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Take a Hint, Dani Brown

- Talia Hibbert

But Zaf was kind, and Dani had always had a soft spot for kind men; they were fabulously rare. Unfortunately, Zaf also avoided staring at Dani’s chest with the kind of Herculean focus that suggested either disinterest or an excess of chivalry—and Dani couldn’t stand chivalry in a man. It frequently led them to make ill-advised decisions, like inviting her to have dinner before sex, or hanging around and talking after sex.

He turned, and there was Danika Brown.

She walked like she’d never stumbled, studying the empty foyer with feline eyes he had a bad habit of falling into. Her dark skin glowed prettily under the same fluorescent lights that made everyone else look ghostly, jaundiced, or gray. And even though he’d told himself a thousand times that panting after a friend—a work friend, a work friend who might also be gay—was tacky at best and creepy at worst, lust slammed into Zaf like an illegal tackle.

See, what Zaf really wanted was to be happy, and he’d read enough romance novels to know how to make that happen. First, you reached your goals and shit. (He was working on that part.) Second, you found a good woman who made you think bad thoughts and you lived happily ever after with her.

Dani was a good woman who made him think filthy thoughts, but he’d known her long enough to realize there’d be no happily ever after. They wouldn’t even get to “once upon a time.” First, because she talked about banging Janelle Monáe kind of a lot, and when he’d asked what she thought of Idris Elba (everyone who was into guys liked Idris Elba, right?), all she’d said was “He’s great. I really enjoyed Luther.” And then there was the fact that, according to staff gossip (not that Zaf approved of staff gossip—he really didn’t, he absolutely didn’t), Danika Brown was the queen of one-time things. Zaf wouldn’t know what to do with a one-time thing if it showed up with a fifty-page instruction manual and slapped him on the dick.

So she wasn’t for him and he wasn’t for her, and they were friends, so he shouldn’t even think about it.

Red walked behind the sofa and slid his hands over Chloe’s shoulders. Dani watched with no little awe as her hyperfocused older sister dropped the phone and giggled—giggled!—while Red whispered in her ear.

What an absolutely sickening display. Romance clearly melted the brains of sensible women. Dani was horribly glad she had nothing to do with it.

Squinting at the harsh light of the display, he saw Danika’s name and felt his heart kick happily in response. Shit. That couldn’t be good.

He liked her way too much, and he knew it. In the books Zaf read, making out with a friend usually lead to a happy ending, as did faking a relationship with one. But in reality, she wasn’t interested, and if he didn’t get these feelings under control, he’d only end up hurting himself.

Not safe, his nervous heart whispered. Not safe at all.

“What, are you trying to manage me now?”

His smile was slight, lopsided, and . . . fond. That was the word. Fond. “I know you have a lot on your mind, and you don’t do well with time when you’re busy, so I thought coming early might help. That’s all.”

He made it sound as if she struggled to remember his existence—which she certainly did not, thank you very much. But perhaps she behaved that way, sometimes? Dani found that idea infinitely bothersome. Zaf took up a lot of space and spread a lot of warmth and did a lot of good, and someone like that should not be treated as an afterthought. It was the principle of the matter. It was bad for the balance of the universe. So maybe, next time she was supposed to meet him, she’d set an alarm to make sure she wasn’t distracted or forgetful.

Her gaze wandered across the crowd and found his, as if she’d been searching for him, as if she wanted him to be a part of this moment.

And Zaf knew. He knew, once and for all, that he loved her. So hard and so hopelessly that he couldn’t deny it, couldn’t fight it, couldn’t hide from it for another fucking second. He loved her intelligence and her ambition, her crystals and her sticky notes, her charming smiles and her dreamy ones. He loved the way she thought in straight lines and facts but believed in magic to honor someone she’d lost. He loved her chameleon curls and her passionate speeches and her awkward unfamiliarity with her own emotions. He just—he loved her.

Zaf remembered the man he’d been three weeks ago, the man who’d decided never to fall in love with Danika Brown, and realized he’d discovered the meaning of hubris.

Oh fucking well.

Worth it.

Dani was starting to realize she’d treated the opinion of everyone who’d ever left her as an irrefutable truth: Danika Brown is not worthy of love. The trouble was, building a conclusion based on irrelevant or unreliable sources never worked. And when it came to Dani’s worthiness, the only source she should really value was herself.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January

- Alix E. Harrow

But you know what it means when you see the word Door. Maybe you’ve even seen one for yourself, standing half-ajar and rotted in an old church, or oiled and shining in a brick wall. Maybe, if you’re one of those fanciful persons who find their feet running toward unexpected places, you’ve even walked through one and found yourself in a very unexpected place indeed.

