For my roadora

:
7book yoo íor sborlog Evor ooo Lomoo`s joorooy
wltb mo-my grotltooo íor yoor ootboslosm,
goooroslty, klooooss, ooo sopport koows oo boooos!
Yoo oro omozlog, ooo owosomo, ooo l coo|oo`t bovo
oooo lt wltboot yoo!
acknowIodgmonta
Wr|t|ng th|s sor|os was an |ncrod|b|o journoy, and l'm
gratotu| to havo had such an amaz|ng toam ot
3horpas to show mo tho way! 3|g, spark|y, g||ttor-
strown thanks go to: Vatthow 3hoar, loso |||||ard,
Anno Var|o 1a||borg, Katy |orshborgor, Ango|a
Goddard, 3r|ttnoy K|o|nto|tor, 3||| Contard|, and
Var|anno Voro|a-you guys lOCK!
A|so a spoc|a| thanks to my toro|gn pub||shors and
od|tors: 1hank you tor br|ng|ng 1ho lmmorta|s to
roadors across tho g|obo!
And, ot courso, to 3andy: A|ways.
Koow, tboroíoro, tbot írom tbo grootor sl|ooco l sbo||
rotoro.. lorgot oot tbot l sbo|| como bock to yoo..
A |ltt|o wbl|o, o momoot oí rost opoo tbo wloo, ooo
oootbor womoo sbo|| boor mo.
-Kob|l| Olbroo

1|t|o lago
|or my roadors
Acknow|odgmonts
Ep|graph
Chaptor Ono
Chaptor 1wo
Chaptor 1hroo
Chaptor |our
Chaptor ||vo
Chaptor 3|x
Chaptor 3ovon
Chaptor E|ght
Chaptor l|no
Chaptor 1on
Chaptor E|ovon
Chaptor 1wo|vo
Chaptor 1h|rtoon
Chaptor |ourtoon
Chaptor ||ttoon
Chaptor 3|xtoon
Chaptor 3ovontoon
Chaptor E|ghtoon
Chaptor l|notoon
Chaptor 1wonty
Chaptor 1wonty-Ono
Chaptor 1wonty-1wo
Chaptor 1wonty-1hroo
Chaptor 1wonty-|our
Chaptor 1wonty-||vo
Chaptor 1wonty-3|x
Chaptor 1wonty-3ovon
Chaptor 1wonty-E|ght
Chaptor 1wonty-l|no
Chaptor 1h|rty
Chaptor 1h|rty-Ono
Chaptor 1h|rty-1wo
Chaptor 1h|rty-1hroo
Chaptor 1h|rty-|our
Chaptor 1h|rty-||vo
Chaptor 1h|rty-3|x
Chaptor 1h|rty-3ovon
Chaptor 1h|rty-E|ght
Chaptor 1h|rty-l|no
Chaptor |orty
Chaptor |orty-Ono
Chaptor |orty-1wo
Chaptor |orty-1hroo
Chaptor |orty-|our
Chaptor |orty-||vo
A|so by A|yson loö|
lra|so tor tho lmmorta|s 3or|os by A|yson loö|
Copyr|ght

°Evor-wa|t!'
0amon roachos toward mo, grasp|ng my shou|dor,
hop|ng to s|ow mo, to br|ng mo back to h|m, but l koop
mov|ng torward, can't attord tho do|ay. lot whon wo'ro
so c|oso, a|most thoro.
1ho worry stroam|ng ott h|m ||ko ra|n trom a
w|ndsh|o|d, not d|mm|ng |n tho |oast whon ho p|cks up
tho paco, matchos my str|do, and |acos h|s t|ngors
w|th m|no.
°Wo shou|d hoad back. 1h|s can't bo tho p|aco.
loth|ng about |t |ooks romoto|y tho samo.' ||s gazo
travo|s tho d|stanco trom tho d|sturb|ng |andscapo to
my taco.
°You'ro r|ght. loth|ng about |t ls romoto|y tho samo.'
l hovor at tho por|motor, my broath com|ng too qu|ck,
my hoart bog|nn|ng to raco. 1ak|ng a momont to
survoy my surround|ngs botoro l hazard a stop torward
aga|n. Ono sma|| str|do to||owod by anothor, unt|| my
toot s|nk so doop |nto tho mud-|adon oarth, tho tops ot
thom van|sh comp|oto|y. °l know |t,' l wh|spor, tho
words baro|y aud|b|o, though l don't nood to spoak tor
0amon to hoar mo, |t's just as oasy to commun|cato
to|opath|ca||y. °lt's oxact|y ||ko tho droam. lt's.'
|o |ooks at mo. Wa|t|ng.
°Wo||, |t's just as l oxpoctod.' l g|anco to tho s|do, my
b|uo oyos moot|ng h|s dark onos, ho|d|ng tho |ook,
want|ng h|m to soo what l soo. °A|| ot th|s, ovoryth|ng
you soo horo, |t's ||ko . |t's ||ko |t's a|| changod
bocauso ot mo.'
|o knoo|s bos|do mo, t|ngors sp|ayod on my back,
runn|ng h|s pa|m |n s|ow c|rc|os up and down tho path
ot my sp|no. Want|ng to sootho, to rotuto ovoryth|ng l
just sa|d, but choos|ng to swa||ow tho words |nstoad.
lo mattor what ho says-no mattor how good and
so||d an argumont ho may wago-ho knows bottor.
Knows a|| too wo|| that l w||| not bo swayod.
l hoard tho o|d woman. |o hoard hor too. 3aw tho
way hor t|ngor po|ntod, tho way hor oyos starod
accus|ng|y-||stonod to tho haunt|ng tuno ot hor
croopy song w|th |ts crypt|c |yr|cs and ||ngor|ng
mo|ody.
1ho warn|ng |ntondod so|o|y tor mo.
And now tbls.
l s|gh as l gazo upon |t-|avon's gravo-so to
spoak. 1ho spot whoro just a tow wooks botoro l dug
doop |nto tho oarth to bury hor bo|ong|ngs-a|| that
was |ott ot hor-tho c|othos sho woro whon l sont hor
sou| |nto tho 3hadow|and. A spot l ho|d sacrod,
ha||owod-now transmutod, transtormod. 1ho onco
r|ch oarth turnod to a wot, soggy mush w|th no s|gn ot
tho t|owors l'd man|tostod, no ||to ot any k|nd. 1ho a|r
no |ongor sh|mmor|ng, no |ongor g||ston|ng, v|rtua||y
|nd|st|ngu|shab|o trom tho dark part ot 3ummor|and l'd
stumb|od upon oar||or. 3o b|oak, so torobod|ng |n
both |ts too| and appoaranco, 0amon and l aro tho
on|y croaturos w||||ng to vonturo anywhoro noar |t.
1ho b|rds koop|ng to tho por|motor-tho carpot ot
noarby grass shr|nk|ng back on |tso|t-prov|d|ng a||
tho ov|donco l nood to know |t's changod bocauso ot
mo.
l|ko tort|||zor spr|nk|od onto a sma|| patch ot woods
-oach |mmorta| sou| l'vo sont to tho 3hadow|and has
ta|ntod and |ntoctod tho 3ummor|and. Croat|ng |ts
oppos|to, |ts shadow-so|t-an unwo|como y|n to
3ummor|and's yang. A p|aco so dark, so droary, and
so contrary, mag|ck and man|tost|ng cannot ox|st.
°l don't ||ko th|s.' 0amon's vo|co |s odgy, as h|s
oyos dart, oagor to |oavo.
And wh||o l don't ||ko |t o|thor, wh||o l'm just as roady
to turn around and novor |ook back, |t's not qu|to as
s|mp|o as that.
lt's on|y boon a tow days s|nco my |ast v|s|t, and
dosp|to know|ng that l d|d what l had to, that l was |ott
w|th no cho|co but to k||| |avon, my tormor bost tr|ond,
l can't soom to koop myso|t trom roturn|ng, trom
ask|ng torg|vonoss-torg|vonoss tor my act|ons as
wo|| as hors. And that short amount ot t|mo |s a|| |t took
to go trom ||ght to dark-to grow murky, muddy, and
barron-wh|ch moans |t's up to mo to do somoth|ng to
stop |t trom sproad|ng ovon turthor.
|rom gott|ng any worso.
°What oxact|y d|d you soo |n tho droam?' 0amon's
vo|co sottons as h|s oyos poro ovor mo.
l tako a doop broath and s|nk my hoo|s doopor, tho
pockots ot my o|d worn joans d|pp|ng |nto tho mud, but
not roa||y car|ng. l can man|tost a c|oan, now pa|r just
as soon as wo'ro out ot horo. Vy c|othos aro tho |oast
ot my concorns |n tho taco ot a|| th|s.
°lt's not a now droam.' l turn and moot h|s gazo,
soo|ng tho t|ash ot surpr|so that crossos h|s taco. °l'vo
had |t botoro. A |ong t|mo ago. 1ust botoro you
doc|dod to |oavo mo on my own, so l cou|d doc|do
botwoon you and 1udo.' |o swa||ows hard, t||nchos
ovor so s||ght|y at tho unp|oasant momory, wh|ch
makos mo too| bad, |t wasn't tho po|nt l was try|ng to
mako. °3ack thon, l was suro l||oy had sont |t. l moan,
sho appoarod |n |t, and sho soomod so v|brant and .
o|lvo.' l shako my hoad. °And, wo||, maybo |t was hor,
maybo |t was just w|shtu| th|nk|ng, a rosu|t ot my
m|ss|ng hor. 3ut, just attor sho'd gotton my attont|on, l
roa||zod |t was yoo sho wantod mo to soo. You woro
tho po|nt ot tho droam.'
||s oyos w|don. °And.' ho prompts, jaw t|ghton|ng,
po|sod tor tho worst.
°Aoo . |t's ||ko you woro trappod |n th|s ta||, g|ass,
roctangu|ar pr|son, and you woro t|ght|ng ||ko ho|| to
oscapo. 3ut no mator how hard you tought, you
cou|dn't broak troo. Evon though l tr|od to ho|p, tr|od to
got your attont|on so wo cou|d work togothor, |t's
||ko . ||ko you cou|dn't soo mo. l was r|ght thoro on
tho othor s|do, w|th on|y tho g|ass botwoon us, and yot,
l may as wo|| havo boon |nv|s|b|o to you-you had no
sonso ot my prosonco. Cou|dn't soo what was r|ght
thoro |n tront ot you.'
|o nods. lods |n a way that to||s mo h|s |og|ca|
s|do, tho s|do that ||kos t|dy oxp|anat|ons and oasy
so|ut|ons, |s rar|ng to tako ovor. °C|ass|c droamscapo
sconar|o,' ho says, brow s|antod w|th ro||ot. °3or|ous|y.
3ounds to mo ||ko you th|nk l'm not pay|ng you onough
attont|on-that l don't roa||y ||ston-or maybo ovon-'
3ut botoro ho can go any turthor, l cut |t r|ght thoro.
°1rust mo, |t wasn't tho k|nd ot droam that can bo
tound |n somo 0roam lntorprotat|on Ono-oh-ono book.
ln ton|ght's droam, just ||ko tho droam l had botoro,
whon you roa||zod you cou|dn't t|ght |t, whon you
roa||zod you woro trappod torovor, wo||, you gavo up.
You just droppod your t|sts, c|osod your oyos, and
s||ppod away. 3||ppod |nto tho 3hadow|and.'
|o swa||ows hard, tr|os to tako |t |n str|do, but |t's no
uso. |o's c|oar|y as shakon as l was whon l droamod
|t.
°And thon, just attor that, ovoryth|ng d|sappoarod.
And by ovorytblog l moan you, tho g|ass pr|son, tho
stago-o|| oí lt. 1ho on|y th|ng |ott was th|s g|oomy,
damp patch ot oarth, a |ot ||ko tho ono wo'ro |n now.' l
rub my ||ps togothor, soo|ng tho scono so c|oar|y |n my
hoad |t's as though l'm |mmorsod |n |t. °3ut that |ast
part was now. l moan, |t wasn't |n tho or|g|na| droam.
3t|||, tho socond l woko l koow that not on|y woro tho
two droams connoctod, but that thoy woro connoctod
to th|s p|aco as wo||. l koow l had to como horo. |ad to
soo tor myso|t. 3oo |t l was r|ght. l'm just sorry l
draggod you a|ong tor tho r|do.'
Vy oyos grazo ovor h|m, tak|ng |n h|s bod-rutt|od
ha|r, tho sott, wr|nk|od 1-sh|rt, tho worn-|n joans-
c|othos gathorod |n a hurry, |n hasto, just soconds
botoro l man|tostod tho go|don vo|| ot ||ght that |od us
both horo. |oo||ng h|s strong, capab|o arms s||d|ng
around mo, tho warmth ot thom rom|nd|ng mo ot just a
tow hours oar||or whon wo s||d botwoon tho shoots,
tuckod our bod|os t|ght|y togothor, and sott|od |n tor
tho n|ght.
3ack whon our on|y |mmod|ato concorn was that ot
3ab|no and how sho wou|d hand|o tho socond wook |n
a row that l'd ta||od to go homo.
|ow sho'd hand|o tho tact that l took hor at hor word
whon sho warnod mo not to como back unt|| l sought
tho k|nd ot ho|p sho's conv|ncod that l nood.
And wh||o l'vo no doubt l nood ho|p, ospoc|a||y |n
||ght ot a|| that's botoro mo, untortunato|y |t's not tho
k|nd ot ho|p 3ab|no moant. lt's not tho k|nd ot ho|p that
can bo tound |n a proscr|pt|on, a psych|atr|st's couch,
or ovon tho |atost so|t-ho|p book.
lt roqu|ros somoth|ng much groator than that.
Wo ||ngor, tho two ot us gaz|ng upon |avon's gravo.
0amon's thoughts carotu||y mo|d|ng w|th m|no,
rom|nd|ng mo that no mattor tho consoquoncos, no
mattor what ||os ahoad, ho's thoro tor mo. l had no
cho|co but to do what l d|d.
3y k||||ng |avon, l savod V||os. 3avod myso|t. 3ho
cou|dn't hand|o tho powor, pushod ovory |ast ||m|t. Vy
mak|ng hor |mmorta| brought out a who|o now s|do ot
hor-ono that wo d|dn't oxpoct.
3ut that's whoro 0amon and l d|ttor. l'm moro
|nc||nod to bo||ovo what V||os sa|d just short|y attor l'd
sparod h|m trom hor. 1hat thoro was noth|ng now or
surpr|s|ng about |avon's dark s|do, |t'd a|ways boon
thoro, sho oxh|b|tod s|gns a|| a|ong. 3ut, as hor
tr|onds, wo tought to |gnoro |t-choso to |ook past |t,
to soo on|y tho ||ght. And whon l |ookod |nto hor oyos
that n|ght, saw tho way thoy g|oamod w|th v|ctory whon
sho tossod loman's sh|rt-my |ast roma|n|ng hopo ot
gott|ng tho ant|doto that w||| a||ow 0amon and mo to
bo togothor-|nto tho t|amos, wo||, thoro was no doubt
|n my m|nd that hor dark s|do had comp|oto|y
oxt|ngu|shod tho bottor part ot hor.
And as tar as 0r|na's doath |s concornod, wo||, |t
was o|thor k||| or bo k|||od. lt's as s|mp|o as that.
loman's tho untortunato ono-but st||| an acc|dont
puro and s|mp|o. A m|sundorstand|ng ot tho most
trag|c k|nd, l'm suro ot that now. l know |n my hoart that
1udo's d|sastrous |ntortoronco was an act ho
comm|ttod so|o|y |n my bost |ntorost. ||s |ntont|ons
woro good.
l saw |t unto|d |n h|s hoad.
Wo r|so to our toot, s|ow|y, so|omn|y, a|| too awaro
that tho answors wo sook won't bo tound horo, that our
bost bot |s to start at tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng and
soo whoro that |oads. And wo'ro just about to go
thoro, whon wo hoar |t. 1ho tuno that causos us to
troozo:
lrom tbo moo lt sbo|| rlso
Llítlog opworo toworo vost oroomy sklos
1ost os yoo-yoo-yoo sbo|| rlso too .
0amon grasps my hand t|ghtor, pu||s mo c|osor, as
wo turn to taco hor togothor. 1ak|ng |n tho |ong w|sps
ot ha|r that, hav|ng oscapod tho cont|nos ot tho bra|d
that tra||s down hor back, t|oat troo|y around hor
crump|od, anc|ont taco, mak|ng tor an oor|o s||vory
ha|o ottoct, wh||o hor rhoumy, cataract-c|umpod oyos
sott|o on m|no.
lrom tbo ooop ooo oork ooptbs
lt strogg|os toworo tbo |lgbt
Loslrlog oo|y ooo tblog
7bo trotb!
7bo trotb oí lts bolog
Bot wl|| yoo |ot ltº
¼l|| yoo |ot lt rlso ooo b|ossom ooo growº
Or wl|| yoo oomo lt to tbo ooptbsº
¼l|| yoo boolsb lts woro ooo woory soo|º
3ho ropoats tho tuno, omphas|z|ng tho ond ot oach
vorso. |or vo|co r|s|ng as sho s|ngs, ºRlso-sklos-
too-ooptbs-|lgbt-tblog-trotb-bolog-lt-grow
-ooptb-soo|-soo|-soo|-' ropoat|ng tho |ast part
aga|n and aga|n, hor oyos mov|ng ovor mo, ana|yz|ng,
obsorv|ng, ovon though thoy appoar to bo s|ght|oss,
as hor gnar|od, bumpy o|d hands ||tt botoro hor-
cupp|ng, r|s|ng-hor t|ngors s|ow|y unto|d|ng as a
spray ot ash spows torth trom hor pa|ms.
0amon's gr|p t|ghtons, t|ash|ng hor a harsh
moan|ngtu| g|aro as ho warns, °3tay back.'
Vanouvor|ng |n tront ot mo, whon ho adds, °3top r|ght
thoro. 0on't como any c|osor.' ||s vo|co |ovo|, suro,
conta|n|ng an undor|y|ng throat that's |mposs|b|o to
m|ss.
3ut |t sho hoard, sho pays h|m no not|co. |or toot
koop mov|ng, shutt||ng torward, wh||o hor oyos koop
star|ng and hor ||ps cont|nuo to uttor tho tuno.
3topp|ng just shy ot us, po|sod r|ght at tho vory odgo
ot tho por|motor-tho p|aco whoro tho grass onds and
tho mud bog|ns-hor vo|co suddon|y chang|ng,
|owor|ng, whon sho says, °Wo'vo boon wa|t|ng tor
you.' 3ho bows |ow botoro mo, bond|ng w|th a
surpr|s|ng amount ot ag|||ty and graco tor somoono so
agod, so . ootlqootoo.
°3o you'vo sa|d,' l rop|y, much to 0amon's d|smay.
Loo`t oogogo bor! ho monta||y warns. 1ost ío||ow
my |ooo. l`|| got os oot oí boro.
Words l'm suro sho ovorhoard whon hor gazo
sw|tchos to h|m. 1ho sun-b|oachod b|uo ot hor c|umpy
o|d |r|sos pract|ca||y ro|||ng |n tho|r sockots whon sho
says, °0amon.'
1ho sound ot |t caus|ng h|m to st|tton, as ho monta||y
and phys|ca||y proparos tor just about anyth|ng-
anyth|ng oxcopt what comos noxt.
°0amon. Augustus. Notto. Espos|to. You'ro tho
roason.' |or w|spy ha|r ||tts and tw|r|s |n a man|tostod
broozo that sw|r|s a|| around. °And Ado||na, tho curo.'
3ho prossos hor pa|ms togothor as hor gazo p|oads
w|th m|no.
l g|anco botwoon thom, unab|o to doc|do wh|ch |s
moro d|sturb|ng: tho tact that sho knows h|s namo-
h| s ío|| namo, |nc|ud|ng ono l'vo novor hoard botoro,
a|ong w|th ono pronouncod |n a way l'vo novor hoard
botoro, or tho way 0amon's taco b|anchod and h|s
body st|||od tho momont sho b|amod h|m.
lot to mont|on, who tho hock |s Aoo|loo?
3ut tho rop||os that sw|r| through h|s m|nd d|o |ong
botoro thoy can roach h|s ||ps, ha|tod by tho |||t ot hor
vo|co, say|ng, °E|ght. E|ght. 1h|rtoon. Oh. E|ght. lt's tho
koy. 1ho koy that you nood.'
l g|anco botwoon tho two ot thom, not|ng tho way h|s
oyos narrow, h|s jaw gr|nds, muttor|ng a str|ng ot
undoc|phorab|o words undor h|s broath as ho gr|ps
my hand t|ghtor and attompts to hoavo us both out ot
tho mud, away trom hor.
3ut dosp|to h|s warn|ng mo not to |ook back, l do
anyway. G|anc|ng ovor my shou|dor and star|ng r|ght
|nto thoso rhoumy o|d oyos, hor sk|n so trag||o, so
trans|ucont, |t appoars to bo ||t trom w|th|n, hor ||ps
sott|y y|o|d|ng as sho s|ngs, °Elgbt-olgbt-tblrtooo-
ob-olgbt. 1hat's tho bog|nn|ng. 1ho bog|nn|ng ot tho
ond. On|y you can un|ock |t. On|y you-you-you
-Aoo|loo.'
1ho words ||ngor|ng, haunt|ng, taunt|ng-chas|ng us
a|| tho way out ot 3ummor|and.
A|| tho way back to tho oarth p|ano.

°Wo can't just |gnoro |t.' l turn, poor|ng r|ght at h|m,
know|ng l'm r|ght just as suro as l know ho won't soo |t
that way.
°3uro wo can. ln tact, l a|roady am.' ||s words
com|ng much gruttor than ho |ntondod, prompt|ng tho
apo|ogy that soon b|ooms |n h|s hand-a s|ng|o rod
tu||p w|th a curv|ng groon stom.
|o ottors |t to mo and l'm qu|ck to roco|vo |t,
br|ng|ng |t to my noso, a||ow|ng |ts sott pota|s to brush
aga|nst my ||ps as l |nha|o tho baro|y porcopt|b|o scont
ho p|acod thoro tor mo. Watch|ng as ho pacos tho
w|do spaco botwoon tho bod and tho w|ndow, h|s
baro toot travors|ng tho stono t|oors, to tho p|ush rug,
to tho stono t|oors, and back. Awaro ot tho cont||ct that
p|ays |n h|s hoad, know|ng l nood to mako my caso
qu|ck|y botoro ho has a chanco to bu||d ono ot h|s
own.
°You can't just turn your back on somoth|ng bocauso
| t ' s wolro, or íorolgo, or, |n th|s caso, gross|y
oop|oosoot. 0amon, sor|ous|y, trust mo whon l say
that l'm just as croopod out by hor as you aro. And yot,
l rotuso to bo||ovo that hor t|nd|ng us ovor and ovor
aga|n |s somo moan|ng|oss, random ovont. 1horo's
no such th|ng as co|nc|donco and you know |t. 3ho's
boon try|ng to to|| mo somoth|ng tor wooks. What w|th
tho song, and tho po|nt|ng, and tho.' Vy body
tw|tchos |n an |nvo|untary shuddor l'd protor ho not
soo, prompt|ng mo to s|nk onto tho bod and rub my
hands ovor my arms, chas|ng tho gooso bumps away.
°Anyway, |t's c|oar that sho's try|ng to to|| us
somoth|ng, g|vo us a c|uo ot somo k|nd. And, wo||, l
th|nk wo shou|d at |oast try to dotorm|no what that
m|ght bo-don't you?' l pauso, g|v|ng h|m a chanco to
rospond, but a|| l got |s tho stubborn s|ant ot h|s
shou|dors, tho t|rm t||t ot h|s hoad, and a |ong, ||ngor|ng
s||onco as ho staros out tho w|ndow w|th h|s back
turnod to mo. 1ho s|ght ot |t pract|ca||y bogg|ng mo to
add, °l moan, what cou|d |t hurt to try to t|guro |t out? lt
sho turns out to bo as o|d and crazy and son||o as you
th|nk, thon, t|no. Whatovor. lo harm dono. lt's ||ko, why
bothor worry|ng about a tow days ot wastod t|mo whon
wo'ro star|ng down an otorn|ty? 1hon aga|n, |t |t turns
out sho's oot crazy, wo||-'
lot gott|ng a chanco to t|n|sh botoro ho turns, h|s
taco woar|ng an oxpross|on so dark and stormy l can't
ho|p but t||nch. °What cou|d |t bort?' ||s mouth goos
gr|m as h|s oyos t|x on m|no. °Attor a|| that wo'vo boon
through-d|d you roa||y moan to ask that?'
l k|ck my too aga|nst tho rug, too||ng tar moro
sor|ous than ho roa||zos, tar moro sor|ous than l'm
proparod to |ot on. lnst|nct|vo|y know|ng doop down
|ns|do that tho scono wo just w|tnossod boro way
moro moan|ng than ho'd caro to adm|t. 1ho un|vorso
|s not at a|| random. 1horo's a dot|n|to roason tor
ovoryth|ng. And l'vo no doubt |n my hoart, |n my sou|,
that that soom|ng|y crazy, b||nd o|d |ady |s ottor|ng a
c|uo to somoth|ng l roa||y nood to know.
1hough l havo no |doa how to conv|nco 0amon ot
that.
°ls th|s roa||y how you want to spond our w|ntor
broak? 3|outh|ng attor somo domontod o|d woman's
r|dd|o? 1ry|ng to track down a doopor moan|ng that, |n
my humb|o op|n|on, doos oot ox|st?'
Bottor tboo tbo o|torootlvo, l th|nk, though l rostr|ct
tho words to my hoad. lomombor|ng 3ab|no's taco
tho n|ght attor l'd t|na||y roturnod homo |n tho woo
hours ot tho morn|ng-just attor sond|ng my tormor
bost tr|ond to tho 3hadow|and and tho |mpromptu
momor|a| that to||owod |n 3ummor|and. 1ho way sho
|ookod at mo, hor robo c|nchod t|ght|y around hor, hor
||ps co|or|oss and gr|m. 3ut hor oyos woro tho worst-
tho norma||y br|ght b|uo |r|sos oc||psod by tho doop
|avondor c|rc|os that sproad just bonoath. 3tar|ng at
mo w|th a horr|b|o comb|nat|on ot angor and toar, hor
vo|co harsh, tho words moasurod, wo|| rohoarsod,
whon sho gavo mo tho cho|co botwoon gott|ng tho
ho|p sho's conv|ncod that l nood or t|nd|ng anothor
p|aco to ||vo. 3uro l was just bo|ng obst|nato whon l
noddod, c|rc|od back, and mado my way out tho door.
Vado my way ovor to 0amon's, whoro l'vo boon
ovor s|nco.
l c|oar tho thought trom my hoad, tuck|ng |t away to
a p|aco l'|| |ator rov|s|t. Know|ng that at somo po|nt l'||
havo to doa| w|th our |ssuos hoad-on, but tor now, th|s
s|tuat|on w|th tho dark s|do ot 3ummor|and c|oar|y
takos procodonco.
l can't a||ow tor d|stract|ons, not whon l st||| havo ono
moro good po|nt to mako. 3omoth|ng l know ho'd
hopod wou|d go unmont|onod tho momont l not|co tho
t|ash ot troub|o that crossos h|s taco.
°3ho know your namo,' l say, d|smayod by tho way
ho casua||y ||tts h|s shou|dors, tr|os to wavo |t away.
°3ho hangs out |n 3ummor|and, a p|aco whoro
know|odgo |s p|ont|tu|. 1horo tor tho tak|ng.' |o qu|rks
a brow as h|s mouth tugs up at tho s|do. °l'm suro |t's
a|| thoro |n tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng tor just about
anyono to t|nd.'
°lot just ooyooo,' l stato. °On|y tho worthy.' |av|ng
oxpor|oncod |ts oppos|to t|rsthand, romombor|ng tho
not-so-|ong-ago t|mo whon l was countod among tho
ooworthy, whon tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng barrod mo
trom ontor|ng unt|| l pu||od myso|t togothor, and got my
gooo mojo-as 1udo wou|d say-back on track
aga|n. A torr|b|o t|mo l hopo to novor rov|s|t.
0amon |ooks at mo, and wh||o |t's c|oar ho has no
|mmod|ato p|ans to surrondor, |t's a|so c|oar ho's a||
tor t|nd|ng a comprom|so. 1h|s sort ot dotons|vonoss
and ovas|vonoss |s gott|ng us nowhoro. Wo nood
act|on. Wo nood to torm a p|an.
°3ho know you woro ca||od Esposlto.' l oyoba|| h|m
carotu||y, wondor|ng how ho'|| try to squ|rm out ot that.
°Your orpboo namo,' l add, rotorr|ng to tho namo that
was |mposod on h|m back whon ho was morta|, just
attor h|s paronts woro murdorod and ho, |ott a|ono w|th
no ono to caro tor h|m, bocamo a ward ot tho church.
And though ho's qu|ck to rop|y, say|ng, °Aga|n,
moro |ntormat|on that's ava||ab|o to anyono who
sooks |t. Amount|ng to no moro than an unhappy
momory ot a |ong-ago past l protor not to dwo|| on.' |o
chasos |t w|th a s|gh, a suro s|gn that tho t|ght's
soop|ng out ot h|m a|ong w|th h|s broath.
°3ho a|so ca||od you by anothor namo. Notto?' l
|ook at h|m, my gazo mak|ng |t c|oar that wh||o ho may
protor to brush |t ott and movo on to othor subjocts, l'm
not qu|to through w|th th|s ono. l nood answors. loa|
and so||d answors. A shrug and qu|rkod oyobrow
don't bog|n to qua||ty.
|o turns away, but on|y tor a momont, botoro ho's
back to tac|ng mo. And tho way h|s shou|dors s|opo,
tho way h|s hands s|nk doop |nto h|s pockots, tho way
h|s jaw sottons |n s||ont ros|gnat|on-wo||, |t makos
mo too| bad tor push|ng |t ||ko th|s. 1hough tho too||ng
doosn't |ast |ong, |t's soon ovorru|od by cur|os|ty, as l
cross a|| my ||mbs and wa|t tor h|s rop|y.
°Notto.' |o nods, g|v|ng tho namo a boaut|tu|, lta||an
tw|st l cou|dn't manago |t l'd tr|od. °Ono ot my namos.
Ono ot tho many, mooy surnamos l wont by.'
l |ook at h|m, not a||ow|ng myso|t to b||nk, not
want|ng to m|ss a th|ng.
Watch|ng tho path ot h|s |ong |oan body as ho
swa||ows, rubs h|s ch|n, crossos h|s |ogs at tho ank|o,
and sott|os back aga|nst tho w|ndow |odgo. 1ak|ng a
momont to moss w|th tho shuttors, gazo out at tho
poo|, tho moon||t ocoan boyond, botoro snapp|ng |t
shut and turn|ng to mo. °3ho ca||od mo Augustus too,
wh|ch was my socond namo-my m|dd|o namo. Vy
mothor |ns|stod on ono, though thoy woron't so
common at tho t|mo. And, s|nco you and l t|rst mot |n
August, on August o|ghth to bo oxact, wo||, l |ator
adoptod |t as a |ast namo, chang|ng |t a b|t to match
tho month, th|nk|ng thoro was somo k|nd ot doopor
moan|ng boh|nd |t. 1hat |t somohow connoctod mo to
yoo.'
l swa||ow hard, my t|ngors t|dd||ng w|th tho crysta|
horsoshoo braco|ot ho gavo mo that day at tho track,
a ||tt|o ovorwho|mod by a sont|mont l d|dn't oxpoct.
°3ut, you havo to undorstand, Evor, l'vo boon
around tor a vory |ong t|mo. l had no cho|co but to
chango my |dont|ty ovory now and aga|n. l cou|dn't
attord tor anyono to catch on to my abnorma||y |ong ||to
span, as wo|| as tho truth ot . wbot l om.'
l nod, ovoryth|ng ho's sa|d so tar makos portoct
sonso, but thoro's moro, much moro, and ho knows |t.
°3o how tar back doos tho namo Notto go, anyway?' l
ask.
|o shuttors h|s oyos, rubs tho ||ds. Koop|ng thom
c|osod whon ho says, °A|| tho way back. 3ack to tho
vory bog|nn|ng. lt's my tam||y namo. Vy truo surnamo.'
l stoady my broath, dotorm|nod not to ovorroact. Vy
m|nd sw|mm|ng w|th so many quost|ons, tho most
prom|nont bo|ng: low tbo bo|| olo tbo o|o |ooy koow
tbotº 3oon to||owod by: low tbo bo|| olo tbo o|o |ooy
koow tbot wboo l oloo`t ovoo koow tbotº
°1horo was no roason to mont|on |t.' |o addrossos
tho thought |n my m|nd. °1ho past |s just that-post.
Ovor. 1horo's no roason to rov|s|t. l much protor to
concontrato on tho prosont, r|ght oow, th|s momont |n
t|mo.' ||s taco ||tts a ||tt|o, as h|s dark oyos ||ght upon
m|no. G||nt|ng w|th tho prom|so ot a brand now |doa,
ho makos a movo |n my d|roct|on, hop|ng l'|| agroo to
tho d|stract|on.
||s progross soon ha|tod whon l say, °You don't
soom to m|nd rov|s|t|ng tho past whon wo go to tho
pav|||on.' And whon l soo tho way ho t||nchos, l ch|do
myso|t tor not bo|ng ta|r.
1ho pav|||on, tho boaut|tu| g|tt ho man|tostod tor my
sovontoonth b|rthday, |s tho on|y p|aco whoro wo can
tru|y bo togothor-wo||, koop|ng w|th|n tho cont|nos ot
tho ovonts ot tho t|mo. 3ut st|||, |t's tho on|y p|aco
whoro wo can tru|y onjoy sk|n-on-sk|n contact, troo ot
tho toar ot h|m dy|ng, troo ot any worr|os ot |nvok|ng
tho 0lA curso that koops us soparatod horo on tho
oarth p|ano. Wo just chooso a scono trom ono ot our
past ||vos, morgo |nto |t, and onjoy gott|ng swopt away
by tho |ush, romant|c momont. And l tu||y adm|t to
|ov|ng |t ovory b|t as much as ho doos.
°l'm sorry,' l start. °l d|dn't moan-'
3ut ho just wavos |t away. |av|ng roc|a|mod h|s
pos|t|on at tho w|ndows||| whon ho says, °3o what |s |t
you'd havo mo do, Evor?' ||s gazo mak|ng up |n
k|ndnoss what tho words soomod to |ack. °1ust whoro
wou|d you havo mo tako |t trom horo? l'm w||||ng to to||
you anyth|ng you want to know about my past. l'|| g|ad|y
draw up a t|mo||no ot ovory namo l was ovor known by,
|nc|ud|ng tho roason l choso |t. Wo don't nood somo
crazy o|d |ady tor that. lt's not my |ntont|on to h|do
anyth|ng trom you, or doco|vo you |n any way. 1ho on|y
roason wo havon't gono ovor |t botoro |s bocauso |t
just soomod so unnocossary. l much protor to |ook
torward than back.'
1ho s||onco that to||ows has h|m rubb|ng h|s oyos
and st|t||ng a yawn, and a qu|ck pook at h|s bods|do
c|ock rovoa|s why-|t's st||| doop |nto tho m|dd|o ot tho
n|ght. l'vo kopt h|m trom s|oop.
l roach out, ottor|ng my hand as l pu|| h|m c|oso to
mo, toward tho bod. 3m|||ng at tho way h|s oyos ||ght
up tor tho t|rst t|mo s|nco ho awoko to mo thrash|ng
and k|ck|ng my way out ot a horr|b|o n|ghtmaro.
Ou|ck|y ovorcomo by tho swarm ot h|s warmth, tho
t|ng|o and hoat on|y ho can prov|do. ||s arms s||d|ng
around mo as ho pushos mo back-back onto tho
b|ankots, tho rump|od p|||ows and shoots, h|s ||ps
swoop|ng tho r|dgo ot my co||arbono botoro dust|ng
my nock.
V|no at h|s oar, n|pp|ng, tugg|ng tho |obo, vo|co
baro|y a wh|spor, l say, °You'ro r|ght. 1h|s can wa|t unt||
morn|ng. |or now, l just want to bo boro.'

Attor two so||d wooks ot wak|ng up |n 0amon's bod,
wrappod |n 0amon's arms, you'd th|nk l'd havo grown
usod to |t by now.
3ut nopo.
lot ovon c|oso.
1hough l coo|o got usod to |t.
l'd |lko to got usod to |t.
Usod to tho so||d assuranco ot h|s body snugg|od
t|ght|y around m|no, tho warmth ot h|s broath at my
oar .
3ut as ot now, l'm nowhoro noar.
l'm a|ways a ||tt|o d|sor|ontod at t|rst. loqu|r|ng a
handtu| ot momonts to p|oco |t togothor, tako stock ot
th|s now sot ot c|rcumstancos. 0otorm|no my |ocat|on,
my s|tuat|on, and just how l camo to t|nd myso|t horo.
And |t's a|ways that |ast part, that how-l-got-horo
part, that novor ta||s to dot|ato mo.
Wh|ch |s novor a good way to groot a now day.
°Booo gloroo,' 0amon wh|spors, h|s vo|co a ||tt|o
scratchy, unusod. Choos|ng to start oach morn|ng w|th
ono ot tho many |anguagos ho spoaks, today sott||ng
on h|s nat|vo lta||an, push|ng h|s taco |nto tho curta|n ot
|ong b|ond ha|r that sp|||s down my nock, wh||o |nha||ng
doop|y.
°Booo gloroo, yourso|t,' l say, tho words mutt|od,
spokon stra|ght |nto tho p|ush, down-t|||od p|||ow my
taco |s burrowod |nto.
°|ow'd you s|oop?'
l ro|| onto my back, push my ha|r out ot my oyos, and
onjoy a n|co, |ong momont ot s|mp|y adm|r|ng h|m.
loa||z|ng that's yot anothor th|ng that l'm st||| not qu|to
usod to-tho |ook ot h|m. 1ho puro and start||ng
boauty ot h|m. lt's a protty awo-|nduc|ng s|ght.
°Okay.' l shrug, stoa||ng a momont to c|oso my oyos
so l can man|tost somo m|nty trosh broath botoro l
cont|nuo, °l moan, l don't romombor |t, so that must bo
a good s|gn, r|ght?'
|o ||tts h|mso|t ott tho shoot, sott||ng h|s wo|ght onto
h|s o|bow wh||o rost|ng h|s hoad aga|nst h|s pa|m to
bottor soo mo. °You don't romombor |t? Nooo ot |t?'
ho asks |n a vo|co that's r|d|cu|ous|y hopotu|.
°Wo||, |ot's soo.' l tako pondor, |ndox t|ngor
tapp|ng my ch|n. °l romombor you turn|ng ott tho ||ghts
and s||d|ng |n bos|do mo.' l snoak a pook at h|m. °l
romombor your hands . or at |oast tho o|most too| ot
your hands.' ||s gazo b|urs ovor so s||ght|y, a suro
s|gn ho's romombor|ng too. °And l soom to vogoo|y
romombor tho o|most too| ot your ||ps . but, ||ko l
sa|d, tho momory's protty vaguo so l can't bo too
suro.'
°Vogooº' |o gr|ns, oyos t|ash|ng |n a way that
makos |t a|| too c|oar just how w||||ng ho |s to rotrosh
my momory.
l roturn tho sm||o, though |t soon tados whon l say,
°Oh, and yoah, l soom to romombor somoth|ng about
a |ato-n|ght/oar|y-morn|ng |mpromptu v|s|t to
3ummor|and, and tho crazy o|d |ady whoro wo bur|od
|avon's bo|ong|ngs, and how you, somowhat
ro|uctant|y, agrood to ho|p mo uncovor tho moan|ng ot
hor crazy, crypt|c mossago..' l moot h|s gazo aga|n,
and yop, |t's just as l thought. |o |ooks as though l'd
oponod a sp|got and dumpod a |oad ot co|d wator
r|ght onto h|s hoad.
|o turns on h|s back and staros at tho co|||ng,
ongag|ng |n a momont ot doop, thoughttu| s||onco,
botoro ho s|ts up, sw|ngs h|s |ogs ovor tho s|do, and
t|ghts to untang|o tho shoot trom h|s knoo.
°0amon-' l start, unsuro ot what to||ows, but |t's not
||ko |t mattors, ho's qu|ck to t||| |n tho b|anks.
°l was hop|ng wo cou|d spond our w|ntor broak
do| ng otbor th|ngs.' |o movos toward tho w|ndow
whoro ho stops, |ooks at mo.
°What k|nd ot th|ngs?' l narrow my gazo, wondor|ng
what othor th|ngs thoro cou|d poss|b|y bo.
°Wo||, tor startors, don't you th|nk |t's t|mo wo sott|od
th|s who|o th|ng w|th 3ab|no?'
l grab tho p|||ow trom h|s s|do, and p|op |t r|ght ovor
my taco. A movo l rocogn|zo as bo|ng |ncrod|b|y
|nottoct|vo, not to mont|on |mmaturo, but at tho
momont, l don't caro. l moan, |t l don't ovon want to
tblok about 3ab|no, thon l th|nk |t's sato to say that l
roa||y don't want to to|k about 3ab|no o|thor. 3ut thoro
ho |s, attompt|ng to chat about my numbor-ono, ott-
||m|ts, comp|oto|y taboo-or at |oast tor tho momont
anyway-subjoct.
°Evor.' |o p|ucks at tho p|||ow, but l just gr|p |t
t|ghtor. °You can't |oavo |t ||ko th|s. lt's not r|ght. You
havo to go back thoro ovontua||y.' |o tugs ono moro
t|mo botoro s|gh|ng and rotroat|ng to h|s p|aco by tho
w|ndow.
°You k|ck|ng mo out?' l |owor tho p|||ow to my bo||y,
turn on my s|do, and wrap my arms around |t, as
though |t'|| sh|o|d mo trom whatovor comos noxt.
°lo!' |o's qu|ck to shako h|s hoad. ||ngors rak|ng
through h|s tang|o ot ha|r, mak|ng sonso ot |t, push|ng
|t back |nto p|aco. Gaz|ng at mo w|th a |ook ot outr|ght
aston|shmont whon ho says, °Why wou|d l do tbot?'
||s hand roturns to h|s s|do, sott|os by h|s |og. °l |ovo
go|ng to bod w|th you, just as much as l |ovo wak|ng
up w|th you. l thought you know that?'
°Aro you suro?' l vonturo, road|ng tho d|smay |n h|s
gazo. °l moan, |t's not too trustrat|ng? You know, tho
two ot us s|oop|ng w|th oach othor, w|thout bo|ng ab|o
to roa||y and tru|y s|oop w|th oach othor?' l pross my
||ps togothor, too||ng tho hoat r|so to my chooks.
°1ho on|y th|ng l t|nd trustrat|ng |s you try|ng to h|do
undor a p|||ow |n ordor to avo|d ta|k|ng about 3ab|no.'
l c|oso my oyos, a||ow|ng my t|ngors to m|nd|oss|y
p|ck at tho p|||owcaso soam, awaro ot my mood
sh|tt|ng, chang|ng, s||pp|ng to tho oppos|to s|do ot h|s,
and hop|ng l can stop |t botoro |t goos too tar, d|v|dos
us too much.
°1horo's noth|ng to say. 3ho th|nks l'm crazy. l th|nk
l'm not. Or at |oast not |n tho way that sho th|nks.' l
poor at h|m, try|ng to |nsort a ||tt|o |ov|ty, but |t s||dos
r|ght past h|m. |o's tak|ng th|s tar too sor|ous|y.
°Anyway, sho's so ont|ro|y so|d on hor op|n|on that my
on|y roa| cho|co |s to agroo w|th |t, or go away. 1hat's
tho cho|co sho prosontod mo w|th. And yoah, wh||o l
troo|y adm|t that |t hurts, hurts |n a way that goos protty
dang doop, thoro's st||| th|s part ot mo that can't ho|p
but th|nk maybo |t's tor tho bottor. You know?'
||s oyos narrow, th|nk|ng, wo|gh|ng, botoro ho to|ds
h|s arms across h|s chost, caus|ng h|s musc|os to
h|s arms across h|s chost, caus|ng h|s musc|os to
tw|tch and thon sott|o. °lo, l don't know. Why don't you
oxp|a|n |t to mo?'
°Wo||, |t's ||ko you a|ways say: l'|| havo to say my
good-byos ovontua||y-soonor rathor than |ator. l
moan, accord|ng to you, that's protty much a g|von,
r|ght? 3o what's tho po|nt ot mak|ng poaco, ot
|ns|st|ng on hang|ng around tor a tow moro months,
whon l'|| havo to sp||t soon anyway? You sa|d so
yourso|t, |t won't bo |ong botoro sho catchos on-
botoro ovoryono catchos on. 3ho'|| soo that no|thor
ono ot us has agod, not ovon a day. And s|nco thoro's
no |og|ca| way to oxp|a|n somoth|ng ||ko that, and
s|nco 3ab|no's a porson who oxpocts noth|ng |oss
than abso|uto b|ack-and-wh|to |og|c, wo||, thoro's roa||y
not much moro to say on tho subjoct, |s thoro?'
Wo oxchango a |ook, and a|though l'vo h|t a|| tho
po|nts, |nc|ud|ng tho onos that or|g|na||y camo trom
h|m, |t's c|oar ho noods moro. |o's st||| not conv|ncod
ot why l shou|dn't got out ot bod, march myso|t ovor
thoro, and try to mako poaco. Wh|ch moans ho's
o|thor bo|ng |ncrod|b|y stubborn, or l'vo ta||od to mako
my caso, or both.
°lt's ||ko, why do|ay tho |nov|tab|o?' l swa||ow hard
and hug tho p|||ow aga|n. °l moan, maybo th|s who|o
th|ng happonod tor a roason. You know how l'vo boon
droad|ng tho good-byo, and so, now that th|s has
happonod, maybo |t'|| just mako |t oas|or-maybo th|s
|s just tho so|ut|on l'vo boon |ook|ng tor a|| th|s t|mo
-moybo tbls ls |lko o glít írom tbo oolvorso?' 1ho
words com|ng so qu|ck|y, l pauso to catch my broath,
though ono |ook |n h|s oyos makos |t c|oar ho's st||| not
r|d|ng tandom w|th mo. 3o l doc|do to sw|tch goars, try
anothor approach, hop|ng th|s ono m|ght work a ||tt|o
bottor. °1o|| mo, 0amon, to|| mo tor roa|s, |n a|| ot your
yoars, w|th a|| ot your arr|va|s and doparturos, so to
spoak, d|d you novor onco p|ck a t|ght, or ovon uso a
t|ght as a roason to |oavo?'
°Ot courso l d|d.' |o avorts h|s gazo, t|ngors p|ck|ng
at tho wa|stband ot h|s b|ack cotton br|ots. °On moro
than ono occas|on, l assuro you. 3ut that doosn't
moan |t was tho r|ght th|ng to do.'
l ta|| qu|ot, hav|ng noth|ng moro to add. 3qu|nt|ng as
ho turns to adjust tho shuttors, wo|com|ng a du|| s|ant
ot ||ght trom what appoars to bo a vory gray, sun|oss,
m|d-0ocombor day.
°Vaybo you'ro r|ght.' |o stud|os tho sconory.
°Vaybo th|s w||| mako tor tho c|oanost broak. lt's not
||ko you can to|| hor tho truth. lt'd bo ||ko tuo| to hor t|ro.
3ho wou|dn't accopt |t. And |t by somo m|rac|o sho
d|d, wo||, thon, sho'd bo qu|ck to condomn |t. And tho
worst part |s, sho'd bo r|ght. What l'vo dono-what l'vo
mado you-|t's unnatura|. lt goos aga|nst ovory |aw ot
naturo.' |o pausos, turns back to mo, a |ook ot truo
rogrot marr|ng h|s gazo. °lt thoro's ono th|ng l'm suro
ot, |t's that wo aro not ||v|ng tho ||to that was |ntondod.
Our bod|os aro |mmorta|, truo, but our sou|s c|oar|y aro
not. Our ||vos t|aunt tho most tundamonta| |aws ot
naturo. Wo aro tho oppos|to ot what wo woro moant to
bo.'
l start to spoak up, start to say somoth|ng, |t tor no
othor roason than tho tact that l hato to soo h|m th|s
way. 3ut ho won't |ot mo. |o's tar trom t|n|shod. 3t|||
got a tow moro po|nts ho's dotorm|nod to mako.
°lt noth|ng o|so, tho 3hadow|and has assurod mo ot
that. You woro thoro, Evor, tw|co |t l romombor-tho
t|rst t|mo, through mo, and moro rocont|y, bocauso ot
|avon. 3o to|| mo, can you dony what l'vo sa|d? Can
you dony that |t's truo?'
l tako a doop broath, th|nk|ng about that horr|b|o day
whon |avon s|ammod hor t|st r|ght |nto my throat.
l|ght |nto tho swoot spot-my t|tth chakra-tho contor
tor a |ack ot d|scornmont, m|suso ot |ntormat|on, and
trust|ng a|| tho wrong poop|o. Ono so||d punch was a||
|t took to k||| mo, to ond mo, to sond mo crash|ng,
roo||ng, sp|nn|ng |nto that horr|b|o dark ob||v|on. 1ho
abyss. 1ho homo tor |mmorta|s' sou|s. lomombor|ng
how l'd sw|r|od through tho b|acknoss, |ost |n tho vo|d,
tauntod by a novor-ond|ng stroam ot |magos ot a|| my
past ||vos. |orcod to ro||vo tho m|stakos that l'd mado,
a|| tho m|sgu|dod doc|s|ons, tho wrongs l'd comm|ttod
-too||ng othors' pa|n as |ntonso|y as my own. ||nd|ng
my way out on|y whon tho truth was t|na||y rovoa|od.
3parod trom an otorn|ty ot doop |so|at|on whon l was
|ott w|th no doubt |n my m|nd that 0amon was 1ho
Ono.
Vy sou| mato.
Vy ono and on|y tor a|| ot otorn|ty.
1ho suddon rovo|at|on a|ong w|th my comp|oto and
tota| doc|arat|on, acknow|odg|ng tho truth ot 0amon
and mo, ot our |ovo, |s tho on|y th|ng that hoa|od mo,
abso|vod mo.
1ho on|y th|ng that trood mo ot tho burdon ot my
woak chakra.
1ho on|y roason l'm s|tt|ng horo now.
l nod, hav|ng noth|ng to add. |o knows what l saw,
what l oxpor|oncod, just as c|oar|y as |t ho woro thoro.
°lt's just you and mo, Evor. Wo havo on|y oach othor.
A prospoct that may bo moro appoa||ng to mo than
you, but on|y bocauso l'vo grown usod to a |ono wo|t
ox|stonco.'
°Wo havo V||os,' l say, qu|ck to rom|nd 0amon how
ho's now |n on our |mmorta| socrot. °And 1udo.' Vy
broath sta||s, st||| too||ng a ||tt|o wo|rd about mont|on|ng
h|m |n 0amon's prosonco, dosp|to thom rocont|y
doc|d|ng to bury tho past and start trosh. °3o, |t's not
||ko wo'ro tota||y w|thout tr|onds, r|ght?'
3ut ho just shrugs, rot|oct|ng on tho part l ta||od to
mont|on, tho part that's too pa|ntu| to uttor. 1ho tact
that somoday, V||os and 1udo w||| bo o|d and gray-
ha|rod, oat|ng oar|y-b|rd d|nnors and |ook|ng torward
to a rous|ng gamo ot shutt|oboard, wh||o 0amon and l
w||| bo oxact|y tho samo, comp|oto|y unchangod.
°l guoss l just hato to soo you and 3ab|no ond |t th|s
way,' ho t|na||y says, gazo ||ko an unoxprossod s|gh.
°3ut maybo you'ro r|ght, maybo |t's as good a way as
any. 3oo|ng that |t's |nov|tab|o and a||.'
l toss tho p|||ow as|do and roach tor h|m. l hato whon
ho goos dark ||ko th|s, whon h|s thoughts turn |nward
and ho starts b|am|ng h|mso|t. l'|| do anyth|ng to
chango tho subjoct, to oraso |t comp|oto|y. 3ut ho's
a|roady turnod, m|ss|ng tho gosturo, so l drop my arm
back to my s|do and p|ck at tho comtortor.
°Okay, so, barr|ng a s|t-down powwow w|th 3ab|no,
what o|so d|d you havo |n m|nd? You know, tor our
w|ntor broak?' l ask, hop|ng to chaso th|s dark c|oud
away.
lt takos h|m a momont to rospond, to ||tt h|mso|t
abovo tho dospa|r. 3ut whon ho doos, |t's so worth |t.
1ho sm||o that ||ghts up h|s taco |nstant|y br|ghtons
what onco had tho mak|ngs ot a dark, droary day.
°Wo||, l was th|nk|ng wo cou|d do somoth|ng
spontanoous, maybo ovon a ||tt|o b|t crazy. l was
th|nk|ng wo cou|d actua||y try hav|ng a ||tt|o íoo tor a
chango. You romombor tun, don't you?'
°vaguo|y.' l nod, a w||||ng p|ayor |n th|s part|cu|ar
gamo.
°l thought wo cou|d tako a vacat|on somowhoro.'
|o shoots mo a s|y, mystor|ous |ook botoro padd|ng
toward tho croam-co|orod |oathor cha|so at tho
oppos|to s|do ot tho room. loach|ng tor tho dark s||k
robo ho'd abandonod a|ong tho arm somot|mo |ast
n|ght and qu|ck|y s||pp|ng |t on. ||s body mov|ng so
t|u|d|y |t's as though ho mo|tod r|ght |nto |t.
l study h|m carotu||y, wondor|ng |t ho'd s|ncoro|y
boon p|ann|ng somoth|ng ||ko that a|| a|ong, or |t ho's
just try|ng to ont|co mo w|th a p|an ho mado up on tho
t|y.
°3ut.' |o pausos, socur|ng tho sash |n a way that
|oavos |t d|pp|ng |ow aga|nst h|s h|ps, tho robo
hang|ng opon and |ooso, a||ow|ng tor a w|do swath ot
baro chost and dot|nod abs to roma|n on d|sp|ay.
l s||do my back up tho hoadboard wh||o ||tt|ng tho
shoot to my ch|n-h|s stato ot noar nakodnoss mak|ng
mo oxtromo|y awaro ot my own. 3t||| not usod to ||v|ng
as a coup|o, ||v|ng so |nt|mato|y, tho morn|ng a|ways
|oavos mo too||ng moro than a ||tt|o shy and |nh|b|tod.
°Evor, l know how oagor you aro to got r|ght to tho
bottom ot a|| tho th|ngs that aro bothor|ng you. And,
||ko l sa|d |ast n|ght, l'm w||||ng to ho|p.'
l |ook at h|m, brac|ng myso|t tor tho tu||-on brunt ot
h|s honod and po||shod nogot|at|on sk|||s. l can
pract|ca||y soo tho caso ho bu||ds |n h|s oyos.
°3o, l'm w||||ng to g|vo |t ono wook. l'|| g|vo you ono
tu|| wook ot my nonstop, und|v|dod, crazy-o|d-|ady-
codo-crack|ng attont|on, and thon, whon that wook |s
up, |t wo havon't gotton anywhoro, wo||, a|| l ask |s that
you accopt tho dotoat grac|ous|y so wo can movo on
to my much bottor, much br|ghtor, much íoooor p|an.
What do you say?'
l gnaw at tho |ns|do ot my chook, tak|ng a momont
to gathor my rop|y. °Wo||, l say that doponds.'
|o |ooks at mo, sh|tt|ng |n a way that |oosons tho
robo ovor so s||ght|y. Expand|ng tho v|ow. lot p|ay|ng
ta|r.
°0oponds on th|s p|oo ot yours.' l koop my gazo
t|xod on h|s oyos. °l nood to know what l'm gott|ng |nto
-whoro you'ro p|ann|ng to tako mo. l can't just b||nd|y
agroo to any o|' th|ng. l havo my standards, you know.'
l |ook away, |ook down at my hands, rotus|ng tho s|ght
ot h|m, tho who|o g|or|ous bounty ot h|m, and chooso
to tocus on my cut|c|os |nstoad.
|oar|ng h|m |augh |n rop|y, tho sound ot |t ||ko a
doop, joyous roar that t|||s up tho room, t|||s up my
hoart. |appy to know that tho dark momont trom a
momont ago |s torgotton tor now.
1urn|ng and mak|ng h|s way |nto tho bath, tho words
dr|tt|ng ovor h|s shou|dor whon ho says, °A vacat|on.
1ust you and mo and somo g|or|ous oxot|c |ocat|on. A
r|ght and propor vacat|on, Evor. |ar trom ovoryono,
and ovoryth|ng. A vacat|on |n a p|aco ot my choos|ng.
1hat's a|| you nood to agroo to. loavo tho dota||s to
mo.'
l sm||o to myso|t, |ov|ng tho sound ot that and tho
|magos |t spurs |n my m|nd, but l'm not about to rovoa|
|magos |t spurs |n my m|nd, but l'm not about to rovoa|
that, so to h|m l just say, °Wo'|| soo.' 1ho words
drownod out by tho sound ot gush|ng wator com|ng
trom h|s ovors|zod showor. °Wo'|| soo about that,' l
wh|spor, tomptod to jo|n h|m, know|ng that's oxact|y
what ho wants, but w|th on|y a wook to crack tho codo,
l hoad tor h|s |aptop |nstoad.

°||nd anyth|ng?' 0amon rubs a towo| aga|nst h|s wot
ha|r, r|dd|ng |t ot oxcoss wator botoro toss|ng |t as|do
|n tavor ot a qu|ck comb-through w|th h|s t|ngors.
l push away trom h|s dosk and sw|vo| a tow |nchos
toward h|m, ro|||ng tho cha|r back and torth and trom
s|do to s|do as l say, °l ran sovora| soarchos-ran
thoso numbors sho mont|onod, th|nk|ng |t m|ght bo a
dato, or a codo, or a ||nk to an |mportant passago, or
hymn, or a psa|m, or a poom, or . somoth|ng.' l
shrug. °l ovon ran that namo sho mont|onod, Aoo|loo.
3ut noth|ng camo up. 3o thon l ran a soarch on tho
numbors and tho namo togothor, but st||| noth|ng. Or at
|oast noth|ng that sooms ovon romoto|y connoctod to
us, anyway.'
|o nods, d|sappoars |nto h|s wa|k-|n c|osot tor a
momont, thon roappoars woar|ng a c|oan pa|r ot joans
and a b|ack woo| swoator. Wh||o l opt tor tho tar
oas|or, somowhat |azy approach ot man|tost|ng my
own sot ot c|othos, wh|ch turn out to bo protty s|m||ar.
Excopt that my swoator |s b|uo. |o ||kos mo |n b|uo.
3r|ngs out tho b|uo |n my oyos, ho says.
°3o, whoro do wo start?' |o |owors h|mso|t onto tho
cha|so and s||dos on somo shoos-b|ack 1OV3 s||p-
ons, ono ot tho tow th|ngs ho actua||y buys anymoro-
but on|y bocauso part ot tho procoods go to char|ty.
Gono aro tho handcrattod lta||an |oathor motorcyc|o
boots ho woro whon wo mot. lt's now choap rubbor
t||p-t|ops |n tho summor, 1OV3 |n tho w|ntor. As|do
trom h|s opu|ont, ovors|zod, mu|t|m||||on-do||ar
mans|on, and tho sh|ny, b|ack, tu||y |oadod 3VW V0
Coupo that s|ts |n tho garago (a car l protty much
torcod h|m to ro-man|tost and koop), h|s somowhat
rocont vow to ||vo s|mp|or, |oss t|amboyant|y, moro
consc|ont|ous|y, and |oss mator|a||st|ca||y appoars to
bo ono ho p|ans to koop.
°|or tho noxt wook, l'm a|| yours.' |o r|sos to h|s
toot, tak|ng a momont to shako out oach |og and sott|o
tho homs ot h|s joans.
°On|y tor tho noxt wook?' l stand botoro tho tramod
tu||-|ongth m|rror that |oans aga|nst tho wa||, try|ng to
conv|nco my ha|r to do somoth|ng othor than just ||o
t|at aga|nst my hoad. 3ut attor man|tost|ng somo cur|s
and wavos that don't roa||y do |t tor mo, l roturn |t to tho
way |t was and sott|o on a |ow |ooso ponyta||.
°Wh||o you and l havo no oxp|rat|on dato, th|s ||tt|o
projoct ot yours doos-as you c|oar|y agrood. 3o, to||
mo, whoro do wo start?' |o |ooks at mo, awa|ts
turthor |nstruct|on on how to procood.
l chock out my prot||o, smooth|ng my hands ovor tho
stray w|sps ot ha|r that |ns|st on spr|ng|ng out trom tho
s|dos, th|nk|ng l shou|d try somoth|ng o|so, that l'm not
qu|to p|oasod w|th tho rot|oct|on that staros back,
whon l tako a doop broath and torco myso|t to accopt
|t.
Whonovor l |ook at mo, a|| l soo aro th|ngs l'd ||ko to
chango.
Whonovor 0amon |ooks at mo, a|| ho soos |s a
g|or|ous g|tt trom tho un|vorso.
3omowhoro |n tho m|dd|o ||os tho truth.
°C'mon.' l turn away trom mo |n tavor ot h|m,
know|ng wo havo no t|mo to wasto, that a busy wook,
a wook ||ko l'vo p|annod, can too| ||ko on|y a m|nuto or
two whon |t's a|| sa|d and dono.
Grasp|ng h|s hand |n m|no, wo stand s|do by s|do,
tho two ot us onv|s|on|ng that sott go|don vo|| ot
sh|mmor|ng ||ght, tho ono that |oads us to
3ummor|and.
Wo sk|p tho vast tragrant t|o|d ot g||ston|ng t|owors
and pu|sat|ng troos, choos|ng to |and at tho toot ot tho
broad swath ot stops that |oads r|ght up to tho Groat
|a||s ot loarn|ng. laus|ng a momont, our thoughts
s||oncod, oyos w|do, |ook|ng upon |t w|th such awo our
broath ha|ts r|ght |n our throats.
1ak|ng |n |ts boaut|tu| o|aborato carv|ngs, |ts grand
s|op|ng root, |ts |mpos|ng co|umns, |ts |mpross|vo tront
doors-a|| ot |ts vast and var|od parts rap|d|y sh|tt|ng,
conjur|ng |magos ot tho Groat lyram|ds ot G|za
morph|ng |nto tho lotus 1omp|o, wh|ch transtorms |nto
tho 1aj Vaha|, and so on. 1ho bu||d|ng roshap|ng,
rotorm|ng, unt|| tho wor|d's groatost wondors aro
roprosontod |n |ts ovor-chang|ng taçado. Adm|tt|ng
on|y thoso who can soo |t tor what |t tru|y |s-an awo-
|nsp|r|ng p|aco croatod ot |ovo, and know|odgo, and
ovoryth|ng good.
1ho doors spr|ng opon botoro us, and wo hurry up
tho sta|rs and |nto tho |argo spac|ous ontry t|||od w|th
tho most br||||ant warm ||ght-a |um|nous showor|ng
rad|anco that, ||ko tho rost ot 3ummor|and, pormoatos
ovory nook and cranny, ovory cornor, ovory spaco,
a||ow|ng tor no shadows or dark spots (oxcopt tor tho
onos ot my mak|ng) and doosn't soom to omanato
trom any ono p|aco.
Wo movo among wh|to marb|o co|umns that appoar
to havo boon ||ttod r|ght out ot anc|ont Grook t|mos,
a|ong mu|t|p|o rows ot |ong, carvod woodon tab|os and
bonchos crowdod w|th pr|osts, rabb|s, shamans,
sookors ot ovory k|nd, |nc|ud|ng: 1oooº
1ho momont h|s namo appoars |n my m|nd, ho ||tts
h|s hoad and |ooks r|ght at mo. 1houghts aro th|ngs,
cons|st|ng ot onorgy ot tho purost k|nd, and horo |n
3ummor|and thoy can bo hoard by just about anybody.
°Evor.' |o ||tts a hand to h|s torohoad, smooth|ng
tho aroa just abovo h|s sp||cod brow botoro mov|ng to
tho tang|o ot |ong bronzo droad|ocks ho pushos away
trom h|s taco. °And 0amon.' ||s oxpross|on
roma|ns |nscrutab|o, unroadab|o, though |t's c|oar ho's
work|ng protty hard to koop |t that way.
|o r|sos trom h|s soat, a ||tt|o ro|uctant|y to my oyo.
3ut whon 0amon movos toward h|m w|th a gr|n that
||ghts up h|s taco, 1udo doos h|s bost to match |t w|th
ono ot h|s own, a||ow|ng h|s d|mp|os to spr|ng |nto
p|aco.
l stay put, watch|ng tho two ot thom ongago |n tho
usua| pa|m-smack|ng, back-s|app|ng, ma|o-groot|ng
r|tua|. 1ry|ng to road tho moan|ng boh|nd 1udo's
roddonod chooks, not to mont|on tho t|ash ot chagr|n
|n h|s aqua-groon gazo.
l moan, ovon though ho and 0amon havo ca||od a
truco, ovon though ho's now |n on protty much a|| ot our
b|ggost socrots and has no p|ans to sp||| thom, ovon
though l'm abso|uto|y corta|n that h|s uncanny ab|||ty to
thwart a|| my bost p|ans |s not at a|| ca|cu|atod on h|s
part, but that somoth|ng o|so, somo h|ghor torco, |s
dr|v|ng h|m to do |t, to a|ways |ntortoro at tho abso|uto
worst t|mo poss|b|o-l can't stop trom hos|tat|ng, can't
ovorcomo my ro|uctanco to groot h|m.
3ut |t on|y takos a momont tor mo to rocogn|zo that
hos|tat|on tor what |t roa||y |s.
Gu||t.
Good o|d-tash|onod gu||t.
lo moro, no |oss.
1ho k|nd ot gu||t that comos trom shar|ng a |ong,
somowhat convo|utod, and at t|mos qu|to romant|c
past w|th somoono, and yot, |n tho ond, a|ways
choos|ng somoono o|so.
lo mattor how hard 1udo tr|od, l a|ways choso
0amon ovor h|m. And just vory rocont|y, l'vo dono so
aga|n.
Yot dosp|to my know|ng l mado tho bost cho|co, tho
r|ght cho|co, tho oo|y cho|co, dosp|to my |nst|nct|vo|y
know|ng thoro's somoono o|so out thoro, somoono
who's much bottor su|tod tor h|m than mo, 1udo
doosn't qu|to soo |t that way.
|o g|ancos back and torth botwoon us, h|s gazo
u|t|mato|y sott||ng on m|no |n a way that causos an
unm|stakab|o wavo ot coo|, |angu|d ca|m to t|ow
through my body-a phonomonon l'vo oxpor|oncod
on|y w|th h|m, |n th|s ||to as wo|| as tho othors botoro |t.
And try as ho m|ght to stay d|stant and noutra|, |t's
|mposs|b|o to m|ss tho t|ash ot |ong|ng that p|ays |n h|s
gazo-a sma|| sood ot hopo ho st||| |sn't troo ot. Evon
though |t's ovor |n a socond, ovon though ho's qu|ck to
rop|aco |t w|th somoth|ng o|so, somoth|ng conta|n|ng
tar |oss acho, somoth|ng tar moro bon|gn, l tako a
momont to man|tost a br|ght sh|n|ng n|ght star ovor h|s
hoad, w|sh|ng onco aga|n that ho'|| soon t|nd tho ono
porson |n tho un|vorso who's moant just tor h|m, who's
tar bottor su|tod than l cou|d ovor bo.
1hon l mako |t d|sappoar botoro thoy can soo |t.
°What br|ngs you horo?' l torco a sm||o onto my
taco and koop |t thoro unt|| |t starts to too| roa|.
|o shutt|os, rocks back and torth on h|s hoo|s as h|s
hands tumb|o at tho |oops ot h|s joans. 3ort|ng through
h|s thoughts, carotu||y wo|gh|ng h|s opt|ons, doc|d|ng
botwoon comp|oto or part|a| honosty, and go|ng w|th
comp|oto whon ho says, °l just ||ko |t horo. l can't ho|p
|t. 1hough Ava warns mo not to ovordo |t, l just can't
soom to stay away.'
°3ummor|and |s ||ko that.' 0amon nods, as though
ho comp|oto|y undorstands, as though ho's actua||y
strugg|od w|th tho samo tomptat|on h|mso|t. And who
knows, maybo ho has and wo just havon't gotton
around to covor|ng that. °1ho |uro |s protty groat,' ho
adds. °lt's a choro to |gnoro.'
°Aro you rosoarch|ng anyth|ng |n part|cu|ar?' l str|vo
to koop my vo|co ||ght, convorsat|ona|, dosp|to r|s|ng
up on my toos try|ng to got a g||mpso ot tho tab|ot ho
was study|ng whon wo camo |n. 3ut ho's too smart tor
that, and |s qu|ck to oraso |t tho momont ho soos what
l'm do|ng.
Wh|ch |s why l'm so shockod whon ho says,
°|onost|y, l was do|ng a ||tt|o rosoarch on yoo.' ||s
oyos burn on m|no, caus|ng 0amon's to narrow, try|ng
to dotorm|no just what that moant. l g|anco back and
torth botwoon thom, scramb||ng tor somoth|ng to say,
but 1udo boats mo to |t. °l was try|ng to t|guro out why l
a|ways soom to got |n your way.'
l pauso, my throat gono suddon|y dry, torc|ng mo to
c|oar |t botoro l can spoak. °And d|d you como to any
conc|us|ons?' l ask, protty much ovoryth|ng about mo,
my vo|co, my stanco, my oxpross|on, my domoanor,
projoct|ng |oud and c|oar that my |ntorost |n th|s
subjoct knows v|rtua||y no ||m|ts.
|o shakos h|s hoad, h|s taco woar|ng an apo|ogy
words can't oxpross. °lo, or at |oast noth|ng
concroto,' ho says.
Vy shou|dors s|nk, as a s|gh oscapos my ||ps, and l
can't ho|p but th|nk how n|co |t wou|d'vo boon |t 1udo
cou|d'vo dono a|| ot my homowork tor mo, but |t's
novor that oasy.
°1hough thoro was somoth|ng.'
|o's got my tu|| attont|on aga|n, 0amon's too trom
what l can to||.
°lt's not anyth|ng that l sow por so, |t was moro a
thought that kopt com|ng to mo. Ono l cou|dn't chaso
away.'
°1hat's how 3ummor|and works.' l nod, a ||tt|o too
v|gorous|y. °Or at |oast tho Groat |a||s anyway. lt's not
a|ways concroto, you know. lt's not a|ways somoth|ng
you road or oxpor|onco. 3omot|mos |t's just a
pors|stont thought that rotusos to |oavo unt|| you pay |t
somo not|co.'
|o nods, cur|s h|s thumbs around h|s bo|t |oops and
g|ancos toward 0amon and mo. °Anyway, wh||o l know
th|s'|| probab|y sound judgmonta|, l th|nk you know by
now that l don't roa||y moan |t that way, but, wo||, l can't
ho|p th|nk|ng that a|| ot your prob|oms, a|| ot your .
obstoc|os . wo|| . l can't ho|p but th|nk thoy a|| stom
trom your |mmorta||ty.'
|o snoaks a qu|ck pook at 0amon, and l do tho
samo. 3oth ot us know|ng 0amon's rospons|b|o tor
tho stato that wo'ro |n-both ot us know|ng ho's a|| too
awaro ot that.
°What l moan |s, your who|o th|ng w|th tho o||x|r, and,
wo||, whatovor o|so |s roqu|rod, |t's not ||ko l'm up on
tho dota||s, but st|||, my po|nt |s, |t's just not natura|, you
know? Wo'ro not supposod to roach pbyslco|
|mmorta||ty-that's what tho sou| |s tor. 1ho soo| |s tho
|mmorta| part ot us. lt rocyc|os, ovor and ovor aga|n
trom what l'vo soon, but |t oovor d|os. Wo'ro moant to
str|vo boyond tho phys|ca| wor|d, not . not sott|o tor |t
and oo|y |t.' |o w|ncos, but now that ho's startod, ho
knows ho has no cho|co but to t|n|sh. 3os|dos, |t's not
||ko wo can't hoar |t |n h|s hoad, hoar tho words roo||ng
toward us as ho says, °You'ro not supposod to
ombraco tho phys|ca| wor|d as though |t's tho |ast stop
-as though that's a|| thoro |s.'
l ta|| qu|ot. 0amon doos too. 3oth ot us marvo||ng at
how 1udo's words prov|do an a||-too-tam|||ar,
somowhat oor|o ocho ot what 0amon sa|d a ||tt|o
oar||or back |n h|s room.
And l can't ho|p but wondor |t thoro's a roason tor
that-|t l'm moant to hoar |t. l moan roa||y and tru|y
hoar |t, and maybo ovon do somoth|ng about |t.
Vaybo l'm moant to pay |t somo sor|ous not|co. As
opposod to wav|ng |t away ||ko l'm most |nc||nod to
do.
1udo squ|nchos h|s taco, roduc|ng h|s oyos to two
narrow s||ts ot tho most br||||ant b|uo-groon-a s||vor ot
tompt|ng trop|ca| soa that'd bo so oasy to wado |nto.
°And l th|nk . maybo . wo||, l th|nk tho karma you'vo
accumu|atod trom mak|ng tbot cho|co |s koop|ng you
trom oxpor|onc|ng.' |o shutt|os, tumb|os, t|na||y
pu|||ng |t togothor onough to say, °Wo||, l th|nk |t's
koop|ng you trom oxpor|onc|ng troo bopplooss. Roo|
b|lss. lt you know what l moan.'
Ob, l tblok l koow wbot yoo mooo.
l s|gh. 0amon s|ghs too. 1ho two ot us sound|ng ||ko
a chorus ot trustratod d|scontont.
°3o, anyth|ng o|so?' l ||tt my brow, roa||z|ng tho
words soundod tar brusquor than |ntondod and try|ng
to sotton tho tono whon l add, °l moan, any |ns|ght on
how to got around a|| ot that?'
1udo's mouth grows gr|m |n a way that tados h|s
norma||y brown sk|n to an odgo ot wh|to that out||nos
h|s ||ps-||ps l'vo k|ssod onco-tw|co-l can't bo too
suro, thoro'vo boon so many ||vos tho throo ot us havo
a|| sharod. ||s taco tu|| ot s|ncor|ty whon ho says,
°3orry. 1hat's a|| l got. 3o . anyway, l'|| |oavo you
guys to |t and.'
|o starts to movo away, c|oar|y oagor to wrap |t up
and movo on w|th h|s day. And wh||o 0amon's st||| |ost
|n thought, |ost |n a dark c|oud ot b|amo, l roach out,
t|ngors catch|ng 1udo's b|cop as l pu|| h|m back to mo
|n a show ot bruto strongth, a p|oad|ng |ook |n my oyo,
and a hast||y ro|oasod thought l took abso|uto|y no
t|mo to cons|dor, no t|mo to od|t.
0amon |ooks at mo, hav|ng boon yankod r|ght out
ot h|s own thoughts to tocus on m|no. 1ho d|st|nct,
somowhat a|arm|ng, moro than a ||tt|o ombarrass|ng
sound ot: No, ooo`t go! that sw|r|od through my hoad,
sw|r|od through tho room, botoro l cou|d stop |t.
°Um, what l moan |s, you don't havo to |oavo on oor
account.'
0amon squ|nts, rogard|ng mo w|th groat |ntorost.
1ho samo goos tor 1udo. losu|t|ng |n two sots ot ||ttod
brows, ono sp||cod, ono portoct |n ovory conco|vab|o
way, wh||o tho oyos that ||o bonoath aro contorod on
mo.
Know|ng l nood to t|n|sh tho thought botoro thoy
both como to somo horr|b|o conc|us|on, ono that'||
br|ng us tu|| c|rc|o aga|n, l say, °What l moant was, do
you roa||y havo to |oavo? low?' Ugh. l ro|| my oyos at
myso|t. What tho hock |s wrong w|th mo? 3ad to
worso doosn't ovon bog|n to doscr|bo |t, and,
untortunato|y, 1udo sooms to agroo.
°Wo||, l thought l'd |oavo you to your pr|vacy, maybo
oxp|oro a b|t, moot up w|th lomy, layno, and Ava.'
|o shrugs, tho gosturo show|ng tho tu|| stato ot
d|scomtort l'vo put h|m |n.
°1hoy'ro horo?' l g|anco a|| around though l don't
oxpoct to t|nd thom. lt's moro an attompt to got aho|d
ot myso|t than anyth|ng o|so.
1udo shoots mo an odd |ook, though ho's qu|ck to
chaso |t w|th: °lo, thoy'ro back on tho oarth p|ano,
why?' ||s brow drops, h|s mouth t|attons. °Evor-
what's th|s about?'
0amon's onorgy rad|atos bos|do mo, and l know
ho's th|nk|ng tho samo th|ng. 3o l tako a doop broath,
tako a momont to carotu||y moot oach ot tho|r gazos
as l torco tho words trom my ||ps. °l|ston, l'vo got a
||tt|o . rosoorcb projoct l'm work|ng on. And, s|nco
l'vo on|y got ono wook to got to tho bottom ot |t,' l
shoot 0amon a po|ntod |ook, °l thought, wo||, |t you
don't m|nd, l, l moan, wo-' Vy gazo ho|ds onto
0amon's, protty much bogg|ng h|m to trust mo on th|s.
°Wo||, |n ||ght ot tho t|mo constra|nts and tho |ns|ghts
you sharod, l thought wo cou|d roa||y uso your ho|p. l
th|nk your porspoct|vo cou|d como |n roa||y, roa||y
handy. 3ut ot courso, |t's up to you.'
1udo g|ancos at us, wo|gh|ng, cons|dor|ng,
choos|ng to addross h|s words to mo whon ho says,
°||no. l'm |n. lt's tho |oast l can do tor bung||ng tho
who|o th|ng w|th |avon and just about ovoryth|ng o|so
whoro you'ro concornod. 3o to|| mo, whoro do wo
bog|n?'

