I dropped the doll on the floor. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long; Noah returned in short order with lighter fluid and kitchen matches in arm. He approached the fireplace and struck a match. The smell of sulfur filled the air.
“Go on,” he said, once the fire was set.
Showtime. I picked the doll up off the floor and threw it into the flames, swelling with relief as they consumed it. But then the air filled with a bitter, familiar smell.
Noah made a face. “What is that?”
“It smells like . . .” It took me a few seconds to finally place it. “Like burning hair,” I finally said.
We were both quiet after that. We watched the fire and waited until the doll’s arms melted into nothing and the head blackened and fell off. But then I noticed something curl up in the flames. Something that didn’t look like cloth.
“Noah . . .”
“I see it.” His voice was resigned.
I took a step closer. “Is that—”
“It’s paper,” Noah said, confirming my fear.
I swore. “We have to put it out!”
Noah shrugged languidly. “It’ll be gone by the time I bring back water.”
“Go anyway! Jesus.”
Noah turned on his heel and left as I crouched over the fireplace, trying to see more clearly. The paper inside the doll was still burning. I leaned in even closer; the heat lit my skin, bringing color to my cheeks as I moved closer—
“Move,” Noah said. I drew back and Noah doused the flames. Steam rose and hissed from the logs.
I immediately reached toward the dying embers, hopeful that maybe some part of the paper escaped unscathed, but Noah placed a firm hand on my waist. “Careful,” he said, drawing me back.
“Whatever it was,” he said firmly, “it’s gone now.”
I was stung by regret. What if it was something important? Something from my grandmother?
What if it had something to do with me?
I closed my eyes and tried to stop punishing myself. There was nothing I could do about the paper now, but at least the doll was gone. I wouldn’t have to look at it anymore and Jude wouldn’t be able to scare me with it anymore. That was worth something.
That was worth a lot.
Finally, the fire died out and I stood over it, satisfied that nothing was left. But then something caught my eye. Something silver in the ash.
I peered closer. “What is that?”
Noah noticed it, too. He leaned down to look at it with me. “A button?”
I shook my head. “There were no buttons.” I reached for the thing, whatever it was, but Noah pulled back my wrist and shook his head.
“It’s still hot,” he said. But then Noah crouched down and reached for the ashes himself.
I moved to stop him. “I thought it was still hot?”
He glanced back over his shoulder. “Have you forgotten?”
That he could heal? No. But, “Doesn’t it hurt?”
An indifferent shrug was my only answer as Noah stuck his hand into the dead fire. He didn’t flinch as he sifted through the ashes.
Noah carefully extracted the shining thing. He placed it in his open palm, brushed off the soot and stood.
It was an inch long, no bigger. A slim line of silver—half of it hammered into the shape of a feather, the other half a dagger. It was interesting and beautiful, just like the boy who always wore it.
Noah was impossibly still as I pulled down the collar of his T-shirt. I looked at the charm around his neck, the one he never took off, and then stared back at the charm in his hand.
They were exactly the same.
WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON?
“Noah,” I said, my voice quiet.
He didn’t answer. He was still staring.
I needed to sit down. I didn’t bother with furniture. The floor would do just fine.
Noah hadn’t moved.
“Noah,” I said again.
No response. Nothing.
He looked at me, finally. “Where did your pendant come from?” I asked him.
His voice was low and cold. “I found it. In my mother’s things.”
“Ruth?” I asked, though I already knew the answer.
Noah shook his head, just as I expected him to. His eyes locked on the pendant again. “It was just after we’d moved here. I’d claimed the library for my room and had taken my guitar up when—I don’t know.” He ran a hand over his jaw. “I went back downstairs feeling like I had to unpack, even though I was jet-lagged and exhausted and planned to pass out for a week. But I headed directly to this one box; inside was a small chest filled with my mother’s—Naomi’s—silver. I began setting the silver aside for absolutely no reason at all and then took the chest apart. Beneath the drawer that held the knives, there it was,” he said, nodding at the charm. “I started wearing it that day.”
Noah reached down—to hand me the charm, I thought—but instead pulled me up from the floor and onto the sheet-covered sofa next to him. He handed me the pendant. My fingers curled around it, just as Noah asked, “Where did you get that doll?”
“It was my grandmother’s,” I said, staring at my closed fist.
“But where did it come from?”
I was about to say that I didn’t know, but then remembered the blurred edges of a dream. Hushed voices. A dark hut. A kind girl, sewing me a friend.
Maybe I did know. Maybe I watched while it was made.
Impossible though it was, I told Noah what I remembered. He listened intently, his eyes narrowing as I spoke.
“I never saw the charm, though,” I said when I finished. “The girl never put it inside.”
“It could have been sewn in later,” he said, his voice level.
With whatever that paper was too. “You think—you think it really happened?” I asked. “You think the dream could be real?”
Noah said nothing.
“But if it was real, if it really happened . . .” My voice trailed off, but Noah finished my sentence.
“Then it wasn’t a dream,” he said to himself. “It was a memory.”
We were both quiet as I tried to wrap my mind around the idea.
It made no sense. To remember something, you have to experience it. “I’ve barely left the suburbs,” I said. “I’ve never seen jungles and villages. How could I remember something I’ve never seen?”
Noah stared at nothing and ran his hand slowly through his hair. His voice was very quiet. “Genetic memory.”