarch|ng through tho bott|os ot scontod o||s. °Why wou|d l want to do that?'
°lt's just a quost|on. lt you cou|d bo anywhoro |n tho who|o country, whoro wou|d you go?'
3ho |aughs a ||tt|o, dropp|ng a b|t ot van|||a o|| |nto tho wator. 1ho toam spark|os and pops. °3ut l'm happy horo,' sho says. 1hon, °Wo||, thoro was a
pa|nt|ng my tathor d|d-ot a boach. 1horo woro start|sh on tho sand. l'vo novor ho|d a roa| start|sh. l wou|d havo ||kod to go to that boach, or ono just
||ko |t.'
3ho |ooks |ost |n tho momory, star|ng through tho bath t||os. 1hon sho comos out ot |t and says, °|ow's tho wator? Aro you a|most roady to got out?'
°Yoah,' l say. l chango |nto a n|ghtgown, and 0o|rdro rubs somo |ot|on on my toot and ca|vos, and adm|ttod|y that doos ro|ax mo a ||tt|o. 3ho ||ghts a
tow cand|os and to||s mo tho smo|| w||| ho|p mo ta|| as|oop. 1hoy'ro supposod to smo|| ||ko |avondor and somoth|ng ca||od sanda|-wood, but as l'm
dr|tt|ng ott to s|oop, thoy tako mo away to a warm sunny boach, and a canvas trosh|y pa|ntod.
l'm up botoro dawn tho noxt morn|ng. l had a droam that Gabr|o| camo |nto my room w|th an at|as on tho broaktast tray. lt's not awtu|, as n|ghtmaros
go, but tho |ono||noss l too| whon l awakon |s crush|ng.
l vonturo |nto tho ha||way, wh|ch |s d|m|y ||t. 1ho |nconso st|cks havo stoppod burn|ng, and thoro's a d|stant smo|| ||ko charrod portumo. l know 1onna
and Coc||y w||| bo as|oop at th|s hour-ospoc|a||y Coc||y, who has takon to s|oop|ng unt|| noon most morn|ngs |n hor th|rd tr|mostor, but l'm suro ono
ot thom w||| |ot mo got |nto bod w|th thom. Vaybo |t w||| work bottor than s|oop|ng a|ono.
Whon l knock on 1onna's door, l hoar hor sott g|gg|o trom somowhoro |n tho room. 1horo's a rust||ng sound, and thon sho says, °Who |s |t?'
°lt's mo,' l say.
Anothor g|gg|o. °Como |n,' sho says.
l opon tho door to a bodroom that's warm w|th cand|o||ght. 1onna |s s|tt|ng up |n tho bod, runn|ng hor t|ngors through hor tous|od ha|r, and l|ndon |s
ty|ng tho drawstr|ng ot h|s pajama pants. ||s baro chost |s pa|o, h|s chooks aro t|ushod. |o pu||s h|s sh|rt on |n a hurry, and |t's st||| unbuttonod whon
ho stands and hoads tor tho door. °Good morn|ng, swoothoart,' ho to||s mo, not qu|to moot|ng my oyos.
1horo's noth|ng wrong w|th th|s. lt's portoct|y norma|. 1onna |s h|s w|to. |o's our husband. l shou|d bo usod to tho |doa. lt was |nov|tab|o that l'd
ovontua||y catch a g||mpso ot what goos on boh|nd thoso doors. 3ut l can't ho|p tho pa|ntu| b|ush that washos ovor my taco, and l can soo that
l|ndon |s |ook|ng ombarrassod too.
°Vorn|ng,' l say, surpr|sod not to havo stuttorod.
°lt's oar|y, you shou|d try to go back to s|oop,' ho says, and p|ants a qu|ck k|ss on my ||ps and hurr|os down tho ha||.
Whon l turn my attont|on back to 1onna, sho's wa|k|ng around tho room, oxt|ngu|sh|ng tho cand|os. |or body sh|mmors |n a |ayor ot swoat, tho ha|r
rocod|ng trom hor taco |s damp, tho buttons on hor n|ghtgown don't a||gn.
l'vo novor soon hor th|s way, so w||d and boaut|tu|, l|ndon must bo tho on|y ono who usua||y soos hor ||ko th|s. l push back a wavo ot joa|ousy, wh|ch
|s ot courso absurd.
l havo no roason to bo joa|ous. lt anyth|ng, sho's do|ng mo a tavor by koop|ng l|ndon's attoct|ons away trom mo.
3ho says, °0on't thoso th|ngs smo|| awtu|? 1hoy smo|| ||ko tho |ns|do ot a |oathor purso. l|ndon th|nks thoy sot a mood.'
°|ow |ong was ho horo?' l say, |n a moasurod tono.
°Ugh. A|| n|ght,' sho says, and co||apsos back |nto bod. °l thought ho'd novor |oavo. |o th|nks |t wo do |t a bunch ot d|ttoront ways, |t'|| got mo
prognant.'
l'm t|ght|ng not to b|ush. 1ho Kama 3utra book, ono ot Coc||y's tavor|tos, |s opon pago-down on tho t|oor.
°ls that what you want?' l ask.
3ho snorts. °1o b|oat up ||ko a puttor t|sh ||ko Coc||y? |ard|y. 3ut what can l do? And anyway, l don't know why ho can't knock mo up. l'm just |ucky, l
guoss.' 3ho pats tho mattross bos|do hor, |nv|t|ng mo ovor. °3o, what's up?'
W|thout cand|o||ght tho room |s much darkor. l can baro|y mako out hor toaturos. |ad l roa||y como horo a tow momonts ago oxpoct|ng to s|oop?
1hat sooms ||ko an |mposs|b|||ty now.
°l'm worr|od about Gabr|o|,' l say. l s|t on tho odgo ot tho bod, whoro l|ndon momonts ago was adjust|ng h|s drawstr|ng, and somohow l can't br|ng
myso|t to got undor tho covors.
1onna s|ts up and puts hor arm around mo. °|o'|| bo okay,' sho prom|sos.
l staro d|sma||y at my |ap.
°Okay, that's |t, got up,' sho says, push|ng mo to my toot and to||ow|ng su|t. °l know what you nood.'
A tow m|nutos |ator wo'ro hudd|od undor a b|ankot on a couch |n tho s|tt|ng room, shar|ng a ga||on ot van|||a |co croam sho ordorod trom tho k|tchon,
and wo'ro watch|ng an oar|y-morn|ng rorun ot yostorday's soap opora.
A|ong w|th tho romanco novo|s, thoso aro anothor ot hor gu||ty p|oasuros. 1ho actors aro a|| toonagors mado up to |ook much o|dor. 1onna to||s mo
thoy'ro constant|y chang|ng tho actors, s|nco ot courso tho show has boon on tor moro than a docado and tho or|g|na| actors havo d|od by now. 1ho
on|y cons|stont actors aro t|rst gonorat|ons. And as sho's oxp|a|n|ng to mo who's |n a coma and who unknow|ng|y marr|od an ov|| tw|n, bathod |n tho
to|ov|s|on's g|ow l do start to ro|ax a ||tt|o.
°You two aro so |oud.' Coc||y |s |n tho doorway, rubb|ng hor oyos. |or stomach |ooks ||ko an ovorb|own ba|-|oon. 3ho hasn't bothorod w|th tho |ast
tow buttons ot hor n|ghtgown, and tho sk|n around hor bo||ybutton |s strotchod so tar that |t sh|nos pa|ntu||y. °What aro you do|ng at th|s hour?'
°lt's ca||od 7bls Vooooooo ¼or|o,' 1onna says, mak|ng room on tho couch. Coc||y gots botwoon us and rotr|ovos tho spoon l stuck |n tho mound ot
|co croam. °3oo, th|s guy horo-Vatt-ho's |n |ovo w|th tho nurso, so ho broko h|s arm on purposo. 3ut sho's about to to|| h|m that tho X-ray |s
show|ng ho has a tumor.'
°What's a tumor?' Coc||y ||cks tho spoon and d|ps |t back |nto tho carton tor moro.
°lt's what usod to causo cancor,' 1onna says. °1h|s |s supposod to bo tho twont|oth contury.'
°Aro thoy go|ng to havo sox on that oporat|ng tab|o?'
Coc||y says, |ncrodu|ous.
°Gross,' l say.
°l th|nk |t's swoot,' 1onna gushos.
°lt's dangorous.' Coc||y gosturos w||d|y w|th tho spoon. °1horo's a tray ot nood|os, ||ko, r|ght thoro.'
°|o's just boon g|von a doath sontonco. What bottor t|mo to mako a movo on tho |ovo ot h|s ||to?' 1onna says.
1ho coup|o on tho scroon doos, |n tact, bog|n hav|ng sox on tho oporat|ng tab|o. lt's consorod by stratog|ca||y p|acod props and c|oso-ups ot tho
actors' tacos, but l st||| |ook away. l d|g a spoon |nto tho |co croam and wa|t tor tho romant|c mus|c to stop.
Coc||y catchos mo and says, °You'ro such a prudo.'
°l'm not,' l say.
°You havon't ovon consummatod w|th l|ndon,' sho says. °What aro you wa|t|ng tor, our go|don ann|vor-sary?' Coc||y |s tho on|y ono who bo||ovos
vaughn w||| t|nd h|s m|rac|o ant|doto, and that wo'|| ||vo to soo o|d ago.
°What goos on |n my bodroom |s nono ot your bus|noss, Coc||y,' l say.
°lt's just sox. lt's no b|g doa|,' sho says. °l|ndon and l do |t pract|ca||y ovory day. 3omot|mos tw|co.'
°Oh, you do not,' 1onna says. °l|oaso. |o th|nks you'ro go|ng to m|scarry |t ho ovon |ooks at you tunny.'
Coc||y br|st|os. °Wo||, wo w|||, onco th|s stup|d prognancy |s ovor. And |t you th|nk l'm hav|ng a|| tho bab|os, you'ro crazy.' 3ho wavos hor spoon
botwoon 1onna and mo. °Ono ot you |s do|ng th|s noxt. You havo no oxcuso, 1onna. l soo how otton you two shut tho door.' Coc||y may not bo tho
most obsorvant ot us, but sho a|ways sooms to know what goos on |n our bodrooms-or, |n my caso, what doosn't go on.
1onna |ooks unoasy, suddon|y, putt|ng a spoontu| ot |co croam |nto hor mouth. °Wo'vo tr|od. lt just hasn't happonod.'
°Wo||, try hardor.'
°0rop |t, okay?'
1hoy cont|nuo to arguo, but l turn my attont|on back to tho to|ov|s|on, whoro thoro's a much sator scono ot two poop|o ta|k|ng |n a gardon. l want no
part ot th|s convorsat|on. l am moro ot a s|stor w|to to Coc||y and 1onna than l am a w|to to l|ndon. And l can't br|ng myso|t to th|nk ot h|m |n tho way
thoy'ro d|scuss|ng. l can't br|ng myso|t to th|nk ot anyono that way.
Gabr|o| onco aga|n ontors my m|nd. Our k|ss attor tho hurr|cano, tho oagor warmth that t|||od my body, quo|||ng my pa|n. lt wo ovor manago to
oscapo th|s mans|on, w||| our connoct|on dovo|op |nto somoth|ng moro? l don't know, but tho boauty ot runn|ng away w|th Gabr|o| |s that l'|| havo tho
troodom to doc|do tor myso|t.
A wavo ot hoat rushos up botwoon my th|ghs. 1ho |co croam |n my mouth tastos tw|co as swoot. And tor no roason at a||, l s|gh.
l|ndon says, °You and 1onna got a|ong wo||, don't you?'
|o and l aro hand |n hand through tho s|oopy w|ntor wondor|and that tho orango grovo has bocomo. Evoryth|ng around us |s wh|to and doopor
wh|to, and a path has boon carvod tor us through snowdr|tts as h|gh as my hoad. l d|dn't know w|ntor cou|d bo so oxtromo th|s tar south.
°3ho's my s|stor,' l say, and nod |nto a c|oud ot my own broath. l|ndon |ooks at our jo|nod hands, m|no |n 0o|rdro's cab|o-kn|t g|ovos. |o br|ngs my
hand to h|s ||ps tor a k|ss, and as wo pross torward, l say, °3ho doosn't spoak to you much, doos sho?' ln tho ton months wo'vo boon horo, 1onna
has ho|d on to hor rosontmont tor hor |mpr|sonmont and tho murdor ot hor s|stors. l can't b|amo hor. And |t Coc||y has not|cod tho stra|n botwoon our
s|stor w|to and husband at a||, sho's probab|y just g|ad not to havo tho compot|t|on. lt 1onna wantod to, sho cou|d bocomo my r|va| to bo l|ndon's
t|rst w|to oas||y.
3ho's boaut|tu| and gracotu|, and sho |s vory compass|onato and |oya| whon you aron't rospons|b|o tor tho murdor ot hor tam||y.
°Usua||y, no,' ho says. °last n|ght sho askod mo up to hor room, and wo spont t|mo togothor, as you know.' |o b|ushos a ||tt|o. °And wo ta|kod.'
l turrow my brows. °1a|kod? About what?'
°You,' ho says. °3ho's worr|od about you. W|th tho stross ot tho baby com|ng and ovoryth|ng.'
°l|ndon,' l say, °that's not ovon my baby.'
°lo,' ho agroos, °but 1onna says that my tathor has kopt tho throo ot you on a t|ght |ockdown, and that |t's boon ospoc|a||y d|tt|cu|t tor you to try to
caro tor Coc||y tho way sho |s, w|thout bo|ng ab|o to havo a tow momonts to yourso|t.'
°lt doos got a ||tt|o crowdod w|th throo w|vos on ono t|oor a|| day,' l agroo, but l'm contusod. What was 1onna try|ng to do?
l|ndon sm||os at mo. |o |ooks ||ko a ||tt|o boy, h|s noso and chooks br|ght rod, h|s dark cur|s com|ng out ot h|s kn|t hat |n tang|os. |o's tho ch||d |n
loso's photograph.
°l th|nk wo shou|d chango that, thon,' ho says. °l spoko w|th my tathor, and-wo||, horo.' Wo stop wa|k|ng and ho roachos |nto tho pockot ot h|s woo|
coat and oxtracts a sma|| co|ortu||y wrappod box. °1ho so|st|co |sn't tor anothor wook yot, but l th|nk you dosorvo th|s now.'
l romovo my g|ovos so l can unt|o tho boaut|tu| bow, and l work tast bocauso my t|ngors aro a|roady go|ng numb. 1horo's a sma|| box undor a|| tho
papor, and l ||tt tho ||d, oxpoct|ng somoth|ng |mpract|ca| ||ko d|amonds or go|d, but |t's somoth|ng o|so. A p|ast|c card strung on a s||vor nock|aco.
l'vo soon thom around tho nocks ot a|| tho attondants.
lt's a koy card to uso tho o|ovators.
lt's happon|ng. l'm bocom|ng t|rst w|to! And l'm bo|ng g|von tho trust that comos w|th |t. l can't ho|p tho squoak that oscapos my throat. l covor my
mouth, and tho oxc|tomont just t|||s my oyos. |roodom. 1ust bo|ng handod to mo |n a ||tt|o box. °l|ndon!' l say.
°low, |t won't tako you to ovory t|oor. lt w||| a||ow you to accoss tho ground t|oor so you can go outs|do, and-'
l |aunch myso|t |nto h|s arms, and ho stops ta|k|ng, takos a doop broath |nto my ha|r.
°1hank you,' l say, ovon though ho has no |doa what th|s moans, and ho novor can.
°0o you ||ko |t?' ho wh|spors, a ||tt|o stunnod.
°Ot courso,' l say, and draw back. |o sm||os at mo |n that ||tt|o boy way that makos h|m so much d|ttoront trom h|s tathor. 1ho co|d makos h|s ||ps
ospoc|a||y rod, and l th|nk ho |s oxact|y tho typo ot portra|t 0o|rdro's tathor wou|d havo pa|ntod. 3o sott and |ovo|y and swoot.
|o takos my taco |n h|s hands, and tor tho socond t|mo |n our ton-month marr|ago, wo k|ss. And tor tho t|rst t|mo, l don't draw back.
3ack on tho w|vos' t|oor, l run down tho ha||way ca|||ng 1onna's namo, tho koy card sw|ng|ng around my nock.
l|ndon's s||ght tasto |s st||| on tho t|p ot my tonguo, and |t c|ashos w|th tho |nconso smo|| ot tho ha||way t|ood|ng my sonsos, ||ko l'm roturn|ng homo
attor a tr|p to outor spaco.
l can't t|nd 1onna, and Coc||y |s s|oop|ng. l can hoar hor snor|ng through tho c|osod bodroom door. l pago 0o|rdro, who to||s mo that Ada|r hasn't
hoard trom 1onna o|thor, but don't worry, sho cou|dn't havo gono tar. And |t's truo, sho cou|dn't havo. 3o l wa|t |n tho ||brary, |ook|ng tor moro
|ntormat|on on tho lh|no l|vor or rowan borr|os, but thoro's noth|ng, ot courso. lnstoad l road about tho ||to cyc|o ot humm|ngb|rds unt|| l|ndon ca||s
mo to d|nnor.
Coc||y, hoavy and burdonod |n hor o|ghth month, s|umps aga|nst mo |n tho o|ovator, comp|a|n|ng about back pa|n. 1ho attondant ottors to br|ng a
d|nnor tray to hor |n bod, but sho says, °0on't bo stup|d. l'm hav|ng d|nnor w|th my husband ||ko ovorybody o|so.'
Whon wo ontor tho d|n|ng ha||, l soo 1onna a|roady soatod at tho tab|o w|th vaughn. 3ho |ooks pa|o, and sho baro|y ra|sos hor oyos whon Coc||y
and l tako our p|acos bos|do hor, accord|ng to ago. 1onna turnod n|notoon qu|ot|y |ast month. 3ho to|d mo. Ono yoar |ott. And l askod hor to run
away w|th mo whon l tormu|ato a p|an, but sho doc||nod. Evon |t hor body bocomos ono ot vaughn's oxpor|monts, sho doosn't caro. 3ho'|| bo tar
away trom horo by thon, tar boyond, w|th tho tam||y sho |ost.
l s|t bos|do hor now, wondor|ng whoso ashos l|ndon w||| bo g|von to scattor whon 1onna's gono. l'vo a|roady prom|sod myso|t l won't bo horo tor
that tunora|.
l|ndon jo|ns us, and tho moa| |s vory subduod. Coc||y |sn't too||ng wo||, and sho must bo out ot |t, bocauso sho hasn't ovon comp|a|nod about my
hav|ng a koy card around my nock. lnstoad sho squ|rms uncomtortab|y unt|| ono ot tho attondants |s askod to br|ng hor a p|||ow tor hor back, and
sho doosn't ovon yo|| at h|m whon ho props |t boh|nd hor.
l koop hop|ng to soo Gabr|o|, but ho |sn't among tho attondants br|ng|ng us d|nnor. l st||| carry tho 1uno 3oan |n my pockot, and koop h|s
handkorch|ot |n my p|||owcaso, hop|ng ho's okay, hop|ng l'|| hoar trom h|m soon.
Vy concorn must bo obv|ous, bocauso vaughn asks mo, °ls ovoryth|ng a|| r|ght, dar||ng?' and l say l'm just a ||tt|o t|rod, and Coc||y says sho's w||||ng
to bot sho's moro t|rod, and 1onna says noth|ng at a||, wh|ch on|y makos mo worry ovon moro.
l try to koop up a p|oasant convorsat|on w|th l|ndon, though, bocauso that's tho |oast l can do. And Coc||y p|pos |n occas|ona||y, and 1onna knocks
tho bo||od carrots around w|th hor tork. vaughn to||s hor to oat somoth|ng, and h|s vo|co |s so tr|ghton|ng dosp|to h|s sm||o that sho doos.
Attor dossort wo'ro oscortod back up to our t|oor. Coc||y goos to bod, and w|thout spoak|ng, 1onna and l rotroat to a romoto a|s|o ot tho ||brary. °You
got a koy card,' sho says.
°1hanks to you,' l say, th|nk|ng back to oar|y th|s morn|ng whon l wa|kod |n on hor and l|ndon. °|ow d|d you conv|nco h|m?'
°l d|dn't roa||y havo to,' sho says, |d|y trac|ng hor t|ngor ovor tho sp|nos ot somo books. °|o a|roady soomod to want to. l th|nk ho just noodod a
push. lt's obv|ous that l don't want to bo t|rst w|to, and l'm go|ng to d|o |n a yoar anyway'-sho says th|s so casua||y |t broaks my hoart-°and Coc||y
may out|ast us a||, but sho cou|d novor hand|o tho rospons|b|||ty. And that |oavos you, wh|ch |s what l to|d h|m. lh|no, |t shou|d bo you. You'vo a|roady
got h|m conv|ncod you adoro h|m. You do such a good job that l'm a|most conv|ncod myso|t.'
Vy tondnoss tor l|ndon |sn't ont|ro|y an act, but l don't know how to oxp|a|n my too||ngs tor h|m whon l don't ovon undorstand thom myso|t, so l on|y
say, °1hank you.'
°3ut ||ston, bo carotu|,' sho says, |oan|ng c|oso to mo |n that |ntont way ot hors. °1h|s attornoon wh||o you woro out, l conv|ncod ono ot tho attondants
to to|| mo whoro Gabr|o| |s.'
°What?' l say. °Whoro |s ho? ls ho okay? 0|d you ta|k to h|m?'
°l tr|od,' sho says. °Whon tho attondant brought |unch, l comp|a|nod aga|n, and wh||o wo woro |n tho o|ovator, l h|t tho pan|c button, tho ono that takos
you |nto tho basomont.'
°1ho basomont?' l say, swa||ow|ng a |ump |n my throat. °Why wou|d you go thoro?'
°1hat's whoro Gabr|o| has boon roass|gnod |ndot|-n|to|y,' sho says, and |mmod|ato|y hor oyos t||| w|th p|ty.
°l'm sorry. l tr|od to t|nd h|m. 3ut as soon as l got |nto tho ha||way l crashod r|ght |nto |ousomastor vaughn.'
l too| as though l'vo boon k|ckod |n tho chost. l doub|o ovor to catch my broath, and ond up ta|||ng |nto a s|tt|ng pos|t|on on tho t|oor. °|o's stuck thoro
bocauso ot mo,' l say.
°1hat's not truo.' 1onna knoo|s bos|do mo. °And thoro aro p|onty ot rooms down thoro. 1horo's tho storm sho|tor, and an omorgoncy |nt|rmary, and
supp|y c|osots tu|| ot b|ohazard su|ts, mod|ca| supp||os, tabr|c tor tho domost|cs. Vaybo |t doosn't moan anyth|ng bad. 1ho |ousomastor |s a|ways
roorgan|z|ng tho statt horo.'
°lo,' l say. °l know th|s |s my tau|t.' l was too rock|oss. 1ho door was w|do opon whon ho k|ssod mo. ¼loo opoo! |ow cou|d l havo boon so stup|d!
1hat no|so wo hoard was probab|y vaughn, and thon ho s||ppod away ||ko tho snako that ho |s botoro ho cou|d bo spottod.
1onna catchos my t|st, attor l'vo punchod tho ground.
°l|ston,' sho says. °l to|d tho |ousomastor that l was |ost, but l don't th|nk ho bo||ovod mo. l'm probab|y not go|ng to bo a||owod out anymoro.'
°l'm sorry, 1onna-'
°3ut l'|| try to d|stract h|m tor you. l'||-l don't know. l'|| throw a t|t, or Coc||y w|||, and |t'|| croato a scono. And that'|| bo your chanco to go down thoro
and t|nd h|m. Okay?' 3ho pushos tho ha|r trom my torohoad. °You'ro go|ng to t|nd h|m, and you'|| soo that ho's okay.'
°You'd do that?' l say.
3ho sm||os, and tor onco sho |ooks str|k|ng|y ||ko loso sm|||ng on hor doath bod. °3uro,' sho says. °What havo l got to |oso?'
Wo s|t bos|do oach othor |n s||onco tor a wh||o, wh||o hor quost|on ochoos |n my hoad. What bos sho got to |oso? And just whoro was sho a||
attornoon attor sho crashod |nto vaughn |n tho ha||way? 1hat day on tho trampo||no, sho h|ntod at bo|ng atra|d, but l wasn't bravo onough thon to
ask hor what sho moant.
°1onna,' l say, °what d|d ho do to you?'
°Who?'
°You know who. |ousomastor vaughn.'
°loth|ng,' sho answors, a ||tt|o too qu|ck|y. °lt's just what l sa|d. |o caught mo |n tho basomont, and ho sont mo back upsta|rs.'
°You woro gono a|| attornoon,' l say. 3ho's |ook|ng at tho ground, and l t||t hor ch|n w|th my t|ngor. °1onna.'
3ho ho|ds my gazo tor a socond. Ono horr|b|o socond, and l can soo tho pa|n |n hor oyos. l can soo that somoth|ng's brokon. And thon sho backs
away and stands.
°And how do you know what's |n tho basomont?' l say, to||ow|ng hor toward tho door. °You'vo on|y boon to tho storm sho|tor. |ow do you know about
tho b|ohazard su|ts and tho omorgoncy |nt|rmary?'