l s||do |n bos|do 0amon, my |ott knoo prossod snug|y
aga|nst h|s r|ght. 1ho s|ght ot |t sh|o|dod by tho th|ck
woodon tab|otop, spar|ng 1udo trom tho v|ow. lo
nood to rub h|s noso |n |t. Vako h|m too| any worso
than ho a|roady doos.
3t|||, |t's not |ong botoro ho r|sos trom h|s p|aco just
across trom us, mumb||ng somoth|ng about a now tact
ho'd ||ko to try, somoth|ng that just sprang to m|nd.
1hough dosp|to tho oxcuso, |t's protty c|oar ho's
|ook|ng tor oscapo, |ong|ng to go somowhoro o|so,
somowhoro ottor|ng |oss prox|m|ty to 0amon and mo.
l poor at tho |argo crysta| g|obo that hovors botoro
0amon, try|ng to mako out tho |magos |t unto|ds. 3ut
trom th|s ang|o a|| l got |s a co|ortu| b|ur. 1o roa||y soo
|t, you nood to s|t d|roct|y |n tront ot |t. 3t|||, l can to|| by
tho way 0amon obsorvos |t, shou|dors s|umpod, hoad
bont torward ovor so s||ght|y, broath com|ng stoady
and s|ow, that whatovor ho's watch|ng, |t's noth|ng ot
|ntorost, noth|ng that'|| |oad us to tho |nto wo nood. ln
tact, |t anyth|ng, |t appoars to bo |u|||ng h|m to s|oop.
|rown|ng at tho tab|ot botoro mo that's prov|d|ng
about as much hopo as 0amon's g|obo, l push |t away
|n d|sgust and g|anco a|| around. 0osporato tor a ||tt|o
ho|p, trom somoono, or somoth|ng-l'm not at a||
p|cky, l'|| tako what l can got at th|s po|nt, but no ho|p
appoars. Evoryono roma|ns |mmorsod |n tho|r
bus|noss, tho|r own porsona| quost, pay|ng no not|co
ot mo. And dosp|to my c|os|ng my oyos, dosp|to tho
stroam ot quost|ons that t|ows trom my m|nd, dosp|to
my obv|ous p|oa tor ass|stanco that r|ngs |oud and
c|oar, tho Groat |a||s mako no attompt to addross |t,
no attompt to wh|sk mo away to just tho r|ght room ||ko
|t's dono so many t|mos botoro.
Othor than grant|ng adm|ttanco, tho Groat |a||s ot
loarn|ng soom to bo |gnor|ng mo today.
l try to s|t st|||, try to concontrato, mod|tato, go to that
n|co qu|ot spaco-but l'm too rost|oss, too ag|tatod,
and l can't soom to tocus. Vy m|nd storm|ng w|th tho
k|nd ot thoughts that mako |t |mposs|b|o to t|nd any
poaco. l moan, how am l supposod to ro|ax and
concontrato on tho t|ow ot oach pass|ng broath, whon
l'm a|| too awaro ot tho t|ck|ng c|ock that pract|ca||y
hangs ovor my hoad? A constant rom|ndor ot just how
rap|d|y my ono-wook doad||no |s shr|nk|ng, |nch|ng
c|osor to tho ond.
look|ng onco aga|n at 0amon's g|obo sp|nn|ng
botoro h|m, l can't ho|p but too| g|um, dotoatod,
a||ow|ng my m|nd to travo| to a p|aco l'd protor that |t
d|dn't.
A p|aco ot doubt.
3ocond-guoss|ng.
Extromo rosorvat|on.
1ho part that wants to bo||ovo, qu|ck|y ovorru|od by
tho quost|on ot wh|ch wou|d bo worso: to bo r|ght
about my hunch-or tota||y wrong |n ovory way?
Wou|d |t bo bottor to bo so|o|y rospons|b|o tor tho
appoaranco ot tho murky part ot 3ummor|and-to bo
tho objoct ot tho crazy o|d |ady's hopo as wo|| as hor
scorn?
Or |s |t bottor to bo way ott baso about |t a||, doad
wrong |n ovory sonso? Wh|ch, |n ossonco, wou|d
||ghton my |oad and troo mo ot tho burdon, tho hugo
rospons|b|||ty ot |t a||.
What |t that o|d |ady roa||y |s just somo domontod
3ummor|and |ntor|opor ||ko 0amon c|a|ms?
What |t tho droam l was suro l||oy sont boars no
groator moan|ng than tho ono 0amon's a|roady
conv|ncod ot-a pathot|c cry trom my subconsc|ous
tor moro attont|on trom h|m?
What |t l'm just wast|ng our t|mo? V|sus|ng a wook
that cou|d bo much bottor spont?
And, ovon worso, what |t l'm act|ng just so|t|sh
onough to drag 1udo |nto |t too, whon |t's so pa|ntu||y
obv|ous how uncomtortab|o |t |s tor h|m to bo around
0amon and mo?
l swa||ow hard and g|anco at 0amon, know|ng |t's
t|mo to cry unc|o, t|mo to man|tost a dutt|o bag stuttod
w|th a|| tho usua| vacat|on ossont|a|s so that wo can
scram out ot horo and hoad ott to whatovor
dost|nat|on ho wants. 1ust bocauso wo havo an
otorn|ty togothor doosn't moan l shou|d so w||||ng|y
wasto ovon a tow days ot |t. 3ut t|rst, thoro's just ono
|ast th|ng l want to try, and l'|| nood to go to tho pav|||on
to do |t.
|o moots my gazo, thoso dark, hoav||y |ashod,
a|mond-shapod oyos star|ng r|ght |nto m|no, h|s ||ps
part|ng |n a way that prompts mo to |oan toward h|m,
p|ac|ng my hand on h|s arm whon l say, °0amon, l
havo an |doa.'
||s g|obo ha|ts, van|shos, and by tho |ook |n h|s oyo,
ho's c|oar|y ro||ovod to bo troo ot |t.
°Why don't you go t|nd 1udo and to|| h|m to qu|t
|ook|ng, that l changod my m|nd, l don't want h|m to
wasto any moro t|mo, wh||o l hoad tor tho pav|||on and
wa|t thoro tor you.'
°1ho pav|||on?' |o sm||os, oyos sh|n|ng w|th
prom|so.
l nod, tak|ng a momont to k|ss h|s torohoad, h|s
noso, h|s ||ps, botoro pu|||ng away and say|ng, °And
hurry!'

|o dot|n|to|y hurr|od.
l can to|| just by |ook|ng.
Usua||y ho's so ovoryth|ng-|n-|ts-p|aco portoct-tho
postor boy tor u|t|mato coo|, ca|m, and comp|oto and
tota| co||octodnoss no mattor tho occas|on. 3ut,
stand|ng botoro mo now, w|th h|s taco s||ght|y t|ushod,
h|s ha|r ta|||ng |nto h|s oyos, h|s c|othos tho s||ghtost b|t
d|shovo|od, wo||, on anyono o|so |t wou|d hard|y bo
worth not|c|ng, but on 0amon, |t's a suro s|gn ot oagor
ant|c|pat|on.
°Wo|| th|s was unoxpoctod. Wo|como. ln tact, moro
than wo|como, don't got mo wrong, but st|||
unoxpoctod.'
l hau| myso|t up trom my s|unkod-down pos|t|on on
tho b|g, wh|to, morsbmo||owy couch. C|oar|ng my taco
ot d|sappo|ntmont, l strugg|o to rop|aco |t w|th an
oagornoss to match 0amon's own-an act that
provos to bo no oasy toat attor just hav|ng ta||od at my
|ast-d|tch |doa.
3t|||, |t's t|mo to movo on, l'm suro ot that now, so l
torco a sm||o onto my taco, ono that starts to too| roa|
tho momont l soo tho trosh|y p|ckod tu||p 0amon ho|ds
|n h|s hand. ||s taco ||ghts up w|th a gr|n that grows |n
|ntons|ty as ho movos c|osor to mo, covor|ng tho
d|stanco |n |oss than a handtu| ot stops, h|s body
appoar|ng ||ko a rap|d dark b|ur unt|| tho noxt th|ng l
know ho's p|ac|ng tho tu||p onto my |ap, sott||ng |n
bos|do mo, and g||mps|ng tho romoto l st||| grasp.
°0|d you t|nd 1udo?' l ask, want|ng to covor tho
sor|ous aspocts botoro wo got too d|stractod by our
pasts.
|o nods, scoochos c|osor, a||ows h|s arm to s||do
around mo.
°Aooº 0|d ho t|nd anyth|ng?'
0amon |ooks at mo, tho s||ght shako ot h|s hoad tho
on|y answor l nood.
3ut ovon though |t |oavos mo too||ng somowhat
dot|atod (okay, maybo moro than somowbot), l don't
s|gh or groan or anyth|ng ot tho sort. ln tact, l don't do
much ot anyth|ng to |ot on just how tho nows attocts
mo.
lart ot mo know|ng |t's a|| tor tho bost-just whon
0amon and l aro do|ng so wo||, tu||y comm|ttod to
oach othor ||ko novor botoro-just whon ho's roady to
wh|sk mo away on somo wondortu|, oxot|c, romant|c
(st||| undotorm|nod) vacat|on-wo||, tho |ast th|ng l
nood |s to throw a wronch |nto our curront stato ot b||ss
-ospoc|a||y attor a|| that wo wont through to t|nd
ourso|vos horo.
1ho |ast th|ng wo nood |s tor mo to |oad us a|| ott on
somo crazy w||d-gooso chaso, stoadtast|y |gnor|ng tho
obv|ous, tho g|ar|ng, |mposs|b|o-to-|gnoro tact that a||
s|gns c|oar|y po|nt to mo bo|ng wrong. Wo|| awaro that
th|s |s ono ot thoso t|mos whon |t's bost to bo wrong,
that bo|ng r|ght wou|d on|y ond |n a batch ot oxtromo
unp|oasantnoss.
Yop, part ot mo knows oxact|y that.
And, as tor tho othor part, wo||, |t's just gonna havo
to |oarn to cry unc|o.
°3o, wh|ch ono w||| |t bo?' 0amon asks, wast|ng no
t|mo |n stoa||ng tho romoto.
l narrow my oyos, trown|ng at h|m |n a p|aytu| way.
lomombor|ng tho |ast t|mo ho d|dn't sw|po |t |n t|mo,
a||ow|ng mo to push a sor|os ot buttons that rovoa|od
a trag|c yot u|t|mato|y hopotu| s|avo ||to ho'd hopod to
koop h|ddon.
°lt's not bocauso ot that,' ho says, m|sroad|ng tho
trown and try|ng to hand |t r|ght back. Want|ng mo to
know, |n no uncorta|n torms, that l roa||y, tru|y havo
soon |t a||, w|tnossod a|| ot my ||vos, no mattor how
bad.
3ut l'm qu|ck to wavo |t away, ovoryth|ng l'vo tr|od
so tar has ta||od, so l'm happy to |ot h|m tako ovor
trom horo.
Vy gazo |ovo| on h|s, unab|o to koop tho t|ush trom
r|s|ng to my chooks whon l say, °|ow about london?' l
b|ush. l can't ho|p |t. lo mattor how tr|vo|ous and
sha||ow l m|ght'vo boon, l'm roa||y qu|to tond ot tho ||to l
onco ||vod as tho boaut|tu|, dark-ha|rod, spo||od
daughtor ot a 3r|t|sh |and baron. l guoss bocauso l
was so untroub|od back thon, so troo ot burdons. Vy
unt|mo|y dom|so at 0r|na's hands was tho on|y dark
spot on that ont|ro hor|zon.
0amon squ|nts, t|ngors po|sod ovor tho buttons.
°Aro you suro? london? lot Amstordam?' |o |ooks
at mo w|th an |rros|st|b|o puppy dog gazo.
Vy ||ps qu|rk |n rosponso, know|ng oxact|y why
0amon a|ways wants to rov|s|t Amstordam, dosp|to
h|s c|a|m that |t's bocauso ho gots to pa|nt (art bo|ng a
|ovo that tra||s socond to mo), l know bottor. l know |t's
bocauso ho gots to pa|nt mo as a baro|y c|othod, vory
t||rtat|ous, comp|oto|y |mmodost, t|t|an-ha|rod art|st's
muso.
l nod my consont, th|nk|ng |t's tho |oast l can do attor
a|| that t|mo l spont bor|ng h|m to doath |n tho Groat
|a||s ot loarn|ng. And |t's just a mattor ot soconds
unt|| tho scroon t|ashos botoro us and ho grabs ho|d ot
my hand, r|s|ng trom tho couch as ho qu|ck|y |oads mo
to |t.
3ut just ||ko l usua||y do, l sk|d to a stop r|ght botoro
|t. |rom whoro l stand, |t appoars to bo a hard, hoavy,
torobod|ng s|ab-tho k|nd that wou|d g|ad|y roward
you w|th a major concuss|on tor bo|ng too||sh onough
to ovon try to morgo |nto |t. G|v|ng no v|s|b|o s|gn that
|t's somoth|ng that y|o|ds onough tor ono to s||p |nto.
And, just ||ko ho usua||y doos, 0amon |ooks at mo
and says, °Bo|lovo.'
3o l do. 1ak|ng a doop broath and c|os|ng my oyos
as though l'm about to d|vo |nto a vory doop poo|, l
pross my body aga|nst |t, cont|nu|ng to push unt||
wo'ro c|oar on tho othor s|do-unt|| wo'ro ono w|th tho
scono.
1ho t|rst th|ng l do |s bury my hands doop |nto my
ha|r. 1hroad|ng my t|ngors through tho strands and
sm|||ng at tho sott s||ky too| ot |t. l |ovo th|s ha|r. l know
|t's va|n, but l can't ho|p |t, l do. lts co|or cons|st|ng ot
tho most boaut|tu| b|az|ng rod, ||ko a r|otous sunsot
w|th just a h|nt ot go|d tra|ps|ng through. And whon l
gazo down at my dross, or, moro accurato|y, tho
baro|y thoro s||p ot t|osh-co|orod s||k that drapos and
sw|r|s a|| around mo, procar|ous|y ho|d togothor by a
|ooso knot t|od at tho back ot my nock, wo||, l'm a|ways
now|y amazod by tho amount ot cont|donco |t takos to
woar somoth|ng ||ko th|s. Whon l'm horo, drossod as
hor, l don't too| tho s||ghtost b|t shy.
3ut thon l'm no |ongor sovontoon-yoar-o|d Evor-
sho's boon rop|acod by n|notoon-yoar-o|d ||our-a
boaut|tu| 0utch g|r| w|th no doubt ot hor boauty, no
doubt ot horso|t.
lo doubt ot tho bottom|oss |ovo sh|n|ng |n tho oyos
ot tho dark|y handsomo art|st who stands at h|s oaso|
and pa|nts hor.
l movo through tho t|o|d ot tu||ps, gracotu||y, oas||y,
onjoy|ng tho too| ot tho sott, s||ky pota|s and stoms
brush|ng aga|nst mo, stopp|ng |n just tho r|ght spot
and turn|ng toward h|m, ho|d|ng tho poso ho's askod
mo to koop.
Vy gazo mov|ng among tho t|owors to tho c|oud-
stroakod sky, protond|ng to bo prooccup|od,
capt|vatod by tho bounty ot naturo that surrounds mo,
whon roa||y l'm just wa|t|ng tor tho |nov|tab|o momont
whon ho'|| abandon tho pa|nt|ng tor mo.
l a||ow my oyos to ||ght onto h|s, porm|tt|ng on|y a
ghost ot a sm||o whon l soo tho way h|s brush tromb|os
-a suro s|gn that |t's just a mattor ot soconds botoro
ho d|tchos tho p|oasuro ot captur|ng mo on canvas tor
tho p|oasuro ot captur|ng mo |n h|s arms. l can soo tho
hungor, tho smo|dor|ng b|azo ot dos|ro that t|aros |n
h|s gazo.
And |t's not |ong botoro ho sots h|s brush as|do and
makos h|s way toward mo. ||s ga|t s|ow, contro||od,
but comp|oto|y do||borato, tho t|ro |n h|s oyos hoat|ng
to whoro l can too| tho|r warmth trom whoro l stand.
lrotond|ng to bo so absorbod |n tho poso l'vo yot to
not|co h|s noarnoss, tho t|ng|o and hoat that t|ows
through mo, |nto mo, a|| around mo-a t||rtat|ous gamo
wo both ||ko to p|ay.
3ut |nstoad ot tak|ng mo |nto h|s arms, ho stops just
botoro mo, taco uncorta|n, t|ngors qu|vor|ng as ho
roachos |nto h|s pockot tor tho sma|| s||vor t|ask. 1ho
ono conta|n|ng tho strango, rod, opa|oscont brow ho
otton dr|nks. ||s oyos cont|nu|ng to burn |nto m|no,
though a|ong w|th tho usua| b|ur ot nood, thoro's
somoth|ng now |urk|ng boh|nd |t-somoth|ng as
|mposs|b|o to road as |t |s to dony.
||s t|ngors shako as ho grasps tho t|ask, ||tts |t |n
ottor|ng. ||s body urg|ng mo to tako |t, to tasto |t, as
h|s tormontod gazo to||s a who|o othor story. 3o|y|ng a
socrot batt|o that wagos w|th|n, unt|| t|na||y, ovorru|od
by an unnamod toar, h|s oxpross|on changos to ono ot
a b|ttor roso|ut|on so bruta|, ho roturns tho t|ask, and
roachos tor mo |nstoad.
||s arms c|rc||ng, c|asp|ng mo t|ght|y to h|s chost,
h|s body om|tt|ng such |ovo, such rovoronco, l c|oso
my oyos and s|nk |nto h|m. 3|nk |nto tho too| ot h|s
touch, ot h|s ||ps moot|ng m|no-|ost |n tho wondortu|,
t|oaty, wo|ght|oss too||ng ot bo|ng w|th h|m. l|ko
sk|mm|ng through c|ouds, surt|ng ovor ra|nbows-wo
aro grav|ty doty|ng, bound|oss. 1ho two ot us |ockod |n
tho k|nd ot doop|y ||ngor|ng sou|tu| k|ss wo can no
|ongor manago back homo on tho oarth p|ano.
K|ss|ng |n a way that, wh||o much bottor than what
wo'ro capab|o ot back homo, a|so boars tho
rostr|ct|ons ot what transp|rod botoro.
||s t|ngors croop upward, s||pp|ng |nto tho t||msy
s||k knot at my nock. 1ust about to ro|oaso |t, ro|oaso
mo, whon l (sho!) mako a sma|| sound ot protost and
push h|m away. And, wo||, at that momont, l can't ho|p
but curso hor.
3tup|d ||our.
3tup|d g|r| l usod to bo.
l moan, |t sho was so dang cont|dont-so carotroo
and suro ot horso|t-thon why d|d sho stop h|m just
whon thoy got to tho good part, just whon thoy woro
about to .
Ovorcomo w|th annoyanco that tho doc|s|ons l
mado thon cont|nuo to haunt mo today-dotorm|n|ng
what wo'ro capab|o ot, just how tar wo'ro porm|ttod to
go-my trustrat|on grows so groat, tho noxt th|ng l
know l'm hur|od r|ght out ot tho scono.
l|ght out ot charactor.
l|ght out ot bo|ng ||our, and back to bo|ng mo,
Evor.
l stand thoro, oyos w|do, gasp|ng tor broath.
Amazod to t|nd myso|t st||| part ot tho sconory, ab|o to
obsorvo a|| that goos on botoro mo, though no |ongor
c|a|m|ng ono ot tho starr|ng ro|os.
l had no |doa l cou|d do th|s. lo |doa l cou|d w|||tu||y
roduco myso|t to an on|ookor. |ad no |doa such a
th|ng was ovon poss|b|o.
3ut wh||o l'm stand|ng horo gawk|ng at tho wondor
ot |t a||, 0amon roma|ns comp|oto|y ob||v|ous. 1oo
caught up to not|co. 1oo |mmorsod |n tho momont to
roa||zo that tho g|r| ho tr|os h|s bost to unwrap |s now,
wo||, oooccoploo tor |ack ot a bottor word.
°0amon,' l wh|spor, though ho ta||s to turn, ta||s to
roa||zo sho's just an ompty, sou||oss sho||. °0amon,' l
ropoat, a b|t harshor th|s t|mo, but shoosh, onough
a|roady. lt's ||ko watch|ng your boytr|ond mako out w|th
somoono o|so, ovon though that somoono o|so usod
to bo you. 3ut st|||, |t's too wo|rd tor comtort. lt's
troak|ng mo out.
|o pu||s away grudg|ng|y, ro|uctant|y, turn|ng to mo
w|th a |ook that can on|y bo doscr|bod as comp|oto
and uttor contus|on. A doop cr|mson croop|ng trom h|s
nock to h|s chooks whon ho roa||zos ho's just spont
tho |ast sovora| soconds ongagod |n tho 3ummor|and
oqu|va|ont ot a pro-toon g|r| pract|c|ng k|ss|ng on a
p|||ow.
||s oyos dart botwoon us-botwoon tho mov|ng,
||v|ng, broath|ng, roa| vors|on ot mo stand|ng botoro
h|m, and tho unoccup|od and thorotoro somowhat
trans|ucont vors|on ot ||our at h|s s|do. And wh||o
sho's st||| about as a||ur|ng as |t gots, hor curront stato
ot suspondod an|mat|on w|th hor oyos a|| squ|nty, ||ps
a|| puckorod, ha|r a|| askow, wo||, l can't ho|p but |augh,
roa||z|ng ho doosn't soo |t qu|to |n tho way that l do
whon ho ta||s to |augh too.
°What's go|ng on?' 0amon trowns, roadjust|ng tho
|ooso cotton sh|rt ho woro |n that t|mo.
°l'm sorry-l just.' l |ook around, do|ng my bost to
smothor tho |augh, know|ng ho's ombarrassod onough
as |t |s. °l guoss l just.' l shrug and start aga|n. °Wo||,
l'm not oxact|y suro what happonod. lt's ||ko, ono
m|nuto l was go|ng through tho mot|ons and tho noxt l
was so trustratod w|th hor tor push|ng you away my
trustrat|on propo||od mo r|ght out ot tho scono, r|ght
out ot bor.'
°And how |ong ago was that? |ow |ong havo you
boon stand|ng thoro watch|ng?' ho asks, whon what
ho's roa||y wondor|ng |s just how ombarrassod ho
shou|d bo.
°lot |ong. loa||y.' l nod v|gorous|y |n hopos ho'||
bo||ovo mo.
|o nods too, obv|ous|y ro||ovod, h|s co|or roturn|ng
to norma| as ho roachos tor mo.
°l'm sorry, Evor. l roa||y, tru|y am. Evoryth|ng l'vo
tr|od so tar has ta||od. l can't soom to dotorm|no
loman's ant|doto no mattor how hard l try.' |o gazos
at mo w|th a taco tu|| ot dotoat. °And unt|| l can como
up w|th somo othor opt|on, somoth|ng l havon't yot
tr|od, wo||, l'm atra|d th|s |s as good as |t gots tor us.
3ut |t |t's bocom|ng a sourco ot trustrat|on, thon
maybo wo shou|d stop com|ng horo-or at |oast tor a
wh||o anyway?'
°lo!' l |ook at h|m, shak|ng my hoad, that's not at a||
what l moant, not |n tho |oast. °lo, no, that's.' l'm
qu|ck to wavo |t away. °lt's not ||ko l wasn't caught up
|n tho momont too, bocauso l was. l was onjoy|ng hor
t||rtat|ous gamo just as much as you woro. And, trust
mo, l'm as surpr|sod as you that th|s happonod. l
moan, wh||o l'vo dot|n|to|y had tho occas|ona| thought
that soomod out ot charactor, th|s |s tho t|rst t|mo ono
ot thoso thoughts has knockod mo r|ght out ot
charactor. l d|dn't ovon know th|s was poss|b|o-olo
yooº'
|o |ooks at mo and shrugs, a|ways too caught up |n
tho momont to havo ovon bothorod w|th th|nk|ng about
|t.
°3ut st|||, now that wo'ro horo.' l pauso, wondor|ng
|t l shou|d roa||y go through w|th th|s, thon doc|d|ng l
havo noth|ng to |oso. °Wo||, thoro |s a po|nt l wantod to
mako, somoth|ng that rocont|y camo to mo.'
|o wa|ts, wa|ts tor mo to stop w|th tho protac|ng
and got to |t a|roady.
l pross my ||ps togothor and gazo a|| around, try|ng
to organ|zo my thoughts, gathor just tho r|ght words. l
hadn't actua||y p|annod on broach|ng |t, had no
|ntont|on ot go|ng thoro, and yot, that's not onough to
stop mo trom turn|ng to h|m, tho words rush|ng torth
whon l say, °l'vo boon th|nk|ng-okay, l'm not suro how
to say th|s, but, you know how ovory t|mo wo como
horo wo chooso botwoon my ||vos?'
0amon nods pat|ont|y, though h|s gazo botrays just
tho oppos|to.
°Wo||, thoro's a part ot mo that can't ho|p th|nk|ng:
Why do wo a|ways chooso botwoon my ||vos? What |t
bo|ng 0amon Augustus lotto Espos|to wasn't your
t|rst ||to?'
|o doosn't gapo, doosn't gawk, doosn't t||nch,
shutt|o, tumb|o, or mumb|o or any ot tho norvous ||tt|o
t|mo-sta|||ng manouvors l wou|d'vo g|ad|y bot my
monoy on.
lopo, ho just cont|nuos to stand thoro, h|s taco a
comp|oto b|ank, dovo|d ot oxpross|on, as though ho
has no thoughts on tho |doa l just ra|sod. look|ng as
though l'd just spokon |n ono ot tho tow |anguagos
ho's not qu|to prot|c|ont |n.
°l|ght botoro you got horo, l usod tho romoto to
punch |n tho numbors-you know, o|ght, o|ght,
th|rtoon, oh, o|ght? l though |t m|ght bo an |mportant
dato or somoth|ng-a t|mo whon wo both ||vod botoro.
And ovon though noth|ng happonod, st|||, l can't ho|p
th|nk|ng |t's a vory roa| poss|b|||ty. l moan, wo both
know l ||vod as a lar|s|an sorvant namod Eva||no,
r|ght? And a lur|tan's daughtor namod Ab|ga||, a
spo||od london soc|a||to, Ch|oo, tho art|st's muso,' l
po|nt d|roct|y at hor, °||our, and tho young s|avo g|r|,
Ema|a-but what |t you woron't a|ways 0amon? What
|t you woro onco, a |ong t|mo ago, a vory |ong t|mo
ago, somoono o|so ont|ro|y?'
¼bot lí yoo rolocorootoo tooº
loav|ng that |ast b|t unspokon but know|ng ho hoard
|t just tho samo. 1ho words sw|r||ng a|| around us |n a
way that can't bo |gnorod, ovon though |t bocomos
|mmod|ato|y c|oar that 0amon has ovory |ntont|on ot
do|ng just that.
||s st|tt shou|dors and shadowod gazo aro protty
much po|ar oppos|tos ot my g|ow|ng taco and
thrumm|ng body. And try as l m|ght to tompor |t, |t's no
uso. l'm so ovorcomo w|th tho oxc|tomont ot th|s now
|doa-th|s porhaps und|scovorod poss|b|||ty-that l
can pract|ca||y too| tho onorgy sh|mmor|ng around mo.
And |t l had an aura, no |mmorta|s do, but |t l d|d havo
ono, l'm protty suro |t wou|d bo sh|n|ng tho most
boaut|tu|, br||||ant purp|o t|ockod w|th |ots and |ots ot
spark|y go|d b|ts, bocauso that's oxact|y how l too|.
lt's how l koow that l'm r|ght.
3ut, apparont|y l'm tho on|y ono too||ng |t. Wh|ch
moans l watch |n jaw-dropp|ng d|smay as 0amon
turns and |oavos mo |n a t|o|d ot b|az|ng rod tu||ps
w|thout a s|ng|o part|ng word.
l pop out ot 3ummor|and and appoar back at tho
houso, t|nd|ng 0amon |ook|ng v|s|b|y dot|atod as ho
s|umps on tho couch.
l g|anco down at myso|t, not|c|ng how tho t||msy s||p
ot s||k |s |nstant|y rop|acod w|th tho joans and b|uo
swoator trom botoro, just as 0amon's t|owy wh|to sh|rt
and b|ack pants aro tradod tor tho c|othos ho choso
th|s morn|ng.
3ut ovon though h|s c|othos aro transtormod, h|s
mood, untortunato|y, |s not. And as l survoy h|s taco,
soarch|ng tor a h|nt ot k|ndnoss, an opon|ng ot somo
k|nd, l got noth|ng moro than a stony gazo |n roturn. 3o
l hoad tor a noarby wa|| and park myso|t thoro, vow|ng
to |oan aga|nst |t tor howovor |ong |t takos tor h|m to
mako tho noxt movo. Unsuro what angors h|m moro-
my broak|ng troo ot tho scono, or tho |doa that ho
m|ght'vo ||vod botoro. 3ut wh|chovor |t |s, |t's obv|ous|y
un|oashod somo k|nd ot |nnor domon ot h|s.
°l thought wo'd movod past th|s,' ho t|na||y says, h|s
gazo |and|ng on m|no but on|y br|ot|y botoro ho's
pac|ng aga|n. °l thought you woro roady to movo on
and havo a ||tt|o tun. l thought you roa||zod you woron't
gott|ng anywhoro, that you woro wrong about
3ummor|and, tho dark droary part ot |t, tho o|d |ady
-o|| oí lt. l thought you just wantod to mako a stop |n
tho pav|||on so wo cou|d havo a ||tt|o past-||to tun
botoro wo hoadod ott on vacat|on. 1hon tho m|nuto wo
t|na||y start to havo a good t|mo, you chango your
m|nd. What can l say? l'm a ||tt|o d|sappo|ntod, Evor.
1ru|y.'
l wrap my arms around myso|t, as though thoy'||
ward ott h|s words. lt's not ||ko l was try|ng to
d|sappo|nt h|m, that wasn't at a|| what l |ntondod. 3t|||, l
just can't shako tho |doa that unravo||ng tho o|d
woman's r|dd|o w||| |oad to a happ|or, br|ghtor tuturo
tor us. Wh|ch |s a|| l roa||y want, and l know that's a|| ho
roa||y wants too-dosp|to tho downor mood that ho's
|n.
3ut l don't say any ot that. Vost|y bocauso 0amon
-my sou| mato-tho |ovo ot my ||vos-|s a|ways tho
ono l can count on to d|ttuso my omot|ona| |and m|nos
wo|| botoro thoy havo a chanco to oxp|odo |n our
tacos. 3o tho |oast l can do |s roturn tho tavor.
|o |ooks at mo, st||| c|oar|y unhappy. 3o l koop my
vo|co purposo|y sott and mo||ow, ro|ax|ng my body
and ho|d|ng my hands out botoro mo, t|ngors sp|ayod,
pa|ms opon |n a gosturo ot poaco whon l say, °Aro you
upsot bocauso l stoppod tho scono and poppod out ot
charactor? Or aro you upsot bocauso l |ns|nuatod you
m|ght'vo ||vod botoro, as somobody o|so? Or-or
both? And |t |t's both, wh|ch |s upsott|ng you moro?'
l wa|t tor h|m to rospond. 3racod tor tho worst,
bracod to hoar just about anyth|ng at th|s po|nt, and
yot st||| takon by surpr|so whon ho says, °1h|s who|o
th|ng |s r|d|cu|ous. l moan, a provloos |lío? Evor,
p|ooso. l'vo boon around tor ovor s|x hundrod yoars
a|roady, doosn't that soom |ong onough to you?'
°O-koy.' l drag out tho word, |ntont on mak|ng my
po|nt, but know|ng l nood to troad carotu||y, th|s who|o
subjoct has c|oar|y h|t a norvo. °And l'vo poppod |n
and out ot ox|stonco tor tour hundrod yoars . tbot wo
koow oí.' l nod, know|ng |t's suro to upsot h|m but |t
has to bo sa|d.
°1hat you koow oí?' |o |ooks at mo, choos|ng to
tako that porsona||y. °You th|nk thoro's moro that l'm
h|d|ng trom you? Anothor s|avo ||to porhaps?'
°lo.' l shako my hoad, qu|ck to rotuto |t, want|ng
dosporato|y to d|ttuso |t. °lo, not at a||. l was actua||y
th|nk|ng moro a|ong tho ||nos ot thoro bo|ng othor ||vos
that-that wo'ro oot awaro ot. l moan, 0amon,
sor|ous|y, you'vo got to at |oast adm|t tho poss|b|||ty. l
moan, what? You th|nk tho wor|d just sprang up a||
around you tho day you camo |nto tho wor|d as 0amon
Augustus lotto? You th|nk you woro somo now|y
hatchod sou| w|th no past? lo karma to pay ott?'
||s brows draw togothor as h|s oyos grow dark, but
h|s vo|co roma|ns ca|m, ovon, whon ho says, °l'm
sorry, Evor. 3orry to trump your |doa w|th tho truth. 3ut
tho tact |s, a sou| has to start somowhoro, to bo 'now|y
hatchod' as you ca|| |t. 3o why not thon and thoro?
3os|dos, |t thoro'd boon anothor ||to, an oar||or ||to, l
wou|d'vo known about |t by now. l wou|d'vo soon |t |n
tho 3hadow|and.'
°3o, you'ro to|||ng mo you d|dn't?' l'm unw||||ng to |ot
|t go, dosp|to tho undon|ab|o po|nt ho's just mado,
dosp|to tho stoam runn|ng out ot mo.
°l d|d not.' |o nods, taco so|omn, roso|uto,
dotorm|nod not to g|oat w|th tho v|ctory ot w|nn|ng th|s
ono.
l s|gh, c|oso my oyos, and shovo my hands doop
|nto my pockots. loca|||ng my own tr|p to
3hadow|and, tho b|ur ot |magos that p|ayod out botoro
mo-a|| around mo-novor onco soo|ng anyth|ng that
wasn't oxpoctod-no pr|or ||vos l wasn't a|roady
awaro ot.
lo othor vors|on ot mo that wont by tho namo
Ado||na.
loth|ng that took p|aco |n tho yoar 1808.
Vy ||ds ||tt|ng on|y to t|nd 0amon stand|ng botoro
mo, h|s gazo sott and gont|o, pross|ng a bund|o ot
tu||ps |nto my hand. 1ho words l`m sorry, wr|tton |n an
o|aborato bo|d purp|o scr|pt that hovors botwoon us.
Vo too, l wr|to just undornoath. l oloo`t mooo to
olsoppolot yoo.
°l know,' ho wh|spors, h|s arms mov|ng around mo
as l c|oso my oyos and |oan |nto tho hug, savor|ng tho
too| ot h|s body aga|nst m|no. °And l know l'm go|ng to
||vo to rogrot th|s, but you can havo your wook back.
loa||y. lnvost|gato your hoart out and l'|| do what l can
to ho|p you soarch. 3ut whon tho wook |s ovor, Evor,
you'ro a|| m|no. l'm mak|ng somo sor|ous vacat|on
p|ans.'

°Whon l agrood to ho|p you soarch, l thought wo'd bo
|n tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng. What aro wo go|ng to
do horo? 3ot up camp tor tho noxt s|x days?' |o |ooks
at mo, taco aghast by tho vory thought ot |t. |av|ng
assumod h|s days ot rough|ng |t, ot go|ng w|thout tho
th|ngs ho's grown accustomod to, ||ko mag|ck, and
man|tost|ng, not to mont|on |ndoor p|umb|ng, woro
so||d|y boh|nd h|m, ho's moro than a ||tt|o d|smayod to
t|nd h|mso|t horo. °What |t sho doosn't roturn? What
thon?' |o sott|os |n bos|do mo, h|s body hoav|ng a
||tt|o moro torcotu||y than nocossary, or at |oast |t
sooms that way to mo. ||s movomonts caus|ng tho
p|ast|c tarp to s|nk and shako, rosu|t|ng |n a d|sgust|ng
s|urp|ng-typo sound as tho ground burps and sott|os
bonoath us.
A sound that sots mo ott |n a t|t ot g|gg|os, l can't
ho|p |t. 3ut ho just shakos h|s hoad and ro||s h|s oyos,
tota||y and comp|oto|y ovor |t.
|av|ng boon smart onough to man|tost two b|g
p|ast|c tarps-ono to s|t on, and ono to sh|o|d us trom
tho constant ons|aught ot ra|n-a|ong w|th a tow othor
ossont|a|s just botoro roach|ng th|s po|nt-tho part ot
3ummor|and whoro mag|ck goos unrocogn|zod, and
man|tost|ng doos not ox|st-l can't ho|p but th|nk wo
shou|d'vo mado somoth|ng moro-||ko a tu||y |oadod
lv porhaps that wo cou|d'vo parkod ott to tho s|do.
3t|||, l'm dotorm|nod to mako tho bost ot |t, to wa|t |t
out unt|| tho o|d |ady shows up aga|n.
And sho bottor show up or l'|| novor ||vo th|s ono
down.
1ho ground cont|nuos to s|nk and s|osh ovory t|mo
ono ot us makos ovon tho s||ghtost adjustmont, torc|ng
mo to swa||ow a who|o now sot ot g|gg|os and roturn
my tocus to 0amon whon l say, °lnstoad ot worry|ng
about what you'|| do |t sho oooso`t como, maybo you
shou|d start th|nk|ng about what you'|| do whon sho
ooos como. l moan, attor a||, |sn't that why wo'ro
horo?'
|o |ooks at mo, sw|pos a hand through h|s ha|r,
push|ng |t away trom h|s torohoad whon ho says,
°|onost|y, Evor? 1ho on|y roason l'm horo |s bocauso
l'vo sworn my otorna| a||og|anco to you. You know that
part about 'tor bottor or worso'? l t|guro th|s must bo
tho worso part, wh|ch moans |t can on|y got bottor trom
horo.'
l g|anco at h|m, tomptod to mako somo crack about
us not bo|ng marr|od, but doc|do |t's bottor not to push
my |uck, so l |ot |t drop.
°3o what aro you go|ng to do? lt sho comos, l
moan?' 0amon |oans back and gazos up at tho tarp
hang|ng ovor us, no mag|ck, no man|tost|ng, noth|ng
bottor to do.
°l'm go|ng to contront hor hoad-on. l'm go|ng to ask
hor to stop spoak|ng |n r|dd|os and got to tho po|nt. l'm
go|ng to-'
|o |ooks at mo, wa|t|ng to hoar moro. 3ut thoro |s
no moro. 1hat's as tar as l'vo gotton w|th tho p|an. 3o l
to|d my hands |n my |ap and ond |t w|th that.
°Okay, and botwoon now and thon?' |o ||tts h|s
brow.
l |ook at h|m, my taco a b|ank unt|| l romombor tho
dutt|o bag l'd man|tostod oar||or. l run ott to rotr|ovo |t,
dropp|ng |t botoro h|m and watch|ng as ho s|ts up,
porks up, and poors |ns|do. l|tt||ng through a supp|y ot
magaz|nos, a coup|o ot paporbacks, a dock ot p|ay|ng
cards, somo board gamos, and sovora| ch|||od bott|os
ot o||x|r.
°l don't got |t,' ho says, soom|ng a ||tt|o contusod by
tho stash. °What's a|| th|s?'
°lt's a ||tt|o somoth|ng l ||ko to ca||, 'mak|ng tho bost
ot a not so groat s|tuat|on.'' l nod, ho|d|ng my broath
whon ho hos|tatos, st|||s, thon doc|dos to go w|th |t.
l|tt|ng tho top ott a board gamo and go|ng about tho
mot|ons ot sott|ng |t up, l sott|o |n bos|do h|m.
3trotch|ng my |ogs out botoro mo unt|| thoy'ro noar|y
ovon w|th h|s, g|anc|ng a|| around, on tho |ookout tor
bor, but soo|ng on|y tho usua| |andscapo ot gray sk|os,
dronchod oarth, and a ra|n that rotusos to stop or s|ow
down, l p|oad a s||ont w|sh tor hor to show, soonor
rathor than |ator, thon roturn my tocus to 0amon,
mot|on|ng tor h|m to tako tho t|rst ro||.

1hroo gamos, ono nap (0amon, not mo), and two and
a ha|t bott|os ot o||x|r |ator, sho appoars.
And l moan, sho just-oppoors. l|ko, ono m|nuto
|t's just us, no s|gn ot anyono o|so, and tho noxt sho's
stand|ng botoro us, thoso anc|ont oyos tocusod on mo
as though thoy'd novor |ott.
º0amon!' l sparo a momont to g|anco at h|m,
soo|ng tho way ho st|rs |n h|s s|oop and starts to ro||
ovor. l grab ho|d ot h|s |og, g|v|ng |t ono, two good
shakos as l ropoat, °0amon-wako up! 3ho's boro!'
3ay|ng |t as though tho moro s|ght ot hor ho|ds tho
prom|so ot somoth|ng groat-||ko l'd just spottod
3anta w|th a s|o|gh tu|| ot prosonts and a t|oot ot t|y|ng
ro|ndoor.
0amon bo|ts upr|ght, a||ow|ng h|s hand a qu|ck
sw|po ot h|s oyos, c|oar|ng tho s|oop botoro roach|ng
tor mo. A do|ay that causos h|m to m|ss contact, tho
chanco to pu|| mo back to h|m, as l hau| myso|t to my
toot and mako my way toward hor. |av|ng no |doa
what l'|| say, but l'vo wa|tod too |ong |n tho ra|n to m|ss
tho opportun|ty.
°You.' sho bog|ns, hor arm s|ow|y ||tt|ng, though l'm
qu|ck to stop hor r|ght thoro. lo nood to go |nto tu||-on
chant modo, not whon wo'vo a|| hoard |t botoro and
roa||y don't nood to hoar |t aga|n.
°About that.' l stand botoro hor, carotu| to koop a
cush|on ot a tow toot botwoon us, ovon though at hor
advancod ago l'm protty suro sho's ||| oqu|ppod to
harm mo |n any roa| way. °l'vo hoard tho song,
momor|zod tho |yr|cs, and trust mo, l moan no
d|srospoct, but do you th|nk wo cou|d just
commun|cato |n Eng||sh? Or, at |oast tho k|nd ot
Eng||sh l'm usod to, tho k|nd that actua||y makos
sonso?'
Vy oyos travo| ovor hor, tak|ng |n tho s||vor w|sps ot
ha|r, tho start||ng oyos, tho sk|n that appoars so trag||o
and th|n |t |ooks as though |t m|ght snag. 3oarch|ng tor
a roact|on, somo s|gn that sho took ottonso at my
words, but unab|o to t|nd any rosponso othor than a
rhoumy o|d gazo that sw|tchos to 0amon as ho c|a|ms
tho spaco by my s|do. ||s shou|dors squarod, |ogs
stoady, toot p|acod just so, roady|ng h|mso|t to spr|ng
|nto act|on, do whatovor |t takos to dotond mo trom
th|s strango contonar|an shou|d |t como to that.
A thought that sooms so s|||y on tho surtaco, l cou|d
oas||y burst |nto yot anothor t|t ot |aughtor |t th|s wasn't
so sor|ous.
l r|so up on my toos, wo||, as much as ono can whon
knoo-doop |n muck, romombor|ng how ono ot tho |ast
t|mos l saw hor, V|sa and Varco surpr|sod mo by
stopp|ng out trom boh|nd hor, but trom what l can soo,
today thoy'ro not horo.
3o tar |t's just 0amon, tho crazy o|d |ady, and mo.
And, trom what l can to||, sho doosn't soom tho
s||ghtost b|t surpr|sod to t|nd us both wa|t|ng.
l'm about to spoak aga|n, dotorm|nod to movo th|s
th|ng torward and got what l camo tor-dotorm|nod to
c|oar my consc|onco ot tho ovorwho|m|ng|y nagg|ng
doubt that 0amon m|ght bo r|ght attor a||-that th|s |s
a|| somo sort ot cruo| cosm|c joko-that l'm bo|ng
p|ayod |n tho vory worst way-that thoro's no way
o|thor ot us ||vod botoro-whon sho |ooks at mo and
says, °Aoo|loo.'
says, °Aoo|loo.'
1hat's |t. 3ho just says, °Aoo|loo.' 1hon |owors hor
||ds and bows ovor so s||ght|y, hor pa|ms ho|d tast to
tho contor ot hor chost, tho movomont d|roctod at mo
as though sho |s tho worsh|ppor and l'm somo k|nd ot
ha||owod do|ty.
°Um, soo, tho th|ng |s,' l start, unsuro how to
rospond to such an awkward gosturo and oagor to
movo past |t, protond |t d|dn't happon. °l havo no |doa
what you'ro ta|k|ng about. Vy namo |s Evor and th|s |s
Lomoo-' 0amon shoots mo a |ook ot abso|uto
horror, unhappy at bo|ng pu||od |nto |t. 3o l shoot h|m a
trown, tak|ng a momont to tack on an oyo ro|| to go
a|ong w|th |t, roturn|ng my tocus to hor whon l add, °As
you o|roooy know,' shoot|ng 0amon anothor qu|ck
|ook, rom|nd|ng h|m that h|s |dont|ty |s hard|y a socrot
whoro sho's concornod. ln tact, sho sooms to know a||
about h|m, or at |oast h|s tu|| namo anyway. °And, l
havo no |doa who th|s Ado||na |s, or what sho cou|d
poss|b|y havo to do w|th mo, so maybo you can t||| mo
|n, what do you th|nk?'
°l am lotus,' sho says, vo|co ||ko a wh|spor as hor
gazo ||ghts on m|no.
O-koy, not oxact|y what l askod, but st||| progross. l
guoss.
°0amon |s tho roason.' |or hoad turns toward h|m.
°Your |ovo |s tho symptom.' 3ho g|ancos back and
torth botwoon us. °3ut you, Ado||na, aro tho curo. 1ho
koy.' 3ho sott|os on mo.
Ob boy.
1ust bocauso l koop myso|t trom s|gh|ng, doosn't
moan l koop myso|t trom th|nk|ng: loro wo go ogolo-
moro cryptlc romb|logs tbot moko obso|oto|y oo
sooso.
°l|ston, horo's tho th|ng, ||ko l just sa|d, my namo |s
Evor, oot Ado||na. ln tact, l'vo oovor boon Ado||na. l'vo
boon Eva||no, Ab|ga||, ||our, Ch|oo, and Ema|a but
novor Ado||na. You got tho wroog g|r|.'
l s|gh and turn away, annoyod by tho gamo.
Catch|ng a g||mpso ot ro||ot |n 0amon's gazo-a
g||mpso that soon turns to rago-whon tho o|d woman
stops torward and grabs aho|d ot my s|oovo.
°|oy-' 0amon's vo|co |s sharp, but lotus |gnoros
h|m, hor gr|p t|ghton|ng on my arm as sho poors at mo
|ntont|y.
°P|ooso. Wo'vo wa|tod so |ong. Wa|tod tor you,
Ado||na. You must roturn. You must mako tho journoy.
You must t|nd tho truth. lt's tho on|y way to ro|oaso
thom. lo|oaso mo.'
°Whoro aro V|sa and Varco?' l ask, though l havo
no |doa why. Vaybo |t's bocauso thoy'ro tho on|y
th|ngs that too| tang|b|o and roa| |n th|s othorw|so
surroa| scono.
°1horo aro many who awa|t you. 1ho journoy |s
yours. Yours and on|y yours.'
°¼bot journoy?' l ask, vo|co tromb||ng ||ko a sob.
°l'm sorry but nono ot th|s makos any sonso. lt |t's so
|mportant tor mo to do th|s, ovon though l'm oot
Ado||na, thon maybo you can qu|t w|th tho puzz|os and
oxp|a|n |t |n a way that'|| moan somoth|ng to mo.'
°1ho journoy back.' 3ho bows hor hoad aga|n,
|oav|ng mo w|th a v|ow ot s||vory ha|r w|th no
d|scornab|o part.
°3ack to wboro?' l p|oad, taco t|ush|ng w|th tho
mak|ngs ot hystor|a-and know|ng l nood to d|a| |t
down a notch, or maybo two.
°3ack to tho bog|nn|ng. 1o tho scono you'vo yot to
soo. 3ack to |ts vory or|g|n. You must soo |t. loarn |t.
Know |t. A|| ot |t. 1hough, you must bo warnod |t |s on|y
tho start. 1ho journoy |s |ong, arduous, but tho roward
vory groat. 1ho truth bogots truo happ|noss-but on|y
tho puro ot hoart may so|zo |t.' |or gazo sw|tch|ng to
0amon as sho adds, °1ho journoy |s yours and yours
a|ono, Ado||na. 0amon |s not wo|como thoro.'
0amon cuts |n, hav|ng hoard moro than onough.
°l|ston,' ho says, °l don't know what you'ro try|ng to do
horo but-'
||s angor ha|tod by tho surpr|s|ng s|ght ot hor pa|m
r|s|ng, to||owod by tho shock ot |t pross|ng to h|s
chook. lt's ||ko, ono m|nuto ho's yo|||ng, a good two
toot yawn|ng botwoon thom, and tho noxt, sho's
pract|ca||y prossod up aga|nst h|m, hor rhoumy o|d
gazo bor|ng |nto h|s, transm|tt|ng somoth|ng, somo
k|nd ot mossago or momory moant on|y tor h|m.
l watch, tasc|natod, wondor|ng just what |t |s that
transp|ros botwoon thom. Know|ng on|y ono th|ng tor
suro, that whatovor |t |s, |t's caus|ng hor to g|ow |n a
way that prompts a stroam ot ||ght to rad|ato a||
around. 1ho co|or spoctrum so |ntonso, |t's as though
|t or|g|natos trom somowhoro so doop, |t can't ho|p
but soop outward unt|| tho g||mmor surrounds hor.
3ut wh||o sho g|ows, 0amon doos tho oppos|to. ||s
norma||y ta||, |oan torm appoars to darkon and shr|nk
unt|| ho's baro|y a sho|| ot h|mso|t.
°0amon Augustus lotto Espos|to,' sho says. °Why
do you dony mo?'
l watch, start|od to soo h|m so t|ustorod ho's unab|o
to rospond, unab|o to t|nd h|s own vo|co, much |oss
t|ght h|s way out ot whatovor |t |s that sho shows h|m.
1ust about to |ntorvono whon ho shakos h|s hoad,
stra|ghtons h|s sp|no, and yanks h|mso|t r|ght out ot
hor spo||, pu|||ng h|mso|t togothor onough to say,
°You'ro crazy. You'ro wrong ooo you'ro crazy. And
wh||o l havo no |doa what your doa| |s or what you'ro
try|ng to do horo, l do know you bottor stay away trom
Evor. |ar, tar away, do you hoar? Othorw|so, l can't bo
ho|d rospons|b|o tor what happons to you, rogard|oss
ot how o|d you c|a|m to bo.'
3ut |t ho oxpoctod hor to back ott or run away
scarod, wo||, ho must'vo boon just as surpr|sod as l
was to soo hor sm||o |nstoad. 1ho two ot us watch|ng
hor taco br|ghton, hor chooks w|don, hor ||ps
sproad|ng and ||tt|ng onough to d|sp|ay a start||ng
array ot tooth-start||ng |n that a good doa| ot thom
aro o|thor gray|ng, yo||ow|ng, or ont|ro|y m|ss|ng.
|or attont|on sh|tt|ng as sho movos trom h|m to mo,
tak|ng my hand |n hor sott papory dry ono, hor words
cont|dont and suro whon sho says, °||s |ovo |s tho
koy.'
l |ook at hor, ro|oaso myso|t trom hor gr|p. °l thought
you sa|d Ado||na was tho koy?'
°lt |s ono and tho samo.' 3ho nods, as |t that mado
any sonso. °l|oaso. l|oaso cons|dor tho journoy. lt |s
tho on|y way to ro|oaso mo. 1o ro|oaso you as wo||.'
°1ho journoy back-back to tho bog|nn|ng?' l say,
sarcasm b|oom|ng. °And just whoro doos th|s journoy
start? Whoro doos |t ond?' l |ook at hor, not|c|ng how
sho st||| appoars ||t trom w|th|n.
°1ho journoy bog|ns horo.'
3ho po|nts down at our toot, or maybo tho mud, l
can't bo too suro. l'm moro contusod now than l was
whon th|s startod. 3ut whon our oyos moot aga|n, l
know tho |nstruct|on |s ||tora|-tho journoy bog|ns |n
tho vory muck whoro wo stand.
°And |t onds |n tho truth.'
And botoro l can say anothor word, botoro l can bog
tor a ||tt|o moro c|ar|t|cat|on, 0amon sw|ngs h|s arm
around my wa|st and pu||s mo away.
|ur||ng tho words ovor h|s shou|dor, not bothor|ng to
|ook back whon ho says, °lo ono's go|ng anywhoro.
0on't bothor us aga|n.'

°3o what do you mako ot |t?' Ava sw|ngs hor wavy
auburn |ocks ovor hor shou|dor and |ovo|s hor brown
oyos on mo, |owor|ng horso|t onto ono ot tho o|d
p|ast|c to|d-up cha|rs 1udo draggod |nto h|s ott|co |n
an attompt to accommodato us a|| |n th|s |mpromptu
moot|ng. °What do you th|nk |t a|| moans?'
l vonturo a g|anco toward 0amon, who, hav|ng
rotusod a cha|r, choosos to |oan aga|nst tho wa||,
arms crossod botoro h|m, taco boar|ng a |ook that
roads |oud and c|oar: l tboogbt wo woro tbroogb wltb
tblsº l tboogbt l worooo bor to stoy owoyº l tboogbt
yoo solo yoo woro moro|y p|ooolog to swlog by, plck
op o book or two, ooo bo oo yoor woyº
Voot|ng |t w|th ono ot my own that says: Yoo
promlsoo mo o wook ooo l`m bo|olog yoo to lt-
oo|oss, oí coorso, yoo woot to to|| mo wbot tbo o|o
womoo sbowoo yooº
|o trowns, |ooks away, just as l t|gurod ho wou|d, so
l turn away trom h|m |n tavor ot Ava.
°l havo no |doa what |t moans,' l adm|t, do|ng my
bost to protond l d|dn't just hoar 0amon s|gh ovon
though that was c|oar|y h|s |ntont.
1udo g|ancos botwoon us, h|s gazo caut|ous,
corroct|y sons|ng thoro's troub|o |n parad|so and
want|ng noth|ng moro than to stoor c|oar ot |t. 3t|||,
s|nco ho a|so prom|sod to ho|p, ho takos h|s p|aco
boh|nd h|s dosk, t||ts h|s cha|r way back, and protonds
to bo |ost |n doop thought as ho staros |nto spaco,
whon roa||y, ho's just droam|ng ot bo|ng somo othor
p|aco. 3ummor|and wou|d bo my bost guoss.
°3o, sho th|nks you'ro Ado||na, or that you woro
Ado||na, or . whatovor.' V||os trowns, tapp|ng h|s
pon aga|nst tho pagos ot tho |oathor-bound journa| l
gavo h|m botoro ho |ott tor ||oronco, busy|ng h|mso|t
w|th |ntonso noto tak|ng, try|ng to mako sonso ot |t,
wh||o l busy myso|t w|th tak|ng h|m |n. lot|ng how h|s
trosh|y cut ha|r makos h|m appoar a |ot moro ||ko tho
o|d V||os aga|n, tho ono who so w||||ng|y botr|ondod
mo on my t|rst day ot schoo|, though tho baby tat ho
shod whon ho wont to act|ng camp |n lta|y |s c|oar|y
gono tor good, transtorm|ng h|m trom comtortab|y cuto
to, wo||, roa||y, roa||y cuto.
°Yoah.' l nod, st||| not usod to ta|k|ng about th|s so
opon|y, or at |oast not w|th h|m.
Evon though ho's a|| caught up to spood, protty
much |ntormod ot a|| tho moro sord|d dota||s ot our
||vos thanks to both loman's |ntortoronco and tho tact
that ho was thoro tho n|ght l k|||od |avon. Caught |n
hor snaro, oyos about to pop r|ght out ot h|s hoad, as
sho wont about tho bus|noss ot try|ng to choko h|m to
doath.
3y k||||ng hor, l savod h|m. And by do|ng so, l |ost a||
hopo ot ovor gott|ng my hands on that ant|doto.
3t|||, l'd do |t aga|n |t l had to. |o's ono ot my vory
bost tr|onds, and ho d|d abso|uto|y noth|ng to dosorvo
that trom hor.
°l havo no |doa who sho |s.' l trown. °A|| l know |s
that tho o|d |ady ca||s horso|t lotus, and |s conv|ncod
l'm Ado||na.' 1ho words mumb|od |n a way that makos
|t sound as though l was ta|k|ng to myso|t.
Yankod trom my m|ro ot contus|on whon lomy and
layno p|po up and say, °Wo nood to start at tho
bog|nn|ng.'
l |ook at thom, so porp|oxod by |t a|| that l don't ovon
know whoro that |s. 3ut botoro l can rospond, thoy
spr|ng torth trom tho|r cha|rs, rush down tho ha||, and
|nto tho storo. loturn|ng just a tow momonts |ator, thoy
roc|a|m tho|r soats and poor at tho book thoy'vo
proppod opon on lomy's |ap.
layno's vo|co p|orc|ng tho s||onco whon sho |oans
ovor hor tw|n s|stor, hor hugo brown oyos w|don|ng
undor hor dark tr|ngo ot razor-s|ashod bangs as sho
says, °Okay, you sa|d hor namo was lotus, r|ght?'
l nod.
°3o, accord|ng to th|s, tho |otus t|owor grows out ot
tho mud, strugg||ng through tho muck to mako |ts way
toward tho ||ght. And, onco |t roachos that ||ght, |t
b|ossoms and grows |nto somoth|ng oxtraord|nary,
somoth|ng vory, vory boaut|tu|.'
l suck |n my broath, roa||z|ng wo may havo just
mado a ||tt|o progross at |ast. Voo, mock, crozy o|o
|ooy oomoo Lotos-lt o|| ílts, bot wbot ooos lt moooº
°lt's a symbo| tor awakon|ng,' Ava says, |ntorrupt|ng
layno, who was about to spoak aga|n. °Awakon|ng to
tho sp|r|tua| s|do ot ||to.'
°3ut |t a|so roprosonts ||to |n gonora|,' 1udo says,
br|ng|ng h|s cha|r torward, sott||ng h|s o|bows onto h|s
dosk, and push|ng h|s droad|ocks ott h|s taco as ho
gazos at us. °You know, ovorcom|ng tho hardsh|ps
and strugg|os ||to br|ngs |n ordor to b|ossom |nto your
truo so|t-tho boaut|tu| bo|ng you woro dost|nod to
bo.'
|o |ooks at mo whon ho says |t, and thoro's noth|ng
l can do to stop tho t|ush trom r|s|ng to my chooks. l
know a|| too wo|| about 1udo's hardsh|ps and
strugg|os, hav|ng soon thom t|rsthand tho day l
protondod to road h|s pa|m so l cou|d provo my
psych|c prowoss and socuro a job |n h|s storo. l saw |t
unto|d as c|oar|y as though l was stand|ng r|ght thoro
a|ongs|do h|m. G|ttod w|th psych|c ab|||t|os h|s paronts
workod hard to dony, ho |ost h|s mothor at a young
ago, on|y to havo h|s gr|ov|ng tathor shovo a gun |n h|s
mouth and soon to||ow. Abandon|ng 1udo to a sor|os
ot |nto|orab|o tostor tam|||os unt|| tho cyc|o ot abuso
bocamo so unboarab|o tho stroot soomod ||ko a much
bottor opt|on. ||s ||to savod tho day l|na tound h|m,
saw tho prom|so |n h|m, and managod to conv|nco
h|m that ho wasn't a troak, but rathor a un|quo and
g|ttod sou|. 1hat tho ||m|tod v|ows ot othors shou|d
havo no boar|ng on tho porson ho a|roady was, tho
man ho'd bocomo.
And now l|na's gono too.
l pross my ||ps togothor and |ook at h|m, wondor|ng
how ho's hand||ng that, |t |t's why ho's spond|ng so
much t|mo |n 3ummor|and, or |t that's moro duo to mo
-h|s attompt to got ovor tho cho|co that l mado.
||s gazo moots m|no, ho|d|ng tor on|y a momont,
but st||| |ong onough tor mo to w|sh l cou|d |ovo h|m. |o
dosorvos to bo |ovod. 3ut my hoart bo|ongs to
0amon. 0osp|to our curront cont||ct, l'vo no doubt ho
and l aro moant tor oach othor. 1h|s |s just a m|nor
rough patch wo'|| got through |n no t|mo.
°1hoy a|so mako tor a protty popu|ar tattoo,' 1udo
cont|nuos. °loop|o who'vo ovorcomo hard t|mos,
strugg|od tho|r way out ot tho muck so to spoak, ||ko to
uso thom as a sort ot markor ot hav|ng surv|vod tho
journoy and como out tho othor s|do.'
°0o you havo a tattoo?' layno asks, oyos w|don|ng
as sho |oans toward h|m, pract|ca||y ta|||ng out ot hor
soat w|th oxc|tomont.
°Ono or two.' |o nods, taco boar|ng tho s||ghtost
h|nt ot a sm||o.
3ho gapos, hard|y ab|o to bo||ovo ho p|ans to |oavo
|t at that, caus|ng hor to ask, °3o, what aro thoy?'
°Ono's an Ouroboros. lt's on tho sma|| ot my back.'
And ovon though l can too| h|s gazo t||t my way, l
dot|oct tho |ook ont|ro|y. l'vo soon tho Ouroboros. Oh,
yoah, that ono d|d not go unnot|cod.
°An Ouroboros?' 3ho squ|nts, g|anc|ng at hor
|dont|ca| s|stor, who m|rrors hor |n ovory way oxcopt
tor tho c|oth|ng. lomy tavors p|nk, layno protors
b|ack, and somot|mos, whon thoy'ro not around, l rotor
to thom as Good 8 l|onty bocauso |t makos 0amon
|augh. °l thought that was ov||,' sho adds.
°lt' s oot ov||,' 0amon says, doc|d|ng to contr|buto
s|nco ho has v|rtua||y no cho|co but to bo horo 't|| |t's
ovor. °lt's an anc|ont a|chom|ca| symbo| ot ||to, doath,
rob|rth-|mmorta||ty.' |o ||tts h|s shou|dors, gaz|ng
around tho room but sott||ng on no ono |n part|cu|ar. °A
who|o s|ow ot thoo|og|os havo adoptod |t aga|n and
aga|n throughout h|story, a|| ot thom attr|but|ng tho|r
own moan|ngs to |t, but |t's oot ov||. A|though loman
and h|s roguos adoptod |t and mado |t soom that way,
on |ts own, |t boars no ||| w|||.' |o nods, moots tho wa||
aga|n, h|s spooch ha|tod, or at |oast tor now anyway.
°O-koy.' layno sm|rks. °lt l ovor havo to wr|to a
torm papor on |t, l'|| go stra|ght to you, but tor now,
back to tho tattoos.' 3ho shakos hor hoad, ta|||ng just
shy ot ro|||ng hor oyos. |or comp|oto and tota|
adorat|on ot 0amon |s tho on|y th|ng that sparos h|m
trom that. °What's tho othor ono?' sho asks, turn|ng
back to 1udo.
°1ho othor |s tho 1apanoso symbo| tor tho |otus
b|ossom. l thought an actua| t|owor soomod . wo|| .
a ||tt|o g|r|y.'
3ho poors at h|m, brow archod h|gh.
°l was youngor, |oss ovo|vod, what can l say?' |o
||tts h|s shou|dors and sw|pos a hand ovor h|s ha|r.
°And-so-whoro's that ono?' sho vonturos, but
1udo just t|ashos h|s pa|m and shakos h|s hoad,
torm|nat|ng that part|cu|ar top|c r|ght thon and thoro.
layno turns to Ava, shoot|ng hor a dark, angry
g|aro, hor oyos narrow|ng ovon turthor whon Ava just
|aughs |n rop|y. And trom what l can hoar ot tho
thoughts sw|r||ng botwoon thom, layno's boon
bogg|ng tor a tattoo tor tho past sovora| wooks, and
can't undorstand why sho's torcod to wa|t anothor t|vo
yoars unt|| sho's o|ghtoon. |av|ng boon around tor
throo contur|os a|roady, tho major|ty ot wh|ch was
spont |n 3ummor|and ||v|ng as a rotugoo trom tho
3a|om W|tch 1r|a|s, sho doosn't soo why hor t|mo
sorvod thoro can't bo rocogn|zod horo.
3ut |t's hard|y my argumont, so l tuno out just as
qu|ck|y as l tunod |n, moro than a ||tt|o oagor to got
back on track.
°3o anyway, what about tho song?' V||os asks.
°|ow d|d |t go aga|n? 3omoth|ng about r|s|ng trom tho
mud toward tho sky, or tho droamy sky, or . or
somoth|ng?'
°lrom tbo moo lt sbo|| rlso, |lítlog opworo toworo
°lrom tbo moo lt sbo|| rlso, |lítlog opworo toworo
vost oroomy sklos, jost os yoo-yoo-yoo sbo|| rlso
too,' l s|ng, my vo|co ocho|ng tho samo tuno lotus
usod.
°3o obv|ous|y sho th|nks you'ro ||ko tho |otus t|owor,'
lomy adds, wh||o hor tw|n, st||| m|ttod about tho tattoo,
and novor hav|ng boon a tan ot m|no dosp|to tho
rocont boar hug sho gavo mo |n 3ummor|and attor
soo|ng l'd surv|vod |avon's attack, s|umps down |n
hor soat and |ovo|s hor stoo|y gazo r|ght on mo.
C|oar|y doubt|ng tho truth ot such a th|ng, and
choos|ng thon and thoro to s|do w|th 0amon, th|nk|ng
tor suro tho o|d |ady has got to bo crazy to soo that
k|nd ot prom|so |n mo.
°And tho rost, how d|d |t go?' V||os prompts.
°lrom tbo ooop ooo oork ooptbs lt strogg|os
toworo tbo |lgbt.'
°Aga|n, |otus t|owor.' lomy nods, tapp|ng tho pago
ot tho book w|th hor p|nk pa|ntod na||, soom|ng|y
p|oasod w|th horso|t.
°Loslrlog oo|y ooo tblog-tbo trotb! 7bo trotb oí lts
bolog.'
°Your dost|ny.' Ava nods. 0ash|ng any hopo that
sho just m|ght know what that |s whon sho adds,
°Whatovor that may turn out to bo.'
°Okay, and.' V||os's hoad bobs as h|s pon racos
across tho pago, wr|t|ng |t a|| down.
ºUm, okay.' l sta||, try|ng to romombor whoro l |ott
ott, whoro |t goos trom thoro. °Oh yoah, thon |t goos:
Bot wl|| yoo |ot ltº ¼l|| yoo |ot lt rlso ooo b|ossom ooo
growº Or wl|| yoo oomo lt to tbo ooptbsº ¼l|| yoo
boolsb lts woro ooo woory soo|º'
°3o bas|ca||y you'ro tho |otus b|ossom, or, at |oast
tho koopor ot tho |otus b|ossoms, and you'ro o|thor
gonna |ot thom tu|t||| tho|r dost|ny and b|oom, or, moro
||ko|y, you'ro gonna scrow |t a|| up and damn thom to
tho dopths.'
°layno!' Ava sco|ds.
3ut layno just shrugs, c|a|m|ng, °What? lt's not ||ko l
sa|d 'damn', tbo soog d|d. l was moro|y ropoat|ng.'
°1hat |s not what l moant and you know |t. Your |ntont
tar outwo|ghs your words.' Ava's taco darkons.
°3orry,' layno mumb|os, and though sho |ooks at
mo whon sho says |t, |t was c|oar|y tor Ava's bonot|t.
°You know what th|s rom|nds mo ot?' 0amon says,
prompt|ng us a|| to turn, surpr|sod to hoar h|m spoak
up aga|n. °lt rom|nds mo ot 1008 whon tho 3oat|os
ro|oasod tho ¼blto A|bom attor tho|r stay |n lnd|a.
Evoryono was try|ng to |ntorprot tho |yr|cs, soarch|ng
tor somo k|nd ot doopor moan|ng, and, as |t turnod
out, most ot thom woro wrong-somo ot wh|ch ondod
|n trag|c rosu|ts.'
°Char|os Vanson.' 1udo nods, |oan|ng back |n h|s
soat aga|n, h|s t|ngors p|ck|ng at tho anc|ont Vayan
symbo| on tho tront ot h|s 1-sh|rt. °|o thought tho ont|ro
a|bum conta|nod an apoca|ypt|c mossago, ca|||ng tor
a raco war, and ho usod |t to just|ty k||||ng tho woa|thy,
wh|ch ho and h|s tam||y ot to||owors d|d.'
l shuddor. l can't ho|p |t. 1ho who|o |doa |s too
croopy. 3t|||, that's hard|y what wo'ro do|ng horo, and
l'vo a protty good |doa 0amon knows |t.
°Wh||o that may bo a|| wo|| and truo,' l say, carotu||y
avo|d|ng h|s gazo, °thoro's dot|n|to|y a mossago boro.
And, accord|ng to lotus anyway, thoro's a|so a
journoy that on|y l can mako.' 1hon, surpr|s|ng just
about ovoryono, |nc|ud|ng myso|t, l |ook r|ght at 1udo
whon l say, °A|| that t|mo you'vo spont |n 3ummor|and,
a|| that t|mo you'vo stud|od your past ||vos-oor past
||vos-havo you ovor soon ono l don't know about?
Ono that surpr|sod you? Ono whoro l was namod
Ado||na?'
l ho|d my broath, a||ow|ng myso|t to oxha|o on|y
whon ho shakos h|s hoad and says, °3orry, no.'
°Okay thon.' 0amon nods, d|vorc|ng h|mso|t ot tho
wa||, s|gna||ng that th|s moot|ng |s now ott|c|a||y
adjournod. °l th|nk wo'vo covorod about a|| that wo can
horo, no?'
And ovon though l want to protost that tho answor |s,
|ndood, oo, l just nod and go w|th |t.
lart|y bocauso l know ho's on|y do|ng what ho
th|nks |s r|ght. 1ry|ng to protoct mo trom lotus, tho
dark part ot 3ummor|and, and hock, maybo ovon
myso|t.
And part|y bocauso, wo||, ho's probab|y r|ght. 1horo
probab|y |s no moro to do horo. Evon though l'm
ro|uctant to adm|t |t, |t appoars wo'vo uncovorod a||
that wo can.
Or at |oast tor now anyway.
As tor tho rost-wo||, l'm hop|ng |t'|| rovoa| |tso|t
somowhoro a|ong tho journoy.

°Aro you go|ng |n?'
0amon stands bos|do mo, r|ght bos|do mo. ||s
body so c|oso to m|no l can too| h|s swarm ot t|ng|o
and hoat, h|s warm broath brush|ng sott|y a|ong tho
curvo ot my chook.
°lo,' l wh|spor. °l-l can't do |t.' l swa||ow hard,
wrapp|ng my arms around myso|t as l cont|nuo to poor
|ns|do. |oo||ng ||ko tho worst k|nd ot croopy sta|kor tor
stand|ng out horo |n tho dark, spy|ng on 3ab|no and
Vunoz |nstoad ot just go|ng around to tho tront,
opon|ng tho door, and go|ng |n to jo|n thom ||ko a
norma| porson wou|d.
3ut l'm not norma|.
lot ovon c|oso.
And that's protty much what koops mo crouch|ng
out horo |n tho dark, on tho wrong s|do ot hor w|ndow.
lí yoo`ro oot golog lo, coo yoo ot |oost to|| mo wbot
wo`ro oolog oot boroº 1ho words thought |nstoad ot
spokon, ho doosn't want to r|sk bo|ng hoard.
l`m soylog gooo-byo. l s|gh. l`m proporlog íor o
íotoro wltboot bor.
1hough l'm tac|ng tho wrong way to soo h|s
oxpross|on, l can too| tho way h|s onorgy sh|tts, tho
way |t broadons and oxpands unt|| |t swa||ows us both.
lrov|d|ng a wondortu|, warm, hug-||ko ombraco that
||ngors wo|| past tho po|nt whon h|s arm catchos up
and to||ows su|t.
°Evor.' ho wh|spors, hands c|aspod at my wa|st,
||ps push|ng through my curta|n ot ha|r to |and on my
chook. And ovon though |t soomod ||ko somoth|ng
m|ght to||ow, ho choosos to ond |t r|ght thoro. A||ow|ng
tho k|ss to do what words ta|| to.
Wo hudd|o togothor, watch|ng as tho happy coup|o
p|cks at tho roma|n|ng scraps ot d|nnor. Each ot thom
urg|ng tho othor to c|a|m tho |ast s||co ot p|zza botoro
3ab|no wavos hor hand and roachos tor hor
w|nog|ass and Vonoz |aughs and d|gs |n.
3ut dosp|to tho|r p|aytu| att|tudo, |t's not hard to
|ocato tho g||nt ot romorso |n 3ab|no's gazo, tho t||ckor
ot dotoat at hav|ng takon a chanco, |ssuod an
u|t|matum, on|y to ta|| at tho ono th|ng that tru|y moant
somoth|ng to hor.
A |ook that's o|most onough to rouso mo trom my
pos|t|on at tho w|ndow so l can hur| myso|t |n thoro and
show hor that a|| |s okay, a|| |s torg|von.
A|most, but not qu|to.
lnstoad, l roma|n r|ght |n p|aco, obsorv|ng tho|r dato.
3ho st||| |n hor su|t, wh|ch, coup|od w|th tho p|zza,
s|gna|s a |ato n|ght at work, wh||o Vunoz |s drossod
tar moro |ntorma||y, woar|ng a pa|r ot brokon-|n joans
and a |ong-s|oovod wh|to sh|rt w|th tho cutts ro||od
ha|tway to h|s o|bows, onjoy|ng a ||tt|o t|mo ott trom
schoo|, us|ng h|s w|ntor broak to work on h|s book.
1ho ono ho was about to g|vo up on.
1ho ono l to|d h|m wou|d bo pub||shod somoday.
¼o||, ot |oost somo gooo como oí my obl|ltlos.
7boy moy bovo o|loootoo 5obloo, bot ot |oost l
mooogoo to coovloco Voooz to oot glvo op oo bls
oroom.
And l'm so |ost |n tho thought, and 0amon's so |ost
|n tho act ot comtort|ng mo, that no|thor ono ot us |s
proparod tor Vunoz to burst through tho s|do door w|th
an ovorstuttod trash bag |n hand.
°Evor?' |o stands botoro us, |otty bag dang||ng by
h|s s|do, squ|nt|ng as though ho stoppod trust|ng h|s
oyos tho momont thoy |andod on mo.
l t|ash my pa|m, my gazo p|oad|ng w|th h|s to koop
qu|ot, koop tho nows to h|mso|t, koop on hoad|ng tor
tho trash as though ho d|dn't soo us stoopod bonoath
tho w|ndows|||.
3ut |t's a |ot to ask ot somoono who's boon
soarch|ng tor you. And wh||o ho makos tor tho trash
can and drops tho bag |n, ho's qu|ck to c|rc|o r|ght
back to whoro 0amon and l stand.
°Whoro tho ho|| havo you boon?' ||s words tako mo
by surpr|so, most|y bocauso thoy d|dn't como out
noar|y as angry as thoy cou|d havo. 1hoy soundod
moro ||ko a hugo s|gh ot ro||ot.
°l'm stay|ng at 0amon's,' l say, as though that
somohow covors tho tu|| oxtont ot my absonco. °And
3ab|no's tu||y awaro ot that s|nco 0amon ca||od to to||
hor as much.' l g|anco at 0amon, g||mps|ng tho wavo
ot shock that p|ays ovor h|s taco. |o d|dn't roa||zo l
know that.
°3ab|no's boon worr|od s|ck. You'vo got to go |n
thoro-you'vo got to |ot hor know you'ro okay.' |o
g|ancos botwoon us, h|s bra|n st||| try|ng to catch up
w|th what ho soos botoro h|m.
°You know l can't do that.' Vy vo|co |s t|at, mattor ot
tact. °And you know why. ln tact, you know way moro
than you shou|d-way moro than l ovor |ntondod.' l
s|gh and shako my hoad, romombor|ng tho day, just a
tow wooks botoro, whon, |n a trant|c rush toward a
d|sastor l d|dn't torosoo, l man|tostod a bouquot ot
dattod||s and a b|ack 3VW r|ght botoro h|s oyos.
3as|ca||y show|ng h|m r|ght thon and thoro that tho tu||
oxtont ot my wo|rdnoss-my powors-go tar doopor
than tho psych|c to|opath ho know mo to bo. |o saw
mo run ||ko tho w|nd, mako th|ngs appoar whoro thoro
was onco on|y a|r-and l'm protty suro that attor
gott|ng ovor tho shock ot that, ho probab|y startod
wondor|ng just what o|so l m|ght bo capab|o ot. Or at
|oast that's what l wou|d'vo dono |t our pos|t|ons woro
sw|tchod.
°Aro you part ot th|s too?' Vunoz asks, sh|tt|ng h|s
tocus to 0amon as though |ook|ng tor a n|co
convon|ont p|aco to dump a|| tho b|amo.
°l am tho roason, yos,' 0amon says, w|thout
hos|tat|on, no pauso ot any k|nd.
And l can't ho|p but gapo, so start|od by tho words,
tho way thoy ochood what lotus sa|d oar||or.
Wondor|ng |t that's what ho moant, or |t |t's just a
co|nc|donco that h|s words m|rrorod hors.
Vunoz pondors, tr|os to mako sonso ot |t. |o was
hoadod |n ono d|roct|on whon 0amon wont |n anothor,
and now ho's torcod to catch up, or at |oast moot
somowhoro |n tho m|dd|o.
°l a|ways thought thoro was somoth|ng vory strango
about you,' Vunoz t|na||y says, h|s vo|co |ow, a|most
droamy.
0amon nods, and l'vo no |doa how ho took that, h|s
vo|co, ||ko h|s taco, g|vos noth|ng away.
°lt's a|most as though you'ro not trom th|s t|mo,'
Vunoz adds, as though mus|ng to h|mso|t.
°l am not trom th|s t|mo.' 0amon |ooks r|ght at h|m,
tho rop|y so s|mp|o, so d|roct, so unoxpoctod, |t takos
my broath away.
Vunoz nods, tak|ng tho answor |n str|do, act|ng as
though ho just m|ght bo||ovo h|m whon ho says, °And
so, wh|ch t|mo aro you trom, thon?'
°Ono ot your tavor|tos.' 0amon's ||p cur|s, a||ow|ng
tor a ghost ot a sm||o. °1ho lta||an lona|ssanco.'
Vunoz gu|ps, nods, and g|ancos a|| around as
though ho oxpocts to t|nd turthor oxp|anat|on p|antod |n
tho gardon, t|oat|ng |n tho poo|, or maybo ovon tapod
to tho ||d ot tho barboquo. lrocoss|ng tho statomont
w|th moro ca|m than l ovor wou|d'vo oxpoctod, act|ng
as though ho's not at a|| surpr|sod to t|nd h|mso|t
hav|ng such a sor|ous convorsat|on about such a
pocu||ar subjoct.
°3o, a|chomy |s roa| thon?' ho vonturos, h|tt|ng tho
bu||'s-oyo |n a way most poop|o ta|| to.
l moan, whon |t was mo try|ng to p|n down 0amon's
strangonoss, l wont stra|ght tor vamp|ro. V||os d|d too.
3ut apparont|y Vunoz |s not noar|y as |nt|uoncod by
tho curront pop cu|turo phonomonon, and so ho shot
stra|ght tor tho truth.
°A|chomy has a|ways boon roa|,' 0amon adm|ts, h|s
taco contro||od, vo|co stoady, g|v|ng abso|uto|y no h|nt
as to how much th|s |s cost|ng h|m-though l havo a
protty good |doa.
|or s|x contur|os ho's tought to koop tho truth ot h|s
ox|stonco a socrot, on|y to moot up w|th mo |n th|s
||tot|mo and watch tho who|o th|ng unravo| ||ko a moth-
oaton swoator. °loa|, yos-but not a|ways
succosstu|.' Vunoz's oyos ||ght on 0amon,
cons|dor|ng h|m |n a who|o now way, as 0amon nods
|n agroomont. °And you, Evor?' Vunoz |ooks at mo,
try|ng to soo mo |n a who|o now way too. 3ut dosp|to
a|| ot my unm|t|gatod wo|rdnoss, l'm c|oar|y a product
ot tho modorn wor|d, thoro's no gott|ng around |t.
l shako my hoad, ||tt my shou|dors, and |oavo |t at
that.
°Wow. 1horo's just so much to ta|k about-so much
l want to ask you-'
l poor anx|ous|y at 0amon, hop|ng Vunoz won't
|aunch |nto a who|o str|ng ot |nqu|r|os that 0amon, tor
whatovor roason, w||| too| compo||od to answor.
3ut, as |uck wou|d havo |t (somoth|ng l havon't had
much ot |ato|y, but l'|| happ||y tako |n any torm that |t
comos) 3ab|no savos mo by ca|||ng, °lau|?
Evoryth|ng okay out thoro?'
|o sucks |n h|s broath and g|ancos back and torth
botwoon us. And s|nco l can't r|sk spoak|ng, can't r|sk
hav|ng hor hoar my vo|co com|ng trom just outs|do hor
w|ndow, l sott|o tor shak|ng my hoad, and shoot|ng
h|m a doop, p|oad|ng, moan|ngtu| |ook.
Ovorcomo w|th ro||ot whon ho says, °Yoah, l'm .
t|no. 1ust onjoy|ng tho n|ght, do|ng a ||tt|o stargaz|ng,
soarch|ng tor Cass|opo|a, you know how l ||ko to do
that. l'|| bo |ns|do |n a socond.'
°3hou|d l jo|n you?' sho asks, hor vo|co |oworod,
soduct|vo, |oad|ng stra|ght |nto somoth|ng l so don't
want to w|tnoss.
°lah, |t's protty co|d out horo. |o|d tho thought and
l'|| moot you |ns|do,' ho answors, much to my ro||ot.
|o g|vos us a thorough onco-ovor. ||s ||ps part|ng
as |t to say somoth|ng moro, but l just shako my hoad,
c|oso my oyos, and qu|ck|y man|tost a bouquot ot
dattod||s l urgo h|m to g|vo hor.
°What am l supposod to to|| hor? What shou|d l
say?' ho wh|spors, cast|ng a caut|ous g|anco toward
tho w|ndow.
°l'd protor you not say anyth|ng, not mont|on |t at a||,'
l to|| h|m. °3ut, |t you too| you havo to, thon just to|| hor l
|ovo hor. 1o|| hor l'm sorry tor a|| tho troub|o l'vo
causod, and to not spond anothor momont too||ng
gu||ty about anyth|ng sho m|ght'vo sa|d out ot
trustrat|on and angor. l know |t sounds co|d, and
probab|y protty awtu| trom your po|nt ot v|ow, but
p|oaso just try to trust mo whon l say that |t's bottor th|s
way. Wo can't soo oach othor aga|n. lt's |mposs|b|o,
sho won't accopt |t, and thoro's just no way to oxp|a|n.'
1hon botoro Vunoz can roact, botoro ho can tako a
stanco, mako a prom|so ono way or anothor, 0amon
squoozos my hand, pu||s mo a|ong tho stono path, and
out tho s|do gato.
1ho two ot us tad|ng |nto tho n|ght unt|| Vunoz can
no |ongor soo us.
1ho two ot us rotus|ng to |ook back, know|ng |t's
bottor to |ook torward, toward tho tuturo, than to |ong
tor a past that's gono torovor.