Or maybe you’ve never so much as glimpsed a Door in your life. There aren’t as many of them as there used to be.

But you still know about Doors, don’t you? Because there are ten thousand stories about ten thousand Doors, and we know them as well as we know our names. They lead to Faerie, to Valhalla, Atlantis and Lemuria, Heaven and Hell, to all the directions a compass could never take you, to elsewhere. My father—who is a true scholar and not just a young lady with an ink pen and a series of things she has to say—puts it much better: “If we address stories as archaeological sites, and dust through their layers with meticulous care, we find at some level there is always a doorway. A dividing point between here and there, us and them, mundane and magical. It is at the moments when the doors open, when things flow between the worlds, that stories happen.”

He never capitalized doors. But perhaps scholars don’t capitalize words just because of the shapes they make on the page.

Reason and rationality reigned supreme, and there was no room for magic or mystery.

There was no room, it turned out, for little girls who wandered off the edge of the map and told the truth about the mad, impossible things they found there.

At seven, I’d spent considerably more time with Mr. Locke than with my own biological father, and insofar as it was possible to love someone so naturally comfortable in three-piece suits, I loved him.

People are always uncertain about me: my skin is sort of coppery-red, as if it’s covered all over with cedar sawdust, but my eyes are round and light and my clothes are expensive. Was I a pampered pet or a serving girl? Should the poor manager serve me tea or toss me in the kitchens with the maids? I was what Mr. Locke called “an in-between sort of thing.”

People were always guessing like that, categorizing me as one thing or another, but Mr. Locke assured me they were all equally incorrect. “A perfectly unique specimen,” he called me. Once after a comment from one of the maids I’d asked him if I was colored and he’d snorted. “Odd-colored, perhaps, but hardly colored.” I didn’t really know what made a person colored or not, but the way he said it made me glad I wasn’t.

The speculating was worse when my father was with me. His skin is darker than mine, a lustrous red-black, and his eyes are so black even the whites are threaded with brown. Once you factor in the tattoos—ink spirals twisting up both wrists—and the shabby suit and the spectacles and the muddled-up accent and—well. People stared.

I still wished he were with me.

Samuel Zappia was my only nonfictional friend: a dark-eyed boy with a clinical addiction to pulpy story papers and the faraway expression of a sailor watching the horizon. He visited Locke House twice a week in a red wagon with ZAPPIA FAMILY GROCERIES, INC. painted on the side in curlicued gold lettering, and usually contrived to sneak me the latest issue of The Argosy All-Story Weekly or The Halfpenny Marvel along with the flour and onions. On weekends he escaped his family’s shop to join me in elaborate games of make-believe involving ghosts and dragons on the lakeshore. Sognatore, his mother called him, which Samuel said was Italian for good-for-nothing-boy-who-breaks-his-mother’s-heart-by-dreaming-all-the-time.

That afternoon, sitting in that lonely field beside the Door that didn’t lead anywhere, I wanted to write a different kind of story. A true kind of story, something I could crawl into if only I believed it hard enough.

Once there was a brave and temeraryous (sp?) girl who found a Door. It was a magic Door that’s why it has a capital D. She opened the Door.

For a single second—a stretched-out slice of time that began on the sinuous curve of the S and ended when my pencil made its final swirl around the period—I believed it. Not in the half-pretending way that children believe in Santa Claus or fairies, but in the marrow-deep way you believe in gravity or rain.

Something in the world shifted. I know that’s a shit description, pardon my unladylike language, but I don’t know how else to say it. It was like an earthquake that didn’t disturb a single blade of grass, an eclipse that didn’t cast a single shadow, a vast but invisible change. A sudden breeze plucked the edge of the diary. It smelled of salt and warm stone and a dozen faraway scents that did not belong in a scrubby field beside the Mississippi.

I tucked my diary back in my skirts and stood. My legs shivered beneath me like birch trees in the wind, shaking with exhaustion, but I ignored them because the Door seemed to be murmuring in a soft, clattering language made of wood rot and peeling paint. I reached toward it again, hesitated, and then—

I opened the Door, and stepped through.