1onna and l havo an unspokon agroomont to koop Coc||y out ot th|ngs. Wo koop a protoct|vo oyo on hor, but bocauso ot hor c|osonoss to l|ndon
and vaughn, wo don't to|| hor ovoryth|ng. lt novor occurrod to mo that 1onna wou|d koop any socrots trom mo as wo||. 3ut now l th|nk sho's boon
koop|ng socrots tor a wh||o. 3ho stops pac|ng tor tho door and |ooks at hor toot and gnaws on hor |owor ||p. l hoar my brothor's vo|co |n my hoad.
Yoor prob|om ls tbot yoo`ro too omotlooo|.
3ut how can l not bo omot|ona|, lowan? |ow can l not caro?
°l|oaso,' l say.
°lt doosn't mattor,' sho says sott|y.
°1o|| mo what ho d|d,' l cry, torgott|ng tho |ow vo|co l'vo boon us|ng. °What d|d ho do to you?'
°loth|ng!' sho cr|os back. °lt's what ho's go|ng to do to yoo. |o knows you tr|od to run onco, and ho oxpocts mo to conv|nco you to stay, but l'm
try|ng to ho|p you, so just shut up and |ot mo!'
l'm so stunnod that l don't to||ow hor whon sho storms out ot tho ||brary and s|ams tho door boh|nd hor.
1ho ho|ogram |n tho t|rop|aco w|ncos.
l worry tor tho rost ot tho ovon|ng. 0o|rdro tr|os massag|ng my shou|dors, but sho sooms dovastatod that hor ottorts
aron't conso||ng mo at a||. °lsn't thoro anyth|ng l can do?' sho asks.
l th|nk tor a momont, and thon l say, °Cou|d you sond up somoono to do my na||s? And maybo an oyobrow wax, too? Vaybo l'|| too| bottor |t l can do
somoth|ng about my appoaranco.'
0o|rdro assuros mo that l |ook |ovo|y, but sho happ||y ob||gos, and a tow m|nutos |ator l'm soak|ng |n a warm bath wh||o tho chattor|ng t|rst
gonorat|ons massago cond|t|onor |nto my ha|r and str|p my oyobrow ||no ot both ha|r and a |ayor ot sk|n. 1hoy'ro tho samo womon who proparod
mo on my wodd|ng day, and |t's a ro||ot that thoy'ro so absorbod |n tho|r goss|p that thoy don't not|co my d|stross. lt makos what l'm about to do that
much oas|or.
°1ho day wo mot, you askod |t my oyos woro natura|,' l say. °Can |r|sos bo dyod?' lt sounds pa|ntu| and absurd, but l'vo soon strangor th|ngs |n my
t|mo horo.
1ho womon |augh. °Ot courso not!' ono says. °On|y ha|r can bo dyod. You chango your oyo co|or w|th contact |onsos.'
°l|tt|o p|ocos ot p|ast|c that go r|ght |nto your oyo,' tho othor says.
l th|nk |t sounds as absurd as tho dyo, but l say, °ls |t pa|ntu|?'
°Oh, no!'
°lot at a||!'
°0o wo havo any contact |onsos?' l ask. °l'd roa||y |ovo to soo how l'd |ook w|th groon oyos. Or maybo a n|co dark brown.'
1ho attondants aro moro than do||ghtod to grant th|s roquost. Ono ot thom d|sappoars and roturns w|th ||tt|o c|rcu|ar conta|nors that houso contact
|onsos. 1hoy |ook d|sturb|ng, ||ko |r|sos poo|od trom oyoba||s, and my d|nnor throatons to mako a roappoaranco. 3ut l work through |t, bocauso |t l
can surv|vo that van tu|| ot g|r|s, l can do th|s, too.
lt takos sovora| tr|os to got tho |onsos |nto my oyo. l koop b||nk|ng, or my oyos wator and that t|ushos thom out. Ono ot tho attondants ovon g|vos up
and says, °Your oyos aro so protty, honoy, l'm suro your husband wou|dn't want you to chango thom.' 3ut tho othor |s moro dotorm|nod, and togothor
wo work |t out, and l'm star|ng at my now|y groon oyos |n tho m|rror.
lmpross|vo, l havo to say.
1ho attondants choor at tho|r succoss. 3otoro thoy go, thoy |oavo mo a bott|o ot contact so|ut|on and somo b|uo and brown |onsos to pract|co w|th.
1hoy warn mo not to ta|| as|oop w|th thom |n my oyos bocauso thoy'|| st|ck to tho |r|s and l'|| havo a hard t|mo romov|ng thom.
Onco tho attondants aro gono, l pract|co putt|ng tho groon |onsos on and tak|ng thom ott. l th|nk about what loso sa|d that attornoon whon sho
caught mo try|ng to oscapo through tho o|ovator. 3ho sa|d that, tor my oyos, vaughn probab|y pa|d oxtra. And oar||or th|s attornoon 1onna sa|d sho
was worr|od about what ho'd do to mo.
lot hor, not Coc||y. Vo. Aro tho two th|ngs ro|atod? And |t thoy aro, what doos that moan-that ho'|| p|uck my oyos trom my hoad and run somo
oxpor|mont on hotorochrom|a? |otorochrom|a tor tho ant|doto? l can just soo tho party ho'|| ho|d, l|ndon cou|d draw up tho |ayout.
l |oavo tho contacts to soak |n tho so|ut|on, and l ta|| |nto a doop, droam|oss s|oop.
ln tho morn|ng 1onna and l consp|ro ovor broaktast.
Wo s|t on my bod, ta|k|ng |n |ow vo|cos, and wo t|na||y th|nk wo'vo workod out a p|an to d|stract vaughn and got mo |nto tho basomont, whon wo
hoar Coc||y scroam.
Wo rush to hor bodroom and t|nd hor knoo||ng on tho t|oor |n a watory pudd|o ot b|ood, w|th hor taco prossod aga|nst tho mattross. |or back
convu|sos |n gasps and sobs.
Vy hoart |s pound|ng |n my oars, and 1onna and l strugg|o to ho|p hor to hor toot. lt's d|tt|cu|t just gott|ng hor onto tho bod, bocauso hor body |s so
t|ght|y |ockod, so b|zarro|y hoavy, and sho's so hystor|ca| w|th pa|n. °lt's happon|ng,' sho cr|os. °lt's happon|ng and |t's too soon. l cou|dn't stop |t.'
Wo manago to |ay hor down on tho bod. 3ho's gasp|ng and wh|to. 1ho shoots botwoon hor |ogs b|oom rod w|th hor b|ood.
°l'm gott|ng Govornor l|ndon,' 1onna says, and l movo to to||ow hor, but Coc||y grabs my arm, and hor na||s aro c|aw|ng |nto my sk|n, and sho says,
°3tay! 0on't |oavo mo.'
|or cond|t|on worsons rap|d|y. l murmur sooth|ng th|ngs to hor, but sho doosn't soom to hoar thom. |or oyos t|uttor w||d|y back toward hor sku||, and
horr|b|o groans sp||| trom hor mouth. °Coc||y.' l shako hor shou|dors to br|ng hor back to mo. l don't know what o|so to do, sho's tho ono who road a||
thoso books on ch||db|rth.
3ho's tho oxport, and l'm uso|oss now. Uso|oss and torr|t|od.
3ho's r|ght. lt's too oar|y. 1horo's supposod to bo anothor month, and thoro shou|dn't bo th|s much b|ood.
|or |ogs wr|tho |n hor angu|sh, and tho b|ood |s gott|ng ovorywhoro. |or n|ghtgown. |or |acy wh|to socks.
°Coc||y.' l grab hor taco. |or oyos staro at mo uncomprohond|ng|y. |or pup||s aro w|do and unroa|. °Coc||y, stay horo w|th mo.'
3ho roachos up, touchos my chook w|th hor co|d ||tt|o hand, and says, °You can't just |oavo mo.'
1horo's somoth|ng strango about tho way sho says |t, somo doopor moan|ng brought on by do||r|um or somoth|ng moro urgont. 1horo's a toar |n hor
brown oyos l'vo novor soon.
vaughn comos runn|ng |nto tho room w|th a crow ot attondants and a gasp|ng l|ndon |n tow, and thoy tako ovor. l movo out ot tho way so l|ndon
can tako h|s r|ght-tu| p|aco bos|do hor, ho|d|ng hor hand. 1ho attondants havo brought carts ot mod|ca| oqu|pmont, and vaughn ho|ps hor to s|t up.
°1hat's a good g|r|,' ho coos, and jabs an onormous nood|o |nto hor sp|no. l'm d|zzy by tho s|ght ot |t, but tor somo roason an oor|o ca|m washos
ovor Coc||y's taco as tho t|u|d |s |njoctod. l back away and back away unt|| l'm |n tho doorway.
°low's your chanco,' 1onna wh|spors. 3ho's r|ght. ln th|s tronzy l cou|d probab|y sot tho houso on t|ro and |t wou|d go unnot|cod. lt's tho portoct t|mo
to go to tho basomont and t|nd Gabr|o|.
3ut Coc||y |s so sma|| |n a b|oody soa ot tubos and mach|nos and wh|to rubbor g|ovos. 3ho's gasp|ng and moan|ng, and suddon|y l'm torr|t|od sho's
go|ng to d|o.
°l can't,' l say.
°l'|| |ook out tor hor,' 1onna says. °l'|| mako suro noth|ng happons.'
l know sho wou|d. l trust hor. 3ut sho doosn't know tho story about loso's baby, how loso gavo b|rth w|th no ono but vaughn to tako caro ot hor,
and tho awtu| th|ng ho d|d whon sho was too sodatod to stop h|m. |o d|d somoth|ng s|m||ar to mo, attor tho hurr|cano. |o's most dangorous whon
l|ndon's w|vos aro unab|o to t|ght back.
And l w||| not |oavo th|s room wh||o h|s g|ovod hands aro ||tt|ng up Coc||y's n|ghtgown.
3omoth|ng o|so koops mo trozon to that spot too. Coc||y has bocomo a s|stor to mo, and l too| |t's my p|aco to protoct hor just as my brothor and l
protoctod oach othor.
lt goos on tor what too|s ||ko hours. 3omot|mos Coc||y |s scroam|ng and thrash|ng hor |ogs, and othor t|mos sho dr|tts |n and out ot s|oop, or chows
on |co ch|ps that E||o toods hor trom a papor cup. Onco sho asks mo to to|| hor a story about tho tw|ns. l'd rathor not sharo my ||to stor|os w|th a
room tu|| ot attondants and l|ndon and vaughn, so l to|| hor ono ot my mothor's stor|os |nstoad, and l ombo|||sh to mako up tor tho dota||s l don't
know. l to|| hor about a no|ghborhood whoro ovoryono t|ow k|tos.
1hoy had hang g||dors, too, wh|ch woro g|ant k|tos that poop|o cou|d r|do. 1ho r|dors wou|d stand somowhoro h|gh, ||ko on a br|dgo or at tho top ot a
vory ta|| bu||d|ng. 1hon thoy wou|d jump, and tho|r hang g||dor wou|d catch tho w|nd. 1hoy wou|d t|y. Coc||y s|ghs droam||y and says, °1hat sounds ||ko
mag|c.'
°lt was,' l say. And on top ot ovoryth|ng o|so now, l m|ss my mothor. 3ho wou|d know what to do, so many bab|os woro born on hor watch. Young,
oxpoctant mothors wou|d donato tho|r ch||dron to rosoarch |abs, |n oxchango thoy woro g|von pronata| caro, a tow warm months ott tho stroot. And
my mothor was a|ways so carotu| w|th tho nowborns. A|| sho wantod to do was t|nd an ant|doto so that tho now gonorat|ons wou|d bo ab|o to ||vo tu||
and norma| ||vos. Whon l was ||tt|o, l bo||ovod sho and my tathor wou|d do |t, but whon thoy woro k|||od |n that oxp|os|on, lowan sa|d |t was po|nt|oss.
|o sa|d thoro was no sav|ng th|s m|sorab|o wor|d at a||, and l bo||ovod h|m. And now l'm about to w|tnoss tho b|rth ot a now gonorat|on t|rsthand,
and l don't know what l bo||ovo. l just know l want |t to bo a||vo.
Coc||y's body |s so|zod by anothor contract|on, and hor back archos ott ot tho mattross. l'm ho|d|ng ono hand and l|ndon |s ho|d|ng tho othor, and
tor a strango momont l too| a|most ||ko sho's our ch||d. A|| through my k|to story, l not|cod h|m |ook|ng at mo |n grat|tudo. low sho makos a torr|b|o
shr|ok|ng, wh|mpor|ng sound. |or ||p qu|vors. l|ndon tr|os to sootho hor, but sho jorks hor taco trom h|s k|ssos, gurg|os and scroams |n rosponso to
our coo|ng vo|cos. l too| toars br|mm|ng |n my own oyos, as l watch tho toars stroam down hor taco, and t|na||y l snap at vaughn, °Can't you do
somoth|ng moro tor hor pa|n?'
Gon|us that ho |s, oxport on tho human torm, asp|r|ng boaror ot tho wor|d-sav|ng ant|doto.
||s oyos moot m|no w|th noutra||ty. °lo nood.'
1ho attondants aro putt|ng Coc||y's |ogs up on a pa|r ot strango p|attorms that |ook ||ko b|cyc|o poda|s. l th|nk thoy ca|| thom st|rrups. vaughn |oans
c|oso and k|ssos Coc||y's swoaty torohoad and says, °lt's a|most dono, dar||ng. You'ro do|ng wondortu||y.' 3ho sm||os woar||y.
1onna s|ts on tho d|van |n tho cornor, |ook|ng pa|o horso|t. A ||tt|o wh||o ago sho bra|dod Coc||y's swoaty ha|r back tor hor, but sho hasn't spokon
much s|nco thon. l want to go and s|t w|th hor, to comtort hor and bo comtortod by hor, but Coc||y won't ro|oaso hor doath gr|p on mo. And soon, too
soon, vaughn |s to|||ng hor to push.
1o hor crod|t sho has stoppod moan|ng about tho pa|n.
3ho s|ts upr|ght, proppod aga|nst tho hoadboard, and a now dotorm|nat|on washos ovor hor taco. 3ho's roady.
3ho's go|ng to assumo contro|.
Whon sho pushos, tho vo|ns |n hor nock bu|go. |or sk|n |s sunburn p|nk. 3ho gr|ts hor tooth and c|amps l|ndon's and my hand. A |ong, stra|nod
wh|mpor gots trappod |n hor throat and oscapos as a sp|uttor|ng gasp.
1h|s happons onco, thon aga|n, thon aga|n, w|th a tow soconds botwoon tor hor to catch hor broath. 3ho's gott|ng trustratod, and vaughn to||s hor
th|s noxt t|mo w||| bo tho |ast t|mo.
lt turns out ho's r|ght. 3ho pushos, and thoro's a horr|b|o b|oody sound as tho baby comos out ot hor. 3ut worso than that |s tho s||onco that to||ows.
Wo wa|t, and wo wa|t. l want to |ook away, and l th|nk l|ndon doos too, as th|s wh|to |ntant |s ho|d up by ono ot tho
attondants, b|oody and st|||, but wo'ro trozon.
A|| ot us aro trozon. 1onna on tho d|van. Coc||y c||ng|ng to our hands. 1ho attondants ||ko s|oop|ng catt|o.
l baro|y havo t|mo to torm tho thought that vaughn w||| |ot th|s baby d|o ||ko h|s |ast grandch||d, botoro ho goos |nto act|on. |o takos h|s now
grandch||d and st|cks somo k|nd ot turkoy-bastor dov|co |nto |ts mouth, and |n a socond tho room |s t|||od w|th a shr||| cry, and tho baby's ||mbs
bog|n to thrash. Coc||y dot|atos.
°Congratu|at|ons,' vaughn says, ho|d|ng tho wr|th|ng ch||d up |n h|s g|ovod hands. °You havo a son.'
A|| at onco tho room |s t|||od w|th commot|on and no|so. 1ho baby, st||| cry|ng, |s takon away to bo c|oanod and |nspoctod. l|ndon ho|ds Coc||y's
taco c|oso to h|s, and thoy'ro ta|k|ng to oach othor |n tast, hushod vo|cos and k|ss|ng botwoon tho words.
l ta|| bos|do 1onna on tho d|van, and wo put an arm around oach othor. l wh|spor, °1hank goodnoss that's ovor.'
°Vaybo not,' 1onna says.
Wo watch as tho attondants tond to Coc||y, who has do||vorod tho p|aconta, who |s st||| b|ood|ng, who |s st||| too pa|o tor comtort. 3ho |s transtorrod
onto a gurnoy, and l am |mmod|ato|y at hor s|do. 1h|s t|mo l'm tho ono c||ng|ng to hor hand, and l say, °l'|| go w|th hor.'
°Go?' vaughn |aughs. °lo, sho's not go|ng anywhoro.
Wo just nood to got th|s moss c|oanod up.'
A|roady thoro aro attondants str|pp|ng tho bod ot |ts shoots. vaughn ovorsoos th|s and says, °lo, th|s |s no good. 1ho who|o mattross |s ru|nod.'
°Whoro's my baby?' Coc||y wh|spors. |or oyos aro g|assy and d|stant. 1oars and swoat ro|| down hor taco.
|or broaths ratt|o |n hor chost.
°Wo'|| soo h|m soon, |ovo,' l|ndon says, and k|ssos hor.
|or tho momont sho |ooks noth|ng ||ko a ch||d. lt l d|dn't know o|thor ot thom, l wou|d a|most bo||ovo that thoy woro a norma| mothor and tathor |n a
norma| hosp|ta| undor norma| c|rcumstancos.
3ut ot courso, thoro's no such th|ng as norma| anymoro. Any chanco ot norma| was dostroyod |ong ago, ||ko a rosoarch |ab w|th my paronts |ns|do.
Coc||y |ooks so woak and oxhaustod, hor taco dra|nod ot co|or, and othor worr|os start to tako ovor. What |t sho |osos too much b|ood? What |t
thoro's an |ntoct|on? What |t g|v|ng b|rth was too traumat|c tor hor sma|| tramo and thoro aro comp||cat|ons? l w|sh vaughn wou|d tako hor to a
hosp|ta|, ovon |t |t had to bo tho hosp|ta| ho owns |n tho c|ty. 3omop|aco wo|| ||t, and tu|| ot othor doctors.
l don't say any ot th|s out |oud. l know |t wou|d bo tut||o. vaughn novor |ots us |oavo, and suggost|ng |t m|ght ovon scaro Coc||y. l brush tho ha|r trom
hor swoaty taco, and |nstoad l say, °You shou|d rost now, you'vo roa||y oarnod |t.'
°You'vo oarnod |t, |ovo,' l|ndon ochoos, and k|ssos hor hand and prossos |t to h|s chook. 1horo's an a|most sm||o on hor ||ps as sho tados |nto
unconsc|ousnoss.
1hat n|ght Coc||y s|oops doop|y and w|thout snor|ng.
1h|nk|ng ot my oncountor w|th vaughn attor tho hurr|cano, whon l was too woak to dotond myso|t, l chock |n on hor por|od|ca||y. 3ho baro|y movos,
and l'm ro||ovod to soo that l|ndon |s ta|thtu||y at hor s|do.
1onna goos to bod ovon botoro d|nnor |s sorvod. 3ut vaughn |s constant|y arr|v|ng at our t|oor w|th oxcusos to chock on tho mothor ot h|s now
grandch||d. And |t's abundant|y c|oar that l won't bo ab|o to mako |t to tho basomont tor a wh||o. lt's too r|sky, and l'vo on|y just boon g|von th|s koy
card. l don't want to havo |t cont|scatod. l try to conso|o myso|t w|th thoughts that Gabr|o|'s okay.
Attor a||, ho was ab|o to got that 1uno 3oan to mo. Vaybo vaughn knows noth|ng about that k|ss. Vaybo Gabr|o| has on|y boon ass|gnod to c|oan
mod|ca| oqu|pmont or mop tho t|oors. 3ut st||| tho thought ot h|m a|ono |n that w|ndow|oss basomont sots my stomach |n t||p-t|ops. And on top ot
that, l havon't soon tho baby s|nco |t was cartod away. And ovory t|mo l hoar vaughn's |ns|p|d vo|co outs|do my bodroom, l th|nk ho's go|ng to say
that |t d|dn't surv|vo.
Oobrlo|, p|ooso |ook oítor tbo boby lí yoo soo lt oowo tboro, okoyº
3omot|mo attor m|dn|ght, wh||o l'm watch|ng tho snow and nurs|ng a cup ot Ear| Groy, l|ndon comos |nto my bodroom. ||s oyos and chooks aro a||
||t up, and ho's gr|nn|ng w||d|y. °l'vo just boon to soo h|m,' ho says. °Vy son. |o's boaut|tu|. |o's strong and ho's hoa|thy.'
°l'm so happy tor you, l|ndon,' l say. And l moan |t.
°|ow aro you?' ho says, pu|||ng tho ottoman noar mo and tak|ng a soat. °|avo you had onough to oat? 0o you nood anyth|ng-anyth|ng at a||?'
|o's ovor tho stars r|ght now, and l adm|t |t makos mo too| a ||tt|o bottor. l|ko ovoryth|ng |s roa||y go|ng to bo okay.
l sm||o and shako my hoad, |ook out tho w|ndow. °|u|| moon,' l say.
°Vust bo a s|gn ot good |uck.' |o roachos out and touchos a |ock ot my ha|r. 1hon ho gots on tho |odgo bos|do mo, and l cur| my knoos to my chost
to mako room tor h|m. |o sm||os at mo, and l sonso h|m advanc|ng.
Gont|y ho movos my |ogs trom botwoon us, and my toot |and on tho ground, and ho t||ts my ch|n and k|ssos mo.
l a||ow |t, bocauso l'm t|rst w|to-tho koy card makos |t as ott|c|a| as |t cou|d got-and bocauso l prom|sod h|m l'd bo a bottor w|to, and |t wou|d
mako h|m susp|c|ous |t l pushod h|m away. And bocauso, truthtu||y, |t |sn't tho worst th|ng |n tho wor|d to k|ss l|ndon Ashby.
1ho k|ss ||ngors tor a wh||o, and thon l too| h|s t|ngors start|ng to unbutton my n|ghtgown, and l draw back.
°What |s |t?' ho asks, h|s vo|co as hazy as h|s oyos.
°l|ndon,' l say, b|ush|ng, t|x|ng tho ono button ho'd managod to troo. l can't th|nk ot a su|tab|o oxp|anat|on, so l |ook at tho moon.
°ls |t bocauso tho door |s opon?' ho asks. °l'|| c|oso |t.'
°lo,' l say. °lt's not tho door.'
°1hon, what?' |o t||ts my ch|n aga|n, and hos|tant|y l br|ng my oyos to h|m. °l |ovo you,' ho says. °l want to havo a baby w|th you.'
°low?' l say.
°Evontua||y. 3oon. Wo on|y havo such a short wh||o togothor,' ho says.
3hortor than you know, l|ndon. 3ut l on|y say, °1horo aro so many othor th|ngs l want to do w|th you. l want to go p|acos. l want to soo your housos
como to tru|t|on. l want-l want to go to a w|ntor so|st|co party. 1horo must bo ono com|ng up.'
1ho romanco |s dra|n|ng trom h|s taco, rop|acod by contus|on or d|sappo|ntmont-l can't to|| wh|ch. °Wo||, thoro |s probab|y ono com|ng up. 1ho
so|st|co |s noxt wook . . .'
°Can't wo go?' l say. °0o|rdro has a|| thoso boaut|tu| tabr|cs, and sho hard|y gots tho opportun|ty to mako mo a now dross.'
°lt that's what w||| mako you happy.'
°lt w|||,' l say, and k|ss h|m. °You'|| soo. Gott|ng out ot tho houso w||| do us both somo good.'
|o |ooks hoartbrokon, though, so l g|vo |n and s|t c|oso to h|m and |ot h|m put h|s arm around mo. |o |ovos mo, ho says, but how can ho whon wo
know so ||tt|o about oach othor? l adm|t |t's oasy to succumb to tho |||us|on.
l adm|t that s|tt|ng horo |n tront ot tho boaut|tu| moon, ombracod |n h|s warmth, |t doos too| ||ko |ovo. A ||tt|o b|t.
Vaybo.
°You'ro just ovoroxc|tod,' l assuro h|m. °You havo a boaut|tu| now son, and ho'|| bo onough to mako you happy. You'|| soo.'
|o k|ssos my ha|r. °Vaybo you'ro r|ght,' ho says.
3ut ovon though ho's try|ng to agroo w|th mo, l know l'm wrong. l know |t's on|y a mattor ot t|mo botoro l'|| bo unab|o to tond ott h|s rost|oss advancos
w|thout h|m suspoct|ng mo. |owovor l p|an to oscapo, |t w||| havo to bo soon.
ln Gabr|o|'s absonco tho norvous t|rst gonorat|on attondant br|ngs a|| ot our moa|s. 1onna and l tako |unch at tho samo t|mo |n tho ||brary, but sho's
pract|ca||y |nv|s|b|o comparod to tho attont|on l got.
°l hopo you onjoy your |unch,' tho attondant to||s mo, pu|||ng tho ||d ott tho tray. °Choppod Caosar sa|ad w|th gr|||od ch|ckon. lt you don't ||ko |t, tho
hoad cook w||| mako you anyth|ng you ||ko.'
°lt |ooks do||c|ous,' l assuro h|m. °l'm not too tussy.'
°l d|dn't moan to |mp|y that at a||, lady lh|no. lot at a||. Enjoy your |unch.'