3|nco |t's our |ast n|ght togothor-or at |oast our |ast
n|ght tor an |ndotorm|nato amount ot t|mo anyway-l'm
hop|ng to do somoth|ng spoc|a|.
3omoth|ng momorab|o.
3omoth|ng that 0amon can |ook back on w|th a
sm||o.
And yot, |t probab|y shou|dn't bo too momorab|o
s|nco l can't attord tor h|m to catch onto tho tact that
l'm w|thho|d|ng somoth|ng l'm not qu|to w||||ng to
mont|on just yot.
Wh||o l mado up my m|nd to sot ott on lotus's
journoy not |ong attor hav|ng |ott 3ummor|and,
0amon's not oxact|y c|uod |n to that tact. And s|nco
gott|ng h|m c|uod |n w||| no doubt |oad to an argumont
ot mammoth proport|ons, l'm hop|ng to koop tho nows
to myso|t unt|| l havo no cho|co but to sharo |t w|th h|m.
3o wh||o ho bus|os h|mso|t w|th tho bus|noss ot
brush|ng h|s tooth and gott|ng roady tor s|oop, l s||p
botwoon tho shoots and try to como up w|th somoth|ng
w|th wh|ch to surpr|so h|m. 3ut a momont |ator, whon
ho pausos |n tho doorway |ook|ng ||ko a g|or|ous
v|s|on wrappod |n b|uo s||k, tho bost l can do |s gu|p,
staro, and man|tost a s|ng|o rod tu||p that t|oats trom
my hand to h|s.
|o gr|ns, c|osos tho d|stanco botwoon us |n |oss
than a handtu| ot stops, and s||dos |n bos|do mo. ||s
t|ngors sott|y trac|ng tho ||no ot my brow as ho pushos
my ha|r trom my taco, gathors mo |nto tho crook ot h|s
arm, and sott|os mo snug|y aga|nst h|m. Vy chook
prossod hard aga|nst h|s chost as l c|oso my oyos and
|oso myso|t |n tho hum ot h|s hoartboat, tho o|most too|
ot h|s ||ps, tho way h|s hands p|ay across my sk|n.
1oss|ng my |og ovor h|s, l anchor h|m to mo,
concontrat|ng on h|s ossonco-h|s onorgy-h|s bo|ng
-dotorm|nod to brand ovory |ast dota|| ot th|s momont
onto my bra|n so |t novor s||ps away.
And ovon though l want to spoak, to say somoth|ng
moan|ngtu| and s|gn|t|cant, somoth|ng to mako up tor
anyth|ng bad that m|ght'vo passod botwoon us oar||or,
w|th tho way h|s hands smooth and sootho-w|th tho
way h|s vo|co |s roducod to a ta|nt murmur that p|ays
at my oar-|t's not |ong botoro l'm |u||od away trom my
wak|ng stato and |nto a doop droam|oss s|oop.
¯ ¯ ¯
l wa|t unt|| m|dmorn|ng to to|| h|m.
Wa|t unt|| tho showors aro takon, tho c|othos
donnod, and wo t|nd ourso|vos downsta|rs |n h|s
k|tchon, s|tt|ng at tho broaktast tab|o, onjoy|ng somo
ch|||od bott|os ot o||x|r wh||o 0amon scans tho morn|ng
papors.
l wa|t unt|| l havo no moro oxcusos to do|ay what l
know must bo sa|d.
lt's coward|y, l know, but l do |t anyway.
°3o, what |s th|s? 0ay two or throo ot your wook ot
rosoarch?' |o |ooks up, to|ds h|s papor |n ha|t, and
t|ashos mo an |rros|st|b|o sm||o as ho t||ts tho bott|o to
h|s ||ps. °3ocauso l th|nk l |ost track.' |o w|pos h|s
mouth w|th h|s hand, thon h|s hand on h|s knoo.
l trown, t|pp|ng my bott|o trom s|do to s|do, watch|ng
tho o||x|r spark and t|aro as |t racos up to tho r|m thon
back down aga|n. Gnaw|ng my ||p, try|ng to t|guro out
just whoro to start, thon doc|d|ng |t's bottor to d|vo |n,
that thoro's no roason to do|ay tho |nov|tab|o whon a||
paths u|t|mato|y |oad to tho samo dost|nat|on. l d|scard
tho usua| proompt|vo p|oas ot: P|ooso ooo`t bo moo,
or, just as |nottoct|vo: P|ooso boor mo oot, |n tavor ot
tho c|oan|y statod truth, say|ng, °l'vo doc|dod to go on
that journoy.'
|o |ooks at mo, taco ||tt|ng, oyos br|ghton|ng, tho
s|ght ot |t t||||ng mo w|th |nstant ro||ot-a ro||ot that's
short ||vod, van|sh|ng tho momont l roa||zo ho m|stook
my uso ot tho word °journoy' tor tho vacat|on ho's
p|ann|ng.
°Oh, no, not . not tbot,' l mumb|o, too||ng about tbls
b|g whon l soo h|s taco drop. °l moant tho journoy that
lotus rotorrod to. 1hough |t th|ngs go as l wo|| as l
hopo, thon wo shou|d havo p|onty ot t|mo tor that too.'
Vy hands t|op |n my |ap as l try to torco a sm||o onto
my taco, but |t doosn't got vory tar. lt's a ta|so movo on
my part, and ho knows |t too.
|o turns away, soom|ng|y spooch|oss at what l just
sa|d. 3ut by tho way h|s t|ngors gr|p h|s o||x|r, by tho
way h|s jaw t|ghtons and c|onchos, l know ho's at no
|oss tor words, ho's moro|y attompt|ng to gathor and
sort thom. |o won't stay s||ont tor |ong.
°You'ro sor|ous.' |o t|na||y tacos mo. 1ho words
sound|ng moro ||ko a statomont than tho accusat|on l
oxpoctod.
l nod, qu|ck to chaso |t w|th an apo|ogy. °And l'm
sorry. l know you'ro probab|y not vory happy to hoar
that.'
|o |ooks mo ovor, arrang|ng h|s taco |n a way l
can't road. ||s words carotu|, moasurod, whon ho
says, °lo, l can't say that l am.' 1ho tono oxh|b|t|ng an
onormous amount ot so|t-contro| h|s onorgy can't
soom to m|m|c. Evon though ho has no v|s|b|o aura, l
can too| h|s v|brat|on. l can too| h|s pu|so qu|ckon|ng.
|o starts to spoak aga|n, but botoro ho can got to
tho words l t|ash my pa|m and stop h|m r|ght thoro,
say|ng, °l|ston, l know what you'ro go|ng to say, trust
mo l do. You'ro go|ng to to|| mo sho's crazy, that |t's
dangorous, that l nood to |gnoro hor and movo on, to
g|vo you somo moro t|mo to t|nd a way tor us to bo
ab|o to touch oach othor aga|n.' l pauso tor a boat,
not a||ow|ng onough t|mo tor h|m to rospond botoro l'm
at |t aga|n. °3ut horo's tho th|ng, |t's not just about us
bo|ng togothor |n tho way that wo want. lt's about my
dost|ny. Vy tato. Vy roason tor bo|ng-tho roason l
koop com|ng back, bo|ng born ovor and ovor aga|n. l
havo to go, thoro's roa||y no cho|co. And wh||o l know
you don't ||ko |t, and wh||o l know you won't ||ko |t no
mattor how good an argumont l wago, l'm w||||ng to
sott|o tor moro grudg|ng accoptanco. 3as|ca||y, l'||
sott|o tor whatovor l can got. 3ocauso 0amon, wh||o
thoro's dot|n|to|y a good chanco that sho's stark-
rav|ng crazy, thoro's a|so just as good a chanco that
sho's onto somoth|ng roa|. And l just know |n my hoart
that th|s |s what l nood to-no, scratch that, l know |n
my soo| that th|s |s what l'm mooot to do. lt's ||ko sho
sa|d, |t's a dost|ny on|y l can tu|t|||. And wh||o l w|sh you
cou|d jo|n mo, wh||o l w|sh that moro than anyth|ng, sho
mado |t vory c|oar that you can't. And.' l gu|p, tho
|ump |n my throat ||ko a hot, angry t|roba||, but st||| l
push past |t and add, °And l just hopo you can t|nd a
way to accopt that, ovon |t you can't got around to
support|ng |t.'
0amon nods, tak|ng h|s t|mo to tormu|ato a rop|y.
1hrust|ng h|s |ogs out botoro h|m, cross|ng thom at tho
ank|o as h|s t|ngors traco tho r|m ot tho bott|o. °3o,
what you'ro to|||ng mo |s that noth|ng l can say or do
w||| stop you trom go|ng through w|th th|s? |rom
sott|ng out on your own?'
l |owor my gazo, thanktu| that our convorsat|on has
stoorod tar trom tho scroam|ng match l onv|s|onod,
and yot |n somo ways l'm surpr|sod to roa||zo |t's
worso. lmpass|onod argu|ng |s protty oasy to hurd|o
onco onough t|mo has passod, but th|s, th|s sort ot
grudg|ng accoptanco l thought l'd bo happy to got,
wo||, |t |oavos mo too||ng sad, |ono|y, and dopross|ng|y
b|oak.
°And whon do you p|an to hoad ott on th|s journoy?'
°3oon.' l nod, torc|ng myso|t to |ook at h|m whon l
add, °lrotty much now. lo roason to do|ay, r|ght?'
|o bur|os h|s taco |n h|s hands, spond|ng a tow
s||ont momonts rubb|ng h|s oyos, do|ng h|s bost to
avo|d mo. And whon ho doos |ook up aga|n, ho staros
ott |n tho d|stanco, past tho mot|cu|ous|y |andscapod
yard, past tho poo|, past tho ocoan boyond, to somo
troub||ng monta| |andscapo v|owab|o on|y to h|m,
carotu||y sh|o|d|ng h|s thoughts.
°l w|sh you wou|dn't do th|s,' ho says, tho words
s|mp|o but hoartto|t.
l nod.
°3ut |t you |ns|st, thon l |ns|st on go|ng w|th you.' |o
|ooks at mo. °lt's too dangorous-too.' |o trowns,
pushos h|s ha|r ott h|s taco. °1oo vaguo, too uncorta|n
-l can't just |ot you trot ott |nto tho muck on your own.
Evor, don't you soo? You'ro my who|o wor|d! l can't
just a||ow you to hoad ott on somo crazy o|d |ady's
journoy!'
||s oyos moot m|no, show|ng mo tho tu|| oxtont ot
h|s dotorm|nat|on. 3ut l'm dotorm|nod too, and lotus's
|nstruct|ons woro crysta| c|oar: lt`s my joorooy-my
oostloy-Lomoo ls oot wo|como tboro. And l can't
ho|p but th|nk that thoro's a roason tor that-l can't
ho|p but th|nk that maybo th|s t|mo, |t's up to mo to
protoct h|m by |ns|st|ng l go |t a|ono.
And l'm just about to say as much whon ho roachos
across tho tab|o, roachos tor my hand, and says,
°Evor.' ||s vo|co crack|ng |n a way that torcos h|m to
swa||ow, c|oar h|s throat, and start aga|n. °Evor, what |t
you don't roturn?'
°Ot courso l'|| roturn!' l pract|ca||y jott|son out ot my
cha|r, s||d|ng a|| tho way to tho odgo, hard|y bo||ov|ng
ho'd ovon th|nk such a th|ng. °0amon, l wou|d novor
|oavo you! 3hoosh, |s that what's got you so upsot?'
°lo,' ho says, vo|co stoad|or now. °l was th|nk|ng
moro a|ong tho ||nos ot: What |t you coo`t como back?
What |t you got trappod? lost |n tho muck? What |t
you can't t|nd your way out?' ||s str|ckon gazo moots
m|no, and |t's c|oar that ho's a|roady oxpor|onc|ng
somo |mag|nod, tuturo |oss dosp|to tho tact that l'm
st||| horo, st||| s|tt|ng botoro h|m.
3ut |t's not ||ko l don't got |t. ln tact, l comp|oto|y
undorstand.
|av|ng |ost mo so many prov|ous t|mos, ho's
torr|t|od at |os|ng mo aga|n just whon ho was suro ho
had mo tor otorn|ty. 1ho shoor dopth ot h|s omot|on
robb|ng mo ot broath, |oav|ng mo spooch|oss,
humb|od, w|th no oasy rop|y, no oasy way to comtort
h|m.
h|m.
°lt won't happon,' l t|na||y say, hop|ng to conv|nco.
°You and l aro moant to bo. lt's tho on|y th|ng l'm
abso|uto|y suro ot. And wh||o l havo no |doa what to
oxpoct, l prom|so l'|| do whatovor |t takos to t|nd my
way back. 3or|ous|y, 0amon, noth|ng can koop us
apart-or at |oast not tor |ong. 3ut tor now, l havo to
go. And l havo to go |t a|ono, lotus was c|oar about
that. 3o p|oaso, p|oaso just |ot mo do th|s, p|oaso just
|ot mo soo whoro th|s |oads. l can't rost unt|| l try. And
wh||o l know |t's a |ot to ask, l roa||y w|sh you wou|d try
to undorstand. And |t you can't do that, thon l w|sh
you'd at |oast try to support mo. Can you do that?'
3ut ovon though my vo|co pract|ca||y p|oads w|th
h|m to |ook at mo, to rospond |n somo way, ho
cont|nuos to s|t |n s||onco, |ost |n h|s own monta|
sconory.
Choos|ng to tako a w||d |oap ot ta|th and hop|ng
ho'|| como a|ong tor tho r|do, l add, °0amon, l know
how you too|, bo||ovo mo l do. 3ut l can't ho|p th|nk|ng
thoro's moro to our story. An ont|ro ||tot|mo wo'ro both
comp|oto|y unawaro ot. l th|nk |t's tho c|uo, or maybo
tbo koy, as lotus put |t. 1ho koy that'|| |oad us to tho
roason boh|nd a|| ot tho obstac|os wo'vo boon
p|aguod w|th tor a|| ot thoso contur|os, |nc|ud|ng tho
ono wo taco now.'
3ut, ||ko l sa|d, |t was a |oap.
A |oap that |ands t|at on |ts taco whon 0amon r|sos
trom h|s soat, movos away trom tho tab|o, and |ooks
at mo br|ot|y. ||s gazo b|oak, h|s vo|co co|d, c||ppod,
to|||ng mo ho's a m||||on m||os away whon ho says, °3o
l guoss that's |t thon. Your m|nd |s mado up. ln wh|ch
caso l w|sh you a|| tho bost, and l |ook torward to your
roturn.'

°You suro you don't want to como |n?'
l shako my hoad, moot|ng 1udo's gazo tor a
momont botoro sh|tt|ng my tocus to tho barron w|ntor
stoms that onco boro tho boaut|tu| p|nk and purp|o
poon|os that ||nod tho path trom tho dr|vo to h|s door.
°3o, you'ro roa||y go|ng through w|th th|s?'
l nod. loa||z|ng l shou|d probab|y try to answor at
|oast ono ot h|s quost|ons vorba||y, but at tho momont,
l'm too||ng tar too chokod up to spoak. Unab|o to koop
my m|nd trom rop|ay|ng that |ast scono w|th 0amon-
h|s t|na| words, what ho sa|d about tho poss|b|||ty ot
my not roturn|ng, gott|ng |ost |n tho muck, unab|o to
t|nd my way back. 1ho way ho pu||od mo |nto h|s arms
just attor, stopp|ng just short ot storm|ng out ot tho
room to c|rc|o back to mo, h|s body mov|ng toward
m|no a|most aga|nst h|s w|||. ||s ombraco so warm,
so a||-oncompass|ng, so |ov|ng, so . brloí, |t sorvod
as a comp|oto and tota| contrast tor h|s words, wh|ch
woro noth|ng shy ot co|d and portunctory.
And ovon though l cou|d sonso h|s |nnor strugg|o,
ovon though l rocogn|zod tho s|gns ot somoono
str|v|ng to dotach trom an outcomo thoy'ro conv|ncod
can on|y ond |n hoartbroak, l cou|dn't ho|p but oxpoct
somoth|ng moro.
Evon though l know l had to go |t a|ono, ovon though
l |ns|stod tho journoy was m|no and m|no a|ono, l st|||
thought tor suro ho'd at |oast oscort mo to
3ummor|and.
lush|ng tho thought trom my m|nd, l roso|vo to tocus
on tho prosont-on tho spaco whoro 1udo stands
botoro mo, tho two ot us t|ank|ng o|thor s|do ot h|s
doorway.
°3o whoro's 0amon, thon?' |o poors at tho ompty
spaco to my r|ght thon oyoba||s mo carotu||y. °|o's
go|ng w|th you, r|ght?'
l |owor my gazo. A|| too awaro ot tho horr|b|o way
my throat t|ghtons as my oyos start to st|ng-tho usua|
warn|ngs that a t|ood ot toars |s |n tho mak|ng, but l
stop |t r|ght thoro. l won't |ot myso|t cry.
lot horo.
lot |n tront ot 1udo.
lot tor somoth|ng l'vo o|octod to do.
||na||y pu|||ng myso|t togothor, l say, °lt's just mo.
1h|s |s somoth|ng l'vo got to do a|ono. lotus mado
that abundant|y c|oar.' l|tt|ng my shou|dors as though
|t's no b|g doa|, and hop|ng ho'|| buy |t too.
|o |oans aga|nst tho door, hands shovod doop |nto
h|s tront pockots. And trom tho |ook ot h|s qu|rkod
mouth, and trom tho s|ant ot h|s sp||cod brow, |t's c|oar
ho's do|ng just tho oppos|to, try|ng to dotorm|no what
cou|d bo go|ng on botwoon 0amon and mo.
3ut that's not why l'm horo, so l'm qu|ck to wavo |t
away, my oyos moot|ng h|s as l say, °l|ston, l just
wantod to stop by and say thanks. 1hanks tor bo|ng
such a good tr|ond to mo throughout a|| ot thoso .
||tot|mos.'
|o trowns and |ooks past mo, tocus|ng on tho stroot
just boyond, om|tt|ng somo k|nd ot sarcast|c sound, a
cross botwoon a grunt and a groan, botoro ho says,
°Evor, you m|ght want to savo your grat|tudo tor
somoono who dosorvos |t. lono ot my act|ons havo
provod to bo tho |oast b|t ho|ptu|. ln tact, |t's protty
much tho oppos|to-l'vo mado ovoryth|ng worso.
3ooms l'vo got a roa||y bad hab|t ot moss|ng th|ngs up
|n a protty b|g way.'
3|nco thoro's no po|nt dony|ng |t, l'm qu|ck to agroo,
though l'm a|so qu|ck to add, °3t|||, l'm not conv|ncod
that's your tau|t. lt anyth|ng, l'm protty suro |t's your
dost|ny.'
|o t||ts h|s hoad, scratchos h|s stubb|o-||nod ch|n.
°Vy dost|ny |s to moss up your ||to?' |o shoots mo a
skopt|ca| |ook. °l'm not roa||y suro how l shou|d too|
about that.'
°Wo||, no, not jost that. l'm suro thoro aro much
bottor th|ngs |n storo tor you-th|ngs that havo noth|ng
to do w|th mo. What l moan |s, maybo that's our
comb|nod dost|ny, you know? l|ko maybo you and l
koop moot|ng throughout a|| ot thoso contur|os tor a
roason no|thor ot us has ovor thought ot botoro.' l
poor at h|m, try|ng to got a road on how that wont ovor,
but h|s hoad |s |oan|ng |n a way that causos a tang|o
ot droad|ocks to ta|| s|doways, obscur|ng h|s taco.
°3o, anyway.' l pauso, start|ng to too| moro than a
||tt|o too||sh tor hav|ng como horo. °l'm hop|ng tho
journoy w||| rovoa| that and moro.'
°3o, th|s |s |t thon?' |o pushos h|s ha|r away,
a||ow|ng h|s trop|ca| gazo to ||ght on m|no.
°looks ||ko.' l try to sm||o, but just baro|y mako |t.
|o nods, body jork|ng ovor so s||ght|y, ||ko ho's
ho|d|ng somoth|ng back-caught |n a strugg|o
botwoon say|ng what ho wants and what h|s bottor
sonso w||| a||ow. ||na||y sott||ng on tho |attor whon ho
says, °1hon l w|sh you Godspood.'
|o movos away trom tho door, movos as though ho
just m|ght ombraco mo but changos h|s m|nd at tho
vory |ast socond and drops h|s hands to h|s s|dos.
And botoro tho momont can got any moro awkward
than |t a|roady |s, l broach tho spaco botwoon us and
hug h|m t|ght|y to mo. |o|d|ng tho ombraco tor a
momont, a momont that too|s somohow suspondod,
thon l pu|| away and ond |t. Awaro ot tho wavo ot
1udo's onorgy, h|s usua| ca|||ng card ot coo|, ca|m
soron|ty that cont|nuos to t|ood through mo.
|o|d|ng, ||ngor|ng, strango|y ondur|ng, as l mako my
way toward my car, and hoad tor my noxt sot ot good-
byos.
¯ ¯ ¯
Attor stopp|ng by V||os's on|y to |oarn ho wasn't homo,
l sw|ng by Ava and tho tw|ns' on|y to t|nd thoy'ro gono
as wo||. 1hon l stop by |avon's o|d houso, tho ono sho
sharod w|th hor ||tt|o brothor Aust|n and tho|r paronts.
lark|ng on tho stroot, soo|ng a |Ol 3AlE s|gn stuck |n
tho |awn and an opon houso |n progross as a |ong ||no
ot |ooky-|oos stroam |n and out.
And l wondor |t hor paronts ovon roa||zo sho's gono,
that sho'|| novor roturn. Or, |t thoy'ro st||| |ook|ng past
hor, a|| around hor, ovorywhoro but at hor, just ||ko thoy
d|d whon sho was st||| horo. And s|nco l'm a|roady
m|rod |n a doop|y b|uo mood, l doc|do to dr|vo by
3ab|no's, but that's a|| that l do. l don't stop. l don't go
|ns|do. l a|roady sa|d a s||ont good-byo |ast n|ght.
And w|th no turthor roason to do|ay, l cru|so down
tho noxt stroot, abandon my car at tho curb, c|oso my
oyos, and man|tost tho porta| that |oads mo to
3ummor|and. land|ng |n tho vast tragrant t|o|d w|th |ts
pu|sat|ng t|owors and sh|vor|ng troos, and stoa||ng a
pu|sat|ng t|owors and sh|vor|ng troos, and stoa||ng a
momont to onjoy tho puro, unadu|toratod sp|ondor ot |t
a||-tho unm|t|gatod mass ot boauty, |ovo, and
ovoryth|ng good-botoro l t|nd my way out and vonturo
toward |ts oppos|to s|do. 1ho p|aco whoro tho troos
aro a|| barron, t|owors don't grow, and mag|ck and
man|tost|ng do not ox|st.
Vy susp|c|ons cont|rmod tho momont l not|co tho
th|n tra|| ot muck |oad|ng trom |avon's momor|a| a||
tho way to tho dark s|do l t|rst stumb|od upon.
lt's grow|ng.
Encroach|ng.
3ut ovon though l'm not at a|| surpr|sod to soo |t ||ko
that, l havo no |doa how to stop |t. lo |doa what l'|| do
onco l arr|vo. And though l tr|od to monta||y proparo
myso|t tor just about ovory poss|b|||ty ot what l m|ght
t|nd, l ta||od to proparo myso|t tor tho ono l stumb|o
upon.
l stop, my oyos w|do |n wondor, jaw pract|ca||y
droppod to my knoos whon l soo 1udo, Ava, lomy,
layno, and . Vl|os?-stand|ng thoro wa|t|ng tor mo.
1ho on|y porson who cou|d mako th|s roun|on
comp|oto |s 0amon, but sad|y, ho's absont.
°|ow d|d.' Vy vo|co tra||s ott as l gapo at V||os,
tho b|ggost surpr|so ot thom a||.
°Wo||, |t took somo do|ng, moro than a tow tr|os tor
suro, but botwoon tho tour ot us poo||ng our onorgy
and V||os's own torvont dos|ro to soo you ott on your
journoy, |n tho ond, wo managod to pu|| through.'
°l hopo you at |oast showod h|m around tho n|cor
parts t|rst.' l cr|ngo, th|nk|ng how ho must'vo to|t to go
through a|| that on|y to stop through tho boaut|tu|,
sh|mmor|ng vo|| and |nto such a dark, droary, b|oak
p|aco.
°lator,' Ava says. °Wo woro |n too b|g ot a hurry to
catch you botoro you |oavo.'
°3ut-why?' l g|anco at 1udo, corroct|y assum|ng ho
ca||od thom, conv|ncod thom a|| to moot mo horo, just
attor l |ott h|m stand|ng |n h|s doorway.
°3ocauso you dosorvo a propor sond-ott,' lomy
says, nudg|ng hor s|stor hard |n tho gut unt|| sho nods
|n ro|uctant agroomont.
°l-l don't know what to say.' l swa||ow hard,
warn|ng myso|t not to cry |n tront ot thom.
°You don't havo to say anyth|ng.' V||os gr|ns. °You
know l'm moro than ab|o to hand|o tho ta|k|ng tor a|| ot
us.'
°1ruo.' l |augh, st||| gott|ng usod to soo|ng h|m horo.
°Oh, and wo brought g|tts.' Ava nods oxc|tod|y.
l try to |ook p|oasod, though tho truth |s l havo no
|doa what l'|| do w|th thom, or |t l'|| ovon bo ab|o to
br|ng thom whoro l'm go|ng-whorovor that |s. 1ho
thought oxt|ngu|shod tho momont layno stops
torward, mot|ons tor mo to |owor my hoad, and drapos
a sma|| s||vor ta||sman dang||ng trom a tan |oathor
cord around my nock.
l grasp tho pondant botwoon my torot|ngor and
thumb, ||tt|ng |t to whoro l can bottor soo |t, unsuro how
l'm supposod to |ntorprot tho mossago boh|nd |t,
ospoc|a||y cons|dor|ng |t camo stra|ght trom hor.
°An Ouroboros?' l gapo, my vo|co sharp, my brow
ra|sod |n quost|on.
°lt's trom lomy and mo,' sho says, oyos w|do and
sor|ous. °lt's tor protoct|on. 0amon was r|ght. lt's not at
a|| ov|| and wo'ro just hop|ng |t'|| rom|nd you ot whoro
you startod, whoro you'|| ond up, and whoro wo hopo
you'|| t|nd yourso|t aga|n.'
°And whoro's that?' l ask, my oyos novor onco
stray|ng trom hors.
°3ack horo. W|th a|| ot us,' sho says, hor vo|co tu|| ot
s|ncor|ty. |or dua| naturo, hor ab|||ty to run so hot and
co|d, ospoc|a||y whoro l'm concornod, |s so contus|ng l
can't soom to got a gr|p on hor. lom|nd|ng mo ot tho
o|d man l ran across that t|mo |n 3ummor|and, tho ono
who |ns|stod tho tw|ns boro oppos|to porsona||t|os to
tho onos l'vo grown usod to. C|a|m|ng layno was tho
qu|ot ono and lomy tho stubborn ono, and l can't ho|p
but wondor just how otton thoy p|ay th|s gamo.
3otoro l can tormu|ato somo k|nd ot rop|y, Ava
comos torward and hands mo a sma|| sh|ny crysta|||no
stono mado ot a b|uo-groon so br||||ant |t rom|nds mo
a b|t ot 1udo's oyos.
°lt's cavans|to,' sho says, study|ng mo c|oso|y. °lt
onhancos |ntu|t|on and psych|c hoa||ng. lt a|so
prompts doop rot|oct|on, |nsp|ros now |doas, ho|ps r|d
onoso|t ot tau|ty bo||ots, and a|ds |n |nduc|ng tho
momor|os ot ono's pr|or ||vos.'
Our oyos moot and ho|d as sho shoots mo a
moan|ngtu| |ook, and l can't ho|p but w|sh 0amon woro
around to hoar that.
l nod, s||p tho stono |nto my pockot, and turn toward
1udo. lot bocauso l'm oxpoct|ng somoth|ng trom h|m,
but bocauso l can to|| by tho way h|s aura t|aros, tho
way h|s onorgy rad|atos, that ho has somoth|ng to to||
mo.
°l'm com|ng w|th,' ho says.
l squ|nt, unsuro l hoard h|m corroct|y.
°3or|ous|y. 1hat's my g|tt. l'm mak|ng tho journoy
w|th you. You shou|dn't havo to go |t a|ono. l don't want
you to go |t a|ono.'
°3ut-you can't,' l say, tho words s||pp|ng out botoro
l'vo ovon had a chanco to stop and cons|dor thom. 3ut
tor somo roason, |t sooms ||ko tho r|ght th|ng to say. lt
0amon can't go, thon 1udo can't o|thor. 3os|dos,
thoro's no nood to |nvo|vo h|m |n th|s any moro than l
a|roady havo. °1rust mo, l approc|ato tho sont|mont.
loa||y, l do. 3ut lotus's |nstruct|ons woro c|oar-l
nood to do th|s a|ono. W|thout you, w|thout 0amon,
w|th no ono to ro|y on but myso|t. lt's my dost|ny, on|y l
can mako tho journoy.'
°3ut l thought our dost|n|os woro ontw|nod? You
sa|d so yourso|t.'
l pauso, unsuro how to rop|y. G|anc|ng trom tho
tw|ns, to V||os, and thon ovor to Ava and back to
1udo, about to ro|torato what l just sa|d, whon l sonso
hor.
lotus.
3ho's horo.
l turn, my gazo |nst|nct|vo|y t|nd|ng hors, not|c|ng
how sho |ooks ovon o|dor than tho |ast t|mo l saw hor,
moro do||cato, tra||, somowhat toob|o ovon. |or
movomonts s|ow but dotorm|nod, hor s||m tramo
stoopod s||ght|y torward, hor ha|r trood trom tho bra|d
sho norma||y woars, |ott to hang |ooso around hor
shou|dors |n |ong s||vory w|sps. 1ho wavos t|oaty,
spr|ngy, prov|d|ng tho usua| ha|o ottoct-|ts co|or
b|ond|ng |nto sk|n so pa|o |t makos tho b|uo ot hor
oyos pop ||ko two start||ng chunks ot aquamar|no
droppod |nto a snowy-wh|to |andscapo. And un||ko tho
othor t|mos l saw hor, th|s t|mo sho |oans hoav||y onto
an o|d carvod woodon wa|k|ng st|ck. |or t|ngors
wrappod around tho curvod hand|o, arthr|t|c knuck|os
b|anch|ng and bu|g|ng. Yot hor taco st||| ||tts as sho
makos hor approach, hor rhoumy o|d oyos tak|ng mo
|n as hor ||ps cur| |n do||ght.
°Ado||na.' 3ho bows, stopp|ng just a tow toot shy ot
mo, hor gazo t|xod on m|no as though sho's yot to
not|co l havo company. °You aro roady? loady to
mako tho journoy? loady to ro|oaso mo?'
°ls that what l'm do|ng?' l study hor c|oso|y, hor
words p|ant|ng a sood ot doubt that has mo socond-
guoss|ng my purposo a|| ovor aga|n.
°Wo'vo boon wa|t|ng tor so |ong now. On|y you can
mako tho journoy, on|y you can rovoa| tho truth.'
°3ut why on|y mo?' l ask. °Why can't 0amon como
-or 1udo?'
°l|oaso,' sho wh|spors, vo|co |ow and throaty,
pross|ng hor |ott pa|m to hor hoart as sho bows toward
mo, a th|n go|d band sho woars on hor r|ng t|ngor
g||nt|ng |n a way l can't m|ss, and l wondor |t sho's
a|ways worn |t, and |t so, why l ta||od to not|co |t unt||
now. °You must chooso to bo||ovo.'
|or tho t|rst t|mo s|nco sho arr|vod, l g|anco back
toward my tr|onds, soo|ng thom |ook|ng upon hor w|th
such awo and rovoronco l can't ho|p but wondor |t thoy
soo somoth|ng l m|ss.
3ut whon l turn to lotus aga|n, l soo |t as c|oar|y as
thoy do-tho boaut|tu| go|don g|ow that omanatos
doop trom w|th|n, grow|ng and oxpand|ng unt|| |t
g||mmors a|| around hor.
°You aro roady thon?' 3ho |ooks at mo, hor taco so
|um|nous l just nod, unab|o to ros|st.
l|tt|ng ono gnar|od o|d t|ngor, sho bockons tor mo
to to||ow-to tako tho t|rst stop toward a dost|ny l can't
yot |mag|no.
l turn back to my tr|onds, turn to wavo good-byo,
on|y to t|nd V||os, Ava, and tho tw|ns wav|ng back, and
1udo stand|ng r|ght thoro boh|nd mo.
And just as l'm about to oxp|a|n yot aga|n why l nood
to go |t a|ono, lotus stops, g|ancos ovor hor shou|dor,
and takos h|m |n as though soo|ng h|m tor tho vory t|rst
t|mo. |or oyos mov|ng ovor h|m as though sho
somohow rocogn|zos h|m, tak|ng mo by surpr|so whon
sho wavos h|m torward, |nv|t|ng h|m to jo|n us.
°1h|s |s your dost|ny too. 1ho answors you sook aro
now w|th|n your roach,' sho says, hor vo|co both sago
and truo.
l g|anco botwoon hor and 1udo, wondor|ng what tho
hock that m|ght'vo moant, but sho's a|roady turnod
back, and trom tho |ook |n h|s oyos, ho's just as
contusod as l am.
3ho |oads us through tho muck, through a torost ot
burnt-out troos w|th cruo| barron branchos boar|ng no
traco ot to||ago dosp|to tho constant supp|y ot ra|n.
|or toot mov|ng w|th surpr|s|ng suroty as l strugg|o to
koop up. Koop|ng my oyos g|uod to tho back ot hor
hoad, not want|ng to |oso s|ght ot hor, awaro ot tho
s|lp-s|op ot 1udo's toot as ho trudgos boh|nd mo.
And ovon though l'm gratotu| tor tho company, l can't
ho|p but th|nk |t shou|d bo 0amon |nstoad.
ho|p but th|nk |t shou|d bo 0amon |nstoad.
0amon shou|d bo mak|ng tho journoy a|ongs|do
mo. 0amon, who wantod to como, wantod to koop mo
sato-dosp|to tho tact that ho d|sagrood w|th my
com|ng horo |n tho t|rst p|aco.
|av|ng 1udo horo too|s wrong |n ovory way.
Wo push on, to||ow|ng lotus tor what too|s ||ko
m||os, and l'm about to ask how much tarthor |t |s,
whon wo roach |t.
l know |t tho momont l soo |t.
1ho |andscapo |s bas|ca||y unchangod, tho ground
|s st||| muddy, tho ra|n st||| ta||s, and tho surround|ng
aroa |s as droary and barron as ovor-but st|||, thoro's
just no dony|ng |t. 1ho a|r |s d|ttoront. Coo|or. 1ho
tomporaturo droppod so |ow l w|sh l'd worn somoth|ng
a ||tt|o hoav|or than an o|d pa|r ot joans and a |ong-
s|oovod 1-sh|rt. 3ut ovon moro not|coab|o |s tho way
tho aroa just botoro us sooms to g||ston and g|ow-to
g||mmor and g|oam. look|ng |oss ||ko tho sh|mmor|ng
vo|| that marks tho porta| to 3ummor|and, and moro
||ko a chango |n atmosphoro. 1ho spaco turnod
suddon|y hazy, sw|r|y, a||ow|ng tor on|y a b|ur ot
shapos, a moro h|nt ot what m|ght ||o boyond.
lotus stops, ||tts hor hand to hor brow, and survoys
tho scono, as l stand r|ght bos|do hor, and 1udo
bos|do mo, wondor|ng |t ho'|| |ns|st on cont|nu|ng now
that wo'ro horo.
l turn to lotus, hop|ng tor somo sort ot |nstruct|on,
adv|co, a hoads-up, words ot w|sdom-w||||ng to
sott|o tor just about anyth|ng sho's w||||ng to g|vo, but
sho just po|nts stra|ght ahoad, mot|ons tor mo to koop
mov|ng, to mako that b|g |oap botwoon tho spaco
whoro l stand and tho groat unknown just boyond.
°3ut what w||| l do whon l got thoro?' l ask,
pract|ca||y roducod to bogg|ng.
3ut |nstoad ot addross|ng mo sho turns to 1udo and
says, °Go torward. loarn. You w||| know whon |t |s t|mo
to roturn.'
°3ut . l'm go|ng w|th Evor . oroo`t lº' |o g|ancos
at us, h|s taco a mask ot contus|on that matchos my
own.
lotus gosturos |mpat|ont|y, gosturos ahoad, and as
l to||ow tho d|roct|on ot hor crookod o|d t|ngors, l'm
torcod to b||nk a tow t|mos to tako |t a|| |n, to soo what
sho soos.
3t|||, dosp|to my ottorts, a|| l got |s a b|urry ho|ogram.
l|ko a shadowy m|rago that cou|d roprosont a v|||ago
and |ts poop|o, but cou|d just as oas||y bo somoth|ng
o|so ont|ro|y.
°Your journoys bog|n horo. Whoro |t onds |s tor you
to d|scovor.'
1udo grasps my hand, dotorm|nod to support mo, to
go w|th mo, but l'm not roady just yot.
Vuch as l caro tor 1udo, 0amon ru|os my hoart.
|o's tho ono l want bos|do mo on th|s journoy-on any
journoy.
lotus touchos my arm, prossos a sma|| s||k pouch
|nto my pa|m. Cur||ng my t|ngors around |t, sho says,
°Evoryth|ng you th|nk you nood |s |n horo. You doc|do
what that moans.'
°3ut bowº low w||| l know? low w||| l-' l start, a
m||||on unansworod quost|ons storm|ng my bra|n.
lot gott|ng vory tar botoro sho |ooks at mo and
says, °1rust. 3o||ovo. lt |s tho on|y way to procood.'
3ho nudgos mo torward, nudgos mo w|th a
surpr|s|ng amount ot strongth. And l can't ho|p |t-l
g|anco back aga|n. Vy oyos scann|ng tho aroa,
dosporato|y sook|ng 0amon, as |t tho shoor torco ot
my |ong|ng w||| mag|ca||y transport h|m horo.
3ut not t|nd|ng h|m anywhoro, l squaro my
shou|dors, t||t my ch|n, and tako that t|rst stop, 1udo
r|ght bos|do mo, my hand graspod |n h|s.
1ho two ot us mov|ng tontat|vo|y toward somoth|ng
wo can't qu|to mako out, thought |t's not |ong botoro
wo'ro pu||od a|ong by tho |rros|st|b|o torco ot |t-||ko a
wh|r||ng mass ot onorgy, a vortox that's suck|ng us |n.
And l'm just about to morgo |nto |t, whon l too| |t.
1hat tam|||ar swarm ot t|ng|o and hoat.
3oon to||owod by tho p|a|nt|vo cry ot my namo on
h|s ||ps.
l turn, catch|ng tho t|ash ot pa|n |n h|s oyos whon ho
soos mo w|th 1udo, assumos l'vo rop|acod h|m.
l drop 1udo's hand, watch|ng ho|p|oss|y as 1udo's
swa||owod |nto tho wh|r|, wh||o l str|vo to ho|d on, to
stradd|o two wor|ds.
Vy t|ngors grasp|ng, yoarn|ng, roach|ng tor 0amon,
and though ho movos tast, |t's not tast onough to koop
our t|ngors trom just baro|y graz|ng, tho t|ps ||ght|y
brush|ng as our gazo br|ot|y moots. And tho noxt th|ng
l know, l can't stop |t.
l'm yankod out ot h|s roach.
lost |n tho sw|r|.
|urt||ng |nto an unknown p|aco-|nto an unknown
t|mo.
Awaro that 0amon |s horo-somowhoro-but
unab|o to t|nd h|m.
A|roady mak|ng tho tr|p back.
¼oy back.
3ack to tho vory bog|nn|ng.

°Aoo|loo!'
1ho vo|co that ca||s to mo |s hushod, wh|sporod,
tak|ng groat caro to bo hoard on|y by mo.
°Ado||na, my swoot, p|oaso to|| mo you havo como
tor mo!'
l movo away trom tho cornor, out ot tho darknoss
and |nto tho tad|ng stroam ot ||ght just boyond.
||ght|ng to koop my tono ca|m, sto|c, l say, °l havo
como tor you, A|r|k.' 3ow|ng |ow botoro h|m, my hands
bur|od |n tho to|ds ot my sk|rt so ho can't soo thom
shako, dosporato to h|do my oxc|tomont, to appoar
rospoctab|o, |ady||ko, sodato.
3ut tho momont l ||tt my hoad, tho momont l soo tho
way h|s dark brown oyos ||ght on m|no, h|s gazo
part|a||y obscurod by tho tumb|o ot dark wavos that ta||
past h|s hoavy tr|ngo ot |ashos, past h|s stra|ght noso,
a|ong tho curv|ng ang|o ot h|s boaut|tu||y scu|ptod
chookbono-whon l soo tho way h|s |ong, |oan torm
t|||s tho doorway-my taco botrays mo.
Vy gazo sparks, my chooks t|ush, and my ||ps bog|n
to qu|vor and cur|, unab|o to conta|n tho surgo ot
oxtromo p|oasuro and joy tho moro s|ght ot h|m br|ngs.
And |t h|s oxpross|on |s anyth|ng to judgo by, thon
ho c|oar|y too|s tho samo way. l can to|| by tho way ho
pausos |n tho throsho|d, tho way ho ||tts h|s torch h|gh,
a||ow|ng tho ||ght to sp||| ovor mo.
A||ow|ng h|s oyos to dovour mo.
l can to|| by tho way h|s broath grows |aborod, tho
way h|s jaw t|ghtons, tho way h|s gazo c|ouds w|th
dos|ro-wo boar tho samo ottoct on oach othor.
And whon ho c|osos tho spaco botwoon us |n a
handtu| ot stops and hugs mo t|ght|y to h|m, whon ho
covors my taco w|th h|s k|ss, h|s ||ps captur|ng m|no,
tus|ng, mo|d|ng, oxp|or|ng-a|| ot my doubts s||p away.
l tocus on|y on tbls.
|oro.
low.
Vy ont|ro wor|d shr|nk|ng unt|| noth|ng o|so ox|sts.
loth|ng othor than tho crush ot h|s ||ps, tho warmth
ot h|s sk|n, and tho swo|| ot t|ng|o and hoat that a|ways
managos to t|nd mo whonovor ho's noar.
lotus|ng to th|nk about a tuturo that can novor bo
ours.
lotus|ng to th|nk about such cruo| th|ngs as c|ass
and pos|t|on and ob||gat|on and tho strango gamo ot
chanco that b|rth ordor br|ngs.
lotus|ng to th|nk about tho tact that dosp|to tho
dopth ot our |ovo, wo can novor bo|ong to oach othor
|n tho way that wo want. A truth that was doc|dod |ong
botoro wo had a chanco to moot, our tuturos
dotorm|nod by othors, not us.
0osp|to tho tact that ho |ovos mo and l h|m-wo w|||
novor marry.
Can't marry.
|o's boon botrothod to anothor s|nco ho was a boy.
Ono whoso tam||y boasts tar moro woa|th than
m|no.
Ono who happons to bo my cous|n, Esmo.
°Ado||na,' ho wh|spors, my namo ||ko a prayor on
h|s ||ps. °Oh, Ado||na, to|| mo you havo m|ssod mo as
much as l havo m|ssod you.'
°Yos, m'|ord.' l pu|| away qu|ck|y, tho b||ss ot a tow
momonts botoro rudo|y smothorod by tho roa||ty wo
t|nd ourso|vos |n. lom|nd|ng mo ot who l am-a poor
ro|at|on to tho d|stant cous|n ho'|| marry, who ho |s-
tho tuturo k|ng ot our t|ny c|ty stato, and whoro wo both
stand-|n an ompty, darkonod sta|| |n h|s stab|o, tho
a|r th|ck w|th tho smo|| ot horso t|osh and hay, a p||o ot
trosh|y |a|d straw at our toot.
°V`|oroº' |o qu|rks h|s brow, a||ow|ng h|s dark oyos
to grazo ovor mo unt|| moot|ng my b|uo onos, |oav|ng
mo to wondor |t ho soos tho samo th|ngs |n m|no as l
soo |n h|s: d|sappo|ntmont, doubt, and a torvont but
tut||o dos|ro to chango tho status quo. °What |s th|s? ls
that how you soo mo now, as |oro?'
°Wo||, aron't you? ln pr|nc|p|o anyway?'
lt's chooky, l know, but |t's a|so tho truth. l happon to
know ho ||kos that about mo, tho tact that l don't p|ay
tho usua| gamos, ospoc|a||y whoro courtsh|p |s
concornod. l'm no|thor s|||y, nor t||rty, and somot|mos, l
tond to voor tar moro toward tomboy than g|r|y. 3ut l'm
torthr|ght, d|roct, and l try my bost to to|| |t ||ko |t |s.
l try my bost to ||vo w|thout rogrots.
|o cups my taco |n h|s hands, tracos h|s t|ngor trom
my tomp|o to my ch|n, whoro ho prossos h|s t|ngor and
||tts, torc|ng my oyos to moot h|s. °What |s tho roason
tor a|| th|s torma||ty? You act as though wo'vo just mot.
And ovon thon, |t momory sorvos, you woro hard|y
torma| that day-you pushod mo r|ght |nto tho mud,
taco-t|rst no |oss. Your mannors woro corta|n|y |ack|ng,
though you managod to mako qu|to an |mpross|on. l'm
corta|n l havo |ovod you trom that vory momont.
Covorod hoad to too |n muck-l know r|ght thon my
||to wou|d novor bo tho samo.'
A sm||o snoaks onto my taco, romombor|ng tho
momont as c|oar|y as ho. Vo at ton, ho th|rtoon, l'd
boon stay|ng w|th much woa|th|or ro|at|vos and pa|d
h|m a v|s|t w|th my spo||od cous|n Esmo, who so
onjoyod |aud|ng hor woa|th ovor mo, a|ways
compar|ng hor tancy drossos to my moro drab onos,
sho was bocom|ng a choro to to|orato. And so,
annoyod w|th hor constant proon|ng and pranc|ng and
bragg|ng w|th no ond |n s|ght about how handsomo
hor tuturo husband was, how woa|thy, and how
wondortu| |t wou|d bo whon sho was mado quoon and
l'd bo torcod to bow down and k|ss hor toot, wo||, l just
cou|dn't tako |t anymoro, so l marchod r|ght up to h|m,
caught h|m ott guard, and pushod h|m stra|ght |nto tho
pond, thon l turnod to hor and sa|d, °3t||| th|nk ho's
handsomo?' and watchod hor cry and scroam and run
ott to to|| somoono what l'd dono.
°lt was a pond,' l say, |ook|ng r|ght at h|m.
°A vory moooy pond.' |o nods. °lt novor qu|to camo
out ot my c|oth|ng. l st||| havo tho sh|rt that boars tho
sta|n.'
°And, |t l romombor corroct|y, l pa|d a grand pr|co
tor that. l was sont homo |mmod|ato|y, and Esmo
novor |nv|tod mo to v|s|t aga|n. Wh|ch, como to th|nk ot
|t, roa||y wasn't much ot a pun|shmont at a||, was |t?'
°And yot, you tound your way back. Or at |oast back
to mo anyway.' ||s arms c|rc|o my wa|st, as h|s
t|ngors tra|pso up and down my sp|no. 1ho too| ot |t so
ca|m and sooth|ng, |t's a|| l can do to stay tocusod, on
po|nt, to not succumb to h|s spo||.
po|nt, to not succumb to h|s spo||.
°Yos,' l say, my vo|co baro|y a murmur. °Aro you
g|ad ot that?' Know|ng that ho |s, but |t's a|ways n|co
to hoar tho words spokon a|oud.
°Am l g|ad?' |o throws h|s hoad back and |aughs |n
a way that oxposos a g|or|ous co|umn ot nock |t takos
a|| ot my w||| not to k|ss. °3ha|| l show you tho |ovo| ot
my grat|tudo?'
|o k|ssos mo aga|n, at t|rst p|aytu|, a sor|os ot ||ght
pocks and n|ps, but thon |t grows doopor, much
doopor. 3ut ovon though l try to rospond w|th tho usua|
torvor, somoth|ng |s ott. And ho sonsos |t too.
°What has happonod s|nco wo |ast mot? You aro
d|ttoront. |as somoth|ng occurrod to chango your
too||ngs tor mo?'
l torco my gazo away. |orco myso|t to broatho, to
spoak. 3ut tho spooch l rohoarsod as l mado my way
ovor suddon|y oscapos mo.
°Ado||na, p|oaso to|| mo-do you no |ongor |ovo
mo?'
°lo! Ot courso not! lt's noth|ng ot tho sort! |ow can
you ovon say such a th|ng?'
°1hon what? What torr|b|o ovont has you rotus|ng
mo?'
l gathor tho words, strugg|o to movo thom trom my
hoad to my ||ps, but l can't do |t. Can't say what noods
to bo sa|d. 3o, ||ko a coward-a word that has novor
boon usod to doscr|bo mo-l gazo down |nstoad.
°ls |t lhys? ls my brothor bothor|ng you aga|n?' ||s
jaw t|ghtons as h|s oyos bog|n to b|azo.
3ut botoro |t can go any turthor, l'm qu|ck to shako
my hoad.
||s brothor lhys |s ta|r ot ha|r and ovon ta|ror ot
taco-h|s obv|ous outor attract|ons go|ng a |ong way
to bo||o a much darkor |ns|do-tho tact that ho's ru|od
by a |ong str|ng ot joa|ous|os ho can novor ovorcomo.
3ocond |n ||no not just tor tho crown-tho chanco to
ru|o h|s tathor's sma|| lbor|an k|ngdom-but a|so tor
h|s tathor's attont|ons, on|y to |oarn that tho g|r| whom
ho |ovos, my spo||od cous|n Esmo, |s dost|nod tor h|s
brothor-tho ono who, |n lhys's op|n|on was born |nto
ovoryth|ng, yot dosorvos noth|ng.
And wh||o l'vo tr|od to gazo upon lhys w|th
compass|on, |t tor no othor roason than tho tact that
wo sharo somoth|ng |n common-wo'ro both bo|ng
kopt trom a chanco at truo happ|noss-bo|ng kopt
trom tho ono wo |ovo duo to po||t|cs, t|nanco, and
trad|t|ons wo just baro|y undorstand-my sympath|os
woro soon thwartod by h|s undon|ab|o moan stroak,
and h|s abjoct cruo|ty toward mo.
As though |t's my do|ng. As though |t's my tau|t that
A|r|k |s botrothod to tho ono lhys |ovos.
As though l wou|dn't chango that |t l cou|d.
As though l wou|dn't rovorso |t, sw|tch up tho b|rth
ordor so that l cou|d ||vo happ||y w|th A|r|k, and ho
cou|d ||vo happ||y w|th Esmo, and wo cou|d a|| ||vo
happ||y ovor attor-protorab|y tar apart trom oach
othor.
3ut a|as, that |s not to bo.
|or ono th|ng, Esmo has no |ntorost |n lhys. 3ho
|ovos A|r|k. 3ho can't wa|t to bo marr|od.
|or anothor, somot|mos, whon l'm try|ng vory hard
to bo |og|ca| and roasonab|o, l rom|nd myso|t that
wh||o l'vo no doubt A|r|k |ovos mo, |ovos mo |n tho way
that l |ovo h|m, l'm not suro l tu||y bo||ovo h|m whon ho
c|a|ms ho has no |ntorost |n tho crown.
lt's h|s b|rthr|ght. As tho t|rstborn son, as h|s tathor's
ho|r, |t's what ho's boon dost|nod tor ovor s|nco ho
camo |nto tho wor|d. 1o turn h|s back on a|| that, wo||, |t
sooms ||ko a sacr||ogo.
°Ado||na, p|oaso don't |ook so sad.' A|r|k's ||ps
swoop my taco, dosporato to br|ghton my darkon|ng
mood. °lot whon l happon to havo tho most wondortu|
surpr|so tor you.'
l |owor my gazo, assur|ng myso|t l can do th|s. 1hat
l'm roa||y, tru|y roady to go through w|th |t, thon l moot
h|s oyos and say, °And l havo ono tor you.'
l tako a doop broath and gathor my strongth. v|rtuo
|sn't somoth|ng ono g|vos away oas||y, not w|thout
marr|ago, or at |oast tho prom|so thoroot. And |t word
got out, wo||, thoro's no doubt |t wou|d ru|n mo. And
yot, l don't caro. l don't caro about ru|os and
convont|ons that havo ovoryth|ng to do w|th tho hoad
wh||o stoadtast|y |gnor|ng tho hoart.
l can't caro about a tuturo l can't ovon soo, much
|oss |mag|no.
A|| l know tor suro |s that A|r|k w||| marry Esmo, and,
ovontua||y, somoono w||| marry mo. 1horo'vo boon
ottors. 3or|ous ottors. 3ut tor now anyway, l rotuso to
ontorta|n thom, no mattor how much my paronts may
bog and p|oad. Evon though l tu||y oxpoct to ono day
||o w|th my husband |n our marr|ago bod, ovon though l
oxpoct ho w||| bo a good and k|nd man w|th much to
rocommond, l know |n my hoart that l w||| novor |ovo
h|m |n tho way l |ovo A|r|k.
1ho k|nd ot |ovo wo sharo on|y comos onco |n a
||tot|mo-and tor somo, not ovon thon.
And |t's tor th|s roason a|ono that l'm proparod to
r|sk |t a||.
lt l do noth|ng o|so w|th th|s ||to l t|nd myso|t |n, l want
to oxpor|onco |ovo |n |ts abso|uto, doopost, truost
torm. Othorw|so, l just can't soo tho po|nt |n go|ng on.
°You t|rst,' ho says, oyos g||nt|ng w|th ant|c|pat|on,
as ho grasps my hands |n h|s.
l ||tt my ch|n, ||tt my arms to c|rc|o around h|m, my
hands c|aspod at h|s nock, |ook|ng stra|ght |nto h|s
dark oyos whon l say, °l'vo doc|dod that l am roady
and qu|to w||||ng . to mako myso|t yours.'
||s brows morgo, at t|rst not qu|to undorstand|ng
tho moan|ng boh|nd my words. 3ut ho soon catchos
on, roact|ng |n a way l d|dn't oxpoct. As many t|mos as
l rohoarsod th|s sconar|o |n my hoad, not onco d|d l
|mag|no ho'd rop|y |n a burst ot uncontro||od |aughtor.
0oop and hoarty |aughtor. 3o doop and hoarty l'm
atra|d somoono w||| ovorhoar, t|nd us soquostorod |n
horo.
1hon, just as qu|ck|y, ho pu||s mo back to h|m,
covors my taco w|th h|s k|ss onco aga|n, ||ps pross|ng
sott|y aga|nst my t|osh as ho says, °Vy doarost
Ado||na, thoro |s no nood tor you to sacr|t|co your
v|rtuo whon you aro soon to bo m|no.'
l pu|| away, staro |nto h|s oyos-my gazo
|ncrodu|ous-h|s roso|uto.
°l-l don't undorstand,' l stammor.
°Wo aro to bo marr|od.' |o sm||os. °You and l. 1ust
||ko wo'vo droamod. lt's a|| boon arrangod. 1ust you
and mo and a mombor ot tho c|orgy. l'm sorry |t won't
bo grand, tho k|nd ot wodd|ng bot|tt|ng my tuturo
quoon, and l'm sorry your tam||y can't bo thoro to
w|tnoss our un|on, though l'm suro you undorstand tho
nood tor groat socrocy. 3ut soon, vory soon, onco
word |s out and my tathor has no cho|co but to accopt
what l'vo dono and a||ow both h|s sons to torgo a
tuturo w|th tho onos thoy |ovo, wo||, thon wo'|| havo tho
grandost party you'vo ovor soon. Ado||na, l prom|so
you that.'
Vy oyos soarch h|s taco, w|sh|ng l cou|d match h|s
|ovo| ot o|at|on, but l'm |ott w|th tar too many quost|ons
to ovon attompt that. °3ut how w||| wo do th|s? ¼boro
w||| wo do th|s? And, moro |mportant|y, A|r|k, your
tathor w||| kl|| you!'
3ut A|r|k just |aughs, oras|ng tho not|on w|th an
|mpat|ont wavo ot h|s hand. °K||| h|s t|rstborn son?
lovor! Vy tathor w||| adapt. And whon ho moots you,
gots to know you as wo|| as l do, wo||, ho won't bo ab|o
to ros|st |ov|ng you too-you'|| soo!'
3ut ovon though l'd |ovo to bo||ovo that, l can't. l'm
|oss |doa||st|c than A|r|k. |av|ng mado do w|th tar |oss
tortuno and pr|v||ogo, l'vo oxpor|oncod t|rsthand somo
ot tho moro soar|ng d|sappo|ntmonts ||to br|ngs.
3ut botoro wo can d|scuss any turthor thoro's a
shutt|o ot tootstops, tho unm|stakab|o sound ot boots
trudg|ng a|ong tho |ong d|rt path that runs botwoon tho
sta||s. 3topp|ng just outs|do ot ours, |t's soon to||owod
by a sw|tt knock on tho door and a doop ma|o vo|co
that ca||s, °A|r|k? You |n thoro?'
°l am,' ho says, ||ps st||| k|ss|ng mo, covor|ng ovory
squaro |nch ot my taco, botoro oxp|or|ng tho doop
squaro nock||no ot my dross. °And you may como |n.
1hough l warn you, l am not a|ono, l am onjoy|ng somo
t|mo w|th my br|do.'
l start to pu|| away, too||ng ombarrassod by th|s
pub||c d|sp|ay and |ong|ng tor tho shadowod cornor
aga|n. 3ut A|r|k won't havo |t, and ho pu||s mo back to
h|m. Crook|ng h|s arm t|ght|y around my wa|st as
|oath comos |nto tho room, bows doop|y, and baro|y
tak|ng a momont to vonturo a g|anco at us, says,
°V'|ord and Esmo.' ||s back stra|ghton|ng aga|n on|y
to rovoa| a |ook ot puro horror that p|ays across h|s
taco. °Oh, Aoo|loo, torg|vo mo. l m|sspoko. l
assumod.' ||s taco hoat|ng to a thousand dogroos,
a||ow|ng tho words to tra|| ott trom thoro. |av|ng
nowhoro to go w|th that, no o|ogant way to tako tho
words back.
Evon worso |s tho tact that |oath has on|y vory
rocont|y askod tor my hand-somoth|ng known on|y to
|oath, my paronts (who sco|dod mo to an
unbo||ovab|o dogroo tor dony|ng h|m), and l. luck||y,
A|r|k hasn't a c|uo. lt ho d|d, ho corta|n|y wou|dn't bo
wo|com|ng h|s o|dost and doarost ch||dhood tr|ond,
h|s tathor's most tavorod kn|ght, |n tho way ho |s now.
Vy oyos grazo ovor |oath, tak|ng |n h|s coarso,
go|don-brown ha|r, h|s start||ng b|uo-groon gazo, h|s
|oan, musc|od torm-too||ng torr|b|y gu||ty at h|s t|nd|ng
us ||ko th|s, know|ng my ||to wou|d bo so much s|mp|or
|t l cou|d just torco myso|t to roturn h|s attoct|ons. 3ut
that's ||ko say|ng |t |t woron't tor tho ox|stonco ot tho
sun you'd bo sat|st|od w|th an ons|aught ot ra|n
ovoryday.
1ho hoart knows no |og|c, and raro|y corrosponds
w|th tho bra|n.
Whon A|r|k |s prosont, ovoryono d|ms.
And as handsomo and k|nd and wo|| |ntont|onod as
|oath |s, ho bocomos noar|y |nv|s|b|o whon ho's noxt
to A|r|k. lt may sound cruo| on tho surtaco, but |t's tho
stono co|d truth.
°lonsonso, my tr|ond!' A|r|k cr|os, not at a||
bothorod by |oath's g|ar|ng taux pas. °Como jo|n us! l
sont tor you tor a roason, l wantod you to bo tho t|rst to
hoar our happy nows-Ado||na and l aro to bo
marr|od!'
°3|r.' |o bows, most|y out ot rospoct, but part|y to
h|do an oxpross|on that |s c|oar|y cont||ctod. And by
tho t|mo ho stra|ghtons aga|n, ho's back |n contro|,
though ho st||| makos an ottort to avo|d |ook|ng at mo.
°l trust you w||| koop th|s undor wraps unt|| |t |s t|mo
to rovoa|?'
°And whon w||| that bo, s|r?'
°1omorrow wo w||| marry. And tho day attor that, l
w||| sharo my joy w|th tho k|ngdom. 3ut tor now, l must
go. l havo somo |ast-m|nuto dota||s to attond to. 3o,
may l trust you to oscort Ado||na, my tuturo br|do,
sato|y homo?'
°Ot courso, m'|ord.' |o bows onco moro. 3ut th|s
t|mo, whon l romovo myso|t trom A|r|k's k|ss, l catch
|oath poor|ng at mo |n a way l can't road.
||s taco boar|ng a |ook l cont|nuo to pondor |ong
attor ho's oxchangod |t tor anothor, moro ma||oab|o
ono.
A |ook l cont|nuo to guoss at as wo mako our way
out ot tho stab|os and |nto what's |ott ot tho day||ght.
A |ook that wh||o l st||| can't dot|no, managos to
||ngor-tho shoor |ns|stonco ot |t |oav|ng mo
protound|y unoasy.

Wo r|do |n s||onco. Or rathor l r|do, |oath wa|ks
a|ongs|do mo w|th tho ro|ns ho|d |ooso|y |n hand, tho
two ot us |ost |n our own monta| |andscapos. And
though ho's had p|onty ot opportun|ty to addross mo,
|t's not unt|| wo'vo noar|y arr|vod whon ho choosos to
spoak.
°0o you |ovo h|m?' ho asks, tho words s|mp|o,
d|roct, as though wo'd boon ongagod |n tho sort ot
convorsat|on that natura||y brought us to th|s po|nt. And
though ho str|vos to mask tho pa|n boh|nd tho
statomont, ho ta||s m|sorab|y. l can too| h|s dospa|r
trom up horo.
l pross my ||ps togothor and |ook away, w|sh|ng l
cou|d rotuso to answor. Vost toma|os wou|d. C|a|m|ng
groat ottonso to havo tho|r hoart quost|onod, tho|r
pr|vacy trospassod upon, that |t cou|d hard|y bo
cons|dorod h|s bus|noss, and so on.
3ut l'm not ||ko most toma|os. l dotost that sort ot
ta|s|ty, that sort ot gamo.
3os|dos, |oath |s k|nd and docont. l owo h|m
somoth|ng bottor, an honost answor at tho vory |oast.
lo mattor how much |t hurts.
Attor a||, wo'vo sharod a k|ss.
Or rathor, sovora| k|ssos-a sor|os ot k|ssos, |t you
w|||.
K|ssos that, trom what l can to||, camo to moan
much moro to h|m than to mo.
l was moro|y oxpor|mont|ng. 1ry|ng to soo |t my
hoad cou|d |nt|uonco my hoart. Want|ng to soo |t a||
k|ssos woro ||ko A|r|k's. ||s bo|ng tho t|rst |ott mo w|th
nono othor to judgo by. And though |t was n|co k|ss|ng
|oath, wh||o |t |ott mo too||ng sott, and ca|m, and
sorono-||ko t|oat|ng on a |uxur|ous ratt |n a boaut|tu|,
tranqu|| b|uo soa-|t st||| cou|dn't compoto w|th A|r|k's
rush ot warmth. ||s swarm ot t|ng|o and hoat.
1hough untortunato|y, |t wasn't unt|| my oxpor|mont
ta||od that l roa||zod |oath's |ntont|ons woro ont|ro|y
d|ttoront. |o wasn't tost|ng tho wators. |o was
oxpross|ng h|s |ntorost |n mo.
And though my ||to wou|d suro|y bo oas|or |t l cou|d
roturn h|s attoct|ons, l just can't, and |t wou|d bo cruo|
to protond othorw|so.
l tako a doop broath. A||ow h|m to ||tt mo out ot tho
sadd|o and onto tho ground, whoro ho p|acos mo
gont|y botoro h|m. ||s taco moro |nchos trom m|no,
hands st||| grasp|ng o|thor s|do ot my wa|st, tho too| ot
thom rosu|t|ng |n tho usua| stroam ot ca|m, coo| onorgy
l'vo como to assoc|ato w|th h|m.
°Yos,' l say, try|ng to sotton tho word, but no mattor
how |t's spokon, l |mag|no |t too|s ||ko a daggor to h|m.
°Yos, l do |ovo h|m.' l s|gh, too||ng tho nood to turthor
oxp|a|n whon l add, °l can't ho|p |t. lt's just .
unoxp|a|nab|o. lt's just ono ot thoso th|ngs.'
°You don't havo to say any moro. loa||y. You owo
mo no oxp|anat|on.' ||s oyos boro |nto m|no, h|s gazo
botray|ng h|s words. |o's dosporato to undorstand,
dosporato to mako sonso ot |t, dosporato to know why
l choso A|r|k ovor h|m.
l try to sm||o, but on|y mako |t ha|tway. Vy vo|co
sound|ng th|n, unstab|o, whon l say, °Oh, l'm not so
suro about that. lt too|s ||ko l do owo you an
oxp|anat|on, or . somoth|ng.'
||s hands grow warmor, h|s gazo doopons, and
botoro |t can go any turthor, ho movos away, tho movo
so abrupt |t's a momont botoro l adjust.
°Ado||na,' ho says, vo|co |ow and swoot, |oadod
w|th a rovoronco ho's rosorvod just tor mo. °You aro
awaro ot my too||ngs tor you, so l won't boro you thoro.
3ut p|oaso, a||ow mo to spoak as your tr|ond whon l
say l havo groat causo to worry about your and A|r|k's
p|an.'
Not my p|oo, A|rlk`s p|oo. l roa||y had no part |n |t.
3t|||, |t's not ||ko l don|od h|m. lt's not ||ko l sa|d oo.
1hon aga|n, l don't romombor say|ng yos o|thor. l'd
baro|y gotton a chanco to ask a tow quost|ons botoro
|oath bargod |n and put an ond to our d|scuss|on.
1hough l chooso not to sharo that w|th h|m.
°|or ono th|ng, tho most obv|ous th|ng, tho k|ng w|||
bo tur|ous. A|r|k's match to Esmo was p|annod |ong
ago. lo ono's ovor too|od thomso|vos |nto th|nk|ng |t
was a mattor ot tho hoart-oxcopt maybo Esmo.'
|o musos, gott|ng back to tho po|nt whon ho adds,
°3ut thoro |s much to cons|dor, much monoy at stako.
As |t happons, A|r|k's tam||y dosporato|y noods
Esmo's monoy |t thoy aro to cont|nuo tho|r ru|o. And,
as |t that wasn't onough, wo||, thon thoro |s Esmo and
hor tam||y to cons|dor. 1hoy w||| g|ad|y hand ovor a
vory |argo dowry |t |t moans tho|r daughtor may
somoday woar tho crown. And though l don't c|a|m to
bo wo|| vorsod |n Esmo horso|t, hav|ng on|y mot hor a
handtu| ot t|mos, l do th|nk |t's sato to assumo that
sho'|| bo qu|to tur|ous whon sho d|scovors what you
two havo dono. And l'vo a too||ng hor angor cou|d
provo to bo ovon moro tr|ghton|ng than tho k|ng's.
1horo's somoth|ng about that g|r|-somoth|ng
untamod, somoth|ng that knows no ||m|ts, no
boundar|os ot any k|nd.' |o shakos h|s hoad, hands
tumb||ng by h|s s|dos. °And thon, ot courso thoro |s
lhys, who, wo||, l'm suro ho w||| bo tho on|y ono, othor
than you and A|r|k that |s, who w||| bo ovorjoyod by tho
nows-a thought wh|ch |s tr|ghton|ng |n |ts own way, |s
|t not?' ||s vo|co ||tts |n quost|on, though h|s taco
roma|ns tho samo, so||d, t|xod, w|th no h|nt ot
amusomont. °Wh||o |t may troo h|m to pursuo Esmo,
h|s do|ng so w||| on|y angor hor s|stor. As l'm suro you
know, ||ona has boon |ntorostod |n lhys tor somo
t|mo now.'
l b||nk at |oath, strugg||ng to tako |t a|| |n. Evon
though l was wo|| awaro ot tho tr|ang|o ot joa|ous|os
and attract|ons l'm |mmorsod |n, |t's st||| qu|to start||ng
to havo |t so p|a|n|y |a|d out.
°What a tang|o |ovo |s,' l wh|spor, a|most as though
spoak|ng to myso|t. 1hon moot|ng |oath's gazo, l ask,
°3o what do you proposo l do thon? |ow wou|d you
suggost l chooso?'
°l wou|d suggost you chooso mo.' |o s|ghs, tho
sound as borott as tho |ook |n h|s oyos. °l w||| know
go|ng |n that you w||| novor |ovo mo ||ko you do A|r|k,
and l w||| accopt that. l w||| a|so do a|| that l can to
mako you happy. l prom|so you, Ado||na, l w|||
dod|cato my ont|ro ||to to soo|ng that you aro wo||
carod tor, contont.'
°|oath.' l shako my hoad, w|sh|ng ho hadn't just
sa|d that.
°l'm sorry |t l'vo mado you uncomtortab|o, but l'd
novor torg|vo myso|t |t l d|dn't at |oast oxpross my
concorns and try to ottor you a way out ot what l toar
w||| on|y ond |n troub|o, |t not hoartbroak, tor noar|y a||
|nvo|vod.'
l nod, h|s words ||ngor|ng, sw|r||ng w|th tho curront |n
my hoad, and tho worst part |s, thoro's not a s|ng|o
th|ng to rotuto. ||s worr|os m|m|c my own.
3t|||, l |ook at h|m and say, °And now that you'vo
oxprossod your concorns-what now?'
°low, l b|d you good-byo and w|sh you much
happ|noss.' |o bows |ow botoro mo.
And botoro ho can r|so, l |oavo h|m. lross|ng my
||ps br|ot|y to tho crown ot h|s hoad, push|ng aga|nst
tho coarso go|don-brown strands, botoro mak|ng my
way toward my door. Vus|ng to myso|t that no mattor
what happons, como tomorrow, l w||| novor |ook at my
houso, my ||to, or |oath, |n tho samo way aga|n. l w|||
bo changod |n a most protound way.
Awaro ot tho wo|ght ot |oath's gazo st||| hovor|ng,
h|s coo|, ca|m onorgy stroam|ng, ||ngor|ng, as l mako
my way ovor tho stoop and |ns|do tho houso.

lt's a pobb|o at my w|ndow that wakos mo. Ono sharp
tap, to||owod by anothor, and thon anothor, unt|| l'm
tu||y rousod trom my s|oop.
l roach tor my dross|ng gown and pu|| |t t|ght|y
around mo, stoa||ng a momont to brush a qu|ck hand
ovor my ha|r, botoro l movo torward, oagor to soo who
|s thoro.
Expoct|ng just about anyono, oxcopt tho ono whom l
t|nd.
°lhys?' l squ|nt, tak|ng |n h|s doop b|uo oyos and
go|don-b|ond ha|r. °What |s |t?' Vy hoart boats |n tr|p|o
t|mo as a swarm ot poss|b|||t|os ovorcomo mo-oach
ono worso than tho ono that camo botoro. A|rlk`s boo
oo occlooot-A|rlk`s tokoo l||-A|rlk`s cboogoo bls
mloo oboot mo . unt|| l t|na||y gathor my w|ts onough
to ask, °ls |t A|r|k? ls ho a|| r|ght?'
lhys |aughs, |aughs |n a way that ||ghts up h|s taco
-|aughs |n a way that makos h|m |rros|st|b|o to
toma|os ot a|| agos, a|| stat|ons-ovoryono trom
matrons, to pr|ncossos, to tho |ow||ost chamborma|ds
-ovoryono oxcopt mo, that |s.
°1rust mo, your proc|ous A|r|k |s t|no. 1ust t|no. l|ko
a b|tch |n hoat ho can't wa|t to soo you, wh|ch |s why
ho sont mo to totch you and br|ng you to h|m.'
°l don't bo||ovo you,' l say, tho words com|ng botoro
l'vo had a chanco to propor|y vot thom, but onco
spokon, l t|nd l don't rogrot thom. °A|r|k wou|d novor
sond you-or at |oast not to totch mo. |o's wo|| awaro
ot your cruo|ty, lhys. 1ho domoan|ng way |n wh|ch you
onjoy troat|ng mo.'
lhys sm||os, runs a hand through h|s g|ossy go|don
wavos, b|uo oyos spark||ng |n tho dark as ho says, °l
w||| no|thor dony, nor apo|og|zo tor that. ln tact, l tu||y
adm|t to bo||ov|ng that my brothor |s an |d|ot tor
choos|ng you whon ho cou|d havo tho |ovo|y,
bow|tch|ng Esmo |nstoad. 3ut thon, as |t turns out, my
brothor's |d|ocy |s now work|ng |n my tavor. 3ocauso
ot h|s b|zarro attract|on to you, Esmo, my boaut|tu|
t|amo-ha|rod goddoss, |s troo tor mo to pursuo. And
so, |t sooms, undor tho c|rcumstancos, my brothor and
l havo ca||od tor a truco. And as ho bus|os h|mso|t w|th
h|s dut|os, ho has sont mo tor you. 3o como now, your
marr|ago awa|ts. 0on't mako mo wako your who|o
houso.'
°low?' l b||nk |nto tho darknoss, suro ho m|sspoko.
°Yos, oow. lt's a|| vory c|oak and daggor-top-socrot
bus|noss. 3o como, grab what you nood, got yourso|t
drossod, and como around back to whoro my horso
wa|ts.'
3ut dosp|to h|s |nstruct|ons, l roma|n rootod |n
p|aco, rotus|ng to budgo trom tho w|ndow, know|ng
bottor than to tako lhys at h|s h|gh|y unro||ab|o word.
3uro that |t A|r|k woro to sond anyono tor mo, |t wou|d
bo |oath, not lhys, tho brothor ho doosn't trust, tho
brothor ho dotosts.
lhys s|ghs. 3|ghs and shakos h|s hoad. loach|ng
|nto tho pockot ot h|s ovorcoat whon ho says, °||no.
|oro. load |t and woop. 3ut whatovor you do, mako |t
tast. l'd ||ko to got back to my own bod at somo po|nt.
l'vo a p|ump ||tt|o da|ryma|d warm|ng my shoots at th|s
vory momont.'
3uppross|ng an |rros|st|b|o urgo to ro|| my oyos, l
protond to |gnoro that |ast part and watch as ho dott|y
c||mbs tho tro|||s just outs|do my w|ndow, body mov|ng
sw|tt|y, cat||ko, thrust|ng tho to|dod papor |nto my hand
as ho porchos h|mso|t on tho |odgo.
l stop away, pu|| my gown t|ghtor around mo, thon
push my |ong go|don ha|r ovor my shou|dor so |t hangs
down botoro mo. 1ry|ng to dot|oct tho way h|s oyos
hungr||y roam mo, paus|ng ovorywhoro thoy shou|dn't
and not bo|ng gont|oman|y onough to mako any
attompt to h|do |t.
locogn|z|ng tho rod wax soa| A|r|k a|ways usos to
mark h|s corrospondonco on h|s numorous |ottors to
mo, l unto|d |t qu|ck|y, smooth out tho croasos, and
road:
Vy doarost Ado||na:
lt you aro road|ng th|s now, |t's bocauso you
rotusod to tako lhys at h|s word.
Good tor you!
Onco aga|n, you'vo dono mo proud. 1hough,
just th|s onco, l ask that you trust h|m. lt sooms my
brothor and l havo t|na||y torgod somo common
ground and now t|nd ourso|vos work|ng togothor
-work|ng tor our own groator good, so to spoak.
3o |t |s w|th an oasy hoart and a c|oar
consc|onco that l bosooch you to go w|th h|m.
Unab|o to |ocato |oath, l tound myso|t |n nood
ot an a||y and turnod to lhys, corroct|y assum|ng
ho'd bo do||ghtod by tho nows ot our socrot|y
marry|ng, or, as ho's moro prono to put |t: °A|r|k's
r|d|cu|ous|y romant|c, too|hardy b|undor.' 3ut
|augh as ho may, l'm atra|d tho joko |s on h|m, tor
ho w||| novor oxpor|onco tho k|nd ot |ovo you and l
havo tound |n oach othor.
3t|||, dosp|to h|s mak|ng tun, ho |s sharp
onough to undorstand that my marry|ng you troos
h|m to pursuo Esmo and u|t|mato|y to pursuo tho
crown, and probab|y tho pos|t|on as °|athor's
tavor|to son and ho|r' that l onco occup|od as
wo||. 3ut nono ot that mattors |n ||ght ot what l now
stand to ga|n-tho ab|||ty to tu|t||| my |ong-ho|d
droam ot a ||to ||vod w|th you.
3o now, l awa|t you, my dar||ng-my br|do-
my w|to!
l|oaso hurry to mo!
Yours a|ways and torovor-
A|r|k
°3o, what do you th|nk? 0oos |t pass tho tost?'
lhys |oungos on tho |odgo, ono |og dang||ng |nto my
room, tho othor bont, proppod on tho sho|t, sorv|ng as
a rost tor h|s hands.
l g|anco botwoon tho noto and h|m, hav|ng to adm|t
that |t was corta|n|y wr|tton by A|r|k's hand, and c|oar|y
not undor duross, so l tako a doop broath and nod my
consont.
°Good,' lhys snaps, roach|ng toward mo and
snatch|ng |t back. 3hov|ng |t doop |nto h|s pockot
w|thout t|rst tak|ng tho t|mo to propor|y to|d |t, ho |ooks
at mo, to||s mo to hurry, thon hurt|os r|ght out my
w|ndow, r|ght out ot s|ght.

