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Just One Year (Just One Day #2)

By:Gayle Forman

Just One Year (Just One Day #2)
Author: Gayle Forman





PART ONE

One Year

One

* * *

AUGUST

Paris

* * *

It's the dream I always have: I'm on a plane, high above the clouds. The plane starts to descend, and I have this sudden panic because I just know that I'm on the wrong plane, am traveling to the wrong place. It's never clear where I'm landing-in a war zone, in the midst of an epidemic, in the wrong century-only that it's somewhere I shouldn't be. Sometimes I try to ask the person next to me where we are going, but I can never quite see a face, can never quite hear an answer. I wake in a disoriented sweat to the sound of the landing gear dropping, to the echo of my heart beating. It usually takes me a few moments to find my bearings, to locate where it is I am-an apartment in Prague, a hostel in Cairo-but even once that's been established, the sense of being lost lingers.

I think I'm having the dream now. Just as always, I lift the shade to peer at the clouds. I feel the hydraulic lurch of the engines, the thrust downward, the pressure in my ears, the ignition of panic. I turn to the faceless person next to me-only this time I get the feeling it's not a stranger. It's someone I know. Someone I'm traveling with. And that fills me with such intense relief. We can't both have gotten on the wrong plane.

"Do you know where we're going?" I ask. I lean closer. I'm just about there, just about to see a face, just about to get an answer, just about to find out where it is I'm going-

And then I hear sirens.

• • •

I first noticed the sirens in Dubrovnik. I was traveling with a guy I'd met in Albania, when we heard a siren go by. It sounded like the kind they have in American action movies, and the guy I was traveling with commented on how each country had its own siren sound. "It's helpful because if you forget where you are, you can always close your eyes, let the sirens tell you," he told me. I'd been gone a year by then, and it had taken me a few minutes to summon the sound of the sirens at home. They were musical almost, a down-up-down-up la, la, la, la, like someone absentmindedly, but cheerfully, humming.

That's not what this siren is. It is monotonous, a nyeah-nyeah, nyeah-nyeah, like the bleating of electric sheep. It doesn't become louder or fainter as it comes closer or gets farther away; it's just a wall of wailing. Much as I try, I cannot locate this siren, have no idea where I am.

I only know that I am not home.

• • •

I open my eyes. There is bright light everywhere, from overhead, but also from my own eyes: tiny pinprick explosions that hurt like hell. I close my eyes.

Kai. The guy I traveled with from Tirana to Dubrovnik was called Kai. We drank weak Croatian pilsner on the ramparts of the city and then laughed as we pissed into the Adriatic. His name was Kai. He was from Finland.

The sirens blare. I still don't know where I am.

• • •

The sirens stop. I hear a door opening, I feel water on my skin. A shifting of my body. I sense it is better to keep my eyes closed. None of this is anything I want to witness.

But then my eyes are forced open, and there's another light, harsh and painful, like the time I spent too long looking at a solar eclipse. Saba warned me not to, but some things are impossible to tear yourself away from. After, I had a headache for hours. Eclipse migraine. That's what they called it on the news. Lots of people got them from staring at the sun. I know that, too. But I still don't know where I am.

There are voices now, as if echoing out from a tunnel. I can hear them, but I cannot make out what they're saying.

"Comment vous appelez-vous?" someone asks in a language I know is not mine but that I somehow understand. What is your name?

"Can you tell us your name?" The question again in another language, also not my own.

"Willem de Ruiter." This time it's my voice. My name.

"Good." It is a man's voice. It switches back to the other language. French. It says that I got my own name right, and I wonder how it is he knows this. For a second I think it is Bram speaking, but even as muddled as I am, I realize this is not possible. Bram never did learn French.

• • •

"Willem, we are going to sit you up now."

The back of my bed-I think I'm on a bed-tilts forward. I try to open my eyes again. Everything is blurry, but I can make out bright lights overhead, scuffed walls, a metal table.

"Willem, you are in the hospital," the man says.

Yes, I was just sussing that part out. It would also explain my shirt being covered in blood, if not the shirt itself, which is not mine. It is gray and says SOS in red lettering. What does SOS mean? Whose shirt is this? And whose blood is on it?

I look around. I see the man-a doctor?-in the lab coat, the nurse next to him, holding out an ice compress for me to take. I touch my cheek. The skin is hot and swollen. My finger comes away with more blood. That answers one question.

"You are in Paris," the doctor says. "Do you know where Paris is?"

I am eating tagine at a Moroccan restaurant in Montorgueil with Yael and Bram. I am passing the hat after a performance with the German acrobats in Montmartre. I am thrashing, sweaty, at a Mollier Than Molly show at Divan du Monde with Céline. And I'm running, running through the Barbès market, a girl's hand in mine.

Which girl?

"In France," I manage to answer. My tongue feels thick as a wool sock.

"Can you remember what happened?" the doctor asks.

I hear boots and taste blood. There is a pool of it in my mouth. I don't know what to do with it, so I swallow.

"It appears you were in a fight," the doctor continues. "You will need to make a report to the police. But first you will need sutures for your face, and we must take a scan of your head to make sure there is no subdural hematoma. Are you

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