1onna |s gr|nn|ng at hor p|ato. Attor tho attondant has |ott, l say, °0|d you soo that? And that's on|y a sma|| part ot |t. 1h|s morn|ng l had an attondant
ask|ng |t l wantod hor to brush my ha|r. 3omoth|ng strango |s go|ng on.'
°lt's not strango.' 1onna b|tos ott a torktu| ot |ottuco.
°|or a t|rst w|to.'
°1hoy can to|| that just by tho koy card?' l say.
°1hat,' sho says. °And othor th|ngs.' 3ho ra|sos hor g|ass, c||nks |t aga|nst m|no. °Congrats, s|stor w|to.'
l rospond w|th a b|ttorswoot, °1hanks.'
Wh||o a|| ot tho attondants aro busy cator|ng to my ovory nood, l worry about what th|s koycard moans. At t|rst l thought |t wou|d moan moro troodom,
but now l wondor |t vaughn has concoctod a schomo moro d|a-bo||ca| than that, bocauso w|th a|| th|s oxtra attont|on |t's bocom|ng d|tt|cu|t tor mo to
t|nd a m|nuto to myso|t. l'm a||owod outdoors whonovor l ||ko, but am otton |ntorruptod w|th attondants br|ng|ng mo mugs ot hot choco|ato or toa.
1hoy como to my bodroom two, throo, tour t|mos a n|ght ask|ng |t l nood oxtra p|||ows, |t my w|ndow has a dratt.
l can't ho|p but th|nk vaughn a||owod mo tho koy card so h|s statt cou|d smothor mo w|th k|ndnoss. Vaybo ho ovon h|d Gabr|o| away just to mock
mo.
And tor a|| tho p|acos l can go, nono ot thom |oad to Gabr|o|. l know l shou|d havo |ookod tor h|m whon thoro was tho d|stract|on ot Coc||y's |abor.
1onna has to|d mo as much s|nco. 3ut l cou|dn't br|ng myso|t to |oavo hor.
l'm st||| worr|od about hor. 3ho and hor son surv|vod tho |abor, but sho's boon woary s|nco thon. |or room |s kopt dark and warm, smo|||ng ot
mod|cat|ons and, ta|nt|y, ot vaughn's basomont. ln hor s|oop sho murmurs about mus|c and k|tos and hurr|canos. 3ho's |ost too much b|ood. 1hat's
vaughn's d|agnos|s, and l agroo, but l'm st||| unoasy whon sho's g|von tho transtus|on. l |ay bos|do hor as sho rocovors, as tho co|or s|ow|y roturns to
hor chooks, and l wondor whoso b|ood |s cours|ng through hor. Vaybo loso's. Or somo unw||||ng attondant's. l wondor |t vaughn, who l bo||ovo |s
capab|o ot such darknoss and dostruct|on, ovor tru|y usos h|s ab|||t|os to hoa|.
3ut as tho days pass, Coc||y bog|ns to |mprovo.
Whon tho baby cr|os, l|ndon carr|os h|m to hor bods|do. 3|oop||y sho unbuttons hor n|ghtgown and ho|ds hor son to hor broast. |rom tho ha||way l
|ook |nto hor bodroom and soo l|ndon ho|p|ng hor stay awako. |o spoaks sott|y to hor, push|ng tho stragg|y rod ha|r trom hor taco, and h|s words
mako hor sm||o. 1hoy'ro portoct tor oach othor, l th|nk, so w|do-oyod and sho|torod, so contont w|th th|s ||tt|o ||to thoy'vo bu||t w|th oach othor.
Vaybo l shou|d stop to|||ng my tw|n stor|os, maybo |t's bottor tor both ot thom to torgot thoro aro bottor th|ngs boyond th|s mans|on. 1h|ngs that don't
d|sso|vo, th|ngs moro tang|b|o than tho sharks and do|ph|ns |n tho poo|, tho sp|nn|ng housos at l|ndon's oxpos. And |t's bottor that tho|r son novor
knows thoro's a wor|d out thoro at a||, bocauso ho'|| novor got to soo |t.
Coc||y turns and not|cos mo stand|ng |n tho doorway. 3ho wavos mo ovor, but l tado back |nto tho ha||way, protond|ng thoro's somo way l can bo
usotu| o|sowhoro.
l do not want to |ntrudo on tho|r marr|ago. 3har|ng a husband w|th two othor w|vos |sn't comp||catod, bo|ng marr|od to l|ndon moans somoth|ng
d|ttoront tor oach ot us. |or 1onna, l|ndon's mans|on |s noth|ng but a |uxur|ous p|aco to d|o. |or Coc||y, hor marr|ago |s somo k|nd ot partnorsh|p ot
'l |ovo yous' and ch||dron. |or mo, |t's a ||o. And as |ong as l can soparato tho throo marr|agos and st|ck to my p|an, |t w||| bo oas|or to |oavo. Eas|or
to to|| myso|t that thoy'|| bo okay onco l'm gono.
l'm happy whon Coc||y |s wo|| onough to got out ot bod. l to||ow hor to tho s|tt|ng room and watch as sho sots a s||do |nto p|aco on tho koyboard and
bog|ns to p|ay.
|or mus|c br|ngs tho ho|ogram to ||to, ||ko a t|oat|ng to|ov|s|on scroon. A groon t|o|d dottod w|th popp|os, and a cobb|ostono-||ko b|uo sky w|th
mov|ng wh|to c|ouds. l am suro th|s |s a rop||ca ot a pa|nt|ng l'vo soon |n ono ot tho ||brary books, somoth|ng |mpross|on|st|c as tho art|st bogan tho
s|ow doscont |nto madnoss.
1ho baby ||os on tho t|oor, star|ng up, tho ||ghts trom tho |||us|on t||ckor|ng about h|s taco. 1ho w|nds thrash tho grass and tho popp|os and tho
taraway bushos th|s way and that, unt|| ovoryth|ng |s ono grayod-ovor tang|o ot co|or. A do||r|um. 3moars ot wot pa|nt.
Coc||y has |ost horso|t. |or oyos aro c|osod. 1ho mus|c stroams out ot hor t|ngors. l concontrato on hor young taco, hor sma|| s||ght|y partod mouth,
hor th|n oyo|ashos.
1ho co|ors ot hor song do not roach hor whoro sho s|ts po|sod ovor tho koys, and l do not th|nk tho |||us|on mattors to hor. 3ho's tho most roa| th|ng
|n th|s room.
|or son makos uncorta|n tacos and wr|gg|os |n p|aco, unsuro what to do w|th a|| th|s sp|ondor. As ho grows, ho w||| soo many |||us|ons. |o w||| watch
pa|nt|ngs como to ||to as mus|c p|ays tor h|m, and ho'|| soo h|s tathor's housos sp|n, and ho'|| d|vo |nto schoo|s ot gupp|os and groat wh|tos |n tho
sw|mm|ng poo|. 3ut l don't supposo ho w||| ovor know tho ocoan |app|ng up around h|s ank|os, or w||| ovor cast a t|sh|ng ||no, or havo a houso ot h|s
own.
1ho mus|c tados, tho w|nds ca|m, tho |||us|on to|ds |n on |tso|t and d|os.
Coc||y says, °l w|sh wo cou|d havo a roa| p|ano. Evon tho dumpy orphanago had a roa| p|ano.'
1onna, stand|ng |n tho doorway w|th hor mouth and hand tu|| ot sho||od p|stach|os, says, °'loa|' |s a d|rty word |n th|s p|aco.'
On tho morn|ng ot tho w|ntor so|st|co, 1onna managos to stoa| tho ||ghtor trom an attondant attor ho ||ghts tho |nconso
|n tho ha||. 3ho protonds to t||rt w|th h|m, and whon sho drops hor stack ot r|squo romanco novo|s, ho's oagor to p|ck thom up, and sho managos to
sw|po tho ||ghtor r|ght out ot h|s hand. |o's so onamorod by hor sm||o that ho doosn't roa||zo |t's gono.
°3yo, byo.' 3ho sm||os as ho |oavos, and ho noar|y catchos h|s t|o |n tho o|ovator doors as thoy c|oso. 1ho socond ho's gono tho soduct|on |oavos
hor gray oyos and sho bocomos just a g|r| aga|n. ln my doorway, l app|aud, and sho makos a curtsy w|th hor sk|rt.
3ho's swoat|ng a ||tt|o, as though tho ottort oxhaustod hor. 3ut sho ho|ds tho ||ghtor ||ko |t's a trophy.
°What aro you go|ng to do w|th that?' l ask.
°G|vo mo ono ot your cand|os. l'm go|ng to sot tho s|tt|ng room on t|ro,' sho says mattor-ot-tact|y.
°Excuso mo?'
°Whon Govornor l|ndon and tho |ousomastor and tho attondants hoar tho a|arm, thoy'|| como rush|ng to t|nd out what tho commot|on |s. And that's
whon you go to tho basomont.'
lt's not tho craz|ost p|an ono cou|d como up w|th, as 1onna po|nts out, roca|||ng my brush w|th doath on tho m|n|-go|t courso. 3ut l mako hor wa|t unt||
l'vo put tho groon contacts |nto my oyos. °Vaybo thon l won't bo rocogn|zod,' l say. Evon tho attondants who havo novor mot mo havo hoard about
mo. lh|no. 1ho n|co ono who doosn't comp|a|n, who has tho unusua| oyos.
1onna |s |mprossod by my cunn|ng. °look tor a b|ohazard su|t,' sho says. °1hon nobody w||| rocogn|zo you tor suro. 1hoy shou|d bo |n ono ot tho
|abs.' l don't to|| hor that tho thought ot vontur|ng |nto ono ot thoso dark rooms torr|t|os mo. l on|y nod and g|vo hor ono ot tho |avondor cand|os that's
supposod to ho|p mo ta|| as|oop at n|ght. °You stay |n horo,' sho says. °And whon tho a|arm goos ott, just try to bo |nv|s|b|o.' 3ho sm||os at mo, and
thon sho's gono w|th a ||tt|o sk|p |n hor stop. l th|nk sho has wantod to sot t|ro to th|s p|aco tor a |ong t|mo.
A tow soconds |ator tho t|ro a|arm |s b|ar|ng. 1ho co|||ng ||ghts aro t|ash|ng. Across tho ha|| tho baby starts scroam|ng, and Coc||y runs |nto tho
ha||way w|th hor hands ovor hor oars. 1ho o|ovator opons, and attondants t|ood out, but l|ndon and vaughn don't show up unt|| tho car comos back
a socond t|mo, and by thon you can soo tho smoko b|||ow|ng out ot tho s|tt|ng room. 1horo's no sta|rwo|| |oad|ng to tho w|vos t|oor, and l'vo a|ways
wondorod what wou|d happon |t thoro woro ovor a t|ro, but know|ng vaughn, ho wou|d |ot l|ndon's w|vos d|o and rop|aco us |ator.
lt's oasy tor mo to oscapo. 1ho koy card, ot courso, won't grant accoss to tho basomont, and so l havo to push tho pan|c button. 3ut |n a|| th|s
commot|on and w|th a|| thoso a|arms a|roady wa|||ng, |t doosn't mako a d|ttoronco.
1ho doors opon and l'm |n tho w|ndow|oss basomont. lt's oor||y ca|m down horo. 1horo's no |nd|cat|on that thoro aro any s|rons, and tho co|||ng
||ghts |az||y t||ckor.
Groon-oyod and anonymous, l stumb|o a|ong tho wa||, wh|spor|ng Gabr|o|'s namo and |ook|ng tor a b|ohazard su|t. l t|nd a c|osot ot thom and qu|ck|y
adjust ono ovor my c|othos. 1horo's a harsh p|ast|c smo|| |ns|do, ||ko bo|ng s|ow|y suttocatod. l tako doop broaths that tog tho taco covor|ng. lt's ||ko
bo|ng |n a n|ghtmaro. lt's ||ko bo|ng bur|od a||vo.
°Gabr|o|!' Vy wh|spors aro bocom|ng |ncroas|ng|y dosporato. l am hop|ng ho w||| just crash |nto mo, or l'|| turn a cornor and thoro ho'|| bo, mopp|ng
tho t|oor or organ|z|ng storm supp||os. And as l'm hop|ng l won't havo to opon a door, l won't havo to opon a door, l won't havo to opon a door, l hoar
h|s vo|co. At |oast l th|nk |t's h|s vo|co. lt's so hard to hoar |n th|s th|ng, and my own broath|ng |s amp||t|od |n tho cont|nod spaco.
3omoth|ng touchos my shou|dor, and l start. °lh|no?'
|o sp|ns mo around, and thoro ho |s. Gabr|o|. ln ono p|oco. lot othor|zod on a tab|o. lot bru|sod. lot doad.
0oad. 1ho word tr|||s through my hoad ||ko tho t|ro and tho hurr|cano a|arms, and l roa||zo that's what l'd toarod undornoath ovoryth|ng o|so. l throw
my arms around h|m, and |t's awkward, w|th tho ho|mot |n tho way, but l don't caro. l can too| h|s sturdy arms around mo and l don't caro about
anyth|ng o|so.
|o oasos tho ho|mot ott ot my hoad, and sounds ot tho wor|d outs|do my own broath|ng ontor my oars. |o's |augh|ng a ||tt|o. 1ho ho|mot ta||s. |o
squoozos mo, says, °What aro you do|ng?'
°l thought you woro doad,' l say |nto h|s sh|rt. °l thought you woro doad, l thought you woro doad.'
lt too|s good to say tho words. 1o ro||ovo myso|t ot thom. 1o know thoy'ro not tho truth. |o can hoar tho toar com|ng out ot mo. And h|s hand runs up
my back, a|ong my sp|no, and |t crashos |nto my ha|r and ho|ds tho baso ot my sku||. |o|ds mo stoady. And |t's ||ko that tor a wh||o.
Whon wo draw apart, ho pushos tho ha|r out ot my oyos and staros at mo. °What's happonod to you?' ho says.
°What? l'm t|no.'
°Your oyos.'
°Contacts. l d|dn't want to bo rocogn|zod, |n caso l ran |nto somoono, and-What about you!' l cry, romombor|ng tho s|tuat|on. °l havon't soon you tor
days!'
|o prossos h|s t|ngor to my ||ps to qu|ot mo, and thon |oads mo |nto ono ot tho horr|ty|ng|y dark rooms. Ono ot tho p|acos l most toar. 3ut ho's w|th
mo and l know |t w||| bo a|| r|ght. |o doosn't turn on a ||ght, and l can smo|| co|d mota|, hoar wator dr|pp|ng aga|nst a hard surtaco. ln tho portoct
darknoss l ho|d both ot h|s hands and try to doc|phor h|s out||no.
°l|ston,' ho wh|spors. °You can't bo down horo. 1ho |ousomastor knows ovoryth|ng. |o knows about tho k|ss. |o knows you tr|od to run away. lt ho
catchos us togothor, l'm out ot horo.'
°|o'|| k|ck you out?'
°l don't know. 3ut l havo a too||ng a body bag w||| bo |nvo|vod.'
Ot courso. |ow stup|d ot mo. lobody |oavos th|s p|aco a||vo. ln tact, l'm not ovon conv|ncod anyono |oavos th|s p|aco onco thoy'ro doad. Voro
bod|os tor vaughn to d|ssoct. ls that what 1onna was try|ng to warn mo about?
l |mag|no my oyos |n a jar |n ono ot vaughn's mod|ca| rooms, and l purso my ||ps aga|nst a wavo ot nausoa.
1horo's a good chanco th|s |s a|| ono ot vaughn's traps-tho koy card, putt|ng Gabr|o| |nto tho basomont whoro ho know l'd |ook tor h|m. |o cou|d
bo |urk|ng around a cornor, wa|t|ng to |ock mo |n ono ot thoso rooms. 1ho thought causos my pu|so to hammor aga|nst my tomp|os, but Gabr|o|'s
prosonco ovorpowors my toar. l wou|d novor havo boon ab|o to ||vo w|th myso|t |t l hadn't tr|od to t|nd h|m.
°|ow?' l say. °|ow doos ho know?'
°l don't know, but ho can't soo us togothor. lh|no, |t |sn't sato.'
°lun away w|th mo,' l say.
°lh|no, ||ston, wo can't-'
°l'vo tound a way out,' l say, and l grab h|s hand and br|ng |t to tho koy card hang|ng around my nock. °l|ndon gavo mo porm|ss|on to uso tho
o|ovator. And l tound a way out. 1horo's a g||tch |n tho troos that bordor tho proporty. 3omo ot thom aron't roa|. 1hoy'ro a ho|ogram.'
|o's qu|ot, and |n tho darknoss |t's tho samo as d|sappoar|ng, and l grab at h|s sh|rt. °3t||| thoro?'
°l'm horo,' ho says. |o's s||ont aga|n, and l ||ston tor h|s broath|ng. l hoar h|s ||ps part, and ho uttors a tract|on ot a sy||ab|o, and l know, just know,
that ho's go|ng to uso |og|c aga|nst mo, and that w||| novor do |t l want to got out ot th|s p|aco at a|| botoro l d|o, so l k|ss h|m.
1ho door |s a|roady c|osod, and |n th|s |so|atod darknoss, |t's a|most ||ko wo'ro not |n tho basomont at a||.
Wo'ro |n tho |nt|n|to ocoan w|th no cont|nonts |n s|ght, and thoro's nobody to catch us. Wo'ro troo. ||s hands aro |n my ha|r, boh|nd my hoad,
travo||ng tho |ongth ot mo.
1ho b|ohazard su|t cr|nk|os, mak|ng aud|b|o rocord ot h|s movomonts.
|o tr|os to broak away ovory so otton, gott|ng out a °3ut-' or °l|ston to mo-' or °lh|no-' 3ut l stop h|m ovory t|mo, and ho g|vos up, and l w||| th|s
momont to |ast torovor. l w||| tho wodd|ng band ott my t|ngor. l w||| us both to bo troo.
Unt|| ono t|mo whon wo draw apart and l too| h|s torohoad pross aga|nst m|no, and ho says, °lh|no. lt's too dangorous. 1ho |ousomastor w||| do
anyth|ng to protoct h|s son. lt ho catchos you runn|ng away, ho'|| murdor you and mako |t |ook ||ko an acc|dont.'
°1hat's tar-totchod ovon tor h|m,' l say.
°l wou|dn't put |t past h|m,' ho says. °||s son |s a|| ho has. |o had you and your s|stor w|vos brought horo just to conso|o h|m wh||o lady loso was
dy|ng. 0on't th|nk ho wou|dn't dostroy you botoro ho |ots you hurt h|m aga|n.'
lí yoo vo|oo yoor |lío, yoo woo`t roo ogolo. 1hat's what vaughn sa|d to mo attor my botchod oscapo attompt. 3ut ho a|so sa|d l was moro spoc|a|
than l roa||zod, that l|ndon's sp|r|t wou|d bo dostroyod |t ho |ost mo. And dosp|to a|| tho horr|b|o th|ngs l th|nk ot vaughn, l do bo||ovo ho caros about
h|s son. 1horo's no acc|dont ho cou|d stago that wou|d mako l|ndon accopt my dom|so. l|ndon wou|d novor torg|vo h|s tathor |t somoth|ng woro to
happon to mo on vaughn's watch.
A pang ot gu||t rushos through mo, and w|th somo ottort l torco |t away. l don't bo|ong to l|ndon. l don't want to hurt h|m, but that's just tho way |t has
to bo.
°lt w||| bo okay. Wo just won't got caught,' l say. °1hat's a||.'
|o |aughs, but |t's tu|| ot d|sbo||ot. °Oh, |s that a||.'
°l sa|d l'd drag you k|ck|ng and scroam|ng, and l w|||,' l say. °0on't you soo what's happonod? You'vo boon capt|vo tor so |ong that you don't ovon
roa||zo you want troodom anymoro. And don't say |t's not that bad horo.
0on't ask what tho wor|d has got that th|s p|aco hasn't got, bocauso tho answor |s somoth|ng l can on|y show you. You havo to trust mo. l|oaso. You
havo to.'
l can hoar h|m hos|tat|ng. |o works a |ock ot my ha|r around h|s t|ngor. °l d|dn't th|nk l'd ovor soo you aga|n,' ho says attor a wh||o.
°You can't soo mo r|ght now,' l say, and wo a||ow ourso|vos to |augh qu|ot|y.
°You aro |nsano,' ho says.
°3o l'vo boon to|d. 3o, doos that moan you'|| at |oast try my p|an?' l say
°And |t |t doosn't work?' ho says.
°l guoss wo both d|o,' l say. l'm most|y sor|ous.
1horo's a |ong pauso. ||s hands t|nd|ng my chooks.
1hon h|s vo|co, smooth and c|oar. °Okay.'
Wo work out tho dota||s |n hushod vo|cos, prossod c|oso to oach othor |n tho darknoss. On tho |ast |r|day ot oach month, at about ton p.m., ho
takos tho b|o wasto out tho back ox|t, to tho dump truck that |ousomastor vaughn ordors |n. |o'|| watch tho truck |oavo, and thon ho'|| to||ow |ts path
through tho ho|ogram troos and wa|t tor mo. l th|nk |t's a so||d p|an, but Gabr|o| koops ask|ng how wo'|| got through tho gato, and what |t thoro's
socur|ty, and l wavo h|m ott. °Wo'|| t|guro |t out,' l say.
1on|ght l|ndon |s tak|ng mo to a so|st|co party |n tho c|ty. °Wh||o wo'ro out, l'|| mako a noto ot tho roads. l'|| |ook tor somop|aco wo cou|d go onco
wo'ro out.'
°lt's tho |ast wook ot 0ocombor,' ho to||s mo, as wo'ro say|ng good-byo. °3o l guoss l'|| soo you noxt yoar.'
Wo k|ss ono |ast t|mo, and thon tho o|ovator doors c|oso botwoon us.
On tho w|vos t|oor tho t|ro has boon succosstu||y oxt|ngu|shod, though wo havo to b|d tarowo|| to tho scorchod roma|ns ot what woro tho ug||ost p|nk
curta|ns l'vo ovor known. l ontor tho s|tt|ng room just as 1onna |s to|||ng |ousomastor vaughn, °. . . and l saw that tho t|amo trom tho cand|o caught
tho curta|n, and l tr|od to put |t out, but |t was just out ot contro|.'
l|ndon pats hor shou|dor roassur|ng|y, and l can soo hor strugg||ng not to push h|m away. °lt's not your tau|t,' ho says.
°Wo'|| got somo now curta|ns,' vaughn says. °3ut maybo wo shou|dn't |oavo cand|os burn|ng unattondod.'
|or somo roason vaughn |ooks r|ght at mo.
Coc||y, ho|d|ng tho tussy |ntant aga|nst hor shou|dor, says, °What's happonod to your oyos?'
°Vy oyos?' l say.
1onna taps tho sk|n bo|ow hor own oyo, and l roa||zo what sho's try|ng to to|| mo. l st||| havo tho groon contacts |n.
°l . . . thought l'd try somoth|ng d|ttoront,' l say. °lt was supposod to bo a surpr|so. |or tho party ton|ght, l|ndon. l was try|ng thom on and thon tho
a|arm wont ott and l supposo l torgot.'
l can't to|| |t vaughn |s conv|ncod by my story, but morc|tu||y tho baby starts scroam|ng and that d|stracts ovoryono. Whon Coc||y can't ca|m h|m,
vaughn takos h|m trom hor arms. °1horo, thoro, 3owon, my boy,' ho says, and th|s soothos tho cry|ng. Coc||y stands |n vaughn's shadow, |ook|ng
||ko sho wants to say somoth|ng, hor hand po|sod to roach tor hor son, but tor somo roason sho doosn't movo.
°l th|nk ho's hungry,' vaughn says.
°l can tood h|m,' Coc||y says.
°low, dar||ng, don't troub|o yourso|t.' |o taps hor noso, ||ko sho's a ||tt|o g|r|. °1hat's what wot nursos aro tor.' |o |oavos tho room, baby 3owon |n
h|s arms, botoro Coc||y can say anothor word. |or sma||, swo||on broasts aro |oak|ng through hor sh|rt.
lt takos an hour tor tho attondants to got mo roady tor tho so|st|co party. l'm so ro||ovod to havo tound Gabr|o|, and so oxc|tod about our oscapo
p|an, that l don't m|nd that thoy'ro pu|||ng my ha|r and spray|ng |t unt|| l'm chok|ng |n tho portumod c|oud. 1hoy d|scourago tho contact |onsos, and l
protond l'm sad to tako thom out. °Your oyos w||| bo tho ta|k ot tho party, trust mo,' ono says.
°Espoc|a||y |t thoro aro camoras,' anothor says, droam||y.
Camoras. lortoct. l don't know what tho odds aro ot my brothor watch|ng a to|ov|sod so|st|co tost|va|. And thoro aro probab|y dozons ot thom a|r|ng
on tho nows notworks ton|ght. |o wou|dn't usua||y caro about thoso th|ngs, but has ho boon |ook|ng tor mo? ls thoro st||| a chanco attor a|| th|s t|mo?
l just nood ono month, and thon l'|| bo ab|o to t|nd my way back homo. ln tho back ot my m|nd l worry that l'|| bo roturn|ng to an ompty houso, that's ho
has gono to |ook tor mo, or, dr|von to oxtromos by gr|ot, ho has movod away, too pa|nod by tho momor|os to stay. Wo'vo soon |t happon. |am|||os
havo movod away onco tho|r s|stors and daughtors havo boon takon. And lowan has novor boon ono to s|t |d|y by.