My father didn’t return until November, looking as creased and tired as his luggage. His arrival followed its usual pattern: the wagon crunched its way up the drive and stopped before the stone majesty of Locke House. Mr. Locke went out to offer congratulatory backslapping and I waited in the front hall with Miss Wilda, dressed in a jumper so starched I felt like a turtle in an overlarge shell.

The door opened and he stood silhouetted, looking very dark and foreign in the pale November light. He paused on the threshold because this was generally the moment fifty pounds of excited young girl rocketed into his kneecaps.

But I didn’t move. For the first time in my life, I didn’t run to him. The silhouette’s shoulders sagged.

It seems cruel to you, doesn’t it? A sullen child punishing her father for his absence. But I assure you my intentions at the time were thoroughly muddled; there was just something about the shape of him in the doorway that made me dizzy with anger. Maybe because he smelled like jungles and steamships and adventures, like shadowed caves and unseen wonders, and my world was so ferociously mundane. Or maybe just because I’d been locked away and he hadn’t been there to open the door.

He rested a hand on my shoulder, black snakes of tattoos twisting around his wrists. “January, is something wrong?”

The familiar sound of my name in his mouth, his strange-but-not-strange accent, almost undid me. I wanted to tell him the truth—I stumbled over something grand and wild, something that rips a hole in the shape of the world. I wrote something and it was true—but I’d learned better. I was a good girl now.

“Everything is fine, sir,” I answered, and watched the cool grown-up-ness of my voice hit my father like a slap.

No more doors or Doors, no more dreams of silver seas and whitewashed cities. No more stories. I imagined this was just one of those lessons implicit in the process of growing up, which everyone learns eventually.

I’ll tell you a secret, though: I still had that silver coin with the portrait of the strange queen on it. I kept it in a tiny pocket sewed in my underskirt, flesh-warm against my waist, and when I held it I could smell the sea.

Those of you who are more than casually familiar with books—those of you who spend your free afternoons in fusty bookshops, who offer furtive, kindly strokes along the spines of familiar titles—understand that page riffling is an essential element in the process of introducing oneself to a new book. It isn’t about reading the words; it’s about reading the smell, which wafts from the pages in a cloud of dust and wood pulp. It might smell expensive and well bound, or it might smell of tissue-thin paper and blurred two-color prints, or of fifty years unread in the home of a tobacco-smoking old man. Books can smell of cheap thrills or painstaking scholarship, of literary weight or unsolved mysteries.

I contemplated the mural on the opposite wall, which showed a kneeling African handing Britannia a basket of rubber vines. The African wore a rather slavish, starry-eyed expression.

I wondered if Africans counted as colored in London, and then I wondered if I did, and felt a little shiver of longing. To be part of some larger flock, to not be stared at, to know my place precisely. Being “a perfectly unique specimen” is lonely, it turns out.

Adelaide Lee was three when her mother succumbed to consumption and depression and faded away entirely, and thereafter she was raised by her grandmother and four aunts.

Thus Adelaide Lee was born of poor luck and poverty and raised by ignorance and solitude. Let this ignoble origin story stand as an invaluable lesson to you that a person’s beginnings do not often herald their endings, for Adelaide Lee did not grow into another pale Larson woman. She became something else entirely, something so radiant and wild and fierce that a single world could not contain her, and she was obliged to find others.

Perhaps there was nothing at all except the rule-bound world of her aunts and grandmother, real as corn bread and dirt and just as dull.

She came very near to believing it. But she found there was something new in her, some wild seed buried in her chest, that could not accept the world as it was.

You see, doors are many things: fissures and cracks, ways between, mysteries and borders. But more than anything else, doors are change. When things slip through them, no matter how small or brief, change trails them like porpoises following a ship’s wake. The change had already taken hold of Adelaide Lee, and she could not turn away.

And so that night, lying half-heartbroken and lost in her bed, Ade chose to believe.

Jane exhaled carefully. “I miss my home… more than I can say. I think of it every waking moment. But I will not leave you, January.” An unspoken yet seemed to hang specter-like between us, or perhaps it was until. I felt like crying and clinging to her skirts, begging her to stay forever. Or begging to go away with her.

But Jane saved us both from embarrassment by asking lightly, “Do you want to leave?”

I swallowed, tucking my fear away for some future time when I would be strong enough to look directly at it. “Yes,” I answered, and in answering realized it was true. I wanted wide-open horizons and worn shoes and strange constellations spinning above me like midnight riddles. I wanted danger and mystery and adventure. Like my father before me? “Oh, yes.”

