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Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5)

By:Gayle Forman

lunatic.

"Your mother," Allyson says.

"Yes. My mother. She's in India right now." He thinks of her. He cannot wait to tell her this. He takes a small moment to savor that, being eager to tell his mother something. Then he goes back to savoring Allyson, and her bare feet, which are right here. He never thought he had a thing for feet, but he is beginning to reconsider.

Allyson remembers Willem talking about his mother and father. It was during their conversation-argument? debate?-about love when Willem had smeared the Nutella on her wrist and licked it off. Allyson had challenged Willem to name one couple who hadn't just fallen in love but had remained in love, had stayed stained. Yael and Bram, he had said.




"Yael and Bram," Allyson says now, not even having to reach for the names.

She remembers Willem's sadness last summer. And immediately she knows, maybe she knew then, that there is no more Bram. Which isn't to say there is no more stain.

Yael and Bram. Something in Willem's chest catches. He'd been right. He is known to this person. Has been from the very start.

He looks at her. She looks at him. "I told you I would remember," Allyson says.

Before he'd kissed her that night in the art squat, she had told him that she'd remember everything about their day in Paris. That she would remember him.

Willem had made no such promises. But he can taste, touch, hear, and smell every last detail of that day together. "I remember, too," he says.

• • •

There is so much to say. It is like shoving all the sand of the world into an hourglass. Or trying to get it out.

But Willem's phone keeps ringing. He keeps ignoring it, until he remembers he promised he'd call Linus back right before he opened the door to her.

"Oh, shit. Linus." He goes to fetch his mobile. Five missed calls.

Allyson looks curious. He tells her, "I have to make a call."

She thinks he will go into the other room to do it, but he doesn't. He sits down next to her.

The conversation is in Dutch so Allyson doesn't understand what he's saying, anyway. She can't really make much out from the look on his face, either: a half smile. A shoulder shrug. She's not sure if the news is good or bad.

Willem hangs up the phone. "I'm the understudy for Orlando in a play. Shakespeare again. As You Like It," he begins.

"Understudy?" Allyson asks. "I thought you were Orlando."

Only for last night's performance. And tonight's. That's what Petra had decreed, Linus has just told him. Next week Jeroen, the actor Willem replaced, will come back, ankle cast and all, for a final weekend of performances. After this evening, Willem's services will no longer be needed, as actor or understudy. But he's on for tonight. In fact, they need him to come listen to notes before the 7:00 call. He is about to explain this all to Allyson, but then he stops himself.

"You knew?" he asks.

And then she says, "I was there."

He shouldn't be surprised. Hadn't he felt her there? Hadn't he spoken his lines to her? But after all the false hopes of the last year, and after that letter Tor had told him about, he'd thought he had conjured her. Maybe he had. Maybe he had done such a fine job of it, he'd conjured her right into existence, into his uncle's flat, where she is now sitting, with her feet resting in his lap.

How did that happen? He vaguely remembers grabbing her ankles and laying her feet across his legs, casually, as if they were a blanket, but he can't be sure. It all feels like a dream and yet as natural as breathing. This is what you do. Put Allyson's feet into your lap.

"You were fantastic," Allyson tells him. "Magnetic. It was like you were Orlando."

Willem had felt a kinship with Orlando, a bereaved young man inexplicably fallen in love with a girl who came and disappeared like a wisp of smoke. But the girl came back. (The girl came back.)

"I always thought you were good," she continues. "Even when I saw you perform last year, the night we met, but it was nothing like last night."

The night they met. He'd been doing Twelfth Night with Guerrilla Will, playing Sebastian. They hadn't spoken, but he'd tossed her a coin at the end of the play. It was a flirtation, an invitation. God, he'd had no idea then.

"A lot has happened this year," Willem tells her.

When Allyson smiles, Willem is reminded of a sunrise. A bit of light, then more of it, then a burst of brightness. A sunrise is something you can see all the time and still marvel at. Maybe that is why her smile feels so familiar. He has seen many sunrises.

No, that is not why it feels familiar.

Allyson meanwhile is remembering. Why this person? All the things she has told herself, or other people have told her-infatuation or Paris or good acting or lust-no longer hold water, because she remembers so viscerally and feels it anew. It's not any of that. It's not even him. Or all him. It's her. The way she can be with him.

It was so new that day: the liberation of being honest, of being brave, maybe a little stupid. She's had a bit more practice at it now, the past few weeks alone in Europe, a lot of practice. She knows this girl pretty well now.

"A lot has happened to me too," she tells Willem.

• • •

They tell the story in bits, in tandem. The parts already known: Willem being concussed. The parts guessed: Willem being beaten by the skinheads; Allyson fleeing back to London in misery. They share the frustration of never finding out each other's true names, their whole names, email addresses. They remedy that. (Willem Shiloh De Ruiter. Allyson Leigh Healey, etc. etc.) Allyson tells Willem about the letter she wrote him last March, when she finally allowed herself to wonder if maybe the worst hadn't happened, if maybe Willem hadn't abandoned her.

Willem tells Allyson about only just finding out about the letter's existence last month, trying to track it down, and only yest

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