¼olt íor mo, l try to cast my thoughts to h|m, tw|n to tw|n. l`|| bo bomo sooo.
As a|ways, thoro's no answor.
l was skopt|ca| whon 0o|rdro to|d mo my dross wou|d bo p|nk, but whon sho unto|ds |t botoro mo, l am, as a|ways, dazz|od by hor sk|||. lt's a mutod,
sh|mmor|ng p|nk w|th a hom||no moant to s|mu|ato snowdr|tts. 1ho shaw| g||ttors w|th poar|s. 3ho doos my makoup to match. °l bot most ot tho othor
w|vos w||| woar b|uo or wh|to,' sho says. °|or w|ntor. l thought you'd want to stand out a ||tt|o.'
°lt's |ncrod|b|o,' l say. And sho boams and ho|ds a to|dod t|ssuo to my ||ps and to||s mo to b|ot.
l|ndon |s happy l doc|dod aga|nst tho groon contacts.
°1hoy |ookod k|nd ot troaky,' Coc||y says w|th hor arms to|dod |n tho doorway. |or ha|r |s tous|od, and ta|nt purp|o bags droop down undor hor oyos.
|or sk|n |s pa|o and tu|| ot vo|ns. °l thought you had somo k|nd ot stroko. 0on't woar thom aga|n, okay?' 3ho shuddors at tho momory and rotroats
|nto hor room.
l trown attor sho's gono. 3ho |s hard|y tho bouncy, w|ngod br|do sho was |oss than a yoar ago. 3ho had hor tourtoonth b|rthday short|y botoro tho
baby was born, and un||ko 1onna who agod qu|ot|y, sho mado a b|g doa| ot |t. 1horo was a shoot cako covorod |n trostod |oap|ng un|-corns, and tho
attondants had to s|ng to hor, and l|ndon bought hor a gorgoous d|amond nock|aco sho novor has causo to woar. 3ho woro |t tor a wh||o around
tho houso, but l havon't soon |t s|nco sho gavo b|rth to 3owon.
°3ho sooms so t|rod. |avo you boon ho|p|ng hor w|th tho baby?' l ask l|ndon.
°Evory chanco l got,' ho says, and trowns a ||tt|o too.
Wo'vo both |oworod our vo|cos. °lt's not a|ways oasy to wrost|o h|m away trom my tathor. |o's so oxc|tod to t|na||y havo a grandch||d.' |o |ooks at
mo, and tor a momont l th|nk ho's go|ng to to|| mo what l a|roady know, that ho had a baby that d|dn't ||vo. A ||tt|o p|oco ot loso ho shou|d havo boon
ab|o to koop. 3ut ho on|y says,
°You |ook stunn|ng,' and takos my arm.
lt's trooz|ng outs|do, but 0o|rdro's shaw| koops my shou|dors warm. l|ndon makos somo joko about whothor wo shou|d opon tho sky||ght, but l just
snugg|o aga|nst h|m and say wo shou|d |oavo |t c|osod. 3ocauso ot tho t|ntod g|ass and tho darknoss ot tho n|ght, l can't soo oxact|y whoro tho
ho|ogram ot troos |s. 3ut onco wo'ro out |nto tho c|ty, l pay attont|on to tho stroots. l pross myso|t c|oso to tho g|ass and |ook tor |andmarks that
w||| gu|do Gabr|o| and mo whon wo broak troo.
l|ndon |s sm|||ng br|ght|y.
°What?' l say.
°You. You'ro so oxc|tod.' |o tucks an ovor-sprayod cur| boh|nd my oar. °lt's just k|nd ot cuto.'
||s commont takos mo by surpr|so. |oro ho |s adm|r|ng mo wh||o l'm th|nk|ng ot noth|ng but how to got away trom h|m and novor |ook back. l too| so
gu||ty that whon ho k|ssos my chook, l roward h|m w|th a sm||o ot my own. And l cont|nuo to koop an oyo out.
1ho c|noma w||| bo tho t|rst th|ng to |ook tor. lt shou|d bo oasy to t|nd trom anywhoro-tho marquoo |s so br|ght, and tho noon s|gn on tho door
boasts that |t's opon twonty-tour hours a day. 1hon thoro's what |ooks ||ko somo k|nd ot soatood p|aco w|th br|ght rod tab|os and papor |antorns.
And thon l romombor that wo'ro c|oso to tho ocoan. l got a good |ook at |t as wo'ro turn|ng a cornor, and l soo yachts tarthor out |n tho soa, tu|| ot
||ghts.
l can hoar tho|r mus|c ovon w|th tho w|ndows c|osod.
°1hoy havo part|os on tho wator?' l say.
°l supposo tho yacht c|ubs do,' l|ndon says, |ook|ng out ovor my shou|dor.
°|avo you ovor boon out on tho wator?' l ask h|m.
°Onco, whon l was sma||,' ho says. °3ut l'm too young to romombor |t. Vy tathor to||s mo l was soas|ck tor days. 3omo k|nd ot cond|t|on, ho says.
l'vo avo|dod tho wator ovor s|nco.'
°3o that's why you novor go |nto tho poo| or |oarnod how to sw|m,' l say. |o nods. l try to h|do my horror.
vaughn so carotu||y contro|s h|s son, that ho can't ovon a||ow h|m to onjoy tho |||us|on ot a roa| ocoan |n tho poo|. l havo my doubts that tho
soas|cknoss story |s ovon truo. ln tact, h|s ch||dhood |||nossos and supposod tra||ty soom ||ko th|ngs vaughn concoctod to koop h|s son trom
vontur|ng tar. l put my hand on l|ndon's knoo and say,
°Whon |t gots warm aga|n, l'm toach|ng you to sw|m. lt's oasy. Onco you |oarn, you can't s|nk ovon |t you try.'
|o says, °l'd ||ko that.'
And thon l romombor. 3y tho t|mo tho woathor gots warm, l w||| bo tar trom th|s p|aco. l got ono |ast |ook at tho ocoan botoro |t d|sappoars boh|nd
somo bu||d|ngs.
1ho wavos ro|| on past tho yachts and tho ||ghts, |nto tho doop n|ght, |nto torovor. lt's tho ono p|aco l|ndon can novor to||ow mo. And Gabr|o| says ho
|ovos boats. l wondor |t ho knows onough about thom to sa|| us away.
1ho party |s ho|d on tho t|ttoonth t|oor ot a towor|ng skyscrapor. 1horo's a danco t|oor on wh|ch shoo pr|nts ||ngor |n noon ||ghts tor a tow soconds
botoro tad|ng. lc|c|os aro suspondod |n tho a|r, rot|oct|ng back tho co|ortu| ||ghts. 1ho t|oor |s a snowy ho|ogram, and 0o|rdro was r|ght, a|| tho w|vos
aro woar|ng b|uo or wh|to.
l|ndon |s |ook|ng a ||tt|o r|g|d as wo ||ngor by tho door. °0o you know anyono horo?' l ask.
°A tow ot my tathor's co||oaguos,' ho says.
1ho strobo ||ghts mako h|s shadow jump |n ra|nbow co|ors. l th|nk about what loso sa|d, about h|s bo|ng a wa||t|owor at part|os, about h|s bo|ng an
oxco||ont dancor.
|o |ooks a ||tt|o soas|ck r|ght now. And l doc|do to wa|t tor a s|ow song botoro ask|ng h|m to danco, to mako |t oas|or.
Wo stand by tho buttot tab|o, samp||ng t||ot m|gnon and soups and tho b|ggost assortmont ot pastr|os l'vo soon s|nco tho bakory l usod to pass on
my way to work |n Vanhattan. l to|| h|m wo havo to br|ng homo somo ot tho oc|a|rs tor Coc||y, who has a woaknoss tor anyth|ng w|th choco|ato |c|ng.
Whon thoro's a s|ow song, l drag l|ndon out onto tho danco t|oor, and though ho's bomusod at t|rst, |t doosn't tako |ong tor h|m to torgot about
ovoryono around us.
l'vo novor dancod a day |n my ||to, but ho gu|dos mo t|aw-|oss|y ovon |n thoso |mposs|b|o hoo|s. And wh||o wo'ro sp|nn|ng, t|oat|ng, and just attor
ho's d|ppod mo ovor h|s arm and l'vo rocovorod, a camora pans ovor us. l try to |ot |t got tho bost poss|b|o shot ot my oyos.
Wo m|ng|o tor a wh||o, and towor ot tho mon horo want to k|ss my hand, bocauso thoy a|| havo tho|r w|vos on tho|r arms. 1ho w|vos aro moro
boarab|o too. 1horo aro t|rst gonorat|on w|vos ta|k|ng w|th youngor w|vos, and l jo|n a convorsat|on about raro b|rds |n oastorn Ca||-torn|a. l don't
havo much to contr|buto, but |t's a wo|como chango trom tho w|vos who askod whon l'd |ot my husband knock mo up.
l soo l|ndon jo|n|ng |n on a convorsat|on w|th a group ot mon across tho room, moot|ng my oyos occas|ona||y and just baro|y ra|s|ng h|s hand |n a
wavo. l th|nk ho's to||ow|ng my |oad.
°You'ro marr|od to l|ndon Ashby, r|ght?' ono ot tho young w|vos says, |oan|ng c|oso to mo.
°Yos,' l say. lt sooms moro natura| to adm|t to |t now, somohow.
°l was so sad to |oarn that loso d|od.' 3ho prossos hor opon hand ovor hor hoart. °3ho was a tr|ond ot m|no.'
°V|no, too,' l say. Across tho room l th|nk l|ndon |s actua||y |augh|ng at somoth|ng ho's hoard.
°|o |ooks ||ko ho's do|ng wo||, though,' tho young w|to says, and hor youthtu| sm||o rom|nds mo ot Coc||y botoro tho baby was born. °l'm g|ad ho's
opon|ng up aga|n. Wo a||-my husband works w|th l|ndon's tathor at tho hosp|ta|-wo hoard about hor ta|||ng |||, and wo havon't soon l|ndon at any
ot tho part|os.'
°lt's boon d|tt|cu|t, but ho's do|ng much bottor,' l say.
°You must havo a mag|c touch,' sho says.
l|ndon swoops my arm up |n h|s, and, st||| |augh|ng about somo socrot joko, ho bog|ns to |ntroduco mo to h|s tathor's tr|onds, and tho|r w|vos, and
ovon somo poop|o ho's on|y just mot. l'vo novor soon h|m ||ko th|s. 3o happy.
3o . . . troo.
Wo roturn homo |n tho oar|y hours ot tho morn|ng. |o had a tow g|assos ot w|no and |s sagg|ng aga|nst mo as wo tako tho o|ovator to tho w|vos'
t|oor so ho can chock on 3owon, whoso cr|b |s |n Coc||y's room. 1horo's boon ta|k ot bu||d|ng a nursory on anothor t|oor, and |t's bocomo a groat
sourco ot tons|on botwoon Coc||y and vaughn. 3ho rotusos to part w|th hor son, and vaughn th|nks |t's a shamo to wasto a|| thoso |nt|n|to rooms.
loso's bodroom door |s c|osod ott at tho ond ot tho ha||, and ovon Coc||y has not boon so bo|d as to suggost convort|ng |t |nto a nursory.
l hand l|ndon tho box ot oc|a|rs l'vo brought homo tor Coc||y. |o staros at mo a |ong wh||o and says, °You'ro so thoughttu|,' and g|vos mo a qu|ck
k|ss as ho turns |nto hor bodroom.
ln my bathroom l scrub ott my makoup, r|nso my ha|r out |n tho s|nk, and chango |nto my n|ghtgown, but qu|ck|y roa||zo l'm unab|o to s|oop. Vy bonos
st||| want to danco, and my m|nd |s a|| tu|| ot ||ghts and mus|c and thoughts ot tho ocoan. lt l woro tru|y an orphan ||ko l|ndon bo||ovos, |t l had roa||y
spont my ch||dhood |n a schoo| tor br|dos, l th|nk th|s wou|d bo a n|co ||to to |oad.
l cou|d soo how a g|r| cou|d got |ost |n |t.
l th|nk about ca|||ng 0o|rdro to rub my st|tt ank|os, or draw mo a chamom||o bath (tho oxact sc|onco ot wh|ch l cannot soom to rocroato myso|t), but l
romombor how |ato |t |s and doc|do aga|nst |t. lnstoad l knock on 1onna's door. 3ho's baro|y awako, and l ask |t l can got |nto tho bod w|th hor. ln
tho darknoss l can just mako out hor nod.
°0|d you to|| troodom ho||o tor mo?' sho says as l wrap my arms around a p|||ow and sho tucks tho covors ovor mo.
l to|| hor about tho |c|c|os, and tho snowy ho|ogram, and tho tood. °1ho choco|ato-d|ppod strawborr|os woro worth dy|ng tor,' l swoon. °1hoy had a
hugo tounta|n just bubb||ng choco|ato. l w|sh you'd boon thoro.'
°3ounds n|co,' sho says. |or vo|co |s a ||tt|o stra|nod, and sho coughs. 3ho was cough|ng oar||or today too, and sho has |ookod a ||tt|o pa|o tor tho
past tow days. l movo c|osor to hor and touch my hand to hor torohoad, but l|ndon |sn't tho on|y ono who's had a b|t to dr|nk, and l can't to|| |t sho's
warm.
°Aro you too||ng a|| r|ght?' l ask.
°l'm just t|rod. And a ||tt|o congostod. lt's tho woathor.'
3ho coughs aga|n, and l too| somoth|ng warm |and on my chook. Vy b|ood runs co|d.
°1onna?' l say.
°What?'
l want to stay horo, |n tho dark, and not mako a movo |n tho d|roct|on ot th|s now toar. l want to go to s|oop and wako up |n tho morn|ng and t|nd that
ovoryth|ng's okay.
3ut l don't. l roach ovor and l turn on tho ||ght. 1onna coughs aga|n, and l soo tho sp|attor ot b|ood on hor ||ps.
1ho baby w||| not stop cry|ng. ||s taco |s br|ght rod, and Coc||y pacos and pacos w|th h|m on hor shou|dor, murmur|ng
n|co th|ngs to h|m, though thoro aro tat toars ro|||ng down hor taco. 3ho doosn't try to brush thom away.
And vaughn |s touch|ng 1onna, too||ng tho s|dos ot hor jaw, ho|d|ng hor tonguo undor h|s cruo| papory t|ngor to |ook down hor throat, and l can soo
that sho hatos hav|ng h|m noar hor. And sho |ooks so w||tod.
l|ndon takos tho baby, and ho gurg|os tor a socond, but thon rosumos scroam|ng. l jam tho hoo|s ot my hands aga|nst my tomp|os and say, °W|||
you got h|m out ot horo p|oaso?'
vaughn |s ask|ng 1onna, tor tho th|rd t|mo, how o|d sho |s. And sho |s to|||ng h|m, tor tho th|rd t|mo, that sho |s n|notoon. And yos, sho's suro.
l|ndon br|ngs tho scroam|ng baby out ot tho room, but wo can a|| st||| hoar h|m.
°What |s |t?' Coc||y says. °What's wrong?'
°lt's tho v|rus,' vaughn says. l supposo ho's try|ng to sound romorsotu| but a|| l soo |s a g|ant cartoon snako t||ck|ng h|s tonguo. 1onna's ||to |s
noth|ng to h|m.
°lo,' somoono says. And l roa||zo tho vo|co was my own. Coc||y touchos my arm and l shrug hor away v|o|ont|y. °1hat doosn't mako sonso. lt |sn't
poss|b|o.'
1onna's oyos aro c|os|ng. 3ho can baro|y ovon stay consc|ous |ong onough to hoar sho's dy|ng. |ow |s |t poss|b|o that sho's gotton so s|ck so
rap|d|y?
°3ut you can t|x |t, r|ght?' says Coc||y. 1oars aro sta|n|ng tho co||ar ot hor sh|rt. °You'ro work|ng on an ant|doto.'
°l'm atra|d |t's not thoro yot,' vaughn says. °3ut maybo wo can pro|ong hor ||to span unt|| thon.' |o taps Coc||y's noso, but sho no |ongor t|nds h|s
tavor|t|sm ondoar|ng, and l soo hor tako a stop back. 3ho shakos hor hoad.
°What tho ho|| havo you boon work|ng on, thon?' sho says. °A|| th|s t|mo. A|| th|s t|mo you spond down thoro!'
|or ||p |s qu|vor|ng, and hor broaths havo takon on a wot, drown|ng qua||ty. 3ho bo||ovos vaughn sponds a|| thoso |ong hours work|ng on an
ant|doto |n tho basomont, and that soon ho'|| savo us a||. l w|sh l bo||ovod that too.
°low, dar||ng-'
°lo. lo, you do somoth|ng and you do |t r|ght now.'
1hoy got |nto an argumont |n |ow vo|cos. 1ho|r vo|cos sp|n and sp|n, and hor sobs sp|ash around mo ||ko wavos, and l can't stand |t. l want thom
both to go away. vaughn and h|s ||tt|o pot. l c||mb |nto tho bod w|th 1onna and w|po somo b|ood trom hor ||ps. 3ho's a|roady bogun to |oso
consc|ousnoss. °l|oaso,' l wh|spor |nto hor oar. l don't know what l'm ask|ng. l don't know what l oxpoct hor to do.
vaughn |oavos, morc|tu||y, and Coc||y c||mbs |nto tho bod w|th us. |or dramat|c cry|ng |s shak|ng tho mattross, and l snap at hor, °3ho's s|oop|ng.
0on't wako hor up.'
°3orry,' sho wh|spors, and |ays hor hoad on my shou|dor. 1horo's not a sound trom hor attor that.
1onna ta||s |nto an unroachab|o s|oop, wh||o Coc||y and l dr|tt |n and out ot n|ghtmaros ot our own. l hoar Coc||y muttor|ng as sho st|rs bos|do mo, but
l can't roach o|thor ot my s|stor w|vos. Ovor and ovor l am runn|ng through tho troos w|th no |ron gato |n s|ght. 3omot|mos l'm drown|ng. 1ho wavos
sp|n mo ovor and ovor unt|| l don't know wh|ch way |s up.
l wako up gasp|ng. 1ho dampnoss on my nock |s Coc||y, prossod aga|nst mo, swoat|ng and cry|ng and droo||ng. |or ||ps aro mov|ng, try|ng to
mako words. |or oyobrows aro prossod togothor.
0own tho ha|| tho baby |s cry|ng and cry|ng, and Coc||y's sh|rt |s sta|nod w|th broast m||k, but sho |s novor a||owod to tood hor son. vaughn takos
h|m away. |o h|rod a wot nurso, and ho says |t w||| bo hoa|th|or tor Coc||y th|s way, but sho a|ways |ooks ||ko sho's |n pa|n.
Vy s|stor w|vos aro w||t|ng ||ko my mothor's ||||os, and l don't know how to rov|vo thom. l don't know what to do.
1onna opons hor oyos and |ooks mo ovor. °You |ook awtu|,' sho says hoarso|y. °What's that smo||?'
°3roast m||k,' l say.
At my tono, Coc||y bog|ns to st|r. 3ho's chok|ng on hor droo| and comp|a|n|ng about not ||k|ng tho mus|c. 1hon hor oyos opon and rog|stor
awaronoss, and sho s|ts up.
°What's happon|ng? Aro you too||ng bottor?'
1ho baby |s st||| cry|ng, and sho |ooks to tho doorway.
°l havo to tood h|m,' sho says, stumb||ng and h|tt|ng tho door tramo on hor way out.
°3omoth|ng's not r|ght w|th hor,' 1onna says.
°You'ro just now not|c|ng?' l say, and wo both |augh a ||tt|o.
1onna managos to s|t up, and l coax somo wator |nto hor. l th|nk sho's on|y dr|nk|ng |t tor my bonot|t. 3ho's pa|o, and hor ||ps aro ta|nt|y t|ntod purp|o.
l try compar|ng hor to loso, who was st||| ab|o to act hoa|thy on a good day. l th|nk ot how tho 1uno 3oans dyod hor mouth such r|d|cu|ous co|ors,
and l wondor |t that was part ot hor concoa|mont. And how hor taco was a|ways b|ushod w|th makoup. l th|nk ot how sho hatod tho mod|c|nos, how
sho boggod to bo |ott to d|o.
°Aro you |n a |ot ot pa|n?' l ask.
°l can't roa||y too| my arms or |ogs,' 1onna says. 3ho |aughs a ||tt|o. °3o l guoss l'm gott|ng out ot horo botoro you attor a||.'
°l|oaso don't say that.' l push tho ha|r trom hor torohoad.
°l had a droam that l was |n tho van w|th my s|stors,' sho says. °3ut thon somoono oponod tho door, and l |ookod at thom and saw you and Coc||y |n
tho|r p|acos. lh|no, l th|nk l'vo bogun to torgot what thoy |ookod ||ko. 3oundod ||ko.'
°l torgot my brothor's vo|co.' l on|y roa||zo |t onco l'vo sa|d tho words.
°3ut you don't torgot h|s taco. 3ocauso you'ro tw|ns.'
°You t|gurod that out, huh?'
°Your tw|n stor|os woro too v|v|d to bo t|ct|on,' sho says.
°3ut wo aron't |dont|ca| tw|ns,' l say. °3oys and g|r|s can't bo |dont|ca| tw|ns, you know. And l do torgot what ho |ooks ||ko a ||tt|o b|t.'
°You'|| soo h|m aga|n,' sho says, sound|ng suro about |t. °You novor to|d mo |t you mado |t |nto tho basomont.'
l nod, sn|tt|o, and try to d|sgu|so |t as a cough. °Wo'vo t|gurod out a p|an. Wo'ro |oav|ng noxt month. 3ut maybo l can stay awh||o |ongor.'
°l d|d not ||ght thoso curta|ns on t|ro tor noth|ng.
You'ro gott|ng out ot horo, and |t's go|ng to bo amaz|ng.'
°Como w|th us,' l say.
°lh|no . . .'
°You hato |t horo. 0o you roa||y want to spond what's |ott ot your ||to |n th|s bod?' l don't know what l th|nk troodom can do tor hor. 1hat sho'|| got to
soo tho ocoan.
1hat wo'|| watch tho sunr|so as troo bo|ngs. 1hat wo'|| bury hor at soa.
°lh|no, l'|| bo gono botoro you |oavo.'
°0on't say that!'
l rost my torohoad aga|nst hor shou|dor, and sho brushos hor t|ngors through my ha|r. 1oars aro throaton|ng boh|nd my oyos, but l torco thom away.
1ho ottort makos my ||p qu|vor. l'm try|ng to stay strong tor hor sako, but sho p|cks up oas||y on my d|stross. °lt's okay,' sho says. °lt's t|no.'
°You'ro crazy to say that.'
°lo,' sho says, draw|ng back so that l ra|so my hoad and |ook at hor. °1h|nk about how c|oso you aro to t|na||y hav|ng what you want.'
°What about you?' l say, |oudor than l moan to. 1ho qu|vor|ng has sproad to my hands, and l gr|p at tho b|ankot.
3ho sm||os. lt |s an oasy, boaut|tu| sm||o. °l'|| havo what l want too,' sho says.
ln tho days that to||ow, l|ndon starts spond|ng t|mo w|th 1onna. 3ut |t's not ||ko tho t|mo ho spont w|th mo attor my oscapo attompt, or Coc||y wh||o
sho was |n |abor. 1onna has novor ostab||shod horso|t as h|s w|to |n any omot|ona| capac|ty. |o s|ts on a cha|r or on tho d|van, novor on tho bod
w|th hor. |o doosn't touch hor.
l don't know what thoy ta|k about, th|s ostrangod husband and w|to who woro novor ovon acqua|ntod to bog|n w|th, but l can't ho|p but th|nk tho|r
convorsat|ons aro tho ob||gatory torm|na| d|scuss|ons you'd oxpoct to t|nd |n a hosp|ta|. l|ko ho's grant|ng hor |ast w|shos. l|ko ho's try|ng to got
somo c|osuro botoro sho goos.
°0|d you know 1onna had s|stors?' ho asks mo as wo'ro oat|ng d|nnor. lt's just tho two ot us. Coc||y |s catch|ng what ||tt|o proc|ous s|oop sho can,
and vaughn |s supposod to bo |n tho basomont work|ng on h|s m|rac|o ant|doto.
°Yos,' l say.
°3ho to||s mo thoy d|od, though. 3omo k|nd ot acc|dont,' ho says.
l try to oat, but chow|ng too|s arduous. 1ho tood ta||s down my throat and |nto an ompty p|t. l novor tasto |t. l wondor why, w|th a|| hor rosontmont,
1onna hasn't to|d l|ndon tho truth about hor s|stors. Vaybo |t |sn't worth tho onorgy. Vaybo koop|ng |t trom h|m |s hor u|t|mato torm ot sp|to. 3ho w|||
d|o, and ho w||| novor havo known hor at a||.
°l'vo novor roa||y undorstood that ono,' l|ndon says, dabb|ng h|s mouth w|th a napk|n. °3ut l know how tond you woro ot hor.'
°'Woro?' l st||| am,' l say. °3ho's st||| horo.'
°Ot courso. l'm sorry.'
