“I don’t know how to explain it.”
Benny clears his throat. “We think Mae is in a Groundhog Day–type scenario. She’s been to the cabin a few times, and each time she gets injured and then wakes up back on the plane on December twentieth.”
Andrew lets out a little incredulous laugh. Everyone looks around at each other like, Are we all hearing the same thing?
“I’m trying to keep track of everything,” I admit, “and I realize this sounds crazy, but I’m scared something terrible is going to happen, so can everyone just take a few steps away from me?”
No one moves.
“Please,” I plead, and pull my hand out of Andrew’s grip. “Back up.”
My composure feels like a string being slowly dragged along the serrated edge of a blade. I turn to my brother, who is watching with wide, worried eyes. “Miles. Punch me.”
He lets out a disbelieving laugh. “What?”
“In the face. Hard.”
A few voices murmur my name in pity, but I’m not having it. “Punch me. I want to go back to the plane.”
“Mae, I’m not going to—”
He takes a step behind Benny, looking to our dad for help, and then I realize that Ricky has picked up Kennedy, that Lisa is holding Zachary, and that everyone—even Andrew—is looking at me like they’re afraid of me.
I turn and run away down the street. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m praying with everything I have that all of this ends and I wake up in seat 19B. Take me away from this nightmare.
The only voice I hear behind me is Benny’s gentle “Let her go, Dan. She needs to be alone.”
• • •
Two hours later, Benny walks into the small diner where I’ve been sitting. He does a brief scan of the interior, spots me, exhales in relief, and makes his way over.
I’m sipping my fourth cup of coffee, hands vibrating as I shred a napkin into smaller and smaller pieces. Pretty soon they’ll be microscopic, a smattering of dust on the Formica tabletop. A tinsel-covered Christmas tree stands in the corner, glittery paper snowflakes flutter overhead, and a small rock fireplace burns nearby. None of it helps. None of it makes me feel anything.
“Hey, Mayonnaise,” he murmurs, kissing the top of my head.
When I don’t reply with a silly name, he pulls out the chair opposite me and sits down. “You’re not answering your phone,” he says. I can see the worry in the tiny lines around his eyes, the downturn of his mouth.
“I turned it off.” The bell rings over the door as a couple of teenagers come inside. “Is Theo okay?”
“Everyone’s fine. We’re all worried.”
“I sound insane,” I say. “There’s no way to explain this to them. I’ve been sitting here for two hours, and Andrew hasn’t tried to come find me. I’m going to be terrified of something horrible happening to me every second for the rest of this trip—maybe every second for the rest of my life—and everyone must think that I’m losing my grip.”
He winces sympathetically. “If it makes you feel better, they all wanted to come find you. You didn’t scare Andrew away, I just told him to give you some space.”
The opening notes to “All I Want for Christmas Is You” play through the diner speakers. I cast my eyes toward the ceiling. “Did you know they’ve played this song every twenty-two minutes?”
He doesn’t give any outward response to this, just lets me silently work through my thoughts. Groaning, I bend to rest my forehead on my arms. “Benny, I realized something while I was sitting here.”
His hand comes over my arm. “What’s that?”
“I asked the universe to show me what would make me happy.”
“I thought we already knew that.” He sounds confused.
“No,” I say, pushing myself back up to face him. “I mean, I asked it to show me. I didn’t say, ‘Give me what will make me happy,’ or ‘Let me be happy forever.’ I said, ‘Show me what will make me happy.’ So, it showed me, but clearly I don’t know how to handle it, or what to do, and I can’t keep pretending everything is normal.”
Benny shakes his head, brows low. “Mae, this doesn’t have to be so complicated. Just go tell Andrew what you told me. Explain to him what’s going on with you. Andrew is smart. Of any of us, he’ll be open to the idea that the world isn’t always what we think it is.”
“Well, that’s the problem.” I feel a hundred years old. “How do I explain it? How do I show him?”
“The same way you did with me.”
I shake my head. “But the first time it happened, and I talked to you, it was the beginning of the holiday. Things were still happening the way I remembered. I could point things out in advance, because they hadn’t changed.” I shred my napkin a little more. “But now everything has changed. I don’t even know what’s going to happen next. I don’t know how to prove to him that I’m not making this up.”