It seemed to me I’d always wanted those things, since I was a little girl scribbling stories in her pocket diary, but I’d abandoned such fanciful dreams with my childhood. Except it turned out I hadn’t really abandoned them but merely forgotten them, let them settle to the bottom of me like fallen leaves. And then The Ten Thousand Doors had come along and swirled them into the air again, a riot of impossible dreams.

I was suddenly very certain he still read his story papers and adventure novels, still kept his eyes on the distant horizons.

It’s a profoundly strange feeling, to stumble across someone whose desires are shaped so closely to your own, like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips. If you should ever be lucky enough to find that magical, fearful symmetry, I hope you’re brave enough to grab it with both hands and not let go.

I wasn’t.

Ade began to suspect that, for the first time in her life, she was free.

It wasn’t true that she’d been unfree for the previous several years. Indeed, compared to other young women in those times, she led an unfettered and feckless life. She was permitted to wear canvas trousers and men’s work hats, primarily because her aunts eventually despaired of keeping her skirts presentable; she was not expected to ensnare any eligible young bachelors, because her aunts shared a collectively dim view of men; she was not forced to attend school or find employment; and while her wandering habit was not encouraged, her aunts were at least resigned to it.

But Ade still felt as if an invisible collar rested around her throat, its leash leading back to the Larson farm. She might disappear for two or four or six days, riding a train north and sleeping in strangers’ tobacco barns, but in the end she always circled back home. Mama Larson would wail about fallen women, her aunts would purse their lips, and Ade would go to sleep heartsick and dream of doors.

Her leash grew loose and frayed over the years, until it was just a single thread of love and familial loyalty. With Mama Larson’s death, the thread snapped.

As happens with many caged creatures and half-domesticated young girls, it took some weeks for Ade to realize she could truly leave.

It took two days of loitering and begging before she found a steamer desperate enough to take her on as a deckhand. It wasn’t her sex that barred her; her paint-striped trousers and baggy cotton shirt offered sufficient disguise, and her face had a freckled squareness that sidestepped beauty and landed somewhere nearer to handsome.

(This, at least, is what a daguerreotype would have recorded, if Ade had ever posed for one. But photographs, like mirrors, are notorious liars. The truth is: Adelaide was the most beautiful being I have seen in this world or any other, if we understand beauty to be a kind of vital, ferocious burning at a soul’s center that ignites everything it touches.)

But still, something in her eyes made wise boatmen hesitate—something that spoke of abandon and fearlessness, a person dangerously unmoored from her own future.

I licked my slowly warming lips, tried to sound braver than I felt. “Don’t—don’t you have to be invited in?”

He laughed. “Oh, my dear, don’t believe everything you read in the story papers. You people are always trying to invent reasons for things. Monsters only come for bad children, for loose women, for impious men. The truth is that the powerful come for the weak, whenever and wherever they like. Always have, always will.”

“Please.” I swallowed, swaying a little. “Please trust me. Believe me.” There was no reason in the world she should. Anyone else would have happily dragged me back to the doctors with a note pinned to my chest suggesting they lock me in a small room without any sharp objects for the next century or so.

(This was the true violence Mr. Locke had done to me. You don’t really know how fragile and fleeting your own voice is until you watch a rich man take it away as easily as signing a bank loan.)

I woke fully the following morning, when the sun was drawing the first faint line against the western wall, a bluish-pale light that told me it was far too early for civilized people to be awake. I watched the line turn taffy-pink and listened to the birds begin their hesitant scales and felt, for perhaps the first time in my life, truly safe.

Oh, I know: I grew up in a sprawling country estate, I traveled around the world with first-class tickets, I wore satin and pearls—hardly a perilous childhood. But it was borrowed privilege and I knew it. I’d been Cinderella at the ball, knowing all my finery was illusory, conditional, dependent on how successfully I followed a set of unwritten rules. At the stroke of midnight it would all vanish and leave me exposed for what I truly was: a penniless brown girl with no one to protect her.

But here in this cabin—musty, forgotten, perched on a pine-covered rock a dozen miles away from the nearest town—I felt truly, finally safe.