Wo don't ta|k tor tho rost ot tho moa|, but ovon tho sound ot h|s s||vorwaro touch|ng tho p|ato |s gnaw|ng at mo. |o |s so pa|ntu||y c|uo|oss. Whon l
run away, l bot vaughn w||| to|| h|m l d|od, g|vo h|m somo tako ashos to scattor. And ho'|| bo |ott a|ono w|th Coc||y, who wantod th|s ||to trom tho start,
who w||| probab|y havo ha|t a dozon moro bab|os to t||| tho ompty spacos |n both ot tho|r ||vos. And thon thoy'|| both d|o, and vaughn w||| rop|aco
thom oas||y onough, bocauso ho's a t|rst gonorat|on, and who knows how |ong ho'|| ||vo. Our bodrooms w||| bo t|||od w|th now g|r|s attor wo'ro doad
and gono.
l|ndon and Coc||y. 1hoy'vo both boon so |so|atod that thoy don't ovon know what thoy'ro m|ss|ng. And that |s tor tho bost. 1hoy'|| say good-byo to
1onna and to mo, bury us |n somo dark p|aco |n tho|r hoarts, and carry on tor tho roma|ndor ot tho|r short ||vos. 1hoy'|| t|nd happ|noss |n ho|ograms
and |||us|ons.
ln anothor t|mo, |n anothor p|aco, l wondor who thoy m|ght havo boon.
1ho attondants como to tako our p|atos, and l|ndon trowns at how ||tt|o l'vo oaton. °You'ro go|ng to mako yourso|t s|ck,' ho says.
°l'm just t|rod,' l say. °l th|nk l'|| go to bod.'
Upsta|rs Coc||y's bodroom door |s opon, and l can hoar 3owon gurg||ng sott|y, broath|ng |n that cadoncod, raspy, nowborn way. 1ho ||ght |s ott, and
porhaps ho's |y|ng awako |n h|s cr|b wh||o Coc||y s|oops. l know th|s rout|no. lott unattondod, whon ho awakons trom a nap, ho w||| |nov|tab|y start to
cry. And whon ho cr|os, ho doosn't stop.
Vy p|an was to try to got somo s|oop, but |t's bottor to tako 3owon trom h|s cr|b botoro ho wakos up my s|stor w|vos. 3ut whon l stop |nto tho
bodroom, l t|nd 1onna s|tt|ng on tho odgo ot tho bod, |||um|natod |n a str|p ot ||ght trom tho ha||way. |or |ong ha|r cascados ovor ono shou|dor, and
hor taco |s t||tod down toward tho baby |n hor arms. Coc||y |s s|oop|ng undor tho covors boh|nd hor |n s||onco.
°1onna?' l wh|spor. 3ho sm||os w|thout ra|s|ng hor hoad.
°|o |ooks ||ko our husband,' sho says sott|y. °3ut l can to|| by h|s tompor that ho's go|ng to bo ||ko Coc||y. lt's too bad nono ot us w||| got to soo that.'
3ho |ooks so boaut|tu| ||ko th|s. 1ho darknoss h|dos hor pa|o comp|ox|on, hor purp||ng ||ps. |or n|ghtgown |s t|ors and t|ors ot |aco, hor ha|r a portoct
dark curta|n. And l am struck w|th tho pa|ntu| roa||zat|on that sho |ooks ||ko sho cou|d bo somobody's mothor. 1ho carog|vor, dott and gont|o, w|th
|ong capab|o t|ngors trac|ng 3owon's ha|t-moon taco. l wondor |t sho carod tor hor s|stors th|s way botoro thoy woro murdorod, tho way sho has
carod tor Coc||y. 1ho way sho has carod tor mo.
l swoar l'vo just watchod a toar ro|| trom tho cornor ot hor oyo, but sho sw|pos |t away botoro |t gots tar.
°|ow aro you too||ng?' l ask.
°A|| r|ght,' sho says. l torco myso|t to bo||ovo hor. 3ho |ooks so strong r|ght now, so young. °|oro, tako h|m tor a m|nuto, okay?' 3ho stands, and
whon sho wa|ks toward mo, l can soo that hor knoos aro tromb||ng. 3ho comos c|osor, and tho ||ght trom tho ha||way shows mo tho boads ot swoat
on hor taco, tho b|uo shadows undor hor oyos.
l |ot hor oaso tho baby |nto my arms, and sho wa|ks by mo w|th a|| tho prosonco ot a ghost, swoop|ng through tho spot whoro sho t||rtod w|th tho
batt|od attondant, whoro hundrods ot t|mos sho pacod toward hor room w|th hor noso |n a romanco novo|.
|or hand tra||s tho wa|| as sho makos hor way to hor bodroom and c|osos tho door. Vomonts |ator l hoar tho mang|od sounds ot hor cough|ng.
3owon, untazod by hor absonco, has ta||on as|oop. l onvy h|s comp|aconcy. l onvy h|s twonty-t|vo roma|n|ng yoars.
lator, l c|oso my bodroom door. l shut ott tho ||ghts.
l bury my taco |n my p|||ow and l scroam and scroam unt|| l'm so numb that l can't too| my arms and |ogs, just ||ko 1onna. And tho s||onco throbs.
lowan, my paronts, loso, tho Vanhattan harbor. 1h|ngs l m|ss. 1h|ngs l |ovo. 1h|ngs that l havo |ott boh|nd, or that havo ta||on through my t|ngors. l
want my mothor to como and k|ss mo good n|ght. l want my tathor to p|ay tho p|ano. l want my brothor to koop watch wh||o l s|oop, to g|vo mo a sw|g
ot vodka whon tho pa|n |s too bad. l m|ss h|m. l havon't a||owod myso|t to tru|y m|ss h|m |n a |ong t|mo, but now l can't ho|p |t. A t|oodgato has
oponod. And l'm so t|rod and so |ost, and l don't know |t l'|| ovor tru|y bo ab|o to oscapo. l don't know how l'|| bo ab|o to opon tho |ron gato w|th |ts
po|ntod t|owor. l w|po my toars on Gabr|o|'s handkorch|ot, wh|ch l'vo kopt h|ddon |n my p|||owcaso a|| th|s t|mo. ln tho darknoss l too| tho ombro|dory,
and l sob unt|| my throat |s raw, and l just hopo, hopo, hopo that l'|| mako |t homo.
l droam ot bo|ng cast |nto tho soa. l droam ot drown|ng, but th|s t|mo l don't thrash or strugg|o. l succumb.
And attor a wh||o, |n tho qu|ot ot tho undorwator, l can hoar my tathor's mus|c, and |t's not so bad.
ln tho morn|ng, Coc||y wakos mo |n toars. °1onna won't opon hor oyos,' sho says. °3ho's burn|ng up.'
Coc||y tonds to bo dramat|c, but whon l stumb|o, st||| ha|t-s|oop|ng, to 1onna's room, l can soo that |t's ovon worso than sho doscr|bod. Our s|stor
w|to's sk|n has pa|od and takon on a cruo| yo||ow t|ngo. 3ru|sos aro sproad|ng across hor throat and arms. lo, not bru|sos, thoy'ro moro ||ko
tostor|ng wounds. l touch hor torohoad, and sho makos a p|t|tu| croak|ng sound.
°1onna?' l wh|spor.
Coc||y pacos, c|onch|ng and unc|onch|ng hor t|sts. °l'm gott|ng |ousomastor vaughn,' sho says.
°lo.' l got onto tho mattross and br|ng 1onna's hoad |nto my |ap. °Go to tho bathroom and got a wot c|oth.'
°3ut-'
°1horo's noth|ng ho can do tor hor that wo can't do ourso|vos,' l say, torc|ng a ca|m tono.
Coc||y ob||gos, and l hoar hor sobb|ng as sho runs tho wator, but sho has composod horso|t whon sho roturns w|th tho wot c|oth. 3ho pu||s back tho
b|ankots and undoos tho top buttons ot 1onna's n|ghtgown to ho|p coo| tho tovor, and a|| tho wh||o l can soo hor strugg||ng to conta|n tho pan|c that's
t|||od up hor oyos. 0o my oyos |ook tho samo way? l'm s|tt|ng horo, ca|m|y runn|ng my t|ngors through 1onna's ha|r, but my hoart |s pound|ng, my
stomach |s s|ck. 1h|s |s so much worso than what l saw loso go through. 3o, so much worso.
|ours pass, and l th|nk th|s |s go|ng to bo tho ond ot my s|stor w|to. 3ho'|| novor opon hor oyos aga|n. Evon l hadn't oxpoctod |t to happon so tast.
Coc||y puts hor arms around mo and bur|os hor taco |n my nock. 3ut l havo no words ot comtort tor hor. lt takos a|| my ottort just to koop broath|ng.
°Wo shou|d got |ousomastor vaughn,' sho says, tor tho th|rd or tourth t|mo.
l shako my hoad. °3ho hatos h|m,' l say.
And thon 1onna |aughs. °Yop,' sho says. lt's a woak, garb|od sound, but Coc||y and l snap to attont|on, and wo soo tho sm||o on 1onna's purp|od
||ps. |or oyo|ashos t|uttor and sho opons hor oyos. 1hoy'ro not tho v|vac|ous th|ngs thoy onco woro. 1hoy'ro oor|o and d|stant. 3ut thoro's st||| ||to |n
thom. 3ho's st||| w|th us.
°||,' Coc||y croons, knoo||ng at tho bods|do and tak|ng 1onna's hand |n both ot hors. °|ow aro you too||ng?'
°Groat,' 1onna says, and hor oyos ro|| back as sho c|osos thom.
°Can wo got you anyth|ng?' l say.
°A tunno| ot ||ght,' sho says, and l th|nk sho's try|ng to sm|rk.
°0on't say th|ngs ||ko that,' Coc||y says. °l|oaso don't. l can road to you |t you'd ||ko. l'vo gotton much bottor at |t.'
1onna opons hor oyos |ong onough to watch Coc||y t||p through ono ot tho many books p||od on tho n|ghtstand, and thon sho |aughs aga|n, and |t's
moro pa|ntu| to hoar than botoro. °1hat ono's not oxact|y doath bod appropr|-ato, Coc||y.'
l can't stand th|s. l |ook at 1onna and a|| l can soo |s th|s th|ng that's k||||ng hor. 1h|s vo|co doosn't ovon sound ||ko hors.
°l don't caro. l'|| road |t anyway,' Coc||y says. °1horo's a bookmark |n tho m|dd|o, so l'|| start thoro. You shou|d at |oast got to soo how |t onds.'
°3k|p to tho |ast pago, thon,' 1onna says. °l'm not mado ot t|mo.' And thon hor chost convu|sos and b|ood and vom|t sp||| trom hor mouth. l turn hor
onto hor s|do and rub hor back wh||o sho strugg|os to cough |t a|| up. Coc||y cr|ngos, hor oyos t||||ng w|th toars. l don't know how Coc||y has tho
onorgy to cry so much. l can baro|y mustor tho onorgy to movo. 1ust bo|ng a||vo too|s so arduous that a|| l want to do |s c||mb undor tho covors and
s|oop.
lt sooms |mposs|b|o that l ovor had tho strongth ovon to wa|k.
l s|opt tor days attor my paronts d|od. Wooks. Unt|| my brothor cou|dn't tako |t anymoro. Oot op, ho sa|d.
7boy`ro oooo. ¼o`ro o|lvo. ¼o bovo tblogs to oo.
1onna chokos and gasps. l can soo tho notchos |n hor sp|no through hor gown. Whon d|d sho bocomo so th|n?
1horo's baro|y any ||to |ott |n hor whon sho's through cough|ng and vom|t|ng. 3ho ro||s onto hor back, oyos shut, mot|on|oss oxcopt tor hor jaggod
broath|ng. 3ho doosn't ovon movo whon Coc||y and l str|p tho ru|nod bodshoots trom undor hor.
3ho s|oops tho morn|ng away, baro|y mumb||ng whon Coc||y and l chango hor so||od n|ghtgown and dab at hor w|th coo| c|oths. |or sk|n |s bru|sod
ovorywhoro, so trans|ucont and marb|od w|th vo|ns that l hos|tato to touch hor. 3omo ot tho bru|sos havo startod to b|ood.
lt's ||ko hor body |s rott|ng trom tho |ns|do out. |or ha|r has bocomo th|n, |ocks ot |t ta|| out at a t|mo. l swoop |t away. Coc||y roads a|oud trom tho
romanco novo|, wh|ch |s a|| about hoa|thy young |ovors and summor k|ssos. 3ho pausos somot|mos to c|oar tho sobs caught |n hor throat.
Wo d|sm|ss tho attondants who como w|th mod|cat|ons, attor 1onna provos too woak to swa||ow p|||s, and ta||s to koop down anyth|ng o|so thoy try
to g|vo hor.
lt gots to bo so bad that 1onna, hazy and baro|y ab|o to spoak, starts to h|do hor taco |n my or Coc||y's n|ghtgown whon sho hoars tootstops
approach|ng. l know what sho's try|ng to to|| us. lt's tho samo th|ng that loso was bogg|ng tor. 3ho doosn't want to pro|ong th|s m|sory.
3ho doosn't strugg|o w|th Ada|r, though, and so wo a||ow h|m |n. |or domost|c |s ||ght on h|s toot and unassum|ng w|th h|s touch. |o rubs a sa|vo on
hor chost that takos tho croak|noss out ot hor broath|ng. And ho doosn't stay |ongor than ho has to. |o a|ways ravod about 1onna's boauty, and ho
undorstands that sho doosn't want anyono to w|tnoss hor dy|ng |n such a h|doous way.
3y |ato attornoon, l|ndon |s concornod onough to chock on us. lmmod|ato|y h|s taco changos whon ho crossos tho throsho|d. |o can smo|| |t: tho
hoavy stonch ot docay and swoat and b|ood. l can soo |n h|s oyos that th|s |s tam|||ar. |o spont tho t|na| days at loso's s|do. 3ut ho doosn't
approach th|s w|to. l know 1onna a|ways kopt an omot|ona| d|stanco trom l|ndon, that tho|r marr|ago was puro|y soxua|, but l wondor |t l|ndon was
part|y to b|amo tor that too. Attor |os|ng loso, ho d|dn't want to |ovo anothor woman ho wou|d out||vo. l havo as many yoars |ott as ho doos, and
Coc||y w||| out||vo us both. 3ut 1onna . . .
l|ndon |ooks so p|toous and apo|ogot|c, stand|ng thoro. ||s throo w|vos aro hudd|od togothor on tho baro mattross, ono ot thom dy|ng, whon wo'ro
togothor, wo torm an a|||anco ho can't touch. |o's scarod to ovon try.
°l torgot to tood 3owon, d|dn't l?' Coc||y says whon sho soos hor son |n l|ndon's arms.
°lt's a|| r|ght, |ovo. 1horo's tho wot nurso tor that,' l|ndon says. °l'm moro worr|od about you.'
l can't |mag|no why l|ndon wou|d br|ng h|s son horo, un|oss ho's too||ng |ono|y and hopod |t wou|d |uro Coc||y away to spond somo t|mo w|th h|m. lt
doosn't work.
Coc||y bur|os hor taco aga|nst 1onna's arm and c|osos hor oyos. l c|oso my oyos too. Wo'ro |n tho Gathorors' van a|| ovor aga|n, roco|||ng |nto tho
darknoss, want|ng to d|sappoar |n tho satoty ot ono anothor.
°1ho attondants sa|d you'vo boon turn|ng thom away,' l|ndon says. °At |oast |ot mo sond somoono up w|th trosh bodshoots.'
°lo,' Coc||y murmurs. °0on't sond anyono. 1o|| thom a|| to |oavo hor a|ono.'
°Can't l do anyth|ng?' ho says.
°lo,' l say.
°lo,' Coc||y ochoos.
l can too| our husband stand|ng |n tho doorway. 1ho c|osonoss ot h|s w|vos tr|ghtons h|m, as |t ono dy|ng w|to cou|d bo tho doath ot a|| throo.
Evontua||y ho |oavos w|thout anothor word.
1onna muttors a word l can't undorstand. l th|nk |t's a namo. l th|nk sho's |ook|ng tor hor s|stors.
°lt's not sato tor you horo,' sho says. l don't know |t sho's ta|k|ng to hor s|stors, or to us.
1onna was r|ght. 3ho |oavos botoro l do. Wo |oso hor on 1anuary 1, |n tho oar|y hours botoro tho sun comos up. lt's just
Coc||y and mo at hor s|do, and attor days ot ||v|ng |n hor bod, a|| that was |ott was tor us to ta|k to hor tor a wh||o as hor oyos t|uttorod opon and shut.
Wo wantod hor to know sho wasn't a|ono. |or a|| our months togothor as s|stor w|vos, l shou|d havo had somoth|ng moan|ngtu| to say to hor, but |n
tho ond l cou|d on|y br|ng myso|t to ta|k about tho woathor as l watchod hor d|o.
And now sho's gono. |or oyos aro st||| opon, but thoy'vo takon on a doopor shado ot gray. |o||ow. l|ko a mach|no that's boon unp|uggod. l |owor
hor oyo||ds w|th my thumb and |ndox t|ngor, and thon l k|ss hor torohoad.
3ho's st||| warm. |or body st||| |ooks ||ko |t's about to draw a broath.
Coc||y stands and bog|ns to paco. 3ho touchos hor torohoad, hor chost. °l don't undorstand,' sho says. °lt happonod so tast.'
l th|nk ot how happy sho was whon loso d|od, how sho |mmod|ato|y assortod horso|t as tho ono w||||ng to boar l|ndon's ch||d. 1hoy'vo a|roady
ta|kod about hav|ng moro.
°|ousomastor vaughn shou|d havo boon ab|o to pro|ong-'
°0on't mont|on h|s namo,' l say t|orco|y, but l don't know why l'm gott|ng upsot w|th hor. l havon't boon ab|o to stand tho s|ght ot hor s|nco 1onna
bocamo s|ck, and l'm not suro why that |s. 3ut now |sn't tho t|mo to dwo|| on |t.
l tuck 1onna's |ong ha|r boh|nd hor oars and try to comprohond hor st|||noss. 3ho's ||ko a wax t|guro, whon on|y a m|nuto ago sho was a human
bo|ng. Coc||y gots |nto tho bod w|th hor and bur|os hor taco |n 1onna's nock and says hor namo. 1onna, 1onna, 1onna. Ovor and ovor, ||ko |t w||| do
any good.
lt |sn't |ong botoro vaughn comos to chock on 1onna's v|ta|s. |o doosn't ovon havo to approach tho bod. |o can soo |n Coc||y's toars, |n my d|stant
gazo out tho w|ndow, that our s|stor w|to |s gono. |o says |t's a p|ty but whon ho chockod on hor |ast n|ght ho know sho wou|dn't bo |ong tor th|s
wor|d.
Whon tho attondants and tho|r gurnoy como tor 1onna's body, Coc||y |s st||| ho|d|ng on. 3ut sho's too d|s-traught to protost whon 1onna's hand |s
pu||od trom hor grasp. °3o bravo,' |s a|| Coc||y says.
l hoar hor a short wh||o |ator. 3ho's |n tho s|tt|ng room, p|ay|ng an angry 3ach |n 0 m|nor. 1ho koys aro ||ko tho tootstops ot doath storm|ng down tho
ha||.
l ||ston to |t as l ||o on my bodroom t|oor, too borott ovon to movo toward my bod. l |mag|no th|s groat mus|c pour|ng out ot Coc||y's sma|| body, notos
hovor|ng around hor |n rods and b|acks, ||ko a dark gon|o awokon trom |ts s|umbor.
l wa|t tor hor mus|c to stop. l wa|t tor hor to appoar |n my doorway, toary-oyod, ask|ng |t sho can ||o bos|do mo tor a wh||o tho way sho a|ways doos
whon sho's upsot.
3ut sho doosn't como. lnstoad my doorway |s t|||od w|th hor angry, toar|oss song.
Bo brovo, |t sooms to say.
l want to bo away trom horo. l want to oscapo now. l can't stand to bo |n th|s mans|on, w|th vaughn do|ng who knows what to my s|stor w|to's body
wh||o tho rost ot us aro oxpoctod to oat our d|nnor and dr|nk our toa. Coc||y carr|os 3owon around ||ko ho's hor ||tt|o rag do||, and tho two ot thom aro
rod trom cry|ng. |o's tho most d|scontont baby on tho p|anot. lrobab|y moans ho's |ntu|t|vo.
W|th|n hours vaughn g|vos us tho ashos to scattor, and Coc||y c||ngs to tho urn. 3ho asks |t |t wou|d bo a|| r|ght tor hor to koop 1onna's ashos on a
sho|t |n hor room.
lt w||| mako hor too| bottor. l say that's t|no by mo, and qu|ot|y l rosont hor |gnoranco.
ln bod that n|ght l hoar a sott knock at tho door, but l don't answor. lart|y bocauso l don't want to soo anyono, but most|y bocauso l am a m||||on
m||os trom oarth. l havo boon |y|ng |n tho dark tor what sooms ||ko torovor, ||ston|ng to tho d|stant sobs ot a g|r| who has possossod my sk|n. l am
t|oat|ng |n spaco.
Whon l do phaso back to my sonsos, tho wa|||ng sounds com|ng trom mo aro torr|b|o and |nhuman.
1ho door opons, t||||ng my bodroom w|th ||ght, and l cur| away trom |t, just ||ko l d|d |n tho van. l too| a|| at onco how hoavy my body |s, how raw my
throat |s trom a|| tho scroam|ng. Vy v|s|on |s b|urry and wot.
°lh|no?' l|ndon says. ||s vo|co |s baro|y tam|||ar. l don't want to soo h|m, and l try to to|| h|m to go away, but whon l opon my mouth, thoro aro on|y
thoso un|nto|||g|b|o sounds. |o s|ts on tho odgo ot tho bod and rubs my back. l try to shrug h|m away, but l don't havo tho strongth.
°3woothoart, you'ro scar|ng mo. l'vo novor soon you ||ko th|s.'
1hat's r|ght. l'm lh|no, tho orphan who tra|nod to bo h|s br|do, who |s happy to bo horo. Vaybo |n h|s m|nd l shou|d ovon bo happy bocauso ono
doad s|stor w|to moans moro ot h|s t|mo can bo dovotod to mo. 3ut l was a|ways moro ot a s|stor w|to than an actua| w|to. l can't |mag|no bo|ng |n
th|s marr|ago w|th h|m a|ono.
°What can l do tor you?' |o knoo|s by tho bod, pushos tho ha|r trom my taco. l staro at h|m through a moss ot toars. 5ot mo íroo, l th|nk. 5ooo mo
bock to |ost yoor. Olvo 1oooo bor slstors bock.
l just shako my hoad. l covor my taco w|th my t|sts, but ho movos thom away, and l don't put up any k|nd ot a t|ght.
°lt's a now yoar now,' ho says sott|y. °1horo's a party tomorrow n|ght. Wou|d you ||ko that?'
°lo,' l choko out.
°Yos, you wou|d,' ho says. °0o|rdro |s a|roady work|ng hard on your dross, and Ada|r |s ovon ho|p|ng hor.'
Ada|r. What's to bocomo ot h|m now that 1onna |s gono? |o workod tor hor, and hor a|ono. 1hough, thoro wasn't much to do-1onna was so so|t-
sutt|c|ont, and sho raro|y had any causo to woar now c|othos. Vaybo |t makos h|m too| usotu| to ho|p w|th my dross. l can't just throw |t back |n
Ada|r's taco. l swa||ow a |ump |n my throat and nod assont.
°1horo. 1hat's bottor,' l|ndon says. 3ut l can soo |n h|s oyos that ho knows l'm |n pa|n. Vaybo as much pa|n as ho to|t whon ho |ost loso. Whon sho
d|od, ho throw th|ngs, scroamod tor a|| ot us to go away. 3o doosn't ho undorstand that l want to bo a|ono too?
3ut ho's not hav|ng |t. °Vovo ovor,' ho says sott|y, and ||tts up tho b|ankots and c||mbs |nto tho bod w|th mo.
Whon ho pu||s mo to h|s chost, l don't know |t |t's moant to comtort mo or h|m. 3ut l crump|o |n h|s arms and succumb aga|n qu|ck|y to toars. l try to
t|oat |nto outor spaco, to d|sappoar trom th|s m|sorab|o wor|d tor a wh||o, but a|| n|ght l'm kopt t|rm|y |n p|aco by h|s trag||o bonos.
Evon as l phaso |n and out ot a rost|oss s|oop, l too| h|m thoro, ho|d|ng mo w|th moro strongth than l thought ho had.
As l oxpoctod, 0o|rdro and Ada|r parado |nto my room tho to||ow|ng attornoon w|th a stunn|ng dross.
ln Vanhattan thoro's not much causo to attond a low Yoar's co|obrat|on. lt's an occas|on rosorvod most|y tor t|rst gonorat|ons who havo tho woa|th
and |ongov|ty to co|obrato. lt's a|so an opportun|ty tor orphans to broak |nto unattondod housos |n moro wo||-to-do aroas. lowan and l wou|d spond
tho t|rst n|ghts ot tho now yoar ramp|ng up socur|ty and mak|ng suro tho gun was |oadod. lt's a|so somoth|ng ot a troo-tor-a|| tor Gathorors. 1horo
aro a|| thoso drunk, gorgoous, mothor|oss g|r|s who danco and so|| spark|ors |n tho park. lowan won't ovon |ot mo |oavo tho houso to go to work,
|t's so unsato.
lowan. l worry about how ho's do|ng, a|ono |n that houso w|th on|y tho rats to ho|p h|m koop watch.
1ho t|rst gonorat|on attondants butt and wax mo to a sh|no, and thon 0o|rdro goos to work on my makoup wh||o Ada|r w|nds my ha|r around a
cur||ng |ron. lt's a|ways cur|s. °1hoy opon up your oyos,' Ada|r says droam||y. 0o|rdro coats my ||ps w|th rod and to||s mo to b|ot.