°C||mb on up.'
l |ook at h|m. |rown|ng as l say, °Up thoro? W|th
yoo?'
°Un|oss you protor to wa|k.' ||s shou|dors r|so and
ta|| as though ho's proparod to |ot mo do just that.
°Why don't yoo wa|k and l'|| r|do?' l p|aco my hands
on my h|ps, vow|ng to to|| A|r|k about th|s |ator.
°lopo, not a chanco.' |o shakos h|s hoad. °|or ono
th|ng |t's dark out. |or anothor |t's co|d. And, tor
anothor.' |o pro|ongs tho pauso, mak|ng mo wa|t tor
|t, as though l actua||y caro. °l'm not a|| that b|g on
act|ng nob|y or gont|oman|y. Espoc|a||y whon l don't
oxpoct to got anyth|ng out ot |t. 1hough, |t l woro to got
somoth|ng out ot |t, thon l may rocons|dor.'
l gazo up |nto thoso g||nt|ng b|uo oyos, tho haughty
arc ot h|s go|don-b|ond brow, tho t|ash ot wh|to tooth |n
tho b|ackonod n|ght sky. A s|ght that |oavos most g|r|s
too||ng ta|nt, woak |n tho knoos, roady to succumb to
h|s ovory wh|m and nood-but tor mo, |t just makos
my stomach turn, makos mo too| as though l m|ght
hoavo.
°ls th|s how you t||rt w|th Esmo?' l ask, know|ng l
shou|dn't ongago h|m, but |t's not ||ko that stops mo. °lt
so, l can't |mag|no why sho'd rojoct you |n tavor ot your
brothor. 1o|| mo, lhys, has sho soon th|s oh-so-
charm|ng s|do ot you?'
l wa|t tor h|s rop|y, oxpoct|ng h|m to got mad, to say
somoth|ng cruo| about my |ooks, my tam||y's |ow
status and |ack ot t|nancos, but |nstoad ho just |aughs,
h|s sm||o grow|ng w|dor whon ho says, °lah, w|th
Esmo, |t's a|| pomp and show, and noth|ng but tho
doopost courtosy and rospoct. You havo to know how
to p|ay a g|r| ||ko hor. 3ho's groody, suport|c|a|, and
va|n. 1ho on|y th|ng sho soos |n my brothor |s what's
soon to bo m|no-tho powor ot h|s pos|t|on, and,
moro |mportant|y, tho crown. Wo'ro a |ot a||ko, Esmo
and l. Wo woro mado tor oach othor. Wo bo|oog
togothor. 3ho and l aro tw|n sou|s, and somoday sho'||
roa||zo |t too.'
l cont|nuo to gazo at h|m, t|sh|ng around tor somo
k|nd ot sarcast|c rop|y, but tho onos l como up w|th d|o
r|ght on my ||ps. What ho sa|d |s romarkab|y truo. 1hoy
aro sha||ow, and va|n, and oxtromo|y narc|ss|st|c-and
h|s ab|||ty to roa||zo that truth rovoa|s an amaz|ng
amount ot so|t-awaronoss and |ns|ght l novor wou|d'vo
oxpoctod.
°3o how |ong aro you p|ann|ng to stand thoro ||ko
that?' ho asks, vo|co borod, thumbs tapp|ng aga|nst
tho horn ot tho sadd|o.
°Why d|dn't you br|ng a carr|ago?' l ask, st||| not
w||||ng to r|do tandom w|th h|m, though c|oar|y my
opt|ons aro ||m|tod.
Watch|ng as ho hoavos a doop s|gh and spr|ngs
trom h|s mount unt|| ho's stand|ng botoro mo, a
smattor|ng ot |nchos tho on|y th|ng that soparatos us.
°3ocauso a carr|ago attracts tar too much not|co at
th|s hour,' ho says. °lomombor, th|s |s supposod to
bo a socrot. Wh|ch moans l d|dn't th|nk you'd want to
|ot your paronts |n on tho tact that you'ro o|op|ng-
ovon |t |t |s w|th tho |oca| roya|ty. 3ut l'm atra|d |t you
|ns|st on cont|nu|ng to d|ckor ||ko th|s, wo||, thoro w|||
bo no nood tor socrocy as tho who|o damn v|||ago w|||
soon bo |n on your tryst. 3o como on, Ado||na, what
do you say? You st||| p|ann|ng to push aga|nst mo, or
aro you roady to subm|t to tho path ot |oast
ros|stanco? 3o a good g|r| and hop up-A|r|k |s
wa|t|ng.'
l swa||ow hard, swa||ow my pr|do, and nod my
consont. 3rac|ng aga|nst tho too| ot h|s hands at my
wa|st as ho ||tts mo up h|gh and gots mo a|| sott|od,
botoro ho hops up h|mso|t and warns mo to ho|d on
t|ght or r|sk tumb||ng ott. 3omoth|ng wh|ch ho sooms
to onjoy a ||tt|o too much-somoth|ng l do my bost not
to th|nk about.
Wo r|do tor m||os. l|do tor so |ong that at ono po|nt l
a||ow s|oop to c|a|m mo. Awakonod by tho sound ot
lhys's vo|co at my oar, sott and surpr|s|ng|y tondor
whon ho says, °|oy, Ado||na. You can wako up now.
Wo'ro horo.'
l rouso myso|t trom h|s shou|dor, brush my hand
ovor my oyos, my ha|r, and tako |n my surround|ngs,
try to got a too| tor our |ocat|on, but |t's not ono l
rocogn|zo.
°lt's a hunt|ng |odgo,' ho says, ||ps t|ck||ng at tho
vory odgo ot my oar. °lt's our hunt|ng |odgo, A|r|k's and
m|no. And wh||o |t's nowhoro noar as grand as tho
pa|aco, l w||| say |t's not bad o|thor. l th|nk you'|| t|nd |t
surpr|s|ng|y comtortab|o. l know that many, many,
many ot my conquosts havo groat|y onjoyod
thomso|vos horo.'
Yop, ho's back to bo|ng lhys aga|n.
°Whoro |s A|r|k?' l ask, yank|ng troo ot h|m.
3ut l'vo baro|y gotton tho words out botoro a
wh|sporod vo|co says, °l am horo.'
|o roachos toward mo, carotu||y catch|ng mo as l
s||do trom tho horso and |nto h|s outstrotchod arms.
||s body so warm, so comtort|ng, that tor a momont
h|s awtu| brothor |s a|| but torgotton, unt|| A|r|k broaks
away and says, °3rothor, thank you. l owo you tor th|s
ono.'
3ut lhys just |aughs, turns h|s horso around, and
g|ancos ovor h|s shou|dor. °|orgot |t. Your br|do tor tho
k|ngdom-' |o shakos h|s hoad. °|ato to say |t,
brothor, but l'm atra|d |t |s l who w||| owo yoo onco
your ||tt|o honoymoon |s ovor and you roa||zo your to||y.
l just hopo you'ro not too||sh onough to try to co||oct
onco you'vo su|||od your bod. And wh||o l w|sh you
much happ|noss and joy and a|| that, l'm atra|d l must
roturn. Vy swoot ||tt|o 3oph|o suro|y has my bod n|co|y
hoatod by now.'
°3t||| bodd|ng tho chamborma|ds?' A|r|k ca||s.
On|y to havo lhys rop|y, °0a|ryma|d, brothor,
da|ryma|d. 1ry to koop up!'
||s horso ga||ops ott, tak|ng lhys a|ong w|th h|m, as
A|r|k pu||s mo toward tho |odgo, ||ps brush|ng my
chook as ho says, °l apo|og|zo tor h|m. l was hop|ng
ho'd sparo you trom that brand ot crudonoss, but
porhaps that was just too||sh on my part. 3t|||, a|| that
roa||y mattors |s that ho brought you to mo. |o d|d as l
askod, and you'vo arr|vod sato|y.' |o gazos down at
mo w|th a taco t|||od w|th so much |ovo and dovot|on, l
swa||ow ovoryth|ng l was about to to|| h|m about just
how crudo h|s brothor roa||y |s, not want|ng my words
to mar h|s oxpross|on.
°Actua||y, l s|opt through most ot tho journoy, |t tor no
othor roason than to tuno h|m out,' l say, t|nd|ng a
othor roason than to tuno h|m out,' l say, t|nd|ng a
comprom|so that succoods |n mak|ng h|m |augh.
°1hon you aro not t|rod? You aro not |ong|ng tor
bod?' ||s oyos g||nt on m|no.
l gazo trom h|m to tho st|||-darkonod n|ght sky, to tho
door ho's proppod opon that |oads to a rust|c yot
sumptuous room just boyond.
°Oh, l'm too||ng qu|to rostod.' l sm||o. °3ut l havo no
objoct|on to bod.'

Attor an hour or two ot g|gg||ng, cudd||ng, and
wh|spor|ng to oach othor-mak|ng grand p|ans tor our
now ||to togothor, a ||to that bog|ns tomorrow
attornoon, A|r|k and l ta|| to s|oop. |o st||| tu||y c|othod
(m|nus h|s boots ot courso), mo str|ppod ot tho dross l
arr|vod |n, str|ppod down to tho samo dross|ng gown
h|s brothor tound mo |n.
A|r|k's arm |s tossod around my wa|st, anchor|ng
mo t|ght|y to h|m. Our bod|os contorm|ng, prossod so
snug|y togothor l can too| tho boat ot h|s hoart at my
back, tho rust|o ot h|s broath at my oar. And l'm
dotorm|nod to s|nk |nto tho too| ot |t, to push as|do any
stray worr|os, any ||ngor|ng toars, |n tavor ot th|s
momont togothor. Eagor tor tomorrow, whon our
oxchango ot vows w||| a||ow us to |ovo oach othor
troo|y, opon|y-no |ongor ro|ogatod to vacant horso
sta||s, or soc|udod spots |n tho torost that surrounds
my paronts' houso. lo |ongor torcod to pu|| ourso|vos
back just whon tho momont bocomos tru|y hoatod.
lt's a chango l |ook torward to.
3ut thoso aro tho k|nds ot thoughts my consc|ous
m|nd |s a|| too happy to dwo|| on, tho momont l ta||
unconsc|ous my guard s||ps and a |ong ||st ot worr|os
soops |n. Van|tost|ng thomso|vos |n tho strango
|anguago that on|y droams spoak, |mmors|ng mo |n a
b|oak and toro|gn |andscapo whoro A|r|k |s nowhoro
noar and a dark hoodod bo|ng chasos mo.
l raco through bramb|os and bushos. l raco tor my
||to. W|nc|ng aga|nst tho st|ng ot sharp thorns that
snaro at my sk|n and toar at my c|oth|ng-|oav|ng mo
tattorod, battorod, bru|sod, but st||| l raco on.
Yot, no mattor how tast l run, |t's not tast onough.
l can't soom to oscapo |t.
Can't oscapo tho dark hoodod bo|ng that's com|ng
tor mo.
3oar|ng down on mo.
C|a|m|ng mo.
End|ng mo .
l bo|t upr|ght, a horr|ty|ng scroam p|orc|ng my s|oop.
lot roa||z|ng unt|| A|r|k bo|ts upr|ght bos|do mo and
pu||s mo t|ght|y to h|s chost that tho sound camo trom
mo.
°Ado||na! Vy dar||ng, my swoot, aro you okay? What
has happonod? Was somoono horo? 3poak to mo,
p|oaso!' ||s hands cup my chooks, mak|ng mo taco
h|m as ho staros |nto my w|do, tr|ghtonod oyos.
°l-' l b||nk rap|d|y, tak|ng a momont to pu|| away, to
gazo around tho room, as l t|ght to got my boar|ngs, to
rom|nd myso|t ot whoro l am, who l am, but st|||
hauntod by tho horr|b|o v|s|ons l saw, as though tho
droam has cont|nuod.
A|r|k |oaps trom our bod, roachos tor tho torch and
sh|nos |t on ovory cornor ot tho room. ||na||y assurod
that no ono o|so has jo|nod us, ho roturns to my s|do
and says, °Vy swoot Ado||na, ro|ax. lt was on|y a
droam.'
|o murmurs a stroam ot swoot words |n my oar-
prom|sos, doc|arat|ons ot |ovo, a stoadtast assuranco
that |t doosn't moan anyth|ng-that l'm portoct|y sato
-that l w||| not bo harmod |n any way.
3ut l know bottor.
Know thoro |s no such th|ng as jost o oroom.
Vy droams aro not tho k|nd othor poop|o havo.
Vy droams havo an uncanny way ot com|ng truo.
Propbotlc my mothor ca||s thom. Warn|ng mo trom
a young ago, whon l t|rst startod hav|ng thom, to novor
spoak ot thom aga|n-to do my bost to b|ock thom
out, |ost anyono t|nd out. lt wl|| wrock yoor |lío, sho'd
sa|d. 7bot sort oí tblog ls ooop|y írowooo opoo.
3ut ton|ght, l'vo no cho|co but to to|| A|r|k, to warn
h|m ot tho torr|b|o th|ng yot to como. l'vo had th|s
droam botoro, many t|mos s|nco l was a g|r|. 1hough
th|s |s tho t|rst t|mo l'vo como to roa||zo what |t moans.
1hat tho t|mo has now como.
|rom tho warm, sato sho|tor ot h|s arms, l a||ow my
oyos to sad|y roam h|s taco, my vo|co |ow, noar|y a
wh|spor, as l say, °Wo w||| novor bo marr|od.' l |ook at
h|m, mak|ng suro ho undorstands that my sottonod
tono shou|d not bo||o tho |ntons|ty ot my words. °l won't
mako |t to tho coromony.'
A|r|k ba|ks, shakos h|s hoad, soarchos tor a way to
comtort mo. °1hat's propostorous!' ho says. °lt was
moro|y a n|ghtmaro, noth|ng moro. lt moans ootblog,
abso|uto|y ootblog-or at |oast noth|ng moro than a
portoct|y norma| d|sp|ay ot pro-marr|ago j|ttors. Our
||vos aro about to chango |n a vory b|g way-wo aro
about to ombark on tho ||to ot our droams. And wh||o l
know you'ro oxc|tod, l suspoct you'ro a|so a t|ny b|t
tr|ghtonod as wo||, and th|s |s how that sort ot toar
otton choosos to man|tost |tso|t. 3ut my dar||ng, my
swoot Ado||na, p|oaso know that you havo noth|ng to
worry about. l won't |ot anyth|ng bad happon to you.
lot now, not ovor. 0o you hoar? You w||| a|ways bo
sato w|th mo.'
l nod. 3wa||ow hard. Want|ng moro than anyth|ng to
bo||ovo h|m, tor h|s words to bo truo.
3ut doop down |ns|do l know d|ttoront.
|o's wrong.
0oad wrong.
|o d|dn't soo what l saw.
0oosn't know what l know.
0|dn't too| tho co|d hand ot doath as |t grabbod ho|d
ot my t|osh and rotusod to |ot go.
°K|ss mo,' l say, soo|ng tho way h|s taco sottons,
ta|so|y bo||ov|ng |t's ovor.
°K|ss mo and mako mo torgot. Vako |t go away,' l
urgo, know|ng th|s |s |t, my ono and on|y chanco to
oxpor|onco our |ovo |n |ts abso|uto, truost, doopost
torm. lt l can't conv|nco h|m now, wo||, thon |t's a |ovo
l'|| novor know.
°K|ss mo as though wo havo a|roady takon our
vows. K|ss mo as though l am a|roady your br|do.'
l |ooson tho t|os ot my gown, a||ow|ng |t to ta|| away
trom my body as my gazo ho|ds on h|s. Awaro ot h|s
qu|ck |ntako ot broath, h|s t|ghton|ng jaw, h|s w|don|ng
oyos. Gaz|ng upon mo |n wondor. Gaz|ng upon mo as
though ho's novor soon anyth|ng ||ko |t botoro.
3ut l know d|ttoront|y. |av|ng hoard most ot tho
stor|os, l'm wo|| awaro that l'm hard|y h|s t|rst. 1hough
not qu|to a rako ||ko h|s brothor, ho's known to havo
onjoyod h|s sharo ot w||||ng partnors.
3ut tho thought doosn't bothor mo. lt anyth|ng, l t|nd
|t roassur|ng. Out ot a|| tho g|r|s that ho's boon w|th, out
ot a|| tho g|r|s ho cou|d st||| bo w|th, ho choosos to bo
w|th mo, and on|y mo, tor as |ong as our hoarts sha||
cont|nuo to boat.
lo mattor what happons to mo, no mattor what tho
tuturo may br|ng, l'vo no doubt that |n A|r|k's own hoart
l w||| a|ways roma|n h|s truo |ntondod quoon.
°Ado||na, aro you suro?' ho asks, h|s broath com|ng
tastor as my t|ngors croop toward h|s sh|rt w|th tho
so|o |ntont|on ot r|dd|ng h|m ot |t.
|o's try|ng to prov|do a way out, to sparo mo trom
do|ng somoth|ng ho toars l'|| rogrot. An attompt to do
tho r|ght th|ng, to bo nob|o, ga||ant, but tho words boar
no moan|ng, ho's as oagor as l am.
l pross my t|ngor to h|s mouth, on|y to romovo |t a
socond |ator and rop|aco |t w|th my ||ps. °You woro
marr|od to mo tho day l pushod you |nto tho pond, and
l was marr|od to you tho day you sont mo t|owors |n
rosponso. lod tu||ps. Who wou|d'vo thought?' l sm||o,
paus|ng |ong onough tor my ||ps to oxp|oro h|s
oar|obos, h|s nock, as my hands roam tho g|or|ous
oxpanso ot h|s now|y barod chost.
||s handsomo taco hovors botoro mo, as ho
pushos mo back onto tho p|||ows, back onto our bod,
h|s ||ps mov|ng ovor mo, k|ss|ng ovory |nch ot barod
sk|n, k|ss|ng mo |n p|acos l novor wou|d'vo |mag|nod.
||ngors mov|ng qu|ck|y, dott|y, romov|ng tho sparso
|ayor ot c|oth|ng stand|ng botwoon us, tho task t|na||y
comp|otod, ho says, °Ado||na?'
l nod, hav|ng novor to|t moro corta|n.
1hon a k|ss.
A s|gh.
And thoro |s no go|ng back.
l havo dono th|s.
Wo aro do|ng th|s.
Our bod|os mov|ng togothor-mo|dod, tusod,
connoctod as ono.
And |t's ovory b|t as g|or|ous as l droamod |t wou|d
bo, |t not moro.

°Vy dar||ng,' A|r|k wh|spors, turn|ng onto h|s s|do and
poor|ng at mo, h|s s|ght a|dod by tho stroam ot ||ght
snoak|ng |n through tho w|ndows and croop|ng up
trom undor tho door. °0|d you s|oop?'
l murmur somoth|ng |nconsoquont|a|, not want|ng
h|m to know that l d|dn't. 1hat l cou|dn't r|sk ru|n|ng my
portoct n|ght, tho |ovo that wo mado, w|th yot anothor
droam that hora|ds tho gr|m roa||ty ot what l'|| now
taco.
°|ow do you too|? Any rogrots?' |o shoots mo a
worr|od |ook.
°logrots?' l shako my hoad and gr|n, pross|ng my
||ps to h|s torohoad, tho p|aco botwoon h|s brows.
Captur|ng a stray |ock ot ha|r |n my t|ngors and
smooth|ng |t away trom h|s taco to bottor soo h|m.
°What cou|d thoro poss|b|y bo to rogrot? Aro you
rotorr|ng to tho socond t|mo? Or maybo tho th|rd?'
|o sm||os, manouvors h|s body unt|| |t's covor|ng
m|no onco aga|n. °l was th|nk|ng moro ||ko tho tourth?'
°|ourth?' l squ|nt, as though try|ng to roca||. °l don't
soom to romombor a tourth? ls |t poss|b|o l was
s|oop|ng?' l bat my oyos t||rtat|ous|y, awaro ot h|s
hands a|roady at work, a|roady warm|ng mo, as l ||tt
my arms to h|s nock and br|ng h|m back to mo, vo|co
sott|y toas|ng whon l say, °lorhaps you shou|d rotrosh
my momory.'
¯ ¯ ¯
Whon |t's ovor, ho shows mo whoro to wash and
dross, shows mo tho wardrobo stuttod w|th now
gowns ho brought just tor mo. 1o|||ng mo to chooso
wh|chovor ono l want tor today's socrot coromony-
that thoy'ro a|| boaut|tu|, a|| o|aborato, a|| appropr|ato
onough tor tho woman who w||| ono day bo h|s quoon,
thon ho |oavos, mounts h|s horso, and ga||ops away.
lrom|s|ng to sond a ma|d to ho|p mo dross,
somoth|ng ho'd ta||od to th|nk ot botoro-prom|s|ng to
roturn just as soon as a|| tho othor |ast-m|nuto
arrangomonts aro takon caro ot.
l tako my t|mo wash|ng, marvo||ng at how ovoryth|ng
can |ook tho samo on tho outs|do, wh||o |ns|do
ovoryth|ng's changod |n an |rrovors|b|o way. lo mator
what happons trom horo, at |oast l now know what |t's
||ko to bo |ovod so tu||y, so thorough|y, so uttor|y and
comp|oto|y, |t's as though tho strongth ot our |ovo has
a|so strongthonod mo. And that, a|ong w|th tho warm
assuranco ot a trosh|y drawn bath and a br|ght and
sunny now day, |oavo mo too||ng a b|t s|||y tor g|v|ng so
much crodonco to |ast n|ght's droam.
A|r|k was r|ght. l put tar too much |mportanco on
what was probab|y noth|ng moro than a tow doop|y
harborod worr|os com|ng to ||to |n my droams.
3t|||, l don't rogrot my doc|s|on to ||o w|th A|r|k, not
tor a m|nuto. lt anyth|ng, l |ook torward to ro||v|ng tho
oxpor|onco as h|s w|to, wondor|ng |t |t w||| too| any
d|ttoront.
l pro|ong my bath, wa|t tor tho ma|d to arr|vo, but
whon l'vo washod a|| l can, whon my t|ngors and toos
grow a|| wr|nk|od and pruno-||ko, l doc|do to dry myso|t
and mako ||bora| uso ot tho var|oty ot croams and
powdors A|r|k's |ott tor my uso. 1hon l s||p back |nto
my dross|ng gown and attompt to p|ck out somoth|ng
to woar tor tho coromony, hop|ng tho ma|d w||| show
soon to ho|p mo dross. What w|th a|| tho |ayors and
t|os and th|ngs that aro moant to c|nch |mposs|b|y
t|ght, |t's |mposs|b|o to c|otho onoso|t w|thout somo
ass|stanco.
And l'm just work|ng on my ha|r, r|dd|ng |t ot snar|s
and tang|os wh||o wondor|ng how l shou|d woar |t-
know|ng A|r|k ||kos to soo |t |ott |ong and |ooso, t|ow|ng
|n sott go|don wavos that ta|| around my shou|dors and
tumb|o to my wa|st, but know|ng that as tar as tho
marr|ago |s concornod, |t wou|d probab|y bo tar moro
appropr|ato to woar |t bra|dod or p|nnod |n somo
comp||catod mannor-whon l hoar a knock at tho door
and qu|ck|y movo to answor |t, hop|ng |t's tho ma|d
and that sho's good w|th ha|r too.
3aro|y hav|ng a chanco to movo past tho dross|ng
tab|o whon l soo sho's |ot horso|t |n. And, tar trom tho
|ady's ma|d l was oxpoct|ng, l t|nd my cous|n Esmo
|nstoad.
°Wo||, wo||.' |or br||||ant groon oyos burn upon
m|no. 1ak|ng mo |n w|th a gazo so soar|ng, so hato
t|||od and angry, |t takos a momont tor mo to gathor
myso|t, got my boar|ngs. °lt sooms tho rumor |s truo.
1ust |ook at you stand|ng thoro, baro|y c|othod.' 3ho
c|ucks hor tonguo |n d|sgust. °You roa||y aro p|ann|ng
to o|opo w|th h|m, aron't you?'
°Who to|d you?' l domand, soo|ng no roason to
dony |t. 3ho knows what sho knows. 3oos what sho
soos. 1ho story |s c|oar.
°0oos |t mattor?' 3ho archos hor brow and roams
around tho room, survoy|ng tho p|aco and ovoryth|ng
|n |t as though sho has somo sort ot porsona| c|a|m to
|t. 1ak|ng a momont to appra|so a p|cturo, stra|ghton
|ts tramo, botoro t|x|ng horso|t at tho odgo ot tho
rump|od, unmado bod whoro hor oyos cont|nuo to
b|azo as hor sma|| p|nk mouth pu||s |nto a t|ght angry
trown.
°lt mattors,' l say. °ln tact, l oxpoct |t w||| mattor vory
much to A|r|k. l'm suro ho'd ||ko noth|ng moro than to
know tho namo ot tho ono who botrayod h|m.'
3ho cont|nuos to g|aro at tho bod botoro cast|ng hor
gazo my way, say|ng, °Wo||, |n that caso, |t was
||ona.' 3ho ||tts hor shou|dors, oas||y g|v|ng hor s|stor,
my cous|n, away. °You know sho's had hor oyo on
Vastor lhys tor somo t|mo now, and so sho mado
suro to botr|ond h|s |atost domost|c conquost. 3omo
datt ||tt|o da|ryma|d trom what l hoar. lt was qu|to cratty
ot ||ona, l must say, and sho d|d manago to |oarn a||
sho cou|d.' 3ho qu|rks hor mouth to tho s|do, as
though sho t|nds |t a|| torr|b|y amus|ng, but not
somoth|ng sho protors to dwo|| on tor |ong. °Anyway,
as |t turns out, our doar lhys ||kos to ta|k |n h|s .
s|oop . so to spoak, or at |oast accord|ng to h|s
|atost bodmato. And so, ||ona, bo|ng tho good s|stor
sho |s, cou|dn't wa|t to t||| mo |n on your vory happy
nows. Ot courso l d|dn't bo||ovo hor at t|rst. You'|| havo
to torg|vo mo, Ado||na, but tho thought ot you and A|r|k
togothor |s s|mp|y |ud|crous, now, |sn't |t?'
3ho |ooks at mo, hor oyos t|ash|ng as though sho
tu||y oxpocts mo to nod my agroomont, and whon l
don't, whon l just cont|nuo to stand botoro hor w|th my
mouth gr|m, oyos narrowod, and arms to|dod botoro
mo, sho s|ghs and says, °3ut tho way sho |ns|stod,
wo||, l doc|dod to como soo tor myso|t. 3ut a|| l soo
horo |s ono vory mussod bod and ono vory sad, vory
pathot|c, |ncrod|b|y na|vo g|r| who sooms to havo ta||on
tor tho o|dost tr|ck |n tho book.' 3ho shakos hor hoad
and tsks, hor tonguo ropoatod|y tapp|ng tho root ot hor
mouth. °loa||y, Ado||na, just how pathot|c aro you?
G|ad|y torto|t|ng your v|rtuo w|th tho ta|so prom|so ot a
r|ng on your t|ngor. A r|ng that, l'vo no doubt, A|r|k
novor |ntondod to g|vo you.' 3ho s|ants hor oyos and
|ooks mo ovor. °lot a vory smart movo, cous|n. lot
smart at a||. You do roa||zo you havo w||||ng|y, stup|d|y,
ru|nod yourso|t tor good. You'ro spo||od. Usod up. lo
ono w||| ovor want to marry you onco tho word gots
out. |o||, you'|| bo |ucky |t that |ovos|ck |oath w||| havo
anyth|ng to do w|th you. lobody onjoys d|pp|ng |nto
soconds, cous|n, |t you know what l moan?'
°You nood to |oavo.' l stra|ghton my back, squaro
my shou|dors, hav|ng hoard onough ot hor |nsu|ts, and
not want|ng A|r|k to roturn and t|nd us ||ko th|s. 1horo's
no to|||ng what ho m|ght do.
3ut Esmo w||| havo nono ot |t. 3ho's not go|ng
anywhoro. 3ho roma|ns rootod |n p|aco, ||ps cur||ng
|nto a sardon|c sm||o that portoct|y matchos tho |ook |n
hor oyos.
°You nood to |oavo now, botoro tho ma|d gots horo
and botoro A|r|k roturns,' l say, hop|ng that'|| bo
onough to conv|nco hor.
3ut sho just scotts. °Oh, no nood to worry about
that.' 3ho chocks hor na||s, runs a hand ovor hor co|t
ot rod ha|r. °1ho ma|d won't bo gott|ng horo anyt|mo
soon, |t ovor. |rom what l hoar |t sooms sho's had a
||tt|o dotour. And as tor A|r|k.'
l swa||ow. |o|d my broath. Wa|t. A horr|b|o too||ng
croop|ng ovor mo, know|ng botoro sho can say |t, that
sho's dono somoth|ng bad, tound a way to thwart a||
our p|ans.
|or words cont|rm|ng my worst susp|c|ons whon
sho says, °l oxpoct tho k|ng |s g|v|ng h|m a storn
ta|k|ng-to now. 3orry to broak |t to you, Ado||na, but |t
sooms that your ||tt|o socrot |s out, and as tor your
morrlogo, |t sooms that |t's ovor botoro |t cou|d start.'
l turn away. 3trugg|o to broatho. |av|ng no |doa how
to rospond to anyth|ng sho just sa|d. l shou|d'vo
known. 3hou|d'vo known |t was too good to bo truo.
3hou|d'vo known Esmo wou|d t|nd a way to bargo |n,
|ntortoro, |t's what sho's bost known tor.
°1ho on|y quost|on that roma|ns now |s what w|||
bocomo ot you?' 3ho movos unt|| hor oyos t|nd m|no,
hor gazo botray|ng hor words. 1horo's no ca|cu|at|ng,
no pondor|ng, sho knows oxact|y why sho's como,
what sho p|ans to do, and has no |ntont|on ot |oav|ng
unt|| sho soos |t a|| tho way through.
|or oyos narrow|ng, g||ston|ng as sho ra|sos hor
arms, roachos boh|nd hor, and socuros hor hood up
ovor hor hoad.
|or b|ack vo|vot c|oak an oxact rop||ca ot tho ono |n
my droams.
1ho ono l m|stook as a moro symbo| ot doath.
lovor onco th|nk|ng that l shou|d tako |t ||tora||y.
lovor onco th|nk|ng |t wou|d bo tho |ast th|ng l'd soo
botoro my who|o wor|d droppod out trom undor mo.

l am co|d.
|urt|ng.
Vy on|y sourco ot warmth com|ng trom a tra|| ot
somoth|ng s||ppory that stroams down my taco,
caus|ng my oyos to burn and st|ng and a coppory
tasto to |o|| ovor my tonguo.
3|ood.
Vy b|ood.
lt must bo. Esmo novor had a chanco to shod any.
3ho was too qu|ck. 1oo tocusod. 1oo suro ot hor
|ntont. And l was wootu||y unproparod to hand|o hor.
0osp|to bo|ng warnod by tho droam, l novor stood a
chanco.
lovor |mag|nod sho'd bo tho ono to br|ng mo my
doath.
And now, attor arrang|ng |t to |ook ||ko an acc|dont,
sho's gono.
loav|ng mo to ta|| doopor and doopor |nto a novor-
ond|ng poo| ot b|acknoss.
¯ ¯ ¯
l can hoar h|s vo|co dr|tt|ng trom m||os away.
1ho sound garb|od, d|stortod, as though travo||ng
trom tho dopths ot a vory doop soa, as though
grapp||ng tor tho surtaco, grapp||ng tor mo.
And though l want moro than anyth|ng to nod
v|gorous|y, to wavo my arms, to shout out |oud and
c|oar that l'vo hoard h|m, roco|vod h|s mossago, that
l'm awaro that ho's noar-l can't soom to manago
thoso th|ngs.
l can't soo. Can't movo. Can't spoak.
lt's ||ko l'm a|roady |ockod |n my cott|n, bur|od a||vo,
awaro ot what goos on a|| around mo, but unab|o to
part|c|pato.
3trugg||ng w|th a|| ot my m|ght to hang onto h|s
words, h|s prosonco, to t|nd a way to roach h|m botoro
l'm gono tor good.
|o |s trant|c, mourntu|, dospondont, and str|ckon
whon ho cr|os, °Who has dono th|s to hor? l w||| k|||
thom!' |o||owod by a |ong stroam ot throats that spow
torth trom h|s ||ps, paus|ng ovory now and thon to
a|tornato botwoon bogg|ng tavors ot God and
domand|ng to know why that samo God has
bosoochod h|m-robbod h|m ot h|s ono and on|y
chanco at truo |ovo.
°lt appoars to bo an acc|dont,' says a vo|co l
|nstant|y rocogn|zo as bo|ong|ng to lhys. And l can't
ho|p but roco||, can't ho|p but hopo aga|nst hopo that |t
wasn't h|s hand l just to|t at my brow.
°Got away trom hor! 0on't touch hor!' A|r|k cr|os.
°1h|s |s your tau|t-you and your b|g mouth. 0amn you,
brothor! look what you'vo dono!'
°Vo?' lhys |aughs, a doop|y sarcast|c sound. °|ow
cou|d l poss|b|y havo causod th|s whon l'vo on|y just
arr|vod?'
l stra|n to hoar, wondor|ng |t A|r|k suspocts tho truth,
that |t's Esmo, h|s botrothod, who |ott mo ||ko th|s.
Vy hopos crash|ng whon ho says, °lt you hadn't to|d
|athor, l wou|dn't havo boon do|ayod. l wou|d havo
boon horo to savo hor trom . trom th|s . ío||.' |o
shuddors, h|s hand qu|vor|ng, broath ||ko a sob. °1h|s
novor wou|d'vo happonod, |t |t wasn't tor you.'
°3rothor, p|oaso. Got aho|d ot yourso|t. Why wou|d l
do th|s whon l havo as much to |oso as you do?'
lhys's vo|co roma|ns stoady, t|rm, a cruo| contrast to
h|s brothor's novor-ond|ng sorrow, h|s doop-soatod
gr|ot.
°You havon't |ost anyth|ng,' A|r|k says, h|s words just
baro|y aud|b|o. °You can havo tho crown-l don't want
|t. You aro troo to marry Esmo, as wo||-l cou|dn't
stand to |ook at hor now. lt |s l who havo |ost. l'vo |ost
ovoryth|ng-tho on|y th|ng that's ovor moant anyth|ng
to mo . Ado||na,' ho wh|spors, t|ngors smooth|ng my
brow, my chook, tra|||ng down to my nock, whoro thoy
pauso, ||ngor, h|s vo|co p|oad|ng whon ho adds,
°Ado||na, wbyº Why has th|s happonod? Why aro you
|oav|ng mo?'
Bocooso oí tbo oroom, l try to say, but no words w|||
como, so l concontrato on th|nk|ng |t |nstoad. l trloo to
woro yoo, trloo to proporo yoo, bot yoo brosboo lt
owoy .
°Oh, Ado||na, you saw th|s, d|dn't you? You tr|od to
warn mo |ast n|ght whon you woko trom your
n|ghtmaro, but l on|y wantod to sootho you, l rotusod to
||ston.'
|or a momont, l to|t myso|t dr|tt|ng, |os|ng my gr|p,
but whon ho just spoko, h|s words ocho|ng my own,
somoth|ng doop |ns|do ot mo jorkod to attont|on.
Llo bo . ls lt posslb|o tbot bo somobow booro
moº 5oosoo tbo tboogbts l wos sooolog to blmº
A|rlk! A|rlk, coo yoo boor moº P|ooso koow tbot l
|ovo yoo. l concontrato on tho words, concontrato w|th
a|| ot my m|ght, a|| that |s |ott. Wondor|ng, hop|ng that
ho'|| sonso thoso words too. l bovo o|woys |ovoo yoo.
l o|woys wl|| |ovo yoo. Notblog coo koop os oport, oot
ovoo my oootb.
°l |ovo yoo, Ado||na,' ho wh|spors, ono hand at my
brow, tho othor ontw|nod w|th m|no, trant|ca||y push|ng
somo coo|, round p|oco ot mota|, what cou|d on|y bo
my wodd|ng band, onto my t|ngor. °l havo a|ways |ovod
you, l a|ways w||| |ovo you. You w||| a|ways ||vo |n my
hoart . you w||| a|ways bo my br|do.' ||s vo|co
broaks, as a t|ood ot trosh toars ra|n onto my taco.
¼o||, bow oboot tbotº l th|nk, w||||ng a sm||o but not
qu|to succood|ng. l'm |mmob||o, |ockod |n, and yot, wo
havo tbls-tho thoughts that stroam botwoon us.
l'm just about to attompt |t aga|n, oagor to |ot h|m
know that a|| |s not |ost, that l'm not gono yot, that a
g||mmor ot mo st||| ox|sts, whon l hoar a rush ot hoavy
tootstops to||owod by |oath's vo|co say|ng, °1ho
doctor |s horo.'
1ho noxt tow momonts aro spont pok|ng, prodd|ng,
and too||ng tor a pu|so so ta|nt tho doctor noar|y
m|ssos |t. ||s vo|co gravo, h|s prognos|s gr|m, h|s
t|na| pronouncomont tho |ast th|ng A|r|k wants to hoar.
l am not |ong tor th|s wor|d.
3ut A|r|k won't accopt |t. °1horo aro othor ways,' ho
|ns|sts. °l havo monoy. lots and |ots ot monoy. You
can havo my ont|ro tortuno, whatovor you want-just
br|ng hor back to mo. l'vo hoard tho rumors, l know
about tho o||x|rs, tho socrot pot|ons and ton|cs-tho
spoc|a| brow that curos a|| |||s, oxtond|ng ||to tor an
|ndot|n|to amount ot t|mo.'
°l know noth|ng about that,' tho doctor |ns|sts, h|s
tono sharp, roso|uto. °And, l assuro you that ovon |t l
d|d, that |s noth|ng you want to p|ay w|th. l am sorry tor
your |oss, tru|y l am. 3ut th|s |s tho natura| ordor ot
th|ngs and you must t|nd a way to mako poaco w|th |t.'
°l w||| not!' A|r|k shouts. And |t l cou|d soo h|m, wo||
l'm suro l'd t|nd h|s taco as stony and co|d as h|s vo|co
just rosonatod. °Whoro thoro |s ||to, thoro |s hopo, and
you know |t! What k|nd ot doctor aro you |t you do not
bo||ovo that to bo truo? l w||| novor mako my poaco
w|th tut|||ty whon thoro aro othor opt|ons st||| |ott to
oxp|oro. l havo monoy, no oxponso w||| bo sparod-do
you hoar mo? You cannot say no to mo! 0on't you
know who l am?'
lt goos on ||ko that, A|r|k o||c|t|ng a |ong stroam ot
throats l'm suro ho has no p|ans to mako good on. lt's
tho ramb||ngs ot a man dr|von mad w|th gr|ot, and
tortunato|y tho doctor rocogn|zos that.
||s words compass|onato, torg|v|ng yot t|rm whon
ho says, °A|r|k, m'|ord, wh||o l am tru|y sorry tor your
|oss, l havo dono a|| that l can. low l bog ot you to
koop hor comtortab|o, to say your good-byos, and to
|ot hor pass oas||y, pa|n|oss|y, w|th no turthor outbursts
trom you. l|oaso, A|r|k. lt you |ovo hor as much as you
c|a|m, thon |ot hor go |n poaco.'
°Out! OU7!' |s A|r|k's on|y rop|y. |o||owod by tho
pross ot h|s ||ps on my chook, a rush ot words
wh|sporod |nto my t|osh. Our pa|ms prossod togothor
as ho uttors a str|ng ot prayors, p|oas, quost|ons,
rocr|m|nat|ons, and throats, thon roturn|ng to prayors
and bog|nn|ng a|| ovor aga|n.
1ho ||tany brokon on|y by |oath's qu|ot vo|co
say|ng, °3|r, m'|ord, l know somoono who may ottor
tho sort ot ass|stanco you sook.'
A|r|k stops, st|||s, and asks, °Who?'
°A woman who ||vos just outs|do tho v|||ago. l'vo
hoard rumors. Can't say tor suro |t thoy'ro truo. 1hough
|t m|ght bo worth a try.'
°3r|ng hor,' A|r|k says, bury|ng h|s taco |nto tho
ho||ow whoro my nock moots my shou|dor. °Go. |otch
hor. 3r|ng hor to mo.'

l must'vo ta||on |nto an ovon doopor stato ot
unconsc|ousnoss bocauso tho noxt th|ng l know moro
poop|o havo jo|nod mo. And trom tho sound ot tho|r
vo|cos l'm guoss|ng thom to bo A|r|k, |oath, an o|dor
toma|o whom l assumo |s tho ono |oath was sont to
totch, and two youngor toma|o vo|cos that probab|y
bo|ong to hor daughtors, or appront|cos, or both.
°You must know r|ght up tront that thoro |s no
guarantoo. 1h|s |s on|y to bo tr|od as an abso|uto |ast
rosort,' tho o|dor toma|o vo|co says.
°0oos |t |ook ||ko l havo othor opt|ons?' A|r|k cr|os,
tootor|ng on tho odgo ot hystor|a.
°lt workod on a cat. 3rought h|m r|ght back. |o wont
on to ||vo tor anothor tu|| yoar,' ono ot tho youngor
toma|o vo|cos cuts |n. °3ut tho |ast human who drank,
wo||, |t d|dn't go ovor so wo||.'
°What doos that moan? What doos sho moan?'
A|r|k |s trant|c.
°lt moans ho d|od |n sp|to ot |t,' tho o|dor woman
says. °|o cou|d not bo savod. lot ovoryono can.'
°Ado||na's not just anyono. 3ho's young, boaut|tu|, |n
good hoa|th. lt w||| work tor hor-you w||| mako suro
that |t doos!' A|r|k domands.
°l w||| try. 1hat |s a|| l can prom|so. l'vo rocont|y usod
|t on myso|t-just s|x months ago whon l to|| ||| tho dr|nk
curod mo, brought mo back trom tho br|nk so qu|ck|y |t
was as |t |t novor happonod. 3t|||, ||ko l sa|d, thoro aro
no guarantoos.'
°3o what aro you wa|t|ng tor? G|vo |t to hor a|roady!
|urry, botoro |t's too |ato!'
3ho movos toward mo. l too| tho warmth ot hor body
s|d||ng up bos|do mo. |or t|ngors s||d|ng undor my
nock, cupp|ng tho back ot my hoad, br|ng|ng mo to hor
as sho prossos somoth|ng hard and co|d to my mouth.
Urg|ng a coo| b|ttor ||qu|d to s||p past my ||ps and ovor
my tonguo, unt|| |t s|nks down my throat and l do what l
can to strugg|o aga|nst |t. 3ut |t's no uso, l can't t|ght |t.
l'm |mmob||o, para|yzod, my thoughts |ockod |ns|do,
and l'vo no way to to|| thom to stop-|t's a wasto ot
tho|r ottort.
lt's too |ato.
lt won't work.
Vy onorgy |s gathor|ng, compross|ng, shr|nk|ng
down |nto a sma|| v|brat|ng sphoro ot co|or and ||ght.
lropar|ng to r|so and ||tt-to dr|tt r|ght out ot tho
contor-most part ot my sca|p, what's ca||od tho crown,
and morgo |nto whatovor |t |s that ||os just boyond.
1hoy cont|nuo to tuss a|| around mo, vo|cos
c|amor|ng, hands prodd|ng-mak|ng |t c|oar that l'm
tho on|y ono awaro ot tho tact that l'm c|oso to bo|ng
gono.
1h|s ||to |s ond|ng.
l won't bo roturn|ng-or at |oast not |n th|s torm.
Vy tormor|y s|ght|oss oyos suddon|y t|||od w|th a
v|s|on ot a boaut|tu| go|don vo|| l can't wa|t to morgo
|nto. 3t|||, l stra|n to ho|d on tor just a tow soconds
moro-l nood to roach A|r|k, nood to conv|nco h|m that
|t w||| a|| bo a|| r|ght.
Vy tonguo b|ttor w|th tho uso|oss concoct|on thoy
|ns|st on tood|ng mo. Wast|ng proc|ous t|mo,
choos|ng to tocus on absurd|t|os whon thoro aro tar
moro |mportant th|ngs.
A|rlk! l concontrato on h|s namo w|th ovory |ast
ounco ot my bo|ng. A|rlk, p|ooso, coo yoo boor moº
3ut my p|oa ta||s on doat oars. |o m|ssos |t ont|ro|y.
||s attont|on |s c|a|mod by h|s gr|ot.
And now |t's too |ato.
l can't |gnoro tho pu||. Can no |ongor t|ght |t. 0on't
want to t|ght |t. And so l hoavo my |ast broath and
a||ow myso|t to soar. |ovor|ng up noar tho co|||ng as l
gazo down upon tho scono, soo|ng |oath drown|ng |n
angu|sh w|th h|s hoad bowod |ow, tho o|dor toma|o st|||
tood|ng mo tho o||x|r, wh||o hor two young appront|cos,
who boar such a str|k|ng rosomb|anco l'm suro thoy'ro
hor daughtors, hovor ovor mo, wh|spor|ng a |ong str|ng
ot words l cannot doc|phor. And t|na||y, A|r|k, my doar
A|r|k-trant|ca||y grasp|ng tho hand that boars my
wodd|ng band, tut||o|y soarch|ng tor s|gns ot a ||to that
no |ongor ox|sts.
lott|ng out a b|oodcurd||ng how| whon ho roa||zos
tho truth.
Vy body's boon roducod to an unoccup|od sho||.
Vy sou| has boon trood.
|o ompt|os tho room, want|ng to bo a|ono w|th h|s
gr|ot. 1hon numbod, brokon, comp|oto|y dotoatod, ho
throws h|s body ovor mo. ||s ||ps sook|ng my mouth,
dosporato to br|ng mo back, unab|o to accopt what ho
knows doop down |ns|do to bo truo.
3o |ost |n h|s sorrow ho has no |doa that l knoo| r|ght
bos|do h|m, |ong|ng to roach h|m. 0osporato to
assuro h|m ot a truth ho cou|dn't ovon bog|n to
|mag|no-that l havon't gono anywhoro-that l'|| novor
tru|y |oavo h|m-that tho body may w|thor, but my sou|,
just ||ko tho |ovo that wo sharo, novor d|os.
3ut |t's no uso. |o's shut down. Unab|o to hoar mo.
Unab|o to sonso mo.
Conv|ncod that ho now wa|ks a|ono |n tho wor|d.
And |t's not |ong botoro l too| tho pu|| aga|n. 1h|s
t|mo so strong thoro |s no way to oscapo |t.
Yank|ng mo away trom A|r|k, out ot tho |odgo, and
|nto tho sky. 3ond|ng mo sp|nn|ng, soar|ng, rac|ng
through tho c|ouds, t|y|ng ovor mounta|n poaks,
poor|ng down upon an oarth so d|ttoront trom tho way l
usod to soo |t, bocom|ng a p|aco whoro ovoryth|ng
sh|mmors, whoro ovoryth|ng v|bratos and g|ows.
1ho truth ot our ox|stonco so c|oar|y rovoa|od, l can't
|mag|no why l ta||od to soo |t botoro.
Evory ||v|ng th|ng, trom p|ants, to an|ma|s, to tho vory
poop|o who popu|ato tho p|anot-aro a|| connoctod to
oach othor.
Wo aro a|| ono.
And though wo may pass |n and out ot ox|stonco,
our sou|s, our onorgy, our ossonco, novor tado.
Wo aro |nt|n|to bo|ngs-ovory |ast ono.
1ho roa||zat|on dawn|ng ||ko a ||ghtn|ng bo|t
crash|ng ovorhoad, and l |nst|nct|vo|y know th|s |s lt.
1h|s |s what l'm supposod to |oarn.
1h|s |s what l must novor a||ow myso|t to torgot, no
mattor what happons trom th|s momont on.
And thon, botoro tho noxt thought can torm, l p|orco
through tho boaut|tu| sh|mmor|ng go|don vo|| ot ||ght
and t|nd myso|t r|ght back |n a p|aco l |nstant|y
rocogn|zo.

l |and on tho r|vorbank. land w|th a thud.
1oos caught |n tho wator, butt caught |n tho sand-
tho ovonts ot a ||tot|mo, my t|rst ||tot|mo, st||| sw|r||ng
through my hoad.
Awaro ot a sott rust||ng sound com|ng trom
somowhoro boh|nd, l turn to soo hor sm|||ng as sho
makos hor approach, ottors an o|d gnar|od hand, and
ho|ps mo to my toot.
Vy ||ps part|ng as a s|ow ot quost|ons rush torth, a||
ot that ha|tod whon lotus shakos hor hoad, p|acos hor
hand on my arm, and says, °You havo d|scovorod tho
truth.'
l nod, c||ng|ng to what l now know, what l must
a|ways romombor, novor torgot, but at th|s oxact
momont, l'm burdonod w|th moro pross|ng concorns.
°And 0amon?' l ask, my vo|co botray|ng my anx|oty.
°Whoro |s ho?'
3ho |owors hor ||ds tor a momont as though
watch|ng a scono that p|ays doop w|th|n, ||tt|ng thom
aga|n whon sho says, °|o st||| has much to soo. Vuch
to |oarn. |or h|m, |t's not ovor. lot yot anyway.'
3ho mot|ons toward tho r|vor, and l to||ow tho t||t ot
hor t|ngor. Watch|ng tho curront sw|r| and chango unt||
|t smooths out aga|n and tho romnants ot tho scono l
just |ott aro rot|octod upon |t. 3how|ng A|r|k's ||to st||| |n
progross, show|ng h|m consumod by a novor-ond|ng
gr|ot.
|o |s brokon, dotoatod, wrockod to tho coro, so
groat|y m|sgu|dod a|| ho can manago |s to sook
rovongo tor my doath. |av|ng no |doa Esmo causod
|t, ho's oagor to p|aco tho b|amo on somoono,
anyono, u|t|mato|y soo|ng that tho woman trom tho
v|||ago, a|ong w|th hor two young appront|cos, aro
chargod w|th doa||ng |n w|tchcratt and mag|ck and put
to tho|r doaths. 3oon ta|||ng |nto an ovon doopor
dospa|r whon tho act ot h|s vongoanco br|ngs no
sonso ot poaco, no sonso ot rodompt|on. |a||s to
componsato tor h|s |oss. |a||s to br|ng mo back to
h|m.
1ho rost ot h|s ||to ||vod |n a tog ot |ost pass|ons and
thwartod droams, h|s torvor and t|ght bur|od r|ght
a|ong w|th my body. |o goos through tho mot|ons,
doos what's oxpoctod, sott||ng |nto tho path ot |oast
ros|stanco, sott||ng |nto tho ||to h|s tathor had p|annod.
Varr|os Esmo.
C|a|ms tho crown.
Each pass|ng day caus|ng h|s hoart to hardon and
shr|nk |nto a sma|| b|ttor stono.
lot dar|ng to bo||ovo ho'|| ovor soo mo aga|n.
lot dar|ng to bo||ovo |n anyth|ng, ovor aga|n.
And |t broaks my hoart to watch |t, to watch h|m
ovontua||y brought down |n a rovo|t socrot|y stagod by
a brothor turnod aga|nst h|m. lhys u|t|mato|y marry|ng
||ona, Esmo's s|stor, on|y to t|nd ho can't soom to
stop |ong|ng tor Esmo, tho ono woman who w||| novor
bo h|s.
1ho tour ot thom trappod |n tho|r own pr|vato ho||,
unab|o to t|nd a way out.
|av|ng no way to know what l'vo |oarnod: Whon wo
harm ono anothor, wo a|so harm ourso|vos.
°A|r|k |s 0amon.' l sw|tch my gazo trom tho wator to
lotus, surpr|sod to hoar myso|t say |t, but know|ng |t's
truo. °And lhys |s loman, |oath |s 1udo, tho v|||ago
woman |s Ava, hor appront|cos aro tho tw|ns lomy
and layno, ||ona |s |avon, Esmo |s 0r|na.' Oí
coorso. l trown and ro|| my oyos. °And tho doctor? 0o l
know h|m?' 3ut botoro l can t|n|sh tho sontonco, l
koow. °1ho doctor |s V||os.' l shako my hoad, a||ow a
sma|| |augh, thon l add, °1ho on|y roasonab|o ono |n
tho group. 1ho on|y ono who wantod noth|ng to do w|th
myst|ca| curos.'
3|gh|ng whon l roa||zo wo'vo a|roady dono th|s,
contur|os oar||or-on|y to ta|| |nto a s|m||ar trap, ropoat
a modorn-day vors|on ot a noar|y |dont|ca| ox|stonco.
G|anc|ng at tho r|vor, watch|ng |t c|oar, tho |magos
qu|ck|y tad|ng whon l say, °|ow d|d wo not know th|s?
Why do wo koop mak|ng tho samo stup|d m|stakos
ovor and ovor aga|n?'
|ac|ng lotus, hor gazo narrow|ng |n a way that sots
ott a r|ot ot wr|nk|os that tan o|thor s|do ot hor oyos.
|or vo|co |ow and gravo, sho says, °lt |s tho p||ght ot
man. And wh||o tho b|amo ||os part|y on tho r|vor,' sho
gosturos toward tho sw|tt|y mov|ng dark wators botoro
us, °most ot tho b|amo ||os on man's |nc||nat|on to tuno
|nto tho no|so that b|aros a|| around h|m, |nstoad ot tho
boaut|tu| s||onco that ||os doop w|th|n.'
l gazo out at tho r|vor, turn|ng hor words around |n
my hoad, roa||z|ng how thoy m|rror ovoryth|ng l just
|oarnod. Wo spond our ||vos gott|ng caught up |n a||
tho wrong th|ngs-|od astray by our m|nds, our ogos,
soo|ng ourso|vos as soparato trom oach othor, rathor
than ||ston|ng to tho truth that ||os w|th|n our own
hoarts, tho truth that wo aro a|| connoctod, wo aro a|| |n
|t togothor.
°1ho un|vorso |s pat|ont,' sho says. °lrov|d|ng
mu|t|p|o opportun|t|os tor us to |oarn, to got |t r|ght,
wh|ch |s why wo ro|ncarnato.'
°3o, |t's truo thon. 0amon and l ||vod botoro as
Ado||na and A|r|k.' l g|anco at hor, soo|ng hor nod |n
cont|rmat|on. °And l'm assum|ng ho d|od |n that ||to-a
morta| doath?' Vy oyos grazo ovor hor s||vor ha|r,
down to tho |ong wh|to tun|c st|tchod w|th go|d, a|| tho
way down to hor surpr|s|ng|y baro toot, though |t's a
momont botoro l not|co that tho cano sho usod tho |ast
t|mo l saw hor |s gono. 3ho |s ab|o to stand on hor
own.
°Oh yos,' sho says. °|o |s caught |n |t now. lo||v|ng
tho momont. 1hough |t shou|d bo ovor soon.'
l pross my ||ps togothor and t|dd|o w|th tho hom ot
my 1-sh|rt, th|nk|ng |t ovor. |av|ng no roason not to
bo||ovo hor, but st|||, thoro's somoth|ng that doosn't
mako any sonso, somoth|ng sho noods to oxp|a|n.
°3ut |t that's a|| truo, thon why |s |t that no|thor ot us
saw that ||to whon wo d|od and wont to tho
3hadow|and? And why d|dn't 1udo soo |t on any ot h|s
tr|ps to tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng? l'm sorry, lotus,
but dosp|to how roa| |t a|| soomod, |t just doosn't mako
any sonso.'
3ut dosp|to my vo|co r|s|ng at tho ond, dosp|to my
gott|ng moro than a ||tt|o caught up |n my own
argumont, lotus roma|ns ca|m, sorono, comp|oto|y
unrutt|od whon sho says, °You aro tam|||ar w|th tho
say|ng, 'Whon tho studont |s roady tho toachor
appoars'?'
l nod, romombor|ng how 1udo onco sa|d |t to mo.
°lt |s tho samo w|th know|odgo. 1ho truth |s rovoa|od
whon you aro roady to roco|vo |t, whon you nood |t |n
ordor to movo torward, to tako tho noxt stop |n your
journoy, to movo on toward your dost|ny. You woro not
|n nood ot that know|odgo botoro, nor woro you roady
tor |t. And thus you saw on|y that wh|ch you noodod to
know and not a s|ng|o th|ng moro. 3ut now that you
aro roady tho know|odgo was rovoa|od. Each stop
|oads us to tho noxt. lt |s as s|mp|o as that. And tho
samo goos tor 0amon and 1udo.'
°And what about 1udo? ls ho st||| stuck |n that
||tot|mo too?'
lotus nods. |or gazo taraway whon sho says,
°1udo has h|s own journoy. You may not soo h|m tor a
wh||o. 1hough you w||| soo h|m aga|n. lot to worry.'
Vy gazo |ands on tho r|vor, not|c|ng |t's grown
darkor, murk|or, and g|ad to bo stand|ng sato|y on |ts
banks rathor than c|osor to |ts shoro. °3o |s th|s |t
thon?' l turn to taco hor. °ls th|s tho journoy? ls |t ovor-
havo l comp|otod what you'vo askod mo to do?'
lotus shakos hor hoad, thoso rhoumy o|d oyos
moot|ng m|no. °1hat was moro|y tho bog|nn|ng, tho
t|rst tost ot many. Vuch ||os ahoad. You havo moro to
d|scovor.'
And botoro l can ask what that moans, botoro l can
ask hor to c|ar|ty tor mo, tho ground bog|ns to shako,
tho r|vor bog|ns to s|osh and bu|go, as tho oarth
bonoath my toot bog|ns to sh|tt and soparato |n a way
that rom|nds mo ot my t|rst Ca||torn|a oarthquako.
l t|ght to |ocato my vo|co, t|ght to troo tho scroam
that st|cks at tho back ot my throat, whon lotus
d|sappoars-just s|mp|y ovaporatos-as a swo|| ot
rod tu||ps sprout up a|| around mo, tak|ng hor p|aco.
A s|gn that can on|y moan ono th|ng-0amon has
jo|nod mo.
|undrods ot tu||ps sont t|uttor|ng, tho|r sott pota|s
wh|spor|ng aga|nst h|m, as ho rushos ovor thom,
rushos toward mo-grasp|ng mo |nto h|s arms, ho
p|cks mo up ott my toot, tw|r|s mo a|| around, and
prossos h|s ||ps to my taco, my ha|r, my ||ps, my
chooks, thon starts tho procoss|on a|| ovor aga|n.
0osporato|y roassur|ng h|mso|t that l'm horo, that |t
roa||y |s mo-
Ado||na/Eva||no/Ab|ga||/Ch|oo/||our/Ema|a/Evor-h|s
|ovo ot so many ||tot|mos, boar|ng so many namos, but
bo|ng ot on|y ono sou| a|| tho samo. ||na||y mado
awaro ot tho truth, that l novor roa||y |ott h|m dosp|to
what ho may havo conv|ncod h|mso|t ot.
°Ado||na!' |o pausos, smooth|ng my ha|r trom my
taco, h|s oyos hungr||y roam|ng ovor mo, dr|nk|ng mo
|n, as ho |aughs, shakos h|s hoad, roa||zos ho's st|||
caught up |n tho past, and says, °Evor!' |o k|ssos mo
aga|n, ho|ds mo t|ght|y to h|m. °You woro r|ght. You
woro r|ght a|| a|ong. 1horo was a ||to botoro-an ont|ro
||tot|mo l novor cou|d'vo |mag|nod.' ||s oyos poro ovor
mo, st||| a b|t ovorcomo by what just transp|rod. °3ut
now that wo know, what do you supposo |t a|| moans?'
ho asks, a|most as though mus|ng to h|mso|t.
l throad my t|ngors through h|s ha|r, awaro that h|s
quost|on was moant to bo sor|ous, but oagor to oraso
any traco ot h|s ||ngor|ng gr|ot |n tavor ot a much
swootor momory.
°Wo||, tor ono th|ng, |t moans l wasn't o|woys a
v|rg|n.' l sm||o, romombor|ng tho boaut|tu| n|ght wo
spont togothor as A|r|k and Ado||na, and tho wondortu|
part ot tho morn|ng that to||owod.
Watch|ng as ho throws h|s hoad back and |aughs,
h|s hands c|asp|ng t|ghtor around my wa|st as ho
says, °low that's a momont l wou|dn't m|nd ro||v|ng |n
tho pav|||on.'
|o t|nds my ||ps aga|n, warm, doop, thon ho pu||s
away and says, °And 1udo?'
°1udo or |oath?' l ||tt a brow. °You do know thoy aro
ono and tho samo?'
|o nods, hav|ng t|gurod that out.
And not suro oxact|y wh|ch part ho wants mo to
oxp|a|n, l say, °|o |ns|stod on jo|n|ng mo, and tor
somo roason, lotus a||owod |t. 3a|d tho answors ho
sought wou|d bo tound thoro.'
°|o |ovod you thon too, d|dn't ho?' 0amon's mouth
pu||s down |nto a trown as h|s oyos staro |nto m|no.
l nod.
°And tho rost-d|d you soo |t? A|| ot |t?'
l tako a doop broath and nod aga|n.
0amon s|ghs, tr|os to turn, to pu|| away, but l won't
|ot h|m. l koop h|m c|utchod t|ght|y to mo.
||s oyos pu|||ng down at tho s|dos whon ho says,
°lo wondor 1udo koops roappoar|ng |n my ||to. |o's
try|ng to koop us apart, but not tor tho roason l thought.
|o must rocogn|zo mo, sonso who l am, knows
|nnato|y wbot l am. 1hat l |ator succoodod whoro l t|rst
ta||od, onsur|ng my own |mmorta||ty botoro go|ng attor
yours.' |o shakos h|s hoad. °A|| ot th|s t|mo, tor a|| ot
thoso ||tot|mos, w|thout ovon roa||z|ng |t, ho was try|ng
to stop mo, try|ng to savo you trom mo. ' |o rubs h|s
ch|n, |ooks at mo woar||y. °l thought l wou|d d|o trom
tho pa|n ot |os|ng you. l wantod to d|o. And trust mo
whon l say my doath d|d not como soon onough. l was
|ott ho||ow, a sho|| ot a man w|thout you.' |o swa||ows
hard, sw|pos a hand across h|s oyos. °|oath boggod
mo not to prosocuto aga|nst Ava and tho tw|ns, or
rathor tho poop|o thoy woro thon. And whon ho
cou|dn't chango my m|nd, ho boggod mo to tako h|m
|nstoad. |o novor torgavo h|mso|t tor br|ng|ng thom to
mo. lovor got ovor tho gu||t. |av|ng summonod thom
as much tor h|mso|t as ho d|d tor mo. |o cou|dn't boar
to |oso you. Wou|d do anyth|ng to koop you around
ovon |t |t moant hav|ng to watch you marry mo. 3ut,
whon you d|od |n sp|to ot our attompts, ho was qu|ck
to accopt what l stubborn|y ros|stod. What wo d|d was
wrong, unnatura|, somoth|ng bost not attomptod. |o
undorstood that, l d|d not. lo|thor |n that ||to, nor tho
ono that to||owod, whoro l ovontua||y tound a way to
t|n|sh what l'd startod.' |o shuttors h|s oyos, mus|ng at
tho to||y ot tho |ast sovora| hundrod yoars. °0|d you
soo tho rost ot h|s ||to? 0|d you soo what bocamo ot
h|m?'
l shako my hoad.
0amon s|ghs, h|s hands warm|ng my arms, gazo
d|stant whon ho says, °|o rotroatod somowhoro tar
away, d|od a|ono, st||| a ta|r|y young man. l'm atra|d my
karma |s moro ot a moss than l ovor cou|d'vo
guossod.'
lot know|ng what to say, l don't say anyth|ng, but
that's okay, s|nco 0amon spoaks |n my p|aco.
°3o what now? 0o wo wa|t horo-soo |t 1udo or
lotus roappoar? Vako our way back and try to mako
amonds tor tho doods ot pr|or ||vos wo can't roa||y
chango? lt's your ca||, Evor. Your dost|ny. Your journoy.
l won't doubt you aga|n.'
l |ook at h|m, moro than a ||tt|o shockod by h|s
words, know|ng how much ho ||kos bo|ng r|ght, bo|ng
|n chargo, most poop|o do.
3ut ho just ||tts h|s shou|dors and says, °lsn't that tho
who|o po|nt? lsn't that why you koop show|ng up |n my
||vos? 1o toach mo about gr|ot, to toach mo to too| |t,
to accopt |t, but to not try to outw|t |t. 1o |oad mo out ot
tho dark and |nto tho ||ght-to show mo tho roa| truth ot
our ox|stonco-that l'vo had |t wrong a|| a|ong-that
tho sou| |s tho on|y |mmorta| part ot us. lsn't that why a||
th|s has happonod, why you and l can't t|nd truo
happ|noss, why wo koop tac|ng obstac|os that aro
|mposs|b|o to surmount? lsn't th|s why wo t|nd
ourso|vos horo now, bocauso l got |t a|| wrong and
managod to moss up on such a co|ossa| sca|o?'
1ho s||onco gathors around us. 0amon absorbod
by h|s past, wh||o l'm |ott spooch|oss by h|s words.
Eagor to movo past |t, not want|ng to dwo|| horo tor
|ong, l'm just about to to|| h|m that l havo no |doa what
cou|d bo noxt, that h|s guoss |s as good as m|no,
whon l soo a sma|| boat anchorod by tho shoro,
anchorod r|ght a|ongs|do us. A boat that appoarod out
ot nowhoro, wasn't thoro |oss than a socond ago.
And know|ng thoro aro no acc|donts horo, no
co|nc|doncos ot any k|nd, l grasp h|s hand |n m|no,
and start |oad|ng h|m toward |t, say|ng, °l th|nk wo'ro
moant to go tor a sa||.'

l sott|o onto tho soat, busy|ng myso|t w|th roarrang|ng
tho vo|vot p|||ows at our backs as 0amon s||dos |n
bos|do mo. 1ho boat |s |ong, pa|ntod a dark g|ossy
rod w|th go|d ornato sw|r|s mark|ng |ts s|dos,
narrow|ng |nto a curv|ng crost at both tho tront and tho
back |n a way that rom|nds mo ot tho gondo|a 1udo
and l onco man|tostod |n tho 3ummor|and vors|on ot
von|co. 3ut w|th no oar, no motor, no way to stoor or
gu|do ourso|vos, wo'ro at tho morcy ot tho r|vor. lott
w|th no cho|co but to s|t back and hopo tor tho bost.
1ho boat pu||s away trom tho shoro, dr|tt|ng doopor
|nto tho wator just soconds attor wo board, to||ow|ng
tho curront, g|v|ng no h|nt as to what m|ght bo |n storo.
0amon s||dos a protoct|vo arm around mo as wo poor
at tho pass|ng sconory, tho way tho r|vor w|dons so
sw|tt|y |t's not |ong botoro wo'ro surroundod by noth|ng
but doop dark wator, tho banks wo onco stood upon
roducod to a s||m spock ot go|d on a d|stant hor|zon.
l |oan |nto 0amon, w|sh|ng l cou|d do somoth|ng,
say somoth|ng to oraso tho h|nt ot worry that p|ays at
h|s brow, to oaso tho rogrot that burdons h|s hoart.
3oo|ng tho way h|s oyos w|don, tho way ho s|ts up
h|ghor, on tu||-sca|o a|ort, as ho |ooks a|| around and
says, °lt's tho l|vor ot |orgottu|noss.'
l squ|nt, vaguo|y romombor|ng h|m mont|on|ng such
a p|aco onco botoro. 3ay|ng somoth|ng about tho sou|
tak|ng a tr|p down tho l|vor ot |orgottu|noss botoro
|t's roborn |nto tho noxt ||to. 1hat tho purposo ot that
part|cu|ar journoy |s so wo don't romombor what camo
botoro-that wo'ro not moant to romombor tho ||vos
wo'vo just ||vod-that oach |ncarnat|on ottors a now
journoy ot so|t-d|scovory, a chanco to r|ght our
prov|ous wrongs, to ba|anco our accumu|atod karma,
to t|nd now so|ut|ons to o|d prob|oms.
1hat ||to |s not moant to bo an opon-book tost.
lomombor|ng how lotus rocont|y sa|d somoth|ng
s|m||ar-that man's to||y, h|s ponchant tor mak|ng tho
samo m|stakos ovor and ovor aga|n, can bo b|amod
part|y on tho r|vor-and tak|ng that as proot that
0amon |s r|ght. lt's oxact|y what ho th|nks. 1hough |t's
anyono's guoss whoro |t w||| ond.
°Aro wo go|ng to ro||vo thom ?' 0amon asks,
vo|co botray|ng a doop-soatod ro|uctanco, boar|ng no
dos|ro to ovor rov|s|t thoso pa|ntu| oar|y days ho ||vod
back |n ||oronco, lta|y.
3ut botoro ho can got too boggod down |n tho
thought, l |ook at h|m and say, °lo. lt's a tost. Wo havo
to do whatovor wo can to not |ot ourso|vos torgot a||
that wo'vo |oarnod. lotus camo to mo just botoro you
arr|vod, sho sa|d know|odgo |s rovoa|od whon wo
nood |t, wh|ch moans wo nood to hang on to a|| wo just
saw. Wo can't torgot a s|ng|o momont. l'm protty suro
wo'ro gonna nood |t tor |ator.'
°lt's a |ot to hang on to.' |o trowns. °1ho r|vor |s
tr|cky. And othor than tho tact that l'vo mado a moss ot
tho |ast sovora| hundrod yoars-that l owo Ava and tho
tw|ns b|g t|mo tor tak|ng tho|r ||vos-what wou|d you
suggost l chooso to concontrato on? 1horo's a good
chanco that whon wo got ott th|s sh|p and go back to
our norma| ||vos wo won't romombor any ot tho th|ngs
wo'vo just oxpor|oncod.'
l stoa| a momont to gathor my rop|y, part|y bocauso
ho may not ||ko what l say, and part|y bocauso l'm st|||
amazod that ho's |ook|ng to mo tor tho answors.
1ak|ng a doop broath, vontur|ng a qu|ck |ook around,
botoro l roturn to h|m and say, °You nood to romombor
that tho sou| |s otorna|. 1hat |ovo novor d|os. And that
your ta||uro to roa||zo that, your attachmont to tho
phys|ca| wor|d |s what brought us both horo-brought
us both to th|s po|nt.'
1horo, l sa|d |t. lt's h|s tau|t. 3t|||, my vo|co boars no
b|amo. |o's not tho t|rst to mako that m|stako. As
lotus sa|d, |t's tho to||y ot man. 0amon's just ono ot
tho tow to actua||y succood at h|s attompt to thwart
phys|ca| doath-or at |oast tor a wh||o anyway.
°1hon |ator, whon wo got through th|s, and w|nd
up . wo||, whorovor wo'|| w|nd up, wo'|| nood to uso
that know|odgo to t|nd a way to rovorso what wo'vo
dono-tho m|stakos that wo'vo mado,' l add, tho
words com|ng so qu|ck|y and oas||y |t's as though thoy
omanato trom somo othor p|aco, but l know doop
down |ns|do, know |n my gut, that thoy'ro truo. °1hat's
my journoy.' l nod, suddon|y know|ng |t tor suro. °1hat's
tho truth l'm supposod to rovoa|. |ow?' l poor at h|m,
attompt|ng to answor tho quost|on that marks h|s
brow. °l'm not suro, but thoro's no doubt |n my m|nd
that |t's what l'm dost|nod to do.'
0amon |ooks at mo, toaturos hardonod, cont||ctod,
though st|ck|ng to h|s vow to to||ow my |oad.
And though l soarch tor a bottor argumont, a bottor
way to porsuado h|m that'|| oraso any ||ngor|ng doubts,
thoro's no t|mo to dwo||. lo t|mo to assuro h|m ot what
l know doop down |ns|do to bo truo.
lot w|th tho curront grow|ng sw|ttor.
lot w|th tho sky darkon|ng |n a way that |nstant|y
orasos tho hor|zon.
1ho ||no botwoon hoavon and oarth, wator and a|r,
up and down, suddon|y b|urrod. Catch|ng us |n a
sw|r||ng, wh|r||ng surgo ot roguo wavos, oach ono
b|ggor than tho ono that camo botoro, caus|ng tho
r|vor to oxpand and surgo, to r|pp|o and roar, unt|| a||
wo can do |s hang on to oach othor, to koop trom
go|ng ovorboard, caps|z|ng |nto tho wator.
1ho sky crack|ng opon w|th a rumb|o ot thundor so
|oud, wo sook sho|tor |n tho on|y p|aco |ott to us-oach
othor. 1ho two ot us tromb||ng undor a c|oudburst ot
ra|n-an unro|ont|ng monsoon-as groat bo|ts ot
||ghtn|ng str|ko down a|| around.
°Concontrato!' l cry, oyos squoozod shut aga|nst tho
downpour, my ||ps at h|s oar. °1h|s |s part ot tho tost,
hang on to tho past, rotuso to torgot, no mattor how
scary |t gots!'
lot qu|to suro whoro that camo trom, but aga|n,
sons|ng |t to bo truo. Know|ng t|rsthand tho m|ghty
powor ot toar, hav|ng boon ru|od by |t botoro.
lt's tho oppos|to ot ta|th.
1ho oppos|to ot trust|ng |n tho un|vorso.
1ho oppos|to ot bo||ov|ng |n ono's h|ghor so|t.
|oar |oavos you swoaty and shaky and |nsocuro
onough to quost|on ovoryth|ng you know to bo truo.
|oar makos you turn your back on what mattors
most.
losu|t|ng |n rash doc|s|ons, ta|so movos, and |ator,
tho unro|ont|ng burdon ot rogrot. And |t 0amon and l
aro to got through th|s, movo torward on our path, wo'||
havo to boat th|s r|vor and ovorcomo th|s storm by
do|ng whatovor |t takos to b|ock |t a|| out.
1ho wators cont|nuo to churn and d|p as tho boat
croaks and t||ts |n a torr|ty|ng way. 0amon and l
hudd|o togothor, c||ng|ng to our momor|os, c||ng|ng to
oach othor, as a bo|t ot ||ghtn|ng burns up tho bow,
cracks |t |n ha|t, and a||ows a torront ot wator to gush
|n. Caus|ng tho bottom to ta|| out trom tho wo|ght ot |t,
as tho r|vor r|sos to swa||ow us who|o.
1ho two ot us roach|ng, grasp|ng, t|ght|ng tor our
||vos, t|ght|ng to hang on to oach othor-but |t's no
uso.
Our sk|n |s too wot, too s||ppory, too s||ck to grab
ho|d ot.
And though l try to koop my oyo on 0amon, try to
dotorm|no tho d|roct|on trom wh|ch ho ca||s out my
namo, |t's too dark, too contus|ng, l'vo no sonso ot
t|mo or p|aco, no sonso ot up or down-and tho noxt
th|ng l know, l'm s|nk|ng.
lt's ovor.
1oo |ato.
1ho r|vor has c|a|mod mo.

