“You did fine,” Kate reassured Lucy when she went backstage after the play. “You were a better Apparition than I ever was.”

The stage was part of an open-air theater that was set up on the town green once a year. Cal Jacob was there, standing in the grass. He’d grown quieter since his runaway episode in the woods. When anyone addressed him, he shifted in his shoes and looked the other way. Now he waited to speak to Kate until the other children went off for cookies and punch. “There really is a monster,” he said quietly. He’d been wanting to talk to Kate for some time. He knew no one else would believe him.

There were rides set up beyond the green—a little Ferris wheel and a Whip and bumper cars. White fairy lights had been strung through the branches of the trees.

“There’s no such thing as a monster,” Kate told him.

Cal shook his head, stubborn. “He was.”

“No. That’s not what he was.”

“Okay,” Cal said. He had the jitters and was tapping his foot. Anyone could tell he wasn’t convinced. Kate put her hands on his shoulders.

“Listen to me,” she said. “He was just a man.”

THE NEXT TIME she brought a basket of food she also left a note. She ran home afterward, embarrassed, her face flushed with heat. She wasn’t herself anymore. She didn’t know what she was thinking or why she’d become so absorbed in searching out a stranger. Summer was fading and the dark came earlier now. Kate felt as though her fate had split in two on the day Cal ran into the woods. She could have gone in one direction, a life in which she might have been home reading, or at a sleepover with the other girls in town, or visiting her cousin in Cambridge. Instead, she came back to Route 17 again and again.

High school would soon be in session, and Kate had begun to feel an odd sort of desperation. The note she’d left had exact instructions. On the appointed date and time she went to Band’s Meadow. The meeting place was on the far side of the orchards. It was off-season so there was no one around. Kate walked through the tall grass. He was waiting there for her, hidden. He watched her as though she were another dream, like the town at night when everyone was asleep in their beds, a dream so distant all he could do was watch in the dark. As she drew near he called for her to stop and she did. She sat down in the tall grass, legs crossed.

“Now what?” she called.


“Close your eyes,” he told her.

When she did, he came to sit across from her.

Kate lifted her face and squinted, but all she could see was a shadow. “Can I open my eyes?”

“No.” He laughed.

“This is silly,” Kate complained, grumpy. Then she added, “All right. Fine. I won’t look.” But only to ensure that he wouldn’t run away. She introduced herself, her eyes shut tight, then asked for his name in return.

He studied her beautiful face. He hesitated. He had never thought of himself by name. He was simply himself.

“Matthew James,” he said. Matthew was the name his aunt called him. James he plucked out of the air. He had passed a town called Jamestown; maybe that’s why it came to mind. He’d never known his surname. He’d never even wondered until now.

“Matthew James,” Kate said approvingly.

He told her about the house he was building, and the collection of books he had. He had run out of novels and was now reading science fiction magazines he had picked up from the AtoZ Market. She promised to bring books from the library, along with pens and paper, and anything else he needed. She didn’t have to be told why he wasn’t living in a city or a town. He didn’t belong there. She felt older when they said good-bye, as if time had shifted while they sat in the meadow and knowing him for this one evening had made her grow up fast. She opened her eyes and watched him walk away. From this distance, he looked like a tall young man. He turned to wave when he thought he was far enough away so that she couldn’t see him. But she could.

THE FIRST WINTER was the hardest. Some days he didn’t leave his house. The snow fell and kept falling, and he stayed in and read the library books she’d brought him. He liked rebels. Lawrence, Dostoyevsky, Miller, Kafka. He had a rain barrel of melted snow, and he boiled the water for coffee and tea. After a while he began to feel deeply at home on those winter evenings. He made a set of weights out of a tree limb and rocks to keep himself fit. On days when it was clear enough he went out to trap game. He broke through the ice of a nearby stream to fish. He didn’t mind crouching down in the snow, waiting to see a flash of silver in the water.

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