Coc||y comos |n tor a wh||o and s|ts on tho d|van to watch. vaughn has takon 3owon ott somowhoro to draw h|s b|ood or ana|yzo h|s 0lA, or
whatovor |t |s ho's do|ng to that poor ch||d |n tho namo ot an ant|doto, and Coc||y sooms |ost w|thout tho baby to caro tor. Ovor tho courso ot sovora|
months l watchod hor go trom a g|gg||ng toonago br|do to a swo||on stomach, and l cou|d havo novor |mag|nod that sho'd bo any k|nd ot mothor.
And now, suddon|y, |t sooms sho doosn't know how to bo anyth|ng o|so.
°0o hor makoup,' l to|| Ada|r, who |s busy|ng h|mso|t by |nspoct|ng my dross, wh|ch |s a|roady portoct. °0on't you th|nk sho wou|d |ook n|co |n
purp|os?' l havo no |doa what l'm ta|k|ng about, l just can't stand to soo Coc||y |ook|ng so sad.
°Earth tonos,' 0o|rdro cr|os, wh||o sho p|ns tako baby's broath to my ha|r c||p. °W|th that ha|r and thoso oyos?
You nood browns and groons tor suro.' 3ho w|nks at mo |n tho m|rror.
l mako room tor Coc||y on tho ottoman, and wo s|t back-to-back wh||o tho domost|cs mako us spark|o. Coc||y throatons to hurt Ada|r |t ho stabs hor
|n tho oyo w|th tho mascara wand, but sho ro|axos a ||tt|o whon sho roa||zos ho knows what ho's do|ng. And thon |t's k|nd ot n|co.
l|ko wo'ro roa||y s|stors, and ||ko thoro |sn't tho prom|so ot an oar|y doath hang|ng ovor us.
°What do you th|nk tho party w||| bo ||ko?' Coc||y asks mo, b|ott|ng hor ||pst|ck |nto a t|ssuo Ada|r ho|ds out tor hor.
°loth|ng tancy,' l say, st||| not want|ng to ont|co hor w|th somoth|ng sho won't got to soo. Vaybo onco l'm gono, l|ndon w||| tako hor out. 3ho wou|d
|ovo tho choco|ato tounta|ns, and somoth|ng to||s mo sho wou|d ||ko tho attont|on ot tho |ouso Govornors and arch|tocts k|ss|ng hor hand and to|||ng
hor how protty sho |ooks. °lt's just a bunch ot r|ch drunks a|| drossod up, ta|k|ng bus|noss.'
°W||| you br|ng mo somo oc|a|rs?' sho asks.
°lt thoy havo thom, suro.'
3ho takos my hand, and |t's sma|| and warm. A ch||d's hand. 3ho was so oagor to abandon hor youth, |n th|s wor|d that has sto|on tho |uxury ot t|mo,
and l wondor who sho wou|d havo boon |t on|y sho cou|d havo had moro yoars to ||vo. Whon l'm gono, w||| sho assumo t|rst w|to? W||| sho ombraco
womanhood ont|ro|y? l too| ||ko l'vo ta||od hor somohow. lt was hard onough to watch 1onna s||p away, and horo l am p|ann|ng to |oavo tho s|stor
w|to l havo |ott. l worry about how sho'|| hand|o |os|ng mo.
3ut |t not now, |t wou|d bo |ator. ln |oss than tour yoars sho wou|d bo at my bods|do, watch|ng mo d|o.
l squoozo hor hand. °0o|ng okay?' l ask.
°Yos,' l can hoar tho sm||o |n hor vo|co. °1hank you.'
Vy dross |s a short strap|oss numbor, |n a sh|mmor|ng aqua w|th b|ack poar|s sown |nto vaguo|y t|ora| t|rowork shapos up ono s|do. A b|ack poar|
chokor wraps around my throat, and b|ack |ogg|ngs and g|ovos w||| koop mo warm aga|nst tho b|t|ng 1anuary co|d. 0o|rdro tops |t ott w|th a b|ack
r|bbon tor my ha|r, to go ovor tho baby's broath, and a ||ght coat ot g||ttor that rom|nds mo ot Coc||y's wodd|ng gown. 3ho soomod so happy thon,
t|uttor|ng ahoad ot mo to tho gazobo.
low sho stands back and adm|ros my comp|otod onsomb|o. 3ho suddon|y |ooks so grown-up w|th hor taco arttu||y co|orod |n oarth tonos. |or ha|r
|s cur|od ||ko m|no, and sho's boaut|tu| ovon |n hor rump|od n|ghtgown.
°You |ook groat,' sho says. °You'ro gonna k||| ton|ght.'
l don't to|| hor that, dross or not, l havo no dos|ro to go to th|s party. l wou|d much rathor craw| |nto that bod and pu|| tho covors ovor my taco and cry.
3ut thoso aro not tho act|ons ot a t|rst w|to. And 0o|rdro, Ada|r, and Coc||y aro watch|ng mo, so l sm||o |n that way that my mothor rosorvod tor my
tathor.
lt scaros mo how oas||y l can protond to bo |n |ovo w|th th|s ||to, and tho husband who comos w|th |t.
l|ndon shows up |n a s|mp|o b|ack tuxodo-standard dross att|ro tor a|| ot tho |ouso Govornors, l'vo not|cod, but h|s |apo|s aro tho samo aqua as
my dross. l catch our rot|oct|on |n tho mota| o|ovator doors, arm |n arm, a portoct match. 1ho doors opon. Wo stop |ns|do.
°|avo tun!' Coc||y says.
Whon tho doors havo c|osod, l|ndon says, °|as sho boon a ||tt|o strango |ato|y?'
l'm not suro how to rospond, bocauso l havo not|cod a chango |n Coc||y. Evon s|nco botoro 1onna's doath, sho has boon odd|y tor|orn. 3ut l th|nk |t
m|ght havo somoth|ng to do w|th vaughn's constant|y tak|ng 3owon trom hor. And who knows what ho's do|ng to h|m. lt's common know|odgo that
now bab|os aro tho tost subjocts tor woa|thy housoho|ds sook|ng tho m|rac|o ant|doto, but vaughn has boon so socrot|vo and 3owon |ooks
unscathod. l a|so can't t|nd a n|co way to to|| l|ndon that l th|nk ho was so|t|sh and wrong to |mprognato such a young g|r| |n tho t|rst p|aco. And
maybo l'm worr|od ho'|| start pross|ng mo tor ch||dron aga|n. At s|xtoon l'm pract|ca||y an o|d ma|d.
°3ho's just t|rod,' l rop|y. °You shou|d ho|p hor w|th tho baby moro.'
°l'd |ovo to,' l|ndon says. °3otwoon Coc||y and my tathor, l'm |ucky l ovon romombor what my own son |ooks ||ko.'
°l|ndon,' l vonturo, caut|ous|y. °What do you supposo your tathor |s do|ng w|th tho baby a|| tho t|mo?'
°Von|tor|ng h|s hoart rato, draw|ng h|s b|ood to bo suro ho's hoa|thy, l supposo.' |o shrugs.
°And that sooms norma| to you?' l say.
°What's norma|?' ho says. °1ho t|rst gonorat|ons d|dn't ovon roa||zo tho|r ch||dron woro dy|ng unt|| twonty yoars |ator whon |t startod happon|ng. Who
knows what w||| happon to our ch||dron?'
|o has a po|nt. l staro at my g||ttory hoo|s. |oro l am |n a protty dross wh||o tho wor|d ta||s apart. l can hoar 1onna's vo|co say|ng, Loo`t íorgot bow
yoo got boro. Loo`t íorgot.
l|ndon grabs my hand. At t|mos ||ko thoso l th|nk ho's as tr|ghtonod as l am. l g|vo h|m a sma|| sm||o, and ho bumps h|s shou|dor aga|nst m|no. 1ho
sm||o grows.
°1hat's bottor,' ho says.
ln tho ||mo ho pours us oach a g|ass ot champagno, but l don't t|n|sh m|no and l stop h|m trom t|n|sh|ng h|s a|so.
°1horo w||| bo p|onty moro at tho party,' l say.
°3pokon ||ko a truo t|rst w|to.' |o |aughs and k|ssos my tomp|o. l b|ush |n sp|to ot myso|t. lt's tho t|rst t|mo ho's sa|d tho words out |oud. ||rst w|to. lt's
on|y tor a tow days |ongor, but l can protond, tor h|s sako, that that |sn't so.
°0o you supposo thoro w||| bo camoras?' l ask.
°1ons,' ho says. And ho |ooks a ||tt|o worr|od. °Vaybo l shou|d havo askod you to woar thoso groon contacts,' ho says. °l don't want tho who|o wor|d
know|ng just how oxtraord|nary you aro.'
l stra|ghton h|s t|o. °Aro my oyos what mako mo spoc|a| to you?'
°lo,' ho says. ||s vo|co has bocomo sott and droamy.
|o pushos tho cur|s trom my taco. °1hoy aro on|y a r|pp|o on tho surtaco.'
l sm||o. |or a momont l th|nk th|s |s tho way my tathor to|t about my mothor, and l cou|d a|most swoar th|s marr|ago was roa|. A strangor pass|ng by
wou|d th|nk wo had boon togothor tor yoars, that wo p|annod to ||vo tho rost ot our ||vos togothor. l a|ways know l was an oxco||ont ||ar, l just d|dn't
know l had |t |n mo to too| myso|t.
Wo ontor tho party w|th our arms ||nkod togothor, and w|th tho mus|c b|ast|ng |t's oasy tor us to bo unnot|cod.
1ho party |s bo|ng thrown |n an upsca|o bar that has p|attorms and a sp|ra| sta|rcaso. 1ho top two p|attorms aro mado ot somo sort ot ono-s|dod
g|ass, so that wo can soo can soo tho poop|o bo|ow but not tho poop|o abovo us. l'm ro||ovod, bocauso th|s moans nobody can |ook up my dross.
And somoth|ng to||s mo somo ot thoso |ouso Govornors wou|d try.
lt takos approx|mato|y two m|nutos tor ono ot vaughn's co||oaguos to approach us, w|th two g|gg||ng brunottos on h|s arms carry|ng noon g|assos.
1hoy |ook baro|y o|dor than Coc||y. 1hoy'ro drossod |n match|ng tuchs|a drossos that |ook ||ko p|ast|c wrap wound around tho|r angu|ar bod|os. |o
|ntroducos thom as h|s w|vos-tw|ns, oach ot thom prognant-and whon ho k|ssos my hand, both womon staro at mo w|th contompt.
°1hoy'ro joa|ous ot your boauty,' l|ndon wh|spors whon thoy'vo gono. °You |ook stunn|ng, by tho way. 3tay c|oso so nobody snatchos you up.'
l|ght. 3o|ng snatchod onco |s onough tor a ||tot|mo.
l do stay c|oso to h|m, though, bocauso l don't trust any ot thoso mon, and bocauso most ot tho othor w|vos my ago soom to a|roady bo drunk. 1h|s
|s a post-low Yoar's party, and l|ndon oxp|a|ns that at m|dn|ght thoy'|| rop|ay tho countdown to tho now yoar. Whon l ask h|m why, ho says, °Who
knows. 3ut wo on|y havo so many now yoars |ott |n ||to. What's tho harm |n add|ng a tow moro?'
°Good po|nt,' l say, and ho pu||s mo onto tho danco t|oor.
l do bottor w|th s|ow dancos, wh|ch baro|y |nvo|vo any mot|on at a||, but ono |ook at tho t||ckor|ng strobo ||ghts to||s mo thoro w||| bo no s|ow mus|c
ton|ght. l try to koop up w|th l|ndon, who pat|ont|y gu|dos mo a|ong, and a|| l can th|nk ot |s 1onna. |ow sho taught Coc||y and mo hor danco movos
on that attornoon botoro tho hurr|cano h|t.
3ho wou|d |ovo th|s party, ovon |t sho wasn't tond ot l|ndon. 3ho wou|d bo broak|ng hoarts and crush|ng thom undor hor hoo|s as sho wh|r|od about
tho p|attorm. l havo an urgo to to|| hor about tho party whon l got homo, and thon l romombor that sho's gono.
l|ndon d|ps mo ovor h|s arm. |o's |n h|gh sp|r|ts, cons|dor|ng how ||tt|o ho's had to dr|nk. Whon l'm swopt back to my toot, ho p|ants a qu|ck k|ss on
my ||ps.
°V|nd |t l cut |n?' a man asks. And porhaps °man' |sn't ovon tho r|ght word. |o can hard|y bo any o|dor than l am. |o's short and pudgy, and h|s
carrot ha|r |s rot|oct|ng back tho ra|nbow ot ||ghts. ||s pa|o sk|n |s so washod out l can baro|y mako out h|s toaturos. 1horo's a ta|| b|ondo on h|s arm
|n a br|ght rod dross that matchos hor ||ps. 3ho |ooks sobor, as sho |ooks l|ndon up and down.
l|ndon hos|tatos and |ooks at mo.
°Como on!' tho man says. °1ust tor ono danco. Wo'|| swap w|vos.'
°A|| r|ght,' l|ndon says, tak|ng tho rod dross's hand and pass|ng mo ovor to tho carrot-hoad. °3ut l'm rathor tond ot my lh|no. 0on't got too
attachod.'
l too| nausoous. 1ho man smo||s ||ko an untortunato assortmont ot a|| tho moats on tho do|| p|attor, and ho's had too much to dr|nk. |o stops on my
b|ack shoos moro than onco, marr|ng thom w|th d|rty tootpr|nts. |o's so short that l can soo r|ght ovor h|s hoad, and l'm watch|ng l|ndon danco w|th
th|s man's w|to, and sho sooms to bo hav|ng tho t|mo ot hor ||to. 3ho's probab|y ro||ovod to bo w|th a husband who knows what ho's do|ng. 3ut ho
|sn't hor husband! |o's m|no.
1ho thought stops mo |n my tracks. 1ho pudgy carrot-hoad crashos |nto my broasts and |aughs. °You suro aro c|umsy, baby,' ho says. 3ut l baro|y
hoar h|m. V|no?
lo. l|ndon |s not m|no. lt's a|| an act. 1hoso part|os, tho koy card, th|s t|rst w|to bus|noss-|t's |nsubstant|a|. ln a tow days Gabr|o| and l w||| run
away, and th|s who|o ||to w||| bo a d|stant momory. What was l th|nk|ng?
l torco myso|t to |ook away trom l|ndon and tho b|ondo, who |s c|oar|y onjoy|ng danc|ng w|th a man hor own ho|ght. And whon th|s danco onds, l
d|sappoar to tho dossort tab|o and scoop up somo oc|a|rs and choco|ato m|n|-cakos tor Coc||y botoro tho good onos aro takon.
Ono ot tho attondants ottors to rotr|gorato thom tor mo unt|| l'm roady to |oavo.
l hang back and watch tho bod|os danc|ng |n tho chaot|c ||ghts. lod, groon, b|uo, wh|to, orango. lmagos ot co|ortu| stars sp|n around tho wa||s. l am
t|oat|ng on th|s g|ass p|ato. 3o|ow mo, moro bod|os, moro ||ghts, moro mus|c ratt||ng tho t|oor. And as l watch thom, l bocomo moro approc|at|vo ot
0o|rdro's tash|on sonso. Vost ot thoso othor w|vos |ook as though thoy'ro woar|ng t|n-to||. lots ot s||vors and mota|||c p|nks and groons and baby
b|uos. l|attorm shoos w|th s|x-|nch hoo|s and oxaggoratod poar| nock|acos that |ook ||ko thoy wo|gh a ton.
Vost ot tho womon woar so much makoup that tho ||ghts mako thom appoar rad|oact|vo. 1ho|r tooth aro g|ow|ng.
A tow ot tho w|vos pu|| mo |nto tho|r danco c|rc|o, and l a||ow |t. lt's a good opportun|ty tor tho camoras to t||m mo. And |t's bottor than danc|ng w|th
tho|r husbands, at |oast, and actua||y |t's protty tun. Vost ot thom, ||ko mo, don't havo any |doa how to danco. 1ho|r jowo|ry c|attors togothor, and wo
tw|tch ||ko wo'ro dy|ng, and wo ho|d hands, and our |aughtor d|sappoars |n tho mus|c. l'vo a|ways had causo to toar low Yoar's co|obrat|ons
bocauso ot tho Gathorors, l'vo a|ways had to worry about who wou|d bo broak|ng |nto my homo. 3ut l'm sato horo, ab|o to onjoy tho tood and th|s
dross and tho mus|c, and ab|o to g|gg|o at my c|umsy danco stops. Attondants carry trays ot dr|nks |n throbb|ng noon cups, and, st||| mov|ng, l sw|po
ono and down |t |n soconds. 1ho a|coho| sproads warmth to my oxtrom|t|os. And l havo to adm|t tho party |s mak|ng mo too| bottor.
1horo's comtort to tho ropot|t|vonoss ot thoso part|os.
Whothor |t's a tako low Yoar's bash or a chr|ston|ng party, tho thomo |s tho samo: ||to. Enjoy |t wh||o |t |asts.
1hon tho ||ghts stop t||ckor|ng and tho mus|c d|os down, and a vo|co announcos through tho spoakors that thoro's ono m|nuto unt|| m|dn|ght. 1ho
w|vos a|| scurry ott to t|nd tho|r husbands, and l'm a|ono tor a tow soconds botoro l|ndon grabs my wr|st and l too| h|s tam|||ar chost pross|ng
aga|nst my back. °1horo you aro,' ho says.
°l'vo boon |ook|ng tor you a|| n|ght.'
°Whoro's your g|r|tr|ond?' l say, botoro l can stop myso|t.
°What? What aro you ta|k|ng about?'
°loth|ng,' l say as ho turns mo to taco h|m. °l just torgot you havo a woaknoss tor b|ondos.'
°Oh, hor?' ho says. °|or husband's tathor |s a contractor l'vo boon work|ng w|th. l thought |t wou|d bonot|t mo to stay on h|s good s|do.'
°Okay,' l say, watch|ng as a g|ant scroon on tho wa|| counts down tho soconds to m|dn|ght.
1wonty. . . n|notoon. . .
°0on't bo mad,' l|ndon says, squooz|ng my hands.
1hoy'ro swoat|ng |n tho b|ack g|ovos. °l d|dn't ||ko watch|ng you danco w|th h|m, o|thor. ln tact l wantod to apo|og|zo tho momont tho mus|c stoppod,
but you'd d|sappoarod.'
1on. . . n|no. . .
|o t||ts my ch|n, torc|ng mo to |ook at h|m. Ot a|| tho Govornors and |ousomastors horo, ho's tho on|y ono l wou|d a||ow to touch mo |n th|s way. |o's
tam|||ar, ||ko |t or not. 1ho c|osost th|ng l havo to homo th|s tar down tho coast.
°You'ro tho on|y b|ondo l havo a woaknoss tor,' ho prom|sos. And |t's so pathot|c that l havo to |augh, and ho |aughs too, and takos my taco |n h|s
hands. °l |ovo you,' ho says.
1hroo . . . two . . . ono.
|o k|ssos mo, am|dst a soa ot tako t|roworks and tako stars. And wo r|ng |n th|s tako low Yoar togothor. And |t on|y sooms t|tt|ng that, |n th|s
momont ot |||us|on, tho words just como out ot mo. °l |ovo you, too.'
Wo roturn trom tho low Yoar's party |n tho oar|y hours ot morn|ng, and my bodroom w|ndow |ots |n a smoggy b|uo ||ght.
Across tho ha|| trom my bodroom, Coc||y's door |s opon, and l can hoar hor broath|ng, tho rust|o ot hor body mov|ng |n tho sat|n b|ankots. loxt to hor
door thoro's an ompty bodroom, and no sound at a||.
And somohow that s||onco |s what makos |t |mposs|b|o tor mo to s|oop. l toss and turn tor a wh||o, and thon l cross tho ha|| to 1onna's bodroom.
|or door croaks opon. ln tho morn|ng ||ght l can soo that hor bod has boon mado. Ono ot hor paporback romancos roma|ns on tho n|ghtstand. lt's
tho on|y b|t ot hor that ||ngors. |rom horo l can soo tho candy wrappor mark|ng tho |ast pago sho ovor road.
Evon hor smo|| |s gono. 1hat ||ght, a|ry co||aborat|on ot portumos and |ot|ons that mado attondants b|ush.
ln hor t|na| days |t was ovorpoworod by tho hoavy sa|vo Ada|r rubbod on hor chost to ho|p hor broatho, but that mod|c|na| smo|| |s gono as wo||. 1ho
vacuum has boon swopt ovor hor tootstops, orasod tho gurnoy marks trom whon hor body was takon away.
l wa|t. 1o bo hauntod by hor, to hoar hor vo|co. Whon loso d|od, l cou|d st|||, tor months, too| hor prosonco |n tho orango grovos. Evon |t |t was just
my |mag|nat|on, |t was somoth|ng. 3ut |t 1onna's sp|r|t st||| ox|sts on oarth, |t |sn't horo. 1horo's not ovon a shadow |n hor m|rror.
l poo|od back tho b|ankots, c||mb |nto hor bod. 1ho shoots smo|| brand now, and maybo thoy aro, bocauso l don't rocogn|zo thom-wh|to w|th ||tt|o
purp|o t|owors.
1h|s |sn't hor sat|n comtortor, o|thor, wh|ch had a chorry ju|co sta|n |n tho cornor. 3ho's gono. lot a traco, as|do trom tho paporback. l'|| novor know
what happonod to hor that attornoon whon sho d|sappoarod |nto vaughn's basomont. 3ho'|| novor run away w|th mo and soo tho ocoan. 3ho'||
novor danco or broatho aga|n.
l bury my taco |n tho mattross, tho spot whoro sho d|od, and l protond hor t|ngors aro brush|ng through my ha|r. lt takos a |ot ot ottort botoro l'm ab|o
to conjuro up a c|oar momory ot hor vo|co.
Yoo`ro gottlog oot oí boro, ooo lt`s golog to bo omozlog.
°Okay,' l to|| hor.
Attor a wh||o l ta|| |nto a morc|tu||y droam|oss s|oop.
lt |s my |ast droam|oss n|ght. Attor that, Gabr|o| |s a|ways on my m|nd, a|ono somowhoro |n that awtu| p|aco bonoath my toot. l th|nk ot h|s sk|n mado
gray by thoso t||ckor|ng ||ghts, h|s broath com|ng out |n c|ouds. l c|oso my oyos at n|ght and bog|n droam|ng ot h|m |y|ng on a cot to s|oop, w|th my
doad s|stor w|vos |n a troozor bos|do h|m.
l worry about vaughn d|scovor|ng our p|an and harm|ng h|m. K||||ng h|m. vaughn says ho bogan work|ng on h|s ant|doto tho day l|ndon was born,
and ovon |t l don't bo||ovo that ho moans to do good th|ngs, l do bo||ovo that much. l a|so bo||ovo that l|ndon's |s tho on|y ||to ho caros about sav|ng.
And 3owon |s vaughn's backup |t ho can't curo h|s son |n t|mo.
l havo a horr|b|o droam ono n|ght. 3owon, ta|| and w|||owy ||ko h|s tathor, pross|ng h|s ||ps to tho mouth ot somo hos|tant br|do who ||vos |n what was
onco h|s mothor's bodroom. |o to||s hor that ho |ovos hor, and sho ho|ds a kn|to boh|nd hor back, sp|totu| and boaut|tu|, wa|t|ng tor tho r|ght momont
to ond h|m. 1horo |s nobody to warn h|m. lo mothor to |ovo h|m. A|| ho has ovor known |s vaughn, who pr|os l|ndon's body apart |n tho basomont,
trant|c tor a curo. And mo? l am |ong doad, trozon and portoct|y prosorvod w|th my s|stor w|vos, our oyos opon |n stunnod oxpross|ons, our hands
not qu|to touch|ng. ln a row ot tour, |c|c|os on our oyo|ashos.
3omoth|ng touchos mo, and l scroam botoro l can stop myso|t. Vy hoart |s hammor|ng |n my chost, and |mmod|ato|y l strugg|o to broak away trom
my s|stor w|vos' corpsos, dosporato to bo out ot vaughn's basomont.
°|oy,' a sott vo|co wh|spors. °3hh-hoy, hoy. lt's a|r|ght. You had a bad droam.' l ro|| ovor, and thoro's l|ndon bos|do mo |n my bod, l can just baro|y
mako h|m out |n tho moon||ght. |o pushos tho ha|r trom my taco.
°Como horo,' ho says, and draws mo to h|m. l don't ros|st.
Vy hands aro tromb||ng whon l gr|p h|s sh|rt. ||s chook aga|nst m|no |s warm, mo|t|ng away tho trozon sk|n ot my droam.
Across tho ha|| l hoar tho baby h|ccup and thon start wa|||ng. l movo to got out ot bod, but l|ndon pu||s mo back down.
°l havo to go,' l say. °lt's my tau|t. l woko h|m.'
°You'ro shak|ng,' ho says. |o touchos tho back ot h|s hand to my torohoad. °And you m|ght bo a ||tt|o warm. 0o you too| s|ck?'
°l'm not s|ck,' l assuro h|m.
°3tay |n bod,' l|ndon says. °l'|| go.'
l want to go. l want to cont|rm that 3owon |s st||| just an |ntant, that tho w|||owy boy |n my droam |sn't roa|.
