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How are they? They’re facing an all-too-familiar firing squad. My eyes fill with tears. Seeing this, Cecelia wordlessly takes my hand and leads me out of the waiting room.

Ten minutes later we’re ensconced in the cafeteria, Styrofoam cups of weak tea clutched in our hands, acting as if it’s warming us when we both know it’s not. We chat. We even chuckle. I let Cecelia’s calmness anchor me. I let her tell me everything will be okay. Even if it’s not, even if everything goes wrong, she—by her very presence—assures me that, in the end, it will be okay. She’s still here, isn’t she?

Antonia wanders into the cafeteria. She lights up at the sight of Cecelia, but her usual enthusiasm is dimmed, a soldier who, though still committed to the cause, is battle-weary. She gives a little wave as she approaches and leans down to kiss Cecelia, saying, “You’re such a dear to have come.”

“There’s no place else I’d be.”

Antonia drops into a chair. “Never thought we’d be here again so soon.” She sighs.

Cecelia presses her lips together. In her low, composed lilt, her pioneer core is on full display. “No. But we loved Oliver. And we love Jamie. And, as you’re wont to say, we carry on with it all.”

Carry on. I look to Antonia. So it’s a more personal, familial motto for Jamie than I’d assumed.

The shared silence feels almost prayerful. Finally, Antonia’s soft, warm voice says, “I can’t help but think of your words at Ollie’s funeral just now. ‘Love well those who are dying, so that they may die in love.’ In all my sadness and grief, that gave me comfort. How fortunate I was to have had that time with Oliver.” Antonia turns her eyes to me. I know she’s thinking about my father.

I never saw my dad’s body. I never even saw what was left of the car. To this day I have no actual proof that he died. Who knows? It could all be an elaborate hoax. Which is exactly what it felt like for a long time. My last memory of him is shrugging into his coat at the front door, the rattle of his keys, his voice (that fades in my memory a little more each year no matter what I do) promising to be back soon. So, I made all the rookie mistakes. I’d read something and think, Dad will love this. I’d call his cell before remembering. Then there were the dreams. He was just gone. In an instant.

Compelled, I speak. “I’ve never had that . . . time. Before. I—I don’t know . . . how—” I’m not sure if the catch in my throat is stopping me from crying or throwing up. I’m about to excuse myself before either happens, when Cecelia takes my hand. Just as Antonia takes my other one.

Sitting around the table holding hands feels tribal, ritualistic. A ceremonial ring of unity. Antonia leans in and repeats Cecelia’s words. “We carry on with it all.”

“We carry on with it all,” I repeat. Only, when I say it, I start to cry. The two women unclasp their hands from mine and place them on my shoulders.

I can’t stop crying. And I don’t want to stop.

For the first time, crying feels good.

BACK IN THE waiting room, we find William pacing. Cecelia goes to him. He hugs her (something I haven’t earned yet) and she kisses his cheek. He turns to me.

He says, “Ella, might we have a word?” and my stomach drops onto the floor.

Chapter 28

I am weary of days and hours,

Blown buds of barren flowers,

Desires and dreams and powers

And everything but sleep.

Algernon Charles Swinburne, “The Garden of Proserpine,” 1866

We find an empty room and sit opposite each other on two twin hospital beds. William grips the edge of his mattress, head hanging, looking at the floor. I breathe in the stale, antiseptic air, bracing myself. “I’ve decided,” he begins, and my cell phone rings.

I dig it out of my pocket.


I side-button it.

I put it back in my pocket.

“Sorry,” I say. “Go ahead.”

William stares at me, clocking the fact that I didn’t answer my phone. I see it in his eyes. He takes a breath. He looks at me. He begins his sentence differently. “If they tell us that this is the end of the line, that he can’t come back from this . . . knowing him as we do, as you do . . . do we let him go?”

No! Of course not! He can fight this! How could you? We have to do everything we can!

I haven’t said good-bye yet.


For twenty-five years I was a child. Now I’m an adult.

“Right, then.” William stands, clearing his throat. He moves for the door.

“William,” I croak.

His body turns a half click back to me, but he won’t meet my eye.

“Thank you. For asking me.”

He says, to the floor, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Now he looks at me. “He wouldn’t have done the trial if not for you. If not for you, Ella.” He looks back down. “Thank you . . . for giving him a reason to fight.”

I stand and tread my way to him. I wrap my arms around his neck and rest my chin on his shoulder. Eventually, one of his hands finds the center of my spine. The other finds the back of my head, a paternal cupping.

We weep as one.

LATER, MUCH LATER, I drag my suitcase into a bathroom and change in the accessible stall, trying to feel, in some small way, fresh and clean again. I brought Jamie’s suitcase in here as well, wanting to find something of his to wear, something with his smell on it. I find a navy V-neck sweater that will do nicely and throw it on over my long-sleeved T-shirt. When I go to zip his suitcase, I notice a brown paper bag between the layers of clothing. Curiosity gets the best of me. I slip it out.

The bag is actually wrapping paper, covering a rectangular package about half an inch thick. The front, in Jamie’s scholarly scrawl, reads: To Ella from Ohio on the Occasion of Her Twenty-Fifth Birthday.

It’s the present he wanted to give me. The one he wouldn’t give me in front of people. The one he told me he’d give me later, in private.

I hesitate only a moment before slipping my finger under the tape at one end and sliding the item out of its wrapping.

It’s a journal.

I open the front cover. An inscription greets me:

You said I could do this. I had a go.

(See below)

In posh pratitude,




I turn the page.

The journal is filled with poems. In Jamie’s handwriting.

The first poem is centered to the page, short and sweet, titled simply “E.D.”

Your gypsy soul did beckon

To my fetid heart and made

A fearful conflagration of

The meanest kind to tame.

The next page: “Thanksgiving.”

No other man

Can know a man

Such as this.

For a woman knows a man

In ways a man

Knows not exist.

Ay, she knows her man,

Such as he is.

The hairs on the back of my neck rise. My hand begins to shake. The title of the next one wrings a sob out of me and I do my best to catch my tears before they fall on the page.


A sickle for my friend, the weary,

A sickle quick and true,

A sickle, by God’s grace in heav’n,

A sickle waits for you.

I turn through at least a dozen more, “Slainte,” “Buttery,” “Don’t Think, Feel,” “Coq au Vin.” One makes me laugh out loud. It’s broken into numbered sections like an epic Victorian poem, except there are only three and the title is intentionally cumbersome: