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Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5)

By:Gayle Forman

wants to part. For now, they wish they could both stay like this, talking.

He would like to bring her with him now, to put her in his pocket. Except he must face Petra, his cantankerous director, who he knows is furious with him about last night's performance. He ignored her direction to play the part safe, to play it as Jeroen had played it. Instead, he had done what his friend Kate had suggested. He'd done it his way, found his own Orlando and in doing so, opened up a vein of himself on that stage. It had been the most exhilarating experience of his life. Well, until the knock at the door today.

Much as he would like to keep Allyson close by, he knows it is unwise to parade her in front of Petra. Though he cannot wait to introduce her to Kate. He will introduce her to Kate tonight. And Broodje. And W and Henk and Max. All the people who led him back to her.

"I am in trouble with the director," Willem explains. "Maybe it's better if we meet later."

There is something then that hangs between them. Meeting later is what got them into this predicament in the first place. Willem stepping out for a bit. Accidents happening. And a year before they found each other again.

They both seem to recognize the moment. But they also know now is not then. And as if to prove it, Willem slides a key off a ring and gives it to Allyson. She stares at it in her palm. So does he.

A year ago I had a backpack, and now I have a key, he thinks.

A year ago we didn't give each other our names, and now he gave me a key, she thinks.

(Also, Willem has just glanced at the birthmark on Allyson's wrist, giving himself an urgent desire to taste it again. Between her feet and her wrist, he is having a hard time getting out the door.)

(Speaking of feet, Allyson is looking at the zigzag scar on Willem's foot-left foot-and remembering she wanted to find out how he got it. Along with his birthday and his favorite ice cream flavor and ten thousand other things there don't seem to be enough time for.)

So for now Willem tells her to make herself at home. Eat what is in the kitchen. Use the computer. There is WiFi. Skype. Have a rest. His bedroom is the yellow one. He likes to picture her in his flat.

"Here is my cellphone number," he tells her. He writes it on a pad. He resists the urge to write it on her arm, to tattoo it there.

He is about to leave, but stops in the doorway. They are now mirror images of how they were a few hours ago, Willem in the flat, Allyson in the hall. Neither is sure what this means.

What they are sure is that they want to kiss. Both of them do. There is a pull, it feels almost like a chain, linking them.

"I'll be back here at six," Willem promises.

"Six," she repeats. It's after four now. She has officially missed her flight to Croatia.

He starts to close the door behind him. Then opens it again. "You'll be here?" He is nervous now about leaving. He can't help it. The mirror images. The Universal Law of Equilibrium. Last year, he vanished. This year, it could be her.

Except he thinks he has stopped believing in this universal register of deposits and debits, of good things coming at a cost. And when Allyson closes the door, promising that she will be there, he allows himself to believe it.

• • •

There is news to share. They each share it.

Willem, in a rush, texts Kate, whom he just saw a few hours ago when she was on her way to meet her fiancé at the airport. She was bringing him to meet Willem so Willem could get his seal of approval to join their theater group.

I have big news, he writes. I'm Orlando tonight.

He writes a version of the same to Broodje, who, along with Henk is helping W move into a new flat with his girlfriend, Lien. He knows all of them will get the message and all of them will come, even though they all came last night, because that is how his friends are.

He is riding his bike to the theater when he realizes that they will all think the big news is that he was given one more chance to do Orlando. Though in reality, he was fired. He is going on tonight out of necessity. He can almost taste Petra's disgust at having to put him back on the stage.

That isn't the news. The news is Lulu, of course. Allyson. But tonight, they will all come. And they will find out.

Then he thinks of Yael. His mother, so far away from him these past few years, until that day in Paris last year that set everything in motion. It's the middle of the night in Mumbai, so Willem texts her.

I found her. He stops. Maybe it is more accurate to say she found him. But that is not what he is feeling. He is feeling that he found her. So that is what he writes.

He doesn't elaborate. He knows his mother will understand.

• • •

Back in Willem's flat, Allyson has texted Wren. CALL ME ASAP!!! And then she decides to be nosy. Not to snoop exactly, but to look around.

The living room does not offer clues. Even had Allyson not been told this apartment belonged to Willem's uncle, she would've been able to tell it was not Willem's. She goes into the bedroom in the back. The yellow one. The bed is unmade, and it smells of Willem. Somehow she knows this.

She feels shy, tentative, as if she is invading. But she remembers Willem telling her, exhorting her, as much as someone as Willem exhorts, to make herself at home. The key to the flat is still in her pocket.

She sits down on the bed. It's low to the ground, the view looking up out the window. There's a small bookshelf. She smiles when she sees a copy of Twelfth Night there. She leafs through it, remembering how she avoided reading it in her Shakespeare Out Loud class. She thinks of Dee. She hasn't talked with him since Paris. She calculates the time difference. It's a little past 8:00 a.m. in New York. Maybe she can Skype him.

The laptop is on the bookshelf. When she takes it, she accidentally knocks over a large envelope. Out