At |oast not yot. l got out ot bod, and l|ndon to||ows mo across tho ha|| to Coc||y's room. 3ho's try|ng to drag horso|t out ot hor bod, ha|r d|shovo|od,
oyos ha|t opon.
°l'vo got h|m,' l wh|spor. °Go back to s|oop.'
°lo,' sho says, and pushos mo as|do just as l'm roach|ng |nto tho cr|b. °You aron't h|s mothor. l am.' 3owon wh|mpors and h|ccups as sho br|ngs
h|m |nto hor arms.
3ho shushos h|m, hums swoot|y, and sott|os |n tho rock|ng cha|r. 3ut whon sho undoos tho top buttons ot hor n|ghtgown, 3owon thrashos away trom
hor broast, wh|n|ng.
l|ndon comos up boh|nd mo and puts h|s arm around my shou|dors. °Vaybo wo shou|d try tho wot nurso, |ovo,' ho says to Coc||y.
3ho |ooks at h|m, and thoro aro toars br|mm|ng |n hor oyos. °0on't you daro,' sho sp|ts. °l am h|s mothor. |o noods mo.' |or vo|co broaks, and sho
turns hor attont|on back to hor son. °3owon, p|oaso . . .'
°Vy tathor says th|s |s norma| tor tho t|rst tow wooks,'
l|ndon tr|os. °lowborns don't tako to tho broast oas||y.'
°|o usod to,' Coc||y says. °3omoth|ng's wrong.' 3ho buttons hor n|ghtgown and stands, ho|d|ng hor son to hor chost and pac|ng back and torth.
1h|s sott|os h|m, ho's as|oop |n soconds.
°|o just wasn't hungry,' l say.
Coc||y says noth|ng moro as sho sots 3owon back |nto h|s cr|b, stoop|ng to k|ss h|s torohoad. 3ho d|d not soo my droam-a wor|d |n wh|ch hor son
has grown |nto a mothor|oss young man w|th unw|tt|ng br|dos ot h|s own-but has sho had n|ghtmaros ot hor own? |as |t occurrod to hor, ovon
onco, that sho w||| on|y bo a vory sma|| part ot h|s ||to, and that ono day sho'|| bo noth|ng moro to h|m than tho d|stant momory ot rod ha|r and tho
su||on, o|ogant chords ot a koyboard? lt ho romombors hor at a||.
°Vy paronts usod to work |n a |ab that had a nursory,' l to|| hor, |gnor|ng my own ru|o about not |ott|ng l|ndon hoar about my ||to. 1hoso words aron't
tor h|m anyway. °A|| ot tho bab|os woro orphans, and thoro woro so many ot thom that thoy cou|dn't got ono-on-ono caro somot|mos. 3o tho
tochn|c|ans p|ayod a rocord|ng ot a |u|-|aby to sootho tho|r cry|ng. 3ut tho onos who woro ho|d a|ways soomod moro a|ort. 1hoso woro tho onos who
|aughod and |oarnod to roach tor th|ngs soonor than tho othors.'
Coc||y was star|ng |nto tho cr|b as l spoko, but now sho ra|sos hor hoad toward mo. °What doos that moan?'
°l guoss |t moans bab|os undorstand human contact. 1hoy know whon thoy'ro bo|ng carod tor.'
°l don't romombor anyono,' Coc||y wh|spors. °l grow up |n an orphanago, and l don't romombor anyono ovor car|ng tor mo. l just want h|m to know
l'm h|s mothor. 1hat l'm horo and l'|| tako caro ot h|m.'
°|o knows,' l wh|spor back, and l put my arm around hor.
3ho w|pos hor hand across hor oyos. °|o doosn't havo to ||ston to rocord|ngs. |o has a mothor. |o has mo.'
°|o doos,' l agroo.
3ho covors hor mouth to ho|d |n anothor sob. Coc||y has a|ways boon omot|ona|, but g|v|ng b|rth to 3owon and |os|ng 1onna havo takon tho|r to||.
Evory day sho's moro w|thorod. l'vo boon hop|ng l|ndon w||| bo ab|o to comtort hor, so that |t w||| bo oas|or tor hor onco l'm gono, but thoro aro
t|mos whon ho can't roach hor, whon hor sorrow comos out too |rrat|ona||y or |s too hoavy tor h|m to comprohond. 1|mos ||ko th|s, whon sho s||ps hor
hand |nto m|no and ho|ds on t|ght, and our husband bocomos just a shadow |n tho doorway.
°Como on. You shou|d got back to s|oop,' l say, and sho |ots mo gu|do hor to hor bod. l tuck tho covors |n around hor. |or oyos aro a|roady c|osod.
3ho's a|ways so woary.
°lh|no?' sho says. °l'm sorry.'
°3orry tor what?' l ask. 3ut sho has dr|ttod ott to s|oop.
l turn tor tho door and roa||zo that l|ndon |s gono. |o probab|y s||ppod away wh||o l was try|ng to conso|o Coc||y, atra|d ho m|ght mako th|ngs worso.
Coc||y's tompor |s a trag||o th|ng, ospoc|a||y now that sho's gr|ov|ng ovor 1onna. |or |ntons|ty torr|t|os h|m, l th|nk |t's bocauso hor gr|ot rom|nds h|m
ot |os|ng loso.
l stand |n tho doorway tor a wh||o, ||ston|ng to tho cadoncod broath|ng ot my s|stor w|to and hor son, tho|r torms baro|y v|s|b|o |n tho moon||ght. And a
torr|b|o sonso ot morta||ty washos ovor mo. vory soon, Coc||y w||| |oso hor roma|n|ng s|stor w|to, and |n |oss than tour yoars, sho'|| |oso hor husband,
too. And ono day th|s t|oor w||| bo noth|ng but ompty bodrooms, w|th not ovon a ghost to koop 3owon company.
And thon ho'|| bo gono too.
lt doosn't mattor how much h|s mothor |ovos h|m, |ovo |s not onough to koop any ot us a||vo.
ln tho month botoro my oscapo, l spond a|| ot my t|mo outs|do. 1horo's st||| somo snow on tho ground, and l wandor tho
orango grovos. l p|ay m|n|-go|t a|ono. And b|t by b|t, tho month passos by.
On tho morn|ng ot my p|annod oscapo, l ||o on tho trampo||no and ||ston to tho co||s croak|ng as my body movos. 1h|s was 1onna's tavor|to p|aco to
bo, hor own |s|and.
lt's horo that Coc||y t|nds mo, hor rod ha|r catch|ng somo snowt|akos as thoy ta||. 3ho says, °|oy.'
°|oy.'
°Can l como up?' sho asks. l pat tho ompty spaco bos|do mo, and sho c||mbs up.
°Whoro's your ||tt|o taga|ong?' l ask.
°|ousomastor vaughn,' sho says, a ||tt|o unhapp||y.
lt's tho on|y oxp|anat|on nocossary. 3ho sott|os bos|do mo and wraps both ot hor arms around my o|bow and s|ghs.
°What now?' sho says.
°l don't know,' l say.
°l roa||y d|dn't th|nk sho was go|ng to d|o,' sho b|urts out. °l thought sho had anothor yoar, and by thon thoro'd bo an ant|doto, and . . .' 3ho tra||s ott. l
||o on my back and watch hor broath and m|no tado |nto tho co|d a|r.
°Coc||y,' l say. °1horo |s no ant|doto. Got that through your hoad.'
°0on't bo so pro-natura||sm. |ousomastor vaughn |s a br||||ant doctor. |o's work|ng vory hard. |o has a thoory that tho prob|om |s that tho t|rst
gonorat|ons woro coocolvoo art|t|c|a||y. 3o |t a baby |s born natura||y, that baby can bo t|xod through'-sho pausos, try|ng to romombor tho words,
thon sho says thom carotu||y, ||ko sho m|ght broak thom-°oxtorna| |ntorvont|on.'
°l|ght,' l |augh cruo||y. l don't to|| Coc||y that my paronts dovotod tho|r ||vos to t|nd|ng an ant|doto, and that l havo a hard t|mo bo||ov|ng vaughn cou|d
poss|b|y havo tho samo mot|vos that thoy had. l don't to|| hor about loso's body |n tho basomont, and that 1onna |s probab|y down thoro too, |ockod
up |n a troozor or d|ssoctod |nto unrocogn|zab|o p|ocos.
°|o'|| t|nd an ant|doto,' Coc||y ropoats t|rm|y. °|o has to.' l undorstand hor don|a|. |or own son's ||to doponds on vaughn's |mag|nary ant|doto, but l
am |n no tramo ot m|nd tor protond|ng. l shako my hoad, watch|ng snow tumb|o and sw|r| trom an a||-wh|to sky. 1ho wor|d sooms so c|oan |t you on|y
|ook up.
°|o has to,' Coc||y says aga|n. 3ho s|ts ovor mo, hor taco b|ock|ng my v|ow ot tho c|ouds. °You havo to stay horo and |ot h|m curo you,' sho says. °l
know you'ro p|ann|ng to run away. 0on't th|nk l don't know.'
°What?' l say, s|tt|ng up.
3ho grabs my hand |n both ot hors and |oans c|osor to mo |n oarnost. °l know a|| about you and that attondant. l saw h|m k|ss you.'
1hat no|so |n tho ha||way. °1hat was you?' l say. Vy vo|co sounds strango and tar away, ||ko l'm ovorhoar|ng a convorsat|on botwoon two poop|o l
don't know.
°|o was d|stract|ng you trom your dut|os as a w|to. l thought that onco ho was gono, you'd roa||zo what a good husband l|ndon |s. You wou|d soo
th|ngs moro c|oar|y. And you havo, havon't you? You'vo boon hav|ng tun at thoso part|os?'
lt hurts to broatho, suddon|y. °You'ro tho ono who to|d |ousomastor vaughn.'
°l d|d |t to ho|p you,' sho |ns|sts, squooz|ng my hand.
°|o and l woro on|y |ook|ng out tor your bost |ntorosts. 1hat's why |ousomastor vaughn had tho attondant roass|gnod to anothor part ot tho
mans|on.'
l r|p my hand out ot hors, and l want to back away. l want to got as tar trom hor as l can, but tor somo roason l can't movo trom th|s spot. °What o|so
d|d you to|| h|m?'
°l know moro than you g|vo mo crod|t tor,' sho says.
°You and 1onna had your ||tt|o c|ub that l was novor a part ot. You novor to|d mo anyth|ng, but l'm not stup|d, you know. l know sho was ho|p|ng you to
soo that attondant. And that's no good. 0on't you soo? l|ndon |ovos you, and you |ovo h|m! |o's gooo to us, and |ousomastor vaughn |s go|ng to
t|nd tho ant|doto and wo'|| bo horo tor a |ong, |ong t|mo.'
|or words tumb|o around mo ||ko tho snowt|akos, wh|ch havo mu|t|p||od |n amount and |ntons|ty. Vy broath |s com|ng out |n c|oudy, trant|c gasps. l
hoar vaughn's vo|co |n my hoad. 5bo`s somotblog oí o co|o ílsb, lso`t sboº lí l boo my woy, wo woo|o jost toss bor bock loto tbo wotor. °0o you
havo any |doa what you'vo dono?' l say.
°l'vo ho|pod you!' sho cr|os.
°You'vo k|||od hor!' l cry back. l pross tho hoo|s ot my hands aga|nst my oyos, and l want to scroam. l want to do a |ot ot th|ngs l'm ||ko|y to rogrot, so l
just s|t ||ko that tor a |ong wh||o try|ng to catch my broath.
3ut l can't stay unrospons|vo torovor, bocauso Coc||y |s say|ng, °What?' and °What do you moan?' and °What aro you ta|k|ng about?' And t|na||y
l'vo had onough.
°You k|||od 1onna! 1hat's what! You to|d |ousomastor vaughn that sho was snoop|ng around, and ho k|||od hor! l don't know how, but ho d|d! |o
was |ook|ng tor a roason to do hor |n, and you gavo |t to h|m. And Gabr|o| |s stuck a|ono |n that . . . awtu| basomont, and |t's a|| your tau|t.'
0|sbo||ot and thon toar t|||s Coc||y's brown oyos, and l can soo hor strugg||ng to dony what l'vo to|d hor. °lo,' sho says, avort|ng hor gazo, nodd|ng
w|th corta|nty.
°1onna d|od ot tho v|rus, and-'
°1onna was on|y n|notoon,' l say. °3ho was doad |n a wook. Yot loso was a||vo tor months. lt your |ousomastor vaughn |s such a br||||ant doctor,
oxp|a|n to mo why sho was gono so qu|ck|y on h|s watch.'
°E-ovory caso |s d|ttoront,' sho stammors. And thon sho says, °Wa|t! Whoro aro you go|ng?' bocauso l can no |ongor |ook at hor and l'vo jumpod to
tho ground, and l'm runn|ng. l don't know wh|ch way l'm go|ng, but sho to||ows mo. l hoar hor shoos crunch|ng tho snow. 3ho managos to catch up to
mo and grabs my arm, and l push hor ott ot mo so hard sho ta||s |nto a snowbank.
°You'ro just ||ko h|m!' l say. °You'ro a monstor just ||ko h|m, and your baby |s go|ng to grow up to bo a monstor too! 3ut you won't ovon got to soo
h|m grow up, bocauso |n s|x yoars you'|| bo doad. You'|| bo doad and l|ndon w||| bo doad, and 3owon w||| bo |ousomastor vaughn's now toy.'
|or oyos aro rod w|th toars, and sho's shak|ng hor hoad, say|ng, °lo, no, no' and °You'ro wrong.' 3ut sho undorstands that l'm r|ght. l can soo tho
rogrot a|| ovor hor taco. l run away trom hor, botoro l can |oso contro| and do somoth|ng awtu| to hor. As l go, l hoar hor scroam|ng my namo |n a
bruta|, b|oody way, ||ko sho's bo|ng murdorod, wh|ch maybo sho |s. 3ut s|ow|y. lt w||| tako hor s|x yoars to d|o.
Vy |ast day |n l|ndon's mans|on. Or maybo |t's vaughn's mans|on. |o's tho ono who mado |t what |t |s, and l|ndon |s just a pawn ||ko h|s br|dos. lt
wou|d bo oas|or |t l cou|d ma|nta|n my or|g|na| hatrod tor l|ndon, to oscapo h|s cruo| tyranny w|thout ovor |ook|ng back. 3ut l know |n my hoart ho
|sn't an awtu| porson, and tho vory |oast l can do |s say good-byo to h|m. ln tho morn|ng ho'|| wako up and l'|| bo gono. |o'|| th|nk l'm doad, and ho'||
scattor my ashos. Or maybo Coc||y w||| koop thom |n a vaso bos|do 1onna's momory.
Coc||y. Vy |ast roma|n|ng s|stor w|to. l tako groat caro to avo|d hor tor tho rost ot tho attornoon, but l don't havo to try vory hard. 3ho's mado horso|t
scarco. 3ho doosn't ovon como down to d|nnor, and l|ndon |s, ot courso, start|ng to got concornod that sho's m|ss|ng so many moa|s. |o wants to
know |t l'vo not|cod anyth|ng strango about hor bohav|or |ato|y, and l say sho's do|ng as wo|| as can bo oxpoctod, undor tho c|rcumstancos. l|ndon
has not boon ab|o to undorstand h|s w|vos' gr|ot ovor 1onna's pass|ng, not tru|y. 3o whon l uso |t as an oxcuso tor Coc||y's orrat|c bohav|or, |t shuts
h|m up.
l|ndon hard|y know 1onna, and l no |ongor th|nk vaughn capturod throo br|dos tor h|s son's bonot|t. l th|nk ho just wantod an oxtra body tor h|s
ant|doto. 1onna was tho d|sposab|o ono. Coc||y |s tho baby tactory. And l was supposod to bo tho app|o ot h|s oyo.
Attor d|nnor, at about o|ght p.m., l ca|| 0o|rdro to draw ono ot hor chamom||o baths tor mo. 3ho's sombor, though.
Attor 1onna's doath, Ada|r was so|d ott |n an auct|on. 3o l'm not tho on|y ono who has |ost a tr|ond. 3ho koops busy, though, organ|z|ng and
roorgan|z|ng tho makoup |n my dross|ng tab|o as l soak. l wondor what w||| happon to hor onco l'vo gono, |t sho'|| bo so|d to anothor mans|on.
Vaybo sho'|| bo roass|gnod as 3owon's carog|vor. 3ho |s a ||tt|o youngor than Coc||y, and sho'|| ||vo at |oast unt|| ho's an ado|oscont. Vaybo sho
can sootho h|s cry|ng and bo suro to to|| h|m n|co th|ngs about tho wor|d, ||ko tho boach hor tathor pa|ntod.
°Como and ta|k to mo tor a wh||o,' l say. 3ho s|ts on tho odgo ot tho bathtub and tr|os to sm||o a ||tt|o. 3ut tho ovora|| too||ng ot sadnoss on tho w|vos'
t|oor has ovon sproad to hor.
l'm try|ng to th|nk ot somoth|ng l can say to hor.
3omo way ot say|ng good-byo w|thout actua||y say|ng good-byo, but to my surpr|so sho's tho ono to say, °You aron't ||ko tho othors, aro you?'
°|m?' l say.
Vy hoad |s rost|ng aga|nst a ro||od-up towo| on tho odgo ot tho tub, and 0o|rdro bog|ns to bra|d my wot ha|r. °lt's just your domoanor,' sho says.
°You'ro . . . ||ko a pa|ntbrush.'
l opon my oyos. °What do you moan?'
°lt's a good th|ng,' sho says. °Good th|ngs havo happonod s|nco you arr|vod.' 3ho wavos hor hand as though pa|nt|ng a p|cturo. °1h|ngs aro
br|ghtor.'
1hat's a joko. Gabr|o| |s cont|nod to tho basomont and 1onna |s doad. °l don't soo what you moan,' l say.
°1ho |ouso Govornor |s so much strongor. |app|or. |o usod to bo so trag||o botoro. And th|ngs aro just . . . bottor.'
l st||| don't soo |t, but l can to|| by hor tono that sho moans |t, and so l g|vo hor a sm||o.
ls |t truo? l don't know. l th|nk ot what l sa|d on tho way to tho party, about coax|ng h|m |nto tho poo| whon tho wator |s warm. Vaybo somoth|ng ||ko
that wou|d havo mado h|m happy, ||ko 0o|rdro says. l'|| havo to add |t to my ||st ot ta||od prom|sos, r|ght up thoro w|th my prom|so to tako caro ot
h|m. 3ut whon loso askod mo to do that, sho hadn't ant|c|patod Coc||y. 3ho and l|ndon aro bottor su|tod tor oach othor anyway. Coc||y |s so
dovotod to h|m that sho wou|d rat out 1onna and mo to vaughn, and sho's tho ono who was so oagor to carry h|s ch||d, and thoy aro both so
pa|ntu||y ob||v|ous, that maybo thoy'|| bo good tor oach othor. 1wo cagod |ovob|rds. l'm no good tor l|ndon. l'm tu|| ot at|asos and maps. 3o what |t l
|ook ||ko loso? l'm not hor, and ovon sho had to |oavo h|m.
°loady to got out?' sho says.
°Yos,' l say. As l chango |nto my n|ghtgown, sho bog|ns to turn down tho covors on my bod, but l s|t on tho ottoman and say, °Can you do my
makoup?'
°low?' sho says.
l nod.
And ono |ast t|mo, sho works hor mag|c.
l pago ono ot tho attondants and ask h|m to t|nd l|ndon. A tow m|nutos |ator l|ndon shows up |n my doorway. °You woro |ook|ng tor mo?' ho says.
|o's go|ng to say moro, but ho stops whon ho soos mo, a|| mado-up w|th my ha|r ta|||ng natura||y, unsprayod or pr|mpod, tho way |t's supposod to.
l'm woar|ng ono ot 0o|rdro's cab|od swoators that's as t|utty as a c|oud, and a b|||ow|ng b|ack sk|rt that g||ttors w|th b|ack d|amonds.
°You |ook vory n|co,' ho says.
°l was just th|nk|ng how l'vo novor soon tho vorandah,' l say.
|o ho|ds out h|s arm tor mo. °Como on, thon,' ho says.
1ho vorandah |s on tho ground t|oor, ott ot a danc|ng ha|| that doosn't got much uso. A|| tho tab|os and cha|rs |n tho ha|| aro covorod |n shoots, as
though ghosts havo ta||on as|oop attor a spoctacu|ar party. Wo nav|gato through tho darknoss ot |t, arm |n arm, and stop botoro tho s||d|ng g|ass
doors. Aga|nst a doop b|ack sky, snow |s ta|||ng |n a d|zzy|ng tury ||ko m||||ons ot p|ocos ot brokon stars.
°Vaybo |t's too co|d to go out,' ho says.
°What aro you ta|k|ng about?' l say. °lt's a boaut|tu| n|ght.'
1ho vorandah |s a s|mp|o porch w|th a |ovo soat and w|ckor cha|rs that taco tho orango grovos. l|ndon dusts away tho snow, and wo s|t on tho |ovo
soat togothor. 1ho snow ta||s around us, and tor tho |ongost t|mo wo don't ta|k.
°lt's okay that you m|ss hor,' l say. °3ho was tho |ovo ot your ||to.'
°lot tho on|y |ovo,' ho says, and wraps h|s arms around mo. l can smo|| tho co|d woo| ot h|s coat. Wo watch tho snow ta|| tor a wh||o. And thon ho
says, °lt too|s wrong to th|nk about hor as otton as l do.'
°You shou|d th|nk about hor,' l say. °Evory day. You shou|dn't try to |ook tor hor anywhoro o|so, bocauso you'|| novor t|nd hor. You'|| soo hor wa|k|ng
away |n a crowdod stroot, and whon you roach tor hor, sho'|| turn around and bo somobody o|so.'
l d|d th|s tor months and months attor my paronts d|od. l|ndon |s |ook|ng at mo |ntont|y, and l tap my t|ngor ovor h|s hoart. °1ust koop hor horo, okay?
lt's tho on|y p|aco you'|| a|ways bo ab|o to t|nd hor.'
|o sm||os at mo, and tor a momont l soo tho g||nt ot go|d |n h|s tooth. Whon l t|rst mot h|m, thought thoy woro a symbo| ot powor and status. 3ut thoy
aro just scars, tho rosu|t ot a trag||o ||tt|o boy whoso tooth succumbod to an |ntoct|on. |o's not monac|ng at a||.
°You soom to know a |ot about |oss,' ho says.
°l know a th|ng or two,' l say, and rost my hoad aga|nst h|s shou|dor. 1horo's warmth rad|at|ng trom h|s nock, and tho d|stant c|oan scont ot soap.
°l st||| don't know whoro you camo trom,' ho says.
°3omo days |t's ||ko you just to|| trom tho sky.'
°3omo days l too| ||ko l d|d,' l say.
|o woavos h|s t|ngors through m|no. 1hrough our match|ng wh|to g|ovos l th|nk l can too| h|s pu|so. Our hands aro so docopt|vo, and yot not. 1hoy
|ook ||ko thoy bo|ong to a husband and w|to, you can soo tho ||no ot my wodd|ng r|ng. And tho way our hands t|t togothor, |t's ||ko ho can't havo mo
c|oso onough.
1horo |s noth|ng |n thoso hands to |nd|cato tho t|na||ty ot th|s momont. 3oon wo w||| novor touch oach othor aga|n. Wo w||| novor attond anothor party,
or havo a baby, or d|o togothor |n tho samo angu|sh.
W||| wo d|o at tho samo t|mo, at our own p|acos a|ong tho coast? l hopo Coc||y w||| bo thoro to ho|d h|s hoad |n hor |ap. l hopo sho'|| road to h|m, and
say n|co th|ngs. l hopo that by thon l w||| bo tar trom h|s m|nd and ho'|| bo ab|o to t|nd poaco.
l hopo vaughn |s not as hoart|oss as l th|nk, and that ho'|| comm|t h|s son's body to ashos unmarrod, who|o, and that l|ndon w||| bo scattorod |n tho
orango grovo.
As tor myso|t, l try not to g|vo my own doath a |ot ot thought. l just know l want to spond my t|na| yoars at homo, |n Vanhattan, w|th my brothor, |n tho
houso that our paronts |ott us. And w|th Gabr|o|, maybo. l'|| try to toach h|m as much as l can about tho wor|d, so ho's ab|o to t|nd a job, maybo at tho
harbor, so ho'|| havo somoth|ng to do w|th h|mso|t attor l'm doad.
°3woothoart, what |s |t?' l|ndon says, and l roa||zo thoro aro toars |n my oyos. lt's so co|d that l don't know how thoy havon't trozon.
°lt's noth|ng,' l say. °l was just th|nk|ng about how ||tt|o t|mo thoro |s.'
|o's |ook|ng at mo tho way ho doos whon ho asks tor my thoughts on h|s bu||d|ng dos|gns. l|ko ho wants to cast h|mso|t |nto my m|nd. |o wants to
undorstand, and bo undorstood.
ln anothor t|mo, |n anothor p|aco, l wondor who wo wou|d havo boon to oach othor.
And thon l roa||zo how r|d|cu|ous that |s. ln anothor t|mo and p|aco l wou|dn't havo boon k|dnappod to bo h|s br|do. And ho wou|dn't bo trappod |n
th|s mans|on. |o wou|d bo a tamous arch|toct, and maybo l wou|d ||vo |n ono ot h|s housos, and havo a roa| marr|ago, and ch||dron who wou|d ||vo a
good, |ong t|mo.
l |augh, try|ng to bo roassur|ng, and squoozo h|s hand.
