I opened the door and stepped out into the darkness. “True,” I said. “And I was fine before.”
“I suppose that depends on your definition of ‘fine.’?”
“Look,” I said to Daniel and Jamie, “what’s the most terrifying thing you can think of in these tunnels? Rats? Mole people?”
“Evil mastermind hell bent on killing you?” Jamie suggested.
“Wrong. The most terrifying thing in these tunnels is me.” I shut the door on both of them and jumped onto the tracks.
The girl’s cell phone buzzed in my hand.
WALK TOWARD THE END OF THE TRAIN UNTIL YOU PASS IT. GO TO THE THIRD NICHE WITH A DOOR.
The curved walls seemed to stretch into infinity, but I started walking, following a miniature creek between the tracks that was choked with garbage. Air ruffled papers taped to the graffitied, wet-looking walls. My pulse began to race as I neared the end of the train, but not from fear. I believed what I’d told my brother and Jamie. I believed in myself. I would find Noah, and I would punish whoever had taken him from me.
I passed the first niche, and then the second. But before I came to the third, I heard my name shouted behind me.
“Mara?” Daniel’s voice echoed in the tunnel. Panic seized me.
“Wherefore art thou, Mara Dyer?” Jamie’s voice this time.
“That means ‘why’, not ‘where,’?” I heard my brother say. “Just saying.”
“Go back!” I yelled automatically, then cursed myself. Not for giving away my position to my mystery texter but for giving it away to my brother. Marco Polo used to be his favorite game.
Daniel yelled, “No chance! I’m your big brother. It’s my job to protect you.”
And then a shadow peeled itself from the wall, forming the outline of someone I knew, of the person I’d expected ever since I’d seen that first text. Ever since I’d heard the girl on the subway say my name, really.
“Don’t hurt them,” I said to Jude, and I meant it. “Please.”
“I didn’t want to,” he replied, and punched me in the face.
THERE WAS NO KNOCK ON the professor’s door before it opened, throwing a shaft of dim, gray light into the room.
A girl stood in the doorway, but did not enter. She was half in shadow, but I did not need to see her to know who she was.
The professor lifted a glass of amber liquid to his lips and sipped as he wrote in his notebook. “Come in, Naomi.”
Naomi Tate hurried in, bringing the scents of rain and nervousness with her. She shut the door forcefully, rattling the shutters, and a few leaves that had clung to her coat scattered to the scratched wooden floor.
“Bit early to be drinking, Professor?” she said casually, as she shrugged off her coat.
“Perhaps it’s a bit late.” He continued to write without looking up.
Naomi’s hair was damp and wild, and she tied what she could into a messy knot at the nape of her neck as she moved in front of the professor’s desk. Fine blond wisps curled around her forehead and temples, framing her face.
That face. With high cheekbones and a long, elegant nose, Naomi was beautiful in a rare, peculiar way, in a way that demands attention. I’d known her for a year and still, I could never quite get used to looking at her.
But there was something different about her today. I shifted in the tufted, battered leather armchair I always sat in, my island amid the chaos that was the professor’s Cambridge office, and sniffed the air. The scents in the room were all familiar: old paper mingling with leather and mold; the coriander and musk that was the professor; the paperwhites and cedar that was Naomi. And something else, something—
“What can I do for you, Mrs. Shaw?” he asked. He took another slow sip of whiskey.
Mrs. Shaw. She was Mrs. Shaw, now. I kept forgetting. She’d married the grandson of Elliot, whom I last saw at eight years old, throwing books and toys about his room, because he couldn’t find the one he wanted. I did not know her husband well, but my impression was that David Shaw was not terribly different.
Naomi refused to answer the professor; she would not fight for his attention. She would make him fight for hers. I loved that about her.
After several seconds, he finally abandoned his notebook and looked up at her. His lips pulled back into a smile. “You’re pregnant,” he finally said.
A sharp intake of breath. Mine. “How far along?”
I hadn’t heard the professor rise from his desk, but he was standing when he spoke. “Early,” he said, approaching Naomi with slow, graceful steps. “About two weeks?”
Naomi didn’t speak, but she nodded. She rubbed at a knot in the ancient desk with her finger—she was nervous, but grinning madly anyway.
I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “It’s too early,” I said to the professor. “She might not be—”
“I am,” she said, in a tone that left no room for argument. “I am.”
The professor ran a hand over his chin and mouth. Then said, “May I?” He indicated her flat stomach. Naomi nodded.
The professor drew nearer, until he was close enough to touch her. I noticed the way her muscles tightened in apprehension, the way her aqua eyes dropped to the floor as he reached out to her. When he placed his hand low on her belly, Naomi flinched. A tiny movement, one she tried to disguise. If it bothered him, he didn’t show it.
“Three fifteen,” he said, and withdrew his hand. Naomi relaxed. “What does it mean to you?”
Her cheeks flushed, and she began rubbing at the pockmarked desk again. “The day I conceived, I think. March fifteenth.”
“Does David know?” I asked quickly.
Naomi shook her head. “Not yet,” she said, and swallowed. She glanced up at the professor. “I wanted to tell you first.”
“Thank you.” The professor inclined his head. He leaned over his desk and began to write. “For now, I’d prefer you didn’t mention it to him. Can you do that, Naomi?”
“Of course,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“You’ll be having a boy, you know.”
All traces of her earlier irritation vanished. A smile lifted the corner of her mouth. “A boy,” she repeated, as if saying the word for the first time. “You’ve seen him?”
The professor hesitated for a moment, then said, “Yes.”
“Tell me everything,” she said, her face lit with excitement.