The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue - V. E. Schwab Page 0,1

and a girl wandering the aisles, hand in hand, because they couldn’t sleep. Because she hadn’t been willing to let the night end. Wasn’t ready to let go.

She lifts the mug, inhales the scent as memories waft up to meet it.

A park in London. A patio in Prague. A team room in Edinburgh.

The past drawn like a silk sheet over the present.

It’s a cold morning in New York, the windows fogged with frost, so she pulls a blanket from the back of the couch and wraps it around her shoulders. A guitar case takes up one end of the sofa, and Toby’s cat takes up the other, so she perches on the piano bench instead.

The cat, also named Toby (“So I can talk to myself without it being weird…” he explained) looks at her as she blows on her tea.

She wonders if the cat remembers.

Her hands are warmer now, and she sets the mug on top of the piano and slides the cover up off the keys, stretches her fingers, and starts to play as softly as possible. In the bedroom, she can hear Toby-the-human stirring, and every inch of her, from skeleton to skin, tightens in dread.

This is the hardest part.

Addie could have left—should have left—slipped out when he was still asleep, when their morning was still an extension of their night, a moment trapped in amber. But it is too late now, so she closes her eyes and continues to play, keeps her head down as she hears his footsteps underneath the notes, keeps her fingers moving when she feels him in the doorway. He’ll stand there, taking in the scene, trying to piece together the timeline of last night, how it could have gone astray, when he could have met a girl and then taken her home, if he could have had too much drink, why he doesn’t remember any of it.

But she knows that Toby won’t interrupt her as long as she’s playing, so she savors the music for several more seconds before forcing herself to trail off, look up, pretend she doesn’t notice the confusion on his face.

“Morning,” she says, her voice cheerful, and her accent, once country French, now so faint that she hardly hears it.

“Uh, good morning,” he says, running a hand through his loose black curls, and to his credit, Toby looks the way he always does—a little dazed, and surprised to see a pretty girl sitting in his living room wearing nothing but a pair of underwear and his favorite band T-shirt beneath the blanket.

“Jess,” she says, supplying the name he can’t find, because it isn’t there. “It’s okay,” she says, “if you don’t remember.”

Toby blushes, and nudges Toby-the-cat out of the way as he sinks onto the couch cushions. “I’m sorry … this isn’t like me. I’m not that kind of guy.”

She smiles. “I’m not that kind of girl.”

He smiles, too, then, and it’s a line of light breaking the shadows of his face. He nods at the piano, and she wants him to say something like, “I didn’t know you could play,” but instead Toby says, “You’re really good,” and she is—it’s amazing what you can learn when you have the time.

“Thanks,” she says, running her fingertips across the keys.

Toby is restless now, escaping to the kitchen. “Coffee?” he asks, shuffling through the cupboards.

“I found tea.”

She starts to play a different song. Nothing intricate, just a strain of notes. The beginnings of something. She finds the melody, takes it up, lets its slip between her fingers as Toby ducks back into the room, a steaming cup in his hands.

“What was that?” he asks, eyes brightening in that way unique to artists—writers, painters, musicians, anyone prone to moments of inspiration. “It sounded familiar…”

A shrug. “You played it for me last night.”

It isn’t a lie, not exactly. He did play it for her. After she showed him.

“I did?” he says, brow furrowing. He’s already setting the coffee aside, reaching for a pencil and a notepad off the nearest table. “God—I must have been drunk.”

He shakes his head as he says it; Toby’s never been one of those songwriters who prefer to work under the influence.

“Do you remember more?” he asks, turning through the pad. She starts playing again, leading him through the notes. He doesn’t know it, but he’s been working on this song for weeks. Well, they have.

Together.

She smiles a little as she plays on. This is the grass between the nettles. A safe place to step. She can’t leave