When he says this, it feels like having a drink on an empty stomach: a shot of heat straight down the middle of my body, followed by the sensation of being immediately tipsy.
And then a ringing screams in my head. I can’t have heard him right.
I start to panic.
Catching his breath, Andrew pulls back and looks down at me. I can’t see his expression very well; it’s dark and my vision is blurry, but I feel the weight of his gaze. “You okay?”
He lets out a little laugh and rolls beside me. “Shit. Sorry. It was too much. I ruined the moment.”
“No, you didn’t.” The problem isn’t what he said—I wanted him to say that, of course I did—it’s that I’m suddenly unable to imagine a situation where I can keep him, where this won’t all go away in the next second, or the one after that, or later tonight, or first thing tomorrow. I have no control over anything anymore, and it feels how I imagine jumping from a plane without a parachute might feel.
“It’s not okay,” he says, pushing up onto his elbow to hover over me. “I can tell it upset you.”
“It didn’t upset me. I want to hear you say that.”
He laughs again, for real this time. “Clearly. You’ve suddenly turned into Robot Mae.”
“Are you kidding?” I ask, trying to keep my voice level. “I’ve wanted you my entire life. There is literally nothing I want to hear more than that you feel the same way. I promise.” I take a deep, shaking breath. “But I really need to tell you something hard, and I’m not sure where to start.”
He pauses, and I feel the realization as it passes over him. “Do you have a boyfriend back in California?”
“What? Of course I don’t.”
He deflates in relief. His mouth comes over mine in the dark, and I chase it, pushing up and over him, suddenly wanting to wash away my anguish with the feeling I love most in the world right now, which is having Andrew all to myself.
“Hey, hey.” His hands come to my shoulders, and he coaxes me back and away. He’s nothing but a series of angles and shadows in the darkness. “Is this about the Groundhog Day dream Benny was talking about?”
“Do you remember when I got here,” I say, “and I ran into the house like a crazy person? I told Kennedy not to trip over Miso, I told Dad not to eat the cookie. I went through the thing about Theo’s hair being fine, about your dad and the gin. All of that?”
He nods slowly. “Yeah. I remember your arrival being sort of . . . wild.” He quickly adds, “But funny. I liked it.”
“But specifically,” I say, “do you remember me saying those things? And the weird hunches you asked me about?”
Andrew shifts my weight on top of him. “Yeah.”
“I had all those weird hunches because, by that point, I’d already been through it three times before.”
He lets out a long, slow breath. “Sorry. I don’t—”
“I knew your mom would have made those terrible bars,” I say, “because Dad broke his tooth every other time I’d lived it.”
Andrew lets out another incredulous laugh. “No way.”
“I knew Kennedy would skin her knee. I knew you’d sleep in the Boathouse. I knew where to find the sleeping bags.”
“Well, okay,” he says, trying to work this out. “Why did you get sent back in time, then?”
Relief that he’s listening and not immediately running away courses warm through me. “I made a wish.”
Andrew laughs, a bright, happy burst of sound that immediately dies when he realizes I’m completely serious. “A wish.”
There’s no way around this. Taking a deep breath, I say, “The first time around—okay. Things were different with me and Theo.”
“Different how?” Andrew asks quietly.
“The first time I lived this holiday,” I say, “on the last night, we were in the basement playing board games— Christmas night? We drank too much eggnog. You left to go to bed, and we came back upstairs—Theo and me—and we ended up making out in the mudroom.”
Even in the darkness, Andrew visibly pales.
“It was awful,” I rush to add, “and we both went to bed, and then the next morning, he got up early and didn’t even acknowledge me.” I pause, that’s not right. “Actually, he said, ‘It was nothing, Mae. I should have known you’d make a huge deal out of it.’ It was our last day here, and it was completely miserable.”
Andrew still doesn’t say anything, so I continue. “It was so awkward. You came out and teased me because you’d seen us—”
“Are you sure you didn’t dream this?” he asks.