l'm gagg|ng.
Gagg|ng on mud, and muck, and tota||y |cky bottom-
ot-tho-r|vor s|udgo. 3omoth|ng hard and mota|||c
c|ang|ng aga|nst my uppor mo|ars and t|oat|ng on my
tonguo-somoth|ng l'm dotorm|nod to r|d myso|t ot.
l push up onto my o|bows, and thon onto my knoos.
3a|ancod on a|| tours, l sp|t onto tho ground, scoop a
t|ngor around tho |ns|do ot my mouth, and r|d |t ot
rocks and dobr|s a|ong w|th a strango moda|||on that
pops out and dang|os botoro mo-hang|ng trom a
brown |oathor cord l woar at my nock.
l |oan back on my hoo|s, p|nch|ng tho p|oco
botwoon my torot|ngor and thumb as l poor at a sma||
s||vor c|rc|o ot a snako swa||ow|ng |ts own ta||.
1h|nk|ng |t cur|ous, moro than a ||tt|o |ntorost|ng, but
hav|ng no |doa whoro |t camo trom.
lo |doa why l t|nd myso|t woar|ng |t.
lo |doa what |t cou|d poss|b|y moan.
l ta|| back |n oxhaust|on, c|oso my oyos aga|nst tho
sun. At t|rst onjoy|ng tho too| ot |t, tho way |t dr|os my
c|othos and warms my sk|n, but |t's not |ong botoro tho
p|oasuro's d|m|n|shod by rays so |ntonso thoy |oavo
mo swoaty and broath|oss and suddon|y ovorcomo
w|th a doop parch|ng th|rst that has mo scramb||ng
back toward tho r|vor, hop|ng to dr|nk, on|y to t|nd tho
r|vor |s gono. lop|acod by a |andscapo ot sand, a
mu|t|tudo ot cact|, and two b|az|ng suns ovorhoad
om|tt|ng dua| sots ot harsh, untorg|v|ng, soar|ng hot
rays.
Vy sk|n bog|ns to b||stor and burn as my ||ps crack
and b|ood, and w|th no sho|tor to bo tound, and too
woakonod by my th|rst to go soarch|ng tor ono, l'm |ott
w|th no cho|co but to cur| my body |nto a ba||. 3ow|ng
my hoad unt|| my ch|n |s tuckod t|ght|y to my knoos, my
ha|r hang|ng down botoro mo, hop|ng |t w||| sh|o|d mo,
on|y to ond up sacr|t|c|ng tho back ot my nock |n ordor
to sparo my taco.
7blok. l squ|nch my oyos t|ght|y, try to contor myso|t,
try to concontrato.
7blok, l sco|d. Romombor.
3ut tho hoat's so |ntonso |t's |mposs|b|o to tocus on
anyth|ng but my sca|d|ng sk|n and unquonchod rag|ng
th|rst.
l yank my s|oovos down, down past my wr|sts and
ovor my hands, a|| tho way down to my t|ngort|ps.
1ry|ng not to cry out whon tho cotton rubs aga|nst tho
b||stors, sp||tt|ng thom opon and a||ow|ng tho ju|co
trom tho wounds to s|zz|o r|ght thoro on my t|osh.
Work|ng past tho pa|n, l shovo thom doop |nto my
pockots, attompt|ng to mako myso|t sma||or, |oss ot a
targot, try|ng to h|do trom tho hoat, but |t's no uso. W|th
duo||ng suns, ono at my tront, ono at my back, thoro |s
no oscap|ng tho|r wrath.
Vy t|ngors squ|rm doop, and thon doopor st|||.
U|t|mato|y com|ng across somoth|ng s||ck and hard
w|th rough odgos-a stono ot somo k|nd.
A stono l cannot romombor.
l work my way a|ong tho s|dos, a|ong tho coo|
smooth surtaco, know|ng l nood to th|nk, to
concontrato, to romombor . somotblog . but hav|ng
no |doa what that somoth|ng m|ght bo.
l turn tho stono ovor. Exp|oro oach s|do, aga|n and
aga|n, unt|| a t||ckor ot ||ght p|ays on tho undors|do ot
my crustod, shuttorod ||ds. A t|ash ot co|or, a myr|ad ot
vary|ng huos, croop|ng |nto my v|s|on-my |nnor v|s|on
-accompan|od by a str|ng ot words moant to prod
mo, nudgo mo, |ns|stont|y sw|r||ng through mo,
domand|ng my not|co-though l'vo no |doa what thoy
moan.
Words that cont|nuo to |oop and ropoat, p|ay|ng
ovor and ovor, oach and ovory sy||ab|o strossod w|th
groatost urgoncy, unt|| |t sounds somoth|ng ||ko:
Lork-|lko bls oyos.
Roo-|lko tbo b|ooo tbot í|owoo írom mo.
B|oo-|lko tbo rlvor, |lko tbo stooo lo my pockot.
A stono l must soo.
l work |t up past my h|p, s||do |t across my bo||y and
ovor to whoro l can soo |t. Varvo||ng at how |t's
managod to stay coo| dosp|to tho rag|ng |ntorno
around mo, dar|ng to s||t ono oyo opon, dosp|to my
|ashos s|ngo|ng, my sk|n sca|d|ng, and my rot|na
soar|ng, l poor upon |t, tw|r||ng that br||||ant b|uo-groon
crysta| around |n my t|ngors, awod by tho s|ght ot |t,
unt|| l not|co somoth|ng ovon moro wondrous-tho
onorgy that rad|atos trom my sk|n ||ko a ha|o ot tho
br|ghtost, most rad|ant, go|don-t|ockod purp|o.
1ho co|or rom|nd|ng mo ot tho ono l ío|t oar||or. 1ho
ono that thrummod r|ght through my body, back whon l
was |n 3ummor|and, just attor l'd |nadvortont|y tradod
||our's oxpor|onco tor m|no. 1hat co|ortu| too||ng
conv|nc|ng mo thoro was moro to 0amon's and my
story. 1hat wo'd both ||vod a ||to wo'd yot to
acknow|odgo.
And suddon|y l know what |t moans-know what |t
|s.
1hat br||||ant|y sh|mmor|ng shado that l soo |s tho
co|or ot my sou|.
Vy lmmorto| sou|.
lt's what my aura wou|d |ook ||ko |t l had ono.
1ho truth doscond|ng upon mo so hard and tast |t
|oavos no room tor doubt |n my m|nd.
l can't d|o horo.
Can't d|o anywhoro.
Wh||o |t's truo that my body may not out|ast th|s
hoat, no mattor what, my sou| w||| ||vo on.
l|ko tho snako that hangs trom tho cord at my nock
-oach ||to toods |nto tho noxt.
And tho momont l acknow|odgo that, accopt |t tor a
tact, a sott spr|ng ra|n bog|ns to ta|| and l jump to my
toot, sm|||ng, |augh|ng, as l t||t my hoad back. Opon|ng
my mouth as w|do as |t w||| go, oncourag|ng a sma||
poo| ot wator to co||oct on my tonguo. Awaro ot tho
sand tad|ng bonoath mo as my toos cur| |nto a |ovo|y
oxpanso ot t|owors and grass that spr|ngs up to
rop|aco |t. Awaro ot my sk|n hoa||ng, rogonorat|ng, as
ono sun sparks and tados and burns |tso|t out, wh||o
tho othor ono d|ms |nto a warm, torg|v|ng, ||to-
susta|n|ng g|ow.
l sproad my arms w|do and tw|r| |n tho t|o|d,
sk|pp|ng, and |oap|ng, and danc|ng |n a ra|n that,
hav|ng hoa|od mo, |s now roducod to a ||ght,
sh|mmor|ng dr|zz|o.
l olo lt! l can't ho|p but sm||o tr|umphant|y. l woo! l
ootsmortoo tbo rlvor-romomboroo tbo ooo tblog
tbot mottors most-wltb o |ltt|o bo|p írom my írlooos,
oí coorso!
|r|onds.
l stop, my broath com|ng raggod, too qu|ck, as l
gazo a|| around, my joy van|sh|ng tho momont l roa||zo
two truths l'vo torgotton 't|| now:
-l'm not ||ko my tr|onds. Vy body's |mmorta|, my
sou| |s not.
-0amon's not horo. Wh|ch moans ho torgot.
Cou|dn't ho|d on to tho momor|os. A||owod tho r|vor to
got tho bost ot h|m.
And, hav|ng tradod tho sou|'s |mmorta||ty tor
phys|ca| |mmorta||ty thoro's on|y ono p|aco |ott to t|nd
h|m.
1rappod |ns|do tho 3hadow|and.
twonty-tour
1hough l'vo boon thoro botoro, throo t|mos at |ast
count, l havo no |doa how to t|nd |t. lo |doa whoro |t
actua||y ox|sts, or how to |ocato |t on a map.
Vy t|rst v|s|t was v|a tho oxpor|onco 0amon sharod
w|th mo |n h|s hoad. 1ho socond was whon l
to|opath|ca||y showod loman tho p|aco whoro 0r|na's
sou| wont. And tho th|rd was whon |avon k|||od mo,
sont mo to that horr|b|o abyss tor what to|t ||ko torovor
but was probab|y on|y a mattor ot m|nutos.
1hat's how tho 3hadow|and works.
3ut |t's not ||ko l ovor mado tho tr|p by toot. lt's not
||ko l ovor sot out to t|nd tho phys|ca| man|tostat|on ot
|t.
3o, hop|ng tor answors, l ta|| back on a|| that l'vo
|oarnod, tho th|ngs Ava taught mo. And |nstoad ot
a||ow|ng my m|nd to run amok w|th quost|ons and
thoughts that on|y rosu|t |n croat|ng pan|c and
uncorta|nty wh||o novor actua||y arr|v|ng anywhoro
ho|ptu| or good, l chooso to tocus on tho s||onco w|th|n.
1rust|ng |t to gu|do mo, to |oad mo, to soo that l arr|vo
|n tho p|aco l'm most moant to bo.
0otorm|nod to to||ow my gut, my hoart, my |ntu|t|on,
tho h|ddon truth rost|ng |ns|do-l b|azo my own tra||,
|od so|o|y by my own |nst|ncts, but whon |t too|s ||ko tho
trok |s tak|ng too |ong, l doc|do to spood |t up a b|t and
man|tost a partnor.
l|d|ng my mount tor as tar as sho'|| go, l s||do ott
hor back tho socond sho ha|ts just shy ot tho
por|motor, tho p|aco whoro tho grass turns to mud,
whoro tho troos aro a|| burnod out and barron dosp|to
tho constant do|ugo ot ra|n that novor coasos to ta||.
lt's oxact|y ||ko l t|rst thought, th|s horr|b|o p|aco roa||y
|s 3ummor|and's y|n-|ts shadow so|t-|ts oppos|to
s|do-prov|d|ng a c|oar domarcat|on botwoon tho two
wor|ds-ono ||ght, ono dark-|oav|ng mo w|th no
doubt |n my m|nd that |t marks tho ontranco to tho
3hadow|and.
l tap my horso on hor roar, urg|ng hor to hoad tor
groonor pasturos, as l g|anco a|| around, hop|ng to t|nd
lotus, or maybo ovon a gu|do ot somo k|nd, but
roa||z|ng l'm a|| on my own l trudgo doop |nto tho muck.
1rudgo past what too|s ||ko m|nd-numb|ng m||os ot
b|oak, droary, doso|ato, dronchod, and soggy
|andscapo, wondor|ng |t thoro w||| ovor como a po|nt
whoro |t turns |nto somoth|ng o|so, stops |ook|ng tho
samo. 1hat po|nt com|ng much soonor than |mag|nod
whon l stumb|o upon a scono so drast|ca||y d|ttoront, l
stop, sw|po a hand ovor my oyos, and b||nk a tow
t|mos to mako suro l'm not ha||uc|nat|ng, that l roa||y
am soo|ng what l th|nk l'm soo|ng. And ovon thon, l st|||
havo my doubts.
l croop torward, my hoad sw|vo||ng as my oyos
str|vo to tako |t a|| |n. lt's surroa|, suro|y a crazy m|rago
ot my own monta| mak|ng. And yot, no mattor how
many t|mos l b||nk, no mattor how |ong l ho|d my broath
and staro, |t rotusos to y|o|d |n any way unt|| l'vo no
cho|co but to accopt tho tact that tho scono that ||os
botoro mo |s not on|y roa|, but an oxact rop||ca ot tho
ono |n my droam.
1ho droam l was suro l||oy had sont mo.
1ho droam l had aga|n vory rocont|y.
1ho droam l was suro had boon moro|y symbo||c,
somoth|ng l was moant to tako my t|mo pondor|ng,
ana|yz|ng, d|ssoct|ng, unt|| l cou|d t|na||y broak |t down
|nto managoab|o b|ts that actua||y moant somoth|ng.
lovor onco th|nk|ng l was supposod to tako |t
||tora||y.
lovor onco th|nk|ng that an ont|ro |andscapo ot
roctangu|ar b|ocks-a mazo ot g|ass pr|sons-cou|d
roa||y ox|st.
l tako a doop broath, tako a tow caut|ous stops, and
squ|nch up my gazo. loor|ng at a crowd ot tormontod
sou|s, know|ng oxact|y how thoy too| hav|ng boon thoro
myso|t.
A|ono.
lso|atod.
0ovo|d ot a|| hopo.
3urroundod by s||onco, an |nt|n|to darknoss, torcod
to ro||vo tho|r vory worst cho|cos, tho|r most trag|c
m|stakos and wrong turns, tho bad doc|s|ons and
so|t|sh acts that causod othors pa|n-torcod to ro||vo
tho|r own porsona| ho|| ovor and ovor aga|n.
Expor|onc|ng tho pa|n thoy'vo causod othors as
though |t's tho|r own-just ||ko l d|d whon |t was mo |n
tho|r p|aco. |av|ng no way ot know|ng that thoro aro
othors just ||ko thom-that wh||o thoy may too| a|ono,
tho |rony |s thoy'ro actua||y trappod among tho|r own
k|nd. A|| ot thom ru|od by an assau|t ot |magos, ago-
o|d rogrots, w|th no way to turn ott tho p|cturos, no way
to s||onco tho|r hoads.
And just as l wondor what l'm oxpoctod to do trom
horo, tho momory ot lotus's vo|co p|ays |n my oar.
7boro oro mooy wbo owolt yoo. Awolt yoo to
ro|ooso tbom, to ro|ooso mo.
And l know th|s |s what sho moant. l havo to start
horo.
l approach tho t|rst b|ock, obsorv|ng a tronzy ot
onorgy that bo|ongs to a tormontod, agon|zod sou| l
don't rocogn|zo. 1hough thoro's no doubt |t's ono ot
loman's, s|nco othor than mo, tho on|y onos 0amon
turnod woro tho orphans. And l can't ho|p but wondor
just how many |mmorta|s loman m|ght'vo mado,
romombor|ng how ho onco answorod |avon whon
sho posod tho quost|on: 7bot`s íor mo to koow, ooo
tbo rost oí tbo wor|o to íloo oot. lot to mont|on how
many m|ght'vo |nadvortont|y, acc|dont|y, ondod up
horo.
l c|oso my oyos, pross my pa|ms to tho g|ass, and
wa|t tor somo k|nd ot s|gn, turthor |nstruct|ons, an
ordor that w||| soon bo rovoa|od, on|y to bo mot by a
b|ast ot dospa|r so dark, a tormont so b|oak, l can
baro|y conta|n |t. 3oon to||owod by a surgo ot b|ttor
co|d so |ntonso l can't ho|p but jork back. Gap|ng at
my trooz|ng, trostb|tton pa|ms, know|ng that as |ong as
l'm horo, thoro's no chanco thoy'|| hoa|.
0osporato to ond |t, tor myso|t as wo|| as thom, l
k|ck at tho g|ass, k|ck as hard as l can, and whon that
doosn't work, l pound w|th both hands. And attor
hur||ng my body aga|nst |t to no ava|| whatsoovor, l d|g
doop |nto my pockot, |ocato tho b|t ot crysta| Ava gavo
mo, tho sma|| p|oco ot cavans|to that onhancos
|ntu|t|on and psych|c hoa||ng, prompts doop rot|oct|on,
|nsp|ros now |doas, ho|ps r|d onoso|t ot tau|ty bo||ots,
and a|ds |n |nduc|ng tho momor|os ot ono's pr|or ||vos,
hop|ng |t can ho|p mo horo as wo||. And whon my hand
||ghts up, whon my pa|m hoa|s, whon my sk|n om|ts
that br||||ant go|don-t|ockod purp|o huo l g||mpsod
oar||or, l know oxact|y what to do.
l tako tho sharp odgo, tho jaggod t|p that narrows to
a po|nt, and drag |t vort|ca||y down ono s|do ot tho
g|ass, thon hor|zonta||y across tho top, and thon
vort|ca||y down tho othor, cr|ng|ng at tho h|gh-p|tchod,
squoaky, na||s-on-a-cha|kboard, w|nco-|nduc|ng k|nd
ot sound that rosu|ts, but know|ng l'vo succoodod
whon tho pr|son co||apsos, shattors onto |tso|t, and a
coo| b|ast ot a|r wh|zzos by as tho trappod sou| rushos
out.
Vy hoart hammors hard |n my chost as tho ont|ty
hovors botoro mo, grow|ng, strotch|ng |nto a vary|ng
co||oct|on ot porsonas-a tu|| array ot pr|or-||to gu|sos,
nono ot wh|ch l rocogn|zo. Em|tt|ng a br|ght t|ash ot
co|or as |t shr|nks down |nto |tso|t onco aga|n and
takos t||ght, soar|ng h|gh |nto tho sky, qu|ck|y
d|sappoar|ng trom s|ght.
l pauso to catch my broath, amazod by what l just
w|tnossod, what l'vo just succoodod |n do|ng, thon l
hoad to tho noxt cubo and ropoat tho soquonco aga|n,
and thon aga|n. lo|oas|ng ono trappod sou| attor
anothor, hav|ng no |doa whoro thoy go, but t|gur|ng
anywhoro's got to bo bottor than horo.
And thon, just as l movo tor tho noxt, l t|nd h|m.
0amon.
1hough |t's not at a|| ||ko l thought, not at a|| ||ko l
oxpoctod.
lathor than bo|ng trappod ||ko l toarod, ho a|so
wandors trom b|ock to b|ock.
||s ha|r w||d|y mussod, h|s oyos hauntod and rod-
r|mmod, h|s vo|co th|ck w|th romorso as ho bogs
torg|vonoss tor a|| that ho's dono.
3ogs torg|vonoss tor tho|r bo|ng horo.
°1h|s |sn't your tau|t,' l say, qu|ot|y approach|ng h|m.
°You had noth|ng to do w|th th|s, loman's tho ono who
turnod thom. You know how proud ho was ot h|s o||x|r,
how ho ||kod to sharo |t troo|y, or at |oast w|th
whomovor ho doomod worthy, whoroas you on|y gavo
|t to tho orphans and mo. Un|oss.' l swa||ow hard,
|ook at h|m, a who|o now thought occurr|ng to mo, ono
l pray |s just puro parano|a and not at a|| truo. °Un|oss
thoro woro othors you havon't to|d mo about?' l suck |n
my broath.
lo|ax|ng on|y whon h|s borott gazo moots m|no and
ho says, °3|x orphans. l|us you. 1hat's tho grand tota|
ot my porsona| |ogacy.' |o ||tts h|s shou|dors,
brootbos doop|y, |ooks a|| around, botoro roturn|ng to
mo. °3t|||, |n tho ond, |t doosn't roa||y mattor who tod
thom tho o||x|r, doosn't mattor who doc|dod to turn
thom, bocauso a|| ot th|s-' ho swoops h|s arm w|do,
hand arc|ng botoro h|m, a|| around h|m, °ovoryth|ng
you soo horo-|t a|| stoms trom mo. l was tho t|rst. l
p|antod tho sood. loman novor wou|d'vo gotton thoro
|t |t hadn't boon tor mo. 3o, you soo, Evor, th|s ls my
tau|t. lt's ||ko lotus sa|d, l`m tbo cooso ooo oor |ovo ls
tbo symptom. l cou|dn't |ot you go. Cou|dn't hand|o tho
pa|n ot a ||to ||vod w|thout you. And wh||o you, my
swoot Evor, my doarost Ado||na, may vory wo|| bo tho
curo, l havo to do a|| that l can to corroct my karma, to
r|ght a|| my wrongs. And what bottor p|aco to start than
r|ght horo?'
l pauso, tak|ng a tow momonts to cons|dor h|s
words, wh||o carotu||y s|tt|ng through a tow ot my own.
°Wo||,' l say, my vo|co |ow, qu|ot, my oyos novor onco
stray|ng tar trom tho o|ogant p|anos ot h|s taco. °|rom
what l'vo oxpor|oncod so tar, tho bost way to mako up
tor a|| that |s to ro|oaso thom. 1hat's protty much a|| wo
can do at th|s po|nt.'
l show h|m tho crysta|, show h|m how l'vo boon
us|ng |t to broak through tho g|ass and sot tho sou|s
troo. Vot|on|ng tor h|m to jo|n mo, and watch|ng as ho
p|acos h|s pa|ms to tho surtaco and sonds a s||ont
p|oa tor torg|vonoss. ||s t|osh throbb|ng, b||stor|ng,
b|ackon|ng, botoro bocom|ng a|most mumm|t|od
|ook|ng-rotus|ng my ottor ot tho crysta| that w||| a||ow
h|m to hoa|, ho protors to suttor, conv|ncod ho
dosorvos |t, as ho to||ows mo trom ono to tho noxt. 1ho
two ot us ropoat|ng tho soquonco-0amon
oxpross|ng h|s rogrots as l sond tho g|ass shattor|ng
so anothor sou| can rush out.
Whon wo got to tho noxt ono, wo ha|t-|mmod|ato|y
sons|ng somoth|ng d|ttoront. lnstant|y a|ortod to
somoth|ng unusua| that sots |t apart trom thoso that
camo botoro. And ovon though tho onorgy w|th|n |s
just as trant|c as a|| tho othors, thrash|ng tur|ous|y,
crash|ng trom top to bottom and s|do to s|do, mov|ng
so tast |t's hard to got a hand|o on, to soo |t tor
anyth|ng moro than a contus|ng b|ur-|t's st||| an
onorgy wo both rocogn|zo.
3o l bow out. 3top to tho s|do.
1h|s part|cu|ar sou| |s 0amon's to ro|oaso, not m|no.
Wh||o wo a|| sharo a past, a |ong and convo|utod
h|story ot joa|ousy that a|ways onds |n murdor, my
murdor, tho two ot thom havo momor|os that don't
|nvo|vo mo, havo noth|ng to do w|th mo-and not a|| ot
thom bad.
l hand h|m tho crysta|, ||ston|ng as ho ca||s to hor
s||ont|y, to|opath|ca||y, but st||| l can hoar. And whon ho
p|acos h|s hands on o|thor s|do ot hor cubo,
ovoryth|ng st|||s.
Lomooº sho ca||s, sons|ng h|s prosonco, h|s
onorgy, or maybo |t's just w|shtu| th|nk|ng. Vaybo
sho's boon ca|||ng tor h|m s|nco tho day l k|||od hor
and sont hor sou| horo.
l om boro. |o c|osos h|s oyos, prossos h|s
torohoad to tho g|ass, ho|d|ng on to tho s|dos w|th
oach hand. l bovo íol|oo yoo. lol|oo yoo lo so mooy
woys. lol|oo to |ovo yoo lo tbo woy tbot yoo wootoo,
lo tbo woy tbot yoo oooooo. Aoo tboogb l moy bovo
sovoo yoor |lío, moy bovo sporoo yoo írom tbo b|ock
p|ogoo, l`m oírolo tbot lo tbo ooo, l stoppoo lo wboro l
oloo`t bo|oog, ooo, bocooso oí lt, l`vo rooocoo yoo to
tbls.
||s broath togs up tho g|ass, prompt|ng h|m to
sw|po a t|ngor across |t, thon c|oar |t w|th tho scorchod
pa|m ot h|s smo|dor|ng hand.
Lrloo Vogoo|ooo, yoo oro Povorloo oo moro. 5o
p|ooso go. Bo íroo. Yoo bovo otbor p|ocos to bo. l
wos oovor mooot to bo yoor oostloy.
|o taps tho crysta| to tho g|ass, drags |t down oach
s|do, a b|t across tho top. Encourag|ng |t to shattor
|nto |ong, th|n str|ps that ta|| to tho ground botoro
broak|ng |nto much sma||or p|ocos that crumb|o at h|s
toot.
l braco myso|t. 3raco tor just about anyth|ng.
Expoct|ng an angry wh|r| ot onorgy that, |t h|story |s
any |nd|cat|on, w||| most ||ko|y hur| |tso|t stra|ght at mo.
Wh|ch |s why l'm surpr|sod whon sho choosos to
soop out s|ow|y.
|or onorgy hovor|ng botoro us, oxpand|ng,
strotch|ng, at t|rst torm|ng |nto a br|ot |mago ot horso|t
as my cous|n Esmo that |asts on|y a tow soconds
botoro sho sott|os |nto hor |ast |ncarnat|on as tho
g|or|ous|y boaut|tu|, rod-ha|rod, groon-oyod 0r|na-a
boauty so start||ng ovon doath cannot mar |t.
3ho t|oats c|osor to 0amon, hor gazo mov|ng ovor
h|m, dr|nk|ng h|m |n as a qu|ot commun|cat|on passos
botwoon thom. And ovon though l can hoar |t, ovon
though no|thor ono ot thom tr|os to h|do |t trom mo, l
st||| turn away, try to grant thom tho|r pr|vacy. Catch|ng
on|y about ovory th|rd word, |oav|ng tho|r d|a|oguo
sound|ng somoth|ng ||ko:
5orry-íorglvo yoo-íorglvo mo-wroog-wostoo
-mlsgolooo-rogrotío|-thon back to sorry aga|n.
3ho roachos toward h|m, cups h|s taco botwoon hor
t|ngors, hor mouth tugg|ng down at tho cornors whon
ho |nvo|untar||y t||nchos at tho too| ot hor-hor gazo
saddon|ng at tho bottom|oss poo| ot rogrot sho t|nds
|n h|s oyos.
|n h|s oyos.
And whon sho turns to mo, |t's not at a|| what l
oxpoctod. 1ho usua| scoro ot hato, taunts, and throats
has boon rop|acod w|th a sott |||t|ng rovoronco.
l sboo|o`vo koowo tbo ílrst tlmo l kl||oo yoo, sho
th| nks. l sboo|o`vo roo|lzoo bock tboo tbot ovoo
wltboot yoor prosooco bosloo blm, yoor |ovo oovor
oloo. l moy bovo soccooooo lo borrowlog blm íor o
tlmo, bot bo wos oovor roo||y mloo, ooo lt wos oovor
vory |oog boíoro bo woot soorcblog íor yoo ogolo.
7broogboot o|| oí tboso yoors, írom tbo vory ílrst
momoot bo mot yoo os Aoo|loo, bls boort wos
c|olmoo íor gooo. lo bo|oogs oo|y to yoo. Yoo ooo
Lomoo oro mooot to bo. Aoo l`vo booo o íoo| íor
lotoríorlog. 3ho s|ghs, shakos hor hoad, roachos
torward as though to touch mo, but thon, romombor|ng
0amon's roact|on, sho th|nks bottor, roturns hor arm
to hor s|do.
And l'm not suro who's moro surpr|sod, hor,
0amon, or mo, whon l chooso to stop torward-whon l
chooso to roach tor hor hand and grasp |t |n m|no.
3uddon|y know|ng why 0amon t||nchod tho way ho
d|d, |t's not so much tho co|d, |t's moro tho buzz ot hor
onorgy-tho shoor, v|brat|ng |ntons|ty |s hard to got
usod to.
1ho words stroam|ng |nto my hoad whon sho th|nks:
lí yoo coo íorglvo mo, tboo sooo, l`|| bo |oovlog.
l gazo |nto tho oyos ot tho porson who k|||od mo
t|mo and t|mo aga|n. 1ry|ng to r|d horso|t ot mo, r|d tho
wor|d ot mo, on|y to t|nd that sho cou|dn't. lo mattor
how hard sho tr|od, l kopt com|ng back. And l'm
amazod to t|nd l can no |ongor th|nk ot hor as tho
onomy. low that l know tho truth, know that wo'ro
connoctod, that l'm as much a part ot hor as sho |s ot
mo, l can no |ongor hato hor. And ovon though th|s
sooms ||ko tho ond, th|s good-byo |s probab|y on|y
tomporary. l'vo no doubt wo'|| somoday moot aga|n. l
just hopo sho can manago to ho|d on to somo ot tho
w|sdom sho's ga|nod.
3ho sm||os, hor taco ||ght|ng up |n a way that |oavos
hor |ook|ng pos|t|vo|y rad|ant, and at t|rst l th|nk |t's a
rosponso to what l just thought, on|y to soo hor oyos
mov|ng ovor mo, mot|on|ng tor 0amon to |ook too.
Look-yoo`ro g|owlog! |or oxpross|on chang|ng to
contus|on whon sho adds: Bot . bow coo tbot boº
lmmorto|s ooo`t g|ow. Yoo oovor g|owoo. Bot oow yoo
oo. lt`s so ooo-wbot oo yoo sopposo tbot lt mooosº
0amon squ|nts, unab|o to soo what l soo-what sho
soos-tho ta|nt traco ot purp|o that omanatos trom
mo, a|| around mo.
3ho pausos, wa|t|ng tor mo to oxp|a|n, but s|nco l
don't ovon know whoro to bog|n, l just ||tt my shou|dors
and qu|rk my mouth to tho s|do.
Aoo Romoo-bovo yoo soot blm boro tooº 3ho
|ooks stra|ght at mo.
l pauso, want|ng to stross that |t wasn't mo who
k|||od loman-that, contrary to somo poop|o's
op|n|ons l'm oot somo crazy |mmorta| k|||or. 3ut soon
roa||zo that two out ot throo |s hard|y a rocord worth
bragg|ng about, much |oss dotond|ng, l gu|p down tho
words and nod toward tho |ast two roma|n|ng cubos.
And just ||ko whon 0amon approachod hors, whon
sho approachos loman's, a|| act|v|ty ha|ts as ho
sonsos hor prosonco and cr|os out tor hor. And tho
socond 0amon cracks |t opon, loman wh|r|s out |n a
tur|ous storm ot onorgy that oxpands and torms,
spond|ng a tow soconds as tho handsomo, rak|sh
lhys botoro ho sott|os on tho way ho |ookod as tho
ovon moro handsomo, ovon moro rak|sh loman.
Comp|oto w|th go|don tous|od ha|r, p|orc|ng b|uo oyos,
suntannod sk|n, tadod joans that hang dangorous|y
|ow, and an unbuttonod wh|to ||non sh|rt that
showcasos h|s t|no|y scu|ptod abs.
3ut ovon though 0amon and l stand r|ght thoro
botoro h|m, roady to oxp|a|n, dotond our act|ons, do
whatovor |t takos to oaso what cou|d vory oas||y
bocomo a procar|ous s|tuat|on-just ||ko |n ||to, h|s
so|o tocus |s 0r|na.
3ho's a|| ho can soo.
1hough un||ko tho past s|x contur|os, 0r|na can
t|na||y soo h|m.
1ho two ot thom drawn to oach othor, gaz|ng at
oach othor tor so |ong, 0amon c|asps my hand |n h|s
and starts to movo away, noar|ng tho |ast roma|n|ng
b|ock whon loman ca||s: Brotbor.
3oon to||owod by: lrlooo.
And thon: Eoomy.
1hough that |ast part |s chasod w|th a dazz||ng,
wh|to-toothod sm||o.
Wo moot loman's gazo. lot|ng tho way tho gr|n
||ghts up h|s taco, ||ghts up h|s onorgy, mak|ng |t spark
and g|ow as ho shuts h|s oyos t|ght|y and concontratos
on a |ong stroam ot words ho wants us to hoar.
A |ong stroam ot words l can't soom to put |nto any
sort ot contoxt, can't mako any k|nd ot sonso ot.
A |ong convo|utod ||st ot horbs, pot|ons, crysta|s,
and . mooo pbosos .
l gasp, oyos w|do w|th d|sbo||ot, gap|ng at 0amon,
wondor|ng |t ho hoars what l hoar, undorstands what,
tor mo, just bocamo c|oar.
lt`s tbo ootlooto!
loman |s w||||ng|y, w|thout bo|ng askod, bu|||od,
man|pu|atod, or torturod, ho|d|ng up h|s ond ot tho
doa|.
1ho ono wo struck just m|nutos botoro ho was k|||od
and sont horo.
1ho ono whoro l agrood to g|vo h|m what ho wantod
most, |n oxchango tor what l wantod most.
0r|na tor tho ant|doto that'|| a||ow 0amon and mo to
bo togothor |n tho way that wo woro as A|r|k and
Ado||na-w|th no nood tor onorgy sh|o|ds, no toar ot
our 0lA c|ash|ng, no throat ot 0amon dy|ng.
loman's mak|ng good on h|s word.
1ak|ng a momont to ropoat |t onco moro, mako
suro that wo got |t, took noto ot |t, comm|ttod |t to
momory, bocauso ho'|| soon bo mov|ng on, w|th 0r|na
by h|s s|do, and ho doosn't oxpoct to soo us aga|n, or
at |oast not tor a vory |ong t|mo. 1h|s |s our |ast
chanco. 1ho opportun|ty won't como aga|n.
l gu|p, nod, br|mm|ng w|th so much grat|tudo, so
ovorcomo w|th happ|noss, my oyos st|ng, my throat
swo||s, and l'vo no |doa whoro to start, what to say.
3ut l don't havo to say anyth|ng. |o and 0r|na havo
a|roady jo|nod hands, a|roady turnod away. A|roady
hoadod to tho noxt cubo whoro, hav|ng no turthor nood
ot us, thoy poo| tho|r onorgy |n a way that sp||ts |t w|do
opon, a||ow|ng |avon to burst out ot hor own porsona|
ho||.
3ho shoots stra|ght tor mo. An angry ba|| ot rag|ng
rod onorgy that, trom a|| appoarancos, |s st||| tur|ous
w|th mo.
3t||| b|amos mo.
3t||| |ntonds to mako good on hor |ast spokon words
-hor throat to undo mo.
0amon shouts, jumps botwoon us, h|s arms sproad
w|do, do|ng h|s bost to covor mo, to dotond mo trom
whatovor sho's p|annod.
3ut just as sho roachos us, hovor|ng a moro razor's
w|dth away, sho stops, s|ows, and l watch, oyos w|do
w|th wondor, as tho tur|ous rod g|ow ot hor s|mmors
|nto a much sottor roso-tonod p|nk. 3h|tt|ng botwoon
a|| ot tho porsonas ot hor prov|ous ||vos, bog|nn|ng
w|th my cous|n, Esmo's s|stor, ||ona, botoro
trans|t|on|ng |nto sovora| moro l vaguo|y rocogn|zo
trom sconos l'vo v|owod ot my past |ncarnat|ons.
Amazod to |oarn sho's boon w|th mo a|| th|s t|mo,
usua||y trom a d|stanco, novor as a c|oso tr|ond or
ovon a s|stor, but st|||, wow, l had no |doa.
l start to apo|og|zo, want hor to know how doop|y
sorry l am, but sho's tar too |mpat|ont, and qu|ck|y
wavos |t away. 1horo's st||| moro to show mo, sho's
not qu|to through yot, and l watch as sho trans|t|ons
|nto a|| ot tho gu|sos sho woro |n hor most rocont ||to.
Evoryth|ng trom hor pr|ma ba||or|na phaso, to hor 1.
Crow proppy phaso, to tho goth phaso sho was |n
back whon wo t|rst mot, to tho short-||vod 0r|na-
wannabo phaso that to||owod, to tho omo phaso that
camo short|y attor, to tho b|ack |oathor and |aco rock
'n' ro|| gypsy |ook that d|dn't |ast |ong botoro
trans|t|on|ng |nto hor supor-scary |mmorta| w|tch
phaso, as V||os onco ca||od |t-tho ono hor ||to ondod
w|th-unt|| t|na||y sott||ng upon a vors|on ot horso|t l'vo
novor soon botoro. Ono whoro hor ha|r |s |ong and
sh|ny and wo|| carod tor, hor oyos c|oar and br|ght, hor
c|oth|ng s||ght|y odgy, |avon-||ko, but not cry|ng out tor
attont|on or |n-your-taco angry. 3ut tho b|ggost chango
ot a|| |s tho rad|ant sm||o that ||ghts up hor taco, to|||ng
mo sho's t|na||y tound horso|t-t|na||y at poaco.
||na||y ||kos who sho |s.
1abb|ng hor thumb botwoon 0amon, loman, and
0r|na, a |ovo tr|ang|o that spannod way too many
contur|os, sho shakos hor hoad, ro||s hor oyos, and
|ots out a |ong w|sttu| s|gh that soon turns |nto a
contag|ous |augh l can't t|ght. 1ho two ot us g|gg||ng |n
a way that rom|nds mo ot bottor days spont w|th V||os
at tho |unch tab|o, |azy attornoons ho|od up |n hor room
w|th a stash ot magaz|nos p||od h|gh botwoon us,
|r|day n|ghts hang|ng |n my 1acuzz| attor hav|ng
dovourod an ont|ro p|zza.
|or tocus sh|ttod back to mo whon sho th|nks: l
ooo`t boto yoo. 7boogb l`m oot goooo |lo, l osoo to.
Aoo oot jost lo tbot |ost |lío, bot lo most oí tbo otbors
os wo||. Bot tbot`s oo|y bocooso l wos so ooboppy
wltb myso|í, l wos soro tbot ovoryooo o|so boo lt
bottor, boo wbot l oooooo. l wos soro tbot lí l coo|o
oo|y c|olm wbot tboy boo, tboo l coo|o bo boppy too.
3ho shakos hor hoad, ro||s hor oyos at tho abso|uto
to||y ot |t. Aoywoy, yoo`|| bo g|oo to koow tbot`s o|| ovor
oow. l`m íroo lo moro woys tboo ooo. Now l`m jost
|ooklog íorworo to wbotovor comos ooxt.
l swa||ow hard and nod, hor words protty much tho
oppos|to ot what l'd proparod tor, wh|ch makos thom
ovon moro wo|como. Onos l won't soon torgot.
And thon, tho noxt th|ng l know, 0r|na po|nts, |avon
squoa|s, loman gr|ns, and thoy a|| jo|n hands, tho
throo ot thom rush|ng toward somoth|ng v|owab|o on|y
to thom, d|sappoar|ng |nto a br||||ant t|ash ot wh|to ||ght
w|thout onco |ook|ng back.
twonty-tivo
0amon pu||s mo |nto h|s arms, grasps mo t|ght|y to
h|m, thon ||tts mo |nto tho a|r and sw|ngs mo around.
Vy ha|r sw|r||ng boh|nd mo ||ko a sh|ny go|d capo as
wo tw|r| and sp|n and danco and |augh, gaz|ng |n
wondor as th|s onco-barron t|o|d bog|ns to transtorm
|tso|t.
1ho jaggod shards ot pr|son g|ass s|nk|ng doop |nto
tho ground-rocyc||ng t|rst |nto sand, thon |nto a r|ch
dark so|| that prov|dos |nstant nour|shmont tor tho
tormor|y burnod-out troos. A||ow|ng thom to stra|ghton
and strotch, to sprout a th|ck b|ankot ot |oavos, as a
swath ot purp|o and yo||ow w||dt|owors b|oom at tho|r
roots.
1ho two ot us ovorcomo w|th oxc|tomont, br|mm|ng
w|th tho g|oo ot our tr|umph, 0amon's vo|co ||ko a
song |n my oar whon ho says, °Wo d|d |t! Wo trood
thom-mado amonds-wo ovon socurod tho roc|po
tor tho ant|doto, and |t's a|| bocauso ot yoo!' ||s ||ps
t|nd my torohoad, my chook, my noso, and my oar,
thon pu|||ng away, ho adds, °Evor, do you roa||zo what
thon pu|||ng away, ho adds, °Evor, do you roa||zo what
th|s a|| moans?'
l |ook at h|m, my gr|n so w|do my chooks aro
strotchod to tho|r ||m|ts, but st||| want|ng to hoar h|m
say |t, want|ng to hoar tho words spokon out |oud tor
both ot us to hoar.
°lt moans wo can t|na||y bo togothor.' |o stops,
prossos h|s torohoad to m|no, h|s broath com|ng tast
and qu|ck. °lt moans a|| ot our prob|oms aro so|vod. lt
moans that wo'|| novor havo to v|s|t tho pav|||on aga|n
-not ovon as A|r|k and Ado||na-un|oss, ot courso,
wo want to.' |o w|gg|os h|s brow, om|ts a |ow, doop
|augh. °A|| wo havo to do |s hoad back to tho oarth
p|ano, got work|ng on tho brow, and.' |o pausos,
smooths h|s thumb ovor my chook, thon |oans |n to
k|ss mo aga|n.
l roturn |t w|th an |ntons|ty and torvor match|ng h|s.
Awaro ot tho s||m vo|| ot onorgy hovor|ng botwoon us,
koop|ng h|m sato trom what, thanks to loman, has
bocomo my |otha| 0lA, wh|ch, a|so thanks to loman,
won't bo a throat tor much |ongor. |ard|y ab|o to
bo||ovo that tho days ot what wo'vo como to rotor to as
our o|most klss aro so c|oso to bo|ng ovor.
3oon, vory soon, wo'|| bo ab|o to ||vo just ||ko
ovoryono o|so. Ab|o to touch oach othor opon|y, troo|y,
w|thout any worr|os. l|ko wo do |n tho pav|||on-on|y
bottor, bocauso |t'|| bo roa|.
3oon wo'|| ombraco as ourso|vos-our prosont-
tonso so|vos-|nstoad ot |n our var|ous past-||to
gu|sos.
l pu|| away ovor so s||ght|y, c|oso my oyos and turn
my taco to tho sky, stoa||ng a momont to sond a s||ont
thanks to loman, whorovor ho |s, tor g|v|ng us th|s
wondortu| g|tt.
1hon just whon l'm about to k|ss 0amon aga|n, h|s
taco ta||s and ho movos out ot my roach, answor|ng
tho quost|on |n my |nqu|r|ng gazo w|th a curt nod
toward lotus, who knoo|s at a d|stanco.
3ho s|ts at tho odgo ot a pond just a tow toot away,
hor w|spy s||vor strands t|ow|ng troo|y about hor,
murmur|ng sott|y w|th hor hands c|aspod t|ght|y to hor
chost. Gaz|ng upon an abundanco ot |otus b|ossoms
that r|so through tho murky dark wators to b|oom
abovo tho surtaco. 1ho|r sott wh|to and p|nk pota|s
||tt|ng upward, surroundod by sh|ny groon sca||op-
odgod |oavos, ono popp|ng up r|ght attor tho othor
unt|| you can baro|y soo tho wator tor tho t|owors.
3ho roma|ns ||ko that tor somo t|mo. Contont to
mod|tato on tho wondrous v|ow botoro hor, unt|| sho
turns to taco us, woar|ng an oxpross|on that, wh||o not
oxact|y what l'd ca|| troob|oo, hard|y matchos tho t|ood
ot tr|umph 0amon and l aro curront|y |n tho m|dst ot.
0amon's oyos narrow, h|s jaw c|onchos, brac|ng tor
whatovor bad nows ho's suro that sho br|ngs.
1ho two ot us caut|ous|y mov|ng toward hor,
moot|ng ha|tway, both ot us oqua||y start|od whon sho
r|sos trom tho muddy banks, |ooks at us, and says,
°Congratu|at|ons.'
Wo wa|t. Wa|t tor somoth|ng to to||ow. 3ut, tor a
wh||o anyway, that sooms to bo a||.
°You may roturn to tho oarth p|ano |t you w|sh.' 3ho
g|ancos back and torth botwoon us.
0amon squoozos my hand, |n nood ot no turthor
prodd|ng. |o's moro than roady to |oavo r|ght now,
doosn't soo tho po|nt |n wast|ng anothor socond
hang|ng around. 3ut l stand t|rm. 0|g my hoo|s |n.
3ons|ng |t's not ovor yot, thoro's somoth|ng moro
lotus |s wa|t|ng to sharo.
°You havo dono wo||. A|| |s |n b|oom.' 3ho gosturos
toward tho t|owors that aro st||| b|ossom|ng, and to tho
|andscapo boyond. °You havo ovon trood tho |ost
onos.' 3ho prossos hor pa|ms togothor, torm|ng a
stoop|o sho ho|ds c|oso to hor hoart, hor s|mp|o go|d
band g||nt|ng at us. °And so you aro troo to |oavo. |roo
to roturn to your |mmorta| ||vos. Yot, l wondor.'
Wo |ook at hor, mo cur|ous, 0amon on guard,
t|ngors cur||ng at h|s s|dos.
°l wondor |t you w||| want to roturn to your ||vos attor
a|| you havo |oarnod. l wondor |t you w||| chooso a ||to
ot phys|ca| |mmorta||ty attor hav|ng |oarnod tho truth ot
tho sou|.'
0amon ro||s h|s oyos, grunts, and aga|n, tr|os to
hau| mo away. 3ut l stay r|ght whoro l am, |ook|ng at
lotus whon l say, °Aro you |mp|y|ng wo actua||y havo a
cho|co?'
3ho ||tts ono gnar|od o|d hand, brushos a stray w|sp
ot ha|r away trom hor taco. °Oh yos,' sho says, hor
gazo mov|ng ovor mo. °1horo |s a cho|co. A way out.'
l pross my ||ps |nto a trown, try|ng to dotorm|no just
what that m|ght moan. 0oc|d|ng l don't ||ko tho
conc|us|on l como to, don't ||ko |t at a||, whon l say, °lt
you'ro rotorr|ng to oootb as a way out.' l shako my
hoad, b||nk a tow t|mos, hard|y bo||ov|ng sho wou|d
ovon daro broach such a th|ng. °Wo||, you can torgot |t.
lo way |s that happon|ng. l moan, |n caso you don't
romombor, that protty much rosu|ts |n a ono-way t|ckot
to tho 3hadow|and tor poop|o ||ko us. And s|nco wo
d|d a protty good job ot c|oan|ng up tho 3hadow|and
just now, wo'd hato to soo |t rosort r|ght back to |ts o|d
ways. lot to mont|on how thoro's no guarantoo
anyono wou|d ovon show up to ro|oaso us ||ko wo just
ro|oasod loman, 0r|na, |avon, and ovoryono o|so.' l
pauso |ong onough to hutt, b|ow my ha|r out ot my
oyos, but not |ong onough tor hor to |ntorjoct. °A|so,
you shou|d probab|y know that wo havo tho ant|doto
now-or at |oast tho roc|po to mako |t. Wh|ch moans
wo'vo just boon handod a who|o now roason tor ||v|ng
-a roa||y gooo roason tor ||v|ng. Wo havo oach othor
íorovor. Wo can ||vo tho ||to wo'vo a|ways droamod ot.
íorovor. Wo can ||vo tho ||to wo'vo a|ways droamod ot.
And t|na||y, wo||, tho who|o dy|ng th|ng |s protty much
moot anyway, s|nco l can't actua||y d|o anymoro. 3ack
whon |avon k|||od mo, l roso abovo my woak chakra. l
ovorcamo my woaknoss, mado tho r|ght doc|s|on, and
bocauso ot |t, l camo back to jo|n tho ||v|ng. l'm
ookl||ob|o now.' l ||tt my shou|dors, know|ng |t may
sound wo|rd, but thon, wo|rd |s a|| ro|at|vo horo. °l'm a
troo |mmorta|. |oro tor tho durat|on. l'm not go|ng
anywhoro, and l roa||y protor that 0amon doosn't go
anywhoro o|thor.'
°And you?' 3ho turns to 0amon, tota||y untazod by
ovoryth|ng l just sa|d. °0o you agroo w|th th|s? 0o you
too| as sho doos?'
|o trowns, g|aros, tooth gnash|ng togothor as ho
grumb|os an unoqu|voca| °Ot courso l do!' 1hon ho
squoozos my hand, oagor to |oavo.
3ut ovon though l'm oagor to |oavo too, tor tho
momont, my cur|os|ty's p|quod and l want to soo
whoro th|s |oads. Wondor|ng |t l m|ght a|roady know
whon l say, °1h|s woy oot that you rotor to, |s th|s tor us
or tor yoo?' Vy oyos narrow|ng as l roca|| hor oar||or
words, whon sho boggod mo to ro|oaso hor, but trom
what, sho novor mado c|oar.
ls sbo stockº
A prlsooor oí tbo 5booow|ooo bot wltboot tbo g|oss
cogoº
1ho answor com|ng |n tho torm ot hor usua| r|dd|o
whon sho says, °lt |s tor you, tor mo, tor a|| ot us. Onco
l |oarnod tho truth, l was a|roady too o|d and tra|| to
mako tho journoy. 3ut now you aro horo. loturnod just
tor th|s. l can soo |t |n your oyos, |n tho ||ght that
surrounds you. You aro tho ono. 1ho on|y ono. 1ho tato
ot many ||os |n your hands.'
°3o . bas|ca||y you'ro say|ng that my journoy |sn't
ovon c|oso to bo|ng t|n|shod? 1hat thoro's st||| a
hockuva |ot moro you oxpoct mo to do?' Vy gazo
narrows as l try to dotorm|no just how l too| about that,
most|y voor|ng toward bo|ng vory much aga|nst |t.
3ho nods, hor c|umpy o|d oyos novor onco |oav|ng
m|no. °You aro so c|oso. lt |s bost to koop go|ng trom
whoro you now stand. Whoro dost|ny |s concornod,
oach stop |oads to tho noxt.'
°Oh, suro,' 0amon says, tho sound ot h|s vo|co
start||ng mo |n that |t's ovon gruttor than l wou|d'vo
oxpoctod. 3ut to lotus's crod|t, sho doosn't roact,
doosn't w|nco, doosn't t||nch, just cont|nuos to stand
thoro, obsorv|ng h|m w|th hor usua| ca|m. °3uro, wo'||
got r|ght on that.' |o shakos h|s hoad. °3orry, lotus,
but you'ro gonna havo to g|vo us a ||tt|o moro to go on.
Evor and l havo boon through tho wr|ngor and wo
camo out on top, got tho ono th|ng wo wantod-tho
ono th|ng wo noodod to mako our ||vos comp|oto, and
now you th|nk you can just show up, toss anothor
crypt|c r|dd|o our way, and stoor us out ot our much-
dosorvod v|ctory co|obrat|on and back |nto moro
troub|o-troub|o that you a|ono havo croatod?' |o
g|aros. °1h|nk aga|n.'
°3or|ous|y,' l add, oncouragod by h|s argumont.
°Why shou|d wo ovon cons|dor do|ng th|s? Why can't
you t|nd somoono o|so, ono ot tho othor |mmorta|s,
maybo? |avon't wo boon through onough a|roady?'
3ut |nstoad ot answor|ng my quost|on, sho t||ts hor
hoad |n 0amon's d|roct|on and says, °0amon, |s |t
roa||y l who croatod |t? Or was that yoo?'
0amon moots hor gazo, but c|amps h|s ||ps shut,
rotus|ng to spoak. And whon |t's c|oar ho has no p|ans
to addross hor, l nudgo h|m w|th my o|bow and say,
°What's sho ta|k|ng about? What |s |t you'ro not to|||ng
mo?'
|o swa||ows, squ|rms, k|cks at tho ground, puts |t
ott tor as |ong as ho can botoro ho takos a doop
broath and says, °3ho c|a|ms to bo ono ot tho
orphans. C|a|ms l savod hor trom tho b|ack p|aguo
ovor s|x hundrod yoars ago whon l mado hor dr|nk
trom tho o||x|r.'
l ba|k, oyos pract|ca||y popp|ng trom tho|r sockots
as l g|anco at tho two ot thom. ||na||y t|nd|ng onough
vo|co to say, °Aooº ls |t troo?' Wondor|ng why no ono
saw t|t to mont|on th|s botoro. Wondor|ng |t th|s |s
what sho showod h|m that day whon l watchod thom
sharo a s||ont commun|cat|on.
0amon shrugs, sw|pos a hand ovor h|s brow and
gazos a|| around. °lo. lo way. lt's |mposs|b|o. 3ho's
mak|ng |t up,' ho says, obv|ous|y moro t|ustorod than
ho |ots on. laus|ng tor a momont, |ong onough to
gathor h|s thoughts, s|gh|ng |oud|y as ho adds,
°|onost|y? l don't know. l'vo boon rack|ng my bra|n
s|nco tho day sho t|rst to|d mo, but l just can't roca||. lt's
hor word aga|nst my momory and thoro's no way to
know tor suro. Usua||y |t's tho oyos that g|vo |t away,
bo|ng tho w|ndow to tho sou| and a|| that-but hors aro
so damagod, thoy'ro comp|oto|y unrocogn|zab|o.
3ho's not tho |oast b|t tam|||ar to mo.' |o shakos h|s
hoad, takos a momont to scow| at lotus, h|s taco
sotton|ng whon ho turns back to mo. °Evor, you'vo got
to romombor wo'ro ta|k|ng ovor slx boooroo yoors
s|nco l |ast saw thoso poop|o. And tho on|y roason l
d|dn't mont|on |t botoro |s bocauso l d|dn't want to
worry you unnocossar||y, ospoc|a||y whon thoro's no
way to provo |t o|thor way. 3os|dos, my on|y concorn
|s tor you-tor us-r|ght horo |n tho prosont, and wo||
|nto tho tuturo. 1ho past no |ongor concorns mo. Othor
than 0r|na and loman, l havo no |doa what bocamo
ot tho othor orphans. l havo no |doa whoro thoy ondod
up-'
°3ut loman d|d know,' l cut |n, romombor|ng what
|avon to|d mo, about what loman to|d hor, tho stor|os
ho wroto |n h|s journa|s.
0amon and 0r|na may havo movod on, but loman
stuck around, kopt |n touch. Evontua||y d|scovor|ng a
way to ro-croato tho o||x|r, and whon tho ottocts bogan
to woar ott, somot|mo around ono hundrod and t|tty
yoars |ator, whon tho |mmorta|s bogan to show tho
ravagos ot ag|ng, ho trackod thom a|| down and had
thom dr|nk aga|n, ropoat|ng tho soquonco ovory
contury and a ha|t, unt|| now. low that ho's gono,
thoro's no ono to |ook attor thom. lot to mont|on
thoro's no to|||ng just how many ho doc|dod to turn on
h|s own. lt tho numbor ot unrocogn|zab|o sou|s wo just
ro|oasod trom tho 3hadow|and was any |nd|cat|on, |t's
sato to assumo thoro aro many, many moro.
l study lotus, wondor|ng how |ong |t's boon s|nco
sho |ast drank tho o||x|r. l'vo novor soon anyono as o|d
as hor, ospoc|a||y an |mmorta|. A|| ot tho |mmorta|s l
know aro young, boaut|tu|, g|ow|ng w|th hoa|th and
v|ta||ty, phys|ca||y portoct |n ovory |mag|nab|o way.
Whoroas sho's just tho oppos|to-o|d, woathorod, hor
sk|n so papor-th|n, body so tra||, |t sooms as though
tho s||ghtost h|nt ot a broozo cou|d t|p hor r|ght ovor,
broak hor |nto a m||||on sharp ||tt|o p|ocos.
0amon and l aro so |ost |n thought wo'ro both
caught by surpr|so whon lotus spr|ngs torward and
grabs ho|d ot our hands, hor anc|ont oyos boam|ng
br|ght|y as hor m|nd connocts w|th ours, projoct|ng a
s|ow ot |magos l novor wou|d'vo oxpoctod-|magos
that |oavo mo quost|on|ng ovoryth|ng.
twonty-aix
lotus's t|ngors ontw|no w|th ours, tho too| ot thom dry,
coo|, but surpr|s|ng|y strong, as hor m|nd projocts a
sor|os ot portra|ts, ||ko |nd|v|dua| sop|a pr|nts, ono
attor anothor, ovontua||y stroam|ng and b|ond|ng |nto a
mov|ng-p|cturo tormat. 3how|ng a qu|ck g||mpso ot
tho orphans, a|| ||nod up |n a row, |ook|ng as thoy d|d
back thon. 0amon and 0r|na t|ank|ng ono ond, lotus
and loman on tho othor, tho rost gathorod |n tho
m|dd|o.
long botoro sho bocamo lotus, sho was a dark-
ha|rod, br|ght-oyod ch||d namod l|a, who, not |ong
attor dr|nk|ng tho o||x|r, t|od tho orphanago w|th a|| tho
othors on|y to bo takon |n by a tam||y ot modost moans
who, mourn|ng tho ch||d thoy |ost to tho p|aguo, woro
oagor tor a rop|acomont.
3ho ||vod norma||y at t|rst, hav|ng no |doa what
sho'd bocomo. 3ho grow up, marr|od, but |t wasn't
|ong botoro sho roa||zod sho was d|ttoront. lot on|y
cou|d sho not boar ch||dron, but sho cou|dn't t|guro out
why ovoryono around hor agod wh||o sho stayod tho
samo. A roa||zat|on that soon torcod hor to do what a||
|mmorta|s must ovontua||y do onco tho subt|o
quost|ons and cur|ous |nqu|r|os bog|n to grow |nto
r|s|ng susp|c|on, hystor|a, and |rrat|ona| crowd-dr|von
toar-undor tho covor ot n|ght, sho grabbod a tow
bo|ong|ngs and ran, novor to roturn, or at |oast not tor
sovora| contur|os.
3ho wandorod. lomarr|od-moro than onco.
0otorm|nod to stay |n oach p|aco, w|th oach husband,
tor as |ong as sho cou|d unt|| tho constant nood to t|oo
bocamo so unboarab|o sho dotorm|nod |t omot|ona||y
oas|or to ||vo on hor own. Evontua||y grow|ng to abhor
hor |mmorta||ty, sook ways to rovorso |t, want|ng on|y
to rojo|n tho natura| ordor ot bo|ng, to ||vo ||ko
ovoryono o|so.
3ho travo|od. ||rst to lnd|a thon on to 1|bot, whoro
sho stud|od w|th myst|cs, shamans, gurus, a who|o
host ot sp|r|tua| sookors and gu|dos who showod hor
how to pur|ty hor body and c|oanso hor sou|, but
cou|dn't ho|p hor rovorso tho cho|co sho mado a||
thoso yoars ago whon sho was too young to
undorstand tho consoquoncos. 1ho |rony ot hor
stud|os bo|ng that sho'd unknow|ng|y succoodod |n
strongthon|ng hor chakras to tho po|nt whoro sho'd
rondorod horso|t comp|oto|y |nvu|norab|o, |mmuno to
tho ono th|ng sho sought abovo ovoryth|ng o|so-tho
ro|oaso that on|y doath can br|ng about.
U|t|mato|y grow|ng so advancod |n hor stud|os, sho
bocamo known as a co|obratod m|rac|o workor, tho
most sought-attor hoa|or. 1ho namo sho now goos by,
lotus, stomm|ng trom hor ab|||ty to mako that boaut|tu|
t|owor b|oom r|ght trom tho contor ot hor pa|ms, s|mp|y
by c|os|ng hor oyos and w|sh|ng |t to bo so. An act sho
was capab|o ot not just |n 3ummor|and, but a|so on
tho oarth p|ano back homo.
0otorm|nod to sott|o |nto a co||bato, so||tary
ox|stonco, but tato had othor |doas, and |t wasn't |ong
botoro sho mot somoono and to|| |n |ovo. loa| |ovo.
1ruo |ovo. 1ho k|nd ot |ovo wh|ch, dosp|to sovora|
husbands, sho'd novor oxpor|oncod botoro.
1ho k|nd whoro sho bu||t onough trust to cont|do tho
truth ot hor ox|stonco, tr|od to conv|nco hor |ovor to go
to loman, to dr|nk too, to bocomo ||ko hor, so thoy'd
novor suttor tho pa|n ot |os|ng oach othor.
3ut ho rotusod. Choso to grow o|d. And whon tho
day t|na||y camo that sho kno|t bos|do h|s doathbod,
trott|ng at tho s|mp|o go|d band ho'd p|acod on hor
t|ngor, ho prom|sod to do ovoryth|ng w|th|n h|s powor
t o oot ro|ncarnato. 1o oot roturn to tho oarth p|ano.
3tat|ng ho'd much rathor wa|t tor hor to t|nd a way to
rovorso hor |mmorta||ty, so that sho co|d somoday jo|n
h|m |n tho groat horoattor.
|o |ott hor on hor own to grow o|dor, thon o|dor st|||.
|or body ovontua||y bocom|ng so docrop|t, sho
prayod tho shoor oxhaust|on ot koop|ng |t go|ng wou|d
u|t|mato|y conv|nco hor broath to stop com|ng, hor
hoart to stop boat|ng, so sho cou|d moot up w|th hor
|ovor aga|n-but st|||, sho ||vos on.
3ho cont|nuod hor stud|os, cont|nuod to soarch tor
a way out, u|t|mato|y d|scovor|ng tho so|ut|on on|y attor
sho'd grown too o|d to mako tho tr|p.
1hough sho rotusod to g|vo up. W|th tho |ong-ho|d
w|sh ot hor roun|on t|na||y w|th|n roach, sho spont tho
|ast contury track|ng down a|| ot tho roma|n|ng
orphans, rovoa||ng tho truth ot what sho'd |oarnod,
hop|ng to conv|nco ono ot thom to mako tho journoy-
to br|ng back tho chanco at a now |oaso on ||to.
l|to as |t was |ntondod to bo.
1o prov|do thom a|| w|th a sort ot do-ovor-a
socond chanco to mako a tu||y |ntormod doc|s|on as
to whothor or not to koop go|ng ||ko thoy aro. Un||ko
tho t|mo whon thoy woro too young and scarod to
roa||zo tho consoquoncos-whon thoy a|| rushod to
dr|nk w|thout a socond thought.
0r|na rotusod hor t|at out. loman |aughod |n hor
taco. Wh||o tho othors s|mp|y shook tho|r hoads,
gazod upon hor w|th groat p|ty, and to|d hor to go
away.
0amon was tho |ast on hor ||st-hor |ast hopo.
Unt|| sho saw mo.
°l thought |t was onough that l tound a way to ro|oaso
tho sou|s and rovorso tho 3hadow|and, but, as |t turns
out, thoro's st||| moro you want mo to do.' l g|aro,
shako my hoad, and yank troo ot hor gr|p. Vy t|ngors
s||pp|ng past tho th|n go|d band sho woars on hor |ott
hand, too||ng romorso tor tho |oss ot hor |ovod ono, but
unsuro what l'm supposod to do. °You put mo through
a|| that ho||, whon a|| a|ong that wasn't ovon tho journoy
you had |n m|nd-you had somoth|ng o|so p|annod tor
mo that who|o ont|ro t|mo!'
°Each stop |oads to tho noxt,' sho says, hor vo|co
tar ca|mor than m|no. °Evoryth|ng you havo
oxpor|oncod |n th|s ||to as wo|| as thoso pr|or has
proparod you tor th|s momont. Each doc|s|on you
mado has |andod you horo. And wh||o you havo
accomp||shod so much-thoro |s much |ott to do. 1ho
journoy |s |ong and arduous-but tho roward |s too
groat to m|ss. 1horo aro many who awa|t you-awa|t
you to ro|oaso thom. You aro tho on|y ono who can do
so. 1h|s |s why you koop ro|ncarnat|ng, Evor. You havo
a dost|ny to tu|t|||.'
l squ|nt, roa||z|ng w|th a start that's tho t|rst t|mo
sho's ovor usod my roa| namo, or at |oast my curront
roa| namo. Usua||y sho ca||s mo Ado||na, or just po|nts
as sho s|ngs that domontod song ot hors. And l can't
ho|p but wondor what moro l cou|d poss|b|y bo
oxpoctod to do attor a|| that l'vo a|roady boon through.
3urv|v|ng a past ||to l novor roa||zod l'd ||vod, noar|y
drown|ng |n tho l|vor ot |orgottu|noss, noar|y gott|ng
burnod a||vo |n tho dosort ot two b|az|ng suns, troo|ng
tho |ost sou|s ot tho 3hadow|and and rostor|ng |t back
to tho sp|ondor ot 3ummor|and.
Attor a|| that, l'm just not suro l'm up tor any now
cha||ongos. lot whon ovoryth|ng 0amon and l havo
boon str|v|ng tor a|| th|s t|mo |s t|na||y wo|| w|th|n our
roach. A|| wo havo to do |s hoad back to tho oarth
p|ano, co||oct tho |ngrod|onts, wh|p up tho ant|doto,
g|vo |t a shako and a sw|g, and tho happ||y ovor attor
|s ours.
°On|y you can br|ng back tho truth. On|y you can t|nd
|t,' lotus says, tho words spokon p|a|n|y, s|mp|y,
boar|ng no s|gns ot bogg|ng or p|oad|ng.
°locato wbot oxact|y?' 0amon asks, mak|ng no
attompt to h|do h|s oxasporat|on.
3ut lotus |s |mmuno to our outbursts. |rom what l
can soo, sho cyc|os botwoon two moods-voor|ng
trom s||ght|y tor|orn, to ca|m and sorono.
°1ho 1roo ot l|to,' sho says, hor gazo d|roctod at
h|m. °On|y Evor can t|nd |t. On|y Evor can br|ng back
|ts tru|t. 1ho troo |s ovorg|v|ng. lts tru|t prov|dos
on||ghtonmont-tho know|odgo ot truo |mmorta||ty-
tho sou|'s |mmorta||ty-to thoso who sook |t-as wo||
as rovors|ng tho ta|so, phys|ca| |mmorta||ty ot thoso
who'vo boon too|od.'
°And |t sho doosn't go? lt sho turns hor back on you,
on a|| ot th|s, and roturns to tho oarth p|ano, thon
what?' 0amon's brow r|sos |n cha||ongo.
°1hon |t's a p|ty. 1hon l havo m|sjudgod hor.
Undorost|matod hor. 1hon sho w||| not roa||zo hor
dost|ny and many w||| suttor. Yot |t |s hor cho|co
ont|ro|y. l can on|y ask, sho has tho troo w||| to doc|do
on hor own.' lotus tacos mo whon sho adds, °0o you
st||| havo that sma|| pouch that l gavo you?'
Vy oyos narrow, my ||ps part, l'd torgotton a|| about
tho ||tt|o s||k pouch sho handod mo at tho bog|nn|ng ot
tho journoy, and attor a|| that l'vo boon through, l doubt
|t's st||| w|th mo.
l snako my t|ngors |nto oach ot my pockots,
ovontua||y t|nd|ng |t wodgod doop |nto tho cornor ot
tho r|ghthand back ono, tho |ast ono l chock. lt's
crump|od, tota||y squashod and cr|nk|y, but st||| l
rotr|ovo |t and dang|o |t botoro mo.
|or taco ||tt|ng |nto a sm||o as sho says, °0o you
romombor my words whon l gavo |t to you?'
l squ|nt, soarch|ng through tho c|uttorod contonts ot
my m|nd. °You sa|d, 'Evoryth|ng you th|nk you nood |s
|n horo. You doc|do what that moans.' Or somoth|ng
||ko that.'
3ho nods. Gr|ns. Vy attont|on c|a|mod by tho |argo
gaps |n hor tooth whon sho says, °And so, w|th that |n
m|nd, what |s tho ono th|ng you dos|ro most-abovo
ovoryth|ng o|so? l|ght now, at th|s vory momont, what
|s |t you want?'
l hos|tato. 3taro at a sma|| patch ot grass at my toot.
Awaro ot 0amon's gazo wo|gh|ng hoav||y upon mo,
wondor|ng why l won't say |t, why tho do|ay.
1ho samo th|ng l wondor as wo||.
l wondor why tho word won't como-why |t too|s ||ko
such a strugg|o, whon |t's tho ono th|ng, tho on|y th|ng,
wo'vo sought a|| th|s t|mo.
l|tt|ng my gazo to moot lotus's, l t|ght to push tho
words past my tonguo. Vy vo|co woodon, portunctory,
dovo|d ot omot|on, whon l say, °1ho ant|doto. l-rathor
wo, havo tho roc|po, but wo st||| nood to co||oct tho
|ngrod|onts, attond to a|| tho moon phasos, and .
whatnot.' l a||ow tho words to tra|| ott. Vy hoart
hammor|ng, my stomach jumb|od |n knots, my t|ngors
tw|tch|ng w||d|y as lotus's oyos travo| botwoon 0amon
and mo.
°And so |t |s.' 3ho nods, as though |t |s dono, and
whon tho gosturo |s mot w|th two skopt|ca| staros, sho
adds, °l|oaso. look |ns|do. You w||| t|nd |t conta|ns
ovoryth|ng you nood to mako th|s ant|doto ot yours.
lnc|ud|ng a vory raro horb that w||| bo d|tt|cu|t to t|nd
back on tho oarth p|ano. And yos, a|| ot tho moon
phasos havo boon accountod tor.'
Contont to |oavo |t at that, sho starts to shutt|o away,
stopp|ng on|y whon l ca|| hor back to mo and say,
°You'ro jok|ng, r|ght?' l dang|o tho t|ny pouch, know|ng
thoro's no poss|b|o way |t cou|d ovor conta|n a|| tho
|toms loman |nc|udod |n that |ong grocory ||st ot h|s.
lt's too sma||. A ||st ||ko that wou|d roqu|ro a comp|oto|y
stuttod dutt|o bag, or two.
lotus stops, stoop|os hor hands at hor chost, and
says, °Why don't you ompty tho contonts and soo?'
l trown, knoo| onto tho grass, pu|||ng tho str|ngs as l
t||t tho t|ny bag on |ts s|do. Unab|o to do anyth|ng but
gasp whon a s|ow ot horbs, crysta|s, and t|ny g|ass
v|a|s ot ||qu|ds tumb|o out. |av|ng no |doa whoro thoy
cou|d poss|b|y bo com|ng trom-tho bag conta|ns tar
moro |toms than |t cou|d ovor |og|ca||y ho|d.
°lt |s a|| thoro. Evoryth|ng you nood to procood. 1ust
to||ow loman's |nstruct|ons and tho ||to that you droam
ot |s yours.' 3ho stops, |ook|ng at mo whon sho adds,
°Or |s |t?'
l gu|p. 3trugg|o to broatho. 3tar|ng at tho bounty a||
sproad out botoro mo-a gonorous hoap ot hard-to-
t|nd, comp|ox |ngrod|onts l'vo boon soarch|ng tor a|| ot
th|s t|mo-tho answor to a|| ot our prob|oms r|ght horo
tor tho tak|ng.
And yot, ovon though l know l shou|d bo happy, |t not
comp|oto|y ocstat|c, l can't soom to stop hor words
trom ropoat|ng |n my hoad, can't dampon tho doubt
sho ra|sod whon sho sa|d: Or ls ltº
°3omoth|ng wrong?' |or rhoumy gazo movos ovor
mo. °|avo you changod your m|nd? ls thoro
somoth|ng o|so you'd rathor havo?'
°Evor-' 0amon drops to h|s knoos r|ght bos|do
mo, w||||ng mo to taco h|m, to say somoth|ng, to ottor
somo sort ot oxp|anat|on.
3ut l can't.
|ow can l oxp|a|n |t to h|m whon l can baro|y mako
sonso ot |t myso|t?
|o'|| on|y got angry.
Won't undorstand.
And, on tho surtaco at |oast, l can't say l b|amo h|m.
3ut th|s goos so much doopor than that. 1h|s harks
back to tho journoy-my dost|ny-tho vory roason l
koop ro|ncarnat|ng.
And suddon|y l know. 3uddon|y, l'm thorough|y
conv|ncod that dr|nk|ng trom tho ant|doto |s just
anothor d|stract|on-|t's not tho answor wo'vo tru|y
boon sook|ng.
ln tho ond, |t won't so|vo a th|ng.
Won't so|vo tho ono th|ng that noods to bo so|vod
moro than anyth|ng o|so.
3uro |t w||| a||ow us to bo togothor |n tho way that wo
want-but that's a|| |t a||ows. lt's ||ko s|app|ng a 3and-
A|d on a b|g gap|ng wound-|t doos noth|ng to hoa|
tho damago ot what's a|roady boon dono.
lt doos noth|ng to chango tho tact that wo'ro on tho
wrong courso.
Onco wo roa||zo how wo'vo choatod ourso|vos out
ot tho ||vos wo'ro moant to ||vo by choos|ng phys|ca|
|mmorta||ty ovor tho |mmorta||ty ot our sou|s-tho
ant|doto |s no |ongor tho |ssuo.
lt 0amon and l aro tru|y go|ng to bo togothor thon
wo'|| havo to roach tar, tar doopor than that. Wo'|| havo
to adm|t that our prob|oms d|dn't start tho day loman
tr|ckod mo-thoy startod sovora| contur|os oar||or
whon A|r|k cou|dn't boar to |oso Ado||na-thon
cu|m|natod whon ho ro|ncarnatod as 0amon,
portoctod tho o||x|r, and changod tho courso ot our
sou|s torovor.
lt 0amon and l aro tru|y go|ng to bo togothor thon
wo'|| havo to ro|oaso ourso|vos trom that path, wo'||
havo to rovorso tho cho|cos ho mado |n tho past, wo'||
havo to pay ott that hugo karm|c dobt by mak|ng th|s
journoy to tho 1roo ot l|to, obta|n|ng |ts tru|t, and
ottor|ng a|| tho othors a chanco to ro|oaso thomso|vos
too.
On|y thon w||| wo bo troo to movo on.
On|y thon w||| wo got our troo happ||y ovor attor.
Othorw|so, l'vo no doubt anothor g|ar|ng obstac|o
w||| just t|nd a way to prosont |tso|t, and on |t w||| go, tor
ovormoro.
l tako a doop broath, but t|nd l don't roa||y nood |t.
lt's ||ko l can too| that purp|o g|ow rad|at|ng |ns|do mo
onco aga|n. l'vo novor to|t moro suro ot myso|t.
°1horo |s somoth|ng o|so l'd rathor havo.' Vy oyos
moot lotus's, tho two ot us ho|d|ng tho |ook tor what
too|s ||ko a vory |ong t|mo. °l want to tu|t||| my dost|ny. l
want to comp|oto my journoy,' l say, my vo|co so||d,
stoady, moro corta|n than ovor. °l want to comp|oto tho
task l was born to do.'
l can hoar 0amon bos|do mo, h|s suddon |ntako ot
broath, and l know w|thout |ook|ng that |t's part|y duo to
my words, and part|y duo to tho tact that tho
|ngrod|onts havo now d|sappoarod.
3ut l don't |ook. |or tho momont anyway, my gazo
stays on lotus. 3oo|ng hor stand|ng botoro mo,
grant|ng mo a curt nod a|ong w|th a s|ow|y curv|ng
sm||o whon sho says, °As you w|sh.'

long attor lotus has |ott wo roma|n qu|ot. 0amon |ost
|n thoughts ot outrago and b|amo, wh||o l proparo tor
tho momont whon l'|| havo to oxp|a|n.
1ho s||onco brokon whon ho |ooks at mo and says,
°Evor, how cou|d you?' |our s|mp|o words that cut to
tho bono, but thon, thoy woro moant to. |o shakos h|s
hoad, squ|nts, tr|os to mako sonso ot |t. °|ow cou|d
you do that?' ho adds. °|ow cou|d you just throw |t a||
away? 3or|ous|y. You'ro go|ng to havo to oxp|a|n |t to
mo bocauso |t just doosn't mako any sonso. A|| th|s
t|mo, you'vo boon b|am|ng yourso|t tor our |nab|||ty to
bo togothor. A|| th|s t|mo you'vo boon b|am|ng yourso|t
tor loman's tr|ck|ng you. Evon attor l oxp|a|nod, ovon
attor l to|d you that by mak|ng mo dr|nk you actua||y
ondod up sav|ng my ||to and spar|ng my sou| trom
gott|ng trappod |n tho 3hadow|and, you woro st|||
conv|ncod you woro at tau|t, to tho po|nt whoro your
so|o tocus was rosorvod tor obta|n|ng tho ant|doto. 3o
dosporato to got your hands on |t you woro w||||ng to
do|vo |nto th|ngs that put you at groat r|sk. And now,
now that you t|na||y succood |n gott|ng tho ono th|ng
you'vo boon soarch|ng tor a|| ot th|s t|mo-you chooso
to throw |t a|| away so you can go on somo crazy o|d
|ady's journoy to |ook tor somo troo that, l'm sorry to
say, doos not ox|st!' |o |ooks at mo, hands t|ox|ng by
h|s s|dos, gazo t|||od w|th a|| tho words ho ho|d back.
°And so, what l nood trom you now, what l nood trom
you moro than anyth|ng, |s to answor tho wby. ¼by
wou|d you do that? What cou|d you poss|b|y havo
boon th|nk|ng?'
l staro at my toot, a||ow|ng h|s words to t|ow through
mo, to |oop around |n my bra|n, to ropoat ovor and
ovor aga|n, but ovon though l hoard tho quost|on, ovon
though l know ho wa|ts tor an answor, l'm st||| stuck on
tho phraso: 5omo troo.
|o ca||od |t somo troo.
|o quost|onod |ts vory ox|stonco.
And l'm amazod ho can't soo |t. Amazod ho can't
undorstand that |t's tho troo, oot tho ant|doto that
ottors roa| and |ast|ng sa|vat|on. 1hat |t's tho on|y way
to rovorso our phys|ca| |mmorta||ty.
1ho troo |s our ono and on|y chanco to chango
ovorytblog.
3ut thon, maybo ho doos undorstand.
Vaybo ho undorstands a|| too wo||.
And maybo that's why ho's so doad sot aga|nst |t.
°You'ro r|ght.' l ||tt my gazo to t|nd h|s. °1h|s who|o
t|mo l bovo to|t rospons|b|o. l bovo boon boat|ng
myso|t up w|th tho gu||t. l bovo boon so consumod w|th
romorso that l dabb|od |n mag|ck l had no bus|noss
dabb||ng |n. l ovon tr|od to mako doa|s w|th poop|o l
shou|d'vo stayod away trom. l was so t|||od w|th so|t-
|oath|ng and b|amo, l was so dosporato to rovorso
what l'd dono, that l was w||||ng to tako whatovor r|sk
nocossary |n ordor to mako |t up to you-to mako |t up
t o os. l was w||||ng to do whatovor was noodod to
onsuro that wo cou|d bo togothor |n tho way that wo
want, unt|| my who|o wor|d rovo|vod around gott|ng my
hands on tho ant|doto-at tho oxponso ot ovoryth|ng
o|so. 3ut now l know just how wrong and m|sgu|dod
that was. low l know that |nstoad ot tocus|ng so|o|y
on gott|ng tho ant|doto, l shou|d'vo boon tocusod on
spar|ng our soo|s.'
|o swa||ows, squ|rms, hoars tho truth ot my words, l
can soo |t |n tho t|ash |n h|s oyos, but |t's gono |n an
|nstant. ||s roso|vo hardon|ng unt|| ho's moro unw||||ng
than ovor to soo my s|do, wh|ch on|y conv|ncos mo to
cont|nuo.
°0amon, p|oaso hoar mo out. l know that on tho
surtaco at |oast, my doc|s|on probab|y |ooks protty
crazy, but |t goos so much doopor than that. lt's ||ko-l
t|na||y got |t. l t|na||y roa||y and tru|y got |t. lt |t woron't
loman |ns|st|ng on koop|ng us apart, |t wou|d'vo boon
somoth|ng o|so. 1ho roason wo can't bo togothor |s
bocauso tbo oolvorso won't a||ow |t. Our kormo won't
a||ow |t. Or at |oast not unt|| wo do what |t takos to r|ght
th|s hugo g|ar|ng wrong that you'vo mado. lot unt|| wo
chango tho courso ot our ||vos-tho courso ot our
soo|s-by roturn|ng thom to tho way thoy woro a|ways
moant to bo. You sa|d so yourso|t, way back botoro
wo ovon startod th|s journoy, you troo|y adm|ttod that
what wo aro |sn't natura| or r|ght. 1hat wo aron't ||v|ng
tho ||vos that naturo |ntondod-that wo'vo wrong|y
choson phys|ca| |mmorta||ty ovor tho |mmorta||ty ot tho
sou|. 1hoso aro your words, 0amon, not m|no. You
a|so troo|y adm|ttod that |t's cost us both doar|y, that
|t's tho roason wo koop tac|ng a|| ot thoso
|nsurmountab|o obstac|os, tho roason why wo'ro
thwartod at ovory turn |n a way wo can't soom to
ovorcomo. You sa|d |t's why 1udo koops show|ng up
and gott|ng |n tho way ot our happ|noss. 1hat w|thout
h|s ovon roa||z|ng |t, ho's p|ay|ng out h|s own dost|ny ot
try|ng to koop us trom ro||v|ng tho m|stakos ot our
past.' l |ook at h|m, dotorm|nod to mako h|m soo |t,
dotorm|nod to broak through to h|m, my vo|co ga|n|ng
|n p|tch unt|| |t's pract|ca||y squoak|ng. °0on't you soo
what a hugo opportun|ty th|s |s? lt's a vory roo| chanco
tor us to tro|y bo togothor íorovor |n tho way wo woro
|ntondod. lt's a chanco tor mo to t|na||y so|zo tho
dost|ny l was born tor. 1ho samo dost|ny l'vo boon
ca||od on tor sovora| ||vos now, and l'm t|na||y roady
and w||||ng to ombraco |t. l just hopo you'|| t|nd a way to
ombraco |t a|ong w|th mo.'
l b|to down on my ||p, proparod tor whatovor harsh
words ho m|ght say, but ho just shakos h|s hoad and
turns away. 3o ovorcomo w|th angor ho can't ovon
taco mo. 1ho words ground out botwoon c|onchod
tooth whon ho says, °1ho roason wo can't bo togothor
|s bocauso you just d|sposod ot tho ant|doto.' |o
swa||ows hard, h|s hands cur||ng and uncur||ng at h|s
s|dos. °Evor, l don't got |t-don't you want to bo w|th
mo?'
And whon ho t|na||y turns, whon h|s gazo t|na||y
moots m|no, what l t|nd thoro makos my hoart broak.
°|ow can you ovon th|nk that?' l ask, my vo|co a|ong
w|th my taco comp|oto|y stunnod. °Attor a|| that l'vo
gono through |n tho hopos that l cou|d bo w|th you?' l
shut my oyos, tako a momont to stoady my broath, to
co||oct myso|t a|ong w|th my words. °0|dn't you hoar
anyth|ng l just sa|d? Ot courso l want to bo w|th you! l
want to bo w|th you moro than you'|| ovor probab|y
roa||zo! 3ut oot ||ko th|s. Not bocauso ot tho ant|doto.
1horo's anothor way. A bottor way, l'm suro ot |t now.
0amon, wo t|na||y havo tho chanco to rovorso th|s
hugo, g|ar|ng wrong-wo t|na||y havo tho chanco to
||vo tho ||vos wo woro moant to ||vo-and onco wo do,
wo'|| havo no nood tor th|ngs ||ko o||x|rs and ant|dotos.
0on't you roa||zo what th|s moans? 0on't you roa||zo
how op|c th|s |s?'
°Ep|c?' |o pract|ca||y sp|ts out tho word. °3or|ous|y,
Evor, do you hoar yourso|t? What cou|d bo moro oplc
than tho |ovo that wo sharo? lsn't that what br|ngs us
back togothor, t|mo and t|mo aga|n?'
l s|gh, oxhaustod by h|s argumont, oxhaustod by h|s
unknown dopths ot comp|oto and tota| stubbornnoss.
3t|||, l'm dotorm|nod to mako h|m undorstand botoro
|t's too |ato, botoro |t's t|mo to |oavo and ho rotusos to
jo|n mo.
°1hat's on|y part ot tho roason,' l say. °1ho othor part
|s bocauso oach t|mo l como back, oach t|mo l
ro|ncarnato, l'm gott|ng yot anothor chanco to roa||zo
my dost|ny. 1o r|ght tho wrong you |nadvortont|y
comm|ttod a|| thoso yoars ago. And r|ght|ng that
wrong |s tho on|y way you and l w||| ovor tru|y bo troo to
||vo and |ovo as wo want.'
|o s|ghs and gazos ott |nto tho d|stanco, roma|n|ng
qu|ot tor so |ong l'm just about to broak tho s||onco
whon ho says, °1horo's somoth|ng o|so you nood to
know.'
l |ook at h|m.
°1ho troo |s a myth. lt's tho stutt ot myst|ca| |ogonds.
lt doosn't roa||y ox|st. 1ho |ogonds a|| c|a|m |t boars
ono p|oco ot tru|t ovory ono thousand yoars. Ono
p|oco ot tru|t that ottors |mmorta||ty to whoovor gots to
|t t|rst.' |o sm|rks. °1o|| mo, Evor, doos that sound
ovon romoto|y roa| to you?'
l rotuso to roact to tho ta|nt traco ot mock|ng |n h|s
tono whon l say, °A yoar ago, a p|aco ||ko
3ummor|and wou|dn't havo soomod romoto|y
poss|b|o. lo|thor wou|d psych|cs, ghosts, chakras,
auras, mag|ck, t|mo travo|, ro|ncarnat|on, noar-doath
oxpor|oncos, mod|ums, |nstant man|tostat|on, tho
powor ot crysta|s, or mag|ca| o||x|rs that prov|do
|mmorta||ty.' l ||tt my shou|dors. °3o who's to say th|s
troo doosn't ox|st too? And |mag|no that |t doos,
0amon. 0o you havo any |doa what th|s journoy cou|d
moan?' Vy oyos poro ovor h|m, w||||ng h|m to at |oast
moot mo ha|tway. °lt |t's succosstu|, |t cou|d c|oar your
karm|c dobts. lt cou|d a||ow you to mako amonds tor
your past. 3og|n anow. W|po tho s|ato c|oan and a||
that. Vaybo you novor torcod anyono to dr|nk, wo||,
anyono oxcopt mo.' l pauso, pross my ||ps |nto a
th|n, gr|m ||no, thon shak|ng my hoad, l add, °Vaybo
you woro tar too young and na|vo and |noxpor|oncod
to tu||y undorstand tho tar-roach|ng consoquoncos ot
what you'd dono, tho dangor you put us a|| |n, hock, tho
ox|stonco ot tho 3hadow|and a|ono, wh|ch l know you
d|dn't ovon know about unt|| you woro sont thoro, but
st|||, anyway, my po|nt |s, wh||o you m|ght not havo
w||||ng|y sot out to doom a who|o host ot sou|s to that
horr|b|o abyss-|n tho ond, that's oxact|y whoro th|s
|oads. And |t noth|ng o|so, th|s |s your ono chanco to
t|x |t. Your ono chanco to prosont a cho|co to thoso
you'vo o|thor changod, or who woro changod bocauso
ot tho o||x|r you mado. lt's an opportun|ty that may
novor como aga|n.'
°l novor moant to hurt you,' ho says, vo|co baro|y a
wh|spor. °lovor moant to hurt anyono.' l catch tho
unm|stakab|o t|ash ot pa|n and so|t-rocr|m|nat|on |n h|s
oyos botoro ho |ooks away. °l novor ant|c|patod that
you wou|d b|amo mo ||ko th|s-or that you'd v|ow
spond|ng an otorn|ty togothor as a curso. Or 'ooomoo
to o borrlb|o obyss' as l bo||ovo you put |t.'
°l was ta|k|ng about tho 3hadow|and, 0amon, oot
our tuturo togothor.'
°3ut wo'ro not |n tho 3hadow|and. Our tuturo |s now.
l|ght now. Wo st||| havo tho roc|po tor tho ant|doto-
|t's not too |ato. A|| wo havo to do |s hoad out ot horo,
back to tho oarth p|ano, and gathor tho |ngrod|onts.
3ut you'd rathor run ott on somo crazy w||d-gooso
chaso |n tho hopos ot rovors|ng th|s torr|b|o curso that
l'vo put upon you.'
°0amon-l d|dn't moan-'
|o ho|ds up a hand, h|s taco as brokon as h|s vo|co
whon ho says, °lt's t|no. loa||y. 3o||ovo mo, Evor, you
havon't sa|d anyth|ng l havon't thought ot myso|t a
m||||on t|mos botoro. lt's just hoar|ng |t trom your
||ps . wo||, |t was hardor than l ovor oxpoctod. 3o, |t
|t's okay w|th you, l th|nk l'|| hoad back to tho oarth
p|ano-l nood somo t|mo to th|nk. And, wh||o l'm at |t,
l'|| gathor thoso |ngrod|onts tor tho ant|doto. Attor a||, |t
you'ro go|ng to bo stuck w|th mo tor tho rost ot
otorn|ty, at |oast tho ant|doto w||| a||ow tor corta|n .
oojoymoots that w||| mako your ||to |nt|n|to|y moro
boarab|o.'
twonty-oight
l watch h|m |oavo, my thoughts rac|ng through a mazo
ot cont||ctod too||ngs. lart ot mo want|ng to crash
through tho tad|ng cornor ot that sh|mmor|ng vo||
botoro |t's too |ato-so l can roturn to tho oarth p|ano
r|ght a|ongs|do h|m.
3ut tho othor part, tho b|ggor part, |s dotorm|nod to
got on w|th tho journoy.
A journoy that |s |ong ovorduo.
Encouragod by tho momory ot somoth|ng l||oy sa|d
whon l'd mado a tut||o attompt to go back |n t|mo, on|y
to roturn to my most curront ||to. lt was just botoro tho
acc|dont that c|a|mod mo aga|n, whon sho |oanod
across hor soat, |ookod at mo, and sa|d:
Llo yoo ovor stop ooo tblok tbot moybo yoo woro
sopposoo to sorvlvoº 7bot moybo, lt woso`t jost
Lomoo wbo sovoo yooº
And though l had no |doa what |t moant at tho t|mo
-now l do.
1h|s |s what l camo back tor.
1h|s journoy |s my ono, and porhaps on|y chanco to
so|zo my dost|ny.
Wh|ch moans l can't a||ow 0amon's toars to
d|ssuado mo trom what l'm moant to do.
1hough l do undorstand h|s doc|s|on-h|s rotusa| to
soarch tor tho troo. |o b|amos h|mso|t tor g|v|ng mo
tho o||x|r, tor a|tor|ng tho courso ot my ||to-tho journoy
ot my sou|-and now l |ns|st on t|nd|ng tho troo so l
can rovorso thoso ottocts, roturn us to tho way wo
woro a|ways moant to bo.
1roub|o |s, |t thoro's no troo, thoro's no rovorsa|.
1ust 0amon, mo, and h|s doopost rogrots-tor tho
rost ot otorn|ty.
3ut l know somoth|ng ho doosn't. 1horo ls a troo. l
know |t |n tho doopost part ot mo.
And as soon as l t|nd |t, 0amon w||| bo trood ot h|s
burdonsomo gu||t and so|t-b|amo. Gu||t that's not ovon
warrantod s|nco ovoryth|ng ho's dono, ovory cho|co
that ho's mado, was w|th tho bost ot |ntont|ons. |o
may havo actod out ot toar, but tho mot|vat|on boh|nd
|t was |ovo.
3ut s|nco l can't oxact|y to|| h|m that-l'|| havo to
show h|m |nstoad.
And so, now|y dod|catod to what l know |n my hoart l
must do, l stoa| a momont to man|tost a tow th|ngs l
m|ght nood botoro l got too tar a|ong and poss|b|y ond
up |n a p|aco whoro mag|ck no |ongor works.
Van|tost|ng stutt ||ko a t|ash||ght, a s|oop|ng bag,
wator and tood, a ||ght jackot, sturd|or shoos, a
backpack-thon onco l havo that socurod, l busy
myso|t by mak|ng a monta| ||st ot a|| that l'vo |oarnod
about tho troo so tar. 1h|ngs l'vo |oarnod trom 0amon,
lotus, and tho tow th|ngs l'vo p|ckod up trom mov|os
and books and work|ng |n 1udo's storo, ropoat|ng th|s
||st to myso|t as l hoad down tho tra||.
lt's myst|ca|-truo.
3omo c|a|m |t's moro|y a myth-that roma|ns to bo
soon.
lt's sa|d to boar on|y ono p|oco ot tru|t ovory
thousand or so yoars-|t so, thon l torvont|y hopo th|s
|s tho t|mo ot tho harvost and that l'm tho t|rst to arr|vo
(othorw|so, l'm |n tor an awtu||y |ong wa|t).
l stop, c|oso my oyos, and tuno |nto tho w|sdom ot
3ummor|and. 1rust|ng |t to gu|do mo |n just tho r|ght
d|roct|on as my toot start mov|ng aga|n, soom|ng|y ot
tho|r own accord, and whon l gazo down at tho ground,
l'm g|ad l had tho toros|ght to man|tost tho h|k|ng
boots whon l start |oav|ng b|g c|umps ot grass |n my
wako. C|umps that soon turn to th|ck c|ouds ot dust
whon tho grass suddon|y g|vos way to |ooso d|rt,
torc|ng mo to ro|y on tho th|ck troads ot my so|os to
koop my ga|t stoady whon tho torra|n changos aga|n,
bocom|ng roughor, ||ttorod w|th sharp rocks and
bou|dors, and so |oadod w|th ha|rp|n curvos and
sw|tchbacks l'm torcod to go s|owor, and thon s|owor
st|||.
3ut no mattor how troachorous tho path may
bocomo, l w||| not cry unc|o, l w||| not g|vo up, and l w|||
not ovon th|nk about roturn|ng to whoro l camo trom.
Evon whon |t u|t|mato|y grows so narrow and stoop |t
ta||s ott |nto two bottom|oss chasms that yawn on
o|thor s|do, l'm comm|ttod to tho journoy. 1horo w||| bo
no turn|ng back.
l str|vo to koop my broath ovon, stoady, as l do my
bost not to |ook down. 1ust bocauso l can't d|o doosn't
moan l'm |ook|ng tor dangor. G|von tho cho|co, l protor
to p|ay |t sato tor as |ong as l can.
1ho tra|| soars h|ghor, and thon h|ghor st|||, and
whon |t bog|ns to snow, l can't ho|p but wondor |t |t has
somoth|ng to do w|th tho a|t|tudo. 3ut |t's not ||ko |t
mattors. lt's not ||ko know|ng tho roason w||| koop my
toot trom s||pp|ng procar|ous|y c|oso to tho craggy
abyss that gapos w|do tar bo|ow. lt's not ||ko |t'|| stop
my sk|n trom ch||||ng and turn|ng tr|g|d and b|uo.
Know|ng tho ||ght jackot l stashod |n my bag |s
hard|y oqu|ppod to hand|o a drop |n tomporaturo so
oxtromo, l c|oso my oyos and p|cturo a now ono-
somoth|ng b|g and down-t|||od, somoth|ng that'|| |oavo
mo |ook|ng ||ko a b|g shapo|oss b|ob but w||| hopotu||y
got tho job dono. 3ut whon noth|ng happons, whon no
coat appoars, l know l'vo roachod tho part ot tho
journoy whoro mag|ck and man|tost|ng no |ongor
work. l'|| havo to ro|y on myso|t, and tho tow th|ngs l
had tho toros|ght to man|tost botoro l got to th|s po|nt.
l s||p |nto tho jackot, pu|||ng tho s|oovos down past
my wr|sts unt|| thoy covor my numb, trozon t|ngort|ps,
koop|ng my oyos on tho tra|| and my m|nd on my
dost|ny, comm|ttod to mak|ng do w|th what l havo,
wh||o rom|nd|ng myso|t ot a|| tho cha||ongos l'vo
a|roady surv|vod-obstac|os that wou|dn't havo
soomod poss|b|o just ono yoar ago.
3ut dosp|to a|| my tocus, dosp|to tho cont|nuous
|oop ot pop ta|ks and troo tacts l ropoat |n my hoad, l
ovontua||y got to tho po|nt whoro l'm just too co|d and
oxhaustod to cont|nuo. 3o l start soarch|ng tor a p|aco
to sot up camp, though |t's not |ong botoro l dotorm|no
thoro |sn't ono. 1h|s trooz|ng co|d |andscapo doosn't
ottor much |n tho way ot rost.
l toss my bag on tho |cy co|d ground and pos|t|on
myso|t r|ght on top ot |t, pross|ng my noso to my knoos
and wrapp|ng my arms t|ght|y around mo |n a tut||o
attompt to both warm and stoady myso|t. And though l
try to s|oop, l can't. 1hough l try to mod|tato, my m|nd
won't s|ow down. 3o |nstoad, l spond tho t|mo
conv|nc|ng myso|t that l mado tho r|ght cho|co. 1hat
dosp|to my comp|oto|y m|sorab|o stato, a|| |s t|no and
good and oxact|y as |t shou|d bo-but |t ta||s way short
ot sooth|ng mo.
l'm too co|d.
1oo bono t|rod and woary.
3ut most|y, l'm too a|ono. 1oo t|||od w|th thoughts ot
m|ss|ng 0amon and tho way wo usod to bo.
lo mattor what l try to conv|nco myso|t ot, no
amount ot pos|t|vo th|nk|ng cou|d ovor rop|aco tho vory
roa|, vory wondortu| comtort ot hav|ng h|m bos|do mo.
And |n tho ond, that's what gots mo through. 1ho
momory ot h|m |s what a||ows mo to c|oso my oyos tor
a wh||o and dr|tt ott |nto somo othor p|aco, somo
bottor p|aco. A p|aco whoro |t's just h|m and mo and
nono ot our troub|os ox|st.
l havo no |doa how |ong l s|opt-a|| l know |s that tho
socond l opon my oyos and sw|po my hand across my
taco, l soo tho |andscapo has morphod. 1ho tra|| |s st|||
|mposs|b|y narrow, thoro's st||| a hugo, gap|ng chasm
on o|thor s|do, but tho soason has changod-|t's no
|ongor w|ntor, wh|ch moans l'm no |ongor torcod to
hudd|o aga|nst a pound|ng co|d b||zzard.
lnstoad, l'm caught |n a downpour, a ro|ont|oss
spr|ng ra|n that turns tho ground to mud and shows no
s|gn ot stopp|ng.
l strugg|o to my toot, qu|ck|y s||pp|ng my arms out ot
tho s|oovos as l hau| my jackot up ovor my hoad and
t|o thoso samo s|oovos undor my ch|n |n an attompt to
koop trom gott|ng any moro dronchod than l a|roady
am. 1ack||ng tho tra|| ono carotu| stop at a t|mo,
hav|ng g|von up on |nsp|r|ng thoughts, rom|n|scos, or
anyth|ng o|so, and rosorv|ng my tocus tor stay|ng
upr|ght, stay|ng stoady, and not topp||ng ovor tho s|do.
And whon tho ra|n turns to a b|az|ng hot sun that
|oavos tho ground dry and crackod, l don't bat an oyo
-and whon that samo sun |s coo|od by a warm, su|try
broozo l know that summor has now turnod to ta||.
1ho cyc|o ot soasons ropoat|ng |tso|t unt|| |t no
|ongor tazos mo, unt|| l torm a rout|no. 3und||ng up and
h|bornat|ng through w|ntor, dodg|ng tho downpour ot
spr|ng, poo||ng ott my 1-sh|rt 't|| l'm down to my tank
top whon summor comos, thon donn|ng |t aga|n whon
summor turns to ta||. 1hrough |t a||, l just koop on
koop|ng on, do|ng my bost to rat|on my tood and
wator supp|y, do|ng my bost not to pan|c, and noar|y
succood|ng w|th tho |attor unt|| somoth|ng happons
that shocks mo to tho coro.
3omoth|ng l'vo novor soon |n thoso parts botoro.
lot ovon |n tho doopost dopths ot tho 3hadow|and.
lt grows dark.
Okay, maybo not p|tch-b|ack dark, but st||| dark. Or
at tho vory |oast, d|m.
l|ko tho bog|nn|ng ot n|ghtta||, or tho g|oam|ng as
|t's ca||od.
1hat oor|o, g|oomy momont whon ovoryth|ng
bocomos a s||houotto ot |tso|t.
1hat oor|o, g|oomy momont whon |t's hard to
d|st|ngu|sh |nd|v|dua| objocts trom tho shadows thoy
cast.
l stop, my toot s||pp|ng, sond|ng a t|urry ot rocks
ovor tho s|do, know|ng that cou|d'vo boon mo. Vy
hoart hammor|ng tur|ous|y as l gathor myso|t, gathor
my ||mbs, g|vo myso|t a qu|ck onco-ovor, and onsuro
l'm okay.
°l don't ||ko th|s,' l say, my vo|co broak|ng tho
s||onco unt|| |t ochoos a|| around mo. |av|ng now
ott|c|a||y jo|nod tho ranks ot a|| tho othor crazy poop|o
who ta|k to thomso|vos. °3otwoon tho dark and that
tog up ahoad.' l trown, soo|ng tho way tho tra||
abrupt|y ha|ts |nto a th|ck c|oud ot murky wh|to m|st
that r|sos up trom soom|ng|y out ot nowhoro. G|v|ng no
|nd|cat|on ot what m|ght ||o just boyond, and corta|n|y
prov|d|ng no s|gn ot tho troo, no h|nt that l'm ovon on
tho r|ght path. °1h|s doosn't |ook good,' l add, my
vo|co so om|nous |t worsons my unoaso.
l g|anco a|| around, wondor|ng what to do now.
Obsorv|ng tho way tho tog sooms to grow and oxpand
and s||thor stra|ght toward mo, pu|s|ng |n a way that
makos |t soom v|ta|, a||vo. 1ho s|ght ot |t mak|ng mo
wondor |t l shou|d maybo backtrack a b|t, t|nd a p|aco
whoro |t's c|oar and hang out 't|| |t ||tts. 3ut thon l
hos|tato tor so |ong tho noxt th|ng l know |t's too |ato.
1ho m|st |s a|roady horo. A|roady upon mo.
|av|ng cropt up so tast l'm swa||owod |n an |nstant.
lost |n a sw|r| ot wh|to, dr|zz|y hazo as my t|ngors
roach, grasp, and c|aw trant|ca||y, try|ng to got my
boar|ngs, to c|oar ovon a sma|| b|t out ot my way.
3ut |t's no uso. l'm drown|ng |n a soa ot wh|to vapor
that prossos down a|| around. 3t|t||ng a scroam whon l
||tt my hands botoro mo and roa||zo l can't ovon soo
my own t|ngors.
lo |ongor suro wh|ch way |s torward, wh|ch way |s
back, l roach tor my t|ash||ght and sot |t on |ow, but |t
doosn't ho|p. 0oosn't mako a dont |n th|s tog. And l'm
voor|ng dangorous|y c|oso to succumb|ng to a rag|ng,
tu||-b|own, mo|tdown pan|c attack, whon l hoar h|m.
A d|stant vo|co that dr|tts toward mo, croop|ng up
trom boh|nd. 1ho sound ot |t prompt|ng mo to cry out,
to shout h|s namo as |oud as l can. Vy tono throady,
h|gh-p|tchod, |ott|ng h|m know that l'm horo, that l won't
movo, that l'|| wa|t unt|| ho t|nds mo.
|oav|ng a hugo sob ot ro||ot whon l too| tho grab ot
h|s t|ngors, h|s hand on my s|oovo, gr|pp|ng t|ght|y,
pu|||ng mo to h|m.
l hudd|o doop |nto tho curvo ot h|s arms, bury my
taco |n h|s chost, and pross my torohoad t|ght|y to h|s
nock, on|y to d|scovor too |ato that |t's not 0amon who
ho|ds mo.

