Home > The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(5)

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3)(5)
Justin Cronin

Nothing remained to hold her in place. The night before her departure, Alicia visited her daughter’s grave. She did not want to do this at the last second; her exit should be clean. For two years the place had gone unmarked. Nothing had seemed worthy. But leaving it unacknowledged felt wrong. With the last of her steel, she’d fashioned a cross. She used the hammer to tap it into the ground and knelt in the dirt. The body would be nothing now. Perhaps a few bones, or an impression of bones. Her daughter had passed into the soil, the trees, the rocks, even the sky and animals. She had gone into a place beyond knowing. Her untested voice was in the songs of birds, her cap of red hair in the flaming leaves of autumn. Alicia thought about these things, one hand touching the soft earth. But she had no more prayers inside her. The heart, once broken, stayed broken.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Morning dawned unremarkably—windless, gray, the air compacted with mist. The sword, sheathed in a deer-hide scabbard, lay across her back at an angle; her blades, tucked in their bandoliers, were cinched in an X over her chest. Dark, gogglelike glasses, with leather shields at the temples, concealed her eyes. She fixed the saddlebag in place and swung onto Soldier’s back. For days he’d roamed restlessly, sensing their imminent departure. Are we doing what I think we’re doing? I rather like it here, you know. Her plan was to ride east along the river, to follow its course through the mountains. With luck, she’d reach New York before the first leaves fell.

She closed her eyes, emptying her mind. Only when she had cleared this space would the voice emerge. It came from the same place dreams did, like wind from a cave, whispering into her ear.

Alicia, you are not alone. I know your sorrow, because it’s my own. I’m waiting for you, Lish. Come to me. Come home.

She tapped Soldier’s flanks with her heels.

* * *

2

The day was just ending when Peter returned to the house. Above him, the immense Utah sky was breaking open in long fingers of color against the deepening blue. An evening in early autumn: the nights were cold, the days still fair. He made his way homeward along the murmuring river, his pole over his shoulder, the dog ambling at his side. In his bag were two fat trout, wrapped in golden leaves.

As he approached the farmstead, he heard music coming from the house. He removed his muddy boots on the porch, put down his bag, and eased inside. Amy was sitting at the old upright piano, her back facing the door. He moved in quietly behind her. So total was her concentration that she failed to notice his entry. He listened without moving, barely with breath. Amy’s body was swaying slightly to the music. Her fingers moved nimbly up and down the keyboard, not so much playing the notes as calling them forth. The song was like a sonic embodiment of pure emotion. There was a deep heartache inside its phrases, but the feeling was expressed with such tenderness that it did not seem sad. It made him think of the way time felt, always falling into the past, becoming memory.

“You’re home.”

The song had ended without his noticing. As he placed his hands on her shoulders, she shifted on the bench and tilted her face upward.

“Come here,” she said.

He bent to receive her kiss. Her beauty was astonishing, a fresh discovery every time he looked at her. He tipped his head at the keys. “I still don’t know how you do that,” he said.

“Did you like it?” She was smiling. “I’ve been practicing all day.”

He told her he did; he loved it. It made him think of so many things, he said. It was hard to put into words.

“How was the river? You were gone a long while.”

“Was I?” The day, like so many, had passed in a haze of contentment. “It’s so beautiful this time of year, I guess I just lost track.” He kissed the top of her head. Her hair was freshly washed, smelling of the herbs she used to soften the harsh lye. “Just play. I’ll get dinner going.”

He moved through the kitchen to the back door and into the yard. The garden was fading; soon it would sleep beneath the snow, the last of its bounty put up for winter. The dog had gone off on his own. His orbits were wide, but Peter never worried; always he would find his way home before dark. At the pump Peter filled the basin, removed his shirt, splashed water on his face and chest, and wiped himself down. The last rays of sun, ricocheting off the hillsides, lay long shadows on the ground. It was the time of day he liked best, the feeling of things merged into one another, everything held in suspension. As the darkness deepened he watched the stars appear, first one and then another and another. The feeling of the hour was the same as Amy’s song: memory and desire, happiness and sorrow, a beginning and an ending joined.

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