I have fifteen minutes before Olly will be here. I wander the aisles gawking at all the books. I want to touch them all at once. I want to add my name to all the people who read them before me. I trace my fingers across the spines. Some are so worn, so well used, that I can barely make out the titles.
I check the time on my phone. It’s almost time. I make my way to the end of the S–U aisle and hide. My butterflies have come back.
A minute later, I watch as he walks slowly down the aisle examining the shelves.
His hair has grown in. He has big floppy curls that soften the angles of his face. Also, he’s not wearing all black. Well, his jeans and sneakers are black, but his T-shirt is gray. And I think he’s taller somehow.
More than anything I’ve experienced in the last few weeks—saying good-bye to Carla, leaving home against Dr. Chase’s advice, leaving my mom in her sadness—seeing him looking so different causes me the most panic.
I don’t know why I expected him to be the same. I’m not.
He takes out his phone to read my instructions again.
He slips the phone into his pocket and looks back at the shelves. I placed the book, cover facing out, in front of all the others so he’d be sure not to miss it. He doesn’t. But instead of picking it up, he slips his hands into his pockets and stares.
A few days ago, when I was communing with the orrery, I was trying so hard to find the single pivotal moment that set my life on its path. The moment that answered the question, How did I get here?
But it’s never just one moment. It’s a series of them. And your life can branch out from each one in a thousand different ways. Maybe there’s a version of your life for all the choices you make and all the choices you don’t.
Maybe there’s a version of my life where I’m sick after all.
A version where I die in Hawaii.
Still another where my father and brother are still alive and my mother is not broken.
There’s even a version of my life without Olly in it.
But not this one.
Olly pulls his hands out of his pockets, plucks the book from the shelf and reads. He grins and bounces lightly on the balls of his feet.
I come out of hiding. I walk down the aisle, toward him.
The smile he gives me is worth living for.
“Found your book,” he says.