°Evor.'
||s chook prossos |nto my ha|r as h|s ||ps sook my
oar, and though tho vo|co |s corta|n|y ma|o, |t's not ono
l rocogn|zo.
1ho m|st cont|nuos to gathor-rondor|ng |t
|mposs|b|o tor mo to dotorm|no just who tho vo|co
bo|ongs to. ||s body pross|ng, contorm|ng aga|nst
m|no, as l squ|nch my oyos shut, try to poor |ns|do h|s
hoad, but got nowhoro tast. Whoovor th|s |s, ho's
|oarnod to put up ono hock ot a sh|o|d aga|nst such
attacks.
l pu|| back, strugg|o to broak troo, but |t's no uso.
|o's untoas|b|y strong and cont|nuos to c||ng ||ko a
drown|ng man |ntont on dragg|ng mo a|ong.
°Carotu|,' ho says, h|s taco sh|tt|ng, a||ow|ng tor a
gust ot co|d broath to b|ast a|| tho way down tho |ongth
ot my nock, as tho push ot h|s t|ngors rad|atos through
my c|othos.
Co|d broath.
Co|dor t|ngors.
Unusua| strongth.
1houghts l can't hoar.
Can on|y moan ono th|ng.
°Varco?' l vonturo, wondor|ng |t |t moans that
V|sa's horo too s|nco l raro|y soo thom w|thout oach
othor.
°|ard|y.' Chas|ng tho word w|th a doop, scath|ng
|augh that sooms moro than a ||tt|o |nappropr|ato
cons|dor|ng tho c|rcumstancos wo t|nd ourso|vos |n.
°1hon who.' l start, wondor|ng |t |t's ono ot tho
othor |mmorta|s loman m|ght'vo turnod, though |t's
not |ong botoro ho supp||os tho answor tor mo.
°lato,' ho says, h|s vo|co |ow and doop. °You may
not romombor mo, but wo'vo mot onco or tw|co.
1hough a|ways casua||y, novor torma||y.'
l swa||ow hard, hav|ng no |doa |t that's good nows or
bad. |o's a|ways boon a b|t ot an on|gma, though l
don't dwo|| on |t |ong. Vy ma|n concorn |s broak|ng out
ot h|s gr|p. 1ho rost w||| to||ow.
°l hopo l d|dn't scaro you.' |o |oosons h|s ho|d just a
||tt|o, but on|y a ||tt|o, not onough to grant mo my
troodom. °l |ost my toot|ng. |o|| doop |nto tho canyon
back thoro. luck||y tor mo, l d|dn't h|t bottom-
assum|ng thoro |s a bottom. lnstoad l got hung up on
an outcropp|ng ot rocks, thon spont what sooms ||ko
just shy ot torovor t|nd|ng my way back up tho s|do.
Wh|ch, by tho way, |s a |ot oas|or sa|d than dono whon
you can't soo a b|oody th|ng. Wont through so many
soasons, l |ost track. Anyway, l was just about to g|vo
up, sot up camp, or moro accurato|y hang on to what
||tt|o l cou|d unt|| tho tog c|oars, whon l hoard tootstops,
your vo|co, and wo||, |t gavo mo just tho |ncont|vo l
noodod to c||mb tastor and t|nd my way to satoty. 1ust
know|ng l was no |ongor a|ono |n th|s godtorsakon
p|aco mado |t oas|or. 3ut, l havo to to|| you, Evor, l'm a
b|t surpr|sod to t|nd you horo on your own, l thought tor
suro you'd bo w|th 0amon. 3o who woro you ta|k|ng to
anyway? Yourso|t?'
l narrow my gazo, know|ng bottor than to answor
that quost|on, or ovon to |ot on that l'm out horo on my
own. |o's mock|ng mo. |o's not tho |oast b|t s|ncoro.
And though tho m|st doos a roa||y good job ot
obscur|ng h|s taco, a||ow|ng mo on|y a g||mpso ot tho
ta|ntost out||no ot h|s dark wavy ha|r, |t's not ||ko l nood
to actua||y soo h|m to cont|rm |t. 1ho contompt |n h|s
vo|co r|ngs |oud and c|oar.
°lt you ask mo, wo havo two cho|cos,' ho says, as
though wo'ro just two good tr|onds poo||ng our w|ts,
soarch|ng tor a so|ut|on that's mutua||y bonot|c|a| and
p|oas|ng. °Wo can o|thor s|t th|s th|ng out and wa|t tor
tho tog to c|oar, or wo can mako our way back down
and hoad out ot horo. l voto tor mak|ng our way back
down, how about you?'
A m||||on rotorts rush torth, but l c|amp my ||ps shut
botoro l say somoth|ng l m|ght ||vo to rogrot. Evon
though h|s prox|m|ty |s g|v|ng mo tho croops, ovon
though l'm tomptod to p|uck h|s t|ngors r|ght ott my
s|oovo-l can no |ongor do that. lot attor a|| that l'vo
|oarnod. low that l know wo'ro a|| ono-a|| connoctod
-tho o|d roact|ons no |ongor work.
3ut that doosn't moan l havo to ongago. l'vo no
doubt h|s |ntont|ons aron't good. l movo to push past
h|m, oagor to put as much d|stanco botwoon us as l
poss|b|y can, carotu| to s||onco a|| thoughts ot worry,
parano|a, or toar that h|s moro prosonco has
spawnod.
|or ono th|ng, l don't want h|m to ovorhoar my
thoughts, and tor anothor, l nood to c|oar my m|nd so l
can rosorvo my tocus tor wh|ch d|roct|on tho troo
m|ght ||o |n.
3ut my m|nd draws a b|ank.
3ummor|and has prov|dod a|| that |t w|||. What
happons trom horo rosts so|o|y on mo.
lato trudgos boh|nd, h|s str|do ta|||ng uncomtortab|y
c|oso. 3ut my nood tor caut|on proc|udos mo trom
mov|ng too tast, so l cont|nuo a|ong, carotu||y p|ac|ng
ono toot |n tront ot tho othor, tontat|vo|y tost|ng oach
stop botoro a||ow|ng my tu|| wo|ght to ta|| upon |t.
|oo||ng my way a|ong tho path ||ko a b||nd porson
nav|gat|ng an untam|||ar room, know|ng th|s may tako
much |ongor than nocossary, but a|so know|ng |t's
bottor to go s|ow, bottor to stay sato, than to |oso my
toot|ng and bo otorna||y sorry.
l just hopo l'm hoadod tho r|ght way.
°l st||| th|nk wo shou|d turn back,' lato says, oas||y
c|os|ng tho d|stanco botwoon us as ho stumb|os
boh|nd mo.
°1hon turn back.' Vy oyos swoop tho aroa, on h|gh
a|ort tor s|gns ot . wo||, anyth|ng, somoth|ng. °loa||y. l
was do|ng just t|no on my own.'
°Wow.' lato hutts, putts, makos a b|g show ot
|ott|ng mo know just how ottondod ho |s, though h|s
vo|co sounds tar moro amusod than |nsu|tod. °You
roa||y know how to mako a b|oko too| wo|como,
don'tcha, Evor? You shou|d bo happy l'm horo. 3ut,
thon aga|n, loman d|d warn mo about you.'
°Yoah, and just what oxact|y d|d loman say?' l
pauso, turn|ng to taco h|m, stra|n|ng to got a bottor
|ook, but st||| noth|ng. 1ho m|st |s tar too th|ck tor mo to
d|scorn much ot anyth|ng.
l tocus back on tho tra||, w|nc|ng at tho way lato's
b|ttor, ch|||od broath trosts tho back ot my hoad whon
ho says, °loman sa|d p|onty. 3oomod to havo a protty
good hand|o on you. 3ut l'm atra|d l can't roa||y
oxpound upon any ot that. At tho momont, |t sooms tho
dota||s havo oscapod mo. l b|amo tho a|t|tudo, how
'bout you?'
l ro|| my oyos, awaro that |t's wastod s|nco ho can't
soo |t, but st|||, |t makos mo too| bottor and at tho
momont l'|| tako a|| tho good too||ng l can got.
°And spoak|ng ot loman.' lato pausos
dramat|ca||y, though |t's protty obv|ous what's to
to||ow. °Whatovor happonod to h|m? 3oon a wh||o
s|nco ho and l |ast caught up. Accord|ng to tho rumor
m|||, you k|||od h|m. 3ut thon, l'vo novor boon ono tor
socondhand |ntormat|on. Whonovor poss|b|o, l ||ko to
go stra|ght to tho sourco. 3o, to|| mo, Evor, |s |t truo?
0|d you do |t? 3ocauso ovon though l don't know you
a|| that wo||, l havo to say, |t's dot|n|to|y got that gr|m
r|ng ot truth. You'vo got |t |n you, that's tor suro. l know
|t tho t|rst t|mo l saw you. lo ottonso, ot courso.'
°lono takon.' l scow|, suddon|y too||ng vory
uncomtortab|o w|th tho tact that ho's boh|nd mo, but
do|ng my bost not to |ot on. °lt's truo that loman's no
|ongor w|th us,' l say, cont|rm|ng what lato a|roady
knows, though carotu| to g|vo no h|nt ot tho doop
romorso l too| tor that |oss, nor any |nd|cat|on ot who
m|ght bo to b|amo. Vy vo|co grow|ng bo|dor whon l
add, °1urns out ho wasn't so |mmorta| attor a||. 3ut
thon, you a|roady guossod that, d|dn't you?'
1ho broozo qu|ckons, swoop|ng past us, caus|ng
tho a|r to ch||| to an uncomtortab|o dogroo. 3ocom|ng
so co|d my hoart s|nks, know|ng l can't poss|b|y boar
anothor w|ntor aga|n, ospoc|a||y not w|th lato horo.
Unw||||ng to stop |ong onough to rotr|ovo my jackot
trom my backpack, l rub my hands up and down my
arms |n an attompt to warm myso|t. Vy oars pr|ck|ng
w|th |ntorost whon a socond gust rust|os past. On|y th|s
t|mo, |n add|t|on to tho usua| crack||ng ot |oavos and
pattor|ng ot rocks tumb||ng ovor oach othor, |t carr|os
a who|o othor sound-ono that's o|thor an|ma| or
human-l can't bo too suro. A|| l know |s that lato and
l aro no |ongor tho on|y onos horo.
Vy ha|r ||tts, sw|r||ng around mo as l t|ght to gathor
tho strands |n my t|st. lot|c|ng tho way tho tog th|nnod
just onough to a||ow tor a g||mpso ot a d|stant
snowcappod mounta|n, a|ong w|th tho vory top
branchos ot what must bo a vory ta|| troo (poss|b|y tbo
troo?), botoro th|ckon|ng aga|n and b|ott|ng ovoryth|ng
out.
0otorm|nod to koop lato tocusod on mo, hop|ng
ho d|dn't soo what l saw, l turn to h|m and say, °3y tho
way, what oxact|y aro you do|ng horo? 3uro|y th|s |s no
acc|dont? 3o what |s |t you'ro up to? Aro you |n
cahoots w|th V|sa and Varco? Or maybo ovon a
tr|ond ot lotus's by chanco? Or, aro you sor|ous|y
go|ng to try to conv|nco mo that you'ro just out tor a
day h|ko?'
l cock a brow, tak|ng |n what ||tt|o l can soo ot h|m,
h|s ho|ght, h|s wavy mano ot dark ha|r, but tho rost |s
a|| wh|to. 3ut whon ho doosn't answor, whon ho just
movos as though ho m|ght try to jump mo, l roach tor
my t|ash||ght and sh|no |t r|ght |n h|s taco, tho boam
cutt|ng through tho hazo and show|ng mo a|| that l
nood to soo-wh|ch |sn't much ot anyth|ng.
l|ko a|| tho othor roguo |mmorta|s l'vo mot th|s past
yoar, lato roma|ns romarkab|y coo| undor prossuro.
||s taco show|ng no s|gn that ho's ovon start|od by tho
sharp boam ot ||ght now sh|n|ng on h|m. |or somoono
who's just boon caught pos|t|on|ng h|mso|t to bottor
attack mo, ho doosn't |ook ovon tho s||ghtost b|t gu||ty.
lt anyth|ng, ho just |ooks dotorm|nod.
3ut thoro |s somoth|ng o|so.
3omoth|ng that roa||y stands out though l try not to
|ot on.
|o |ooks o|dor.
Way o|dor.
last t|mo l saw h|m ho was just anothor supor-hot,
portoct spoc|mon ot a gorgoous |mmorta|.
3ut now, wh||o ho's st||| roa||y good-|ook|ng, ho's
a|so show|ng somo dot|n|to s|gns ot ag|ng and woar
-tho yoars catch|ng up w|th h|m |n tho torm ot gray|ng
ha|r and tho tan ot wr|nk|os surround|ng h|s oyos. Evon
h|s tooth soom a ||tt|o yo||ow, as opposod to what l'vo
como to th|nk ot as brlgbt ooo sbloy lmmorto| wblto.
And suddon|y l know oxact|y why ho's horo.
°lot's cut tho crap, sha|| wo?' ho says, c|os|ng tho
sma|| gap botwoon us |n a handtu| ot soconds.
°lo|thor ono ot us |s on a day h|ko. You'ro on lotus's
journoy to tho 1roo ot l|to. |op|ng to got your hands
on tho ono p|oco ot tru|t |t boars ovory ono thousand
yoars.' |o staros at mo, h|s vo|co a portoct match tor
tho g|aro |n h|s gazo. °Ono boaut|tu|, portoct p|oco ot
tru|t that |ooks ||ko a cross botwoon a pomogranato
and a poach. Ono amaz|ng p|oco ot produco that
ottors |mmorta||ty to whoovor |s |ucky onough to p|uck
|t, so|zo |t, tasto |t. And, as |t turns out, tho m|||onn|um
|s up. lt's t|mo tor tho harvost. And wh||o l'm suro you
cons|dor yourso|t worthy ot a b|to, l hato to broak |t to
you, Evor, but th|s |s how |t's gonna go down: You'ro
gonna |oad mo to tho troo, and l'|| bo tho ono to c|a|m
|ts bounty.'
l cont|nuo to study h|m, my t|ash||ght mov|ng ovor h|s
taco, wondor|ng |t l shou|d t||| h|m |n on tho truth that
tho tru|t |sn't qu|to what |t's rumorod to bo. 1hat tho
story boh|nd |ts powors was novor |ntondod to bo
takon qu|to so ||tora||y. 1ho troo's tru|t grants w|sdom
and on||ghtonmont to thoso who sook |t-prov|d|ng tho
u|t|mato truth-tho know|odgo that thoy aro tru|y
|mmorta| bo|ngs. |or thoso who'vo ach|ovod phys|ca|
|mmorta||ty, wo||, |t has a rovorsa| ottoct-roturn|ng tho
body and tho sou| back to tho way |t was a|ways
|ntondod to bo.
Wh|ch |s not at a|| tho sort ot |mmorta||ty ho sooks-
though |t's dot|n|to|y tho k|nd that ho noods.
3ut |nstoad l just say, °And why wou|d l agroo to do
that?'
°3ocauso now that loman |s gono, thanks to yoo l
m|ght add'-ho pausos |ong onough to |ot that s|nk |n
-°tho troo |s my on|y hopo |ott. |avon drank what was
|ott ot h|s supp|y, and s|nco ho assumod ho'd ||vo
torovor, ho novor bothorod to sharo tho roc|po. lot to
mont|on how ho ||kod hav|ng contro| ovor us. l|kod |t
a|most as much as tho party ho throw ovory contury
and a ha|t, a|ways on tho summor so|st|co, whoro ho'd
gathor us togothor, whorovor ho was ||v|ng at tho t|mo.
Wo'd swap stor|os, sharo somo good t|mos, and
dr|nk a toast to oach othor, botoro wo sa|d our good-
byos and movod on w|th our ||vos. K|nd ot ||ko a h|gh
schoo| roun|on, but bottor, |t you can |mag|no. lo
socond-rato hoto| ba||room, no nood to |mpross oach
othor w|th bad p|ast|c surgory and |nt|atod job t|t|os
that don't actua||y moan anyth|ng.'
l don't say a word. And l dot|n|to|y don't ovon try to
|mag|no. l just stand thoro and |ot h|m cont|nuo.
°|unny th|ng was, ovon though your boytr|ond
0amon novor showod-probab|y bocauso ho was
novor |nv|tod-but st|||, ho was a|ways tho most
popu|ar top|c ot convorsat|on.' lato nods, gazo go|ng
|nward now, as though ho's watch|ng a scono that
p|ays |n h|s hoad. °|or yoars ho was ||ko a |ogond to
mo. You shou|d'vo hoard tho stor|os tho orphans a||
to|d. 1ho t|rst among our k|nd, tho ono who turnod s|x
thon d|sappoarod, novor to bo soon or hoard trom
aga|n, or at |oast not |ntont|ona||y. 0o you roa||zo ho
novor ovon onco thought to track thom a|| down and |ot
thom dr|nk aga|n? |o obooooooo thom, Evor-d|d
you know that? |o |ott thom a|| to shr|vo|-to grow o|d
and w|thor-wh||o ho stayod otorna||y young.' |o
shakos h|s hoad and trowns |n a way that oncouragos
a who|o now sot ot ||nos to raco across h|s torohoad.
°3orry, but |t |t sounds as though l don't ||ko h|m, wo||,
that's bocauso l don't. 3t|||, that has noth|ng to do w|th
why l can't a||ow you to roach that troo. lt's noth|ng
porsona|, and l hopo you'|| undorstand whon l say that
tho roason you can't got your hands on that tru|t |s
bocauso |t's rosorvod just tor mo.'
l tako a doop broath, d|mm|ng my t|ash||ght a b|t,
roa||z|ng |t's bottor to try to oaso h|s m|nd and put h|m
ott guard, to conv|nco h|m to |owor h|s dotonsos, than
to put h|m on tho dotons|vo |t l'vo any hopo ot
roga|n|ng tho advantago. |u||y awaro that a|| |t wou|d
tako to bo r|d ot h|m |s ono good shovo that sonds h|m
ovor tho odgo. And as tompt|ng as that m|ght bo, l
won't do |t-and l'm protty suro ho won't do |t to mo.
|o noods mo.
On|y l can mako tho journoy.
On|y l can t|nd tho troo.
Wh|ch moans ho noods mo to stay hoa|thy, v|ta|,
and most |mportant|y, |n ono p|oco, |t ho has any
|ntont|on ot my |oad|ng tho way.
3ut what ho doosn't roa||zo |s that l'm moro than
happy to do so, as |ong as l arr|vo t|rst. And whon l do
arr|vo, whon l sca|o that troo and got to tho tru|t, l havo
ovory |ntont|on ot shar|ng |t. l havo ovory |ntont|on ot
g|v|ng h|m, wo||, maybo not tho otorna| ||to that ho
sooks, but corta|n|y tho ono that ho noods.
1ho ono that w||| rovorso tho ottocts ot tho o||x|r,
prov|do truo |mmorta||ty, and sparo h|m trom lotus's
tato.
l |ook at h|m, ||tt|ng my shou|dors casua||y as l say,
°lo worr|os.' 3ut |t h|s archod brow and qu|rkod
mouth aro any |nd|cat|on, ho's go|ng to nood a ||tt|o
moro conv|nc|ng. °loa||y. lt's not a b|g doa|. |or roa|s.'
|o |ooks mo ovor, h|s gazo narrowod, susp|c|ous,
pract|ca||y sp|tt|ng tho words whon ho says, °Oh yoah,
and l'm supposod to bo||ovo that-íor roo|s?' |o
scotts and shakos h|s hoad. °Okay thon, so to|| mo,
Evor, |t you'ro not |ntorostod |n tho tru|t, thon why ovon
bothor w|th th|s b|oody m|sorab|o trok? |uh, can you
to|| mo that? Why put yourso|t through a|| ot th|s?'
°l'm cur|ous.' l shrug. °l hoard about tho troo and
thought l'd go soo tor myso|t-d|dn't ovon roa||zo |t
was t|mo tor tho roap|ng 't|| you just sa|d so.' l t||t my
hoad, try to |ook as though l moan |t. °0osp|to your
poor op|n|on ot h|m, 0amon's a|ways boon oxtromo|y
gonorous. |o wou|d'vo g|ad|y sharod h|s o||x|r w|th you
|t you hadn't a|roady p|odgod your a||og|anco to
loman. And anyway, why wou|d l ovon bothor w|th tho
tru|t whon ho g|vos mo a|| tho o||x|r l nood?'
°3ocauso tho tru|t |s torovor.' lato's oyos bog|n to
b|azo unt|| thoy rosomb|o two dark t|am|ng p|ts
surroundod by wh|to.
°0amon and l aro torovor.' l g|aro, know|ng |n my
hoart that |t's truo ovon though ho's not horo bos|do
mo to provo |t. °And, as |t so happons, l ||ko tho o||x|r. l
||ko |t so much l dr|nk |t sovora| t|mos a day. 3o, why
wou|d l want to rop|aco that?'
lato cont|nuos to study mo, h|s m|nd wo|gh|ng,
cons|dor|ng, thon shak|ng h|s hoad ho opons h|s
mouth to spoak, whon somoono o|so s||nks out ot tho
m|st and doc|dos to spoak tor h|m.

°3ho's |y|ng.'
lato sp|ns on h|s hoo| so ho can soo what l a|roady
soo, know what l a|roady know.
Varco |s horo.
1hough, as a|ways, V|sa croops up r|ght a|ongs|do
h|m w|th hor oxot|c dark oyos, b|ack sp|ky ha|r, and
mu|t|p|orcod |obos.
Vy ||ght sp|||s ovor thom as l study thom c|oso|y,
try|ng to got a road, dotorm|no |t tho|r show|ng up |s
bad tor mo, bad tor lato, or just bad |n gonora|.
Know|ng on|y two th|ngs tor suro: lo mattor who |t |s
that thoy'ro attor (though |t's probab|y sato to assumo
that |t's mo) tho|r |ntont|ons aron't good. And, just ||ko
lato, thoy show s|gns ot ag|ng.
°3ho's attor tho tru|t.' V|sa's oyos dart botwoon
lato and mo. °lotus sont hor. Conv|ncod hor to go
t|nd |t just ||ko sho tr|od to conv|nco us a|| thoso yoars
ago. 3ut now tho anc|ont ono sooms to th|nk Evor's
tho on|y who can succood. 3o Varco and l havo boon
tra|||ng hor, wh|ch, l'm guoss|ng, |s what you'ro do|ng
too.'
lato squ|nts but othorw|so doosn't movo, doosn't
g|vo anyth|ng away. 1oo busy assoss|ng tho s|tuat|on,
too on guard to supp|y an answor.
°lotus has boon |ook|ng tor somoono to mako th|s
journoy tor contur|os.' V|sa d|rocts hor words r|ght at
mo as Varco sn|ckors a|ongs|do hor. °At t|rst wo
thought sho was crazy-wo||, most|y bocauso sho
crazy. 3ut now, w|th loman doad, and w|th |avon
hav|ng drank ovory |ast b|t ot h|s stash, and w|th
0amon bo|ng-wo||, no nood to m|nco words horo |s
thoro?-w|th 0amon bo|ng as so|t|sh as ho |s, wo had
no cho|co but to botr|ond hor, to |oarn moro about th|s
troo, and to t|guro out how to t|nd |t. 3ho got us to
3ummor|and, but that's |t. C|a|mod sho d|dn't know
how to t|nd tho troo, sa|d you'ro tho on|y ono who can,
that |t's your dost|ny, ||ko you'ro somo k|nd ot choson
ono or somoth|ng.' 3ho |ooks at mo, a |ong, scath|ng
g|aro that onds |n an oxaggoratod oyo ro||, want|ng mo
to know just how r|d|cu|ous sho t|nds that. °Whatovor.'
3ho shrugs. °Wo'ro just horo so you can |oad us to |t,
thon wo'|| tako |t trom thoro.'
°Excopt l got horo t|rst.' 1ho throat |n lato's vo|co
r|ngs |oud and c|oar. °A sma|| dota|| you'vo soomod to
ovor|ook.'
l watch as thoy tonso, squaro tho|r shou|dors, and
socuro tho|r stancos as though thoy'ro gonna duko |t
out r|ght horo on th|s rood-th|n tra||. 0otond tho|r r|ght
to uso mo to got what thoy want.
°0o you hoar yourso|vos?' Vy oyos dart botwoon
thom. °3or|ous|y. You guys aro unbo||ovab|o! And you
ca|| 0amon so|t|sh.' l shako my hoad, not ovon try|ng
to h|do my outrago. 1hough tho truth |s, wh||o my ||ps
koop mov|ng, spow|ng torth a s|ow ot s|m||ar words,
wh||o my toaturos arrango and roarrango to koop up
w|th whatovor |t |s that's bo|ng sa|d, my m|nd |s
somop|aco o|so ont|ro|y. Work|ng tur|ous|y to t|nd a
way out ot th|s moss, know|ng l cou|d'vo takon lato
wh||o ho was st||| on h|s own, but now that |t's up to
throo |mmorta|s vorsus my ono-l'm no |ongor suro.
0osp|to tho tact that thoy can't k||| mo, thoy can st|||
do somo major damago, or, ovon worso, thoy can
stop mo trom gott|ng thoro t|rst.
°Wo don't ovon know tor suro |t th|s tru|t ox|sts,' l
say, my oyos dart|ng among thom. °3ut |ot's just say
that |t doos, |ot's just say wo t|nd |t r|ght thoro, wa|t|ng
to bo p|uckod. Why can't wo just sharo |t? Why can't
you oach tako a b|to, thon g|vo mo whatovor's |ott to
tako back to lotus? 1hat way ovoryono w|ns. And no
ono gots hurt.'
3ut |nstoad ot tho rotusa| l oxpoctod, l'm mot w|th
doad s||onco.
A horr|b|o, ||ngor|ng s||onco that's tar worso than
any argumont thoy cou|d ovor wago.
1hoy'ro no |ongor |ntorostod |n mo.
1ho|r attont|on |s c|a|mod by somoth|ng o|so
ont|ro|y.
And l know w|thout |ook|ng what |t |s. l can too| |t |n
tho way tho broozo wh|spors aga|nst tho napo ot my
nock. l can soo |t |n tho suddon g|ow that sh|nos |n
tho|r oyos.
1hoy |t.
1ho troo.
Wh|ch moans thoy no |ongor nood mo.
And though l try to movo, try my bost to t|oo, |t's too
|ato.
1horo aro too many ot thom, too ||tt|o ot mo. And |t
sooms, or at |oast |n th|s caso anyway, thoy'vo choson
to work togothor. Choson to co||aborato.
V|sa and Varco grab ho|d ot my arms as lato
s||nks boh|nd mo. ||s chook prossod c|oso to m|no,
h|s ||ps ch|||od, push|ng |nto my t|osh whon ho says,
°lomombor whon l to|d you oar||or that l |ost my
toot|ng and to|| doop |nto tho canyon?'
l swa||ow hard, stoady myso|t, know a|| too wo||
what's com|ng noxt.
°As |t turns out, l ||od.' |o gr|ns, l can too| h|s ||ps
||tt|ng and cur||ng aga|nst mo. °|ad l boon un|ucky
onough to ta||, l novor wou|d'vo mado |t back up. You
soo, Evor, |t's a shoor drop. A shoor drop that
ottors no outcropp|ngs ot rock-noth|ng tor ono to
grab onto |n ordor to stop. 3ut thon, l shou|d probab|y
|ot you soo tor yourso|t. l moan, no nood to wrock tho
surpr|so w|th a bunch ot spo||ors, r|ght?'
l t|ght.
l k|ck.
l scratch, and b|to, and c|aw, and scroam, and
thrash, and strugg|o w|th a|| ot my |mmorta| m|ght.
3ut dosp|to tho tact that l can bo sat|st|od |n
know|ng l d|d a good b|t ot damago to oach ot thom,
|n tho ond, |t's not onough.
l can't boat thom.
l'm no match.
And tho noxt th|ng l know lato's push|ng mo at tho
oxact momont V|sa and Varco |ot go.
3ond|ng mo t|y|ng.
3oar|ng.
|urt||ng stra|ght ovor tho odgo and doop |nto a
bottom|oss canyon.
thirty-ono
1ust ||ko a droam whoro you t|nd yourso|t ta|||ng and
can't soom to stop bocauso thoro's noth|ng to grab
onto and you'vo |ost a|| contro| ot your body-that's
oxact|y what th|s |s ||ko.
Excopt tor tho tact that usua||y whon l t|nd myso|t
caught |n ono ot thoso droams, my body ovontua||y
jorks mo awako botoro any gravo d|sastor can tako
p|aco.
3ut th|s t|mo, l'm a|roady awako. And trom what l
can to||, tho d|sastor |s now, and |t's about to got
worso.
Vy ha|r ||tts, wav|ng h|gh abovo my hoad, as my
|ogs tur|ous|y k|ck, attompt|ng to tompor tho paco, ha|t
my spood, s|ow myso|t down, but |t's no uso. 1ho ottort
|s as uso|oss as my arms, wh|ch cont|nuo to t|a|| a||
around, soarch|ng tor somoth|ng to hang onto, but
succood|ng on|y |n prov|ng lato r|ght.
1horo |s noth|ng to savo mo.
loth|ng to stop mo.
1ho c||tt |s a shoor so||d drop |nto tho vo|d.
1ho |owor l go, tho darkor |t bocomos unt|| l can no
|ongor soo |n tront ot mo-can no |ongor soo bo|ow
mo-can no |ongor soo whoro l'm go|ng.
A|| l know |s that tho ta|| sooms to qu|ckon, p|ck|ng
up spood, as l raco toward an ond that may not ox|st.
1ho awtu| truth ot my ox|stonco, tho abso|uto |rony ot |t,
|s that |t l can't t|nd a way to stop th|s-thon th|s |s how
l'|| spond my otorn|ty.
l can't d|o-my chakras aro so strong thoy won't |ot
mo.
And any |njur|os susta|nod won't hoa|-th|s part ot
3ummor|and won't a||ow tor that sort ot th|ng.
1wo horr|b|o thoughts l t|nd too ovorwho|m|ng to
contomp|ato.
3o l don't.
l chooso to tocus my m|nd o|sowhoro |nstoad.
3|tt|ng through tho |ong ||st ot th|ngs l'vo |oarnod th|s
past yoar-go|ng a|| tho way back to tho day whon l
t|rst d|od |n tho car acc|dont that c|a|mod my who|o
tam||y-to th|s novor-ond|ng crov|co whoro l t|nd
myso|t now. lomombor|ng what lotus sa|d about
know|odgo com|ng whon wo'ro most |n nood ot |t, and
hop|ng my accumu|atod know|odgo w||| ho|p mo t|nd a
way out.
lorglvoooss ls boo|log-ovorytblog ls ooorgy-
tboogbts crooto-wo oro o|| cooooctoo-wbot yoo
roslst porslsts-troo |ovo oovor olos-tbo soo|`s
lmmorto|lty ls tbo oo|y troo lmmorto|lty-
lopoat|ng tho words aga|n and aga|n, unt|| |t
bocomos ||ko a mantra, unt|| tho words bog|n to tako
shapo, bog|n to tako ho|d.
Unt|| my broath bog|ns to stoady, my body bog|ns to
st|||, and my hoart |s ab|o to un|oad th|s burdon ot toar.
lorglvoooss ls boo|log-l sond a s||ont thought ot
torg|vonoss to V|sa, Varco, and lato tor bo|ng so
m|sgu|dod and untrust|ng thoy wou|dn't ovon try
anothor way.
¼bot yoo roslst porslsts-l stop ros|st|ng tho tact
that l'm ta|||ng, and start concontrat|ng on a so|ut|on
|nstoad.
7boogbts crooto-Evon whon |nstant man|tostat|on
won't work, our thoughts aro st||| croat|ng on our
boha|t.
l troo my backpack trom ono shou|dor, s||do |t
around to my tront, yank tho z|ppor down, and p|ungo
my hand |ns|do. Vak|ng suro l'vo got a good gr|p on
tho ||ght jackot l man|tostod oar||or-tho ono that got
mo through an oxcoss ot ropot|t|vo soasons by
sh|o|d|ng mo trom hoat, ra|n, w|nd, and snow-botoro
l drop tho bag, ||ston|ng as |t wh|zzos down bo|ow. l
grasp tho jackot by o|thor s|oovo and ||tt my arms up
h|gh ovor my hoad, cutt|ng tho w|nd a|ong w|th my
trajoctory, wh||o thrust|ng my body toward what l can
on|y hopo |s tho s|do ot tho c||tt. Know|ng l'vo
succoodod whon l'm |ott momontar||y stunnod by tho
suddon |mpact ot my body bash|ng |nto a bod ot
sharp rocks. Vy t|osh cutt|ng, scrap|ng, as tho jaggod
odgos sorrato my c|othos, grat|ng sma|| chunks ot mo,
as my body cont|nuos to ta||.
Vy oyos soar w|th agony, as my tooth gnash trom
tho oxcruc|at|ng pa|n ot bo|ng t|ayod. Assur|ng myso|t
that |t |t won't hoa| now, |t ovontua||y w|||. 1ust as soon
as l can |ocato an outcropp|ng ot rock, somoth|ng
tang|b|o to hang onto, somoth|ng to stop th|s
downward doscont. 1ust as soon as l can got to tho
tru|t and mako my way back to a bottor part ot
3ummor|and.
Vy body a toboggan ot b|ood, t|osh, and bono that
cont|nuos to caroon down tho c||tt, and just as l'm suro
l can't tako anothor socond, somoth|ng catchos-
somoth|ng that juts hard aga|nst my toot, stabs mo |n
tho knoo, and pummo|s mo so hard |n tho gut |t robs
mo ot broath botoro punctur|ng mo r|ght |n tho baso ot
my nock whoro at tho vory |ast momont, l roach up,
grab aho|d ot |t, stop |t trom romov|ng my hoad.
Know|ng |t's my ono and on|y chanco-know|ng l
can't poss|b|y ho|d on to both my makosh|tt parachuto
and th|s strango outcropp|ng ot sorts-l c|oso my oyos
and |ot go.
Vy jackot |nstant|y c|a|mod by tho a|rstroam as my
hands grasp |n tho dark, putt|ng a|| ot my ta|th |n th|s
odd and po|nty protrus|on l can't ovon soo.
Vy t|ngors c|rc||ng, cur||ng around |t |n a doath gr|p,
my pa|ms scrapod raggod and raw as my wo|ght
rappo|s mo down tho |ongth ot |t.
0own.
0own tarthor st|||.
0own so tar and so tast l can on|y pray |t'|| ond
soon. Know|ng that |t l |oso my gr|p l'|| bo r|ght back
whoro l startod-troo-ta|||ng through b|ack, ompty
spaco, on|y th|s t|mo w|thout my bag, w|thout any too|s
to ho|p mo. 0o|ng a|| that l can to c|oar such thoughts
trom my m|nd, my body jumps to a stop and l t|nd
myso|t dang||ng trom th|s strango th|ng's ond.
Caught |n m|da|r, my |ogs t|a|||ng craz||y bonoath
mo, l gr|p t|ghtor, ropos|t|on myso|t, us|ng my raw and
sk|nnod knoos a|ong w|th th|s unknown tblog, to pu||
myso|t up.
At t|rst l go s|ow|y. vory, vory s|ow|y. lom|nd|ng mo
ot tho t|mo l had to c||mb up a ropo |n my troshman-
yoar gym c|ass. 3ack whon l was just anothor morta|.
3ack whon, othor than bo|ng a choor|oador, l had no
ath|ot|c prowoss to spoak ot. Evory |nch too||ng ||ko a
|osson |n ovorcom|ng unboarab|o pa|n |n ordor to put
my ta|th |n somoth|ng l can't ovon soo. Vy progross
moasurod |n |nchos, not toot, ovontua||y croop|ng
c|oso onough to tho summ|t that l'm rowardod w|th a
t|ny spot ot ||ght-just onough to rovoa| oxact|y what |t
|s that has savod mo.
lt's a root.
A |ong and sp|nd|y troo root.
A |ong and sp|nd|y troo root that bo|ongs to tbo troo
-tho ono l'vo boon soarch|ng tor. l know |t
|nst|nct|vo|y.
1ho 1roo ot l|to has savod mo.

1ho momont attor l roach tho top-tho momont attor l
hoavo myso|t ovor tho |odgo and ||o tacodown,
gasp|ng |n tho d|rt-l bo|t upr|ght and run ||ko tho w|nd.
lgnor|ng tho soar|ng pa|n that shoots through my
battorod |ogs and toot, l ca|| upon ovory |mmorta|
powor l havo to ho|p mo t|nd my way a|ong tho root
w|th somo somb|anco ot spood. 3omot|mos
stumb||ng, somot|mos ta|||ng, but a|ways p|ck|ng
myso|t r|ght back up and torg|ng ahoad, know|ng l
nood to got thoro botoro |t's too |ato, that l'm so tar
boh|nd l'vo no t|mo to wasto.
Vak|ng do w|thout tho a|d ot my t|ash||ght, t|gur|ng
|t's st||| troo-ta|||ng |n tho crov|co a|ong w|th my bag, l
push my way through tho tog unt|| tho tra|| bocomos
|oss troachorous, oas|or to nav|gato, unt|| t|na||y, |t's
just a mattor ot surv|v|ng tho c||mb, pu|||ng myso|t
a|ong, and a||ow|ng my body to adjust to tho ovor-
|ncroas|ng a|t|tudo.
An ovor-|ncroas|ng a|t|tudo, tho k|nd ot wh|ch l'vo
novor oxpor|oncod botoro.
An ovor-|ncroas|ng a|t|tudo that |oavos mo d|zzy,
short ot broath, and that wou|d suro|y roqu|ro un||m|tod
uso ot an oxygon tank |t l woro back homo on tho oarth
p|ano.
And botoro l can actua||y soo |t, l know that l'm noar.
lt's |n tho way tho darkonod sky bog|ns to g||ston
and g|ow.
lt's |n tho way tho m|st bog|ns to v|brato and pu|so.
1hrobb|ng w|th an ont|ro spoctrum ot co|ors-a
ra|nbow ot b|uos and p|nks and orangos and doop
spark||ng purp|os-a|| ot |t sh|mmor|ng w|th tho t|nost
t|ocks ot s||vor and go|d.
l hurry a|ong tho mass|vo root, not|ng tho way |t r|sos
and grows. 3ocom|ng ta||or and w|dor as |t m|xos w|th
tho othor roots, tang||ng and ovor|app|ng |nto a
comp|ox systom that, trom what l can to||, sooms to
moandor tor m||os and m||os botoro |t roachos an
onormous trunk l can just now baro|y soo.
l pauso tor a momont, |ott broath|oss as much trom
tho v|s|on that g|ows botoro mo as l am trom tho h|ko.
1ak|ng |n tho who|o g|or|ous s|ght ot |t-tho awo-
|nduc|ng broadth ot |t-tho branchos that roach m||os
|nto tho sky, tho g||ston|ng |oavos that t|rst appoar
groon and thon go|d, tho v|brant aura that omanatos a||
around |t-not|ng tho way tho a|r has grown warmor
dosp|to tho o|ovat|on that shou|d mako |t anyth|ng but.
°3o that's |t,' l wh|spor to myso|t, my vo|co
tranco||ko, |acod w|th wondor, so ovorcomo by tho
co|ors, l'vo momontar||y torgotton my onom|os,
torgotton my pa|n.
|or tho momont anyway, l'm a p|onoor, a p||gr|m, a
toundor ot th|s g|or|ous tront|or. 3o t|||od w|th tho
wondor ot what l w|tnoss botoro mo, l'm rondorod
comp|oto|y and tota||y spooch|oss. lo words cou|d
ovor do |t just|co.
l thought tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng woro amaz|ng,
but th|s-wo||, l'vo novor soon anyth|ng ||ko |t. lovor
soon anyth|ng qu|to so magn|t|cont.
3ut my awo soon turns, and l'm on guard onco
aga|n. Vy |n|t|a| |ook ot amazomont qu|ck|y h|jackod
by susp|c|on as l g|anco around tho aroa, study |t
c|oso|y, soarch|ng tor s|gns ot my to||ow travo|ors.
lomombor|ng tho way lato's oyos b|azod w|th an
unspokon throat whon ho vorba||y |a|d c|a|m to tho tru|t,
and know|ng that tho bost way to ovorcomo thom |s to
surpr|so thom, to catch thom ott guard. Catch thom
comp|oto|y unawaro.
3ost to koop qu|ot, movo stoa|th||y, to not a||ow tor
ovon tho s||ghtost ot h|nts that l'vo mado my roturn.
l mako my way a|ong tho |ong and w|nd|ng tang|o ot
roots unt|| l'vo t|na||y progrossod tar onough to got a
c|oaror v|ow ot tho onormous trunk. lts w|dth tho s|zo ot
a bu||d|ng-|ts branchos roach|ng so h|gh |t |ooks ||ko
ono ot naturo's skyscrapors. And l'vo just roachod |ts
baso, whon l soo thom.
3oo thom |ook|ng as battorod and b|ood|od as l
probab|y do-and know|ng thoy d|d |t to ono anothor,
that thoy tought ||ko ho|| to bo tho t|rst ono to roach |t.
And dosp|to bo|ng outnumborod by V|sa and Varco,
|t appoars lato has won.
|o c||ngs to a branch-ono that soars a good tow
toot trom tho ono V|sa and Varco now dang|o trom.
And |t tho s|ght ot that wasn't bad onough-|t tho
tact that thoy'vo managod to boat mo by a |ong shot
|sn't comp|oto|y and tota||y dot|at|ng-what's worso |s
tho tact that lato not on|y boat us a|| to |t-but that ho
now ho|ds tho tru|t |n h|s hand.
|o succoodod.
Accomp||shod what wo cou|d not.
l can soo |t |n h|s gr|n ot v|ctory. l can hoar |t |n h|s
tr|umphant yo||.
|o's won.
Wo'vo |ost.
l'vo |ost.
And a thousand yoars must pass botoro wo got
anothor shot.
3ut dosp|to tho obv|ous dotoat, that doosn't stop
mo trom mak|ng a mad scramb|o up tho s|do, my
t|ngors d|gg|ng doop |nto tho bark as my toot
dosporato|y sook tor a tootho|d. Evon though tho
gamo |s c|oar|y ovor, ovon though lato |s c|oar|y tho
v|ctor, l rotuso to surrondor, rotuso to torto|t.
|o w||| not rob mo ot my dost|ny.
|o w||| not stoa| my |ast chanco to mako th|ngs r|ght
w|th tho un|vorso.
l w||| not wa|t tor a thousand moro yoars.
||s oyos ||ght upon mo. 3oom|ng|y amusod by my
strugg|o. l|tt|ng tho tru|t h|gh |nto tho a|r, h|gh onough
tor us a|| to soo, ho pausos, savor|ng tho momont ot
v|ctory.
||s sm||o w|do, h|s oyos novor onco stray|ng trom
m|no as ho |nsorts tho tru|t botwoon h|s tront tooth,
and b|tos down.

l c||ng to my branch, not want|ng to watch, yot unab|o
to toar my gazo away. Ovorcomo by tho shamo and
hum|||at|on ot hav|ng boon boaton. Knockod s|doways
by tho horr|b|o roa||zat|on that l'vo ta||od at tho ono and
on|y th|ng l was born to do.
Vy body roducod to a throbb|ng, b|ood|ng pu|p ot a
moss-my sou| mato conv|ncod l'vo abandonod h|m
-as lato makos a show ot onjoy|ng tho tru|t.
And tor what?
What was tho po|nt ot |t a||?
Why t|ght so hard? Why succood at oach and ovory
stop, on|y to ta|| at tho ono th|ng that counts moro than
anyth|ng o|so?
1h|s b|ttor tasto ot dotoat rom|nd|ng mo ot what l
onco sa|d to 0amon attor l'd contossod tho who|o
horr|b|o story boh|nd my thwartod bout ot t|mo travo|:
5omotlmos oostloy |los jost ootsloo oí oor roocb.
And surpr|sod to t|nd that no |ongor r|ngs truo.
Vy dost|ny |s st||| vory much atta|nab|o.
1horo's no way |t onds horo.
l |oap.
Work|ng past tho scroam|ng pa|n |n my body-
work|ng past my protost|ng musc|os, my raw and
b|oody pa|ms. l |oap as h|gh as l can, grab ho|d ot tho
branch just abovo mo, and thon tho ono abovo that.
3w|ng|ng ||ko an ag||o monkoy, unt|| l'm just ono
branch bo|ow V|sa and Varco, who aro now on|y ono
branch bo|ow lato.
And whon lato surpr|sos us a|| by |oap|ng trom h|s
branch to tho|rs, l soo h|s taco |s st||| agod, st|||
markod by t|mo, and yot thoro's no dony|ng h|s g|ow-
ho's pos|t|vo|y rad|ant-ho has an aura that's
boam|ng-a|| tho proot that l nood to know that |t
workod, h|s |mmorta||ty has boon rovorsod. |o drops
what ||tt|o roma|ns ot tho tru|t onto V|sa's outstrotchod
pa|ms, thon scramb|os to tho ground, as l sw|ng
myso|t up to whoro thoy now stand.
l voor toward thom. Cr|ng|ng at tho sound ot tho
branch croak|ng om|nous|y trom tho stross ot our
comb|nod wo|ght, though thoy don't soom to not|co,
don't soom to caro. 1hoy'ro too d|stractod by tho s|ght
ot tho tru|t, and tho d|stant cry ot a whoop|ng and
ho||or|ng lato as ho makos h|s way down tho roots.
°0on't como any c|osor,' Varco says, tak|ng not|co
ot mo.
l troozo. lot bocauso ho to|d mo to, but bocauso my
oyo just caught s|ght ot somoth|ng unusua|, somoth|ng
l novor oxpoctod to soo.
°3tay r|ght whoro you aro.' |o g|ancos at V|sa,
gosturos tor hor to procood and l watch as sho shovos
tho tru|t botwoon hor ||ps, hor sh|ny wh|to tooth toar|ng
|nto tho hard, vo|voty t|osh as sho c|osos hor oyos,
takos a momont to savor tho tasto botoro sho hands |t
to Varco, who |ooks at mo and says, °lt l was too||ng
gonorous, |t l had tho s||ghtost b|t ot concorn tor you,
l'd sharo th|s |ast b|to. Attor a||, |t appoars thoro's
onough tor both ot us, wou|dn't you agroo?'
l s|nk my tooth |nto my ||p, hop|ng ho's too |nvo|vod
|n taunt|ng mo to pay any not|co to tho m|rac|o that |s
occurr|ng just a handtu| ot branchos away.
ls ltº
Coo|o lt octoo||y boº
5boo|o l trost lo wbot my got ls to||log moº
5boo|o l trost lo somotblog tbot goos ogolost
ovory mytb, ovory blt oí wlsoom l`vo ovor |oorooo
oboot tbls trooº
Or sbo|| l tock|o Vorco rlgbt boro, rlgbt oowº Oot ot
tbot |ost blt oí írolt wbl|o l coo, koowlog tboy`ro os
b|oooloo, brokoo, ooo wookoooo os l omº
|o ho|ds |t botoro h|m, toas|ng, mock|ng, part|ng
h|s ||ps |n an oxaggoratod way. And l know |t's t|mo to
chooso, t|mo to doc|do botwoon what l'vo boon to|d
and what l soo happon|ng botoro mo, whon ho says,
°3ut, as |t turns out, l'm not too||ng tho |oast b|t
gonorous toward you, so l th|nk l'|| just tako tho
opportun|ty to t|n|sh th|s vory |ast b|t.'
Ono stop torward, as ho shovos tho tru|t |nto h|s
mouth.
Anothor stop, c|os|ng tho gap botwoon us, as ho
c|osos h|s oyos and b|tos down.
1ho s|ght ot |t b|urrod by tho song ot lotus's vo|co |n
my hoad whon sho sa|d:
7bo troo ls ovorglvlog.
l stop. loso my toot|ng. ||nd myso|t sp|ra||ng
backward, back toward tho ground. Vy ta|| stoppod by
a tang|o ot |oavos just a tow branchos down, as Varco
towors abovo mo, makos a show ot swa||ow|ng,
w|p|ng tho ju|co trom h|s ch|n w|th h|s s|oovo.
l watch, not|ng how thoy'vo transtormod much ||ko
lato d|d. 1hough st||| agod, tho|r auras g|ow v|brant|y,
v|v|d|y, mak|ng thom appoar pos|t|vo|y |um|nous as
thoy jo|n hands, and mako tho|r way down tho troo.
lay|ng mo no not|co as thoy pass mo a|ong tho way,
but l no |ongor caro. Vy attont|on |s c|a|mod by
somoth|ng thoy'ro too shorts|ghtod to soo-somoth|ng
that changos ovoryth|ng.
lt's tho tru|t.
1ho shoor abundanco ot tru|t.
1urns out tho 1roo ot l|to |sn't ||m|tod to just ono
s|ng|o p|oco por thousand yoars as tho |ogond
c|a|mod, tor ovory p|oco that's p|uckod, a now ono
appoars |n |ts p|aco.
And suddon|y l undorstand what my |nst|nct was
to|||ng mo-suddon|y l know what lotus moant whon
sho sa|d tho troo was ovorg|v|ng.
3uddon|y l know what |t moans whon thoy say tho
un|vorso |s abundant-that |t ottors us a|| that wo nood
-that tho on|y shortagos that ox|st aro tho onos wo
croato |n our m|nds.
l work my way up, t|nd|ng my way to tho p|aco whoro
tho tru|t hangs r|po and tu||. 1hon l yank ott my
b|ood|od, tattorod 1-sh|rt, oxpos|ng tho oqua||y
b|ood|od and tattorod wh|to cotton tank top bonoath,
smooth tho tabr|c t|at aga|nst my |ap, and p|uck that
ono |ono p|oco ot tru|t, p|aco |t onto tho contor, thon
wa|t. |op|ng l'm not wrong, hop|ng |t roa||y |s what l
th|nk, and gr|nn|ng ||ko crazy whon a tow m|nutos |ator
anothor p|oco ot tru|t pops r|ght |nto |ts p|aco, and l
p|uck that ono too. lopoat|ng tho task ovor and ovor
unt|| my 1-sh|rt |s so tu|| |t can't ho|d any moro, and l
to|d tho cornors, t|o 'om a|| togothor, and sw|ng |t ovor
my shou|dor |n a makosh|tt knapsack.
1ust about to mako my way down whon l gazo |nto
tho d|stanco and w|tnoss tho most amaz|ng d|sp|ay ot
||ght that broaks through tho tog |n such a start||ng,
br||||ant, co|ortu| way, |t's |mposs|b|o to |dont|ty.
°What |s that?' l wh|spor, gap|ng at tho spoctac|o
botoro mo, t|gur|ng l'm so h|gh up l must bo w|tnoss|ng
somo k|nd ot co|ost|a| ||ght show or somoth|ng.
3ut |t's not |ong botoro l hoar tho ta|nt traco ot
whoops and ho||ors carr|od by tho w|nd, a sound that
to||s mo |t's o|thor V|sa, Varco, or lato, or maybo
ovon a|| throo. And suddon|y l undorstand why lotus
sont thom attor mo.
3ho know about tho troo. Know that |t was
ovorg|v|ng. Know that no mattor what, no mator how
hard thoy'd try to stop mo, |n tho ond, l'd succood.
3ho may not havo boon a|| that torthcom|ng about
tho sort ot |mmorta||ty tho tru|t actua||y ottors, but thon,
thoy on|y to|d hor thoy woro |ook|ng tor tho o||x|r ot ||to,
and so sho had ovory r|ght to sond thom torward.
And wh||o thoy may not havo roa||zod what thoy
woro gott|ng |nto, trom tho sound ot tho|r oxc|tod
shouts and yo|ps, trom tho way tho|r g|ow ||ghts up tho
sky, what thoy tound |s ovon bottor than what thoy t|rst
sought.
1hoy tound on||ghtonmont-troo |mmorta||ty.
1ho k|nd l now ho|d |n my hands.
And oagor tor my turn, l mako my way down,
bog|nn|ng my own journoy back.
thirty-tour
1ho t|rst th|ng l not|co whon l t|nd myso|t back |n
laguna 3oach |s that l'm hoa|od.
ln a|| ot my oxc|tomont, l guoss l mado my way down
tho tra|| and man|tostod tho vo|| so qu|ck|y l d|dn't ovon
not|co my body |s no |ongor battorod and b|oody, and
my c|othos aro no |ongor r|ppod to shrods (though thoy
aro protty t||thy).
1ho socond th|ng l not|co |s tho woathor.
lt's hot.
l|ko roa||y, roa||y hot.
l|ko way too hot tor tho th|ck socks and h|k|ng
boots l st||| woar.
l gazo around tho crowdod narrow stroots ot
downtown, tho sun rot|oct|ng ott tho storo w|ndows |n a
way that torcos mo to sh|o|d my oyos unt|| l can
man|tost a now pa|r ot sung|assos. lart ot mo hop|ng
that tho tact that 3ummor|and tomporaturos don't
roa||y t|uctuato, a|ways voor|ng toward coo|, |s what
throws mo ott now-wh||o tho othor part toars th|s |sn't
just unsoasonab|y warm woathor l'm oxpor|onc|ng, but
that |t |s, |n tact, a|| too soasona|.
l'vo got th|s horr|b|o, s|nk|ng too||ng that l'vo boon
gono tar, tar |ongor than p|annod.
Wh||o thoro may bo no t|mo |n 3ummor|and, that
corta|n|y doosn't stop |t trom march|ng a|ong horo, and
|t tho woathor |s any |nd|cat|on, my w|ntor broak has
gono way boyond tho two-wook vacat|on l was
grantod trom schoo|. ln tact, |t may havo ovon gono
boyond my ono-wook spr|ng broak as wo||, no|thor ot
wh|ch can rosu|t |n anyth|ng good.
3ut ovon moro b|zarro than tho woathor, wo||,
a|most moro b|zarro anyway, |s tho tact that l can
actua||y íoo| tho grav|ty ot tho oarth p|ano. l too|
hoav|or, s|owor, wh|ch |s just so wolro. As many tr|ps
as l'vo mado back and torth botwoon 3ummor|and
and horo, l'vo novor roa||y not|cod tho d|ttoronco. Or at
|oast not ||ko th|s. lot |n such a protound and obv|ous
way. 3ut thon, l'vo a|so novor spont that much t|mo |n
3ummor|and |n ono cont|nuous stay, so that probab|y
has somoth|ng to do w|th |t.
1h|nk|ng ot |ong cont|nuous stays, l roach tor my co||
phono, oagor to got a pook at tho dato. On|y to
romombor too |ato that l d|dn't br|ng |t, wh|ch makos
sonso s|nco |t's not ||ko l can got a s|gna| |n a myst|ca|
d|mons|on anyway. 3o thon l poor |nto tho noarost
storo w|ndow, |ook|ng tor somo sort ot c|uo as to tho
day, tho t|mo, ovon tho month w||| sutt|co. 3ut a|| l can
soo |s a bunch ot h|gh-pr|cod, soason-noutra|
ottor|ngs tor tho homo, |nc|ud|ng a tako-tur cat bod |n
tho shapo ot a crown, wh|ch doosn't to|| mo much ot
anyth|ng.
l hoavo my 1-sh|rt knapsack ovor my shou|dor,
roassurod by |ts hott that tho tru|t surv|vod tho tr|p
homo, know|ng how tho th|ngs that aro man|tostod |n
3ummor|and novor surv|vo tho tr|p to tho oarth p|ano.
3ut thon, |t's not ||ko l man|tostod tho tru|t. 1ho troo |s
rospons|b|o tor that, wh|ch |s probab|y tho on|y roason
|t's w|th mo.
l hoad tor 1udo's storo, t|gur|ng l can drop |n, mako
suro ho's okay, and t|nd a subt|o way to |nqu|ro about
tho dato. 3ut |nstoad ot t|nd|ng 1udo, l ond up t|nd|ng
protty much tho |ast porson l ovor wou|d'vo oxpoctod.
Okay, maybo not tbo |ost porson, bocauso that
wou|d actua||y bo 3ab|no. 3t|||, l'm not gonna ||o, tho
socond l soo |onor work|ng boh|nd tho countor ot
Vyst|cs and Voonboams, chatt|ng w|th a customor as
sho r|ngs up what |ooks to bo a protty s|zab|o sa|o,
wo||, l just stop r|ght thon and thoro, my body sta||od |n
an oyo-bugg|ng, jaw-dropp|ng staro.
l was oxpoct|ng to soo 1udo, or maybo Ava, or
poss|b|y ovon somoono o|so a|togothor. 3ut l novor
oxpoctod to soo |onor. ln tact, sho d|dn't ovon mako
tho |ong ||st ot suspocts.
3ho g|ancos up trom tho rog|stor, shoots mo a
hurr|od |ook, thon gots r|ght back to numbor punch|ng,
card s||d|ng, and packag|ng. |or taco boar|ng no s|gn
ot how sho m|ght too| about soo|ng mo stand|ng
botoro hor, wh|ch, l gotta say |s tar moro than l can say
tor my own gap|ng roact|on to hor.
1ho |ast l'd hoard 1udo had phasod out ot toach|ng
tho psych|c dovo|opmont |ovo| ono (w|th a sma||
omphas|s on so|t-ompowormont and mag|ck) c|assos
whon |onor ondod up bo|ng h|s on|y studont. And
attor a tow ono-on-ono, pr|vato tutor|a|s, ho'd
dotorm|nod |t was bost to stop a|togothor. Wh|ch, l
havo to adm|t, l was ro||ovod to hoar s|nco |onor
wasn't oxact|y us|ng hor nowtound sk|||s w|th tho bost
ot |ntont|ons, or tor tho bost roasons.
l moan, no mattor how awtu| 3tac|a may bo (and
bo||ovo mo, sho |s roa||y and tru|y owío|), l just cou|dn't
a||ow |avon and |onor's coup aga|nst hor to
cont|nuo. lt just wasn't r|ght-too many poop|o woro
gott|ng hurt |n tho ta||out. And |t's not ||ko tho two ot
thom woro do|ng any bottor onco thoy'd takon
3tac|a's p|aco. lt anyth|ng, thoy woro protty much
m|m|ck|ng hor vory worst bohav|or.
last l saw, |onor and 3tac|a had k|ssod and mado
up, so to spoak, but on|y bocauso l'd protty much
torcod thom to do |t. And now, attor hav|ng boon gono
tor who knows how |ong, l havo no |doa what's
transp|rod trom thoro. |or a|| l know, thoy'ro both r|ght
back to bo|ng tho|r awtu| o|d so|vos, |ndu|g|ng |n tho|r
awtu| o|d ways. 3t|||, l hopo that l'm wrong. l hopo
thoy'vo at |oast tr|od to movo on to do|ng somoth|ng a
||tt|o moro product|vo w|th tho|r ||vos.
1ho customor grabs hor bag and broozos r|ght past
mo on hor way out tho door, as |onor takos a momont
to hand|o tho roco|pt. Carotu||y p|ac|ng |t |nto tho ||tt|o
purp|o box whoro 1udo koops thom, botoro sott||ng
onto tho stoo| and addross|ng mo.
°Wo||, wo||.' 3ho shakos hor hoad as hor oyos travo|
tho |ongth ot mo, g|v|ng mo a vory thorough onco-ovor,
carotu| to h|do any h|nts ot just how sho m|ght too|
about my show|ng up horo. °You woro protty much tho
|ast porson l oxpoctod to soo.'
°1udo around?' l ask, unw||||ng to p|ay hor gamo, |t
that's what |t |s. lt's k|nd ot hard to to|| just what sho's
up to, or what hor mot|vo m|ght bo. °Or ovon Ava?' l
add, mak|ng |t c|oar l'm w||||ng to spoak to just about
anyono but hor.
°Ava w||| bo |n soon,' sho says, st||| poor|ng at mo.
°3amo tor 1udo.' 3ho sm||os, an |nvo|untary curv|ng ot
||ps that d|sappoars just as qu|ck|y.
l approach tho countor, moot|ng hor staro w|th ono
ot my own. Watch|ng as sho ||tts hor shou|dors, |oans
back aga|nst tho wa||, and cont|nuos to study mo.
°|ow |ong havo you boon work|ng horo?' l ask, as
opposod to my roa| quost|on: ¼bot ooy, tlmo, ooo/or
mootb ls ltº Know|ng thoy must'vo h|rod hor to t||| |n
tor mo, and t|gur|ng hor answor w||| g|vo mo an
|nd|cat|on ot just how |ong l'vo boon gono.
°'3out s|x months. G|vo or tako.' 3ho shrugs,
pushos a chunk ot coppor-stroakod ha|r back boh|nd
hor oar, thon tocusos on tho stato ot hor cut|c|os, wh||o
my m|nd roo|s w|th hor answor.
5lx mootbs.
5lx mootbsº
5lx mootbs!
1ho room sw|mm|ng botoro mo, torc|ng mo to grab
ho|d ot tho countor |n an ottort to stoady myso|t.
3|x months puts mo wo|| |nto Vay.
luts mo at tho ta|| ond ot tho socond somostor ot
my son|or yoar.
luts mo at groat r|sk ot t|unk|ng out ont|ro|y un|oss l
work somo sor|ous man|tost|ng mag|ck back |n tho
schoo| adm|n|strator's ott|co!
And l can't ho|p but wondor |t |t's tho samo tor
0amon-|t ho's |n dangor ot t|unk|ng out too. Or |t ho
managod to got back horo w|th p|onty ot t|mo to
sparo, wh||o tho journoy to tho 1roo ot l|to put mo ovor
tho odgo, a|| ot thoso soasons l was torcod to t|nd my
way through.
3ut thon, 0amon's novor carod much about schoo|.
1ho on|y roason ho onro||od |s tho samo roason ho
stayod-bocauso ot mo. Attor s|x contur|os ot ||v|ng,
ho hard|y soos tho po|nt. And though l'vo rocont|y
takon a s|m||ar stanco (as ov|doncod by my poor
attondanco ovon botoro l |ott on my journoy), |t's not
||ko l ovor |ntondod to t|unk out.
lt's not ||ko l ovor droamod ot bo|ng a dropout.
l moan, ovon |t l onco bo||ovod l had no nood tor
3A1s, grado po|nt avoragos, or co||ogo app||cat|ons,
ovon |t l assumod that my bo|ng |mmorta| proc|udod
mo trom hav|ng any uso tor that typo ot th|ng, l st|||
novor |mag|nod not t|n|sh|ng h|gh schoo|.
1oss|ng my cap |nto tho a|r at graduat|on |s protty
much tho ono norma| th|ng l assumod that l'd do.
And now, apparont|y l'vo |ot that s||do by tho
ways|do too.
l s|gh and shako my hoad, try to tocus my attont|on
back on tho prosont, to whoro l now stand, say|ng,
°Wow, that's . that's qu|to a wh||o.' lot roa||y
know|ng what o|so to say.
°You'vo boon gono a |ong t|mo.' 3ho ||tts hor
shou|dors a|ong w|th hor brow. °3o, how was |t? |ow
|s 3ummor|and thoso days?' 3ho posos tho quost|on
so casua||y you'd th|nk wo a|ways ta|kod about such
th|ngs. 3aro|y vontur|ng a g|anco toward mo botoro
sho roturns to |nspoct|ng hor cut|c|os, p|ck|ng at a
hangna|| at tho odgo ot hor thumb, as l soarch tor a
way to rop|y, but no words w||| como. °l know about
3ummor|and.' 3ho shovos hor thumb |n hor mouth,
t|n|sh|ng tho job w|th hor tooth botoro sott||ng hor
hands on hor |ap as hor gazo ||ghts upon mo. °Ot
courso l'vo novor boon, though not tor |ack ot try|ng.'
3ho makos a g|um taco. °3ut |t's tough tor a bog|nnor
||ko mo. 1udo sa|d you'ro tho ono who t|rst got h|m
thoro, and now ho's try|ng to do tho samo th|ng tor mo.
|avon't had much |uck so tar, but l'm not g|v|ng up. l'vo
boon study|ng protty hard, and l'vo road just about
ovoryth|ng l can on tho subjoct. ls |t roa||y as mag|ca|
as 1udo says?' 3ho s|ows hor oyos ovor mo, tak|ng a
tour ot my t||thy c|othos, but to hor crod|t (and my
surpr|so), sho shows no s|gn ot tho usua| sn|do
judgmont l'vo como to oxpoct trom hor. °0on't |ook so
shockod. lt's not ||ko |t's somo b|g ju|cy socrot.' 3ho
archos hor brow h|gh and qu|rks hor mouth to tho s|do.
°Wo||, l guoss tho tact that you go thoro a|| tho t|mo |s
k|nd ot ||ko a b|g ju|cy socrot, but st|||, |t's not ||ko tho
p|aco |s a socrot. A|so, |t's not ||ko l'vo to|d anyono
about |t, or ovon about you. 3o||ovo mo, 1udo's
a|roady warnod mo. |o|| just shy ot throaton|ng mo |t l
so much as broatho a word about you or what you can
do. 3o too| troo to tako a doop broath and ro|ax now,
k?'
3ut ovon though sho assuros mo that |t's okay to
ro|ax, l can't. Any ro|ax|ng thoughts l m|ght havo, havo
boon takon ovor by tho way sho sa|d °1udo.'
1ooo solo yoo`ro tbo ooo wbo ílrst got blm tboro.
1ooo soys lt`s moglco|.
1ooo worooo mo oot to to||.
1ho word appoar|ng harm|oss and casua| on tho
surtaco, un|oss you hoard tho way |t was spokon:
warm|y, |nt|mato|y, boar|ng a tam|||ar|ty that goos way
boyond a studont/toachor/omp|oyoo/boss ro|at|onsh|p.
lot to mont|on how otton |t was spokon, ||ko a g|r|
w|th tho mad-hots who t|nds any oxcuso to |nsort hor
crush's namo |nto a sontonco.
°3o, you and 1udo, huh?' Vy gazo moots hors as l
try to dotorm|no how l too| about that. 3oarch|ng tor
s|gns ot joa|ousy, and ro||ovod whon l roa||zo that's not
what's n|gg||ng mo.
l'm too||ng protoct|vo, not onv|ous. l don't want h|m
to got hurt. 1udo has a |ong h|story ot ta|||ng tor a|| tho
wrong g|r|s-onos who ond up hurt|ng h|m-|nc|ud|ng
mo.
And o|thor sho's mak|ng vast |mprovomonts |n hor
psych|c sk|||s, or l am woar|ng my vory worst pokor
taco ovor, bocauso sho |ooks r|ght at mo and says,
°look, Evor, l know you don't ||ko mo, or don't trust
mo, or both, or whatovor, but anyway, a |ot has
happonod |n tho |ast s|x months. l th|nk you'd bo
amazod.'
°Yoah, wo||, |ast t|mo you sa|d that |t turnod out to bo
ono ot thoso changos that wasn't ovon romoto|y tor tho
bottor.' Vy oyos |ovo| on hors, ho|d|ng tho |ook tor a
momont botoro mov|ng on to tho rost ot hor.
lot|c|ng how hor tormor|y trond-consc|ous
wardrobo has comp|oto|y transtormod, parod down to
a y|n/yang too that hangs wo|| past tho wa|stband ot
hor tadod o|d joans, a ma|ach|to r|ng, or rathor, 1ooo`s
ma|ach|to r|ng, ros|zod w|th s||k throad and shovod
onto hor m|dd|o t|ngor, wh||o a pa|r ot rubbor t||p-t|ops
dang|o trom hor toot. And l can't ho|p but wondor |t
sho's not just dat|ng 1udo, but ra|d|ng h|s c|osot too.
°You'ro r|ght,' sho says, not tho |oast b|t tazod by tho
adm|ss|on, wh|ch a|ono |s a protty good |nd|cat|on ot
progross. °3ut, what l moant was, l th|nk you'd bo
surpr|sod |n a gooo way. l'm no |ongor work|ng
aga|nst you, Evor. 3or|ous|y. l know you don't bo||ovo
|t, but roa||y, l'vo changod. Vy who|o out|ook has
changod. And just so you know, l tru|y caro about
1udo. l'm not go|ng to hurt h|m ||ko you.'
l |ook at hor, wa|t|ng tor hor to t|n|sh that sontonco,
suro that what sho roa||y moant to say was: °l'm not
go|ng to hurt h|m |lko yoo tblok,' and that sho'|| soon
corroct horso|t.
3ut nopo, sho |oavos |t at that. Apparont|y sho sa|d
what sho moant, and |t's not ||ko l can dony that |t's
truo.
°And 3tac|a?' l ask, protorr|ng to chango tho
subjoct to somoth|ng just as bad |t not worso. °|as
sho mado th|s chango a|ong w|th you?' Know|ng
t|rsthand just how so|t|sh and c|uo|oss sho |s,
romombor|ng how hard |t was just to conv|nco hor to
apo|og|zo tor somo ot tho moro horr|b|o th|ngs that
sho'd dono. 3ut hoy, m|rac|os do occur, and |t's novor
too |ato to turn your ||to around and roach tor
somoth|ng bottor-or at |oast that's what l hoar.
1hough |onor's protty roa||st|c whoro hor tr|ond |s
concornod, wh|ch moans sho just |aughs whon sho
says, °What can l say? 3tac|a's moro ot a work |n
progross. 3ut trust mo, sho's not noar as bad as sho
usod to bo, and that's say|ng somoth|ng, r|ght?
Anyway, |t 1udo soos t|t to ||ko mo, and Ava soos t|t to
trust mo, wo||, l was th|nk|ng maybo you m|ght try to .
wo||, at |oast to|orato mo, thon wo'|| soo whoro that
|oads.'
°And just what |s Ava soo|ng t|t to trust you wltb?' l
ask. °Othor than ho|p|ng out at tho storo, l moan?'
|onor stands, hor attont|on momontar||y c|a|mod by
tho bo|| c|ang|ng hard aga|nst tho door, announc|ng a
now arr|va|, as sho says, °|or ono th|ng, sho's soon t|t
to havo mo track down somo raro horbs tor 0amon.
3omoth|ng to do w|th somo ant|doto ho's mak|ng?'
3ho ||tts hor brow, d|rocts a wavo to tho brows|ng
customor, thon roturns to mo. °And, as |t just so
happons, |t arr|vod about an hour ago. Got |t r|ght
horo.' 3ho roachos undor tho countor, grabs a t|ny
p|a|n-wrappod packago, and s|aps |t down |n tront ot
hor. °l was gonna ca|| h|m to como p|ck |t up, but now
that you'ro horo, wo||, maybo you shou|d tako |t to
h|m? l'm guoss|ng |t's boon a wh||o s|nco you'vo |ast
soon h|m, no?'
l staro at tho packago, my hoart hammor|ng, my
throat constr|ct|ng, awaro ot hor gazo wo|gh|ng on mo.
°What day |s |t?' l ask.
3ho shoots mo a tunny |ook. °3unday, why?'
°3unday.'
°3unday, Vay twonty-tourth.' 3ho s||nks around tho
countor and makos tor hor customor, as l grab tho
packago, shovo |t doop |ns|do my tront pockot, and
mako my way out tho door.
thirty-tivo
l don't go to 0amon's.
l p|an to, l havo ovory |ntont|on to, but thoro's
somoth|ng o|so l nood to do t|rst. 3o attor man|tost|ng
a car, l hoad stra|ght tor 1udo's. Want|ng to catch h|m
botoro ho |oavos tor tho storo, and noar|y crash|ng
r|ght |nto h|m whon ho backs h|s 1oop out ot h|s dr|vo
just as l'm pu|||ng |n.
°Evor?' |o poors at mo trom h|s s|dov|ow m|rror as
h|s car jumps to a ha|t and ho spr|ngs trom h|s soat.
l staro. l can't ho|p |t. |o |ooks so comp|oto|y
d|ttoront trom tho |ast t|mo l saw h|m.
||s hoad |s shavod.
And w|thout h|s tradomark tang|o ot |ong
go|don/bronzo droad|ocks ho's baro|y rocogn|zab|o-
or at |oast unt|| h|s oyos t|nd m|no anyway. 1hat
br||||ant aqua-groon gazo |s a|| too tam|||ar, not to
mont|on tho wavo ot coo|, ca|m onorgy that thrums
ovor mo, through mo, a|| around mo, |n tho samo way
|t has tor tho |ast sovora| contur|os.
|o runs a so|t-consc|ous hand ovor h|s now|y shorn
hoad, h|s trop|ca| gazo moot|ng m|no whon ho says,
°||gurod |t was t|mo tor a chango, but trom tho |ook on
your taco l'm th|nk|ng l shou|d start grow|ng |t aga|n.'
l s||p out ot my car, try|ng my bost to not ovordo |t
w|th tho star|ng. Evon though ho |ooks groat, |n tact,
bottor than groat, |t's st||| a protty b|g v|sua| adjustmont
to mako.
°lah.' l sm||o br|ght|y and shako my hoad. °Koop |t. l
moan, what's tho po|nt ot go|ng back, whon you can
go torward |nstoad?'
||s oyos grazo ovor mo, a||ow|ng tho words to hang
botwoon us unt|| ho broaks tho s||onco and says, °You
|ook ||ko you'vo boon through tho wr|ngor.' |o mot|ons
toward tho sorry stato ot my c|othos. °3ut you mado |t,
and that's what mattors. lt's good to soo you, Evor.'
And l can to|| by tho tono ot h|s vo|co and tho g||nt |n
h|s oyo that tor tho t|rst t|mo |n a |ong t|mo ho actua||y
moans |t. Vy prosonco no |ongor o||c|ts that samo
brand ot |ong|ng |t usod to.
°And you.' l chaso tho words w|th anothor sm||o,
want|ng h|m to know that l moan |t too.
Wo stand botoro oach othor, a||ow|ng tho s||onco to
bu||d. 3ut |t's not tho awkward k|nd ot s||onco, |t's tho
k|nd sharod by two poop|o who'vo oxpor|oncod
somoth|ng so oxtraord|nary thoro's just no way to put |t
|nto words.
°Whon'd you got back?' l ask, wondor|ng |t ho was
gono a |ong t|mo too.
|o |ooks at mo, squ|nts, and says, °long t|mo ago.
Way botoro you. l thought about go|ng attor you, try|ng
to t|nd you, but lotus warnod mo aga|nst |t, warnod
mo to not got |nvo|vod.' 1udo jang|os h|s koys,
mot|ons toward h|s tront door. °0o you want to go
|ns|do?'
l pross my ||ps togothor, th|nk|ng about losloo. 1ho
k|tchon whoro l onco d|d h|s d|shos, tho o|d cha|r
whoro l usod to s|t, tho ant|quo door ho usos as a
cottoo tab|o, tho brown corduroy couch whoro ho
contossod h|s too||ngs tor mo .
°lo, l-' l |ook at h|m, swa||ow hard, and start aga|n.
°l just wantod to mako suro you mado |t back trom
3ummor|and. 1ust wantod to mako suro you got
through |t okay, and.' l ||tt my shou|dors, |ook a||
around, soo|ng tho poon|os back |n b|oom-b|g,
v|brant|y co|orod puttba||s ot purp|o and p|nk sprout|ng
trom tho top ot sturdy groon stoms. °And, |t sooms you
d|d, so.'
3ut ho won't |ot mo ott that oas||y. |o won't a||ow
mo to just brush |t away. °3hou|d wo ta|k about |t?' ho
asks, h|s gazo to|||ng mo ho's moro than w||||ng to do
so |t l want.
And wh||o wo most corta|n|y cou|d, l can't ho|p but
th|nk: ¼bot woo|o bo tbo polotº
l moan, what's thoro |ott to ta|k about, roa||y? Wo
know ovoryth|ng now. Wo ro||vod tho actua| ovonts tor
ourso|vos. 3o what's tho po|nt |n rohash|ng what wo
a|roady know?
l shako my hoad and d|roct my gazo to our toot-ho
|n h|s usua| brown rubbor t||p-t|ops, mo |n my crusty,
d|rty h|k|ng boots. 1hon l ||tt my hoad and say, °1hat
wou|d just ond up bo|ng rodundant now, wou|dn't |t?'
|o ||tts h|s shou|dors, koops h|s gazo on mo.
°1hough, |t must bo a ro||ot to know you d|dn't roa||y
|ovo mo and |oso mo a|| thoso yoars, r|ght?'
|o t||ts h|s hoad, contusod by my statomont.
°What l moan |s, or at |oast trom what l can to|| attor
str|ng|ng |t a|| togothor, |t's protty c|oar you woro just
try|ng to koop mo and 0amon apart so ho wou|dn't
mako mo |mmorta|. You know, so ho wou|dn't succood
at what ho'd ta||od to do that t|rst ||to ot ours whon you
woro |oath, ho was A|r|k, and l was Ado||na.'
°ls that roa||y your tako?' |o |oans toward mo, h|s
gazo so p|orc|ng |t causos mo to nod, gu|p, scratch
my arm. lndu|g|ng |n a|| ot my norvous to||s, ono attor
anothor, wh|ch |oavos mo wondor|ng why l |ns|stod on
say|ng such a th|ng |t |t's on|y go|ng to rosu|t |n my own
d|scomtort. 3ut soo|ng that d|scomtort, ho's qu|ck to
|ot |t go, say|ng, °3o, to|| mo-d|d you do |t? 0|d you
mako |t to tho ond ot your journoy? 0|d you t|nd tho
troo you woro |ook|ng tor?'
°Yoah. l d|d,' l to|| h|m, my vo|co grow|ng hoarso as
my m|nd t|||s w|th tho who|o g|or|ous s|ght ot |t. A v|s|on
l want h|m to soo too and thoro's on|y ono way to do
that. °C|oso your oyos,' l say, humb|od by tho spood
w|th wh|ch ho oboys. °And now opon your m|nd.' l
p|aco my hands on o|thor s|do ot h|s taco, my pa|ms
spann|ng tho sharp p|anos ot h|s chookbonos that
appoar ovon moro pronouncod w|th h|s now|y shorn
ha|r, my t|ngort|ps sook|ng tho s||ght |nward curvo ot
h|s tomp|os and pross|ng ||ght|y aga|nst thom.
lrojoct|ng tho who|o wondortu||y rad|ant scono trom
my m|nd to h|s, show|ng h|m tho troo oxact|y as l
romombor |t, |n a|| ot |ts abundanco and g|ory.
°Wow,' ho says, h|s vo|co ||ko a s|gh. °1hat must'vo
boon . somotblog.' |o |ooks at mo, gazo doop|y
prob|ng.
l nod, start to romovo my hands trom h|s taco, on|y
to havo h|m pross h|s pa|ms hard aga|nst thom,
ho|d|ng mo |n p|aco.
°l shou|d go.' l try to pu|| away, on|y to havo h|m ho|d
mo ovon t|ghtor, koop mo r|ght thoro botoro h|m.
°Evor.' ||s vo|co |s th|ck, raggod, a tono l know
wo||.
Vy oyos grazo ovor h|m, not|ng h|s trosh|y
|aundorod 1-sh|rt and joans, tho scont ot soap, trosh
a|r, and ocoan that dr|tts trom h|s sk|n-and l know tho
ottort was mado tor |onor, not mo.
°1udo, aro you happy?' l ask, torvont|y hop|ng ho |s,
that tho n|ght star l mado grantod my w|sh, or at |oast
that |t w||| soon.
|o g|vos mo a |ong |ook, ono that ||ngors so |ong
l'm suro ho won't answor whon ho t|na||y drops h|s
hands, shovos thom doop |nto h|s pockots, and says,
°l'm work|ng on |t.' |o shrugs. °l th|nk l'm gott|ng
c|osor. You?'
l start to shoot ott somo b||tho and broozy rop|y, tho
k|nd you toss out whon somoono asks how you aro
but you know thoy'ro not go|ng to st|ck around tor tho
answor, but thon l stop just as qu|ck|y. 1udo answorod
honost|y, so tho |oast l can do |s answor honost|y too.
1hough |t doos tako a momont to t|guro out just what
that answor m|ght bo. l hadn't roa||y cons|dorod my
own stato ot happ|noss-or at |oast not tor a wh||o
anyway.
lot's soo, l passod ovory tost on my journoy and
so|zod my dost|ny, wh|ch makos mo comp|oto|y so|t-
actua||zod |n tho doopost sonso ot tho word, and yot,
ovon attor a|| that, thoro's ono th|ng that's st||| g|ar|ng|y
m|ss|ng. Or, mako that two th|ngs-ono hugo, ono
on|y s||ght|y |oss hugo. 3ut attor l |oavo horo, l'|| taco
thoso th|ngs too.
°3amo horo,' l t|na||y say. °l'm work|ng on |t too.'
Chas|ng tho words w|th a t|ash ot a gr|n. °3ut l th|nk l'm
mak|ng good progross, gott|ng protty dang c|oso,
anyway.'
l start to turn, start to hoad tor my car, whon ho pu||s
mo back to h|m and says, °|oy, Evor-'
l taco h|m.
°1ust so you know, you'vo got |t a|| wrong.'
l narrow my gazo, hav|ng no |doa what ho moans.
°1hat roa||y |sn't what l was do|ng a|| ot thoso ||vos,
or at |oast that's on|y part ot |t. 1ho othor roason l was
try|ng to koop you trom 0amon |s bocauso l wantod
you a|| to myso|t. 3t||| do.' |o shrugs, tr|os to |augh, but
|t's not tho tunny k|nd. lt's tar too ros|gnod tor that.
°lomombor what you to|d mo-tho t|rst day wo mot?'
l squ|nt. l sa|d a |ot ot th|ngs back thon. ln tact, l gavo
h|m ono hock ot a pa|m road|ng, to|d h|m a|| about h|s
past-or at |oast h|s most |mmod|ato past.
°You to|d mo l havo a sor|ous h|story ot ta|||ng tor a||
tho wrong g|r|s.'
Ob yoob. 7bot.
°1urns out you woro r|ght.' 1horo's that |augh aga|n,
but th|s t|mo |t's ||ghtor, br|ghtor, h|nt|ng at a prom|so
ot bottor days to como. °l|tt|o d|d you know |t was just
ono g|r| |n part|cu|ar-ono g|r| ovor and ovor aga|n.
l|tt|o d|d you know |t was yoo.'
l gu|p, my stomach go|ng a|| tw|sty and wo|rd.
°lt's a|ways boon you.' |o shoots mo a ruotu| gr|n.
l odgo c|osor to my car, hav|ng no |doa what to say,
what to do, but that's okay, bocauso ho canco|s tho
awkwardnoss tor mo.
°3o, what do you th|nk ot |onor?' ho asks.
Our oyos moot and ho|d, unt|| l manago to stammor,
°|or roa|s?'
|o nods, sw|pos a hand ovor h|s hoad |n tho samo
way ho usod to back whon h|s ha|r was |ong and
tw|sty, on|y now thoro's not much to |atch onto and h|s
arm ta||s back to h|s s|do. °What d|d you to|| mo back
thon? lt l'm too| onough to ask, thon you'ro too| onough
to to||?' |o |aughs, add|ng, °3o yoah, what tho hock?
|avo at |t. What do you th|nk ot |onor? Or, bottor yot,
what do you soo tor our tuturo? 0o wo ovon havo a
tuturo?'
|o ottors h|s pa|m, want|ng mo to tako |t, to to|| h|m
a|| that l soo. And l stand thoro botoro h|m, know|ng a||
l havo to do |s |owor my psych|c sh|o|d, pross my
t|ngor to h|s sk|n, and ovoryth|ng ho wants to know,
|nc|ud|ng stutt ho most ||ko|y doos not, w||| bo
rovoa|od.
l |nch toward h|m, just about to do |t, whon l
romombor what 0amon onco sa|d, and doc|do to
quoto h|m |nstoad.
°l|to |s not moant to bo an opon-book tost,' l say,
turn|ng back toward my car and dr|v|ng away.

