Mrs. Dover busied herself about the room, throwing them open. Dozens of arched windows emerged, broken up into wavy panes of glass. The lady smiled.
“You can see the gardens from up here. Come, dear, look!”
I followed her, and peered out the windows. The gardens were brown with the season, and one of the leafless trees was choked with blackbirds.
“Before supper I shall introduce you to everyone in the household. The boys, Elliot and Simon, are with the nanny at present, but I shall have Mrs. Dover send word to the cook that they are to dine with us tonight so they might meet you.”
Mrs. Dover inclined her head. “Yes, my lady,” she said, and left.
The lady approached me and smiled. “And tomorrow your new tutor shall arrive, at my husband’s direction. I admit that if he had not asked it of me on his deathbed, I wouldn’t think of it, but I will honor his wishes, no matter how unorthodox. No one must know, however. Do you understand?”
I nodded at her.
“Good girl. Everything has been arranged, and the tutor is eager to meet you.”
She smiled. “I should like you to address me as Aunt Sarah. We are to be family, after all.”
“Yes, Aunt Sarah.”
“Clever girl,” she said. “And yet I find I still do not know how to address you. Strangely, my husband never mentioned your name.”
Because when he knew me, I had not yet chosen one.
“And neither did Mr. Barbary,” she finished. “Tell me, dear, what shall I call you?”
Before I could answer, the flock of blackbirds scattered, screaming, into the air, diverting Aunt Sarah’s attention.
I took a moment to think.
“There is power in a name,” Sister had said. I did not want to give out the one I’d shared only with her and Uncle, so I’d given anyone else who had asked a different one instead. The name I had given to my doll, before I’d known what it meant. I decided to give Aunt Sarah the same one.
“Mara,” I told her as we watched the birds disappear into the sky.
I WOKE UP WHILE IT was still dark. I dressed in Noah’s clothes—his T-shirt, which hung loose over my narrow shoulders, and his jeans, which I had to roll up before I could walk. I didn’t care how I looked; wearing his clothes made me feel closer to him, and I needed that for what I would have to do today.
My heart pounded against my ribs as I opened his laptop and powered it on. There might have been something on it that would give us some clue, some hint that would help me find him, and no matter what else I found on it, I needed to find that. I needed to know he was okay.
I was prompted for a password, and I guessed wrong once, twice, four times, then eight. Nothing I tried worked—no variations of his name, his pets’ names, his birthday, even my birthday. I slammed the laptop shut, threw it into his bag, and knocked on Stella’s door before the sun rose. She answered it blearily.
Not really. “I want to go as soon as we can.”
She stood there for a minute, as if she were trying to translate what I’d said, but she finally nodded. “Ten minutes.”
Jamie didn’t answer the first or second time I knocked; I stood there for what felt like hours before he finally woke up.
“Pack up. I want to go.”
“Because we have to find Noah.”
Jamie blinked, and I thought he would argue, but he said, “Five minutes.” And then he shut the door on me.
We walked out of the bed-and-breakfast without breakfast, and, as Stella complained, without much bed, either, but it would be a while before we reached Miami. Stella could nap in the car. On our way out we managed to steal—sorry, “borrow”—a car belonging to an early-rising guest, thanks to Jamie. It was comfortable and roomy, but Jamie warned us not to get attached to it—we’d be ditching it as soon as we reached Miami. After that we would borrow another one, and pay a visit to Noah’s parents, then ours.
Stella’s mouth hung open when we crossed the bridge that led to the gated island Noah lived on. The farther in we drove, the more extravagant the houses became. Noah’s parents’ house (mansion) towered over the center of a sprawling green lawn dotted with Greek fountains. Palm trees framed the driveway, which was blocked by an iron gate.
The video camera swiveled in our direction. I’d already told Jamie what to say.
“Hi,” he said, as if reading from a script. “I’m here to see Noah? I’m a friend from school?”
There was a click, and then a voice on the intercom. “No visitors are to be admitted at present, I’m afraid.”
I knew that voice. “Albert?” The Shaws’ butler. He’d met me before. I prayed that he would remember. “It’s Mara Dyer—I have something of Noah’s—”
“He’s . . . he’s unavailable, miss.”
Unavailable. Unavailable dead or unavailable alive?
“Where is he?” I asked.
There was a pause. “I’m afraid—” My heart lodged in my throat. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.”
I tried to stay calm. I had to stay calm, or we would be thrown out of there with more questions and fewer answers than we’d arrived with.
“Can I give you something to give to him?”
There was no answer, but the gate swung open. I leaned my head back against the seat in relief as Jamie drove forward.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Jamie said. He’d said that before. Every time, actually.
Watching him exercise his ability was sort of fascinating. He worked himself up into an anxious, nervous frenzy, wondering out loud if he could do it, mumbling to himself about the consequences. It reminded me of something I’d read once, about divers making themselves hyperventilate before they dove, to force more oxygen into their lungs or something. Since we were triggered by stress and fear and possibly pain, Jamie freaking out about whether or not he could work his magic made it more likely that he could.
Albert was waiting for us at the front door when we drove up. His hands were tucked behind his back. I fleetingly wondered how he would react to Jamie vomiting in one of the mammoth potted boxwood urns when he finished with him.
“You can do this,” I whispered to Jamie. And then he did.
“Hi, Albert,” Jamie said in that calm, confident, crystalline voice. “My name is Jamie Roth, though you’re not actually going to remember that, or the fact that we had this conversation, once we’ve had it.”