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Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5)

By:Gayle Forman

spill several photographs, newspaper clippings, some of them very old. There's also a picture of Willem, a younger Willem, his face slightly less chiseled, but still Willem. He is flanked by a man and a woman. The woman is small, dark, intense, and the man is her opposite, all tall golden smiles. These must be Yael and Bram.

She feels a little as if she knows them. And sorry she never did.

She carefully puts the photographs back in the envelope and puts the envelope in a safe corner of the bookshelf. That is when she hears the sound, instantly familiar. It takes her a moment to locate it, inside the pocket of the jacket she saw Willem wearing after the play last night.

She pulls it out. Her old gold watch, last year's high-school graduation gift. She'd hated it, so heavy and perfect, but it's kind of endearing now, all scuffed up, the face of it cracked. She turns it over. The GOING PLACES engraving had seemed so burdensome when her mother had given it to her, but now it seems kind of prophetic, like the most perfect thing to have wished for her. She wants to tell her mother about this revelation and stops for a moment to savor that, wanting to tell her mother something.

That said, she doesn't want the watch back.

In that Paris park, she'd given it to Willem, given time to him, and in exchange she became the girl in the Double Happiness story. His mountain girl, he'd called her.

She'd known he kept the watch. Céline had told her as much when she'd confronted her in Paris last week. But she'd made it sound as though Willem had kept it to pawn it. But he'd kept it to keep. To keep her.

Allyson holds the watch in her hand. She feels the vibration of its ticking and is full in a way she can't really explain.

• • •

Willem is trying hard not to laugh.

Petra is berating him, telling him he made a mockery of the company last night. This might be true, but Willem also knows the performance was a triumph. Which is perhaps the real mockery. But he lets Petra give him all her notes. Tell him all the beats he got wrong, how he mangled the language, how he confused the audience.

"Tonight you will play the part as Jeroen plays it, as an understudy must play it," she commands. It is the same direction she'd given him yesterday, when he was called up to step in for Jeroen after the lead actor broke his ankle. It was the direction that had almost derailed him, until Kate had persuaded him to take the risk. "Go big or go home" was how Kate put it. But Willem had come to understand it as "Go big and go home." That's how it had felt. Last night he had thought the going home was to acting, to a new home in New York City, to an apprenticeship with Ruckus Theater Company, which Kate runs with her fiancé. But today it feels as though home has come to him.

"Are we clear?" Petra asks after she has smoked her way through two cigarettes worth of criticisms. "You will do as your director tells you."

He would do as his director told him, but Kate was his director now. "I will perform the role as I did last night," he tells Petra.

Petra's face goes purple. It doesn't bother Willem one bit. What can she do? Fire him?

She stomps her feet. She seems like a little girl denied her dessert. He tries to keep a straight face, tries not to laugh, tries not to notice that Linus appears to be holding in a chuckle of his own.

• • •

Dee is laughing, too.

At the story his girl has just finished telling him. It's almost too crazy to believe, which is how you know it's true.

"Too bad Shakespeare's dead," Dee tells Allyson. "Because that's a story he'd wanna steal."

"I know, right?" Allyson says.

Dee's mama drops a cup of coffee onto the desk. He can smell bacon frying in the kitchen. "That our girl?" she asks.

Dee isn't sure when Allyson went from being his girl to their girl, but he opens the screen so his mama can say hello, too.

"Hey, baby," she says. "How you doin'? "Want some waffles?"

"Hi, Mrs. D-"

Dee's warning face travels four thousand miles in a split second.

"I mean, Sandra," Allyson corrects. "I'd love some. Not sure you can Skype food."

"Some day, I wouldn't put it past them," she says.

Dee angles the computer away. "Mama, I haven't talked to my girl in a week. You can have her when she comes home." Dee turns back to the screen. "Am I still picking you up at the airport?"

"You can. I think my mom was going to drive down, too. She said you could come back with us."

"When's this party starting,?" Dee asks.

"I'm meant to be flying home tomorrow afternoon. I'm actually meant to be in Croatia right now."

"You got a lotta 'meant to' going on," he says.

"I know." Allyson laughs. "Truth is I don't have a clue what I'm doing."

She might not have a clue but Dee knows the signs and symptoms of a girl in love. She's practically glowing, and without the benefit of the cucumber-and-yogurt facial he has planned as part of his welcome-home pampering spa day. He's got a whole list of activities, but mostly he just wants to sit in the same room and talk. He misses her. Dee didn't know you could miss a friend as much as he's missed Allyson this summer, but then again, he's never had a friend like her.

"You never did have a clue. At least now you're owning your ignorance," Dee teases.

"You know me so well!" Allyson jokes, but she touches her hand to the camera so it appears on the screen and Dee knows she's not joking, not really. He reciprocates by putting his hand on her screen. They let the gesture say the unspoken things: Thank you for getting me here. Thank you for understanding me.

"I miss you," Allyson says.

It's just what Dee needs to hear. "I miss you, too, baby."

Mama swoops back behind him, forcing herself back into the screen. She blows Allyson kisses. "He does. My boy is pining."

"I miss him, too."

Sandra sticks her head right in front of the