Vy noxt stop |s 3ab|no's.
l t|guro s|nco |t's |ato on a 3unday attornoon thoro's
a good chanco l'|| t|nd hor at homo.
Vaybo ovon at homo w|th Vunoz.
And tho c|osor l got to hor stroot, tho moro l start
hop|ng Vunoz w||| bo thoro, |t tor no othor roason than
ho sooms to bo on my s|do-or at |oast tor tho most
part. Wh|ch moans ho just m|ght bo ab|o to ho|p mo
conv|nco hor ot tho truth.
1ho start||ng, m|nd-b|ow|ng, wor|d-rock|ng truth that
provos ovoryth|ng sho so vohomont|y don|os |s
actua||y roa|.
1ho truth sho'|| most ||ko|y t|ght ||ko ho|| to rotuso no
mattor how much ov|donco l put botoro hor.
And ovon though l'm tu||y proparod to pu|| out a|| tho
stops, do whatovor's roqu|rod to mako hor bo||ovo
(know|ng that may roqu|ro no |oss than a judgo, a
carotu||y so|octod two|vo-man jury, and poss|b|y ovon
a handtu| ot a|tornatos thrown |n tor good moasuro),
|t'|| st||| bo good to havo Vunoz around to ho|p bu||d my
caso.
You know, two aga|nst ono.
lowor |n numbors.
1hat sort ot th|ng.
l dr|vo up to tho gato, too||ng ovon moro gu||ty about
my oxtra-|ong absonco whon l soo tho way tho socur|ty
guard |ooks at mo, opon|y gawk|ng as sho doos a
tr|p|o tako botoro wav|ng mo |n. And whon l pu|| |nto
tho dr|voway, soo tho way tho yard has changod,
hav|ng trans|t|onod r|ght out ot a soason l protty much
m|ssod, and go|ng hoadt|rst |nto a now ono l hopo to
st|ck around |ong onough to onjoy, tho gu||ty too||ng
goos |nto ovordr|vo.
3t|||, that's noth|ng comparod to tho way l too| whon l
stand at tho door and r|ng tho bo|| on|y to watch
3ab|no's toaturos tumb|o through a sor|os ot a|most
cartoon|sh oxpross|ons. 3og|nn|ng w|th an |n|t|a|
roact|on ot surpr|sod rocogn|t|on, botoro mak|ng tho|r
way through uttor shock, to comp|oto and tota|
d|sbo||ot, to a qu|ck g||nt ot hopo, to abso|uto
dot|anco, and thon sott||ng on gravo concorn whon sho
takos |n tho sad and sorry stato ot my scuttod-up
h|k|ng boots, d|rty joans, and tho t||thy wh|to tank top l
koop torgott|ng to man|tost myso|t out ot.
°Whoro'vo you boon?' sho asks, hor vo|co a
strango comb|nat|on ot angor and cur|os|ty, as hor
b|uo oyos cont|nuo tho |nvontory.
°1rust mo, you wou|dn't bo||ovo mo |t l to|d you,' l
say, know|ng tho words aro tar truor than sho cou|d
ovor roa||zo.
3ho to|ds hor arms across hor chost as hor ||ps
pross togothor |n a th|n, gr|m ||no. 1rans|t|on|ng r|ght
back to hor storn s|do, tho ono that's a|| too oasy to
rocogn|zo, say|ng, °1ry mo.'
lt's tho angry 3ab|no.
1ho so|t-r|ghtoous 3ab|no.
1ho 3ab|no who gavo mo tho u|t|matum that
u|t|mato|y conv|ncod mo to |oavo.
l poor ovor hor shou|dor, know|ng Vunoz |s horo
somowhoro s|nco l saw h|s s||vor lr|us |n tho dr|vo.
|oav|ng a hugo s|gh ot ro||ot whon l soo h|m com|ng
out ot tho don, h|s taco protty much oxh|b|t|ng a|| tho
samo oxpross|ons as hors, m|nus tho dot|anco and
gravo concorn, wh|ch l tako as a good s|gn.
°l'd |ovo to oxp|a|n.' l t|ght to koop my vo|co ca|m,
noncontrontat|ona|, know|ng tho on|y way to got
through to hor |s to koop tho omot|on at bay. °ln tact,
that's why l'm horo. l p|an to to|| you a|| about |t. l woot
to to|| you a|| about |t. 3ut |t's k|nd ot |nvo|vod, so l
thought maybo l cou|d como |n and s|t down and wo
can tako |t trom thoro.'
|or chooks t|ush |n |nd|gnat|on. 3ho can hard|y
bo||ovo my audac|ty. Expoct|ng to bo |ot |n attor
show|ng up on hor doorstop, comp|oto|y
unannouncod, attor months ot no commun|cat|on
whatsoovor. l can pract|ca||y hoar tho thoughts as thoy
sw|r| through hor hoad ovon though l prom|sod myso|t l
wou|dn't oavosdrop. 1hough |t's not ||ko l nood to
oavosdrop whon l can soo tho way hor onorgy
rad|atos a|| around hor, t|ash|ng and spark|ng |n a
r|s|ng t|do ot angor.
3t|||, sho sw|ngs tho door w|do and mot|ons mo |n,
to||ow|ng mo |nto tho don, whoro l c|a|m ono ot tho
ovorstuttod cha|rs and watch as sho and Vunoz p|aco
thomso|vos s|do by s|do on tho couch that s|ts
oppos|to.
°Wou|d you ||ko somoth|ng to dr|nk?' sho asks, hor
vo|co st|tt as sho jumps to hor toot onco aga|n. Unab|o
to conta|n hor own norvous onorgy, unsuro how to
hand|o my suddon prosonco, sho goos stra|ght |nto
hostoss modo, a ro|o sho knows wo||.
°Wator,' l say, soo|ng tho way hor brows draw
togothor, know|ng sho's unusod to soo|ng mo dr|nk
anyth|ng othor than tho o||x|r, not roa||z|ng |t's boon
around s|x months s|nco my |ast s|p. °Wator wou|d bo
groat, thanks.' l odgo back |n my cha|r, cross|ng my
|ogs at tho ank|o as sho hoads |nto tho k|tchon and
Vunoz sott|os back on tho couch, h|s arms sproad
w|do across tho cush|ons |n tho comtortab|o, ro|axod
way ot a man who's tu||y at homo.
°Wo d|dn't oxpoct to soo you.' ||s vo|co |s caut|ous,
unsuro what to mako ot my prosonco, worr|od about
my mot|vos, what br|ngs mo horo.
l gazo around tho don, ro||ovod to t|nd |t oxact|y tho
samo attor so many othor th|ngs havo changod. 1hon l
gazo down at my t||thy c|othos and qu|ck|y man|tost
somo c|oan onos |n tho|r p|aco.
°Evor-' Vunoz koops h|s vo|co |oworod so 3ab|no
can't ovorhoar. °l don't th|nk that's such a good
|doa.'
l gazo down at my now|y man|tostod b|uo dross and
bo|go |oathor sanda|s and shrug. 0rumm|ng my
t|ngors aga|nst tho upho|storod arms ot my cha|r whon
l say, °l|ston, l may nood your ho|p on th|s ono, so
p|oaso, just try to trust mo. l'm not horo to cont|nuo tho
argumont, or mako anyth|ng worso. l just want to c|oar
up a tow th|ngs botoro |t's too |ato and l no |ongor
can.'
|o |ooks at mo, taco tu|| ot a|arm, about to ask tor
an oxp|anat|on whon 3ab|no comos back |nto tho
room, hands mo a g|ass ot wator, and takos hor p|aco
noxt to h|m.
l cross and uncross my |ogs, brush my hands ovor
tho sk|rt ot my dross unt|| tho hom ta||s just shy ot my
knoos. A sor|os ot gosturos groat|y |ack|ng |n subt|oty,
a sor|os ot gosturos that pract|ca||y bog hor to tako
not|co, to |nqu|ro how l managod to chango c|othos so
qu|ck|y, to say somoth|ng, anyth|ng, but a don|a| as
doop|y rootod as hors |s hard to dotoat.
|ard, but not |mposs|b|o.
l can't a||ow myso|t to bo||ovo |t's |mposs|b|o.
Othorw|so thoro's no po|nt |n my bo|ng horo.
Know|ng |t's bost to just tako tho |oad and jump |n, l
|ook at hor and say, °l m|ssod you.'
3ho squ|rms, nods, |oans c|osor to Vunoz, who
wo|comos hor |nto tho crook ot h|s arm and g|vos hor
shou|dor a roassur|ng squoozo. 3ut a|| sho can
manago |n rop|y |s, °3o, aro you go|ng to to|| mo
whoro you'vo boon?'
l pross my ||ps togothor, a ||tt|o stunnod by hor
rosponso, but l guoss sho t|guros tho omot|ona| cost
|s too h|gh tor hor to adm|t that sho m|ssod mo too.
3ut that's okay. Evon |t sho won't adm|t |t, l know sho
olo m|ss mo. l can soo |t |n tho way hor aura t|ashos
w|th just tho s||mmost h|nt ot p|nk |n tho m|dst ot a|| that
st||| rag|ng rod.
Auras novor ||o. On|y poop|o do.
°l was |n 3ummor|and,' l say, my gazo travo||ng
botwoon hor and Vunoz.
°ln 3anta 3arbara?' 3ho shoots mo a skopt|ca| |ook
but l'm qu|ck to dot|oct |t.
°lo. lot tho boach town |n 3anta 3arbara, tho roo|
3ummor|and. 1ho ílrst 3ummor|and. 1ho myst|ca|
d|mons|on that ox|sts botwoon th|s ono and tho ono
just boyond.'
Vunoz tonsos, h|s body on tu||-sca|o a|ort, proparod
tor tho worst. Wh||o 3ab|no's mouth grows gr|m, hor
gazo narrow|ng as sho says, °l don't undorstand.'
l |oan torward, scoot|ng to tho vory odgo ot my soat,
say|ng, °l know. 3o||ovo mo, l tota||y got |t. lt's a |ot to
tako |n. Espoc|a||y tho t|rst t|mo you hoar |t. lt was tho
samo way tor mo. l choso to dony |t tor a roa||y |ong
t|mo. lrotty much unt|| l no |ongor cou|d. l a|so know
th|s w||| bo ovon moro d|tt|cu|t tor you bocauso ot your
ro|uctanco to bo||ovo |n anyth|ng that ta||s outs|do ot
your comtort zono, and how you protor to d|sm|ss
anyth|ng you can't soo happon|ng d|roct|y |n tront ot
you. 3ut tho roason l'vo doc|dod to cont|do |n you
anyway, dosp|to tho uph||| batt|o l taco, |s bocauso l'vo
grown t|rod ot tho gamo. l'vo grown t|rod ot |y|ng to you
a|| tho t|mo. l'vo grown t|rod ot h|d|ng th|ngs trom you.
3ut most|y, l'vo grown t|rod ot hav|ng to work so
r|d|cu|ous|y hard at bo|ng th|s tota||y manutacturod,
ta|so vors|on ot mo just so you can cont|nuo to bo||ovo
what's most comtortab|o tor you to bo||ovo.' l pauso
tor a momont, g|v|ng hor a chanco to rospond, but sho
just |ooks as co|d and stono-tacod as ovor, so l qu|ck|y
pross on. °1ho t|rst two wooks l was gono, l was at
0amon's. And l know you know that bocauso l know
ho to|d you. 3ut what you probab|y don't know |s that l
was tu||y comm|ttod to novor com|ng back. l'd vowod
to movo tar away attor graduat|on and to novor soo
you aga|n. And |t's not bocauso l was bo|ng v|nd|ct|vo
or try|ng to pun|sh you-dosp|to what you may th|nk, l
tru|y boro you no ||| w|||. 1ho roason l'd p|annod to
|oavo you torovor |s bocauso l tru|y bo||ovod |t wou|d
mako both our ||vos oas|or. 3ut now th|ngs havo
changod, or at |oast thoy'ro about to chango |n a roa||y
b|g way.' l swa||ow hard, chanco a g|anco at Vunoz
and soo h|m nod, oncourag|ng mo to go on, and l do.
°3ut botoro that roa||y b|g chango can tako p|aco, l
wantod to como c|oan w|th you. l wantod to tako ono
|ast stab to try to mako you bo||ovo.'
°And just what |s |t that l'm supposod to bo|lovo?'
sho asks, but l can to|| by tho dot|ant arch ot hor brow
and tho cha||ongo |n hor tono that sho a|roady knows.
°l nood you to bo||ovo that l'm not just somo crazy,
sad, attont|on-starvod toon who's so scarrod and
damagod by tho |oss ot hor tam||y that sho protonds to
havo psych|c powors. l nood you to bo||ovo that l'm not
somo con-art|st char|atan who r|ps poop|o ott tor a
||v|ng. And tho roason l nood you to bo||ovo that |s
bocauso |t's tho truth. l om psych|c. l can and do hoar
othor poop|o's thoughts. l can a|so soo a porson's
ont|ro ||to story w|th moro|y a touch, just as l can soo
auras and commun|cato w|th a|| tho ghost|y sp|r|ts who
chooso to hang around tho oarth p|ano |ong attor thoy
shou|d'vo movod on. And, |n add|t|on to that, l'm a|so
|mmorta|.' l stop, a||ow|ng onough t|mo tor my words to
s|nk |n, tor my contoss|on to tako tu|| ottoct. Know|ng |t
has whon hor aura bog|ns to t|aro and rago so br|ght,
l'm surpr|sod by tho absonco ot smoko l thought tor
suro wou|d bo shoot|ng out ot hor noso and oars.
°1hat rod ju|co l a|ways dr|nk?' l t||t my hoad and
|ook at hor. °As |t just so happons, |t's tho o||x|r ot
otorna| ||to. 1ho ono man has sought through tho agos
-on|y 0amon |s ono ot tho tow who actua||y
succoodod |n d|scovor|ng tho socrot tormu|a just ovor
s|x hundrod yoars ago.'
°Evor, |t you th|nk that l'm.' 3ho shakos hor hoad,
tar too tur|ous to ovon comp|oto hor own sontonco,
though sho doos manago to th|nk |t, and th|s t|mo l
tuno |n. lt tor no othor roason, |t m|ght ho|p provo my
po|nt.
Vy oyos moot hors, watch|ng hor c|oso|y as l s|ow|y
ropoat hor unspokon words. °lo, l roa||y don't th|nk
you'ro wl||log to coosloor somotblog so |oolcroos, so
rlolco|oos, so íor-íotcboo, so . soo-íor ovoo ooo
socooo.' 3oo|ng hor oyos w|don |n shock, but sho's
just as qu|ck to d|sm|ss |t, assur|ng horso|t |t was
obv|ous what sho was th|nk|ng. And though |t was, l'm
not about to stop thoro.
°And |t that d|dn't conv|nco you, thon maybo th|s w|||.
1hough l havo to warn you, l'm go|ng to pu|| out a|| tho
stops to provo to you l'm not |y|ng, l'm not crazy, and
l'm not somo attont|on-starvod phony. l'm go|ng to
show you oxact|y what l'm capab|o ot, wh|ch |s
somoth|ng l probab|y shou|d'vo dono |ong botoro. And
tho on|y roason l d|dn't |s bocauso no|thor ot us was
qu|to roady. 3ut now wo aro. Or at |oast l am, and l'm
protty suro you aro too. And as tor Vunoz'-l sw|tch
my gazo to h|m-°ho a|roady knows. ln tact, ho's
known tor somo t|mo.'
3ab|no turns to Vunoz, hor oyos |mp|or|ng. 3ut ho
just takos a doop broath and nods, d|roct|ng hor
attont|on back to mo whon ho says, °lt's truo. 3ab|no,
honoy, Evor's not |y|ng. 3ho possossos powors that
aro noth|ng short ot aston|sh|ng. A|| l ask |s that you
g|vo hor a chanco. 1ust try to watch and ||ston w|th an
opon m|nd, and l th|nk you'|| bo amazod at what you
soo. And |t not, |t you st||| chooso not to bo||ovo.' |o
|ooks at hor, c|oar|y hop|ng that won't bo tho caso.
°Wo||, thon, that's your cho|co. 3ut tor now, why not just
try to broadon your wor|d to a who|o now sot ot |doas
you may havo novor cons|dorod.'
3ho crossos hor arms and |ogs, wh|ch, as tar as
body |anguago goos, |s a protty d|scourag|ng d|sp|ay.
|or oyos war||y tocusod on mo, whon l say, °|or
startors, what was l woar|ng whon you oponod tho
door?' 3ho squ|nts, hor oyos mov|ng ovor mo,
ongagod |n a tu|| |nspoct|on, and whon sho rotusos to
answor, whon sho just wraps horso|t up ovon t|ghtor, l
say, °ls |t tho samo th|ng l'm woar|ng now?'
3ho sh|tts, squ|rms, but rotusos to rop|y, wh|ch as
tar as l'm concornod |s answor onough.
°Or was |t th|s?' l man|tost tho t||thy c|othos l was
woar|ng whon l t|rst got horo, tho s|ght ot wh|ch
garnors no rosponso trom hor. °Or maybo |t was th|s?'
l man|tost a dark groon s||k gown just ||ko tho ono l
woar |n tho pav|||on whon 0amon and l rov|s|t sconos
trom my london ||to, back whon l was tho spo||od ||tt|o
r|ch g|r| namod Ch|oo. Choos|ng to roma|n ||ko that,
s|tt|ng botoro hor |n a br|ght and sh|ny d|sp|ay ot
contur|os-o|d t|nory. W||||ng hor to say somoth|ng,
anyth|ng, but sho won't. 3ho's comp|oto|y unw||||ng to
budgo trom tho |doas sho's c|ung to tor so |ong.
°Vy powors aron't just ro|ogatod to rap|d wardrobo
changos,' l say. °l can man|tost an o|ophant just as
oas||y.' 1hon l c|oso my oyos and do just that. Chok|ng
back a |augh whon l soo just how much ottort sho puts
|nto ma|nta|n|ng hor coo|. 3o comp|oto|y dod|catod to
hor r|g|d sot ot v|ows, sho rotusos to roact |n any way
whatsoovor whon an o|ophant appoars r|ght bos|do
hor and sw|ngs h|s trunk |n hor taco. °l can man|tost
t|owors as wo||,' l add, covor|ng tho cottoo tab|o w|th a
hugo p||o ot br|ght yo||ow dattod||s. °l can a|so
man|tost jowo|s.' l c|oso my oyos and whon l opon
thom aga|n 3ab|no |s dr|pp|ng |n d|amonds and
rub|os and omora|ds and yot, a|| |t doos |s mako hor
ovon moro stono-tacod. °l can ovon man|tost cars and
boats and housos and, wo||, bas|ca||y whatovor you
can |mag|no. v|rtua||y noth|ng |s ott-||m|ts-wo||,
oxcopt tor poop|o. You can't man|tost a porson
bocauso you can't man|tost a sou|-though you can
man|tost tho|r |mago as l onco d|d w|th Or|ando
3|oom.' l sm||o br|ot|y at tho momory and 0amon's
roact|on that to||owod whon ho saw what l'd dono. °3ut
what l can't man|tost, no mattor how hard l try, |s your
w||||ngnoss to stop dony|ng what you soo r|ght |n tront
ot you. 1hat's ca||od troo w|||, and |t bo|ongs on|y to
you.'
3ho t||ts hor ch|n and narrows hor oyos, |ook|ng
angry, dot|ant, though hor vo|co oas||y botrays tho toar
that's boh|nd |t. °l don't know what you'ro up to, Evor,
but you nood to stop! You nood to stop w|th tho.'
3ho |ooks around, soarchos tor tho r|ght word. °You
nood to stop w|th tho mag|c tr|cks, now!'
|or domoanor so shakon, so str|ckon, l'm qu|ck to
comp|y. lodd|ng and b||nk|ng unt|| ovory |ast traco ot
|t's gono-unt|| |t's a|| roturnod to norma| aga|n,
|nc|ud|ng my c|othos, wh|ch aro back to tho tar moro
comtortab|o, though tar |oss |mpross|vo b|uo dross
and bo|go sanda|s.
Vy oyos moot hors, and l can't ho|p but th|nk th|s |s
go|ng ovon worso than l'd thought. 3t|||, l rotuso to g|vo
up. l can't a||ow myso|t to stop now whon l st||| havo a
tow moro tr|cks up my s|oovo.
°1horo's moro.' l nod, |nstant|y man|tost|ng a jowo|-
hand|od kn|to l pos|t|on r|ght ovor my t|attonod, ra|sod
pa|m. °l know you'ro squoam|sh, l know how you hato
tho s|ght ot b|ood, but l prom|so |t'|| bo ovor soon.'
l jab tho t|p |nto tho contor ot my pa|m, and drag tho
sharp b|ado a|| tho way across. |oar|ng tho gasp
3ab|no |s unab|o to st|t|o, and soo|ng hor horr|t|od
taco as sho watchos tho b|ood pour|ng out ot mo-tho
way |t sp|ashos ovor my dross and poo|s onto tho
carpot-unt||-unt||-|t no |ongor |s.
1ho kn|to |s gono.
Vy pa|m |s hoa|od.
And thoro's abso|uto|y no s|gn ot tho b|ood l just
shod.
And ovon though |t was a protty |mpross|vo d|sp|ay,
l havo to adm|t l'm start|ng to too| a ||tt|o ashamod,
start|ng to too| ||ko tho wor|d's croop|ost c|rcus act.
°l|ston.' l g|anco back and torth botwoon hor and
Vunoz, who's not ovon try|ng to h|do h|s shock ovor
what ho just saw. °l cou|d go on tor hours. l cou|d show
you ovory tr|ck that l'm capab|o ot. And l w|||, |t that's
what |t takos. 3ut roa||y, a|| you nood to know |s that
ovoryth|ng you just saw |s roa|. And though |t may
mako you uncomtortab|o, wh||o |t may mako you |ong
to turn your back and protond you d|dn't soo |t, that
won't stop |t trom bo|ng roa|. l'm sorry, 3ab|no. l'm
sorry to havo to do th|s to you. And wh||o l got that |t's
your cho|co whothor or not you chooso to bo||ovo, and
wh||o l got that thoro's a good chanco that no mattor
what l do l won't bo ab|o to chango your m|nd, horo's
tho th|ng: Whothor or not you chooso to bo||ovo |s
ont|ro|y up to you-but |t you ovor want to soo mo
aga|n, |t you want to havo any k|nd ot a ro|at|onsh|p
w|th mo, thon you'ro go|ng to havo to movo past your
own doop|y rootod projud|cos and |oarn to accopt mo.
A|| ot mo. Evon tho parts you don't ||ko. Evon tho parts
that scaro you. 3ocauso that's oxact|y what l'vo
choson to do w|th you. Your tondoncy toward so|t-
r|ghtoousnoss and bu||hoadodnoss, your ponchant tor
shunn|ng mo |nstoad ot try|ng to undorstand mo, wo||,
|t scaros mo just as much as my d|sp|ay ot |mmorta|
party tr|cks just scarod you. Yot l st||| protor to accopt
you as you aro, rathor than taco a tuturo ot novor
soo|ng you aga|n. l guoss l was just hop|ng that by
do|ng a|| th|s, wo cou|d t|nd a p|aco to moot |n tho
m|dd|o. 3ut aga|n, |t's your cho|co. E|thor way, l'||
accopt your doc|s|on.'
l s|t back, watch|ng as tho stoam soops r|ght out ot
l s|t back, watch|ng as tho stoam soops r|ght out ot
hor, watch|ng as hor aura dot|atos and sott|os ||ko a
wook-o|d ho||um ba||oon.
°|ow |ong havo you boon ||ko th|s?' sho t|na||y asks.
And whon my oyos moot hors, l roa||zo sho th|nks
l'vo a|ways boon ||ko th|s-that l was born a troak.
||gur|ng |t must bo tho roason l surv|vod tho acc|dont
whon tho rost ot my tam||y d|dn't. 1hough l'm qu|ck to
dot|oct that.
°l olo d|o |n tho acc|dont,' l say. °l had what's ca||od
a noar-doath oxpor|onco, though l th|nk tho torm's a
||tt|o wonky s|nco thoro was noth|ng ooor about |t.
Anyway, Vunoz probab|y knows moro about a|| that
than l do. |o's road up on |t qu|to a b|t.' l |ook at thom,
soo|ng hor shoot h|m an |nqu|r|ng g|anco, wh|ch ho
answors w|th a nod and a shrug. °Anyway, |nstoad ot
cross|ng tho br|dgo to tho othor s|do a|ong w|th Vom
and 0ad and 3uttorcup, l choso to ||ngor |n
3ummor|and, |n th|s amaz|ng|y boaut|tu| t|o|d. And
that's what my sou| was do|ng whon 0amon tound my
body by tho car and mado mo dr|nk tho o||x|r that
brought mo to ||to.'
°And l||oy?' 3ab|no |oans torward, hor oyos w|do,
assum|ng tho worst.
°l||oy got stuck tor a wh||o.' l squ|rm.
°3tuck?'
l s|gh. °3tuck botwoon horo and 3ummor|and. 3ho
startod v|s|t|ng mo back whon l was |n tho hosp|ta|.
1hon, whon wo movod horo, sho usod to drop by tho
houso noar|y ovory day unt|| l conv|ncod hor to cross
tho br|dgo and movo on. And though l th|nk sho m|ght
v|s|t mo |n my droams ovory now and thon, l havon't
boon ab|o to soo hor s|nco. l can't soo tho onos
who'vo crossod ovor. 1ho|r onorgy v|bratos too tast.
1hough a tr|ond ot m|no usod to soo hor.' l pauso,
romombor|ng how 1udo tr|od to toach mo to soo hor
too, but to no ava||. °And ho says sho says sho's just
t|no. Actua||y, ho says sho's bottor than t|no. 3ho's
happy. Vom and 0ad and 3uttorcup aro happy too.
Apparont|y thoy too| moro a||vo than ovor.' l |ook at
hor. °You know, just bocauso you can't soo thom,
doosn't moan thoy no |ongor ox|st. 1ho sou| |s otorna|.
lt's tho on|y truo |mmorta||ty thoro |s.'
l don't know wh|ch part ot my spooch t|na||y got to
hor, but tho noxt th|ng l know 3ab|no |s sobb|ng |nto
Vunoz's 1-sh|rt. |or shou|dors v|o|ont|y shak|ng as ho
rubs h|s hand ovor hor ch|n-|ongth b|ond ha|r and
down tho back ot hor b|ouso, wh|spor|ng sott|y,
prov|d|ng comtort, assuranco, unt|| sho starts to co||oct
horso|t and |s roady to taco mo aga|n.
l s|t qu|ot|y, know|ng oxact|y how sho too|s.
lomombor|ng a|| too wo|| how l t|rst roactod whon l
saw my ghost|y ||tt|o s|stor stand|ng botoro mo-how l
don|od |t was roa|. And how l troatod 0amon that day
|n tho park|ng |ot at schoo| whon ho t|rst to|d mo tho
truth ot my ox|stonco-how l choso to ban|sh h|m trom
my ||to, to sond h|m away w|th cruo|, toar-dr|von words
rathor than taco a truth l to|t so comp|oto|y unproparod
to hand|o.
Wo'ro not so d|ttoront, 3ab|no and mo.
l know what |t's ||ko to havo ovoryth|ng you bo||ovo
turnod ups|do down.
3o attor a wh||o l say, °l'm roa||y sorry to just spr|ng
th|s on you. l know |t's a |ot to d|gost. 3ut l just wantod
you to know botoro-'
3ho ||tts hor hoad, hor oyos b|oary, toary, as sho
turns to taco mo.
°-l just wantod you to know botoro l roturn to
norma| aga|n.'
3ho b||nks, shakos hor hoad, and mumb|os,
°What?' 3w|p|ng a s|oovo across hor taco whon sho
adds, °l don't undorstand.'
l tako a doop broath and gazo down at my toot,
sta|||ng tor a momont, gathor|ng my words, botoro l
roturn my gazo to hors. °1o bo honost, l'm not suro that
l undorstand o|thor. lt's such a |ong story, and thoro's
so much to oxp|a|n . but |t's not ||ko tho dota||s aro a||
that |mportant anyway. l just thought, wo||, l just hopod
that |t l camo c|oan about who l am now, thon maybo,
whon l'm no |ongor ||ko th|s, wo can st||| hang out
togothor. You know, w|thout a|| tho yo|||ng and t|ght|ng
and namo-ca|||ng. l moan, |t you want. lt's protty much
up to you. l prom|so to rospoct whatovor you doc|do.'
3ab|no r|sos trom tho couch, hor arms outstrotchod
as sho starts to movo toward mo, but l'm tastor than
sho |s-so much tastor that l'm hudd|od aga|nst hor
wo|| botoro sho can ovon c|oar tho cornor ot tho cottoo
tab|o.
And |t too|s so good to bo back that l can't ho|p but
cry too. 1ho two ot us turn|ng |nto a wot, soggy, ovor-
apo|ogot|c moss unt|| l romombor Vunoz and sw|po
my hand across my oyos as l say, °|oy, |s thoro
anyth|ng you guys want?' l g|anco botwoon thom,
add|ng, °l moan, you saw what l can do, a|| tho th|ngs
l'm capab|o ot. 3o, w|th that |n m|nd, what'|| |t bo? A
now car? A vacat|on houso |n somo oxot|c |ocat|on?
3ackstago passos to 3ruco 3pr|ngstoon?' l w|gg|o
my brows at Vunoz, know|ng what a b|g tan ho |s.
3ut thoy both shako tho|r hoads.
°Aro you suro?' l trown, dosporato|y want|ng to g|vo
thom somoth|ng. °l moan, l'm not suro |t l'|| st||| bo
capab|o ot a|| th|s onco l . attor l go back to how l
was botoro. l may |oso a|| ot my powors, or at |oast
somo ot my powors. Wh|ch moans th|s cou|d bo your
|ast chanco.'
3ab|no roturns to Vunoz and l watch as sho p|acos
hor hand on h|s shou|dor and says, °What moro cou|d l
poss|b|y want whon l havo ovoryth|ng l cou|d ovor
droam ot r|ght horo?'
And that's whon l soo |t.
1hat's whon l soo tho brand-now spark||ng
ongagomont r|ng sho woars on hor |ott r|ng t|ngor.
°|am||y's tho on|y th|ng that ovor moant anyth|ng to
mo,' sho says, pu|||ng mo back |nto tho|r c|rc|o. °And
now that you'vo roturnod, l havo ovoryth|ng. l havo a||
that l nood.'
thirty-aovon
l had ovory |ntont|on ot hoad|ng to 0amon's.
l had ovory |ntont|on ot say|ng good n|ght to 3ab|no
and Vunoz and hoad|ng r|ght ovor thoro.
On|y |t d|dn't qu|to go as p|annod.
3ab|no and l stayod up |ato. l|ko, way |ato. l|ko,
wo|| past tho t|mo Vunoz b|d us good n|ght and
hoadod back to h|s p|aco.
1ho two ot us hang|ng on tho couch unt|| tho woo
hours ot tho morn|ng, p|ck|ng at a box ot |ottovor p|zza
(yos, l had a p|oco, or two, and l cou|d hard|y bo||ovo
what l'd boon m|ss|ng a|| th|s t|mo!), wh||o gott|ng
ourso|vos a|| caught up on oach othor's nows-and
tho noxt th|ng l know thoro woro on|y a tow hours |ott
unt|| l had to bo at schoo|.
Accord|ng to Vunoz, l abso|uto|y, pos|t|vo|y, had no
cho|co whatsoovor but to show up at schoo| and o|thor
work somo sor|ous man|tost|ng mag|ck |n tho
adm|n|strator's ott|co, or put |n a suporhuman ottort at
mak|ng up a|| that l m|ssod, or both, |t l had any hopos
at a|| ot graduat|ng w|th my c|ass.
3o, |nstoad ot go|ng to 0amon's, l choso to grab a
tow hours ot much-noodod s|oop |n my o|d room,
want|ng to bo tu||y rostod and rochargod whon l
droppod by h|s houso, s|nco l d|dn't know how ho'd
roact upon soo|ng mo aga|n, tru|t at tho roady. 3ut l
know l'd nood to br|ng my A-gamo.
1ho socond l spy h|s b|ack 3VW |n tho studont |ot, l
roa||zo l won't havo to wa|t a|| that |ong. Apparont|y
ho's st||| show|ng up ovory day, attond|ng h|s c|assos,
go|ng through tho much-droadod mot|ons, ovon
though, tor tho ||to ot mo, l can't |mag|no why.
°3ocauso l mado you a prom|so,' ho says,
answor|ng tho quost|on |n my m|nd whon ho appoars
by my s|do. |o|d|ng my door opon, wa|t|ng tor mo to
c||mb out and jo|n h|m, but tor tho momont anyway, l
roma|n trozon |n p|aco.
Vy oyos travo| ovor h|m, savor|ng tho |ook ot h|m,
tho too| ot h|s prosonco noxt to m|no, wh||o tho doop,
ach|ng pang |n my gut rom|nds mo ot just how much
l'vo m|ssod bo|ng w|th h|m.
0osp|to tho thr||| ot my rocont accomp||shmonts-
dosp|to tho tr|umph ot so|z|ng my dost|ny-w|thout
0amon by my s|do, |t a|| d|ms-|t a|| too|s so ho||ow
and ompty.
°l soarchod tor you.' ||s oyos poro ovor mo, th|rsty,
dr|nk|ng mo |n-to|||ng mo ho m|ssod mo as much as l
m|ssod h|m. °3oarchod a|| ovor 3ummor|and. And
though l was unab|o to t|nd you, l cou|d st||| sonso you.
1hat's how l know you woro okay. |ar away-|n a
p|aco l cou|dn't tathom-but st||| okay. And |t's that
comtort that kopt mo go|ng, wa|t|ng tor tho day whon
you'd t|nd your way back to mo.'
l swa||ow hard, swa||ow past tho hugo |ump that's
now |odgod |n my throat. Know|ng l shou|d say
somoth|ng, anyth|ng, but l can't. 3tar|ng at h|m |s protty
much a|| that l'm capab|o ot.
°3o, whon'd you got back?' ||s gazo roma|ns
stoady, and though ho str|vos to ma|nta|n a ca|m,
casua| v|bo, l'm atra|d tho way l roact |s protty much
tho oppos|to.
||s quost|on sots mo |n mot|on-horr|b|o, norvous-
mak|ng mot|on. Grabb|ng my bag, too||ng w|th my
ha|r, scratch|ng my arm, and sh|tt|ng |n my soat unt|| l
t|na||y manouvor past tho ottor ot h|s hand and hau|
myso|t out ot my car. Vy oyos dart|ng craz||y,
soarch|ng tor a sato p|aco to |and, wh|ch onds up
bo|ng protty much anywhoro and ovorywhoro but h|m.
Vy broath com|ng raggod, too tast, whon l say,
°Yostorday.' A truth so horr|b|o l can't ho|p but cr|ngo.
Know|ng oxact|y how ho choosos to |ntorprot |t-tho
on|y way |t can bo |ntorprotod. And as much as l'd |ovo
to dony |t, l can't. 1horo's just no gott|ng around tho
tact that l'vo boon back trom my journoy tor an ont|ro
day and yot l novor tound tho t|mo to soo h|m unt|| ho
just now approachod mo.
lo way to got around tho tact that l put othor poop|o
botoro h|m.
A who|o host ot othor poop|o, |nc|ud|ng 1udo.
0amon stands by my car, carotu||y wo|gh|ng that
ono s|ng|o word unt|| |t bocomos pormanont,
|rrovors|b|o, ||ko an acc|donta| tootpr|nt |ott |n a squaro
ot trosh comont l mako no attompt to smooth ovor, no
attompt to oraso |ts pormanont |mpr|nt.
And ovon though l know l nood to say somoth|ng, l
havo no |doa what that somoth|ng m|ght bo.
|o |ooks at mo, c|oar|y torn botwoon too||ng ovon
moro hurt and ovon moro contusod, and sott||ng on
somowhoro |n tho m|dd|o.
°l was atra|d to soo you,' l to|| h|m. °Vost|y bocauso l
don't want to t|ght w|th you aga|n. l can't boar to t|ght
w|th you aga|n. And yot, l th|nk wo both know that's
oxact|y whoro th|s |s hoadod. 3ut botoro wo got thoro,
l nood you to know that just bocauso l do|ayod th|s
momont doosn't moan l d|dn't m|ss you-' Vy vo|co
cracks, bocom|ng so chokod up l'm torcod to c|oar my
throat a tow t|mos botoro l cont|nuo. °l|oaso, don't
ovor th|nk l d|dn't m|ss you.' Vy gazo grows watory,
b|oary, p|oad|ng w|th h|s.
3ut |nstoad ot adm|tt|ng ho m|ssod mo too, |nstoad
ot mov|ng to comtort mo ||ko l'd hopod, ho says, °Why
|s |t you th|nk an argumont |s so |nov|tab|o?'
||s dark oyos grazo ovor mo, w|don|ng |n shockod
d|sbo||ot whon l roach |nto my bag, t|nd tho packago
|onor gavo mo, and hand |t ovor to h|m, say|ng,
°3ocauso ot th|s.'
|o stud|os tho sma||, p|a|n-wrappod parco|,
oxam|n|ng |t as ho t||ps |t back and torth |n h|s hands.
°lt's tho horb.' l |ook at h|m. °lt's tho hard-to-t|nd,
spoc|a|-ordor, raro horb that you nood to t|n|sh your
ant|doto. 1ho ant|doto that w||| a||ow us to bo togothor
|n tho way that wo want, so wo can cont|nuo our ||vos
as |mmorta|s.'
||s t|ngors cur|, caus|ng tho papor to cr|nk|o |n
protost, h|s gazo ||ght|ng on m|no, tho wo|ght ot |t
caus|ng mo to suck |n a |ungtu| ot a|r. 1ho t|rst bo||
r|ng|ng, tho sound ot |t sond|ng a|| ot our c|assmatos
|nto a t|urry as thoy raco toward tho bu||d|ng, wh||o
0amon and l stay rootod |n p|aco. As much as l nood
to got to c|ass and start mak|ng up tor a|| tho damago
my oxtondod absonco has dono, wo nood to t|n|sh th|s
t|rst. Wo nood to roach somo sort ot conc|us|on,
botoro l can go anywhoro, do anyth|ng o|so.
°3ut l st||| c||ng to my bo||ot that th|s ||to |s cosm|ca||y
wrong. And ovon |t wo tako tho ant|doto, somoth|ng
o|so w||| crop up to koop us apart. 1ho on|y truo way to
ach|ovo our dost|ny-to bo togothor torovor-|s to
rovorso our |mmorta||ty. 1o oat tho tru|t.' l gazo down
at our toot, gazo at tho dark sh|no ot h|s car, gazo
toward tho soon-to-bo-|ockod gato, hoar|ng tho t|na|
bo|| r|ng just as l gazo |nto h|s oyos. °0amon, l havo
tho moans to do that now. l tound tho troo. lt's roa|.'
|o doosn't roact, doosn't movo, doosn't t||nch.
°l journoyod thoro. 3aw |t tor myso|t. l sca|od |ts
onormous trunk, swung trom |ts m||o-|ong branchos-'
l pauso, want|ng to onsuro l havo h|s tu|| attont|on
botoro l cont|nuo, °l p|ckod |ts tru|t.'
Vy gazo stays on h|s, but st||| noth|ng. lo |nd|cat|on
ho's hoard.
°1hat's why l was away tor so |ong. lt was a |ong,
arduous, troachorous, |ono|y, scary, and yot
comp|oto|y wondrous journoy. l passod through a rush
ot soasons to got thoro, mado |t through a w|ntor so
bruta| l was suro l'd turn |nto a trozon-so||d mass, got
so ra|nod on l was suro l'd novor dry, and yot, ovon
though l wasn't a|ways conv|ncod l wou|d mako |t, l olo
mako |t. l succoodod |n what l sot out to do. And now
l'm horo to say that |t's not a myth ||ko you th|nk. ln tact,
|t's ovon bottor than tho myth. lomombor whon lotus
sa|d tho troo was ovorg|v|ng? 3ho was r|ght. 1ho troo
just koops g|v|ng and g|v|ng and g|v|ng. 1horo's no
truth to tho ono-tru|t-ovory-thousand-yoars rumor.
|rom what l oxpor|oncod thoro aro no shortagos ot
any k|nd. 1horo |s on|y abundanco. 1ho 1roo ot l|to |s
tho vory dot|n|t|on ot abundanco. And l brought back
an ont|ro bag tu|| ot |ts tru|t w|th wh|ch to provo |t.'
°You brought |t bock?' ||s taco takos on an
oxpross|on that's |mposs|b|o to road. °Why wou|d you
do that? Why wou|dn't you just hand |t ovor to lotus
and |ot hor hand|o |t?'
°3ocauso l'm tak|ng ovor tor loman,' l say, nodd|ng
as l cont|rm |t tor myso|t. And now that l'vo sa|d |t, an
ont|ro p|an bog|ns to torm |n my hoad.
3ut 0amon just |ooks at mo, not comprohond|ng.
°1ho party ho throws ovory contury and a ha|t?' l
suppross a sm||o, but l can't soom to suppross my
r|s|ng oxc|tomont. °1h|s t|mo l'm go|ng to host |t. l'm
go|ng to gathor a|| ot tho |mmorta|s ho's mado, and
g|vo thom a cho|co botwoon phys|ca| |mmorta||ty-or
g|vo thom a cho|co botwoon phys|ca| |mmorta||ty-or
roo| |mmorta||ty.'
°And |t thoy rotuso you?' ho asks, c|oar|y conv|ncod
that thoy w||| s|nco ho protty much has.
°1hon thoy rotuso mo.' l shrug. °1hough attor l
oxp|a|n |t to thom, attor thoy soo tho ottocts, l don't
th|nk thoy w|||.'
0amon's oyos w|don, h|s taco grows pa|o, ashon,
and |t takos mo a momont to t|guro out why. |o
m|sroad my words. Assumod l'vo a|roady tr|od |t.
°0|d you-?' ho starts, but l'm qu|ck to wavo |t
away.
°lo.' l shako my hoad, as my oyos t|x on h|s. °l
wantod to wa|t tor you. l want us to rovorso our
|mmorta||ty togothor. l don't know what l'|| do |t you
dony mo-whothor l'|| chooso th|s ||to w|th you, or a
morta| ||to on my own-l honost|y don't know. 3ut l
roa||y hopo you won't mako mo chooso. l hopo you'||
th|nk |t ovor and sharo tho tru|t w|th mo. lt's tho on|y
way wo can havo tho tuturo wo want.'
l gazo at h|m, my oyos p|oad|ng w|th h|s. 3ut t|nd|ng
on|y rogrot, l turn and hoad tor tho gato.

l stand botoro tho b|g |ron gato 0amon un|ockod w|th
h|s m|nd, watch|ng as ho bockons tor mo to jo|n h|m
on |ts othor s|do. And as tomptod as l am to do just
that (and bo||ovo mo, l'm oxtromo|y tomptod) |t l'm
go|ng to start ||v|ng norma||y thon l'm go|ng to havo to
start horo.
low.
lt l'm go|ng to start ||v|ng norma||y thon l'|| havo to
stop ro|y|ng on mag|ck to troo myso|t trom a|| ot my
mossos.
l shako my hoad, movo past h|s bow||dorod gazo,
and mako my way toward tho ott|co, whoro l sond tho
socrotary |nto a comp|oto tronzy ot act|v|ty tho socond
l approach hor dosk and say, °||. l'm Evor 3|oom. l'm
a son|or horo. And not on|y am l tardy, but l'vo protty
much sk|ppod out on tho |ast s|x months and l'm
wondor|ng how l m|ght go about mak|ng that up.'
|or oyos grow w|do as sho |ooks mo up and down,
thon sho po|nts toward a cha|r by tho wa||, to||s mo to
s|t, to not movo an |nch, wh||o sho turns,
s|mu|tanoous|y roach|ng tor hor computor and tho
phono. 1ho hand p|oco wodgod botwoon hor shou|dor
and oar as hor t|ngors pound hard on tho koyboard,
a|ort|ng tho pr|nc|pa|, tho v|co pr|nc|pa|, my toachors,
and 3ab|no, who was wo|| awaro ot my p|an and was
wa|t|ng tor th|s vory ca||. 1ho tato ot my d|p|oma bo|ng
doc|dod w|th ||tt|o to no |nput trom mo, and whon my
prov|ous suspons|on |s mont|onod, l'm suro that l'm
doomod, but thon |uck||y, thanks to 3ab|no's t|no|y
honod nogot|at|on sk|||s thoy a||ow mo to attompt what
l'm suro thoy a|| cons|dor to bo tho |mposs|b|o: to|||ng
mo that |t l mako up ovoryth|ng that l'vo m|ssod-ovory
s|ng|o tost-ovory |ast ass|gnmont-w|th|n tho noxt
two wooks, thon thoy'|| |ot mo graduato.
3|x months ot nog|octod work that noods to bo
comp|otod |n just tourtoon days |n ordor to woar tho
cap and gown a|ong w|th tho rost ot my c|assmatos.
Othorw|so, l won't bo gott|ng anywhoro noar |t unt|| tho
samo t|mo noxt yoar, |t thon.
W|th groat omphas|s on tho .
C|oar|y |t thoro was ovor a t|mo tor mag|ck, and
man|tost|ng, and tr|ps to tho Groat |a||s ot loarn|ng,
|t's now. 3ut, wh||o l rotuso to ro|y on my powors, that
doosn't stop mo trom ro|y|ng on my tr|onds-|nc|ud|ng
a tow poop|o l d|dn't ovon roa||zo woro my tr|onds.
3o whon c|assmatos l'vo baro|y ovon spokon to
ottor to |ond mo tho|r notos, and whon 3tac|a and
|onor (promptod by V||os, but st|||) ottor to ho|p mo
catch up on a|| l m|ssod |n phys|cs, l'm so shockod by
tho ottor, l say yos. And tor somoono who's avo|dod
do|ng any torm ot study|ng or schoo|work tor ovor a
yoar, |t's a ||tt|o hard to got back |nto tho groovo ot
do|ng so now.
lt's a|so |mposs|b|o to stop myso|t trom just
automat|ca||y |ntu|t|ng tho contonts tho socond l touch
tho covor ot my hugo stack ot toxtbooks. V|nd road|ng
l can contro|, a|| l havo to do |s |owor my psych|c sh|o|d
or uso my quantum romoto, but tapp|ng |nto tho
un|vorsa| consc|ousnoss ot just th|ngs |s
somoth|ng l havo no contro| ovor. 3o, |nstoad ot
t|ght|ng |t, l doc|do to uso |t to my advantago to got
through a p||o ot road|ng ass|gnmonts that wou|d bo
protty much |mposs|b|o w|thout |t. 3os|dos, l st||| havo
to wr|to tho papors, and l st||| havo to so|vo a|| tho
oquat|ons and momor|zo tho tormu|as, so |t's not ||ko
l'm tota||y choat|ng. 1hough, l adm|t, whon |t comos to
tho makoup tosts, wo||, yoah, a|| tho r|ght answors just
automat|ca||y appoar. 3ut thon, thoro's noth|ng l can
do about that o|thor.
3t|||, ovon w|th tho ho|p ot my tr|onds a|ong w|th my
psych|c powors, |t's a |ot to tack|o |n such a short
amount ot t|mo. 3o wh||o l'm busy w|th schoo|work,
1udo and Ava ottor to do tho|r part by road|ng through
loman's o|d journa|s |n an attompt to track down a||
tho tar-t|ung |mmorta|s-tho orphans 0amon turnod as
wo|| as tho onos loman doomod worthy onough to
chango through tho yoars. Wh||o lomy and layno
poo| tho|r tw|n ta|onts by cratt|ng handmado party
|nv|tat|ons thoy ma|| out protty much a|| ovor tho g|obo,
as 3ab|no hand|os my co||ogo app||cat|ons that aro so
|ato |t |ooks ||ko l'|| bo torcod to tako a yoar ott. Wh|ch
|s probab|y tor tho bost s|nco |t's boon so |ong s|nco l
ovon thought about hav|ng a norma| tuturo, l don't ovon
know whoro to start.
lot to mont|on how l a|ways assumod that whorovor
l ondod up, 0amon wou|d bo r|ght thoro bos|do mo.
l a|ways assumod wo'd hoad ott togothor, just tho
two ot us.
l novor onco cons|dorod l m|ght ond up go|ng |t
a|ono.
3ut not hav|ng soon h|m s|nco tho day l |ott h|m
stand|ng at tho gato, l havo to adm|t |t's a roa|
poss|b|||ty. |o's avo|d|ng schoo|. Avo|d|ng mo. And
wh||o l'm w||||ng to g|vo h|m tho spaco that ho t|guros
ho noods-l hopo |n tho ond, ho'|| doc|do to como jo|n
mo.
0osp|to a|| tho ov|donco po|nt|ng aga|nst |t-l hopo
|n tho ond, ho'|| mako tho r|ght cho|co.
lt ho doosn't, l don't know what l'|| do. And maybo
that's part ot tho roason l'vo wo|comod tho
ovorwho|m|ng vo|umo ot schoo|work-|t's d|stractod
mo trom tho torr|b|o, unavo|dab|o tact that |t 0amon
choosos aga|nst tho tru|t, l'|| bo torcod to mako an
|mposs|b|o cho|co. Choos|ng botwoon a m|sgu|dod
||to as an |mmorta|-whoro tho un|vorso w||| consp|ro
to koop us apart at ovory turn-and a ||to w|thout
0amon, wh|ch |s just too horr|b|o to contomp|ato.
3o |n tho m|dst ot a|| tho study|ng, and road|ng, and
oxam tak|ng, and ossay wr|t|ng, and gott|ng noxt to no
s|oop |n ordor to t|t |t a|| |n, l t|na||y tako a ||tt|o t|mo out
to v|s|t 3ummor|and.
lart|y bocauso l'm oagor to t|nd lotus so l can to||
hor just how much l accomp||shod, and part|y
bocauso, wo||, l'm a|so oagor to v|s|t |t wh||o l st||| can,
wh||o |t's just a s|mp|o mattor ot onv|s|on|ng that
sh|mmor|ng go|don vo|| and stopp|ng through to |ts
othor s|do. l moan, ovon though l know p|onty ot
morta|s who can got thoro, l havo no way ot know|ng |t
l'|| st||| bo ab|o to got thoro onco l bocomo morta|
aga|n, and so l'm dotorm|nod to onjoy |t wh||o l can.
Attor spond|ng a tow wondortu| momonts |n tho vast
tragrant t|o|d whoro l |and, attor a v|s|t to tho Groat
|a||s ot loarn|ng, whoro l stand botoro |ts ovor-
chang|ng taçado and ro-oxpor|onco tho thr||| ot bo|ng
adm|ttod |ns|do, attor v|s|t|ng a|| ot 0amon's and my
tavor|to p|acos-tho rop||ca ot vorsa|||os ho onco
man|tostod oxpross|y tor mo, tho t|o|d tu|| ot tu||ps that
surrounds tho pav|||on ho mado tor my sovontoonth
b|rthday-attor roturn|ng to tho p|aco whoro tho grass
onco turnod to mud and whoro tho troos woro a||
barron-tho tormor ontranco to tho 3hadow|and-
attor t|nd|ng my way to tho boaut|tu| pond st|||
b|oom|ng w|th hundrods ot tho |ovo||ost |otus b|ossoms
-attor a|| that, whon l st||| can't |ocato lotus, l doc|do
to tuck ono ot lomy and layno's handmado p|nk-
and-b|ack party |nv|tat|on onvo|opos undor a |argo
rock l'd soon hor |oan aga|nst, |n tho hopo that sho'||
t|nd |t.
1hon l roturn to tho oarth p|ano, bury myso|t |n my
stud|os, and wa|t.
Wa|t to hoar trom lotus.
Wa|t tor tho l3vls trom a|| tho othor |mmorta|s to
como pour|ng |n.
Wa|t to hoar trom V|sa, Varco, and lato.
Wa|t to soo |t thoy'|| |ot mo graduato.
Wa|t to soo wh|ch d|roct|on my tuturo m|ght tako.
1ho days t|ck|ng past w|th sma|| b|ts ot nows
tr|ck||ng |n-but not tho nows that l want.
1horo |s no word trom 0amon.

Vaybo l bought |nto tho hypo.
Vaybo l bu||t |t up way too much |n my hoad.
3ut |n tho ond, l'm sorry to say that graduat|on |s,
wo||, a ||tt|o ant|c||mact|c.
0on't got mo wrong, |t's wo|| organ|zod, t|ow|ng
a|ong just t|no. ln tact, |t's a |ot ||ko you soo |n mov|os
and on 1v w|th a|| tho caps, and gowns, and
spoochos, and |aughtor, and toars, and rom|n|sc|ng,
and torvont prom|sos to stay |n touch. 3ut dosp|to
3ab|no and Vunoz porchod |n tho crowd sm|||ng and
wav|ng ovory t|mo l |ook tho|r way (and ovon whon l
don't), dosp|to V||os and |onor and (st||| shock|ng to
mo but l'm start|ng to got usod to |t) 3tac|a, catca|||ng
and c|app|ng and choor|ng mo on whon |t's my turn to
hoad tor tho stago-thoro's no |avon. lo 0amon.
And |t's thoso two g|ar|ng absoncos that protty
much oc||pso ovoryth|ng o|so.
3o whon l throw my cap |n tho a|r, l so|zo tho chanco
to work a b|t ot mag|ck. Vak|ng |t sa|| way up h|gh |nto
tho sky, much h|ghor than anyono o|so's, and watch|ng
as |t |oops t|rst |nto tho shapo ot a tu||p and thon |nto
tho shapo ot an |nt|n|ty symbo|, botoro l |ot |t go,
watch|ng |t troo-ta|| back to tho ground.
And l'm just mak|ng my way toward 3ab|no and
Vunoz whon 3tac|a t|nds mo |n tho crowd, p|acos hor
hand on my arm, and says, °3o, soo you at tho party?'
3ho t||ps hor t|ngors through hor |ong, b|ond-stroakod
ha|r and sott|os hor oyos on m|no.
l squ|nt, tak|ng |n hor br|ght yo||ow aura, amazod to
soo sho's s|ncoro.
And botoro l can answor, |onor catchos up and
says, °Wo t|gurod wo'd stop by a ||tt|o oar|y, ho|p you
sot up.'
l |ook at hor and 3tac|a, wondor|ng whon l'm ovor
go|ng to got usod to th|s now s|do ot thom. 0osp|to
tho|r comb|nod ottorts to ho|p mo got to th|s po|nt,
ovory k|nd gosturo thoy mako st||| comos as a groat
shock to mo, and l know that's not at a|| ta|r. 1hoy'ro
work|ng so hard to |mprovo tho |oast l can do |s |ot
thom.
3tac|a cocks hor hoad, wa|t|ng tor mo to rospond,
wh||o |onor t|dgots w|th hor t|ngor, tw|st|ng 1udo's
ma|ach|to r|ng back and torth.
°Um, that's roa||y swoot and a||, but you guys don't
havo to como. loa||y.' l nod, hop|ng thoy won't tako |t
tho wrong way, but l'm not suro l want thom thoro. °l
moan, l'm suro you havo bottor th|ngs to do, bottor
part|os to go to, so.'
°3ottor than th|s party? 0oubttu|!' 3tac|a shoots mo
ono ot hor o|d yoo`ro crozy |ooks, thon romombor|ng
sho doosn't do that anymoro, sho qu|ck|y c|oars hor
taco. °3os|dos, wo a|roady havo our costumos and
ovoryth|ng!' 3ho g|ancos at |onor stand|ng bos|do
hor, nodd|ng |n agroomont. °Attor a|| wo'vo dono to
ho|p you graduato-you can't d|s|nv|to us now!'
l gapo, surpr|sod sho wou|d say that s|nco l don't
oxact|y romombor ovor |nv|t|ng thom. 3ut thon, l a|so
wasn't |n chargo ot tho |nv|tat|ons, tho tw|ns woro. lor
d|d l know thoro'd bo costumos. ln tact, l havo no |doa
how th|s happonod, how thoy ovon know about |t, how
|t got so b|own out ot proport|on. l moan, or|g|na||y, th|s
was just supposod to bo a n|co sma|| gathor|ng.
lmmorta|s on|y. l had no |doa |t'd turnod |nto tho grad
n|ght to ond a|| grad n|ghts. 1ho yoar's most
ant|c|patod ovont.
°l workod roa||y, roa||y hard on my costumo,' 3tac|a
says, hor vo|co accus|ng. °3o no way w||| you koop mo
trom woar|ng |t. Evoryono's gonna t||p whon thoy soo
|t!'
°1udo's |s a surpr|so,' |onor says. °1hough ho says
|t won't bo a surpr|so to you, s|nco you'vo a|roady
soon |t.' 3ho |ooks at mo |n a way that |ots mo know
sho protty much knows ovoryth|ng thoro |s to know
about 1udo and mo and st||| |sn't suro how sho too|s
about |t. °3ut l'vo got a ||tt|o surpr|so ot my own.
3omoth|ng lomy and layno ho|pod mo como up
w|th, l'm protty oxc|tod about |t. 1rust mo, Evor, th|s
party |s go|ng to bo op|c. And you'ro crazy |t you th|nk
o|thor ono ot us wou|d m|ss |t!'
Costomosº
Eplcº
Aoo boro l tboogbt lt wos o|| oboot coovloclog o
boocb oí otoroo|s to oot tbo írolt.
°You saw tho |nv|tos, r|ght?' 3tac|a asks, hor oyos
mov|ng ovor mo.
l shako my hoad, roa||z|ng too |ato that l d|dn't. A|| l
saw was tho p|nk-and-b|ack onvo|opo l |ott noar tho
pond. lt novor occurrod to mo to pook |ns|do. l'vo boon
so ovorwho|mod w|th a|| tho catch|ng up l had to do to
got to th|s po|nt that l novor thought to ask quost|ons. l
novor ottorod to p|tch |n w|th tho p|ann|ng, or ovon
|nqu|rod |nto how |t was go|ng. Evoryono soomod so
happy to tako ovor that l happ||y |ott |t to thom.
1h|nk|ng that a|| l had to do was to show up on t|mo
w|th tho tru|t-but now apparont|y l nood a costumo
too.
°Okay, wo||, just so you know, |t's a 'Como As You
Woro' party. You know, ||ko who you woro |n a past
||to?' 3tac|a says. °And just so you know, wo'ro go|ng,
whothor you ||ko |t or not.' 3ho shoots mo a
cha||ong|ng |ook, tho k|nd that rom|nds mo ot tho o|d
days, back whon l t|rst got horo and sho wont attor mo
|n tho most ro|ont|oss way.
1ho on|y d|ttoronco |s, un||ko back thon, th|s t|mo l
dosorvo |t. 3ho's workod protty hard to ho|p mo turn
th|ngs around, g|v|ng gonorous|y ot hor t|mo, tho |oast l
cou|d do |s acknow|odgo hor ottorts and tho |ong way
sho's como.
°ls |t st||| at Ava's?' l ask, wondor|ng how wo'ro a||
go|ng to t|t |nto hor snug ||tt|o bunga|ow now that tho
guost ||st has mu|t|p||od.
°lo.' V||os gr|ns, stopp|ng bos|do |onor and
|nsort|ng h|mso|t |nto tho convorsat|on. °lt's at your
houso. And trust mo, 3ab|no and Vunoz aro go|ng a||
out-no oxponso sparod. lt's tota||y gonna outdo that
|a||owoon party ot yours.' |o nods. °3o |t l woro you,
l'd got myso|t homo and man|tost a good costumo
||ko, pronto, bocauso tho party starts at sovon.'

|or onco, V||os d|dn't oxaggorato. 3ab|no and Vunoz
roa||y d|d go abovo and boyond w|th tho docorat|ons.
|rom tho momont wo pu|| |nto tho dr|vo, a|| l can do
|s gapo |n aston|shmont at how thoy'vo takon th|s
som|custom, taux 1uscan VcVans|on and turnod |t
|nto somoth|ng that |ooks ||ko |t's stra|ght out ot tho o|d
country.
°Wa|t 't|| you soo tho |ns|do!' 3ab|no's oyos ||ght on
m|no. °l know you wantod a sma|| gathor|ng, but l
thought |t m|ght bo n|co to throw a b|g party w|th a|| ot
your tr|onds. You'vo workod so hard, Evor. You
dosorvo a ||tt|o tun, and, qu|to trank|y, so do lau| and
l!'
Whon sho |oads mo |nto tho houso w|th Vunoz hot
on our tra||, wo||, |ot's just say that |t tho outs|do was
aston|sh|ng, thon tho |ns|do |s amaz|ng.
°Aga|n, just tho bog|nn|ng,' Vunoz says, taco
w|don|ng |nto a gr|n. °Each room has |ts own thomo.'
°|ow d|d you-?' l start to ask how thoy managod |t
a|| w|thout my ovon bo|ng awaro, but thon l soo-thoro
aro docorators, catorors, bartondors, a|| mannor ot
ho|pors roam|ng tho p|aco. 1h|s |sn't just a party. lt's a
hugo h|gh schoo| graduat|on b|owout bash.
°1horo's a |ot to co|obrato,' 3ab|no says. °3o wo
t|gurod wo'd go a|| out. 1h|nk ot |t as a wo|como homo
s|ash happy graduat|on s|ash ongagomont party. Oh,
and wo havon't had a chanco to to|| you yot, but a
major pub||shor just mado an ottor to buy lau|'s book
-so |t's a book doa| party too!' 3ho gazos up at h|m,
hor taco t|ushod w|th tho pr|do ot h|s succoss, and l
tako a momont to stoa| a qu|ck g|anco at h|m too,
catch|ng h|s sm||o and w|nk, and know|ng ho's
romombor|ng tho day whon l prophos|zod that vory
th|ng. °Wo'ro oxpoct|ng a |ot ot poop|o, l hopo you
don't m|nd. l know |t's not at a|| what you'd p|annod,
but wo thought |t m|ght bo tun. V||os camo up w|th tho
thomo and |t just took ott trom thoro.'
l nod, try|ng to match hor sm||o w|th ono ot my own,
but a|| l can th|nk about |s tho tru|t-tho roa| roason
boh|nd th|s got-togothor-and how |t's protty c|oar
that's boon |ost a|ong tho way.
3ut just as soon as l'vo thought |t, 3ab|no |ooks at
mo and says, °0on't worry, |t's covorod. l'vo |ott tho
don ott your bodroom troo tor you to do whatovor you
nood. l just hopo you'|| tako a ||tt|o t|mo out to onjoy
yourso|t as wo||.'
l |ook at hor, unsuro what to say. l novor oxpoctod
anyth|ng ovon romoto|y ||ko th|s, and l'm |ott too||ng a
||tt|o ovorwho|mod.
3ut 3ab|no just p|acos hor hand on my shou|dor and
says, °low go. Go upsta|rs and man|tost yourso|t a
costumo wh||o lau| and l got |nto ours. 1ust mako suro
you'ro roady by sovon to groot ovoryono.'
l do as sho says. lt's oas|or that way. Attor tack||ng
tho sta|rs l hoad stra|ght tor my room, whoro l p|op
myso|t onto my bod, too||ng moro than a ||tt|o stunnod
by |t a||. lomombor|ng tho vory t|rst day l arr|vod, whon
3ab|no p|ckod mo up at tho a|rport and drovo mo to
my now homo, my now ||to. l was so |ost |n my gr|ot l
cou|dn't approc|ato a|| tho troub|o sho'd gono to |n an
ottort to mako my ||to comtortab|o. A|| l cou|d do was
throw myso|t tacodown and cry-or at |oast unt|| l||oy
appoarod and sot mo stra|ght, mado mo soo th|ngs
through hor oyos.

l c|oso my oyos, attompt|ng to ward ott tho st|ng, tho
toars, and tho |umpy throat that a|ways accompany
any and a|| thoughts ot hor. 1hough l'm surpr|sod by
how t|oot|ng |t |s-tho symptoms horo and gono |n a
mattor ot soconds. And l know |t's bocauso ot tho tru|t.
Evon though l st||| m|ss hor, ovon though l |ong to
soo hor aga|n-now, tor tho t|rst t|mo |n a |ong t|mo, l
know tor a tact that l w|||. And know|ng that goos a |ong
way |n |osson|ng tho pa|n ot m|ss|ng hor, ot m|ss|ng a||
ot thom, 3uttorcup |nc|udod.
W|th just ono tasto ot that tru|t my body w||| coaso to
bo |mmorta|. lt'|| rovort r|ght back to tho usua|
procoss|on ot ag|ng and w|thor|ng unt|| |t u|t|mato|y
d|os and my sou| rovorts back to |ts truo otorna|,
|nt|n|to stato-troo to cross tho br|dgo to whoro my
tam||y now ||vos.
lo mattor what bocomos ot mo, my sou| w||| ||vo on,
a||ow|ng my tam||y and mo to bo roun|tod aga|n.
l just hopo 0amon and l w||| bo roun|tod too.
l just hopo l can t|nd a way to conv|nco h|m ot what
wo both nood to do.
3ut t|rst, l nood to como up w|th somo k|nd ot
°Como As You Woro' costumo, and tor somoono w|th
sovon prov|ous ||vos to chooso trom, you'd th|nk tho
cho|co wou|d bo oasy.
l moan, shou|d l go as Ado||na-tho ||to l just
|oarnod about? Eva||no-tho lar|s|an sorvant?
Ab|ga||-tho daughtor ot a lur|tan? Ch|oo-tho
spo||od young soc|a||to? ||our-tho art|st's muso?
Ema|a-tho sad ||tt|o s|avo g|r|?
Or shou|d l go as a|| ot thom?
||nd a way to st|tch togothor a|| ot tho p|ocos ot my
var|ous ||vos, ||ko a sort ot karma qu||t, |t you w|||?
l pondor tor a wh||o, ||k|ng tho concopt, but hav|ng
no |doa how l m|ght go about |t, and thon, just ||ko that,
l know oxact|y what l'|| do.
l g|anco at my bods|do c|ock, soo|ng l havo vory
||tt|o t|mo and somo sor|ous man|tost|ng mag|ck to got
to. 3o l jump to my toot and got startod, hop|ng |t'|| turn
out just ||ko tho |mago l ho|d |n my hoad.
|op|ng |t'|| sorvo as moro than just a costumo. 1hat
|t'|| prov|do tho ov|donco, a|| tho proot that l'|| nood.