“I’m sure. Your parents told us that they were selling the cabin, and then my family left for the airport. I was freaking out and made a wish to find out what would make me happy.” I swallow. “We got in a car accident. I woke up on the plane headed back here. And the same thing happened two more times—once, I fell down the stairs, and once a tree branch fell on me.”
He shakes his head as if he can somehow dislodge what I’ve just said. “You made out with Theo three times?”
“No—God—just the once. Each time I was sent back, I would try to figure out what was happening. I assumed it was like a puzzle, you know? I would think I had it figured out, and would decide some course of action, and then boom, gone. I kept getting sent back because I wasn’t doing something right.” I wait for him to respond, but he’s gone still and quiet beneath me. “But once I was like, ‘Screw it,’ and just went for what I wanted, everything fell into place.”
Still nothing. No reaction from Andrew.
“I was melting down on the street in town,” I say, “because you’re what I want, and I have this feeling that we won’t be able to keep what we have. That it will all disappear. And then everything started to go wrong.”
“So that’s why you asked Miles to punch you?” he asks, confused.
His silence stretches, and my thoughts turn foggy with worry that this is all sounding manic and impossible. “I knew we’d build the snow monkey. I knew Miso would destroy your sweater—”
“Miso hasn’t destroyed my sweater.”
“Well,” I falter, “no, not yet, but—”
“Mae.” Andrew lets out a long, tired breath, and in the darkness, I see him lift his hands to his face. “Can you just—” He pauses, and then shifts farther away from me. A chill runs down my bare arms, and I suddenly feel too naked. I reach for the sleeping bag, trying to move closer to him, but he holds me away. “Please. Don’t—I just need to . . .”
“I know it sounds insane,” I say, genuinely worried that I’ve scared him. I put my hand on his shoulder, but it feels cold. “I know it does. But I think I got to do this over and over again so that I could do things right. I really do. For you, and the cabin. And my life.”
“I thought you weren’t into Theo.”
My stomach drops. “I’m not. I wasn’t. Ever.”
“But you’re saying,” he says slowly, “in some version of the past, you made out with him?”
“For like a minute.”
He rubs his hands over his face. “I’m not even sure if this happened, but you certainly seem to think it did.”
“I know it sounds impossible, I get that, but it did. I was feeling sad and desperate. It wasn’t great, he was really cold afterward, and I immediately regretted it. I don’t—”
“Sad and desperate over what?”
“You, partly. And just the state of my life.”
“So you made a wish for the universe to show you what would make you happy and—” He shakes his head. “I’m the result of that? I’m the prize at the end of the game?”
“I mean,” I start, stumbling, “Yes—I mean no, but—”
“Why not just tell me how you felt? That seems, I don’t know, a million times easier?”
“Because I was scared. Because I’ve known you my whole life and didn’t want to ruin it. Because I assumed you weren’t interested in me. But being sent back to the plane over and over made me realize I didn’t care if I failed. I had to try.”
“So which Mae is real? The one who goes for what she wants, or the one who makes out with my brother when she’s afraid of facing her real feelings and then wishes it away?”
“This one. The one right here, telling you that I want this to happen with you.”
“I need—” he starts, and slides his hands down his face. When he looks up at me, even in the low light I can tell that the glow in his eyes is flattened, like a candle has been blown out. “I need you to give me some space.”
His words leave a ringing silence in the cold, cavernous room. My stomach dissolves away, painfully acidic. “Andrew. It wasn’t—”
“Mae,” he says very calmly, “don’t. Don’t make it sound like it isn’t a big deal. You made out with Theo because you’d decided—without ever even talking to me—that you and I weren’t going to happen. Whether you’re remembering something from a dream, or you hit your head or—I don’t know—you’re somehow repeating time, don’t make it seem like it’s not totally strange that you think you and Theo actually—” He stops abruptly, unable to finish the sentence. “And then instead of dealing with your life the way it is, you—make a wish?” Frustrated, Andrew rakes a hand through his hair. “God. I can’t even process this—whatever this is.”
“Andrew,” I start, and there’s a waver in my voice that I have to work to swallow down. “It’s not like there wasn’t a weird sense of fate for you here, too. You told me about the tarot cards.”