“I found the ivory door and went through. I thought at first I had died and passed into the world of spirits and gods.” Her lips parted in an almost-smile, and her eyes crimped with some new emotion—longing? Homesickness? “I was in a forest so green it was almost blue. The door I’d come through was behind me, set among the exposed roots of a vast tree. I wandered away from it, deeper into the woods.

“I know now how foolish that was. The forests in that world are full of cruel, creeping things, many-mouthed monsters with a bottomless hunger. It was mere luck—or God’s will, as the mission workers would have it—that I found Liik and her Hunters before anything else found me. It didn’t feel all that lucky at the time: I stepped around a tree trunk and found an arrowhead inches from my face.”

I covered my gasp with a cough, hoping to sound less like a small child listening to a campfire story. “What did you do?”

“Not a damn thing. Surviving is often a matter of knowing when you’re beat. I heard rustling behind me and knew others were emerging, that I was surrounded. The woman holding the bow was hissing at me in a language I didn’t know. Apparently I didn’t look like much of a threat—a hungry girl-child, wearing a white cotton shift with the collar torn off—because Liik lowered her weapon. Only then could I get a proper look at them all.”

The hard lines of Jane’s face softened, just a little, warmed by fond reminiscence. “They were women. Muscled, golden-eyed, impossibly tall, with a kind of rolling grace that made me think of lionesses. Their skin was mottled and spotted and their teeth when they smiled were sharp. I thought they were the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.

I caught a wavery glimpse of myself in a plate-glass window—mud-caked, oversized boots, sweat drawing damp lines through road dust at my temples, pinkish-white scars scrolling haphazardly from wrist to shoulder—and it occurred to me that my seven-year-old self—that dear temerarious girl—would’ve been rather taken with my seventeen-year-old self.

There is, of course, no such thing as a fallen woman, unless we are speaking of a woman who recently tripped on the stairs. One of the most difficult elements of this world is the way its social rules are simultaneously rigid and arbitrary. It is impermissible to engage in physical love before binding legal marriage, unless one is a young man of means. Men must be bold and assertive, but only if they are light-skinned. Any persons may fall in love regardless of station, but only if one is a woman and the other a man. I urge you not to navigate your own life by such faulty borders, my dear. There are, after all, other worlds.

This Winter

- Alice Oseman

Charlie and I have discussed at length how it's possible for Oliver to be related to us, since he's the literal embodiment of joy and we're both miserable fucks. We concluded that he must have got all the happy genes.

First Charlie disappeared, and then Tori disappeared, and I'm starting to wonder whether I'm next.

Nobody seems to be saying anything about it, which makes me wonder whether my family are behind it, and they've all been possessed by some ghosts or evil dinosaurs or something.

Today Tonight Tomorrow

- Rachel Lynn Solomon

This moment with my parents makes me wonder if today will be a day of lasts. Last day of school, last morning text from McNair, last photo with this aging backpack.

I’m not sure I’m ready to say goodbye to everything yet.

My dad taps his watch. “We should get back to it.” He tosses me a flashlight. “So you don’t have to shower in the dark.”

Last shower of high school.

Maybe that’s the definition of nostalgia: getting sappy about things that are supposed to be insignificant.

“ ‘Hate’ is a really strong word. I don’t hate you. You”—I wave my hand in the air as though the right word is something I can wrap a fist around—“frustrate me.”

“Because you want to be the best.”

I grimace. The way he says it makes me feel immature about this whole thing. “Well—okay, yes… but it’s more than that. Most of what we talk about is completely harmless, but you’ve never been able to stop with the snide remarks about romance novels, and that’s not teasing to me. It just… hurts.”

His grip on his backpack straps loosens, and he ducks his head as though in shame. “Artoo,” he says softly. “I’m so sorry. I really thought… I really thought we were just teasing each other.” He genuinely sounds sorry.

“It doesn’t feel like teasing when you go out of your way to make me feel like garbage for liking what I like. I already have to defend it enough with my parents, and with my friends. Like, I get it, ha ha, sometimes there are shirtless men on the covers. But what I’ll never understand is why people are so quick to trash this one thing that’s always been for women first. They won’t let us have this one thing that isn’t hurting anyone and makes us happy. Nope, if you like romance novels, you have zero taste or you’re a lonely spinster."

He mock-gasps. “Rowan Roth, I thought you were a good girl.”

That stops me in my tracks.

“I am,” I say, extremely aware of the thud of my heartbeat, “but… that doesn’t mean I’m a virgin.”