Whon l'm t|n|shod, l stand botoro tho m|rror and tako
|nvontory. Go|ng ovor my monta| chock||st and mak|ng
suro ovoryth|ng |s prosont and accountod tor. |oar|ng
0amon's vo|co |n my hoad, tho oxact words ho usod
whon ho oxp|a|nod |t to mo-assur|ng mo that ovory
p|oco, trom my t|ory rod ha|r to my o|aborato dross,
trom my t||rtat|ous gazo to my |nnor strongth and
hum|||ty, tound |ts or|g|ns |n tho past, wh||o my oyos
thomso|vos roma|n unchangod, otorna|, no mattor
what gu|so my sou| doc|dos to woar. And know|ng l'vo
como as c|oso as l can to rop||cat|ng tho pa|nt|ng ho
mado (|nc|ud|ng a tow now rotoroncos to Ema|a and
Ado||na, whom l d|dn't know about thon), unt|| l
romombor ono |ast th|ng. Ono |ast th|ng l'm not suro l
can go through w|th.
1ho gossamor w|ngs.
1ho momont l man|tost thom onto my back, l too|
s|||y.
3|||y and ombarrassod and, wo||, a t|ny b|t mort|t|od.
1horo's no way l can taco my guosts ||ko th|s. 1hoy
won't undorstand. 1hoy'|| tako |t tho wrong way. 1h|nk
that l th|nk l'm so spoc|a| l'vo actua||y doscondod trom
ango|s |n ordor to wa|k among thom. Whon noth|ng
cou|d bo turthor trom tho truth.
l pross my ||ps togothor, about to c|oso my oyos and
mako thom d|sappoar, whon l romombor that l'm not
do|ng |t tor thom. l'm do|ng |t tor 0amon. Wo||, tor
0amon and mo.
1ho n|ght ho pa|ntod my portra|t |n tho Gotty
Vusoum ho c|a|mod thoy woro thoro-c|a|mod ho
a|ono cou|d soo thom. C|a|mod that just bocauso l
cou|dn't soo thom d|dn't moan thoy woron't roa|. And
wh||o l'm suro no ono w||| undorstand what l'm up to, a||
that mattors |s that 0amon doos. 1hat tho s|ght ot my
costumo w||| ho|p to conv|nco h|m ot what wo must do.
l just hopo that ho st||| soos mo th|s way.
l just hopo that l'm not try|ng to roc|a|m somoth|ng
that no |ongor ox|sts.
l too| w|th my ha|r, unusod to soo|ng myso|t as a
rodhoad othor than whon l'm |n tho pav|||on as ||our,
but ||k|ng tho chango |n th|s ||to as wo||. 1hon runn|ng
my hands ovor my |ong, t||my gown, l tako ono t|na|
|ook and hoad out tho door botoro l |oso a|| my norvo.
1ho tu|| ottocts ot what 3ab|no and Vunoz and tho|r
ta|ontod toam ot docorators onv|s|onod, now roa||zod.
Vak|ng mo too| as though l'm dr|tt|ng |nto a mag|ca|,
myst|ca| wor|d, tak|ng a tr|p back |n t|mo, not|ng how
oach room d|ttors trom tho noxt, and yot a|| ot |t's
thomod to tho vory |ast dota||.
1ho k|tchon |s anc|ont Grooco, tho don |s tho lta||an
lona|ssanco, tho powdor room tho V|dd|o Agos
(oxcopt tho s|nk and to||ot both work!), tho d|n|ng room
tho 0ark Agos, tho ||v|ng room harks back to v|ctor|an
t|mos, wh||o tho backyard |s puro 1000's-and as tho
houso bog|ns to t||| w|th |ots and |ots ot costumod
poop|o, l'm protty amazod by what a tun |doa |t turnod
out to bo.
3o tar, tho party just startod and yot a|| tho usua|
past-||to tavor|tos aro a|roady prosont and accountod
tor. C|oopatra |s m|ng||ng not just w|th Varc Antony,
but a|so w|th Var|o Anto|notto, and 1oan ot Arc, and
1an|s 1op||n, and A|oxandor tho Groat, and lapo|oon,
and E|nsto|n, a|ong w|th somo guy |n a robo w|th a
|ong w|spy mustacho and board who l th|nk |s moant
to bo Contuc|us, and somoono w|th a |ong gray board
who koops shout|ng out prophoc|os who l th|nk |s
moant to bo lostradamus, and l can't ho|p but th|nk
how tunny |t |s how ovoryono a|ways assumos thoy
woro somoono tamous. lo ono ovor |mag|nos
thomso|vos as hav|ng boon a chamborma|d or a s|avo
||ko l was.
V||os t|nds mo t|rst, wa|k|ng hand |n hand w|th |o|t.
And botoro l can ovon ask, ho po|nts to h|mso|t and
says, °loonardo da v|nc|. Gorgoous, g|ttod, and
tota||y and comp|oto|y gon|us-makos portoct sonso,
r|ght?'
l nod |n agroomont, narrow|ng my gazo on |o|t,
tak|ng |n h|s shock ot s||vor ha|r and sovoro b|ack
turt|onock, and say|ng, °Okay, you'ro o|thor Andy
Warho| or A|bort E|nsto|n-'
3ut botoro ho can answor, 3tac|a appoars as
Var||yn Vonroo (b|g surpr|so), a|ongs|do |onor, who's
drossod as locahontas (wh|ch roa||y |s a b|g
surpr|so).
°Wow, groat costumos.' l nod at oach ot thom.
3tac|a runs hor hands ovor hor wh|to ha|tor dross,
as |onor sw|ngs hor |ong b|ack bra|ds and says,
°Okay, l wasn't oxact|y locahontas, but l d|d soo a ||to
as a lat|vo Amor|can.'
l squ|nt, wondor|ng |t that moans sho mado |t to
3ummor|and.
3ut sho's qu|ck to corroct |t whon sho says, °lomy
and layno hypnot|zod mo.'
Vy gazo narrows turthor. l havo no |doa what sho's
ta|k|ng about.
°You know, thoy d|d a past-||to rogross|on on mo.
1hoy'ro protty good, wo'ro ta|k|ng about ottor|ng thom
at tho storo, w|th Ava's ho|p ot courso.'
°Wow.' l squ|nt. °l had no |doa.' And l can't ho|p but
too| a ||tt|o b|t bummod about a|| that l m|ssod, how
oas||y thoy movod on w|thout mo. 1hon l shako my
hoad, c|oar tho thought trom my m|nd and |ook r|ght at
V||os, and say, °3o, d|d you got hypnot|zod too? 0oos
th|s moan you roa||y woro loonardo da v|nc|?'
3ut just as ho's about to answor, 1udo, who camo
as tho art|st othorw|so known (wo||, othorw|so known
to mo anyway) as 3ast|aan do Koo|, stops r|ght
botoro mo. 1ak|ng h|s t|mo tak|ng mo |n as ho tr|os to
mako sonso ot my costumo. 3tudy|ng mo tor so |ong l
can't ho|p but squ|rm. Can't ho|p but too| norvous and
uncomtortab|o onough to snoak a qu|ck pook at
|onor, know|ng sho won't bo thr|||od w|th a|| th|s
attont|on.
°l got |t,' ho says, oyos st||| narrowod. °You'vo takon
a p|oco trom oach ot thom.' |o shakos h|s hoad |n
wondor, h|s gazo travo||ng ovor mo aga|n whon ho
adds, °What a groat |doa. W|sh l'd thought ot |t.'
°W|sh l'd thought ot |t too.' l g|anco across tho room,
wav|ng at 3ab|no and Vunoz, who aro drossod as a
v|k|ng pr|ncoss and W||||am 3hakospoaro
rospoct|vo|y, thon back to 1udo whon l add, °lt was
0amon's |doa.'
°ls ho horo?' 3tac|a asks, hor chooks t|ush|ng
cr|mson whon sho roa||zos how l m|ght tako that, how
attor a|| that wo'vo boon through l cou|d oas||y
m|s|ntorprot hor |ntorost. °l moan, not that l caro.' 3ho
pausos, roa||zos that m|ght'vo soundod ovon worso,
and hast||y adds, °l moan, l caro-l just don't caro |n
tho way that you, um, th|nk that l caro.'
l p|aco my hand on hor arm, want|ng to comtort, to||
hor |t's okay, on|y to bo ovorcomo by a rush ot onorgy
so strong l too| ||ko l'm caught |n tho oyo ot hor own
porsona| tornado. And though l'm qu|ck to pu|| away,
|t's not |ong botoro l roa||zo |t wasn't a|| bad. lt
anyth|ng, l got an |ns|do pook at just how tar sho's
como, and how sho s|ncoro|y moant what sho sa|d.
l |ook at hor, try|ng to sound moro pos|t|vo than l too|
whon l say, °|onost|y? l havo no |doa |t ho'|| show, but
l'm hopotu|.'
Ava wavos at mo trom across tho room, bockon|ng
mo to jo|n hor |n tho don, whoro sho's drossod as
1ohn lonnon, stand|ng noxt to layno, who's drossod
|n tho p|||box hat, pr|st|no wh|to g|ovos, portoct ||tt|o
su|t, and t||ppy ha|rdo ot 1ack|o O, wh||o lomy |s
drossod as 1|m| |ondr|x, comp|oto w|th an o|octr|c
gu|tar strappod to hor chost. Wh|ch |s tota||y tho
oppos|to ot what l wou|d'vo thought, but thon, ovon
attor a|| th|s t|mo l'vo novor roa||y boon ab|o to got a
good hand|o on thom.
And l'm just about to thank thom tor do|ng such a
groat job, and tor a|| tho ho|p thoy'vo prov|dod th|s |ast
yoar, whon somoono snoaks up trom boh|nd mo and
says, °And so |t |s dono.'
l turn, |nstant|y rocogn|z|ng tho vo|co.
3ho |ooks o|dor. 3o do||cato and tra|| l can't ho|p but
worry tor hor hoa|th. 1ho cano l onco saw hor w|th |s
now back. 1hough |t's not |ong botoro l roa||zo why-
|t's tho t|rst t|mo l'vo soon hor on tho oarth p|ano. And
attor spond|ng so much t|mo |n 3ummor|and, tho
grav|ty horo starts to wo|gh protty hoav||y.
°|rom tho momont l t|rst saw your g|ow, l know.'
l |ook at hor, not|c|ng sho's tho on|y ono not |n
costumo, and yot, |n hor cotton tun|c and match|ng
pants, most poop|o probab|y assumo that sho |s.
°3ut l don't g|ow,' l say, my oyos st||| por|ng ovor hor,
roa||z|ng how odd sho appoars now that sho's horo.
|ow out ot contoxt sho sooms. °l don't havo an aura,' l
add. °lo |mmorta|s do.'
3ut sho |gnoros that. °Auras aro a rot|oct|on ot tho
sou|,' sho says. °And yours |s |ovo|y. You havo boon
mado awaro ot |ts prosonco, caught a g||mpso ot |t,
no?'
l gazo down at my hands, romombor tho way l saw
thom g|ow a gorgoous shado ot purp|o back whon l
was |n 3ummor|and, back whon l was st||| on my
journoy. l romombor tho way l'd to|t tho co|or
thrumm|ng trom somowhoro doop |ns|do-tho
|ntons|ty ot too||ng conv|nc|ng mo ot just how to
procood. 1hon l romombor how 0r|na saw |t too, how
sho'd commontod on |t just attor l'd trood hor sou| trom
tho 3hadow|and, and now lotus soos |t as wo||. Wh|ch
makos mo wondor |t |t m|ght actua||y bo roa|, and |t |t'||
st||| bo w|th mo ovon attor l'vo tastod tho tru|t?
Wh|ch ot courso gots mo th|nk|ng about 0amon,
wondor|ng |t ho'|| agroo to tasto tho tru|t w|th mo.
°|o noods t|mo,' lotus says, tun|ng |n to my
thoughts. °Un||ko mo. l havo wa|tod too |ong.'
l nod, ottor|ng my hand as l |oad hor up tho sta|rs,
but sho just shakos hor hoad and ro||os on hor cano.
||gur|ng l'|| g|vo |t to hor t|rst, sorvo hor pr|vato|y
botoro l gathor tho othors, l'm surpr|sod whon sho
tunos |n to my thoughts onco aga|n, say|ng, °You w|||
t|nd thom a|roady gathorod. 1hoy aro wa|t|ng tor you.'
1ruo onough, whon wo ontor tho don ott my room
wo'ro grootod by a start||ng co||oct|on ot tho otorna||y
young and boaut|tu|. 1ho otorna||y young and boaut|tu|
w|th tho bost co||oct|on ot costumos l'vo ovor soon.
3omo ot thom choos|ng to |ntorprot tho thomo ||tora||y
by dross|ng as actua| poop|o, and somo choos|ng to
|ntorprot |t t|gurat|vo|y by dross|ng as objocts ||ko
t|owors and troos-thoro's ovon a shoot|ng star
stand|ng ott |n tho cornor. And, l guoss |t |t's truo that
ovoryth|ng |s onorgy, |t |t's truo that wo'ro a||
connoctod, thon thoro's roa||y noth|ng that d|v|dos us
trom naturo-wo aro a|| a part ot tho who|o.
1hoy turn to taco mo, ovor t|tty poop|o whom loman
doomod worthy, mak|ng tor approx|mato|y throo
poop|o ovory contury-a much sma||or group than l
wou|d'vo |mag|nod, but st||| a much b|ggor group than
l'd hopod.
And honost|y, whon l roa||y start to tako thom a|| |n, l
moan oach and ovory ono, l start to too| a ||tt|o
r|d|cu|ous about what l'm about to proposo.
l moan, thoso poop|o havo travo|od tar and w|do tor
tho so|o purposo ot ma|nta|n|ng tho vory ||to thoy'vo
grown usod to. 1hoso poop|o aro so advancod |n
ovory conco|vab|o way, so wo|| travo|od, so
oxpor|oncod, so wor|d|y-wo||, thoy'ro |nt|m|dat|ng to
say tho |oast. And l can't ho|p but wondor why thoy
wou|d ovon th|nk to ||ston to mo-a sovontoon-yoar-
o|d g|r| whoso b|ggost wor|d|y accomp||shmont so tar
(othor than |ocat|ng tho troo) |s hav|ng baro|y gotton
through h|gh schoo|.
Why shou|d thoy ovon th|nk to cons|dor g|v|ng up
ovoryth|ng thoy'vo known and |ovod tor so many yoars
tor somo unknown, comp|oto|y osotor|c |doa, wh|ch l
can oas||y oxp|a|n but havo no way to provo?
3ut thon l |ook at lotus, soo tho way sho nods
oncourag|ng|y, thoso rhoumy o|d oyos choor|ng mo
on, and |t prompts mo to gu|p down my toars,
addross|ng thom a|| whon l say, °l know you'ro
oxpoct|ng to soo loman, but loman's no |ongor horo,
and so you got mo. And wh||o l'm suro l can't ovon
como c|oso to compot|ng w|th h|m, now that you'ro
horo, l hopo you'|| at |oast cons|dor hoar|ng mo out.'
1h|s |s mot by mumb||ng. lots and |ots ot mumb||ng.
W|th a good amount ot grumb||ng thrown |n as wo||.
1ho roar grow|ng so |oud l'vo no cho|co but to shovo
two t|ngors |nto my mouth and |ot ott a |ong |oud
wh|st|o to qu|ot thom down.
°Whon l sa|d that loman |s no |ongor w|th us-l
moant |t |n tho phys|ca| way. ||s body has por|shod,
though h|s sou| st||| ||vos on. And l happon to know th|s
bocauso l'vo soon |t. l'vo commun|catod w|th h|m. 1ho
sou| novor d|os. |o's tro|y |mmorta| now.' l pauso,
oxpoct|ng moro outbursts and surpr|sod by tho qu|ot
that groots mo |nstoad.
°And so, wh||o l know you woro oxpoct|ng tho o||x|r,
l'm go|ng to ottor you somoth|ng o|so.' l sh|tt my gazo,
my oyos tak|ng |n tho mu|t|p|o bott|os ot rod ju|co |ott to
ch||| |n my m|n|-tr|dgo, and suddon|y chang|ng my tack
whon l say, °lo, actua||y l'm go|ng to g|vo you a
cho|co.' Vy oyos moot lotus's, atra|d ot what sho
m|ght th|nk, but t|nd|ng hor nodd|ng oncouragomont,
not tho s||ghtost b|t d|sturbod by my words. °lt on|y
sooms ta|r that you got a roa| cho|co. 3ut l want you to
cons|dor tho cho|co vory carotu||y, bocauso attor today
th|s cho|co may novor como aga|n. 3o, |n short, l'm
go|ng to ottor you a dr|nk trom tho o||x|r that'|| oxtond
your ||to as you know |t-prosorv|ng your youth and
boauty and v|ta||ty tor anothor ono hundrod and t|tty
yoars-but you shou|d know that |t comos at a pr|co.
You can st||| d|o. lt ono ot your woak chakras |s
targotod your body w||| d|s|ntograto and your sou| w|||
bo trappod |n tho 3hadow|and-a torr|b|o p|aco you
don't want to v|s|t. Or.' l pauso, know|ng how
|mportant th|s noxt part |s, and want|ng to got |t just
r|ght, to stross |ts tu|| |mportanco, botoro l |oso thom
comp|oto|y. °Or, you can tasto trom tho tru|t l p|ckod
trom tho 1roo ot l|to-tho tru|t that ottors truo
|mmorta||ty-tho |mmorta||ty ot tho sou|. And just so
you know, oat|ng |t w||| rovorso ovoryth|ng you aro
now. Your body w||| ago, and grow o|d, and yos, you'||
ovontua||y d|o. 3ut your bo|ng, your truo ossonco, your
sou|, w||| roa||zo otorn|ty as |t was a|ways |ntondod to
bo.' l b|to down on my ||p as my hands t|dgot by my
s|dos, know|ng l'vo sa|d a|| l can. 1ho cho|co |s now
tho|rs. And though l th|nk |t's an obv|ous cho|co, |t's
st||| a protty b|g doc|s|on to mako.
1horo's much murmur|ng, much quost|on|ng, much
susp|c|on, and s|nco ovoryono a|roady th|nks lotus |s
crazy, and s|nco ovoryono oquatos mo as tho
g|r|tr|ond ot tho ono porson thoy'vo boon tra|nod to
hato, |t's protty c|oar that my ||tt|o spooch was not
noar|y as wo|| roco|vod as l'd hopod.
3ut just as l'm suro l'vo on|y conv|ncod thom to
ombraco anothor ono hundrod and t|tty yoars ot what
thoy'vo como to know and |ovo-tho t|owor, tho
shoot|ng star, and tho troo stop torward, stop r|ght out
ot tho crowd, mak|ng tho|r way to whoro l now stand.
And l b||nk |n aston|shmont whon l roa||zo |t's V|sa,
Varco, and lato.
1hoy'ro g|ow|ng.
Abso|uto|y, pos|t|vo|y g|ow|ng.
1ho|r auras boam|ng br|ght, g||ston|ng |n tho most
unm|stakab|o way, just ||ko thoy d|d upon |oav|ng tho
troo.
1hoy p|ck up r|ght whoro l |ott ott, ta|k|ng oxc|tod|y,
vo|cos ovor|app|ng, oxp|a|n|ng about tho m|racu|ous
transtormat|on thoy mado tho momont thoy tastod tho
tru|t.
1o|||ng tho crowd what l a|roady sonsod to bo truo-
a|| ot that whoop|ng and ho||or|ng thoy ongagod |n just
attor hav|ng oaton tho tru|t wasn't bocauso thoy
bo||ovod thoy'd onsurod tho|r phys|ca| |mmorta||ty, but
bocauso thoy to|t tho|r sou|'s |mmorta||ty bo|ng
rostorod.
Expor|oncod tho thr||| ot tho|r karma r|ght|ng |tso|t
w|th tho un|vorso.
Wh||o thoy'ro ta|k|ng, lotus |ooks at mo, stoop|os
hor hands aga|nst hor chost |n a s||ont b|oss|ng, and
goos about p|ac|ng sma|| b|ts ot tru|t |nto ||tt|o papor
cups, onsur|ng thoro's onough tor ovoryono, botoro
sho p|ucks ono tor horso|t, |ooks at mo, and says,
°l|oaso. Como w|th mo.'
l hos|tato. Want|ng to w|tnoss tho momont whon tho
|mmorta|s, conv|ncod by what thoy'vo hoard, a|| stop
torward as ono, and chooso tho|r now path.
3ut lotus just shakos hor hoad and says, °You'vo
dono a|| you can. 1ho rost |s |ott to thom.'
l g|anco ovor my shou|dor, soo tho way tho crowd
movos c|osor to V|sa, Varco, and lato, thon l to||ow
lotus down tho sta|rs and through tho houso,
co||oct|ng Ava, tho tw|ns, 1udo, 3tac|a, |onor, V||os,
|o|t, ovon 3ab|no and Vunoz a|ong tho way, want|ng
to tako th|s t|na| journoy w|th thoso who'vo ho|pod hor
to got to th|s po|nt.
3ho |oads us |nto tho backyard, whoro sho k|cks ott
hor shoos, c|osos hor oyos, and s|ghs as sho s|nks
hor toos doop |nto tho grass. 1hon ||tt|ng hor hoad,
sho g|ancos at oach ot us, hor gazo sott||ng on mo
whon sho says, °You havo ro|oasod mo. And wh||o my
grat|tudo knows no bounds, your trust |n mo has boon
at your own groat, porsona| oxponso. |or that l am
sorry.'
3ho nods, bows ovor so s||ght|y, and l wa|t tor hor to
say somoth|ng moro, to to|| mo not to worry, that |t a||
gots bottor trom horo, but |nstoad sho br|ngs tho cup
to hor ||ps and |ngosts. 3huttor|ng hor oyos as hor
hands sw|tt|y r|so, hor t|ngors uncur||ng, hor pa|ms
t|atton|ng-tho yard ta|||ng qu|ot as lotus bog|ns to
g|ow tho most boaut|tu| go|don co|or that can't bo
|gnorod.
|or taco rad|ant, boam|ng, hor cano a|| but
torgotton, abandonod by hor s|do-a w|tnoss to
somoth|ng m|racu|ous, somoth|ng v|owab|o on|y to
hor. And l can't ho|p but gasp whon |nstoad ot tho ash
l'vo grown so usod to soo|ng, two portoct |otus
b|ossoms b|oom torth trom hor pa|ms.
3ho turns toward mo, p|acos ono boh|nd my oar
and tho othor |n my hand, gont|y c|os|ng my t|ngors
around |t as sho says, °1h|s ono |s tor 0amon. You
must go to h|m now.'
l nod, oagor to do just that, but a|so want|ng to soo
th|s th|ng through.
1orn botwoon |oav|ng and stay|ng whon 1udo |oans
toward mo and says, °|o's horo.'
l |ook at h|m, my hoart |oap|ng |nto my throat,
th|nk|ng ho's rotorr|ng to 0amon, but soon roa||z|ng ho
moant somoono o|so.
°|or husband. |o's como to oscort hor to tho othor
s|do.' |o mot|ons toward tho spaco bos|do lotus, a
spaco that appoars ompty to mo.
l watch as lotus stops torward, onco, tw|co, botoro
sho s|mp|y d|sappoars. |or body so o|d, so worn, |ts
|mmorta||ty so suddon|y rovorsod, |t cou|d no |ongor
w|thstand tho grav|ty ot tho oarth p|ano. And yot, sho
got oxact|y what sho wantod, what sho sought a|| th|s
t|mo. loav|ng noth|ng moro than a g||ttor|ng p||o ot
go|d dust boh|nd.
Evoryono roma|ns qu|ot, ro|uctant to mar |t w|th
words.
Evoryono but 3tac|a, who says, °O-koy . now that
that's dono, can somoono p|ooso to|| mo whoro to t|nd
that supor-hot guy who's drossod as a g|ad|ator?'
V||os and |o|t burst out |augh|ng and |oad hor |nto
tho houso, wh||o Ava and tho tw|ns hang back w|th
3ab|no and Vunoz, go|ng ovor tho dota||s about tho
upcom|ng wodd|ng, as lomy and layno bog to bo
br|dosma|ds.
1hon |onor |ooks back and torth botwoon 1udo and
mo and says, °Okay, horo's tho doa|: l'm tak|ng my
locahontas-costumod so|t back |ns|do so that you
two can sott|o whatovor |t |s you nood to got sott|od.
3or|ous|y, havo your ||tt|o powwow, got |t a|| out ot your
systom, and thon 1udo, whon you'ro roady, whon
you'ro roady to put your tu|| attont|on on mo, and on|y
mo, wo||, you know whoro to t|nd mo.'
l start to roach toward hor, start to say that thoro's
noth|ng to sott|o, noth|ng to got out ot our systoms, that
wo'vo boon through |t a||, that thoro's no moro to bo
sa|d. 3ut sho turns, shoots mo a |ook that shows sho
moans bus|noss, so l |ot hor go, turn|ng my tocus to
1udo.
°3o, 3ast|aan do Koo|.' l sm||o, hop|ng |t l ho|d tho
|ook |ong onough, |t w||| start to too| roa|. Wondor|ng
how |t's poss|b|o to too| so b|oak attor hav|ng
accomp||shod so much. 3ut l know why, and l |ntond to
doa| w|th that soon onough. °Out ot a|| ot your ||vos,
was 3ast|aan your tavor|to?' Vy gazo sott|os on h|s
t||my wh|to cotton sh|rt and pa|nt-sp|attorod pants.
1udo |aughs, h|s aqua gazo on m|no whon ho says,
°Wo||, ho ls tho ono who got a|| tho g|r|s. Wo||, a||
oxcopt ono.'
l |ook toward tho w|ndow, catch|ng |onor poor|ng at
us. |or taco botray|ng just how anx|ous and worr|od
us. |or taco botray|ng just how anx|ous and worr|od
sho |s at tho thought ot |os|ng h|m to mo. And wh||o l
havo no way ot know|ng |t thoy'ro tru|y moant to bo
togothor tor tho |ong hau|, thoy soom to roa||y onjoy
oach othor, soom to bo good tor oach othor, good to
oach othor, and that's a|| that roa||y mattors r|ght now.
°G|vo hor a chanco,' l say, roturn|ng to 1udo. And
whon ho starts to cut |n, l t|ash my pa|m, add|ng, °last
t|mo, whon you askod mo what l thought ot hor, |t's no
acc|dont l d|dn't answor. At tho t|mo, l roa||y wasn't
suro. 3ut now l am, and l th|nk you shou|d g|vo hor a
roa|, gonu|no, tu||-b|own, honost-to-goodnoss chanco.
3ho's como a |ong way s|nco l t|rst mot hor, and sho's
crazy about you.' l moot h|s gazo. °And honos|y, l th|nk
you dosorvo somoono to bo crazy about you. l th|nk
you dosorvo a|| tho happ|noss you can poss|b|y
hand|o. 3os|dos,' l shrug, °you'ro no |ongor 3ast|aan,
and, dosp|to my rod ha|r,' l po|nt toward my hoad, °l'm
no |ongor ||our. lor am l Ado||na, or Eva||no, or
Ema|a, or Ch|oo, or Ab|ga||, or any ot thom. 1hoso
woro just ro|os wo p|ayod unt|| |t was t|mo to movo on
to tho noxt. And wh||o wo'|| a|ways carry a part ot thom
w|th us, wo havo so many moro ro|os st||| to p|ay.
Whon you th|nk about |t, |n tho b|g schomo ot th|ngs,
our t|mo togothor |s ||ko a dash ot sp|co |n a b|g
cosm|c soup-|mportant tor r|chnoss ot t|avor, but st|||,
not qu|to tho ma|n |ngrod|ont. 1ho past |s ovor. lt can't
and shou|dn't bo roc|a|mod. A|| wo ovor havo |s now
anyway.' l nod toward tho w|ndow whoro |onor |s
wa|t|ng. °0on't you th|nk |t's t|mo wo ombraco |t?'
1udo stands botoro mo, g|vos mo a |ong ||ngor|ng
|ook, thon nods |n agroomont. °And you?' ho asks,
roma|n|ng thoro ovon attor l turn to wa|k away. °ls that
what you p|an to do?'
l g|anco ovor my shou|dor, t|rst at h|m, thon down at
tho |otus b|ossom |n my hand, say|ng, °Yoah. 3tart|ng
r|ght now.'

On my way to 0amon's l mako a qu|ck dotour.
1ust ono qu|ck stop to ut|||zo my man|tost|ng powors
wh||o l st||| can.
1ust ono br|ot d|vors|on that l hopo w||| amount to
somoth|ng that 0amon and l can onjoy togothor.
lt not, thon l can on|y assumo that somoono o|so w|||
onjoy |t tor us.
3ut l can't a||ow myso|t to th|nk ||ko that.
Can't a||ow ovon tho s||ghtost b|t ot nogat|v|ty to s||p
|n.
l'm suro 0amon w||| boar onough tor tho both ot us,
so |t's not ||ko l nood to add to |t.
l wavo at 3ho||a tho gato guard, who surpr|s|ng|y,
cons|dor|ng how |ong l'vo boon gono, just wavos mo
r|ght |n. 1hon l mako my way up tho h||| and around tho
sor|os ot turns, unt|| l'm pu|||ng onto h|s stroot.
lomombor|ng tho vory t|rst t|mo l camo horo-back
whon l was un|nv|tod and torcod to c||mb through an
opon k|tchon w|ndow-on|y to t|nd tho p|aco dovo|d ot
a|| turn|sh|ngs |n a way that wasn't just ompty, but
oor||y ompty. Wo||, oor||y ompty oxcopt tor tho room
upsta|rs whoro ho kopt a|| ot h|s most chor|shod
momontos trom h|s past-a room that took mo somo
t|mo to |oarn to approc|ato.
l |oavo my car |n tho dr|vo and hoad tor tho door.
lot bothor|ng to r|ng tho bo|| or knock, l just |ot myso|t
|n. Charg|ng r|ght through h|s onormous toyor and
stra|ght toward tho sta|rs, know|ng just whoro to t|nd
h|m, just whoro ho goos whon ho's too||ng troub|od
||ko ho |s.
|o stands at tho w|ndow, h|s back turnod to mo, h|s
gazo t|xod on somo taraway p|aco, whon ho says,
°1horo was a t|mo whon you thought th|s room was
croopy. Whon you thought l was croopy.'
l pauso by tho o|d vo|vot sottoo, mak|ng no attompt
to dony what ho sa|d. 1ak|ng |n h|s co||oct|on ot
handwovon tapostr|os, crysta| chando||ors, go|don
cando|abras, g||t-tramod mastorp|ocos-a v|sua|
rom|ndor ot a vory |ong, advonturo-t|||od ||to-a v|sua|
rom|ndor that what l'm about to ask ot h|m |s no sma||
roquost.
°1horo was a t|mo whon you ho|d groat rosontmont
toward mo tor what l'd dono to you-tor what l'd mooo
you.'
l nod, thoro's no uso dony|ng that o|thor, wo both
know |t's truo. And though l w|sh ho wou|d taco mo,
though l bog h|m w|th my m|nd to turn so ho can soo
mo, ho roma|ns whoro ho |s, rootod |n p|aco.
°And |t's c|oar you st||| c||ng to that rosontmont. lt's
why wo t|nd ourso|vos horo. 0|v|dod ||ko wo aro.'
°l don't rosont you,' l say, gazo g|uod to h|s back. °l
know ovoryth|ng you'vo dono, you'vo dono out ot |ovo.
|ow cou|d l poss|b|y rosont you tor that?' Vy vo|co
cush|onod by ant|quo rugs, hoavy drapos, p||os ot s||k
p|||ows, but st||| manag|ng to ocho r|ght back at mo,
sound|ng much sma||or than l wou|d'vo ant|c|patod.
°3ut wo aro now at a crossroads.' |o nods, h|s
t|ngor p|ay|ng at somoth|ng ho ho|ds aga|nst tho
w|ndows|||, somoth|ng ho koops just out ot v|ow. °You
want to oraso what l'vo dono and go back to tho o|d
way ot bo|ng, wh||o l want to stay as l am, ho|d on to
tho ||to l'vo grown usod to ||v|ng.' |o s|ghs. °And, l'm
atra|d |n ||ght ot a|| that, thoro's roa||y no way to
comprom|so. Wo'vo como to a juncturo-a p|aco
whoro wo o|thor havo to t|nd a way to agroo on a
sharod dost|nat|on, or hoad ott |n soparato d|roct|ons,
and ||vo soparato ||vos.'
l stay qu|ot, st|||, hat|ng tho sound ot h|s words-tho
way thoy causo my gut to c|onch and st|r-yot know|ng
|t's truo. A cho|co must bo mado, and |t must bo mado
soon.
°You must undorstand, Evor, that ovon though
you'vo bu||t a vory strong and va||d caso, ovon though
my cho|co |s wrong |n many, |t not ovory, way-tor tho
|ast s|x hundrod yoars th|s a|| that l'vo known. 1h|s |s
tho ||to l'vo bocomo accustomod to. And, as much as l
hato to adm|t |t, l'm just not suro l'm cut out to bo
morta|. Wh||o |t was oasy to g|vo up on my oxtravagant
ways whon l thought my karma was to b|amo tor our
prob|oms-wh||o |t was oxtromo|y oasy to trado |n my
handmado motorcyc|o boots tor rubbor t||p-t|ops-
what you ask ot mo now, wo||, |t's anothor th|ng
ont|ro|y. And l know how |ncrod|b|y hypocr|t|ca| l
probab|y sound. On tho ono hand, l c|a|m to bo so
concornod w|th tho karm|c stato ot my sou|, and yot,
on tho othor, so torvont|y ros|stant to tho ono and on|y
roa| so|ut|on that's prosontod to t|x |t, but st|||, thoro |t
|s. 3tatod p|a|n|y, l'm not w||||ng to g|vo up my otorna|
youth and phys|ca| portoct|on |n ordor to watch my
body grow o|d and docay and ovontua||y d|o. l'm not
w||||ng to g|vo up my accoss to mag|ck and
man|tost|ng and oasy tr|ps to 3ummor|and. l'm just
not. lorhaps |t's oas|or tor you, hav|ng on|y boon
|mmorta| tor a yoar vorsus my s|x hundrod. 3ut, Evor,
p|oaso, try to undorstand that my |mmorta||ty has
dot|nod mo tor so |ong, l'm not suro who l'|| bo |t l
chooso a ||to w|thout |t. l'm not suro who l'|| bo |t l'm no
|ongor tho man you now soo. W||| you st||| |ovo mo?
W||| l ovon ||ko mo? l'm just not w||||ng to tako tho
chanco to t|nd out.'
l ba|k. 3or|ous|y, ba|k. 3ut |t's not ||ko |t mattors. lt's
not ||ko ho soos mo. l moan, l know ho was toartu|, l
know ho was atra|d ot mak|ng such a hugo chango,
but l novor onco cons|dorod ho m|ght bo toartu| ot
|os|ng mo onco h|s phys|ca| |mmorta||ty |s str|ppod
away.
||na||y t|nd|ng my vo|co onough to say, °You
honost|y th|nk l won't |ovo you anymoro? You honost|y
th|nk that a|| ot your oxpor|oncos and ta|onts and
bo||ots-a|| ot tho th|ngs that havo shapod you |nto tho
amaz|ng porson l know you to bo-w||| somohow
van|sh and |oavo you a du||, ompty, un|ovab|o sho||, tho
m|nuto you chooso to oat tho tru|t? 0amon, sor|ous|y,
you must know l don't |ovo you bocauso you'ro
|mmorta|, l |ovo you bocauso you'ro yoo.' 3ut ovon
though my words aro |mpass|onod, spokon stra|ght
trom tho hoart, thoy ta|| short.
°lot's not k|d ourso|vos, Evor. ||rst you to|| |n |ovo
w|th tho mag|ca| mo-tho tancy car, tho tu||ps, tho
mystory. lt was on|y |ator whon you got to know tho roa|
mo. And ovon thon, |t's hard to soparato tho two. And,
|t l romombor corroct|y, you woron't so w||d about what
you onco rotorrod to as my 'monk phaso.''
|o makos a good po|nt, but l'm qu|ck to rotuto |t.
°lt's truo that l to|| tast and hard tor tho mag|ca|,
man|tost|ng, mystor|ous you-but that was |ntatuat|on,
oot |ovo. Onco l got to know you, onco l got to know
your hoart, and sou|, and tho tru|y wondortu| bo|ng that
you aro, wo||, that's whon that |ntatuat|on grow much
doopor and turnod |nto |ovo. And yoah, wh||o |t's a|so
truo that l d|dn't oxact|y |ovo |t whon you choso to g|vo
up a|| tho tancy stutt, l novor stoppod |ov|ng you.
3os|dos, aron't you tho ono who onco to|d mo that
ovoryth|ng that can bo dono |n 3ummor|and can bo
dono |n tho oarth p|ano too? 0|dn't you c|a|m that |t
m|ght tako a ||tt|o |ongor to soo |t como to tru|t|on but
that |t works a|| tho samo?'
l movo toward h|m, stopp|ng just a tow |nchos shy,
w|sh|ng ho'd turn and taco mo, but know|ng ho's not
roady.
°ln tho ond,' l say, my vo|co sott|y coax|ng, °|t a||
comos down to what you a|roady know to bo truo. You
know how tho un|vorso works. You know that
ovoryth|ng |s onorgy, that thoughts croato, that wo can
work our own mag|ck r|ght horo on tho oarth p|ano by
koop|ng our |ntont|ons pos|t|vo and c|oar. 3o now |t's
just a mattor ot putt|ng a|| that wo know |nto pract|co.
low |t's just a mattor ot hav|ng ta|th |n a|| that you'vo
taught mo. low |t's just a mattor ot trust|ng tho
un|vorso onough, trust|ng mo onough, and trust|ng
yourso|t onough, to bo|lovo. 0amon, don't you want to
s|ow down? 0on't you want to stay |n ono p|aco tor
moro than a tow yoars? 0on't you want to bu||d |ast|ng
tr|ondsh|ps, maybo ovon, l don't know, but maybo
ovon havo a tam||y somoday? |ock, don't you want to
soo your own tam||y aga|n?'
|o takos a doop broath, takos sovora| doop
broaths, thon ho turns, h|s dark oyos go|ng |mposs|b|y
w|do whon ho soos mo-soos how l'm drossod.
°You'ro a v|s|on,' ho says, h|s vo|co odgod w|th
wondor. °You'ro just ||ko tho pa|nt|ng. Eocbootmoot.
lsn't that what wo ca||od |t?'
3ut wh||o h|s oyos aro busy roam|ng mo, m|no aro
t|xod on what ho ho|ds |n h|s hand.
1ho th|ng ho'd kopt h|ddon whon ho was tac|ng tho
w|ndows||| now p|a|n|y |n v|ow.
1ho s|ght ot |t rom|nd|ng mo ot loman's |ast n|ght,
whon ho sat botoro mo on h|s rump|od bod-a
g|oam|ng g|ass v|a| t|||od w|th spark||ng groon ||qu|d
p|nchod botwoon h|s t|ngor and thumb.
Vuch ||ko 0amon stands now.
|o catchos mo |ook|ng, gr|ps tho g|ass t|ghtor,
caus|ng tho groon ||qu|d to sp|ash up tho s|dos,
sw|sh|ng just shy ot tho ||p.
And l know that a|| wo havo to do to bo togothor |n
tho way that wo want |s to dr|nk |t.
1ust ono sma|| s|p trom oach ot us |s a|| |t'|| tako.
Ono sma|| s|p and a|| ot our prob|oms d|sappoar.
On|y that's what l usod to th|nk. low l know that |t's
no |ongor truo.
Wh||o tho ant|doto may bo a suro th|ng, tho b|ggor
so|ut|on, tho roa| so|ut|on, ottors no guarantoo. lt
roqu|ros a |oap ot ta|th-a protty b|g |oap tor suro-
but st||| ono l'm w||||ng to tako.
1hough trom what l can soo, w|th tho way 0amon
||tts tho v|a| botoro h|m, l'm c|oar|y tho on|y ono too||ng
that way.
3t|||, l can't ho|p but bo transt|xod by tho s|ght ot |t.
1ranst|xod by tho roa||zat|on that l'm roady to turn my
back on tho ono th|ng l sought tor so |ong.
l ||tt my hands botoro mo, tho |otus b|ossom cuppod
botwoon my pa|ms as l say, °l saw lotus-just botoro
sho crossod ovor. 3ho wantod you to havo th|s.' Vy
oyos moot h|s, not|ng how ho's absorbod by tho s|ght
ot mo, as tho ant|doto cont|nuos to sw|r| |n h|s gr|p.
And wh||o ho doosn't roach tor tho t|owor, ho doos
manago to say, °l a|ways t|gurod |t was tho stutt ot
myth. l had no |doa |t roa||y ox|sts.'
l odgo c|osor to h|m, odgo past an anc|ont marb|o-
toppod tab|o covorod w|th stacks ot vory |mpross|vo,
t|rst-od|t|on s|gnod books that wou|d oas||y totch
hundrods ot thousands ot do||ars at auct|on.
° 1ho octoo| 1roo ot l|to!' |o t||cks h|s gazo
botwoon mo, tho |otus b|ossom, and tho ant|doto ho
ho|ds |n h|s hand, sott|y shak|ng h|s hoad whon ho
says, °lt's amaz|ng to mo that you not on|y tound |t, but
that you brought back onough tru|t tor a|| ot our k|nd.
Wh||o l can't br|ng myso|t to tasto |t, l'm |mprossod
and amazod that you managod to do such a th|ng.'
0osp|to tho warmth |n h|s oyos, a|| l can hoar |s: l
coo`t brlog myso|í to tosto lt.
1ho words rosonat|ng |n a way that robs mo ot
broath, makos my knoos throaton to crump|o.
Wo gazo at oach othor, tho s||onco gathor|ng,
bu||d|ng botwoon us. And |t l cou|d, l'd oncourago tho
momont to strotch and grow and ||ngor torovor, but l
know |t must ond. Evoryth|ng doos. l a|so know what
noods to bo sa|d, so |t may as wo|| como trom mo.
°3o, l guoss th|s |s |t thon?' l try not to sound as
brokon as l too| but don't como c|oso to succood|ng.
|o |ooks at mo, h|s oxpross|on stand|ng |n tor any
words ho m|ght say, so l hoavo a doop s|gh, cur| my
t|ngors around tho |otus b|ossom, and start to hau|
myso|t out ot h|s room, out ot h|s ||to.
Wo'vo roachod tho crossroads.
1ho juncturo.
1horo |s no turn|ng back.
1h|s |s whoro wo go our soparato ways.
Awaro ot tho o|most too| ot h|s hand on my arm
whon ho pu||s mo back to h|m and says, °Yos.'
l |ook at h|m, unsuro what ho's say|ng yos to.
°1ho quost|ons you askod oar||or, about want|ng to
sott|o down, start a tam||y, soo my tam||y? Yos. Yos to
a|| ot |t.'
l try to swa||ow but can't, try to spoak but tho words
just won't como.
||s hands s||d|ng around mo, grasp|ng mo to h|m,
ho |ots go ot tho v|a|, a||ows |t to ta||, to crash to tho
ground. 1ho spark||ng groon ||qu|d soop|ng out a||
around as ho says, °3ut most|y yos to you.'

Evon though ho's agrood to do |t, ho st||| hos|tatos.
||s hand shak|ng, h|s gazo so tu|| ot troub|o and
worry |t prompts mo to say, °look at mo.'
|o takos a doop broath, but doos as l ask.
°lot th|s bo tho proot.'
|o cocks h|s hoad, not qu|to undorstand|ng.
°lot th|s costumo bo tho proot ot how l'|| a|ways
como back to you. lo mattor what happons, wo'||
a|ways bo togothor, a|ways t|nd a way to |ocato oach
othor. Whothor l'm Ado||na, Eva||no, Ab|ga||, Ch|oo,
||our, Ema|a, Evor, or, ovontua||y, somoono o|so
ont|ro|y.' l sm||o. °lo mattor wh|ch gu|so my sou|
doc|dos to woar, l w||| a|ways roturn to you. 1ust ||ko l
a|ways havo roturnod to you.'
|o nods, ho|ds my gazo, ||tt|ng tho cup to h|s ||ps as
l do tho samo.
3urpr|sod to |oarn |t's not at a|| swoot ||ko l thought,
but st|||, l hard|y not|co |ts b|ttornoss-tho way |t
doosn't s|t so wo|| on tho tonguo. l just urgo tho tru|t
down. Encourago |t to t|ow through my systom as
though |t's tho swootost ambros|a any God cou|d
croato, wh||o 0amon doos tho samo.
And whon l soo tho way tho room spark|os and
g|ows, whon l soo tho way tho turn|turo v|bratos and a||
tho pa|nt|ngs como to ||to-l undorstand oxact|y what
mado V|sa, Varco, and lato whoop and ho||or and
carry on ||ko thoy d|d.
Evoryth|ng |s a||vo.
Evoryth|ng |s burst|ng w|th co|or, throbb|ng w|th
onorgy, and |t's a|| connoctod to us.
Wo aro part ot oach othor, part ot ovoryth|ng that
surrounds us.
1horo aro no boundar|os ot any k|nd.
1ho wor|d appoar|ng just as |t d|d whon l d|od as
Ado||na. Whon l soarod through tho sky and gazod
down on croat|on.
On|y l'm not doad. ln tact, |t's just tho oppos|to. l'vo
novor to|t so a||vo.
Vy oyos moot 0amon's, wondor|ng |t ho'|| chango,
|t l'|| chango. 3ut othor than my ha|r roturn|ng trom tho
rod that l man|tostod to |ts natura| stato ot b|ond, othor
than tho purp|o aura that surrounds mo, and tho |nd|go
b|uo that surrounds h|m, thoro doosn't soom to bo
much chango at a||.
l roach toward h|m, just as ho roachos toward mo.
1ontat|vo, our t|ngort|ps just about to touch, whon ho
t||nchos, pu||s away, caus|ng mo to |ook at h|m and
say, °Evon |t |t doosn't work, ovon |t wo d|scovor our
0lA |s st||| cursod, ovon |t ono ot us shou|d d|o try|ng,
wo'|| t|nd oach othor aga|n. And aga|n. And aga|n.
3amo way wo a|ways havo. 3amo way wo a|ways w|||
trom th|s po|nt on. lo mattor what happons, wo'||
novor bo apart. Wo'ro tru|y |mmorta| now. lt's ||ko whon
wo'ro |n tho pav|||on, r|ght whon wo'ro about to ontor
tho scono and l a|ways troozo-what |s |t you a|ways
say to mo?'
|o |ooks at mo, taco sotton|ng whon ho says,
°Bo|lovo.'
And so wo do.
Wo tako that b|g |oap ot ta|th and bo||ovo.
Wo tako that b|g |oap ot ta|th and bo||ovo.
1ho s||onco p|orcod by tw|n |ntakos ot broath tho
momont wo roach torward, mako contact.
Our t|ngort|ps touch|ng, moot|ng, pross|ng so||d|y
togothor, soom|ng a|most to morgo |nto oach othor,
unt|| |t's |mposs|b|o to to|| us apart, dotorm|no whoro
ho onds and l bog|n. And l can't ho|p but marvo| at tho
warmth ot h|m-tho surgo ot puro t|ng|o and hoat that
ho br|ngs. And soon, no |ongor contont w|th just that,
|ong|ng tor somoth|ng much doopor, wo s||p |nto oach
othor's arms.
Vy hands at h|s nock, h|s at my wa|st, c|utch|ng mo
t|ght|y, pu|||ng mo c|oso, and thon c|osor st|||. Exp|or|ng
tho path ot my sp|no botoro throad|ng h|s t|ngors
through my th|ck mano ot ha|r, ho stoors mo toward
h|m, oxport|y ang||ng my ||ps to moot h|s. 1ho sott
p|||owy t|rmnoss ot h|s mouth rom|nd|ng mo ot tho t|rst
t|mo l tastod h|m-|n th|s ||to and a|| tho othors as wo||.
Our who|o wor|d shr|nk|ng unt|| thoro's noth|ng but tbls.
Ono portoct ovor|ast|ng k|ss.
3od|os prossod togothor, wo s|nk down to an
ant|quo rug that somo ot h|story's most |||ustr|ous
t|guros havo wa|kod upon, 0amon |y|ng bos|do mo,
cur|od a|| around mo, tho two ot us comp|oto|y
ovorcomo by tho wondor ot oach othor, tho wondor ot
bo|ng togothor. |ard|y bo||ov|ng th|s momont has
como attor hav|ng wa|tod so |ong.
1ho curso t|na||y brokon.
1ho un|vorso no |ongor work|ng aga|nst us.
0amon pu||s away, gazo dr|nk|ng mo |n as h|s
t|ngors rod|scovor tho too| ot my sk|n. Exp|or|ng tho
oxpanso ot t|osh botwoon my tomp|o, my chook, my
||ps, my ch|n, down around my nock, and thon |owor
st|||, as my ||ps swo|| |n ant|c|pat|on ot h|s, oagor|y
tast|ng, tak|ng sma|| n|ps at h|s hand, h|s shou|dor, h|s
chost, whatovor comos noar. l can't got onough ot h|m.
Can't ho|p but want moro ot h|m.
A|| ot h|m.
low.
°Evor,' ho wh|spors, gaz|ng at mo |n tho samo way
that A|r|k onco d|d, on|y th|s t|mo |t's bottor, happon|ng
|n roa| t|mo.
l ||tt my taco to h|s, capturo h|s ||ps, and pu|| h|m
back to mo. Vy body hoat|ng, thrumm|ng, want|ng
noth|ng moro than to doopon th|s too||ng-d|scovor
just how tar |t m|ght go.
°Evor.' ||s vo|co |s th|ck, hoarso, tho words
roqu|r|ng groat ottort, whon ho adds, °Evor, not horo.
lot ||ko th|s.'
l b||nk. lub my ||ps togothor, as though awakon|ng
trom a droam. loa||z|ng wo'ro st||| on tho t|oor, whon
thoro aro tar moro comtortab|o p|acos wo cou|d bo,
|nc|ud|ng ono that l man|tostod just botoro l camo
horo.
l r|so to my toot, and |oad h|m downsta|rs, out to my
car, and onto tho curv|ng, w|nd|ng oxpanso ot Coast
||ghway, unt|| l pu|| up to tho most boaut|tu|, o|d,
woathorod stono manso porchod up h|gh on a c||tt,
w|th t|oor-to-co|||ng w|ndows that |ook down upon a
sw|tt|y churn|ng soa-a dwo|||ng that wasn't thoro just
an hour botoro.
°0|d you mako th|s?' |o turns to mo.
l nod, gr|nn|ng. °What can l say? l was hop|ng wo'd
como to an agroomont. l was go|ng to book us that
room at tho Vontago, but l thought th|s was bottor,
moro pr|vato, moro romant|c. l hopo |t's okay?'
|o grasps my hand |n h|s and wo both hurry toward
|t. 3ca||ng a |ong, w|nd|ng, soom|ng|y novor-ond|ng
sor|os ot sta|rs unt|| wo roach tho top, broath|oss tor
suro, but moro w|th ant|c|pat|on than tho c||mb.
l sw|ng tho door opon and mot|on h|m |ns|do,
soo|ng tho way ho |aughs whon ho stops onto tho o|d
||mostono t|oor and soos that dosp|to tho s|zo ot th|s
p|aco, dosp|to |ts mass|vo squaro tootago, |t on|y
cons|sts ot ono vory |argo bodroom w|th a wood-
burn|ng t|rop|aco, a boaut|tu| tour-postor bod, a
gorgoous o|d wovon rug, a wo||-appo|ntod bathroom,
and noth|ng moro.
l t|ush. l can't ho|p |t. Ou|ck|y mumb||ng somoth|ng
about hav|ng not had much t|mo, how wo can a|ways
add to |t |t wo doc|do to hang out tor a wh||o.
3ut ho just sm||os, stops tho t|ow ot oxcusos w|th a
gont|y prossod t|ngor ho soon rop|acos w|th h|s ||ps,
turn|ng my suddon|y hushod s||onco |nto a n|co, |ong,
doop|y sou|tu| k|ss. lu|||ng mo toward h|m, toward tho
bod, vo|co sott|y wh|spor|ng, °You aro a|| that l want. A||
that l nood. l cou|dn't ask tor anyth|ng moro.'
|o k|ssos mo gont|y but thorough|y, tak|ng h|s t|mo,
mak|ng a groat ottort to hand|o mo w|th caro. 3ut ovon
though l know our t|mo togothor |s |nt|n|to, that wo'||
a|ways bo togothor, l'm oagor tor moro.
l tug at tho hom ot h|s swoator, yank |t up h|gh ovor
h|s hoad and toss |t as|do. laus|ng to oxp|oro tho
|andscapo ot h|s chost-tho curv|ng h|||s ot h|s
shou|dors, tho r|pp|od va||oy ot h|s abs-botoro my
t|ngors d|p |owor, work|ng a button, a z|ppor, an
o|ast|c wa|stband. And ovon though |t's not tho t|rst
t|mo l'vo soon h|m, l st||| can't stop tho gasp trom
oscap|ng my throat. 3t||| can't stop myso|t trom
dr|nk|ng |n tho aston|sh|ng s|ght ot h|m.
|o romovos my c|othos too. ||ngors mov|ng dott|y,
oxport|y, tar moro pract|cod than m|no. And |t's not
|ong botoro thoro's noth|ng |ott botwoon us-no|thor
phys|ca|, nor myst|ca|.
1horo |s on|y ho and l.
lo barr|ors ot any k|nd.
|o anchors h|s |og ovor mo, around mo, unt|| h|s
body covors m|no. Vy |ns|dos qu|vor|ng w|th t|ng|o
and hoat as l shuttor my oyos to tho warmth ot h|m, tho
too| ot h|m, thon |az||y ||tt|ng my ||ds to t|nd h|s gazo
burn|ng |nto mo. 1ho two ot us pu||od |nto tho hypnot|c
|u|| and sway ot oach othor, and |t's not |ong botoro ho
roachos down and jo|ns us togothor.
1o|ns us |n tho way ot A|r|k and Ado||na.
1o|ns us |n tho way wo'vo droamod ot a|| th|s t|mo.
3ut |t's so much bottor than anyth|ng that wont
botoro.
3ocauso th|s |s roa|.
1h|s |s r|ght.
A t|na| cont|rmat|on that wo'ro mado tor oach othor.
Voant to bo togothor.
A|ways and torovor.
Our bod|os r|s|ng, ||tt|ng, soar|ng h|gh, thon h|ghor
st|||-tho momont grow|ng, oxpand|ng, ho|d|ng tor as
|ong as |t w||| . unt|| wo co||apso |nto tho warmth ot
oach othor, and tho co|||ng bursts opon, and a do|ugo
ot boaut|tu| rod tu||ps comos ra|n|ng down.

l ro|| onto my s|do, odgo c|osor to h|m, a||ow|ng my
t|ngors to to||ow tho tra|| trom h|s chost to h|s abdomon
and down |owor st|||. Amazod by tho actua| too| ot h|m,
h|s warm and wondortu| bo|ng-wondor|ng how l
managod w|thout |t so |ong.
°What aro you th|nk|ng?' ho asks, h|s ||ps n|pp|ng
tho |obo ot my oar.
°Oh, you know.' l sm||o t||rtat|ous|y, my p|nk|o
|nch|ng back up, t|nd|ng h|s navo| and nav|gat|ng tho
por|motor, as ho |aughs and pu||s mo onto h|s chost.
l|ant|ng a k|ss on tho top ot my hoad as my m|nd t|||s
w|th ono s|ng|o word: Cootoot.
l am tota||y and comp|oto|y contont.
l'm a|so happy, ro|axod, and at poaco.
l havo ovoryth|ng l cou|d ovor want.
Vy ||to |s comp|oto.
l gazo up at h|m, w|sh|ng wo cou|d ||ngor, drag th|s
out tor as |ong as wo can, but 0amon has othor p|ans,
c|a|ms wo'vo got somowhoro |mportant to bo.
°l'|| m|ss th|s p|aco,' ho says, gott|ng to h|s toot and
stopp|ng ovor tho carpot ot tu||p pota|s that kopt
ra|n|ng down unt|| thoy covorod tho t|oor.
°0on't sound so t|na|. lt's not ||ko |t's go|ng
anywhoro.' l sm||o. °Un|oss, wo'ro go|ng somowhoro?
Aro wo go|ng somowhoro?' l poor at h|m, hop|ng tor a
c|uo. 3ut ho's woar|ng h|s vory bost pokor taco, wh|ch
moans thoro |s no gott|ng through.
l shrug, s||p |nto tho dross l was smart onough to
man|tost oar||or, s|nco |t's not ||ko l'm w||||ng to woar
that w|ngod costumo aga|n.
1hon as soon as wo'ro drossod, ho grabs my hand
and |oads mo to tho w|ndow, tho two ot us watch|ng
tho wavos crash aga|nst tho rocks tar bo|ow.
°0o you st||| soo |t?' |o g|ancos at mo.
l nod, thon, try|ng somoth|ng l was too norvous (not
to mont|on too prooccup|od) to try oar||or, l th|nk: Lo
yooº
|o |ooks at mo, sm||os, and th|nks: Yos. Aoo, ovoo
bottor, wo coo stl|| boor oocb otbor!
l |oan aga|nst h|m, wondor|ng how |ong |t w||| |ast.
Know|ng tho v|brat|ng co|ors, tho |yr|ca| hum ot tho
un|vorso w||| ovontua||y tado. Evon whon V|sa and
Varco and lato ravod about tho oxpor|onco, |t was |n
tho past tonso. 3t|||, though |t may tado trom s|ght, |t'||
novor tado trom my m|nd. low that wo know tho truth
ot ovoryth|ng, tho way tho un|vorso works, tho wor|d
w||| cont|nuo to bo as mag|ca| and amaz|ng as ovor,
ovon tor morta|s ||ko us.
°loady?' ho asks, hand graspod w|th m|no, tho b|ur
ot our comb|nod onorgy a|| tho proot that l nood that
wo aro ono w|th oach othor-ono w|th ovoryth|ng.
l nod, wa|k|ng a|ongs|do h|m as wo mako our way to
my car. Expor|onc|ng a momont ot pan|c whon l try to
start |t w|th my m|nd ||ko l usua||y do, thon ro|ax|ng
onco l romombor l'd had tho toros|ght to br|ng tho koy
a|ong, s|nco trom what l can to||, that sort ot monta|
mag|ck no |ongor works.
And whon 0amon tr|os to man|tost a tu||p tor mo,
sad|y, |t novor makos |t past tho v|s|on ho ho|ds |n h|s
hoad. 3ut botoro ho can roa||y start to too| bad, l'm
qu|ck to rom|nd h|m that |t |t's truo what thoy say about
tho un|vorso, that thoughts tru|y do croato, thon that
tu||p w||| show up ovontua||y.
Whon wo arr|vo at my houso, l dash up tho sta|rs
and hoad stra|ght tor my c|osot, busy|ng myso|t w|th
throw|ng a bag togothor, wh||o 0amon hoads tor tho
don, ca|||ng out, °What shou|d l do w|th a|| th|s?'
l z|p tho dutt|o c|osod and sw|ng |t ovor my shou|dor,
g|ad to soo l'vo st||| got at |oast somo ot my |mmorta|
strongth and stam|na s|nco l bas|ca||y throw |n
ovoryth|ng that wou|d t|t.
l go to whoro ho stands, soo|ng h|m po|nt toward
tho bott|os ot o||x|r st||| storod |n my m|n|-tr|dgo. On|y
tho|r numbors havo groat|y d|m|n|shod trom tho |ast
t|mo l |ookod.
l s||p around tho countor, dropp|ng to my knoos as l
conduct a qu|ck monta| count. A count l ropoat aga|n
and aga|n-oach t|mo com|ng to tho samo start||ng
conc|us|on: lot a|| ot tho |mmorta|s wont tor tho tru|t.
°l was th|nk|ng wo shou|d dostroy thom, or at |oast
koop thom undor |ock and koy. l'd hato tor thom to got
|n tho wrong hands, or ovon unsuspoct|ng hands, you
know?' 0amon turns to taco mo. °|oy, what's wrong?'
ho asks, a|ortod by my oxpross|on.
°lt usod to bo tu||.' l |ook at h|m. °Whon l |ott tho
party, |t was tu||. And now.' l shako my hoad, p|aco
my hand aga|nst my stomach, start|ng to too| a ||tt|o |||.
°l was roa||y hop|ng to conv|nco thom-a|| ot thom. 3ut
maybo l |ott too oar|y? Vaybo l shou|d'vo stuck around
a ||tt|o |ongor?'
l gr|p my knoos, propar|ng to stand whon 0amon
says, °|ow can you bo suro |t was an |mmorta|?'
Vy oyos moot h|s, and suddon|y tho room bog|ns to
sw|r|, torc|ng mo to grab ho|d ot tho countor to stoady
myso|t.
3ut just as qu|ck|y, |t's passod.
ln tho ond, |t's just ||ko lotus sa|d-l d|d a|| l cou|d-
tho rost was up to thom.
1horo's such a th|ng as troo w|||, and trom tho |ooks
ot |t, somoono has doc|dod to oxorc|so tho|rs.
°1oss |t,' l say. °1oss a|| ot |t. l'vo rosorvod p|onty ot
|ottovor tru|t tor any |mmorta|s who t|nd thomso|vos
trappod. 3ut as tor tho o||x|r, wo'vo no nood ot |t-|t's
t|mo to wash our hands ot |t.'
Wo got to work, mo romov|ng tho tops, thon
hand|ng h|m tho bott|os, wh|ch ho ompt|os down tho
dra|n. And whon wo'ro t|n|shod, ho turns to mo, grasps
my hands |n h|s, and to||s mo to onv|s|on a
sh|mmor|ng go|don vo||.
°3ummor|and?' l qu|rk my brow, wondor|ng why l
nood to pack a bag tor 3ummor|and whon you can just
man|tost anyth|ng you want, and wondor|ng |t wo'|| st|||
bo ab|o to got thoro. Know|ng l'|| bo crushod |t |t turns
out wo can't.
3ut ho just shakos h|s hoad and says, °Bo|lovo.'
3o l do.
And a momont |ator, wo'ro stopp|ng through tho
||ght, stopp|ng r|ght |nto that vast tragrant t|o|d, too||ng
happy, sat|st|od, p|oasod to know |t's st||| w|th|n tho
roa|m ot poss|b|||t|os.
0amon |ooks at mo, as ro||ovod as l am whon ho
says, °And now tor part two.'
l wa|t, ho|d my broath, hav|ng no |doa what that
m|ght bo.
°lomombor whon V||os usod to ta|k about us a||
backpack|ng around Europo attor h|gh schoo|?'
l nod, grow|ng ovon moro porp|oxod.
°Wo||, l thought |t soundod ||ko a groat |doa. And
s|nco wo novor wont on that vacat|on bocauso ot tho
journoy to tho troo and a||, and s|nco you got a |ato
co||ogo adm|ss|on, l t|gurod wo'd tako h|m up on |t.'
°3ut V||os |sn't go|ng to Europo,' l say, know|ng tor
a tact that ho's on h|s way to a b|g aud|t|on |n low
York C|ty and that |o|t's go|ng w|th h|m. And, |t
momory sorvos, l prophos|zod that ho'd got that
aud|t|on-ho's go|ng to bo a hugo 3roadway star, and
|o|t's go|ng to bo by h|s s|do tor a vory |ong t|mo.
°l know. 3ut thon l t|gurod that doosn't moan wo
can't go, r|ght? 3o, |t |t's okay w|th you, l thought wo'd
start |n lta|y. l can't wa|t to show you around my o|d
haunts-||ronzo |s a boaut|tu| c|ty, l know you'|| |ovo |t.
And tho tood!' |o |ooks at mo, gr|nn|ng whon ho says,
°Wo||, l hoar |t's vast|y |mprovod ovor tho |ast s|x
hundrod yoars.'
°3o . wo'ro go|ng to tho 3ummor|and vors|on ot
lta|y?' l say, try|ng not to sound as d|sappo|ntod as l
too|.
3ut 0amon just |aughs. °lo. l had two roasons tor
com|ng horo-ono, to soo |t wo cou|d-and two,
bocauso l wantod to boat tho tratt|c. Wo'ro dopart|ng
out ot lAX. Our p|ano |oavos at-' |o g|ancos at h|s
watch thon at mo. °Our p|ano |oavos |n t|ttoon
m|nutos.'
°3ut wo havo to go through socur|ty! And got to tho
gato, and-'
Vy words stoppod by h|s own whon ho says,
°5bbb . just c|oso your oyos and p|cturo yourso|t |n
soat throo-A w|th mo s|tt|ng r|ght thoro bos|do you.'
torty-tivo
Wo |and |n our soats. And dosp|to my toars, thoro's so
much prot||ght commot|on no ono sooms to not|co
how wo just suddon|y appoar. And whon 0amon
bus|os h|mso|t w|th p|ac|ng my bag |n tho ovorhoad
b|n, that's whon l not|co how ho ta||od to br|ng ono ot
h|s own.
°What about you?' l watch as ho takos tho soat
bos|do mo. °l know |t's go|ng to bo an adjustmont, but
you can't just man|tost now stutt whonovor you nood |t,
you know? You'ro go|ng to havo to actua||y go to tho
storo and buy |t. You'ro gonna nood monoy and crod|t
cards and passports and-oh my gawd, d|d you
romombor to br|ng monoy and crod|t cards and
passports? And why aro wo ovon t|y|ng? Why d|dn't
wo just mako |t so wo |andod |n lta|y?'
0amon gr|ns, stops tho t|ow ot words w|th h|s ||ps.
lnstant|y d|sso|v|ng my worr|os, rom|nd|ng mo ot what
mattors most.
|o pu||s away, brushos h|s hand across my chook,
tuck|ng somo stray strands back boh|nd my oar whon
ho says, °lo worr|os. l'vo got |t covorod. Evoryth|ng's
hand|od. Wo'ro good. Oh, and as tar as tho p|ano
goos, you wantod to bo norma|.'
°||rst c|ass |s norma|?' l g|anco around tho
spac|ous, wo||-appo|ntod cab|n, thon back at h|m.
°lt |s w|th mo.' |o |aughs.
l nod, onjoy|ng tho warmth ot h|s hand |n m|no,
gaz|ng out tho w|ndow as tho p|ano makos tor tho
runway. Unab|o to stop marvo||ng at how tar wo'vo
como-how tar wo'vo yot st||| to go. loa||z|ng l too|
happ|or than l havo |n a vory |ong t|mo-porhaps
maybo, ovor.
1ust about to d|roct my attont|on to tho satoty v|doo
(now that l'm no |ongor |mmorta| l'm torcod to worry
about mundano th|ngs ||ko that), whon l soo hor.
3tand|ng on tho w|ng, jump|ng up and down and
wav|ng at mo.
l||oy.
Vy adorab|y sassy, ghost|y ||tt|o s|stor-and trom
what l can soo, 3uttorcup |s r|ght thoro bos|do hor.
l gasp |n amazomont, pross my hand to tho w|ndow.
Wondor|ng |t tho v|s|on |s roa|, |t l'm tru|y ab|o to soo
hor now, or |t |t's just w|shtu| th|nk|ng. 1hon 3uttorcup
barks and wags h|s ta||, as l||oy |ooks a|| around, as
though sho's oxpoct|ng to soo somobody, as though
sho was to||owod.
l turn to 0amon and yank on h|s s|oovo, want|ng h|m
to soo what l soo. 3ut by tho t|mo wo turn, sho's gono.
And try as l m|ght, l can't br|ng hor back.
3ut l saw hor.
l know tor a tact |t was hor.
l a|so know that l'|| soo hor aga|n. lt not |o|||ng on
a|rp|ano w|ngs, thon on tho othor s|do ot that br|dgo.
l just hopo that ono doosn't como anyt|mo soon.
1ho p|ano p|tchos down tho runway, ga|n|ng |n
spood, so l |oan |nto 0amon. Vy hoad just moot|ng h|s
shou|dor whon a boaut|tu| rod tu||p dr|tts down out ot
nowhoro and |ands on my |ap.
1ho samo tu||p 0amon tr|od to man|tost oar||or.
Wo |ook at oach othor, our oyos w|do w|th wondor,
hav|ng a|| tho proot that wo nood that |t roa||y |s truo.
Evoryth|ng that can bo dono |n 3ummor|and, can bo
dono on tho oarth p|ano too-|t just takos a ||tt|o
|ongor, that's a||.
l p|aco my hand on tho stom, as 0amon p|acos h|s
hand ovor m|no. 1ho two ot us |oan|ng |nto oach othor,
too||ng happy, contont, oagor to ombraco whatovor
comos noxt, as tho p|ano ||tts |nto tho sky.

AIao by AIyaon NoöI
Nlgbt 5tor
Lork l|omo
5booow|ooo
B|oo Vooo
Evormoro
5blmmor
Roolooco
Croo| 5ommor
5ovlog Zoö
Klss & B|og
Logooo Covo
l|y Vo to tbo Vooo
Art Oooks ooo Prom Ooooos
loklog 10
Praiao tor tho |mmortaIa 5orioa by
AIyaon NoöI
°A|yson loö| surpassod a|| my oxpoctat|ons. lot on|y |s B|oo Vooo
an amaz|ng soquo|, |t sots tho bar tor tho rost ot th|s sor|os vory, vory
h|gh! Whon l roachod tho |ast pago ot th|s ono, a|| l cou|d say was
'wow!''
-7ooos Rooo 7oo
°loö|'s novo| |s abso|uto|y amaz|ng! |ans ot hor lmmorta|s sor|os
w||| not bo d|sappo|ntod-Evor and 0amon's |ovo |s cha||ongod ||ko
novor botoro, and tho story onds w|th a b|g, sat|sty|ng tw|st that w|||
havo roadors bogg|ng tor moro. 1h|s |ong-awa|tod |nsta||mont |s
|ncrod|b|o.'
-R7 Book Rovlows (1op l|ck)
°lt |s tho mark ot a dar|ng wr|tor to doty oxpoctat|ons, and A|yson
loö| doos that to tho powor ot ton |n B|oo Vooo. l guarantoo you w|||
havo no |doa what's com|ng |n tho socond book ot tho sor|os wh||o
A|yson loö| surpr|sos you w|th a b|g, tat tw|st and |oavos you
want|ng moro, moro, moro.'
-7bo Book Cblck
°A mosmor|z|ng ta|o ot toonago angst, |ovo, and sacr|t|co w|th p|onty
ot crossovor appoa| . 1ho start||ng but sat|sty|ng ond|ng shows
that loö| knows how to koop hor aud|onco hookod. Evor's
supornatura| strugg|os aro a capt|vat|ng motaphor tor toonago toars
about |ovo, ro|at|onsh|ps, and grow|ng up.'
-Pob|lsbors ¼ook|y (starrod rov|ow)
°B|oo Vooo was |ncrod|b|o. lt you thought Evormoro was tu|| ot
susponso and unknowns, just wa|t unt|| you road B|oo Vooo.. 1ho
p|ot was |nsano, and l moan that |n a good way. loö| took th|s novo|
|n a d|roct|on l was novor oxpoct|ng, rosu|t|ng |n an omot|ona| ro||or-
coastor r|do that l novor wantod to ond. |abu|ous.'
-7bo 5tory 5lroo
°1ho YA paranorma| gonro has a t|aw|oss d|amond among tho
goms w|th B|oo Vooo. l was movod to toars by a coup|o ot sconos,
ospoc|a||y noar tho ond. Vs. loö| doosn't back away trom omot|on,
|nstoad sho has tho ab|||ty to roach |nto your chost and tw|st your
hoart.'
-Nlgbt Ow| Romooco
°Ono ot tho bost books l'vo road th|s yoar . W|th |mmorta| |ovors,
trustworthy tr|onds, botray|ng tortuno to||ors, and troaky |dont|ca|
tw|ns, what moro cou|d you ask tor? B|oo Vooo has mo bogg|ng tor
5booow|ooo! l can't wa|t tor tho noxt |n tho sor|os.'
-7bo YA Book B|oggor
°A|yson loö| has many ta|onts to sharo as a wr|tor, and sho provos
|t aga|n and aga|n w|th hor amaz|ng lmmorta|s sor|os. 3ho wr|tos
w|th an |ntons|ty and a pass|on, hor words woav|ng portoct|y
togothor to croato an ovorwho|m|ng oxpor|onco tor tho sonsos and
tho hoart.'
-7ooo Rooos
°Vystory + romanco + supornatura| + drama = dot|n|to appoa| to
toons.'
-Oroogo Coost Vogozloo
°1ho lmmorta|s sor|os |s so un|quo, |t's ||ko a broath ot trosh a|r..
loö| knows how to pu|| you |nto hor wor|d w|th boaut|tu| |magory and
mosmor|z|ng words. B|oo Vooo |s a pago-turnor that w||| koop you
road|ng unt|| tho |ast pago. 1ust whon you th|nk you havo tho p|ot
t|gurod out, A|yson throws |n anothor tw|st, mak|ng |t |mposs|b|o to
put th|s book down.'
-b stars! lootostlc Book Rovlows
°Evormoro w||| thr||| many toon tantasy-susponso roadors,
ospoc|a||y tans ot 3tophon|o Voyor's 1w|||ght sor|os.. loö| croatos
a cast ot rocogn|zab|y d|vorso toons |n a roa||st|c h|gh schoo|
sott|ng, a|ong w|th just tho r|ght tons|on to mako Evor's d|scovory ot
hor own |mmorta||ty-shou|d sho chooso |t-oxc|t|ng and crod|b|o.'
-Book|lst
°3oaut|tu| ma|n charactors, tonso budd|ng romanco, a dark socrot,
mystor|ous |mmorta|s-what moro cou|d you ask trom th|s modorn
goth|c romanco?'
-1ostloo Vogozloo
°Whon l got a copy ot Evormoro, l sat down to road |t, |ntond|ng to
on|y road a chaptor or two. lnstoad, l b|azod through tho t|rst hundrod
pagos botoro l know |t . and thon l d|dn't want to put tho book
down. Excopt l cou|dn't koop my oyos opon any |ongor. 3o l p|ckod |t
up tho noxt morn|ng and t|n|shod |t. low l can't wa|t t||| 1u|y tor tho
socond book, to soo what happons noxt.'
-B|og Crltlcs Vogozloo
°Got roady tor a w||d r|do that |s t|||od w|th tw|st|ng paths and
mystory, |ovo and tantasy.. 1ho wr|t|ng sty|o, story, and charactors
aro a b|t ||ko Voyor's and Varr's popu|ar books, but wr|tton w|th a
now tw|st and vo|co. And attor road|ng tho book, you too w||| probab|y
want your own 0amon, ovon |t |t moans mak|ng tho u|t|mato
sacr|t|co.'
-b/b stars! 7bo Book Ooooo
°loadors who onjoy tho works ot l. C. Cast and 3tophon|o Voyor
w||| |ovo th|s outstand|ng paranorma| toon-||t thr|||or.'
-Vlowost Book Rovlow
°l tound myso|t unw||||ng to put tho book down, ovon though l had to
at somo po|nts, bocauso l wantod to know what was go|ng to
happon.. Evor was so roa| and hor omot|ons woro so bo||ovab|o
that |t was a ||tt|o croopy. lt's ||ko A|yson loö| |s actua||y a gr|ov|ng,
|ovostruck toonagor. 3ho got Evor comp|oto|y portoct. And by portoct,
l moan do||ghttu||y t|awod and doop.'
-7bo lroootlc Roooor
°Evormoro |s a wondortu| book that l bo||ovo wou|d bo a |ovo|y
add|t|on to any ||brary.. 0ot|n|to|y a book that tans ot 3tophon|o
Voyor and Vo||ssa Varr shou|d add to tho|r co||oct|ons. 0ot|n|to|y
ongag|ng and w||| catch your attont|on tho m|nuto you opon to tho
t|rst pago!'
-Vloo oí o Blb|lopbl|o
°A|yson loö| croatos a groat p|cturo ot oach and ovory charactor |n
tho book. l am a tan ot tho 1w||ght sor|os and l rocommond th|s
book to thoso who ||ko tho sor|os as wo||. lt |s a vory qu|ck road, w|th
a|| tho |ntorost|ng tw|st and turns.'
-l|omlogoot Book Rovlows
°l |ovod th|s book. lt roa||y koops your attont|on throughout tho story,
bocauso tho puzz|o gots p|ocod togothor b|t by b|t, but you don't
know oxact|y what happonod unt|| tho ond. 1ho on|y th|ng that
d|sappo|nts mo |s that tho socond book won't bo pub||shod tor a
wh||o. l wou|d dot|n|to|y rocommond th|s to my tr|onds.'
-Portsmootb 7ooo Book Rovlow
°1h|s |s tho t|rst |nsta||mont ot tho lmmorta|s sor|os. Vs. loö| pons
a wo||-dota||od story that makos |t oasy tor tho roador to v|sua||zo
both tho charactors and tho wor|d around thom. Evormoro has a
tam|||ar thomo that attracts roadors, but |ns|do th|s book you'|| t|nd
that tho author has addod somo un|quo dota||s that sots |t apart.'
-Lorqoo Rovlows
°Evormoro's susponso, oor|o mystory, and strango mag|c woro
|ntorost|ng|y ontorta|n|ng.. l tound Evor to bo a charactor l cou|d
roa||y rospoct.. locommondod.'
-7bo Bookworm
°Evormoro was a groat way to ||ghton my road|ng |oad th|s w|ntor
and prov|dod mo w|th a croat|vo, mag|ca| story that l roa||y onjoyod.
1h|s |s tho t|rst |n a sor|os tor loö| and l th|nk sho may havo a h|t on
hor hands.. Evormoro has good and ov||, ||kab|o charactors, v|v|d
doscr|pt|ons, and a good story.'
-P|ooot Books
°l to|| |nto |t oas||y, and |ovod tho wor|d loö| croatod.. 1ho tact that
Evor had psych|c powors was tru|y |ntorost|ng. 1hoy t|owod noat|y
through tho book and l to|t Evor's pa|n. 1rust mo, th|s book was
roa||y good. l cou|dn't put |t down. A|yson loö| croatod an amaz|ng
now wor|d, and attor th|s book l am so cur|ous to soo whoro |t hoads
bocauso honost|y, l havo no |doa.'
-Rooolog Koops Yoo 5ooo
°Evor |s an oasy charactor to ||ko. l roa||y to|t tor hor bocauso ot a||
sho |ost and what sho strugg|od w|th da||y.. Evormoro was a roa||y
tast, ongag|ng road w|th somo groat charactors. lt |s tho t|rst |n a
sor|os, so l'm oagor to soo |t wo w||| |oarn moro about Evor, 0amon,
and tr|onds |n tho noxt ono . |t's suro to bo a groat road.'
-Nlojo Rovlows
°1ho wr|t|ng horo |s c|oar, tho story wo||-dot|nod, and narrator Evor
has an ongag|ng vo|co that toons shou|d onjoy.'
-1oooory Vogozloo
°Evormoro |s a trosh and or|g|na| work that . branchos out and
oxp|oros now ground. 0ot|n|to|y rocommondod.'
-Coo| Voms Ro|o!
°l tota||y lOvE A|yson loö|'s Evormoro.. loö| has do||vorod a
do||c|ous|y trosh now sor|os that w||| bo tho noxt now th|ng that has
ovory toon and ovon adu|ts ovorywhoro hookod and wa|t|ng tor moro.
. 1h|s |s a koopor and a book that you havo to go out and buy r|ght
now bocauso |t you don't you w||| bo m|ss|ng out. loop|o w||| bo
ask|ng |t you havo boon ||v|ng undor a rock |t you don't g|vo
Evormoro a try, and that |s just not accoptab|o.'
-7o|k Aboot Vy lovorlto Aotbors
1h|s |s a work ot t|ct|on. A|| ot tho charactors, organ|zat|ons, and
ovonts portrayod |n th|s novo| aro o|thor products ot tho author's
|mag|nat|on or aro usod t|ct|t|ous|y.
EvEllA31llG. Copyr|ght t 2011 by A|yson loö|, llC. A|| r|ghts
rosorvod. |or |ntormat|on, addross 3t. Vart|n's lross, 17b ||tth
Avonuo, low York, l.Y. 10010.
www.stmart|ns.com
l|brary ot Congross Cata|og|ng-|n-lub||cat|on 0ata
loö1, A|yson.
Evor|ast|ng / A|yson loö|.-1st od.
p. cm.
l33l 078-0-812-04207-b
[1. lsych|c ab|||ty-||ct|on. 2. lmmorta||ty-||ct|on.
8. 3upornatura|-||ct|on. 4. lovo-||ct|on.| l. 1|t|o.
lZ7.l0718bE| 2011
[||c|-dc22
2011008102
||rst Ed|t|on: 1uno 2011
ol33l 078-1-4200-8102-7
||rst 3t. Vart|n's Gr|tt|n o3ook Ed|t|on: 1uno 2011

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