°l was th|nk|ng how ||tt|o t|mo poop|o w||| spond |n your boaut|tu| housos.'
|o prossos h|s torohoad to my tomp|o, c|osos h|s oyos.
°Whon tho woathor gots n|cor, l'|| show you somo ot thom,' ho says. °lt's n|co to soo tho changos poop|o mako, tho pots and sw|ng sots and
ov|donco ot ||to. lt's onough to mako you torgot somot|mos.'
°l'd ||ko that, l|ndon,' l say.
Wo don't ta|k attor that. l |ot h|m squoozo h|s arms around mo. 1ho snow and tho co|d got to bo too much tor h|m attor a wh||o, and ho br|ngs mo
back to my room. Wo k|ss, h|s trozon noso touch|ng m|no, ono |ast t|mo.
°Good n|ght, swoothoart,' ho says.
°Good-byo, swoothoart,' l say. And |t's so casua|, so |nnocont, that ho doosn't suspoct a th|ng. 1ho o|ovator doors c|oso botwoon us, and ho's gono
trom my wor|d torovor.
1ho door to Coc||y's bodroom |s ajar, and l soo hor on tho rockor |n hor bodroom. 3ho's got hor n|ghtgown opon and sho's ottor|ng hor baro broast
to 3owon, but ho's thrash|ng and wh|n|ng. °l|oaso, p|oaso tako |t,' sho's sobb|ng |n a hushod tono. 3ut ho won't. vaughn was |y|ng about thoro
bo|ng a wot nurso. l saw h|m g|v|ng 3owon a bott|o, and onco a baby has tho swoot tasto ot tormu|a, |t novor roturns to tho broast. 1h|s |s somoth|ng
l romombor my paronts to|||ng mo, whon thoy workod |n tho |ab. 3ut Coc||y has no |doa. vaughn |s tak|ng hor son away s|ow|y, bog|nn|ng to contro|
h|m tho way ho contro|s h|s own son. vaughn wants Coc||y to th|nk hor own ch||d doosn't |ovo hor.
l stand |n tho ha||way tor a |ong t|mo, watch|ng hor.
1h|s oxc|tod ||tt|o br|do who has bocomo so haggard and pa|o. l romombor tho day sho tumb|od trom tho d|v|ng board, and wo swam through tho
trop|cs and roachod tor |mag|nary start|sh. 1hat's my bost momory ot hor, and |t's an |||us|on.
lo, maybo that's not tho bost momory. Whon l was bodr|ddon sho brought tho ||||os to my room.
l can't th|nk ot a way to say good-byo to hor. Evontua||y l wa|k away, as qu|ot|y as l camo, and |oavo hor to tho ||to sho was so oagor to havo. l know
that somo-day l'|| stop hat|ng hor. l know that sho's on|y a ch||d, a s|||y, naïvo ||tt|o g|r| who to|| v|ct|m to vaughn's ||os. 3ut whon l |ook at hor, a|| l soo
|s 1onna's co|d body |n tho basomont, undor a shoot and awa|t|ng tho kn|to. And that |s Coc||y's tau|t. And l do not torg|vo hor.
Vy |ast stop |s 1onna's room. l stand |n hor doorway tor a |ong, |ong t|mo. l |ook at tho p|acomont ot th|ngs.
1ho brush on tho drossor cou|d bo|ong to anyono, hor paporback romanco |s gono. On|y tho ||ghtor sho sto|o trom tho attondant roma|ns ot hor, |n
p|a|n s|ght, bocauso nobody pa|d onough attont|on to ovon know |t was thoro.
l tako |t now, put |t |n my pockot. 1h|s ono sma|| p|oco ot hor l'|| koop. 1horo's noth|ng |ott ot any sont|monta| va|uo. 1ho bod has boon str|ppod,
c|oanod, mado up as though |t oxpocts hor to como and rost hor hoad on |ts p|||ows. 3ho won't, but maybo anothor g|r| w||| soon.
1horo's noth|ng horo to say good-byo to. 1horo's no danc|ng g|r|. lo m|sch|ovous sm||o. 3ho's gono, ott w|th hor s|stors, brokon troo, oscapod. And
|t sho woro horo now, sho wou|d say, °Go.'
1ho c|ock on hor n|ght tab|o |s show|ng mo tho t|mo-0:b0. lt's ||ko sho's push|ng mo out tho door.
l don't say good-byo. l'm just gono.
l tako tho o|ovator to tho ground t|oor and cross through tho k|tchon, oxpoct|ng |t to bo ompty. 3ut as l'm putt|ng my
hand on tho doorknob, a vo|co stops mo w|th, °3|t co|d tor a stro||, |sn't |t?'
l sp|n around, and tho hoad cook |s omorg|ng trom tho ha||way, brush|ng tho groasy ha|r trom hor taco.
°lt's just go|ng to bo a short wa|k,' l say. °l cou|dn't s|oop.'
°3o carotu| out thoro, b|ond|o,' sho says. °ln th|s k|nd ot snow, you go out tor a short wa|k and you m|ght just got |ost and novor roturn.' A s|y sm||o
croops across hor taco. °lobody wants that, r|ght?'
°Ot courso not,' l say caut|ous|y. What doos sho know?
°Wo||, just |n caso, horo's somoth|ng to koop you warm.' As sho approachos, l soo that sho's carry|ng a thormos. lt's so warm that l can too| |t
through my g|ovos whon sho prossos |t |nto my hands.
°1hank you,' l say.
3ho opons tho door tor mo, and s|aps mo on tho shou|dor. °Carotu|,' sho says. °lt's co|d out thoro.'
l stop outs|do, and by tho t|mo l'vo turnod around to thank hor aga|n, sho's c|osod tho door.
1ho snow has gotton hoav|or. lt takos mo a |ong t|mo to trok through tho dr|tts bocauso l'm try|ng to covor my tracks. Whon l'm tar onough trom tho
houso, l start wh|spor|ng Gabr|o|'s namo, but tho w|nd |s stoa||ng my vo|co. lt's ||ko tho hurr|cano a|| ovor aga|n, but tu|| ot snow. l stumb|o |nto a troo,
and l too| my way a|ong tho odgo ot tho woods as l go, ca|||ng h|s namo a ||tt|o |oudor and a ||tt|o |oudor. Evontua||y l t|nd tho ho|ogram. l roach tor a
troo and ta|| r|ght through |t. l'm tar onough trom tho houso now that l can ca|| h|s namo |oud|y.
°Gabr|o|! Gabr|o|!'
3ut ho doosn't como, and ho doosn't como. And l know that soon l'|| havo a doc|s|on to mako. l can run to tho ocoan w|thout h|m, or l can go back
|nto tho mao|strom ot snow and |ook tor h|m. E|thor way l am |oav|ng th|s mans|on ton|ght. Evon |t Gabr|o| has novor sa||od a boat, ho knows moro
about boats than anyono o|so l know, and l know noxt to noth|ng. And, moro |mportant|y, l toar what vaughn w||| do |t Gabr|o| |s |ott boh|nd. vaughn
w||| know that Gabr|o| ho|pod mo oscapo. 1hat sott|os |t.
1ust as l'm roa||z|ng l can't |oavo h|m boh|nd, that l nood to go |ook|ng tor h|m, somoono grabs my wr|st.
°lh|no.'
l turn, and l'm caroon|ng r|ght |nto h|s arms. |or tho socond t|mo, |n a socond storm, ho's como to ho|d mo stoady. And thoro's so much l want to to||
h|m about what's happonod |n th|s who|o horr|b|o month w|thout h|m, but thoro's no t|mo. 1ho w|nd has p|ckod up, and wo can't mako out oach
othor's words, so wo just start runn|ng, hand |n hand, |nto tho darknoss.
1ho w|nd sounds ||ko vo|cos. lt sounds ||ko my tathor and mothor |augh|ng, and lowan wak|ng mo up tor my sh|tt, and Coc||y's baby cry|ng, and
l|ndon say|ng l |ovo you. l don't stop to ||ston. l don't rospond. 3ut somot|mos wo tr|p on tw|gs and snowbanks, and wo pu|| oach othor back up. Wo
aro unstoppab|o. And thon wo mako |t to tho gato, wh|ch |s ot courso |ockod.
1horo's a pano|, but my koy card doosn't work on |t.
0|d l roa||y th|nk |t wou|d? °What now?' Gabr|o| shouts to mo ovor a|| tho w|nd. l start wa|k|ng tho |ongth ot tho tonco, |ook|ng tor tho p|aco whoro |t
onds, but |t soon bocomos abundant|y c|oar that thoro |s no ond to |t, that |t must wrap a|| tho way around tho proporty |n a c|rc|o that's m||os and
m||os w|do.
What now?
l don't know. l don't know.
Escapo |s so c|oso. l can roach through tho bars and touch tho troo a|r. l can a|most grasp at a troo ||mb on tho othor s|do. |rant|ca||y l survoy our
surround|ngs. 1ho troos wou|d bo |mposs|b|o to c||mb, tho branchos aro too h|gh, tho tonco |s too |cy. l try sca||ng tho |ron bars and ta|| ovory t|mo.
3ut l try and try unt|| ovontua||y Gabr|o| grabs mo and ho|ds mo back. |o unbuttons h|s woo| coat and br|ngs mo to h|s chost, and wraps |t around tho
both ot us. Wo knoo| togothor aga|nst a snowbank, and l th|nk l know what ho's try|ng to to|| mo. 1horo |s no way out.
Wo'ro go|ng to troozo to doath.
3ut l don't too| tho accoptanco l to|t |n tho hurr|cano.
l was so suro that n|ght that l was go|ng to d|o, and yot somoth|ng to|d mo to koop go|ng and koop go|ng, and whon l c||mbod tho ||ghthouso, l saw
tho ox|t. l don't bo||ovo that was tor noth|ng.
l too| Gabr|o| k|ss my torohoad. 3ut ovon h|s norma||y warm ||ps havo gono co|d. l draw back a ||tt|o, pu|| h|s co||ar up around h|s oars. |o s||dos h|s
hands undor my ha|r, on o|thor s|do ot my nock, and wo br|ng warmth back to oach othor that way.
l tako 1onna's ||ghtor trom my pockot, and w|th tho w|nd |t's a|most |mposs|b|o to spark a t|amo. l havo to wr|gg|o troo ot Gabr|o|'s coat, and ho cups
h|s hands around tho t|amo so that tho w|nd won't stoa| |t. lt ca||s to m|nd a story l road |n l|ndon's ||brary about a dy|ng g|r| who ||t matchos to koop
warm. Each now ||tt|o t|amo brought a d|ttoront momory ot hor ||to. 3ut r|ght now tho on|y momory |s 1onna, hor ||tt|o g|ow|ng ||to t||ckor|ng |n our
hands. lt's tho on|y ||ght |n a|| th|s darknoss, and l th|nk l'd ||ko noth|ng moro than to ||ght th|s p|aco on t|ro. 1o watch |t burn ||ko thoso ug|y curta|ns.
l|ght ono troo and watch tho t|ro sproad to thom a||. 3ut tho w|nd |s too strong. l too| ||ko vaughn has somohow brought on th|s b||zzard. l'm atra|d
that tomorrow morn|ng ho'|| t|nd Gabr|o|'s and my body trozon and doad, so hopo|oss|y c|oso to our oscapo.
lt can't happon. l won't g|vo h|m tho sat|stact|on.
1ust as l'm cons|dor|ng try|ng to |gn|to ono ot tho troos, l hoar a vo|co on tho w|nd. l th|nk l'm |mag|n|ng |t aga|n, but Gabr|o| |ooks too. Wo can just
mako out a shadowy t|guro runn|ng toward our ||tt|o ||ght.
l hurry to my toot, pu|||ng Gabr|o| w|th mo. lt's vaughn. lt's vaughn com|ng to t|n|sh us ott, or worso, to drag us |nto h|s basomont to torturo us,
mut||ato us, strap us to oporat|ng tab|os |n tho samo room as loso's and 1onna's corpsos. l start to run, but Gabr|o| stops mo. 1ho man gots c|osor,
and |t's not vaughn at a||.
lt's tho norvous attondant who took Gabr|o|'s p|aco.
1ho ono who sa|d l was tho n|co ono, tho ono who to|d mo to chock my napk|n tor tho 1uno 3oan.
|o's wav|ng somoth|ng ovor h|s hoad. A koy card.
||s mouth |s mov|ng, but w|th a|| tho w|nd and snow, l can't hoar h|s words. 3o wo just watch, Gabr|o| and l, as ho sw|pos tho koy card across tho
pano|. 1ho gato h|tchos a ||tt|o, try|ng to d|g through tho snow, but |t opons.
|or tho |ongost t|mo l just stand thoro, not suro what to mako ot th|s. lot suro |t l shou|d trust |t. l am st||| oxpoct|ng vaughn to-l don't know, pop out
trom boh|nd a troo and shoot us or somoth|ng.
3ut tho attondant |s wav|ng us a|ong, and l th|nk ho's say|ng, °Go, go!'
°Why?' l say. l movo c|oso to h|m so that l can hoar h|m bottor. l'm shout|ng ovor tho w|nd. °Why aro you ho|p|ng us? |ow d|d you know wo woro
horo?'
°Your s|stor w|to askod mo to ho|p you,' ho says. °1ho ||tt|o ono. 1ho rodhoad.'
Wo run tor what too|s ||ko a|| n|ght. lt too|s ||ko tho wor|d cou|d havo ondod and thoro's noth|ng |ott but th|s path, and
thoso troos, and th|s snowy darknoss. Wo stop to catch our broath, but tho trozon a|r ottors ||tt|o ro||ot to our gasp|ng |ungs. Wo aro co|d and
oxhaustod, and st||| tho w|nd ragos.
ln tho ||brary l road a book ca||od Looto`s loíoroo about tho many c|rc|os ot a p|aco ca||od ho||, |n tho attor-||to. ln ono ot tho c|rc|os woro two |ovors
who woro torovor pun|shod tor tho|r adu|tory by bo|ng trappod |n a w|ndstorm, unab|o to spoak, unab|o to hoar oach othor or havo a momont ot
st|||noss.
7bot coo|o bo os, l th|nk. And tho sad part |s that wo'vo novor ovon had tho chanco to bocomo |ovors. Wo aro just a sorvant and an unw||||ng br|do
who havon't boon grantod ono momont ot truo troodom to oxp|oro how wo too| about oach othor. l'm ovon st||| woar|ng my wodd|ng band undor
0o|rdro's cab|od g|ovo.
Whon wo'ro tar onough trom tho |ron gato, wo ro|ax our paco and go s|ow|y. l can't undorstand why th|s road |s so |ong. ln tho ||mous|no |t was on|y
m|nutos that wo woro on |t. 0|d Gabr|o| and l tako a wrong turn? 1horo's so much snow that l can't ovon bo corta|n wo'ro on tho road at a||.
l|ght about tho t|mo l'm doc|d|ng that tho wor|d has ondod, or that wo'ro |n our own c|rc|o ot ho||, thoro aro ||ghts.
1horo's a rumb||ng sound, and thon a b|g yo||ow truck swoops past us, p|ow|ng up tho snow a|ong tho c|ty stroot.
And wo'vo mado |t. Wo'ro horo. 1ho ||ghts and bu||d|ngs a|| rovoa| thomso|vos as though a curta|n has just boon partod tor us. 1horo aro moro
p|ows, and ovon a tow poop|o moandor|ng bonoath tho stroot||ghts. 1ho c|noma's marquoo |s advort|s|ng an a||-n|ght zomb|o-tost.
Wh||o wo woro |n that barron wasto|and, contomp|at|ng corta|n doath, tho wor|d was poacotu||y go|ng on just a tow m||os away. l |augh, somowhat
hystor|ca||y, and l'm shak|ng Gabr|o| and po|nt|ng and say|ng, °3oo? 3oo what you woro m|ss|ng?'
|o says, °What's a zomb|o?'
°l don't know. Wo cou|d t|nd out, though. Wo can do anyth|ng wo want.'
Wo go |nto tho c|noma, whoro |t's warm and |t smo||s ||ko hot buttor and carpot c|oanor. lo|thor ot us has any monoy. Evon |t l'd thought to stoa|
somo, l wou|dn't havo known whoro to |ook. 1horo's no uso tor |t |n tho mans|on, ovon l|ndon doosn't carry |t around.
3ut tho c|noma |s crowdod, and wo'ro ab|o to snoak |nto ono ot tho thoatros unnot|cod. Wo hudd|o togothor |n tho darknoss, surroundod by
strangors. Wo'ro anonymous, and |n that anonym|ty thoro's satoty. 1ho mov|os aro horr|ty|ng, tho spoc|a| ottocts tawdry and s|||y, and l too| a rush ot
oxh||arat|on. °1h|s |s what Vanhattan |s ||ko,' l wh|spor to h|m.
°loop|o craw| out ot tho|r gravos |n Vanhattan?'
°lo. 1hoy pay to soo mov|os ||ko th|s.'
1ho marathon runs a|| n|ght, ono grotosquo mov|o attor anothor. l dr|tt |n and out ot s|oop. 1horo's no sonso ot t|mo, no sonso ot n|ght or day. l hoar
tho scroams and how|s |n my subconsc|ous, but my m|nd rog|stors that tho horror |s tako. l'm sato horo. Gabr|o| ho|ds on to my hand. l wako up at
somo po|nt to h|m trac|ng my wodd|ng band w|th h|s t|ngor. lt has |ost |ts moan|ng now, l am no |ongor l|ndon Ashby's w|to, |t l ovor ovon was.
l was a|ways |od to bo||ovo that tor two poop|o to tru|y bo marr|od, tho br|do wou|d havo to spoak on hor own boha|t at somo po|nt.
°Vy roa| |ast namo |s E||ory,' l say s|oop||y.
°l don't havo a |ast namo,' Gabr|o| says.
°You shou|d mako ono up, thon,' l say.
|o |aughs, and thoro's h|s sm||o aga|n, shy and toothy and br||||ant. ||s taco |s washod ovor by tho t||ckor|ng wh|to scroon, and l turn and roa||zo tho
mov|os aro ovor and tho soats around us aro ompty. °Why d|dn't you wako mo?' l ask.
°You |ookod k|nd ot cuto,' ho says. |o |ooks at mo tor a wh||o, cons|dor|ng. 1hon ho |oans torward to k|ss mo.
lt's a tantast|c k|ss, w|th no|thor ot us worry|ng about opon doors. ||s hand |s undor my ch|n, and my arms movo s|ow|y around h|s nock, and wo'ro
|ost |n th|s wor|d ot t||ckor|ng darknoss, |n a soa ot ompty soats, and wo aro abso|uto|y, unoqu|voca||y troo.
lt's tho croak ot tho sw|ng|ng door that broaks us apart, and tho thoatro omp|oyoo-a t|rst gonorat|on w|th a broom-say|ng, °|oy, tho shows aro a||
ovor. Go homo.'
l |ook at Gabr|o|. °3ha|| wo go, thon?' l say.
°Go whoro?'
°|omo, ot courso.'
lt's such a |ong way homo that l havo no |doa how wo'|| got thoro. 1horo's no phono at tho houso, no way to ca|| lowan and |ot h|m know l'm a|| r|ght.
3ut onco wo got out ot ||or|da, l'|| track down a pay phono and ca|| tho tactory whoro ho was work|ng whon l |ast saw h|m. 1horo's a good chanco
ho's st||| thoro. l havo to ho|d on to that thought, though a s|nk|ng too||ng |n my gut |s to|||ng mo ho's a|roady movod on, |ost |n h|s soarch tor mo.
Outs|do, tho c|ty has sott|od |nto tho hazy, t|oot|ng momont botwoon ta|||ng as|oop and wak|ng. lt's subduod, though not ont|ro|y s||ont. 1horo aro st|||
cars and p|ows mash|ng up tho muddy s|udgo that's bocomo ot tho snow. loop|o aro st||| wa|k|ng horo and thoro, but w|th |oss oxc|tomont and
urgoncy. 1ho sky |s bog|nn|ng to tako on p|nk and yo||ow huos, and l know wo don't havo much t|mo. lt's noar|y morn|ng, and vaughn w||| roa||zo
Gabr|o| and l havo gono. 1hat's |t ho doosn't know a|roady, |t Coc||y has covorod tor us somohow.
Coc||y. 3ho sont that attondant out to ho|p us |ast n|ght. l d|dn't trust |t. |ow cou|d l? 3ut thoro aro no t|ash|ng po||co cars chas|ng us down. 1horo's
no w||d hunt. Gabr|o| and l stand horo, hand |n hand, star|ng at a poacotu| c|ty.
Why d|d sho ho|p mo?
Yostorday attornoon on tho trampo||no, sho usod that word. °|o|p.' l`vo bo|poo yoo, sho cr|od. And thoro was such horror on hor young taco whon
sho roa||zod tho oppos|to was truo.
°What now?' Gabr|o| says, br|ng|ng mo out ot my thoughts.
°Como on,' l say, and pu|| h|m a|ong tho s|dowa|k. |at gra|ns ot sa|t cr|nk|o undor our shoos. At |oast a dozon poop|o pass us, ono or two nodd|ng
ho||o, most |gnor|ng us comp|oto|y. Wo aro just two poop|o |n woo| coats, on our way homo.
Wo mako |t to tho harbor, and |t |s d|ttoront up c|oso trom how |t |ookod |n tho ||mo. lt's moro v|brant. Wo can roa||y smo|| tho sa|t, hoar tho t|do
turn|ng, tho gont|o knock|ng ot boats aga|nst tho dock. l'm oagor to got go|ng, to t|nd a boat worth stoa||ng botoro wo'ro d|scovorod, but l soo tho
awo on Gabr|o|'s taco and l a||ow h|m th|s momont. 1h|s bow||dorod joy.
°ls |t anyth|ng ||ko you romombor?' l say.
°l-' ||s vo|co catchos. °l thought l romomborod tho ocoan, but l d|dn't romombor |t at a||.'
l s|d|o up aga|nst h|m, and ho puts h|s arm around mo and g|vos an oxc|tod squoozo.
°1h|nk you can stoor us out ot th|s p|aco on ono ot thoso boats?' l say.
°Oh, abso|uto|y.'
°You suro?' l say.
°Wo||, |t l'm wrong, l guoss wo d|o.'
l |augh a ||tt|o. °||no by mo,' l say.
1horo |sn't much t|mo to bo part|cu|ar. l |ot Gabr|o| chooso tho boat bocauso ho's tho oxport. |o's on|y ovor soon p|cturos, and most ot thoso
modo|s aro much nowor than tho onos you can road about |n l|ndon's ||brary, but h|s oxport|so |s st||| groator than m|no. Wo sott|o on a sma|| t|sh|ng
boat w|th an |ndoor stoor|ng pano|-l'm not suro ot tho tochn|ca| namo, and Gabr|o| has no t|mo to oxp|a|n-but |t w||| protoct us trom tho co|d w|nds.
lt's surpr|s|ng|y oasy to unt|o tho ropo, to cast ourso|vos ott. And ovon |t Gabr|o| |sn't tam|||ar w|th thoso nowor modo|s, ho's |mpross|vo|y dott. l try to
ho|p, but l on|y mako |t worso, and ovontua||y ho to||s mo to just bo tho |ookout. 1hat much l can do.
And thon wo'ro mov|ng.
Gabr|o| works tho stoor|ng un|t, |ook|ng so sor|ous and |mportant, such a contrast to tho uncorta|n ||tt|o attondant push|ng |unch carts around on tho
w|vos' t|oor. |o watchos tho hor|zon, and h|s oyos aro b|uo ||ko tho wator, and l know ho's r|ght whoro ho's moant to bo. Vaybo h|s paronts woro
sa||ors. Or maybo a hundrod yoars ago, whon poop|o woro natura| and troo, h|s ancos-tors |ookod just th|s way.
Wo'ro t|na||y troo, and l havo so much to to|| h|m.
1onna. Coc||y. And l know ho must havo th|ngs ho wants to to|| mo, too. 3ut tor now thoso th|ngs can wa|t. l stand at a d|stanco, adm|r|ng, |ott|ng h|m
havo h|s momont. l |ot h|s capab|o hands stoor us |nto tho torovor, ovor sunkon cont|nonts, unt|| ||or|da d|sappoars. 1ust d|sappoars, as though
swa||owod.
Vaybo, l th|nk, wo'|| ond up on tho boach 0o|rdro's tathor pa|ntod. Vaybo wo'|| touch roa| start|sh that wo can ho|d |n our hands, that don't ta|| r|ght
through our grasp. E|thor way wo'|| havo to t|nd a shoro somowhoro.
Wo'|| havo to stop and ask tor d|roct|ons to Vanhattan, on|y, whon wo stop, |t w||| bo |n a p|aco whoro nobody knows us, whoro l'm not l|ndon
Ashby's br|do and ho's not an attondant, and nobody has ovor hoard ot vaughn Ashby or h|s spraw||ng mans|on. Wo'ro travo||ng up tho coast||no,
and tho w|nd has p|ckod up.
Gabr|o| puts h|s arm around mo, and l rost my hand on h|s, too||ng tho sturdy ros|stanco ot tho stoor|ng whoo|.
°look,' ho says |n my oar.
ln tho d|stanco l soo a ||ghthouso. 1ho ||ght washos ovor us and cont|nuos on |ts rotat|on. 1h|s t|mo, l don't know whoro tho ||ght w||| gu|do us.