“Oh—I didn’t mean—”

“Because you assumed good girls—girls like me who get straight A’s—don’t have sex?” My voice is a little too hard-edged, but I can’t help it. He fell right into something I happen to feel particularly strongly about. I don’t know what’s messing with my head more, wondering what Neil might have meant or that we’re now officially talking about sex. “You realize how wrong and outdated that is, right? Good girls aren’t supposed to have sex, but if they don’t, they’re prudes, and if they do, they’re sluts. And of course, none of that takes the spectrum of gender or sexuality into account. Things are starting to change slowly, but the fact is, it’s still completely different for guys.”

Neil chokes on what I assume is his tongue, his wide eyes indicating he had no idea this was where the conversation was going. “I wouldn’t know,” he says, clearly making every effort not to meet my gaze, “seeing as I’ve never… you know.”

Oh my God, he can’t even say the word.

“Had sex?” I say, and he nods.

“I’ve done other things,” he adds quickly. “I’ve done… everything else, just about. Everything except…” He waves his hand.

Other things. My mind goes a bit wild with that, wondering if other things means the same for him as it does for me. And here’s my answer to the question I had earlier: Neil is a virgin.



“It’s not a bad word,” I say.

“I know that.”

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

- Gabrielle Zevin

You would think women would want to stick together when there weren't that many of them, but they never did. It was as if being a woman was a disease that you didn't wish to catch. As long as you didn't associate with the other women, you could imply to the majority, the men: I'm not like those other ones. Sadie was, by nature, a loner, but even she found going to MIT in a female body to be an isolating experience. The year Sadie was admitted to MIT, women were slightly over a third of her class, but somehow, it felt like even less than that. Sadie sometimes felt as if she could go weeks without seeing a woman. It might have been that the men, most of them at least, assumed you were stupid if you were a woman. Or, if not stupid, less smart than they were.

Sadie wondered if most gamers would be turned on by this. She often had to put herself into a male point of view to even understand a game at all. As Dov was fond of saying to her, "You aren't just a gamer when you play anymore. You're a builder of worlds, and if you're a builder of worlds, your feelings are not as important as what your gamers are feeling. You must imagine them at all times. There is no artist more empathetic than the game designer." Sadie the gamer found this scene sexist and strange. At the same time, Sadie the world builder accepted that the game was made by one of the most creative minds in gaming. And in those days, girls like Sadie were conditioned to ignore the sexist generally, not just in gaming - it wasn't cool to point out such things. If you wanted to play with the boys, they couldn't be afraid of saying things around you.

The crowd leaned forward when he spoke, laughed at his jokes, spontaneously broke into applause. They loved him. He was more handsome in front of a crowd; his limp, less apparent; his voice, warm and authoritative. It was as if all these years Sam had been waiting for an audience. Sadie marveled at his transformation. Where had her introverted partner gone? Who was this raconteur? Who was this clown?

And next to him, Sadie felt herself diminish.

"'Zweisamkeit' is the feeling of being alone even when you're with other people." Simon turned to look in his husband's eyes. "Before I met you, I felt this constantly. I felt it with my family, my friends, and every boyfriend I ever had. I felt it so often that I thought this was the nature of living. To be alive was to accept that you were fundamentally alone." Simon's eyes were moist. "I know I'm impossible, and I know you don't care about German words or marriage. All I can say is, I love you and thank you for marrying me anyway."

Ant raised his glass. "Zweisamkeit," he said.

By the time Counterpart High dropped in August, Simon and Ant were no longer married. The California Supreme Court declared that the City of San Francisco had overstepped, and the marriages that had been performed based on those licenses were now void. Strangely, Ant took it harder than Simon. Simon had felt the Torschlusspanik for a reason, and he wasn't surprised to find that his legal marriage was now over, considering the country and the times they lived in. [...]

After he'd missed a week of work, Sadie drove to Ant's house to see him. "I didn't think it would feel different to be married," Ant told her, "but somehow, it did. And now I feel as if I've been tricked."

"Love you, Sammy," Dong Hyun said.

"I love you, too, Grandpa." For most of his life, Sam had found it difficult to say I love you. It was superior, he believed, to show love to those one loved. But now, it seemed like one of the easiest things in the world Sam could do. Why wouldn't you tell someone you loved them? Once you loved someone, you repeated it until they were tired of hearing it. You said it until it ceased to have meaning. Why not? Of course, you goddamn did.

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