“What about what you said about Ricky and Lisa selling the cabin?”
“He already knows about that. And I’ve been talking about it, asking about it. It isn’t that big a leap for me to guess that they were going to tell us eventually.”
“Come on, Noodle. Let’s head back.”
Pulling my coffee closer, I hug it like it’s my last true friend. “I needed to make some changes anyway. This table is my home now. Forward my mail.”
Laughing, Benny reaches into his back pocket, fishing out his wallet. “You’ll feel better after you talk to Andrew.”
“Are they all waiting at the van?”
He shakes his head and pulls a clean hundred-dollar bill out, dropping it on the table. “They all headed back a while ago.” He stands. “We can take a cab.”
I stare at the bill on the table. “Holy Benjamin Franklin. My coffee was, like, four dollars.”
“I don’t have anything smaller on me.”
“Let me just pay with my debit card.” I start to stand, but he puts a hand on my arm.
“Mae. I got it. It’s almost Christmas, and this nice little restaurant has kept you safe from cars and awnings and all other dangerous flying objects.” He shrugs. “You ever hear of Spotify?”
He grins. “I got in early.”
“Early.” He lifts his chin to the door. “Let’s go.”
I spend the drive home thinking of every time loop movie I’ve ever seen, and then berating myself because I’ve barely seen any. No wonder I’m screwing this up. The taxi drops us off, and I don’t go into the main house. Instead I ask Benny to let everyone know I’m fine but need a little space, and make my way through the snow to the back, in search of the one person who—I hope—can make me feel better.
I hear Andrew strumming his guitar from outside, and reach up, knocking tentatively. “It’s me.”
He gives an immediate “Come in.”
The sun wanes, dropping behind the mountain, casting the Boathouse in an eerie twilight shadow when I step inside.
“Hey. I’ve been hoping you’d come soon.”
Relief blooms in me. “Hey.”
He sets his guitar down near the cot and walks over. I Cupping my face, he leans in and kisses me so intensely the world around us goes milky. “You had a rough afternoon,” he says once he’s pulled away.
“Yeah, I was hoping to explain a little about—”
“You were almost killed twice in five minutes,” he says. “Any of us would have been freaked, too. I was worried, Mae.”
I kiss him for that; even though he doesn’t know or probably believe what’s really happening to me, he isn’t leaving me hanging in this emotional skydive.
He reaches up, pushing my coat from my shoulders in a way that reads hungry and ready. It is exactly the distraction I need. We move through the room, leaving a path of discarded clothing: boots, socks, shirts, pants, bra . . . shivering, we dive into the sleeping bags together.
He’s already hard, and comes over me with a groan of relief, his face pressed into my neck. “I’m so glad you’re okay. This has been the longest day of my entire life.”
Andrew reaches down and unzips the two bags, opening one side so that he can toss it open like a blanket. I catch a glint in his eye when he looks up at me briefly, but it’s dark so it takes me a few seconds to realize what’s happening.
He kisses down my neck, across my chest—lingering— down over my stomach and hips, and then his kiss is there, vibrating with the sound he makes. I throw an arm across my eyes, wanting to block out everything except the way he wraps his arms around my hips, the way his fingers dig into my delicate skin.
I’m never good at shutting off my own brain, and the past few days—today especially—I’ve been a mess of nerves and confusion. Even right now, when it’s nearly impossible to let any other thought in but how good it feels, I’ve still got that tenderness at the edge—the fear that somehow this is all going to go away and I’ll wake up on the plane with these deep, real emotions that only I remember.
Falling apart with a cry, I reach for him, urging him up and over me. He rips the condom wrapper open with his teeth, impatient hands shaking, and only seconds later we’re moving together and he’s pressing a groan into my neck. I wonder if, now that I’ve managed to restart time, I can figure out how to stop it, because I never want this night to end. I want it to go on and on forever. I want him to never get enough of me. But then Andrew is moving faster, and his breath goes jagged, and the muscles of his shoulders bunch tightly under my hands. He says my name on an exhale and shakes over me.
Going still, he breathes in uneven bursts against my neck. “I’ve loved you my whole life, but this new thing . . .” He sucks in a deep breath. “It’s amazing and scary.”