I walked down the long hallway, taking what felt like a last look at the pictures of my family that hung on the wall. I didn’t linger on my grandmother’s portrait. I’d seen enough of her.
Instead I tried to act casual as I hugged my father and mother and little brother before walking out the door. I could lie to them, but I couldn’t lie to myself. It felt like good-bye.
It was Stella’s turn to drive, but she didn’t start the car right away. “We can’t find the book online,” she said.
“Which means it’s probably out of print,” Jamie said. “But there’s this bookstore in Coral Gables—they have everything, and if they don’t have it, they can get it for us.”
“So we’re going there,” Stella said, and paused. “Mara? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t want to talk about it. “Just drive.”
She drove. After almost an hour in traffic, we parked across the street from the bookstore and walked into the courtyard. Jamie ordered a lemonade from the outdoor café before we went inside.
If I’d been in a better mood, I would have thought I was in heaven. It was beautiful, with gleaming wood floors and rooms of books neatly stacked from floor to ceiling.
“How have I not been here before?” I asked.
“Right?” Jamie said. “It’s the best.”
“Is there something I can help you with?” A woman stood behind us; the sleeves of her Books & Books T-shirt were rolled up, exposing colorful tattoos of illustrations from children’s books on her arms. Her dark hair was knotted up in a high, loose bun.
“Why, yes,” Jamie said, and sucked loudly on his straw. “Yes, you can.”
He told her what we were looking for, and she ducked behind the desk to try to help us.
“What did the book look like?” Jamie asked me.
I closed my eyes and pictured it. “Black cover,” I said. “Clothbound. The title was in gold.”
The woman typed some things into the computer. “Author’s name was Lenaurd?”
“Yup,” Stella said. She was practically bouncing on her heels.
“Hmm,” the woman said. She bit her thumb. “Let me try something else.”
She typed and searched and typed and searched, but eventually she let out a frustrated sigh. “That’s so weird,” she said.
“What?” Jamie asked.
“There’s literally nothing in any of the databases. I even searched for articles, thinking maybe it was published in an academic journal and then bound later, but nothing’s coming up. Not for that title or for that author. I can try calling some of the rare-book dealers we know and get back to you?”
Stella visibly deflated. Jamie thanked the woman, and the three of us walked out. Jamie ordered three sandwiches to go. I left mine untouched.
“So.” He put his hands on his hips. “Off to New York we go, yes?”
Stella wanted to fly there. She was putting all of her eggs into the New Theories basket, and she was dying to collect them. If Daniel was in New York, she reasoned, the book would be too. Jamie wanted to get there too, for other reasons. He wanted to follow the money re: Horizons, and to do that we had to follow the accountant, and the accountant was in New York. But flying meant airport security, which meant video cameras and disgruntled TSA agents and being surrounded by a lot of people. With our semi-fugitive status, Jamie thought that would be unwise. I concurred.
So we drove. For hours. We switched cars again as we passed West Palm Beach, exchanging one not-really-but-kind-of stolen car for another, in case our absence from Horizons had been noticed by anyone who might have been looking.
The green of the trees and the gray of the sky blurred together into a humid-looking soup. At some point the air thickened with fog and rain as we followed I-95 out of the city and into the middle of Nowhere, Florida. When I woke up from a spontaneous nap, I looked up and realized I could barely see the road in front of us. And stupidly, Stella hadn’t slowed down. I snapped at her about it. She ignored me.
Jamie reached between us from the backseat to turn on the radio, but the only non-staticky stations out there broadcast evangelical preachers.
“Are we there yet?” he whined.
“Don’t whine,” I said to him. “It’s unbecoming.”
“Feeling a bit moody, are we?” Stella asked. “I’d have thought a nap would’ve made you less cranky.”
“Die in a fire.”
“Maybe she’s having her period,” Jamie said.
I whipped around in my seat. “Really?”
“You are acting uncharacteristically moody.”
“Uncharacteristically?” Stella chimed in.
“I hate both of you,” I mumbled, and rested my cheek on the cool glass. I was so hot. And I was actually feeling moody. And achy. Maybe I was getting my period.
“What day is it today?”
“The twenty-first,” Stella said.
I counted. Huh. That was weird. I hadn’t had a period since—since before Horizons. More than a month ago.
Or wait, I couldn’t remember having one. That didn’t mean I hadn’t had one.
But what if—what if I hadn’t?
The thought unsettled me. I’d never been late before. But I also had never been experimented on before. First time for everything?
I stared ahead at the road and asked Stella, “When did you have your period last?”
Jamie crossed his arms, looking smug. “Called it.” I flicked his ear.
“Um, three weeks ago? I think.” She glanced at me. “When was yours?”
“A month ago,” I lied. She shot me a look. “What?” I asked.
“Nothing.” She turned back to the road, then swore. “I don’t think I packed any tampons. Did you?”
I shook my head. “Forgot.”
“As delightful as this conversation is,” Jamie said, “can I ask why we’re having it?”
I had no good answer to that question, but as I struggled to come up with some excuse, I realized Stella was pulling off toward an exit.
“I thought we were stopping in Savannah?” Jamie asked. “We’re still an hour away.”
“We have only a quarter of a tank left,” she explained. “And I need a bathroom.”
That liar. She thought I needed a bathroom, and that I was embarrassed about it, so she was covering for me so we could stop. Which was actually extremely sweet.