“He won’t,” he said again. Then, “I could try Ruth, maybe. She was there also.”
One look at him told me I wouldn’t get any further, not unless I pushed, and I wasn’t sure if I should. Not about his family.
I looked back at the picture in my hands. Then wandered out of my room and into the hallway. Noah followed. I glanced down at the photograph and up at my grandmother’s portrait that hung on the wall and then I realized what was off.
“She looks exactly the same,” I said.
Noah’s eyes followed mine. It was a long time before either of us spoke.
“They couldn’t have been studying there at the same time,” I said, once we were back in my room. I sat back down on my bed. “My grandmother would’ve been living in the States when your mother was in school.”
“But she used to go to London every year when your mum was growing up. Maybe they met on one of those trips?”
“I guess, but they seem kind of . . . familiar, don’t they?” I said, staring at the photograph. “Like friends.”
“Everyone seems that way in pictures.”
I rubbed my forehead. “Why take a picture with someone you barely know at all, then? It’s weird.”
Noah’s eyebrows knitted together. “Is it possible she may have gone to London more than your mother knew?”
I sighed. “At this point, anything’s possible,” I said, and paused. “Maybe she was immortal.”
At that, Noah cracked a smile. “I was going to suggest ‘time traveler,’ but, sure.” He stretched his arms casually behind his head, exposing a sliver of stomach above the low waist of his jeans.
Torture. I cleared my throat and looked back at the photograph. “My mom said the portrait is the only picture she has of my grandmother. She’d die if she saw yours.”
Noah’s smile vanished. His expression made me want to talk about something else.
“Do you still have the pendant?” I asked.
“Yes.” The planes of his face were smooth. “Do you want it back?”
I did not. “It’s safer with you,” I said. “I’m afraid I’d lose it.” Or throw it away. “I was just wondering if maybe you found out anything else?”
He gave a single shake of his head before asking, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?”
“I’m going to have Charles look into this,” he said, indicating the picture.
“And Charles would be . . .”
“The private investigator.”
“Did he turn up anything on Jude?”
Noah looked away. “Dead end after dead end. Did you find the answers you were looking for in that book?”
“I haven’t had a chance to read it yet,” I said nonchalantly.
A half-smile tugged at Noah’s mouth. “You fell asleep, didn’t you?”
I lifted my chin. “No.”
“I didn’t fall asleep.”
Busted. “Six,” I said. “But I was really tired.”
“No judgment. I could barely make it through that obscenely pompous introduction.”
“What about the Lukumi situation?” I said, changing the subject. “Any luck?”
Noah’s voice brightened a bit. “I did in fact return to Little Havana while you were at Horizons, and I canvassed the botanicas, just as you asked.”
“Well,” he said slowly. “Imagine for a moment how receptive they were when I walked in there and started asking questions.”
“What? Your Spanish is perfect.”
He arched an eyebrow. “One look at me and their jaws visibly clamped shut. One owner thought I was with the Health Department and started showing me around the place, repeating ‘No goats, no goats.’”
“Glad to amuse you.”
“I get my kicks where I can these days. Speaking of Horizons, I almost had an . . . incident.”
“Of what nature?” Noah asked carefully.
“This girl, Phoebe—she keeps pushing me. I almost lost it with her.” Remembering filled me with frustration. “What if someone pisses me off and I tell them to go jump off a bridge?”
Noah shook his head. “You’d never say that.”
“You’d tell them to go die in a fire.”
“Helpful. Thank you.”
Noah stood then, and joined me on my bed. “I only said it because I’m sure that’s not how it works.”
“How does it work?” I asked out loud, as my fingers curled into the blanket. They were nearly touching his. My eyes traveled up to his face. “How do you heal things?”
I thought I saw a faint tinge of surprise in Noah’s expression at the sudden shift in the conversation but he answered evenly. “You know that everyone has fingerprints, obviously.”
“To me, everything has an aural imprint as well. An individual tone. And when someone—or something—is ill or hurt, the tone is off. Broken. I just . . . innately know how to correct it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Because you’re not musical.”
He shrugged. “It’s not an insult. Daniel would get it. If your mother wasn’t in the kitchen, I’d show you.”
“You have a piano. Anyway, it’s like . . .” He stared straight ahead, looking for words. “Imagine the melody to a song you know well. And then imagine one note of that song being changed to the wrong key, or to a completely different note.”
“But how do you fix it?”
“If you asked a basketball player how to shoot a perfect free throw, he wouldn’t be able to describe the physiological process that makes it happen. He just . . . does it.”
I inhaled. “But there are so many people.”
“It must get noisy.”
“It does,” Noah said, “I told you before, I learned to tune it out unless I want to focus on one sound in particular.” He smiled. “I prefer,” he said, trailing a finger down my arm, “to listen to you.”
“What do I sound like?” I asked, more breathily than I intended. God, so predictable.